Our Secret Sauce

I can’t believe we’re kicking off our seventh concert season – Keep the Light – next month! Just between you and me, the truth is we never should have made it this far.

After all, we don’t have any of the resources that successful arts organizations have. We have no dedicated staff, no reliable sources of funding, no dependable support from the press. We have no experts orchestrating clever marketing strategies or executing well-oiled fundraising campaigns on our behalf. Indeed, we are far from perfect. One could even say that structurally, our organization is quite flawed. And yet, here we are, year seven, about to share what may be our most beautiful concert season to date with a growing body of dedicated listeners. How is this possible?

I think it has something to do with wabi-sabi.

Not to be confused with wasabi, that spicy condiment we enjoy with our sushi, wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic centered on embracing, rather than rejecting, transience and imperfection, with a preference for the organic and natural. In his book Wabi-Sabi Simple, Richard Powell urges us to create beauty, value imperfection, and live deeply – precepts right out of the Revel Handbook. Characteristics of wabi-sabi include asymmetry and irregularity (like the flexible number of Revel concerts that make up any given season), unpolished roughness and rawness (like the way we invite you to forget the rules and clap when you feel like it), simplicity (come as you are), and intimacy (40 is a packed house at our Revel in the House events).

According to Powell, wabi-sabi “nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” Maybe it’s because we recognize our own impermanence (both as people and as an organization) that our programs are born solely out of a desire to share what we love. We don’t have time for anything else. Maybe it’s the idea that nothing is ever finished (or the ink is still wet, as Lucas Foss once said) that allows us to take the risks that we take; there will always be another chance to make it better, until there is not.

Every last member of our artist roster is a profoundly passionate believer in the cause, someone who has made it their life’s work to masterfully connect with others through music.  This is what matters to us. We are not perfect, we are not slick, but admittedly, we are not striving to be. What we are, in a word, is authentic. Since we aren’t fixated on growth for growth’s sake, or interested in becoming anything other than what we are, it gives us the freedom and space to be genuine. Maybe this is what our audiences see in us.

It’s true; nothing lasts, and we don’t know how long we’ll be around. Life is like that. But as long as we’re here, we want you with us. It’s going to be one hell of a memorable Revel season, served up wabi-sabi style.