|How did you get started playing music?
I've always felt inspired by music. When I was
young, music was so uplifting and hopeful in times of really
high childhood stress. I lost my mother to cancer
at the age of six. Music, rhythm, lyrics, and also the
sounds of Nature-- I believe these kept me from being pulled
apart by deep trauma. I truly believe these early traumatic
events solidified the idea of impermanence at the most
fundamental level-- your own mother who cares for you like no
one else is now gone, and though I could not explain that at
the time, music soothed me and brought me to a place of
non-verbal connection to the greater universe and that is
where I found comfort.
I found two old 8-track tapes that
were discarded on the street when I was about 10 years old. 8-tracks were out, and
cassettes were in! But I took them home: Bob Marley "Live"
and Elmore James "King of the Delta Blues". I didn't even have a
player, but later found one, on the street again. I played those tapes over and
over. And also The Beatles "White Album", because my Dad had it
along with some other great old albums. "Within
You / Without You" by George Harrison, I listened to that song a lot
and had the lyrics taped inside my desk at school. I listened to the radio. As kids,
we didn't have any money for just going out to buy music. Maybe we got a record or
two for birthdays. I remember buying Jesus Christ Superstar for about $4.99
at the White Hen Pantry. Later, I discovered used record stores! First purchase -
"Moonflower" by Carlos Santana.
I began playing guitar
and writing songs in about 6th grade. I used to try to
multi-track record using two old
Panasonic tape recorders. Later, friends persuaded me to try out for high school jazz
band. So I spent a summer learning jazz chords and stylings and surprisingly, made
the band the following Fall. I was the only female in the rhythm section. At
that time, girls were not playing electric guitar or bass. I will always be
thankful to Dominican High School and Mark Kleckly, jazz teacher. The following
summer, I auditioned for Summer Street workshops and joined an all-city high school group
led by Milwaukee saxophonist Berkeley Fudge. Then Berkeley asked me to
join the Inner City Arts Council jazz band as a bass player.
In high school, we formed an original music group, Jazz
Elevators and I made everyone music folders with our colors
red and yellow. We had a killer horn section...
What other early band experiences did
In the early 1980s, I
attended Marquette University's College of Engineering for about a year. I just
wanted to be out playing music, which I did in every moment of spare time with
our new wave, alternative band. Then, an opportunity came to go down south to play and record with Einsteins
Riceboys. I was only 19, but decided that school could wait until later.
Riceboys was an intensely creative, independent group known for originality and energetic
performances. We were on the verge of national recognition with radio airplay everywhere
when things broke down. Overall, it was a great experience. Riceboy's recordings
were on the cutting edge of the emerging digital technology and
collectors items today.
Later, I went back to
college to complete a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and to revisit favorite energy
transformation classes such as electromagnetic fields and thermodynamics. I took
classes with Ko Thi African Dance Company. Most importantly, I discovered the practice of
T'ai Chi Ch'uan with Grandmaster Chian Ho Yin. The slow dance-like movements were an
awakening. I began to tune in to the vibrations of the human body's organs and chi
meridians. I was in awe of the potential for healing and happiness (embodied in Master
Yin) and the healing aspects of sound, energy, and chi. I decided to get
out of the late night music scene and focus on the practice. I realized I could help
myself and others. Later in the early 1990's, I joined Tai Chi Chuan
Center of Milwaukee and have continued in the practice as
well as currently teach to this day.
I also study and practice Iyengar style Hatha Yoga. I
began studying meditation with H.H. 14th Dalai Lama in
1996. I am ever thankful to my teachers for sharing their
wisdom and gifts.
I heard you
moved to the East Coast. Why?
I moved to Boston to work
for Raytheon Corporation as a radar engineer on Patriot Missile Defense System and
projects. The original GPS frequencies were secret back then. I still have them
memorized! Now everyone has GPS. I just had to find some
musicians and found Nerve Ring, an 11-piece performance art group. We did an amazing piece
on Evolution at the Institute for Contemporary Art and recorded a fine music video too,
but the set got shut down by the police. And, I discovered Ibrahim Camaras Cambridge
drumming circle. Ibrahim gave me my first djembe drum. Back then, women didn't play
djembe for traditional reasons. But Ibrahim had all the Boston women playing
djembes. He was so welcoming. We had a great, diverse, musical fellowship
going in Cambridge on Wednesday nights. I think that is what music is all
about -- bringing people together.
