Sunday Soul Session: Love (2/5/2017)

So I know the title says “Sunday”, and I’m writing this on a Monday, but it’s the intention that counts, right? I fell asleep on my laptop last night and woke up this morning with a large puddle of drool where words were supposed to be. Oops!

Introducing my new weekly addition to this blog, Sunday Soul Sessions. Inspired by my Passion Planner gifted to me by my wonderful #yogang (aka my friends who I do yoga with). This planner has seriously been a game changer for me as I get back on track to chasing my dreams this new year.

A big part of the planner’s purpose is weekly reflection, which has helped me immensely. Not only do I reflect on what I can do better during the following week, but I reflect on the many things I can be thankful and proud of that happened during this week. So I thought, why not turn it into a weekly post that I can share with my wonderful followers? (Ps. I love all 21 of you!) So here goes nothing…

Sunday Soul Session: LOVE

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A few days ago, someone very close to me told me something along the lines of “the world doesn’t revolve around love”. Those few words really pierced something inside me because I can honestly say that throughout the entire existence of my being, I’ve understood the importance of love and putting love at the forefront of your life. The conversation left me confused and sad.

The next morning, I sat in front my little prayer altar in my room and turned on my new favorite meditation by Dr. Wayne Dyer (Thank you, YouTube!). What I love about this meditation are the affirmations. I’m a firm believer that thinking/saying positive things leads to actual positivity in your life. I went through the motions, chanting the affirmations as they went by, until one particular affirmation hit me like lightning in the best way possible.

“The very essence of my being

and the way to transform my life is love.”

Now, my definition of love has definitely changed over the years. In middle school, I thought love was defined by those really “emo” songs I would listen to on a daily. When I got to high school, I thought love was defined by the acceptance of my peers. When I got to college, I thought it was working hard to prove to myself of my capabilities. I didn’t LITERALLY think those were the definitions of love, but those are the things I revolved my life around during those times.

I’m in the next stage of my life now, still trying to define love to the best of my capabilities. Now I’m coming to realize that love isn’t something so easily definable, because it has a different meaning in each of our lives. Love for those around us, even those we despise. Love for the hard times. Love for the good times. Love for ourselves. Love for our mistakes. Love for our triumphs. Love for our family. Love for our friends. Love for our lovers. Love for the loud. The quiet. The confusion. The clarity.

When I find myself acting in love, the anger goes away. The self-doubt goes away. Fear goes away. And I welcome in the faith and hope, the radiance and light, and the stillness I need to move on. It all sounds so very cliché, but to me it makes so much sense. It’s nearly impossible to attract negativity in your life if your life is centered around love. I’m not saying that hardships and tragedies will not happen, because that’s life, but it’s the way we embrace those things that in the end define us and define how our lives are going to be.

-Holly

Genuine Love (NAMM Show 2017)

So lately I’ve been asking myself this question: What are you REALLY passionate about? 

The answer used to be so clear. I love singing and I want to make music until the end of my time (probably will still be singing in my grave). But honestly, self-doubt is one SOB (please excuse my language). Doubt in my vocal capabilities, doubt in my talents, doubt in my ability to excel, etc. It creeps in so suddenly that when I find myself drowning in it, I can’t seem to get out of it so easily.

Originally, this post was going to be another “review” of basically how cool the NAMM Show was this year. Instead I’d rather share all the great insight I learned from attending this year’s show. First off – me attending the NAMM show for the second year in a row has to be some sort of fate. I attended NAMM 2016 thanks to my handy connection with Titan Radio, but now that I no longer work there I wasn’t expecting to make my way into this year’s show. Well this year my parents decided it was time to get our piano tuned again. We got to talking to our tuner, who just so happens to be an exhibitor at NAMM, and he got us passes!

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No, my name is not Emily and that is not how you spell my name (LOL I honestly don’t know how that happened…), but I was super stoked to be at the biggest music trade show in the world. I had a blast at last year’s show and I wanted to inhale all the talent and wonderful musical vibes that filled the Anaheim Convention Center that weekend

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I have a notebook that I bought at last year’s show that I was super excited about because the sides were neon green and I will literally buy anything that is my favorite color. Since then, I’ve taken notes inside of it that include topics from self-help, meditation, yoga, music, and more. I brought it with me to add to the goodness.

Here’s a look inside that notebook, with the most important pieces of information I feel like I got from that weekend.

