Choreographing on Piano Keys for the First Time

I’ve surprised myself. I’m working on making music, original music of my own.

I’ve always wanted to be more musical than I actually am. I took up the piano when I was younger, beginning when I was about five or six. I didn’t stay with it for very long and eventually quit. A couple of years later I reconsidered and thought, hmmm, I think I’ll like playing the piano this time. And then I did for a little bit, but just never found myself fully invested in the craft. I was so much happier flitting about the dance studio, than sitting in front of our piano at home, trying to read notes on the f clef. (I’ve always been horribly sluggish when it comes to reading notes.) All in all, I eventually quit the piano four times, I think.

Then I tried the violin for two years. And then the cello for one.

If for some ridiculous reason all the instruments were on the verge of musical extinction and I could only save one and only ONE… I would choose the cello before you could say the word staccato!

While waiting for my voice teacher to come to our lesson last Wednesday, I sat at the piano and began to play. The last time I really sat before a piano was on my last day in the US in July, my final afternoon alone at the dance studio of all serendipitous places, at my old college. I didn’t get very far with the piano playing then, and just spent much of the time recalling the single piano piece I remember. Certainly unexciting. Before that occasion, I don’t even remember the last time I tried to play and instrument! Last Wednesday however, after trying to read the notes of a hymn for a bit (the effort of decoding sheet music was bringing me no accomplishment!) I began to simply improvise. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the sounds I was stringing together on the fly weren’t a complete audio assault!

Since then, I’ve spent some time in front of the piano again, this time actually trying to compose a piece. Not only that, I am actually enjoying and wanting the time I spend there. The hours just disappeared last night!

I am liking my new project very much so far. My mom tells me it sounds like drops of water trickling down wooden steps. Here is the second draft to my Still Unfinished, Still Untitled Autumn Song. The end needs some work, and the piece certainly needs some cello; but so far so good. Don’t you think?


The Weekend, Only Busier Than The Week That Precedes It

Despite the recent extra long weekends thanks to official holidays, the tail ends of my work weeks have remained packed with excitement. They’ve somewhat embodied some of the things I would really like to stay busy with (apart from my lovely day job) for a really long time: fitness, advocacy, spoken word performance, dance and non-profit work.

1. I had my biggest Zumba gig so far.

I arrived at the location, expecting at the very least, a hundred attendees at the sports fest I was opening. However, the lines of people spilling out of cars, jeepneys, and even a bus, took me by surprise. When I walked into Cuneta Astrodome, I realized that my humble estimate was clearly mistaken. Music was blasting, energy was high, and there were already at least five hundred people there. There must’ve been at least 800 by the time I finished my set. We kicked some serious Zumba butt at seven in the morning!


2. I performed a spoken word piece for the first time in Manila.

The International Justice Mission, an international human rights organization that, held it’s annual Manila Prayer Gathering. My brother gave the main message, after which I had the privilege of sharing a poem I performed and dedicated to my brother months ago while I was still in college. It’s a poem called Sold, written from the perspective of a victim of human trafficking and sexual slavery. What an honor to perform it for people who advocate for the very individuals that inspired my words. I was so happy when they asked me to perform – I had been secretly hoping they would!


3. I co-hosted the 50th anniversary of the Precious Jewels Ministry. And with my brother too!

PJM is an NGO, near and dear to my heart. They are my family, my mentors and my friends. They have reached out to so many of the broken in the Philippines and Uganda – serving families and loving children from the poorest and most high-risk communities. Another honor.

4. Played tour guide for a visiting friend, AND filmed a mini-dance video with him!

TRYBE, my amazing multicultural and hiphop dance group at Wheaton, was finally represented in the Philippines by someone other than me! Shannon came to visit and we couldn’t pass up the chance to dance. Unfortunately, both YouTube and Facebook have been taking down the video every time I try to post it, even after I slaved for hours trying to get the large file uploaded. I’ve sent it over to Shannon to deal with.


5. Had Buhay Makulay’s first major strategic planning session with my newly formed executive team.

AKA a couple of my childhood friends – all creative, intelligent and big-hearted. It was an inspiring couple of hours of brainstorming and vision-casting. The next few years look very promising with them on my team!


6. Spoke about the grace of giving through dance.

Pastor Scott had approached me months ago with the idea of using dance as part of a Sunday morning message at church in November. He and I worked together over the past couple of weeks, the product of which was a great experimental episode in interweaving live art into the Sunday morning church service. It was an amazing experience (of course it involved chairs – I have an unexplainable long standing delight in chairs) and although I had a bit of prepared choreography, I ended up improvising much of my movement, directly responding to Pastor Scott’s words. If you’re interested, check out the full message video here, to see the first out of three services.


Now this weekend, compared to the last few, is a little tame. I made sure not to plan anything for the day and I even got to read a whole book this afternoon. Just enjoying a bit of the calm before another whirlwind week and another big Buhay Makulay activity on Saturday – our first young women’s fair at local girls’ shelter!