Our dreams are powerful things. To borrow from Dr. Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin, one of the most impactful voices in African development, "dreams express what your soul is telling you. So as crazy as your dream might seem--even to you--I don't care: You have to let that out."
Even if your dream seems completely unattainable, don't give up, because sometimes you might just be surprised.
Take Ilene Angel. The singer, hit songwriter, author and writer has been writing songs since she was a little girl. "They were an extension of my diary," says Angel who had a number-one Disney song called "I Don't Think About It." "Writing songs was a safe way to express myself." While many artists have sung her compositions, her deepest dream was to record a CD of her own songs.
Angel was no stranger to pursuing her dreams. When she was a child, she invited Henry Winkler to her Bat Mitzvah. "It was at the height of his Happy Days Fonzie fame, and I wrote him a heartfelt letter," Angel remembers. "The amazing thing was that he responded with this beautiful handwritten note that forever changed my life and how I viewed what was possible. It set a precedent that served me well," she says.
A few years ago, Angel wrote a story about a new band that Kenny Loggins was forming. Ultimately, she met the rock legend backstage after a concert. "Instead of having a normal conversation with him, I became tongue-tied and said virtually nothing," recalls Angel. "The ability to form thoughts or anything resembling a coherent sentence completely escaped me when I had the best opportunity of my life to talk about writing--with Kenny Loggins...and I had NOTHING? Seriously?!"
Most people might have ended the awkward connection there, but Angel wrote about the comical, if not slightly heartbreaking, encounter and included all the things she wished she had said.
It turns out that Loggins read Angel's story, reached out, and they became friends. "Life sometimes surprises us with second chances," she says.
This month, Angel is at last realizing her dream of releasing her own CD, "In Color". The album extols the virtues of following your heart, resurrecting your dreams, and being grateful, even for the challenges along the way.
On "In Color," Angel is joined by amazing talent. At the top of the list is producer Tanya Leah, a multi-platinum selling artist and songwriter in her own right. In fact, it was Leah who encouraged Angel to finally make the record, saying, "Why can't you be the go-to person for inspirational and uplifting songs?"
Angel agreed, and Leah assembled a dizzying array of great artists, including Everett Bradley, Caitlin Evanson, Mark Prentice, Matthew Bubel, Kris Wilkinson, BethAnne Clayton and Lorraine Ferro. Collectively, their musical credits include stints with everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Taylor Swift and Ringo Starr.
But perhaps one of the happiest surprises on the CD is the song "Friends Like Me & You," a rich and harmonious duet which Angel wrote with Tanya Leah and Anthony Barone. Who does Angel sing it with? Kenny Loggins! "I honestly don't know of any artist of his caliber who would have the generosity of spirit to contribute the amount of time, energy, and immense talent that he did to an indie project," says Angel. "I think that truly speaks to who he is as a person."
What are Angel's hopes for the CD? "We all fret over what we're putting out there, wonder if it will resonate with people, and worry that maybe we could have said it better somehow," she says. "But at some point, we have to know that we are enough, that our best efforts will impact exactly the people they are supposed to in exactly the right way, and that when we show up fully as ourselves, we empower others to do the same and we are all forever changed for the better because of it."
When asked about her songs, Angel's collaborators believe they speak to who she is as a person. "Ilene is a beautiful songwriter and singer and her songs come from such an honest place," says Bradley, who most recently was the bandleader on The Meredith Vieira Show. "A song is great when the lyric, melody and rhythm come together in a very deep way. But when the lyric really speaks to you, that's the icing on the cake. And Ilene's songs have all those elements."