Dreamers

Back in college, I had a pretty tight group of friends.

We took classes together and studied together, we went to performances and shows to support one another, we stayed up late at night discussing politics and talking about what we hoped we'd do in the world.

We were idealists and we were dreamers.

We believed that we could go out into the world and do and become something and someone that mattered.

Not because we were entitled and believed we should be able to do these things, but simply because it never dawned on us that we wouldn't be able to do what we put our minds and hearts to.

The commitment and inspiration with which we left our college years propelled us into the futures that we're now living.

My senior year of college was my favorite of these years.

I felt more confident with who I was as a person, and I was able to enjoy my friends more completely because I was starting to actually like myself.

That year, during a late-night practice session (I lived in practice rooms for much of my four years- they're the rooms where I wrote my first songs!) my friend Nathan knocked on the door.

He needed to talk to me.

He had something important to tell me.

I braced myself.

I always brace myself in these situations. I think it's human nature, but even though I find myself an optimistic person- when a conversation begins with, 'we need to talk' or, 'I need to tell you something', I immediately assume the worst.

So, I braced myself.

 

'I need to tell you that I'm gay', Nathan said.

To which I simply replied, 'I know.'

'You do!?'

 

And with huge smiles and looks of relief, we hugged, and I sang him my newest song. He knew me and I knew him better in that moment than we had before.

 

We were dreamers.

 

Nathan always believed that I'd 'make it' as a musician. He never hesitated to tell me so.

And I'm making it. And he never misses a chance to tell me that he's proud of me.

With this particular group of friends, during our many late night talks between rum & coke refills, and Oreo/ Dorito snack sessions, the topic of marriage and family would come up from time to time.

None of us were in serious relationships, so we all spoke in hypotheticals...

 

What type of person we'd love one day.

If and when we'd ever have kids.

What kinds of jobs we'd have.

Where we'd travel.

 

We were dreamers.

 

In all these conversations, it never occurred to me that Nathan didn't have the same rights at the time.

We could all hypothesize about getting married someday, but as a straight person, my hypothetical was actually legally possible. His was not.

When you're not the one lacking in rights, you tend to forget there's a lack of equality.

Nathan has a way with words. He always has. He's a talented writer, with beautiful things to say, and is always equipped with the right words and tools to say these beautiful things.

Yesterday I was privileged enough to hear these words in action as he pledged to honor, love and cherish his, now husband, Joe.

 

We're still dreamers, and yesterday, my friend's dream came true.

 

It was an incredible moment to be in a room overflowing with so much love.

At one point during the ceremony I was struck by the fact that not too long ago, this marriage was not considered valid.

Not real.

Not legal.

Not that long ago, Nathan felt scared to tell me who he truly was. He wasn't afraid of me, but he had grown up in a world where he knew that he needed to guard a part of himself.

As we were dancing last night, I took a few breaks to hit up the dessert table, refill my drink (no longer rum & coke), and rest my feet.

At one point, I looked over and saw everyone dancing. I couldn't stop the tears at the beautiful sight of so many loving friends dancing together.

There were couples of all different shapes, sizes, colors, and genders. There were amazing dancers, and there were people who cannot find the beat no matter how hard they try. Most of all- there was love. All different kinds of love between all different kinds of people, and it was the main focus of the celebration.

We celebrated love because we can.

And because we must.

This morning as we said our goodbyes, I told Nathan the best marriage advice that I had.

 

'Your marriage is perfect.'

 

He laughed because this sounds hefty. And a little ridiculous. People usually say the opposite- 'no marriage is perfect'. I think people say that to take the pressure off of the partnership.

And I guess I should qualify my statement:

'Your marriage is perfect...for you.'

The ups and downs. The fears and insecurities. The hilarious stories and moments full of side-splitting laughter. These are what make a perfect marriage.

These moments are yours and no one else's.

This marriage is yours and no one else's.

In a world of social media and reality tv, it can be easy to compare yourself to other people. To compare your marriage to other marriages.

If you can avoid that, and remember that your marriage is perfect...for you, it truly will be.

Yesterday, my friend married his love, and I'm so happy for him and his perfect marriage.

 

May our dreams forever continue.

 

 2004 and 2016

2004 and 2016

Nicaragua - Day 14 - Reflection

I don’t even know what exactly happened these last two weeks. 

A few months ago - my friend Angie invited me to go with her organization (Intake Music) to Nicaragua to share and exchange music.

Without pause, I said yes.

Two weeks ago, I found myself on a plane, on my way to Managua, to a country I’d never been, to sing songs I’d never sung, wondering what the hell I was doing. I wasn’t haven’t second thoughts. I just had no idea what was going on, or what to expect.

 

These two weeks were incredible.

