Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Torch Singer 101: Progress Report

Last week was my third Torch Singer 101 class.  We're half way through the class already, and many of you have asked me how it's going. So here's my mid-term report.

General info:  The class itself is great. Jackie Allen, the teacher, is gracious, kind, encouraging and talented.  The other students are great too. It takes a special bit of chutzpuh to show up for this sort of thing, and it's fun to be around people who are willing to put themselves out there.

The day of the first class, I was such a nervous wreck before class started, I barely got myself to the door of Jackie's home. But I did. Right after I sent this text to a few of my friends:

Have I mentioned how wonderful my friends are?  

After Jackie welcomed us to class, we started through introductions, which included phrases such as:
  • vocal performance major in college
  • national jazz project in Nashville
  • perform in local community theatre productions
  • performed in New York
  • competitive barbershop
  • musical family where dad danced around the living room singing Sinatra
and . . . Brave Project...terrified  

(Don't worry Mom. I didn't mention that when you were a kid your church choir director asked if you would just mouth the words instead of singing them. We can't all dance around singing Sinatra, now can we? I also left out Dad's sweaty towel waving rendition of Kansas City at our wedding reception. Lord have mercy.)

In other words, I seem to have landed in the gifted class. My first thought was to stay after class to ask if I could be transferred to the November group. Let's just say it took a lot of fight to keep my flight in check. (The wine we were all invited to bring to class might have helped too.) As I left that night in the pouring rain and responded to a text from my friend asking how it went, my report included this text.

At that point, I put my chances at showing up for the public performance at about 5%. And only if I could get my hands on Roger's doctor-approved miracle stage fright beta blocker drug (which I ultimately chose not to do, but I did mark this as a life experience since it's the first time anyone ever leaned over to me and said, hey, I know about this drug you might like .  . . .) But I was so stressed about the performance that my husband and friends told me to just drop the class. That it was not worth this much stress and anxiety. Gulp.

This is where I mention that I may have overshot my brave on this challenge. It would have probably been a better option to just take a singing class or some voice lessons that did not involve the pressure of a performance at the end. But, pulling from Toby Boss's infamous phrase book:  "That train has left the station." And while there is an emergency brake on that train, I hope not to use it.

Week 2 built confidence. I went into the class this week having decided to make the performance optional for myself, but I didn't tell anyone at class that. We continued our group call and response scat singing while marching around the dining room table. We chose from piles of sheet music while Jackie worked individually with students at the piano to find our range, including the low and high notes we are solid on.  

We also drank more wine. And ate Jackie's cookies. And one by one, several of my new friends pulled me aside to tell me that they had read the blog and offered encouragement to me.  "I think you're just not used to a lower voice yet."  "We are going to be in the audience thinking you have so got this!"  "We just have to remember that this is for fun!"

Have I mentioned that my sense of fun is slightly underdeveloped? That sometimes I tend to take life a little too seriously?? (I know, crazy, isn't it?  So many of you right now are shaking your heads saying, "I had no idea you take life seriously, Lynne! When I think of FUN, you always are the first person to pop right into my head!")

We also talked about what to wear for the performance since we have an alum in our group. "Oh, really you can wear whatever you're comfortable in. Sparkle is good. New Year's Eve dresses are good."

Apparently Lee Ann doesn't kick off her Birkenstocks and hang out with friends around a dining room table playing Mad Gab in jeans and sock feet on NYE!  I can't remember ever owning a New Year's Eve dress. And I'm guessing that putting my hands on one that comes in tall in the next few weeks won't be easy. Aaaack! I left thinking I better work on that outfit because my new singing buddies were counting on me to be at the show. Odds of performing:  50%.

Week 3 opened with Jackie telling us that one of the students needed to drop the class due to unexpected challenges in her family, so we were all really needed to perform in the show. In the words of my wise friend, Kelly: "Drat!" It also brought more improv scat singing and individual time at the piano with Jackie running through our song selections, which for me are Fly Me to the Moon and Beyond the Sea. (No, alas, there are no Pips or rhythm section in torch singer shows so Midnight Train to Georgia is out.) We each also scheduled our individual one hour lesson with Jackie to work out our tempos, introductions, etc. for our charts. That's what we torch singers call songs.  Charts.

Then this show promo poster arrived in our e-mail this week:

Repeat after me: Fun.  This is Fun. This will be fun.  

Anyone know where I can find a sparkly dress in tall in the next 2 weeks?  It looks like I'm in.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Brave Perspective

There's brave.  And there's Brave.

So whatever way you need to be brave today, let your true colors show and get to it!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Brave Bonus: Tandem Poetry and More

When I was studying English at Nebraska Wesleyan University, I was blessed to take classes from Bill Kloefkorn, who was the Nebraska State Poet.  I had never had any interest in poetry before Bill's classes, and I was captivated by his infectious sense of humor and his accessible poetry that offered wonderful insights into being human. I even wrote some poems under Bill's coaching that won an award at NWU.

