Album Release

Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I found myself in a strange situation this evening. Here I am in Phoenix, and the Odessa College Women's Basketball team is in town for a tournament. Odd. I am a friend of the coach, so I found myself there tonight cheering not for the Phoenix team but rooting for Odessa. "Go Odessa! That's right, Lady Wranglers! Go!" I'm not a big screamer, so it was easy for me to notice what a bizarre situation it was.

Time is odd. Life is odd. A year ago tonight, I was making a vegan dinner, walking my puppy around the village, and spending time with my friend Alexis during her visit to Cabris, France.

Time is odd. Life is odd. And I have absolutely no regrets.

As the end of 2008 is fading away, I have a thankful and dumbfounded heart. Life is funny sometimes, how you can never explain or predict or really plan anything.

I am really glad that I moved to Odessa. I'm glad to be doing what I'm doing. Since I moved there in August, various people have asked me how I'm doing with the adjustment. "So how are you liking it here? Are you doing okay?" And they lean in a little bit with a concerned eye, waiting for my face to to do the talking. I realize that I tend to do a bit of complaining in these blogs, but the truth is that I'm really liking it. Besides the Mexican food, the sunsets, and the convenience of a small town, there are many things that I enjoy about Odessa.

Such as: I am surrounded by harps all day. I am surrounded by young people who want to play their best. I love my students so much that I just want to squeeze them sometimes. I am a geek.

I know you're not supposed to have favorites, and I don't, but I REALLY enjoy working with the junior high aged students in particular. By the time 2 PM rolls around and I start wanting a siesta, I walk into the junior high harp room and spend the next 2 hours with 14 hyper, happy harpists. I've laughed until I've cried in that room on several occasions, and I usually leave that place in a great mood thanks to them. And besides all of the laughing and getting to know each other, I see each one of them making progress as a musician. I can't be happier about this!!

Once during this past semester, I was preparing for class by tuning the harps. As I was plucking away at one of them, I was thinking about how I wanted each string to be ready to be played that day for the students, and how I was excited for them to come to class. And then it was like something whispered to me: "Just as you are preparing for your students to use this harp, I also go before you to prepare your way. I have fun things planned for you, Megan."

It reminded me of a couple things: "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. He knows the plans He has for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Deuteronomy 31:8, Jeremiah 29:11)

This semester, I have encountered many situations that made me grateful for my past. Random things and significant things. Things like working at a harp store years ago, which in turn taught me how to care for harps. Things like my rock climbing days in Arizona, as it prepared me for loading the harp trailer to move 17 harps for our winter recital (now THAT was an intense weekend). I was thankful for the time I spent with my teacher in Austin, as she challenged the way I thought about teaching music. I was happy about having lived out of a suitcase for months on end, as it made me more of a flexible and chillaxed person. It was like every fun and unfun event in my past had led up to me moving to Odessa and was now affecting each breath I took.

Funny- one of the things I missed most when I was in France (besides my family) was Mexican food. Even as I type this, I smirk as I picture the quantity of Mexican food establishments in Odessa.

Time is odd. Life is odd. But I'm starting to see that there's some kind of weird and positive plot going on here with a weird and positive, ever-present Plotter behind it. And this is only the prologue.

Odessa won the game tonight, by the way. They creamed Phoenix. Who would have known.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Blisters

So. Christmas. I try not be a scrooge when it comes to all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but sometimes I can't help it. Jingle Bell Rock and Santa Baby do not help the situation, nor do Walmart and Rudolf.

But God was wise when he introduced me to the harp. It may be the only way I can get into the season.

Years ago I admitted to some close friends (after a couple glasses of wine) that one of my biggest regrets in life was that I didn't know the words to the Christmas carols. It's still the case to this day, but I've been trying to remedy this remorse. Now, when I'm sitting behind the harp during the holidays playing for various events, I try to read the words to the music as I play. There's some good stuff in there! And worth taking a look at. To me, the holidays are empty without music, and the the music is meaningful because of the spirit behind them.

December 1st kind of jumped into the picture before I was ready, and 17 concerts and 15 days later, I had the infamous Christmas Blisters. But it happened. And it happened earlier than expected. I was playing at the Dolly Neal Chapel in Midland for a Christmas open house a couple weeks ago, and it happened. It was a reflective and quiet bunch of people, and as I was reading and playing along my merry way, the words sunk into my head, my fingers, my heart...

Joy to the World. Emmanuel. God is with us. Fall on your knees.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Things to be thankful for, things you can never replace:

A hug from my mom.
Going along on a house visit with my dad the amazing horse vet.
The smell of the desert after the rain.
The Squaw Peak mountains by moonlight.

Santiago de Mexico

My favorite blog topics are my friends and the people in my life that I admire. And one of my favorite ways to pass the weekend (since moving to Texas) is actually getting OUT of the State to spread a little lone star love to other areas of the world. Which leads us to this blog entry. I call it "Santiago de Mexico."

Earlier this month, I made a quick escapade to Guadalajara, Mexico to visit a harpist friend I know from France. We had both set up camp in the Cote d'Azur to study under the same teacher, and he was one of the first people I met when I arrived there over three years ago. His name is Santiago Morales. He's originally from Veracruz, and I had never seen him on this side of the Atlantic. We were past due for a visit.

Santiago is the kind of person that inspires you to be a better person... to enjoy life and to be your beautiful self. I would have been happy to visit him for 10 minutes, but I got to spend the entire weekend there- playing music, meeting his friends and students, drinking coffee, eating amazing food, and visiting the market. Our usual.

During our overlap in France, we spent a lot of memorable time together. We laughed till we cried, cried till we laughed, commiserated about the French, celebrated the French, explored, practiced, performed, and pushed each other to be better musicians. With Santiago, you can talk about anything from skin exfoliation to Jesus to relationships to fears to homemade salad dressing. He's the kind of person that lights up an entire hotel lobby upon entrance (namely, the Negresco). Maybe it's the giant smile. He laughs easily and tells stories like it's his favorite pass time. When I first heard him play, I wept- I just couldn't hold it in. But it was a good cry somehow. He has a very musical, rich sound. Hearing him play makes you want to go home to practice and be a better harpist. A better person, even.

