Collaboration with Nina Storey

As I am writing this, I’m reminiscing last night’s performance by Nina Storey at the Soiled Dove Underground in Denver by listening to the song that I was fortunate enough to sit in on the drums with her.

The song is called ‘Sing For Me’ originally by Yellowcard (yes, I got Nina to play one of my favorite songs from my favorite band with me).

Collaboration between bass player (Tim) and keyboardist (Adam).

Rehearsal: Collaboration between bass player (Tim) and keyboardist (Adam).

I showed up on Thursday night at the rehearsal not knowing what to expect. Of course, I expected to be in a room with some greatly underrated musicians that had a greater background with Nina than I. I also expected I would be working with these musicians not being too musically inclined myself.

Nina showing off her keyboard skills.

Rehearsal: Nina showing off her keyboard skills.

My first expectation was correct: the room was filled with great musicians; everyone better than anyone I have played or worked with before and reminiscing about past shows they had done with Nina. My second expectation came up true as well. As they talked about Fs and G-minors, B-sharps and As, I sat back hoping that I would just be able to do my thing safe behind the drums with little collaboration; I hoped they knew the song as well as I did so we could just pick up and play and I didn’t have to take the musical driver’s seat on the song I suggested playing.

One thing to know about me: I get nervous for damn near anything near the limelight. I was nervous for showing a video I had made for my youth group’s film festival. I always worry: “Will I be good enough? Will I mess up? What happens if I do in fact mess up?” and those butterflies continue whirling around my belly.

Tim on the bass and Ryan on the drums.

Rehearsal: Tim on the bass and Ryan on the drums.

Even at the rehearsal, with the stakes relatively low (no audience, no family and friends watching me drum under the lights of the stage), I still was worried. I think my biggest fear was these professional musicians saying to themselves, “Man, this cover might be a waste of time,” right after I played with them.

Funny thing about music though: it can cure and/or heighten any emotion. As it can heighten romance, it can ease anger. As it can bring tears of joy, it can equally bring tears of sorrow. As it can get you pumped up, it can chase away those butterflies in your stomach. Once my foot hit that first kick, those butterflies were gone. I knew how to play this song. I’ve played it hundreds of times and I know it like the back of my hand. What was I so nervous about?

"I'm a Fighter" poster at the merch stand.

“I’m a Fighter” poster at the merch stand.

After the vibrations of the last crash dissipated through the room, I felt confident in my performance which the other band members added to as if they were thinking, “Alright, this guy can play some drums. We’re in business here.” That never-late sigh of relief left my lungs…until the next day once the lights went down.

Nina up front with her guitarist (Tad), keyboardist (Adam) and horn section in the background.

Sound Check: Nina up front with her guitarist (Tad), keyboardist (Adam) and horn section in the background.

They gave me a setlist after sound checks so I knew when Nina was going to call me on stage. Lucky number 13…of course. And handing me a setlist was a horrible idea because what did I do?…I counted down the songs until it was finally time for me to face my uneasy stomach. And of course, it became more and more uneasy the closer she got to my debut. Once she called me on stage, my family and friends were in place, one of which with a video camera to record this wonderful opportunity, and it was showtime…

I was trying to get comfortable behind the less than familiar drumset I had only played behind once before while Nina told the audience a little bit about myself. But once I counted the band in, and that first kick boomed through the venue, I knew I was going to do great. The butterflies fluttered away and I just did my thing.

The band in full swing.

The band in full swing.

I wanted to do this song in particular because of the storey (see what I did there 😉) behind it. Ryan Key, the lead singer for Yellowcard, wrote this song for his aunt that had passed away from cancer and the music video shows images and people who still fight on and create and live their life despite their hardships. Of course, cancer and cystic fibrosis are two totally different diseases; however, the fight is the same, with any illness even. You have to stay positive and continue to create who you are and live your life despite whatever may hold you back and have that support system who will ‘sing for you’ in the hardest of times.

It’s a beautiful piece of music dedicated to a wonderful woman who helped shape an innovative and creative musician in Ryan that can be used to inspire and help drive on those who are experiencing the hard times in their lives. That’s why I have that short lyric at the end of my sign off, ‘say tomorrow.’ Live for today, fight for a tomorrow. There is a tomorrow, and you need to be there to experience more of life.

Overall, this experience was nothing short of extraordinary, spectacular, practically a dream come true. I got to play one of my favorite songs that is near and dear to my heart, for a cause with which I am directly associated, with an incredibly talented singer and musician Nina Storey (not to mention her band as well). What could be better?

