Joan Oliver Goldsmith,
How Can We Keep from Singing:
Music & the Passionate Life

(W.W. Norton & Co., 2001)

There is a secret downfall to living in a land of dreamers, a risk too terrible to even think about. What if you throw caution to the wind, follow your heart, go for your dreams ... and fail? Every artist or writer or musician shudders to even think of such a thing, but the ugly fact is, the hopeful falter and fall -- everyday. A writer can't get her novel published, a dancer stops at off-off-off Broadway, an artist can't get even get a piece in a bowling alley. They try, and try, and just can't make the cut.

Even writing those words is painful, but living them must be worse. Or is it? What do you do when you can't live your dreams? Well, according to Joan Oliver Goldsmith, you cry a little bit, find another way to earn some money, and keep on doing the things you love. And if that scenario seems bleak, then you just haven't read How Can We Keep From Singing. With this uplifting book, Goldsmith proves that there is a life after you slide off the end of the rainbow, one rich and fulfilling and full of the passions that propelled you in the first place.

Goldsmith bravely chronicles her own experiences, starting with her heartbreaking failure as a professional musician. She tells of an 8-year life without music, a heart divided, and the sudden realization that art doesn't have to be an all-or-none proposition. And, through her inspiring turn-around to volunteer choral musician at the renowned Minnesota Chorale, she provides a road-map out of failure's despair, into a place of acceptance and more joy than you thought possible. And, throughout her narrative, she manages the near-impossible: to convey the mystical experience and passion of singing into words, and beautiful words, at that.

So every closet opera star, former dancer and failed photographer, take note. Just because you can't feed your cat with your passion does not mean you are not an artist. As How Can We Keep From Singing reminds us, performing and creating in the face of your own limitations are the hallmarks of a real professional. You can still be a dreamer and a bread-winner. All you need is courage, and a little help from people like Goldsmith, to point you down the path back to yourself.

- Rambles
written by Tracie Vida
published 26 March 2005

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