Find Your Source

 

Ha, ha, ha …  Get it?  Because it’s Source yogurt?  I’ll stop now.  But before you leave, shaking your head, because of my cringe-worthy joke, check out my biblography below.  You may find some of these resources interesting or useful in the future.

Biography.com was the very first site I used for the eminent study.  This is where I found the most basic and notable information about Billie Holiday.  It was based on the information from this website, that I ultimately decided that she would be my eminent person.  On this site, you can find biographical information such as her original birth name, the day she was born, and where she grew up.  You can also read about key moments in her life that may be important to know.  This includes her troubled childhood, the orchestras she worked with, and some of her most notable songs including Miss Brown To You and God Bless The Child.

BillieHoliday.com was another introductory site I used at the beginning of research.  Here, I looked through her life’s timeline, viewed pictures of her, and again saw some basic biographical information.  One thing to note about this site is that it strongly praises Billie.  There is no information about the negative moments in her life such as her substance abuse.  Because a goal of my project was to put a main focus on Billie’s successful moments in life, this didn’t bother me.  However, I feel it is important for a reader to know that there is more to her story than all sunshine and happiness.

PBS.org was used as a “verification” website.  One of the few ways I use to see if my information seems reliable is by checking it on various sites to see if things match up.  As PBS is generally quite trustworthy, I compared the information from this site with my other two sites to make sure all of the information lined up properly.  Good news: it did!

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Lady Sings the Blues – Billie Holiday with William Dufty and a foreword from David Ritz was the key book I used during my eminent person study.  When I borrowed this book from the Vancouver Library, I found that it particularly helped with my speech.  Reading about the moments when she was on stage made me feel like I was in the venue at the time.  I wanted to convey this same atmosphere and feeling during my own speech.  The book also helped me understand the early-life background of Billie Holiday.  It almost felt as if I had known her personally.

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Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, And An Early Cry For Civil Rights – David Margolick and a foreword from Hilton Als was the second book I used for eminent.  Billie’s song, Strange Fruit, was a topic I was intrigued to talk about in both my speech and learning centre.  Like when I read Lady Sings the Blues, reading about the audience’s reaction to Billie’s performance in Strange Fruit, helped me set a mood for my speech.

 

And now eminent is complete.  Until next year. . .

Wrapping Up

EMINENT IS COMPLETE!

Via LouisaLulu on Deviantart.

Via LouisaLulu on Deviantart.

 

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My delicious (yet measly) pizza.

When I got home from NotN, I had a big mix of feelings and emotions.  Predominantly, I was tired, but I also felt a lot of other things.  Pride: For not only myself, but also for my peers and how well their speeches and learning centres worked out.  Happiness: Eminent is over!  Conflicting sadness: Eminent is over. . .  Confusion: Why am I upset that the thing that has caused me the most stress over the past month is ending?  Hunger: “Though they were tasty, those two pieces of pizza barely filled a corner of my stomach.  I mean, the pepperoni had a delicious spice and there was a good amount of cheese, but the lack of crust starved me.  There’s nothing wrong with thin crust pizza but three and a half slices would have better filled the void. . .  I need chocolate.”

 

The Stage

The Stage.

Moving on, the point of this blog post is not to get overly emotional about the food, but instead to reflect on my learning centre.  Why learning centre in particular?  The biggest goal I had for eminent was to create one that would be very engaging for those at NotN.  Like I said in my intro post,  many of my projects in elementary and middle school consisted of me pasting large paragraphs of text all over a neon poster board.  I wanted to be a little more creative and move away from this.

For my learning centre, I decided to create a space that would resemble a stage Billie Holiday would have performed on.  I used a curtain,  a sign bordered by lights, and 40’s style microphone as key elements to represent the stage.  I also included a timeline of “records”.  Each stated an event in Billie’s life that I found significant.

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Pictures , Text & Mic

Over to the side of this set-up, I had an assortment of pictures of Billie as well as some text to accompany.  I found limiting text the most difficult thing to do because I am usually quite dependent on my writing.  To keep things reasonable, I chose to write something short on each of the four key events I included in my timeline.  I didn’t bother including too many details as I know that people would not stop to read Billie’s biography.  Instead, it would be my job to fill them in on what they needed to know.  The lack of text was probably the scariest thing about eminent for me.  There was no real script for me to read off, and I pretty much had to go with the flow of the conversation.  When I talked to the first person, I sounded very stiff and robotic but throughout the night, I became more and more comfortable speaking with people.  I actually had real, relaxed conversations with the last few people who came to my station and I am really proud of that.

 

 

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My Learning Centre

 

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Setting Up

I truly think I met my goals for this project.  I was really proud of what I did with my learning centre as well as the conversations I had with those who came by.  By the end of the night, I felt much more comfortable having unscripted conversations with people and I hope I can maintain this confidence throughout the rest of the year.

I have to give a very specific thank you to Aileen (as well as my parents) for helping with the very stressful set up and take down of my learning centre.  I also need to thank Brian for saving my life with his wonderful silver Sharpie when mine inconveniently ran out of ink.  And of course, thank you to all of the TALONS for being super supportive of each other and making this process so much easier.

Eminent was a very stressful and challenging, yet exciting experience.  It’s weird to admit, but I’m actually quite excited to do this again in grade 10.  ((Someone is totally going to use this against me next year when I start complaining about the project…))

 

Interview: COMPLETE!

InterviewThe interview gods have answered my prayers.  Did it go as smoothly and easily as expected?  Nope.  But hey, I actually got an interview and I’m quite proud of myself for that.

About a week before speeches (and two weeks before learning centres), things were going fine until the word “INTERVIEW” frantically made its way back into my memory.  I totally forgot about completing my eminent interview!  I had to get on it right away.

I thought it would be easy.  As my eminent person is Billie Holiday, I wanted to interview a music teacher to understand more about the field.  I sent an email to my middle school music teacher asking him if he would be willing to conduct an interview.  “Of course he would!” I thought.  So I waited patiently for one day… two days… three days.  No response.  Being the impatient teenager I am, I chose to try someone else.

After doing some brainstorming, I decided to send an email to my former choir teacher, Ms. Tia Turner.   Because the deadline was creeping up on me, this time I also sent my questions in the original email to limit unnecessary messages back and forth.  So again, I waited patiently for one day… two days… three days.  Except this time, I actually received a response!

The following are the emails exchanged between myself and Ms. Turner:


Dear Ms. Turner,

I hope you and your family are well.

I am in a gifted program called TALONS at Gleneagle Secondary School, and we are currently working on an Eminent Person research project.  I have decided to conduct my project on the life of jazz musician, Billie Holiday.  An important aspect of this project is to obtain an interview from someone who works in a similar field as your eminent person to better understand their life and career.  As you are a music teacher, I thought you would be a great person to interview.

The following are my questions:

  1. In your opinion, what is the most difficult part about working in the music business?
  2. How do you think songs with controversy (such as Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”) influence an artist’s career? 
  3. Who are your musical inspirations and why?

 I would really appreciate if you could answer these few questions to help extend my project.  However, I know you are likely quite busy so if you cannot respond, I understand.

 Thank you for taking the time to read this and considering my request. 

Sincerely,
Kendra Seguin
(CSMA Girls Choir 2008-2011) 

__________

Hi Kendra,
 
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I’d be happy to do this for you. Is there a deadline you need it by?
I should be able to get to it this weekend.
 
Hope you are well,
Tia
__________
Hi Ms. Turner,
 
I really appreciate the response.  It would be great if you could get back to me by tomorrow night.
 
Thank you again,
Kendra
__________

1 – In your opinion, what is the most difficult part about working in the music business?

     – I think one of the most difficult things about working in the music business is being under appreciated  or recognized. There are very few artists that get proper recognition for their talents and the ones that do usually have a corporate “machine” behind them to help accomplish this. If you want to be in the music business you need to do it because you truly love it & not to get recognized or you will definitely be disappointed. 

2 – How do you think songs with controversy (such as Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”) influence an artist’s career? 

     – When an artist chooses to perform or record a controversial song it can have a great impact on their career. In Holiday’s situation there was fear of retaliation & record companies were very resistant to record it. With todays impact of social media a controversial recording of a song can rocket an artist to great success but then they need to be able to continue to provide substance with their music or they can crash down as quickly as they rose.  Controversial songs can also ruin an artists career if they are scene to be overly disrespectful or degrading.

3 – Who are your musical inspirations and why?

     – My first big musical inspiration was Ella Fitzgerald. I was introduced to her in grade 9 & couldn’t get enough. I still to this day can sing dozens of her songs just as she did. Her amazing feel, clarity & precision of tone and use of her instrument were undeniable. Over the years I was also drawn to Betty Carter, Chet Baker, Sonny Rollins, Elvis Costello among many others. Recently I have been drawn back to K.D. Lang as she has an unbelievable instrument  that she uses to it’s full potential & her ability to truly sing a song as it should be sung and move you through the telling of a story are inspirational. I also so admire her as a human being that has been through a lot of struggles in her life and has come to a place of great compassion. It had always been hard for me to truly enjoy listening to the music of someone I don’t repeat as a person.

