My band story....How I got here

I never expected to find myself in a band.  I wasn't looking for it.  But, now that I'm here, I'm having the time of my life!!  It's been a very rewarding experience and one that I don't ever want to forget.  I took the time a few months ago to write down how this all came about while it was still a fresh memory.  I hope that you enjoy it and take the journey with me.

Imagine being a middle aged mom and grandma, a regular person with a quiet life, suddenly finding yourself in a Rock n Roll band, singing and performing for audiences! Just a year ago, I wasn't even singing in the shower! This happened to me, and it changed my life. This is my story.

I look over at John, our band leader ….yes, he has called one of my songs. I take a deep breath. Focus. I’m working out the lyrics in my head. Breathe. And, so it begins, like diving off the high dive. There is no going back, only forward. I look out over the audience. Smile. I see that many of them are singing along. I am doing my best to stay focused and at that moment, I am carried away into pure bliss. All I want to do is dance with joy. I look over at my husband. We share a glance that says it all. Yep. We ARE in a Rock Band! How on earth did we get here?

One year ago, I wasn’t even singing in the shower. Now I am singing for an audience. And somehow it feels ‘meant to be’. This ride began just a year ago. The women’s group that I belong to had a speaker cancel at the last minute, and I filled in. My message was all about how networking works best when you build relationships first, instead of just coming to the luncheon to ‘sell’ to each other. Wouldn’t it be better to start friendships first? We all want to do business with our friends, right?

After the luncheon was over a lady that I did not know well, came over to me and let me know that my message had resonated with her. She suggested that we meet for coffee. I was so happy that my words meant something to her! I was grateful. We met for coffee and the usual exchange of information began. Married? Kids? We named places we’ve lived, jobs we’ve had, etc. It felt like we were both looking for some common ground. I’m very much in to my hobbies and crafts like sewing, knitting, beading and blogging. So, I asked her if she had any hobbies. “Yes” she told me. “I am a singer.” What? 'How cool is that?' I thought to myself. “What kind of singing?” I asked her. She told me that she was in a band. I was in disbelief. 'Wow' is all I could think. No. Make that a BIG 'WOW!' Hmmm let me see “A real band?” I said. “Yes.” She said with a knowing smile. I’m still stunned. “And, they pay you?” I said with out pausing to think about how inappropriate this question really is. “Yes.” She said. I was impressed. (That’s putting it lightly) She was already an interesting person. This revelation certainly took that up a few notches. 

I confessed to my new friend that I had a guitar at home that I have always wanted to play. Now we are talking like friends. We had found our common ground, our spark. My new friend, Corinne, invited me to an open music class on Mondays. It was a drop in class for only $5. I could bring my guitar and learn to play it. I was so excited!

Monday rolled around and I got dressed and ready for my new adventure. But, I couldn’t find my guitar. I was so frustrated. My son took it, thinking it was his. Darn. I got the guitar back from him and the following week, again I got dressed and ready to go. This time there was nothing to stop me from going. I even started my car. But, I didn’t go. I can’t explain why, I guess I will say that I ‘chickened out’. What was I afraid of? This went on for a few weeks. I was mad at myself.

I finally did it. I showed up to the class. I was nervous and I didn’t know what to expect. The Teacher, John, had two groups. My friend, Corinne was in one group, I will call ‘Advanced’ as they were working on songs that they would perform in public. The other group, I will call ‘students’ were in another room learning various instruments all at the same time. John asked me to show him what I already knew. That was easy, I didn’t know much. He asked me to sing a line from “Teach your children”. I know that song, but I wasn’t about to sing it in front of these people. Ugh. I’m the kind of person who likes to do what I’m told, so I did it. He told me I would learn my guitar faster if I would play and sing. He also assured me that I ‘could’ sing. Right.

So, I joined the class. There was one man that was older (like me), the rest were all kids (young men….no girls) in the high school age range. I was most comfortable next to Frank, the kids made me feel old and out of place. We were all given our own assignments to work on and occasionally our teacher would ask us to show him our progress. This was very stressful. I was learning the ‘teach your children’ song and I had to sing and play. I noticed that none of the others had to sing and play and I felt resentful about it. But, I did love learning to play and I was becoming friends with Frank.

