Hello! These monthly bulletins will bring you updates on concerts and recordings; early access to newly-released songs, and links to photos, video clips and lots more.
(Here’s a video clip from the Aeolian Hall concert in London, Ontario, August, 2014.
Joni Mitchell’s marvellous song, Both Sides Now.)
Now and then, I’ll share some thoughts and ideas about this crazy world of singing & performing. I hope that no matter your own life-path, you’ll find some of these “shared things” useful.
Today, a story about another singer…. “Secrets to Getting Back On Track.”
My good friend, Claire Duchesneau, a long-time clinical social worker, began to make her way back to singing about 9 years ago. She is hearing impaired and wears hearing aids. She called me for singing lessons (I am also a vocal coach), because she was hoping that vocal lessons would help her to rediscover the singing voice that had brought her so much pleasure at a time when she could hear well.
We worked together for several years, at the end of which Claire began to give performances. She also recorded her first CD.
During this time, a well known documentary film maker, Anne Henderson began to create a film about Claire’s struggle to keep music in her life. (In the Key Of Claire).
So Claire had a lot of artistic momentum. It was a heady time for her! And then a year ago, several dramatic events happened in her life that brought an abrupt halt to her musical aspirations. Now she is thinking about getting back on track. She’s wondering how to do it.
Many of us in the arts can relate to a story like this. Perhaps most of us don’t have such a wild ride as Claire has had, as we pursue our own dream. And therefore the cutting-short of our efforts is not quite so theatrical and abrupt. But we all know the pain of realizing that here we are, once again, NOT doing what we had hoped to do. And we yearn to find a way to jumpstart our efforts. Or, at least, to gently nudge ourselves back in the right direction.
When I asked Claire her thoughts on getting back to it, she replied with two words, “Why Bother?”
I recognize the sentiment. Unless you earn your living with your artistic talents, then it is pretty easy to say: “Well, I tried… and failed. So that’s that.”
But real, organic life is not quite so cut and dried.
In not doing these heart-felt things, we can lose connection to something that is necessary to life – connection to a deeper part of ourselves. This is accomplished not only through the arts, of course. But for many, that IS their way inside.
Because Claire asked me to offer an opinon…
here are several responses I gave to her, both as my good friend and as a former student:
– Because through pursuing music and singing (against the odds) you encourage others to follow their dream, even when the going is tough. And it often is!
– Because governments these days are cutting back on support for the arts in the belief that these things are luxuries, not necessities. But we know different. And therefore, finding the strength to do what is both beautiful and necessary, is a worthwhile pursuit.
➡ ___________Continued From E-mail Bulletin____________
But these are ideas – not tools.
Here are 5 action/tools (below)… plus the very wise and poignant words that Claire herself wrote about what it means to get started again. She wrote these words after I spent an evening with her during which we talked about music and life-meaning and of course, singing….
“I really do believe that your visit here made a huge difference. It did not feel different on the spot but it forced me to think… and to face the one question that I had not asked before: Would I be willing to give up music forever at this point?
I had done it once before when I had lost my hearing and I had managed to find meaning in my life. I was on the fence until the morning when I sang the song “Angel Eyes” in my car and felt that I was expressing something in a way I had not been able to express in months. It was organic, it was physical. And after the song was over, I felt satisfied. Maybe in some way, the sounds I was making gave meaning to the suffering I had witnessed and experienced over the course of the last few months. Maybe it was not all in vain.
So a coach, someone to inspire you when you can no longer inspire yourself, is important (to getting back on track) – or at least it was for me. And then there is life that never really lets you down. Your forever loyal companion that follows you to your grave, teaching you, even when you are asleep, all the basic truths of life – that we are in a constant state of flux being reshaped perpetually by tangible and intangible forces, that it is not what happens to us in life but how we interpret what happens to us that is the measure of our happiness, that setbacks are often a blessing because they force us to rediscover our unique creative voices, that the road less traveled will awaken our senses like no other.
Am I awakening from a dark place or are my eyes simply adjusting to the new lighting? Well, maybe I will find the answer in my next song.”
1. Make one small move (and then another) – Claire’s going to choose several songs that she’d like to work on as a first step forward.
2. “Nothing I do matters very much. “- When you find yourself saying this or something similar – (Who hasn’t asked this question – at some point? I certainly have.) – try using the 4 questions from Byron Katie’s work:
– Is it true?
– Can I be sure it’s true?
– How do I feel when I think that thought?
– How would I feel without that thought?
Sometimes we learn that it is the thought of uselessness or stuck-ness that holds us back, rather than the truth of it. Relieve yourself of the damaging thought, and make one small move.
3. Plant a seed & take a walk – more and more we learn from science that some simple exercise can change our moods enormously.
What I do, when I need inspiration is plant a seed. For example, I will tell myself:“Self! I need an idea for a new song.” Then, I take a walk and think no more about it. Often answers (or bits of answers) emerge after some light exercise.
4. Share your quandary with someone else. Even if that person (or animal! I used to sing to animals…) has nothing to offer you, the mere act of speaking about it can move your energy. And that is what you are trying to do; get your energy moving in a particular direction.
5. Let go of the need for anything more in your life. Just surrender to the okayness of your current life. I often find that I am pushing too hard in a chosen direction. When I let go, other routes show up. Or at the very least, I get a break from the pain of striving. And I realize that I’m ok, even if I do not ever realize this dream. I’m still really ok.