GUESTS

Lecture: BE THE BEST ‘YOU’ YOU CAN BE

Instructor:

Maya Azucena, Grammy Award Winning Songstress

Monday, May 31, 2010

 

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Do you believe that an artist that was never signed to a major record deal and was never given a major budget from a sponsor - who booked and managed her music by herself - could win a Grammy, tour the world, and be on magazine covers?


Many people did not think it was possible.  It all started with me having a strong idea and believing in my dreams. 


INDEPENDENT BUSINESS WOMAN:  I am an independent artist.  This means that I have a music career without all of the help of major companies.  My idea of being an independent artist is to be a businesswoman.  I chose to learn and do things for myself.  It is not that I did not want a major record label banging on my door, or that I didn’t want a wonderful manager to come along and manage all the details of my career; it’s just that it is not always that easy - like Life.  Sometimes, the things that you think “should” be there for you are not.  Along the way, there are many people that may not believe in you…sometimes parents do not believe in you.  Sometimes a grown professional or teacher will look you in the eye and tell you that you will not succeed.  Sometimes your friends will laugh at your ideas and tell you you’re weird.  In my case, I had a very strong idea about my music career and I did not want to wait for everyone else to believe in me first, because I believed in myself. 


GETTING DISCOVERED: I’ll be honest, in the beginning I was waiting to be discovered.  I thought that if I had talent, then someone would come along, notice, and help me with my career.  But, after some time I realized that if I kept waiting for other people to help me, I would not be making music for a living.  My sound was different, and although I had gathered fans that loved my music, the big industry-types kept saying that they didn’t know what to do with my sound.  If I kept waiting for approval from them, I would probably still be at home singing in my bedroom, becoming angry at the world for not noticing and helping me.  Or, I might have become so desperate that I would compromise my vision, getting hurt by someone who does not have my best interests in mind.  It was at this point that I started to seek information on how to do it myself.  I guess you can say, I discovered myself!  After all, who was between me and The People?  If I figured out how to start a band, tour, make a CD, make a website, sell the CD, then who needed a record deal to have supportive fans and a career?  I could reach them directly and have my own business.  I decided to be an entrepreneur and start my business from the ground up.  It was hard work, but I slowly began to see that working for myself was the choice for me.  All of my cool and creative ideas were possible, and I no longer waited for outside approval because I would teach myself how to do it on my own!


BE THE BEST YOU: So, I’d like to share a bit of my process in starting the business of my music career.  You can have a business attitude toward any dream and it can help you to succeed.  One of the most important steps in starting a business is to have a personal identity and confidence.  I have a theory which is, “If you are the best ‘You’ that You can be, there is no competition!”  Think about it: If you imitate other people, what is the best you can be?  The answer is, SECOND best to the original.  For example, if I am the absolute best Mariah Carey imitator in the world, what is the highest I can achieve?  Answer: Second best to Mariah Carey, because there is only one Mariah Carey.  An imitator can only go so far.  You must know that there is only one “you” on the whole planet.  When you strive to be the best YOU, no one else can do it the same way.  You have gifts, in a special combination, like no one else.  You are unique and can stand out by being yourself.  If you strive for success, then begin with being okay with who you are, because you are one of a kind.  In terms of business, there is always a demand for things that are one-of-a-kind.


BEING WEIRD: Some people are afraid to be weird, especially when others criticize them.  I believe it is better to be weird then to be lost in the sea of uninteresting folks that are afraid to be special.  I used to feel very weird when I was young. I did not fit in, so I learned to hide in the crowd and try to be like everyone else.  I was always unhappy and felt as though I was holding my breath.  I was insecure and hated myself.  By the time I became a teenager, God began teaching me some important things about myself.  One is that He did notwant me to be like everyone else.  It may feel uncomfortable at first to stand out, but all greatness stands out doesn’t it?  If you look at the many successful figures in history, many of them are “weird!”  So, I would like to redefine this word to mean “special.”  If you saw Einstein walking down the street, with his frizzy white afro, would you think: “That guy is a genius!”  By everyday standards, people might just think he was some strange guy passing by, talking to himself.  Now, what if Einstein believed the negative attitudes, and rejected his own greatness?  Most people do not know that the icon for genius, Einstein, didn’t even graduate high school. He was one-of-a-kind and outside opinions did not make him less of a genius, less special, or less talented. He had to have self-motivation and not be afraid of standing out and being weird, in order to succeed.