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“Ask yourself: Are you PASSIONATE? Go home & think… Do you love music? You need to love it to succeed in music.” -Richard Sussman 

That was the first thing I wrote down at the first seminar I attended at NAMM 2017. Holy crap, it was like a slap in the face, and totally ironic and incredibly perfect timing. I loved Mr. Sussman’s seminar for various reasons. First, because he made me realize that NOT EVERYONE need’s a degree to have a successful music career. He outlined this ever so clearly in his Powerpoint. Second, because he also talked about KARMA. Although I probably will get 100 NOs, I will get a YES.

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“WRITE A STORY” -Kevin Bruener, CD Baby

A lot of the times I find myself in extreme musical stump (like now lol). I loved this seminar because the speaker basically called out all the pop songs out there right now that lack real substance. Sometimes, digging deep to find that inspiration is extremely hard, but SOMETHING INTERESTING is bound to have happened/will happen in life that is worth writing about. And this pertains to anything, really. Photography, poetry, song-writing, blogging, teaching, etc.

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“Time goes by whether you do something or not… So do something.” -Bob Taylor

Okay, so blunt, and so obvious. But so true! Bob Taylor’s talk was especially inspiring to me because he wasn’t afraid to tell us how DIFFICULT it was and how LONG it took for him to reach success. He talked about not having electricity in his house cuz they couldn’t pay the bill (more than one month at a time), and how it was seriously a struggle to get Taylor Guitars to where it is now. But he knew he loved his craft and he did something about it. Obviously, it paid off pretty nicely.

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“George’s legacy: Never felt superior to other musicians who didn’t have classical training. Knew when to do nothing.” 

The late Sir George Martin is responsible for producing and engineering so many of The Beatles’ records. Him and the band were like bread and butter together – just perfect. This stood out to me because although he was such a musical genius, he was also so humble. I feel like a lot of us get caught up in the race to be the best, and it really clouds our judgement. Who knows what would have happened if George didn’t say YES to The Beatles … But thank God he did.

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“Hard work fueled by PASSION & education… Can’t stop applying that method after you make it.” -Kenny Aronoff

I’m quite guilty of this. After I have a taste of the satisfaction of a little success, I’ll get bored and quit/ lose all motivation to continue. I can say it happened with performing, guitar, piano, singing, radio, college, etc. But okay that’s enough self-loathing. I’m admitting this now so I can now say that phase of my life is OVER. I pledge to continue educating myself and to continue to perfect my craft every day of my life.

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Now that I’ve joined the sea of people who share the same dream as me, I have to keep reminding myself that nothing is simply handed to anyone. My new journey will include a lot of disappointment, heartbreak, and long nights. But at the same time I know that it will all be worth it in the end. And I guess that’s love, right? It’s enduring that heartbreak with as much grace as you can, because you know that you couldn’t live without it/him/her/them/whatever you love. That being said, I will continue to genuinely love my new crazy journey until it’s over.

 

REVIEW: The King & I at the Pantages Theatre (1/3/2017)

While working at my college’s radio station for three years, I guess you can say I went on a “hiatus” from my musical roots. Don’t get me wrong, I loved discovering new music, immersing myself in every sort of indie, punk, electronic, hip-hop, underground, whatever-you-name-it music there is out there, but there was something always missing. I didn’t realize it until after I graduated – I missed Musical Theater. As an awkward, distressed pre-teen, Musical Theater helped put me on the right track. I find myself coming back to it now, starting the new year by watching a show at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater.

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I spent the last three weeks with my nephew, Johann, who is the epitome of a musical theater geek. Everything we talk about is either about singing and theater (and food), so hanging out with him really stimulated my love for the art again. Since he was in town from San Francisco, I promised him we’d catch a show while he was here. We ended up picking Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I, not really knowing what it was about, but excited for the amazing cast and the two incredible leads of the show. Johann, JR (our cousin), Josh (my boyfriend), and I spent the rest of the week talking about what we loved and didn’t love.

king-and-iPhoto courtesy of The Pantages Theater

In short, The King and I is a musical about Anna Leonowens, an English widow, who moves to Bangkok with her son to tutor the King’s many children and wives. The King and Anna butt heads in the beginning, but by the end of the show end up having deep respect for each other. Here’s what we concluded about the performance:

