Monday, February 28, 2011

Jam for the Fans Information

Jam for the Fan tickets will go on sale Tuesday March 1st around lunch time. We will first put out a Facebook and Twitter announcement with the information you will need to order tickets, and we will then send a mass emailing a few hours later. (On Facebook, make friends with NerissaandKatryna Nields, or you can "like" The Nields. To follow us on Twitter, follow NerKat.)

Dates: June 10-12 2011

Package includes:

Friday evening: Registration and happy gathering time (snacks included)
Friday night: *Open mic (package purchasers will have first option to sign up)
Saturday Morning: *Family show
Saturday day: Scavenger/ Treasure Hunt
Saturday Evening: *Iron Horse show- 20 Year celebration. ALL members of the Nields will take the stage at some point!
Sunday Morning: Gospel Brunch (show only, food can be purchased separately)

Tickets for the whole package include a goodie bag with super fabulous (high quality) premium items and a BINGO card for a special round of Nields Bingo before the Iron Horse show!

Adult tickets will be $100 plus a $5 processing free.

A word on children: We have decided that the best way to deal with ticket prices for kids age 10 and under is to allow you to buy their tickets a la carte. There will be a VERY limited number of a la carte kids' tickets to the Sunday morning Gospel brunch so if you want those, order immediately.

Here are the a la carte Kid prices for Jam for the Fans:
Friday Night- Open MIc and Welcome Party free for kids accompanied by adults who have weekend passes
Saturday Morning- Family Show $5 for kids accompanied by adults who have weekend passes. Without the weekend pass, tickets for the Family show is $10 for adults, $5 for kids, babies under age 1 are free.
Saturday Evening- Iron Horse $20- limited supply
Sunday Morning- Gospel Brunch $10- VERY limited supply

If you buy the WHOLE kid package for $35, the child will get a special Nields Goodie Bag, Jr.
We are going to compile a list of babysitters for the weekend for you out of towners, but we cannot guarantee you a babysitter.

There will only be 90 adult tickets available.

* some tickets will be available for these events separate from the package, with the exception of the Gospel Brunch which will be for Full Package purchasers only.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Muse Food

It's Day One of our Mid Winter/Almost March-Spring-Can't-Be-Far-Off Retreat. Our theme is Feeding and Nurturing Your Muse. I have people writing in every corner of my house. We just had a nourishing meal of Butternut Gruyere Tart and Roasted Corn & Kale Soup. I stayed home from yoga today to focus on the theme, the food, the house, madly tossing huge pieces of furniture into closets so that my writers would have clear spaces on which to sit. I consulted recipes in cookbooks and then did what I usually do--wing it. I had some interesting food allergies to work with: a no-onions vegetarian, someone who is gluten-free, not to mention the hostess who is sugar and flour free. Tom had hidden the blade for the Cuisinart, so the ingredients of the soup which I'd intended to puree came out fully intact, which ended up being better anyway.

Things usually are better when I let someone other than me into play. Why do I forget this over and over again? It's the lesson God's been trying to teach me ever since I was a kid and didn't think it was such a great idea to have a little sister. You can see how that turned out. Good thing I wasn't the boss of that. And this is lesson #1 in Feeding the Muse: let the muse in. Don't doubt. I have observed, in years upon years of running writing groups, that we writers almost inevitably think that our work is bad as it's coming out of us. Oh, sure, every once in a while we have a Nanci Griffith moment where a song pours out of our mouths into our pens on onto the page in ten minutes, but more often than not, it's a tortuous process where the draft feels like it's all hemless and hopeless. It's not. Trust. Have faith in your own process. Also, you are not necessarily the best judge of your own work. In an interview with Matthew Sweet I read in the 90s, he said something to the effect that some other, more experienced and celebrated songwriter had said to him, "Just wait till you get a hit. You will be shocked which song it turns out to be."

What is Muse Food?

Well, of course, it's different for everyone. Just as each of us has our own particular food predilections, aversions and allergies, so do our muses. Some like to go to art museums. Some NASCAR races, Some use Libraries. One writer friend I know gets inspiration from really junky TV.
My favorites sources these days are:

Long walks and talks with Tom
My minister Steve Philbrick's sermons
Self-righteous documentaries that tell me the planet is going to hell because of corporate greed and quarter pounders with rBGH cheese
Bob Dylan albums
A daily run
Yoga practice
That book (whatever is currently compelling me)
Ted Talks
Taking a bath with my kids
Doing a puzzle with my kids
Cleaning out a drawer
Tidying a room, especially the sorting, dusting, arranging
Cooking a meal from scratch
Having a frustrating conflict and talking it out
Making a themed snack for my kids. The picture above is from a snack entitled "White Plate Snack." Very popular.

