Category: Odds and Ends

Featured Artist for January 2014: Geoff Kraly

Featured Artist for January 2014: Geoff Kraly

To start off the new year, I have decided to feature a musical artist every month on my blog. I’m planning to select artists I have some personal connection with: I have either worked for them, collaborated with them, or hope to work/collaborate with them in the future. Also, I’m planning to feature artists who have been at my home and shared a meal with me. I find that having a meal together is a wonderful way to connect with someone outside of playing music with them.

My first featured artist of the year is my dear friend Geoff Kraly. Geoff and I have shared many meals together. Of all the things I’ve cooked for him, I think his favorite is probably my homemade Big Macs and fries.

Geoff has been in NYC since 2003 after graduating from Northwestern University, where he studied both jazz performance and music cognition. Since then he has been actively working as an electric bassist, composer, songwriter/lyricist and producer.

One of the things I respect most about Geoff is his impeccable taste in music and the execution of it. Just this past November, Jacob Sacks and I had Geoff in the recording studio listening and giving suggestions as we recorded our third release which will be coming out this year.

Another amazing thing about Geoff is that the man can write a song! Geoff’s lyrics are so moving, he is always musically interesting, deeply emotional and the songs really get you in the gut. The times that I have sung Geoff’s music, I have had to prepare myself not to crack my voice or start sobbing in the middle of the tune.

Geoff’s most recent work is as the producer and bassist for Ben Scheuer‘s band, The Escapist Papers. He has also co-written a recording with Ben called, Lady Clown. Geoff recently completed producing drummer Vinnie Sperrazza’s forthcoming album.

Geoff’s main and current project is Paris Monster, a collaborative duo with multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Josh Dion. Geoff is co-producer, co-engineer, lyricist, co-writer and performer on bass and modular synthesizers. This duo is electrifying to watch and listen to. Geoff’s powerful and intense lyrics combined with Josh’s melodies and their combined charismatic performance seduces and invites you into a world where you want to stay all night long. You can witness this magical chemistry in NYC where Paris Monster will be doing a residency at the Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 1 on January 17, 24, February 1 and 7 starting at 10:00pm.

You can check out Paris Monster’s latest EP on Sound Cloud and purchase the EP on ITunes. You can also watch their newest video Pride

On a more personal note, outside of his wonderful musicianship, Geoff is an incredibly loyal friend and one of the most sensitive souls I know. Quiet and strong and funny as hell, this is an artist you really should take the time to check out. You can visit his website at: Geoff Kraly or Paris Monster.

Geoff, the next meal will be Big Macs. You are bringing the beer, I hope.

10 Minutes To Get Things Done

10 Minutes To Get Things Done

We are now well on our way into 2014 and I started off nicely with an afternoon of reading J.S. Back Fugues, Book I with many wonderful musicians hosted by my lovely friend, composer and violinist,Dana Lyn. Nothing feels better than playing some Bach but after that wonderful day, I got a stomach bug and was out for a good couple of days. It wasn’t your average 24 hour thing. This bug lingered and never got seriously bad but for about four days I was extremely nauseous all day and night (fun!).

Now school is back in session and everyone is back to work. I was really hoping to hit the ground running with projects and goals and what I ended up with instead was a sluggish start that makes me feel like I’m moving in molasses. After a week of this slow motion business I decided that I needed a plan to start getting things done.

Full disclosure: I am a procrastinator. I am inefficient, slow, scatter brained, and sometimes downright lazy. I’m not proud of this, but there you have it.

So, how does a person like myself get things done? I have discovered that for me, 10 minutes is a magical length of time. What can you do in 10 minutes, you ask? You would think not a lot, but I have discovered that I am the Queen of Efficiency when I am working with only 10 minutes. Add up a few 10 minute sessions and you start to see things really happen.

To give you an example, last Wednesday I decided to really see how much 10 minutes could give me. From 11:00am to 3:00pm I tidied up the foyer, bedroom, living room, and cleaned the sink and toilet and washed a ton of dishes in the kitchen. I also practiced 20 minutes of piano and 20 minutes of singing (that may not seem like a lot but I rarely ever get to practice one instrument let alone two), exercised for 20 minutes, meditated, and also had some leisure time (Facebook, emails, etc…)

Now perhaps for some of you four hours might seem like plenty of time to get this much done but for a person like myself who usually just gets overwhelmed and resigns herself to watching a couple of hours of Netflix and tidying up one room (maybe), I was on fire! The best part of the day was that I didn’t feel overwhelmed by what I felt I had to get done. Every task felt easy because, really, how much can you expect to do in 10 minutes? I wanted to get as much done as I could in 10 minutes but when it was over, it was over and I moved on to another task.

