It's been a minute since my last post. Life has been busy, filled with teaching, coaching football, training for the Philly Marathon, grad courses at Drexel, and having no social life whatsoever. One of the unexpected joys of this fall has been getting to know three fantastic musicians, with whom I've formed a band. We've decided to adopt Juno Day as the band name, and it's rumored that Zac Halbrook may even make an appearance at our first gig this coming Friday at Strange Brew Coffee in South Philly. Here is a video of the new band rehearsing "Up"--with Jeremy Lawrence on bass, Mike Mahoney on drums, and Samantha Rise on vocals.
Had a couple friends in the audience tonight, which was nice. Played "Chalk Dust Torture" (Phish) and "Tuesday".
I played my third open mic at Milkboy Coffee in Ardmore, PA this past Tuesday. Played "Montana"--written last summer while living in "The Bromley House"--and "Legos"--the last Juno Day song to be completed before the final gig at Johnny Brenda's in 2009. Within the first few bars of "Montana" I dropped my pick...the video below picks up immediately after.
I played a solo set at Town Hall Coffee in Merion, PA this past Thursday. It was my first time playing a full set this year, and it was a great time. Thanks to Max Seidman for inviting me to open. Hoping to do more of this in the near future. Here's a video of "Up":
Chalk Dust Torture*
Chasing Two Rabbits >
Flannel Wind (Delphi)
I just played two songs at Milkboy Coffee in Ardmore, PA. Feeling pretty good. It was a pretty spontaneous decision, and I was slightly nervous. This was my first time playing out since December of last year. It was only my 3rd time ever playing/singing solo. All in all, voice is still a challenge for me, but I'm a little more confident. For my first public performance in seven months, I was pleased. I'm looking forward to doing it again next week.
I played two songs:
Here's some video:
Me and Zac reading books circa spring 2009.
Photo by Dana Marie Donofrio.
It's about halfway through the year, and I'm about to experience a big change in my life as I become a full-time teacher in the School District of Philadelphia. I just finished substitute teaching last week, and I'm now down the shore relaxing for a few days before beginning "Training Institute" with Philadelphia Teaching Fellows. I'll then pretty much go right into my full-time position with Mastery Charter Schools, where I'll be teaching math at Simon Gratz High School.
This path that I'm currently on was not planned--not even in the slightest. When I quit my job in New York right before Christmas, I was doing so in order to finish In Double Rainbows by the self-imposed deadline of December 25. Though a complete production of I.D.R. never materialized, I had gone all-in and had no back-up plan as to how I would make money in order to continue living in New York. So, I weighed my options and decided that maybe it was time to leave. Several trips down to D.C. during the fall made it clear that both Zac and I wanted to re-start Juno Day in earnest, but the challenge was finding a way given the restraints of jobs, geography, and time. Ultimately, I decided I would move home to the suburbs of Philadelphia for the month of February, regroup, and then move to D.C. to facilitate making music again with Zac.
At the same time, I knew I wanted to find work (a source of income) that was more consistent, sustainable, and rewarding. In New York, I had had five jobs in 14 months--none particularly exciting, rewarding, or with any intention of any sort of "career." I also moved six times. I was tired. By contrast, home was a haven, and for the first time in a long time, I actually desired this comfort and stability. Most of my friends--other than Zac--were in Philly, and I began to start thinking seriously about what I "wanted to do" with my life. Tapping into my network in Philadelphia seemed more tangible and inviting than another "experiment" in another city, so I began to have second thoughts about my move to D.C. Teaching had always been in the back of my mind as something I would like to do at some point, so I began to explore potential opportunities in that direction. I was still not committed to staying in Philly, necessarily, but I was increasingly moving in that direction. (I was completely ignorant as to the imminent budget crisis, but that's a whole other story.) One opportunity led to the next, and before I knew it, my schedule was filled with various education-based activities.
Here's a chronological summary of the past six months of my life, highlighting everything I would not have been able to anticipate beforehand:
- Quit my job at a marketing agency in New York City (almost completely spontaneous)
- Wrote the songs for In Double Rainbows
- Left NYC en route to Washington, D.C.; ended up staying at home in the suburbs of Philadelphia instead
- Started volunteering at Mighty Writers, Students Run Philly Style (Team SLA), and YouthBuild Philadelphia
- Sponsored a high school student's Senior Project, teaching him guitar lessons
- Was accepted into Philadelphia Teaching Fellows
- Held a job as a substitute teacher at charter schools in the School District of Philadelphia
- Ran the Broad St. Run for the second year in a row, with the kids from SLA
- Played in my first ice hockey game since high school (7 years)
- Was offered a position as a math teacher with Mastery Charter Schools at Simon Gratz High School
The only thing on the list I would have been able to have predicted is In Double Rainbows, and only because it was already in progress. Everything else is new--although, not entirely surprising, given my interests and the fact that I took action in that direction.
I honestly couldn't be happier with the way things have evolved over the past several months for me. But, the reality is, in taking on these additional responsibilities, I've made the mission of tangible accomplishment for Juno Day seemingly much more difficult to realize, due to having less time and energy to devote to its cause. And so, by default, the cause--or at least the scope and the way in which it might be realized--evolves.
