The Art of Attaining Your Goals

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Last Sunday, I was asked by the teacher in the women’s organization at my church if I would take a few minutes during her lesson and share about a goal I had achieved, how I did it, what obstacles I faced along the way, how overcame, and felt, etc.  Her lesson was on bettering ourselves in the new year and setting goals.

Goal setting is something I am very passionate about.  I’ve set goals since I was a child, and have always set my sights high.  I have always had this natural faith that I could do whatever I set my mind to.

Mind you, I don’t always accomplish every single goal that I set, but I try very hard and my ambition is great.  And when I set out to do something, I am one the most determined persons you will ever meet.

I thought I would share some of my thoughts that I shared in church, in hopes that it might help any of you.

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Goals are NOT crap.

I recently read a blog post where the author talked about resolutions and “how they are crap”.  She believed that instead of setting goals, failing, and then feeling discouraged – that you should just leave your life up to God and allow him to decide what comes for you.  As I read the comments on the blog post, it seemed like everyone was praising the author and saying how much better this made them feel instead of setting goals.  And then there was one commenter who had the guts to say what I felt inside – that life was about bettering oneself, reaching for something higher and not allowing oneself to be complacent. Of course, the other people attacked him a bit for having a difference of opinion and having the audacity to say so.

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Some people will argue that resolutions and different than goals, but to me they are the same.  It’s saying that you want to accomplish something and are willing to work towards it.

Maybe resolutions/goals are overwhelming to some people because they really do feel like they fail, and fail often.  I personally don’t think it’s because their goal was unattainable, but it was probably because a) they weren’t ready to commit, and b) they didn’t set themselves up for success.

As I think back over my life and the various goals I’ve set/accomplished, there are a few that really stand out to me.

Goal #1 – Finishing ‘Illumination’

It took me 4 long years to complete my 3rd album “Illumination”.

I started writing the songs in between other projects until I had enough songs and the kind of songs I wanted for this album.  Some of the songs took me over a year to finish composing. My skills as a composer developed immensely during the process, and the diversity of the music on the album reflects that as well.

During those 4 years, I had a child, finished a film score, started and completed a 2nd album, got pregnant again, and gave birth to our 2nd child, worked and completed the 3rd album. So not only was I busy working on music, but I was busy growing our family and both took a lot of time and effort and energy.

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Many people asked me “How do you do it??”.

It did take a lot of time management and goal-setting to complete, and even got to a point where I made myself write out goals and deadlines, otherwise I feared I would never finish the album.

(Here is a blog post I wrote as a guest columnist for author Alex Bledsoe, on the act of balancing parenting and career).

Monthly Goals and Deadlines

One thing I did was I set monthly goals with specific dates of when I wanted to accomplish certain things by.

This is a screenshot from the ACTUAL goal sheet that I made and had pinned to the wall in my music studio.  As I was still trying to lose all my pregnancy weight, you will also see that I had some weightloss goals defined on there as well – as I was preparing for photo shoots and videos and wanted to look my best.  I was working hard on all levels, I tell ya!

You can click to enlarge if needed.

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Another thing that I did was create a spreadsheet for each process of the album creation so that I always knew where I was at with each song and what I had left to do.

On the left you will the name of each song (some names changed later on, btw).  And then a space to check off everything from recording, editing, orchestration, mixing, mastering, naming the song, and more.  (To clarify Glen co-orchestrated some of the music, and Rob was my sound engineer).

Click to enlarge

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That spreadsheet was so crucial to me. And I was VERY adamant about not checking anything off until it was absolutely 100% completed.  So it always felt great when I could put a check mark in any of the boxes.

Setting Myself Up for Success

One thing you need to keep in mind is in order to accomplish a goal, you need to arrange your everyday life so that you make it possible to attain. You need to set yourself up for success.

My husband works a busy day job for Microsoft, and since we have two kids (now as of Jan 2014, one more on the way – due in March), we had to figure out a system in our home where we could juggle parenting responsibilities, work, and more.

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Fortunately, I married a guy who has ALWAYS, always been my hugest fan and supporter.  He would move mountains to help me accomplish my dreams.

We created a weekly schedule where 3 days a week he came home early from work and took over everything. I mean EVERYTHING.  When he walked in the door, I was ready to hand the kids over to him and go into my music studio and shut the door.  And I was typically in my studio until the wee hours of the early morning trying to get things done.

There were days when I needed more time, and so I would hire a babysitter to watch my kids all day, or take them up to my parents’ house so that I could have a few solid days of uninterrupted work-time.

I Was Kind to Myself

My original goal was to finish my album by June 0f 2012, but I know that things usually always take longer than you think. So when little hiccups came up, I wasn’t hard on myself or disappointed, I just kept moving forward.

Many people tend to give up when they fail, or say “What’s the use?”.  Thing thing is, is that LIFE HAPPENS.  Illnesses happen.  People you depend on fail you.  Money can be tight.  Other responsibilities come up.  The key is to not give up and keep going. I know that sounds so cliche, but it’s true!  Nobody is going to do it for you. You have to believe in yourself.

I completed the album only 6 weeks behind schedule and released it in the latter half of July 2012.

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So the biggest ways I was able to accomplish the goal of finishing that album was

1) Setting monthly detailed goals and deadlines
2) Setting myself up for success by arranging my life to make my goal possible
and 3) Being kind to myself in the process.

Goal #2 – Fitness and Weight loss

This isn’t a topic I usually talk about publicly because it has nothing to do with my music, but since you obviously now know it was part of my goals (from my goal sheet I attached above), I wanted to talk a little bit about this goal and how I worked EXTREMELY hard towards it and achieved it.

603315_10151233773213425_1842082860_nHaving kids does some crazy things to your body. I will say that.

Both of my pregnancies were really hard on my body and I gained more weight than I would have liked.  I seemed to have anything and everything go wrong with me – from several dislocated ribs, hip problems, pancreatitis, pre-eclampsia, and emergency C-sections both times.  Exercising during my pregnancies was hard.

After I had our 2nd son in Aug of 2010, I will tell you that I was very self-conscious of my body and how I looked.

I actually turned down performance opportunities because I was too embarrassed to go on stage and have people judge me for how I looked.  And granted, I have the best fans and supporters in the world and most of them are there for the music and not for what I look like, but still, in MY mind, I just didn’t have the self-esteem and courage to do it.

So for a good year or more, I really didn’t perform very much. I was still busy working on music in my studio, and commissioned projects, but just too self-conscious to get up on stage.

As I got closer to releasing “Illumination”, I knew I wanted to be in better shape so that I would look good in my photos and feel more confident.

