Cave Creek, Arizona – Monica Beal’s musical background started the moment she was born and she has been writing and performing ever since. Autism Daily Newscast had the great pleasure of interviewing Monica, and we got to learn more about her music and the inspirations for her lullabies based on life with her son Jackson who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 2010 when aged 5. Monica began writing lullabies as a way of therapy for her son and as a way to soothe him.
We started by asking Monica when she started to play the piano.
“When I started elementary school, my parents purchased a Kimball spinet piano and I started taking piano lessons. I was one of those kids that didn’t have to be forced to practice the piano, but I wound up driving my family nuts (I have a younger brother and sister) with the constant repetition of scales and theory passages.”
When Monica entered high school it was a teacher, Susan Chu who made her realise that her true passion was in creating music. During Monica’s senior year of high school, she heard about a summer music program through Boston University called Tanglewood Institute, whose alumni include current American Idol judge, Harry Connick Jr., actress Lauren Ambrose, and composer Mason Bates. Monica told us:
“I sent in my application along with a cassette tape recording of my piano skills and one of my piano compositions (yes, an actual cassette tape) and about a month later a letter came in the mail from Boston University…I was accepted to attend Tanglewood! That summer in Lennox, Massachusetts was one of the most beautiful and surreal experiences of my life.”
Monica told of how star struck she was and that she met musical talents in the field of jazz and classical music such as, Bobby McFerrin, Yo-Yo Ma, and John Williams.
Monica wanted to stay and enrol that Fall but unfortunately due to the cost of attending such a prestigious university was unable to do so. She returned back home and enrolled in college at Arizona State University.
“I took occasional trips to New York City to see what connections I could make in hopes of being discovered, but that big break never came. I realized I didn’t have the right connections to meet the right people who had the golden keys that opened doors for aspiring musicians.”
Monica shared with us of how she started to question her abilities and talent as a musician and because of this music became a source of personal fulfilment rather than a career endeavour.
However Monica then adds:
“But I shouldn’t end the story on such a sad note. A few months later, I met a guy in a restaurant who a few years later would become my husband. So although I didn’t have the music career I always wanted, I met and married my prince charming. At that time, I had no idea we would be blessed with a son and then a daughter who would be the source of inspiration for me to finally make my music dreams come true.”
Monica told us that the music on Little Lullabies started with a simple love song that she wrote for her son and husband called Little Boy Blue.
“It’s a melancholy tune that explains the physical and spiritual similarities between father and son, and how quickly time passes by. I think that all parents can relate to the underlying message “if I only knew how fast the time would fly,” but there’s a secondary message, a little shout out if you will, to parents of children with special needs.”
The song Hush started out as a melody that Monica hummed to her newborn daughter, Margot, during her 8 week stay in the NICU. She was born prematurely at 29 weeks and weighed just 2 lbs, 2 oz.
Monica expressed how Angels in the Sky, explores the idea that the night time stars in the sky are guardian angels blessing us here on Earth.
“The lyrics in the song are based on memories of my beloved Grandfather. I had been asked to perform the song at a local church during Christmas season and I was so touched to see the affect the song had on people who had also lost loved ones.”
All the Pretty Little Horses is a cover of an old African American folk song.
“I wanted to do a cover version for this album and had the opportunity to work with a wonderful guitar player, Jason Parnell, who helped me create a Southwestern folk mood. I want to mention that I listened to a number of covers to ensure that I wouldn’t replicate a prior arrangement, and came across two amazingly beautiful interpretations: one by the incomparable Joan Baez, and the other a hauntingly gorgeous version by Odetta James.”
The last song on the album, Goodnight Day, is an instrumental piece that Monica thought would make a nice closing song on the album.
“I wanted the song to evoke a mother gathering her children for a day of adventure, and as the day starts to wind down and turn into evening, they can reflect back on their adventurous day and at a bedtime wish the day a goodnight.”
Monica’s album, Little Lullabies, is available for purchase from the CD Baby website and her song, Little Boy Blue is available for free download
You can visit Monica Beal’s website at www.monicabeal.com
Part 2 of our story can be read here.