My first short-lived job out of college I worked for a small weekly newspaper in a rural county in New Jersey. So rural that the grounds for the county fair, complete with livestock competitions with pigs and cows, was right out the back door of the newsroom.
That weekend, the staff worked a booth to promote the paper and increase circulation. I was in charge of blowing up helium balloons and handing them out to children who stopped by to visit.
With each child I gave a balloon, parents were sure to ask that child in a prodding manner:
“What do you say?”
It seems the thing you teach your kid to say, that kindest phrase, cannot be said enough in life.
Just saying thank you. Showing gratitude for every experience, some good, some not so good, but recognizing that each moment teaches and shapes you.
In addition to nurturing this practice in our children, for saying thank you for getting material things when they are younger, we hope that as our kids grow into adults, they keep saying it for the intangible things too.
So there I was, out at the Crofoot, a nightclub in Pontiac, Mich., trying to make eye contact with my 17-year-old son as he opened for touring folk-rock bands The Mountain Babies and The Cactus Blossoms, mouthing the words:
WHAT DO YOU SAY?
Now, I am not saying that he did not say thank you to his audience, or to the headlining band. But you just can’t say it enough.
This is the summer that my 17-year old son, soon to be a high school senior, truly hustled to get out his music as a solo guitarist and songwriter. The band that he and his mates tried so hard to get off the ground during sophomore and junior year never took off. There were too many conflicts. Too many SAT prep classes and cross-country meets. Too many mothers filling up weekends with family obligations.
This summer, he did not get a job at Kroger, or Old Navy, or a summer day camp. It was not from a lack of trying.
What he did get were a few paid gigs.
So I just want to say, thank you.
Thank you to the Teen Council of Detroit and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit for fostering creativity through your rap and songwriting workshops, your uncensored teen Open Mike nights.
Thank you to the Farmington Civic Theater for letting my son busk (yes, this is a verb that you learn when you know a starving up and coming musician) on a couple of Friday nights for dollar bills and pocket change, and a free drink and two movie tickets.
Thank you to Goldfish Tea in Royal Oak and all the tea sipping folks there who listened and cheered for my son on open mike nights.
Thank you to The Hopcat who, though he was underage, let my son open up your open mike night a little early at your upstairs bar before he had to get thrown out. And, of course, thank you for Crack Fries.
And all along the way, I am thankful for the friends here, people I did not have in my life only three short years ago since moving to Detroit, who not only have come out to hear him play, but who ask me when he is playing next.
So, my son, I know you are never more comfortable than when you are up on stage playing, but when you are up there, you know what to say, and you cannot say it enough. Plug the band for whom you are opening. Give praise to your audience. You just cannot do it enough.
While I’m at it, I would be humbly thankful if you check out my son’s music here.
At Beth El Shabbaton, Joey Weisenberg will empower guests to unlock their musical and spiritual potential.
(originally published in the Detroit Jewish News)
To harness the community-building power of singing, Temple Beth El of Bloomfield Township welcomes the young and the young at heart to lend voices both harmonious and imperfect to a Shabbaton featuring renowned musician Joey Weisenberg. The uplifting event will be Feb. 26-27 at the Bethel Community Transformation Center (BCTC), 8801 Woodward Ave., the former home of Temple Beth El in Detroit.
Weisenberg, 34, the creative director of the New York-based Hadar Center for Communal Jewish Music and author of Building Singing Communities, will introduce melodies and methods of singing that blend Old World Chassidic niggunim with old-time American flair.
Working in the context of Renewal Judaism, Weisenberg has worked for the past decade to empower communities around the world to unlock their musical and spiritual potential, and to make music a lasting and joy-filled force in shul and in Jewish life. Now residing in Philadelphia with his wife and four young children, Weisenberg grew up in Milwaukee in a family with Midwestern roots that trace back to before the Civil War.
His parents were both trained musicians, and he grew up listening to classical piano from his mother as well as classical flamenco guitar from his father. Raised in a multi-generational traditional Jewish home, he remembers going to Shabbat services with his grandfather in nine different synagogues that spanned the spectrum of Jewish observance.
