This year I volunteered at the Cal Vet Home in West Los Angeles for the Thanksgiving holiday after being approached by my friend Herb (who goes to my gym in Santa Monica). Herb wanted live music to accompany the Thanksgiving Day feast for the veterans who live at the facility. The California Department of Veteran Affairs works to ensure that veterans of every era and their families receive all the benefits and services they have earned through their selfless and honorable military service. I was grateful for the opportunity to contribute music to the veterans as a way to say thanks to them for their service.
On Friday, November 21, 2015, I played at the Clavo Cellars Winery in Templeton, California at the invitation of my friend Jeff Dalton who moved up there from the south bay this past year. Jeff also performed, as did many other talented musicians. It was a fantastic evening with a lot of people attending and enjoying the show. I know Jeff from our days of riding in the Beach Cities Cycling Club. I brought my mountain bike up with me and Jeff, his friend Christie and I had a great 18 mile ride through paved and dirt roads among the area’s vineyards, farms, ranches and homes. I took my laptop to keep up with school (the benefit of online coursework!) and it was a fun and relaxing weekend. The photo was taken at Clavo Cellars by Jeff’s girlfriend Christie Dubach.
I’ve begun to sing for my supper! I’m playing jazz standards, pop, folk, rock and country songs from the 1930s through the ’70s, and more. (For example, I love and play “Oh, Shenandoah” which is from the 1800s!)
“Hawks and crows do lots of things,
but the canary only sings.
She is a courtesan on wings
(so I’ve heard).
Eagles and storks are twice as strong.
All the canary knows is song.
But the canary gets along.
Sing for your supper
and you’ll get breakfast.
Songbirds are not dumb,
they don’t buy a crumb
Of bread, it’s said.
So sing and you’ll be fed!”
From “Sing for Your Supper” by Rodgers & Hart
(from the 1938 musical “The Boys of Syracuse”)
Inspired by her own song, “Who Made It Be That Way,” Mary Ann Vorasky formed All-In-Love.Org, a nonprofit project that offers music classes to women healing from domestic abuse.
SING IT OUT LOUD!
After high school, Mary Ann moved to California from Ohio at age 17, took a job in a fast food restaurant, and rented a room in the house of the short-order cook’s landlady, Rosie. At Rosie’s house, Mary Ann wrote “Who Made It Be That Way” about having grown up in a violent home. She debuted the song at an open mic at the Troubadour at that time (where Elton John, Tom Waits and James Taylor played early in their careers), and a friend who came to see her asked why she sounded so angry when singing it. Mary Ann realized then that she had sung the entire song through clenched teeth. Despite wanting to tell the story of her home life, she did not feel comfortable sharing it then, nor after several re-writes over the years.
In 2013, when Suzanne Vega, whose song “Luka” about child abuse was a hit in 1987, spoke at a writer’s conference at Whittier College, Mary Ann went to the conference and asked her if there were any songs she had ever written that she didn’t feel able to play for people. Suzanne said there are songs she doesn’t play because she does not want to deal with how people react to what she’s singing about, but not because she doesn’t feel able to share the song.
In the summer of 2014 in “Recording and Producing in the Home Studio,” a Berklee College of Music online class, inspired by students who were producing rap and hip hop music, Mary Ann decided to try to bring that genre to “Who Made It Be That Way.”
“Rap / hip-hop music was not familiar to me because I thought it was mostly violent and exploitative of women, but a friend at work shared some of his favorites with me. I listened to Missy Elliot’s “Supa Dupa Fly,” the Fugees “Ready or Not,” Gorillaz “Feel Good,” and Nicki Minaj’s “Superbass,” and others, songs about love, happiness and feeling good. One morning after falling asleep listening to the Fugees, everything I said or sang sounded Jamaican! My friend reminded me that Chrissie Hynde is white and from Ohio like me, and raps in her rock songs, so I reconnected with my roots in Chrissie Hynde and created “Who Made It Be That Way” anew.”
The “Sing It Out Loud!” program seeks to undo the damage caused by abuse, tapping into each woman’s creativity and self-expressive abilities to build confidence, self-esteem, and feelings of connection and community. The ultimate goal is for each woman to become empowered to act with greater awareness on her own behalf in her life, to learn to communicate in ways that others can be receptive to, and to make more self-affirming choices in her relationships and life situations.