Roots & Wings

As many of you are aware, my son, Julian, will be graduating from high school later this month. This is a monumental event in my life. As a full-time single mom for the last sixteen years, I perceive this occasion as not only a major accomplishment and milestone in my son’s life, but in mine as well. Although I have continued to pursue my music and teaching endeavors through the last eighteen years, the major focus of time and energy has been on raising Julian. I am proud beyond belief at all that he has been able to accomplish including his many awards and his acceptances into eight fine music conservatories. I am incredibly grateful to all who have been of tremendous support – directly or indirectly – during this journey. Thank you!

Graduations are commonly referred to as commencements, because they not only mark the end of one chapter but the beginning of the next. Many people have been wondering and asking me what my next chapter holds for me as Julian goes off to Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music (my Alma Mater) to pursue careers in Environmental Studies as well as in Classical and Jazz Percussion Performance. My honest answer – I am still figuring it all out. Although I definitely plan to keep pursuing my music and have great enthusiasm and passion in re-launching the SAFE through the Arts program for Pre-K and Kindergarten students throughout New York State, I do not know exactly what this will look like yet and that’s okay. Somehow, I will need to balance taking care of baby chickens, dogs, horses and bunnies with my career and hopefully I will manage to supplement my already busy days with something representing a social life. (What a concept!) But what this will actually look like, what I will doing from day to day without the added obligations of organizing and driving in percussion car pools, overseeing music practices, attending concerts and track meets, assisting with college research, applications and campus visits, is still unknown.

What I do know and can say with confidence is that I will be beginning a new life of my own, a new chapter in my own personal history. I will be continuing to move forward with my goals and aspirations – perhaps not always in leaps and bounds – but in baby steps. One step at a time. I believe in my ability to accomplish great things. I believe in the creative process. Out of necessity, I have had almost every hour of my life planned out during the last eighteen years and now I am entering uncharted territory. It’s okay. While I will miss Julian, I am really happy and excited for him in his new adventures. As an Oberlin alum myself, I feel certain that he will love Oberlin. While we will always have roots in each other’s lives, it is time for both of us to grow wings and learn how to fly.

May each of you celebrate as you dust off your wings and soar to new heights knowing that you are always rooted in the lives of those people who love and believe in you.

Inspirational Place of June

 

 Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve, Rensselaerville, New York

The inspirational place for the month of June is Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve, Rensselaerville, New York. Located in the Helderberg Mountains in upstate New York, this special preserve includes a lake, a pond, and a waterfall as well as miles of wooded trails. Although there are no camping accommodations available, there is a bed and breakfast and excellent restaurant in town. For more, call (518) 797-3440 or visit www.huyckpreserve.org

Inspirational Person of June

In honor of Father’s Day this month, the inspirational person for the month of June is Margaret’s father, the late Professor of Dance, Harry Bernstein.

Inspiration Place Of April

 

brooklyn+heights+promenade

Brooklyn Heights

The Inspirational Place for the Month of April  is Brooklyn Heights, a prominent neighborhood located in New York City. The area, which is approximately twelve blocks deep by five blocks wide, is protected by the Brooklyn Heights Historic District. I have been inspire by the neighborhood since my early visits to see Martha Hill (inspirational person of the month) and more recently in the last year as we have been in the process of moving our Azalea Blossom, Incorporated headquarters into the iconic neighborhood. Reminiscent of San Francisco and Boston for its proximity to the water, intriguing housing including brownstones and quaint shops and great assortment of restaurants along Montague Street. In addition to its many historic buildings, attractions in Brooklyn Heights include the promenade (a paved pathway along the water) and the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Brooklyn Heights has not only been an inspiration to me for its blend of beauty and history but for the many writers, actors and musicians who have made their home there including composer Benjamin Britten, poet Walt Witman and more recently model Tyra Banks and actress Sarah Jessica Parker. For further information about Brooklyn Heights, please visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooklyn_Heights or http://brooklynheightsassociation.org.

Trey Songz

Trey Songz

Margaret with Trey Songz and April

In honor of Black History Month this February, Singer-Songwriter/Rapper/Actor Trey Songz (Nee Tremaine Aldon Neverson) is Margaret’s inspirational person of the month. On June 26th, 2013, Margaret had the opportunity to meet Trey and his mother April Tucker at a Recording Academy (Grammy) event in New York City in which Trey was being honored. Trey has greatly inspired Margaret not only for his music but most especially also for his graciousness and compassionate nature. In addition to Trey’s six studio albums, world tours and multiple appearances in major motion films (including “Baggage Claim”, “Texas Chainsaw 3D” and “ Preacher’s Kid”), Trey devotes much of his time to his Angel Network in which proceeds go towards helping the hungry and people less fortunate than himself, especially in his home state of Virginia. Trey is currently touring Nationally with Chris Brown and will begin his European Tour with Niki Minaj in mid March. For more information about Trey and his Angel Network, please visit http://www.treysongz.com/news/join-angel-network-856211

Follow Your Heart

I love this time of year, when everywhere I go I see hearts — paper hearts, lace doily hearts, chocolate hearts and sugar cookie hearts. Maybe there is a message here.

