Sing Your Song Studios

Helping Students Find Their Creative Voice, One Class At A Time

2018: This is the year that I conquer fear.

It is far too early for me to be up. Not because it's 5:23 in the morning as I begin this, but because I've been awake since around 2:30 this morning. I woke up to a phone call. The call was from a colleague advising us there was a Tsunami warning for our area. We are a few kilometres from the inlet here on Vancouver Island, but I don't know if that's far enough away to be considered high ground. Either way, the warning has since been lifted. My husband is fast asleep. But my wonderful brain? CAN. NOT. STOP.

Don't get me wrong, I agonized for a while, but I am not awake because I am afraid. I am awake because the initial fear put me on high alert. The phone call woke up not just my body, but also my brain. And now I can't get it to shut off. But I've been thinking a lot about fear lately. If you haven't already seen it and / or listened to it, you should check out Jim Carrey's full commencement address to the 2014 Maharishi University of Management class here ... There are a lot of pearls of wisdom on love and fear and what it means to choose love. I listen to an abbreviated version every time I feel pulled off course.

But I can't really talk about my own fears without talking about where they come from. Hold on to your hat, because it's about to get REAL up in here. Let me preface this by stating that I am lucky. I am happy and healthy and I am fortunate to have people that I love in my life. Even more fortunate they seem to love me back! I come from a great family. A family that endured a lot of struggle, but a great family nonetheless. My parents made so many sacrifices when my brother and I were younger. They worked their butts off so we could have the best opportunities our Saskatchewan grain farm could provide. We had swimming lessons and music lessons. My brother played hockey and volleyball and I was involved in plays and musicals. My dad routinely held off purchasing newer, better farm equipment so he could afford to take us on family vacations. We went to Disneyland, Disneyworld and Expo '86. We drove everywhere in our '78 Thunderbird and sometimes we even slept in the car. We couldn't afford to fly the family anywhere, so we drove. My parents some how managed to afford a cabin at the lake and a boat. I believe the boat was also a '78, maybe a '79. And they kept finding ways to take us to the lake every summer for waterskiing, swimming and hot dog roasting.

Grain farmers. Who have time during the summer to frolic at the lake. How on earth did they pull that off?

But these are the memories my childhood is built on. These are the moments that keep me grounded when the world threatens to sweep me off my feet. I have a vivid recollection of how my parents used to hold hands in the front seat of those long drives. My dad did the majority of the driving and my mother did the majority of the "sharp intakes of breath" and "audible gasps" that let us know she didn't approve of my dad's driving. But the way I remember it, they held hands for the entire drive. It's hard to say why that had such a profound impact on me. But I think it's because I could feel their love. I felt their contentment. I knew they had love for one another, they had love for us, and they were happy. Roughly translated through the eyes of a child, that meant we were safe.

But here's where things turn ... well ... crazy. When I was all of about 11 years old, it became apparent that my mom was no longer herself. While I can tell you what happened, I can never really explain the way it rocked our family's world. I guess the next closest comparison I have (in my lifetime) is when the twin towers were hit. Do you remember where you were when that news story broke? Do you remember what you were doing, who you were with, who told you? Do you remember waiting on pins and needles to discover if this was truly "the end of the world as we know it?" (Sorry, the musician in me had to quote a song!)

I'm grateful not to have lived through war in my country in my lifetime. But when the twin towers were hit on September 11, 2001, I was pretty sure that was about to change. That's the only remotely comparable feeling I have to describe being 11 or so years old, and watching my mother develop a mental illness.

I was terrified.

I felt out of control.

It was the end of my world as I knew it.

More on all of that in future posts, I am sure. But the real nugget I want to get to is fear. Where did my fear come from and how have I fed it all these years? Well, I think the answer to that is multifaceted. I feel the need to reiterate here ... I love my parents. They are both amazing people. Unfortunately, my mom is no longer with us. But I've had a hell of a good life, blessed with so many beautiful moments and amazing opportunities. None of which would have been possible without my parents. Both of them.

Okay, now that my disclaimer is out of the way - in case my father reads this - (I doubt it, he doesn't read much) I feel as though I can drop some truth bombs.

My dad is an awesome person. If you know him, you probably like him. However, my dad has a couple of ... let's just call them colourful quirks ... that make him the great man that he is. First of all, I'm pretty sure he's a pyromaniac. I'm kind of joking, but also not really. As evidenced by the several out buildings on our farm that no longer exist, I think the local fire department in "Hometown Saskatchewan" might just back me up on that. Another one of my dad's idiosyncrasies is that he is an interrogator. Have you ever read the Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield? It's an interesting story with some interesting themes. It's been years since I read it, so I'm going to give a personal summary based on recollection here. If you want an accurate representation of his words, please read the book!!! There is an interesting summary here on how the "control dramas" are used in relationships here ...

