Thoughts on a parent's milestone birthday, and the first day of 4th grade (with best wishes to kids everywhere for a great school year)

Another beautiful steamy late summer morning to herald the arrival of another “1st day of school”. Our 5th first day of walking down our driveway and up our gravel road towards our little old village school that we so cherish. It is far different now than kindergarten was, especially her height!....

"I feel best in that little space between a smile and a tear"

I didn't want to let this week's passing of 94-year old jazz legend Toots Thielemans go by without sharing a little tribute and a lot of respect. Jazz guitarist, harmonica virtuoso, and whistler too, this gentle Belgian's musical gifts have been known to millions of kids who may not have heard his name til now - his welcome and familiar harmonica refrain that was the theme to "Sesame Street".

Music. It's my life because it is the language of life. I had the most incredible experience last night at the Epicure Café in the DC suburb of Fairfax VA. There were several fantastic musicians in the lineup over the course of the Songwriters Association of Washington sponsored showcase, and a very special guest. Karim Wasfi is a virtuoso cellist, but also happens to be the Principal Conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra...

My last full day at Ferry Beach Park Association started with a cup of coffee on the beach as my bagpiping friend summoned the sun and saluted my ancestors homeland. We gathered for our last chapel in the echoing majesty of the ocean pines to the sounds of "Amazing Grace" on the pipes, bookended our week with a different hymn to Sibelius "Finlandia", sang "We Shall Overcome" hand in hand and "Amazing Grace" when no one was ready to leave...

An Independence Day weekend spent immersed in the swirling and ever-present past. Dedicated with love to my uncle Douglas McKnight, USN (1928-2016).

We spent a day over the 4th of July weekend bringing my cousin to visit DC for the first time. We caught a glorious sunny cool day, more like May than July, so we slathered on the sunscreen and walked most of the National Mall. It was my first visit to the World War II, Korean War, and Martin Luther King Memorials, and of course we did the traditional visits to the Lincoln and the Vietnam Wall.

It was an amazing experience. Along with my cousin, my 9-year old daughter had never been to the monuments. So in addition to my own awe, I got to explain some of the significant pieces of what she was witnessing. She carefully and solemnly did a pencil rubbing of one of the eight women whose names are engraved on the Wall....

One gift of aging is an appreciation for the constancy of change and the inconsistency of the journey.

I recently received several poignant gifts from out of the cosmos. Good and amazing things, and events which completely derailed me from some seeming momentum of thought and purpose. If you have ever thought that creative people are constantly creating and always have some vision for what they are doing now and next, I can emphatically say that’s not how my life goes. I wish it did sometimes, though I think I am grateful for some relief from the manic bursts of creative obsession...

Music has always been in my immediate family. My dad has sat in with me here and there at shows when I'm in the neighborhood, and my grandmother's sister was a renowned concert pianist. My dad's father's family had a lot of music too, but they scattered in all directions and we never had any contact with most of them in my lifetime.

Until last week...

In honor and remembrance of those who did not return. From the fields of Flanders, and the beaches of Normandy. From the frozen crags of Chosin, and the jungles of southeast Asia. From the deserts and mountains of Iraq and Afghanistan. From all of the places they went answering the call. On this day, and every other, we remember. "There's a hole in the sky...."

Many of my veteran friends say that Memorial Day is to remember the fallen, and that Veterans Day is the appropriate time to honor their service. I believe that every day is a day to honor their service, and every day is a day to work to end war. A utopian ideal given the nature of our species....  #MemorialDay #honorthefallen

While to my knowledge my family has not lost any on more recent fields of battle, several of my ancestors lost their lives on battlefields or their aftermath fighting to save the Union. This America, this one land struggling again as a house divided. I post this in their memory today... #Appomattox #Memorial Day #honorthefallen

Mother's Day seems a fitting time to share this tribute to the three mothers who most shaped and continue to shape my life. I am grateful to be old enough to be aware of how each of them shape my daughter's life. I wrote this a few days after she was born back in 2007. Happy Mother's Day to mothers everywhere, and in honor of those mothers who brought us life, wherever they are.
"A Circle of Four Women"

Wondering about the relative worth of work and capital in a land that has always had winners and losers. It still is a great country, still struggling to figure itself out.

I’ve certainly experienced a tremendous amount in this last month on the road. I’ve seen snow in New England and summer shine in Tennessee, crisscrossed the Big River and the Big Muddy, traced the footsteps of Lewis & Clark and driven America’s Main Street. I’ve stood at Amelia Earhart’s birthplace and watched bald eagles making ready to leave theirs. I feel like Johnny Cash - “I’ve been everywhere, man”...

Sometimes we are lucky enough to be present in large moments in one young person's life.