Recently, the snowstorms on the East Coast have caused severe delays in our travel plans to and from my son Julian’s auditions at music schools around the country. In fact, we had five airplane cancellations and a change of route on the way back home from Julian’s Carnegie Melon Univeristy audition. After being delayed in Pittsburgh and Washington DC for a total of two days, the plane we finally boarded was delayed for another four hours. For over forty-eight hours, our routine consisted of waking up early to board planes that did not take off or connect, trekking through airports to our anticipated gate only to find that we needed to go to another part of the airport to try to catch another plane that may have had a chance of flying. Often this meant taking a shuttle bus to another part of the airport. Needless to say this was exhausting. However, after two plane rides, hours in airports and hotels, three train rides and a cab ride, we finally arrived back at the Albany International airport where we retrieved my car and drove in time to make part of Julian’s percussion ensemble rehearsal.

Pondering over this situation, I realized that there is a distinct parallel between the frustration of trying to reach ones destination in traveling and pursuing the path to ones destination in life. Often we feel overwhelmed by all the obstacles and challenges that are in our path when attempting to reach our goal. It becomes easy to lose site of what we are trying to accomplish and give up when the journey becomes too arduous. However, as proven by my recent excursion, when we are determined enough to reach our destination, through whatever route or journey we need to take in order to get there, we do eventually get there. We reach our destination, that is, if our heart leads us there — if our destination is where we really need to be and we are willing to take the journey to get there.

That brings us back to our hearts. How important it is to have our hearts involved in the work in which we pursue and the paths, which we choose to take in life. How wonderful that all the pink, purple and red hearts of every size are displayed in all the windows of every shop this month to remind us about this important lesson – Follow your heart.

I am so grateful that I do.

A Past Inspiration

romantic-vermont-grafton

The inspirational place for the month for the month of January is the quaint and historic town of Grafton, Vermont, which Margaret and her family recently visited in honor of her son Julian’s eighteenth birthday. In addition to the interesting shops and galleries, one of the best features of Grafton is the Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center, which hosts a variety of interesting and family fun activities in both the summer and winter seasons. Warm weather attractions consist of swimming in the ponds, mountain biking and hiking whereas snow-related recreational passtimes include snow tubing and cross country skiing. Perhaps the most intriguing attraction of all is the dog sledding, which is a new establishment of the recreational center courtesy of Husky Works, a locally run outfitter owned and operated by husband and wife team Laura and Jeremy. Margaret found the hour-long ride in the moonlight to be incredibly magical and inspiring. The ten beautiful white husky dogs who pulled the sled loved to run on the trails through the woods and fields seemed to thoroughly enjoy their work-out while Margaret, sharing the sled with her son Julian, had one of the most fun-filled and awe-filled adventures of her life. There is nothing better after an enjoyable sled ride in the brisk winter evening than cozying up by the fire of the pleasant and decorative lobby of the lovely and historic Grafton Inn, just down the road from the Grafon Ponds Outdoor Center. The Inn also boasts stellar accommodations in brightly decorated rooms with comfortable beds as well as a full service dining room serving farm-fresh delectable cuisine and a tavern. There is even a cake maker on the premises who makes custom-made cakes for special occasions including weddings and birthdays.  The Inn, like the town of Grafton itself, is chalked full of history with Thomas Edison among the lost list of prestigious patrons. Established in 1780, the town of Grafton was an underground railway station during the Civil War. The town was also the setting for a Budweiser commercial filmed in 1986 as well as background for scenes in Chevy Chase’s movie, “Funny Farm”, which was filmed there in 1987. Grafton also is a cultural center boasting a concert series in the summertime. For further information about the town of Grafton, the Inn and the Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center, please visit www. http://www.graftoninnvermont.com , anwww. For more information pertaining to dog sledding adventures, please visit www.huskyworks.com

