Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pieta Brown bringing honest sound to Old Town School of Folk Music


For singer-songwriter Pieta Brown, her latest album, "Mercury," is truly a dream project.

Inspired by a dream she had, Brown recorded the album in a one room studio out in the country in Tennessee with an all-star cast of session players, including Bo Ramsey, Chad Cromwell, Glenn Worf and engineer Mark Polack.

Brown,, the daughter of noted folk musician Greg Brown, will perform Feb. 2 at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 2544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, as part of the Acoustic Cafe Tour with Carrie Rodriguez and Kelly Joe Phelps.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $22, available at

I had the chance to interview Brown about the album.

Q - Of course, you are kicking off the Acoustic Cafe Tour in your native state of Iowa. What's it like for you to be on a tour such as this one? 

I'm about to find out! I look forward to seeing where the music goes.

Q - Do you enjoy the collaboration with other musicians? 

Always. Collaboration is really where the music happens.

Q - The tour follows your two shows with Iris DeMent. She has had some kind words for you, calling you the "best poet I've heard in a long damn time." Has she been an influence on you, especially after marrying your dad in 2002?

Absolutely. I really got to know her music all the way because of the closeness. She is a beautiful songwriter and one of the best singers I've ever heard live.

She has really supported me and encouraged me, which is an honor for me.

Q - Speaking of influences, I understand that you listened to Dire Straits' album "Brother in Arms" a lot when you were growing up. Did you ever imagine that you would one day tour with Mark Knopfler and that you would develop such a close musical relationship with him?

No, I didn't ever imagine I would tour with Mark Knopfler. But the intensity of the charge I got from listening to that music when I was so young is undeniable.

I listened to that record many times a day for a summer when I was really young. I was obsessed with it. It's the only tape cassette I've ever worn out from listening.

The power of music is stunning! I'm constantly in awe. I love it!

Something Bo said to me once that really stuck is, "If you really listen, the music never lies."

Q - I understand that you had Mark Knopfler listen to the demos for "Mercury." What kind of advice did he give you and did you follow it? 

He gave me immediate responses to the songs, which from an artist like Mark, is really something to pay attention to. He also encouraged me to reach out to Glenn Worf, which I did.

Q - Did the recording session for "Mercury" live up to your dream?

It went beyond, because it was real. It was a magical session. We had a lot of fun, and those guys came and got behind the songs all the way. They gave 100 percent, and then some.

Q - What has working with musicians like Bo Ramsey taught you?

Too much to put into a sentence or two. But one thing I can point to is that I've learned that the main thing is to stay open.

Music doesn't have these daily boundaries like so many of us seem to have. Once the music starts, it doesn't matter how old you are, what color you are, who your dad is, who your mamma is, where you came from, or if you are a man or a woman.

It all goes away instantly for me. And for all of the amazing musicians I've had the chance to play with and work with, that seems to be the case.

Q - Of course, the music business continues to change. Is it easier being a musician these days or harder? 

According to my teachers and friends, it's harder, maybe harder now than it was for them, but maybe not harder than it's ever been?

It's hard, but so many things are. I'm not one to follow after something because it's easy. And when it really gets down to it, the business is secondary for me. I'm chasing the songs and music

Q - You have a degree in linguistics from the University of Iowa. Do you think studying linguistics has helped in your music? 

Not directly in any way. I really was not all the way engaged in it, other than trying to do my best.

Having a degree does give me a feeling that I could go back to school to study something else to get a job to pay my bills if I need to.

My mom really encouraged me to finish school (I dropped out at least five times and was filling up notebooks and hiding out playing piano).

And I'm thankful that I did. In an interview I read with Aretha Franklin several years ago, the advice that she to young musicians was, "Get a degree!"

The quickest way for me to get a degree, then, based on the handful of classes I had taken, was to get a degree in linguistics. I'm still not sure why?!

So I chose linguistics cause it was a fast way to get a degree and it seemed completely unknown, and it was connected to language.