  1. The vocals were flawless. Every song was executed so smoothly, like their vocal chords were made of butter. Being able to sing high notes is one thing, but being able to sing high notes so delicately is another craft in itself. I was particularly impressed by Manna Nichols (Tuptim) and Kavin Panmeechao (Lun Tha) in their song “I Have Dreamed”. What begins as a light song escalades into a powerful duet between two lovers, so masterfully executed by the two performers.
  2. Our favorite scene: The Small House of Uncle Thomas. Johann and I listened to the original soundtrack before watching the show. I remember both of us saying “WHY IS THERE A 14-MINUTE SONG?!”. It turned out to be a 14-minute ballet, featuring the royal singers and dancers of the palace. I found myself chanting “Go, Eliza, go!”, as Lamae Caparas (Eliza) impressively hopped across the stage on one foot about twenty times. The choreography for this particular scene was unique and culturally stimulating.
  3. It’s an oldie, but still a goodie. The first Broadway performance of The King and I was in 1951. Times have changed, perceptions of race and ethnicity have changed, and in turn, the show has changed. For the national tour, changes were made to the production to make the show a lot less racist (for lack of better terms). However, I still wouldn’t suggest bringing a friend along to watch this show if they’re not familiar with musical theater and its early shows. It was Josh’s first show, and he loved the performers, but was still offended by the storyline and racism that it entailed.
  4. I am in love with Laura Michelle Kelly. I got to meet her after the show and the only thing I could muster up was, “You’re so amazing and I want to sing just like you one day.” Her response: “Oh no! You want to sound just like YOU, with your own unique voice!” Okay, best advice ever. But really, watching her on stage is truly inspiring. Even though I was sitting at the back of the theater, I was able to resonate with her character and the compassion she portrayed through playing Anna. img_6226Meeting the talented Laura Michelle Kelly.

I guess you can say I enjoyed watching the show. Although we were worried about the pace of the show (knowing that the songs were all so soothing and relaxing compared to contemporary shows), it was engaging and quirky, and surprisingly upbeat in it’s own way.

For more information about the show and/or the Pantages, check out their website. For tickets to The King and I (which runs until January 21st!), go here.

 

Why Starting the New Year Scares the Shit Out of Me (1/2/2017)

I see a lot on social media that the majority of people I know are thoroughly excited about 2016 ending. With all the celebrities who have left this earth, the whirlwind presidential election that happened, and everything else in between, I guess it’s understandable. The ending of 2016, for me on the other hand, honestly scares the shit out of me. As we counted down to zero and the clock struck midnight, my heart dropped. I realized it was because 2016 was a damn great year for me. Excuse me while I be nostalgic for a bit. I learned a lot this year and a lot of really cool things happened:

  1. I graduated college. Four years ago, I hated school and didn’t even think college was an option for me. Four years later, I graduated college Magna Cum Laude and even sang at my graduation for thousands of people. IMG_1141.JPG
  2. I was the General Manager of my college’s radio station during my last two semesters. Along with my awesome team, I threw a music industry panel, a mini music festival, and threw a couple shows at a local bar. We kicked ass and I loved that little station in the basement of the library.JGAF0049.jpg
  3. I interviewed a ton of great artists and bands. One of them including Dada Life, who made me fall in love with electronic music while I was in high school. I loved discovering the stories of artists both upcoming and established, and prided myself in being an outlet for that on my radio show. Evening Poison_Landscape (Low Res).jpg
  4. Started writing music again. For a long time, I was too afraid to make my own music. I was clouded by self doubt and didn’t believe I could create anything. I finally broke that barrier and performed original compositions in front of people.IMG_0857.jpg
  5. I did a lot of yoga. I was a teaching assistant for a yoga class at my school, and I would practice at my favorite studio at least 2-3 times a week. My body is the strongest and most flexible it has ever been. However, what was most rewarding was sharing my love for yoga and learning from the people I was practicing with. IMG_1394.jpg
  6. I traveled across the world. I saved up enough money to leave my little town of Walnut for a good 6-weeks. In the Philippines and Bali, I discovered new food, got sick, jumped off cliffs, learned new languages, and fell in love with new cultures.IMG_4746.jpg
  7. I welcomed a new member to the family. Her name is Vivianna, Vivi for short, and she’s the absolute sweetest, even when she throws up on me. 
  8. I spent a lot of time with family. We ate a lot of great food together, went to church together, started doing yoga together, and watched a lot of Star Wars. Family time is irreplaceable. 
  9. I made singing a priority again. After singing became my only income after traveling, I realized it was the one thing that didn’t actually feel like “work” to me. I sing part time now, and started auditioning for local shows. I plan on applying to a local conservatory and taking classes at city college to expand my knowledge of music. fullsizerender-4
  10. I said yes to God. With all the success also came a lot of confusion. After traveling, my perspective on everything changed. A part of me wanted to start making money to travel more, and the other part of me wanted to chase my dreams. I realized in the end that whatever I end up doing, as long as my intentions are for the Divine then I will be okay. God always provides. IMG_5564.JPG

