Friday, November 30, 2012

A rose is a rose is a rose

How I love roses. Today I was feeling tired but drove out to a nursing home out in Crozet and sang with a group out at the nursing home there. They were so lively and animated and into it that I forgot all about being tired. They helped me so much. That is what some people don't understand. They think I am nice for doing what I do but in reality--the people I see and sing with help me! It is a two way street. I need them, they need me. Together, we help each other to remember the good things in life.

I was given this bouquet of roses by the activities director today from all of the residents and I was so touched. I am so happy that every day I can do something I love and they love me in return. We all benefit. That's the way the world should be, I think. What about you?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Just another day

I'm enjoying the holiday spirit already in the air.  I especially love the decorations and lights. I have been polishing up my Christmas songs. I am very pleased that I decided to not go away for Christmas and instead, I will be playing at some nursing homes on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. One of them put on her calendar, "Blue Christmas" --ha ha. Yes, I know that song and I play it on my dulcimer.

Tonight I was playing at another nursing home and encountered a daughter of one of the residents. I said something about being happy for it being the holiday season and she said about Christmas, "it's just another day!" and walked away.   I said we should try to feel this way all the time, not just on one day.  And she replied, "it's still just the same day!"

But I don't feel that way. Look at the picture above and what you cant' see are all the names of the residents on the stockings. Some of them will not even know their own name is up there but that is what the staff does at these places.

Some nursing homes I believe the staff buy things for the residents out of their own money.  This is what I see in my work. It makes me feel that Christmas is not just another day, but an attitude, a spirit to cultivate. I am getting there, how about you?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sweetest are shortest

Have you ever noticed that the sweetest and prettiest songs are the shortest? Songs like, "Let me Call you Sweetheart" for instance.  On the other hand, the funny songs like 'Clementine" go on and on.  I never thought about it before but today when I was singing at Gordon House I noticed this and mentioned it. 

I loved singing with the group (seniors) today.   First we sang old songs we learned in school, "Oh Susana", "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad", "Down by the Riverside" and then we did some songs from old movies, "Side by Side",  "Cheek to Cheek", we even did a few old hymns. But no songs went over better than the patriotic ones.

We ended our session with, "God Bless America" and one gentleman stood up and most of the others had their hand on their  heart as we sang.  Goosebumps! They make me feel the importance of how these songs bring us together.

After we finished, I was treated to several hugs, handshakes and one woman came back after shaking my hand and kissed me on the cheek.

Who knew that such simple songs could bring so much love and hope?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Where words fail...

Music reaches in. Today's experiences at the hospital were so uplifting. I started out in the Cardiac Transition Unit (CTU) and was introduced to a man who teaches guitar. He stood behind me for awhile and listened. I play in the hallways there so that as many patients as possible hear the music. He was very appreciative!

Then I had a request to go play for a young man who has a guitar in his room. The nurse thought he'd appreciate me playing for him. When I first entered the room, he seemed very down and withdrawn.  Then I got out my guitar and played for him the piece that inspired me to start playing the guitar which is Classical Gas.  It evolved into him and I jamming which was a lot of fun! I asked him what chords he'd like for me to play and he showed me a few of his favorite progressions and he played a lead to my chords. In all the years I've been playing at the hospital, this was a first time doing something like this.

By the time I left, the color in his face had come back and he was smiling and in good spirits. We didn't talk much but as I said.. when words fail....

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A day in the life...

Do you wonder what things go on when I am not working? Well, first of all, I am always working! :) But maybe not on a job site but at home. Above is a picture of my music stand that shows a few things I'm working on.  The list includes:

  • holiday music
  • studying songwriting books for my songwriting classes coming up in Jan.
  • arpeggio studies to keep my technique up
  • new music to keep learning and growing
  • new compositions & repertoire
Yesterday I drove to Winchester, VA to video tape a PBS show called Aux Send which will be aired in March 2013.

Next week a new song, "Winter's Friend" will be released on a holiday compilation CD and distributed to folk radio stations all over.

I enjoy the work involved with being a musician. I love the challenges of always working to improve my skills to be able to reach more people.
Thanks for coming by and check my website for more info if you want!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Q: What language are you speaking?

A: Music

Played at a nursing home today and as I was singing someone interrupted in the middle of a song and asked me, "what language are you speaking?" where are you from? " (with a critical tone of voice and unpleasant facial expression).
I should have said, "I am speaking Music: the Universal language--try it!"

She was being critical earlier saying I was singing too high for them and other things. Most of my stories and experiences are very positive but once in awhile something like this happens. 