And what I like about Santiago is that he's not perfect, and he knows it. He is his humble, loving, lovable self 24/7. So- cheers to Mexico. Cheers to harp playing. Cheers to being yourself. Cheers to Santiago.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The numbers are in.

2= the number of students I've made cry since the first day of school
35= the number of school-owned harps in this county (I think of it as me suddenly adopting 35 children)
.0004= number of harps per capita in Odessa
1362= the collective number of strings on the harps in Odessa
1099= number of harp strings tuned per school day
486= the number of harp strings I've changed since the first day of school
62= the number of days that it's taken me to change strings and make sure every harp is in tune and in playable condition
.05= number of chihuahuas per capita within the city limits of Odessa (estimate)
97= percentage of chihuahuas in Odessa that are stray
92= percentage of stray chihuahuas I see during the course of the school day
.008/1= harp-to-chihuahua ratio in Odessa

Now, if we plug those numbers into this equation:

5d+3a-2(3[25])-psum-i-(d+t)= profit

Our profit turns out to be:


Friday, October 3, 2008


Today in Odessa, you are either wearing Red & White or Black and White. Today is the day. Today is the annual Permian Basin Showdown. The two high schools in town will either take or loose all of the glory on the football field in a very important game. This is the day that is has been talked about and will be talked about for months to come. May the best team (Odessa High School!) win.

I received a very surprising phone call from a long lost friend yesterday. We hadn't spoken for about 6 years, and through the power of Facebook, we were reunited. Both his world and mine have done a 180 since the last time we spoke. Life is funny sometimes. Time is funny sometimes. After a couple of hours, I hung up the phone in a strange daze. It's amazing how one person and their words can make or break your spirit. Mine were made. Someone once said that "The tongue has the power of life and death." So true. And so what I want: to have my words bring life to people.

In a town where segregation was legal until 1981 (yes, n i n e t e e n e i g h t y o n e), where good live music is 150 miles away, and where you can't recycle your glass bottles, I'm looking for things to be thankful for. Let's play the "let's be glad" game! Here we go, Pollyanna...

I'm thankful
My Brother
My Sister
My Parents
My Niece and Nephew
Coffee in the morning
The beautiful weather in Odessa today
My students (who inspire me)
My harp and its music
My roommate
Enchiladas from Mi Milos
Long Lost Friends

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Plates, Mexican, Music, and Poems

Today was a grim day. Today was the day I traded my beautiful Arizona license plate for one from the Lone Star State. Not that I have anything against Texas, but this act felt like the end of a very nice dream somehow. That plate and I had memorable travels together. Perhaps I'm a little apprehensive about giving up my unique identity as being "not from here." I don't necessarily want my car to say "I'm from Texas." I don't like the look of the new plate; those purple mountains and cacti are going to be missed.

So I'm wearing black.

The good news: Despite the rain and gloom, I drove into a ray of sunshine around lunchtime: Mi Milo's Mexican Restaurant on the corner of 2nd and North County Road. The quest to find the best Mexican food in town seemed a little daunting before, and now I see that it has ended entirely. This is the place. This is hands down the best Mexican food in town. Gracias, Mi Milo's!

School is going well. I love getting to know the students. And there seems to be bits and pieces of past Type A personality traits coming out of the woodwork of my mind. Handy.

And as far as my own playing goes... I'm excited for some new projects brewing! Recordings, new compositions, collaborations and concerts with friends... all very good things. Now all I need is 34 hours in a day.

Another piece of good news: I found an open mic and poetry reading that happens every Tuesday night at the Barnes and Noble in the town down the street. (I think it's probably the only open mic within 100 miles.) Last week I listened. This week I played. I really like the people there; it feels like the way church ought to feel. So. To end tonight, please enjoy this poem by a new friend and fellow open-mic-er, Kat....

"West Texas" by Kat (May 2008)

Cotton, tumbleweeds
Cattle and oil
West Texas homeland
Part of the Texas star

Longhorns, longnecks,
Loneliness in a crowd

Desertscape, subtleness
See forever and a day

Sand hills move,
Yesterday's design
Sifted away

Moonlite, daylite
One and the same

Wander and saunter
Desert willow
Mimosa flower

Sky, clouds
See forever
And a day...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Things Mrs. Wolfe Didn't Tell Me- Part Two

This week I got to relive the first day of 6th grade, middle school, and high school... all in the same day, and this time in high heels.

If I had I dollar for every time I accidentally introduced myself as "Megan" instead of "Ms. Metheney," I would buy us all a round.

Speaking of which, I had no idea that school teachers partook in so much alcohol consumption during the first week of school. I must admit: a cold beer never tasted so good on Monday. I was exhausted! A very fulfilling, relieved, exhaustion.

I really love my new job. I get to travel to four different schools each day and teach harp to a selected bunch of really bright, kooky, hilarious kids aged 11-18. I love them already.

And just for the record: high heels on the first day... never again.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Things Mrs. Wolfe Didn't Tell Me- Part One

So it's official. The Permian Basin is totally flat. I even went to the tallest building in Odessa and walked the full circumference of its top floor. Not a hill in sight. This is strange for me. I've always lived in a place enveloped by mountains; I feel a little naked out here.

I'm slowly finding my bearings, though. I've spent the past couple of weeks accumulating keys, being powerpointed to death, meeting new colleagues, and changing harp strings. School starts tomorrow!! This is going to be fun. Tomorrow starts the reason I moved to Odessa... to meet up with 38 young people that want to play some music. THIS is why I'm here.

6 of them will have never touched a harp before. I get a little geeky about first lessons- it's an honor and a huge thrill for me. FUN. This is going to be fun.

