My (not so secret) life as a weekend rock star

By Patricia Nilsen (with Kiki Kim)

Patricia Nilsen

As a lifelong fan of Mötley Crüe, the glam-metal band that became famous in the 1980s, my dream as a child was to someday meet the band. In the mid-2000s, an inspirational Mötley Crüe reunion show at Madison Square Garden in NYC gave me this wacky idea to start an all-girl Mötley Crüe tribute band. The fact that I played zero instruments seemed just a minor detail at the time. A friend of mine — blonde, like the Crüe’s lead singer — loved the idea and said she could sing. I thought: “Done, here we go!” And Girls Girls Girls was born. I asked my husband for a bass guitar for my 31st birthday, and he obliged with a shiny pink bass and the words he would probably one day come to regret: “You better actually play that thing.”

I was working as a full-time federal official in the Southern District of New York in Manhattan — a pretty busy gig, if you’re not familiar with it. Lacking the time for lessons to start with the fundamentals, I essentially learned online. I also couldn’t be bothered to learn how to use a pick — my fingers had always been fast on the machine, so I went with what I knew.

I had been noodling at home for a few months when I saw an ad for a ladies’ rock camp, which seemed like a good place to meet my future bandmates. Most importantly, I needed a guitarist that could really shred. Sadly, the guitarists at camp were more Jewel than Lita Ford. I did, however, meet a wannabe drummer who did finance by day and just came for fun: Kiki Kim. She and her friend invited me to ditch camp at lunch to get a beer – rock ’n’ roll already! Over drinks, I told her my idea, which she probably laughed off as a “Sure, I’ll join your (finger quotes) band.” We exchanged business cards, and that was likely the last she thought she’d ever hear from me.

To find the last piece of the puzzle, my graphic-artist husband photoshopped our faces over an iconic photo of Mötley Crüe with a blank over guitarist Mick Mars’ face and the words “YOUR FACE HERE.”I used the picture in an ad containing the same language Mars used for his own ad in search of the band that would eventually become Mötley Crüe: Seeking “loud, rude, and aggressive [fe-male] guitarist.” Months went by with no reply, and I was ready to hang it up when I finally got the call. Denise “D” Mercedes, who had played in a famous influential punk band called The Stimulators in the 1980s, hadn’t played in 20 years but loved our ad so much that she said: “I just gotta see who these chicks are!”
We were now a full band, and it was time to play. In contrast with my sweet and innocent idea of practicing in my city apartment, D, our lone professional musician, knew how to find rented rehearsal-studio space. And, boy, could she shred. My friend couldn’t sing over the loud guitar and was gone by morning. My finance-professional beginner drummer took one look/listen at D and wanted to follow suit. Fortunately, my powers of persuasion were as strong as my will to start this band, and I convinced her to stay at least temporarily (spoiler alert: she stayed for good). And now we were on the hunt for a new singer. The three of us continued rehearsing for months until we found one.

Our first gig was at a club in Jersey, where we played the owner’s birthday party. We hired a party bus to shuttle our friends from New York City for the show, and it was an incredible time! Little did I know that what seemed like the culmination of a dream was only just the beginning. Over the next two years, we played almost 50 shows. I spent two to three weekends a month in a van, visiting new cities, making new friends, and rocking my heart out.

I was living three distinct lives: Patricia, band manager and court reporter; Patty, wife, New Yorker; and Nikita Seis, Goddess of Bass. My life as a court reporter wasn’t much different except that I took more Fridays off and spent Monday watching the black nail polish slowly chip from my nails, in a daze, with a smile on my face and bags under my eyes. We had enough adventures to fill a book. Our rise was fast, as was our fall. The potent mix of four women with strong and distinct personalities led to a dramatic breakup.

