Mike Janowski: Do you know anyone?


“That was fun,” said Terry White at Friendly Tap after our November 15, 2019 Haiku Milieu show. “When are you going to do this whole Haiku Milieu concert thing again?” “Oh God, Terry, “ I said. “Maybe never. I would need a really good reason.” 

And then for no reason at all, I said, “Do you know anyone who does video work who could help me get a bunch of the Haiku Milieu songs David Sameshima recorded up on YouTube?” He looked at me a second, and said, “You know what, I think I might.” 

Fast forward to December, and I met Mike Janowski. We didn’t get down to work that month, because that is my birthday month (we celebrate someone else’s birthday too that month…right? Who again?) so it gets busy. 

Turns out Mike and I have a lot in common. We share common friends; a common employer, former for him, current for me; a love of getting the details right, and rehearsing. 

He agreed to edit the 40-some videos of singers who had written songs for Haiku Milieu, so we could launch the YouTube channel on April 24 with the Haiku Milieu: Collaboration edition concert. Meanwhile. I had some ideas of how the videos would go: haiku/photo first, then the words of the haiku, then the name of the performer, then the song, then the credits. 

From the very start, Mike was a great collaborator, straightforward and kind, with a keen artistic horse sense. He said the multiple fonts, the one on the photo and the different one we were using for everything else, was distracting. It kicked you out of the video, he said, before the song even started. And, his own feeling was that the haiku did not need to be in print right after the photo. 

Hmmm. Really? 

As a quick double-check, I threw this out to a few people who never let me down taste-wise: Robin Bienemann, my daughter Jessica G. Smith, and my friend Ron Lazzeretti. They all agreed with Mike. Let the record reflect I chose the path outlined by my betters. Now the videos open cleanly, with the haiku, the artist name, the video, followed by the credits, and the photo/haiku at the very end. 

So Mike did the number one thing any collaborator must do: come to the table with your artistry and your horse sense. You could almost stop there. 

But the fact is, putting videos together is intense. I built the title cards for each artists’ name, for the haiku they chose, and the credits; I found the photo/haiku for each, and put together a spreadsheet of the artist name and the haiku they chose. Then I felt like I ran a marathon and deserved a medal. 

His part was exponentially more. 

Mike watched all the videos, edited the heads and tails multiple times, and optimized the sound. You would never know there was ever a choppy beginning, ending, or mistake, or that someone dropped a word, because of him. Then he uploaded them all and sent them to me, TWICE. He sent me 2 full drafts – TWO FULL DRAFTS of 40+ videos — TWICE. Herculean. 

And there you have the number two thing any collaborator must do: do the thing you do, to the absolute limit. 

Everything else, from a collaboration perspective, is gravy. And Mike’s gravy happens to be especially delicious. 

I pitched him an idea. Since we were not going to be able to gather in person on April 24, what if we turned the show into a Virtu-Haiku Milieu, and premiered the new songs via video, live on Zoom? 

Not only did he say YES to figuring out how to build the videos between April 10 and April 24, he organized a test run with three friends, Bob Ness, David T. Kindler and me, this past Sunday afternoon. 

I didn’t even ask him to do this – he just wanted to get out in front of it and figure out how to make it work! 

So, dear reader, I feel like I am getting a lesson in collaboration even as we speak, due to this project, and my new friend, Mike Janowski. 

I hope you can join us on Friday, April 24 at 8:00 pm for the Virtu-Haiku Milieu: Collaboration. In the coming days, we’ll share further details.

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