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!

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.

Christmas Benefit Concert

 

 

This year, I will offer for the fourth consecutive year the Voice Lifted Christmas Benefit Concert on Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 2:30 pm.  This event will again 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 are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.  You may call 570-818-4135 for advance tickets.

I am excited to announce that guest performers this year will include Mr. Steven Toth (Tamaqua Senior High School principal), Emily Barrett, Tom Flamini, and Barbara Greim.

If you have not attended a Voice Lifted Christmas Benefit Concert in the past, I invite you to experience the 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 & 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 Sacred, 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 music and word in this annual event.

Please be in touch if you have any questions about the event or would like to purchase tickets in advance.

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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Christmas Concert, Christmas CD

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I am excited about my upcoming Christmas Benefit Concert that will be held on Sunday, December 7th, 2014 at 2:30 pm at the Tamaqua Community Arts Center.  This is the third year that I will offer a concert of Christmas music with 50% of the ticket money going to the Tamaqua Community Arts Center and 50% of the ticket money going to the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation.  Since my concert last year, the Tamaqua Community Arts Center has been renovated.  I will be performing on their new stage, and the seating upstairs has also been redone along with multiple other additions and improvements around the center.  I look forward to making music in this beautiful space that is a cultural home in our community.  I will be joined in the performance by several guest musicians, including high school principal Mr. Toth who will sing as part of the concert as a first-time guest at this event.  I hope that many in the Tamaqua Area School District will come out to support him, to support me, to support the other performers, and to support these wonderful organizations.  Advance tickets are available for $8, and tickets will cost $10 at the door.  Call 570-818-4135 for advance tickets.

I am also excited to announce that I have completed work on my second CD “Voice Lifted at Christmas.”  This CD will be available for purchase at the benefit concert, and it will soon be available for purchase on my website.  At the top of this post is the cover photo from the CD.  As on my first CD cover, I am lifting my voice to God.  Highlights of the new CD are favorite carols “O Holy Night,” “The First Noel,” and “Silent Night,” as well as favorite inspirational Christmas pieces “Mary, Did You Know?” and “Breath of Heaven.”  I am joined on 3 songs on the CD by vocalist Tom Flamini.

This is a preview of the new concert hall.

This is a preview of the new Tamaqua Community Arts Center concert hall.

 

 

 

Too Busy

 

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  I’ve been busy.  Too busy…

I recently traveled to a conference in Portland, Oregon.  The conference was great, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Portland and in the area surrounding the city.  In planning for this trip, I knew I would be very active during my time in Portland, attending conference sessions and seeing as much of the area as possible: the waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge area, Portland’s Chinese Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, the famous Powell’s Bookstore, and more.  Because I knew I’d be tired from the traveling, I thought ahead and cancelled several of my regularly scheduled weekly activities in the days following my return home from this trip.

Arranging for a lighter schedule as I adjusted to the time zone shift, worked on unpacking, and reunited with my cats at home was really a good decision.  As a conscious spiritual being who is on a journey toward health and wholeness, I try to practice good self care.  Sometimes I do well, but other times I put other people’s requests in front of my well-being and end up cutting my sleeping time short as I rush to meet deadlines and help others out.  This was a time when I succeeded in doing what was good for me. But it went beyond that…

Not only did this extra time to get settled back in after my trip allow me to readjust without the stress I had experienced on other occasions on which I “hit the ground running” and jumped right back into it all.  In addition to that, I noticed that I was breathing more freely and feeling less tension in my body.  It was clear that I felt lighter and more joyful…and even more creative and inspired…as I went through my days.  I enjoyed the opportunity to sit for a while with a book or with my journal and go into that introspective and reflective space that I love.  I saw that I was more in touch with my body, and I was making better choices, as my head felt clearer.  I felt more optimistic.  I was more engaged in the activities I was doing.  I took notice of more that was around me, taking in the beauty of the earth springing to life and the ring of a passerby’s laugh.  I even got to take a little extra time and spontaneously accept an invitation from a friend to spend some time together.  Just a few extra hours in my week made a big difference, for sure.

Upon reflecting on these noticings, I knew I would have to use this information to make some changes to my days.  I also probed myself to explore the meaning behind the choices I had made to arrive at such a busy schedule in the first place.  I remembered some sage and powerful words from my spiritual mentor Brene Brown about how we can erroneously equate busyness with self-worth and see exhaustion as a status symbol.

I believe that many of us, especially women, participate in this race for worthiness, believing that it’s not enough to simply be; believing we have to do…buying into that false belief that we have something to prove.  When we don’t trust in our own inherent self worth and goodness, we look outside of ourselves for validation.  It can (temporarily) elevate our self-esteem when we are “in demand” in our jobs or in the community.  I’ve heard many people comment on how good it feels to be needed by their partners or family members.

Similarly, I’ve witnessed friends and family members accept invitations that they really didn’t want to accept, because they felt guilty saying that they’d rather stay at home and do a crossword puzzle or take a relaxing bath.  Peer pressure is alive & well in the adult world, too.  I think of the judgments that some mothers place on other mothers who are not driving their children to Mandarin lessons and baking for the soccer boosters’ fundraiser.  Why do we push each other to go beyond what is reasonable?  What would it be like to instead affirm others’ choices to take good care of themselves, whatever that looks like at any particular time?

It is a process to step back from the mad rush.  It takes practice to get good at saying “no.”  One thing that helps is to remind myself that every time I say “no” to something that I don’t have time for or something that doesn’t absolutely light me up, I am saying “yes” to myself.

I’ll be blogging soon again.  Maybe the next post will be composed as I enjoy a glass of fresh-brewed iced tea while sitting in the sunroom with a cat on my lap…  I am getting better and better at taking it easy!

