All posts filed under: Life

Signs, Guides, and Flow

I really had no clue what I wanted to write about this month, until a sudden epiphany yesterday at choral rehearsal, which occurred during a short verbal exchange, that caused me to think deeper about processes I use to navigate my life now. One of the basses was asked to conduct a piece “rubato” (“out of time“) and we began to sing, but, unfortunately, one choral section was reading the music–not watching the conductor. They were not in synch with the rest of the group. I tried to get their attention with my arms, wildly pointing at him (because, I thought, “Maybe they don’t know we are supposed to be following him.“) But they did not see me at all, so I gave up and just sang along until the song was over. I glanced at the conductor and we exchanged a mutual shoulder-shrug, because it was what it was. What can you do? Overall, it wasn’t really a big deal, just a rehearsal moment, but I really longed for us to be a cohesive …

Moments of Silence

Silence can be the loudest sound in the world, especially if you are longing to hear the next note, the next phrase, the next part of the story. And…“Silence is PART of the SONG!” (Dr. Barry Harris shouted this pearl of wisdom at his classroom full of singers a couple of weeks ago.) It is such a simple thing to remember. So true! I saw a similar thought attributed to Thelonious Monk. He is recorded as saying, “Don’t play EVERYTHING (or every time); let some things GO BY. Some music [is] just IMAGINED. What you DON’T play can be more important than what you DO play.” A few years ago I touched on this idea in an introductory verse I wrote for my song, “I Lied to Myself”. It begins, “There’s a limbo in this world where the silence is so loud….” This phrase was my attempt to capture in words the desire to hear someone speak to me again, and that feeling you get deep in your heart when you miss the sound of …

Roman Moments (I Never Knew)

I am back in New York now after a particularly poignant Barry Harris Jazz Workshop in Rome. It was really special being there with so many people that love jazz, Barry, and maybe even me a little too. At one point I was overcome with emotion as I looked around the room and realized I knew almost everyone by name and that some of the dearest people to me were there. People I truly love and cannot imagine living without. At a casual “picnic” dinner a couple of days later I mentioned this epiphany to Barry and I thanked him for bringing so much joy and love into my life. After we finished eating he asked us to sing and I did an a capella rendition of one of Lester Young’s solos on “I Never Knew” – not as fast as Lester blows it out, but fast enough (I include my lyrics below). I had joked with Barry earlier in the week that Lester was my new boyfriend as I had spent every evening with …

88 Keys + 88 Years = Barry Harris

Dr. Barry Doyle Harris will be 88-years old next week. Born on December 15, 1929, he has lived one year for each one of the 88 keys on the piano, his musical vehicle—a vehicle that he uses to transport his listeners to jazz paradise. I will let others expound on his theoretical genius, or explain mathematically why his scales and harmonies are so exquisite. I will instead share a glimmer of what has happened in my world since Barry came into my life. I will start this story in the summer of 2008, when I was still studying jazz vocals with Ulysses Slaughter. A friend from the Jazz Foundation of America’s Monday night jam sessions, pianist Richard Clements, invited me to attend the memorial of a dancer being held at “University of the Streets” in the East Village. At the memorial, Richard was playing a beautiful white grand piano, and at a certain point in the program Barry came on the stage area and sang a song that he wrote to commemorate the lives of …

Childhood, Mindfulness, & Avocados

You might think my title for this month’s post is a strange trio of words, and I agree, but there are threads to tie them together–observation, reflection, and trees. For childhood is where I learned many ways to express my creative soul, when I first learned to explore the idea of mindfulness by observing a single tree. As an adult, I spent a few hours in a large grove of trees, observing the heavy dark green avocados swaying in a light breeze over my head. They were beautiful ornaments hanging under a shady canopy of leaves, fully protected from the desert sun above (that eventually burned my cheeks a bright red.) Years later when I heard a song that had the words “avocado tree” included in a rough translation of the original Portugese, I was reminded of those beautiful trees and that wonderful day. I reflected on the spiritual tranquility I experienced while walking alone there, and I was inspired to write a new set of lyrics in English which also speak to the practice …

