As we transition from being kids to young adults, and then adults, we take with us a sense of responsibility that we absorb from our environment. Then, instead of embracing our ability to respond, life becomes too serious, and the meaning of the word “responsibility” sounds like a burden to us. Bringing a sense of lightness to how we think, do, and feel, will bring easiness in navigating our lives and a state of being more proactive rather than reactive. Besides, life is supposed to be fun.
Scott Evan Davis, an artist, who is a composer, songwriter, a mentor fathering so many, says, “Something I’ve done since I was a kid, is waking up around 5:30 a.m. and sitting outside to journal not only my complaints but what I’m grateful for every day. I just turned 44, and what I’ve realized is that I have spent far too many years taking myself and the world very seriously. These days, I am more concerned with lightness, humor, and dealing with the world as a whole for all that it is and all that I do, which is very serious. But I try to approach everything with a little bit of humor and smile because I feel like that is my truth. I also think people have been more responsive, and I can do a lot more of what I want to do. But all we really want is just a little bit of connection and laughter. Then everything else is like gravy. So, my essence right now is just not taking myself too seriously.”
The performing arts industry has only recently begun to come back to life, having been dormant since mid-March 2020. But nothing could stop artists from expressing the life force bursting from within them, even during a lockdown. Although challenging times didn’t skip Scott, he directed his creative energies that create beautiful musical worlds into new forms of expression.
“About a month before March 13th, 2020, I had my fourth Off-Broadway reading of Indigo, the musical I wrote with Broadways stars and huge investors. The next step was production when the pandemic struck. Also, I was teaching in-person voice lessons, piano, and musicals when everything came to a halt. I spent about three days of true panic and fear, thinking to myself, ‘I don’t have any way to make money. I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ So, I was obsessively teaching myself things that I knew I would need for all of the lessons that went virtual. And then, social media happened. Because I am an introvert by nature, I found this comfort in expressing myself from home, which became so creative. I started collaborating with artists, and we did virtual collaborations of music that I would never have imagined. Also, I wrote a song that I would never have written. I am a firm believer that what happens in the universe is for a reason. Although I knew it was a horrible time, for me personally, the pandemic was sort of a purge of everything about my life that wasn’t working. I reevaluated everything, and I am immensely happier now than I was before it all happened. So, I have had all of that personal growth.”
We don’t see opportunities when we are in distress that comes from holding on to too much narrow focus outwards. But by going within and releasing the resistance, we can zoom out and see the world through a broader lens full of opportunity-filled gift boxes. Scott has done just that, becoming an example to his students by teaching them skills and inspiring them to embrace who they are becoming.
“I mostly teach privately, but I also teach in groups. Being a teacher, a coach, or a mentor, in my opinion, is about the human connection and experience. Especially through the pandemic, I teach children as young as seven years old, as well as a 65-year-old and a mother. I educate the neurotypical community about autistic people. It doesn’t really matter who I teach, but every one of them went through something independently, challenging this past two years. And for me, what I’ve learned is that to be a good mentor and coach, whether it’s singing or piano, you really need to tell people about your passion, your experiences, how you can help them to understand better who they are and what they’re capable of doing in life. And, like, there are ways of accessing them as humans and figuring out how you can best serve their lives and give them something in return,” Scott shares passionately.
It is so satisfying to be part of someone else’s becoming. In terms of our influence on others, we can do so by maintaining our own steady-state in which they can choose to join us. Scott was coaching a very talented fourteen-year-old girl who desperately wanted to be accepted at LaGuardia Performing Arts High School. After working for a year with her, going through so much emotional pressure, and sometimes she even wanted to quit, Scott got an early morning call from her mom crying that the girl got accepted. Scott says, “That moment changed her life. For moments like this, I love teaching. And l love that my students remind me why in the first place I love what I do.”
We often clutter our minds with too much thinking. But moments of inspiration come to all of us. It happens when our intellect is softer and relaxed, and there is room in our minds for new thoughts and ideas to emerge. Scott describes it as an “Out-of-body experience.” He continued, “One of the things about writing is deadlines, money, and it’s a great source of inspiration where you can find your creativity. But true inspiration happens when I’m sitting on that couch or sleeping. And I just think, ‘Oh my God, Oh, that’s something I need to get out of my system. Generally, it’s the feeling of leaving your body for a little while and seeing what happens.”
Scott never dreamed of becoming a songwriter; he was an actor until he was 31 years old, and an epiphany happened during his dream state. About that, Scott reminisces by sharing, “I only wrote my first song because I had a dream. My mentor, who is also my teacher in college, passed away after I cared for him for the last two years of his life. I lived with him because he had cancer. But it was a long, big part of my life because I was 19 then. Before he passed away, we had a big fight without having any sort of resolution. And years later, when I was 30 years old, I dreamt about him. In my dream, he was sitting on a park bench; he looked great, young, smiling with his arms out. He hugged me. Still in the dream, I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s forgiving me.’ Then he started to hum—that’s all he did—and he kept repeating it over and over, and he wouldn’t stop. Also, the hug became really tight, and I started having difficulty breathing, and then I woke up. It was very scary, but I went back to sleep. The next day, I could not get that humming melody out of my head. It became my first song, Cautiously Optimistic, and eventually became the title of my first album, which I dedicated it to him. To this day, whenever I start writing a song, it happens as if in a dream, randomly, whether I’m on the couch or sleeping, that’s where they come to me.”
Scott followed his inspiration and gradually let himself discover the unfolding of what’s ahead of him as a songwriter. Since then, he has been continuously expressing himself through music, gifting everyone with songs such as If The World Only Knew, dedicated to his first ten autistic students; Scott was hired a few years ago to coach them to write their own musical. That experience and that song changed the course of his career.
