2008-05-20 (email sent to Martin Espino on the birthday of my late and most favorite uncle Bob):
Hola Martin, We met in Denver on May 10th at the Chinook Fund's evening event at the museum. Ancient and new are we. I am your sister and your friend. If you ever decide to come to Boston call me.
You know that feeling when you meet another awakened being who comes from your soul lineage, is on your same frequency, and resonates with you so fully that you long to create and play with them? I had this feeling with you. As soon as we began to talk and play my soul and heart recognized you ~ in lak’ech. I wanted to spend time with you, go deeper, play and twinkle more. This may yet happen, and when it does, oh yum! but for now I have you through your CD. And I want you to know how your music has affected me.
Your music has set me free. There were some shackles mental and emotional that were gossamer thin but strong like wire that I couldn't find a way to cut loose. Your album Curandero had all the sounds, tones, keys, harmonies, dissonances, rhythms, simplicities and complexities that my soul needed to awaken the power to express the fullness of my Spirit. El Nacimiento de la Princesa activated my throat and vibrated my heart chakras to new joyful frequencies. Mana danced all inside my body like a ball bouncing from one wall to another breaking down barriers and activating nodes of light that were present but dormant. The speed and notes in Los Voladores activated my crown chakra and brought it to full alert. Mexicayotl pulled the fear of public expression in my own name (not inside of a group) from my solar plexus. It brings tears of gratitude and relief to my eyes each time I hear it. It also tickles memories of something familiar and loved.
Every piece on your CD moves me. My soul recognizes the music and instruments but my ears in this lifetime have never heard (nor did I ever expect to hear) authentic ancient Pangean, Atlantean, Lemurian, Aztecan, Mayan music. I've heard other musicians play similar instruments and music of this kind but it did not go in like yours does. Your breath and spirit move through every piece, instrument, melody, rhythm and note and so, it went in. What joy, appreciation and gratitude to feel and receive this from you ~ who is the sound curandero, musical shaman, jokester, lover, wise man, warrior, artist, poet. What a gift. Gracias. And thank you for the kick in the butt . . . I mean, for setting me free.
In the One, Tonia
2008-06-27: It was supposed to be Improvelocity performing at Outpost 186 in Cambridge MA but once again 3 of the 6 members couldn't make it for various reasons which left me (Tonia), Ukumbwa and Paul to represent. The theme was "J.J.'s Birthday Concert ~ celebrating his birthday and the birthday everyone present, even if it's not today" and I decided to apply the elements of East Coast Chant without announcing that this was what we were doing. That way I could get a feel for it before we actually did it for real.
It was wonderful! There were 4 people in the audience: my honey J.J., my aunt Dorothy, and friends Brad and Rebecca. We opened with and interspersed improvised pieces just like we always do for Improvelocity but added performance of written songs. We did Fever, a song I wrote called Edgewalker, a call and response chant I'm Connected, improvised music to the reading of the lyrics Pirate Jenny which I first heard sung by Nina Simone, morphed something we were playing into Fragile by Sting, did a very cool rendition of Day-O sung by Harry Belafonte, and I did an amazing improvised / channeled song, something about Wind in My Hair and going into town at the request of the resident wise woman to get a reading from her. When lyrics flow out of me like that, that even rhyme in most places, I'm just as riveted as the audience as it unfolds.
J.J. was beaming to bursting that he received the gift of a personal concert on his birthday. Dorothy said "This place should have been packed! You're really good, and this is 100 times better than anything else I've seen you do." Brad said something like, 'You've got to sing in night clubs and bigger stages, your songs are amazing, you can't keep this from the public, I've never heard you sing like this before, it's amazing . . .' Then he repeated himself about 8 more times until I finally had to tell him, "yes, I've got it, I hear you. Would you please be my manager or publicist and find me venues?" Rebecca, who is a dancer (among many other things), said that the music was so beautiful and compelling that she had to get up and move. She was grateful that Brad was there to dance with her and she just couldn't remain seated after the first 10 minutes. So this helped me to realize that I had to add Ecstatic Dance to the list of offerings of East Coast Chant.
So once again, I say to the Universe: Get those people in the door and fill those seats!! I'll do the rest - well really it's You doing it all but I've got a mission to accomplish here and there are people who want what I've got! So help me reach them.
