Fake it Till You Make it, Baby!

I have said this SO many times in my life.

In fact, it was this very phrase that was running through my head as I was belting ungraceful horrible sounds from my vocal chords the other day.

In case you don’t know, I work at an adoption agency that is on the same campus as the International House of Prayer here in Atlanta.  They have a 24/7 prayer room where there is live worship going all the time.  So, being a musician, I play a few 2 hour sets each week to keep the prayer room going 24/7.

Wednesday morning, before my set, I picked out all my songs.  I was pretty excited because I was playing a couple of new ones that I really really liked…

and that’s about as far as it went to actually being about to play those songs.

The first song went great.  I sang and it felt so smooth as the words and notes just rolled off my tongue, but then I made the transition to the next song’s chorus line.  It was a big build up, so naturally, I sang the chorus loud and proud…

and my melodious harmonies went from this

Aaaand in about .08 seconds it turned into this hot mess….

That little phrase “fake it till you make” quickly disappeared…. because I was not making it.  Actually, I wasn’t making anything at this point… excepting making people cover theirs ears and quietly exit the room.

BUT it got me thinking.

Why not be authentic and true to our mistakes and short comings?  What’s the matter with our flaws if they don’t cause harm to others?  Yes, there is a strength in overcoming and standing in victory over shortcomings and flaws, but until then, why not take a deep breath in and let the expectation of perfectionism go.

128_522137750158_3134_nIf we were all good at the same things, we would live in a very dull and boring world.  There would be nothing special about anyone.  There wouldn’t be a reason to practice or fine tune stills.  There wouldn’t be moments where you’re still and awestruck by the beauty that is being created and flowing out of a mere human being.

There’s something real and authentic when you hear and see the flaws of a person.  It’s what makes them unique in a way.  It makes them more human, if that’s even possible, and more relatable.  There’s a happy reassurance in a person’s mistake that releases tension.  I not entirely sure what that tension is made up of, but I’m happy when it’s broken.

Growing up, my dad always told me the same thing over and over again.

You don’t have to be the best to be your best.

It seems simple enough, but I never really understood that until recently.  Being my best is in its own category.  It’s absolutely incomparable to anyone.  No one can stand next to me and place a gold, sliver, or bronze metal around my neck.  They aren’t me.  They don’t live my life.  They don’t possess the same mixture of successes, failures, talents, flaws, or abilities.  It’s useless to live life under the expectations of others and it’s pointless to aim for non-existent perfection.

There’s just one Jess Wright and I plan to keep on singing, playing, and living rather loudly.

Wrong notes and all.

Why I Don’t Play for FREE Anymore

I’m playing my violin for a wedding today.  It’s probably the 50 somethingith wedding I’ve played for, but it’s the first one where I’m actually getting paid a real amount… like, more than $40 and it’s a big deal.

I don’t know the couple or the family I’m playing for very well yet, but they are all amazing and such lovely people and I hope to get to know them more!

Being a violinist means that when your friends get married…. they expect you to play for free.  So I do… I just don’t buy them a wedding gift.  Me playing is a $150+ value.  If you really want me to buy you a wedding gift then pay me my $150 and I’ll buy you a toaster.  Mazel tov!

The shoes I'm wearing for the wedding :-)
The shoes I’m wearing for the wedding :-)

I’m not saying that I’ve played begrudgingly for people who have asked me to play.  I’ve actually really enjoyed the times I’ve played for my friends and have felt grateful to have been a part in their wedding.  I’m aiming more at the mind-set of asking someone to use their talents and expertise for one’s own benefit and not compensating the musician for their time and effort.

It would be similar to your boss asking you to sacrifice your Saturday for the sake of the company, but then informing you that you wont be paid.  Your boss tells you that you’re not obligated to work, but she thinks you’re perfect for the job and it would mean so much if you specifically would be there working.

Hello?!  If your boss tells you to do something… you do it!  I mean, you do it if you want to keep your job, that is…

Whether they have been your best friend since kindergarten, a family member, or you just met them yesterday, you need to compensate them for what your hiring them to do.  They are providing a service to you in order to make your wedding sound beautiful, to help create an atmosphere, fill silence,  and to pull on the heart-strings of those coming to witness your special day.  Pay them for what they are worth because music, often times, makes or breaks your wedding.

If a musician plays for free or at a discount, it should ONLY be by their choice.  “The workman is worthy of his wages.”

If you can’t afford or you’re not willing to pay your musicians… do them a favor and don’t ask them to play.  Just break out that old school boom box and play a recording of the “Wedding March” and you’ll be golden.

Photo Shoot of Real Life

Sometimes, you just have to take pictures of your friends because they’re good-looking people :-)

(Note: I haven’t done much editing… the family is the only thing keeping the cool factor of these photos from plummeting to the ground)

IMG_0392Meet the sweet Randall family!  They are missionaries at the International House of Prayer here in Atlanta, Georgia.  They have squirmy, yet sweet and adorable kids :-)

They were gracious enough to let me take their pictures so I can use them as marketing tools for the adoption agency I work for called Embracing Life Adoption Agency.

