Thank you Dustin Pickering and Mutiu Olawuyi for listening. Hence caring. We need more like you in this world of ours.
by Michael “Hawkeye” Herman Dec. 5, 2020
As an internationally recognized/touring blues musician/composer/educator/historian I can assure you that blues historians, blues aficionados, and blues music fans around the world are aware of the great importance that Paramount Records and Grafton, WI holds in the history of blues music recording and the influence on US music and world cultures.
Sadly, that information was lost to the people of Wisconsin, and especially in the immediate Grafton area for over 75 years, until Grafton resident musician/educator Angie Reilly started digging into the Paramount history in hopes of elevating the awareness of Grafton and Wisconsin area residents.
Angie Reilly and I initially connected via an online blues related forum back about 16/17 years ago. She informed me of her very proactive efforts in raising awareness in Grafton and WI, in general, of the importance of Paramount Records. The history, influence and ONGOING impact and legacy of Paramount Records was lost to the people of the Grafton area.
Ms. Reilly is very much responsible for the raising of the awareness of the people of the Grafton area regarding the world renown influence and legacy of Paramount Records, as well as her initiating and influencing the Village of Grafton administration/city council in the creation of the Paramount Walk of Fame that is the now centerpiece of downtown Grafton.
In her efforts to raise awareness of the ‘city fathers’ and the citizens, young and old, regarding Paramount’s worldwide fame amongst blues music fans she arranged to bring me to Grafton to meet with the city council and inform them, as an ‘outsider’, of the important culturally legacy and esteem that Grafton’s Paramount Records is held by the international blues community.
At that time, Ms. Reilly also arranged for me to present blues music and Grafton/Paramount history presentations/programs to in the schools to ALL of the public school students in Grafton. I was happy to oblige her request to come to Grafton and help her with her most worthwhile efforts in honoring Paramount Records, Grafton, and the many iconic blues musicians who recorded in Grafton.
The positive and enduring results of her/our efforts are quite obvious: Grafton honors its Paramount blues music legacy with a permanent Paramount Walk of Fame as the featured aspect of the Grafton City Center, and an annual blues music, The Paramount Blues Festival, festival grew out of the ‘rediscovered’ legacy of Paramount Records in Grafton, WI.
You will find my personal article documenting our efforts to raise the citizens of the Grafton area’s awareness about the important and eternal legacy of Paramount Records in Grafton … as well as a link to my article documenting our mutual work in bringing the Paramount Walk of Fame into reality:
“Embracing The Legacy Of The Blues / From the South To The North – Part 2. Grafton, WI and Paramount Records”By Michael “Hawkeye” Herman
http://www.hawkeyeherman.com/pdf/14_EmbracingTheLegacy_Pt.2.pdf to raise the citizens of the Grafton area’s awareness about the important and eternal legacy of Paramount Records in Grafton.
Photo Slide Show Images Provided by Michael “Hawkeye” Herman’s Large Collection of Photos
by founder of Creativity Portal
Chris Dunmire January 4, 2009 at 12:21 PM
“When Angela Mack first approached me in late 2004 with her Chronic Creativity excerpts, I found her ingenious way of describing the condition Chronic Creativity in diagnostic terms metaphorically apt.
It didn’t take long into reading about the first symptom, Claustrophobia, that I realized Angela possessed a perspective on “being perpetually creative” that I identified with. She gave the state of creative lucidity I’ve been experiencing almost daily since I left my corporate job in 2000 a name that fit so well: Chronic Creativity.
I found each of Angela’s subsequent Chronic Creativity excerpts not only engaging, but also insightful. As an accomplished teacher, musician, composer, and artist, Angela writes from a place of living the dynamic creative mind, and witnessing its fruit in those she guides. Her enthusiasm is contagious, to say the least.
