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From Bullied to Belting Ballads

by RO_Meredith Music, School

Meredith O'ConnorAs you may already know, October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In honor of that, today's blog post comes from Meredith O'Connor, a young singer-songwriter who has adopted a platform of anti-bullying and even incorporated that theme into some of her music. Below, she explains how personal experience inspired that choice. For more, check out her debut single, "The Game," and her bio below.

My name is Meredith O’Connor. I'm a singer/songwriter based in Long Island, New York. If you're familiar with Build A Better planet, an FM radio station that promotes community service, you may have heard my debut single. But what you may not know about me is that I used to be a victim of bullying. It comes in many different forms, but I experienced it verbally, as soon as I got to the age where cliques formed. Being an "artistic soul" I was exiled by my friends and left to feel like I had done something wrong. Like in many cases, I felt blame for somehow bring that unwanted attention on myself.  Looking back, I can see the main difference between then and now is that I am able to reconize that their bullying wasnt my fault, Now I am proud of who I am and own that I am different, outgoing, creative, driven and passionate about what I do. Back then, appreciating my talents, or even acknowledging them, was hard because of my environment. My home life was fine and I was kind to people. Yet, that wasn’t enough in school. It also didn't help that I wasn’t the best athlete.  Instead, I was left to mostly appreciate the beauty of the arts on my own.

The friends that I did have helped, but my other peers presented me with a challenge no young person ever wants to face:  isolation and bullying.  So I made friends in dance classes,  voice lessons, and in community shows. Lucky for me, my parents understood that I was different and needed to explore places where I could be accepted for the person I was. As an added bonus, my talents also improved as I got more significant roles, and I learned that I was not alone.  This discovery of my talent made me realize I had a gift. I hope I can inspire you to find your gift, even if it isn't one your peers notice.

Eventually that exploration and hard work paid off. When I was fifteen, I signed my first contract with City Model Agency. There, no one criticized how I looked, they were kind and professional.  I loved that environment, and quickly became known as the ”down to earth” one.

The experience taught me that you can be who you want to be, not what those who judge you label you as. I am a model and actress because I work hard towards those goals and create distance from those  who don't believe in me. And I also know now to to stay true to myself, and to not judge others. My experience being bullied reminds me that there are people out there who still need help.  Today, I work with my manager and label to promote tolerance and kindness. I specifically choose to have a platform of anti-bullying, since I'm so passionate about it. I have a self titled EP about my life and experiences overcoming this challenge. The message of that album is the same one I'll leave with you here: Be proud of who you are, and never give up! 

About Meredith
Meredith O'Connor is a singer-songwriter  with a self-titled EP that will soon be released and distributed in stores nationally. For information on its release, see her Facebook  page: Meredith O'Connor. She hopes to touch the lives of teenagers like her, and would love to hear from you.

For more information on bullying and what to do if you or someone you know is a victim, check out the following fact sheets:

What to do if you are being bullied 
What to do if someone you know is being bullied
C
yberbullying
Bystanders role in cyberbullying
W
hat is girl vs. girl bullying?


 

 

 

Interview: Delilah, NBC’s “The Sing Off”

by RO_Meredith Interviews, Music

Today's guest post is from ReachOut Council member Chloe, interviewing the all-female a capella group Delilah from season three of NBC's "The Sing-Off."   This is the latest in a series of interviews Chloe has been doing with entertainers on what's gotten them through a tough time. This time around, Chloe was lucky enough to sit down with all eight group members (Amy Whitcomb, Candace Eve, Geena Glaser, Hannah Juliano, Ingrid Andress, Johanna Vinson, Kendall Young and Laina Walker), so for clarity’s sake answers are attributed to each individual. Also, be sure to check out Chloe's bio at the end!

Chloe: How long have you been performing for?

Laina: I’ve been singing since I was a little girl. My grandmother started giving me lessons when I was eight years-old. She started training me in classical when I was eight, and I would do recitals with her that she would have for her students and ever since then, I’ve done random little shows. I performed in middle and high school, and then I’ve performed with Noteworthy (BYU’s female acapella singing group) for two years.

