by Joy Zimmerman

Note by Note: Sweet Bird | No. 10 | 3.10.19 

Spring is coming….really, it is. 

As you and I have struggled with the ice and snow of this frigid winter, how have those tiny birds survived? 

And how do each of us survive turbulent times? I was convinced during one of the darkest periods of my life that songbirds were calling directly to me. Their simple, repetitive, insistent songs reassured me as I lay in the darkness unable to sleep. The sun would rise, and so would I, to face whatever lay ahead. 

I wrote “Sweet Bird” as a love song to those hardy creatures of hope. 

Sweet bird, sing your song, sweet bird 

Sweet bird, you need no words, sweet bird 

Songs of darkness, songs of dawn 

Inviting us to carry on 

Wake the world, sweet bird 

Brad Sneed, a dear friend, author and illustrator, painted a female cardinal for us. Both Brad and the cardinal star in this video. Be sure to watch Brad’s time lapse painting at the end and check out his website at www.BradSneed.com. 

What or who encourages you in dark times? What will you do when the weather warms? 

Here’s to the renewal of spring and to the resilience of birds…and each of us! 

Joy 

P.S. Here’s a great article (from a great website) entitled “How Do Birds Survive Winter?” http://www.birdsleuth.org/how-do-birds-survive-winter/ 

Hint: Sometimes survival involves a big change in brain size or body temperature—wow! 

Joy Zimmerman is a soulful singer-songwriter known for compelling vocals, inventive songs, and captivating performances. A traveling musician based in Kansas City, Joy is currently working on “To the Girl”, her sixth album of original music.  Joy is a multi-instrumentalist whose eclectic music might be best described as folk rock with extra helpings of other favorite genres. 

Joy's songwriting awards include an American Songwriter Lyric Contest Honorable Mention and eight Walnut Valley Festival NewSong Showcase wins. She has recorded three albums in Nashville and two in Kansas City. 

More information available at joyzimmermanmusic.com

Note by Note : Let It Be | No. 9 | 2.25.19  

It seemed a big advantage to have a last name that began with “Z’. Seated alphabetically, I often had time to rehearse my answers before the teacher called on me. So I wouldn’t make a mistake. 

I remember reading ahead quickly to practice the section I’d be reading out loud to the class. So I wouldn’t make a mistake. 

Even my kindergarten teacher said in a report card, “Joy doesn’t need to try so hard to be perfect.” 

Fast forward to the fall of 2017…. 

After playing the opening set, I was enjoying the performance of Ellis Paul, a nationally renowned singer/songwriter, at the Green Guitar Folk Series. As the audience called for an encore, Ellis walked over and invited me to join him on “Let It Be”. 

A complete surprise. No time to practice. No time to check any lyrics. No turning back. 

And when Ellis suggested we step off stage and sing in the midst of the crowd, no mics. 

Paul McCartney explains the inspiration for “Let It Be” with a catch in his throat on Carpool Karaoke. He recounts how his deceased mother, Mary, appeared to him in a dream and spoke those seminal words. 

On the title track of my upcoming album, “To the Girl”, I send words of comfort to that conscientious young girl. 

May we all say “yes” on a lark. May we sing out. And beyond any mistakes, may the spirit of our experiences carry us into our next “yes”... 

Let It Be, friends-- 

Joy 

P.S. If you’re in Kansas City, I highly recommend the Green Guitar Folk Series: Green Guitar Folk 

I’m honored to be in the line-up again on Saturday, October 12th. 

P.P.S. If you've somehow missed Paul McCartney’s Carpool Karaoke, watch it as soon as you can: Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

 

 

Joy Zimmerman is a soulful singer-songwriter known for compelling vocals, inventive songs, and captivating performances. A traveling musician based in Kansas City, Joy is currently working on “To the Girl”, her sixth album of original music.  Joy is a multi-instrumentalist whose eclectic music might be best described as folk rock with extra helpings of other favorite genres. 

Joy's songwriting awards include an American Songwriter Lyric Contest Honorable Mention and eight Walnut Valley Festival NewSong Showcase wins. She has recorded three albums in Nashville and two in Kansas City. 

