Give it Light

What is calling you?

What are you waiting for?

How many years will pass you by?

…Fifteen years ago, I was working in musical theatre, auditioning, performing, singing, dancing, and teaching.

And then I stopped.

I buckled down to pay the bills with an office job; I went back to school.

The years flew by, and one day I realized that my musical life was stored in a large heavy box, lodged behind stacks of other heavy boxes in the darkest corner of our basement.

And those Minimalists would tell me that, if I hadn’t opened the box in the last fifteen years, it was time to chuck that box into a dumpster.

Then, a few weeks ago, just beneath the duct tape stretched across the cardboard flaps labeled “my musical heart,” the box cracked open, beaming one small pinpoint of light.

A choir festival…

The invitation reminded me of my choir festivals from high school. There would be three days of intense rehearsal and then a concert on the fourth day.

A summer choir festival! It sounded like the perfect opportunity to see how I liked singing with a choir again—a short commitment, and, here was the key: no audition required.

I signed up.

And then I agonized over my decision.

My brain protested and thought of every reason why it was a bad idea: It was a full-weekend commitment, I wasn’t sure I remembered how to read music or harmonize, I wasn’t sure I even liked choir music, and, oh yeah—it had been fifteen long years since I had sung in public.

I had to talk myself through dread and anxiety right through the drive to the first rehearsal, walking into the building, and putting on my name tag.

I was barely coordinated enough to pry open the metal tab on my mustard-yellow packet of music—but whether or not I was ready, here I was.

The conductor got right down to business. We warmed up and quickly transitioned to learning our first piece of music.

…When I am nervous, my voice gets stuck in my throat and comes out as a muted squeak. I had to breathe deep and stay focused on the conductor and blending in with the people around me.

Luckily, my fellow altos were friendly and kind. Most of them had sung with the group before.

After the first rehearsal, I still wasn’t convinced that singing with a choir was the solution to my vocal nerves and distress. It was only my determination to meet my commitments that made me return for the second rehearsal.

And then…on the third day, my heart opened. I knew I had made the right decision.

It was the sound of rehearsal (my favorite sound!)—the sound of people singing, blending, and supporting each other—

It was the sound of the language of music—like traveling back to my homeland and reconnecting with family…familiar and heartwarming—

Pianissimo

Decrescendo

Eighth notes, quarter notes, and a sixteenth—

Breath

Phrasing

Rest

It took me three days to acknowledge that music is not only good for my soul, it is critical for my soul’s survival.

…The fourth day wasn’t any easier, though. It was Concert Day, and my hands were so sweaty, I spent most of my energy trying not to drop my binder…but I sang. I had learned the music better than I had expected. I harmonized, and I blended. For the first time in years, I felt part of something beautiful and transcendent.

***

…If there is something in your life that you want to try for the first time or try again, I encourage you to take the small step.

Push past the fear and dread—

Listen to the voice in your heart and give it light.

It is never too late.

This is What We Do

Last Saturday, January 21st, I walked in the Women’s March on Washington. It was an amazing, peaceful gathering of people, united in protest. We were 500,000+ women and men packed shoulder to shoulder. At one point, I couldn’t lift my arms because we were sandwiched together so closely. As someone who is not comfortable with crowds, I still felt like I was in a safe space.

Our fellow marchers had travelled all night from all over the country. I met people from Oregon, Texas, New York, Indiana, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

In addition to the signature pink pussy hats, there were many signs.

A guy walking behind me commented, “Wow, there’s so much angry creativity here.”

The day wasn’t about creativity, but it’s what we do— right? As artists, and simply as human, creative beings, we channel our anger, loss, heartbreak, love, hope, and experiences onto the page or canvas.

If we want to understand a society, we study their art.

SNL political spoofs remind me of Shakespeare’s satires and tragedies.

The knitting of the pink pussy hats (…and gigantic uterus shown here!) reminds me of quilting bees and how women have historically sewn their stories and messages into quilts.

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Some of my favorite moments from the day are as follows:

The song Quiet became a flash mob, sung around the world.

One group handed my friend a folded note. They were distributing various quotes of inspiration and freedom.

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There was a group from Savannah, Georgia carrying signs painted by artist Panhandle Slim. Each sign had a quote from a writer, poet, singer, artist, character, or public figure. Read more about this incredible artist and his story here.

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Whatever you are feeling right now, take time to immerse yourself in your art— express and articulate, breathe and heal. Wishing you peace, my friends.

My Favorite Sound

My Favorite Sound…is the sound of people singing together spontaneously.

A friend recently told me that when people sing together, they breathe together…and when they breathe together, their hearts beat together too.

It is the sound of my husband and I on a road trip, singing our favorite Beatles songs.

