Berklee, Harlem & Destiny: A Love Story

I started teaching at Berklee College of Music. It was almost as good as being a student. I always wanted to go to Berklee as a young person. I remember holding the colorful brochure and reading about their Songwriting Major.

At the time, I felt I couldn’t spend the money on myself to attend Berklee because I already had an undergraduate degree (Luckily I’ve outgrown this habit of guilt, now I invest in myself and my future!). I applied for a scholarship and they offered me $5000 a year, which at the time was pretty good, but there was one catch: I could only receive the money if I agreed to be a classical piano major. I was devastated. My strength at the time was playing classical music but all I really wanted to do was write songs. It felt like a major setback, but I adjusted and decided to find some place else to go. I went to Borders Books and looked up the most reputable music school that I could afford by selling my car, a Saturn. I found it in The City College of New York located in Spanish Harlem on 137th Street and I decided to go.

Today, I traced back the things that occurred because of this obstacle and my subsequent decision to go to school in Harlem. 1) I met my future husband (I wasn’t even looking, I was engaged to someone else at the time. I thought about how unlikely it was that a boy from Jackson Heights Queens and a girl from the suburbs of Illinois would meet and fall in love (I figured the odds were probably around 1 in several million) but it happened! 2) I learned about early American spirituals and early gospel music which I absolutely loved and 3) I met John Motley, one of my greatest teachers who introduced me to legendary jazz drummer Max Roach who I then toured with in Europe and finally and possibly most importantly 4) I had my first experience of meditation (which has become a life-long practice and what I credit most of my happiness to) in a brownstone in Harlem through a woman who was a member of the church where I was singing.

And then it really hit me: I had a date with destiny and going to Harlem (because Berklee put an obstacle in my way) led to the very fact that my beloved daughters Cecilia and Helen exist!

So today I am grateful for twists of fate and obstacles because they were all just pointing the way to this beautiful life for which I am SO GRATEFUL!

What is your story of how an obstacle led to a blossoming in your life?



Unique Opportunity for Songwriters, A Recording Week!

Hi there friends,
I wanted to take a moment to let you know about a unique opportunity for young songwriters.

I’m hosting a professional recording week with a small, select group of songwriters in August and one spot has opened up!

Our recording week is taking place over the course of 5 days where each participant will make 2 high-quality recordings of his or her songs in a beautiful studio with incredible musicians. For more information on how to apply for the available spot, please message me! (info AT

A little more about the program….

This program is for young singer-songwriters who have been writing songs for some time and play an instrument. Participation is by invite only. If you (or someone you know):

*Want to record your songs professionally with a full-band but you don’t necessarily know how to find the best musicians or studios

*Would like to have your songs produced at a level you could ideally sell on iTunes or make a full CD from but feel it may be too cost prohibitive to make a high-quality album on your own


*Are searching for your “signature sound” as an artist but don’t know exactly how to create it, then this could be awesome for you!

If this sounds like you, email me and I’ll let you know how to apply. I look forward to hearing from you :)

Peace & Love,

Creativity Tip Video, Summer Shows & Into Wellness!

Hi beautiful friends,

I hope you had a wonderful month of May! I meant to post this last month in honor of Mental Wellness Month” but as we moved to San Francisco, things were a little tumultuous to say the least ;)

These days, I LOVE the month of May but it wasn’t always that way. For years, I used to get extremely depressed in May. Biochemically it was not a good month for me. I would feel ungrounded, depressed and sometimes like I couldn’t even move. In fact, in May 2005, I could not stop crying for more than a few hours at a time so I went to a psychiatrist who asked me how many good days I had out of 7. My answer was 1 (or 3 days at the most). He seemed to think that was not very many good days. I, on the other hand, was quite accustomed to it, but agreed it would be better to have more good days.

The song “The Alchemist” is actually based, in part, on how I found my way out of this state (I was open to and pursued every avenue: a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a healer, praying in empty Catholic churches ;-) and starting my meditation practice). And, as always, I used creativity and songwriting as a tool to keep myself afloat.

