All Posts (10)

Sort by

Speaking about reading out loud

When I ask the general question, “Do you read music?” I get a variety of answers. Often they go somewhere along the lines of something that Good Boys Find After the Cat Eats Grass…and treble clef and hole notes and those other ones. Some have learned piano or guitar from watching youtube and many love to sing. Singing is cool because you always have your instrument with you and absolutely everyone CAN sing (although some have been told or will say that they “can’t”).  

We ALL love music, in one form or another. We may appreciate an artist or a style or have a broader, more eclectic approach, but there is something for all of us. Isn’t that amazing? I posted a letter that Helen Keller wrote about “listening” to Beethoven. Incredible the depth of appreciation she had for the nuances of voicing and the complexity of the rhythms. Worth reading!

To participate in music, whether singing along with a recording, or responding with movement is so innate and universal. I call that God-given. It’s a part of us. Music is not a thing that “some people do,” or that “some have a talent for.” It is a part of our very soul.  Many great books have been written that explore these depths and I’m not even trying to summarize those works. I’m heading somewhere else.

We communicate through spoken and written words and even body language. Why? Because we are not “made” to live alone. Whether we are “good” at speaking or “talented” as a writer, we ALL “speak” and “write” (even if it’s with our thumbs or pictures). If music is so universal, does it not make sense that we can benefit by more clearly understanding some of the layers and participating in the communication?

I’m going to dive right into our “little choir that could” as a prime example right now. We have a wide range of ages and “abilities” walk through the door and look at the coded dots and lines on a page that are accompanied (usually) by words. Each person is asked to follow along and have a part in producing a sound that together makes something we couldn’t do separately. We hope the group sound is pleasant and that the result is more than satisfying to the ear. Sometimes what we produce is less than perfect and might even be worth a good laugh (which happens a lot, actually). But we are working and learning together. It’s like having a guided conversation about a wide range of topics. At times we choose to share what we’ve done with others, and sometimes we just keep it to ourselves.

No one is required to understand all the code and we don’t have a lot of time to teach it during our group conversations (aka rehearsal). But the more you “speak” and “listen” the more you understand. You might even feel compelled to learn some things on your own so that you could deepen your understanding of what’s taking place. 

We can help you with that. (Now this sounds like an advertisement - because it just so happens that we have a “music intensive” coming up on June 13.) Maybe you don’t live near here, don’t have the time or already know your “ABCs.” That’s fine. Maybe you’d like to try out this choir thing but don’t want to do an extra class. That’s fine. Maybe you don’t want anything to do with anything that has to do with music, or singing, or even more specifically, Talents Unleashed. That’s fine, too. Really. Our Creator has provided so many options. Just be aware of them!

So - to make you more aware of our little world, I’ll let you in on a couple of secrets. 1) Although “Talent” implies a certain level of skill, each and every person can take what they’re given and do more with it.* You can increase your spoken and written vocabulary, and you can do so with music as well. 2) This writer/director doesn’t know everything. 3) The basics of music reading can be taught in a day - even in an hour, and the deepening of understanding will continue with a lifetime of “practice” (just like you practice speaking and reading every day). 

This music teacher used to be known as a good sight reader - on piano. You could put a piece of music in front of me and I could get through it pretty well. The code went straight through from the paper into my fingers. However, when it came time to graduate UCF with a degree in music education, I FAILED the sight-singing test. Although I had sung in choirs and performing groups for years (often holding onto the harder 2nd soprano part) and could sing solfege intervals (DO-RE-MIs) in vocal warmups, I had not practiced seeing the code on the paper and producing the right sound on sight. It’s all about what I did with my time. Yes, it’s embarrassing to share this. It was like I could read silently, or have a conversation, but could not read out loud.  How did I get through? I had to get some music and practice singing the notes I saw out loud. 

Back to the little choir example: Young folks might think it’s for old people who can’t do the more rigorous work of singing with choreography like we often do at Talents Unleashed. And that might be true in some instances! Older people might think that participating in music is something that young people should do as part of some rite of passage, or as part of their general education. You know what I’m going to say now, don’t you? What if there’s a place where we can have a conversation with a broad range of ages about a broad range of topics and end up agreeing in harmony that we have something important to share? If in the process someone wants to increase their vocabulary in order to go more in depth, they might take our “music intensive” or find some ongoing music reading classes.

