Friday, April 22, 2016

Meet Cory Lavine!

On March 1st, Enlightened Piano Radio announced its top three nominees in six solo piano categories, each of whom is guaranteed a spot to perform in to perform in the 2016 Enlightened Piano Radio Awards Concert on board the Carnival cruise ship Triumph (October 6-10, 2016). To my surprise and delight, several artist friends of mine were among the nominees. Curious to find out more about the journeys that led them to receive this honor, I decided to ask them some questions and am delighted to share their answers with you. 

Today I would like to introduce you to Cory Lavine, whose album Out of the Blue earned him a nomination for New Artist of 2016.

Pam: When you first started writing music, at what point did you realize you wanted to be a composer?
CoryThere is something about composing I have always liked. According to my piano teacher, when I first started piano lessons at age nine I was able to put melodies together. When I was about 16 years old I decided wanted to become a composer. I started getting into synthesizers, drum machines, and the like. I also started getting into computer sequencing and notation.  My first computer was a Commodore 64! Whether composing was something that came to me naturally, the equipment, or a combination of both, I loved it back then and still love it today!

Pam: What or who were your early influences?
Cory: Some of my early musical influences were classical piano and rock 'n' roll. When I hit my teenage years rock n’ roll started getting more and more of my attention. It was around this time I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life: I told my piano teacher I wanted to stop taking lessons as my creativity and influences were starting to take me into a different direction. To say the least, this was an emotional time for both of us.
During my sophomore year in school, there was a rock band called The Edge who performed at my high school in upstate New York. My school was small with a graduating class of about 115.  So having a band come all the way from Florida to perform in our school was a HUGE deal! They were with a company called Young American Showcase who did anti-alcohol/drug abuse assembly programs using Top 40 rock 'n' roll music. At that time, YAS had four other bands touring across the country, each band averaging twelve shows a week for ten months straight. When I first saw them perform, I said to myself, “I want to do that!” They even talked about auditions!  However, graduating from high school was a prerequisite for joining the company, as was being a Christian.  So over the next two years I focused on practicing hard, getting good grades, and graduating. And in 1990 my goal became a reality. I was selected from a national candidate pool to play keyboards with a band called Free Fare. 

Pam: Where do you get your ideas come from?
Cory: Good question! Sometimes I wish I knew; believe me, I could create a lot more music that way! Most of my ideas, though, come from within. I start with the simple things I love to do such as listening to music by other artists, going for walks, reading books, and talking to people. All of these put me in a better frame of mind for inspiration - and maybe, just maybe, some music might come out as a result of it.

Pam: What do you usually start with when composing a new piece?
Cory: Most of the time, I just sit down and start playing the piano and let my emotions guide my hands to whatever keys they fall on. Sometimes the piece is in a major key; other times it might be minor. It all depends on my mood! I start like that. Sometimes I'll just start with the right hand and then add the left, and other times vice versa. That might sound simple but for me it's not always the case. 

Pam: How do you compose?  Are you sitting at a piano?  Do you work at a computer or using manuscript paper and a pencil?
Cory: When I compose, I’m sitting down at my keyboard and my Mac. I have a Yamaha Motif XS8, an full-size weighted keyboard. I play directly from the Motif into Sibelius, which is a notation program. The main thing was making sure the sheet music matched up to the recorded version! This was a little tricky due to the fact that the album was recorded in 2013 and I didn't begin transcribing the sheet music until a year or so later. It took some time at first and I did use a pencil to mark up the music when I printed it out. I like having the music laid out in front of me when I am working. I also discovered early on the wisdom of using a laser printer as opposed to an ink jet printer, especially with printing out 51 pages of music to be corrected - many pages more than once! That's a lot of black ink and cartridges. It adds up!

Pam: What are your biggest challenges as a composer?  
Cory: For me, one of my biggest challenges as a composer is finding ways to translate an idea or an emotion into music. Major key or minor key? Slow or fast? Loud or soft? Sometimes it’s best not to be dwelling too long on these decisions because they can take away from - or in some cases totally block - the inspiration and creative process. Again, I usually just jump right in and start playing. Remembering to hit “Record” on the keyboard or recording it on the computer is important as I want to make sure I capture that first burst of inspiration right then and there.  It is frustrating when I forget. Fortunately, I did hit "Record" for a few songs that didn’t make it onto my first album.  By capturing those ideas, now I have a starting point for my next project.  However, it might be a  little challenging going back to those ideas after months or years and trying to recreate them.  What was I thinking or how was I feeling when those ideas first came through? It remains to be seen whether or not I will be able to expand upon on those earlier ideas or not.

