Oh what fun it was performing under the beautiful oaks of the West Baton Rouge Museum last Friday with the Florida Street Blowhards during the monthly "Historical Happy Hour" series.
Thank you to everyone who came out and supported us for this show!
Last weekend I also had an opportunity to play solo during Sunday brunch at The Gloriette restaurant inside the Southern Hotel in Covington, LA. What a beautiful space it is, and I even ran into my high school physics teacher (one of those rare people who made class fun with toy rollercoaster models to learn from and a field trip to Jazzland to see physics at work in the real world).
In addition to prepping full-speed for the Summer Swing show June 9th at the Manship Theater, it's also time to draft a second speech for the Toastmasters International Speech Competition in case I make it past the Regional Round. This is the first international level of the contest and each contestant is required to use a different speech at finals. Is my speech up against some tough competition? Definitely! Could I lose in this next round? Of course! But if you prepare for the BEST outcome like you prepare for the worst, then you're always ready when opportunity strikes :)
Getting back into story mode has allowed me to dig through many fond memories and reminisce. But what has been most interesting is something one of my coaches pointed out last week as I was relaying one favorite story involving my youngest sister: "Have you ever asked what this event looked like/felt like from HER PERSPECTIVE?"
Truthfully, I had not.
I had assumed plenty of things. She was a kid back then--would she even remember much of it?
But I had never directly asked her to share with me her version of the story with me.
So last weekend, I changed that.
And boy was I surprised.
As my coach suspected, the "other side" of the story revealed several key points and motivations I had never thought of. Adding my sister's perspective helped me better understand her as a person. It also made the story richer, more meaningful, and more complete.
Do you have a favorite personal story involving others that you've never dug a little deeper into? It may be worth asking a question or two of those involved to find out their perspective. In the process, you may uncover something that helps you better understand them too!
Have you ever been excited to accomplish something important "all by yourself" and then realized later that you actually had a lot of help along the way?
Today I got to meet a friend's toddler son for the first time. He's just beginning to walk on his own, to eat solid "grown-up" food and express his emotions. He still obviously needs a lot of help in many ways. But he's not the least bit shy about asking for it. And even when he does something new "by himself," he has a cheering squad of adults encouraging him and ready to catch him when he falls.
As adults, we sometimes don't want to admit that we need help, but we do--every day--and in lots of different ways. And we're sometimes hesitant to make the ask.
Right now I am working with the music director for my June 9th show to pull together charts, with the Manship Theater on promotions, with fellow musicians on arrangements and media outlets to spread the word for ticket sales. It takes a TEAM of people to make a great show possible!
Even mandolin virtuoso, Chris Thile, who I had the pleasure of hearing perform a solo concert a few years ago in Houston, has a TEAM of people who make his SOLO concerts possible.
What are you working on right now? And where could you use a little help?
Have you asked for it?
If not, I challenge you to do so today.
If it's something you've been putting off for a while, instead of thinking about "the worst thing that could happen" if you ask, I invite you to think "what's the best that could happen?"
For example, I just called my local library to ask if they would promote the Manship show by adding the poster to their digital billboards. And in the span of our 5-minute conversation, the librarian said SHE's going to buy a ticket to the show!
Many great things start with reaching out and asking for help. Do it!
In the meantime, I hope to see you tomorrow night for Historical Happy Hour with me and the Florida Street Blowhards (at the West Baton Rouge Museum) and June 9th at the Hartley/Vey Studio in the Manship Theater!
When I'm coaching someone who tells me they want to be more "successful," one of the first questions I ask is, "What does 'being successful' mean to you?" Because we all have different definitions of this term. And without defining what it is YOU want, YOU'LL never know if you have achieved it or not.
For the past two weeks in my musical world, every professional musician has been talking about playing at one of two major festivals: Jazz Fest in New Orleans or Festival International in Lafayette. Playing one or both of these events is a major success for many musicians. And I'm so happy for them!
I have never played at either festival, but I did get to attend both this year (My first REAL visit to Jazz Fest was amazing! It rained, poured, and the music was totally worth soggy feet for a day).
But a new favorite part for me this year was seeing incredibly talented local musicians I now know on the stages and cheering them on. Would I love to be up there with them? Sure! (Step 1 for next year = Apply! haha)
In the meantime, last week I enjoyed my own very different version of success (one that could be considered smaller by traditional standards but that means a lot to me):
I had the pleasure of performing a 2-hour courtyard concert entirely in FRENCH for GiveNOLA Day and the Nous Foundation, which supports French initiatives in New Orleans and throughout Louisiana. Performing a show en français is something I've dreamed about for years since seriously beginning my journey to learn the language in college. What an honor it was to be asked to do this, and in such a lovely, French Quarter courtyard setting.
