Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The richest kid on the block

A jazz enthusiast came up to a seasoned veteran piano player after her gig and asked her why she chose jazz as her life's focus...the pianist replied "I don't like crowds"

I thought I'd start my blog today with some humor about my career, but as I was trying to remember musician jokes I was thinking about how the jokes that make us laugh the hardest do so because they're based on truth.

A band leader calls out a tune to the vocalist on the gig:  "I Remember April" the first 6 bars in Ab, bar 7 modulate down to the key of F, bar 12 change to 7/8, modulate back to Ab to end the head"
The singer looks concerned and says "Oh I couldn't possibly do that!"
Band leader: "You did it that way last night!"

I tell this joke to my voice students. It's an effective way to say "don't do that!"

Humor beautifully magnifies life's absurdities and makes us laugh at ourselves instead of the painful alternative.

What's the difference between a dead squirrel on the side of the road and a dead trombone player?
The squirrel was on his way to a gig.

How did the jazz musician end up with a million dollars?
He started with 2 million.

Actually I've always been a bit proud of the fact that I chose this esoteric path knowing it more than likely would not be a lucrative path. That approach to life must be in my DNA. My grandfather was in Vaudeville and along with grandmother Grace raised 4 children and had a rich life full of travel, culture, music, theatre and most importantly humor. My father found a way to be a jazz musician and support a family with 4 children giving us everything we needed and much more. I never felt like I lacked for a thing...quite the opposite...I felt like the lucky kid on the block. Our house was the house that everyone wanted to play at. My mother encouraged spontaneous living room plays,  performances, parades down Sterling Avenue and always there was music.
My childhood was like a Judy Garland /Micky Rooney film "Hey Andy! There's costumes out in old mister Greens barn!"
     Well, not quite...we didn't have a barn...but we were constantly singing and dancing and dressing up and performing with the assistance of my creative parents. Memories of my childhood were pretty close to idyllic. Music was part of every single day in our home and that was...is still...priceless.

So what's the difference between a large pizza and a jazz guitarist?
The pizza can feed a family of four.

Might be true...but truth be told I feel very rich.

My parents...

Mother on tour in the early 40's

My uncle Don and my grandfather Thomas in their Vaudeville Act

My father...

Mother pregnant with me! My earliest press shot :-)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Long Time No See!

Hello Music Lovers,
I've been off of the computer and away from my blog site for so long that I almost forgot how to log in!
Well, hello again! Here's what's up: I have been busy the past two years co-producing a wonderful music festival here in Austin. The concept is "Women led bands" not that all the collaborations are made solely with women but women are in the leadership role in each ensemble...playing their own music, with a woman's vision, leading their own bands...all styles of music...not just jazz but improvisation is definitely at the heart of each set. It is so inspiring to see women like trumpeter Ingrid Jensen at the helm performing her amazing compositions...and the extraordinary jazz pianist Helen Sung who were two of our featured artists at last years festival.

We also have an entire day of clinics in improvisation and ensemble work for aspiring young musicians, culminating in a master class to experience having that ultimate spontaneous musical conversation with a professional rhythm section.  In 2019 we hope to get enough funding to extend the festival to a longer weekend with more educational opportunities.

This year has a broad and varied offering of musical styles from Texas singer song writers Emily Gimble and LeeAnn Atherton to the astounding jazz drummer Allison Miller and grammy nominated Jazz violinist Sara Caswell to jazz pianist and festival artistic director Peggy Stern (no relation!)  and I'm thrilled to have the chance to showcase some new compositions that I wrote for the occasion to be premiered with my group which will also be featured at Lulufest this year.

If you're in the Austin area I hope you can make it to the concerts which begin at 5:00 and go until 10:00 PM in the beautiful newly renovated Jones Hall at Saint Edwards University. more details, like location, directions, tickets to purchase etc. at:  www.lulu-fest.com

Happy spring to all of you...Happy Easter...Happy Passover....happy whatever you celebrate to announce the coming of spring!  We had the sweetest seder with friends and family around the table discussing the green of spring...the renewal of life and hope that it brings and how precious freedom is.

