Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Behind The Music: Writing "The Recession Blues"

Couldn't sleep tonight so I got started on a new song. Wrote this one on my ukulele after playing around with the chord progression for weeks. The music started out a bit faster-paced but I slowed it down. Once I got it to a tempo I liked, I realized that it - for whatever reason - reminded me of an old black and white film. From there, I got to thinking about The Great Depression which then reminded me of the news recently about the debt ceiling and all of the financial turmoil America seems to be in these days. So I wrote the following song (audio posted below the lyrics):

Money’s tight and times are tough

But we’ve got a roof over our heads

Working hard from nine to five

Induces some stress

But at the end of the day

We’ll come home to rest

What’s the use in complaining

Things could always be worse

There are people without the means we’ve got

Let’s make do with this here lot

So Uncle Sam’s got you down

What else is new, that’s the standard fare in this town

The news is depressin’

Especially in this here recession

But dust it off, don’t wear a frown

What’s the use in complaining

Things could always be worse

There are people without the means we’ve got

Let’s make do with this here lot

[Whistle solo goes here]

We’ve made it through wars

And other manic attacks

We’ve made it through the worst

We always make a comeback

There are people without the means we’ve got

Let’s make do with this here lot

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Nationals Buzz Post Round-Up: April through the All-Star Break

The 2011 MLB All-Star break is approaching and it got me thinking that this is a perfect time to round-up my freelance work from my guest blogging for's Nationals Buzz this season.

My work for Nationals Buzz is part of a season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to MASN Sports' "little corner of cyberspace," as managing editor Pete Kerzel likes to say.

I have to say that I am truly thankful for the opportunity I've had to write for MASN and being able share my thoughts on baseball in the District. I look forward to the rest of the season and can't wait to continue improving my baseball writing.

Once the second half of the season starts, the rotation of guest bloggers will change a bit and the format will switch to one post per week, per blogger as opposed to five posts in a week per blogger. So be on the lookout for posts from me on Wednesdays and definitely check out my colleagues on the other days! They're both insightful and entertaining.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4
Could patriotic Nats become America's Team?
Johnson holds Nats accountable with levity, pride
Unprompted responses create hopeful stadium buzz
Winning three of four vs. Cubs shows progress

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Coming Soon: The Song Book

Pictured top to bottom: My grandfather, me, and my bubbe in 2006.

My grandfather once told me that he was surprised at how thoughtful my lyrics appeared to be after he stumbled upon the CD jacket inside my first album's debut cover art.

He hadn't realized "the kinds of effort" I had put into crafting my words on top of composing an entire song.

Here's a little something for the masses: I am very proud of my lyrics. Sure -- I love zoning out with a guitar in hand and letting my emotions flow through the rhythms I play. I also love singing, on a stage or in my apartment ... or anywhere really, because that is my emotional release and adrenaline rush. But, my lyrics are the brain child behind the thrills of the stage or performing live.

My next project shouldn't be too daunting but it will take some time. Soon enough, I will have each and every one of my songs (that I feel are worthy) listed on my music site. This project is, of course, called "The Song Book".

Stay tuned for more details.

In the mean time, here's an "oldie" song from high school. I wrote it at the age of 16:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday Songwriting Session: "What Am I To You"

In case you can't read my scribblings -- which I don't expect you to be able to do since they are quite reminiscent of a doctor writing a prescription -- here's a translation:

He had been living
Rent free in my head
He hadn't paid a cent
And took me for all that I had

Unfocused and confused
I'm sick of playing by his rules
Big brown eyes that smile
Don't count as an excuse

There was a time
He'd make me weak in my knees
Rosie cheeks and a quick heart beat
He'd make it so damn hard to speak

Unfocused and confused
I'm sick of playing by his rules
Big brown eyes that smile
Don't count as an excuse

There's just one question
We've yet to review
What am I to you

You think I can't see
The way you look at me
If only I had a mirror installed
For every time that we continue to meet

Unfocused and confused
I'm sick of playing by your rules
Big brown eyes that smile
Don't count as an excuse

There's just one question
We've yet to review
What am I to you

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Night Demo - "Hold My Hand"'s not Hootie & the Blowfish. I promise. Although, "Hold My Hand" by Hootie & the Blowfish is a quality song. Hat tip to Darius Rucker.

