Silhouette of a Soldier Video Created by: Tracy Roberts Writers: Tracy Roberts (Lyrics) & Tony Memmel (Music) Artist: Tony Memmel
Story Behind The Music: Tracy Roberts is a school teacher colleague that I’ve had the joy to work with on multiple successful programs. This summer, she reached out about working together on a different sort of project – a song.
She’d written lyrics about her own military family’s story that she’d worked on for years, and asked if I’d be interested in writing some music for them. Touched by the lyrical content and sincerity, I happily agreed to the project, and this recording is what became of “Silhouette of a Soldier.” This Veteran’s Day we celebrate those who’ve served, and share this song and video about the unique love and bond that exists between soldiers and their families.
**We thank the families who contributed photos to this video.**
In the fall of 2009, I packed my 1998 GMC Jimmy to the brim, cleared a nest in the back for a sleeping bag and pillow amongst the PA system, boxes of CD’s, mic stands, and suitcase. I left my apartment in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin to set off for a grand adventure – a 3 week tour of the eastern United States of America. My first ever. My first of many, I hoped.
Before my first show of the tour (at a place called the Barking Spider Tavern) in Cleveland, I remembered thinking, “Wow, I’m playing a concert in Cleveland… This feels kinda big.” On the surface, it may appear to be a modest jump from one midwest city to another, but it meant the world to me at the time… I was taking a step from hoping, studying, and practicing to be a professional musician, into living it. (One clarifier: studying, practicing, and hoping on the next step should never stop. These things just have seasons where focus rests most heavily on one of these disciplines or mindsets).
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is: “If you weren’t doing music, what would you be doing?” That question sometimes stumps me for a second. I think of my love of teaching, sports, food, writing and reading. I know I have a variety of interests, and a little talent for a few things.
A few times in these past 10 years, I’ve wondered if I’d be forced to consider one of them more seriously out of necessity: During car trouble in rural Kansas that disrupted a full week of a tour, landing in the hospital (pneumonia and dehydration), two car accidents (one really big one with a drunk driver that hospitalized Lesleigh in Indiana), low-attended shows after long drives, etc. These life events make you think hard about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, who you really are, what you’re made of, and what you rely upon. Now, I count it all joy!
What I come back to is this: Foundation. I know that I am designed with a purpose, and that there is older, truer wisdom to rely upon than the fleeting happinesses that come and go from day-to-day, and moment-to-moment… Striving to teach and to shed light in the world is often confronted with darkness; but pressing onward, I aim to live into what my foundation is, and to cherish and protect what true joy is built upon as a daily discipline. This wisdom is what holds me up, propels me, guides me, and sustains me:
2 Corinthians 4: 8 “We are pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
And just like the old gospel song, I sing with my mind, mouth, and heart: “I’ve got peace like a river, joy like a fountain, and love like an ocean in my soul.”
10 Years down. The beginning of a lifetime of service through music and ministry. Thank you for all of your love and support around the world. I work every day for your joy.
I’m 39,000 feet in the air on my way to Hong Kong, then Dallas, then onto Nashville by Monday night. My trusty earbuds are playing my favorite travel playlist, and I’m thinking about the week I just had teaching in Thailand: new friendships, the impact that was made on me (and that I trust that I was able to have on others), and overwhelmed with thankfulness for the opportunity to teach in the first American Music Abroad Academy this week.
I arrived in Thailand last Saturday afternoon, and immediately got back into the swing of learning my way around a new place, a new currency, and a new language. I had an hour to pick up a few supplies before my first meetup with teachers and program participants at the welcome gathering party.
American Music Abroad Academy is a brand new program. The goal is to invite U.S. embassies and consulates from around the region to nominate outstanding musicians to come work together with American musicians, teachers, and entrepreneurs.
32 musicians, 13 countries, all meeting in Bangkok for an intensive entrepreneurial musical summit! Each participant has been involved with or touched by a previous AMA program, and this week was an opportunity to build on those friendships and collaborations with more time and depth.
I had the joy of teaching nine of those students in my singers-and-songwriters class. This eager group made me so excited to wake up each morning, and meet them at our classroom where we unpacked what makes a great song a great song, the importance of being as strong a businessperson as you are a musician, and the process of creating brand new music ourselves. We wrote five new songs in five days. Prolific!
I use the term teacher/student with humility and care. I learned so much this week! My phone and notebook are packed with new information to take back to the States with me…
Singers and Songwriters
What a group! One of my singers has millions of YouTube views and is a huge star in his home country of Kyrgstan, another is a Forbes top 30 under 30 in Asia, another is beginning a solo career and launching her first album soon, one sings like a bird and could be the next Mariah Carey, another spoke very little English, yet played guitar so well that he accompanied almost every songwriting collaboration during the entire week, another is navigating the music business in a particularly competitive, uphill battle with trying to change the system that she works within in her country; I met folk-pop ukulele players, commercial music makers, and musical theater composers and performers whose talent, questions, and work ethic blew me away… That is probably a run-on sentence, but come on! The room was stacked with fascinating people that I have to tell you about.
I was particularly excited to connect with people I’ve worked with on previous tours.
Though personalities, styles, and backgrounds were all different, I was especially struck by the amount of hunger to learn and the generosity of thought and ideasharing that took place between members of our core group.
