Rancho La Puerta 2018

IMG_4642I just returned from a week at the health and fitness spa, Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico.  This was my eighth visit to the Ranch as a  visiting musical artist. The motto of the Ranch is ¡Siempre Mejor! (always better).  My first visit was life changing, and each visit provides inspiration to lead my best and healthiest life possible!  Here are my top 10 experiences from the magical week, in no particular order.

  • Wandering around the brick paths that snake through the entire property while taking in the colorful gardens! 

  • Attending  two concerts from Grammy Award winning classical guitarist, Jason Vieaux! I will never forget his magical playing and commentary in the  intimate setting of the Oak Tree Pavilion.  Here’s a pic of Jason below.

Jason Vieaux

  •  Hanging  out with my handsome husband who worked at the Ranch for thirty-one years before retiring to live in Seattle. I literally took the Ranch home over six  years ago, when Joe came to live with me and my daughter, Ruby.  Now he visits the Ranch  as my guest and gets to relax and do whatever he wants!

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  •  Seeing old friends and making new ones! Below, the lovely Manuela, Concierge Extraordinaire!

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  •  A wonderful hands on cooking class with master vegan chef and cookbook author, Jill Nussinow, the Veggie Queen!  Joe, Ruby, and I  been following a plant based diet for over two years now, never felt better.

 

 

  •  Performing an evening solo piano  program, Across the Borders,  in the Oak Tree Pavilion! I also led two sing along classes in the same space, terrific fun.

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  •  Swimming Workouts in the beautiful fitness pool. IMG_0833
  •  Yoga!

 

  •  Watching a barn owl swoop into a tree at sunset like a  winged white ghost from another world.  Joe and I experienced this together.  We also saw a family of 7 skunks the same night- luckily, they kept the family party moving!  click here for some magnificent bird photos

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  • Returning Home.  Good to go away and oh so happy to return home to the yellow house.  There’s no place like home.

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HEAR IT! SING IT! MOVE IT!

CD CoverHear It! Sing It! Move It! is my latest project, the online package includes a booklet and recordings featuring 15 North American folk songs drawn from English, French, Latin American, Caribbean, Canadian, and Sioux traditions.  The complete recordings and the PDF booklet,  bursting with lead sheets, a teacher’s guide and links for further exploration, are available gratis on this dedicated page!

The project, funded by a Teacher’s Enrichment grant from the Music Teachers National Association, was originally intended for preschoolers, ages 3-5.  However, I think anyone, young at heart, will enjoy the recordings and the booklet!

Go ahead, dig into the guide, sing or play your way through the songs on your own, or share them with a special person in your life. Feel free to pass on the link to children, grandchildren, teachers, friends, musicians, librarians, or your next door neighbor.   It’s up for all to enjoy! 

Below are a couple of the 15 songs you’ll find on the page:  Hear It! Sing It!  Move It! 

Up in a Balloon

Tía Monica 

Merry Christmas from snowy Seattle

Snow is starting to fall.  Looks like we’ll be having a white Christmas in Seattle! Here’s to  peace, love, music, health, and joy today, and every day. Here’s my daughter, Ruby, and I  playing Christmas Cookies (Dec. 17, 2017 at Music Center of the Northwest), originally  recorded by George Strait, written by Aaron Barker. Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Strait To Vegas

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Rodeo queens, show girls, casinos, hustlers, Texas hold ’em, slots, swanky shops, and mile after mile of neon lights, oh my! Last weekend, Joe and I took a trip to Las Vegas, my first time. Why Vegas? Two words: George Strait.

I’ve been listening to and singing George Strait songs for over thirty years. I love his soothing voice, the beautiful songs, his personality, and his old- school country sound. What’s better than George singing more than thirty of his greatest hits, accompanied  by the Ace in the Hole Band?  Amarillo By Mornin’, Check Yes or No, The Chair, Easy Come Easy Go, are some of my favorites. I also enjoyed the two songs tribute to Merle Haggard, including, Are the Good Times Really Over, now that’s some old-time country!

I can’t stop thinking about the show,  what a delight to experience a stage full of  seasoned musicians who effortlessly and elegantly tossed off hit after hit. I think musicians of all genres would find inspiration in watching these professionals at work. Some of those guys were in their late 70’s if not 80’s.  Definitely not their first rodeo.

While in the big AT&T  Stadium, the concert had excellent sound with amazing views  of George and the band no matter where he was standing on the square-shaped stage, thanks to the Jumbotron.  For the encore, the George and the band played a perennial favorite… All My Ex’s Live in Texas, the Milk Cow Blues, and an old-time swing number, Take Me Back to Tulsa. Here’s George Strait singing Old Troubadour.

