Gratefully Yours

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” To those of you who have helped me raise over $3000 for Team for Kids for this year’s ING New York City Marathon, you have made possible one of the major experiences of my life and the motivation and encouragement of countless children who will benefit from your donation. Thank you! One of the many beneficiaries of your kindness left me a voicemail the other day… this is who you have helped.

Still haven’t had a chance to contribute? Meet Kristen Kasarjian, an amazing friend of mine running the race for the same amazing charity. Please help her reach her goal, since I’ve already reached mine! Anyone who donates at least $100 to her campaign can still sponsor a mile in mine (I’ll think of you during the marathon in the mile of your choice)… Just let me know when you do. In the meantime for me, lots of training continues, as I keep running to prepare for the 26.2 mile course I get to complete on November 4. Today, I ran 16 miles, and I get to train in some of the most beautiful areas. Here’s your bird’s eye view into some of my favorite runs so far. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making it all worthwhile. I can’t wait!

An Early Run at Bard
An Early Run near Bard College
Run in Palisades Park
Run in Palisades Park
Sunlight in Palisades
Sunlight in Palisades
Back in the city
Back in the city

Rouge AIDS Walk 2011

AIDS Walk NY 2011
Yes, I went rogue today and completed my AIDS Walk route two days prior to the actual event. With so many diverging events, rehearsals, and commitments, I realized late in the game that I simply cannot do them all while adhering to my professional responsibilities and paying my rent. Singular day off, meet rogue AIDS Walker.

Having at least one friend with HIV, I find myself somewhat unable to ignore the facts. Despite medical advances and prolonged life spans for most victims, a cure for AIDS does not yet exist. Carrying complicated and painful side effects for some and an unrealistic pricetag for most, these drugs have quieted the storm but not solved the epidemic.

On Sunday, thousands of people will walk to support funding for continued research, honoring those who have died and those who live yet affected by AIDS and HIV. I, having walked the official full six mile route today, will sign in to validate my donations, walk up to my church job, and join my amazing team of friends for brunch afterwards. I’ll miss the celebrities (this year AIDS Walk NY boasts participation of “Modern Family stars Eric Stonestreet, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Broadway Star Audra McDonald, Matt Bomer of White Collar, Two and a Half Men’s Conchata Ferrell, Glee’s Dot-Marie Jones, Project Runway alums Mondo Guerra & Jack Mackenroth” in their lineup, and last time we walked past Tim Gunn), the festivities, and the fun freebies along the way, but I’m happy to have found the time and a way to make it work. Hopefully with our help, so will the researchers dedicating their lives to a cure. Donate today, if you can.

AIDS Walk Team lotsafun in 2009
AIDS Walk Team lotsafun in 2009

Making Musical History

American Lyric Theater

So you want to write music? Count yourself amongst a small population of confident and brilliant people who can craft beauty via the mind. Personally, I’ve tried writing songs to no avail, and my only compositional success came from a perfect score on a Bach-inspired invention I wrote for a theory course in college. Try writing a just a song sometime – not so simple. Of all of the gifts in my life, I consider myself so fortunate to know and have known so many talented composers, from song writers to choral writers to opera composers. They infuse our culture and our history with their intellectual, spiritual, and emotional contributions, and we do ourselves a great service by supporting them to continue their efforts.

Thanks to American Lyric Theater, budding opera composers have a friend and ally in their Composer Librettist Development Program. A tuition free, full time training program for composers and librettists, ALT offers an opportunity for talented musicians to find quality mentors to aid them in their journeys as writers. Although they accept new applications in the spring, current and future students can now benefit from funds raised by this month’s online auction. Want to help? Bid today through November 30 on any one of seventeen items available from tickets to vacations to chocolate. All proceeds benefit current and upcoming students and future composers. I for one can’t wait to hear the results sometime, perhaps at a new opera by American Lyric Theater!

Casual Heroics, Day 136

Since last week, I’ve done countless “blogworthy” activities, from odd spa services to wine tasting to comedy and jazz shows and an impromptu trip to Portland, Oregon. As I began uploading pictures and video from my camera, I realized that while I’ve always loved and found myself drawn toward more idealistic people as a whole, a very common trait binds together so many fiercely amazing friends in my life. Generosity, especially of the passionate and sometimes stubbornly loving variety, easily hides under the rug below the pride, self-assertion, and individual rights our American society so often promotes.

As our beloved president would say, let me be clear. Fighting for our rights and the freedoms of others ranks high on my list of difficult but crucial tasks for humanity in general; however, sometimes the greater and less applauded challenge involves laying aside our needs, wants, and even liberties to support another person or passion. Take for example my friend who, like so many animal-lovers I know, brought in a stray cat fourteen years ago, only to spend years caring for him physically, financially, and emotionally as his cat aged, lost his sight, and developed diabetes. After his beloved friend passed yesterday at twenty-five years old, he volunteered his services for another funeral and comforted his friend at the loss of a close family member, all while preparing for upcoming concerts and gigs in a busy musical season in New York.

Out here in the Northwest, I can’t go a single day without personally experiencing and witnessing the care and generosity lavished upon her entire community by the woman with whom I feel so privileged to live these next several weeks. Ignoring physical discomfort or fatigue, she packs each moment with concerns for her family, local schools, arts organizations, community events, political issues, her wine business, and even some children in Africa who she supports and encourages to the point of visiting there and inviting them to come here to perform. I smile to think of how life and my perspective will change as they reside here with us at some point this fall.

Audience at B&N

In the meantime, I had the welcome but rare chance to set aside my own selfishness and volunteer my services to sing for several hours to benefit the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers this Saturday. Himself a devoted and tireless supporter and participant in the musical community of the Tri-Cities region, my friend Justin Raffa arranged a fantastic opportunity with Barnes and Noble to raise money for his talented and enthusiastic choir. From 9am to 9pm, Justin spoke with customers, sang again and again, introduced and promoted his volunteer singers and pianists, ran an hourly ticket lottery, and announced repeatedly instructions for customers to check out and tell the cashiers, “I’m here for the Mastersingers.” Each purchase donated a portion of the sale to the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers all day.

Justin and Mitzi singing at Barnes and Noble

Molly and Abigail Singing at Barnes and NobleI did my part, bought hot chocolate and tea and various goodies at the cafe throughout the day. For those of us in less of a position to donate financially to much of anything, we had the opportunity to sing. Singing arias, musical theater songs, and duets from both genres, I definitely gave my voice a workout, rotating with Molly Holleran, Mitzi Lundberg, Mark Barton, and Justin Raffa while Sheila Zilar Gephardt accompanied us for about five hours with little break. Karaoke was never so hard. Still, I had a wonderful time, trying out new songs, watching audience reaction to gauge whether or not to use a piece in the future, and enjoying the performances of my friends who tirelessly sang throughout the day.

We all have choices to make about how we spend our finances, time, energy, and talents. Doubtless without focusing on ourselves from time to time, we diminish our usefulness to others and ourselves. On the other hand, in terms of truly improving our happiness and quality of life within our communities, selflessness goes a much longer way than we as independent Americans often realize. Today and tomorrow, you have the opportunity to also support the arts in Washington and the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers. Anything you purchase at Barnes and Noble by bn.com/bookfairs from October 23-28 by entering Bookfair ID 10253680 at checkout will contribute a portion of your sale to support my talented friends. If you can’t do that, I encourage you to find another way to support another person, animal, or cause. I’ve started to see that it really does transform the world… and our lives.