To say this year was horrible for me would be selfish. Although I find myself in an awkward transition from feeling high up (when I graduated) to starting from ground zero (now), I know the struggle will be worth it. For me, 2016 was the end of a wonderful time in my life. So yes, welcoming 2017 scares the shit out of me. Why? Because new beginnings are scary. They’re exciting and terrifying at the same time. But admitting that feels really good.

I know this new year is going to be difficult. Auditioning for shows is really stressful and a lot harder than I remember it being in high school. The last few auditions I went to didn’t go very well, and I felt like I was at a low point, almost giving up. I doubted my abilities, my dreams, and lost site of my passions. It was a scary feeling. All I can pray for now is that I welcome 2017 with as much faith, trust, and hope as I can. To handle all situations with grace, no matter how defeated I may feel.

So thank you, 2016, for being so wonderful and giving. 2017, I’m ready for all that you got.

TRAVEL: Keeping Your Memories Alive (Philippines/Bali Recap Video)

Traveling is truly one of the most transformational things people can do for themselves. Whether you travel near or far, there’s a guarantee you won’t feel the same or be the same. It’s been two months since I left Bali, and I still think and dream about it every day.

Thanks to technology, I have all my memories saved as a constant reminder every day to keep my transformation alive. Combined, the boys and I have thousands of photos from our trip and hours of footage recorded on Alvin’s GoPro. In addition, I have a day-to-day diary of my trip that I’ve documented via this blog, with very detailed (sometimes redundant) descriptions of what went on and how we were feeling.

So coming home, I made sure to do two things. First, make a photo album with all my favorite photos from our trip (which was really hard because I had so many pictures of monkeys and bowls of curry that I wanted to include). 200 photos definitely didn’t feel like enough to capture 6-weeks worth of travel, but my album turned out absolutely perfect. Second, make a travel video. I hadn’t dabbled in any video editing in years, but I was ready to tackle the project. I sifted through hours worth of footage and Alvin selfies, and was able to condense our trip into twelve minutes. Watching the video was like reliving a dream. I wasn’t sure it really happened or of the places we visited were real.

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Back to transformation… I’ll admit, it’s really easy to forget. I wanted to travel because I intended to find myself and recreate purpose within me. A month after being back home, I found myself already lost in my own confusion and self-doubt. Luckily, I took the time to put all the things I’ve learned and all the memories I’ve made into an album and a video. Every time I find myself in my own pit of negative thoughts, I come back to the great memories I made, not dwelling on the past, but using it as a reminder of how great my future can be.

For anyone traveling or planning on traveling, I highly recommend taking the time to put together an album with your favorite photos, or recording footage for you to show your friends and family when you get back home. And don’t procrastinate! The longer you wait, the more likely you’re never going to do it. So this should be the first thing you do when you get back from traveling. I promise it’ll be worth your time.

 

REVIEW: A Night Curated by Gilles Peterson feat. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, BADBADNOTGOOD, Nai Palm, Kamasi Washington, George Clinton and more.

A couple months ago I took my boyfriend on a date to see Hiatus Kaiyote, and then on another date to see BADBADNOTGOOD. Two of the best shows I’ve seen in the past couple of years. A few weeks ago, Josh told me to save September 28th in my calendar because he bought us tickets to a show. When I asked him what kind of show, he just said it was going to be “funky”. So I went with no expectations because I trust in his taste in music and I can never deny a night where funk is involved. Both of us really had no idea it was going to be so much more – basically a compilation of our last two concert dates on steroids.

Gilles Peterson is known for discovering and being a platform for emerging talent. He supports the artists he finds and helps them get discovered. Together with WeTransfer, he put on a sold-out show in Los Angeles at The Theater at Ace Hotel featuring many of the artists that he has supported and believed in.