More information available at joyzimmermanmusic.com

Note by Note: Crazy In Need | No. 8  | February 10, 2019 

“Love is the most universal, the most tremendous, and the most mysterious of the cosmic forces.”   ~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin 

Who and what do you love to your core? 

How do you put that love into words...or music…or art…or food…or projects…or donations…or…? 

You might say everything we do is motivated somehow by love. While romantic love commands most of the spotlight, our lives are full of all sorts of deep love. 

Throughout the centuries, people have attempted to describe the full-on, full-body experience of love. Isn’t it delicious when someone else’s depiction of love speaks eloquently to and for us? We can’t get enough. 

But even then, we’re only scratching the surface. Countless poems, songs, paintings, sculptures, photographs try to describe the indescribable…try to tame the vastness…try to capture a piece of the infinite. 

Annie Leibovitz’s Yoko Ono & John Lennon 

Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese 

Bob Dylan/Adele’s Make You Feel My Love 

Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings 

Camille Claudel’s Vertumnus and Pomona 

Roberto Begnini's Life is Beautiful 

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s one of my attempts. Crazy In Need was co-written with Jan Linder-Koda (over Skype no less!) and recorded in Los Angeles. 

 

What are you favorite depictions of love? What love language(s) do you speak? What’s better than being in love with the world? 

Viva l’amour in its many forms! 

Joy 

P.S. I love including friends in musical projects…from contributing photos for videos and album covers to singing in a choir on my new record, sharing song suggestions, and participating in the big feedback loop of live performances. Enjoy the photos many of you submitted for this video! 

 

Joy Zimmerman is a soulful singer-songwriter known for compelling vocals, inventive songs, and captivating performances. A traveling musician based in Kansas City, Joy is currently working on “To the Girl”, her sixth album of original music.  Joy is a multi-instrumentalist whose eclectic music might be best described as folk rock with extra helpings of other favorite genres. 

Joy's songwriting awards include an American Songwriter Lyric Contest Honorable Mention and eight Walnut Valley Festival NewSong Showcase wins. She has recorded three albums in Nashville and three in Kansas City - the latest, To the Girl, will be released in April 2019. 

Crazy In Need and other songs are available on CDBaby, iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music Unlimited. joyzimmermanmusic.com 

Note by Note: Will You Stand With Me | No. 7 | 1.21.19 

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  ~Eleanor Roosevelt 

I almost quit guitar lessons about twelve years ago. Between Mom duties, two or three part-time jobs, graduate school, band practice, major league volunteering, etc., there wasn’t enough time to practice. And frankly, guitar was kicking my butt. 

As many of you know, it’s humbling to be an adult learner. Being a pretty accomplished violinist -- as well as a card-carrying perfectionist -- made it painful to fumble around on the guitar. And I wasn’t finding time to make much progress. 

Close to quitting (and saving face), a friend asked me to consider a job at a residential treatment facility. I would lead a youth choir, play music for the weekly worship service, and lead musical activities for 5 to 12-year-olds who were hospitalized for mental health and behavioral issues. 

I really wanted to be the person who could do that job, but I was still struggling to sing and play guitar at the same time. Plus I had never done anything remotely like this. 

Wrestling my fears, I determined to live into this challenge. I’m still not sure exactly how I put two and two together, especially given the tough crowd. But taking that job and persevering with the guitar led to countless opportunities and new paths. 

Sometimes we see turning points loud and clear, and other times we ease into them without knowing…. 

Today’s video is a shout-out to all who have stood with me and to those who stand with each other when the going gets tough. 

When have major turning points occurred in your life? What new things(s) are you itching to learn? 

All the best—with gratitude, 

Joy 

  

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.”  ~Andy Rooney 

For inspiration, I recommend reading Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brene Brown…or really any of her books.

 

Joy Zimmerman is a soulful singer-songwriter known for compelling vocals, inventive songs, and captivating performances. A traveling musician based in Kansas City, Joy is currently working on “To the Girl”, her sixth album of original music.  Joy is a multi-instrumentalist whose eclectic music might be best described as folk rock with extra helpings of other favorite genres. 

