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

be a voice of peace and calm and goodness

[Fri. Dec. 14] twenty children aged 6 or 7 and six adults were killed in the slaughter at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Two more adults also died – the mother of the 20-year-old gunman and the gunman himself, who authorities said shot himself as police responding to reports of gunfire converged on the school.    – The Morning Call

Also, on Friday Dec. 14, I was opening for Cheryl Wheeler at Sellersville Theater, Sellersville, Pa.

It’s hard to be an entertainer when tragedy strikes. It’s important to remember that by doing what we do we nurture peace and goodness in those around us. You are not an audience, you are a group of like-minded people gathered in one place to share good feelings. Before the show this past Friday night, and with a very heavy heart, I considered how I could change my set list in order to make some kind of statement. I quickly realized that it was the wrong thing to do. The little voice in my head said, “Just do what you do, and do it well. Be a voice of peace and calm and goodness.” And so that’s what I did. Thanks to Moe Jerant for sharing those 25 minutes of calm with me. Thanks to Cheryl Wheeler for reminding me that laughter is great medicine. None of this erases the tragedy, and it certainly doesn’t take away the pain or sadness that we still feel, but it helps us move closer to a better place, as a group of like-minded people.

Great news, but it’s not about the haircut

Last week I got a haircut. Because of scheduling conflicts, it was a little earlier than my usual every three weeks. I hate it when I go too long in between haircuts because then I have to worry about how big it’s gonna look in pictures – especially on humid days. Fascinating, I know. Anyway, I had to have the early appointment because I knew there would be photographers at the music awards show, and the last thing I wanted was to have big, fat hair blow up all over Facebook. It turned out to be a very good decision.

About the music awards.

Once again, I’d like to say thank you for the overwhelming nominations of 2013 Lehigh Valley Music Awards in ten categories. While you might think that’s easy to do in these days of campaigning for a win, I didn’t solicit nominations or votes. That’s what makes this meaningful.

I’m pleased and proud to announce that I was awarded three honors at the Lehigh Valley Music Awards on Sunday. Best Singer/Songwriter, Best Original Song – Woman in Me, and a Directors’ Award for Community Involvement.

If you happened to be at the event, you saw my complete look of surprise when the awards were announced. A posse of photographers captured the moment, including The Express-Times. I can’t post any of them here, but the best one I’ve seen so far was taken by Diane Richter. (link to photo by Diane Richter on Facebook)

More of these photos seem to show up every day, which, if you haven’t figured it out by now, is the reason why the haircut was such a good decision, and why the intro to this post is relevant and even mildly entertaining. Professional photographers now own my image and can sell the photos. I haven’t quite come to terms with this yet, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. Dress sharp. Fresh haircut. Makeup. Shoulders back, chest out. Smile.

Oh, it’s so easy to digress. Back to the gratitude at hand.

From my Facebook post the morning after the music awards, on Monday 12/3:

“Oh my goodness. I’m still floating pretty high this morning. So much goodness last night at the Lehigh Valley Music Awards.

First of all, thanks so much for the Directors’ Award for Community Involvement. I share that honor with my parents – who taught me the value of giving to the community. My sister, brother and I all learned that from them and continue to live our lives that way.

Secondly, performing with Moe Jerant, Mike Fritz and Scott Siska was absolutely transcendental. I was not in my own body – not on that stage. Instead, I felt as if I was sitting up in the balcony, entranced, chair dancing, singing along to my very own songs. It was magic. I’ll be uploading some video later this morning.
Last, but certainly not least, thank you so much to anyone and everyone who voted. Being nominated is a real treat, but taking home an award is truly an honor. Best Singer/Songwriter, Best Original Song – Woman in Me. This is motivational!”
For the  past few days I’ve found myself looking back at all of the congratulatory messages, and reflecting on the kind words of friends in the aftermath. I’ve been moved to tears a time or two, touched by the sincerity of their kindness. I keep trying to find the right words to explain how I feel, but they just aren’t there. I can, however, promise that I will continue to do what I do, and do it well – for all of you. You’ve encouraged, supported, and helped me get to where I am in a very rich life. And you’ve invested your emotions as well. Thank you from the depths of my being.
Now, if you don’t mind, I have to clean the house, do the laundry, and schedule my next haircut.

Merry Christmas Darling

A quick summary of my debut performance at The 16th Annual A Lehigh Valley Christmas Concert – Nov. 25, 2012, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown, Pa


It was a whirlwind. So many smiles when I walked in the door, hugs and greetings and quick rehearsals in the green rooms, then waiting in the wings backstage, anticipating our turn to go on, last minute vocal exercises and hydration, deep breaths, then more hugs and kisses and the band before us exits the stage, and bam it’s time! And the stage is beautifully lit, and you can’t see the audience, but you can hear the cheers and the two songs are done and it’s the quickest seven minutes of a very rich life – so far – and then exit the stage, passing the next band in motion, with more hugs and kisses and pats on the back. And all the performances, and the finale – oh, my!

Huge Thanks to Miriam Huertas and Mike Krisukas for a fabulous event. Your beautiful kiss on stage at the end of the finale melted my curmudgeon heart.

