Notes From The Road

Yes, I really am THAT short! That's me in 4-inch heels!

Seven shows in, after a lot of driving and playing we finally docked at our home away from home, Hotel am Stadtpark in Hilden. Yes, I'm on the road again, this time in Germany and Austria, reviving for the last time our Christmas project "Christmas In July". The repertoire feels good, it's amazing what a difference a year makes in terms of songs settling in your voice. The Danish song is only half as scary as last time, the Swedish one is moody and smooth, and the Austrian one is dark but hopeful.

Our first leg led us from Franken (Bamberg, Burgthann) in the southern half of Germany to Austria (Gmunden, Vienna, Bad Zell, Vöcklabruck) back to Duesseldorf via a much dreaded overnight drive. The weather could really have pulled a number on our plans, but we were lucky. It didn't. The snow came and went just in time.

DISCLAIMER: Here comes the vocal geek paragraph. Feel free to jump to the next one if this stuff makes you yawn and scratch your head.
When I perform a show a day in a string of one nighters I always end up refocusing on body work. In the past the routine included 20 minutes of yoga. This time it's Feldenkrais. It's so easy to tighten up and then push through the tightness, only to tighten up some more. The PA shlepping doesn't exactly do wonders to muscle relaxation either, and it takes great discipline to be kind to yourself and do just enough to keep the energy flowing without adding to tightness with more pulling and pushing. At least it does for me. END OF VOCAL GEEK PARAGRAPH! Phew!

Overnight drives aren't what they're cracked up to be. Contrary to popular belief spending a night in a van with 4 dudes is really not that romantic. Also, it takes some serious uncrimping once you have reached your destination after spending it curled up in an off kilter fetal position that does nothing to alleviate your neck pain.

Luckily the Jazz Schmiede in Duesseldorf provides a couple of comfy couches backstage for the travel weary jazz warrior, and the guys made ample use of it.

And in the end we finished the first leg of the tour on a high note, with a lovely show, great sound (thank you, Lars!), a really nice grand piano and a great vibe in the house. On to the second leg! This time we stay in Germany, but instead of travelling up and down, we're going to work our way over sideways.

13.12.12: Jazzkeller Krefeld
14.12.12: Capio Klinik, Hilden
15.12.12: Klosterscheune Zehdenick bei Berlin
16.12.12: B-Flat, Berlin
17.12.12: Einklang Kulturloft, Hamburg
18.12.12: Live CV, Lübeck
21.12.12: Jazzbar Vogler, München
22.12.12: Jazzpoint Wangen, evangelische Stadtkirche


Today was Christmas for me! Again! I am thoroughly excited by the fact that, as I came to the studio today, four boxes of freshly printed CDs were waiting for me! The artwork looks amazing in print, and the CDs do actually play the intended songs!

This album was recorded earlier this year, while I was trekking through the Czech Republic with my magnificent band:

Walter Fischbacher, piano
Petr Dvorsky, bass
Ulf Stricker, drums

The songs included in this recording are live renditions of previously recorded material as well as tunes that so far had not made it onto an album. You can get a little taste of the live recording here:

Official release date of "Elisabeth Lohninger Quartet: LIVE" is November 1st, it will be available through my website at and At this point I've opted for a physical release only. I might change my mind down the line, but for now, go get the CD! The artwork by Caras Ionut is well worth the wait! Not to mention the music :)

Holy Mold!!!

And with a mighty bang mold season hath descendeth. Lucky for mold allergy sufferers such as myself there are two kinds of mold that tend to propagate this time of year: The ones that thrive in the kind of wet, humid mess that we're enduring today, and the ones that need a fresh breeze of dry wind around their private parts to take flight and soar into your nasal passages.

So, either way: if you live in New York City this time of year and your body isn't jellin' with the moldy bits in the air, you're royally fracked.

However, I have collected a yummy team of health practitioners that assist me in making it through mold season somewhat unblighted in order to proceed straight into cold season, otherwise known as winter. These are some of the tips they gave me, which I am now passing on to you:

My chiropractor recommends a mixture of Vitamin C (1000mg), bioflavonoids and Stinging Nettle to strengthen your body at the cellular level, so that the pesky histamines can't mess with your mast cells.

My allergist is fond of Nasalcrom, a spray that also keeps allergens from reaching the mast cells, so fewer histamines are released. You have to start using it several weeks before the allergy season starts for it to take any effect though.

