The forward last week (88) for my Top-5 post touched briefly upon the “Cream of The Crop” (COTC) and "community favorites,” which more likely than not, reside deeply within the hearts and minds of the judges and the Open-Mic community at large.
However, @nathankaye went far beyond a thoughtful and positive word, which inspired me to write this root post to properly reply and thank him for his gracious comment and insights. In doing so, I hope to add some of my personal feelings regarding the Open Mic community at the same time. So, here goes:
Here is Nathan's awesome comment:
“Mate!!! Thanks so much for those words of veracity and incredibly beautiful compliments! I’m deeply touched!
You know, it’s so great to see a judge acknowledge this actually.
It was clear to me very early on (& in truth, I only started entering Open Mic in February in week 73, I think, and I came 1st place for the first time just last week, week 87, (Woohoo!) that there would need to be a kind of ‘scooping up’ of the broader community into the top 5 and honorable mentions so they don’t feel like it would be impossible to place if the COTC, as you dubbed us, aren’t pushed aside to make space. I even took a 6-week break from entering, largely in order to provide some of that space.
With that in mind, I do think it’s important for you, and possibly the other judges too, to acknowledge it, otherwise newbie entrants might also think things like, “well if such and such (CTOC) couldn’t even get a place or an honorable mention, then what hope do I have?!” In fact, that specific thing has been conveyed to me a couple of times, which is why you mentioning this in such a graceful, beautiful way as you’ve done here is really important.
Thank you so so much for that.
I just wrote this in the comments of @breakoutthecrazy’s comment and it’s important to reiterate:
This is the highest desire of my creations - for the audience/listeners (including judges) to drop the finger off their trackpad for a few minutes or so and really absorb what is being shared and conveyed. I don’t say that as an expectation though, because I know how much the judges have to sift through, but I do know that the several minutes I commit to tape (figuratively speaking) are really the culmination of tens of thousands of hours of hard work, spanning decades, all condensed down into those few minutes.
Those that are nascent may or may not really understand that yet, but they will when they get to my age and have been intensely grinding away for so so long.
And yes, of course, the so-called COTC can share the limelight. Haha! Woohoo!
You freakin’ rock dude!
Much love and blessings to you @passion-ground!”
And my reply:
Brother, thank you for such a kind and insightful comment, Nathan. You really get it mate, and that’s just one of the things that I love so much about you!
You bring up a very good point regarding other entrants becoming discouraged if they notice that truly gifted artists are “not placing” – and perhaps concluding, “hey, if so and so didn’t make it, then why should I even bother entering at all.”
AN IMPORTANT GENERAL ASIDE: Nathan, and to the rest of the Open-Mic community, I must be very clear on one very important matter before continuing. There will never, ever be any sort of “mercy” placements in my Top-5’s or honorable mentions – EVER!
If an artist is in my top-30, they are there for good reason. Thereafter, it simply becomes a matter of organizing these top 30 artists in a way that is both entertaining and non-redundant for me, and likewise for the community at large.
Though I have many, I never select them simply for "favorites sake."
As I trust you know, and as I myself have experienced first-hand as a 30+ consecutive week entrant (who never placed EVER), that the very best motivation to participate resonates from deep within one’s heartfelt passions. The immense rewards for such are derived exclusively from this incredibly supportive #openmic community, their collective comments, and constructive criticisms.
I remember I was “curied” early on once when I didn’t really know or understand what “curie” was or meant. My entry earned triple digits, I think higher than anyone else competing that week. Prior to the announcement of winners on the following Monday, certain that I would win; I had prepared a winners speech of gratitude. Ha-ha… You know what’s coming, right! Yep, I didn’t even place nor make anyone’s honorable mention list! Ha-ha!!!
After about 3.5 seconds of a minor disappointment, I was over it and planning my next entry. For me, it was never about “rewards,” “competition,” or “winning” but rather it is ALL ABOUT having a supportive and fun venue from which to express myself musically, and to get solid real-time feedback from other artists and musicians in the process.
