Archive for the 'Reviews and Recollections' Category

Past and Present Keywords

Posted by on Dec 15 2017 | Reviews and Recollections

My Keywords

Each January, I pick a word for the year. I use choosing my keyword as an invitation to review the past year and ponder and dream about the year ahead. I call them keywords because keywords are connected to other words and other ideas. For me, they take the place of resolutions.

Below is the list of the keywords I have chosen to date.

  • 2009: DISCIPLINE. I was taking the first steps in building my music career. I had been blogging for about 6 months and was looking for footholds in teaching and gigging.

  • 2010: NOURISH. This keyword helped me battle burnout by remembering the importance self care. I also began to really understand and accommodate the energy cycles being self-supervised involves.

  • 2011: EMBODY.  I had just returned from Tenerife in the Canary Islands and I wanted “to spend the next year becoming what I glimpsed about music and improvisation in Africa.”

  • 2012: CREATE. This keyword led to a year of business-building activities like re-launching my workshops and private lesson studio.

  • 2013: START. I was beginning work on my grant-funded vocal work and had little idea of how to begin.

  • 2014: PRESENT. This was the year I presented my first full-length improv composition Between: A Journey Through the Middle. It was a whirlwind of a year filled with big shows, new workshops and many, many gigs.

  • 2015: RELEASE. I originally chose the word because I wanted to share more of the music I create with more people, but 2015 became about releasing expectations.

  • 2016: HEART. I felt this keyword guiding me as I worked on my (successful *smile*) album funding proposal and as I processed the events before and after November 2016’s election.

  • 2017 – FLOURISH. I knew I had a lot to accomplish in 2017 and I wanted it to be a year of planting seeds for future growth.

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Trusting the Process

Posted by on Mar 10 2014 | Reviews and Recollections, Songtaneous

We did it! Between: A Journey Through the Middle debuted last month to two very enthusiastic audiences. Thanks to my wonderful ensemble, my family, singer friends and students who helped with EVERYTHING and everyone who saw the shows. I could NOT have done this without each and every one of you!

The “Journey” was improvisational up to the final note sung. A few days before the shows, I was working on the program when Kenna called to tell me she was hurt and might not be able to dance the shows.

Okay. Deep breaths.

The important thing was if Kenna would be okay.

Fast forward about sixteen hours and we knew for sure that Kenna won’t be able to dance (but Kenna IS okay and she was definitely with us in spirit *smile*).

For me, the huge lesson (and work) of Between was in trusting the process. In trusting my process. In trusting that I even had a process to trust in.

I had to trust my vision, my ensemble and that I was meant to share this music with “the world.” That if I allowed and accepted obstacles I could learn something through how I responded to them. (Much the way I learn about a piece I’m improvising while I’m singing it.)

Upon getting the final word from Kenna, my instincts told me to call my friend and past collaborator Regina (Laroche) and ask her to dance.

I hesitated; Regina and I had met earlier in the week to talk about the show and listen to the some of the rehearsal recordings specifically because she wasn’t going to be able to attend the shows on the weekend.

I set the idea of calling her aside, but …

My instincts told me to call my friend and past collaborator Regina and ask her to dance. *smile*

As I composed Between, I strove to trust my artistic instincts. To know what to keep and develop and what to let “travel down the road.” I worked hard to avoid making decisions simply because they were practical or expedient. Again and again, I challenged myself to do what was right for the project artistically. (Even though there’s a part of me that still grapples with being artistic and make choices from that place.)

My artistic instincts told me I wanted a dancer on the stage to help interpret and present Between.

So I called Regina and left a message on her answering machine. (Have I talked about how singing makes me brave?)

About an hour later, Regina called me back.

She was on her way home from the Cities and saw she had missed my call.

I (very) sheepishly explained that I was calling to invite her to dance in my shows on the weekend. (You know, the shows she wasn’t going to be in town for? The ones in the Twin Cities, the cities from which she was just returning home?)

Long story short (and a lot of driving for Ms. Regina), she said yes. To Friday night.

From L to R: Regina M. Laroche, Aimee K. Bryant, sg, Bruce A. Henry, Libby Turner Opanga & Nathan J. Greer

And that was … perfect.

It truly made the shows what I wanted — improvised.

It allowed the two performances to be very different from each other and that let the work expand in ways I had only imagined.

It allowed the ensemble and the audience to explore the work as a piece with a dancer and as a “purely” musical work.

It let me put my trust in my ensemble (and let them generously put their trust in me).

And, it let one more artist take part in this Journey Through the Middle.

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Seven Years of Songtaneous

Posted by on Mar 14 2013 | Reviews and Recollections, Songtaneous

In March of 2006, I held my first Songtaneous session on a Wednesday night at a church in South Mpls. To my delight (and somewhat to my surprise), about seven singers showed up and our 2 hours together flew by. We sang, we laughed, we connected and Songtaneous was born.

Since that wonderful, and highly improvisational start (I thought that sing would be a one-time thing! *grin*), I have made it my pleasure to sing with other singers at least once a month. Sometimes, a workshop takes the place of a Songtaneous sing, but at the heart it’s the same. I make time and space to sing with others. And the gifts are many.

First and most important are all the lovely people I have met. From one-time explorers to returning regulars, from choir members to conference participants, every person who sings with Songtaneous adds to the community.

You, my dear reader, are part of the community even if you’ve never been to a sing. *smile*

(As you can see, *smile*) I’ve been thinking a lot about how Songtaneous and singing have changed my life (and me!) over the past seven years. Some of the changes are obvious. For example …

Seven years ago, I worked at a woodworking magazine.

Seven years ago, I had never been to Canada. Or Tuscanny, Tenerife or Amsterdam.

Or Paris. (Ah, Par-ee)

Seven years ago, I had never written a blog. I had written newsletters, but they were for volunteer sexual assault counselors and advertisers of woodworking products. Now, I write about singing. *grin*

Seven years ago, I had never taught a workshop or led over 300 people in spontaneous singing.

Seven years ago, I had yet to meet so many of the wonderful singer friends and collaborators I sing with now.

I mean, seven years ago I was just figuring out what community singing meant.

And, I’m still figuring it out. *smile*

Something about holding a space once a month for singers to come together and share and laugh and SING is transformative. For me and (I hope) for those who attend.

I have learned so much about spontaneous singing and what it means for me to be a singer from all of you. Your voices, interest, support and participation have made Songtaneous possible.

Here is to each and every one of you and here’s to seven more years!

(P.S. If you’ve never been to Songtaneaous, you should come sing with us sometime. *smile* The next Songtaneous is Saturday, March 30.)

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