Richardson: Toledo’s delicate balanceWritten by Rachel Richardson | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I think it was in May of this year when I met local singer/songwriter Meaghan Roberts. I was playing music on an art bench on South St. Clair Street in the Warehouse District and she was on her way to have some pizza at Home Slice with a mutual friend. They approached, and our friend introduced us by saying, “You’re both chick singers, so you probably can’t like each other.”
We each smiled and assured him there was no need for competition; there is room enough for us both on the Toledo music scene. Since then, we have shared a stage at the Old West End Festival, we’ve tried a couple of duets, and she even handed me her enormous shoes to fill as the co-host of Manhattan’s Monday night Open Mic Night with Jason Quick while she goes back to school for the fall.
This weekly open mic night, incidentally, has been going strong for five years and attracts some really quality players with hearts the size of the whole room. Meaghan has been training me for the past couple of weeks and I have been watching her very closely.
I am so impressed and inspired by her skill and professionalism as a musician, but even more by how easily she supports other musicians. The atmosphere she and Jason and the staff of Manhattan’s provide for those coming in to try out their stage legs makes my heart warm and I instantly felt like I was in a room full of respect and nurturing.
This brings me to a slight point of frustration I’ve encountered enough times lately to remark on. Little worms of sabotage and discouragement have made their way into my awareness and it’s getting on my nerves. I know that I am unreasonably optimistic most of the time. I know the look that people get when they talk to me, right before they start shaking their heads slightly at my audacity in thinking that everything is always just fine. Perfect, in fact. So, I’m probably extra sensitive to negativity because I feel like it’s my responsibility to squash it.
The reason for this is because the balance we’ve achieved in Toledo at this moment in time hovers so delicately between risk-taking, creativity and being entrepreneurial that any wind that threatens to blow us over
must be diligently withstood if we are going to continue building something solid. Not only are many of us trying our dreams on for size to make this a lively, vibrant, magical place to live, but most of us understand that we are all on the same team in these efforts.
Having that basic comfort provides us with very sure footing that helps us continue. So, the people who participate in the culture, but who also play a bit of Jenga by poking holes in other artists’ participation should consider focusing on their own skills and contributions rather than diluting their energies by undercutting the work of their fellow culture creators.
This is not to say that constructive criticism and respectful critique should be outlawed. But the underlying support and acceptance from the community must always be evident. We must never wish failure on each other.
We should only build each other’s confidence and loudly exclaim to one another that we can achieve better and more, as individuals and as a city. Self-loathing is only funny some of the time. And when it manifests in undermining the talents of your neighbors, it can do real damage. Toledo has nearly talked itself all the way out of its historically crippling inferiority complex. The signs are becoming more and more clear that the city is starting to feel pretty damn good about itself. This, of course, means that the best is yet to come. It’s not too late for the crabby apples to jump onboard. We’ll still have you. But if you can’t encourage the success of your fellow artists, we’ll be forced to leave you behind.
Rachel Richardson is a musician, activist and product of Toledo.