News & Update
May began with a wedding I played at the UVA Chapel. I chose to play the Water is Wide for the processional and the bride walked down the aisle to Pachelbel Canon in D. This is such a beautiful piece and I learned so much and grew as a musician to have worked on this piece. See this link to read my blog post, "What I learned from Pachebel Canon" for more on this subject. I also traveled to the University of Maryland to participate in their cochlear implant research. It was my third time there and I really enjoyed doing this work. Memorial Day I got to sing some patriotic songs with seniors and that made my holiday fun.
- What a wonderful month April was for my work! On April 19, 2017, VSA Charlottesville/Albemarle had our annual concert! Everyone sounded so good. Whit had all kinds of music from African drumming to handbell choirs, John Denver, Leonard Cohen songs and original music too. Here is a link to some pictures from the event. I had a lot of fun playing the guitar for a group who sang, "Let it Go" from the musical, "Frozen." I also sang a song, "Blue Wings" which is a poem written by George Eliot that I adapted and wrote music for. I also had some really good experiences at my nursing home and hospital gigs. You can read about them on my blog. Thanks for reading! :)
- February found me playing music for all my many nursing homes, group homes for people with special needs and hospital patients. I had some delightful and meaningful experiences. You can read some of the highlights of my gigs on my blog. I'm ready for spring, how about you? I'm gearing up for some St. Patrick's Day gigs too. Thanks for stopping by!
- This year started out very well with a new article, "My New Sonic Reality: In Harmony" published by Hearing Health Foundation. I also published an article in the Association for Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA.org) member news letter on keeping a music scrapbook. I have continued to enjoy my work playing for hospital patients, nursing home residents and people with special needs. You can read about my gigs here on my blog. Thank you for stopping by!
- Happy New Year to all! December was a challenging and joyful month. I had several amazing experiences playing at the hospital over the holiday season. You can read about that on my blog post here. December is a time of reflection of the year and I want to express my graditutde to all those who support my work! Oh and one more thing to tell you! I just finished submitting my first science fiction short story, "Tales from Planet Harmonia" about some interplanetary experiences I had with my cochlear implant. The story was submitted for an anthology of deaf and hard of hearing authors. I will let you know if it got accepted and will be published!
- November was a great month! I finished writing two articles that will be published this winter. One article titled, "My Sonic Reality, in Harmony," is for the Hearing Health Foundation magazine. This article talks about my journey as a cochlear implant (CI) recipient and the aural rehab I did to regain music perception to become a professional musician. My other article is for ALDA (Association for Late-Deafened Adults) which talks about the many ways that I keep music as a hobby even though it is also how I make my living. I will post links to these articles once they are published in December. Hoping everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!
- October was a really busy month and it is not over! The highlights were participating in cochlear implant research at JMU, teaching my "American Experience Through Music" to International students at UVA, and teaching a songwriting class for my VSA group. I wrote about all of these on my blog, "Blue O'Connell's Musical Adventures."
- September was a very good month! I got to debut two new projects that I am excited about. One of them is called, "The American Experience Through Music." It is for the (ESL) (English second language) students at the International Center at UVA. We had our first class in the series last week. Each session will focus on different genres of music from blues, jazz, bluegrass, country, gospel, spirituals, rock and roll and pop. Check out the link here for a description of our first class. I also collaborated with local music therapist, Cathy Bollinger teaching a songwriting class with VSA Arts. So far we have written one song and plan to record it in November! The song is about our love for music! Yay for that!
- August found me back into my usual work routine which includes playing music in many different places. In addition to working as a Certified Music Practitioner at U. VA Health System hospital, I also play for groups of people with special needs with VSA Charlottesville/Albemarle. I also work for the Alzheimer's Association in a program called Arts Fusion with older adults with dementia and Alzheimer's. I work for about a dozen group homes and day care centers in the area each month. In addition, behind the scenes, I have been working on a new program with the UVA International Center to teach about American history through music. (with ESOL students) More about that next month!