I returned to Milwaukee
in the late 1980s, to work for a small Biotech company. We were using light energy for
diagnostic purposes, for example, using infrared light to see through the skin
in order to measure glucose levels in diabetics. We did projects with ultrasound and
hydroponics for the NASA space station. Whether it's sound
or light, its all electromagnetic spectrum.
Did you get
back into music?
Sheldon Rusch, writer and Iyengar yoga instructor, I formed Zebra Muscle, a five-piece original
rock group. We produced recordings, videos, and energetic live performances. I
was fortunate to travel to Brazil as an EarthWatch volunteer (the music, culture, and
Nature were deeply inspiring) But I put everything on hold with the birth of our
daughter in 1993. As a new mother, focusing on family and parenting was top
At that time, I did some
part-time field research in hummingbird communication with Dr. Millicent Ficken and Dr.
Carolyn Pytte at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Our work was published in The
Condor, The Auk, Animal Behaviour, The Passenger Pigeon, Natural History, National
Geographic and others. I did many hours of Nature recording at this time. We made
amazing discoveries by slowing down the speedy hummingbird
vocalizations and then applying pattern recognition
techniques. I will always
cherish the quiet time spent at sunrise -- recording birds and ambient sounds. Then
Sheldon and I had another daughter and a son. Music really slowed down
for me with the
expanding family, especially playing with others. I was able to continue writing
songs and occasionally performed as a solo bass poet. The Internet was emerging and
selections from self-produced recordings "Inside-Out" and "Natural"
received international radio airplay on three continents. That was nice
feedback considering I never left beautiful Wisconsin.
What is New
When the kids were young,
I self-published a group of poems in a handmade natural binding entitled "New
World Mammal". I donated all proceeds from the book to Foundation for Children
in Need. I created a "New World Mammal" door that is currently on
display at Club Timbuktu in Milwaukee. The holistic
project was about the interconnectedness of Nature,
impermanence, change and love. At that time, I was
also teaching community drumming circles for children ages 5
through 13 and creating original soundscape recordings for a dance company in
the Eagle River school system.
And now you are
back playing live music with Universal Love Band?
all-out labor of love. We
have synergy, diversity, and we really enjoy playing together.
The name says it all and the Music is the Medicine. I
also play with Mali Blues with Tani Diakite and for the past
nine years, I have been contributing to Express Yourself Milwaukee, a
non-profit group that facilitates healing artistic expression for
youth. I have also been working with youth for the last few years in the Wisconsin
Correctional System with variou music/visual arts partnerships.
. My friend, Saskia and I started a
monthly music group at Children's Hospital Wisconsin in
2011. We take music right to the
bedside of the kids. I am thankful and humbled every
time we go to the hospital to share our music. We are also taking the music to people
with disabilities, rehab, frail elders and others who can't
easily get out. We play positive, tropical-vibe songs
and end our sessions with Tibetan Singing Bowls. This
project is about friendship, sharing music and cherishing
others -- whoever they may be in the moments we spend together.
We have played for babies in comas, 90 year olds, people with
dementia, head injuries, people with serious chronic
conditions who must go to Adult Day Care, kids quarantined
with infectious disease, and the list goes on and on. We just
open our hearts and play. We create a warm circle of
musical Love - the best that we can. I am
dedicated to continue this project - Saskia left in fall 2012
and I am hoping to continue in 2013..
I hope my kids can learn from me:
your best with your teammates. In my case, with
dedication to bandmates and responsibility to the audience.
In my case, with positive music, service projects.
honest. Be loyal. Find common ground, and enjoy
together, even when its challenging.
art is just one aspect of your life as a whole.
favorite times this decade with the music
Sharing and jamming with Garifuna
drummers in Belize. Performances with Amlak Tafari, bassist with Steel Pulse and
co-production of The River CD for Express Yourself Milwaukee. Getting
the youth up on stage at Summerfest. Getting
to know Jamaican legend Mickey Dread before he passed away. Opening for Mali's world music
ambassadors at Summerfest - Amadou and Marium. And even better,
getting to know them a bit. Learning to play gamelon ngoni (African
harp) from being with Tani.. Recording
our CD "Rising Sun" and bringing it to Drepung Loseling Tibetan
refugee monastery in India. I had a master mix with me when I was
meet H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama in India. We also co-created
an art project with Tibetan refugee youth and Express Yourself Milwaukee youth. See
YouTube of Tibet Milwaukee Art Exchange.
Every moment at Children's Hospital. This is the mantra
running through my mind:
Give Give Dedicate
Dedicate Love Love !