Monday, March 23, 2015


I suppose it was inevitable, after I started paying again. Music never really leaves the soul; the heart. If one has been taken with the sounds of music from birth, that makes it even harder to leave it behind. It hasn't been easy, for several years, to just write (or, whatever it is I do here) and NOT be able to play. There was always that twinge; that longing that was never slaked. Although it seemed certain senses had failed me, my ears never did; in fact they grew sharper with the diminution of my other senses. The partial loss of my vision, the loss of my tactile senses to some degree, the loss of smell – which in my neck of the woods is no great loss; last summer, something crawled up under the house and died – never really registered as anything but some kind of annoyances, and in that, I was proven right, when a crackerjack neurologist diagnosed my motor disorder and at last, treatment and relief granted me a new aspect in my life, but I digress. As to the dead thing beneath the house, according to the reactions of people around me, I wasn't sure if it was animal or human; a quick jaunt under the house by a police officer, assured us it was an animal, but in truth, I don't think he was under there long enough to be sure, as I've never seen a man crawl in reverse so quickly. I've been reassured by one and all that the smell was horrific. Sometimes, loss is a good thing.

courtesy of:

One of my dad's favorites; I teethed on an old 33 1/3 album cover of a Glenn Miller album. My dad was cool with that, just so long as I didn't eat the vinyl.

Anyway, 2014 was the year I began to play viola again, after a nearly 8 year hiatus. It was frightening at first, but muscle memory runs deep, so deep that it will overtake many obstacles and really, the biggest obstacle was myself; I kept getting in my own way. As I grew comfortable with playing again, and began to trust once more in my reflexes, it all began to come back. We're currently in the throes of rehearsal of Shostakovich's 5th Symphony, Prokofiev's 3rd Piano Concerto, the 1st Movement and Aaron Copeland's “Lincoln Portrait”, a piece I've played before. This concert, with the Tampa Bay Symphony, is a concert designed to showcase music “for the people”; our musical director, Mark Sforzini has chosen carefully and well this season and more about him in a moment.

The magnificent composer Dmitry Shostakovich; in 1942, featured as a volunteer fireman during the Battle of Leningrad, which was in fact, a 900-day siege by the Nazis. While there, Shostakovich wrote his 7th, 8th and 9th symphonies, called appropriately enough, the "Leningrad Symphonies".

I chose the theme “Music In My Life” because I have had a broad range of influences throughout my life, from Chabrier, to Glenn Miller, to Rammstein and Psy. I am not someone who is a snob about where good music comes from; it's all around us. You just have to look for it and LISTEN, really listen to what is being played. I'm not a fan of “background” music, although I have provided plenty of it, and a lot of it has been awful, as anyone who has read my blog can attest. Everything from “The Chipmunk Christmas Song” to “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries!” (Pizzacatto all the way!) has been played by me for filthy lucre and then some. I've played for everybody and everything from channeling Elvis (he was in the building on the Jumbotron, that night) to Garfield the Cat. I ran home with big, fat paychecks for such nonsense and this had no influence on my life whatsoever, with the exception of causing a few nightmares and regrets at an education wasted, but I was in good company. At least I didn't go to Julliard, like some of my stand partners did; I heard all manner of comments from “Thank God, this is easy” to “I spent four years at Curtis Institute of Music for this?”.


The summer of 2013 saw the arrival of PSY and Gangnam Style. PSY studied at the Berklee College of Music and his music reflects a sly sense of the absurd and his musicianship is superb. Gangnam Style was done up as Klingon Style, and every other kind of style you can think of. The video had so many views that it actually broke the counter after 2 billion or so views. About half of those were mine, as I had started my motor disorder therapy in earnest and there's a lot of dancing involved. Gangnam Style hit true absurdity when the Wyatt Family or whoever they are, set the whole thing to dubstep and computerized their flashing Christmas display lights. Talk about a festival of kitsch. Wub-wub-wub-wubwub. Wub-wub-wub-wubwub. That's about the only thing I HAVEN'T played on my viola!