“My grandfather taught me there is something to be taken and learned from every denomination of Judaism,” said Weisenberg, who ditched a pre-med program at Columbia University to pursue the life of a professional musician, composer and teacher. “Above all, people connect to music because it does not speak in dogma but instead speaks in the language of the soul. [Singing] is the way we all become a collective heart, and we all become strings of David’s Harp in harmony.”
BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER
Weisenberg’s musical career started with playing guitar as a studio recording session artist and then touring the country and parts of the globe with musicians playing Brazilian samba, American blues and Klezmer.
After a while, he wanted to see what would happen if he moved the singing and playing music offstage to be where the people are, and to bring the audience into joining in with song. As he travels around the country teaching Jewish communities how to energize prayer through singing, including pockets of Jews in Alaska, Weisenberg wants to dislodge the notion that music and singing is just for kids.
“Some of the best teachers I have learned music with are two and three generations older than me,” Weisenberg said.
Rachel Rudman, 28, Temple Beth El program director, says the Shabbaton, the first of its kind in Detroit, is a way to “create bridges between suburban synagogues and younger, urban Jews.”
She said hosting the Shabbaton in the historic Beth El building enables TBE to reach out to millennial Jews seeking a neutral space to practice a highly spirited form of Jewish prayer. Weisenberg can deliver just the thing, she said.
“I have had several opportunities in my life to learn from and sing with Joey,” said Rudman, who recently returned to her native Detroit in 2014 after living in New York.
“When services are conducted in a tight circle and everyone is looking at each other and investing their voice in the prayer, you feel the energy coming from the people next to you. It really becomes a spiritual experience.”
The Shabbaton will begin with Kabbalat Shabbat services at 5:30 p.m. on Friday and finish with Havdalah, plus an extended song session on Saturday evening. Participants are welcome to bring sleeping bags and air mattresses to spend the evening. Services on Friday and Saturday will be a cappella style, but Havdalah and beyond will include drumming and strumming of guitars so participants are welcome to bring their instruments as well as their voices.
Cost is $36 for the entire Shabbaton or $20 per day and includes homecooked vegan meals and lodging at BCTC. For more information, contact Rachel Rudman at rrudman@tbeonline. org or (248) 325-9706. *
Back in the 80’s who ever thought the music of Sting and Paul Simon could ever blend so well? Sting and his Police band mates were ska and punk and then pop and Paul Simon, well, he is the master of folk and later global and world music.
But there they were, halfway through their tour at Detroit’s Palace at Auburn Hills, making beautiful music together for 2 hours and 40 minutes and most of the audience – some of us who were moved DOWN a section closer to the magic because the show didn’t sell out (Detroit, you missed a good show if you didn’t get a ticket) – we couldn’t get enough.
Both artists admitted that this was the perfect juncture in their tour, where their bands were really starting to come together as they learned each other’s styles. It was a bit of an adjustment for me to hear Sting sing some lines from Boy in the Bubble or Simon to add his voice to Fields of Gold, but it added a different dimension to each song and worked in the end.
For those of you who are curious about the play list, here it is, courtesy of the Sting fan page. I have to also mention that a friend who was also at the concert, who was close enough to the stage to see the roadies reading from their Kindles between sets, also took notes on the order of the playlist. But her playlist was not made available to me at “press time.”
At one point, Sing took the stage alone and told the audience that songs have a way of taking us back to the times in our lives when we first heard them. He recalled traveling across the United States in a station wagon with the Police during their first tour before singing Simon & Garfunkel‘s America.
The audience went wild when he sang “Michigan seems like a dream to me now…”
To demonstrate my true transplanteness, I alone went wild when he sang “counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike.”
I know that each song carried a memory for everyone who was there that frigid night. I’d love to hear about what memories these songs bring to you. Here are some of mine.
Of all the songs that WEREN’T played, I really wanted to hear Cecilia. Like, dying to hear it. Wished the concert would have closed to it.
My earliest musical memories were nursed on Bridge Over Troubled Water.
My parents playing the album constantly and my Dad belting the song for which the album was named at the top of his lungs in the shower. He could give Art Garfunkel a run for his money. But just in the shower.
