"Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne."
- Robert Burns, Auld Lang Syne
January is fast upon us, hence, 2009 soon be gone. Of course, I’ve chronicled most of the year's events in my blog, The Musical Life, but for those of you who haven’t been regular readers – hint, hint – I’m offering a concise synopsis…well, that’s my intention as I sit here and type!
The grand theme of the year for me has been two-fold: practice more and start writing again. Of course, given the nature of my work, practice is a necessity, but as is the case with many professional musicians, practice time is often relegated to the fringes of life, because, to put it simply, we don’t get paid (directly) to practice. Student wants a lesson? Yes! I’ll practice later. Someone needs a keyboard player for a gig at the last minute because of a cancellation? Yes! I get to be a hero and save someone’s gig. I’ll practice later. A client wants to hire me to write and/or perform on some tracks? Yes! Someone getting married and needs a pianist? Yes! Someone needs an arrangement of a song? Yes! Anything that will pay and allow me to procrastinate doing the WORK of practicing? Yes! Hey … wait a minute! I finally came to the conclusion that the direct path to the musical freedom I seek is THROUGH practicing, and that I needed to shift my focus, at least for a while. So, here at the end of 2009, I’ve decided to make practice and sleep a priority. How did I come to this decision? Let’s go over the year, in my world….
But first a commercial plug! Here are some upcoming shows:
Sat, Jan 2
8:30pm - 11:30pm
Marcello's Restaurant & Piano Bar
Open mic! Come sing! Bring your instrument! Play a song or two with me
515 San Ramon Valley Boulevard Danville, CA 94526 | 925.838.8144 | map
Fri, Jan 22
6:30pm - 8:30pm
Open mic! Come sing! Bring your instrument! Play a song or two with me
1366 Powell Street Emeryville, CA 94608-2506 | 510.428.9334 | map
Sat, Jan 23
Taste of Joy
3909 Grand Avenue Oakland, CA 94610 | 510.891.1443 | map
And, now, back to my reminiscence....
As everyone knows, the US economy has been in shambles since the end of the Bush administration. Starting in August 2008, I personally saw signs of impending financial hardship, and that continued through the beginning of 2009. In all of my professional life, I’ve never seen bookings, students, session work, etc., fall off so badly. Without revealing too much of my personal financial matters, I’ll just say that things were challenging, and I respond accordingly. Many of my students were unable to continue lessons because of family layoffs, lost savings, job transfers, and of course home foreclosures. Everyday, I seemed to hear another story of financial devastation from my clients. Things had gotten so bad for people around me, that I decided it was my duty to be a shining light. I declared to the world that I was going to participate in an experiment: no complaining for 21 days! I heard about the experiment from my yoga teacher in November 2008 (A Complaint Free World), and thought that if I could do it, I might be able to offer encouragement to people facing serious life challenges. So, I tried. Oops. Complained. Tried again. Oops. Complained. Ah well, I’m human. But finally in mid February 2009, I completed my 21 days of no complaining, and I’ve made the practice (without wearing the requisite wrist band) a part of my life. Do I still complain? Of course, but I’m much more aware of when I complain and make a different choice when I catch myself in the act.
As for 2009 highlights, in February 2009, Stevie was a guest on the Ellen DeGeneres Show (I’ve included links to my blogs where you can find complete details). I didn’t get to meet Ellen, but all of the show staff and guests were friendly and gracious. Later in the month, I performed for the first time with Soprano, Candace Johnson, giving a concert of music featuring works by African-American composers. The concert was a tremendous success! One of these days, we’ll take the show on the road!
In March 2009, I performed in a concert entitled “Music, She Wrote”, featuring works written by the women performing in the concert, including 2 of my own works. We attempted to stage a repeat performance, but unfortunately, one of the women suffered a heart attack and it’s been postponed. It was a beautiful night of music, and I’m looking forward to the repeat when it happens. In March, 2009, I was moved to tears at a Stanley Clarke concert, and was inspired to work on my playing and singing chops by witnessing Esperanza Spalding in concert.
April, 2009 was the month I started performing at one of my regular performance spots: Marcello’s in Danville. I’ve developed a few regular “fans” over the year, and am grateful to all of them, and the owners and staff at Marcello’s for their support, understanding of when I have to leave for tour, and love the fact that so many of my talented friends come out to play and sing with me. It just doesn’t get better than that! See you in 2010!
I gave a lecture at the Oakland School for the Arts in April. I was invited by choral director, Cava Menzies, to speak to studnets in the excellent vocal program and answer questions about my life as a musician. The students were awesome, asked excellent questions and even performed for me!
