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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Volcanoes and monkeys and a quick update...

The East River has ice floating in it and it's 2 degrees F, with a wind chill of -15.

I think it's time to get out of town.  They're threatening snow/ice/rain whatever in the forecast on Sunday when I'm supposed to fly so I'm a tiny bit nervous.  I don't think anything will get cancelled. Worst case scenario, I'm delayed and I miss my connecting flight and the airline puts me on the next flight and I just have to call my hotel and have them send the cab driver a little later in the afternoon and maybe it's a tiny bit later when I finally touch down at my hotel in Granada, where it's likely going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 degrees F.

It's going to be fine. I'm so excited about this trip, as long as I can get there some time on Sunday I'll be happy.  This is the first time I've done anything like this.  Completely solo (as in, traveling solo, not meeting anyone when I get there, no one dictating what I do or when), very little Spanish under my belt (just enough to get by), everything planned to a T.   I'm going to have a blast.  I'm hiking volcanoes and learning to surf and exploring ancient petroglyphs and visiting coffee plantations.   And hammocks.  Lots of hammock time.  Maybe a massage...of course a massage!  Horses. Sea Turtles.  I'm going to see some freaking monkeys if it kills me.

So, yeah, despite all that excitement, I admit. There is a little nervousness.  But it's abating for the most part.  I mean, I've prepared for a lot here.  I even bought Skype credits in case I have to call someone while I'm there (I'm trying not to use minutes there at all because Verizon charges $2.89 a minute in Nicaragua while Skype is only 23.5 cents).  If I'm worried about my Spanish not being sufficient, a lot of people will speak English (hotel staff, ex-pats, etc.), I have Google translate, Duolingo, even a Learn Spanish in 7 days book saved in my Kindle app.  Puedo escribir en español right now if I really wanted to.

Before I run off to Nica land for a spell, though, I really wanted to drop in and update on what's been going on in the music/voice over/TV world.

The commercial I wrote music for?  It won that competition so now I'm going to get royalties when it starts airing on the web in UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in March.  Awesome, right?

The new voice over demo is in the hands of one agent and one casting director so far.  The casting director I met at Marla's voice over class just the other night, an old school guy who likes to listen to all of his submissions on his car CD player (necessitating a scramble to find my old CD labels and a case I could put the disc in).  The agent is a co worker's agent over at Access talent (a place that was on my list of places to submit to anyway, so when he offered to pass my demo along, I said, "hell yes!") When I return I will submit to about ten more.

And lastly, I have an interview at CNN today for a full time position.  Please wish me luck.

For now, that is all.  I will most likely update again after I touch down in Nica.  Expect some video this time around.  I'm going to be peering into an active volcano in a few days. You're gonna wanna see that.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


January's been a good month so far.  Filled with things.  Happenings.  Memories made. Events attended. Adventures had.  Sure, I've worked my ass off in the interest of saving for this trip of mine next month but the social gatherings and shenanigans in between have made it all worthwhile. Impromptu concerts, bar nights, a date here and there and always yoga. I tried a new gluten free beer at a meetup, made new friends there and at the yoga studio, hitting up regular classes.  I seem to wind up at Rockwood or Barbes on the regular still.

At home, I got talked into taking in not one but two kittens, mischievous balls of fur which are vastly changing my routine around the apartment (always closing my bedroom door and making sure not to leave anything breakable on the table). There's of course been some excitement with the career(s), a new demo, the chance at getting in front of some agents and casting directors and with the screening for "The Life" looming, I get called to do a commercial for the same director.

In the midst of working on the music for this commercial, we get slammed by a blizzard and I have to spend a night in the city at a hotel so I can make it to work two hours earlier than normal this morning, forcing me to take a slight hiatus from working on it.  But tomorrow I dive back in, hopefully having caught up on my sleep tonight.

I got a look at the first cut just now which was shot and edited this weekend.  I composed the initial idea this past weekend (landed on it after just two takes) after having only read the treatment.  A fun way to work, no doubt.  I like doing it this way sometimes.  I get to come up with some idea based on the raw emotions instead of immediately being preoccupied with making it fit some time constraint.  But now, my work is to extend the musical idea and work on creating an arc that aligns with the images I'm seeing in the video.

