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The Singing Therapist

“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.” - Kahlil Gibran

Work, in general, can have so many stressors that can weigh you down and it’s nice to have a good outlet to unload. I’m a big believer in getting out there to see what the world has to offer and what new soul searching adventures life has in store for me and it turns out, you don’t have to go too far, or even spend too much to find ways to express yourself and ease some of that mental burden.

Here in the 573 we’re blessed to have so many creative outlets and ways to express ourselves and satisfy our souls. With so many different art related activities to choose from, it can be difficult or even overwhelming, trying to find something that speaks to you and really helps you shake off the day. I myself enjoy a wide variety of different art forms, but the one that seems to soothe my soul the most is music, and it turns out that there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way.

Meet Kathy Waggoner; Local Therapist, Vocal Artist, Matriarch, and more recently... Karaoke Guru.

A busy woman indeed, Kathy is a devoted wife, mother of 10, grandmother of 41, great grandmother of 3, veteran, BACA member, counselor, teacher, and singer. Dubbed the Singing Therapist by several of her clients and colleagues, Kathy has been making quite the reputation for herself and that’s just the kind of thing that piques our interest.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have Kathy come and host Natural Solutions Care-aoke at a couple of our events this year, including the 573 Chalk Arts Festival and the BIG 573 YARD SALE and we could not have been more impressed. On top of having an excellent set up, and a large variety of music, Kathy was kind, fun, and had one amazing set of lungs! A Farmington Counselor with a heart of gold, a velvety voice and a phenomenal presence she commanded the attention of all who were in ear shot and had an audience gathered in no time at all. So obviously, we here at 573 were intrigued and just had to know more.

How did you get into doing karaoke and how long have you had your set up?

“I have always loved singing..."

“I have always loved singing, and dreamed of one day doing it professionally, but don’t have a very big range, so I never really thought I could. In church I couldn’t go as high as the music, and I couldn’t hit all the notes when I sang along with the radio. So I would sing to my kids all the time, but never sang in front of other people. However when I sang to my kids acapella, I could sing the whole song, I just never understood how.

I learned about finding my key around the same time I discovered karaoke and the ability to change keys on my selected songs, which was around age 30. I never learned to play an instrument that I could sing with and so dreamed of having my own karaoke set up and eventually got a machine to play discs. I enjoyed it, a great deal and used to lug this big ole machine around to family functions, church events, and even played for a few parties. I thought then about trying to do karaoke as a side job, but that big ole thing was not really very professional for big gigs.

That machine gave out on me after about 5 or 6 years (I wore it out) and my kids all got together and bought me a computer with a karaoke set up as a present in 2009. I could not believe it.. what a wonderful gift! From the time I was a little girl I had dreamed of being like Doris Day and singing at night clubs, lounging on the piano, or starring in musicals on the silver screen. I would love to have been in a band as a vocalist, but without being able to play an instrument, no one was really interested. It’s also hard to find bands that will play older music, and my favorite genre is 40’s & 50’s music.

The new karaoke machine was perfect for me. Easy to carry and set up, could be filled with thousands of songs, and of course allowed for my kids to be able to have their favorites as well. Since then that has proven to be a wonderful gathering tool with my grown children and grandchildren at family events. They all are musically talented in their own right (we could have been the Partridge family! lol), and every one of them have a good singing voice even if they are too afraid to let it out. Guess they got that from Mom. Lol”

How long have you been a practicing counselor?

“I have been in the mental health field since the early 1990’s. I went back for my masters degree in the late 90’s graduated, completed my supervision and was fully licensed in 2005. I started my own private practice, Natural Solutions, on the side in 2009 while working with other agencies, and moved all of my focus to it in 2016 when I left the last agency I worked with and went into ‘working retirement’ Lol.”

Have you ever sang professionally?

"I have been asked often to sing for weddings, anniversaries, church functions, birthdays, and special events. I’ve been told if you get paid for it, then it’s professional, so I guess you could say that. Lol. I also made a CD, but it was mainly for family. I never tried to sell any because I didn’t seek rights on the music."

“Where words fail, music speaks.” - Hans Christian Andersen

Brunette woman with sunglasses and black leather biker vest sings into classic chrome microphone under a large tree

What was your most exciting or notable performance?

“I guess I would have to say it was when I got to sing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.. lol.. not like a celebrity.. I was in a contest.. but it is my brag that I got to stand on that big star in the middle of that wonderful stage and sing one of my very own songs. It was a song I had written as tribute to my Father who was one of my biggest influences. What made the experience even sweeter was the fact that it was family who had made it all happen.

