GUEST BLOG: Three Tips to Improve Your Music Notation by Peter Flom

In creating music notation for the stage, our goal is to empower successful performances. Sometimes our unintentional bad habits throw up barriers to this success. Today we’ll identify some of these habits as well as quick ways to correct them.

 

Beaming, Rests and the Invisible Barline

Beaming and rest choices are often ignored by the lazy copyist, but a little extra effort here will lead to better performances.

The meter of a measure must always inform the notation. Every time signature implies a grouping of beats, which determine beaming and rest choices. Take the following excerpt as an example. Which is clearer?

Most working musicians could play the first example correctly after some practice time, but ideally we’d like these charts to be sight-read, as is typical on the gig. By contrast, the second example clearly defines the halfway point in the measure, which is a great aid to readers. This is a concept known as the “Invisible Barline,” and is vital to writing in an even meter.

Additionally, notice how the beaming has been changed to outline each beat in the measure. This practice makes it easier to subdivide rhythms while reading the piece. Proper beaming technique is especially important in complex meters:

The engraver’s rests must also support the performer by outlining the meter. I find each of the following measures to be very difficult to read: Here is the same example with appropriate rests and beaming:

Note that each syncopation is split into multiple rests. Again, this helps the performer subdivide rhythms more easily. When mixed rests are needed, always choose rests which outline the beat appropriately.

 

Writing Chords

Another challenge for many writers is using chord notation. While this is a large topic, here are some basic guidelines to remember when building parts for the rhythm section.

First and foremost, develop a system that works for your performers. If your musicians prefer to see a ø7 chord suffix instead of min7 b5, then you need to swallow your pride and write the chord they want – even if you believe it’s wrong. Never sacrifice a good performance in the name of being “right.”

Just make sure to stay consistent – don’t write “C-7” in one measure, “Cm7” in the next and “Cmin7” later.

 

Comping Notation

Suffixes aren’t the only important part of writing chords; you must also pay attention to notation in the staff. While the lazy copyist may not see the value in writing notation during a comping part, the performers often need it badly, and each member of the rhythm section expects different conventions.

When in doubt, keep the notation simple. Here are some of my rules of thumb for writing rhythm section parts.

  • If you know exactly what notes you want them to play: write the notes in the staff. (This should be rare.)

  • If you only have a few specific notes: write the rhythms in the staff and only the specific notes you want. (This is common for guitar players, who often remember voicings based on the top note of the chord.)

  • If you don’t care what voicing they use but you have a specific rhythm: write rhythmic slash notation. (Common in a score with ‘hits’ that the band plays together.)

  • If you want them to improvise a comping part: Use slash notation. (This is the most common and easiest way to notate chords, but your performer may not know exactly what to play.)

Being a guitarist, I wrote all of these examples for a guitar part. However, the same rules apply to other instruments. Typically, the bass part is written with a sample bassline and chord symbols – that way, the bass player has an idea of what groove to play, but they can freely ad lib fills when appropriate.

You can find part two of this post – where we look at placing notation on the page – as well as my other tips to improve music notation, on the Finale blog.
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Peter Flom is the production manager in the repertoire development department at MakeMusic. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Peter has previously worked at KMA Studios in New York City, and in MakeMusic’s Customer Success department. He now spends most of his days developing new content for Finale and SmartMusic, and has worked with many publishers along the way. He also is a freelance arranger and engraver, and plays a mean guitar when no one’s watching.

GUEST BLOG: Greening the Great White Way by Emily Harrington

10 years ago, more than 250 theatre professionals interested in making theatre more environmentally friendly gathered at a Town Hall organized by David Stone (producer of Wicked) and his team at the Gershwin Theatre. After an inspiring keynote speech from Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Wicked team and many participants discussed the need to make theatre greener and what they were doing to date.

 

Building on the Town Hall, The Broadway League formed an ad hoc committee, now known as the Broadway Green Alliance (BGA), which was officially launched in November 2008 at an event with then­ New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The BGA’s mission has always been to educate, motivate, and inspire the entire theatre community and its patrons to adopt environmentally friendlier practices. Since 2008, the BGA has continued to grow; it is now also a fiscal program of Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS and, along with Julie’s Bicycle in the UK, a founding member of the International Green Theatre Alliance.

