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Spring Cleaning

Union Square, Saturday, April 12th, 2014Greetings to you, my good friends and fellow music lovers!

Finally, finally, we are seeing and feeling the results of a long, cold winter.

Hibernating roots and bulbs have emerged from the deep freeze and the city’s trees and flower beds are alive with blossom and color. The entire mood has changed down here in lower Manhattan; people have finally shed their thick down parkas and winter uniforms! The winter of 2014 was a doozy.

There is rebirth on every street corner!

I press on, singing regularly with the Middle Collegiate Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir in the East Village. Singing in a faith-based choir is very different than working on my own songs with a killer band that I hand pick. Both are fantastic experiences that I love so much and feel fortunate to have in my life. Singing in a choir is ensemble work on steroids. Music blasts out of the choir like water out of a fire hydrant on a steamy summer day.

Our choir director, John Del Cueto is a fireball maestro who takes no prisoners. He makes us work hard to read the chart, find the harmonies, hit the notes and study the lyric content. The Middle Church Gospel Band led by Dionne McClain-Freeney is also solid gold.

MCJJGC, January 2014 at Public Theater’s Fringe FestOf course, feeling the group’s spirit of faith and healing is priceless. The whole experience is a full tilt pleasure.

John tells us never to forget the importance of conveying the message behind the lyrics. He says you never know who will walk in to a service with personal pain or worry and be touched by something the music puts forward.

That can be said for gigs anywhere, not just church choir.

I remember not long ago listening to John Hiatt at City Winery. A line he kept repeating just got me, and before I knew it, I was riding my own emotions, tears streaming down my face, fingers fumbling in the dark for a tissue in my bag.

It’s never a bad thing to feel emotions, especially those brought on by music. It’s a healing thing.

My Dad and my Mandolin, both built in 1920!I'm also keeping my fingers nimble with guitar and mandolin lessons from two wonderful teachers, Terre Roche and Barry Mitterhoff.

This Thursday, April 17th, Middle Church hosts its annual Maundy Thursday multicultural Seder and Agape meal with the Shul of New York, where the Gospel Choir will be singing in Hebrew! It will be at 6:30pm at 50 East 7th Street.

On Easter Sunday, April 20th, the Gospel Choir will be singing at the two Easter services. You're welcome to join us, either in person or via livestream online! (Click here for the 9 a.m. service and here for the 11:15 a.m. service).

And on Friday, May 2nd, The Singin’ Seniors group has their spring concert and you are invited!

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
Senior Center at St. Peter's Church
619 Lexington Ave, NY
Refreshments provided

We hold a weekly singing class at Lenox Hill Senior Center, sponsored by Feel The Music!, where we practice vocal exercises, sight reading and harmony singing and rehearse colorful and eclectic songs that are fun to sing and beautiful to hear.

The lovely and talented Clare Cooper is our illustrious accompanist!

I am very proud of these hard working, fun loving students. Their spring concert will surely be a feel-good event. Way to go, Singin’ Seniors!

One final note -- heads up for some good music. Four Fab Friends have released or are about to release new CDs this spring! Keep an eye & an ear out for:

Catherine Russell: "Bring it Back"

Amanda Homi: "Til I Reach Bombay"

Ann Klein: "Tumbleweed Symphony"

Valerie Ghent: "Muse"

And one more for the boys:
Noah Brandow (my awesome hip hop godson) has released a second CD with Twisted Linguistics: "Deep Waters."

Sending Love and Appreciation to you,


P.S. The John Hiatt song that got me crying was "Damn This Town":


January's Teachers

Greetings All Good People!

The New Year has arrived in all its splendor. Along with some classic, crystal clear winter blue sky days here, we have experienced quite a bit of nasty north-eastern weather. Slushy intersections, freezing cold temperatures and a huge broken water main on 13th Street in NYC, one block from our apartment building, that sent traffic, and pedestrians (and heat for many buildings) all akimbo!

With each new year comes the anticipation of better days, flowering possibilities and intriguing potential. The annual passing of the torch by Father Time promises to bring positive change! But, so far this year, I have cared for my dog during two surgeries to treat bone cancer, including an amputation, and I have mourned the death of a handsome young man with a family whose hearts are broken.

