On a frigid late November Tuesday morning, I played my 15th show at or for University of Illinois, Chicago. My first was in the fall of 2016 and this was my third visit in 2023. It's no exaggeration to say the shallow cinderblock classrooms have become a home of sorts to me, a place I feel comfortable, a place I've discovered how to be myself.
In the fall of 2018, I wrote one post about two shows on back to back days and as I read back through all the words inspired by hometown shows, it was this dispatch that seemed relevant to wrapping up 2023. I marvel at how that 2018 post references the 50 state pursuits (I was at 36 at the time) and my as yet unnamed and unwritten Iliad project.
The other piece that seemed particularly poignant this year was my final post from 2019 for a show at Pomfret in which I confidently lay out my 2020 plans in the path of the still-undiagnosed pandemic.
The last show of the year is a chance to look backwards and forwards while trying to anchor myself in the present.
In 2023, I...
-performed my Classics pieces a total of 41 times (1 more than in 2022)
-performed the Blues of Achilles 27 times (3 more than in 2022)
-performed the Odyssey 14 times (2 fewer than in 2022)
-added five new US states (Maryland, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, and Oklahoma) to bring my total for the Odyssey, finally, to all 50
-released my Consolations and Desolations album, which I recorded in Nashville in 2022
-developed The Blues of Achilles into a fully fleshed out piece of music theater including writing ten new songs
So what does next year hold?
-presenting a paper on my Odyssey and playing some new music at the SCS conference in January
-planned spring touring that includes a trip to Canada and two weeks of shows in the UK/Ireland
-taking the next steps to develop and present the aforementioned Iliad musical
-digging in on two pieces of work connected to my experiences performing the Odyssey for over 20 years
I said “performing the Odyssey for over 20 years” a lot in 2023, so much that it sometimes lost its impact for me. But as I spoke that phrase in front of the three dozen students at UIC during our post show discussion, I felt it deeply. I felt amazed at the opportunities it has brought me. I felt grateful for the support I have received. I felt proud of my accomplishments. I felt understandably weary and predictably apprehensive.
But most of all, I felt excited to see where Odysseus' journey would take me in 2024.