As a professional musician, the summer is my very slow season contrary to popular opinion. I have been spending my time getting my print media into the hands of potential clients. This morning found me stuffing envelopes with brochures & cards, and then mapping out my drive to different venues. Funerals homes, spas, banquet halls and even a school proves that nothing is off limits to me. I even visit nursing homes, hospices, and adult day cares. It is important to be aware of all of the potential opportunities that exist. Sometimes, I have to put extra effort into finding them for myself.
It is also the responsibility of a creative individual to diversify as much as possible. The bulk of my business consists of weddings; however, that does not mean that I can’t perform graveside or bedside for a dying patient. Last week, I was hired to perform on the platform of a MetroMover station. Strange? Yes. Fun? Absolutely.
The emails are finished. The driving around and introducing myself is finished. The walnuts are currently being munched on, and I think that I am going to take a nap shortly. The thing to realize about all of the work that happened today is that nothing may come of any of it. A job has not been landed, and there isn’t an immediate paycheck. The hustle is like that. You have to continue to produce and put forth effort while hoping that something comes through. Also, you have to smile as the bills come in and your account dwindles.
This is important to remember when people ask for free performances or discounted services. For one thing, it is insulting to be asked to work for free. While it is my passion, make no mistake about it, this is a job. It takes money in order for me to make money. The lovely brochures that I passed out cost a pretty penny. If I do not get out of my bed all day, money is being spent on air, electricity, water, wi-fi, etc. It is not possible for me to take care of myself by simply giving services away.
It spoke with a deep bass voice. As the world turned, it descended into a violent tremolo. People fell from grace as it continued its painful crescendo. An occasional pizzicato lightened our load. It approached its whole note with a furious bow. There wasn’t a happy medium in sight. Simply piano to sfz. A triple forte was a mere suggestion. The fine brought the cello to its ultimate C. People exhaled and shoulders finally relaxed. The pain was finally released.
My life is rooted in full time work as well as the freelance world. The combination of the two affords me a reality that is interesting and often filled with duality. I am an employee and my own boss at the same time. I am the woman that truly works seven days a week. While others are enjoying their time off, I am often engaged in some sort of event that helps to develop my brand. An interesting twist to this is that when I do attend networking events, I do so for the social aspect. However, when in full work mode, there is only one agenda: be the music.
Valentine’s Day found me decked out in a new red blouse so that my red dress would not make another appearance all over social media for the second consecutive year. My day began entertaining at the spa as people walked in for their pampering appointments. I was showered with giant smiles and cries of joy. Compliment after compliment put me in appreciation heaven. A two hour break soon found me in Subway. Food somehow gets lost in the mix on performance days. It was not long before my marathon began with the nursing homes. There were three that were on my agenda. Luckily for me, enough music had finally been scanned into my IPAD. Playing songs from a pre-selected folder was so easy and it made me feel so very organized. By the time my home saw me again, the only thing that could greet me was my bed. Happy Valentine’s Day…..
Lady of Harp
There are private experiences that a girl has that she never tells anyone. There are other private experiences that a girl has that are too good to keep to herself. This will be one of those posts…….
It was the Spring of 2010. Bellydance had given way to the scandalous world of pole. New sights and sounds were captivating me and a new lifestyle held me in its arms. Hip scarves, coins, and glitter, had been traded in for heels, skin, and lots of naughtiness. It was great and exactly what a repressed Lady needed to allow the abundance of her sacral chakra to manifest. That is my attempt at being subtle. Allow me to be direct: pole turned me into a Lady on the prowl.
Easter Sunday was when I received the call. An artist friend wanted me to assist him with a project. He wanted to created a brotherhood circle with a new artist in town from France. He wanted people to be able to go back and forth between the two galleries and enjoy culture: art, music, dance, food, wine. Life at its finest. Within days, I visited his gallery to get a feel for the entertainment space. I was soon taken to the gallery of the visiting artist from France.
The meeting must have caused quite a sensation amongst sensitive people. My friend told me prior to entering the gallery that I should do something that called upon Egypt of yesteryear. As my feet carried me into the all white gallery, my eyes turned to the left and there was a painting of a harpist in the court of a pharaoh. What are the chances….
After admiring the artwork, I followed the sounds of Creole and French. Apparently, the artists were having a conversation. As my eyes took in the sight of the gorgeous piece of chocolate from France, strange things began to happen. Lots of blinking was necessary because a large white light was surrounding him. I felt calm and happy at the same time. We did not exchange a lot of words because neither of us knew what to say. I had to step away for a moment to take in everything that had transpired. Who was this gorgeous foreigner and how did I end up in his presence? I was the person that was going to arrange the entertainment between both galleries?! How did I get this lucky. He immediately invited me to have a drink with him. All of us ended up in the previous gallery dancing and making general merriment well into the night. It was official. The art world had swallowed me whole.
