Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The American Constitution; one of the newest ships in the American Cruise Lines fleet. Since it is a larger vessel than some of the older ships, I had to be tendered out from shore on a recent visit to St. Michael's, MD. The Constitution holds 180 passengers, I believe, nearly twice as large as most of the older/original ships at 100. It actually makes a big difference in the feel of the cruise, and the dynamic of my shows. On the smaller vessels, there is more cohesion in the group (especially on the American Glory, which holds only 50 passengers) as they all sit together in a "living room" area for my show, which is more like a concert. The performance area on the Constitution is a much larger space where many sit close and are attentive, while some separate themselves in other parts of the room and are more inclined to socialize. Of course things evolve as they go along, so you adjust. And in my 10 years as a walk on entertainer for the company, as there would be for 10 years of anything, adjustments are just a part of the process. You won't see these shows listed on my performance schedule, as they are for the cruise passengers only and not open to the public. But pleased and blessed to be still going at it.  

After all these years; 45 to be exact. I was 14 years old when Joe and Paul Midiri walked in to the Triton Regional High School band room for the first time, during a concert band rehearsal as I sat in the trumpet section. Many who know me know the story, and the nearly lifelong on and off association with the various Midiri Brothers groups (starting with the original "A Couple of Joe's" Trio when we were still in high school). Back in the day, there were many big band gigs, sometimes several a week (alongside of all the smaller band work). It's a very different world now. And here I am, back with the band (after more than a decade away from it) with, arguably, the best seat in the house (the piano bench) to take a picture during "Sing Sing Sing". It's sad that there are so few Big Band opportunities now. Many memories, though. And also good to come "home". I am, after all, the "Other Brother". Back in 2005, after I had rejoined the band for awhile, the 3 of us made a 30 year reunion CD. The title was probably inevitable. Well now the wandering "brother" is back lurking about and the idea of a 45 year "anniversary" recording has come up. Or maybe we'll wait 5 years and celebrate the 50th, who knows?   

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

This week Mainstay Monday began it's 4th year of concerts (with few exceptions) every Monday night. What a fun night with the incredible fiddle player Nate Grower! 
Over a decade ago, I began working as Musical Director for the annual Women Helping Women concert in Chestertown (sharing the responsibilities at first, eventually assuming them solely). This unique show has me accompanying/supporting a stage full of stylistically diverse performers, one at a time (around 20 or so) over the course of an evening. And being in this position aligns with my strengths. Or my strength. I've long said that if I'd ever have to choose between solo piano performance and accompanying, it would be no contest (Of course, I wouldn't want to have to make that choice). And allowing things to evolve as they will (or to allow providence to unfold) without getting in the way brought me to the next level, if you will, of this journey. Mainstay Mondays, which can have the effect of enlarging one of the 4 minute Women Helping Women blocks to fill an entire evening, allows me to partner with a single artist to create an complete program. With Nate Grower, it was a wonderful experience of crossing the street, back and forth, as I joined him on some traditional fiddle tunes, and he challenged himself, quite successfully, to gain command of some jazz standards. Cherokee, especially, was just great fun. It's all great fun, and a wonderful privilege. Full steam ahead into year 4 we go! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

I lost an important person (to me) several weeks ago. She no longer suffers, which is comforting, even as she is sorely missed.
Candy was an avid doll collector, and would often leave something on my shelf when she would visit my house, creating this little scene. Today it reminds me that life (the one we know in the here and now) is short. And fleeting. And precious. And how many days do we have? All I know is that I have fewer than I did yesterday, and (probably far) less that the number I've lived up to now. 
 I just turned 59 (she was the same age), which is not the point at which I would have thought one ponders these things. But what do I know, I've never been this age before. I do know that my age is when people often start (continue) talking about retirement. That's something I don't think about as it's not an option for me, circumstantially or temperamentally. I seem to be at this paradoxical point where I feel that my more energetic days are behind me, while my more significant contributions (depending on how one measures them) may be in the days to come. Do the good you know to do. Trust, not understand. Be grateful in all things. 
I come back to this doll scene often. And remember that there is always a bigger picture.  

Monday, May 27, 2019

Conducting an experiment of sorts today, to do something I have been resisting for years now. First thing in the morning (whatever defines morning on a given day) is perhaps my best time of clarity. A good time to write, except for a commitment to playing the piano first, ideally before anything else. This has served me well for the desired purpose of opening up the creative space and allowing me to more easily find it throughout the day. For some people, the creative space involves words, but for me, not (or at least much less) so. Words often lead me to spaces in my head, and the absence of words can more easily allow me to find the spaces in my heart. As much of my lifetime that I have spent tangled up in my head, it is easy for me to understand my PTSD of sorts regarding the concern (or perhaps fear) of losing my space (in the space) when I need to find it later in the day. And I'm talking now about when at the piano, which I've come to embrace as my (main) communication portal. That portal goes both directions, inward and outward, to the connections I can make beyond myself. Of course, words can communicate too. And I'm not incapable of using them. In fact, some times it can work out quite well. But only sometimes. This evening (since I'm writing on a Monday) will be another Mainstay show, where I'll have to speak in addition to playing. My stock line that I will often say is that it's a crap shoot every time I pick up the microphone. What I won't often say is that it can also a crap shoot every time I sit at the piano. And my responsibility to play the odds in my favor, so to speak, whenever I perform. Since I am performing most days, it is a lifestyle choice of sorts to revolve my day, and even my life to a large extent, around the piano. So here I am, sitting at my laptop, living on the edge.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

I've always struggled a bit with the "jazz" label. For those who love jazz, it's okay. But for the majority of people it's a nebulous term at best. More often than not, to the general populace (like it or not), the knee jerk response to the term jazz is "I don't like it". When putting on a show, one of the struggles performers face is reaching/winning over the audience we have. Prior to that, another struggle is attracting that audience in the first place. I don't mind using the jazz term in front of an audience. I'm sometimes less comfortable using it as a description before the fact. But what other term is there? It is, in fact, the correct term to define what I do. I most often play tunes associated with the jazz vocabulary. I'm spontaneous and take to improvised flights of fancy. I'll converse (musically) with anyone on stage with me, to the best of my ability. All of this connects with audiences. And depending on who is in the audience, I may hear my favorite response of all: "I don't like jazz, but I like you." or "I didn't know I liked jazz", or some variation on the theme. 
When I describe myself as jazz, I'm prone to qualify it with the word "classic". My connection to jazz connects me to the historic classical literature, as this is the vocabulary which informs it, particularly (for me) up to the Impressionistic era. The connection to classic jazz also connects me to popular music, at least in concept. In the "classic" jazz era, in large regard, jazz WAS popular music. And even though I'm not a heavy ragtime player, I'll sometimes throw that word out and have fun with a Scott Joplin tune or two, particularly when performing the cruise shows, if I'm in need of another descriptive term.
Ultimately,I just want to play and let the connections happen. It's the words leading up to the performance that can be the most challenging part of the process.   

