Thursday, July 30, 2020

My YouTube Overhaul

New videos on my channel

I've spent a significant amount of time on YouTube lately, and I don't mean as a YouTube addict (as in someone who watches a lot of videos) but as someone who's been uploading new videos, and getting rid of old ones. I revamped my YouTube channel, mainly by spiffing up the design and adding some videos with better quality (I'm not sure if "spiffing" is really a word, but I'm using it :D ).

New design for my YouTube channel
There's currently a total of six videos, which is fewer than I had before, but these include new ones that I'm happier with, and some of the old ones had mediocre quality in terms of the picture. The goal behind all this involves no secret, of course, which is that I hope to get more exposure. Online platforms seem to be ideal for reaching a lot of people, especially during a pandemic when many people are trying to stay home as much as they can. My goal by the end of this week is to add two more.

Aside from my attempts at creating slightly better quality in the videos, I've been spending a lot of time studying other musicians' YouTube channels, which seems to help (I've included one of the videos below, which I watched in order to get ideas of my own, from a pianist named Jacob Ladegaard).

Diversifying my repertoire

In response to most people's first impression of the title above, yes, I have been writing new music. However, my use of the term "repertoire" in this case refers to the types of videos I plan to upload onto my channel. So far, there are five videos of me performing original songs (four of them with the grand piano Yamaha C3X, a.k.a. "Isabelle", and one on the Yamaha Avant Grande N2, a.k.a., "Zoey"), and one video that features a cover I did of the theme from Princess Bride. After I upload a few more original songs I also plan to add tutorials, where people can learn about piano playing technique, music theory, steps for learning certain songs, etc. YouTube allows the owner of a channel to organize the videos into different categories. Once I get around to adding more covers (and working out the necessary details involving copyright issues) I can create a section for that as well. In other words--and as usual--I have my work cut out for me.

Worried about your business dwindling? Create loyalty in your clients

This is my advice, if I may give it humbly, for any music teacher who's concerned about their students dropping because of COVID-19 and their students having to stay home. One thing I'm extremely grateful for is that even in the midst of the recent upsurge of cases in the United States, most of my students have still continued taking lesson from me, even if it involves the occasional mishaps and hiccups that come with using media apps like Zoom and Skype. A few others, but not many, have returned to receiving their lessons face-to-face, with the other "new normal", which involves both of us wearing masks during the lesson. Students who do whatever it takes to continue taking lessons are showing their loyalty, and it's this type of loyalty that teachers need to foster in their clients.

With regard to music education and my plans for going forward, I'll be finding ways to continue using technology to my advantage, and to find better ways of using this technology to retain as many students as I can. Zoom and YouTube are great resources for that, and platforms such as Canvas will also allow me to continue my work with the Sutter County Superintendent of Schools.

Virtual Concert in August!

I've had plenty of time to practice, so there is no excuse not to do another virtual concert - although it's very likely that I will postpone the date, which is currently set for August 9th. Either way it will include a mix of older pieces (probably "Waking to the Rain" and "Flight Over Askja's Fire") as well as a few newer ones. I've certainly mentioned the fact that virtual concerts are great even when there isn't a global pandemic unfolding, and the same is true with revamping the YouTube channel. My goal is to put on the best possible performance I can, of course, for the August concert, and also a rather ambitious one that involves the end of this week: two new videos on my channel, two new recordings, and two new pieces of sheet music.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Concerts From Your Own Living Room

"It's the new normal". I'm sure by now you've heard this phrase on many occasions, as it obviously refers to the new lifestyles we've all had to adopt (isolating ourselves, social distancing, working from home, etc.). For me, this includes playing my piano concerts from the studio at my house, with my Android mounted on a tripod. It definitely has its benefits and drawbacks, as one can imagine. To be truthful, though, there are quite a few advantages to doing this.

At some point (I think it was during the first virtual concert I put on) I made a joke about the perk that there was no heavy lifting. This is true, actually, and the lack of legwork was really nice, so there's always a silver lining. What's even more encouraging is that I was able to reach a lot more people. In fact, at one point there were more people watching the concert virtually than there were numbers of people that usually show up to my actual concerts!

Another positive result is that these types of  concerts will still continue, even after restrictions are lifted. I see no reason to discontinue the livestream shows, even if I do this in addition to the physical concerts. The easy part? It requires no phone calls or booking agent -- the venue is in my house, so all I have to do is pick a date and announce it :D I've done three of these already, and the next one will be June 13, 2020, (the Summer Concert).

