Today, we’re honored to host Thriller/YA Author Ellie Ann. Ellie is known throughout the cybersphere for her talent, her intelligent mind, and her open heart. She is always positive, even on the rare occasion when she’s being controversial. Her debut thriller is BREAKING STEELE. You can find Ellie’s smart and diverse blog at Ellie Ann and her clever tweets at @elliesoderstrom.
Thank you, Ellie, for gifting us with your winning perspective.
How To Play Before Royalty
By Ellie Ann
Hello dear artist.
Whether you’re armed with paintbrush, accordion, laptop, accordion playing chameleon, cook book, sand shovel, dancing shoes, dachshund in dancing shoes, you’re all ready to show off your creation.
You believe your art could change the world … or at least make the world politely smile and nod.
Well, I can help.
I have a proven method that will get you the chance to perform before an audience. And not just before an audience of your stuffed animals and stepmother, either. But the chance to play before royalty. Yes, you heard me right. Kings and Queens.
This month, my sixteen-year-old brother is playing bagpipes before the princess of Thailand.
I’m beyond proud of him. Everyone dreams of getting their art recognized in a big way, and for Gavin, it’s about to happen. The princess’ eyes will be on him, and he’ll get royal applause for all his hard work and passion for music.
Getting to play before royalty at sixteen is an incredible experience, but it did not happen because of a burst of destiny fireworks or a sand dagger that controls time. Oh no, it happened very normally. So normal, that it could happen to anyone, even to you and your kazoo/accordion band. So listen up and follow these two simple steps:
My dad told each of his nine children, “If you practice at something for fifteen minutes every day, you’ll be an expert at it in no time.” So whether it was basketball, bagpipes, or backgammon, my parents urged us to stick to our guns and told us to keep practicing even when we didn’t feel like it.
I know I’ll never play oboe before a King. I know I won’t be asked to dance the waltz with a prince or play volleyball at the Olympics or cook soufflé for the president or help the prime minister of Norway with his stock market portfolio. I’ve never practiced those things.
When I was a junior in high school, I wanted to try out for volleyball. I was not especially good at volleyball. Ok, I’ll be honest … I suck at volleyball. But I wanted to be with my friends. When I asked my dad about it, he said, “If you want to be okay at basketball, you’ll go out for volleyball. If you want to be awesome at basketball, you’ll practice basketball through the volleyball season.” Getting good at one thing means sacrificing being good at seventeen things. It means concentrating on developing that one skill.
My brother Gavin has practiced bagpipes nearly every day for years now. He’s in a band, he plays for competitions, he listens to bagpipe music, and he practices, practices, practices. If he hadn’t been so devoted to his art, or if he’d decided he wanted to quit and learn to play the French horn, he would not have had the opportunity to play before royalty because audiences aren’t so interested in a guy who is okay at playing both the bagpipes and the French horn.
It reminds me of this proverb:
Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank. (proverbs 22:29)
Gavin performing bagpipes for Thai dignitaries
So you want to share your art with the world? Practice the same thing for at least 15 minutes a day. Then when the world comes knocking on your door, you’ll be ready for it.
Don’t Be Classy
We’re humans. We like to catagorize people. One of the catagories we like to place others in is “helpful” and “not-helpful.” There are some people above us in the ladder leading up to success heaven and some people below us. If you think that it’s just the people above you who are going to help you rise to the top, I’m going to tell you that you’re stupid.
One, there is no “success heaven” where all your troubles will go away, and you’ll float serenely on a cloud of unceasing compliments and a hundred virgins will fight over who gets to rub your feet and feed you butterfingers and eggrolls. Success will not make your problems go away and fulfill your fantasies. That’s a lie. If you don’t believe me than just pick up a copy of US weekly and see if the rich and famous people inside it look free of problems. After you read it, come back here and I’ll say I told you so.
However, there are some people who have travelled where you want to go. If your goal is to publish a book, it’s a good idea to talk to people who have published books. If you want to be the best kazoo/accordion band, then study the great kazoo/accordion bands of the past.
But if you walk up to those who have been where you’ve been, expecting a car-ride, a hand up, or a favor … it’s just not going to work out. You should connect with people because you like that person, not because they can help you. Because help can come from the most unlikeliest of places.
Gavin’s opportunity to play for the princess of Thailand came through our family friend, Uncle Soonthorn Soonthorntarawong, Thailand’s prison chaplain. My parents met him and his wife 27 years ago when they lived in the U.S., were attending a Bible College, struggling with the language, dirt poor, and pregnant with their first child. At the time they met, he would’ve been named “least likely to stand before royalty.”
My parents and Uncle Soonthorn and Aunt Supaporn connected, and they became friends and stayed friends for the next 27 years. Every few years or so they’d visit each other, and my dad would tease Uncle Soonthorn about being old, and Uncle Soothorn would tease dad about being bald. Meanwhile, Uncle Soonthorn’s prison ministry grew, and he was elected by the King to be chaplain over all the prisons in Thailand. He started a prison choir, and one year that choir was asked to play before the King of Thailand on his birthday. It went so well that the choir has performed for the royal family every year since.
When Uncle Soonthorn came for a visit earlier this year, he heard Gavin practicing his bagpipes. He loved it. And the rest is history.
It pays to never think you’re above anyone. If my dad had not befriended a super-cool guy just because he wasn’t able to help dad out, he’d have never seen his son perform before royalty. It’s best to see a person not for what they can give you. You don’t need to make friends with every person with two legs and a twitter account, but if you connect to someone, then pursue that relationship.
I’m sure when Gandalf met Frodo he didn’t think, “Sticklebacks! This is the man who will save the world!” He just liked smoking leaf with Frodo, and never thought he’d be the one that would destroy the One Ring. As Galadriel says: “Even the smallest can change the course of the future.”
That person you treated with snobby disdain might be a princess disguised as a commoner, because I hear that happens a lot (royalty are forever pretending to be non-royals). Don’t refuse someone’s friendship because don’t seem like they’d be able to help you … they might be just what your kazoo/accordion band needs to make it to the big time.
When have you befriended someone who later surprised you with an opportunity? Have you ever done the same for someone else?