I feel better than James Brown

To steal a phrase from Was (Not Was), I feel better than James Brown.  Several reasons.

  1. Having a lazy summer.  Practicing, riding the two-wheeler, getting some sun, reading, teaching a very light lesson schedule.
  2. Getting in some travel later this month, notably a visit to Colorado to see my friend and former bandmate Scott Yoho and his family.
  3. Planning on attending Music @ 10,000 Lakes again in August.  This is a retreat for piano teachers who don’t get enough time to explore their own music.  It’s the second year of the retreat, and once again will feature a teacher of mine, the wonderful Liz Wolff.  It’s at St. John’s University in Collegeville, August 12-14.
  4. I voted.  Turns out the Minnesota primaries are taking place during the piano retreat, so I sent for an absentee ballot.  I highly recommend this for everyone!
  5. Had a musically pleasing spring:

Music directed, arranged, and played piano for Dance ‘Til You Drop with Collide Theatrical Dance Company at  MN History Theatre in March-April 2018.  Well-attended and well-reviewed (especially Collide artistic director Regina Peluso’s “innovative” choreography).

Music directed and arranged “Monday Music Madness II” at the annual convention of the Minnesota Music Teachers Association (MMTA).  This was a student-led cabaret, backed by a professional rhythm section, that began with state-wide auditions submitted by students of MMTA teachers.  Above:  Emmett Mathson sings “Great Balls of Fire” and tears up the keyboard, and Grace Cline sings and scats on “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”.  Here are a couple video links:

Jonas Rasmusson – Good Vibrations
Sam Eaton – Waving Through a Window


Dracula in Dance

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Collide Theatrical Dance Company is doing a dance-theater production of Dracula at the Ritz this fall, for a two-week run. (Rumor has it the show might be extended a week but I’m not allowed to give dates for that yet : )

Facebook event

WCCO interview with Renee and Rush

We are pretty proud of this show – some of you may have seen it in spring 2016 – MinnPost put us in their “top 5 artistic experiences of the year”. I will be serving as music director, and playing keyboards in the band. This my 3rd season with Collide.

It’s all dance and music, no dialogue. It’s set in modern day NYC and features mostly alt and classic rock and pop (Sufjan Stevens, Robert Plant, Nirvana, Queen, The Police, Icona Pop, Radiohead, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, M. I. A., Foo Fighters, Jamie Cullum, Depeche Mode, James Blake… and a little Richard Rodgers and Tchaikovsky for good measure : )

Our lead dancers are veterans of shows like West Side Story and Jesus Christ Superstar at the Ordway. Our singers are Michael Hanna, who works regularly as an actor at the Guthrie but is an outstanding rock singer; and Katie Gearty, a first-call jazz, r&b and rock singer who works regularly with Adam Levy’s band Hooker$ n Blow, Mick Sterling’s many projects, and has her own jazz CDs to her credit. And the band is … well, I’m biased, but it’s a really good group of musicians!

Fri Oct 27 7:30
Sat Oct 28 2:00 and 7:30
Sun Oct 29 2:00

Tues Oct 31 8:00*
Wed Nov 1 7:30
Th Nov 2 7:30
Fri Nov 3 7:30
Sat Nov 4 7:30
Sun Nov 5 2:00

*parental discretion advised for Halloween night!

Hope to see you there! If you come, please wait in the lobby afterward so I can say hi and brag to the company about how my friends support us – ha!


Music @ 10,000 Lakes

A shout-out here to my friend and teacher Liz Wolff.


She’s holding a music retreat at St. John’s this August.  I’ll be attending!  From the website:

Announcing: 2017 Music @ 10,000 Lakes

Music @ 10,000 Lakes is a two-day retreat for professional pianists who wish to practice and perform, new, old, unfinished or polished repertoire for and with their colleagues. Located on the exquisite lakeside campus of St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, the retreat will additionally afford time and opportunity to meditate, walk the nature trails, read, relax and revitalize.

The retreat will take place Sunday afternoon, August 13 through Wednesday morning August 16, 2017. Practice and performing facilities are on the campus of Saint John’s University. Lodging and meals are available at the St. John’s Abbey Guesthouse.

Looking forward to seeing you in August! In the meantime, enjoy exploring this website and feel free to contact us with any questions.

Cross that one off the bucket list!

One more weekend to go but I’ll go out on a limb and call Le Petit Moulin at the Ritz with Collide Theatrical Dance Company a success.  We are getting good houses, good notices, and raves from friends!

What I mean by “cross that one off the bucket list” is the accordion.  Learned it for the show because we needed that French cafe feel . . . and apparently accordion is cool again and all the good players are either working or charging a lot : )

Here I am struggling with it at an early rehearsal.  Let’s just say I’m glad this is just a photo and not a video with sound : )


And here is evidence that I actually used the thing in performance.  I believe this number is my reharmonization of the famous Offenbach “Can-Can”.  For the music geeks in the room, I put the “A” section in a minor key and rewrote the melody for both the A and B sections.  It was fun.


The show’s final number was a mashup of Panic! At the Disco, Fatboy Slim, and The Pointer Sisters.  Don’t even ask.  Or do?  I’d be the first to admit it was fun to put together, if not a little nerve-wracking.

Tickets are still available online or at the door
($34 general, $26 students/seniors, $50 VIP)

Le Petit Moulin
Collide Theatrical Dance Company

Thursday, May 4 at 7:30 pm
Friday, May 5 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, May 6 at 2:00 and 7:30 pm
Sunday, May 7 at 2:00

Ritz Theater
345 13th Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413

Plenty of cool restaurants too in this great Minneapolis neighborhood. Hope to see you there if you haven’t seen it yet!

MusicLink Playathon

“Playathon” was this weekend at the Mall of America.  This is a long-standing fundraiser for the MusicLink Foundation, which helps provide instruments, music, and other materials to students  who might not otherwise be able to afford them.  The event goes a whole weekend, at the Mall of America.  The Minnesota Music Teachers Association (MMTA) and Schmitt Music are the sponsors.  Kudos to MMTA member Sue Wege for putting the whole thing together!

For the 3rd year in a row, we had a “Popular Styles Hour” where kids got to play and sing their pieces with a backing band.  That’s James Towns on bass, Beth Varela on drums – with her son Nathan keeping her company – and yours truly on piano and guitar.  We had a blast!

“So much is in bud”

With apologies to the copyright holder, and with thanks to Nikki Fleck, my yoga teacher at taraNa on Monday, this is timely.  Despite the events at Standing Rock this week — protesters besieged by water cannons in sub-freezing temps — so unimaginably cruel and horrible — this can be our response.

“Beginners” by Denise Levertov
Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla

‘From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea—‘
But we have only begun
to love the earth.
We have only begun
to imagine the fullness of life.
How could we tire of hope?
—so much is in bud.
How can desire fail?
—we have only begun
to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision
how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.
Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?
Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?
Not yet, not yet—
there is too much broken
that must be mended,
too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.
We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,
so much is in bud.