Ep 40 I LOVE artists. Today I’m sharing stories of how five artists have colored my life.
I’m grateful for anyone who creates and shares on any level. It doesn’t matter if it’s amateur or professional, hobby or full-time gig. Fro me, art is the sauce of life. When I lived in France, I learned that the secret to delicious French food is the sauce. Without art, life would be like plain mashed potatoes or dry chicken—you get the basic nutrition, but it’s the sauce that adds the spice, the flavor, and makes everything taste so good.
“Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.”
― Chuck Klosterman
All Kinds of Art
Years ago my husband and I went on a campout with other young married couples from our church. One man from our group performed a magical comedy routine while we sat around the campfire. I laughed so hard that my belly hurt for three days. It was awesome. This wasn’t something he did professionally. He was going to college like the rest of us, probably studying bio-engineering or something rather serious. I can’t remember what got him interested in magic and comedy or why he had taken the time to learn the skill. But I remember feeling grateful that he had taken the time to hone that talent and that he would share with us and not be embarrassed about it. Twenty years later I still remember that night of entertainment.
I love comedians. I love humor. You know those friends you love to be around because they are funny. They have a unique way of seeing and saying life. You never know what is going to come out of their mouth, but you know that when you’re around them your belly is going to hurt, in a good way. I’m really grateful for people with a good sense of humor. I think humor is an art.
Accents. I love accents. Real or imitation. With the internet and social media, our world is becoming more monochromatic. And I like that around the world we realize that we are more similar than different. But I hope we don’t lose our accents. I have a friend who can shift into accents on a dime and it’s hilarious. I love conversations when she gets in a mood and suddenly I’m having an international conversation with an Irish lady or German man. I don’t know why. It’s just so colorful and entertaining. I think being able to do accents is an art.
Of course I love writers. It took me awhile in my writing journey to think of myself as an artist. What finally gave me that AHA! was realizing how similar my writing process was to learning piano. Both required that I to sit my but in a chair for at least an hour every day and plunk away at the keys. And at first what came out wasn’t very pretty. However, little by little over time it got better. Aha! Creating art, developing an artistic skill requires practice. Daily practice.
I could go on and on about writers I love, books that have changed my life. I want to mention artists who create for children. Thank the heavens, truly, for artists who create for children. I don’t know how I would have survived mothering without Dr. Seuss. Other favorites are Betsy Lewin’s Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type and Doreen Cronin’s Diary of a Worm. How about the gorgeous language and illustrations of Don and Audrey Wood in “The Napping House” and “King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub.”
For me, life without artists would be a black and white outline. A blank coloring book. When I look back on life, on raising young children, it is our encounters with art that added the color to our pages.
I feel this way about nature, which makes sense because God is the great artist and an encounter with nature is to experience art.
I feel extreme gratitude for artists who create clever, engaging, fun music for children. I’m not talking here about a run-of-the-mill CD of Mary Had a Little Lamb sung to a strum guitar. Sorry nursery rhyme album recorders that sound like you hired Donna Reed to sing straight from the book of Mother Goose accompanied by a few basic piano chords. I suppose you have your place in the world, and you are certainly better than nothing. But goodness, if I had to listen to your menu in the car one more time, I would have parked at the drive-through of the crazy house and checked myself in.
And Kidz Bop? PLEASE. With your aerobicized Top 40 synthetic, auto-tuned, lip sync! Have mercy on us mothers whose mental faculties are already as fragile as the thread of Justin Beiber’s relationships.
Five Favorite Artists
I said I would name five of my favorites artists, so I will. But choosing five is HARD! Much harder than naming five of my favorite children, which I can do without hesitation. BUT, choosing five favorite artists is much more difficult. I’m mentioning these five because they have come into my life during a transition or when I needed comfort or uplift. Their creativity, their art became the soundtrack of my life at that time.
1. John Lithgow
I owe any strand of musical mental fortitude remaining to John Lithgo and his children’s album Singing in the Bathtub. Thank you, John Lithgo, for witty lyrics, catchy tunes, and comedic poetry set to music. How a Tony and Emmy-winning performer ends up creating children’s stories and music, I don’t know. You didn’t have to do it. You didn’t need to do it. And yet you did. For this I say THANK YOU, and I mean it. Friends with kids, if you want a squirt of fun in your day, ask Alexa to play John Lithgow’s album Singing in the Bathtub or YOUTUBE it. Our personal favorites were From the Indies to the Andies in His Undies and Big Kids Scare the Heck out of Me. I don’t love the Triplet song, but in light of the exceptional, over-the-top fun of the other 13 tracks, I can forgive track #7.
And my thanks to a public library, the lovely building that houses all this art for free. The best price for young families who have more toddlers show up to the dinner table than they have dollars in the bank account. Each of the books, and music CDs I mention we discovered through our public library.