If not local (or even if you are), you could consider other alternatives, of course. But we’d be honored if you’d consider our modest offerings (oh, I’m sounding like an ad again). That’s OK. To advertise is just to let you know what’s available. You are the consumer and can take it or leave it. But appreciate the access, the process, the talent* that you have been given. Take whatever you have and do more with it - wherever you are, whatever the circumstance. Join us if you can, if you will, or find others and have that conversation. 


*There is a story that Jesus told that you can find in chapter 25 of the book of Matthew. Maybe I’ll ramble about that on another day. It’s a good read - and the principle applies. Maybe practice reading it out loud and thinking about applying it to music.


Read more…


Clutter, clutter, everywhere!


Sometimes I see it, and sometimes I don’t. I once heard a pastor’s wife asking for help with clean-up. She said “help me see it…” I get that. I’ve never forgotten it. We can get to the point where we just don’t “see.”  We put something by the door to take out to the car, to give to a friend...and it sits there for months!  Is it just me? We put something IN the car and then never take it out.  We get used to moving things from one seat to another, or we make a pile or put it in a box to “go through later.” If it’s not “we,” then me! MY confession. You can tell by the number of manuals for messies I have on my shelf - FIVE. I can’t “see” them either. When I looked up to count, I discovered two books that I could have loaned out recently if I’d remembered they were sitting right in front of me!


Just a couple of days ago we finally got the last (I THINK) of the Christmas decorations put away at the studio. It occurred to me this morning what a disservice I am offering to the students and parents. They either have to “grin and bear it” or they have also grown accustomed to it. 


Honestly, I can’t think of a theater, music or dance studio that had everything neat all the time. I defend it as the nature of the work we do that has us continuously moving and adapting, pulling out and putting away. I get it. And I can live with it.


But this morning, I am thinking we could do BETTER. It’s about stewardship. Are we taking care of what’s been given to us? When I wax on about finding a place that would allow for outside and inside and room for “everything,” am I just asking for more clutter? I need to do better. I need to see, and then act. One small thing at a time. I should never go downstairs without trash in my hand. I should never come upstairs if there is something in the stairwell that should be put away. I should never pass through the lobby without wiping something off (like the chalkboard), or refilling something. 


Now, I’m not applying a spiritual lesson just to justify this little musing. But, as it usually goes with me, my mind keeps moving forward and then realizes that it can be like this in our life. We clutter it up with things that need to be put away, tossed away, reconsidered, dealt with, etc. We can get so used to NOT looking that we miss something (or someONE) right in front of us that we don’t “see” any more.


Lord, help me see all of it, and teach me, one thing at a time, to manage it.

Read more…

Opening Up

I think one of the more interesting things about having your own business is that process of opening up in the mornings. I’m sure everyone has a procedure - I know I do. There are days it’s very automatic and I pass through the routine already preoccupied with what’s coming next in the busy-ness of a life pretty much ruled by a google calendar. 

3743726246?profile=RESIZE_710xBut one day recently, the Lord reminded me to open my eyes and look at what I was doing and what was around me. I unlocked the door to a studio that I used to talk about incessantly with no concrete plan or hope of ever having a place. I pass by the beautiful studio sign that we had made with a little money my dad left to us. 

I turn on the Keurig that was donated and think of our desire to have a “coffee shop” alongside the studio, a “gathering place” to relax, talk, study, share and learn. The twinkle lights were put up for our first “interactive/immersive” Aureus performance and have now become a regular feature. O'Shaughnessy's lines about “We are the music makers” is always near the front door.  I turn on the A/C control that is hidden behind the word “Inspire.” 

When I walk by the stage that was built by my loving husband I can recall its history and be thankful for the annual upgrades and the abundance of donated costumes stored underneath. 

As I go to the stairs I pass signs - signs made by students and parents to give people reminders, directions and inspiration. The stairwell has pictures of children who are now teens, and teens who are now adults with kids of their own.  The next A/C control says “Cling to what is good.” On the wall is an unfinished phrase in gold lettering about the fact that we are all precious as GOLD and an unfinished work. I’ve complained for years that the lettering is unfinished - but maybe that’s exactly as it should be so we are reminded that we are still “loading…” (this year’s Vessels of GOLD theme) and will never be finished this side of eternity.

The diffusers with beautiful scents from oils sent by another alum bring a smile as I consider how many will get a long workout that day, and wake up computers that were also gifted to us. Three real pianos - what a luxury - and now a keyboard that works. 

