Friday, October 24, 2008

Bustin' My Buttons

Literally and Figuratively.

WARNING: This post has little to do with weight losses or gains. I could be writing about the 2 lb gain I am showing in the last couple days, but that is not why I’m bustin’ my buttons.

Let me fill you in…..

Daughter Kathryn and SIL Vinjelu heard last October about an annual Canada-wide “Talent Search” by the Gospel Music Association Canada (hereafter referred to as GMAC) and sponsored by the Alberta Christian FM radio stations (henceforth referred to as SHINE FM).

It has been Vinjelu’s dream to be able to share his music by being able to perform it to audiences and have it recorded. I mean, this boy has been almost obsessed with this dream – not to the exclusion of reality or even other dreams, but (and this seems incredible to me) he writes a new song every day. This is true – I know, because he and Kath have lived with me on two (or is it 3?) different occasions. Vinjelu’s lyrics are very moving….I don’t think I’ve heard or read one song that I wasn’t touched or impressed in some way by the words.

But I digress…….

When they heard of the GMAC concert, they began to work toward being able to enter for 2008. Since at the time, Vinjelu was not allowed to work in Canada (he did not get a work visa until Jan 2008) and Kathryn was pregnant and suffering with morning sickness, their income was very small. Too small to think of saving money toward the entry fee and recording demos of the songs they would enter. But, being the resourceful couple that they are, they began to collect bottles, cans, and other recyclable containers. I do not know how much money they actually raised in this manner, but it certainly helped. Once Vinj could begin to earn a wage, they began to put cash toward their project. It was hard work and a sacrifice, but they not only saved the entry fee ($300) but also managed to have their 2 entry songs professionally recorded.

The contest took place Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Vinjelu entered his songs in two categories…..Songwriting and Performances. They were scheduled to perform in front of the judges on Thursday at noon. We would find out that there were auditions scheduled for every 15 minutes from 9 am until 4:30 pm both days (with a couple 20 minute breaks and a one hour lunch break each day).

Actually, they had been so focused on just getting entered, choosing the songs, and recording them, that they had not paid much attention to the format of the contest or even the prizes. They went into it with the primary goal of receiving constructive criticism from professionals, of their performance and songwriting.

I offered to go along to look after Seth during their performance. Kind of a long drive (3 hours to SW Calgary) in order to babysit for 10 minutes or less, but I wanted to show in a tangible way that I believe in their dream.

I left before the sun was up and arrived at the venue at about 10:45 am. I needed a restroom in a bad way so hurriedly gathered up my water bottles, book, phone…..into a book bag and ran into the building. (I gave you this seemingly unimportant information because it pertains to a later detail of my day)

I’ll skip over the details between my arrival and just before their audition except to set the stage a little……

The auditions were held in a smallish upstairs room with good acoustics, an impressive sound system, a small stage complete with lighting, monitors, a keyboard, stools, and a drum set. In front of the stage was a table at which 2 of the 5 judges were sitting. The other 3 ranged to their left, in overstuffed leather chairs. Other contestants were lounging on the matching couch as well as being lined up against the back wall or perched on folding chairs behind the front row of furniture. Between the doorway and the stairwell, there was a brightly lit hallway about 12 feet long. Since the room was small, any noises Seth made were immediately noticeable so we were utilizing the chairs just inside the door or the hallway itself.

So….the audition.

Despite the activity and noise around him, Seth had been peacefully asleep on a blanket on the hallway floor for about 20 minutes before Vinj and Kath were called to the stage. All was going according to Grandma’s plan – put baby to sleep so that I could video the performance. I turned on the video feature of my camera seconds before their background track began. As soon as Kathryn started to sing, however, Seth began to cry very loudly. I ran into the hall, wanting to stop his distraction as quickly as possible.

This is where I literally busted my buttons……as I bent down to pick him up, the middle button on my new shirt popped off….That is, the button right at the waist of a shirt that has a band around the waist before it drops below that to cover the hips. There is also a “tie” at the back which I had tied to be just a little snug in order to define my newly emerging waistline just a bit. That is probably why the button popped. (Later, after being constantly worried about whether or not the buttonless spot was gaping and showing my skin, I brought the tie around from the back and tied it across the trouble spot. It looked kind of retarded (like I didn’t know which way to put the ties) but at least I didn’t have to worry about exposing a part of my stomach.

Back on track….

