'The Wild Within': A Teacher's Musical Breakthrough

Here at Santa Monica College, the main focus of attention generally centers around the students. But it is not hard to see that SMC wouldn't be the place that it is were it not for the rich faculty and staff that we have.

One specific individual who is making a splash both in and out of her classroom is Su Livingston, teacher of Early Childhood Development 8 (creative experiences- art, music and movement) and 21 (early childhood practices) at SMC. But there is another facet to Livingston's passion; she is also a folk, blues, and rock singer -songwriter who has just released her second album, "The Wild Within."

"Making the CD was a three-year process altogether," said Livingston. "It took a bit longer than I expected just because I collaborated with both studio and touring musicians, all with busy schedules.

But I was more than grateful to play with them. Also the long periods of time helped my songs to grow and develop in my head," she said. And with contributors that also tour with well-known musicians such as Tom Waits and Melissa Etheridge, Livingston was not upset to wait.

When asked what her primary career is between teaching and songwriting, Livingston laughs and says "that's a tough one, but I've always been a musician and a teacher, and the two go very well together." Especially in a field of education such as hers, where the focus is on young children, Livingston compares her two professions and says that "it's really all the same passion." She started out as a pre-school teacher, with the title of "play coach," for a company called Play Matters that focuses on the importance of early childhood education. "The heart of child education really centers around play," said Livingston, "which really helped me enrich and deepen a lot of children's lives. It's really quite serendipitous."

Livingston now hopes to market her CD primarily to a younger audience as well. "I'm reaching out to college radio and college students, mostly," she said, "but I will also submit it for TV, movies, and some smaller independent record labels." Also, being the bicycle enthusiast that she is, Livingston has plans to send her CD, specifically the "playfully metaphorical," song "Ride a Bike," to Lance Armstrong's bike shop Mellow Johnny's in Austin, Texas. "I wrote a lot of the album while on a bike," said Livingston, citing bicycle riding as one of her many muses. "The wilderness and being outdoors have been huge influences on me and, in turn, my music," she said. "My husband and I do at least two long distance hike and/ or bicycle trips a year. One of my favorite songs on the CD, 'Urban Lullabye,' is a song I wrote after a 260-mile backpacking hike; and the song itself is about just that, coming out of the wild and going back into the busy life of the city."

But the wilderness is not her only influence. Livingston has musical influences as well. "I was raised on Carol King's 'Tapestry,' " she said, "an album where I found every song to be especially strong; everything was worth being there. I tried to emulate that concept, but as far as my actual music goes, I don't try to imitate anyone, I try to use my own voice to make my own sound."

All in all, Livingston says that "each song on the CD has been wilderness-tested; they have hiked the John Muir Trail, Canada's Great Divide, Scotland's West Highland way, and bicycled over 3,000 miles. These are the sounds and lyrics I wanted playing in my own mind in beautiful places - as well as when changing lanes, and having gone the distance still wanted to hear again."

If you are interested in the message Ms. Livingston is sending, you can find more information about her latest musical release, "The Wild Within," at http://www.sulivingston.com