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 For more on Girls Girls Girls, check out the band at and on Facebook at Girls Girls Girls drummer Kiki Kim helped with this story.

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.   

Get to know the NCRA Slate of Nominees

NCRA’s Nominating Committee has offered its candidates for the 2019-2020 Board of Directors. The following outlines the candidates’ qualifications for members to prepare for voting. As provided in the Bylaws, additional nominations were possible if received within 60 days after publication of the Nominating Committee slate. The date by which additional nominations were to be received was May 12. No additional nominations were received. The following slate of Officers and Directors will be elected by acclamation to their respective offices during the Annual Business Meeting in Denver, Colo. In accordance with NCRA’s Bylaws, the President-Elect automatically succeeds to the office of the President.

Christine Phipps, RPR
North Palm Beach, Fla.

Christine Phipps, RPR
Christine Phipps, RPR

Christine Phipps is a Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) and president of Phipps Reporting, based in North Palm Beach, Fla. She is the current Vice President of the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). She received her associate degree in court reporting from Broward State College, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and worked as an official court reporter for the first two years of her career. She spent the next 15 years working internationally as a freelance realtime court reporter.
Phipps is also an Eclipse Trainer, holds the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate, and has served as Chair of NCRA’s Technology and Freelance Committees, as well as on numerous other committees. She participated in the rewrite of NCRA’s Deposition Handbook, is a frequent contributor to the JCR, and has been a speaker at national and at state conventions.

Phipps was awarded the 2014 Most Enterprising Woman of the Year, Game Changer of the Year, and U.S. Small Business Administration’s South Florida District 2017 Woman-Owned Small Business Person of the Year Award. Her company has also made Inc. magazine’s 5000 list every year since 2014, making her the first honorary member of the Inc. 5000 in the court reporting industry. Phipps has also received numerous other business awards and was featured on the cover of Wealth & Finance magazine.

U.S. Small Business Administration’s South Florida District 2017 Woman-Owned Small Business Person of the Year Award.

Vice President
Debra A. Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC
Woodland, Utah

Debbie A. Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC
Debbie A. Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC

Debra A. Dibble is a 28-year court reporter veteran who has worked as a deposition reporter in Salt Lake City, Utah, since 2002. She holds the nationally recognized professional certifications of Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR), Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), and Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC); she has also qualified in the National Speed and National Realtime Contests multiple times. She also holds NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate. Dibble has also worked as a reporter in Memphis, Tenn. She has been a broadcast captioner and CART provider since 2010.

At the national level, Dibble has served as an NCRA Chief Examiner. She served as a delegate to the National Committee of State Associations from 2008 to 2012, in addition to service on numerous other committees. Dibble also served six years on NCRA’s Board of Directors including a three-year term as Secretary-Treasurer. She has also served as a presenter at the national and state levels.

At the state level, Dibble is a past president of the Utah Court Reporters Association and was honored in 2010 with the organization’s Distinguished Service Award.

Kristin M. Anderson, RPR
Kristin M. Anderson, RPR

Kristin M. Anderson, RPR
San Antonio, Texas

Kristin Anderson is an official court reporter in San Antonio, Texas, for Bexar County Civil District Court. With more than 19 years of experience, she has worked both as a freelance reporter in Kansas and Missouri and as an official court reporter for the states of Illinois and Kansas. Anderson worked for the United States District Court Western District of Texas from 2013 through 2017 and holds the nationally recognized professional certification of Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) and has her Federal Certified Realtime Reporter (FCRR) designation with the United States Court Reporters Association (USCRA).

At the national level, Anderson is a past chair of the National Committee of State Associations and served on that committee in various capacities from 2006 through 2014. She also served on the Veterans Liaison Committee of NCRA’s New Professionals Committee, the Membership and Telemarketing Committee, and the Steno Opportunities in the Courts Task Force.

