Through the Eyes of our Musicians

albina-fleishmanALBINA FLEISHMAN

 

When I was asked if I could sing at a foster care home and a battered woman’s shelter, I was happy to be working and I looked forward to spending an afternoon with Dave M, with whom I have worked for 20 years. I accepted the ‘gig’ and planned my repertoire and outfit. Little did I know that when I left my house in the morning that I would return a different person that evening.

The first thing that moved me when I arrived at the foster home was the sign on the front of the building. This sign indicated that it was a safe place to leave a newborn. Tears came to my eyes. Then came the children and young adults who lived there. They were beautiful, clean, innocent beings with longing in their eyes. I know teenagers. These were different. One teenage boy was fixated on the music. He watched as if there were a magic ‘answer’ contained in each song. And another who looked as if he should be bored with our music. He was mesmerized. And then there were the two beautiful fourteen year olds, one with a baby just starting to show. The other had just lost one a few months ago and was almost certain that she was pregnant again. She lost the last one because her boyfriend (now in jail) got mad at her and kicked her until she miscarried. But she has a new boyfriend now and they want this baby. I wanted to hold them both, protect them and teach them that life could be different. I was powerless except to give their teacher my email and ask them to keep in touch. Then we sang a song. They sang back-up to my lead vocal. One of them got up and sang the National Anthem with talent, strength and potential. She was amazing! I wanted to tell them that there is life outside of this place. They could have a future. All I could do was try to hide my tears.

The battered woman’s shelter was our next stop. A woman named “Susan” (not her real name) walked in with her three children. I’m not sure that I can be eloquent enough to describe what I felt from this family, but I knew without a doubt that they had just experienced something very big and very ugly. The children stared into space as if they had just seen a huge monster/ghost. The little girl seemed in another world, and it seemed that she knew something was not right. “Susan” was shattered. I wanted so badly to sit and talk with her. To ask her what happened. To take her home with me, and give her a safe place. She was devastated. I found my repertoire changing from kid’s songs to songs of hope and friendship. Then “Susan” requested ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, which is one of my all time favorite songs. Unfortunately, I have never performed it. But the very sweet woman in charge went to her computer, printed out the lyrics from a lyric website and Dave and I ‘went for it’. I sang it with all my might.

When we were finished with our program I felt drained and exhilarated at the same time. I wanted to do so much more. I wanted to fix everyone. I wanted to change the world.

As I have said many times since that day, I will give to these people my talents whenever I can. I hope in my lifetime I can do more. Thank you for the opportunity to experience this and to feel the emotions that every person should feel. If all people could spend one day like this, witnessing the people in these circumstances, the world just might be a better place.

WENDY BECKER

 

As a professional musician with a background in Music Therapy, I am well aware of the powerful and positive effects music evokes. Music for All Seasons brings programs to people who might not otherwise have the opportunity, to benefit from the experience, in a very safe atmosphere. For someone who has gone through or is going through traumatic experiences, this is a profound opportunity.

Every time I perform a program I notice a marked difference in the energy and overall attitude of the audience from beginning to end. Often, the children and adults are not able to make direct eye contact, are timid in their interactions with each other, and the overall facial affect is flat or sad. This is understandable considering the kinds of situations they may be, or may have been in.  As they respond to the music, there is a definite shift to interacting with each other and with us (the musicians), spontaneous smiling as well as well as participation in the music (singing along, dancing). The whole room seems to be uplifted. There is a renewed feeling of spirit that is evident in everyone, no matter the age.

This is true for all the groups I have performed for from the Oncology wards, to Free Clinics, to Shelters for abused women and children and more. I am not alone when I say how I appreciate the support that is made for this profoundly valuable program.

through-img1THE DIVA DUO-MELISSA PERRY & SHARON DERSTINE, HUGH KRONROT

 

I’d like to share the stories of our two most enthusiastic audiences Christmas before last. On one occasion my singing partner and I looked at each other sadly when all the clients of a particular nursing home were rolled in flat on their backs. I was discouraged because this was the first audience for our new Christmas show. I wondered what on earth we could bring them. We began with gusto in spite of our doubts. Before long, toes were sticking out of bed sheets and wiggling to the beat. A couple of ladies began singing carols with us even though they were on their backs! By the end every face had a wide broad smile and I knew we’d somehow lifted their day.

Our final audience that Christmas was at a New Jersey state prison. They locked us in a small room with a guard at one end. The thirty male pairs of eyes were intently locked on our faces. Soon they were clapping to all the songs. We invited one of the fellows to sing a solo. They laughed at all of our corny jokes and particularly loved the story about my Grandad’s favorite Christmas gift, which was a bag of manure – he was a gardener! They asked us to sing “Jingle Bell Rock.” It wasn’t part of the show but we quickly added it. By the end, every single one of them was singing with us with maybe a little too much enthusiasm. Thinking on my feet, I then suggested they join us in ending the program with “Silent Night.” They sang so softly and sweetly you would have thought they were all choir boys. Sharon and I had tears in our eyes. We had both realized that this moment of joy and tender singing WAS their Christmas and amazingly enough we had provided it! I had to wonder what sort of Christmas they would have had if we hadn’t been there.

through-img2OVIDIU MARINESCU

 

As professional musicians we often forget why we play music. To me, music is a vital part of human experience, and we have a responsibility to make music true and accessible. Playing for Music For All Seasons reminds me every time that what I do is valid only through its results, through making life better for people. It is true that music changes people, it transforms them and it brings them together. To see a smile, a thoughtful forehead, or a tear in the eye, is the reward for the hours of preparation. And in the process, we the artists become better people as well.

through-img3MARK WATSON

 

I have had so many interesting and rewarding experiences singing for Music For All Seasons, it is hard to single out any one special moment. But here is one that will stay with me for some time: One October afternoon, singing at a men’s correctional facility, my pianist asked if there were any requests. A man responded, “Sing us a Christmas song.” Taken aback, I asked, “Why would you want a Christmas song in October?” He replied, “Because it will make us feel better.” I sang a Christmas song and they all seemed grateful. So I promised I’d come back during the holiday season to do a sing-a-long.

