Monday, December 26, 2016

RIP George Michael, Godfather of New World Waking.

If not for George Michael, I wouldn't have played John Lennon's IMAGINE piano. We would not have had our mini-concert under the tree planted in Bill Clayton's memory which gave me the concept of New World Waking.

I'm sorry I never got to meet or speak to him and tell him how much he affected my life. I hope, in the new year, you will reach out to someone who affected your life in some small or large miraculous way, unknowingly perhaps, and let them know.

For instance, the creator of the drug that saved my life, Dr. Bruce Dorsey, reached out to me after reading about my new life in my Bonus Round journal, long before it was a Bonus Round. He got to see me come back to life, whereas his life was really constrained to a lab. He job was molecules, not lives saved.

He said, "It's so great to actually see someone living their life because of something I did. I usually only see the lab."

So, thank you, Caroline True, for coordinating the John Lennon IMAGINE piano project. I don't know what became of it, but I know what it did for me. And since you were his friend, I am sending you my sincere love and sympathy. I knew, in person, how much you cared for him.

This is, indeed, a sad day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bass Playing.

Bass playing is all about the groove. I almost felt the groove this morning. 20 takes in. For just one moment, I felt "it," the groove they talk about. It's sensual and controls everything in the song.

And as quick as I got it, it got away because, probably, I enjoyed the moment of getting it and became self-conscious. I can get the notes, but the groove? Stupid bass players never warned me. They just stand there, looking all cool and barely moving.

So, here I sit for the past two hours and all I want is to get this one song. Over and over, I play it. But I just don't lock in. It's elusive, this groove. I took it for granted as a pianist because I could coast over the top of it. Took bass players for granted because I essentially played their part on piano.

But it's different. It's almost as if you have to change your own brain-mind, force it into a different type of thinking and feeling.

So, I haven't been getting it. And then there was that moment. That one moment where I felt it.

Okay, enough about me. What eludes you?

(And I go back into the cave.)

#elusivegroove #stupidbassplayers #nowimoneofthem

Monday, December 12, 2016

After reading “Once, We Were Heroes”

After reading “Once, We Were Heroes”
By Steve Schalchlin

I found an essay about AIDS called

"Once, We Were Heroes by Mark S. King

I read it out loud yesterday in my Sunday afternoon acting class
At first I could tell I was rushing
I always rush through things

The first story in the essay is about a man
Trying to keep his dying lover from drinking the poison
The two of them had lovingly concocted together

He failed

As the gravity of that sheet-soaked passage hit me
Two tormented souls struggling for one more moment,
I became aware of the young people in our class.
I realized how shocking it must have sounded to them.

"Here, honey. Here’s that poison we mixed together!"

Because to me, having lived through that era,
It felt like a normal and completely understandable

To die of this disease is to suffer.
There were so many people dying so quickly
in such horrible painful excreta-filled
‘holocaust bodies and faces’ ways

So familiar, that I didn't even flinch when I read it myself


I looked up into the eyes of the 25-year-old boy sitting across from me
His eyes, normally so filled with animated hungry life, wide-eyed and bright
Seemed remote, turned aside
Like he was not wanting to absorb it
or perhaps he was fearing that I, myself, may still go down that way
I’m one medication-fail away from it.

I began to weep
And breathe
And slow down

As I continued describing A Medieval past
An alt history
Of bloody painful isolated death

And then I realized

Back then, he would've been among the first to go.

Like most young actors, he is physically beautiful
Talented and reckless

Like most young people who come from good parents
From Indiana,
He is Eager to sample life

We were all eager to sample life
It was all so very innocent
We were all so very innocent
Kids in a candy store
Away from home
In a profession where the goal is to play

We were all beautiful
We came from worlds without outside voices
We lived in bubbles untouched by the Other
We didn’t know there were others like us

So, when we found each other...

After weeks of a steady grind here in
My bonus round life
I had been questioning myself

But, in this moment, as the faces of the dead
Appeared in the faces of every person around that table
I was reminded why I grab life so by the throat
And ride it like a freight train

And live the shit out of it

Why learn guitar all of a sudden after 62 years?
Why write songs?

