When I was a young boy we often visited my mother’s family home on Main Street in Baton Rouge. Actually it was my mother’s mother’s family home built in the late 1800s by the Whitakers. My great great grandfather who married a Reymond (Reymond Dry goods in BR) built this home and it is where my grandmother and three great uncles grew up. I never knew my grandmother as she died when I was about 3 months old but I knew all my great uncles.
Uncle Dick and Aunt Lucia had a separate home on the property. Uncle Jack visited often. Uncle Will and Aunt Nan lived on the main floor of the house. My great great Aunt Fanny Reymond, who we called Auntie, lived on the top floor of the home. Probably my earliest memory of visiting there was when I was about 3 but can remember visiting often between the age of 5 and 14. Usually dressed up in my go to church Sunday clothes and having a formal lunch with Uncle Will and Aunt Nan and Beth and David (my sister and brother) and my parents. We sat around a beautiful table in the dining room and Uncle Will would ring the bell (I still have it) and the lady from the kitchen would bring out the food and after a while Uncle Will would ring the bell and again more food would appear and so on till we all got vanilla ice cream and were allowed to add chocolate sprinkles on top. I can still remember that I was supposed to leave my napkin on my chair if I needed to leave the table before everyone was finished eating so they wouldn’t feel rushed with their meal. The home was a vision of craftsmanship. There was a stained glass front door and hand carved banister and molding around the living room that resembled sculpting more than molding. The furniture would now be high end antiques but to us it was only furniture. But for sure beauty and craftsmanship abound and pride for the finer things. It’s one thing to see it recreated in a movie but it’s a treasure of a memory to have lived through it and with it.
When we spent the night we got to sleep in beds with a canopy that was thick and soft enough to rest assured you were sleeping on a cloud. And the pillows were so soft and thick that when you rested your head you never seemed to reach bottom. So why do I take a tangent to memory lane? Because it was a first impression. It was beauty and craftsmanship of doing and being the best you can. It impressed me in a way that grew and lived in the center and soul of my art. It became the drive to strive. In my formative years as a musician we called it “going to the woodshed”. Maybe you can say “practice, practice, practice”, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about digging deep and tapping into the most beautiful and soulful part of your center. And giving birth to it and letting it live in your art. It’s about sharing this art with others until you understand what touches them and gets them interested enough to react.
As the art grew and music emerged I was driven to share it. It’s like love isn’t love until you share it. It was never about the applause but about the gift to me of giving it to those who listened. Call it a flaw. By instinct I developed disdain for self-promotion. I noticed that the louder the self promotion the weaker the art. But I was driven to share the music like it was a mission. The more I played in front of others, the more I performed, the more I started to understand the music that lived inside the music. You learned to feel how what touched and who it touched. The gift of performance is the road to true art. I played lunches and brunches and for anyone who would listen. I played happy hour and for four hours as a single at night with an old fender showman amp and a mic in the little piano and a mic on my voice with no reverb in clubs where they didn’t care you were playing. Over and over until I started to get a clue as to what invited them to listen. Their apathy truly helped me find the music inside me. It’s not about weeks or months but about years. I was relentless in my quest and what really changed my life was learning to play for those who listened. Those that didn’t listen dropped out of the formula. As I connected with those who connected with me I began to really develop my art.