- I had a wonderful time in Warsaw, Poland participating in The Beats of Cochlea" festival. As stated in below, it is a festival for musicians with cochlear implants. There were 32 participants and I was one of 3 from USA while others came from China, Japan, Germany, Canada, Turkey, Italy, Poland, Spain and other places. It was amazing to meet other musicians with cochlear implants and they were all such good musicians. After the festival, I stayed in Warsaw on my own for 5 days. I went to the Chopin Museum, The Royal Palace and walked through beautiful Old Town, Warsaw. I have uploaded some of my photos of this trip that you can see at this link.
- Great news came my way which is that I was selected to participate in the festival in Warsaw, Poland this year, "The Beats of Cochlea." It is a festival for musicians with cochlear implants. It is a tremendous opportunity! I cannot wait! Meanwhile June finds me doing some special music for local churches. Last week sang new (to me) hymns for a Baptist revival, "I Surrender All" and "Come and Dine." I also sang two other favorites, "It is Well With My Soul," and "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."
- Spring has sprung in Virginia and I am gearing up for some fun summer projects, to be announced later :) In the meantime, I will be participating in cochlear implant research at the University of Maryland in mid May. This will be the fifth research project I've participated in since my implantation back in 2009. I'll be blogging about this for sure! In the meantime, thanks for stopping by.
April is a busy time with many exciting performances and projects lined up. April 3rd finds me performing for library's The Big Read grand finale at The Haven. Then there is one of my favorite yearly collaborations with The Live Poets Society our "Celebration of Nature in Music and Art" at Ivy Creek Foundation on April 17th at 2:00. Coming up just days later is my favorite music concert with VSA Charlottesville/Albemarle on Wed. April 20 at 1:00. I am also preparing for a private corporate gig in DC at the end of the month. Whew! A great month for me! Thanks for stopping by!
- I'm very excited to be doing a special presentation at the Northside Library in Charlottesville as part of The Big Read project this month! This year's Big Read book is The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. Set in the depression era, the book is a compelling story of various social outcasts, one them is deaf and mute. As part of The Big Read event, Northside library will be showing the documentary film Lost and Sound which is a documentary about music, deafness and the incredible human brain. The film follows 3 extraordinary people as they try to re-discover music after deafness, and journeys with them deep into sound and silence. I will be giving a presentation following the film about my own journey to re-discover music once learning to hear again with my bionic ear. (Cochlear implant) This will take place on Thursday, March 24th at 7pm at the Northside Library.
- Yesterday I had my debut performance with Nursing Homes Swing, playing all jazz standards, swing songs and show tunes at Golden Living in Charlottesville. This marks an exciting new direction for me and I feel I am really hitting my stride reinventing myself as a jazz artist. There are too many to list, but some of my new favorite songs I sang yesterday were: "Moonlight in Vermont," "How High the Moon, "Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans," "Smile," "Sunny," selections from Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music and old Fred Astire movies. It was such a wonderful time and now I am searching for more opportunities to play jazz music.
- Happy New Year! I am excited to begin a new year with new ideas and musical adventures on the horizon. Last week I was honored to play for a memorial service for a former neighbor and friend. She was from Norway and lived many years in Sweden and so I was asked to play a very beautiful piece by the Swedish Troubadour, Evert Taube. The name of the song is, "Lill Lindfors" and it made me cry the first time I heard it. I transcribed the melody into a solo guitar piece and here it is to hear I hope you enjoy.
• As you can imagine, December found me bringing the holiday cheer in the many nursing homes where I play. Currently I play at Our Lady of Peace, The Colonnades, Gordon House, The Laurels, Mountain View, Morningside, The ARC, Meadow Creek, Riverdale and others. I enjoyed singing Christmas carols while sipping eggnog and meeting family of the residents/friends I see regularly. If you are looking for something peaceful and special (and different ) to do on New Year's Eve- come to the annual Labryinth Walk at TJMC-UU 717 Rugby Rd from 5-7pm. There will be live hammered dulcimer music and I will also be playing my instrumental guitar throughout the walk. See you next year!
• I've been busy preparing for new projects coming up in 2016. One is that I've joined the roster the many talented performers for the local non-profit Nursing Home Swing. This organization sends jazz artists to various nursing homes in Charlottesville. I am happy to be working on my jazz repertoire! New song ads include, "It's Only a Paper Moon," "Heart and Soul," "Dream a Little Dream of Me". So far, I have 40 songs in my list and it is growing!