Because, if I do not, I will be betraying them
the ones we lost
the ones who fell by the wayside
my entire dead generation

How dare I get the opportunity to live
And then squander it
Those hospital beds
People who, in a matter of weeks,
Went from being breathtakingly beautiful to skeletal

I could not look at him and not see them
or worse, imagine what he would look like
if he were them
See his eyes sunken and hollow
His robust cheeks sagging and yellow

I have to live the life they were begging for in each doomsday prayer
I want to grab him and tell him that HE also has to live the life they fought for
How easily it can be taken away

Every single one of them died with a broken fantasy image
of the life they would have led
The dances they would have performed
The Broadway roles they would have created
The New York Times reviews!

But I'm the one who got the bonus round
I feel like I have squandered a lot of it, as it is
But I have found a place in my life where I can do my work
I have a room in which I can rehearse
People helping me
People coaching me
People singing with me

I have people who want to act scenes with me
Who Want To Teach Me To Dance

They would have fought for these opportunities
They would not have wasted their lives
Well maybe some of them would have
Don't all of us waste parts of our lives
Or feel like we've wasted part of our lives

But sometimes I feel them watching me
And they are saying, Really?
That’s the best you can do with your life?

And my answer is always, No. No.

I can do more. And I will.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Only Kind of Music (with Jake)

Jake Wesley Stewart came over for lunch, so I did what I always do. Dragged him behind a mic and made him sing a vocal. This was yesterday. Here he is.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

High Water Road

My first demo recording with me playing the bass guitar!

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Christmas Cherry Red.

Each year, I have slowly added to my ability to create music from home. Last year, I picked up the guitar (acoustic) and have been learning it, while writing guitar songs. I've been making demos using it. This Christmas, I thought, now I want to play electric guitar.

But, as I listened back on my demo, though some aren't bad, there was always something missing.

A real, live bass.

I was playing a bass on the keyboard, a nice sample, as a matter of fact. But the rush of energy that you feel when you hear fingers gliding over the strings of a nice bass, it just can't be matched. So, though my heart wanted to be Keith Richard, I knew I had to first be Peter Tork.

So, I wandered into Sam Ash and told the guy in the bass department my plight, that I wanted a bass, but nothing fancy, nothing tricked out. And, lo and behold, rather than upselling me, he said, "Look, see that Yamaha there?"

"Yeah." (Most bass guitars want you to spend upward of $600 to $1000 or more.)

"$200 and it's solid, stays in tune, has both pick-ups. It will get the job done. Want to play it?"

I have never plugged in a guitar in a store before. Now everyone would hear me. "Yeah. How do I...?"

He brought me over to an amp -- they sell Hartke amps -- and that's when I found out that Larry Hartke, the inventor, was my salesman.

Not sure yet, I decided to go to Guitar Center where I met with a guy who, after I told him my economic plight, immediately tried to up-sell me with an impassioned speech about the need for a quality bass. I was sure he was right, but all I could think about was that solid little Yamaha.

I exited Guitar Center and went right back to Sam Ash, found Larry and said, "I want that bass."

He took me over to the display and asked what color I wanted, sunburst, black or cherry red.

Oh, please.

Cherry red!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Yes! I made today's birthday list. I wonder how many of you, if it was awhile since we communicated, checked here first to see if I'm still alive?

I post! Therefore I am!

All is well. Tests are generally good. HIV undetectable. Bit too much fat in the blood (side effects of the meds) and I'm staying rigidly faithful to my multiple pill regimen.

Mentally, I'm still keeping my "University of Steve at New York" paradigm for my daily existence, seeking out mentors, giving service in order to create and build community. Always learning more, reaching harder in this most amazing Bonus Round -- but also keeping a quiet "just do the work" zen approach.

GYM 101: I'm having a bit of a kidney issue when I run, so I've taken to stair-climbing in our building while listening to Hardcore History podcasts. Because of my frozen shoulder, which is much better, I can't lift weight. So I climb. Up to 45, down to 1 and back up again. I miss running the streets of New York. But it's getting colder and perhaps this is all for the best.

GUITAR 101: This year, I taught myself guitar off of YouTube and immediately began writing songs with it. All I've ever wanted to be was John Fogerty. And Neil Young. You should see me in the bedroom.

VOICE 101: I sing in the St. Clement's church choir and write music.

COMPOSITION 101: Wrote the score for the Space Pirate Puppy Musical which opens on Saturday, so it's frantic right now. I have two different rehearsals today. (And it's so fun and exciting!)

LOVE 101: I have Jim and without him, I wouldn't be enjoying any of it.

I'm 63 with the body of a 73 year old and the mind of a eager first year student. I remember a time when I just wanted to get to the millennium.

