it’s the small and not so small things…

i was given my first record player when I was in 1st grade, i was also given, or I adopted from my moms collection, “Rubber Soul” by The Beatles…at some point early on I was also given the Horowitz recording of the Tchaikovsky piano concerto by my Uncle Gary and Aunt Joanie…as I recall my first two 45’s were “Devil Went Down To Georgia” by Charlie Daniels Band and “Don’t it Make Your Brown Eyes Blue” by Crystal Gayle….the obsession began…in 2nd grade I remember going to see Star Wars with my dad in the theaters, i remember this very clearly because he seemed to always be working and for us to do something like this together was pretty special. I told my mom I wanted the Star Wars soundtrack really bad and she said as long as I only brought home A’s and B’s that week in my work folder she would get it for me…..friday came, and sadly I had gotten three C’s during the week….as was typical, the pencil sharpener was above the waste paper basket in Mrs. Laspe’s room…as the day went on I seemed to break my pencil 3 times, and each time I would crumple up one of those C papers and toss it in the basket…at some point in the day, Jennifer Livingston, a girl I had gotten in trouble for kissing in kindergarten was sharpening her pencil when she saw my papers in the garbage, she told Mrs. Laspe (a short stocky bull of a woman) “Danny’s throwing his bad papers away!” ….I remember Mrs. Laspe grabbing me by the ear and dragging me to the hallway….I tried to explain about the Star Wars soundtrack, but she wanted nothing to do with it, she called my mom down to the school…standing there in the hall with my mom and my teacher I remember my mom sorta defending me saying he was just, sorta, following my directions by ‘not’ bringing home his bad papers…im not sure sure how the rest of this all went, but when I got home the double-lp was sitting on my bed….this was a good day!

by the time I was 14 or so I had a subscription to Stereo Review magazine…I dreamed of owning a fancy stereo someday, i read articles about all sorts of equipment, i began to understand what some of the specs were and couldn’t wait to someday own my own component system…i was also at the time getting the BSR catalogs, and for xmas that year I pieced together a simple pioneer / technics system I was hoping for…on xmas morning i remember sitting downstairs on the floor around the tree…my sister engulfed in a mountain of presents and me with 3-4 boxes already opened…pj’s and sweaters i’d imagine…my father asked if I was happy with what I’d gotten and I reluctantly said yes…he then asked me to go into the next room and get him something….as I opened the door there it was, my first stereo…another great day!

yesterday was one of those days as well…in those Stereo Review magazines I was reading all those years ago, I often read about Thoren’s Turntables….i saw lots of beautiful pics and thought they must be the best of the best…I dreamed about owning one someday for many years….well this has finally come to be….I saw a really nice one on FB Marketplace for $500 two nights ago and showed it to Anita…she’s heard all about this stuff for nearly 30 years and just sorta glazes over whenever I talk about it, but she knows how much I’ve wanted one ever since we’d met…well the one I showed her wasn’t gonna happen, to expensive for sure….then yesterday I stopped down to my favorite local used record store, Easton Record Exchange just saying hello to the owner, a friend of mine, and hoping to find some Sandy Denny records, which I didn’t….but as we chatted I noticed a Thorens TD 160 turntable….it was just like the ones I remember seeing in Stereo Review 36 years ago…I inquired about price and thought, maybe…just maybe

well when I got home I sent Anita a message about it and the price….and as I sat there watching those lights blink on FB messenger when someone is typing, awaiting her reply, I sorta thought she might say yes, although I was bracing for the usual response of “no, we don’t have the money right now” which I understand is usually the case, there was a small part of me that felt optimistic….and she replied…”sure, it’ll be your xmas present”….yesterday was truly a great day!!

I am listening to it as I type….it has truly lived up to all my expectations!!

moral of the story, keep dreaming!!

life, career and age…

as i near the inevitable 50 years old, half century, 5 decades…i think about goals, or were they dreams, or are they still goals and dreams….either way, they are things I often think about…how many are still obtainable, how many have been achieved…another factor has entered, not dictated by health as of yet thankfully, but age…the music business I knew when I began and the one that exists now is quite different….by music biz I mean selling music and performing music as well as teaching….i also factor in life goals, which obviously include music, but there are children, wife, family, friends, bands, musicians….most of which i feel good about…each one has its own delicate dance…ebbs and flows…i think about my achievements and perhaps how those achievements aren’t quite as grand as they sounded or were projected to be when I was 24 out of music school….25 odd years ago in Boston…it seems as though I have at least satisfactorily achieved the life goals and perhaps certain, portions or definitions, of some of the music / career goals…whatever I have achieved, I am amply aware of the support and love I have used from my best friend and wife of over 26 years, none of this would have been here without her…not to say another path would not have certainly occurred if we hadn’t met, but this has been mine, and for that I am alive and thankful…I suppose I take solace simply in the work…this is a lesson I learned from my uncle…to be creative always, never stop…regardless…there’s no reason to…a legacy or body of work is all we really have…

ambient…’s t r e t c h -music’

I’ve been a fan of Brian Eno and long, slow ambient music for as long as I can remember….i started falling asleep to “Music for Airports” about 30 years ago, there were patches where I didn’t as well…for a long time it was a solo piano record by Ernesto Diaz-Infante called “Ucross Journal”….buy it and at others it was George Winston or perhaps different Brian Eno or Harold Budd records.

