Music: Making Music Manifest, by Lizzie Shanks

The sidewalk under my feet discernibly shifted as I left my first singing lesson, and walked – more correctly – floated, back to my parked car. I’d been waiting a long time for the chance to truly explore the musical side of myself that I knew was there – one that I’d longed to see materialize for 39 years – and here, on the corner of right time and right place, it apparently was.

I’d had a splotchy musical past, plucking up the courage to audition for bands here and there. I’d get the lead singer spot, habitually backing down – as, for reasons unknown to me at the time – these projects hadn’t felt quite right. I listened to and followed the direction of a gut that I really didn’t understand, which as it turned out, was a good thing.

The singing lesson was meant to act as a dam-breaking gift from my husband, who thought it high time that I extract myself from the muddy mess that is prolonged denial of a dream. I was further enticed from the muck by a nagging desire to demonstrate for my then four-year old son what a truly fulfilled life really looks like, by actually having one.

I’d prepared a version of Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me, and launched into it, despite the bag of nerves that stood before my teacher, well-known jazz singer, Louise Lambert, in my stead. As her accompaniment on piano ended, she looked up and asked, “And you’re not singing professionally… why?” Her incredulousness merged with my own on that sidewalk outside of her house, and served as a memorable introduction to the surreal world of how super-charged, hopeful emotions can launch a point of desire, meant to be.

I’m a writer who had a secret singer side. I’d never been drawn to musicianship per se, other than a brief foray into piano, in Mr. Loftler’s dank, musty-smelling basement for a few childhood years. Playing an external instrument seemed to distract from the passionate focus of using my internal one, and though I thought I should play something, such a ‘thing’ was never naturally forthcoming.

So imagine the creative surge poised to erupt from all of that repression, when after a lesson one day, Louise handed me the instrumental CD of fiddle icon, Oliver Schroer. He was deemed by the press to be the Frank Zappa of the fiddle, although unimaginative types who like slots to put people in, slotted him in the Celtic Jazz genre, which failed to sum up his talent to any degree of accuracy. I’d had little exposure to instrumental music, other than having been surrounded by classical music as the daughter of a professional ballet dancer. Schroer’s instrumental music was technically demanding in its challenging time signatures and melodies, yet it was fun, intelligent, sonically expansive, and I soon found out, a beautifully welcoming canvas for my words.

The woman who’d been told from childhood that, “Yes, you’re talented, but so are a lot of other people. Unfortunately, you’ll get lost in the crowd”, was shown the latch on a window that, by the powers that make manifesting possible, opened up a chance to make a unique offering herself.

I was inspired to write lyrics over many of Schroer’s compositions, where after having done so as fate has these things, was introduced to him – which in a way, introduced me to a side of myself I didn’t really know. We became mutually admiring friends. I sang as a guest with his band. He gave me the confidence to go on to conjure up my own band, Besharah, record three CDs, earning a Juno nomination for the first, and create a new musical project, in the works as I type.

There’s an unstoppable flow towards lift-off, when the heart is allowed to do the singing.

lizzie.v1A full-fledged Renaissance woman, Lizzie Shanks self-describes, with tongue firmly lodged in cheek, as having severe career ADHD.  She is a freelance writer, emerging author, and ia Juno Award nominated singer/songwriter, with three critically acclaimed album releases from her years with the band Besharah. She is also an interior designer, and has provided treatment foster care to at-risk youth for over ten years. She is currently working on a new musical project.

She blogs weekly at www.bigbanglife.org.