Category Archives: piano music

The Story of Ralph. Piano Music: Thirst Quencher For Your Soul – Part 2

Thanks for your patience if you had to wait a day for this sequel;

Piano Music Fan: The Story of Ralph.

If you’re reading this for the first time, you might want to go check out yesterday’s blog post. Either way … we continue …

Ralph was watching me perform on stage in front of 400+ people at a company event. He knew what I charged the company for this entertainment for their event. Ralph was in finance. He thought it was way too much for one guy to make in 3 hours onstage what he made in a week. He was like, seriously? What’s the point?

But there was something in the way the piano music was so … uplifting. It became the center of the room and all the activity within. He couldn’t not tap his foot because of the infectious groove. How could all that music come from one instrument? There were no drums. There was just this guy on the piano with a microphone. Okay the stage looked really good. And it was perfectly placed in the room so that everyone had access to him and could talk to him. But, seriously. One piano and one microphone?

But the way he invited people to make requests and to sing along was smooth and inviting. Ralph didn’t remember the words to the songs but he knew the songs he was playing. Ralph found it really easy to sing along and even tho he had a very good memory, he couldn’t remember all the words.

Almost without noticing Ralph found himself getting closer to the stage. He was singing for the first time in years. Not since his days in high school choir had he felt this good. He was singing even though he wasn’t much of a singer. It was an enjoyable part of his life he had let slip away when he started working in accounting right after graduation form high school.

His happiness spread to his face. He was laughing for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. He started remembering songs he hadn’t thought of in years. And when he asked the piano player about them, he was surprised to learn he knew most of them. When the piano entertainer started playing his favorite songs, he noticed other people knew them and liked them too. Especially this one woman who was across from Ralph on the other side of the piano.

When I play piano at a company event or a fund raiser people ask me all the time, “Don’t you get tired of playing the same old songs all the time?”

I tell them, “No. Not as long as everyone is getting into them.”

If I have the chance, I usually go on to say, “I look in everyone’s eyes to see that sparkle of joy and contentment.”

Privately, I look for that moment when you have forgotten the weight of your world and you let go of the mundane and let the music take over.”

holiday party ideas, company events, piano music, entertainment for events,

Great Entertainment for Events

I saw that look in Ralph’s eyes on that frosty cold night in February. It took hold before he started moving away from the edge of the convention center wall. I saw music soar through his soul as he came closer to the piano. I saw him relax and forget his old, shy, social habits as he stood shoulder to shoulder with everyone else singing along at the piano.

I saw that timeless sparkle in his eyes when he saw her across the room. So I looked for her. There she was to my left, a simply beautiful brunette in the dazzling necklace. Wow!

She was also looking at Ralph but in a whole new way. He was barely recognizable from his daily personae. ‘Janet’ wasn’t even sure it was Ralph from down the hall from her cubicle in marketing. His tie was loosened. His hair was messy (as usual) but it looked a whole lot cooler when he was dancing. Was this really Ralph?

Without thinking Ralph crossed to the other side of the piano and said something to her that made her laugh. There was that twinkle in their eyes again. Only this time it had grown roots.

They never left each others’ side the rest of the night.

By the end of the night he was standing next to ‘Janet in Marketing’, arm in arm with her and his other co-workers whom he had never talked to very much before.

His cheeks hurt from something he didn’t normally do at a company event or from anything he did much at work – smile that is.

I was asked back to perform the next year. This time we brought a dueling pianos show into the festivities. ‘Twice the Fun’ as we like to say.

Janet and Ralph were still together. They didn’t get married. They were dating tho. He wasn’t sure he wanted to get married or have kids. He was in his 30s now and, honestly, he wasn’t sure how to be a Dad having never received much parenting when he was a kid.

But Janet has two kids from another marriage whom he loves dearly. And they love seeing their Mom be so happy with Ralph. He was a really nice guy. Not loud like most men. Just really quiet – and happy.

Would you like to create memories that last a lifetime with live music entertainment at your next event? Then give me a call at 1 773-527-7417 and I will supply piano music fun that brings everyone together with interactive music and comedy. Seriously!

P.S. Ralph was now the head of the accounting department. This year he eagerly approved the expenditure.