Everyone's voice is like a snowflake, unique and different. But sometimes it seems people want a voice to sound a certain way. I think embracing our own uniqueness is important.

Don't let anyone tell you that you can't sing!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Christmas is not just one day

Ok I know it is not even Thanksgiving yet but today the group I sang with wanted to sing Christmas carols.  I was reminded of something an elderly neighbor friend used to say to me, "Christmas is not just one day!"

Today's group is very special to me, they have special needs and are all very unique. What often happens when singing with them is we have several train wrecks and times of confusion. Times when some are singing another song or something else is going on in the room and things get chaotic. It was getting like this and for a moment I had to catch my breath (and turn down my hearing aid :) to get through it.

But then something magical happened and it's these moments that I live for. What happened was at one point I asked the group if anyone wanted to sing a song. Then one girl who is usually very shy (at least when I am around) said, "I do!" and she jumped out of her chair and walked to the front of the room and started singing, "Jingle Bells".  After that, several of them came to the front of the room and we featured them as a soloist who led a Christmas song.

This is why I love Christmas. It brings out such joy to these people. They are already talking about Santa coming to town and our party we will have in a few weeks.  It really made my day to see them so happy and to sing with them.

When we were done singing one of them said, "I love you". Another walked me to the door and before I could leave she said, " Wait, I have to do something to you" and reached out and hugged me. My old neighbor was right, Christmas is not just one day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Going with the flow

Remember that song, "If I had a Hammer"? It's one I've been singing with groups lately. Yesterday I sang it with the group at Post High and this is the song that inspired one of the girls to get up and start dancing. A few other kids then followed and then I stood up and danced a bit too all the while still playing my guitar and singing. Once that song finished,  I started singing, "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley and we kept dancing and laughing.   After we sang and danced a bit, the same girl who was dancing started singing that old song by Queen, "We will Rock you!"That made us laugh all the more.

This is what I love about doing music with people. If I just get out of the way and let things happen, some of the  best memories are created.  Sometimes I find it challenging to work with a group dynamic.  There is no telling what song will strike a chord or what song will be a dud. I am always surprised and always learning!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How singing transforms the moment

Each Wednesday evening I play music in the hallways over at a nursing home as the residents are getting ready for bed. The music helps them relax during what appears to be an anxious time for many of them. I usually play more instrumental music but tonight I decided to sing more with them and see what happened.

 One woman I have seen each week  but she is always sitting off near the nursing station and trying to get out of her wheelchair and always in a state of intense discomfort and anxiety. I never tried to reach out to her because it didn't seem to me that she was aware of her surroundings or that she could understand conversations, etc.

Tonight one of the nurses pushed her in her chair near me and told her to listen to the music. I then started to sing to her, "You are My Sunshine" and to our amazement, she stopped struggling and started singing with me.  We must have sang about 9 or 10 songs after that.  Finally, with great difficultly, she slowly started to talk to me.  I found out she is also from Chicago and she was a teacher for preschool children.  I was amazed to meet the person behind the face that never looked responsive for all these months. It was as if the music brought her to life and made her remember who she is. I was so moved by this experience and blown away by how singing a song can transform a mood of anxiety or fear or confusion.  I have known this but each time it happens with someone new, I am blown away all over again.

When I went to leave, Mary didn't want me to go. She looked as though she might cry but one of the nurses said she would sit with her and so Mary said it would be alright for me to come back next week and sing some more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

God Bless America

Today is election day and after voting I went to sing with the folks at Mary Williams Center.   We sang some funny songs and old songs and since it is election day, I decided to sing some patriotic songs.  For years I sang these songs and they never drew an emotion from me. Lately though when  I have sung them with seniors and as they tear up, I can feel that these songs represent something that is important. Something that feels lost right now.  We are such a divided nation.

As we sang, "God Bless America", Rosie began to cry. This is a side I've never seen of her. She is the most animated singer I have ever known. She always sings with gusto and acts out the songs and laughs after each one. But not this time. She cried and said, "I'm so far away from home. This means so much to me. Please keep coming back.  I always love to sing when you are here, it brings us all together."

So when I feel helpless to change the things going on in the big world out there, I do feel better that today one person was moved by the songs we sang together.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A fine jam was had by us!

Ok remember a few weeks ago when I told you about the man who came to my sing along towards the end carrying a guitar? and how he surprised me with how well he could play? Well, this time I got his picture. I was to arrive today at 3:30 but I was told when Ed learned I was coming, he got out his guitar and was waiting by the door for me since 2:30! Here is where and how I found him.

And we did have a fun time jamming today. We played "I saw the Light", "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain", "You Are My Sunshine" and all sorts of other songs. I was a good time.