Learned from My First Concert
2) I wrote nine original songs. These were the first nine songs I have ever written in my life. I did it without knowing how to read music or play an instrument. I didn’t know if I could do it, and it seemed to be wildly ambitious on my part, but I was willing to go for it anyway.
3) The lyrics to the songs are about something. They come from poetry I wrote and they come from my life, my pains and my joys. I am very proud of the songs that I have written.
4) I took all the pain, anger, resentment and betrayal that could have destroyed me and made it into something beautiful. Instead of responding to being treated badly in kind, I made something truly beautiful, and in the process came away from a devastating experience with something I can be proud of, and maybe others may enjoy too. This is what artists do.
5) I had the pleasure of working with an amazingly talented arranger, musician and accompanist, Michael Severson. It was such joy to work every week on songs, to hear them in process, to collaborate with someone so talented, generous and kind. This creative collaboration taught me so much about the art of arranging, songwriting and creative collaboration. I will be forever grateful for Michael, for his contribution to the album, and for all he has made possible for me to do as well. This is also what artists do: they make possible and inspire more and better art.
6) This album has given me the opportunity to explore the power of my voice. In the course of this year I have studied voice with a number of teachers and learned so much from all of them: Linda Brice, Mitzi Zilka, Anita Stryker, Laura Cunard, Greta Matassa and Paula Byrne. Each of them has taught me so much about the subtle and powerful ways jazz singers use their voices to express the song, as well as improvise on it. I have come away with a much deeper appreciation for the art of singing as well as admiration for the skill, dedication and artistry each of these singers bring to their craft. We learn from example, and if we are lucky, from those teachers who are generous and willing to share what they have learned along the way. I have been blessed to find and learn from such inspiring teachers.
7) Through singing and the frustrations of not being able to sing as well or as powerfully as I would like to, I have learned to allow myself to be tenacious and to not let my perfectionism destroy the possibility of doing something I haven’t done or tried before. So many times in the past, I have let my very clear sense of what I think is good prevent me from trying something I’m not very good at. I have let my standards also prevent me being bad, which has also prevented me from learning or being able to complete something. This has been a pattern my whole life and I think with this album, I broke the spell. I used to think I would rather not do something if I couldn’t do it the way I wanted to or imagined it should be done. And having now done something that is very imperfect, I can say this is much, much better. It is better to do something and learn in the process, then to hold back, with your standards in tact and nothing to show except your judgements. I wish I could have been a better singer. I did as much as I could do, and in the process I’m a lot further along then when I started, a year ago. And that, I have learned, is good enough. Next time, I will be better, because I am willing to try and do what I can do, right now, rather than waiting for the time when I will be perfect.
8) Anyone who was at the concert, who heard Steven Skolnik on drums, Johan Svihus on bass, and Michael Severson on piano, heard how good, how truly impressive these musicians are. If it were up to me, I would have been rehearsing for a month or two every week, but I learned that musicians have one rehearsal, then the performance. For me, they were willing to do two rehearsals. I marveled at the first rehearsal at how could play songs I had been practicing for months, the first time and so well! Jonah reminded me however that it had taken him ten years of studying and practicing Bass to be able to do this “the first time.” So often we witness the result – the performance, the finished painting, the final draft of a novel or poem and think that the person who did this must be naturally gifted – and they are. But they have also put in the time, work and effort to develop these talents and this takes time, money, resources, support and years to develop and perfect. What generosity, dedication and love artists of all kinds have to do the work they do! I learned again, what I know, and often forget – we see and hear and read the result, but do not often fully appreciate what has truly gone in to make that work possible.
9) This concert has taught me and reminded me of the power of community and the ways that art is born out of, nurtured within and made possible by the love, support, generosity and kindness of the family, friends, acquaintances and strangers too. We often think that artists do their work by themselves but that is not true. From Laurie, and Sacred Money Studios, who gave me the place to have the concert, to Somer who lent her considerable skills to doing my make up, to Laurel who offered to introduce me, to Kelly and Daveed who drove from Seattle, and Mindy who flew up from Oakland, to my friends in places far away: New York and Puerto Rico and Buenos Aires, who sent me their love and support long distance, my brother who closed his shop early on Saturday night, to my parents and housemate who came a full hour early just to make sure they could get a good seat, to Mika who brought me a glass of wine afterwards, and Kim who sat in the front row cheering me on, to Ed Givens, a friend from high school, gave me the encouragement to try to write songs when I first began, to everyone who took the time to come and hear me sing and gifted me with their presence and support: you will never know how much this meant to me, but know that in the most important ways, it makes art possible.