A Wizard Rock Concert for Air Force Kids

I know I already posted all about this on Twitter and Facebook earlier today, but 140 characters (even if used several times) is not enough to convey how amazing my morning was.

I met a librarian a couple of months ago who works at two libraries here in town: one in Shreveport, and one at Barksdale Air Force Base. She invited me to do a Witherwings show at both locations. I was eager to perform at both libraries, but particularly excited about the show on base. I’m not sure how many Wizard Rock shows military kids get to attend, but I bet they are few and far between. I know these children move around the country every few years, and I know many have spent long periods of time with a parent over seas. I was yearning to do something fun for them.
When I arrived, I saw the round tables set up with white paper ties and piles of markers. A Harry Potter house tie coloring activity!? How perfect!
Then a packed school bus pulled up and a bunch of (I am estimating) 7-9 year olds got off and lined up neatly to come into the library. I was told it was a teen program, but I knew the kids from the Child Development Center were also coming over, so I planned my set to be for a young crowd.
From the beginning I knew I was going to be a fun audience. Nearly all raised their hands when I asked who had seen the Harry Potter movies, and nearly half raised their hands when I asked who had read the books. I started into the first song and got lots of smiles. After I finished “Be S.M.A.R.T,” a little girl to my left said she liked that song, and from that point forward, I had a little fan club of children at the two nearest tables who told me that they “loved that song” after each one I performed.
They clapped, they snapped, they got up and danced and they even flew around the room like Buckbeak. It was completely magical.
After the show I asked the kids closest to my keyboard to place their ties on the table so I could take a photo. Then they all wanted to be in the photo. I wish I could post those pics, but they are minors and their parents weren’t there to give permission. Trust me when I say they were wearing huge smiles.

 

Barksdale AFB library show. House ties!

A few moments later, one of my little fan club girls came up to me and said in the smallest, saddest voice that she didn’t get to be in the photo. So I offered to take a selfie with her. Then my other “I love this song” girls jumped in. It might be my favorite show photo of all time. These children were really just the best, most amazing kids!
As I was packing up my gear, a handful of girls hung out at my keyboard and asked me question after question.
“What is this?” Me: My set list.
“Why didn’t you do this song?” Me: The Tale of Tom Riddle is a bit scary. I cut it if there are little kids in the crowd.
A timid girl turns from a nearby table to say “My favorite part was when you said Buckbeak wouldn’t really eat Malfoy. That it was pretend.” (Uh… yikes. SO GLAD I said that!! O.o)
“Did you take piano lessons?” “For how long?” “How much did your keyboard cost?” “I think it was $267.” “I think it was $8000.” Me: Is this The Price Is Right? (BLANK STARES.) “Who does your hair?” “No I mean, what is the name of the place you go to?”
They were cracking me up.
Then they were told to form a line to get back on the school bus. The shy little girl who got the selfie with me ran up and hugged me.
As I rolled my amp out to the car, they all waved at me from the bus like I was a rock star. I sure felt like one. Hours later, and I still feel my heart could burst with joy. There is nothing as wonderful as an appreciative crowd, but young kids, as yet untouched by social pressures, who jump and dance and smile and laugh, THAT is the best audience I could ever dream of.
❤

 

 

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My Response to “Where Are the Female Voices From This Community?”

I’ve seen several blogs asking “where are the female voices from this community?”

I posted a blog over on Tumblr, since that is where most of this dialogue is taking place.

It is the opinion of one female wizard rocker. I realize that what I have to say sounds nothing like the blogs I’ve read from other wrockers. I am not sure if that is good or bad.

I can only speak for myself, and there was really nothing for me to post other than, “Well I am not completely surprised.”

That, however, does not make much of a sound-bite or quote.

If you are interested you can read the entire thing on my Tumblr page.

I will leave you with these questions though: Should we have done more to try changing these potentially dangerous situations? Was there anything we could have done? Is there something we in the community can do better in the future? Perhaps the ladies who are now speaking out have made us more aware, and more likely to say something if we see something inappropriate happening.


Help Me Determine My Next Music Video!

I am really pleased with my newest album “Momentarily Distracted” and would like to make a music video. I would LOVE YOUR HELP!

Of these three songs, which song would YOU most like to see a music video for?

This poll will be active for a month (until Sept 8th) but I could start on the video sooner if I see the results leaning dramatically in favor of one song.

*UPDATE* The poll is now closed. Here are the results:

Poll Results

Need to re-familiarize yourself with the songs? Here you go!

If you would like to purchase the album, just click on the bc logo on the right-hand side of the player! 🙂


In Which the Ringlords Interview Me

Saturday night I was honored to do a live chat interview with the Ringlords.™ We talked about music and books and music about books. From my first band, to my beginnings in wizard rock, to future projects (Wheel of Time rock!?!?!) we covered it all.