I hope your life is great and that you appreciate every waking moment. I hope you checked in on me because you remember me fondly. Or because you liked my songs. This year was the 20 anniversary of The Last Session in Los Angeles, where my co-star was Chip Esten! (heart throb)

This next year, 2017, is the 20th anniversary of the New York production of The Last Session. I don't know what we're going to do -- people are talking about an all-star revival. I know I'm going to be around singing them.

Thanks for any part you might have played in my life. You're the reason I'm alive. I hope to continue to earn my keep.

Steve Schalchlin
Living in the Bonus Round

Monday, September 26, 2016

"At One" with my instrument.

Yesterday was a personal landmark for me. It was my first time since learning guitar that I confidently played and sang a 20-minute set in front of strangers. I had previously sung one or two songs for mostly friends, but my concentration was always so focused on getting the guitar part right, remembering where my fingers were supposed to be, that my attention felt divided.

But yesterday, after much practice, I had total focus on the song, the lyrics and the performance. I wasn't demonstrating my songs, I was performing them. I was being an entertainer, confident and having a blast. The guitar felt as natural to me as when I play and sing at the piano.

The exhilarating feeling is one that cannot be described. It's powerful to have control of one's instrument, whether it's a piano, a guitar or even just your voice.

And yes, I know I'm too old to be a rock star to anyone but myself, but here in the Bonus Round, where time speeds up and the prizes are better, this was a lifelong dream fulfilled. I could see the audience perk up, sing along, laugh along and I was completely into the lyrics of the song -- meaning I wasn't thinking about the guitar at all during my set. It was just a natural extension of my body and my music.

As I said, all my life, I've wanted to experience this. It took me a full year of constant practice, but even when I dropped my pick, NO BIG DEAL -- I just grabbed it off the floor and kept on moving like it never happened. No nerves. No fright.

Just the pure experience of being at one with myself and my instruments (guitar and voice).

But that's what it takes: Hours and hours and hours of just staying at it, conquering the fretboard, figuring out where the strings are, understanding rhythm and then marrying them together so that they feel whole and natural.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

11 SEPT 2016. The STEVE Show! "No Safety"

On the anniversary of 9/11, a song about the same violence going on now in Syria, focusing on the small boy found in the rubble of Aleppo, Omran Daqneesh. "No Safety" written and performed by The Bonus Round Band featuring Steve Schalchlin.

Monday, July 25, 2016

It's almost been a month.

I'm doing fine. Just lying low after my last upper respiratory infection, noodling around on the guitar and generally staying still. I finally started back singing at St. Clement's on Sunday mornings. So, that's gotten me out of the house. But otherwise, I'm just reading, studying, learning more guitar licks and trying to survive in this heat. This is what I looked like on Saturday:

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Xulhaz Mannan / Orlando Pride

A memorial for the victims violence against LGBT persons in Orlando and Bangla Desh. Featuring Blake Zolfo & The Hamblin Singers. St. Clement's Church NYC.

"ONLY FOR A POUND" Wesley Slade

Wesley Slade sings ONLY FOR A POUND (rehearsal recording) for The Space Pirate Puppy Musical! Book by Heather Bagnall. Music & Lyrics by Steve Schalchlin. Directed by Luke Tudball.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Xulhaz Mannan" The Bonus Round Band

In memory of "Xulhaz Mannan" who was murdered on April 25, 2016 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Bonus Round Band feat. Blake Zolfo on lead vocals.

From Tamoso Deep, who first approached songwriter Steve Schalchlin with this story.

The Grand Release : A Homage To Xulhaz Mannan

It could be named the Murder. It could be named Seven Minutes After.

Steve insisted this should remain as Xulhaz Mannan, because he wanted the song to build a blockade against people who wanna wash him off from the history. The mass denial is still ongoing, people are too shy to talk about him. I told that to Steve.

So, he composed this song. To pay the homage to Xulhaz.

It was a collaborative work. I talked with Steve for hours. Our conversation, which Steve fondly refers to as 'Our story', has taken the shape of this song.

It was Blake Zolfo who gave his voice. And Elizabeth Pax.

The song did not end. This is no curtain call. And I don't wanna sound like that, either. But without these people, I couldn't do this.

And there was Peg Fisher, who introduced me with Steve years ago. My own angel, with the gift of music, my Peg.

I'm grateful to you all. The song will not end. It just begun to play.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"The Space Pirate Puppy Musical" in Orlando Fringe, May 20-28.

What is The Space Pirate Puppy musical?

