Episode 88: Stage director, dramaturg – Sara Widzer

Sara Widzer is my guest, this week. Sara and I met once-upon-a-time, during a production of Faust. I had a tie-on beard. That’s how long ago. She’s since gone on to direct in A houses across the country. Directorial style, the process, and politics in opera are all on the table, along with a whole bunch more interesting stuff. Enjoy, and thanks for listening!

Xmas 2017

I’m taking the holiday off, but I’ll be back with great interviews again, beginning the first week of January. In the meantime, check out my new daily podcast, “The Artist’s Almanac” at www.theartistsalmanac.org.

Thanks for your continued support, and Happy Holidays to you all!

Omar

The Artist’s almanac for Dec. 10th, 2017

Olivier Messiaen and Richard Pryor.

“Two things people throughout history have had in common are hatred and humor. I am proud that I have been able to use humor to lessen people’s hatred.” – Richard Pryor

The Artist’s Almanac for Dec 9th, 2017

Trumbo, Douglas, Lovelace.

To Althea, from Prison.

When love with unconfined wings

Hovers within my gates,

And my divine Althea brings

To whisper at the grates;

When I lie tangled in her hair

And fettered to her eye,

The gods that wanton in the air

Know no such liberty.

 

When flowing cups run swiftly round,

With no allaying Thames,

Our careless heads with roses bound,

Our hearts with loyal flames;

When thirsty grief in wine we steep,

When healths and draughts go free,

Fishes that tipple in the deep

Know no such liberty.

 

When like committed linnets I

With shriller throat shall sing

The sweetness, mercy, majesty,

And glories of my King:

When I shall voice aloud how good

He is, how great should be,

Enlarged winds, that curl the flood,

Know no such liberty.

 

Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron bars a cage:

Minds innocent and quiet take

That for an hermitage.

If I have freedom in my love,

And in my soul am free,

Angels alone, that soar above,

Enjoy such liberty.

 

Richard Lovelace 1617-1657

The Artist’s almanac for Dec 8th, 2017

Rivera, Schell, Wilson, and Lennon.

ABOUT THIS INTERVIEW:
In 1968, John Lennon expressed an interest in overseeing the production of a movie based on his first two books, ‘In His Own Write’ and ‘A Spaniard In The Works.’ While a film of his books was never made, a play was produced. Victor Spinetti directed the play adaptation, entitled ‘In His Own Write.’ The play opened June 18th 1968 at the Old Vic Theatre in London. A book of the screenplay written by Adrienne Kennedy and Victor Spinetti based on John’s characters was also published in 1968.On June 6th 1968, Peter Lewis chatted with Lennon and Spinetti about the new play. The filmed interview would air on BBC-2 as part of the arts program ‘Release.’

John discusses the impetus for his short-story writing as an early expression of his lifelong attitudes, and describes the meaning behind a few of the characters and concepts in the books and play.

During the discussion, Lennon mentions ‘Beanos,’ referring to the popular, long-running comic book in Britain. The Beano was first published in 1938, and still continues as a popular magazine today.

Victor Spinetti is famous for his acting roles in the Beatles’ first two motion pictures, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Help!’ as well as their made-for-TV film ‘Magical Mystery Tour.’

In the Sixties, the Old Vic Theatre was the home of the National Theatre Company, who have since found a permanent home at the Royal National Theatre in Lambeth. These days, the Old Vic Theatre is well looked after — with Kevin Spacey as the artistic director, Lord Attenborough on the Trust Board, and Sir Elton John as Chairman of the Board.

– Jay Spangler, www.beatlesinterviews.org


JOHN: “When I saw the rehearsal of it, I got quite emotional, as if I’d written it. I mean, I knew in my heart of hearts who was who and what the book was saying, but not enough. I was too involved with it when it was written. And any criticism it had was either just rubbish or still only writing about what was on the paper. So it took something like this to happen to make me see what I was about THEN, you know.”Q: “Well, an awful lot of the play is about radio and TV.”

JOHN: “Well I mean, that’s all I ever heard, didn’t I.”

Q: “Yeah.”

JOHN: “I mean you go home…”

VICTOR: “Comic books. You got the church…”

JOHN: (comically) “You got your comic books, your classic comics, your Beanos.”

VICTOR: (comically) “Your church. Your classic comics. Your School.”

JOHN: “Aye! Your School, your pub, and your TV, and your radio.”

Q: “Exactly.”

JOHN: “And that’s it.”

Q: “Funny thing you didn’t put in pop music.”

JOHN: “No, because up ’til then it hadn’t hit me. Pop music didn’t hit me ’til I was 16 and this is all before. The things that happened before 16.”

VICTOR: “But it’s not really John’s childhood. It’s all of ours, really. Isn’t it, John?”

JOHN: (giggling) “It is. We’re all one, Victor. We’re all one, aren‘t we.”

VICTOR: “It is, you know.”

JOHN: “I mean, what’s going on?”

Q: “There’s another thing about this boy. And that is, he won’t talk plain English. He invents his own language…”

JOHN: “Yeah.”

Q: “…which is what you did when you started writing, when your books started coming out.”

JOHN: “Well, yeah. That was just a hangover from school, you know. I mean, I used to make the lads laugh with that scene, talking like that, and writing poetry. I used to write them and just give them to friends to laugh at, and that was the end of it. So when they all go down in a book, when it turns into a book or a play, etcetera, etcetera, it’s just my style of humor.”

Q: “Instead of saying ‘for example’ as I was going to, say ‘forsample.'”

VICTOR: “Forsample, yes! And ‘He was astoundaghast’!”

JOHN: “Well, some of them… ‘cuz I was never any good at spelling, all me life. You know, I never quite got the idea of spelling. English and writing, fine. But actually spelling the words. So… And also I typed a lot of the book, and I can only do it very slowly with a finger. So the stories would be very short because I couldn’t be bothered going on.”

VICTOR: (laughs)

JOHN: “And also I’d spell it as you say it, like Latin really, you know. Or just try and do it the simplest way to get it over with. ‘Cuz all I’m trying to do is tell a story, and what the words is spelt like is irrelevant, really. But if they make you laugh because the word used to be spelt like that, that’s great. But the thing is, the story. And the sound of the word.”

Q: “A lot of people wrote about your book and said “Oh! James Joyce, Edward Lear,” and so on. What did you think when they said that?”

JOHN: “Well, when they said James Joyce I hadn’t… I must have come across him at school but we hadn’t done him like I remember doing Shakespeare and remember doing so-and-so. I remember doing Chaucer a bit, or somebody like him doing funny words. But I don’t remember Joyce, you see. So, the first thing they say — ‘Oh! He’s read James Joyce,’ you know. So I hadn’t. And so the first thing I do is buy Finnigan’s Wake and read a chapter. And it’s great, you know, and I dug it, and I felt as though he’s an old friend. But I couldn’t make it right through the book, and so I read a chapter of Finnigan’s Wake and that was the end of it. So now I know what they’re talking about. But I mean, he just went… he just didn’t stop, you know. Yeah.”

Q: “What actually, though, had you read that you KNOW was important to you when you were young?”

JOHN: “Only kids books, you know. Alice In Wonderland. The poems are all from Jabberwocky… started me into that kick.”

Q: “Did it.”

JOHN: “And drawing. I started trying to draw like Ronald Searle when I was about eight. So there was Jabberwocky and Ronald Searle I was turning into by the time I was thirteen. You know, I was determined to be Lewis Carroll (giggles) with a hint of Ronald Searle.”

Q: “Were you a Sherlock Holmes reader? ”

JOHN: “No. I had a holiday, after we first made it big as Beatles, in Tahiti. And there was nothing else on the boat but books. And Tahiti, we’re on all those Islands, great, but I still got into reading. So I was writing ‘Spaniard In The Works’ and I knew… I never got past a story longer than a page. So I read a whole stack — sort of ‘The Madman’s Sherlock Holmes’ where you get all the stories in one, and realized that every story was the same story. So I just wrote one ‘Shamrock Womlbs’ after three weeks of Sherlock Holmes in Tahiti. And that was the end of it.”

Q: “There’s a very, very sad poem at the end of the play about Kakky Hargreaves who is some sort of person whose name changes during the poem who’s gone lost. Who was Kakky Hargreaves?”

