For What It’s Worth

In 1976, I was 12-years old, in the sixth grade at D.D. Eisenhower Elementary School in Sayreville, NJ. I was a good student, and received an award for perfect attendance that year. I was a lieutenant on the safety patrol. I was a Girl Scout. I played shortstop for the Red Devils. I had short hair, and I wore cheap red sneakers that came from Pathmark grocery store. I wanted Pro-Keds, like everybody else had, but my parents said no. This caused a real problem for me because it meant I would be ostracized by my friends. But I really don’t think my parents could afford them. So, Pathmark Specials it was for me.

The ridicule came fast, and my friends decided that I wasn’t cool enough for them anymore. They began to torment me. I remember walking home from a Girl Scout meeting one afternoon. Several of us lived on the same street, and we walked home together. And they decided that my best friend and I should fight, you know “beat each other up”. But as I recall, neither of us wanted to do that. Somebody pushed and grabbed my brand new Avon hairbrush from my back pocket and threw it down the sidewalk. It cracked in a couple of places. I hated that. I still hate when my stuff gets ruined.

The next day at lunchtime recess, I found myself in an even more frightening situation. The sixth grade class consisted of about 90 students. With the exception of about five girls who were as unpopular as I was, the entire class chased me around the playground and the large grassy field. A couple of the more aggressive girls came after me, pushing me around, and then one came along and slide tackled me to the ground. At some point, I fought back, and of course found myself in after school detention with the rest of them. My teachers saw me there and couldn’t believe it. I did my time and walked home, alone.

That was 40 years ago. You’d think I’d be over it by now. I thought I was, until this past week.

On Friday night I played a gig here in Bethlehem. It was a small bar gig, which I don’t book very often because I hate competing with the noise. After a week of post-election shock, I really was hurting, and that was causing depression. I knew I wouldn’t be able to engage with an audience, and I just wanted to stay home. But, I rallied, and from the moment I walked in the door, I started to feel anxious. It was hard to breathe. I was catching fragments of conversations about the election, but I couldn’t piece any of it together. I had no idea who was friend or foe.

And then it happened, I looked around that room and I was 12 years old all over again. I was the shy girl in the corner at the middle school dance that none of the boys would talk to. I was the girl at the ice skating rink with the funny name, and the boys would skate by and sing out “Dina-Farina, Dina-Farina”. I can still hear the tune of it in my head. Then I was the naive 17-year-old working at the movie theater, who bent over to pick up a coin that one of the boys (intentionally) dropped on the floor so that they could judge who had “the nicest ass”. I was the 18-year-old high school senior nervously auditioning to sing with the studio band – all boys. I was the very frightened 30-year-old woman being berated by her narcissistic male employer and his bumbling sales manager. I was the 36-year-old woman apprehensively walking into a Sheetz store with her girlfriend in the middle of gun-toting conservative rural Pennsylvania.

I’m just one of the examples of what has happened to the marginalized people in our society. I can’t tell you what Muslims or Latinos are feeling. Of course, I can’t tell you what everyone is feeling. I’m certain that it’s far more terrorizing than my fear. But I can tell you this: Donald Trump’s treatment of women has gone unpunished, his verbal abuse of others has gone unrepudiated by his supporters, and that has brought out pain and anxiety of a history that many of us have been dealing with for years. He has given a voice to the virulent people who need to be validated in their hate, and he has not denounced one iota of the attacks on the marginalized.

img_2044Some people are saying “give him a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised”, and they “hope he succeeds”. Well, I do not want Trump to succeed as president. I want him to crawl back into his slimy tower and do penance for igniting this firestorm. Nothing will ever take away what we saw and heard with our own eyes and ears. As I read somewhere this week, “A woman does not have to reconcile with her abuser”.  I’ve been the victim of more than one male abuser, and I’m disgusted that I have to relive those feelings, particularly when that has been inspired by the president-elect of the United States of America. I’ll repeat that. The president-elect of the United States of America. The highest honor of service in the land.