While I continued to follow the work of Bill Kloefkorn, and then fellow-student and now Nebraska State Poet Twyla Hansen, I haven't done much with poetry since I was in college. So I was excited to see that the Type Rider II:  Tandem Poetry tour would be traveling through Nebraska last month. Maya and Amy rode a tandem bicycle from Boulder, CO to Beloit, WI to dedicate Little Free Libraries and inspire more interest in poetry and creativity along the way.

A hallmark of the Tandem Poetry tour is for Maya and Amy to ask participants to give them one word, then they each immediately begin typing out a poem on their individual manual typewriters for that person that is on based on their word. Knowing that the Brave Project would be launching soon, I was looking forward to their poems for "brave."

While I was disappointed I couldn't make it to their stop hosted by friends Lisa and Harry in Hastings, NE, I decided to catch them at their next stop in Friend, NE.   Photos from the Hastings gathering, showed adults in lawn chairs sipping glasses of wine while relaxing on a beautiful summer evening with the poets.  Since Friend's event was promoted by the Pourhouse wine tasting room, I made the leap that it would be a similar event.  Clearly I should have paid more attention to the blog post "Inspired by Strangers" announcing the event! But when I walked into the Friend's wonderfully restored historical building hosting the event, I was surrounded by 75 children decked out in balloon sculpture hats and surrounded by stations for ice cream, root beer and popcorn. I had walked right into a children's festival with Amy and Maya setting up their card table and manual typewriters up front.

What's a Brave poem seeking giant of an adult to do?

Get herself in line at the poetry table, of course!  Which, at the beginning had no children because they were each basking in their balloon sculpture, sugar-induced glory and not interested in poems.

But then they came.

And crowded in front of me. 

None of them taller than my hip bone.

And since it was a children's festival afterall, I just let them shove their way to the front and waited patiently until Wilber teacher friend Connie came over to chat with me.

"Hi!  Which children did you bring today?" she asked expectantly.

"Oh... none.  Just me.  I didn't know it was a children's festival.  I just came for the poems," I said, hoping it wouldn't appear totally odd to be a poem chasing adult amidst children with sticky smears of ice cream and root beer on their cheeks.

Connie and I stood together and listened to poems written for "brothers" and " boing boing,"  - different words from the Hastings gathering to be sure - then I noticed Connie gently pull her grandson out of the kid table crowders and whisper urgently to him, "You let this lady go in front of you! She needs to get home to see her husband!" Ummm, didn't see that coming, but hey . . .whatever works.

Sigh.  Nothing like cutting in front of an 8 year old boy in line to get my poems!

So I kneeled down on one knee at the edge of the card table, at eye level with Maya and Amy, to be able to hear them read the poems they wrote for me above the din of children.

And oh how I love those poems!

It's fascinating to me that Maya and Amy could capture so much about the experience of those few minutes at the festival, as well as the intention behind the word I had chosen, with no conversation with me at all. And it's pretty cool to have a poem written just for you.

Part of the Tandem Poetry II Tour process, is to take a photo of each poem Maya and Amy write, then each author reads the poem aloud, hands it to you and moves on to their next word request.  Here are the poems Maya and Amy wrote for Brave, as well as their readings of them. (Note, Blogger is having trouble with spacing on these video clips, so you'll find Amy's poem at the end of this post.

The poems and experience meant a lot to me, and I encouraged my friends, via Facebook, to attend the Tandem Poetry event that was to take place in Lincoln during the same weekend. One friend, Jason, took me up on it.  I was out of town that day, so we texted back and forth while he was at the library waiting for the event to start. When I asked him, he told me he had his words narrowed down to "marvel" and "wonder", and looked forward to his poems too.
But he didn't get them. Maya and Amy only got to write 3 poems, and had to pedal off to Omaha for their next event. 

Knowing how much I loved my poems, that just didn't seem fair.

So, despite not having a type writer, and being a bit rusty on my poem writing skills, I decided that he should have his poems. Rather than write two poems for the same word, I wrote him poems for both words, then rolled my bike out of the garage, sat down on it and recorded them, then texted both the poems and my reading of them to him as a surprise. It was the launch of Ink Rider 1!  

With his permission to share, here is one of the poems I wrote for Jason:  Wonder.

I've been wanting to continue Ink Rider I since the summer, but set it aside to do things like study the stars, search out songs appropriate for the Torch Singer class and progress on all of those immunizations I need for the trip next spring.  But recently, though, I decided it was time to get back to it, and asked my friend Jackie to think about her word and send it to me when she had chosen it, so I could see if I could still write "instant poems" or if Jason's was the Ink Rider I version of a one-hit wonder.

Again, with her permission to share, here is my poem for Jackie's word:  Grow.

Next up?  Your poem.  If you'd like me to write a poem for you in the spontaneous, unedited, style that Maya and Amy modeled for me, leave me a comment with your word, and any background you'd like to share about why you chose it (optional). I'll do my best to write you a poem and share it with you over the coming weeks.  If you prefer, you may email me or text me your word, and I'll grab it from there.

Not sure you're a poetry kind of guy or gal? I'm fairly sure Jackie would never voluntarily trek to the library on a Sunday afternoon to hear poets read.  But she still likes her poem.  :) 

So be brave. Send me your word.

Amy's poem for Brave: