Desiree Goyette is a Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter. She's also an accomplished voice-over actor and inspirational speaker. During our interview, she shared how the Bible has inspired her own musical compositions, why she's a singer, and how silence and rest are important for inspiration. She also explains what she's learned about working with others, how to overcome challenges that stretch you, and why it's so vital to follow your bliss and do what you love.
How did you know you wanted to be a singer/musician?
I think we each have a calling. I love the scripture that speaks about our gifts:
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit…. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. (1Cor 12:4-7 KJV)
Following that is a list of different gifts. While I firmly believe that all of us include all the potential to do whatever we want to do, there are certain interests that we're innately drawn to and certain skills that come naturally to us.
What's resonated with me is music. I feel music most closely approximates the divine language. Music is a language we all can understand; it's a real mirror of what's going on in our consciousness, and it can express what words cannot.
How does music impact people?
Music invites you to put on the brakes and be present in the eternal now. Jesus was so fantastic at that. With infinite compassion, he saw the need and met it. He never left people where he met them. He allowed a sense of humanity to come through in the present. Music meets people, and, at its best, lifts them up and changes their concept of themselves in a really meaningful way.
You have a very successful career in the commercial music industry, most notably with the Garfield and Peanuts shows, voice-overs, etc. Why do you choose to go to the Bible for many of your own compositions?
The Bible is so applicable. I like to take a Bible passage and put it in my own words so I can live it, share it, and express it. The first solo I ever wrote is based on the Bible verse from Isaiah: "I am the LORD and there is none else, there is no God beside me" (Isa 45:5). For me, when I wrote the solo, the key part was the next line: "I girded thee, though thou hast not known me."
What I love about it is that even if we don't know all the inner-workings or understand the mysteries of life, it's okay because we are forever in the Divine. We live in nothing but God, good. Since there's nothing else beside that, then there's nothing else we need to know but that. So we can relax about the details; there's no need for anxiety; we're just along for the divine ride.
That's a fun idea -- being along for the divine ride!
That's the other element that I love about music: you really can have fun. There's a piece I wrote called "Joy and Delight." Children playing, whimsy, and things that may seem impulsive and utterly impractical inspired it. I'm sure that Jesus and the disciples had some fun. My definition of "life" includes energy, vitality, joy and delight!
So I give myself more and more permission to have fun and not get too intricate with my music. Often, it's easy to get too cerebral (especially when you've had training) and forget that some of the most ideal music is the pure, simple expression that touches the heart.
In today's world, there are so many demands on us that seem to interfere with sharing our joy.
I've thought about this issue a lot. I think we, as a culture, suffer from believing we have to present ourselves as so fabulous, totally on top of things, and humanly perfect -- especially as a mom. We're supposed to be "supermom!" Sometimes when I review everything I've done during a day, I feel so virtuous and amazing. But recently I heard someone say that all this "multi-tasking" we do may actually be "serial inattention." It made me stop and think.
Joy and delight accompany us when we recognize that all the multi-tasking stuff will get done (or not), and we can still see the joy and delight in all of it.
So I've come to value keeping the Sabbath, resting, and being silent. It's important to us multi-taskers who don't take a "Sabbath," to cherish rest with whatever meaning we give to it -- having a cup of tea, taking a walk, doing a Sudoku puzzle, meditating, or praying. So many model characters in the Bible go up to a mountaintop to pray-- Jesus and Moses, Elijah, etc. The mountaintop symbolizes a higher consciousness found through inspiration and rest.
And inspiration is so critical to musical (and any creative) endeavor.
Definitely. And it's tough to get inspired to write a new piece of music if there's chatter going on in your head. I've found that to silence the chatter, I do what Jesus recommended and go into the "closet" (Matt 6:6). I love the Aramaic translation of Jesus' instructions on how to pray -- pray "something like this" (Matt 6:8, Luke 11:2). It gets us out of the rote element of praying verbatim every time and into finding one's own mode of expression as guided by divine inspiration.
I find that the early morning is the best time to focus in with my thinking, prayer, and practice. When I was in grade school, I would wake up at 5:00 a.m. and practice for a full hour on piano and then a half hour on violin before leaving for school. More and more, I find that I want to put the things I love to do first – then the rest of the day takes care of itself.
What projects have been most enjoyable or most challenging for you?
Probably the most enriching and most challenging project was writing an Easter oratorio for a small chamber orchestra that included soloists and a choir. I read all the accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection. Then I closed the Bible and wrote the 50-minute oratorio. It's the longest piece I've ever written. While it's already been performed several times, I'm still fine-tuning it so I can publish it for any choir to pick up and perform with ease.
To put it together and make it work was such a growth-promoting experience -- spiritually, musically, and intellectually. I'm used to writing songs I can play on a piano. But this oratorio encompasses many styles -- contrapuntal Bach to acapella "Take 6" style to pop ballad. But the biggest challenge was that I would hear the music in my head and get frustrated because I couldn't write it down quickly enough. I've struggled a lot with feeling anxious about not being able to do what's required to meet my goals.
So how do you overcome the challenges of doing something that stretches you?
What we're presented with in the Bible is proof that you can experience heaven on earth. For many, that's a tall order. But this is where all the practice comes in. A big part of practice is seeing yourself already there -- already competent. If you approach anything with a doubt, then you might as well give up.
I'm working on trusting that everything is unfolding as it needs to, and I've come to feel more comfortable about not knowing everything. As we practice, we work out the details.