I don't suppose there's anything else new that I've learned from having done the last three, except that I might have been putting a tad too much pressure on myself by allowing only two weeks between shows. Sometimes this is not enough time for rehearsing the songs, since the songs in each concert are all different, which is why I decided to give myself a month before I perform the next one. 

I am my own worst critic, though--or so I've been told--and the last concert seemed to go fairly well. I played eight different piano covers, which I do only on occasion, and people definitely seemed to like it. The Summer Show will feature all originals again (and the luxury of not having to worry about copyright laws). 

After all is said and done, I'm not sure which is more unnerving - looking into a crowd of 200 people, or looking at a phone that I know has 200 people "inside" of it, watching. 

I guess I'll have to get used to doing both. :)

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Getting Music Out During Our 'New Normal'

Adapting to the COVID-19 Pandemic

If you've been spending any time reading or watching information about musicians, you have undoubtedly come across something relating to the way the coronavirus has affected people in the music industry. The best way I can summarize my own experience is how suddenly I had to adapt - how I had to change my habits, my schedule, my routine, and the way I do business. I'm sure a lot of other performers, as well as music teachers, can relate to this as they probably have a similar story.

As if this wasn't enough stress, I was coincidentally in the middle of a major "life event" when things started getting really bad (I know, I have the worst timing possible). When I realized that the spread of this virus was really getting serious, I happened to be right in the middle of buying my first house. The sad part is that I ended up backing out of the deal, because I felt I needed to wait and see how the pandemic would affect my business (and the economy). So, no house! For the time being I will continue to remain but a lowly renter, all because of that pesky germ :P

Skype lessons... from the comfort of your phone :D

There has been something inspiring about this, though, and it's how cooperative people have been throughout the ordeal. I was pretty worried at first because The Music Connection (the store where I teach my piano lessons) has been closed until further notice. My first instinct was that most of my students would drop and stop taking lessons, but actually I have retained most of them. Like many other music teachers, I've been teaching my piano lessons through Skype, Zoom, and other long-distance means. I have technology to thank, I guess, and I also attribute this to the fact that many of my students are already used to this process, since they've been having Zoom meetings with their regular teachers and submitting homework through student portals on their school's websites. At this point I am doing the same thing that just about every person on the planet is doing: getting by and doing my best to endure the process, however long it takes.

Virtual Concerts (C'mon, Everyone's Doin' It!)

I'm sure I'm not the only one who steals ideas from other musicians (in fact, I know I'm not) and I recently saw two of my "Facebook friends" perform their own music on the Facebook Live feature that you can find on the app.

I've seen lots of comments about "silver linings", and there are quite a few when it comes to doing a concert like this. I performed original music on the piano via Facebook Live on Saturday, and I have to say it worked out great. Maybe it was because there was no heavy lifting :D Or, maybe it was the fact that I seemed to reach a lot more people this way. It goes without saying: more people are home, they don't have to leave home to see the concert in the first place, and I was able to reach far more people because Facebook automatically notifies people when someone is live (not to mention that, if you create a Facebook Event page, it automatically reminds every person that you invite). I was also able to get people from out of town to watch it, when they would otherwise not have been able to see the concert.

My attempt at setting up a tripod before my virtual concert.

I have read that the best way to respond to an unexpected event, like the COVID-19 pandemic, is to make the best of the situation by responding optimally. There is some great information about this in the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, as well as (and please pardon my French) an enormously entertaining book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by an author and professional blogger named Mark Manson. In other words, according to the advice of successful people, the best thing to do is make the best of the situation (and any situation) instead of feeling paralyzed, or sulking. The virtual concert I put on definitely motivated me to do exactly that :)

(By the way, this does not give you an excuse to wear pajamas while you're performing -- unless that's part of your shtick. Haha. )

A Great Way to Promote Your Music from Home

It's interesting that even without the plight of a pandemic like the one we're experiencing now, I could have already been showcasing my music from home. Even before the outbreak, there were plenty of people who were hopelessly addicted to Facebook. I've decided to take advantage of it either way, and in about two weeks (most likely) I plan to do another virtual concert. It may be a smaller one (perhaps just a half hour long, or 45 minutes at the most) and it will feature some of my more recent work. The concert I put on last night featured mostly older songs.

And then -- yes -- in about a month from now I'm thinking of doing a concert with just covers. One thing I often tell people is that if you want to improve as a composer, you should study (and learn to play) pieces by other composers. Doing a show that includes covers will be a good way to exemplify this concept. Plus, I'll get to play some of my favorites, classical as well as modern (Chopin, Bach, Ludovico Einaudi and Leonard Cohen, to name a few).