I’m sick of being alone
But I pay my own rent
I'm painfully independent
But I’d like to take your hand

I’m reaching out now just to see
If your hand can just reach me
I’ll hold out just as long as I can
Won’t you hold my hand

Late night conversations
Are what I miss the most
I’ve still got the same couch
It feels like I’m sitting with ghosts

I’m reaching out now just to see
If your hand can just reach me
I’ll hold out just as long as I can
Won’t you hold my hand

A Chicago to DC Exclusive: Behind the Scenes at Trauma2Art

Sometime in the fall of 2010 I was approached via e-mail to see if I was interested in joining a couple of my fellow American University alumni in a writing project.The request for my contributions couldn't have come at a better time, really. This project was Trauma2Art.

Trauma2Art started out as the initial brain child of freelance writer Lauren Muscarella and has ballooned into a creative outlet for many individuals seeking solace due to the loss of a loved one.

Trauma2Art's message is simple: "Encourage creative expression from those who have experienced grief."

Thanks to Ms. Muscarella, Trauma2Art has enabled those who were crippled and confused after experiencing the immense grief that comes with loss to seek what they're feeling deep inside and expressing it in a forum full of people who truly understand.

On April 20, Trauma2Art will be hosting its first (of what we hope will be many) fundraisers in Washington, D.C. The event will be held at Coppi's Organic Restaurant on U St. starting at 6 p.m. and more details are available on the event's Facebook page.


The following question and answer session is an exclusive interview conducted by the Chicago to DC POV with Trauma2Art founder Lauren Muscarella (pictured on the left) and Trauma2Art contributor Tara Shlimowitz (pictured on the right) via e-mail.

Chi2DC: What prompted you to start the site? I know that your work on your personal blog MamaQuest had a a major influence on your work with grief and helping others dealing with grief.

Lauren: After I started, I had an overwhelming number of people reach out to tell me that the blog inspired them to start a journal. Another thing that happened was people started telling me about their own experiences. Everyone has such a unique perspective and it was obvious that there needed to be an outlet and forum to encourage this type of discussion.

Chi2DC: What prompted you (Tara) to join the site as a contributing writer? I know that you had known Lauren from school but what other factors aligned and enabled you to start working on this project?

Tara: Each time Lauren updated her blog, she would post a new link to her gchat status. I'd click through and read her posts, always thinking that it was so bold of her to openly talk about her feelings to the world. I've never been the type to just offer up such personal information. My outlet has always been writing, but I keep it to myself. I told Lauren how much I admired what she was doing, and then told her about my own experience with losing my father. She encouraged me to share my writing on her blog, and I always nicely declined, though deep down I wanted to but just didn't have the courage. Her strength was so inspiring that it led me to publish my first story about my father since a poem I wrote shortly after his death (it was published in a student anthology when I was 10).

Chi2DC: What is it about Trauma to Art that you feel helps bereaved individuals find a community? Or is the "end result" not a community but rather something else entirely?

L: Community development is a huge part of Trauma to Art. I think community development should be a part of everyone's business plan whether it's a non-profit or for-profit business. At its very core, Trauma to Art gives people who have experienced loss a forum to share their story. What I found from writing MamaQuest, which is true of Trauma to Art as well, is that the act of expressing yourself is equally as helpful as reading someone else's story. In one single act you help yourself and others. As far as community development goes, the start of our in-person meet-up groups will bring people together who normally would never have connected. The construct that brings people together essentially is grief but the bigger picture is advocating for expression as a powerful tool to cope with any hardship. Like Joan Didion said, "I write so I can learn what I think."

