Isn’t it inspiring to see someone who has reached a certain level of success with their craft, their art, or their skill? There is a confidence to them, either quiet or shining for all to see on the surface. In them, you see a sense of knowing what they do, knowing their gift, talent or skill inside and out. There is effortlessness to what they create. It just flows. We can see a clear recognition that they have become (for lack of a better word) an expert, a master, an elder in their own unique arena.
For some reason, I can’t help but think of Arthur in ‘The Sword In The Stone’ (the Disney movie, of course), learning from Merlin to swim as a fish, to navigate the treetops and master the awkward social interactions that come with being a young, cute, innocent squirrel. For us ‘young’uns’ figuring out our path, there is nothing more valuable than having a mentor, or maybe even a hero — someone who will share their wisdom, knowledge and lessons. Someone who walks the walk, talks the talk, who will take a chance on us so we, too, can stretch and test our wings in the way they did many years ago. Obviously, someone trusted their ability to make a leap of faith once . If they hadn’t, chances are they wouldn’t be where they are now.
A few years ago, a friend and I saw Billy Joel in concert. He was brilliant and clearly a master. It was also evident that his brilliance and success may have led him down a path where he was undoubtedly the most important person on it. It made me sad, to tell you the truth. So many young, shining musical talents have so tragically shown us that getting rich and famous too early can have detrimental effects; that sometimes, brilliance has a high price tag. On stage here was a legend who was showing us that if the bad habits that are by-products of success don’t fatally harm you, they can still have a negative impact. The music was amazing, but by the end, seeing a middle-aged man doing pelvic thrusts on his piano bench was a bit…well, tacky. I came to the show not even a fraction of the Billy Joel fan my friend was, but I, too, got caught up in the wild elation of the audience when he would (finally) play one of his most well-loved piano ballads. When the lights came up, and the stadium started to clear, I felt a touch of disheartenment, even if only for my uber-fan friend. I equated it to going to a performance from my all-time favourite musician or band, and paying $150 to watch them slowly get drunk and disorderly in front of my eyes. Multiply that times the thousands of people in the stadium paying that ticket price or more…that’s a helluva salary to get paid to do something that an audience member could see (and shake their head at) in a neighbourhood pub for a fraction of the cost. Of course, it wouldn’t be a musical legend you’d be watching, and if you were lucky, you’d hear ONE of their songs blaring from the bar’s sound system.
Let’s just say this: the veil had dropped. My impression of this bright-voiced singer had changed in a way I hadn’t anticipated.
And then, 7 years later, I saw this video.
Seeing a musical icon truly hear and respond to this Vanderbilt University student’s bold request re-affirmed my faith. Seeing their collaboration was a reminder that no matter how far you travel along your path to mastery of your art (no matter what that ‘art’ is), it never hurts to remember and re-connect with where you came from, to see the spark in someone who is finding their way out of the departure lounge with a suitcase full of potential. It never hurts to take a chance, to say “Ok,” to see where a little twist of fate is leading you. This one moment where you lay down your ego may be the moment this ‘apprentice’ is looking for, to test their chops, spread their wings…and soar.
Let us jump. Who knows what you may be helping to launch. If all goes well, this one moment will be one that you, and the now-unknown person you have chosen to share it with, will always remember and, hopefully, never regret.
I think Mr. Joel summed it up perfectly: “Good luck to you, Michael. I think you’re gonna do fine.”