Our Life in The Arts: Questions, Reality, and Musings On a Life of Joy and Wonder.

Vol. 1, No. 1

January 11, 2021

How Did I Get Here?

By Rich Holly

Welcome to 2021 and the inaugural posting in this new blog series, Our Life in The Arts. A new year brings opportunities – opportunities for a refresh, new beginnings, a reevaluation, dreaming, and (supposedly) new actions. My first new action is to create this blog post series, and while I can’t predict exactly where it will take us, my intention at the start is to share musings, facts, information, opinions, advice, and encouragement for those of us active in the arts, who love the arts, and who may want to become involved in the arts as a participant, audience member, viewer, or supporter.

I’ve chosen How Did I Get Here? as the title for this first post. Perhaps you’ll see a little bit of yourself in this, or recognize part of a friend’s or family member’s path. My hope is to bring a bit of levity and a thought-invoking period to your day.

With special thanks to David Byrne for his lyrics:

And you may find yourself
Living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself
In another part of the world
And you may find yourself
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?

While I certainly didn’t know it or understand it at the time, it’s clear to me now that two things drove my childhood and teenage-years’ obsessions: a strong work ethic, and what makes me happy. Or, as I frequently state it now, what brings me joy. I discovered early on that dance and music make me happy (recalling the time, at 4 years old, I photo-bombed my parents taking 8mm film of my 7-year old sister, in her tutu, demonstrating her ballet recital work in our backyard. I had gone into her room, put on one of her skirts over my jeans, and ran outside to leap behind her while being filmed. The pout on my face when my mother scolded me, totally caught on film, is priceless).

Two years later I entered our living room while my parents were watching television. A small music group was playing (this was pre-Beatles, and I’m not sure who it was), and just as I turned to look at the TV the camera zoomed in on the drummer. That was it, I was mesmerized. After what was probably 30 seconds I turned and asked my parents if I could get a pair of drumsticks – and neither of them replied. Lo and behold, 2 days later on his way home from work, my father stopped at a music store and bought me a pair of drumsticks. The rest, as they say, is history.

That history (for which I daily count my lucky stars) includes too many items to put in any blog post. But suffice it to say I’ve had a several-decades-long incredible and international career in the arts, as a performer, composer, teacher, author, presenter, mentor, and leader.

1972, Rich while a sophomore in high school

I’ve learned a lot over the years, and like to think I’m still learning. I thank my friends, family, colleagues, and particularly my students for teaching me things and causing me to view the world in different ways.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the things I’ve learned and strive to put into practice all the time:

  • Liberal use of “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome”
  • Find opportunities and take the time to smile and laugh every day
  • Work hard, but not all day every day
  • Be Human
  • The Golden Rule
  • Say “yes” to opportunities and experiences, regardless of pay
  • Respect is likely the most important thing
  • Relationships matter
  • Support those less fortunate than you

As for David Byrne’s lyrics, I have found myself in all those places. Some were terrifying, others were and are so beautiful I can hardly believe it. And I learned something – often several somethings – from each of those.

So, this is how I got here. Be kind, be supportive, keep learning, work hard, respect others. And you’ll get there, too.