Monday, January 28, 2019

I was a "non-traditional" college student, graduating with a BA in music (in 1986) 8-1/2 years after I began. I wasn't looking at college as a ticket to a job. In fact, I knew full well otherwise, especially as a general music major (about as marketable a degree as basket-weaving). I went to college because the opportunity was there, and I was actually interested in learning (that's another story, for another time). I did it part time, while working as a piano teacher and gigging musician. The gigging musician phase of life began when I got my driver's licence, and soon became my primary activity. College was just one of the other things I worked in/around. There was no hurry, though I was glad when I finished. From that point I just kept going and continued to follow the paths I found. One of the paths lead me to a Music Therapy certification (MT-BC) in 1997. Another story for another time. Suffice to say, I didn't go in through the front door. I wasn't planning to do it. Never even thought about Music Therapy, actually, until I was recruited (based on work I was already doing). I was just going about my business, trying to do the best good I could. Then the whole thing grew organically and essentially presented itself to me. It's like following a dream that you don't know you're dreaming, because you're walking the path instead, one little step at a time. One day you discover that many small steps make a leap, and there you are. Or put another way; bloom where you're planted, then be attentive to what grows. Fast forward to today, and the latest example of this. 3 years after being recruited to help the Washington College Jazz Combo (because they didn't have a pianist at the time), and doing the best good I could, I was given the opportunity to join the faculty (as an adjunct "lecturer") and direct the group. I wasn't planning to do it. Never had any ambition to be college faculty. And certainly, no expectation, given I only have a bachelor's degree. But, by this point, I do have over 40 years of being in the trenches as a performing musician. And I suppose that means something. I also have a lifetime of dreaming the dreams I discover as I live them. A few years ago, I was a guest musician in a church, and one of the staff musicians was taken by the fact that I am a full time gigging musician. She said I was "living the dream". It was nice to hear at the time. Now I reflect on that again. Living the dream. Yes, I am. Perhaps now with a little better grasp of what that means. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Back in college, as a student of Yoheved Kaplinsky, I was introduced to "rotation", or Talbman (named after it's originator Dorothy Talbman, with whom Dr. Kaplinsky studied directly) technique. I am not a perfect practitioner of the approach, but have held on to it's basic principles as foundational to my own physical prowess to express from the piano. At its core, it is about using (our own) weight and momentum as the catalyst for piano technique, as opposed to unnecessary muscle involvement. When it is first introduced to a student, they will often be asked to sit at the edge of the bench and let their arm hang limp alongside. The teacher may lift up the arm and, while positioning themselves to break the fall, ask the student to let their arm fall freely. This is met with varying levels of success. Occasionally you get a dead weight arm (the goal) the first time. More often, though, when the arm is "dropped", it moves very little, sometimes frozen stiffly in place. It is difficult to let go. Feels unnatural, or perhaps better, as a loss of control. To let go is to feel vulnerable, until you come to realize that it is not only safe (given the proper landing), it is, in fact, the most natural way to be. What a student is told, once they are willing to "fall" into the piano key, is to land on their fingertip, supported by the first finger joint, and "stand" on the note, as opposed to pushing the key down with the finger or arm muscles. It is, indeed, as effortless as (and analogous to) walking. What happens when you put one foot on front of the other? You don't stomp your foot down as you go (unless you are having a tantrum), rather you allow gravity to effortlessly pull your foot down to the ground, and then you stand on it, supported by your ankle joint. Generally, we are not taught how to walk, because it is natural. We will work through the phases (sitting, crawling ...) until we get to the place we are supposed to be. So, something organic and natural, like walking, can become a foundational model to other pursuits. And this certainly is so with regard to playing the piano, at least through the prism of rotation technique. 
But there seems to be a general lesson here as well, to work with the forces at play, and become harmonious with them. It folds into that bigger picture of getting out of our own way when expressing through music (or anything else). But back to, specifically, the technique of falling into a note, as opposed to pushing it down. The primary manner in which I keep myself connected to rotation technique, 4 decades after being introduced to it, is to maintain awareness of how it feels. Specifically, the feeling of falling, as opposed to the feeling of pushing. Of course, there is much more detail, actually quite exhaustive, that underlies this approach. And honestly, I have lost the mental connection with much of it. But I do remember what it means. And really, that's most of what I'll retain about anything. On a broader level, it is related to what I once heard in an interview with an opera singer (whose name, unfortunately, I don't remember) when he said something like "People go away from my performances and won't necessarily remember what I sang for them, but they will remember how it made them feel". And similar to getting out of our own way to become more harmonious with the forces around us - as would be walking as opposed to stomping, or falling into a note as opposed to forcibly pushing - my focus in playing piano is on that place, that feeling, if you will, where intuition informs thought; where my internal, or mental efforts become connected to the larger scheme of things, the forces around us, to become more harmonious with them. It's like that limp arm hanging alongside the bench. Once you learn to allow yourself to let go, you are in a position to begin to learn that letting go does not mean giving up, it means being connected. You aren't losing control, you are gaining freedom. And yes, I believe the application here is ultimately much broader than playing piano, or making music, or any other subject matter. But as this is the perch on which I sit, and the learning environment in which I live, this is the lens through which I see. And to feel, and learn to live in this connection, is a lead a blessed life indeed.     

