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Paul Bodden: All About...

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Paul Bodden

I WRITE CABARET AND THEATER SONGS HERE IN MY NATIVE NEW YORK CITY.
My songs show the influence of my wide-ranging musical interests: Blues artists like Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters and Mississippi John Hurt; Jazz singers like Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald; Songwriters like Fats Waller, Kurt Weill and Harold Arlen; Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Joni Mitchell; as well as John Bucchino and Ricky Ian Gordon; all mixed up with a big dollop of modern classical music. “You do write some great stuff!” says veteran cabaret singer/piano player, Steve Ross.

A CD RECORDING 14 OF MY SONGS IS AVAILABLE FOR SALE:

“I LOSE MY HEART (AND OTHER BODY PARTS…)”

The mood of these songs is by turns funny, dark, passionate and open hearted. Singers who hear the songs want to use them in their shows and concerts.

My musical director, Seth Weinstein, and I went into the studio and laid down piano and vocal tracks for 14 of my songs. Considering that it was my first time in a recording studio, the experience was surprisingly pleasant, easy and fun. No doubt, engineer, Chip M. Fabrizi of PPI Recording, had something to do with that.

My goal, however, is to have other singers and musicians perform and record the songs. If you are interested in obtaining sheet music or lead sheets, please email me via the CONTACT page.

I am also writing a musical about a boy living in the Projects on New York’s Lower East Side who imagines that he is a beautiful princess. (Can’t imagine where I came up with that story…) A reading of The Princess Musical is in the works.

Here’s what Steve Ross had to say about my last cabaret show:

“A real revelation … you are SUCH a wonderfully communicative singer. You bring such heartfelt intelligence to everything you sing and say...”
Stay tuned!

The Princess Musical - Work In Progress

I have been working on this musical, on and off, for about 12 years. A sit-down table reading of the first act is planned for early October 2011. A synopsis of Act One follows:

Taking place in NYC in 1962, this musical toggles between fantasy and realism. Karley, a highly imaginative 11-year old boy, is surrounded by a mostly female multi-racial family and lives within the tough macho culture of the low income projects of NYC’s Lower East Side.

One day, Karley discovers his inner Princess. The Princess (portrayed by a life-size puppet and sung by a countertenor) is impulsive and headstrong and develops an instant infatuation with Karley's sympathetic fifth grade teacher, Mr. Rubin.

Karley feels he has to keep this discovery a secret. He and his younger sister, Tina, make a Princess marionette but in the end Karley feels forced to destroy both the inner and outer manifestations of his Princess persona.


Pink Tower Music - my publishing company


I grew up in a tall pink tower on the arm of the green gray sea.
Other people called it the Projects on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
And so it began...

Basic Bio

PAUL BODDEN (the artist formerly known as Paul David Ross) is a native New Yorker of Jamaican and Polish-Jewish descent, which may or may not account for his “special” view of the world. He started playing guitar at age 9, beginning with folk music and later branching out to blues and jazz.

Paul began his professional acting career while still an undergraduate at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. In his junior year, he played a middle-aged South Asian to great acclaim in the title role of "The Indian Wants the Bronx." After this initial success, he promptly quit the theater.

Years later, the call of acting drew him back into performing in a series of plays and musicals. As luck would have it, he often got paid for his work. Eventually, he appeared on 2 different episodes of “Law & Order”. (You can currently see him on re-runs.)

In all of these performances, he portrayed a variety of South Asian, Middle-Eastern, and Mediterranean men most of whom were either middle-aged or near and/or beyond death.

In the 1990's, Paul thought the world would be a better place if he would write a musical about youth and childhood. So he enrolled himself at the Extension Division of the Mannes School of Music in Manhattan where he studied musical theory and composition. He also took piano lessons with Tardo Hammer and Hector Martignon.

Paul had performed a solo cabaret act for many years for which he often wrote special lyrics. Now he started songwriting in earnest. The 2004-2005 season saw the debut of four of his songs by other singers in various cabaret and concert venues. He followed up with his own sold out cabaret act at Helen's Hideaway Room in September 2005. The show was reprised in November of the same year.

Paul currently lives in Manhattan with his long-time partner, Thad, and continues to write songs and work on his musical, which is based on short stories he has written about his childhood.

Collaborators and Muses

The late songwriter, Jeffrey Roy, was my first musical director. Jeffrey encouraged me to write patter lyrics for existing songs. I still perform my version of “You’re My First, My Last, My Everything” from that time.