When I go too long without these things, my lens shrinks. My mind is less a glittering room full of color and texture and bright natural light and more a dull, depressing studio whose one window looks out on its neighbor's brick wall.

One way to starve my muse is to give me something to count--like calories, or items in my budget--or something to worry about--like where my daughter is going to kindergarten (and therefore, naturally, where she will go to college; who her friends will be, how mentally healthy she will be, etc.). The other way is to make me extremely busy. Though it's not the regular busyness that throttles the muse. My muse actually likes a busy Nerissa. The kind of busy where the laundry sits on the bed for an hour or so while I'm making the yogurt, and there are forms to fill out that get mailed, and the trip to the bank gets wedged in after child-pick-up and we stop at the co-op to get bananas, and then I race home to coach a client, make dinner, tidy the house for the writing group, write a song, fill the dishwasher, kiss Tom and go to sleep--that kind of busy is fine. It's the kind of busy where I notice I haven't spoken to my parents in weeks, I tell Katryna "I can't talk right now, sorry, overwhelm" and I miss evening meditation--that kind of busy does me and my muse in.

What are some of your favorite ways to feed your muse?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fun Family Music Links

Wonderful interview of Katryna by our friend poet and mom Amy Dryansky on her great blog Pokey Mama.

And....drumroll please.. announcing our new blog, Singing in the Kitchen!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Savoring: Another Artist/Mom Post

It's Tuesday afternoon, which means I am writing with my Tuesday group, a delightful group of woman (and man) who travel as far as the Eastern part of the state and as near as down the street to exercise their "show up" muscles and visit with their muses. I am so grateful for these fellows on the writers journey I almost don't know what to say. I love the moment when we shut our lap tops and pause before we take turns reading. I am constantly amazed by what bubbles up in these fifty minutes sessions.

Today I re-read an email from a former client, asking when I would teach a workshop called "Guitar Chords for Dummies" (twist my arm--sounds like fun) and noting that she is off taking her son to visit colleges. "Time flies," she wrote. "Savor every minute."

That was helpful. As I sat down with Elle to practice her little violin, I got as present as I could, pushing from my mind all the things I wanted to jump up and do (such as sort through the gigantic tub of her drawings and paintings, none of which I seem to be able to part with) and instead let her practice at her own speed. She wants to play her "Twinkle" variations as fast as she can; when do I interrupt to encourage her to refine her pitch or draw her awareness to her wrist alignment? Today I said, "Let's let the CD play the harder variations and just listen to them go by." "Yes," she agreed. "Then we can just, you know, relax." As she said this, in the timbre of a tweener, bobbing her head side to side and gesticulating with her wrists. "Sometimes it's fun to relax."

Out of the mouths of babes.

Savoring is my creed. And most days, with savoring--being present, being attentive, being grateful--it goes pretty well. But there are times when the old anxiety dragon yawns, and its loud hot breath prickles the back of my neck, and I start to think I should be doing something more...important. Timeless. Making something that will last. Writing a classic song. Publishing my poor neglected novel. Inventing something that will save the planet from climate change, or at least make the life of a mother with small children easier.

Oh, and bring in huge amounts of income so I never have to wake up in the middle of the night worrying about things like burial insurance and other morbid-flavored thoughts.

One of the pratfalls of parenthood is that one can mistake the real and practical need to make a living to support these blessings we call kids with the delusion that our kids (or we) will die if they
-don't go to private school
-don't have iPods
-don't have dance classes
-don't get to play video games
-ever utter the phrase "I'm bored"
-don't go on a trip abroad before they are 18
-don't get squeezy yogurts in the lunch bags "like all the other kids."

I am sure, if you work closely with kids, you have your own list. When I am not in my savoring mode, I get hooked into believing that I need to run around acquiring all these desires (and many of them are mine, not my kids') and that if I do, everything will be OK. They will grow up happy, they will be high functioning, talented, socially integrated adults and most importantly, they will love me and never fail to mention the word, "Mama" without that soft, dreamy far away look in their eyes.

