LIVE ART

June 6, 2012

On June 3rd my grandmother turned 83. I went home to VA to see her. I brought her a plant, some berries, and introduced her to my girlfriend. She was reclined in an easy chair the whole time we were there, drifting in and out of what looked like pleasant little midday naps. Being an expert of the snooze alarm myself, I imagine she feels wonderful allowing her body to expand into dream upon layered dream. As she continuously awoke, she’d add something to the conversation that not everyone in the room could understand, but to no dismay. She’s 83 and long retired, living peacefully between ours and her own dream-world. “That’s cute the way she’s dancing in that fire,” She’d say. And we’d agree, somewhat jealous that we couldn’t see the majesty that she’d come to view.

I go home twice a year; for the holidays and for my grandmother’s birthday. Those are the occasions when most of the immediate family comes together in one place. (Her birthday also boarders my Mom’s and my brother’s which adds even more celebration to the end of spring.)

This year, in addition to singing Happy Birthday, I got to sing in ways I never imagined I would thanks to the 30 year old School of Performing Arts in the Richmond Community (SPARC), one of the beneficiaries of my foundation. This year, SPARC created LIVE ART, an all-inclusive education and performance program that welcomed children of all talents and abilities to the stage.

“Every human being has needs that are unique and very, very special,” says Erin Thomas-Foley, LIVE ART creator and director. SPARC saw those needs were met, spending 20 weeks developing a full-on theatrical stage show integrating seasoned performers with children of all ages who are deaf, autistic, and differently-abled. It wasn’t a matter of finding talent as most kids with disabilities have talents that surpass those of an able-bodied person. The 5 month preparation was mostly about introducing these kids to a new way of expressing themselves; add a large audience, amplified music, and stage lighting. It was also about teaching many others sign language, as well as tolerance, and compassion.

Being the first of it’s kind that I know of, the show’s theme focused on music and arts from Virginia, therefore all the music was written and performed by VA songwriters, musicians and choreographers, etc. I was honored to play Live High with a big band and a choir; The Sunshine Song with a new piano arrangement by a new friend and colleague JC Wright, and Details In The Fabric while standing on a large clean canvas as actors threw paint around my feet before dancing all around on it, creating a beautiful image with our movements and emotions.

Photos by Martin Montgomery courtesy of SPARC.

I’d known for weeks what I’d get to do in the show, but it wasn’t until I attended rehearsal that morning that I realized how special my participation was. And I say that not in the way that suggests my being there must’ve been special for the kids. I’m saying my being there was special for me.

I’ve performed on a thousand stages and shared dressing rooms and curtain calls with legendary ensembles and superstars alike. But nowhere have I received the kind of grace and elation I did onstage with the actors, dancers, and musicians of LIVE ART.

During two of the numbers I thought to myself, honored, “This is exactly why I wrote these songs.”

The homecoming also gave me the opportunity to reconnect with those who’d inspired me along the way, particularly when I still lived in VA; acts like Jesse Harper and Daniel Clarke, two great musicians with whom I attended middle school who’ve gone on to become incredible songwriters and performers; legendary Hammond B3 player and songwriter Steve Bassett, a man I once attended a songwriting workshop when I was in my teens; NY Lighting Designer Joe Doran, whose smile I hadn’t seen since we were in a play together almost 20 years ago; Martin Montgomery, a filmmaker I’d shared stages with in college was documenting the experience and took all the attached photographs; and Susan Greenbaum, a Kansas City transplant to Richmond, VA the way I am to San Diego, has essentially become the voice of Richmond. And of course there were many others, friends, teachers, parents, you name it. It’s my home town after all.

There was also a moment backstage when myself and about 30 kids were waiting for our cues that I realized how little has changed in my life. Here I am almost 35 years old and I am doing exactly what I was doing when I was 15. I get to play music full time; emphasis on play. And that’s pretty cool.

Photo by Martin Montgomery, courtesy of SPARC.