No, the music that truly influenced me was Beethoven, Debussy, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Richard Strauss, Shostakovich, Brahms and so many others in the classical mode. But, there were many other influences as well. Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, K'eb Mo, Robert Johnson and the Delta Bluesmen had an influence on how I learned to play with nuances and also learned how to “swing”. I plan on visiting some of these folks, as well as the afore-mentioned Mark Sforzini, current Music Director of the Tampa Bay Symphony, as well as the St. Petersburg Opera. I played in the Opera Tampa company for twelve seasons, with Maestro Anton Coppola, he of the “Italian Opera is hard, Wagner is easy, it's just a goddamned 1-2-3-4 and everyone is over the moon!” and developed another nuanced ability to play within operatic confines, with it's many rubatos and flowing rhythms. These are all different types of playing, than from what I originally was trained to do classically, by a professor who was a student of the famed Ivan Galamian, a renowned pedagogue.

courtesy of:

I know; who the hell is this guy? Well, along with my standards and things that are less alarming, comes the guy who is referred to as "Guy Who Sings the Troll Song". There is actually a ten-hour version of this on youtube and it's a great song for sing-alongs and hilarity. I had forgotten it, until a member of my clan family introduced it into our karaoke nights on Team Speak 3, when we play Runescape. Lest you think we're not serious about music, we have several musicians, including this year's silver medal winner of the Chopin Competition. The great thing about musicians is we never really grow up!

Even after college, I was green as grass. The real education began in the trenches; performing day-to-day and learning so many different styles of playing. It's been quite a ride and I'm fortunate to be here. Let me share with you some of the folks and styles that influenced ME. I was told once that we are all self-taught and that all a really great teacher does is inspire us. I believe that to be true; once the basics are set, the rest is up to us as artists, to make the music and own it. I hope you enjoy this month, reading about the influences in my musical sphere!

Saturday, March 7, 2015



UPDATE: 03/16/2015

As of this writing, Dustin's campaign has garnered $1,099.00 for him and his family's expenses during his fight with leukemia. Kyle will tell me later tonight, when I see him if there are other things going on for Dustin, as both Kyle and Brian live in that area. We will do as we have always done, these eight years past; gather in our Clan Chat and chat; laugh, encourage one another and share news. That little fambly of SpiritZ has been going along for 10 years now, a huge achievement in  MMORPG gaming and clans. No big deal for us; we're family. Tonight should be a good bitch session. I heard it through the grapevine (on my phone) that Jagex, owners of "Runescape" updated the skill capes, and naturally, EVERYONE has an opinion about that! What started out to be a glorious waste of time, has turned into a way of life for several of us: when it looked like the Clan was going to fold (back when I was homeless and hospitalized) there was only this sad little remnant of folks who would gather in the Clan Chat and talk. I went to the library once a week and logged in, just to let everyone know I was still among the living.

Ever scheming, after I became un-homeless, I bided my time, and about a year into hanging out in a Clan Chat that had no Clan, I got together with my good friend, Jeremy, aka SpzWolf, who swore he would never join another clan. Apparently, no one else in the old Clan Chat got the message, because they never joined other clans, either. Well, Jer and I decided to crank up the old forums and try recruiting, but it was hardly necessary. We got a blessing from the founder of SpiritZ, on the condition, that 1) Jer would be a Leader, 2) Brian would be a Leader and 3) that I would also be named co-Leader; a position that I use solely as an "enforcer" or else I just stipulate to everything. There's no drama, a hell of a lot of fun, and the RS community, is still, well, the RS community. From the dude who teleported, looked at his map and said "wtf? game" to the idiot named "Fatt Butt" who died during a safe event, to the many, many languages, customs and mores of other countries, all mixed into a brew of dragons, warlocks, adventurers and myths from every land, there is little to be bored about.

Make no mistake; this is not a kids' game. It is something that takes skill and perseverance and all the support is necessary. But, this whole other thing; this campaign for Dustin Cannady came about, because two clan members, friends for years, talked about a wonderful thing someone was doing for something else. My clan is the most generous in the world. The people are the kindest, most loving and forgiving to be found anywhere and in this day and age, that is saying something. If it weren't for SpiritZ, this post would not be here for Dustin Cannady. Think about that. 