 

The BGA’s work is built on the recognition that environmental issues are caused by the cumulative effect of millions of small actions and that impactful change comes from each of us doing a bit better every day. BGA participants don’t claim to be “green,” but all work to be “greener” than they were. BGA members, actors, producers, designers, and other theatre professionals and fans, who have made greener choices each day, have produced remarkable results and inspired actions across the US and internationally.

 

Here are just a few of the ways that Broadway and theatre beyond have gotten greener in the past 10 years!

 

  • All Broadway theatres participate in the BGA, and nearly all shows have a volunteer Green Captain, taking the lead in making their productions a little bit greener. Green Captains include members of both the cast and crew and share information about BGA initiatives while working to improve the practices of their productions. Past Green Captains included Tony Award winners Bryan Cranston (All the Way), Audra McDonald (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill), Ruthie Ann Miles (The King and I), and Sophie Okonedo (A Raisin in the Sun), and many nominees, including Lauren Ambrose and Mark Rylance in 2018. On Earth Day 2018, this year’s Green Captains came together to share their #GreenResolutions. These “Green Resolutions” are commitments, like New Year’s resolutions, but they run from Earth Day 2018 to Earth Day 2019. You can watch their video here and find a list of current Broadway Green Captains here.

 

  • All theatres on Broadway now share information about green practices and have made many improvements. The most visible change is the upgrading of marquee and roof sign lights at Broadway theatres to energy­efficient LED and CFLs. This one change has saved energy, money, and over 700 tons of carbon a year. All Broadway theatres now have recycling programs and many use Energy Star appliances. Other improvements include using environmentally-­friendly cleaning products and dilution centers, using energy­-efficient indoor lighting, aggressively insulating heating pipes, installing bike racks, and coating roofs with reflective paint to reduce heat absorption.

 

  • Thirsty company members at many shows drink filtered water from reusable bottles, eliminating many thousands of plastic water bottles backstage.

 

  • Since Broadway began using microphones, productions have needed batteries. To be certain that microphones wouldn’t fail during a show, the standard Broadway practice had been to put new batteries into each microphone before every performance. Wicked switched to rechargeable batteries, reducing annual battery consumption from 15,000 batteries to 96, saving money and the environment without compromising performance. Many other productions around the world, including in Australia and in the West End, have also made this switch, often after hearing of the Wicked team’s success.

 

  • Recently, Jujamcyn committed to eliminating plastic straws from its theatres and now only offers compostable straws at all of its concession stands.

 

  • Touring shows participating in the Touring Green program have offset more than 25,000 tons of carbon emissions from moving their equipment. Participating shows have voluntarily invested 1.5 cents per mile in wind power, methane digester, and other projects offered through Native Energy.

 

  • The theatre community beyond Broadway has embraced this movement. The Off­-Broadway community is very active; there are Green Captains on college campuses across the country, touring shows and venues are adding Touring Green Captains, and BGA chapters have sprung up in Chicago and Philadelphia.

 

Most of these actions began with an individual or group trying something new, igniting similar action and improvements by others. The BGA helps make sure that the community learns of past and new innovations so that each success leads to others. Please let us know the small or large steps you take so we can share innovations with the thousands of professionals interested in greening theatre on the Great White Way and beyond. You can email us at Green@Broadway.org, visit our website BroadwayGreen.com, or follow us on Twitter @BroadwayGreen or Instagram @BroadwayGreenAlliance.

 

GUEST BLOG: The Art of Business: Or, How Real Estate Helped Me Put Up A Broadway Show By Sarah Saltzberg.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know all about Gettin’ The Band Back Together, the new musical comedy in its first week of previews at the Belasco Theater.  You know that it took nine years to get it to Broadway, and you also know that the engine behind the show is Ken Davenport, who is not only the writer but also the show’s producer.   I could easily make this a post about how much I admire Ken as an entrepreneur, disruptor, and trendsetter in the current theatrical landscape, which you probably know all about, too – and I’ll get to that.  But first, like any self-respecting person in the theater, I will find a way to make this about myself.