Hope to see you on the 14th and thank you for reading my blog!
Much Love,

Saturday April 14th
St. Edwards University
3001 South Congress
Ragsdale Center, Jones Auditorium

The Suzi Stern Group
George Oldziey piano, Paul Unger bass, Joey Colarusso woodwinds, 
Javier Chaparro violin and David Sierra Drums

Directions, tickets and all the information you need at: http://lulu-fest.com/index/

I’ll be premiering several new compositions!  Hope to see you there!
Musically Yours,

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Looking into 2018 with perspective

 I was taking a walk with my dear friend Ann, freaking out about my personal situation…money, gigs, artistic fulfillment, finding more time to be with my family and friends, and falling into deep despair about the direction that our world seems to be taking. She shared this beautiful paragraph from an article written by Maria Popova, that gave me perspective and I wanted to share it with you as we move into a new year. 
Wishing you all a 2018 filled with inspiration, joy, good health and hope! 
More on my music and January gigs here: www.suzistern.com  

and here is the paragraph…enjoy! 

"When the Voyager completed its exploratory mission and took the last photograph — of Neptune — NASA commanded that the cameras be shut off to conserve energy. But Carl Sagan had the idea of turning the spacecraft around and taking one final photograph — of Earth. Objections were raised — from so great a distance and at so low a resolution, the resulting image would have absolutely no scientific value. But Sagan saw the larger poetic worth — he took the request all the way up to NASA’s administrator and charmed his way into permission.
The “Pale Blue Dot” — the Voyager‘s view of Earth seen from the outer edge of the Solar System. (Photograph courtesy of NASA.)
And so,...the Voyager took the now-iconic image of Earth known as the “Pale Blue Dot” — a grainy pixel, “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam,” as Sagan so poetically put it when he immortalized the photograph in his beautiful “Pale Blue Dot” monologue from Cosmos — that great masterwork of perspective, a timeless reminder that “everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was… every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician” lived out their lives on this pale blue dot. And every political conflict, every war we’ve ever fought, we have waged over a fraction of this grainy pixel barely perceptible against the cosmic backdrop of endless lonesome space. 
In the cosmic blink of our present existence, as we stand on this increasingly fragmented pixel, it is worth keeping the Voyager  in mind as we find our capacity for perspective constricted by the stranglehold of our cultural moment. It is worth questioning what proportion of the news this year, what imperceptible fraction, was devoted to the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded for the landmark detection of gravitational waves — the single most significant astrophysical discovery since Galileo. After centuries of knowing the universe only by sight, only by looking, we can now listen to it and hear echoes of events that took place billions of lightyears away, billions of years ago — events that made the stardust that made us. 
I don’t think it is possible to contribute to the present moment in any meaningful way while being wholly engulfed by it. It is only by stepping out of it, by taking a telescopic perspective, that we can then dip back in and do the work which our time asks of us. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Holidays

I'm in the Baltimore airport waiting for my next flight back to Austin.
The Southwest Airlines counter is donned in plastic green garland with wrinkled red ribbon and a bad arrangement of "let it snow" is playing on the airport intercom occasionally interrupted by a Siri sort of voice telling us to report suspicious activity to officials when ever you see something creepy. 
I was up north visiting my family before the holidays.  My mom who just turned 99 still lives in the same house where I grew up in north Buffalo.  Even though her home is beautiful I felt a melancholy being there as things are of course quite different now. 
My children are adults starting traditions of their own, my father and sister Shay have passed away and my once vibrant mother who would create memories of candle lit dining room tables decorated with fragrant pine and set with grandmothers silver is now the one we take care of...now we set the tables and light the candles...and rightly so.
Her house was dark when I arrived and desperately needed the warmth of company and light.
My heart kept flipping between a sense of joy that she was still with us...this amazing smart beautiful woman, to a nostalgic sadness knowing nothing can ever be as it was in those years of holiday's past.  Happy no school feelings, baking smells, singing and dads violin, constant company, the warm crackling of vinyl playing Ella, Nat King Cole and George Shearing, sitting on the radiator watching falling fat flake sparkling silent snow around lamp post light in blue cold night evenings from out our front window. 
On my week of visiting I found myself searching for a moment...anyone of those memory moments...to grab even just a glimmer of and drink it up. 
Waiting at my gate to return to my life in Austin I got a call from my son and his wife. 
They both sounded excited and happy as they shared their news with me...I was so touched by the sound of their exuberance and I was reminded of the cycle that is this life we all live.
Things move and shift and change and I can't really recover the little jewels from my past but I can find new gems moving forward...and how lucky am I to have those memories.  Life is an interesting and wonderful journey and my life has been an incredibly fortunate one.  Not so for many.  I am filled with gratitude. 