I hope this is what you were needing, if you need longer answers or more details just let me know. I hope things are going well for you & please say hi to your mom for me!

Take Care,
Tia
__________
Good morning Ms. Turner,
 

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.  Your answers have really given me insight into the music industry.  It was also great reading about your personal inspirations and why you are drawn to them.  I really appreciate all of your help with this component of my project.  You are the best!  

~Kendra


As you can see, my interview worked out pretty well!  One thing I would change for next year is sending out interview requests earlier.  The answers I got from Ms. Turner were very valuable and could have helped improve my speech.  However, I didn’t send out emails until after my speech was written, therefore the answers were not helpful for that aspect of the project.  Though I can’t complain too much.  Having a good interview was one of my original goals for the eminent person project so overall, I am really happy that it was successfully completed!

Image via FreePik.com

Image via FreePik.com

So Far In Eminent…

Ah, eminent.  What a time to be in TALONS.  So far, I feel like my eminent study is going pretty well and I am getting work done.  However, I still have quite a ways to go.  As grade 9 speeches are coming up this week, writing and rehearsing my speech is currently my main focus.  To document my learning, I have decided to post my speech draft here.  Any feedback or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  Particularly, I am looking for feedback in terms of my transitions/ flow as well as on the selected moments I chose to tell.

Billie Holiday – Eminent Speech Draft

     As I lay on the dusty ground in the back of an abandoned club, I think back.  Nobody’s been in here for years.  And it’s been decades since I’ve been used.  Decades since “her”.  She was someone special, she brought me to life.  Her name was Billie Holiday.

     I remember the very first time I heard Billie sing.  It was a late Friday night and people were taking turns up on stage.  Yeah, some of them had pretty good voices, but something about them all felt the same to me.  But then someone new showed up.  A young woman in a black dress which a contrasted the white flower in her hair walked to the front of the stage.  Her hands were visibly shaking and she didn’t bother to conceal the anxiety on her face.  She closed her eyes, tilted her head back, and unleashed her voice.  I didn’t know what I was expecting, but it sure wasn’t as good as that.  The room went dead silent. You know the expression “you could hear a pin drop?”  If someone dropped a pin in there, it would more resemble a bomb.  That’s the power she had.  Her voice was so unique—nothing like anyone had heard before.  Through the music, she would emit emotions.  When she sang, you could hear the heartbreak, the struggle, and the tragedy she’s known.  But you could also hear the passion and determination she had for the future.  When she finished her song, her focused expression became a bright smile of pride, brighter than her gardenia.

     As time went on, she moved on to bigger and better things than this tiny, broken-down club, but she would come back to perform here every now and then.  The most memorable time Billie returned was when she debuted her song, Strange Fruit.  I expected her to saunter onto the stage with confidence now that she was a well-established performer.  This was not the case.  Her nerves were as evident as the very first time she sang here.  Once she started singing, I knew why.  “Southern trees bear a strange fruit.  Blood on the leaves, blood at the root.”  The song tells of a black man, lynched, hanging from a tree.  No matter who you are, what is visualized, is a disturbing image.  The audience before the stage seemed taken aback by what they were hearing.  I was too.  The song took on a very startling topic, and even though Billie knew it was a risk, she chose to perform the powerful piece anyway.  Once the song ended, only one person showed they were impressed.  But that one single clap quickly turned into a roar of applause. But following this night, I started hearing murmurs from people discussing how the song was doing outside of the club.  The reception in the rest of the country wasn’t as positive.  Billie’s label at the time didn’t let her record the song, leaving her to find a new label to get it out there.  When the public heard it, some found the song unsettling and graphic.  So much so that certain radio stations went to the lengths of banning Strange Fruit from ever airing.  But all of this controversy was what made her song such a hit.  It made people think, like a good song should.

     Fast forward to late 1950s,  when heard that Billie had died.  The reason being that her substance addiction had finally gotten the best of her.  For the next couple of weeks I heard people talking about Billie as they entered and exited the club.  It was a shame to hear that all they talked about were about the drugs she took, and the alcohol she drank because that’s not what she was about.  People should have started celebrating Billie the day she died.  It shouldn’t have taken them years to really celebrate her amazing life.  And I’m not saying that we should gloss over the challenges and difficulties that made her the person she was, but we also shouldn’t be criticizing how her life had to end.  Billie’s life was special.  The legacy she left behind was special.  The way she changed music forever was special.  And that is what she should be remembered for.

     Billie was a talented vocalist not only known in the world of jazz, but also in popular music.  Her voice was something unique that no other could match.  Her music was memorable. And though sometimes the songs were risky, we all remember them.  Billie Holiday was an amazing woman.  I will remember her forever.  

