I am married but I use my maiden name. Why? Because years ago I promised my father I would. When I was writing for Sheet Music Magazine, I received a lot of reader write-in mail, all with music related comments or questions……except for one.  It was addressed to me, marked ‘Personal’.  The letter writer introduced herself as a representative of a high school reunion committee and wondered if, because of my unusual name, I was one related to one of their classmates.  She was hopeful that I could send the reunion invitation to the right person.  My heart skipped a beat as I read the name of their “missing classmate.”  It was my father’s name.

I rushed to visit my father, handed him the letter, and waited as he slowly opened and read it.  I could see he was carefully reading and rereading the letter and but he looked confused.  The only sound in the room was the ticking of the mantel clock. I didn’t understand.  Was the committee looking for someone else with the same name?  I became concerned that the writer was mistaken, or worse, that we were the victims of a sick joke.  Finally, slowly, Dad looked up with tears in his eyes.  All he said was,  “I didn’t think anyone remembered me.”  Then he went back to reading the letter, this time with a smile.


Unlocking the Mind

I recently enrolled in a writing/blogging challenge.  Today’s assignment was to free write for 20 minutes.  I smiled (rather smugly) to myself, and bopped on over to my site to add my writing for the day.  Then, it happened.  Writer’s block.  I typed the title just fine. No problem.  But then the little cursor just kept winking at me, and didn’t move.  Seconds.  Minutes.

This is getting embarrassing.  Believe me, I am not known for being one of those quiet types of few words.  More winking cursor. More minutes.

Why was I stumbling when asked to unlock my mind and write, yet I ask all of my students to unlock their minds every week?  You see, I teach music (piano, voice, organ and theory).  Every week, I meet with students in my studio, or in a classroom or through Skype.  I strive to encourage those people, young and old, to get out of their comfort zone and learn a new skill.  I ask them to trust that everything I want them to try, I fully believe they are capable of doing.  I want them to succeed wildly.  I hope and pray each one will experience the absolute joy of making music.  Sure, like all teachers, I would love to have students who are ‘rising stars’.  But much more than that, I want to help people play the birthday song at family gatherings, and be able to play carols as friends gather at Christmas, and show people how to use music to convey feelings when words fail.  I want to help people make music a part of their lives.  And how does this happen?

It happens by unlocking the mind.  It is too easy to accept the life limitations imposed on us by others or even ourselves. You want to learn to play music?  Then DO IT!   I stumbled with the writing assignment because of my attitude that it would be easy, an attitude more deadly than thinking the assignment would be difficult.   This is a good reminder for me:  Be open.  Be quiet.  Be gentle.  Unlock your mind and listen to your heart.   Your heart is where dreams and possibilities live.

Now, let’s get to work turning possibilities into realities.

Ring of Fire

Sometimes, all roads lead to Rome.  For me, all roads led to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.  Many years ago, I was the editor of a journal for the International Association of Organ Teachers.  IAOT was having their annual convention in Valley Forge in tandem with a Home Organists Adventure, produced by Bill Worrall.  A month or so before the convention, organ artist Bill Irwin saw a book I had recently written (All About Registration), and was great encouragement to me.  He suggested that upon my arrival at the event, I should introduce myself to Bill Worrall, and offer to conduct a workshop if needed.  So, I did.   I knew I was prepared. In addition to writing the book, I had recently conducted several similar workshops in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, where I lived and worked at the time. Two days later, I received a very early call from Bill Worrall, asking me if I would be able to lead a workshop later that morning.  The person originally scheduled to appear was unable to make her flight.  I’m not a morning person, and was amazed that the voice that said “Certainly!” sounded eager and awake, even in its pre-coffee state.

I walked into a large convention room filled with the fans of the person who wasn’t there. Awkward! I introduced myself, explained the situation, and launched into the workshop based on my recently published book.  Thankfully, I had several copies of the book with me (ready to be submitted to the IOAT book review committee) to use for illustration and prompts.   I was off and running.

Bill sat in the back row, listening and evaluating. Remember, Bill and I had never met before this convention.  All of this was happening because of a verbal referral from a mutual colleague and friend.  A few minutes into the workshop, I saw Bill slip out.  I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a good sign….or not…but I kept going.  Bill soon returned with one of the organ industry’s brightest stars.   They sat down together and listened.  Bill left again, and soon returned with another performing artist.

