Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I thought I'd announce this here as a special reward to my blog followers.  First of all, thank you so much for your support during my year of adventures and self-discovery.  It's been such an intense and emotional year, but honestly, something as simple as knowing that you guys were reading this, and encouraging me to update more frequently, helped me to feel grounded in your friendship even though I was miles away. 

When I was in Nicaragua, there was a girl there who was volunteering from the States.  She had lived there in a small village for over a year with limited communication with her family-- i.e. a few times a week when she could get into the city and find an internet cafe, etc.  She was wrapping up her time in Nicaragua, about to move back to the U.S., and I remember her telling me that her biggest fear throughout her time in Nicaragua was the idea that her family and friends' lives just kept on going without her in it.  At the time I didn't fully understand her statement-- it seemed a bit selfish and a little over-dramatic; it's not like her family was going to forget about her, and it was only a year...  But within my first month of living in NYC on my own, her comment kept running through my mind, and I instantly found its meaning.  So again I thank you for taking an interest in my adventures, and essentially, even if it was just for a few minutes a day, allowing our two worlds to intersect. 

With that being said, here's my fun news:
As of 1:06pm (EST), I became the newest and proudest East End Explorer!  I will be East End's very first dance instructor, and I get the extreme privilege of building a dance program from the ground up! And the icing to the cake: my new boss helped assuage one of my fears by being extremely flexible and creative in allowing me to find ways to continue my dance education in Houston so that I don't lose all of the training and development I acquired here in New York City.  I'm extremely excited about my next chapter, and feel as though everything is falling in place more perfectly than I could have imagined.  I'll be staying in NYC as long as possible so I can squeeze out every ounce of talent and passion from this rich city-- probably leaving towards the end of July (the poet in me leaning towards the 26th to be exact, rounding out my one full year to the date)!

So there it is!  I am excited to be coming back to Texas and YES Prep-- drastically different, and eager to apply all that I've learned about life to my new phase, while still very much the same, and excited to feel at home again. 

'Tis so sweet...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Food for Thought

After recently retiring from my 8-month stint with waiting tables, I woke up at 4:30am this morning to return to the food service industry-- but this time with joy and excitement in my heart.  For many years, I've struggled with a desire to serve people who are homeless and hungry, but always having a different excuse for not getting involved.  Today was a first step as I went to St. Bartholomew's Church to serve a warm breakfast to anyone who chose to come.  What I loved about the church was that they had us set up 36 place settings, and allowed men and women to come in and sit for as long as they wanted.  Once someone left, a new person was welcomed in to have a seat.  No one was rushed, and seconds and thirds were given upon request.  Ladies walked around the room with carafes offering more apple juice and hot coffee, and as our guests left, they were encouraged to take baggies with tuna sandwiches and cereal bars with them for later in the day.  And if they wanted extra sandwiches, all they had to do was ask.  I couldn't get over how laissez-faire the whole process seemed to be.  I suppose I was expecting people to be herded through a line and scolded for asking for more than their fair share-- as if they should simply be grateful that we were doing this great service for them... but perhaps I was projecting those expectations from the darkness in my heart...

I just couldn't understand how everyone was going to be served endlessly without us running out of food, but to my great surprise, we had leftovers by the end of the meal, and we were trying to give extra food away!  And as always is the case in these situations, I walked away humbled and enlightened...

Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, "Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here."  [Jesus] replied, "You give them something to eat."  They answered, "We have only five loaves of bread and two fish." (About five thousand men were there.)  But he said to his disciples, "Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each."  The disciples did so, and everybody sat down.  Taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to the heaven, he gave thanks and broke them.  Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  Luke 9:12-17

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Defying Gravity

I don't really know who's reading which blogs, but this was a pretty defining moment in my NYC life, so I'm posting it to my main blog.  If you want to know more about my dancing/singing training, follow me on my 30-Day Full-Voice Challenge Blog: Rachael's 30-Day Challenge.

