Exciting News – Music Career Update, New Album, and More…

I feel like I have so much I’ve been wanting to share with you all, but I haven’t been able to.

That is until today.

MY MUSIC IS NOW A FAMILY EFFORT

For those who don’t know very much about me, I am a pianist, violinist, and composer and I have 3 albums released of my own compositions and arrangements. I was classically trained from the time I was 5 years old, graduated from BYU-I (piano pedigogy), I’ve performed with symphonies, soloed on concertos, and competed in piano competitions.

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However, about 10 years ago I discovered that I could compose and my music career hasn’t been the same since. It was then that I felt like I truly finally found my place in music.

945226_10151398598136689_1004522952_nIn that space of time, I have been composing, independently releasing my own albums, and working extremely hard in my music career. I have been lucky enough to have won and been nominated for multiple awards, been featured in movie soundtracks, TV shows, and commercials.

Tens of thousands of music lovers have created Pandora and Spotify radio stations for my music. I have sold out on physical albums, and my digital downloaders have grown tremendously. I have put out two official music videos and my Youtube channel has over a half million views. I have walked red carpets, performed for thousands of people, and met so many absolutely wonderful friends.

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During these last 10 years as my career as taken off, you may or may not know that I also have given birth to three beautiful children, and have had the biggest cheerleader in my husband when it comes to my music.

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They are my everything – the reason I get up every day, the reason I try to be a better person, and the joy in my life.

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This summer has been one of many roadtrips, talking about dreams, our future plans and more.  

The biggest news is that we’ve DECIDED TO MAKE MY MUSIC CAREER THE MAIN FOCUS.

CAM05529Any of you parents out there can appreciate how hard it is to be a parent, how much time and effort it takes and the exhaustion it brings you.  But it is also one of the most rewarding, joyful, and loving things you will ever experience.  

Since having our 3rd baby in March of this year, I have definitely felt so blessed and felt so much joy – but at the same time I felt the stress of trying to juggle everything – and have often felt like giving up on my music would be the only option. Between the exhausting days and nights, I have only had a few rare short moments to practice the piano, and definitely no feelings of inspiration to write or compose.

This has been a long time in coming, but as of a few days ago, my husband gave his 2 week notice at his job at Microsoft; a job that he has worked endless hours at, requires his master’s degree and experience – and he is giving it up so that he can provide me with more time and flexibility to work on my music. He believes in my talents that much!

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And so it is a BIG deal that we are taking this step. It is not something we take lightly, and we have prayed about this and there are just so many little things that have happened to lead us to this point – and we know it is the right thing. It will enable both my husband and I to spend more time together with our children, and as a family. We will set our own schedules, he will take on more parenting responsibilities, I will take on more music, and be able to have the time and means to put out more music, and at a faster pace than in the past. And Will will also be working closely with me in my career on finance, marketing, promotions, videography, and more.

I feel SO SO SO happy and lucky that Will has faith in me and my music and that it is important enough that we will put all of our efforts into it!  

With this decision, we will also be selling our home here in the Seattle area and moving to the WA peninsula near the beach – so that we can live in a place where I feel I will receive the most daily inspiration to write new music.  It will be a bit more remote, but our children will enjoy the wide open spaces and the feel of a small town near the ocean. We hope to have all of this in place by Spring 2015.

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We are beyond thrilled to take this leap of faith and see where it takes us.  I will keep you all updated along the journey as we work towards this next step in my music career and in our family!

NEW CHRISTMAS ALBUM COMING FALL 2015

bd6feee2551d54067d996ea86b992798It is with with great excitement that I announce that I am starting work on a CHRISTMAS ALBUM, that I hope to have finished and released by late Fall of 2015 – just in time for the holidays next year.

Many of you have been asking for a Christmas album from me for the last few years, and my heart just wasn’t in it. BUT NOW IT IS! I am SO ready to write Christmas music this year!  I’m excited to work once again with the amazingly talented Glen Gabriel on this project.  To have an album finished within only 1 year will be a first for me (the last album took 4 years), but again, that is the goal with my family’s new focus – to allow me more time for music.  So wish me luck and send me lots of creative vibes as I work on receiving ideas and inspiration for this special music!

IN OTHER NEWS…

I have one other album project I will be working on in between projects – the music will be very epic and cinematic, much like Illumination but hopefully even better.  More live instrumentation, more collaborations, and more music videos.

Thanks for all of your continued love and support!  I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing with my music without you guys – so thank you from the bottom of my heart.

- Jennifer

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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.

weightloss journey

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).

