on milestones

singing with the Ellensburg Women’s Chorus in the 2005

Some of you may know that I enjoy singing in choirs/choruses/chorales these days, even doing a solo every now and then, but I’ll bet few of you know that I was too shy to sing in front of most people until my second year of college. Most of my college friends could sing pretty well, and many of them were in the university chorale or the chamber choir. I loved singing, but I was too nervous and shy to audition, as much as I wanted to. Somehow, they convinced me to take a voice class. Not private lessons, but with a small group of students and one teacher, all at once.

This was safe for me to start out in. We sang everything together, until our final, and that was the first time I’d sung for real, alone, in front of anyone. It was terrifying! But it also gave me the courage to go through the audition process the next year, and I was in the chorale for the second half of my college career.

Since then, I’ve sung with Sacred Harp groups, church choirs, community women’s choruses, and a university women’s chorus (I still sing with two groups that fit in the last two categories). It’s been an amazing learning experience, and I sometimes marvel at how a person who was too shy to sing in front of a handfull of friends can now stand on stage and sing in front of hundreds of strangers.

In college, I was obsessed with singing low. I was proud to sing the alto part, and one of my fellow altos and I would frequently try to hide with the basses until our director made us go back to our section. For me, alto meant harmony and something interesting. Soprano seemed, well, boring.

These days, I sing first alto or second soprano, depending on the group and the arrangement. And the strange thing is, I’m finding that the low notes aren’t as much fun anymore, and sometimes are rather uncomfortable to sing. My voice, as women’s voices do, has been changing and maturing over the years. When I moved over to the second soprano section in my community women’s chorus last year, it was the first time I acknowledge that shift to anyone, including myself. It was a bit of an identity crisis at first, but I’ve come to embrace it.

Back in that voice class in college, my instructor called me a “chicken soprano,” and she was right. I could sing higher than I was willing to (or brave enough to) back then. Now I know I can, and I have quite often. The strange thing is, I can feel my voice changing. I started noticing this on octave leaps that would take me up to the C above middle-C, and beyond. They didn’t feel strained anymore — I just thought it, and then sang it with confidence.

My ear is much better. I have a good sense of certain notes and placement and intervals, although I couldn’t tell you what a perfect fourth or a major seventh sounded like to save my life. Those names never stuck with me. But, I can sight read pretty well, if you give me a starting point, and back in the day I had to hear it a few times before I could follow along.

So, I’m moving into my upper range, and it feels fine. But also weird. Sometimes, I can’t trust my sense of place anymore, because what feels like a G may be something else entirely now. My voice breaks are shifting, or maybe I’m just not as aware of them anymore.

This makes me feel less certain. Unbalanced. And it doesn’t help that I’m turning 37 this year.

Back to that voice class and the instructor who told me I was a chicken soprano… she also told us that women’s voices hit their peak maturity around age 37. To my 19-year-old mind, that seemed like a future so distant I couldn’t even imagine it, and now I’m here. Or nearly there.

People talk about how turning 30 wasn’t as big of a deal as turning 31. I get that. For me, as a woman and a singer, I think this 37th birthday is going to be more significant than either of those previous milestones. I’m just not sure if I’m ready for that to happen yet. Luckily, I have about six months to figure it out.

movin’ across the country… again

Anyone need a new-to-you car?

As I indicated a while ago, I have a new job. Starting December 10th, I’ll be the Electronic Resources Librarian at the University of Richmond. They already have me in the staff directory, so it must be true. My time at Central Washington University has allowed me to grow and explore both professionally and personally, and it has given me the knowledge and experience I needed in order to make the decision about where I would like for my career to go.

One major thing has been the realization that I do not have any interest in participating in the tenure process, at least as it stands at Central. I am a practitioner first, and a scholar only in the most liberal sense of the word. I do have a desire to share my knowledge with anyone who is interested – I have had a blog for five years, and it’s not always just a bunch of naval-gazing posts about nothing – but the method of dissemination and the content of that knowledge is not what this university expects from its teacher/scholars, and I suspect that may be true elsewhere, as well.

I want to be a librarian. I want to come into my job every day knowing that the work I do will directly benefit my users. I do not want to spend time outside of my 40 hours worrying about whether or not I will have enough publications in journals no one actually reads (seriously – when was the last time you read a peer-reviewed library publication for anything other than a literature search for your own article or book chapter?) just so I can keep my job.

I can be “just” a librarian at the University of Richmond, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m also excited about moving back to Virginia. When I left to go to grad school, I thought I’d be back soon. When that didn’t pan out, I gave up that dream. Now I’m going back, albeit not to Harrisonburg, but Richmond is close enough. Plus, I am closer to my family and friends, and it won’t cost me a $400 plane ticket to see them whenever I want to.

The moving process has begun, but I’m starting to freak out a little because I haven’t nailed down an apartment yet, nor have the movers responded to my queries. I do, however, have real moving boxes this time, and once I get some packing tape, I’ll be good to go with the daunting task of sorting through my stuff to determine what comes with me and what stays in Washington.