Fran Minarik was my vocal coach who became a collaborator and friend. He’s a very talented musician, musical director and teacher. He inspired me to not only write songs but to start writing a musical that is still in the works. We had a lot of fun writing “Autumn Weather” and have a least one unfinished opus to revisit.

Lois Raff-Corwin is a puppeteer who writes plays both for puppet and human actors. Lois grew up in the Carolinas, which may account for her ease in writing lyrics that include Southern baby talk.

Vickie Varnuska is an actor who has appeared on stage, film and television. She is also someone I have known longer than most people. Vickie performs a one-woman show called “Essentially Alice” in which she plays many, many characters from Lewis Carroll's “Alice” books. In an earlier incarnation of the show, I played half the characters with her and we sang "The Lobster Quadrille" to music we wrote together. Most recently, I directed Vickie in an abbreviated showcase version of the show.

Musical Influences: Folk & Blues

I was born during the McCarthy Era and was named after Paul Robeson, the great African-American singer, actor and left-wing political activist. In addition to recordings by Mr. Robeson, my mother listened to the opera, La Boheme, and the counter-tenor, Richard Dyer-Bennett. But mainly, I grew up listening to folk musicians like the Weavers, Pete Seeger, Odetta and Joan Baez. So I suppose it was not surprising that I started taking guitar lessons at age 9.

The next milestone came around age 14, in the form of an unexpected birthday gift from my father: an LP of the Blues singer, guitarist and songwriter, Big Bill Broonzy. This set off a new obsession. I began to devour recordings by Mississippi Delta Blues musicians like Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, and Robert Johnson as well as Delta-influenced Chicago Blues musicians like Broonzy and Muddy Waters.

My mother and her friends and family were very politically active particularly in the Civil Rights Movement. So another big musical influence was African-American spirituals and church music in the form of the Freedom Songs of the Civil Rights era. One of the songs that my mother used to sing in the kitchen when I was very young was Big Bill Broonzy’s protest against the Jim Crow laws called “Black, Brown and White.”

It was the Blues influence in Bob Dylan’s singing that eventually won me over as a fan. Of course, Dylan was one of many singer-songwriters of the period that my friends and I liked. Others were Simon and Garfunkel, Donovan, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.

At the same time, we were also eating up American Appalachian-based musicians like Jean Ritchie, Doc Watson and the Carter family. We learned early ragtime and vaudeville material through the recordings of Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band that featured the singers Geoff and Maria (D’Amato) Muldaur.

Every morning before school, my friends all listened to Larry Josephson’s radio show on WBAI. One day, he played some really strange sounding music. There was a lot of excitement at school that morning: “Did you hear that!?!” “That” turned out to be “Out On The Rolling Sea” from an album of field recordings called “The Real Bahamas” (Nonesuch). These recordings of groups of Bahaman sponge fishermen were said to represent what very early African-American music might have sounded like in the early days of slavery. It became one of my favorite LPs.

Another favorite was the great gospel singer, Marion Williams’ album of gospel, country and Dylan songs called “The New Message.”

As I got older, I would venture into the folk music clubs in the Village to see Tim Hardin and Dave Van Ronk. I loved the intimacy of these small rooms. I particularly admired Van Ronk for his humor, intensity and great blues chops.

Later on, another favorite was blues-guitarist and singer, Bonnie Raitt, daughter of Broadway star, John. A special treat in college was getting to see her in a cabaret-like setting on campus.

There was also singer and pianist, Nina Simone, who occupied a place between jazz, folk, classical and pop. I loved her LP “Nina Simone Sings The Blues” (RCA) especially the songs “In The Dark” by Lil Green, “My Man’s Gone Now” from Gershwin’s Porgy And Bess and the pop standard “Since I Fell For You.” Another favorite Simone LP was “To Love Somebody” (RCA) that included covers of Dylan and Leonard Cohen songs.

Musical Influences: The West Indies

In the early 1960’s, one of the issues that were being discussed in folk music magazines like “Sing Out”, was ‘authenticity’: Here were all of these white suburban kids singing blues and folk songs that had little to do with their personal heritage or experiences. I didn’t know much about the music of either the Eastern European Jewish community or of Jamaica and the West Indies.

My mother and her father and aunt all loved to sing. Grampa was always humming Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and his sister, Haitche, hummed “We Shall Overcome” so often that I was surprised when I found out in was not an Eastern European folksong. Her other favorite song was “Meadowlands” which was also known as “The Song of the Red Army.”

