Sustaining Notes: From Grammy Award Winner Brazilian Singer Luciana Souza To Berklee Students

Luciana Souza

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Being at home has had me thinking. Thinking about how everything was interrupted. Almost violently, in some cases. If you were a student living in the dorms, you had to very quickly pack your things and return home. Some of you had to travel overseas on those long distances that separated you from your home country. You left so quickly. You perhaps didn’t have a chance to complete your projects. Maybe you were working on a recording. For you seniors, your graduation was imminent, and you were about to walk onstage and shake hands with President Brown, as I did many years ago. Actually, Lee Berk was President of Berklee when I was at school.

You may have left without saying proper goodbyes to your friends, your peers, your professors. You packed up, you left, you got home, and you carried with you all the uncertainty that’s still weighing you down. Back in the bedrooms or basements of your folks’ homes, you have had some time to mull over these incredible and unsettling circumstances. We all have had to adapt to a new way of being—especially to being isolated. Studying alone. Creating alone. And, in a lot of cases, suffering alone.

I want to acknowledge suffering because we suffer when others suffer. Hearing that so many thousands of people have died in this country is terribly sad. Hearing that so many millions have filed for unemployment and are going hungry and may become homeless, is terribly sad. Hearing that doctors, nurses, and all the brave people who work at hospitals (cooking, cleaning, maintaining) are getting sick from lack of proper protection, is terribly sad. We are all carrying the weight of the world.

We suffer the pain of others, because we care. And being artists makes us all suffer in a deep way, because we are very sensitive, and we are aware of our feelings. We open ourselves to them every time we make music, we write, we dance, we perform, we create. We are hurting right now. So, here we are. Our lives interrupted. Suffering and feeling isolated. How can this be anything but terrible? One thing we can do is to accept and receive the true gift of this moment, which is time. For some of us, it may start with looking within and asking a simple question: what should I be working on that is tangible and may actually excite me and impact others?

It may be internalizing traditional repertoire. It may be learning from the masters of your craft and how they created their work, which may mean watching documentaries or hours of YouTube performances. Great art has the capacity to allow us to experience it many times, and to go more deeply each time. It may mean working on a skill you have longed to master, perhaps a language. It may mean reviewing the material in that class you passed but didn’t really learn much from. It may mean finally learning that software program that everyone else knows. In all these things, you can loosen the grip of expectation and simply go towards the direction of learning and sharing what you learn with others.

If you have felt paralyzed by all the huge feelings of uncertainty and fear, I understand that, but wherever you are now, you can start. From this day on you can just say: I will look for inspiration in the small and big things that surround me. I will accept these huge feelings, and I will organize my thoughts in a way that allows some space for gestures of creativity, for experimentation, and for more learning. I will invite the muse by showing up for her. I will open doors and windows to something new, if new appears.

I have been thinking that perhaps things were excessively loud, terribly fast, and alarmingly untruthful. What can we learn from this quietude? For me, this moment has brought me closer to my family, more sure of the importance of poetry in my life, and more committed to discovering the music in everything. Your dreams are still here. Your potential is still here. And now you have this gift of time. Make use of it.

Luciana Souza
May 2020

Luciana graduated from Berklee in 1988 with a degree in Jazz Composition. She hails from São Paulo, Brazil. A seven-time Grammy nominated artist, Luciana was a featured vocalist on Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters, which won Album of the Year in 2008. She has been on the faculty of Berklee, the Manhattan School of Music, and UCLA. Luciana lives in Los Angeles with her son, her husband, and their cat.

For more information about Luciana, visit her website.

Featured Artwork: Courtesy of Luciana Souza at Lucianasouza.com. On homepage, image 1, 3, 5 & 7: photograph by Kim Fox, image 2: photograph by Anna Webber, image 4: capture from The Seasons (Ben Wendel), image 6: capture from Luciana Souza – Duos III & The Book of Chet