August Concert for Hillside SPCA and Schuylkill Haven Walk-In Art Center

 

Two weeks from today, special summer concert will take place with my musical friends Emily Barrett, Mark Denchy, and Tom Flamini.  The concert will support the Hillside SPCA and the Schuylkill Haven Walk-In Art Center.  I am very much looking forward to making music in order to benefit the wonderful animals at Hillside and to support a community place that is a new performance venue for me: the Schuylkill Haven Walk-In Art Center.

The concert will be on Sunday, August 27th, 2017 at 2:30 pm at the Schuylkill Haven Walk-In Art Center.  Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.  All of the ticket money will be donated to the two organizations.  The Hillside SPCA will receive 50% of all ticket sales, and the Schuylkill Haven Walk-In Art Center will receive 50% of all ticket sales.  You are invited to purchase advance tickets online at http://walkinartcenter.org/events/Event%20Registration/#!/Benefit-Concert-for-Hillside-S-P-C-A/p/86364814/category=15365366

I have visited the Hillside SPCA twice this month and just two days ago adopted two lovely cats.  It is feeling stressful right now as I work to encourage my cat Advent to accept the new family members, but I am hopeful that they will eventually enjoy (or at least tolerate) each other’s company.  Below are the two new Hillside SPCA kitties who have moved in with me.

Domestic Shorthair Cat for adoption in Pottsville, Pennsylvania - DinkyDomestic Mediumhair Cat for adoption in Pottsville, Pennsylvania - Chloe

Please help me to spread the word about this upcoming concert by passing the announcement on to any music-lovers and cat lovers and dog lovers.  Hug your pets today, and be in touch with me if you have any questions about this upcoming concert!  =^..^=

Click here to view our full-size PDF concert poster!

Summer Concert Announcement

 

I am happy to announce that I am planning to offer a special summer concert with my musical friends Emily Barrett, Mark Denchy, and Tom Flamini.  This is a concert that will support the Hillside SPCA and the Schuylkill Haven Walk-In Art Center.  Animals are so close to my heart; everyone who knows me well has heard me share about my beloved cats, and I am so excited to make music in order to benefit animals in need.  I’m also excited to try out a new performance venue; the Schuylkill Haven Walk-In Art Center is a great space to visit.  The center offers opportunities to interact with visual artists and performing artists and also to take classes and develop skills and express yourself creatively.

The concert will be on Sunday, August 27th, 2017 at 2:30 pm at the Schuylkill Haven Walk-In Art Center.  Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.  All of the ticket money will be donated to the two organizations, with the Hillside SPCA receiving 50% of all ticket sales and the Schuylkill Haven Walk-In Art Center receiving 50% of all ticket sales.  You are invited to purchase advance tickets online at http://walkinartcenter.org/events/Event%20Registration/#!/Benefit-Concert-for-Hillside-S-P-C-A/p/86364814/category=15365366

 

 

 

 

I hope that those of you who have attended my annual Christmas Benefit Concert at the Tamaqua Community Art Center will make the short trip to Schuylkill Haven to hear me perform there with Emily, Mark, and Tom as I lift my voice to support the animals and the arts in our local community, and I hope that I meet some new friends who possibly have never heard my music before and who find their way to this concert on the other side of Schuylkill County.

Please help me to spread the word by sharing about this upcoming concert with any music-lovers and cat lovers and dog lovers.  Hug your pets today, and be in touch with me if you have any questions about this upcoming concert!  =^..^=

Click here to view our full-size PDF concert poster!

2017 Performance – American Cancer Society Telethon

I will perform along with Tom Flamini and Emily Barrett, under the group name “Hope in Song (HIS) Singers” this Saturday (April 8th) at 7:30 pm on the American Cancer Society Telethon. Please tune in and watch…and support the ACS and the important work that they do!

We will perform as a trio “Blessed Assurance” and “Music” (a less familiar song that talks about what has brought the three of us together, with a special middle section that I composed just for our voices.)

