11 March 2015
In the Fall of 2014, Machines Dream was fortunate enough to be invited to perform at Indie Week in Toronto. One of 250 acts from around the world, we would be given an opportunity to showcase our talents and be judged by, and against, fellow musicians.
Leading up to Indie Week I was excited and more than a little anxious. After all, I’m not what could be considered a “full time” musician. While music is a huge part of my life, I also spend a large amount of time as a public policy expert, a father, a husband, a backpacker…so many facets come together to create the full picture of who I am. So, if I were to prioritize these bits and pieces, just where in this list does “musician” fall?
I reflected on this question as I drove to Toronto. Eventually, I found myself confirming that I am a public servant, father and husband who also has a deep and abiding passion for music. Yes, this definition seemed to fit me just fine. After all, my music doesn’t pay the bills, so it would be foolish of me to prioritize it ahead of my public policy work, right? Shouldn’t the first thing you use to describe yourself be the most important…and isn’t paying the bills, and providing a future for your family, the most important thing?
Sure seemed to make sense to me.
We played our showcase gig in front of a rowdy and appreciative audience. The other acts that evening were excellent; diverse, passionate and great fun to watch. Hanging out with them afterwards, discussing all the things that musicians discuss when they get together, was a blast. I left the venue before hearing the results of the competition, simply satisfied with having had the opportunity to be part of it all. On the drive back, my BlackBerry buzzed to life. Craig West had sent an email titled “we fucking won!”
This changed everything.
We’d played really well, I knew. But we were up against other excellent musicians and were being judged by professional musicians. I always believed we were a very good band, but now…now our peers had confirmed this. My contribution to making the world a better place, through music, was recognized. I wasn’t simply some policy wonk who just happened to know how to play the drums. I was a musician, part of a band regarded by other musicians as having something special, something really good.
The semi-finals were a wholly different experience. The level of professionalism and musicianship was ratcheted way, way up. Every band that went on stage was polished, tight and entertaining. They were all simply excellent. And here we were, judged by our peers as being worthy of sharing the stage with true professionals; artists whose music is their livelihood. We didn’t move on to the finals and that didn’t matter one bit. For me, the whole experience afforded the opportunity to reassess who I am as a human being…what I’m here to do.
I am a musician. It’s in my bones. My foot is always tapping to some hidden rhythm. I’m constantly replaying some obscure melody in my head, perhaps from a song that I’d last heard ten years ago. Music flows through me, fills me, colors my view of the world. It makes me a better father, a better friend, a better human being. It may not influence my public policy work, but who knows? Perhaps it does in subtle ways that I’ve not yet understood.
I left for Toronto a public servant, father, husband and…oh, yeah, a musician.
I returned home a musician, father and husband, who just happens to pay the bills and support his passion by working in the public sector.
If anyone out there thinks that, because they aren’t performing full time, then, they aren’t a “real” musician, let me ask you: do you feel it in your bones? Does everything you see and hear remind you of a song? Do you feel the rhythm of nature in your soul?
If you do, it doesn’t matter how you pay the bills. You are a musician. A member of a prestigious club to which relatively few people in history have been granted membership.