In comparison to my left-wing working-class Jewish family, my Jamaican relatives were very upwardly mobile and middle-class light skinned Blacks who listened to big band music on their big radio consoles. Whenever Ella Fitzgerald came on the air, they liked to tease my grandmother because both she and Ella had the same nickname: “Sis”.

One of my father’s cousins by marriage played the horn and had formed a jazz combo with his brothers. At one family gathering, there was unfamiliar music playing and Harold came up to me and said, “Man, you have to listen to this Calypso music. It’s wild!”

I hadn’t realized that one reason my mother made sure I had records by Harry Belafonte when I was a young child was that he was born to Jamaican parents and was singing fairly authentic Jamaican songs written by Lord Burgess. I just thought of Belafonte as a ‘pop’ singer. In the universe of left-wing folkies, ‘commercial’ and ‘pop’ equaled ‘non-authentic.’ This prejudice extended to Big Band and Calypso music as well. Nonetheless, all of this music sank into my consciousness as I was growing up.

My Jamaican grandmother was a real fan of my folk singing and guitar playing. Like many West Indians, she was an Anglophile and particularly loved for me to perform the old ‘Childe’ folk ballads from England. I think my father’s gift of the blues record was a reaction against all of this ‘white’ music.

Meanwhile, I noticed a folk song in the Joan Baez songbook that was reputed to have West Indian roots. So I learned the lullaby, “All My Trials,” and tried it out on my grandmother and one of my great aunts. As I sang, I studied their faces for any sign of recognition. Suddenly, these two very proper middle-class women started to sing the following lyric with me:

If living were something that money could buy,
The rich would live and the poor would die,
All my trials, Lord, soon be over.


It was a moment of folk music magic.

Musical Influences: Jazz

In my continuing quest for Blues recordings, I picked up an LP called “Lady Sings The Blues.” A blues album it was not. Rather it contained a collection of very early recordings of Billie Holiday with an all-star line up of Jazz musicians. I was seduced by her (yes!) then sweet clear sound and her remarkable phrasing and depth of feeling. Listening to and reading about Holiday led me to Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith in one direction and opened the door for my being able to appreciate Ella Fitzgerald and the Great American Songbook in the other.

Early Songwriting Efforts

I wrote my very first song in my senior year in high school. The year was 1969 and the teacher was trying to be hip by offering us the option to write a song instead of writing a paper about Hamlet. I loved the play and hated writing papers. I think Mrs. Stearn was surprised when I showed up with an Elizabethan-style song based on the text of Ophelia’s mad scene.

At Livingston College in Piscataway, NJ, I was cast as the Priest in Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage. A Rutgers University graduate student, whose name I no longer recall, was retained to compose a new score. He gave the actors the option of writing music for their characters’ songs. I submitted an idea for the Priest’s song. The grad student used the idea for the “A” sections of the song and adapted it to create a bridge or release for the third stanza. I got a credit in the program.

After college, two friends and I would meet to go over material and work on arrangements. I also tried to write some songs at that time but felt frustrated with my lack of musical literacy. Not long ago, I revisited my notes from that time and found one nice possibility for further development… My friends, Eric Blasenheim and Rob Halper, are both very skilled guitarists and singers and they still get together and jam. I understand that Rob has been writing songs recently himself.

CABARET: Introduction & Influences - Jimmie Daniels and Alberta Hunter

About the time I was first exploring the musical theater repertoire, I started dating the man who was to become my life partner. Music was one of our common interests and Thad introduced me to the world of cabaret and the Great American Songbook. Thad is a real cabaret fan and he’s been stopped in the street by people who recognize him from his having been in the audience of a TV broadcast featuring the legendary Mabel Mercer.

Two of Thad’s best friends and neighbors at the time were Jimmie Daniels and Alberta Hunter (Google her, if you don’t know who she is). Alberta was performing at the Cookery in the Village and living on Roosevelt Island, so she would stay in Jimmie’s apartment on 22nd Street on performance nights. I knew of Alberta as the woman who wrote Bessie Smith’s first hit record: “Down Hearted Blues.” It was real treat to meet this very down to earth woman who, in spite of her glamorous on-stage look, liked to wear men’s flannel shirts at home. (She would get Thad to buy them for her.)