The entire video of last night's virtual concert is still on my Facebook page, for anyone who wants to check it out (or if you want to giggle at the three minutes of technical difficulties in the beginning of the video). But hey, technical hiccups always seem inevitable. The enjoyment that I got out of putting on this concert made it well worth it.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Gleanings From a Winter Recital... and Learning from the Students

Recital at Apollo Music & Arts (Chico, CA)

I held my second piano recital on December 6th, with the same experiences I had when I organized my first recital back in March of 2019: ongoing excitement and, quite honestly, giddiness. I find myself living vicariously through these students, and as a result I get the same feelings of accomplishment and euphoria that some of them do after they've walked on stage and performed for over 50 people. A huge advantage of having put together two recitals now is that the upcoming ones will probably be organized even more efficiently, since I have a richer understanding of what to expect, how early to start the process, and how to avoid any pitfalls (and there really aren't that many).

The beginner students played between two and three short songs each, and towards the end the advanced students played individual pieces that were between three and six minutes long. I was thrilled to hear how well they played, especially since some of the pieces were rather difficult to master (Chopin's E-flat major Nocturne and Rachmaninoff's C-sharp minor Prelude, to name a couple). Many people from the audience seemed amazed at some of the students' skills, and as a bonus everyone spent a good half hour mingling, chatting and posing for group pictures after the show.

I was also impressed by how nicely the venue was set up. Apollo Music and Arts is used primarily as a place to sell pianos (as well as teaching piano lessons) and I was able to rent that floor space for an evening. There was something very comfortable and intimate about having the recital there, and there's a good chance I'll use that venue again in the future.

I'm not sure if there's a short way to summarize the success of the show, but one thing is certain: the students are showing how far they can push their limits, and how far they can reach for their potential. That being said, I learned a host of other eye-opening concepts which, incidentally, came into light after spending several months teaching one of my adults students...

If you can play at Grade x, then you can work up to Grade x+1

I hope people will pardon the math-like expression above, but I wanted to make a point about the importance of realizing an individual's potential. All too often I hear people make comments like this: "I could never play like that", or "I'm just not cut out for music". I've also noticed that people who make these comments are often the same people who have never taken a lesson in their lives. And my immediate reaction is usually, "How do you know?" or, simply, "I seriously doubt it," meaning that I sincerely believe that most people do have the potential to play an instrument extremely well. But it doesn't happen magically, and to play difficult piece (like Rachmaninoff's prelude that was performed at the recital) one needs to spend years, yes years, training on a daily basis, practicing, putting in the hard work and effort, and persevering when it gets frustrating and/or really challenging, which it sometimes does.

I have argued for it before and I'll argue for it again: the success of playing an instrument skillfully stems from hard work and effort, not from some accident at birth that makes you "gifted". The myth that you "either have it or you don't" is one that I hear repeatedly and will continue trying to dispel. There actually isn't any such thing as a "music gene", although there are some genes that might make you a slightly better musician (e.g., your genes determine whether you have slender fingers, which may make you a tiny bit more apt to play a violin more skillfully). But this is a miniscule factor in determining whether you'll be a good musician. After all, there are plenty of good violinists (including famous ones) that have really fat fingers.

As far as the math expression goes, it comes from a system used by the ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) where they categorize piano pieces into different "grades" of difficulty. "Grade 1" is assigned to songs that are the easiest to play, whereas "Grade 8" is reserved for those that are among the hardest. There are also pieces that fall in categories beyond Grade 8, termed "Associate" and "Licentiate" levels. The Licentiate level is considered the highest difficulty, and if you can play at this level you're basically a virtuoso, with an ability to play some of the world's most challenging pieces. The beauty of understanding this system is the realization that, given enough time and hard work, almost anyone could, eventually, advance to at least a Grade 8. Again, the ability to play at this level is not reserved for those who are just "gifted". Instead, it is attained by mastering Grades 1 through 7, one at a time, by putting in the hours, training, and receiving proper instruction from a good teacher.

Having said this, I should reiterate that mastering any musical instrument is never easy. It's meant to be challenging, which is also why it can be fun, inspiring and rewarding when it comes to achieving certain milestones. The formula describes the process beautifully because it's incremental; students will remain at "Grade x" if they don't practice. In order to advance from there, they need to acquire certain skills, (which they could learn in a matter of months, or sometimes over a year). The development of these new skills will result in Grade x+1, which  means, for example, that a student can move from a Grade 4 to a Grade 5. Repeat this process a few times and it's only a matter of time and effort before a student finally gets to a Grade 8, or even higher.