T: I agree with Lauren. It's very powerful to express yourself artistically and then have the courage and strength to share it with someone, anyone. T2A creates a forum where it's ok to express how you're feeling. Society doesn't really encourage grief. Immediately after trauma there is a "grieving period," but after that, that's what therapists are for. People feel awkward to be around someone who is grieving or talking about their loss after the nebulous grieving period is "over." You're supposed to hold it all in so that others don't feel uncomfortable. Heaven forbid you continue to express yourself in the most human way possible. But T2A is helping to diminish that taboo by providing a safe space for continued self-expression. There's something very human and also illuminating in sharing your feelings with others. The more people who realize that, the more acceptable it will be, and T2A is leading the way.

Chi2DC: (Lauren) Talk to me about this fundraiser. It's the organization's first fundraiser ever. It is a joint event. What gave you the idea for the fundraiser and why did you pick D.C. for its location?

L: Instinct. Even though I live in Massachusetts now many of the site's contributors and supporters live in D.C. After seven years of working and living in DC as well as going to American University, I amassed quite the family. There are so many people whom I love in D.C. So after I received my incorporation papers for Trauma to Art I naturally wanted to down to D.C. to have an event. Carlos, the owner of Coppi's, seemed like a good person to call because his restaurant has an amazing energy and he has experienced a great loss himself. In November 2009 his sister Nori Amaya was murdered in her apartment in NW D.C. When I called he told me her story would be on America's Most Wanted the following week. It just seemed like the perfect time to combine our causes. Getting the word out about Nori's case and having as many people as possible see her AMW is very important to me. Like you mentioned it's a joint event with half of the funds going to Trauma to Art and half of the funds going to The Nori Amaya Foundation, which supports women's self-defense.

Chi2DC: Many Trauma to Art contributors, myself and Tara included, live in D.C. How many are there? Next to D.C., what other cities are involved in the project?

L: Trauma to Art just started in November so it's growing every month. There is one other contributor in D.C., Amanda Heptinstall. She wrote an amazing piece about losing her best friend to suicide as a teen. Her story is so powerful. I feel honored to have worked with her on it. You can read it here In addition to what you see on the site, there are several other people in the D.C., throughout the U.S. and even in the U.K. who are currently working on pieces for Trauma to Art. A lot of people contact me about participating. I encourage everyone who contacts me, but I don't put deadlines on them. They come when they come. Everyone has their own individual creative process.

Chi2DC: Have you met any interesting people or heard any particular stories since joining up with Trauma to Art?

L: Yes! You! Since starting Trauma to Art I have become this available listeners. People approach me, email me, call me and share their stories. I feel so honored and grateful to play this role whenever I can. I don't feel its my place to tell those stories. I'm not sure I could do them justice. I encourage anyone who is curious to go onto to read what is currently there. Tara's writing is great. Your writing is great. I'm inspired by everyone who has submitted a piece. The people who connect with me provide me with the fuel and inspiration to build Trauma to Art.

Chi2DC: If you could share any words of encouragement with someone going through a state of grief, whether that's the loss of a friend, family member, pet, etc., what's the one sentiment you would want to share with them the most?

L: I don't know if this is considered encouragement but I usually tell people the following: Accept that you'll make mistakes, commit to figuring out how to cope, love and respect the people who love you, be patient and over time you'll gain clarity. I tell people that writing and creating worked for me but I don't and will not push my ideas on anyone. People need to find out what works for them and if it happens to be Trauma to Art than I will be supportive and encouraging. The site and its writers, me included, are simply available resources.

T: My experience made me such a pessimist. I stopped believing in a lot of things. I was young, so I guess it just made me realize the harsh realities of life sooner than most people do. It's very difficult to lose someone close to you. Very difficult. But a loss should awaken you to those you still have around you. Kurt Vonnegut wrote that the "purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved." Take a step back and look at the people in your life who are most important to you. Love them. Appreciate them. And tell them that. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Chi2DC: Trauma to Art has received a lot of attention in the grief community. Do you have any plans to take the site "up a notch" or to keep expanding its content?

