Essays-Skyler Reed

Music Emerging has collected essays from four musical women, a musical trio and myself. A simple word: struggles. I asked these women to send me essays about their musical journeys and their struggles. Hope you find inspiration in these personal stories.

Skyler Reed-Atlanta, GA

     "Music has been an influence on my life since childhood. I was automatically drawn to it, and having a musical mother only added to my passion. I have always felt a deep connection with R&B music, and the classics from this genre have been the theme songs to my life. I was never really interested in much else besides music, so when it came time to decide on a career, the decision was evident. I’ve always been a big dreamer and a chaser of what some may perceive as far fetched.

 I was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware for the first nine years of my life, and I remember my mother playing many records from impactful singers like, Whitney Houston and Lauryn Hill. A pivotal moment in my childhood was the when my mother sang a Whitney Houston song to me. I knew that singing was what I had to do. As a child, I enjoyed performing at family functions, which evolved into school functions throughout my teen years.

My mother unfortunately passed when I was nine years old. The only way I knew how to deal with that was through music. I was taken in by my aunt and uncle, and was given a journal to express myself. I ended up writing my first song and winning a poetry slam in the seventh grade. My intention was not to make people cry, but I realized at that moment that I could impact the world through my lyrics. I continue to write, as a form of therapy, and with the desire to somehow help people get through their situations.

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When college time came around, I decided to major in vocal performance at Virginia State University. I studied Classical music, which was a great way to learn proper technique. I then had to decide exactly what I wanted to pursue, because I have a background in several genres of music. I decided to go with my first love, R&B, because it’s soulful, has elements of Hip-Hop music, and I am free when I sing it. I get to write my own words, and sing melodies I choose, as opposed to singing notes written on a page and telling stories of composers.

Being an artist, period, is challenging. The competition is at an all time high, and they are continuously flowing in. This makes booking gigs and growing a fan base difficult. This also makes for a lot of false relationships and trickery. I have been in situations where I worked with people I thought had my best interest in mind. It turned out they were speaking false truths, and using me for their own gain. It’s hard to create genuine relationships and a proactive network this way, so I have learned to be very picky with whom I associate myself. I’ve also learned how important it is to do my research, and not go into a situation blind.

I have self-managed my career as well as playing almost every other role an artist needs.  I only outsource for things I clearly can’t do, like producing a beat and engineering my sessions. I like being self reliant, and I think being this way in the beginning stages of my career is beneficial. I’m learning what each position takes. I’m fascinated with how the music business runs, and I pride myself in being more than just a singer.

Being an artist is one of the bigger pieces to a giant puzzle of dreams I have. I love the challenge of constantly growing, and the fulfillment I get. I’ve never been more driven about something in my life. I hope to inspire and heal the world through my music. I believe everyone has a purpose, and I want to encourage people to pursue it. You really only have one life." 

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Essays-Cynthia Brando

Music Emerging has collected essays from four musical women, a musical trio and myself. A simple word: struggles. I asked these women to send me essays about their musical journeys and their struggles. Hope you find inspiration in these personal stories.

Cynthia Brando-Los Angeles, CA

Busking on the Santa Monica pier.

Busking on the Santa Monica pier.

     Four years ago I moved to Los Angeles with $450, a temporary place to stay and no job or connections. For whatever reason, now was my time, and I was filled with an overflowing energy to finally pursue a dream I had obsessively thought about for my whole adult life-music. I gave away most of my belongings that I had collected for seven years of living a life where I had established roots for the first time. Those roots were in Humboldt Co., in Northern California. I had spent most of my 30’s there; healing from the damage of deep depression and anxiety that I had suffered throughout my 20’s; damage that caused me to not pursue much of anything to its completion. My 30’s were more productive and was a time of getting a degree, starting meditation and Buddhist study and continuing my music in my secluded space in nature.  It was then that I started to perform out a little bit, but was still too terrified to really put myself out there. It wasn’t until the end of my time in Humboldt that I started to play out more, when I realized that I wanted to possibly leave and pursue music more professionally. I left behind a best friend, my tango and meditation community and my easy going existence. I packed up my Jeep with my cat, my small musical collection, some clothes, family heirlooms and some other items of importance. I had no idea what was in store for me-I had never even visited Los Angeles. When I arrived, I sprung right into action. I was elated when I received some responses online from music related sources I reached out to; and was left feeling naïve when nothing transpired, but I persisted. I got a couple of gigs and learned about the “pay to play” system of the city, where an artist agrees to a contract of selling a specific amount of tickets, and pays out of pocket if they don’t reach the quota. I was stunned by this, and would have none of it, but I managed to talk my way into getting gigs at a pay to play venue, the House of Blues, as a “fill in” performer when someone would cancel their gig. I “friended” random people on Facebook that lived in Los Angeles and had a musical instrument in their profile. I started to make some connections this way, and would eventually meet these people in person and form friendships. I started to go to music industry talks and events, and out to hear live music, mostly local singer songwriters. I got a low paying job at a group home as a fill in person, and later a steady 30 hour a week job in the school system which allowed me to get my own place-a very small and perfect studio behind a house.

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     As I reflect back on my 30's in Northern Ca, before moving to Los Angeles, and the beautiful time of healing; I remember often feeling like I still wasn’t ready to take on the world. I continued to suffer a lot from depression, but was more functional. I accomplished much-like going back to school and graduating, but then I would sink back into seclusion. I also did a lot with my music, but nothing would happen. My life began to shift slowly and slowly until I had focused on my healing for enough years that I started to break out of my shell around my mid 30's. I had a new found energy that came from a strange mixture of deep sorrow and ambition. I always had great regrets about my lack of pursuit with music, which I always knew I wanted to do. I also was not very good; even though I had been playing and writing songs for many years. I never had training, and didn’t really know approaches to help me gain a perspective of my musical deficiencies and how to improve, but I practiced a lot, and got stronger-my music did end up improving to the point where I thought it might be good enough to do something with; unfortunately, I was in my late 30’s, which in my mind, seemed kind of late to be pursuing such an incredibly difficult career. Still, I didn’t care-I figured I wouldn’t know until I tried. Success at my age meant something very different than my thoughts about success in my 20’s. It meant navigating within the scope of my own unique path and not someone else's. It meant surviving in Los Angeles under difficult circumstances, which I did. It meant being involved in all sorts of musical activities, such as; playing gigs, street performing, running my own music magazine and concert series and ample studio time-I am currently in the recording studio working on two projects. These are just some of the things I am involved in that I had only once dreamed about-and I’m happy. This is success to me right now. I am not fully making a living off of my music-but I’m working on it, and I haven’t had to leave L.A. yet-and that is all that matters. I still think about the future and have my worries and fears as I now am in my 40’s. Sometimes they debilitate me for a day, but only a day. My life is trying and I’m tired all of the time, but I don’t let that get me down. I could give up music and get a more conventional job and have all of my worries disappear, but I wouldn’t be happy-I would be miserable. I’m still an able bodied individual full of ideas and an abundance of creativity. Until that runs out-this is right where I want to be.

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