Follow by Email

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Note of Thanks...

 
Professionally, 2012 has been a wonderful year for me! Many excellent musical collaborations, concerts and workshops here and in Europe, and plans have been made for a BIG 2013.

 
On the home front, I could not be more blessed. Tony and are happy and healthy, with a lovely granddaughter, and a second grandchild on the way. Our extended family is all well and thriving. We are so proud of the kids and nieces and nephews, and we really get a thrill watching their lives unfold.

 
I am grateful for my wonderful friends and the depth and richness they bring to my life. And our four legged kids are a joy. Well, most of the time!

 
But, what about the rest of the world? I wonder on a regular basis what can be done to change the conditions on our troubled planet. How can I be a part of the healing? How can I help to change our collective consciousness from one of hate to one of love? Is there anything I can do to "enlighten" our world? What can any one person do?

 
Well, there's the obvious - donate to our favorite causes, volunteer at a shelter, offer a kind word or a helping hand to an elderly person.

 
But, can we really make a difference? I'm not always sure.


Here is what I do know. I know that when I live my life in gratitude, when I share my joy through music, when I act lovingly to everyone I meet, I feel good. And when I feel good, I am a force for good.

 While I have not yet succeeded in acting lovingly 100% of the time, I'm getting better at it. And I believe that it matters.

 
I imagine that if all my family and friends were to act lovingly, we'd create a little bubble of positive energy in Philadelphia. If all my friends and I in Maryland lived a life filled with gratitude, then there would be another little bubble of joy in Maryland.

 
You get my drift.

 
So, Thank you. I am so very grateful for the joy, abundance and love in my life. And the music, especially the music. Thank you.

 
I wish you all a blessed Christmas and Holiday Season, and a joyfilled New Year.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

America The Beautiful...


Fall makes me nostalgic. It is a time of reflection, and I always look forward to time spent with close friends and family during the holidays.  An election year fall also makes me grateful to be an American.  As a witness - every day on the news - to the fear and hatred and violence suffered by people living in the Middle East, I thank God for the many blessings in my life.

There are many things I would change and many suggestions I have for improvement in our government, social systems, medical care and environmental policies. But I would not trade being an American for anything in the world.

I am proud of who we are as a people. As many of you know, I hurt my hip a few months ago and although I’m much better, I’m still limping a bit. And what I’ve noticed is that people who do not know me from Adam  - without exception – go out of their way to help. Doors are opened and held for me, offers to carry my groceries are frequent, and I sense a caring and kindness of heart in each person I meet.

I see people helping the elderly, kids and animals all the time. We have an almost parental manner in the way in which we look after one another. And in times of crisis, we are one. No questions asked.  We elevate our collective consciousness, lovingly and peacefully caring for one another. We realize who we are meant to be and we respond to a higher purpose. It may take a crisis for us to recognize what a great people we are, but really, it is happening in small ways every day.

So if we can embrace and love one another so naturally and easily when we are faced with a challenge, or when someone needs our help, why then do we just as easily forget all that and become so irrational when it comes to politics? American politics are seething. Our ability to discuss and learn from one another in this forum has vanished. It just doesn’t make sense.

While I have very strong political convictions, I will not allow hate to enter my heart.  Hate is simply a manifestation of fear. And if fear is the opposite of Love, then how can filling our consciousness with hate possibly serve the higher good of us all?

 As Americans, we have the freedom to disagree and not be tortured or murdered for our beliefs. We have the right to carry on a political discourse, to protest or to become activists for any cause we wish. This is a freedom that I cherish, and yet I am often afraid to express a political opinion for fear that even my oldest friends and closest family members will become enraged, demeaning and downright abusive if they disagree with me.

You can’t fight darkness, but you can turn on a light. The darkness that pervades our politics and undermines its process cannot be changed when we are consumed with hate and anger. It can only change with a shift from fear to Love in each of our hearts. One person at a time.  Awake from the collective nightmare we have created, and turn on your own light. Our great country deserves equally great Americans.

May God bless our President, Governor Romney and all the brave souls who are willing to serve our nation as elected officials.  Please light their way.

Michael Jackson said it well….

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror,
I’m asking him to change his ways.
And no message could have been any clearer...
If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and…Make a change!”

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Feelin' Groovy!


I’ve been getting a strong message lately, and it’s not a new one: SLOW DOWN!   Actually, I’ve been getting different iterations of this message for about 30 years, and up until now I have totally ignored them.