Cleverly executed and well done, LIVE ART, a little bit theatre, a little bit rock concert, and a little bit cirque de soleil, was a show I won’t soon forget. It reawakened me to why I write songs and why it’s important to share and perform them. Myself and the entire company of more than 100 people circled up before the show, holding hands and setting an intention for greatness, casting out fear and allowing our nerves to just be. That special moment backstage didn’t have anything to do with ticket sales, fundraising, branding, or celebrity, factors that occasionally sneak into my adult life. The moment was pure heart, and for some, including myself, it was the moment acknowledging the biggest and most important show we may ever play in our lives.

My grandmother couldn’t attend the show, but I told her I take her onstage with me everywhere I go, which I do.

Learn more about SPARC and LIVE ART by visiting SparcOnline.Org and go hug your grandma if you can.

COMMENTS (30)
  • Avatar of Moniroca
    Moniroca said ...

    Ai aquestes àvies magnífiques!!! :)

    La meva àvia va morir amb 83 anys (ja en fa deu) després de 20 anys de lent alzheimer i era magnífic (tot i que trist) escoltar i sentir el que ella “veia” i nosaltres mai vam veure. Ves a saber!… que no ho veiéssim no vol dir que no existís… quants bebès somriuen a on sembla que no hi ha res??? Crec que la innocència i puresa dels animals, nens i vells fa que arribin a conectar amb altres móns que desconeixem del tot.

    És molt tendre tot el que narres i som afortunats de compartir-ho. :)

    I si, el resultat del concert pictòric és magnífic!!!

  • f.rahmita said ...

    OOOPZZZ.. Sorry Jason, tiska dalaja’s account is my business account…LOL..
    might be i was too excited to write to you, when i push the submit button i didn’t realize i was not log in with my personal account. Anyway..both Tiska & FtFrahmita are the same FRANDS of you <3.

    —————- so this is truly for YOU :

    If it’s only ONE WORD in this world I can choose to describe JASON MRAZ – though there are more than 93240 millions words – like stars in outer space – I definitely will choose one word : HEART.
    HE + ART = HEART… that’s WHO HE IS — HEART <3.

    If LOVE is AFourLetterWord has 4 shapes – as in Jason’s deeply creatively soulful imagination …now we all can imagine those 4 shapes are bounded with the 5th shape – it’s A HEART shape. No matter where the HEART shape appears or how it’s illustrated in our imagination, every time we see those FourLetterWord shapes we would see & feel it – as we feel our heart beat – that the 5th SHAPE is there.
    For me, I will always see his heartfelt smile with his 10 fingers lifted & circled with HEART shape <3…
    so amAZingly inspiring.

    If HEART is A FiveLetterWord…so does JASON…it’s irrefutable the <3 shape is perfectly describes WHO HE IS.

    He might not realize when he wrote this on the last paragraph of LIVE ART above : “The moment was PURE HEART, and for some, including myself, it was the moment acknowledging the biggest & most important show we may ever play in our lives”.

    Well Mr.AZ..I know when you wrote, you wrote it with LOVE – from the bottom of your HEART…
    Unquestionable, it shows WHO YOU ARE.. and to me YOU are TRULY what PURE HEART is..

    May GOD Bless you, your family, friends, all J.Mraz team & community… Keep inspiring & loving us with your GREATEST LOVE & HEART <3. May OUR WORLD will be in PEACE if we share our LOVES to others…like you do.

    – More than 93240 millions of LOVE & HEART for you…<3

  • f.rahmita said ...

    If it’s only ONE WORD in this world I can choose to describe JASON MRAZ – though there are more than 93240 millions words – like stars in outer space – I definitely will choose one word : HEART.
    HE + ART = HEART… that’s WHO HE IS — HEART <3.

    If LOVE is AFourLetterWord has 4 shapes – as in Jason’s deeply creatively soulful imagination …now we all can imagine those 4 shapes are bounded with the 5th shape – it’s A HEART shape. No matter where the HEART shape appears or how it’s illustrated in our imagination, every time we see those FourLetterWord shapes we would see & feel it – as we feel our heart beat – that the 5th SHAPE is there.
    For me, I will always see his heartfelt smile with his 10 fingers lifted & circled with HEART shape <3…
    so amAZingly inspiring.