As I read my social media feed, some people are asking if we can unite and be nice to each other. I think that will take a long time. There is a dirty stain on the American flag right now, and it’s gonna take a whole lot of elbow grease to get rid of it. If you don’t see the stain, you have terrible vision.

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
Step out of line, they come and take you away

Stop, children what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s goin’ ’round.

For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield 1966

‘Vintage Mellow’

I’m kind of old school. Last week, somebody called me ‘vintage mellow’, and it’s true, especially when I travel. I like to roll down the windows and take the long and winding roads. The ones that make you think you’re lost. The ones that get the most use out of my Volkswagen Rabbit stick shift.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to go to the Philadelphia Folk Festival on behalf of Live From Godfrey Daniels on WDIY radio. I’d been looking forward to it for weeks. I dedicated my radio show on Tuesday night to the Festival, playing live cuts from the “40th Anniversary” 4-cd box set. There’s just something about hearing artists like Arlo Guthrie, Gamble Rogers, Susan Werner and Mike Cross, in a live festival setting, that makes me listen intently and laugh out loud. I sure was ready to experience it for myself.

Sunday morning, I jiggled the internet for directions and chose what looked like the most delightful route of the three options. And THIS is where I cut ties with technology. I grabbed a black Sharpie marker and transcribed the directions onto a sheet of paper, in very big lettering. I learned a long time ago that doing this leaves a visual imprint on my brain. When I was 19, I drove from my home in New Jersey all the way to a friend’s house in Massachusetts. I had unwittingly left the directions at home, but I found my way there, nonetheless.

Sunday started out as a typical mid-August morning, sunshine and hot temps, with the threat of rain later in the day. I headed south on some of the most beautiful country roads in the region, passing 19th-century stone farmhouses, dotted with whispering pines and weeping willow trees, and dilapidated old barns that display hand-painted, larger-than-life advertisements of icons from long ago like Ceresota Flour, and Bush and Bull department store. You miss this stuff when you travel the turnpikes. You miss the curves, and the creatures, and the communities. I savored all of that on my way to Schwenksville, listening to Dave Fry’s Sunday Folk program for most of the trip.

It should have been a 50-minute trip, but once I got close to the festival grounds, the roads were blocked, and there was no explanation why. I drove around in circles, or so it seemed, trying to find an alternate way in. Finally, I rolled down the window and asked someone “what’s up?”, and the emergency personnel told me that there was an accident up ahead. “Follow that van,” she said, “and you’ll get to the fest.” She was official-looking, wearing a safety yellow vest and all, and it was an official-looking, white panel van with a placard in the front window that must have read, “official festival van” or something like that. So, I did what she said. After about 15 minutes of follow-the-leader, I gave up, assuming that the people in the van must have gotten a call, like “hurry over to New Jersey” [or someplace very far east of where I thought we were going]. I turned the car around and found the festival on my own. Again, with no technology, just a good, old-fashion sense of direction. I was almost there.

Once I parked my car and got on the shuttle school bus, I was home free. The boisterous driver wore a train conductor’s cap and he and some passengers sang along with Bob Dylan (Bob’s recorded voice, of course), and we bounced along the road to the festival grounds.

I hurried off the bus and patiently waited in line for my press credentials. I was official. I could go just about anywhere now. So I sat down in the dusty field, kicked off my shoes, leaned back on my day-pack, and soaked in the music. And then it started to rain. And as the water ran down my arms inside my sleeves, I realized that my awesome rain jacket was no longer waterproof. And then it started to pour. And I decided that the best part of the day was now a memory, and I had enjoyed every second of it. I would get much wetter before the sun would shine again that day.

I was able to take a couple of photos and record a few of the sets on the Tank Stage and Craft Stages. The highlight of the afternoon was Hurricane Hoss, covering Utah Phillips, with a little help from her backup band, and Bob Beach on harmonica. But all intentions of talking to artists and getting interesting photos of them was gone with the wind that brought that storm. Everyone ducked for cover as soon as they stepped off the stage.