Retreat

Last Thursday, I presented at an educational research conference in Cape May, New Jersey. I turned this time into a solo get-away and enjoyed an incredibly wonderful and beautiful 3 days by the water.

 

I spent time with a good book and my journal, having a front-row seat to the ocean on my beach towel. I walked through the town and enjoyed the Victorian architecture. I ate really good food, including a lobster roll & a complete lobster bake, enjoyed outside at a picnic table. I took off my shoes and walked on the beach, away from it all.  I sat on my balcony and breathed in the salty air.  I explored the area.

 

It was a delightful retreat and has left me feeling refreshed and inspired to lift my voice.  I believe that solo retreats are essential to the creative process, and I wanted to share with you a few photos from my time in Cape May to inspire you!

Cape May 3

Cape May 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cape May 4

Cape May 1

Reflecting after the Concert

It’s been 9 days since my Holiday Benefit Concert.  On December 16th, I performed a full concert of holiday music at the Tamaqua Community Arts Center, with my concert benefitting the Tamaqua Community Arts Center and the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation. I was joined on stage by special musical guests Faith Roberts, Stan Stewart, and Tom Flamini. These musical guests lifted their voices and created beautiful music that uplifted all of our spirits. It was a special afternoon for me, because I love to sing, play the piano, play the guitar, and share my music with others. It was also a special afternoon for me, because it brought together so many wonderful people.

 

During the Christmas season, our to-do lists seem to get longer with holiday preparations that need to get done, family and work parties to attend, and gifts to buy and wrap. It’s easy to get caught up in it all and not take the time to slow down, reflect on what we’re feeling inside, and allow Christmas to come alive in our hearts. I don’t see Christmas as an all-out celebration of joy, jolliness, and peace on Earth. Those who attended my concert heard me sing pieces of music that speak to the fears and doubts we have inside, the struggles we face on the journey, and the heartache that is experienced during life on Earth…as well as the joy & sweet surprises and playful, lighthearted fun that is part of the season. I believe that Christmas is all of that. Christmas is a celebration of being alive and being together, feeling all that we feel and accepting it, while keeping focused on what really matters in life.  For me, two of the most meaningful things in life are people and music.

 

As I performed my holiday concert, making music and sharing comments and stories in between songs, I held a special connection with each person in the audience, and I felt inspired by the energy of the audience. The audience was inspired by my music and message. It was a continuous exchange of inspiration & energy between the audience and me on stage. It was truly uplifting. I was honored to have the opportunity to share my songs and stories with so many people who have been part of my life throughout the years and so many people who were meeting me and hearing me for the first time. I thank all who joined me for that special afternoon.

 

I was already asked about performing a Holiday Benefit Concert at the Tamaqua Community Arts Center next December, and I look forward to doing that. I will post details on that upcoming concert here on my blog. I invite everyone who attended this year’s concert to return next year to continue the connection, and I invite those who were unable to make this recent concert to join us next December.

 

Christmas Blessings to all of you.

 

Holiday Concert Photo, Susan at Digital Piano

 

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Daring Greatly

The author whose writing has most inspired me and changed me in this past year is Brené Brown.  Brené Brown (Ph.D., LMSW) is a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin.  Her areas of research include shame and vulnerability.  Yes, I did say she was inspiring.  Really!

 

This past week, Brené was on The Katie Show.  She discussed new book “Daring Greatly.”

 

My first exposure to Brené Brown was in watching her TED Talk on vulnerability.  Vulnerability was not a new concept for me.  For the past 10 years, my teacher and mentor James Jordan at Westminster Choir College has insisted that choral conductors and all creative artists needed to be vulnerable in order to offer pure and beautiful creations that move people and connect people.

 

What is vulnerability?  It’s kind of like emotional nakedness.  It’s being open.  Vulnerability is allowing ourselves to be seen…as we are.  Vulnerability is letting go of trying to control how others see us.  It is showing up and being real…allowing ourselves to be exposed in all of our perfection and imperfection…embracing humanness.  Vulnerability is taking risks…saying “I love you” first, letting others see us cry, saying “I don’t know,” and “I’m scared.”  Vulnerability is letting others see how excited we are about an opportunity…with the recognition that we might not get the job or we might not be the one selected after the audition, or that special person might turn us down for a date.  So many times, we choose to avoid vulnerability by “playing it cool” and acting as if it’s not a big deal…pretending it doesn’t really matter if we get the job/get role we auditioned for/get to go on a date with that special someone.

 

To be vulnerable is to be brave.  We take a risk when we expose ourselves to others.  There is a very real chance that we will be judged, ridiculed, hurt…  Brené acknowledges that being vulnerable takes courage, and we will sometimes experience rejection and hurt.  Yet, it is worth the price, because it is actually more painful to stand outside of our own lives and look in, wanting to engage and participate wholeheartedly…but to hold back, protecting ourselves from the potential dangers we might encounter if we let others see us.  I know:  I have often stood back and not fully engaged with others, not speaking up when I had something to say, not saying how I really felt because I feared others would judge me, not stepping up and taking a leadership role because I still had work to do on myself to become “good enough,” not letting others see how much I care on account of fear that I would be judged as “too sensitive.”  The list goes on.

 

I have now decided:  I would rather go home and feel the painful feelings that follow harsh judgment by a friend, audience member, critic, family member, or stranger after I have lived authentically and lifted my voice, living out loud…than go home and feel the painful feelings that arise from knowing that I didn’t put myself out there…that I stood in the background and didn’t bring all of me to the world.  I choose to dare greatly.  I know I will have to be brave.

 

How have you dared greatly in your life?  How do you plan to be brave in your days ahead?