"Copying is the greatest form of flattery . . . until it happens to you."
I'll never forget those words. They were spoken to me by artist Robert Olson. It was 1994.
We were officing in downtown Wayzata. Unlike today, CDs were selling in retail stores like crazy. Lorie Line Music had six employees in our little building. We had a full-time guy in our office whose sole responsibility was to pack and ship orders every day. Parking was (and still is) hard to come by in this little town, but luckily for us, we owned our own parking lot that butted up to the building. All six spots were taken every day from our employees, Tim and me.
We noticed there was an attractive (and very fashionable) woman who had started parking in our private lot every day. She worked across the street and would comfortably pull up, park, and jump out and run across the street to work in the neighboring building. Well, one day I decided I would go out and politely ask her not to park in our lot as we needed all of the spaces. It's amazing, but this small conversation in the Lorie Line Music parking lot turned into a lovely 23-year friendship. Meet Jeanne Jackson.
"Aren't you Lorie Line?" Jeanne was working for Robert Olson, an amazing artist who specialized in painting women, most often with instruments. He was very popular, in his heyday, and was getting ready to release another new painting, I believe called Mother and Child. Jeanne was the event planner and asked if I would play for the unveiling of the painting. It was going to be held at Tour de France world champion bicyclist Greg Lemond's home.
Sure enough, next thing I know I am in the living room at Greg Lemond's house playing the piano. Robert's large painting was draped in black and sat on an easel next to me. I remember that I wore a pretty black party dress that night.
Jeanne was running around, doing her thing and from the piano bench I took in all the excitement from the room. There, off to the side was the handsome and highly successful artist of the evening. He had sandy blonde shoulder-length whispy hair and a scruffy beard. I think he wore jeans and a sport coat that night. Robert was truly charming, greeting all the guests with a timid smile on his face. You could tell that he was super proud. We made eyes several times that evening and I knew we would become great friends.
While I was playing, Greg Lemond sat down next to me (and almost knocked me over on the bench). "Hi! I'm Greg!" Now . . . Greg has a very fun, loud, and extremely confident personality. Tons of energy. (His personality explains why he has been so successful.) I tried to be cute, and in my own way, I said, "ya know, I think I knew that. Actually, Greg, I've known you for years . . . but you don't know me. You'll never believe this, but I know you grew up in Reno. Well, so did I. You went to Wooster High School, I went to Hug High School. We're a couple of years apart, but I've followed you for years, since you were a teenager riding your bike in Washoe Valley. And, what's weird about our story is that . . . here we are . . . we both ended up in Minnesota! And to make our world even smaller, our daughters are in kindergarten together in the same classroom. They're friends."
I don't think Greg gets knocked over too easily. But I knocked him over that night.
The evening was lovely. So memorable. The painting was a hit for Robert. And suddenly Tim and I were friends with this whole new group of people . . . Jeanne Jackson (and her boyfriend Dario Anselmo), Robert and Nancy Olson, and Greg and Kathy Lemond.
Young super entrepreneuers. All inventors. Creating their own path.
I don't know what it was about the times, but we did so much more socially. We were in our early 30s. Everyone had kids (but Dario and Jeanne), super busy careers, and somehow we were always ready at the drop of a hat to host (or attend) a dinner party. For a few years, we all took turns and went to each other's houses. It was a magical time.
The night that Robert and Nancy hosted dinner at their home/studio, both Tim and I felt like we had died and gone to heaven. It's hard to create the visual picture, but when you walked through the front door you were suddenly in Italy in an amazing art gallery. His vestibule had floor-to-ceiling paintings (and you loved all of them) that took you around the corner into the huge main art living room studio where Robert worked and painted every day. His home was rustic with open beams, high ceilings and intimate vignettes with beautiful paintings of naked women on several walls. That night, for dinner he set up a large dining room table in the middle of the room (with candlelight). Typically this main room was fairly empty, all open to be able to move around props, tables, and special lighting . . . but this night it was special, just for us. If you went upstairs, there was an open loft that hosted the coffee bar. If you went downstairs, you were in his European kitchen. Their master suite was off to the side. I'd never seen anything so creative in my life and when we went home at 2:00 in the morning, Tim and I laid in bed until the sun came up. We couldn't sleep. It was the first time we remember having a new dream. We would build a new home.
Robert always liked hanging out with me. He was personally proud of me. He knew I was onto something big. Thinking differently. Whenever this group got together, he always got me off to the side and made sure to connect in a meaningful and heartfelt way. But I could see he was troubled. Competition was hitting him hard. It bothered him. Everyone was copying his paintings and although I felt pianists were out there trying to do what I was doing, I wasn't experiencing the mental fatigue that he was going through. He was truly in agony trying to stay ahead of all the "copiers." I'd encourage him, tell him he was unique. Better than all the rest. The copiers will push you into something new that only you can do. Keep going. You'll find your way.
The next year we hired Robert to paint an original of Kendall and me at the piano. We were doing a PBS special and needed a beautiful piece for the cover. Why not hire Robert? And so, after many hours of sitting still at the piano with a 5-year old, Heart and Soul was created.
Shortly after the PBS special, fans started asking me to publish my music. They wanted to play it "just like me." In other words, when you really think about it. . . copy my creative work. My "inventions" . . . that made me unique, one-of-a-kind. Yikes. I remember at first having some reservation (thinking of Robert's words.) Are any pianists doing this? Not really. I'm going to walk into Nordstrom and hear someone playing MY music. I'll be sitting in church and someone will play MY arrangement of a hymn. Will I like that? Hmmmm.
I thought about it alot and decided I would just try it. I decided I would jump in, that what I had was unique, never mine from the beginning anyway, given to me as a gift from God. I was being pushed into something new. Like my words to Robert, I would find my way.
The first piece of music I published was Threads of Love. I woke up and overnight we had invented a whole new business wing at Lorie Line Music. Piano playing fans wanted it! Hurray! And it was the beginning of something fabulous. "Recording artist" Lorie Line was now "published artist" Lorie Line.
Today I simply love it when I hear my music being played by another pianist.
For me, it truly is . . . the greatest form of flattery.
Robert Olson's original painting Heart and Soul hangs in the entrance of Tim and Lorie's home today (photo featured above with Lorie 23 years later).
To this day, the publishing wing is the most profitable area of business at Lorie Line Music, having over 50 books of published music.
Tim and Lorie bought property and built their dream home on Lake Minnetonka. They moved in two years after meeting Robert Olson, on Christmas Eve 1996. They have resided there 22 years.
Jeanne Jackson married Dario Anselmo (who is now Minnesota Congressman Anselmo). She continues to be an event planner, florist and decorator. They have three teenagers. The Lines and Anselmos are friends to this day.
Greg and Kathy are selling their Minnesota home. They are moving to Tennessee.
Robert and Nancy divorced. Tim and Lorie saw Nancy a couple years ago in a coffee shop outside of town. She had remarried.
Sadly, Robert stopped painting. No one has seen him in years. He is truly missed.