Freedom Praise Band

My Journey with Performance Anxiety

 

 

Turning 40.  No big deal, or so I thought.  I had been playing/singing in front of people practically all my life.  The joy that it gave me was incredible.  Then one night, that all changed .  During a performance with my band, all of a sudden without any warning, everything started to go black; I felt as though I was going to faint; my legs started shaking; my heart felt as though it was going to jump out of my chest; my hands were cold, sweaty and clammy.  If I didn't know any better, I would have thought I was having some sort of heart episode.  Thinking it was a fluke, that perhaps I was hungry or tired, I dismissed it.  Although, I didn't forget it.

Then it happened again...and again...and again.  Each time, I was playing/singing in front of an audience.  It got to the point that I didn't want to play/sing anymore.  One time, it happened during a mass that I was playing for.  I immediately unplugged my guitar and left.  I told the other musician that I didn't feel well and I had to go.  Despite my troubles, I kept trying to pull it off.  I discovered that if I sat down (instead of standing up) to play, it helped to put me in a relaxed state so I started to sit down to play/sing.  I also noticed that if I was not in the 'spotlight', I also felt better.  So, I started to situate myself 'off to the side of the stage' instead of directly in the center.  The changes definitely helped but by no means did the anxiety leave completely.

The anxiety started to permeate in my work environment where I am an Elementary Music Educator.  One day I recall rehearsing with my students for a concert that we were going to be doing.  As I was playing the piano for them, I suddenly was overcome with the anxiety feelings:  heart palpatations, feelings of passing out; shaky legs, etc...I went to our school nurse who decided I should go to the ER.  While there at the ER, they did all sorts of tests but could not find anything physically wrong with me, which was a relief.  Once again, it certainly felt as though I was having some sort of a heart attack. 

The Doctor suggested that perhaps I had a panic attack...the panic attack symptoms certainly matched my experience so I pursued that possibility.  I started reading up on 'panic attacks' and discovered other performers who suffered from the same issue.  On the one hand, I was comforted by that fact but on the other, I could not understand why, after all these years of performing was I just starting to exhibit these tendencies.  I decided to seek help by talking to a psychologist.

The psychologist offered me lots of possible ways to deal with my panic attacks (i.e. breathing techniques, visualization, etc...), which I believe helped to some extent.  Still, the panic attacks continued and I noticed that the sensations started to appear outside of 'performance situations'.  One day, for example, I was walking into a grocery store when all of a sudden the panic attack struck; another time, I was in line at a conference and once again, the panic attack came and I had to leave the area.  So now my day to day activities were being affected.

One day, I was talking to a doctor friend of mine and telling him about my situation.  He told me, 'You know, Eddie, it doesn't have to be that way...'.  He went on to explain that just like people who have high blood pressure take medicine to control it and just like diabetics take medicine to control their condition, there is also medication to help control performance anxiety/panic attacks.  Its a matter of finding the correct medication for my personal situation.  I have never been one to rely on medication for anything so my first reaction was to ignore his advice.  However, after talking to my wife and praying about it, I decided to take action and see if medication was something that would work for me.

At my first visit with the psychiatrist, he explained to me the physiological changes that can take place in a person's body (brain) over time and medication is used to help regulate those changes.  He went on to explain that there are a variety of medications that can be used to treat performance anxiety; it's a matter of finding the right one for each person.  So, he started with one that is most commonly used for my situation and 'bingo', my body responded in a positive way.  To make a long story, short, the correct med/dosage apparently did it's job in regulating whatever it was that needed regulating in my brain!

It has now been close to 10 years that I have been taking medication for performance anxiety and I can gladly say that I have not suffered a panic attack since.  My doctor likes to say that I am a poster child for this med since it worked so smoothly and effectively.  I am grateful for the fact that I can perform without worries for it (performing) is one of the things that I believe I was made to do in this life.  Reflecting back, I'm not sure what my life would've been like had I not taken my doctor friends' advice all those years ago.    