The head of the linguistics department asked me more than once, "Are you sure you shouldn't be getting a degree in art or something along those lines?" I was a foreigner in a strange land there.

Q - How has your dad influenced your music? Was it a given that you would become a musician given your background?

I'm often asked this question in interviews. If I had a funny blanket answer, I'd give it to you. It's a question that seems almost impossible to answer. There are so many layers to it.

Both of my parents and the way my life worked out has everything to do with all of it. Why am I a songwriter and musician and my sisters are not?

Why was I born with a fever for the music and the writing? Why did that become my way of dealing with the world?

All I know is I love the music and it goes back in my family, so your guess is as good as mine, I reckon.

My dad has influenced me as an artist without a doubt. He has followed his muse, and his dedication to that has given me a lot of strength to do the same.

But I also spent a lot of my childhood living with my mom. My mom loves poems and music and has encouraged my writing since I was 5, when I used to wake up before school to write in my notebook.

My mom is also a seriously hard worker! She was a single mom and often worked 80 hours a week. And so her drive and dedication have provided a real role model for me.

Q - Your music dips into so many different genres. How would you describe your music?

I just call it music. Prairie stomp? Clearly it falls easily into the Americana category.

I've been heavily influenced by singers and songs from many genres. My deepest roots go deep into rural Iowa and American music.

All my favorites and teachers are artists that sound like themselves, rather than any kind or style.

Q - Do you have any dream projects or dream collaborations? 

I have many collaboration ideas. A couple at the top of the list including making an album of instrumentals and I would like to record a song with The Deep Dark Woods.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

James Durbin winning new fans, will perform in Libertyville

Michael Scott Slosa


California native James Durbin put his rock chops on full display in landing in fourth place on last season's "American Idol."

Durbin continues to gain new fans with the release of his debut album, "Memories of a Beautiful Disaster," which debuted last November at number 36 on the Billboard 200.

One of the songs off the album, "Stand Up," was prominently featured in NFL games this season. He will likely perform that hit along with other songs on Jan. 27 at Austin's Fuel Room, 481 Peterson Road, Libertyville.

New Medicine also is on the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m., and general admission tickets are $15, available at

Before you go to the show, read my interview with Durbin:

Q - I understand that you wanted "Memories of a Beautiful Disaster" to really represent you and the experiences you have gone through.

Some of the songs deal with being picked on and bullied. One of the songs, "Screaming," talks about just wanting to scream at the world. I was picked on and bullied from elementary school all the way through high school. I know fans of mine have gone through similar experiences.

Q - Howard Benson produced "Memories Of A Beautiful Disaster." Why did you want him to produce your album?

When I was getting bullied, one of my favorite bands I listened to for hope was My Chemical Romance. He produced their major label debut, "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge," and he really helped them to find their sound.

I loved the sound he put to "Memories of a Beautiful Disaster." I am completely happy he produced it.

Q - You placed fourth on "American Idol." Were you happy with how you did?

I was thrilled. I didn't have any aspirations. My whole goal is doing what I love to do. I just wanted to be a working musician. I got a lot more than I bargained for.

Q - Simon Cowell left the show right before season 10. Are you glad you didn't have to face him?

I don't think he would have liked me. I auditioned for season 8, and didn't make it. I knew in my heart I had a better chance with someone like Steven Tyler.

It was a real eye-opener. The producers gave me a lot of time to shine, and let me go crazy on the stage.

Q - What was it like performing in the season 10 finale with Judas Priest?

I was way into Judas Priest, especially in high school. It was unbelievable. It was a dream come true.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chicago band Clip Art taking Schubas by storm

Photo by Brad Meese

It's not an overstatement to say that singer-songwriter Andy Rosenstein is the hardest working musician in Chicago these days.

Rosenstein is on tour this month with two bands, the post-punk soul band JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound along with his side project, the sweetly melodic band Clip Art.

Since Jan. 9, Clip Art has been headlining a weekly residency at Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, and will return to the venue on Jan. 23 and 30.

