new CD available on band camp click on cover image below to download tracks

new CD available on band camp          click on cover image below to download tracks
contact: spiesarts@gmail.com

Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Expo



I'm excited to take part in the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers Book Expo on Sunday, March 29th from 1 - 4pm at the Crowne Plaza in Pittsfield.

My new CD   Ecstatic Dances  will be available and there will be dancing!
I'll be playing my music at 2pm and at 4pm.


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No Kid Hungry

It's hard to believe that 1 in 5 children in America go hungry.
Writing and recording a song about mindful eating has made me more aware of the disparity between those of us who are 'eating mindfully' and those who have none.

How do we help?

Here's a great program:

Breakfast After the Bell




The Heroine's Journey


It was an honor to play the story drum and accompany Amber Chand on her 'Heroine's Journey' at No. Six Depot where she transformed all who heard her with her riveting  performance.


Amber's performance benefited in part the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers.


Friday, January 2, 2015



Mark Twain
Here's Mark Twain's 'Your Loving Santa Claus ' letter
 to his three-year old:      Letters of Note
                                                                     

Thanks to Tom Daly at the Norman Rockwell Museum for inviting me to read aloud from various letters with a Christmas twang.                    
Where else can you meet someone from East Mouseberg and read Mark Twain's letter to his daughter as Santa Claus?
So glad I also got to read the letter aloud written by the editor of the New York Sun back in 1897, Francis P. Church. I never knew exactly where the expression 'Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus' came from, and the man seated next to me in the photo above knew the story in detail. (He also wanted to rename a town in PA East Mouseberg, but that's another story...)
It's an uplifting tale to read: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Francis P. Church, an estimable fellow

Happy New Year.
To paraphrase Francis Church, the most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men or women can see.
               

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tell Me a Story

Thanks to The Mount  in Lenox, MA for great programming.
I heard five terrific storytellers there this past week-end.
Speak Up in Hartford and Matthew Dicks

Today's story kernel: Ran into a woman at the chicken counter at the Big Y who asked me to help her read the price on the package. She was an older woman who thanked me warmly when I noticed that the price was hanging over the counter. We laughed about the plot to confuse us, and when I saw her about five minutes later in the dairy section, she felt like an old friend. 
Since I come from Chicago, I don't have real family nearby, and now and again I get the urge to adopt someone as my mother. This lady would be a keeper...
From a simple nugget or realization a story takes shape...

These truths get organized differently in songwriting for me. Usually I'm getting other people's stories and writing my take; it's a whole 'nother story to tell a truth about your self in the first person

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recycled propane tank makes beautiful music


                                                       Tank drum 

               The last  track on my new CD is called 'Rest Awhile,' and it features the tank drum along with Robby Baier creating a drone with bass. It's a deeply relaxing and healing journey of sound. 
I've been exploring these beautiful instruments in my work with CATA, where tones bring relaxation to people recuperating from a broken leg as well as those with Alzheimer's who find new ways to connect with others through the music.
              Last spring I created a listening game using the drum at Undermountain School in Sheffield, MA with music teacher Elizabeth Petty. Each player uses a mallet and listens before saying their part of the conversation on the drum. It was interesting to see how quick we are to 'play our part' in a conversation and using the drum is a way to help us slow down and listen to each other.
               It was a treat to hear students sing my songs about the watershed and see their curiosity about watersheds, dragonflies and waltzing.
                People ask how the drum is made from a propane tank. Here's how:

cutting a tank drum

playing the tank drum

         Some folks have brought tank drums to first period in schools where fifteen minutes of meditation accompanied by a student playing the tank drum has increased peace in the classroom.
 Makes sense!  I wish everyone had their personal tank drum to ease the stress of the day and to have a deeper way to communicate with self and others.
        I called my first tank drum a story drum, as it lends itself to making up words and rhythms in the moment.
       There are many different places selling tank drums. Here are a few that I know and recommend:

Ithaca Tank Drum

Berkshire Gold and Silversmith



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Arthur Hull led an alchemical rhythm workshop at Rowe Conference Center in November and it was a joy to re-connect to drum circle spirit.


for more info: Arthur Hull 
    

Thursday, October 9, 2014

FODfest October 10 in Sheffield, MA

Come to Sheffield on Friday, October 10 to honor Danny Pearl and be a part of FODfest.
 Danny played fiddle with my band a few times when he lived in the Berkshires, and was a loyal friend to many here. We honor him, his commitment to telling the truth as a journalist and his love of music as a way to connect with many cultures.
I'll be at Dewey Hall @ 4:30 and many fine musicians and bands will be playing from 3pm onward.
A note from Todd Mack about FODfest:
This Friday, October 10th, on what would have been Danny's 51st birthday, Music in Common will celebrate the 10th Annual FODfest from 3PM until midnight.The recent, brutal murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and others are painful reminders of the hate-fueled violence that took my friend Danny's life and serve as an urgent call to band together to fight that hate and violence with tolerance, understanding, peace, and love. Together, we can raise our voices of hope and resolve above the voices of terror and fear. This Friday you have the opportunity to stand up and be counted simply by being there. I hope you will do exactly that.