June 26, 2023 - BYUI, Rexburg, Idaho

Before my Monday morning show at BYUI in Rexburg, Idaho, the 47th state in which I’ve performed the Odyssey, the professor and class said a prayer for me.

It was a simple prayer that I might perform well and return home safely.

After the show, to wrap up the discussion, the same professor asked me how performing the Odyssey over the years has made me a better person.

As I drove the three hours south to Salt Lake City for my flight back to Chicago, I thought about these bookends.

I thought about how moved I was by the prayer and how I struggled a little to concisely answer that final question.

The closer I get to achieving my 50 state goal, the more I find myself caught up in small moments of performances, trying to pay even closer attention in the hope of contextualizing them within my winding 20 plus year journey of playing this piece. 

Maybe that’s the start of an answer to what the professor asked: performing my Odyssey 359 times in 47 states over the course of 21 years has made me more present to the fragments of wonder and hope that populate life.  It’s made me more sure of who I am and that in turn has made me better able to help people on the same or similar journey. It’s made me appreciate what I have rather than covet what I don’t. It’s taught me that there are people everywhere with whom I can connect around a shared interest. It’s taught me about common humanity and that has made me more compassionate. It’s taught me about places I would never have any reason to visit if it weren’t for these shows (like Rexburg, Idaho). It’s taught me to (in the words of Rick Rubin) live in discovery rather than assumption.

I would assume a Christian prayer said before one of my shows would not move me but I discovered that it did. Not necessarily the specifics but the genuine part of the prayer gesture that transcends dogma into the realm of common human care, gratitude, and connection.

And also, prayer before an epic performance seems very… Homeric.

It was a beautiful day in Salt Lake City, a place to which I hope to return this fall in order to notch my 48th state.

Utah. Oregon. Oklahoma.

Whoever said “One man's Oklahoma is another's Ithaka” was right.

(I guess that was me)

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