All shows start at 8 p.m., and tickets are $6, available at Get a taste of the Clip Art's music at

I had the chance to talk to Rosenstein about Clip Art.

Q - How has the residency been going? Any surprises? What should people expect from the remaining two shows?
The residency has been excellent so far. When Matt at Schuba’s proposed it to me, it seemed like an ideal way to debut the new lineup of the band. It was just daunting enough that it would make us pull together, find our sound, and put a fire on us to work out new material. 

The fact that we've had a great audience turn-out the first two weeks and maybe raised our visibility a little has just been frosting.

I guess the most surprising thing for me has been just how much the band has evolved since we added James Johnston and Mike Holtz. I knew James would be an asset as a guitarist and harmony-singer, but he's started to play a couple of keyboard parts that I'd always felt were missing before. 

Mike's a really capable and inventive drummer, and he and Steve (Schuster, bass) have really locked as a rhythm section.

Last week we had a cellist playing with us, and the remaining two shows will also have special guests. This Monday (1/23) is something we're calling 'Clip Art Karaoke,' where some friends from the Chicago scene will come on stage and sing lead on a few of our songs, and we'll try out some fun cover tunes we've been playing with. 

The last week (1/30) will have another guest instrumentalist, and maybe another original tune debut. What should people expect? Songs that will make them smile and dance, and that will get stuck in their heads. 

They should also expect incredible opening acts. It's hard to believe that some of these groups were willing to play before us.

Q - The Uptown Sound is also touring this month. Has it been hard touring with two different bands?

Uptown has been a full-time endeavor for me for the last eight months, and for the first four of those, pretty much everything else (including Clip Art) was on hold. Before then, I had a more-than-full-time job and performed with four or five different bands. But this phase has been a totally different kind of busy.

This month has been particularly oddball because when I'm in Chicago, I'm either practicing with Clip Art or working on residency prep. Then I leave town to play theaters and come back just in time for the Monday residency. Life is good, but I constantly feel like I'm short-changing various groups of friends.

Q - What was your idea in forming Clip Art? How did you go about assembling the band?

I always try to write songs that I haven't heard before, but the flip-side to that is that my writing might be eclectic to a fault. I thought each song sounded like a different band, and that used to hold me back. 

The idea that grew into Clip Art was that no matter how eclectic the songs are stylistically, it all gets filtered through my abilities and my limitations, and it all comes out sounding like me. So I don't really worry too much about that anymore. 

The only challenge is describing the band to other people without being too vague, or getting verbose. I usually end up name-checking The Beatles at some point, but that could mean absolutely anything depending on who you're talking to.

As a recording and performing project, Clip Art started when my friend (singer-songwriter) Brent Puls hooked me up with the producer Josh Shapera and basically convinced me to record some of my songs first and think about what to do with them later. 

The musicians who performed on my EP with were all friends of mine and Josh's. We recorded the album and then played together around Chicago for about a year. That group started to break up when the rhythm section joined a band called Gold Motel and started to tour pretty constantly. 

At this point, I'm the only original band member left. Hopefully this current lineup won't change any time soon.

Q - Of course, James Johnston also has a new project, Dance Floor Plans. What do you think of his new band? Has it been hard finding time for Clip Art with everybody's other projects?

Dance Floor Plans came out of a band called Bumpus, which existed for over a decade, and who I played with for about 5 years. It was a dance band modeled on Sly Stone and James Brown, but they/we had good modern pop instincts as well. 

DFP is kind of a distilled version of that band, with extra emphasis on vocal harmony and horn arrangements. I'm still involved with them for songwriting and recording, and I'm sure that at some point I'll play with them again.

Everybody in Clip Art plays in at least a couple bands, and since I spend so much time as part of The Uptown Sound, it would be really unfair to ask the other guys to make Clip Art their number one priority. 

That said, we have all put in a massive amount of time to get ready for the Schuba's residency, and I think Clip Art has never been more excited or committed as a group. We're already looking to book gigs for the spring and hopefully get into a recording studio with some of the new material.