Great musicians, great people and even better friends!

Great musicians, great people and even better friends!

Nina silently told me after the concert we will keep in touch and be sure to do something like this again. I am overjoyed to have had the opportunity to collaborate with her and her band members and I do hope it happens again.

Now the only thing to be nervous about is if Longineu Parsons III (drummer for Yellowcard) approves of my performance, because I’m sure Ryan will more than approve of Nina’s voice carrying his lyrics. If I hear anything from LP, I’ll report back (or Ryan for that matter).

Everyone…read these words:

Keep Fighting, Keep Breathing, SAY TOMORROW

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P.S. Below are some shots I took from the rehearsal and the concert.

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Special Thanks: Nina Storey and entire band (thank you!), Ellen Penrod of the Colorado Chapter of the CFF, Yellowcard, Cindy Madonna (mother), Nick Williams (friend), Danise Rea (friend), Spencer Krafchak (friend)
Thank you all so much for giving me this opportunity and supporting me through it! Couldn’t have done it without you and hope to do it again!
-Tony Madonna-

Hold On

Throughout my younger years all the way up through secondary school, I had my CF pretty well maintained. For me, my lungs were never the big issue as much as needing to gain weight. But, I was never hospitalized from when I was about five years old until I was eighteen.

I decided to attend the University of Hawaii at Hilo my senior year for two reasons: to get away from Colorado and to be closer to my dad. Little did I know that my lungs had grown accustomed to the dry mountain air and a humid tropical paradise would be detrimental. When I came back for Winter Break, I had a routine check-up that I thought wouldn’t be any different than any other time I went. Instead, my lung functions were down about 30%. My doctor told me he thought admitting me to the hospital immediately to start IV antibiotics had to be done.

For 13 years I had sat in that exam room hearing the same thing over again: “You’re doing great. Keep up the good work.” And now, my doctor was telling me I was ill beyond where either of us thought I would be. My heart sank and my world at that time came crashing down. I was going to have to transfer back from Hawaii; juggle going to school, having a job and becoming familiar with my new IV treatments; I was having to say goodbye to what I wanted my life to be.

A couple years later, I graduated from Colorado Mountain College with an Associates Degree and planned to attend Boise State University in Fall 2010. Because of the many rounds of antibiotics I was on, I had (and still have) a portacath that must be flushed every month. Two days after moving up to Boise and into my luxurious on-campus apartment, my portacath was due to be flushed. When I went to get it done, it didn’t draw back blood which could mean that it was clotted, and if it was clotted, it would be dangerous to still have it in my body. And, because my health insurance was based in Colorado, I wouldn’t have been able to have a procedure done in Idaho in order to fix the problem. Once again, the new world I had just moved into in order to get on with the life I wanted to live seemed to come crashing down. I thought that if the blood thinner doesn’t work, I would have to withdraw from BSU and move back to Colorado again.

There have been points in my life when I do stoop to a low morale. During both of those instances I have described, I felt like I wanted to roll over and let my CF run my life. Sometimes I felt I was more of a liability to my family and close friends rather than an asset. Even to some extent, I have asked myself, “Why is this life we have worth living?”

After I transferred back from Hawaii, I put myself in an environment that wasn’t damaging to my health, I could still go to school and work, as well as take care of the IV antibiotics I needed to take. Looking back now, I don’t regret going to Hawaii, but I also don’t regret coming back. It all worked itself out.

Luckily, after the blood thinner worked its magic, my portacath had blood drawback and I was able to have peace of mind that I could stay in Boise and pursue my education where I wanted to.

At the time, they didn’t seem like it, but these instances were only blips on my radar and because I kept fighting and breathing and waking up every morning continuing to live the life I have been given, I am able to put those blips behind me and move forward with open eyes and a clear mind, looking out for what is best for me as well as my health.

In the words of Good Charlotte:

Hold on if you feel like letting go

Hold on it gets better than you know

These words have been my mantra (along with “Here I am Alive”) during the difficult times I have been going through recently, and will continue to bring me strength and courage to wake up every morning and say, “Today’s a new day.”

Check out this music video I made all by myself during this last week to the song I mentioned above, Good Charlotte’s “Hold On.” It’s nothing special but you will see me being me, and also hear a song that helps keep my mind holding on to what good can come next.

Keep Fighting, Keep Breathing, Say Tomorrow

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