The night opened up with BADBADNOTGOOD, who themselves are headline material. Featuring Chester Hansen on bass guitar, Alexander Sowinski on drums, Matthew A. Tavares on keys, and the newest member, Leland Whitty on saxophone. What’s so cool about these guys is that they look so absolutely normal. There’s nothing fabulous about them, as in they don’t feel they have to make a statement at all via their clothes and/or hairstyles as most musicians strive to. They put all their energy into their music, and on stage it comes out quite effortlessly. They’re basically the reason why new generations are going to fall in love with jazz again, and know that it’s okay to reinvent music.

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Moments before the show started, I heard whispers of special guests being added to the bill. In addition to BBNG, artists such as Gaslamp Killer, Nai Palm of Hiatus Kaiyote, Bilal + The Sa-Ra Creative Partners, and Kamasi Washington graced the stage. But the big brain behind most of the compositions of the night was Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, who led the show with his violin and the 11-piece orchestra.

img_5492Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and the 11-piece orchestra. 

The night was filled with cacophonous goodness. Unforgettable xylophone solos, delicious tenor sax riffs, and percussion heaven… I can go on about what went RIGHT about this show. Bilal’s sweet falsetto put us all at ease. Nai Palm came out and melted our ear drums in the best way possible with her smooth yet powerful voice. Kamasi Washington came out with his saxophone to show his home city what music should sound like. And the crowd went absolutely nuts when the famous George Clinton came out on stage. All while the Miguel and the orchestra kept time and flowed through the night.

img_5493Kamasi Washington with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and the 11-piece orchestra.

What was so great about the night in general was the crowd that it attracted. There were real music lovers there. Not the snobby kind, but the kind of music appreciators who take in consideration all genres, all styles, and all people while putting together playlists. The people who care about what went into the music and not just the end product. So in a sense, this was a show put on by a curator (and a file exchanging service), for curators.

Post-Vacation and Putting my Dreams First (9/20/2016)

Coming back from vacation was hard. After six weeks of adventure and sunshine, coming back to little Walnut, CA put my internal clock and my mental state of mind in a rut. I was sleeping during the day and wide awake during the night. It was frustrating because the first thing I wanted to do when I got back home was start applying for jobs. For some reason, I felt like I didn’t quite have my life together, even though the whole point of  my trip to the Philippines and Bali was for me to have some clarity.

So I did a little purging. I painted the horrendous green and yellow walls of my room an off-white color. I nicely displayed all my new Balinese souvenirs throughout my room. I took down all my posters and artwork that I thought didn’t really speak to me anymore. The past two years, I’ve collected posters of concerts I’ve either worked on for Titan Radio or have attended to write reviews for. I used to display all my concert tickets on my cork board along with my backstage or press passes. And for some reason, they just didn’t speak to me like they used to, so I took them down and shoved them in my closet.

img_5378The horrendously green and yellows walls that used to plague my room.

I had no idea at the time, but in a sense it was me telling myself what I really wanted, and what I needed to do. But I didn’t see it, I just saw it as me getting rid of clutter in my room. So a week after I came back I finally started applying for jobs. I went in with the “as long as I apply to a shit-load of jobs, someone is bound to hire me” kind of mentality. I started applying to marketing jobs, event coordinating, social media, PR, basically anything that I had experience doing. I didn’t even bother to specifically apply to entertainment or music companies, which is what the last three years of my life has revolved around. I just wanted to work because I thought I had bills to pay and a car to buy.

One week later, a company called me in for an interview. Long story short, what I thought was going to be a creative marketing position turned out to be sales. I accepted the position initially, and ended up crying for the rest of the day. I blamed my small ink of depression on my mom, who pointed out if I went along with the job then I wouldn’t have time to sing anymore. I think the thought of not having time for singing put me in a state of angry shock. I realized this isn’t what I wanted to do at all. The next morning I called and declined the position. And from that point on, I decided I was going to be a Disney princess at Disneyland. I wasn’t going to put that small dream of mine in the backseat anymore. Am I going to be one for sure? I have no idea. I haven’t been to an audition in years. Do I care? No. Although the uncertainty is killing me, I just want to say that I tried.

I see my friends on Facebook, and I’m really proud of my friends who are working and doing what we all set out to do after college, but at the same time a little jealous. There’s still a little part of me that beats myself up about not “adulting” at this very moment. I’m always at a constant battle with my ego, one part telling me that I need to get my shit together and another part reminding me that I’m only 21-years-old with no bills to pay, so getting my shit together can wait. But my dreams can’t.