M is for Music: A story from my life

a-to-z-letters-mAnyone who knows me well might have guessed that the letter M would have been the prompt for a post on music. For those who do not know me, music has always been an integral part of my life.  It’s part of my story, a family legacy which goes way back in time.

I am the eldest of five children.  Both of my parents were musical, so I never can remember music not being a part of my life.

Mom sang and had worked as a young  woman in a group called the “Blue Bonnet Girls,” here in the Pacific Northwest.  I learned how to harmonize by singing along with my Mom when she sang songs to us as kids.  “Mairzy Doats (Mares Eat Oats),” “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Three Little Fishies (Itty Bitty Pool)” were among many of the songs that she taught all of us, and are still being taught to her great-grandchildren.

I grew up watching my father on the Lawrence Welk Show and was on several years during the Christmas programs.  I thought that many of those memories had been long forgotten until I received a link from a friend reminding me of those days.

I would also go to the studios where he was a studio guitar player for many artists and their recordings.  You can imagine how difficult it was for me to keep quiet and still sitting in the studios where they recorded live, without the advantage of the technology today to create perfection.

I always dreamed of a career on stage either as a singer or actress.  I never really wanted to be the “star,” but would have been perfectly happy as a back-up singer, or a member of an ensemble singing harmony.   I spent much of my childhood in choirs, musical groups, and in several musical plays.

I was not encouraged to pursue an entertainment career.  In fact, there was such active discouragement to the point of hearing messages of “never being able to make it,” and “not being good enough.”

In 1981, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to audition for and was accepted to the Navy’s Music Program as a vocalist.  After attending the Armed Forces School of Music in Virginia for theory, ear training, etc., my first assignment as a musician was with the Navy Steel Drum Band, where I became the first non-instrumentalist to learn how to play steel drums.  Of all my tours as a Navy musician, it was my favorite and it made me a better musician.

Playing the cello pans with the Navy Steel Band in Summer 1983. (Photo taken by Navy journalist, name unknown)
Playing the cello pans with the Navy Steel Band in Summer 1983. (Photo taken by Navy journalist, name unknown)

In addition to the Steel Band, I have had many experiences as a singer and musician:  Ceremonial and marching bands, playing bass drum, cymbals and orchestra bells; concert band adding more of the auxiliary percussion instruments, such as chimes and other “toys.”

I sang the National Anthem for ceremonies, as well as professional sporting events.  I sang lead and backup with a variety of small groups and show bands–country, rock, pop and jazz.  I have sung in English, Spanish and German.  I’ve performed in front of audiences ranging in size from a handful of people to many tens of thousands, to people of all ages.  My favorite gigs were singing old jazz standards with a trio in an intimate setting, second only to singing the Anthem.

Since leaving military and musical career in November 1989, I performed many times over the years, working with some small bands; offering my services to sing the National Anthem for various military and civilian functions, and auditioning for plays and musicals, where I’ve been fortunate enough to be cast in a variety of parts, including the Mother Superior Sister Mary Regina (Nunsense).  For the most part, however, I gave up performance.

Music is what is in my heart and soul, even though I’ve not pursued it much in recent years. I miss my days of performing, especially where music is concerned.

Singing "Come Rain or Come Shine" for an Awards Show/Fundraiser at Lakewood Playhouse in March 2012.
Singing “Come Rain or Come Shine” for an Awards Show/Fundraiser at Lakewood Playhouse in March 2013.

And although I have been known to meet with friends for an occasional song or two at a karaoke bar, I yearn for the day when I can work  regularly with a guitar or piano player, and upright bassist and get back to my “roots” singing a few standards from yesteryear.

24 thoughts on “M is for Music: A story from my life

  1. Mick

    Music just kisses us all on the forehead.

    Mine is Gaelic, and with instruments like this:-

    but this is our crying music. Come hear our dance music…………..

  2. Pingback: I Am a Survivor! | Beyond Life's Challenges

  3. Would love to do a Trio thing with you (if I didn’t live in Texas), Of course you would have to put up with an electric bass as for reasons that are probably evident to you playing an up right bass is no longer a viable option for me. Love those old standards…

  4. Gabriele Lewis

    My gosh, Coral, You are quite accomplished. You must have led an interesting life !!! We will still get together soon, yes?

  5. Reblogged this on BEYOND THE CHALLENGES OF LIFE and commented:

    This week I had one of the participants in my class ask me, “Why aren’t you still singing?” He had done a search for me and read much of this blog and other things I have written elsewhere. I did not have a good answer for him. I thought it appropriate to revisit this post this morning.

  6. Crystal auve

    Oh my gosh! I remember watching Lawrence well with nana, and being jealous watching you on TV. Did that clip ever bring back the memories.. Love you cousin,

  7. I love music. I honestly don’t think there is any type that I dislike. I wish I had that talent but alas I could throw a metronome off beat and my singing leaves stray cats holding their ears. Heh. Unfortunately for my family, that doesn’t really stop me from singing. 🙂

    I’m jealous of your talents. What is the one musical piece that you like the most? Here is mine. 🙂 It’s a hymn.

    I also like Beethoven’s pastoral symphonies. Of course, I like modern music but when I’m calm and sitting, a rare thing, these speak to me. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Ed, for your comment and for sharing the beautiful, “Going Home.” Lovely. I honestly cannot choose one piece of music that I love the most. There are so many. I love music of all kinds, especially jazz. I’ll have to think of a few to share.

      1. I know. It was a trick question. If you notice, I cannot either. I put in two in just this short comment. 🙂 Ha ha ha!!!! 🙂 Jazz is great! I love Arturo Sandoval, McCoy Tyner and Vince Guaraldi to name a few. Also, Joss Stone but I’m not sure if you would classify her as Jazz?

      2. I think that so many of the genres have become an amalgam of others, nowadays. I absolutely LOVE Joss!! The only name I am not familiar with here is “McCoy Tyner.” Will have to investigate. 🙂

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