Thursday, December 12, 2019

Piano this Weekend - Yes

Greetings, all.

I'll be at the Portland City Grill Yamaha grand tomorrow and Saturday, Dec, 13 & 14, for the early Happy Hour (5-8 p.m.).

Yes, there will be Christmas favorites along with our regular musical fare.  Come on up and help make the season bright.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Our first summer surprise: Blues Pianist Eric Adcock graces the Portland City Grill

I am amazed at how quickly the months fly by. It's summer! Time for some fun...

We all had a delightful surprise last night at the Portland City Grill.  Eric Adcock, New Orleans Blues pianist extraordinaire, is in town performing with Roddie Romero & the Hub City All-Stars in the Portland Blues Festival (in fact, they play today at 4:10 and 8:20 p.m.)  Eric and his wonderful wife, Jennifer, stopped by to enjoy the PCG atmosphere and view last night.  I knew exactly how to handle that situation: put him to work on our Yamaha Grand.  Thanks, Eric, for sitting in for a couple tunes. The music was sublime.  Let's do it again some time soon (maybe tomorrow night, if you're still in town). Have fun at the Festival, and have fun visiting to our fair city. Maybe we can make it down to New Orleans and see you there.

If you are in the neighborhood, I'll be playing Sunday at the PCG from 5-8 p.m.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

CTK Choir performs tonight - Grotto Christmas Festival of Lights

The Grotto Christmas Festival of Lights was established in 1988. Over the years, it has grown into one of Portland's major seasonal attractions, presenting the sights, sounds, and sensations of the Christmas season.  It is also the largest Christmas choral festival in the world with nearly 160 indoor holiday concerts performed by our region's finest school, church, and civic choirs.

The Grotto in Portland has a beautiful history that is entwined with the Servites, the Order of Servants of Mary.  It was about 17 years ago that a Servite priest, Fr. Gus Kulbis, hired me to be music director for Christ the King Parish.  We made a good team: Father Gus and Maestro Gus.  Sadly, Fr. Gus died about a year ago, but he left many happy memories with all those fortunate to have known him.

I, Maestro Gus, will be directing our Christ the King Choir tonight at 6 p.m.  Our choir is one of a small handful of choirs (maybe just two or three) that have performed at each and every festival since it was established 28 years ago.  If you are in the neighborhood, come on over and continue the Christmas celebration with us.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer Thoughts - continued

While I'm reminiscing over my musical journey, I want to take time to thank another inspiration figure in my college experience, Mike Hanes, the long-time musical director of the SIU's Summer Music Theater program, member of the School of Music faculty, and fearless leader of the infamous Marching Salukis.    Now retired, Mike was truly an energetic educator in all the years that I knew him.  For many years, he directed many of the musical productions for SIU.  There were many Jr. and Sr. high school summers days which found me in the back of McLoed Theater observing rehearsals and performances, soaking in the magic that is music for the theater. In those days, the McLoed Summer Playhouse program would produce up to four Broadway musicals in two months! Every weekend there would be a musical or Broadway play. It was great for me.  I already loved the Broadway repertoire, and now I was able to watch each show come together, piece by piece: music, actors, sets, lights, everything.  I also was able to watch performances and see the reaction of the audience to each of the elements of the shows.  What a great opportunity for me.  As a high school junior, I was hired to play piano for SIU's production of Oh, What a Lovely War in that same McLoed Theater.  I already felt quite at home as part of the production in that space.  Many more shows would see me in the orchestra pit or on stage as part of the action.

As an undergrad student, my first year days were spread all over SIU's beautiful campus.  I was a science and math major my first two years (in fact my Bachelors degree is in cellular biology).  I would crisscross campus with my chemistry, physics, biology, and calculus books.  At the same time, I was also selected to play piano for the SIU Women's Gymnastic Team by coached Herb Vogel.  Their practices took place in the SIU Arena.  I could often hear the Marching Salukis practicing outside the Arena readying music and marching routines for the upcoming football games. Somehow, I was encouraged to join the band as their marching grand piano player (picture a small, hollowed-out grand piano with an electric keyboard inside and mounted on wheels).  I'm not sure if this was the first year of the marching band grand, but it could have been.  It was a blast. The Marching Salukis were a lively and sometimes mildly wild group of fun-loving musicians.  Their musical director and musical performance guru: Mike Hanes.

By my very good fortune, Mike Hanes was assigned as chairman of my Masters committee in the School of Music.  He mentored my graduate level studies as I studied music for the theater and Gershwin's use of the Jazz idiom in Porgy and Bess.  It was Mike who encouraged me to take up the directing baton and strengthen my skills as a conductor and, consequently, as a composer and arranger.  One of my master's projects was to musical direct SIU's production of Frank Loesser's Hans Christian Anderson. The many skills that Mike helped me develop in my musical repertoire all came together. I didn't know then that in just a year's time I would be using all of those many directing and performance skills in Los Angeles.  I remain very thankful to have had the chance to work with the very talented and inspiring Mike Hanes as part of my career preparation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Few Thoughts for the End of Summer

Summer break is ending, but, happily, the music continues.  I play at the Portland City Grill tonight and Friday.  It is always a pleasure.

It is amazing that this week marks the 31st anniversary of my leaving Illinois for Los Angeles.  I had just finished my Masters degree in music for the theater, and I thought perhaps I would be heading to New York and Broadway.  That was not to be.  I really didn't know anyone in NYC, but I was so fortunate to have two friends who encouraged me to redirect my trip to L.A.  Both had made the same choice in their musical careers: Darryl Phinnessee, an incredible vocalist and composer, a long-time touring vocalist with Michael Jackson, and an SIU classmate of mine; and Alan Oldfield, a truly inspiring pianist, composer, session musician, and (fortunately for me) a former SIU educator extraordinaire who helped me find my bearings in a new environment, music.  Both Darryl and Alan were very positive and successful in their work, and they also were very kind and generous with their time and advice for me.  I am still very thankful to them for their encouragement and inspiration.

Now I find myself in Portland, which is a beautiful city and also a great music performance town.  I continue to be inspired by the talent around me.  It helps be continue to strive to improve as a pianist, composer, and musical director.  Carbondale to Los Angeles to Portland; so far, so good.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer Has Arrived

It has taken about ten days for me to adjust to the idea that summer break is here. Now I can go to play in public in a little better rested condition. What a luxury!  This last Sunday was a long day of music, but I had the pleasure of playing with a wonderful jazz band for a dinner/dance fundraiser. It was great to fill in for John Bennett and to play with Wayne Travillion and Dave Duthie again, along with Dave Evans on reeds, Brent Martens on guitar, and Sam Foulger on drums. Great band, great music.

I just received the video of our MelloMac Spring Concert.  This was our Gershwin Show, and it features Kit Taylor on piano, Dave Duthie on bass, and Ron Leach on drums.  Find it on youtube at and enjoy!  You will easily see that George Gershwin is one of my favorites.

See you at the Portland City Grill on Fridays at 5 p.m.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year to all!

It looks like we are sold out at Gracie's tonight, but the musical celebration will continue into the weekend.  I will be at the Portland City Grill a little later this week (6 pm to 9 pm) to ring in the New Year.  Also check my calendar for Wednesdays in January and February at the PCG.

I hope 2015 is a great year for all of us.  Happy New Year!