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.

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

Me and Dave Fry. photo by Gail Lehman


Beth Sherby and me. photo by Gail Lehman

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

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.