I also had the chance to finally hear the legendary McCoy Tyner in concert in April 2009. He was in concert with his trio, and guest artist Bobbie Hutcherson. I wish I could say he sounded great, but unfortunately, the sound was terrible that night, and I could barely hear the piano. It was a shame. I’ll have to make a point of going to hear him again…and this time really HEAR him!
May 2009: Journey to Africa! Stevie Wonder took us all to Morocco to perform with him in the Mawazine Music Festival. It was my first time in Africa. I used every free moment to my greatest advantage and did some sight-seeing, made friends with some local Moroccans, learned a tiny bit of Arabic, and even had the exciting adventure of being left behind for a day after everyone else. Read my blog for details on that (multiple entries in May 2009).
A week after my African adventure, I had a Classical adventure: I performed with the Oakland Public Conservatory Chamber Orchestra! I hadn’t performed with an orchestra in many years, so it was a real treat to play pieces by William Grant Still and Aaron Copland.
In June, I celebrated Father’s Day by taking my dad to hear Roberta Flack at Stern Grove. San Francisco is notorious for its cold summers, but this day was absolute perfection! Sunny, warm, a crowd infused with love and music. Ah…
Later in June, Stevie Wonder picked up his tour again, and we traveled to a few US cities. After landing in Kansas City, MO, each of us in the band received a flood of text and voice messages announcing the unexpected: Michael Jackson had died. Michael was approaching the start of his upcoming tour, which included several people I knew second hand (the cousin of a former student, the close friend of one of my close friends, etc.), and I’d been excited for those people if from afar. Stevie was devastated and could not contain his grief in that first concert after the announcement. “The way you make me feel”…Stevie’s favorite MJ song.
At the end of June, we performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival...the biggest crowd I've ever seen. What fun!
In July, August and September 2009, I mostly performed local gigs, traveled to Los Angeles with local artist Kaylah Marin, spent some time with some of my musical mentors, and even auditioned for a commercial (I didn’t get it. Oh well!). I celebrated my birthday in September, going to a movie and to dinner at a few great restaurants (I like to celebrate for a few weeks!). Yum! I’m a serious foodie, so every opportunity to enjoy haute cuisine is a complete joy!
Stevie resumed the tour again in late October 2009, including a performance on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert. I had the opportunity to meet and perform with more legends. Surreal…
In October, I was further inspired by a series of superlative performers. I don't often take time off to be a musical spectator, but I'm glad I did on these occascions.
November 2009 brought a return to the Oakland Opera for me. I played keyboard for “Dark River”, an original opera by local composer Mary Watkins. The show nearly sold out for every performance, so I’m hoping it will be run again soon.
I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family, opting to provide entertainment rather than cook. Just to be clear, it’s not for lack of ability. I do a mean Maple Roasted Turkey, and don’t get me started with my vegetable dishes. It’s just finding the time to shop, prepare and then cook is simply more than I can take on in tour season. I needed my rest! : >
Just after Thanksgiving, Stevie Wonder performed in Las Vegas…another first for me. Despite falling a bit ill, I had a great time performing, visiting with friends and family and appreciating the opulence of the town (I’m not a gambler, so I just walked around ooh-ing and ah-ing the sights).
Finally, Stevie’s annual fundraiser, House Full of Toys, was held in mid-December. I had the chance to play with more wonderful artists, and even had my photo taken with the heartthrob band of the moment, The Jonas Brothers.
I celebrated Christmas with my family, and will be celebrating New Year’s with family as well. Thank you to all of my friends who celebrated at Marcello's with me during my holiday themed last performance of the year. Thanks to Ric, Stev, Bruce, Amy, Alexis, Nancy, Michelle and Kyle for sharing their talents, and thanks to Diana, Michael, Evie, Dennis, Reinhard, Solomon, Tim, and Dean for being part of the lovely audience!
In sum, 2009 has been good to me. The exposure I've gained from working with Stevie Wonder has opened many doors for me, most of which I can't reveal at this moment. I've been given more opportunites for musical expansion and growth than I could have ever dreamed. I've decided to shift my focus so that I can be prepared to meet the challenge that these opportunities bring, which requires PRACTICING and COMPOSING at a level similar to what I did in Conservatory. I am a confessed workaholic, but I could and will do more in 2010 do further my own musical development and career. I'm looking forward to the journey!
Not every moment in 2009 has been easy, but I choose to see the good in all things (a friend once told me that, and I agree with her!). I look forward to 2010 being a great year of practice, adequate rest, creation, performance, peace, love, joy, abundance and MUSIC!
Happy New Year!!!