Seeking out and successfully finding such validation fostered an organic reciprocal reflex in my nature, and the whole darn thing became one highly unstoppable positive feedback loop that continues till’ this very day!
The only difference is that nowadays, I don’t have much time to record or do “unofficial entries,” so I get my validation-fix in a more one-sided fashion of being in a position to recognize the great performances of others, and to proudly showcase them in my weekly Top-5 list, which by the way is more like a weekly Top-30 list if you included all my honorable mentions. If you include ALL my mentions, it’s more like a weekly Top-100 list!
After I complete a Top-5 post, I spend hours editing it for grammatical errors and the like. I am so proud of all the artists I’ve selected, (they are my babies, man!) that when my post is finally live, I re-read it and re-listen to every single entry at least a half a dozen times or more. Each time I do so, my heart swells with pride for each of the artists on my list, and for the work that I’ve done to showcase their efforts and artistry in the best possible light.
I read through my Top-5 posts and listen to each of my selections from top-to-bottom to get the full effect of what readers and listeners are likely to experience when reviewing my findings each week.
How my presentation comes across means a lot to me. It is very similar to the way that you and @breakoutthecrazy yearn for all of us to take the time to really listen to your performances from start-to-finish.
I present my weekly Top-5 showcase in the same fashion, and with the same hope and desire – that at least a small handful of folks will really take the time out to read it all, listen to each of the select artists, and really derive the maximum enjoyment and appreciation for all of the hard work and artistry it took to create and curate it all.
For me, my validation-fix comes in the form of putting a smile on people’s faces, giving them the inspiration to continue pursuing their art, making them feel good about how hard they worked, and how their performances have profoundly affected me and the community at large. That I’ve been blessed with this ability and the opportunity to exercise it is what drives me to do what I do each week.
I’m Driving Your Car now, Open-Mic People!
Sure, sometimes it seems more like a full-time job, and I often feel as though I’m "working for peanuts," but as the Beatles say, “that’s all very fine, but you guys show me a far better time.”
I never thought I could derive such joy in giving of myself for the simple sake and benefit of giving. It truly is a beautiful thing.
From a judges perspective and I think it is safe to assume the same holds true from a broader audience perspective, that even if someone is super-talented, our perceptions subconsciously raise the bar for that performer – and fairly or unfairly, we tend to expect a little more from them.
Changing things up and moving outside one’s comfort or prediction zone goes a long way in sustaining freshness, interest, and excitement. Your decision to do a cover last week was the perfect example, brother Nathan! I was expecting another heart-tugging original, which I’ve become very accustomed (and perhaps a bit desensitized) to hearing from you – but instead, you delivered something lighter, more fun, and out of left field – and it was a total surprise and pure pleasure to experience!
I believe that many artists like yourself, who are true professionals, can effectively utilize the Open-Mic to broaden your respective fan-bases, and perhaps to sell your music too! That’s awesome!
However, we must not forget the general nature and concept of “Open-Mic’s,” which are venues of experimentation, fun, inclusion, and sometimes silliness too. (Need I remind everyone as to my entry performing percussion to Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” on my kitchen sink! Ha-ha!)
I have seen some professionals arrive here with great fanfare and huge community support only to see them disappear shortly thereafter, presumably because the community and judges were failing to recognize their clearly superior professional skills like clockwork.
In my view, I suspect that true professionals need to embrace more of a playful and sharing side of their artistry when participating – at least here in the Open-Mic venue anyway – and not to take themselves so seriously as they otherwise might properly be inclined to do.
Thank you once again, Nathan, for “getting it,” and for being the outstanding person and brilliant artist/entertainer that you truly are!
It is my hope that this formal reply serves to enlighten all participants regardless of their skill level, to better understand exactly what I think the Open-Mic is all about, how I judge entrants, and most importantly, that what I’ve said here today, will foster and encourage each of you to squeeze every ounce of passion, love, and joy from this most beautiful experience we’ve all been blessed to share with one another.