Refashioned Earrings

Here are some photos from my most recent refashioning of old jewelry.

The earring on the left of this photo is the original. I dismantled the middle and inserted a lovely freshwater pearl.


And here’s the completed refashioned set:


Then I took the middle section and created another set of earrings. The original is on the left.  The new earring design was was inspired by a sweet little triangular-shaped bell I picked up at a thrift shop recently.



There were some left over components from the original pair of earrings that can be used for more refashioning–



These won’t make it up on my Etsy site, so if either pair calls your name, let me know. $28.00 per pair, plus S/H within the US of A.

A Year Since Diagnosis of Vocal Fold Paralysis

IMG_0669Sometimes you look back on the passing of a year and think, “Wow, that went by fast!” But the year since the medical diagnosis and subsequent therapeutic work has felt very, very long to me.

If you’d like to read about the journey so far, medical diagnosis and what I decided to do, please read the posts listed HERE.

I’d like to reiterate that any progress that I’ve experienced (which the medical community would tell you was not possible,) is due to the extraordinary and cutting-edge expertise and care of Singing Voice Specialist Jeanette Lovetri and Healer/Therapist Dr. Robert Sykes. My own personal tenacity, courage and willingness to persevere was a pre-requisite. And my husband reminds me frequently that some of the world’s greatest athletic coaches either have never played the game or are not currently playing their sport, which lets me know he gets it, and that means a great deal to me.

The work of reestablishing neurological connection from brain to vocal folds is pain-staking and certainly doesn’t include any music-making. The mental focus of coordinating muscles and function is exhausting. Also, there is the “cha-cha” effect of two steps forward improvement, only to have one step back.

After my last session with Jeannie, via Skype, she wrote this post on her blog at The Somatic Voice Work tm: The Lovetri Method Teachers’ Association–Coaching An Injured Pro Back to Singing.

There has been tremendous improvement but this is relative.”Tremendous Improvement” actually means that I’ve been able to reestablish chest voice and head voice registration, which means I can phonate on pitch again with some tone and accurate pitch, as opposed to a strangled hiss. But it takes 25-30 minutes to find this registration via specific vocal exercises and mind/body visualizations. I started out needing an hour to find it, and had to rest frequently.

Evidently, we are doing some of the exercises following ideas put forth by Silverman Technique for Parkinson’s Disease, practiced by qualified speech pathologists.

Right now there is limited ability to “Sing,” as in,’string sounds together in a musical manner.’ Singing five tones together on one vowel is still very difficult. Every once in a while, a full sung note of great beauty and strength will escape and make me hop up and down with tremendous excitement.

And also every once in awhile I sing two or three phrases together that actually feel better than anything I was able to sing from 2006-2013. Jeannie thinks I may be able to sing a simple song straight through in 6 months or so. If this is successful in that way, I will become part of a team of singers, lead by Jeannie, who have gotten their voices back after the medical community said it was highly improbable, and we will present our results to the public. Cutting edge stuff!!

Students have noticed the vocal improvement, but it is still bittersweet. They do not know me as a performer. Some of them are surprised that I had 27 successful years performing as a singer of classical music since I have only a few recordings for posterity. I did not allow recordings my last 4 years performing, because I was not singing well–now I know why.

But after the past 13 months of voice therapy and counseling, I felt it was time to move forward with my work as a teacher of singing and musician. How could I best be open to Inspiration and be inspiring to others while finally letting go of my identification as a working singer?

As I moved through the emotional and psychological quagmire of the situation, I began to feel ready to work with more groups of singers on a regular basis. Seasonally, I lead choral workshops (click HERE for a list of clients) but regularly week to week, I have worked with only one group–The Maryland Women’s Chorus of Levine Music.

And, like magic, when I was truly ready to work with more groups, (and still keep my most excellent private studio!) I was appointed Conductor of all three of the Adult Programs’ Choirs at Levine Music. Even though I have conducted choirs since I was 13 years old–yes, 13 years old! the change in perspective and letting go of the old gave me joy to move into another kind of work with purpose and clarity.

If you build It, It will come. Astonishing, really!

PS. My Etsy shop, which features some of my hobby of refashioning jewelry from vintage pieces, features the last of my Earring Quartets on a Canvas Jewelry Holder. Click HERE if interested! The studs are real topaz and classic pearls.)

“A Week of Zen Guitar,” by Philip Toshio Sudo, Day 4

1540307_614763558578162_151401801_oSo A Week of Zen Guitar is being dragged out a bit.

This book , one that I recommend for ALL musicians, no matter your skill level or resume, begins with a simple premise: We ALL carry a song inside–the song that makes us human.  We are all born with a song, but often don’t know how to unlock it.  This little book has really helped me a great deal the past year as I have coped with vocal fold paralysis as a singer and vocal pedagogue.  Talk about unlocking a silent song!

Today’s quotes are from the chapter called Teacher and Student.

“It is said that in any given situation, someone is doing the teaching and someone is doing the learning.  This thinking is central to the Way of Zen Guitar.

We are all students and teachers in everything we do, and we are both at the same time.  When a child learns from the parent, the parent learns from the child.  Each imparts different lessons.  We teach the child about the ways of the world while the child teaches us the innocence and wonder of learning.  There is nothing more fundamental to life.

In this dojo, you have an obligation to fulfill each role…Seek out knowledge and thirst for it wherever you can find it, letting all things be your teacher…The further you advance on your path, the more you become ‘sensei’-one who has gone before.  And as ‘sensei,” you must share what you’ve learned on your journey with those coming up behind you, and realize that everything you do, even unconsciously, teaches by example.

…If you take this responsibility seriously, your teaching will inform your learning, just as your learning will inform your teaching.”

I, Cate, have lived every day of my  life like this.  This way of living has been especially important in helping me move through this past year, since the diagnosis of the paralysis, with grace and purpose.   I have learned beyond what I could have imagined possible, from my singing voice specialist, energy healer/therapist, life coach and many others.  I have learned from my students, and in turn, have had one of the most gratifying teaching years of my life, with the promise of more wonderful opportunities in 2014.

And one of the things I have learned from my students, is that my voice is heard.  It has not been silenced, and it still calls out to heal and guide and push and inspire and let people feel their own selves buried under far to many expectations, duties and worries.  I truly believe that this dojo, put into practice daily over my 50-something years because of who I am, is a spiritual path that can not be taught from ego gratification and instant satisfaction.

And that is what much of music has become.  In everything from opera to pop.  Ignorance and mediocrity have turned Youtube dribble into a badges of honor.

Following the path of zen guitar has become an act of rebellion.  Start your own movement.