So many ideas and much discussion can come out of Angela’s Chronic Creativity excerpts. Not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to express my own thoughts, I’ll note my impressions on Creative Slush as each excerpt is published on the Creativity Portal. “
–Chris Dunmire, founder of Creativity Portal taken from
So You Want To Be A Singer?
by Angela K. Mack
(Previously published in a harmonica magazine)
There is something inside all of us that yearns to express our deepest emotions in song. The blues is a genre that provides a lot of freedom of expression despite one’s musical background. The blues has traditionally been music that is, first off, authentic and secondly, full of color. As a vocal instructor, I wish to highlight on these issues as well as other essentials to singing.
Some of the best songs sung are from personal experience. Think of those songs that you love to sing to and think about how they relate to your personal life. Sometimes, the songs may be songs of real experience and other times, they may be songs that fulfill a gap. For example, there might be a song that you love whose main message is about being poor. You love the song because you can relate to being poor. This is a song of real experience. On the other hand, you may be one without a true lover and songs about passionate romance might be your thing. They fulfill a need to something lacking in your life. The singer has to personally relate to the song that they are singing. The singer must be able to read, respond to, and communicate the lyrics of the song effectively. In that sense, the singer is often an actor.
Aside from relating to the song, the primary mechanics of singing must be recognized when singing effectively. One of the first exercises that I have my private vocal students do is to lie on their back on the floor. I coach them to place their hands on their belly and pretend to go to sleep. As soon as they relax, they find that their belly rises slowly and rhythmically with each breath. This is the diaphragm and the “powerhouse” from which one’s vocals should spring forth. Singers of all genres need to know how to tap into this wellspring.
Make it Colorful
This leads me to explain that an effective singer must provide what is called “color” to the song. Any great piece of art contains contrast. In my opinion, the greater the contrast, the greater the art is. In singing, this means to be quiet when the lyrics call for quietness and to belt out with gut wrenching passion the words that mean the most. Provide contrast within the song. Perhaps sing some parts with a lazy enunciation then other parts with clear cut and thought provoking speaking. Make the quiets as quiet as you can and then surprise everyone with your loudest statements in song.
Next, the human voice is an instrument. Every instrument is influenced by its size, shape, and material. Some of us have this working for us. Others of us have a real challenge. Let’s say you nail down how to use you “powerhouse” (diaphragm singing). Excellent! But if you are burdened by physical ailments such as asthma or allergies, your sound might naturally become restricted. Likewise, if you have a small mouth or throat, you may have a tougher time belting out the notes that you want to. A full and big sound requires an “instrument” that is free of constrictions (which are what allergies and asthma do) and size limitations (such as mouth and throat size). The goal is to be able to have the capabilities of being open and loud when the proper time warrants. Sometimes, human anatomy can get in the way. I have had vocal students who nailed down their diaphragm breathing yet had chronically swollen tonsils which completely defeated the purpose of loud singing. Remember, the goal is to have the capacity to be open. If you struggle with any of the above, you may have a more difficult time reaching depths of “color”. Please consult your doctor to see if these issues can be resolved.
Further, in regards to tone, blues singers often have that “rough and raspy” tone that naturally comes from drinking and smoking. Please know that these attributes can be learned without damaging the rest of your body. You can learn how to constrict the throat while singing and achieve similar effects without creating other health issues. This requires practice and experimentation.
Pitch, for the adult, is a little more challenging to nail down. It is said that all babies are born with the capabilities to sing on pitch. What we are exposed to as infants, toddlers, and preschoolers can influence the rest of our musical lives. Basically, you have your parents to thank or curse for your sense of pitch. Adults with pitch issues should try to experiment with or take lessons on the piano. Listening to a lot of music also helps the musical ear. If you are an adult and can’t sing on pitch, you have your work cut out for you. Remember, there are always exceptions to the rule. But overall, you need to invest in private instrument lessons and intentionally listen to a lot of different styles of music.
