There is so much live music going on these days in the Wood River Valley! This weekend alone found me at a house concert on Friday night, an arts festival on Saturday afternoon, my husband and daughter poaching a concert with a friend later Saturday night, and playing some music myself this morning at church. Later tonight, we’ll hit a nearby park for some jazz and a picnic. It’s been a unique weekend, and I’ve been reflecting on what makes the listening experience engaging.

On Friday night, we saw a guy named Korby Lenker. He blogs, so maybe he’ll be made aware of this somehow. It was a simple set up. He had a decent PA system, a guitar, a very tiny ukulele, a handful of fascinating stories, and charisma that made instant friends of his audience. What I loved about his presentation was his own freedom to express. He was wildly creative in facial expressions, postures, and song styles. He could go from a moving ballad to quirky silliness, and then onto a story about his piano teacher which somehow tied it all together. At the end of the show, I told him that his gift to the crowd was that his music gave people permission to create. His relaxed manner and joy was infective. I think everyone who came left a little lighter and brighter.

I think the really great music artists make you feel like you’ve been given a gift. You watch them and tap your toe to the music, but in the end feel like you have received inspiration that calls you to go and do likewise in the world. It’s not that you come away feeling like you need to dust off your guitar and start jamming out, but rather live generously in the capacity that is yours. I felt that way after I saw U2, David Wilcox, Bruce Cockburn, Paul Tillotson, Natalie Merchant (back when she sang with 10,00 Maniacs), Guster, Meredith Andrews, Needtobreathe, and even Midnight Oil (despite Peter Garrett’s wild dance moves.) I now add Korby Lenker to that list.

I confess that there are several bands who I have watched perform and reacted very differently. There are bands that make me feel like I am watching an episode of “Extras” where Ricky Gervais just digs himself into embarrassing holes. I physically cringe as I witness un-grace, lame music, or awkward audience banter. There are bands who seem so into themselves that I feel unecessary in the artistic dialogue ideally happening between musician and listener. I usually leave these experiences irritated. It is such a contrast to the feeling that good art should produce.

My point in all of this musing is to acknowledge that some creatives are better than others. I am still trying to put on finger on what it is that elevates some above others. Often it has to do with music that is well played and thought out, delivered by people who are gifted to deliver a message that is unique. Additionally, it has to do with the intersection of the right voice at the right time. Those of us who have the privilege to witness these moments of magic need to encourage the “Korby Lenker’s” we get to encounter because they really do put it all out there on the line. We also need to offer our own art, whatever that may be. Our creative capacity is gifted, I think, to bless. It’s not for ourselves, but it should bring us delight as we use it.


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