Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Monday, August 2, 2010 (11:31pm)

Every summer, I spend a week with 100 plus amazing kids. They are almost all in the foster care system. They’ve been abused or neglected. Many of them have moved from one foster home to another with no sense of normalcy. Some of them live in group homes. Many of them are on medication to help them cope. Some have seen horrors most people can’t even imagine.

But for that week, we all meet together at camp. There they can just be kids and not the odd kid out. Over 100 adults take time off from work and away from their families to be there too. In a world where Christians normally only make the news if they blow up an abortion clinic, drown their children, or shoot their douche bag cheating minister husbands, a church quite a drive away from the camp raises thousands of dollars every year to pay all the kids way for free. I live right by the camp, and every year they let me come too join them. I’m sort of like the friendly, local camp mascot. I help them with the music and other things that need to be done.

Every year I love it. For a week my soul lets down and breathes easier too. It is wonderful to see the kids, and horrible at the same time, knowing all too well what their lives are like… remembering being that age too and living through similar horrors without anyone to rescue me or make it better…. thankful that I survived to know what it means to be loved truly and deeply. I see those beautiful faces and wonder that they don’t have a home and a family that loves them. So many of them come year after year. I keep hoping that each year will be the one where they have a family to call their own and I won’t see them there.

Because they are foster children, no photographs of the children are allowed to leave the camp except for the ones the kids bring home with them… but their faces are burned into my memory… and their stories and their names.

Statistics say that many more of them will not graduate high school and will end up homeless. But statistics don’t take into account something those kids end up with at the end of the week. They have hope… and most of them have a follow up mentor who will be a stable person as their life changes around them.

Near the main meeting place there is a large wall with the words I Was Here written on it. The campers write messages to each other and about their cabins. It’s always touching to read their scribbled messages. They were there… and they are here still very much in my heart. I’ll be praying for them and caring for them, and hoping that this will be the year that they find a mother and a father to love them truly and deeply. Every year they hear the truth about a God who also loves them and can walk with them through all the pain in their lives. It’s my prayer that they let Him be the one who holds their hearts in the same way He holds mine.

I am so thankful to be a part of their lives.

So I was with them … I Was Here…


Tonight I’m sitting here thinking about living life as a creative person.  I’ve pretty much made a living being creative my whole life. Even in high school I missed the job at Jack in the Box, serving up hamburgers and things that vaguely resemble tacos using my photography to make money.  I learned early on that I could photograph all the people who tended to be self absorbed… i.e. the people in drama and the various music groups, and when I was really desperate… the jocks. Then I would make 8 x 10’s of them and sell the prints to them. It beat the heck out of the alternative, and gave me time to pursue my other interests instead.  I worked hard to become a better photographer and to become better at the darkroom work to support it. 

I also went out of my way to get better as a musician. Since my parents refused to spring for music lessons I worked at playing the bass so I could play with guitarists that were better than me so I could watch them and learn from them. I went to concerts and watched the guitarists, trying to glean anything I could from their playing. I spent hours alone practicing… and slowly but surely I got better.

So many people I know are wanting to pursue music or other creative endeavors, but they don’t want to put in the hours it takes to hone their craft. I see that all the time as a music teacher. A lot of my students want to be able to play well. Few of them are willing to put in the extra effort to go from being able to play through something, to making it great. It’s the difference between creating like you are cramming for a test, or creating like you want to be able to play it for life.

We’re a society of people who are rushing from thing to thing at a breakneck pace, with constant noise and stimulation. There’s always the T.V., or the iPod or the cell phone… something to distract us from just being quiet in the moment. The creative process needs time to happen. We need to have time to think… to imagine… to write, to try different ideas on our instruments.  I want to continue to improve as a musician, as a photographer and as a writer. To do that I have to step away from the distractions and make the time to actually do it.

You can open the entertainment section in any paper in any city and look at the ads for people playing locally. A lot of them will not be that good. But they are there playing because they had the creative work ethic to take the time to rehearse and show up. If we are serious we need to take the time pursue the creative part of our life and not allow it to get sidetracked by all the other things competing for our time.