Lincoln with his cousin, RudyWhen life feels so precarious, I tend to wobble and isolate. I know I'm not alone in this. It’s hard to stay on task. Lately, I have had no choice energetically but to keep my life as quiet and as simple as I can manage. Everywhere I go and everything I do seems to require more time.

I have learned to trust in my teachers more than ever. My guitar teacher helps me stay focused on technique, theory and songs, even when my mind plays ping pong with my attention span. With Gospel Choir, our Director is very clear how he wants to hear us and what he expects from us as a choir. That helps me focus on the music and not on the 10,000 other things dashing around in my brain. My yoga teacher helps me listen to my body's wisdom. With my dog’s medical condition, I listen to our veterinary doctor and follow his directions. Lincoln himself is teaching me a lot! I know I do better if I listen to my smart and steady teachers.

By slowing things down, I have been able to understand the many good things a quieter lifestyle brings. My expectations of what I thought I could cram into an hour or a day were unrealistic and only created frustration ahout how little I was getting done compared to my grand plans. It was self-inflicted pressure and anxiety.

Real things do take time. Visiting friends who are going through hard times, cooking nutritious meals, practicing music, caring for a recovering pet: those are all real things that happen between the obligations and appointments and meetings.

It is surprising, how trauma and tragedy were the ingredients needed to get me to take it down a notch and find a different frequency at which to live my life.

My wish for you is a that you too find a bounty of smiles and clear space in your day (and your mind), and that it will help guide you through your next challenge, which is quite possibly lurking just around the corner.

My Love to you,



The Singin' Seniors Fall/Winter Concert

I've just wrapped up another ten-week singing workshop at the Senior Center at St. Peter's Church, and, as usual, I had a blast working with this charismatic and enthusiastic group. To celebrate, we're having a performance and party on Friday, December 13, from 1-3 pm. If you're so inclined, join us for some good tunes and special guests, including a hula dance class!

All the details:

Much love and winter wishes,




The Tempest at the Delacorte Theatre

Last weekend, I had the privilege of singing with a small group from The Middle Church Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir in the community theatrical event The Tempest, performed at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. The show included a cast of over 200 New Yorkers, and the gospel choir voices added a little extra flavor!

The reviews are in about this unique performance of The Tempest, and they're glowing!

Here's a bit of backstory about the production, via the New York Times:

“The Tempest,” which will be at the Delacorte Theater in the park on Sept. 6-8, is the first production of Public Works, an effort by the Public Theater to open its stages to New Yorkers who may feel excluded from the theater world. Tickets are free, first come first served. The cast includes more than 200 people from five community organizations and seven independent performing groups — cabdrivers, a gospel choir, Mexican folk dancers, Japanese taiko drummers, a gypsy brass band and a bubble-blower.

It was truly a profound and fantastic experience, including the perfect weather for our three performances. Here are a few behind the scenes shots from my perspective as a choir member:

This was at our August 31st rehearsal with the gospel choir, John Del Ceuto, Todd Almond, Norm Louis, Laura Benanti, Ann Klein, Sarah Lee, Rich Mercurio & about 100 others!

Me, Carol Kissling, Jo Ellen Berryman, Rochelle Green-Doctor, Yukiho Ikegaya, Kashimi Asai, Ailen Pedraza, Kristin Bebelaar, Aya Morita, Jennifer Coleman, Miyuki Habiro, Lisa Fenger, Karen Brightly, Mika Mitamura

Here is a small group of us waiting to go on stage that first night. Brrrr! We were chilly penguins, huddling together.

And here we are on stage, during the performance, in our teal shirts. Oops! I am not in the frame but my left elbow was there! Far Left, 2nd row!

All in all it was a tremendous experience and I'm so grateful that I was involved.

Here are some highlights from the reviews I've read so far:

For now, the big news is this: Ms. deBessonet, her collaborators and her cast of more than 200 New Yorkers have created a stirring, delightful “Tempest,” one that feels more vibrantly alive than many of the turgid, star-studded blockbusters floating around out there. This was a love letter — to Shakespeare, certainly, but really to the city of New York.