I came across an old school paper earlier this summer as I was going through a room in my parent's house. It was from the 6th grade, and was apparently some assignment we did in writing down our goals for life. Here it was- a whole page of goals I had created for myself. My mom and I had a good laugh. I won't list them all, but there was one that stood out:

"I would like to be a school music teacher and teach harp."

Odd timing that I would find this paper now.

Above, in red ink (of course it's red ink), my teacher had written: "Super goals, Megan! I know you will be successful!" Her name was Mrs. Wolfe.

There's a lot of things Mrs. Wolfe didn't tell me, though... things that I'm finding out as this "goal" is starting to play out.

She didn't tell me what an amazing energy there is when you walk in to your teaching room for the first time, fumbling to find which key goes where, flip on the lights to an empty room (full of harps), set your bag down on the desk, and take a full breath.

I guess she couldn't have really explained it. I can't seem to, either.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Half Full

I'm really not a "half empty" kind of girl, so I'm glad that the moon was looking a little more half full tonight.

Still dealing with a little culture shock.... In Cannes after a church meeting, we'd all meet in the back for a glass of wine to chat and hang out with each other. It was strange for me at first (drinking in CHURCH?), but I had nothing wrong with it; it made a welcomed addition to my Sunday morning ritual. In Odessa, they open up school teacher's meetings with prayer. I was at a music teacher's association meeting today and with an auditorium of random teachers, everyone bowed their head as they were lead in prayer. And I think it was legit- they were all really praying. This is strange to me, but it's the same story: there's nothing wrong with it. Why not join them?

The moon is half empty because there are so few local businesses in Odessa. No local coffee places. 2 Walmarts. This bums me out. But the moon is half full because all of the local eateries and such are usually authentic Mexican. I had a sopapilla the other night that changed my life.

The moon is half empty because Odessa doesn't recycle. This causes me to fall asleep with guilt in my stomach (thanks to my mom and my friend Francois... not for the guilt, but for instilling a "green" habit in me).

The moon is half full because everyone is outstandingly nice. I don't think there's a single mean person living in Odessa.

The moon is half full because people appear to know all the lyrics to hip hop songs. Every single lyric. This is respectable.

The moon is what it is: I'm embarrassed that I ask people to repeat themselves sometimes.... the accent is stronger than I am.

The moon is half full because Odessans and I have something in common: we are fans of a Red Volvo C30 with Arizona plates.

The moon is half full because there's an ice-skating rink in Odessa.

The moon is half empty because I miss my niece and nephew. I can't even type this without having wet eyes.

I read something yesterday that rang true: "A man's steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?" (Proverbs 20:24) Who in the world can understand what the heck we're doing and where we're headed? All I know is that somehow, my little feet were lead here. I'm not going to ask questions or try to understand it for now. Instead- I'll enjoy another sopapilla and go ice skating.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Half Empty




"What possessed you to move to Odessa, Texas?"

"You moved to SlowDeathA? Why?"

"Odessolate? What for?"

The moon is half empty tonight. It will be half full again soon, and even completely full later on. But just not tonight. Tonight it's half empty.

Driving into Odessa.... I have to admit.... I did shed a tear or two. Oh my goodness- what have I done?

I'm living in Odessa.

But the moon will be half full again soon, and even completely full later on. But just not tonight. Tonight it's half empty.

I had the French figured out. Upon meeting a French person, I knew what to do. I had a grip on the culture and fit in okay despite being a foreigner.

And now I'm a freshman again.

With the French, I knew that all you had to do was talk about the weather for a few minutes to be "in." Throw in a couple complaints about bland food and George Bush, and I was good to go. I had worked through the difficulty in understanding the accent. I was on level ground.

And now I'm a freshman again.

I don't think the "weather" topic works the same way here (and PS this is Bush's home town). I'm back to square one with the understanding-of-the-accent, not to mention them understanding mine.

The moon will be half full again soon, and even completely full later on. But just not tonight. Tonight it's half empty.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

It's not about the harp

The summer as I know it will be ending very soon. What an amazing couple of months- and a bit of a blur. A few Saturdays ago I was honored to play in Nashville with singer/songerwriters David and JJ Heller. The following Saturday was a cozy solo concert tucked up in the mountains near Colorado Springs. The Saturday after that was a concert with my harp quartet in tiny Isolabona, Italy. And today... another Saturday... drinking coffee on my aunt Beth's porch in Riverdale, Utah. Like I said, it's a little bit of a blur... and this is only the past 3 weeks. I didn't think I would ever, in my life, say this, but I'm really looking forward to moving to West Texas next week. It's going to be great to have a home base (other than my car) for a while.

Some things I'm particularly thankful for in these past couple of months have been meeting new people and meeting up old friends and family. It's been a blast to be able to play in such varied venues... this makes every performance fresh and different and risky. I love it. I'm one lucky gal.

One of the highlights in playing this summer was this recent concert near Colorado Springs. I'm still just warming up to the idea of playing my own compositions in concert, and that night I decided to play one that I wrote for my mom called Mimosa. No, it's not just brunch booze anymore! It's a tree that blooms radiant yellow blossoms in February. Anyway, my mom's birthday is in February and I wrote this song for her when I was in France, as I had a giant mimosa tree outside my window. So I played this Mimosa song at the concert, and a beautiful woman from Argentina said to me afterwards that it really touched her. Her mom's birthday is in August, which is when the mimosa trees bloom in Argentina (Southern hemisphere). Somehow, this song meant a lot to her because it reminded her of her mother. I don't like making people cry, but I think this woman did.

I've said this before, but I believe it more and more: it's not about the harp.

It is, but it's really not. My life seems to be totally oriented around this instrument - this piece of wood with strings on it. It's caused me to search the world over to learn how to play it better and better for the past 17 years. It's what I depend on to earn a living. I spend much of my time thinking about, teaching it, or sitting behind it. When friends introduce me, it's usually, "This is Megan the harpist."

