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Participant Information

Grace Griffith


I have always thought of art as alchemy.

Using things as ordinary as clay or the human voice, an artist combines matter with intangible elements of their experience to render a work which may exceed our understanding of its effect on us. If we recognize in it the artist's response to the pleasure and struggle of life we may feel comforted by a sense of unity.

My medium is music. I have always loved to sing.

At first I struggled with the vanity of performing, being one to eschew vanity. But with time I came to feel more and more that performing, for me, was not so much a vanity as an act of humility. I offer song. Listeners may feel deeply touched or they may be unimpressed. I take the risk of being ignored or criticized -- it's a gift I offer without expectation. Awards and recognition have come my way in plenty, but they are not what's important, especially now.

Parkinson's has a way of teaching us what "the small stuff" is and what's truly important. Whether I can sing with crystal clarity and perfect control has become small stuff. Whether I can find the humility to sing anyway is more important to me.

It is those moments when an audience and I connect in the music, when the walls of apparent aloneness that separate human beings seem to disappear in the song, that keep me singing. It has always been that connection I was after when I stepped on stage.

Now I sometimes need a hand to step on stage and my voice isn't as reliable as it was before PD came to live with me, and sometimes my vanity chides me to hide myself and my Parkinsonism. But with a clearer voice my heart tells me to keep singing as long as I can. My heart tells me that it's important to let people see and hear and maybe break down some more walls. Maybe someone else will keep singing and not let this disease be a cage too soon.

Parkinson's disease does feel like a cage when I can't find a position that doesn't hurt and I'm stuck in slow motion, with hands nigh useless and voice reduced to inaudible whispering. It can isolate us in so many ways. It can take away our smile and make us look scarey to dogs and children and odd to adults.

But sometimes when I'm making music I'm freed -- freed from my mask face and its frozen smile, and freed from the hurt of the turned away gaze of people passing on the street, and freed from the weight of my own mourning for my diminished talents.

Music has the power to give me back my smile and my voice and sometimes the grace to dance.

In a folk story a world weary king listens to a nightingale singing and recognizes his own sorrow transformed in the beauty of it. His sadness is gone.


Visit my web site: Grace Griffith

Visit my brother's Creativity page: Fred Sisson