I fell in love with Jon Batiste’s music these past few weeks, and I don’t know why it took me so long to find this artist. 

Batiste just cleaned house at the Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year for We Are. He’s also lead in the Stay Human, the house band for the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. When the band was forming, these Julliard graduates would descend on city streets around the country and incite what they called “love riots” — they’d basically start a New Orleans-style second-line parade and interact with people as they played their music for anyone who’d listen.

“What happened tonight is what we call a love riot,” said Batiste after one gathering in New York. “There’s love that’s spread between everybody through the music and it’s sort of like a riot because we stop the street.” 

Watch this short video of Batiste walking through Brooklyn, for example. Right at the end of this segment, he crosses paths with some strangers and a boy. I can’t get over how he simply stops and starts dancing with them. The music is an opportunity for connection, and Batiste just puts himself out there for anyone who’s willing to respond and step into his joy.

I keep thinking about this little exchange, partly because I’m from stolid, introverted, farmer folk and this kind of thing just feels otherworldly. But it’s fun to see. I like to think I’d step in behind them and dance and clap along.

Batiste is a musician who not only knows what he’s about — he’s quite obviously a master at his craft — but he also knows why he’s about it. He has built his life around relationship and connection and joy, and those values function like a motor inside his music. You can hear it. You can feel it. 

This is the dynamic we wanted to focus on this month with the stories we tell — how to find that “why” motor. We look in a lot of different directions, picking up some clues from Batiste and Wendell Berry and JRR Tolkien, but also a Grotto writer who is following a passion to fuse her faith with fashion. And there’s the ultimate witness to an uncompromising, unconventional “why”: St. Joan of Arc — our playlist at the end of the month will convey some of her courage. 

We hope these stories spark something inside you, too — please share with us what you’ve discovered as your “why” and how it drives you to something greater.

—Josh Noem
Senior Editor

Be in the know with Grotto