Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Passion Party #559 - The Unexpected Challenge

Who knew it would be uncomfortable to plan a 25-day vacation?
Who knew that writing a cover letter for something you believe in could be so difficult?

The challenges we set for ourselves
- to lose weight
 - to exercise more
 - to make more money
these are easy compared to the unexpected challenges,
the ones that life throws at us like a curve ball
the ones that leave us questioning
wondering where the resistance is coming from,
whether we can even lift the bat, much less swing it,
wondering and wandering.

It takes time to dig deep and find where the resistance is coming from.
I cannot prepare, I can only be open and willing to face the challenges

Friday, January 22, 2016

Passion Party #158 - Take A Risk, Part 2

"And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in the bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
-Anais Nin

Who is it that is hiding inside you?
When did you decide it was better to be safe and invisible
rather than to live flamboyantly and risk being noticed?
What gifts are you sitting on, hoarding,
that you could be sharing with the world to make it a better place?

Life is about choices, growth and taking chances.
It is about loving courageously and not holding back.
I owe it to myself and to the world to make the most out of what is given me.

Bloom into your incredibly, gloriously beautiful self.  The world is waiting.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Passion Party #557 - Take A Risk (Part 1)

"You will either step forward into growth
or you will step backward into safety"
-Abraham Maslow

Safety is easy
Just do what you have always done
and get the same result.
Growing is a challenge
You must face the fear putting yourself out there
You must  risk rejection and failure.

Without steeping forward,
without raising your hand,
there is no growth.

You can live the risk of doing nothing
or you can live the risk of doing something
or you can risk doing some big audacious something.
The choice is yours
the results will follow.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Passion Party #556 - The Best Year Ever

What will make 2016 my best year ever?

Making money alone won't do it.
Seeing my bank account grow is a great feeling,
better than the alternative,
but there is more to life than making money.
Taking stock of what's important and then doing more of it this year:
that feels like the definition of a really great year.

A year of solid and increasing income
A year of travel
A year of music
A year of "clean" eating
A year of exercise and physical health
A year of morning ritual and spirituality
A year of being close with my family
This can be my best year ever.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Passion Party #555 - Accountability

Life is short.
This message is clearer and clearer as I get older,
as I see many of the people I grew up with passing away.
Where once life seemed an incredible expanse of time
(I could not imagine what it would be like turning 50!),
I now see a finite, if indefinite, number of days.

What to do with the time still given me?
How can I best accomplish what I want to do?
This is where accountability and community come into play.

I need to be accountable to others
for their sake and mine.
When I am willing to accept responsibility for my actions
my path becomes clearer.
When I commit to others, not just to myself,
the power is doubled, the motivation increased.

So this year I commit
not to goals or tasks
but to being accountable.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Passion Party #554 - About To Be

(inspired by Seth Godin)

The only way to become the writer who has written a book is to write one.
The only way to become the musician who has released a music CD is to release one.
And you can't create your second CD until you've done the first.
You can't win a Grammy unless you have an album up for consideration.
It is the doing first. Whether it is running, or walking, or golf, or leading.
Yes, the only way to become a leader is to start to lead.
It really is a little mind game, this "acting as if".  It starts with a desire, and then a thought, and then an action.  And finally, if you follow through, there it is.  It is a mix of the present and the future, with a healthy dose of ignoring the past.
Just tell yourself what you are about to be.  And then become it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Passion Party #553: Down — But Not Out — In Los Angeles


(also published on  AllAboutJazz.com)