I scooped up the baby and the button and then noticed that the music had stopped. I thought they’d been interrupted by the judges until the ‘rude person who brought a baby to an audition’ got things under control, because I heard Kathryn say something about “that’s our baby”. I found out later that Vinj had actually called the stop because the wrong track had been put on – it was not just background vocals. So, I stood behind and to the right of the judges, a 20 pound baby in one arm and a 2 pound camera held up in my other hand. Seth was perfectly quiet as he listened to his parents perform.

The second start went perfectly! They did SO well. I was excited for them – not only for doing so well, but because they were actually performing for professionals who were going to give them feedback – and in front of other impressively talented artists with the same hopes and dreams.

The spectator’s response was to cheer and clap. Get that – not just politely clap, as the majority of auditions earned – they cheered and clapped. The judges’ responses were all complimentary – so much so, that Kath offered the information that they had another song prepared. They were allowed to perform again. Only one other act that we had seen all morning (or into the afternoon) was asked to sing a second song – and she was very professional, with several years’ experience.

The response from the spectators and the judges was even more enthusiastic after the second song! I was so pleased for them. Other artists converged on Vinj and Kath when it was announced that there would be a one hour break in auditions so the judges could have lunch. Before they left the room, they had 2 unofficial invitations to come perform for youth groups.

*Maybe I should mention here that Vinj’s specialty is rap music – not something that is easy to take to your traditional adult church crowd.*

We had lunch in the dining room …it was a buffet including several different salads and fresh veggies (I took only the lettuce salad and fresh veggies from this offering), potatoes (which I skipped), carrots and a veggie stir fry (both of which I took) and roasted chicken pieces. It was good. I did not even walk past the dessert table.

I will now skip to 5:00 pm when the officials posted the lists of finalists. There were 6 finalists chosen in the “Artist” category and 8 finalists chosen in the “song” category. We were disappointed, of course, that their names were not on the list for Artist finalists, but that disappointment was quickly tempered with excitement at seeing Vinjelu’s name listed in the Song category for his song entitled “Weeping”. That meant that in spite of not making the artist finalists, they would still be able to perform in the finals at 7:30 pm. This was to be an open “mini concert” held in the sanctuary of the large church we had been at all day. The sound would be louder, there would be spotlights, and the audience would be larger. They were thrilled with the opportunity.

Supper was again served ….this time, though, it was $25 a plate. Vinj and Kath could not afford to spend $50 for supper! $25 seemed pretty steep to me, as well, so we braved the unfamiliar neighborhood in the big city at the tail end of rush hour. We had 1 hour to find a place to eat and get back for the sound checks and the pre-concert meeting.

We went to the food court at the mall nearby. I found a kiosk that offered Louisiana inspired food….served by Asians with very broken English! LOL At least they were easier to understand than the Asians I encountered in Louisiana….think Asian broken English mixed with Louisianan accent…..I had a hard enough time with the Louisianan accent(s) as it was, sometimes. (Now, don’t all you Southerners think badly of me….I love the southern accent, but my northern ears don’t always catch every word)

Again, I digress, sorry……

I chose this Asian staffed Louisiana food kiosk because they offered mashed potatoes, which we needed in order to feed Seth quickly and easily. Again, I’ll validate this weight loss blog by telling you I ordered Burbon Chicken (boneless, skinless..but I have no idea what ingredients were in the marinade it obviously soaked in before being cooked), carrots which were delicious and tasted fresh and delightfully without any buttery sauce, and green beans that were sinfully delectable. I am sure (knowing Louisiana cooking tendencies) that they were cooked in bacon grease or Crisco to make them taste so wonderful. Good thing I did not visit the dessert table at lunch.

Fast forward to the concert……


Some very talented singers, musicians, and songwriters shared the stage with Vinjelu and Kathryn. There was no immediate feedback from the judges this time – and a gentleman “ in the industry” was there from Nashville to MC the event. Again, I was so proud of my kids….they showcased Vinjelu’s song beautifully (they would not be judged on their performance, though…just on the technical aspects of the song itself). Still, it was no doubt gratifying and exciting to them to hear the hoots and whistles that erupted when their music ended. I know I was plenty proud.

A little interjection here….just before the contest started, one of the judges found Kathryn and told her that their performance ranked in the top 10 of all auditions….but there were only 6 finalist spots available. WOW!

There was a 15 – 20 minute wait after all artists had performed while the judges left the room to tabulate their scoresheets and make their decisions. We were entertained by one of the professional musicians that had been offering mentoring, advise, and information at the many seminars that had been offered to the contestants over the past 2 days.

The results were handed to the MC who opened the first envelope…..

”The winning song is.......

“WEEPING by Vinjelu Muyaba”.