Enunciation is another aspect of singing that must be addressed. Usually, classical singers and musical theater singers learn the art of diction. However, in the blues genre, diction isn’t a high priority. Obviously, you want your audience to understand your words. In which case, vowels sung with the mouth three fingers up and down are a great starting point gauge. “T”s and “D”s are often neglected. Overall, my biggest exhortation to my students is “Open your mouth!” I find that opening ones mouth is very difficult for many. Most are shy and aren’t used to such displays of openness. Not only should the singer open the mouth up and down but also wide at times. “Wide mouth enunciation” brightens the tone and allows for more natural volume.
In closing, “some things are better caught than taught”. Put on that song of your favorite singer and listen. Ask yourself, “Why do I like this song? What is the singer doing that I like? What are the words about? What contrast is in this song? How is the enunciation? Is it lazy or clear? Are the notes correct? Can I sing effectively along?”
My gut is that everyone can sing. Hopefully, I gave you some things to think about. Feel free to contact me at angie@ozaukeet alent.com if you have more questions.
by Angie Mack Reilly written in January 2019 and published on 8.8.20
Especially In this age of artificial intelligence (AI), we need to take another look at the universal language of music. It is an essential component to any culture. The question is, will we embrace all that the gift of music has to offer?
I often tell my private music students that singing and playing an instrument is a sport. I know that, in Wisconsin, we value sports. Musicianship requires rigorous training and mastery over the muscles involved. Because of that, it is considered a “discipline” which takes patience and time. I consider myself a “personal trainer” for musicians of all ages.
After working with thousands of youth over past few decades, I am very concerned that our children are not expressing themselves and innovating as much as they are capable of. “The screens” are robbing them of these two very essential components. Weekly music lessons keep that creative expression alive and spark innovation. Our children are going to have to compete with artificial intelligence (AI). How will they do that? With creative communication, expression, intuition and innovation.
I am the most passionate about people coming together to creatively collaborate. The acronym for team is “together everyone achieves more”. That is why I am involved with so many different music events. Music events create a sense of belonging and are vital for the good health of any culture. Simply put, music events improve our quality of life in Ozaukee County and give us a sense of community.
On the morning of January 10, the cast and crew of NSAA’s Elf Jr. will be featured on Real Milwaukee with Brian Kramp of Fox 6 . Children will get to experience first-hand why improvisation and confidence are essential skills in the television industry.
My wish for 2019 would be to see more financial resources thrown at cultural offerings and arts events particularly in Grafton where I live. This is why Ozaukee Talent has become a fiscal receiver through Arts Wisconsin. We need benefactors who can donate to keep the arts alive and thriving.
There needs to be a way for funds to trickle down to the artists themselves. Sadly, this is not happening in our county as much as it should be. The arts scene in Grafton is struggling. I dream of a day when artists and musicians can be adequately compensated for their contributions. I applaud Cedarburg for how much they value the arts with their dollars. In my opinion, this directly results in educational, economic and cultural success.
Can I be frank and say that kids who grow up with the arts as a vital part of their upbringing do not grow up and shoot other people? There is a cure for mass violence. It’s a preventative cure and it’s called the arts. The arts industry naturally teaches an awareness and appreciation for human life and the human experience.
Isolation and disconnect make emotional and mental imbalances even worse. I have used the arts my entire life as a means of coping with childhood trauma and combating depression and anxiety. Socializing and connecting with others does not come naturally to me. I have to work really hard at it. The bulk of my friendships began while working on arts projects with others. The arts provide a place of belonging. The arts can help re-wire a traumatized brain and provide a place of human connection which is also known to help with addiction.
Pure and simple. We need to get busy mentoring the next generation in the arts. And Wisconsin communities need to be financially and generously supportive. Innovation and creative communication need more priority and respect in the business world.
