2020 Salesforce Rocks:
Leading Through Change Musical Guests and Update with Hawaiian Slack Key Guitarist, LT Smooth, during Covid Pandemic
As someone who can not go a day with out listening to music, singing or making music to keep me from feeling anxiety, I have a special interest in the musicians that Salesforce has shared in the last eight months to help us all move forward and survive Covid. I have really enjoyed learning about Salesforce through my Trailhead student journey, watching the livestream #LeadingThroughChange series of talks combined with musical guests. This integrated learning experience has been a true example of adding value and hope to business education that would otherwise be somewhat dull, pure business data. The complete Leading Through Change agenda has helped me learn things I sometimes missed in a Trailhead module or learning path that is usually a solitary reading experience I can do ten minutes to a couple hours a day
Beginning almost as soon as the pandemic started in March, Salesforce started a series of activities and coloring pages to help families with kids quarantined at home featuring Trailhead characters. By May, #LearningThroughChange, #B-well Together and Trailhead Live began live-streamed business interviews with their customers which featured acoustic performances with several popular, grammy award winning singer/songwriters.
Maggie Rogers performed for “LowCodeLove” (at 1:04:32). Kacey Musgraves played during “How to Reopen Your Business” (at 1:06:32). John Legend performed from his grand piano and spoke eloquently about “making connected experiences faster” with APIs and Mulesoft, a Salesforce Company with products (such as Work.com) to integrate already existing APIs with Salesforce. Leon Bridges played and sang “Take Me to Your River” on acoustic guitar. Siemens and Andra Day. Marriott hotels and Angelique Kidjo. Stevie Wonder, H.E.R. and many other award winning musicians kept us watching important work updates. Each performance was monumental as we grieved together the devastation of Covid and learned how to cope with tragedy and build devices, treatments and methods to survive. We also began to witness the inequalities the pandemic boldfaced, including racism, PPE and medical equipment shortages, food insecurity, housing insecurity and police brutality.
I loved watching Salesforce consistently create products to help solve problems caused by the pandemic and using their 1–1–1 philanthropic model, they gave back to the communities by sourcing, purchasing and expediting PPE, donating to the World Food Program, Nature Conservancy, schools and many other efforts to assist communities and entrepreneurs in need of funding.
Singer/songwriter, Jewel, had been fundraising for Inspiring Children Foundation, and she joined Salesforce to perform from her home as well. These informal sessions with popular, well-known musicians were memorable, as a dog barked from off-screen, Jewel asked for a capo to be handed to her as she sat in-front of a bureau lit with candles. She dressed up in black cowboy hat and turquoise jewelry. These intimate scenes from home were suddenly unique and precious to all of us, including the musicians, some of who had never done this kind of performance before and were learning how to use Zoom, Twitch, video cameras, iPhones to record and software to combine several players together from different locations. We all know this now, but it’s incredible to realize this was just seven months ago. The speed at which we all had to learn how to cope and care for each other, from first responders to families quarantined together and not used to working from home. This pandemic is nothing we could have understood with out having lived through it. Even reading about the pandemic from 1918 and seeing the photos of the people with facemasks are only relatable to us now because of what has happened.
In May, my sons graduated from High School in facemasks and I watched this on video from 3,000 miles away where I had been waiting for a hip replacement. My grief was huge, but it also felt like nothing compared to what the first responders and families with young kids or sick grandparents and friends were going through. I was in physical pain, contracted Covid and survived – I was lucky enough to have acquired Medicaid health insurance just before the pandemic began. I was unemployed and 3,000 miles away from my seventeen year old twins(now 18!), and 1,000 miles away from my parents. After that experience, everything changed for me. Suddenly, my health became the most important thing of all. Not work, not even my sons or parents, but just the need to stay healthy so I could have hip surgery. I couldn’t volunteer or help, but I tried to share my music and art progress online. Though just a budding songwriter and intermediate acoustic guitarist, I expressed myself during this time, and it helped me tremendously. I enjoyed listening to Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real perform a YouTube series called “Quarantunes”. Lukas eventually performed for Saleforce as well. I also followed along with what was happening at Salesforce on Twitter, and tried to help by posting and retweeting important tweets. I wanted to share the positive work that was being done by Salesforce as I continued to watch and grow alongside the Ohana with Trailhead.