Even if I knew I couldn't tell you It's a wacky idea from Heather Bagnall and Luke Tudball -- two foolish Brits in Brooklyn -- who asked me off-handedly, one day, whether I'd like to write songs for a children's show and I said yes (because I always say yes).

This is the final poster.

Original artwork bySeamus Corbett. Additional artwork by Tasty Monster Productions #OFringe25 #KeepingItTasty — with Orlando Fringe, Luke Tudball, Luke Tudball,Heather Bagnall, Steve Schalchlin, Heather Bagnall,Orlando Fringe and Monster Arts at Orlando Fringe.
I have never really written this kind of show tune writing before, nor have I had to deliver so much material in such a short amount of time -- a month or two -- so I have to thank Heather Bagnall who wrote the book and Luke Tudball who's, no doubt, doing something contributive in order to look busy -- and the surprise casting of old Bonus Round buddy from The Big Voice days, Wesley Slade, who auditioned because he liked the title, without knowing I was involved. (And then he got cast with no help from me! I am so proud of him!)

Personally and professionally -- and I'll talk about this on The Steve! Show when I can take a breath -- my challenge was to write the songs, music and lyrics based on a character/plot concept by Heather, then write out the sheet music (the most tedious and hated part of show business) so it could be read by cast members, then make rehearsal mp3s, and then orchestrate the songs, making tracks for the actual performances.

And I know there are people who do this every single day, but this is my first time. I don't know if these songs are any good or not. I didn't have time to evaluate them. I had to just grab whatever came out of my head and throw it down on paper. I used action words so the actors would have something to play, and tried to make them singable and move the plot along -- and have some fun along the way. It's not exactly Cole Porter at Yale, but what can I tell ya?

It's no fun 'til you can play with everyone.

Rehearsals started yesterday down in Orlando and I'm up here in New York hoping the cast and creatives are having fun! Cuz I'm kinda diggin' it.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Planet #9 by The Bonus Round Band.

A new planet has been discovered by CalTech scientists. Featuring Steve Schalchlin & Blake Zolfo.

Monday, April 11, 2016

11 APR 2016. The Steve! Show. Special announcement! Zombie Priest!

Special announcement! Zombie Priest! in a staged reading on MONDAY APRIL 25 at 7:15pm at ART/NY Bruce Mitchell Room, 520 8th Avenue (Bet. 36th/37th). Admission FREE.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Daily Shack. 21 JAN 2016. Learning Fingerpicking.

Oy. It's so hard. I'm incrementaling my way through "Rescue." It sounds great on guitar. I just wish I could do it in less than 45 minutes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Daily Shack: Back in the Studio

Happy to be back practicing guitar after a day of rest, watching movies and catching up on TV shows.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sunday, January 17, 2016

the security guard’s human event

young glasses guard with big smile
a taciturn presence

“oh? you’re doing acting classes?
what do they -- what do you… do in there?”

i said,
“well, it’s a scene study class, so we bring scenes
or the teacher gives us scenes and we do them
and he says, here try it this way
or try it that way”

“what do you get outta that?”

his eyes were bright with curiosity
like, behind this big, aloof, handsome man
who i was, at first, afraid of
months ago when i first encountered him
here at the desk in the middle of the night

he speaks in almost a whisper
now i see he is very shy, extremely shy
but i know that look
i know it from my own face

the first time i thought about an acting class
it sounded exciting

a playground

where you use all your senses

and explore your inner self

by exploring the inner selves of others

to not be myself

to play

to pretend

to be free

i imagined what he would be like in the room with us
he would be silent as a stone
staring off into the corner
when speaking, he’d be softer than dan
who always gets told to speak louder
afraid that someone might see him
might judge him
that he’d open his mouth and they’d see he is an amateur
because he would be

his acting would probably be terrible
at first

but then he’d find something or say something in a scene
and the people watching would see an
actual human event

and he’d know it too

but not quite know what it was

but remember the feeling

and the sense of accomplishment

a flood of endorphins
for doing nothing?

and think

how do i get there again?

he’ll think, what did he do before?
he was unconscious of the effort
so he wasn’t trying before
it was probably a moment when
he got tired of trying
and, bingo,

a human event

as if there are events involving humans that aren’t events

who knows?

as he sits staring at the monitors all night
i wonder what he’s thinking about
whether he has a rich inner life

no, strike that
i know he has a rich inner life
he’s human

and every human has one of those

c2016 by Steve Schalchlin