But it's not about the harp.

So what is it about? People. Love.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My great aunt Beverly wears Sketchers.

My great aunt Beverly wears Sketchers, but that's not the only reason why I like her.

Let me introduce you to this beautiful woman. Her name is Beverly. She's so many things..... a scientist, a poet, a mother, a grandmother, a widow, and a longstanding member of the prizewinning Sweet Adelines A Cappella Chorus, just to name a few.

She's also very human. She's a lover of people and things and information; she's fascinated by just being here on Earth, which makes her all the more fascinating to be around. I got to spend a very short couple of days with her as I passed through Louisville, Kentucky this week. I had met her before, but never had her to myself or been to her home.

I loved listening to her story and her stories.

My favorites were her stories related to love. I took away a lot from listening to Beverly....

Love. Once you're in it, you can't really fall out of it if its the real thing. Her eyes lit up and countenance softened with the mere mention of her one love, her deceased husband of more than 30 years. I saw just one picture of them together. It was obvious: she adored him.

Her husband was not who she expected to find as a companion. Her first impression of him: less than good. They ran into each other again 4 years later in the same restaurant (she took me to this restaurant for lunch). Second impression: very good. Long story short: they were married months later.

He was a charismatic, Italian poker player. She was a successful electron microscopist and mother of 3 boys.

I poked questions, subconsciously hoping that I could find some formula for managing to find "the same" in my life: "What age did you remarry?"

"I don't know. It doesn't really matter," she said with a smile. Things don't seem to matter when you're in love... age, timing, profession... What mattered was two people and their shared human connection.

What she loved about him was that they could carry conversations in all circumstances and at all times. No matter what, they would talk and talk and talk and talk and talk.

"He loved me. I had never experienced that before." They were only married 3 years before he died suddenly. I hope her husband knows that those 3 years changed her life... her past, her present, and her future. Love seems to be like that... it changes everything.

Beverly is a very young 70. She's into genealogy, libraries, working on her novel, and hanging out with her family. She has the same laugh as my grandma (her sister). In her life, she's been up and she's been down. She has faced depression. She has sung ("Breathing and singing is so nice!" she says). She has laughed and cried and learned and taught. She's courageous. She's real. This, ladies and gentlemen, is my great aunt Beverly.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Blue Lake Nerd

Just finished teaching at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan... what an unexpectedly fantastic two weeks!

It had been a while since I had taught harp so intensely, and I had forgotten about how nerdy I get about being in the teacher's chair. I love it; it puts me in an instantly good mood and gives me warm fuzzies. There were 9 harpists there ready for work and play, along with 7 complete beginners, all from different parts of the States. The words "rewarding," "fun," and "exhausting" just barely skim the surface here. I am a lucky gal, to have been there working with these energetic young musicians.

In addition, it felt a little like I was on vacation in Colorado: cabins, trees, mosquitos, s'mores, lake... What an inviting environment for focusing on your art! The camp encompasses dance, visual art, theater, and music, which is a recipe for some interesting faculty! I enjoyed spending time with them as much as I did the students.

So. Not regrets for sleep deprivation. And I'm glad I'm out of the mosquitos.

Other random thoughts:

I'm glad that my body is not my artistic instrument. Being around dancers and vocalists reminds me that I am happy I am not a dancer or a vocalist. They are constantly doing crunches (dancers) or avoiding campfire smoke and not eating cheese (vocalists). I don't think I could do it. That's a lot of pressure- to have your body be your art. Ya know? I'm happy lugging the harp around. Harpy lugging the happy around.

Marcel Tournier's "Sonatine" for harp... mmmm... love this piece.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Open Mic and Lone Stars

It's great to be in Austin again! I had a fun week teaching at the UT Longhorn Harp Camp and another great week of relaxation here in one of my favorite cities. Despite a little heat exhaustion, many tacos were consumed, music was played, siestas were taken, bats were watched, and friends and former students were seen. Being here is a joy.

I got to attend 3 open mics in these last days which, to be honest, is 3 more than I had ever been to before. In the "live music capital of the world," it seems fitting to let Austin be my first impression of the open mic.

There really is an art to this thing. I wasn't playing- only just admiring. And as I was reflecting on and enjoying both the poetry and music, it's hard not to find a metaphor in all of it.

The open mic is set up to be a safe place to try out new and old music and poetry, improvised and otherwise. The acts that I was inspired by were those whose hearts were honest and vulnerable, not trying to show off pretend to be the king of the hill. What a demand for major guts, though. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out on a limb like that. You've got to be comfortable in your own skin, and you can't pretend to be anyone else but yourself up there-- total authenticity.

It's about being:

Proud to be who you are

My favorites were:

1. My singer songwriter friend Benjamin Aggerbæk in his element... singin' his heart out and ripping it up on guitar.

2. A man with his two grown daughters celebrating his birthday. He was on guitar and vocals, and his girls were backing him up with their own killer voices. Go family! Loved it.

3. Two women (lovers) who did 4 short spontaneous/ improvised poetry pieces. Beautiful.

So. I'm now officially a fan of the open mic. And reminded that I want to live my life like I was playing in an open mic.

I'm now headed to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan to teach harp for a couple of weeks. Shifting gears and temperatures. Hm..... can't wait to be where it's cool. Thanks for the good time Austin. Hope to see you again soon.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Arizona Moons

Thoughts after the "Moon" Concerts in Arizona these past weeks:

There's something fairly new for me that I'm digging: playing my own tunes. This is changing my entire outlook on my playing and performing. I've got to do this more...

Thanks to those of you who came up after these shows to encourage me with your appreciation.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mountains or water?

I was talking to the guy next to me on the plane from France last week, and he asked me whether I prefer living close to the mountains or the water.

I have to laugh about this question now, as I'm in West Texas considering to move here. Odessa. The beauty in Odessa is in its people, as I was told yesterday. And the sunsets. Those are two positive things: good people and sunsets. No mountains, though. No water.