One by one, that back row began to fill with artists I admired but had never met.  That, indeed, was my Ring of Fire.


At the end of my presentation, I received a standing ovation, not only from the convention attendees, but from these well-known greats of the organ industry.  I was humbled and amazed.  I ended up selling the books I had brought as review copies, and took orders for many more.  From that moment on, my career began to move in a very different direction.



Liebster Award

Thank you to artist Maria Brinkley for nominating me for this award.  Please visit her site and enjoy her artwork, photography and tales.

The guidelines for accepting the award are as follows:

  • Post the award on your blog
  • Thank the blogger who presented the award to you and link back to their blog
  • Share 11 things about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions given to you by the person that nominated you
  • Nominate 11 bloggers who have less than 200 followers
  • Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer
  • Notify your nominees by posting your nomination on their blog.

Okay, here we go.

11 things about me?

1.  I love to crochet, but am not a big fan of patterns.  I like to go where the breeze takes me.

2.  The only paying job I ever had that was not related to the music industry or photography was when I was in junior high.  Each Saturday morning, I would walk to the downtown store of a local jeweler, and polish silver. At the end of the day, I had earned a dollar or two, then walked home.

3.  I recently began studying harp.

4.  I wish my body would allow me to have all the coffee I want.  It doesn’t. Ditto for chocolate.

5.  I am an organized neat freak, as my family will confirm.

6.  My mood determines which instrument I want to play.  Piano is when I feel introspective, organ is for when I feel more expansive.  And the volume of my music is directly proportionate to the energy/frustration I need to work off.

7.  I tear up WAY too easily.  A good Hallmark card will do the trick.

8.  I won’t travel by plane anymore, but I love trains!

9.  Love to cook.  Not a big fan of cleaning.

10.  Garden gnomes.  One can never have too many garden gnomes.

11.  The only thing that approaches the joy I get from being with my children is the joy I get from being with my grandchildren.


The 11 Questions that Maria asked me are:

1.  What is your earliest memory?
Disturbing a wasp nest and ending up in the emergency room because of the stings.

2.  What is your dream job?
I’ve already had several dream jobs fulfilled, but my favorite was a staff writer/arranger for Sheet Music Magazine.  I especially enjoy anything to do with writing and teaching.

3.   What is your oldest childhood toy that you still own?
I still have many of my baby toys, teddy bears, baby dolls and such.

4.  What is your favourite music and why?
If I am playing the music, my favorite songs are those that reflect my mood at that moment.  If I am listening to someone else play the music, I want to be impressed by exceptional quality and artistry.  Instrumentation and style doesn’t matter too much to me.

5.  What is your favourite Public Holiday and why?
Thanksgiving. Partly because we all can work towards being more appreciative of what we have.  But also because as a church musician, I usually don’t have extra services to prepare. 🙂

6.  Which food do you like best?

7.  What was your favourite travel destination?  And do you return to the same place or go different places?
My favorite destination is home.   I enjoy going and seeing other places and people, but ultimately, I like to be home.

8.  What is your least liked housework chore?
Whichever one is on the top of my ‘to do’ list.

9.  What movie is special to you and why?
12 Angry Men.  What a powerful reminder of how we are so easily influenced by what others say and do.  Few people have true boldness of conviction.

10.  How do you unwind after a busy day?
I might play organ or piano or harp.  I might crochet.  Hot tea is usually involved.

11.   What is your greatest achievement?
Personally, raising my daughters to be strong, independent, amazing women. Professionally, hearing from people that something I have played, written or taught has made a difference in his/her life.

 My questions for my nominees are:

1.  If you could live in any place on the earth, where would it be?

2. Which historical person do you wish you could sit and talk with for an hour? Why? (and yes, I count that as one question!)

3. How did one particular teacher influence your life (good or bad)?

4. If you could only have a recording of one song, what would it be?

5.  Favorite day of the week, and why?

6. Describe your favorite photograph.

7. Describe your perfect meal.

8. Name something on your bucket list.

9. What one word do you think describes you best?

10.  What one word would your family say describes you best?

11.  Are you glad there are only 11 questions?  🙂



My 11 nominees for the Liebster Award are –

Please take a look at all these  blogs and enjoy!  Congratulations to my 11 nominees.