Monday, November 19, 2018

"Author, Author" podcast with Ed Goldberg of

Over the years I've had a long relationship with AllClassical radio, a Portland, Oregon station that is broadcast locally and streamed globally.  In addition to providing me with my morning soundtrack, they've been extraordinarily supportive of my performing--both by playing tracks from my CDs occasionally, and featuring me on two of their popular Thursdays@Three live performance programs.

The station's support continued when I wrote my novel, The Waco Variations when announcer and author Ed Goldberg read my book and invited me to be part of his long-running "Author, Author" podcast series.  We met at AllClassical's studio where we discovered that we had shared interests in baseball, writing, and the music of Bach, among other things.  His insightful questions (and my nervous answers!) can be found here:

No artist succeeds without help from others.  I owe a huge debt of gratitude to AllClassical for what they do to champion classical music and musicians in a world that says this music is no longer relevant.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Something Close to Tango by Jennifer Griffith

What do you get when a classical pianist/jazz vocalist/composer/lifelong player of Nazareth tangos gets commissioned to write a 1 minute piece for piano?  Something Close to Tango, of course.

In Jennifer's words, "tango for me conjures up music of Ernesto Nazareth whose tangos brasileiros my mother loved and often asked me to play for guests."  Juxtaposing rhythms and styles from Brazilian and Argentine tango, this one-minute gem is like a stolen glimpse into the lives of others--perhaps seen through an open door or spied from the window of a moving train.  We can guess at the story behind the scene, but it always remains tantalizingly mysterious.

I've been lucky to have known Jennifer for decades.  We first met in a piano master class for professional pianists and we bonded over a shared love of music, books, and the world of ideas and beliefs.  Her compositions include operas, choral works, chamber music, orchestral pieces, art songs, and a few piano gems such as this one.  She brings her fierce intellect and passion for beauty to everything she does.

To order this tango (and learn more about Jennifer), visit her website:

This casual home performance was filmed by Bob Wall.

Monday, November 12, 2018

An International Review of 'The Waco Variations'

‘The Waco Variations’ – a novel by Rhonda Rizzo

A review by Frances Wilson (aka "The Cross-Eyed Pianist") 

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” fa├žade, 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 Bach’s music can she dare to feel the loss of her parents.
When US authorities raided cult-leader David Khoresh’s compound in February 1993, it led to 10 deaths and a 51-day standoff that ended when a fire killed more than 70 men, women, and children. Those who survived Waco were forced to confront the dark things Khoresh did: narcissistic and abusive, he was deeply controlling yet charismatic and personable.
This well-crafted and sensitively-written novel by American pianist Rhonda Rizzo does not shy away from presenting Khoresh and his cult in unsentimental terms, but rather than offer long descriptions, small disturbing details are slipped into the narrative in the form of flashbacks by Cassie, the protagonist, as she tries to come to terms what has happened to her and her family, and comprehend her parents’ life choices. The complex story of Cassie’s struggle to process the trauma of Waco and resulting PTSD, and the extraordinarily closed world of a religious cult, is told in unsentimental, vividly realistic terms, and Rhonda Rizzo’s own musical background brings an authenticity and authority to the descriptions of the music, including the experience of studying and performing music, the hot house, competitive atmosphere of music college, and the special pleasures (and difficulties) of playing with other musicians.
This is as much a coming-of-age novel as a book about recovery and renewal, and Cassie’s naive, tentative entry into a normal teenage girl’s life of fashion, boys and alcohol is presented in bold, believable terms: her relationships are not always straightforward and her attempts to fit in, despite her unusual background, are familiar to anyone who has felt like an outsider.
In one of those serendipitous encounters which sometimes happen via my blog, the author contacted me out of the blue to ask if I would review her book. I’m so glad I agreed, as I found The Waco Variations a real page-turner, and, ultimately, a wonderful celebration of the restorative powers of music. The novel offers a universal message – that music has the power to touch our souls, to heal and calm, and so much more…..

Friday, November 2, 2018

"Meet the Artist" Interview With Frances Wilson (aka "The Cross-Eyed Pianist)

Full confession:  it took me several months to get my nerve up to contact the author of one of my favorite music blogs, The Cross-Eyed Pianist, and ask her if she'd be willing to read and review my novel, The Waco Variations.  Pianist, writer, concert reviewer, blogger, and music lover Frances Wilson's blog is followed by over 8500 people and as such is one of the top-rated classical music sites in the world.  Well, Wilson couldn't have been more gracious.  Thanks to my other favorite piano blog, Piano Addict, she'd already heard of my book and was eager to read it.

Wilson's "Meet the Artist" interview series is a popular element of The Cross-Eyed Pianist.  As my resume is much more less illustrious than many of the pianists she features, I was surprised and thrilled when she asked me to be part of this series.  Her questions and my answers can be found here:

And while you're on her site, peruse her writing, read other interviews, and (especially if you're a pianist), follow the blog.  I have for several years; it never fails to inform and inspire.