The Ringlords

Ringlords.™

Here is a transcript of the conversation:

{Please note that due to a bit of a lag, a few of the answers got separated from their questions. I put them back together here for ease of reading. I left nothing out and left all typos in place.}

Ringlords™: All ready to begin ?

Me: YESSSS! I see things now!

Me: You know, the page looked really weird. I thought it was becasue i was used to the phone app, but I think it was a freak alt-universe Ringlords page!

Me: Is this mic on? *tap tap tap*

Me: Hello hello?

Ringlords™: So, Mandala , Tell us a little about your new record

Me: I am really excited about a five-song EP I worked on at the end of last year called “Momentarily Distracted.” It is, in many ways, quite a departure from my other music projects.

Me: You can listen to it here! http://mandalasongs.bandcamp.com/

{Note: I am embedding a player here since a player appeared in the comment, though this shows only the first song}

Me: It has a very different feel from my other two projects: Witherwings and Mandala at Twilight. I basically get right to the heart of some very raw emotions with the lyrics and sparse musical arrangements. Piano and vocals dominate this album, with a couple of songs being backed by a classic trio of piano, drums and bass.

Ringlords™: very cool … we were amazed to see Vick Degiorgio listed on the credits … awesome musician

Me: He really is! He and I go way back! Let’s tag him.

Ringlords™: by wild coincidence Vick apparently knows Sue Martin who is friends with our Chicago crowd from waaay back

Me: Vick Degiorgio and I met in 2002. He was playing bass at a show for a friend of his and we got to talking when I was waiting to buy a CD. He invited me to his weekly music group and the rest is history.

Me: That history is that I performed in a band (that Vick was in) called SusieCool and the Coolotees from 2033-2009. This group of very experienced musicians took me under their wing to sing harmonies and ended up letting me sing lead on quite a few songs. They asked me to fill out the band right before they were to tape a poilet for a tv show that was to be an Orlando version of Austin City Limits. It never got picked up but it turned into some of the best years of my life. Before that performance they put me though “Crappy-Bar Boot Camp” where we played every dive in the city of Orlando 6 or seven nights a week (late into the night when I had to work the next day) until the taping of the show. They wanted to make sure I sounded, looked, and felt like I was a PART of the band and not the new girl. That was the best education I could have ever asked for as a musician and a performer. I earned my place on the stage, that’s for sure.

Me: Ha! I am not a time lord. 2003 NOT 2033.

Me: A name that might be more familiar to your followers though, is Russ Benoit. He played drums on two tracks on this album. You might know him as The Creevy Crisis.

Me: Gotta love the wrock family. I am so happy he played on the songs despite them NOT being wizard rock this time around.

Ringlords™: Yeah, Russ was working on a film, wasn’t he ?

Ringlords™: We understand that one of the songs on your new record has a literary background

Me: Lag…. gaaaahhh.

Me: Yeah, so though this is not a wrock album, or an album with a vampire lit theme, I could stray too far from my love of books!

Me: *couldn’t BIG DIFFERENCE

Ringlords™: Yes… for those of you unfamiliar with FB’s poor programming, anything that does not make them money is treated poorly

Me: “Wrong” is inspired by “The Taker” by Alma Katsu. It is the first of three books, but only the first two have been published. I was drawn to the horribly selfish deeds of the main character, Lanny. She falls in love with the boy in her town that all the girls are in love with. She does some pretty terrible things to try to make him hers. As the story goes on, she is made immortal and makes him immortal against his will to be with her forever. But he doesn’t want to be immortal. He does not love her with the same intensity that she loves him, and the big catch: only she can kill him – and he is begging her to. That is where the book begins… at the end, so to speak.

Me: What drew me to her and her situation is that, despite what sounds here like a very selfish character, is really a very complex woman who you come to sympathize with and like. It is a GREAT story. Oh and there is SO. MUCH. MORE. One word/character: Adair. Yeowza!

Ringlords™: You have quite the literary roots in your music … Tell us how you got into the wizarding sound …

Me: I attended a HP convention in 2007 I think. ANYONE? 2007? Called Phoenix Rising.

Me: It was not my first exposure to wizard rock, that was a Harry and the Potters concert the year before. But PR was the first time I thought that wrock might be for me. After returning home, and going on MySpace and seeing how supportive the community was, I really felt safe to try writing music on my own for the first time.

Me: Goggle confirms May 2007.

Me: I posted my first songs onto MySpace in October of 2007 and I have not stopped writing and performing!

Ringlords™: … and there’s was a clip we saw of you rocking with the Imperial Troopers

Ringlords™: Lessee if we can scare up the vid … hang on

Me: Ha! The Mandalorian Mercs!! They were so much fun. I love mixing with other fandoms. (I am a HUGE Star Wars fan, BTW.)