You Call It Piano Music Entertainment. Your Soul Calls It Thirst Quencher

You Call It Piano Music Entertainment
Your Soul Calls It Thirst Quencher

It was one of those gigs where I was so happy I took piano lessons as a kid, I had stuck with it as and adult and, most importantly, remained a professional so that I could witness what I am about to tell you.

No one thinks they really need live music. Most importantly the ‘Bean Counters’ who sit around in their office and don’t realize that music truly is the universal language that we all understand.

That’s okay. We all have a job to do.

My job today is to let you know how important
live music and comedy can be for your soul.

It’s like Gatorade after a 60 minute workout. It’s like scratching an itch in a hard to reach place. It’s like a hug and a kiss from a loved one who has returned from a long trip.
Here’s the story …

piano music entertainment

Sing Like No One Can Hear You

This guy was your typical office worker who didn’t have anything else going on his life except to be an office worker. He was kinda grumpy. He had no sense of humor. He had no friends. So he was the guy that made everyone feel a little uncomfortable.

He wore the weird shirt that didn’t appear to coordinate with his tie – or anything else that he wore for that matter. And his hair was always a little bit messy. He didn’t talk much because, well, he liked to be quiet.

Let’s call him ‘Ralph’.

What nobody knew about ‘Ralph’ was he had watched his Mom die of cancer when he was 10 back in 1969. As you can imagine it was horrible.

She was a single Mom. He was an only child. They were not members of a church so there was no support network of any kind. After she died he went to live with an aunt he had never met, in a state he had never been to, with an ‘uncle’ who wasn’t married to his aunt. They had no other kids either. His aunt was nice enough and all. But let’s just say ‘nurturing’ was not a concept she knew much about.

School was also a little rough for Ralph in this small rural town of about 4000 people. They were nice and everything. But having come from a large city school, he felt lost and way behind the other kids.

He wasn’t very coordinated or even remotely interested in sports. He just didn’t get the importance of all that running around and throwing balls and stuff. No one had ever showed him how and he didn’t have any allegiance to one team or another. So, seriously. Like, what’s the point?

The thing about his new school tho, was they had a choir as part of their curriculum. He had no idea how it would change his life.

Choir allowed Ralph to be around other people – especially girls. It allowed him to comfortably shift into his changing voice as puberty set in. It allowed him to express his emotions which ran so deep and so pensive at such a vulnerable and tenuous time of his life.

He stayed with choir all through middle school and high school. He didn’t excel at singing. He was never a featured soloist or anything. He just really enjoyed it for reasons that a growing young man could simply not explain.

But that’s where it ended. College was not in the picture for Ralph. He went to work and learned finance. He was actually pretty good at analysis. He eventually learned accounting with a small local firm that had hired him right out of high school.

In 89 that small local firm was bought out by a much larger one which then grew into a multi-billion dollar corporation through the 90s. He was a good and consistent employee. He was promoted regularly but never to management. He got transferred back to his hometown city in 98 where he just slipped easily into the anonymity of the hustle and bustle. He lives there to this day.

He never married. He never joined a church or a community choir. He doesn’t do much of anything in the way of outside activities. He likes going to the movies. But he feels too shy to search for anything. No one ever gave him permission.

Until one night in February his company event consisted of a large Holiday Party featuring piano music entertainment.

‘Ralph’ was sitting alone, kind of in the background. I don’t think he was eating much off the buffet. I didn’t notice his beverage of choice. But I did notice he was alone.

When I perform I never call anyone out. I never embarrass anyone. What I use is a technique I call “A Saucer of Milk”. It’s like when you want to call a cat over. You don’t yell or command. You just lay out a saucer of milk. If you want what we have to offer, (and your soul knows you do), then you’ll be over in time.

This story is getting a little long. So I am going to finish this tomorrow.

In the meantime, thanks for listening and let me know when you want to have great live music and comedy in the form of piano music entertainment and interactive, sing along fun that brings people together and creates life long memories for everyone in attendance.

One of The Worst Days in Chicago History

We are tremendously loyal to our big name stars who have spent any amount of time in Chicago. We are frequently claiming credit for the accolades that anyone brings to our grand city. The warmth of your accomplishments leaves us magnificently glistening beneath the snowy stars.

