My friend Ed Moed is a brilliant pianist and musician, but what I like best about him is that he has a very encouraging spirit toward even the most uneducated musical efforts. At The United Methodist Church for All People, where George and I spent the last ten years, Ed would patiently work with people who had written a song - to help them enhance it, play it for them, and write it down. There was never a sense that he felt superior to others or resented the time they took. He has frequently helped me develop chords for tunes I’ve written and done fabulous arrangements of them.
I have found that, when it comes to the arts (or anything else, really) there are two kinds of people: Those who feel they must protect their status, and those who choose to live in generosity and gratitude.
Before I moved to New York, I asked all my friends for contacts in The Big Apple. I found that some of those contacts are immediately suspicious that I’m trying to “use” them or somehow take away from what they are doing. Others have been generous and helpful.
I met one such contact, a drummer from Chicago, for coffee one day. He feels some musicians give off a bad vibe and it ultimately hurts them. He eventually ended up with their gigs because they are bitter, resentful, and “closed off”. Audiences, club owners and producers can sense this. He became wildly successful in just six months by being open, positive, generous, determined, and (of course) talented.
One evening I spoke to a jazz guitar player I heard at Cleopatra’s Needle and asked him for his card in case I wanted to put together a gig. He spent 10 minutes telling me what a pain electric guitar gigs were because of transportation, and nobody paid enough, and blah, blah, blah. Needless to say, his card went directly into the trash. Why would I hire him?
Another time I was at Smalls Jazz Club and tried to talk to three young musicians at a table near me. They gave me the cold shoulder. I thought, “Well, you might have just missed your big chance, buddies!”
I mean, in case I get famous and all!
In contrast, my friend Daniel Bennett has been fantastically generous in providing me encouragement and opportunities to sing. You can tell he extends this spirit to everyone around him and that it is reaping rewards for his career as well.
Another friend of a friend gave me this sage advice which has become my new mantra: “Go where it’s warm”.
So, I don’t worry about rejection. Instead I search for places where the atmosphere will be supportive and bear fruit, and I try to bring love and generosity to each situation.
When I encounter a cold shoulder, I try to give anyway. I even sent a gig opportunity to one musician who was clearly just “too good” to give me any attention.
I mean, why not? "Give and it shall be given unto you" is the truth about life.