I’m the kind of girl who runs full bore ahead until complete exhaustion forces me to stop. Most often it’s a cold or flu that puts me to rest for a few days, and even then, I can’t resist using the “down-time” to clean out closets, make lists, re-organize the kitchen…. well, you know the drill. It’s like this – God gives me a little tap-tap-tap on the shoulder (in the form of the aforementioned cold) and I brush him off time and again. I just refuse to listen.

Nothing I’ve tried so far helps me, because fundamentally I don’t want to slow down.  For about a year now, I’ve been studying the Alexander Technique (which is all about slowing down) and it is the hardest course of study I have ever undertaken.  I work so hard at this technique that I pretty much defeat its purpose. It’s hard to connect deeply with yourself when you are trying to be perfect at doing it.  Still, I continue the study and continue to grow.

Anyway,  God must have been sick and tired of being ignored, because last April, instead of a tap-tap-tap on the shoulder, he clocked me one – he knocked me out with a very tough lesson.  I was zooming along trying to be perfect at yoga when I over-stretched to such an extreme that I tore my hip labral cartilage and strained the hip flexor tendon.  Truly unbelievable.  Stubborn as always, rather than slow down and listen to my body, I charged ahead seeking a solution.

I spent months getting every treatment in the book and working hard at physical therapy while my symptoms only got worse.  Finally my good friend and muscle therapist said, “Maybe you need to rest, Erin.  This is a bad injury.  Rest it.”  I was at my wit’s end, in tears every five minutes from frustration, and so, finally, I listened.

While painful, exasperating and disturbingly slow to heal, this injury has taught me much.  I learned that healing begins in my mind.  That no amount of effort or determination can move things along faster than they are meant to go.  That until I surrender and am willing to accept my limitations, I will not find any peace. And most importantly, I learned that my decades old nagging message is crucial to  happiness and success.  Life is about the process, not the result.  Having an intense focus on achieving a positive outcome defeats its own purpose.

This summer has been an emotional roller coaster.  I am just now beginning to learn how to be still, how to rest and how to value my own internal deadlines more than the insane music business pressures that drive me.  I’m not fool enough to believe that I am finished with this lesson, but I can say that I’ve passed the first course:

Slow Down: 101 – 4 credits – B minus. Fall semester coming up.

Here is my new mantra:

Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.   (Paul Simon)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

To Conncet, Disconnect or Reconnect....finding our balance.

I recently sent a “rant” email to a good friend…the topic was mobile devices  - where their use is prohibited at a club – a rule that is often ignored. We were specifically discussing the Kindle, which arguably can be considered a book, except that now, the Kindle Fire works like an iPad, - internet, apps and all.  So the fifteen-year-old sitting next to you is most likely not reading Harry Potter. If you allow the Kindle, than all hell breaks loose.
Is this what they call bonding?

The idea is that we go to a private golf course or swimming pool to relax;  most of my friends agree that use of mobile devices can be an annoyance. I find  mobile devices to be equally irritating in restaurants, planes, doctor’s offices and other public spaces.


I really like no cell-phone rules. It is a refreshing escape from the non-stop chatter. My over-stimulated multi-tasking brain needs a break from time to time, and it is certainly no hardship to step outside to take a call or check email if need be.


Don’t get me wrong, I am just as addicted as the next girl, but don’t you find our obsessive attachment to devices a little unsettling?  Like at the dinner table for starters. What happened to conversation? Is it now actually socially acceptable to dine with friends while texting? I recently had lunch with a friend who took a tech-support call for about a half hour during our meal. Huh? Next time that happens, I will get up and leave.


Is being so connected making us disconnected? Tony gently reminds me when he feels that I have become disconnected, and he’s usually right on. You cannot interact at any meaningful level with another person while you are checking your email. Is my cyber-life really that much more compelling than “real-time” with my family? Why do I reach for the iPad the second I open my eyes in the morning?


What concerns me most is that without thoughtful parental guidance, the next generation will miss out on “real-time” relationships, on doing only one thing at a time - like reading a book on vacation, taking a walk in the woods or witnessing the beauty of our environment. They are missing out on lazy summer afternoons swinging in a hammock, on long deep conversations – in person - about the meaning of life. Communication today is in bits and spurts….RU 4 real? BRB….checking Twitter. No wonder so many of our kids are diagnosed with ADHD….who can focus on anything for more than a minute when ten other things are beeping?

 
Lovely Colette

Still, the technology is awesome. I am in contact now with hundreds of friends…seeing pictures of weddings and grandbabies and hearing music, seeing performances that I’d have never been able to witness.  Recently, I reconnected with of my best and oldest friends.  I’d been hoping (and trying) to find her for 30 years (turns out she’s living in Asia), and last week she just popped up on Face Book! We had an amazing catch-up session on Skype.  She looks, sounds and is wonderful!  It is a HUGE gift for me to have Colette back in my life.