I sit at a desk that sat at the homes of two good friends before it went to my home, and eventually to my office. A roll-top desk - always thought those were so cool and would hide the clutter that I can’t seem to avoid for very long. (Note: rolling down the top to cover the mess only works for neat people. Messy people have such a mess that they can’t roll the top down anyway.) I see one of the paintings my mom did in her retirement years, and see with fresh eyes a sign about my life sometimes being a full-blown circus that I saved from a calendar given to me by one of our precious moms years ago.

As I sit at this desk, I see a painting by one of the cast that always reminds me of how glorious it will be to be lifted from this world into my Father’s arms, and I see a drawing by another former student of a baby elephant clinging to her mom and trusting her direction. I see flowers and sayings and quotes - and calendars. There is a book about Sondheim (whose work we love) and a live blue fish named Gershwin. The funny ceramic worm from Cedar Key with a crazy starfish on his back became a gift from me to Emily - I don’t know if we ever decided who was who, but maybe it just depends on the day. There are lists of every student in every group prominent for constant reference and reminder of the precious lives we are privileged to touch each week, and cubby boxes naming every teacher we are blessed to have.

I could go on for pages. So many things that remind us of the daily grace and gifts that are so thoughtfully given to us by our loving Father. At the end of the day, I am often exhausted and just anxious to get home to dinner, family and rest. At the close of the day, the lights go off and the eyes droop, but I remain thankful to have this privilege - for whatever time given to me - of overseeing this special Gathering Place.

Read more…

Why Won't They Go/Come?

“Everybody loves a [piano, ballet, name it] recital.” Not. Who goes to those things? Parents and grandparents. Why? For the most part, love. Love of the student, and sometimes love of the art. So if you’re not a close family member, why are you getting invited to shows at Talents Unleashed? Because our shows are different. Yeah, right.

But they are! Take Aureus, for instance. As we go into our second (and final) weekend of shows, we find we have invited and begged and coerced everyone we know to come out and see what we’ve done together. There are no “stars” in this group. Some good singing and acting - and a LOT of entertainment that comes from every individual in this group contributing some of their own individual gifts and ideas, sanding out conflicting opinions, and practicing together to get it right.

What do you get out of it? An interactive, entertaining evening with your family and friends in an intimate environment where the performers are up close and personal. There are always surprises. What’s one of the biggest surprises for people who have never had this experience? Fun and joy. For two hours, you get to put aside some of the cares of the day - but not to just forget reality - but to bring balance to the realities of life with something good and wholesome. Yes, wholesome - does that sound as unappealing as processed meat? Then you need to do a self-check. Laughter does good like a medicine!

These people are just like you. And they have something to share. We use our God-given gifts and talents and we put together something new. You’re invited because we want to share the fun with you. It’s not a story you’ve ever heard before, and not something you’ve ever seen before. Why not find out what all the fuss is about?

3414073414?profile=RESIZE_710xRehearsal pics - this is what it looks like...hard work and a lot of confusion! 








