Category Archives: Music

Boundaries


ImageEmotional boundaries can be tough to define.  On the one hand, we want to welcome people into our lives and keep them there.  On the other hand, we want to make sure our hearts and bodies do not become damaged by another person’s presence. To accomplish this balancing act, we create boundaries.

Sometimes, these boundaries are so loose, they don’t prevent much more than someone drowning us in a pool.  Others have parameters that are so stringent, no one has access to the person’s vulnerability.  Both of these places can be very lonely for very different reasons.  The former creates loneliness because often, we are so ashamed that we will not discuss the situation with others.  The latter is lonely because we push everyone away who wants to get close.

Boundaries are a necessity, though.  Some view the production of boundaries as an ego-based activity.  I do not happen to believe it is.  I believe that these boundaries are a healthy way of building an emotional home in which to live.

“I welcome you to speak freely to me,” means there are a lot of windows from which light can bathe the room.

“I will only discuss things with you that are spoken respectfully,” means that orderliness in the home is vital to healthy living.

“I will not tolerate physical violence,” means that no one may approach your home with a wrecking ball.

“All people in my home will be respected… always… no matter how deeply you disagree with them,”  means that your home is a safe and healthy place to be for those who value those qualities, and a place from which others must leave if they do not choose to live according to these rules.

Arguments and disagreements are understandable.  Even anger has its place; however, one must always remember that love comes first.  One must love one’s self enough to act according to one’s highest expectation of himself, and one must love the other enough to not lose control over his words or actions.

Boundaries are healthy if not too loose or too stringent.  The best tool to determine how they work is to evaluate whether one is lonely or feels overwhelmed by the presence of another.  If one feels appropriate levels of both freedom and responsibility, joy and challenges, strength and growth, then one is in a marvelous place.

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Neurocracy in America


I finally figured it out!  It’s taken me a long, long time to define what the issue is in United States politics, but I’ve done it!  I have the answer!  We are not moving from a democratic republic to an autocracy or theocracy, or toward socialism or any other known form of government.  The form of government we see looming on the horizon is much worse.  We are moving toward a Neurocracy!

An increasing number of our leaders have lost touch with their constituents, authentic, reasonable American values, and the purpose of government so deeply that their neuroses are taking over.  Narcissism, bipolar disorder, dissociative identity disorder, compulsion, obsession, and myriad other diagnoses are running rampant everywhere throughout our local government to our national leaders of all parties.

Add to this fertilizer of ideology the mass hysteria created by abusive and judgmental language and philosophies, the willingness of the media to feed these delusions, and we have the beginning of our American Neurocracy.

So for those who would like the definition of this new term, here it is:

Neu-ro-cra-cy /njʊə-rəʊ-krə-si/ (noun)  Greek  neuro-: sinew, string, nerve;  -cracy:   strength, power.  A government run by many individuals who suffer from myriad neuroses (mental or emotional illnesses), and who attempt to make laws to satisfy the needs brought on by these conditions.   ~  The James C. Glica-Hernandez Dictionary

Hopefully, this will help clarify the issue in politics and government so that we can set ourselves toward treating our national woes by replacing those suffering from these conditions, and repairing our overarching ideology before this national diagnosis becomes more of a reality.

You’re welcome.

When Depression Strikes


There are many clinical components to depression including hormones, enzymes, physical manifestations, and emotional experiences.  They can be objectively and subjectively assessed, categorized, and treated.  What about the personal experience of depression?  How would one describe that?

For each person, depression is a deeply personal event.  Each episode is varied and unique in its expression.  For me, today, it is a lethargy, a dark shadow cast over everything and everyone I see.  No matter how much I love those around me, these momentary glitches in my brain chemistry leave me feeling very much alone, inadequate, and sad.  These dips in my otherwise healthy emotional state, are surprises to me, even after nearly 40 years since receiving my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, then called manic depression.