Heather Youmans, one of my bass students, is a great example of being willing to work hard to pursue her creative dream. In the midst of a crazy academic load in high school, she’s faithfully plugged away at honing her craft creatively. She’s spent years developing her voice and her acting and dancing talents. She’s really applied herself to the nuts and bolts of bass playing as well. She’s taken the time to do the “hard boring part” of it all. She’s worked at the scales and the music theory. She’s spent the time working at developing her ear and learning to read music. Along the way she’s become a good bass player who can actually sing, front a band, and play bass all at the same time. She’s been doing soundtrack work for several years and her own album is releasing soon. It hasn’t been easy. She’s spent a lot of hours practicing. She’s spent a lot of hours in the studio and rehearsing. But she’s ready. I have other students who want to be musicians or singers that I’ve been teaching as long as I’ve been teaching Heather. They are no closer to their dream though because while she’s been hard at work they’ve been busy with other things and spending most of their down time partying.

Over the years I’ve known a huge number of incredibly naturally talented people who’ve gotten no where because they weren’t willing to put the extra work in to achieve greatness. I’ve also known a lot of people who’ve developed into really good players and have had success creatively because while they were less naturally gifted, they had a hunger… a passion to develop their art and they took the time to perfect their craft.

I want to keep creating. I never want to rest on what I’ve done in the past. God save me from the incessant noise and distractions that go on all around me. Help me to take the time to work at my craft as well. May I continue to find ways to encourage my other students to be more like Heather and put elbow grease to their dreams.

Here’s Heather’s current music video:

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

New Life for a Rock Star…

Brian “Head” Welsh was the guitarist from the rock band Korn. This is his story in his own words…

Saturday, February 21, 2009

15 Albums That Influenced My Life… The Cheaters Version…


This is one of those surveys that has been making it’s rounds on facebook. I decided to post it here too because music is an important part of my life. Most of this list contains material that helped shape who I am as a musician now during my “formulative years.” Music was a great outlet for me when I was young, and one of the few safe places to express what was really going on inside of me. It helped me to deal with the the trauma I experienced as a child and as a teenager. Here’s my entry as it appeared on facebook:

Think of 15 albums, CDs, LPs (if you’re over 40) that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life. Dug into your soul. Music that brought you to life when you heard it. Royally affected you, kicked you in the wazoo, literally socked you in the gut, is what I mean. Then when you finish, tag 15 others. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good. Tag, you’re it…

Ok, so I’m never good at playing by the rules, and you can’t expect a music teacher with a bizillion albums to be able to hang with 15 albums. I decided to divide stuff up by musical grouping part of the time with the stuff that shaped and formed my life and the way I play. There could have been a lot more.
Motown – (Early 60’s) Some of my earliest memories in California were hanging out with my next door neighbor listening to early Motown, especially Diana Ross & The Supremes.

The Beatles – Life as we previously had known it would never be the same after they showed up. For me it was not one of their albums it was the total package and the way they kept changing and morphing and creating such an amazing variety of really good music. I wanted to play the guitar after that. I learned about the power of a great melody from them. So many of their songs had these out arrangements on the recordings, but most of them still work with one acoustic guitar. It was because of the Beatles and The Beach Boys album, Pet Sounds that I became interested in multi-track recording.

Led Zeppelin – (1969 – 1980) I was blown away by their creativity and the sheer variety in their music. I think all of them were amazing musicians individually and together I don’t think there’s ever been a rock band that’s quite that strong as a unit.

Great guitarists, most who died too young. These guys totally influenced my life and my playing just a few of them were Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, BB King, Buddy Guy, and Bonnie Raitt. (On a side note I would love to have her voice.)

Singer/Songwriters: Cat Stevens – Tea For the Tillerman (1970) Helped me see the power of the song. Simon & Garfunkel -Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970) All these years later I’m still blown away at the power and beauty of these songs. Bruce Hornsby – The Way It Is (1986) That album, and especially that song, still powerfully resonates with me. That was the theme song for my life for a long time. The basic idea… people say this… “but don’t you believe it.”

Carole King – Tapestry (1971) The first album I ever saved up my own money to buy. I loved the lyrics and melody and the percussive piano playing. I wore it out from playing it so much. It was the album that helped me survive middle school, my mother’s death, and the sudden death of my childhood.

