My Thanksgiving wish for you…

That you will make selecting music an intention this Thanksgiving holiday, so that it may honor one of the most sacred meals we eat all year long.

Whether you have something playing as you are welcoming family or friends into your home, listening to something special in the car on your way to celebrate somewhere else, putting on something special for just yourself or party of two, or lighting a candle and honoring the day by being in the moment… just make some really lovely music a ritual, as much a part of your celebration as you do the menu, or decorating the table, or oh my, making shopping lists and planning your 4am wake up call on Friday to get the doorbuster deals…

Hold hands, close your eyes and  listen… The heart will open right up. It is wondrous… ambiance enriched, atmosphere made more sacred.

Need ideas? Put on some lovely instrumental music – classical, piano from George Winston, guitar from Robin Bullock, cello of Yo Yo Ma, harp music from Billy Jackson and Grainne Hambly; low whistle, uillean pipes and fiddle from Kevin Crawford and his band, Lunasa, etc. I could add hundreds of recordings from so many musicians here…

Somehow in my own family, with an open heart due to the music playing in the background, we are able to acknowledge so many more blessings in our lives. It’s as if the music is a springboard for creating a huge awareness of all the riches we have, and sometimes, forget we have.

And if the mood would be enhanced by a song, here’s one by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

“Thanksgiving Song”

 Grateful for each hand we hold
Gathered round this table.
From far and near we travel home,
Blessed that we are able.

Grateful for this sheltered place
With light in every window,
Saying “welcome, welcome, share this feast
Come in away from sorrow.”

Father, mother, daughter, son,
Neighbor, friend and friendless;
All together everyone in the gift of loving-kindness.

Grateful for what’s understood,
And all that is forgiven;
We try so hard to be good,
To lead a life worth living.

Father, mother, daughter, son,
Neighbor, friend, and friendless;
All together everyone, let grateful days be endless.

Grateful for each hand we hold
Gathered round this table.

Blessed be, dear readers, on the path today, and always.



Music for the common man…

Aaron Copland

One hundred thirteen years and one day ago today, on November 14, 1900, the great composer Aaron Copland was born.

More than once, I have wondered what experiences this young boy may have had, seen and experienced, that influenced and shaped both him and the music that sang to him, from a place deep within, pushing at itself to be born.

When Mr. Copland was seventy-seven years old, I was in my senior year of high school.  For the spring recital, the high school band performed,  Fanfare for the Common Mana stirring four-minute piece of music, featuring brass and percussion, arresting me and taking me to that sacred place I hold so dearly – “Be here now and hear your heart speak”.

I can still remember being overwhelmed with emotion, sitting on the stage, fearing I’d burst at any moment, grateful there was not a flute part. What a tremendous gift to be given, this music thing that can fill the well, sometimes to overflowing. I treasured these “uh-oh, the damn might break” experiences, as they remind me I am human… and they certainly fluctuated vastly from all those John Phillip Sousa marches the band played on the football field at half-time in the bitter cold of New England, often to an apathetic crowd in the bleacher stands.

In awe of our great composers, this one in particular, I read up on him and discovered that within the realms of American music, his Fanfare for the Common Man is referred to as “a patriotic standard”. That feeling of patriotism and the romantic notions of amber waves of grain, blossom again and again when I listen to not just this piece, but others as well, including his magnificent,  Appalachian Spring.

So, in gratitude for the man and his music, here is Aaron Copland’s composition that “evokes the vast American landscape and pioneer spirit” (thank you Wikipedia).

We are all the common man, and yet, the music says we are so much more than that. It speaks to what we have in common with each other, as well as to the individual spirit, the potential of triumph over strife, of working hard, of all that we have IN us… of that is yet to be.

Today I honor you in spirit, Aaron Copland, and all you gave us through the music. Thank you for this fanfare of celebration.

So for you, the reader, and the music in you, I invite you to take four minutes of time and close your eyes, listen, and watch your heart.

Does your spirit feel a bit more full, shiny, lifted, hopeful? My wish is that it does. Take your fullness and shininess and feeling bigger with you through your day today, and see what happens.

