Seeking Discomfort: Peter Katz

Being vulnerable means stepping out of your comfort zone and putting yourself in a position where you cannot control the outcome. If Peter Katz did not push himself to seek discomfort, his life would be drastically different than it is today.

Peter was once a shy open-mic performer and is now a JUNO-nominated musician and storyteller. He started off our Arts Week by speaking about his life journey and incorporating music into his performance.

When Peter was young, he would sit in his bedroom, write songs and teach himself how to play guitar. He knew that he wanted to take these songs and perform them for people, but in order to do that, he had to be vulnerable.

The voice inside his head that kept telling him “you shouldn’t do this” got quieter and quieter, and he ultimately forced himself to perform at his first-ever open mic. Peter described this first moment as “far from magical” - he was nervous, shaking and sweating uncontrollably. “There are so many little things that can go wrong, like forgetting the lyrics or going out of tune,” said Peter. “But there are also bigger things that can go wrong, like no one enjoying my songs.”

Peter knew that if he felt that vulnerable, it meant that he really cared about what he was doing.

Throughout the years, music had helped him deal with hard times. He continued to play at open mics, eventually finding himself attending four open mic nights a week in university.

One day, one of his teachers asked him to write a song for a play he was performing in called The Laramie Project. This play is based on the story of Matthew Shepard, who was beaten to death in Laramie, Wyoming, because he was gay. Peter knew this was an extremely emotional and vulnerable opportunity, but he did it anyway. Peter wrote a song called “The Fence” and continues to share Matthew’s story with the world. Greenwood had good fortune to hear him perform this song live.

After this experience, Peter’s teacher told him he should be a singer-songwriter for a living. This teacher was special to Peter, so he took what she said to heart and continued to pursue his passion.

One of Peter’s musical heroes is Glen Hansard, a well-known Irish singer-songwriter. At one of Glen’s shows, Peter plucked up the courage to hand Glen his recent album. He didn’t expect anything from Glen but was relieved to at least give it a shot.

A couple of years later, Peter decided to get a front-row ticket to another of Glen’s concerts. Mid-concert Glen spoke into the microphone and said, “Peter Katz, your album is incredible. Why don’t you come on stage and play us a song?” Peter was stunned, but he went up and performed in front of everyone.

Since then, Peter has gone on to play over 150 shows a year all over the world. Not only does he write his own music and perform, but he also tells his story to inspire people to chase their dreams.

“I went from playing songs to no one to playing in front of thousands of people all over the world,” he said.

After his inspiring performance, he left the students with the question: “What is on the other side of your discomfort?” We hope Peter’s talk encouraged our students to drive their dreams, and to not let nerves or fear of failure get in the way of amazing life experiences.
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