It seems customary to offer a year-end wrap-up, or a new year greeting. To be honest, I’m struggling with the state of the world, the nation, and my own community, so this has been hard to compose.
My work in the music field has always led me on a path forward–learning and contributing, sharing and giving. For more than 20 years, I’ve enjoyed the opportunities to help inspire and support the local music community from within. But all that has come to a halt over the course of the past 22 months.
As we head into year three of this pandemic, I just want you to know that I’ll be out of the scene for the winter, avoiding all indoor gigs. There are numerous reasons why I must protect my own health and the health of my family, and I can only hope for a return to outdoor venues in the spring.
At this point I have so much to say, and most of it is not nice. I’m bitter and angry, but more than that I miss experiencing music with you all.
And what I miss the most, absolutely the most, is supporting my friends from the background–adding percussion and vocals to the song, and feeling the music course through my body for hours on end. Creating a space for that positive energy to pass back and forth between us all, and knowing that one thing keeps it all on track–trust.
I must offer a very heartfelt thank you to my dearest friends–Andy, Rameen, Todd, Nick, and my #1 pal Beth–for being a source of pure joy every single time we make music together.
So, this is where I’m at these days. Sitting by the fire, reflecting on the past and wildly uncertain about the future.
Early spring 2015, we called ourselves “the cancer twins”, because we were both diagnosed on the same day. Mine was metastatic breast cancer, his was lymphoma. We shared quite a bit along the way, but ultimately Mike’s lymphoma was too aggressive to overcome. He passed away this morning, at home—where he wanted to be.
Mike Fritz was a good friend to me, and he helped me grow as a musician and songwriter. Our time together started in 2009, when we met at an open mic, and it continued into 2014. While we hadn’t worked together since then, our friendship continued.
Last month, I began celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Logic and the Heart, but I soon paused, awaiting the prognosis of Mike’s illness. Not only did he play multiple guitars and drums, Mike produced that record, and helped arrange the songs as well.
So, I hope these photos will honor his memory, and help us to remember the music that we made together. My heart is with his daughter, Tamara; wife, Paola; mother Margarette, and the rest of his family and friends.
About a year ago, I realized that the 10 year anniversary of Logic and the Heart was approaching, and I mused about the many ways I could commemorate that milestone.
Well, this week (April 2011) marked the start of band rehearsals, producing and arranging the songs. I found my producer’s notebook, filled with comments, suggestions, and super important notes about the record.
Over the next month or so, I’ll be sharing stories and photos and maybe even some video clips from the recording sessions and the album release concert.
From the depths of my heart, I’m forever grateful for the generous contributions of my dear friends who gave so much to this project. I love you all. Michael Fritz, Nick Franclik, Moe Jerant
And also deep gratitude to: Chuck Donches, Dennis Weiand, Nick Roberti, Brittany Ann, Tamara Fritz, Dave Fry
After nearly 12 years of dedicated service on the board of directors, and as communications chair at Godfrey Daniels, it is with a heavy heart that I must announce my departure from the organization.
My dedication to the mission and vision of Godfrey’s has always been at the core of my work, and it has been an incredibly enriching experience to help re-brand the future of Godfrey Daniels. I want to thank my colleagues, the Members, and most importantly, all of the Volunteers who keep the wheels turning.
I remain passionately supportive of the music community, and look forward to whatever opportunities lie ahead.
There are certain vivid events that stand out in one’s memory as the years pass, whether they’re marked by happiness or sadness, trauma or celebration.
Reaching back in my memory isn’t always easy. I’ve forgotten a whole lot, and the rest is so muddy I couldn’t really decipher the fact from fiction of my own memoir. But, I do remember some things. In 2001, I was at an advertising awards gala and found myself sitting next to the then marketing director for ArtsQuest – parent company of Musikfest. After dinner, I shamelessly scurried to my car to get a demo cd, hoping that this would land in the hands of booking personnel. It did not.
For the next six years, I dutifully hand-delivered my press packet and demo cd to the ArtsQuest office. Still nothing. Finally, in the spring of 2008, I was booked for a very long set on Main Street. My beloved band (Jackknife Betty) had broken up just three weeks before Musikfest, but there was no way I was going to cancel. It took seven years to land that gig. I called my friend Regina Sayles, and we shared the set, backing each other on percussion and harmony vocals.
