Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lunch with a clarinetist and beatboxer who improv together atTEDxLincoln

This last Thursday, I spent my entire day off from work attending the TEDxLincoln event, Wide Horizons Open Minds. I am very thankful that I did. The day was filled with fabulous speakers who challenged me to think differently about the world, grabbed my attention and took me on an inspiring journey, or had me (and the entire room) in tears, or just (I can't believe I wrote "just") introduced me to a new idea.

I filled up each page of the program with notes as I, with difficulty, pulled my attention away from each speaker to record my thoughts. There is much I want to blog about as I turn my notes into responses, and there is even more that I want to share, such as links to the videos of the talks that will soon be posted on YouTube, or books and movies of the presenters. So check this blog as I spend the next several days writing about Wide Horizons Open Minds because I feel I can't do it justice with a single post.

Before the event, Michelle suggested that I live-tweet it. Now, what you must know, this guy does not do so well with the technology. I mean, I can hold my own compared to some people, but if I had to compare our technology skills, she would be an evolved genius and I'm a dying neanderthal. The great thing about my amazing wife is that she is patient with me and she takes the time to help me along (even though most of the time I think she easily grows very impatient with me). I drove to the event with anticipation, and, strangely, with a little nervousness about live-tweeting because I didn't want to break any tweeting norms. After being re-tweeted early on in the talks, I gained confidence and loved the experience. I was connecting with total strangers in the room while the event was going on. People were reading my reactions, and I theirs. Twitter enhanced my experience.

My first "hash-tagged" tweet of the day was, "Giving the speech of your life is hard," which was a direct quote from the emcee, Susan Stibal. Dr. Gregory Oakes lived up to that quotation by sharing with the audience his talents on the clarinet in his talk, "Originality, Your Own Way." A line from his bio in the TEDxLincoln program states, "Oakes is one of the most exciting and energetic clarinetists of his generation." And for the few minutes I watched him (and, later listened to him talk while we ate lunch at the same table) I can see why.

He began his talk comparing the artist to the scientist because he grew up surrounded by scientists and a musician was a different thing to "be". He said, "The idea of being a musician was something you did on the weekends." But he lived for originality. He said that you should never do or don't do something because of money. That seemed like a challenge because, in a lot of ways, that statement is not an easy one to follow. Then he launched into sharing some music, playing one movement from a piece titled "Folksongs." Here is a short clip I captured on my iPhone:

Later in the day, after lunch, DeWayne Taylor gave a talk titled "The Evolution of Beatbox". A talented musician and artist of a unique kind (who also ate lunch at my table), DeWayne has competed in the American Beatbox Championships. He also shared with the audience the uniqueness of his instrument--him, informing us all about the intricacies of his craft. What I found most insightful was when DeWayne was speaking about the emotions of a beatboxer and how those are communicated in many the same ways as other artists, like musicians. In order to demonstrate this concept to us, he asked for the audience to randomly pick three emotions. Then he performed for us, incorporating those three emotions:

Those two amazing performances were enough to blow my mind, until at the end of the day, when I was leaving the event, I discovered DeWayne and Greg in the lobby doing improv. Just when I thought my day couldn't have been filled with more coolness, it was:

I will be writing about the other phenomenal talks from Wide Horizons Open Minds in further posts. You should check out the TEDxLincoln Facebook page at And you should attend this event next year, either in person or streaming it online. I will vouch that it will be worth your time!

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