Then Frank missed a class. Oh boy. It was just me and the boys. Corinne was in the other room. I couldn’t have felt more uncomfortable. I went home and told my husband to buy a guitar and come with me. He has been noodling on a guitar since he was a boy, so he didn’t put up too much of an argument. Hubby came to class with me and he was an instant hit with everyone. He could already play and I think he sounded great. I was still the ‘odd man out’. One particular class, I came in and before everyone was getting settled, John asked me to show him what I was working on. The mother of one of the young students was there with her kid and I KNEW her. And, NOW I was about to sing my little Beatles song and play my guitar. I was mortified. Embarrassed. 'Deer in the headlights'. What could I do? My mouth went suddenly dry. I couldn’t even swallow. I muddled through what seemed like an eternity. I sang my song (badly) and played my guitar.

In the following week when we were in the classroom, I had to sing my song again. I decided to let the teacher know that this was not working out for me. I’m a grown woman for goodness sake. I don’t need to torture myself. I raised my hand and explained that I didn’t like the singing part. After all no one else was being asked to sing. Oh boy. This was a big mistake. He went in to a lecture to the whole class about self sabotage and such. I decided not to mention that again. I would just go ahead and torture the entire class with my horrible singing. It wasn’t my idea. Whatever.

A couple of weeks later, John called me at home. This was unusual. What did he want? He explained to me that he wanted me to come in to the other room and start singing with Corinne. She was planning on moving in the future and he wanted to train me to replace her. What? Was he crazy? Maybe it was ME that was crazy, because I said yes.

When I showed up for class, the guitar was set aside and I embarked on a crash course of singing. I recorded Corinne singing and I practiced at home. I was nervous, embarrassed and frustrated. But, for some reason, I continued. I didn’t have to. I could stop if I wanted to. Something inside of me was urging me to stick with it. It was like being on a roller coaster. Sometimes, I would think “this is going to work out”. Then I would hear my voice on the recorder and I would think “what on earth is he hearing that I am not”. I thought I sounded pretty bad. He would tell me to trust him. I had serious doubts about his hearing.

Corinne had to go out of town for a few weeks and I was suddenly ‘on my own’. She was my security blanket. I felt more anxiety than ever. I was going back and forth in my mind about whether I should even continue. Added to this was the decision we all had to make about committing to the “Farmer’s Market”. Corinne, John and Sarah (John’s guitar student), had been performing at the Farmer’s Market for a few years. Sarah, a wonderful girl that John had been teaching for many years, had her heart set on the Farmer’s Market. Without Corinne, they really couldn’t do it. Would I do it? Ugh. Sarah’s eyes literally danced when she talked about the Farmer’s Market. She really wanted it. She had a very hard year. Her mother passed away with cancer. This lovely girl with a ready smile lost her mother at 17 years old. I would do this for her. No question. It’s “mother’s code”. I would want someone to help my daughter if I was not there. When I looked at the big picture, it was a small thing really. We made the commitment.

Some days I would ask myself, “Why am I putting myself through this? If it isn’t fun, why do it?” I spent a lot of time practicing. I had made this commitment for the Farmer’s Market for Sarah, but I was feeling a sense of ‘doom’ about performing in public. Then, I had a turning point.

I have a home based business in Network Marketing. I love NM so much. One of the things that are great about it is the personal development. I have a daily call that I begin my day with and it really gives me a positive start to my day. At this time, John was giving me extra coaching at his home studio in order to get me up to speed for the Farmer’s Market. One morning before my session, I was on my call. The speaker was talking about extreme sports. He said that he does these extreme sports because he loves the rush of fear. He encouraged us to “fall in love with fear”. He spoke about doing scary things on purpose. He told us to look for what we are afraid of and embrace it. Wow. I was going about this all wrong.

I marched in to my session with John with a different mind set. I told him that I had made a shift. I explained that I was not going to let fear conquer me anymore. I told him that I was there 100% and I would do whatever it took to be successful. This is the person that I am. I am NOT the person who lives in fear. Bold words. I was determined to keep them. He didn’t say much. I wasn’t even sure that he understood what a change this was going to be on my part. It didn’t really matter. Crash courses don’t allow too much time for introspection anyway.