I first met Ken when I auditioned to be one of the improvisers that helped create Gettin’ The Band Back Together.  I knew Ken was the visionary behind The Awesome ’80s Prom, My First Time, and Altar Boyz, and I admired his commitment to creating new work.  I was particularly interested in collaborating with him because it seemed his process was very similar to mine.  As we started working together, I found that Ken and I shared not only a love of the theater, particularly new musicals, but also a love of business and how it relates to the arts.  Creating new shows takes not only passion and dedication, but also lots of problem-solving. . . . and money.  This was a lesson I learned when working on one of my first shows in New York, and it led me on a path that unexpectedly thrust me into the business world.

Like many actors that go to a conservatory for training, I came out of college with an incredible Irish accent, a killer drop down, and absolutely no idea on how to manage the business side of show business.  I became involved in C-R-E-P-E-S-C-U-L-E (the precursor to The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee, which was developed through improvisation) as a creator and then as a producer, and quickly realized that if I wanted to fund my own art I would need something more lucrative than waiting tables.  I got my real estate license with the intention of using it only for a summer and reached out to my landlord about renting the units in my building.   He hung up on me.  Undeterred, I called him back, and I kept calling him back until he gave me a green light.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that my landlord owned a portfolio of over a hundred buildings in Harlem, which eventually became my exclusive listings over the course of a year.  Let me stress that I had no real idea what I had gotten into, but using the tools I had as an actor I was able to find solutions to problems that might otherwise have been insurmountable.   Trying to open an apartment door that had accidentally been dead-bolted?  Sure, I could have just walked away.  Or I could improvise . . . . by climbing up the fire escape, jimmying open the window, and then opening the door for the clients from the inside.   Walking clients through a building while a very obvious drug deal is taking place, through a haze of marijuana smoke?  No problem.  Just tell the clients they won’t have to go very far if they want to get stoned.  I was joking . . . kind of.

I started not only enjoying the challenges of real estate, but also looking forward to them.  It was thrilling to watch a deal come together, to advise on the renovation plans of an apartment, and to meet and help clients. Most importantly though, I felt I was in control of my own destiny; being a full-time actor is a life of uncertainty, and I knew I was not cut out for that.  I loved that things were black and white in real estate; you were either closing a deal, or you weren’t.  It was a great balance to the creative world that I also loved.

Within three years, Spelling Bee was on Broadway, and I was playing Logainne, the character I created.  At this point, I no longer had to work in real estate; for the first time, I was making enough money as an actor to not have another job.  But I knew that Spelling Bee wouldn’t be forever and more than that, I really LOVED working in real estate.  I found it empowering, and with the money I was making I started to think of other shows I wanted to bring to life.

I had started recruiting my friends to become real estate agents, and we became a team that specialized in Upper Manhattan.  One of my clients, Jon Goodell, got his license and we shortly thereafter became partners, managing a team of almost twenty agents.  In 2012, we decided to open our own Harlem firm, Bohemia Realty Group – branding ourselves as uptown specialists with a creative edge. In 2016, we opened a second office in Washington Heights and now have over 120 agents and 18 staff members.  Almost all of our agents have a background in the arts and are attracted by the flexible schedule and autonomy the job offers.  They also like that they are surrounded by others like themselves – one of our agents calls Bohemia “the green room of real estate.”

Performers are empathetic, good listeners, take rejection well, and are creative problem solvers; these skills translate very well into the real estate world.  Like me, though, most have never taken a business class – and so for actors that become sales agents, real estate becomes that education, teaching us everything from how to negotiate, how to communicate effectively, and most importantly, how to become financially empowered.  Many of our agents have followed my trajectory and have self produced albums and shows of their own, which in turn inspires me to continue to do what I do.

This past week, we started previews for Gettin’ The Band Back Together.  During the day, I’m at the Bohemia offices; in the evenings, I go to the theater to watch the show and work with Ken on changes during this crucial time.  These are long days, but there is no one who understands this balancing act this quite like Ken – someone with a hand in both business and art, who uses his incredible talents in these areas to achieve the nearly impossible (like getting a brand new show to Broadway.)  Working with him has made me a better artist, a better business person, and a better friend.  And while I’m so excited that Gettin’ The Band Back Together is on the final leg of its journey, it’s also bittersweet to let it go.  I suppose I could enjoy the free time.

