Posts Tagged ‘music’

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EPILOGUE

February 13, 2011

 

Interesting that my first post in nearly a year will be about an idea that came to fruition, only to see its extinction two years later.

It’s certainly not uncommon, and statistically it’s inevitable, but that does not change the sadness one feels when the day arrives. You think back to the dozens of auditions, hundreds of hours of rehearsals, the camaraderie, the long discussions and finally, the performances. All of this runs through your mind, like one short film after another with flashes of the current “scene” intermittent throughout.

Time spent on trying to understand what happened is useless and unproductive. It is what it is. Living in the moment keeps things in perspective and the “should’ve-would’ve-could’ve” thought process at bay. You quickly look inward, trying to find that still small voice, that has guided you well in the past, to once again move you forward. Lingering is not an option.

Fortunately, you have many good memories in pictures and video, all of which capture the project’s essence for future generations thanks to cyberspace.

Now comes the longing to fill the void – not right away – but soon. It does not have to be a replication of what just passed, but certainly needs many of the same elements or you won’t be “fed.” You start thinking about people you’ve worked with in previous projects and ask yourself if you should cross any of those bridges again. The answer does not come immediately, which indicates possibilities. On the other hand, you realize that whatever issues caused those projects to end, could and mostly likely would manifest themselves in a new one.

So this journey called “life” continues – one ride ending and another beginning.

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

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WE’RE NOT THAT IMPORTANT

January 9, 2010

We’ve been at this for what seems like an eternity.

Everyone we know tells us how great it sounds – everyone except those who earn a living buying a product like ours. Our sound’s “greatness” is directly tied to income generated for their enterprise. The opinion of others, beyond those around us, is not relevant if we create only to appease the need for self expression. On the other hand, if we are seeking public recognition for our effort, then the earning potential of our product could make it important.

If “…beauty is in the eyes of the beholder…”, so too is great music, art, cinematography, photography and even food. We believe our creation is excellent, but that has no value. Others that know us may feel the same way. Again, no value.

However, if the “beholder” is investing in what we’ve created, then we’re important to someone other than ourselves. Without their vested interest, we could stop creating today and no one else’s life would be affected.

The decision to combine the self-indulgent need to express with the desire for acceptance beyond family and friends is the all-encompassing, monumental journey whose completion, few have achieved. 

We artists are very unique individuals because we’re willing to express ourselves in ways few would ever dream of doing.

But that alone does not make us important.

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

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“HOBBY”

December 15, 2009

 

The Battle of the Bands is in two weeks.

It’s a big deal: TV, radio and newspaper coverage, a live recording featuring the top five bands on a two-disc LP and all-but-guaranteed additional bookings.

You’ve been saving money from your after-school job for nearly a year, working for $1.45 an hour. You need $995. You know it will add a new dimension to the band’s sound and could certainly help in this contest. You have it on lay-a-way, but it won’t be paid off in time for the “battle.”

There’s only one thing you can do: ask the music store owner to let you use the electric piano that afternoon and then return it – something he has never allowed with an item this expensive. Because of it’s popularity with national groups like The Left Banke and The Association, it’s in high demand and his is one of only three in the entire state.

To your complete surprise, he honors your request.

After the event, you go back to the store, excited to tell him your band came in second place and came close to garnering the top spot because that band violated one of the rules and was nearly disqualified. The owner smiles warmly while you recap the day’s events. “Man, it was incredible! There were so many people! You should’ve been there! It was great!” As you head out the back door to bring in the keyboard, you feel a tap on your shoulder.

“Just take it home with you and keep paying on it like you’ve been doing. I know you’re good for it.”

“Really? Thank you! Thank you!

“You’re welcome. Oh, and by the way, I look forward to seeing your band again.”

“Again?”

“Yes, again. I was there today. You guys were great.”

The rest of the summer is a whirlwind of engagements, local TV show appearances and newspaper articles. You’re having the time of your life.

But then comes Fall and with it, the start of another school year.

It also means the 2nd Annual Lecture on putting aside what grown-ups are reluctant to even call a “hobby.” This time, the lecture comes from an uncle on your mother’s side, who, for some inexplicable reason, feels she needs his help raising you.

He starts out with the usual, “It’s time to put away the music and concentrate on your studies.”

This year, you decide to disagree. “I can do both.”

“No you can’t, and you won’t,” he says, truly startled at your opposition to his command. “Playing music will get you nowhere. You need to forget this nonsense and bury yourself in your schoolwork!”

Then comes the “never-been-done-before” move: you talk back to your uncle. “I just shelled out a thousand bucks on this ‘nonsense’ and I am not going to forget about it for the next nine months.” You back up slightly as the last words come out of your mouth.