Be Thankful

As the snow gently begins to create a canopy over the golden fallen leaves on the frozen ground and the fires begin to warmly burn on the hearths in our living rooms, our thoughts turn towards the season of gratitude. It is the time of year when we traditionally gather together with friends and family over bountiful meals and give thanks. Of course, some of us do not live in regions where there is snow or deciduous trees; Many people do not have the good fortune of having fire places or word burning stoves in their living rooms; and there are, unfortunately, an abundance of people who do not have families with whom they can share festive meal. However, whatever ones own particular circumstance, there is always something for which we can be grateful. In particular this year, I am most grateful for the steady income, which I now have by teaching music full time in an inner-city charter school. I am also grateful for all of the performing opportunities, which I had this year including my monthly gigs playing at a nursing home in Catskill as well as the three week stint I had this summer performing flute and piccolo in Albany’s Park Playhouse’s production of “Oliver”. I am also especially grateful for my wonderful family including my newly adopted niece, Megan, who resides with me my son Julian and my mother, who lives nearby as well as the countless number of cousins and extended family members. Of course, I am particularly grateful for my animals who enrich my life. Every time I ride my horse Reba down the open road or through our woods, I feel grateful and happy. Those are all big things on my Gratitude list this year but there are smaller ones as well. Each time I see the beautiful orange sun rise over the hills as I drive to work in the morning, I feel grateful. When I look at the patterns of stars in the sky shining down at me, I feel grateful. When I smell the aroma of hot apple cider brewing on the stove, I feel grateful. When I hear a beautiful piece of music, I also feel gratitude. I know that many people are enduring difficult times-whether it be related to work/money, health or family issues and sometimes it may feel difficult to feel grateful. What has helped me immensely through all of those times was focusing on the things-however small and seemingly insignificant- for which I was grateful that day. Sometimes it was simply a walk in fresh air, time spent with my son, or clean laundry.

Imagine

Imagine a world with no violence. I am not talking about a world without guns but rather a world in which children can go to school every day without the threat of being bullied; A world in which women can live peacefully without being verbally, emotionally or physically battered; and a world in which men are permitted to express their feelings honestly and openly in ways, which build themselves and others. This is the world, which I envision. For over ten years, I have been imagining a world in which youth of all ages feel empowered knowing that they each have unique gifts and talents that they are able to share with the world. I have been imagining a world in which all emerging adults have the skills and knowledge to take care of themselves financially and emotionally. I imagine a world in which people are able to communicate to one another to express their needs and feelings kindly and compassionately in a way that does not put blame or threat upon others. In 2007, I founded Azalea Blossom as a not for profit 501c3 organization for the purpose of raising awareness, educating and preventing domestic violence and child abuse through the use of the creative and performing Arts. The “Bricks int he Wall” project, which brought awareness and education of domestic violence in its many forms came into fruition in March of that year when we celebrated the release of my “Bricks in the Wall” music video and CD with a series of concerts throughout New York State with my band. Women from nearby shelters and the general public attended the concerts while youth from community service groups made resource information available to all concert attendees. After two years of working on and tweaking the curriculum, I launched my first SAFE through the Arts programs in public middle schools throughout Upstate New York during the spring of 2009. After a weeklong residency of teaching the Arts-based curriculum based upon the three components of the program (Self Affirmation, Financial literacy and Education of non violence), the students at each school created their own projects based on the components of the program using one of the Art forms (dance, theater, music, visual arts, film etc). In addition, my band joined me for a final assembly concert at the end of each SAFE through the Arts program in which chorus students joined the band for our final song, “Believe” , a song, which I wrote to remind youth to always believe in themselves and their abilities.

Reflection

I hope that the school year has got off to a great start for you! This year, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hoshana, corresponds precisely with the commencement of the new school year adding to the feeling in the air of a new, fresh beginning with new opportunities for learning and improving. However, with any new start comes reflection. As I reflect upon my current life circumstances and the world around me, I realize that there are many thing over which I have little or no control. My noble yet humble aspirations to make the world a better place through my music and creative pursuits is not only often not rewarded or compensated but at times appears to be revoked and unduly unjustified. Do I need to change who I am and who I instinctually believe to be true with all good intentions in order to conform to another’s view point of how I need to be spending my time, whether this other entity is another person, society as a greater whole or the government? The answer, of course, is no. However, change in of itself is necessary in order for us to grow and pursue our goals and dreams. It takes a lot of courage to make a change, and especially to stand up to what one believes to be just and true. When we look back at all of the courageous people in history – the ones who fled from concentration camp to another country in order to be free; the Artists, like Shostokoivtch in his fifth symphony, who were brave and tenacious enough to portray the truth through their Art; and the leaders of our country such as Martin Luther King Junior who fought for equality, we see a pattern. Each of them were willing to sacrifice something in order to fight for a greater truth, which in each case ultimately not only saved them, but also their Art, which is for many of us the core of our integrity. As Artists, we view and express the world and the truth of our lives through the lens of our Art. We do not always expect to be compensated or understood. However, in a county, which professes freedom at any cost, we do expect the freedom to express our Art, especially as a vehicle in which we can bring about positive change in other people’s lives, without rebuke or penalization. My hope and blessing for all of us is this season is that we each may experience growth and change in us as the caterpillar does in becoming a butterfly. The essence and the soul of the creature does not change in becoming more fully who he/she is, but rather the outer coatings of the cocoon, all that which is no longer needed and hinders us from flying to new heights, is shed. That is my hope and my wish for all of us. As we anticipate changes with the turning of the leaves and the ever changing climate of the world, I send you best wishes and love that you may continue your evolution of change and growth while searching for truth and beauty.