“What if….?” That was the theme of the Sept. 15, 2016 TED Talk I was fortunate to perform for. “What if we could help make positive changes in the world? What if we used our collective talents, knowledge and insights to provide the spark to an idea or movement – no matter how big or small – that would make a positive impact on others or humanity in general?”
You may be familiar with TED, the globally popular nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. And maybe, like me, you've looked to their videos showing 18-minute talks for inspiration. So, I was excited to receive an invitation to be a performer at a real-live Ted Talk -- TED@UPS, one of a handful of corporate partnerships TED does, featuring about a dozen speakers. Our music was there to help paint around the edges of the “What If?” theme.
We did an arrangement of Lennon and McCartney's “Blackbird," a tune I’ve always considered to be a metaphor for hope and inner awakening (“take these broken wings and learn to fly — all your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise … “). With a trio of great Atlanta-based musicians backing me (Randy Hoexter, Kelly McCarty, Justin Chesarek), we played a jazz-influenced take on the song that was created by my friend Mark Simon. Blackbird opened Session 2, and led into a talk from the curator of mammals at the Atlanta Zoo, speaking on “What If animals could choose how they live?”
We closed out the day with some more music, including a duet with a great singer down from Detroit, John Bidden, who is a UPS driver. We sang “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” for the UPS crowd. Couldn’t resist!
When watching a Ted talk online, I doubt most of us are thinking about the incredible amount of work that goes into curating, developing, producing and presenting each one. I'm here to tell you, they work hard to do what they do. It was impressive to watch how a TED Talk takes shape. A lot of moving parts with a singular focus. What stood out most was the tone and energy emanating from everyone on the Ted team. They were the most genuinely "lifting" people to spend a day with.
This TED thing is really very special … and it left me with my own “What If?”: What if we could more often walk among each other with open, thoughtful mindsets? What if we could encourage more and wrap it up in warm hospitality? That's what I experienced during my time with TED, a day that was something to talk about.