Sheri Nadelman, Let Me Entertain You
Perhaps you know that I am a professional musician. I sing, write, record, play guitar, shake a mean tambourine and occasionally bang on a cowbell. It took me a while to hone my skills as an artist. It took even longer to give myself permission to call myself a musician and years to earn the right to call myself an entertainer.
Artists see the world a little differently. We tend to feel things a little more deeply which comes through in our craft. We tend to be hard on ourselves and constantly question and second guess our own intentions. I’m still working on this and must remind myself that self-doubt never self serves. That’s a story for another day (or for a therapist).
Besides my songwriting and my solo performances, I front the popular cover band soulRcoaster. Despite the odds, we’ve been together for a dozen or so years. I’m extremely proud of that fact. for if you know anything about the music business, it is rare for members of a band to stick together for more than 2-3 years. Not all lead singers have the good fortune to continue working with the same musicians for as long as I have. This really speaks to the integrity and musicianship of the really great guys I have been blessed to work with.
Prior to soulRcoaster, I formed and fronted “Sheri and The Vision” which had several versions of The Vision, before I decided to take a break. Again, all good guys but that is also a story for another day.
The truth is that anyone can learn to play music. Also true is that anyone can learn to sing. That said, not everyone can perform, not everyone can entertain and most definitely not everyone can sing well.
With apologies to anyone in theater and music school who may be offended, let me just say that becoming an entertainer requires a lot of variables to fall into place and a certain skill set. Even though I’ve studied with famed New York vocal coach Marty Lawrence, I’ve learned the hard way that most of this cannot be taught – but learned through hard work and experience.
I know I’ll be leaving out a few facts here, but as Dexter would say I’ll take a stab at it anyway. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Here goes.
Being an entertainer takes perseverance and a thick skin. Despite wanting to give up every other day, most of us have the need to perform embedded in our DNA. Quitting is not an option. Unfortunately, a huge part of the process is the ever-dreaded rejection. It’s inevitable and if we’re smart, we’ll use it as a teaching moment.
We must constantly remind ourselves that a “no” today can be a “yes” tomorrow. That said, finding the inner strength to deal with a barrage of blows to one’s ego can be quite detrimental. I’m told by almost everyone in the arts and entertainment business that this comes with the territory. There’s always someone better, more qualified or just plain lucky. We all have egos; some are bigger than others and all are very sensitive.
It takes a very healthy dose of confidence which simply comes with time. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn. The more seasoned you become the more confidence you gain. I know that I bring an impeccable work ethic to my shows, and I give 110% to each performance. I’ve gotten standing ovations and accolades galore, yet to this day, every time I have a show, I must remind myself that I am good enough. (Again, perhaps a conversation for another day and a therapist!)
The piece de resistance on becoming an entertainer is that it requires – cue the drum roll – talent. Sometimes it seems that this is the least important factor. (Yea, I went there). We all know there are plenty of entertainers out there who have more confidence and chutzpah than real talent. Yet, they can keep an audience engaged. There’s something to be said about that.
The bottom line is that it’s hard to master all these skills simultaneously and consistently. Some of us never really do and perhaps some of us just never really should!
Fun Fact: the music industry is tough on every level. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Grammy Award winning icon or a singer/songwriter performing at a local pub (the latter is more difficult in my opinion). It is a road that often leads to disappointment. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that it often has little or nothing to do with one’s ability, but rather everything to do with timing. And luck. A lot of luck. I’ve had record deals and lost record deals, and none, dare I say, have been because of a lack of talent. One day I’ll tell you about that too.
“What’s the difference between a pizza and a musician? A pizza can feed a family of four”.
That old joke is funny/not funny. Relying on music as a sustainable profession is something that few entertainers have been able to do successfully. The financial strain is oftentimes overwhelming and those with significant others and kids often have day jobs. Balancing the two presents an incredible amount of pressure and can be a real strain on family life. We give up a lot for our craft and so do our families. For the record (pun intended), I would like to acknowledge that that I am ever so grateful to the families of my band who sacrifice their family time for soulRcoaster. Lots of Saturday nights and holidays, birthdays and other life events are altered all for the sake of the music.
In our current pandemic situation, the life of an entertainer is challenging. For the past couple of years, for many, it has been almost nonexistent. The internet has certainly been a godsend, but even with the ability to stay connected, live performances have been few and far between. Just look at what happened to Broadway and all of our local theater performers. They’re finally getting back to some semblance of normalcy as of this writing.
I know what you’re thinking. Yes, it’s true we don’t have to do it, but the reality is, we kinda do. Any musician will agree. As I mentioned earlier, it’s in our makeup. I’ve wanted to sing since the time I could talk. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. I put my music career on hold several times in my life suppressing my own passion. Not only was this unsuccessful, it festered my frustration. I always came back to it. I had to. Think FOMO, folks. Once again, a story for another day.
Look, it’s not brain surgery. With all due respect, those of us in the industry, big or small, contribute to society in the most profound way. In the grand scheme of things, we are people who get great joy by sharing our talent. If we are successful, we will spend a few hours taking you away from the daily grind. We hope the music makes you feel good. We hope you continue to come see us. We hope you bring your friends. We hope the venue owners and managers keep hiring us!
I hope perhaps you’ll look at a musician a little differently and realize they may be juggling a ton of things in order to get behind the microphone. There are a lot of people behind the scenes that make that happen. Sound and lighting engineers, marketing and booking agents, hair, makeup and roadies. The list goes on and on. It really takes a village to put on a show. Then again, sometimes all you need is a guitar and a good song
Here’s to a New Year filled with the promise of getting back to doing what we all love. Whether you’re on a stage or in the audience, I hope your spirits are lifted by our music.
To my fellow musicians, may your tip jars ever be overflowing.
Photos from Sheri Nadelman