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Showing posts from 2015

Is This What Normal Life Was Like?

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I spent yesterday practicing my E-min pentatonic scale on my guitar.

I was going to post something on Facebook in response to the political outrage of the day, but realized nothing I could think of was really all that different from what I was reading. And I realized it was what I was reading that was churning up a bunch of emotion that had nothing to do with my day to day life.

I went back to the day -- and it's in the diary somewhere -- right after I realized I was going to live again. Took about a month. But I was vacuuming the house and suddenly felt this huge weight descend on me. I began to worry about the national debt.

Absurd. I couldn't fix the national debt today. Why would I carry that burden?

And then I thought, "Is this was 'normal' life was like before I was dying? Did I really take on the stress of things over which I had no control?"

In that year before, and especially at the end, because I "knew" I was dying, I had let all the worr…

Diary 12-7-15 Success!

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Daily Bonus Round Diary 12-7-15 Success! The Urban Stages Winter Rhythms cabaret set was a great success.



Diary 12-5-15 PANIC! (Corrected)

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Diary 12-4-15 Working with high school kids.

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Performance This Sunday, Dec. 6

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WINTER RHYTHMS: New and Noteworthy Today TICKETS

Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 3:00PM

at Urban Stages
259 West 30th Street
New York, NY 10001

Between 7th and 8th, 1 block from MSG/Penn Station
Penn Station (1, 2, 3, A, C E, LIRR, NJ Transit, Amtrak)

Trezana Beverley (Tony Award Winner for For Colored Girls...), Jana Robbins (The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, Footloose, Gypsy) and songwriter Steve Schalchlin (The Last Session, The Big Voice: God or Merman?) perform self-contained excerpts from their solo musicals. Ms. Beverley will be presenting a portion of her portrait of famed singer Mabel Mercer. Ms. Robbins will perform highlights from her critically acclaimed autobiographical show, I’m Still Here, and Mr. Schalchlin will offer The Best of The Bonus Round, featuring original material from his body of work.
TICKETS

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

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Prove You Wrong (First draft)

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

I Will Fall (first draft)

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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. …

Zombie Funk live with Guitar.

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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 …

New World Waking poster and ticket info.

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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.

TICKETS HERE.


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.


New Song! New Video! "A Clue"

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And here it is on iTunes.

It is also on Spotify.


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.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/missa-appassionata/id1038988148

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


For my 62nd Birthday...

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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 sti…

New Birthday Video.

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


New Video: Someone I Never Could Be

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New song. New video. Happy birthday to me! (Sad song but I'm not sad).

Zombie Funk

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This is what happens when you join a group where you must write a song a week.

Your brain gets addled and you start writing anything that comes into your head.

Roger Rees. A very talented and kind man.

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Roger Rees has died.

He visited Jim Brochu and me in our dressing room during the run of "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" Jim interviewed him about his run on Nicholas Nickleby, an 8 1/2-hour long Broadway play.

Times Square Sanctus

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Soloist: Maria Fernanda Brea



This is the Sanctus I composed for the Missa Appassionata, which will be available soon for the purchase or streaming. Words: Traditional. Recording produced by Stephen Wilde. Executive Producer: Fr. Jeffrey Hamblin, M.D. Conductor: Mark Janas.

Hand is improving.

I have been resting my hand, which means no typing or playing the piano.
So, it's feeling better. I will see a specialist in a couple of weeks.
Thanks for all the kind notes and wishes.
Lots of good things to come.

Update.

I apologize that I have not updated the blog. But I have some repetitive stress injury to my hand and so I can't really type all that much. However, you should know that I am still here and that I am making a lot of new music.

More news soon.

New World Waking, Boston Conservatory.

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I don't want to insult producer/director and performer Blake Zolfo by saying he reminds me of me. But he reminds me of me. In the sense that he seems to instinctively be living in the Bonus Round without ever having almost died of a disease.


Meaning, as a student at Boston Conservatory, he started his own theater company and put on a season of shows, grabbing whatever space was available, and just going of for it. In the case of New World Waking, they took over a rehearsal hall at the school. (One of the premises behind his founding EarthStone is that one doesn't need a theater to make theatre).


When he discovered my New World Waking School Challenge, he and musical director Joey Harrell were especially eager because the show is still, in a way, unformed -- or without form -- and thus, subject to being stretched and changed and reformed to whatever artistic vision they wanted.

As a teaching opportunity, it was perfect. As composer, I gave them permission to cast it any way the…

Writing A Song A Week.

