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  • Shaun Barrowes

Finding Happiness

Happiness is a word passed around like pretzels to pre-schoolers. But what is it and how do I find it?

As a musician, I always assumed happiness would come from hit songs and growing fanbases. But every flash of success came attached with "buts".

"Sure, it's technically a hit song, but it's just a simple kids' song" or

"Sure, the concert sold out, but that's only because it's a fundraiser" or

"Yeah the broadcast had a lot of viewers, but that's only because we got lucky with the timing."

When I performed in front of 40,000 as a guest performer at the LucasOil Stadium, I didn't leave feeling an overwhelming sense of happiness. All I was thinking about was the volume of the crowd's response and how it should have been louder. When I sang in front of 30 million people on American Idol, I wasn't bouncing on my feet with glee. I was critical of the few lyrics I fumbled. When I was making $15,000+ a month as a singer, while I was not burdened by debt or money grief, I still continually obsessed over the fact that my newest original single wasn't doing as well as it should have.

A glance through the years has helped me better understand the source of true happiness. It doesn't necessarily come from money and success. They can certainly help alleviate stresses in life, but they do not bring me happiness. Singing in front of 40,000 people was an incredible experience, but it did not bring me happiness.

The moments in my career that truly made an impact on me were the simple and small acts of sharing. It didn't come from selling out my concert, but from sharing the experience with hundreds of high schoolers who joined me on stage to sing "Live for Music." I remember looking behind me at a full choir of teens clapping and singing along--the expression on their faces said it all. They were in the moment, feeling the joy of the music, coming together with their peers, and sharing their light with all who came to watch them.

Sharing light makes everyone shine brighter. I learned this as I visited schools and showcased their top ensembles and soloists. Suddenly, my music took on a new purpose. I wasn't just singing to put the spotlight on me and prove to everyone how great of an artist I was. Now, it was about showcasing the talents of others and giving them center stage. It was about using music to bring people together--something the world desperately needs right now. Music breaks down barriers. It breaks the seal and opens doors once deemed shut for good. I witnessed firsthand how music brought together people of all types as they clapped and sang together, played together, held hands and danced together, and found that glimmer of light that shines even in the darkest of places.

Music brings me happiness, whether listening to it, singing it, or creating it; if it's all for the purpose of lifting others and bringing people together, that's where I'll find my joy.

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