Tag Archives: Singing

To those who taught me to dream.

2 Jul

When I was little, I wanted nothing more than to be a ballerina. Around Christmastime, my grandmother would take me to see The Nutcracker at the Koger Center. As I sat up in the balcony in my checkered dress and patent leather shoes, I stared with admiration at the character of Clara. I imagined myself twirling around in my own leotard with a toy nutcracker in my hands, lost in the music and a dance that was all my own. When I got home from seeing The Nutcracker, I’d put on my leotard and tutu, grab a favorite stuffed animal at the time, and twirl in circles to the music only I could hear.

It was in those moments, in the safety of my childhood bedroom, that I began to dream, imagining doing things I knew I wouldn’t be able to do in reality due to my disability. I imagined dancing with a grace I had seen only in ballerinas. I put on my ballet shoes and twirled until my unstable balance got the best of me and I fell to the floor in frustration. I even remember asking my parents if I could take ballet lessons, determined to learn how to create the beauty I had seen in the character of Clara. The opportunity never arose though, simply because I didn’t have the balance to be a ballerina. Despite walking on my tiptoes, twirling around in circles on those same tiptoes was out of the question.

As I got older and I filled my head with more realistic dreams, I never stopped imagining doing the things I’d never be able to fully experience. I thought of dancing to the music of my world. I imagined running down the street and feeling the wind on my face as I chased the orange and red sunset I saw in the distance. I pictured myself climbing the huge oak tree in my backyard, wanting nothing more than to find a sturdy limb I could sit on so I could rest my back against the tree’s broad trunk and escape into my favorite book. The creative imagination I possessed placed me right into the worlds I dreamed, though I knew I was so far away from actually experiencing them.

I am forever grateful to the people throughout my life who have encouraged my imagination and dreams. Though I was constantly reminded by other kids around me of the things I was unable to do, so many of the adult figures in my life understood the importance of believing in my creativity. Because of those individuals, I have learned what it means to still hope and strive for the things that still seem a bit out of reach. Through my ability to dream, I developed a determination that has propelled me through my life, despite stumbling again and again. While I may not have had the chance to be a ballerina who twirls endlessly with the grace of a perfect melody, I have sung my heart out at a voice recital, capturing an entire room with the simple sound of my voice. I have participated in theatre productions, achieving my moment in the spotlight by being Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz. I have written of specific moments of pain during the months following intense operations, creating the same tears in the eyes of my readers that I possessed during my moments of defeat. Though I may not have had the chance to live the experiences I longed for, I have continued to move to the song of my own life, continuously grateful to those who taught me to dream and create my own destiny.

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The similarities between music and writing.

4 Oct

Last night, my friend Olive and I went to see a band called First Aid Kit perform at the Orange Peel, a popular, but small live music venue in downtown Asheville. First Aid Kit is “a Swedish folk duo composed of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, whose close vocal harmonies and woodsy, folk-influenced songwriting take influence from the likes of Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom.”

I first recognized the connection between music and writing when First Aid Kit played their song, “Emmylou.” Take a look at the chorus of the song:

I’ll be your Emmylou and I’ll be your June
If you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny too
No, I’m not asking much of you
Just sing little darling, sing with me

Even though this song specifically refers to singing, I feel like it can apply to writing as well. The great thing about singing (and writing) is that even though it can be a one-person job, the pure joy in it is found when it’s shared with others. Yes, the majority of the time when I write, I write for me. I used to sing as well, and when I did so, it was mainly due to the fact that it made me happy. However, how lonely would writing be (and singing for that matter) if we weren’t able to touch people with our words and music? In my opinion, it wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding. Yes, it is an incredible feeling when I’m able to write out a specific memory and know that simply writing it out has brought me a sense of comfort that wasn’t there before. However, I don’t think I would be able to push through my writing ruts and my bad writing days if it weren’t for the people who were supporting me and encouraging me to keep on writing. I feel like it’s very similar in terms of singing. After all, when you go to concerts, you always hear the musicians constantly thanking their listeners for their love and support. I have no doubt that in their minds, they wouldn’t have been able to push through the hard days of songwriting without the support and love from their fans.

