I just finished devouring Amy Poehler's 2014 memoirs, entitled Yes Please, This is a fun, light read with plenty of laughs and great stories of her childhood, as well as her time in the improv comedy scene in Chicago, SNL, and Parks and Recreation. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and finished it in about a day and a half. I love to read about the lives of artists and the experiences they encounter. This one didn't disappoint. There are about 3 quick remarks that I am eager to make as a result of reading the book.
First, the title. Yes, please is a result of her work in improv comedy and theater where the cardinal rule is to always affirm the statement of direction that your fellow actor takes the sketch. You always say yes. You never say no. I have heard this numerous time from my friend, Theater Instructor at NCSSM, Adam Sampieri. So, this is not a new concept for me. I really enjoyed getting Poehler's take on this to add to my understanding from Adam. And, if you read my post, "I Want More," a few days ago, I think that I said the same thing in a different way. As a fine arts instructor, I believe it is my job to say, "Yes." The trick is to say, "yes," and then provide the framework or direction to get to the destination. This is the essence of teaching and particularly the essence of teaching elective subjects. Students want to get there. We must say yes. But, we need to have a plan (sequence, system, nomenclature, and harmonic underpinning) for getting to the destination. I will continue to try to say, "Yes."
The "please" aspect of the title reflects her understanding that please isn't ever a bad thing to say. Polite is good. Appreciative is good. Manners are good. A phrase I use a lot is "love works." I continue to believe this. Amy Poehler affirmed that for me this week.
Next, I tweeted out two quotes from her book that I want to reiterate here as well.
First, Poehler reminds us that "Ambivalence is key. You have to care about your work but not about the result; not about how good people think you are." This is such a good reminder for all of us in this age of social media, public commentary, youtube concert broadcasts, and a general air of criticism. I have definitely learned over the years to trust and care about my work. There will always be critics. Stay the course and your work will speak for itself. Trust me, not everyone digs my work. I usually take it really hard. We all want to be universally liked and respected. I don't think anyone gets that luxury. I think the very best sports commentator on rado or television is Colin Cowherd from ESPN. I love his interviews, intellect, style, commentary, and his sense of humor. He gets absolutely killed by bloggers, critics, and every other random dude that thinks they know better. He is totally ambivalent (at least publicly). He knows that his work stands on its own. I know that my work stands on its own. You can rest assured that yours does as well.
Finally, she tells us that, "You need to be where you are to get where you want to be." This is such a good reminder for me this summer. I am up in Michigan, teaching at Interlochen, doing really important work. I truly believe that these kids in ICO need me. I have a unique perspective as conductor, parent, improvising musician, classical musician, teacher, husband, and colleague. I really try to impact my students, the young folks that are on staff for the summer, colleagues, and parents. I also really try to be impacted by all of them. I want to grow every day. That said, my wife and kids are at home. I miss them a great deal. I am missing baseball games, conversations around the dinner table, weekend trips to the beach and relatives, holidays (today is July 4), and numerous other events this summer. I am very fortunate to have a wife that loves me and understands my work. When I questioned whether it was a good idea for me to be here this summer, she texted me that "It is ok. You are doing important work." I am really blessed. I really try to be present when I am at home. She has often told me that is one of my gifts as a father. I don't know if that is always true, but I really try. You really do need to be where you are to get where you want to be. I know it in my heart. I am glad that Amy Poehler reminded me of it this week. Her timing, as usual, is really good!
Thanks, Amy. I loved to book.