A little of me…

A little about me…why not?

(of course there’s a LOT more to the story, but hey…here’s an outline “blink” for you to get to know me a bit better.)

I Grew-up in poverty household, 5 siblings, and divorced family, moved every 2.5 years with the longest stay being 3.5 in high school. Mom & stepfather put themselves through college during most of our adolescence with mother getting a job teaching when I was a freshman in high school. I’m the middle to the eldest (depending on family living situation). I wrote down my first “real” song in 6th grade called Romancin’. It’s a country song. Before that I would always make songs up, but never kept them for too long unfortunately. I was influenced by anyone around me since we could not afford special training, I chose to absorb from whomever I was magnetized to. From little Orphan Anne, Mary Lu Reton (strength in a young woman), Linda Rostand, Whitney Houston, Carol Burnett, Bette Midler, Bessie Smith and the Lady of Song herself Ella Fitzgerald. I really enjoy listening to artists try their vocal gymnastics on Christmas music and therefore MANY artists have influenced me through the years via holiday jams. I played flute/piccolo then switched to choir after my band instructor said my frame was too small for a bare sax, even though I took to it like fish to water. In choir, I heard my first scatting geniuses, Ella Fitzgerald and found out I really enjoyed making melodies/songs/gibberish up on the spot. The Jazz Choir recruited me after this discovery. I played Sergeant Sarah Brown in the musical, Guys & Dolls and have been in many other plays and one-acts since. I played sports year-round and was involved in competitive speech. I’ve always loved dancing (usually a closet-dancer), artistic design, writing & photography. I auditioned for a 18 vocal piece traveling college choir named Soundsation and made it in for that one year.

I attended Steve Hurst School of Music in Nashville. The trip was mostly paid for as a gift and one of my songs was chosen for the Singer/songwriter showcase, where I got to performed my original piece! It’s a song about what I heard through apartment walls and despite my young attempts to help, feeling unable to change the abuse I could hear the children living there were under. It’s a pop/rock song called Cry Out Child. Eventually I joined a church and was a worship leader and songwriter. One of my songs was picked up by a woman’s leadership conference called “How the broken leaders heals.”  The inspirational song is called No Matter What.

I enjoy writing and co-writing as well as I believes some songs need more than one perspective to truly tell the story or depict the emotions. Besides, teamwork can be very fun and challenging! I traveled to Poland, Lithuania & Mexico singing and helping people.

After turmoil and upheaval in my life, including being homeless (thankfully friends & family allowed me to stay with them), company down sizing, personal drama, health issues and other unfortunate events, I stopped singing. Stopped writing. Stopped dancing and stopped playing music entirely.

I don’t remember even humming a tune during that time. My intermediate family stepped in to help.

Along with wonderful people who came in at just the right time and true friends who came back into my life, I started a very long healing process and though I thought I’d givin up my singing and dancing dreams, remarkably the desirestarted to peculate again.

 My day-job helping homeless students to obtain their education as Program Director (I created and ran) was an amazing resource to my heart.  (Above picture is one of the food-drives I put together. THose pictures are volunteer teachers who helped organize it all for the holidays.) Although I did end up having to step back from serving those awesome kids after 4.5 years due to various reasons, both personal & political conflict of issue with the educational system. While still at the school district I coordinated many special events and outreach efforts, helped Latino support services, assisted hundred of pre-school to graduation students & put systems in place that are still in effect today. A homeless student and I were featured in Glamour Magazine, I was able to bring in thousands of dollars for kids both from donors and grants I’d written.

While working for the school district, I put together a middle school and high school dance teams. (one high school team pictured right-I’m in gold). Also, I found an outside resource where I was the Dance Camp Director for low-in come youth who wanted to learn about dance from around the world. All in all the School District experience opened many possibilities and ultimately was a big factor in helping my heart & mind heal. Sad to go, but timing is everything…and it was definitely time.

 After working on my voice privately for about a year, I picked up random singing opportunities such as the special guest for a high school play, singing my original tunes for special events, the National anthem for games/races, open live piano mic, faced my karaoke fears & singing with a local mentoring big band who take on college students. The Trio of Four was a band that I joined where I met amazing musicians and got to be in a commercial. We all only played together once, but it was fantastic! I joined Reverbnation around this time too & began to learn about Facebook.

After that, word got out that I was a new singer in town and I was told about a group who needed a lead singer. I auditioned and joined an eclectic band called The Bathtub Gin Serenaders and there, found friends/comrades and a new style of early hot blues/jazz music. I tried to connect with other bands and musicians with some success and found some amazing musical friends, but nothing stuck like The Bathtub Gins. They unknowingly supported me through a rough time and with them, I re-found my old diva-self. Ballroom dance kept literally stepping in and out of my life around this same time as well. It became a crazy mash-up of song and dance (just like I’d always wanted) and although at times I thought it may be too much for one full-time working lady to do, it seemed to always work out. After my first dance performance, my overall singing performance improved. It’s too magical to explain, but that’s what happened. After one weekend of ballroom dance performances for a fund-raising event, I found myself actually doing the things I always secretly rehearsed. I took greater risks on stage and a new “take it or leave it” attitude was born. I was finally healing from my previous mentally abusive relationships & dance was the final key that needed to twist. I needed the homeless position at the school district, I needed the bands and musicians I was blessed to work with, I needed the low depressed part of life that seemed to last FAR too long to step over & find the magical newness of song…I needed it all. But no joke when I say…IT WAS NOT EASY.

Now, I continually learn new instruments, am singing more regularly and married my ballroom dance partner, so as you can imagine, we dance often too. 🙂 I volunteer in my community, help others as best I can, live a healthy lifestyle, I’m constantly writing songs and have plans to record with The Bathtub Gins again soon as well as record my own work with musical friends I’ve met along this fun n crazy path. This blog will help me stay on musical-goodness. My 5 recordings are all being formulated, worked on and still very possible. My life is never boring. More on it’s way… 😉 Thanks for reading…

(it’s hard to snap-shot parts of your life! So many people I’d love to thank…you know who you are…I appreciate you and I am still very thankful.)

Current singing highlite: Opened for Steve Martin at The Britt Festival (Above pic is from sound check)

Current dancing highlite: Danced with my hubby at the Medford Jazz Festival 2012 and having many people request video of the “knock-out performance.” *blush* -wow.  (pic taken same night as Jazz Festival performance-yes we had three big dance performances in one day! BTW…these were NOT choreographed. All lead & follow performances.)

www.ilaselenemusic.com
http://www.ilaselene.wordpress.com
(find me on twitter and reverbnation by going to my made web site)

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