PamDo you find inspiration from other composers?  Which ones?
Cory: I do find inspiration from other composers. Back in 2009, I met David Nevue, David Lanz, Joseph Akins, and Philip Wesley for the first time. They performed in the Sound Kitchen, a prominent studio here in Nashville. I had never seen them nor had heard of them or their music before. However, after hearing their performances up close and personal, I began thinking “I can do this! I can do this!” As a result, I not only received the inspiration I needed to get back to composing music after 25 years as well as the inspiration and motivation to build a website, release an album, and create a songbook as well. Seeing concerts in person or streamed live on the internet are great ways to be inspired. It’s very, very powerful. Definitely check it out!

Pam: Are there any non musical influences that are important to your music?
Cory: Sure, Pam. This kind of goes back to your earlier questions about where my ideas some from. I love the outdoors and going for walks. This helps not only to clear my mind, but it also helps when it comes to sitting down and composing. People also play an important part in my music.  I’ve always enjoyed meeting people. After spending time talking with them and exchanging stories, I often take something away from the exchange that I can later use in my music.  For instance, my singles Give Thanks, Child’s Wish, Andante, and Little Dance were all a result of personal interactions.

Pam: What do you say when asked to describe your music?
Cory: "If you take the music of Jim Brickman and George Winston, put it into a blender, and hit Blend, then you’ll have Cory Lavine.”  If you like soothing, soft solo piano music, then my music might be what just you are looking for. It will help you to relax and may even put you to sleep.
Speaking of which, one of my classmates from high school purchased my album and told me her three-year old daughter might be my youngest fan! When she goes down for her nap, the only thing she wants to listen to is my album.  Her mother can’t believe it and just laughs! 

Pam: So you think about your listeners when you’re composing?
Cory: I do. When I’m composing, I think a lot about my audience. Will people be simply listening to my music or will they be interested in performing it also? Regardless, I believe creating music that has feeling and emotion is of the utmost performance. If I can't move MYSELF to do that, then I am not going to move my listeners either. It’s that simple. My song Child’s Wish was probably one of my most emotional pieces I connected with off my album. With this song, as with all of my pieces, I tried to immerse myself in the music - not to allow myself to become distracted. In this piece, I wanted to be true to the young girl and to the family I was writing the song about, and to be true for those who would be listening to it. I teared up not only after meeting the family but also when it came to composing the piece. It all boils down to honesty and expression. If I can focus on that as the end result, then hopefully my listeners will take away much more than just the experience of listening to (or playing) a piece of music. They’ll have a song that they can really connect with as well.

Pam: What is the piece of music you are most proud of?
Cory: Wow, this is a tough one.  I might have to say Out of the Blue. The way this song came about and the way I got back into my music after so many years is just short of a miracle! This song really ties together everything about my faith, life, and my music. I believe it represents the best of me as an artist and also those who played a part in my journey. 
This song was so far removed from anything else on the album that I wasn't sure at first if I was even going to use it. But after thinking long and hard about how everything came to be in both my life and in my music not only did it make it onto the album, but eventually it became the title track.

Pam: What are you working on now?
Cory: Right now, Pam, I’m working on getting my music out there. This past Saturday, April 16th, I played my album at a wedding here in Tennessee. A local bride-to-be discovered my music through her fiance’s mother. As a result, both wanted me to play at her wedding. This was the second time since its release in September that my music has been featured in a wedding. The first time was at a wedding in Wisconsin.                                                                                                                                                                                            
Pam: Anything else?
Cory: Sure, a couple of things. First don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be whatever it is you want to be in life. You have to believe in yourself. Sometimes it’s going to be two steps forwards and four steps back. When that happens, you pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and keep moving towards your goal. Period.  Perseverance is key. Second, I believe you need to be passionate about whatever it is you want to achieve in life. That passion and drive will get you through anything or anyone that’s standing in the way of you and your dreams. And sometimes, that one thing or person holding you back may be yourself. There will be setbacks and times when you feel like giving up.  But as long as you believe in yourself and remain passionate about your goals and dreams, there is nothing that can stand in the way of you achieving them. 