I hated the medications prescribed for me.  Some made me feel like a zombie.  Others gave me hives.  Others caused me to go to sleep.  None of them truly helped.  I chose a more spiritual path in my treatment.  I chose to look at the disorder as something that was present irregularly or mildly because I am fortunate to have a less injurious level of bipolar.  Some of my peers, with a more serious condition, could not afford to take the path I take because it could lead to severe and deleterious effects.  I suppose by some accounts, I am lucky.

Today, though, most feelings of good fortune and joy elude me.  They are memories in my past and hope for my future.  I don’t usually talk about my depression much because most people are afraid of that word.  They fear it for themselves and for their families.  They avoid the possibility that someone they love could experience such deep sadness for no reason other than the body disconnecting with those chemicals that would heal the weighty malaise.  So, most don’t talk about it.

The funniest part is when some people whisper like chattering monkeys, “She must be depressed because she’s not very strong,” or “He must not have very good tools at his disposal if he’s giving into his depression.”  Anyone who knows me knows that my personal, emotional strength is abundant, and that my tools are many.  It simply is a fact that I have a medically psychiatric condition called bipolar.  That’s all.  In the same way as someone with high cholesterol or mild type-2 diabetes tries to keep his numbers down through diet and exercise, I work very hard at staying mentally healthy.  Most of the time I am effective.  Once in a while, like now, it gets away from me.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that silence magnifies my condition.  Isolation adds fuel to the fire of sadness.  So, here I am telling the truth about how I feel.  Acknowledging that I am struggling with what has become a lifelong difficulty.  Quite honestly, I feel better for doing so.

I share this information with you, dear reader, not because I need your sympathy or pity, because I don’t.  I simply want to share with you my process.  I want you to understand that perfectly normal people, strong people, wise people, happy people, sometimes have a condition that can, on occasion, get out of control.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one-quarter of all adults in the United States  are diagnosed with one or more mental disorders.  That’s 75 million people.  2.6% of the adult population have severe bipolar disorder.   I am not the oddball by any stretch of the imagination. Many go undiagnosed because of the stigma of mental illness.  Sorry, but that’s just plain stupid.  If one had cancer, phlebitis, alopecia, or gingivitis, one would not have a stigma applied to those conditions or diseases.  So, why should mental illness?  There is no reason except that people are afraid that they will succumb to some mental insufficiency.

Again, fear plays out as judgment against a group of people.  So, to face that fear, I speak out against the ugly stigma, tell the truth about my disorder, and share with you what happens for me, at least.  And I’m one of the lucky ones.  It doesn’t strike very hard, even at its worst.  For others, it hits harder.  It is debilitating.  It is overwhelmingly lonely.  It can even be deadly.  Yet because of the stigma, they cannot reach out for help, even to professionals or programs that would certainly assist in diagnosis and treatment.

I reach out to you so that perhaps, somehow, you will find a way to reach out when you sense someone close to you is having difficulty with mental illness.  Speak honestly and without harsh judgment.  Avoid terms like, “buck up,” or “toughen up,” or “don’t worry, this, too, shall pass.”  Would you say that to someone with an obvious tumor on their head or bleeding profusely?  Not likely.

Thank you for reading this message.  I will feel better more likely sooner than later.  For those who need you, don’t be afraid.  They are simply the same people you love when they are healthier as when they are feeling worse.  They may reach out to you verbally, or by a change in their interactions with you.   They are not trying to drag you down in the darkness with them.  They simply are reaching for the light.

An Epidemic of Xenophobia in America


“Xenophobia – A fear of or aversion to, not only people from other countries, but other cultures, subcultures and subsets of belief systems; in short, anyone who meets any list of criteria about their origin, religion, personal beliefs, habits, language, orientations, or any other criteria. While some will state that the “target” group is a set of persons not accepted by the society, in reality only the phobic person need hold the belief that the target group is not (or should not be) accepted by society. While the phobic person is aware of the aversion (even hatred) of the target group, they may not identify it or accept it as a fear.” ~ Wikipedia (Oxford English Dictionary reference)

In research published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1994 [1], and  research in Belgium in 2000 [2], scientists found a strong correlation between authoritarian personalities and groups described as conservative, and xenophobia.  Those identified in various ways from conservative, authoritarian, or fascist, genuinely believe that they are morally, genetically, or otherwise superior to those toward whom they express their extreme fear.