Q - The Uptown Sound has signed with Chicago-based label Bloodshot Records. How is it to be a Chicago band signed to a Chicago  label? What interested you in the label?

I actually only became a full member of Uptown around the time the Bloodshot deal was getting finalized, so I wasn't involved in that process. But I'm definitely a fan of Bloodshot's stable and history.

Of all the bands I've been in, this is the only one that's seen any real label support, and it's been exciting. Between Bloodshot, all the support we've seen from Wilco, and performing twice for the Mayor, I feel like Chicago has been and continues to be great to us.

Q - What goals did the Uptown Sound have in sitting down to make "Want More?" How do you think the album turned out?

I love "Want More," but the album was basically done by the time I joined the group. I sang some harmony on a couple of songs and wrote one organ line, but that's about the extent of my involvement in the recording. 

What's been exciting is seeing how the music has continued to evolve as we've toured on it. The arrangements keep getting refined, and in some cases we've totally rebuilt parts of songs. As a songwriter, that kind of stuff is always fun for me.

Q - The Uptown Sound recently played in Spain and Italy.  How does performing overseas differ from playing in the U.S.?

I'd say the biggest difference I found was that JC had to speak much more slowly during between-song banter. And a lot of jokes fell flat. There were also a few confusing moments working with sound engineers. 

But everybody worked with was kind, and the audiences were incredible. In Spain, a lot of them already knew the music.


Q - What do you think Clip Art contributes to the Chicago music scene?

I'd like to think that we're reclaiming the word 'pop' within a certain sub-set of music fans. Pop songs don't have to be shiny or cliché or based in modern R&B. And just because you aim to make music as art, it doesn't have to be obscured or drenched in reverb like a lot of Pitchfork-approved bands. 

I don't think my music is any more pure or honest or valid than anyone else's, but I am proud to be in a band where everybody has to work really hard to execute each song. When you see us perform, you know who is making which sounds, and that it's all happening then and there. Maybe it's more craft than “art.”

Q - Do you see a time when Clip Art is the sole priority for you? What are your goals for the band?

I would love for Clip Art to be my only priority, but right now that's pretty hard to envision. The immediate goal is making this residency as successful as it can be. 

After that, I'd like to record a song or two that we can put out as soon as possible. We're still a small band, but we actually have people demanding more recordings, which is great. 

But I'd also like to do it for the band and for myself. It's the newest songs that I think represent who we are now and where we're going. And beyond that, the live performances are good, but recording studios offer the opportunity to really get what's happening in my head out into the world. 

That's a really special thing to me.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chicago singer-songwriter Nina Ferraro showing the strength of young talent


Those who enjoy discovering new local artists shouldn't overlook the fact that the Chicago area is home to a wealth of young talent.

Take Chicago singer-songwriter Nina Ferraro, who at the age of 16, already has a music resume that many seasoned musicians would love to have.

Her first original single, "Let It Go," features drummer Kenny Aronoff, who has played with the likes of John Fogerty and Eric Clapton, and was co-produced by Tommy Byrnes, Billy Joel's longtime music director.

In addition, her five-song EP "The Promise,"  was produced by Will Golden and Al Sgro, known for their work with Eric Hutchinson, Meiko, Michelle Branch and others. 

The multi-talented Ferraro, who plays several instruments, including the piano, guitar, and ukulele, will perform Sunday, Jan. 15, at the Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago.

The Parlour Suite, Bad Bad Meow and Natalie Grace Alford also are on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m., and Ferraro will take the stage around 10:15 p.m.

Tickets are $10, available at

Last year, I had the chance to talk to Ferraro before she took the stage at Taste of Chicago.

Q- I see that you have already worked with some heavy hitters. How did you get connected to those people?

Basically, I sent my music around and I was really looking for the right people to work with. I really wanted people who understood where I was trying to go with the recording process.

One thing led to another, and I ended up working with them. It was a great experience, and turned out really well, I think.