I am VERY glad to say that some combination of these things worked and for many years now all my days are good (7 out of 7). Even when I’m sad or experiencing unpleasant emotions, my days are still are all good days. And much of my experience during that time turned into the album that is Blazing Red. And now, songwriting and creativity is more of a humorous and thriving practice for me instead of a survival one. For that, I am grateful. So, in honor of mental wellness this May (even though I’m late and posting it in June ;) Lol), I just want to put it out there that even though (from what I can tell), most of the people on this email list seem quite happy, just in case even one of you is not, you never know how you’ll feel 6 months or a year from now so it’s totally worth taking any steps on behalf of your own happiness that occur to you! Don’t wait! :)

Wishing you beautiful, joyous and spectacular days!

Ps: This week, I’m playing shows in Ann Arbor, Indianapolis and Cambridge. In July, San Francisco and in August, Minneapolis. I would LOVE to see you at a show! All the details are here:

Ps2: Please enjoy this Creativity Tip video! I DO love these specific tips(!) although the video makes me laugh a little at myself because I’m speaking so quietly because it’s 6:30am and I haven’t had my coffee yet!  Ha ha.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I recently did an interview for The Mother Artist Project. The last question was:

“What advice can you offer other mother artists about pursuing their passions regardless of their situation?”

I said: “Just do a little bit every day. Or a little bit three times a week. Just writing in a journal or making a promise to yourself to write one chapter of your book each week (a rough draft) or one stanza of a song each day. Whatever it is that you love to do, even if you don’t meet your deadline, you will feel so much happier for having shown up to do this work. It’s a way of showing up for yourself and it’s a way of knowing yourself better. Just like we work on our relationships with our children, significant other and friends, we need to work on our relationship with ourselves as well. It’s the most important relationship of all and all of our others depend on it.”

To read the whole blog with lots of pictures visit:

(Photo above by Erin Huber)

Songwriting Tip on Melody!


Hi there,
I’m here at the City Winery in New York City with your songwriting tip for the day! Today I’m going to talk about melody while I’m here at the piano on stage for our sound check. One of the things I’ve noticed a lot of young songwriters do is stick to a particular melodic idea and not really expand it as the song goes on. For example, a songwriter might start his or her verse on “a” and then build the verse melody around that. Then, when the writer starts writing his or her prechorus, the person will be sort of mesmerized by what she has so far, so she’ll (had to pick a pronoun) continue with what she has started and start her prechorus on “a.” Then she’ll start their chorus on “a” as well. So, it can start to sound repetitive. So, the simple tip for the day is just to think about starting different sections of your song on a new note. Let me give you a quick example from my song “Honeycomb.”
So, the verse starts on c# (plays verse):
Fleece, the color of your eyes / I couldn’t wait to see you / Wrapped in teal
Then when I go to the prechorus, I start a few notes up from c# on e (plays prechorus):
I was so in love with you / While you were working on the honeycomb
Then when I go to the chorus, I go even higher with the melody (plays chorus):
Oh oh the honeycomb / I couldn’t wait to see what the future would hold
I’d run down the driveway every day / Don’t leave the moment stay

So essentially with each new section of the song, I lifted the starting point of the melody a little bit so it feels like the song is going somewhere and that you are on a journey.

Now for another example from my friend, singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick. We are here in the green room at City Winery and she is going to give an example of what I was just talking about where your verse and chorus start on different notes.

Anne: Will you play for us?
Melissa: Yes. So we are going to use the old song of mine called “Everything I Need” – I’m going to use this song because it has the same chords in the verse and chorus (starts playing verse):
I’ve got money in the bank / I’ve got a car to drive
I’ve got a working set of hands my guitar seems to like
I’ve got a love that won’t quit
(The placement of the word “love” is on the downbeat to emphasize it. Sometimes it’s important to think of what words you are placing on what beats)
I’ve got time to rest
I’ve got a clear able mind that sees my life
Going fine
And now I go to that same chord (back to the G), but now my melody is going to go up instead of down starting on that same note. This is also called oblique motion.
Everything I need is right here in my hands
Right here in my hands
Right here in my hands
Anne: Cool so what you are saying is that your melody goes in a different direction on the chorus and then I think it also starts on a different note from the verse
Melissa: Yeah, maybe it does
Anne: I think it starts lower
(They sing it)
Melissa: Yeah, so it starts on a different note, goes up and then the top note of the chorus ends up being the first note of the verse
Anne: So these are different little tools you can use if you get stuck. Bye!
Melissa: Bye!