John Harkins plays keyboards and bass with The Large Flowerheads. Tonight he sat in with us on guitar. It was very sweet and super organic. Thanks John and Moe!

A brief Sunday morning reflection on Saturday night

A brief Sunday morning reflection on Saturday night:

Still thinking about the simple awesomeness of Artwalk on Main Street Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Last night, I was paired up with the Moravian Book Shop, and they were a very gracious host. Special thanks to the staff for treating me like local royalty – right down to delivering a grilled cheese sandwich to my spot on the sidewalk. The fab pop/mod art of Chris Jones attracted lots of attention and I got to watch the arrival of a gorgeous wedding party at the Hotel Bethlehem. Right after that, rain came from out of nowhere and the nice group of folks huddled in the doorway helped me carry my gear to shelter. I wiped out on the slippery slate sidewalk – holding my guitar high in the air. (I’m hurtin’ today) But the highlight of the night was watching a nice man sitting on the bench tap his feet and hum along to every song. Turns out he bought Logic and the Heart at our Musikfest show, and came by to catch this little solo gig before heading back to Germany.

The ending of the story is this, Moravian Book Shop is now carrying Logic and the Heart in the store. Buy Fresh, Buy Local.

Thanks, everybody.

Turn on your radio.

It’s been almost a year since Logic and the Heart was released. Almost. September 15 will be the anniversary, and yet it seems like it was only a few months ago. When I ordered the first batch of CDs I had no idea how many copies would sell. Thanks to all of you it’s doing very well – better than I ever imagined. And it’s almost time to start working on the next one.

Over the past year I’ve had some good stuff happen. Most of it happens because I really work hard to make stuff happen, but some of this is the result of good people getting behind a great project. One of the most important factors in getting the album out to the world is college and community public radio, and internet radio.

[Full disclosure: I really like public radio. I hate commercial radio. I’m ambivalent toward internet radio.]

Back on point, I’ve been fortunate to have these stations supporting Logic and the Heart: myruralradio.com, folkalley.com, WBJB (Brookdale Community College), WLVR (Lehigh University), WBZH – The Buzz (Pottstown, PA), WVIA (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA), WDIY (Allentown, PA), and WXLV (Lehigh Carbon Community College). It’s possible that there are more, but either I don’t know about them yet, or my memory is slipping and I’ve forgotten about them.

I’ve done some good interviews, with real nice radio folks – Mike Holliday on WBZH’s Notes from Home, George Graham on WVIA’s Homegrown Music, Mike Space on WDIY’s Live from Godfrey Daniels. and most recently, Tiffany Bentley on WDIY’s The Blend. Here’s a link to that one. Enjoy.

Click to Listen

Time to get your JAMMYs on.

It’s widely known that I grew up in Sayreville, New Jersey. And in great musical company, I have to add. Back in the ’70s our little town was raising some heavy hitters – Dave “Snake” Sabo of Skid Row (my schoolmate), Greg Evigan (my neighbor), and of course Jon Bon Jovi (my sister’s … best friend’s … next-door neighbor). [eye roll]

There was no budding music scene in Middlesex County, no Charter High School for the Performing Arts, no School of Rock, not even a bohemian arts community within 50 miles, and yet, these guys went on to be *stars*. They ate, slept and breathed their art. I remember plenty of those “Battle of the Bands” at S.W.M.H.S. in the early ’80s.

The closest I got to that was hanging out at my friend Lisa’s house in Hopelawn. We taught each other those signature Joan Jett and Pat Benatar songs, trying to one-up each other’s Stevie Nicks imitation. Good times, I remember so well.

I moved to Pennsylvania in 1987, began to raise a family, but the music kept nagging at me. By 1998, I was back at it – for real this time. Partnered with Nina Peterson, I found myself playing in New Jersey again. We teamed up with Beth Sherby in 2001, formed Jackknife Betty and kept on going. We hit Long Beach Island, Asbury Park, Philadelphia, Allentown, Bethlehem, the Poconos and all those places in between that I can’t remember any more. It was fantastic.

Geez, I digress.

Now I’m doing this singer/songwriter thing. Wow. I’m probably more surprised than anyone. With the release of Logic and the Heart, I’ve been inspired to write more, and perform more. I’m constantly on the lookout for those great little listening rooms where the artist can connect with the audience on an intimate level, and you never know what direction the show’s gonna go. Throw the set list to the wind, I say! [Mike Fritz eye roll]

So, onward, and upward. This week I was nominated in two categories of the 2012 Jersey Acoustic Music Awards (JAMMYs). Best Song – Woman in Me, and Top Female Performer. I have no grand illusions of actually winning either award, but the recognition alone has me blown away. Thank you to the fabulous New Jersey music community – especially the Asbury Park scene. The energy there is comparable to what we have here in the Lehigh Valley. I just wish I had known about it 20 years ago!

More about the JAMMYs:

Awards show spotlights low-profile performers

Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2011, 8:00 AM

  By Jim Testa/For The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger

“The second annual Jersey Acoustic Music awards show not only drew twice the audience as the previous year, but more important, provided ample evidence of the impressive breadth of talent that brings original acoustic music to the Jersey Shore all year long.” …  Read More