I sang with and for cultural legends, that have changed the political, spiritual and emotional landscape and history of Nicaragua.

I served as an official ambassador for the United States, as a part of a delegation brought in my the US Embassy. 

I met children that love music as much as I do.

I met college students, who are working as hard as I did at St. Olaf College, with far fewer resources. They’re just as inspired, just as big of dreamers, and have huge hopes.

I visited barrios with no electricity, and homes with plastic garbage bags for walls.

I visited the US Embassy for the fanciest press conference I’ve ever seen in real life.

----

I had no idea that I’d ever experience any of these things. And here I am, on day 14, on the other side of the experience, looking back, and thinking - I know so much more now than I did two weeks ago.

I learned a lot about Nicaraguan politics and history.

I learned what it felt like to be censored. (More on that another time!)

I learned more Spanish.

I learned to play with different rhythms and styles.

And most importantly I learned more about my plan.

 

More about my purpose.

More about why I’m here.

----

I don’t mean for this blog to be self-important and purely about self-discovery, but aren’t we all in a constant state of self-discovery? 

The more we learn about our surroundings, our world, and the people around us, the more that we can understand our place in things.

The more we can understand how we can be of service and how we can contribute to the world.

 

This is a good thing.

This is a great thing.

----

I’ve always felt that it’s been my purpose to get the world singing. It’s why I’ve always felt a kinship with Pete Seeger.

But to me - that doesn’t quite include everything that I do. That I want to do. It doesn’t include all of the ways that I want to help people who need it.

This trip helped me realize that not only do I want to get everyone in the world singing…I want to help everyone in the world have a life worth singing about.

 

I want my fellow musicians, singers, and artists to have space to create, and have enough food to eat.

I want them to feel the freedom of true artistic expression, and be able to afford their school uniforms.

I want them to know the joy of creating art - literally making something that has never existed before - just as much as I want them to know the joy of having a proper place to sleep at night.

---

The clarity that I gained from this trip, the further understanding of my mission in life - I'm so grateful.

I grew a lot and learned a lot on this trip.

 

Thank you, Nicaragua.

 

 

 

 

 Building our Community Choir at NicaPhoto in Nagarote.

Building our Community Choir at NicaPhoto in Nagarote.

 Building our Community Choir at the Norwalk/Nagarote Sister City Project.

Building our Community Choir at the Norwalk/Nagarote Sister City Project.

 The view of Momotombo from Sunrisa de Dios, a barrio in Nagarote.

The view of Momotombo from Sunrisa de Dios, a barrio in Nagarote.

 Momotombo and Momotombito - the first volcanos I've ever seen!

Momotombo and Momotombito - the first volcanos I've ever seen!

 How many kids can fit on one yoga mat?

How many kids can fit on one yoga mat?

 Everyday the kids would ask when we could sing and when we could do "la yoga".

Everyday the kids would ask when we could sing and when we could do "la yoga".

 With my fellow dread queens at our first concert!

With my fellow dread queens at our first concert!

 The kids on their first tour - we brought them by bus to the next town, Leon.

The kids on their first tour - we brought them by bus to the next town, Leon.

 First tour - you think we were excited??

First tour - you think we were excited??

 Exchanging CDs with Carlos Mejia Godoy.

Exchanging CDs with Carlos Mejia Godoy.

 Singing a setting of one of his most famous poems to the maestro himself, Ernesto Cardenal.

Singing a setting of one of his most famous poems to the maestro himself, Ernesto Cardenal.

 Featured in Nicaragua's main paper.

Featured in Nicaragua's main paper.

 Performing on Nicaragua's equivalent of Better Connecticut!

Performing on Nicaragua's equivalent of Better Connecticut!

 Singing Nicaragua, Nicaraguita, with the composer himself, Carlos Mejia Godoy.

Singing Nicaragua, Nicaraguita, with the composer himself, Carlos Mejia Godoy.

 Our final concert on our final night at Casa de Mejia Godoy in Managua, Nicaragua.

Our final concert on our final night at Casa de Mejia Godoy in Managua, Nicaragua.

 Promoting stories of art and humanity will be my antidote to this election cycle. Please join me.

Promoting stories of art and humanity will be my antidote to this election cycle. Please join me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicaragua - Day 13- Managua (Carlos Mejia Godoy)

Today was my last day in Nicaragua, and it was a great one.

This morning started off early with a 7 am television appearance on Channel 2. It was the Nicaraguan version of Better Connecticut! I felt very at home. :)

The folks on the show loved us, and were so nice. It was a really great experience.

Later on in the morning, we gave a master class and lecture at the local music conservatory. Am I qualified for something like that? Absolutely not. But I decided that I'd talk to the kids (they really are kids) anyway.