However, for the purposes of our discussion, the Celestine Prophecy theorizes that, based on our childhood experiences, each person will grow up to exhibit qualities of one of the following control dramas: The Intimidators (which is essentially another word for bully). These people try to control you via threat. The Interrogators (my dad and my brother - bless their little hearts). These folks control you by asking you questions for the explicit purpose of finding fault with your answers. Another way to think of this personality type is "The best defence is a good offence". Aloof people (self-admittedly, my ex-husband), who draw people's energy and attention to themselves by acting withdrawn and reserved. The personality type that forces you to engage and give energy to determine the aloof persons state of well being. And finally the fourth control drama is the Poor Me. (My mother and perhaps through modelling her behaviour, myself). These personalty types tend to relive past traumas for attention, or focus on the hurting rather than the healing. The control aspect comes in by making others feel guilty or responsible toward them. Keep in mind, these are just principles from a book. None of these personality types are particularly flattering, but it's interesting to see which one could apply to ourselves. 

So now try to picture, if you will, my father ... the interrogator, and my mother ... the paranoid poor me in a loving marital relationship. (And I assure you, it was loving!). But can you see any potential pitfalls? I should also mention, that long before my mom became ill, she was prone to worrying. Not the usual cases of anxiety and fear that we all go through. I mean she was a worry wart! Like a super power, she could leap to the worst possible conclusion in a single bound! If my dad didn't come home from the field in the usual time, it meant he was in a ditch. (Although, this is perhaps a reflection of my dad's driving). If Dad set a fire to burn stubble in the field, it meant he hadn't set a fire guard around the perimeter and the entire country side would go up in flames. (Er ... once again, not out of the realm of possibilities here). 

Do you see the problem? My dad's confident carelessness (that lucky horseshoe thing, where he keeps tempting fate by doing slightly unsafe things, but totally gets away with it somehow leading him to believe he's invinceable) and my mom's overanxious spirit (anything that can go wrong, not only will go wrong, it already has!) were not an ideal combination. Of course that was only one aspect of their relationship. They had a lot going for them that was good and loving and wonderful. But I get anxious just thinking about how my mom felt every time my dad lit a fire on the farm. My heart rate has actually increased by simply recalling memories of my dad's several injuries spurred on by confident carelessness.  Broken bones from driving the ATV too fast, second or third degree burns from opening a radiator cap when it was still too hot ... the list goes on. (And on, and on).

But my mom worried about everything. I swear, if worrying was a full time job, she could have easily supported our family. And likely yours as well. But here's the thing:

I am a highly sensitive person. In recent years, there's been more recognition for people like myself. Have you heard of empaths? Well, you can believe in it or not believe in it. But I am definitely an empath! I have spent my entire life as a human sponge. It took me YEARS as a child to figure out that a ton of what I felt on a day to day basis wasn't actually my own. This perhaps affected me so much because I grew up on acres and acres of land. I grew up with nature, not people. And so anytime I found myself in crowds of people (at school, at social gatherings, at church) I was BOMBARDED with emotion. Have you ever walked into a room and felt immediately put off? Have you ever wondered why? Like, you came to this party to have a good time, and there's lots of people here that you know and like, and you bought a new dress and you look really pretty but ... nah. I don't want to be here. This is the story of my life. (Well, I don't always have a new dress or a good hair day, but you get the point).  It took a long time for me to process that maybe I was picking up on someone else's bad mood. Perhaps there was someone else at the party who really didn't want to be there. Perhaps that person was dragged there somewhat unwillingly by a friend or spouse.  But I felt those emotions exactly the same as if they were my own.

So, if you're still with me ... holy cow, thanks! But I promise you I'm about to bring this home. Can you imagine what it felt like to grow up in a house with my father the interrogator, critic, confidently careless wonderful man that he is, and my mother, the poor me, worry wart, paranoid schizophrenic with a huge heart?



I'm a right bit messed up! But I am learning to recognize that all this fear is learned. It's not actually mine, so I don't want to hang on to it anymore. I used to agonize over the nature vs nurture aspects of my mom's illness. Like, was I destined to get it because it's hereditary? I mean these things are common among family members, just like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Or ... was it more likely that I'd model that behaviour anyway, because that's how I grew up? I was nurtured with fear and raised on worry. By my father I was nurtured with criticism, which basically makes a person afraid he or she will never be good enough.

