National Federation of the Blind
|My Trip to Poland|
to Sounds from the Heart
(Editors' note: Gigi is a long-time
member of NFB and a member of the Southern Connecticut Chapter. We were
thrilled to hear Gigi perform her beautiful song at the 2013 state convention.)
In January of 2013, I received
a phone call from the vice president of my local chapter of NFB asking
me if I was interested in entering a singing contest. I of course said,
"Yes." She forwarded me the email about the contest and asked
me to contact our state president for additional information. The email
read, "First world song festival for the blind, Sounds from the Heart,
organized by the Lions club, to be held in Krakow, Poland, November 18
to the 20." All Lions Clubs around the world were encouraged to send
participants to compete in this contest.
The rules were: that the participants
were blind or visually impaired; the vocalists had to sing an original
song composed especially for the festival; and that they were amateur
singers. The clubs considering sending vocalists were strongly urged to
seek talented blind performers from their communities, assist in finding
professional lyricists and musicians to compose the songs, and have them
recorded in a professional studio.
Almost a week went by when
I got a call from Jack, the Lions Club president. He informed me that
we had until May 31 to submit a song, and that he didn't know any professional
lyricists or musicians to help in this project. Despite this, we decided
to continue. Meanwhile, I was desperately trying to find someone who could
help me write a song, but I didn't have much luck. A couple of months
went by before any progress was made. During that time, I was having issues
with my vision due to a failed cornea. I saw my eye doctor in April, and
he recommended another corneal transplant.
At this period of my life,
I had to make a difficult decision; and as a result of this experience,
my song, "Leap of Faith" came to be. The music was in my head
long before the words poured out of my soul. I called Jack to tell him
that I wrote a song. He was happy to hear that there was a song to submit
to Poland. We made arrangements to record the song; and on Sunday of Memorial
Day weekend, we went to the studio and recorded "Leap of Faith."
I was lucky to have my daughter's friend, who is an excellent guitarist,
accompanying me. I couldn't believe this was real; it was the first time
I had ever written a song, or had even been in a recording studio. I had
to pinch myself to make sure it wasn't a dream.
Although I was very excited
to get to that point, the days leading up to that moment were very stressful,
putting the finishing touches on the music and practicing the song. At
last, on the Tuesday after Memorial Day, Jack informed me that he sent
the song to Poland. I breathed a sigh of relief. All I could do was wait
to hear whether or not I would be selected to participate in the festival.
Jack mentioned that I was the only one from the United States to submit
a song, and that there was a good chance for me to be chosen. A couple
of months passed, and on July 24 at 6 a.m. I got a call from Jack telling
me that I was selected to participate in the Sounds from the Heart Festival
in Poland. I shouted at the top of my lungs and practically jumped out
of bed. This was very significant because the day before I had a corneal
transplant and was recovering from surgery. I truly believe that it was
God's way of encouraging me to go on.
Even though I wasn't physically
able to do much at that time, I started contacting every performer I knew
for a possible fundraising event. Needless to say, I told everyone I knew
about my going to Poland to compete in a song festival. I couldn't contain
my excitement; everybody was happy for me and wished me luck. On Sunday
October 13, a fundraising event was held to benefit my trip to Poland.
Then, on Saturday November 16, I left for Poland, accompanied by my daughter
and a friend from my church.
On Sunday November 17, we stopped
in Frankfurt, Germany, to change planes and continued our journey to Krakow,
Poland. When we arrived at our hotel, we were exhausted due to the time
change. We rested and then explored our surroundings. The next day we
took a tour of the historic section of Krakow. They took us to a university
that was founded in the 1300s, a cathedral, a castle, and ruins of the
city wall. Everywhere we went there was a tactile scale model of a particular
site. On Tuesday November 19, I had rehearsal while my daughter and my
friend went to the infamous Nazi-era death camp, Auschwitz.
The rehearsal was a very special
moment for me; it was the first time I heard my song arranged for a symphonic
orchestra. It was like hearing my children say their first words, or watching
them take their first steps. Later that evening, I sang in front of an
audience and the preliminary judges; I felt quite nervous. After midnight,
the judges selected the 12 finalists who would perform the next day at
Krakow's famous opera house. When they said my name, I couldn't contain
my joy. Being the only non-European contestant singing at such a prestigious
venue, I felt like a winner.
The next day, we had a dress
rehearsal at the opera house. Later that evening, I performed "Leap
of Faith" for the final judges and a much bigger audience. I didn't
win the major prizes, but I received a special award given by the organizing
committee for a great performance. Only I and another contestant received
this. I was happy to get to the finals, but getting that special award
was beyond my wildest dreams.
On Thursday November 21, we
left Krakow to go back home to the United States. It seemed like we just
got there when it was time to go home. There will be another Sounds from
the Heart song festival in Krakow, Poland, in November 2015. I encourage
any blind vocalists to contact their local Lions Club to sponsor your
submission to the contest.
As a result of my success in
Poland, I was invited to perform the national anthem and "Leap of
Faith" at the Connecticut Mid-Winter Conference of the Lions Club.
I received a standing ovation, and many district Governors gave me their
friendship banners and pins. I was honored to receive these gifts from
I am blessed to have had the
opportunity to represent the United States in such a special contest.
I truly hope that, in the future, the United States will host Sounds from
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