Music is a servant. Sometimes it is center-stage, but usually it’s supplementing some other thing. It’s the soundtrack to a film, or the animator of a dance, or the atmosphere of a party, or the distraction-soothing ambience of the office.
But even when it is center-stage, music is still a servant. When a performer walks onto the platform and sings, all eyes may be on him, but neither he nor his song is the purpose of the event. They’re just the means to the real purpose: delighting the audience. Souls are the purpose.
I respond to pre-performance anxiety by remembering it’s not about looking good; it’s about giving good. That helps me be crowd-conscious rather than self-conscious, which in turn helps me be craft-conscious because I want to deliver something good to my neighbors in the room. If you’ve watched a visibly nervous speaker or performer, you know how that person’s anxiety interfered with your experience. There’s a pure and liberating rationality to accepting the fact that anxiety just doesn’t serve the listener, so shed it.
The performer has something to give listeners that they can’t or don’t give to themselves. Whether that gift is big or small, spotlighted or sidelined, the performer should embrace that truth and give it.
By the way, in the spirit of serving with music, I’m pleased that the Battlescapes record is contributing to the work of local historian Jim Surkamp. Jim has created dozens and dozens, maybe hundreds, of videos about various facets of Shenandoah Valley history. His latest is about the life of Harriet Lane. Educated locally in Charles Town, she became America’s First Lady when her bachelor uncle, James Buchanan, was president. You can learn a LOT more here. (The newest three videos include Vandalia River in the soundtrack.)