Artistic Validation and Inspiration in Reunions

October 21, 2017

I'm not at all opposed to reunions. In fact, I love reunions. I love unions… and reunions. Now… I didn't go to my high school or college reunions but that doesn't really mean I don't like "reuniting" with people. Despite my reluctance for larger reunions, I have to say that I've leveraged my internet show, "The Y'all OK Podcast", and the small platform that comes with it, as an opportunity to have one-on-one reunions with quite a few old friends.


Episode 11 with musician Denver Duncan and Episode 15 with actor Rex Daugherty were both very special opportunities for reunions which came with some really inspiring and positive emotional effects for me. I should say that both of them live in the Washington D.C. area. I travel to D.C. a lot for work and I have a lot of downtime in the evenings so when these dudes agreed to talk, I was happy on so many levels.


I originally came to know and like both of these guys through "the arts." Rex and I were in drama together in high school. We weren't best friends but we got along really well and went to lunch quite often with each other. Although I'm not sure either one of us could put words to it at the time, I think we probably bonded around the work we did together in Devonna Hill's class and had a mutual respect of the artist that was concealed by jock exteriors (he was cross country and I was football). There does seem to be something compelling about noticing the inner layers of complexity within another person - and I think the desire to peel back those layers lends itself to mutual admiration. Or maybe that's me being pretentious. I have no idea what Rex saw in me so this assessment is very one-sided.




I met Denver a week after high school at a Baptist Leadership camp called "Super Summer." (Regardless of what your first thoughts are about a "Baptist Leadership Camp", stick with me.) Denver was a guitarist and singer. He had an amazing sense of humor, a real genuine personality, and a calling to music. I came to know him a little more over the following couple years through one of my good friends and my own bandmate, Matt.




They both stayed in their chosen artistic fields and have managed to build lives and careers out of their art - with kids and spouses and the whole thing in one of the most expensive cities in the country. I'm not saying or implying that it's easy and doesn't require a ton of work because I think it would be hard work for anyone. As maudlin as it may sound, it's inspiring because they've pursued their chosen vocations with gusto and have the best attitudes about it. To add an additional layer to it, both of them have thought through the path and what their vocation means to them on personal and corporate (community/industry) levels.


The reason why any of this strikes me deeply is because it comes at a time when I've been thinking a lot about my podcast, my presentations, and my writings (published and unpublished) as artistic expressions. I've always been hesitant to call MY podcast "art" because it's a conversation. Right? Many podcasts are absolutely pieces of art but mine is just an opening jingle, an intro, a conversation, and an outro jingle. Maybe I feel as though I can't take ownership of the artistic aspects because the stories are those of my guests;  or, maybe I'm just not valuing the final product as art because… it's mine? If it's not art, then why the hell do I tinker with the format? Why do I worry about the quality and try to elevate the story of the guest above me sounding smart? Why do I weigh authenticity and tone against exposing the fact that I say "and, uh…" about 20 times per interview? Why do I create and record my own music for the show? I'm not saying it is art but if it's not art then it's creativity because it's scratching an itch that I haven't felt since I quit playing music in a band.


Where's the inspirational part? I sincerely hope Denver and Rex got "something" out of it. But, for me, these two shows have precipitated some complimentary feedback towards things that I hoped I was getting right but often questioned. And the response towards the change in the show's format has been overwhelmingly positive too. Despite the fact that both of those interviews have relatively poor sound quality (compared to my other interviews), the positive reinforcement has been extremely good. Now that I'm at the end of this reflection, I've begun to worry that this is all coming off as a brag which isn't at all the intention other than to brag on my guests - not just Rex and Denver but all of them. All of my guests raise the quality of the show and help elevate the final product. They elevate the conversation in the moment and in the editing room. By the end of each interview, I care for my guests so much that they elevate my awareness and desire for a high quality and creative (maybe artistic?) product.

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Riley Evan Ross
Speaker and Writer Moderation Blog

I speak and write on the topic of moderation because I believe that a thorough re-examination of moderation can help our societies build change resilience and grow together.

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