soundtrack of my life

I saw this meme going around social media lately and it looked like a nice subject to ruminate on and reminisce over, but I’m not feeling posting on Facebook much anymore, so I decided to do one big post here. I know I’m tweaking the rules a little bit: more than 10 albums, these stretch before and after my teen years, and of course I’m offering a little explanation. But who cares! It’s been a fun, if challenging, activity!

Stevie Wonder, Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium I (1982)
My parents have this thing where they “assigned” us kids songs when we were born. When I was born, they “gave” me Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” so it’s “my song.” (Aww.) It originally appeared on Songs in the Key of Life from 1976, but I still get warm family-love fuzzies when I hear this song and this compilation from 1982 is the album I remember my parents playing all the time when I was a kid. Plus, I just got a new bass so I’ve been having a lot of fun learning bass lines off this album lately.

Stray Cats, Built for Speed (1982)
One of the first vinyl records I “borrowed” (read: took) from my dad’s extensive record collection. As a young teenager and new guitarist I learned Brian Setzer’s guitar parts from the album top to bottom, using the vinyl!! Kids these days will never know.

Sir Neville Marriner, The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Amadeus (Original Soundtrack Recording) (1984)
Whenever I stayed home sick from school as a kid, Amadeus was my go-to movie. I had this album on vinyl too, and when I was a budding composer in high school I drew a lot of inspiration from the movie and the soundtrack. Maybe basic, but what can I say, I’m pretty sure it was a catalyst for me to start composing.

Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream (1993)
This was legit on repeat for pretty much the entirety of my teen years. It’s another album from which I learned all the guitar parts (almost… I couldn’t achieve Corgan’s psychedelic soloing and didn’t have all the gear anyway). Beyond Siamese Dream being one of the most quintessential albums of the 90s and no doubt influential for many people, I also latched on to this one because its producer, Butch Vig, was one of my idols at the time. He embodied my first dream “career:” musician, record producer, studio owner. Bonus: Vig’s from Wisconsin and his iconic Smart Studios was just a couple blocks away from my house where I grew up.

Weezer, Pinkerton (1996)
Ah Pinkerton, the nostalgia runs deep despite the problematic sentiments. I still love it, so what. This is another album I had on repeat throughout high school, and again I learned all the guitar parts. Not to mention it was on the Pinkerton tour when my epic and notorious “Weezer Tour Bus Incident” took place. In eighth grade, I hung out with the band on its tour bus before its January 1997 show at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison, during which guitarist Brian Bell dedicated “In the Garage” to me. My parents were not pleased with me!

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Prelude to a Kiss: The Duke Ellington Album (1996)
I was just starting to listen to and learn about jazz in ninth grade, and this is one of the first (if not the first) jazz records I ever bought. I remember really loving the saxophone parts, only to realize years later that it was Bobby Watson playing, whom I met when I moved to Kansas City for college. He was on faculty at my school, and it’s an honor to call him a friend and former colleague! Serendipity.

Phat Phunktion, Here We Go! (1999)
Phat Phunktion is a local Madison group that my high school band teacher knew from Summer Music Clinic (I participated one summer as a jazz guitarist). My teacher invited the band to play a gig at my high school when I was a junior. I don’t remember if it was for a fundraiser or just for fun, but I was very involved in the promotion of the show. I sold tickets at lunch for weeks and interviewed them for the school paper. This may have sparked my interest in writing about music, which was one of my side hustles after college in Kansas City. Besides that, Phat was my introduction to funk music (at least of which I was cognizant, if you don’t count my folks’ excellent collection of 70s funk played when I was little) and I’ve been a fan ever since.

Grant Green, Born to Be Blue (1962)
In high school I was pretty serious about jazz guitar—I took lessons from a respected local veteran of the Madison and Milwaukee jazz scenes, I was in the big band at school, I had my own jazz combo for fun, and I wrote a few jazz charts (yes they’re recorded). I listened to A LOT of jazz guitar recordings. Obsessed. It was very hard to narrow this down, between Les Paul and Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass and Kenny Burrell and Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt and Freddie Green and Tal Farlow and and and… But I decided ultimately on Grant Green’s Born to Be Blue because it’s just a great album and I love the version of “Someday My Prince Will Come” on it.

Ani DiFranco, Little Plastic Castle (1998)
Here’s where the boys come in. My high school sweetheart dumped me around sophomore/junior year—my first love, my first heartbreak—and this new Ani DiFranco album affected me on several levels. Yes there are songs mired in angst which was perfect for me at the time, but also I loved her unabashedly introspective lyrics and killer guitar playing. Ultimately this isn’t my favorite album of Ani’s, but after that devastating breakup, this one helped me feel like myself again.

Charlie Hunter Quartet, Natty Dread (1997)
And here’s the one that reminds me of my college sweetheart. He introduced me to this album, and Charlie Hunter, and I love him for it. Charlie Hunter arranged Bob Marley’s 1974 Natty Dread track-for-track as a soul jazz album, and it is executed perfectly. I adore this version of “No Woman No Cry.” Nothing but good feelings when I listen to this record, still in semi-regular rotation for me.

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, World on Fire (2014)
My husband asked me to tack this onto an Amazon order I was making one time in 2015, and when it arrived he happened to be away on a summer residency. So I decided to give it a listen and basically it was the only thing I listened to for the entire summer. When he got home I had all the lyrics memorized. There were some depressing life things that happened in 2015, and World on Fire was a great emotional outlet for some of my bottled-up feelings.

Beyoncé, Lemonade (2016)
2016 and 2017. What can I say. So much happened, so much didn’t. Excitements, difficulties, adventures, terribleness, boring times, discoveries, stresses, identity examinations. Lemonade got me through some shit.