Read more…

The Airplanes

We just had my precious first grandson for a visit here in Miami. As with many visitors, we ended up taking a run down to “Robert is Here” - a pretty cool touristy place with lots of exotic fruit, local honey, smoothies, a kind of “petting zoo” and more.
Now Leo is three and so his interests can come and go pretty quickly and his tastes are sometimes unpredictable. Seeing the fruit stand was pretty cool. He LOVES fruit. He ran here and there and saw things we pointed out, and was pretty happy with the honey samples, too. We decided it was time to go see the animals so we headed through toward the back end of the property. To get there, we passed through a work area of sorts where fruit is sorted, cut and prepared for the vending area. At the end of the counter, right at 3-year-old eye level - was a toy airplane. It was big enough to take two hands to hold and bright and shiny and new. It wasn’t the kind of thing they would sell there, so I suppose some poor child had left it behind and was maybe even still somewhere in the vicinity. Those details would be unfathomable to this child. He just saw it - and wanted it. You would think in his mind that it was the biggest, most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
We could even imagine he had set his mind on such a toy long ago and finally found what he’d been waiting for all of his little life. So incapable of reason (although we did try), the only thing his daddy could do was scoop him up and take him kicking and screaming in the direction we had been trying to head before the distraction. We stopped to see a really cool toucan - but he could not see it or enjoy it because his little mind was on that airplane. I thought the entire day was ruined and that his life would never be the same without that airplane.
Now, if you’ve been to “Robert is Here” in any recent years, you may already know what’s coming. But he didn’t. We carried on past the animals - and then he saw - the planes! REAL planes. You could climb in them. They were just shells of what used to be real flying machines. You could move levers and buttons and push on pedals. The former little toy plane that he wanted so badly was completely forgotten - because he had found a whole new level of interactive joy. I’ve no doubt he could have stayed there for hours. And he discovered something else - even though he’s not conscious of it yet - he loves mechanical things. How does it move? How does it work? Let’s try each and every button and lever and gear and see what happens.
But then what happened? Those cute little blue eyes spied a bunch of toy cars - the kind you could ride in - when you’re a toddler. He barely fit inside. He ran over and crammed himself in one after another, forgetting for a time the joy of the much more complex planes. He was finally convinced to spend a little time with the animals - and then he remembered how much he loved the planes, and we revisited the joy. And then - tractors! He had to sit on each one - and try all the levers and gears.
It was very hard to convince him to go back to the car. But the toy airplane that meant so much to him at first was never mentioned again. His father’s insistence in tearing him away from his “toy joy” had opened his eyes to such great things. And were they so great? Well, not to diminish “Robert” and his lovely place, but there is even more out there - there are real planes and real tractors that really fly and run and work. He just saw a glimpse - a shell of the real thing. Will we follow up this story one day with tales of a boy who became a pilot? I have no idea.
I do know this, however. I see myself all over this little story. I have again been thinking lately about how often we have our sights set on something that is “good.” We want it. We ask for it. We pray for it. We claim it. And God says, “no.” And we wonder what we did wrong. It wasn’t a bad desire. It wasn’t evil. “Why does God always punish me by not giving me what I desire?” Maybe, just maybe - we have to get pulled away from something “good” to see something “better.” And then - is “better” all there is? Maybe - or maybe not. Do we find something better only to be pulled away by some toy we’ve outgrown? Do we appreciate the gifts that may have awakened in the discovery process? Will the experience teach us to accept a “no” and appreciate more?
What toy airplanes might be in our lives that keep us from moving forward, or have us looking backward at what we thought we missed?
Looking forward to a new year and (gulp) all that the loving, heavenly Father may want to show us!
Read more…

Why do we perform?

There are, of course, many reasons that performers perform.

When I was growing up, my dear mother invested much time and money on piano and dance (and yes, even a little bit of violin and voice).  So when people came over to visit, she naturally wanted me to play piano for them. I would resist and put up a big fuss - I REALLY did not want to play for anyone. But once I was finally pressed into duty, my audience would give me the obligatory compliments and I would respond by telling them everything that was wrong about what they just heard. What a joy that must have been for everyone!

In high school, I ended up in choirs and performing groups. We were unstoppable, singing everywhere we went. We’d line the aisle at McDonalds and do our choreography, and walk the mall singing all our songs.

Much of the differences in attitude and experience can be attributed, at least in my case, to the group versus individual performing experience. As a pianist in the living room, all eyes were on me. As a singer on stage or on the street, I was part of a group experience and it was about “us.”

Now as a teacher, of course I have a different “perspective” (nod to the Vessels of GOLD theme for 18-19). For my individual students, I don’t want to emphasize that it’s about “making dad proud” or “showing off” or “getting attention.” Instead, I believe it’s important to give what you have and share what you’ve learned. Think of the “little drummer boy.” He shared what he had. He played the best he could. He gave all of it back to the One who gifted the boy in the first place.

As a group, it’s more complex because it involves all of the above, but you’re working as a team. From what I see in the movies, it’s not that different from the football or mighty ducks or baseball team. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and they practice together to the point that they know a lot about each other. They know how to work together, and when the pressure’s on, they know what needs to be said and done to get the job done.

But again, why? Why perform? Certainly, to show what you’ve learned together, what you’ve accomplished after all those hours in rehearsal. What else? To entertain. Laughter is good like medicine. Entertainment (without debauchery) is healthy for the soul. Sometimes a “performance” reaches another level as music or a story will sometimes shock us with its impact by discovering some buried treasure of thought or emotion. There are stories to be told. We learn from stories. From historic accounts to parables to a personal story about the stray dog we encountered, we share our stories and our world is broadened and enriched.

As an individual performer, we stand exposed. That’s not a bad thing. Here I am. Just me. And I have something to “say.” In a group, it certainly feels safer, but it’s not necessarily easier. You can control yourself, but not a group. If you mess up, you let the whole group down. If someone else messes up, they let you down.