I woke up in my hotel bed this morning and was thinking about how I've had mountains, water, glorious nature, and beautiful scenery for the past 3 years. I think I might just have enough reserves to be okay here for a while. I was sipping my coffee at the complimentary breakfast and remembered that not long ago, I would wake to the sun rising over the Mediterranean. I would sit on the doorstep of where I lived in the mountains and let my dog lick me awake as I would enjoy a cappuccino.

Why, then?

There are some things in my life that I'd like to organize. This is a topic to be explored over a cup of tea or cold beer, so give me a ring and let's hang out. Anyway, Odessa would be a good place to get my bearings after flying by the seat of my pants for 3 years.

And... there is an amazing school program set up by a lady named Reba MacHaney which involves more than 30 harp students and 30 harps in the school district there. She is retiring and leaving the program in hopes that it can continue to grow and bloom. Anyone that knows me can tell you that this would be right up my alley. I'd be surrounded by harps and fun people all day. And getting paid for it... such a novel concept; I can't really even imagine what this would be like.

So. The jury is still out, but it looks like I might be getting to know some good people and some nice sunsets.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

And I thought I had changed.

Back in Phoenix now... My 3 year old niece uses the word "mortified." My 1 year old nephew says, "Good job Megs," after I play the harp. My parents have iTunes playlists. They both sit down on Tuesday nights to watch (AND VOTE FOR BY TEXT MESSAGE) American Idol. My best friend is slightly giddy about a guy she just met. My brother quit his job to spend a month with his wife in Thailand. My sister buys her produce at Trader Joe's, and my brother in law is golfing in Scotland.

And I was worried that it was only I that had changed.

It wasn't until I went on an early morning run, when I smelt the desert, when I tasted the brittle, dry air and felt my thirsty skin try to sweat... that's when I knew I was home.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A tout la gloire de la France

And then there were 3. And then there was one. And now there's not even a van. The tour is officially over.

And the official count for traffic violations is in:
5 tickets in 4 countries (It would have been 6 in 5 countries had it not been for CJ's dreadlocks).

And only 2 broken strings between the 6 of us. What is a broken string between friends, though?

We spent our last few days together in Versailles, France. This was new ground for each of us, and holy moly... did we ever enjoy the marvelous days there. Sunburns to prove it. One day was devoted entirely to seeing the palace and the gardens of former French royalty. In the entrance to the grand palace reads: "Tout la gloire de la France." All the glory of France. Here is my suggested playlist for the day:

For the 2.5 hours you have to wait in line just to get in:
Benjamin Aggerbæk
Pearl Jam
Stravinsky (Petrushka)

For the inside of the palace:
Bach (cello suites, especially the 6th)

For the gardens:
Sigur Ros

Tout la gloire de la France. It was making me think of this thing someone once said about not loosing heart nor hope in this world. He wrote: "Fix your eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." He proposes that in order not to loose hope in this dingy world, we are to concentrate on unseen things. But I was thinking, while gazing at all the glory of France wrapped up into the splendor of a square mile, that it helps to actually look at the seen sometimes. If we see art, if we have the capacity to create beauty, if we have the desire and ability to conceptualize and build a masterpiece... and all this as humans... how much more? How much more? How much more is the glory of Him who said "Let light shine out of darkness." The glory of France will fade away. That's hard to believe after seeing it's beauty remain 250 years later. The glory we can't see now doesn't fade. Perspective.

In all this glory-pondering, I also decided to try my best not to be back in Europe again (in springtime, at least) without a sweetheart... despite the beautiful weather and "all the glory of France" wrapped up into a few square miles, I'm a hopeless romantic, and found myself melanchol-ily spending the afternoon in the grass in the gardens of Versailles.... toute seule. Mais c'est pas grave.

I wanted to say thank you, girls: CJ, Cat, Louise, and K Phanie. It was a pleasure to meet you, to play music together, and to bond over all of those cheese sandwiches. You each are lovely, and I miss you already.

Friday, April 25, 2008

And then there were four.

We are down to four now... the rest of the tour is gonna be finished as a duo. And rather than let some really negative energy sit around in this blog, I'm just going to say that you reap what you sow, and that the four of us are doing our best to live & learn, and forgive. There is a reason that the Golden Rule is "golden"... it's really valuable and reliable: "Do to others what you would have them do to you."

After parting ways in Amsterdam, it took us only about an hour and 27 minutes to go from being stressed out and angry to relaxed and in complete vacation mode. We ended up spending 3 nights there.... cruising around town on rental bikes, checking out Van Gogh, eating really delectable food, paddle-boating, sipping espressos, and recovering from the craziness of being on tour. We joke about how we've now run away FROM the circus. It's good. I feel like I'm myself again. I don't think you could have wiped the grin off my face as I wizzed around aimlessly on my bike. And the sunshine-- auh. Light is sweet, and it's pleasing for the eyes to see the sun.

And what great gals to be with! Cat, CJ, and Louise are some of the best traveling companions I've known. So easy and simple and hilarious. I love these ladies.

From Amsterdam, we popped on over to Belgium and stayed two nights already. Belgium: chocolate, waffles, beer. We're in Brugge, which is a cutey-pie town and a spectacular example of how refreshing spring can be. Great for busking, I might add! My poor harp... he's been wheeled through more cobblestone in the past two days than he never knew existed. But I think he secretly enjoyed it, as did I. With my earnings, I bought a lot of gifts involving cocoa, some treats for my niece and nephew, some harp sheet music, and a round of beer for the girls.

Next: Versailles. And then begins my journey back to Arizona. I feel like I'm having culture shock already; it's hard to believe that I'll be in Phoenix a week from today .... I'm not sure how I feel about this...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

How are you Copin', Hagen?

I'm hagen in there. I like Copenhagen. I feel like I'm in Austin. But I'm in Copenhagen.