October 2015• I'm excited to present, "Music of the Civil Rights Era" at the Northside Branch Library in Charlottesville on Tuesday, October 20th at 6:30pm. The presentation is interactive and invites the audience to join in singing some of the most tumultuous songs in history!
September 2015• This summer I learned over 30 new songs for a wedding reception I played for. I really enjoyed making my own charts and now I have a new book of songs! Some selections include, "My Cherie Amour," "Baby Now That I've Found You," "I'll Be There," "Sunny," "Light My Fire," selections from, "The Sound of Music." The wedding took place at the beautiful Trump Winery. Here are the songs I played for the ceremony:
Processional : Wild Mountain Thyme
Bride's Song: Can't Help Falling in Love
Recessional: Everlasting Love
July 2015• Summer is in full swing here and last week I had a great time teaching a summer camp class (40 1st-5th graders) how to write their own campfire songs. It was a lot of fun! Our favoirte song was, "This Little Dog of Mine (I'm gonna treat him fine)" sung to the tune of "This Little LIght of Mine." The kids came up with verses to teach people ways to be kind to animals. We had such fun making up our own words to known songs and singing all morning. I have more written about this on my blog Blue O'Connell's Musical Adventures. Enjoy!
May 2015• Wedding season has begun in the Charlottesville area and I have really enjoyed being part of such a special occasion for people. There are many beautiful outdoor resorts and wineries in the area and it makes for a beautiful memory for all! One of the places I got to play at a wedding was at Shenandoah Crossing Resort in Gordonsville. Just gorgeous! Here are the songs I played:
Sitting of the Mothers - Simple Gifts
Processional (Bridal party & Grooms) - What a Wonderful World
Bride's Song - Can't Help Falling in Love
What an honor to help create a soundtrack for their special day!
• I have been preparing all month for a special Earth Day presentation to a classroom of 4th graders. This is with my work as Artist-in-Residence with Albemarle County Schools. Also I will be giving a big presentation featuring the African American music of the Civil Rights Era at Western Albemarle High School on April 30th. I am very excited about this!
- Also I have been featured on the Cochlear Americas Blog regarding my Cochlear implant experience. The content of the blog is an essay that won 1st Prize in the Women's Iniative's "Challenge into Change" essay contest this past Sept. Here is the blog link and thanks for your support!
• March found me at a Remo HealthRhythms Training to become a HealthRhythms Facilitator. The training involves using drums to communicate and express oneself in a safe and supportive group. I learned specific protocals that led the group through varying levels of connecting with sound, rhythm and music and heart to heart expression. I am really excited about this training and look forward to bringing it to my community this summer! (stay tuned) Here is more detail about this training experience on my blog.
• The highlight of February was when I got to work with an art class of 4th graders in a creative expression project. It was a really cool collaboration with the kids! Here's how it worked. As I played my Native American flute, the kids would listen to the shape of the lines I produced in the melody. Did it go up or down or stay the same? Then they would convert these note shapes into lines in their expressive drawings. Next I played my guitar and the kids were instructed to listen for the various colors the guitar produced. A given chord can be bright or shiny or resonant and have various textures. The kids would then interpret these musical colors into colors on their drawings. You can see a picture of their results on my blog post about this experience.
• Happy New Year! I am excited to be offering a new class series at the Charlottesville Therapeutic Recreation this winter. My class is called, "Sound Journey Meditation." It is a journey to listen deeply to improvised music played on Native American flute, HAPI drum, and classical guitar. I am also excited to be doing a presentation at the Music Library at U.VA as part of a new series called, "Making Noise in the Library." My presentation will consist of part talk about my cochlear implant experience and the rehab work I did to regain music perception. Here is an article that was published in The Hearing Journal that gives details about this. In all, it's going to be a great year!
December 2014- The Best of 2014
• It was quite a year for me! Here are some of the highlights from my year. Thank you all for being a part of it and for your continuing support in my work!
- In May I receieved the honor of winning the Mildred Spicer Award for the work that I do with VSA with special needs people. This was quite an honor!