Neil Young (All the early stuff) I loved his rawness and crustyness.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – The guitars! The Harmonies! (Especially Deja Vu)
David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971) I was stunned by the harmonies and the music.

ZZ Top – Tres Hombres (1973) La Grange and Jesus Done Left Chicago Robin Trower – Bridge of Sighs ( 1974) Both of these bands made me want to play blues rock in a big way.

U2 – Their early albums were so passionate. They are still a great rock band. Every worship guitarist on the planet owes a debt to The Edge.

Progressive Rock – At the same time I was starting to play blues rock I was also drawn into progressive rock. Some of the first stuff I played in bands in high school was in weird timing etc. Some of the bands I loved to listen to and play on guitar were early Genesis, Gentle Giant, Yes, Emmerson Lake & Palmer and later Dream Theater and Rush.

Christian Artists: 2nd Chapter of Acts – With Footnotes (1974) Raw Christian music with good lyrics and amazing vocal harmonies that would go from “pretty” and almost too vibrottoy to edgy screamy rock. When Annie Herring sang “He took away my sin and shame,” I knew it was true for me too. Seeing them live a bunch of times was amazing. They did a tour that was them, Phil Keagy, Barry Mcguire, David Souther and some other great musicians that made me want to get better on my instruments. KEITH GREEN – His whole body of work (1975 -1982) Keith was an amazing songwriter and musician. I loved seeing him play live and at home in California during the early days of what would become Last Days Ministries. I think his death in a fiery plane crash in 1982 was the catalyst for a much needed reevaluation among many in the contemporary Christian music industry. A lot of people didn’t like him because he was so extreme… but I did notice that a lot of the artists that had been straying away from their original ministry goals did refocus after that. RICH MULLINS – Such a great songwriter and odd guy who didn’t give into the system and wasn’t perfect… a good role model. DANIEL AMOS/DA – These guys were way ahead of their time and were one of the most creative bands to ever get pigeonholed into the CCM category… Alarma and Doppelganger are amazing.

Stevie Wonder – Innervisions (1973) and Songs In the Key of Life (1976) – Completely amazing. The rhythms.

Heart – Dreamboat Annie (1976) and Little Queen (1977) I grew up in a world without many female rock roll models. Here were women who could sing like crazy and play too. It’s sad that I was a senior in high school before these guys showed up on the scene.

David Wilcox – Once again it’s not just one song or album. It’s the entirety of his career. David’s not that well known, but he’s an amazing songwriter and guitarist. He’s that rare breed of musician who’s not interested in being a rock star. He wants to practice his craft and be able to support his family. He tackles tough issues and sings about faith in a way that makes the gospel live without cramming it down peoples throats. He uses weird tunings, and makes the acoustic guitar sing.

Patty Griffin – Living With Ghosts (1996 ) I’m overwhelmed by the power of one focused voice and guitar with passion and great material. I never get tired of listening to this album… or any of her stuff for that matter. I want to be like her when I grow up.

One of my favorite things about teaching is watching my students take the raw material that I give them and then bulid on it to make it something different, and a lot of times better. Here is a video of one of my students… Ryan Palmer. He was working on one of my arrangements of Silent Night. He changed some of the chords to give it a slightly darker feel. I love what he did with it. That’s one of the things I love about him and his music. I think you’ll enjoy it too. If you have a youtube account, stop by and give him some feedback.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 (8:30am)
And Now For Something Completely Different…

A couple of days ago I was looking at one of my student’s blogs. She had put her ipod on shuffle and then picked obscure lyrics from the songs that were the first 10 and put them up to see if people could identify them. Most of them were from bands who’s members are younger than most of my guitars. The only one that probably should have looked vaguely familiar, given my ancient age was “the girl with kaleidoscope eyes” (Ok you old farts… certainly you know this one.)

The scary thing was not only did I know all the bands, even if I was fuzzy on a few of the titles of the songs… but I actually knew the lyrics. Of course this particular student has a similar brain to mine and it’s not too surprising that she would have written those particular lyrics down. Hopefully she will be able to mock her friends sufficiently that the really old chick knew more than they did.