Certainly not all who express strong beliefs in one area or another should be considered xenophobic.  Honest, good people from all walks of life are encouraged, and even obligated to participate in their governmental processes.  Their views may be diametrically opposed; yet, their divergent views maintain a healthy dialogue in our country.  There are those, however, whose extreme views teeter on, or fall over, the boundary of constructive exchange.

With the aforementioned research to consider, those who are more open to other cultures, races, and groups should exhibit compassion for those who have the psychological challenge of xenophobia, in part because the research also describes that some who exhibit the xenophobic behavior suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome.  In addition to compassion, though, we must also recognize the symptoms of this condition and listen to the message with an educated ear.

As we follow the political machinations of the 2012 election process, we have an opportunity to assess whether groups exhibit this xenophobic-based authoritarianism, and if so, how the larger population should respond.  There are few tell-tale signs of this condition.  Their rhetoric includes correlations to:

  1. cultural conservatism;
  2. orthodoxy;
  3. a desire for social dominance; and
  4. racism/culturalism.

Additionally, those who exhibit these xenophobic qualities also are found to have a negative correlation to  empathy, tolerance, communality, and altruism.   Do we see those qualities exhibited in national politics today?  If so, how?

Fascism, authoritarianism in its extreme, is defined by Merriam-Webster in the following way:

“A political philosophy, movement, or regime… that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”

None of our candidates have suggested that a fascist government is what the United States needs; however, some aspects of fascism are becoming increasingly visible, including the stated desires of  “severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition” by those who believe their traditions and values are most important.  These beliefs would relegate certain populations in our society to the status of invisible.   This, too, may be indicative of the growing xenophobia in our country.  A vocal, if not large at this point, group of citizens sympathetic to these views are listening more attentively to candidates and public figures who espouse these exclusive behaviors.  The research indicates that those who suffer from xenophobia rarely recognize themselves as sufferers.  They simply see themselves as correct in their views.

Although as a people we will likely choose to ignore these evident signs, the xenophobic underpinnings of contemporary politics are nonetheless apparent.  These fears can be ameliorated in part with compassion, a focus on inclusion, support for those who value all aspects of American culture, and those responsible to the entire American population, rather than only to their closed, isolated group.

A welcoming, inclusive community for all is the antithesis to xenophobia.  How do we view America today?  Our leaders are saying it best.  I suppose it just depends on to whom we listen.

________

[1]  Pratto, Felicia; Sidanius, Jim; Stallworth, Lisa M.; Malle, Bertram F. (1994) “Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 67(4), Oct 1994, 741-763. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.67.4.741  Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/67/4/741/

[2] Duriez, B. & Van Hiel, A (2000) “March of modern fascism. A comparison of social dominance orientation and authoritariansim.” Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 32, Issue 7, May 2002, pp 1199-2013.  Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886901000861

Keeping An Eye Out


When I was a young parent, my children would go outside to play with the other neighbor children.  Although we might be inside, we would always be aware of where our children were, what they were doing, and with whom they were playing.  As they grew up, we watched them become more curious, more adventuresome, more outgoing, and even more timid in some cases.  They were forming their personalities into the people they would become as adults.  As a more mature adult, I find myself continuing to do the same thing, only with new eyes.

I started my venture into music in February 1969.  At this point, I’m an old hand in the industries of music, theater, and business.  Now, I am beginning to see the up-and-comers starting to develop.  Perhaps because I’ve crossed the 40-year mark, I am not so focused on my own success, but rather prepared to lend a hand, if invited, to those who will take my place when I retire, after creating their own place with their work.  It’s not just in music, though.  It’s also in the arena of personal growth.

