Owen, a very talented 11 year-old banjo player from North Carolina, who recently attended banjo camp with his dad, writes:

Hi Pete, I have the flu this week and had to perform at the talent show at school. This got me wondering what you do when you’re sick and have a show to play. Thanks. Also, I really have enjoyed listening to the On a Roll CD.

Dear Owen,

It’s good to hear from you. You didn’t mention how the show went. I’d like to hear about it (or did you stay home sick?)

When you have a show to play, it could be said you’re in “show business”, even if you’re not getting paid. If you’re in show business, there’s a saying, “The show must go on.” Which means you do it even if you’re sick or not feeling good, or there’s a hurricane, or someone important to you just got hurt or even died. That’s all because putting on a show is about being part of LIFE, and life includes both hard times and good times.

Most performers don’t even tell audiences they’re having a hard time, because they don’t want to spoil the situation for them by making them uneasy. They put on their best face, and just go ahead and play. Often, miraculously, they get a surge of energy when it’s about time to go on, and they do fine. This has happened to me a number of times, and it typically happens for performers.

Last November a very close friend of mine died suddenly on the same day I was scheduled to perform in a show that I also had put together and had promoted myself. I knew Frank would understand if I performed anyway and in fact, would not want his death to cause the cancellation of a show. I was so sorry he had died, I felt I had to share what happened with the audience, and did it before I even played. I dedicated the show to Frank. Everyone understood and it turned out to be a good show.

If it turns out that you have to play even when sick, just do your best. Even if you’re the only one who knows you’re sick, just keep it to yourself and do your best. In show business, your main job is to give it your best and enjoy it and the people. With your talent and your good personality, I think you’ll do fine.

I’m looking forward to seeing you again soon and hearing you play. My best to your dad.