STUDENT OF LIFE: I took the approach that I was going to attend the School of Life.  Some things you cannot learn in school.  I wanted to learn about the music industry, so I got a temp job working at a big record label.  I asked a lot of questions, I took notes, I did personal research, reading books, and began to see that this business is not such a mystery. Every time I am in a room with someone of more experience, I look at it as an opportunity to learn about pursuing my dream.  I try to absorb something from them.  I observe the way they carry themselves, and the way they speak business with others.  I also experimented and tried many different ideas with my songs, at my shows, and with my CDs.  It is certain that you will make mistakes, but in order to truly figure something out, you will mess up here and there.  These mistakes teach you for the future, what works and what does not, so you can be more confident when you make decisions.


RIGHT ATTITUDE/PLANTING SEEDS: When following your dream, there needs to be realistic expectations.  One thing about working for yourself is that it is hard work.  I find that many people are comfortable working for other people.  They are pleased to come in early, and stay late.  When it comes to working on their own dreams, they squeeze it in every other week for 20 minutes on a Sunday night.  This is not enough, if you are trying to succeed at a career.  Impatience is another killer of dreams.  There is something known as “paying dues,” and it requires time and dedication to reach the greatest goals.  I have this metaphor called Planting Seeds. My career is like planting seeds.  I take the last penny I have and I invest it in seeds; I get down on my knees and scrape the soil with my fingers, working with all my might to pull up weeds, fertilize the soil, make rows, and plant my seeds.  I am finally done with my labor.  I stand up and am exhausted, sweaty, broke, dirty, cold and hungry.  I then observe my handiwork.  When I look, all I see is a big field of dirt.
“Is this all I get?,” I say. “Is this all I get in return for all my hard work?  I have no more money.  I have no more food.  I am tired, and dirty and alone, and all I see is a field of dirt!”  In this moment, it is extremely important not to give up.  Every farmer knows that after planting seeds, when you look out at that field, it is not just a field of dirt.  All of the hard work you do, sometimes appears to have left you with a field of dirt, but the seeds are taking root beneath the surface and will grow into a bountiful crop, if you are patient, and if you don’t leave it behind. That field is taking root with your crop.  Having vision also means that you are patient with the process.  You must remain confident no matter what others say, because you alone know that you planted seeds for a crop.  If you stay focused, you will see little green buds popping up eventually from all your hard work.  And, if you stay to nurture the crop, you will see those buds grow into trees, with fruit.  Your hard work does pay off, when your expectations are realistic.


MORE STORY AND A GRAMMY:  So, I have this unique musical sound.  Not like Beyonce.  Not like Mary J Blige.  Not like Alicia Keys.  It is like me, Maya Azucena.  I figured that if no one knew who I was, I had to get my name out into the world.  With the help of the internet, I connected with fans all around the world and began working together with select contacts to develop tours, and to make music.  Over time, there began to be a demand for my music.  Clubs, magazines and newspapers began to take notice, and I have been able to accomplish more and more with my projects.  Part of my unique story is diversity.  I have a style that fits well with Rock, Reggae, and Hip Hop. I even studied opera in high school!  I have not been afraid to try different things and collaborate with artists from other countries.  Can you believe that the reason I got to work with multi-Grammy winning Jamaican artist, Stephen Marley, is because of recordings I did with a Hip Hop artist in Italy?  I was invited to write and sing on a compilation CD for DJ Jad of Milan, Italy.  We had such a good time recording together that the engineer, recording all of the vocals, recommended me to Stephen Marley to do a song on his Universal Records “Mind Control” CD.  Because I was a featured artist, singing a duet with Stephen Marley, when the “Mind Control” CD won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album of the Year, I became one of the recipients of the award.  Funny thing is that I was in Croatia at the time of the Grammys, so I was getting text messages overseas from people congratulating me.  That year I also won a Croatian Grammy for my duet with a rock superstar named Gibonni. 