Blessings on the path, musical friends. ♥

My bible

While I have a variety of bibles that have fed and watered me over the years as a musician/wannabe writer, I have to say that Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art, in terms of inspiration, has made more of a difference for me in the last few years, than anything else I have heard, read or listened to.


Teetering on magnificent, it validates all of us, artist or not, who aspires to be something more, do something more, and to heed the call within. It is about resistance, and how it will win every single time we encounter it in our path, usually leaving us feeling like the loser. Pressfield writes tiny chapters that will make your heart beat faster and your brain scream,“Yes! Yes! Yes!” At least this girl’s heart anyways…

I drank in every word, often rereading again and again, his chapters, all of which are quite short… from three sentences to three pages, brilliant every time, and in every way. When the book ended, I wanted to cry, feeling as if I was waving goodbye to my best friend getting on an airplane to Ireland, only to return months down the road before we’d see each other again. I keep it close by at all times, either on my nightstand or bring it when I need to fill the well in the waiting room at a doctor’s office, or in between teaching music lessons.

His intelligent, creative and get-on-with-it writing style has me now pouring through the sequel, Turning Pro, and receiving his weekly emails, entitled “Writing Wednesdays”.

For anyone who aspires to heed the call that drives them in this life, AKA “this gift we get”, it is a life raft. And, a MUST HAVE.

Blessings on the path, friends…

‘Til Death Us Do Part

Her message popped up on Facebook saying, “I’m coming to Asheville. Would love to see you. Can you get together?”

In my usually impulsive way, I said “Yes!”, immediately. I would do anything for this woman. And then as I felt the excitement settle in, I began to notice how quickly the anxiety pulled itself in to the station.

Julie and Ed got married in 2007, just six years ago, and had asked Jim and I to play for her wedding. In narrowing down the music selections to satisfy both her and Ed, her sweetie, we chatted easily, and frequently. I can still hear her calling him that, “my sweetie”, on the phone. Funny, the little things we remember…

Julee & Ed

After the wedding, she sent me a huge box of gifts, filled with all sorts of wonderful and yummy treats from The Body Shoppe. Weeks later, a beautiful framed photo arrives of us playing away, while she and her was-fiance-now-is-her-brand-new-sparkly husband, recessed up the steps into the lens of the photographer, busting with happiness and adrenaline and excitement for their future. Pure bliss.

Five years pass and we reconnect through Facebook. I read about trips she and Ed are going to take, see photos of much-loved cats and the two of them smiling, and often, there they are again, sampling another new beer brew. They continue to sparkle in their lives together. Or so it seems…

In the last year, I began to see posts of Ed being hospitalized. Not being able to bear asking what is wrong, I offer words of what I hope are comfort, but they feel far from what I want her to have… a perfectly healthy husband.

Over the months, a few more posts from time to time about Ed, and I’ve begun to sense something is now terribly wrong. One particular day, I read “Please pray for Ed”. Lonely, desperate, heartfelt, little words… Many folks reach out, trying to say something, anything. And then, within just hours, there is the post that came out of left field, the one she hoped prayed she’d never have to make… “Ed didn’t make it”.


In the few months since Ed’s death, Julie has posted favorite pictures of her sweetie, and of the two of them on their wedding day.

She seems to be holding her own… on her own. I feel helpless at what to say, or do. I am not one of her close personal friends. I am the musician she hired nearly six years ago.

She’s now back in Asheville, as this is where they came for many years for vacations, where Ed proposed, where they got married, and to celebrate their anniversaries.  She wants to have a coffee date. While I want to see her very much, see that smile of hers and hear her laughter, the same thoughts keep coming up … “You were at her wedding, Beth… Seeing you could trigger such grief for her… Do you really want to do that to her?”

I remind myself that it is she who has reached out to me, and I decide to trust her decision that she is strong enough to do this.

We do meet, I learn of Ed’s blood cancer diagnosis one year after they were married, and while we both get weepy, our time together seems to blossom into something really lovely. Afterwards, in saying our goodbyes, both of us keenly aware of all the unknowns life has in store for us, we confess out mutual gratitude of having spent the morning together.  Our connection deeper,  we talk of future correspondence and getting together again on her next trip to the mountains.