I think I was three or four, kneeling by my parent’s ancient stereo speakers as it played (and that’s on a turn table, you young whipper snappers!). As the last bars of El Condor Pasa finished, I knew it was coming. I’d start jumping before the music even started. I couldn’t wait. And then the unmistakably joyful drumming of Cecila would play and I’d dance all over the living room. Sang the words at the top of my lungs. I guess my parents thought it was good thing I had no idea what I was singing. Really, they are nasty lyrics.
Later, much later, I can recall a perfect summer night in 1991 when Paul Simon played a free concert in Central Park. The music from Rhythm of the Saints mixed perfectly with the humid air. You know who you were who were there. I don’t know how we all successfully met up to enjoy the concert – about a mile away from the stage – in the days before our cell phones.
The Police and Sting dominated the air waves during high school. We all sang Every Breath you Take, thinking it was a song about love but later realized it was a song about obsession. High school was the time we began to figure out for ourselves the difference between the two.
The music of the Police affirmed to me that, no dad, musicians were not all stupid junkies. Yes, musicians are intelligent people. Sting was an English teacher after all. Classmates had conversation in the hall about Don’t Stand So Close to Me, after we learned the song was written about an inappropriate interest Sting took to one of his students.
Later, the album Nothing Like the Sun defined my college years. The scorching summer of 1988 and a fall weekend road trip to Boston.
But getting back to the present….
Perhaps even more impressive than Sting and Simon collaborating on each other’s songs was the collaboration and depth of their bands. Members of each band effortlessly switched from instrument to instrument. From drums to guitar. From guitar to electric violin. From cello to piccolo. From the accordion sounds of Zydeco to the bass riff in Call Me Al.
Since my son has been obsessively playing his guitar, I have developed a greater appreciation for these musicians, who should not by any means be considered “backup” musicians. This is why, even though he hates it, I won’t let him quit his clarinet. Lots of musicians play guitar, but how many play guitar and clarinet?
Sing and Simon closed the night with “When Will I Be Loved” It was a night I didn’t want to end and I’m still thinking about Sting in that perfectly fitted shirt and oh, it’s just not fair for a man to look that good at – 62!
…. but I digress.
What is the point of this long-winded blog post written on yet another frigid Michigan day?
Don’t miss out on a great show. Get tickets to this concert when it comes your way.
Last week, my son’s music teacher approached parents like me – parents with kids who love playing music and performing for others- with what he thought would be a big imposition.
Would I mind picking up my child plus a few of their bandmates – and their instruments – at school and driving them around town on a December afternoon to play two different gigs?
Would I mind?
I was delighted!
Ever since the beginning of the school year, my son leaves the house at 6:15 on Monday and Tuesday mornings to make a 6:30 jazz band rehearsal. That’s A.M. That’s ungodly early for most and even harder for teen musicians.
But this is a dedicated bunch. And now they would have the opportunity to bring some Christmas joy through music to the Baldwin House in Birmingham and then play the lobby of the Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
Of course, to me, wearing my Jewish goggles, this was the perfect opportunity for me to help my son and his bandmates perform a Christmas mitzvah. So, with my car loaded with six kids, a guitar, sax, bass, and I think a few brass instruments, we were off.
The Bloomfield HS Hills Jazz Band as well as the Bloomfield Hills HS String Ensemble alternatively played traditional and contemporary Christmas music to the delight of the residents of the Baldwin House. They came in walking, or with their walkers to take in the sweet strings and the bright jazz tunes. The only musician they could not hear, was my son.
Unfortunately, his guitar amp adapter fried out somewhere between the school and the gig. And in the middle of the gig, while the strings played we had the following text conversation.
Mom, can you see if there is a music store nearby to buy me a new adapter?
Yes, my adapter died and no one can hear me.
Sorry, but there is no way I can do that right now. You should have checked this before we left the house.
It was working, don’t make this out to be my fault
Again, I’m sorry there is nothing I can do for you now. Stop fiddling with your amp and stand up. You are performing.
But, they can’t hear me.