I left the fest much sooner than I had planned and drove home in the rain, still taking the long and winding road home. A different long and winding road, and just as magnificent.

Sometimes the journey becomes the destination.


Don’t Call Me Grandma

Tonight, I had the extreme pleasure of opening the show for my friends, Porter & Sayles, at the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, Pa. It was my first time inside that theater, let alone playing on the stage. And it’s a fine stage. Sound was wonderful, and the staff was great.

I appreciate everyone who came out to support my supporting slot. It’s not always easy, but that was a very cool audience and I think I did my job well.

The job of the opener is simple, get the audience ready to receive the headliner. I know it well, but each show is different. Each venue is different. It’s hard to read the audience because all you can see is the faces in the first two rows, if you’re lucky. You have about five seconds to figure it out. Saturday night’s show was wonderful. The audience was warm, and everything clicked.

For those who are paying attention, here’s the set list: Inside Out, Round and Round, Logic and the Heart, Atlantic City (Bruce Springsteen), Rosie (Bill Hall), Woman in Me. And of course, I spun my usual tales of the silly and the sublime.

In the course of story-weaving, I took the audience back to teenage years, (for some of us, that was a long time ago), and through the music, we went summer-day-tripping together. They laughed and clapped, and shouted out the names of their favorite beaches when I asked them to.

The man who bought one of my CDs had the quote of the night: “I like your stuff. You’re a rockin’ grandma.”

Ah yes, tomorrow’s another day.


I started playing music for the masses in 1998, not too long ago. That was late in life compared to most of my peers, but it does give me a birds-eye perspective on the business. I was already married with children. This was not a dream, it was a part-time job, and I worked hard at it. Some months, I was booked every weekend, plus the occasional Thursday night, or Sunday afternoon. On average, we got paid about $100/person, and the gigs were almost always four hours long, with plenty of travel involved. For reference, gasoline cost just over a dollar a gallon, and a pint of beer was considerably less than it is now. And yet, 18 years later, we still get paid about $100 person. Every cost associated with this industry has skyrocketed, and we get paid the same!

jkb trio anticipation

Jackknife Betty in front of Asbury Park Convention Hall – New Jersey PRIDE 2004

Here we are in 2016, and every community event from farmers markets to minor league baseball games includes live music in its marketing plan. We love live music. The problem is, somebody keeps forgetting to increase the budget amount. But, hey, we all expect music to be free, right?

Friends, listen up!
You will very likely be attending many free community concerts this summer. These are hard-working bands, sometimes working day jobs as well. You should know that the musicians, techs, and crew don’t get paid much money for these events. But they’re gonna make you smile, and you might even dance. So I suggest that we all show just a little bit of appreciation for this free gift that improves our quality of life. If every person in attendance puts one dollar on the stage, that band (or duo or solo artist) will be paid a fair wage. Let’s start this thing, right here in the Lehigh Valley! Come on!

Spread the word, and use the hashtag #tiptheband in your tweets, posts, and insta-tags.

I suppose I’ll never learn those lyrics.

The past 10 months have been quite a whirlwind. I lost my hair, lost a lot of time, and had a number of setbacks. I’m trying hard to catch up, but I don’t think that’s actually possible. So, I guess it’s best to forge ahead.

I’ve added a number of cover songs to my repertoire, and getting ever so closer to writing new songs. I’ve also had the extreme pleasure of backing some of my friends, on vocals, harmonica, and percussion, or as Dave Fry calls it, “atmosphere”. I really do love being in that supporting role. I suppose it’s a lot like being the sous chef.

alvarez logoOne of the most exciting things that has happened recently is that I’ve received an endorsement from Alvarez Guitars. This is a couple of years in the making, and I’m proud to say that I’ve been named an Alvarez Guitars Breakthrough Artist, on their website. Scroll to the bottom of the page, and there I am. Photo credit goes to my friend, Brian McCloskey, who captured one of my more passionate moments. I appreciate the support, and all I can say is, perseverance pays off.