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

Diary of a Song: Across the Starlit Sky

This is the fifth 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.

Across the Starlit Sky

http://jenniferthomasmusic.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/13-across-the-starlit-sky.mp3

Across the Starlit Sky

This happens to be the only solo piano song on my new album.  It was among the last of the songs I was recording and preparing for the album, and as I listened to it over and over to try to get orchestration ideas for it (as well as listening to it in a mix with other songs), I decided this song was better by itself and the naked piano.

I wanted the listeners to create their own atmosphere for this song, and to feel like they were small beings amongst a huge universe.   Keeping the song piano-only was one way I felt that could be accomplished.

This song does not have any remarkable story behind it – other than I was just feeling very ponderous and melancholy while writing it.  I did write this song while my piano was positioned right in front of a rather large window in my living room – which at night I could see the starry sky (hence the name of the song).  I really enjoyed putting the major/minor transitions into the song.  It is a song that I really enjoying playing, because it helps me to connect to my feelings and whatever I might be thinking about at the time.

The photo that I chose to go with this song for the Cd booklet, is a picture my dad took of Mt. Rainier just before sunrise.  The funny story about this picture, is that he must have taken at least a half dozen trips to Mt. Rainier to get the perfect timelapse starry sky shot.  I really loved this particular one, but he was not happy with it – saying that it was not up to a professional photographer’s standards.  I won’t tell you all of the “flaws” he seemed to find in it, but I personally find it to be a beautiful photo and just perfect the way that it is.

A bigger view of the photo:

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Upon staking out a spot next to the mountain to capture this photo, I believe my dad said he met a hiker who said he had been stalked by a cougar that night and so every little noise my dad would hear, he was very nervous about it being a mountain lion.

This song has received a high number of requests for the sheet music, and so pianists here it is:

across the starlit sky

You can download the SHEET MUSIC HERE:
http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/productdetail.php?product=178
You can download the MP3 from Amazon HERE:
http://www.amazon.com/Illumination/dp/B008O0NUSM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1354842895&sr=8-2&keywords=jennifer+thomas+illumination

You can purchase the beautiful photography HERE:
http://www.ronsouthworth.com

Diary of a Song: After the Storm

This is the fourth 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.

After the Storm

IMAG2434As most of you know, last night they announced the Grammy nominations.  I was really hoping to see my name on the list of 5 nominees for Pop Instrumental, but alas I did not.  I had worked very hard for the nomination for the past several months – lots of hours were spent on trying to secure this nomination, and I was told by many that I had a real shot at this.

I know that having a Grammy nomination does not define who I am, and does not mean that I am any more or less talented.  Sometimes these awards are very political as they are peer-voted.  But as I tend to always try to have the best of faith in people, I had hoped that my album would simply wow everyone and they would just have to vote for it. :)  Even despite the tremendous support from my fellow Recording Academy friends, it didn’t happen, and yet I have received an outpouring of love in the past 24 hours from my fans who have told me over and over that I won in their books, and that my music has inspired them and that it means a great to them.

MacDowell Concerto 2002

Despite whatever accolades you may read in my bio, you also must know that I have had my share of trials and let-downs as well.

For every award I have won, there are many more that I have been turned down for.  For whatever film licensing or commercial work I’ve gotten, I have probably submitted my music to dozens more and not gotten a licensing deal.  I have performed as soloists with symphonies, but have also had many many auditions where I flopped and was turned away.

In the midst of all of this and the news of the Grammy NON-nomination, and with a promise I made earlier this week to release more new sheet music this week, it couldn’t be a more perfect moment to release AFTER THE STORM, track #2 on my album Illumination.

I tell you this, because it is a very appropriate intro to the story behind After the Storm.

How “AFTER THE STORM” CAME ABOUT…

On very special and rare occasions, I feel propelled by pure Divine inspiration to write a particular song.  This happened with The Red Aspens, Eventide, Will’s Song, and yes, After the Storm.

Composing does not come fast for me, but when Divine inspiration happens, the music usually always flows like an outpouring of love from my fingers to the keys. I just know how the song needs to be written.

I don’t often write much about my religious beliefs, but most know that I do have them and am very close to my Savior and have a very strong belief in God.  It is a central part of my life, and my family’s life.  I owe everything to Him, especially my talents and abilities.  And for some reason, even though I am not perfect and make oh-so-many mistakes in my day to day life, God still continues to bless me and watch out for me.

Last year was not an easy year for me.