The crowd actually erupted! My kids were obviously one of the favorites of the other artists.

NOW I was BUSTIN’ ALL MY BUTTONS!!!!! (figuratively speaking, of course) (just wanted to be clear on that point)

I could hardly see through my tears to try to get some photos between the heads of those in front of me. Below, you see Vinj, with the look of shock on his face, being presented to the audience by the MC.

After receiving his prize and hugging his wife, he came back and hugged me before we politely stuffed our excitement in order to “listen” to the awarding of the Artists category.


I am so pleased. As I said, Vinj is incredibly talented with words, but he is also one who is humble enough to be truly shocked at the recognition – shocked and grateful. The rest of us are not surprised, really, but Vinj was sincerely taken back. We are so pleased that his dream is moving forward one big step. (a GIANT step, actually)

Oh, what did they win?

$2000 cash, which is enough to have an entire CD made at a recording studio and a Roland Keyboard (retail value about $9500.00!!!...this will be sold to buy multiple instruments or to finance a tour, or to record another CD at a later date, or.....who knows? But it will be re-invested in their music)

The Artist winner was awarded cash and a similar gift as well as major performance opportunities and travel arrangements to another talent search contest in which they were automatically entered in the semi finals.

We were not sure, as of when I left them, if the songwriter was to receive any such opportunities…..guess I’ll find out when they finally find the time to phone me and catch me up on the details of their evening after I left.

One thing I know for sure, their song is to be played on the SHINE FM stations in Edmonton and Calgary.

My kids are going to be ON THE RADIO!!! (They are called “Another Way” BTW, if you are interested)

Since it was after 10 pm by this time, I pried myself away from all the excitement to begin my 3 hour journey home. I can only imagine how euphoric Vinjelu and Kathryn felt when I think of how I practically floated out into the cool night air toward my little car.

(Remember back near the beginning of this long post, I told you about my arrival at the venue and how I was in a hurry to get in and find a toilet? Well, here's where it comes into play....)

My excitement actually waned only a little as I approached my car and saw the dim glow of lights that had been on for the last 12 hours. The first gentleman I approached for a boost gladly complied, just as my hubby called. In between all the exciting details about Vinjelu’s win that I couldn’t stop talking about, Jim informed me that the vehicle being hooked up to my car likely would not have enough power to start my diesel motor – I would need a truck.

He was right.

There were only 2 trucks in the entire ½ empty parking lot. (What kind of cowboy town is this anyway? Only 2 trucks?!!!) I hurried back into the church, looking for likely owners of a truck. The first group of fellas I approached said no, they didn’t own a truck, but one of them offered booster cables. I told him I’d be back if the truck owner did not have any of his own. I found the owner of the biggest truck in the very next group of people I approached and my car was running in no time at all, thanks to Buck, the owner of the truck.

(No kidding...that was his name)

Since my car is a manual transmission, I was a little paranoid about making sure I didn’t stall it before it had a chance to charge, but once I was freewheeling on the highway, I only had to focus on trying to wipe the grin off my face and avoid the buttons that were still poppin’ all over the place.

I’m still grinning.


Pamela said...

Congratulations to all of you! How exciting! I know that you must be glowing with pride. I'm really happy for your family.

MeltingLisa said...

I am just beaming reading your blog today! Your write incredibly well too!

My heartfelt congratulations to Kathryn and Vinjelu, what a phenominal achievement! I live in Calgary so I will be tuning into Shine to hear the song!

How awesome!!! And the prize WOW!

Proud Momma bursting her buttons .. too cute!

~TMcGee~ said...

Oh, I got chills reading this! I almost felt like I was there. I wish they had a recording on YouTube, I would love to hear their music. :-) I'm glad it turned out so well, I completely understand your "bursting your buttons". lol

spunkysuzi said...

Congratulations are definitely in order!! I hope they can on on to other talent shows to show their true talent ;)

~Crystal said...

Wow, absolutely amazing, exciting and definite congratulations are in order!! That's so cool!! I hope that this means they will go further into this music career. Best of luck to them!!

Anonymous said...

Honey...when I can quit my job and be a roady/nanny with you and "the famous ones"? Grama's Plan, I liked the imagery that gave me...if Paka had been there though I would have secured Grama's Plan and kept the picture shoot rolling...

Lyn said...

What a great story! And how cool that they WON. He must be a wonderful writer. I am thrilled for all of you!

Anonymous said...

What a great story! I love the fact that you would drive 3 hours for your kids to watch your grandson, my mom doesn't want to drive 30 mins to see hers, Im a little jealous :) what a good mom and grandma you are!