In an online community I’m part of, someone was trying to figure out how to get a music group started that was made of folks into the SCA. She had an early music consort made of some SCAdians and some non-SCA folks, but they didn’t have much interest in attending SCA events, because they were into early music, but not into the SCA.
She had mentioned that she was one of the few people in her barony who was skilled at music and instrument playing, and that her kingdom was large and it was hard to attend events with people of similar skill and interest due to distance.
This person was really struggling with how to get what she hoped to have to enrich her SCA life, and the discussion surrounding it made me think of the lessons I’ve learned since I began life in the SCA about 12 years ago.
Sometimes people who are really good at a thing do not really see how their abilities and deeds might be viewed by others as unattainable, or intimidating, or inaccessible.
Skills (especially “specialized” skills) like instrumental skills or expertise in music – or anything else – can be amazingly intimidating. One with great knowledge may be seen as too far beyond ones own level and interacting with them can be nerve-wracking, particularly by folks newer to an art, or unversed in it at all. (O! How many times I’ve been told how “easy” sewing is! Yet, alas, for all their words, I’m still allergic to thread!)
A choir, a band, a troupe – it’s all a set of people with their insecurities and their gifts all mashed together. The way I see it is – try to work on making the gift bit shine, and it will eventually lay light on those dark, insecure places. 😀
As I’ve become more of a resource in my own region in the past couple years, I have found myself much more careful with other people of late. Here’s what I’m finding running through my own noggin as I think more about this topic, and how I’ve tried to assess what I’ve done in the past myself.
Take what you may, and feel free to discard the rest. This is from my brain, individual mileage may vary. =)
1) Am I helping make my desire for a thing be a success that others can share in? Am I being a glory hog? Or the better thing – a glory sty where we all get to hog the spotlight?
2) Can I articulate my goals in a way that encourages buy-in from other people? Am I willing to look outside my regular circle to meet my goals? Am I willing to accept help? (Oh lord, that accepting help thing is sooooo hard for me!!!)
3) Am I willing to give help when I am asked (even when it is not convenient)? Am I being as patient as I can be (within reason!) with people who are genuinely seeking my assistance?
4) Do I make myself accessible to newcomers in my art form? If someone brings me a gift of their performance am I willing and able to accept that gift for what it is, with kindness?
5) Am I able to I encourage or praise others honestly but without offering critique? (I have found that many people – including performers – are not prepared for unsolicited critiques. We have had long threads about how a casual critique – sometimes barely even noticed by the critic – can really derail people’s work. This isn’t the problem of the one receiving – but the one giving it – my problem. Critiques should be offered, sure, but only given if accepted. And always in private, unless in a class or some similar exceptional situation. And even then…with care.)
6) Do I take people where they *are* or where I *want* them to be? Am I judging someone unintentionally? Are the things I judge really their issues or reflections of my own insecurities?
7) Am I doing my best? Am I honest with myself and others when I am not doing my best? Can I say, “I don’t know, let’s find out” and be forthright when I have made an error, or even failed?
8) Do I tell people doing good work that I think they’re doing good work? Do I join in and support other’s projects when I can? Do I encourage ideas that aren’t mine, and tell others about their goodness?
9) Am I being a snob? Could my attitude be affecting other people’s view of my (certainly awesome!) goals? Is my attitude affecting the potential of other people (yeah, that’s a vain notion, but a lack of support can be a critique of its own!)
10) Am I Being Kind Whenever I Can Be Kind? (This almost covers the other 9 right?) Kindness has to be the default setting.
It’s a long weird list, I guess, but I am more and more often asked for help on where to begin these days, and I realize that I unthinkingly go through a lot of these questions when I’m approaching that with others.
I know people want to sing and perform. And, while I am lately a soloist primarily, many voices make for a more beautiful world, to me. When I’ve done things that were better than just “sort of” successful, it was because of other people made it successful. I’ve listened to many tales of how others process, how they react to things, how praise can heal and encourage, how harder words can do real harm…. I have become more thoughtful about how I care for those who come asking. I try to be honest and firm, but always kind.
Can I do better? Absolutely. I can always do better, but day to day, it’s my best.
I’m positive that if you give people an outlet to help create a community through music, they’ll come. It may be slow, but if you’re open and kind, they’ll come. (Even if, for a while, it’s for the cookies and wine. 😉 )