Saturday, December 24, 2011

Magical Moment 600, "Last Minute Christmas"

Stockings designed and handmade by my mother for Eddie and I. Too cute, right?

With a recent move to a new apartment, and about a million other things happening simultaneously, our box of Christmas decorations got taken to the dark, creepy basement without our realizing it. After a few weeks of unpacking, and only days until Christmas, Eddie and I made an executive Christmas decorations this year. I knew that was the easy solution, but as Christmas grew closer, I wondered if I could squeeze in the time to search through the junky basement and bring it upstairs. Finally, I let the idea go.

When I arrived home from work the other night, Eddie had retrieved the box and filled our apartment with our familiar decorations! He even concocted a Christmas tree from a large potted plant he picked up at Home Depot! It's (finally) beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Allow Eddie and I to serenade you...we recorded this simple tune a few Christmases ago. I'm singing and playing guitar and that's Eddie on the harmonica! :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Magical Moment 599, "A Nice Thing Happened At Work..."

I feel pretty confident in saying this...without youtube, I wouldn't be able to make a living as a pianist. For any job, I'm given sheet music to learn within a certain amount of time. As a ballet accompanist, often these come from famous ballets like Sleeping Beauty and Raymonda. Other times, people request specific songs for their wedding or special occasion. I'm able to simply type in the title of the song in the search box, and up pops link after link to any and all versions ever recorded of the song in question. Playing primarily by ear, all those tricky rhythms I can't figure out from the sheet music make perfect sense when I hear it. I cringe to think how much money I would be spending if I had to pay for each song I needed to listen to, or worse, live in the days when we had to BUY a whole CD for 1 song! Oh, was I ever that young?!

Just as easy and effortless, I can then open up a new tab, and search for the chords of a song. About 90% of the work has been done for me by the folks living Cyber World! Long gone are the days when I had to strain my ears, discerning intervals, tones, and chords. But something happened last night that made me miss doing all that work, and thankful that I have the capability in the first place.

I was playing my usual repertoire of standards and favorites at my weekly restaurant gig at The Bernards Inn. I watched a waitress walk from a nearby table of patrons towards my seat at the piano with a small note in her hand. I knew right away it was a song request. As she handed me the piece of paper, I braced myself, hoping I knew the song and would be able to play it for the guest. There is nothing worse than having to say, "I'm sorry I don't know that one!" Goodbye tip!!!

Sure enough, when I read the song title, my heart sank. "Music Box Dancer." I gave a puzzled look to the waitress who handed me the note, "Do you think he meant, "Tiny Dancer?" I asked hopefully. She shook her head and said she really didn't think so. I walked over to the table and gave my apologies and explained I wasn't familiar with the song. Feeling crummy, I decided to take a little break.

Being the proud new owner of a smart phone (not a brilliant phone, but smart enough), I thought I'd google the song, still skeptical that he meant "Tiny Dancer," and that "Music Box Dancer" wasn't a real song. But sure enough, there it was, written by Frank Mills. Curious, I decided to see if I happened to have the youtube application downloaded on my phone. Pleasantly surprised, I did! And I listened to the whole song with the phone pressed against my ear.

I was thrilled to discover the song was a simple melody, and only 3 chords, repeated over and over. I quickly drilled the pattern into my head and went back to the piano. I began quietly and unsure, but soon, the man who requested the song whipped around in his chair with a huge smile on his face when he recognized the piece. After I finished, he came over to thank me and said, "I thought you didn't know it!" I explained the miracle of youtube on my phone and he was fascinated. I didn't want to let him down by explaining the simple nature of the 3 chord song, so I kept that my little secret. :)

There is no better feeling for a musician than playing a song for someone that they want to hear, that affects them in some way, brings back a memory, or simply makes them smile. And certainly no tip that replace that feeling!

"Music Box Dancer" Frank Mills

Related Posts:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Magical Moment 598, "Show Mumumust Go Onnnn"

That's what I was thinking to myself as I sat in 35F degree weather, fighting off blustery winds. Yes, even my thoughts were stuttering from the cold. The gig was to accompany a singing group of harmonizing ladies as they serenaded the Philadelphia Christmas Village with sweet Christmas music. 