FOR CONSULTING, WORKSHOPS AND SPEAKING: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Angie Mack Reilly 2020
I feel invisible
Do you feel invisible
We feel invisible
I feel invisible
Do you feel invisible
We feel invisible
Photo also by Angie Mack Reilly
The Music of Milwaukee Radio Host Ben Merens
by Angie Mack Reilly 3.9.20
New Release! Listen to “Babylon” by Ben Merens on Hot Seat Records
A Master of Improv
Have you ever seen the show, “Who’s Line is it Anyway?”
It’s an improvisational comedy television show. One feature is that the actors are asked to make up comedic lyrics and a melody on the spot while a band plays music that they’ve never heard before. NOT an easy task!
I have always marveled at the show’s actors’ ability to do this. Decades of teaching music and drama has taught me that improvisation requires a heightened sensitivity and a rapid mind. Improvisation is done without any preparation. It requires having a wealth of knowledge to pull from as well as a bravado of spirit.
This is why I like to listen to jazz. In my opinion, jazz is one of the most difficult and advanced musical art foms to master. Why? Because of the improvisation. Likewise, stand-up comedy. It requires a high skill level of improvisation that is extremely difficult.
Like I was saying. Very few people have this high level of skill that entails composing music, creating lyrics and creating a melody on the spot.
Ben Merens has this skill.
Having been in journalism for over 30 years, Ben is somewhat of a celebrity in the Milwaukee area. Most people know him as the longtime radio host for Wisconsin Public Radio’s At Issue With Ben Merens on the Ideas Network.
As a live radio host, Ben has had to improvise on every program. He has literally spoken on thousands of shows without a full script. Again, not many people can do this.
I find it fascinating that Ben has taken this strongly exercised skill of improvisation and has applied it to music.
Ben came over to record some music recently and met my son Joshua for the first time. Within minutes of meeting Joshua, Ben created a comedic song complete with lyrics, melody and music. The song played on the ironic fact that Joshua is a baker who cannot eat gluten. Check it out.
“Yes. God must have a sense of humor you see. When a baker cannot eat gluten. I think that’s God’s stand-up comedy.” – Ben Merens
Ben explained to me that all of his experience in radio has taught him amazing focus and mindfulness. He is a keen listener which can be a rare commodity in today’s self-centered and busy world. In fact, Ben has written a book called People Are Dying to Be Heard. He is an experienced keynote speaker on the topic of communication. He conducts workshops that help people and organizations find their unique story or voice. His ability to understand people also fuels his ability to create on-the-spot songs.
“And the only constant in life is change. And we all must be willing to rearrange” – Ben Merens lyric from One Hundred Voices
People who have the ability to improvise are highly adaptable. They quickly adjust. They are keenly sensitive. Aware. Flexible toward change. Adaptability knows how to feed an audience while feeding off of the audience. Because no two audiences are the same, you will find that no two versions of Ben’s songs are the same. He adjusts the song to fit the environment.
Forget buying mood lighting at a party. Hire Ben to come and entertain your guests in a way that they won’t ever forget! I’m serious! Hire him to speak or sing at your place of worship, school, workplace or event. Ben has a long track record of connecting with audiences of all demographics.
The Background and the Vision
Ben and I recently started connecting after a music event that we both attended in Cedarburg. The more I have gotten to know him, the more I have appreciated what a gem of a human being he is. Ben loves people. Pure and simple. And he uses his talents to help others in a variety of creative ways. We have a similiar intuitive, improvisational and heartfelt manner in which we share our talents with others. We both understand adaptability or, as I like to call it, fluidity. Ben recently invited me talk with him about creativity on his Riverwest Radio show called Just Talking. You can listen to the link below.
Because of how creatively compatible we are, I thought that it would be great to work on a creative project with Ben. Since we both love networking, I thought that we should invite others who want to join us. It’s a bit improvisational. The musicians and singers will have to be adaptable. But we want to communicate a message as a performance public art piece. Not perfect. But heartfelt. Because a lot of people need a glimmer of light right now. Please join us.