When I lived in NYC I began recording my commutes on the subway to and from work with a small microphone in my jacket pocket. I would just record the entire commute and then break it into loops or tracks and then improvise some keys around it or record my self playing and then make loops out of that….essentially making my own sort of “Music for Airports” This was called The Sym-plifi Project.

About 2 years ago I discovered some free software that allowed me to to drastically alter time, at the same time I recall sitting on my deck with Anita after a rather busy week of rock and jazz gigs saying ” sometimes all I want to hear is a single pitch or sine wav, just something to occupy the space, but allowing me to relax” I shortly there after began making a ton of this type of “stretch-music”.

I recently completed a project using this material with poet and narrator, Burton Stehly. Burton reads his poetry and stories and I fill in the space around his poignant and often humorous stories and poems….coming soon!

This was completed last night, the photo is from a recent visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Boone, NC…. it’s called “patches” we all go through them….good and bad…

M.I.M.E….a.k.a. The Awkward Orchestra

About 13 years ago I was just starting to teach at Moravian College…most of what I was teaching was beginning / secondary piano. I was also working with students on Improvisation and became interested in starting an Improvised Music Ensemble. I inquired about how this happens and was told I needed 3 students to make it fly, which I did and the rest is history. Three years we (Moravian Improvised Music Ensemble, won the Lehigh Valley Music Award for “Classical Music Ensemble” It was quite an amazing thing to win and the following year I had 4 students perform at the award ceremony which was quite amazing to have a freely improvising ensemble to perform at such an event…I was beaming!

Tonight we are having our one performance per semester in Foy Hall. I have been excited over different years and different ensembles, but I think some of the music these students are making is the best I’ve heard yet.

For many years in Boston and NYC, while running my own improvised music label, Sachimay Records, as well as performing, releasing multiple records, booking and promoting gigs I had convinced myself I was going to change the world with improvised music, and boy did I try. Fast forward to about 6 years ago. After being an adjunct prof at Moravian for about 5 years at that point, and seeing the great benefits of improvisation with the students in my ensemble and the Improv Class I teach, I began to see that in fact, I was changing the world, one student at a time. I never intended on being a teacher or college professor, but as I have come to learn myself, that’s exactly what I am, and I’m proud of it.

Improvisation is something we do from the very beginning of life. We are not born into this world with a plan or a script. We deal with what we are dealt and figure it out as we go. The development of language and communication skills has become a central part of how I approach teaching improvisation. I had the pleasure to be a stay at home dad for both my children who are now 12 and 15. I not only changed many a diaper, but also had many conversations with both my young kids and watched how they began to speak and develop language. As I continue to teaching Improvisation this has become more and more apparent to me that this is also a way in which musicians can develop skills and or simply the confidence to do just that, learn how to communicate with their instruments. The old adage that music is a language is very true, yet the difference being with my ensemble and many ensembles throughout the world is that we as the players have been trained, have listened to music, have studied music theory and have had real music making experiences, so simply starting to converse with said instruments becomes much easier for those that think they can’t when they simply approach it as conversation.

I am very proud of the ensemble performing tonight at Moravian. I think these are some wonderfully talented young musicians who will bring this love of spontaneous creation and individual musical development through improvisation onward and forward into their own lives and their own teaching. I am happy to say that I am still changing the world through improvisation.

i started a blog cause my family is tired of listening to me…

Ha….well sorta….My name is Dan DeChellis, grew up in Jersey, born ’70….good upbringing, wonderful parents, nothing to complain about there. My grandma had a piano, and she had a friend named Lil Hutchinson, she was a hack of a pianist, but I remember hearing her play Scott Joplin rags on that old ‘Cable Piano’ at my grandmas house at the age of 5 and that was it. I took piano lessons, first group and then private from that point on, ha til I was about 25 if we include college…I was blessed with some great teachers that taught me not only my scales, but a love of learning….I was also lucky to have my uncle Cliff, who inspired me to follow it through, no matter what….sounds sorta like a musical, but it sort of is for a lot of us I’d imagine, or at least I hope…

I do a lot of things, I teach music at a college and privately, i gig in a few rock/jam/country bands, i have my own “jazz” trio, play free improvised music, make ambient music, sell used records on line through Discogs and ReverbLP, parent, husband and such…..ok, enough about me.

i sure hope the rest of this is better than this…:)