Recently, Steve and Chrissie Sheppard of United Kingdom based One World Music Radio did three audio segments on the debut release of my album. The first segment was the Album Show which goes into detail about each of the songs off the album; the songs are played in their entirety. The second segment was the Featured Artist, in which Chrissie interviews me via Skype. Last, Steve did an Album Review. This is about 7:25 long, and a great way for new fans and listeners to get a preview of what my debut release is all about. For the month of March, my album debuted at #3 on their One World Music Radio Top 100!!  For the month of April, I found out Tuesday I dropped three places to #6.  With the help of your readers and mine, listening to those different audio segments, we can send my album Out of the Blue up the charts to the #1 spot!  And I am the Artist of the Month for April!  Hopefully this time next month I will be able report back to let you know "we" made it to #1! All of these audio segments can be found here on MixCloud or at my Blog page.

If your readers, Pam would like to learn more about this, my music, or about myself, they can visit my website, Cory Lavine. On my Blog page, for instance, your readers can get more information about my music along with the stories and comments from my fans. The About page reveals more of my personal story. And finally, to keep up to date with all the latest developments surrounding my music, you can sign up for my monthly newsletterIn-tune.  I would love to hear from your readers.

For one’s “Streaming” pleasure, my music can be found online at Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, Enlightened Piano Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, Solo Piano, and others.

In closing, I would like to thank you so much, Pam, for the honor and opportunity of sharing a little bit about my life’s journey and music with you and your readers. It’s been fun.

Cory Lavine
Pianist & Composer
Nashville, TN. 

* * *

Thank YOU, Cory, for sharing so deeply of yourself - not only in this interview, but also in your willingness to host a GIVEAWAY! That's right - one lucky reader will receive your choice of a copy of Cory's CD or sheet music book Out of the Blue. All you have to do to be entered in the drawing is leave a comment mentioning your preference for winning a CD or a book of sheet music. The winner will be chosen at random at midnight on Sunday, May 1, 2016. For a second chance to win, leave a question or comment at Cory's blog, where this interview also appears. Good luck!

Monday, April 18, 2016

On the blog again...

We are made to persist. That's how we find out who we are.
― Tobias Wolff

Back in October when I wrote this blog post, showing up three times a week seemed possible. But my responsibilities as a piano teaching professional just keep growing and, well, writing has continued to take a back burner to everything else.

But I miss writing. And my readers keep telling me they miss ME. So I'm going to try, try again with the theme "Persistent Distractions" on Mondays, "Books and Writing" on Wednesdays, and "My Music World" on Fridays.

I think I can.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Welcome Guest Author Tamara LeBlanc!

Thank you so much for having me on your wonderful blog, Pam! I’m thrilled to be here today in order to let your followers know a little about myself and my new book available now in print and e-book formats.

I'm a fiction writer and author of contemporary, paranormal and historical romances layered with eroticism that builds into a satisfyingly happy ending…in more ways than one.
I've been writing all my life, creating characters, fashioning plots, researching ideas. But about eleven years ago I met my critique group and with their help I moved forward in my career by joining Georgia Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America. I owe much of my success to these three phenomenal groups.

My newly released novel The Mayor’s Bride; A Match in Magnolia Falls Romance is the first in a series set in the fictional town of Magnolia Falls, Georgia. Though the books in this series are linked by family they are completely stand alone as well and all end with a happily ever after.

Here is the blurb:
When Alex York, the Mayor of Magnolia Falls, hears his young son speak for the first time in two years, he immediately hires the woman responsible to be the boy’s live-in nanny. Though Alex never intends to seduce her into his bed, Ella Slipper’s endearing eccentricities, rebellious nature and startling blue eyes are impossible to resist.   Ella wants to keep things professional, but she can’t help melting in Alex’s arms.  He might help her forget the pain of her past, but can she let the sexy single dad into her heart?