Ingrid: For only about three years, actually. I was actually a sports person in high school, and I wanted to pursue that in college. But it wasn’t until my senior year that I realized was more than just a hobby for me and that I would much rather want to do that than sports. I just started my senior year of high school, and I’m still learning like, how to get over stage fright and stuff. Most people think that I’m the most comfortable person on stage, but I actually get SO nervous.

Chloe: What inspired you to pursue a career as a performer?

Kendall: There are a lot of seeds in my life that led me to follow this and love it and keep pursuing it. I was just always encouraged that this was a gift that I had, and it’s a way of communicating for me. I feel I communicate better through song and music than I do through having a conversation with a person. I feel like when I’m talking, I’m not getting through all of the emotion behind my words. I think that’s why I knew that I needed to sing.

Laina: You know, part of the reason I haven’t started my major until now is because I kind of went back and forth about it. I knew I would be performing my whole life but I didn’t know if I wanted to major in it. Eventually, I just came to the conclusion that it’s something that I absolutely love to do. I know that it’s not going to be easy, but anything worth doing is going to be hard. I was really lucky to have supportive parents and they’ve been there for me since day one and their support has been a huge deciding factor in choosing music as a career path. I think that eventually I would like to do teaching, but until then, I want to take advantage of as many opportunities that come my way.

Chloe: Who in your career/personal life do you look up to or admire? Why?

Amy: I really look up to my mom, and I think I always will. She is very selfless and very service-oriented and her life is serving others and she has always set such a great example of that. If I am starting to get a little too self-indulgent and selfish, I remember my mom and how happy she is because she serves other people. I also really look up to my friend Catherine. She was a mentor to me in college and she’s still chasing after her dreams and she’s so talented and so humble and her humility and determination and passion has really inspired me.

I also really look up to Lady GaGa because of her complete devotion to her fans and because of the strong objective she has for performing. She never has an unmotivated performance. She has a reason for every performance and that objective is deep in her soul and it’s really apparent. She is 100% nuts, but I love that about her. She’s probably the performer that I most look up to.

Geena: I think my mom and my sister are two people that I’ve always admired and looked up to. My sister actually is a singer too and she started the performing thing first so I watched her do that and, not followed her in any sense because we’re very different in what we perform, but she opened that door for me. And my mom is just an incredible woman and has always reminded me to stay strong and has always been really really supportive.

Chloe: You've been on "The Sing Off" twice now. How are your experiences on the show similar and different from one another?

Candace: Season one with Voices of Lee was different because it was a guinea pig experience for everyone that season.  I was way more nervous just because I didn’t have a clue what it all meant and couldn’t fathom who was watching.  It just had the whole “new” experience feeling.  Season three with Delilah felt so magical for the way our group came together. A lot of it is unexplainable to outsiders. We all realize the special bond that has happened every single rehearsal, conversation with each other, stepping out on that stage each and every show. I know that God brought us together, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen every day.  We are very fortunate.

Ingrid: What’s different is the whole approach that I’ve been taking with the show. Last season, it was really new and we did more of what they wanted, it was more of a timid approach. It helped me realize that it’s better to stay true to who you are as a musician rather than conforming to modern music and what it wants you to do. This season it was more of the attitude that “We’re going to go in here and perform what we want and take a song that’s popular and put our own spin on it”. This year I felt more in control musically and I felt more confident in what we are singing. This season was also a big learning experience for me because I hardly have any friends that are girls unfortunately and so I went into thinking “Wow, I’m going to be with seven other girls” and so it really helped me appreciate being more of a girl and having that bond, and it was an empowering feeling. I am definitely a different person after hanging out with all of those girls.

Chloe: Given that you are all very close to your faith and beliefs, do you feel any kind of pressure or conflict to conform your values and morals when it comes to being mainstream?

Amy: That’s a really good question, and that’s actually something that I’ve really been struggling with, and yes. Something that I’ve realized within the past few months is that I’ve always known who I am. I’ve always had a good grip on who I was and who I wanted to be and the entertainment industry, as much of a gift and blessing music is, it can be used in a lot of bad ways too. A lot of times people are just unnecessarily vulgar and it really starts to wear on me. Basically what I have realized is that even when I’m confused, I do know what is me and it’s a matter of recommitting to that every day. I think it’s a matter of staying spiritually strong and sticking to the things that have gotten me so far.

