A month ago, Isamu Jordan interviewed me for a feature in the Spokesman Review about the show I was putting together featuring local female musicians. He said he wanted to write about our show because it gave us a space to address one of the things we don’t talk about enough in music features in local press–gender dynamics in the music scene. He wanted to write about our lineup and each of the musicians, but he was also interested in discussing my motivation behind the show. He understood that I had made the intentional choice to feature female musicians, and he wanted to give voice to the women who were coming together to create this show. He wanted to give us a chance to speak our own words and experiences as women who have struggled and grown as artists in this industry that is too often a guy’s world, who have succeeded despite challenges, and who continue to fight for credibility. I had occasionally worked with Som in various capacities before, through local music, through booking, through mutual friends, and I knew that he was a guy who wanted to talk about the things that are challenging because he was a guy who wanted to create pathways to change. He wanted to make the community better, and he created ways to act and converse and to learn from each other. He did this with his writing, with his rhymes, with his band the Flying Spiders, and with his interactions with his friends and music colleagues in daily life.
I was moved by his desire to highlight some of the challenges that women face in the music industry. I was incredibly excited about the feature that he wrote, not only because it took the show seriously and advocated for women musicians, but because it gave me a chance to hear the perspectives of other women, too. He also interviewed Angela Marie, and her smart, thoughtful responses to his questions made me recognize that I’m absolutely not alone in my endeavors to make the music scene a better, more welcoming space for women. There are many, many people who are working to create pathways to change, including Angela, including Som, including everyone who came together for that night. Som gave me a chance to connect with the very women and men I was including in the lineup and in the preparation for the show. He helped me to see that it wasn’t just a show I was putting together because I wanted to do something to feature women; it was a show that we all were putting together because we are actively working to foster a supportive arts community, for women and men. It was about community. It was about support.
The show itself on August 15th was a huge success. We packed the place. I think part of it was because there is a hunger for valuing and for giving space to women artists, and I think part of it is because everyone worked together to promote the show, and I think part of it is because Som wrote that feature in the Spokesman. People who had never come to a show of mine came because they read about it in the 7.
After the show, I thanked everyone who had participated, including Som, on my Facebook page. Som responded with these words on August 16th, which have been incredibly humbling and inspiring to me in the past month, and especially in the past week or so:
“Congrats, Liz! And thank you for being an unstoppable force for the arts, and life in general. The community is better because of people like you and every one of the above mentioned. Keep inspiring us.”
His encouragement, recognition, and positivity made me feel valued. It made me feel like a part of something important.
And I felt like a part of something important today, too, at the Celebration of Life Service for him, a week and a handful of days after his death.
I sat in the back, in Flying Spiders colors, as my friend Thuy had asked me to wear, as were many people sitting and standing in the 700-seat Bing Crosby Theater, and I looked out at a massive sea of people who had come to honor him, feeling saddened by his death, but also feeling great beauty and awe for his life and his impact. So many people have stories like mine–stories about a feature that Som wrote that changed things for them, or about a collaboration with him that gave them a chance to be onstage for the first time, or about conversations that made them think differently about something. I saw so many familiar faces and so many unfamiliar faces, all there to value Som, to recognize and honor his life, to tell stories about their connections to him. We came together, with Som’s cues, to create something important.
His wife spoke near the end of the program, encouraging us to continue the legacy of her husband by making art and music, by supporting each other, by loving each other.
The community is better because of people like Som. He is an unstoppable force for the arts, and for life in general.
I want to put into better practice the things I have noticed about him in my short time knowing him: I want to to ask challenging questions, to create change, to value my friends and colleagues, to be compassionate and passionate about the city in which I live, to recognize people, and to keep working with and encouraging my community.
Friends, we continue to be a part of something important, and it’s up to all of us to work together and to carry on Som’s unstoppable force.
I have no doubt that we can.