Eddie snapped this photo, as he himself froze in the audience. He bought me a cup of hot chocolate, hoping I could wrap my bare, piano playing fingers around it and feel warmth for a moment. But the "hot" chocolate lasted only a sip or 2 before it too succumbed to the cold air. The picture turned out so funny, I had to share. The only thing missing in the photo, is the violent shuddering of my shoulders!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Magical Moment 597, "A Website for Sore-Eyes"

I have to apologize to my readers for being out of the loop for a bit. But I promise I have a good reason! For the last few weeks, I've been working hard with Modern Vintage to put the final touches on my album and launch a PR campaign. I'm very excited, proud, and relieved to say that today is the beginning of that launch, starting with my brand new website! The Outlet Music did an outstanding job designing the page, and Mary Hubbard is responsible for all the amazing photography (to include the photos you see in my blog header!).

My album, "Silk in the Sky," is set to be released April 10th, 2012. Until then, you can hear a few samples on the new website. Please take a moment to glance at it, and if you feel led, you can "like" it on facebook by clicking the facebook icon just above the music samples on the lower right.

I'm so proud of this website, and so proud of the album. I can't wait for you to hear it in it's entirety! And I'm beyond grateful to everyone who has worked on this project, from the musicians, to the audio engineers and producers, and everyone at Modern Vintage and the Outlet. So without further delay, here is the link to the new website....

"A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work."
-Colin Powell

Everyone, have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Magical Moment 596, "Hand Holding"

The sign in front of the modest, industrial looking building said, "Livingston Rehabilitation and Care." I read it from the drivers seat of my car as I waited for the light to turn green. There was a row of handicap accessible vans lined up in the parking lot, and about a dozen patients waited to board them. They all sat in wheel chairs, while a handful of employees scrambled to organize the transport. 

My eyes were drawn to 2 patients, a man and a woman, adorned in typical hospital attire. He was a few feet in front of her, and when he turned his head around and saw her, he reached back his hand. I watched as she began cranking the large wheels on her chair. I glanced at the light, hoping it was still red. She drew closer to him, releasing a wheel and stretching out her arm.

The light at the cross intersection turned yellow, then red. I watched the couple with eagerness. "Oh please let me see it," I said out loud to no one. But my light turned green, and I was forced to press the gas pedal. As I drove away, I looked in the rear view mirror just in time. She had closed the distance. And they waited to board the vans, hand in hand.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Magical Moment 595, "Goodbye Lodi"

Two years ago, we moved to Lodi, NJ to be right along the bus route 163, straight into New York City. Being a Nebraska girl and Texas boy, we overcame the culture shock of living in the country's most densely populated area. We learned to live in a pre-war building without a washer/dryer, air conditioning, or drinkable tap water. I learned how to light the pilot light in the oven without blowing myself up. And after many parking tickets, we finally figured out what alternate side parking means, and all the necessary permits and stickers needed to park on the street outside our apartment. 

For the last time, Joy and I will run our normal route by the Shoprite. We'll pass the VFW and the man sitting outside on the porch watching the traffic go by. We'll jog up the hill and past the Visenti Brothers Italian Grocery Store which tells me we just have a few more blocks to go before we're home.

We'll stay in New Jersey of course, and we'll still be near the city. But it's a bittersweet feeling ending this chapter. It seems like only yesterday we arrived here with a U-haul truck, unemployed and completely naive of what to expect on this new adventure. Amazingly, the song "Lodi" by CCR says exactly how I've felt at times. Now we move on to Chapter 2 in this adventure.

"Lodi" by CCR
(Video taken at Riverside State Park in Manhattan)

Just about a year ago, I set out on the road,
Seekin' my fame and fortune, lookin' for a pot of gold.
Things got bad, and things got worse, I guess you will know the tune.
Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again.
Rode in on the Greyhound, I'll be walkin' out if I go.
I was just passin' through, must be seven months or more.
Ran out of time and money, looks like they took my friends.
Oh Lord, I'm stuck in Lodi again.
If I only had a dollar, for ev'ry song I've sung.
And ev'ry time I've had to play while people sat there drunk.
You know, I'd catch the next train back to where I live.
Oh Lord, I'm stuck in Lodi again.
Oh Lord, I'm stuck in Lodi again.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Magical Moment 594, "Plenty to Be Thankful For"

One of my favorite movies to watch around this time of year is Irvin Berlin's Holiday Inn. One song in particular is great today because Thanksgiving music is so hard to come by! If you haven't seen the movie, I insist you watch it with a cup of hot chocolate immediately! Here is my take on the catchy tune, and below is Bing's version. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

I've got plenty to be thankful for
I haven't got a great big yacht
To sail from shore to shore
Still I've got plenty to be thankful for
I've got plenty to be thankful for
No private car, no caviar
No carpet on my floor
Still I've got plenty to be thankful for
I've got eyes to see with
Ears to hear with
Arms to hug with
Lips to kiss with
Someone to adore
How could anybody ask for more?
My needs are small, I buy them all
At the five and ten cent store
Oh, I've got plenty to be thankful for

Monday, November 21, 2011

Magical Moment 593, "Leaf Lessons"

We all move at our own pace.

Some gradual and steady...

Others more quickly.

 There are times when we bring out the beauty in others.

And times when we stand out all on our own.

And though sometimes we may feel like we don't fit in,

Or look like everyone else,

There is something that brings us all together if we focus on what's important.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Magical Moment 592, "Unexpected Applause"

I'd let my morning run slip by for far too long. But today, my running shoes were giving me the evil eye. And so was Joy, my running buddy. The sun was out, the weather was perfect, what excuse did I have to let another day go by?

Only a few minutes into my run though, I felt those missed opportunities catching up to me, taunting me as I struggled up a hill. "I'm just gonna have to face it," I thought, "This is gonna be a slow run."

It was just then that I heard applause. The 4 sharp claps cut through the music that was blaring into my ears through my headphones. Puzzled, I glanced to my right. An older gentleman, the owner of a local bakery, was standing on the sidewalk outside his shop, apron and all. When we made eye contact, he gave me a thumbs up and a great big smile. I returned his smile and picked up the pace a little. And I held my faster pace all the way home. I didn't want him to catch me slowing down. Bet he didn't think that small act would actually make my day.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” 
- John Quincy Adams

Eddie, Joy, and I after a 5K race we ran last month

Monday, November 7, 2011

Magical Moment 591, "Reach"

I play for 8 ballet classes a week, 4 pointe classes, 1 variation, and 1 character class. It's a proud and content feeling I have to be in the position of doing what I love professionally, and one I hope to never take for granted and always strive to become better. At one time, it was just a daydream that I could be paid to play piano, or to record an original album of my very own with a New York City recording label. And yet somehow, it's become a dream come true, and new dreams for the future are ever forming in my head. 

During a ballet class, while watching young, aspiring ballerinas perfect their technique, I heard the teacher describe the Arabesque position. It is one of the most beautiful, graceful, and difficult poses in ballet in which the dancer's arm creates a long, lean line in front of their body. The fingers must be just the right amount of relaxed, yet shaped with precision. The leg needs to stretch. The foot must not be sickled. The toes fiercely pointed. But those fingers, that arm, must reach.

She walked up and down the wooded barre, making personal corrections where needed. Moving an arm half an inch here, a finger or thumb half a flinch there, until a picture perfect statue was formed by each dancer. But it didn't stop with limbs. 
"I want to see it in your face." She said. "What are you reaching for? I want to see your hopes and dreams written on your face." In a mere second, expressions of indifference, hesitance, and concentration were transformed into those of longing and passion. The teacher nodded at me, giving me the go ahead for their musical preparation of the exercise. "Look at your finger tips, and show me your hopes and dreams."

5 and a, 6 and a, 7 and 8...I knew I would never have the physical grace and beauty of a dancer, but feeling certain that the longing on my face was identical to theirs, I watched my fingertips as I played, day dreaming about future hopes and dreams.