Q - And I suppose those experiences are part of the learning process as well. What did you learn meeting with those people? Did they give you a lot of good ideas?

It was definitely a learning experience. The people that I worked with, they've been doing it so long, and they've seen all kinds of different things.

They get it because they're around it all the time. I definitely learned a lot about the way things go. I write the music and play it, but everything else that surrounds it I'm kind of disconnected from.

I learned so much that I probably wouldn't have learned otherwise. It was a lot of fun.

Q - As far as what you wanted to do with the EP, did you have any specific goals?

I wanted to have that control where I could come in and say 'this is the way I had it in my head' and try to recreate that in the studio.

It wasn't like I just gave them the songs and said, 'There you are. You can mess with them however you want.'' That was definitely not how it went.

Q - So they didn't take over the process.


Q - "The Promise" seems to be a pretty eclectic mix of songs. Did you want the EP to show off your different sides?

Yeah. Basically, I had a lot of stuff to sort through to decide what should be on the EP.

Obviously, when I play live, like when I'm playing at Taste of Chicago, I'm playing a lot of songs that aren't on the EP, but I'm also playing the EP songs.

It's so hard to edit through your own songs and kind of figure out which ones should be out there at the moment, and which ones to keep for live shows. I definitely had a little bit of help from the producers to decide what should go on the EP.

All five tracks were written at very different times in my life. They're very different. You're absolutely right.

Q - I understand that initially you weren't thinking about becoming a musician, but then as time went on, it was really something that you were committed to do.

That's right. I started playing piano when I was 4 years old, just because my brother played piano, and I just wanted to be like my brother.

I begged to start piano lessons, and I took piano for five years. I liked piano, but I was just like any other kid. I didn't like to practice.

I started playing guitar, and it was a completely different experience for me. It was awesome. I really loved it.

And that was around the time when I started singing as I played guitar. I would come up with little 30 second songs and different things like that.

As time went on, I just kept playing music and I kept doing it more often. I started playing at local coffeehouses, and it went from there.

Q - You learned how to play guitar at Old Town School of Folk Music. Was that a good place to learn to play guitar?

Yeah, absolutely. At Old Town, there were a lot of different people who were all really passionate about the same thing, which is music, primarily folk music.

There are great teachers at Old Town. It's like a community, and it was a great place to learn.

Q - When you were 11, you performed KT Tunstall's "Other Side Of the World" at your school talent show and received a standing ovation. Did you expect that?

You know, I didn't. I was so nervous.

But it felt really good. It was like, 'Wow, I actually enjoyed that.' I think that was probably the turning point when I decided I wanted more of that.

At that point, I went to different coffee shops, and said, 'I want to play here.'

Q - Things seem to be moving pretty fast for you. Is it overwhelming or are you just taking it in stride?

It's not overwhelming I think because I have kind of taken all the control. It was never something that my parents wanted and I never wanted to prove anything to anyone.

I think that because I have all that control and it has been my own doing, that kind of takes away anything that would be overwhelming.

There's nobody pushing me to do anything. There's no stage parents or crazy manager that wants me to do 10 concerts a week, or something like that. It's all basically my doing. It's just really fun. I'm having a really good time.

Q - How have your fellow classmates reacted to what you are doing?

My friends are really supportive. They come to my shows and they like my music and think it's fun. I don't really know what anyone else thinks about it.

Q - What are your short-term and long-term goals?

I like what I'm doing right now. It's been really fun. I definitely want to keep going on this route.

Hopefully, I can go on tour sometime in the future, and play even bigger gigs. I also am going out to L.A. sometime soon to record a full-length album.

Q - What should people expect from the full-length album?

It might be more in the alternative route. Everything I write is a little bit different from the last thing that I wrote.

People should expect lots of fun surprises.

Q - Do you plan to go to college?

Yeah, definitely. I think it's possible to go to college and get an education, and simultaneously tour and do everything you want with music.

I've seen it done before, and seen it done successfully.

