Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Years

I like to write blog posts around the holidays and end of the year.  If you're reading this I wish you a great holiday and healthy and happy start to the new year.
  There are many amazing people in the world who do absolutely amazing things.  For example, brain surgeons, heart surgeons, humanitarians, EMTs, nurses, policemen, firemen, etc... Think of how many lives these people save on a daily basis, and it will blow your mind.  I'd personally like to thank these kind of people for their dedication and bravery.  There are many professions that I left out and types of people I left out, and that is why I wrote etc...
   I'm writing all that to express gratitude for the goodness in the world that is often overlooked in the news and what not.  I also believe that if we focus more on the goodness in the world, there could be no violence.  Less violence isn't good enough.  No violence is good enough.  Love, kindness, caring about others, and being in harmony with one another is good enough.  Violence such as harming other people and animals is something I will never get.  There was a shit load of violence in 2015, and I don't understand why.  Perhaps I am not supposed to understand why.  I'm not sure what else to say about that. Shooting after shooting and constant hostility.  I don't get it.
    The real fact is that violence isn't going to decrease.  I wish that weren't true, but the evidence is overwhelming that it keeps getting worse.  Shootings and more shootings, bullying in person and on the internet.  Often times teachers bully the students in schools.  Don't even get me started with that.  Why teach then??  I had a teacher growing up who called a student a loser and a cheater.  Again, why teach then?  Anyway, I shifted in the negative a bit here.  I want to go back to loving, and kindness.
   If you search the internet for people being kind, tons of a awesome things come up.  Aaron's last wish is one of them.  Aaron committed suicide and wrote in his will that he wanted his family to go to restaurants all over the country and give waiters or waitresses awesome tips.  That is an amazing act of kindness.  This is just one example.  Another example which really touched me was one of my students helping out another student.  Both students had solos in a choir concert.  The other kid was having trouble has my student tried to help him.  Very moving for sure.
   I am writing all this because it would he nice to see some of the good things in the world focused on more often.  Most news is about people doing horrible things to one another.  People who save lives are getting recognized more, but it is still not enough.  Many people do brave and heroic deeds which get overlooked every day.  Despite the fact that violence is increasing more and more, I'm still staying optimistic because there are so many beautiful acts of love and kindness which occur to counteract the acts of violence.  Hopefully love will win and be the antidote to violence.  In a lot of cases you'll already see it happening.
  As far as New Years Resolutions,  I set goals which are realistic, and ones which I work on one day at a time.  I want to eat well, lose weight, really work on my craft, grow spiritually and just be the best person I can be.  Those are a few generals goals I have which are doable.  I'm hoping to also get off caffeine and stay off.  Life is more chill without it and my head is more clear.  Wish me luck with that one.  Now, if I said I was going to enter the mister universe contest or be able to fit in a leotard that would be bullshit goals.  You don't want to see me in a leotard believe me.  If you find yourself slipping on your resolutions just live in day tight compartments.  Just get back on track.  I hope everyone has a fantastic 2016.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Upcoming Events

I just wanted to blog about some concerts I have coming up.  First of all I am in two concerts with the Salvatones.  They are this Sunday 12/20 at 4, and Monday at 7 at Old St. Peter's on Barclay Street in lower Manhattan.  The Salvatones will be joined by the NY Virtuosi and organist and composer Stephen Fraser.  His Xmas work Noel Nouvelet will be on the program along with some terrific arrangements on "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" and Go Tell In On The Mountain" to name a few.   The church has a wonderful acoustic, so come check it out.

Also, I will be in Xmas eve and day services at Marble Collegiate Church where I sing regularly on Sundays, and at St. Patricks Cathedral.  If I don't make it past Xmas eve send out a search party. All services will be live streamed, so if you can't be there in person you can watch online.

  On 1/29 at 7 pm I will do a solo recital of American songs by Duke, Ives, Dello Joio, Speaks, Malotte, Bolcolm, Petrie and Bernstein to name a few.  This will take place at Beethoven Piano studios at 7 pm.  There will probably be some songs you've never heard before, so come on out.  In addition the Thoreau Ensemble which I co-founded with Patrick Durek will be planning a few house concerts.  So, stay turned for that.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Self pity is a waste

