Monday, May 22, 2023

Why wouldn't you?

A memory came up on my Facebook page that was a picture of a painting by my friend, the late artist, Brian Nash. The painting wrote out the words, “Why wouldn’t you?” And I could hear Brian saying it.


It stopped me cold and forced me to consider. 


Why wouldn’t I what?


-       Learn to fold a fitted sheet? 

-       Visit Italy?

-       Run a marathon?

-       What???


I knew the fact that I was seeing this question now wasn’t a coincidence. It was begging me to go deeper than fitted sheets. And just to be clear, there are no marathons in my future. At the heart of “Why wouldn’t you?” is the question of what is possible.


It’s easy for me to say, “Anything is possible.” I’ve said it for most of my life. But am I living my life as if I believe that?


What risks am I taking? What fears am I willing to face head on? How committed am I to my biggest dreams? Would I sacrifice the known for the unknown to get there? What does happy look like at this point in my life?


Why wouldn’t I what?


I write a lot about taking a leap of faith and jumping, or flying or whatever rhymes with the particular line I need in a song. I’m very bold on paper. But where does the rubber meet the road?


The thing I know for sure is there will never be a point when I feel certain or ready. 


It’s easy for me to say, “I’m gonna…” It’s hard to say, “Now. I will not wait a minute longer.”


But “why wouldn’t you?” conjures an “oh, what the hell” feeling in me, too. I’m tempted to follow it with “what’s the worst that could happen?”


I’ve grown weary of being apprehensive from past experiences and forgotten that those experiences were crafted by an older version of me that doesn’t exist anymore. 


It would behoove me to take the current version of me out for a spin, the one who has prevailed, the one who knows, somewhere deep within me, resides the victor, the one who defies the odds, who rises up no matter how many falls and lives to tell the tale of how daring greatly is always worth the risk, how there are unexpected thrills awaiting that depend solely on one thing – a moment’s courage.


And why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t I take one moment to make the call I’ve been putting off, or to start learning the skill I’ve been procrastinating about, or to visualize a larger life than my current one?


If we speak our lives into existence, then surely it’s time to say, “This is what I want.” Surely there’s power in someone else knowing, if for no other reason than that we hold ourselves accountable for our own dreams. And maybe we even get a little help along the way.


I think the Universe has waited very patiently for me to get out of my own way. And I can hear Brian saying, “Why wouldn’t you?” as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. 


I hope whatever your dreams, you ask the question. And I hope all of us give ourselves the gift of that one moment of courage that changes everything.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

...Pieces of a Life


I’ve been on a mission lately to clean out and get rid of things, and I have availed myself of various books on tidying and decluttering to aid in my quest to overhaul and simplify my life. 


For a while, I have had no issue with doing it, no stumbling blocks to tossing, no hesitative moments. But there was bound to come a point or a category where I would be stopped cold.


It’s never what you think it’s going to be. For me, the recent conundrum has been about classical music. 


For the first twenty-two or twenty-three years of my life, much of what I did centered on it. But by the time I neared my mid-twenties, I made peace with leaving it behind. It was never my greatest love or my passion, though I liked it well enough. 


I had gotten my bachelor’s degree in classical piano performance at Northwestern, had studied opera at Juilliard and sung on the stages of Carnegie and Alice Tully Halls. Whatever I was going to do with it, I had already done. And whatever I had done, never stopped me from writing songs and stoking the fire of that greatest of my loves.


It was easy for me to tuck it away. Studying piano was the means to an end of writing and playing my own songs and it was a great way to go. But classical singing, well, that was a huge mistake in the long run, because trying to undo that has been the challenge of all the years since. 


But back to the decluttering discussion. 


I managed to tuck away all the classical music, both vocal and piano, in a lovely decorative chest underneath my piano. I went through it once, a number of years ago, and got rid of a lot of it. But here it is, years later, and it has remained unopened since, with all the classical music safely stowed inside.


Do I really need to keep this?  I pondered.


I pulled out the chest with every intention of ridding myself of most of its contents. 


I pulled out score after score, and book after book, holding each in my hands. I looked at the handwritten notes on them, some of them dated, some of them with piano fingerings. All of a sudden, I remembered who I was when I sang or played each piece, and though I know I’ll never be her again, I couldn’t help but wonder if getting rid of these pieces of my history, wasn’t also throwing away a piece of who I am now. 