Or, I can think about another idea for a show and start all over . . . and maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get to work with Ken again.

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Sarah Saltzberg  was part of the original creative cast for Gettin’ the Band Back Together, and is thrilled that the show has made it to Broadway. Career highlights include: a creator and original cast member of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a creator/actor of off-Broadway’s Don’t Quit Your Night Job; and a writer of off-Broadway’s Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage (also with Ken Davenport.)   Sarah is also the co-owner of Bohemia Realty Group, a boutique firm specializing in properties north of 96th Street, where the majority of agents have a background in the performing arts.

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Bohemia Realty Group is a dynamic team of dedicated real estate professionals that focus on residential rentals and sales in Upper Manhattan. Our mission is a three-pronged approach to improving quality of life: to service clients in an efficient, friendly way; to create a positive work environment for our agents and employees; and to enrich the community above 96th Street.  From pre-war walk up rentals to new development condos, we firmly believe that it’s possible for all New Yorkers to have light, space, and a renovated bathroom. . . and not have to give up dinner in order to afford it.

GUEST BLOG: 5 Ways to Profit from Storytelling By Rebecca Matter

Every year, Saroo Brierley celebrates his birthday on May 22nd. But that wasn’t the day he was born. It was the day he was found.

Saroo grew up in India, and just about every day, he followed his older brother around. One day back in 1986, he fell asleep in an empty train while his big brother was off finding food for the family.

When he woke up several hours later, he was hundreds of miles away in a place he had never seen before. He was alone, hungry, and scared. He cried out for his brother, sister, and mother.

Yet, they were nowhere to be found. It wouldn’t be until 2012, almost 26 years later, that he would find his family. And so is the story of the heartbreaking movie, Lion.

If you’ve seen Lion, then you know how touching Saroo’s story is and the emotions it stirs up. That’s because good stories are hard to resist.

But stories do much more than simply entertain us. They also influence the way we think, and even what we feel. Stories have the power to sway the way we see the world … not to mention our decision-making processes.

That’s why telling a good story is one of the most powerful skills you can have as a writer. And it’s an easy way to make your copy memorable — as well as profitable.

So today, I’m going to show you why good stories are so valuable to businesses … and why they’ll gladly pay you to write those stories!

Let’s say a company puts out a brochure with a list of facts and statistics. Your brain processes that information as an intellectual experience. Interesting and educational, but not necessarily memorable.

You might be able to recall a few of the facts, but probably not all. That’s because informative writing only taps into your cerebral cortex, which is the part of your brain that decodes words into meaning.

A well-told story, on the other hand, takes the reader on an emotional adventure. It involves the language-processing areas of your brain along with many other areas — including your sensory cortex.

The sensory cortex is the part of your brain you’d use if you were actually experiencing the events of a story. It’s the area where you detect sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch.

When you’re involved at a sensory level, it’s easy to feel like you’re in the story, which is the reason you remember stories more so than statistics.

And when stories are used in persuasive writing, the story becomes representative of what’s being sold or presented.

Persuasive writers who know how to tell a good story use it to move people to action, whether that means buying a product or service, making a donation, signing up for a free newsletter, or picking up the phone to talk to a member of the company’s customer service team.

And THAT is why good storytellers stand to make a great deal of money.

When most people think of “writing careers,” they think they have two choices:

  1. You can become an author and write books — fiction, non-fiction, biographies, and so on.
  2. Or, you can get yourself a journalism degree and write articles and news stories for newspapers and magazines — either as a freelancer or staff writer.

Both are noble professions that can be very rewarding and garner a lot of respect. Problem is, they’re hard work. They’re highly competitive. You need to spend a lot of time getting very good at what you do. And, unless you’re among the elite, the pay is typically pretty average at best.

Fortunately, the kind of writing I do isn’t either of those two … although there are elements of storytelling and reporting in what I do.

And, even though you see the type of writing I do every day — in the mail, on the Internet, in magazines and newspapers — few people stop to consider who’s writing it … and just how lucrative of a career it can be.