Me: I use a pic of that performance on my Witherwings band page.

Me:

 

Ringlords™: YES !! the very one !

Ringlords™: LOL! … very suave !

Ringlords™: Is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with that you haven’t tried ?

Me: I really love the Wheel of Time series, but my friend Pattie Beavensaid she would go postal if ever there was WoT Rock. I fear she might be serious so I have not attempted any. DON’T SPOIL THE LAST BOOK FOR ME ANYONE!!!

Ringlords™: Robert Jordan humm ? … we always wanted to see a band based on Heinlein … you should try something like that …

Me:  I’ve read a few Heinlein books… Other than Witherwings, I cannot see dedicating an entire album to one book or author. Books will always influence me though. as they do many musicians!

Ringlords™: So, where are you headed next ?

Me: I’m really just focused on now. I’ve got a new little baby here and he is keeping me quite busy. He loves music though so I can do shows. Lining up one for the Friedricksbrg VA area in the fall right now. Working on booking for 2014 as well.
I’ve worked on some new lyrics here and there but nothing polished.

Ringlords™: Ahh, bringing up baby … That’s gotta put the pressure on you … how do you handle juggling home and gigs?

Me: My husband helps me out a lot at shows. He is merch boy/Daddy extraordinaire!

Ringlords™: Do you get nervous before a performance ? & how do you handle a mistake when you are playing ?

Me: I do get nervous, but it is also a rush.
As for mistakes… Ha! I am like the story of George Washington announcing “I cannot tell a lie! I chopped down a cherry tree!” I usually announce it. “Whoops my bad!” “Whoa what was THAT!?” Luckily I’ve performed long enough that if I forgot the words, I am able to vamp and just keep playing until I can bring that part aroiund again and start over. Or I just make up words or sing about forgetting words. I don’t get upset about it. Unless I am trying to video the performance. But then again, there is a video of me forgetting the lyrics to “Malfoy” that I posted on Youtube. That was harder though because I was singing to an iPod. Then you cannot vamp. I just made fun of myself and started over. Let me find the video.

Me:

 
It comes about a minute in.

Ringlords™: How often and for how long do you practice?

Me: I really “cram” before a show.I get in ruts sometimes, and other times I regularly practice once a day. By that I mean spend time on music whether playing or writing. Baby has made that irregular though. Speaking of baby… sounds like I am needed…

Ringlords™: that’s our cue to wrap it up here … we want to thank Mandala for hanging out with us this evening and struggling through FB’s wony behaviors … be sure to pick up a copy of her new record at that Bandcamp link up above

Me: This has been really fun, guys! Thanks so much for having me and promoting the album. I am SO SO proud of it. $5 on b

Me: bandcamp

Me: Whoops! http://mandalasongs.bandcamp.com/

Me: Ha! Well i posted it again. 🙂 Thanks so much! Have a great weekend everyone!

Me: ❤

Ringlords™: And keep an eye on this page … we plan to bring you an interview with a certain author one of these days coming up


My Thoughts on Amanda Palmer and Musicians Playing for Free

In the last couple of days I have seen many people posting about the recent controversy involving Amanda Palmer.

On August 21st, Amanda put out a call for volunteer musicians to join her and her band-mates on stage in every city of her tour. She offers to pay them in beer, t-shirts and hugs.

Several news outlets such as Prefix and Digital Music News have published articles either bashing this practice or talking about how people are bashing this practice in light of the huge amount of money she raised using Kickstarter. There are some pretty harsh replies in the comments.

But when I read the articles, I was not outraged. I didn’t see the fault in this request.

I thought from the headlines that I would be upset. After all, I am a musician who has had to play plenty of shows for no pay. Instead I was given the meager compensation of being allowed to operate a merchandise table, sometimes only during my set. I was even asked to play a show this past summer at a very large convention where my perks were so non-existent, I was not even privileged enough to be able to attend the convention!

Needless to say, I turned that one down.

I am lucky that my fans are generous and I usually make enough to cover gas and tolls, and can stash a little away for my next big equipment purchase (I am so close to getting new monitor speakers for the studio!!!)

I get the outrage though. I get that musicians are insulted that somehow people expect them to perform for free while everyone else involved in a production gets paid. I am not sure how or when this started, but it seems pretty common these days.

In fact, a former band-mate of mine, who has a new band and is playing regular (paid) gigs, recently posted a response he wrote to a request for his band to play for free. I might have clapped after reading it. I certainly shared it with anyone who would read it. This is what he posted on his facebook page:

Got an e-mail asking The StraightJackets to play a corporate affair…for free. They promised us “exposure” via their website and videos posted on YouTube that would be far more valuable.

Oh, by the way, they wanted us to bring the PA, too!

My response:

Thanks for contacting The StraightJackets.