On Tuesday, March 24, 2015, three major internationally recognized stars hit the pavement hard. And we watched with gleeful anticipation.

D Rose Chicago Bulls, Chicago sports star, Chicago Icon,

Derrick Rose – MVP

First we lost D Rose. Former MVP of the NBA out with another knee injury, his third requiring surgery and major rehabilitation in 3 years. Yes, Derrick Rose, a truly homegrown product who has accomplished much in his short and talented life. Down for the count again. Will he return? Possibly. But will he ever be an MVP again? Hard to say.

Some say “No way!”

 

Will he ever lead the Bulls to an NBA Championship? Time will tell. I wouldn’t count him out.

 We love our heroes when they win. We adore them when they repeat.

Next, (yes, all on the same day) we lost ‘Kaner’ aka Patrick Kane leading scorer in the NHL on this day. Yes he has the repeat bug 2-Time Stanley Cup winner and the reigning champion of the All Star Game Skills Competition. Gone for 6-10 weeks with what appears to be a broken collarbone.

Taken out on a cheap hit by some guy know one pays to go and see no matter where he is playing. Kane is from Buffalo NY but he is ours now baby! It is safe to say we don’t win either of those Cups without him. I mean, just look at this guy … Will he be back in time for the playoffs?

Third (and not so lastly) Rahm Emmanuel reigning champion of Chicago politics. Former Chief of Staff of our Commander In Chief and Chicago home owner Barack Obama. Currently our sitting Mayor of only one term. His predecessor, Richie M Daley holds the record for 6 terms, which he wrested from the the previous record of 5 terms held by his Dear Ole Dad Richard Sr.

Yet poor old Rahm may not make it to repeat with even a 2nd term. Why? Because he did not hold a majority in the election held on Tuesday and now faces a run off in 6 weeks against some guy named ‘Chuy’.

Who?

Yes Chuy ran as kind of an afterthought and has basically no clue what to do with our huge budgetary shortfalls and monstrous chasms of quality jobs if actually elected.

So instead Chuy just stands there on the podium and smiles like he just got elected Prom King along with the virgin cheerleader that never talks to him in the high school hallways.

These three stories are in no way to be dismissed lightly when Chicago history books get re-written. And yet these three separate but significant events will be talked about and examined by pundits, talking heads and prognosticators until the first tulip blooms this spring.

These next 6-8 weeks before the run-off election and before the playoffs will be a boon for comedy writers and bloggers spanning this City of Big Shoulders. From Lakeview to Austin. From Evanston to Hyde Park. Yes we will capitalize on the heart ache and misfortunes of others’. Even though they are our superheros.

But we will do it with love and good humor. After all it is February and it is Chicago and there is a new layer of snow falling to the ground as I write this.

Chicago Sports

Chicago Institutions

So we’ve got to do something to pass the time. Because even though pitchers and catchers reported to spring training last week, from where we stand we are still light years away from a walk down by the lake to cool off from a humid summer day that we spent in the bleachers that have been completely rebuilt during the reconstruction of Wrigley Field that seemed to have never ended.

So here’s to our stars, home grown and otherwise. The winners and the not so winners. The runner ups and the contestants. We love you all for gracing us with your presence so that we may temporarily bask in your warm glow, if only for a moment, to say “C’mon! You can do it again!”

Can You Really Effectively Do Fundraising For Your Church With Just A Piano Player?

It’s always interesting when I get a call to do some fundraising for your church or school from someone who wants me to play piano music at their charity event. But they think the piano can only be relegated to background music.

It’s true we can offer some beautiful ambiance.

But there is so much more to what I bring to the table. What I offer for your fund raiser entertainment is to bring people together. But if I am also going to be the background piano player first, then I need to bring them in differently than if I am your headliner entertainment.

That’s exactly what I was able to do here for this church fund raiser. Check this out …

fundraising, fundraising for your church, charity event entertainment, fund raiser, fund raiser entertainment, fundraising for your school, fundraising for your  synagogue, fundraising for your  charity,

Thank YOU!!!

You’re Welcome! 

It’s always a pleasure to help raise funds for churches and schools. I never get tired of it.