New York Times, "'The Tempest,' at the Delacorte, Enlists 200 New Yorkers


To be sure, this wasn’t the result of a some lunatic open call. De Bessonet and her team established relationships with specific community groups and performing ensembles and presumably they each rehearsed their segments discretely until the final days when they were assembled en masse...

It was also a reminder of the power of collaboration, of the intermingling of different artistic pursuits  and organizations to create a blended whole. At a time when the arts are often seen as frivolous or disposable, there is enormous strength in variety and in numbers, sending a message about the essential and broad-based value of creativity and performance at every level of society and life.

Howard Sherman, "Brave New Tempest, With Such People In It

Adding to the pageantry are the Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Ensemble (whose powerful drumming supplies the tempest's thunder), The Middle Church Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir, The Raya Brass Band (specializing in Eastern European folk), teenage hip-hop dancers from Generation, kids from Ballet Tech and lively folk dancers from The Calpulli Mexican Dance Company. As additional spirits helping to haunt the unwelcome visitors, most of these groups perform to their own music and choreography., "Review - Public Works' THE TEMPEST Celebrates New York Community"


Now that autumn is in action, I'm preparing for my autumn Feel the Music! Senior Sing workshop at St. Peter's Church. More updates as the fall schedule develops!

Much love,




Is It Possible to Have Too Much Fun?

July 18, 2013

Summer is in full swing, and there's so much goodness to update you on.

First, an upcoming chance to see a wonderful performance I am happy to be part of:

Shakespeare in the Park
Public Works' The Tempest
Friday through Sunday, September 6-8, 2013 (time TBA)

I'll be singing with a select group from The Middle Church Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir in the community theatrical event, The Tempest.

In 1916, a community theatrical event entitled Caliban by the Yellow Sands with Shakespeare’s The Tempest as the inspiration, took place at the stadium at City College in New York. The intent was to unite New Yorkers of all classes and all beliefs, and the production featured some of the best-known professional actors of the day alongside 1,500 community members who participated in a series of pageant and dance interludes, and was a great success.

Inspired by this extraordinary community event, The Public Theater will produce a 21st century version of this event in September for free at the Delacorte Theater with our community partners as well as guest performers and professional actors.

Tickets are free, so come out and enjoy a special night of theatre under the stars!

Several weekends ago, I had the great pleasure of spending a morning with Mac McAnally, the legendary country singer-songwriter, musician, and producer. We talked music and I played him a few of my songs. Lincoln was smitten as soon as he walked in the door; as you can see from this photo, he didn't want to let Mac out of his sight!

I've also played a few non-traditional gigs recently. At the end of June, I sang with the Middle Collegiate Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir as we rode on the Churches’ float in the PRIDE Parade in NYC!

This past weekend, I had a blast singing in my hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, first at my high school reunion where we had arranged for me to sing a few songs with The Mother Dudes and then exit, stage left, back to my table for 10 and my white wine…but guitarist Phil (Shumacher) asked me to stay up there and help ‘em out with more music, and I'm really glad he did! Is it possible to have too much fun? We were singing and playing until the club started packing up the black and gold napkins and streamers and kicked us out GOODBYE!

On Sunday morning, I sang at the very beautiful and acoustically pristine First Plymouth Church, something my big brother arranged for me to do. Thanks Lowell! All in all a great visit back to the Midwest!

“We are the Knights of Southeast” - Susan Stover, Kevin Moore and me!

On the listening side of things, Mike and I spent some time in the beautiful Rocky Mountains for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

We heard some outstanding music, including The Punch Brothers, Masters of Bluegrass, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Sam Bush, Lake Street Dive, and Sarah Jarosz.

Deborah and Sarah outside the Workshop Stage at Elks Park in Telluride

Up here I feel like a Colorado songbird. It’s a slice of heaven on earth!

Next up, I head to my home away from home -- Puget Sound Guitar Workshop!

More music and mischief making with my pals from camp.

I'll have more photos to share with you when I return.

Hope the summer is treating you deliciously,

Much love,



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