Monday, May 22, 2017

Born 2000 years too late?

Teaching voice to teens keeps me aware of popular culture, and I'm grateful for that.  I immerse myself in a Katy Perry tune or a Taylor Swift song so I can better establish what it is my student wants to achieve through working on some of that material.  I'm often pleasantly surprised by how a simple lyric can be so clever, and I also appreciate the fact that writing a catchy tune with only a 4 note range is an accomplishment in and of itself.  Those 4 notes usually come back to haunt me, looping around in my head...over and over and over while I'm trying to fall asleep at night.

That being said...the "I appreciate simple can be great" thing...I sometimes feel like such an anachronism as far as music and poetry are concerned. I know I'm being a bit snarky here, but check out some Katy Perry lyrics:
"Cause I'm all that you want boy,
All that you can have boy,
Got me spread like a buffet,
Bon Appetit Baby!"

 (To be fair, It's funny...and it's great to dance to...)

Now check out some text that actually makes me let out an audible "wow"
Sappho 31 written in the 4th century BC, One of Sappho's most famous poems originally written in the Aeolic dialect so I'm not sure that this is the best translation...but it's still beautiful...and the point's WAY OLD! Thus the anachronistic sensations I'm suffering from.

"He seems an equal of the gods,
That man who sits across from you
and your sweet speaking, being near,
I can overhear.
And that seductive laugh, which sets the heart to flutter in my chest
For when I glance that way,
My words dissolve unheard.
Silence breaks my tongue and subtle fire streams beneath my skin,
I cannot see with my eyes, or hear through buzzing ears"

There's more but I'll stop...

And then there's Rumi of course! A spring chicken next to Sappho:
"She drank a cup of ruby wine and sat by my side.
Holding the lockets of her hair, my face became all eyes, and my eyes all hands"

"Sometimes I call you wine...or cup,
sunlight ricocheting off those,
or faintly immersed in sliver.
I call you trap and bait,
and the game I'm after, all
so as not to say your name."

OK not the greatest material for a pop hit but just sayin'...
this was written in the 13th century and his stuff still makes so much sense to the human heart. 
Assuming the planet survives, will they be reading Taylor Swift in the year 4010? Maybe...but I kind of doubt it.
Maybe Dylan...good chance Joni will survive another 2,000 years.
Leonard Cohen?  Yes definitely.
But that's not generally the stuff my 16 year old students are listening to.

Perhaps I was born 2,000 years too late.

photo by Brenda Ladd Photography

Speaking of times and dates:
This Friday, May 26th I'll be singing at the Elephant Room...performing original material with lyrics penned my moi.  Not exactly Rumi, but Stern circa 2017.

The Elephant Room
315 Congress Ave.
9:30 to 1:30
Suzi Stern with George "GATO" Oldziey piano and accordion, Zack Varner woodwinds, Dennis Dotson Trumpet, Alex Browne Bass, Daniel Dufour drums and Bruno Vinezof percussion.

If you're in the Austin, Texas area I hope you can join us!

Thanks for reading my blog!

Much Love,


Please check out the web site and see who will be featured on a wonderful day of concerts and workshops which are part of Lulu Music Festival which I am proud to be the assistant director of:
The festival will be held on June 3rd at Saint Edwards U Jones Hall, in Austin.
Helen Sung, Ingrid Jensen, Susanna Sharpe, Peggy Stern, Masumi Jones, Albanie Falletta, Suzi Stern, Michael Longoria, Sergios Santos, Marco Antonio Santos, Juliana Silveira, Glenn Rexach, Tonico Vanalli and more...

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trees and human evolution...or not.

I'm traveling around the Left coast again this week...soaking up different vibes from the various places that surround the big megalopolis that is Los Angeles California, and onward up to Portland Oregon.
Pasadena and Alta Dena feel relatively laid back considering they're part of such a huge metroplex.
I came up with a theory as to why that is...perhaps places that still have trees in abundance make for happier humans living amongst them.
I have a physical reaction that feels like joy when I'm near trees. Pasadena has trees...lots of tress...they're flowering purple and pink blooms right now and when the petals blow off of their stems it's like a pastel snow flurry.
For me, the Pacific North West is insane joy as far as trees are concerned. They smell like sweet pine and they are magnificently tall. The tops of those trees understand a completely different world...they most certainly host an entire eco system different from anything we're used to so far below. They are magical...powerful, and I am in awe of them.
Walking in Washington Park which is a forest right in the middle of the city, I began thinking that people who live near these monolithic beauties must by nature be more evolved and at peace in general.
 I was ruminating over this theory while drinking a cup of tea in a coffee shop in downtown Portland. Everyplace in Portland has great coffee. Coffee is the perfect thing to indulge in on a rainy Oregon day...but I was sitting in this cafĂ© on the rare cool, cloudless sunny spring day.
Because of the cozy size of the place the tables were all very close together and I couldn't help but overhear the conversation at my neighbor table of 4 hiply dressed 20 something's.
I thought eavesdropping might allow me an opportunity to test my theory about natives of a place that's so close to grand nature and the awesomeness of those brilliant trees.