Fake it. The show must go on.
So, in this video, you may or may not see a young man on the floor fiddling with his amp and then at the last moment stand up and pretend to play his guitar.
In between gigs, after we loaded up the car with kids and instruments, I did have time to stop and buy some batteries to power his next guitar. I turned instantly from a villan into a hero. They were now playing the big room: the lobby at Beumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
Unless you are having a baby, or this is your place of employment, the hospital is a somber place to be. Especially this time of year. So what a nice gift it was for the musicians at BHHS to bring their talents to play in the hospital. The acoustics sounded fantastic. The strings sounded sweeter
and the jazz music sounded happier
Weary doctors and nurses and technicians stopped from their rounds to take a listen. Some caregivers of patients even started dancing in the lobby.
The afternoon gave me the opportunity to socialize with other roadie parents who had devoted the afternoon to driving and listening. One mom of a senior cello player told me that she was getting some ridicule for letting her son consider pursuing music in college. But she said music, and playing the cello is the one thing in school that holds his passion and attention.
As I listened and sipped a cup of coffee from the hospital cafeteria, I thought how lucky my son is to be in a school with such a great music program that thinks “outside the school,” to allow them to play in public places. I also thought about the kids just down the road in Detroit, who may not have a music program in their school. Because when it comes to tight budgets, music is seen as frivolous. A luxury that poorly performing schools with low testing students cannot afford.
The last sentence is the farthest thing from the truth.
I ask those who wish to cut music in schools: can common core make people want to dance? Want to make kids come to school at 6:30 in the morning? Can common core bring joy to a hospital or an assisted living facility the way music can?
This is my final post for 2013. I invite you to listen to these talented young musicians playing some holiday joy. Thank you for following my blog, for reading me and for writing to me.
Have a joyous Christmas and a happy 2014
When my son came home from school today, he proclaimed it was “the hottest day ever” and “it should be ILLEGAL for the weather to be so hot.”
For those of you who live in more southern climates, it’s only 80 degrees here. But to a Rochester kid, this is hot.
Then he shared this interesting bit of news with me:
He was sort of “discovered” by the Marshall Tucker Band.
The scene was last week’s Rochester Lilac Festival. The Twelve Corners Middle School Jazz band, led by the wonderful Mr. Baldwin, performed for the lunch crowd. In this crowd must have been …. the Marshall Tucker Band, who was putting on a free performance that evening.
After this performance, in the video above, shot by a friend and another proud pappa of the baritone saxophonist, a member of the Marshall Tucker Band wanted to know who the guitar soloist was.
That would happen to be MY BOY!
Now, I still don’t want my baby to grow up to be a rock star, but at the very least, to see that ear-to-ear grin on his face, it’s worth bragging about in a blog post!
Rock on, young man, rock on.
A very long time ago, in a New Jersey city far far away, a young girl dressed in all black stood pressed against a mob of other darkly clad classmates waiting for the Smithereens to take the stage. In one hand was a pen. In the other a skinny reporter’s notebook. She was covering the concert for the daily student newspaper for Rutgers University. Her very first concert review. She wondered: could writing for Rolling Stone be far off?
She didn’t have to pay because she had a student media pass. She felt so COOL!
Her date, well, he had to pay.
Fast forward, em, several decades later.
She can’t even remember who her date was that evening or who ditched who.
That student reporter jumping up and down in the Rutgers Student Center while covering that great local New Brunswick band? The band she loved so much she played a tape recording (yep, tape recording) of their album Especially for You in her dorm room until it broke?
That would be me.
I’m all grown up. But I still love the Smithereens – the honey smooth baritone voice of lead singer Pat DiNizio. The timeless garage band sound.
So when I learned the Smithereens were playing the Rochester Lilac Festival for free, I thought:
“I’ve GOT to go!”
Then I checked on the date.
Hmmm. Being Jewish, practicing Judaism makes you make some tough choices.
I really wanted to have my eardrums blown away by this band who got their start in my college town. But you see, it was Friday night. And the grown-up me — the wife and mom with three kids — has a rule. Friday night is Shabbat. Friday night is family night.
