Pivotal Music

After my first performance, the tightness around my heart began to release. I realized life is not about being trapped in fear.
(photo by Philipp Detlefsen)

commentary about the inspiration of music and movement


Nancy Harms: “To Zion”

I started the surprising journey that has been my life under the endless prairie sky of Clara City, a Minnesota town of 1,000 people. I spent a lot of time lip-syncing to Janet Jackson with a hairbrush “microphone” in my mom’s beauty shop mirror. I fantasized about singing professionally, but my dreams were capped by fear. 

My first blow came when I applied for a choral music scholarship at the college I wanted to attend. I was not even granted an audition. Singing was what I had been known for in my hometown. Not even an audition? It was an early lesson in rejection.

 After completing my degree in music education, I taught music in a small town. I started experiencing debilitating panic attacks. With the help of incredible friends, I moved to Minneapolis and started claiming things I loved, including singing at coffeeshops. I got my first club gig as a jazz singer. After my first performance, the tightness around my heart began to release. I realized life is not about being trapped in fear. Now I live in New York City and travel worldwide as a jazz singer. My latest album “SHE” is focused on the power of women’s stories.

My pivotal moment with music came when I was sitting alone at my college dorm room desk and heard Lauryn Hill’s “To Zion.” Tears streamed down my face. Sonically, the song is filled with things I love: aching, soulful guitar; the groove; a backup gospel choir; and Lauryn’s powerful, sacred voice. But what reached into such a deep place is the message of the song — embrace a greater calling, no matter the norm around you. It planted the seed for me to honor the divine part of self that asks me to stretch out into the epic unknown.        

Details: RisingShiningSHE.com


June Topic: Breaking the Binary

Describe a time when you began to recognize something as part of a spectrum, rather than a “this or that” categorization. Or share what binary division you wish to see erased.

Send up to 300 words by May 10 to editor@womenspress.com


What was your pivotal experience with music or movement? Use the comments field below.

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3 Comments

  • Sandi Lindgren

    A few years after my divorce, I was finally able to enjoy the feeling of being untethered. At the same time, I’d come to realize that I was craving more community and belonging in my life. I knew a friend of mine was in a chorus, so I asked her about it. I grew up singing, all through high school and into college – but haven’t sung in a group for more than 30 years. My friend’s chorus was a Sweet Adeline’s chorus called in the Twin Cities called “City of Lakes.” I really didn’t know anything about Sweet Adeline’s and was intrigued when I found out it was both A Capella and “barbershop.” She suggested I watch a regular rehearsal, so I did. Frankly, I was BLOWN AWAY by the sound this chorus produced, as well as how engaged the group was. I signed up immediately. (Of course, I had no idea what I was getting into… these women don’t just SING -they PERFORM! ). I am now starting my fifth year as a member of City of Lakes Chorus. Every week, my heart, my mind, my body, and my vocal skills are challenged. Through City of Lakes Chorus, I have received the “community” and “belonging” I was craving with my new 100+ sisters in the chorus and have once again become grounded. If you’re so inclined – check us out at https://www.cityoflakes.org. We always welcome new sisters!

  • Mary Jo Erickson

    I was contemplating.an early retirement to become a full-time day care provider to my new grandson, but kept putting it off because I was afraid my life would be centered on babysitting and lack adult companionship. A friend suggested I check out her chorus, City of Lakes, a Sweet Adeline’s barbershop chorus. They were welcoming guests to learn a few Christmas songs with them and to perform those songs with them at their Christmas show. I gave it a try and was hooked. I joined the chorus and have never looked back. I’ve made wonderful friends, traveled across the United States for our International competitions, and learned so much about music and performing. Even now when rehearsals together are impossible, we still meet via Zoom weekly to learn more, and support each other. I was able to retire happily and enjoy my grandchildren and my new chorus family. If you’re looking for a musical family, check us out at https://www.cityoflakes.org.

  • Bonnie Rust

    I grew up in a musical family near Fargo ND and singing is what we did when we got together. Even the table prayer before meals sung in harmony is quite an experience. My 2 brothers sang in the men’s barbershop organization and I too was interested in singing, but I was very shy. With family encouragement, I joined Sweet Adelines 52 years ago in Fargo. A job location change in 1995 didn’t stop my singing hobby, because I transferred my membership to the City of Lakes Chorus in Minneapolis. The experiences and training I’ve gained through leadership positions and musical opportunities have given me joy and friendships that will last forever.. Making music and sharing it with others through performance is a privilege!

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