Joy's songwriting awards include an American Songwriter Lyric Contest Honorable Mention and nine Walnut Valley Festival NewSong Showcase wins. She has recorded three albums in Nashville and two in Kansas City. 

More information available at joyzimmermanmusic.com

Note by Note: The Firefly | No. 6 | 1.5.19  

“Growing pains are not just for the young…” 

While experiencing those uncomfortable pangs once again, this line became the genesis of “The Firefly”. I was reminded of fireflies kept too long in mason jars. Did you also gather up fireflies as a child? And sometimes leave them behind when you moved on to flashlight tag? 

I have learned to listen to discomfort. Although I don’t always see the next steps clearly, I now recognize signs that I’m getting ready to shed old skin and take on new, unforeseen challenges. 

Some of the best things have happened when I leapt into the darkness without knowing the next chapter. 

It can take a long time to find yourself….to understand the undercurrents and find your deepest passions. (For inspiration, read “For a New Beginning” by John O’Donohue below.) 

I eventually discovered that mine include songwriting and playing music. All roads have led here—all those seemingly insignificant side trips, major highways, thickly wooded paths, and dark alleys lit only by a single bulb. 

As we launch into a new year, what are your deepest passions? How will you say “yes”? What is waiting beyond the mason jar for you? 

All the best to you and yours in 2019 – with gratitude, 

Joy 

For a New Beginning 

In out-of-the-way places of the heart, 

Where your thoughts never think to wander, 

This beginning has been quietly forming, 

Waiting until you were ready to emerge. 

 

For a long time it has watched your desire, 

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you, 

Noticing how you willed yourself on, 

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown. 

 

The delight, when your courage kindled, 

And out you stepped onto new ground, 

Your eyes young again with energy and dream, 

A path of plentitude opening before you. 

 

Though your destination is not yet clear 

You can trust the promise of this opening; 

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning 

That is at one with your life’s desire. 

 

Awaken your spirit to adventure; 

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk; 

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm 

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.                                                         

                                                            ~ John O’Donohue 

                                                            www.johnodonohue.com

Note by Note: The Gift of Light | No. 5 | 12.20.18 

Isn’t this a fabulous premise? A noted author travels far and wide to thank his mentors by preparing beautiful, home-cooked meals of thanksgiving. He shares each “pilgrimage of gratitude and generosity” with a mentee or two, thereby widening the circle of wisdom. 

The Traveling Feast: On the Road and At the Table with My Heroes details fourteen of Rick Bass’ pilgrimages. He takes great care to create gourmet meals and receives much nourishment in turn. With the backdrop of Bass' recovery from a divorce and his visits to wise, sometimes terminally ill mentors, the book is filled with keen observations about writing and life. 

Just as your checkbook chronicles your priorities, the list of people you admire speaks volumes. Who are your mentors? Have you thanked them? If they are deceased, do you pause to remember their impact? 

We find ourselves now in the darkest days of the year. The winter solstice is upon us. When we need it most, the holidays arrive with their underlying message of hope and light. 

And as Melody Beattie has said, the power of gratitude can unlock the fullness of life and turn a meal into a feast. 

When I set out to write my first holiday song, I began with my most treasured gifts…ones that cannot be wrapped, ones that need to be shared. Unconditional love, peace-filled days, forgiveness, hope, light in the darkness. 

May you know the gift of love along the way 

May you share the gift of peace this day 

May you find the gift of hope to give away 

May you spread the gift of light we pray 

A couple of years ago, I invited friends to send photos of hope and light in their lives. May their varied images illuminate The Gift of Light for you today and in the coming year. 

Do those you are feasting with this holiday season know of your gratitude? Who do you need to thank today? 

Wishing you peace, 

Joy 

P.S. I love, love the gospel choir on this song led by Mark Kibble of Take 6! I’ll explain more about that amazing Nashville experience in a future blog. 

P.P.S. Sheet music will be available soon for many of my spiritual songs. Stay tuned.