Kendall: I feel like music is not mine. Whenever I sing/perform/write a song, I always think of it as something that the Lord is doing through me and I’m just there to give it to other people. It’s always just about giving for me. On the Sing-Off, I didn’t feel any pressure to sing certain things and perform certain ways, it was really nice. There were a lot of other people who loved Jesus as well, so we bonded together and would talk about things and it was great to be able to talk to other people about those sorts of things. Everything that I do goes back to him, and it’s the whole reason why I sing.

Chloe: Who in your career/personal life do you look up to or admire? Why?

Amy: I really look up to my mom, and I think I always will. She is very selfless and very service-oriented and her life is serving others and she has always set such a great example of that. If I am starting to get a little too self-indulgent and selfish, I remember my mom and how happy she is because she serves other people. I also really look up to my friend Katherine. She was a mentor to me in college and she’s still chasing after her dreams and she’s so talented and so humble and her humility and determination and passion has really inspired me.

I also really look up to Lady GaGa because of her complete devotion to her fans and because of the strong objective she has for performing. She never has an unmotivated performance. She has a reason for every performance and that objective is deep in her soul and it’s really apparent. She is 100% nuts, but I love that about her. She’s probably the performer that I most look up to.

Geena: I think my mom and my sister are two people that I’ve always admired and looked up to. My sister actually is a singer too and she started the performing thing first so I watched her do that and, not followed her in any sense because we’re very different in what we perform, but she opened that door for me. And my mom is just an incredible woman and has always reminded me to stay strong and has always been really really supportive.

Chloe: In your career, describe a tough time or a personal struggle that you've gone through.

Hannah Juliano: When it comes to music, The Sing Off is the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do in my life. I’ve never been more exhausted. Your voice gets tired, your emotions run dry, you’re constantly being inspired, and your mood just goes up and down each minute because it feels like one day is three weeks long

Chloe: In your personal life, describe a tough time or a personal struggle you've dealt with.

Geena Glaser: When I was about 10 or 11, I was diagnosed with Scoliosis, and I was told that I was going to have to wear a back brace for three years during middle school, which is probably the worst point in your life to have to deal with that. So I wore a back brace for those three years, which was plastic and went from like, right under my bra to right below my belt. It was really uncomfortable and painful actually, and it was mentally hard to deal with because I was self-conscious about it. I wore really baggy clothing and I didn’t want anyone to touch me because I didn’t want anyone to know, so it was a lot being in middle school and being so concerned about appearance and just being hyper aware of what people thought about me. I had this huge secret that I needed to keep from everywhere just for my personal sanity. It was something that was really rough for me.

 I had some really wonderful friends [who helped me get through it]. I’ve had the same best friend since I was in first grade, and she was really great about it. She just made me feel comfortable, she didn’t make me feel self-conscious in any sense and it was just part of who I was and that was fine. She kept me grounded in that. My mom was really wonderful in the same sense. She just kept me grounded as well and didn’t let me stray from being me. It’s so easy to get caught up in middle school with all of the drama and whatnot, but it was nice to have people there to remind me that everything was going to be okay.

Chloe: Who/what helps you deal with day-to-day life?

Jo: My friends, absolutely. A couple of years ago, I had a really tough time. I couldn’t find a job and I was just struggling and it was my rock bottom. The only reason I got through it was because of my friends. They were there for me emotionally and pulled me out of a lot of intense situations. I don’t think I would be who I am and be able to do what I do if it wasn’t for them. If not for my friends being the most incredible support system, I would not be where I am and doing what I love. I feel like the universe gave me all of the best people, and I love it.

Hannah: It’s so cheesy, but the girls in Delilah. I couldn’t have done any of that experience without them. There’s just so great and supportive. You’d expect it to be really difficult being in a group with seven other girls, with emotions and attitudes, but we don’t have any of that. We worked so well together and we are so much more than just a group for a t.v. show, it’s more than that. We really wanted to inspire people and change people’s perception. So those girls, my best friends, my family. Those are the people that I really lean on. I’ve got a really good support team, I got very lucky with that.