Here's what I told them, and here's what I'll tell you:

---

I've been a musician for 15 years. It's been hard, and it's still hard, but it's how I make my living and I love it. Being an artist, being a musician, is a job.

It's a real job, and no one can tell me, or you or anyone else that it's not.

If there are people in your life who don't believe in you, or don't take you seriously - stop listening to them. 

Surround yourself with people who believe in you, and never give up, because the world needs more art. It needs more beauty. It needs you.

---

So there you have it - my college lecture in a nutshell.

After my final lunch of pinto gallo and plantains (amongst other things - I've just really been enjoying them as a staple) our afternoon was spent getting ready for our final concert, which was in Managua, at Casa de Mejia Godoy.

It was remarkable meeting Carlos Mejia Godoy - Nicaragua's troubadour. He's loved. He's beloved. And he's hilarious.

My emotional moment tonight came as we were singing one of his most popular songs, Nicaragua's unofficial national anthem, Nicaragua Nicaraguita. 

I was standing next to him, singing his song, and couldn't help but feel this man's love for his country and its people. Of course, I couldn't help but think about how much I have loved these two weeks, and have loved this country and these people. It was a powerful moment.

Zooming in on the video screen shot of us - it's clear that Carlos didn't mind having someone else sing his song. What an honor.

Well, we just toasted to a successful trip over some Nicaraguan rum, but the stories are only just beginning. 

I'll have more of a chance to reflect tomorrow during my travels - and of course, stay tuned for the videos to come. This has been an incredible two weeks.

Viva Nicaragua!

Nicaragua - Day 12 - Managua (Ernesto Cardenal)

So some days...you may find yourself in Nicaragua. And on one of those days, you may find yourself face to face with a 90 year old poet named Ernesto Cardenal.

That would be my day today.

This morning, we were invited to come and sit with one of Nicaragua's most famous poets, and I was invited to sing a song for him. It's a musical setting of one of his poems, and it was an honor.

He was sweet, gracious, wore a cool beret and crocs.

When we asked him how long it took him to write this particular poem (video of me singing the song here) he said with a wave of his hand...'just a few minutes'.

Then he told us who the poem is about - all I have to say is - some woman named Claudia really missed out!

Anyway - that was the start of my day. Sitting with this professor of poetry.

Following that, we went to the city center in Managua to have a musical exchange with the Municipal Band. They were great!

I had to snap a photo, and some quick video of the group playing Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder. Bet Stevie never knew he had such a huge following in Managua, Nicaragua!

And tonight - I leave you with this. My latest travel session. I had an early evening, and thought you'd enjoy my friend, Paco Godoy's beautiful arrangement of Ernesto Cardenal's poem. (Lyrics and translation below.)

Tomorrow - I'll be on Nicaraguan television, and singing with Carlos Mejia Godoy - the (un)official troubadour of Nicaragua!

 

By Ernesto Cardenal:

---

Al perderte yo a ti, tú y yo hemos perdido
Yo, porque tú eras lo que yo más amaba,
Y tú, porque yo era el que te amaba más.
Pero de nosotros dos, tú pierdes más que yo:

Porque yo podré amar a otras como te amaba a ti,
Pero a ti no te amarán como te amaba yo.

Cuando los dorados jardines florecieron
Nosotros dos estabamos enamorados
Todavia guardan las rosas su aroma
Y nosotros ya somos dos extranos.

---


When I lost you, you and I both lost
I, because you were what I loved the most
And you, because I was the one who could love you most
Between the two of us, you lose more than me.

For I can love another as I loved you,
But no one will love you like I've loved you.

When the golden gardens bloomed
We were in love
The roses still have their aroma
But you and I are now strangers

Nicaragua - Day 11 - Leon!

Today was amazing... But I have to keep this short because I'm getting up early tomorrow morning to meet an awesome poet, Ernesto Cardenal! 

This morning we were psyched to find out that we were featured in one of Nicaragua's largest papers!

 

After some master classes (I was asked to lead some vocal workshops on my next visit...guess I'm coming back!) we started getting ready for tonight's concert, which featured our Grand Community Choir of Nagarote.  

It was the kids' first tour!

 

 

They were psyched and did an amazing job. There were other bands and choirs tonight, and it was so cool seeing all of these musicians come together to celebrate music and art.  

It was like a mini-festival! 

At the end of the night it was time to say goodbye to our dear friends from Nagarote. Luckily, they all took a bus together, so I got to have a little 'goodbye train'.  

I'm already scheming my return trip... 

 

Tonight was awesome. It was an honor to sing a poem set to music by one of Nicaragua's favorite poets, in the park named after him.  

So- what do you do when you're in Ruben Dario's  park and the concert is done? 

Ruben Dario selfie! 

 

Goodnight / Buenas noches!