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.

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

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Zombie Funk

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.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Roger Rees. A very talented and kind man.

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.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Times Square Sanctus

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.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

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. 

Thursday, April 09, 2015


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.

Friday, March 13, 2015

New World Waking, Boston Conservatory.

Joey Harrell, musical director of EarthStone Theater Company's production of
New World Waking.
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.

Blake Zolfo and I with the poster. Artwork by Carolina Gaviola, conceived by Blake and Carolina.
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 they wished, including changing keys, changing genders of the singers, changing songs from solos to group songs or vice versa. And since the "characters" are more archetypes associated with the songs than fully fleshed out characters, they had my permission to absolutely do anything they wanted.

They couldn't do a lot in terms of production, plus they had a severely limited rehearsal period, but what a privilege it was to sit out front and see the songs re-imagined in new ways. (Here in New York, I had to cast myself in the show because, also, of time limitations so I couldn't watch the show.)

But, from the beginning, I have envisioned this piece as a learning exercise that can be thrown into a season. The point of it is to do it quickly, down and dirty. So, for the students at Boston Conservatory, it was a chance to, essentially, create a new show from scratch. And there's no better or faster way to learn.

At the beginning of the night, Blake announced that, except for one, these were all underclassmen.

Bransen Gates sang "Brilliant Masquerade" and "War By Default."
He's a very "alive" performer on stage, totally present.

Isaiah Reynolds lent an expert hand to such diverse songs as
Franco Ate The Paperwork, Kelly & Sinatra, My Thanksgiving Prayer, and My Rising Up.
When I showed Jim his picture, he said, "This kid is gonna get a lot of work with that smiling face."

Gabi Carruba's harmonies were gorgeous on "He's Coming Back" and she totally raised the roof on "Lazarus Come Out."

Aaron Badilla has a warm,  melodic voice.
He also had the two most diverse songs, "Vacationing in Syria," which had the audience laughing out loud,
and "Holy Dirt," which benefitted from his quiet gravitas.

Lauren Kidwell was brought in to handle "Sanctus," which requires a more trained operatic voice.

Jackie Chylinski was celebrating because this would be her first college show.
She expertly handled "He's Coming Back," "I Enter This Battle Gravely" and "William's Song."
The endlessly adorable and warm Dani Apple fully embodied the pathos of
"Gabi's Song," "I Enter This Battle Gravely" and "He's Coming Back."

Seriously, how adorable is Isaiah Reynolds?

Adam Bokunewicz bravely stepped in at the last minute to handle the piano chores.
It was not easy, and he gracefully pulled it off. Great musician!

Joey Harrell, the musical director, stayed up almost all night and morning
rewriting the charts for Adam. Welcome to the glamorous world of show biz!

The entire company and creative team.
Adam Bedilla, Joey Harrell, Dani Apple, Blake Zolfo, Jackie Chylinski, Steve Schalchlin
Adam Bokunewicz, Isaiah Reynolds, Bransen Gates, Gabi Carruba, Lauren Kidwell.
Despite all the limitations, the show was great. People around me were both crying and laughing and greatly moved by the material and by the expert performances.

I composed New World Waking with the express goal of providing a work that would both be deeply meaningful and easy to produce -- but it takes a visionary to pull it off. A visionary like Blake Zolfo.

It doesn't matter how old you are or how inexperienced, what it takes to make it in this profession is courage to step out on your own and MAKE something happen.

New World Waking was a triumph because these young people made it happen. They didn't wait for others, they didn't wait for permission. They created their own show and they moved a lot of hearts with it. And that's what Living in the Bonus Round is truly all about.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

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.