Chloe: What message or advice would you give to others trying to get through tough times or personal struggles?

Candace: First of all, just know that YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE FEELING THIS WAY. You’re not the only one who has ever felt this struggle or challenge in your life. That’s not to take away from the uniqueness of your circumstance or situation, it really just means that you’re not alone. You are really not alone. I believe that God works through our family and friends and even strangers to impact our lives in a positive way. Everyone is different. But, I believe God’s power is the same and sufficient for everyone.

Jo: Take things a day at a time. Setting a goal for yourself is a wonderful idea. If you know that things will be better because you will make them that way in like six months or so, that’s something to work towards and focus on and I think that it really helps. If you’re kind of just wallowing and you don’t know when it’s going to end, you have to take things a day at a time and force yourself to push through. Know that you are the only person that is in charge of your life and you can use the people around you and their love to motivate yourself. People can only help you if you can help yourself. You need to have faith in yourself and that things will get better and the only thing that will hold you back is if you don’t try.

About Delilah
A conglomeration of singers, mostly from the first two seasons of "The Sing-Off." This talented all-female a cappella group includes Amy and Laina of BYU Noteworthy and Candace from Voices of Lee from season one. Kendall from Eleventh Hour and Hannah and Ingrid from Pitch Slapped of Berklee College of Music joined the group from season two. And rounding out the group is Johanna and Geena, two members of Divisi, the all-female a cappella group from The University of Oregon.

About Chloe

Hi there! My name's Chloe and I'm originally from New York but currently living in South County,  Rhode Island. I'm a freshman psychology major and a Non-Violence and Peace Studies minor at the University of Rhode Island. Although I am studying psychology, I have a real passion for musical theatre and performing and my ultimate dream would be to perform on Broadway one day. In my spare time, I like to read, sing, dance, shop, hang out with my friends, and have a good time. I am so excited to be a part of the Youth Council and happy to have the chance to get involved in helping out others!

Interview: Ryann Redmond, aka ‘Bridget’ in ‘Bring It On: The Musical’

by RO_Admin Interviews, Music

Ryann Redmond Today's guest post is from ReachOut Council member Chloe, interviewing performer Ryann Redmond, who is currently playing the role of Bridget in the national tour of "Bring It On." This is the latest in a series of interviews Chloe has been doing for ReachOut with members of the Broadway community about how they have gotten through a tough time. Also, check out Chloe's bio at the end!

Chloe: How long have you been performing for?

Ryann: I’ve been performing since I was about thirteen, right when I was going into eighth grade in middle school.

Chloe: What inspired you to pursue a career as a performer/artist?

Ryann: Well I started doing Broadway Dreams [workshops] as a student about seven years ago. I auditioned that day and one of the founders, Adam Hunter, really saw something and that was the one thing I needed. He was like 'Oh, you could be in the Hairspray movie and you could do this, and do that..' and I thought 'Alright, well if he thinks I could do this, then I think I could do this as a career.'

Chloe: Who in your life do you look up to? Why?

Ryann: Annette [Tanner] is someone that I definitely look up to and admire because she’s been there for me throughout this whole process and me starting to work professionally. She’s been my number one fan aside from my mother, who I also look up to. I come from a family of six kids, so it hasn’t been the easiest to pay for lessons and things like that, but those two people have always supported me and made it work no matter what. Professionally, I think anyone who’s working on Broadway right now. I want to be a working actress and be able to do this and not anything else. And of course the greats, like Patti LuPone and people like that.

Chloe: In your career/personal life, describe a tough time or personal struggle that you’ve gone through.

Ryann: I haven’t gone through any tough times in my career yet, but in middle school, I was definitely the bigger girl and got made fun of for being fat, but I think that has really formed who I am right now. I am so sarcastic and can brush anything off and am always the class clown, and am also very confident in my body and very happy with what I’ve got. A lot of times people say that things like that will translate into the theatre world because it’s so focused on a “type” or a “look.” I was prepared for “You know you’re not going to be the ingenue or the leading lady,” and I am completely fine with that. I love being the character actress, I love being the comedic relief. With “Bring It On,” which is the show that I’m about to go on tour with, that’s what I am, and it’s like a dream come true.