People tend to think that musicians playing at a Grade 8 level are somehow "magical" with their abilities, that they are endowed with some mystical gift that allows them to have this ability. Yes, some students learn faster than others, and some are more motivated (and therefore practice more) but, at the end of the day, it really amounts to how much you practice on a daily basis. It also helps to have a decent teacher to make sure you're being steered in the right direction.

There are, of course, a few exceptions, but they are rare. You could consider students with learning disabilities, for example, who might not grasp the concepts as quickly when learning an instrument. But I hardly ever see this. I've had students with ADD (as well as ADHD, or maybe both), although getting them to play the piano successfully seems more a matter of just getting them to sit still and focus, rather than it being any issue with physical coordination. I've had a couple of students with Asperger's syndrome as well, but it seem that in both of these cases it only sharpened their ability.

Revamping the Curriculum

I decided to pay more attention to this difficulty-rating system after talking to one of my adult students, and as a result I spent one of my weekends redesigning the curriculum I use in my instruction. I don't know if I should be embarrassed to admit it, but this was one of the most fun projects I've ever tackled. I think a part of it is that it gives me an excuse to learn a whole bunch of new pieces, since I have to teach a fair amount of songs from each grade.

I guess that means I'll have to practice the piano even more now. Darn. ;)

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Fall Concerts and December Recital

Opening for a Jazz Quintet

I performed at a small, very friendly café in Chico a few weeks ago, called Tender Loving Coffee, where I played nine songs before Joe Mazzaferro and his Sacramento-based jazz band performed right after. My first goal, which I started thinking about weeks before the show, was to get through all nine songs without "stumbling" or letting my nerves get to me. I say this mainly because this was a ticketed event, a sit-down-and-face-the-performer kind of show, and not just background music. I knew this the moment Joshua Hegg booked the gig, so I had already made a mental note of this.

The show seemed to be a hit with the people at the café, both with me as well as the incredibly talented jazz band that played after. Oddly enough, much of my own success at this particular show is owed to a YouTube video I watched the day before the performance, which offered tips on how to avoid being nervous when there's a huddle of on-lookers staring at your hands in plain sight, without the comfort and security of darkness (which you have when you're in a big concert hall). One of the tips included something I hadn't thought of before: you should actually expect mistakes, instead of expecting perfection. You should then over-prepare like crazy, and get the songs into your muscle memory as much as you can. This way, if you do happen to make a mistake, you shrug it off like it's no big deal and you keep playing. When you approach it this way, most people won't even notice (especially when you're playin your own work). This expectation of imperfection helps to keep the performer calm if any mishap does occur, whereas someone who expects perfection can get frazzled or frustrated after even a tiny mistake. So, as it turned out, I made very, very few--if any--mistakes at all. It's all about the little things, I guess (and thank god for YouTube!)

My encouragement to anyone to see Joe Mazzaferro, by the way, is in no way just a "polite gesture" that I'm merely dropping out of some formality that comes with being a musician. It's a genuine recommendation--they were fantastic, and exceeded my expectations by far. The musicians were skilled, confident, versatile and incredibly good. All five of them (a trumpeter, a sax player, a keyboard player, a drummer and an upright bass player) performed solos regularly. Even though I had the option of heading home after my performance, I stayed to the very end because of how

impressed I was with this band.

Chico Interfaith Council's Camp Fire Memorial

The Chico Interfaith Council is run by community members who are adherents to the Baha'i Faith (a religion that, as many know, I used to be a part of). The short version of that story, of course, is that I am no longer religious and haven't been for a long time. The Baha'is already know this, but they regularly borrow me because they know I don't mind performing at their services. There were a lot of win-wins at this one because I got to perform with Caleb Hermle, the cellist who has worked with me on several other occasions. We played Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and Pachabel's "Canon in D" at the Chico City Plaza, on the one-year anniversary of the Camp Fire. The Baha'is organized several other performances/activities (a choir, a moment of silence, and a release of birds into the air).

I think this ended up being really therapeutic for the people who came, even though it seemed uncomfortable at times (the sun was right in our faces, and we were sweating, complete with long sleeves in the hot sun--and yes, it was warm, in November). I feel like we pulled through beautifully though--bright sun or not, when you're a professional, you're a professional.

"Oh, I'll be Fine--It's Still a Month Away!"