 

Also, check out this video the Billie Holiday song I talk about in my speech, Strange Fruit!

Happy (Billie) Holiday!

Billie Holiday

allaboutjazz.com

Nicknamed Lady Day, Billie Holiday is a music legend known mainly for Jazz music.  She was born on April 7th, 1915 which would make her 100 this year.  However, she passed away on July 19th, 1959 at age 44.   She spent much of her early life in Baltimore and New York moving from place to place due to various incidents in childhood.  From a young age, she loved singing but didn’t start performing until she was in Harlem.  There, she began performing at night clubs.  Later, she began working with various artists, labels and mentors.  Someone she worked with, and was quite close with, was Lester Young.  He was the one who initially gave her the nickname, Lady Day.  A very notable and controversial song of hers is called “Strange Fruit”.  It takes on the topic of the lynching of black people during the time period.  Putting such a song out in the world, especially at the time, was a real risk.

Clear similarities between Billie and myself include our gender and love for music.  Also, I am currently reading her story, Lady Sings The Blues where, I found that her and her mother had a very strong relationship.  This is something I relate to because having a good bond with my own family is a value of mine.  Billie and I also have a variety differences.  One would be that we are from different time periods.  Today at my age, I am still a kid doing silly, childish things but during Billie’s time,  she was already a “grown up” at 10 years old.  Another difference is that we have different ethnic backgrounds, as well as she had to deal with a lot of racism, something I am not personally familiar with.

In terms of my goals for the project, I am focusing on both my learning centre and the interview.  When it comes to my learning centre, I want to create a station that is engaging for passersby.  I am trying to stray away from my usual neon poster board covered with way too much text.  With the interview, I really just want to get better at asking questions and having conversations with people.  In the future, I am looking to be a journalist, so practicing interview and questioning strategies would be useful.

A question I am currently asking myself is, what parts of Billie’s story do I want to elaborate on and what parts would I rather keep to a limit?  Though I am still at the early stages of research, I am already finding a lot of information on Billie’s personal struggles such as the abuse she received as a child and her battle with addiction as an adult.  Both of these things build character in her story and make her who she is, but I am unsure how much of this I should include.  What would be the proper balance?  Speaking for myself, if one day someone did an eminent person project on me, I would not want them focusing on all of the negatives in my life.  Instead, I would want them to celebrate my success and what I did right.  This is my goal for telling Billie’s story.  I plan to touch on her struggles but I would much rather spend time shining light on how she made a difference in the world.

A Book Lover’s Heaven

It was a long, tiring, yet impressive day.  Other than going to Chinatown to pick up some egg tarts, I don’t go down to Vancouver often.  All of the places we attended for our field trip were completely new to me.  The whole trip was really exciting but I did have some personal goals in mind.  On this trip I wanted to:

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  • Find resources for my eminent person, obtain books
  • See the Vancouver lifestyle
  • Visit new places
  • Find famous people

I was able to find three resources on my eminent person during this trip.  One from MacLeod Books, and two others from the Vancouver Public Library.  It did take patience to search for the correct books, but I think it was worth it.

People WatchingDuring my solo walk, I got a chance to people-watch and see the Vancouver lifestyle.  I decided to stand at the corner of Robson and Homer at 9:30am.  For the most part, everyone walked alone, coffee in hand, with their headphones plugged in.  They all seemed to know their purpose and definitely walked with authority.  There was such a wide range of people: businessmen talking on their phone wearing suits, a woman in high-end fashion walking her small dog, two tourists in their worn running shoes taking pictures of their surroundings.  Whoever it is, if you want them, Vancouver has got them.

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Both MacLeod’s Books and the Vancouver Public Library were new to me and they exceeded my expectations.  When I walked into MacLeod’s I was overwhelmed with the smell of old books.  A variety of titles covered the whole store leaving little room to walk.  A book lover’s heaven.  Though I found myself feeling claustrophobic, I thought the store was unique.  With the amount of books there, I could get lost in that store for hours (metaphorically).

Optimized-LIBRARY OCT 2015 002The library on the other hand, well I could actually get lost in there–it’s huge!  7 floors of books, that’s pretty crazy.  The library was beautiful.  The place was nice and spacious–something I needed after MacLeod’s.  Plus, everything was so neat, tidy, and organized.  Other than the few times when I started thinking about what would happen if the building caught fire, I found walking around the library very calming.

I thought the trip to Vancouver was overall, a great time.  I was able to get resources for eminent, observe Vancouver lifestyle, and visit new places.  Plus, all of the excitement of the day tired me out enough to have a nice, deep sleep.   Vancouver Trip = Success!

Oh, and my last goal…

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