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Play Harder: Help Me, I’m an Artist (Entry 5)

December 1, 2015
Paul Cranford and Sarah Beck help Maria Millar learn her first Strathspey.
Paul Cranford and Sarah Beck help Maria Millar learn her first Strathspey. Photographer(s): Shawn Wyckoff & Maria Millar

I have always made my living as an independent performing artist. A 9-to-5 job is as foreign to me as waking up early, establishing a routine or even teaching a student regularly. We artists share one thing in common – we need help! Funding, booking, housing, brainstorming, bartering, watching, listening, feedback, encouragement… our success depends upon asking and receiving.

I used to think that I had trouble asking for help because I wanted to be the helper, not the helped. I've come to realize, though, that being an adult is what makes asking for help so tough. When we’re kids, we can’t survive without help. One of the highlights of growing up is we get to stop asking – we get to be independent!

The truth is, we never stop being helped. Most of us just don’t have to ask for it. In all my travels, I’ve rarely met an adult who does not give graciously on some level (e.g. time, money, knowledge, advice). A gracious receiver, however, is not so common.

Allow me – a humble, very helped artist – to make the case for why all people should embrace help:

  1. You’re already receiving it, might as well acknowledge it
  2. You make people who give feel good
  3. You inspire people to keep giving and give more
  4. You feel loved
  5. You feel connected, not alone
  6. You identify and appreciate help exponentially – you start seeing it everywhere (e.g. in a smile, a road that was built before you, a door that’s held open for you, an awesome outfit that someone sports to uplift your day)
  7. You feel rich, abundant, lucky
  8. You don’t feel used
  9. You become a better giver
  10. You trust more & fear little
  11. You love humanity

Embracing help is actually just practising appreciation. And as one who’s critical by nature, appreciation is my shield against negativity. When a dark mood encroaches, I just think of those who’ve helped me and I barely get down the list – Shawn, my cat sons Tiger & Ninja – before I start feeling overwhelmed by gratitude.

You know what? I think I just identified a routine in my life. Haha.

Here are some pictures of people who’ve helped me in just the past month:

Archie McDonald

I had Archie McDonald withdrawal for a week after first meeting him at our concert - his two thumbs up with a smile and a wiggle is contagious! Archie's generous spirit makes me want to live open-heartedly.

Norv Carr

I've learned to tiptoe around (sometimes cantankerous) sound people. Norv Carr - our soundman at the Acorn Theater this month - was so friendly and helpful that I've decided to be less afraid... at least in Michigan!

Terry Boyarsky

Every time we drive West for our tours, we know we have good cheer and a place to stay with Terry Boyarsky of Russian Duo. Lucy the Cat kindly makes room for Tiger & Ninja as well!

Michael Millar

October 29 is St. Michael Millar's Day. That's the day my brother convinced me & Shawn to form a duo, took our photos, and programmed our website from scratch. Also known as "The Mule," Michael's hauling power is equal to 4 men or 1 forklift. Brains + brawn = priceless.

Anna Millar

Anna Millar, my sister, doesn't think twice before taking time off work to join us on tour, film our shows or help us at a performing arts conference. Anna's footage has led to countless bookings, and her gift for empathy makes sharing new songs or ideas an absolute pleasure.

Maria Millar
Maria Millar

Violinist & Composer 

Play Harder is a regular series by Maria Kaneko Millar chronicling the creation of Four Seasons Rising, a project funded by Canada Council for the Arts that involves going to four corners of Canada and the US – Nova Scotia, Florida, Nunavut and California – to research, shoot footage and compose a symphonic work for Sonic Escape with orchestra. Maria is the violinist & composer of Sonic Escape, a duo of Juilliard graduates whose blend of hyper-instrumentals, stories, dance moves and original works is "wonderfully imaginative... with a wide-ranging, anything-goes sense of fun.” (The Washington Post)  @sonicescape

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