JOHN: “Well, nobody, you know. It was Kakky, or Cathy, or Tammy. So it was all those people. But the point is that you GOT it — the sadness that I wrote into it. But after you write something, a song or anything, you get the sadness and then you perform it or you put it on paper and then that’s gone. And the only way you get the joy back of writing it or the sadness back, is when somebody like Victor or somebody else comes and reads it to you, or acts it out. Like, when I first saw the rehearsal of the play, and they said these words back to me and I got the sadness from Kakky Hargreaves like I’d never heard it before.”

Q: “You wrote that one when you were very young.”

JOHN: “Yes. That was, sort of, pre-Beatle. Eighteen. Nineteen.”

VICTOR: (laughs)

Q: “And have you written lately?”

JOHN: “Well I write, I think, all the time. So I mean, it’s the same. I actually don’t put it on paper so much these days, but it goes into songs — A lot of the same energy that went into those poems. I don’t know what I actually do with the thoughts, but they come out either on film, or on paper, or on tape. I’ve just got lots of tape, which, I suppose if I put onto paper it would be a book. But it’s just a matter of, do I want to make those tapes into paper or make the tapes into records.”

Q: “Does it feel the same to you when you’re writing something on paper and when you’re writing a song lyric?”

JOHN: “It does now. In the old days I used to think, if song writing was this… you know, ‘I love you and you love me,’ and my writing was something else, you know. Even if I didn’t think of it quite like that. But I just realized through Dylan and other people… BOB Dylan, not Thomas… that it IS the same thing. That’s what I didn’t realize being so naive — that you don’t write pop songs, and then you DO THAT, and then you DO THAT. Everything you do is the same thing, so do it the same way. But sometimes I’ll write lyrics to a song first and then I’ll get the same feeling as Kakky Hargreaves or a poem and then write the music to it after. So then it’s a poem, sung. But sometimes the tune comes and then you just put suitable words to fit the tune. If the tune is (sings) ‘Doodle-loodle loodle-leh,’ and then you have ‘Shag-a-boo choo-cha.’ You know, you have sound-words then, just the sound of it. ‘Cuz it IS all sound. Everything is vibrations, I believe, you know. Everything is sound, really, or vision. And just, the difference between sound and vision I’m not quite sure about. But its all just (imitates a vibrating sound) ‘vuh-wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh.'”

Q: “The boy (in the play) hates a lot of things and, in a way, you could say you were attacking these things — like, organized religion, and the way people teach you in school.”

JOHN: “I feel the same now, really, about organized religion, education, and all those things that everybody is still laughing at. But I mean, I expressed it THAT way THEN. I don’t know how I’d express it now, you know. It’d be slightly different really. I’ve always sort of suspected that there was a God, even when I thought I was an atheist. But I beleive it, so I am full of compassion, really, even still. I just hate things less strenuously than I did. I haven’t got as big of a chip about it, because maybe I’ve escaped out of it a bit. I think our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. And I think that’s what I sussed when I was sixteen and twelve, way down the line. But I expressed it differently all through my life. It’s the same thing I’m expressing all the time. But NOW I can put it into that sentence that I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends, you know. If anybody can put on paper what our government, and the American government, and the Russian, Chinese… what they are all trying to do, and what they THINK they’re doing, I’d be very pleased to know what they think they’re doing. I think they’re all insane. But I am liable to be put away as insane for expressing that, you know. That’s what is insane about it. I mean, don’t you agree?”

Q: “I do, actually.”

JOHN: “It’s not just a bit strange. It’s just INSANE, and nobody knows. Half the people watching this are going to be saying, ‘What’s he saying! What’s he saying!’ You know… That you are being run by people who are insane, and you don’t know.”

VICTOR: “We are living in insane times, aren’t we, you know. We really are.”

Q: “Yeah. And the thing that you feel, all the way through, is that — there is this boy trying to get out.”

VICTOR: (laughs)

JOHN: “Well, I did, you see. (giggles) I got out. But that’s just a sort of picture of somebody who is still in it. I mean, you get out in your mind.”

Q: “Yeah, all the time he is dreaming his way out.”

JOHN: “But I mean, you do, until you actually physically get out of it.”

Q: “Dream your way out into being Sherlock Holmes or…”

JOHN: “Whatever.”

VICTOR: (agreeing) “Whatever.”

Q: “At the end of the play there’s this big family group and there’s a great big family row.”

JOHN: (to Victor) “Is there?”

VICTOR: “Yes. Brummer Striving.”

JOHN: “Oh! Brummer Striving.”

Q: “It’s all about Brummer Striving.”

JOHN: “Yeah.”

Q: “Do tell us about Brummer Striving.”

JOHN: (giggling) “Brummer Striving is Brummer Striving — all those jobs that people have that they don’t want. And there’s probably about 90 percent Brummer Strivers watching in at the moment.”

VICTOR: “Yeah.”

JOHN: “But you don’t have to be a Brummer Striver, you see. It depends how involved in Brummer Striving you are. But Brummer Striving — Paul explained it at the beginning of the book. Uhh, it doesn’t… (giggling) What does he say he was saying? (paraphrasing) ‘What is Brummer Striving? It isn’t anything.'”

The Artist’s Almanac for Dec 7th, 2017 Cather – Chapin

Cather, Chapin, and a poem by Harry Chapin.

Here are the words of Chapin’s epitaph, taken from his song, “I Wonder What Would Happen.”

Oh if a man tried

to take his time on Earth

And prove before he died

What one man’s life could be worth

I wonder what would happen

to this world

To get involved, go to The Harry Chapin Foundation for more information.

To get involved, go to The Harry Chapin Foundation for more information.

The Artist’s Almanac for Dec 6th, 2017 Gershwin – Moorehead – Howe

Gershwin, Moorehead and a poem by Marie Howe.

Hurry

BY MARIE HOWE
We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store
and the gas station and the green market and
Hurry up honey, I say, hurry,
as she runs along two or three steps behind me
her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.
Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?
To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?
Today, when all the errands are finally done, I say to her,
Honey I’m sorry I keep saying Hurry—
you walk ahead of me. You be the mother.
And, Hurry up, she says, over her shoulder, looking
back at me, laughing. Hurry up now darling, she says,
hurry, hurry, taking the house keys from my hands.

A poem by Marie Howe, reprinted from “When She Named Fire,” ed., Andrea Hollander Budy, Autumn House Press, 2009. First published in “The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems” by Marie Howe, W.W. Norton, 2008. 

The Artist’s Almanac for Dec 5th, 2017 Mozart – Disney – Kasischke

Mozart, Disney, and a poem by Laura Kasischke.

Recall the Carousel

BY LAURA KASISCHKE
Recall the carousel. Its round and round.
Its pink lights blinking off and on.
The children’s faces painted garish colors against
an institutional wall. And the genetics. The
We won’t be here too long Do not step off
The carousel? Do you recall? As if
we were our own young parents suffering again
after so many hundreds of hours of bliss.
And even the startling fact that
what had always been feared might come to pass:
A familiar sweater in a garbage can.
A surgeon bent over our baby, wearing a mask.
But surely you recall
how happily and for how long
we watched our pretty hostages go round.
They waved at us too many times to count.
Their dancing foals. Their lacquered mares. Even
a blue-eyed hunting hound
was still allowed back then.

A poem by Laura Kasischke. Her new book of poetry, “Where Now: New and Selected Poems” from Copper Canyon Press can be found here, or wherever you buy your books.

The Artist’s almanac for Dec 4th, 2017 Britten – Wilson – Hostovsky

Britten, Wilson, and a poem by Paul Hostovsky

One Ambition by Paul Hostovsky

All I ever really wanted
was to whistle with my fingers—

I knew I would never
be the one up on stage

blowing everybody away
with beauty, brilliance, virtuosity…

But to be the lightning
inside the thunderous applause,

to have the audacity
and the manual dexterity

to make a siren screeching
through a dark auditorium,

to be the killer hawk
in all that parroting, pattering rain,

to be, finally, the very best at praise—
now that was something

I thought that if I gave my life to
I might attain.

From his newly released collection of poems, “Is That What That Is“, published by FutureCycle Press, 2017.

Episode 87: Soprano and KUSC radio host – Jennifer Miller

Jennifer Miller is my guest this week. Jen and I go back to 2009, where we performed together in a production of Faust- she as Marguerite and me as Faust. That’s us in the picture, way back then. Jen has since moved on to KUSC, where she hosts a show entitled, “California Classical All Night.” “How do you make a living when you get out of music school” is a constant theme on my show, and this episode is no exception. Jen’s at the beginning of her radio career, and she’s killing it! Enjoy!

