On May 6th I performed a solo concert at the Dover Public Library in DE for their In Harmony series.
Now this is certainly nothing new – I’ve been featured in library settings and, in fact, I enjoy these performances as the audiences are attentive and open-minded when presented with music that is unique and not the usual fare. In this case, I encountered and managed to overcome bad weather, traffic and detours and play what turned out to be a very satisfying concert (for me and the listeners).
One of the aspects of performing that I have recently been highly focused upon is my determination to connect with listeners. I don’t mean engaging in silly antics or playing down to the audience – I want my music to convey my deepest feelings and touch everyone who is sitting there as I play. I may sound somewhat over the top with that statement, but as an instrumental artist this is something I consider to be an essential part of what I do. My mentor Daisaku Ikeda states “There is probably nothing that speaks as directly to the human heart as music…. It needs no words… Music has the power to cut across all barriers and make our hearts respond mutually to it.” I endeavor to apply this in every performance.
This particular date was a true test. As I inched through what was essentially an endless traffic jam from Philadelphia to Dover and found myself driving down the exit ramp to the library at the exact time I was supposed to be playing my first notes, I deepened my determination to make this situation work and turn poison into medicine.
As I entered the rather large performance space wearing my raincoat and wheeling an amplifier behind me, I heard “Alright everyone, Matt Richards is here! He made it!” and the sixty or so people sitting calmly in rows of chairs applauded. I had to hit the carpet running so I decided to forgo the soundcheck and meticulous setup that was originally planned and engage the audience in a light-hearted account of my traveling dilemma while I doffed the raincoat and quickly plugged in and powered up. Within five minutes I was seated and playing my first notes. I recall thinking, for just a moment, that this wasn’t the best way to begin a performance. Then I played three improvised notes, felt them resonate and began my first tune. While it sounds somewhat silly and cliched, I literally thought to myself “No worries – I got this!” and into the music I went.
My contact at Godin Guitars often says “It’s all good!” and, in fact, it was. I felt I accomplished exactly what I determined to do – engage the listeners and communicate my life through the music. The technical details weren’t an issue. The nerve-wracking drive was behind me. I felt exhilarated throughout the performance and had quite a number of people come up to me afterward to buy CDs, sign onto my emailing list and talk about the music.
Fortunately,the drive back was uneventful, though still a bit wet. It took the normal 80 or so minutes, which seemed to go rather quickly. I was truly exhausted upon my return home, but felt I had not only performed well, but had proven to myself that my determination was important and valuable no matter what circumstances I faced.
The next day I received an email of appreciation from the librarian who coordinated the event. “Despite the stressful traveling conditions you proved yourself to be a true professional. Your performance was excellent and the audience loved you.”
It’s called Actual Proof.
See you soon.