And for nine years now, my family has spent every other Friday night celebrating Shabbat with a chavurah, pretty much a circle of friends who has served as our extended family in a city where we have no family. And with the move coming, we really only have three more gatherings like this left.
Now, our communal Shabbat celebrations start at 7. And, the host’s home was a hop skip and a jump through the lilacs from the stage where the Smithereens would play. And on such a beautiful Rochester night. And who knows if or when I would ever get a chance like this?
I’m a grownup, right? I can make my own decisions, I could have just walked over to listen to one of my fave bands to take me back to my college days, right?
But I made my decision. To set an example for my kids, who have sacrificed many a social outing to be together to celebrate Shabbat.
And, to see my teen kids leading our prayer services with the other teens in the group….
To hear them sing the prayers for years I had begged, prodded and NUDGED for them to follow along?
As I sat and listened to my kids lead the adults in prayer, I knew I made the right choice.
To Pat and the rest of the Smithereens, I’ll have to catch you another time. And in the meantime, I promise to buy your latest stuff.
This time, I’ll just download it.
Have you ever had to make a choice because of the religion you practice?
This gallery contains 2 photos.
Frolic in the lilacs. Check out some free music from the TCMS Jazz Band this Wednesday at lunchtime!
The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, featuring headliners like Wynton Marsalis, Sonny Rollins, Bonnie Raitt, Nora Jones, and yes, even wild and crazy Guy Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, has put Rochester, NY, on the map as one of the nation’s finest places for jazz.
Although the festival marks its 11th year, this is the first I was able to make it out. And all the tents, free music, food and festivities are 10 minutes from my house.
What’s been keeping me away? I’ve had three good reasons.
Our three children over these years have kept us plenty busy in June with evening soccer and Little League games and concerts of their own.
As we packed up our lawn chairs into the car to head for the field, my empty nested neighbor and her companion would don their festival passes and head downtown where music, paid and free, pours out of a dozen venues.
I’ll admit it, I’m not much of a soccer mom, and I was envious. I am far more at home in a crowd listening to music than I am on the sidelines of a soccer game.
As it turns out, my kids would actually rather pick up an instrument than dribble a ball down a field. Luckily, Rochester is the right town for both pursuits.
So, this year, we finally went, with all the kids. The three are all musicians in their own right.
- My older son loves to “shred it” on his electric guitar that he plays in the Twelve Corners Middle School Band. He also plays clarinet, but he’d rather play guitar any hour of the day.
- My daughter will next year play French Horn in Brighton High School’s Symphonic Band
- My younger just started piano lessons this year. His teacher has nurtured several young musicians that have already played Carnegie Hall before the age of 18.
In Brighton, a suburb of Rochester, my kids not only have an excellent academic education, but a solid musical education as well. For three years now, NAMM has chosen Brighton as one of the nation’s best communities for music education.
So, have my kids sit through 90 minutes of jazz? No problem. They have developed enough appreciation to sit and enjoy Monday’s Eastman Scholarship Concert in Kodak Hall at Eastman theatre:
I looked up at the golden ceiling
knowing that my children’s’ high school graduation may take place in this great hall.
For one of the first times since moving here in 2000, I sat in this hall, for free, showing off to my parents the best Rochester has to offer, and felt I was a part of this city. Rochester, a city I barely knew anything about a decade ago, is one of the country’s best places for music.
I also feel at home here now because at the Jazz festival, as my neighbor with the festival pass says, going to the jazz festival is as much about running into people you know as it is about the music.
That night, after listening to student musicians, some who we knew personally, we ran into friends and classmates, track teammates, and band mates as we strolled along East Avenue and made our way through the tents on Gibbs Street.
Last night, husband and I were kid free. And we went back for more:We caught a set of the Barrel House Blues Band
Then, with throngs of others, we danced and sang to Toronto’s Soul Stew:Then, after we grew tired of standing and the blaring horn section (and, frankly, it was the guy smoking a cigar who did me in)
For a complete change of pace, when we had enough of the crowds, we ducked into an alleyway and discovered Blackdog Recording studios, where we were invited in down two flights of stairs treated to a free private concert by local pianist Mike Vadala:
Rochester, you’ve got two more nights of free music in the streets, so what are you waiting for? Go out & enjoy.
