Hello, I am the founder and Executive Director of, My Voice Music. My Voice Music is a nonprofit organization based in Portland Oregon that engages youth in music and performance in order to promote self-esteem, social skills and emotional expression.
I am also a musician and songwriter. I write and record primarily as a solo musician these days (formerly playing in the bands Another Cynthia and American Hit List). You can hear my solo music by clicking on some of the album links on this site.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
She was a firecracker. She lit up my life.
I loved asking her questions like: “How many calls would you have to make to score some weed?” (her answer: “one call”). What is your favorite drug that you did or didn’t try and why? - her response – “we could take a trip and never leave the farm”…she never answered that question directly.
She adopted people who were homeless. She clothed them, fed them, told jokes to them, laughed with them. She would go out on cold nights to make sure they had a blanket and warm socks.
She almost always had two squirrel-sized dogs with her.
If I mentioned that I liked something in her home (as a courtesy), it would take an act of god to leave without her forcing me to take the said item home.
She once gave me a bb gun. Within the hour I had shot stranger with it. While I lost the bb gun, she never let on that she was dis-appointed in me. We would laugh about that moment each time we visited for the rest of our lives.
She always had a smile and a flood of tears waiting for me. I was conceived the same month her husband died. My father, her son, left a hole in her heart. I feel like because of these things she always made a point to spoil me.
She prayed for me every day and let me know it.
She gave me guilt trips for not calling and visiting enough – every time I called or visited.
She loved remembering the past, a little celebrity gossip, and telling jokes.
She knew pain and how to be compassionate.
She knew love and shared it through her food, hugs, and doting.
She knew how to laugh.
She could give a good guilt trip.
I wish everyone had a person in their lives who saw them as the best person in the world. It’s weird, for sure. But certainly it’s nice.
This grandson can’t believe she is gone. I am thankful for her crazy loving presence in my life, and happy that she passed quickly and with family.
She loaned me the money for my first recording rig (a Tascam 16 channel something or other). This is a song I chose to mix down today as I thought about my grandma. It is about hopelessness and hope. Her brokenness certainly gave her a deep compassion and camaraderie with those who were broken. This song is shared in honor of her – thanks Grandma!
As a young man I was suspended and kicked out of class more times than I can remember. I was failing in school, lying, and cheating. I felt like "Public Enemy Number One" amongst the adults in my life. I was pulled aside, glared at, yelled at, and addressed as a major problem weekly.
This was the case until I was invited to a summer camp and someone there saw beyond my indifferent facade. They saw the best in me and they began to reveal that "best" part of myself to me. That changed my life forever.
I am thankful for all of the people who have invested their time, their wisdom, and their energy in me. Their investments have not been wasted. These mentors, like that camp counselor, have been guideposts showing me another, more fulfilled, path for my future.
I am thankful to have passion and the mental, emotional, financial and physical means to pursue it.
I am thankful to have an opportunity to invest in the lives of young people.
I am thankful to have the support of a community who understands how important this work is. This work of letting people know they are not alone. Letting them know their past does not define them; revealing to them the amazing strength, the resiliency, the humor, the depth that we see in them; that they are needed, their story matters, and their impact is relevant and powerful.
I am thankful for you.
I am thankful to know you; as a supporter, as a student, as a parent, as a partner in this work. I am inspired by the gifts you bring and give so generously to My Voice Music.
I am thankful.
Friday, July 3, 2015
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
I recently took a couple weeks to ride my bike from Astoria OR to San Francisco CA. I had a blast! I saw dolphins surfing, whales breaching, Redwood Trees, and miles and miles of beautiful coastline. It was my first bike tour and I really enjoyed it!
I took a few photos, tracked my mileage and elevation gains, and shared some notable moments in a separate blog.
You can learn about my trip here: Ian's Bike Tour Blog
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
The word “triumph” implies overcoming something. Literally, it means to conquer something. (Wikipedia's definition references Napoleon in order to really drive the whole "conquer" theme home.) That “something”, I believe, is failure. For example, one army triumphs over another army, one team over a rival team, a person seeking less clutter triumphs over a dirty house by cleaning it, etc.
That is to say, all these scenarios include the following steps; setting out to do "something"; by committing to something, we encounter the inevitable risk of not being able to achieve that something; and, after agreeing to take on this risk of failure, the triumphant individual is merely the individual who accomplishes their goal void of the failure. (The quick version of this: you set out to do something and accomplished it despite the odds.)