London Falling

“Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved?” that is the quote* I blurted last month when I finally arrived at a friend’s house in London and greeted my musical mentor with a kiss on each of his cheeks. I was so relieved to finally get there! It was truly a miracle as I could barely walk. I had fractured my left ankle in an unexpected tumble less than an hour before. Yes indeed, I had fallen on some steps made slippery by the afternoon rain. I landed flat on my face. I don’t remember falling; no slow-motion-mind-racing moments to make corrections, no attempts to avoid the inevitable collision with the pavement. I did not hear any inner thoughts of, “Oh no! I am going to fall!” All I knew, all I felt, was the impact. I lay there thinking simply, “REALLY? … REALLY? …” Had I traveled across an ocean only to land on my face? I wanted to just lay there. I did NOT want to move. I wanted …

Small Beginnings

I have been called a “trouble-shooter” and a “self-starter” which in American business terminology are ways of saying that: I look for problems before they happen (or as they begin to occur), and I remedy them. And, I don’t need a lot of external management; I can usually determine on my own when to start working on a project, how the work should flow, and other factors to get the desired result. These are two recognized qualities in adults, especially in a business/work environment, and it occurred to me recently that these character traits have evolved since I was a baby. I wondered…Did curiosity and my love of patterns turn into an ability to recognize glitches and irregularities? Was I born with a natural tendency to study things on my own and to transform this internal “timetable” into a creative discipline? It is so easy to remember all the difficulties I have faced, but today, as I sit here pondering various discoveries and experiences I had as a child, this mini-revelation has filled my mind …

Random Things About Me

So, hello, hi there! Here is something a little unexpected, a summer “fluff” post that you will hopefully find entertaining and maybe even educational about what memories are stored in my mind. It is a list of 16 random things about me. They are in no particular order, *smile*. 1. When I worked in a corporate setting, at approximately 3 PM, almost every day, I hiccuped.  Usually just one, and then it was over.  I have no idea why.  At the office, a colleague who sat next to me always noted the time and commented on how close to 3 PM I was. (Since I began telecommuting a few years ago, the 3 PM hiccup is no more. I still hiccup now and then, but not on a strict schedule.) 2. My favorite TV program is Eastenders. “Trials and tribulations impact lives in a close-knit community in London’s East End”  I love it!  I have been watching it since 1987.  I found it on a UHF channel before I had cable – it was one of the few things I …

Roses in Rome

Ah, yes, this photo is my first red rose of Rome, I refused it at least 3 times, yet, still, my friend bought it for me anyway. The vendor stood close to us, hovering over our dinner table at a local family-run restaurant. I had never experienced that before, salesmen coming inside a restaurant with bundles of flowers for sale. Of course, I thanked my friend, but at first I secretly wished he had not given it to me; I started to stress a little.  We had only just met, why did he want to buy me a flower? How would I keep it from wilting while we ate? Where would I keep it in my little B&B room? So many stupid worries that never came about. It did not wilt as I had feared and I ultimately found a good place to display it in my room, in a drinking glass on top of a little black counter-top. It stood there, perky, all week, next to a TV I watched for about 15 minutes one day. (I …

Journey of Imagination

To celebrate its 100th birthday in 2011, The New York Public Library hosted “Find the Future” which included an amazing exhibition of artifacts at their 42nd Street building, a really cool interactive event (a overnight scavenger hunt in the library for a lucky few), and corresponding online game. One of the aspects of the online game was to respond to writing prompts and then entries would be read and commented on by other “players”. In response to one of the prompts I wrote “My Worldwide Creative Journey: to visit, see, absorb, learn, and/or sing!” I have updated and changed the piece a few times in the years since I first drafted it, and I still enjoy the idea of it, this imagined journey; it reminds me of all the wonderful opportunities I still have to explore this planet. I find there is nothing like a change of venue to spark my creativity and to move me into a more “in the moment” mindset. I detach from my expectations and learn to enjoy what is right in front of me. Yes, before I go on …