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Sometime I will tell you more about it, but for now I’ll just say it was not an easy year.  Despite that, somehow I was able to write some very great songs out of that period in my life.  It’s true, that out of hardships come some of the history’s greatest art.  Not saying that my music is part of history’s greatest art, but for ME personally, some of my best music has come out of hard times (also great times too ).

As I started composing After the Storm (which I had not named yet), I imagined myself walking on the beach with my Savior, talking to Him, and telling Him about some of the things I was struggling with.  The ocean has always been a big part of my childhood and adult life, and brings a lot of inspiration for me.  And as I wrote the song, I thought about the poem about the footprints in the sand….and how the poet talked about going through some of the darkest times in his life and feeling so alone, seeing his lonely footprints in the sand.  Later God told him that it was not his footprints but God’s footprints and that He had carried the troubled man through his hardships.

I continued to work on the song more and more…

And in the midst of this, I kept thinking about my friend Dixie.  Some of you may know her, she comments on my Facebook posts quite often and has been a long time fan of my music.  But in recent years she has also become a close friend.  She is one of the most spunky personalities I know – just very feisty, honest, a real hoot.  And she has very good taste in music, if I do say ;)

Anyway, one day, I saw a Facebook post from her where she mentioned having to go to the hospital. I was surprised, and asked her what was wrong and what had happened.  She replied and told me that she had breast cancer, and she thought that I knew.  Well, no, I did not know.  I would have had no idea either, because she was always so positive and spunky and never complained about anything.

Dixie also loves the ocean, and I also happen to know that she loved lighthouses as well.

The more I continued to work on my song, the more I knew that this song was for her.  She was in my thoughts as I finished up the song, and as I worked with my dad on choosing a photograph that would go perfectly with this song, I ended up choosing this one:

Coquille Lighthouse

My dad (Ron Southworth, who took all the photos for Illumination), took this photo at Bandon Beach in Northern Oregon, at the Coquille Lighthouse right as a storm was passing over.  I think the colors are amazing in this photo, and to me the lighthouse represents safety and hope after and through the storm.

I named my song “After the Storm” and dedicated it to Dixie. I felt so amazed by her attitude through her struggles, as she made her way through her personal storms and conquered them.

MY OWN PERSONAL STORM…and OTHERS TOO

Even though I originally started writing this song by way of inspiration through a hard time in my life, I would say the majority of the song was written with Dixie in mind.   This was was always FOR her.

Shortly after releasing my album, I also received a very long email from a young woman who told me she had been going through a very difficult time in her life over the past couple of years, but after hearing “After the Storm” and “New Life” from my album, she felt hope for the first time.  She told me that she listened to the song several times every single day and it gave her the energy and peace to make it through each day.

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I can’t tell you how much hearing something like that effects me and makes me feel so fulfilled.  I am so happy to know that I was able to help someone else through my music.

This song also helped heal me through a hard time this past August when I had surgery…but instead of writing about it, I uploaded a video of a house concert that I did in Salt Lake City in September – where I told the story to the audience and then performed it.

You can view it below.

Here is a photo from me at my CD release concert, just a few weeks after that surgery that I had.

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Also, here is a photo with Dixie, her husband, and I at the house concert in Salt Lake City.

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So, to say the least, this song has a special place in my heart.

I’ve prepared the SHEET MUSIC for release, and feel that it is just as compelling as a piano solo (without the orchestration).

THE LINK FOR THE SHEET MUSIC IS HERE:
http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/productdetail.php?product=177

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THE LINK TO BUY THE MP3 on AMAZON IS HERE:
http://www.amazon.com/Illumination/dp/B008O0NUSM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1354842895&sr=8-2&keywords=jennifer+thomas+illumination

THE LINK TO PURCHASE THE LIGHTHOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY IS HERE:
http://ronsouthworth.com/fineartgallery.htm

Diary of a Song: Pachelbel’s Canon

This is the third 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.

Pachelbel’s Canon (A Duet)

This past year, as I was finishing up composing the music for my Illumination album, and figuring out the balance of the tracks (how many original songs vs. covers, fast vs. slow, etc.) I went to my fans to ask them for suggestions for one more Classical song to put on the album.  The song that had the most requests was Canon in D by Pachelbel.

I cringed.

Pachelbel’s Canon is probably one of THE most overdone songs, and as a classical musician I have had to perform this song countless times for concerts, weddings, Christmas, and church.  I know that people just absolutely LOVE this song, but usually for musicians we sort of groan when requested to play it.  And for me personally, I also sometimes cringe when I listen to others perform it as well.  I say that not because I don’t like the song – it’s just that for me it had become a broken record and I had grown super tired of hearing it over the years.  If were a non-musician and only listened to the song a select few times, then of course it would probably be one of my favorite songs too.