The fundraiser was successful too, so here's to more French initiatives in Louisiana as a result! That's a win-win in my book :)
If you'd like to hear a bit of music en français in Baton Rouge, I'll be incorporating several songs into my next two concerts:
I hope to see you soon!
This weekend was jam-packed with family visiting, a 1-hour solo set at the Denham Springs Springfest Saturday morning, and the statewide level of the Toastmasters International Speech Competition I've been competing in this spring.
It was all such a whirlwind that I didn't have a lot of time to be nervous, but I was a bit anxious about the contest because I honestly didn't think my speech/delivery was strong enough to win the entire district (including all of Louisiana + Beaumont, TX). You see, I actually came in 2nd at the prior competition, but thanks to the rules, both 1st and 2nd place winners in that particular scenario advanced to District competition.
I showed up to the District Contest Saturday afternoon ready to give it my all AND likely not win.
So I gave it my all.
I had fun.
A couple other contestants who also didn't think they had a chance of winning opted out and didn't compete at the District level at all. By taking that action, they GUARANTEED they wouldn't win.
On the other hand, I had my doubts, but I knew my message about "Moving Through Self Doubt and Using Your Voice" was too important to me not to share. Thanks to that conviction, I was willing to take the chance.
I use this story to illustrate that sometimes the secret to making an important connection, getting an opportunity, or earning the WIN, is in large part due to your willingness to show up and put yourself in places of opportunity. We control so much more of our lives than we realize.
So what's next for me in the speech competition? Well, all the District winning speeches will compete virtually (via videos recorded at our contests) and in a couple months we'll find out which select few move on to the Semifinals in the Toastmasters International Speech Contest. Those semifinalists get to compete in The Bahamas! Who wouldn't want a free trip to the beach? :D
Let’s see how far this important message can go!
When you add up all the tasks it takes to be a musician these days, along with the time each task requires, performing live is often only a fraction of what we do. Yet it means so much to us and to those who come to listen, socialize, laugh, cry, or connect to something special with a group of strangers for a couple hours.
With that being said, thank you to everyone who came out to the Dosey Doe Breakfast, BBQ & Whiskey Bar show and made it a huge success! The venue has already asked me to come back :D
THANK YOU for helping to make all this possible and for creating these special moments with me!
Now we're back in Louisiana and ready to roll! I hope to see you at a festival, performance or wandering around town.
Also, tickets for the BIG "Summer Swing with Ashley Orlando" show Friday, June 9, at 7:30pm at the Manship Theater (Hartley/Vey Studio) go on sale this Wednesday, April 19! Purchase yours here. Can't wait to see you there!
How often are you able to LET GO (when brainstorming, problem-solving, leading a team/important negotiation, etc.) under pressure? And if you worked regularly on harnessing that skill, what new doors/opportunities could open for you?
I recently had the opportunity to record a couple songs solo at Rabadash Studios in Covington. It was both nerve-wrecking and thrilling since I've recorded many times at home or with low-budget set-ups/background vocals for friends but never in a state-of-the-art facility for my own arrangements of songs.
As I was going in, a musician friend and Hawaiian vocalist/ukulele player with decades of recording experience gave me the following advice: "Recording can be scary at first, but once you become more comfortable, you’ll enjoy the process of it all. Let go of any insecurities you may have and just do what you do, sing like how only Ashley can sing."
And he's so right. Over the past few years, I've witnessed magic happen before my eyes each time I am truly able to let go. Still working on developing that skill on demand :)
This is a daily practice for me and means I continuously welcome new challenges--the next one being an event that I've been planting seeds for since last July and am so thrilled it is finally coming to fruition!
Please SAVE THE DATE Friday, June 8, 7:30pm at the Manship Theater's Hartley Vey Studio in Baton Rouge. I'll be performing my own 90-minute jazz/swing/Great American Songbook show in this lovely venue with some of the BEST jazz musicians in Louisiana (and that statement isn't even hyperbole).
You won't want to miss this! More details to come :)
Last week I was invited to speak to a local women’s organization about joy and overcoming self-doubt. Before the event even began, numerous ladies who had read my bio asked me this question:
“What’s a joyologist? I think I need that in my life.”
Well, I'm so glad you asked!
