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Friday, September 3, 2010

Bobby McFerrin - what can you teach us?

Today I had the privilege to sit among my 'professorial' colleagues of Berklee College of Music and witness a happening (more than a performance or a lecture) conducted by Bobby McFerrin. He's an artist I have had the chance to see more than a few times, from the audience and from backstage. He's one of those artists that brings me to tears, not only due to the pathos, or artistry or technical bravado. The tears are those of recognition of a true artist.

Mr. McFerrin aspires, as much as possible to always fire on all cylinders. He never holds back. He never stops risking and he strives to bring his 'truth' to the room. This seems to be the case in conversation as much as when he's singing.

As all of us sat, astonished, mouths hanging open and with involuntary grins I slowly became aware of a rising discomfort within. It had to do with concern for my students. You see Bobby McFerrin gives us a glimpse into the whole artistic package. He is successful in the moment, he is successful commercially, artistically and he has put this work in. He's earned all the success, no doubt, but the world has room for only so many such figures. In the meantime, the rest of us toil in a much more mundane world, struggling to succeed, and in many cases success means simply surviving. I feel responsible to my students to give them a perspective on what the struggle might look like. What to do when they are not at the level of the most illustrious and successful. We don't all have the time to sit comfortably in the stream of extreme creativity and play to the extent that he does. So how then to live happily and continue to strive toward being realized as fully as Bobby McFerrin, even if we don't get to that 'level'?

Well the things is....If we didn't have Mr. McFerrin we would never even be asking the question/ We wouldn't know it's possible to do what he does. We wouldn't understand 'superlative' in the same way. He is a force of nature and we can learn by knowing he is in our world, and be seeing what IS possible. Who knows where that example might lead. Who knows how each person will interpret that lesson....but thank goodness for him, and for all our heroes and all the self-realized artists who are truly themselves. It is a gift to us that they are in our world, and I am grateful. Thank you Mr. McFerrin, and to all artists who strive to find their own voices....

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