We have a wonderful community here in Chicago. A real mixture of people and cultures and needs. St Nicolai has been around for 125 years now. Think about what that means. All the different changes this community has seen over the decades. From working class families to immigrants to 2nd, 3rd and now 4th generations of people living and working ad dying in the City of Chicago.

I’ve been living and working in Chicago as a musician since 1981. I grew up in the suburbs. I came down here to U of I as it was called back then. Now our kids have grown up here and call these neighbors their friends too.

I’ve known Dave Antieau for a long time. He’s been the pastor at St. Nicolai’s for several years now. He started off as one of my piano students back when I was teaching full time.

His wife is a wonderful woman who is just as active in the community as David is. They’ve seen me perform live music at a mutual friend’s wedding. It’s all the same thing for us.

Bring people together with the power of music and
create great memories. Let us do the same for you and your fundraising efforts.

Call now 773-527-7417 

charity event entertainment, fund raiser, fund raiser entertainment,

sacred power in live music charity event entertainment, fund raiser, fund raiser entertainment,

 

Great Party Ideas That Create Lifelong Memories – The Cure for Presidents Day

So I have finally found one of the most perfect party ideas AND it will cure your next President’s Day.

Throw a party. Yes. That would be throw a party during Presidents Day and bring in a piano player and a award winning chef and see where that would lead.

I have many items on my bucket list. I frequently get new party ideas along with all my new song ideas and lyric ideas. But I don’t think I ever came up with throwing an afternoon party on Presidents Day. 

entertainment for events, party ideas, birthday parties, private party,

No Need To Wait Until Next Year for Great Party Ideas

Well it happened for me yesterday. And what a success! Not a lot of people. Only about 10, maybe 12 folks. A few of their kids showed up. We ate great food, we sang some great songs, we sat down with friends and made great memories. You can too.

Plus, and here’s the good part, you don’t have to wait until next year’s Presidents Day. Start thinking about your outdoor BBQs and your graduation party ideas and your anniversary party ideas. We can make this another fantastic event filled and life long lasting memory creating event that will last a lifetime.

Call me to see what kind of ideas I can come up with for you and your memory tank.

Tea Drinkers Don’t Suck

They just sip. And that’s why I don’t like tea.

I’m going to say something here that’s going to piss a lot of people off. I don’t care. It needs to be said. 

comedy, entertainment for events, piano music, comedy music,

Tea Drinkers Don’t Suck

If I’m going to have something to drink – I want to drink it. You can’t drink tea. You have to sip it. And that’s what infuriates me.

You can’t drink tea. It takes forever. I wish it didn’t.

I have things to do. I have people to be. I don’t want to waste my time sipping tea. Give me something to drink. There I’ve said it. I like to swallow.

You have to wait for it to cool down to sip it or you’ll burn the crap out of the roof of your mouth. Who wants a burned mouth? Not “It”.

It’s fine for my wife. She likes tea. No I take that back.

She loves tea. She drinks it all day long and she says it makes life simple and more enjoyable. She says tea lets you think about things before you react to them.

So since she knows so much more about so many more things than I do, I decided to join her at the tea store on one of our dates. Chicago has some great tea stores. There’s this one over on Broadway in Chicago. You can buy tea in bulk and it smells really good in there too.

But when we get home and she makes the tea, it tastes funky. Not like anything “good” funky. I tried to like it but I couldn’t.

comedy, entertainment for events, piano music, comedy music,

Don’t Drink This

To me it tastes like dish water that has been soaking the skillet that you broiled that salmon in last night.

At best it resembles a baby diaper bin at a day care center for children that suffer from inferiority complexes.

Once I had a sip of my wife’s tea and I thought I was drinking hair dye that got poured into the Ganges River and strained through a gym sock that had been left in the bottom of my gym bag from last Thursday.

Who wants to drink that?

I don’t. Not me. Go look for crazy somewhere else. Please.

How Do You Spell 60th Birthday Party Ideas?

Everyone Loves A Good Celebration — Birthday Party Ideas 

party ideas, surprise parties, piano entertainment, piano music,

Celebrate Now!