And as always, don't take my word for any medical/vitamin/supplement advice but talk to your doctor/health practitioner before making any changes to our routine.

Happy fall everybody!

The "Hoarse Whisperer"

You do not want to be around me when I've lost my voice. Trust me. I get crabby, impatient, depressed - as in, "I'll never sing again!!!" and super-paranoid about wayward AC drafts hitting my nose, mouth or throat. So, yeah, it's been a fun 10 days of walking through a summer cold that incidentally made up its mind to not skip a single step along the line, from the sniffles to sinus pain to headaches to - gasp - throat pain and loss of voice to stage four: The Cough. And that's where I'm at. Yes, praise the heavens, it can talk again! But it breaks out in random coughing fits in the middle of a word. - Oops.

Having come down with this deadly affliction (at least as far as my singing and teaching was concerned) I did what I always do when cornered by life and circumstance: I went online to do research on the matter. Because, let's face it, one can never know enough about colds and how they affect our precious vocal folds and the mucosal lining in the throat!

During my in-depth research on the topic I came upon the usual remedies, such as:
Don't talk (hah!)
Gargle with salt water
Steam (I very much recommend the Vick's personal steamer. I'm done with the ole towel over pot with piping hot water in it thing)
Drink plenty of fluids, which, to my utter chagrin and complete lack of surprise does NOT include coffee OR alcohol.
Rest, be patient, let it run its course, blablabla.

I did, however, find one nugget that I might try next time I have a big gig coming up and come down with the "Hoarse Whisperer", and I'm going to share this with you here. It's a recipe that vocal coach and singer/songwriter Ruth Gerson posted on Huff Post to dramatically reduce the effects of laryngitis within 24 hours, and it makes sense to me (read the entire post HERE). So here's to fearless, happy voicing , be it in speech or song, and a bright, laryngitis-free future!

Excerpt from Ruth Gerson's article "Singing Lessons: Laryngitis -- A Twenty-Four Hour Cure for Losing My Voice" on Huffington Post:

"My 24 Hour Cure For Laryngitis Due To Illness (do not try without your doctor's approval):

2 ibuprofen* (total of 400mg) every six hours

2 aspirin* every six hrs., aspirin chewed and swallowed slowly without water, allowed to sit on the throat. After 15-20 minutes, sips of temperate water. Note from Dr. Sam Adams: "Using aspirin in combination with ibuprofen is acceptable, but gives a higher risk of an ulcer or other gastrointestinal irritation. Singers should check with their doctors before using these medications. "

At least 12 oz. of water every hour.

Lots of steam (loosens phlegm which stops the cords from vibrating). Pour boiling water in a bowl and put a towel over your head. Breathe in steam through nose and mouth alternatively for ten minutes. Repeat every hour.

Honey and lemon in chamomile tea (not too hot). Chamomile is a natural anti-inflammatory.

Mucus thinner, cough suppressant every 4 hrs.

No Pseudoephedrine! Pseudoephedrine dries the mucus to your cords. The goal is to get the mucus off the cords.

Lots of sleep with the head raised, so the cords swell less while resting.

No talking. No whispering (worse than talking).

A positive and calm attitude. Once you're sick, any added stress can further compromise your immune system and make you sicker.

A few sips of cognac an hour before singing."

Summer Voice Technique Group Sessions!

As some of you might know, I am in the last phase of my certification process toward an Estill Voice Master Teacher. Estill Voice Training is a thoroughly researched approach to singing that allows for great freedom in terms of voice qualities and stylistic flexibility, not to mention a healthy way of using your voice. For more info visit their website at

In order to get some more mileage under my belt I am offering a heavily discounted group class on voice technique this summer only. The class is open to all levels of singers and speakers. You must bring an open mind and be willing to get your geek on.

The sessions will be structured as one part vocal technique and one part open coaching, in which you can bring any song/text you would like to work on (sheet music or instrumental track). If you want to sing the "ABC" song, we can do that, too.

Let me know, if you're interested, so I can gauge attendance. (e-mail to my facebook account works for me). Minimum attendance is 3 people. By the way, you don't have to come to each and every class. Just attend the ones you can make, you'll still get something out of it!

The group session is scheduled for Mondays throughout July and August, unless otherwise noted, 6pm to 7:30pm. Looking forward to working with you!

