Music lessons

Stefanie Bouchard tunes in to what's important

Posted: Thursday, July 05, 2007



Stefanie Bouchard loves making music and sharing it with young people.

The local musician and educator has a busy schedule of gigs this summer and is directing "The Wizard of Oz" for Triumvirate Theater's Summer Drama Camp with Paul Morin.

Bouchard's schedule includes Kaladi Brothers, where she talked about her musical history and the recent challenges that have deepened her appreciation for the things about which she is passionate: family, friends and music.

Bouchard, whose set at Kaladi Brothers with Melissa Kay last Saturday was a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll with some folk and blues styling thrown in, describes her own musical tastes as diverse, saying, "I'm definitely very eclectic. There are very few styles of music that I don't like."

She credits her family, particularly her parents, with creating an environment where she had access to music from early on.

"In my home with my family, there was so much music and so many different kinds of music. It was really important to my parents that I was very diverse in my tastes and was exposed to lots of different things," Bouchard said.

Especially her mother, Margo.

"She has the best ear out of all of us. It's really funny, she'll hear a song, or even like half a song, and she'll go, 'Oh, you have to learn this.' She just has the most open mind about music," Bouchard said of her mother, who isn't a musician herself.

Her father, Cliff, is a musician who has been known to perform in a variety of venues in the area.

"When I was real little he sang with the local barbershop choir. I used to go to rehearsal with him, and it gave me a real ear for harmony," Bouchard said.

Her father also helped her with one of the most gratifying projects she has ever undertaken. She describes herself as having a less than fantastic relationship with power tools, but she and her parents — her father designing — built her home together.

"He was the brains. Well, he was the grunt work, too. But I was the grunt work. I processed all the logs myself. I did a beautiful, three-sided, log cottage. It was the biggest project of my whole life," she said.

"I've been in there for two years. It took us essentially one summer, and that winter we did a lot of finishing work. That was the biggest stretch out of my comfort zone. I think it's always good to stretch yourself and push your limits, because it's always amazing to find out what you're capable of."

The beginning of 2007 proved to be another big challenge for Bouchard.

"I was really, really sick in November (and) December, and I had to go see the cardiologist because I had rheumatic fever in the lining of my heart. So I went in to see the cardiologist in Anchorage and I kept saying, 'Well, gosh, the only thing that's really bothering me is my back.' And she said, 'Well let's take some spinal X-rays.' I didn't hear from them for like 10 days and so I thought, I must just be a baby, I must have just pulled a muscle."

The cardiologist had to consult with two orthopedic surgeons, and it turned out that the infection had eaten away two of Bouchard's spinal discs. She had a big decision to make in a short amount of time. A visiting surgeon could perform an operation to fuse the vertebra in the damaged part of her spinal column, but she had to get on the calendar immediately. She decided to go ahead with the surgery.

"It was really scary. I just kind of thought I might be one of those people that went through my entire life without a major surgery."

Afterward, Bouchard set goals for herself — and she had to have help. Her mother moved in with her for a month. It wasn't until well into her recovery that Bouchard discovered how difficult it had been for her mother to work through the physical therapy with her. But every day, they would go to the track and walk. Bouchard's goal was to make her first gig with collaborator Kay. That only gave her three weeks to recover enough to perform.

Between her mother's help, the support and assistance of the rest of her family and friends, and the easy, well-matched musical friendship she had formed with Kay, Bouchard made it.

Her first few gigs involved a walker and were exhausting, but incredibly rewarding, the singer-songwriter said.

"It really shows you how lucky you are, and just how trivial some things can be. It's humbling to need help like that. It's a really good lesson in letting go. At least it was for me."

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