Happy holidays and may the new year be one of good health, inspiration, happiness, creativity, and time spent with the people you love...and in the bigger picture I hope that this year will bring a greater awareness of inclusiveness, an understanding and practice of true equality, magnanimity, care for this fragile beautiful planet, less divisiveness, more compassion,  more honesty, empathy and kindness.  Wouldn't that be nice?

To my Texas fans, see you at JEN in Dallas Jan. 3,4 & 5 and The Suzi Stern Quintet will be at the Elephant Room in Austin Jan. 18th. Come by and say "hello".  I would love to see you. 

Happy New Year and much love,


                                            Snow in my Austin hood the morning I returned.

Just this 1/4 inch dusting of the frozen white stuff got everyone in town excited and school was cancelled...somewhat amusing to a Buffalonian!

It was magical...I got out a bit too late with my camera because much of it had melted already.

I felt like the snow was a gift...one of those wonderful memories I got to grab a taste of for a few hours.

The grand Dame herself...lovely at any age.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Checking back in...

Wow...I haven't written on my blog site in weeks!
I always look forward to rambling on about our musical adventures and I've missed the consistency of weekly musings.
George and I have been flying back and forth between LA and Austin routinely. As exciting as change can be it is also somewhat exhausting; but that being said we have some really great things in the works in LA that I'll fill you in on when I know they're confirmed!
The political climate in the country is also exhausting so to save some psychic energy I've been intentionally staying away from media as much as is humanly possible...the news pops up on my phone which I can't seem to ignore but I've been staying away from constantly checking email,TV, FB,Twitter and Instagram...thus my absence as of late!
I find that I'm so much more productive and creative on days that I'm media free.  I write more music...read more...walk more...practice more...paint...interact with real live human beings!
I just read an article in Jazz Ed Magazine and it suggested that self employed artists like myself,  should be plugging into social media a lot...like all the time...to solicit their art more overtly.  That's the best way to gather an audience in todays music world. Target that specific audience that loves jazz, where ever they are in the world and hit those target spots. Really? Ughhh.  OK.
I guess I'm so spoiled that I simply want to make music...I don't want to do all that other crap to promote myself.  I can understand the virtues of social media for vast outreach, but it's just not my thing...and apparently being a musician in 2017 requires that I make it my thing.

Well this much media is fun for me so here goes my  Suzi sales woman side:  I have some lovely music to purchase on these sites if you're in the market for vocal jazz: www.Viewpointrecords.com   www.cdbaby.com  and www.amazon.com  www.aardvarkrecords.com   or you can contact me directly and I will send you recordings at www.suzistern.com which I love the best because that way I can at least meet you virtually.

On the Suzi News Front: I am in the middle of recording a new CD which I'm totally thrilled about. It should be out early in 2018, and will be a collection of some of my original material and some of my arrangements to tunes by Bill Evans, Joe Henderson, and Benny Golson. Some of Austin's best musicians will be featured on the project including Peggy Stern piano, Javier Chaparo violin, Paul Unger (Fort Worth) bass, Jimmy Shortell trumpet, Wayne Salzmann drums,  & Gabriel Santiago guitar.

I'm looking forward to singing with GATO6 the day after Thanksgiving at Austin's premier Jazz room, The Elephant Room at 315 Congress Ave. 9:30 to 1:30, so if you're in the Austin area stop by!

Coming up: January 3, 4 & 5th  I will be speaking on a panel and performing at the JEN conference in Dallas and I'll be back at the Elephant Room with my Quintet on Jan.18th

Of course I'm deep in the planning stages of our next big Lulufest in Austin for an exciting weekend of music in April! Watch my web site for more details. We have Sara Caswell, Sue Terry, Pam York and a host of other extraordinary women already lined up to showcase.