Jimmie Daniels had been the MC and opening act at the legendary Bon Soir cabaret in the Village. He had also lived and performed in London and Paris where he worked as MC and opening act for Bricktop’s. (You can read more about Jimmie Daniels in James Gavin’s book, Intimate Nights: the Golden Age of New York Cabaret. )

In the early 80’s, when Thad first introduced me to him, Jimmie was starting to perform again. After a few gigs here and there, he started to appear regularly with pianist, Wes McAfee, at a very small and cozy cabaret room on Cornelia Street called “Jan Wallman’s.” The first time I went there, Jan met us at the door and took our coats and scarves. Putting my scarf in the coat sleeve, she told me, “it’s an old hatcheck girl’s trick, and I should know, I once was an old hatcheck girl’s trick.”

Thad and I went to practically every show Jimmie did and I became very familiar with his repertoire of obscure early Cole Porter and Bart Howard songs, as well as songs by Rodgers and Hart and Harold Arlen.

Things started looking up for Jimmie when his friend, Bobbie Short, arranged for him to perform in the Hamptons one summer. Bobbie also set up a recording session for him. Two of those tracks ended up in the collection: The Erteguns’ New York: New York Cabaret Music (Atlantic Records).

In the meantime, in June, Jimmie made his Carnegie Hall debut in a Harold Arlen tribute concert organized by Bobbie. After the concert, surrounded by old friends and colleagues at the Curtains Up restaurant, Jimmie said he was feeling tired and went to lie down in a friend’s apartment upstairs. That night, he suffered a massive stroke from which he never recovered.

At the funeral, when the assembled were asked if anyone had anything to add, Jimmie’s long time friend, Leontyne Price, said, “Yes, I do” and she sang the old spiritual “This Little Light Of Mine”.

CABARET: Introduction & Influences - Barbara Lea

Thad and I spent a lot of time at Jan Wallman’s. Some of the performers that I met and came to know in those early days were Ronny Whyte, Annie Dinerman, John Zickefoose, as well as our neighbors, Judy Kreston and David Lahm. We also spent time at Ted Hook’s Backstage on 45th Street where we saw singer-pianists Steve Ross and Ann Hampton Callaway.

One of Thad’s favorite performers at Jan Wallman’s was singer, Barbara Lea. Like Jimmie, Barbara was working with Wes McAfee. Thad and I saw Barbara and Wes work their magic nearly every weekend for years.

Barbara would never do a cabaret act per se. Instead she would go around to whomever was waiting to see the show and ask them what they wanted to hear. Then she would go through a monstrously large pile of sheet music she always had on hand and she would put together the running order. She and Wes would then communicate in what seemed like some kind of short hand and on they would go.

I will admit, it took some time for me to develop an appreciation for Barbara’s performance style. I was very much into showbiz razz-ma-tazz and Barbara would just stand there and simply sing the song giving thoughtful and considered attention to the lyrics. Which is not to say that she couldn’t be very funny – I will never forget the first time Thad and I heard her do Sondheim’s “Remember” from A Little Night Music. We very nearly fell out of our chairs with laughter.

Over the years, I’ve realized that her approach has had an enormous impact on me. Her musicianship and taste are matchless. Her voice is always true. She and Wes sometimes took breathtaking chances in their arrangements that always paid off. Some of my favorites were the very slow and partially a cappella version of “Begin the Beguine,” a medley of “Lime House Blues” and “Poor Butterfly,” and a rip-roaring up tempo version of “Make Believe.” Barbara also introduced me to the Broadway scores of Harold Arlen’s St. Louis Woman and House of Flowers as well as to one of my favorite Irving Berlin songs: “The Monkey Doodle-Doo.”

I owe Barbara a debt of gratitude both for the privilege of “sitting at the master’s feet” all of these years and for her loyalty to me. When I started doing shows at Jan Wallman’s first at Cornelia Street and later uptown at 44th Street, Barbara was nearly always in the audience.

Barbara doesn’t perform much these days but you can hear her on the many wonderful recordings she has made throughout her career.

Check out her website: Barbara Lea, The High Priestess of Popular Song

MUSICAL THEATER: Shows with impact, part 1

My mother loved ‘serious’ theater but thought that musicals were more appropriate for children. Well, I love all kinds of theater but musicals hold a very special place in my heart.

CHILDHOOD FAVORITES:
MY FAIR LADY (Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Lowe): The original Broadway production was the first Broadway show I ever saw. I was never the same.

BRIGADOON (Lerner & Lowe, again): The scrim curtain! The kilts! The tenor singing “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean!”

OKLAHOMA! (Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II): the City Center Revival. “Poor Jud Is Dead.” Dream Curley.

H.M.S. PINAFORE (William Gilbert & Sir Arthur Sullivan): The older kids put on this show at Geer Mt. Camp in Kent, CT. My counselor, Scott Neuman, was the musical director. Scott let me read the scores for this show and the MIKADO. Seeing the multiple vocal parts written out on the page totally flipped me out! I also had strong ideas at age nine about how the show should be staged. I ended up being invited to the production meeting and my idea about the set was the one they used.

Around this time, I began to ask for cast albums for birthday and Christmas presents. I collected and studied as many Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Lowe and Gilbert & Sullivan shows as I could. I also saw and fell in love with THE KING AND I and THE MUSIC MAN at the movies.

PORGY AND BESS (George Gershwin & DuBose & Dorothy Heyward & Ira Gershwin) My cousins, whom I saw almost every weekend, had an LP of this opera. It was probably the soundtrack from the movie version. We kids were very impressed with “Summertime.” As a young adult, I loved both Billie Holiday and Nina Simone’s recordings of “I Loves You Porgy.”

ONCE UPON A MATTRESS (Mary Rodgers & Marshall Barer): She’s the daughter of Richard. I saw this on TV with Carol Burnett and then got to play King Sextimus, the mute, at Geer Mt. that summer.

OLIVER! (Lionel Bart): The boy star! “Where Is Love?” The sets! “As Long As He Needs Me” The stairs! “Reviewing The Situation” Fagin asks “who will change the scene for me?” and the set disappears into the flies! What’s with show titles ending with exclamation points?!

MUSICAL THEATER: Shows with impact, part 2

ADOLESCENT FAVORITES:
THE FANTASTICKS (Harvey Schmidt & Tom Jones), I got to play “The Boy” at Geer Mt. Camp. Years later, I played his father in summer stock. The director of the summer camp production was a college student named Steve Woolf who went on to other things…

HAIR (James Rado, Gerome Ragni & Galt MacDermot): the original Off-Broadway production at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater. It was the first show done at the Public. A new era had begun. And there was that guy who had a crush on a male rock star…

CABARET (John Kander & Fred Ebb), talk about sexual ambiguity! Joel Grey’s performance as the MC knocked me out! And Lotte Lenya! Soon after, I began a long infatuation with her German language recordings of her husband, Kurt Weill’s Berlin songs. I got to play Herr Schultz, the Jack Gilford role, as an adult. Kander & Ebb remain one of my favorite songwriting teams.

COLLEGE:
THREEPENNY OPERA (Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht, English lyrics, Marc Blitzstein): After seeing Lotte Lenya in Cabaret, I made it my business to find out about The Threepenny Opera. Lenya appeared in the original production in Berlin in 1927 as well as a film version and a legendary New York Off-Broadway revival in the 1950’s.

By the time I was a sophomore at Livingston College (part of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ), I knew the entire score by heart. So I was thrilled to hear that the Douglas College theater department was holding university-wide auditions for a production of the show: I would get to play my favorite part: Mr. Peachum! Instead I was cast in the leading role of Mack the Knife. They cast another Livingston student, Claudia Beechman as my leading lady, Polly Peachum. Claudia had a younger sister who would grow up to be the late Broadway and cabaret star, Laurie Beechman. The local college press hated that Claudia and I had taken over these leading roles that could have been filled by Drama Department majors, but the professional press loved us. We also got to do a special performance for the Brecht Symposium that year.

MUSICAL THEATER: Shows with impact, part 3

POST-COLLEGE:
The mid to late 1970’s was a dry period for me and musical theater. I had finally been won over by mainstream pop singers like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, as well as, Bonnie Raitt, Tracy Nelson, and Boz Scaggs. Also, I didn’t have the bucks to pay Broadway prices. The result was that I missed a lot of Stephen Sondheim’s early hits. Of course, I loved Judy Collins’ recording of “Send In The Clowns” but no better or worse than the other songs she sang on that LP.

1980’s:
I decided to try my luck at being an actor and somehow ended up in a musical theater performance class. I had to make up for lost time. I didn’t know anything about the current musical scene. Using the total immersion method, I discovered some new all time favorites:

SHOWBOAT (Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II) the first “integrated” musical (book, songs, dance all integral parts of the story-telling process) that also contained controversial social issues of race and class. There is an incredible line up of major hit songs that come one right after the other near the start of the first act: Make Believe, Ol’ Man River, Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man, and Life Upon The Wicked Stage.

Harold Arlen’s Broadway scores: St. Louis Woman (Lyrics: Johnny Mercer) and House of Flowers (Book and lyrics: Truman Capote).

