September 2, 2009

Dear Miley...

Dear Miley,

I love music. Music brings healing and hope in difficult and trying times. Music helps us express ourselves as well as learn who we really are. I cannot (and do not want to) imagine living in a world without music.

Like you, I too make a living with music, as a musician and songwriter at a church. Getting together with friends to play, sing, and make good music is a rush and quite fulfilling. Even more amazing is playing in front of an audience, and having the audience sing with you lyrics you wrote!

I have two daughters who both love to sing and dance, who have each developed quite an eclectic taste in music. Both of my girls like your music (and Hannah’s too, go figure). When we learned that you were coming to the Kansas City area on your next tour, they were ecstatic. We looked into purchasing tickets.

That was a big mistake.

I don’t blame you at all. In fact, I doubt that you have any idea how much the tickets are for your concerts, or even where all the money goes. I imagine that the majority of the moolah goes to promoters and labels and venues and sponsors and lights and electronics and other musicians and that you and your family actually receive a fairly small percentage. Yet, for my family of four to attend your concert, it would cost us around $300 for seats that are located behind the stage. There would be no hope of actually saying “Hi,” having a discussion, or sharing stories with you.


That’s almost 10% of what I make in a month.

Allow me just a minute, please, to put that amount of money in perspective.

Did you know that $100 can purchase 1,000 pounds of food for a local food pantry?

Did you know that $200 can pay the education costs for 6 children in Africa?

Did you know $250 could purchase a water buffalo which would provide protein-rich milk, strength to till soil, manure to enrich the land, and hope for a family in Filipino villages?

And instead of upgrading our seats to see the concert from the front, we could spend $450 and provide a child a future filled with hope, food, clean water, medical care, educational opportunities, life-skills training, and caring relationships with adults who will nurture and love the child as their own.

I recently read this article online about the importance of music, originally written by Karl Paulnack. The following is his conclusion:

You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used cars. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music, I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony,
of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do.

Music is a gift.

It is a gift to the person who practices the instrument hours on end, sings like the angels, and writes lyrics exposing the depths of the soul. Music is a gift to those who hear and are healed, who allow the melodies to bring hope in darkness, who find their voice through another. Music is a gift to the person singing, playing, and writing, in ways that words are too inadequate to express.

And because music is a gift that originated somewhere in the heavenlies, I think it should be for all people. To share music and make friends is a delight. As the gap between the poor and rich continues to increase exponentially, I simply cannot justify spending $300 to come and hear you in person.

Miley, I hope you have a blast in Kansas City--it truly is a great place. Try some Gates BBQ. Take a stroll through the Plaza. And sing your heart out.

As for me and my family, we just might break out the guitar and make some music of our own.

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