Archive for April, 2011

Pause

Posted in opinion, religion with tags , , , on April 20, 2011 by Kyle Fleming

I didn’t get to do a Lenten series this year because a lot of things went completely out of my control. Schoolwork and research totally consumed my life, and I barely had time to sit down and decompress before I had to move onto something else. It seemed like my world was crashing down around me, and on top of all of the academic pressures, there was the pressure not to get sick, and to turn in certain applications on time, not to mention find funding for an upcoming trip to Europe and just general trying to figure life out stuff.

But I overheard something a few weeks ago that I didn’t get around to blogging until today. I can’t remember where I heard it, or even who said it, but I remember that this person was talking about their home church. This person said that their pastor had said that Lent isn’t a season of giving up or taking on something, but rather it was a period of reflection. We must take these 40 days and do some deep soul-searching. We must pause, even if only for 10 minutes out of our day, and think about the gravity of what is to come.

Currently, it is finals week at Wartburg College. There are so many tests that need to be taken and papers and projects that need to be completed, that we forget it is also Holy Week. Tomorrow is Maunday Thursday, the day after is Good Friday, and Sunday is Easter.

What have I done for Lent? I gave up my personal Twitter account, and made an effort to not be so much of a jerk. The former has been going strong, but the latter has faltered, mostly because it’s hard to change one’s personality in a day. But while I made a conscious effort to better myself, I also failed to take the time to sit down and let myself just be in the presence of the world.

During this Holy Week, with everything that is going on that needs your immediate attention, don’t forget to find a quiet place, even for 10-15 minutes, and just let your mind wander. Clear your mind, and reflect on what the world has given you. You don’t need to be looking for any epiphanies, nor do you need to be mediating on a certain word for phrase. Just let life happen for a little bit. It’s amazing what you can find when you silence those reminders and looming deadlines.

Being Vulnerable Through Music

Posted in opinion with tags , , , , , on April 18, 2011 by Kyle Fleming

A version of this blog post can be found on my ReverbNation musician page. If you like my music, please share it with everyone you know.

Music is powerful, sometimes way too powerful for its own good. In the world of music therapy, songwriting is used as a means to express emotions and feelings that are otherwise hard to express. It’s also used for other things, but generally, emotional experession.

While songwriting is good in therapy, it’s also good for personal emotional expression. Songs, poetry, and stories follow similar processes: identifying the emotion being felt and finding ways to express it, whether it be through metaphor or whether it be through simply stating, “I’m angry/sad/happy because…”

Sometimes I write songs as a means of emotional expression. A lot of times I just write songs because I have a great idea and work it until it’s decent. But sometimes, I experience something that I know no other way to talk about it than to write a song about it. One of the most significant times I’ve done this is when a good friend and great inspiration of mine passed away in November. The news hit me hard, and all I could think of to do was sit down and write. In a short while, I had a song: “Superhero.” I entered it into a video contest, and got into the Top 25. I then performed it at Wartburg’s “Battle of the Unsigned Artists” competition and it helped me win first place. Most significantly, I gave the lyrics to the Hansen family. I haven’t heard from them, but I’m almost positive they greatly appreciate it.

Which brings us to the reason for this post. After a pretty significant break-up, I had no where else to turn but to music. I wrote a couple of really straightforward songs (including one entitled “Really? Seriously? I Hope You Die”) before I decided to stop focusing on my feelings and rather about the situation. Eventually, I came up with another song, and named it after the girl. I was fully expecting to never have to deal with her again, so the end of the song is a little emotional and a little disappointing.

However, I forgot one thing: she’s going into the same profession that I am. I would have to deal with her professionally forever and ever. Which made me think about posting that song on my artist page linked above. I posted it and instantly wondered how she would react to it if she found it. Would she understand that it’s artistic expression, or would she get really angry about it, further destroying our professional relationship. In the end, I realized that it didn’t really matter, so I posted it, and even had it up for sale.

Putting so much of my personal self into a song was a risk that I was more than willing to take. And I thought that was the end of that. Except that we were both attending a conference. At first, I was nervous about seeing her again, worrying about feelings that would come up again. Needless to say, those feelings never materialized, and we both sat down and talked it out. We talked about the weird vibe between us, and how we need to keep ourselves professional and friendly. It was a good, healthy talk, and we’re on good terms again.