Cost: $10 per session, per person (summer discount!!!)

About Lofish Studios: the front door is locked after 4:30pm. Please call 212-696-1355, and we'll come down and let you in.

A Vocalist's Survival Guide To Touring: Part 4 - Food and other tricky business

Have I told you about the magic lamp called "Neti Pot"? 'Tis a wondrous thing, and a must for the touring vocalist. Your nasal passages are your first line of defense against lurking disease, and if you allow them to dry out and crack, a germ or two might just wiggle their way into your blood stream, and boom - tour over. I'm not saying you won't get sick if you rinse your nasal passages with the neti pot every day, but you'll drastically reduce the likelihood of catching one of those rhinoviruses (or is it "vira"?) so readily available all over the world.

This last installment of my little survival guide deals with all those things you might want to bring, use in moderation or avoid altogether, including the aforementioned neti pot. Don't have one yet? Go and get one now. I'll wait...

Done? OK, let's move on to the subject of coffee. I myself belong to a very low blood pressure tribe and simply cannot get myself into gear without a cup of the delightful brew in the morning. But coffee consumption should really stop at that. One cup - way before you go onstage. Why? Dehydration, of course!

When I travel, half my suitcase tends to be stuffed with food substances, such as protein bars (ideally sugar free, or at least very low in sugar content), nuts and protein/green powder to make shakes with. The reason behind this is simple: You don't know where your next meal is coming from, if it comes at all. There will be instances in which you get into a town where everything is closed after you finished playing, and the promoter can't be bothered with supplying food for you. But you have to eat. You do have to nourish your body to keep it happy and healthy, and not necessarily with junk food from the nearest gas station. Which brings me to the next point in the food department: Gas station food just isn't all that great. You'd be better off waiting in the car and eating one of your delicious protein bars than stuffing your face with a lumpy, limp cheese/mayo concoction that not only wreaks havoc on your digestive system but also makes your vocal folds nice and phlegmy. Yum!

And finally a short paragraph on supplements. Here's a list of my top 5:
1. Vitamins C, D and B - to help boost the immune system and avoid a hostile takeover of your beautiful, bouncy cells by free radicals

2. Digestive Enzymes/Probiotics - to keep your intestinal tract working properly, supporting the myriads of benevolent microbes that slave away day in and day out in an effort to keep you nourished

3. Lauricidin - a natural anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal supplement culled from the lauric acid found in coconuts. It helps with warding off that pesky sinus infection

4. Fish Oil or Flax Seed Oil - helps maintain cell health, so you don't crumple at the first sign of physical strain

5. Chlorella/Spirulina - to support the body's PH balance, which, in turn, is crucial in keeping you from getting sick. Plus these seaweeds pack a nice punch in the protein department.

And thus concludes my mini series on the touring business. Unless something else comes nagging me in my sleep that I then feel compelled to share with you. In that instance, another installment might follow. Feel free to add or discuss anything related to the touring vocalist below!
Happy touring!

A Vocalist's Survival Guide to Touring: Part 3 - Know Your Repertoire

Yes, there is a multitude of external strains on the touring vocalist. I've enumerated some of them in my last two posts. But today I would like to make the case for three VERY important things to consider when getting ready to tour: Preparation, preparation and - yes: preparation.

You gotta know your songs. I am not referring to you mangling your lyrics or messing up the melody, or - heavens forbid - emote insufficiently or overly. I am referring to studying your songs purely on a muscle memory level. You won't have time or head space to focus on that aspect of song presentation when you're on stage.

It's not a very popular notion, that. We all just want to burst onstage and sing our little hearts out, leaving our souls, and possibly a little bit of blood on the floor. And that's all good and dandy if you only have ONE gig and then two weeks to recover from it.
Jazz Vocalist Beat Kaestli

But to acquire consistency in your performance, and to enable you to present your music at its best to a different audience night after night, you've got to dig deeper. I'm going to go ahead and trudge out the well-worn but always useful analogy to the athlete here. Or better yet: the runner. Say, you love running. You do it all the time, in short, joyful spurts. You've got a race coming up, and you've got your little runner's outfit, and your fabulous runners' shoes that will simply make you look fast, even if you're not. And you know you can run 5k at a certain speed, but only once. In the upcoming event you have to run several events for several days in a row. But if you can do it once, surely you can do it again the next day, right? Wrong. If you haven't stopped to analyze your running technique to make sure your body knows how to move with utmost efficiency and the least wear and tear possible on the intricate system of muscles, tendons, joints and skeletal structure that keeps you upright in the first place, you'll be done after the first race. You'll be worn out. And then you'll need a serious recovery plan to even attempt another race the very next day.