At the state level, Anderson has served in numerous positions and on various committees for the Kansas Court Reporters Association, including as president for two terms. She served on the Texas Court Reporters Association Convention and Ethics Committees in 2015-2016. Anderson is a member of the Bexar County Court Reporters Association, Texas Court Reporters Association, Texas Depositions Reporters Association, The Society for the Technological Advancement of Reporting (better known as STAR), and USCRA.

Several people were nominated for directorships of varying lengths in accordance with the changes made to the Constitution & Bylaws last year as well as some directors moving into positions as officers.

Director (three-year term)
Lance A. Boardman, RDR, CRR
Cleveland, Ohio

Lance Boardman, RDR, CRR
Lance Boardman, RDR, CRR

In his 35 years as a court reporter, Boardman has been a freelance reporter, a state official, and an independent contractor. He is now a federal official court reporter for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division. He holds the nationally recognized professional certifications of Registered Diplomat Reporter (RDR), Registered Merit Reporter (RMR), Registered Professional Reporter (RPR), and Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR).
At the national level, Boardman has served on NCRA’s Education Content Committee and as a regional director on the National Committee of State Associations Governing Committee.

Boardman has been a member of a number of state associations over the years, as well as USCRA, The Society for the Technological Advancement of Reporting (better known as STAR), and Texas Depositions Reporters Association. He most recently served as a district director and then secretary on the Ohio Court Reporters Association Board of Directors.

Director (three-year term)
Heidi C. Thomas, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CRC
Acworth, Ga.

Heidi C. Thomas, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CRC
Heidi C. Thomas, FAPR, RDR, RMR, CRR, CRC

Heidi C. Thomas, FAPR, RDR, RMR, CRR, CRC, has been a court reporter since 1978 and a broadcast and CART captioner since 1989. She holds the nationally recognized professional certifications of Registered Merit Reporter (RMR), Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR), and Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC). She is a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters (FAPR).

At the national level, Thomas served for six years on the NCRA Realtime Certification Committee, which developed the Certified CART Provider (CCP) and Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC) certifications. She was also part of the team that developed the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) certification. She also served as a member of the NCRA Captioning Regulation and Captioning Committees. Since 2008, she has been a member of NCRA’s Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters (CAPR), which deals with certification and education issues. Thomas has served for many years on the faculty/training staff of NCRA.

At the state level, Thomas is a former Director and past Secretary of the Georgia Shorthand Reporters Association (GSRA) and former member of the Board of Court Reporting for the State of Georgia. She has also served as a presenter at the national and at the state level.

There are two openings for a two-year term, and the nominees are:

Director (two-year term)
Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR
Brentwood, Tenn.

Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR
Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR

Keith R. Lemons is a freelance court reporter, a former firm owner, and an official court reporter. He has been a court reporter for 37 years. He holds the nationally recognized professional certifications of Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) and Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR). He is also a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters (FAPR).

At the national level, Lemons has chaired NCRA’s Scopists Task Force and has served on the Constitution & Bylaws, Technology, and Realtime Systems Administrator committees. He has been a contributor to the JCR for many years. He has also served as a presenter at the national and at the state levels.

At the state level, Lemons is a past president of the Wyoming Association of Shorthand Reporters and the Tennessee Court Reporters Association.

Director (two-year term)
Yolanda Walton, FAPR, RPR
Norwalk, Ohio

Yolanda Walton, FAPR, RPR
Yolanda Walton, FAPR, RPR

Yolanda has been an official court reporter for Huron County, Ohio, Common Pleas Court for 31 years and is a past president of the Ohio Court Reporters Association (OCRA). She has been instrumental in helping the OCRA stay the course as one of the leading court reporting and captioning associations in the country.

Yolanda has received the OCRA Glenn W. Stiles Distinguished Service, Martin Fincun, and Diplomat Awards for her outstanding service to the profession and association.
At the national level, Yolanda has been a member of NCRA since a student and has served on numerous committees, including as a National Committee of State Associations Committee Delegate. She also has attended every NCRA convention since 1992.

She holds the nationally recognized professional certification of Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) and is a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters (FAPR).