But that left a problem: the song no longer worked. I tried singing it, and it felt weird to sing about feelings I no longer felt. The song needed to be reworked. So I took it down, removed the bridge and rewrote the third verse. It’s now a more mellow song; what was once a song about longing for something I can no longer have turned into a song about life coming full circle, from love to loss to love again.

I recognize this is a very vulnerable post, and something that is out of the ordinary for me. A great mentor of mine, Weston Noble, once said that sometimes it’s perfectly necessary to be vulnerable. So what’s the necessity of this bit of vulnerability? It’s to show that, yes, it is perfectly fine to be publicly vulnerable.

And in a way, it’s able to teach a message: sometimes the situation seems beyond your control, and you can’t see beyond your current situation, much like my “break-up song.” But with enough time and little bit of awkwardness, things will change. People will change, situations will change, and it’s best to be flexible and vulnerable. And sometimes it really helps to write a song about it.

Why Day of Silence Matters

Posted in current events, opinion with tags , on April 15, 2011 by Kyle Fleming

I didn’t realize how much of a talker I am until I lost my voice. On Saturday I came down with a pretty nasty cough, and by Monday, my voice was shot. Tuesday it wasn’t there, so I went into the clinic and was diagnosed with the beginning stages of bronchitis. They have me (heavily) medicated, and on vocal rest except for when I absolutely have to make noises, which, this weekend, is three performances and a vocal jury.

But it all worked out, because today, I wasn’t planning on speaking anyway. For the past few years I’ve taken part in the Day of Silence campaign, a day where people will opt not to speak as a representation of the silence that many in the GLBT community must endure.

There are so many people out there who don’t have a voice because of the stigma of being different, not just by being homosexual, but my not fitting in. While I’ve not experienced the extreme examples felt by many people around the world, I’ve had my fair share of moments where I would do anything to just be accepted for once.

If you only take part in one cause in your life (and as long as you continue that cause after today), let it be the Day of Silence. It’s not too late to start. Please go to the website for more information, and register if you choose to take part.

It’s paradoxical to speak up for a group of people by staying silent. But when you have a whole group of people not speaking, it sends a powerful message that is beyond words.

Standing in the Hammock: Being an Innovator

Posted in opinion with tags , , on April 11, 2011 by Kyle Fleming

This weekend I was at a music therapy conference in Overland Park, Kansas. The keynote speaker at the conference was Dr. Alicia Clair, who talked about being an innovator in the field of music therapy. She mentioned that often, an innovator is someone that doesn’t quite fit the mold. In her words, they’re people who “stand in the hammock,” and shake things up. They are often seen as outcasts with radical ideas and often times aren’t taken seriously.

I talked with her after her presentation and asked her what I could do to be an innovator (since I fit pretty much every description she had up on her slides). She told me to focus on my studies, since I’m still a student, and when I get into the professional world, to not be afraid to shake things up a little bit, think outside of the box, and if anyone says that I can’t do that, to tell them, “Thanks for the advice. I’ll take it into consideration.” Then do it anyway.

While her presentation was primarily about the music therapy profession, there is something to be said about standing up in the hammock in every day life. There is some complacency in daily life in every facet. Speech is limited, creativity is limited, and brilliant ideas are taken and immediately shot down before they even have a chance to be something more than ideas.

I honestly believe life would be so much better if innovators were given more of a chance. Today’s instant-gratification world is disappointing, because new ideas take time. I even find this behavior in myself: if something doesn’t immediately remedy my situation, I consider it a failure. If something doesn’t work within the first week, I’m over it and ready to move on.

This sort of mentality isn’t helpful. If we always gave up on something that doesn’t work right away, I wouldn’t be blogging from a laptop. I’d be going back to the olden days, writing out my entries longhand and standing in the middle of the city shouting my words at the top of my lungs.

It’s time to be innovators. It’s time to rock the boat. It’s time to stand up in the hammock (which, really, is probably the best metaphor I’ve ever heard in a long time). We must embrace new ideas, because how will we know what will advance our society and what won’t?

Granted, there are some ideas that really are radical, and in the totally wrong way. But be an innovator: maybe the idea as a whole is pretty terrible, but what’s to stop you from taking ideas from the radical plan and applying them somewhere else?

I challenge you to be an innovator. I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and propose something crazy. You never know what will stick and become the Next Big Thing.