In January, I had the wonderfully good fortune to play a house concert in Vancouver. Not only that, but it was the first concert in a beautiful space that had been designed specifically for hosting musical performances. It was also a huge lesson for me in accepting generosity with grace.
The way I connected with the hosts was pure serendipity. Early last year I chanced to meet a man who was visiting Whitehorse from Vancouver. Ben and I struck up a conversation during a break in the show we were both attending and had such a great time chatting that we kept in touch afterward.
Around November, I organized a trip to Vancouver for mid-January to take a course for my day job. I hadn't played in Vancouver since my CD release show in 2013, so I thought I'd try to book something while I was already there. But a couple of months is short notice and all the usual venues were already booked. So I asked around to find out if anyone knew of house concert hosts. I had a hunch that Ben might have some music-loving friends, so I asked him if he knew of anyone with a nice piano in a living room that could hold about 20 people. Well, he did!
Ben's friends, Les and Patti, had just recently rebuilt their house from the ground up. Since Patti is a concert pianist and music professor, she made sure the new music studio was a space in which she could not only give lessons, but also hold performances, right down to having hidden outlets in the floor for possible sound equipment.
We had a Skype meeting and all hit it off. I was so grateful and surprised to have stumbled into the perfect venue with kind hosts, and they were excited to hold their first concert in the new music studio. They offered to provide snacks and to have Ben bartend and to take the reservations.
In the first email invitation I sent out to my BC fans, I suggested guests bring some food to share in order to thank the hosts for opening their home. I heard back from Les and Patti that this wasn't necessary, that they were happy to provide the food. I realized then that I was having a very hard time accepting their generosity. I had never met them before and they didn't owe me a thing, not even the kindess one naturally extends to one's friends. I felt like I should do everything I could in order to organize and support the event, the way I've always done for all my shows. It didn't immediately occur to me to just let them take care of, well, everything.
And they did. They went absolutely above and beyond, organizing desserts and drinks and glassware and chairs and guest invitations and reservations and encouraging CD sales and more. Because Patti is a musician, they knew what it is like to be a working artist. I was overwhelmed to have such all-encompassing support and generosity from people I'd never met, but who believed in me anyway. It took some conscious mental effort to feel okay with saying yes, and to feel I deserved the help.
The funny thing is, for a while I've been putting energy out into the universe asking for help. The reality of working a day job, being a single mom, and a self-managed musician is a big one, and I have often felt very alone when it comes to creating performance opportunities, especially outside of the Yukon. My hope was to find a business partner of some kind, a manager or an agent, someone with established connections, in order to delegate some of that work. And yet when the help came to me, I didn't recognize it right away because it looked different from what I'd had in mind. I learn this lesson over and over in my life, that the answers we seek often look different from what we expected.
With the scintillating Tilden Webb on piano and badass bassman Paul Rushka. Photo by Will Stroet.