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.

Good music theory website

Looking for a good music theory website?  I like  It’s easy to use in a regular web browser or smart device.  If you have an iOS device (iPhone etc) you can buy an app that allows customization.  But either way it’s very effective.

For beginning and elementary note reading, this is the page I use the most.

note identification
– clefs – grand staff
– range: less to make it easier, more to make it harder
– key signatures – just the one in the “middle” (no sharps or flats)
– note names – letters
– helpers – on if needed
– accidentals – off
– next question – I recommend “after audio”
so you can hear the pitch of the note you see
– challenge mode – off

Lots of other good pages too.  Enjoy!

There Are No Repetitions

This is so good I’m just going to steal it.  Enjoy!

There Are No Repetitions 
(excerpt from SUBTLE SOUND The Zen Teaching of Maurine Stuart) 

by Maurine Stuart

What is the condition of our minds right now? How are our hearts? This moment is all we have—so at this moment, how creative are we, how in touch with the source are we?

We need courage to be creative. To be sensitive and aware requires great courage. This word “courage” comes from the same root as the French word “coeur,” which means heart. So please have the courage to listen to your heart, to your body, your hara, not just to your head. You will discover new ways to experience your life.

We are always at the beginning. It is always the very first time. Truly, there are no repetitions. When I play the piano, I often come to a repeat sign. Can that passage be repeated? If I am teaching a piano student and we see a repeat sign, I tell the student that there are no repeats. We return to the beginning of a certain passage, but it’s never the same. It’s always fresh. Someone asked me, “Don’t you get tired of answering the same questions day after day—what is Zen, how do we practice?” Never! It’s never the same question, because it’s always coming from a different person, in a different moment; and each person asks the question from his or her own state of mind. The words may sound alike, but each time they are coming from some- where unique.

Labor Day weekend at the Fair

My friend John calls it “The State Mediocre.”  My friend Bruce won’t go because “stinky animals.”

Their loss.

This coming weekend, Friday Sept 2 through Monday Sept 5, I’ll be spending a fair amount of time at the Minnesota State Fair.

On Friday Sept 2 (3:15 – 6:30) and Saturday Sept 3 (10:30 – 1:45) you can find me at the Ramberg Senior Center playing Rat Pack era jazz with the Blue Eyes Band, featuring singer Tim Patrick.  Everyone says Michael Buble sounds just like him!

On Saturday, Sunday, and Monday afternoons (Sept 3, 4, and 5, at 3pm, 4pm, 5pm, and 6pm, on the hour), members of Collide Theatrical Dance Company will do short “pop-up performances” outside the Education Building.  Tim Patrick will be joining us for these, so that will be fun.

DIRECTIONS:  On the Fairgrounds Interactive Map, the Ramberg Senior Center is at R-29 (Judson and Underwood, southeast corner of the fairgrounds) and the Education Building is at W-21 (on Cosgrove between Dan Patch and Wright, middle of the strip on the east side of the fairgrounds).

See the gigs page for more info, and see you there!

The Singers: After Dark!


Meet my newest musical collaborator, Melissa Culloton.  I got to know Melissa by working with her this past spring on the convention committee for the Minnesota Music Teachers Association (see the “Monday Music Madness” edition of this blog).  Now, for some strange reason, temporary insanity probably, Melissa has asked me to be her pianist for The Singers: After Dark! which will take place at Hell’s Kitchen on August 29 .

This event is a production of The Singers—Minnesota Choral Artists, widely recognized as one of the premier professional choirs in, well, the whole world.  “After Dark”, now in its 3rd year, allows choir members to goof off a bit (read: sing standards and show tunes instead of classical music, and drink while doing it).  It’s also a neat way to launch their 2016-2017 season.

So please come to Hell’s Kitchen on August 29 to hear Melissa, me, and many others strut our stuff.  Doors open at 6, show goes 7-9.  Tickets are available at the door ($15) or in advance ($10, until August 28)