Well I've had enough of this! This is the year that I conquer fear. And I will do so by realizing that none of the fears I have are my own. These are things I borrowed from parents, teachers and friends. These fears aren't mine. These worries aren't real. They are possibilities in an unforeseen future, but they are not reality. They aren't real. They're not mine.

Everyone in my family (my husband and my step-kids) are terrified of spiders. I am the spider killer at my house, although our youngest is getting pretty brave in this department as well. But honestly, if I can wear my big girl pants and save my family from spiders, then I'm going to wear my big girl pants and save myself from a lifetime of unnecessary worry and fear. 

And you should too!



The Artist's Way: A Twelve Week Self-Guided Course to Unlocking your Creativity

Are you a creative person who simply cannot find the time to devote to your craft? Are you a closet creative, with ambitions you haven’t told anyone about? Do you fear how people will react or receive your work? Are you currently producing creative work, but limited to waiting for inspiration to strike first? Do you wish your Muse would show up more often?


If any of the above resonates with you, please join us! This Winter at Sing Your Song Studios, we are excited to offer a different kind of creative experience. Join us online or in person as we meet weekly to discuss our self-guided progress through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.  One of her many beloved books on the Creative Process, The Artist’s Way is a twelve week, self-guided journey to help you unleash your creative potential. The book uses simple techniques and exercises to help prompt creativity and overcome any obstacles that may currently lay in your path.


And best of all, it’s FREE! That’s right! This twelve-week program will cost you nothing but a time commitment plus the cost of Cameron’s book (available for purchase online through Amazon or Chapter’s Indigo).


You may be asking yourself, why would I attend a weekly gathering if it’s a self-guided workbook? That’s an excellent question, and the answer is simple: strength in numbers. Have you committed to anything before by using the buddy system? A healthy diet or exercise regime? A pledge to spend less money or eat out less often? I have no doubt that you are a strong and committed person. But the commitments we make to ourselves are the easiest to break. There is a myth that it is okay to let ourselves down, just as long as we don’t let others down. So why not commit to yourself and to others?


Register online today. Start by ordering your book, or putting it on your Christmas Wish List. Commit to yourself, and commit to our group.  Let 2017 be your year. The year of Creativity!

Do it for Johnny

"Do it for Johnny!"

I've often been inspired by that line from SE Hinton's masterpiece, The Outsiders. It's a kind of Carpe Diem sentiment, and yet it's much more. It's the idea that we not only seize the day, but that we seize the day for ourselves as well as those who are no longer with us.

At the beginning of June, I lost my brother-in-law in a tragic car accident that also could have claimed the life of my husband. My brother-in-law, Matthew, was only 33.

Once upon a time that was considered a ripe old age. But of course, in a modern context, Matthew's life had really just begun. He had just found a new life he loved in the Yukon. He was finally earning decent money, learning new things, and exploring the great outdoors after leading a comparably sheltered life. Like many of us, Matthew had struggled to find a lasting, well paid, year round career in the Okanagan.

Among his many gifts, Matthew had a great ear for music. He and I chatted away excitedly on several occasions about working on new piano compositions together. Matt was very inspired by the music of film and had a naturally orchestral ear. Despite all our talk, we never got the chance to make it happen.

It's such a small thing really, in the grand scheme of all that Matthew will miss out on. Who am I to even think of what experiences I am missing with Matt? His entire family and all his friends have been stripped of his bright light. What about his parents? His sister and brother? How much will they miss? What about his buddies, his colleagues, and the girls who imagined themselves as his future wife?

So once again, who the hell am I to feel cheated of my future musical endeavours with Matthew? 

Except that, it has forced me to think about time. Time is a conundrum most of us never solve. There are days it drives us mad by passing so slowly it seems to go in reverse.

How many of us have had that paradoxical experience of watching the time drag on so slowly: second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour? Some days seem to go on forever, and yet when we look back over the week, the month or the year ... We have no idea how we got there.

Where on earth did the time go? Why haven't I accomplished all I set out to do? 

It's that age old balancing act: setting priorities according to our families, our finances and an endless list of obligations that only ever seems to grow, no matter how many things we check off the list.

Well, I'm not proud to say I've always had difficulty setting my priorities. My heart's desire has always sung loud and clear to me, and yet I find myself spending most of my days pursuing things unrelated to my passions. How exactly is one supposed to earn a living, make time for family, friends and community obligations and also selfishly pursue his or her dream?

Frankly? I have no idea.

But the purpose of this post, and all future related posts, is to figure that out. I feel robbed of my time with Matt. I feel robbed on his behalf.... Such a bright and shiny light with so much potential and so many gifts and talents to unleash on the world. The fruits of which, we'll never get to see.