And I like to believe, given the coincidence of dates in May, that three of my most beloved relatives on the other side of the veil ~ my mother "Wilkie" who was my spiritual teacher and guide, my grandmother Lovie (we were each others favorite), and my uncle Bob who helped me understand what a truly loving father-figure feels like ~ influenced this creation somehow.
2008-07-27: The first public presentation of East Coast Chant on July 25th at Outpost 186 in Cambridge MA was just what I hoped for and provided a lot of good information about what could be better. On the plus side we had a nice audience of about 10 people in this very small room (20 max). One person came in because she "saw the sign outside" and stayed for the whole experience. One person said that she was very grateful to be able to release something that she'd been holding onto for a long time. This is what the personal healing portion is all about. If even one person walks away with a renewed sense of being, then we've accomplished our mission.
People liked the moving sacred geometry slide show and there were some magical musical moments and some not so magical. I listened to the recording the next day and was blown away by the beauty of a couple of the chants. It's so different when you're doing it vs. listening to it.
On the minus side, the flow felt a bit disjointed to me (sometimes it's better not to improvise) and the energy dropped a couple of times. One person said that it would have been helpful to be more explicit when beginning the personal and planetary healing sections. Good advice.
An unexpected experience was that I felt very out of it, disconnected, when we were finished. I had no inclination or desire to engage in conversation and felt a bit spacy. Must have been that healing energy pumping through me and my voice.
Big thanks to Michael K. for recording this pilot session for me and to Laurie D. for helping me pack my things. I was glad to have her extra help at the end of the night or I might have been there until midnight.
2008-08-11 East Coast Chant at The Arlington Center for Yoga drew 19 people who listened, sang, danced and participated.
The highlight of the evening for me was the releasing ceremony. I taught everyone the African American spiritual, "Run Mary, Run, You've Got A Right to the Tree of Life" then asked them to substitute their own name in place of Mary and to change the pronoun from you to I. This made it much more personal and meaningful. Each person thought of something they'd like to let go of and be free from (person, place, thing, situation, health condition, feeling, thought pattern, belief system, addiction, pain, etc.). While everyone sang, one by one each person came to the altar, dipped their fingers in the water to release whatever it was into the water*, stepped back to received the rest of the clearing from Ukumbwa who passed his Shamanic rattles over the front and back of the body and from me where they received a sealing of their energy field using my Ohm tuning fork from ear to ear over the top of the head. * I explained that they would not take on anything from the water because the talisman that was encircling the bowl was drawing everything out of the water, through the glass, and releasing it into the Violet Fire of Transmutation to be transformed back into pure white Light.
This ceremony was so powerful that I think I'll include it each time.
Laurie Douglas agreed to help me as a personal assistant and boy did I ever need her help. She is so competent and organized and a perfect companion for this work. I hope she can be available more and more often. We also had professional audio recording by my True Story Theater mate Jonathan Wyner who owns M-Works Mastering in Cambridge MA, plus still photos taken by my sister Sandy and video taken by my honey JJ. Thanks to Christopher Ellinger for loaning me his video camera. Not sure how any of the audio-visual came out yet but will post anything worthwhile on the ECC website.
2008-09-22 I notice how things appear quickly when they are in complete alignment with my purpose and in agreement with all aspects of my being and appear more slowly, or not at all, when they aren’t.
Last winter I received an email from a friend announcing that she was presenting a workshop at a place I had never heard of called The Center at Westwoods. Always on the lookout for new venues to perform and present in, I went to their website and discovered that they are holistic healing center in the town of Westwood MA only about 25 minutes drive from where I live.
Fast forward to June 2008. Improvelocity has officially dissolved its current configuration of personnel. Several of the musicians have encouraged me to go out on my own, do my own thing, sing and promote my music simply as Tonia. They said they would support me musically and this is what I needed to hear in order to make that giant internal leap from being a lifelong ensemble player to being a solo artist. I appreciated this encouragement because I really wanted to do this but needed some kind of validation or kick in the butt to actually do it.
You can’t imagine the many rationalizations and reasons I had to devise to convince myself that just like I operate in the business world as an individual consultant I could do this music thing on my own, under my own name, and it would not mean that I was being egotistical, narcissistic or fame seeking if I did. I actually had to convince myself that being a singer, under my own name and not the name of a group, was a necessary next step to beam my light into the world as brightly and effectively as possible in order to increase the spiritual light on the planet. So I kind of did and kind of didn’t.