At my “Illumination” Photo Shoot – Paramount Theater, Seattle, WA – May 2012

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Even at my photo shoot for my album (pictured above), I wasn’t at my goal weight but was still proud of where I was at that point.

It took me close to 3 and 1/2 years to lose all the weight I had gained from both pregnancies. From 2010 (after I had our 2nd baby) to summer of 2013, I lost a total of 70 pounds – which actually put me UNDER my pre-pregnancy weight.

The following photo is a progression of me in 2010 (after the birth of Taylor), and finally on the right in 2013 when I filmed the outdoor scenes for my Illumination music video.

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I will say that THIS goal was not as straight-forward as my goal for finishing my album.  I am very good at disciplining myself to work on music, but not always great at disciplining myself with my body (which is why it took me over 3 years to lose the weight).

But there came a point in Feb of 2013 when I was tired of losing a little, gaining a few back, losing a little, gaining a few back.

I wanted to reach my goal and I was finally in a motivated frame of mind where I wanted to kick some butt and just get it done!

A few things I did to accomplish my goals were:

1) I hired a personal trainer
2) I set myself up for success by re-arranging my daily schedule so I could go to the gym 6 days a week
3) I got my family’s support with my food goals

Each of those things were very involved with many variables.

1040700_10151565003563425_246904629_oFor example, I hired a trainer because I needed accountability and I was at a point where I felt like I had done everything I could myself and needed outside help.

The trainer (Monica Lynne) I hired was also a life coach and nutritional coach, and so we had many hours of wonderful talks that provided insight into my soul as to the reasons behind why I did certain things.  For the first time in a long time, I was overcoming issues I had and reaching goals that I really wasn’t sure I ever would.

It was the BEST feeling to know I was capable of achieving this goal and could overcome trials.

As for setting myself up for success, this involved making my gym time a priority – even over friendships sometimes and other things that were fun.  I had a rule that the mornings were “my time” at the gym, and I would say no to anything else that got in the way.

It wasn’t easy, at first when I would tell people “Sorry I can’t, I have to go to the gym.”, they didn’t really see that as a valid excuse to get out of something. So I stopped saying that I was going to gym, but just instead said I had a standing appointment every morning and that I was “unavailable”.

My gym has a daycare too that my boys absolutely LOVED to go to, and so I didn’t feel guilty for having the “me time”, because they were also having a lot of fun, meeting new friends, and being social.

1234964_10151680335663425_1868392960_nMy husband was also very supportive by making sure I had my gym time, sometimes re-arranging his schedule in case I needed to go to the gym in the evenings, and also Saturday mornings.

My husband is an ultra-marathon runner and his big training runs are usually on Saturday mornings.  As crazy as this sounds, he would usually get up around 4 a.m. and go on his 4 to 5 hour trail run, and when he got back we would switch and I would go to the gym.

I got my family’s support with food goals, and this was not easy.

With an ultra-marathoner who loves his carbs, and 2 little boys who are picky eaters (can we say chicken nuggets and mac ‘n’ cheese?), we often rarely all ate the same thing at dinner time.  And everyone was okay with this.  I would eat my lean protien and veggies, while they ate their carby stuff and proteins.

I also didn’t bake as much, or bring sweets into the house as often, and got very good at saying no to things.

I was very motivated by the success I was having, and how fit and wonderful I felt.  Some people who say getting in shape is a vain endeavor obviously don’t know how great it feels compared to having extra pounds on you.  I LOVED being able to hike up mountains and not be out of breathe, to fit into my dresses with ease, and to be on stage performing and feel confident.

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Shortly after that last photo was taken in July of 2013, I found out we were pregnant with baby #3!

So I am going to be starting the process ALL OVER AGAIN come March. :)  This time though, I have still been able to work out at the gym through this entire pregnancy. I am currently 30 weeks along and still doing cardio and weight training 3 to 4 days per week.

To Sum It Up…

My point to all of this is YOU CAN ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS.

It’s not always easy, it’s not always fast, but it IS POSSIBLE.

Goals are not crap!

If I can do this with 2.75 children, husband, busy music career, and everything else, YOU can definitely accomplish your dreams too.

I want to leave you with a neat story about world renowned concert violinist Isaac Stern.   A real hero of mine…

(Story retold by Rex D. Pinegar)

stern1“Isaac Stern, the world-famous musician-violinist, was asked by a television talk show host at what point in his life he determined to devote his energies toward a career as a concert violinist. Mr. Stern told of having given his first concert in San Francisco at a young age. Music critics were extremely impressed and predicted a fine future for the promising young talent. With this encouragement, Isaac Stern began preparations for another concert a year later in New York City. The critics were not so kind to him there. It would require a tremendous amount of work, they judged, if Isaac Stern were to achieve success as a soloist.
Dejected and discouraged, the young Mr. Stern boarded one of New York City’s double-decker buses and rode it up and down Manhattan a number of times. He was, in his words, “crying inside” as he tried to decide where he was going from there. Were his critics correct? Had he gone as far as he was capable of going? Should he now seek a profession as just another member of an orchestra?
After his fourth bus ride through the city, he returned to his apartment where his mother was waiting. He had made his decision. “I am going to work, mother—work at my music until it works for me. Today Isaac Stern is acclaimed as one of the finest violinists in the world. Work is a principle with a blessing. Work builds us physically and spiritually. It increases both our strength of body and our strength of character.” (Isaac sterned passed away in 2001).

Restrospective

You may have noticed that my Facebook and Twitter feeds lately have been less about music, and more about the fact that I am currently consumed with the thing called “life”. A.k.a. having kids, making food, spending time with family, and whatnot.

I see my piano every day sitting in my living room. It says “Pssst, hey you, wanna come play me?”.

I entertain the thought, but then reality hits.

Playing with a big hard unrelenting 7 month-along baby-belly in the way makes playing the piano incredibly, utterly UN-enjoyable right now. So I pass on my 6 foot grand piano’s offer, while it sits collecting dust and probably going out of tune.

I can feel it’s sad lonely eyes staring at me as I ignore it with immense guilt.

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Not only do I NOT have the desire to play right now out of physical discomfort, but it’s like I can’t get my brain to even think about music either. The desire is not there.  At ALL.

When I think about my 2014 goals, the idea of NEW music, or NEW album, or NEW music video just makes my head hurt.

Is it burn-out?

Maybe.

Is it the over-whelmed factor?

Oh for sure.

I remember my mom telling me that she once didn’t touch the piano for 6 years. “Impossible”, I thought. “It’s part of who she is.” I also for years judged her for giving up her music dreams during the prime of her life in order to be a stay-at-home-mom. “She gave up years of pursuing music professionally and then regretted it later in life.” I often thought to myself. “I will NEVER do that.”