In rapid-fire, non-cohesive – yet seemingly rehearsed – verbal bursts, he yells, “What did you say? You can’t talk to me that way! How much? Does my sister know about this?”

Feeling somewhat confident that you weren’t going to get knocked across the room, you only answer the last question. “Yup. Mom was there when I bought it.”

Now comes the other lecture – the one where your mother scolds you for talking back to an elder and implicating her as a co-conspirator. But after a few finger-pointing comments, she finds humor in the situation.

“You really said that to him?” she asks, starting to smile.

“Yeah. I guess I should’ve kept my mouth shut,” you admit, while revealing a certain pride in your “performance.”

Breaking into laughter, she says, “Yes, you should’ve.” Then, with a failed attempt at regaining her “I’m-upset-with-you” composure, she mumbles, “Don’t let your grades slip.”

She had a love for dance, working her way through college teaching at an Arthur Murray Dance Studio. Her unrealized dream was to someday go to New York and dance on Broadway. At seventy years old, she still commanded attention when she hit the floor.

Thanks for understanding, Mom.

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

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WEEKEND WARRIOR

October 20, 2009

WeekendWarriorLOGO1

Life is good, routine.

The kids are grown and on their own. The wife has plenty to keep her busy between her work and seeing to the needs of her parents. You work each week at a decent job that helps pay the bills and gives both of you decent benefits. You help out with the in-laws whenever you’re needed. Occasionally, the two of you watch a movie together, sharing some air-popped corn and Snow Caps. Weekends are spent on house needs, avocations, farmer’s markets, garage sales or the inexpensive brunch together at a local diner. Life still throws some curve balls, but for the most part, nothing you can’t handle. Even the dog and cat are “BFFs.”

But you used to play rock and roll for a living.

And you want to play rock and roll again.

Not full time, just enough to keep you “in the game.” You’ve got the “gear” and the “chops.” Chances are, you’ve forgotten more about music than most young players out there bangin’ and shreddin’ understand. “They’ve got a lot to learn,” you tell yourself. “I’ve been there. I know.” Whether you really “know” or not, the desire to jump in intensifies.

Of course, spousal support is paramount.

Drummer1Chances are rehearsals will be at your place. This means the china and crystal will shift in the hutch and all through the house, pictures will have to be straightened out at least once a week. The house’s largest room – at the bottom of the basement steps – will become the “man cave” for the band and unavailable to wife and beast.

With the “go-ahead” behind you, it’s time to find others willing to jeopardize their comfortable routines to get back on music’s path. And there are others – many, many others – all with different experiences around a common need: to feed their musical soul. But the congruency of this need does not translate into musical compatibility and now, your desire to play music is forcefully challenged. People from all walks of life are parading through yours, as you attempt to assemble a cohesive group. It’s similar to having several people in a room wanting to resolve a common issue, with each speaking a different language.

Singer1For some, it’s getting together with others to play all the tunes they used to do – a “memories” jam – a social event. Or, it’s taking those same tunes and learning them just well enough to get a gig once in a while. With the addition of a little alcohol to either scenario, their musical souls are fed.

But you’re the player who wants to gather with like-minded musicians, for the purpose of learning tunes with vocal and instrumental precision and accuracy, creating the quintessential “cover band.” You’ve lived through the first two scenarios, but your soul remains hungry. This time, you want to perform music you’ve never attempted before – to get out of your musical cocoon – to “do it right” – one more time. Most people won’t know if the vocal harmonies are spot-on or the guitar player learned his parts perfectly. But if even one person notices, it’s worth it. The band will feel accepted – their collective soul fed. This effort will not automatically yield ultra-high paying engagements, but this has never been about money.

Guitar1In your scenario, the struggle to reach the “go live” point is not defined by a timeline. You work until you’re ready – whenever that happens. During this process, sadly, members come and go, sending “go-live” a little further down the road. Your resolve is continually tested, as is your patience. You’re tempted to fall back to an easier scenario: play songs you already know, getting through them with minimal effort, and not be too concerned with quality.

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But you fight the urge to shift directions, staying the path – a path that could easily take a year or more to navigate. Eventually, the light at the end of the tunnel will no longer be the train coming at you, but rather, the elusive “go-live” point you’ve now captured. Membership is stable and planning for the first engagement is underway. Not knowing how the public will respond, a small amount of anxiety enters your thinking.

 

 

 

Bass1It’s been a long time since the last “introduction” of a new musical group – with you in it. Hopefully, everything hasn’t changed too much out there. Hopefully, well-performed music is still appreciated. Hopefully, there are smiling faces. Hopefully, there’s dancing. Hopefully, there’s applause.

 

Hopefully, this Weekend Warrior can write the next chapter soon.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com