Episode 86: Comedian, entrepreneur, filmmaker, author, and all-around polymath – Louise Palanker

Louise Palanker is a true polymath. Comedian, author, performer, radio host, and entrepreneur are just a few words to describe her many fields of expertise, and we talk about it all in this great episode. She was also a witness for the prosecution and her eventual (and current) husband, Ron Zonen, during the Michael Jackson trial in 2005- and yes, we talk about that, along with sexual harassment at The Comedy Store, working on shows from That’s Incredible to Rick Dees Weekly Top 40, and a whole bunch of other stuff, too. I loved talking with Louise, and I bet you’ll love listening to her- enjoy!

Episode 85: Mezzo-soprano, illustrator, expert meditator – Veronica Christenson

Veronica Christenson has been a colleague of mine at the LA Opera for over a decade, and this was my chance to have a few minutes with this lovely lady all to myself. She’s a world-class mezzo, but that’s not the only reason I wanted to chat… she’s also a student of Shaolin Kung Fu Meditation! I’ve dabbled both in martial arts and meditation, and I’m thrilled to have her on the show to teach me more about it all! Try meditation, folks. It’ll change your life- Enjoy!

Episode 84: Composer, pianist, arranger, producer – Stephen Edwards

Composer, arranger, producer, Stephen Edwards is on the show! With more than 175 soundtrack and composer credits to his name, Stephen is one of Hollywood’s most productive composers. He’s also written classical compositions, most notably his Requiem For My Mother, which received performances both at Carnegie Hall and the Vatican. Stephen is a great guy, and there’s a lot to learn about, here! Enjoy!

Me, me, me.

In case you missed it, I was on the Choir Chat Podcast! John C. Hughes graciously let me ramble on and on about anything but music. We cover politics, healthcare, coastal “elitism”, fraud syndrome, and I probably mentioned that I like singing in choirs in passing, as we quickly move on to the state of the arts in America and lack of government funding, or something like that. I think I even started interviewing him at one point, and as far as I know, he didn’t turn off the mics, or anything. It’s all here. Just me. Me, me, me.

Episode 83: Singer, producer, composer – Ron Dante

Singer, producer, composer, Ron Dante is my guest this week! You know him as the voice of the Archies and their smash-hit single, “Sugar Sugar.” But did you know that he co-produced, along with the Schuberts, the Tony Award-winning musical, Ain’t Misbehavin’? Or that he produced NINE of Barry Manilow’s albums? Or that he was the editor of the Paris Review for almost a decade? Or that he’s writing and producing a new musical with Rupert Holmes?? Me neither! But I do now- and you will too, when you hear all the details, right here on LWAG! Enjoy!

Episode 81: Tenor, impresario – Mario Chang

Tenor, Mario Chang is my guest this week. We first worked with him in La Boheme, and now he’s back, singing the role of Ismaele in our current production of Nabucco, here in LA. We also talk at great length about the opera company founded by him and his wife with the purpose of supporting opera performance and training in his home country of Guatemala. Fascinating guy- Enjoy!

Episode 80: Mezzo-soprano – Kelley O’Connor

Kelley O’Connor is on LWAG! Kelley and I go way back, and this is the kind of chat you get when old pals get together. We dish, we reminisce, we dish some more. Kelly also sings around the world as a top-drawer concertizer, and we get into that, and why she prefers concerts over operatic roles. Lots of personal stuff here too, so if you ever feel like being a fly on the wall, this one’s for you. Enjoy!

Episode 79: Conductor, composer, professor – John Alexander

Choral titan, John Alexander is my guest this week. This was a very personal chat for me- John was my champion all through college, giving me most of the tenor solos and giving me my first professional opportunities as a singer. He’s the real deal, and I hope you enjoy our chat as much as I did!

Episode 78: International Art Curator – Pedro Alonzo

My cousin Pete is on the show!! Pedro Alonzo is an internationally recognized art curator who works with the biggest names in contemporary art. Shepard Fairey, Banksy, Yoshitomo Nara, KAWS, Takashi Murakami are just a few of the folks he’s worked with, but most recently, like- a week ago, Pete teamed up with artist JR and erected a border wall installation in Tecate, Mexico, which I bet you’ve come across if you read the news at all. It’s an amazing piece that couldn’t be more relevant in today’s political climate. I was so happy to catch up with my favorite cousin- I loved our chat, and I bet you will too. Thanks for listening!

Episode 77: POP Artistic Director – Josh Shaw

Josh Shaw is the Artistic Director of the Pacific Opera Project, right here, in sunny Los Angeles. He’s a singer turned director and opera company owner. We talk the ins and outs of running a company, the motivation for undertaking such a crazy idea, and his take on how to be successful at it. Thanks for listening- Enjoy!

Episode 76: Singer, actress, author- Gloria Loring

The indomitable Gloria Loring, y’all! We talk childhood, her marriage to Alan Thicke, divorce, motherhood, her number one hit, “Friends and Lovers”, Days of our Lives, and a whole bunch more! Happy Labor Day and thanks for listening- Enjoy!

Episode 75: Composer, conductor, arranger- Victor Vanacore

Victor Vanacore has worked with some of the biggest names in the history of pop music- Michael Jackson, Barry Manilow, Johnny Mathis, Natalie Cole and many, many others. In 2004, Victor won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for, “Over the Rainbow”, on the Ray Charles album, “Genius Loves Company”, which won eight Grammys, including Album of the Year. Victor’s upcoming project, la Sorgente, comes to the Ford Theater on Oct. 8 and features arias set to the poetry of Pope JP II. Victor is a fascinating man, and we had a terrific, long, personal conversation, spanning his fascinating life- from nuts to bolts. Thanks for listening- Enjoy!

Episode 74: Susan Bennett- The original voice of Siri

Musician, voice-over artist and the original voice of Siri, Susan Bennett is my guest today! It was great getting the scoop on how one becomes the voice of Siri, the hiring process and the secretive process that Apple uses for this kind of thing. Thanks for listening, and enjoy the chat!

Episode 73: Jasper Randall

Jasper Randall is my guest this week! Jasper is one of the very few titans of Hollywood vocal music in the world, having worked on COUNTLESS blockbuster soundtracks over the last two decades- little films like Frozen, X-Men, La-La Land, and the upcoming movies, It, Pitch Perfect 3, Cloverfield, etc, etc, etc… Jasper sings, conducts, and is also a fine composer, currently in residence with the Los Robles Master Chorale. This is a great interview for folks wanting to get to know the man behind the curtain, and RARE peak into the peculiar, mysterious and sometimes secretive business of Hollywood soundtrack production. Enjoy!

Episode 72: Moira Smiley

The talented and lovely Moira Smiley is my guest, this week! Not only talented and lovely, Moira is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer whose music can be heard on feature films, BBC & PBS television programs, NPR, and on more than 60 albums. We play, “Bring Me Little Water, Silvy” all the time around the house while we sing to our kids. It may be the Chicken Tikka Masala of her catalogue to all you deep-cuts-only die-hard Moira fans, but hey- I never get tired of Chicken Tikka, so sue me. Anyway- welcome back, thanks for listening, and enjoy!

Summer Break Flashback: Jeff Beal

Jeff Beal!! One of my favorite humans is making his re-appearance for my Summer Flashback extravaganza! Jeff is everywhere- I honestly don’t know how he does it all, and he really does do it all (unlike some other film composers we know who shall go unnamed). Jeff and his lovely wife, Joan are proof that you can be fun, considerate, open and genuinely nice and still be wildly successful in Hollywood. Enjoy our chat, and thanks for listening!

Summer Break Flashback: Tony Silvestri

Happy summer, y’all! For this week’s episode of my Summer Flashback Series, I’ve got poet, scholar, professor and all-around great guy, Tony Silvestri on the show! We had this chat a year ago, but it’s every bit as relevant as it ever was- we talk about life, death and everything in between- Enjoy!

Summer Break Flashback: Michael Nielsen

Today, for my Summer Break Flashback series, Ninja Tracks composer and guitarist, Michael Nielsen, is my guest! Michael is a great guy, and I guarantee you know his music… Forza 6/7 and Splinter Cell for XBOX, independent film scores and just about every major motion picture trailer you’ve heard in the last ten years. He’s also got a terrifically entertaining YouTube channel called “Big Hairy Guitars”, where he reviews all sorts of guitars, pedals and gear, so make sure to check it out- Enjoy!