Today was my first private lesson with Kurt Robinson-- the organizer of the 30-Day Full-Voice Challenge: Broadway Dance Center-- Full Voice Challenge.  I've taken group classes from him for several months, but I've been afraid of going to his Performance class or taking private lessons from him because I didn't think I was ready.  Here's a blurb from the bio on his website:

Kurt’s clientele have enjoyed thriving performances in some of the hottest Broadway productions and national tours, including Billy Elliot, In the Heights, Hair, Spring Awakening, The Color Purple, Hairspray, Wicked, The Lion King, Tarzan, The Little Mermaid, Phantom of the Opera, Dream Girls, Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, A Chorus Line, Producers, Chicago, Spamalot, American Idiot, and the Radio City Rockettes. He has coached recording artists for the Columbia Artists, Jive, Def Jam, Epic, Atlantic, and Nickelodeon labels.

I hope this begins to paint the picture of why I was a little nervous about singing in front of him.  Nevertheless, in the Challenge's spirit of facing my fears, I signed up for my lesson with Kurt in hopes of learning from one of the best.  In preparation for our first meeting, I ran all over town trying to print and purchase sheet music for various songs so that we had a variety to choose from.  I didn't want to get there and have him tell me that none of the songs I had were really appropriate for my voice.

After walking me through some vocal warm ups for about 30 minutes, he asked me what music I brought.  I told him that I really wanted to work on "Landslide" by the Dixie Chicks, but I could only find the Fleetwood Mac version.  I told him that I also brought "Fallen for You" by Colbie Caillet, and that long, long, long term I really hoped to one day work on the Glee version of "Defying Gravity".  We tinkered with "Landslide" for a few moments, and he told me what key I could transpose the music to so that it would sound like the Dixie Chick version.  He had me sing through "Fallen for You" once, and then he said: "This is too easy for you.  Bring out the 'Defying Gravity'!"

Let's just say that for a brief second there was a mini 4th of July fireworks display inside my chest.  I went to my bag and pulled out my Glee music book-- I tried to use those few seconds to take deep breaths and relax.  And as he played the intro, I realized this is it, all or nothing... I'm just going to go for it.  And I went for it.  I sang that song like I had done so many times before--  in my bedroom when I was positive none of my roommates were home, in my car with the windows rolled up tight, in the shower when the water and tile acoustics make everyone sound like American Idol-- I went for it.  When I finished, I waited for the casual dismissal, the "yeaaaa... let's hold on to that one..." or the "we can keep coming back to that one when we want to push ourselves..."  But that's not what he said.

Instead he said, "You are definitely ready for this piece."  And although it's been 9 months since I've moved to New York City, my journey started today, in that moment.  I've been called out on it so many times before-- I am my own worst enemy, and my mind is the one thing that's holding me back.  I'd heard it from Goheen, "Trust yourself, Rachael."  I'd heard it from Bettina, "Just go for it."  I'd heard it from Sheila, "Get out of your own way."  I'd heard it from my other teachers, and my mom, and my friends, and complete strangers.  I've heard it since I was 9 years old starting my very first dance classes at Miss Darlette's studio. I've heard it my entire life.  So it was nothing new when Kurt told me, "You have the technique and you're doing everything right, you just need to build your confidence."  But for some reason, today was my tipping point, and today, I chose to listen. 

Today I decided to accept the fact that I'm an artist.  Being an artist isn't about trying to outdo the person next to you, or about being the best, or becoming a star.  It isn't about the competition at all-- quite the contrary.  You become an 'artist' when you recognize that the comparisons no longer matter, and you do what you do because something comes alive inside of you when you do it.  Artists dedicate themselves to developing their craft, and they get as much of a thrill receiving a standing ovation at a sold out theater as they do in the privacy of their own studio when they master a new technique in their practice.  Rachael the Artist recognizes that there will always be room to be better, but that truth is no longer viewed as a defeat; instead it's viewed as a reward-- part of the ongoing commitment to growth and creativity that artists accept with their title.  I knew 'something changed within me' when I realized that for the first time in my life, I am no longer afraid of failing... I'm afraid of not trying.

"I'm through accepting limits 'cause someone says they're so.  Some things I cannot change, but 'til I try, I'll never know."
-Defying Gravity