There is one opening for a one-year term, and the nominee is:

Director (one-year term)
Jason T. Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC
Fort Collins, Colo.

Jason T. Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC
Jason T. Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC

Jason T. Meadors is a firm owner who began his career in court reporting while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1975-1978. He has worked as a freelance court reporter and an official reporter and has owned his own firm since 1989. Meadors holds the nationally recognized professional certifications of Registered Professional Reporter (RPR), Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), and Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC). He is also a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters (FAPR).
During his career, Meadors has reported in nearly two dozen states as well as in China, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, South Korea, and Taiwan.

At the national level, Meadors has served on numerous NCRA committees, as well as on the Board of Directors and as Secretary-Treasurer. He is also a contributor to the JCR magazine and has presented at the national and at the state level.

His volunteer service has included numerous positions with the Colorado Court Reporters Association, including as its president.

Local court reporter lobbies lawmakers for reauthorization of training grants

The Herald-Whig posted an article on May 13 about NCRA’s Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp participant Kim Cottrell, an official court reporter from Quincy, Ill.

Read more.

Cats and Caffeine

NCRA member Angela Sidener, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Henrico, Va., was profiled in an article that appeared in the May issue of Richmond Magazine about Central Purrk, a coffee shop she owns that features adult cats available for adoption.

Read more.

NCRA member part of effort to exonerate man

NCRA member Lisa Black’s firm, Migliore & Associates, provided pro bono services in a case where a Florida man was exonerated after 14 years behind bars.

Read more.

Angel Donor Profile: Marjorie Peters

Marjorie Peters

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) supports the advancement of the court reporting and captioning professions through education, scholarship, recognition, and programs critical to preserving the past, enriching the present, and securing the future of the profession. NCRF is able to do the great work it does with donations from individuals and organizations through various donor programs, including the popular Angels program.

Each month, NCRA will highlight one of the more than 100 Angels who support the National Court Reporters Foundation year after year. This month, the column kicks off with a profile of Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, who also holds NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate.

JCR | Let’s begin with learning where you are based and what you do.

MP | Based in Pittsburgh, Pa., covering Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland. I am a freelance reporter and small firm owner covering complex realtime and all types of litigation, large and small.

JCR | How long have you been an Angel?

MP | Since the Angel program started, nearly 15 years ago!

JCR | Clearly being an Angel is important to you. Why?

MP | I did not attend college, but having a skilled trade that has become a career has offered me the opportunity to achieve goals and work in places with people I never would have imagined. It has given me freedom of choice and flexibility in my life. I want everyone to realize their own goals as well, and the Foundation programs offer those opportunities to others as well.  How can I not support that!?

JCR | Are you involved with the Foundation in other ways?

MP | I am on the Angels Gatherers Committee! Ask me about being an Angel! It’s not as hard as you think. After I was an Angel for the first couple of years, I realized it was a commitment that I would always make to myself and others because NCRF’s programs really do help others. Foundation programs empower!

JCR | What is your favorite NCRF program?   

MP | Well, the easy answer is the Oral Histories Project. It is a labor of love and the best day you will ever have. The Foundation programs support education through scholarships, support reporting firms by offering legal education resources, and of course the Corrine Clark Professionalism Institute supports fledgling reporters and firms. The Foundation lifts students, reporters, and firms to success personally and professionally.  

Learn more about the NCRF Angel Donors program, or become an Angel.

New NCRA member Darcy Thornburg wins Echo Dot

Darcy Thornburg is the winner of the February NCRA membership promotion. She was chosen from a random drawing of new members who joined in February and won an Echo Dot. She is a scopist from Graniteville, S.C., and owns Thornburg Proofreading, LLC.

JCR | Why did you choose this career?

Darcy Thornburg

DT | I became a scopist because I was interested in all aspects of what happens to a transcript after the reporter has taken down the steno. I had never even heard of scopists until after I was working as a proofreader for a few months, but I knew as soon as I did hear of them that I wanted to become one.

JCR | What interested you about it?