The beginning of my new attention began almost imperceptibly.  Glimpses of talent, tenacity, intelligence, and creativity caught my peripheral vision.  These young upstarts started showing some real gifts.  At first, I smiled paternally at the young whippersnappers as they started showing their mettle.  Slowly, my focus changed.  I’m now taking an interest as a mentor as they become my peers, working with great alacrity in my industry.  Their sense of innovation, fearlessness, and indefatigability become a constant source of amazement.

Was I like this as a younger actor, musician, singer, conductor?  Perhaps.  I certainly did not see myself in the same way as I perceive these vital young people.   I do recall, though, those who took the time to guide me through my growth.  It appears it’s my turn to offer that support as our youthful invigorati, if you will allow me a new word, start building their curriculum vitae.  The lines in my face are like directional arrows pointing toward extended experience to which some of these newer adults gravitate.   It’s like that for everyone I suspect.

James in 1976 and 2011

So, in the same way as I did for the young ones in the neighborhood 35 years ago, I again am keeping an eye out in case I am needed by a budding musician, a neophyte writer, or simply someone who is searching for his or her identity.    I still turn to my elders for their wisdom because I’m not done yet.   I still need guidance sometimes; only now, I live on both sides of that line.  As I contemplate this topic, I believe I care for our developing success stories because once upon a time, someone else helped me achieve mine.

The Gentleman Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks!


Yes, I stole the title of this piece from a paraphrased quote in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but no other title fit more profoundly.  A recent study shows that self-described straight men who, by their answers to certain questions, can be identified as homophobic, respond to gay male pornography by growing increasingly tumescent.  In other words, when they look at nekkid men, their willies grow as hard as the rocks they throw at gay people.

Specifically, the abstract from the study by the University of Georgia, and published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, states,

“The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.”

If their results are correct, what can we assume by these new data?  Should we estimate the number of gays in the country by adding the number of homophobes to the count?  If so, that would make the percentage of gay folk in the United States enormous.

Of course, the last line of the study is an important one.  Those men identified as homophobic are clearly in denial of their sexuality or experience a complete lack of awareness that they are subconsciously attracted to other men.  Whether in denial or unaware, these men require our compassion because they are either deluding themselves or completely self-unaware.  Either way, it’s a challenging way to live.

So, to those men who shout at the top of their lungs epithets and derision toward gay folk,  carry  placards decrying the end of American culture because gay people can be seen in public, or excoriate homosexuals from the pulpit or political platform, just know that we hear you.  And, after this study, we hear you even more clearly now.  In a way, every time you exhibit your homophobic rants and rages, you’re coming out just a little bit more to the rest of us, aren’t you?  Welcome to our world… grrrrrl!

Rindy’s CD Release Event


Although this may not be the most opportune time, I must mark this moment with a personal observation at the culmination of two years worth of work as it approaches.  This coming Saturday, August 20, 2011, at 7:00 PM, at the stage in Fairytale Town, the curtain will rise, if only metaphorically, on the release of a CD that was created with love, hard work, and many tears.  Rindy Sumners was a beautiful, talented young woman; a talented singer-songwriter so full of music that in a five year period, she composed more than 150 full and partial pieces of music.  On Saturday, 36 tracks of her music will be available for sale to the public in the self-titled CD, “Rindy.”

It is unfathomable that she has been gone for nearly two years following the car accident that claimed her life.  I admit, preparing for this day has helped to distract me from my grief in a small way.  My husband, David, and I have been essentially glued to the hip of her parents, Rick and Sandy Sumners, to make sure this event is everything they want it to be.  Their focus solely has been on what Rindy would have wanted.  Being who she was, she was very clear about that.

The music in the CD is glorious.  Her soaring voice, her intricate harmonies, her dynamics lyrics, and her moving melodies are compelling, even beyond my imagination.  I watched her grow up from a bubbly eighth grader with blue hair to a world-conscious young woman, commenting through her music on every facet of her life.  One thing that people who knew her can attest is that Rindy never lied.  She didn’t know how. Her music is a testament to that fact.  The truth she tells in her storylines is intense and direct.  I love that about her.

