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Artist Profiles

Ren

By Published: October 22, 2003

"Then, the velocity hit a big wall. I was mailing out so many CDs, but I wasn’t hearing back from any radio stations and assumed they weren’t playing the CD. And the few responses I did get from booking agencies were negative or were asking if I was willing to sing R&B, too. (No, I wasn’t) My responsibilities at work were increasing, demanding more and more of my time and energy. I devoted less and less time and effort to promoting the CD. I had stopped getting gigs with the fellas in Roanoke because it was just too far to drive for the small amount of money I would be making. And it was tough getting new gigs with the cats in Richmond because I didn’t have time to look for the gigs or do rehearsals, etc. Oh, there were a few gigs here and there but they had unsatisfactory results."


"So here I was with hundreds of CDs on my bookshelf, very few gigs and no band to call my own. I remember my sister, Lynn, coming to my apartment one day and seeing all these CDs on my bookshelf. She turned to me in wonder and said, "Girl, what are all these CDs doing on your bookshelf? Why haven’t you been mailing them out?" I explained to her that I hadn’t been getting any responses worth paying attention to. ‘Nobody’s listening to it, anyway’, I pouted. "Well, they sure WON’T be able to listen if you don’t send them out!" was her response."


"I talked to my mom and my siblings about the impasse and, though they were very encouraging and sympathetic, not knowing the music business, their advice was admittedly non-specific. It seemed the only way to move ahead with this was to sing full-time, but I wasn’t making enough money singing to really do that and I hadn’t saved enough money yet from working at the bank to offset what I knew would initially be measly earnings from singing. On the other hand, my prospects at the bank looked very good and I was making more money then than I’d ever made before. The decision of what to do weighed on my mind and, not only that, it bothered me that I couldn’t make up my mind. I was scared to go forward."


Girl, you better quit your job and sing


In December 1998, René’s brother, Claude, invited her to a MasterMind meeting at his house. MasterMind is a group of people who support each other in moving forward on personal priorities through encouragement, networking, exchanging information, ideas, etc. Claude had been asking René to attend for months but she had always turned him down. For some reason, she went that day. It turned out to be a pivotal decision in her life.


"I listened to the other members of the group talk about their goals and the obstacles they faced. Others piped in with advice, suggestions, well-placed questions. I liked the way the group was treating itself. When it was my turn, I told them just the bare bones - I wanted to be a singer, had a CD out even. At that, my brother Claude pulls out his copy of the CD and, to my embarrassment, plays it for the group. After exclaiming how much they liked it, I continued on. I wanted to make the change from working at the bank to singing full-time but didn’t know how to do it. Felt I couldn’t do it. Empathetic murmurs of understanding flowed from the women in the room as I spoke. Finally, one of them said, "Does your husband support you in your goal?" After I related the situation that led up to me moving to Richmond another one sympathetically stated, "It’s hard to follow your dreams when you have young children at home." I informed the group that both my sons were adults."


"Silence."


"They looked at each other, then at me. At last, a group member named Kym broke the silence by nudging me in that forceful but playful way that black people have and saying emphatically at the same time, "Girl, you better quit your job and SING." We all laughed, but there it was - out in the open."


"Girl, you better quit your job and sing."


"We brainstormed how I could do it, but it all boiled down to not having enough money saved up in the bank to get going. My brother, during all this time, had started saying, "Jump and the net will appear". I argued the validity of what seemed like an irresponsible suggestion. It seemed doomed from the get-go. Like an act of faith. Ridiculous! "Would you do it?", I pressed him. He ignored me, as big brothers often do their little sisters. "Jump and the net will appear", he said to me over and over that night. And for the next week, every day he sent me an email that said only that one thing. My replies to him used every argument I could think of, but his response was always the same."



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