When I was in grade school, I was selected to be part of a district chorale in Detroit – one of my happiest memories while it lasted. So I easily related to the excitement when the Detroit Youth Choir was named runner up on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, even though there was no cash reward for second place.
A big surprise came when the Choir returned to the Motor City and Mayor Mike Duggan made a major announcement as hundreds turned out to cheer them at Campus Martius – the Choir will be receiving $1 million after all.
As the CEO of the Skiliman Foundation Tonya Allen told the returning heroes, “We are incredibly proud of what the Detroit Youth Choir achieved during their time on America’s Got Talent and we look forward to what’s next for them.” Skillman was one of the charitable partners who helped fund a $1 million endowment. “This fund is a way for Detroiters to celebrate and grow the genius of our children.”
In addition, the Mayor gave the DYC a key to the city and each member got replica keys to have in their own homes. “In your life, you’re going to go far and wide and you’re going to accomplish great things,” he said.
Choir director Anthony White was at a loss for words after all of Friday’s developments. “This is hard work, sacrifice. I can’t even talk,” he said. “I appreciate every donor and sponsor. This is amazing,”
The announcements keep coming. The choir will perform with season 14 winner Kodi Lee in Las Vegas Nov, 7-10. The two acts will be at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, along with fellow finalists comedian Ryan Niemiller, V Unbeatable Dance Crew and violinist Tyler Butler-Figueroa. Finally, it was also announced the choir will serve as grand marshal for the 2019 edition of America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit. This year’s theme is Detroit Shining Bright and yes, thanks to the incredible talent of the Detroit Youth Choir, the city is truly shining bright!
August was a month of both musical love and precious, renewed friendships. Most importantly, I celebrated my 55th Cass Tech High School Reunion this month with former classmates – opening with dinner and a program at Sinbad’s Restaurant in a room overlooking the river on the first night, then lunch and a bus tour on Belle Isle, and finally at a Tiger’s ballgame (oh my, they even won for us!).
My friend Bob Allen was my guest in the fun put together by an incredible committee led by Jeff Crockett that included Ocie, Jacquelyne, Trey, Morry, Susan Patricia, Helen, Sarah, Mildred, John, Anne and Jacquelin. I was lucky enough to be active on the committee in the early planning. We had about 90 active participants over the two days, many from out of town who stayed at the Atheneum Suite Hotel on Brush Ave. and many took a sightseeing bus tour as their opening event. I am so grateful that I got to experience my high school years with these incredible comrades and hope more good times lie ahead.
The first dose of musical love this month was at DTE’s evening concert with “Heart” (with sisters Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson) on the band’s “Love” Alive tour — including opening acts Joan Jet & the Blackhearts and Elle King. I had first seen only Ann on tour a few years ago at a Detroit waterfront festival. But I had always loved their music – and the crowd seated on the DTE hillside around us went crazy as Heart ended their set with their biggest hit, “Barracuda.” I shared in the exhilarating experience with my friend Bob, and we joyously stumbled when we arrived across more of his friends. They already occupied a large space on the grass and shared their blanket for seating on the hillside as they used folding chairs behind us. Amazing.
I also got an exhilarating dose of musical “love” from the 60s by watching PBS’ American Experience documentary “Woodstock”, a chance to remember three days of peace, love and music in upstate New York. I was just graduating college and starting my journalism career when that musical milestone in upstate New York produced 400,000 fans and four days of musical history that miraculously stayed peaceful and produced many signature musical moments, including the unforgettable Jimmy Hendricks, Santana, Joan Baez and Janis Joplin – plus many more evolving superstars. What an August!
I loved having a Canadian family growing up. My dad was born on a farm in Brigden, Ontario, the third of seventeen children of a Scottish mother and English/Scotch father. Dad quit school after 8th grade to go to work and help the family. He eventually landed a union job at Chrysler in Detroit and became an American citizen. My grandparents later retired to a house on Lake Erie, where my family often spent weekends. We used an outhouse and as kids, my brother and I found that was fun. In fact, my mother’s Slovak parents had a farm upstate near Vassar that had an outhouse, too!
In June, I finally traveled back to the Bear Creek Cemetery to visit the grave of my parents and my dad’s parents – along with other relatives. I used to travel there with my brothers when I first returned from New York. We always took the ferry from Marine City across Lake St. Clair, then traveled along the river on the Canadian side to Brigden. It has been several years since my older brother Gil died and I stopped the trips.