And I'm not just saying that to say that. Of all the cities we've passed through on the tour so far, I'd love to go back and spend a month in Rome, a week on the beach in Gaeta, Italy, a weekend in Trier, Germany, and another afternoon in Switzerland. But I could actually consider living in Copenhagen.

The city was strumming my pain with its fingers, singing my life with its words, killing me softly with its song. During our 38-hour stay, we saw a load of live music. Every other person we met was introduced as, "Hey, this is my friend so-and-so. They're a singer songwriter," followed by, "Hey, you're a harpist? Come to Copenhagen; there'd be a lot of opportunities for you here."

But I loved it not just because of the (tempting) music scene. Not just because of the crazy language or the lack of ugly people. Not for the unique, "just right" architecture. Not because guys greet each other with a kiss on the lips, nor because the people seem pretty happy and down to earth. It's because there's something in the air there that put a welcomed kick to my stride. Like the air in Austin.

I had a perfectly happy 38 hours there. I remembered this list of "life goals" I made a long while ago. One of them was that I wanted to play my harp with a band in a rowdy, cramped pub in Ireland with people singing and having a good time and forgetting that life sucks sometimes. Well, we weren't in Ireland, but I'm going to put a very content check mark next to that one anyway.

Other thoughts:

Someone once believed: "Better is one day in God's courts than a thousand days in [Copenhagen]." (Psalm 86:10) Hm. Those must be some courts.

Question of the day in the van: "When (or how many countries ago) was your last proper shower?" The winner is going to remain anonymous, going on day 5 and 4 countries (due to lack of hot water, time, and/or.)

Monday, April 14, 2008


A rat chewed through some of the wires in our van's engine. This is just one of the reasons why yesterday was a bad day.

We were in need of some help. Some good news. Something to go right. A few of us who don't usually pray... prayed. Mercy. We need help.

And help started to come through an angel/ sound engineer named Paul. We pulled up to the venue in Elmshorn, Germany for the sound check... late, hungry, greasy, tired, grouchy. But Paul was there with a smile and a joke and energy... and really good sound equipment. We quickly set up and he directed us towards free brats, bread, and beer, which were waiting for us just around the corner.

Thank God for the audience and the church we played in last night. It was a blast to play music for them, which is why we are here on tour in the first place--- to play music. But in a strange way, it's like the audience was there to encourage us rather than the inverse. Thank you, God.

There's a proverb that says "Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a faraway land." Man, is this ever true. A mere "Hello, I'm thinking of you, I love you" can be so touching and like water to your soul. The other day, Cat (the drummer from Australia) got a simple text-picture of one of her best friends blowing her a kiss. That's all she needed. It brought tears to her eyes and water to her soul. A couple days later, there was a bouquet of flowers waiting for me in the dressing room from a friend in France. Again, tears to the eyes. Water to the soul.

Before the show last night, Louise (string player from Australia) was talking about how, before every performance, she dedicates or sets her thoughts towards someone and decides to play for that person. It keeps monotonous performances from being fake.

So I tried it. I was thinking of my brother and sister in law, Clint and April, while I played last night. It's their 1st wedding anniversary this weekend. They are in Thailand. I miss them. I love them. A year ago, I was in San Diego playing for their blessed beach wedding. Here I was playing for them again. Thanks for the advice, Louise. It changed what came out of my hands last night.

Other thoughts:

One more thing about windmills and I'll stop: It seems like no matter what music you're listening to, the tempo of the music seems to match the speed of the windmills, even when there is a cluster of windmills and they're all moving at different speeds. It's like they are still perfectly in sync with both each other and the music.

I would like to take up the harmonica.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


We've decided that this tour can be captured by 3 letters: TBA. To be announced. Where are we? How long is the drive today? What's the set list? If this isn't flying by the seat of one's pants, I don't know what is.

The other night I was apparently talking in my sleep and having a conversation with Camelia as she was also sleeping. "Where are we going? CJ, where are we going? Where are we going?" CJ: "I don't know." This explains a lot of unconscious stress.

We are headed to Humble, Denmark next. Yesterday was a day off from playing and we drove up to Bremen, Germany for the night. We stayed with a really hospitable and fun German couple (of about our age), and they let us use their kitchen, do laundry, cuddle their dog, drink their wine, and have a jam session in their living room. I look forward to having a home to share with strangers and friends. We found them through crazy concept.

During the drive to Bremen, I had a surreal musical experience. I was at the wheel, 3 of us where asleep, 1 was on Dr. Who, and the other one was reading. I decided to shut myself up into my headphones and put on an album of solo piano I got from my brother... "True Love Waits: Christopher O'Riley Plays Radiohead." After a beautiful breakfast at the Chat Noir Variete, we headed out of Trier, Germany just as snow started to fall. The roads were almost empty, and it was nice to have this music in my ears. Let me just say, this album is exceptionally fitting for white weather. Christopher O'Riley is the type of musician that plays from the pit of his stomach. If you allow it to, the music can enter directly into the very bottom of your own stomach.

By the time track 7 (Subterranean Homesick Alien) came along, I had hot tears on my cheeks. It was a really beautiful snow storm... flurries coming from every direction, and us driving through the thick of it in a van whose interior was calm and still. Then came track 12 (Bulletproof). This is when the weather started to change from 1 degree celcius and snow to 12 degrees and sun. The remainder of the album was a soundtrack to windmills stretching out their arms and elegantly moving with the air. I love windmills. CJ and others in the car have a fear of them, but I think there's something beautifully mysterious and even spiritual about them. Hard to put my finger on.

Other thoughts of the day:

You can discover a LOT about a person's personality and character by the way they handle their sound check.

I can appreciate being exhausted and in a routine of performing almost every day; there's no room for nerves when you get on stage.

I'm glad I'm not a singer.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


The locals think we're crazy. The six of us girls are putting in an unheard of amount of kilometers on our van, jumping all over the place to play music. 4 weeks of this is gonna be a stretch!