Out of the 30+ years I’ve done music, about 20 of those years were strictly Classical music training, and the other 10 have been composing and producing my own music.  

The last 2 years of my life in particular have been the MOST involved.  

It has included balancing a life of 2 young children, husband, releasing a 3rd album in Q3 of 2012 (which took me 4 years to write/produce) and then spending the following year and a half promoting it with trips to Los Angeles, New Orleans and more, receiving nominations, winning awards, walking red carpets, filming music videos, performing, meeting and working with renowned musicians and producers, and being on the receiving end of many more project requests.  

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I have worked very hard.  When I put my mind to something, I go for it.

I have always been my own producer too. I have invested years into my home studio – where I work when the inspiration hits (convenient to me as a mom with kids at home, where I can control my workload).

I have been choosy with the people I work with, how I present myself and my image, and I’ve also been very careful to TRY to maintain a sense of balance when it comes to my personal life.

I’ve somehow miraculously been able to pull off motherhood/wife during the day, and musician by night for several years.  I’ve never had a manager, or an agent, or outside funding, or a wealthy investor.  But what I HAVE had is fans and supporters of my music throughout the years to keep me going. I’m married to a super smart guy who advises me very well with how to spend the money I earn from my music and make it go further.  I’ve never gone into debt to produce an album or a project, and I have been very careful on what I spend money on – always with the intent that it is an investment towards my music and career and my family. I do a lot of things myself, and then hire out for the things that I truly do not have the talent to pull off.

It is a lot of work and things do take longer with DIY, and also balancing life.  I have thought “Wow, I am actually pulling this mommy-wife-career thing off.”

But…

Lately as I’ve been enduring the last trimester of my 3rd pregnancy (due in 11 weeks from now), I admit, I’m FREAKING OUT just a tiny little bit.

I have found myself wondering “How in the world, do I continue to do this with a 3rd kid?? How does ANY woman in the music industry keep doing this with kids? Am I crazy??”

And then the fear of becoming my mother goes through my head quite often.  “I can’t give this up just to be a stay-at-home-mom. I’ve worked too hard.”

And yet, while I do love babies, I feel this way about pregnancy…

And yet during my 2nd pregnancy, I somehow managed to teach 30 piano students up until I was 7 months along, complete an award-winning film score and finish it 2 weeks before I delivered, as well as another commissioned project. Music just seemed to flow from me.

But this time?

Ha. Ha. Ha.

I can’t seem to get myself motivated physically, emotionally or otherwise to work on music during this 3rd pregnancy. I should say to work on my OWN music, that is. And it has sort of left me feeling…well, quite guilty and like I’m not doing enough.

I did finish some commissioned recording/composing projects and also perform a little bit up until my 5th month…

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(After performing at Benaroya Hall with Grammy nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker)

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And while I said “no” to many requests to perform this Christmas, I did agree do two concerts in December at 6.5 months pregnant…

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But my inbox continues to fill up with messages from people almost on a daily basis asking when am I am going to come perform in their town, when am I going to hurry up and finish my songbooks of sheet music that I’ve been promising for the last year, can I collaborate with them, would I produce an album, when am I going to release a new album, when will I do a Christmas album, am I submitting to next year’s Grammys, and more.

…And while I am so incredibly flattered, I have to message them back and explain, essentially, that in all reality – I’m just a normal person with a family to look after and I have no “team” to do any of this for me and any project I do is time-consuming and they would probably have to wait.  And then wait some more. I wish I could do more, but I start to get that “I’m so overwhelmed” feeling again.

And then…

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A couple of weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I actually UNDERSTOOD my mother and why she gave up what she did. And why.

And I have realized I may have completely, utterly, misjudged her for YEARS and years.

She wasn’t “giving up”. She was sacrificing.

She decided to forgo the craziness of a music career so she could enjoy the years of being a mother to my three brothers and I.  She did it because it was important to her.  And instead of me feeling sorry for her giving up her dreams, it’s taken me 36 years to realize I should be thanking her for the sacrifice she performed so that we could have a healthy full childhood.

Because you see, there is really no such thing as being “JUST a stay at home mom”, in case you didn’t know. It’s important stuff. And most of what our moms do for us we don’t even truly understand until we become parents ourselves.

So even though in this moment of time, during this “season” of my life when I am feeling overwhelmed with the idea of how to keep doing it all and doing it successfully, and often feel guilty for not living up to expectations or putting out enough new content, material, and more — I see moments like these…

Where my boys try to copy me on the piano by flipping through my book of Beethoven Sonatas and perform “duets” together….

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…the time when I hired a fun babysitter (with pizza and movies!) for my two boys so I could perform at my CD release concert and have my husband there as well – but my older son cried because he wanted to come sit in my concert so badly.

I relented and let him come, and my favorite moment of the evening, hands-down, was when he came running up on stage to give me a bouquet of flowers that he and my husband got for me.  He was so bashful he was on and off before I could even give him a hug to say thank you.

It meant more to me than anything else that happened that night.

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…and then afterwards he was so tired and all he wanted to do was snuggle up next to me. Not next to Dad, or Grandma, or Grandpa, but ME.

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When my younger son was so excited to come see me play the violin, that he just HAD to bring his miniature violin and stand on his seat during the concert pretending to play it along with me…

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And the time when he was at my parents house – and my mom heard “Help! Help me!” from the other room, only to come in and see that he had been trying to play the bass fiddle and it tipped over on him.

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Preston’s very first piano lesson with me and how eager he was….

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And then there are all of the moments when my mom has supported me in my music career and performed with me as well. Sometimes even though she didn’t always gush over me, I could see in her eyes that she was proud of me. And I have to say, I wouldn’t be what I am today without the years of music lessons she gave me, and again…for supporting me in my career while she gave up many years of her own.

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I think of all of these things and realize, you know what, it is OKAY. For one, all those moments actually meant 100 times more to me than walking any red carpet or receiving an award.

It is okay to take a break and not meet the world’s expectations for how they define success.

It is OKAY to be enjoying my down-time.

It is okay to not be putting out a new album any time soon.

It’s okay that right now I am 90% mom/wife, and 10% musician.  Because frankly it’s extremely hard to be 100% at either all of the time.

And it’s even okay that I haven’t really practiced more than a few hours in the past couple of months on my piano.  I won’t forget how to play. The piano will be there WHEN I AM READY AGAIN. :) And yes, that day will come and I will be come back strong.

But for now…being a parent is important.  And “No amount of success can compensate for failure in the home” – David O. McKay

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No more apologies for “not being enough”.

No more feeling bad because I’m not busy in my music career right now.

God has a way of molding us into what we are supposed to become, even if it is not always in our own timeline or exactly how we want it.

In retrospect, it all works out perfectly how it should.