This year I went with my friend Bob and we had to take a longer trip to the Blue Water Bridge that links Port Huron and Sarnia, since the ferry has been discontinued. The adventure seemed gone. The ferry never had long lines, although you might need to wait 20 minutes for it to return from the other shore. Once on the way, you were allowed to get out of the car briefly. It was fun to enjoy the breeze and look for other ships further up the river.
After driving off the ferry, we rode up a highway north along the river, sometimes pulling over when we saw a huge ship coming in order to take photos. Eventually we had to turn away from the river and drive inwards to Brigden, passing a museum that included a wing named in honor of the Shaw family. My grandmother was born Mary Alice Shaw and was close to her brother Francis Shaw, who became a successful communications entrepreneur.
My stay at the Bear Creek Cemetery was brief this year, just long enough to honor my parents and grandparents – and also to walk around to view some of the other Shaw gravestones. I still have many cousins in the Sarnia area and we have promised to stay in touch, even though it could mean long waits now in line to cross back and forth across the bridge.
Remember me when flowers bloom early in the spring
Remember me on sunny days in the fun that summer brings
Remember me in the fall as you walk through leaves of gold
And remember me in the wintertime in the stories that are told
But most of all remember Each day, right from the start
I will be forever near For I live within your heart
Over the Memorial holiday this year, my nieces and other family gathered in a Cemetery Chapel to remember and bury a very special mother and relative – Carol McFarland, who had passed away peacefully in hospice of end stage Parkinson’s Disease. A retired teacher, Carol had always rejoiced in her love of music and her beautiful soprano voice. On Sundays, I attended Church of Christ services at the nursing home with her, my beloved sister-in-law, where she loved singing gospel music. At the funeral, relatives sang a verse of Amazing Grace with the Chaplain. I read the poem “Remember Me.” And yes, we felt her in our hearts.
For the last few years, I’ve written on the unwelcome surprises of modern April showers. Two years ago, it was the intensity of showers that started in February and threatened leaks in my basement. Last year it was the April ice storms and the lingering snow flurries.
Well, in 2019 the rain storms have been milder and later and the ice storms stopped in February, but the back and forth of temperature patterns in April meant lingering snow flurries again this year. Once again, I am struggling with the continued winter weather interrupting my yearnings for more sunshine mixed with warming rains.
Last year I shared one remedy for the April blues – daily meditations to accept dark clouds as readily as we welcome sunshine into our lives. Yes, embrace the clouds and snow. It works to decrease the stress, day by day! But what about changing the future?
This year I wanted to suggest reading books that challenge us to rethink our purpose in life and consider expanding our ambitions to include becoming one of the healers needed to get through the challenges ahead. I have been reading The Path Made Clear, by Oprah Winfrey and just published by Flatiron books. Oprah maintains all of us have a purpose and your real job in life is to figure it out as soon as possible. The second is one I intend to read soon, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life by David Brooks, published by Random House. I just saw an interview with Brooks who talked about his own need to refocus beyond work after his personal life collapsed.
It’s spring and while nature may be struggling, we can choose to find new ways to grow and embrace change to ensure the world also evolves with love.
A first for women in space?
What better timing than March 29th, during Women’s History Month.
That’s when astronauts aboard the International Space Station are scheduled to conduct the first all-
female space walk. Yes, it just so happens the astronauts venturing out together about 240 miles above
Earth are finally women – Anne McClain and Christina Koch. Women will be at the controls as well – Mary
Lawrence will serve as lead flight director and Jackie Kagey will be the lead spacewalk controller.
Turns out it wasn’t orchestrated to be this way. According to NASA, these spacewalks were originally
scheduled to take place in the fall and are meant to upgrade batteries on the space station. Astronaut
Christina Koch noted the importance of conducting her mission during Women’s History Month, calling
it a unique opportunity…”and I hope that I’m able to inspire folks that might be watching.”
Read more on the mission at https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2019/03/07/first-all-female-spacewalk-will-take-place-during-womens-history-month/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.55ecd57027e5
For additional background on women’s history month, click on https://nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org/2019-theme-and-nomination/