Gallery night soon appeared. One by one all of the dancers that had been confirmed vanished for one reason or another. The entire performance segment fell onto my shoulders. With my cd in tow, I danced to my own music. It was a surreal experience for me. It was a lovely evening. People gazed upon the art with sheer admiration. Wine was poured and laughter was everywhere. As my night came to a close, I found myself in the arms of the handsome Frenchman who had captivated my attention only days before.
It was necessary for me to go home as a pole class was on my schedule for the next day. I packed the harp and left.
The next day, the handsome Frenchman invited me to visit him at his gallery. I politely declined because of pole class when it hit me. There was a very strong attraction happening between us. He was leaving for France in a matter of days, and I probably would never see him again. It would be okay for me to visit him for a nice friendly chat. Perhaps he woulds serve tea and crumpets. I decided to stop by his gallery prior to pole class in the Grove.
My hair was perfect. My outfit was also quite nice. I waltzed up to the gallery and knocked on the door. He unlocked it and allowed me to enter. I asked him if we were alone. He responded yes. There was not a lot of conversation after that. All I can say is that for the next three days, we were inseparable. Before he boarded the plane to return to France, he thanked me for a wonderful visit. I thanked him for the memory of a lifetime. This is the reason that I will always have a special place in my heart for the country of France.
The invite popped up on Facebook. There was a lot of time on my hands and it looked so very interesting. It was a spoken word night at a local fashion house that I had never heard of. Prior to the death of a dear friend, I used to attend spoken word events at a special poetry house. One Erotic Poetry Night turned fatal as I put my head to slumber. Upon waking I learned that the kind hearted owner had been shot on the premises. With his departure, I left that world for other things without ever looking back. Saturday nights used to catch me in his poetry house simply admiring the poets. This invite inspired me to do it all over again.
Upon entry into the fashion house, I knew that my feet were taking me back to a place that felt so comfortable. My presence had been made for less than five minutes, and I already knew that I would return in the near future. The smell of the incense carried me to a place of familiarity. The hostess gave me the grand tour and introduced me to the owner of the house. The kind DJ bought me a drink. The night started off on an awesome foot. As the show got started, my custom made ear plugs came in rather handy. I wanted to enjoy the show without being disgruntled by the loudness of it.
The world music began with an ancestral drumming. I had never seen such a performance in a secular setting before. It was a pleasant surprise. A vocalist began crooning over the guitar, and she looked oh so vocal. She had the body of what would be considered a true queen: she was a big girl and sang like it. Her performance was the highlight of the night. Suddenly, the strong smell of alcohol interrupted me as did the now skunk scent of the incense. A feeling of escape soon overwhelmed me. I rushed into the arms of the hostess as I saw myself out.
When I entered my sanctuary, incense was burned and an alternative radio station was found. It was my desire to recreate my previous experience. What a lovely evening. There is another poetry night that is closer to my home tomorrow evening. Will I attend?
It was 2010 when I hung up my hip scarf. My last hafla performance was in Orlando is a lovely red dress that shimmered from head to toe. Days before, I graced the stage at a holistic conference in Miami Shores. I sat behind a desk in shock at the amount of money I made in 20minutes vs. my regular job. My class at the shelter was given to another instructor. I walked away from it all. The costumes, shimmying, shows, haflas….all of it. It was over for me. The better part of my costumes were sold with the exception of two. My life went in other directions. It was fine. That was five years ago.
Lately, my radio has played the music of the Middle East. My English cousin arrived for a visit, and I planned a dinner in her honor at a Mediterranean restaurant that I used to frequent. The house dancer got me up to perform with her. My scarf, which was bought in Egypt, was wrapped around my waist. That was all she wrote.
Days before my shimmy, an event planner called. Crystal, that bride is having her anniversary party, and it is a Moroccan theme. Can you send me estimates for a bellydance performance? In the blink of an eye, the world that I left so long ago came knocking at my door. The same English cousin wrapped a present for me prior to arriving to America. When I opened it, a book & finger cymbals fell out. It was about bellydance. Finger cymbals. I asked a friend to look for them for me days earlier.
When the universe conspires to take you down a path, if you are aware of the signs, you follow it. In this case, there is a gentle push for me to reconnect with something that brought me a great deal of happiness for a long time. I wonder what it will be like now that I am older. Will I perform again? Has my dance identity changed? What about classes, will I teach? A lot of new questions now lay on my plate.
It was chilly. The live concert did absolutely nothing for me. The worldly collective sounds simply did not pierce my soul in the way that was anticipated. My face fell to the ground as my heart unfollowed the beat of the tabla. My cell kept appearing in my hands and boom. A missed phone call eluded to some sort of fun before turning into a pumpkin. A quick conversation soon led to tea and eye candy. Lots of late night eye candy.
