Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Waco Variations a novel

This book came to me long after I'd decided that the writing side of my life was best expressed in articles, essays, and blog entries.  But, to adapt an old cliche,  this novel is what happened when I was making other plans.

The book is (of course) about music.  It's also about survival and recovery.  I've included a short description:

On April 20, 1993, sixteen-year-old Cassie watches her world burn to the ground. A week later—far from Waco, TX and the Branch Davidean fire that claimed her family, friends, savior, and the only life she had ever known—Cassie enters a new life—a strange new ‘normal’ life after being ripped from a cult and forced to function in routine society with little knowledge of how to navigate reality.
Cassie has just two goals: to play the piano and to learn how to be normal. Her love of music, especially the music of J.S Bach, is her only thread to a past she buries under her “normal” façade, the thread that holds her together where therapy and religion fail. But Cassie’s habit of using music to hide from her emotions fails her and she must grieve the truth about losing her family and her world in the Waco fire and begin to let time, and Bach, heal her.  And only through that music can she dare to feel the loss of her parents.
The Waco Variations celebrates the tenacity of the human spirit and the healing power of music. 
This story is available on

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Three Intermezzi by Paul Schoenfield

I was introduced to Paul Schoenfield’s music a couple of years ago when the Oregon Symphony performed one of his compositions.  It blew me away.  The next day I wrote him a fan email and was thrilled by his quick reply.  When I purchased a copy of his piano duet, “5 Days in the Life of a Manic-Depressive”, Paul graciously included his Three Intermezzi as a gift.

These three introspective pieces are works he says he wrote just to please himself, specifically, “music my hands feel like touching and sounds my ears enjoy perceiving.  The music is intimate, serene and contemplative.  It’s the sort of music I improvise at night with the lights out and the house empty.”

I’ve included all three Intermezzi in this post because I feel they progress so beautifully from one to the next.  It’s rare to find modern music that borrows much from the past (Bach and Brahms are two influences) yet is still fresh.  The challenge, of course, is to allow it to sound improvised, all the while never losing sight of the introspective nature of each one.  They’ve been a joy to learn.

The videos were shot by my friend Bob Wall, in my home.

To order a copy of this lovely music:

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Adagio, from Gazebo Dances by John Corigliano

John Corigliano’s Gazebo Dances depict the sorts of pavilions often seen in the center of small towns across the country, where ad hoc local bands play concerts on warm summer evenings.  Corigliano’s depictions of the mixture of the bombastic energy of marches and dance pieces, and the inevitable clashes and crashes of under-rehearsed ensembles is evident in the other three movements of this suite.  Adagio, however, is a moment of true reflection, tenderness, and almost tragic beauty in the midst of the celebration.

Molly Wheeler and I have recorded the complete Gazebo Dances.  I featured our recording of the Tarantella previously on this blog.  The suite continues to be one of our favorites, and this performance was part of a concert we gave a year and a half ago.

To order this music, visit

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Nasty Habit by Jason Heald

There are few composers who bridge musical genres as well as Jason Heald.  He writes just as well for musical theatre as he does for chamber music.  He writes choral music.  He writes cabaret.  In addition, he runs a music department, takes students on tours, performs, conducts...I don’t know when or if he sleeps.

Jason also allowed me to record one of my CD’s, A Spin On It, at Umpque Community College where he teaches.  In addition to pieces by Joel Pierson, Dana Libonati, and Dave Deason, I recorded Jason’s Suite for Guitar and Piano.  At the end of a very long afternoon, I knocked out this cabaret song because, after all, what better way to channel my inner Diana Krall?

Nasty Habit.  Get it here:

Friday, October 27, 2017

Autumn Hues by Dave Deason

Fall is my favorite season, and few pieces capture the visual beauty of turning leaves like Dave Deason’s Autumn Hues.  This lovely piano solo is part of Dave’s Oregon Impressions CD, and reflects his admiration for the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

The long melodic lines of this composition require a fluid sense of time, while the left hand is the conductor that keeps the piece from devolving into sentimentality.  The beauty of the melody is balanced by an underlying sense of pathos and the inevitable passage of time.

To order a copy of this music, contact Dave at:

Saturday, October 7, 2017

In Time’s Unfolding by Chester Biscardi

In Time’s Unfolding, by Chester Biscardi, is a piece I never could have played when I was young.  I lacked the seasoning of years lived, loves, and losses that this gorgeous music portrays so poetically.   Only now, in my more mature years, can I glimpse a patience and optimism that comes from knowing that life is fatal, but not tragic—a sentiment I feel best describes my understanding of In Time’s Unfolding.

In Chester’s words, “In Time’s reflective—of the past, of one’s self—and celebrates the moment...Time unfolds over a musical landscape that is at once poignant and painful, lonely, celebratory, and heroic.  The title comes from the seventh section of Galway Kinnell’s eleven-part poem, When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone.”

Biscardi’s performance notes encourage the pianist to take a flexible interpretation of the tempi—a suggestion I embraced whole-heartedly.  This video was shot by my friend, Bob Wall, in my home.  

To order a copy of this piece, visit Chester’s website:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Etude # 7: "I flew as in a dream..." by Scott Pender

This beautiful etude--the final of Scott Pender's collection--is a lush, sweeping, utterly romantic and soaring piece.  It's also technically challenging, which is why I worked harder on this one than any of Scott's other Etudes.  It's difficult, but it needs to sound as effortless as breathing.

In his performance notes, Scott writes that the title is a line from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. "I feel it captures the spirit of this etude," Scott writes, "perhaps my favorite of the set. The romantic middle section elaborates on the lyrical theme first heard in the fourth Etude.  I feel strong echoes of Chopin and Rachmaninov in this concluding piece."

As one raised on Romantic piano music and Victorian novels, this Etude has become one of my favorites as well.

To order the music: