Friday, October 8, 2010


Balance: what does this word really mean? When I reflect on it, I can think of several ways to define it. At this moment, balance means to make something equal on all sides. If I don't "balance", then I will fall over --literally or figuratively.

Today, I am talking from a figurative perspective because this week I am balancing multiple projects. This includes finishing the orchestrations for my MASS for the LIVING that premieres in Washington, D.C. this December, extracting parts, printing and binding. Writing music makes me happy, and once I finish the mass, and it is mailed out to my fabulously talented conductor, I have other wonderful projects waiting.

In contrast, there is another HUGE area of my life: my pursuit of my Ph.D.. This week is a big week because I am finishing my first on-line doctoral course and beginning my next two courses. In the course I am finishing, I am writing a paper and saying goodbye to my classmates. In the new two courses, I am at their beginnings, with new expectations and with new academic challenges. The end and the beginning are merging.

I notice that I am happy, so I am examining the parts of my life that are bringing harmony to my creative life and my academic one. Even though I feel stress, I feel good.

Is my creative and academic worlds balanced by my personal life and my yoga practice?

Many of you know that I am teaching yoga in a Pay-What-You-Can YOGA program I designed for PEACE LUTHERAN CHURCH. Adding to that two weeks ago,I have designed and am implementing a "FiT-2-SiT" yoga program for people who are older and have limited mobility.

So where is the balance? I think it rests on the fact that I have a wonderful family--a supportive husband and a loving child. My friends-- and especially my writing partner help make everything balanced and right. They keep me human and realistic. They also make me laugh.

With so many things going on, I marvel that I am aware of how I am using every minute of my time. Even taking the time to reflect on how busy everything is makes me feel good because I can see that my life is fulfilling, and filled, and full. At this moment I am balanced. Maybe this means that balance is keeping everything in proportion, like a seesaw ... the foundation my family and the spiritual aspects of my practice.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Preserving Old Hymns - "Softly and Tenderly"

A couple of weeks ago, my pastor asked us to sing "Softly and Tenderly" to compliment her sermon. Almost every Sunday, I arrange an old hymn off the top of my head by improvising arrangements for the singers and I play the keyboard. The arrangement is usually sung at the offertory.

I enjoy the challenges each week because I never know who will be there, or what hymn I will be arranging. I really don't mind because I like finding a way to make music with what and whom I am given.

"Softly and Tenderly" is a very old hymn, written in 1880 by Will L. Thomp­son, published in collection called Spark­ling Gems, Nos. 1 and 2, by J. Cal­vin Bush­ey (Chi­ca­go, Ill­i­nois: Will L. Thomp­son & Com­pa­ny)

Whenever I create a particularly successful arrangement, I am always tempted to write it down. Alas ... for many years, I have not, until this week ... and so today, I deliver "Softly and Tenderly" to my "List of Works".

From several sites, I have gathered information about both the hymn and the composer. Will Thompson was a prolific composer and wrote many gospel hymns. "Softly and Tenderly" has lived for over 100 years and some of the interesting facts include:

In 1968, it was performed at a memorial service for Amer­i­can ci­vil rights lead­er Mar­tin Lu­ther King, at the Eb­e­ne­zer Bap­tist Church, At­lan­ta, Georg­ia. More recently in 1985, it was used in the Acad­e­my Award win­ning mo­vie Trip to Boun­ti­ful .

It's a great feeling to complete something like this ... because this hymn, and my attempts to preserve it another way, now makes me a part of its history. It's been a good day!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

When Creation Calls Us ...

Life is the time we are given to do what we are called to do. In every breath we take, we have the opportunity to create, to think, or to do.

When I was younger, much of my life was a struggle because I was always trying to be just 'one thing'. I still struggle, but back then, I struggled with the thought that I was supposed to be "just a pianist", because I didn't have the wisdom to recognize that I was much more. Afterall, I could sing ...and compose ... and write ... and draw ... And when I finally accepted the fact that I was multi-dimensional in my capacity to create, that was the day when found I could be happy.

All the Arts complete me. I cannot breathe without doing. I love music. I love making music. I love words. I love creating with words. I love imagery ... Simply put: I love to create beauty. I cannot "be" without creation or creating.

Now I don't have any time to waste doubting who I am or what I can do anymore. I must do it all -- whatever the "all" is that calls me to create.

I must show up.

I must do the work.

Out of necessity, I began composing in 1997 when a boy I knew died. My passion for writing music ignited as I started composing lyrics and music for “DANIEL” -- a musical theater piece that grew from a grass-roots project to a fully staged and orchestrated musical theater production. I emerged as a composer as I learned to compose, arrange, orchestrate and produce my work.

Becoming a composer was a mid-career switch, but I wasn’t convinced I was a composer until NATS chose my "Garden Verses" as a finalist in their 2002 competition. These songs also won the Diana Barnhardt competition (HM 2003) and First Prize (2009) for the Long Island Arts Council competition.

My compositions fit the needs for whatever situation I find myself. During my years as a Music Educator, I composed numerous works for Orff instruments and songs for Elementary and Middle School choruses. At the churches where I have served, I create anthems to meet the needs of volunteer choirs.

Since 1997, I co-wrote "Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, A Musical", which was optioned for Broadway in 2006, and I have written many songs and arrangements for adult choruses. I created original orchestrations for the Ohio Light Opera's revival of Sigmund Romberg's "Maytime", and I continue to explore film scoring.

In December 2010, my "MASS for the LIVING" will premiere its SATB setting with the NIH Philharmonia in Washington, D.C. In March 2011, my new co-written opera, "LILY" will premiere at Eastman’s Women in Music Festival.

So, Creation, you have called ... I hear you ... What's next? ... You want me to do what???