Thursday, January 10, 2019

I'm actually finding myself in the position of having an opinion about something to do with football. Being from the Philadelphia area, I might pay a bit of attention when something notable is going on with one of the Philly sports teams. It was the playoffs, and eventual Super Bowl win by the Eagles last year that first caught my interest. By the time I had any awareness of the circumstances, Nick Foles (the back up quarterback for Carson Wentz who was injured late in the season) was leading his team to a highly improbable world championship, earning the Super Bowl MVP award in the process. And he truly earned it. Seemingly, in every clutch situation, he delivered. He was in the zone. The team seemed as one with him. It was truly inspirational. Immediately as the season ended the buzz began about the starting quarterback situation the following year, and it was clear that Nick Foles had not won the job, even if he had won the Super Bowl. To say that he was gracious about it would be an understatement. Whenever I would hear him speak, he always centered around the theme: Don't think about tomorrow, don't think about yesterday, be in the moment. Most importantly, to this observation, this is how he conducts himself on the field. And the (even more) highly improbable events of the current football season have brought this into focus for me. With 3 weeks to go in the regular season, and with a 6-7 Eagles record, Carson Wentz goes down again. Enter Nick Foles, and the team wakes up to win the last 3 games of the season (which they weren't supposed to), sneaking in to the wild card playoff round. By now everyone is paying attention, as Nick Foles continues to perform, at seemingly every critical moment (or maybe just every moment. He tied the NFL record for consecutive completed passes - 25 - in the final game of the regular season). So now the Eagles, having won the wild card round in a heart stopping game, find themselves in the thick of the playoffs again. And everyone in the sports world is talking about Nick Foles. And here is where it really begins to hit home for me. The summary of all the chatter is the consensus (sort of) that Carson Wentz is the better quarterback, in terms of overall ability, and as such is secure in his starting status going forward. To which Nick Foles responds something like: "I love being part of the Eagles organization. I'm happy to be here no matter what. I'm not thinking about tomorrow, or yesterday, just in the moment". So we have the (accepting the argument) superior skills versus ability to completely, without distraction, be in the moment. The other week, when I heard a commentator reference that Carson Wentz can have a tendency to overthink (because more options are on the table for him, because of his abilities, or something like that) ... "ding"... yes. I am really identifying with Nick Foles at this point. And drawing inspiration. It is said that Nick Foles plays a game with more limited options because of his limited abilities (compared to Wentz). In my realm, I also play with limited options. I am not a comprehensively skilled pianist. There are things I do well, there are things I don't. And I know what these are on both sides, and construct my playbook accordingly. The idea of "playing within your box" has been on my radar screen for some time, as a critical element in performance. Know what you can do, know what you can't, live in the former. But add being in the moment, and what do you have? You have magic. You have authenticity. You have connection. You have uniqueness. When someone wants to assert (or challenge me) that I can do anything at the piano, I'll respond, "No, but there is one thing that I can do better than anyone else; be myself". But pondering all this allows me to better see that being myself is not simply disciplining within my skill sets. It is also surrendering these to the moment. And Nick Foles is showing everyone what is means to get (self) out of the way, and be in the moment. This is the magic. And everyone appreciates the magic. Until they start talking about it. And then they (or many of them) miss the point. Whatever happens this week (the Saints are an 8 point favorite on Sunday, and beat the Eagles 48-7 in the regular season), Nick Foles is being an example for all of us. Let us all be receptive to the deeper things.      

Friday, January 04, 2019

Another season, and year, has come to a close for me with American Cruise Lines. I began performing for them as a walk on entertainer in 2010, when they added Chestertown to one of their itineraries. A few years later they dropped Chestertown, but retained me, allowing me to drive to meet the ships at other ports - usually Cambridge, MD. About the same time, the company began expanding itineraries to other parts of the country, beginning with Alaska; diverting resources, and travelers, away from the East Coast. Other expansions followed, continuing to shrink my schedule and opportunities here. But thankfully, and most importantly, I still got the calls. The tide turned a bit for me this past year with the addition of a(nother) new ship, the American Constitution, and a new Revolutionary War history themed itinerary (although this last cruise was Christmas themed). This ship presented a bit of a challenge at first, as it can carry near to twice the passenger load of most of the older ships (180 as opposed to 100), losing that smaller living room feeling in the performance space. And it has a dance floor, which I learned requires potential redirection to maintain the "concert" environment. But this last cruise presented a new issue, a non-functioning sustain pedal. As it turned out, I had spent time earlier that day pondering on the significance of a positive attitude. Conveniently, that was on my mind, and I kept it there. Or, more accurately, I kept my mind clear and free from conscious thought of my circumstance, except for how I would overcome it. The end result was actually more positive than had the circumstance been "normal". I got a chance to put in action what I already knew; that attitude will trump circumstances, in the rock-paper-scissors game of things. So, Happy New Year! And happy attitude.   :)    

Monday, December 03, 2018

For a few years (a "season") in the early 1980's, I was the keyboard player in a contemporary pop band. I can't really call it a detour from the traditional jazz road I traveled. More of a concurrent journey. In fact, for a good while I split my gigging with Eastwind on the weekend (Friday/Saturday/Sunday) and a society/jazz band during the week (Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday). Monday night was only my night off. I didn't think twice (and certainly didn't mind) about being one of 8 or 9 people in the movie theater, or knowing I could walk into a restaurant and sit just about anywhere I wanted. When I finally had a Saturday night off and decided to go to the movies, I had a rude awakening, and remember asking myself "Why do people do this?" Similar to the feeling I would often have driving to gigs and watching the rush hour crawling along in the other direction, I've always appreciated my upside down life. It's the only one I know how to live. 
I've had reason, in recent weeks, to ponder on this season. This (quite large) painting arrived by UPS recently. There is a tragic story behind it. Eva, our vocalist's daughter, who was 16 or 17 at the time, painted this logo scene, which we would take to gigs and display on stage. Not long after she painted this, she passed away in her sleep, with no warning or suitable explanation. Mignon (Eva's mother) saved the painting, displaying it in her home. Mignon and I had lost touch some time ago, and I was saddened to be informed by her niece that she has passed away. Knowing my place in this history, she graciously offered to send me the painting. Both sad and happy memories. For everything there is a season.   


