Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Down Time

How does one define "down time?" Why is it necessary? How can one maximize its benefits? Coming off an incredibly busy and intense school year, I am greatly looking forward to exploring these questions over my intentionally not-busy summer ahead... Sure, I have a couple of selected performances scheduled, but overall I am planning to take some time and genuinely REST for a change. For the artist, restfulness needs to happen if one is to remain creative. While we can (and often do) create art under pressure, our creativity lags when we are overly stressed, tired, burned out or generally overloaded for too many months/years at a time. Taking time to get away, ease the stress and place mental energies onto more creative pathways will nourish an overwhelmed artist.

What can I do this summer to recharge my creative batteries? For one, I long to creep back into my dedicated practice time untouched by other encroaching commitments. Giving myself two hours to lose myself in music is like a spa treatment for my creative mind! The never-ending to-do list must be placed aside if I am to truly experience the "zone" into which creativity pours like a fountain. For some reason, to-do lists and the "zone" are incompatible in my life. But when I grant myself permission to put the list aside, the "zone" is thankfully not far away.

Spending time with loved ones is another important re-charging activity to which I am looking forward! This means saying "no" to various entities that request (or demand) my sacred vacation time. This very powerful word may yet be the key to my sanity... I look forward to trying it out!

Prayer and meditation work wonders when needing a balm from the often traumatic events of everyday life. I look forward to dedicating more time each day to these spiritual practices and watching God transform my stress into peace...

Reading, gardening, jogging, singing, writing, swimming, hiking... whatever the activity may be, I challenge my artistic friends to join me in a summer of rejuvenation for art's sake!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Projects and more projects

Jazz concerts, new ventures, recordings, music articles, collaborations... January and February always seem to be the time to plan the "next phase" of projects. I am excited about a concert coming up March first--I will be the first vocalist to ever perform with the Greenville Jazz Collective! This wonderful instrumental ensemble is dedicated to writing and performing new jazz music. As a departure from their norm, we are engaging in a celebration of classic songs from the Great American Songbook programming works by Gershwin, Arlen, Porter, Duke, and Berlin. Our first and only rehearsal hit today--and I already know this performance is going to be a trip! Greenville/Spartanburg folks won't want to wait to get tickets--this ensemble usually sells out this tiny venue fast (The Coffee Underground), so see and order your tickets today!

I have been meaning to release a pop single for several months now... it is fully mastered and ready to go! I am excited to start the buzz about this one in advance--it is an original country song of mine with acoustic guitar accompaniment provided by the guitar master John Chiodini. I'm working on putting the pieces in place to create some awareness about it before its release, so consider yourself informed! Can a jazz singer do a country song justice? You be the judge... :)

I also have some rather exciting collaborations on the horizon which I will only hint at for the moment. They include some potentially active touring and work with some truly outstanding artists... all very exciting stuff which makes me thankful I chose this profession! Or, rather, this profession chose me...

I have re-designed my Tour Archives page on my website, so if you'd like to see where I've been and what I've been doing, that's a great place to find out! Also, please "Like" my Facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter
if you have been to a concert and enjoyed the show! I look forward to seeing you out and about!

Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

What an eventful year this has been! Every late December I like to reflect upon the previous twelve months in an effort to learn from the past and present. Hopefully, those lessons will inform the future! What can I learn from this past year that could make 2014 that much more efficient, successful, fulfilling and rewarding? Hmm...

First, I need to schedule time to nurture family and friend relationships. All things worth doing require a time commitment, and it is easy for those submerged in more work than they can reasonably accomplish to push more important things aside. Second, I would like to allow for distractions in my day when they involve helping someone else. Our schedules and to-do lists should never trump our generosity and kindness which others desperately need! Third, on a more personal level, I plan to package into my schedule time to unplug. We Americans seem to move so fast from one thing to the next that savoring beautiful things is an activity rarely cultivated. Artists require time to savor beauty and create something new from it... Fourth, I wish to carve out more dedicated practice time every day. My calendar is filling with wonderful new performance opportunities and as I plan my next recording, my time will be at a premium, so protecting that ever-crucial "personal time with my piano" from other activities encroaching upon it will be absolutely necessary...

These resolutions (or goals, as I prefer to think of them) may portray me as an idealist, but in truth, I would not be where I am today without a commitment to steady, continual, personal growth. Learning from my mistakes and trusting God to take me the rest of the way have fueled attitudes of contentment and thankfulness which are tremendous blessings. May all of us find ways to allow 2013 (and previous years) to positively influence our decisions and pathways to come... Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Syracuse Symphoria

Next week I will be so pleased to be on tour with the wonderful symphony organization called Symphoria--the former Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. Two and a half years ago I was deeply saddened when the SSO filed for bankruptcy and ended their 50th season early, before the long-awaited Yo-Yo Ma concert. Imagine my glee when the successor organization contacted me this past summer to invite me to perform as their Holiday Pops soloist in their inaugural season as they gathered their troops back together for more music-making! What a privilege to help usher in a new era for my hometown cultural institution, our beloved symphony. This said, I am inviting every friend, family member, fan, former student and music-lover in central New York to join us in celebrating and supporting "Symphoria Pops Open the Holidays"--our Holiday Pops tour through Jamestown, Auburn, Herkimer and Syracuse, NY. We kick off the tour at the RegLenna Civic Center in Jamestown on Wednesday, December 4 at 8pm. We then move to Auburn High School for a concert Thursday, December 5 at 8pm, and then to Herkimer High School Friday, December 6 at 8pm. The talented teenaged tenor, Nick Ziobro, will be the featured vocalist at three more regional concerts (Oswego, Cortland and Rome) on December 15, 16 and 18, after which Nick and I will join forces with conductor Sean O'Loughlin, The Syracuse Pops Chorus and the Empire State Dance Center for a holiday extravaganza on Friday, December 20 at 7:30 at the Crouse-Hinds Concert Hall in Syracuse's OnCenter on Montgomery Street. Ticket information for each concert is available at the Symphoria box office (315-299-5598) and at For more information, please see my website.

The concert program for each of my four shows with Symphoria will include beautiful holiday arrangements of familiar songs arranged by Grammy-winning arrangers Chris Walden and Bill Cunliffe, as well as Jason Goldman. We will also perform a beautifully-orchestrated "Peter Pan Suite," "It's a Wonderful Life Suite," and a traditional singalong medley of carols. These will be unforgettable evenings--please forward this information to anyone you believe would appreciate knowing, and thank you in advance for supporting the arts! I wish you many blessings for a safe, happy, and musical holiday season!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Finding Balance

How does an active performer/teacher find balance among touring, writing, arranging, teaching, traveling, practicing, booking tours and learning music? Furthermore, how does one balance all that with a healthy home life, mental and emotional health, physical health and spirituality? Any busy artist can tell you it is certainly not easy. I have found prayer and meditation to be critically important in helping me keep my busy life in perspective. Firstly, I strive to do everything for God's glory--after all, He is the one responsible for the gifts I possess, and it is my responsibility to share those gifts with the world to the best of my ability. Reminding myself of this helps me also remember that whatever I am currently facing is possible with His help. That means I must take care of myself when I begin to lose my balance. Too much stress can wreak havoc on physical and emotional health, so it is imperative to find ways to manage and release my stress whenever possible. Physical exercise is a great help here, so daily workouts are part of my routine. I also try to keep focused on my family every weekday evening--bringing work-related stress home will not usually improve it anyway!

I have found that time management is a vital, but often elusive factor in whether balance is achieved or not. Remembering to spend time on important, but non-urgent things is key to maintaining my balance. Priorities like exercise, prayer, family time and adequate rest are such important attributes of the balanced lifestyle. "Urgent" demands (like emails and phone calls that you are expected to answer in a timely fashion, work with deadlines attached, and piles of undone projects that others expect you to finish) can easily push more important tasks to the fringes of the day. I am learning that "urgent" items are often not as urgent as they seem. Consistently chipping away at the "urgent" tasks and big projects on a nearly daily basis can help them seem less ominous and more attainable, and will likely reduce stress as you approach a project deadline.

The name of the game for me is to avoid becoming overwhelmed. This week, for instance, I have several extensive projects to complete and submit at work. I also have the largest number of student appointments to keep because it is advising week at our university, so my free time to work on those projects is non-existent. Further, I am traveling at the end of the week to record thirty to fifty pieces over three days (I sing three tracks per piece) with Alfred Music Publishing in Pennsylvania. This will be a very demanding weekend for my vocal and physical stamina, so I must take care to prepare myself physically, mentally and vocally for that trip, regardless of all the other demands I face.

I am thankful for my life, my family and friends, my music, my opportunities, my job, my students and for so many other things. Keeping THIS mindset is by far the best way for me to remember how to maintain balance. There's nothing like an attitude of gratitude to do my heart good! When I pare it all down and realize what matters most, I can accomplish what I am meant to each day, and leave the rest. Learning this has been, for me, an avenue toward peace.

Monday, September 30, 2013

On Holiday Tour with Syracuse Symphoria

I am very happy to announce that I will be collaborating with my hometown orchestra, Symphoria (formerly the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra) in their Holiday Pops tour throughout Central New York in December. Conductor Sean O'Loughlin graciously invited me to debut my new holiday pops symphony show at three venues (December 4, 5, and 6) in addition to a culminating performance December 20 at the premier concert space in the greater Syracuse area, the Crouse Hinds Concert Hall in downtown Syracuse. The tour includes performances in Jamestown, Auburn, Herkimer and Syracuse (see my website for details) or call 315-299-5598 for ticket information.

This is a particularly special tour for me, as it represents an opportunity to rejoin my friends, family and former colleagues in Syracuse for a celebration most joyous. I last sang with the Syracuse Symphony when I was twelve as a member of the Syracuse Children's Chorus--we sang Mahler's Eighth Symphony (The Symphony of A Thousand) with Christopher Keene conducting (who famously went on to conduct the NYC Opera). While those memories were enchanting at the time, I dreamed then of someday performing in the Crouse Hinds Concert Hall as a symphony soloist with this wonderful ensemble and here I am! I am most thankful for this opportunity to debut my touring holiday pops show with my dear hometown symphony, Symphoria. I sincerely hope that if you reside in the central New York area, or are close enough to drive, you will share this unique and beautiful performance with us. Also on the program December 20 will be the very talented young tenor, Nick Ziobro, who won the 2012 Great American Songbook Competition! I look forward to collaborating with Maestro Sean O'Loughlin and Nick for an evening of very fine music. Won't you please join us?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Symphony Show update

Plans are underway to select the songs that will comprise my holiday pops show. Grammy-winning arranger Chris Walden and I are working together to come up with a program that will ideally suit my voice and be attractive to symphony orchestra conductors, performing arts center executive directors and concert series presenters. While it may still be a month or so before the final lineup of songs is complete, progress is being made toward the finalizing of these decisions and interest in this show is increasing by the day! I am so thankful for the opportunity to share great music by contemporary arrangers and composers and am greatly looking forward to presenting this symphony show throughout the country. If you are interested in programming this concert in your city's cultural arts series, please do be in touch! We rely on and appreciate the support and interest of listeners and fans of great jazz, cabaret and classical music. As always, thank you for your support of live music! For information about the shows I offer please see my website ( or send us an email at