Life will never be the same without Rindy’s vibrant presence on this planet, but my one comfort is that I will now be able to slip her CD in my car stereo or computer and hear her voice, her laughter, and her spirit.  This event is a powerful moment for everyone.  For me, as her teacher for five years, her mentor-teacher for one year, her friend, and someone as whom she dressed up on switch day at school, this is an intimate, difficult, wonderful day that approaches.  Words allude me as I try to explain the dichotomy of the heights of joy I feel that her dream is coming true as I experience the deep sadness that still exists at her physical absence.

I love Rindy.  As it is for everyone who worked so hard on these events, every little bit of effort I’ve expended on her memorial service, RindyFest 2009!, and this CD project, has been offered with that truth cemented in my heart and spirit.  After months as production assistant, press officer, support person, and friend, it becomes necessary to be just James for only a moment, to have the human experience of working on a project that, once upon a time, seemed as though would be very different, indeed; but, that’s not what is and today, I must rise to the occasion, and what an thrilling occasion it is!  I hope we will see a huge number of people attend to celebrate the release of Rindy’s music into the world!  I know with all my heart that everyone who hears this music will be enthralled.  I know it!

Songs of Winter, Songs of the Heart


When it is cold, people spend more time indoors.  As they gather, music seems to play a vital role in their quiet time, celebrations, and family cultures.  As Chanukah has passed and Christmas approaches, I’ve thought about this quite a bit.   My question is, why is music so important to many of us at this time of year?

Higher level animals make sounds as part of their communication systems.   These emanations are warnings, calls to their families and potential mates, and serve as locators.  Human beings developed the ability to create organized sounds through speech, and the rhythms became an important part of their communication process as well.  There must have been something intensely satisfying to the first humanoids to insist on recreating these sounds. 

Take a moment to close your eyes.  Breathe deeply.  Now, hum a little bit.  Do you feel it rumble in your chest, right near your heart?  Now, hum your favorite song for a few bars.  Are you transported to a higher level of happiness as you do this?  Most of us are.  These sounds surround our heart, fill our chests, and heighten our minds awareness.  They cause our bodies to produce a chemical reaction that gives us pleasure.

When we join together to sing or listen to music, the collective happiness grows exponentially.  Our voices, hearts, and ears are working together to unite us and remind us of the precious gifts we have.  If we do the same things we did earlier, only together, we will see how much better it can be.  Take someone you love, hold them, close your eyes, and hum a song you like together.  The intimacy is intense; the joy fulfilling. 

During the holidays, we raise our voices together in celebration of God’s promise and His gifts.  As the Festival of Lights shows us, we are sustained here on Earth through the miracles of resources we never imagined possible.  In Christmas, we find the birth of unimaginable love.   In one another, we are reminded of the same gifts.

So, this holiday season, join together to sing or listen to music.  Remember the hum of your heart and spirit as the music envelopes you.  May God bless you and keep you and your loved ones happy and safe this holiday season and throughout the coming new year.

Coming and Going


Students are funny little animals.  They burrow into your heart for a while and then, when they are ready, they scamper out into the world to make their way on their own. 

The best part is, though, sometimes they return to visit. 

Since beginning my classroom teaching, I’ve been blessed to have students who have been with me since seventh grade, graduated, gone to college, and moved onto their own careers.  They’ve gotten married, had children, and still, with everything else going on with their lives, they’ve chosen to return to check in on me and to let me know how they’re doing. 

I recently closed a show with a former student who is within a month of graduating.  When he first came into my class in seventh grade, he was a scrawny little kid with big eyes, more energy than an electric company is allowed to store, and a vivacity that is unmatched. 

For his senior project, he decided to do a benefit for the Sacramento Ballet.  He pulled together a gaggle of singers-dancers-actors to create a revue.  His cast was phenomenal. 

Every senior in his program is supposed to have a mentor in his process.  Originally, Alex Stewart, my former student, had chosen a very talented young man with whom to work.  For reasons not clearly understood, this fellow had to attend to his own family business out of town, leaving Alex to find another person to fill that role for him. 

