Starting Over 2020

I think there’s a “myth” you buy into when you’re young that at some point you’ll have it all figured out. You’ll settle into your life and career and ride off gently into a suburban sunset. But the truth is for most of us the unexpected continuously shows up in the form of job loss, career changes, break ups, divorce, economic crisis, illness or now, unbelievably, a pandemic. You make it through one only to find yourself on the business end of another when you least expect it. Wash, rinse and repeat. 

A few years ago I found myself in one of those all too familiar moments where expectations and reality had decided they were better off staying friends and unceremoniously parted ways. My contract was ending with a company I had been helping to build for several years and I was splitting with an artist I had been managing for more than twice as long. It wasn’t exactly a knock out punch but it definitely left a mark. To clear my head, I rented a small lake house in the Pocono Mountains and spent a week in self-isolation (way before it was the cool thing to do). About half way through the week, I walked down to a spot next to the lake and asked God what he wanted me to do with my life. I heard a response, not out loud, but on the inside. It said, “Teach and make music.” Teach and make music? Who was I supposed to teach and how? I had been conducting workshops for high school students for a while but that certainly wasn’t going to be enough to make a living. And as far as making music, I had spent the previous seven or eight years focusing on the business side of the industry and helping others find their creative voice while largely ignoring my own. I wasn’t even sure I had anything left in the musical tank. Not to mention I hadn’t “gigged” in years. But probably the most daunting part of all was it meant walking away from what I had been building for years. It meant letting go. And it meant starting over. Again. 

Of course I had a lot of fear and doubt but I put my head down and got to work. I’ve learned over the years you don’t always need to see the entire road to start moving forward. Sometimes the one or two feet you can see in front of you are enough and the rest will become clear in time. I started looking for an organization that I could partner with to build a contemporary music education program but didn’t have much luck. Then almost exactly one year later to the day from my conversation by the lake, I had my first interview for the GRAMMY Museum Experience Prudential Center. I found a home. I couldn’t have imagined a better opportunity to build music education programs for kids in my state and my colleagues at Prudential Center are some of the brightest and most talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working alongside. Frankly, it’s humbling. Not to mention the unbelievable honor I’ve had of representing the GRAMMY brand and meeting and interviewing so many great artists for our public programs that have inspired and educated me for my own music! As is often the case, God’s ideas for us are a lot bigger than our own. 

So what about the music? Well, after a few starts and stops, I wrote and recorded enough material for two EPs. I had a plan in place to release them throughout this year, develop music videos, book some shows and perform live including an EP release show to coincide with my 50th birthday this weekend. But as you are painfully aware circumstances have changed drastically and much of that will not be possible for the time being. 

I considered waiting to release the music until things eased up a bit, but at GMEPC we’re encouraging our students to create and share their music online so we can fill the world with as much music, art and hope as possible. I figured I’d better “walk the walk” and do my part as well. So, I’ll be releasing some music over the next few weeks with simple homemade lyric videos starting with this first one. It’s the title track from the first EP, “Starting Over.” It’s one of the first songs I wrote after that moment by the lake. Of course I was thinking of my own situation at the time but I was also thinking of all of us folks “of a certain age” who’ve learned the hard way that life is a never ending series of “pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.” With all the turmoil of the last few weeks (and what I’m sure will be the next few months) the song has taken on an even deeper meaning for me now. Expectations and reality have not only had an ugly divorce but expectation is suing the crap out of reality for non-support! 

There’s no way around it, there’s going to be a whole lot of “starting over” for all of us in the coming weeks and months. I find myself, once again, wrestling with fear and doubt. But in spite of it, I’m going to put my head down, do the work, focus on the one or two feet I can see in front of me and move forward. It’s all I can do and it’s never let me down before. 

“Raise ‘em up, raise ‘em high for the ones….starting over” 

Prayers and love, 

MDC

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