“Thank You All” – Acceptance Song for #BTVSMD14

So yesterday I won the fifth annual Burlington Social Media Day “2014 Social Media Royalty > King” award. It was a great and not-entirely-unexpected* honor, so, as you might by now expect, I was prepared with a song for the occasion just in case, knowing that would make my acceptance speech** a little unusual.

What was more than a little unusual was that, in a room full of social media mavens, NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM SEEM TO HAVE RECORDED MY PERFORMANCE. These are people for whom, presumably, entertaining or unusual content is as fundamental to their online presence as a windsor knot is to a Wall Street banker***. In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have told them all they had to clap along. Who knew social media mavens love to clap along?

So once I got home, I dusted off my shiny new crown**** and tried, tried again.

Burlington Social Media Day is the brainchild and labor of love (ain’t no money in it) of Lara Dickson, a graphic designer with serious online communications chops, who moved to Vermont around the start of the tens. Having been inspired by Mashable, she and Anna Palmer organized the first one on June 30, 2010, and at this point it’s becoming a real Queen City tradition.

…So it’s late, and I’ll finish this blog post this weekend (including details about the process whereby you all are going to tell me what song to write next…), but for now, I’ll leave you with the lyrics, which pretty much say what I’d want to say if I could write lyrics.

Thank You All

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart
I can’t believe this is real, and I don’t know where to start
(I just spent) two whole days just a-beggin’ and a-pleadin’
Said goodbye to the last shred of dignity I’m needin’

   But it’s been a ride that I’ll never regret
   The love from you guys is the best thing yet
   When I look around and I see the smiles
   I wanna keep on tweetin’ and re-tweetin’ and repeatin’ it

Thanks so much to the great Shay Totten
I will never know a tenth as much as that guy has forgotten, Baby
Thanks so much to the mighty Aki Soga
When it’s time to throw a party, just invite that homeboy ovah

   And hey, Lara Dickson, this one’s for you
   We’re all construction paper and you’re the glue
   Shining your light on the social scene
   I think we all know who’s the real Queen

Thank you all, and I can’t say enough
About the things that you teach me when times are tough
(And I’m so) proud to be part of the Burlington scene
Tweeting in Vermont, and we postin’ what we want

   Most of all, thank my love so true:
   She’s at-sign-mrs-winooski to you
   She puts up with this, so I hope it shows
   You never know where a little tweetin’ will go
   Never know where a little tweetin’ will go
   Never know where a little tweetin’ will go

© Copyright 2014 Nate Orshan

* I did sorta campaign hard for it. And promise everyone I’d write whatever song they, in the aggregate, decided. More on that above.

** Once the awards ceremony kicked off, I saw that people don’t usually get to say anything after they’ve received their award. But did that stop me?

*** I’m assuming.

**** Yes, I did get a crown, but it’s made out of flimsy paper, just like my social media skills.

“Vermont, My Own True Friend”

It didn’t win and didn’t even place, but, 16 years later, here’s the song I submitted for Vermont’s State Song Competition. It’s called “Vermont, My Own True Friend”.

My goals for the song (aside from, y’know, winning the contest) were:

  • It had to refer to our natural beauty
  • It had to refer to our values
  • It had to refer to our history
  • It had to refer to what makes us actually different
  • It had to be anthemic

The last criterion was the “music-y” part, and I imagined that any state song would end up being sung by crowds of people in classrooms, ballgames, and the Statehouse. Never mind the song’s language or symbolic content; above all, the song had to be designed to be performed by multiple people, with average ears and voices, yet still sound stirring and anthemic. That meant it needed a more structured meter and some larger-interval (but not TOO large!) leaps at the right point to catch attenton.

A big inspiration was Maine’s state song, which my fiancé (now my wife) used to launch into spontaneously. That was another hope for my song’s musicality: It should inspire the singer to swing their bent arms back and forth in front of them, as if they were so inspired that they wanted to march in a parade.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the song that was selected as Vermont’s official State Song, “These Green Mountains”, words and music by Diane Martin and arranged by Rita Buglass Gluck; this rendition is from Victoria Tomkinson with Bob Ray on guitar.

Here’s a more gussied-up version performed by the Vermont Youth Orchestra Choir at the Statehouse.

As far as the words go, I’d like to think they met my criteria. I’m grateful to be able to say I live in this wonderful state, and I hope I can continue to do so for a long time to come.

