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music notes

Rosanne recording “Night Walk” with Jed Myers. To listen, click below.

Circa age 10.  I flunked choir. Meaning that I tried out for choir in grade school and did not get in. I still remember how embarrassed I felt, and how sad. I loved to sing! But when I failed to get into the choir, I shut down my voice for a long, long time.

Fast forward the years. In my fifth decade I went to a performance of To Kill a Mockingbird at Seattle’s Intiman Theater. One of the actors played the harmonica from high in the rafters, its minor-key voice drifting down over the audience. It moved me deeply. It occurred to me that the harmonica might be a way to “sing” without the shame of singing poorly. After the play, the actor gave me the name of his harmonica teacher––Grant Dermody in Seattle.

So I began to study with Grant, first by learning how to blow single notes. In time, I could play melodies. But more importantly, I learned about music, about how chord combinations create blues, folk and rock and roll.

Then I bought a guitar.

Even though I had studied piano as a kid, the guitar was a mystery to me. I remember learning the E chord by carefully placing my fingers in a specific shape on the strings. Wow! Then the A-minor. Wow!! I loved the vibration of the guitar against my body. I took lessons, practicing every day, hungry for more. Eventually I learned to play the chords to songs of others. I learned to strum, hammer on, pull off, and pick individual notes. And finally, after about two years, I began to incorporate my own lyrics and melodies that have long lived inside of me.

Most of my songs come while I am walking alone in a “no-mind” space. Somehow the rhythm of my feet makes music come alive. Out of nowhere pops a phrase or refrain. If I have any rule about the creative process (for anything) is this: capture it in the moment. Thus, no song fragment goes without writing it down or singing it into my phone, even if it arrives in the middle of the night. Over time, the song becomes massaged, honed, refined. I have come to love the state of uncertainty of the creative process, a time when everything is possible.

And then, the singing of the songs. OMG!

Writing songs is one thing. Singing out loud is another (note: singing lessons is the topic of a future essay). But singing out loud in public for the first time is one of the most nerve-wracking things I have ever done. It was at a poetry/music open-mic gathering in Seattle. I was terrified––but I was determined to sing “Dirty Laundry Blues,” one of the first songs I ever wrote. Nerves tore at my voice. My pitch was off-pitch. But people in the small venue applauded with gusto, probably out of kindness. I can’t say it was pretty but I kept going back. The jitters have quelled over the years as I have performed at many open mics and other small venues alone and with my band mates.  I have been carried along by gracious audiences, by my vocal coach, teachers, advisors, by my song-writing groups, workshops and the support of amazing musician friends.

Finally, after writing more than 100 songs, I gathered with my musician friends to begin recording with a professional audio engineer. These eleven songs are songs I have shepherded thorough months of practice, massaging each word, each syllable, each pause, not to mention melody and meaning. The process took more than three years. With help from experienced musicians who played guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, cello, mandolin, violin, I learned about communicating my musical ideas, daring to speak my mind, sometimes barely knowing my mind. And now (drum roll, please!), I have a CD that I am releasing to the world on October 13, 2018. It’s called Love in Your Country. I am excited for this moment in my life and filled with gratitude for the opportunity. I hope you will join me in the celebration!

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