 

Joy Zimmerman is a soulful singer-songwriter known for compelling vocals, inventive songs, and captivating performances. A traveling musician based in Kansas City, Joy is currently working on “To the Girl”, her sixth album of original music.  Joy is a multi-instrumentalist whose eclectic music might be best described as folk rock with extra helpings of other favorite genres. 

Joy's songwriting awards include an American Songwriter Lyric Contest Honorable Mention and nine Walnut Valley Festival NewSong Showcase wins. She has recorded three albums in Nashville and two in Kansas City. 

More information available at joyzimmermanmusic.com

Note by Note: Christmas Card Blues | No. 4 | 12.11.18 

One of my favorite Christmas cards ever arrived in our mailbox several years ago. The front photo had your typical darling, smiling, outfit-coordinated children, but the backside was hilarious. The photographer captured the action a few minutes before or afterwards (or both)…one child had just pulled the hair of his crying sister who is leaning into the other annoyed, frowning sister. 

A pure gift. The true story. We kept this card in our dining room for an entire year.   

We all like to put our best feet forward by displaying our bright and shiny on social media, in conversation, in advertising, in our holiday cards. 

My history of falling prey to perfectionism is long and storied. And let’s face it—if you are feeling less than perfect, the holidays can be rough. December may not be “the most wonderful time of the year” if you are living with illness, loss, divorce, financial stress, division, infertility, loneliness…or even burnt cookies, too few invitations and a bad back. 

Resist the urge to think that everyone else is having the best time, that everyone else always feels included, that everyone else has matching, monogrammed pajamas and a great attitude. 

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” ~Anne Lamott 

Feeling broken against the backdrop of beauty, I wrote “Christmas Card Blues” as the cards rolled in. I needed humor and a little bit of resistance. Hopefully you’ll find some catharsis in this song too. 

The truth is that my holidays—and yours—will be full of snapshots similar to the front AND back of that favorite card. Magical and challenging, beautiful and trying…and wonderful all the same. 

Can you find some humor in holiday events or moments that go awry? Will you give someone else the gift of sharing your imperfections? How can you take your holiday expectations down a notch? 

Happy (perfectly imperfect) Holidays! 

All the best – with gratitude, 

Joy 

P.S. I’m delighted that my son Ryan Dugan joins me on this version of “Christmas Card Blues”! Our green tint is Grinch-intentional.

P.P.S. Please don’t delete me from your holiday card list. Despite my flaws, I delight in your news and your beautiful photos. And I have to admit there are no crying children on my card this year… 

Christmas Card Blues 

Words & Music by Joy Zimmerman 

Copyright© 2017 Joy Zimmerman Music 

 

It’s December 8th, at least I think that’s the date 

In the midst of the cheer and the fun 

But my cookies have burned, and the weather has turned 

Now my next test is close at hand 

You see, my mailbox is full, and I’m feeling the pull 

Of the holiday cards that await 

 

I get the Christmas card blues just hearing the news 

A mix of delight and charades 

In those matching sweaters, your lives could not be better 

My insecurity takes the stage 

With your fancy advances and your dog in honors classes 

I’m sinking right into a stew 

 

I know your meals are all square, you all have perfect hair 

Your days are all sunny, and everyone’s funny 

Your kids master flashcards, architecture, Creole and chess 

Each athletic feat will live on  

O Christmas cards, those Christmas cards 

Why do I take it so hard? 

 

Here we have dust balls and fur balls and athlete’s foot 

We are cranky and tired with lousy attitudes 

We love junk food and baked goods when we’re up to no good 

I’d exaggerate and try to brag if I could 

But I am cynical and too aware of our flaws 

Especially on those who come with four paws

 

I get the Christmas card blues just hearing the news 

A mix of delight and charades 

In those matching sweaters, your lives could not be better 

My insecurity on parade 

With your fancy advances and your dog in honors classes 

I’m sinking right into my stew

 

Glo…ri…..all those Christmas cards                   

Glo…ri…..all stuck in my craw 

I’m not proud of my annual brawl 

With perfection’s siren song 

 

In truth our blessings run deep, far and wide 

We have such a wonderful life 

Please keep your cards coming, despite my shortcomings 

My own cards soon will fly  

So be of good cheer, good tidings are here 

Just don’t take it personally 

Be of good cheer, good tidings are here 

Just don’t take it personally

 

All those Christmas cards….