Vermont, My Own True Friend

From the sleeping chin of Mansfield,
Where the granite touches sky,
To the shores of Lake Champlain,
Where the sails and salmon fly

Through the blazing autumn treetops
And the snowy slopes so wide,
The thought of so much majesty
Fills my heart with pride

   Vermont,
   Across your mountains green
   Vermont,
   Where independence sings
   Vermont,
   Where rivers, glittering
   Over valleys, bend
   Vermont,
   This land will always be
   My own true friend

The state where dreadful slavery
First met its legal end,
Where the farmer and the artist
On fertility depend

Where unity and freedom
Reach out with welcome hands,
And precious common sense,
Like the mighty maple, stands

   Vermont,
   Across your mountains green
   Vermont,
   Where independence sings
   Vermont,
   Where rivers, glittering
   Over valleys, bend
   Vermont,
   This land will always be
   My own true friend

© Copyright 2014 Nate Orshan

“granite” – I may be going out on a geological limb here.

“salmon” – Yup, we got ‘em!

“unity and freedom” – OK, so our state motto is actually “Freedom and Unity“, but sometimes ya gotta mix things up a bit to get a line to fit.

“precious common sense” – AKA “Yankee horse sense”, a virtue of longstanding repute, e.g., “[US President and Vermonter Calvin] Coolidge was New England – or, as his Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover put it, ‘the incarnation of Yankee horse sense.’

“Harjit (You Get it Back)”

Here’s a song both for and about a force of nature known as Harjit Dhaliwal. How do you pronounce “Harjit*“? Well…listen to the song…

Until this week, I’d only known Harjit through social media (primarily Twitter, where he goes by Hoorge, and Facebook, where he goes by, uh, Harjit), but I finally got to meet him just a few days ago at a reunion of @THISISVT guest-tweeters. I think I had casually told him in the past (online, of course) that I’d write a song for him, but I’d forgotten about it. Fortunately, he HADN’T, and he piped up with the song request**.

I was more than willing to pipe up in response. In our state of fewer than a 700,000 people, Harjit has been growing a reputation as an enthusiastic booster of all things Vermont, concentrating on Chittenden County, Burlington, and his current home of Milton (a historically maligned town to the north of the Queen City, and the image of which Harjit does much to improve).

He’s also a great photographer when he’s not doing his day gig as an IT guy, all of which seems to pale in comparison to his social media activity, which spans over a dozen separate channels.

But, y’know, any Yankee Doodle Dandy can stick a dozen accounts in his hat and call it good content. What I really admire about Harjit’s online output is the degree of genuine, unironic appreciation, an irrepressible exuberance for people and place that comes pouring out. If an individual post is prosaic, the emergent property I get from the entirety is a tremendous outpouring of positivity and love.

As I seemed to learn this week, his online persona is a real extension of his presence offline. If any behavior is worth replicating, this most definitely is, and I’m happy to play a role in helping spread his spirit a little further through the world.

Harjit (You Get it Back)

Lemme tell you ’bout a guy named Harjit
Sees a challenge and he’ll never dodge it
He gets it done
For everyone

9-to-5, and he’s in high-tech heaven
Social media, he’s 24/7
He gets around
Because he’s found…

   If you give it out, you get it back
   You’re on the track
   For life

   Every little thing you say and do
   Comes back to you
   Like children skipping from a schoolyard

Lemme tell you ’bout a guy named Harjit
Not a fan of self-sabotage, it
Is not his line
To undermine

With an eye for a bright impression,
From the phone to the photo session
He gets his shot
See what he’s got

   If you give it out, you get it back
   You’re on the track
   For life

   Every little thing you say and do
   Comes back to you
   Like children skipping from a schoolyard

Lemme tell you ’bout a guy named Harjit
You show up with a stone and he’ll dislodge it
It isn’t right
To have to fight

In his head is an eagle flying
In his heart, he is only trying
To be set free
So spread your wings and you will see it

   If you give it out, you get it back
   You’re on the track
   For life

   Every little thing you say and do
   Comes back to you
   Like children skipping from a schoolyard

© Copyright 2014 Nate Orshan

* Harjit’s name is actually a part of the motivation for writing the song. Here in the anglophonic north, names that didn’t get their start in Europe are currently harder to find, which lack of familiarity makes them harder to get right on the first go-round. In fact, I take it the nickname “Hoorge” came from a college friend who, to his own embarrassment, resorted to it when he found himself unable to pronounce “Harjit” correctly (HAH-jiht). If this song has any lasting impact, I hope at least it helps some folks get “Harjit” right.

** Nope, I’m not getting paid, nor is there any quid pro quo. Hey, that would just undermine my goal!