Although I had stopped teaching at his school, he decided to call me to ask if I would mentor him and music direct the show.  I was between shows and I knew some of the cast he had selected, so I was more than willing to donate a bit of time to Alex and toward a worthy cause. 

Over the six or more weeks I worked with this terrific team, I had the best time and the show was a huge success.  Everyone was thrilled, particularly the Executive and Artistic Director of the ballet company, Ron Cunningham.  Because of Alex’s work and focus and the determination and talent of his cast,  his outstanding show brought in, in ticket sales, concessions, and matching funds, nearly $6,000 in profit to the beneficiary organization.

Alex is 18 years old.

The show, “At the Ballet: A Musical Revue,” was sold out both nights and the reviews were clear raves from every front.

This was an important time for me because I got to work with a very talent former student and his equally matched cast, and also got to be a part of a worthwhile cause.  What more can a fellow ask?

My little animal returned to the burrow for a time and warmed my heart once again.  Now, he’s focusing on returning to the outside world, ready to take on the theatrical world by storm… and he will!

Watching Art Grow


Adrian Bourgeois, Vocal Student, and James

This morning, I was giving vocal music lessons to my students at the Woodland Opera House. The young ladies range in age from 8 to 16 years old. They are well-disciplined, kind, talented, and very sweet to be around. I feel very fortunate to be invited to watch and participate as these young people grow in their art. 

Last week, one of my former high school students and current singing student, Adrian,  just went out on a national tour with his friend, Miss Ricky Berger.  He’ll be back in a few months. He had taken it upon himself to begin lessons again to improve his performance. He is now ready for this tour. 

It got me to thinking about a time when I was in eighth grade. I used to walk past this girl who, every so often, would doodle in her notebook. I’m sure she didn’t think a thing about her flowers, scribbles, and faces, but I loved what she drew. It was in 1972 that I became Shirley’s fan. Over the years, I stood on the sidelines watching my friend finish high school, go to college, get married, and have children. I’ve also seen time pass when her art took a back seat in her life. 

"Napoleon House" by Shirley Manfredi, 2009, Oil on Canvas 48"x60"

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to go to Pacifica, California, to attend Shirley’s art show, “Arts on Fire,” at the Sanchez Art Center. Since her art has returned as a major focus in her life, after her family, of course, she has been amazingly prolific. Her incredible oil painting hung in the show, “Napoleon House,” was based on a particular moment in a restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana, when she and her husband were there on vacation. 

The actual building, Napoleon House, was constructed as a place for Napoleon Bonaparte to live in the United States after he would have fled France; however, he died before he could ever see his American domicile. 

In addition to the tantalizing history, Shirley Manfredi’s painting is stunning. 

Although I was never too effusive directly to Shirley about her art when we were young, because she would just laugh and look confused at my appreciation for her creativity, I did, on occasion make a comment or two. It was the best feeling to congratulate her yesterday when she realized she was awarded a Juror’s Special Mention in the show. 

Shirley, Sharon, and David

Shirley’s sister, Sharon, who is the godmother to all my children and a beloved aunt, and my husband, David, were in attendance, as well. Shirley’s husband, Louis, and their children could not be there, unfortunately. 

It’s starting all over, I suppose. It’s 2010 and I’m beginning to watch a third generation begin their artistic process. It’s an awesome place to be, to be quite frank. 

To be in Woodland to see my students successfully audition for “Les Miserables – Student Edition” a couple of weeks ago, at Adrian’s last concert in Sacramento for a while last Saturday, and Pacifica for Shirley’s show on Friday,  really put my participation in art in perspective. I think, in many ways, I’m a cheerleader, of sorts.  I smile, offer my thoughts when invited to do so, and cheer when the accolades arrive for these students of various art forms. Some may believe I have more to do with my students success than I do. 

As I tell them so often, “I can talk until I’m blue in the face, but if you don’t do the work, then I’m just spouting hot air.  My job is just to share some thoughts and, then, watch art grow.”