Tag Archives: Music


Recently my brother told me something that really made me think. Our father was a violinist and music teacher, all instruments. We were basically expected to take up an instrument as a child, and learn to play. Music was still taught in public schools back then, so I started early and had wonderful violin and voice teachers.

For me it was violin, his love above all other instruments. Dad bought a used baby grand so my sister and I both took up piano, with a private teacher. My brother ended up with the trumpet, and only recently told me it was Dad’s idea, not his. He’d always wanted to take piano as well.

I asked him what he remembered about trumpet, except being forced to practice at home so he cleverly decided to do so at 6:00 a.m. while walking up and down the upstairs hallway and waking all of us. We put an end to that, and he was gleeful to comply.

He said he remembered counting. What? Counting what? Bars, he said. I didn’t understand. He said he had to count 1, 2, 3, 4, 2, 2, 3, 4 … until the trumpets came in. It never occurred to me. I was first violin, second chair. I was always playing! It never occurred to me that others had to wait until the conductor (and originally, the composer) wanted them to play.

The most egregious slight is to the guy who plays the cymbals. The only time he gets to strut his stuff is on July 4th, during the 1912 Overture! Then he’s drowned out by, you guessed it, the fireworks!

Think about perceptions of two recent political morasses. One is the “human infrastructure” bill and whether funding should be provided to seniors for vision, dental and hearing. Today’s arguments are pointless unless you go back to the initial thinkers who conceived of insuring ones health to begin with. Who ever thought that being able to see, hear and chew food were luxuries that only a few should have? Who thinks now that it’s OK for all old people to lose basic bodily functions because they’re frivolous? Think again. Perception. I am not yet eligible for Medicare but even my arm-and-a-leg (literally and figuratively) health care now offers little in the way of vision, hearing and dental.

Then think about voting rights. Lots of good folks have fought and died for voting rights in our country. Now one party is saying that the presidential election was rigged even though they know that it wasn’t. Why wasn’t their election/re-election rigged as well? Why only Donald Trump?

Now states are passing draconian laws to stop people from voting and, if they do somehow find a way to cast a ballot, deny that person’s right to vote and substitute partisan judgment instead. Why? Because even though the Constitution says people are eligible to vote, they’re the “wrong” people. Why? Because they don’t like my guy. Or gal. That’s not fair, or Constitutional. So why has our perception changed so much in four years, why is it now appropriate to laud white supremacy and think that others are not worthy of representation in our democracy?

Some things to think about on this grey Fall day. I’m counting until you finish thinking and we can all play our National Anthem together. 1, 2, 3, 4, 2, 2, 3, 4, … Cheers! Dee


Toe, Tap, Strings, Keys

I started school a year early. Perhaps it was because I was smart, or Mom wanted me out of the house. Dad got me into a violin program at age five. In two weeks I was tuning all the violins and violas. Forget the celli and bass.

The next step was piano. Then Mom wanted me to take ballet so I wouldn’t end up walking like a truck driver. Her words. I learned in leather shoes, tap shoes and finally went en point when I was eight years old.

I know someone who wore a version of said shoes. My wide feet never belonged in them. She was a prima ballerina in a major American ballet company and still teaches master classes.

The violin lasted about five years. It was devastating to Dad when I quit all of them. I was made to walk around the house with a dictionary on my head for balance. I preferred my aunts who kept a dictionary in the loo where if I used it I had to come out with a new word, say it, spell it, define it and use it in a sentence.

Violin and guitar. Dad passed over the holidays and his executor, best friend and my little brother is OK with me getting his violin. There’s a photo of me probably at age one sitting with his violin as a cello. He made his way through college playing and calling square dances. I would like to recondition it and have found a source. Now my brother and I just need to find it.

We would like to donate it to his alma mater, where there has been a violin scholarship made in his name.