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Wide angle lens. Awhile back I came to the place where I embraced the view. Or embraced that this may be the only (angle of) view that I have. I certainly can't say that I understand all (or most, or some, or perhaps hardly any) things intuitive. But I can at least begin to grasp that there is some connection between the wide angle lens and the ability to sense things that seem to originate not from my thought processes, but rather are introduced to my thoughts from some other place. The "heart space/head space" symbolism that I was brought to some years ago continues to be the means by which I can understand and express this, as I continue to grow into seeing more consistently thru the (wide angle) lens of my heart. Or, as I'm inclined to say these days, to see with my feelings. 
As we move along a path, we develop more of a frame of reference and an overall context. It was 12 years ago when I began to grasp enough to use the term "spiritual" to describe music making. This past decade has been a wonderful ride of discovery, and a most important lesson; to allow things to happen as they do naturally, or organically. And the macro and micro are connected here, essentially the same. Introducing thoughts and determinations serve to steer a process toward a desired end. But what if the desired end is left open to a trust in that which is outside of my thoughts and determinations, or my head? In terms of music making, this has become the whole deal, to "get out of the way" and allow the music to come through me, beyond my conscious (or known) thought processes, beyond my understanding. And I'm learning to feel where that switch is, and even, at times, be able to flip it (even as it is a more passive rather than an active engagement - sort of). 
I played a gig recently where one of the musicians became focused on some negativity. Observing this person as time went on, it was like I could see the thoughts in his head, as a weight, holding him down. I must be quick to acknowledge here that I could easily recognize this because I am well familiar with it, within myself. And learning to separate myself from this internally is like being released from a self imposed prison. But without a taste of freedom, one may not appreciate the limitations of self-imposed confinement. Or, one may not fully appreciate (or even see at all) what it directly in front of them without a lens adjustment.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Recently I performed in a really fun concert in Chestertown's premiere arts performance space. Underneath the radar of it all was the deliberation of something, to which my performance played a bit part. The time has come for this organization  to replace it's piano, which had been nursed along for as long as possible, and recently laid to rest. The fork in the road for the decision makers is whether to jump on the electronic music bandwagon and purchase a digital keyboard as opposed to a grand piano. What they are evaluating specifically is a state of the art "hybrid" piano, which provides the mechanical action to create the experience of playing an acoustic piano, while using digital technology to create the sound. There are practical reasons, reasonable considerations, on their own, to make a move to the digital hybrid, along with valid, if not necessary reasons (depending on how the organization views itself) for a performance venue such as this to have an acoustic piano.
This concert was the trial run for the hybrid piano, so the organization rented one for the show, and I was, in effect, the musician providing the demo for others to evaluate. A funny position for me to be in. I am quite open in not enjoying electronic keyboards, even as I (am compelled to) play them often. They serve a necessary purpose, but from the position of a pianist, they lack one feature that is necessary for me (to most authentically commune with the music): acoustic vibration. When the felt hammer hits the string on the piano, the string responds by vibrating, in a complex arrangement that contains and creates the sounds and combinations of sounds which we process as (acoustic) musical pitches.

The science of acoustics is not my field. But acoustic vibration, which can be felt and heard as sound, is the pallet from which I paint. My process of music making is like an interactive response with my environment, even as I am creating it. When I play an electronic keyboard, I'll respond to it (the sounds created) differently than an acoustic piano. Without going into too much theoretical detail, an electronically generated sound throws me into a more polyphonic approach, where acoustic vibration often sends me into more harmonic density. And this isn't just me, it appears. Whenever I discuss this issue with another (experienced professional) musician and make the assertion that Bill Evans (meaning his impressionistic harmonic approach) would not have happened if he only ever played a Fender Rhodes (the only electronic keyboard available for much of his career), it always finds agreement. In a very real way, the substance of the acoustic sounds themselves are altered when electronically replicated. And as you can imagine, when you alter a cause, you can redirect an effect. Years ago, when I began playing with a regional jazz group, the first few jobs required me to bring a keyboard. The first time we had a gig with an acoustic piano (and a mediocre one at that), after a few tunes, the bass player (a very accomplished and knowledgeable musician) asked me if I had worked out new (chord) voicings. I responded, "No, this is the was I really play". He understood.    

The larger issue of replacing a connection to the physical world with an electronically based replication has me concerned for what the long term implications may be. And it isn't limited to music, though music remains my focus in this piece. In a digital world, music has become more of a sharing of information and less a communion with natural vibrations (at least in some areas).  It can still access our emotions and make us feel things, but in the end remains a simulation; a virtual reality walk in the woods, complete with artificial breezes and heat lamps and recorded nature sounds. There is a reason that we are drawn to walk on the beach, or in the mountains, or commune with nature in general. My experience with the piano each morning as I sit down to practice (commune) is much the same as that, in a very real way. For a time, I was forced to practice on an electronic keyboard at home. I survived it, even grew musically, and if that's all I would ever experience, I wouldn't know any better. But I would be on an altered path, one that I'm not sure wouldn't point away from an ultimate source (or at least obscure it) rather than point toward it. After all, isn't everything in nature/creation vibratory, ultimately (according to science)? I can't say that I have answers at this point. But I do have lingering questions. 

Thursday, September 06, 2018

The Chestertown Jazz Festival is now underway. In recent years, it has grown from the original one day presentation to a now nearly week long collection of shows, events and venues. The main event remains the Saturday lineup in Wilmer Park in Chestertown, with a full afternoon of concerts, beginning at noon and ending with the headliner show starting at 4:30. This year Mainstay Monday becomes the closing concert for the festival. Looking forward to this unique opportunity with Tom Baldwin on bass and Aggie Brown III on drums. I'll also be playing for Karen Somerville now the 12 noon gospel set (It's a short one, so don't be late) on Saturday. Click on the poster to view the schedule and take in a show. Or several.      