You can come in person to watch live at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. The telethon will air live on channel 13 on Blue Ridge Cable and on channel 90 in the Tamaqua-Mahanoy City-Hazleton Service Electric Cable area and also on channels 2 and 50 in the Lehigh Valley on the Service Electric Cable system. Portions of the program will be broadcast on channel 69.4, WFMZ.

Blue Ridge Communications is also streaming the program live online. Links for streaming will be on both CancerTelethon.org and on WFMZ.org.

Merry Christmas 2016!

To all who visit my website and blog:  Merry Christmas!

Putting on the 5th Voice Lifted at Christmas concert two weeks ago was a highlight of my Christmas season.  As always, it was a delightful experience for me to be with so many family members, relatives, friends, community members, visitors, returning audience members, and those coming to one of my concerts for the first time.  I am uplifted by being together with you all and having the opportunity to share my music with you.

I came to this year’s concert in a more peace-filled and joyful place, and I’m hearing that this came across in the show.  In addition to my red dress and red music stand, I chose to sing some more familiar carols and joyful, upbeat pieces.  It felt good.  I felt the best after this year’s concert than any of them so far.  I had fun on stage: performing my solo pieces and collaborating musically with Tom Flamini, Emily Barrett, and Mark Denchy.

A great article was published in the Pottsville Republican on the day after my concert.  I am grateful for that coverage, and I’m happy that the news article will spread the word to others who may be interested in attending a future Voice Lifted at Christmas concert.  Next year’s event will be on Sunday, December 10, 2017.

I’ve been more quiet this year on my blog, not having written and posted as often as in previous years, but I plan to do more of that in 2017.  I enjoy this connection to all of you.  Please feel free to leave comments on my posts – that will encourage me to show up more and share more.

In offering to everyone a Christmas message this year, I invite you to connect with your inner child and to allow yourself to be present in the celebrations in which you take part and in the difficult moments, too.  The holiday season is really, for most of us, NOT picture-perfect…but there is amidst all of that, so much to really celebrate and to be joyful about.  Jesus and Mary clearly struggled at many points throughout their lives, and they did not hide it or put on a face that masked their pain…but what they did was know that the holy God within was far greater than the human challenges they faced.  God is not external and distant.  We can allow ourselves to touch and hold God and to be touched and held…by simply going within and breathing in the love that is both the holy infant and the divine power inside.  May we allow Christ to be born within us today, and may we experience joy in that birth.

All photos by Andy Leibenguth – www.tamaquaarea.com

Thank you, Andy!!

 

Voice Lifted at Christmas – Fifth Annual Benefit Concert

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It is hard to believe that this will be the fifth consecutive year for the Voice Lifted Christmas Benefit Concert,  This year’s event will be on Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 2:30 pm.  This event will, as in the past years, benefit the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation and the Tamaqua Community Arts Center.  100% of the ticket money will go to these two organizations, with each receiving 50%.  Tickets will be $8 in advance and $10 at the door.  You may call 570-818-4135 for advance tickets.  Returning to the stage as guest performers this year will be Emily Barrett and Tom Flamini.

If you have not attended a Voice Lifted Christmas Benefit Concert in the past, I invite you to experience this event as a way to lift your spirit and to do something for yourself this holiday season that will help you to connect with the deeper meaning of Christmas.  My intention each year is to make this concert a retreat from the busyness of the season, a time to breathe & go within, and a time to reflect on who we are and how God is present in each of us and in our world.  The concert will include familiar Christmas songs as well as many unfamiliar pieces that explore our relationship with the Divine, our human experiences and emotions, and our connection to the past and to the future.  A favorite part of the concert in past years in addition to the music was the improvised sharing of personal stories and messages.  I look forward to opening my heart to the inspiration of the Spirit and seeing how God speaks through me in this annual event.

Please contact me with any questions about the concert or if you would like to purchase tickets in advance.