Summer Break Flashback: James Conlon

Maestro James Conlon, y’all! I bet you’re curious how one becomes the Music Director of Los Angeles Opera and Principal Conductor of the Italian RAI National Symphony Orchestra- well, here’s your chance! We cover it from nuts to bolts- stories, stories, stories- Maria Callas, Juilliard, The Big Break and a whole lot more! Happy summer, everyone- Enjoy!

Summer Break Flashback: Grant Gershon

Continuing my summer break, I’m reissuing another one of my favorites: Grant Gershon! The LAMC, LA Opera and the International stage are his homes. A master musician, Grant is not only one of the best in the biz, he’s also unbelievably pleasant, inspirational and dedicated to his art. I hope you enjoy our extended chat!

Episode 71: Roberto Cani, Concertmaster- LA Opera Orchestra

Roberto Cani, concertmaster of the LA Opera Orchestra, is my guest this week! We get into it- childhood, career, defeats, and triumphs. Roberto is an open book, and it’s one of the qualities I enjoy most about this fascinating master musician. Enjoy!

Episode 70: Nino Sanikidze

Nino Sanikidze, pianist extraordinaire, is my guest. There’s nothing better for a singer than finding a collaborator who LOVES singers, has a tremendous breadth of knowledge and is one of the very best at what he or she does. Nino is all of these things. Oh, and she’s really sweet and supportive. Nino is one of a kind, and I hope you enjoy our chat- I sure did.

Episode 69: Miah Im

Pianist, conductor, coach, prompter and erstwhile violinist, Miah Im is my guest this week. She’s one of those people who almost always has a smile on her face, despite the fact that she’s a musical force to be reckoned with. That seem like a rare find in any field, especially music. This is another great episode for folks who are interested in getting into the classical music biz, because Miah seems to do a bit of everything! Thanks for listening- Enjoy!

Episode 68: Russell Thomas

Tenor, Russell Thomas, is my guest this week! We talk about career, rep, fees, finances, retirement and a whole lot more. Russell is a world-class talent, and he’s very thoughtful and quick to share his insights- especially regarding the precarious and careful climb to the top. Enjoy!

Episode 67: Shola Richards

Positivity guru, Shola Richards, is my guest this week! This guy’s the real deal- we talk about very personal memories and events in our lives, and the catalysts for change. Shola’s hot button is bullying, especially in the workplace )something adults don’t talk about) and he’s on a mission to educate, enlighten and sow the seeds of positivity, kindness, and empathy- this is a guy I can get behind, because these are the most important qualities within all of us, and sometimes, we need a little help remembering to get out of our own little worlds. AMIRIGHT? Pick up his book, “Making Work Work” on Amazon and get to know him- Hardcover for $8.44… WHAAAT?(there’s a link on the LWAG website). He’s definitely a fellow worth knowing! Enjoy, and thanks for listening!

Episode 66: Todd Strange and Arnold Geis

Hey y’all! It’s our, “Three Tenors of the LAO Chorus” episode! Yup- Todd Strange and Arnold Geis are my guests this week, and I couldn’t be happier. It was a VERY last minute proposition, but this episode is certainly in keeping with my need to mix things up. Totally improvised, off the cuff, and EXACTLY the conversation you’d get if you were a fly on the wall in the dressing room. Enjoy, and thanks for listening!

Episode 65: James Martin Schaefer 2017

Marty Schaefer is my guest this week. Marty and I have known each other for twenty years now. I thought I needed a little break this week, so this chat is just a convo between buddies- nothing more. We’re not experts in any of the topics we discuss and we don’t talk about music. At all. Bathroom accidents, aliens, healthcare, Trump, and religion are all on the table, with this one- you get the idea. Maybe next time, we’ll go in with more of an agenda, who knows. Enjoy, and thanks for listening!

Episode 64: Philip Cokorinos

Bass-baritone, Phil Cokorinos is my guest this week. Phil has sung with us at least a half-dozen times in my twelve years with LAO. Always the consummate professional and great colleague, Phil manages to turn in great performances, night after night. This is a particularly interesting chat for all of you aspiring opera singers out there, and for those of you who want to get a glimpse into the dedication that goes into it. Enjoy, and thanks for listening!

Episode 63: Vittorio Grigolo

Superstar tenor, Vittorio Grigolo is my guest this week. I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to sit and chat with this powerhouse of a performer. He’s frank, candid, and very sure of his place in this crazy business. We talk about passion, life on and off stage, the pressures of performing and the challenges of balancing the personal with the professional. I hope you enjoy our chat, and thanks for listening!

Episode 62: Nicholas Brownlee

Rising star, Nicholas Brownlee is my guest this week. He’s a bass-baritone currently working in the Domingo-Colburn Young Artist Program at LAO. I’ve watched and heard him grow over the past few seasons, and man, you all better watch out for him! There are a lot of great insights for young singers, and a great come-up story for those of you who are interested in how a singer makes the rise. Nick is a genuine, friendly guy, a great colleague and one hell of a singer. Enjoy, and thanks for listening!

Episode 61: Ted Perlman

Producer, arranger, performer, Ted Perlman is my guest on this episode, and man is it a great one! Ted has worked with many of the greatest performers of all time, spanning four-plus decades. We talk about religion, forgiveness, fatherhood, and the meaning of life- and Burt Bacharach, Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan, and you know, other superstars, too. It was great getting to know Ted over the course of our conversation, and I know you’ll find him just as fascinating as I did. Enjoy, and thanks for listening!

Episode 60: Sharon Farber

Film and TV composer, Sharon Farber, is my guest this week. I’ve known Sharon for a number of years, and I’m always excited to bump into her around town. She’s a brilliant composer of concert music (as well as the Hollywood stuff), and through her music, she is also an admirable advocate for issues near and dear to her, particularly gender equality in music and Holocaust remembrance, both of which we talk at great lengths about in this interview. Sharon has always fought the good fight, and I was really happy to spend some time catching up with her. Thanks for listening!

Episode 59: Haim Mazar

Film and TV composer, Haim Mazar is my guest this week. I met Haim a few years ago on a crazy gun-for-hire musical theater project. Taking a variety of work is one of the topics we discuss, along with the process of composing, orchestrating and the pitfalls and challenges of the film and TV business. I think Haim is a great guy, and I know you’ll think so, too. Thanks for Listening!

Episode 58: Rodell “RoRo” Rosel

Character tenor, Rodell Rosel is my guest this week. I go way back with Rodell, and it’s always great to see friends find success, especially in this very difficult business. Rodell has carved out a terrific niche for himself as a character tenor and sings regularly with the best houses in the world, including the Met. Rodell has always been one of my most candid and outspoken friends- and to say this interview is no different would be the understatement of the week. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for listening!

Chorus America 2017

I’m happy to announce that I will be a presenter at this year’s Chorus America conference in Los Angeles. I’ll be accompanied by fellow podcasters, Ryan Guth of Choir Ninja and John Hughes of Choir Chat, where we’ll chat about our podcasts, the burden of celebrity, how to manage fan mail and how to avoid causing a mob at the mall.

Check us out on 6/24 at 9am at the Omni Hotel in DTLA, which I know is cruel and unusual, but hey, we all have to suffer for our art.

Thanks, Chorus America- It’s an honor to be asked!

Episode 57: Tali Tadmor

This week, I got to sit and chat with another one of my dear friends, the indomitable Tali Tadmor. An extraordinary pianist and collaborator, Tali makes the rounds around town with the best singers and organizations- and when I say around town, I mean from LA Opera to Carnegie Hall. She’s good. I hope you enjoy our conversation- thanks for listening!

Episode 56: Christopher Koelsch

CEO of LA Opera, Christopher Koelsch, is my guest this week. He’s eloquent, steady and has a clear, unwavering artistic vision for the company. In our world, the man who directs traffic at the intersection of art and commerce is always in the hot-seat, and Christopher must have “Never let them see you sweat” printed on his wallpaper because he’s the coolest of the cool customers. We dig into some pretty interesting stuff- everything from the value of art itself to the artistic and financial challenges of some of our most controversial productions. Enjoy a behind-the-scenes look into the life one of America’s top art administrators and as always, thanks for listening!

Episode 55: Julia Aks

Multidisciplinarian, Julia Aks, is my guest this week. She’s a mezzo-soprano, friend, and colleague from LA Opera, but that’s not all she does. She’s an aerialist, actor, intermittent dancer, and probably also does a bunch of other stuff that we didn’t cover. She very well may be the next big thing in this here town, so keep a lookout. Happy Monday, everybody, and I hope you like our little chat!