Really looking forward to this process.  The deadline is approaching.  For now, though, I'm going to head home and get that much needed sleep, without which I cannot function.

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 things...

It's 2015 and I'm doing things.  I've got a really good feeling about this year.  I wanted to wait until a few more things seemed certain before popping my head up and checking in here.  But I feel like talking about at least this:

I finally got around to updating this with the new coach I've been working with.  Two of my old spots are on there and then four more that my coach wrote for me.  We managed to wipe out recording them in under an hour as well, which makes me happy because it's going to be cheaper than I had thought.  And the engineer at Gramercy Post turned it around super quick too so I managed to get it posted up online the next day.  All in all, I was pretty pleased with the process.  Now, Marla and I are going to sit down this week and talk about getting it out to some agents she knows.  So excited for that.

And on top of that, the pilot episode of "The Life" will be screened next month and meanwhile the director has hired me to write music for a light-hearted commercial he's been tasked with directing for a competition.  Some piano tune that I'm currently zeroing in on.  So, I've got music work and potential voice over work and something else on the horizon of which I won't speak just yet.  ;)

And then, in a few weeks, I'm going back to Nicaragua, on my own, for my first solo trip ever.  And by solo, I mean, I'm traveling there alone, staying there alone, exploring alone.  I've been boning up on what little Spanish I know, using an app called Duolingo, talking with my co workers who have been and have even set up meeting a co worker's friends on Ometepe.  I have all my hotels and cab rides booked (I will not be riding any public transportation in the country) and I've got plans to hike several volcanoes.  Pictures and video will ensue.  It's going to be an adventure.  A great adventure and I'm going to have lots of stories.  I cannot wait.

That's where I'll leave it for now.  Every year, I do the whole New Year's Resolution/Where was I last year post, but I feel like waiting on that just a little.  I have things I want to do this year differently than last year but whether or not I'll be able to sort of hinges on that thing that's on the horizon that I won't mention yet until it's certain.  Suffice it to say that I did a lot of things career-wise last year and the year before that worked and I'm going to keep doing them.  And all of that workout more, drink less stuff will be in there too.

I might even blog more but we'll see.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rainy day musings...

Nursing a hangover from last night's company holiday party while the rain pours down outside.  Getting going on days like this is hard enough.  But here I sit, at my kitchen table staring out the window at the cold rain and typing.  I even skipped my shift at the food co-op.  I'm off work and all that there is on the docket otherwise is a yoga class, picking up groceries maybe, cooking myself some dinner and hitting a friend's party in Bushwick later tonight.  I was thinking about writing a little music, or at least working with my setup or something musical.

I keep telling myself, though, that I should just take this day to do nothing and be useless for a change instead of getting swept up in this frantic need to get something done while I have time to fill (notice I didn't say "time to kill").  A break is in order, yes.  But only because I'm working so much at my day jobs lately.  Not even as some kind of reward for having accomplished something meaningful with voice over or music.  Despite having just seen the screening of "True Love," basking in the attention that the film garnered me, despite feeling more confident in voice over than I have in a long time.

Only when I feel like I've done enough, do I get to days like this and decide to take it easy and not even go to yoga.  But that is rare.  Normally I don't feel like I've done enough.  No, it's hard to feel like I'm doing enough for my career, ever.  And I don't know when you get past that.  Maybe it's even a good thing, it's certainly a motivator.  But then again, maybe it's a form of self-flagellation.  I did all these things.  I moved to New York, got a job, got another few jobs, scored some films, met some incredible people, got a great apartment, started a voice over career, got recognized for all these things, hell, I even made a little money at it.  But I'm still working three jobs to get by and there are all these other things I haven't done, am not doing, that I go from disappointed to straight up mad at myself for not having done.  Live performance of my own music tops out the list.  I have done it but, okay, like once.  So it's a little slow getting going.  I used to call it "rock-out envy" when I'd go see a band play and think, "damn. I should be doing that."  And then every time I'd see some modern concert music, I'd think, "why did I stop writing chamber music?"

But then I remember that a few years ago I started to realize that I can't do every damn thing.  It's cliché but time actually is money these days.  I had to choose what was most worth my time.  It was  one part "is there a monetary return significant enough to justify the investment of time and energy," one part "do you enjoy doing this," and probably more than one part "is this genuine."

