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Roots (pt 1)

(Let's be real I'm calling it part 1 because more than likely I'll revisit this theme again haha.)

I call this drawing I made, also called "Roots", made back in 2017

I have a habit of going back and looking at past work I've made, created, concerts I've done, art I've drawn, songs I've written. This past week, I found an old flash drive from college, and with it some compositions that had I not taken the time to save them, could easily have been lost.

Some of you already know this about me, but I act as my family's genealogist quite often. It started back in 2012, when genealogy shows were first starting to get off the ground in mainstream TV. Through seeing these shows, I became interested in my family's story. In a multiracial family you learn quickly when researching that it takes different skills to research different branches of your family tree. There are joyful stories and tragic stories, paper trails and dead ends. For me, there is an honor and a reverence that I feel when I research, on a level I'm not even sure I entirely understand yet.

Chairs a few summers ago, after reading through some quartets and quintets as a family.

Something new that has begun for me is including things like hobbies and occupations when I find them. Many of you know that music is a pivotal part of my family's story. My childhood was filled with the sounds of people practicing around the house, teaching lessons, running rehearsals, going to rehearsals, going to concerts, and after-recital celebrations. Our dining room table has name tags that are tiny little metal music stands, with manuscript paper that includes the visitor's name and the clef of the instrument they play. I remember making myself one with an alto clef on it when I started playing viola in middle school.

There's been an interesting connection that's emerged for me in that practice of genealogy and music. They blend together and shape each other. Music is such a strong connective entity, and I've seen this repeat over and over in my life. Different connections I've made with different people through music, often it's inexplicable. I remember hearing a music professor not too long ago describe making music as interacting with an invisible world.

A metal music stand I found at a botanical gardens in Palm Springs, CA. It reminds me of the dining room name tags in my childhood home.

With that set of eyes, finding these old documents from college almost felt like finding an ancestor. I was excited to see pieces and ideas I'd forgotten about. Symphonies and quartets I'd started, choral arrangements. I was also sad though about how some were older incomplete. versions of what I'd actually made. I've lost much of the material I used to have. There are still dozens of documents, compositions, Garageband files, etc., that I may never see again. Listening to the ones I did have was eye opening. I created them over a decade ago now.

Distance affords me a few things. It allows me to be more empathetic to who I used to be. It also allows me to look at things with a fresh set of eyes. Similarly to the way that I occasionally need to put the genealogy work away and reset, the same can be true in other things. I have intentionally placed music to the side many times in my life, so that I could come back to it renewed and refreshed. Sometimes, it's just different parts of music that need a break, maybe listening to a specific artist or writing with a specific instrument.

Me in college, just after singing on the Oprah Winfry Show. Waiting for a train at Union Station in Chicago. Photo by my sister Marie.

I'm excited to really go back through those old college works with new eyes. I'm sure there will be a lot of revelations, Maybe in some ways I knew exactly who I was. Maybe in others, mysteries I felt about myself now have more clarity and grounding. Maybe I'll find humor in the process. I've already read some old essays I wrote and I've experienced most of these things to a certain degree just doing that alone! With old music, it'll be another journey entirely.

(I'm reminded writing this how I started saving ticket stubs back in 2002, and that now also feels like a mini form of genealogy and music meeting. I keep them in a scrapbook on my bookshelf. I would love to share some of them, and stories that go with them.)

I think that's about all I have to say for now on this topic, though it feels like there's a lot more to say on it. It's amazing how much history and interacting with it has changed my life. As I work to be able to exist in the present and as I learn how to be present, I never want to lose touch with perspective, especially relating to growth, change, and time.

Thanks for coming back for round two of these. 'Til the next.


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