And speaking of perseverance, I finally memorized all of the words to After the Gold Rush. But I haven’t memorized all of the words to Gentle on My Mind. The problem is I’ve always learned song lyrics while driving in the car. I’m that person you see in your rear-view mirror, singing out loud, and tapping the rhythm on the steering wheel. These days, I rarely drive more than 15 minutes at a time. Except for last Monday, when I took a gorgeous road trip to Sergeantsville, NJ.

12814491_10153231374246595_3031717463025963163_n.jpgThat’s right, Beth Sherby and I were guests of Gordon Thomas Ward, on These Days on WDVR-FM. We had such a great time. It was a two-hour program, and we filled it with conversation, and live performance. If you’d like to listen to the program, you can find it on my SoundCloud channel. I think you’ll be amused and entertained.

What’s next?

amelia dina

Four years ago, I had the opportunity to open for Amelia White at Godfrey Daniels. We’ve kept in touch, and as luck would have it, I have the opportunity to play an opening set for her, this Friday night at Godfrey’s. Amelia is a Nashville songwriter extraordinaire. No Depression mag says this of her latest record: Home Sweet Hotel is a “Superb Set of Lonely Country Love Songs.” If you dig the raw, gritty, stripped-down song, direct from the songwriter, then this is just for you. Click here to reserve seats.

And of course, I must tell you about an upcoming show that is very important to me, and to our community. It’s a Concert to Benefit the Bethlehem Homeless Shelter, featuring Karen and Amy Jones, Billy Bauer duo, and Dina Hall Band. All profits go to the Shelter. I’m inviting each and every one of you to this concert. This will sell out, so c’mon, get your tickets tonight, while you’re warm and cozy.

IHT Facebook event

“We hoped for snow on Christmas, but all we got was rain.”

“We hoped for snow on Christmas, but all we got was rain.” – from Michael, music & lyrics by Dina Hall

It’s taken me a couple of days to reflect on the New Year’s Eve gig and the entire holiday season as well.

First, I have to acknowledge how wonderful it was to share the Godfrey Daniels stage, in-the-round with Dave Fry and Sam Steffen, for the second year in a row. Watching Sam evolve as a human being and as an artist over the last few years has been a real treat. He continues to grow like a tall tree with long, strong branches.

And I’ve been fortunate to learn from Dave in the most vulnerable situations you can imagine. You stand on that stage, with the audience close enough for you to touch them, and they can see every muscle twitch, every bead of sweat on your face. They can hear every breath you take. Heck, they can probably hear your heart beat and see it pounding in your chest when you realize you don’t remember the words to that song that you’ve sung at least a hundred times before. And that’s exactly what happened.


photo by Brian McCloskey

Ever since I started radiation therapy, I’ve had spasms, and tingling and numbness in the fingers on my left hand. It gets particularly intense when I play guitar, and I’m doing my best to overcome the discomfort. On top of that, the anti-estrogen drug has caused my hot flashes to increase in frequency and intensity.

At some point during the show, I realized that I was not in control of my body. I had to surrender to whatever was going to happen. I knew I would need the audience to understand what was happening, otherwise, I would simply fumble my way through the songs and that would be embarrassing. So, on my next turn, I prepared to play Michael, a song written in the first-person voice of a homeless man. I took a long, deep breath, and acknowledged my discomfort aloud, all the while trying to remember how to start the song. I stopped and started the rhythm twice until I settled into a groove, and the words came to me, from somewhere deep inside my brain. I focused on my voice, and I trusted in that audience that was close enough to touch. I knew that if I faltered, THEY would hold me up. And with that one song – in those four and a half minutes – somehow I was able to regain control of my body.

That’s our folk community. Thank you all, even if you aren’t reading this.

Lastly, I’m pleased to say that Gail and I enjoyed a very sweet Christmas with our children. The highlight of it all was having my baby granddaughter fall asleep in my arms at the end of a wonderful day.

Here’s to 2016, everyone. Cheers!


Ring My Bell, Chemo is Over

Did you know that on a rainy day it can take an hour and a half to drive from Lehigh Valley Hospital in Emmaus, Pa to my home in Bethlehem, Pa? Ordinarily that trip takes only 25 minutes. I’m just glad I had a driver today.

