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He Was A Game Changer

Tonight (Sunday June 9) I have a string quartet piece premiering on the Chamber LA concert series. We had the rehearsal for it on Wednesday and it went really well, I was thrilled and bursting. As I was coming home I thought to myself: I have to share this with Patrick. Then I remembered.

Patrick Kavanaugh was a composer, conductor, author and founder of two organizations: Christian Performance Artists Fellowing (CPAF) and The Masterworks Festival. Born in 1954 in Nashville, Tennessee he was the absolute consummate musician. His first instrument was guitar and while he ended up composing ground-breaking micro-tonal music he started as a gigging and session musician in Nashville. One time he even played bass on a Jimi Hendrix track as he was in the studio at the right moment and the other bass player had yet to show (BTW I really hope I am remembering this story right!).

My mum heard about Patrick through his books, I believe. They had a very similar world view: sharing their Christian faith through being excellent musicians. Performing at the highest level and having their excellence of musicianship being an act of worship and witness. She invited Patrick to Tasmania to come and speak at a music seminar she was running. I was 16 at the time. We all loved Patrick, he immediately became part of our family. When Patrick heard me sing he said I needed to come to the States to study music. I said I would love to. And that is where I expected that story to end. Little did I know…..

Patrick with my lovely parents.

In 1997 I was finishing up typical Aussie post-high school graduation travels around the world. With my parents we ended up in Haymarket, Virginia visiting with Patrick and the whole wonderful Kavanaugh fam: Patrick & Barbara and the four boys Chris (just a little younger than me), John, Peter and David. While on that wonderful visit Patrick reiterated that I needed to come to the States and study music. I really wanted to but I didn’t see how it was possible. I told him if he could make it happen, I would be there in a hot second. Long story short, after going home to Tassie for 6 short months, I was back in Haymarket, living with the Kavanaugh family and working for Patrick.

So much happened in the following years. Being around the Kavanaughs, working with CPAF and the MW Festival, everything I learned, it was an extremely intense time. I was 19, so clueless about life, HA! It was a whirlwind and just thinking about it all brings up just about every emotion possible. They were formative years, for sure. I became a much better musician, a much better person. It was also a really hard and confusing time. Moving country while figuring out who you are, where you fit and what you actually want to do with your life is tumultuous. But one story about Patrick from this time always sticks out to me and that’s what I want to share with you today.

Patrick was my boss. We worked in an office together and this was my first office admin job (of many). This was definitely new ground for me. One of the things I had to do was the basic accounting and really early on in my time with him I messed up big time. I had been entering things into the software in a way that was not right. I felt so bad and I knew it was going to take a chunk of time to fix. But Patrick did not get angry with me, at all. He took responsibility. He simply stated that he was my boss, it was his job to teach me how to do it, and clearly he had failed at his job. He took full responsibility. I was blown away.

He was definitely the best boss I have ever had. It is not like it was always easy between us, there were definitely arguments and hard times. Keep in mind he was dealing with a 19-22 year old who was green AF. But he always behaved with empathy and while he was an extremely enthusiastic and gregarious person, a force of nature with huge passion for whatever he put his mind to, he was also patient and understanding. A real teacher. A wonderful communicator.

The MasterWorks Festival 1998…..can you find me?

Now I have a team of ten people at Joy Music House. I try and be the best leader I can as we collaborate together on projects and support our fellow composers. What I learned from Patrick has been my guide as I am growing this venture. Now when things don’t happen as I want them to, the first question I try and ask myself is: “Where did I go wrong? How can I better communicate?” No one can mind read. It is our job if we are in a leadership position to clearly lead, communicate in a way that works for the people taking direction from us and set them up for success.

Patrick was a composer, an author, an innovator and entrepreneur, what I want to be when I grow up. He pursued excellence in everything he did. He helped everyone he could. The organizations he founded and nurtured have changed lives all around the world. And he found a way for me to come to America, completely changing my life and setting me on the path that has lead to me to this point.

Patrick moved on to the next realm after a massive heart attack last year. I miss him and think of him often as I continue to live my music-filled life here in the States. I am so grateful to the whole Kavanaugh family for welcoming me in as one of their own and making living in the US possible. I hope to have the same positive impact on my community as he had on his.

Here’s to being a game changer.

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