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P.S.  I almost forgot, you can check out my mom’s beautiful music at http://www.carolynsouthworth.com

Diary of a Song: Eventide

This is the ninth of a series of blog posts entitled “Diary of a Song“, where I share the stories behind each of the songs from my latest album “Illumination“.

At the end of each post, I also include a link to buy the sheet music, and the MP3 download.

Eventide

(From the artwork in the CD booklet)

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Is it okay to have a favorite of my own compositions?  Well if so, this would be it. “Eventide” is by far, hands down, my favorite song on my Illumination album.   This was just one of those songs where the music flowed to my fingers and I really felt a spiritual connection to the music I was creating.

I composed this song while we were living in a rental home that had this big window and my piano sat in the nook of it.  Across the street there was an open field and so in the evenings, when it was dark, there were no trees to block a perfect view of the twinkling stars (if the sky was clear, that is).

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My two boys – Preston and Taylor – at the time were ages 2 and 6 months

“Eventide” is another word for “evening”.  And with the minor to major triad chords going on in the song (proven by science to create an emotional crying response from people), this song really pulls at my heart strings.

I originally just wrote it as a solo piano piece, but then later as I worked on the orchestration for Illumination, I added strings and a boys choir to the song  - which ended up having a sort of Danny Elfman-ish sound to it.  Or, I’ve also been told it sounds like something James Newton Howard would have composed for a film.

I had this piece completely finished and orchestrated, when one evening when I was driving in my car and listening to a rough mix of it, I started hearing and humming the theme from “Sheherazade” to it.  Sheherazade is an orchestral work composed by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov that I performed both in college with my university symphony, as well as the Oregon Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra a few years later.  The solo violin part of the symphony represents the character of Sheherazade, whom in the story of “1001 Arabian Nights” (aka “Aladdin”, etc.), is the Persian queen who saves herself from death by telling a story to her husband, the king, every night for 1,000 nights.  As the story goes, the king would take a new wife and then sentence them to beheading the following day.  Sheherazade volunteered to spend one night with the king – in which she ends up telling him an entrancing story which she does not finish. She only promises “I will tell you the rest of the story tomorrow night.”  She keeps herself alive for 1000 nights by telling story, after story, after story…in the end, leads the king to fall in love with her and spares her life forever.

The musical theme fit so well with the music, and also the night time essence of the song that I went back and wrote the solo violin part into the music.  On my album, you can hear violinist Kelley Marie Johnson give an emotional performance of the song with me.

You can BUY THE SHEET MUSIC from my website below:

Solo Piano version

or

Piano/Violin Duet version

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You can BUY THE MP3 from any of the following retailers:

Jennifer’s Web Shop

Amazon

iTunes

Cdbaby

Loudr.fm (choose your price)

You can BUY THE PHYSICAL ALBUM from me directly, or from Amazon or CDbaby. I will even autograph it for you!

Diary of a Song: Beyond the Summit

This is the eighth of a series of blog posts entitled “Diary of a Song“, where I share the stories behind each of the songs from my latest album “Illumination“.

At the end of each post, I also include a link to buy the sheet music, and the MP3 download.

Beyond the Summit

(From the artwork in the CD booklet)

New Life and Beyond the Summit

“Beyond the Summit” is a song I started writing a few years ago, actually during the time I was writing/producing The Lullaby Album.

This might sound funny, but I was very much inspired by some recent IMAX films I had seen on some of the world’s most beautiful mountains and locations like Mt. Everest, The Grand Canyon, etc.  My husband, Will, is also an outdoors enthusiast who can be found climbing various mountain peaks here in the Seattle area at least 2 or 3 times a week.

When I was writing this piece, I really wanted to try to capture the feeling of being in an airplane gliding over the tops of glaciers and mountains (picture Alaska).  The chord types that I used in this were purposely put there to create a very open sense of being, and to make the listener feel as though they are part of a vast landscape much bigger than them.

My little family and I are also big lovers of the outdoors, and so I do get a lot of inspiration from the beautiful outdoor northwest landscape.  Here is a photo of my two little boys and I about 2 weeks ago on top of Hurricane Ridge inside the Olympic National Park.

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This piece took some practice to get the timing just right, as there are a few measures with 5/4 timing, and a lot of arpeggios.  But in the end, I feel quite proud of this piece, it is very much in line with what I would call my “old school” style of composing where the piano is in the forefront and the orchestra is just secondary.  This piece is meant to be performed as a solo piano piece very nicely because it does not need the orchestra to retain all of the majesty I tried to incorporate into it in the first place.

A friend of mine actually put this piece to some old vintage film from old Worlds Fair Archives, and funny enough the World’s Fair he used is the 1962 Worlds Fair where the Space Needle was erected.  I am from Seattle, and so this footage touched me deeply as I’ve been going to the Seattle Center (as it is now called) since I was a little girl.

You can BUY THE SHEETMUSIC from my website here: http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/productdetail.php?product=186

Beyond the Summit

You can support me buy purchasing the album or the single from any of these sites:  Amazon, iTunes, CDbaby, Jennifer’s Website

Beauty and Photography Tips

This is a blog post that I’ve been wanting to write for a long time, but knew it would be time consuming and so I kept putting it off.  But no more.

I’ve received quite a lot of questions from my fellow female friends who have asked “Where did you find that dress?”, “What type of foundation do you use?”, “How did you get your hair to do that?”, Etc.

Here it is – a whole lot of beauty/fashion tips and secrets that I’ve learned through having to do many photo shoots, stage performances, and red carpets. I am NO EXPERT, but here is what I know

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Before I start, I just want to say that I used to be of the train of thought that “You are what you are and there’s not much you can do about it.”  But then usually someone else has come along (a beauty professional) and shown me that I don’t have to just “deal” with what I have, but there are tricks to improve oneself, or hide things, or what have you.  And since I am far from perfect, here are some of the things I’ve learned.

MAKE-UP TIPS

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#1 – Properly prep your skin beforehand.  The best way to get awesome looking skin is to have your “canvas” all prepped.  The biggest thing is exfoliating all the dead skin off and moisturizing afterwards.

My make-up artist usually has me apply a vitamin serum, moisturizer, and under-eye cream.  The under-eye cream helps the makeup to not settle into those fine lines. It also works great to pat on even after you’ve put your makeup on for touch-ups.  I had to do this when I was filming in the desert for my “Requiem” video shoot.  After 3 days of shooting and not getting enough sleep and having the dusty desert sand get all over my face, my eyes were looking really “tired”.  Noelle (my makeup artist) dabbed some under-eye cream and it fixed the problem right up.

#2 – Use a good HD Foundation for a flawless natural look.  I was only introduced to “High Definition Foundation” last year when I was in Los Angeles.  And now I’m hooked.

