Saturday, September 7, 2019

Ten Reasons Why I Love Rock Voices

If you know me personally, you've heard about my latest obsession: Rock Voices. Here's why I love it so:

The first time I sang karaoke, in Osaka, Japan (1986)
1. Rock Star Fantasies Come to Life. As a young girl, I had fantasies of becoming a singer like many other young girls. I learned to play the guitar at 10, sang "Let It Be" for my school talent show in seventh grade, and even wrote music. Now I get to perform with a real life rock band and 99+ other people with rock star fantasies, singing fun music with beautifully arranged harmonies.

2. Life-Giving Qualities of Music. Music has filled my life, from learning to play the violin in fourth grade and playing violin and cello through high school to learning how to play mandolin in my 40s. We became well known in the NICU as the "singing Gettels," because we sang to Chris in his isolette every single day. I sang my kids to sleep each evening when they were little. I was thrilled to get my first iPod and felt like I finally had my own personal radio station. I've always been drawn to music, and it has the ability to lift me up like nothing else.

3. The Opportunity to Be Part of Something Bigger.
I was an orchestra kid and sang in our small church choir, so the only other time I've sung in a large choir was my first year in college...and it was all women. Not the same! I love the harmonies and power we create as a large six-part choir! And when we come across a tough piece of music and work it out together, it’s like solving a tough puzzle together.

January 2019 concert
“There are few things that stimulate the brain the way music does,” says one Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist. “If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout.”

4. Keeping the Brain Nimble and Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone. Research shows that music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory. We perform 15 songs each season, and we MEMORIZE EVERY SINGLE SONG! That sounds completely overwhelming, but I've done it now for three seasons in a row. The first time I auditioned for a solo, I was spite of the fact I lead music at church every week without any nerves. Each time auditioning--and singing solos--has gotten easier, and I adore the support everyone receives from Mark and the rest of the choir during the auditions. Each time I've sung in a concert I've been nervous, but it's getting easier and easier each time.

After the Summer 2019 concert
5. The Chance to Drive My Kids Crazy with Part Recordings. The secret to memorizing all that music in a few months? Part recordings! Rock Voices provides recordings for each part, and I listen to them nonstop to learn my Soprano 1 parts and lyrics. My kids hate the part recordings, so of course I torture them as much as possible. You can bet they were really thrilled to hear Mike and Chris are joining, so now they'll hear both the tenor AND soprano parts!! Fortunately they always enjoy the actual concerts, and in fact are amazed by how good the choir sounds when all the parts are put together!

6. Amazing Snacks! We have a snack break at each rehearsal, a full table of snacks in the concert green room, and frequent parties and random get-togethers. Many of the choir members love to cook and bake, and great creativity is displayed in many of the snacks. The last two post-concert parties have been held at the home of the incredibly kind and generous Dian and Steve Wells, who have one of the most beautiful gardens and homes I've seen.

7. (Director) Mark and (Assistant) Caley. I met Caley nearly 25 years ago, when I loved working with her at CH2M HILL. We became close friends and I came to know Mark after she'd left the company to raise her daughters. I am all too familiar with musical snobs...people who have been trained classically (like Mark) who look down on people who do not read music or who struggle to carry a tune. Rock Voices has no requirement to audition or even read music, so the directors deal with all levels of competence and experience. Mark is never anything but patient, kind, supportive, and fun. Caley, also classically trained, accompanies us when we're learning our parts. When Rock Voices began, she thought she'd just do it for the first season...but she soon became addicted like the rest of us. I adore these people.

8. The Community and Fun! What's astonishing about this group of people, which started last summer with about 30 and now has grown to over 100 people, is that I've not met one member who I don't like. Mark and Caley's generous and warm spirits attract others like them. Many of our members are in service professions, and all are kind and caring. I'm all about finding communities, and Rock Voices has become another of those communities. I even feel connected to Rock Voices choirs on the east coast, because we have an active Facebook group. Before the last concert, two women in New England posted videos of their practices together and they were hilarious! We all sing the same songs, which builds camaraderie across the country. On the east coast, members often sing with other choirs...and we've had an occasional visitor come to our choir as well. Our weekly rehearsals always have me laughing, often because of Mark and Caley flirting or teasing one another!

I got to sing with Chris' love
 Emma in the spring--
she has a fantastic voice!
9. The Healing, and the Opportunity to Give Back. I have had a hard year this year, as have many other people. Each time I'm feeling a little down on a Monday, I go to choir and it ALWAYS lifts me up. So many of us have experienced losses, pain, anxiety and depression, death of family members, or some other grief...and music heals us, or at the very least, lightens our load a bit. The mission of Rock Voices is "Healing Ourselves and Others through Song," and I witness that at each rehearsal and concert. We raise money for local nonprofits at our concerts, and scholarships are available for people who cannot afford the full fees to sing. (Mike and I are availing ourselves of that benefit for the first time this fall, because of my job situation...and I am grateful.)

10. My book group buddies! I love my book group dearly. They are wonderful, funny, and bright women...and I love seeing three of them each week at choir! I feel sorry for the book groupies who are not in choir, because not only are they missing out, but they also have to listen to us talking about choir all the time. It's seriously an addiction, or maybe a cult! We also discovered that one of our members, Katie, had been hiding away a phenomenal voice and ability to rock the house. The first time Katie sings a solo each season, we are so starstruck listening to her that we fail to sing our parts correctly.

I'm about to start my fourth season of Rock Voices, and this time Mike, Chris, and my dad's friend are joining me. The song list is going to be the widest ranging ever. We take about a month off between each season, and many of us feel desperate to get back together again. Monday nights feel empty.

Let me know if you'd like to know more about Rock Voices or if you'd like to come to a concert! You can see some of our concert videos on YouTube. Our next concert will be in January 2020.