Remembering Jon

A year ago, after almost a full year of inactivity, The Listening made its reintroduction in the creative community of Lynchburg.  

If you haven't heard me say it before, I'll say it here for everyone to read.

I was done with The Listening.  

I was done. I wanted to quit. I didn't care any more. It wasn't worth the stress or the time or the energy. In 2013, when the concept first took form and we began meeting all around the Arts and Culture District of Lynchburg, it truthfully took a lot of energy. First and foremost, I had to find talented artists and poets who were willing to perform (for free). Secondly, it felt like so much more than a simple open mic, but I felt claustrophobic every time it was referred to as such. What made it more of a labor was the fact that the mission of The Listening was barely realized. I was struggling to convince people of a possibility that I couldn't articulate.

Was it an open mic? 

Was it a spoken-word/rap group? 

Was it a small, life-group, creatively "doing life together"? 

I wasn't sure. This part of the Origin Story of The Listening was muddled and confusing, and I found myself doing more talent searching and event planning than inspiring, at least in my eyes. So when November 2013 came and we ended that night, I found myself momentarily satisfied. I thought, and announced to a crowd of a little less than 100, that if that was the final session of The Listening, I would be content. I came, I saw, and I was exhausted.  

2014 came, and my wife and I prepared for the arrival of our daughter. The thought of The Listening was still in my head, and no matter how I tried, I couldn't let go of it. I finally conceded and thought that I would channel it through a little street photography project I called "What Are You Listening To".  

It was through this project that I first met Jon.  

The hardest thing about working on The Listening in 2013 was not only trying to figure out exactly what it was. It was also this feeling that no one was getting it. It was the constant dread of feeling so much about something, but not knowing how to communicate it, or know exactly how it fit in the "grand scheme", so to speak. Yet, while talking to Jon, it felt like we were speaking the same language. 

No, we weren't best buds. We weren't hanging out every weekend or sending motivational texts to each other, but I wish to God we did. When I would randomly see him at The White Hart Cafe or in Target, I'd get excited, but then dial it back, lest I come across as too giddy. I secretly wanted to be a part of what he was working on with Lynchstock, and vice verse, I wanted him to be a part of my efforts with The Listening. Truthfully speaking, I felt we shared the desire to add what we could to the story of Lynchburg and try to bring people together along the way. 

So, when TOOLRY opened its doors a few months later, and I was able to plan the re-emergence of the vision and mission of The Listening with Noah, I desperately wanted Jon to walk through the doors that night. We planned it for November 8th. The theme chosen for that night's session was Legacy. With Naomi's birth, I'd been contemplating what I would leave behind to represent myself. I wanted to provoke other creatives and performers to do the same.  

The Listening was back, and on November 8th, 2014, I had decided to honestly give it my best effort and reintroduce an idea that I thought could change this city. I figured, if God has me in Lynchburg, I must be here for a reason. And if a nice guy like Jon David Gregoire could come up with an idea like Lynchstock, now was the time for The Listening to join the fold in lending a hand to Lynchburg's future. That night, on November 8th, the mission was refocused and I spoke on my intent to develop The Listening into a mentoring agency that used the performing arts to "engage, change, and save lives". I hoped that jon would catch wind and find himself in attendance.

Unfortunately, Jon didn't make it that night.  

Since his passing, tales of his legacy still impact me personally. This is actually not my first time writing about it. I have the bookmark from his memorial in my planning notebook for The Listening. I think sometimes about our first conversation, sitting at the bar at a little coffee shop on Main Street. I wonder what he'd think about The Listening, what it is now, and what he'd say about it. It probably means more now, but if I didn't meet him, I don't know that The Listening would be what it is. It's because of him that The Listening was able to be a part of Lynchstock in April 2015, and once again, coming up soon for the first winter music festival in Lynchburg, dubbed "Lynchbrrr". 

That one encouraging conversation with a kindred heart gave me a bit more of a push and allowed more of an opportunity to present this vision to the community. 

This November, one year later, I'm trying it again. On November 7th at Riverviews Artspace, the name of this showcase is called "This Is The Listening". Instead of an open mic, I'm taking this event to show people what my vision is for The Listening.

There is no theme. The vision is the theme and the hope that someone else can be inspired to do something, make something, say something worth listening to.

And Listen.

Thank you, Jon.