Somehow I was called to play piano on a luxury train called the “American Orient Express.” A great gig. But what happened on one 10-day trip from DC to LA was life changing.
Every night a little old lady would sit by the baby grand I was playing on and ask for “Memory” from “Cats.” Sometimes she would ask for it several times a night. I clenched my teeth and dutifully played it with all the gusto I could muster, and as you may have guessed, I didn’t much enjoy the song or the repetition.
On the last night of the trip there was a cocktail party in the lounge car I played in, and this little lady who loved “Memory,” clinked her glass and got the room quiet.
She said, “I want to thank you all for making this final trip for my life special. I have terminal cancer and a very short time to live and you have made my final days so very special.”
In that moment, it became clear that unbeknownst to me — a song, a lyric, a word, a touch — may mean something very special to the audience, even if I don’t know it at the time. My epiphany was that, as performers, it is not about “us” and what we appreciate, but about reaching the audience. We are facilitators that have the potential to change lives, even if just for a moment. I have never performed one show, one set or one note the same way since that night. ~ Bill Hindin