2. Josh Groban
In 2001 Josh Groban released his first album including track #5 “To Where You Are.” When my brother passed away that year, I would get in the car by myself and play Track #5 over and over, crying and feeling my brother close to me. I had never heard the song when I purchased this CD; it wasn’t the reason I bought the CD. That’s how I know that artists, teachers, mentors come into your life when you’re ready and seeking. That song was the wings of my healing. It carried and soothed me. I don’t know how anyone could ever heal through grief without music.
While Josh Groban performed the song “To Where You Are,” it is especially the writers who need acknowledgement. Do you know who wrote the song? Richard Marx! Yes. The Richard Marx of “Right Here Waiting for You” fame. As well as Linda Thompson, who I don’t know anything about, but I’m sure she’s lovely.
3. Voice Male
Voice Male is an an a capella group consisting of six men who have performed together for twenty five years, since they first met in their college choir. It’s their improv slapstick humor and witty asides during concerts that endear them to me. Also, the fact that I’ve known them since college.
What I love about Voice Male, in addition to their unique arrangements of popular songs and original compositions, is the energy and relationship of their group. I appreciate that these six guys really go out of their way to keep creating and performing art. They each have day jobs and live in different states. When one of the original members passed away from cancer, it would have been easier to call it quits. They have wives, kids, and mortgages. And, they continue to make it work to do concerts, put out albums, and create art. What’s more? They’re getting old. I know because they are my age!
I don’t get a kickback for mentioning them. They don’t even know I’m talking about them. They probably don’t even remember me. But I can without reservation recommend that, if at all possible, you see them live in concert. Our favorite albums are Kids Stuff or their Christmas albums Jingles 1 or Jingles 2. They also produce beautiful arrangements of sacred hymns.
Voice Male has been the soundtrack to our family gardening projects and the background music each December when we set up our Christmas tree. Their songs are my favorite background music to my annual Christmas Card Videos.
4. Lindsey Stirling and The Piano Guys
I remember not too long ago seeing a flyer advertising a performance by John Schmidt. Tickets were $30 for his outdoor concert at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah. I wanted to take my husband for date night, but we had something else that weekend. Now John Schmidt and The Piano Guys are selling out stadiums and tickets are four times as much. I missed my chance to see him perform his original composition, Waterfall, in front of the actual waterfall at Thanksgiving Point Gardens.
Lindsey Stirling has a similar story. She performed in local venues until AGT judges told her she wasn’t a talented enough violinist and that her act wasn’t strong enough to make it on her own.
For both John Schmidt and Lindsey Stirling it would have been easier for them to not pursue their art. Their acts certainly weren’t mainstream. They were probably not going to get picked up by a major record label. “Don’t give up your day job,” was probably sound advice. The Piano Guys were doing classical music. Nobody pays money for classical music. We fill sports stadiums and pay out enough ticket money to give rookie athletes million dollar salaries. But all our symphonies and art programs are subsidized. But I’m so glad they didn’t listen. I’m so grateful they didn’t quit. I love that they sell out sports stadiums.
I am a daily beneficiary of their creative artistic endeavors. Every morning I listen to Lindsey Sterling and the Piano Guys. They are both on my morning yoga playlist. I’m grateful for their hard work, their perseverance. I’m grateful they fought through the self-doubt and public doubt and brought their art into the world.
Both Lindsey Stirling and The Piano Guys have shown that becoming an artist is about tapping in to what you have unique to offer the world and becoming more of who you are.
5. ABBA and Mamma Mia
I grew up in the 1980s listening to my older brother’s cassette tape recordings of ABBA’s albums and rewinding to my favorite tracks Dancing Queen, Super Trouper, Take a Chance, and Money, Money. ABBA was the soundtrack of my awkward tween years.
Then, what I find truly genius is that playwright Catherine Johnson found a way to take a string of unrelated songs and mold them into a story. I admit that to me the plot sounded a bit scandalous—a young girl afflicted with back-to-back sleep overs and three potentials fathers. I never say the musical, but when the movie came out—well, I will watch anything with Meryl Streep. And I LOVED it.
Next, imagine the genius required to take all the leftover ABBA songs and create a believable, unique, and even more lovable prequel. When Mamma Mia Here We Go Again came out, I was helping my oldest daughter pack to move away to college. We took a break from packing and wen to the theater and laughed and cried. The ending scene between mom and daughter was particularly poignant.On the drive to college, we blasted ABBA music full power. That movie and all its glorious music became the soundtrack for the story of my daughter growing up and leaving home for the first time.
Then (and how cool is this?), for Homecoming her university had an ABBA tribute band and she got to rock out live with her college friends. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. And through this all I kept thinking how grateful I am for artists who create what literally becomes the soundtrack to our lives.
“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life,
in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe