December 31, 2012 § 4 Comments
It’s that time of year again – a time to reflect on the past year - the happenings in my life and environs, what I created or didn’t create, what I fell victim to or rose above – the big summary … a completion if you will, so I can move forward into the next year or cycle or phase, with a clean slate!
However, this end-of-year really snuck up on me. I guess I expected more by now.
There are years when by year-end, I have been clear about my successes, failures, upcoming goals. Yet 2012 seems to have come and gone so quickly and with just a few personal blips in the road – both up and down – that with apparently no major breakthroughs, I can barely recognize that the year is over. And that assessment of this past year, leaves me a little uninspired and seemingly with no vision to move forward.
I have work to do to change that.
Intellectually, I know that we all have the opportunity to “reframe” our own past. We can’t change what happened, but we can change how we think about it; even change its effect on us going forward.
With that in mind, my “work” today is to begin to redefine 2012 as perhaps the year I took a break from rushing forward, and took the time to refocus. I like that. That feels better, don’t you think?
So here I being to summarize my 2012 – piece by piece so I can unravel it and say, “Yes, I did that” or “That took more time than I anticipated” or … It’s a worthwhile exercise. I recommend it.
I will keep adding to this, but here is a start to my list of achievements and under-accomplishments for 2012 … in no particular order:
- I had about 30 gigs/shows in 2012 including a couple of benefit performances and pro bono work with Bread & Roses and at the Jewish Home in San Francisco (my mom’s last residence).
- I really love “the show” and in 2012, I did not create or book as many of them as I would have liked – that is now on my agenda for 2013.
- At the beginning of 2012, I thought my new project would have been near completion. It isn’t, but it is moving forward. A lot of work has been done in spite of what I think I should have accomplished! For this project, based on the work of a long under-appreciated composer, I have collected both public and personal stories, sheet music for over 70 pieces of his work – all graciously and generously given to me by some amazing people, all of whom will be revealed later this coming year. And since most of this music is unrecorded, I had help from colleagues who played down these tunes and helped me sight-read them. I am also close to engaging a pianist/arranger/producer to forward this project with a June 2013 opening and CD release in mind.
- Politically, I was engaged in my own way, to say the least, and I appreciate all my like-minded friends in real time and on Facebook, who carried me through! I expended a lot of my creative energy on this. Never knew I was a political junkie until now. From this, I am taking a break in 2013!
- My husband and I will be together 12 years in February and married 3 years in April, and this is my greatest accomplishment. Our families are terrific – we are blessed with caring children, siblings, nieces, nephews, grand children, step-people, dogs and turtles and chickens and fish – in this life, I am happy!
Yet there were the real losses in 2012 of dear people in my life who passed …
John Kroner, songwriter, musical director, pianist, husband, father and very dear friend, died this past February. Suddenly. Leaving behind his husband of over 30 years, Jeff Martin, his young son Marcus, and so many friends and colleagues in music and theater in New York. John and Jeff have been my friends and neighbors (when I still lived in New York on the Upper West Side) since 1980. They have been avid supporters of my life and my musical journey.
Paul Van Wageningen (“Paul VW”) amazing drummer, passed this November after struggling with a cancerous brain tumor and its effects, for 2 years. Paul played on my CD, “Long As You’re Living – the stories & poetry of Oscar Brown Jr.” which won a Backstage Magazine Bistro/BMI Award for Outstanding Recording and for which I received 2 MAC Award Nominations (Best Jazz Recording and Best Female Jazz Singer). Paul also played many shows for me. His memorial service – one of the best concerts I’ve been to all year – was just last week, and included some of the best musicians in the Bay Area both in attendance and on stage. I was lucky to have met him.
Richard Nickol, voice teacher, theater coach, friend and mentor to many. I never studied with Richard, but the ties between the San Francisco cabaret & theater communities brought us together many times to collaborate on events and shared goals. San Francisco is sometimes a very small town so we would cross paths many times over the past 10 years. His memorial service was a musical event he would have been proud of.
Ruth Kurtzman, member of the MAC Board in New York (Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs) who I met several years ago – Ruth came to every one of my New York shows over the past 5 years; we would have lunch or dinner each time I was in New York – died earlier this month from a short bout with an extremely aggressive cancer. Ruth and I met and became fast friends. We’d send each other short little email hellos during the course of any year. I considered her a dear friend even though we hardly knew each other. We had that immediate connection you infrequently have with another person, and in a moment you know that this person is your true friend. Ruth was that for me.
I miss them all. They each have made a difference in my life and have a permanent place in my heart.
I wish each & every one of you
an amazing 2013
filled with love, health, prosperity
and inspiration to create!
December 22, 2011 § 6 Comments
As has been my annual tradition, I have generally and enthusiastically assessed the year-ending in terms of my successes, my failures, where I am now and where I’m heading. But this year, somehow, I don’t have the “geduld” [that’s Yiddish for patience] to make the lists, to look at what I’ve done or not done, with the same excitement and fervor as I have in years past.
In my creative world, I have performed in new venues, shared the stage with many terrific artists and musicians alike, created new coaching classes, have co-taught with musicians and learned folks for whom I have much respect, coached singers and have been inspired by their enthusiasm and courage, met new audiences and made many new fans and friends. Yet somehow, it just doesn’t feel like enough.
In my personal world, I have a husband who I adore and who loves me unconditionally (when I’m not doing something that completely annoys him) and who is my biggest fan. His family. My family. Our little farm in San Francisco, including the dogs, the chickens, the turtles and the fish. All who bring me great joy.
Perhaps the “recession/depression” our country is in has also gotten to me. I have become much more politically attuned – and mostly don’t like what I see or hear. I did not grow up in a “dysfunctional family.” We were really quite normal. But I do believe our country is quite dysfunctional right now and it doesn’t make me feel good, nor do I know, really, how I can help. Worse than that is that I don’t see at all how our government is going to come back together in my lifetime. I feel alienated by so much of the “noise.” I don’t feel like I belong.
So I am left with the questions … “What is it that I CAN do?” “How can my music take me up and out?” “What difference can I make through my music and my teaching to my family, my friends, my fans, and to me?”
I guess my job over the next year is to discover more of the questions whose answers will guide the next phase of my journey.
2012, I look forward to meeting you head on
P.S. - Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Kwanzaa and I hope I didn’t miss anything!
October 9, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Yes, apparently this is true. This week, my world lost three artists, all of whom made an impact on our world of music in one way or another …
- JULIE PARIS, San Francisco jazz & blues vocalist at the age of 56 from a long and debilitating illness. But up until she passed this week, she was still singing when she could, and as she has always done, supporting others making music. Her most recent “gig” was producing a bi-monthly volunteer singers’ showcase at San Francisco’s Jewish Home for the Aged. I’ve been singing at this event for the past year although Julie produced it for the past 6 years. Her husband, David Carillo, will be continuing to produce this event. Today was her funeral and might I say, she had a sold out house and a room full of loyal family, friends and fans. A tribute to her life.
- STEVE JOBS, also at the age of 56 who left a world touched by his gifts and genius. And in our music world, clearly his visionary products changed the way we sell, market and make music. His remarkable genius and how he chose to use it is an inspiration. You can read my blog on Mr. Jobs, here … http://tinyurl.com/3dyc6z2
- BOB GRIMES, San Francisco-based extraordinary collector of sheet music, died at the age of 89. Last year or so, Bob sold his enormous collection of Hollywood & Broadway sheet music to Michael Feinstein. There will be a Bay Area memorial but no plans as of yet. Here is an interview with Bob by Jonathan Frank of Talkin’ Broadway at http://tinyurl.com/452vmmy and a bio by Peter Mintun at http://tinyurl.com/452vmmy
May they all Rest In Peace.
October 7, 2011 § 3 Comments
I started to entitle this entry “Death of a Genius” and then I discovered he was a “Hero.” Of course, I am talking about the passing this week of Steve Jobs.