That one is most important and I was motivated to answer that when I realized the other two things.  It came down to, if I have a limited amount of time to work, I need to eat and pay rent, then I'd better make sure of the other two things: am I enjoying this and is it what I would be doing if all things were equal and I had all the time in the world.  I even quit doing a few things that I enjoyed because they were taking up more time than they were worth.  Those decisions were hard and I'm better for them.  There's no doubt that the strides I made in my career were a direct result of reallocating my time.

This all really boils down to, I took those jobs at CNN and truTV and now I don't have nearly as much time as I'd like for live performance.  I have an open offer to book a gig performing live guitar looping and electronic music at a yoga class in Tribeca but I am nowhere near ready.  I've written a few songs, I've got the set up going, it works, but there are too many parts for me to even imagine hauling it 11 stops on the R train to City Hall or even renting a vehicle for that amount of time for a gig that's going to be tips only.  There's no doubt I'm going to enjoy doing it and that the investment is going to be worth it on a personal enrichment level.  I have to try it and see how much fun I have but will something like that be sustainable for me in the long term?  I have musician friends who pick up and tour around the east side or even go to Europe for gigs and I wonder how they do it when I know these gigs don't pay well and they have to sell merch, stay with strangers, and hope people buy their CDs to stay out of the red.

You have to really love it.  That's the obvious answer.  And I love to quote Henry Winkler on this, "Do you need to do this thing that you've found, or does it just sound exciting."  It keeps coming back to that.  I'll be perfectly honest. I was not enjoying spending so much time and energy composing a piece of music for someone or some group to perform it, for it to be heard once (by fewer than 10 people) and there to be absolutely no monetary return on it.

But therein lies the problem.  You obviously have to do this stuff to meager audiences to get started.  And I did enjoy parts of it.  There was enjoyment happening somewhere in the process.  The nights Tania and I stayed up rehearsing, the moments when my electronic equipment worked perfectly, the few moments of applause, being on stage at Galapagos Art Space (a beautiful space if you haven't seen it); all of it moved me to remember why I did all of that.  And I had to not care if anyone enjoyed it, or noticed how groundbreaking or even just f*cking cool it was to mic a piano and sample it live.  And I had to not care that the video didn't come out all that well.  And I had to not care how heavy my equipment was.  And I had to shrug off the time in Harlem when the sound guy didn't even plug my laptop into the house system and I didn't notice until we were in the middle of the piece and nothing was happening.  And I had to forget all the other times that things didn't go as planned.  Because this is what I live for.  Making music and, yes, sometimes performing it or having it performed.  I'm most alive when I'm on stage or when I'm hearing my music being performed live.

And sure there are even other ways to make your money to offset the cost of doing these things.  And no, these things almost never make money.  But that absolutely cannot be the reason you are doing these things or you are seriously deluding yourself.   One thing I can say is that I've never had any delusions (at least not lately) that I could make a lot of money playing music.  I mean, my undergraduate piano professor hammered that point home pretty good (asshole).  All I've ever wanted to do was be able to keep doing it regardless.  Because I almost stopped once.  And I don't ever want to live like that again.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

At bat...

Where have I been? Where even am I now? I'm sitting in the break room at NY1.  It's cold.  Winter has come early and with a force.  I'm hiding though the temptation to go outside and get real coffee is there.  A lot has changed this year and not just that I'm actually drinking coffee again.  But I got thinking yesterday and today about a specific moment in the evolution of a career.  When the realization comes over you that you might be finally stepping up to the plate.

A few years back now, I had a chance to submit my ideas for a 10 minute snippet of a documentary about nuns in Hong Kong in the early 1900s.  I was excited, overwhelmed even and, though I took the day off work to get the bulk of the work done, I feel like I didn't really grasp the significance of the opportunity.  I did take it seriously, that's for sure.  I knew I had to give it my all but I really just think I wasn't ready.

Fast forward to now.  I'm getting some more opportunities in voice over and I'm feeling paradoxically like I'm both more ready and more frightened to be at bat.  Maybe it's that I'm more frightened by the opportunity that tells me I'm more ready.  But I do hope to get past that.  Being confident that I can do this is winning out over being terrified that I'm not fit just yet.

