I just wrapped up my weekly interview, Songwriter Sunday (Sundays @2pm CST on all the major streaming platforms), with Heidi Joosten. Heidi is a composer, songwriter, sage of musical theater, and my maid of honor, aka a dear friend. I thought I was fully ready to facilitate today's conversation given that we've been buds since 2015 and that we lived together for a few of the years in between then and now, but she surprised me with an interesting thinking point.
Heidi is a child of music educators with a masters degree level (plus a boatload of experience) of schooling. She explained that her affinity for Musical Theater versus art music was based in the spirit of collaboration. In academia, or art music, she explained, there is an expectation that an artist will be able to do everything they need to do perfectly, regardless of their skill or education level. I remember feeling horrified, as a creative person, that I'd have to learn basic computer programming to complete my degree program. I even cried in my undergrad sound processing class, much to my professor's disdain. I wasn't supposed to be there. I know that now, in retrospect.
I enjoy many facets of being a sound aficionado: mixing, mic placement, marketing, and of course, writing. I like painting, dancing, listening to albums, and drinking wine while I do so at times. But the tech aspect of things has pretty much scared me out of a DMA. (There are other factors, but that's for another day.)
Musical Theater, however, Heidi said, relies on a spirit of collaboration...of knowing that there are friendly, intelligent experts who want to elevate your content or work with you on a project. They're out there in the universe. You just have to ask them if they want to play.
I realized that the same is true with my relationship to pop music. Again, I can handle most of my basic needs as a content creator, but I much prefer when an enthusiast of a specific area steps in and reassures me that whatever I'm into will be the best it can be.
How else does life work without teamwork, really? I'm 4'10". I need John to reach the flower vase on the top shelf for me. I need the plumber to fix the garbage disposal. I need the cashier at the Dollar Store to render me change. This should be the norm throughout the arts as well. The Rugged Individualism philosophy which has wrecked our country, most prominently in the last four-five years, is also wrecking our budding artists. Not everyone is meant to program in MaxMSP. Not everyone likes writing lyrics. Not everyone wants to research the ins and outs of mastering. When a child wants to write a song, for god's f***ing sake, don't crush that aspiration. Help them. Collaborate instead.
Maybe that person who's averse to certain skill sets likes to write melody, or weld their own instruments together, or function as an arts administer to a collective. Rather than criticize people for their shortcomings, why don't we applaud them for their strengths and find places to connect these inclined folks? My whole experience in academia was centered around what I failed to do best instead of celebrating what I did well while cultivating room for improvement.
We can do better.
In short, many thanks to Ms. Joosten for that mental spark which has fueled today's blog post! I think that, as artists, we can always improve in the areas where we lack, but leaning into our stronger traits couldn't possibly hurt.
Ego's a whole other hurdle, but that's not for today. ;)
What are you good at? I found that after two degrees in music, I really like to write prose. On paper, I'm not qualified for it, but I'm letting myself love the new parts of me that pop out; surprises abound.
In your dream world, who would you like to work with? A dancer? A singer? A painter? For the record, I know a lot of really stunning artists in a lot of disciplines. That's kind of my passion...connecting people. So if you have an idea that requires a bit of support but you're not sure where to start, don't hesitate to hit me up. Smash that contact form. If you have my phone number or email address, contact me directly. I'm here for all of it.
Welp, we're losing daylight here in the now fairly-bearable Chicago pre-spring, so I'm going to head out for a walk before it's too late!
Until tomorrow, stay safe, stay well, and stay kind.
For more on Heidi, visit https://heidijoosten.com/