Sunday, July 25, 2010

Singing for Susan Boyle & Jules Riding -- in the same year!

Progress in health management has allowed two exciting things into my life.

I've begun work on backing vocals for Jules Riding's next album debut, a concert that will be filmed live in Auckland on October 9th. Check his website for more details. I expect to also participate in at least a couple of the tour dates, those close to my hometown.

Last week, with 24 hours' notice, I auditioned for Susan Boyle. She's looking for someone to duet with on her next album, someone for whom she can do what Simon Cowell did for her. Even if I'm not what she's looking for, it was a fantastic opportunity, and I was provided with a reason to make a cool video which I hope you'll enjoy watching as much as I enjoyed making!

Just in case you thought the sound effects were contrived...

Hmm, what happened to my quiet year for writing the Queensland novel? That project seems to have been pushed to the back burner! Tomorrow afternoon it shall be my hot spot. I am determined.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Song of the Cans and Cannots

Written in 2009
Live Your Dream, no matter the obstacles.

Some people see me perform and suppose it comes easily. The truth is I fight my body every time I sing. The possibility of failing to produce a good sound is very real, but I refuse to let the fear of that prevent me from pursuing my dream. I will keep trying, and never give up. And I write these thoughts down so when a task seems too difficult, I have something to help strengthen my resolve.

If your passion is to make music, then you can do it, no matter what obstacles you face, if you truly want it. Canadian figure skater Nicole Watt is a shining example of this philosophy of making your dreams come true.

Nicole Watt is a figure skater who at the age of 14 jumped from Pre-Novice (past Novice and Junior) to Senior level and gained a silver medal at the Calgary Nationals in the year 2000. Nicole had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, a progressively degenerative disease that slowly sapped her strength and stiffened her joints. To combat the symptoms of her disease, she took a powerful drug each week. Even with medication she wasn't symptom free, never knowing which joint might be affected or when. The drug also gave her flu-like symptoms, preventing her from practicing for a day afterwards, but without it, she would have been unable to compete.

In an interview dated February 11, 2003, Nicole said, "I can't control how others skaters will perform, or the view of the judges. The only thing I can control is my focus, dedication, and preparation and hopefully it all comes together. My coach, Dale Hazell, has two things he always quotes to me: 'You only have one competitor--yourself' and 'When preparation and opportunity meet, there will be success'. I do everything I can to be properly prepared."

Limited by her body, Nicole was forced to stop competing that year. Now 23, she's skating again, at a domestic level.

Joni Eareckson Tada was an athletic young woman rendered tetraplegic in 1967 by a tragic accident. She has lots of difficult and feel-bad moments, but she hasn't given up on life. Instead, she's been beating the odds for decades, travelling the world and achieving much as a loved and respected Christian author, artist, radio personality, and advocate for the disabled.

If she didn't give up, neither should you and I.

Philippians 4:13 -- "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Here's a glimpse of one of those "don't give up" moments when I was guest vocalist at a concert. I was focused, I was prepared...and my body wasn't cooperating. But I pursued my dream. Afterward, I was very sick indeed and it's taken me a year to get the concert footage prepared for YouTube. You can view my Princess Moment here at BoutiqueNarelle.

When it comes to pursuing dreams, I have learned about...

VISION. "Without a vision, the people perish."
Know what you want. Plan steps to get you there.

SURRENDER. "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
Do you trust Him? Do you believe He knows what's best for you, that His desire is to give you good gifts, to make all grace abound toward you? There's a simple answer to this: yes or no. If I'm honest, my answer is often no and I need His help to make it yes.

PASSION. How much are you willing to give up or let go of?
Achieving your dream will cost you something, perhaps in quality of life, finance, or social involvement. Count the cost now: is achieving your dream more important to you than a bit of fun and comfort?

PERSEVERENCE. "Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart."
Strength of heart comes from having courage. Courage comes from the knowledge of God's presence with you. It means if you know you're on God's mission, you will never, never, never give up.