There is a housing crisis in Los Angeles. Some people call it a homeless crisis I think of it as a housing crisis.
You see it in Downtown: As the gentrification picks up speed, the old “flop house” hotels get converted to hip apartments and the condos start selling at $550,000.
You see it in West Los Angeles: Now starter homes are selling for $800,000 and being torn down by developers to make million-dollar houses. You see it on the beach in Venice, when the police chase the homeless across the border into Santa Monica; you see it again a month later when the Santa Monica police chase the homeless across the border into Venice.
You see it on the street level at many a freeway overpass.  You see it near the Veterans Hospital in West LA, you see it next to the 110 as you drive to Pasadena, and you see it in the San Fernando Valley.  People are homeless: they need help, they need jobs, and they need counseling.  They need a place to call home.
Ten years ago I saw the problem up close and personal.  A friend — let’s call him “Billy” —was living in an industrial park in Marina Del Rey, and got evicted from the illegal unit when management changed hands. Billy started living in his car, having nowhere else to go.  After an arduous process that took a couple of years, Billy was finally able to secure “Section 8” housing with the help of many friends, charities and some government agencies.
I wanted to do something to help those in this type of situation. After releasing a few jazz albums and performing at the top jazz clubs in Los Angeles, I had enough good will and contacts in Los Angeles to put together an evening of great music with some of the best jazz players in the city. Now I just had to find the charity to partner with. 
Through my Temple, I was introduced to PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) and their housing division, PATH Ventures. Rather than just do another gig in Los Angeles, I wanted to give back to the city that has given me so much, and so in 2006, I decided to hold a fundraiser concert for PATH.
PATH’s philosophy is “a hand up, not a hand-out.” They offer various services, including street outreach, interim housing, the PATH Mall — which has everything from county social workers to a barber shop to a computer center, all to help people get back on track — and permanent housing projects. As soon as I reached out to them, they were welcoming and supportive about the idea of holding a “Jazz for the Homeless” event.
Little did I realize that when we did that first “Jazz For The Homeless” concert in 2006 it would turn into an annual charity event, and we would end up raising over $100,000 for PATH Ventures.
The thing I love most about doing this show for PATH Ventures every year is that it is so effortless. I call the charity, and they say, “Great, let’s go.” They do the marketing and outreach, and I bring the band, The Jazz & Blues Revue (a five-piece jazz band with three fabulous female singers that can do everything from the Andrew Sisters to The Pointer Sisters). The world-famous Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood gives us the club for a night, and ALL the money we raise goes directly to the charity.  No egos, no drama just a fun night of music for a very worthy cause.
We are now holding our 10th anniversary PATH Ventures Jazz & Blues Revue show on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11. Once again, KJAZZ DJ Bubba Jackson will be joining us as host, and we will play our hearts out in joy as we raise money to help build housing for the homeless of Los Angeles.
When we began 10 years ago, the goal for the charity was to build or have under construction 1,000 new housing units by 2015. I am thrilled to say that PATH Ventures now has over 1,300 units of permanent housing either completed, in construction, or in the pipeline. And during just the last two-and-a-half years, PATH has found housing for over 4,800 veterans, families, and chronically homeless individuals.

We live in a world now of haves and have-nots. The dividing line is pretty clear. The “middle class” has begun to vanish. The statistics that describe the magnitude of economic inequality are stark. Before taking into account the effects of redistributive government programs, the richest 1 percent of Americans makes 20 percent of the income. Wealth inequality is even more extreme, with a 2014 study from the London School of Economics estimating that in America, the wealthiest 160,000 families have as much as the poorest 145 million families. This disparity becomes very clear in Los Angeles, “the Land of Opportunity.”
Like many people in this city, I have had my ups and downs. And I know that when things get tough very often it is a matter of circumstance, not a matter of choice — it could be an outsourced job, or a medical emergency, or a car accident when you have insufficient insurance. Whatever it is that takes you over that edge, things can happen when there is suddenly a wolf at your door and you have nowhere to turn.  I feel a responsibility to help my city, to help stitch together a part of the safety net that our government does not or cannot provide. 
So, where does the PATH Ventures Jazz and Blues Revue go from here? I am not really sure — we have talked about expanding the event to a larger venue, maybe bringing in some bigger name jazz artists. This is the first time we are holding the event on Veterans Day. Since one of PATH’s goals is to help homeless vets, perhaps we will build on that connection. One thing seems certain: unfortunately, the homeless problem in Los Angeles is not going away any time soon. The city puts
forward promises, but in the end economics drives this problem, and unless there are some fundamental changes to our society, there will be no short-term answer. What is important to me is that I know I am helping to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
If you are in Los Angeles on Nov. 11, please join me for the 10th Annual PATH Ventures Jazz & Blues Revue, at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood. You can find tickets at www.epath.org/jazznight or, for more information, call Tessa Madden at 323-644-2202. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Passion Party #552 - End Of A (B)erra

I was born in New York City in 1952, and although we lived in the suburbs I have very fond memories of my dad taking me to Yankee Stadium while I was growing up. Maybe one or two games a year.  Not a lot, but enough to give a lasting impression.

This was the time of the most powerful Yankee team: Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, Whitey Ford, Roger Marris, and Yogi Berra (the catcher).  By the time I went to my first game when I was 7 years old, Yogi was already a hero, and he was already becoming famous for his Yogi-isms, wacky public utterances spoken with complete sincerity.

Yogi died September 22, 2015, at the age of 90.  He came from a simpler time in our world and a much simpler time in the world of professional sports.  He knew by the age of 14 that he was destined to play in the big leagues, and his belief propelled him into the American Legion Junior League where he was nicknamed "Yogi" because of his habit of sitting cross-legged on the ground with his arms crossed.

He was best friends with Joe Garagiola, and in 1942 they both tried out for the home town team, the St. Louis Cardinals.  Garagiola was signed for a $500 bonus.  Berra was offered a $250 signing bonus, but turned it down, believing he was worth more.

Yogi signed the next year with the Yankees for a $500 bonus, and the rest, as they say, is history.  (What was Yasiel Puig's signing bonus in 2012- $12 Million Dollars?)

Yogi is gone now, but he has left us with his Yogi-isms, and I'd like to share my favorites with you:
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
"If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else."
"Never answer an anonymous letter."
"You can observe a lot by watching."
"We make too many wrong mistakes."
"Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical."
"It's deja vu all over again."
"The future ain't what it used to be."
"I really didn't say everything I said."
"Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours."
On why he no longer went to Rigazzi's, a St. Louis restaurant: "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
"It ain't over till it's over."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Passion Party #551 - Taming the Wild Brain

Last week was rough.

