Being Happy for Your Friends’ Happiness

20150206_183709I just returned from Grammy weekend in Los Angeles!

Will (my husband), and I flew down with the purpose of supporting our dear friends, Ricky Kej, and Wouter Kellerman as they were nominated for a Grammy Award.

And guess what? THEY WON!

It was very exciting, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for them!  I have known Ricky for a couple of years, and Wouter for the past year.  Early last year, Ricky and his wife spent a few days in Seattle and I showed them around and we had so much fun.  And Wouter is so incredibly nice and has a 100 watt smile all of the time!  I can honestly say that these two gentlemen are a couple of the most genuine people I’ve met, and they do music for all the right reasons.

I am beyond happy for them!

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Aside from this amazing weekend, I wanted to talk about success and happiness.  It’s something that we all want.  We ALL desire happiness in various shapes or form.

But there is this thing, especially now days with social media, where if we see a friend have a little bit of success – whether they got a job raise, or lost 50 pounds, or sold a million copies of their new book – we sometimes feel bad about ourselves.

WHY?

This has been on my mind so much lately – so many instances recently where I’ve seen people hate on others for their good fortune.

I read this article last week that was featured on the Huffington Post entitled “When Her Good News Makes You Feel Bad“.

READ IT.

I think comparison and competition exist partly because we believe that there is a scarcity of good things in the universe. And that belief makes us kind of small and scared and unable to feel true joy for others or peace for ourselves.”
(Read more in the article).

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I will admit, that there have been times in my own music career, when I’ve seen other similar artists get millions of youtube views, or sell a lot more albums than me, or maybe they are just a heckuva lot more famous than myself…and there is a part of me that has momentarily felt bad for myself.

On the flipside, I have even had friends unfriend me before, or not talk to me – and at a later time I come to find out that it was because I was doing well in my music and they weren’t, or that my life was going so much better than their’s and they just couldn’t take seeing the positive status updates.  At one point, a friend sent me a personal message telling me that the reason she had backed away from our friendship was because I was always posting about things going well in my life, and it made her feel bad about her’s.

Everyone has their good days and their bad.  But we are all different, and we all certainly do not have the same talents.  While I might be good at music, I can tell you that I am not very good at crafty things.  But instead of dwelling on the fact that I will probably never sew my kids’ Halloween costumes or have a Pinterest home, I remind myself that I can appreciate others who are gifted at those things and concentrate on the things that I am good at.

And above all, HERE’S the thing, everyone:

When you finally understand that there is NOT some cosmic rule that the universe or God makes about how much good fortune there is to go around – and that just because someone else has something good happen to them does NOT mean there is now less of it available…you will find yourself in a place where you can truly and genuinely be happy.

You will be happy for yourself.

You will be happy for your friends (and I mean GENUINELY happy).

You will find hope for yourself.

And you will find a whole lot more love in your heart and see the world differently.

And if you see your friend talking about something wonderful that happened for them?  Be happy for them, and then you get out there and work hard for yourself too and just know that it IS possible for you as well.

– Jennifer

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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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Diary of a Song: Secrets

This is the tenth 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.

Secrets

(From the artwork in the CD booklet)

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There really is no huge story behind this song and why I chose to arrange it for my album – other than the fact that I love the group OneRepublic and think that their music is utterly amazing. It is also very musical and classical in some respects.  For example, when I listened to the cello part on their recording of “Secrets”, in my head I heard influences from the Bach Cello Suite in G.  Hence the reason I decided to incorporate themes from the Suite into my rendition of “Secrets”.

I will say though – that when I was writing this arrangement, I really felt strongly that I wanted this song to stand alone great as a SOLO PIANO work, and not just a great song with orchestration (as on the CD).  I arranged the song with a very sweet, almost whimsical introduction to the song before it gets to the “meat” of it (where the cello comes in).  I’ve heard many people tell me that it sounded very Danny Elfman-ish.  Well, thank you.  I take that as a great compliment because I like his work very much.

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Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the recording session for “Secrets”, featuring the young talented cellist Stephanie Yose.  She was 16 years old at the time of this recording, and now she has gone on to play at BYU with a full ride cello scholarship.