What happens when we storm the stage and sing with emotion but, possibly, not with enough of a muscle/structural memory for how that particular song works within our vocal tract? Most of us engage the false vocal folds, which translates into constriction, which in turn results in a heavier load for those tiny tiny vocal folds. Too much effort on the level of our true vocal folds ensues, and we push out more air to keep the vocal folds vibrating, constrict more to make sure the vocal folds close properly, which in turn results in the need for more air get the picture. In the end the vocal folds are swollen, don't close properly and our beautiful sound, not to mention vocal health, goes out the window.

So here's a tip: take the song out of its emotional context and treat it like an exercise. Use whatever technique you've been working on and strip the song down to it's bare bones. You can either start with just the words, just the rhythm, or just the melody. I tend to focus on the melody and practice it on 'ng' - the one in "sing", not the one in "song", slowly, and progress from there on to shaping the words with my lips, jaw and tongue, adding just the vowels, adding the consonants, going through different voice qualities, in order to have the stylistic repertoire I need to interpret the song afresh every evening, etc. You get the idea.

It's a tedious process, but very worthwhile. Once you're onstage and in the thrall of the sheer energy of a live performance, it's too late to think about these things.

As always, feel free to comment, embellish, add helpful hints of your own below. Happy touring!

A Vocalist's Survival Guide to Touring: Part 2 - The Daily Grind

Just to be clear: I'm not talking about the "I'm flying to Florida to play at a jazz club for three nights" kind of tour. I'm referring to the kind of no frills, back breaking strings of one-nighters that have you totter out of an airplane, get on a bus and roll through a different city every day, every inch of the bus loaded with a full PA and lights, which need to be unloaded, set up, checked, and, at the end of the gig, broken down and loaded back into the bus. That kind of thing...Also, the things I discuss here are based mostly on my own, personal experience. Take what you can use and leave the rest. (But PLEASE DON'T drink alcohol while on tour!)

So how do you stay on top of the juggernaut as a vocalist on the grind? For starters you carve out an hour of prep time (minimum) before the show. You warm up. And ideally you spend a few minutes AFTER the show to warm down, but more on that later.

When you're on the bus for several hours a day (we don't generally do the 8 to 10hour drive to an entirely different corner of Europe, although that HAS happened in the past) watch out for the dreaded car air that'll dry out your vocal folds. Always have lozenges at hand and keep sipping water. Once I have docked on to my hotel room or the backstage area of the club/performance space we're hitting on any given night, I break out my specialized equipment: salt for gargling and a steamer for moisturizing my vocal folds.

If there is time I throw in a few minutes of Yoga just to get a feel for my body again, get some grounding to happen, and focus my mind. Then comes the vocal warm-up, which, as you would imagine, goes from small sounds to bigger sounds, from comfortable range to outer rim - gradually. I will not delve into the details of warming up for a show, as that is a very individual process anyway, but if you don't have a cold, don't overdo it with the warm up. 20 to 30 minutes should be plenty.

If you do have a cold, the warm-up will probably last more like an hour (I have done up to 2.5, depending on the severity of the cold), as you need to take time to get the swelling in the vocal folds down. There are specific exercises for that - again very soft, very, very gentle. Imagine you're an athlete and have a sore muscle but need to participate in an event anyway. What do you do? You try to get the swelling down in that muscle, before you can put it through anything that even remotely resembles the rigorous activity needed for that event. For a vocalist, gargling with salt water is the first stop, followed by steam, and then soft edema reducing exercises. The risk of damage to the vocal folds is just too great if you don't take the time to thin them out.

The warm down after a show doesn't have to be super elaborate, but it helps to simply take a few minutes backstage and "stretch" your vocal folds, allow your whole vocal structure to "cool down" and go back to the much less demanding muscle pattern of regular, every day speech.

Personally I have included steam and gargling with salt water to my post-show routine. It is in my best interest to keep those tiny vocal folds as happy, thinned out and moisturized as possible.

