Reflections

Let the music speak …

So this afternoon I took a bunch of students to a local retirement home and put on a little concert for the residents. The date for today’s concert had been booked in for the last 6 weeks, but somehow residents knew nothing of it and were more than a little surprised when we arrived. One elderly lady in particular had been sitting at the table in the common area, where we were setting up, reading her newspaper and got incredibly annoyed when I started plugging in my speaker (I hadn’t even turned it on yet). She pulled me a side and demanded to know what was going on. I explained the situation as best as I could, but she didn’t seem impressed with my explanation and in a huff, packed up her papers and gruffly left the room. Staff were busy gathering other residents and getting them settled in the space, whilst I waited for the rest my performers to arrive. The newspaper lady was still in the hallway clearly put out and super annoyed with what she called an “intrusion” and announced she was going to have “none of it” and instead would go back to her room. I finished setting up and got the concert underway. As each of the kids got up to do their performance, you could feel the energy change and the joy on the faces of the residents said it all. In fact 10mins passed and the newspaper lady came back, stuck her head in the room and then proceeded to make her way to a free couch closest to where the kids were performing. She was still a little gruff but another resident very audibly rebuffed her, reminding her that “they were just kids and that she ought to give them a chance”. And for the rest of the concert, she let down her guard, clapped enthusiastically and beamed after all the kids had performed.

It’s interesting how music, particularly when kids are involved, builds bridges and dissipates the barriers we build around ourselves. What a beautiful transformative moment! In fact, the newspaper lady had nothing but praises to sing afterwards; about how awesome the kids were, how beautifully they sang and played and how she enjoyed the concert. If only more people would let down their guards and let music speak to them – can you imagine such a world? #moremusicplease #letthemusicspeak #musictransforms #musiciansdream

One of my old kids, Ella, in the moment

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#voiceactorinthemaking

So … for the past 6 weeks I’ve been doing a voice over course at King Sound Studios in conjunction with the Voice Booth. Having just a little taste test of the ins and outs of voice over land, I’m feeling super empowered and feel as though a fire’s been lit to get me hustling again. Create. Sing. Play. Write. Inspire. Hustle. 👊

A massive thanks to Joe, Tim and Rory from King Sound Studios, the Voice Booth and all our guest lecturers.

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Picking the brains of these extraordinaires: Pat Pattison and Bonnie Hayes workshop

Pat Pattison and Bonnie Hayes. Two of Berkley’s (School of Music) finest professors, royalty in songwriting, two people who genuinely care about the art of writing songs and equipping their students with the tools to produce better music, sigh!

This last weekend I got to spend time picking the brains of both Pat and Bonnie at their recent songwriting workshop. To simply be in the presence of these two was awe-inspiring with their knowledge, experience and line-up of phenomenal musicians/ songwriters they have taught/ worked with (Pat taught John Mayer and Gillian Welch to write songs and had recently spent a week teaching the writers at Disney, that’s write DISNEY, to write better songs for their movies, just to name a few, and Bonnie played for Billy Idol back in the day and wrote songs for Bonnie Raitt – BONNIE RAITT!!! Not that name dropping matters =p ) but to top off the delightful weekend I was fortunate enough to have my song “Someday” appraised by them. Of course they were ruthless (in a good way of course) and everything they had to say about my song was totally right; the melody and the setting of the lyric were disjointed at times… giving emphasis to inconsequential words like “of” and “the” detracted from the emotional response of the listener … the content in the 2nd verse plateaued so there was no reason to sing the chorus again … oh such gold! Of course none of this was negative feedback, in fact I was so thankful for their honesty – how else am I going to get better as a songwriter? What I was thoroughly taken back by was how encouraging both Pat and Bonnie were. Bonnie dealt with the music and Pat dealt with the lyrics #dreamteam. They loved the chords and the melody, the bridge was “very Bacharach” (as in Burt!), the chorus was beautiful “remarkable” even, and the “will you think of me someday” catch line was “so cool” but the setting of the lyrics had to be perfect, no just kinda good or just a little lumpy or clumsy.

Ok Pat and Bonnie, yep you totally schooled me with my own song. Thank you for the kick up the bum and the reminder to never settle for just KINDA good … perfection here I come!

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Hello Java, Indonesia

So … after 10+ years of emails, Skype sessions and miscellaneous messages, I had the great privilege to visit my dear uni friend Michelle, a phenomenal keys player/ musician/ band leader/ teacher and all round fantastic human, in her hometown of Bandung on the island of Java, Indonesia. 2 weeks of music, eating, catching up with old friends and connecting with new ones, more music, more eating and so much beautiful hospitality; my heart overflows with love for all whom I met (particularly Michelle and her family), made music with (more details in the next post), and had the privilege to teach, share and encourage within M.E Music Centre, where Michelle is the director. Of course no trip is complete without a little bit of touristy fun and a bit of extra travelling so here are some highlights of the trip …

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A Long Walk Grab

One Note Samba Grab

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Angklung Udjo Grab

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Goa Pindu Rafting Grab

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A letter to the year past and beyond

2016,
You have thrown so much unexpected and unexplainable stuff at me this year. There were times when I found myself huddled in a ball after crying myself numb, unable to feel for fear of explosion, unable to understand or reason or decide how to proceed. There were other times when I found myself elated, overwhelmed by people’s kindness and love, surrounded by so much support, encouragement and assurance. But despite all things I am still here, a little bruised, battered and thoroughly exhausted but still, here. So 2016, I thank you for teaching me how to survive and how to strive to be better.

2017,
let’s get messy!