I also tried to get some kind of closure with each task so that I wasn’t leaving a bigger mess. Overall, the experience was so satisfying that now I set the timer whenever I want something done—and then it gets done. I feel no guilt if I don’t get more done and I feel good that I put in my 10 minutes. I plan to continue this little 10 minute project and see how far I can go with it.

This method is certainly not for everyone but for someone like me who tends to get flustered easily by how much there always is to do, I think it’s just right.

The Lion

The Lion

While celebrating my birthday the other evening, I congratulated my friend Ben Scheuer on his multiple awards for his newest animated video for his song. “The Lion.” As I was telling my other friends about this song, it had just occurred to me that I had sung additional vocals on this track. I am honored to have been part of this great artistic endeavor and once again, Ben, congratulations!
Here is this wonderful song and video, “The Lion”.

Balance

Balance

I am struggling with the concept of balance. As I get older, when I crouch down to my son’s level to talk or hang out with him, I stand up and feel the entire world spinning and I wonder if I might pass out. It has been happening now since my son was born. Not sure what it means but I guess that’s a question for my doctor. But that’s just one type of balance that I struggle with.

I am a pianist and a vocalist or am I a vocalist and a pianist? I am constantly wondering what should come first. Why should it matter? I grew up as a pianist because I took formal lessons and I got a BMus in music with piano as my main instrument. I took a long break from playing the piano and now have returned with wonderful new enthusiasm. I came to NYC as a vocalist (with another BMus with voice as my main instrument) and most of my colleagues know me as a vocalist and my closest friends and most trusted musical colleagues know I do both. This whole explanation seems long winded but it is to show you the daily internal struggle I have of how I identify with myself. These days I am more obsessed with practicing the piano than singing yet I have to remind myself that I have a recording session for my upcoming release in three weeks which requires me to practice my craft as a vocalist as well. I don’t know how some musicians do it. Some are just so talented that they can concentrate on both instruments and maintain a high caliber at all times. I envy those folks. I also truly admire the person who can find that balance of career and parenting. This is the one I find hardest to figure out. You would think I would have some notion after three years but quote honestly, I am as clueless as I was when my son was born.

Working on a career is hard, period. Working on a musician’s career…even harder (in my opinion). Not only do you need to maintain your craft, you want to get better at it and then on top of that you should perform and do PR, marketing, teach etc. I found all of that challenging when I was single, and I then had way more time on my hands. Now with a family I wonder how anyone can do it. I consider it a blessing when I can practice one instrument for 30 minutes every day. Where does all the other stuff come in? Maybe it’s because some folks work super hard while they are single or with no family and create enough of a name that when it comes time to have a family, it isn’t as hard to gear back up. I love being a mom and wife and I love being a musician. Trying to do all of it seems to be the big mystery to me. I know there are lots of people with different types of careers that go through the same challenges and anyone out there with some great advice on this subject, I am all ears.

I wish I could find that happy balance with my life. I know what I want but I am not quite sure how to achieve it. Most of the time I am feeling in the dark. People have advised things like, practice early in the morning if you can (who wants to bloody well sing at 7am and who wants to hear that? Not me!) This really sounds like complaining and maybe it is a little but more than anything it is me admitting that I really have no idea what I’m doing and it’s ok to admit that. Wish I knew better though.

Me and Pilates

Me and Pilates

On Monday, I had my first private Pilates lesson. I never thought I would see myself spending the money on a private lesson and especially Pilates. I am a boot camp kind of girl. I like to sweat and work hard. After I got carpel tunnel and sprained my ankle last year, all the boot camp classes were history. I can no longer do push ups without suffering for days and of course there’s always the time factor. My main motivation for these private sessions is that after having a baby three years ago, I always look like I’m in my second trimester of pregnancy. Yes, I have the permanent mummy tummy or the scientific word is diastasis recti. Diastasis Recti is when your abdominal muscles are split in half and your internal organs are staying in with a thin layer of tissue (sounds gross and frightening, I know). Anyways, I thought I could just live with it but have now realized that it is starting to affect my singing. That’s where Pilates comes in.

Without going into real detail, my instructor gave me a variety of exercises with and without the Pilates machines. I had to focus on breathing and pulling my navel to the back of my spine and feel my hips being pulled in together. I also had to visualize working my pelvic floor. all of these things are essential for me to get my strength back for singing and chasing after my kid.

My first assessment on Pilates is that you definitely work your core. I feel satisfied by the fatigue and tightness I feel around my abdominal muscles. My instructor was not as sensitive to my carpel tunnel as I hoped but I promised myself to be more vocal about any stain or discomfort in the future. I go for my second class next week and I hope to have an even better experience. So far I give Pilates a B+.

I Have What?

I Have What?

