Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I think I have about enough saved up for a new acoustic electric guitar, especially after my mom and dad's very generous Christmas cash gift.

Which is amazing, since I have usually frittered away my personal savings on clothes. I anticipate the guitar will make me look better (well, I'll still have clothes on, of course!).

I'm so excited!

I played carols at my mother-in-law's and niece's birthday party. I feel silly about "putting myself out there" so much, but it was great. It helped smooth the party anyway since the lunch fare was taking longer to cook than expected. I love playing the guitar and singing!!

I realized I didn't post about my recent "gig" at a nursing home with my girls. Last week they performed piano pieces with their piano teacher's group. I tagged along too and played my guitar, sang. There were four residents, only one of whom really got into our performance, but it was so worth it. I loved that intimate connection which a guitar gives me with an audience. After everyone played, the one resident said, "Are you leaving already?" in a crushed voice so I offered to play some carols. It was fun to bring music to these ladies.

I was disappointed that I didn't push through with my guitar class this quarter and thus didn't perform in a recital with them, but I feel like I am still creating musical opportunities for myself. My first priority is my writing but for some variety and spice in my life I will play and sing at every chance I get.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Partying With Songwriters

A writer/musician friend of mine invited me to a holiday party for Utah-based Nashville songwriters, producers, etc. I just had to go, if nothing else, out of curiosity. And it sounded like fun.

They said to bring a holiday song to share.

For several days, I tried to come up with something brilliant, but couldn't. Finally, I realized my song Wishing On a Star could be changed to Wishing on A Christmas Star.

Voila, a holiday song.

I don't know what I expected, I guess a mansion on a hill somewhere, not the modest two-story I came to.

The already assembled crowd of about 20 people was gregarious, welcoming. Songwriters are an interesting breed. They have the sensibility of writers - introverted and poetic - and yet always looking for a public forum to showcase their work.

I love mingling with other writers, don't get me wrong. But the combination of music and writing is just so much more multi-dimensional, I'd have to say songwriters seem a more dynamic bunch. Not so angsty.

Our host's living room was set up for a mini-concert hall. Chairs facing the fireplace and a multitude of instruments. After two men performed their compositions, I stood up and asked the last person if I could borrow his bowl-backed Ovation.

Changing the lyrics the last minute was crazy. I kind of messed up on a few and didn't exactly rhyme my verses. But my chorus was strong. And I got through the song. Polite applause at the end, with a compliment about my voice.

What I learned:

Don't tweak lyrics at the last minute. If you do, offer your performance as part of a comedy routine.

Relax. I felt tense, hunched over my borrowed guitar and I'm sure that didn't do my voice a favor.

Polish. A group of songwriters is no karaoke bar. Their expectations are slightly higher than the average adoring family party.

Have fun. At the same time, music is for everyone, not just some exclusive group. So what if your song isn't a certain style? Who says one style is correct?

Play anyway. I re-learned the guitar just to write this song. I could've been like the girl in front of me who said she had a song but didn't have music for it. She could have played her song with tambourines.

Bring your own instrument, if possible. That's the operative word: if possible. I am still saving up for a nicer guitar. I could have brought mine, but at least if I sucked I could only blame it on my singing, not my guitar.

Study. Create. Learn. Repeat. I have a lot to learn still, but meanwhile, I will perform at the level I can.

I don't know if I'll stay involved with the group, but I know I will continue to write songs. Maybe even collaborate with my friend.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

First Solo Gig

After a couple of wrong turns, I finally found the venue with minutes to spare. And here I was thinking I should have brought my library copy of Slumdog Millionaire to pass the time. The occasion was for a festival of lights that a new high school was hosting. I had signed up to perform from 6-7, before a school production of Footloose.

Mr. L was setting out a box of donuts to sell when I came in. There was a small hall to the left with beautifully lit Christmas trees and I wondered if I was to perform in there, but he pointed towards the school lobby, about a 30 by 30 foot echo-ey area which concerned me because I wondered about acoustics. He explained that people would be lining up and going through there to get to the musical. I could choose where to set up.

I picked a spot by the donuts and silent auction table, between the lobby and the Christmas tree hall, so I can get some exposure but not get run over. Already, my vocal chords were tired because of practicing over the guitar at home, so when they found a teacher who loaned me a wireless mike to clip to my shirt, I was so grateful.

(I would really love to amp up someday soon. I'd love having my own mike and acoustic/electric guitar. But this still worked.)

Next to me was a set of stairs where two girls from student government hung out as they "babysat" the trees and the refreshments table. I took out my guitar, my song book, and launched into Christmas carols.

A few groups of students paused and eyed me curiously or with surprise. Some grown-ups, arriving for Footloose, stopped and smiled at me. An elderly couple with their granddaughter hung out for several minutes. I asked the little girl what song she wanted from my songlist. We settled on Rudolph (note to self: learn other "audience participation" songs) and she sang along with me.

A woman stopped and looked at my song book. "Ah, so you're the entertainment? You have a beautiful voice."

At 7, a frazzled-looking Mr. L came by and said, "Maybe another 15 minutes?" Which was good, because I was already recycling some songs. I ended strong with Rocking Around The Christmas Tree which is one of my favorite songs.

As I packed up, the two girls complimented me on my performance. "How long have you been playing the guitar?" one asked. They made me feel that even though I wasn't exactly rocking the joint with songs high school kids could jam to, they appreciated my singing.

My audience was sparse, there wasn't really a line to speak of, and only a few people came by for donuts or the trees. But I loved every minute. I loved bringing the spirit of Christmas to this high school that was also trying to bring Christmas to others. I felt like a "real" musician and I think I did a good job of being professional even though I was quaking inside.

This could grow on me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Two "Gigs"

Well I have gone and done it. I volunteered myself as an alto to our church choir director and she has assigned me to sing in a trio for our Christmas program. I was terrified at the prospect when I looked at the music. But I am learning it, better and better each time.

Practiced for the first time today with two ladies. They are both very good singers. Especially one, who just learned her part today and sings effortlessly. She has a strong soprano voice. Some people just have that gift. Amazing.

I loved singing low to her high part. I am excited to arrive at a place where we can sing smoothly and harmonize. It's a relief that we don't both sing high because comparisons will be inevitable.

I will also be performing next week at a local festival of lights. I will sing while playing the guitar. My first public performance involving the acoustic guitar. I will mostly sing Christmas, though I'd love to throw in a few pop songs.

These songs are so different from what I was singing just a couple of months ago. These make me feel good and lift me up.