Giving and Getting – A Balancing Act (6.20.16)
By Karin Elizabeth
I’m not gonna lie, I have the best life. It is turning out far better than I ever could have imagined standing on the stage at high school graduation 18 years ago, never in a million years did I think I would someday be my own boss running a company with six employees and making my living from playing music. Why this never crossed my mind at the time I will never know. It’s not like a music career never crossed my mind, in fact it’s what I always used to dream about, although secretly, as if it were a shameful thing to want to perform in front of people. And so, I avoided getting really into it and stuck to the path I knew would be socially acceptable: classical music and academia.
Why did it never occur to me that I could actually have exactly what I wanted? Was it the culture I grew up in? Societal conditioning? I always thought I would be teaching at a school for 30 years or so, and then retire off my 401K just like my mother. And for a while I did. However, life intervened as it always does and now I have ended up here; constantly on stage just like I always wanted. Whatever the reasons for my crazy life plot twists are, I may never know. However it doesn’t really matter how I got here because I am literally living my dream. How absolutely amazing is that?
Not only do I get to play and write music for a living, I don’t have to get up in the morning if I don’t want to, and for the most part I work from home. There is no office, no commute, no boss and no co-workers save for my band and they are more like family. I am super grateful for the fact that my bills always somehow get paid, there is food in the fridge and that I am never bored. However, just as with any job and especially with show business and with owning your own business there is a trade-off. There is always a dark side to everything too, lest we forget as we wallow in awesomeness, blissfully unaware that life is creeping up behind you ready to hand you your backside.
Lately it has been taking its toll. I have been feeling very mentally and physically exhausted. It goes in cycles, usually switching back and forth around my birthday which is coming up behind me ready to pounce and remind me that I am not getting any younger; another fun aspect of the extremely appearance-based music industry. I also don’t feel successful sometimes but that’s a whole other struggle. It’s hard to feel successful when as a child you performed at Carnegie Hall and basically all over Europe but now you are singing your heart out for a hundred people on a tiny stage at the corner bar. I have to remind myself daily this is a whole new music career than my previous classical one, with all-new dues to pay. My friends in the industry with me remind me constantly that simply making your living from doing this is huge success. Lately my theme has been “giving and getting.” I want to remind myself that this energy is reciprocal and that my audience gives back to me – always.
One of the things I am doing and have been doing since age fourteen is performing for people‘s weddings. I never really gave it too much thought; I was just the violinist that shows up to play the song you need to walk down the aisle. Lately though, with the increase in weddings I have been getting I have actually been thinking about it a lot. I also do funerals and other events, and quite often I find myself in very special, unique, spiritual, and historical places. I am there for people’s most special, intimate moments of their lives. That is something that I have not taken for granted, especially lately.
This past weekend I was feeling so very exhausted. On top of all the admin, office and booking work I do and students I have I also had three weddings this weekend and two full band shows. That makes five gigs in two days. Exhausting. However I am not in a position to turn down work, so I take it. I prepared myself for a weekend of no sleep and nothing more. I should have prepped myself more thoroughly for what went down on Saturday.
Last week, a hipster-ish young gentlemen contacted me online and said he wanted to hire me to play a song on my violin while he proposed to his girlfriend. I had to applaud the guy for his creativity. He wanted me to wait at a specified location while he was out taking a “walk” with his girlfriend and he could say “oh look a violinist! Let’s go check it out! Oh is she playing our song?” And the rest is history.
We decided on the Scott Memorial Fountain at Belle Isle. That’s the big white fountain at the tip of the Island. We were all set, however on the day-of, everything that could possibly go wrong did, of course. I forgot this was the week before the grand prix which is this huge auto-race event similar to the Indy 500 but in Detroit. We were supposed to open up for Smash Mouth at it last year, but got rained out. We got there to discover that the entire island was covered in a race track. However a super nice, red-headed security guard helped us out very much with directions and even escorted us to the fountain and let us park there. When we got there the fountain was being worked on, and someone was edging the lawn around it. We needed to find a way to make this happen. So we talked to the guy mowing the lawn, told him what was going on and moved the camera angles; after a lot of texting back and forth we finally were ready for the big moment.
I got up near the fountain and started playing their song. It was an old WWII sweethearts’ song as they were both history buffs. “You’ll never know.” By Vera Lynn. These lyrics, coupled with romantic jazz chords from the 40’s made everyone’s heart swoon.
You'll never know just how much I miss you
You'll never know just how much I care
And if I tried, I still couldn't hide my love for you
You ought to know, for haven't I told you so
A million or more times?
You went away and my heart went with you
I speak your name in my every prayer
If there is some other way to prove that I love you, I swear I don't know how
You'll never know if you don't know now
The beautiful young couple approached. I was playing the song and thinking of the lyrics. I watched as the girl slowly started to realize I was playing their song. The guy dropped to one knee and the girl’s hands went up to her face as she started to cry, saying “yes! Yes!” She grabbed his face and kissed him for the longest time, both of them had tears streaming down their faces and you could just feel the love they had for each-other. The lawn mowing guy and security guard were watching. My assistant was taking video of the whole thing. Everyone was extremely moved and crying. My hands were shaking but I kept playing. And that memory is forever burned in everyone’s heart with my very own hands providing the sound track.
To be a part of a moment like this is something I will forever be grateful for. Even if I hadn’t gotten paid, (I did) the rewards are still beyond measure. In this way I will always get back what I give out, no matter how small my audience.
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