GUEST BLOG POST: Leap Into Something New by Karyn Scott
What happens when a stay-at-home mom with two young children discovers a struggling rock singer at a party and thinks, “What if I could turn him into the next big American rock star?” Sounds like a crazy idea, and it was, but this is what happened when I heard a band named Alpha Rev play at a backyard party four years ago.
As an overwhelmed mom with two pre-schoolers in tow, I had no clue about the music business. I was a 39-year-old former attorney who had never played an instrument or seen a mixing board—and yet managing this band felt like what I was meant to do. At the time in 2006, Alpha Rev was only one of thousands of talented bands that called Austin home. The band’s lead singer and writer, Casey McPherson, was mostly living out of his beat-up car and I had no idea how to download songs to an iPod (we were an unlikely pair to say the least). I should point out that managing a rock band was nowhere near my comfort zone. In fact, most of my friends would point out that I’m the kind of person that considers making lasagna without burning it quite daring.
As I contemplated helping the band, I wondered if it was possible to become more daring after having children, instead of less? Still, it is one thing to go back to a responsible career, but quite another to find your passion in life. What was it about finding a struggling wanna-be rock star that made me want to find mine?
Casey McPherson was scruffy from top to bottom and didn’t exactly drip with star quality when he walked into a room, but when I heard him sing, I knew he had a special gift. Some crazy inner voice told me, “the world should hear him … and you should help.” That voice got louder when I learned from a band member that Casey’s father and brother had both committed suicide. Music was his way of coping, he explained. As it was mine… throughout my life, music had provided the constant soundtrack to all my joys and sadness. Even though I had no experience in the business, I had always been passionate about great music. I soon learned that in the Internet age, passion sometimes goes further than experience.
A few months later, I would become his manager and would start my own record label, Flyer Records (a name I coined with the idea that I would “throw it out there and see if it flies”). I never imagined how monumental this task would be, as I travelled with the band throughout the United States hoping to get them discovered—and find a reliable babysitter. Looking back, I was, a middle-aged mom with a temperamental computer and two rowdy kids hanging off my legs as I tried to make “office space” seem official in the laundry room. Yet, despite all odds, I succeeded: after flying across the country in 2007 for a New York City showcase that was the almost-magical musical culmination of our efforts, Alpha Rev got offered a deal with Disney juggernaut Hollywood Records. It was everything we dreamed of… but I soon began to question whether I had really been chasing Casey’s dreams, instead of my own.
This realization led me to start Kids in a New Groove (K.I.N.G.), a nonprofit mentoring organization that provides free private music lessons for kids in foster care. As Alpha Rev scored a top 10 hit video on the nationally televised VH1 countdown in June, 2010, and their catchy song “New Morning” became one of the most popular rock songs in America, my heart pulled me toward these kids who saw music lessons as their only hope. By the end of 2010, I had doubled the size of our program, and was amazed at the healing benefits music was bringing to children who are frequently shut out from the arts. I thought having a hand in a hit song would be exciting, but it paled in comparison to seeing the joy music can bring to foster kids.
Starting a new business helped me discover the power of an everyday mom to make a difference in the world by seizing a dream, no matter how crazy. While moms might be more conservative in their decision-making, we have to remember that motherhood is a leap of faith too; when I hug my kids at the end of each day, I know that journey was worth it. Finding your passion isn’t that different—sometimes you have to close your eyes and jump to find the right opportunity. Just as with having kids, you can’t plot out every hard day, every blind curve in the road. In retrospect, if I hadn’t decided to manage Alpha Rev, I wouldn’t be changing the lives of American foster kids.
It’s a New Year . . . what’s your leap?
To find out more about Kids in a New Groove, please visit http://www.kidsinanewgroove.org/. You can see Alpha Rev as a special guest on tour in 2011 with Bon Jovi; Alpha Rev’s new record “New Morning” is available on itunes.