Thoughts on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest

Recently, I submitted a youtube video for the Tiny Desk Concert contest, hosted by All Songs Considered of NPR. The Tiny Desk Concert series has been a fabulous way for folks to discover new artists and gain new appreciation for favorites. The good people at All Songs Considered decided to open up the series to anyone by way of a contest in which an artist can submit a youtube video of an original song, performed at a desk.

That’s it! It’s easy. If you win, you get to play a few songs at the original All Songs desk.
Google “tiny desk concert” for all kinds of good stuff.
Google “tiny desk contest” for even more.

I like this contest for a few reasons:

1. It creates a national conversation about putting your music out into the world. A national Show and Tell. A cultural expectation to create and share. Really, the possibility of winning is a small incentive, or honorarium, for participating in the music-making and sharing. The community that the contest engenders is the pot of gold!
Here’s some musical gold from The Lacewings…

2. I like to connect people. When my musician friends make Tiny Desk videos for the contest, I can use the videos as and musical business cards and a common experience to connect artists with one another.
Nash-villains! Dear Kaston , I’d like to introduce you to Kaitlyn.

3. If musicians make these videos every year for a few years, it creates artistic touchstones with which to follow their development and craftlearning.  I’m excited to watch how my friends (and friends to be) and I develop as artists over the years.

Growing artists is like growing trees. It takes a lot of patience and pruning. And keeping cattle away from saplings.

I hope the folks at All Songs Considered (and the musical community) keep the contest going: As long as they host it, I’ll keep submitting videos.

And so, here’s my 2016 Tiny Desk Contest video. (I’ve already come a long way since last year.)

Thanks for hosting, NPR. And see you next year, Tiny Desk contest!

Side note: A bit of the video making process…
First attempt (10 days before deadline): Started getting things together for a video in Missouri, but didn’t make enough time to complete it before I left for a trip to Nashville.
(Song: A Song for Mrs. Bennet)
Second (26 hours before deadline):  Recorded at a couple of friends’ house in Nashville with the addition of their lovely harmonies.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t set up my mic correctly and the mandolin was way too loud.  (Song: Driving Steel)
Third (7 hours before deadline): Recorded in the backyard of another friend’s house the next day.  A nice set-up outside!  Took several takes that I wasn’t happy with, but as the sun drifted below the horizon and the rain began to fall, I finally got one that was good enough.  Alas!  My phone had run out of battery right before that last take. (Song: Midnight Special)
Fourth attempt (5 hours before deadline): Set up again inside my friend’s house and after playing around with the mic and several takes, I finally got a track that worked.  Though I’d rather’ve completed my video with more time to spare, my previous attempts were good practice for the take that I submitted.  As long as I’m clarifying and bettering my process, even if the “final” product isn’t yet satisfactory, that is progress and a measure of success. (Song: Midnight Special)

Enough of that!  Here’s the video!


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