I cannot begin to guess how many years it’s been since I sang an aria or played a sonata. I’m not even sure I could do either anymore, frankly, but I do know that the person who did those things still lives inside me, and those achievements weren’t nothing. They took years of work. 


So do I pass these physical remnants of my former life on to music students who could use them now, or do I hold onto them myself? And what else am I holding onto that maybe I should release? What pieces of my life are over and done with and ready to be set free? What new aspects of my life would I be making room for if I decided to part with them? Who was I? Who am I? Who will I become?


No matter how I envision revisiting the past, even briefly, it is over. These days, my piano is covered with the songs that I write. I’ve run out of time to do anything other than what lights me up and fulfills me. 


For the moment, I’ve decided to tidy and/or part with other things that are less angst-ridden. There is no shortage of them. As for Beethoven et al, I will circle back around when I’ve decided if that’s a piece of my life I will truly never revisit. 


What are you holding onto from your former self? I would love to know.


Until next time, peace and blessings…



Sunday, April 16, 2023

The End of an Era

As I type this, the final Broadway performance of Phantom of the Opera is taking place. 


It’s been covered by the news, but for me, I’ve been pouring through story after story on Facebook, by people I know who have been in the production, or were part of the crew, people whose lives were forever changed, who, maybe like me, could never imagine a Broadway without Phantom.


My relationship to the show went beyond the musical numbers I ever sang from it. For me, Phantom will always and forever be about merchandise. Yes, you heard me correctly. Merchandise.


Phantom ushered in an era where Broadway merch was everything. A t-shirt or sweatshirt with that mask was cool. So were the coasters, key chains, baseball caps, matchstick boxes, coffee mugs that glowed in the dark when filled, window cards, and CD’s.


The lines were long, the demand was high, and the cash flowed endlessly. 


I used to meet my best friend, Anthony at the Majestic, where he managed the merchandise sales, and eventually, when I decided to sell Broadway merch, too, Phantom was where I trained. 


There was no show crazier to work, so if you could handle yourself there, you could work any show. 


Eventually, I moved nearby to Crazy for You, and then I floated between theaters at Les MizMiss Saigon, and Sunset Boulevard


Merch people were theater people – actors, singers, dancers, writers, directors, producers – all biding their time, but biding it in theaters, eight shows a week. 


For a short but sweet period of time, some of us would meet for a picnic dinner Friday nights during first act, on the floor of the Minskoff. 


I thought those days would last forever, but as the mid-nineties approached, I moved to Nashville to pursue my songwriting career. In ’97, the touring company of Phantom came to town and stayed for about a month. So back to the theater I went once again and this time sold merch to people with southern accents and the kinds of questions and comments that inspired us to keep a running journal of them, because they were that funny. 


Oh, you think I’m kidding? 


Patron 1 to Patron 2: Why do you think he (the phantom) was so ugly?


Patron 2: Because his momma didn’t like him none.


I kid you not. 


By the end of the run, I heard Bill, the bartender say, “Drop the chandelier on the bitch so we can go home already.”


It was heaven, I’m telling ya. 


When Les MizRentKiss Me Kate, and Mamma Mia came to town, I sold merch for them, too. 


Ultimately, I liked being in the theater so much, I got a job bartending there for other non-theatrical events, which was hilarious, because there was no training involved as a prerequisite to that job, so unless the ingredients were actually in the name of the drink, I didn’t know how to make it. Jack and Coke, gin and tonic – I was your girl. Otherwise, I was very entertaining, but a terrible bartender. 


When I returned to New York, I worked whatever shows needed a fill in person. But eventually, the merchandise heyday that Phantom ushered in, in the late 80’s, started to wane. 


I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to why I feel so sad about Phantom’s closing after a 35 year run, and I think it’s that, as long as I could see it there, every night, continuing on, each time I passed the Majestic, that part of my past was somehow still alive, too.


In some alternate universe, this group of kids still exists, with our whole lives before us, a sea of endless possibilities, dressed in Broadway show shirts and baseball hats, about to work walkout, when that night’s audience raced to our booths to take home a little bit of the magic they had just experienced.


One last time, the orchestra will soar, the final bows will be taken, the curtain will come down and the house lights will come up, and Phantom will be relegated to Broadway history. 

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Celebrating In Color!

This past Saturday marked the 7-year anniversary of the release of my CD, In Color


Normally, such occasions would be marked by a simple Facebook post with a link, sure to garner a few more sales. But this year, I’ve been thinking about the distance and perspective time has given me. 


