Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A New Diva: Amber Takes the Stage

Most of you know I've been rehearsing for my second career, as a popular, guitar-totin', world-travelin' singer-songwriter a la Lightfoot or Dylan.

"On a tour of one-night stands, my suitcase and guitar in hand..."

Actually, my goals are much simpler: working my way up to occasionally belting out a tune with a local Cajun band, and leading songs at the local Cajun jam session. I have tested my ambition at a couple of Cajun house parties and, just once, in a bar. This summer, I stepped up my game. I plunged into the spotlight (for a brief moment) in a new genre, singing the blues.
Whoa! Is that ME on stage? With a mike? Hey, all right! Pat myself on the back. Then push the ego back into its cage, because...there's a lot of learnin' that still has to happen before Memphis comes a-callin'.

For the fourth year in a row I signed up for musical training at summer camp, i.e., Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia.The mountains are green, the setting serene.
The music is nonstop. Jams in the morning, lessons all day, dancing, playing, performing, and jamming all night. This year, I participated in Cajun Week--my usual genre--AND Country Week, AND Blues Week. A music marathon. (Yes, that's me strumming my guitar in the second photo, next to John R., Cajun band member from Michigan.)
The highlights for me were vocals--building a repertoire of songs in Cajun, country, and blues, and vocals performance workshops--learning to use the mike, lead band members as the vocalist, work with a sound crew, and, of course, build up the courage and skill to step up to the mike and sing.

I think every young guitar player dreams of the day when he or she takes the stage at the local pub or dance hall. I certainly did. When I was 10, my uncle gave me a guitar--bright red and black—and a teach-yourself-to-play book. That was the beginning of a decades-long fantasy: being a bohemian songwriter, nursing a whiskey sour while belting out the blues. Doesn't everyone who picks up a 6-string harbor such dreams?

I learned a few hundred folk and popular songs. I played and sang at campgrounds, church, my living room. But life and career intervened. The guitar sat in a corner, and I slowly forgot all those lyrics. When I retired just short of age 60, however, I vowed to return to my musical roots.

Fast forward to 2017, and my fourth summer at Augusta. After several rounds of guitar lessons (making minimal progress), I was ready to tackle the second half of performance requirements--vocals.

In the past couple of years, I've worked my way up to occasionally singing a couple of Cajun songs with a local band, the Capitol Hillbillies. This summer I added another genre: blues.

I took advantage of every opportunity to practice, under the tutelage of professionals such as Emily MillerResa Gibbs, Ian Walters, and Jontavious Willis.

The camp culminated in a performance on stage in front of a friendly audience--fellow students and instructors, Well, ok, I didn't hit all the notes completely accurately, and my voice is still kinda weak, but overall I was pleased to develop a performance style and lose some of my fear. Since Blogger doesn't allow large videos, watch my performance on YouTube, here.

Finally, a dream partially fulfilled.

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