UPDATE: 03/12/2015

As of right now, March 12, 2015, 899.00 has been raised by for Dustin Cannady's Leukemia fund. The Tumbleweeds campaign has ended, and I do believe the campaign by L'il Firehouse Coffee Shop in Richland, Washington has also ended. I hope that other small businesses and individuals will step up and help; we're talking about the life of a little boy. A little boy, who has not had much chance to experience the great and wonderful things the world has to offer. A little boy, who although autistic, takes a great delight in the world around him. Autistic children are like that and they're extremely smart and sensitive; more so than "normal" people (whatever that term means). 

We can easily deal with the loss of older people, but the inherent unfairness of it all is unbearable when it comes to the loss of a child, simply for the want of a few dollars. This is in no way a criticism if people are unable to donate. These are not the best of times to be asking for money, yet if ever there were a good and just cause to do so, or at least spread the word to friends, family and co-workers this is it. I can't help but think that we here in what is supposed to be the first-world, too often, let things just slip through the cracks and nothing is done, or the effort falls short. To quote Willy Loman's wife in "The Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller, "Attention must be paid!" 

So please, please; share this post with your friends, your enemies, your neighbors, the mailman, whoever, but please spread the word. I do so want to see this little boy get well and I know that people are inherently good and will do the right thing. I have nothing else to offer, and nothing to gain. I just want to see Dustin get well. Again, I will continue to update this topic, with the exception of March 23, 2015, when I will be posting on my theme for the A to Z Challenge. Thank you in advance for whatever you can do.

UPDATE: 03/07/2015

The original business, Tumbleweeds is finishing their drive to help little Dustin Cannady today and they are having internet issues, however, donations are still being accepted through, and will be for the next 268 days! Also, as this little video will show, there are many, many caring people all over Richland, Washington (thank you, editor-in-chief, Brian Wright, for pointing out to me, that the town is NOT in fact "Highland" which doesn't exist: eyesight, you're fired!) and a coffee shop called "L'il Firehouse" has joined the fray and their baristas are donating tips. Follow the link below to the article at KEPR:

All that being said, it's great to see people coming out and supporting this family. There are so many good and generous people in the world and we often forget that, when we're inundated over news about the Middle East, Ukraine and the budget and unemployment here in the states. I will continue to roam cyberspace and add to this post as we go along. This little guy has a big fight ahead of him, but he has the support and love and prayers of untold thousands, strangers and friends; good souls all. Bless all of you, you have taken the time to read this and been moved to donate. Even if you cannot donate, and with the economy being what it is, not everyone is able, SHARE with your friends. Have them pass it along. Crowd-funding helped us get rid of a true psychopath over here on Nebraska Ave. awhile back and I'll do it again, if anyone else over here becomes "problematic". It's amazing what folks can do with a little ingenuity and a ton of heart! Peace, and don't forget to stop and smell the flowers! <3

It has been over two months since I have blogged. But then, life has been going along smoothly. I am playing the viola quite a bit, and we have reached the rehearsals for the concert I've REALLY been salivating over all season; Shostakovich's monumental 5th Symphony. It is a huge work and there is much to learn in the viola parts. Mozart is no where around, thank God, and everything we played this year was written AFTER 1804, so the violists are happy. Praise the Lord, because there are quite a few of us and I've been in sections where fist fights actually occurred, probably due to boredom, and we would probably cause more of a riot! Anyway, I have played more than I have written (shame on me, and I am sorry #row80, but it's been a long time away from my instrument and I'm not Itzhak Perlman. Close, but I need every waking hour for practice. Does it help to let you all know you're in my thoughts?)

