Monday, June 16, 2014

Songwriting. The start of a long awaited journey.

It's funny how a small thing can change things so dramatically. A simple conversation. A validation from a highly respected source. A single word of encouragement timed just right. Somehow, these small things are the ones that change our lives, and change the world! That is what happened to me the weekend we went to a  panel with the musical guests at the Clockwork Alchemy Steampunk convention in San Jose. I just thought it would be fun to attend but didn't think much of it beyond that. As the panel continued I got up the nerve to ask a question that in all honesty was afraid I'd be looked down on for. I felt kind of fan-girl like and felt like I was probably going to be treated as such. But I did it anyway and because of that one move, incredible things transpired. It's amazing what happens when you bite the bullet and "Just do it!"

My question was basically asking how to get started in and breaking into other genre's being trained as an Opera singer. Where should I start? The resulting responses were incredibly supportive. The whole panel had so much to say and constructive ideas that just kept coming. A couple even took the time AFTER the panel to talk to me personally and give me some amazing information and ideas and "homework." I wasn't just a "fan girl" (well ok, I was kinda fan-girl-squeeing inside during this whole process :P ) but was looked at as another musician and treated with that respect. Not that it hasn't happened before, but this was a different environment with musicians that I've listened to on records but never met. People who when it came down to it, even though I had looked on them as "idols" before, were just like me!

The next day I attended a Song Craft workshop with most of the same musicians that were at the panel plus a couple. A series of exercises led us to compose a song, lyrics and music, in groups that we performed at the end of the workshop. It was amazing! I ended up collaborating on lyrics with three other people and writing a good chunk of the music to a waltz that I even now kinda fiddling with. Each group took turns performing our song and it led into an open Jam session that I got to be a part of and got to sing in. It lit a fire inside that is still burning. I've actually started to write music regularly. Most of it is notes and pieces and small recordings here and there, but I'm actually doing it!

Music has always been such a huge part of my life. People that know me at all really, know that. I was in every school music club I could get into, I majored in Vocal music in college, and I've been involved in varied classical groups over the years. I've found my way into some amazing circles that I cherish greatly. But I've always felt like I was meant for something bigger but I didn't know how or what that looked like and I have spent most of the time paralyzed by fear. Fear of disappointing people. Fear of not being good enough to hang with the big guns. Fear of letting go and being myself. Fear of not being
'exactly' what a certain group needs. Fear of...well everything really. Fear has paralyzed me from so much that I didn't even try. Don't get me wrong, I love Opera and Early music and will always love performing in Operas and groups like Revels and In Bocca al Lupo, but my heart longs for something different as well. Something unique. Something that isn't just imitating other's styles and expectations. Something different and boundary smashing.

My own personal taste in music is probably one of the most eclectic of anyone I know. If you look at my music collection you will find everything from Cecilia Bartoli to Nightwish to Lady Gaga (yes...I have some guilty pop music pleasures I admit) and everything in between. My favorite genre's of late are indy crossover conglomerations that take anything and everything and hit frappe in a blender! Rock opera, gypsy electronica, classical dub step, boom swing etc etc. What I listen to is not held back by limits. So why should what music I produce be limited either? Why do I have to be confined to what I was "trained" in? I seem to get this vibe from some of the classical music community that it's classical or nothing! That no other kind of music is good enough or "real" music. That if you are trained in Opera, Opera is what you stick with, forever. That classical music is to be done a certain way or it isn't worth the time or respect. Well you know what? I call BULLSHIT! It's time to broaden my performance to see what I can do. Who knows what will show up?

I've always longed to be a songwriter but have been afraid that I didn't have what it took. So I write a few lines of poetry here and there, never to be seen by another pair of eyes besides my own. I hum some things in the woods when by myself, never to be heard by another set of ears. I've written a couple little chants and were well received but overall I just didn't think I had what it took. But deep down, more than just about anything, this is where I feel I need to go with my music. How am I to get any better if I don't try? If I don't "JUST DO IT!" Yes I know there isn't much money in it, and it'll be hard and frustrating and I will scrunch up a lot of pages of notes and have fights with other musicians. But ultimately if I were to look back on my life on my death bed, this is the one BIG thing I would regret if I didn't at least give it a decent go. I go!


  1. This makes me think of a couple of quotes:
    "It's time to see what I can do. Test the limits and break through."
    “The important thing about songs is that they're just like stories. They don't mean a damn unless there's people listenin' to them.”

    I'm so excited and proud to see you taking these next steps. It's going to be hard, and yeah, the money ain't gonna pour in, but it's what you need, and it's what the world needs from you.


    1. Yeah...that song has been running through my head ;) Thank you so much for your support! <3

  2. I am so excited for you, Michelle, even though I don't know you beyond this post. And with a classically trained voice you can do amazing things that others can't or, if they could, wouldn't think to do. We struggle in the arts but it is a struggle worth undertaking. We can strengthen our souls by doing what we love or we can destroy our souls by restricting ourselves to what others expect. Go for it!

    1. Thank you so much! I'm amazed this post found people I've never met before. Kinda awesome! Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement. Knowing people out there are excited for me and are pushing me to do it helps keep that fire alive!

      "We can strengthen our souls by doing what we love or we can destroy our souls by restricting ourselves to what other's expect." PERFECT words that I needed to hear. Thank you!