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BREAKING EVEN: on living life as an artist with a speech impediment


Hi My name is Mathew, and I wanted to talk about being an artist with a speech impediment

Now, it's not very easy to navigate these waters with something that so many people can tear you down with, but I wanted to offer some insights on who I am, where I want to be, and hopefully, how I can get there (Off Camera): So, what is your primary motivation for making this video? So, my primary motivation for making this video consists of, well, I want people to know not because of who I am, but that I am (If that makes sense) Because, you know, being an artist: Our art and our music (in my case), speaks for me But then, you get to the end of a show, you get to the end of a premiere, and The audience wants to talk to you, or Before that, even

You get to meeting with someone Like, you meet with a collaborator, or you meet with an ensemble for the first time And unfortunately when I open my mouth, I always have to say one thing: Like, "Hi My name is Mathew, and I have a slight speech impediment Please bear with me

" And, So everyone knows instantly, like, check in, listen like they've never listened before, and most of all, pay attention So, I want people to listen to what I have to say, not only because what I'm saying (in my opinion) is what I think is important, but also because The way that it comes out of my mouth is different than what you're used to (Off-Camera): So, tell me more about your speech and (Off-camera): what you would like others to understand about how it affects you So, my speech Um, I've had it all my life

And, as you might imagine, being in a life like that results in one of two things: You have very tough skin, or you have very thin skin You have very tough skin or very thin skin And after a while – no matter how tough your skin is – It likes to eat away at you So hopefully that won't happen to me anytime soon, but It has in the past Putting that into perspective as an artist has let me to think mostly about: And I'm not trying to be the cliche idea of like, "Where words fail music speaks," But I think that, for me, it makes my life a little bit more on a deeper level (for me)

I want everyone to know: That it isn't that I don't have an issue with what I'm saying I have an issue with how it comes out of my mouth And it's never easy to get in front of people for the first time Because of that, I constantly have to remind myself that I'm there for a reason I'm in front of people for a reason

I'm being a composer or a conductor, or whatever at the time But most of all, That how the words that come out of my mouth, are not limiting the things that are coming out of my mouth (If that makes sense) (Off-Camera): So what are your biggest goals regarding your brand, (Off-Camera): your channel, and your music-making? So, my brand: I focus on streamlined things I focus on simplicity

I focus on "easy to remember", "easy to understand", and, most of all, just simple While my complex music is the exact opposite of that: full of layers and textures, I want my brand to stand out because of its simplicity I want it to represent the I want it to represent the simple idea that it means that Music can carry, wait, convey an emotion And convey many things that have a force on us, that have an impact on us as human beings (as listeners and audiences) And not just that, but it also transcends the idea of: "If my music is simple to understand, simple to grasp, in its presentation, (no matter how complicated or complex it may be) I want the audience, the conductor, the musicians, and I want also myself (because I live in this music), to have an un- (what is it?) unhindered idea of how to play said music in the simplest way

" (Off-Camera): And what about your goals for your channel? The goals for my channel consist of One million subs (No, I'm playing) The goals of my channel consist of: letting others know that I exist [as an artist], but not for personal reasons, not for selfish reasons My slogan with my brand is Learn [actually Listen] more Be more

Learn [actually Listen] more, and not just to me Like, please don't just listen to me Like, that's not my goal My goal is to lift up the names, lift up the profiles, and share the wealth and contribution to other people by listening to their music I want people to listen to new music that's being created – not just dead white guys

I also want all of us to listen to each other, in the way that we present said ideas, and I want us to listen to each other because listening get us through Because of that, "Be more" means so much more than just "be more" It transcends humanity It transcends the idea of working with each other

And then you have this kind of antecedent with "Listen more", and you have this consequent with "Be more" With my brand, I have these constant ideas of simplicity and humanity, and things like that – things that are essential to our soul, our core, and our being Because of that, I want my brand to transcend all of these ideas in the simplest way – In the most cohesive, concise way And if you couldn't tell by this interview so far, I do have a lot of things to say But more recently, as I've gotten older, I have learned that it takes courage to not say everything all at once

(Off-Camera): What's your favorite part of your compositional process? My favorite part of the compositional process consists of, and everyone hates this part but I love it more than anything else: the beginning So many people are afraid of a blank page, of a blank canvas And yeah, look It's terrifying, okay? Yes, people It is very terrifying to start a new piece

But for me, there is so much opportunity There's so much air And there's so much space And because of that, I know that I can do whatever I want in that moment If it's consistent with my style, or if it's consistent with something that I've been successful with in the past, That doesn't matter

I just want a new beginning Like having the idea of a new beginning is something that I think a lot of us strive to have But not many of us are willing to actually go through [with it] So, with my compositional style, and man, like the beginning is so fun and so full of like, Like Eric Whitacre says, "Pregnant with possibility" And I really love that idea, like, so much

I love planning I'm a person with tons of organizational prowess, I guess And my love for organization, my love for form And my love for taking a person on a journey, telling them what I want them to know, and bringing them back to reality (Off-Camera): What is your wish for others out there who may have (Off-Camera): the same or similar issues that you face? So

My wish for others that go through and experience life from a perspective like mine – I think all of us share the same idea, and that's just, "You want to be seen as normal" And we're constantly toeing this fine line between normal and not normal And A few weeks ago, I had the idea of me being in the, like, uncanny valley where I appear to be normal, but the second that I open up my mouth, I'm not I don't appear disabled enough to be considered disabled at first glance I don't know if there are many other people that experience this

Because, granted, yes I have had reconstructive surgery I have had opportunities have let me appear more normal but the second that I open up my mouth it all goes away I want all of us to know, as a collective humanity, that normal is just a word I want everyone to know that who I am as a whole does not strive to be normal

And I think that a lot of people- A lot of people that I have met that are disabled, or that have speech impediments – All of us just want to be seen as normal because society expects us to be normal And yet, We cannot- (Man, this is, like, really, really heavy stuff) And yet we cannot assume that society will accept us as normal (If that makes sense) And all of that, at the end of the day, I think us, "not normal people" just want one thing, and that is: We want to be accepted for who we are, and not by society's standards

So, um I'm just going to break the fourth wall right now, and we're going to talk about something that's very interesting to me, personally Because I do have a speech impediment I don't get it And I think that that's a very good segue into this question

I don't get whether people like what I do as a form of inspiration porn because I'm disabled and because they feel, like, not sorry for me- It's never come across as that sentiment (Off-Camera): They're amazed at your accomplishment (Off-camera): in spite ofthe disability

(On-Camera): Yeah Yeah So, (Off-Camera): Which is totally wrong and off-base And I know that this, like, hits a nerve with you because you have broken the silence on the other side of the camera

And, by all means, we can leave this in fully Okay there's some, like, backclosing the fourth wall

Um, inspiration porn is very interesting to me because I don't know if people like what I do because they think like, "Oh, poor guy Oh, he's accomplishing so much for having a speech impediment" Do you think that's fair to my work? No, It's not Do you think that's fair to anything that disabled people accomplish? No Why does it feel that all we need to do is just try and break even

That's not our goal Our goal is to make good work (Off-Camera): It seems that society is very inspired (Off-Camera): by those with disabilities' (Off-Camera): ability to break even (On-Camera): Exactly (Off-Camera): That's not what you want

(On-Camera): Yeah (Off-Camera): as a person with a disability (On-Camera): Exactly

(Off-Camera): And I don't mean to speak for you, but- (On-Camera): No, no, (On-Camera): But you and I have had these conversations for years now (Off-Camera): And we know that people with disabilities- (Off-Camera): You know, you're not a monolith (On-Camera): No, and why should I be? (Off-Camera): One person's experience is not meant to mask and cover (Off-Camera): that of another (Off-Camera): Um, and it's important to note that it's very important that (Off-Camera): you know, what you're saying is (Off-Camera): not the end-all-be-all (Off-Camera): for those with disabilities (On-Camera): Exactly