Monday, August 20, 2018

Music makes connections, in so many ways. I remember the day, 25 or so years ago, when it  became crystal clear, in an epiphany moment, that there was, indeed, a reason I was to make music. Up until that point, it was because I enjoyed it. And I could. And (for some strange reason) it seemed a reasonable way. or at least the most realistic one for me, to make a living. And then, in an instant, looking out into a crowd as I was playing, I saw a gentleman (whom I didn't know) and understood why I was there. It was for him. But in him I also saw everyone, outside of myself, beyond the motivation that I enjoy playing piano, or that it provides some benefit to me. Outside of myself. It truly turned my world, or at least my internal landscape, upside down. To realize that I am playing piano not for me, but for the man/woman in the audience. For the connection that is made. For the benefit that is provided. The years that followed brought the gradual unfolding of what this means, and how it happens. And now, every time I play, I have the task, the opportunity, the joy, of connecting with someone. Or many people in a room, or concert venue, that can become as one. It's the same connection I make with the music every morning when I begin my practice routine. I've learned that the connection itself is outside of me, even as it is within me. And it is a place, or space to be shared. 
Yesterday I had the joy of performing in a small, invitation only house concert, and made a new friend, whom I invited to sit at the piano/keyboard with me to improvise together. Sophia experienced the shared space. I trust that this will inspire her as she continues on. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Yesterday, I attempted another recording session toward my solo project that I intend to release later this year. Listening today, am warming up to parts of it. Yesterday, little, if any of it was working for me. Throughout the session, I had trouble settling into the space. And just that circumstance can pretty much insure that you won't find it. It's easy to self diagnose, looking back, and realize that I didn't really approach stillness. In the quiet anxiety of bypassing stillness, the path can be hard to find. Because it involves stillness. But the other thing I've come to learn is that an agenda driven circumstance can tend to bypass the moment that may present itself. As much as it is practical (and likely beyond that as well) I purpose to align myself with the moment I find. But going where it takes me might land me far afield from the outcome I sought. So then my task becomes to seek the outcome that presents itself. And when I fail, I can say thank you, and carry on.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Oops! I wrote this post 2 weeks ago and forgot to hit the publish button:
What a fun and productive weekend! On Friday, I had a duo concert with Danny Tobias at the 1867 Sanctuary, in Ewing NJ - the first of an ongoing series (once e/o month for now) where I perform with artists who have been Mainstay Monday guests (essentially exporting a bit of Mainstay Monday to another venue). On Saturday, I paid a visit to Chris Biondo's recording studio in Kensington, MD to work on two projects; Beth McDonald's original Christian Contemporary/Gospel release, and my new solo album. On Sunday, a duo concert with Chuck Redd at 49 West in Annapolis, MD (another venue where I'm in the rotation) inspired the artist's rendering above. And Monday night brought A listers Max Murray and Frank Russo to the Mainstay, to create a killer rhythm section. It's about staying on the path, and staying out of the way. I'm looking forward to what's to come.  

Friday, June 15, 2018

Funny how things change over time. Or (better, I'm sure), evolve. When I lived about a mile from the Chester River Bridge, I'd find myself walking into town most every day, crossing the bridge over and back, sometimes more than once. It was my happy, open, connection space. My friends (particularly on Facebook) were aware of it because I took lots of pictures. Everyone who drove the bridge was aware of it because there is nowhere to hide or fade into the scenery while walking the bridge. That last part didn't bother me at the time, though I've come to understand that it does now. I no longer live walking distance from town, though do have occasion to drive in frequently. And if opportunity permits, I'll walk. And almost always toward the water. But lately, when I've reached the bridge, I don't progress much further before turning around. The force field of solitude that used to surround me, even as cars would drive by - some silently, some honking, some waving, a few being rude - seems to have vanished. It's funny when change happens. The old habits and patterns can lose their motivation, even become empty. And we adjust. In this case, I think I'm responding to (or have been spoiled by) the blessing of solitude, as soon as I walk out out my front door. No cars, no people, and no sense of being watched or on display. Grateful for that, and will enjoy it as long as I am given that blessing.   

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

I saw a video posted on the Oscar Peterson Facebook page the other day with Oscar and Basie together in 1974, with Skeets Marsh listed as the drummer. My heart leapt. Disappointingly, the camera angle only showed Skeets and Freddie Green (seated directly in front of him) from the back. Skeets Marsh was a mentor and encourager to many a young musician, myself included. It was only a few years later when, as a teenager, I found myself on gigs with Skeets in the traditional jazz circuit in the Philadelphia area. Skeets was a storyteller, and young musicians like myself would gather around and listen. Decades later, I was struck with the importance of this, as the musicians of my generation became the storytellers, and encouragers to the young players. I remember one occasion as I felt the baton being passed from one generation to another, and immediately thought of Skeets. During one storytelling session (which may have been the one about his only gig with Art Tatum, which didn't turn out so well) he turned his head, pointed his drumstick at me and said "See him? He's serious. His middle name is serious.", then continued his story. I didn't say much around Skeets, but I did listen. His business card read "formerly with Count Basie and Duke Ellington", but we never heard those stories. My friends and I wondered what that meant, assuming it was true. One gig with each? We didn't know. It appears now that I may know more, discovering another video from the same year that suggests that Skeets did a single tour with the Basie band in 1974, possibly under the stage name Skip Martin. Probably the Oscar appearance was part of that tour, with the rhythm section being a meld of Basie's and Oscar's (Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen on bass). In this wonderful documentation of a 1974 Basie concert, the drummer gets lots of camera time. 99% sure it's Skeets. It warms my heart to watch this. Skeets will always be an inspiration to me; to live the life, to encourage, and to tell the stories.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Kent County Maryland, where I live, is the least inhabited county in the state. The center of gravity (and county seat) is Chestertown, with a population of just over 5,000. Leave town and you travel through miles of farmland. Enter town and you almost enter another world, where an entire downtown is designated as a Maryland State Arts and entertainment District, and artists of all stripes have a home, and a community. Perhaps the single event that most drives this home is the annual Women Helping Women fundraising concert. Originally established to support the work of Dr. Maria Boria to provide medical services to area migrant workers, the charitable outreach has expanded to included support services for the local opioid addiction epidemic, among others. Now in it's 13th year, this event has become a showcase for locally based performing artists, and seems to find a way to raise the bar every year. I'm privileged to serve as musical director each year, and accompany nearly every wonderful performer. This show is worth the trip to Chestertown and an overnight stay to see. Do it next year.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Welcome to Mainstay Monday!

Thanks for clicking on the link to visit Mainstay Monday artist websites. This list will be periodically updated.
Mainstay Monday is a unique weekly performance collaboration between myself and a guest artist. Learn more about Mainstay Monday performers (note - performers without a website will have a link to a video, relevant article or bio, if available):   

My website
Guest artist websites/links:

Jan. 21    - Karen Somerville
Jan. 28    - The High and Wides
Feb. 4      - Tom Lagana
Feb. 11    - Sue Matthews
Feb. 18    - Barbara Parker
Feb. 25    - Paul Midiri
Mar. 4      - Lynn Henderson/Ed Klein
Mar. 11    - Steve Abshire/Amy Shook
Mar. 18    - John Schratwieser
Mar. 25    - Dick Durham

Find complete show information here.

Thanks for visiting. See you at the show!