And just in case I disappear from computer world for several weeks again, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Thank you for supporting live music and for subscribing to my blog and for coming to the shows. People likeYOU make the creative process possible for artists and musicians, and we know it just cannot happen without that support, so thank you very much.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Pay Attention

I've spent 
the day in virtual reality emailing 
online calling always 
a device in my hand 
that contacts my electronic digital my life 
my world my sky my sister 
my mother my friend 
this my planet
tree grass mud dust bone blood
my wind 
not on a device
Pay attention 
how wind makes hair 
on your arms raise 
Pay attention 
to star  
fire dance 
in black velvet vast night
Pay attention 
to perfume of magnolia
on breeze 
from blocks away 
hits you in the face 
like I wash of wonderful 
Pay attention
this can only happen 
if you're alone in focus
without device 
In the distance 
I hear 
roar of highway 
I see 
red light turn green 
sidewalk corner
great grandmother's nature 
her way to cement 
stands firm 
tree on lawn with roots going deep 
Pay attention
the story is underfoot
and still there to hear. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Summer, Canada and on being 6 again.

I never lie out in the sun anymore because I can hear my dermatologist reprimanding me if I don't stay in the shade, cover every inch of my body with sunscreen, wear a hat, and long sleeve's even if it's 110° out.  My rebellious nature has me laying out in a full blaze on a towel by our Northwest Park pool in central Austin listening to the lapping sounds of water and kids screaming in the shallow end "Marco Polo!" with layers of laughter peeling over the summer lawn and memories flooding back to summers of my childhood in Canada...swimming with my cousin Cheryl, barbies on beach towels, Herb Albert and the Tijuana brass on the loudspeakers, ancient ladies in gold bikinis who had a sheen like my mothers leather purse looking like they'd been tanning for 60 years too long...rubber swim caps with brightly colored floppy flowers all over the tops so the pool always had a rubber flower garden of bobbing heads popping up everywhere...french fries with vinegar… troll dolls with rainbow hair being tossed into the blue deep end to dive for like treasure...the smell of coppertone lotion, chlorine, grilled hamburgers and what seemed like never ending days of play.  

Q: Why do they make benches by swimming pools and bus stops in Texas out of metal?

This week I'm up in Buffalo visiting family and taking care of my feisty soon to be 99 year old mum.  The break from the Texas triple digits is welcome. It inspires outside evenings of long conversations in the breezy back yard with a glass of cold chardonnay. 
Yesterday Lolo, the 98 year young beauty and I drove over the boarder to Canada to spend the day at my sisters rented beach house on Lake Erie. Once again those memories of childhood summers filled me up as we approached customs at the Peace Bridge and saw the Canadian flags flying. Canada just across that bridge. Canada land of maple trees, and maple syrup...Canada where people say "I'm going Ooot" and "It's Aboot time"...kindly Royal Canadian Mounted Police donned in festive red...Canadian Bacon (I'm a vegetarian so why did I say that?) Molson Canadian Lager...fewer gun related homicides: In the USA so far this year over 10,000 compared to 572 in Canada...and handsome Justin Trudeau...who is about as different from our 45th president as you can get which is instantly appealing to me.

At the lake Lolo sat under a maple tree and watched her great grand daughter Lily play in the sand. I played too. We swam in the questionably safe to swim in lake, cannonballs off the dock, underwater shark chase, shell collection hike, sand castle construction, hula hoop-ing, frisbee tossing, swing set swinging, picture drawing, group song and poem writing with Lily's grandma Trudy and grandpa Micky and snacks.  I think I'm really happy becoming 6 again. 

I make a pact with myself to play like I'm 6 every summer. We should all do that more often. Become 6 again. Worry less. Hula Hoop more.

After roasted corn and grilled trout we pile Lolo into the car and head back to the USA. I very seriously consider what it might take to get dual citizenship. I also consider how I can keep the stresses of the real world out of my body yet stay involved and active. It's tricky being 6 and being an adult. I'll let you know if I figure out how to do that!

Lily drew my band: 

Detail of a double bass player 

                                    Detail of me...lookin' good! Love the star in my hair!

                                            Detail of the drummer "Budum Pu!!"

Speaking of bands!!  I'll be singing with GATO 6 at the Elephant Room on Friday August 25th and I hope to see you there!  
Probably no hula hoops but we can play!!!
9:30 to 1:30
315 Congress Ave. 
Austin Texas
Thanks for reading my blog and see you soon!