I love sweet moments like this…


… and a kissy kiss picture!


Which slowly turned into a melt down of the chillin’s


However, the Randall’s have such a commitment to each other and keeping Love as the foundation of their family.


Their kids cry cute.

Don’t read my journal! Here, let me read it for you.

IMG_0912I’ve never written opening and candidly on a blog before.  I’ve written things that I believe in and events that are on my mind, and things I think people want to read, but it’s all heavily edited and took a great deal of thought.  So, I thought I’d be a little more candid.  Yes, I’ll still monitor the content and no, it won’t be a bashing site of any sort. In fact the only person who will be talked about in these little posts is me and me alone.

Sorry to disappoint you.  I’m such a selfish little spoilsport.

This first “entry” isn’t really an entry… I’m just telling you what I’m doing.  Not that you need to be told, I’m sure you’re really smart and could’ve figured what I’m doing by the title of the blog post.  So, here I am… smugly insulting your intelligence.

So, how does that make you feel?



Keep on Keepin’ on

Picture an 11-year-old version of me.  Pretty adorable, right?  Now place that 11-year-old on a stage, holding a violin, wearing loose, waist-high, black slacks with a white, long sleeve, over sized dress shirt that is tucked into her pants.  Still adorable?  Maybe, but I felt more like I was going to puke rather than cute.  I’m not sure if that feeling was brought on by nerves or the fact that I looked like a chubby prepubescent boy.

I tucked my violin under my chin and then began.  Believe me, Bach knew how to scare an 11-year-old-first-time-soloist out of her wit’s end.  It’s called Minuet in G.

violinI pushed through the sick feeling in my stomach, gave my piano accompanist a head nod, and began playing.  I tried to keep my bow steady since was shaking all over, but it was a lost cause.  I focused so hard on the music that I almost forgot how to play, in fact I did forget.  I stopped half way through!  It resembled the sound of nails being dragged across a chalk board accompanied by a deer-in-headlights look on my face.  I could feel my eyes moisten as I looked over to the pianist.  She gave me an encouraging smile and whispered, asking me what measure I would like to start from.  I told her the measure number and proceeded to play the rest of Minuet in G.

After I completed the piece, I felt a massive release of tension as I took a bow and I heard a wave of applause from the audience.  At the time, I was sure it was a sympathy applause.  However, now, I believe it was a genuine applause for over coming my fears  and for what I had accomplished so far on the violin.

I suppose it was Minuet in G that first helped me learn how to keep on going despite making mistakes… especially ones that are made in front of people.  It’s  about continuing and finishing the task at hand regardless of the potential judgments of others, and at 28 I can say that I’m not easily embarrassed or concerned about the thoughts of others towards me.

I had a violin instructor tell me, “If you’re going to make a mistake make it loud.”

At the time, I didn’t understand this statement.  I didn’t understand why I should let jessviolinanyone hear my mistakes.  I thought most people want to hear beautiful music.  Yes, the main reason to play mistakes loud is so that you can hear and correct those mistakes, but I learned something else from this practice along the way…

Try, fail, and then try again.  The “try again” part is such a key thing to learn.  It took me few years of practicing my mistakes loudly to understand the importance of doing this.  Not only did it allow me to hear my mistakes in order to fix them, but it I was practicing the ability to keep going.  This skill not only exists in the music world, but life in general.  It’s a skill that is helpful in almost every situation.

Almost three years ago, my dad passed away.  Was I hurt, grieving, sad, and upset?  Yes, yes to all of the above and more.  However, I couldn’t just stop living life.  I couldn’t just press pause and expect the world around me to treat me differently and excuse my behavior just because I was experiencing a tragedy.  I had my slight pause and my moment of panic, but then I found the measure I needed to start from and I kept on playing.  Yes, there are moments of sadness, moments of grief, and moments where I’ve stopped, but I’m quick to remember that life is still going.

In a grieving situation, it’s a careful balance of remembering the past, living in the present, and moving towards the future.  I won’t say “moving forward” or “moving on” because you never quite get over the deaths of loved ones.  I will say that it’s entirely possible to keep going, it’s possible because you must.  The alternative is to allow depression to make it’s home in your heart.  This can not be an option.

You can almost say it’s a fight or flee mentality.  When you make a mistake, when life gets the best of you, when circumstances outside of your control happen, when things don’t go your way… will you fight or flee?

Will you keep on going or will you just stop and give up?

It all comes down to a choice.  The 11 year old me could have stopped entirely the night of my recital, but I didn’t.  I chose to keep going and for that I received a job well done by the audience of parents for my squeaky, but brave performance of Minuet in G.