I am happy and grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with her in a way that matters in this life. The experience of having lost a best friend years ago to cancer, as well as several other friends “too young to die”, has affected the way I am with people. I am not interested in  mindless small talk, but connecting, heart to heart.

As a wedding musician, it’s easy to wish, for the couples we play for, that they really will live happily ever after. Sadly, sometimes they don’t. Even more sadly, sometimes they don’t because of an illness. Those words, ‘Til Death Do Us Part, are “supposed” to mean when couples are older and grey and into their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Not someone in his 40’s.

While Julie’s and my paths crossed because of music initially, we now have a connection because of that music.  I am one of the people who can, and will always, remember that beautiful day in September of 2007, when the world was wide open for a woman named Julie, and a man named Ed.

Bless you, Ed, wherever you are. May you be surrounded by those that love you… and may you hear the angels sing…

And bless you, lovely Julie…


Tell me what it looks like…


A few days ago, I was up at Mount Mitchell, making a pilgrimage of sorts, to appreciate the place in which I live. One of those perfect autumn days, I made the short climb and looked out at the gorgeous foliage and majestic views of mountain ridges that seemed to go on and on… My task for myself? To absorb the beauty of this particular place, “be here now”, and surrender to that delicious feeling of being tucked inside the grandeur of it all.

In addition, I was hopeful to have a bit of a respite from a health issue that has been plaguing me for awhile now, stealing my focus too often, and taking up a whole lot of mental real estate, robbing me of much needed/valued creative time since early summer.

I was standing there up on the viewing deck for just a few minutes when a thought came to me… “Wowza, this view is a symphony of colors! Imagine what it might sound like if it could play music… What would the golds sound like… how about those reds… the greens?”

Adjusting my stance at times, those familiar aches began mumbling again. As I tried to return to my “contemplative thoughts”, I began to feel frustration and sadness build… this body of mine had no intention of being quiet. Like a baseball announcer on the radio, mentioning every play by play, it was going to hurt with no letting up today. I wanted to shout, “Enough already!”

Suddenly, I notice two women sit down. They begin to chat and I am doing my best to ignore them, and listen to what silence the trees and sky offer me. Between them and the chatter going on in my head, there is little.

The younger one says, “Tell me what it looks like.” I notice she is blind. Turning away, I began to cry and realize all the problems I believe I have, are now nothing. N-o-t-h-i-n-g.

It all shifted immediately. I feel bad right now, and yet, I get to see THIS. Colors that soothe me, make me grateful for this time of year… Colors that inspire me to ask, ‘What would the music sound like?’ I feel the creative muse beginning to wrap its arms around me.

I get to see that not everyone gets to see.

I get to consider it is possible that this woman sees more than I see.

I felt the wave of a small transformation taking hold of me… the creative muse wondering what autumn would say in music, a sudden longing to tell this woman, who cannot see, what it looks like with sound. In the days that have followed, I imagine myself doing it differently, like a scene from a movie perhaps…. I’d get my magic wand out, make all those people disappear on the viewing deck, sit down next to her and hold her hand. I’d describe the vista in a few words, and then close my eyes… trying to leave the world as I know it, and enter into hers. I would sing sounds to her, trying to tell her what it looks like. I’d tell her I was going home to make this October day last forever, on the piano, because of her. I’d pour love and gratitude into sound and fall, leaves and colors, and eyes that cannot see.

There is music everywhere… I was blind. But now? I see.

Tony Rice…wanna get the chills? Watch this.

For all you music lovers, especially you bluegrass players and enthusiasts, watching Tony Rice’s acceptance speech at the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame is something that will give you chills. Just held in Raleigh, NC, I heard it was the buzz in every sense of the word. My husband attended this conference, held just two weeks ago, and in the days following the Thursday evening Hall of Fame event, apparently it was all anyone and everyone could talk about.

This icon of a musician, this man who has shaped this genre of music, given so much, and lost so much as well, personally and professionally, demonstrates an ability to “move mountains” with his voice.

He professes hope, shows vulnerability, encourages his long-time friend, the one-and-only Alison Krauss with words of support, and mesmerizes the room with not just all who he is and what he’s done for the bluegrass world, but for what he hopes he can do once again.

