Tag Archives: live 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.”

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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 …

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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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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 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.

You Call it Dueling Piano Music. Your Soul Calls it Stress Relief.

We played a corporate event with our dueling pianos show last week.

We are up in Wisconsin providing entertainment for events like these all the time. While every night is special, I need to tell you about this one.

We were performing to a group of law enforcement folks.

Sheriffs and deputies and their office staff. There were about 130 people in attendance. We took one look at the room, noticed there were mostly men in the house and thought, “Keeping 50% of these guys would be a major success.” Usually in a corporate event keeping 25% is successful. It’s just the way it is.

Let’s face it most folks go to a convention or a conference to meet other people in their industry and to reacquaint with old friends. So live music entertainment is the last thing on their minds.

So we went up there on stage and tried something a little different. We didn’t go up there and do our usual, “Hey! Here we are! We’re going to rock the house!” Instead we just went up there, laid down a saucy groove, played a couple of solos and listened to them get quiet as they began to listen. We introduced each other, waited for the applause and then went into our show.

It was remarkable! We kept over 90% of the people in the room.

We know we’re good at what we do. We know we will get people feeling good and singing along (even if they’re not inclined to sing). We just don’t always know how you’re going to get there. Our methods are to take chaos and organize it somehow. But honestly the audience tells us everything we need to know and we adjus from there.

By the end of the night, we had everyone gathered around the pianos, arm in arm singing at the top of their lungs. An organized chaos if ever there was one.

Handshakes all around and platitudes galore.

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You call it Live Music Entertainment. Your Soul calls it Stress Relief!

One of the quotes from one of the wives said, “You don’t kow how much these guys needed this!” Someone else explained, “These guys are under intense pressure everyday. You gave them some much needed relief.”

I’ve kept thinking about that all week. These folks in law enforcement see the rest of us at our worst. Either as perpetrators when we are guilty or as the victims when we are not. I have no idea how they do it, how they hold empathy and compassion while doing their jobs. In essence, how they maintain their humanity.

Again, it wasn’t us. We were the guys behind the pianos that night and we are good at what we do. But it is the music. It is the power of the music that speaks to all of us – when we bother to listen, it is the music that heals and nurtures and pulls us all together in the face of our day to day trials.

So let us help you. Let us come to your next event and take your guests and friends and family to a relaxing, soothing place. Let us do our jobs so you can do yours. Thanks.

You call it Dueling Piano Music. Your soul calls it Stress Relief.  

Why Live Music is So Important

Sometimes we really can’t explain why or what we’re doing onstage when we’re playing live music at company events or as party entertainers. But we do know this: It Is SO-O important.

I had a woman come up to me after a show this last weekend. She was so emphatic about letting us know how good she felt.

She said, “My husband and I haven’t been out since our house was destroyed in a tornado.”

I think the Greeks were right. Music helps to heal. It moves large internal objects that we can not see. God gave us music so we could pray with out words.

She was positively invigorated after an evening of live music and comedy. When I see that happen, I just want to tell everybody. It is so essential that we work to get ourselves back in balance — especially after Mother nature changes our lives forever in a single act.

The tornado that took their house changed their lives in an instant. Hard to explain why. Never may be a good one. But I do know this. Music can change your life for the better in an instant too. Hard to explain why. We just know that is does. Sometime music may not get rid of all the lousy things that are going on in between your ears or in your neighborhood. But will change how you feel so that maybe — just maybe you can get through all the stuff you can not explain.

Our jobs as entertainers is to help people feel better — in spite of what is going on.

I don’t know her name. But I know I will never forget her. We don’t know how important live music is for our souls. But I do know this. I am truly honored and blessed and every time I get onstage. Thank you in advance for letting us help you.

Addicted To Having Fun? Musicians Are Too.

We know how you feel. We are musicians first and humans second.

Celestial beings who landed here on a lark thinking, “Well maybe these people want to party too!”

If you want to liven up your party, then call a musician.