     Self pity is a waste of time.  I sometimes indulge in this perverse form of grandiosity.  It's thoughts.  It ain't real.  Doesn't matter what's happened or what the situation is because self pity doesn't solve the problem.  Self pity blows up into anger and all sort of other shit you don't want.  Self pity is self defeating and causes people to sell themselves short.
     Self pity happens to me when I have too much time a lone with my thoughts.  When thoughts get negative, turn them to the positive.  I've been told this many times, and when I'm in self pity my first reaction is yeah right, sure, positive my ass.  If you woke up today that's a reason to be positive.  People might laugh when I say that, but there is no guarantee that I will wake up on any given day, or live to see tomorrow.  Therefore, I ask, are the self defeating thoughts the last thoughts you want to ever have?  Hopefully the answer to that is no.  For example do I want to have resentments and anger towards stupid things?  
     Self pity has an effect not only on health and well being, but also effects relationships with others, job performance etc...  I sometimes get into self pity and don't even realize I'm doing it.  Then I wonder why I waisted that time.  It sucks when that happens because it destroys the present moment.  For example a friends trying to talk with you and you're thinking about all the shit you have to do, or who you're angry with.  Then you get into self pity because you weren't present enough with your friend.
     When I say all this I do not mean that someone shouldn't grieve if something happens to a family member or pet.  Self pity is very different than that in my opinion.    Self pity for me means sitting at home and getting negative in my head saying things like I'll never have a girl friend, I hate living in this place, I'm out of shape, this person doesn't like me, etc...   Believe me, it is a total waste of energy.
     Self pity is just a dangerous trap to fall into.  I used to have a real problem with self pity.  I still go into self pity mode.  However, I can catch myself going into self pity quickly now because I am aware of it.  People have things in their lives that they want to improve, or things which they could have handled differently.  Self pity doesn't solve this problems.  I'm talking about depression in this post.  Depression is an issue that should be taken very seriously.  I'm talking about self pity only.
     The solutions to self pity are gratitude and action.  Gratitude is important for the sake of keeping the proper perspective.  I have a roof over my head, whereas most people in the world do not.  I have a car, nearly nine years sobriety, friends, family, cool gigs, a great pet etc...  That's gratitude in action.            
     There is also action in the literal sense.  If my place is messy, I can clean the damn apartment.  If my voice is tired I can rest.  Although rest contradicts action I suppose.  If I'm eating poorly, I can make a better choice and eat well.  If I'm in self pity over my career, I can take action to improve that situation.  If I don't get out enough, I can get my ass out that door.  Get the ass out the door and the mind will follow.
     Self pity is a poor choice for a state of mind.  Again, I'm not referring to depression of any other genuine mental disorders.  Self pity isn't a mental disorder in my opinion.  It's a negative mind space that can be corrected by turning things into positive.  There's always something to be grateful for.  Start with the fact that you woke up today.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why Is There Racism?

 I am disturbed that any type of racism still exists.  As a matter of fact it disgusts me.  Any acts that don't have love behind them disgust me.  I see these horrifying posts on Facebook about black people being beaten or killed. Why we have to have any violence is beyond me.  If someone understands why violence needs to exist, send me a fax or an email.
   This racism stuff has to go.  I just want to know how it ever got started in the first place.  I can't comprehend why some people are viewed as less human than others.  This goes strongly for men versus women too. There should be no versus in that sentence.  The word should be equal instead of versus.  It's hard being a woman.  I can't even imagine.  Men harassing you on the street and what not.  As a guy, I can walk from point A to point B safely without some dude harassing me.  Well most of the time.  I did get harassed by guys in Baltimore.  One of them said "nice ass."  Generally, that doesn't happen to me though.  I just hate violence and inequality.  If god made us, god didn't say that one gender or race is superior to the other.  If he did, let me know.  I didn't hear that anywhere.  I'm also not trying to start an argument with this post.  I just don't like when people are hurt physically, spiritually or mentally because of their race, gender or beliefs.
  Same deal with bullying.  What the fuck is that about?  Some kid is nice, so let's insult and taunt him or her verbally and electronically over the internet.  It might make them take their life.  It happens all the time.  Sometimes the teachers in schools are the bullies.  That really perplexes me.  There have been recordings of teachers bullying special needs children on the news.  Very disturbing, and furthermore, those teachers didn't even get fired.  I'd need shock therapy if I were the parent.  I guess this post is dark.  I didn't intend it that way when I started writing.  I don't know what if anything I can do about all this.  Bullying and racism really anger me greatly.
  Let's end this on a bright note.  Why not, love and nurture one another instead of being violent or hurtful?  We can live in a hostile world or a peaceful one.  Which one are we going to choose?  We can actually choose to be happy at any moment.  It's actually that simple.  If someone bullied or abused you, let them go.  The best revenge is letting toxic people go, and being healthy and prospering.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Great Historical Singers (Feodor Chaliapin)