Though there were so many years that I wrote simply for me and me alone, that focus has definitely shifted over the last year. Even though I still do write for myself due to the fact that it’s incredibly therapeutic, I also write in order to impact others with my words. I write to share my story. However, I share my story because I want it to help others: others with CP, others who want a window into what CP is like (like the parents and friends of kids with CP), others who don’t know much about CP but have a desire to learn. Without the presence of those “others” wanting and needing me to keep sharing my story, writing about my life would be so much harder. Therefore, it is because of the support and encouragement from all of you that I am able to sit down at my computer every day and share my story, though some days it seems to come together very slowly. Thankfully, there’s no time frame for my writing. The only required constant is writing something, anything every day.

Feel every emotion.

12 Sep

During my early teen years, I took voice lessons, and I still remember the first song I ever sung to Miss Julia Helen, my voice teacher. On my very first day of voice lessons, I was incredibly nervous, and I knew that Miss Julia Helen would ask me to sing for her (since she had told me to come with a song prepared). Around the time I began taking voice lessons, my mom and I had recently returned from a trip to New York City.

When my mom and I were in New York City, we saw the Broadway musical All Shook Up, which is a musical that was based on Elvis Presley songs. I hadn’t been a fan of Elvis before seeing the musical, but once it was over, I knew that I had to have the soundtrack of the musical so that I could listen to all the songs on repeat until I got sick of hearing them. My favorite song from the soundtrack was Fools Fall In Love, and therefore I ended up choosing it as the song that I would sing for Miss Julia Helen. The funny thing, however, is before beginning voice lessons (and even after I took 2 years of voice lessons), I never could read music. When I knew that I’d have to sing a song for Miss Julia Helen, my trick was choosing a song that I would be able to easily emulate with my voice. Knowing that I had to use this process made my song choice a relatively easy one. Though I know that “Fools Fall In Love” fit my voice, I also knew every single word of the song since I had listened to it on repeat for a week straight by the time my first voice lesson came around.

When I sang for Miss Julia Helen, I was practically beaming. Not only was I happy to be at my very first voice lesson, but I absolutely loved the song that I was singing. I just couldn’t stop smiling. Throughout my two years of voice lessons, I had particular songs that really touched me. “Fools Fall In Love” was one of them because it marked the beginning of a new phase in my life, my singing phase. However, two other songs that I will never forget singing are “You Raise Me Up” and “Colors Of The Wind.” Even though all 3 of those songs are each very different, they spoke to me. As well as loving the accompaniment, I was also very attached to the lyrics. Since I was able to become more attached to the songs themselves, I was able to bring more emotion into the songs when I sang them. From my history with singing, I’ve found that emotion is the key component. You want to make the audience feel what you’re feeling. You want them to feel the song inside of them. The only way to do that is to connect to every possible emotion that is present in the song.

Now that I think about it, I realize that the point I just made applies to writing as well. If, as writers, we want to have our readers feel the emotion in what we are writing, we’ve got to feel every ounce of it as well. If we don’t feel it as we are writing it, how can we expect that kind of response from our readers?

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.”-Anais Nin

 

My own kind of ballerina.

28 Aug

When I was a little girl, my grandmother took me to see The Nutcracker every year at Christmastime. I’d put on my black and white checkered dress and my patent leather shoes, and my grandmother and I would drive up to the Koger Center in Columbia. As I sat in the audience watching the Sugar Plum Fairies dance, I’d think about what it would be like to be a ballerina. I’d watch the gracefulness of their movements and imagine being able to move almost effortlessly. That’s what it looked like to me: like the ballerinas were moving so fluidly that it was as if they were floating on air.

Even though I was never able to take ballet lessons, I did as much as I could to feel like a ballerina. I bought a pink leotard and pink ballet shoes. I even had to have a bright pink tutu with sparkles. The tutu was my favorite part. I loved the fact that I could spin around and around and the tutu would fly up like a balloon. I remember feeling pretty, and I remember the days that I would spin around in my leotard, tutu and ballet shoes like I was a true ballerina. Simply wearing the outfit was enough for me.

