Song of the Explorer Conquer Fear, Create Change, Collaborate

I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today. - William Allen White

My name is Razz - short for Razzberry. I'm a storyteller, an artist, a troubador, an explorer. I travel the country searching for stories and experiences that I can craft into music. In the corners of the world I discover myself, and I strive every day to find the authentic Razz - to build my own story. Let me show you how to do the same.

When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest. - Henry David Thoreau

I played the violin but I couldn't look up off the page. If you took my sheet music away the instrument would lie lifeless in my hands. My fingers itched to jazz but the sheet music for violin sometimes didn't exist. So I slowly coaxed my mind to create the notes from thin air. In the quiet stillness of my forest green bedroom the music felt freeing. But on a stage with lights burning down on me stones sank into the pit of my stomach. Jazz band sounded like fun until the director assigned us all solos. Unwritten solos felt like a far cry from the fleeting improvisations I had done in my forest room. The stones hatched into birds that fluttered around my ribcage as each note on the page in front of me rushed me headlong into that gaping white gap where my solo lurked, amorphous and unrehearsed. The notes that filled the gap that night are lost to murky old memory. But the feeling of fluttering birds and a gaping white mouth linger with me. They are familiar friends now.

Stepping out onto the street corner in the Seattle rain was terrifying. Thin mist cloaked my amp and I was sure the batteries would spontaneously combust. My icicle fingers moved sluggishly across the strings. Street performing felt vulnerable and completely anonymous at the same time. I was sure I was about to get pelted with vegetables. I was simultaneously sure no one was going to care. But after my first two songs on the street corner a woman smiled at me and dropped a dollar in my instrument case.

We all struggle with fear. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of what others might think. Overcoming fear starts with a deep breath, or a count of ten, or pushups. When was the last time you were afraid? What did you do? Did you beat it? After years of performing, stage fright is an old friend. She stops by to say hello during shows that really matter to me. Practice and time have helped me overcome that particular fear. How are you practicing embracing the fearful?

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. - Barack Obama

The looper pedal is so worn it looks like its been run over by the tour van. There are dials missing, the crimson paint has been mostly scuffed away. Only the large black foot pads remain the same, they still react with a robust meaty click when I stomp down on them. This looper taught me to sing and play. I practice a riff over and over on my violin until I can play it without thinking. Then I'll try to sing over it, listening for if my hands fall out of time. With each new triumph it gets easier.

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking. -Albert Einstein

It's so easy for me to forget you've never seen this instrument before. It's been my inspiration and my muse for over eight years. Each new technique and discovery is like unlocking a door and finding a whole building I never knew existed. No one thinks of the violin as a rock and roll instrument. No one thinks you can sing and play it at the same time. Yet I am, and I did, and I will. But every new discovery was built on the foundation of what I know is possible. Each step that takes me into these uncharted waters began from a familiar shore. Think about something you didn't know a year ago, can you remember that state of not knowing? Can you keep the wonder of discovery flush in your mind? Let that feeling carry you forward into all the new discoveries you will make into the future. Change is not a massive leap but a series of small steps.

"Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success." - Henry Ford

A wave of heat washed over me as rockets blasted 14 foot crimson flames towards the arena roof. The violinist took a final bow, his coat tails sweeping backwards as he sauntered off stage. I crept out of my seat and slipped through the door during the final bows, determined to be the first in line to greet the performers at the shows end. As a line of passionate fans formed behind me I clutched my program hard in my fists, waiting for the velvet cord barricade to give way. When I finally approached the violinist along the row of musicians signing autographs I schooled my tongue into sensibility and told him with breathless speed: "I play one of your electric violins in a band!". He smiled up at me from the table and his words lifted my heart in a victorious gregorian swell. "Why don't we go to lunch and you can tell me all about it?"

The goal of this program is to leave students with a living example of a full time artist following their passion. It is my hope that through reading some of my stories you have taken a few steps of this journey along with me. The goal of the explorer is self realization through discovery. Through sharing experiences I aim to provide students with a series of strategies they can use throughout their lives to set goals and achieve their dreams.

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