Corinne was set to do the Farmer’s Market with us, whew, as she had not moved yet. However, I would be doing the first one without her as she would be out of town. I told myself that it’s just a little market. Nobody that I know would even see me. Right? Wrong. I saw a few people I knew. One of my friends saw me and did a double take. She is a good friend and she knew nothing about this new venture of mine, I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. I was so embarrassed. I wanted to disappear. And, I wanted her to run away and not hear me!

Sarah was a sweet, pure support for me. She was always smiling. She was so happy to be there. It was infectious. I was trying to be supportive of her new adventure….college. I told her to say “excited” instead of “nervous”. Now, she was handing my advice back to me. We kept saying how “excited” we were all that day. 

I can’t remember the exact moment that I opened my mouth to sing that day. I was sweating and scared the entire time. I had never heard my voice amplified before, and I could hear every mistake, every wrong note, because they ALL sounded wrong to me. 

I survived. I’m not sure that I even enjoyed it. But, I survived. And, I was committed for the entire summer. John assured me that by the end of summer I would be so improved, I wouldn’t even sound like the same person. I was in “trust”.

Corinne returned, thankfully, and the Farmer’s Market became a really fun part of my week. I learned to harmonize with her and that was fun. She was a rock of support and with her and Sarah, I was “safe”. I had a few of my own songs and a couple of them started to get comfortable. I was finding myself.

It seemed like the world was on fast forward. It was all a rush. To this day it is still in high gear. Just when I would get comfortable, John would change everything and throw something new into the mix. I was getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. I was learning everyday. Equipment, music terms, it was all a foreign world. And, it was a complicated world.

I also fell in love with the Farmer’s Market. I don’t think I have ever eaten as well as I did that summer. I loved seeing the season change and the food changed with it. These people were just the best.

While this was all happening, my husband was still attending the Monday night class. One week he brought in his harmonica for John to check out. He played for John, and it was wonderful, if I may say so myself. John told him that he was a really good guitar player, but Harmonica was his true gift. Wow. Now, hubby set the guitar aside and began focusing on the harmonica. He added to his harmonica collection (of one) until he could play in most any key. Most weeks he would come to the Farmer’s Market after work and play the last set with us. I loved that.

In the fall, John invited Corinne, Steve (hubby) and me to a gig (that is the word bands use for a show). Wow. A real gig. It was at a country club. We all traveled the 2 plus hours to the gig. Corinne brought her hubby, Larry. Larry was a huge support. He was always there at the Farmer’s Market to help us get set up. I hardly remember seeing Corinne without him. He was part of the ‘family’. 


John hired a drummer from out of town that we had never met. And, we got to play with John’s music partner, Michael. Michael is a fabulous guitar player and singer. I call him “Mr. Rock n Roll”. He looks the part, sounds the part…I’m a huge fan

While I was honored to be playing with them, I did not feel worthy. I wore a nice dress, made sure that hubby looked good and we dove off that diving board again. I remember clearly the first time I had to sing by myself that night. It was “Tennessee Waltz”. I was thrown off when I heard myself. I didn’t like what I heard, and yet I wanted to sound good. I was thinking in my head the whole time. I was trying to remember my words. I was trying to remember all the coaching from John. I mentally told myself to ‘suck it up’ and do it right. I thought I might die in that moment, but I didn’t. Happily I could look to my left and see Corinne, right there beside me. And, to my right was hubby. I love music. I love Rock n Roll. And, I love to dance. So, I just danced the night away. John paid all of us for this gig. Really? I would have paid him for this experience.

I continued to be coached by John. It was like being on American Idol, week after week. I was critiqued constantly. I would sing and John would ‘fix’. It got to the point where the critique became so comfortable that a compliment was hard to swallow. Even now, I want him to tell me what is wrong. As he finds less and less to ‘fix’, I find myself wanting him to pick out the one wrong note or nuance that needs changing. That has become my new comfort zone.