Watch. Then ask yourself, what is it you really, really, REALLY want to have happen in your life? If Tony Rice can do THIS, then anything seeming impossible to you, might now seem not just possible, but doable.

(While there is an overdose of silliness in the introduction by Peter Rowan & Sam Bush, hang in there, or just skip to the 8:00 minute mark.)

Sending my heartfelt wishes the long and winding road is about to gift you what you yearn for, Mr. Rice. It’s what we yearn for, as well… that voice.

Blessings be.

Hatch something recently?


While I realize there is always such possibility if we are willing to do the work and make the right choices, some days it is just easier to do that, than on other days. Seeing this reminds me there is always, possibility. Thank God… And that, is what will sustain me for today. 

What sustains you on your days of inertia, doubt and feeling at a standstill? While you continue to nest and do the work, can you still remain hopeful, and “keep the faith”?

The Power Of Music Brings Henry Back To Life

In the documentary, “Alive Inside”, the clip of Henry, whose spirit is transformed when given the opportunity to listen to music, is pretty powerful. When he is asked how music makes him feel, it is damn powerful.

Uplifting and inspirational, it makes me weep for all those folks whose lives are filled with too much silence, void of visitors, friends, livlihood and the beauty of music.

Imagine if music could be provided for all the many forgotten folks, living out their lives in nursing homes, hospitals, residential centers, halfway houses, etc.

“Imagine all the people, living life in peace…”

-John Lennon

Resistance, Sweat and Surrender

Out on my morning walk a few days ago, I was in the middle of walking trudging up a very steep hill; panting, hurting, sweating, hot as hell, all of it, when a thought came out of nowhere… similar to when the teacher calls on you in class to contribute your thoughts and fear grabs hold of you in the pit of your stomach… just surrender.

Two little words, out of nowhere as if a magic fairy, the voice of God or an angel’s sweet whisper, just showed up to gift me a message of love … Just. Surrender.

English: Steep Hill.

English: Steep Hill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Physically, I felt miserable. Emotionally, I wanted to quit. Mentally, I had that “aha” moment.

I heard my calm self begin to converse with my whiney self. “So, this feels awful and… Oh, well! (I can see her with her hands on her hips). Give it another ten minutes and you’ll be done. D.O.N.E. In  twenty minutes, you will have showered, and feel invigorated, accomplished, productive, relieved and grateful that you pushed through the discomfort.”

‘For Pete’s sake, what’s the worst thing that is happening to you right now?’ my rational self asked.

Whiney Beth-child: “I can hardly breathe! I’m tired! I’m so hot I’m about to explode!”

Rational Beth: And?

Whiney Child: Agh! This is so hard!

Rational, Calm Beth: And, so is life.

Whiney Self: I don’t want hard.

Rational Me:  Yeah? Well, either does the homeless person, the person whose hand was severed and will never be able to play piano with both hands again, or Linda Ronstadt, who can no longer sing due to Parkinson’s Disease.

A hand full of other images came flooding through.

Sheesh, this will be over soon, and so what if it is hard? It is ONLY hard right now. In ten minutes it won’t be. Just reframe it – How about challenging? You can do challenging, right?

Yes, I can do challenging. We can all do challenging. How about impossible, can we do that? Sometimes. What’s impossible to some, is only challenging to others… and what’s challenging to some, is simply IMpossible to others.

Translation – Resistance is the enemy and I will never sit down to compose, practice that difficult piece of music, write, or DO ANYTHING, if I allow my whiney self to have ongoing conversations with resistance. Resistance will win in the end. Always does, always has, always will.

For the last ten minutes, I embraced the struggle going up that hill, concentrating on “be here now”, one step at a time, knowing all the while, that I was doing it, despite the challenges and fleeting thoughts of impossibilities. Later on today, if I begin to feel the struggle with resistance, I will surrender and sit myself down, set my timer and do it anyways. There is no discussion with “I don’t feel like it” … except to reply with, “Okay, maybe you don’t. Oh well. Now get on with it.”

At the end of my day, what I want most, is to be grateful I pushed through.