Pinning her gently against the wall he cupped her face in both hands. “Ella.” The way he said her name, hardly more than a whisper, made it seem like the air itself held its breath in anticipation. Raw emotion darkened his green eyes. He leaned in and pressed his lips against hers.
Their first kiss had been rough and hungry. They’d fallen into bed in a frenzy and he’d wasted no time separating her from her towel. 
This was different. 
He took his time, like he wanted to savor every second. The softness of his lips, the gentle pressure against her mouth, the warmth of his fingers sliding into her hair, spun the butterflies into a vortex of frantic fluttering in her core.
This kiss was different, but just as thrilling and sexually intoxicating as it had been last night. 
Her lips parted beneath his, inviting his tongue to caress the recess of her mouth. Her brain and knees were made of bubbles. She held on tight so she wouldn’t float away.

I truly enjoyed writing this story. The relationship between Ella, Alex and his little boy, Eric, is not a complicated one, but I believe its emotional appeal is relevant enough to ring true.
Love does not always come easily. Sometimes it eludes us, frustrates us, makes us want to pull our hair out, but to me, crafting a happily ever after in the wake of turmoil and despair can be very satisfying, both as an author and a reader.
Love is worthwhile. Love is necessary. Love is as important as air.
So is a good book.
I hope you feel the same way about The Mayor's Bride that I do.

I love hearing from you.
To connect with me,

Happy reading and best wishes,

Tamara LeBlanc
Award Winning Author
The Mayor's Bride; A Match in Magnolia Falls Romance
Available: CLICK HERE

NOTE: Tamara is giving a FREE DOWNLOAD of The Mayor's Bride to one lucky reader! Just leave a comment below to be entered into the drawing. Comments will close at midnight on Friday, November 20th. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


From the back cover:
With the holidays around the corner, empty nester Bren Epperson realizes that for the first time in decades, she has no large family to cook for and no celebration to create. Her daughter has moved to Thailand, her son has ditched college to backpack around the world, and her husband has disappeared into the basement to indulge his midlife crisis.

So Bren starts teaching a holiday cooking class, and it's a hit - until Virginia Mash, the old lady living upstairs, bursts in, complaining of the noise, the smells, and the mess. Rather than retaliate, Bren suggests that the class shower Virginia with kindness. So they embark on a plan to lift a heart.

As much as Bren Epperson, would like to turn back the hands of time, she has no choice but to deal with the fact that this Christmas isn't going to be like the happy Christmases of the past. Everyone else seems to have moved on without her - her grown children, independent and living far away; her self-indulgent husband, too preoccupied with his own affairs to pay her any attention; even her widowed mother and aunt making plans to spend the holidays in Las Vegas. When she agrees to teach holiday cooking classes at the new kitchen shop, Bren hopes to find new meaning and purpose for the month of December.

But things don't go according to plan. Recipes fail, cookies burn, the noise level rises. Finally, Virginia Mash, whose apartment is situated directly above the busy classroom, decides she has had enough of the whole business and does everything in her power - even involving law enforcement - to stop the mayhem. And she doesn't make it easy for Bren and her students to execute their plan to "kill her with happiness," showering her with one hundred gifts. But as the reasons for Virginia's anger and bitterness are revealed, Bren and her students become even more determined to see their plan through to the end.

This is a great holiday read, an exploration of the challenges many midlife women face as they attempt to create "the perfect Christmas" for their families while floating in a sea of restlessness and self-doubt. I very much enjoyed spending time with Bren and her new friends and cannot help but wonder if there might be someone in my own life who might benefit from a hundred gifts - or maybe just one. Five warm and fuzzy stars! Very highly recommended!

And now I have an early Christmas gift for my readers! Just leave a comment below and you will be entered in a drawing for your own copy of The Hundred Gifts. Comments will close at midnight on Saturday, November 14th and the winner will be announced the following Monday. Good luck!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Best-Laid Plans

It was amazing how you could get so far from where you'd planned, and yet find it was exactly were you needed to be.
~ Sarah Dessen

It started out as a tickle in my throat, a bit of a headache, some minor head congestion. Three days later it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed on a Saturday morning - feverish, swallowing glass, coughing uncontrollably - and show up for a out-of-town job adjudicating a piano festival. Knowing I was beaten, I paid the doctor a visit on the way home. He diagnosed a sinus infection and prescribed antibiotics, a steroid, and some strong cough medicine. I picked up my prescriptions, changed into my pajamas, and crawled into bed. You just need some time to rest, I assured myself. You'll be back to your healthy, energetic self by Monday. 