John was grooming me and prepping me for the eventuality that Corinne was not always going to be there. He invited Steve and me to join him and Michael at a private party. This was the first gig with the four of us. The party was in the backyard of some really nice people and I was so happy to be there. John had sent me pictures of what he wanted me to wear as a sort of uniform. It turned out to be what I would call ‘business clothes’ and I had lots of that. We all wore black and red. It was going to be our “look”. The party went great and I loved it. I couldn’t help berating myself for every mistake, and yet I was so very happy. It was like a drug to me. I couldn’t wait to do it again.

We were invited to another party, then a gig at a Moose Lodge and so it continued. Sometimes we had a drummer and sometimes John used his keyboard drums. I loved it most with the drummer and we set a goal as a band to get enough gigs to keep a steady drummer.

Steve has his own small advertising agency and he started putting together some marketing for the band. We got together for a photo shoot and with our fabulous photos we made flyers and a website. We started video taping our shows and put them on our site. 

My part in all of this was still small. I would dance a lot and sing a couple of songs, usually at the end, when everyone was gone. John wanted me to play an instrument. Early in the summer he encouraged me to take up the keyboard, like Corinne. I considered it and I just really didn’t want to. I wanted to please John, but in this instance, I had to rebel. I had a keyboard at home and I only brought it to class once. If I didn’t bring it, I wouldn’t have to learn it. I had my heels dug in on this one. I wanted to dance, not be stuck behind a keyboard.

In the winter, John had a new idea. He asked me if I wanted to learn to play bass. Really? I jumped at the chance. What he didn’t know was that I have always wanted to play the bass. It’s my all time favorite instrument. He found a used bass for me at a local store. I bought it and started playing. Just like that! 

I’m still learning. I’m still nervous. But, I love this journey. It has changed me as a person. I have learned things about myself and I’ve grown. I love music. I always have. It’s true that one year ago I wasn’t singing in the shower or around the house. But, I have always had a song in my heart.

When I was young, all I wanted to do was sing. My sister and I would put on shows in our garage for all the neighbor kids. We gave them comic books and popcorn if they would come to our performances.

In high school, I had a tough time. My parents divorced and I was bounced around. I went to 6 high schools. I had great difficulty fitting in. The first thing I would do when I got to a new school was sign up for Choir. It was my safe haven. I loved singing and I got every solo I ever tried out for.

I always imagined that I would sing somehow in my life. I had moments of fantasy where I would be a famous singer. I took that dream and I locked it away in a box of ‘not good enough’.

After high school, life took over. I was a mom at a young age and I learned all about putting others ahead of myself. I sang to my babies and after that my singing was less and less. I admit to being one of those annoying people who sing along to every song on the radio. But, my song, my voice was pretty much silent until John turned a key that unlocked it.

Music, singing and playing my bass have brought me such joy, it is indescribable. It is something that I do for me. When we play for an audience, I love to look at the people. It makes me happy inside when they smile or sing along. It’s a connection that I long for in-between shows and I can see why John and Mike are happiest when they are playing. Now, I am too. When I turned 50, I had fleeting thoughts that my best days might all be behind me. Now I don’t think that. Not for a second.

These days all of our weekends are booked with gigs. We are so excited when we hear that people are asking for us to come back again and again. We have a growing following of fans that we call ‘friends’ and it’s rewarding to find that our music is touching people.

Our kids (who are all grown now) get bragging rights. How many kids can say that their Mom and Dad are in a Rock Band? Even our granddaughters are proud. The first time my daughter came to hear us, she was so proud. When I sang, she cried. This happened when youngest son came to hear us. Our oldest son hasn’t heard us yet. I look forward to that day.

I think sometimes about my life before the music. It was really good. I had no complaints. I love my husband, family, home and business. It’s not perfect, but I wasn’t looking for something. I didn’t think I had some dark hole that needed filling. But, I believe that God had a different plan for me. I felt in my heart from the very beginning that this journey was being given to me by a higher power. I am so glad that I heard the calling and accepted the challenge. It has forever changed who I am. 

Feb 2009  joined the music class
Mar 2009 started vocal coaching
June 2009 first public "performance" at Farmer's Market
Oct 2009 first gig
Jan 2010 started playing bass