Monday, August 24, 2009

Good Enough is Not Good Enough

Sometimes you see a performance of a piece of theater or a piece of music and it's so inspiring that it makes you want to work harder so that you can be as good at your craft as those performers are at theirs.

And sometimes you don't.

I've had a number of frustrating experiences lately where I went to an event and was completely underwhelmed by what I was seeing. I'm not talking about watching a high school play where the actors are still learning their craft, or a youth piano recital or anything like that. I'm talking about attending full on professional performances that charge a lot of money for the tickets, and I came home thinking that the pianist hadn't bothered to learn the notes or the singer hadn't given any thought to the words in his/her song. And it doesn't make me want to work harder. It makes me want to give up music and open a bakery.

I know nobody's perfect. And, just so you don't think this is a self-inflating kind of essay, I can't think of the last time I performed something in public that didn't have numerous mistakes in it. But I get the sense that a lot of times, people work on material until it's "good enough." And knowing the difference between "good" and "good enough" is what makes an artist great, I think.

I recently heard a song that was a simple little ballad written to be the intimate and subtle opening of show about a complex and heartbreaking love triangle, and the male singer had transposed it into a key so that he could belt a big ole D-flat (!) at the end. He was passionate and overwrought and, actually, he sang it pretty well, technically. But, emotionally, I thought, "WHY???" I felt like he completely missed the point of the song and was basically just singing it to show me he had really high notes. I came home and told Jason about it, disappointedly, and I said, "You know those hot-dog eating contests where someone can eat like 41 hotdogs in 60 seconds? Well, even if I could do that, I'm not sure I would ever feel it necessary to prove it to you."

(Thank goodness.)

It's a question of taste. I'd be happy to hear that guy sing a high D-flat if he picked material that demanded it. Another concert I attended required the pianist to play an entire evening of one composer's work, and that composer was in the audience. And number after number went by, songs I've known for years, and the pianist proceeded to botch one after the other. The composer had his game face on, smiling and nodding, but I thought it must feel like torture to him. And that poor pianist. Why on earth would he accept this job and then not LEARN THE MUSIC? What's the story there? Did he really think nobody could tell the difference? Did he think what he was playing was good enough?

Good enough is not good enough. Not in cases like this. I'll close with this story.

The most life-changing job I ever had, both professionally and personally, was working as the assistant conductor of the national tour of PARADE. It was on that tour that I met Jason, my husband, and it was the first job I ever had at the Broadway level. Legendary director (who has 20 Tony Awards in his office) Hal Prince was in the room, and I was the pianist. Now, I'm a really good sight reader and I've gotten by for a lot of years by sight reading my way through things and learning them as I go. But PARADE is a really hard score -- harder than any show I'd ever played before -- and I deceived myself into thinking I didn't have to practice it as much as I would have practiced my classical music for my juries back at Vanderbilt.

So one day I saw on the schedule that I was playing a rehearsal for a number I'd never played before, and I thought, oh, I'll be fine. I glanced it over and sat down at the piano. Hal Prince was staging the actors. Jason was conducting. I was at the piano, and on one page turn I failed to notice a meter change leading into the next page. I turned the page, missed the meter change, and the rehearsal ground to a halt because nobody could figure out where the downbeat was. My fault entirely. Hal glared at Jason. Jason glared at me. I felt like the sky had fallen on my head, and I knew exactly what had happened.

That night I called Jason on the phone and said, "I think maybe I'm out of my league. I think maybe I'm not a good enough pianist. I wasn't prepared. I let you down. I'm so sorry." And he said something to me like, "Stop apologizing, go practice, and don't let it happen again." And I didn't. That "teachable moment" changed my life.

Good enough is not good enough. Let's not all beat ourselves up at the things we can't get right. Let's just work on them until we can.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Two New Songs on

As you know by now, I've now got a deal with for digital downloads of my sheet music. This relationship came about because of the proliferation of unauthorized trade of sheet music (mine and others) on the internet, and I needed a way to make sure that the music you guys were looking for was out in the world, accessible, legal, and affordable. came to my rescue, and I'm trying to return the favor by launching a new piece of sheet music there every month.

Here's July and August. Author and lyricist Bil Wright and I wrote several songs for a musical called LIZAN. The piece never came to fruition and he and I eventually stopped writing it together. (It's my understanding that he's now writing it with another composer.) But before we parted ways we came up with a few songs that I really love, and I managed to get a few demos made with performers whom I also love.

Here are two songs that I thought had the strongest chance of surviving outside of the world of the show. The first, called "Someday A Man" is performed here by NaTasha Yvette Williams. She's been in a gazillion Broadway shows (Gone With The Wind, The Color Purple, Cinderella, Suessical, and Parade) and she has a whole career as a gospel singer, too. Read her bio, y'all. This is a girl who majored in MATH.

The second song is called "At This Turn In The Road Again" and is sung here by Keith Byron Kirk. If I've ever had a muse, Keith is it. I met him at the stage door after his performance in A NEW BRAIN and told him that his voice moved me so much I felt like I knew him already. I hope it didn't sound as corny then as it does now. But he seemed to like that, and eventually we became friends. His other show credits include Elegies, The Civil War, The Color Purple, King David, Miss Saigon, and, naturally, Parade. He's learned almost everything I've ever written for the male voice, he's done readings of several of my shows, concerts of my music, and he sang in my wedding. And currently, he's getting a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies in Theatre and Drama at Northwestern. So he's smart, too. I adore him.

Anyway, you can listen to the songs below, and then you can find the sheet music here. Bil wrote all the lyrics, I wrote all the music, and that's me playing the piano. Enjoy.

Georgia Stitt and Bil Wright

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

All KNOCKED UP photos and future bookings

Susan Egan and I had a blast playing the Metropolitan Room in New York City on August 1st and 2nd! In case you missed our show, we've got several more dates coming up.

"All Knocked Up! (again)"
From Tony Nominations and major Film & TV credits to critically acclaimed CDs and world concert tours, these two talented ladies are, today, ENORMOUS figures in the Entertainment Industry. Come join these gal pals for a raucous evening as they sing their own tunes and others amidst juicy gossip and the occasional pee break.

August 29th, Orange County, CA
August 30th, Catalina's, Hollywood, CA
September 11th, Pasadena, CA

and we're making small appearances (one song only) at the following concerts:

August 17th, Ryan Black's 88's Cabaret: A Tribute to Stephen Sondheim, Los Angeles, CA
August 22nd, Festival of New American Musicals celebrates Stephen Schwartz, Brentwood, CA

Click here to get info on all the shows.