Quick disclaimer: I am not speaking of the great movie theme failures such as infidelity, murder, or turning your jet fighter up and to the right too quickly, getting it caught in the jet-wash, killing Goose. (That’s a Top Gun reference, millennials.) It’s not that they don’t have a place in this conversation. But I am speaking of the more mundane failures, who’s fear thereof can stop us in our tracks before we begin our journey.
“I want to record an album”, says, the aspiring artist, “but what if I fail?” -- artist stopped in tracks. “I want to be a kinder partner to my lover, but I am afraid to be vulnerable” says, no-guy-ever out loud -- Emo Romance stopped in it’s tracks. “I want to start a workout routine”, says everyone in January, “but what if I don’t follow through?” – says, a thousand people now at a higher risk for heart disease.
So the issue is still, how to deal with failure and not become devastated, numb, and averse to it. It is certainly counter-intuitive that in order to experience success we must become bedfellows with failure.
- We may have a more intimate relationship with both triumph and failure which will both decrease the devastation of failure (yeah!) and the elation of triumph (huh?!);
- we may also form relationships that give energy to one another and help each other grow rather than alienating one another and propagating a perception of “completeness”, "triumph", and "success".
To be clear, however, I am not advocating a bunch of doom and gloom… “Woe is me" folks hanging out together talking about how terrible they are...I would rather swallow a tennis ball than hang around in that crowd.
Similarly though, my reaction is the same when people put up false pretenses to make a good impression, eg; the kind of folks who would rather learn to enjoy a sip urine from a tea glass if the decor is right, the company proper, and their image can be maintained, than state something is foul. (btw, these folks are not to be confused with the folks who willfully, if not with great pains, eat the most wretched of foods humbly offered by a kind host…different situation there altogether; think Ghandi.
I think that 20% area is the “hot and cold” section. That is where the manifestation of our passions exist, where we must take risks to grow them. We must break off the conventional trappings and find something new.
Should we not then be either hot or cold, refusing to settle for the ambient temperature? Should we not take risks and make an effort to make change? And if so, the question still remains, how do we live with the painful consequences of being wrong, of letting ourselves and others down? And how do we experience “triumph” and maintain humility in success?
Full Disclosure: I am writing this because I can't sleep. I am anxious right now over my own failures. I am constantly committing to things that I don't get done.
Yes, it is true that I get some amount of credit for founding an organization that is thriving and supported by amazing staff, volunteers and community members. I sit at the helm of an award winning ship so to speak - and that’s super! But how did I do it? "What’s my secret?", you ask. I'll tell you the secret: I am incredible at sharing my passion, at having a vision...
...then overcommitting, then failing, then finding people who surround me and help me not fail so much. I excel at naively accepting challenges, and when serious problems arise, being creative enough to navigate them...by doing this enough, some progress is made.
Indeed, I am an expert at inspiring action. I draw empathy out of people through the combination of revealing the great expanses of my inadequacies, and then peppering them with just a touch of hopeful banter. My organization rests atop of a mountain of debris created out of my individual failure, upon failure, upon failure. Indeed, it is that pile of debris (made from my failures…incase you didn’t get that), that allowed people to see how they could use their skills to help, to fill gaps, to do things better than I could ever achieve on my own. Persistent failure, viewed through an optimistic lense and a sense that the ultimate result was in my power alone to achieve or abandon, made it all happen.Now, enough of me. Back to the thought, "the answer to dealing with the pain that failure causes is..."
...We can reduce the pain of failure by embracing it. Experience failure daily, moment by moment even. We can take away it’s power by acknowledging it when it happens; laugh about it, cry about it, scream about it and cuss about it. Don’t hide from it and don’t hide that part of yourself from others. Share it. It will draw people to you. They may find value in being a help to you. They may find respite from their own struggles in your vulnerability...
…or they will run from you. That happens too. Not everyone is on the same page regarding this “exposing our vulnerable sides”. And timing is everything here. Certainly don't go over board on a first date or a holiday party, no one likes a "Debby Downer". Also, people might judge you. That's always my fear, the judgment...it happens.
Or it might teach the student (and me) something in the process. The student may hear a new chord relationship they hadn't experienced before and love it...or realize they never want to hit those two notes together at the same time again. Either way, something has been gained through this process. The song would certainly never have had a chance to teach us if it was never created.