Last Wednesday, I had the honor of participating with the amazing non-profit organization ASTEP (Artists Striving To End Poverty) in their On Stage! program in New York. This program brings artists to share artistic appreciation and empowerment to youth in the city of New York, most of whom are not regularly exposed to the arts.
I'd given a music appreciation workshop for children in Mott Haven, interacting with students in a setting that I find most musicians, including myself, don't usually work in. (A few pictures of the workshop in action to the right.) Organizations like ASTEP help the artists that volunteer with them as much as the children it brings the arts to - what does it mean to engage and understand the people you present your art to, and how does one really do that?
Please take some time to check out ASTEP's website and its numerous global programs - I think that what they do is special in the art world and is carried out with true sincerity in their vision.
This past week I also participated in my first volunteer performance with Sing For Hope - an arts volunteer organization based in New York that brings art performances and workshops to various audiences whom want to experience or interact with the arts around the city.
Sing for Hope believes in arts as a sharing process - a true volunteer spirit based on what your perspective as a person is, including what you find is beautiful, powerful, or helpful, and reinterpreting your perspective as an unlimited gift that can be given. I shared some of my music at a care center for men and women in lower Manhattan; the experience was completely stress free and a rare period of music making that one felt one could enjoy without judgement.
These experiences help keep a person looking in the right direction while they progress their artistic command and therefore themselves - you can practice and sweat in a world about perfectionism and competition, but the more you can get outside of the box and remind yourself that what you work on is a gift with absolute value, regardless of what you do, the more you learn about being an artist.