The concerts have ranged from a jazz club in Rome to village church in a tiny Swiss village to an underground (both physically and legally) venue in Hannover, Germany. Each one's drastically different, fortunately. I love this kind of thing! But it's a lot of energy... and coffee is proof that God hasn't forgotten about us.

The places where we stay are also quite varied... a hippy band-host person's pad, to a pastor's house, to the six of us in one hotel room.

So far, my favorite part of each show has been a little duo that Cat (the Australian drummer) and I do. We play a tune by the Italian singer Paolo Conte: "Via Con Me." She's such a ham, and this is such a cool tune. I have a perma-goofy-smile when we play it.

Someone recently referred to me as being a "free spirit." I guess this is coming in super-handy right now. My flexibility and patience are being tested big time, and this next 3 weeks is going to need a giant sense of humor. Fingers crossed.

Guten Nacht from Frankfurt,

Friday, April 4, 2008

Dave, we're in Switzerland

"Dave, we're in Switzerland. I know this is getting hard to keep track of. We were just in France. Before that, Italy, and just last night it was Germany. But we're in Switzerland now. Try to get some rest before we head out tomorrow." (Dave is my harp.)

It's been 8 days now since meeting the girls I'm playing with, and after 4 shows, we're starting to have a lot of fun on stage and feel comfortable with the music. Tonight we played in a small village called Lohn in Switzerland. I think I could really like this country... green, clean and friendly. We've been hosted by a great guy and also pastor of the church here: Hans. He has reminded me that there are still nice and honest people in this world.

And all I can say is that I'll be happy to never eat a cheese sandwich in the car again. But I've been saying that for days.

Swiss chocolate, though.... yes.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Bonjourno from the road in Italy.

Bonjourno from the road in Italy.

Let me introduce my new friends and fellow musicians:

Emaline Delapaix. 32. PC user. Beautiful Australian singer/songwriter, living in Canada, Also organizer of this tour.
Camelia Jade. 24. Mac user. From Seatle. A beautiful rasta mama and heck of a guitarist and vocalist. Also a sound engineer/librarian.
K Phanie. 24. Mac user. Hip (and beautiful) Canadian from Quebec, playing the keyboard, flute, and singing. Also a bartender and lover of Japanese animation.
Louise Woodward. 34. Mac user. Beautiful and sweet Australian, playing violin and viola. Also an orchestra manager and lover of interior design.
Cat Leahy. 25. PC user. Another beautiful Australian, tearing it up on drumset. Also a pharmacist assistant.

This is my new family for a month. Eating, sleeping, driving, and playing music together for 5 solid weeks. I've known them in person for 5 days now, but it feels like a year already. It's strange to finally meet someone in person after knowing them simply through MySpace. They who were once pictures and sound tracks are now humans and friends.

I'm thankful for this tour for many reasons. Sleep deprivation and stress is eased so far by Italian cuppacinos, a walk through old Rome, seeing the countryside by car, and meeting interesting people with each stop. I feel like someone has placed me in a map of Europe with a giant red sticker on my head, and has said, "You are here." I am here. Nuts.

Exactly where "here" is at the moment is South of Florence in the middle seat of a Mercedes Viano van. We are on the way to Paris (this is a looooooong drive). I'm listening to the Bach cello suites and munching on cheese sandwhiches and oranges. I'm thinking of people far away whom I love and miss. I'm thinking of the next gigs and the music we will play.

One thing I am thoroughly appreciate is being able to drive ALL day, arrive to a gig in jeans and converse, setting up my harp, and playing. I can't say that I've been able to really do this to this degree before, though I've tried and dreamt of it. (My family is laughing as they read this, I'm sure.)

Pasta, sun, and espresso in Italy. What will Switzerland and Germany bring?

Ciao for now,

Monday, March 17, 2008

O Champs-Élysées, la la la la laaaa

Ladies and gentlemen! The most expensive cup of tea I've ever bought: green tea at Le Royal cafe in downtown Paris... 6,50 EURO ($11).

Very pleasant cup of tea. Never again.

Moving on! I am on the train coming back from Paris because yesterday I played in a "spectacular" in a cathedral called the Madeleine. I was playing with a small group of musicians and a choir as they presented an oratorio about Mary Magdalene. 1200 people in attendance and an incredible musical experience! I've never played in a cathedral this grandiose; I will remember that feeling for a long time. Not to mention my badly blistered fingers. (It's courageous work, playing the harp.) It's crazy to think that Faure, Saint-Saens, and many other amazing musicians have also played there. I arrived to a harp already in place and ready to be played. After two encores, we came off the stage and moved into a reception overflowing with champagne (I'm going to miss France).

I feel a little like I'm in one of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. I arrived in Paris the first day without a clue where I was going to sleep that night. I had made arrangements that fell through the day before, so I was hoping someone in the orchestra or choir might have a free bed in their home. One very beautiful and warm woman from Argentina quickly welcomed me into her apartment near the Arc de Triomphe. What a treat! Her place was amazing (5 exquisite floors), and I slept like a princess.

I was remembering the few times I've been in Paris, and particularly one time in which I was here someone I loved very much. We spent such a romantic time there; I worried that coming back would be depressing and lonely. But lo and behold! It was nothing but fun.

Out of sheer luck, I happened to be here during the grand opening of the Lyon and Healy harp shop in Paris. I stopped by to shmooze and to drink champagne and to play on my dream harps.

The concert at the Madeleine came with a team of sound and light engineers... really nice guys. Everybody was nice, actually. They came from all over France for this show. One of them in particular was exceptionally charming, and was nice enough to be my tour guide for a Friday night out on the town that doesn't sleep. Needless to say, I haven't slept, my feet hurt, and I had a blast... eating pizza at 3 in the morning, walking down the Champs-Élysées, singing, talking, and laughing until the sun started to come up.

And to polish it off, I shared a good old fashioned Starbucks (I don't see these much in the south of France) with some new friends before catching the train. I had to teach them how to drink their Caramel Macchiato out of a sippy cup because it was their first time at Starbucks. And just for the record, the French pronounce it "Starbuck."