Dina Hall Band (Nick Franclik, Mike Fritz, Moe Jerant)
Musikfest, Liederplatz – 2009
I’ve played the ‘fest every year since then – solo, duo, full band, every configuration possible – and with side players who were and still remain my dear friends. The opportunity for regional musicians to be a vital part of the festival is something to be admired and cherished. There are plenty of touring acts who could easily fill those slots. I personally appreciate the efforts to include the local component. But I digress.
Back to the memories. If you get booked for the sweet spot (and that often depends on the stage), you can find yourself playing to several hundred people from many different states, and they love your music and they buy your merch. Sometimes it rains, and nobody really wants to come to the show. Sometimes it’s just bloody hot, and nobody wants to sit in the blazing sun. But you can always count on your most loyal fans, even if that means only your immediate family is huddled under one giant umbrella, because they won’t let you do this all alone. We all have Musikfest stories.
Dina Hall Band (Nick Franclik, Andy Killcoyne, Josh Kanusky)
Musikfest, Liederplatz – 2015
In April 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a full summer of gigs booked and nothing was going to get in the way of working. I strategically scheduled my surgery and chemo treatments so that I would be at my “chemo best” during Musikfest. I played four gigs during those ten days, bald and beautiful, but with a weakened vocal performance. And I’ll never forget sitting all alone on the steps of the Liederplatz stage, after everyone was gone for the night, eating an entire funnel cake and sipping from a flask of bourbon. Just like it was meant to be.
Our stories will be much different this year, because it’s a Virtual Musikfest. I haven’t played live to an audience in over four months, and this will be performed at a cable tv studio. I haven’t done that since the ’90s. I think I’m ready. There are only two questions, will there be funnel cake, and what song should I end with?
For more than 20 years I’ve performed as a solo acoustic artist, often working with a duo or full band, to present my original works in a live setting. These live performances range from small intimate venues to large festival stages, throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware.
I’ve presented community-based programs in collaboration with other accomplished artists, including spoken word – rap and poetry. I’ve also presented workshops on percussion and songwriting, in local, collegiate and internet settings, and along with this I’ve received endorsements from Alvarez Guitars and Croaker Percussion.
Lastly, as a means to inform my art, I’ve been hosting a bi-weekly radio program called “Live From Godfrey Daniels” on WDIY 88.1FM located in Bethlehem, Pa, and streaming internationally.
Now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all conventional means of live music presentation has come to a standstill, and in-person radio programming is off-limits to non-essential staff at this time. In response to that, I’ve begun researching technology and preparing content to produce a bi-weekly streaming program which will be part conversation and part performance, featuring notable guests from the performing arts community, both here in our region and from across the United States. I also strive to include a visual arts component to each segment.
My goal is to continue to be a leader in the arts in my community, while adapting to the changes in platform, presentation, and compensation.
I’ll be launching this very challenging endeavor over the next couple of weeks, calling on some friends in the performing arts who have already contributed to the content. The series is called Transcreate. Adapt with Intent. I’ll bring them in, one by one, in a series of live-stream conversations. I hope you’ll tune in, and add your comments as we bounce along this bumpy road.
This afternoon, [Ophelia] Beth Sherby and I were playing music on Main Street at the Bethlehem Harvest Festival. During sound check we had captured the full attention of an elderly woman in attendance who I strongly suspect is homeless. She was loaded down, wearing multiple layers, with two bags – all of her belongings – and a cup of coffee in hand.
She smiled and swayed, tapped her feet and clapped her hands, and at some point was doing high kicks in the air. She must be nearly 80 years old, and Beth and I both looked at each other in disbelief as she got her foot high above her head, reached out and grabbed the toe of her shoe with one hand, then went right back to dancing in time.
When she decided to move on, she walked up to the stage and pulled out a wad of paper towel from one her bags. She carefully picked out a small handful of loose coins and very joyfully dropped it in our tip bucket.
Good day to you, dear. Dance on and let the music feed your soul.
It’s Monday – back to the grind. It was a bit harder to get out of the bed this morning and start doing all of the Monday things. You know, those things that make your world go ‘round.