- In June the guitar I bought from Dave Matthews and donated to the Music Resource Center sold in an online auction, rasing $41,000 to benefit the MRC! Proceeds go toward providing music instruction to teens at risk. Here is the Daily Progress Story about this auction.
- As a result of this auction, the Music Resource Center created the Blue O'Connell Scholarship Fund to continue to help kids in the community receive music lessons and mentorship from musicians.
- In September, my essay "No More Fried Egg Boons" which tells the story of my cochlear implant activation won First Place Prize in the Women's Iniative "Challenge into Change" essay contest.
- In November, I celebrated 10 Years of working as a Musician-in-Residence at U.VA hospital.
Thanks for stopping by and see you next year!
That is just one thing going on in November. Of course I am also working up my holiday music repertoire too. Thanks for stopping by!
• I am pleased and honored to announce that my essay, "No More Fried Egg Boons" won 1st Place Prize in The Women's Iniative "Challenge into Change" essay contest. My essay tells the story in under 500 words of my challenging process of my cochlear implant journey. I plan to do more writing and submitting to blogs and journals. Stay tuned and thank you for your support!
September 2014• I just submitted my essay for the "Challenge into Change" contest at the Women's Iniative this year. I placed with an honorable mention last year, so we will see how it goes this time around. I'll let you know! I have also been busy working on new guitar repertoire that I really enjoy. Some of the pieces include, "Adelita" by Tarrega, "Bouree in Em" Bach, "Valses Poeticos" Granados and my new favorite, "Theme from Swan Lake" by Tchaikovsky. Have a listen and enjoy! Happy Autumn to everyone--it's my favorite time of year!
• With school back in session, I have been learning new iPad music programs to work with my students with special needs. There are a lot of programs that use multi-sensory modes that work well for people who learn better using visuals or textile methods. I am also gearing up for a new year with my Artist in Residence program at the Albemarle County Schools. It is an inspiring time of year for me!
• Being a Certified Music Practitioner, it is required that I complete 40 CEUs (continuing education) per 4 year term. This month was about getting my paperwork in order and completing another 40 CEUs. Being a lifelong learner, I enjoyed working on various projects to do my CEUs. Here are some things I did to get my CEUs:
- Online Jazz Improvisation course from Berklee College of Music taught by Gary Burton. This was very challenging and fun too! I don't play jazz music for a living but I love studying it. As a result I have really gained a lot by learning more modal scales and jazz chords.
- I completed the Integrated Therapies Certification Program with the Integrative Music Institute. We did some GIM (guided imagery to music) and poetry, meditation, body awareness and other things. We met once a month for a 3 hr class for 6 months. When it was over, we were all sad!
- I retook a Module (class) at the Music for Healing & Transition Program (mhtp.org) and had fun being a student again since it has been 11 years since I was a student of MHTP.
There were lots of other things I did over the 4 year term such as read and report on 4 books in our CEU library. I'm good to go for another 4 years!
May 2014• I am honored and pleased to announce my being the recipeient of the Mildred W. Spicer Arts Fund Award. As I said in my accpentance speech, as a teenager my dream was to become a rock & roll star. This was because I thought it seemed rock stars lived these magical lives and that is what I wanted. Well, I am not a rock star but my life is indeed filled with magic that I thought only stars experienced. I never thought it would look this way, but it is a beautiful journey to be sure!
• I'm very honored to announce that the Music Resource Center has established The Blue O'Connell Scholarship Fund which will go toward providing free music lessons to kids who have no resources to buy instruments or pay for lessons. The center is a first-of-its-kind multifaceted teen center in Charlottesville that uses recording and performing arts, as well as life skills mentoring, to create a sense of empowerment and accomplishment for at-risk teens. Please consider making a donation to this wonderful organization!
• The story of the auction and fundrasier of the Dave Matthews guitar I dontated to the Music Resource Center was featured on NBC Channel 29 news. So glad to be part of a happy story!