As to guitar, I know more chords than he taught me at age 12, when Santa sent me a cheap one. I now have a nice one that I hydrate and play a song from time to time. I just don’t understand it and my hands are short (bad for piano, violin, guitar) so my F is non-existent. As to dance, I won’t even go shopping with a girlfriend unless it’s for her wedding. Mom said that she should have bought two pair of shoes for my sister and let me wear the boxes. Harsh, you think? She told me that walking barefoot all summer (eight weeks) made my feet grow wide.

Improvise. Yes, that is what he did. I search for lyrics, put them in a plastic sleeve in a book and make up the chords to sing. Yes, I did school choir as well. I can tell you one thing, I can’t dance as well as Christopher Walken. Cheers! Dee

Lyrics and Music

Think of Top Chef or Chopped. To be on TV would be a disaster for me because I’m a mess in front of people and cameras. Yes. I was on camera several times over many years trying to gain dog-friendly parks.

As a kid, girlfriends and shopping took over my interests over violin and piano. Yes, I became a gymnast, not a great one but I was made captain in two weeks. I was a better leader than a gymnast.

I had to learn violin and piano as a child, and ballet. I gave them all up. “Santa” gave me a cheap guitar at age 12 and I created a band and we actually sang on stage once. Luckily they didn’t have cell phone cameras back then. Even with the three of us, two tone-deaf, I believe we came in at 2nd place. Imagine that.

On April 15 at age 50 after turning in our income taxes I went out and bought a guitar and started taking private lessons. It was the wrong guitar and I found a new one, a preacher teacher, then new drummer teacher, and found a part of me.

They didn’t let me learn. One was about religion, the other was a drummer so he was always about the beat. I was in an unforgiving state, the religious zealot left me. Forget my learning basics. I was learning on my own and one day sang the drummer the last stanzas of American Pie and did a riff. Then I learned another and started singing harmony to him and he followed me.

Then he got mean, and he said “you have perfect pitch.” Yes, I’ve been told that by my father who has relative pitch and by a few music teachers in grade school and high school. That was the end.

I’ve a beautiful guitar now, that I keep hydrated. It’s a Seagull Artist Folk that I’ve not had the heart to take up again until I read lyrics and imagine the chords. It may be OK to play and sing for my husband and kids. The artistry is in my mind and voice, not in my fingers. I play at the guitar, I do not play it.

Retired now, I like to be able to imagine and even do any lyric I read, any recipe or cooking idea I come up with. I’m retired from consulting, lobbying and government. It’s been a great ride and so is volunteering, 20 years. It may be time to take up the Seagull again.

When I awake, I may do so with a song. I translate it to notes in my mind and ways I can make it sing. It depends on the song what I play. Dee

ps Thank you WP for making my trip not a safe one. The typo above has been corrected about 100 times but WP keeps adding to it because they’ve nothing else to do. How about ping pong? Or would you like a nice game of chess. Cheers, Dee

New Things

When I was 12 years old we moved to a very different place. We usually had only the networks and PBS for television (I liked PBS when it began showing Julia Child). OK, also Sesame Street to keep my young brother occupied for a bit.

As to music I’d always bought transistor radios and only had a few channels so it was mostly top 40. Then I met other kids who listened to Dave Mason. I tried out a lot of bands and began with Elton John, lots of famous balladeers including Joan Baez. Dylan, but was missing several components, but in gym class got to play the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens. I created a stretch class for that, no teacher, I was in 10th grade.

Our family was back north (luckily I didn’t have to shoot BB guns in gym class anymore) a year later. I was into Beatles, Bad Co. and a lot of other music.

One thing I missed was country. I thought it simple and somewhat backward but I was wrong. It is true music, granted I can probably transpose many songs into the traditional cowboy chords. Who spoke to me? Johnny Cash, CSNY (not country, but worth mentioning as well as Peter, Paul and Mary). Joan Baez, always, though her chords are too difficult for this neophyte.

At the time we laughed at Glen Campbell while singing his songs, as he is a legend in many ways. This year at the Oscars they sang a song he wrote to his family about having Alzheimers. He has done wonderful work and I love the simplicity of country songs and the lyrics these “cowboys” put to music.

