reverse threading

the path back is the path forward

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welcome, barney!

barney is in our backyard. he is holding clay pots with our herb garden and some beautiful white impatiens. there are a fewphoto candles in glass jars. and he is perfect.

i’m not sure i ever thought that someday i would have a piano in my backyard. barney is a very old upright. about a hundred years old, he is tired and worn from long years, decades even, spent in a basement boiler room, but i can see the life in him as the sun hits him. never ever would i have imagined the idea of wild geranium growing up around a piano tucked into a bed of day lilies, just a few feet away from our little pond. never would i have imagined the idea of water getting on a piano, without dashing to wipe it off. it rained yesterday and i had to fight the urge to run outside and wrap my arms around him. barney’s new life is to feel loved and not ignored, appreciated and smiled at and not relegated to a dark, piano-inappropriate place. he was slated for the scrap dealer.

photo-1each morning since his arrival i have gone outside and thanked him for all his good work in the world. i am grateful to have a spot for him to rest. he looks proud. and he truly looks happy.

i really am an acoustic girl. my big yamaha grand has a studio of its own. my growing-up-spinet has a spot in our basement (not an easy place to move it to in this old house.) barney has a place in the backyard.

and all have big places in my heart.

itunes: kerri sherwood

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no piano here

musings from a few days ago…

and so here i am…inside the theatre, watching the setup….but this time it isn’t for a concert…it is for a play – ‘the lost boy’ – opening its world premiere performance in california. (oh, did i mention it is sunny and warm here?)

i was just sitting outside (did i mention it is sunny and warm here?) hand-sewing one of the costume fragments for this play. david is inside with some techs painting the platform. i am running lines in my head. it’s not unlike running my music in my head, and yet it’s totally not like running my music in my head. when you are the composer, you have a bit of a free-rein option (eh…who am i kidding? you have a lot of free-rein.) when you aren’t the playwright, you…umm…don’t.

this process has been…interesting for me. this play is an interpretive storytelling…a story of legacy with poignant moments as well as comedic moments. now, as a performing artist i am used to telling stories from the stage…it is part of every concert i perform, every keynote i speak. but the last time i actually acted (in the truest definition of that word)? well, that would be high school – i performed ‘the effect of gamma rays on man-in-the-moon marigolds’….i can’t even remember one line from that. prior to that? well, you need to skip a stone backwards to when i danced with (the infamous) kenny brook in ‘the sound of music’ in sixth grade. not exactly moments of brilliant acting, but please also refer to my exquisitely-portrayed sister bertha – in the same play – for invaluable experience (ok…that might be an exaggeration.) but it certainly counts that kenny was pretty darn cute and i got to dance with him.

the set is simple.  the set is profound.

the set is simple.
the set is profound.

i have spent many, many hours on the stage…as a performer…as a storyteller…as a solo artist…playing, singing, speaking. this project? this is outside of my box. there isn’t a piano here. no mics. no amber fresnels beaming down on me. i feel like i should offer up a disclaimer to the audience…something like, “by the way…this isn’t what i normally doooo. in real life i……” but no. and so now i am challenged with that very thing that i talk about….stepping outside our own comfort zone and trying on new shoes (speaking of which, i get to wear these great minnetonka mocassins for this production!)   stepping outside and making a mess. i get to work at something i am not good at….kind of like playing my cello, only a bit more public. and like we all tend to do, i immediately expect a lot of myself; so i must fight the urge to diminish my potential – what i think i’m capable or not capable of – to resist the learning. how many people around me each week are learning something new (in ukulele band? in the choir i direct? in workshops i lead?)

and so, my empathy button is ‘on’ and i see inside me the way we all try to default to the things we know, when the learning is actually outside of those things. especially the learning about ourselves. i, quite truthfully, find that i need to extend to myself some forgiveness for not knowing, and yes, forgiveness for resisting, forgiveness for feeling vulnerable, and grace in that forgiveness to just try. maybe i’m not sooo bad at this. maybe it’s actually fun. maybe i can actually learn something new…just like everyone else…and maybe, just maybe, i can embrace it. even with no piano here. at the very least, i can realize that, just like everyone else, i find comfort in the familiar. and in stepping into New?…well, i just need to take a breath and move full-speed ahead into that path. no regret, no judgement, no fear. just sisu. it’s all good. (did i mention it is sunny and warm here?)

did i mention it's sunny and warm here? :)

did i mention it’s sunny and warm here? 🙂

and the curtain’s up.

kerri’s music is available on iTunes

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True to its Art and Not Prissy

yamahapianoThe piano at Northwestern University was a Steinway D…a beautiful old 9 foot instrument, with depths and trebles on which hundreds of artists had performed. The case had seen better days; the bench had raw splintering wood in a few spots, but the instrument itself was rising to the occasion as, i suspect, it always had. Its quiet resonance, its deep voice made it worthy of grand stages. I was exhilarated with the opportunity to record on this piano…I felt a synergy with it. And I was so ready. The energy around a first album is unparalleled. In short, you really have no idea how much you are going to feel..the anticipation, the fear, the excitement, the self-consciousness, the confidence, the pressure of playing, the joy of playing, the retrospective re-hashing of everything you put down on tape, the letting-go of the re-hashing of everything you put down on tape…

We had the foresight to hire an excellent piano technician to be present during the whole process in Evanston. This instrument had some personality – a little curmudgeonly to say the least. Zingers and thudding hammers and some intonation idiosyncrasies were the challenges of the moments there, but our tech was on top of it all. The result, after all those long hours, was a recording of a piano with great history, demonstrating its strengths and sneaking in a few weaknesses. (Hmm….not unlike ourselves, eh?)

I recorded two more albums on Steinway D’s…both in Milwaukee in a studio that didn’t have an air conditioner leaking into the space (although I wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything!) The studio was climate-controlled and quiet and I had no idea if it was day or night as we spent long long hours recording in a space with no windows. Once again I discovered a piano with a few quirks; once again we had our skilled technician with us.

The piano gods of the day were people like George Winston and Jim Brickman, John Tesh and Yanni, Suzanne Ciani and David Lanz. With the exception of George, all of these artists were Yamaha artists. (Many others (who are singer-songwriters as well as pianists) join their ranks: Elton John, Sarah McLachlan, Phil Vassar, Norah Jones, Barry Manilow… ) Many of them recorded on CFIII’s, which is Yamaha’s 9 foot grand, or the C7, Yamaha’s 7’6″ grand, both fantastic instruments.

It was time to record the next album – THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY – my fourth.

THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY my fourth album

my fourth album

And by that time I was really honored to be on this same exclusive Yamaha Artist roster. There are a mere 88 contemporary piano recording artists on this roster. I am truly proud of this association; I have had wonderful relationships with the pianos and with some remarkable people. There have been unexpected and warm gifts of friendship. There have been pianos I have fallen in love with. My Yamaha fills my writing studio; it fills me with inspiration…

I have to say that I haven’t encountered a grumpy Yamaha…they are reliable in the studio (and on stage) and have a personality so worthy of this emotional, evocative style of music. Yes, the tech was around, but not 24/7 anymore and the piano responded with the consistency of a workhorse. Each piano that has been transported in for me, each piano that has been housed in a venue or recording studio, that big grand in my own writing studio…these are instruments I am aligned with….that perseverance, that dependability, that…sisu! Yes…these pianos have sisu! A fortitude that is authentic and not high-maintenance, true to its art and not prissy. And ohmygosh, with such a richness…

My sweet sixteen(th) album will, of course, be recorded on a Yamaha. It will be a compilation of songs with an organic layer cake of piano, voice, cello, consonant-timbred stringed instruments, and the kind of hand percussion that you can feel keeping beat inside your body. I feel great anticipation as I write for this album. And fear, and excitement. And self-consciousness and confidence. And pressure and joy. And I will hash and re-hash and re-hash again. But, along the way now, arriving here, I have learned the art of letting go…the art of setting free Art..the moment you say to yourself, “It’s enough. It’s time.”

kerri’s music is available on iTunes