As I sat there in the quiet solace of the funeral home, it dawned on me that it was my first time at a funeral since performing at my father’s funeral. Would I be okay? How would I react being in this setting?
Before long, my hands began to play and the sounds filled the entire place. The funeral director came and smiled at me. He closed the doors so as not to allow anyone in before the appropriate time; however, a head or two would peep in. It was not long before the doors were open and people filed in sporadically.
The tears began to fall, and the muffled sounds of crying were heard. This is to be expected at a funeral which is why boxes of tissues are readily available. I found myself in the dynamics of my music, and performed many of the same songs that I performed for my father. As the crying continued, more people trickled in and embraced each other. Some people approached the casket for a final look while others heavily sank into the pews. The thought of my mother falling asleep to my music crossed my mind as I began the next selection. This was a healing process in plain view.
My hour came to a close, and my eyes fell on the Soprano. She was set to sing a capella. After discovering that the Ave Maria was included on the program, we performed it together. When we were finished, we smiled at each other and agreed that we had to do a concert together. The last time that I saw her was at my father’s funeral where she made the crowd swoon with her rendition of the Lord’s Prayer. Here we were again for yet another congregation of mourners with our classical repertoire in hand.
After leaving the funeral home, the problem of lunch arose. There was enough time for me to grab a smoothie and pack the music for the wedding that was awaiting me in a few hours. It was said that my day sounded emotionally draining. Perhaps, but in truth, I feel very prepared for such situations. It is at this point in my life when I realize how much healing is a part of my job.
In 2010, The Beginning was released as my first cd. It had occurred to me that I had fallen into simply doing performances that enabled me to be in the background; this is something that I needed to change. Music has been a passion of mine since childhood, and there was more that I could do with it besides my normal endeavors. Compositions began to appear and the impromptu songs that I created suddenly surfaced as a new skill for me: improvisation.
Since releasing that cd, interesting collaborations have occurred. Poets have poured their hearts out on stage as I plucked tunes behind them. Some of the songs on the cd were written for: Flamenco, Ballet, and Middle Eastern Dance. I even used my music while teaching at a local womens’ shelter. There was once a beautiful pole dancer that freestyled for ten glorious minutes while I created her soundtrack.
When I think about why I live this musical life, I think about how the music makes me feel. It gives me the opportunity to be creative and step into an extraordinary life. My mind can go somewhere and take the audience with it. Words do not have to be said; the music does the talking for me. It can convey the deepest of emotions and the heights of joy.
Harp was not available to me when I had a fleeting thought about it in middle school. As my senior year of high school came to a close, my father suggested that I try it. It was not long before I was performing at local events and with various ensembles. Life serves as the inspiration for me to continue this journey with my harp. There is so much to share and explore with this rare instrument. It brings me a great deal of satisfaction when people are able to get in touch with their feelings because they were able to listen to me perform.
Along the journey of life, I discovered meditation. It soon dawned on me that the harp would be beneficial to such a practice. It was then that I created Harpitations; meditation to my improvisations on the harp. This was something that I pursued at a local spiritual center for a year along with womens’ circles. People would share their visions and feelings of being balanced after the sessions. It was always an interesting exchange of energy. I would offer the music and the people would return their words of elevation. In the near future, I see myself developing this into something that can benefit more people.
As the year progresses, new projects shall appear on my plate. Celtic Harp is something that shall be a pursuit of mine in addition to a possible Soprano & Harp recital. Composing is always around the corner, and there has been more than one request for another cd. Narrowing down the theme shall be difficult as there is so much that I can do: angels, lullabies, popular music; it is so hard to choose. The one thing that is certain is that the life of a musician is always full of wonderful things that entertain not only the audience but the musician as well.
It was a dark and stormy Wednesday afternoon. My car was packed and ready for the performance. The nice warm black sweater with pearls fit me quite nicely. As I drove down the highway, I mentally reviewed the playlist in my head. I contacted my on site person to let her know that I was en route. It had been many years since I performed at Baptist Hospital, and I was happy to return to such a lovely place. I used to walk there and feed ducks.
After I unloaded, the hospital labyrinth swallowed me whole. It was quite a sight to see so many doctors and support personnel. It was nice to get a glimpse of so many different types of careers in their actual environment. Once inside the auditorium, I was greeted with smiles and good cheer. Once the instrument was tuned, I began to perform. It was then that the adventure began.
A woman approached me with such joy on her face. She said that her mother used to play the harp and when she heard me performing,…..she was unable to complete her sentence. She indicated to me that she had been crying and truly appreciated what I was doing. Music can have such an effect on people. It can provide them with emotional releases. Three hours came and went. The set finished with Adele as I have been updating my music with very current radio hits. Everyone was sad to see me go.
As I drove home, the rain continued to make its presence known. I thought about how touched that woman was by the music. It did something for her. I wonder who else can be moved with a performance….