During our time off, one member moved on to form a different band, and I had my first child. During maternity leave, I created a photo book of our time together as a band that made us nostalgic and drew us back together, supposedly with new insight into what went wrong and how to change it. Three years after our breakup, a reunion show was in the works, and I was newly pregnant with baby number two. Four months later, I squeezed into my stage clothes (with much lower heels!), and we packed Brooklyn Bowl with a crowd as eager for our return as we were. Everyone was flying high, so I found a replacement bassist and continued just managing the band from home. Now that I had more time, I was able to take the management role more seriously and brought us to new markets, better money, the cover of The Village Voice, and our first international tour in Mexico.
But two years later, the wheels fell off again, and the band broke up for all the same reasons and more. In total, we played exactly 100 shows in 16 states before I moved to Nashville, when I thought that chapter had finally ended. In December 2018, I was a freelance reporter who hadn’t played in three years. Thanks to maintaining our presence on social media, we had continued to receive inquiries from random clubs and people who wanted us to play their brother’s barbeque for chump change. But then I got the email: Netflix wanted us to play a private party in Hollywood for the premiere of the upcoming biopic about Mötley Crüe, The Dirt. It was contingent on all four members of Mötley Crüe signing off onus. Phone calls were made, singers auditioned, and the bass was officially out of the case. We landed the gig with about seven weeks to get our act together!

The film producers chose four songs and would decide if the crowd liked us enough for an encore — no pressure! Before the show, we were thrilled to hear that Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil and drummer Tommy Lee were in the house. We hit the stage in front of a capacity crowd at the world-famous Whisky A Go Go and ripped into our namesake song, “Girls Girls Girls.” The energy was electric; it felt amazing. During our fourth song, “Kickstart My Heart,” Tommy Lee and the actor who played him in the movie came dancing down the stairs and made their way to the stage, leading to the cue to play our encore, “Live Wire.”

Watching the drummer who made this music famous air-drumming to my band was a moment I will never forget. After the show, Tommy told us our set was “dope,” and we all went home smiling from ear to ear. I share this story because it all began as a crazy idea I had. The most I imagined was playing a gig for our friends at a real New York City venue. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would create something bigger than myself, and that 13 years later, it would still be going. As court reporters, we tend to think that our job is our life and that we don’t have time for anything else. But one of the greatest benefits of this career is the flexibility, and we can do what we choose in our off-time. Choose big. Dream big. And don’t be surprised when your dreams come true.

Patricia Nilsen, RMR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance reporter with Alpha Reporting in Nashville, Tenn. She can be reached atpatricianilsen@alphareporting.com. For more on Girls Girls Girls, check out the band at www.girlsgirlsgirlsnyc.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/girlsgirlsgirlsnyc. Girls Girls Girls drummer Kiki Kim helped with this story.

NCRA member promotes court reporting in news story

On June 4, KDKA Channel 2 in Pittsburgh, Pa., aired a story featuring NCRA member Mary Beth Johnson, CRI, court reporting program coordinator for the Community College of Allegheny County, about what it takes to be a court reporter.

Watch here.

NCRA member wins spot in 2019 National Small Business Week contest

Balboa Capital, a leading lender that specializes in small business loans and equipment leasing, announced in a press release issued June 6 that NCRA member Diane Emery, CMRS, founder of Executive Reporting Service, headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., was awarded $500 as a runner-up winner in its 2019 National Small Business Week contest.

Read more.

Shining a light on NCRA members

Isaiah Roberts, RPR

There’s no doubt about it: NCRA members take on some exciting, fascinating, and downright inspiring work. At the beginning of June, NCRA launched a new Web page as part of NCRA.org and our NCRA 2.0 effort to capture some of these stories highlighting our members. Recent additions to the site include Isaiah Roberts, RPR, and Stan Sakai, CRC, and their work captioning Coachella; Lisa Migliore Black’s experience with a Project Innocence death row case; and the fun of being court reporters on film from Helga Lavan, RPR, and Kate Cochran, RPR.

The purpose of the page is to shine a light on all NCRA members – court reporters, captioners, legal videographers, scopists, proofreaders, teachers, and everyone else – who have an inspiring story to share with other members. Too often, people in this profession are noticed only when there is a mistake, and the high standards you hold yourselves to may some days feel self-defeating. Let these stories remind you of the many great opportunities these professions offer. Whenever you need a reminder of all the cool things that you can do with your skill set, please take a look.

And if you happen to have a story about a great experience of your own, please share it with us at pr@ncra.org.  The great stories you offer about your work can be help more people understand how exciting and important your work is. NCRA will consider all submissions for one of NCRA’s publications or possible use on a promotion website maintained by NCRA.  