 

Note By Note: O Sorrow | No. 3 | 11.9.18   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow began falling on our drive home from Des Moines yesterday afternoon. As Linda and I re-lived the delight of the two workshops I led at Mercy Medical Center, Linda’s cell phone rang. During a routine teeth cleaning, our vet had discovered a tumor in our beloved dog, Charlie Bear’s, spleen. 

And just like that life changed. It was decided to remove Charlie’s tumor and then make a determination. The snow picked up steam as we drove on. Hoping against hope to make it to the vet’s office in time to see him alive, we waited for the next call. Ten minutes away from the office, we learned that Charlie’s heart had stopped during the surgery, and it would not start again a second time. The great, big heart of our lab/Great Pyrenees mix was now silent. 

The compassionate staff let us see him – so peaceful, still warm and smelling like our old pal. Stunned, we spent time thanking him for his life and his love. 

Then the hard work of telling our children and bearing their grief as well as our own. Lots of tears and stories and solidarity throughout the evening and night. 

This morning the ginkgo tree in our front yard began “raining.” All fall we have waited for this day when the brilliant yellow leaves fall all at once. 

Despite our sadness we threw on coats and shoes and headed out. Linda had recently read that it’s good luck to catch a ginkgo leaf as it falls. Slipping on the wet leaves on our steep hill, we began laughing as we tried to scoop up the magical leaves mid-air. The falling leaves began to feel like a shower of grace. 

We tend to think of good luck as a future proposition. But as I caught my first leaf, I gave thanks for Charlie Bear. I knew that our family had been supremely lucky. Charlie was a great connector when we needed it most. A gentle dog who looked deeply into your eyes, always ready for a snack or a belly scratch.   

Linda and I ended up catching numerous leaves, reminders of sadness and the good fortune of being surrounded and loved by wonderful people and wonderful animal friends like Charlie Bear. 

Rest in peace. 

All the best—with gratitude, 

Joy 

“O Sorrow” is my song for today. I tried to capture some of my experiences with grief, as well as others I have accompanied in support groups I have attended and led. Here are the lyrics:  O Sorrow Lyrics

Here's a video of our tree this morning. Ginkgo leaves have been found in fossils dating back 270 million years. Native to China, the tree was cultivated early in human history. After the first hard freeze its leaves usually fall all at once -- often within an hour or two. More information: Missouri Botanical Gardens

 

Joy Zimmerman is a soulful singer-songwriter known for compelling vocals, inventive songs, and captivating performances. A traveling musician based in Kansas City, Joy is currently working on “To the Girl”, her sixth album of original music.  Joy is a multi-instrumentalist whose eclectic music might be best described as folk rock with extra helpings of other favorite genres. 

Joy's songwriting awards include an American Songwriter Lyric Contest Honorable Mention and eight Walnut Valley Festival NewSong Showcase wins. She has recorded three albums in Nashville and two in Kansas City. 

More information available at joyzimmermanmusic.com

To purchase "O Sorrow" visit CDBaby.com

Note by Note: I Wish You'd Met Me When My Stomach Was Flat | No. 2 | 11.5.18 

What body images have shaped your beauty standards -- Rubenesque figures, Twiggy or Nicki Minaj? How wide is your definition of loveliness? 

True story--I avoided my neighborhood pool for a whole summer in middle school because I thought my butt was too big. Seriously. I hope I’m alone in feeling body shame/self-criticism in middle school and many other times, but I suspect I’m not. It’s in the water. 

For those of us who’ve had tumultuous relationships with our bodies, how can we make peace? How do we forgive our bodies for perceived flaws and shortcomings? 

It appears that I’m getting older, and the struggle is real. Sometimes I feel like a slowly-evolving science experiment. Intellectually I know to expect changes, but there they are. In the mirror. 

So what to do? Determine to set your own beauty standards. Thank your body for carrying you thus far. Look for loveliness. Laugh. 