To me, a joyologist is someone who seeks out joy and creates it daily, who studies its effects on our lives and explains how we can connect with it more deeply in our own way. These days I share joy through music, coaching and speaking.
While I’ve only been using the label “joyologist” for a couple years (a colleague described me this way once and the term stuck), I’ve been studying joy my whole life.
You see, as a kid I was a delightfully happy (yet shy) bundle of energy. But the older I got, the more self-doubt took control of the thoughts in my head and encouraged me to hide from the world. As a result, I stifled my curiosity, my voice, and even on many occasions, my smile.
It wasn’t until I observed several incredible examples of joy in those around me as a teen that I started learning how to reconnect to this important part of living a healthy, emotionally rich life.
We learn by the example and stories of others.
That's one reason why I'm thrilled to be able to share my own story once again as a contestant in the Toastmasters District 68 International Speech Competition April 29 in Baton Rouge!
This contest represents all of Louisiana (and Beaumont), and the winner continues on to the next round of the competition (which culminates in 1 international winner). The District contest is open to the public, so if you're curious to hear these inspiring speakers compete April 29, let me know and I'll get you the details!
My husband and I have been back in Louisiana for 8 months now, and while most things have gone even better than I’d expected, one thing I’ve been struggling with a lot is allergies.
They started a few years ago in Texas (I had no idea you could develop significant allergies as an adult!), so I found an allergist who helped me get my symptoms under control.
Since December, however, they seem to have gotten worse.
After visiting a doctor here and switching things up a bit, I’m feeling better but not yet 100%.
This can be very frustrating—especially when it affects my singing—and it sometimes gets me down.
Until I remember this phrase:
“Sh** happens, but suffering is optional.” (or "Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.")
I choose JOY while I keep looking for solutions.
I invite you to take a look at your own recent frustrations.
What emotion(s) did you experience when dealing with them?
For the times when you felt extensive misery/suffering, could there be an opportunity next time to experience the inevitable pain and choose joy instead?
Never in a million years did I imagine I would one day say the following statement:
"Performed at a fancy fundraiser gala with a group of ukulele players (wearing creatively styled trash bags) and environmental nonprofit leaders (wearing bright yellow ponchos) in a "celebrity karaoke" performance to raise money for a Louisiana opera nonprofit."
And yet, every single word in that sentence is TRUE :P
When the Louisiana Stormwater Coalition approached the St. Alban's Ukulele Orchestra about the idea of accompanying them for a "celebrity karaoke performance," no one immediately jumped on the idea but me. I wasn't even quite sure what we were stepping into, but I I like adventure (and bringing others along)! Thankfully, a handful of other players also stepped up eventually. In the end, the performance turned out to be so much fun! The audience loved our "full-out" costumes, and it was all for a worthwhile cause (in addition to putting on performances in the community, Opera Louisiana brings musical programs into schools to involve kids at a young age).
A couple of the biggest surprises of the night:
None of this would have happened without a lot of "letting go" by various groups: Opera Louisiana for welcoming a celebrity karaoke competition specifically for non-vocalists; by the local "celebrities" who are not vocalists or performers; by our uke group for being willing to try something different and get creative with garbage bags. The list goes on and on.
If you're reading this and realize you want some of this brand of fun for yourself, start finding little ways you can let go too! You never know what could happen...
Here in south Louisiana we're coming off of a huge cultural high--Mardi Gras. Whether you're religious or not, everyone gets involved in this celebration in some way, from eating king cake to attending the Super Krewe parades of New Orleans, enjoying live music or even running in a Courir de Mardi Gras in Cajun Country.
The day AFTER Mardi Gras is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. This is traditionally a day when the all excess stops and we reflect/cut back/give up something for 40 days to remind us where we came from/where we'll all return one day (dust).
This year I'm going nontraditional, and I invite you to join me. For the next 40 days, I'm giving up ARGUING FOR MY LIMITATIONS.
I do it.
You do it.
We all do it.
And as a result, we don’t live up to our full potential.
If the cigar box below had argued for its limitations, it never could have:
What is arguing for YOUR limitations costing YOU?
I challenge you to challenge yourself for the next 40 days. Every time you notice yourself arguing for your LIMITATIONS, pause and reframe your thoughts to start arguing for POSSIBILITIES, no matter how small.
After 40 days, let's see where we end up!
Ashley Orlando is a jazz vocalist/ukulele artist and coach who helps growth-focused leaders find their voice, grow their presence & amplify their impact.