Most of us remember big moments in our early lives. Some childhood event where we did something either unexpected, beyond our perceived abilities, or in some way accomplished some thing for the first time. They are easier to mark in our early years - first day of school, first successful ride on a bike, etc. As a grownup, it is easy to forget how much of a lifelong impact some of those positive milestones will be.

I had the privilege to be witness to three different young people that I care deeply about having such a moment, all in a single day last week...

Music is life, and life is sweet. A rich tapestry of music and the soul from the pews to Panama.

This last month has brought me a whole new understanding of how deeply intertwined human existence is with the magic of rhythm, melody and occasionally lyric.

Music may have been around for as long as humans have had language. For rituals, for comfort, and for celebrations; since they first used tools man and woman have likely beat rhythms on gourds and skulls, and blown into hollow tubes...

A look at the contrast between how two big political corporate oligarchies see our national future, versus life in a real community.

It's been a rough couple of weeks in our little village. The blizzard of 2016 - dubbed Snowzilla - took shape almost exactly as predicted and lived up to 3 feet of hype. Being cooped up at home for days can bring out the worst in people, especially when compounded by health issues or other serious concerns. School was out for over a week, and as parents had to return to work, we scrambled to help one another watching kids and moving enormous amounts of snow.

It's hard on everything else too, especially for structures that aren't built to hold that load...

The recent passing of David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Pete Huttlinger has me reflecting a lot about a lot of things in life. Each was a mentor and/or an icon to me in their own way. None of them had any idea that they had been. I think about the ways that they each shaped my life, in the context that none of us live forever on this earth. When we are young, we are shaped like clay on the potter’s wheel by many hands - parents and family, friends and community, and by those who inspire us - icons from afar and mentors up close. I realize that I now still keep close touch with many mentors who’ve profoundly influenced me, but I have also long been aware that I may also play that role for many, including plenty of people about whom I may never know.

Fitting perhaps that it is on a Monday that we wake to learn of the passing of David Bowie. As someone who deeply appreciates artistic diversity, perhaps no creative spirit in my time wandered more galaxies in pursuit of his muse - music, theatre, fashion and more. Bowie was more than one of a kind, he pulled the curtains back on so many different things it makes my head spin pondering it.

Happy New Year one and all - may 2016 be an improvement on 2015, no matter what kind of year you had. May we all treat each other with a bit more humanity even when our sensibilities seem challenged...

Give yourself the gift of an expanded toolbox and the joy of knowing more than Four Pillars of Western Civilization (root, IV, V and the VI or relative minor). Some of these lovely Christmas chestnuts from the Great Songbook feature a wonderful opportunity to understand substituting chords to rotate to a different apparent tone center...

A prayer for peace seems like asking for the absurd this year, so maybe start with a hope to build a simple foundation of empathy.

We put up our Christmas tree together tonight, the three of us. In this season of Advent and high holy days for many of the world's faiths, it feels though this year the darkness draws a little closer and a little tighter. The winter's long nights are upon us, and while the days have been bright and mild here in Virginia, it still feels like the solstice and Christmas can't get here fast enough.

Some might think this day in America is a bit overdone, and that we really should practice gratitude every day. Of course, I certainly am a believer in the latter, but I also think it's a fine thing to set aside a day or two dedicated to such...

One common theme throughout the Autumn tour was the interest in my great-great-great grandfather Aretas Culver and his hard-luck Civil War story in the Connecticut 16th. I mention the book A Broken Regiment as I tell how I discovered him and his story last Christmas ('14)...

To everyone who buys music, art or some other creative work for gifts (or for yourself!) over the holidays, thank you! Please read this if you'd like to maximize your support for the artist with your hard-earned sheckels...

In honor of all of our veterans; those who served and returned "safe home", as well as those who gave all far from home, and in particular those who returned weighted heavy with the physical and emotional burdens of that service...

Some new perspective from a musician on being a musician, and perhaps the parent of a musician.

I've been playing guitar for nearly 40 years now. As my 8-year old embarks on her own explorations of music, I have come to realize that most every adult she knows just picks up an instrument and makes music come out of it like magic. She never witnessed all those hours when each and every one of us sucked, struggling to make even the most basic sounds and finger coordination happen.

So lately I've been trying to lead by example a bit more...

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Tour Dates

  • 12/22/2017
    Twin Oaks Tavern Winery - Bluemont, VA
     
  • 12/31/2017
    Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Sterling - Sterling, VA
     
  • 01/06/2018
    Redwood Run House Concerts - Philomont, VA
     
  • 01/07/2018
    Unitarian Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley - Stephens City, VA
     
  • 01/13/2018
    Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick - Frederick, MD
     

HAPPENINGS

SPECIAL THANKS

Andrew is a grateful Endorsing Artist for Elixir Strings and Fairbuilt Guitars, and a member of the Virginia Commission for the Arts Touring Artist Roster. He also is a member of The Standing "O" Project and Concerts in Your Home.

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