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Artist Profiles

Ren

By Published: October 22, 2003

"My husband and I had been having serious marital problems for years and, at first glance, the music seemed to be making things worse. To be sure, the music was a catalyst for many things, not the least of which was my new-found courage to speak my mind. I was singing again after a self-imposed twenty-two-year hiatus and, instead of the meek, easily intimidated wife I had been, singing before audiences had opened my mouth in more ways than one. Just a few months before, with a copy of the book, Victims of Abuse Speak Out clutched behind my back, I had walked into the living room and, with chin defiantly in the air and in an unsteady voice, told my husband that I would no longer tolerate verbal abuse. He was to be as civil and decent with me as he was with friends and strangers or I would simply walk out of the room (or the house, if necessary) from then on. Though I trembled when I was called upon to do it, this worked well for me. Funny, but he didn’t seem amenable to it at all. I didn’t know what to do with this brazen courage that alarmed even me, but I was damned if I, a forty-year-old woman, was going to be cowered into silence any longer. Now that both sons were in college and it was just me and my husband at home, I dreaded being alone with him. But I dreaded that dread even more. So I spoke up. More and more. Louder and louder. Until I could finally hear myself."


"And now it was December 30, 1997 and I was happily engrossed in my music charts, getting them ready for tomorrow when my husband walked into the room and gave me an ultimatum. He told me, "If you go to rehearsal tomorrow, don’t come back home. If you want to keep living here, you will cancel tomorrow’s rehearsal, the recording date and all engagements you now have. You will cancel them tonight - once and for all. And if you do go to rehearsal and come back home, you will have hell to pay.""


"I could not believe that this man, whom I had met at fifteen and fallen in love with when he was a brilliant and promising pianist, with whom I had gotten baptized and married at eighteen, who had such a fine, upstanding reputation in our community and congregation, was standing above me issuing an ultimatum with threatening consequences if I made the "wrong" choice. I knew things were bad and that they were coming to a head, but I couldn’t believe it had come to this."


"I made my decision to leave that night. And he was right - I did have hell to pay. And in the middle of hell, I panicked. I fought back and screamed at the top of my lungs and ran for every door that led outside, but he was stronger than me. After we had both calmed down, I asked him if he was through. "Yes", he replied. I got up, packed some of my things, ALL of my music and left. I was scared as hell, but I left anyway. I didn’t know where this would lead, but I left anyway."


"Four months later, it’s April 1998. To avoid further harassment I had moved to Richmond, Virginia and started living on my own and supporting myself for the first time in my life. The bank had helped by transferring me to Richmond. Between April and August, I drove from Richmond to Roanoke several times a month, sometimes in the middle of the week, to record and do gigs. We’d finish a session in the studio or a gig around midnight and I’d drive the 180 miles back to Richmond to be at work the next morning. I was exhausted but happy; completely engrossed in the project, in my job and in my new-found freedom."


"In September 1998, the CD, Renaissance, was finally released. I drove to Roanoke, filled the back of my Subaru station wagon with 1000 CDs and, after much celebration and ballyhooing with my family and friends, went back home."


"At first, I went through great pains to mail the CDs to booking agencies and every public radio station whose address I could get my hands on. I took them to local music stores, small boutiques, restaurants - anywhere they would be played and/or put on consignment. To be sure, the Richmond and Roanoke public radio stations were playing my CD and that was a big thrill to hear it for the first time on the radio. I remember calling my youngest son and screaming into the phone that they were playing my song on the RADIO-O-O-O-O-O!!!!! We both screamed like very happy idiots. Things were really moving ahead, it seemed."



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