Perhaps I mis-speak but I am not a fan of “entertainers” taking the stage and yelling undecipherable lewd lyrics into a microphone. I grew up with Mozart, Bach, Beethoven. I believe that folk, country and pop have a place and not just on the oldies channel.

Speaking of which, I do not yet have or use Pandora. I do not listen to music in the car as I usually only drive a couple miles per day. My guitar teacher was so pleased that I actually wanted to learn a song that came from this decade, Hey There Delilah. We parted ways and moved before that ever happened.

It just shows that anyone, musician, dancer or otherwise should always keep up with the times but also remember classical training. That is first. For cooks as well. Learn the groundwork and riff away. Cheers! Dee

Song in my Heart

Yes, I do wake with a song every morning, well, most. And I sing it in my head and sometimes, aloud. It’s usually old musicals and goes from Shall We Dance to … I can’t even think of them the next day.

Often I held a song in my head for weeks and hated it. Then I had the opportunity for another. So perhaps my mind told me that I need a song a day to make me and everyone else happy.

That may be what made me give up guitar. My teacher didn’t want to let me learn what I wanted to learn and was paying him to learn in private sessions. He was a drummer and didn’t care if I knew beginner chords and only wanted me to keep the beat and mess up all the time.

That’s not how I work in business or how I learn on my own time. Famous drummers may get the girls but the guitarists and lead singer do better. I’m married and only want to be able to play and sing for family and friends. I prefer to do the serious work to learn and do better and let the drummer play the drums, keep the beat and I’ll set the tune and do harmony (play second fiddle) from time to time.

Now I keep my nice guitar hydrated every few days but rarely play it. I’m still a beginner, was scared off by my teachers, Bible Belt guy and Drummer. I’ve a treasure trove of music, most of which I just downloaded free lyrics and figured out the chords myself.

Yes, Drummer and I tried to sing a song together and I went up a third in harmony and he followed me. He stopped and said “Oh, I bet you have perfect pitch.” I told him I didn’t know but my father said I did and so did two of my music teachers. From then on it was downhill. He was not nice after that.

The problem is that I don’t have the vocals to do anything pro, I can sing my own harmony to practically anything (not today’s ersatz music for kids) many can play instruments and I quit violin and piano as a kid and regret it. Yes, at 12 I had a band of three guitar players all with no skills and the other two were tone deaf. Now any teacher I find will have tremendous skills to teach me and I’ve wasted something my DNA gave me because I wanted to go to the mall with my girlfriends and I barely remember those girls’ names now.

In order to play basic guitar chords I was introduced to Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Johnny Cash. They’ve become good friends by their music. Dylan, well I want to play many of his works but the chords are not yet known, I can sing them but not play them…. yet. I’m not a musician but would like schools to place that back into their curricula. Music translates to math. It is not something to cut for budget reasons.

Today I sing on road trips with my husband, especially when he’s asleep (don’t worry I am at the wheel), to CCNY and all my friends, and all in harmony. I could sit as a beginner at my guitar and sing Bob Denver’s song that could make my husband nearly come to tears. In the end it’s all blowin’ in the wind. Dee

PS There is Love (John Denver’s Wedding Song) and I always stand on your shoulders, my dear. Music in schools. All is love, Dee

Dinner With the Stars

Let’s say I’ve twelve guests at the table. I and my husband am hosting. Don’t worry he didn’t cook anything, so guests are safe.

You are now thinking that I’ll actually have some celebrities on this list. Perhaps. I haven’t made it up yet. But if that’s what you’re looking for and don’t want to learn more, give up now.

I’m staying away from Greek and Roman philosophers and conversations about the Bible and since I live in the US that’s my milieu.

Let’s stick from the 1600’s on Ben Franklin. Thomas Jefferson. Abe Lincoln, of course. I’m not dealing with their dates as they’re freebies.

Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt (because of the UN), Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan.

I still have half a huge table to fill so will add Kim Jong -un  to ask him to stand down his nuclear stance; and have mediators like George Mitchell to make that difference.

Now we need some levity to the table. Of course Kevin Spacey would be there with his brilliance. Helen Mirren for same and grace and humor and Judi Dench for a little spice and all the above characteristics.