Yuan Yuan Tan in arabesque position 
in Nutcracker (photo, Erik Tomasson)

From Behind the Piano...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Magical Moment 590, "If We Make it Through December"

I love winter and I love snow. We got a hard dose of it pretty early this year though, making me think we could be in for a long, cold season. One of my favorite songs is Merle Haggard's "If We Make it Through December." There's just something relatable in the lyrics, reminding me that better days are always ahead. 

I have my own reasons for getting through December. And a while ago, when I recorded my version of this song on my Mac, I had different reasons and a different December to brave. We all have our metaphorical "Decembers" to muttle through, and it seems between the economy, protesters, and freak snow storms, we may never get there. But that's when we're reminded of last year, and the years before, and we can see how far we've come. 

(The photo was taken right outside our door. Just one of the thousands of trees that were destroyed by the heavy, wet snow. This was one of the very first songs I ever recorded in Garage Band about 3 years ago. It's a little rough around the edges, but I find that when you have a good song to begin with, it's hard to mess it up too bad. Enjoy.)

"If We Make it Through December" - Merle Haggard

If we make it through December
Everythings gonna be all right I know
It's the coldest time of winter
And I shiver when I see the fallin snow

If we make it through December
I got plans of bein in a warmer town come summer time
Maybe even California
If we make it through December we'll be fine

I got laid off down at the factory
And there timings not the greatest in the world
Heaven knows I been workin' hard
I wanted Christmas to be right for daddy's girl
Now I don't mean to hate December
It's meant to be the happy time of year
And why my little girl don't understand
Why daddy can't afford no Christmas here

If we make it through December
Everythings gonna be alright I know
It's the coldest time of winter
And I shiver when I see the fallin' snow

If we make it through December
I got plans of bein' in a warmer town come summer time
Maybe even California
If we make it through December we'll be fine

Monday, October 24, 2011

Magical Moment 589, "Stuffy Comfort"

For weeks, I've watched a little girl with lopsided pigtails come to ballet class. She wears a tiny white leotard and tights that sag on her small, 4 year old frame. Before each class, she says a tearful goodbye to her mother at the door and makes her way to the wooden barre.

Although distraught at the separation, she remains absolutely obedient to the instructions of the teacher. Through weepy eyes, she skips across the floor, all while clutching a wadded up tissue in her fist. When her eyes become too misty, she dabs them while marching in rhythm to the music of The Nutcracker. Occasionally, an audible sob emerges, but she never strays from performing each exercise perfectly.

Last week, the familiar scene unfolded with a slight change. Instead of a kiss goodbye, her mother stepped into the classroom holding a brightly colored dog. 
"Now, where should we put Stuffy?" her mother asked. "Right here by the piano, so he can watch over you?" The little girl silently nodded, lip quivering. 

And so as I played for the ballet class, I watched Stuffy watch over the little girl. And this time, there were no tears. Just a very brave ballerina.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Magical Moment 588, "Queen of the Night"

There is a mysterious and rare flower called the Queen of the Night. It is a species of cactus that requires year round care and attention in order to be brought to it's magnificent bloom. 

If properly cared for, the Queen of the Night will live up to its name. One single night out of the year, it will slowly open, layer after layer, until fully bloomed. The flower emits a strange and glorious fragrance unlike any other. And in just a few hours, it will wilt, not to be seen again for another 364 nights.

This Queen of the Night bloomed at Thomas Edison's Greenhouse 2 nights ago. The photos were taken by my husband, Eddie, one of only two people to witness this rarity.

"A rare experience of a moment at daybreak, when something in nature seems to reveal all consciousness, cannot be explained at noon. Yet it is part of the day's unity."
-Charles Ives

"It isn't given for us to know those rare moments when people are wide open and the lightest touch can wither or heal. A moment too late and we can never reach them any more in this world."
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

Related posts, from Thomas Edison's Greenhouse:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Magical Moment 587, "Put a Smile On Your Face"

When I was a little girl, I had a cherished stuffed dog who I imagined could fly with his brown, floppy ears. One day, I was at a department store with my mother and mistakenly left the dog in a dressing room. Of course, neither of us realized it until after we left the store. At home, I waited panic stricken, as my mother made phone calls to the Lost and Found, and several store managers. I never saw my little dog again, but I imagined that he found his way to the toy section, and lived there happily with new friends.