We also took in Cirque du Soleil’s One, featuring the music of Michael Jackson.  A stunning show with death-defying acrobatics, creative staging, brilliant costumes, amazing performers,  and dazzling lighting.  Standouts of the show  include, Billy Jean danced in the dark, the dancers (and flying acrobats),  outlined by a tiny lights,  the sexy, Dirty Diana, danced by an athletic, and incredibly flexible woman, the fierce female bass player playing all those memorable riffs such as  Beat it and Smooth Criminal,  and a hologram of the King of Pop himself, dancing the grand finale of the show.  Absolutely mesmerizing. Here’s the trailer for the show.

Below are some shots of the strip and check out George Strait singing Old Troubadour.

My version of Amarillo By Mornin’:

 

 

 

 

 

Heart and Place at the C.M. Russell Museum,Great Falls, MT

 

 

Fourteen performances in four days in six different venues!  (Sounds like a country song)  I’ve just returned to Seattle after presenting my program, Heart and Place, Music of the Westward Expansion, in Great Falls, MT last week. The week involved hauling around a guitar, fiddle, Cheyenne Courting Flute, and sometimes a full size keyboard, and amp along with samples of C.M. Russell artwork.

The C.M. Russell Museum sponsored the residency which included programs in middle and high schools, as well as an evening performance in the museum.

The highlight was playing a concert in the intimate setting of the museum for around eighty people on a beautiful Yamaha grand. There was something magical about playing 19th Century music surrounded by Russell’s artwork and artifacts from the same era.  Many people in the audience were from my hometown of Choteau. Choteau is 50 miles down the road from Great Falls. Thanks to all who made the journey down the road!

I can’t say enough about the dedicated arts professionals in Great Falls including the music and art teachers in the classrooms, along with the Music and Art Supervisor for Great Falls Schools, Dusty Molyneaux and Eileen Laskowski, Education and Programs Manager for the C.M. Russell Museum.

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I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.

-John Steinbeck

 

Heart and Place

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What Wondrous Love WAV (Traditional Folk Hymn)
I’m delighted  to announce the launch of a new program, Heart and Place: Stories of the Westward Expansion told through music and narrative.  This project feels like coming home, as I grew up in rural Montana.  Choteau, Montana, to be precise, population 1800.
My early music experiences in that small town and have fueled my career as a music educator/ musician.  Some of those experiences include  singing in choirs, playing in band, studying piano, playing for church, acting in musicals, and to driving to the next small town for voice lessons. This program brings it all home.
I’ll be launching the program in Seattle on Oct. 14 and will be taking it to Montana to perform at the CM Russell Museum Oct. 26, 7:00, as well as several Great Falls area schools.
 The story of the West is epic, and while I cannot focus on everything,  I’ve chosen certain aspects to highlight including the music of the Overland Trail, the early frontier settlements, and the  Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute as taught to me by Jay Old Mouse of Busby, Montana. The performance includes solo piano music, singing, guitar, and demonstrations on the fiddle and the Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute.

“COURAGE IS BEING SCARED TO DEATH, BUT SADDLING UP ANYWAY.”   ― JOHN WAYNE

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Montana’s Trailhead

Billings, Montana, marketed as Montana’s trailhead,   located in South Central Montana in Yellowstone County,  serves as Montana’s largest  city  with a population of nearly 115,000 residents.  I was born in Billings while My Dad was attending Eastern Montana College (now Montana State Billings).  My Mom reports we lived in a humble abode ( a garage)  for around $30.00 per month. We lived in Billings  for my first four years, then moved to Poplar, Montana, then ended up in Choteau, Montana.

My recent trip to Billings, accompanied by Joe,  was  nostalgic, relaxing and educational.  The primary reason for the trip was to pay a visit to Jay Old Mouse and learn about the Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute.  In a  couple of packed days,  we visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield, hiked along the Rim Rocks, strolled along the Victorian Mansions in the Historic District, and visited the  Western Heritage Museum. We also spent time with my brother and family who drove over from Clyde Park, near Bozeman.  (also ate at a great restaurant called the Wild Ginger!)

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I love finding unusual music stories, and I found a treasure in the Western Heritage Museum!  Ever heard of the song, the Hippy Hippy Shake, recorded by the Beatles and 30 other bands? It also turned up in that 80’s movie, Cocktail,  starring Tom Cruise.    As it turns out, that song was written by Mexican-American rock star, and Billings born, Chan Romero ( born  in 1941).  Here he is performing The Hippy Hippy Shake.

 

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I had no idea there was such a rich Mexican- American in Billings.   It’s truly a thrill to find these hidden music gems on my travels.

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Sculpture on the  Little Bighorn Battlefield

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Billings Victorian Beauty.

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Would love to add this outfit to my vintage collection!

 

 

 

I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.

-John Steinbeck