LT Smooth has been performing for Salesforce for many years. I first saw him perform live at Dreamforce 2019, on the “free day” where I attended many workshops and live events in downtown San Francisco. He was on stage in the middle of Howard Street, where I normal biked to work from the Mission. I remember walking out the doors of Moscone Center into the world of Trailhead Live, with a full band playing, headed by LT Smooth. The Salesforce Ohana danced and mingled and worked from laptops and phones beneath enormous banners, depicting Einstein riding a bicycle and Astro and friends in hammocks. In the midday sun, under a bandstand curved like a shade-providing leaf in the forest, LT sang “Can’t Stop the Feeling…” in a Hawaiian shirt, and looked just like Codey, the Trailhead character who loves to code and is often seen with a tiny ukulele on his chest, singing joyfully and stepping in time. I actually cried when I walked into this world because I’d been studying for so long from my computer since my first Salesforce.org role in 2018 and I never had the experience of a Dreamforce event. I remember everyone telling me at TrailheadDX, “Dreamforce is ten times bigger!”. I really had no idea what to expect.
I recently caught up with LT by phone to ask him how he is doing and how he is dealing with the pandemic on the big island in Hawaii. LT lives on a farm in Kona and currently has mangoes, avocados, bananas, mountain apples and lilikoe, a small yellow passion fruit often used to make juice. I had read in a previous blog post that he was building a school to teach guitar and ukulele and had been teaching on the island for many years. Music saved him from difficult times and Salesforce helped him with funding for the school to move him forward with his life goals to teach guitar and ukulele to children who don’t always have the opportunity to do so. Read more about LT’s journey with Salesforce on the blog, here.
LT is a master of Hawaiian Slack Key guitar. This is a form of finger-picking guitar that involves de-tuning, or “tuning down” the strings to a lower note which makes them looser, or “slack”. There is an excellent album available of Hawaiian Slack Key Kings Master Series which features LT’s song, “Freedom”. It’s one of my favorite songs of this genre. To describe the Hawaiian Slack Key sound, I would say that it is softer and more bell or chime-like than a traditional, acoustic guitar. The attack on the strings is sharper when the string is taught on a traditional steel acoustic, so you can imagine how a loosened string sounds more wavering and mellow. “Chill” would be a great term for Hawaiian slack key guitar. The method is said to have been taught by Spanish cowboys in the 19th century.
LT shared some photos of a new outdoor school he is building on his farm because of Covid. It looks like a dreamy tiki hut gazebo against the bluest, tropical sea. Golden grasses hang down like hula skirts around the edges. LT tells me it is a synthetic, eco-friendly, thatch-style roofing that is expensive, but it is commercial building and fire compliant and will last twenty years rather than the traditional thatch roofing used in primitive building. The railing surrounding the entire stage-like, 50' x 50' structure is made of driftwood. It looks great, though it is not completely finished. The outdoor school makes sense because it is warm there year round and safer to be outside for students and teachers. Face masks and social distancing are still important, especially if singing, as we have learned from some past super-spreading in-person choir events. I ask LT to send me a photo when it’s complete. He’s currently putting the final pieces on the roof.
LT tells me that he has been feeding the homeless and delivering food during the pandemic, as well as helping Saleforce with creative projects. He has started ukulele classes with the kids on Sundays. He is excited to get back to music and life before Covid. Dreamforce is his favorite event to play at. This year’s Dreamforce is free and virtual, which is great to keep us all safe, but obviously, not as exciting as live events and music up close and in person. If you would like to learn more about how you can support LT’s non-profit, “Heart of Music Foundation”, please fill out the form here.
Stay safe, LT! Wishing you the best. So nice to speak with you and feel your island spirit in your words and music. Mahalo!
Meanwhile, back in my world, I am four months post hip surgery, and not completely better yet. :( I can’t run or lift things that are too heavy, and it’s depressing if I think about it. I’m still doing physical therapy and strengthening exercises. I can hike with a hiking pole. I can ride my bike, and try to bike a minimum of 10–15 miles a day. I need a “bicycle seat ergonomic chair” to work from! Innovation can often come from tragedy, as we now know from this pandemic. I am determined to get back my strength, balance and athleticism.
I practice guitar daily. I am uplifted by music and was inspired by all the artists here through Salesforce, especially Lukas Nelson and his entire family (Willie Nelson, Bobbie Nelson, Micah Nelson of Particle Kid — Micah is an artist too and made his own series of designer facemasks, which I love!). Willie and Bobbie’s story helped me to write and sing more and take care of myself so I can help my sons later on. I picked up a classical guitar method book as well as blues book. I’ve enjoyed mastering these sometimes simple, meditative chords and phrases on my own, but I look forward to working with real musicians again soon. I want to play guitar as well as Lukas and LT Smooth someday. Record a song or entire album and have it mastered and released. Write songs for and with others. I couldn’t have made it through this year with out music, live-streaming technology or the Salesforce Ohana.
Live music will be back in 2021. The vaccines are coming! Please check out Work.com to see how businesses can reopen safely and prepare to administer and schedule vaccines too. I look forward to attending events safely in the not too distant future. Life is always better with music and friends in person.