Sometimes I wish I had been a little more diligent in formally documenting my odyssey of performing my Odyssey.
I have the journal in which I wrote the piece... here's the first ink I committed to the idea on October 26, 2000.
I didn't actually begin writing the piece in earnest until over a year later (December 2001), but "Who Am I" and the ideas expressed around the sentiment here made it into the final composition almost entirley intact.
Seeing my own handwriting and instincts expressed so naively and plainly is pretty intense and poignant. I especially like the line "...here I will succeed," and it's interesting that my initial gut-reaction to the material has held up so well.
I also have a pretty comprehensive electronic record through emails and web content, in particular since 2011 and with even more detail since 2014. Social media helps in this regard too.
Finally I have my memory, which, as I wrote about HERE, is frighteningly detailed with respect to many of my travels.
So maybe my level of attention to documenting my Odyssey is appropriately balanced between analog, digital, and mental.
As I'm hoping the next 18 or so months are going to be full of milestones for my Odyssey, I've been very conscious of collecting these memories and connecting them to my current travels and my show at Union College in Schenectady, New York, presented a great opportunity to do just that.
I landed in Albany and got myself to the ornate old hotel at which I was staying. I had time (and gorgeous weather) to take a run along the Mohawk River. I cleaned up and walked the 10 minutes to campus where I met my contact and got settled into the performance space, a small social room in one of the student living houses.
It was an intimate atmosphere, the type in which I love to perform because it most closely models the environment I imagine ancient bards and ancient audiences shared.
After I finished, the discussion was both broad and deep, reflecting the students' interests as well as those of my host professor and former cohort of hers who happened to attend.
I found myself talking quite a bit about how I took my piece from something I did recreationally to something I do as a legitimate part of my music career, an asset that makes me part of my living.
I thought back in particular to a performance at the University of South Florida in the spring of 2014. I had been back doing my Odyssey for over three years after taking a break from performing it from 2006 until 2010. I had begun traveling more and in addition to having performed at several JCL national and state conventions, I was beginning to get work at universities and colleges. USF would have been something like performance number 110 in state number 10 and my booking approach, such as it was, was pretty ad hoc. I was getting shows based on previous relationships and referrals and UW Madison alums but there was nothing approaching a system.
Following this performance at USF, my host professor took me aside and said (and I will never forgot how this moment felt and sounded) to me very directly:"This is a really good thing you're doing. I think if you pursued it with more direction and purpose it could and should become a big part of your life. People will like it and it's valuable."
Things happen for you when you're ready to receive them and this happened at the perfect time for me. I was almost 5 years into being a full-time musician, I had tried the conventional "band" approach to making music, but it was tough going. I was still fighting pursuing my Odyssey as a main component of my career for a whole number of reasons but this clear and direct support was enough for me to set aside my reservations and apprehension and take my efforts around the piece to a new level.
Upon returning from Florida I set about building a database of every college Classics program in the country and started cold emailing professors at each school. This paid off almost immediately with shows in the fall of 2014 in Vermont, Maine, Kentucky, Indiana, and Connecticut, and then in 2015 during which I played over 30 shows for the first time.
Even now, five years later, many of my shows are booked out of this database that I began building in 2014, all because this professor had given me the perfect encouragement at the perfect time.
My analog and digital memory stores are valuable artifacts of my Odyssey but moments like this one and the many other like it along the way are the true treasures of my journey.
So as our discussion wrapped up at Union College, one of the students asked me: "Before the show you told us what Homer's Odyssey means to you, but what does your Odyssey, your song, mean to you?"
I'm not normally (or, ever) speechless but I was momentarily.
Then I thought of my writing journal.
And that moment in 2014 at USF.
And I smiled and answered simply: "It means everything."