We’ve never had a lot of money and could never have afforded the registration fee or travel expenses for me to participate on our income. Knowing it was my lifelong dream to feel like a star, my husband and children spent several weeks collecting aluminum cans off the roadsides and change donations from a funds can they set up at the Patton Junction in order to get me to Nashville and on that stage. It was a wonderful gift, and an experience I will treasure always.”

You mentioned your Father being one of your biggest influences. Can you tell me a little more about him, growing up, and some of your other influences?

“I was raised in a musical family. My father had such a beautiful voice, he sounded like a cross between Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, two of my favorite performers. He also sang from the diaphragm, (obviously where I got it) and so had a loud, strong voice. I remember noting how people looked at him in church and felt pride that people admired his voice. He and his brothers would get together often for good old fashioned German gathering lots of music and beer. They could harmonize out of this world. Daddy told me he once had an offer to sing with one of the big bands, I can’t remember who, I think maybe it was Harry James, but he was focused on pursuing my mother and so turned it down. Lol.

Oh we all loved singing along!

I grew up in the era of music and our family regularly watched shows like Lawrence Welk. Oh we all loved singing along! Then more modern shows presented newer talents and I often longed to be 'discovered' even dreamed of it. I loved singing, but being as shy as I was, I just couldn’t sing in front of other people. I can still remember staying in while my siblings played outside so I could pretend to be Doris Day. Lol

I also used to make up songs depending on my moods. One I wrote when I was in 3rd grade. I braved enough to share it with a very sweet substitute teacher. She seemed impressed and told me it could be the school song. I still to this day enjoy making up songs and writing parodies, and often perform custom parodies for church and family events.

woman with sunglasses sings into classic chrome microphone

Another source of inspiration was my band teacher. Growing up in a parochial school I didn’t get exposed to music classes until much later and never really learned to ‘read’ music, but wanted to play. I had hoped to learn piano, but the school band didn't do piano lessons. The instructor picked oboe for me. I was 2 years behind everyone in the class who were already playing instruments, but I picked it up quickly with familiar songs. My instructor was so impressed how I had caught up to and even passed others, he got me free tickets a few times to go see the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. I played oboe from 7th grade through my junior year and no one ever knew I couldn't actually read the notes...I couldn’t tell you A from E. I just knew that dot meant to hold my fingers just so.

As a teen I babysat for many different members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and the bassoon player, Bob Mottl, one of my regulars, often gave me pointers on embouchure to make better sound. I haven't seen him in decades, but he contributed more to my musical growth than I think he ever realized.”

“My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.” -Martin Luther

Do you feel like music is therapeutic?

“Oh yes.. ‘Music soothes the savage beast’.. a phrase I learned as a child and strongly believe. I most appreciate songs that tell stories...we all have a story to tell, and therefore all have a song that suits us. Many of us have a song for every mood, or major event in life. I have often pointed out songs I felt were suited to clients, and sang for them to cheer them up or to help them better understand their situation.

I was bullied a lot as a child and have had several rough times during my life, so I would often use music to improve my moods, it’s something I started doing when I was very young. When feeling down or angry I would sing a song that fit my mood and in increments would move toward the mood I wanted, one step (or rather song) at a time. I have often suggested this to clients to lift their mood or help to ease anxious moments. It’s something that’s always worked for me, and several of my kids do it as well. ”

‘Music soothes the savage beast’

brunette woman with sunglasses smiles and holds a classic chrome microphone under a large tree

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” - Plato

What plans do you have for the future of Natural Solutions Care-aoke?

“Actually we have been working on an outbuilding on our property as we can, wanting to open a venue of our own. Currently we are fixing the roof and eventually will look into updating the interior and a few add ons, including a dome on the back for a large sound stage for better acoustics. Having done things on our own for my children’s weddings, work shops, and some of our annual parties, I fell in love with the whole decorating/party/music atmosphere and would so love to have one of my own.

We would like to offer karaoke nights, live music, themed parties (Halloween is our favorite) and just have fun as well as opening to weddings and other parties for others. I would also love to do fundraising events for a variety of causes including local artistic endeavors and community projects, mental health awareness, major accidents or illnesses, for those who have lost a loved one and can’t afford funeral costs, etc.. I would love to be able to find as many ways to give back as I can using this wonderful gift of karaoke given to me by my loving and very caring family.“

-Written by AJ Koehler


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