“Where do you see yourself in five years?” Most of us have been asked that question at some point in our lives and five years ago my answer would have probably centered around church, family and music. I was in a good place, directing music, working with amazing artists and songwriters, and I was surrounded by an amazing group of faith-filled family and friends. I was happy and confident about the path that lay before me, then a stroke, stage 4 Lymphoma diagnosis and being given a 50% chance of survival changed that path and me forever.
Let’s start at the top. Born in Dayton, Ohio to a wonderful, middle-class family. Dad worked for an automaker; mom was a stay-at-home mom, life was fairly predictable. We lived in the country, so I never spent a lot of time at friends’ houses. Shall we say, I had to find ways to entertain myself. I showed signs of being musically inclined at a very early age. I would constantly listen to my parents LP’s (if you remember those). Everything from Linda Ronstadt to Diana Ross, to Elvis. So at age 5, my parents started me with piano lessons. After about 2 lessons, I decided I did not like the teacher, and would teach myself. I spent hours that bled into days that bled into weeks and months listening to songs on the radio, committing every chord to memory until I learned to play them on the piano. The invention of the Walkman made this a much easier process and my house a much quieter place.
In College, I studied vocal performance. One day, some friends and I were in a practice room. We were singing some of our favorite songs, while I accompanied everyone on piano. When the head of the piano department heard me playing, he hired me as a staff accompanist at the college. I accompanied student and staff recitals, rehearsals and theatre productions. This quickly led to becoming musical director for a plethora of student and school productions. It was the experience of working for the university in the music department and majoring in Organizational Communications that would benefit me greatly in my years as a Music Director.
In 2016, the floor dropped from beneath me. It was a Friday in January of 2016, and those were usually my days to sleep in. I received a phone call, and the person on the other line realized something was amiss. He called his wife and asked her to check on me. The next thing I remember, I am in the emergency room. Apparently I had a stroke. After 5 days in the hospital, I was in for about 3 months of rehab. You see, I lost complete use of my right side, and for a pianist and singer, that was devastating. What would I do with the rest of my life? Prayerfully, and with God’s grace and healing, I made a full recovery.
Jump ahead 2 months, and I was at a memorial day BBQ. I noticed my leg was swollen. Like many people, I said I would watch it for a couple of days. By the next day, my leg was so swollen, I could hardly wear my jeans. To make an extremely long story slightly shorter, I was diagnosed with a blood clot in my groin, that was later (1 day later) re-diagnosed as a tumor. I had stage-4 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma that would require immediate treatment. After 5 months of intensive chemotherapy, I recovered.
As I write this story, it is 2021 and I am 5 years cancer free! There is something about being given a second and third chance that makes you reexamine your life and your path. My examination placed my spirituality, which has always played a large part in my life, at the forefront as well as an overwhelming desire to be more in touch with nature and myself.
Here it is five years later and my second and third chances have given me laser focus into what I want to do. One of my favorite quotes is a statement by Bob Sorge, “There is an intrinsic bond between music and love.” I want to show the love of God. I want to spread kindness and light; being mindful of how my life impacts the lives of others. I want to use my music, as much as humanly possible to help spread that love. We are all in this life together, no shame, no judgement, no lack of love or empathy. Who’s with me? Let’s do this.