My first Odyssey performance was in my parents' living room in Oak Park, IL, on March 17, 2002, for a carefully curated audience of family and friends.
My first public college performance of 2018 (at Notre Dame on February 7) was my 240th.
Just as Odysseus' voyage home was anything but a straight line, my own journey to 240 has had a generous share of twists, turns, lulls, and bursts of action.
I've gone from averaging 10 shows a year for high schools audiences from 2002 through 2006, to performing once from 2007 through 2009, to a slow build in activity from 2010 through 2013 during which I started traveling and booking more college shows, to what I consider my current era in which I've been averaging over 30 performances a year since 2014. By the end of April I'll have performed in 36 US states and will be on track for my busiest and best year yet.
A common question I get is if, after so many performances of "the same thing," I still enjoy doing it.
Setting aside whether "2018 me" could legitimately be considered to being doing "the same thing" as "2002 me," the answer is a resounding, unqualified "yes:" I not only enjoy doing my Odyssey as much as I did when I started, I enjoy it much, much more.
Some of that enjoyment stems from the fact that I'm performing it better than I ever have, which brings its own sense of personal artistic fulfillment. Some of it stems from the fact that I'm being compensated at a much higher level in both money and intellectual credibility, which nudges my professional self-esteem higher.
But the lion's share of that enjoyment comes from what my host professor at Notre Dame (Aldo Tagliabue) articulated very simply and beautifully as "wonder."
I have a sense of wonder around the subject of my song that grows more and more profound which each performance, with each audience interaction, and with each time I encounter the material in any form.
It's a wonder that has its roots in every aspect of Homer's story, the story's hero, and the hero's legacy, from its creation to its preservation to its improbable survival in my 21st century audiences, to whom I never fail to point out that in my performances and our interactions we are in essence doing the exact same thing that Homer and his audiences were doing almost 3000 years ago.
That statement fills me with wonder even just typing it.
So as I sat in a beautiful auditorium on the Notre Dame campus and heard the last strains of my song bounce around the hall and fade into the flow of time, and the students and professors proceeded to pepper me with questions, comments, and even criticism for another half an hour, I felt that same profound connection to and wonder at the lineage of culture, storytellers, and their audiences, that connects us across millennia to an age when a people pioneered the preservation of the stories that define what it means to be a human being.
It's a gift with which I've been entrusted and which I try to honor every time I perform.
It's both bigger than me yet also kept alive inside me like a brand buried in a pile of embers ready to bring its wonderful fire to fields near and far.