Especially for Journey.bg we asked for an interview with Michele McLaughlin who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA and will be performing in a concert on November 24, 2007 that will be attended by the Bulgarian Society in Utah. Her music is magic and everybody can prove it by visiting her website at http://www.michelemclaughlin.com/
L. Nikolova: Hi Michele. When I heard for the first time your music, I had the feeling that it had penetrated into every cell of my body. It made me cry and thinking philosophically on the life and feel even happy. What is the magic formula of your music? What can you tell us about New Age Piano and especially about my favorite melody Sunday morning that in fact motivated me to have wanted to know you personally?
M. McLaughlin: Hi Lolita. Thank you. New Age music in general has always touched me deeply, especially that of New Age Piano. I have loved piano music from the time I was a little girl and when I was eight years old I was introduced to the music of one of the great New Age piano players of our time, George Winston. I was so moved by his music that I would learn to play his songs by ear and it was around this time that I began composing my own songs and dreaming of making music for everyone to enjoy. Some time later, when I discovered the piano music of Jim Brickman and Paul Cardall, two of my favorite New Age pianists, I became inspired to share my compositions with the world and that is when I started releasing albums. The emotion of the music that I write almost always is directly related to my mood at the time that I wrote it. Occasionally I will write a piece with an idea or theme in mind, but usually the music just comes from my heart. I often sit at my piano and just play around with melodies and ideas that come to mind. If something catches my ear, then I’ll decide to turn it into a complete song, and the emotional feeling of that song comes from the way I’m feeling at that time. Sunday Morning is one of those pieces. The intro to that piece caught my ear one day while I was just playing around on my piano and I really loved the way it sounded. So I worked with it for a few days and it turned into what you hear today. The piece has several emotional levels to it. It starts off with a sort of quiet and contemplative feeling mixed with an undertone of sadness, but then as it progresses, it then evolves into a happier, brighter, more uplifting melody as it peaks, and then finishes off with that initial undertone of sadness. It is about waking up early on a very cold and rainy Sunday Morning with the melancholy realization that the weekend is nearing an end, but at that same time remembering that there is still an entire day left to spend indoors with someone special before it is finally over.
L. Nikolova: Do you think the music education is very important for the early age children? I used to have an experience from one children toy store and I thought that the newly received baby piano would be gone for hours. But it was not the case. It still stays there in the store at a bargain price. And then I remember, when I was a child, that my teacher in piano really liked me, but I did not have a piano at home and this fact obviously was a reason soon to have changed my interest completely towards the books that I have really so many at home. What do you think? Do our children need piano education today and if so how to make them go back to the piano, one of main instrument means that has reproduced quality music through the centuries?
M. McLaughlin: I am a strong believer that musical education is a very important and essential element of a young child’s education. Whether they learn piano, violin, guitar, etc., playing and becoming proficient at a musical instrument, and understanding the concepts and theories behind that instrument and the music it makes is vital to their intellectual growth and development. It has been proven that musical education increases a child’s ability to absorb and retain information, appreciate and understand the arts, it helps promote self-esteem, opens their mind to the world and their environment and it helps to encourage them to take an active interest in their own lives and futures. My story is a little different. My parents encouraged me to take piano lessons when I was a young girl, but I did not like lessons because, for me, they took the fun out of playing. Instead, I enjoyed listening to piano music and would then learn to play it by ear, which eventually evolved into writing my own compositions. To this day, I cannot read or write notation and do not have the basic knowledge of music theory or history. Simply, I just know how to make music that sounds good to me. Looking back, I wish I had stayed with it because I know I would have benefited from the skills and knowledge I would have obtained. While I think that being able to compose music and play piano without knowing how to read music, or withoutany background on music theory in general is pretty remarkable, eventually, I would like to learn to read music as I believe it will be very helpful in my musical career and future.
L. Nikolova: Do you think that the New Age Piano contributes to the Global Society? If so, why? Could the New Age Piano make the people more sensitive toward humanistic and friendly relationships?
M. McLaughlin: I think New Age Piano contributes a great deal to the Global Society. In my view, appreciation of beautiful music helps ones heart to love. Transcending all language and cultural barriers, it provides a means for people to understand and appreciate one another. Music can open a door to new points of view through tolerance, acceptance and even celebration of the differences we all have. It tells a story, painted by ones imagination and the story can be different for each person who hears it. It can touch someone so deeply that it leaves a mark on his or her soul, and it can give people hope when there seems there is no hope at all. It is a universal language and one of the greatest gifts the human race can provide.