That's true of our spiritual practice, too. I can claim my happiness right now in this moment. I'm in the kingdom of heaven! I can write this oratorio without any technical challenges!
Since a lot of your creative work has been in collaborative environments, what have you learned about working with other people?
I start from the standpoint that we're all the same: we're all the same in what moves us-- it's God; but we're unique in how we express that movement. We all have different things to bring to the table. Rather than fear competition, we can go into our work focused on sharing. Divine ideas are free for all. No one has an exclusive hold on them. The good news is that all of us are fully able to express God and expand on whatever ideas we've been given.
I know that when I was younger, sitting around a table discussing a project, there was this unspoken accounting of who came up with an idea. We want so much to feel that what we've brought to the table is of value. But I've learned that if you want something to move forward, focusing on whose idea it is just gets in the way. I love the Bible proverb about the virtuous woman; she knows "her merchandise is good" (Prov 31:10, 18 KJV). When we know we're good or have a good idea, we don't have to shout it from the rooftop.
My husband collaborates a lot, and I value his outlook as a collaborator. Even if someone has only added one line, my husband still gives credit to that person. He might say, "I wouldn't have written that song if that person hadn't been sitting there in the room."
Is there anything you'd like to share with teens (or adults for that matter)?
It seems trite, but it's so true: Don't hide your talent "under a bushel" (Matt 5:15). We are given what we're given to serve the world, and if we're not using our skills, then we're missing our calling. It's so important not to allow fear, doubt, or insecurities of any kind to interfere with developing our talents. People say, "Follow your bliss!" It's so true. When you follow your bliss, you really can't be concerned with how it's received; if it's blessing you, and it's blessing others.
Also, there's no need to get caught up in thinking that jobs are few. Instead, you can realize that we're all on the team of the Divine, and your job is to express God. Knowing this always leads to exactly the right place or job where you can do the best expressing.
There's one more thing that I've found helpful: Do one thing more today than you did yesterday toward realizing your dreams – make that phone call; learn how to read one more note; write that resume. These are the building blocks, and by using them, you find yourself able to express more fully whatever gifts you've been given.
About Desiree Goyette
Vocalist, composer, arranger, voice-over actor Désirée Goyette is probably best known for her happy association through the years with the comic-strip characters Charlie Brown and Garfield the Cat. A few years after the untimely death of the inimitable jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, Désirée had the rare privilege of working for Charles M. Schulz. Paired with Guaraldi's successor Ed Bogas, Désirée contributed featured songs and underscore for several prime-time CBS network Peanuts' specials and 25 Saturday morning shows featuring Charlie Brown and Snoopy. In 1990 she had the distinct honor of performing at Carnegie Hall with David Benoit and other jazz greats in a 40th Anniversary tribute to the Peanuts comic-strip.
Additionally, Désirée has co-written all of the music and featured songs for 12 prime-time CBS network GARFIELD television specials, as well as over 100 episodes for the CBS Saturday morning series, GARFIELD AND FRIENDS.
Désirée received two Grammy nominations for her musical contributions to the world of children's recordings. One for a Disney Records release entitled FLASHBEAGLE, and another for the CBS/Epic recording entitled HERE COMES GARFIELD on which she was a featured vocalist along with Lou Rawls. Other commercial recordings include GARFIELD, AM I COOL OR WHAT? (GRP records) on which Désirée shared equal billing with Patti La Belle, The Pointer Sisters, Natalie Cole, Lou Rawls, B.B. King, Diane Schuur, The Temptations, and David Benoit. Inspirational recordings include: FROM WHERE HE STANDS a collection of original songs, THE ABUNDANCE OF PEACE featuring the music of Peter J. Hodgson, and her most recent release, HEAVENLY REST featuring the poetry of Mary Baker Eddy.
Prior to her commercial music career, Désirée appeared for two years as a co-host with comedian Rich Little in the internationally syndicated television show THE NEW YOU ASKED FOR IT. Four years later, the two again shared the stage, this time for the NBC cameras at Times Square in the world-famous MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE as Désiree played Betty Boop to Rich Little's W.C. Fields.
Désirée's speaking voice can be heard in toys television and radio. Favorite roles include Barbie, Betty Boop, Petunia Pig and Garfield's nemesis, Nermal.
As a vocalist and vocal contractor for motion pictures, Désirée's vocal artistry can be heard on various motion picture soundtracks and trailers including: Spykids, The Mimic, Forces of Nature, Night Falls, High Crimes, Little Mermaid II, Hellboy, Ghostwriter, James Bond (Casino Royale remake) among others.
A magna cum laude graduate of The San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Désirée enjoys composing and recording original orchestral, choral and inspirational works in addition to on-going commercial projects.
Composer, arranger, vocalist, inspirational speaker, and voice-over actor, Désirée Goyette, is best known for her work on the Garfield and Peanuts animated television shows. She has been featured in numerous television specials including: Movie Blockbusters, The Lou Rawls Parade of Stars, Evening Magazine, Entertainment Tonight, The Romance of Betty Boop (as the voice of Betty!), and numerous talk-shows. Désirée also appeared for two years as co-host with Rich Little on the internationally syndicated The New You Asked For It Show. Performances on various recordings have afforded her two Grammy nominations and an appearance at Carnegie Hall.
Alongside sold-out appearances in the secular/cabaret arena, Desiree is deeply rooted in the writing and performing of Inspirational Music. Founder of Lightchild Publishing, Désirée serves as Music Minister for Unity Center in Marin, as well as a consultant for various cross-denominational music projects.