So I guess it’s all about striking a balance. It’s hard to stop eating potato chips, and it’s hard to turn off my iPhone, but I think that inhibiting both these impulses is equally important to my well-being.


Right now, it is a perfectly lovely lazy, sunny Sunday afternoon…I’m gonna take my first summer read* outside, sit under a big tree and soak in the beautifulness.  (BTW – it is a real book, not a Kindle edition. I like how it feels and smells.)  Later, I’d like to take a swim with my husband and throw a ball for my dog.


Signing off now ….all devices shutting down.

 *Check out this book:  “A Beautiful Medicine,” written by my good friend David Mercier. It is a lovely and enlightening work and I am savoring it.  Enjoy!

(Available on Amazon)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

So....you wanna be a teacher?


I cannot tell you how I have been looking forward to this European trip, and spending time with my friend and agent, Guy. It has been a whirlwind, and a great learning experience for me. The conference was amazing and fruitful. The musicians I met were wonderful, and I came home with many new friends.

But, one thing stands out  for me - the realization, yet again, that we are divinely guided in everything we do.

A case in point is this: Last Saturday evening we traveled to Hamburg, where I'd been invited to teach a Master Class to students at the Hoschule (University of Music and Theatre) there. It was a three hour class called Learning To Let Go and it passed in what seemed like minutes. Connecting with young singers and helping them to access inner passion while giving permission to let go and free-fall into their music was an amazing experience.  It  was my first foray into the world of teaching, and I would like to do more of it. It makes me even more appreciative of the gifts I have been given.

Warming up with my students  at the Hoschule in Hamburg
We started our class with a short introduction to the Alexander Technique the premise being that in order to let go emotionally and musically, one must first start with letting go physically. This technique has been transformational for me in the short seven months I have been studying it, so it was my great honor to expose my students to this wonderful tool. I also feel pretty comfortable talking about passion in music, as it is what makes me tick as a singer.

I gained a much deeper understanding of my own passion after witnessing these students literally transform before my eyes. After their performances, I felt alive beyond belief and when, at the end of our class, I sang "I Must Have That Man," I found myself deeply moved. I think teachers are so blessed for the gifts they receive from their students.

A few days later, I took an Alexander Technique lesson from a wonderful Brazilian singer, Georgia Dias, who is living in Amsterdam. I had been following Georgia online, and was especially interested in having a lesson from a singer with her experience. At the suggestion of Dr. Bedford, my instructor at home, I made an appointment several weeks in advance.

I wanted more information on the nitty gritty of vocal production in an Alexander context. How do I keep my neck free? How do I better navigate my registers? Will this current feeling of vocal "out of controll-ness" ever pass? How can I maintain my elite balance and still plug in to my performance? Georgia seemed a perfect choice for this technical exploration.

I arrived at her studio and met her little dog, Buster, who (just like Dr. Bedford's dog Alfie) wanted to be a part of the lesson. Something about the vibe that draws them in, I think. Then I noticed the English forward seat jumping saddle in the corner...."Do you ride," I asked? She answered, "Have you ever tried to sing while riding a horse?"  I had to admit - not since I was eleven.  Now I was intrigued.

She asked me to sing for her while she worked hands-on with my back, breath and free-ness. Then she talked about imagery and asked me to sing again. Georgia facilitated a connection deep into my soul, and it became almost impossible to produce a single note. Tears flooded down my cheeks, while she kept saying, "ah, good, THERE! There you are! This is your passion.  Just sing." A fantastic free-fall!

We sang in the saddle to free the hips, we watched a video by Elis Regina, a remarkable artist from Brazil, we talked shop and passion - and I felt like the walls had been blown off my psyche.

So much for my technical questions....I now understand that they are completely irrelevant to the process. My time with Georgia  reaffirmed my every core belief about music, life and love, and beautifully complemented the study I have undertaken with Dr. Bedford at Westchester University.

Talk about the teacher becoming the student!  I designed a curriculum to share with the Master Class students in Hamburg, and Georgia instinctively used that very same curriculum to coach me - to release and re-ignite my own passion.

If you are ever in need of affirmation from the universe that you are on the right course, just look around. Open your eyes and let it in.

This is the message I am getting: Don't worry about it, Erin, just sing. JUST SING!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring has sprung, and I'm down with that!

Have you ever wondered (as Jerry Seinfeld would say) about the expression, “I’m down with that?” It means “I’m excited about that,” or, “I support that,” or “thumbs up!”

