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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 …

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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.

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 …

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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 

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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. 

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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.

How Do You Spell 60th Birthday Party Ideas?

Everyone Loves A Good Celebration — Birthday Party Ideas 

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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. 

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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: 

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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.