As someone with a degree in linguistics (specifically having learned phonetics/phonology), I liked learning to read steno, even though I am not sure I could type on a steno machine. I’ve been ten-finger QWERTY typing for so long that I feel it’s one of those habits that will be too difficult to bend for a new type of keyboard.

JCR | Why do you think being a member is useful for scopists?

We have access to not only the directory of reporters, but also the same resources those reporters need in order to do their jobs well. This access for scopists helps us to make certain we are providing what our clients need, as well as what they want.

JCR | Has anything not been what you expected?

I did not have any expectations going in, but I can certainly say that winning an Echo Dot was unexpected.

JCR | Any fun things happened as an NCRA member?

I won a cool smart speaker device thing.

JCR | What advice do you have for future court reporters and scopists?

Talk to people who aren’t native speakers of English or who speak different English dialects. Listen to the words they say, and ask them what they mean if you aren’t certain. This practice will help you to take down as many different dialects and/or accents as possible accurately.

Attorney explains how court reporters make a difference

Joe Fulton

In a tweet during 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, attorney Joe Fulton, a partner with Martineau King, PLLC, in Charlotte, N.C., showed some appreciation for court reporters. JCR Weekly reached out to him for more details.

JCR | What prompted you to tweet during Court Reporting & Captioning Week?

JF | I was really glad to see that the NCRA had gotten folks rallied around the idea of bringing attention to the important work done by court reporters. It is not a career choice that many people think about, but they should. I am a civil litigator, and my wife is a prosecutor. In my wife’s job, they have at times actually been unable to keep a sufficient number of courtrooms running for the simple fact that not enough court reporters were available. In my job, I’ve been very lucky to work with a lot of great court reporters who are always punctual and who I can rely on to get the job done. There are lots of things about my job that are complex, but reliable court reporters make one of the most important parts, preserving the record at something like a deposition, easy.

JCR | What has been your experience working with court reporters?

JF | I have worked with court reporters in depositions and court proceedings. One of the most enjoyable things about being an attorney is getting to work with a lot of different people. Whenever I show up to a deposition and see a court reporter that I know, I enjoy reminiscing about old cases we were both involved in and it always puts me at ease.

JCR | What do you think they add to the judicial process?

JF | Court reporters are an essential part of the American system of justice. Whether in a deposition or at a trial, the creating of a permanent and accurate record is essential to protecting the rights of all of the parties. There is no better way to do this than with an actual, live, in-person court reporter. If you have never had to rely on an audio recording to review a record, it might be difficult to believe that the record created by a court reporter would be much better. After all, the court reporter is “just writing down what people say.” I have had personal experience in proceedings where only an audio recording was used. I can say without a doubt that a transcript created by a court reporter who was actually there is vastly superior to any audio recording.

Letter from the President: Moving forward in 2019

By Sue Terry

It’s a great new day at NCRA! I want to communicate with you some recent changes in the leadership of your organization.

As previously announced via social media and email to you, our members, I’m pleased to announce the return of Dave Wenhold, CAE, as NCRA’s Interim CEO & Executive Director and lobbyist. Jeffrey Altman of Whiteford, Taylor & Preston has also returned to serve as NCRA general counsel. Both bring forward-looking vision and vast institutional knowledge, as well as a historical background of the culture of our Association that can serve us all as we bring our membership into the future.

I’m also pleased to announce the four new Board members who stepped up at a moment’s notice to fill the recently vacated Board positions: Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, of Fort Collins, Colo.; Sarah Nageotte, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Jefferson, Ohio; Brooke Ryan, RPR, of Sacramento, Calif.; and Heidi Thomas, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Acworth, Ga. They represent teamwork and diversity of opinion with unwavering respect for the principle that they are endlessly committed to the mission of NCRA and protection of our profession.

NCRA is grateful for your continued loyalty and support and understands that membership is a choice we all make. I’ve been honored to be able to represent your interests and will always have you, the member, in mind when decisions are made that affect your future and the health of the profession. All the best for 2019!