Master Copywriter Mark Morgan Ford, the man who’s mentored hundreds of up-and-coming writers in this field, put it perfectly some years ago:

“You’re a good writer if you can write a story that can make people cry… you’re a better writer if your writing can make people laugh… but, if your writing can persuade people to take action — that’s when you know you can be a very wealthy writer.”

That, in a nutshell, is what we do.

We persuade people to take action — whether it’s to request some more information, support a cause, read a special report, buy a product, and so on. It may just be some well-written text for an email you send a potential customer … an ad in a publication … a website landing page … or a personal letter written to someone with an interest in the product you’re offering. But, it all boils down to good, conversational, persuasive writing.

Now, if writing is your dream, this type of writing – copywriting – can enable you to get paid well for your writing and give you time to work on your creative pursuits.

There’s a basic formula to copywriting. It’s a secret structure that you’ll find in every piece of good, persuasive writing … one that’s been tested and proven to work millions of times, in millions of ads. A structure anyone can learn and follow.

Once you learn what copywriting is, understand it, and start using it — well, that’s when your life will change dramatically.

Because the fact is, once you can write a letter, an ad, or a web page that persuades, you’ll have a financially-valuable skill that will reward you for life! And here’s how…

5 Paid Writing Projects that Benefit From Good Storytelling

1. Case Studies

Fees: $1,250-$2,000

Case studies are success stories that detail a customer’s experience with a company’s products or services.

Their goal is to tell the story of how a company or individual solved a challenge using a product or service. In other words, a “before-and-after” story.

If you have a journalistic background or mindset … this project is ideal for you!

(Go here for expert advice on how to write a case study.)


2. Emails

Fees: $150-$500 (and upwards of $1,250 in B2B, or for more experienced writers)

Companies email prospects and customers on a regular basis — often daily. Stories keep their emails interesting, and encourage readers to engage in a real conversation.

If you like writing short, conversational copy, this is a great opportunity. Along with fitting your style, the frequency of writing emails is very high — so you can make a lot from just a few clients.


3. Social Media Campaigns

Fees: Upwards of $2,000/Month

Social media platforms were built to share stories …

And it’s where companies’ customers and prospects are connecting, researching, and making buying decisions.

As a social media writer, you’ll use stories to grab their attention, and connect on a personal level … to start and then further develop a relationship with the client.


4. Video Marketing

Fee: Upwards of $200 per video minute

Videos are an effective way to connect with any online audience and allow you to tell your story visually.

If you have any desire to teach … or you come from the screenwriting world … this is definitely for you.


5. Websites

Fee: $1,500 to $3,500 for a small website (5-7 pages)

Whether you’re telling the story of how a company first came to be or you’re telling the stories of many satisfied customers, website pages often house a variety of short stories interlaced with a common theme.

As you can see, stories can play a role in every form of copy and content …

Compelling stories entertain, inform, and offer value to readers. Which makes them more likely to connect with your clients and their products and services.

They also cut through the noise, grab people’s attention, and make the messaging more “real.”
So put your storytelling skills to use! Decide which project types interest you most, and get going. And while your stories many not win any literary awards … your clients will certainly value every word you write. And that’s when you’ll see your freelance writing income soar.

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This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI.)

AWAI has been helping writers make a great living doing what they love for over 20 years. If you’d like to learn more about the opportunities above, as well as a few more ways you can get paid to write, go here to download their special report called, It’s True! You Can Make a Very Good Living as a Writer.

In it, you’ll learn everything you need to know about 9 writing assignments that are in big demand today, including what the projects look like, what they pay, and how to land them. Go here now to download your free copy.

GUEST BLOG: Deconstructing a Song with Kleban Prize winner Amanda Yesnowitz

As the story goes, Dorothy Hammerstein once overheard a man at a lavish NYC event extolling the virtues of “Ol’ Man River.” Correcting the fellow, who attributed the song’s genius to Jerome Kern, she interjected sassily: “Jerome Kern wrote ‘dum, dum, dum-dum.’ My husband wrote ‘Ol’ Man River’.”