There was another childhood friend of mine, a stuffed bear named Theodore. He had the most compelling black eyes and pudgy tummy. If ever a stuffed animal was "real," Theodore was. But whoever created my little bear, made a terrible and seemingly permanent mistake. The black line of his mouth was sewn into a frown. No matter what I did, tea parties, outdoor picnics, a doll house mansion, Theodore would never be happy. It broke my heart so much, I asked my grandma (handy with a needle and thread) if there was any way she could fix it. In no time at all, she had performed a magical surgery on my bear. When she handed him back to me, for the first time, Theodore smiled up at me. And I smiled back.

There are many lessons to be learned about happiness as a child and from a child. I hoped my dog would be happy in his new Toy Department home. My mom hoped she would find me the lost dog. I longed to see my bear smile, and my grandma longed to see me smile. We call children simple, and distract their sadness with a candy bar. But you should have seen the smile on my face this morning when Eddie surprised me with a pumpkin flavored doughnut from Dunkin Doughnuts. It's not the act itself that can bring happiness to someone, but the sentiment and meaning from which it comes.

"Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." 
-Robert Heinlein

Related thoughts, inspired by 2 very precious boys:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Magical Moment 586, "One New Voicemail"

One rainy day, stuck indoors with a million things on my to-do list piling up, I notice I have a voice mail on my phone. With no number showing up in the history, I dread who it could be. Work asking me to come in tonight. Eddie calling to say he has to stay late. The talent-booking guy canceling my gig that I've been looking forward to for a month. I suddenly realize my own pessimism, justifying it with, "It's just been one of those days today."

I dial my voicemail, expecting the worst when instead, I hear a kind, warm voice through the ear piece, 
"Hello cutie!" She brimmed with congenial energy and quivered slightly, her voice worn with age.
"Do you want to go with me to the Opera Luncheon at the Coronado Country Club on Saturday? I'll be home all day, so let me know. Love you! Bye!"
Her voice was so familiar, so welcoming and cheerful. I'm touched by her lively and sincere invitation and for a moment, I'm disappointed that I have to work all day Saturday. But my day dream is interrupted by the robotic voice instructing me, 
"Press 1 to repeat. Press 2 to delete. Press 3 to save."

The only problem is, The Coronado Club is in El Paso. I live in New Jersey. She dialed the wrong number. But I press 1 to repeat anyway. And then smiling, I press 3 to save.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Magical Moment 585, "Tackling Hills"

I got another life lesson while running the other day.
Hills. They can either kill your morale, or light a fire under you.
I might not be the fastest or strongest runner, but I don't often let a hill get the best of me.

Yet I've felt myself slowing down in other ways lately. There are so many obstacles in my path. Haven't I worked and sweat enough? I've become accustomed to the comfortable pace of 2 steady piano jobs (which I'm more than grateful for), but my original goal when moving here, was to song write and record. A process which is proving to be more time consuming and complicated than I would have ever imagined. Just when I think I see the finish line, another hill arises in my path. 

That's when I'm reminded of the old saying (and excuse the cliche) it's not the destination, but the journey that's important. And so with each step, I admire the view around me and appreciate more than ever those miles stones that I pass along the way. 

Chasing your dreams can be exhausting! Avoiding the hill might be easier, quicker, simpler. But as the opera singer, Beverly Sills once said, "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."

One recent mile stone:
The first time any of my music has been played on the radio. I was included on Evan Ginzburg's "Legends Radio" during his show theme featuring Independent Artists. This link will take you to the archive of the show. Press play, and my song begins at about 8 minutes:

For those curious about the progress of my upcoming's coming up...I promise. :)
And here are the past posts, in order as I describe the process of recording!