I’m sitting on the floor, just offstage. The desert sun is setting spectacularly in the distance.
I close my eyes and listen.
I listen mostly with my body, not my ears. The sound of the voices and bodies and the drums moving together is overwhelming. Not in the negative sense, but in the true way, the way where there is nothing else but that sound, that vibration. No room for thoughts about my own performance that’s starting in a few minutes. No room to worry about notes and rhythms and difficult high notes, no room for concerns about what the audience or the writers or the important industry people will think.
The people on stage are the singers and dancers from the Tesuque, San Ildefonso, and Santa Clara Pueblos. They are offering a blessing for our audience and for our performance of Doctor Atomic at Santa Fe Opera, and I am taking it all in. This connection between human beings on stage, off stage, and in the audience, in the past, present, and future, is the thing I’m here to experience. This is the reason I sing. That ineffable space where there is no “us” and “them,” only a journey together though sound and story.
I’ve recently reflected a lot on my place in the world as an artist. Especially as every day the world seems to be thrown into ever greater turmoil. I’m thankful for my career, but I’ve come to see “having a career” as a means, not an end. Just as great vocal technique is a wonderful and necessary thing which in the end is only there to serve the singer’s performance, to me a career in music seems to be only as useful at the connection it facilitates, the hearts it can touch.
Like many singers I know, I’ve considered quitting many times over the years. The pressure, travel, and the act of constantly pretending to be someone else can be debilitating. In my case, I’ve never really had the stomach for fame, so for a long time my goal in this endeavor was a little hazy. Continuing to get better gigs and making more money didn’t really seem like a reason to drag my family all over the world (a longer post for another time). Only in the past few years have I really started to understand what fuels me, and that is the connection between human beings, on stage, in the audience, and in the greater world. Facilitating that connection makes it worthwhile. It’s a lesson I continue to learn from all directions, from the Pueblo singers and dancers in New Mexico, from my family, my colleagues, audiences, and from people whose voices don’t have the platform that I do. That’s why I’m here.
My hope for this blog is that it is a place where I share my journey and collaborations with all of you, and where we can have some vigorous and kind discussions about art and the world. I’m making a concerted effort to share more of my interests in art as activism, and as a vehicle for dealing with our biggest issues and questions. To that end, my intention is to be both as direct and as kind as possible to everyone involved, whether we agree or not. If at any point you feel I’m not living up to that standard, I hope you’ll do me the favor of gently letting me know. If you are reading this, you are already part of my journey and I am a part of yours. I’m excited to see where we can go together.