Of course all my musical and other mentors would be here. That would make a very crowded table or a great party.

Let’s toss in artist Tara Donovon for her straws as clouds.and the sax player who plays across the street for a bit of je ne sais quois. And bring in a bagpiper as well, because I miss them on the streets. You know Shakespeare and the other dead ones won’t show up.

Add the artist in Florence. I’ve three of his watercolors double and triple-framed. He reminds me of my roots.

From Italy or down the street or flying, driving, taking a business call us to set up for you and set another place at the table. All our friends over the years have done this locally, just be in touch in advance, please.

Ah, you ask what I would make for them: cassoulet. However the event would need to be scheduled days in advance so I could purchase, prepare and “marinate” the ingredients and re-cook every day. Outside of French cooking school I’ve only made this for my father, once. It is an event and really should have a cauldron over a flame but high up off an elevator, all is only a fantasy,

My dad is older now and sometimes appreciates the “best meal he ever had” although he may have told it to other girls., perhaps my sisters. Cheers! Dee

Testing The Waters

Before it gets too cold here I wanted to walk down to the beach and walk, run, enjoy Lake Michigan. Took off my shoes and socks, tied the dog to a bench (she just had a bath and wasn’t interested anyway) and rolled up my jeans just to put my feet in the water. It was cold, as my nephew told me in July. Thanks, J!

While I was brushing off the sand and putting on my socks and shoes we met the most amazing man, a musician. The wind had picked up to about 40 mph and he was on a bicycle and he told me about a great bike shop.

The dog liked him. That’s big for me. Never talk to anyone your dog doesn’t like! We actually hid from a Spaniel yesterday who once had my dog’s neck in his jaws and his owner didn’t do anything, just said he was “leash aggressive.” Not, is she OK? Can I pay for your vet bills?

He petted Zoe and I said thank you and he said you’re welcome. In Greek. Neither of us are Greek. He’s a musician and may give me a couple of lessons to get me back on track because my mind works better when I’m learning and that’s how I help my husband, besides cooking and taking care of our sweet old dog.

Then again, I’ve been talking about angels. We had way too much in common for him to just stop on his bike near me and Zoe. This may be mine. Or as Grace Hanadarko (we’ve been watching Netflix and Saving Grace) rip series, it might be my Earl.

Thank you for letting me walk and run on the beach, watch the wind come up and the mature trees bend. I have a hammer, and I have a bell, and I have a song to sing, Dee


Yet again. It’s my last. It’s telling me to pick up the guitar again and channel some PPM, Dylan, and Johnny Cash. Yes, I love the country/western as do most gals who know basic chords and play them over and over in their heads.

My husband taught me Marty Robbins’ El Paso, even sang it in a restaurant in Scotland at our going away party (no, he doesn’t drink). Then Juni Fisher sang about Fellina in Red Velvet Slippers, her version of it for us after a fellow blogger pdxknitterati introduced me to her music.

What do I do for fun? Download free lyrics from the internet and then figure out the music. Some folks knit or have a boat. I do this and cook and write.

Seeing the light is another theme. We have no lighting in rooms, only in hallways, and they’re all sconces that are hung by very short people. That means, since we don’t own the place, that I have to be extremely clever to place something under those fixtures so myt 6′ 4″ husband doesn’t hit his head on them every day.

Extra-thick picture frames, boxes (for now) and a place to put his keys.  Shhh, he doesn’t know the many ways I take care of him.

That brings me to dinner. I need soy sauce and mirin and will make… chicken tonight and grilled fry bread a la Chef Raichlen so it will be a skewer endeavor.

Next time we may just have to Walk The Line. Best to PDX, Dee

Old Times

I remember tastes and smells from childhood, but also music. My dad played the violin and had me take it up very young (not as young as Montessori does now) so  I grew up with classical music but big bands, Frank Sinatra (my favorite), and others.

