Piano, Pageants & Politics

Everything Happens For A Reason

Type A personality is both a blessing and a curse; while my ambition has driven me to work hard, push myself beyond limits and accomplish more than most people my age, it also creates a perpetual state of dissatisfaction, restlessness and longing.

Statistically, I have my sh*t together considering that almost 7 in 10 Americans have less than $1000 in savings and a record rate of millennials are living at home. Still, I found myself in a bit of a post-Miss America rut. For over a year, I was in a constant state of preparing for my next pageant. And now I’m not. This September also marked the first time in my life where I was not a student. Given this combo, I was (and still am) kinda lost.

Halloween reminded me though, that where I might not be where I want to be, I’ve certainly made progress, even over the last year.

Halloween 2015 was my last Saturday night at the 4 nights-per-week show I had been performing in for a year. I had stepped on that stage over 200 times. I had given up all of my other regular bookings to come aboard. For the first few months, I was only a trainee, meaning I took a MAJOR paycut. I had to learn two new instruments (which I had never even touched in my life). I had to learn a lot of songs I hated. However, I was just starting to get the hang of it all. I was comfortable on stage. I knew what songs to play, when to play them and how to dismantle any heckler.

The Tuesday after Halloween, I received a phone call from the manager [who liked to tell everyone he was the owner]. Less than 48 hours before I was supposed to go back on stage, he told me [over the phone] that things weren’t working out and I wasn’t a good fit for the show. No warning. No explanation. Just a phone call. But that’s show biz, right?

That November certainly wasn’t the highlight of my year, but I made a few realizations:

1) Never again was I going to put myself in a position where I was at the mercy of an egotistical club owner going through a midlife crisis.

2) I should be focusing on my own music career and developing as an artist rather than learning the bass part to some obscure 80’s song

3)I’m a solo act [TRANSLATION: Doesn’t play well with others]

4) Everything happens for a reason


See, that last one is REALLY REALLY hard to comprehend in the heat of the moment. Losing a job or money or a relationship can seem like the end of the world, especially when you’ve worked really hard for it (and especially when you have a type A personality). But it’s just the end of that chapter. (And if there is one thing I’ve heard over and over as a musician, it’s that “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”. Thanks, Semisonic.)

I also learned that tough times are not an excuse to let your life spiral out of control and eat pizza on your couch until the next opportunity comes along. Once that bigger and better thing comes (and it will), you need to be ready for it. I’ve wasted too much time (and had too many “oh sh*t” moments) scrambling after a rut because I allowed my world to come crashing down as a result of not getting what I wanted, when I wanted it.

Since that phone call, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. However, I can confidently say I am far ahead of where I was last October, schlepping through each show and rehearsal, uninspired and uninterested but seduced by the stability, popularity and paycheck the show offered. Fast forward to May; I graduated Harvard and gave a commencement speech on 3 hours of sleep (a journey that entailed many ups and downs). Two months later, I was crowned Miss Massachusetts and placed as a semifinalist in Miss America (cue many more ups and downs). These were just some of the highlights of my year. Professionally, I’m booked up with shows where I’m completely in control—of my schedule and setlists (and making twice as much in the process). I get to work with dozens of really cool kiddos every week as Miss Massachusetts and as a piano and voice coach. Aside from my mild caffeine dependency, I’m healthy. I’m working. I have a great family. I have a world of opportunities ahead of me.

We all have struggles. We’re all on a journey (even those folks who seem like they have it all figured out.) Hard times come and hard times go (Thanks, Bruce Springsteen). So stop crying over spilled milk. Even if it is really really expensive, fancy milk.

#alissamusto #music #musician #blog