• Many years ago (1992) I purchased a guitar from a friend who happened to be Dave Matthews. Little did we know that shortly after this purchase, he would go on to become an internationally famous musician. Recently, I dontated this guitar to the Music Resource Center in Charlottesville. The guitar is to be auctioned off online at CharityBuzz.com in May. Here is the story in the Daily Progress.
• I am gearing up for the next VSA Music Recital at the MLK Performing Arts Center to take place at 1:00 on Wed. April 23rd. This is one of my favorite events of the year with VSA! Come out and hear some great music by some special people.
• My work as Artist-in-Residence at Albemarle County Schools has been very enjoyable lately. My next presentation will be on Native American music at Western Albemarle High School. I am also working on an improvisation workshop for classcial musicians for the next Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss (AAMHL) meetup in April.
• I was recently interviewed by Bill Pilburn of Fingerstyle 360 Magazine for a feature profile on me and my music. The magazine plans to publish my arrangement of Shenandoah. It is uncertain right now if the article will be released in the spring or summer but I'll let you know!
• Happy New Year to all! I am very excited about this new year as I have many new ideas for musical workshops and offereings to come. I have been busy so far this year recording some samples of my repertoire for weddings. I specialize in some of the traditional folk songs of the Southern region. You can imagine walking the hills of one of our vineyards in the Blue Ridge Mountains to some of the selections found on this page
• The holidays are rapidly approaching. This month I started volunteering at the Music Resource Center teaching guitar once a week. It's a great place that offers music lessons of all kinds from instrument to recording projects to teens. Check it out! I recorded an instrumental guitar arrangement that was mostly improvised and done in one take at home. Here is "The First Noel" enjoy and Merry Christmas to all of you!
I hope you'll come see me sing my own songs at First Night Virginia's Songwriter Showcase! I love playing at First Night! Happy New Year!
• I took an online jazz improvisation class with Berklee College of Music and it was such fun and so challenging! It was taught by the legendary vibes player Gary Burton. We had to do musical analysis to pieces and make recordings of solos to various pieces he assigned. I am very new to jazz, so it was a big stretch for me! But that is also why I did it. My favorite piece we worked on was "Olho De Gato (Eyes of a Cat) by Carla Bley. In the version I linked here, I got very rowdy and silly and could not stop laughing through most of the piece. I was amazed I was able to stay playing while laughing. Enjoy!
• An organization I am in Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss (AAMHL) announced last week our first CD, entitled Hear This!. There will be two CD release concerts in the DC and NJ areas coming up soon. More on that later.
• I have been selected to give a speech at the TEDx Cville Open Mic on Monday, September 30th 7:30pm at The Jefferson Theater. The speech will be 2 minutes on the topic, "What's the difference that makes a difference?"Quite an honor!
• My article, "How a Mystery Guest Found Belonging" was published in an online music magazine Grand Piano Passion. This online magazine features articles about piano but also other music as well as features musicians with hearing loss.
• I am proud to announce that I have been named a HearStrong Champion from the Hearstrong Foundation which is an organization that recognizes those who have overcome hearing loss. The HearStrong Foundation aims to shatter social stigmas and radically challenge the general perception of hearing in our society.
• July found me busy with my regular gigs and also I did a lot of writing. I enjoyed writing an article for a wonderful online music magazine called Grand Piano Passion. This magazine is not just about piano music, it also features stories and articles by musicians with hearing loss. My article titled, "How a "Mystery Guest" found Belonging" will go live on August 27th. I also wrote an essay as to apply for the TED talk open mic happening in Charlottesville on September 30th. I will let you all know if I made the open mic--crossing fingers here!
• My essay, "Skydiving: A Quantum Leap Within" received an Honorable Mention for the "Challenge into Change Essay Contest" at The Women's Initiative in Charlottesville. My essay tells the story of overcoming hearing loss to becoming a professional musician. It is indeed an honor to be selected to be part of this event!
• I was fortunate to have been featured on a TV program Aux Send out of Winchester, VA. You can watch the episode at this link.
• I recently finished doing a soundtrack for a video "What is a cochlear implant?" Do you know what they are? If not, you will learn! The video features a new song, "Promise of Spring" at the end, an instrumental duet that features a duet with Diane Cluck on piano.