In Color was the record I made just in case I never got the chance to make another record. You know, the in-case-I-get-hit-by-a-bus project. The one I made so I wouldn’t look back at the end of my life and say, “I should have,” or “I wish I had.”


While it would behoove all of us to make choices throughout our lives that don’t leave us with the regret of roads not traveled, I can’t say that I’ve always done that. 


For the bulk of my adult life, I pitched songs to other artists and had my demos for them recorded by other singers. 


When I would play out and sing my own songs, I would get the best response from the meaningful stuff, but in the world of commercial songwriting, those weren’t the ones that earned money. And for years, I couldn’t reconcile my ability to write commercially with my obligation to write what I was put on earth to write.


Until I decided to make In Color.


When I moved back to New York from Nashville, something changed deep within me. There was a moment of reckoning, where I could not take one more step forward, doing what I’d done, the way I’d done it, without first honoring the thing I’d always wanted to do, but hadn’t allowed myself. 


Then came the torture of overthinking, because, well, this is me we’re talking about. 


Was I just being self-indulgent to make a record? 

Was it worth it? What would I be giving up if I didn’t do it? What would I be giving up if I did


I could remodel my kitchen with what I’d be spending on this record. 


These are the things artists think about that other professions don’t contend with.


Once I made the decision to do it, I was committed no matter the obstacles I might face or the things, both good and bad, that I couldn’t foresee. And there were a lot of things I couldn’t foresee.


To begin with, I really only knew one thing for certain – that my friend, Tanya Leah was going to produce it. 


As she was recording and producing her own Roses for Panjo album, I thought it was achingly beautiful, and I couldn’t think of a description I was more desirous of than “achingly beautiful.” So I asked her if she would produce my record.


At some point, when we were sitting outside at a local New York Italian joint, I wrote out a list of intentions for my record on the back of my paper placemat.


To be clear, at that moment, sitting there, my intentions seemed ridiculous. 


Other than Tanya and me, I didn’t know who’d be playing on it. I knew my friends Lorraine and BethAnne would sing backgrounds with Tanya. I don’t think all the songs were even written at that point, including the title track. 


It would be three years before the record was done. But there are things about what’s on it that I will treasure forever.


For instance, one song has the piano that I grew up playing. Another song has a bunch of friends as well as my father singing on it. 


Caitlin sent in her violin parts. Everett played percussion and sang. Anthony wrote the friends song with Tanya and me. A tambourine with just the right sound for the gospel song. Yes, I wrote a gospel song. 


Violas, bass and drums from Nashville. 


Kenny Loggins for a duet partner.


Magic happens when you follow your heart. 


Opportunities present themselves when you dare to take a chance on being the person you dreamed you’d be.


I never got the new kitchen, but the song, “In Color” has been sung at Lincoln Center, 54 Below, by cabaret singers, Broadway stars, and seven years worth of theater kids at Nicori Studios. It continues to be learned and sung all over the country, thanks to kindred spirits who believe the lyrics about living life in bright neon color bear repeating and sharing.


Time marches on. But I still get to sing all the songs when I do concerts. And Tanya, Lorraine and I formed the band, The Inspire Project. 


I would love for you to take a listen to the album, In Color, if you haven’t…or even if you have. 


I hope some of the songs speak to you and resonate with your own life. 


I wish you roads traveled, chances taken, and dreams fulfilled.


Happy 7th Anniversary to In Color. And so much gratitude to those who gave of their gifts and heart on it, and for those of you listening.





Listen to In Color

Purchase In Color

Sunday, February 12, 2023

My Annual Super Bowl Blog - 2023

Well, boys and girls, another year has passed, and so today we find ourselves readying for Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles. 


It is starting at 6:30p.m. Eastern, so make sure to heat your hot wings accordingly.


As has become tradition, I like to take this opportunity to impress you, my readers, with my vast knowledge of players of the sport.


This year, I learned one name and one name only – Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills. And I would like to point out that the only reason I know his name is that, while playing a sport big on violence and short on smarts, he nearly died.


For one brief shining moment, I held out hope that the U.S. might come to its senses about this sport. For an instant, I dared dream that life and death might carry the full weight they deserve. 


But alas, that moment was short lived, and here we are again today, a nation poised to celebrate that which has turned out to be truly American – overconsumption of junk food and unnecessary barbarism. Add a semiautomatic and Marjorie Taylor Greene to the picture and I think we can all say, “God bless America.”


