Memory Lane and the Road to Sing Books
Posted July 14, 2012on:
I found a little stash of performance photos the other day (posted on 3/12/2012) and that find sent me on a trip down memory lane and I just kept going. But the reminiscence leads me to muse on how each person’s unique experience can combine to make something new and useful for the world. This is how many facts of my life have combined to create my Sing Books with Emily program and blog.
I got to thinking about how I’d ended up Singing Books and realized that most of my life experience has led me here and prepared me for this project. My theatre experience as a student and professional performer, experiences in training and as a professional vocal and cabaret performer certainly prepared me for Sing Books.
But there’s a lot more to it than just that. My Paternal Grandmother (Grace Evangelyn Morgan Everson, who I called “Penny”) was a second grade teacher at John Strange Elementary School in Indianapolis, IN for THIRTY YEARS! Penny taught me to love stories and books and she read many wonderful books to my sister and I. Also, my Maternal Great Aunt (Florence Geisler, who I called “Aunt Flossie”) was a career elementary school educator and Professor at Butler University. Penny and Aunt Flossie were fantastic teachers! Education is in my DNA.
In my first two college summers, I worked at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. It was an incredible experience that has informed quite a few things for Sing Books. One vital experience was that I got my first introduction to the art of story telling. One of the exhibits in the museum was about how many cultures around the world practice the art of oral story telling and the museum needed someone to tell stories for visitors. I jumped at the chance. The exhibit curators gave me a packet of stories to learn and then I got to call groups together within the exhibit and tell the stories, many of which required audience participation. It was so easy to learn in that situation how a story ENGAGES people (regardless of creed, race or anything else). We should not underestimate the power and importance of story-telling, especially when done in a live personal experience (and especially, in my opinion, when set to music).
Post University, I got to spend a great couple of years performing in Indianapolis theatres (Indiana Repertory Theatre and Starlight Musicals Indianapolis). Then, I moved to NYC late in 1992. I did end up performing a little and took classes at the amazing HB Studios on Bank Street in the Village. But, I’ve come to realize that my time at Microsoft Corporation NYC (in my first office job ever starting in early 1993) as an Administrative Assistant and as an Events Planner (at Microsoft and later at AIG) helped me learn to organize and document this vast subject of Singable Picture Books in this blog and to create my own SPBs using my PC. I had no idea what to do with a computer before I started working at Microsoft. Also at Microsoft, I became very involved with the local community, facilitating heaps of dollars worth of software donations (to organizations like The New York Public Library, Children’s Friends for Life, Crossroads Theatre Company, and many more), and working with young people in the community by organizing Microsoft’s participation in events like “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” “Cooks for Kids (Children’s Friends for Life)” and as President of the World Wide Plaza Student Outreach organization. Kudos, of course, to Microsoft for its company giving policy to allow for these donations! These community efforts have always been very important to me, “acting locally” and using my skills and talents to improve the community for young people.
Another important effort for me was for two years serving as a lunchtime reader with the “Everybody Wins” program. What a fabulous organization that is, with a charming and vitally meaningful mission. I read with a little girl named Lumi at PS 111 for two years at lunchtime, once a week. It was fun and a great experience for the both of us. The experience also solidified my belief and understanding of the benefits of reading (or singing) books with children.
Things changed and I moved onto a new job as Events Planner at AIG, which is where I met my husband Charlie. We soon got married and set up house in Washington, DC and not long after that Mo and Eloise were born. Beginning to collect picture books for them, I accidentally noticed that a few were created from songs when I started singing books to my children. Going to look for more, snowballing the efforts over the years to collect and sing the songs, along with my need to know everthing possible about the songs and books in order to feel qualified to sing them, led to the creation of the blog. I started the blog to house and share the info and personal experience I was able to gather about the songs contained in the books.
Around the same time that Charlie and I moved to DC, I began to take voice lessons again and study the art of cabaret through the DC Cabaret Network (and serving as a member of the Board of Directors from 2005-2012) and learned about telling stories with song, singing directly to the audience in a kind of conversation, singing from a personal point of view (instead of from a character) and singing honestly and authentically (as opposed to “selling” the song as I’d often been advised to do). I found the medium of performance that was so in tune with how I wanted to perform and one that fit my needs as a stay-at-home mom.
And then it all came together, Sing Books has turned out to be a joyous synthesis of everything: children, education, community, theatrical-cabaret-vocal performance, and books. What fun it all is and I’m so grateful for the chance to share it all.
Sing Books with Emily and the DC Cabaret Network (and What the DC Cabaret Network Means to Me)
TEDDY BEARS’ PICNIC AND THE INDY CHILDREN’S MUSEUM CAROUSEL
CHARLES NELSON REILLY AND MY FIRST CABARET (AT HB STUDIOS)