Art imitates life

It’s open mic night at the local coffee house.

The first to take the stage is a cute, perky young woman. She is infused with energy. There are quite a few people in the house and based on the waves, smiles and verbal exchanges, they are here for her.

She does not begin until everyone in the room is seated and quiet. She demands this.  Once she begins, two things are apparent: She manages her guitar well enough for a beginner. Her voice …. needs work.

She makes up for it by flashing a bright smile and interacting with the audience. We are forgiving because she is young and frankly, it takes guts to get up in front of people and sing music you have written yourself. 

When she is done with her set, the second musician climbs on stage. She is also cute, perky and full of enthusiasm. She handles her instrument well. But then she starts singing.

Her voice is strong and sure and perfectly pitched and projects around the room, enveloping us all in a warm, liquid embrace. There are no demands for our attention. Her music draw us in and hold us captive for the whole set.

Meanwhile, the first singer is at the back of the room working her well-oiled marketing machine: selling merchandise, promoting future shows and seeking donations for studio time. She doesn’t pay  attention to the woman strumming the guitar and filling the room with sweet sounds.

When singer No. 2 is done, she has an awkward moment involving a foot tangled in a stool, a music stand threatening to tumble and sheet music spilling over the stage in a waterfall of ink and paper. She shyly thanks the audience and takes a seat next to her boyfriend, who appears to be her only fan in attendance. They huddle together, alternately sipping coffee and reassembling her music binder.

This humble but beautifully gifted singer sits and listens as other performers share their brand of expression with the audience. She hasn’t brought T-shirts or flyers or a jar for tips. Singer No. 1 is still hustling her way around the room.

This little moment in time seems to sum everything up about life. There are two kinds of people.  The first has pure talent. The other has a vision fueled by determination. Who will succeed?   It’s anyone’s guess which, if any, of tonight’s performers will go on to future acclaim.  There are plenty of wildly talented folks out there doing something other than sharing their gifts. On the other hand, there is no shortage of marginally original millionaires out there benefitting from the right kind of promotion.