 

   

 

40 Years: Remembering (The Story)

 

My wife, Laura, who is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) will tell you that everyone expresses their grief in different ways.  I guess mine has always been through music.  On my current project, '40 Years: Remembering' (2015), there are two songs written in response to the death of a loved one:  'Change the World' was written in 2008 after our good friend, Harold Tinsley, Jr. died.  And,    'There Will Be A Day' was written in 2009 after my dad, Alejandro (Al) Cavazos died after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer's Disease.  In addition, the track 'Remembering' is a song that Laura and I wrote for the Children's Bereavement Center's annual gala in 2014. 

My dad was very instrumental in my Music Ministry career at Lackland Air Force Base, which has now spanned 40 years!  As a 16 year old high school student, I was looking for a church to play/sing at.  My dad was active duty Air Force and at the time was stationed at Lackland AFB.  Upon my request, he made some phone calls and I was invited to use my talents at what the time was, Chapel #7 (Hope Chapel).  That was 1975...fast forward to 2015 and I am still on the Music Ministry staff, only now I am at Freedom Chapel.  To make it even sweeter, my oldest son, Jacob is also on the Music Ministry staff at Freedom Chapel, where he plays Electric Guitar!  Our second child, Josh also spent 10 years on the Music Ministry staff at Lackland AFB, playing keyboards at Gateway Chapel for the airmen.  It seems as though our youngest son, Ben is following suit!  He often times plays drums for the services! 

So, when it came time to celebrate my 40 years as Music Minister at Lackland AFB, I could think of no better way than putting together a compilation project of songs written during my career at Lackland AFB.  But for me, that wasn't enough...ever since my dad died in 2009, I've been wanting to find a way to honor him and help the Alzheimer's Association, who do so much to bring awareness to the disease. So, that 's when the Benefit Concert idea was born! 

One simple phone call to Meg Barron, Director of the Local Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, led to a full blown Benefit Concert which will be held at the Alamo Ice House, 802 N. Alamo, 78215 on Saturday, September 19, 2015, beginning at 7:00 pm!   

What is super cool is that my son, Jacob will also be playing with the Nathan Mathis Band!  In addition, my son, Josh will also be playing a set!  Plus, I'm sure that you'll see our youngest, Ben (who will turn 12 right before the concert) playing percussion/drums that night too!  Can't guarantee it, but I'll even try to get our daughter, Rebekah on stage too!

The compilation project that I spoke of, '40 Years: Remembering' is now in production and will be made available exclusively at the Benefit Concert. I want to add that ALL proceeds will go to the Alzheimer's Association!  It will truly be,       'A Night to Remember'!    

Finally, I want to thank Meg Barron and her staff at the Alzheimer's Association; all the musicians/singers who will be donating their time/talent; the tech crew led by our good buddy, Elvis, who will be providing the sound; the Alamo Ice House for being gracious enough to allow us to host this special event at their facility; my family and friends for all their love, prayers and support!

We hope to see each and every one of you at the Benefit Concert in memory of my dad and as a tribute to all who are touched by Alzheimer's Disease.         

 

The Cardinal

 

It was the Fall of 1968 and I was a 9 year old, passionate about baseball.  We were briefly living in Laredo, TX while my Dad was in Germany, paving the way for us and searching for a place for us to live.  We were staying with my grandparents, Papa Alejandro and Mama Linda during this interim time. 

The 1968 World Series featured the St. Louis Cardinals against the Detroit Tigers.  Papa Alejandro, or Papa 'lejandro, as we affectionately called him was a die-hard Cardinals fan, having listened to the old radio broadcasts.  He quickly brought me up to speed on the likes of old Cardinal Hall of Famers, Dizzy Dean and Stan Musial and current Cardinal stars, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Orlando Cepeda.  It wasn't long before I too, was a life-long fan.  I have fond memories of sitting next to Papa 'lejandro rooting on the St. Louis Cardinals in the '68 Series.  Even though the Cardinals lost the series in 7 games, my heart bled Cardinal red from then on!

We joined my Dad in Germany in late October 1968 and I couldn't wait to tell him all about the St. Louis Cardinals.   Dad was a big baseball fan too but he enjoyed playing the game much more than watching it on television.  However, I kept him up to date on all the Cardinal statistics, stories, batting averages, won/loss records, etc...I was a walking baseball almanac!  Knowing my love for the Cardinals, over the years, Dad would often take me to the various baseball parks where we were stationed to watch my beloved Cardinals play.  Even though they were the visiting team, I rooted and cheered them on!

