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.”
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
It was one of those gigs where I was so happy I took piano lessons as a kid, I had stuck with it as an 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 …
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 shown 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 the accounting business 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 lifelong memories for everyone in attendance.
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.
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’.
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.
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!”
The question I get asked second most is, favorite song “What kind of music do you like to play the best?”
Two Kinds of Music
I always like to quote Duke Ellington who said, “There are only two kinds of music. Good and the other kind.”
I only play one kind. Which is good.
But what is good? How do you know it’s good? It’s so hard to tell these days. Let’s go back to the Grand Master Duke who went on to say,
“If it sounds good and feels good, then it IS good!”
So it starts if I can make it sound good. Brown Eyed Girl can have a great groove. You can play it reggae style. You can play it bluesy. You can even go Calypso on it and fill the dance floor in nothing flat. favorite song
So, basically, if my audience is having a good time, it’s probably cuz it feels good to them.
I can play Sweet Caroline 4 times a night because if I place it in the right portion of the night, people love that song. They’re having a great time with it. So I’m having fun too.
I got asked that question the other night again, “What is your favorite song to play?”
I was in a club. It wasn’t all that busy. Kind of a quiet night. Maybe 50 people in the bar. The usual mix of foreigners and American tourists. A few Canadians but mostly Brits. A relaxing, warm spring evening in Chicago.
I love meeting new people. Especially people from other places than my neighborhood or my city. It’s good to have another perspective.
I remember one time I was playing on a boat that was spinning around Lake Michigan. I was a young man; about 20 something. I struck up a conversation with a woman from Israel who was living in Germany. I was complaining about our government and all the problems. She just looked at me and in no uncertain terms expressed, “You have no idea how good you have it here in America.”
There are always more than one way to look at things. I forget that sometimes unless I am talking with a wide and varied group of people on a regular basis.
Last night at a party I met a woman who was probably in her late 60s who is deeply involved in the justice system. Her point of view is massively different than my friends who are police.
That’s why when people ask me what kind of music I like the best, I have to answer with a question; “What kind of music do you like? What is your favorite song?” Because as an entertainer I’m not really allowed to judge. I want you to have a good time. I want you to hear the music that makes you feel good. If you’re feeling good, then I’m feeling good. Pretty simple really.
But as a musician (not as an entertainer) I have a very different point of view. First and foremost, it has to have a groove. I also like music that tells a story. I like music that has interesting harmonic structures; something I can spread my wings on and investigate tonalities and textures within the course of the tune. I like to discover something new in every song. Especially if I’ve been playing it for many months – or years.
It’s pretty simple. It comes down to the same thing for me too. Does it make me feel good? Cuz if I’m feeling good, you are too.
Let’s feel good together with live music and piano songs that create more great memories that will lat a lifetime for you.
Call me at +1 773-527-7417 and I GUARANTEE we will have some fun!
I don’t know if Stevie Wonder is the best piano player or not …. That’s not for me to decide …. but …
I had a really awesome day today.
I didn’t know if it was all going to work out or not. But it did and on the way home with a big smile on my face from a very complicated tech rehearsal for a corporate event. I wasn’t sure what to do. I was not in control of things. I was supposed to be the leader. I hate when that happens. I got all worried about how I looked; to the client, to the other musicians.
What I did is what I was supposed to do. Let the people I had hired to do their jobs. The show was written. The songs were arranged. But the technical stuff was not my area of expertise. That’s why we hire really good people for these corporate event entertainment packages. Entertainment for events is a lot like riding a bicycle wearing a blindfold. You know where you’re going to go. You just don’t what might be in your way.
This is why we have tech rehearsals. To find out what’s in our way.
It all turned to be a sweet and successful rehearsal for a corporate seminar that is going to be massively successful. coming up later this week …
and on my way home after the rehearsal …
I heard this Stevie Wonder song very clearly in my head …