Thursday, March 30, 2017

L.A. VS Austin?

It's been a beautiful day on the left coast reunited with my hubby for a week.  We walked to the Huntington gardens / art museums and had lunch in the Chinese garden there. The Huntington is only a 25 min. walk from our little apartment in Pasadena and it's a paradise in the middle of the city.

We are both constantly comparing the livability of Pasadena VS Austin...Weather? Recycling? Work for composers? Work for Jazz singers? (haha!  that's a good one! ) Polite people? Gun Laws? Traffic? Walking distance to cool things? The Arts? Politics? Great restaurants? Live music? The Symphony? Ballet? Jazz? Distance to hiking trails? Tough call!  But one definite is that there's more work here for a film score composer and orchestrator, so onward with our plan!

This experiment of living between the two cities for a year is proving to be an interesting challenge. It has it's pros and cons for sure.  On the up side of things our time apart makes us value our time together all that much more...and we are both working on what we need to work on with a heightened sense of focus because we really want to make an informed decision by the end of the year.

So George is madly writing cues for TV and film and submitting to different projects and I'm spending more time writing new music and preparing for my next recording project and I'm also the assistant director of what I hope will be an amazing annual Austin music festival, called Lulufest.

On April 23rd  Jazz pianist and Lulufest director Peggy Stern and I will be hosting a fundraiser / concert for Lulufest and hope that we'll get a good crowd.

Spread the word!  

The concert will be at Casa Karen

Sunday April 23rd  from 3:00 PM to 4:30

Donations taken at the door!

Dancing, music, listening, food, drink and fun!

reservations required:
Email: for details and to reserve a place!

Suzi Stern  /vocals
Peggy Stern / Piano
Sam Pankey / Bass
Joey Colarusso / woodwinds
Michael Longoria / drums

To pre order tickets for Lulufest coming up on June 3rd go to
You can read about the day of workshops and concerts that we have planned and purchase tickets on the site!  Two of our special guests will be Trumpet master Ingrid Jenssen leading her own group and the remarkable jazz pianist Helen Sung fronting her ensemble (both from NYC) and several other amazingly talented "women led" bands that will highlight the day!

And for now:
Here are some images from my fabulous day off today!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A not really SXSW story

Having George in another city part-time has me venturing out solo more than I have since we've been married.  The result is I’ve been made more profoundly aware of strangers around me and the conversations they’re having...wondering what they’re about and who they are as they pass me in the streets or sit near me on the train. 

Speaking of the the train, I took it from North Austin downtown for SXSW last week. It was packed solid…all the seats taken and commuters standing shoulder to shoulder. I didn't mind at all…  having lived in NYC this seemed typical and it gave me a chance to hide behind some big guy's denim jacket and backpack so I could secretly observe people and wonder what their stories might be. 
While blatantly staring at a pretty blue haired young woman trying not to look like I was staring at her, a man in front of me sneezed.   I immediately held my breath.  I understand that at some point you have to breathe again...the same sneezy air that's inside this little steel bullet that everyone else is breathing in. How long does it take for a sneeze to dissipate I wondered, still holding my breath. Maybe if I just take really tiny shallow breaths like a goldfish gulping I won't inhale particles of said sneezer’s saliva which continued to dance around in my air space.  
Now that I had worked myself up into a completely neurotic state, I started noticing a lot of little children coughing and sneezing. I picked up the scarf that I was wearing around my neck and put it over my nose and mouth, knowing full well that I looked like an obsessive compulsive weird person. 
The train stopped and the doors opened to pick up more riders. “Ahh new air”  We all adjusted our cramped bodies to magically create enough space for 5 more commuters. My mind went back to it’s happy "people watching making up stories" mode.  
I started to imagine how it will feel on the eventual day that some young person looks at me and considers me old enough to offer their seat to on a train. 
We stopped at Martin Luther King and several people got off creating some vacancies. 
A young guy with skinny jeans, leather jacket, SXSW badge dangling from a laniard, tattoos on his strong forearms, baseball cap on backwards looked at me and said "would you like that seat?"
Yikes!! No sooner did I think "I wonder what it would feel like?" And Bamm! I smiled and said "no thanks I'm fine standing!"
I suppose it would've been nice to sit down but my ego was temporarily bruised! Did  I look so old and fragile already? Then he looked at his friend who was standing with him and said “Hey man you want that seat?" 
The tattoo boy was just being a nice guy! I was just being that obsessive compulsive weird person who covers her mouth with her scarf when someone sneezes. 
Maybe I need to start observing my own story more often!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Laffite and the Troglodyte

Last week I dined with my husband George at a high-end restaurant in midtown Austin. The outing was inspired by a gift card given to me from a generous voice student of mine at Christmas time and we only now found the time to take advantage of the sweet offering.