The one young woman at the table of four spoke.
"I wanna get a tattoo.  Not a serious tattoo. Maybe like a borrito tattoo. I wonder if I could find a good artist to do like a creative tattoo of a borrito. I love borritos. I got a tattoo when I was like super drunk once, but I don't like it anymore.  It like really hurt to get it too."

Some suggestions about where she might find a good artist to permanently embed a burrito onto her body were tossed around, which is when I started drifting in my own thoughts again.
Really? A burrito tattoo? Should I warn her that the chances are excellent that she won't like that tattoo in a few years either?

Hmmm...I will rethink my theory about the energy of trees assisting in the evolution of humans who live amongst them. The jury's not out on that one yet.

On another topic altogether I have some musical events coming up that I'd like to share with you!
I will be back in Austin, Texas singing with GATO 6 at the Elephant Room on Friday May 26th from 9:30 PM to 1:30 AM  This band is always so much fun! The charts are fantastic and the guys in the band are too!

Then on Saturday June 3rd Lulu Fest!  
I'm the associate director of an amazing music festival which will take place on the campus of Saint Ed's University in Austin On Sat. June 3rd.  An afternoon of music clinics and masterclasses will be followed by an evening of fantastic concerts... every band led by a woman. Ingrid Jensen, Helen Sung, Albanie Falletta, Susanna Sharpe, Peggy Stern, Suzi Stern, Masumi Jones and many of Austins top musicians joining them like Joey Colarruso, Michael Longoria, Daniel Durham and many more.
Please visit the site to buy tickets today!!

And please consider subscribing to my blog if you haven't already! It gives me the incentive to write and I welcome your feedback always! The subscribe thing-y is on the right column of this page, and you can un-subscribe just as fast as a click if you so wish. Thanks for being out there and for supporting art! (don't say, who's Art?)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Not Invisible...

George has started a weekly blog about music and life recently. We decided to bring our lap tops, a blanket and some veggie wraps to the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, lay under the palm trees in the shade and do our weekly blogging together.

When We arrived at the gardens, we went into the cafe near the entrance to buy something to drink for our blogging lunch.  There was a line at the counter,  but queueing always affords a great opportunity to 'people watch' so I didn't mind. The adorable young barista behind the counter was quite chatty as he waited on a young pretty girl at the head of the line. They talked about various things while he placed her order. The next person in line ahead of me was a good looking young man who ordered an ice tea. The guy behind the counter was totally engaged with this customer...smitten might be a better description...which was cool...I thought it sweet actually. Then it was my turn. "Hi!" I said gleefully, (as I was looking forward to this upcoming picnic) putting my two bottles down on the counter. Glancing up at me for only a second and with out a smile he replied "just the two teas? 6 dollars."
Feeling invisible, I guess I wanted to grab his attention for a minute of human interaction.  I replied loudly...too loudly...and as the words came flying out of my mouth I even surprised myself with the volume "Thank you!  Yes just these two teas!"
He of course looked up at could he not?  I handed him my money, smiled and left.

While George and I walked to the perfect spot to lay out our blanket and set up shop, I asked him if he as a man had noticed a shift in the way people interacted with him as he aged. Was this just a phenomenon that women experienced?  Looking at human beings as a species, with their mating rituals of constant youthful flirtation, I totally understand the abnormally exuberant if not absurd attention I received when I was young.
I have heard over and over, and I do believe that we as aging women should embrace every single wrinkle because with those lines comes life's information embedded into a face and a body full of experience.  So is it a social thing that I often feel invisible? Do other cultures respect and honor age more than we do?

Just food for thought!  When I stopped pursuing my career as a ballet dancer at 19 and changed directions to focus on becoming a jazz singer I felt that music could be forever...unlike dance where my body would have real physical limitations at a certain point.  Music was an ageless artistic expression that an aging body couldn't prevent me from continuing with full force.
Now that I'm older I see that this is sort of true and sort of not true.
Of course the music and the expression and the passions are there..more than ever but sometimes it feels like it's more difficult to be seen.

The old wise one at the beautiful Huntington Gardens!

Green toe nail polish...