But to be honest, when I asked my fans what Classical song they wanted most, I actually did think in my head “Please don’t say Canon, please don’t say Canon…”

pachelbelAnd of course, they all wanted Canon.

One fan, though, mentioned doing Canon as a piano duet.

That got me thinking. If I were able to arrange Canon as a duet and make it different enough so that it was fresh and new, then I would totally do it.

So I started messing around on the piano and trying to figure out ways to arrange Canon in D so that it was a whole different approach to the run-of-the-mill versions that I always hear everyone doing.  I also wanted to keep it true to the original form of the song too though – so it was a bit tricky.  How do I make this song different, but still the same?  I learned the hard way with “O Mio Babbino Caro” from my first album, that taking very uber popular classical songs and making them strikingly different is not always loved by purist classical fans out there.

What I ended up with using most of the traditional Canon chords but adding some close 2nds to modernize the progression.  You can hear this here:

For those who want a quick lesson on what a “Canon” is, it’s a song where one instruments begins doing something and then another instrument comes in and repeats the same thing.  Kind of like when you would sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat as a round when you were a kid in school choir.  I didn’t really feel like spending an entire minute of the song expanding the traditional Canon rounds and so while keeping the chord progressions going, I skipped ahead to the resolve section (which normally doesn’t happen until quite a bit later in the song).

Right after the resolve section, I brought it back down to the simple chords and then after 4 bars, brought in some synth beats to bring an modernized feeling to the song.  I really wanted the song to still resonate emotionally with fans, but I wanted to also give it some “umph”.  I think I was able to accomplish through both the orchestration and piano part to keep an authentic “Canon in D” feel, yet have a freshness to it.

Listen here:

I might add, that it was a challenge trying to write a duet. I’d never done this before, and it took a lot of cross checking to be sure that I wasn’t writing one part that was stealing another part’s piano keys.  This would have been so much simpler to write for two separate pianos, however, most people do not have access to two pianos and I wanted to be sure my fans could download the sheet music and perform this as a duet. Thus, I wrote it for ONE piano, TWO hands, and TWO bums on the piano bench.

I just thought this part turned out really pretty :)

By this point we’re already 2 minutes into the song and we still haven’t heard the famous melody.

Ah, bam. There it is: 

It’s in a different key too, I might add. Which is why I ultimately decided against calling the song “Canon in D”, because it really was not in D.  So I called it “Pachelbel’s Canon”.

After the melodic section, I of course had to amp it up because it just wouldn’t be one of my songs if I didn’t have some sort of major climax in the middle of a song, and you can hear that here:

After the big to-do, the song goes back to the same chords from the beginning and really tones it all back down to un-hyper levels.  I think the song ends on a very traditional note, reminding the listener that they did just hear one of the great Classical pieces of music in all of history and so let’s show some respect. ;)

I would say, while my attitude towards the song at the beginning was not the best, I ended up actually having a LOT of fun composing this and orchestrating it as well.  The orchestration actually really turned out a lot differently than I had originally planned on too.  Definitely much bigger and fuller.

Anyway I hope you like my version of this popular classic.  I have actually received some really great comments from people saying things like how this is the best version of Canon they have ever heard, or that when they saw this track was on the album they pre-judged it but after listening to it they found that it was completely fresh and it has become one of their favorites.  I would say my goal of trying to make this song unique was accomplished. Thanks for all your awesome kind words everyone.

Pachelbel PrimoPiano students – if you would like to perform this song with a duet partner, you can go to the link below to get the SHEET MUSIC.  I purposely wrote this song so that it would be able to be performed 100% okay WITHOUT the orchestration. There are no lulls or blanks spots, it’s all filled with both piano parts.

SHEET MUSIC:  http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/productdetail.php?product=176

You can DOWNLOAD the MP3 from any of these links below, depending on your online store of choice. Personally, I recommend people to buy from Amazon or iTunes because it helps my rankings go up on those websites.

AMAZON MP3:  http://www.amazon.com/Illumination/dp/B008O0NUSM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1354582320&sr=8-2&keywords=jennifer+thomas+illumination

iTUNEShttps://itunes.apple.com/us/album/illumination/id545693307

JENNIFER’S WEB STORE:  http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/productdetail.php?product=167

You can listen to and download the FREE SOLO PIANO VERSION here:

Finally, here is a LIVE performance that I did of the song at my August CD release concert (8/24/2012), featuring my piano student Kristen Yose as my duet partner.