With a markerboard, a guitar, and a pocket-sized Bluetooth speaker as my tools, I was able to fascilitate discussions, help try to clear creative log jams, and offer and insight and wisdom I possibly could. I love teaching, Problem-solving, playing and talking music and business.
My most sincere hope and takeaway is that all participants return to their home countries ready to meet challenges they encounter with resilience, optimism, AND creativity.
My flight just touched down in Hong Kong and my layover is quite tight, so I have to run for now. More to come soon…
We’re headed WEST! Lesleigh, Theo, and I are so excited to take the family band on the road for 6 WEEKS. This September and October, we’re speaking in schools, churches, and communities all across the Western United States, and we’re so excited to announce that this tour is being co-sponsored by The Lucky Fin Project.
It’s been my joy to serve as a Lucky Fin Project ambassador since March of 2011. I’ve had the opportunity to share my music and mission in 45 states and 17 countries. Speaking in schools. Hosting guitar workshops. Sharing meals with families. We are so excited to head West and to serve these communities that are so many miles away.
We are still adding dates and states! If you’d like us to come to your school, church, or community (in the West, or anywhere!), send us a message at email@example.com.
Our full tour schedule is posted HERE! We will see you soon, MemmelNation!
AMA Academy is in full swing, and I’m already so impressed by these students! Musicians from all across Asia, coming together to learn about music, business, and entrepreneurship, to work on collaborations, and to build friendships… such an honor to be teaching here in Bangkok this week!
Looking out my airplane window at the vast blackness of the sea below, glowing cargo ships began to appear. First a few, then many, then… the land.
Even at 12:30am the airport was jumpin’. I waited through the customs line, and was eventually admitted entry to Singapore for the second time in two years.
A quick 30 minute cab ride took me halfway across the country to the downtown area where my hotel is. I checked in, called Lesleigh and Theo, and ordered a late night meal. By 3am, I was asleep to prepare for day 1!
My friend, Allyson, from the US Embassy greeted me at the hotel lobby with a smile and a hug. We worked together extensively on our band’s previous program, and she was eager to program me again while I was in the region.
My first visit was to a place called Cheshire Home – we were greeted by Kenny, a high-energy overseer of the facility. He gave us a tour, showed us a slideshow, and told us about the residents there: it’s a home for people with cognitive and physical differences and disabilities. They learn life skills and build community, and also enjoy musical guests from time to time.
I learned one song in Chinese that I was told they liked, and they joined me for many songs on their tambourines, shakers, and soda-cans-turned-percussion instruments.
I then had an extensive interview with a journalist named Kannan from Storm Media. He was a friendly, curious reporter with many questions about my music, influences, and especially my mission. Check out the full piece here: https://storm-asia.com/tony-memmel-guitarist/
My third stop of the day was a 19th century mansion turned local venue called Kult Kafe. The crowd was great, and we enjoyed some singalongs and good company on a warm Singapore night.
I’m in the air now on my first flight of three in the next thirty hours or so:
Nashville to Chicago to Tokyo to Singapore! The first of two countries I’ll visit on this journey.
If you’ve followed me for any length of time since November 2017, at some point you have probably seen this video:
These highlights, songs, and smiles capture with such amazing clarity and depth who we are and why we do what we do. This will be my second time working with the U.S. Embassy there, and I can’t wait to build upon the amazing work we had the opportunity to do together previously.
The descent to Chicago is beginning now. Time to put my tray table up, and my seat back in its upright and locked position.
This first flight was delayed 40 minutes which means a tighter connection for Tokyo, so I’m going to get packed up, say a prayer, settle into my seat, look out the window and prepare for the days ahead.
The sliding doors open to the terminal, and I turn around to wave goodbye to Lesleigh and Theo who are standing by our car in the passenger drop off lane at the Nashville airport. This sight has been a familiar one this year, and it isn’t easy… but we do know it’s purposeful and important.
On one hand, we miss each other so greatly that it feels like I’m separated from a part of my own self; on the other, we know who we are and what our mission is, which brings clarity to any situation.
Last night, Theo got up for a middle-of-the-night feeding. I went to get him from his crib and quietly walked him through the hallway in my arms to hand him to Lesleigh. We were all up together as a family at 3am.
Lesleigh just whispered to me, “I can’t wait to tell him how you moved heaven and earth and sacrificed time with us, to do what you do and to care for us.” The sweetest thing I’ve ever heard at 3am.
I’m really looking forward to one day soon when we’ll park our car, and all walk in together for a flight bound for an international mission as a family. Soon!
People sometimes ask me, “aren’t these tours hard?” Do you have to do them!?” My response is “I GET to do them!! I get to represent the U.S. people overseas, I get to share music AND a message, bring encouragement, and be encouraged in return.” I was born for this.
Remember: Just because things are hard does not mean you shouldn’t do them. Challenging conversations, missions, jobs, and even people are in our lives to grow us, shape character, and show our purpose more clearly.
With that in mind, I’m so eager to serve in Southeast Asia over the next two weeks. What a joy!
I’m going to ASIA this week!! I’m SO EXCITED to be a part of the very first “American Music Abroad Academy” in THAILAND!
I’ll be working with select students from all across Asia who are coming to learn about singing and songwriting with me. Excited for an incredible week in Bangkok, working alongside fellow AMA artists and educators.
I’m also very honored to be returning to SINGAPORE, working with the U.S. Embassy Singapore and building on the work I did there in 2017.