    If HEART is A FiveLetterWord…so does JASON…it’s irrefutable the <3 shape is perfectly describes WHO HE IS.

    He might not realize when he wrote this on the last paragraph of LIVE ART above : “The moment was PURE HEART, and for some, including myself, it was the moment acknowledging the biggest & most important show we may ever play in our lives”.

    Well Mr.AZ..I know when you wrote, you wrote it with LOVE – from the bottom of your HEART…
    Unquestionable, it shows WHO YOU ARE.. and to me YOU are TRULY what PURE HEART is..

    May GOD Bless you, your family, friends, all J.Mraz team & community… Keep inspiring & loving us with your GREATEST LOVE & HEART <3. May OUR WORLD will be in PEACE if we share our LOVES to others…like you do.

    – More than 93240 millions of LOVE & HEART for you…<3

  • Avatar of jivanti
    jivanti said ...

    You have been nothing but a great inspiration. I may not play music but I write and whenever I lack inspiration I always come here. Someday I’d love to be just like you. Advocating love for humanity. I think I’m starting already. It’s so beautiful.

    Thank you for just being.

    Another

    JM

  • Avatar of chaufifi
    chaufifi said ...

    My lovely grandma passed away almost 10 years ago, I felt horrible that I wasn’t even there in Kalamazoo with her that time…..I wish she was still with us

  • Avatar of ashleyhugstrees

    Happy birthday Grandma! My Grandma turned 84 in April and I absolutely treasure her. She is a living piece of history and it’s a shame more people can’t appreciate how precious the older people in our lives are. The things my grandmother has seen and lived through is absolutely amazing to me.

  • Avatar of Dukes
    Dukes said ...

    What a wonderful journal entry -very inspiring very memorable for you – thanks for sharing

  • Avatar of lovePEAR
    lovePEAR said ...

    Love the special moments <3<3<3<3 Thank you for sharing :) I love the Rainbow feet paint!!

  • Avatar of c.c.11Cheung
    c.c.11Cheung said ...

    Thanks for share your experience you are the person with love of a kindness. Keep it up! Love You

  • Avatar of gretchen.aronson

    Thank you for sharing that. It sounds like an incredible experience! Thanks also for bringing back a memory of my Grandma. She was 86 and we were in my mom’s backyard. My children and I were delighting in playing with maple seeds. My Grandma had never seen or played with the little helicopters. It was so fun that at 86 I showed her something new.
    I have a 5 year old grandson now, I love all the life he introduces me to!

  • Avatar of katmahon
    katmahon said ...

    Who’s the luck lady, Jason? :-)

    I love reading your journal by the way – inspirational.

    See you in London!

    My dream is to sing with you xxx

  • Avatar of crystale80
    crystale80 said ...

    Thank you JASON, for having a thought for grannies we are.

  • Avatar of mrazwordplay
    mrazwordplay said ...

    Grandmas love it when the grandkids come to visit! I love that you carry her around with you on tour. You always speak so fondly of her. I’ve always wondered what her favorite song is (of yours) and if you sing it to her when you visit. My grandma always wanted someone to play “In The Mood” on the piano for her.
    :) <3

  • Avatar of AomAm.PK
    AomAm.PK said ...

    I am so excited & very pleased for your coming to thailand. May I asked you one thing..just one thing. .please takecare your body&soul, not for only me but for us & for the making a inspiration to our world. Because of we & you are apart of life.

    I’m yours. <3

    Thailand is a place of smiles…Hope to see you & team are coming with smile. ;-)

  • Avatar of MarLuna
    MarLuna said ...

    What a wonderful life! Funny thing is, in that lovely side view photo of the painted art, (just like grandma) I see her dancing in fire; but with a partner (like a twin flame drawing). I see a face and silhouette of a girl from India with a crown and right before her face a man with a headband both sharing the same body. I wonder if it’s from this angle only that it’s visible to me, of course I always see symbols in everything.

  • Avatar of K.T.
    K.T. said ...

