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

I had the great privilege of spending yesterday with my 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

Sometimes a question is just a question.

Today was a long day of laundry, graphic design work, business meetings, traffic, construction, rain and whatnot.

As I was getting out of my car tonight, the neighborhood kids kept shouting my name. Now, I’ve taught my own children to address adults with respect, so I didn’t shout back, just went about my business, and waited to hear what what would come next. Eventually, the youngest of them said, “Dina, can I be in your band?” I gathered my stuff, poked my head around the car and replied, “Can you be in my band? Sure. What instrument do you play?” He said, “Drums. I was the only one who wasn’t afraid to ask you. The rest of them hid [behind that tree].” I indulged the conversation for a little while and brought out my shiny new electric guitar for them to look at. It was a delightful six minutes or so. That was that.

Turns out not a single one of them plays an instrument.

Treasures Left Behind

Way back in the 1990s, I was rummaging through a used record bin, and came across a compilation called, Treasures Left Behind: Remembering Kate Wolf. I bought it – probably because it included performances by Kathy Mattea, Nanci Griffith, and Emmylou Harris. It also featured some real folk artists – Utah Phillips, Rosalie Sorrells, Tret Fure, Cris Williamson, and John Gorka – but at the time, I had no idea who they were. If I came across this same record today, I’d buy it especially for those folks.

kate wolf

A couple of weeks ago, Dave Fry gave me a live recording of Mollie O’Brien and Nina Gerber to preview for our weekly radio show. As I listened to the recording, I heard Mollie refer to this very same album. I thought, “How cool is it that I have this in my collection?!”

Today, I read a tweet from the Indigo Girls, (who, by the way, I had not heard of in the early 1990s) showing a photo of their performance in the Kate Wolf Music Festival 2014. I went to the festival website and there was a very large, beautiful photo of Joan Baez, whose music I’m starting to learn by heart. The website music started to auto-play and I nearly jumped out of my seat. And I realized that I have come full circle.

Tonight on Live From Godfrey Daniels on WDIY 88.1 Lehigh Valley Community Public Radio, I’ll spin Mollie O’Brien and Nina Gerber’s show as well as cuts from Treasures Left Behind: Remembering Kate Wolf. Tune in or stream it live, 7-9 p.m.

Music makes me smile

Music. It can make us think. It can make us feel sad, or anxious, or even angry. But most often, it makes us happy. And when we play music with others, especially when we sing, endorphins are released in our brains, and that feels better than almost anything else I can think of. I’m sure this is why I’m drawn to songs with harmony, and it’s also why I invite others to play and sing with me whenever possible.

Last month I offered to lend a set of music for an event to benefit Melon’s Gift. Some good friends were performing and they were gracious enough to bring me on for a few songs. I showed up early, ready to jump in whenever I was called on. When the time came, I asked all of the musicians to join in if they felt comfortable. Within minutes, we launched into a 20-minute jam that included Ring of Fire, Love at the Five and Dime, and Angel Montgomery. Of course it wasn’t polished, but I prefer things to be a bit tarnished. I like it that way. It’s organic. Homegrown. Just like fresh vegetables.

Most importantly, this is what happened. We smiled. Everyone smiled. The audience smiled. And the musicians passed happiness back and forth among each other. I cannot put into words how it feels to be in that moment. But I have found that photographers can capture it perfectly. Like this.

jam session
These are good old friends. left to right: Regina Sayles, Matt Abell, CJ McKenna, Skip Dietrich, me, Kate Jordan. The photo was taken by Rose Meola.

This spring and summer, I plan to do more of this. Watch for these things to happen spontaneously, and enjoy the moment, because you will be a part of something very cool. Cool because you will be a Part of it, and you will know the feeling when it happens.

Flies in the buttermilk.

Today was one of those awesome Sundays that you can’t plan or predict. At the suggestion of a neighbor, Gail and I took a ride over to Flint Hill Farm, to check out all that they do there. We really didn’t know what to expect, and when we arrived we were pleased to see some friends.

Gail loves to grow vegetables, so we toured the gardens with our friends Dave Reber and Mike Holliday, who were also there to play music in the big barn.

A little while later Dave Fry invited me to play some songs with him. I didn’t have my guitar so I played Dave’s while he played mandolin. In these instances Dave plays music for the families – the kids and the adults that accompany them. It’s not what I do, but I sure do appreciate what it takes to do it well. The kids are fabulous, especially when they really get into it.

Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.
Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.

We traded some grownup folk songs too, with Mike Holliday sitting in too. Somewhere during the seventh verse of a Dylan tune, I looked over to see Gail standing nearby, holding a leash, with goat on the other end. That’s what happens when you visit a farm.

Shout Out – Volume One

Every once in a while we come across people, places and things that we just have to shout about!

My personal thanks to the pro photographers who come out to shoot the shows. Here’s a short list, so far. I’ve included links to the relevant galleries.

Christopher Elston Photography   View photos

Real Life Photography – Keith Huylebroeck   View photos

Diane Richter Photography   View photos

Capture the Event Photography – David Happel   View photos

Christopher L. Moore Photography   View photos

Showgun Photography   View photos


Excerpts from a brand new gig

It’s no secret that I have a day job as a graphic designer. In all honesty, it can be a pain sometimes, but most of the time it’s very rewarding. Since 2001, I’ve been part of a fabulous group called the Greater Lehigh Valley Ad Club. It’s a regional chapter of the American Advertising Federation. (The organization recently changed its name to something really long and cumbersome, and I’m not gonna bore you with that.) What matters is that these folks are my colleagues and my friends.