This is the follow-up to my recent post about chemotherapy. Today, I endured my last treatment. Endured is the word, because it generally takes the nurses three tries to get the IV into a vein. Some have a gift for this, others don’t, I guess. At some point we had a small chorus of women singing Karen Carpenter songs, in an effort to help me relax. That was a hoot.

Anyway, on the ride home, I just kept thinking about the folks there at the hospital who still have a long road ahead of them. Mine was pretty short, and I’m grateful for that. Gail and I also send our gratitude to Judy and Nina, for driving me, and sitting with me through the treatments.

Here’s a link to a little clip of the traditional ringing of the bells at the end of the last treatment.

I’m home now, ready to rest and prepare for whatever the next few weeks will bring. Radiation will commence in a little over a month, so I’m taking some time off. And no singing until October. Hopefully, I’ll be back, stronger than ever.

I want to thank everyone who sent messages and cards, and gave smiles and words of support, and offered hugs. It has been so difficult for me to reject hugs and other close physical contact during this time, but my immune system is down, and I can’t risk illness or infection. I will hug you all very soon!

– Dina

What did you do to your hair? and other questions about my health.

Hair. It keeps our head warm in winter and prevents sunburn in summer. Some of us have hair and some of us don’t. I started out with very short hair. My mom used to cut it, over the sink. She would cut and cut until she got the bangs straight – or so she thought. I didn’t care, I was a tomboy. In fact, I will never forget the owner of the Chinese restaurant who looked at me in my plaid shorts and Eisenhower Elementary School t-shirt, and asked, “You boy or girl?”

In the 90s, I became a mom, and I had really long, curly hair. That only lasted a few years, and I couldn’t stand it anymore. It literally gave me a headache. So I got it cut, back to a pixie. It was so liberating. Since 1999, I’ve gotten a haircut every three weeks. Every time I sat in the chair, my stylist (and friend) Diane asked, “Same as usual?” And I just nodded. She would change it a little bit every once in a while, and it evolved with time.

Today, I sat in that same chair, and when Diane asked, “What are we doing today?” I said, “Shave it all off.”

dinabandanaYou see, most of my hair fell out over the last few weeks, as a result of chemotherapy treatments. I’m undergoing chemotherapy treatments because I have breast cancer. I guess you’re supposed to say that in the present tense, but it really feels like it’s in the past. My surgery was completed in June, and the prognosis is very good. I won’t go into details about the cancer because that’s not what I’m writing about.

I’m writing about chemotherapy. This weirdly barbaric, kill-all-that-bad-shit-and-maybe-some-good-stuff, you’ll-get-through-it, my wife’s sister’s husband’s cousin’s aunt’s father’s daughter went through that last year, make sure you flush the toilet twice because that stuff is poison, so-called treatment. It ain’t an easy ride. It’s sickening, but it’s different for everyone. I’m doing my very best to deal with it.

Some of you have seen me in the last week or so, and you know that I’m wearing the bandanas regularly. Of course that was easy for me, but I’ll tell you what, it gets tiring. Remember what I said about my long hair literally giving me a headache? The bandana can give me a headache too, after a long work day.

I’ve been working shorter shifts at my day job, and sleeping a whole lot. My gig schedule is very light for now. Once chemotherapy is complete, I’ll start to beef things up again. But, here it is, August, and I expect to see many of you at Musikfest at least once during the 10 days. I have three shows scheduled, and I promise to give you my very best at each one of those.

So, I pondered this for days. Why should I write this? Is it really necessary? Gail and I came to this conclusion. In her words, “People care about you. You can tell them. Also, if they know ahead of time, they will be able to just enjoy the show and not wonder what’s wrong with you.” I agree with her. Please know that I appreciate every one of you, and I know that you wish the best for us. I also need to say that I don’t want to talk about the cancer. I’m focusing on a healthy outcome and that is all.