Celebrations are to be remembered. With all that can happen in the course of life, the good fortune to be able to come together with friends and family to commemorate a milestone like a birthday or an anniversary is to be relished with a party. But what can I say? I’m a professional entertainer. So there’s that. 

With that said when I get invited to come to your event as a piano player, I am humbled to know that first of all, you value good music, and second of all that you have allowed me to be a part of an intimate family memory that will last a lifetime.

That is exactly what happened last year in the summer when George and Colleen invited me to their home to celebrate George’s 60th birthday party. A little back story first …

George is happy to be celebrating anything above ground. Especially a 60th birthday party. George had had a major heart attack a year earlier. Like as in MAJOR. The weird part is George is one of those health nuts. Apparently he is quite active riding his bike and taking long tours for fun. He’s been doing this for years. In fact, George looks like one those guys who is healthy. Fit, tall, muscualar and full of life and energy.

If you were to put George in a line of 20 other men his age, you would pick him last as a candidate for “The Big Grabber”. But you would have picked wrong.

At the fateful moment he was blessed to be around his family and his wife, who is a registered nurse and knew how to administer CPR, thus keeping him alive long enough to get him on the table and get his operation that allowed him to live.

Now jump ahead a year later and everyone is happy to celebrate a surprise 60th birthday party for him.

So as part of his surprise party his wife, Colleen, and his kids, now grown, prepared this party under the radar. The misdirect (every surprise party needs a misdirect – where you get the celebrant out of the house long enough to get everything prepared) was to take him on a “short” bike ride down around Chicago to the lakefront and back. Nothing too strenuous.

We were all assembled in the backyard when he came around back towards the garage on his bike when we yelled “SURPRISE!!!” to which George was startled so severely that he fell off his bike.

It was then that we immediately realized maybe this whole “SURPRISE!!!” thing might not be good for his health lest we wanted to inflict another hear attack on the unsuspecting birthday boy. 

BIRTHDAY PARTY, 60TH SURPRISE PARTY, PIANO MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT,

No … THANK YOU!

All was well though. Laughter and some memorable video footage will be enterted into the family archives for future laughs.

I was invited to be the piano player because George loves the Beatles and good music all around. Hence, the addendum at the end of the thank you note I received.

As you can see music reaches and heals all of us no matter where we are at. It helps during celebrations as well as times when Mother Nature rears her inevitable patterns.

So when considering party ideas, whether the good celebrations or the not so good, remember music will touch the soul of everyone who is there. It is an honor to not only play piano music for your birthday party ideas but also to be invited to your intimate family event. Thank you.

Dan – your performance not only touched & thrilled me,
it reached everyone’s soul who was there.
Love George”

How Do Piano Players Learn New Songs w/o Sheet Music?

I don’ know about the other piano player, but we rarely use piano sheet music when we’re playing piano for hire.

I used to use all kinds of Fake Books when I first started out. But not anymore. When I want to learn a new song, I have a bunch of other ways to get the song memorized and into my repertoire. Here are only a few of the methods: 

sheet music, piano music,

Need Sheet Music?

  1. Fake Books are otherwise known as lead sheets. They resemble piano sheet music except that don’t use a full staff. There’s no trebele and bass clefs. There’s only treble clef. Only a melody and lyrics are printed. There will be a chord chart over the treble clef. Those may be in the form of a symbol like a C7 or Cm7 or something like that. Sometimes it will be a chord grid showing the frets and the fingering. That would be more for guitarists not pinao sheet music.
    There used to be fake books when I was learning playing jazz piano gigs. They just had the melody and written out chord symbols.Not so much anymore. We tend to find almost anything we need on a variety of apps or on lyric sites online.
  2. Tabs are used for guitarists mostly. As a piano player I dont have much use for them tabs. Short for tabluture, again it’s like a grid showing which fret and which fingers go where.
  3. Apps are used in force these days. I love ’em. Not only does it allow me to look up songs on the fly when someone requests an obscure hit, I can also leave all my fake books at home. I used to carry a suitcase full of tunes with me to every gig. I would every fake book I thought I might need for that particular gig and inevitably, someone would ask for something I didn’t have in my collection that particular night.Now I use OnSong.com or I go to GuitarTabs.com and download their software. It usually costs $7-10 a year. But well worth it every time.
  4. Play By Ear most times. It’s faster and since most Pop songs are all the same basic 4 chords, the only thing to get is how they phrase their lyrics. The arrangements are all pretty musch the same magic trick. If its in a minor key it will resolve to the relative major. For example, if it’s E minor then the chorus will come around to G Major. Listen to Take Me To Church by Hozier. Listen to Blank Space the new hit by Taylor Swift.If the song is G Major, the turn around or the bridge is going to start on the E minor ….. and so on and so on.That’s pretty much it for how professional piano players learn new songs without using sheet music. Fake books are fading out. Apps are the most popular. But I still rely on my ears and my experience to get a new song ready for performance.