I- (On-Camera): For other people with disabilities that might be watching this, I'm not trying to speak for you I will never try to speak for you because every disability affects everyone in different ways There are other people that had Pierre Robin Sequence differently than I did At the end of the day, I'm not just trying to break even I'm trying to exceed expectations

I'm trying to rise above people that do not have disabilities Just because I love what I do Just because I love what I do enough to break even, and then some, doesn't mean that I want people to look at my work and judge it based on who I am or the product I have become (Off-Camera): So all in all, the- (Off-Camera): the damaging ideal of inspiration porn (Off-Camera): extends far beyond, you know, just you (Off-Camera): It extends to everyone out there that has (Off-Camera): a disability and has to navigate that reality (Off-Camera): every single day and when they "defy the odds", (Off-Camera): It's so inspirational

And everybody is just like, (Off-Camera): Oh, yes Let me just cry because I'm so inspired, but (Off-Camera): that's self-serving (On-Camera): Yes, it is (On-Camera): It is to our demise when our expectations are set so low, simply because we're disabled Okay, like, I'm just saying: I'm just talking about things from my perspective

I'm not trying to speak for anyone else with a disability Because- And I don't want y'all to come for me either I'm just speaking from my perspective, from my experiences, because I've had A (One, if you will) Really, really good experiences with people that just see me for who I am They see me for my mind

They see me for my abilities as a composer and stuff like that And B Or, two Think that everything that I have done has always been fantastic because they never expected me to accomplish anything in the first place And I'll leave it at that

(Off-Camera): Have you ever shied away from doing something that you wanted to do (Off-Camera): because you were afraid that your speech would negatively affect the outcome? (On-Camera): Oh, man And I'm just going to be really transparent Guys, I know that I'm a composer I know that I'm a conductor, and living- I'm just going to break the fourth wall because I know that this might- This will exist on the internet forever as long as the internet exists But, In my current time that I'm recording this, We live in a pandemic

And living Or being an artist in a pandemic is a very debilitating thing It's very terrifying, and honestly, I'm scared Anyway! So, Because- I said that because I'm just gonna get very real here Even just applying for a job and I mean any kind of job I mean, like, working at the grocery store

I mean, working at the gas station Anything like that It's terrifying And yes, I have shied away from doing it, but that doesn't mean I don't take my shot, or I don't shoot my shot Or that I don't try my best to get the job

Because just because I have a speech impediment doesn't mean that can't be a contributing member of society Just because I have a speech impediment doesn't mean that I can't tell someone, "Have a nice day" And will, That- Will those words like, the fabric of the words in "Have a nice day" be judged simply on me saying them or how they come out of my mouth? In which, One of two things happens: They talk to my manager "Oh, he's doing a fantastic job

" (because of inspiration porn) Or two: "Oh, you might want to check on him Like, is he okay?" And I hate that question So having to, you know, appeal to being a contributing member of society has been always met with the idea of, "Man, you're doing so good" (for what we expected you to do) versus "Oh, are you doing good enough", like, "Are you doing well enough? So, that has always made me want to shy away from these things And at the end of the day, yeah, look, I have shied away from going all-in because of my speech (Off-Camera): Even the making of this YouTube video (On-Camera): YEAH, like okay

Let's just get very meta up in here Like, recording this video it- Oh my god (Off-Camera): How many years- (On-Camera): Okay, I'm going to be really transparent here: I have been thinking of this video since I won the PASIC Composition Contest in 2015 (Not a flex, btw) It has been five years that I've been thinking about making this video

I'm recording this video simply because I have nothing better to do and also because now is the time that people will take the time to listen to things And I want to release this because now I feel, after five years of having, like, won this contest: "Holy crap, I might actually become someone in my community, in my field" And because of that, that doesn't take away the idea of me putting myself out there Like, it just doesn't take away the fear of the things of, like we said, "Not meeting my baseline" And I know that the things that I'm saying right now are good