Sharing steno in Taiwan

By Logan Kislingbury

Logan Kislingbury

In late May, I had the pleasure of introducing stenography to a class of freshmen students of sociology at Fu Jen University in Taiwan. I was vacationing there when a good friend of mine, who is a professor at the university, invited me to teach one of her classes about stenography and my life as a court reporting student.

The students had never heard of stenography or seen a steno machine before, and the curiosity on their faces was showing. I started out by explaining why we use steno machines, which is to capture the spoken word and accurately transcribe it. To do this at high speeds, writing one letter at a time, such as on a QWERTY keyboard, wouldn’t be possible.

I opened my CAT software and overlaid my live stroke monitor on the screen. This is a Lightspeed feature that shows a live view of your keys, which change color when pressed. I showed how the keyboard had multiples of certain letters such as S, D, and R, and lacked other letters, like Q or M. I explained how we use multiple keys to write letters that the machine is missing.

Then, I wrote some basic sentences, and the students were enthused by how entire words could come up instantly. I then showed them phrases such as at that time, do you remember, and would you agree. They now understood how we can keep up with speakers by writing entire words and phrases instantly.

Next, I wanted to show off the upper limits of briefing and phrasing. I showed them the popular phrase “ladies and gentlemen of the jury” in one stroke. For the coup de grâce, I asked who knew the longest English word. To my surprise, one girl actually knew it and pronounced it well. I asked the class to guess how long it would take me to write this word. After seeing my previous demonstrations, they knew it would be fast. Some guessed 5, 10, 15 seconds. I quickly stroked my way of writing pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, which is NAOUM/NAOUM. In less than half a second, the longest English word popped up on the screen to the amusement of the students.

Lastly, I wanted to show the students how we aren’t limited to only writing words we know. My Chinese skills are very limited, but I asked for a volunteer to slowly speak Chinese to me for about 15 seconds. I sounded out what I heard as best as I could and read back from my steno notes. Apart from the tones, I read back nearly exactly what the student had said. I understood less than half of it, but apparently I did well because the class burst into a surprised applause.

After I was finished, students came up to look at the machine and ask some questions about steno. I couldn’t believe how interested they were! It was such a wonderful experience to show them, and maybe they’ll be able to work with steno in the future. 

Logan Kislingbury is a court reporting student attending the Mark Kislingbury Academy of Court Reporting in Houston, Texas. He can be reached at logankislingbury@gmail.com.

2019 class of Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters announced

NCRA has announced the 2019 class of Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters. The recipients will be recognized during an Awards Luncheon at the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo in Denver, Colo., being held Aug. 15-18.

The 2019 class of Fellows are:

Susan M. Horak, RDR, CRR, an official court reporter from Columbus, Ohio, and Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, a freelance court reporter and firm owner from Pittsburgh, Pa.

Horak began her career in 1976 and worked as an official court reporter for the Franklin County Municipal Court in Columbus Ohio, from 1983 to 2017. As a member of the Ohio Court Reporters Association (OCRA), she contributed numerous articles to the membership publication, The Buckeye Record, and worked on key legislative issues, including modernizing the language in Ohio’s Revised and Administrative Codes regarding court reporters. Horak also held several positions at OCRA, including serving as District C Representative (2006-2008), Secretary-Treasurer (2008-2010), and President (2010-2011). She joined NCRA in 1976, serving for many years as a Chief Examiner for NCRA testing in central Ohio. Horak currently serves on NCRA’s Skills Writing Test Committee and the Proofreading Advisory Council.

Marjorie Peters

Peters and her firm cover complex realtime and various types of litigation, large and small. Beginning in 1999, she joined the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association’s (PCRA) Board of Directors as a district representative and has served on numerous committees. She also has been a continuous supporter of the Community College of Allegheny County Court Reporting program. Peters has been a member of NCRA since 1991 and has served on several of the Association’s committees. She currently serves on the Education Content Committee.

Membership in the Academy symbolizes excellence among NCRA members. The designation of FAPR represents an individual’s dedication to the court reporting and captioning professions and expresses the highest level of professional ethics.

