Scott, Robbi, Larry Bach and I recorded my “baby” over the next two weeks and entered it in the New Voices young songwriter competition sponsored by NewCAJE. Imagine my surprise when an email arrived saying “YOU WON!”
Not only had it won but it was now included on a CD with nine other new up-and-coming talents. The email also included an invitation to perform in-person at the NewCAJE conference in North Carolina in August, 2011.
At the conference, after a performance of a new art form made up of live music and improvisational story-telling, the six performers decided to jump into unknown waters and we founded an artists' collective called NuRootz. I discovered my inner musician and began writing more songs on the plane home from the conference; enough for an album!
With new-found confidence and excitement, I began planning an album and a brand-new career. That's when tragedy struck my family. My sister, Lauren, committed suicide.
Lauren struggled with mental illness for years but I didn't know how difficult her struggle was. Laying there in the hospital, on life support, my parents and I struggled to sing to Lauren, Debbie Friedman’s "Mi Shebeirach." I sang her my song - the one that seemed to wake everyone up at the conference - praying that it would do the same for Lauren.
It wasn’t to be. After five days, we learned that she would never wake again and we decided to let her rest. She’s buried in Rhode Island among our family she loved so much.
Ever since then, as I've been putting the pieces of my life back together, I have found that music is helping me heal in so many ways. Healing starts when I write it down. It continues as I sing it to someone, and the greatest gift is when even one person says, "Your words helped me heal, too."
May the music of my soul light up your days.
Only light can banish the darkness.