Friday, February 23, 2018

I'll often say that those of us with an artistic bent, and especially those of us who "live the life" are born with rose colored glasses permanently affixed to our heads. I'll also say that the artistic temperament, depending on one's view of things, is either a calling or a disease. In other words, we don't choose (or accept) this path because it makes sense. So I suppose that means those of us who do this are attempting to take something that doesn't make sense and make it work (or try to make sense of it). And perhaps, in attempting to do so, we miss the mark, or the point. Not that we don't want it to work, but rather that we wrap ourselves around what working, in this context, means. 
It's the tension that every artist faces, especially the independent artist. Either one's livelihood gets in the way, and pushes the artistic pursuits away from the center of our everyday, or the struggle to make a livelihood from our art does much the same thing. But the rose colored glasses remain. I've worn them all my life. And they've kept me on the path, running the race, even if I may have tried, at times, to see around them.
Is it rose colored glasses that led me to work as a salesman (in music, of course) in my 20's, in order to learn sales techniques? make piano lesson barter arrangements with a business consulting firm and a sales manager, to receive sales coaching? .. to develop a billable hour sales strategy, to spend time selling and strategizing (at the expense of practicing), and consistently pulling off 400+ gigs a year (at the expense of practicing)? At the time, I would have said yes. I was doing what I had to do. I was believing in myself, even as I was working overtime to prove it was permissible to believe in myself. And I'll still say I was doing what I had to do, the best way I knew how at the time. For everything, there is a season. But as seasons pass, the rose colored glasses may fog up and run us off the road, or we may begin to see through a wider angle lens, seeing that believing in yourself (or anything) doesn't require you to prove it - rather, believing leads one to live it. So, some years ago, I threw out my business plan - the one that calculated how many hours, and at what rate, I needed to bill, and what steps I needed to take to get there. In it's place, I simply embraced the view. The view that says "Yes, I am this. Yes, Be this. Yes, trust what you know. Yes." 
So now the business plan is reduced to a rather simple formula, or better, statement: Show up at every performance with the space opened up, prepared to play. Devote the day leading up to the gig (and really, all of my time) to practicing, contemplative listening (prayer) and living in the moment (which, the deeper I get into this, the more all of these become the same thing, or at least occupy the same space). I could lament that I've found, later in life, the practice discipline that would have made all the difference (or at least a big one) in my earlier years. But it's more than just discipline. A better word would be maturity. And each of us find our own path toward that, throughout our lives, as we progress through it's seasons. 
Yes, I see through rose colored glasses, and the future looks bright.    

Friday, December 29, 2017

This is that time when I am working on tying up the loose ends to renew my Music Therapy certification (MT-BC) for another cycle, and not a day too soon, as I'll head for the post office in the morning to get that important 2017 postmark. The wonderful group of students pictured above are members and friends of the Washington College student group "Musicians Union" (don't think ACLU). What started, early last semester, with a request that I come and speak to the group about Music Therapy, has become a monthly visit to the health care unit at Heron Point in Chestertown, where the students gain experience presenting music and interacting with the residents, while I have the privilege of guiding the process. The smiles on their faces reflect their genuine enthusiasm.
When I first spoke with the group, I told them that this is a just piece of the bigger picture of what we ought to do whenever we make music: look out. Take the focus off yourself, and make the connections beyond you, and with others. It all starts there. That didn't really sink in with me until well into my 30's. Happy to have the chance to point others toward getting it sooner.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Sharing an article that appears in this month's edition of "Happenings at the Mainstay"; our monthly hard copy newsletter:

"Mainstay Mondays with Joe Holt began as a creative idea, launching from an initial 15-week engagement from Memorial Day to Labor Day last year, into a regular, ongoing Monday evening series. Joe, popular pianist extraordinaire and favorite accompanist to a multitude of musicians, curates the shows, headlining local, regional and national musicians. The setting is cabaret style, the show runs from 7 to about 8:30 p.m. and audience members can choose to bring their take-out dinners to enjoy beforehand, or even while listening (and Mainstay audiences are known to be very good listeners) to the always remarkable live music. “I’m always looking for a substantive show,” says Joe. “The Mainstay is a wonderfully intimate venue, so everyone is in the center of everything. It’s a special experience, particularly for the guest artists.” 
That experience is a collaboration between Joe and his guest musicians, which creates a unique space that extends to the audience. “Everybody feels a part of what’s going on,” he says. The energy in the room is palpable. He likens it to throwing a lasso around the room, bringing everyone into the same space. "Ultimately, it’s about the expression,” notes Joe, “a conscious surrender to the larger experience.” And Joe brings all his experience with him as host of the weekly venue. He’s been a musician professionally ever since he had a driver’s license and could get to gigs. He received the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award upon graduating from Triton High School in Runnemede, New Jersey in 1978 and has been a full time musician ever since, performing both regionally and nationally. His credentials include studies in classical and jazz and he is widely known for his creative improvisational skills. Along the way, Joe supplemented his college music degree to become a Board Certified Music Therapist, which is an extension of his approach to music as being a connection made with others. Picking up a music therapy contract at Heron Point in the mid 90's brought him to Chestertown for the first time, and eventually, to the Mainstay. Reflecting on the good reputation Mainstay Mondays enjoys, Joe continues to look for diversity and balance, interspersing local talent with regional and national performers in his orb. As the venture continues to evolve, Joe has been bringing a higher percentage of vocalists to the stage. Joe feels most at home accompanying, so it's a perfect fit. His enthusiasm for Mainstay Mondays is obvious. “What an opportunity, a privilege,” says Joe. “Musicians want to perform at the Mainstay. Now it’s my responsibility to use that opportunity in the most beneficial manner for everyone.“ And he never forgets his audience. “This area wonderfully supports its own. This is why so many magical things can happen here.”  