I had dined there in the past, not surprisingly due to gifts from other extremely generous clients, so at least I knew how to dress. Now I am not proud of this fact but I knew that driving up to the valet parking in my 2002 hail damaged, bumper stickered, Texas sun toasted faded finish red Honda Accord would send up red flags and make me
self conscious, so we parked several blocks away and walked to the front door of the restaurant. As we approached I did indeed notice a shinny new Porsche, a gleaming Alfa Romeo and a Lamborghini.   (I know it seems out of character for me, but I actually do notice cars when they are well-crafted beautiful machines).

 I was glad that we walked.
A woman greeted us with a stony expression
 Yes? May I help you? 
I have a reservation for Stern
Yesfollow me…”
Without meeting eyes, she placed a leather bound book on the table that was designated to be ours. 
Enjoy your meal…”

Oh good…the wine list…
My eyes scan the 21-page leather bound book.
I’m wondering if buying wine by the glass is gauche. What ever…I don’t want to have more than one glass of wine so I keep perusing the manuscript.

A young man comes over with his hands neatly held behind his back in a formal Downton Abby server sort of fashion.
“Are we having anything special to drink this evening?”
He said “Are WE” so I wondered for a second if he was planning to join us?
“Yes…do you have any wine by the glass?”
His eyes looking past me…over my head, chin held high he replies…
”Page 11”

I flip to page 11. Oh good…they do have some choices…all French? OK I like French wine…scanning the page my eyes go past the “by the glass” section and onto page 12…$3500.00…what wine is that?  A Laffite…Ok I know that’s an expensive wine but $3500 really? $3500? Good grief. I couldn’t help myself and at the risk of sounding like a complete troglodyte, out of my mouth poured “Do people ever really purchase a bottle of wine for $3500?”
Still looking over my head, hands still behind his back a la Downton Abbey, with out a smile, his left eyebrow slightly raising he said in a matter of fact way  “Oh yes, certainly…”

Gee I was thinking I might have broken this pretentious barrier he had crafted and perhaps he’d bond with us…you know, he’s a young working boy…and here was an opportunity to say something like “Yah…crazy, right? I sold a bottle to someone once” etc. bla  bla…but he answered me like it made perfect sense to spend almost $4000.00 on a bottle of wine that you will piss out in an hour!  I felt like telling the haughty little whippersnapper that one can buy an excellent bottle of wine for $200…like an astounding bottle of wine, and with the rest of that dough feed 100 refugee families…or mail a check to a charity of your choice, but don’t make me feel like you are above me for thinking that’s a stupid way to spend an awful lot of money. Go ahead and spend a month’s salary on a bottle of good wine if you want to, but at some point you get diminishing returns. I wonder if I poured a $25 bottle of Columbia Crest into a bottle that said 1986 Laffite on it would YOU young Downton Abby server child know the difference…or your diners for that matter?

But that fierce and righteous speech crossed through my brain in perhaps one millisecond as I starred at the waiter still standing steadfast arms neat behind his back eyes straight ahead.
”Oh wow…” is all that I said. “I’ll have a glass of Champagne…I always love that…thanks!”

I often write awesome responses to a personal experience well after the fact…lying in bed…thinking about a better ending to a particular scenario.
  I wish I had looked at the young man and said

“Ahh Yes..The Laffite…Dark, with brick edges.  Blackberry, fig, currant, and cedar present on the nose.  Palate is filled with currant and hints of fig, cedar, whiffs of pipe tobacco and faint earth notes.  Tannins are melding into the wine, and acid is present but not particularly lively.  A touch heavy.  It is indeed a wonderful wine, but a bit lost in the crowd.  Not as complex as the 1996 Margaux, and not as balanced as the 1990 Beasejour.  Very good, but far from perfect. In fact not worth the Hype in my opinion…I’ll have a glass of your Champagne. Thank you very much!”

I guess I am just a Troglodyte!