I know that the things that I'm saying right now really mean a lot to me because I've reflected on them for the past 27 years And yet, because of the words that are coming out of my mouth- Because of how they're coming out- mechanically- seemingly- destroys any integrity that they have Because of that, I have shied away from jobs, but that doesn't mean I haven't fully gone in It's just something that I have to deal with Because I know that people expect one of those two things from me: Exceed my baseline, or barely reach it

(Off-Camera): Alright, so as an artist, and as a composer, (Off-Camera): you also have another side: which is (Off-Camera): uh, your experience as a conductor (Off-Camera): So, how has having a speech impediment affected (Off-Camera): your experience as a conductor? Well, as I said before, whenever I got on the podium for the first time, For one, I'm extremely excited For two, I'm extremely terrified And that feeling never goes away So, when I get on that podium, I'm- Where's my baton? My baton's right here

So, I'm always just, like, I do this, because I don't know, that's what I do I put my hands together as a safety blanket (and coping mechanism, if you will, I guess) And I say, "Hi, everyone Just so you know," and I look around the room, and- The more that I speak the more that I see everyone kinda just, like, listening in Like, "Oh, crap I have to listen

" (Because apparently none of us like to listen, right? /s) But, I say, "Hi, everyone Just so you know, I have a slight speech impediment And I want you to know that if there is anything that I can repeat for you, please raise your hand Let me know I would be very happy to do so to make sure that all of our lives are a little bit easier

If you have any questions about what I said, raise your hand And I would be happy to answer that, or repeat that, or say it in a different way" And, so, I'll be a little bit more transparent If you've known me as long as the interviewer has known me, (10 years) you might know that I- When I'm talking to someone for the first time- When I meet them, and like, I have, like, a specific set of vocabulary words that I use that I know are a little bit more consistently-sounding than not The more comfortable I get with you, the more that I use this blossomed vocabulary, that is, you know, including more words that are a little bit harder to understand on the onset, but, the more that you you talk to me and the more that I speak in front of you, (And perhaps even in this video now, you might understand more of my speech than we did when we started

And that's not, meta, right?) When I get on this podium, or in front of anyone I'm just in front of people as a teacher, conductor, what have you- People automatically dial-in and say, "I have to listen to this guy And, like, he's totally short to begin with, so like, He has to say something important, right? And if not, then I'm going to judge him for every inch that he is not" So, Because of that, my experience as a conductor consists of that immediately and I can sense it And immediately the room just gets very quiet

And I know that I have them because It can go one of two things (again): And it just seems like we exist in this, like, duality of exceeding the baseline and barely reaching it That's why as a conductor, I strive to be my best Because conducting, for those of you that don't think about it this way: To me, conducting is the quintessential method of non-verbal communication It exists in real time and it's like we're having a conversation and just perhaps- That saves time And to me, conducting is so much more important than giving a verbal instruction in a setting

If there's something like, musical, that's like "Oh, just play off of that" No Instead of saying, (and I'm not trying to give a conducting lesson) Instead of saying, "Oh, just play off my beat" that's not good enough Instead, how about we use – thank you, Dr

Mailman – Gesture of Syncopation (Visible breath) And instantly, I don't have to tell you what to do You just know how to do it And if life, for me, could be that easy, man, I'd be so much happier Not that I'm not, but happiness, and achieving that happiness that I want, is so ridiculously hard When people expect very little from you

(Off-Camera): So, tell me your name, and three words that you would use to describe yourself My name is Mathew Aaron Campbell And the three words that I would describe myself are: consistent accountable and passionate So, um, I just wanted to say: Thank you for watching, and thank you for your interest Again, questions / ideas about what we talked about are down below in the description, and I just wanted to say, again: Thank you for watching I know that there are a lot of things to unpack here, but most of all, I just want to share them

There's a lot of people that aren't doing a lot of listening, and there's so many people talking right now Hopefully this video will help all of us listen a little bit more and remind us to listen to each other a little bit more Because you don't know what everyone else is going through You don't know what stage of everyone's life we're in But if we listen just a little bit more, maybe we'll be a little bit more

Source: Youtube

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