If the room you've played in has been a smoky one and you are, like me, sensitive to that kind of stuff, you absolutely MUST gargle and steam. Cigarette smoke dries out your vocal folds like nobody's business, which means, by the end of the show your folds are very likely not only dry but also swollen. So do yourself a favor and take that time before you collapse into bed (because, of course, you've gone straight to bed shortly after your show, right?)

Make sure you get a good night's sleep - which means: no partying, absolutely NO alcohol, have your eye mask and earplugs ready on the nightstand, because you don't know how noisy the hotel gets once it wakes up in the morning. (I've encountered much enthusiasm for vacuuming the hallway at 6am - which is mind boggling to me.) Oh, and you might want to try a natural sleeping aid, such as Valerian root or Melatonin.

In my next installment I'll talk about all the other little things, such as staying healthy while on the road, food, supplements, medication, physical fitness etc.
Any questions or anything to add? Feel free to post below!

A Vocalist's Survival Guide To Touring: Part 1 - Take To The Skies

Ah, touring! To be on the road! That's what we all dream of, right? The glory, the glamor, the idea of actually being in the mystical land called "out there" and really "doing it". And it is quite an experience, being in a different city, a different room, in front of a different group of people every day for 2 weeks straight.

It is also intensely exhausting, physically and mentally, not to mention vocally. About ten days ago I returned from my most recent tour: 12 shows in 12 days in as many cities, throughout Czech Republic and Slovakia. Me, my body and my voice survived - yet again. But I've built some strategies over the years, learned through trial and error, experience, and good old common sense. So after a month long hiatus from my blog I will dedicate the next few weeks to a few things I've added to my toolbox that help me go onstage every night and do a show, and hopefully do it well.

Today's installment focuses on the first hurdle of touring: Getting to the country that you're touring at. I'm, of course, talking about air travel.

As somebody who tours quite regularly in Europe, and more recently, the Middle East, I've had my share of transatlantic flights that propel you across the ocean and disgorge you bleary eyed and dehydrated nine to twelve hours after take-off. Here's my must list of items I absolutely NEED to have with me in the cabin, ideally within reach, so I don't have to get up, crawl over the person sitting next to me (if I've been unlucky enough to fail in securing an aisle seat - although... that hasn't happened in years), and rummage through my backpack hunting down my re-watering eye drops.

Good quality headphones with an adapter: admittedly not totally crucial for a healthy flight experience, but they help me not go deaf while passing the time before I go into sleep-doze mode

Ear plugs, eye mask, and potentially a mouth mask: the first two items are absolutely essential, if you even want to attempt to sleep on the plane - which you must! Otherwise it's going to take you twice as long to recover on the other end. Plus you'll probably have more liquor than you should, strapped to a chair in a tube with 350 people. The effectiveness of the mouth mask is much disputed on various websites that deal with this issue. It looks enormously stupid and marks the wearer - in this case me - as a paranoid nutso. All I can say is that it might well not keep me from getting sick on the plane, but it warms up the air I breathe in and assists me in warding off dryness in my mouth and nose - both every vocalist's giant enemy. So - use at your discretion. I personally have gotten over the looks the thing garners me. What do I care, as long as I still have a voice when I leave the plane?

Lozenges: ideally sugar free, ideally moisturizing. I like Ricola, Isla Moos, Emser Pastillen. In a pinch I'll use Fisherman's Friend.

Scarf and jacket, possibly with a hood attached: don't be fooled by the cozy temperature when you step on the plane. It can get toe-curlingly cold in there in the blink of an irritated eye, especially when it's a night flight. Plus the little blanket things they dole out tend to either cover your upper or your lower body, but never both.

Water: I always have an extra bottle with me, because, let's face it: you can't really get enough of it from the flight attendants, and you're going to be dehydrated. Might as well stock up a bit.

Melatonin: I don't like sleeping pills. They make me groggy, even the next morning, but they don't really help me sleep. Melatonin is useful once I slip my eye mask on (apparently it only works in darkness), and it doesn't leave me disoriented and drowsy the next day.

Let's quickly address the issue of alcohol on the plane. Fact of the matter is: you shouldn't drink while flying. It exacerbates the dehydration. Truth is: I have a glass of wine on the plane, because it helps me sleep. Be your own judge on that one, but be aware of the effects of alcohol, and use with caution.