So I have been diagnosed with carpel tunnel, radial tunnel and tendonitis in both my arms, wrists and thumbs. This post will be brief since typing on a computer keyboard is not recommended for someone with my condition. Over the next little while, I will try to document my journey to heal myself and hopefully be in a better physical, mental and emotional state with this. Being a pianist and having this condition is incredibly upsetting especially since I have rediscovered the love of playing the piano again (thanks Sofia!)

To Be or Not To Be…A Parent

To Be or Not To Be…A Parent

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I found this picture of myself and started to think about how my son will turn three next week. It’s hard for me to believe that I am a parent to a toddler and how this little person is constantly blowing my mind with his daily accomplishments.

Life as I know it now is so different from when I first moved to NYC. I am usually a night owl and love to hang late at night. I would go out and see music at least three or four nights a week plus play gigs and do a lot of hangin’ with my friends. I would play a session at least twice a week and I would practice voice and compose for hours. When I wasn’t music obsessed, I would spend hours in the kitchen making lots of food and trying out labour intensive recipes just for one meal. Ahhh, those were the days.

Now, if I stay up past midnight I need to recuperate for two days or so. I consider it a blessing when I can practice 45 minutes three days a week. I have a session about once every two or three months and I go out to see music about that much also. If a meal takes more than 30 minutes to make, I scratch it and thank goodness I did all that hanging with my friends in the past cause now I hardly get to see them. You would think that with this comparison why would anyone want to have kids or maybe you would think that having a family costs way too much of your time and money.

As I look back at these past three years, I can honestly say that yes, I miss hanging out, I really miss sleeping in, I would love to practice more and it would be nice to get out of my apartment for motives other than taking my son to preschool etc. But when my son starts talking, laughing, asking questions and getting excited about the adventures we will have together (imagined or real) and when he sighs with contentment when I sing him “In The Wee Small Hours” before bed and says “Mama, I love you,” I realize that there is pretty much nothing better for me. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want time for myself to do what I’d like but as I see my son growing older (and way too fast may I add), I don’t want to miss a second of it. Sounds so cliche and there is no other way to describe how I feel. I love being his mom and I can’t believe I waited so long to have this experience. I’m excited to see how my son grows up and of course all my virtues will be tested during that time. It is the best adventure I have ever been on and I am so happy to be a mother, it is the role of a lifetime.

Making Up With An Old Friend

Making Up With An Old Friend

Over the past year and a half, I have been studying piano with the amazing Sofia Rosoff. Sofia has rekindled the love that I had for playing the piano the way I did when I was a child. I never thought that the feeling would return.

All throughout my undergrad degree I was miserable and loathed playing the next piano class or lesson. I loved and still love music but performing on the piano was more a form of torture than joy. Today, I long for more time to practice (mostly because I’m a mom to a toddler and as you get older, life just seems to grab you by the short and curlies and yanks hard!) I am eager to try new pieces and face old ones but the best part is that I feel happy and excited when I sit at the piano. I feel inspired when I go to Sofia’s piano class every two weeks and I am always amazed that I never get nervous when I perform at class (a complete 180 from my undergrad days). Now, I do feel like a kid again when I sit down and play my Mozart, Schoenberg or Ellington. I’m just happy to be there. I’m so happy I’ve made up with my piano. I have missed it for a long, long time.

Jazz For The Family Today

Jazz For The Family Today

I am doing my first jazz gig where I can bring my son and not worry how late its going to go. I am doing a gig with my good friends Khabu (ukulele) and Mike McGinnis (bass clarinet) at Lark Cafe (1007 Church Ave, Brooklyn, NY), 4:00pm.
Lark is very child friendly with a little hang out room for the family (that’s where we’ll be playing). Toys for the kids and donuts and beer for the grown ups! This is also one of the only shows that I will exclusively sing jazz standards (something I haven’t done in years).
This is going to be fun.

Finding My Way Back

Finding My Way Back

Since last August, I have been studying with the incredible piano teacher, Sofia Rosoff. She is a remarkable woman. At 91 years old, she is sharp, wise, generous and awe inspiring. I haven’t been playing the piano seriously for more than 15 years, during which time I was working on my vocal skills. Now I feel ready to really start studying the piano and improving my skills as a pianist and musician from a hopefully better place than when I was a teenager and university student.
I like to call myself a recovering classical pianist. The constant psychological and emotional beatings I would give myself for never being good enough for the art form made me miserable. I loved to sing and enjoyed the lack of pressure I felt because I was an untrained vocalist and that I thought it wasn’t my first instrument. Now here I am, an improvising vocalist, working and living in NYC as a musician and I felt the call of the piano coming back to me. I use the piano for writing and practicing but I felt a yearning to really play the piano again.

Working with Sofia has given me new inspiration and longing to play the piano the way I’ve always wanted.

After two years of raising my beautiful little boy, I feel that now I can come back to performing with my own groups with more direction and excitement. And I hope that I will gain some new listeners along the way.

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