One never knows the twists and turns life will take. Most of us worry about things that will never happen and few of us give any thought at all to things that are unimaginable. That would be ludicrous wouldn't it? Yet something unimaginable did indeed happen and it has shaken a good portion of the world to the core.
When this year started, I was on target to have my best year yet in the music industry. Last year I did a total of 175 gigs and most of those gigs were booked in April and May of last year. By the end of January of this year I already had 180 gigs on the books and my biggest months for booking were ahead of me. That is until mid March when all hell broke loose.
I arrived at my gig on March 11th to have the activities director tell me that I was their last entertainment. She said the Governor had ordered them to lockdown their facility at the end of the day. I had not listened to the news so I was unfamiliar with this. The next day I showed up for my gig at a senior center only to find no one there. When I called to find out what had happened they said they were on lockdown until further notice by order of the Governor. It was then that I got the news that all independent and assisted living, nursing homes, senior centers and libraries were closed through the end of April. That instantly wiped out about 30 gigs for me.
The lockdown was targeting my primary audience and affecting a good portion of my bookings for the year. By the end of April, all the gigs for May were cancelled and then the same thing happened for June. The other day several places contacted me to say they were cancelling everything for the year and would be in touch if anything changed.
With the lockdown, restaurants and country clubs were closed and with social distancing private parties were taken off the books. Weddings and Funerals could have no more than ten people in attendance so overnight all musicians were out of a job. Even though things have started to open up, the life of a musician is still sketchy. My targeted audience is probably locked down through the end of the year. Most restaurants that hired live music may not be able to afford it now with social distancing guidelines and a lot of people are not willing to chance going out to dinner anyway even with the social distancing.
Facebook Live and YouTube have become ways for musicians to make some money through performing live from their homes and asking for tips. Street parties have become a viable option. Musicians like so many others are having to reinvent themselves. But in the midst of this chaos we are being given quite the gift. We are being given the time and opportunity to figure out what we really love about our lives and what we need to release.
I love music and I love the fact that I can use one of my gifts to uplift others. I love the music from the 30s and 40s and loved the fact that I could bring a targeted age group such joy but the down side was that I was starting to leave the gigs depleted instead of energized. More and more of the audiences were unresponsive due to their cognitive impairments and it was taking its toll on me. On top of that I was becoming bored with singing the same music over and over. I have a very low boredom threshold to begin with and this was just triggering it.
A little over a month ago I started doing weekly Facebook Live events on my Debbie Darling Music Facebook page. I started taking requests and found I loved learning new material. Some of the material requested I had never heard of before but was delighted to learn. I find that while I cannot live off of the money I am presently making from the Facebook Live events that I am enjoying learning new material and watching myself grow and figure out what the next step is. I know I want to keep doing music and I love the TV like format of the Facebook Live. Only God knows where this will lead me but I am grateful for the time to gain my energy back and start to figure out where I go from here. I am grateful for the opportunity to once again reinvent myself. How are your reinventing yourself?
Owen and I finally realized it was time to get some professional pictures taken. So we hired Joe Boyle from Joe Boyle Photography to work his magic. I hate having my picture taken but you would never know it. Joe put me so at ease that I actually was enjoying myself.
I told Joe I needed him to make me 50 pounds thinner and 15 years younger and while that didn't happen, I like what he came up with. He captured the fun side of me. Yes, I can be a lot of fun. I am not serious all the time. Though for those of you who don't know me well yet, you probably find that hard to believe. But above you can see a picture of Owen and me cracking up with Joe. I guess I am just going to have to buy some wrinkle cream and start walking to get rid of the pounds and years. Or maybe I'll start hiking with Owen, though he'd probably have to call the paramedics for me the first 20 feet out.
If you are in need of a photographer that will capture the real you, you need to get in touch with Joe Boyle. He is awesome. With his great eye and Owen's amazing talents in web design we were able to get a more current and authentic look to the site and to who Owen and I really are as people and entertainers. We hope you enjoy it. Owen and I look forward to seeing you at one of our gigs soon.
Owen and I played our first gig out as a duo this past Saturday. We played a lodge that a friend of Owen's owned. It was on the outskirts of Cook's Forest in Pennsylvania and was like stepping into the movie "White Christmas". The place was so lovely and romantic, the people were awesome, the food was delicious and the grounds and the lodge were magical all decorated for Christmas. The only thing missing was the snow.
