2011 was quite the year for me for good and bad. My lovely sweetheart Megan and I got married August 14th and moved into a beautiful new apartment overlooking the Chippewa River in downtown Eau Claire, Wisconsin. My student roster continues to grow. I played as many as 15 shows a month at the height of the summer. I got started on a new CD called “Living In The Chippewa Valley.”
On many a sadder note, several people close to me passed away, including a good friend of ours from our time at The Chicago Actors Studio who lost her second battle with cancer and two of the first friends we made upon our arrival in Eau Claire. Two weeks to the day after our wedding my Mom Lilias Circle passed away in her sleep. In early December, one of our groomsmen and a brother to me for 20 years, an amazing harmonica player who appears on several of my albums, also lost his second fight with cancer at the age of 43. On our way back from Chicago after his memorial I received word that the previous day, another fellow musician and good friend had a fatal heart attack at the young age of 38. The last in our long list of losses came recently when Megan’s cat of 15 years had to be put down due to a painful and inoperable tumor.
This all made our first holiday season as a married couple bittersweet, but the strength of our love for each other and the deep friendship we share of course helped tremendously.
Adding to this my now more than six months using a cane from constant hip pain due to necrosis of the ball joint at the top of my femur, life’s been a bit of a challenge to say the least.
Still, I know what I would tell anyone in my position: Winter never fails to turn to spring. While we never fully get over such losses, we do get past them. By honoring the people who have left us, we heal. For me, music is a salve for anything. I began writing and playing from a need to understand and express, never really intending to become a working professional. And yet here I am. The gift life has given me also is cathartic to others. I’m reminded of one evening back in Chicago while out for drinks with a DJ friend of mine who often played my music on his show. He mentioned how rough his life had been prior to that day. He’d been suffering from deep depression and one night found himself standing on the Ashland Avenue bridge contemplating jumping into the river. Then, he explained, the lyrics to one of my songs, a favorite of his, came into his head:
“You see it pass before your eyes, the life of any man.”
He realized we all suffer and knew that he had in me a friend who understood the pain he was experiencing, that none of us are truly alone in the world.
Now, with the New Year fully in swing, I’ve put the finishing touches on my new album. One of the tracks, called “Just The Blues Ma’am” is a dedication to Matt “Matteo” Steinmetz, my late brother-in-music the harmonica player who taught me so much of what I know about performance. A long list of his friends, including myself, are doing a concert in his memory with proceeds going to cancer research and to his widow. The symphony my Mom played in for more than 40 years is performing a memorial concert dedicated to her memory, the Gilbert and Sullivan company she co-founded before I was born dedicated this last season’s show to her, and I do my best every day to carry on her musical legacy.
Megan and I are both working hard on our respective projects. She’s on her second stage play in a row, has been busy with runway shows and photo shoots, as well as adding a great deal to my live shows with her vocal and percussive skills. We’re booking for the spring and summer and are planning an August tour, most likely to the West Coast. April 7th is the release date for the new CD, and incidentally, it would be my Dad’s 89th birthday if ever he’d lived that long. In fact the date I'm writing this is 6 years to the day since he passed away. The first track of the CD “Fly On By” was the tune that 25 years ago convinced him I should go into music. April 12th I turn 29 for the 17th time, so the April 7th show will be multi purpose. On stage I’ll be joined by a long list of top talent from The Chippewa Valley and will bring out my electric guitar out for the first time since I’ve been in Eau Claire.
2012 looks to be another year of forward movement, as I intend for every year to be. Let’s hope this one brings fewer losses and more gains. I never shrink from hardship, however. Movement forward begets friction. Still, here’s to better days ahead for everyone.
Peace, love and music.
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