It’s always harder to get started the morning after a meaningful event. Whether it’s a celebration of life, or just a simple gathering with friends and family, when we feel suspended in time and hoping it will go on and on, we know that when the party’s over we’ll all go back to our regular lives.
Now, think about those people whose lives are fraught with danger, cautiously walking through each day like they’re stepping on eggshells, doing all they can to not upset the beast, and then sleep vigilantly through the night, always with one eye open. What do they wake up to? I want to believe that they wake up to the hope of stepping out into the light and feeling free. There’s a freedom in knowing that abusive person can’t reach you, and that they won’t hurt you ever again.
That’s when you transition from victim to survivor. That’s Free.
left to right: Rameen Shayegan, Dina Hall, Todd Schied, Andrew Portz, Mitch Shelly, Charlie Mark
(not pictured: Alex Radus, Jordyn Kenzie)
We ended last night’s two-hour Ramble with two encores, the last of which was Free. I wrote the song many years ago, after my own experience of stepping out into the light. The song was originally created as a contribution for a show supporting domestic abuse services, and it eventually grew into a rock anthem for survivors. Some people deeply relate it to their own lives, and others hear it as man-bashing. But you can be sure I’ll always present the song as a personal celebration of freedom.
There are many stories of domestic abuse, but most all of them go unknown. Much of the abuse is invisible, or hidden from others. We don’t talk about these things over Sunday brunch, or cocktails on a Friday night. We don’t burden our children with the traumatic stress of their forebears. We do our best to put on a happy face, and we try to see goodness in others. It’s basic mindfulness, but it can be difficult sometimes.
For four years now, I’ve had the honor and the extreme pleasure of presenting a musical event as part of the Ice House Tonight series, and as part of the greater Bethlehem arts community. Each year my goal was two-fold – share a message of hope with the community, and raise money for a local human services organization.
It’s hard to believe that in this era of equality for all, we’re still faced with misogyny – social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, disenfranchisement of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification. We’re making progress.
Believe it or not, it takes work to choose songs for a concert that don’t border on any or all of these concepts. And as a woman, it’s hard to market a show without exploiting any or all of these concepts. I make it a rule to stay away from terms like all-girl (women) or female vocalist (drummer, guitarist, engineer) in my descriptions, but that’s still an uphill battle in the media.
So, when I gathered my friends for the Ramble on the River, and we started choosing songs and arrangements, I knew immediately that I was surrounded by some of the most authentic, caring, sensitive, kind, respectful and loving musicians that I know. Someone once said to me, “you attract the best people”, but I don’t deserve the credit. I would say, “I’m attracted to the best people.”
When you walk with the best people, you walk in the light.
My love and gratitude to the musicians – Jordyn Kenzie, Alex Radus, Andrew Portz, Rameen Shayegan, Todd Schied, Mitch Shelly, Charlie Mark – and their families. Thank you to everyone who came to the show, and shared the experience with friends. Thank you to Phil Forcelli and the crew at City Entertainment – Ginny and Sam. Thank you to Doug Roysdon, Ice House Tonight, and the City of Bethlehem for providing an incredible venue for our artistic community.
As many of you know, I’m very fortunate to be included as a presenting artist in the Ice House Tonight Series, here in Bethlehem, Pa. There are a handful of us who make up an independent consortium, mostly chosen because of our affiliation with local arts organizations.
This is an honor that I take very seriously, and with that comes an important decision – should this be a profitable event, or should the money be donated to a worthy organization here in our community? The answer is easy for me, and this marks my fourth annual benefit concert at the Ice House. Once again, I’ll be donating all profit to Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley.
Joining me this year are several dear friends – songwriters Andrew Portz, Alex Radus, Rameen Shayegan, with Todd Schied on drums, and Mitch Shelly on bass. Opening the show is my very special guest, Jordyn Kenzie. Phil Forcelli and City Entertainment will be providing sound for the show, and Back Door Bakeshop will be feeding the performers and sound crew.
I’m going to be coming at this with increased intensity over the next two weeks. Most all of you are in my community of music, as strong supporters.
Now’s the time to add this to your calendar! Click here for Advance Tickets
Tickets are also available at Back Door Bakeshop, and I have them with me at all times.
If you’re on social media, please SHARE and INVITE FRIENDS. Click here to go to the Facebook event, where you can also buy tickets directly.