On a sunny but cool Monday morning in April, IPR’s Speech Communications class gathered at Powderhorn Park in South Minneapolis to participate in local indie musician Jeremy Messersmith’s kick off of his Obscenely Optimistic micro-tour, promoting his latest album of the same name. Observing artists in the wild is one way we at IPR treat the world as our classroom.
As part of our study and practice of public speaking, we were curious to see what Messersmith was up to in his latest musical experiment, described as, “The Best Road Trip Ever! Micro Tour is a collection of 50 free micro-shows all over America: 15 minutes of unamplified music in a scenic and notable public place.” We were lucky enough to attend the inaugural show. Messersmith’s speaking and singing voice was amplified through an old-school megaphone and his performance was punctuated by the occasional planes flying overhead, dogs barking, and a toddler wielding a maraca.
Obscene optimism is not the description that comes to mind regarding the national mood these days, which may be why Messersmith’s website opens with the question, “Is everything awful? Tired of gloom and doom?” He answers his own question, in part, by saying, “I don’t know if a song can change the world, but singing sure can. Trust me. You’ll feel better and that’s a start, right?”
As an instructor, I highly encourage questions, and Messersmith is a master question asker. One of the tracks on his new album is simply called “Why?” containing the lyrics, “The only magic word I know is Why? You should see how far you get asking Why?”
Here are some more “Why?” questions the artist asks and answers on his tour site:
“Why (introduce an album jam-packed with ridiculous songs about kittens, world peace, flying cars and the transformative power of love?) Because we all need a ray of sunshine every now and again. Because it’s important to not lose sight of how good things could be. Because the first step to a better world is to imagine a better world.”
“Why a songbook (downloadable from his website)? Because singing is powerful and singing in a group is one of the best social bonding experiences humans have. I think communities that sing together are stronger and more resilient than those that don’t.”
We at IPR may be a micro-community, but we are part of a much larger, very vibrant creative community in the Twin Cities. Our students engage with this larger community in myriad ways, learning from and contributing to innovative art being produced all around us.
When we approached Messersmith after his short and sweet performance, we asked two questions of our own: was he familiar with IPR and would he be willing to pose for a picture with us. His face lit up and he answered with an optimistic “Yes!” to both.
This post was written by Gail Milstein, IPR writing and communications instructor.