100 Voices: Public Performance Art
Event has been cancelled and will hopefully be rescheduled due to Covid-19 crisis
The Girl with the Colorful Mind
(c) 2004 Anglea K. Mack
Photo by Angie Mack Reilly
Joy was playing in the corner. She loved the fresh smell of wood in the woodworking station in Mrs. Garphy’s kindergarten room. She especially enjoyed that particular spot because it was quiet. Other than the music corner, it was the only place in the room that made any sense to her. The corner enabled her to think, to feel, and to be her own person. The other children usually preferred the train station, the housekeeping station, and the painting station which left the woodworking station to be a place of solitude. It was a place where she could explore with her hands and her mind as she whistled like her father.
“Joy, it’s time to clean up and come over to the art table. We are going to work on our Christmas crafts”, said plump Mrs. Garphy in her soft “teacher” voice. “I hate the art table,” thought Joy as she smelled each piece of smooth wood before dropping it into the yellow bin. She heard a lot of noise in the room. As she looked behind her, the other children were cleaning their stations as well. Marcie was cleaning up the housekeeping station. No, she was actually bossing the other children to clean up for her. “Look at Marcie,” murmured Joy. “She thinks she is so great because she has long shiny blond hair. She always has to be the mom.”
Joy hated the housekeeping station. She hated being bossed by Marcie. Joy played in there once, but never again after being told by Marcie that she had to be the “baby brother” while the other children laughed. Joy was the only girl in the room who didn’t have long hair. Her hair was different. It was black, short, and kinky. Her skin was also dark brown. She was the only brown-skinned girl in kindergarten.
When Joy and the other children finished cleaning up their stations, they walked over to the art table. Joy found a spot on the end away from anybody else. Immediately, she saw a Styrofoam plate with little pieces of red, black, and white felt. Next to that, was a plate full of glue with a Popsicle stick. Joy raised her hand. “Mrs. Garphy, what are we making?” Tying a smock around Bobby, Mrs. Garphy answered, “We are making our special Christmas gifts to bring home.”
Joy was really excited. She wondered if they were going to make Christmas stockings. Then Joy glanced over at Marcie who was whispering into Becky’s ear, looking at Joy, and laughing. Joy quickly looked back down at her art supplies. “Why is she so mean? Doesn’t she know that I could whoop her butt anyway?” Joy asked herself.
As Joy looked up to find Mrs. Garphy, she saw the funniest thing ever. Mrs. Garphy was carrying empty roles of toilet paper in her arms and under her double chin which made her look like she had a triple chin. Joy burst out laughing hysterically. “Mrs. Garphy has toilet paper rolls!” she blurted to the classroom. The other children slowly joined her with their tiny giggles. Joy was laughing so hard that she had her hands on her belly, her head tilted back, and both legs up in the air. In fact, she had to keep herself from falling backwards in her chair. “These are for our special Christmas project,” commanded the now stern Mrs. Garphy.
“Christmas project? HA! HA! HA!” Now Joy was really making a scene. Somehow, the sacredness of Christmas and the ordinary item used to wipe butts seemed like a funny contradiction to her. She couldn’t help from laughing. It was just too funny. It was just too unreal for her to grasp. “Mrs. Garphy must be playing a joke!” she shouted. But as she glanced up at Mrs. Garphy, Mrs. Garphy didn’t have a “joking face” on. She had a mean face. That mean face was glaring down at Joy. “Joy, I want you to go sit in the hallway immediately.”
Joy went out to sit on the cold marble hallway floor outside of the classroom. She hated the brown speckled floor. As she observed the floor, she noticed how dirty it was and began to scribble in its dirt. She felt really sorry. She didn’t mean to get into trouble. She wondered if, like Marcie and the other children, Mrs. Garphy hated her, too.