So you see? Choose your own adventure. Thanks for my smile, Paris.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Thoughts from Cosenza, Italy

Ciao from Italia! I'm here assisting my teacher this week as she gives a masterclass to a group of young harpists. I'm reminded how much I love Italy.

Things I appreciate about the Italians:
1. Their beautiful language (They sing when they speak.)
2. Their manner of talking (Usually loud, with copious hand gestures, and this multiplies if it involves eating.)
3. Their musicality (May be linked to their language?)
4. Their style and sense of fashion (Men in tight jeans)
5. Their pasta.
5. Their strong coffee and their frequent cigarettes breaks (both things I've given up giving up this week)

Other thoughts while being here:
1. Playing the harp in any capacity takes major guts.
2. Playing the harp (or any instrument) is a little like living life in general: It's never really finished... learning, growing, understanding, maturing, improving
3. Being in the teacher's chair causes one to learn many things, perhaps even more than the student
4. Humility comes before honor.

baci e arrivederci

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Seizing the Day

Carpe Diem. Seize the day.

This is a good rule to live by. But I don't think it means to run out and do whatever you want, not taking into account consequences of moment-by-moment living. This is not the concept behind the phrase "Carpe Diem."

I think it means that we are to look behind us, what's in our past, and to look forward, to where we'd like to go and achieve, and with those two pieces of path in our vision, we are to seize that exact moment, to "carpe diem" on that point on path... to be okay with the past and not apprehensive of the future, and to be confident in the passing moment... to let that moment be filled with abundant life.

Pablo Picasso was a big shot in this part of the world (Mougins, Southern France). I saw some photos of him recently that were taken when he was working and painting. Usually with his shirt off. Always with a cigarette in his mouth. He seems like a normal, down-to-earth man. Approachable. I like this guy.

Aside from his obvious "realness", I like the way his art morphs from "safe and mandatory" to a style totally his own over the course of his career. He put in his time with the still life paintings (flowers, fruit) like many other artists. This was a foundation for learning the techniques of painting- colors, strokes, light, etc. He did this for years. And then there's the stuff he was doing towards the end of his career: crazy and eclectic and unmatched by any other painter. Beautiful.

Painting those flowers and fruit (boring?) gave him a foundation for which he could then place a trampoline and jump into his own painting style.

I feel like I'm at a point in my music where I've put in my time with the fruit and flowers and I'm making plans for a trampoline installation. :-) Carpe diem. Thank God for the path behind me, for the unknown in front of me, for my goals and hopes, and for this very moment.

Harpe Diem (haha)

Houses and Harps

I have never been a homeowner, but from what I can tell, it's a big decision, and often times not an easy one. One of my housemates, Royce, was telling me yesterday about how there is a lot of emotion that goes into buying or selling a house. He was talking specifically about selling, and how it's sad because a house represents memories and a period of life that won't be revisited, or at least not in the same way. He spoke about one of his houses, which happens to have been his vacation home in the North-Eastern US where he and his family vacationed for years. It was a beauty, nestled up to a lake, warm in the winter, cool in the summer… you get the idea.

Since retiring and moving to France, Royce and his wife recently sold this house to make it feasible to buy another. Despite the excitement and thrill of buying a great house on the Cote d'Azur, he was still just bummed about letting this other house go.

The only thing I can relate it to is selling a harp, which I happened to do about 3 weeks ago. Her name was Austin. She was a beauty. She was "home" to me, in some crazy way. So many memories with her! And such a significant period we spent together. It's sad. The thrill and excitement of one day buying another will some day come, I hope. But I'll still miss Austin.

Someone once said that we should "fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." Harp and houses are temporary; we can't take them with us to our grave. What remains will be the unseen.

So for now, it's me and Dave (my other harp). It's the start of a new season for me in a lot of ways: I'm shifting gears in my music, in between a "real" place to live, closing the France chapter and moving back to the States soon, and taking a hard look at personal growth.

Dave and I will have a lot of stories to tell.

Monday, January 28, 2008

First Blog

A friend of mine suggested that it might be interesting to start posting a blog about my travels and my adventures in music. I’ve never been a committed blogger, so this will be a step in a different direction. I guess I fear that my thoughts aren’t always that interesting to the general public.

But you are here! And listening. So here goes my first blog.

Today I passed by my harp teacher’s house for a cup of coffee and a mini fruit tart. This is a lady that has influenced my life in more ways than just teaching me how to be a better harpist. I spent more than an hour “chez elle” today and we didn’t mention a word about a fingering for a particular measure in a particular passage in a particular piece.

I had stopped by to translate an e-mail and talk to her about putting her CD up on CD Baby. What followed was a conversation that I hope to always remember. We were sitting in her kitchen chatting about last Monday’s concert in Sophia Antipolis with the Harpe Riviera Quatuor. It had goneexceptionally (abnormally?) well; we played well, had a great time playing, and had a very warm and supportive audience. It happens to be the last concert for the quartet because a couple of us will be changing course in the near future (myself included!). Maybe that’s why we played so well, she commented, because we knew that it would be the last concert.

She had played exceptionally well that day, almost leaving the three of us youngsters in the dust (Mutsuko Uematsu-Cuglietta, Rossi Milevska-Lamourette, and myself). She was “in the zone,” and nailed just about every note, leaving the audience both in tears and on their feet. It’s like she was pulling music out of herself that came from a place far away, and that her “being” was singing through the sound of harp strings. I should add here that this lady, Elizabeth Fontan-Binoche, is in her 80s.

She said that she felt something particular there at the concert, and that she was sure it was something there to help her (us) and give us strength- something intangible, something from above.

I feel lucky to know this woman now, as she is in her later years. It’s now when she can easily reflect on life as it comes and leaves, and how significant each moment becomes, how significant each concert can be, and how precious our lives are to one another.