Tune in to the American Cancer Society Telethon

Live Nation Entertainment American Cancer Society Logo

Susan M. Featro and Tom Flamini will perform at 8:15pm tomorrow on the American Cancer Society Telethon.  The telethon will air on channel 13 on Blue Ridge Cable and on channel 90 in the Tamaqua – Mahanoy City Service Electric Cable area and on channels 2 and 50 in the Lehigh Valley on the Service Electric Cable system.  Please tune in and enjoy our musical offerings.  If you’d like to make a pledge to the American Cancer Society in honor of our performance, you may call 1-800-883-2109 on Saturday and mention that the donation is in recognition of the performance by Susan and Tom, or you may make a pledge online at http://www.cancertelethon.org.  The telethon will be happening live at Penn’s Peak, the concert venue just outside of Jim Thorpe.  Admission is free.

Built on the Foundation of Love

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My new home is continuing to come along.  Progress is being made quickly, and I continue to marvel at how the process of building this new house parallels the process of building my life.  I have been building myself anew in many areas, and it is simultaneously exhilarating & terrifying, and there are so many lessons along the way.  With both my home building and my life building, I am striving to always build on the foundation of love.

I got an idea from my friend Kelly from Chicago.  She had told me about how her church had been installing new hardwood floors, and before the flooring was put down, members of the congregation were invited to come and write on the floorboards.  They could write a prayer, a quote, their name…

Last weekend, I invited some family members and friends to put their touch on my new home.  As I asked people to share messages on my floor, I thought about how I was really making this house my home.  The power of these words will always be there with me.  On any day years from now, when I am feeling defeated or afraid or confused, I can place my hands on the floor and be uplifted by the amazing messages that were offered to me.  It means so much to me that people from all different chapters of my life came together to grace my home and grace my life with incredible heartfelt words.  Prayers, song lyrics, pictures, personal messages, Bible verses, quotes, and some fun and light-hearted reminders will be my inspiration and guidance in every room of the house.  One of my creative friends Stan Stewart wrote an improvised poem on the occasion of my new home.  You can read his poem “Every Time” here: http://muz4now.com/2015/every-time-an-improv-poem/

I believe that our lives are shaped by every person whom we meet.  Each interaction that we have changes us in some way.  I believe that we carry with us in our bodies, our voices, and our unconscious stirrings…a piece of each person whose path has crossed ours.  For that reason, I find it fitting that so many people who mean so much to me have made their mark on my home.  As I walk on the floors of my new home, I remember that I am not alone in the world;  there are so many others traveling on the journey, and my life has been blessed by coming to meet and know them.

There were also several words and phrases and pictures that I added to the floor, as I recognize that I have a personal responsibility for erecting a strong and love-based foundation.  I can’t only lean on others to fill me up and support me.  Another special touch to the floors was a special signed letter and message that builder Curtis Bailey and his wife Dorothy placed under the floor in my meditation room.  Just like an artist signs the piece of artwork he or she has created, I feel that it is appropriate that Curt signs his name to this awesome construction that has been a product of his ideas, skills, and care.  I am honored to have blessings from Curt and his wife be forever a part of my future home.

I am humbled, blessed, amazed, uplifted, and even floored by the incredible foundation of love that has been co-created in the process of building my new home.  My heart is full of gratitude as I reflect on how my life has been touched and moved and graced by so many, and I am inspired to continue to build my life with such care.

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Aren’t You Dead Yet?

At the end of last year, I read a book titled “Aren’t You Dead Yet?”  This memoir was written by Lucy Stanovick after she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.  I had studied with Dr. Stanovick as part of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writing Project in 2009, and then I worked with her on the NPWP Leadership Team.  I also had the pleasure of teaching her two children when I worked at Pleasant Valley Intermediate School.  In picking up this memoir, I expected that it would be a powerful and moving read, because I had come to love Lucy’s go-for-the-jugular, tell-it-how-it-is style of writing, but my experience in reading “Aren’t You Dead Yet?” took me to places beyond what I expected.