So why isn’t it, “I’m up with that?”

Either way…I am all over spring!

There is no greater feeling than getting a chance to start again, to re- commit to one’s goals, get re-inspired and feel a new surge of energy.  Spring also reminds us that we are here for a reason, that we have a purpose greater than our own.

While we chug along day after day working diligently to reach our goals, sometimes it is hard to stay true to the passion that drives our dreams, much less connect the dots from passion to higher purpose.

I enjoy the downtime that winter offers, and find myself somewhat grumpy when the newfound light brought to us by daylight savings first signals the start of spring. I like hibernation, and don’t let go of it easily.

But before long I am taking lengthy walks with Captain, cleaning out closets, digging in the garden and feeling the exhilaration that only spring can engender in the whole world at once. Tony patiently endures an avalanche of new ideas, “we should’s” and “honey-do’s.”  Out with the old…I am ready to take on the world!  Maybe it’s the Christian metaphor of the crucifixion / resurrection, because I certainly feel resurrected!
Tuillerie Gardens in spring.

So how can we harness this powerful energy, and use it when we doubt ourselves, when things seem impossible? How can we connect the dots on a daily basis?

A Course in Miracles tells us, “Nothing real can be threatened; nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.”  

Here is what is real for me: I was put here to spread the joy and healing that music has given me. I am here to share the gift of music, to touch as many souls as I possibly can and to act as a facilitator for the power of Love.

Here is what’s un-real for me:  Fear, self-doubt, insecurity, negative and paralyzing beliefs.

So, I am down ….and up with spring! Out with the un-real! It does not exist!

Sounds simple maybe, but this mantra is what keeps me going when it all seems impossible.
“Nothing real can be threatened; nothing unreal exists.  Herein lies the peace of God.”

Happy Easter, everyone!



(For more information about A Course In Miracles, please visit: http://acim.org/)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Courage

I have three close friends with painful, debilitating and potentially fatal diseases.  One has suffered for many years; the two others were recently afflicted.


We all get together several times a year.  They usually exhaust me.


This is a group that gets up slowly and eases into the day.  Meds need to kick in.  Rooms stay dark and the house is quiet.  But just for a while.


I consider myself a go-ahead girl - pretty brave when things are tough and willing to work through the challenges that face me.


I am truly a light-weight in the company of these remarkable friends.


We have never come to visit when there has not been a houseful of guests: college roommates, widows, friends down on their luck, and other fortunate freeloaders there for a good time.


Once the day gets rolling, our hosts work-out, attend charity board meetings, help friends during the day, take in stray pets.  We shop and cook together and have an army for dinner every night.  We screech with laughter, stay up late, reminisce, and celebrate life together with unbridled joy.


The atmosphere is filled with light and love.  We carry on with jubilation for days at a time.  And there is never a mention of pain, or illness . . . or fear.  No complaints.  No limitations.


It’s just in those early morning hours when the house is still that one can sense the silent suffering.  A few hours at the start of the day when disease is in charge.  I feel so helpless.  There is nothing I can do to make it better.


Other than pick up some strawberries and the fish for diner and call the neighbors to see how many will join us this evening.  Send Tony out for some nice red wine.  And be there to share the laughter.


I get to go home pain free.  They don’t.  They just keep on keepin’ on.


That is courage.


God bless you, my dears.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

EASTERN SHORE RESIDENT WINS 2012 INDIVIDUAL ARTIST AWARD FROM MARYLAND STATE ARTS COUNCIL

Easton, MD (February 21, 2012) – The Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), an agency of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, has recognized jazz vocalist Erin Dickins from Talbot County for creating work of exceptional quality. Ms. Dickins has been awarded the 2012 Individual Artist Award for Non-Classical Music Solo Performance for her CD, Nice Girls (Champagne Records) recorded in New York and Los Angeles and produced by Jesse Frederick.  Ms. Dickins is a longtime resident of Easton and a founding member of the jazz vocal group, Manhattan Transfer.

“Artists of this high caliber are the core of Maryland's modern creative economy,” said Hannah Byron, Assistant Secretary, Department of Tourism, Film and the Arts, “their work is essential to the arts, which generate a billion dollars a year in Maryland and improve our quality of life across the board.”

Administered by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, the MSAC's highly competitive Individual Artists Award (IAA) Program recognizes the unique contribution made by artists to the cultural vitality of Maryland. An out-of-state jury reviews submissions anonymously and recommends awards for Maryland artists.

The IAA Program reviews 18 artistic disciplines, which are separated into 3 competition groups that are awarded on a triennial basis. 2012 award categories include playwriting, crafts, photography, non-classical music composition, and non-classical music solo performance. Approximately one-third of the awards were made in the photography category, which also received the most submissions this year.

