by: Diane Y. Chapman
There is an old adage that fuels some of the world's greatest philosophies. It goes something like this: "Let not yourself die whilst the music is still in you."
Dr. Wayne Dyer, noted scholar and best-selling author worldwide, makes an emphatic point of talking about this in all of his writing and speaking. "I do not intend to die with my music still in me," he says, "and I would encourage all of you to consider the same."
This has become one of my favorite expressions, and even a daily reminder of how I want to live. For those of us who love music, sound, and the medium of radio, this statement says it all. There is within us a need for self-expression that undoubtedly started even before preschool. So, when I met a young Orange County performer named Paul Abram Constantine, I knew I needed to tell his story.
Paul overcame tremendous odds and many starts and stops throughout his career as a singer / songwriter due to a serious case of clinical manic depression. There were times when he thought that his music would die within him. But today, with his two CD's "Why Am I Here?" and "My Life" on the shelves of Sam Goody's at South Coast Plaza and Tower Records at Tustin Marketplace, Paul knows his music will be his legacy.
When The Music Nearly Died
The music inside Paul Abram was unstoppable as a child; he performed as early as elementary school in his "Jelly Bean Jar" church summer school program. That led to choir, talent shows and numerous singing appearances throughout junior high and high school.
"I've played John the Baptist in Godspell, and the Rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof," he reminisces, "and was fortunate to have solo parts in Broadway reviews and great productions like Les Miserables and Bye, Bye, Birdie."
But, between 1992 and 1993, the music and lyrics started to fade. Fearful and depressed, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, commonly known as manic depression, which is characterized by vast mood swings.
Silent for three years as he struggled to regain his life with the help of medication, counseling and family support groups, Paul found the right moment to feel the music again when he performed at a religious outreach on mental illness at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach.
Once again, the lyrics began to flow. In 1997, he secured the role of Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Now The Lyrics Flow
"Once I was able to take the step to sing again, I knew that dreams are never really destroyed, only rearranged. My dream to write, sing, arrange and produce CD albums has certainly come true. I call my music "Spiritual Pop" and it definitely reflects the events of my life."
His first CD, Why Am I Here? , helped him traverse the pain and emotional upheaval of manic depression. Doing the CD was his way of channeling his feelings, and was, in large part, recorded to help him deal with his illness.
"Once people started listening, they realized how helpful the songs were to them, too. People were amazed I was able to do that."
This first CD led to a neighborhood concert at a local coffee shop, with an audience made up of family and friends. "It was practice, the first of a future doing concerts," he says.
His second album, called My Life is about Paul's spiritual and emotional journey with God, people and bipolar illness. "It covers the time from right before my onset with manic depression to recently, within the last year. I plan to take it to a semi-musical format in 2001."
How The Music Is Made
Paul writes lyrics and music together when he creates songs. He uses a tape recorder to tape the melody of the lyrics and the music of chord progressions. Then he goes to an arranger for scoring the music on paper. Once the arranging is complete and recorded on DAT, he heads to the studio and records vocals one at a time. His manic depression has been stable for the last three years, and he has expanded his resume of public singing through many performances.
"I also decided to study film at Orange Coast College and received a Video Film Certificate. This led to starting my own video editing business called Paul Abram Productions. I recently interned on a documentary production out of Hollywood called The First Year, an educational video for teachers in Los Angeles." Paul is proud of his growing list of video editing clients, who include FaithNet, NAMIOC School Outreach, College Hospital and the Tustin Chamber of Commerce.
The Music Is Still Flowing
What's in store for Paul in 2001? "I plan to continue work on my AA at Orange Coast College and to take My Life to a semi-musical format." Another CD is in his future, as well. "I've already written three songs. The CD will be out in a couple of years. And my video editing business continues to grow."
What has been the best part about "letting his music out?"
"I ask myself, 'Is God using me to help people understand bipolar illness?' And I have to admit, it was great seeing my name on the marker in between artists on the shelves at Sam Goody's."
Di Y. Chapman is a speaker and writer who hosts the weekly radio show "High Visibility" on KUCI 88.9 FM in Irvine. She welcomes comments at email@example.com. Paul Abram Constantine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.