To be nominated for membership in the Academy, candidates must be a Registered Member of NCRA with at least 10 years of professional experience and have attained distinction as measured by performance in at least three of the five performance categories. This performance could include publication of important papers, creative contributions, service on committees or boards, teaching, and more.

Reminder: Membership dues increase proposed for 2020

At its August 2018 meeting, NCRA’s Board of Directors voted to put forward a proposal to raise membership dues, which members can vote on at the Annual Business Meeting. The Board noted a dues increase is critical to maintain and grow the services provided to NCRA members and to continue the Association’s efforts to advance and advocate for the professions.

The Board of Directors recommended that reporter dues be raised to $300 for Registered and Participating members and to $179 for Associate members. Student dues will be raised to $55. (The chart below shows the proposed changes for additional groups.) Members who opted to become Lifetime retired members before Dec. 31, 2017, and those who were granted honorary status will continue to pay no dues.

The proposed amounts take into account the various parameters put in place on dues for certain membership categories by the Constitution & Bylaws. Dues for NCRA membership last increased in 2016.

To go into effect for the 2020 year, the Board’s recommendation must be approved by a majority of the voting members present at the NCRA Annual Business Meeting that will be held in conjunction with the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo in Denver, Colo., Aug. 15-18.

Proposed Dues Increase for 2020

Seven Bylaws amendments to be voted on following Annual Business Meeting

Want to vote? Sign up now

NCRA’s Constitution & Bylaws permits members to cast their votes on bylaws amendments via secure online means. To exercise the right, members must have an active email address on file in NCRA’s membership database. This will enable NCRA to keep you informed if an amendment is coming up for a vote and provide information on how to register and cast your vote online. Members who are eligible to vote will be able to sign on to the secure website and then vote through a private, secure link during the 24-hour voting period.

Please make sure that NCRA has an active email address in the database by July 31. Contact the Member Services and Information Center at 800-272-6272, or update your NCRA account at NCRAsourcebook.com and follow these instructions:

  1. Log in with your Member ID number and password. If you forgot your password, click on the “Forgot/Reset Password” link to follow the instruction prompts.
  2. Under “Welcome [Name]” at the top of the screen, select “My profile.”
  3. On the next screen, select “My NCRA” from the menu and then “My Main Profile.”
  4. Make any necessary changes to your email address.
  5. Click “Save” at the bottom of the screen to save your updates.

To be able to vote on the amendments, individuals must join NCRA or provide an updated email to NCRA by July 31. Voting will occur in conjunction with the NCRA Annual Business Meeting.

Members may cast their votes via their phones, tablets, or computers. Voting will begin within two hours after the close of the Annual Business Meeting, which will be held on Thursday, Aug. 15, from 8:30-11 a.m. MT. Voting is open for 24 hours.

Seven Bylaws amendments to be voted on following Annual Business Meeting

Seven Bylaws amendments to be voted on following Annual Business Meeting

NCRA Voting Members will consider seven changes to the Constitution & Bylaws at the next Annual Business Meeting, which will be held Aug. 15. Amendments #1 through #6, brought forward by the Constitution & Bylaws Committee, range from reinstatement and terms of office procedures to changing the name of the National Committee of State Associations to the National Congress of State Associations. Amendment #7, which was proposed by a group of members in accordance with the Constitution & Bylaws, addresses the requirements on state associations.

Review the proposed Bylaws amendments.

Want to vote? Sign up now

NCRA member and CART captioner honored

Kristen Wurgler

Recently the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Student Life, honored NCRA member Kristen Wurgler, RPR, with the Wisconsin Idea award, recognizing her work and commitment at the institution for having a positive and significant impact on one or more communities beyond the borders of the campus.

Wurgler, a CART captioner from Cottage Grove, Wis., works at the university’s McBurney Disability Resource Center alongside a team to provide remote services to deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students as an option for their captioning accommodation.

“I was incredibly honored to just be nominated, let alone win,” said Wurgler. “It means the world to me because it came from colleagues for whom I have the greatest respect. I feel blessed to be in the company of people who are deeply committed to being of service to others and believe that all people deserve equal treatment,” she added.

In a speech delivered at the award ceremony, it was noted that Wurgler’s work on campus, while often behind the scenes with little recognition, is integral to advancing access for students with disabilities.