I have innumerable honorable mentions. For jazz, it was nearly impossible to pick out just one album from a guitarist—I also drew much inspiration from Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Nina Simone in high school when I was into jazz. I also went through an intense Buddy Holly phase. When I was a kid, music was always playing in our house, from soul and Motown to Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead to Carole King and Joni Mitchell to Michael Jackson to Tom Waits and more. We’d listen to rock n’ roll on Saturday mornings and classical music on Sunday mornings—it’s tradition. Switching from guitar to bass in college was life transforming for me, that could be a whole post all to itself. And of course now I have tons of musician friends I love to support, and my music world has opened up immeasurably as an adult. This has been so much fun to think on! What are some important albums that have been the soundtrack to your life?

voice

KCMetropolis.orgA little more about my latest review on KCMetropolis.org:

Last Saturday night, Valentine’s Day, my husband and I went to Overland Park to hear Voice perform on the Performing Arts Series at Johnson County Community College (one of my favorite presenters—it always has a fantastic, fun season). Voice, a British all-women a cappella trio, was a lovely choice for Valentine’s Day. I’m no fan of Valentine’s Day—mostly I think it’s saccharine and disingenuous. We should be showing our love to each other year-round! February 14 is not a significant date in our relationship, at least. Anyway! Voice’s program was neither too sweet nor too sappy; it had just the right kind of earnest sentimentality making for an affecting evening. I enjoyed it and would love to see them perform again one day!

Read my full review at KCMetropolis.org:

mark morris dance group: acis and galatea

KCMetropolis.orgBack in the saddle of reviewing stuff again after the holiday hiatus. Also, I’m pleased to realize last night that this week is my 5th anniversary writing for KCMetropolis.org! A few extra thoughts on my latest review:

On Saturday night Nick and I went to the Kauffman Center for Acis and Galatea, staged by Mark Morris Dance Group. The Harriman-Jewell Series is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season, and so to mark this occasion went in on co-commissioning this production from Mark Morris. It was spectacular! I’m not usually very into Baroque music—I respect it and everything, and it’s pretty fun to play, but I can’t say I sit around and listen to it in my leisure time much. But I was really pleased by the fine treatment of Mozart’s arrangement of Handel’s Acis by the orchestra and choir, made up of Kansas City-area musicians. You would have thought they played together all the time, not just assembled for this one gig.

Acis was pumped up as one of the top events to see this season, and it lived up to the hype. It was a really fun, accessible production that reached across genres—dance, music, art, theatre—that I think almost everyone could enjoy. Congrats to HJS!

Read my full review at KCMetropolis.org:

yo-yo ma + kathryn stott

KCMetropolis.orgNew issue of KCMetropolis.org today, and I have one review: Yo-Yo Ma, cello and Kathryn Stott, piano on the Harriman-Jewell Series. The recital was on my wedding anniversary, October 16, but my husband was out of town! So this was a nice treat that evening, even though Nick wasn’t with me—we’ll find another time to celebrate. Anyway, the recital was brilliant, masterful, so amazing. Yo-Yo Ma exceeded all my expectations—he is really a wonderful musician to witness live, he plays with such joy and passion. He even shouted “Go Royals!” on his way off stage after the performance! (For those who don’t know, our Kansas City Royals are in the World Series this week… the last time they were in the World Series was 1985, 29 years ago! So we’re all pretty excited here in the City of Fountains.)

Read my full review at KCMetropolis.org: Captivating and masterful duo recital

narek hakhnazaryan + hmc preview

KCMetropolis.orgHUGE new issue of KCMetropolis.org this week, and I have a couple of articles:

On Friday night I headed to the Folly Theater for the Harriman-Jewell Series latest Discovery Series presentation, cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan. He won the Gold Medal in the 2011 International Tchaikovsky Competition, which is a pretty big deal! Since then he’s been appearing as a featured soloist with tons of orchestras around the world, and it was a real treat to see him in an intimate recital setting. The repertoire was mostly Romantic—Beethoven, Schumann, Paganini—with one twentieth-century work by Shostakovich. I loved the encores too, by Arutunian and Tchaikovsky. It was a well programmed recital and I hope Harriman-Jewell brings him back on its main series!

I also conducted an interview with two members of the Heartland Men’s Chorus in anticipation of its upcoming production, I Am Harvey Milk at the Folly. Unfortunately I’m not sure I can make it to the shows, so I am glad to have talked about it with these two well spoken gentlemen! I’m sure it’s going to be an inspiring and moving performance.

Read my full articles at KCMetropolis.org:

nicola benedetti

KCMetropolis.orgNew issue of KCMetropolis.org today, and I have a one new review:

Last weekend I saw another stellar violinist at the Folly Theater: Nicola Benedetti on the Harriman-Jewell Series. This was her second appearance on the series, first in her 2007 Kansas City debut on the Harriman-Jewell’s Discovery Series. I didn’t see that concert, but after listening to her recordings for a while now I was excited to not miss the chance to hear her live this month.

Benedetti picked very emotional, expressive Romantic repertoire, arguably just about perfect for the day after Valentine’s Day. I loved the Prokofiev sonata the best, though, b’duh! The only selection from the twentieth century, this one was the most compelling to me and I felt like each movement contributed to telling a larger story, and all together it had a depth that goes beyond your average sonata, I thought. Anyway if Benedetti’s in your town soon on this current tour, check her out! She’s a dynamic player. I’d love to see her do a concerto with full orchestra sometime.

Read my full review at KCMetropolis.org: Benedetti’s romance woos