In spite of that emotional burden, I wrote music through my childhood, got a degree in Music with honors and distinction from Yale and pursued a career as a performing singer/songwriter in the Boston acoustic music scene when I was in my early 20's. My first album, a tape of all original songs, "Dreams And Themes" came out in 1983. My songs were well received. But between being an introvert fighting an internal battle to put myself "out," and the reality that taking enough money to live as a musician was really really hard, I found myself stepping back. I had no idea my pause would turn into a multi-decade hiatus.
About 10 years ago, something inside me was tugging at me to move back towards music. I started going to the Acton Jazz Cafe Jazz Jams, frequented by a whole community of wonderful musicians, among whom one was Rebecca Parris. Her ability to tell a story through a song and truly mesmerize her audience with an emotionally compelling, soulful rendering of every line she sang made a strong impression on me.
My circumstances as the single mom of a then middle school aged son pulled me back and forth as I tried to "jump back on the (music) horse," and eventually as I meditated on what to do, my heart told me to call Rebecca Parris. As soon as she answered my phone call, I knew I had just opened a critically important door.
And Rebecca was truly my mentor, my coach and the holder of my heart space as I faced all the demons that arose as I opened my heart to my music deeply once again. She helped me not only technically, but even more importantly personally. She knew that the heart of the song required a deep space within the heart of the singer. And the deep heart space she had created within herself was a warm, compassionate place to be held while moving through the pain that kept me from embracing the full power of my own voice. I only wanted to sing songs I really loved. And I found myself crying through most of these songs as I prepared myself to be able to sing them.
Rebecca's love, wisdom, talent and incredible soul touched me very very deeply. She gave me the gift of knowing her longtime partner, pianist Paul McWilliams, and her adopted adult daughter, Marla Kleman. I had many meaningful visits to her home in Duxbury with Paul at the pianist and Rebecca at the coaching helm.
Rebecca mentored many, many singers. And I appreciated the wonderful community of singers who came to Rebecca to hone their craft. I made special friendships with some of these other singers, and felt more and more a part of the Boston musical community. Rebecca also was very generous lending her voice and talent to support good causes. When I produced the first of three Voices of Boys and Men Concerts to benefit Boys to Men New England, an adult-teen mentoring program for teenage boys, I invited Rebecca to be our headliner and she very generously graced our stage. I could think of no more fitting model of mentorship than Rebecca.
On June 17, after singing with Paul at the piano at a jazz jam on Cape Cod, Rebecca went outside and collapsed. As Marla wrote, "her heart just stopped," and she died at Yarmouth Hospital. It is hard to imagine she has crossed over to the other side. Her spirit and reach into the world of music was so great. People of her depth of spirit and soul are just as rare as people of her vocal talent. I miss her deeply. And I know that is true for the countless people she touched.