Episode 54: Brenton Ryan

Tenor, Brenton Ryan is my guest this week. He’s a swell guy, as all-American as you can get and is one heck of a good artist. He’s recently made his Met debut singing the role of Pedrillo in Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio- the same show we’re performing right now at LAO. Brent is a well-spoken gentleman, and I’m very glad we got the chance to sit around and chat. Thanks for listening and I hope you enjoy the conversation!

Brotherhood

I have great friends. I think, or hope, you do too. There’s something about the closeness of being with my own gender that is comforting- the ability to speak frankly and in short-hand. I suppose that’s why we have, “guys night out” and, “girls night out”, right? Do we tell secrets? Or maybe we have a built-in understanding of each other- I really don’t know. Is it sexist to think this way? Lots of questions.

My favorite stories, for instance, almost always involve the love between men (and animals, too). Old Yeller, A Separate Peace, Stand by Me, Shawshank Redemption, almost all of Wes Anderson’s films and Jack London’s novels. Why does our culture shy away from masculine emotion so much- I even have trouble writing about it- seems embarrassing.

Anyway, I’m not too sure what this post is about except to say, tell your friends how you feel. Show them appreciation, give them a call and say, “Hey man, you’re pretty cool- I’m glad you’re my friend.” These are important things.

Happy Valentine’s Day, folks.

Episode 53: Jonathan Mangum

Comedian Jonathan Mangum is my guest this week. He co-hosts Let’s Make a Deal with Wayne Brady, and is a regular guest on Who’s Line is it, Anyway? He’s funny, witty and very pleasant as we discuss his professional background, improv training and the role of the artist in this heightened political climate. Have a great week, and I hope you enjoy the chat!

Episode 52: Morris Robinson

Morris Robinson, bass, is my guest on this episode. We talk about family, preparation, perseverance, and the importance of being a good colleague. Lots of lessons here, and not a word about politics, which is pretty weird for me. I hope you enjoy the interview and remember to give your donation to the ACLU. Thanks for listening!

Coup

coup d’état

 [koo dey-tah; French koo dey-ta]
1. a sudden and decisive action in politics, especially one resulting in a change of government illegally or by force.                                                                                       

Trump and his supporters call it, “shaking it up”, and “draining the swamp” and a dozen other idiotic catchphrases they’ve come up with. But make no mistake: This is a coup d’état. This is happening right now, in the United States of America, to all of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, or whatever. Trump and Bannon are going to burn it down, right to the ground, and not in a cool, crazy, interesting, hipster way, either.

Those of you who know me know that I am absolutely not a conspiracy nut- I have always prided myself on being a level-headed pragmatist. I’m not prone to fanciful thinking, and I consider myself to be as open-minded as the next guy.

Trump is holding all Americans and Congress, in particular, hostage by conveying prospective cabinet appointees who are not only grossly unqualified but who are the very nemeses of their intended departments. This accomplishes a few things. First, it puts Congress in a catch 22- They in no way can justify voting to accept Trump’s inept nominees, and the alternative leaves us without functioning legislative or judicial branches of government. Trump and Bannon will most likely maintain absolute control through seemingly justifiable executive power, and the blame will fall on anyone who opposes it.

We are right now, literally, one disaster away from Trump and Bannon taking complete control of all three branches of government.

But without intervention of some kind, his entire cabinet will most likely be filled with utter nitwits, sycophants, ideologues and the alt-right, and in the natural course of their work they’ll create enough chaos for Trump to maintain an imbalance in the system and in the streets, while allowing him to dismantle all forms of government regulations with the sole aim of creating profits for himself and his partners abroad. He will do this at the expense of national security, the environment, health care, employment- anything and everything.

But here’s the scary part.

I believe Steve Bannon is actually steering the ship, and Trump’s crushing insecurities, paper-thin ego and blind, monarchical ambitions are supplying Bannon with gale-force winds.

Steve Bannon is now the Chief Strategist to the White House and counselor to the President of the United States. There are less than a handful of people on the planet with more power and influence.

Steve Bannon sits on the council that oversees the targeting of Americans, and no law establishes the panel’s existence or governs its decisions. There is no due process and no public record of its operations or decisions. To this end, Bannon has also enforced a paper-trail blackout within the National Security Council itself.

Let that sink in.

Bannon is a former Goldman Sachs investment banker who was appointed executive chairman of Breitbart News Network after the passing of its owner, Andrew Breitbart, in 2012. According to former Breitbart editor-at-large, conservative talk show host Ben Shapiro, Bannon is a sinister character. “He is a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies,” Shapiro wrote. “He will attempt to ruin anyone who impedes his unending ambition, and he will use anyone bigger than he is – for example, Donald Trump – to get where he wants to go.”

Here are some quotes from one of the most powerful and dangerous people on earth:

  • Are there racist people involved in the alt-right? Absolutely,” he told Mother Jones at this year’s Republican National Convention. “Look, are there some people that are white nationalists that are attracted to some of the philosophies of the alt-right? Maybe. Are there some people that are anti-Semitic that are attracted? Maybe. Right? Maybe some people are attracted to the alt-right that are homophobes, right? But that’s just like, there are certain elements of the progressive left and the hard left that attract certain elements.”
  • “…there are some unintended consequences of the women’s liberation movement. That, in fact, the women that would lead this country would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children. They wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools up in New England.” — 2011 radio interview with Political Vindication Radio
  • He “didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews … He said he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats.'” — The Guardian, from his wife in court documents filed in 2007.
  • “Leadership are all c*nts” and “We should just go buck wild.” — The Daily Beast, from an email exchange.

But here is most shocking and dangerous quote of the bunch:

“I’m a Leninist … Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” — The Daily Beast

If you are a half-decent person who cares at all about the United States, the Constitution, security, peace, equality or, at the very least, democracy in general, Bannon is a clear and present danger to you and your loved ones. Period.

Lastly, Trump is illegitimate and his actions are Illegal. He is in direct violation of the First andTwenty-fifth amendments, and Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution. These are not opinions, these are facts, and unless Congress acts quickly to impeach him, there will be, at the very least, civil unrest and/or violent protest across our country. I can’t think of a scenario that would consolidate Trump and Bannon’s power faster, because the law will finally be on their side. Game over.

Remember, democracy is only alive when we all agree to the basic, fundamental principles laid out very specifically by our founding fathers. Without our implicit agreement, the Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights is nothing but an old piece of paper, and unless we do something, and fast, we’re going to lose it all to a madman and his cronies.

Now is the time for all Americans to come to the aid of their country- You can make a difference:

Donate to the ACLU

Sign up for Daily Action texts

Call your representatives

 

Episode 51: Eric Whitacre 2017 – Part 2

Here’s part two of my chat with Eric Whitacre. This is how we talk a good part of the time, so I hope you enjoy this meandering conversation between friends. We cover a lot of ground, and I tend to talk less on this one, so that’s a plus. Thanks for listening, and have a great week!

Episode 50: Eric Whitacre 2017 – Part 1

Part one of a two-parter with Eric Whitacre. Eric and I have been friends for the better part of two decades, and that’s what you get with this chat. We ramble, laugh, joke, and get into some pretty serious issues- You know, all the stuff that friends talk about. It’s just us, behind the scenes, having a conversation, no more, no less. Enjoy, and thanks for listening!

Episode 49: Eric Whitacre 2016

Eric, Eric, Eric. I thought I’d keep on with the theme. Last week you heard some of my past guests answer Eric Whitacre’s infamous question, asking, “What do you know now, that you didn’t know at this time, last year?” This week, we’re looping back to my (second) first guest, Eric Whitacre. Next Week, we’ll be picking up with… you guessed it… Eric Whitacre. It looks like January is Eric Whitacre month. I’ve successfully used the name, “Eric Whitacre” at least four times, here. Mission accomplished- Thanks for listening!

Episode 48: LWAG Year-End Extravaganza

Well, here we are, a year older and a year wiser, hopefully. 2016 was wonderful, challenging, tragic and beautiful for me, and this year, I started it off with the question posed to me every year by my friend, Eric Whitacre: “What do you know now, that you didn’t know at this time, last year?” In this episode, I answer this very question, along with sixteen of my past guests from 2016. I hope you all have the best year yet and, as always, thanks for listening!