I'm reminded of a quote from The Great Bridge by David McCullough, which I read over the fall/winter:
"The movable saddles, like big expansion joints that were to be built into the actual roadway, were essential to the stability of the bridge. Its capacity to move, the fact that it would not be perfectly rigid like a stone bridge, was the thing that would keep it alive..." (316)
Today (June 21) was supposed to have marked the release of Up, a 12-song album that I had worked on last summer while living in New York; or, it could also have marked the release of Acomodador, an 11-song album of songs from 2009 and earlier. Neither one of them are anywhere close to being complete. I had set the goal of releasing an album on the first day of summer, 2011--the longest day of the year--as early as last spring (2010). How did it not happen? Mainly by my finding other distractions, by allowing new ideas to compete with the existing plan, and by simply not doing it.
I've had enough ideas not come to fruition over the years to know that "Just do it" is the ultimate truth. In undertaking these new responsibilities, I still hope to find a way to produce an actual catalog of songs with Juno Day. Further, this new path is now inextricably linked to the path of Juno Day. The way I approach my job as a teacher will invariably reflect my experience and what I've learned from Juno Day over the past few years; and the direction of Juno Day will undoubtedly be influenced by my job as a teacher. Both Zac and I are aware that our priorities rest with our "real" jobs, and so it will be a major challenge to try and "move it forward" with Juno Day, especially since we are still not living in the same city. But, we'll see what happens.
Here's what I anticipate in the next six months:
- PTF Training Institute
- Teach math at Gratz
- Run the Philadelphia Marathon
That's about all I'm fairly certain of...I have ideas for how I'd like to fill in the gaps, but I'm not sure how things will play out, and I kind of like the idea of not planning too much. "With the flow."
I started trying to improve my singing ability a little over a year ago. Prior to that, I was too scared to ever really try--I sucked, I knew I sucked, and I wasn't exactly receiving any encouragement from those around me. This perception/opinion of myself was enough to keep me from being foolish and embarrassing myself. So, for a long time, I did not sing. But, I love writing, I love playing guitar, and I was growing increasingly frustrated by not being able to sing my own songs, so eventually I decided to start trying--timidly and sporadically at first, and then gradually more emboldened and consistent.
There is a simple quote I came across at some point in the last two years that put things into perspective for me: "Practice is the cause of achievement." I firmly believe this. There is no magical switch that turns you into a superstar, and no one else is going to do it for you. Since March 2010--when I started recording myself singing in order to track my progress--I've practiced singing 156 times. The sessions range from 12 minutes to 1 hour 37 minutes, with an average time of about 37 minutes. So, basically, in the 450 days since I started making a concerted effort to improve my singing, I've practiced an average of once every three days for a little over half an hour each time. This hardly seems like much of a commitment. And yet, I can honestly say that my singing is much improved from a year ago. It's still not very good, but the biggest difference is this: I don't care. I don't care what other people (might) think. I'm a little more comfortable, a little less insecure, a little less frightened. I see no other cause for this than the gradual comfort that comes with doing something repeatedly over time. Whereas I used to shut up and immediately stop singing as soon as I heard a neighbor's apartment door open or close, I now scream like an idiot in my parents' house with my entire family easily within ear-shot, something I never would have done before, because it wasn't "me" and I didn't want my family to think I'm weird. It's now at a point where I simply enjoy this activity...I love singing, and I'm okay with expressing myself and not being afraid of what someone else might think. It feels great.
My routine is this: Whenever I have time to sit down and play, I grab my acoustic guitar, open my laptop and bring up GarageBand, record for however long I feel like playing/singing, and then export it to iTunes.
The following recording is from yesterday. The songs are listed below, along with the corresponding dates/time periods of when they were written.
1. Tuesday................................. October 2006 (form/lyrics); August 2008 (lyrics)
2. Clouds.....................................................................August 2008 (form/lyrics)
3. Two Halves..................................................................May 2006 (form/lyrics)
4. Foxhole in Winter.................December 2010 (form/lyrics); January 2011 (lyrics)
5. Up..............................................June 2010 (form/lyrics); October 2010 (lyrics)
6. Flannel Wind (Delphi).................October 2008 (form); August 2009 (form/lyrics)
7. Montana..................................................................August 2010 (form/lyrics)
8. I Used to Play Guitar..........Oct 2006 (form); Nov 2010 (form); Dec 2010 (lyrics)
9. Penance...................................................June 2010 (form); July 2010 (lyrics)
10. Demigod...................................................................June 2010 (form/lyrics)
11. Monorail (Infinity Beers)...09/2010 (form); 12/2010 (form); 01/2011 (form/lyrics)
12. Dogwalker (The Winds of Solitude Roaring at the Edge of Infinity).......08/2010 (form); 12/2010 (lyrics)
13. Change the World/Rule the World...............November 2010 (form/lyrics); January 2011 (lyrics)
14. Legos................May 2009 (form); July 2009 (form/lyrics); August 2009 (lyrics)
15. Concussed.................................November 2009 (form); October 2010 (lyrics)
Today is Flag Day. To commemorate the stars and stripes, here's a song that used to be called "Flag, No Wind" (pre-lyrics) and then, finally, "Flannel Wind (Delphi)." The first recording is from a practice session in early August 2009. The second recording is from our final gig, at Johnny Brenda's on 8/14/09. We wrote the lyrics two days before the gig:
Can't remember what we came here for
The summer still precedes us like folklore
We knew the only way to fly was to let go and try
But then we stumbled upon Tuesday and only wondered why
And all the "what if" conversation was quickly running dry
So now ours is a flag with no wind
Can't remember what we stayed here for
Options are decreasing, that's for sure
We flew to California thinking that we'd set sail
And all the prophecy foretold that we could not fail
But then we came ashore in Delphi and chased our tail
And we found no Aeolian wind
All these things
Recollect my dreams
Every passing day
Takes them farther away