On the first Friday in March, we hold an annual event called the ADDY® Awards. It’s a big hoo-hah for the advertising folks (nationally) – rewarding them for creative excellence over the past year. We usually get some local radio or tv personalities to emcee the event, by reading off the list of winners and undoubtedly mispronouncing most of their names.

This year, however, I was very honored to be asked to co-host the event with our board vice-president, John Mulder – owner of 3SEED Marketing & Design in Kutztown, PA. John and I actually wrote the script to fit this year’s theme – Pop Art. There are at least five graphic designers on the committee, and they poured so much energy and enthusiasm into the show, it was bound to be a hit. And it was.

As part of the promotional materials, the designers created a postcard featuring a take-off of Milton Glaser’s Bob Dylan. Sarah Sterner did the illustration.

ADDYs Save the DateThey also produced videos which were played during the show. As part of the Dylan theme, John Mulder wrote advertising-related lyrics to the tune of Mr. Tambourine Man, and called it Mr. Clever Ad Man. They asked me to perform the song for the video. At some point, we decided it would be cool to integrate a live performance of that song into the show. This was easier said than done. But as I’ve learned from Dave Fry, every creative risk you take makes you a better performer and entertainer.

So, we embarked on a 3:27 video with less than two minutes of live performance, which would require six hours of video shoot, (countless hours of editing) and two hours of sound check and rehearsal. The end result was a fantastic, fun, happy time, with an audience of 225 people singing along to the song’s chorus as it scrolled across the bottom of the screen behind us. Here’s an excerpt of the script that preceded the video.

“It’s a good thing we don’t allow our winners to give acceptance speeches, otherwise it might become a confessional like Jodie Foster at the Golden Globes – remember?  Oh, what the hell. (pushes John out of the way) I have control of the stage.  And, well, I’ve been doing this for a lotta years, and I’ve faced a whole lot of rejection … and I’m just so happy to have come to this watershed in my life when I don’t have to care what anybody thinks … and right now Tracey’s over there thinking “Oh no, what is she doing?!” … I ‘m just going to put it out there, loud and proud. I am, (deep breath)… (lean in to the mic) … I’m a singer songwriter”

The final video, and a snippet of the live performance:

My thanks to a very cool group of people who had faith in me to pull this off. And thanks to John for keeping time on that tambourine, man. You have no idea how important that was.

If you’d like to see photos of the event, click here. Christopher Elston Photography

You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.

Here we are, in the midst of a bitter cold snap in the northeast. I’ve been trying to keep up with the firewood, stoking the fire in the wood stove and conserving the gas heat. Gail and I worked very hard during December, long days out in the cold selling our Back Door bakeshop wares at the downtown Bethlehem Christmas City Village. You know, we’re married to our little mom and mom business, and sometimes it takes all the energy we have. But we realize we are entrepreneurs, small business owners, creative spirits – and we keep lifting each other higher and higher. I won’t lie, we imbibed a little, after hours, because we just needed some reward at the end of the day. The body works harder in the cold, trying to keep warm, you know.

And now I think I’m still recovering from all that hard work. No sooner did we clean up on Christmas Eve, then we were off to visit with family for the holidays. And on Jan. 2, our entire household (and the extended family) came down with some strain of the flu. I was hit the hardest, fever for several days and coughing and congestion that lasted for at least two weeks. I eased back into singing last weekend by going to the Open Mike at Godfrey Daniels.

You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.

My voice was gone. My creative spirit was gone. My mojo was gone. I really haven’t felt so down on myself in a very long time. What I know is that it takes a big push to get it all back. It’s the end of January and I still feel somewhat out of sync. I’ve picked up the guitar a few times and learned a new cover or two, but I just don’t have the energy to write. So, on Monday night I went to Moe Jerant’s community drum circle. It was refreshing to just do nothing but play a djembe for a couple of hours. I never get to do that anymore. And tonight I’m starting to take deep breaths, and practicing relaxation techniques. Just taking the time to write this is cathartic.

So, December proved to be a very fulfilling month. Aside from working non-stop, I performed at the Lehigh Valley Music Awards with a fabulous band and received three prestigious honors – Best Singer/Songwriter, Best Original Song (Woman in Me), and the Directors’ Award for Community Involvement. Moe and I played an opening spot before Cheryl Wheeler at Sellersville Theater. The show at the Ice House was a huge success, not just for me, but I think the band and WDIY staff were all very pleased with the outcome. And the New Year’s Eve show at Godfrey’s was wonderful.

Now things are quiet on the music front, and I’m going to take this time to look inward. My work with Godfrey Daniels has become very important at a time when the musical landscape is changing every day. My work as a graphic designer is still crucial to supporting my family. I have some wonderful gigs coming up, and right now I’m booking the spring and summer. I have a live recording that’s being used as the backdrop for a local video and I’ll be co-hosting the American Advertising Federation – Greater Lehigh Valley 2013 ADDY Awards. I’ll also be a presenter at the Jersey Acoustic Music Awards. And amidst all of this, our mom and mom business is still growing and needs cultivating.

I’m anticipating spring – a time when I can fill my lungs with fresh air and sing out the notes that have been hibernating all winter. I hope to see you soon.

– Dina