Hope this helped.

How Does A Piano Player Learn So Many New Songs?

Learning new songs is part and parcel of our daily existence as a piano player who plays live music regularly. The challenge is sifting through all the new music and finding what works and what doesn’t work.

In my opinion most of the Pop and Country music these days has become homogenized. For those of you that didn’t grow up in the 60s ‘homogenized’ is not a sexual connotation. It means that everything is made the same. Some might say made to the same standard of quality. But I think what has happened is that most of the popular songs have the same chord changes and a drought of tasty melodies. I know there are some great and talented songwriters out there. But by the time their tune gets to the producer and to the recording process, there are changes that get made to make the song palatable. Axis of Awesome did this comedy music bit that has become a perfect example of what I’m taking about  

That’s okay by me. I don’t mind. I just know, as a writer, there are so many possibilities harmonically and melodically speaking, that there is no excuse for this. Even if a song were to have one ‘mystery chord’ in there somewhere, it would go a long way. It could be laziness. It could be ignorance.

But I think what has happened is when people like something, the creators replicate it because they know it’s a winning formula. This is true in every successful business. The music business is no different.

I think Adele has had some good success with adding tasty chords into her songs. Bruno Mars is copying many of the greats that came before him. They are both quite open about the fact that they are standing the shoulders of the giants who came before them.

My job is a piano player is to interpret what is out there and make it my own. For example, I don’t use massive amounts of music production techniques at our performances. I know some players use backing tracks and drum machines, even at dueling pianos shows. That’s cool. I never found it all that inspiring. As a piano player who works a lot I find I get inspiration from the people who are listening. I like that kind of energy rather than a technical energy.

The idea is that then the piano player turns the song into something of his own. Since we are all standing on the shoulders of the great ones who came before us, the only thing left for us to do is to personalize it.

That’s one of the things I learned early on as I was an aspiring musician learning to become a professional piano player. I used to think “Who is the best piano player?”. But then I realized it’s all one magic trick. Once you learn that one trick everything else after that is about adding the personality you were born with or that you are willing to let shine through.

So when I learn a new One Direction song or something from Jason Aldean, it doesn’t matter to me that all the same chords sequences are being used over and over again. I try to find the essence of the tune and make it my own. Sometimes I get it right, other times I need to keep learning.

Quick Retirement Party Ideas

I had a call last week for another custom writing job. It was to be part of a long list of retirement party ideas.

I’ve had these calls before. An executive of seasoned tenure is about to retire. The accolades will be forthcoming. The revealing anecdotes will be told. … and … in this case, a special song parody will be written and recorded for the celebrant.

The gentleman going into the golden years of his life was a life long salesman. He had founded his company, mentored many young professionals in his time and was looking forward to go off hunting and fishing. The perfect choice was a song parody of the Kenny Rogers hit The Gambler.

The interview process is a simple one for gigs like this. I have a 2 page questionnaire I have the contact fill out. They usually send it around to the other executives and co-workers around the office. They become our eyes and ears.

The process is going to take at least two days. I get all the info. I write up a few verses. 5 or 6 to be exact. I’m only going to use one or two. Then I get the chorus to go along with the plan.

After that I get the studio all cranked up. Fire off the essential parts. Arrange it for timing of the jokes and then I get a quick demo out the door. Once the customer signs off on it, I know I’ve got a winner. Then I just re-record it, mix it and master in the studio.

Listen to the final product. How did I do? Let me know.

Lickety split, Super quick Retirement party ideas will last a lifetime.