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.
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.
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.
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.
On a cold January day in 1999, as I was just getting started in this music business, a friend told me she was going to see John Gorka at Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem. That statement meant nothing to me at the time, because I had never heard of John Gorka, or Godfrey Daniels for that matter.
Back then, if you had a computer in your house, you were very fortunate. Most of us had them at the office, and we were starting to use email as a real form of communication. But, websites were still very rudimentary. Godfrey Daniels’ website was simply a listing of shows with a bit of clip art. It was very linear, created by a computer programmer who worked in a corporate platform. Back then, there was no YouTube, and no social media, not even MySpace. So, it was not so easy to learn about either of those soon-to-become legends.
One year later, I was living in Bethlehem, and I discovered Godfrey’s, along with the folklore that was passed on from generation to generation. When the house lights went down and focus was turned to the artist(s) on stage, there was a palpable energy shift, a give and take with the audience – no matter how large or small.
I was smitten. I became a regular at Open Mike, and began volunteering at shows. Within a couple of years, I began the process of developing a state-of-the-art website, and email marketing system. I created posters, and postcards, and all of the visual tools necessary to compete with the slick venues that were beginning to pop up everywhere. That wasn’t an easy task, because there was a very meager budget for these things. Translation: Work for free. And I did so, very willingly.
Fast forward to the present day, I recently completed Godfrey’s website re-development project; created an in-house promotional slideshow; installed new window graphics; and along with a great team, refurbished the front room. Think about it, 20 years later, you can now browse the website and buy tickets from your smartphone!
How does this happen? People care. People act. People donate – Time and Money. And people appreciate each other.
Last night, I had the unique opportunity to open the show for John Gorka, at Godfrey Daniels, in front of a sold out audience – John Gorka’s sold out audience. I would say this story has come full circle, and I am very appreciative.
A couple of weeks have passed and I’m finally able to give you a wrap-up on our fundraiser to benefit Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley.
I promised that this would be a very special show, with music and spoken word, and a unique combined effort to create a very spontaneous, pop-up chorus – and we sure did come through on that promise.
First of all, my very sincere thanks goes out to Beth Sherby Karen & Amy Jones Dierdre Van Walters Danielle Notaro Julia Gross
and special guests Jeremy Aguiar and Andy Killcoyne
Thank you also to Phil Forcelli and his crew – Ed and Ginny – for providing a fabulous sound system.
And thanks to Donna Mugavero for handling the ticket sales.
Last but not least, I couldn’t do these things without the love and support of my incredible wife, Gail Lehman, who took care of hospitality, and loading gear out at the end of the night.
At the end of the day, we raised $600 for Turning Point, somewhat short of my goal to reach $1000. I’m not discouraged, however. The music was incredible, and everyone involved brought their very best to the stage. We shared a strong message of empowerment, respect, trust, and love. And that will stay with us for a very long time.
Here are a few photos from the show. Thanks to Brian McCloskey for documenting the event.
It’s been a long week, and we made it through. A full work week at the day job, two rehearsals, a radio show, emceeing one night, three gigs in four days, and dancing to the Funk tonight. Gail and I are home now, eating cake and ice cream, and thinking about how much we love our happy city and the people who make it hum.
Also huge thank yous to my best pal Beth Sherby, my brother-from -another-mother Andy Killcoyne, my buddies Nick Franclik and Josh Kanusky, my dear friend Jenn McCracken, Kris Kehr, and Dave Fry. Y’all make it so easy to swing into the tunes.
I have to say the best part of the whole ‘fest was hearing the entire Liederplatz clapping and singing One Big Love today.