I watched the Jon Foreman TEDx Talk 3 times yesterday. Once by myself and twice with my wife Joanna. Over all I’d say Jon Foreman is my favorite artist for a variety of reasons, but this talk captures why I feel this way. Jon’s work is really guided by this idea that he wants to help others rise above the struggle. He wants people to know that it’s worth the fight to move towards what they’ve been created to do. Every person’s song is important. Even though the world is overwhelming and the noise seems to drown out our tune we have to keep singing the melody God placed in our soul.
So often I feel artists are way to caught up in what they are doing. They seem consumed with how much practice and time they’ve put into their craft or how unique their sound is that they forget that they were given their gift to inspire people and identify with their struggles. I’ll never forget being in a used music store and seeing some congas. Like any other musician I was curious. I’ve heard it said that if you give a musician a new instrument they’ll naturally try to play something like Mary Had a Little Lamb on it! So I started to mess around on them. Experimenting. Not loudly, not obnoxiously. Before I knew it an employee came up to me and asked me if I’d ever tried to play them before and then began to tell me how hard they were to play. “They aren’t as easy as people think,” he said. And then he went on to show me a complex beat that I couldn’t duplicate. It was as if he wanted to let me know that I couldn’t ever play congas like he could. Why would this music store employee do this? Why did he have to be such a jerk about his abilities? What if I wanted to buy said congas? Instead of wanting to explore the instrument more I was discouraged and didn’t touch them again for a couple of years. Eventually my percussionist friend Mike Williams spent some time with me showing me how fun they were, and although I still am not an expert I’ve learned it really is great to not work and bang on the drum all day.
I understand that you don’t become good at something overnight. We live in a world where people tend to tell kids they can be anything they want to be, but we don’t need to take it upon ourselves to put people in their place either. As artists we need to ask ourselves the question. Do we want people to look up to us as talent freaks or gods, or do we want people to identify with us. Do we want to encourage people through the human experience or do we want to make sure we stay ahead of others in the human race. Jon Foreman is masterful at encouraging others. You can tell that it is his true heart’s desire. You can tell this is a new format for him and that he’s a little nervous, but he pushes through that and does a heart exchange with the audience.
I hope you’ll take some time to view this talk. I’m also including a video from a concert I went to in Nashville. Jon truly made the concert about his audience. He sang a couple of songs he wanted to introduce to us and then had us send papers up to him with song requests. I didn’t have a pen and paper so I took his advice at the start of the concert and decided to embrace the chaos. I turned of the sleep feature on my iPhone, typed my request on the note app, and passed my phone forward. After it left my hand a little fear set in. I really wondered if I would ever see my phone again! Watch the extra video to see what happened and how he reacted in the moment. Imagine if this was you and how his response would’ve made you feel. Thank you for reading and viewing.