Episode 47: Kristin Towers-Rowles

Multi-award-winning actress, singer, dancer, and director, Kristin Towers-Rowles is my guest this week. A mainstay of the Los Angeles theater community, Kristin is a consummate professional on stage, and off stage, she’s frank, forthcoming and engaging. During our chat, we talk about politics, the LA theater community, growing up in a Hollywood family and all sorts of very personal stuff that many of you may relate to- I sure did. Enjoy!

Episode 46: Brandon Ogborn – Part 1

This is Brandon Ogborn. We had a two-hour-long conversation. We may be partnering up on a new show idea he has, which I think you all will enjoy, and he wrote a play called The Tomkat Project, which is the story of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. I loved it, and I know you will too, so I think you should pick up a copy here: www.brandonogborn.com/. Enjoy part one of our very long, but very entertaining chat, and thanks for listening!

Check out the continuation of our chat below:

Parts 2 3 4

Episode 45: Joshua Guerrero

Tenor, Joshua Guerrero is my guest this week. I first met him a few years ago at LAO, where he started as a young artist. He’s since gone on to sing principle roles at the opera, and is now well on his way to having a long and fruitful career. I enjoyed our chat, and I hope you do too- thanks for listening!

Episode 44: Anthony Roth Costanzo

Anthony Roth Costanzo is my guest this week. He is currently starring in the title role of the Philip Glass opera, Akhnaten at LA Opera. Today is our final performance, but the chance to sit with this fine gentleman arose, so I grabbed it. He’s insightful, kind, funny and very candid. I’ve really enjoyed listening to him perform this most challenging role, and I’m glad to have gained a bit of insight into what makes this fellow tick. I hope you enjoy the chat as much as I did- cheers!

Episode 43: Matthew Aucoin

Born in 1990, Matthew Auc…. BORN IN 1990?? Yup. Welp, despite my crushing feeling of inadequacy and confusion about my life choices, I’m super-excited to have 26-year-old conductor, composer, pianist, and poet, Matthew Aucoin as my guest this week. He’s made his mainstage conducting debut with us, at the LA Opera, in our current production of Akhnaten, and he’s all of the things I’ve mentioned above, but with a large helping of modesty, graciousness, and collegiality. I hope you enjoy our chat- thanks for listening!

Episode 42: Phelim McDermott

Phelim is the director of our current production of Akhnaten at LA Opera. I love this show. I also love the passion, conviction, and freedom that Phelim has given us to help deliver a truly powerful emotional message to our audience. Phelim also operates an experimental theater company called, Improbable- look him up at www.improbable.co.uk. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy our chat as much as I did!

Official media outlet and content provider for the LA Opera

I’m very happy to announce a new partnership between LWAG and the LA Opera. I will be collaborating to help promote future LAO productions by producing short-form excerpts from my interviews with LAO artists, directors, and the like. It’s a great opportunity for me to continue to hone my skills and to highlight my work under the umbrella of one of the world’s best opera houses. Thanks to Karen Bacellar, Fran Rizzi, and all the folks who helped to make this happen. I’m very excited to be contributing to the success of LA Opera, my home away from home!

Episode 41: Levi Petree and Sean Novak

I met Levi through Sean, who I met through his wife, Christina, who went to college with my wife. Levi is cool. He plays country music, and I like it. Sean is also cool. We talk about music, politics, success, hardship, and keeping your nose to the grindstone in the face of adversity- Listen and enjoy!
Check out the band at: www.levipetree.com

Election

Well, Donald Trump is our new president-elect. A phrase I never expected to write, until Bernie Sanders was defeated by Wasserman Schultz and our Democratic party, that is. How did Hillary and all of her ivy-league helpers not see, AT ALL, what was happening in this country? Change AT ANY COST came like a tsunami for the Washington establishment and nobody saw it coming? REALLY? Occupy Wall Street, Bernie Sanders, DONALD FUCKING TRUMP?? I’m so disappointed in Hillary, I could just spit- but there’s plenty of blame to go around, so I’ll try not to dwell.

Firstly, the GOP’s methodical raping of our educational systems and the rest of our social services for the last three decades helped to grow a vast population primed to vote for ANYBODY who promised to change their decades-long suffering. No country can be strong whose people are uneducated, sick or poor. Period. The GOP paved this road years ago, and yesterday was proof of that.

Secondly, “Don’t Vote For Him, Or Else” will never sound better than, “Make America Great Again.” Ever. Never ever. If you didn’t know any better, why would you NOT vote for him? “He wants to make America Great Again! Why is Hillary telling me NOT to vote for a Great America?” I’m no political scientist or analyst, I don’t run a polling firm and I don’t have an economics degree from Harvard or Penn, but with a cursory knowledge of the American people and a modicum of common sense, it seems pretty obvious. Why in the holy hell did that not register with the hundreds of people working for Hillary? $500,000,000 didn’t make her relatable to the average Joe, and nobody- I mean NOBODY, should be surprised. Donald Trump needed to win, and Hillary needed to be right- But ‘Murica loves winners more than anything, and ‘Murica should most definitely be great “again.”

The only conciliatory booby-prize I can conjure up is the fantastical idea that this has been an elaborate con-job by the most savvy political animal of all time. That he will go back to his Democratic roots and upend a system that continuously fails its constituents. Maybe he’ll use his demagoguery to forcefully convince us that we need a single-payer healthcare system and universal free education. Maybe a minimum income for everyone will be made sexy with enough bluster, bloviation and fist-pounding. Maybe he’ll do a 360 on climate change, immigration, trade and all the rest. Maybe he’ll overturn Citizens United and The Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Maybe he’ll get all the hard, cold facts that only the President of the United States is privy to, and make decisions with the care and prudence that befits the office of the President. Maybe he’ll be a better president than we all think. Maybe. But probably not.

Whatever you think, come January, The Donald will be the most powerful man on the face of the earth. We’ve lost all executive branches of the government to the GOP, and the supreme court will quite possibly be tipped to the far Right for decades. It’s not Bernie’s fault. Don’t blame Stein or Johnson, either. Blame the GOP for growing the monster, Donald Trump for shamelessly embodying it and the whole of our Democracy for not doing enough to stop it.

“We get the president we deserve” has never felt more sickeningly true. Shame on us.

 

Episode 40: Sean Gandini

World-renowned juggler, Sean Gandini joins me today, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. We all juggle in our current (and magnificent) production of Akhnaten by Philip Glass, and Sean and his troupe are leading us in our efforts. It’s a first for all of us, and it’s thrilling. Sean’s background is fascinating, he’s kind, thoughtful and terrifically talented. I only wish our chat could have been longer- I’m sure you’ll agree. Enjoy!
PS- check out his fascinating work at: www.gandinijuggling.com

Episode 39: JonathanTalberg

Choral director Jonathan Talberg is my guest, this week. We chat about everything from the state of music education, to the “Eric Whitacre effect” and a whole bunch of other stuff. Enjoy!

Episode 38: Jake Runestad

Jake Runestad is my guest this week. He’s handsome, talented and really, really sweet. I mean, really- WTF? He’s a terrific composer from the mid-west who happened to be in Los Angeles AND he reached out to me to be on the show. I guess we’re officially members of the mutual-admiration club, now. I really enjoyed listening to his work in preparation for the interview, and I’m glad I got to know this fine fellow a little bit over the course of our conversation. I hope you enjoy our chat as much as I did!