PATIENCE. Faith in God's timing.
A producer dropped me from his program without telling me; on another occasion, my first full program of sacred songs was canceled by my host. How did I handle it? By remembering the above points -- Vision, Surrender, Passion, Perseverence -- and added to this Patience.

RESILIENCE. Staying focused.
Media reports listed all the soloists except me, the girl who sang about her faith. Vision, Surrender, Passion, Perseverence, Patience, Resilience!

SUPPORT. People who believe in your ability and provide opportunities for growth.
No man is an island entire of itself. Every one is a part of the continent of mankind. We need each other.

I used to think it would be hard to find someone more isolated than I am, and yet the Lord brought me a producer who "always has me on his list", and a pianist of local influence and experience who lives across the road from me and is delighted to have me work with her. I also have the loving encouragement of my family. Some supporters provide opportunities; some provide positive feedback and encouragement that acts as stimulus to press onward through lull and storm. They're both necessary.

SPECIFIC HANDICAPS. They build character and all of the above.
Singing is a muscular exercise. I have a muscular handicap. For example, during the first years of studying voice seriously, my torso ached from the effects of breath control. Holding my rib cage "open" hurt. Every intake of breath shot a spasm down into my stomach. An hour's singing put me out of commission for the rest of the day. More often than not muscle tension interferes with all the sound-producing mechanisms of my head and neck, but I want to sing, so I persevere through whatever my body throws at me.

My body's refusal to cooperate hasn't gone away. I could say, What's the use of practicing if it's going to hurt and any progress I make could desert me when I'm on stage? I wonder if Nicole Watt ever said that to herself. Perhaps she did, but she found a place of dedication and persistence that enabled her to rise above her handicaps. Her example inspired me to strive to beat the odds.

I don't know how to resolve my health issues. There are times when I'm too unwell to sing and have to decline invitations or cancel events in which I long to participate. I can't advance my skill and experience at a consistent rate because my body can't keep up. I can't... I can't...

And yet, if I choose, I can overwhelm these Cannots with one Can:

And so long as I have that passion,
so long as I find pleasure in making beautiful music,
so long as I want to express through song the sorrow and salvation of the world,
so long as my Lord gives me breath to praise Him,

I know it's worthwhile, if for no other reason than it lifts my spirit.

The Biblical book of Joshua points out that the tribe of Gad got the prime real estate because they were willing to deal with the tough stuff, while the tribe of Dan quit in the face of hardship and ended up with border territory that was susceptible to every enemy's whim.

Are you focused on frustrations, pain, failure, approval, or applause? These will sap your strength and lead you to quit. Are you willing to deal with the tough stuff? Do you dare overwhelm your Cannots with a Can? What is your dream? Skate or sing, let the joy of the Lord be your strength, and go do what you dreamed!

Roger Black, British Olympic silver medallist, said,

"When I stood on the rostrum in 1996, they put a silver medal around my neck. Michael Johnson had a gold medal put around his neck. We both felt exactly the same, we both performed to the best of our abilities, I knew I could have done no better. Yes, I would have loved to have won an Olympic gold medal, but that feeling of standing on the rostrum, knowing that I’d given it one hundred percent, I could have done no more – that feeling was worth gold to me and I didn’t need to have a gold medal put around my neck to validate the feeling. Ultimately, I think you have to be honest with yourself with your performance, if you can walk off the track knowing you could have done no better, then regardless of the medal, regardless of the place, as hard as it may be, you can at least look at yourself in the mirror and know that you have done the very best you can."

“You don’t have to have a gold medal put around your neck to feel like a champion," says Roger. I'm adding to that, Pursue your dream to the best of your ability, and you too are a champion.

I close with one more true-life story of great courage overcoming incredible obstacles.

In 2005, a dancer who had lost an arm and her professional career invited a one-legged man with no dance experience to be her dance partner. When they won Silver at the China Central Television National Dance Competition in 2007, Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowei became an inspiration to millions of people, both handicapped and able-bodied, as they showed what passion and determination can achieve.

After watching this, do you dare say, "I can't"?

None of these individuals are superhuman. It's not the person that's special, it's the PROCESS. That means you can take the same process and get similar results.

So how about it? Start your process now!
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