• I was recently filmed by students of Mountaintop Montessori at the Light House Studio for a 90 second documentary series featuring artists with disabilities. Here is my story although they had to extend the time a bit!
• I am honored to be an Artist-in-Residence with the Albemarle County Public Schools Department of Community Engagement. I teach American a series of classes using music to teach American heritage in a new and exciting way. Each class focuses on a specific historical period including songs about historic people and events. I will be working with elementary, middle and high school students.
• My article I wrote about the aural rehab I did to regain music perception is slated to be published in ALDA(Association for Late Deafened Adults) News this spring!
• Sonic Tonic presentations to come soon!
• The drum circle at JABA where I volunteer was filmed for a TV commerical for JABA. It is such a great group of people and I am honored to be part of the commercial! I'll let you know once it goes on TV!
• #1 Folk/Singer/Songwriter artist in Charlottesville area for most of 2012 now on ReverbNation. Thank you for your support!
• Planet Waves Astrology annual LISTEN audio series features my music! Here is the LISTEN Soundtrack page where you can hear the songs I selected. Many of them were from my Choose the Sky CD but there are a few surprises too! Funds from purchases from songs go toward continuning to bring music to non-profit organizations serving the disbled and elderly. Thank you!
• New Facebook Band Page finally launched! Please stop by and "Like" it!
• I have the honor of providing original music for the Annual Edition of Planet Waves audio recordings. The project is called Listen. They should be available by December 20.
• “Winter’s Friend” is released on Hudson Harding Holiday sampler Volume 7. (see link above to hear song!)
• Presented at the National Conference of the American Academy of Otolaryngology in Washington, DC . Here is a link to see my presentation
• Presented American Songs to celebrate new American citizens at their graduation ceremony at the International Rescue Committee.
• Led an American Song Sing Along at the Harrisonburg International Festival
I had the pleasure of working with a local non-profit Rhyming Resources. They provide educational materials for teachers in classrooms with the use of music as a tool to educate them on various topics. I was hired to write the music for their words to a song, “Friends” which teaches children about the value of friendship. Here is where you can listen to that beautiful song!
Traveled to Nashville to participate in cochlear implant research at Vanderbilt University. Technology is always changing and improving and I enjoy participating in the process.
• The Hearing Journal published an article I wrote that tells the story of the ear training and aural rehab I did with local music teacher Aila Juvonen . Here is that article:
• Presented a workshop at the Lorna Sundberg International Center at the University of Virginia of American Songs for the ESL students. I had songs from each genre from blues, jazz, folk, country, ballads, lullabies, minstrel shows, etc. It was great fun!
Traveled to Phoenix, AZ and participated in cochlear implant research at Arizona State University. That was quite challenging and fun too!
This past year I was an apprentice in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship program studying the Galax Dulcimer with master player/teacher Phyllis Gaskins. Here is an article Phyllis wrote for the Dulcimer sessions online publication for Mel Bay. This past weekend (Sept. 11th, 2011) I played some tunes with Phyllis at the annual Folklife Apprenticship Showcase. You can view a slideshow of the recap for that day here.
Phyllis and I are on YouTube at this link playing Shady Grove & Cluck Ol' Hen, enjoy!
I was proud and honored to graduate this September 2011 from such a wonderful program.
My solo guitar piece, "Owl's Dream" is being in used a video "Miracles of Sound" to commemorate pioneers of cochlear implants. Watch that video here.
Cochlear Implant Research
This past June I went to Chicago to do some cochlear implant & music research with the Auditory Neuroscience Lab led by Dr. Nina Kraus. Check out this article by her in The Hearing Journal, "Music training gives edge in auditory processing." It was really interesting to work with them and I learned a lot!
In addition, I completed some research online with the CI Music Research lab at the University of Iowa. This study is about timbre and involves listening to the same melody being played on different instruments. It was fun and I enjoyed it!
I published a narrative about my experience with my auditory therapy I did to regain my music perception in a book published by The Association for Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss (AAMHL). The book titled "Making Music with Hearing Loss: Strategies and Stories" (edited by Cherisse Miller) features narratives by several other musicians with hearing loss too. It is available for purchase on Amazon.com.