And I still want to be an artist on my own terms, which means, most likely, never making a higher salary than that of a (private school) kindergarten teacher.

As I am sure I have written here before, Katryna and I are gearing up for our big Twentieth Anniversary weekend called Jam for the Fans, June 10-12, here in Northampton. It's going to be a Nields reunion of sorts. My ex husband David is flying up from North Carolina to play a few songs with us ("I'm rusty," he cautioned me. "So it really has to be just a few songs.") I ran into Dave Hower, our drummer, in Thornes Marketplace last week. He is about four weeks away from becoming a new dad himself. He will be onstage with us at the Iron Horse as we blast through our 20 year repertoire. I am excited, terrified, in denial, dissociated and curious about the whole weekend, even as I try to market it and build it and manifest it. Which is pretty much the way I have lived my whole life.

But most of all I want to savor it. And to that end, I am going to pace myself, just as Elle paces herself with her Twinkle variations. I will gear up, and I will stay present and witness. I will show up for myself and my family and my bandmates.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

My Grandmother's Couch

After our gig in Watchung NJ last weekend, Katryna and I spent the night for the last time at our grandmother's apartment in Manhattan. Readers of this blog will recall that she died at the age of 103, in her home, last July. Since then, her daughters have been painstakingly going through her effects and trying to decide what to keep and what to throw away. As you might imagine, there is much to keep, even if it seems of no value. I don't know how they are doing it. Every third item they pick up is drenched in history, significance, some kind of import connected with a woman who outlived a century, and who happens to be their mother. Even the shoelaces seem to hold value. As someone who hates clutter (and yet can't let go a single paper I wrote even a line of lyric on, let alone a drawing by one of my children) I do not envy them this task. I have a rule: I can't bring anything into my house unless I give something else away. And as the recent beneficiaries of several lovely pieces of furniture from my mother-in-law, we don't have a lot of space anymore. As my mother and aunt ask me what I would like to take from the apartment, I feel as stymied as they do. What do I really want? What will bring my grandmother to mind in a lovely quotidian way? And what is just 80-year-old clutter?

Even the things of value are suspect. The books, for example. Actually, the books are the perfect example: they pain me so. No one wants them. What of the Encyclopedia Brittanica? I lusted after these volumes when I was a high school student, begging my parents to buy me a set only to be told they were too expensive. Now I can have my grandmother's--but why? Who needs 120 pounds of dusty old books when there's Wikipedia? And the books are dusty. My eyes water when I get near them. Will my kids really read them? Will their information from 1945 even be accurate?

And no one else wants the books. They are not worth that much, and do I really want to box them up, lug them down seven flights, pack them into the van and drive them home, and then search for space on our limited shelves? I can have the complete collection of Shakespeare on Kindle for free, after all, and that weighs about four ounces and takes up approximately one centimeter of shelf space.

But I haven't quite cottoned to the Kindle I was given for Christmas. After the initial excitement--and a week of the stomach flu during which time the only thing I could figuratively stomach was reading snippets on the Kindle of books on the Amazon website, which sadly led me to inadvertently purchase Portia deRossi's memoir on anorexia (oops) --the device is shoved into my book shelf next to the real books. I love real books. I have way too many. And so I stood on the stool next to the bookshelf, hovering. Should I take the Shakespeare? The Dickens? The Encyclopedias?

The apartment is a mess. When I talk to my mother about the huge task she has been involved in since last July, I want to swoop in and support her, wielding boxes, sharpies and packing tape, me a whirlwind of efficient helpfulness. And yet when I enter the space myself, I am overcome by a powerful inertia that is hard to explain. My mother and aunt had eleven days to empty the apartment, and the last time we were all together, I found them sitting on the floor each going through separate photo albums, exclaiming about their tiny young selves, their adventuresome mother (who traveled to every continent but Antarctica, I believe), seemingly oblivious to the enormity of their task. And yet I too felt suspended in time. I too couldn't figure out whether we should keep the yards and yards of raw fabric my seamstress grandmother had piled in one of her closets. "Here's a half knit sweater," my mother said, her voice pleading over the phone. "You are our knitter; do you want to finish it?" That time, I was paralyzed with indecision and left carrying just a paperback volume of the Upanishads from the seventies.