I was grinding my teeth at night, sweating.
My workday followed me home each night, demanding that I pour over the days events, the troubles in the world, my fears of money, failure and letting down those I care about.
Then I found this poem by Wendell Berry, 

The Peace Of Wild Things:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

So this weekend I went walking in nature and saw wild things, and tamed my wild brain.
And this morning I basked in the full moon-set, full and glorious, as the sun announced another day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Passion Party #550 - Prayer

Today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, or "the big do-over" as I like to call it.

Asking forgiveness for all my sins, conscious and unconscious, known and unknown.  And moving forward into a new year where I hope to spend more time in communication and connection.

A year of "At One-Ment", rather than Atonement.

Here is a most appropriate poem from Marie Howe, "Prayer":
Every day I want to speak with you. And every day something more important
calls for my attention—the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage
I need to buy for the trip.
Even now I can hardly sit here
among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside
already screeching and banging.
The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?
My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forgot to tell.
Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Passion Party #549 - I Don't Know

Early in my childhood I came to realize I had the ability to sound smart, even when I didn't know what I was talking about.

It wasn't arrogance.  It was the ability to say something with conviction and authority that would cause people to believe it was true.

This seems to be a primarily masculine trait.  More men than women are afflicted with this malady.

Over the years this trait has served me well.  It wasn't until much later I learned that acting like I know everything is not the best way to travel through life.

Some people think the most important three words in the English language are "I love you".  I suggest that the most important words are "I don't know".  This opens you up to learn something new.   It gives you the ability to increase your knowledge.  It allows you to be vulnerable.  It creates a space where it is possible to find the true answer to the question.

So today I will practice "I don't know".

Monday, September 7, 2015

Passion Party #548 - No Labor Day

I learned from my dad that working for an hourly wage is  a losing game.

You may not need to be "The Boss", but you need to be the boss of your own destiny, and to do this you cannot be tied purely to an hourly wage.

I learned that in America we are not paid for our labor.  We are paid for how many people we help and how many people our work touches.

So let's call it what it is.

Today we celebrate all those who are tied to a wage, be it $7.25 an hour, $10.00, $15.00 or otherwise.

And how do we celebrate this? By giving people the day off and a chance to shop for cars, mattresses, clothes and new television sets or appliances.  Because that is the American way:

The one with the most stuff wins, and Uncle Sam always needs the biggest rocket.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Passion PArty #547 - Truth In Advertising

How many times have we been told "this merger of Airline A with Airline B will benefit consumers with better service, more competitive pricing, blah blah blah"
"This merger of Phone Company A with Cable Company B will benefit consumers with better service, more competitive pricing, blah blah blah"

when we all know that the purpose of these mega-mergers is to benefit shareholders and executives, not the general public.  This is a business after all, right?

It would be so refreshing if they fired the spin doctors and just told the truth.

Every now and then someone will call a spade a spade.  I try to do this every day in my business.  It saves a lot of time and avoids bad feelings later on.  And even in Los Angeles, this city of illusions, every now and then there is Truth In Advertising

Monday, July 27, 2015

Passion Party #546 - The Land of Yoga and Donuts

I live in a land of contradictions

Where people are willing to spend $30 to have their dog get a massage, but are unwilling to give a guy on the corner $3.00 to get a sandwich.

Where people obsess about exercise, but are unwilling to walk a mile to the store when it is so much easier to drive.  Oh, and you have to fight for the parking space closest to the door to enter the Mall.

Where we obsess about eating the healthiest food, but then, driving home from the yoga class you can't help but take a detour over to La Cienega Boulvard to visit Randy's Donuts.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Passion Party #545 - A Dream Realized

In 2010 when my son Evan was starting his senior year of high school, I approached the head of the music department and asked if I could write a piece for solo cello and string orchestra for my son to play at the end of the school year. Evan had already shown himself to be a very accomplished musician, and the school agreed.
In the Spring of 2011 the Adagio for Cello got its world premiere: Evan Kahn, Cello, with the Santa Monica High School Senior Gala Orchestra.  Jason Aiello conductor, Joni Swenson director. You can watch it here on youtube if you like
Evan went on to be a Cello Performance  Major at Carnegie Mellon University, and for the last 4 years he has been ripping it up in Pittsburgh.  In his junior year he asked me if I would like to take the Adagio and turn it into a full-blown Concerto for Cello.  I loved the idea (of course), and started work on the two additional movements.
Evan graduates in about 4 weeks.  He won the Concerto Competition this year, as well as a Chamber Music competition, so he is already scheduled to return to Pittsburgh in the fall as the featured artist in two concerts. Next year he will be continuing his studies at San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

But on next Thursday, April 30, Evan will be premiering my Concerto for Cello and Orchestra with a chamber orchestra under the direction of Professor Daniel Nesta Curtis.
Here is more information on the Carnegie Mellon Website
Please join me, if you can, for this dream realized.