I got my own experience of being a ballerina when I joined the Calhoun Players, a community theatre group in my town. However, in the beginning, it wasn’t like I imagined it to be. Even though I got to dance on stage, for many of the productions I was placed in the back. Though I knew that it was because there were other people who were better dancers than I was, we all want to have a chance to shine. I got my chance in 2007 thanks to my theater director, Chuck. In 2007, I was in the cast of the Wizard of Oz. However, the best part was that for the first time since getting involved with the Calhoun Players in 2001, I wasn’t in the chorus. I had one of the main roles. I played Glenda the Good Witch. Even though I didn’t necessarily play the part of a ballerina, playing the part of Glenda was the closest that I’ve ever gotten, and it was probably one of the happiest moments of my life. I wore a blue sparkly dress that had puffy sleeves and a puffy bodice. It wasn’t a leotard and a tutu, but in my opinion, it was even better. I also had a wand, and I wore a tiara on my head. I felt so happy in those moments on stage that I felt like I was going to burst from happiness. The “shining” moment for me during those performances (other than playing Glenda and feeling as pretty as a ballerina) was getting to stand out on stage in my pretty outfit and sing a solo. For a few minutes during each performance, all eyes were on me. However, for the first time in my life, people were staring at me in awe rather than looking at me and wondering what was wrong with me. Granted, it probably wasn’t the first time I was looked at in awe or happiness, but it felt like a first time for me since I had grown so accustomed to being stared at in a negative way.

As I sat in the audience of The Nutcracker performance, I didn’t know that one day I would be able to be my own kind of ballerina. Even though it wouldn’t be in the way that I imagined, I feel like it was much better. Rather than sitting in the audience watching the performance, I got to be the one on stage. I may not have gotten the chance to dance like the Sugar Plum Fairies, but I got to do something I loved even more: I got to sing. I got to sing like I’ve never sung before, holding a wand and wearing a tiara. I got to wear a blue sparkly puffy dress that still hangs in my closet at home, reminding me of the moment that I got to feel like my own kind of ballerina.

When in Ireland, music bridges the gap.

18 Jul

I’m a music lover. If I could listen to music every moment of every day, I would. Since being in Ireland, I have found it comforting to listen to country music because it reminds me of home. After playing around with my Itunes, I discovered that my roommate and I both love the Dixie Chicks.

The Dixie Chicks have a very strong connection with my childhood. I remember the days when “Goodbye Earl” would come on during a car ride and my brother and I would try to see who could sing the entire song all the way through. I can’t remember who won most of the time, but I suspect that it was me most of the time since I’ve always been really good with remembering song lyrics. I remember listening to “Cowboy Take Me Away” anytime I was in the kitchen cooking with my mom. In those days, the “cooking” usually just consisted of brownies or cookies, but I think that’s the best kind of cooking anyway. In general, I remember having the “Wide Open Spaces” album on repeat for weeks at a time. I’d just sit in my room and play the cd until I knew practically all the words to every song. The “Fly” album had its share of repeats as well. Though I’m sure that I played “Ready to Run” a fair amount as well, these days the only strong association I have with that song is Runaway Bride, since “Ready to Run” plays in the opening scene. Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. A chick flick really can’t get much better. If you haven’t seen Runaway Bride, go watch it. Now. It’s so so good.

Since yesterday, “Never Say Die” from the Wide Open Spaces album has been stuck in my head. Honestly, I’m okay with it because the song is relatively cheerful. The Dixie Chicks had their share of really sad songs, and I would definitely rather have a happy song stuck in my head instead of a sad one since I’m missing home anyway. I thought I’d share “Never Say Die” with all of you. I couldn’t find a music video on YouTube, but this video is pretty cute too.

When in Ireland, don’t bash all cover bands.

14 Jul

Before last night, I wasn’t a fan of listening to a cover band perform instead of listening to traditional Irish music. However, after hearing an Ireland rock cover band called The Antics perform at The Spanish Arch last night, I was reminded how much I miss rock music. Plus, two of the musicians weren’t bad to look at, so that definitely helps, right?

When Alex and I first got to The Spanish Arch, the pub was packed with people and there was hardly any place to sit. However, I soon realized that once we got our drinks and just meandered, eventually a table would free up. Last night we got extremely lucky and snagged a table that was pretty much right in front of the stage.