Enough negativity, Ilene, you might be thinking. Can’t we harken back to a simpler time, when I knew the names of players because they were on Dancing with the Stars


Sure, I can harken with the best of them. The truth is, the one player who was part of all of pop culture when I was growing up is now doing Medicare commercials. 


Broadway Joe was Sexiest Man Alive before there was a People Magazine to determine such important things. Now I’m worried that he’ll break a hip.


But back to the matter at hand – today’s Super Bowl.


I’ll be cheering for the real winners – anyone who wrote music used in the commercials and half-time show. I applaud and cheer any musician’s rare payday. Even Rihanna, who lost me as far back as the genius lyric “umbrella – ella – ella – eh – eh - eh.” Good for her, too.


I suppose my toughest decision will be what to watch while the rest of the country is on that testosterone high. My top contenders are Friends, which I started streaming on HBO Max because I’d never seen them all when they originally ran. Or maybe Hacks, which I also haven’t seen yet, but heard was great. Whatever it is, it will probably be a comedy, because I could use a laugh.


Whatever I choose, I will make sure to say a prayer for the players before the start of the game. I can’t say for certain, but it’ll probably be something along the lines of,…


“Dear Lord, they know not what they do, so please go easy on the traumatic brain injury. Amen.”


Wherever your Super Bowl plans may take you, I hope you have a great day.




Monday, January 9, 2023

Welcome to My Blook?

It’s 2023 and I decided that I wanted to blog more. The only trouble is, the word “blog” has become passé. Maybe the whole writing of them has, too. I don’t know. But I figured if I wanted to continue doing it, I should call it something else.


I consulted the thesaurus in my iphone to find possible alternatives. That’s when the word “blook” caught my attention. Blook? Really? 


Just to be sure that was an actual word, I googled the definition of “blook.” The dictionary said it is “a book published in instalments on a weblog.”


Three problems with that – 1) the dictionary misspelled the word “installments” so my faith in its accuracy is now waning. 2) This isn’t a book in installments, although now they’ve got me thinking about that. And 3) The word “weblog” includes the word “blog,” which begs the question why change the name.


So while I ponder what to call this – welcome. Thanks for dropping in.


If you’re new here, I started this whatchamacallit back in March of 2009, before my first book, In Search of George Stephanopoulos, came out. Back then, I wrote a new thingamajig every day. Every single day. 


Obama was president, so I still had hope…and a blissfully naïve belief that the dark days of George W. Bush’s presidency were behind us and so, surely, were the worst days we would ever see as a nation.


I know - hilarious.


Be that as it may, I am kind of excited to exercise what’s left of free speech to blather on about what crosses my mind these days, whether it’s the meaning of life, the freak show known as the United States House of Representatives, or Prince Harry’s 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper last night. 


I need to start with that last one first, because everyone has got an opinion about this and I’m no different. 


The majority of people I know say that Harry should have kept his mouth shut. I disagree. I think speaking his truth is not only his right, but is incumbent upon him. I think it is unfair to let the press have their unfettered say, but not the people they are writing about. 


I found his admissions heartbreaking, and his desire to heal, an act of bravery. And seeing to it that his wife didn’t suffer the same fate as his mother might be the single greatest legacy Diana left of all. 


Will I buy his new book? Probably not. But I say, “Good for him and whoever ghost wrote it.” I’m all for employing writers.


Switching topics with zero finesse, as I type this, the House of Representatives has not yet voted on the Rules Package so congress can, you know, run. That’s supposed to happen later today, but I don’t count on it being smooth sailing after last week’s circus. If they should happen to pass it without fistfights in the chamber, then I think Vegas should start taking odds on how long before someone calls to vacate McCarthy from the speakership. 


In preparation, I’ve got popcorn being delivered today between the hours of four and six.


I’m also in a bit of a reading frenzy right now. I’m almost done with a book on decluttering, and you’ll be happy to know that it’s an eBook I borrowed from the library, so I’m not actually adding to my “stuff” like I did with Marie Kondo’s book.


This book does not require me to pull out everything I own or to fold anything precisely, which is a good thing, because I have surrendered to the inevitable – I will never fold a fitted sheet correctly and my clothes have to fit my post-pandemic body, which let’s face it, is not sparking any kind of joy right now.


I hope that whatever the rest of your day brings, includes a little laughter and a new way of looking at something. 


Until next time…thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

What Kind of Year Has It Been?