L: The grief community has certainly made me feel welcome. The people in this industry are positive, supportive and inspiring for sure. As far as the site goes, like anything anyone works one, it needs to be evolving and updated constantly. I will be making some improvements to the site in the next few months. My biggest priority is making the information easy to find and the site easy to use. There is no need to overcomplicate it. It's a work in progress. As far as expanding the content, I will continue to work to raise awareness for the site. Like I mentioned, many people are currently working on projects and I don't push anyone to meet a specific deadline. I like to let nature takes its course.

Chi2DC: What is your ultimate goal for Trauma to Art as an organization?

T: I'd really like to see T2A take off. Where are the angel investors out there? I'd love for Lauren to get some funds to promote the organization, attract more contributors and eventually start community outreach/projects/programs. I'm helping Lauren in any way she asks -- editing, researching -- since this type of start-up requires lots of volunteer manpower. T2A has already done a lot for me, by showing me that I have the strength to be open about my experience. Since T2A unlocked that inside of me, I am happy to help in any way I can.

L: I have so many aspirations for Trauma to Art. To explain I have to back up about 13 years. This story was always in the back of my mind when I was working to bring the idea of Trauma to Art into fruition. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 5 so the idea was pretty commonplace to me. As a kid I almost assumed everyone had a mum with cancer. When I was about 13, the mother of a girl I knew passed away from cancer. The girl was a few years older than me and she got into a lot of trouble after it happened. She started using drugs and hanging around with a bad crowd. I can't even explain how much this worried my mother. She talked to me about it at the time and made me promise her this would never be me no matter what happened. I was lucky enough to have an amazing support system of people around me and so that never was me but if the Trauma to Art community can prevent that from happening by providing an outlet than I think we would all feel very proud and accomplished. That story is one of the reasons Trauma to Art will publish an annual yearbook to distribute to schools for free. Everyone is welcome at Trauma to Art because I think a well-rounded age disparity is essential for any learning environment but young people are the ones to focus on, in my opinion.

For more information regarding Trauma2Art and how to get involved, please visit

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Hallelujah" live & How it Felt to Sing it

"American singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley, inspired by Cale's earlier cover, recorded one of the best-known[10] versions of "Hallelujah" for his debut album Grace in 1994.

In 2004, Buckley's version was ranked number 259 on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[1] The same year Time called Buckley's version "exquisitely sung," observing "Cohen murmured the original like a dirge, but ... Buckley treated the ... song like a tiny capsule of humanity, using his voice to careen between glory and sadness, beauty and pain... It's one of the great songs."[11]

In September 2007, a poll of fifty songwriters conducted by the magazine Q listed "Hallelujah" among the all-time "Top 10 Greatest Tracks" with John Legend calling Buckley's version "as near perfect as you can get. The lyrics to Hallelujah are just incredible and the melody's gorgeous and then there's Jeff's interpretation of it. It's one of the most beautiful pieces of recorded music I’ve ever heard."[12] In July 2009, the Buckley track was ranked number three on the 2009 Triple J Hottest 100 of All Time, a listener poll held every decade by the Australian radio station Triple J."[13]" - via Wikipedia

I agree. Completely. With all those quotes listed above this very sentence.

With that said, I performed at Arlene's Grocery in New York City this past February. It was my NYC debut ... and I played it on the same stage Jeff Buckley once played on back in 1997. He had a tremendous influence on the music community with his career that was cut far too short.

Earlier this month I had a little spill, leaving my right (dominant) arm with a severely sprained ligament hindering my arm pretty stiff and sore. As a result, I knew the show must go on. I had a performance to play. Producer Paul Derlunas joined me for the ocassion, which allowed me to focus on my singing.

My performance this past Tuesday was the first time I ever sang solo live, on-stage in front of an audience without playing guitar at the same time.

It was exhilarating. I felt like Rachel Berry for a minute. That was fun.