Because most cameras all film in HD now, the clarity of the way peoples skin shows up on camera is super enhanced.  You don’t want to look like you are wearing cakey foundation.  But you also want to still get coverage for little flaws.

These are a couple of my favorite foundations and I’ve used them for the last year, so I know they work really well:

Givenchy Photo Perfexion

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Smashbox HD Healthy FX Foundation

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I also use this foundation “prep” formula underneath, which helps prevent the makeup from settling into fine lines as well. A “BB cream” is actually something you can wear alone without foundation – it is a combo of serum, moisturizer, SPF and it’s tinted so you can wear it as a sheer-type foundation. OR you can wear it underneath a foundation for more coverage, as a base.  It has been used in the Asian market for years, and a lot of women actually use it as their cream and it has improved wrinkles and dark spots.

Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream

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#3 – False Eyelashes.  Use them.  They make a huge difference in your look.  Being a fair-haired person myself, my eyelashes are very blonde and short.  I have to wear a whole lot of mascara to get them to stand out, and even still they are not very impressive.  So if I’m doing a photo shoot or an event, I will use false lashes.

Katy Perry has a great line of false lashes that I’ve used many times before, and they are definitely some of my favorite.

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Here is a great shot where you can see my eyelashes (and Viktoria’s too). We are both wearing Katy Perry false lashes in this photo shoot.

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#4 – Don’t be afraid of the “Wet Line”.  I admit I feel really dumb saying this, but I only just learned how to do this a few months ago when I did my photo shoot for “Illumination”.  The eyeliner “Wet Line” look.

Typically I’ve always applied my eyeliner underneath my eyes close to my under eyelashes and above the top eyelashes.  But there is a certain dramatic look you can acheive by applying the eyeliner to the wetline of your eye – especially if you’re going for a smokey eye look.  The key is to using a quality eye liner, preferably with beeswax.

This is the type of look I’m referring to:

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Here is a fantastic eye liner that works great for this and actually stays on the wetline for a long time before wearing off (as you usually have to touch it up quite often, especially if you have watery eyes like me).

Loreal Extra Intense Liquid Pencil Eye Liner

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#5 – Applying shadow in the right places.  You can add years to your face by applying eye shadow incorrectly. But you can also reverse your age by applying it correctly.

You open your eyes up more and look younger if you put a lighter shadow in the upper outer corners under your brows, like this:

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It depends on your eye shape, but sometimes when you put a lighter shade above your eye with a dramatic color in the crease of your lid, you can sometimes look older than your years.  This is a beautiful model, but I just wanted to demonstrate the look I’m talking about (see below). I think the reason is it creates a sort of heaviness to the lid.

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I actually had to look extremely long and hard to find an actress in today’s Hollywood with the above makeup look on the red carpet (lighter shade on eyelid, with dramatic shadow above it), and after looking at Google images forever, I did find Ashley Greene:

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Here is Ashley Greene again but with a darker shadow on the eyelid. I think she looks much more youthful in the 2nd look:

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#6 – Rule of Thumb:  If you have dramatic eyes, less color on the lips and vice versa.  If you want to have a dramatic smokey eye look (like Ashley above), then you need to do a pink or nude lipstick.  You never want your eyes and lips to compete with each other, or else you will look like you should be working the street corner ;)

The same goes for if you want to sport some really red lips, you should do a simple eye look.  Here are some great examples:

Big dramatic Eyes, Nude lips:

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Luscious red lips, minimal clean eyes:

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#7 – Best way to Conceal...I have always had stuff to “conceal” on my face.  For example, I was born with a birthmark on my chin.  Even though I had it “removed” via laser surgery when I was 14 yrs old, some of it has come back.  And so I’m always having to conceal it on my chin (or later Photoshop it out).

Here is me before a video shoot (for Requiem) with absolutely NO MAKEUP on, and you can see the two little red spots on my chin from my birthmark:

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Here I am (with Noelle – my makeup artist) after getting my hair halfway done, and my foundation/eyes done. Notice birthmark is no longer there:

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The only way I’ve found to cover up stuff like birthmarks (or zits, or whatever) is to put a little more concealer on than you THINK you need (because it comes off), and make sure to powder it afterwards. The powder will set the concealer and hold it on longer. I like to use a colorless powder (usually “white”).  And then my biggest advice after that is just DON’T TOUCH THE AREA. :)

HAIR TIPS

734329_10151183712396689_1706873005_nMy hair is the thing that I get the most comments on.  I have a TON of it.  Not only is it long, but it’s thick and I just have an ample amount of it.

My hair is naturally curly and so I have the option of wearing it curly or straight.  It takes a LOT of effort to straighten my hair though, and so I don’t usually wear it straight very often.

Some of my favorite hairstyles have to do with curls, and so I will share some of my tips and tricks to get great looking hair.

#1 – Curling Iron + Pinning = Awesome curls.  Over the years I’ve curled my hairs all sorts of different ways from using a curling iron to hot rollers.  But probably for the past year or so I’ve been just using my curling iron because I discovered a new way of using it that creates really great shaped curls.

I used to roll my curling iron from the ends of my hair up. This way of curling is okay for the underneath layers of hair that people aren’t going to notice. But for the top layers and the front of my hair, I use a technique that is shown here in this awesome Target hair ad:

Basically, you take strands of hair and about halfway down start rolling the curling iron and slowly turning as you go, then pulling the ends up and around.  What you achieve is a very rounded out spring curl. AND as you will notice in the video, the stylist pins some of the curls to her head. This is my best secret for getting great hair!  After each strand I curl, after taking it out of the curling iron I roll it back up and then use a bobby pin and pin it to my head.  I do this will all the outside curls and leave them pinned up until I’m ready to get dressed and go.

#2 – Herbal Essence Spray Gel to Hold Curls.  I spray my dry hair with this stuff before I curl it, and it is my best secret for getting curls to last all night long.  I’ve used this product for like 10 years and I swear by it.

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#3 – Teasing – To get some volume to my hair, I usually take a comb and tease it underneath.  For ponytails, I will tease the hair before I put it into the pony, and then afterwards I will also tease just the top layer of hair in the pony (next to the rubberband). You always want to be sure to sort of comb down the tease afterwards so your hair doesn’t look too messy.

CLOTHING STYLE TIPS

I admit I am a total bargain shopper.  There are SOME things that I am willing to fork out a little more cash for (like dresses), but for the most part I like to find deals. And even still, my definition of “paying more for a dress” is still pretty inexpensive compared to some women out there.

And because I am a mom of two little energetic boys (who do NOT do well inside department stores), I do most of my shopping online.

Here are a few of my favorite places that I usually find really cute clothes from:

DRESSES

ideeli.com – This is a sample sale site.  They only have whatever clothes are available for about 24 hours and then they move onto the next designer.

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The white silk Nicole Miller dress that I wore for my Illumination CD Release concert last Fall was a dress that I bought off of ideeli. It regularly sold $1100, and I got it for $250.

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I also bought the red dress from my Illumination photo shoot off of ideeli.com. It’s a wrap dress that you can wear like 20 different ways.  I bought a red one, and a turquoise one (that I wore at last year’s Indie Music Channel Awards).

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promdressesol.com - This is a site where I’ve gotten MANY dresses from.  I try to stay modest in my dresses – which means I need them to have sleeves, backs and fronts :)  This website has THE most variety of “modest” dresses that I’ve ever found, and they are not the cheesy bridesmaid kind either (you know what I’m talking about, right?)

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Here are a few of the dresses that I have gotten from promdressesol.com:

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Both Viktoria’s and my dresses are from this website in this photo:

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I also just bought one more from them for the ZMR Awards show that is happening on May 11th. I won’t show you which one though – just to keep it a surprise :)

Casual Clothes

Alloyapparel.com – This website has some pretty cute stuff on it, and usually for good prices.  I LOVE long maxi dresses, and they always have a lot of those. And I love that they are super long – because sometimes they just don’t always make them full length for us tall people (I’m 5’7″).  I recently bought this red maxi dress from Alloy…

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Express.com – LOVE Express. Probably one of my favorite stores in the world.

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DorothyPerkins.com – This is a new site for me that I just discovered not too long ago, but they’ve got some really cute stylish pieces on there for low prices.

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TIPS FOR THE RED CARPET

Again, some of these things I feel dumb for not knowing before, but all I can say is there are always solutions to “problems”! You just have to be “in the know” ;)

#1 – Spanx.  Wear them.  Even skinny girls sometimes need them. Katy Perry even wears them!  I own like 3 different kinds of Spanx. One with shoulder straps, ones without, and ones that are like a tank top that you just wear underneath a shirt.   Spanx totally hold you in, and get rid of any wierd curviture that just should not be there….like the following model who was brave enough to show us all the difference:

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I will also say that I have tried many different kinds of brands of these types of “things”, and Spanx is the only one that really works.  A lot of other roll down, stretch out, rip, or don’t cover all the right places.  Just trust me and go with Spanx.

 #2 – Sally Hanson Airbrushed Legs. ‘Nuff said.  I have used this on my arms to get rid of freckles or “red dots”.

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PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

All right. This is the last thing I will talk about.

My friends are always telling me “Jen, you are so photogenic.”  I am actually NOT, but I just have learned the best way to pose for pictures and some great tips on how to look better in photos.

#1 – Stand up straight.  It makes a huge difference in how you look in a photo, and will also make you look thinner if you aren’t hunching over.

#2 – Create some space in between your arms and your waist.  In other words, if you want to LOOK like you have a waist, then don’t let it disappear into your clothing or arms.

A great example of both #1 and #2 is this photo that fitness model Amanda Adams posted on Facebook a while back.  These two photos were only taken a few moments apart, but look how different she looks based on two different poses. She is totally slouching on the left and holding her arms close to her.  In the 2nd photo, she is standing up straight, hip out, and created some space between her arms and waist.

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#3 – Take photos where the camera angle is HIGHER than you.  A big mistake a lot of people make is having their photo taken from an angle where the camera is below them.  This is not the most flattering angle for anyone! It only accentuates anyone’s double chin.  Here are two examples from a photo shoot I had for my first album:

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#4 – Pose Correctly. When standing, I’ve found the two poses that make me look the slimmest (because let’s admit, I’m a curvy girl!) are the following:

Hand on Hip - great way to make waist look smaller

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One Foot in Front – Great way to narrow hip and leg area

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#5 – Know what you want, and don’t be afraid to say so.  I think a lot of people get photos back and are unhappy because they didn’t express their ideas or concerns to the photographer.  If there are certain angles you don’t like, be sure to bring those up.  If you favor one side of your face over the other, then if you do profile shots make sure you tell your photographer that.

#6 – It’s also a great idea to do a run-through of your hair, makeup and your outfit BEFORE you do an event.  For example, the dress that I wore in my Illumination Paramount Theater photo shoot – while it was a GORGEOUS dress, I didn’t take into account that it didn’t work well when I sat down at the piano.  It completely POOFED out and made my stomach look pregnant or something.  So you will see that there ended up being no official “sitting down at the piano” shots from that photo shoot because the dress just didn’t function well sitting down.  This was something I didn’t exactly practice doing with the dress before the photo shoot.

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Anyway, I’m going to stop here.  This is a lot to take in.  The most important thing to remember is that YOU are beautiful without all the makeup, hair, and fancy clothes. :) Truly you are.  But if you must get all dolled up one day for anything special in particular, I hope that these tips help you out. These are all things I wish someone had told me a LONG time ago. :)

P.S. If you have any more questions about anything I didn’t cover, please leave a comment below!

College Music 101 Class Paper on Composer Jennifer Thomas

So there’s always a first for everything.  A friend of mine emailed me last week to tell me that in his college music 101 class, he was assigned to write an essay on a composer – and he picked me. Yes, ME. Not Beethoven, but moi.

Okay, on second thought, this is not the first time this has happened.  My niece wrote a paper on me for her 4th grade class one time.

Anyway, my friend sent me a copy of his paper that he turned into his music professor and thought it would be entertaining for anyone who wanted to burn 10 minutes learning more about me from a mere “historical” stance.  I don’t even have a Wikopedia page but gosh darnitt I’ve got college papers written on me.  I’m impressed that he even did a break down of my songs and explained the theory behind them. (I don’t even think I could explain the theory behind them).

Enjoy.

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Steven Casper

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Stephen Voorhees

February 24, 2013

Semester Project – Jennifer Thomas, Composer

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            My favorite instrument has always been the piano. Not because I have any skill with it, but simply because the music of this particular instrument has always fascinated me. It is such a versatile beast, able to provide a powerful beat and rhythm, while simultaneously drawing me, heart and soul, through complex melodies.  And it can do it all at the same time. While most instruments are tied down to just one line of music at a time, the piano can play them all, giving it a range and majesty that is rare amongst its peers. With that, let me introduce my chosen composer: Jennifer Thomas, classically trained pianist and violinist, accomplished competitive musician and composer, and a good friend of mine.

Jennifer Thomas was born and raised in the Seattle area to Ron and Carolyn Southworth. The second of three natural children and a fourth adopted son, Jennifer was raised around music. Her mother, an accomplished musician herself, introduced all of the children to music, and encouraged them to practice daily. Jenni and her older brother, Michael, had a morning routine of taking turns on the piano and their preferred string instrument: Jennifer played the violin, Mike played the cello.