Feodor Chaliapin was one of the most significant singers of the early twentieth century, and he is still as important today.  Chaliapin possessed a bass voice that speaks to people's hearts.  In addition, he had a very easy upper range with remarkable dynamic control.  Chaliapin is considered the Caruso of basses because of his popularity as a singer and actor.  Chaliapin's acting took opera acting to new levels, and seeing him on film is not to be missed.  Check out Don Quichotte (Don Quixote), and you will not be able to take your eyes off of him. Fortunately,  Chaliapin's art is well preserved on film and records.  There are so many recordings of Chaliapin that I love, that I can't pick a favorite.  One unique recording of his, is the song "The Blind Ploughman."  The passion in Chaliapin's singing is just remarkable.
   Chaliapin was a very tall man.  Possibly over 6 ft 6. I will be paying homage to this great artist and since I am slightly under 5'9, I will need some big time lifts or stilts.  If anyone has any please send them my way.  There will never be another Chaliapin.  There were other basses that were famous during Chaliapin's time that never achieved his fame because his acting ability and voice were so unique.  I cannot tell you how lucky we are to have footage of his acting skills in the film Don Quichotte.  He is Don Quixote plain and simple.  Since the film was done in Russian, French and English, Chaliapin does have a thick accent, but his acting ability makes you forget that.  Wayne Connor lent me that film when I was at Peabody and it blew me a way.  The sound track to that film includes the Don Quichotte songs by Jacque Ibert which were written for Chaliapin.  There was a contest for which composers songs would be used in the film.  I believe that Maurice Ravel's songs were not submitted on time, but I am not sure that is the reason why Jacques Ibert's songs won.  They are very effective songs, with a good Spanish flare.  They were written for Chaliapin, so they show off his unique ability to sing pianissimo high notes above the staff.
  Chaliapin was a very demanding artist.  According to the famous impresario who managed Chaliapin when he sang at the Metropolitan Opera Sol Hurok, Chaliapin was "a hell of a fellow in every way."  Chaliapin would call Hurok constantly and say he couldn't sing on a given day because he didn't feel well.  He would make him come over every couple of hours to check on him as a matter of fact.   A lot of great artists get nervous and are very particular about things, so Chaliapin wasn't necessarily unique in that way. That's just an interesting fact that I wanted to share.  Another one is that Chaliapin had a son, Feodor Chaliapin Junior who was an actor who starred in Moonstruck.  Chaliapin was also very good friends with composer Sergey Rachmaninov.  Chaliapin worked with Rachmaninov on musicianship, especially for his most famous role of Boris Godunov.  In addition, several songs by Rachmaninov are dedicated to Chaliapin, the most famous of those being "Fate", which is a tribute to Beethoven's five symphony of the same title.
   It is important to name some of the works that Feodor Chaliapin premiered.  He was famous for premiering Massenet's Don Quichotte.  He premiered the title character.  He also premiered Aleko in Aleko by Rachmaninov at the St. Petersburg premiere, not at the actual premiere.  He also premiered Ibert's Don Quichotte songs as I mentioned earlier.  Rachmaninov said the following about Chaliapin. "Chaliapin will never die; for with his fabulous talent, this marvelous artist can never be forgotten... To future generations Chaliapin will become a legend." - Sergey Rachmaninov

Sunday, January 11, 2015

First post of 2015

I have some spare time on my hands at the moment, so I figured I would post.  It's been a long time since I've posted.  December was crazy busy, and now things are relaxing a bit.  I'm in a place where I am making health an important part of my life.  Even though 2015 has only just started, I have been eating well, exercising and caffeine and alcohol free and have not looked back.  I intend to stick with it, I'm not making it a resolution, but a way of life.  Life is too short not to.  I'm taking it days and moments at a time, not just making it a goal for the whole year.  Health is a number of things, mainly just taking care of yourself mentally, physically and spiritually.  Actually that's pretty much the whole deal since a number of things wrap around those three things.  One of those things being allowing people who build me up into my life versus the opposite.  Toxic people have got to go.
   Artistically, things are a bit quiet right now.  I'm sure that will change.  Just have to stay positive and keep doing the work.  I am planning a homage recital to the late Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin during this year, so stay tuned for that.  I will talk about Chaliapin a bit, and sing songs he sang.  I like doing recitals since they make me feel artistically fufilled.  I am also planning a concert version of Lucia with some colleagues of mine, so stay tuned for that as well.  I'm just trying to let the pieces fall into place versus micromanaging the crap out of everything.  I'm planning some open mics with my songs and some covers.  I'm brushing up on the old guitar skills first.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that my students will be in a recital tomorrow night.  I'm very proud of their work.
  Enough about me.  Corny as this may sound, I'm hoping for less violence.  We are not off to a good start.  I'm referring to the events in Paris.  The obituaries of those who died made me very sad.  I'm sad for the families as well.  The people who died sounded like courageous and accomplished human beings.  I feel like violence just continues and it never stops.  I'll never understand why.  Musicians need to remember that we can help be an antidote to violence.  Leonard Bernstein basically said what I just said but more eloquently because he was brilliant.  When we are in nail biting rehearsals rehearsing a spot on the passagio a hundred times, it's good to remember that music is very peaceful for the soul.
  This blog feels random to me.  I was nicknamed random in eighth grade.  I wasn't a fan of that nickname.  The last point I'll make is to urge people just to be nice to each other.  Saying something nice to someone can have a tremendously positive impact.  The opposite is also true.  Be well everyone.  I'm going to hopefully blog more often this year.