BRIEF BLOG INTRO: I'm a man on a mission to convince you that music is a Super Power, and that life is worth living, no matter how many obstacles are placed in your way. And that you can accomplish great things if you just push ahead and don't let anyone tell you no.

I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas who is "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City-- having cheated death from AIDS. (In a game show, the Bonus Round is where time speeds up and the prizes are better.) Accepting my death changed me. Now, I'm consuming life as quickly and as fully as I can, while still taking time to breathe and appreciate every single day as an utter miracle.

In 2013, I turned 60 and I created a set of goals, all of which came true, including composing -- and performing in -- a Mass, recording a solo album (selling 10s of copies), headlining to a sold out house at a major night club in New York City (while getting great reviews). Now I'm out to redefine theater and cabaret. I update a few times a month these days, and I don't spam. So it's easier to keep up with me by following by Email. When this blog began, it was to track my death. I'm told it was the first AIDS blog. You can start at the gruesome beginning if you want. Or just jump in and maybe we can learn some life lessons together. Welcome to the Bonus Round. I'm Steve [SHACK-lin] and we're just getting started.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pics of New World Waking 2015 -- Union Temple of Brooklyn

New World Waking as a fundraiser for the temple!

Union Temple of Brooklyn.
Union Temple of Brooklyn.
Entering the historic sanctuary.
Stephen Wallem rehearsing.

Yes! Stephen Wallem is "Thor" on Nurse Jackie, Showtime series.
I saw him first when he was doing a stage show with co-star Edie Falco.
It was called "The Other Steve & Edie."
That is where I learned he had great singing chops.
Stephen Hanks produced the fund-raiser.
He has become a giant on the thriving cabaret scene in New York.
Julie Reyburn brings an earthy emotionalism when she sings.
Her kids are named Jude and Layla, if that tells you anything.
She's a star on the NY cabaret scene, also singing with the great Marquee Five.
(Forgive my photography. The lighting wasn't great.)
The whole company in their places. Julie Reyburn on mic.
Jim Brochu touchingly singing about Billy Tipton.
Cindy Marchionda and Lucia Spina.
"He's Coming Back."
Jacob Hoffman is amazing character man with leading man looks.
I use this word, specificity. He creates characters in front of your eyes.
And his voice is gorgeous, so I told him last night I was going to
write a musical for him just so I can listen to him sing all night.
"Franco Ate The Paperwork."
Julie Reyburn.
Cindy Marchionda is not only beautiful, but she sings with (again) specificity and emotion.
You can tell she is completely immersed in the song.
She's in my acting class and I'm in love with her.
Jeremy Abram has a deep, resonant voice and, like Jacob, great comic chops.
You can give him anything and he'll make it great.
He's from Slidell, Louisiana so I only call him "Slidell."
Marie Brea. I forgot to shoot her when she was singing the "Sanctus."
She has a trained operatic voice from heaven.
And now she's at Julliard, working really hard.
She and I are also in love. 
Here's Jeremy Abram again. He's glad he's not a zombie.
And yes, "Zombie Funk" went into New World Waking.
Don't ask.
Lucia Spina is a Broadway vet with a powerful set of pipes
and she finds Carolyn Wagner's huge, huge heart beneath a tough exterior in
"William's Song."
My Thanksgiving Prayer.
Julie, Lucia, Cindy.
There is a New World Waking.
Stephen Wallem, front.
Jacob Hoffman, Lucia Spina, Cindy Marchionda, Maria Brea, Jeremy Abram & Julie Reyburn.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Prove You Wrong (First draft)

This is the second song written for the "write and record an album in a month" challenge.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

I Will Fall (first draft)

I am unveiling the first draft of "I Will Fall," the first song I wrote on the guitar. I played other songs of mine on guitar, but this time I wrote the song on the guitar. It came -- if you want to know how songs are written -- when I was doing a self-imposed exercise to just get my fingers to play Dm and C (or, rather, the fingering positions for those chord, but up four frets).

And, the more I practiced, the more I started singing along, and before I knew it, I had a song. It's a first draft lyric, so I will no doubt be rewriting in the coming weeks, but I think it holds together really nicely.

But even more fun for me, playing the guitar gives me a new way to write music. The piano is great, but it has its limitations -- mostly in the rhythmic area. The guitar does things the piano can't do (and vice versa).

