If I remember correctly it was the summer of 2004. I still lived in my hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I had just completed my freshmen year of high school, and had been playing in several bands. Like many young musicians I had experienced flashes of inspiration, but never that one “aha moment” that really drives home what it means to live a life for music.
Murfreesboro is the home of Middle Tennessee State University or MTSU. MTSU is known for hosting many outstanding music events, and one of these used to be National Guitar Workshop- a week-long summer camp dedicated solely to the study of guitar. I was fortunate enough to have had parents who supported me, and I attended this workshop even though I wasn’t old enough to stay on campus at night with the big kids and adults.
I had been placed in the most advanced Blues 3 class, but I was finding it hard to relate and fit in with the older and more experienced musicians who really looked down on me as just a kid. Most of my time outside of the classes was spent hanging with the instructors or practicing in the hallways. Truthfully, I just wanted to prove myself somehow. I had a need inside of me to create something that would leave a mark in these people’s minds so they would remember me as something more than just a kid who could play a few licks.
Well, one of the last nights of National Guitar Workshop was the popular student concert night. Anyone could sign up to put on their own performance. This was my chance. I rounded up my favorite bass player and drummer from the week and convinced them to come on stage with me.
Many of you may not be familiar with the Led Zeppelin tune “The Lemon Song.” Others may know it well, but the album this song is on was the biggest single catalyst that launched me into the vast world of electric guitar and Rock N’ Roll. This album, Led Zeppelin II, gave me a feeling of electric energy that I still remember to this very day. “The Lemon Song” with all its Blues and Rock power I believed was the perfect song to prove myself with.
The soundcheck/rehearsal was eye-opening. I had never put on my own performance on a real stage with real lights inside a real theatre before. I grew up performing hymns with my dad to small congregations in church and had performed with ensembles such as my school Jazz band. I was so naive I can remember the sound engineer teaching me the correct way to roll up a guitar cable. This was going to be all eyes on me in front of a room full of other other guitar players.
My moment had arrived. I was backstage with about five minutes until showtime when the adrenaline started rushing like it never had before. It was a nervous energy of epic proportions I had never dealt with that was making my body shake and sweat. All of a sudden it was time to go on stage.
What happened next I can hardly describe with words. It was like I reached down into the deepest depths of my heart and soul and transformed that nervous energy into some kind of transcendent musical power I could share with my audience. The song was over. I opened my eyes. The audience was standing up and clapping. It was my first ever standing ovation. Right then I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I had found something bigger than myself I could share with others and make them feel better, maybe even heal them. I wanted to create The Infinite Standing Ovation.
Fast forward fifteen years, seven international tours with B.B. King’s Allstar Band, multiple lead roles in musicals, a music performance degree from Belmont University, television appearances, radio spots, festival sets, my own music being released, and I’m still trying to create The Infinite Standing Ovation.
Why I have been chosen to be a conduit for the beautiful gift that is music I do not know. What I do know is the things I have seen and felt are real. There is a power beyond me that is working through me causing those people to stand up and clap. Most people do not understand the life of a musician.
Being a musician means working odd part-time jobs to keep your dream alive. Being a musician means playing your heart out to an empty room full of tables and chairs. Being a musician means having to travel far and wide without knowing if you will ever be able to have a normal family life. Being a musician means making yourself vulnerable to people you have never met before over and over again. Being a musician means getting looked down upon in society as a bum or a freak. Being a musician means seeing the smiles on people’s faces when you get it just right. Being a musician means seeing people in wheelchairs or with canes dance because they are hearing an old familiar tune. Being a musician means potentially creating something that could brighten the world for rest of time. Being a musician means feeling the satisfaction of endless hours of practice finally paying off. Being a musician means you are healer. Being a musician means having a responsibility to something higher and greater than yourself to share joy with the world.
And it all means nothing without YOU, the listener, who makes all of it matter.
I look forward to many more sometimes-disenchanting, sometimes-magical, always-meaningful experiences while trying to create The Infinite Standing Ovation. Here’s to hoping you are a part of that journey.
If you’d like to hear the most recent milestone of that journey, click here to listen to my most recent album, Snapshot of My Soul.
Thank you for being a listener and for making it all matter.