The talented Glen Gabriel did the beats and effects on the recording.  All other piano and orchestration was yours truly.

I’ve always thought it would be neat for Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic to hear my version of his song, but so far I’m not sure that has happened. During Grammy voting season I did come into contact with the founding member of the band.  He had emailed me to talk about his latest album and we had some conversations over email – as we both had entries on the ballot last year.  I asked him if he wouldn’t mind passing the song along to the band to hear. But as we all were caught up in the onslaught of Grammy madness, I never did hear back. I’m sure my song got lost in the mad rush and it possibly never got forwarded on.  *sad face*.

But as promised – I have sheet music for you guys!  Better late than never right?  It took me a while to get the publishing license from Hal Leonard via Sony Music Publishing.  But I’ve got it now. I also had to transcribe the song a bit because my version that I play on stage is a cello + piano version and so there are chunks of the song where I sit there and have measures of rest while the cello plays.  And so I had to go back and rewrite the solo piano version to fill in those measures.  It’s finally all finished now and the sheet music is up on my website for only $3.95.  I hope you pianists enjoy it! It’s really one of my favorites to play.

Secrets

 

BUY SHEET MUSIC:

Link to Jennifer’s Store for the “Secrets” Sheet Music.

BUY THE ALBUM:

Buy the full Illumination MP3 album on Amazon, or the physical album with autograph from Jennifer’s Website.

My Latest Creation: 9 Months in the Making!

I’ve been wanting to share with you guys about my latest creation for a while now. And while I’ve given you little peeks and snippets on my Facebook page, it’s only now that I’m finally sitting down to write a blog post about the birth of my 3rd baby – Riley Finn Thomas.

Riley was born on March 16th – weighing 7 pounds, 6 ounces.

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Many of you know over the past 9 months I have been working quite hard on this beautiful creation added to “Team Thomas”. :) I did do a few concerts in my 1st and 2nd trimesters…

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(Performing with Grammy nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker at Benaroya Hall in Seattle – 5 months pregnant)

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(After performing at the Arlington Nativity Festival – 6 months pregnant – with my Grandma and mother)

…But after my 6th month I decided to take a hiatus from music, as it was increasingly difficult to reach the piano keys and sit at a piano bench with no back support.  And I was just tired. And busy. And pregnant. And I had 2 other kids. I needed a break. So I got to enjoy my 3rd trimester just being pregnant.

Riley is our 3rd boy. Yes BOY.  We do have 3 boys now – and they ALL have red hair.

140324_DSC1824 (My 3 boys – ages 4 weeks, 3 years, and 5 years –  with my Mom, Carolyn Southworth)

Sometimes I am convinced that this is to be my life, LOL:

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Riley’s Birth Story: I am not one of those women who has been blessed with wonderfully easy pregnancies and deliveries. On the contrary, I have had my fair share of cruddy stuff happen to me with each one – from dislocated ribs, pre-eclampsia, pancreatitis, gall bladder removal, weightgain and more. BUT I have been incredibly blessed with 3 healthy beautiful babies.  Each time they were born, tears filled my eyes with love and gratefulness for their tiny little spirits and healthy bodies coming into our lives. My first two boys (born 2008 and 2010), I labored 20+ hours with each of them and ended up having Csections both times.  I tried my hardest to avoid having major surgery, but apparently my body wasn’t built to accomodate childbirth the “normal” way.

Knowing that we were having a 3rd baby, the decision this time was easy to go ahead and just schedule a Csection and avoid having to go through labor all over again. So it’s safe to say that the birth of Riley was much different than the first two.  We had it scheduled on the calendar, had our boys scheduled to stay with Grandma and Grandpa, bags packed and everything.  I have to say it was pretty nice knowing that I knew the day and time when this baby would come, and so I didn’t have to worry about anxiety over when it would happen.

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(A few days before baby came – around 39 weeks pregnant, feeling a bit huge and uncomfortable!)

