In response to Writing 101’s prompt Commit to a Writing Practice
Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?
Nailing Brahms’ Hungarian Dance Number 5 on your alto sax. Making perfect pulled pork tacos. Drawing what you see. Or, writing a novel. Each requires that you make practice a habit.
Today, try free writing. To begin, empty your mind onto the page. Don’t censor yourself; don’t think. Just let go. Let the emotions or memories connected to your three songs carry you.
Today’s twist: You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.
This has got to be one of the most difficult exercise ever. I live with music and have done so since the mid 1980s. Choosing my 3 favourite songs is like asking a junkie why they don’t consider quitting drugs… Just so you know two pieces almost made it: King of Pride Rock from Lion King and Don’t Forget Me from the TV series Smash.
I wrote an hour and a half and I need to write at least that up to 2 hours a day.
As a kid, Selena was extremely shy. She’d never ask for anything that could be deemed inappropriate or childish. She didn’t want people to think it was all about her. Why? After all, children are supposed to be demanding, to expect the world revolves around them. They’re kids. But Selena was the eldest and her younger brother had a condition requiring a lot of work and attention from both parents and medical staff. She learned early on that his needs were more important than hers.
One shouldn’t be mistaken: her parents loved her and cared for her, but Selena understood that her little brother was sick and should come first. So she too helped taking care of him. And she loved him to death. Evan was a lovely kid who wanted to do everything healthy boys his age would do even if it meant hurting himself. She would usually be with him – hiding from their parents – to ensure he didn’t do too much damage. Theirs was a special relationship that couldn’t be easily explained.
She was a good student albeit a discreet one. And she loved music; whatever pocket money she received from her parents, she spent on CDs. By the time she was old enough to move to her own apartment, she had more than 1500: classical, soundtrack, theatre, jazz, pop, rock, even dark metal. She could never have chosen which ones to discard to move into a tiny bachelor so she spent a little extra to have a room where she could put them. And though very few people – her brother and best friend Kate – knew it, she loved singing. She kept that secret a very long time, singing only to her brother when they were alone without their parents in the house.
When she heard the words “Who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me? Why is my reflection someone I don’t know? Somehow I cannot hide who I am though I’ve tried. When will my reflection show who I am inside?”, she felt as if the song was written for her. Sure, she wasn’t going to marry just yet, but her parents wondered why she didn’t take part in this project, or that? Why wasn’t she popular? They were once Homecoming Queen and King and maybe they expected her to be as well. Only she wasn’t that girl.
She taught herself to play piano and guitar. She had trouble with wind instruments, though she loved the saxophone. One day, when he heard her accompany Kate on a piece, the music teacher asked her to play for the choir. Kate had added her voice and she’d agreed. After a few months, she realized she truly enjoyed it. And she had the opportunity to support kids whose confidence was shaky; she understood that. Showing them that she was here for them and not to show her skills helped them be better. She loved that feeling. Maybe she should be a teacher too some day.
But it wasn’t to be. Her secret came out one night. She’d rehearsed with the choir some songs by Gershwin and not satisfied with some of her playing, she decided to stay a little bit later after students and teacher were gone. At first, she only played on the piano, but soon her voice joined in, words falling from her lips like a soft caress to sing the most well known lullaby in the world. “Oh, you daddy’s rich, and you ma is good looking. So hush little baby, don’t you cry. One of these mornings, you gonna rise up singin’. Then you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky.”
“Selena?” She jumped at her teacher’s voice. She hadn’t heard Mr. Pinkilton return, so lost she was in the music. He’d forgotten his wallet apparently. “I didn’t know you could sing.”
She’d been so embarrassed, she’d claimed she didn’t. It was for fun. But he wouldn’t let go. He insisted she was good enough to obtain a scholarship and maybe even enter Juilliard. She panicked then, grabbed her bag and fled. She was so upset that she refused to return to school the next day. Unprepared for such an attitude from their ever so calm and poised daughter, Selena’s parents wondered what could have happened. They asked to meet the principal and the music teacher, afraid the latter might have molested their daughter. They were taken by surprise when they heard the story. And Selena was mortified to hear she’d put her teacher in such an awkward and delicate situation. But she still didn’t want centre stage; she was perfectly happy to accompany the singers, not become part of them.
She had to explain to her parents why she’d never asked for piano lessons, causing a great deal of pain. They’d never thought that she could believe her brother’s desires surpassed hers. Even though she explained that it was her choice not to ask, they felt they hadn’t acknowledged her needs enough. All of a sudden a lot of things changed. She had music lesson: instead of playing by ear, she was given partitions and homework. She didn’t like that much, but it helped her tremendously. She enjoyed playing and though she missed it, she didn’t sing anymore.
One day, her brother asked why she didn’t sing to him anymore. She did then to make him smile. She knew he was afraid of the upcoming two weeks that he would spend at the hospital. A two step four hour surgery would ensure that his life comfort wouldn’t change. When he asked her to be part of the school show as a gift for when he came back from this hospitalization, she knew she’d been framed. Both by the boy and by her best friend. But she’d never been able to say no to Evan.
Eventually Kate accompanied her to meet Mr. Pinkilton who offered to give her singing lesson and help her prepare – if she wanted – to audition for Juilliard. She did enter the school, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, 15 years later, as we ask Selena Bows which song would best describe her life she sings a few lines:
“I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason,
Bringing something we must learn
And we are lead to those
Who help most to grow
If we let them.
And we help them in return.”
She says she doesn’t know whether she helped Mr. Pinkilton in any way, but he definitely changed her and her life for good. Even though she didn’t know at the time, he most certainly helped her to grow.
And hasn’t Selena Bows grown into one of the most respected artist on stage? Classical or theatre, at the piano or not, she’s versatile and combines styles like no one else. We’re very grateful she agreed to meet us.