“Do What You Love – The Money Will Follow,” read the title on the cover of a book my mother once handed me when I was in my early 20s.
Her gift was no doubt intended as a gentle prod to her directionless oldest child to figure out where the heck he was headed in finding some livelihood. She likely would’ve preferred to impart a swift kick to the backside.
But she was smart enough to realize a stubborn young man might respond more positively to a little nudge than a lecture.
Truth be told, though, I couldn’t tell you anything about the contents of that book. I don’t remember ever opening it. But for some reason, the golden nugget of wisdom contained in its title always stuck with me.
I eventually got my act together to finish college and get on with being an adult. At various times, I’ve worked as a lawyer, writer and most recently, as a middle school choir teacher.
For years, I used the piano lessons and singing experience gained in my youth to work side jobs in music. And yet, I never fully heeded the advice of the book to “do what you love” and see if the money actually followed.
That changed in Clear Lake, Iowa, in 2009.
In the Clear Lake Middle School auditorium, I met a violinist, Cristina Seaborn, who was performing in that weekend’s backing band. We were both attending a talk by Graham Nash, who had come from England to take part in the anniversary programs.
As the crowd filed out at the end of his talk, I recognized the violinist by the door and took a moment to stop and tell her how much I had enjoyed her playing the previous evening.
As we briefly chatted, she asked me if I played an instrument. “Yes,” I said, “piano.” She motioned toward the piano sitting on the auditorium stage, and asked me if I’d like to play some music together.
I sat at the keyboard and Cristina took out her violin. We started playing all kinds of songs, and I was pleasantly surprised to find I could “hang” with the professional musician. After a little while, she mentioned I had a quick ear and figured out songs quickly. “Who do you play with back at home?” she asked.
“I have a standing gig in my living room,” I said.
“Ha!” she said. “But seriously, do you play with a band?”
“I’m not kidding,” I said. “I play a lot of church services. But other than that, I don’t play out much.”
“Well, that’s just ridiculous!” scolded a woman I had never before met.
I was 47 the day I met Cristina, and when I got back to Joliet, I took her admonishment to heart. I decided not to sit back and wait anymore. I started doing more with music.
At 6:30 p.m. April 22, more than 20 of my local musician friends and I are taking over the Rialto Square Theater stage for an entire evening of songs from several recent theme shows we’ve performed – tunes from Elton John, Prince, Traveling Wilburys, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison, ELO, Dion and Buddy Holly. We’ll be showcasing some of our area’s best players and singers in a truly local production hosted by our “Jewel of Joliet.”
We’ll also be featuring the Rialto’s Barton Grande organ on several songs, a 90-voice youth choir and other entertaining surprises. Milano Bakery will be selling treats and Elder Brewing Company will be pouring a specialty beer for the occasion.
Tickets are $20 and available at the Rialto box office, Chicago Street Pub or online at rialtosquare.com. And just to bring things full circle, violinist Cristina Seaborn will be coming to join us!
So that begs the question – now that I’m finally heeding the advice to “Do what you love,” has the money actually followed?
Well, maybe not in the sense the book intended. But every time I make music with the talented local musicians I now count as friends, I’m reminded not all rewards of great value in life are cash.
• Tim Placher is the choir director at Drauden Point Middle School and a former Herald-News columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.