The above quote is a common saying I hear from some students, and it's just as frightening as it looks... in fact, with some of the really young ones (6-ish years old) they don't even realize that a month is only four weeks. I had to remind quite a few of these procrastinators that a month was not a long time, because they were slacking on their practice and under a dangerous misapprehension that they had "all the time in the world" before the recital, because they had a "whole month" to go. Luckily, I've been able to instill enough urgency in them that they're finally putting in the time to get ready.

In any case, the next student recital will be at Apollo Music & Arts (pictured) on December 6th, 2019, at 6:30pm, and will feature about 15 performers. I'm especially excited about the six intermediate/advanced players, who will be showing off their mad skills with exceptionally difficult pieces (Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C sharp being one of them).

The First 2020 Show (So Far)

Unless I book another performance before February 22nd, the first show of that year will be at Wine Time. I've played there quite a few times and one of the tings I love about that venue is the perfect acoustics. Unless it gets exceptionally chatty in the restaurant (which can happen if the patrons end up having enough wine :P ) I usually don't even need my PA speaker.

If I really wanted to (and had the time) I could approach this from a more philosophical angle, and ask the question, "Why should I do all these live performances in the first place?" But for the sake of being concise, and getting to the point, my aim for now is really just to get used to it. I spend most of my time teaching, which is something that many musicians do because it's a relatively easy way (and a more immediate way) to make a living. The gigs, for me, are designed to help prepare my for a more daring venue, which includes the idea of possibly going on a tour.

The interesting part about this is that I really don't have much of an idea as to whether I would enjoy touring, because -- like any other similar situation -- I've never actually done it. I imagine I would enjoy it because of the experiences of traveling to multiple places, many of which I will never have visited before, but I know there are also certain pitfalls that go with it. So, to sum this up, let's just say that the only way to find out is to actually do it :D

So, the more gigs the merrier. Aside from the heavy lifting, I have to say that I really do enjoy it so far.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Updates on 'The Lost Enemy'

Published and ready to ship!

The creative writing project that I worked on for many years, The Lost Enemy, has come to fruition and it's been a wonderful learning experience. This originally started as a collection of poems, which was supposed to accompany one of my piano CD's, but I added a lot more to it and the project eventually blossomed into a novel-length story. I then converted these poems into prose, which left me with a book that not only contained a 180-page story but also a very unusual and a rather archaic style of writing.

A few people have asked me, just out of curiosity, why I decided to finalize this story now, and why I decided to publish it. The events leading up the time when I finally started "cracking down" on the project are rather amusing, considering I was somewhat careless when it comes to displaying this product on my website...

"Wait! It's not ready!"

A few months ago I finally finished writing most of The Lost Enemy, and I already knew what order the chapters were in and how the events were to be portrayed in the novel. The only "snag" was that the story wasn't quite polished, and there were multiple changes that needed to be made with regard to the content.

As an example (and don't worry, there are no spoilers here!) there is a character in the story who becomes pregnant. In the original draft it didn't take long before this character became aware of her own pregnancy. The problem was that I absolutely had to make the story unfold so that she doesn't discover this news until very much later (this was due to a "hiccup" in the series of events, which was brought to my attention by one of my colleagues).

The point here is that The Lost Enemy was neatly displayed on my website, being advertised as a "completed" novel, a book that was for sale and ready to be purchased. Most people had no idea that I had even written anything, since the primary function of my business is music and not creative writing. So I didn't worry about this too much, and I figured that if anyone purchased the product I could just "fix it up real quick" and ship it off to the person who bought it.

Well, lo and behold, a random woman that I met at a concert one day stumbled on my website and decided to buy the book. I noticed this a few days after she made the purchase, and--as anyone can imagine--my first thought was, Well, I guess I better finish polishing this up.

So that is how I ended up finalizing the story. I guess the "funny" part is that the process of fixing it up took several weeks, with many all-nighters that involved hours of me sitting at the computer and changing/improving the story.

The woman who ordered that first book finally got her copy (along with a free CD, as a "thank you" for patiently waiting while I scrambled to finish the project). And, to my excitement, I've sold fifteen additional copies after that!

Kudos to a wonderful printing company

I feel somewhat fortunate that we live in an age now where people can self-publish pretty much anything. You can now self-publish a book, an album, a film, or just about any other form of media. So I self-published The Lost Enemy using a company called 48 Hour Books (you can check out their website here) and they were fantastic. I was so impressed with how professional the final product was when I received my first shipment. So, as far as I'm concerned, if you want to get a book printed--that's where you need to go! Just a heads-up, if you've never published your own book before: ISBN numbers are not cheap.