Jennifer started playing the violin when she was five years old; her mother started her on Suzuki violin lessons (Suzuki being a play-by-ear method of learning the instrument). When she was seven, her mother was a volunteer in the music department at the elementary school, so Jennifer would go along and join in the before-school orchestra practice. She later learned that she had been the only second-grade student in the sixth-grade orchestra, though she had no sense of being younger than the other students.

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Despite dividing her time between piano and violin, Jennifer came to a time in her youth when the piano stopped being the instrument she had to practice, and became the instrument she wanted to practice. She was no longer playing scales or simple songs from primers and learner books that she was playing from, but actual pieces composed by classical greats. Specifically, when she was twelve years old, she asked her mother to purchase the sheet music to Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2. Carolyn mother warned her that it was not an easy piece to learn and play, but Jennifer’s insistence won out in the end.  Jennifer did learn it, however, despite the challenge it presented with its E# Major mode. And with this, as well as other piano-centered experiences, Jenni’s love of the piano really began to blossom, overshadowing her love of the violin.

When she started high school, the small school did not have an orchestra, which meant she found even less reason to pick up her violin, and so for four years, she played only the piano. Jennifer had an otherwise robust musical “career” in high school as the choir accompanist and the accompanist for school plays and talent shows, as well as being a blue-ribbon winner in Solo and Ensemble festivals.  At home, during this time, she did not just play piano, she played hard piano. Some of her favorite composers for piano include Rachmaninoff and Beethoven – anybody who wrote music that allowed her to play loud and fast… and drive her parents crazy.

Eventually, Jennifer graduated high school and took a stab at college. She went to what was then Rick’s College, now BYU Idaho, in eastern Idaho.  She joined school symphony-orchestra and put herself to work trying to catch up to her violinist peers who had not let their hard-earned skill rust. It was while she was at college that she first understood that she had been, to use her own words, “a sloppy player.” While at school she learned much about precision, and playing in an ensemble gave her a great respect for how difficult and rewarding precision playing can be.  She studied with Dr. Stephen Allen, dean of piano studies and learned much from him about how to connect with the piano and really make it sing.

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After graduating, Jennifer pursued music through various avenues, from teaching students, to joining various community symphony-orchestras, and volunteer performances. She joined the Salt Lake City Temple Square Concert Series, where she performed regularly in the Conference Center at Temple Square in Salt Lake City as well as at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building for three years, before moving back to Washington.

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There is so much and more to share in this paper, but two pages in I realize I have not even gotten to Jennifer’s compositions.  She had never thought of herself as a composer. People asked her regularly, after hearing her perform, if she had ever written anything of her own. She usually just laughed and said “no.”  On a whim, she had attempted to compose something once, but it was not impressive, little more than a “sad version of chopsticks.”

One Christmas season, however, in 2003, she felt inspired to give it another go. And that night she composed her first-ever piece of music: “Old Movie Romance,” and two days later she composed “Prelude in F.” Both of these songs are featured on her debut album, Key of Sea, released in 2007.

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Jennifer gave birth to her first child in 2008, and after dealing with a baby who wouldn’t sleep for months on end, she began making up little lullabies to help him relax and sleep. It dawned on her one night that she could do more than just make the little, spur-of-the-moment lullabies, and that is how she came up with the idea for this Album. The Lullaby Album, was a collaborative work with her mother.

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Now, with two children, she has recently released her third album, Illumination, which is, in my opinion, sounds exactly like her.

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She and I became friends over a decade ago, and I could always tell when she was playing something she had to play versus when she was playing something she wanted to play. Illumination is like a page out of the book of things Jennifer loves to play. Though her music is almost always composed for a broad range of instruments, rarely solo piano, piano always plays a strong role in her music, which keeps me listening, sometimes for hours on end.  Her skill as a composer has been reflected, not only in her successful releases of three different albums over the past several years, but in that she has been nominated for countless awards, winning or placing highly among many of them.  Just last year she was a strong contender for the Grammy Awards, though ultimately she was passed by… this time.

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History of Selected Work

I have selected works from the album Illumination, by Jennifer Thomas. Specifically, I have selected the songs Etude for the Dreamer, Illumination (the title track from the album), and Across the Starlit Sky.  These songs I’ve specifically chosen because I think they represent not only some of Jennifer’s finest work, but because they (with the exception of Starlit Sky) are characteristic of the kind of fast-paced music that she loves to play, though to be more representative of her skill, I have included Starlit Sky which is much slower-paced and illustrative of her more serious side.  I had a hard time selecting music for this paper, as I thought I wanted to present a variety of her works for the greatest introduction to her, and making such selective choices was, I felt, beyond my expertise.

I asked Jennifer directly what she thought I should select for this paper, what would be representative of her. That put her on the spot, I think, because obviously she loves all of her music. She did finally encourage me to go with the Illumination album, mentioning that the entire album was more of a suite than a collection of individual songs. The whole thing goes together as a single work. This made it that much harder to finally land on the songs I eventually did.  Being forced to narrow my choices down to 10-12 minutes, I found myself cutting one piece after another until I was left with my three favorites from the album.

Etude for the Dreamer – Released on Illumination, July 2012; Tickled Ivory Music.

Jennifer knew from the outset that this would be the opening track on her new album, she specifically opened it in minor mode, with the expectation of giving listeners a sense of anxiousness or excitement for what was to come.

The inspiration for the song came from her looking out over an evergreen forest and the idea of it being covered, saturated with fog, this thought had a definite dream-like quality that she wanted to harness and convey through music. She drew on her training, specifically taking inspiration from Frederic Chopin, as she describes him as the king of creative, skill-strengthening pieces, and this piece is very technically difficult. She confesses it is possibly the most difficult-to-play composition she’s ever written, and said that she has yet to perform it live without making errors, while at the same time, it’s also a very satisfying piece for her to play or even just to listen to, as so much work went into composing it.

Illumination – Released on Illumination, July 2012; Tickled Ivory Music.

The title track of the album – one of my favorite songs of all time, in fact – has the unlikely distinction of having been created initially as a one-minute “audition” submission for a car-commercial. Because the car manufacturer’s advertisement agency did not select it for their commercial, she was able to retain her ownership of the piece and has expanded it, building it into a living, lively piece of art.

Originally written for violins, French Horns, Percussion, and celli, she later met with the conductor of the Evergreen Philharmonic Orchestra and with the help of couple of transcriptionists, was able to score Illumination for a full symphony. The end result is a fast-paced thrill-ride around twists and bends of a road designed with luxury in mind.

