Florida – February 2014.
Photos by TJ Jensen.
Florida – February 2014.
On Friday, January 24, Billy gave a very special concert. It was the first time he had performed simultaneously to a live audience and an audience around the world. The concert, “Streaming for Dystonia,” was sponsored by the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as part of a crusade to increase awareness of dystonia and to help raise funds for medical research. “Somebody in your circle of friends has dystonia,” said Billy at the concert. “It comes in so many forms, from someone suffering from writers’ cramp to someone whose neck muscles spasm so that they can’t straighten up to someone whose voice has become progressively hoarse.” These are all symptoms of dystonia, which makes it’s difficult to recognize,” he explained.
Billy considers himself fortunate to have found a way around his dystonia. He explained to the audience the way he now plays his guitar, with his left hand, and how he had to learn to fail his way to success. “As with dystonia, you can’t be afraid,” said Billy. For three years, Billy had suffered from the symptoms without it being properly diagnosed. During that time he lost his home, marriage, recording contracts and his music. “I’m here to help people find a way out of the trap that is dystonia,” said Billy. “I’m lucky because I can still do something I love to do.”
Billy is passionate about advancing the entire field of neurosciences. “The power of a chronic condition like dystonia, Parkinson’s or epilepsy to beat us down is really tremendous,” he said. Billy finds it an amazing coincidence that DMRF began its research into dystonia in 1976, the same year that he started playing guitar. “The worst thing that ever happened to me has unfolded to be the best thing that ever happened. To have this opportunity to play my music with meaning and purpose is truly a blessing. Thank you to all who turned out and tuned in to build awareness of dystonia!”
For more information about DMRF or to make a contribution, visit www.dystonia-foundation.org.
Written by Linda Ruhland
Treasa Springett, president of Donatelle, an award-winning manufacturer of devices for the medical industry, asked Billy McLaughlin to present his story to the company’s leadership team as part of the team’s future vision project, “Changing the Game”. “I first met Billy during his presentation at an Executive Group Forum, led by Bill Mills,” she said. “I was amazed at the similarities between Billy’s story and what we’ve been experiencing at Donatelle, which is: ‘How do we as leaders face challenges and not fall back on what had always worked before?’” As a sole proprietor and artist stricken with dystonia, Billy simply couldn’t go back to what he had done before. He had to reinvent himself. The timing of Billy’s story happened to fit perfectly with Donatelle’s planning retreat, which was scheduled for the upcoming December.
Treasa surprised her leadership team by asking Billy to make a special appearance at their retreat and to share his story about overcoming “impossible” challenges. “I found Billy’s story empowering; it aligned so well with our leadership culture,” said Treasa. “In the global medical device marketplace our customers are challenged with rapid change every day. Billy’s message encouraged us to embrace change; recognize the need for it, be willing to address the challenge and adapt. Treasa intended Billy’s presentation to be a gift to her leadership team. “I was so excited to be able to book him for our December retreat, it was hard for me to keep it a secret. Billy’s story combined with his humor and music was fantastic,” she said.
Billy was not the first presenter to appear at a Donatelle leadership retreat. This time, however, the team had the added enjoyment of listening to Billy’s music along with his speech. More than enjoyment, Treasa said that Billy’s message resonated with the challenges that Donatelle and all companies face daily: How do you rethink change in the global market, which creates pressures you cannot anticipate? “Billy’s example of overcoming challenge inspired us to become the change we try to create; this had great personal and business relevance to us. Our mission at Donatelle is to create possibilities to improve the quality of life for humankind, one person at a time,” she explained.
After his performance, Billy was invited to join the group for an evening of fun and conversation. It was exciting for him to learn that some of the devices Donatelle is designing will treat the symptoms he suffers from focal dystonia. Treasa and the Donatelle leadership team look forward to having Billy return again to a future retreat. Treasa mentioned, “I’d like for Billy to delve deeper into his story so that we can learn more about his journey. Also, I think it will be great fun to add another hour of musical entertainment following his presentation so that we can continue to enjoy listening to Billy play.”
“There are not enough words of gratitude to Billy McLaughlin who was our incredible speaker for the Epilepsy Foundation of Western Wisconsin’s Share the Flame and Silent Auction on December 3rd, 2013 at Fanny Hill Dinner Theater in Eau Claire. Our guests who are business professionals, medical staff, family, and personal supporters of our mission, were absolutely amazed at Billy‘s powerful performance and inspirational story. He kept all of us spellbound, with his presentation and music.
“Many of our guests knew of his music and talent in the 1990’s and were amazed at the challenges he has faced over the past years with focal dystonia which forced him to relearn how to play his guitar. His personal story as a single father with a son, who has many challenges with epilepsy, warmed our hearts and created understanding in the reality of how difficult living with seizures can be. His amazing personality, and determination to make his marvelous comeback and his life more meaningful and positive made an awesome impact on everyone!
“Billy has a kindness, charm, and caring demeanor about him, and he is able to relate, and talk to anyone! He changed our way of thinking and feeling and gave us the hope and new goals to focus on in our work and in our lives. Billy spoke to us as friends and left us with wanting to hear more of his music and his compassionate message over and over again. We are thankful for the uplifting “gift” Billy gave us that touched our lives and filled our hearts with his magic!”