The "Second Edition"

There's an interesting phenomenon that takes place during the editing/revision process, when it comes to writing and publishing a book. This was another learning experience. When you spend too much time on a creative project, you stop noticing mistakes. This is a classic case of "you can't see the forest for the trees" concept, if you'll forgive the cliché expression. I spent so much time reading and re-reading this novel that there were several (four, to be exact) glaringly obvious typos that I always failed to notice, regardless of how many times I read it. I would like to have hired an editor to iron out this common problem, but this would mean more money out of my pocket.

This resulted in the first batch of books being printed with four typos that bugged me to no end, along with some formatting issues that I realized needed to be changed. So after selling a bunch of copies with the errors in them, I ordered a second set with the improved version. This "second edition" also has 35 chapters instead of 34. The additional chapter resulted in my decision to split one of the chapters in two, because I felt it was too long.

A second book? This remains to be seen...

I was delighted to sell even a small handful of copies, primarily because this was an experiment and a hobby that didn't involve the stress of pursuing it as a "career", and there was no pressure to meet any kind of deadline. I've been asked a couple of times if there will be a second book, and this all depends on whether there will be more sales, and whether I start hearing demands for one. Either way, one thing I will admit is that The Lost Enemy is a deeply personal book that I've worked on for a long time, and now it's rather surreal to not have a creative writing project to work on (other than these fun blog posts).

Completing this project was definitely one of the most satisfying and therapeutic things I've done, and when I'm asked if it was worth the time and effort, it's an easy yes. There are few things in life that are as euphoric as being immersed in such a colossal project with no restrictions, no rules, no time limit and all while being fully aware of the endless options I had at my disposal. And as for the question of whether I end up writing a second book--well, I wouldn't be surprised ;)

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Summer Sounds: Amazing Kids, More Shows, and a Novel

Composition Recital at St. John's

First thing's first, I guess: Wow! (Is that verbose enough to describe something that really amazed me?) I attended, and performed in, a composition recital that featured both kids and adults. The recital was held at St. John's Episcopal Church in Chico, which has a very well-maintained piano and pretty awesome acoustics. I knew I was going to enjoy these kinds of performances because I love discovering what kinds of techniques, styles and patterns other piano composers use when they write music. I had the privilege of hearing these students play their original work, which included compositions that featured multiple instruments. Writing for more than one instrument takes an enormous amount of know-how and creativity, and kids as young as twelve were able to pull this off.

Okay, so now that I'm inspired... moving on!

Composition Recital at St. John's Episcopal Church

Got a House?

The idea of doing house concerts originated way before the composition recital, so the performances by the budding composers didn't actually give rise to this idea. It did, however, motivate me to look into this more closely. No dates have been set yet, but I've spoken to one person who may be interested in hosting a house concert over the summer. House concerts are exactly that -- a solo concert (in this case, a piano concert) in someone's home. I'm shooting for June, but the time frame remains to be seen and I'm hoping to have a narrower time frame in the next week or so.

There are really nice things about house concerts, including the fact that it's a more intimate setting -- and the fact that it's easier to hurl tomatoes at me if I don't play well ;) Okay, so I'm kidding about that last part.

The Lost Enemy -- off the shelf and on my desk!

My novel The Lost Enemy has been an on-going project for so many years now that it's difficult to pinpoint exactly how long I've been refining it. It has gone through many revisions, and up until last month it sat on the shelf (so to speak) for quite some time. I decided to get back into it one last time and finalize the entire project. It's hard to say when it will be ready to publish, but I'm definitely hoping by August. I've already looked at companies that are able to bind and print the novel, what their rates are, and what they offer.

As far as the last revisions and the final edit, the events in the story haven't changed since the last major modification in which I added an entire chapter to the book. The format, however, has changed slightly. Originally, each chapter was represented by one of my songs, and instead of calling these "chapters" they are now headings in the text, and each chapter may contain two or three headings. This works out better organizationally (Is that a word? Sure it is!) and it just seems to make more sense with regard to how the events are divided up in the story.

Another idea I have is to eventually provide the CD's of the music in the back cover of the book itself. Either way, one thing is for certain: the revision process can be tedious. Somehow I still find it thrilling and I grow more and more anxious as it gets close to completion.

I have a feeling, for some reason, that this summer is going to be exceptionally productive. Time will definitely tell, as it always does.