First let me tell you why I changed from “genius” – which of course he was – to “hero.” I went to the Apple website where they have a beautiful photo of Mr. Jobs. I thought I would copy and save the photo to paste here. When I clicked on the image, I discovered that the photo was titled “t.hero“. How perfect.
Steve Jobs did not just live his life as a “visionary and creative genius”, but he lived his dying with a grace and a knowing that can only be an inspiration to all of us. He lived an inspired life. He lived passionately. He didn’t stop. He kept moving forward. He knew what he loved and was passionate about those loves. And of course, he knew because he searched for what he would ultimately love until he found it.
The Stanford University commencement speech he delivered to the 2005 graduating class spoke deeply about who he was. This speech is a lesson to all of us since he explained in so very clear terms, what it meant to live, and to live knowing we are going to die. This speech is a teacher’s teaching. It is rich with meaning. SEE THE VIDEO & READ THE ENTIRE SPEECH HERE.
I have read and re-read and listened to and watched the entire Steve Jobs’ Stanford address many times this week. I am moved by who he was and so very saddened by his so-young death.
Yet, look at what he accomplished and the difference he has made in the world with his vision and persistence in so short a life. Quite extraordinary. I don’t know that we will see another like him in my lifetime but I hope one shows up in the next.
To all of us who keep pursuing our dreams, I say “amen.”
And as Steve Jobs reminds us …
“Almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Rest In Peace, Steve Jobs.
Thank you for your service to humanity.
September 26, 2011 § Leave a Comment
In response to an essay I recently read by Stu Hamstra, Cabaret Hotline Online, entitled ARE CABARET WORKSHOPS, CONFERENCES AND MASTER CLASSES WORTHWHILE?, I commented ….
As someone who has been “coaching, teaching, putting on seminars and workshops and master classes” for singers, and someone who has taken many, many, many of them myself, I really appreciated this essay. The most valuable aspect, I think, is that the “students” take what they learn out into the world, if in fact that is what they came to the workshop to do.
Since I work with folks at all levels, it’s also true that some participants would not be singing out at all and this is their opportunity to do their dream. For some, the concert at the end of the program is the dream. “
And then there’s what I get from coaching others – first off, I’m like a mother-hen and am proud of my students as they grow week after week, and then shine in performance. You can often find me weeping with joy and pride as I witness their growth.
And magically, which all coaches and teachers know, there’s my own learning – I grow from teaching. I remind myself of what works so I can reincorporate that back into my own performance; and what doesn’t work so I can re-look at my own work to see if I am doing what I say to do.
* * * *
So now I go off to Seattle to co-lead a workshop with Arnaldo!
A performance workshop in the American Cabaret Style will have a concert on Saturday evening, October 1 with performances by the participants in the workshop and of course, Arnaldo! and me. Concert tickets: $20 + 2-drink min. Space is limited to reserve your seats now.
March 4, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I have found that reading reviews of others in your field is an important part of learning a craft, whether or not you agree with the reviewer/critic. Agreement is not relevant – it is being able to see from where the reviewer is looking when she/he makes comments on an artist. Distinctions that we might not be able to see at first. How they comment. What they say about an artist. My focus, of course, is on reviews of vocalists, since that’s my interest.
Reading and understanding reviews is a kind of homework, not unlike the homework one might do when learning a style of music. Sometimes you might just listen to the great artists of a particular style - listening to their phrasing, spacing, how they attack a note, arrangements, what the musicians are doing behind the singer, etc. – and in listening “commitedly,” one learns.
The goal is not to imitate another singer, but to find a way to have your sound be authentic in that style; finding how you can add that essence to your own unique signature style and performance technique. What makes one person unique might not be what makes you unique, but understanding theirs is a way to define and create your own style.
When a critic writes a review, I often find myself asking “What would they say about me?” or “How would I have to be performing to garner that statement? That review?” or “Would those adjectives ever be used to define me as a performer?” or ”What would they say about me now?” and “What would I like to have said about me?” And then, of course, “What would I have to do to accomplish that?”