It is the sound from my teenage years. My friend T— and I went to an a cappella festival at Boston Common. We had started the day early so we could set our picnic blanket in a good spot. One of the a cappella groups led the audience in a 4-part harmony. Our voices filled the open air, blending and harmonizing- Amazing!

It is the sound of a van filled with women in the small tour I did many years ago. We were driving from one theatre to the next. We didn’t have GPS back then, and we were never lost. The radio wasn’t on. We were just singing…because life really was a musical back then.

It is the sound at a rock concert, when we’re all pounding our feet with the beat and singing Every. Single. Lyric. We feel connected to the band on stage, as if they wrote their songs just for us.

Arms stretch to the sky.

Hearts open.

Then, the band turns the microphone to the audience, and we rise up together. The entire stadium vibrates with THOUSANDS of voices singing the same words and the same melody.

Our hearts beat together in one melody.

 


Afterthoughts: I spent a lot of time on YouTube searching for the perfect clip that captured the joy I was trying to express. I suppose it depends on the music that moves me, which may be different than the music that moves you.

Also, there are flash mobs that have provided some of this beauty over the last few years. -For me, spontaneous singing brings the magic to an even higher level. I feel it in my heart- pure magic, pure joy, and hope for humanity.

My favorite sound is this.

This…

…and so much more. We need more singing in this world.

Wishing you peace, my friends.

 

 

Hamilton’s America

Who watched PBS’s Great Performances documentary Hamilton’s America on Friday? If you missed it, you can still stream it from the PBS.org website for a few more weeks. Thank you, PBS!

There was some great footage from the show and interviews too. It was interesting to see how it all started with one song— and how the musical built momentum. It became something Lin-Manuel Miranda had to write.

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I couldn’t get enough of the show clips. They also showed us Lin-Manuel in the composing stage of My Shot. As he was envisioning the scene, we were shown the intense creative process that goes into his work. I loved seeing how he pieced together his ideas, leaving himself open to inspiration, and then how it all came together on stage.

One of my favorite moments was the conversation between Lin-Manuel Miranda, Stephen Sondheim, and John Weidman about research, artistic expression, and collaboration. We also got a peak of Lin-Manuel working “Cabinet Meetings” with his composing team.

Just awesome.

What’s next besides playing this documentary and the sound track repeatedly? I must get tickets to this show!

Have you marked your calendar?

Like most people, I still haven’t made it to New York to see the musical Hamilton. I’m just burning through the soundtrack until I can see it in person.

Lucky for us, PBS is airing their documentary, Hamilton’s America, on October 21st.

Just two weeks from today! I know I’m not the only one counting down the days!

I watched Lin-Manuel Miranda’s interview with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, and he said they have footage from the early days of Hamilton, when he was writing frantically, and before they knew what the musical was going to be.

Why do you write like you’re running out of time? –Hamilton, An American Musical

I can’t wait to see how it all came together. In the meantime, check out highlights from his talk at the Broadway Teachers Workshop as written by Howard Sherman.

Lin-Manuel is a great example of a creative soul who has followed his inspiration wholeheartedly. It is interesting to read how he got started. He even talks about creativity and mixed tapes. YES!

Starting Again

I was a theatre major in college, and my main love was musical theatre. I had some success early in my career: summer stock, regional theatre, and a small East Coast tour. The full time jobs were a dream for me, and summer stock was the best training. We’d start rehearsal at 9 a.m. for one show, and we’d perform another show at night. With the children’s theatre or a matinee, we’d perform over eight shows a week. Performing on stage became second nature to me.

I got married in my late twenties, and as I settled down with a full time corporate job, my theatre career fizzled out. The years blurred by, and one day I realized that, not only had I not performed on stage in several years, but the idea filled my chest with dread.

My family used to ask me to sing for them at the holidays, but with my new stage fright, I couldn’t breathe. My knees would shake, and my voice would stick in my throat.

By my late thirties, I found I was mourning a career and a love I hadn’t planned to leave behind.

When I was a young, struggling actress, I had read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The quote that stuck with me was as follows:

“But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/paint/write a decent play?”

Yes…the same age you will be if you don’t.

So let’s start.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

 

This quote stayed with me fifteen years later. I needed to start again. I didn’t know what it meant, but even though it had been several years, I couldn’t give up that part of my life permanently. Continue reading

Music

Music can set the mood and change our energy. It can unite a room of people. One of my favorite sounds is a stadium full of people singing together at a rock concert. The moment feels spiritual to me. I can feel the connection to thousands of people, the vibration of sound filling the space, and the light beaming from everyone’s hearts.

We all have certain songs or genres that speak to us. The beat moves us and a unique melody will catch our ear. The right lyric expresses exactly what we’re feeling.

I listen to classical music while I work. Simple, classical piano keeps me focused.

When I hit the gym, powerful, upbeat songs fuel my workouts.

Music-Listen

If you’re looking for some musical inspiration, here are some fun ways to bring music into your life: Continue reading