I grew up in a town where many if not most people get up and dance at a rock concert.
New Yorkers are known to be a bit rowdy and I pride myself in my own rowdiness the older I get. It proves I’m still alive
Yes, I know how to sit well-behaved at a symphony or an opera, but at a rock concert, or even a Broadway show with a rocking musical score, many if not all audience members where I grew up get up where they are seated and DANCE.
I just got out of a concert that I can say I have been looking forward to since I got my tickets on January 27. But no, I’ve actually been waiting to see Bonnie Raitt AND Marc Cohn for over 20 years now.
Her Grammy-winning album, Nick of Time, came out the year I graduated college and started my first job at a tiny weekly newspaper in New Jersey. I would play it on analog tape back and forth in my first car, my dad’s 1982 Toyota station wagon, back and forth from New Brunswick to Hunterdon County, every day for months. My roommate and I cleaned house to the upbeat songs. I cried myself to sleep to the sadder songs like “Too Soon to Tell.” It was after this introduction to Ms. Raitt’s newest album that my roommate said that her mom said that I had to listen to Bonnie Raitt’s old stuff. So I got Collection. And I became hooked on that too and developed a love for blues music.
Then, several years later, I moved out to California to be with the man who would soon become my husband. The year we became engaged, Marc Cohn released his self-titled debut album. We were driving on a windy California road and “True Companion” came on the radio. That beautiful song became our wedding song.
These two artists have a lot of meaning in my life. So, hell yeah, if I’m going to be a little loud. I might be compelled by one of Ms. Raitt’s signature blues riffs to get up out of my seat and wiggle a bit. A LOT.
But as Bonnie played one of the more up numbers of the night, “Come to Me,” I noticed that hardly anyone was dancing in their places.
Is it our northern location? Is it the lack of sunlight that mellows out Rochesterians so much that they don’t get out of their seats at rock concerts?
And, Ms. Rait: Was it us? Would you have played some more rocking songs to close out your last set at the Eastman Theater tonight if the audience were not so ….
Would you have closed with “Thing Called Love” or “Love Me Like a Man” instead of a cover version of Van Morrrison’s “Crazy Love” if you got a more up vibe from the sleepy audience?
There were some women, myself included, who tried to do their part and could just not stay seated. Women feed off each other on things like this. Once one woman gets up, another one or two feel validated and do the same. The woman sitting next to me agreed about the lack of life in the audience, and we both declared we were not dead yet and YES we were going to dance.
Then, as a more mellow song followed and we sat down, we actually got scolded by an usher for DANCING at a concert.
The blue-haired, polka dot-shirted bespectacled usher, who was sitting for FREE in the last row behind me, said to me:
“You are being very rude and inconsiderate. I cannot see the performance if you stand.”
If I were younger, a scolding by an older authority would have reduced me to tears.
I’m being bad?
Finally, at age 44?
Hey, Little old lady usher with the polka-dotted shirt and white eyeglass chain:
Did you even know who this woman was on stage? Do you have all of her albums? Did you listen to “Nick of Time” and “Luck of the Draw” till you knew every word and every guitar lick when you were in your 20’s?
Bonnie, my heroine, who at age 61 was playing on stage, in high heels and skinny jeans and playing that slide guitar STILL like nobody’s business;
Bonnie, who in her 2000 induction speech to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame encouraged women to “get out of the kitchen and into the kick-ass fire” of playing rock and blues, Bonnie would have been very proud of me, thank you very much, and to NOT dance and sing and whoop it up would have been an act of disrespect to Ms. Raitt, not to an usher who didn’t even PAY for her seat behind me!
So, Ms. Raitt, if you ever do read this blog, I must apologize for the overheated Eastman Hall and the majority of the audience, who kind of sat there like wet wash cloths and didn’t give you and your hard-working band do justice to get off their asses and dance!
And Rochester, next time you are at a rock concert, give the musicians the justice they deserve and GET UP AND DANCE!!!