So, not really having anything vastly important to write about lately and just watching events in Ukraine and elsewhere and biding my time before weighing in, I've been on a writing hiatus. Until yesterday. At this point, I have to back up several years, approximately eight years and explain my connection to Dustin Cannady. I'm a computer nerd. I'm a music nerd. I'm a math nerd. I'm the nerd trifecta. So, it was natural for me to pick up gaming when I was forced to quit driving due to my eyesight and start working from home. I started playing a game called "Runescape", which is a medieval, swords, dragons, sorcerers, milllions-of-players-online mashup and questing game. It's also a very sociable place to be. About eight years ago, I joined a clan, called "SpiritZ" which is still in existence and I'm now one of three co-Leaders of this crazy batch of people. Back then, a lot of the people were 12, 13, 14 and 15-year old kids, which I took a lot of responsibility for and had a lot of fun with. There are plenty of adults in this clan as well. When I joined the clan, I met a youngster, about 13 or 14, named Kyle Woodford, along with Jeremy Doll, who is now my co-Leader, along with Brian Wright (my other co-Leader), who was deployed to Afghanistan for 2 years during that time. We wrote the whole time he was gone. He's home now, and has a family and 3 beautiful children and an adorable wife. Quite simply, we're a family, not just a bunch of strangers who play what is thought of as a kid's game.

Flash forward eight years; the clan is still going strong. We just celebrated our tenth anniversary in January of this year and I think we're all amazed. Some have moved on. Some like me, will be here forever. I have to say this has been one of the richest experiences of my life and this is one of the reasons why. The charity, love and appreciation we have shown one another and for others has known no bounds and the latest example of this comes from Kyle. He used to work at a Mexican Restaurant in Richland, Washington when he was in high school. Kyle has since gone on to college, but yesterday, we were chatting online, while smithing swords, or killing dragons, who knows? 

Even if you don't live in Richland, WA, you can probably call and order out. Or donate!

Kyle was telling me about his old boss who runs a restaurant named "Tumbleweeds" and his old boss had hired a new employee, and the employee has a 4 year-old son, named Dustin. The boy is autistic, and non-verbal, which can be common in young autistic children. About a month ago, Dustin stopped walking, just out of the blue. Without being able to tell Mommy and Daddy what was wrong, the concerned parents took Dustin to the doctor who ran tests on little Dustin and discovered the boy had Leukemia, and it's in 95% of his bone marrow. The good news about this type of cancer is that it has a high cure rate, and a low rate of remission (this I remember from my Univ of Mich hospital days).

Still, what harrowing news for these poor parents! Well, the boss has stepped up and is running a special at his restaurant. The way Kyle explained it to me, is this: if you purchase Dustin's favorite burrito, the entire amount is going to a fund that will help pay for the expenses of Dustin's treatment and probably, the family's expenses as well. There is also a crowd-sourcing campaign for him at, and I offered to post the links here, as a favor to Kyle's boss, for Kyle and Dustin.

I know I have talked about this, but selfless acts like this saved my life. The Parkinson's Foundation pay for my treatment. I do clinical research in honor of my mother, who died of COPD. I have a very mild form of that disease; so mild, my pulmonary doctor looks at me every time I come in, and laughs, and says "Why are you here?" I am a shining example of overcoming odds and living a fulfilling and joyous life. I believe in payback, or paying it forward, when it is due and it is most certainly due here. This little boy needs a chance to grow up and have a wonderful life. My dear, dear friend Karen, has an autistic son, who is approaching his 20s and every day is a wonder and a delight with him. Dustin deserves this chance. Anyone who reads my blog knows, I will never ask for anything for myself, but I will beg, plead, supplicate, whine and just generally carry on for the life of another; especially a young, innocent boy. Please, please, please help Dustin and his family. I'm donating #teamdustin. 

This is what has been earned for the Cannady Family Medical fund as of approximately two hours ago!

I also must give a special thank you and KUDOS ALL AROUND to Kyle's ex-boss. As you can tell, I have no clue what his name is, but he's a hero! Let's all give him many pats on the back! 

A little housekeeping. I'm going to keep this up as long as possible; maybe as long as April 1, 2015, when I will start the A-to-Z Challenge. On March 23, 2015, I have to declare my "theme" for the blogging challenge and this year, I am going to write about the "Music In My Life" which will feature an interview with my maestro Mark Sforzini, who was recently named "One of the 30 Most Influential People in Music in the World". I can certainly believe it. But, we'll savor the thought of that. Let's earn Dustin some money first! Peace and love.