    Hey J 

    Thanks for share insight honestly and such a beautiful painting of live art of how love, peace, happiness floating. Besides live art,it reminded me a question what I was doing in 15 and thought through  how it connect or contribute to my present condition and see what shall I do to provide service continually.

    It’s very sweet to bring grandma on stage or wherever you go, trust your grandma must keep you, a lovely grandchild  in everywhere too, even in her dancing dream. 

    Again, really thanks for this warm article which gave me strength while waiting an inspection in hospital now. Actually, coincidentally listening to details in the fabric at this moment.

    Last but not least, somehow I can imagine the intention goes around in backstage, hand in hand, the signal of we are not alone, more accurately, you and I are both not alone as experienced the same in your music..

    ps. have a great spiritual journey in Asia too, don’t dress too much, it’s hot in this season.

    Love/Live,
    KT

  • Avatar of abbymelody
    abbymelody said ...

    Truly inspirational!

  • Avatar of shorekimmy
    shorekimmy said ...

    The bigger the star, the nicer they are …Jason you must be huge! I love the canvas on stage idea. Love that you are in a position to give back and enjoy doing it. Giving not only financially but taking the time to personally be involved. My man just came back from visiting his folks in VA, your grandmother turned 83 on June 3rd, his turned 99 on June 5th. Thank you for sharing a post before your ▌●▼■ tour.

  • Avatar of vmorse
    vmorse said ...

    Is this the grandma that never made your grandad lose his head?

  • Avatar of jcwrightpiano
    jcwrightpiano said ...

    Hey this is a wonderful post. The performance was truly magical in many ways. I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as the rest of us!

  • Avatar of gamachan
    gamachan said ...

    You have strong family values. Cool.

    You and I are both the last ring of a love chain.
    Until we decide to have children.

    Sometimes I think about destiny: what if my grandfather did not return from Russia, in 1948?

  • Avatar of mrazfan1031
    mrazfan1031 said ...

    Hi! What a wonderful post. And what a wonderful life you seem to have. It is so nice that you take your Grandma on stage with you. That must mean so much to her. Your love just shines so bright. God Bless you and your family. Thank you for all that you do. You are special.
    xoxxo, Linda

  • Avatar of gealine
    gealine said ...

    My grandfather turned 89 on June first
    And i got to celibrate my birthday (June 6)with my grandmother who is almost 87.
    I’m so gratefull for the moments i got to share with them and the rest of my family.
    And i am very gratefull for you, you always make me aware of the beautifull things in live.
    (your cd’s where on the background my whole birthday)

    Thank you so much!

    and bless your family

  • Avatar of dorandesign
    dorandesign said ...

    Jason! Wow! What a wonderful post! It was an absolute pleasure working with you again after all these years! You are truly a remarkable artist and I will work with you again anytime, anywhere! It’s so cool to see where our lives and careers have gone since we were 15! Hope to see you again very soon!

  • Avatar of GloriousMe
    GloriousMe said ...

    Crap, I meant “read” not “ready.”

  • Avatar of GloriousMe
    GloriousMe said ...

    I was a chorus, drama, debate nerd, so it’s really great to ready about others with similar backgrounds who kept fighting the good fight until the made it. What a special experience it must have been to share performance with kids who mirror what you once were. Love it!

  • Avatar of Rose
    Rose said ...

    I remember my grandma doing the same thing….It always made me a little envious that she got to lay there and dream during the busiest time on my life chaing after 3 little tiny kids. But I think they have earned the dream phase…love that you take her on stage. She must be an amazing Grandma!

    What a great send off for you from the SPARC show to start the tour! Hope your tank is fun and you are ready to roll!

    PS..girlfriend? Do tell! I am happy for you I hope you are experiencing pure Bliss!

    Rose

  • Avatar of Hamza
    Hamza said ...

    Love is a four letter word ! Thanks to you , i know now how to love the world.

  • Avatar of ethiessen1
    ethiessen1 said ...

    Those of us in Richmond are proud to say that you come from here.
    This story reflects what a classy and caring person you are-visually
    exemplified by your earbuds. Keep on doing what you do.

  • Avatar of Hamza
    Hamza said ...

    Thanks to exist !!

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