Monday, August 28, 2017

"Improvisation is the art of forgetting" -Keith Jarrett . 
So many things become clear with this statement. Which doesn't mean I can necessarily tell you, or even tell myself, unless I lose my focus on what is, or what I want, or what I think. Ultimately, this strikes at the heart of where I seek to be when performing, and frankly, whenever; in the moment. In the moment, what is forgotten is not lost, rather it is not held on to. So it appears as it will. Because it is not held, it is not lost, and I am not trying to recover it. Instead, I am trusting that I will be shown, and as such, not be burdened with remembering. So rather than remember, I receive. And what I receive does not come from me, rather to me. And if I am in the place I seek to  be, through me. 
So in this, forgetting is letting go. You don't lose that to which what you are not holding on, or trying to keep. Rather you find, if a seeker, with an open heart.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

On Sunday June 11, I performed at the 1867 Sanctuary in Ewing, NJ with Danny Tobias. The video above was one of the solo features. This wonderful historic venue is run as a non profit arts organization. Still in it's formative stages, I see much in common with the Mainstay in terms of vision, determination and potential. Good on them for giving it a go. The video was taken my Michael Steinman, a prolific videographer and blogger on traditional jazz. Also, this was Michael's first exposure to the venue, and was most impressed. Here is the blog post Michael made from the concert, which contains the embedded video:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hard to believe that we've completed a full year on Mainstay Mondays! We began on Memorial Day, 2016, not knowing what to expect, or if we would last beyond the 15 week trail period. We've learned a lot over the past year, and will continue to do so as we go. Mainstay Mondays have become a thing, and we're now open ended; already booked through (calendar year) 2017, and beginning to schedule 2018! The Mainstay is a coveted prize for many musicians who seek to perform here, and it will never be lost on me what a wonderful opportunity I have to produce and perform a new concert each week, and create more opportunities for performers to access our stage than would be possible otherwise. In fact, Mainstay Mondays accounts for about half of our programming now. So, if it's Monday night, count on a unique and original show at the Mainstay. Every week.  :)

Monday, June 19, 2017

My privilege to be involved with the Washington College Jazz combo continues. Here are some photo memories of this past semester:
On May 22, vocalist Lis Engle joined me for Mainstay Monday, putting the finishing touch on her graduation weekend. Will miss having Lis in the combo.
A performance shot from our semester concert for the college, on April 30th. The kids nailed it!
Pre-concert pow-wow with Dr. Ken Schweitzer
On April 26th, we took a field trip to Blue House recording studio in Silver Spring, MD. Here's Ben getting situated in the drum room.
And Michael and Kevin, in another isolation room.
And Lis in hers. 
We also were invited to perform at several college functions where no one got pictures. But you get the idea. Am really enjoying this opportunity to encourage and work with the students, and looking forward to September!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

I'm in the KFC in town today (yes, I occasionally succumb), and someone asks "Is your name Joe?" This opened up a conversation about how this person has come to several Mainstay Monday shows, and how much he enjoys the Mainstay, in general. It's a thing. The Mainstay is a unique and wonderful venue; magical, even. In a little tiny town in the middle of nowhere, at the end of the road; and known across the country, even around the world. Now well into it's third decade, the Mainstay has earned a reputation for having top quality performers, whether local/regional, national or international. You come to the Mainstay, you see a strong show. It's a reputation that, I'm proud to say, Mainstay Monday has earned as well. As we near closing in on completing our first year of Monday shows (we began on Memorial Day, 2016, with a 15 week "trial" schedule), we're hitting a stride, learning as we go, and continuing to grow. So many wonderful experiences already, and  many more to come. From finding new creative spaces in duo performance with regional and national artists, to providing opportunity for quality local performers to push their own boundaries (and often, mine); each Monday is it's own unique, and often memorable, experience. Each week a show of substance, each week it's own thing. Personally, there's an important lesson in all this. When you allow something to come into being, organically, rather than deciding what you think ought (or you want) to happen, and then let it be what it is, you may find that providence reaches beyond understanding, and what you never would have thought of (or would have believed you wanted) may be what was waiting to happen all along. And waiting, most of all, for you to get out of the way. Bloom where you're planted. Be where you are. Amen.    

Friday, February 03, 2017

I made it. And a lovely trip it was. It was good to get away. Though I did have 5 nights of shows, there was also time to visit friends, and take in the scenery. Was a bit concerned about the driving, not sure I could keep up the pace I used to, but was able to both pace myself, and push when I needed to, and made it happen. Was able to easily step into the space for all the shows, which is encouraging, and humbling. And validating. And to be in the space means to be connected; including to those around me. Similar to when I perform (as a walk on entertainer) for American Cruise Lines, I love walking in a room full of people whom I don't know (and, in large measure, who don't know me), and leave with new connections; even new friends. It's what it's all about. 

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Getting prepared to leave in a couple of days for my first driving trip/mini-tour in 7 years. After making a few stops on the way to visit friends, I'll get to Naples, Florida over the weekend for a duo concert with Geoff Gallante on Sunday. Then 4 additional nights (in a row) of retirement community programs, ending with Gainesville, GA on Thursday. Hoping to get home late the following evening, so I can be in reasonable shape for a gig in Lewes (Shore Jazz at Jerry's Seafood) on Saturday. Reasonable shape is yet to be determined, and this trip will tell me if I've still got the juice for this. So it will be an adventure. But the real thing that motivated me to make this post is my procedure for getting my vegetables when out, or one of them; lunch at Golden Corral (that and supermarket salad bars). I'll load up my plate with 6 or 7 different hot vegetables, then go back for more. It's not gourmet food at all, but still it's a bit magical. And the last few times I was there (I don't do this so often when home, but on occasion), I was struck with the idea of common man indulgence. For starters, you'll generally find a greater percentage of overweight folks there than on your typical street corner. All you can eat, and then some. And the lunch price, if you don't care about the dinner meats that up the ante later in the day, is accessible to most. It's a feast, of it's own kind, for one and all. And for whatever reason, when at a Golden Corral is when I'm the most struck with the concept of how blessed we are to have this unending supply of food, and how indifferent many of us can be to those hungry folks in other parts of the world who may never see anything like this a day in their life. While this is our everyday. Golden Corral, of all places, is where I am more strongly reminded of needs and inequities around the world. Of course, this opens up the big, and often divisive debate of what we ought to do about it. These days, I'm less about wrapping myself in opinions (mine or others) and more interested in being present, learning, and being led. And I think that's probably the point.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

So I’m sitting here at my desk when the realization hits me that my work is so much more than playing piano, so much more than making music, so much more than work. My “work” is where I can experience a taste of freedom. It’s now been over a decade since I first began to understand music making as a spiritual practice. Rather then reaching in to try to find it, I was opened to, instead, letting go to receive it. That realization was definitely a page turn, so to speak, in the journey. Many page turns, or bends in the road later, I am walking the path of (purposing to be) keeping the “space” open as I go along. Not just at the piano, but, in a way, to live my entire life open, and prepared to sit down at the piano bench, in a position to receive. Or perhaps better put now, to connect (to others around me, to God), and to be (to use Kenny Werner’s words) a clear channel. In recent years, I’ve begun to recognize the intuitive signals, and develop  the trust (to use my words) in God, enabling me to let go and move out of my own way. This is not just for playing the piano, this is for all life. And though I stumble continually as I walk, I am free to get up and continue again. Frankly, this is what motivated me just now to stop what I was doing (in this case, sending invoices), and do my best to give words to the space I am finding. It is about being led, and intimately trusting that leading. It has been proven to me over and over again. And I am struck once more by the wonder of where I’ve been led, and the awesomeness of getting to be in that (“God”-)space; the space of being connected, beyond myself, as my life’s work. I could uber-generalize it and recount the saying “Find a job doing what you love and you will never work a day in your life”. True. And so much more. I am a blessed guy. That’s all.   