Corporate shows start at $1500. Outside shows cost $1000 more because of the added PA necessary.

We will add your event to our calendar which gets THOUSANDS of hits and will add videos from the show to our video page giving you incredible exposure for your product. Literally millions of hits per month. You will have more clients than you have product for. That will more than offset the fee we charge to play for your event.

What…you don’t think that the exposure is worth the money?

Neither do we.

But, we are glad to provide you with this exposure since you have asked us to rehearse until we are good enough to be in demand, buy a full PA big enough to handle an outdoor event, travel to your event, set up our PA, play for your event and entertain your clients and friends, tear down, and load out our gear for you…all for free. I guess you are also wanting us to be skilled, talented, and professional, also for free.

Sorry.

You don’t give your pools away for free and we don’t give our music away for free, especially to corporations. You will be paying someone to pick up the garbage for your event, the least you can do is pay the musicians, too.

Good luck on your upcoming venture.

Stuart

So yeah, if this email got me all riled up, you would think I would be outraged by Amanda Palmer, right? Nope. Why? Because if I was reading Amanda Palmer’s blog, it would be because I was a huge fan. And if one of my favorite musicians gave me the chance to play with her on stage in my home town, I would take it without a thought. Beer, a t-shirt, and a hug as payment? Bonus.

She has a paid band backing her up. This call for volunteers is a way to incorporate her fans into her art. It is something she is known for. There is a reason she has a HUGE following and can do spontaneous shows and pack the place.

The controversy apparently arose from the fact that she raised a huge amount of money from Kickstarter. They wonder if she has all this cash, why can’t she pay these musicians?

I think people are missing the point.

Yeah, she did raise over a million dollars from Kickstarter, but since she breaks down where that money is going in her blog it is clear to see that this money is allocated to her amazing Kickstarter rewards and to creating and distributing the album. It has nothing to do with whether or not she has money left over to pay musicians; she IS paying her touring band. Instead, it is about her fans having a once-in-a-lifetime experience to become a part of her show rather than just watching it from afar.

So yes, I think musicians should be paid, but sometimes you take a freebie because it is something that is so cool, you just can’t pass it up. It might even lead to a future paying gig. There is a big difference between being asked to be the main entertainment for a private party and asking if any fans would like to be a part of their favorite musician’s show.

So you just keep doing what you are doing, Amanda Palmer.

***UPDATE*** (9/20/2012)

Digital Music News posted an article yesterday called Amanda Palmer Agrees to Pay Guest Musicians. The article quotes the blog, but does NOT post a link to it. I always like to read things in their entity, so I searched for it on my own, and now you can read it for yourself.

While searching, I also located a blog from September 14th that further explains Amanda’s personal experiences with volunteering or having to pay her own way, and the benefits she received from it.  For example, I learned about an experience she had with her former band:

“…sometimes even paying for my own travel for the privilege of playing with my idols. (the dresden dolls lost a lot of money in order to travel around opening up for nine inch nails. and good lord, were we grateful to lose that money…it won us a huge bunch of fans).”

Amanda makes many, many good points about how different things work for different artists, no matter how famous or how obscure. I really recommend reading it!

My opinion on the matter still remains that there are situations in which I volunteer my time, and others in which I do not. I guess it depends on whether or not I feel I am being taken advantage of, or if perhaps I am gaining some sort of advantage (even if small) for doing so. Only good can come of her decision to pay these musicians, but I still do not fault her for asking for volunteers. After all, I am in the middle of recording a CD at the moment, and where would I be if I didn’t have musician friends who were willing to work for peanuts?! The good will comes back around, my friends.


Witherwings Makes Pottermore Possible for Five Friends

This is the coolest thing I have heard in a while.

A good friend of mine, who is also a self-described die-hard fan of my HP-themed music project Witherwings, told me the best news. Early this morning one of my songs was the sole reason she and her friends got to be beta testers for the new J.K. Rowling site “Pottermore.”

Each day, for a very limited time, a trivia question is posted. If visitors to the site get the correct answer, they can continue on in hopes of becoming a beta tester for the interactive web site. This gives them access two full months before the general public has access. This morning’s question was “how many points ahead was Gryffindor against Slytherin in Harry Potter’s 3rd year, when he caught the snitch? Then multiply it by 35.”

My friend Madie messaged me saying “Your Oliver Wood SONG says the score, I instantly sang that line, screamed 60! at my Pottermore waiting buddy, and the rest is history.”

So these five friends were able to become beta testers becasue they didn’t need to look up the answer in the book – they knew it from being so familiar with my song “Oliver Wood.”

Move over wikipedia and the hp-lexicon! My songs are all people need!

You can listen to and purchase “Oliver Wood” here:

http://witherwings.bandcamp.com/track/oliver-wood