In December I came back with songbooks and red antlers (Yes, RED ANTLERS) and for almost an hour we sang carols with the guards and argued over who would get to wear the antlers.

RIK HOWARD I walk into a shelter to which Music for All Seasons has sent me to entertain and enlighten children with some musical styles they might never have heard before.  I am greeted warmly by the staff and led into a room.  Within a few moments, the women and children enter and I am faced with a wall of stares. I imagine that with a background of being battered and having to live in a different and new location among strangers, there is an element of mistrust and questioning.

Then the music starts and there is a palpable feeling of relaxation in the room. Whether they understood every word or not doesn’t matter. The children and their parents can clearly tell I am there for them to have an enjoyable experience and before too long, there are wide smiles on everyone’s faces.  They are clapping and singing along with a great communal energy. I have been back to this particular shelter quite a few times, and each is better than before. The children who may have seen me before are immediately excited and help to prime the rest to have a good time. I am performing music but in a much larger sense, perhaps I am gently showing them that every man they meet may not be all bad; that strangers aren’t necessarily going to hurt them. I thank the NEA for that privilege musically which I know will benefit our society in a much grander way and hope that this can continue for years to come.

through-img4RIK HOWARD

 

I walk into a shelter to which Music for All Seasons has sent me to entertain and enlighten children with some musical styles they might never have heard before.  I am greeted warmly by the staff and led into a room.  Within a few moments, the women and children enter and I am faced with a wall of stares. I imagine that with a background of being battered and having to live in a different and new location among strangers, there is an element of mistrust and questioning.

Then the music starts and there is a palpable feeling of relaxation in the room. Whether they understood every word or not doesn’t matter. The children and their parents can clearly tell I am there for them to have an enjoyable experience and before too long, there are wide smiles on everyone’s faces.  They are clapping and singing along with a great communal energy. I have been back to this particular shelter quite a few times, and each is better than before. The children who may have seen me before are immediately excited and help to prime the rest to have a good time. I am performing music but in a much larger sense, perhaps I am gently showing them that every man they meet may not be all bad; that strangers aren’t necessarily going to hurt them. I thank the NEA for that privilege musically which I know will benefit our society in a much grander way and hope that this can continue for years to come.

through-img5MICHELE ORAM-AND ALL THAT JAZZ

 

Never underestimate the power of music to heal the mind and the soul! I’ve danced with men in their nineties and I’ve seen people who have looked comatose come to life while listening to our band. I know how powerful the gift of music is and thank God and Music For All Seasons for giving us opportunities to share these gifts.

 

through-img6BRUCE TETER

 

One of the most memorable moments in performing for children in the Music For All Seasons program was a performance for the Orangewood Center for Children in Orange County when we played for a small group of teenage girls. We announced the next piece as a dance from the Renaissance and described people dancing at a country dance. I think the girls had a lot of pent-up energy with no way to “let go,” so they took this opportunity to get up and dance around the classroom. The teacher was a bit shocked by this unruly behavior but didn’t try too hard to control the situation. Perhaps the unusual droning instruments, hurdy-gurdy and bagpipes that Curtis Berak and I play, facilitate the ability to surrender to the music and let it move you: this was the principle of the Tarantella dance. This shows how music can act as an impetus for emotional expression, especially for disadvantaged children whose heightened emotional state has few, if any, arenas for expression.

through-img7CHRIS & JENELLEN FISCHER

 

To be a Music For All Seasons musician you have to love giggles, and hecklers, and funny sounds coming from your audience. You have to love people who sing along with you; sometimes better, but most certainly louder, than you. You have to be willing to answer questions, take requests, even though you may not always be able to play them (but always be willing to try to play at least four measures of something), talk to and care about your audience and enjoy them as much as they enjoy you. We always tell our audiences that “you learn a lot about our marriage when you see our cabaret act,” but the fact is, we learn much more about ourselves through the happy, hurt, grateful, longing, joyful, tear-streaked, bright eyes of our beloved Music For All Seasons audiences. And I’ll tell you what-we are continually delightfully surprised and thankful for what we see.

BARBARA MURRAY

 

Seeing the HAPPY participation of both children and adults, conducting and playing the little violins…Seeing the simple wonder of disadvantaged folks seeing a violin and cello up close and personal…all having sheer fun…as well as learning…Experiencing laughter, curiosity, questions, and the physical touching of the instruments… Watching a teen come in with distaste on her face (yuck..strings!)..her dislike  turning into “when can you come back?”

Our own personal feeling of such fulfillment at having played for them…much more so than any other audience experience…The joy shared by both participants and musicians - a most

“up” experience for us… we can be tired when we get there and incredibly exhilarated after we say goodbye. The sharing of the musical experience touching not only the listeners but the musicians as well… the smiles during the program  (which were not there when they came in)

Sometimes there are simply not the words to describe our feelings.