Across the Starlit Sky – Released on Illumination, July 2012; Tickled Ivory Music.

This is the only solo-piano piece released on the Illumination album. It’s mellower, much more toned down from Jennifer’s usual fiery piano music, but it’s so full of introspection and peace, that I thought it would fit very well as part of this paper. The piece gets its name from the deep night sky that she could view out the large window as she sat at the piano.

Listening Guide

Etude for the Dreamer

0:00 – The music starts with the piano setting a pace that grabs attention. The music cycles through several notes, then ascends briefly, making an arch as it comes back down.

0:07 – As the arch descends below where it started, we get the first beat of percussion which is a queue for the strings to start. The violins maintain a distant humming accompaniment, while the celli make occasional statements.

0:21 – Percussion becomes more involved, over the next 10-15 seconds what sounds like cymbals, or perhaps maracas, begin a slow crescendo reaching their loudest by about 0:35.

0:49 – The percussion cuts out altogether, as do the string, leaving the piano alone for about 7 seconds when the celli return.

0:57 – the celli return along with the rest of the string and percussion instruments.

1:02 – the music returns in earnest at this point, drawing the listener forward.

1:36 – there is a diminuendo, which feels like the piece is drawing to a close, but it’s a mislead.

2:03 – the mode changes from minor to major and the almost ominous feel of the piece becomes brighter, giving a sense of a new day dawning.

2:50 – a drum-roll signals a return to minor mode and the piece darkens for a while.

3:20 – the pace picks up again and we’re brought back into major mode as the piece approaches its ending.

3:50 – All the other instruments disappear one last time; allowing the piano to close the piece with two final, but strong notes.

Illumination

0:00  – Much like Etude, Illumination starts with a few very quick notes on the piano.

0:02-0:10 – The violin(s) enter, almost teasingly, hinting at their presence, but then they’re gone briefly, to return again, fully joining in with the piano by 0:10

0:16 – Here, a low chord is struck and allowed to fade before the melody comes back with a vengeance.

0:37 – The strong piano melody takes a break, and the violins take over, imitating the melody introduced at the beginning of the song by the piano.

0:47 – A crescendoing slide of the string instruments brings the strength of the melody back again, part of a pattern throughout the first half of the piece. The beat is now set by the piano, firmly.

1:05 – 1:07 – A pause in the music followed by the drums taking a turn, rumbling in the introduction to a new movement.

1:07 – The piano takes over the melody while maintaining the beat for about 10 seconds, without other instrument accompaniment.

1:18 – The violins return, mimicking the initial melody.

1:34-2:17 – The piano introduces a new melody, rich and full, in perfect harmony with the original melody still playing in the background by the strings.

2:17 – The piano and violins return to the original melody/accompaniment.

2:52 – At this point, there is a major key change, and the strings come in with a strong support to the piano’s melody. There is also a hint of brass in this movement.

3:13 – Again the arrangement returns to the original melody.

3:21 – The piano introduces a change back to minor, and it carries us through towards the end.

3:39 – The tempo slows considerably, letting us know we’re near the end.

3:50 – The piano brings us to a conclusion with a quick descent into the final closing statement.

Across the Starlit Sky

0:00 – This song opens with a  lento ascending form and a gentle progression.

0:16 – The melody changes very slightly for a moment, becoming more involved, before returning to the basic original melody.

0:36 – The evolution of the melody continues here, introducing a lovely upper-register melody that drives the movement.

1:15-1:24 – the upper-register piano takes a momentary break

1:41 – a more mature lower register tone joins the upper pitches bringing a soulfulness to the piece.

2:30 – the high notes begin telling the story again, drawing the listener along.

3:12 – We’re approaching the end, and the higher notes slow their pace, introducing us to the end.

3:28 – The notes start a progressive descent towards the end.

3:50 – The entire piece is wrapped up with the final few notes and a closing chord.

Diary of a Song: Gymnopédie No. 1

This is the seventh of a series of blog posts entitled “Diary of a Song“, where I share the stories behind each of the songs from my new album “Illumination“.

At the end of each post, I also include a link to buy the sheet music, and the MP3 download.

Gymnopédie No. 1

(From the artwork in the CD booklet)Illumination and Gymnopedie 4

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Gymnopédie No. 1 is Track #4 on my new album, “Illumination”.

Gymnopédie No. 1 is the first of three songs (all named Gymnopédie) composed by French composer Erik Satie, who lived from 1866 – 1925 in Paris, France. He was sort of a revolutionary in his time  - as he was breaking molds from the Classical form of music and taking a minimalist and repetitive approach.

This song has been a favorite of mine for a very long time, and in my opinion is one of the “must-learns” on any pianist’s reportorial list.  It is such a hauntingly beautiful, yet simple song.

When I was a little girl I was a huge fan of the movie The Black Stallion.  Not only did I love the movie but I also read the books, and often times found myself carried away into a dreamland of Arabia with horses races, romance, and suspense.  I loved the scene on the beach when Alex (the boy stranded on the island with the wild stallion) finally befriends the horse and the horse allows him to ride him.  The music in this scene, at sunset, carries a very strong resemblence to Gymnopédie No. 1, and perhaps that is why I have always loved this piece – because it reminded me so much of my favorite movie as a kid.

You will see here in this video -if you skip to about 4:40 you will hear the music I talk of.  There is something I really long for in this scene – perhaps it’s the isolation, the beach, being one with nature and no distractions.  Whatever it is, it calls to me.

As this song is such a peaceful song to me with meaning, I really wanted to include it on my album.

Ignoring the dynamics that the editor from Schirmer’s had included in my copy of this song, I recorded this piece how I personally felt it.  I added much more dynamic range to it, including some FF’s which are not in the original. I also took the 2nd half of the song and added more notes, making it more complex and driven.

And finally, I added orchestration to it. Which, funny enough, I thought was so original in – but turns out Claude Debussy also orchestrated Satie’s Gymnopedie’s as well (except for full symphony, whereas mine still has the piano as the lead).  I personally find my version much more dynamic and emotional.

Here is Claude Debussy’s version:

I can’t tell you what great care I took in recording this piece for my album. I was so OCD about it – every detail had to be perfect from the way I played the piano, the expression and dynamics, to every last note that the violins lifted off of the strings.

Here is a clip from the finished song, starting about half way through:


I’m happy to let you know that the sheet music is now available for this song, which you can find below…

Gymnopedie

You can purchase the sheet music (as well as other songs from Illumination) from my web store HERE.

You can download the MP3 of this song HERE.

BUY AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ILLUMINATION directly from Jennifer while copies are still in stock:  http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/illumination-audio-cd

NEXT SONG UP:  “New Life”