So there it is. I'll address the issues of physical health, vocal prep and recovery and other issues that come to mind for the touring vocalist in the upcoming weeks. If there is a particular issue relating to this topic that you would like to know about, comment below or message me on facebook.

Happy touring!

Cairo And Back

What a week! What a trip! So many impressions, so little time! I did not see the pyramids, or the phinx or the library in Alexandria, or the bazaar in Cairo. But I met incredibly dedicated and friendly people, who essentially took care of myself and my band, carting us from A to B to Z, to hit our marks for sound checks, live shows and interviews. To get us sustenance, water, a pillow for the too-low piano stool, coffee!

We played four shows in three days, which meant four different set-ups, sound checks and locations. I did - I think - six interviews, we performed late and got up early, to make our way through traffic, traffic and more traffic (apparently the bus drivers in Alexandria were on strike).

The honorary consul in Alexandria, Astrid Alexanian, threw a gorgeous reception for us after our show at the Opera House. The Austrian Culture Attache, Dr. Rene Amry, treated us for a lovely lunch, including hookahs, in a tent restaurant on the Nile. We got awoken by the stupendously loud Muhezzin singing at 5am. And we made music together - my favorite part.

There were discussions about the revolution, faith, the future. The implausibility of putting on a jazz festival a mere year after the Egyptian people made history. And, of course, traffic.

I must thank a few people here, who have made our trip as harmonious and hick-up free as it was: Anni Mischriki from the Austrian Culture Forum who was instrumental in getting us to Egypt in the first place; Amro Salah, the organizer of the jazz festival; and Ahmad Radwan, who accompanied us everywhere and made sure we had what we needed during the second half of our stay.

And of course, I have to thank my band, who were down with everything this trip threw at us and made beautiful, beautiful music with me:
Axel Fischbacher
Nico Brandenburg
Etienne Nillesen

Pictures can be mere echoes of what the trip felt like, but should you be interested in taking in a few of them, here's the link to the folder on facebook:
Egypt Fotos

I hope I will be able to return to Egypt, maybe even collaborate with some of the musicians there. That might be interesting, who knows.

Winter Turns To Spring

It's March, official Spring is around the corner, and here in New York City it's in the air. So, fittingly, my offering this week is a song lyric to a tune I wrote not too long ago. Have a lovely week!

Winter Turns To Spring

As winter turns to spring
So the night will end
As heart will surely sing
So will my love return

As rain one day will cede
A world will face the dawn
So full of song and joy
So will my love return

But day, it cannot break
Without the night to fade
Winter must come to dwell
For Spring to break it's spell

Life is awake
Through heartbreak and through joy
True love is never far
From a rejoicing heart

Logistics, Shmogistics

When I set out to become a musician I dreamed about performing. Singing my own materials and possibly other people's music, travelling, recording. I wanted to become as good a vocalist as I could be. I didn't set out to become the best tour manager I could be, to echo a sentiment I read in one of George Colligan's fabulous blogs on his jazztruth. And yet, here I find myself trying to squeeze gig/equipment/bread confirmations out of people half a globe away.

In a little under 2 weeks I'm picking up my band in Germany and we head to Egypt, to perform at the Alexandria Opera House, the Cairo Jazz Festival and a couple of jazz clubs - 4 gigs in three days. It sounds exciting - and it is! I am absolutely thrilled to be doing this. But I also find myself become anal about getting a "yes" on everything from the bass rental (we'll probably end up bringing our own) to the drum set (we finally have confirmation that there isn't one at the opera house. so...hmmm).

The people on the other end of the line are helpful, and they communicate well. But they ARE half a globe away. Experience - not only mine but that of my musician friends as well - has taught us that sometimes what we need and what is available for a successful performance aren't necessarily the same thing. That's what tech riders are for. For which we need confirmation from every single promoter.

And even then you might end up with a toy keyboard for your gig (as happened to a singer friend of mine in Mexico), or no keyboard at all, no drumset, no PA (as happened to my husband in Turkey). So in these instances, when we travel into uncharted territory (at least from our perspective) I believe specificity, paranoia and nagging become our friend.

Still, I'm looking forward to my adventure in Cairo, to sharing my music and performing - once the immensely long logistical rat tail that comes with it is taken care of and I can sit in front of the mirror, put my make-up on, warm up, get dressed and finally step on that stage, hopefully equipped with a PA, piano, drums and a backline.