But the bigger lesson for me was a reminder about how much I learn from my students and how much my life is better because they almost force me to continue learning. I had lunch with one of my former students the other day… she’s a senior in high school now and she asked me if I ever learned things from my students and it made me start thinking about it.

I think as we start getting older we tend to fall back on the familiar, partially because it’s easier or we’re too tired to care. What was it that Bob Dylan said…???? “I used to care, but things have changed.” But my students show up with new music week after week they are excited about. Sometimes at first listen my brain screams “why in the world would ANYONE like this stuff?!????” But because I care about them and most of them do have functional brains, my next thought is… let me listen to this more and see what it is about this that is making them so excited. I start listening with different ears. Thanks to them I definitely have eclectic taste in music now. Some of the music that is being produced by this generation is amazing for various reasons. Disco was the soundtrack of my generation in our teens and twenties… how horrible is that? Granted, some of the music being produced now is horrible either because of it’s lyrical content or it’s annoying music (don’t get me started on most rap and hip-hop) but some of it is wonderful too. So on the music front I decided to put up some music on my myspace page occasionally that might be different for some of you who are a little older, but is an example of what your kids or younger friends might be listening to. Visitors to this blog can find my myspace page at :

For me though, the take away for today is that my students … your kids … their generation … is so worth listening to. Our relationships with them are so important. We need to take the time to dive into their worlds more and find out what is important to them and why and to assume there might be value in it because we value them. It’s not just music… it’s their other interests too. This generation more than any in a long time has really embraced their parent’s culture in a lot of ways. Most of my guitar students love some of the same things I loved when I was in jr. high and high school musically. And while those of us who are products of the 70s are still pretty much the “ME” generation in a lot of ways… preoccupied with our lives and our interests, and not very interested in investing in their lives… a lot of their generation actually believes they can make a difference in the world and each other’s lives. It does my heart good to see that.

So if the music on my myspace page seems a little weird from time to time, take a few minutes to listen. And whenever you get a chance, take the time to listen to and enjoy your own kids too with fresh eyes and ears. They are an amazing bunch. You can tell them I said so.

January 7, 2008

The Flip Side of the Coin…
(Or How I Spent My Christmas Vacation)
I had two weeks off in a row for the first time since then. And, while I did spend the first week feeling pretty sick and horrible, it was still nice to just have time to rest and recuperate in peace. I had a chance to just sit and read for long periods of time. I got to work on learning to run my new multi-track recorder. I had a chance to input the music/lyrics and chords for about 30 new songs into the computer, which is very time consuming but wonderful to have. I got a chance to just hang out and goof off with my husband. We had a nice, peaceful, calm Christmas, which was a wonderful thing. The second week I felt better and I got to see some friends that I have been missing, and have some great meals with them.

Nancy and I got a chance to record and work on music, which has been good for my soul. I got a chance to just go outside and breathe the air and stare blankly. We also got a chance to go feed the geese (more about being the goose whisper in another blog) and enjoy nature. Those things might not seem like a big deal… but they were very precious gifts to me. Given the new year, it’s probably good I got a chance to rest up some.

I also got a chance to read A Widening Light, a poetry anthology put together by Luci Shaw of wonderful contemporary poets writing on the Life of Christ. I think that, mixed with all the good and bad Christmas memories brought back for me just how thankful I am for God’s mercy and redemption in a real way. Some of us have been reading through the Bible this year together… and this verse from Matthew 4:17 in “The Message” version jumped out at me…
“People sitting out their lives in the dark saw a huge light;
Sitting in that dark, dark country of death,
they watched the sun come up.”

It’s late and I’m way too tired right now to adequately describe just how much that is my story. When I was young I lived in the middle of horrible darkness. Even then I knew that there had to be a better life for me. Hopefully one of these days I’ll find the words to explain. But I was reminded again how thankful I am to be alive and to know the mercy of God… even in the midst of breaking, dripping things. I know I’ll get through the other stuff. I’m thankful I have some help along the way.

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t get much down time. As a matter of fact, the last time I had any time off without someone dying, Ken and/or I being sick, or some major natural disaster/crisis was about ten years ago.