Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Paradox of Being Awesome

I work in a community theater.  This has lots of perks--dynamic people, an interesting field, literally every day is something new. 

And sometimes, right outside my office door, there is something really awesome going on:
That is literally the view from my office window last night--peeking out from between the slats of the blinds.  If that's not a good enough view for you and/or seems more "creepy voyeur" than "erstwhile employee just taking pictures like she was told to," try this one:


For real.

How do ya like them apples?

And his Quintet.  (And though I should not laugh about this, more than one person asked "How many musicians will there be?")

The performance was amazing.  Every single one of the five (FIVE!) musicians was simply extraordinary.

And while I will be the first to admit that I know close to nothing about trombones and only slightly more about Jazz, it is impossible to mistake the technical proficiency, range, and personality that shone through the music.  Marsalis and his band members created music that was by turns raucous, haunting, joyous, melancholy, and unmistakably funny--sometimes in the same number.

They were also *gracious,* and I do mean gracious, to a fault.  They chatted, signed autographs, and lingered.  Each time someone told them how marvelous the performance was, they responded as if it were the first time they had ever gotten a compliment.  Really?  Thank you!  That is so kind of you!

And it was then I knew we were really in the presence of Awesome.

Because here's the thing about the entertainment industry:  You meet a lot of performers.  Or rather, you meet their handlers or their lackeys or their groupies or their egos.  You meet their insecurities, their lack of basic good manners, and their psychological ticks.  You see a lot of lackluster performances.  Oftentimes, these two things--the lackluster and the bombastic--go hand-in-hand.

And yet here we were, thrilled to host an internationally acclaimed act in our intimate little 48-seat venue.  And they behaved and played as if it were the Royal Albert Hall.  They behaved as if they were grateful to us for the opportunity to play in our venue, and we (Lord, I hope this translated) were absolutely awash in gratitude that they were there.

Of course, they could have been demanding or arrogant or difficult, and we still would have been thrilled to host such great musicians.

But they weren't.  They were just...gracious and funny and kind and utterly virtuosic.

That the mark, I think, of greatness--whether it's great talent or power or whatever.  It's being so confident in your own competence that you let your performance speak for itself.  It's being gracious and kind and generous with your time and talent, treating each performance or audience or individual as if they are worthy of you.

So I wanted to thank Delfeayo Marsalis and his Quintet for that--for their greatness, in every sense.

But instead I babbled incoherently about what an awesome show it was and offered them bottled waters and then slipped back to the merch table to score this:


A little awesome for the road.


1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed the way you described their professionalism and weaved in the theme of graciousness. Erica, you have always had a true gift with words. (You even taught me, many years ago, the word bombastic, that you used in this piece.) For someone that is practically a walking dictionary and possesses such an abundant vocabulary, you, much like the band described above, graciously never sound pretentious.

    Fun Fact – Ben Folds Five, a presumed quintet, is actually a trio. So in the spirit of educating with grace, next time someone asks how many are in this specific quintet, you could say there are actually 5 in this quintet, and go on explaining that some band names, such as Ben Folds Five, are so deceptive.

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