Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lori Cunningham - Unseen

I want you all to know how amazing Lori-ann is, and how thrilled I am to see her achieve such a difficult goal. Let me give you a little background. (Sorry, Diva. This gets personal...)

Just over 3 years ago, I, by chance, sat next to Lori-ann at a church activity, just a few days after she moved into our neighborhood. All I knew was that she was another completely unfamiliar face, which, I admit, slightly intimidated me. My first thought when I saw her was "Don't bother, Donna. You'll never be good enough to be her friend, I'll bet she'll fit right into so-and-so's clique." So I really didn't make an effort towards conversation. Well, she introduced herself to the group and mentioned that she has a degree in vocal performance, and taught voice at BYU, and happened to teach voice lessons to somebody who was in our ward. That piqued my interest immediately, because my daughter (at the time) really wanted to be involved in school plays & choir, and needed much vocal improvement. So I swallowed my skepticism and turned to her to talk about voice for Britty. It was a incredibly noisy, so she pulled out her wallet to hand me a business card so that I could call her and talk about it in more detail. Well, her card was a Mary Kay business card and I immediately said "Great! Could you come over and teach my teenager how to take care of her skin too?" (Sorry Britty, but you understand.) So then, the ice was broken. Still didn't anticipate a friendship though.

Well, for anyone who knows me well, knows that I listen to some pretty obscure music, and that I am very passionate about deep, stirring, contemplative & emotional music that speaks to my soul and seems to understand my emotions. I thrive on it. Sadly, I can pretty much guarantee that if you ask me what I like, you'll not recognize one artist. Especially Bel Canto, which has been one of my staples for the past 15 years. It's actually been very frustrating for me to not have a friend with the same music interests. I figured I would forever enjoy my music solitary. But that doesn't stop me from playing my music when others are at my home, and trying my best to expose them to it. On this particular day, we had just gotten a new album from CD Baby, and I was enveloping myself with this new artist. I had Hungry Lucy playing when Lori-ann came over to give Britty her skin care class. She hadn't even made it into my kitchen before she asked what we were listening to, because she really liked it. Oh my gosh! Somebody actually LIKES the same music I do? Wow! She told me that was the kind of music she listens to. So, out of curiosity, and fully expecting a "who?" I asked her if she has heard of Bel Canto. Her response was "Oh my gosh, I LOVE Bel Canto!" I was shocked, then elated, and instantly started probing her about all the artists she's heard of. I think she was also taken by surprise that she found somebody that had similar interests, and more importantly, someone who loves and appreciates the same feel of music for the same reasons. I'm pretty sure up until that day, she too was enjoying her music style all by herself. We went through my mp3's & cd's, (and some of hers that were in her car), and spent the rest of the time talking music. Delerium, Amethystium, Blue Stone, Balligomingo, Conjure One... (Yes, I know. Anything to add more music links...) Anyway, I don't think we ever got out the Mary Kay stuff. It was far less important at that point.

And an instant friendship was formed.

As time went by, and I got to know her better, I started noticing how unhappy & unfulfilled she was with her Mary Kay business, and was picking up on the wishes and regrets. I remember having a conversation with her one day about all she used to do involving voice, and how she missed it. I asked her why she chose to concentrate all her efforts towards Mary Kay instead of working with the degree she had earned. Her answer was a simple dismissal. "It's a thing of the past. I have kids now, it's impossible." I was sad to hear that. Not only because I could see how Mary Kay was conforming her into some false sense of "happiness," but also because I was really curious about (and anxious to see) what talents she had that were hiding in the dark recesses of her mind.

Not too long after that conversation, I had discovered the artist Sleepthief, and was instantly mesmerized by one song in particular, Sublunar. Every time I heard it, I would get teary eyed and have chills, and kept thinking "She's gotta hear this." It was very convenient that on Auralgasms, (online radio), they'll tell you the upcoming tracks that they'll be playing. I had it playing on my computer, and saw that Sublunar was next in queue. So I called Lori-ann up and told her to get on her computer asap, crank the volume up, listen to the song, and call me back. So that she did.

This next conversation was a turning point for her. She called me back in tears. "That is what I want to do. That is the kind of music I want to create." It was no longer a wish, but now a desire, a goal. And almost immediately she dove into getting as much information as she could get about what equipment she needed to get started with. It was a very slow process, but the equipment came piece by piece. Then came the self teaching, the exploring, and the experiments. The trial and error. Many new discoveries, many new ideas, many new inspirations. The music started coming together. Her talents grew and strengthened. Every piece of music she wrote blew me away. I was amazed that she was able to create something so deep and beautiful. Many times as I was invited down to her "studio" to listen to her latest (and "unfinished, unmastered, and imperfect, so don't judge it") creations, I was blown away, and was amazed over and over again. So many melodies spoke to my emotions, some brought memories, some validated how I was feeling at that time. I never ceased to be impressed. The beautiful thing is that I thought they were all amazing and perfect, but I also could hear and feel the growth and improvement with each new track.

During this time of experimenting, learning and growth, were also some very trying times for Lori-ann. Equipment issues (over and over and over and over), family trials, very ill children, personal crisis, legal education... All of which would have had me throwing in the towel and calling it quits. (Especially the Alesis... I don't know how she managed the patience for that one!!!) But she didn't quit. She drudged through the mud and kept going. Nothing was going to stop her from completing her goal. I admire that determination. She has always been an inspiration to me, to want to make something better of myself. To not be afraid to follow a dream and do what you know will make you happy deep in your heart, no matter how many people balk at you, or tell you that you're not good enough, you'll never make it, don't waste your time, etc. No matter how many obstacles are thrown in to divert you off your path, or how many boulders are thrown right in front of you to stop you completely.

Well, after 2 years of blood, sweat and tears, I am so very happy to say that she did it! She withstood all the torrents. She reached her destination. It was not easy, in fact, it was living hell at times. But she did it, and I admire her, respect her, and deeply love her for that. And look at what she has now! A true work of her heart.

So Lori-ann, you're welcome. Thank you for letting me be such a big part of this dream. Thank you for sharing your beautiful talent with me, in all of its ever progressing stages. Thank you for adopting me into your family as well, and giving me a home away from home. Thank you for your unbiased friendship, and being able to see beyond the plain appearance and believing that I had something beautiful and of worth inside. And, thank you for allowing me to support you. That means the most to me. You know I'm your number 1 1/2 fan... heh heh


Jenni said...

I loved reading your side of this Donna. Thank you for sharing!! Awwwwe now I love Lori-ann's music even more. :) Not that I didn't already. You are such a wonderful friend for her. Thank you for all you do for everyone - such a blessing and a bundle of light.:)

Lori-ann said...

I don't know what to say. I really don't. To have someone say such nice things about me is.. well.. takes the words right out of my mouth. And you know that's hard to do! I wouldn't be where I am today without your guidance and support. I hope we'll be friends for life. :)

Jay said...

Wow, a very touching story that gives me yet another new found respect for Lori. I find this very inspiring for myself to know, that with enough determination, I too can reach my musical goals. Lori, you're awesome, and Donna, what a touching story that truly captures Lori's quest, and your involvement.

Vicky aka VickStix said...

Wow Donna, what a great story, and tribute to an amazing person, and incredible artist. I too, was captured by Lori's music, the moment I heard the very first song. And how great to get to read about the entire creation process, as well. I too, have a new found respect for Lori's music, even MORE NOW, after reading this. And what a great friend you are, to not only be such support, but to write such a wonderful moving story about her, born from your heart. Kudos to you both. :-)


XOX Vicky