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What a remarkable ride! We started Mainstay Mondays on a trial basis on Memorial Day, 2016, and wound up the year on December 19 - 30 shows later, with Mainstay Mondays having permanent status, and 50 shows(!) planned for 2017. This is a most unique series, where I partner with a new guest artist (occasionally more than one) to create a new collaborative show each week. And this series may be the most uniquely suited to me of anything I've done. I've learned so much here, and if I were in the habit of blogging daily (or a least more often, as in times past), I could probably fill many web pages. Hopefully you are connected with my Facebook musician page, where I do share happenings a few times each week. The picture above is from the final Monday show of 2016, with guest Lester Barrett. Scroll down on my Facebook page a bit to find more shots posted from that evening. And come see me some Monday in 2017     :) 
Joe's Facebook musician page

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Something interesting, and fun, has happened this semester. I've returned to college. Sort of. The jazz ensemble at Washington College in Chestertown was without a pianist, so I have been brought in to play with the group. Through prior workshops, I'd already built a good rapport with the students, so it was easy to just step in. There is a lot of enthusiasm, which makes it even more fun. And we are all excited to be preparing for a Mainstay Monday show featuring the group, on January 30, 2017. That will be a fun night. Hope you can come. Pictured above is Michael, from a little gig in the school cafeteria. Lis, Ben and Kevin round out the ensemble. Grammy award winning drummer Joe McCarthy is the faculty teacher for the group. A pleasure to work with all of them!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

After a 3 year run, the piano bar at JR's Pub has run it's course. It seemed fitting to use this picture, from after the room had emptied, on what wound up being the final night, a few weeks ago. For most of the run, Philip Dutton (who got it all started) and I shared Sunday nights, while I had Wednesday as my steady. A few months ago, we lost the Sunday, and it was apparent that Wednesday would go the same way. But we hung on for a time, as the community has always been solidly behind this, and wonderfully supportive. But management had moved on. Actually, all music has been suspended from JR's for some time, except for Wednesday night piano bar. So now, as businesses do, they have gone another way, and we all go on. But before this door closed, another door had swung wide open. The big picture is where we best keep our focus.   
So here is what I posted on Facebook, as I needed to let friends and fans know:

"... in everything give thanks ...
For 3 years, a highly improbable thing happened for a musician, in an isolated small town; a recurring gig - the "piano bar" at JR's Pub. Weekly at first, then 2 nights/week for much of the run before moving back to one. It said, and meant so much to me about this area, and the people who live here, to experience the support and love of so many. Over the course of the run, we continued to grow (slow but sure) to an average attendance that was, essentially, a full room. Though it has now run it's course (all music had been cut from JR's some months ago, while Wednesday piano bar night hung on, for awhile), there is much to look back and smile about, and be grateful for. A nice chapter in the journey. And .... Earlier this year an (even more) highly improbable thing happened: Mainstay Mondays. So now, all the energy goes there, as we continue to create quality programming each week, and I continue to be humbled and grateful for all the love and support. This area is a beautiful place to live. I'm glad I landed here ." 

Sunday, June 05, 2016

"Mainstay Mondays" saw an opening night that exceeded expectations on every level, and personally, was a demonstration to me of just how much love I receive around here. When Rory Trainor approached me about "a steady gig" at the Mainstay, he was offering something unheard of, and nothing any musician would ever even imagine to expect. The Mainstay is a coveted performance venue for musicians regionally, nationally, and even around the world. Rory was certainly breaking new ground in this move (among others he has initiated in his new tenure as Executive Director), but not until the first performance, on Memorial Day, did his perspective on this begin to sink in with me. In our initial discussions; of weekly shows where I would bring a new guest each time, I blew right past the emphasis Rory was placing on my own participation. I was given total freedom, even to the point of being encouraged to shine significant light on myself. As our discussion continued, though, my mind went straight to how featuring the guest each week would be the focus, and not me (or at least not too much). First of all, I know what a performance at the Mainstay would mean to whoever I invited to share the stage. Secondly, folks around here see me all the time (or at least have the opportunity to). This concept fell right into my inclination to take the supporting role; finding that particular space to be in the other's expression and space. So, leading with that was a given; a no brainer. Not that I wouldn't feature myself. I planned to open with a solo feature, then introduce the guests, and be, of course, an active participant in the process. 
By the conclusion of our first night, I was shown, or perhaps reminded of the deal. A performer sees from where they are. Sees out, yes, but from our eyes. It's like a gig with a sound engineer. You really don't know what the sound is like out in the room. All you can really work with is what it is like where you are sitting. An effective sound person manages both spaces; the artist, and the audience. It is kind of like that; I know what it feels like to have the connection with those around me (on stage and off) when I play. And I know that this community is amazingly supportive. But while I go on in the place where I am, Rory spent his initial months on the job (beginning the first of the year) being out where everyone else is, and learning the landscape. What became clear to him is something I know, but was brought to see with fresh (and grateful) eyes: that, as I said earlier, I get a lot of love around here. Of course, so did Mike McShane and Paul Midiri on that first night. The people here are wonderfully supportive in general. But the depth of rapport and connection that I am blessed to have here was quite on display in our "Mainstay Mondays" kickoff show last week.  
In our performance that first night, there is this happy place that I think we immediately fell into, where all of us on the stage poured it on, leaving our egos wherever it is that we saw them last (as best we do); sharing a strong connection that was felt, even shared, by everyone in the room. Yes, this is what it's all about, Charlie Brown.
We knew Mainstay Mondays would be a good thing. Now that we've opened the box, though, this ride may teach us all a thing or three. Hang on ....     :)