We are going back this coming Saturday to perform another holiday show so if you are available come on out. I promise you you will love everything about it including the music. The address is: 14870 Route 36, Cooksburg, PA 16217 and the phone number should you want to book a room or a reservation for the wonderful dinner and wine tasting is: 814-744-8017. Hope to see you there.
It had been years since I did much singing. I would sing from time to time for benefits but not with a group, that is until this past January. My background was in Opera. While all my friends were listening to Woodstock I was listening to Madame Butterfly and my all time favorite Verdi's La Traviata. I wanted to be an opera singer and studied with the vocal coach for the Metropolitan Opera, David Blair. I was with him for a year until I got my first taste of jazz. He told me I had to make a choice and I chose Jazz. I booked myself singing pop and show tunes until I could get my feet wet as a jazz singer. I was starting to get booked into some jazz clubs when all at once Disco came in and changed the entire music industry—in my opinion, not for the better.
Before Disco almost every restaurant had live music. Once Disco came in, musicians were out and DJs were in spinning records. It is really only within the last 10 years that there is a resurgence of live music and yet not even close to its previous heyday. I left the music industry until I met a friend who talked me into writing Country tunes with him. My grandfather loved Country, but he would listen to all that real twangy stuff that I couldn't stand. I called it the "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know About HIMMMMMMMMMA" music. But I immersed myself in the music so that I could get the feel of it. After all if I was going to write it, I would have to live it. I started going to karaoke bars to sing the latest country songs like Mary Chapin Carpenter's "I Feel Lucky Today." I got pretty good and wrote several good Country tunes but Jazz was still calling me. But it was not yet time to follow my heart.
The next time I was asked to sing, they wanted me to sing Blues. So I immersed myself in the Blues and really liked it. It was singing the Blues that I realized I was really not a Soprano after all. In the lower register my voice was much richer.
While I was in France on a trip I went to hear Ella Fitzgerald sing. Wow, she was amazing. I loved her smooth velvet voice and her scat was fantastic. I mentioned that I wanted to sing jazz like her to a gentleman sitting across the table from me and he said, "that's not Jazz, that's the great American Songbook. silly." That was the first time I had ever heard the term used. In truth, some of the greatest Jazz you will ever hear is really from the Great American Songbook. Most of the wonderful songs of Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and other greats are from the great American Songbook.
Good music withstands the test of time.The songs from the great American songbook are standards for a reason. They will be around long after heavy metal and rap are long forgotten. People love beautiful melodies with great lyrics and that is what continues to sell to every new generation. Tony Bennett is having a more successful career in his 80s selling records to young people than he ever did when he first came out. Why? Because of the American Songbook. Harry Connick Jr. and his big band and Michael Buble are successful singing the American Songbook. Even Rock and Rollers like Rod Stewart and Linda Ronstadt found their most successful records of all time were the ones where they recorded the American Songbook. That should tell you something about this great music.
Back in January of this year a friend knocked on my door at 10 p.m on a cold snowy evening and said he would like me to come sing with his band. The band performed primarily blues, country, some light Rock and a little Jazz. He wanted me to add more Jazz and American songbook standards so the group would be more rounded. I agreed. I learned all their music but when it came time to learn some of the music that I came on board to sing, their hearts were not in it. I was about to leave the group when we hired a great bass player, Owen Rasmussen. I could see at once that Owen was a phenomenal musician and I wanted to stick around to see what he could do to bring this group back to life. But from one week to the next they could not retain the songs. We finally disbanded and Owen and I went off on our own to bring my life's dream of singing the great American songbook/my kind of Jazz to fruition.
Owen is such a talented guy. He not only plays bass, guitar, drums, piano, trumpet and some trombone but he is also a great musical director, arranger, and videographer. I will be forever grateful to the other group for bringing us together. Owen is able to create great arrangements for us as a duo clear up to us as six pieces. We are just getting revved up so if you have a special event that you need music for, give us a call and let us know whether you are looking for something smaller and more intimate that a duo can bring or you are looking for more dance music with a fuller sound. We are looking forward performing the great American Songbook. It just goes to show, you are never to old to go after your dreams. Believe You Can Fly!