This time, we took a top hat that had belonged to my grandfather, and a tiny blue tulle ball gown. I will have to alter it; my grandmother weighed about 90 pounds for most of her life. Katryna and I are going to dress up for a photo shoot to commemorate our 20th anniversary of being professional musicians.

It takes time to make these decisions. The articles I kept from the estate of my other grandmother who died in 1996 are still precious to me; even such things as the cheap aluminum stew pot and the circa 1972 spatula, and the cracked unmatching china pieces. Every time I use these things, I think of her. Grief takes up time; books take up space. And for me, both are worth it, even when I think otherwise and want to barrel through with hard nosed efficiency.

In the end, I took the Shakespeare and the Dickens and left the rest. All week, my writers used the old volumes for prompts. On the inside cover of the Shakespeare, reads This is a limited edition of which 500 were bound. You are holding," and in red handwritten ink, "No. 158." They were published in 1899.

Today the rest of the furniture arrived. The weather is finally thawing up here in Massachusetts, and my kids danced on the porch and sang songs of joy to Shane and Miguel, the moving men who brought us my grandmother's couch, her bedroom rug and some other pieces. My mother got on a train this afternoon, and when I spoke with her, she was more tired than I have ever heard her. There is a second death in the releasing of these things that bind a person to the earth, and in letting them go, it can seem as though we are abandoning the beloved. I am glad we did the sorting, and tonight Elle and Jay bounced on the new (old) couch which I had bounced on as a child as young as either of them. Maybe one day one of them will claim it for his or her own and my grandchild will be bouncing too.

Monday, February 07, 2011

How to Launch A New Blog When You Already Have a Blog You Love

When I started this blog in 2004, my impetus was the immanence of Katryna's maternity leave and the resulting fact that I was losing my platform. I needed a way to blather without being on stage, and someone (I think Meth) suggested a blog. As an avid journalist (the kind who writes 3 pages a day in a composition book, not the kind who write for a newspaper)I was used to baring my soul on the page, and I figured blogging would be a nice synthesis of my daily pages and my songwriting.

I was hooked pretty quickly. What's not to love about writing in solitude and then publishing it right away and then getting feedback in the form of comments?

Pretty soon, I saw the pitfalls. A blogger who only blogs when she feels like it doesn't usually sustain an audience. Common wisdom dictates bloggers should post at least daily. And write short posts. And respond to all comments. And stick to their subject.

I broke all these rules. What was my subject? Usually just my life, prompting a couple of readers to label me narcissistic. Yes, well.

And yet, the blog goes on. There was a period of time readers might recall, when I blogged every day. This was in 2009, when my son was about six months old and my daughter almost three. It was fun to be so connected to the "page" when I was at the same time so deeply immersed in my babies, but the directive to post every day meant that my pieces lost something in terms of length and quality. I have not mastered the art of the short post.

But now, Katryna and I are getting ready to launch a new blog. And here's the truth; after blogging for going on seven (!!!) years, I still don't know much about the art and craft. This new blog needs to be about short posts. Titled "Singing In the Kitchen," it's to be an adjunct to our book which is coming out in September (All Together Singing in the Kitchen: Creative Ways to Make and Listen to Music as a Family). Our mission is to provide young families with ideas and stories and resources to be better able to bring music into their families, to make it a wonderful source of relationship building, bonding and community building. We hope to post several times a week; to recommend other artist and books and programs; to occasionally sing a lullaby via a podcast or YouTube video. We want to start a conversation with families about the many ways they incorporate music into their lives; how it can be a source of inspiration as well as immanently practical. And yet we don't want this blog to be a big corporate affair; after all, we are the Nields. It's going to be homemade, personal, imperfect and --it is to be hoped--lovable.

And so I need your help. What are your favorite blogs? Do you read any blogs about family or music to which we should connect and reference? Do you think it's necessary for a blogger to post every day? Do you hate reading long posts? (I guess you can't hate them too much, since you are reading me.) What about the look of the blog? Should we switch from Blogger to WordPress? Any tips you can give me will be helpful!

I forgot to say that another bit of conventional wisdom I hope to flout is that one should never write two blogs at once. I hope to keep May Day Cafe alive and strong, and make Singing in the Kitchen a success, and I really want to thank all of you who read this blog for sticking with me over the years. You have taught me much. Please continue to.