Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kay Pere on Focusing Your Skills

Kay Pere is a multidimensional performing songwriter, educator, artist, writer, and activist whose work embodies a message of hope, healing, humor, and humanity. When she isn't traveling to perform, present workshops, or show her artwork, Kay lives a quiet little life in a Mystical corner of New England.

I'd laundry-list her accomplishments, but I love the bio (above) she sent us so much, I'm just going to keep it at that! People like this are why we attend the IMC, as I'm sure you'll be able to see in her answers. You can learn more about her work as a singer, songwriter, visual artist, writer, educator, and activist here.

1) You and your husband, Bill Pere, are both very inspirational figures in all you've done for youth in the US and to combat hunger and poverty. What do you believe makes music a good tool for fighting the world's afflictions and shaping tomorrow's leaders?

Everyday, all of us are bombarded with news about what’s wrong with the world. Wars, disasters, corporate greed, and enormous social need; these things are both overwhelming and seemingly remote from the pressures of our daily lives. Most of the time we feel powerless to do anything about them. Eventually, most people learn to tune all this out in a process called compassion fatigue.

A well written, skillfully performed song reaches past this malaise to reawaken feelings
long forgotten by the listener. Carefully crafted songs for social change reignite youthful idealism and spark a listener’s childlike sense of injustice and empowerment to take action.

If we think back, most of us can remember a time, before the complexities of adult life, when we knew with great vividness that war and hunger, homelessness and greed were wrong, a time when our whole lives lay ahead of us and we knew we might do something to fix what is broken in our world. This remembrance is the open door where a performer can offer listeners credible paths for action by giving them additional information and examples. Through the shared experience of listening, even singing along, we are comforted to find that we’re not alone in our desire to make this world a better place.

2) How did you first get involved with the IMC, and what made you stay strong supporters?

Success in the arts has always depended on relationships, now more so than ever. At the first IMC, in 2003, I enjoyed the outstanding opportunity to meet and share knowledge with a wide range of professionals in the emerging indie music world. I’m happy to say that the personal and professional friendships I made at that and subsequent conferences have grown stronger throughout the years.

I continue to present workshops and provide individual consultations at IMC because it still holds as its central mission opportunities for networking and knowledge building open to each person who attends. The connections forged by participating in daytime workshops, panel discussions, and exhibit hall networking are the most valuable part of the experience for anyone hoping to build a lasting career in music.

All anyone has to do is show up and engage in conversation with the presenters and other musicians waiting there, looking forward to talking with them. Nothing could be easier. Over the years, I’ve also enjoyed chatting with repeat attendees, hearing about the progress they’re making in the direction of their dreams.

3) Why do you consider songwriting, critique, and vocal workshops to be so important?

Expert critique, songwriting and vocal workshops tailored to the styles and goals of those attending offer a chance for songwriters and performers to learn new ways connect with their audiences. Those who shy away from honing their skills through critique and instruction are missing the chance to move from being good to being truly excellent, and building a more loyal fan base in the process.

If you’re in the position to perform your songs for people who’ve taken the time to come hear you, you may believe you’re well on your way to lasting success. However, performing for an audience is like hosting a party for a house full of enthusiastic guests then drawing the conclusion that you’ve made 100 new best friends who’ll invite you into their homes the next time they want someone to hang out with. In essence, that’s what you’re hoping your listeners will do.

You want your songs and performances to be unique enough, memorable enough, and valuable enough to them that they’re willing to go out of their way to welcome you into their lives. Sometime in the future, when you’re not around to hand them a drink and an hors d’oeuvre you want them to still be attached enough to the time they shared with you that they’ll seek out and purchase your songs and tickets to your shows. You may even hope your songs and the way you sing them will motivate them to broader action, to change their own lives and the world around them for the better.

Critique, songwriting and vocal workshops that are sensitive to individual artists’ needs and objectives will help them to achieve these things. This is what Bill and I endeavor to do through the workshops, mentoring and critique services we offer.

4) You're both incredible musicians in your own right. What led you to the path you're on today?

In my childhood home, I was constantly surrounded by a wide diversity of music, both recorded and live, from grand opera to Dixieland jazz. On weekends, my teenage brothers and their longhaired friends would gather in our living room with guitars and banjos, bongo drums and autoharps to sing folksongs of protest, history, and social justice. These same songs still reach across the decades to draw people together and motivate them to action for change. Even as a small child, I knew I wanted to be a part of this. I began composing my own songs as soon as I could reach the keyboard on our family’s piano. Music lessons soon followed.

For 20 years I received classical training in voice and piano--continuing through college--but I always returned to my first love, writing the songs I hoped would touch people’s hearts. I’m grateful for this education, though at the time I longed for instructors who were as comfortable with rock as they were with Rachmaninoff. I wanted skilled mentors who could help me grow as a performing songwriter, teachers who didn’t view songwriting as the illegitimate offspring of a lesser discipline. I was determined to improve my skills, so I sought out other resources. Now that I’m in the position to teach, I work hard to be the kind of mentor for others that wished I’d had myself.