Winter

Well, here I am again, plugging away at this blog thing. The initial idea was to write something every week, but it looks like I may be settling for every season, at this point. It’s raining, which is like armageddon, here in Los Angeles. I think I’ll stay in- people loose their goddamned minds at the first sign of drizzle, even though we need it more than universal health care. Well, maybe that’s a bit much- we REALLY need universal health care. Yes- this election cycle has created some depression for me, too. I just can’t believe how many people are still supporting this dip-shit, Donald Trump. I could list in bullet points, the detritus this sociopath is serving up to the American people, but I don’t really want to get into it- actually; here:

  • Mocked a man with disabilities.
  • Attacked the parents of a fallen American hero.
  • Belittled POWs and the war record of Sen. John McCain.
  • Lied about how much money he raised for veterans.
  • Called a former Miss Universe “disgusting” and fat, telling his Twitter followers to find her non-existent sex tape.
  • Accused an American-born federal judge of being unfit to do his job because of his Mexican heritage.
  • Likely avoided paying taxes for nearly two decades.
  • Called most Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, even though that’s not remotely factual.
  • Lied about seeing “thousands and thousands” of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11.
  • Lied about getting a letter from the NFL complaining about the debate schedule.
  • Tried to exploit the death of an African American woman in Chicago to say that’s why black voters will support him.
  • Found the “bright side” to tragedies because his poll numbers tend to go up.
  • Settled with the Department of Justice after his company was found guilty of racially discriminating against minorities.
  • Has cheated on at least one wife.
  • Was just discovered on video admitting that he not only tried to cheat on his current wife, but he attempted to do so with another married woman.
  • Had his first wife publicly say that he did nothing when it came to raising their children until they were old enough to talk business.
  • Tweeted that women should have expected to be sexually assaulted when they mixed males and females together in the military.
  • Said he wants to target the families of terrorists.
  • Stated that he wants to ban an entire religion.
  • Praised a Russian president who obviously hates the U.S. and Americans.
  • Encouraged the Russian government to commit espionage against Americans.
  • Insinuated that another Republican’s wife was ugly.
  • Tried to implicate another Republican’s father in JFK’s assassination.
  • Sought out the help of former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes after he was fired following multiple allegations that he had sexually harassed women for years.
  • Made Breitbart’s Steve Bannon one of his top campaign people.
  • Had a former campaign manager abruptly resign after a report came out linking him to pro-Russian groups that were directly trying to undermine U.S. policy in eastern Europe.
  • Called Carly Fiornia ugly.
  • Has said climate change was a hoax created by the Chinese — then denied saying it.
  • Was a leading conspiracy theorist when it came to the racist-driven birther conspiracies against President Obama.
  • Dismissed nearly eight years of accusing the president of not being an American with a less than 30 second statement where he didn’t apologize for any of it.
  • Tried to blame Hillary Clinton for his racism. Re-tweeted anti-African American propaganda created by a white supremacy group.
  • Played dumb about knowing who former Grand Wizard of the KKK David Duke was.
  • Skipped a presidential debate because he was scared of a moderator.
  • Has, on several occasions, suggested he finds his daughter attractive.
  • Called a husband doing things like changing diapers and helping with the children, a man “trying to be the wife.”
  • Has said he wants more countries to have nuclear weapons. Said he can’t release his tax returns because they’re currently being audited — even though the IRS said that’s a lie.
  • Feels he has the right to sexually assault women.

Dear GOP: how proud you must be.

Until next time-

O

Episode 37: Claire Friday

Claire Friday is my guest this week. She’s gone from working backstage at the LA Opera to covering the RNC, DNC and the presidential debates for Facebook, all in the short time that I’ve known her. She’s smart, driven and easy to chat with. I like Claire and I bet you will, too- Enjoy!

Episode 35: Anne Tomlinson

Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, Anne Tomlinson is my guest this week. We’ve worked with the kids from LACC at the opera for years, and they always turn in wonderful work- the kids are amazing. Having a son and a daughter, I was personally interested in learning more about their great program, and how the students are prepared for performing and for life after LACC. I hope you enjoy the chat- thanks for listening!

Episode 34: Arturo Chacon-Cruz

Tenor, Arturo Chacon-Cruz is my guest this week. I’ve been a fan of his singing for years, and his personality is just as pleasant as his voice. We had a great chat- I hope you enjoy it, too!

Episode 32: John Powell – Part 1

I’m thrilled to have composer John Powell as my guest this week. He is a titan in the film music world, and a thoughtful, brilliant human being. Our chat went long, so it’s a two-parter. I hope you enjoy it, and make sure to tune in next week for part two. Thanks for listening!

Episode 31: Fletcher Sheridan

Fletcher Sheridan is a name you may not recognize, unless you’re in the sequestered world of session work in Los Angeles. But, you’ve no doubt heard Fletcher’s solo voice in films like The Lorax, The Hangover 3, Horton Hears a Who, and as a playback singer on just about every major motion picture that uses voices coming out of LA. I think Fletch is super cool, and I know you will, too. Enjoy!

Episode 30: Dale Trumbore

Composer Dale Trumbore is my guest this week. I love her compositional style, her pragmatic attitude and the fact that she came over to have a nice chat for the show. She’s easy going and thoughtful, and I know you’ll like the interview as much as I did. Enjoy!

Episode 29: Michael Nielsen

Composer/producer Michael Nielsen is my guest this week. He’s a founding partner of Ninja Tracks, the premier creators of film trailer and video game music. I guarantee you’ve heard a lot of their stuff, if you like going to the movies. Or maybe you’ve seen his YouTube or Facebook channel, Big Hairy Guitars? Michael is a sensitive and very nice fellow, and I’m happy to call he and his partners Kaveh and Collin, friends. I hope you enjoy our chat, and thanks for tuning in!

Episode 28: Christopher Job

Chris and I go way back to Cal State Fullerton. He’s carved out a nice career for himself as a bass-baritone, singing all over the world, including the Metropolitan Opera. I hadn’t seen him for over a decade, and it was great catching up over our chat. He’s a thoughtful guy- hard working, talented and a real rising star, so look out for him! Enjoy!

Episode 27: Tim Campbell

Tim Campbell is an audio book narrator, working singer and all-around nice guy. He’s narrated a ton of books in all different genres, using accents and the whole bit. Please check him out at www.timcampbell.me- his sample readings are amazing! I learned a lot about the narration business and I found our talk really informative and interesting- I hope you do to!

Episode 26: Shawn Kirchner

Composer, pianist, vocalist and peace-lover, Shawn Kirchner is my guest this week. I had a great time getting to know Shawn over the course of our chat and as it goes sometimes, I feel like we left a lot of subjects untouched. Also, I made a couple flubs that I’ll fess up to right now- first, I think I said that ‘Memorare’ was premiered in 2015, when in fact, it was not. Also, I guessed Rumi where the quote was from S.T. Coleridge. So, there. Listen, I do great on those Facebook quizzes, so I’m not gonna sweat it. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy our talk!

Episode 25: Edie Lehmann Boddicker

I’m thrilled to have as my 25th guest, Edie Lehmann Boddicker. Most of us around town know her as a vocal contractor, but there is definitely more than meets the eye. She’s had an amazing career here in tinseltown- from concertizing as a classical pianist and learning music theory from Morten Lauridsen, singing and contracting Academy Award nominated soundtracks, to being a regular cast member on General Hospital. There’s a lot in between, too. I really like Edie, and I like her even more after sitting down with her for this really nice chat. Enjoy!

Episode 24: Nicholas C. Pappas

Episode 24: Nicholas C. Pappas

Nicholas C. Pappas is a director, dramaturge and Heideman Award-winning playwright. His plays include The Ballad of 423 and 424, Fatty, Including Shooter, and The Dreams in Which I’m Dying. Nick is a thoughtful, bright guy who I’m glad to know, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we collaborated again in the future. Thanks for being on the show, buddy!

Summer

Welp, I just noticed that I’ve fallen behind on my blog posts. It’s all about content, right. Gotta put up that content. Content, content, content. And social media. But the problem is, is that summers are slow for me, and I’m almost always underemployed. When I’m underemployed, I get depressed and a little stir-crazy. It’s a bad combination. I also start to withdraw from the world a little bit- without the social aspect of my job (which accounts for a lot of my social interaction, outside of my family) I can’t help but become more insular than normal.

So, what to do? I took a hike yesterday, which was nice (more of a walk on dirt, I guess), I’ve set up another podcast for tomorrow (with film/tv contractor, Edie Lehmann Boddicker, who I’m really excited to interview) and I try and meet up with friends, when I can. That last one is tough, though, when all of your friends have kids of their own and/or are out of town for the summer. I also have to balance the work that does come over the summer with getting away, myself. For instance, I just had to turn down a gig at the Hollywood Bowl because I’m going to be on vacation with my family- a two edged sword, to be sure.

So what’s the point of this post, or this blog, in general? Not sure really…producing content? A diary of my personal life? An advertisement for my podcast? Probably that last one, but I find that to be so phony, for some reason. I do use it as my own personal platform for my political and social beliefs in a way that is more comfortable than open discourse on Facebook, and I like that.