I told myself before we went out last night that I’d stick to buying one drink of Bulmer’s and then just see where things went. I’m glad that I stuck to this strategy. On the second song that The Antics played, two guys (both in suits. Why are guys in suits so much more attractive?) came out in front of the band and started dancing. There was another guy with them as well, but he seemed content to just watch the two other guys make fools of themselves. They were completely hilarious though. I couldn’t seem to stop laughing. At one point, one of the guys (the drunker of the two) asked Alex to dance. At first she declined, but then when he got happily down on his knees and begged she gave in and danced with him. It was so funny to watch. You could tell that all of the guys were enjoying themselves. After Alex danced with the drunkest guy, he came back a few minutes later and apologized profusely. Maybe he had realized then how drunk he was. Either way, at that point Alex and I came to the conclusion that the two guys who had started dancing in the first place were really gay (or just so drunk that it seemed like they were gay)…which was fine, but it was also very unfortunate since one of the guys (not the one that danced with Alex but the other one) was pretty cute. Anyway, since the guy of the group who was the most drunk reached the point of trying to get one of the security guards to dance with him, he was told to leave the pub, so the two guys he was with followed him. Since they had to leave in order to accompany their super drunk friend, they asked Alex and I if we wanted the rest of their Bulmer’s, and we happily took the cider off of their hands. Getting free drinks two nights in a row? I could get used to this.

The night got even better when the band played “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. I got so excited when the band was about to play it that I screamed really loud, and the lead singer responded: “Holy shit.” In my head I was thinking: “Hey, I’m just being the music lover/music supporter that I am. There’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm for a band, especially if I’m at a pub in Ireland. Sheesh, dude.” Anyway, the band members were surprised when a few people in the pub knew all the words to “Wagon Wheel.” I didn’t make a motion to say that I was originally from North Carolina. I was satisfied to just lose myself in the fact that I was hearing one of my favorite songs in a pub in Ireland. So, so cool. The unfortunate part of hearing “Wagon Wheel” was the fact that it made me pretty homesick for a few songs afterwards. However, once The Antics started playing songs by Blink 182 and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, the homesickness had passed.

It was a really fun night, especially because we stayed the entire time that the band played. However, that meant not leaving The Spanish Arch until about 2am. Though that was fine with Alex, I had hit my limit at about 1am. At that point, I began to find all the super drunk people really annoying, especially because by that point 2 people had almost spilled their drinks all over me. Thankfully, I didn’t end up getting beer spilled on me, but I wouldn’t have been happy if an entire drink would have landed in my lap. Though I was pretty much “done” with the whole scene by 1am, I knew that I didn’t want to walk all the way back home by myself. Plus, since it was Friday night, I knew there would be more people on the streets, and the mantra “There’s safety in numbers” wouldn’t leave my head (plus the fact that I knew that Alex carried pepper spray with her at all times). So, even though we didn’t get home until about 2:30am and my back pain was insane by that point (which I’m guessing was because we had gone out the night before last too), it was a really fun night. However, going out 2 nights in a row is as much as I can do at this point, so tonight will be spending reading and resting up, especially since we leave early tomorrow morning for our day trip to the Aran Islands.

When in Ireland, seek out the live music.

29 Jun

Last night Alex (my roommate) and I went to Eyre Square in downtown Galway in search of live music. We took the bus, which I prefered since I’m trying to save my energy as much as I can. Anyway, the bus dropped us off at Eyre Square, and we went hunting for music. We saw this pub called Richardson’s and saw a sign that said “Live Music Tonight” and decided to take a look.

The pubs in Ireland can be pretty different from one another, but I like them. Richardson’s was pretty typical. Warm, inviting, plenty of places to sit. Though it wasn’t packed when Alex and I got there, there were still a good many people there enjoying the soccer game that was on tv. Though I didn’t drink last night, the bartenders were very nice and asked us if we wanted anything. Since the pub wasn’t packed, I think it gave the bartenders a chance to try to make sure everyone was happy and enjoying themselves.

The live music started at 9:30, once the soccer game was over. The band was made of up a fiddler player, the beautiful red-headed accordion player, and a guitar player. Alex and I were set for the night once we saw the beautiful red-headed Irish guy. The music was really wonderful too. Since the pub wasn’t packed with people, Alex and I enjoyed it more because rather than the musicians having to play over the noise, the music just played for itself. About halfway through the night, one of the band members (the guitar player) asked if there were any Americans in the house, and Alex and I said yes. His response: “There’s always one.” We laughed.

They then proceeded to play a Bob Dylan song as well as a Simon and Garfunkel song. Alex and I sang along to the songs we knew and cheered happily once the songs we over. Even though the music was amazing and neither of us wanted to leave, I knew that if we didn’t leave after a while we wouldn’t be up for our Lit class at 9 this morning.

We did end up making it to our class this morning, and both of us are still happily chattering about how much fun we had last night. Tonight we are planning to try to find the band we heard last night. I’m sure they’d enjoy having two American girls being their groupies, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.