BOTHELL -- If your life could be measured by all the hugs you give and get, local singer and vocal coach Bernadette Bascom would have a life score off the charts.
“She exudes love,” says Betsy Sanders who goes to all of her daughter Emily’s singing rehearsals.
Bernadette volunteers as the vocal coach for a group of developmentally disabled teens in Bothell who call themselves "The Wranglers." She’s their volunteer musical director, but she’s also their friend, and yes, very generous with those hugs.
“Everybody’s created this posture like they don’t need anybody. They don’t hug. They don’t touch. They don’t communicate tactfully,” says Bernadette.
Bernadette believes in the magic of touch, and the power of love. When she meets you, she’ll hug you and make you feel like you’re the most important person in the world. Through her non-profit, The Music Project, students learn about life. They learn about themselves. And they learn the five most important words they need to know.
“I can do this too,” says Bernadette.
Bernadette began believing she "could do this too" -- sing for a living -- after a conversation with someone who definitely knew what he was talking about. The famous singer had heard Bernadette early in her singing career as she belted a tune and he knew she had a gift.
“He made me feel like I could do anything. He made me know I was on the right track. He encouraged me. He spent money on me. He sent me to vocal training. The same vocal training I’m teaching these kids,” says Bernadette.
And for the record that famous singer was?
“Stevie Wonder,” says Bernadette with a smile. “My friend. Still my friend.”
Bernadette was the first artist signed to Stevie Wonder's label Black Bull. From there Bernadette went on to have a successful career in the music industry.
“I opened for Tony Orlando and Dawn. I opened for Kid Creole. I opened for David Copperfield. I was one of the Supremes in the Motown Café in Vegas.”
And so decades later, when it came time for Bernadette to answer the question, "What am I going to do for the rest of my life?" the answer was easy. Pay if forward.
“It just seemed to me if a man like that could take time out for me then that was the very least I could do for someone else,” says Bernadette. “And that is what I tell my kids. I don’t want you to pay me for it or do anything. I want you to do this for someone else. That’s all I want. Do something for someone else.“
And what she’s doing for "The Wranglers" is opening a new world to them, helping them find their voice, and not just in singing.
“For Emily who tends to talk timidly, she now lets it go. She’s proud of her voice and uses it,” says Emily’s mom Betsy. “She’ll tell me when things are bad.” She didn’t used as she is a selective mute.
“I was able to tell them to move their jaw. To enunciate. To use their tongue. To say the words so people could understand. Once they realize and they heard themselves, they were able to take that and not just apply it to singing but to speaking too,” says Bernadette.
Bernadette doesn’t get a dime for this work she does with her kids. She gets paid in hugs. That’s better than anything. I asked Bernadette: “Is there anything you’d rather be doing right now?” Her response: “If it is, I don’t know what it would be. I get to touch these kids’ lives.”
This story will be featured in an upcoming arts special produced by KING 5's John Sharify and Douglas Burgess. "It's Just So Powerful" airs Sunday August 19th at 9 p.m. on KING 5.