Take the shooting of Alton Sterling, for instance- when are we, as a nation, going to realize that the conservative ideologues who constantly attack affordable education and healthcare, social welfare programs, and sensible gun regulation and reform are complicit in each and every one of these killings? Why is it hard to understand that the very monster that right-wingers are now panicked about is a direct product of the uneducated masses who the Republican party has, in itself, created by these policies? VOTE. THEM. OUT. And lets eliminate PACS, Super PACS and Citizens United, while we’re at it. Oh, and let’s rewrite the second amendment and enact severe campaign reform, too. And what, exactly, does, “Let’s Make America Great Again” even mean? When was it greater than it is today? When blacks couldn’t vote and had to take their dinner to go? Or when women couldn’t divorce an abusive spouse? Or maybe we could go back to Polio (don’t get me started)? How about the Vietnam war or The Great Depression- those were fun times. What Trump is actually saying, and the sentiment that it creates is, “Make America White Again”. He legitimizes hatred, bigotry, xenophobia and all of the things that are in no way what being an American should be. Read, “The New Colossus”. It’s not hard to find. We are a nation of immigrants. You are an immigrant. Get over it. And most of these people call themselves Christians- Really? If you don’t see this, or you are one of these people, it’s time to re-evaluate your priorities.

So, I think I’ll go down that path every once in a while- but until then, please listen to my podcast- and share it liberally on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and by Carrier Pigeon, if you should happen to have any. And thank you.

Episode 23: Grant Gershon

Mo. Grant Gershon is my guest this week. He’s an amazing pianist, conductor and colleague. He holds the titles of Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and Resident Conductor of the Los Angeles Opera. Our conversation whizzed by and I was left with a ton of questions I didn’t have the time to ask- hopefully we’ll have time for a “shorty” follow-up interview in the future. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the interview and thanks for listening!

Episode 22: Peabody Southwell

Peabody is a globally recognized mezzo-soprano and burgeoning set and costume designer. She has a strong personality, strong opinions and highly formed ideas about her work, and the worlds she inhabits. I’ve known her for years and I find her fascinating- She’s basically a female version of me, but taller, smarter and with a deeper voice. Enjoy!

Friends

The older I get, the more I see the difference between “friends” and “friendly”. I’m having a harder and harder time maintaining friendships with folks who don’t understand why a fractured EU is bad for Democracy, who maintain the illusion that gun ownership is good for society, no matter the type of gun, that Muslims are threatening our “freedoms”- and on and on. I can be friendly and professional, but I simply can’t get on board with the willful anti-intellectualism, xenophobia and bigotry that is running rampant in this country and abroad, and I’m having trouble keeping quiet about it.

It seems most people don’t realize that the “hordes of Muslims” are a diaspora being created by the Islamic State and al Qaeda. It is sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites, dummies. This should not be lost on my “Christian” friends, although discussion of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation never seems to come up. But I digress.

Please take ten minutes and read up on Wahhabi Sunnis, Islam in general and our own history. Please take five minutes to google the rise of fascism in the twentieth century. Please stop forcing me to defend decency, compassion and American democratic ideals, and please realize that denigrating 1.25 billion Muslims because of what you see in the news reveals to all of us that you are a frightened, provincial, moronic bigot. Good day.

Hot

Wowza- Summer’s here, and man, is it hot. I can’t even think about anything but running through the sprinklers, which I just did, with my boy. I guess there’s a silver lining to just about any situation. This leads me to my next tangent- I have trouble feeling grateful. There, I said it.

Being a dad is hard. Being a husband is hard, too. Why can’t I see all the magic, and embrace more fully, the joy of playing with my kids, or spending time with my lovely wife? Why do I so often think, is this it? Is this what life is?

So, I’m on a quest to explore these things. I made a resolution to meditate every day, so I’m going to start that again. I also need to loose weight- I resolved to lose 20 pounds by the end of the year, and I only have 25 to go, so there’s that, too.

A couple of weeks ago, I was hanging with Hila, and I was in a real mood- Will was being a brat, Amy and I were tense… I asked her, “Remind me why we do this, again?” Her response: “Because life is so much less interesting without it.”

I need to remember this more.

Figuring It Out

Well, I’ve been at this for 21 episodes now, and I’m still figuring out how to be natural on the mic. I find it hard to listen actively sometimes, and I’m really surprised by this! I’ve always been really good with people, but sometimes, especially when I get nervous, I find my mind wandering. I also realized that I need to be under prepared versus over, which is totally contrary to being a classical musician. I’m finding that hard to deal with, too.

Take the Blair Tindall chat, for instance. I read her book, did online research, had questions prepared, and it was my toughest interview, by far. I really clammed up and I wasn’t listening to conversation, which is a lot easier to do than you think, trust me. I learned something about myself there- I have a really hard time asking questions I already know the answers to, which is contrary to the idea of conducting and interview in the first place. I don’t know- it feels really phony and unnatural to me. It turns out that I’m most comfortable getting to know someone on the air, rather than interviewing them. It is, however, a fine line between being over prepared and insulting the guest with a blatant lack of knowledge. Although, maybe it’s not my problem if the guest is offended by my simply wanting to get to know them- about their life and career. I don’t know. Like I said, I’m still figuring it out.

I endeavor to get better at this, so thanks for sticking it out with me, and luckily, I don’t have a lack of interesting guests.

Episode 21: Robert Thies

Robert Thies has been a friend of mine for about ten years or so. We see each other around town and the last time we worked together was on Happy Feet 2, with John Powell. Rob is a tremendous pianist with a great career. He won the Prokofiev competition, plays with the Phil and with many ensembles around town. He’s a Steinway Artist, session player… and on and on. Rob is also just a plain old good guy, and I’m glad to be his friend. Thanks for listening and I hope you end up liking this guy as much as I do. Enjoy!

Episode 20: Blair Tindall

Author Blair Tindall is my guest this week. You may know her from her controversial 2005 book, “Mozart in the Jungle”, or the hit Amazon series of the same name, created by Jason Schwartzman and starring Gael Garcia Bernal. Blair has had a stellar career as a classical musician, playing oboe for the NY Philharmonic, for hit shows on broadway, and as a session player for film and television. There’s also been a lot of commotion over Blair’s tell-all book about life in the classical world, and she speaks candidly about her experiences with some of the major players who loom large in our community. Blair also details the subsequent fallout after the book’s publication, which quickly led to her being black-listed by many former friends and colleagues. Mozart in the Jungle is a real page turner- I loved the book, and I’m loving the Amazon series, too, so check them both out- I hope you enjoy our chat!

Episode 19: Carla Jimenez

Carla Jimenez is a working actress in Los Angeles. You may have seen her in films such as, Lady in the Water, Nacho Libre and Accepted, and in the television shows Lincoln Heights, My Name is Earl and Desperate Housewives, and currently on Raising Hope and Last Man Standing. She’s had a long career in film and television, and supports herself solely as an actress, which is no easy feat. She’s insightful, fun, and hard working and I was grateful to hear her story! Enjoy!

Episode 18: Jamie Chamberlin

The lovely and talented soprano, Jamie Chamberlin is my guest on this episode. Jamie is a very successful working singer here in LA, singing with the Los Angeles Opera, Long Beach Opera and in recordings such as Mark Abel’s new opera, “Home Is a Harbor”. She’s lively, funny, hard-working and vivacious, and she’s one of my favorite people. Enjoy!

Episode 17: Lesley Leighton

Lesley Leighton is the Associate Conductor for the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Artistic Director of the Los Robles Master Chorale. She is also a certified chef and a former member of Michael Bloomberg’s inner circle, during his mayorship of NYC. Lesley is interesting, candid and a nice lady to spend an hour with. I hope you enjoy our chat- Thanks for listening!

Episode 16: Kaveh Cohen

Founding partner of Ninja Tracks, Kaveh Cohen sits down with me to discuss composition, the business of music and the cognoscenti class. Having known Kaveh for quite some time, I was excited to hear some new insights about his process, background and his time behind the counter at Guitar Center- maybe he was saving it up for the podcast. Noticing I’ve started each of these sentences with a gerund is fun, too- hoping you enjoy this episode, am I.

Episode 15: Leila Charles Leigh

Leila Charles Leigh and I talk a lot about juggling kids with work, and where the two intersect. For me, it’s a reminder that I’m not alone in dealing with disappointment and the trap of myopic perspective where success and failure are concerned. Leila is charming and sparkly, and it was great catching up with her. Thanks for listening- enjoy!

Episode 14: Trevore Ross

Stage director Trevore Ross came by the studio today. We talked about growing up in South Carolina and his journey from pianist to stage director and how he settled in Los Angeles. He offers up poignant ideas about life, love and work, and I really found this interview to be easy. Trevore is a good talker, and I’d love to have him back on the show in the future. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy our chat!

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