As I got dressed one day, this line came to me—I wish you’d met me when my stomach was flat. I knew this line had launched a song.  A funny song, I hoped. Audience response routinely tells me I’m not alone in my struggles. My autobiographical tale (minus the kidney stone) seems to hit a nerve.  

Diane Keaton has said, “As you get older, you become more comfortable in your own skin”. Even if that skin needs to be ironed. And celebrated. 

After all, dear friends, we just might be hitting our stride. 

*What beauty standards do you worship? How can we grow older more gracefully? What’s your best body-positive message? 

All the best—with gratitude, 

Joy

Click on the images below for two different versions of this song...

               

P.S. I remember pre-production conversations with Fett of Azalea Studios in Nashville about the genre of this song. We wanted it to be amusing but not too kitschy so the novelty wouldn’t wear off. I think our decision to go with klezmer struck the right chord. 

My violin often plays the part of the clarinet in live performances. And a final note -- when Linda and I made the official video, we opted to use images of animals instead of people (namely me) to illustrate the lyrics ;)  

 

Joy Zimmerman is a soulful singer-songwriter known for compelling vocals, inventive songs, and captivating performances. A traveling musician based in Kansas City, Joy is currently working on “To the Girl”, her sixth album of original music.  Joy is a multi-instrumentalist whose eclectic music might be best described as folk rock with extra helpings of other favorite genres. 

Joy's songwriting awards include an American Songwriter Lyric Contest Honorable Mention and eight Walnut Valley Festival NewSong Showcase wins. She has recorded three albums in Nashville and two in Kansas City. 

More information available at joyzimmermanmusic.com

To purchase "I Wish You'd Met Me When My Stomach Was Flat", visit cdbaby

Note by Note: An Introduction | No.1 | 10.22.18 

I love hearing the inspirations that led songwriters to their songs. And I love knowing what makes artists tick. 

These fascinations led me to this leap of faith into the blogging world. My intent is to explain Note by Note how my original songs came to life. One song per post. 

By way of introduction, these two photos depict my musical beginnings….violin lessons before kindergarten and singing in the children’s choir at my church in St. Louis. (I'm sporting the pixie haircut in the first row, far left) 

Violin was my main squeeze. I pursued it vigorously through college with many lessons and many orchestras. Eventually realizing I was not cut out for classical music alone, I didn’t have a larger musical vision. Besides, I was out to save the world as a social worker, so I set down my violin bow on a music career. 

Singing had always been second nature, but my 4th grade self decided that I didn’t have a solo voice. I clearly remember the day I made that secret determination without any fact checking. Sad but true, since a person can’t really know how their own voice sounds to others. I resolved to be a good choir member and blend well. 

That is, until I picked up a guitar and started performing a decade ago. What followed was discovering songwriting, my solo voice, and this uncharted road. 

Some say the violin is the closest musical equivalent to the human voice. (I find it curious that my own vocal range begins with the lowest note on the violin and goes up to the highest note in first position.) Maybe playing violin helped me learn to sing out—in addition to a great voice teacher and stepping up to the mic repeatedly before I was fully ready. 

My story is one of reinvention and renewal. I bet yours is too.   

Join me on this musical adventure and let know what you think.  

*How have you reinvented yourself? When did you last sing? How are you using your voice? 

All the best—with gratitude, 

Joy 

Note of Inspiration: The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron is a powerful guide to “discovering and recovering your creative self”. Designed as a twelve-week program, this book is full of exercises, activities and wisdom.

Joy Zimmerman is a soulful singer-songwriter known for compelling vocals, inventive songs, and captivating performances. A traveling musician based in Kansas City, Joy is currently working on “To the Girl”, her sixth album of original music.  Joy is a multi-instrumentalist whose eclectic music might be best described as folk rock with extra helpings of other favorite genres. 

Joy's songwriting awards include an American Songwriter Lyric Contest Honorable Mention and nine Walnut Valley Festival NewSong Showcase wins. She has recorded three albums in Nashville and two in Kansas City.

More information available at joyzimmermanmusic.com