L. Nikolova: I few weeks ago I attended the European Association of Archaeologists in Zadar, Croatia. Among the scholarly presentations, there was the lecture of John Barrett who states that culture regulates emotions. I believe it is one of the most profound definitions of culture that probably also explains the fact that the music is one of the best culture products of the human society? However, how do you feel related to other forms of arts – for instance, graphics, oil paintings, sculpture, architecture, etc. Which form of art is the most influential in your life?
M. McLaughlin: The arts, as an expression of beauty, symmetry and rationality, have had a profound effect on my life. Though I am most drawn to the musical arts, I have a great appreciation for the expressive and abstract arts as well. I am a collector of sculpture and glass artworks and have a rather extensive eclectic collection of musical artworks. I am also drawn to the architectural artworks. In the last several years, I have begun to travel in Southern Europe (Portugal, Italy and Greece) and in my experiences I have come to appreciate and love the old and ancient cathedrals, castles, basilicas and temples which, to me, are more beautiful and amazing than any of the less impressive “generic” modern day designs we find here at home. However, with that said, there are beautiful and impressive modern architectural artworks that are being created all around the world, some of them right here in Salt Lake City, such as the new City Library, the old, gothic style County Building, and even the Salt Lake Temple. Like music, paintings, sculptures, and architecture tell a story and bring people together with a common, fundamental bond.
L. Nikolova: What about your everydayness? Do you live mostly alone or you have everyday contacts with many people? Who are your closest friends? Are you married or single?
M. McLaughlin: I recently have had the opportunity to work full time on my music career, which has been a dream come true for me. My everyday activities vary from working at home on my musical projects, to playing live at places like Grand America Hotel, to organizing and preparing for future projects and concerts, to spending time with my family and friends. I really enjoythe time to spend on my music and I lovethe freedom to work on whatever project I want at any given time. I am married to a wonderful man who completely supports my music and my endeavors, and encourages me to evolve and grow and take risks I would otherwise not take. We have three amazing children who are all very talented and supportive and being able to work on my music full time allows me extra time with them as well.
L. Nikolova: Are you a Mormon? How do you feel living in a Mormon environment? Now this topic is very hot because of Mitt Romney. Many like me believe he will be the new president of the USA.
M. McLaughlin: I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah as a non-Mormon. I have my own set of beliefs, values and morals; which works very well for my family and me. I strongly feel that ones religious preferences are of a personal nature and should be respected. I have been following the presidential candidates of both parties and have yet to determine whom I will vote for when election time comes. There are some very compelling issues at hand and I think many of the candidates offer a promising solution to make a positive impact in the future of our country.
L. Nikolova: In July when I went to Bulgaria for the 170th Year Anniversary of our national hero and the most popular Bulgarian Vassil Levski, a woman came to me and told me that she had written an interview with me in a Bulgarian magazine and came especially to have met me? I was so glad that in fact had found a new friend in such way. Do you believe in the Global society that interrelates people with similar interests and feelings and makes the world looking more humanistic?
M. McLaughlin: I have to share your enthusiasm for meeting new people and gaining new colleagues based upon similar interests in a more humanitarian world. I agree that the study of culture, commerce, history and the arts can bring like-minded people together for the betterment of society. It helps to strengthen the common bond between us all. These are motivating factors, which compel me to create music and continue my travels.
L. Nikolova: Now you know me, a Bulgarian cultural anthropologists and archaeologist, who lives in Utah. Members of the Bulgarian society are planning to come to your concert on the 24th of November in Salt Lake. Does it make you curious to learn more about Bulgaria, to make you come to our country?
M. McLaughlin: I would love to learn more about Bulgaria and would someday like to explore your country. I have a great appreciation for travel, experiencing new places and cultures, enjoying the food and sites, and meeting new people. We recently visited Greece which I am aware is located just south of Bulgaria. My husband and I plan to continue our extensive travels, including Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region and Bulgaria is a destination we would be delighted to experience.
If you would like to invite Michele McLaughlin for concerts in Bulgaria, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information how to buy her CDs is available on her website at http://www.michelemclaughlin.com/
Lolita Nikolova, PhD
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Cultural anthropologist and
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Other articles by Lolita Nikolova at journey.bg in English:
New Art Exhibit in Downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, USA recalls the Valley of Roses, at http://en.journey.bg/news/?ntype=1&news=3370
Bulgarian Students in Grand Hotel America, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, at