These next few are from my maternity photo shoot (Photos by Will Thomas)

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On the morning of the 16th, we got up around 4:30 a.m. in order to be at the hospital by 5:30 a.m.  Because of a planned Csection, I was required to fast the night before (no food or drink), and I think because of this it made me start having contractions that morning because I was so incredibly dehydrated.  On the way to the hospital they were about 5 minutes apart and pretty painful.

Once we got to the hospital, they got me checked in, into a hospital gown and after many attempts to get an IV in me (it took 4 different nurses), I finally got some fluids and the contractions died down.  For those of you unfamiliar with how Csections work, it is kind of dangerous to go into labor after already having had 2 Csections because of the amount of scar tissue in that area – there is a possibility of rupturing which is very dangerous for both mom and baby.

I like to refer to this as the “Stay puff marshmallow hospital gown”

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They monitored the baby and I for about 2 hours and then finally we went into the operating room for the delivery of the baby!  It took almost 45 minutes for the anesthesiologist to get the spinal block into my spine and it HURT. Oh wow it hurt.  But once they got it in, I started to feel very numb from the chest down to my feet.  It is like a weird creepy crawly feeling that takes over your body. Kind of a weird feeling.  I wanted to throw up, I won’t lie. Even though they gave me anti-nausea medicine I wanted to throw up. Thankfully my anesthesiologist was on top of things and put some kind of wonder drug into my IV that calmed me right down.

These are the baby stations – so fun to look over and see them knowing that very soon a new life will be in them!

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Both my OB and an assisting OB worked on the surgery/delivery…

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Me trying to stay calm even though I felt like throwing up… 

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And around 8:23 a.m., the most adorable little Riley was welcomed into the world.

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It took another 45 – 60 minutes for the doctors to sew me up, and during that time I got to hold this precious new baby on my chest – which is not the normal procedure for Csections. Normally with our other two sons, they handed the baby to my husband and he held them while I got sewn up.  But this time it was very very special that I got to hold him and snuggle with him first. Very special.

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  We stayed in the hospital for 2.5 days.  Csection recoveries are not for wimps!  But amazingly enough the nurses and doctors know what they are doing and were there to help me every step of the way. About 12 hours after delivery they had me up and out of my bed walking around in our room.  Very painful – yes I wanted to die of pain – but each time it got better and better. And of course I had my amazing husband there to help – I couldn’t have done this without him!  Csection recovery is simply not something a mommy can do alone, so he was there to change ALL the diapers, hand me the baby for feedings, get me ice water, food, and whatever I needed.

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We had some special visitors while we were there as well…

(My Dad with Riley)

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(My 3 year old, Taylor, with Riley and I)

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(My Dad with my 5 year old, Preston, and Riley)

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(Not my favorite photo, I’m a bit swollen from surgery, but here is our first family picture together – all 5 of us!)

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Since Riley has joined our family, I have just absolutely been enjoying EVERY single moment of snuggles with him.  He has been the sweetest easy baby, and I am so in love…

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He is now almost 5 weeks old (as I type this on April 18th).  It took me a good 3 and 1/2 weeks of downtime and recovery to be mostly pain free.  I am still taking it easy until week 6, when my doctor will clear me to go back to the gym. But I know from past experience I need to take it easy or I pay for it later.  So we’ve just been enjoying a lot of snuggles…

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Riley is our last baby and so I don’t want to miss any moments with him. I have just been feeling so grateful for the miracle that he is – there was so much about my pregnancy and his delivery (some complications) that in the end made everything so incredibly miraculous and a bit too personal to share here, but I will tell you that I can’t be anything but humbled and in complete awe of him. I’m also amazed at what my body did.  I feel so incredibly blessed.

I feel so lucky to have my wonderful family – my husband and my 3 boys.  They have been so supportive of me not only with my music career, but as a wife and mommy.  My heart has been so full of joy.  Family is so important and so wonderful – I hope any of you out there who have been thinking about having a family to go for it.  It is one of the most rewarding things you can ever do or accomplish in this life. I’ll leave you with a few photos from Riley’s newborn photo shoot – taken when he was 2 weeks old. (photos by my husband – Will Thomas).

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