Dad died on July 1, 2009 after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer's Disease.  We had a beautiful ceremony for him which was officiated by our long time priest friend, Fr. Jim Barlow.  I, along with my sons, Jacob and Josh and some close friends provided the music for the mass.  I had written a 'eulogy' for my Dad, just in case there was an opportunity to share it.  Little did I know that my brother, Alex, had done the same.  However, they both remained unread as the opportunity did not present itself.

The next day, however, I felt a strong pull to return to the cemetery and visit my Dad's gravesite.  I had my 'eulogy' in my pocket.  It was a beautiful summer day so I sat down next to his gravesite and decided to read it to him.  Of course it was filled with all my baseball memories, especially our Cardinals adventures.  I made reference to the, 'Field of Dreams' movie (one of my all-time favorites)  

      

 

Remembering

 

As we celebrate 'Memorial Day' weekend, we remember our men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country - their lives. 

Recently, Laura and I were asked to write a song for, 'Children's Grief Awareness Day'.  The song, 'Remembering' became the theme song for the Children's Bereavement Center of South Texas (CBCST) Gala, which took place at the San Antonio Country Club on February 27, 2014.

'Remembering' was performed 'Live' for the packed house event!  It was sung beautifully by Erica Gonzaba!  She was accompanied by our son, Josh Cavazos on piano and a Children's Choir from Forester Elementary School, which I was honored to conduct! 

As we remember our fallen soldiers this weekend, we invite you to listen to our song.  We dedicate it to all who have lost loved ones.  We remember them through our memories and in our hearts:

'CUZ I HOLD YOU DEAR, SO VERY NEAR, WE'LL NEVER BE APART

We have also posted the full lyrics on our 'Audio' page.  We hope and pray that you are blessed by it!                                                     

  

Freedom Praise Band

 

So blessed to be part of a wonderful Praise Band at Freedom Chapel, Lackland AFB, San Antonio, TX.  Not only are they talented musicians, they also have a heart for God.  Additionally, they allow me to bring in songs that I write, some of which make the cut to be used during our services.  Last year we decided to record some of my songs in the studio.  One song led to another and before we knew it, we were working on a full length project (11 songs)!  I'm proud to say that we should have our project, tentatively titled, 'FREE' available in late summer/early fall 2014!

Freedom Praise Band (FPB) consists of:  Al Balderama (Keys/Vocals); Gabe Balderama (Bass); Lorenzo Tapia (Drums); Jacob Cavazos (Electric Guitar); Allyson Harasimowicz (Vocals); Erica Gonzaba (Vocals); and ME (Acoustic Guitar/Vocals). 

Ragamuffin

 

 Just finished watching, 'Ragamuffin', the story of Christian Singer/Songwriter Rich Mullins, who died in an auto accident in 1997.  Of course, I immediately pulled out all my Rich Mullins cd's to listen to his amazing songs.  I can remember being heavily influenced by his music; his extraordinary command of the English language.  For me, he had a unique way of presenting the Gospel of Christ and I so admired that.  I remember somebody once telling me that one of my songs ('Emmaus Lane') reminded him of a song that Rich Mullins would write...to me, that was the ultimate compliment for a songwriter!

The movie was very powerful; it told of his struggles and weaknesses and depicted a man that though burdened with so much pain still had a heart and a yearning for God.  Though I don't think he was the most popular figure in Nashville while he lived there in the 1990's, his incredible songs found their way to the likes of Amy Grant and other major players in the CCM industry.  He had no interest in the music 'business' or the fame/fortune that came with it.  The movie told of how he insisted that his accountant give him only a meager salary to live on, while donating the rest to charities. 

The Ragamuffin Gospel

A book by Brennan Manning that speaks about God's amazing grace and His relentless love for us all.

The Ragamuffin Gospel was written for the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out.

It is for the sorely burdened who are still shifting the heavy suitcase from one hand to the other.

It is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don't have it altogether and are too proud to accept the handout of God's amazing grace.

It is for inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.

It is for poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents.

It is for earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay.

It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God.

It is for smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags.

The Ragamuffin Gospel is a book for anyone who has grown weary and discouraged along the Way.

JESUS LOVES YOU

   

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