When I Grow Up…

This morning, I had to drive across town to one of the kindergartens where I teach.  English classes are held there for the oldest kids (5 and 6-year-olds) and we see each other once a week.

March is graduation season in Japan and the kids will be starting a new chapter of their lives when they begin 1st grade at the local elementary school.  There were only two more times left for English classes (today and next week) and I had told the kids that for the last class, they could have a “Game Request Day”.

Today, I told the kids to go and get their sketchbooks and crayons.  While they were all settling back into their places, some on their seats and others on the floor, I wrote, “My Dream” up on the blackboard.  When I asked what they thought it said, most of the kids were trying to sound the words out and a few could actually read it with no problems at all.  (Yes, I was happy!)  The task was to write those words at the top of the paper and then draw a picture of what they want to become when they grow up.

Most of the little girls wanted to be models or idols or cake shop and flower shop owners.  Most of the little boys wanted to be soccer players, baseball players and train conductors.  There was the occasional Kamen Rider (an action hero over here) or a Pokemon Master, but most of the dreams were very realistic.

When I was their age, I wanted to be a singer.  As my friends and I got older, their dreams changed and mine didn’t.  All through elementary school, middle and high school, becoming a singer was the only dream I had because singing was like breathing to me.  I was always a part of the school choir, I sang in the choir at church, I sang in my bedroom, while I was in the bathtub, in front of the mirror… music was (and still is) my passion.

But I didn’t necessarily care about being in the spotlight.  If I was singing harmonies while someone else was taking the lead, that was fine by me!  I simply wanted to be singing!  (And that feeling hasn’t changed… and I still want to be a singer when I grow up!  🙂 )

A lot of the kids today asked me what my dream was when I was little and after telling them, I also said that they should never give up on their dreams.  One little boy said, “But, Sensei (teacher), you’re an English teacher, so your wish didn’t come true.”  But I explained that I also sing songs for commercials on TV and radio and have done back-up vocals for local artists.  I told him that anything is possible.

After hearing this, the little boy went to draw his picture.  When he came to show me his completed drawing, there were two separate pictures:  one of a soccer player and one of a baseball player.

“I want to be both!” he said with a grin on his face.  “Anything is possible, right, Sensei?”

Wanted to give him a big hug and cry, but instead, I held his soft face in my hands, nodded and said, “You’re absolutely right!”  (Precious, precious kids…)

So… what do you want to be when you grow up?  🙂

I Love a Rainy Night…

Do you ever find that a song will pop into your head and it may be that you haven’t heard this song for years and years, but it’s there… all of a sudden… and you can sing all the words to the song without any problems at all?

It just started to rain a few minutes ago and this song popped into my mind…

This is NOT a song you’d ever hear on the radio stations here in the city where I live, trust me!  And I cannot remember the last time I heard it, yet I can remember the lyrics, the harmony parts, the guitar solo.  Funny how the brain can store all of this information!  (In my case, there are rows and rows of file cabinets with songs, lyrics, movie titles, musician names… and maybe a very small drawer with stored math equations.)  🙂

Has a song popped into your head today, out of the blue?  🙂

P.S.  Mr. Rabbit may be playing this tune from up in the heavens somewhere… he was such a great singer/songwriter.

No Hands, No Flow

You know how when some people are singing on a TV show or at a karaoke bar, they move and wave their hands up in the air as they sing the melodies?  Have you ever thought that was strange?

I thought it was slightly… well, “fake” is not the word I’m thinking of… maybe over-doing it?  It would often seem like the person was acting and I would wonder, “If the person’s hands were tied together, would they still be able to sing?”

I used to think this way… until today.  🙂

This morning, there was a narration job in my schedule.  (A two-hour job at a recording studio in town)  I’d gotten home after 4am from a separate recording/singing job, slept as long as I could and took off to do my best with narrating.

Got to the studio, called my contact, he showed up a couple of minutes later, had a short meeting with him and the mixing/sound engineer, and into the recording booth I went.

Things started out a bit rough.  For some reason, there was an echo in the headphones as I read.  Told the sound engineer about it and he thought it was something to do with my volume controls in the booth.  Tweaked things a bit… no change.  Continued with the narration and just couldn’t get into the groove at all.

Finally, the sound guy found it was a control on HIS side.  (And the echo disappeared… yay!)  We re-recorded some of the beginning and it all began to flow smoothly.

It was then that I made a new discovery.  As I read a phrase like, “This process will be harmonious to our natural environment,” with as much feeling as I could, I noticed my hands.  They were moving and flailing about, as if they were attempting to be as descriptive as the words on the page!  It was SO comical!  For the next several sentences, I put my hands on my lap and guess what happened?  It was as if the gentle flow of the words started to bump and bounce around.  What?!!  Why?!

I asked the engineer if we could record that part again and once the red cue light flickered, I began to read and let my hands do what they wanted to do.  Once again, they were moving, explaining, describing… and the flow was smooth.

So, to all those people out there who flail their arms around while singing, I apologize for my former opinions and won’t doubt you from this day forward.

Lesson learned!  🙂

The Heavens have gained another beautiful voice…

Facebook hasn’t been accessed yet, but one can only imagine that it’s filled with posts about the passing of Whitney Houston.  When I saw the Internet news on AOL about her, my heart sank.  And, you know, it was shocking to see that she was only 48 years old.

Just days before the Grammy Awards… people must be scrambling to change the flow of the show, celebrations might be quieter, lights might be dimmer…

(Sorry… I feel like I’m just rambling.  So many feelings dashing around in my heart.)

Reading one article, there was a video of her last performance… according to the article anyway.  Whitney was singing “Amazing Grace” with someone else.  A part of me was startled hearing her raspy, gravelly, almost unrecognizable voice… yet another part of me was comforted hearing that oh-so-familiar warmth and tenderness as she sang.

The first time I ever heard her voice was the duet she sang with Jermaine Jackson, “Take Good Care of My Heart”.  (Way back in 1984.)  Had bought the record and fell in love with that song AND her voice.  Then she came out with her own album the next year.

No matter how she lead her life, no matter what choices she made, we are all blessed that she shared her amazing voice and talent with us.

Ms. Houston, may you rest in peace…

The Magic of Invisible Designs Lab.

I am privileged to have the chance to sing for jobs every once in a while and am blessed to work with some very, very, VERY talented people!

One studio I work at is Invisible Designs Lab. AKA Invisi Studios.  (The period after “Lab” is part of the company name, by the way.)  They are a group of guys who create and design sounds that are simply amazing!  (Yes, I am biased… but trust me, you’ll be amazed, too!)

Their motto:  “Using all aspects of sound, we turn images of the mind into reality.”

One project they did last year was for a web ad for the Japanese mobile phone company, docomo.  The phone company came out with a new cell which was wooden.  The Invisi guys and the others (who worked on the online commercial) put their blood, sweat and tears into it.  The responses were unbelievable!  There were online interviews from The New York Times and other publications Stateside, media coverage here in Japan and the highlight had to be getting three awards from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity!!

Please judge for yourself… and if you like it, feel free to share the magic of Invisi Studios with your loved ones!  =)

Here’s “Xylophone in the Woods”…

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