Playing Kulak's open mic

More stories, recordings and performances of this song: WATCHING YOU GROW


I am a passionate singer/songwriter following my dream.

My post title is a lyric line from my song “Watching You Grow.” Although that song was inspired by the thrill of seeing my childrens’ growth, so many lyric lines are applicable to my own growth, as a result of embracing music later in my life.

In 2010, I began to seriously play my guitar again after 30 years. It happened just after I turned 50 and it was during a very difficult time; music came to uplift me when both my parents were declining. And music guided me to end my marriage after I wrote my true feelings with my song “The Unknown.”

Perhaps the reason I love songwriting so much is because it represents a way for me to honestly express myself. For decades I “sleepwalked” through my life and denied most of my true feelings.

My music has given me great comfort and I’ve decided that music and God are interchangeable. That’s an amazing thing for me to say because and I’m not a religious person by any means!

Only a dream

“Bring me to tears”

“Oh my God! That’s it – you just gave me chills!”

“I’m not sure where the spot is – but I know it’s supposed to move me in this area. Something needs to be put in there.”

“There’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing, but when you find those special notes – I’m soaring.”

Working with my arranger, George sometimes sounds like an erotic encounter!

Our sessions usually last for about 3-4 hours; time flies by as we collaborate and create beautiful music together. George is very private and wouldn’t want me to share anything about him. I can say that I always sit in a chair about ten feet away from him.

Recently, I’ve begun to be very demanding about every song arrangement we create together. It isn’t enough for me to have a song arrangement that sounds musically pretty. I’ve decided that an arrangement isn’t finished unless it grabs my heart.

From the time I began working with George four years ago, I have grown and developed musically in many ways. In the beginning of our working relationship, I let George arrange everything the way he heard it. He is definitely a musical genius and I treasure every one of his arrangements. Unlike earlier songs that were arranged in one session, most of our recent song arrangements develop over many sessions and I am far more involved.

George is eager to please me, but he gets frustrated when I send him in circles with vague directions. Sometimes it’s very challenging to explain what I want when I’m not even sure – but I know it when I hear it because I feel something special.

Yes, it does sound erotic, doesn’t it? And when I tell George that his arrangement has sent me to heaven, he beams and tells me that it gives him a lot of pleasure to do that for me.

These are lyrics in progress that I scrawled out while writing my song “Watching You Grow.”

These are lyrics in progress that I scrawled out while writing my song “Watching You Grow.”

To anyone who wonders what I do on a daily basis with my passion – I share with you now.

I record vocals three times a week. After so many sessions of recording, there are things I know about my voice.

1. I can sing well for about thirty minutes. After that, it all goes downhill.

2. I’ll sing a song about 5-7 times. The first take is usually a “warm up” because my pitch is off. But my low notes are great on the first two takes. After that, they disappear and then the high notes are better. The best take is usually the third one.

3. I use a lot of mouthwash before I sing. Another musician told me that it helps to eliminate those funny clicking noises that happen when I’m singing certain words.

4. I try hard to think about the meaning of the words I’m singing instead of thinking about how to sing better.

Writing a new song is an amazing gift from above. I never actively try to compose because it involves lyric writing. I find the process of hunting for words deep within my subconscious to be exhausting and quite difficult. But of course, it leads to bliss when I come through and express my true feelings.

Most of my time is spent editing vocal recordings. I do try to play my guitar every day because I want to maintain memorization for over forty songs. Performing is another arena that requires even more singing and guitar practice time for me.

That handsome guy, who is setting up my mic, is a volunteer at Kulak’s Woodshed where I perform regularly. Matt has helped me out by editing some of my recordings and he’s also a terrific singer/songwriter.

That handsome guy, who is setting up my mic, is a volunteer at Kulak’s Woodshed where I perform regularly. Matt has helped me out by editing some of my recordings and he’s also a terrific singer/songwriter.

During the years when I did not have any music in my life, it was only a dream.

I am eternally grateful that I am able to create the music that I love. For so many years, I was overwhelmed with caregiving and this is my renaissance now.

All of what I do musically fills me with energy, excitement and pleasure. It helps me cope with almost anything that is stressful in my life and keeps me smiling.

When I receive a paid illustration assignment, my musical endeavors don’t stop. I manage to do both at the same time. I have been blessed to receive a lot of income this past year as an artist.

It is a message for me from above that I can continue following my dream. No guilt. No shame. Just joy and lightness of being.

When I become overly critical about my singing abilities or when I analyze technical elements of music – it blocks me. My goal is to get out of my own way. It is a process and I am constantly learning ways to free myself from the inner critic.


That’s me playing my old classical guitar at the age of 17! Below is that same guitar in my daughter’s hands.

That’s me playing my old classical guitar at the age of 17! Below is that same guitar in my daughter’s hands.

Daughter playing

“You’re My Superstar”

I chuckled. This was truly a songwriting moment. My 21-year-old daughter was visiting and she sat on my bed strumming my fairly new Cordoba classical guitar.

She said, “I have a song I’ve been working on, Mommy. It only has one verse though. Can I play it for you?”

I listened as she strummed and sang. It was delightful watching her.

My daughter worked full-time now since she’d been promoted to a manager at the restaurant where she worked. For the past month, she told me she had zero time and energy for music. The idea of performing again like she had a year ago was remote.

Her words were, “I am so tired from working that when I get home I go to bed early. On my days off, I have so many other things to do – music is the last thing I have time for.

That made it even more beautiful for me to see her enjoyment while playing guitar in my bedroom.

For another hour, she continued to practice her guitar playing and ended up writing another verse for her song. I sat at my computer nearby and did some other things. But listening to her play gave me a big smile.

And I let her know that her song was really lovely and how much I enjoyed seeing her compose a song in my company.

Then she said, “Mommy, by the way, I need to bring you my guitar. It has two broken strings and I’d love it if you could fix them for me.”

daughter performing

Her old guitar was my old guitar. I played it from the time I was about 17 years old. It was dented, scratched and not really a great guitar. I had thought about getting her a new guitar as a gift someday. She even mentioned that she was thinking of buying one for herself.

I watched her playing my Cordoba. A year ago, I went shopping for this classical guitar and must have played over 100 guitars before I found this one. It had a nice bright sound, but I far preferred my steel-string Lowden guitar to it. So I hardly played my Cordoba classical guitar and it was dusty.

Cordoba reflected

Perhaps it was impulsive but I said, “Honey, you can take my Cordoba home. Enjoy it.”

Her eyes widened. “Mom, are you sure?”

She chirped with excitement, “I promise I’ll be very careful because I know you paid a lot of money for it. Wow!!! I can’t wait to play it in my apartment. My roommates are going to be so impressed!”

Now, whenever I look at the empty spot where my Cordoba hung on my wall, I am reminded of her excited face. It felt so good to see her musically inspired; it was well worth it.

That night, I told her that I hoped she’d never put music aside like I had for over 30 years. It was God’s gift, a magical elixir for life.

Daugher singing

Below is a link to hear my daughter’s music (I’m hoping she won’t be upset with me for sharing so much!):

© Judy Unger and 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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3 Responses to ONLY A DREAM

  1. Norm Goodman says:

    I felt Jenny’s excitement of getting the Cordoba. I loved that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have always touched me deeply with all of your music, and to know your talent has passed through to your beautiful child is such a blessing. You are both so talented and I hope you both continue to make the rest of the world happy with your music as you do my little corner of the world.

    * *

    Liked by 1 person

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