If you want to get people dancing quicker than a one legged man with his shoe on fire, call a musician.

If you want your friends to tell everybody what a great time you had at your party this year, call a musician.

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Really! Live Music makes Your Party Really Live!

Really! We know that Live Music makes a party really live!

I  have seen it over and over again. We show up. No one knows us. But you know everybody there. They’re your friends, your family, the people in your life who matter most. We understand. No one really says anything to us. We set up our gear. Do a quick sound check. Go to the bathroom. Use your best hand towels. Then we start playing. Not loud at first. Not too fast either. Not unless we are at a concert. We just ease on in under the conversation. We watch. We watch for the smile. Then the hod bob. Maybe it’s a shoulder thrust going on. Someone laughs cuz they see someone else going for it too. Next thing you know the whole party gets going. People move in closer to the band or nearer the piano music the later the party goes. Next thing you knpw it’s 3 hours later and you don’t know where the time went.

Sound good to you? If you’re like us, you want to have some at your party. Entertainers make this all come together. So Call today. You’ll be glad you did.

+1 773-527-7417

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I could have been in the Olympics but I’d rather be here

Olympics Rant

You know I qualified for the Olympics again this year. But I decided not to go. It wouldn’t be fair to the other athletes. I would have won all the medals especially on Track &Field. I mean that would be selfish of me.

Oh this sarcasm doesn’t look too good in print. Honestly, I’m surprised at how much of an expert I’ve become in sports I don’t know anything about. I was watching the platform divers last night and I had no idea how dangerous that sport could be. Those divers hit the water at 30+ mph. One wrong move and Ouch!

Olympics Day 3 - Diving

Then there’s me from my recliner in my living room looking to relax and I can only think there is not enough tape in the world to protect my wrists from hitting the water the wrong way. Then I find myself becoming VERY opinionated about the Splash Meter. When I used to watch this sport on the Wide World of Sports years ago, I don’t remember having it so easy. Yet here I sit with a beverage and a meter to gauge how much liquid should be acceptable in my life when it comes to platform divers.

You should have heard me last week during 2 man kayaking!

 

What’s The Next Holiday To Celebrate? Can You Say Mardi Gras? Dueling Pianos in Kankakee

Mardi Gras Dueling Pianos in Kankakee Feb 7 2015 

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Surprise Party Ideas with Live Music Fun!

We had the opportunity to get down to Kankakee IL twice during the holiday party season this year. It’s fascinating how powerful word of mouth referrals can be for us. We played live music at two events both hosted by the same venue; The Kankakee Country Club. I practically feel like a member now.

The first party was a company event for the local Bank. Small party of employees and spouses. Awards and bonuses were handed out and then the party began. Dance floor was filled al night long.

The second night this month was New Years Eve entertainment with an extra added bonus: Wende’s 50th Birthday Party. Surprise! Except she knew what was going on cuz that’s the kind of woman Wende is. Plus, her husband Rende spilled the beans earlier …. ooohhh say, like …. 9 months earlier. No biggie tho. Their kids were there, her parents and her entire family. We had a DJ after we finished. What a pleasure to be invited to such a fun filled event.

We’ll be back in Kankakee dueling pianos style coming up this February 7 2015 for a fund raiser for the local Chambers of Commerce. As is the case with many local communities, the Kankakee area has had to continue to change with the times. Their local Chamber is no different. They’re still providing jobs for families and helping small businesses grow.

We will be hosted by another stalwart venue perfect for company events; The Knights of Columbus Hall. KC Halls all over the USA are hosting community events such as fund raisers and charity events designed to benefit local churches and businesses.

So come on down to the Kankakee KC Hall this Feb 7 2015 for a first rate night of live music and comedy featuring one of our most popular shows, All American Dueling Pianos. Doors open at 6 PM and you can call the Kankakee County Chamber 815-351-9068

Celebrate Mardi Gras with All American Dueling Pianos with all of our friends.