This New Year’s Eve, it seems like people are either home sick or out frolicking like they haven’t been since 2019. Me, I’m neither. But I am reflective and a tad melancholy, so I thought, why not bring all of you down with me?


I jest. Sort of. 


I am not someone who particularly enjoys staring in the rearview mirror. I tend to be driven to accomplish large goals, whatever they may be. But every once in a while, it’s important to stop all the moving, to stand still and reflect, and to just be.


New Year’s Eve seems the logical time for that. So instead of rushing toward resolutions, fad diets, and endless to-do lists, I’m taking a moment to ask myself, “What kind of year has 2022 been?”


What have I learned? What have I accomplished? What am I proud of? What dreams have come true? What unexpected gifts were there? How have I changed and grown? What broke my heart? What made me stronger? What truths have I surrendered to? In what ways have I made this world kinder? Have I loved well?


I hate the superficial. Sure, I can talk about the weather…as a gateway to how humanity is going to perish, but not really as a pleasant cocktail conversation. I digress, though.


2022 has been a tough year, and not just because it feels like the 27th year of this freakin’ pandemic, but because I am a full-time caregiver and this year has seen the transition into in-home hospice for my 94 year old father. 


Caregiving gives one the unique experience of having time pass in excruciatingly slow motion and simultaneous warp speed. It has given me an opportunity to be present and savor moments, hugs, and stories in a way most people never can, but it also carries with it the weight of pending grief and loss. 


As I look back, I have to acknowledge the fortitude it took to keep dreams alive and to move them forward any which way I could in 2022. 


Doing online concerts every month from March 2020 until August 2022 afforded me the chance to perform for people worldwide. It kept me writing songs and growing, and because the pandemic leveled the playing field by forcing all of us to make it work from home, with no fanfare, it gave me the opportunity to have my favorite writers hear me


If you had told me any time prior to this past year that people whose work inspired me would become fans of my work, I would not have believed it. But life has a funny way of gifting us unlikely opportunities if we put ourselves out there. For whatever my songwriting career didn’t live up to previously, 2022 left me with a kind of satisfaction that I never knew I’d have.


Are there dreams you haven’t yet dared allowed yourself to dream?


Early in the pandemic, I began writing a musical. What more logical thing could one do when Broadway was shut down? No pressure, the theaters were dark and no one knew if they’d come back. 


At first, I wouldn’t even acknowledge that a show was what I was writing. It started with one song. Then another. And another. And before I could deny or resist any longer, I had to admit this was what I was doing – writing a show.


And God, joker that He/She is, wasted no time in revealing that this was the thing all previous endeavors were but mere preparation for. Writing a musical, like writing books, is an enormous undertaking. There is something slightly insane about those of us who do it. It’s a nifty combination of “wouldn’t it be fun if…” and “what the hell was I thinking?!” 


Be that as it may, as this year draws to a close, I can say I’ve done table readings, and I know no matter how far I still have to go, I’ve taken a major step. So I will forge ahead, however long it takes me to see this sucker to fruition. 


For all the things I am grateful to have done this past year, there is also a gnawing at what has passed me by. Invitations I had to decline, friends I couldn’t see in person, trips I could not make because for everything we say “yes” to, we must say “no” to something else. 


I wonder how I will emerge from this time spent at home, when the situation changes. Even now, I cherish moments of connection more than most will ever fathom. I don’t have the energy for facades or the desire to dwell on minutia. And I appreciate laughter for the sweet relief it brings during the darkest moments. 


I would like to tell you that I have all my ducks in a row as 2023 begins, that I’ve got a personal trainer and a list of goals I’m going to “crush,” as the kids like to say. Note to kids: don’t “crush” – manifest, create, embody. 


I hope 2023 finds us all less hateful and more loving, less greedy and more giving, less fearful and more trusting. I hope 2023 finds us bolder in our heart’s desires, stronger in our resolve to venture outside of our comfort zones, and intentional in building the kind of world we want to live in.

I hope 2023 finds us being honest with ourselves.


I hope we stay awake to our fragility and have compassion for one another, knowing how brief our time here. 


I hope we maintain a sense of humor, because just about everything is funny if you know how to look at it right.


And finally, I hope we find our way back to love, to who we were before life had its way with us. I hope we resurrect the part of ourselves that believes anything is possible. 


In 2023…

May you be healthy

May you be peace-filled

May you be prosperous

May you be generous

May you be kind

May you be fulfilled 


Happy New Year!