My journey has continued to be fun, unique and just the right fit for me.  I keep challenging myself to be the Best Me I Can Be, and it has been working out pretty well!  Now, you be sure to start your journey right and BE THE BEST ‘YOU’ YOU CAN BE.


Please submit all questions and comments to Maya Azucena at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

 

Biography:

 

MAYA AZUCENA
Some people are born with jaw-dropping talent, some born with a burning will to succeed, and some with a spirit to help others.  Then there is the all-encompassing Grammy winner Maya Azucena, a vocalist so richly talented that she’s brought audiences to their feet all over the world.  So driven, she’s released her own music, won countless awards, and toured the planet all on her own. And, she’s a humanitarian who consistently uses these gifts to help make life better for those in need. 

Maya’s concerts are often described as “spiritual” and “riveting.”  She’s an electric performer with commanding stage presence and passionate delivery.  Maya’s music sounds like a cutting-edge version of Aretha Franklin mixed with the fire of Lauryn Hill and the songwriting talent of classic Stevie Wonder.  A Chinese paper summed it up by saying “Ms Azucena has the power to ‘penetrate blocks’ and to touch people from different cultural backgrounds.” The NY Post compares her to Chaka Khan and Roberta Flack.

Azucena is a true 21st Century success story.  Rising from the streets of Brooklyn, her talent took her to the LaGuardia School of Performing Arts (the “Fame” school).  Later, she formed her band honing her performance skills all over the U.S.  Her 2nd show found Maya opening for Gladys Knight in front of 8,000 people.  Her debut CD, “Maya Who?!” was self-released and distributed at shows and on her website.  She licked the stamps and mailed to stores and fans directly. This personal connection with fans led to much of her success. 

Maya’s collaborations have also helped propel her career.  Her duet with Stephen Marley netted her a Grammy Award, a rare feat for an independent artist.  Her work with Croatian superstar Gibonni garnered two Croatian Grammy Awards (aka ‘Porin’).  And her work with Italian superstar DJ Jad had Maya performing on MTV’s TRL and Top of the Pops in front of millions.  She even received this year’s prestigious TNJ “Top 40 Under 40” Achievement Award.  The list goes on.

Be prepared, Maya’s music is now making its way to the mainstream.  Her song “Make It Happen” made it to #3 on the Billboard Dance chart.  You’ve probably noticed her voice or likeness on HBO’s “The Wire,” NBC’s “30 Rock,” Ford Motors, Verizon Wireless and others, proving there is a demand for her sound.

Most importantly, Maya Azucena believes that music is a tool for healing and activism.  She sang in Washington DC at the Save Darfur Rally along with politicians and celebrities such as Barack Obama and George Clooney.  She performed at the United Nations for the International Tsunami Relief show along with musicians from around the world.  She produced Hope Night, a concert for domestic abuse awareness, which earned a Proclamation from the House of Representatives. Recently, Maya was a Cultural Ambassador funded by the US State Department, touring in countries as varied as Sri Lanka, Honduras, and Burma.

Ms. Azucena is in the final stages of completing her newest CD, “Cry Love.”  “Cry Love” is an energetic, lyrical mix of Azucena’s distinctive blend of raw soul music. Initial listens by a major record label executive, as well as by editor-in-chief of a national music magazine, have inspired the use of the word “classic.”


Be sure to visit Maya at http://www.mayaazucena.com/