Anyone need a new-to-you car?

lovers and stars

This EP is long enough to show off Ivey’s range, but short enough to keep the listener wanting more.

cover of Lovers and StarsThe first thing you notice about Melissa Ivey is that this girl has a fine set of pipes. Inevitably, there will be the comparisons to Melissa Etheridge and Janis Joplin, but Ivey can hold her own with a unique voice. She and her band have put together an EP of tight rock tunes called Lovers and Stars, which was released last fall, and should be getting more attention than it has already.

One of the benefits of a five song EP is that the artist can show off their range without having to include any weaker material in order to fill out an LP. Ivey pulled out all the stops for the tracks on Lovers and Stars, leaving the listener wanting more after the all-too-short 22 minutes have passed.

The title track begins the EP with an energetic acoustic rhythm guitar riff that is soon joined by the rest of the band and Ivey's vocals. It's a toe-tapper of a love song that is reminiscent of late-90s pop-rock bands like Sixpence or the Rembrandts.

Ivey follows it up with the darker sounding "Eyes on the Door" with its lyrical and musical theme of unrequited longing for someone who is not there. Something about the chord progression reminds me of Amy Ray's "Tether." I think it's that steady driving rhythm that carries an underlying intensity.

"Everywhere and Nowhere" is a head-bopping syncopated introspective pop-rock tune that provides a nice mid-EP lift.

"Far Far Away" kicks off with the energetic punk-influence grind of electric guitars that supports the lyrical theme of separation and longing to be back home with a loved one. This leads into the quietly introspective final track, "No Ties To Break," that begins with the line "she's been a lot of places / seen so many faces / walked across the borders of time," and continues on with the theme of the traveler and his/her relationships with others. It's an old story, but like a good storyteller, Ivey is able to present it in a fresh way.

Lovers and Stars reminds me of my eighth grade English teacher's description of an essay: It's like a miniskirt — long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to be interesting.

Lovers and Stars is available at CDBaby.com.

old friends

Mourning the loss of contact with old friends…

On Thursday and Friday of last week, I attended the ACRL Oregon and ACRL Washington Joint Fall Conference. One of the first persons I ran into at the conference was a college acquaintance I had not seen in over seven years. For some people, this may not be unusual. However, this is this first time I have ever run into someone from my undergraduate school outside of a context related to that university. I attended a small, liberal arts university in Virginia, and this conference took place in Oregon. As far as I knew, this old acquaintance had no relationship with libraries or librarianship, which as I discovered was true until recently when she began the distance MLIS program through the University of Washington. Go figure.

I’ve been thinking about old friends lately that I have lost contact with. Some of this was inspired by having recently gotten a great deal on a minidisc recorder/player and finally being able to listen to live recordings I made of a singer/songwriter friend in 1999-2001. For a while, it seemed that Thea Zumwalt was working towards doing music full-time, but her website has disappeared and none of the email addresses I have are working anymore.

One of the many recordings of Thea at the Artful Dodger in my collection makes reference to another old friend, Adi Raz. The last time I tried to email Adi, the message was returned undeliverable. I guess I shouldn’t have let over two years go by without communication. Now I can’t find any contact information for her, which is both sad and frustrating.

For over ten years I have been trying to get in touch with a childhood friend, Katie (Kate, Kathryn) Connolly. About eight years ago, or so, I got her address through her mother and a teacher at the high school where we would have both attended had I not moved the year before. She never wrote back, and the last time I tried, the letter was returned. Our friendship ended on a bitter note, sharply contrasting the sweetness of the friendship to that point. All I’ve wanted since then was to make up for that heartache, but I suspect she’s long forgotten me.

I’ve moved so much in my life that there are countless other people that I occasionally wonder about. People like Susan, my friend who lived down the street with whom I saw (and was frightened by) Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. Joanna Mullins — my first serious crush in junior high school. Dan Nietz — my best friend in high school with whom I lost contact after he got married (although my Dad says he’s seen him around town and gave him my email address… not going to hold my breath, though). And there are and will be others.

I used to be very good at writing letters and keeping in contact with everyone, but as I’ve grown older and busier, my life has become too full to keep up with those who are not a part of my routine. Maybe letting go and moving on is a part of what makes us mature adults, or at the very least, numbs the pain of the loss. I guess I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet.

Lexington area BookCrosser recomended reading

At last week’s Meetup of the Lexington area BookCrossers, one of our agenda items was to share five of our favorite books as recommended reading. I took notes, and the following is the collective list we created:

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
Citizenship Papers by Wendell Berry
Clay’s Quilt by Silas House
Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table by Ruth Reichl
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
He, She and It by Marge Piercy
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
The Human Stain by Philip Roth
I’d Rather Laugh : How to Be Happy Even When Life Has Other Plans for You by Linda Richman
Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
A Thread That Runs So True: A Mountain School Teacher Tells His Story by Jesse Stuart
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Truman by David McCullough
Walking Home: A Woman’s Pilgrimage on the Appalachian Trail by Kelly Winters