Since I knew her, I had admired Lucy as a scholar, as a writer, as a teacher, and as a person.  She pushed her students and all of those she met in life to go deeper, to avoid nothing, and to speak and write with a clear and intentional voice.  She went above and beyond in her work as a professor, and she and her colleague Dr. Lesliee Antonette directed the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writing Project, which has been consistently referred to by teachers as “the best professional development experience I have ever had.”  Besides that, Lucy was a very fun person to be with.  I found Lucy to be a person I wished to model my own teaching and writing after.  She always seemed to know what to do and what to say, and she seemed to have it all together.  In reading her book, I found out that this was far from the truth.  Lucy wrote about her struggles with anxiety, her painful experience of not fitting in at the university, and so many doubts and questions she had that left her feeling confused and messy…just like me.  I am now even more captivated by the wonderful human being whom I got to know, and I wish that I could sit down with her and have a conversation about all of these things and connect over our shared questions about life and those thoughts that keep us awake at night.

After reading “Aren’t You Dead Yet?” I began thinking more about how so many of us go through our days alone in our heads, believing that we are the only ones thinking these things and feeling these things.  We often don’t share some of those dark or confusing parts with our friends, our co-workers, our family members…we stick to the happy highlights.  We share with others the pictures on our phones of our grandchildren;  we post on Facebook the description of the great meal we ate over the weekend;  we talk about our fun in planning the next vacation.  And then others come to think that everyone else around them is functioning just fine and is without these struggles…and the difficult emotions become even more difficult, because there is the additional pain of feeling different and alone.

Interestingly, shortly after reading “Aren’t You Dead Yet?” I encountered several other displays of vulnerability and have been inspired and uplifted by them.  One of my aerial teachers sharing publicly about overcoming an eating disorder, a colleague at school sharing a draft of a book she hopes to get published that is written in a beautiful and vulnerable way as she shares about a long period of trials and what got her through, and then also a woman I met at a yoga retreat who posted on her blog about the way this past year has tried her and who shared for the first time about the abuse she suffered as a child  .

These have all been incredible reminders of how resilient we are, and I feel a deep and meaningful human connection with these people…a connection that I don’t feel with “perfect” people.  In only sticking to the superficial in conversations, in keeping the messy stuff covered up and only sharing the highlights, we miss the “just like me” connection.  What was most powerful for me in reading “Aren’t You Dead Yet?” was the way that Lucy’s feelings resonated with me, and I thought to myself, “Well, if she felt inadequate and unsure of herself and was able to be the wonderful scholar, writer, and person she was, then maybe I am not as lost as I thought I was…maybe it’s not just me.”

I thank each of these people and so many of my friends who make it a practice to embrace vulnerability.  We all have ups and downs.  We all are unsteady at times, and we all need help from those around us.  Being vulnerable and human is what makes us alive, and as long as I’m alive, I will tell my stories.

ups and downs

If you are interested in reading “Aren’t You Dead Yet?” Lucy’s husband has reported that all of the books from the first printing have sold out.  He is taking pre-orders for a second printing. If he gets enough pre-orders, they will do a second printing.  To pre-order, send John a message at jstanovick@fs.fed.us.

Voice Lifted in the New Year

As we transition from 2014 to 2015, I look back on my Voice Lifted journey in this past year and look ahead to where I hope to take my music making in the upcoming year.

My Christmas Benefit Concert on Sunday, December 7th was a success.  It was a great experience to perform in the newly remodeled Tamaqua Community Arts Center.  I was delighted to connect with the wonderful audience who came out that day, and I am thrilled that the event provided support to the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation as well as the Community Arts Center.  I look forward to seeing these two organizations continue to serve our community in the coming year.

2014 brought the release of my second album Voice Lifted at Christmas.  This album is now available for sale online (download or CD) at this link.  My first CD Voice Lifted is also available here.  Downloads of the music from my Christmas CD are also available at Amazon.  Additionally, Voice Lifted at Christmas is available in streaming format on Spotify.  