-Lou Kelsey,Director of Client Services and Community Resources. Epilepsy Foundation of Western Wisconsin
Minneapolis, Minn —
Billy McLaughlin celebrated the honor of receiving an Emmy the best way he knows: by giving back. On November 8, Billy held a special Emmy Award Reception Concert celebrating those people who in some way played a part in what led to his achievement. The concert included some familiar “Billy” tunes along with a sneak preview of his upcoming “Simple Gifts” tour. Grateful for the recognition, Billy paused momentarily to acknowledge those who supported him. His schedule, however, shows no sign of slowing down; nor does the anticipation of award-winning music he continues to produce, given what he previewed that evening.
Click here to read previous Emmy posts.
All photos taken by TJ Jensen
On October 13, Billy McLaughlin kicked off the annual conference for the Minnesota Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The conference brought together human resource professionals and consultants for new ideas, shared thoughts and best practices in employee engagement, education and new ways at looking at HR problems. Following his kickoff speech, Billy, accompanied by his string quartet, added an unprecedented element to the evening’s festivities as well. For an event that is typically filled with continuing education and legal content, Billy and his ensemble were a deviation from the norm. Attendees responded positively to Billy’s addition.
Mary Gummerson, office manager for McGladrey LLP and chair of this year’s SHRM event, said that Billy exceeded expectations. “He wonderfully related the HR profession into his experiences and challenges while entertaining us. He also reminded us through his challenges that the thinking we need to do to solve a problem is not always in front of us.” Mary commented that the SHRM conference does not usually have a musical component. “It was a good fit. Members raved about it; I heard people mention that Billy was fantastic.” She added that Billy’s combination of entertainment and speaking contributed to the overall success of the conference. “He has overcome difficult challenges to become an incredible inspirational speaker who reaches people on an emotional level,” she added.
Jennifer Taschner, human resources director for Fiduciary Counselling, Inc., was among the attendees at the SHRM event. She said, “The foundational core of our work is to know, understand and have empathy for the employees we serve. Yet, there is so much separation due to legal paperwork and compliance updates. Billy’s story brought me back. He made an emotional connection through which I was able to share in his trials, experience his success and see the happiness he now has for the work he is doing.”
In response to hearing Billy’s music at a SHRM conference, Jennifer said, “Music is important in everyone’s life; it touches us in many ways. When I was growing up, we had an improvisational music instructor in grade school. She taught us the value of free-form learning. That understanding has translated into my professional life. Through Billy’s music I am reminded to think creatively, especially in a world that is constantly changing. In my HR role, it’s important to see individuals for what their talents are. Billy’s combination of music and an emotional message made sense, especially speaking to this group. He is an inspirational singer, songwriter and presenter with a unique style that you wouldn’t expect.”
All photos taken by TJ Jensen
I had the opportunity to be a presenter at the Spirit of Success Entrepreneurial Summit October 17th. I want to share with you some feedback I received from a new colleague and friend, Terri Wilcox, at Resultants for Business, Inc. She put into words what I hope many others discover upon hearing my story and seeing me present.
“I wanted to let you know how great the presenters were at the Spirit of Success. I especially wanted to thank you for placing Billy McLaughlin in the morning to kick off the day. At first I was skeptical. I saw those guitars up there waiting for the speaker and as a business person attending strictly to glean new knowledge and strategy about business I was automatically disappointed with what I was expecting to be a long hour. That didn’t happen.
“As the presenter started to speak, and then play I first thought, ‘What am I going to get from this? He’s just telling us about his personal story.’ Then I started getting wrapped up in the total experience…the words, the business messages, the story, and the music. All were interspersed so that small nuggets of information infused into my brain. What seemed to be a scattered approach became more deliberate for learning.
“You see, many business leaders are pressed for time. They do not have the luxury of time to be creative. Their brains are working on the left side constantly. We look for structure, black and white answers, and concrete learning points…’give it to me straight and give it to me fast.’ Billy forced my brain to switch to the right side and for one hour allowed me to open up the gates of creativity and innovation. I don’t care how concrete our thinking, everyone has the ability to be creative in their own way…it’s a matter of choice. But what most busy people do, when in business, is to turn off their creative sides. Yet one of the most dangerous issues we observe today is watching a business grow and mature yet lose their ability to innovate. Once the innovation is lost, the business suffers. It cannot adapt to change so readily.
“Billy helped me to see business concepts I already knew, but in a creative way. My mind started racing, thinking about those concepts differently and actually applying some ideas right there on the spot. This presenter opened me up to accept the other presenters for the rest of the day. No wonder he got a standing ovation.”
-Terri Wilcox, SPHR, Business Advisor, Resultants for Business, Inc.
Pictures taken by TJ Jensen
WinterGrace is now available for purchase (Tuesday, November 5th)! Like all the CDs that came before it, WinterGrace features traditional music that tells the real story of Christmas arranged and performed with a modern twist. Familiar classics include “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, and “Little Drummer Boy” while the lesser known title track provides a fresh but timeless melody from the hills of Appalachia.
To purchase your copy of WinterGrace, click here. MP3 downloads will be available by Friday, November 8th.
We are looking forward to having you join us for the holidays! Click here to see all our 2013 tour dates.
-Billy & SimpleGifts
Sneak peek – WinterGrace, title track