“What if….?” That was the theme of the Sept. 15 TED Talk I was invited to bring music to. “What if we could help make positive changes in the world? What if we used our collective talents, knowledge and insights to provide the spark to an idea or movement – no matter how big or small – that would make a positive impact on others or humanity in general?”
If you’re familiar with TED, the globally popular nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks, you’ve probably, like me, looked to their videos showing 18-minute or less talks for inspiration and aspiration. I remember I first heard about TED talks in 2011. And I remember the first one I watched — Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” speaking on “your elusive creative genius” (a video that now has close to 12 million views). I’ve watched and bookmarked others over the years on all kinds of topics.
So I was excited to receive an invitation to be a performer at a real-live Ted Talk! I’d be singing at TED@UPS, one of a handful of corporate partnerships TED does.
An official TED Talk program, it featured about a dozen speakers divided between two sessions. Our music was to bring the “E” in TED (entertainment) and help paint around the edges of the “What If?” theme. I suggested we do the song “Blackbird” by Lennon and McCartney, a tune I’ve always considered to be a metaphor for hope and an inner awakening (“take these broken wings and learn to fly — all your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise … “).
With a trio of great Atlanta-based musicians backing me (Randy Hoexter, Kelly McCarty, Justin Chesarek), we played a jazz-influenced take on the song that was created by my friend Mark Simon of Portland. Funny, I’d had the arrangement for a couple of years but hadn’t yet performed it anywhere. Guess it was waiting for this Ted Talk to take wing.
Our Blackbird opened Session 2, and led into a talk from the curator of mammals at the Atlanta Zoo, speaking on “What If … animals could choose how they live?” We also closed out the day with some more music, including a duet with a great singer down from Detroit, John Bidden, who is a UPS driver. We laid down some “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” for the UPS crowd. Couldn’t resist!
When watching those 18-minute talks on youtube, no one is thinking about the work that goes in to curating, developing, producing and presenting the talks at TED — evidence that a TON of effort goes into it! But as impressive as it was to watch how the operation of a TED Talk takes shape — and it is impressive — what stood out most was the tone and energy emanating from everyone working on it. They were the most genuinely lifting people to spend an entire day with. This TED thing is really very special … and it left me with my own “What If?”:
What if we could walk amongst each other with an air of open, inspired, well-considered thinking, coupled with caring encouragement, all wrapped inside a genuine warmth and hospitality — as I experienced during my day spent with TED?
Hey, that would really be something to Talk about.
P.S. You can check out the TED blog on this day, here. Each of the talks from the day will eventually be posted as part of TED’s youtube library. However, the TED Institute is unable to post our music performances because of licensing issues. ….