Reviews that I covet as teaching tools
Take for example, this written about Andre Segovia in a New York Times review of a recent concert of this extraordinary musician:
“When asked at age 94, how can you keep going, Andre Segovia, master guitarist, said ’You know what I think? If I am tired now, I don’t mind, because I have eternity to rest.’ “
How about this review of Marilyn Maye, also from the New York Times:
“Simply for her stamina, Ms. Maye, 81, is a phenomenon. She performed the entire show standing up, without having to catch her breath, her pitch unwavering. Her voice at the end of the evening had as much body and suppleness as at the beginning.”
Or even from a review in the Jazz Times for my Oscar Brown Jr. tribute CD:
” It takes as fine an actor as Brown to do proper justice to his songs. So, it seems altogether fitting that a female cabaret performer (the best of such artists renowned for their superior ability to act more than sing songs), particularly one as gutsy as Linda Kosut, should pay album-length tribute to Brown.”
Today’s inspiring review
And in today’s New York Times there is a review of Kurt Elling’s show at Birdland, NYC entitled “Pivoting from Patter to Poetry” by Ben Ratliff, which you can find in its entirety by clicking here! One of the many things said about Mr. Elling in this review which hit home to me most, was what was written in the last 2 paragraphs of this review … about reaching out to and including your audience in your performance so they are truly on your side. Even the greats, like Mr. Elling, do this and it seems, quite thoughtfully.
“Mr. Elling’s baritone voice has range and resonance, and he can make it swell and strain to reach his high register or go very loud so that it distorts and almost cracks, with at least a reference to real emotion. It’s so effective when he does this that it can feel bullying or manipulative. But through microphone technique and a sense of pacing, he uses that power sparely. He’ll open only part of his mouth or sing away from the microphone or cuts vowels short.
“When he finally did bring his voice to full capacity, it came only in the set’s last few minutes. But you might have expected that he’d wait till the very end to clobber you. Even before the set began, he made a point of shaking hands and talking for a minute or so at each table in the club’s entire front row. He was setting up a kind of contract with the audience, and he never broke it.”
I invite you to share reviews here that inspired you.
November 25, 2010 § Leave a Comment
I can’t believe I have not written one word, not a peep, not a nothing in my blog since August. There is so much to say, and yet I say nothing.
Well, I’ll work more on that after December 6 – that being the last of a 6 show run that I have done at the Rrazz Room in San Francisco this year. Had the 6 dates been in one week, that would have been easier. But no, they were once each in March, April, May, June, September and now December. Each show different. Several sharing with other guest headliners. All having new material sung by me.
And this one coming up, 20 new songs. With 1+ weeks to go, I might not learn them all cold, but I’m okay about that for now. Might have to have lyrics with me on stage. I’ll be so charming, no one will notice. Clearly, this is not my preference, but it will work. The songs and arrangements are wonderful and I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the arranging with some fabulous local musicians – Dave Austin, Mike Greensill, Kelly Park, Max Perkoff, and of course, my musical director for this venture, John Simon.
The show itself has a great theme, one that has been in the think tank for years and finally coming to fruition. The show is called “By Any Other Name” – What is that? Songwriters can name their songs anything they want, including the same title of a previously published tune. Think “Time After Time” written in 1947 by Sammy Cahn and Julie Styne. Does it measure up to Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” of 1984? How about “All By Myself”? Which melody do you hear first? Eric Carmen’s from 1975 or the 1921 melody of Irving Berlin?
And my band is awesome, too – John Simon, piano/musical director; John Mader, percussion (just off his one-year + run with Wicked in San Francisco); Tom Shader, bass (the amazing bass player on my Bistro/BMI Award Winning CD Long As You’re Living); and the uber-talented Tony Malfatti, my one-man horn section and back-up vocalist.
Oh, how do you get to see me live next week? Well, come on down to the Rrazz Room – just click here for all the info.
I’ll be posting some videos soon from all my shows this year, the ones at the Rrazz Room, as well as my one-off in New York at Don’t Tell Mama this past September. I’m very proud of the work I’ve done this year and grateful for all the support. And for the opportunity to have played with some great musicians and vocalists. What a blast this has been.
Let’s see what I can figure out for next year.