“I an extremely honored to have been selected among this year’s winners,” said Dickins. “It is a great source of encouragement to receive such recognition.”

Dickins will begin a European tour in April, and is planning concert dates in Asia later this year. For more information visit: www.ErinDickins.com

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Do You Know Who Your Friends Are?


For me writing a blog is about learning. Writing brings to light the things that are of my essense, things that make me tick. And writing also helps me to understand what it is that I can do to best contribute to the good of the order, so to speak. I wish I'd started writing earlier.


In recent years, a source of great delight for me has been that I now can clearly see brilliance in my friends. Thanks to FaceBook and the internet in general, I have had the good fortune to re-connect with many extraordinary old friends from early childhood, school and college and in the music biz. And witnessing them as fully self-realized adults (sorry I missed so many years of the process) is a revelation.


My years in New York, when I was young and impressionable, were a hell of a lot of fun.  As studio musicians, we were at the center of the music industry universe. We worked hard to be the best.  As personalities, we filled the spectrum. Some of us paralyzed by self-doubt. A few self-destructive.  Some confused by having such power at an early age.  Many just grooving along on the wonderful journey. We were surrounded by great genius and madness. Love and competitiveness. And fantastic creativity.


Imagine. I worked on a daily basis with the likes of players like Will Lee, Gordon Edwards, Steve Gadd, Chris Parker, Marvin Stamm, Jon Faddis, Randy Becker, Sid McGinnis, Steve Khan, Rob Mounsey, Tom Malone and a zillion others. Really?


And singers like Patti Austin, Valerie Simpson, Luther Vandross, Daryl Hall, Gordon Grody, Irene Cara, Melissa Manchester.

These were all well-known names in the business and their extraordinary level of excellence was taken for granted. As was the fact that this was a bunch of bright, well-educated, articulate and funny 20-somethings, experiencing success at a level most cannot hope to achieve in a lifetime. And I am only considering a handful of the musicians. There were literally hundreds of writers, producers, arrangers, engineers and assistants who were just as talented. And nobody outside the industry even knew their names.


So what are they like now? Even better. Powerful, centered, wise and still funny. 


There was a young assistant engineer in the 70’s of whom we were all quite fond. A kid named Glenn Berger, with a shock of red hair and super dedication to his work. I found him a couple of years ago on FaceBook He is now a psycho-therapist and author, and still a super cool, wonderful person. Glenn’s most recent blog post is just about the best thing I have ever read.


I have attached a link for you to enjoy his work. It’s about recording with Mick Jagger, babies and life. Bravo, Glenn. You ROCK!


Boy, it’s really fun to be a grown-up.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It doesn't get any better than this...

Well, I had a hell of a year in 2011. It was exciting and busy and filled with dreams and plans for my musical future. I am filled with anticipation for all that lies ahead.

But right before Christmas, I got a powerful message. For a week or so, everyone I met reminded me that the most important thing in my life is the present moment. It is not the outcome that brings the joy; it is the process. It is not looking at or listening to my new CD, rather, it is the creative process that matters – that’s where the rush is.

Now, this is not really news to me, it is a universal lesson that I have heard a million times, but somehow, I needed to hear it again....and again. It is a primary theme in Alexander Technique, of which I have become an ardent student.

I spoke recently (for the first time in 30 years) to my first manager from MT years, David Yeager, an absolutely delightful person with whom I’d lost contact. The first thing he said to me is, “Erin, are you enjoying the ride? I hope you are not focusing on the outcome.” In the thirty years’ time that had passed, I was wondering about his health, kids, business.....but he instinctively knew that I needed to hear that message, and so that’s where he went. Old friends are great in that way – they just know you so deeply.

It is very hard to not get excited about the future with so many opportunities coming my way. But last week I was rehearsing with Stef (Scaggiari) and I realized that none of it will be any more delicious, or better musically, or more interesting or closer to my heart than making music together and laughing about politics and sharing coffee in his living room. It’s the now. So I let myself sink into the moment and drink in every precious nuance of that sweet time with my friend. And it was vibrant.

Our lives reflect only as much abundance as we allow ourselves to experience. So if we are constantly living in the dreams we hold for our future, we close a door on receiving the gifts that are waiting for us in every single instant we live.

And, while I am jazzed ( in more ways than one) about all the things to come this year and beyond, my New Year resolution is to focus on the moment and not worry so much about the future. There is just no need to wait any longer... I’ll take my cake now, and whatever comes my way in the future will be the icing.