You'll also notice the mention of NaSoAlMo, which is the (Inter)National Solo Album Month challenge, which is the write AND record a new album this month. I love a deadline, so here I go. The first entry. 

Zombie Funk live with Guitar.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

University of Steve at NY Accomplishment Announcement.

It took months. Months of my vocal teacher Paul Kolecki intensely hitting me with a riding crop and yelling, "NO! NO! NO! NO!" (Movie fans picture Susan Alexander), but this past week, I think I finally found the "placement" I've been searching for. It's a combination of support from the diaphragm and a mental image.

(I did this because I can't stop learning new stuff, but also because I noticed, in my most recent concerts, I had no voice by the end of the show. I knew I was doing something wrong. Also, in choral singing, if the parts were high, I would lose those notes after a very short time.)

It started when I finally heard myself "Hmmmmm." The sound was in my nose or it was in my throat. And when he told me to put that focus into the front of my mouth, I couldn't figure it out. I would, frustrated, blow out air through my lips, making a Bronx cheer.

And then, suddenly, it kicked in. It was so easy! I felt like an idiot. But it's all in the head. It's like I needed a certain mental image to get there, and then I applied that placement to a note and, POW, this huge sound came out. Clear and amazing.

He gave me an aria which has mostly high notes, hovering around D, E and F -- and this morning, I sang this piece for an hour without losing one bit of vocal quality. I surprised myself, but Paul had said that once you "get it," you got it. After that, it's just doing it better and extending your power and range.

And yes, I'll record it and you can hear it. But first, let me learn this aria. It's "Il Padre Adorato" from Mozart's Idomeneo.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New World Waking poster and ticket info.

Announcing Stephen Wallem ("Thor" on Nurse Jackie) has now been added to the cast of our benefit performance of New World Waking, Saturday November 21, at Union Temple in Brooklyn, NY.


I fell in love with "Thor" on the TV show Nurse Jackie, but it was when Jim Brochu​ and I saw the actor, Stephen Wallem​ appear on stage with Edie Falco that I knew this performer, newly in from Chicago, was so multi-talented. He sings like an angel and, as in the show, has incredibly seasoned comic chops. Like all great clowns, he can make you laugh and cry at once.

But it was his voice that really carried me away. So, when I asked him if he'd take on the unnamed role of the "journeyer" in New World Waking, and he said yes, I couldn't contain my excitement. But I did. Until now. And, paired with some of my favorite theater, cabaret and opera performers, this is going to be a great night.

The full poster is below.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My Mass is now online.

After almost five years, we performed Missa Appassionata, the Bay Ridge Mass, which I composed with much guidance, and a little collaboration from, and with, Mark Janas.

It is on iTunes and Spotify, which means you can buy and own it or you can stream it. I am happy either way. I just want the music heard because much of it is different from anything I've ever written before, including some very sophisticated choral composing. (Yay, team!)

But these are interspersed with songs that will be more familiar to your ears.

If you'd like to stream it, here is the Spotify link:

Monday, October 05, 2015

For my 62nd Birthday...

For my 62nd birthday, I gave myself the challenge of learning to play guitar and accompany myself in public. And I did it! With only five days practice. It helps to have a song with only one chord in it. And this next year will be the 20th anniversary of coming back to life and performing The Last Session workshop in Los Angeles at the Zephyr, still hooked up to an I.V.

I wasn't supposed to live past the age of 42.

So, what have I done since then? I've made a ton of friends from all over the world, invented blogging, written two off-Broadway musicals, composed a Mass, a song cycle, visited all seven continents, co-starred in a movie, made a few albums and found that healing comes from being a healer. Learning comes by being a teacher and loving comes by being a lover.

I got rescued by doctors, friends, family and loved ones.

In the world's big picture, I'm not rich, not famous. I didn't change the planet nor do I have my Tony, Oscar, Emmy or Grammy, but I have life still. Those things may or may not come, but I do know this, when I was on my "deathbed," I wouldn't have wanted those things around me. I already had what I needed: Jim Brochu and the people who love me -- and even better, people I really love.

In the end, that's all that matters and will ever matter. On that score, I'm the richest man alive. All the wealth in the world cannot buy you a true friend. And one true friend is worth more than all the wealth in the world, which means I have multiple worlds of wealth.

Happy birthday to me.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

New Birthday Video.

Today is my birthday. I'm 62 and so I present a new song and a new video to go along with it.

Saturday, October 03, 2015