“I’ve never worked with autistic people before. When I met them, I had a long conversation with them about their experiences and their thoughts. I went home that weekend and wrote the song If The World Only Knew. I taught it to them on Monday, and it became their opening number. There was something about that song and how it spoke to everything that they had been feeling because they were the ones who gave me those thoughts. To me, watching them makes me feel confident and as if somebody understood them or they were being heard. I became very ingrained in the school and coaching them. There was also a documentary made about us, Spectrum of Hope. I flew with them to Atlanta, where we did a big performance, and the whole school became family to me. Then while working with them, I had the idea for the full-length musical, Indigo, which was inspired by a nonverbal girl I met. She was a fantastic writer. She would go home and write a beautiful blog, but she couldn’t speak. And it really made me aware that there’s so much there that nobody knows. And I just became obsessed with representing that in the theater—that is how it changed my life. Then, when I released If The World Only Knew on my second album, it was sung all over the world, and it sort of became the autistic anthem done at the Gershwin theatre every year for autism. I didn’t know it was going to have that effect on my life, but I know that those ten kids in that song started a journey of wanting to see that represented, and I could help to make that happen,” Scott candidly says.
Sometimes, we observe around us and see everything and everyone as separate from us. But what if there is something more than just our physicality. Weola’s words, spoken by Kosta Trifunovic, who is one of the nowadays inspirational facilitators, says, “There is more to you than your physical focus. There is a wider perspective of you integrated with the physical aspect of you. You are the perspective of One embodied in your physical Self while using your physical body, mind, thoughts, and emotions as tools for your expression. This is a starting point that will allow you to open yourself up to the possibility of living a full human experience.”
Perhaps, rather than measuring ourselves solely by looking outwards, we can sense more from within and then realize that, in essence, we all are one. The differences we perceive come from our physical focus, but most communication comes from what we emanate vibrationally. Verbally we can even lie; energy always speaks for itself.
“I do sense them,” Scott says, “and then I kind of know what I need to do to communicate in a way they’d understand. Because it’s easy for us, in our own ego, to think, ‘Yeah, well, they don’t understand me,’ when we’re dealing with someone who isn’t communicating the way we do. But the truth is, it’s quite possible that you don’t understand them and maybe you can communicate the way they need you to rather than the other way around. And that, I believe, is a conversation we all need to have.”
It’s no surprise Scott was named New Yorker of the week. Epic Players is a neurodiverse professional acting company that Scott coaches and trains. They perform on tours across the US, as well at the Lincoln Center and Joe’s Pub in New York City, where their concerts are also accompanied by Broadway stars as guests. “It’s really exciting because we bring people from Broadway, and it’s so inclusive—we want neurotypical and neurodiverse performers to perform together as much as possible. It’s important. I hold a monthly virtual masterclass in which I bring in Broadway guests and provide feedback to them. But if anybody is interested in learning more about it, they can simply go right to www.epicplayersnyc.org and explore everything,” Scott shares excitedly. Indigo, the musical that Scott has written, is in full development now. The storyline revolves around an autistic nonverbal girl who sees the world in colors and is an example of how to truly communicate.
“So, in this world, Emma is the name of the girl. She doesn’t speak, but that doesn’t mean she’s mute. Emma can make sounds, but she just doesn’t make words—she’s nonverbal. But what she has is a phenomenon called synesthesia, a condition common within the autistic community; not everybody but some people see sound as color. So, as they’re talking, they would see color patterns. For example, if they hear music, that high note is lavender. Moreover, I work with this autistic girl who is an incredible singer. But if I say something, she will always say, ‘I get it. That’s pink.’ And I find that fascinating because my character Emma has it. Emma can also see letters as colors and jumble them together to form new words. She thinks in anagrams, basically. And that’s how she ends up communicating. So, we did a national casting call last year when we did a reading because I wanted an autistic actress; I would never do this with someone pretending. Fortunately, we found this fantastic person, Madison; she came and did it. Madison isn’t nonverbal, but she’s so in the play when Emma needs to communicate to the audience or get her inner thoughts out—Madison sings as Emma and the audience hears, but it’s like nobody else does. A lot of it has to do with dissecting the information she has around her because I didn’t want to just make her somebody who could understand when I wanted her to—that’s unfair. But I wanted her to understand in her own way while also allowing us to see what that process was like. That’s how it works. And that’s why the musical is called Indigo, because of the colors,” Scott shares passionately.
Aside from Scott’s coaching and the musical, Indigo, he created a fun and sarcastic character on TikTok @scottevandavis, called The Prince of Snarkness. Scott says about it, “I have to say that the persona I create for social media is just a fun character exploration of that side of me. But I am not necessarily as a person somebody who doesn’t like people. But what I do is that when I’m teaching, writing, working with someone, or just being myself with my friends, I always deflect sarcasm and humor. And working with the autistic community the way that I do sometimes translates into hysteria. And then people sometimes take things too literally; it’s not funny because they don’t know you. So, it’s a very interesting thing when I work with kids; they love sarcasm. I mean, it’s a character, so I have to integrate it, but I think when people meet me and talk to me after just knowing me from other people, they’re so surprised to find out that I smile or that I laugh. I want to connect with people and be warm because I love people, but it’s just one side of me that can get out my frustrations, I guess, if that makes any sense.”
The musical Indigo will be debuting with the first stage production in a theatre in Ohio in 2022. Just like Scott and what he created to represent in Indigo, we will be able to communicate beyond words when we open our hearts to ourselves and others, as we all are able to sense it all.
Photography // Michael Kushner