Times, They Are A Changing

Back in the day we used a notebook and pen to take down test assignments. But that's so 2005. These days my students at the New School rely on the ever present smart phone for that.

A Life Well Lived

What is a life well lived? A rich life, one that allows me to look back and smile?
I've been feeling quite philosophical lately. Have looked at the restrictions that are laid upon us from the outside (religion, society, family), and limitations that we set for ourselves (I shouldn't be doing this because...). I find it very easy to give in to the dark pull of depression, to say, "what is the purpose of all this striving, achieving, goal setting, running towards said goal with blinders on? We can't take anything with us when we die." Nobody, not even the most enlightened being on this Earth can more than speculate on what actually happens beyond this life.

Not being religious myself I cannot escape into the comfort of dogma. Because I simply don't know. I have no clue what the purpose of my existence is. Surely one can see how quickly this train of thought can pull you into a dark hole that leads nowhere. Been there, done that.

But because I don't have the answers to the purpose of our existence, and because I simply don't know if there is a life after death I can give myself permission to look at THIS life, THIS day as intensely precious. There is tremendous freedom in letting go of outer and inner limitations. The less I allow myself to be guided by what I supposedly "can't" do the more I can feel a sense of creativity flow through every fiber of my being.

So what is a life well lived? I'm in the process of sorting that one out. Hopefully, with every day that I allow myself to BE as opposed to whipping myself into shape in order to fit into my own or someone else's idea of who or what I am "supposed" to be, I get closer to a sense of connection, a sense of participation in the grand creation that goes on all around us all the time. And hopefully there will be a whole lot of laughter, companionship, love and really good food along the way.

Hello, Silence, My Old Friend

Sometimes, when the studio is open, I sit in the soundproof live room, in the silence. It's what attracted me to the studio in the first place. I could actually, honest to god, hear the blood rush in my ears. And not much else.

I'm pretty used to noise. You've got to be when you live in New York City. And as a recording studio owner - forgetaboutit!

I am also married to a pianist who tends to practice in the morning when I am getting my writing done. I've gotten pretty good at phasing his practice out of my consciousness, but recently he started practicing licks in odd meters. Try writing to that!

So, in lieu of a silent room I have to escape into a room made of sound, out of necessity. But the sound room must not have any words, or rhythm, or discernible melodies, really. I find all of that distracting. No, the walls of my sound room tend to be made of dare-I-say new-agey stuff that consists of sound layers, maybe some ocean waves sprinkled in and not much else. It's the next best thing to sitting in the live room of my recording studio, the room within the room that allows me to breathe and NOT hear anything, so i don't have to listen.


Vocal Workshop Hilden Impressions

What was going to happen was this: we (my voice coach colleague Manfred Billmann and myself) were going to do our damnedest to help the participants of this workshop have a fabulous time expressing themselves through singing, AND putting a show together after three (!!!) days. The participants were game! We warmed up, warmed up some more, worked on many solo performances and a group piece, and, in the end, did our show at the Blue Note in Hilden. The show ended on a high note, with just about everybody in the room singing and dancing along. And then we slept. (Oh, and by the way, the rakish fella with the red guitar is the mastermind behind the whole thing: Axel Fischbacher!)

If any of the participants would like me to add their foto to the blog drop me a line, and I'll do so. (Photos by Harald W. Degener)

New Year Vocal Jazz Workshop

Well, this was a good start into the New Year! From January 4th through January 6th, thirty-odd vocalists gathered in the small town of Hilden, located on the outskirts of Duesseldorf, to sing, swing, have fun and possibly explore their boundaries and ways to overcome them. I can attest to the fun having been had, to an intense work ethic and willingness of the participants to engage with myself and fellow voice coach Manfred Billmann, to cheer each other on and push themselves just a little bit further than what might be comfortable.

It was a rare, amiable group that we had the great fortune to work with, and I watched with great pride as the participants put on a really well rounded show on the evening of day three, at the Blue Note in Hilden.

Thanks again to the lovely people who sang, played in the two fabulous bands, to Manfred Billmann and, of course, the puppet master in the background, Axel Fischacher, for three intense, inspiring and fun days of music.

Happy 2012, looking forward to the 2013 workshop! (Will post a couple of photos once they are available)