I need to start this post with a confession... this was supposed to have been the next installment of Creatives Cook. When I was put in contact with the venerable Dianne Reeves, I knew that she would be the perfect candidate for such a piece. However, as we conversed on the phone and then weeks later I sat in the audience of her Spoleto performance, I knew that I would be telling the wrong story if I focused only on her philosophy on cooking and entertaining.
There were two words that came up so often during the interview and performance that I wish that I had counted their actual number. They were "conversation" and "story". Ms. Reeves has a pure, instrumental singing voice that encourages the audience to lean in closer to hear more of what she has in store for them. Ms. Reeves surprised, entertained and engaged every person in the Gaillard Auditorium on May 30, giving each audience member some way to connect with her.
So, why am I straying from the original intention of this post? Because I feel the need to call out my fellow thirtysomethings. I walked into the Gaillard expecting a lively, pulsing, intelligent crowd filled in with all ages. Instead, at age 32, I was the youngest person in the room by at least 12-15 years. The room was sold out, no doubt, but I am sure that I was the only one in the room who wanted to jump up and lift my arms in joyful indignation when Ms. Reeves performed a cover of Ani DiFranco's "32 Flavors". Dianne Reeves, who has been called the greatest jazz vocalist in the world, was paying homage to the neo-feminist anthem that propelled me through my early college years with the ambition to lead a major magazine and not ever get married (never mind the fact that those plans took a slight detour).
Ms. Reeves has a story for everyone of every age and situation, so where were my counterparts? After the show I bumped into my friend Jonathan Green at The Charleston Grill, and as we dined we discussed that fact that the younger professional set does not seem to be lining up for these events that reflect our lives back to us. We are hailed for being a generation that has learned to promote our own creativity and become intellectually dexterous as we come out of the adversity of The Great Recession. We have supposedly learned that innovation is more important than plain and simple income generation. Does our belief in our own worth mean that we can't participate in the culture and fine arts that show us how we connect, converse and converge? There is no generation that can escape the importance of stories or, most importantly, the need for conversation. As enjoyable as it is for us to spend our social time on Facebook and Twitter, to listen to our Pandora music and share it across the Internet, these things do not create the real stories that become the quilts of our lives. Instead, it is things like the experience of sitting at the feet of someone who shows us how conversations illuminate the soul and spark our emotions.
Ms. Reeves told me something extremely important during our phone conversation, “Power is being able to talk to people's spirits... that is where the story is." In sharing her story, and the voice of her story, Ms. Reeves allowed the audience to bring their own well-lived stories to the surface. While her voice is a finely tuned, beautiful instrument, it is the conversation behind it that causes one to reflect. It is an art that has been picked up by Esperanza Spalding and Jane Monheit, but few others in our age group, because we aren't there.We aren't participating. We've made and are making our mark in business. We've made and are making our mark in pop culture. But in order to tie it all together we need to make our mark in the audience and experience of the arts.
If we want our generation to make a mark deep enough to avoid rubbing off we need to show up and apply the stories to our own lives. The world is waiting to hear from us.