Historically, lyricists get the short shrift. But the truth is that when we’re doing our jobs most compellingly, we shouldn’t be noticed at all. Lyrics should feel organically generated by characters, not writers. Still, when we study the musical theatre canon, we can learn a lot from those wordsmiths whose many gifts have helped develop the form. In my mind, Jerry Herman is one those versifiers who falls through the cracks. Certainly, he’s often recognized for being a songwriting stalwart but he is one of the most underrated lyricists in musical theatre and I know exactly why: he makes lyric writing look effortless. His lyrics are all at once character specific and easily extractable. Favoring economy of language, simple song forms, and uncluttered images, Herman is a lyricist of the people. He knows what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, what you’re desiring but he knows how to articulate those thoughts, feelings, and desires better than you ever could.

Sentiment is so difficult to represent at the lyric level lest it become sentimentality— ersatz poetry, generic longing, periwinkle moons. Ick. In order to convey sentiment effectively, the writer must push against it as much as possible, creating tension between the ideas being expressed and the actual vehicle for those expressions.

I chose “I Won’t Send Roses” to deconstruct because it makes me weep every time I hear it. And it’s not because I go into some personal reverie about what the song means to me; it’s because I am always seduced into the world of the song.

For reference, the lyrics are below:

I won’t send roses

Or hold the door

I won’t remember

Which dress you wore

My heart is too much in control

The lack of romance in my soul

Will turn you grey, kid

So stay away, kid

Forget my shoulder

When you’re in need

Forgetting birthdays

Is guaranteed

And should I love you, you would be

The last to know

I won’t send roses

And roses suit you so

 

My pace is frantic

My temper’s cross

With words romantic

I’m at a loss

I’d be the first one to agree

That I’m preoccupied with me

And it’s inbred, kid

So keep your head, kid

In me you’ll find things

Like guts and nerve

But not the kind of things

That you deserve

And so while there’s a fighting chance

Just turn and go

I won’t send roses

And roses suit you so.

 

In terms of structure, we have two A sections. That’s all. No B section. No chorus. No release. Not even a coda. Just two verses with a repeated refrain.

Again, the efficiency of this song astounds me. But its construction is far more intricately crafted than the casual listener might realize.

In general, rhymes whose emphasized syllables are spelled differently (contrOL/sOUL), as well as rhymes that are different parts of speech (wore/door), will always land better on the ear. Really.

This song is comprised almost entirely of rhymes that fall into either category, and in some cases both. Also, when the second verse begins, lines 1 and 3 are rhymed (frantic/romantic) while in the first verse

they are not (though the parallel ‘I won’t’s do ground us). The increased rhyming inherently gives the song momentum without announcing such a build.

We may not realize the shift as it goes by—in fact we shouldn’t realize any of these mechanics while we’re listening—we just know the song works in and of itself as it works on us.

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For a comprehensive look into the art and science of lyric writing, register for Amanda’s upcoming workshop in NYC. The workshop will be held on Wednesday, July 18th and few spots remain. Sign up here!

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AMANDA YESNOWITZ is the Winner of 2018 Kleban Prize, Jonathan Larson Award, Dramatists Guild Fellowship, Dottie Burman Award, Jamie deRoy and Friends Award, and 8 MAC nominations, all for excellence and vision in lyric writing. Selected projects: SOMEWHERE IN TIME (Portland Center Stage world premiere; 7 PAMTA noms; NAMT finalist), BY THE NUMBERS (ASCAP Workshop; Goodspeed’s Mercer Colony), THE HISTORY OF WAR (NYMF invited selection), THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE (Hangar Theatre world premiere). RECORDINGS: “Gotta Start Small” (Stephanie Block, PS Classics; Live from Lincoln Center /PBS/Broadway HD). PODCASTS: LiveWire Radio; Keith Price’s Curtain Call. Notable: Featured writer at the Kennedy Center (ASCAP centennial) and Boston’s Symphony Hall (“No Looking Back” performed by Keith Lockhart and the Pops). Her lyrics have been published in The DramatistTimeNewsdayThe NY Daily NewsThe Sydney Morning Herald, and The New York Times. Strange but true: competitive crossword puzzle solver and published constructor (NY Times, 08/26/12. . . no ordinary Sunday).

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