In 2014, I greatly enjoyed many performances at private events, community events, and at churches.  I am excited to continue these in 2015.  For those who like to plan ahead, I am announcing the date for my 2015 Christmas Benefit Concert at the Tamaqua Community Arts Center – Sunday, December 6th, 2015.  I will be announcing other public performances throughout the year, but I wanted to get that date out right away, as I have loved hearing that some people are now making my benefit concert an annual Christmas tradition.

I also plan on additional performances in the new year with my music partner Tom Flamini.  Right now, we are preparing for a February 8, 2015 performance at Providence Place in Pottsville.

In the upcoming year, I also plan to continue blogging.  I plan to do that with more regularity, as I know that writing is a wonderful source of creative expression for me, and I enjoy sharing my journey with others on the path.  Additionally, many ideas are floating around my mind for live performances and recording possibilities.

For me personally, 2014 was a year that brought many challenges and much growth, and I see 2015 as a building year.  I believe that there will be much opportunity to take all of the lessons of 2014, allow myself to start at the place at which I am, and create much from the bottom up in this new year with faith and trust as the foundations.  Many of those around me have expressed similar feelings about 2014 being a year that involved much tearing down, shaking up of things, a lot of confusion, “a year that brought us to our knees,” and a year that was like a roller coaster ride.  I am envisioning and holding 2015 as a building year for myself and for those around me, for anyone who chooses to embrace this intention.

New Year’s Blessings to all of you and to those with whom your share your hearts and your lives.

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One hug away

one free hug

Today marks the last day of Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 5-11, 2014.)  Today is also two months from the date of Robin Williams’ death, following his depression and suicide.  I wrote this spoken-word poem in August 2014 as part of my reflection after learning of Robin Williams’ journey.

 

I am one sigh away from hopeless.

One tear away from despair,

One bead of sweat away from exhaustion,

One track away from derailment,

One choice away from regret.

 

I am one pop-up ad away from a virus,

One dollar sign away from bankruptcy,

One digit away from a wrong number,

One dropped ball away from defeat.

 

I am one accusation away from indictment,

One degree away from the flames,

One vote away from impeachment,

One storm away from disaster.

 

My voice is growing louder;  my words are getting faster.

 

I am one heartbeat away from tachycardia,

One shock away from electrocution,

One mistake away from failure,

One bell toll away from the funeral.

 

I am one doubt away from a lost cause,

One signature away from resignation,

One sin away from the devil,

One broken bone away from a body cast,

One click away from ‘game over.’

 

I am running on fumes.

I am one key turn away from combustion,

One dress size away from losing my dignity,

One pulse away from abortion,

One hug away from good-bye.

 

I am one tragedy away from recognizing that we are all vulnerable, and no one is immune.

 

You today, me tomorrow,

Me today, you tomorrow.

Me, You, You, Me.

Today, Tomorrow, Now.

 

On the border straddling peace and chaos.

One foot planted on the balance beam.

It’s that close of a call.

 

We are all one rabbit pull away from the magic show.

Pull, pull, make him appear.

One hop away from sticking our landing.

My feet are shaking.

Look up, child.  Catapult.

Accept that we stand on moving ground.

 

We are one vow away from marriage,

One paint stroke away from mastery,

One dime away from a dollar,

One contraction away from birth,

One detour away from an amazing destination.

 

We are all one sunbeam away from a rainbow,

One sensation away from ecstasy,

One prayer away from salvation,

One Hallelujah away from Heaven,

One leap of faith away from enlightenment.

 

When you are one x away from y,

things can go either way.

It can happen to you, to me, to them, to us.

Listen.  Look around.  Practice gratitude.  Practice love.

 

Anxiety, depression, people.

It’s about people.  It’s about heart.

You are not alone.  I see in.

 

He was one laugh away from you and me.

He was one smile away from healing.

And we are too.

 

Please don’t judge what you haven’t experienced.

It’s no more foreign than French fries and French kisses.

We are all one heartfelt hug away from each other.

There are only two things you need to say,

“You matter,” and “I care.”

 

Copyright © 2014 by Susan M. Featro, Voice Lifted.  All Rights Reserved.