Monday, November 21, 2011

What Can Creative Types Learn from a Folk Duo?

Last night, my spouse and I went to see the folk duo Alathea at our church.  Long time readers of my blogs will realize that we've seen them before (and for a write-up of last night's concert, go here). 

As I enjoyed the concert, I thought about how many lessons I could take away for my own creative practice, even if I'm not a musician.  Like musicians, many of us are going to have to be our own PR teams.  For some of us, it means touring the country to give readings and workshops, with a trunk full of our books to sell.

At many Alathea concerts, they take a free-will offering.  At some stops, the free-will offering is the only money that they make, apart from selling CDs.  Last night, as we emptied our pockets, I thought about the difference between selling tickets and taking an offering.  Which might result in more money?  It might be the free-will offering.

At a fund-raising event last year, my school's department sponsored a beading booth, with big, chunky beads and ways to turn them into necklaces.  We thought about charging a fee, but decided instead to just put out a jar for donations.  We made more money than we would have if we had charged a set fee.

Of course, as an artist, there's a risk.  People might be in a stingy mood.  People might not open up their pockets, purses, and checkbooks.  The weather might keep people at home.

So, I imagine that artists who travel this way take steps to minimize risk.  I always look for ways that I can expand on readings, and I try to schedule readings in towns where I have friends or connections.  I know that Alathea does the same thing.  We got to see them because they were going to be nearby anyway.  They were willing to make the side trip down from Sarasota because they've been here before, and our congregation is a good risk.

I was also intrigued by how many handmade instruments the group had.  A huge, empty water bottle (the kind you'd heave on top of a water cooler) sitting on top of a tambourine makes a great sound.  Empty cans make a variety of noises if you beat on them with drumsticks.  Even a grater rubbed with a drum stick makes a cool effect.

I've often wanted to do more with percussion with the children at church, but I've hesitated because we don't have that many drums.  What a fool I am!  The world is full of percussion instruments if I just look.

I took away a similar message last night--the world is full of potential and possibilities, if I can just be brave enough to grab them.  Whether it be percussion instruments or a chance to read my work, I want to be more alert and aware, always on the watch for ways to develop as an artist.

For more about the folk duo Alathea, go here--but be warned, the website launches with song.  So, if you're at work or in a library, you might want to mute your computer first.

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