On Sunday, I went to a screening of "True Love," the film I scored over the summer. The film is an offbeat comedy about two brothers who try to pick up a middle aged prostitute.  It was my first chance to really score a comedy and to actually make my music part of the joke in a lot of the scenes.  It came out really well and there some cues where the director added something after the fact that added to the laughs.  At one point, a slowed tape effect whenever two characters were about to kiss but were interrupted and a few other times to bring back the same trope to comedic effect.  In fact, the first time my underscore, which was based on the same idea as the opening title theme, came in, during the prostitute's dramatic telling of her backstory, the audience burst into laughter.  It's a heartfelt bittersweet piano piece with a string trio behind it, almost taking itself seriously but with a wink, to the extent that at the moment it comes in, it's a cue that the film knows that it's absurd.  It was such a treat to hear people reacting to my music.  Normally, in the film's I've scored, my music has a much subtler effect.

So, going forward this week with that triumph, I get an opportunity to read a documentary script at CNN, just so the producers can hear my voice (apparently it got back to them that I do voice overs).  At first I'm terrified, mostly of messing up and nothing coming of it but then, I'm terrified of something actually coming from it.  And then I'm out there and laid bare, standing in front of a packed auditorium in my underwear and free to be judged on my talents or lack thereof.  But then I go back in that booth and do a second take because I know enough to not be satisfied with my first take and because I'm confident that I can totally f*#$ing do this.

And no, nothing has come of it yet.  I was merely using that example to illustrate a point.

Hopefully soon, though, I'll be able to show you all clips from "True Love" with my music.  Stay tuned guys.  And stay warm.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Advice, plans...

My apartment is currently rather spartan.  Sounds echo off the walls.  It's the end of an era, as my cousin has moved out, leaving half the apartment empty, and I'm now awaiting the move in date of my first non family member/non-spouse roommate since senior year of college.  I've been lax about writing lately but have had a lot of things on my mind as the season changes.  Moving into a different head space on a lot of things.  Revamping plans and thinking about the future...the long future. 

It's a hard thing when you start to look at where you are and where you want to be in a decidedly arbitrary amount of time.  You start to feel overwhelmed and that you may never get there even though you've certainly made strides.  You have to sort of remind yourself that you certainly haven't been idle.  Look at what you've done so far.  Acknowledge it, pat yourself on the back.  It's hard. 

This advice, while here referring to the entire scope of my endeavors, was packaged amongst the advice I got slung my way by a voice over agent about a month ago.  My new voice coach has these classes where she'll have a slew of her students read for a chosen agent that she has a connection with.  This particular night I was the second to last person to read and it must've shown that I'd let my nerves take over.  I told her my voice over history in a nutshell, as the other students had done, maybe leaning a little too hard on the point that I had been frustrated with my lack of progress.  While she had some definite critiques for me, she was rather generous with her praise of my accomplishments.  So, I felt better and really brought my A game for the next agent a few weeks later.  That agent was a little hard to read unfortunately though. 

I really made a great choice picking up this coach.  Having been a casting director and an agent at one time or another herself, she has all sorts of remaining connections in the voice over world.  I've made the decision to have her help me spruce up my demo and vary it a bit so it's not all the same stuff and it has some range to it.  And then I'm going to show it to every agent she puts me in front of.  That's the best part about this new partnership honestly.  My coach knows I'm not just doing this for fun and has a plan to get me to a point where I can be a "big fish in a little pond," as she put it. 

This is part of the plan.  Yes. I have a plan.  It's multi faceted after all and both music and voice over play into it.  And it's even rather fluid as I keep checking in with it. 

With things seemingly falling apart all around me in the TV world (CNN just lost some people and Comcast is merging with Time Warner Cable), it's motivating me to really make a push to get things happening.  Music is on hold, it seems, except for the fact that I may be playing at a yoga class in a few months.  Ambient stuff, live looping the guitar and everything...been composing a little bit there too.  But, finding enough time to practice is proving a bit of a challenge. 

