“You are always smiling when you return home from Tremble Clefs”. This is what my husband says each Wednesday when I return. I am smiling, because I am filled with the joy, friendship, song, laughter, and the pure pleasure of singing.
I was a sign language interpreter. Music was my passion. I could share the music using my hands instead of my voice. As my Parkinson’s progressed, my ability signing skill waned, and then I could no longer sign.
After completion of the LOUD program for individuals with Parkinson’s, my signing ability was restored. Many former singers with Parkinson’s have recovered their voices through the LOUD program and the Tremble Clefs music therapy. After completing the LOUD program, the therapist suggested I join Tremble Clefs, a choral group that would allow me to continue reinforcing the tools I had learned in the LOUD program. I said, “But I can’t sing”!
Three and a half years ago, I walked through the doors of the West Side Tremble Clefs. I could feel the positive energy coming from the members. Everyone was happy. Beth greeted me, and I met quite a few people before our Director, Sun Joo Lee arrived. The energy in the room grew even stronger.
We began the practice with breathing and movement exercises. Then it happened, the singing, and I can’t sing. The practice was fun and rewarding. I met with Sun Zoo and she asked me about my singing background. “None” was my response, and I shared with her a desire to sign songs. The members learned a song in sign language. I also signed “Amazing Grace” with a member, Ray.
Two years ago, my singing life changed. Tony, my husband, arranged for me to have voice lessons with Sun Joo. Guess what! I do have a voice. I had been singing in the wrong range. I began singing songs at home that I know, or I made up a song about what I was doing. Washing the dishes can have great words and any tune I want.
Group members commented on the change in my voice which made my heart glow.
We presented concerts where members sang beautiful solos. We sang as a group using arm movements, props, and kazoos. These were all part of the music therapy.
I had met with Sun Joo for over a month and one day she said, “It’s time for a solo”. I was scared, but I knew I had her confidence and the support of the group. I changed the words to the song “Born Free” to reflect how I feel about Parkinson’s. It is “Live Free”. Our bodies may be limited, but our spirit is free. The sea and its strength enrich my life. We cannot get through this without the support of family and friends, and life is really worth living each day.
Live free, as free as the sea flows
As free as your life grows
Live free and follow your hearts.
Live free, and friends will surround you
The world will astound you
Each time you look at the sea.
Live free, and life is worth living
But only worth living
Because we all live free.
I prepared this essay after hearing about Linda Ronstadt’s Parkinson’s disease. Ms. Ronstadt, “Come and Join Tremble Clefs”. Hope, friendship, and music are just inside the door.
Author’s note. If I had not been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 13 years ago, I doubt that I would be singing now. I am truly blessed.