I've joined the Jack Hardy Songwriter Exchange, the rules of which are that we must write a song a week. So, just to prove that I can, I have been writing, almost exclusively, love songs -- and I will probably make those love songs my next album.

Why love songs? Because everyone keeps accusing me of writing only "issue" songs. So, I'm gonna prove myself! So far, I'm not doing so badly. We'll see how it goes.

I've been learning my new studio recording software -- Pro Logic X! -- so I'll start posting the demo recordings soon for your judgment.

Boston New World Waking moved to March 10.

New World Waking will perform on March 10 (one night only!) at 8pm in 132 Ipswich, Room 306.  Tickets are $5 and can be reserved by emailing Blake_Zolfo@bostonconservatory.edu.  A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Trevor Project.
The show features a group of incredible singers from The Boston Conservatory, and the response from the performers to this material has been so encouraging as we continue to put this show together. It is also a unique opportunity for this group of pre-professionals to be able to work on a show with the composer being an active part of the process.  They have improvised many of the harmony lines and bring a fresh new look at this very pointed piece of theatre.
EarthStone Theatre Company's Cast for New World Waking
Gabi Carrubba* Jackie Chylinski Dani Apple Bransen Gates Aaron Badilla Isaiah Reynolds
*Member of Actor's Equity Association (AEA), the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States. EarthStone Theatre Comp…

Lucia and I perform "William's Song" at the BroadwayWorld Cabaret Awards

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It was thrilling to receive the "Editor's Choice for Excellence in Songwriting" at the 2015 BroadwayWorld Cabaret Awards.
In the picture, taken by Russ Weatherford, you see Lucia Spina singing "William's Song."
I am very honored to receive this award and I thank the BroadwayWorld editors, especially Stephen Hanks. 

Boston New World Waking logo

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New World Waking will perform on March 10, 2015 (one night only!) at 8pm in 132 Ipswich, Room 306. Tickets are $5 and can be reserved by emailing Blake_Zolfo@bostonconservatory.edu. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Trevor Project.

Pics of Drama Class, Jacksonville TX.

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The Jacksonville College Drama Department. Mary Lewish, teacher.
I was honored to speak to the students in this class. I basically just told them my story, and about how I found life and truth in musical theater. And I told them to quit acting. (That's always the first rule of acting is to stop acting).
Now, I ask you, how adorable are these faces? 

Yes. That's me lecturing, as if I had even a remote clue about what I was doing.

For Valentine's Day.

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For Valentine's Day,

I am asking my girlfriend from college -- with whom I recently reconnected -- Brenda Bateman​, to be my Valentine.

I just called her "Hatley" and she was my best friend and the one who believed in me the most, among a lot of great close pals. But she is a very special person and I caused her and a lot of other people a great deal of pain.

She is responsible for my return home to Jacksonville after 40 years. It was both the best and worst time of my life because I had a secret I could never share. Not back then. And not there. In not being able to deal with it, or talk about it, I hurt everyone in my life -- especially when I left them, driving out of town and never looking back.



She married a wonderful man and had a great marriage until he recently passed away and she found me on Facebook. (And then hounded me to return. There is so much to tell, I don't know where to begin. I haven't even begun to examine my feelings).

We were driving throu…

Singing at Jacksonville College.

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I was, frankly, terrified to come back to Jacksonville College, remembering how much gay people were hated and denounced back in the 70s by conservative Christians. I didn't want to put them on the spot and I didn't want to have to defend myself. But, my classmates wanted me to come, so I went and was even invited to speak to the drama department and sing a concert for my old classmates.

And it was fantastic. We all wept together, sang together and many of them shared with me about their own gay relatives, proudly talking about how much they loved and accepted them. I even said that if anyone doesn't agree about homosexuality, that I was perfectly willing to accept them, however they are, whatever they believe, because I cannot ask for acceptance unless I'm willing to be accepting.

I feel a little silly, in retrospect, fearing this day that I would come "home."


How wonderful it is when people hearts are open and we all just accept each other for what and who…

Presenting at Manhattan School of Music.

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Mark Janas teaches a program for the vocal students at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. It's a special class of students who do community outreach to both elementary schools, to teach them about opera; and to senior centers, singing a special cabaret show.

This entails showing them how to approach singing the American Songbook, which can be tricky and sometimes difficult for operatic singers. Many simply cannot make that transition. But when they can -- when they can "bring it down," so to speak, and sing conversationally, they then have that reserve of training to draw on when they need it. And this can be spectacular!

With Andy Gale as an acting/performing coach, these students are getting the best of the best. And my purpose there was to sing my own songs and, as Mark would put it, show them, in real life terms, how powerful music can be in the lives of those who hear it, when its sung as if life itself depended on it, which mine absolutely does.