"Destination Truth" star coming to Chicago in April

Josh Gates, the host of "Destination Truth" on Syfy, will undoubtedly be checking out the mysteries and unexplained phenomenon at this year's Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo when he serves as as one of the entertainment guests at the convention.

C2E2 will be April 13 to 15 at McCormick Place in Chicago. VIP tickets go on sale at noon CST Jan. 19, and more information is at

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Evanston native Christopher O'Riley finds connection between classical, rock music on latest CD


Evanston native and concert pianist Christopher O'Riley continues to break down the boundaries between classical and popular music. 
On his latest release, "Shuffle.Play.Listen," he teams up with cellist Matt Haimovitz for a musical adventure that marries Stravinsky's "Suite Italienne" with songs by modern artists like Arcade Fire and Radiohead. 

I had the chance to talk to O'Riley,, about the new album and his other activities, which include hosting the popular NPR and PBS weekly program, "From the Top."

Q - How long have you known Matt Haimovitz? Do you think the two of you share the same musical vision?
Matt and I have had parallel though somewhat contrasting tracks to our careers for quite a while: he’s been taking classical repertoire  into unlikely settings like rock clubs and pizza parlors, while I’ve been taking pop music and incorporating it into concerts in standard classical venues. 

We have had the same manager, Marc Baylin, for the last five years or so. It was essentially Marc’s idea that we collaborate and forge an alliance that would highlight our mutual interests in a variety of genres. We'd known of each other over many years, but only met face-to-face for the first time when we were in Billings, MT., preparing our first recital together. 

We had three days to get a whole program together, and I remember the 8-10 hour rehearsal days flying by, mostly because we were both keenly in tune with and trusting of each other, and the work we did was always a matter of pushing the level higher. 

I think we share not only our wide-ranging musical interests, but a deep respect of the genres and composers we love.

Q - What were your goals in sitting down and making the album?

In deciding what material to include on the record, we had, of course, the idea of representing a wide variety of genres. We tousled with the thought of doing one classical record, one non-classical, and releasing them separately. 

But that seemed to undercut our desire to invite the listening audience into our more capacious sound world. We also had the idea of juxtaposing the pieces, really making the case for their commonalities as well as their contrasts. 

In the end, when we’d arrived at a list of must-play music, we found we had a double-CD set on our hands (and even then, we weren’t sure it would all fit). 

In addition to all the standard repertoire pieces we'd decided on and prepared for the bulk of our initial Billings show, I’d been celebrating the centenary of Bernard Herrmann’s birth by arranging for piano movements of his music for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psyco. 

With Matt’s boundless virtuosity, I thought it would be worth trying to create the lush romanticism of Herrmann’s Vertigo music. As that piece has a certain Wagnerian sense of motivic identification and development, some of the themes appearing in various movements, Matt had the bright idea of scattering the Vertigo movements throughout the classical CD, acting as curtain-raisers and through-line for the other selections. 