Chloe: Who/what helped you get through your tough times?Ryann Redmond

Ryann: My mom definitely. She’s always taught me to hold my head up high and keep going. Once I started doing theatre, I really broke out of my shell like crazy. It was clear that I was supposed to be on stage and I just ham it up and that’s somewhere where I could just be myself with all of the theatre “geeks.” At the same time, I played some softball so I kind of saw both sides. Once high school came along, everything was great. I just really dug deep into theatre, and I had a great theatre program in high school and wonderful director and that’s where I spent pretty much all of my time.

Chloe: What message would you send to others trying to get through tough times?

Ryann: Well, there’s really no way to not be cliche. You can’t worry about what other people are saying because you’re here for a reason and you’re supposed to be who you are and no one can change that, so why not embrace it? Do your own thing.

What has helped you break out of your shell and come into who you really are?

About Ryan
Ryann Redmond can currently be seen on the National Tour of Bring It On the Musical playing the role of Bridget. She was lucky enough to originate this role in the reading, workshop and Atlanta World Premiere. Ryann attended NYU Tisch's CAP21 Studio. NY Credits: NYU Reality Show at Madison Square Gardenand Radio City Music Hall, The Daughters at Joe's Pub, and various productions at NYU. Ryann could not be happier to be on the road with such an amazing show with the best cast and creative team around!

About Chloe
Hi there! My name's Chloe and I'm originally from New York but currently living in South County,  Rhode Island. I'm a freshman psychology major and a Non-Violence and Peace Studies minor at the University of Rhode Island. Although I am studying psychology, I have a real passion for musical theatre and performing and my ultimate dream would be to perform on Broadway one day. In my spare time, I like to read, sing, dance, shop, hang out with my friends, and have a good time. I am so excited to be a part of the Youth Council and happy to have the chance to get involved in helping out others!

Bonnaroo: Tunes and Tats with the ReachOut Crew

by RO_Meredith Music

This weekend, the ReachOut Crew joins thousands of sweaty, jazzed music fans at Bonnaroo, the 4-day multistage camping and music festival in Manchester, Tennessee.  The ReachOut booth at Bonnaroo has taken hundreds of sign-ups for information and given out tons of free temporary ReachOut tattoos.  In addition to making new friends and enjoying the awesome lineup, ReachOut is at Bonaroo to encourage people to, well, "reach out," in times of need, encouraging peer support and strength in numbers.  When in doubt, ReachOut!

We'd love to see you at our booth.  But if you can't make it, here are some ReachOut themed songs from Bonnaroo artists you might enjoy:

Freelance Whales's single “Starring” is about struggling with a friend's horrors.  Sometimes helping a friend can be tough, but that's what friends are for.

The Drums' single "Best Friend" talks about what it's like to lose a friend and how even when they're gone, their memory remains.

Last but not least, The Black Keys single "Tighten Up" talks about the bumps and bruises of losing someone and what it takes to move on.

What do you listen to when you're feeling down?  What music inspires you?

Interview: Sia, Part 3 - Exclusive!

by RO_Meredith Interviews, Music

Check out our last installment from our exclusive interview with Sia Furler (see parts one and two on the blog) Sia breaks down her secret ambitions as a dog masseuse, what defines a healthy friendship and we get a surprise (off-screen) visit from JD Samson of Le Tigre! In the background, you will hear the dance monster jam “Clap Your Hands” that comes from Sia’s new album “We Are Born” (2010, Monkey Puzzle). Check the incredible video below, above her bio.
Did you like this series of interviews? Leave a comment!

BIO (via wikipedia.org): Sia Kate Isobelle Furler (pronounced /ˈsiːə/) (born 18 December 1975), also known simply as Sia, is an Australian soulful jazz-styled pop singer and songwriter. At the 2009 ARIA Music Awards, she won the award for Best Music DVD and Some People Have Real Problems was nominated for Best Breakthrough Artist Album.[1] Sia received six nominations at the 2010 ARIA Music Awards and won Best Independent Release, Best Pop Release (for We Are Born) and Best Video (for Clap Your Hands).[2] She is noted for her work with Zero 7 and her three major label solo albums.