On June 5th 2008 I submitted a proposal to The Center at Westwoods – under my own name – requesting that they consider hosting two of the musical healing things I do: East Coast Chant and Dream Songs. Of course, at this point East Coast Chant was only a concept and I had not actually performed it in public yet. But spirit was fully behind my request and so I sent it in. When I didn’t hear back on the proposal, at the beginning of August I called to find out the status. I was invited by the Executive Director to come in for an interview on August 7th which I did.
On the appointed sunny day, I turned off Route 109 and onto the long road where The Center at Westwoods was located. I turned onto the property and found myself on a winding drive in fairy woods of lush trees, wooded land, stones, stream, vast flat and hilly lawn, ponds, trails into the woods. There was a massive in-ground labyrinth with a large quartz crystal mounted in the center and surrounded on the outer perimeter by Tibetan Prayer Wheels in each of the four directions. There were many man-made shrines and places for meditating and contemplating life that included a large gong on top of a hill, a well that was reconstructed for sitting inside the earth below ground level, statues of Quan Yin, Saraswati, Ganesha, Buddha and other divine beings placed around the grounds. And that was just the outside.
When we met, the Executive Director explained that we had about 20 minutes, that she had looked over my proposal and websites and wanted to hear more about me. The 20 minutes expanded into 2 hours of conversation and a Dream Song demonstration. When the Dream Song was complete she said, “You’re the real thing.” Then she said that she would like to offer Dream Songs, East Coast Chant, dream study groups, and True Story Theater. I felt like I hit the jackpot! Never before was one of my proposals accepted for more than I proposed. We worked out the details of what we would call the different offerings, the fee rates to be paid, and the schedule for when they would happen.
When our work was complete I was invited to roam the building to see what was there. Yum! So many rooms . . .for sitting, talking, reading, meditating, praying, and doing yoga, energy or massage work. I realized that this was a fairly new building with hardwood floors everywhere with altars from every culture scattered about. I started my tour on the first floor and went up the back stairs to the second floor where I found more rooms small and large, and many more bathrooms. When I arrived at the front again I was on the second floor landing. There in front of me was a magnificent Chihuly blown glass chandelier hanging from the lobby ceiling. Wow!!! Then there was the meditation hall. It is a separate building that appears to be a converted barn with vaulted ceilings, a huge fireplace, windows galore, and a small meditation room at the top of a lighthouse type wrought iron spiral staircase.
I realized that this was a manifestation of the healing center I had wished to create many years ago and here I was and it was at no cost to me. Had I decided not to sing on my own I wouldn’t have found this place. Had I decided not to submit a proposal, I wouldn’t have found this place. Had I assumed she wasn’t interested and failed to call her back, I wouldn’t have found this place. And now, with physical validation in hand, I consider it my personal home base for spiritual healing and creative self expression.
2008-10-17 Tonight was our first Chant at The Center at Westwoods. There were 5 bold souls who came to find out what it was all about. They sang, they danced, they participated in the healing ritual. By the end of the evening they were all happy and planning to bring others next month.
2008-11-20 We tripled our attendance tonight and had a warm friendly audience. Many good chants and great participation. I even got one sour puss (her serious face seemed to say, I'm not going to enjoy this no matter what) to break into a big smile when I passed the singing bowl in front of her! That was my big YES! for the evening. Also had CDs available with chants that were recorded during the summer. I feel blessed to be able to share this experience with so many people and hear back from them about the healing they experience and the changes they see in others.
2008-12-21 We got snowed out for our Winter Solstice "shine your light from the inside out" chant. It was a tough decision but I wanted to be wisely safe than sadly sorry since travel was not good.
2009-01-16 The sparkle, twinkle theme was postponed to tonight. Only a couple of people wore something that sparkled. My inner guidance was right about bringing some lengths of tinsel garland. Just about everyone took a piece and made a sparkling crown, necklace or bracelet. The sounds of the 16" crystal singing bowl and the chants were powerful during the ceremony and most everyone seemed to experience a more positive, peaceful or uplifted mood by the end of the evening.