Except I wasn't. Last Monday morning I canceled my first several piano lessons so I could sleep just a little while longer. And even though I somehow managed to keep up with what I absolutely HAD to do - teach most of my students, attend a piano ensemble rehearsal Monday night and a music teachers association meeting Wednesday morning, fill a random custom Etsy order that came in - all I could think about was what I WASN'T getting done as the days ticked by. Practicing the piano and the clarinet. Polishing my presentation for the upcoming Georgia Music Teachers Association state conference. Plotting this year's NaNoWriMo novel. I didn't even have the energy to read. All I really wanted to do was sleep.

Now it's a whole week later and I am happy to report I am feeling much, much better. I am not totally symptom-free but at least I can get through a day without Hydrocodone; I am running at about sixty-five percent capacity but that's a tremendous improvement. Yesterday I felt well enough to start strong with NaNoWriMo (1676 words!) and to attend my first rehearsal with the newly-formed Gwinnett Symphony Wind Orchestra - my first time playing the clarinet in an ensemble since May 1981. (Turns out my stand-mate hadn't even been born yet, ha!) Now I have until Friday morning to polish up my conference presentation. And the piano is always there waiting patiently for me, now matter how sorely I neglect it.

So despite my occasional moments of despair over the past ten days, it appears I am now right where I need to be, with a renewed gratitude for the abundant health I am generally blessed with and a strong determination to take better care of myself and prevent future illness.

Do you NaNo? If so, I would love to be your writing buddy. Just search for pamasberry. And all my local followers are warmly invited to attend the GSWO's first-ever concert, to be held this Saturday evening at 7PM at the First Christian Church of Atlanta. Click HERE for details.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Celebrating Fall

Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own.
~ Charles Dickens

As hard as I have tried, I haven't been able find a way to hold onto summer. Despite my penchant for sundresses and flip-flops, the days of long sleeves and fleece-lined boots have arrived. Might as well stop the resistance and make the best of them, I decided.

So I have replaced the worn-out summer annuals with mums and pansies

and bundled up in sweats to enjoy long walks in my sunny neighborhood.

I am back to work on the granny square afghan I started months ago,


putting the finishing touches on my presentation for the Georgia Music Teachers Association fall conference in November,

and gearing up for NaNoWriMo.

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month
So what if autumn isn't my favorite season of the year? I really don't have to look very hard to find plenty of reasons to celebrate it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

THE BEST OF ENEMIES by Jen Lancaster

From inside the dust jacket:
Bridesmaids meets Big Little Lies in a novel told from the alternating perspectives of two women who define the term frenemies - from New York Times bestselling author Jen Lancaster.

The central characters of this story are Jacqueline Jordan, a hardcore journalist who has been in the Middle East for the past ten years, and Kitty Carricoe, soccer mom extraordinaire. The only thing these two women have in common is their mutual best friend Sarabeth Chandler, and their differences turned into mutual hatred back in college when Jack "accidently" hooked up with Kitty's boyfriend.

But their love of Sarabeth is greater than their differences, so both women drop everything to be with their friend when they learn that her wealthy and powerful husband has died in a suspicious plane crash. Eventually, they decide to put aside their differences and go on a road trip together in order to solve the mystery.

I will admit that I had a bit of a hard time getting started with this book. I found the prologue to be a bit confusing (albeit hilarious) and the first chapter was written from the point of view of the shallow and snobbish Kitty Carricoe. I wouldn't choose to spend time with her in real life and wasn't sure I would be able to stomach her personality in fiction. But I'm glad I stuck it out. This turned out to be a great women's friendship story, with the author using both humor and sarcasm to portray the challenges of a three-way friendship. In the end, this book was highly entertaining, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and enough plot twists to keep me up until the wee hours to find out the truth about the plane crash. Turns out Jen Lancaster is as gifted a fiction writer as she is a memoir writer. I can hardly wait to dig into her backlist!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.