I'm ho…

New World Waking in Boston.

Last week, I offered to let any group perform New World Waking, and the challenge has been accepted by the EarthStone Theater Company, which is run by some students at Boston Conservatory.

So, today, in honor of MLK Day, I want to present this number from the recent New York staging.

Borrowing from my Mass, I brought in the Sanctus, sung here by Maria Fernanda Brea, a student at Manhattan School of Music, the opera program. I promise she will some day be on the stage at the Met.

But, you'll see that the narrator begins the moment with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King -- about how violence only breeds more violence -- pairing that quote with "Holy Dirt," about how some religions care more about their ideology than they do the people they say their deity or prophet loves.

It's like a contest to see who can kill them most people to defend the honor of some holy object or person -- and whoever kills the most, wins.


In class yesterday...

In class yesterday, one of my new songs got ripped to shreds. Well, not really. They loved the melody and concept, but felt they were mismatched -- and that the "story" in the song was unclear. I hated hearing that, of course.

 Except, today, I love having heard it. Because now I know how to approach a rewrite.

Being a songwriter is such a pain. When an idea is new, it's THE GREATEST IDEA ON EARTH, and then you start singing it and the fresh new car starts getting dings and bumps and scratches. Or, they were there but you just didn't see them because NEW IS ALWAYS GREAT!

But, how valuable to have informed, honest reactions. You cannot grow without it. You have to suck it up and look at what you've got and then fix it. And fix it again.

That's a metaphor for life, btw.

It never gets easy. It only becomes familiar. But if your life is easy, you're either dead or you've lost the meaning of life.

OTOH, the two other songs got a splendid reaction. I stil…

You can perform New World Waking.

If you're a student or non-profit group looking for an hour-long piece for a fundraiser or a social action meeting, I am allowing, for a limited time, a free license to perform it. All the material is online, fully downloadable for no charge.

Write me at steveshack@gmail.com

Announcing an honor.

Today, it was announced that I have been honored with the first Broadway World Special Editor's Award for Excellence in Songwriting by the editors of BroadwayWorld,com. Here is their description:

In a field with many deserving candidates, this year's first ever BWW New York Cabaret Award for "Excellence in Songwriting" goes to Steve Schalchlin, a New York-based composer and lyricist who has been on quite a cabaret roll the past two years. Although his two biggest recent projects, the CD and subsequent show, Tales From the Bonus Round, and his song cycle, New World Waking, were years in development, Schalchlin performed both in New York over the past couple of seasons. Bonus Round-which featured Schalchlin at the piano as lead singer--was performed as a cabaret show at the Metropolitan Room in October 2013 (and received a BWW Award nomination for "Best CD Release," and one of the songs garnered a nomination for "Best Original Song for a Cabaret Show&qu…

Looking Back and Racing Forward.

This has been one of the best years of our lives.

For me, creatively, it's been a revelation even to myself beginning with the performance of my Mass, Missa Appassionata, back in the Spring. With a choir of world class voices singing my music, led my Mark Janas and directed by Andy Gale, I'm still not over the powerful way these singers embraced the piece and made it soar. (A recording is on the way!)

Then, we got into our new apartment -- after 11 years on the waiting list! -- and we finally have a home to call our own. It's hard being a poor actor/writer in New York City. We spend so much of our time working on our art, doing things for free, and hoping for attention, it almost sometimes feels like we're doing it for ourselves.

Maybe this year, the rest of the world will find us.

But it was the performance of New World Waking that really felt like a triumphant conclusion to an eventful year. Thanks to the fact that this new place we're living in, which is filled…

Happy New Year with New World Waking.

Also read the sensational review posted at Broadway World by critic/editor Stephen Hanks.


CABARET LIFE NYC: Steve Schalchlin's 'New World Waking' Is a Spiritual & Political Wake-Up Call for Non-Violent Social Action and a Case for the Healing Power of Music.

As culture writer and film critic A.O. Scott put it in the New York Times this past Thanksgiving weekend, "Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, I've been waiting for 'The Grapes of Wrath.' Or maybe 'A Raisin in the Sun,' or 'Death of a Salesman,' an Emile Zola novel or a Woody Guthrie ballad-- something that would sum up the injustices and worries of the times, and put a human face on the impersonal movements of history.   The originals are all still around, available for revival and rediscovery and part of a robust artistic record of hard times past. But we are in the midst of hard times now, and it feels as if art is failing us."    So into this void, at least in this lit…