Managing Expectations

Fact: I am a nearly 41 year old woman with serious health issues. One could say my prime left a long time ago.

Another fact: while perhaps somewhat dimished by time, age and illness, I still have a voice worth hearing.

Contrary to some popular belief, I am confident of my ability to sing.  It’s never been in question. I greatly enjoy making music, and it is a wonderful feeling when others appreciate both the gift and hard work that has gone into a performance. The fact that I have had limited success has little to do with talent, and much more to do with wrong place, wrong time and various life situations that kept me from the right connections and being discovered on a bigger scale.

When I was young, I had a dream.  And, I believed that despite all odds and crappiness of life, I would be discovered and have a big musical career.

Decades passed.  Life continued to bombard. But, I also continued developing my craft, and I never stopped making music. Mostly because it is the fabric of who I am. As long as I am forced to live in this world, I will sing and play. And, I will always keep doing it professionally when and where I can. Since moving to the UK, I have been well received, overall. And, I’ve been given opportunities to be heard.  And, in almost every case, as I say, I’ve been very well received and the music has been appreciated.

I’ve done what I could to get the music out there.  Recording a couple of albums for download, and submitting my stuff to places like BBC Introducing.

I was heard by someone from BBC Radio when I played at a meditation centre in Leicester, and he gave me his personal e-mail to send him my stuff, telling me they champion local artists.  I sent him my stuff. Never heard back. Just like I never heard back from the BBC Introducing folks.

This is all to say, I am under no illusions. First, I am under no illusions that I am talented. Bloody well gifted, even. But, when I go on about that too much, I sound conceited.  If, on the other hand. I try to manage expectations about being heard by scouts from The Voice UK and urged to audition for the show, people begin to think I doubt myself. Believe me, I do not. I’m simply being realistic.

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The card I was handed from The Voice scouts.

Since announcing that I had been heard at the Loughborough Acoustic Club by said scouts, and that they told me I have a great voice and they would love me to audition for the show, I have been getting a steady stream of “Oh, I can’t wait to see you on the tele, Autumn; you’ll be great; we’ll vote for you!” comments.

I feel the love, people. And, genuinely, from the depths of my broken heart and contralto pipes, thank you! The support is lovely. Awesome. It makes me feel all warm and shiney. Let’s be clear: I really appreciate it. And, if by some miracle, I make it to the televised voting bit, I’ll hold you all to it.  But, let’s not count our chickens.

There was a time when I would have allowed my hopes to soar. I have learned never to do this again. Not after all these years. Not after all the attempts to “make it”.  Not after the disappointment ravaged my weary soul and left permanent marks I feel every waking moment of every single day.

I’m managing my own expectations, as well as other people’s. It’s all about perspective. Here’s what it is: I sang well (after all, I am good). I was heard and appreciated by a couple of official representitives from The Voice.  I was asked to apply to audition for the 5th series of the show. After giving it some thought (my first being, “this is like 20 years too late for me”), I’ve decided auditioning can’t hurt. Getting a day out in Birmingham and singing to some new people…well, that’s all good.  But, that’s where I expect it will end, as far as the show goes.  Other things may come out of it, or not.  But, I am not even in the slightest going to allow my mind to go to that place where I see myself on that show.  Because, if I do that, and nothing comes of it, it would be another devastating blow to an already destroyed soul.  No, I cannot afford to even entertain the notion.

It’s a day out in Birmingham. I get to sing to new people. And, it’s all good.

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A Beautiful Experience

Last night I had a unique experience. I played to a group of people who appreciated my music. This is in stark contrast to having people be outwardly impressed by my voice or inwardly jealous of my talent. It was different to any other time of either secularly performing or “spiritually ministering”.

In the church, people either show off their talent (in an “I’m better than you” sort of way) and boast in it (in the name of God, of course) or they have some sort of false humility and run from anything that smacks of either fame OR true appreciation for the gifting. And, no one would admit it, but the jealousy is everywhere. And, also, no matter what they say, they are waiting for you to impress them. At least that’s the way it was at the last church I went to.

Secularly, you better be impressive. They want to be ENTERTAINED. “Come on! Entertain me!” and the awareness of music as a spiritual gift that has something to impart is lost to the entertainment. I like to entertain, but there is so much more to music…to the innate power of music. It is healing. It is therapy. Entertainment is such a shallow side to it. And, entertainment should NOT be confused with fun. Fun is almost always entertaining (and healthy) while entertainment is not always fun (or healthy). The proven practices of music therapy should be ample proof of this.

Last night was not a “Autumn, that was nice, but could you do something else?” “Oh, not your stuff, Autumn…sing us something we KNOW!” (Well, ahem, you’d KNOW it if you LISTENED to it!) In other words, “Could you not be you but what we want you to be?” It can be a very soul-crushing experience.

Last night, gently singing Journey’s End for a local meditation group, it was as if the song – and I – was received as a gift. There was not an attitude of, “impress me, entertain me, but/and, if you do, I’ll hate you for it”; there was a refreshing, delightful attitude of…thankfulness. There was a pure receptiveness that fed MY soul. I felt like I was, in truth, ministering in music.

I was glad to give, but I received most of all. It was beautiful. And, it was very worth a note of blogging about.