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Proud Mother Hen

So it was the last lesson with one of my HSC singers today and she came bearing baked goods (my favourite kind of gift!). It’s always hard to say goodbye to students but it’s particularly hard when you’ve had the student since they were in year 7 and have seen the highs/ lows and in-betweens as they come into their own. Oh Amy, what a privilege it has been to teach you and see you grow. Thank you for never once apologising for being distinctly you and thank you all the laughs, tears, joys and pitfalls you’ve so graciously shared. Keep writing, singing, playing and creating. Never live in doubt as to whether you are able to achieve the highest of heights, I have seen you rise above and beyond, so just keep on keeping on. Work hard and you will certainly see the fruits of your labours. Best of luck for the HSC; soar and show the world all your Amy-ness.

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Pat Pattison; Songwriting Genius Extraordinaire

“The most important thing is to write in your own blood. I bare intimate feelings because people should know how other people feel.” Joni Mitchell, Time Magazine, December 1974.

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember, even before I wrote songs. I wrote stories in school, have journaled endlessly and am hopelessly in love with the use of language to convey ideas, dreams, hopes, desires, loss, mourning, fear, anger and every other facet of human existence.

It was at uni that I started dabbling in songwriting and soon after I discovered Pat Pattison; songwriting genius extraordinaire, Berkley School of Music’s Professor of Lyric Writing and Poetry, the guy who taught John Mayer, Gillian Welch and many others to write songs – jackpot! And thus starting the snowballing desire to harness and sharpen my songwriting skills, ever striving to write songs that not only convey a message but really connect and even pull at the heart strings of my listeners.

It was a joy to be able to spend the last weekend in the presence of Pat (and many other budding songwriters), picking his brain and having him share his knowledge and experience in a workshop titled “How do I know when I’m done with a song?” … and Pat’s answer to the title? “When I’ve done and checked everything I know … so how much do I (we) know?”

Often what drives one to write is a feeling but as Pat pointed out, writing a song from what we feel never makes a song ‘better’ rather just makes a song ‘different’, due to the fact that our feelings change so regularly. So in light of this, Pat insisted to start with the BIG 3 QUESTIONS: 1. Who’s talking? 2. To Whom? 3. Why?

1/2. Who’s Talking? To Whom?
This describes the relationship between the singer and the world of the song, more specifically the point of view that is being used in the song. Am I (the singer) speaking to you (the person who broke my heart) or am I (the singer) speaking to you (the listener or the world) about a 3rd party he or she? Or am I (the singer) just telling you a story where the characters are seen through a looking glass or periscope? The closer the address (you and I) the more intimate the singer is with the listener.

3. Why?
What’s the moral of the story? Why am I (the singer) singing?

Pat challenged us to realise the answers to these questions were not discovered accidentally, rather they were very specific conscious decisions that each writer must ask themselves during the process of writing, as well as when they were checking to see whether they were ‘done’ with the song.

… and this was all just skimming the surface =p So back I go to the writing desk …

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New project. New vision. New ‘me’.

Friday 23 April 2016 (AEST). A day for many PRINCE fans was a day that came unexpectedly too soon; PRINCE had been pronounced dead at the age of 57 and the world was in shock and mourning. As I woke to the news accounts, it was surreal to see how the world collectively all had individual PRINCE stories; how his music/ iconic style/ strut/ genius-ness in general had made an impact on their lives/ music/ style etc. For months I had set aside this date for a photo shoot with an old friend, the ever amazing Amy Benjamin, in hopes to revamp my image and set out on my own journey of rediscovering myself and my music through a visual medium. I was unsure of which direction I wanted to go, however in light of the world’s loss of a phenomenal and most influential human/ musician/ artist, I felt compelled to take a leap of faith and just embrace my ‘differentness’, as PRINCE and many others had done before me. And as it turns out, Amy helped me cultivate my ‘differentness’, my ‘me-ness’ (which obviously embraces my ‘Asian-ness’) and the results are breathtaking (if I do say so myself =p).

A massive thank you to Amy from AMY BENJAMIN PHOTOGRAPHY, it was a pleasure to work and reconnect with you. Thank you for encouraging me to embrace my Asian womanliness with all it’s grace, elegance, sophistication, fun, sexiness, power and confidence all squished together in a teeny tiny body.

Stay tuned for more photos! But here’s a sneak peak just to wet your appetite.

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Vale PRINCE. Thank you for being aggressively and unapologetically YOU.

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Two Oh One Six

WOW! We’re officially 1 month down and 11 months to go in 2016 … eek! Where did January go?! I have to admit I am seriously struggling to comprehend this new school year, particularly with the writing of 2-0-1-6, but I am excited to see how 2016 unfolds. 2015 was a huge year for life – 0. jumped through ridiculous hoops to try and get a home loan tick (though our efforts were completely futile) 1. got married despite flooding, gale force winds, uprooting of trees and torrential sideways rain tick. 2. moved in with hubby tick. 3. went overseas and met extended in-law family tick. 4. hubby resigned from full time work and became a full time student tick. 5. hubby changed careers (actually this is yet to be completed but still in the process of doing so). 6. became the main bread winner (though only for a time) for the household tick. 7. have yet to go insane and can still laugh when thrown a curve ball tick (though sometimes tears will precede the laughing)… So despite all things, I survived! Yay!

So 2016, whatever you have install, I’m ready to get dirty, so bring it on! (on a musical note, I’ve been doing some writing and rewriting so watch out world, there’ll be lots of originals on their way!)

(a massive shout out to Rebecca Ng for allowing me the use of her awesome handwritten Two-Oh-One-Six pic)

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