Thus, "Shuffle.Play.Listen" is to a certain extent pre-shuffled. The album’s title has to do with the way we listen to music in these times, in particular, the lateral way in which we find new musical discoveries; the album is sort of an homage to the iPod. 
We wanted to draw listeners from either side of the genre divide and show them there are riches to be had and valuable experience gained in the brave traversal of the unfamiliar.
Q - What do you think he brought to the album?
Foremost, Matt’s involvement dictated  the choice of material in the most inspiring way: I’ve always made solo piano arrangements, acknowledging that the piano can never replace the sound of the human voice, though emulating that sound has been a goal of pianists and composers all along (Chopin, in particular).
The cello is the instrument closest to the human voice, in my opinion. But Matt’s instrument was only the beginning: he not only brought a sense of singing line to all the selections, but sought to make each vocal style integral: the near-spoken intimacy of Radiohead and Blonde Redhead, the sinuous Levantine style of James Maynard Keenan of A Perfect Circle, the operatic coloratura of Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins, etc. 
Matt was also extremely patient and willing to experiment when my lack of knowledge of the cello’s capabilities (though not a lack of presumption) led us to make adjustments to the arrangements. Most importantly, Matt’s contribution in that revisional realm was usually not mere expedience, but often led him to take on more than one could have imagined, making much of the album's material a sort of new setting of the bar for cello technique.
Q - What draws you to interpret a band’s music?
 Mostly, it’s a matter of texture and harmony; a chord that makes your spine tingle, the setting of several motives in motion that creates by default a potential pianistic or musical texture or weave. I’m more interested in the conversational, horizontal interaction of voices than the vertical onslaught of much pop music. Radiohead’s music in particular is always a culmination of musical contributions to each song by every member of the band.
Q - Do you think you have introduced classical music lovers to Radiohead and vice versa?
Radiohead’s music appeals to the left-brain classical music lovers, and some strains of modern classical music have been fonts for inspiration of Radiohead, most notably, Messiaen, Steve Reich, Penderecki. I think it was an inevitable commonality between enthusiasts of music at its best.
Q - Do you think you have helped change the landscape of classical music, or made people think differently about classical music?
I’ve been true to my tastes and passions, and in the interim, if I’ve brought pleasure, insight and new experience to listeners on both sides of the genre divide, then I count myself lucky.
Q - Chicago is known for its diverse music scene. Do you credit your upbringing in the Chicago area for giving you the tools to become a professional musician?
There are many great civic music programs in the city of Chicago. We’ve had many supremely talented musicians come out of those programs and from Chicagoland in general. 
It helps to have such a great and supportive arts station like WFMT. Access, via the radio, was the most significant and unique aspect of Chicago musical life for me, as is the plethora of diverse music venues and programs throughout the area. It’s a hotbed, and one can’t help but get caught up in the positivism that pervades the Chicago scene, as opposed to the competitive streak that runs through for instance, New York.

Q - What do you attribute to the success of "From the Top?" Does the talent of the young musicians ever surprise you?
The talent of these kids continues to astonish me. They keep getting better all the time. 
I think the success of the program is largely in the ability of the audience to get to know the performers as people, find common interests with them, and thereby allowing one’s self to be open to the musical experience the kids bring to playing their favorite 5 minutes of music in the world. 
This does wonders for making classical music a personal and universal experience.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chicago native Haroula Rose going back into studio this month to record second album


For those waiting for new music from sweet-sounding Lincolnwood native Haroula Rose, they will not be disappointed.

Rose will follow up the 2009 release of her full length debut "These Open Roads," with an EP of new songs set for release in early spring. In addition, Rose will be recording her second full length album this month in Georgia that is set for a fall release.

To tide you over, click on the link below for a remix of her "Close My Eyes To See" remixed by Luke Top of Fool's Gold:

Also, watch this recently released video version of Rose covering Mason Jennings' song, "Duluth."

To read my interview with Rose, click on this link:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Stellar lineup set for Chicago Roots Collective Showcase


It's only early January, but 2012 is already shaping up to be a stellar music year in Chicago.

Those who come to the Chicago Roots Collective Showcase on Jan. 7 at the Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave., Chicago, will hear a night of great music.

On the bill are Jennifer Hall, The Congregation, Bassel and The Supernaturals and Harris and The Mood. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at

One can only hope that Hall and The Congregation's Gina Bloom will team up for a duet while on stage. For two female singers with such powerhouse vocals to be on the same stage is a rare treat indeed.

Common Shiner among Chicago bands topping the bill at Double Door show


Those who head to the Double Door in Chicago on Jan. 11 will get more than their money's worth.

For $1, concertgoers will hear some of the finest acts this region has to offer, including Common Shiner, Little Big Fat, Bobcat Williams, Michael Lux and The Bad Sons, and the band Simpleton & Cityfolk. 

Topping the list is Common Shiner, a band that plays intelligent pop-rock bound to appeal those who are also fans of such musicians as Ben Folds. Those familiar with the band will have the luck of hearing them perform a set of brand new songs.

The night of music starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are available at