Joy started to get a pain in her stomach and held it tightly. She really wanted to go home. She thought about playing in her neighborhood with her other friends who looked and acted a lot more like Joy than the children in the suburban school. Joy thought about how she played jump rope with Tisha and Natasia just the day before. Joy began to rap their favorite jump rope song, “Donald Duck is a one-legged, one-legged, one-legged animal. Donald Duck is a two-legged, two-legged, two-legged animal…..” She hit her hands on the cold marble floor as she sang. She noticed how when she slapped the floor, it made a nice high-pitched drum sound. Then she looked up at the classroom door that was shut. She wanted to bang on the door to see how it sounded. But she restrained herself.
Suddenly, Mrs. Garphy opened the classroom door. “Are you ready to do your art project now?” she asked.
Joy answered an obedient, “yes”.
When Joy walked into the classroom, she saw a little Santa shaped like a toilet paper roll. She really wanted to giggle but instead she bit her lip as hard as she could. Joy dutifully made her toilet paper Santa with her plate of felt and her glue. She topped it off with a cotton ball beard and set it to dry.
Next, it was music time. This thrilled Joy tremendously. She loved to sit right next to the piano and sing. However, she didn’t like looking at Mrs. Garphy’s big bottom in her brown polyester pants as she sat on the bench to play. They sang “I’m a little teapot”, complete with hand motions. Then they sang “Where is Thumkin?” Joy liked that song. She loved putting her fingers behind her back only to bring each finger in front of her at the appointed time. Joy pleaded, “Mrs. Garphy, can we sing it again?”
“Of course!” she answered.
Joy held both hands behind her back. As she eagerly waited, she felt a hard tug on her hair. “Ouch!” she whispered and turned around. It was Marcie. “You’re stupid”, whispered Marcie. “You stink, too!” Joy tried to ignore her. As Mrs. Garphy played the piano with her back away from the children, Joy decided to handle Marcie on her own by ignoring her. Marcie continued to poke Joy in the back. “Nobody wants you here”, whispered Marcie. “You don’t belong here.” Even though Marcie’s poking hurt Joy’s back, Joy continued to ignore her. Marcie started to kick Joy. “Everybody hates you! You’re black!”
Just then, Joy felt something like a fire burn inside of her belly. She was angry. She was so angry that she wanted to stand up and punch Marcie in the face. But, instead, she closed her eyes. She began to sing to herself, “I feel red, so red. I’m mad and my mind is red.” She hummed the tune that immediately popped into her mind. Then Joy thought about Marcie bossing everybody in housekeeping and how she was envious of her long blonde hair. With the same melody she sang, “I feel green, so green. I’m jealous and my mind is green.” Continuing with her eyes closed and shutting out everything and everyone around her, she thought about being in the hallway and how rejected she felt. She sang, “I feel brown, so brown. Nobody loves me and I feel so brown”. At this point, Joy was in some other realm. She was completely oblivious to her surroundings. With her eyes closed, she hummed and sang the lyrics in her head, “I feel light blue, so light blue, when I do what I like to do. I feel yellow, so yellow. When I’m happy I feel so yellow. I feel white, so white. When I obey I feel so white”.
By this time, all of the children and Mrs. Garphy were staring at Joy. Joy finished her song in her head and then opened her eyes. Even Marcie was still. Everybody was still and staring. Mrs. Garphy broke the silence, “What are you singing, Joy?”
Joy answered, “It’s nothing….just a song in my mind.”
“Can we hear it?” asked Mrs. Garphy.
A confidence swept over Joy. “Yes, you may.” She stood up, cleared her throat, and sang:
“I feel red, so red. I’m mad and my mind is red.
I feel green, so green. I’m jealous and my mind is green.
I feel brown, so brown. Nobody loves me and I feel brown.
I feel light blue, so light blue. When I do what I like to do.
I feel yellow, so yellow. When I’m happy I feel so yellow.
I feel white, so white. When I obey I feel so white.”
Mrs. Garphy and rest of the children (besides Marcie) stood up and clapped. “What a talent!” Mrs. Garphy boasted. “Joy, we are so happy to have you. Thank you for sharing with us your colorful mind.”