I want to publicly thank my very dear friends and family for helping Gail and me during the past few months. Regina, and Beth, for stepping in when I really needed to lean on someone. They took the pressure off me and took the show into their own hands. Andy, for doing the heavy lifting when I was weak. Nick, for wrangling the cowpokes for rehearsal. Nina, for dropping everything to take care of me, when I needed it most. Kiera, for so many little things, and reminding me that I am amazing. Donna, for babysitting me and almost giving me a bath. Ramona, for holding the net while I rested. My sister Judy, there is no bond that is greater. And Gail, my Wonder Woman, she is holding up the universe right now.

Peace and love to you all. I’ll see you very soon!

And Now Back to Songwriting

There are two times of the day that I have my own undivided attention, with nobody else around, and I actually make my best decisions. Let’s call one of those times “indisposed” and the other “bathing”. Both take place in the same room of my house.

Last week, as I was washing my hair in the shower, I realized that I have only written two songs since releasing Logic and the Heart in October 2011. This was a very discouraging revelation which led me to think about why I haven’t written more.

Life got in the way. So many things have happened in the past three years and I simply had no time to sit and create new songs. I found just enough energy to work on songs written by other people, which I already knew, and worked them into my repertoire. That wasn’t a bad thing, but it’s not what I had expected, or planned.

D&B_LIVE_02_300dpiNow, here it is the beginning of 2015 and I’m starting to write again. I have a few kernels of songs ready to pop. I’m working with my best pal, Beth Sherby, on a song that she started and asked me to co-write. We got together last night to work on that tune and also to warm up our for our gig next Friday night. I’ll say this, Beth grounds me as a musician. She runs circles around my guitar-playing, but our voices blend magically. Here’s a little taste of what happened when we played a cover of Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. The camera angle isn’t great and neither is the vocal balance, but those are the perils of using the iphone. Click to watch the video. It’s worth it.

Now it’s Sunday night, and I’ve just come home from Open Mike at Godfrey Daniels. There were only eight of us and it was snowing pretty hard, so we modified the format to be an acoustic song swap circle. Two times around and that would be it. On the second round, Mike Duck, a.k.a. Not For Coltrane, started a song “written by a friend” and I recognized it instantly. It was Logic and the Heart, and he was playing a wonderfully upbeat rendition of it. This simple act revealed something for me: it’s very exciting hear a song you’ve written and recorded when it’s playing on the radio, but it’s a whole other feeling when you hear someone else perform it. Yes, it’s flattering, but more than that, it’s validating. (and yes, I played along because I was the only other person in the room who knew the chords.)

Cheers to my friends, and thank you for sharing your craft.

My First Visit to Philly Folk Fest

This is also posted on the Godfrey Daniels blog.

I had the great privilege of spending yesterday with my good friend Dave Fry, at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. It was my first time at the fest (I know, What?!) and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to make that memory. As we toured the grounds, Dave introduced me to some of the Philly Folk Fest ‘royalty’, gave me a sneak peek into the backstage operations, and shared his memories of his early days as a performer and emcee at the festival.


I also reconnected with some friends that I haven’t seen in quite some time. Dave and I talked about the local music community, and the greater folk community and how good artists cross that bridge and how they do it well. At the end of the day, we snacked on peach pie, and enjoyed a couple of the main stage acts. Our favorite act of the day was 10 Strings and a Goatskin, from the North Shore of Prince Edward Island. (side note: Steep Canyon Rangers blew my mind!)

If I can make a simple point here it is this: It is only when I’m in these situations that I remember what an honor it is to be at the helm of Godfrey Daniels. Godfrey’s is part of the history of folk music in the northeast United States. It is respected and revered by internationally touring artists, and national and regional ones as well. We have a treasure here on the southside of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and we must do our best to preserve that.

Thank you to Dave, for sharing all of this with me. And thank you to all of the Members, Volunteers and Artists who keep the music alive! We are a strong community, and a happy one at that.

If you’ve never been to Godfrey Daniels, here’s a link to the website. ( I hope you can visit soon.

– Dina