One of the resources I discovered along the way was the Connecticut Songwriters Association. Bill was one of the first people I met at the very first CSA meeting I attended. When he told me about his work with LUNCH, I knew I’d finally come home. We’ve worked side-by-side ever since, our lives and efforts in harmonic counterpoint.

5) Helping others is more than a reward in itself! Still, how can artists benefit from bringing social activism into their music?

Cartoonist Hugh MacLeod offers the following advice in his book, "Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity": “If your business plan depends on being ‘discovered’ by some big shot, your plan will probably fail.” Music is a fashion business where more than 150,000 independently produced CDs are released every year. At this very moment, hundreds of thousands of aspiring performing artists are struggling to grasp the same opportunities you are working to reach.

These statistics can either be a discouragement or a motivation. Fame depends entirely upon attracting and holding the attention of others. On the other hand, the good we do depends primarily on our own actions, while offering a more lasting source of happiness.

Fame is fleeting, artists come and go, musical styles and reputations rise and fall, only occasionally to rise again. In the midst of all this, each of us has the potential to build not only a reputation, of whatever duration, but a lasting legacy. Ironically, if your life is about more than making a name for yourself, the things you accomplish stand a better chance of outliving you.

Here in the present, supporting a cause you believe in offers a deeper way for your audience to relate to you. If this work is an integral part of your life, not just words spoken in public or an occasional benefit concert performed, then you’ll become more than just one among hundreds of thousands of aspiring indie musicians. You will be an artist with something credible to say, someone worth listening to. And you’ll have the assurance that no matter how many or how few are listening, or remember your name after you’re gone, your life and work will have had a lasting impact.

6) What is one suggestion you have for artists looking for innovative ways to integrate music and action?

Use your website, blog, and online social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to offer content that goes beyond gig announcements, listening links, press photos, and recording updates.

Create frequently updated content that relates your music to your other interests and the causes you support, then you’ll be more likely to attract and hold the attention of potential fans outside your immediate circle of contacts. By providing substantive content and setting up your web pages correctly, people who searching on key words and phrases related to those topics will find their way to you and the information you’veprovided.

Later they’ll remember you both as a valuable resource and an artist whose character goes deeper than self-promotion. If they can also listen to your well-written songs, especially topical songs, right there on your website, these will make the fan connection for you without you having to be physically present.

7) Why do you think it’s important for Indie artists to attend events like IMC?

IMC has always been about much more than the opportunity to showcase your talents. Conferences like IMC are most valuable as business networking and knowledge building events. Indie artists who come to IMC’s daytime events can attend a full schedule of workshops and talk one-on-one with a wide variety of experienced music business professionals.

This is an excellent value for you. The mentoring and workshops offered with your IMC registration would cost 100s, if not 1,000s of dollars if scheduled individually with each expert outside of the conference, not to mention the time you’d spend traveling to their far-flung offices and studios across the country.

For artists just starting out, we can help you to focus your efforts and find direction as you build a plan for your future. We can listen to your songs and tell you where they might have the potential to take you.

If you’re farther along toward reaching your goals, we can save you money and possible regret by providing feedback on your promotional materials, songs and recordings BEFORE you invest in expensive duplication. No one wants to pay 1,000s of dollars for 1,000s of copies of something only to find out after the fact that it really should have been done differently to accomplish what was intended.

If your goal is to reach the broadest possible audience with the songs and recordings you choose to create, then it’s wise to seek expert advice along the way. We’re able to tell you things your friends, family, band mates, producer and manager either can’t or won’t. Each of us can also serve as a link for you to a broader community of music business professionals and will offer referrals when appropriate.

As the CEO of you, attending IMC’s daytime events is an extremely cost effective way to insure that you’re making informed decisions about the time and money you invest to advance your career.

8) What will you be presenting at the IMC that musicians need to hear?

I offer workshops and individual coaching sessions for performers, songwriters, and recording artists of all genres to help them develop their voices to full potential. I bring to these sessions nearly two decades of experience working with a variety of successful artists from rock to R&B to Broadway and beyond, plus a special awareness of the performing songwriters particular needs and process.

I also provide creativity workshops and mentoring based on “My Creative Compass Model for Sustainable Creativity”©. In the arts, creativity and uniqueness are our most valuable assets. I can help you learn to nurture and sustain these amidst the pressures of the music business and demands of a busy personal life.

As a visual artist, I am glad sit with you to review your website and printed materials. We’ll work together to focus the impact of your message and clarify your public image. And as an experienced performing songwriter who is serious about the craft, I’m available to listen to your songs and provide feedback that will help you to make them the best they can be. Please, visit me at www.kaypere.com, then I’ll see you at IMC!

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