But all my wishing, hoping and dreaming cannot bring Matt back to us. We have to move forward and except the fact that while he is gone, our lives go on. In particular, my husband is lucky to be alive. Any little change in that day's tragic events could have also turned me into a widow.

So what the hell do we do now?

I'll tell you exactly what we do. We have a choice, every single day to live the best possible life we can live. We have a choice every single day to let the small things go, to prioritize what is important, to cherish our loved ones and pursue the things that make our hearts sing.

I feel a responsibility now, not just to live all the life that I can possibly cram in, but to live enough for Matt to get his fair share too. 

I don't understand the way the world works sometimes. I don't know why some people are taken from us far too soon. 

All I truly know is that for some reason, I'm still here. I'm still breathing. And so I plan to live everyday with the kind of zeal that Matt had. 

And I'm gonna "Do it for Matthew!"

Introducing a Master Class Series for Fiction Writers from Novice to Advanced

Sing Your Song Studios is proud to present this fun and informative series hosted by Dr. Cathi Shaw.  If you want to write … Read on!

Do you have a story inside you that is just waiting to be told? Have you always dreamed of writing a book but just not known where to start? Or do you have a manuscript you’ve started but really would like some direction finishing?

This Master Class series might be just what you are looking for. Aimed to take you from initial idea to polished manuscript in five sessions over five months, writers are invited to bring ideas for projects in any genre they are comfortable with (short story, poetry, novel, narrative non-fiction, etc.).

Cathi Shaw is a published author and an academic writing instructor who can help you pitch your story to publishers by the end of this series. Pick and chose from the classes below or sign up for the whole series,

Writers who chose to sign up for the whole series will receive detailed written feedback and suggestions on their manuscript from Cathi at the end of the series. Throughout the series Cathi will be available to give some feedback and ongoing support to every writer who attends.


Session 1: Finding Your Spark (January 10, 2016)

Perhaps you’ve always loved writing but just don’t know what to write about. Or maybe you have an idea for your story but just don’t know how to frame it. Whatever category you fall into, our initial meeting will go over the basics: character development, plotlines, dialogue, developing an efficient writing practice and first drafts.


Session 2: Getting It Down on Paper (February 7, 2016)

Whether you’ve written a lot or just a little, this session will help you get your manuscript on track. We will explore strategies for getting your first draft finished, when to ask for feedback, how to overcome writer’s block, and explore avenues of research needed for your work.


Session 3: Where to Go With Your First Draft (March 6, 2016)

You’ve finished your first draft! Yay! This is a great accomplishment but I’m sorry to tell you this is only the beginning. Writing is rewriting. We will talk about how to rewrite effectively, when to get feedback, how to ask for feedback and when you have to start all over again.


Session 4: Editing Your Work (April 17, 2016)

Editing is different that rewriting. In this session we will go over the different kinds of editing the writer engages in, talk about strategies for editing your own work, discuss when to hire a professional editor and move toward polishing your manuscript.


Session 5: Publishing Your Work (May 22, 2016)

We will explore different avenues for publication including self-publishing, working with an agent, the editorial process and marketing your work. Part of this session will include a working session where each writer will draft a pitch of their project and share it with the larger group.


Each Masterclass is a fully self-contained workshop. These sessions will be two hours each, and are $75 when purchased separately. Sign up for the entire series for only $250.00.


Questions about which masterclass is right for you? Call or write today!



Welcome to Sing Your Song Studios!

Hello and welcome to Sing Your Song Studios. A place where creative minds meet ...

This is about finding your singing voice, sure. But it's about so much more than that. It's about finding your creative voice, in whatever artistic medium you choose. What inspires you? When are you most connected to your muse? Whether your passion lies in music, writing, dance, drama, visual arts or somewhere else along the creativity spectrum, Sing Your Song Studios can help. Not only do we offer private and group instruction in the musical realm, we bring the professionals: teachers, artists, performers, mentors and inspirational gurus in your field of study right here to the Okanagan and to you.

What forms of creative guidance do you find lacking in the Okanagan? Are you performing at a high level within your medium already, but wish you had just a bit more guidance? Maybe you could use one or two more tools to add to your tool box. We believe in bringing top industry professionals to the Okanagan to provide you with the education and inspiration you're looking for … without having to move, travel across the continent or re-enlist in a University style program. 

Tell us what your artistic needs are and we'll find a way to help you forge your own path … with a little help from the experts.

Sign up for our newsletter and stay tuned for a schedule of workshops, masterclasses, interviews and special performances.