Since today is Christmas, I figure it is my last chance to post this. But here is my full performance last week with the Ensign Symphony and Chorus in Seattle. A little Christmas gift for you :) Merry Christmas! Enjoy!
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!
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.
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“.
“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).
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.
In my last blog, I talked about the new transition my family and I are making with my music career. I decided to start vlogging about it (video blogging), and here is my first one! I hope you enjoy!
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.
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.
In 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.
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.
The biggest news is that we’ve DECIDED TO MAKE MY MUSIC CAREER THE MAIN FOCUS.
Any 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!
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.
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
It 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
“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.
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
At the end of each post, I also include a link to buy the sheet music, and the MP3 download.
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:
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:
You can download the SHEET MUSIC HERE:
You can download the MP3 from Amazon HERE:
You can purchase the beautiful photography HERE: