The world has turned a page. So I suppose it is only fitting that I have, too.
I think it started when I bought the tambourine. No telling what kind of crazy things are gonna happen once you buy yourself a tambourine.
But percussion aside…for now, because I actually do have a percussion story for later involving shakers, this has been a period of doing things I’ve never done before.
One such instance happened in December, when I was asked to sing a couple of my songs at a black tie gala in New Jersey…
I don’t know about you, but I don’t get asked to sing at black tie galas every day, so when the opportunity arose, I jumped at it. And to make things even sweeter, for one of my songs, In Color, I had the chance to sing it with a band and a full choir of theater kids accompanying me. Who could pass that up? Not me.
On the day of the event, I sat in the darkened theater, listening as each Broadway and cabaret star did their tech run-throughs. That’s when I realized the enormity of what I had gotten myself into. There’s nothing to make you question your own ability more than listening to the original Eponine in Les Miz sing right before you.
I took my place center stage for the sound check. All I could see was a bright white light…like death coming for me. I was aware of the band behind me and the kids to my left. I was holding the microphone and I heard the introduction to my song. What were the words again? No, really. What were the lyrics to my song?
I had no idea.
I had only ever sung the song while I myself played it. I’d spent my life playing and singing my own songs. And though I longed for, really longed for the opportunity to stand center stage and sing, I hadn’t done it like this before, and funny thing – it turns out there’s this muscle memory brain thingy-do that had my lyric memory inextricably intertwined with my little fingers playing on the keyboard.
Holy hell. That was an embarrassing sound check. And it was followed by me finding a quiet corner of the shared dressing room with all the performers and having a little conversation with myself, followed by prayer, meditation, and me taking a piece of paper and writing my own lyrics start to finish, ,just to prove to myself that I actually knew them.
Now, ordinarily, I might not want to share the previous embarrassment with you, but it turns out this had a happy ending. My performance went joyfully and without one lyrical hitch.
This brings me to the new band – The Inspire Project.
Most people form bands when they’re in high school. They play really loudly and badly in someone’s parents’ garage and get complaints from the neighbors. And if they’re lucky, they get a “gig” at their local high school or at a dive bar if their fake ID’s are convincing enough.
I never went through this phase. I sang in choirs, as a solo artist, and in musical theater, but not once was I in a band. So while my professional singer friends all “did time” in wedding bands and cover bands, I accompanied theater people for auditions and voice lessons.
I tell you all this, because my giddiness at being in a band at this stage of my life cannot be overemphasized.
When I think about it, The Inspire Project could not have formed at a better time. It was the brainchild of my friend, co-writer and producer, Tanya Leah, and the band is comprised of Tanya, myself, and Lorraine Ferro.
Kind of like the aforementioned gala, I had the shocking realization that I had never been part of a 3-part harmony-singing group before. Large choirs, yes. Duets, yes. Tight 3-part harmony – not so much.
The great part is that it is beautiful, and soul-stirring, and immensely fun and fulfilling to be putting uplifting music out into a world that needs it. And to do that with your close friends that you’ve shared the ups and downs of life with, makes it all the more meaningful.
I’ll be honest with you, the hard part is finding outfits we think look good on ourselves and schlepping equipment and instruments. At some point of physical exhaustion, we inevitably look at each other and laugh, as we say, “What were we thinking?!!”
But then there’s the music, and the harmony, and the laughter and joy we get interacting with the audience and each other, and we schlep onward to the next event on our calendar.
Speaking of both schlepping as well as things we’ve never done before, The Inspire Project marched together at the historic women’s march on January 21st. And not only did we do that, but there’s a music video to commemorate all of our collective experiences as marchers that day. It is definitely a day that will remain with us for the rest of our lives.
A couple of weeks later, I played at a benefit in NYC with two other amazing artists, and here’s where the shaker story comes in.
Let’s just say I’m not particularly percussively inclined. So I think when someone hands you a shaker, which you’ve never played before, and says, “Wanna play it?” the answer should be a resounding, “Yes!” And you should definitely do that the day of a performance, because nothing screams rising to the occasion of trying out new things like agreeing to learn background vocals and play shaker on the day OF a performance.
Do you know how fast a shaker can fly out of your hand if you’re sweating because you’re nervous?
I’m sure no one noticed my graceful retrieval of the flying shaker on the first song. It all happened so fast. And also, it’s possible that I might have stopped shaking the damn thing altogether when I was singing, because you know – walking and chewing gum and all that.
So things to work on for next time: shaker staying in hands and playing while singing.
And that brings me to today – hearing my song on the radio and watching the Grammys.
A couple of hours ago, I heard my song “No End to Love” on WFUV here in New York. And while I have actually heard one of my songs on the radio before…a lot, I have never heard myself singing on the radio.
I don’t mind telling you that I reveled in it, because I am not young and it hasn’t been easy. So I savored the moment, just like I did being on the Grammy ballot this year.
As each year passes, we have the choice – of regretting what didn’t happen or of celebrating what did. It is easy to forget how far we’ve come, or to hurt over what did not pan out.
The beauty of growing wiser is in knowing what to appreciate and make a big deal out of. We all must find ways to nourish our souls in these trying times. I recommend we all do the things we’ve never done before, whether it is marching in peaceful protest or playing the shaker.
Let’s be the ones to take a chance on ourselves and each other, and to remember to laugh.
Our most cherished memories are of how we felt in individual moments and who we were with in each of those moments.
Below is the video I mentioned earlier. I hope you enjoy it.
Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.