When I think of moving near Washington, D.C I know the monuments, and all the weekend educational trips we took. I was too young to be hip but fell in love with Dave Mason, James Taylor, Carole King, Elton John. John Denver, even Johnny Cash who I adore now.

I remember standing in my mod kitchen, white wallpaper with funky daisies and a mod table and twirling chairs, and singing my heart out to “Tiny Dancer.”

Then it was Bad Company and Dave Mason, big time. Also Beatles.

In college it was ELO, Art Garfunkel, Jerry Jeff Walker, Pure Prairie League, Marshall Tucker Band and, wait for this, The Best of Bread. That was the girl thing we did in the dorms. Also we line danced, in the hall, best teacher ever from our B-Ball team, to who knows what. But all the gals danced.

Luckily I’ve evolved/devolved from that. As a former acoustic guitar student, started at age 50 with private lessons, I lean to Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez (but can’t get the chords yet), Bob Dylan, CSNY, and even have an old song book from Peter, Paul and Mary.

Of course I’m limited by what I can play, but keep music I can’t play and even print out lyrics and try to map out the music. But I tend toward songs that tell a story, ballads if you will. With two or three chords came Puff, The Magic Dragon, or my first guitar song, Mockingbird.

Many years ago I led a tone-deaf trio singing Day is Done and Teach Your Children. Stupid kid got ahead of herself and tripped. Now you can give me a song and I can play it, provided I know the chords to play. I just see it in my head.

Should one play orchestral music for one in the womb? I wouldn’t know, except that my dad has always had a talent for music and the arts, and my mother became adept at cooking, never loved it, but was expert in accounting and near the end of her life doing volunteer work helping senior citizens do their taxes.

It’s funny that my husband and I have never talked about alternate lives, probably because we’re pretty stable together, especially given the circumstance of him being laid off last week.

Since I was five I always wanted to cook. Or be a lawyer. I never imagined the path I took or the man I met and married.

If he would have not been MENSA material (yes he’s been invited, never joined) he would have stayed on the farm but his parents made sure both sons went to college and got off the farm. They wanted a better life for their sons. I love them dearly for what they’ve put into these men, these leaders of people, their sons.

There is no loyalty these days with corporations, so there’s a brief blip here and young people (yeah, you’re really reading my blog) know that whatever you do, whatever you post, will be out there forever. Aside from dealing drugs, please try to do something you’re passionate about. If you learn animation Pixar may hire you. If you know math and science you’re headed to college and a great degree. Trust me. I tried to take shop in the 60’s and was forced to do home ec. Dee

The Music Stand

We bought the keyboard off the floor, saved ten or twenty dollars. It didn’t come with a music rest. Back then I was into everything folding up to nothing and being able to move without really having more “stuff.” So we already had a folding music stand and stood it behind the keyboard. That meant I had to sit in an uncomfortable chair and read music from the stand over the keyboard…

Yes, I was looking for an excuse. My first acoustic guitar teacher dumped me after three months with no explanation. I was a beginner and learning chords and my second teacher (all private one-on-one instruction) was a drummer who said basically who cares about the music, the beat is all there is. So I took a month off then quit. I never formally quit but I had quit in my mind months before.

It seems so simple and I was so happy with my first teacher who started with my influence on Dylan and Johnny Cash; then the second seemed so cool but it seemed all he wanted me to do was keep the beat and not learn basic chords after I’d already done a lot of learning on my own. The kicker was when he treated me like an eight-year old and told me to sit outside until he called me in. Every minute is a minute I pay for and when the room is dark I like to go in five minutes early and unpack and tune up so my lesson is a lesson. Every conservatory should allow space for this.

Music is important to me, it alway has been to my family as my father still plays the violin and piano and I’m just looking for some extra time and the right teacher to help me along. American Pie has been at the forefront of my music stand for a few months, backed up by some Dylan and Joan Baez (her chords are too complex for me now).

Here’s to whatever music works for you. Sorry that the latest incarnations of whatever the cool people used to call hip-hop don’t work for me. Don’t worry, they’re writing songs of love but not for me, so let’s get away from it all. Maybe the Isle of Capri? xoxo Dee