It's time for another round of 7 Questions. This time, I sat down with Dianna Parks, musician and executive director of Good Earth Village, a faith-based camp and retreat center.
How did you land in Rochester?
I was recruited by someone from Mayo who saw me singing karaoke in Atlanta. I was living in Virginia at the time, but we were both at a conference, and he saw me sing. He gave me his business card and recruited me to Mayo as a fund raiser. That was in 2006. So when people ask how long I've been here, I say "14 winters."
When it comes to your professional roles, how do you first introduce yourself? As a musician or as ED of Good Earth Village?
I'm going to give you backstory. When I was in my 20s, I did a quiz in one of those women's magazines. It was about your passions, and one of the questions was: What would you do if you could do anything? And I had a two-part answer: Contributing to something bigger than myself … or be Madonna. And now I feel like I'm contributing to something bigger than myself, and I'm pretty blessed to be able to perform live. It's interesting, too, how much and how often I'm able to merge the two. So how I introduce myself— it really depends on the context which one comes first.
How is Good Earth Village surviving the pandemic? You'd usually have kids at camp there now?
We would be in week 7 of 8 1/2 right now. It's been very, very strange. We prepare for these months all year, so we had to pivot pretty quickly. We're doing online camp. We call it Virtual Village. We built a six-week curriculum around core values, like friendship, service and peace. It's designed to minimize screen time, and we've offered it for free. I really think it's one of those things that could catch fire, and I hope it does.
Rochester's live music scene has been muted due to COVID. How are you coping?
It's not unheard of for me to have 12 or even 15 gigs in July — a show every weekend and a couple during the week. This summer, I've had maybe four gigs since June, and that's strange. So I had to count that as something I was grieving through this pandemic. And not only the loss of performing, but also of the community of my other musicians. My band, The Suits? Everything through Thanksgiving is canceled. Tim Dallmann and I have a new group called True North, and that's … well, a lot of us feel like we're wandering in the desert. Even rehearsing feels like a luxury now. Rehearsing feels like food, like sustenance.
You're celebrating a big birthday this week. What does 50 mean to you?
I'm so filled with gratitude. I'm grateful for my health. I'm blessed with good and kind people in my life. And I'm surprised by how young I feel on the inside. I feel like I haven't had my best day, my best performance yet. I don't feel like I'm on a downhill. Life is so much richer, because I have a body of work and a body of experience and amazing relationships to draw from. I was talking to a friend who's a good deal older than me, and she said that when we turn 50, there's a switch that goes off — you just don't have time to suffer unimportant things anymore. And I'm right on time for that.
What's one highlight of these 50 years?
I didn't meet my father until I was 40 years old. My life was pretty well established by that point. So meeting him didn't change the day-to-day, but it changed everything. It changed my own face in the mirror because now I saw where I got the shape of my eyes, where my cheekbones come from. Looking in the mirror, I now see my dad looking back to me. And that's a bizarre experience at 40.
I have found that there's no more powerful force for good in your own life than to be both generous and grateful. And everybody has something they can give, even if it's a smile.
Jennifer Koski is associate editor at Rochester Magazine. Her column appears Wednesdays. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.