SHE LOVES ME (Sheldon Harnick & Jerry Bock): an absolute gem by the team that would go on to write FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.

GUYS AND DOLLS (Frank Loesser): One of my favorite experiences as an actor was playing 99 performances as Benny Southstreet in a dinner theater production of this show under the direction of the late Thommie Walsh.

MOST HAPPY FELLA (Frank Loesser): Each of the first five or six songs introduces and establishes a new major character. It’s brilliant.

‘Nuff said about these, I just love ‘em:

GYPSY (Jule Styne & Stephen Sondheim)
SWEENEY TODD (Stephen Sondheim)
CHICAGO (Kander & Ebb)

MUSICAL THEATER: Shows with impact, part 4

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE END OF THE CENTURY:
ONCE ON THIS ISLAND (Lynn Ahrends & Stephen Flaherty): I love just about anything this team writes.

INTO THE WOODS (Sondheim): This is my favorite Sondheim show. Even though the second act is flawed, it contains three of my favorite Sondheim songs: No More, No One Is Alone, and Children Will Listen.

NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY (Douglas J. Cohen): I saw this at the Hudson Guild with Stephen Bogardus and Liz Callaway.

FALSETTOS (William Finn): Out and Proud on Broadway. Bogardus again, this time with Chip Zein whom I had seen in Into The Woods. Oh, and Carollee Carmello and Faith Prince as the neighbors. Wow.

THE CURRENT SCENE:
I am really excited by some of the new work being written for Musical Theater:

MY LIFE WITH ALBERTINE (Ricky Ian Gordon): I was already crazy about Ricky Ian Gordon’s art songs and I thought everything about this show which had a limited run at Playwrights’ Horizons was exquisite. As were the performances by Emily Skinner, Brent Carver, Chad Kimball and the then unknown Kelli O’Hara. I don’t understand why it wasn’t more popular.

PARADE (Robert Jason Brown): I really liked this show especially Mr. Brown’s score. Brent Carver and Carollee Carmello gave wonderful performances and headed a terrific cast.

LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA (Adam Guettel): Guettel is a wonderful songwriter as well as a beautiful singer. He is of course the son of Mary Rodgers who wrote Once Upon A Mattress and the grandson of Richard Rodgers.

MARIE CHRISTINE (Michael John LaChuisa): Written for one of my favorite musical theater actors, Audra McDonald, with very interesting and beautiful music. His depiction of upper class African-American life hit a deep chord with my memories of my father’s West Indian family. I also loved the music for his BERNADA ALBA.

AVENUE Q (Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx): I was given free tickets for this show and was very pleasantly surprised. It was terrific, especially the songs. I was also encouraged since I was in the process of writing a musical that I thought needed to have puppets.

THE COLOR PURPLE (Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray): Again, I went with comp tickets and I was totally blown away. The way the music reflects the development of African-American music over the long time-span of the story while still propelling the plot and revealing character is most impressive.

HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD AND FIND TRUE LOVE IN 90 MINUTES (Seth Weinstein & Jonathan Karp): Yeah, the same Seth Weinstein who has been my musical director for the past few years. This show was a wonderfully funny romp and a tour-de-force of musical writing.

Technical Stuff - How I Write Music

On the computer. I use Sibelius 5. It's terrific! I input the notes into my iMac using an Edirol midi keyboard controller PC-50 as well as with the iMac’s “querty” keyboard and number pad. I get to hear what I am writing instantly which has done wonders for sharpening up my notation skills.

The PC-50 produces no sound of its own, so I use Garage Band to give it “a voice.” What I like about this midi keyboard controller is its small compact size and that the ports are all at one end instead of in the back. This configuration works really well with my set up.

Sibelius: I started off writing the music out by hand until I started to do re-writes and then I thought, “There has got to be a better way.” I looked at Finale but at that time it was not very user-friendly.

Sibelius was the new kid on the block and was just a little bit more expensive but, boy, was it easy to use! Each new version has been an improvement although I think there are some minor flaws in vs. 5 as it relates to the Mac OS.

If I stuck to just writing lead sheets (words and melody lines), I might possibly be a more prolific songwriter. However, I really love to work out the accompanying piano parts. Since I don't really play piano, I have to check in with real players to see if human hands can actually perform what I’m writing. My musical director, Seth Weinstein, has been wonderful help and inspiration in this area but it is possible that his hands are super-human, at least as far as the piano goes…