Piano, Pageants & Politics

Looking Back at 2017

Every Halloween, it starts to sink in: “well, there goes the year”. By the time the leftover candy is gone, Thanksgiving has arrived and the Christmas season, which the saner of us have done our best to conceal until this point, comes in like a wrecking ball. For a few weeks, we freak out over a little snow and buying things for other people, but to a soundtrack that manages to incorporate bells into every song (a nice change from the over-processed, 4 chord pop ditties playing as we freak out during the rest of the year). And now, we are about to embark on that awkward week between Christmas and New Year’s where nobody knows what to do, so therefore, does nothing. Meanwhile, I still have a pumpkin sitting in my front yard.

2017 was a full, but fast, year. The first half was defined by the second half of my tenure as Miss Massachusetts; continuing the music programs I had started in local schools (which entailed constantly reminding pre-schoolers not to put tambourines in their mouths), waving in parades, dabbing at the request of 8 year-olds, talking too much on the microphone and wearing pretty dresses.

(Fun Fact: As much as I hate the cold, the Boston St. Patrick's Day parade was my favorite appearance.)

To be brutally honest though, 2017 wasn't my year, professionally. I came up short on goals. I didn’t have any big breakthroughs or career-changing opportunities. I didn’t accomplish even close to everything I wanted to. It was a year filled with "almost"s and "so close"s. But after a successful, stressful and tumultuous 2016, 2017 served as an incredible building year for me, personally.

This was the year that I let go of people, circumstances and distractions in my life that were either holding me back or simply did not make me truly happy: consensual responsibilities I had accepted, but later dreaded, friends that could never quite be happy for me, gigs that offered little appreciation or artistic development and other negative people, feelings and situations capping my potential. A lot of good people came into my life too, and new memories were formed. I made changes, often uncomfortable ones, to set myself up for future success. I gained a clearer vision of what (and who) is important to me, while distinguishing what was simply “white noise”. I said “no” more. I stood up for myself more. I voiced my beliefs more. I was easier on myself more.

I also explored more, visiting new cities for the first time (Dallas, Chicago) and getting to know parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Boston, and even my hometown, that I had never previously experienced. As a performer, I debuted in new venues and returned to old favorites. My music took me across the region from dive bars to dazzling hotel ballrooms, connecting me with people from all walks of life. My passion for music was renewed and cultivated through the many memorizing live performances I experienced, most notably Billy Joel, Ben Folds, Victor Wooten, and even the local musicians at a late-night Chicago jam session.

As my chapter in pageantry approached its expiration date, I realized the importance of hobbies, something that competition, preparation and appearances had provided a steady source of for the past two years. Hanging out with friends is not a hobby. Eating is not a hobby. Checking Facebook is not a hobby. So, I started running. A lot. About 90 miles per month. It combated my mental fog and stress. And the extra pounds that seem to creep up on titleholders once they no longer need to appear on stage in a bathing suit. I knew that maintaining the 00 figure I had achieved at various points during my pageant career was unlikely, and quite frankly, unhealthy for my body’s natural frame. That certainly took some time to come to terms with. However, staying in shape and leading a healthy lifestyle is obtainable, regardless of the number on a scale or tag. I started cooking and #mealprep-ing again, which lead to me feeling better and feeling better about myself. Confidence and vegetables are a potent combo.

I really wanted to have a new album out by the end of the year.  I mustered up enough creativity to crank out six carefully-crafted compositions. However, a frustrating recording session and critique from a few industry professionals had me running back to the drawing board. I began incorporating these tunes into my nightly setlists, perfecting what went over well and rectifying what didn't. Chords and lyrics were rearranged and a series of musical "aha" moments transformed my tunes into something I am truly proud of, far from the original drafts I showcased at the Hard Rock Cafe back in May. So technically, I did write an album this year. Maybe I didn't have the subsequent process completed in accordance with my preferred timeline, but I head back into the studio in January where I will (finally) finish this thing up.

Another big step this year: I decided to tap into my scholarship earnings from the Miss America Organization and began graduate courses through the University of Miami's Frost School of Music. Consistently named one of the top music business programs by Billboard, I was offered an additional $25,000 scholarship for my academic and career experience. So far, I've learned aspects of music publishing, copyright law and the entertainment industry that I am already utilizing in my own career.

Goals for 2018? Record more. Perform more. Blog more. Create more. Travel more. Learn more. Do more.

I have a lot of big ideas, but like most people, sometimes I get scared of executing them. I get scared of failing. I get scared of embarrassing myself: not the best mentality to have, but something we all wrestle with at some point or another. My biggest goal in 2018 is to be less afraid. To pursue my life and career to the fullest without letting the "should've" and "could've" beens weigh me down. In 2017, I made the necessary moves to implement that change and I’m confident that 2018 will yield some big results.

Once I get back from vacation next week. 

#Musician #Newyear #AlissaMusto