Nonetheless, the passion is still there.  There's talk of collaboration here and there, of finally getting a practice space with Brad, writing another piece with Tania (both were over at my apartment hanging out Saturday night).  And "The Life" remains a rather tentative yet exciting ball in the air.  The pitch bible for the first season and the pilot episode are about to be in the hands of some very influential people. I'll say no more. 

Ultimately, I'm hoping that voice over proves to be lucrative enough as to afford me more time to put into the music, so that I can bank on other things besides "The Life," and whatever the next Indie film is that comes along.  We shall see.  Again with the waiting.  Anyway, just some thoughts to let you know I'm still alive. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Steve Reich and Phillip Glass...

I got to see two legends in concert this week at BAM.  Steve Reich and Phillip Glass were playing together for the first time in 40 years so that was pretty big.  And the tickets fell into my lap.  Twice.  The first was a friend who reviews these concerts but it was on a night that I couldn't have attended because I got asked to come in on the night shift to cover the Democratic primary election. The next time, a day later, it was my dad's cousin who had an extra ticket.  This time I could make it but just barely.  So I made some shifts in my schedule to ensure I'd be able to both see the concert and have dinner with my cousin before the show.

We checked out this vegan restaurant on Atlantic Ave. called M.O.B. Please check it out even if you're not vegan.  It's spectacular and well worth it.  Two words: Vegan Cheesecake.  It's really good.

Afterward we headed over to BAM, grabbed a quick glass of wine and then took our awesome 8th row seats and waited for the show to start.  The first half was to be all Steve Reich and Musicians playing Steve Reich pieces (Four Organs and Drumming) and then Phillip Glass and his Ensemble took over for the last half, playing a slew of Glass tunes encompassing some of his film music and other pieces. I am admittedly not as familiar with Phillip Glass' music but I enjoyed it nonetheless.   This was apparently much anticipated as well.  The ensemble got a standing ovation both at the end and at the beginning when they first took the stage.

The first piece, Four Organs was fun to watch partially on account of Nico Muhly head banging and otherwise hamming up his performance, but also because you started to notice them all counting to themselves and really intensely focusing on the piece.  The piece starts with the percussionist in the center playing a steady pulse with the maracas for a few measure before all four keyboardists start hammering out chords on the organ.  Eventually though, as notes gets added here and there, and individual notes in the chords are held out longer by each different performer, the individual players start to deviate from each other and go out of sync with each other.  I'd seen it performed at least once before, once on that very same stage, but it was fun to see it from so close.  And it's just this wall of sound from the organs that blasts your face off.

On Drumming, something about listening to the overtones of the glockenspiels propagating in the space and the reflections of the bongos and marimbas off the back wall of the theater hitting your ear a half second late and messing with the perceived rhythm, was wholly mesmerizing.  The experience cannot be transmitted through a blog entry so I won't try.   Watching the musicians switch places and take over for each other really shows how grueling a piece it must be to play.  It's an hour long.  They cross the stage at one point, switching form pitched bongos to a row of marimbas, then eventually to the glockenspiels.  Near the end of the piece two female vocalists join the cacophony.

During the intermission, we snuck across the street to a bar called Berlyn, my cousin's little hack to avoid the line at the concession stand.  It worked out great because we had a drink in our hand within minutes and had plenty of time to get back to our seats before the lights went down.  Even had a sec to chat with the sound guy, whom my cousin knows before heading back in.

The last half of the show was all Phillip Glass whose ensemble consisted of percussion, saxophones, keyboards and a vocalist.  They played Music in Similar Motion to start, which I'd heard of, but never really heard.  It starts with just a ceaseless flowing line on organ which is joined by the saxophones part way through and builds to cacophonous splendor by the end.  Take a listen here.  The rest of the pieces were from his film scores and other works and were for the most part enjoyable though I was really starting to fade at this point...and I had to be up at 430am the next day for September 11th memorial coverage!

But it was well worth the fatigue to see these two greats on stage in such a historical concert.  I only wish I could have gone every night of the three they played.  I had to miss Music for 18 Musicians which is one of Steve Reich's seminal works.

I can't say I was all that tired though.  I got a good 4 1/2 hours of sleep and went straight through to my voice coaching session after work.  Which was fun as usual but I'm really starting to feel her challenging me...which means I'm definitely getting something out of it.  More on that in the next entry.  Gotta run for now!