It’s like life!  How often do we say, or at least think, that life would be a whole lot easier if everyone would just do it the way I do it and think the way I think? So rehearsing and then performing together, we learn that people mess up and do things differently. How are we going to handle it?

So these random bits and pieces float around out there as part of the overall experience of “performing.” But we haven’t really gotten to the root. As a director of performing groups, I feel like I’m constantly trying to convince people (through ads, social media, pictures, video, etc.) to come and see what we’re doing. Why? Because I want them to see how good we are so we can get more people and build more programs and become famous? God forbid. Does pride ever sneak in? Absolutely. But that’s a temptation that any performer will need to struggle with at least occasionally.

But, keeping our eyes on the goal - why do we want to invite and perform? Because we want to share. It goes back to why we sang in the mall and everywhere we went. We want to share something that brings joy to us. You don’t hide a light under a bucket (Deb’s book of paraphrases). You turn on a light because you want light! You practice and learn so that you can share the joy and experience with others.

As parents, do you invite because you want someone to see your talented son or daughter? That is definitely a tempting factor (says the parent of four talented children...let me tell you...oops, I digress). But maybe we have a hard time (sometimes) finding venues and coercing people to come because they are not as interested in your children as you are. They assume (wrongly) that time and money is best spent seeing professionals tell a slick and edited story on a movie screen than seeing a “bunch of amateurs try to emulate them.” But that’s not what we’re about. We tell our own stories in our own way. Our shows become a unique contribution to the stories of life because we have worked together to form and tell them.

We’re not “professionals” and we’re not about trying to make movie and Broadway stars. We’re not a talent agency. We are about “Growth Opportunities for Learning and Development.” GOLD. Gold in life is searched for, treasured, refined, shaped and set aside for special purposes. Each individual that comes through our doors comes with gifts and talents that can be found, treasured, refined and shaped - and then NOT hidden under a bucket. We share what we have. We practice. We do our best. We share our stories and our songs. We share with our families and our community and anyone that will listen. And we hope many will listen and learn and grow.

So “performing” is “sharing.” We should do it graciously, thankful for the opportunity. It is not so the spotlight will be on us, but it is for us to turn on the light and let it shine into darkness.

When we finish sharing what we’ve done, we hope our audience will say thank you from their hearts (usually indicated with applause), and we teach that our bows are a simple indication of “you’re welcome.”

Read more…

That one small step to the stage

Today we had a "baby ballet" recital. The audience was full of enthusiastic friends and family as the tiniest of ballerinas took the stage. Some of them waved and posed; some very seriously concentrated on their performance, and alas, one - there's often one - just wouldn't take that step. It seems like such a little thing to step up on our small stage that often doubles as a seating and visiting area. But when there is an "audience" and lights and the music comes on, it can feel like an entirely different reality.

Tonight we have "Open Mic Night" and we may have a similar variety of experiences. One is playing piano for the first time, another is a professional. So why do they share the same program? Because that's what we do. We SHARE what we have learned and practiced with others. It is a JOY to share something that is meaningful to you. It is a blessing to show or say, "Look what I learned!" It is a blessing to the audience to see or hear it.

Is it for our glory? No. That's another thing we learn. The audience thanks the performer for what they offered (with applause); the performer acknowledges the thanks with a "you're welcome" (a bow). But we never want to forget to give honor to the One who gave us the opportunity to Learn, Grow and Develop these gifts and talents.

The best thing about live performance (or life) is not about witnessing perfection, but witnessing a perfect adaptation to imperfection.

We learn. We share. We grow. We are thankful!

Read more…

Welcome to our new website !

We would like to welcome you to our new Talents Unleashed website and social media community. 

We have combined all of the Talents Unleashed groups, classes and offerings into one location for better communications and information dissemination. 

There will be different layers of access to the site:

Visitors will only be able to see into a certain level on the site, while our group members will be able to see deeper layers of their group's information, such as schedules and other activities. The members will be able to communicate with other group members without the rest of the world seeing their posts and without using any other social media like Facebook. We hope to add private calendars, rehearsal footage and other types of information that will not be seen by the general public.

Access to the member and group areas will be controlled by our Talents Unleashed staff to ensure security and safety of all our members. 

The site will be evolving with new features on a daily basis so be patient with the website staff. The staff will include senior staff members as well as a few interns that will learning as they go. 

If at any time you have questions, comments, suggestions or concerns, PLEASE do not hesitate to reach out to us through the proper channels. 

Read more…