Greetings and salutations, friends! It’s really hard to believe it’s been a year since this whole madness started. The other day, a friend told me that he has anxiety dreams where he left the house for work and he’s NOT wearing a mask! You know we’re in a messed up place where pandemic life is so normalized, that we’re having anxiety dreams about NORMAL times!
The good news is that gigs are getting booked, and people are starting to plan concerts again. Live music is gradually coming back! STAY TUNED…
What were YOU doing one year ago right before the world changed? I’ll tell you what I was doing.
I took my last flights to and from Orlando, FL for the annual ASTA (American String Teachers Association) National Conference. I’ve been involved with this organization for a decade now and have given presentations at the conference every year. Anyway, last year I was there to giver a masterclass and a workshop on “Live Looping and Arranging with your School Orchestra.” but the highlight for me was an unforgettable performance on Thursday Night organized by my good friend Jesus Florido. This was a night dedicated to featuring electric string players. Jesus recruited Al DiMeola’s rhythm section to be the house band, and the concert included him, myself, Martha Mooke, Tracy Silverman, Mark Wood, and we had special guests like cellist Greg Byers, legendary fiddler Mark O’Connor and his wife Maggie, and fiddle badass Vi Wikham jump on stage. It was truly an all-star cast and the vibe was magical, as was the hang with all the presenters and students that weekend. I also got to crash and hang out with the head of my label, Melodic Revolution Records, Nick Katonah and his lovely wife Jennifer.
As soon as I flew back, I did a 4-day regional tour in NY/NJ with Stratospheerius, Potter’s Daughter, and Dark Beauty. The final show we played was at Olive’s in Nyack, NY on Saturday, March 14th, just as it felt like the world was ending and everything was shutting down. Every night as attendance dwindled and attendance was sparse, all the bands took a vote whether to cancel the next concert. Each night, the majority voted to continue and get through the tour before going into quarantine. Talk about raging against the dying of the light! I joked that it felt like we were that string quartet playing on the Titanic as it was sinking. The love and camaraderie between the bands was so beautiful and those who attended the shows were really grateful that we played. Looking back one year later, I have no regrets. Here’s a group pic from our last show on March 14th, 2020.
We are sitting on some very exciting projects right now; a new live album and DVD due out later this year and a new studio album due out next year! We’ve released four singles from the album already, but wait until you hear the epic, gargantuan juggernaut of a song we are putting together as we speak! This is probably the most ambitious song this band has ever written or recorded. Just wait (hee hee hee. Rubs hands together ).
Stratospheerius is proud to release our new song, “Cognitive Dissonance.” The track features special guest vocalist, Randy McStine. Randy is a rising star in the prog world, having toured with Sound of Contact, Robben Ford, Stu Hamm, Jane Getter, and recently putting out two amazing albums with the great drummer Marco Minneman. Randy is a brilliant multi-instrumentalist, having toured with our band on guitar, bass, and drums! He’s also an incredible singer/songwriter.
Cognitive Dissonance is tells the story of how we are born a blank slate. Over time, our elders teach us who we’re supposed to hate, whether on religious, racial,or politically ideological grounds.We wanted to use green and red claymation characters to represent two opposing sides. In the first verse, they’re kids playing soccer, then the mother shows up and breaks up the play, pointing at the red guy and staying he’s evil and not to be trusted.
Second verse, the characters get older and spew hate on social media on their cell phones. You see shit flying out of the phones and turning into little shit men fighting. The second verse also has imagery of abeating heart representing a ticking time bomb, a baby with innocent eyes, and a brief scene of a mob with torches on the line “let’s start a fire and burn this whole place to the ground.”
I wrote these lyrics a year ago but with recent events on January 6th, they were eerily prophetic.
The big jam at the end has the claymation characters don instruments and do battle in a fiery abyss, finally exploding into the along with the planet they inhabit, melting into the cosmos, eternal prisoners of their own hatred for each other, the memory of the innocent childhood playdate erased.
We interspersed the claymation with performance footage. All the footage was shot in quarantine but we wanted to spice it up with some visual effects to break up the monotony of the typical “quarantine” video.
Thanks to our good friend/drummer extraordinaire, Patrick Carmichael for the claymation.
Recorded by Rave Tesar. Mixed and mastered by Rich Mouser. Artwork by Nick Katona. Video editing by Joe Deninzon.
I am currently accepting new students. Sign up for lessons with me through www.stringmasters.com and get a complimentary 30 min introductory lesson!
Learn about fundamental techniques and repertoire, classical, rock, jazz, funk, chop and groove techniques, fiddle styles, gear, and more! Acoustic and electric players are welcome. Also, check out my new lesson series on the site, “Chop Til You Drop.”
If you want to be in the INNER CIRCLE. Get monthly unreleased bootlegs, song sketches, free swag, concert tickets, be privy to my innermost thoughts and secrets, please join my Patreon. For as little as $5, you’ll get a lot of free goodies and you’ll be helping me feed my music habit.
Finally, pleas visit my bandcamp page if you want downloads, vinyl, mugs, t-shirts, books, and more.
Also, I now have 114 string arrangements on sheet music plus of original material and covers. if you have a string duo, trio, quartet, or string orchestra, check out my selections. Much more to come….
Stay safe, get vaccinated, and I look forward to seeing all of you face to face and trading in the virtual hugs for some real ones.
Hope you’re staying safe and not losing your minds yet. 2020 has been a dark vortex of misery, and I like all of you am glad to send it into the dustbins of history.
The good news is that we will all (hopefully soon) will be vaccinated, and when this thing ends, (and it WILL end), people will be hungry for live music and entertainment like never before! So whatever you do, don’t say that this its the “new normal,’ cause to me, that’s just admitting that this situation is permanent, and I refuse to go softly into that goodnight, my friends…
That’s right, folks! Please visit my BANDCAMP store and get 20 percent off when you type the code “holidaze2020” at the checkout. Get deep discounts on vinyl, mugs, t-shirts, CD’s, and downloads! Available now until January 1st at MIDNIGHT!
This past October, Stratospheerius released one of most ambitions songs of all time, “Storm Surge.” Based on a 19th century solo piano piece by German Composer Friedrich Burgmuller, the song was co-written by me, our drummer Jason Gianni, and renowned SAGA lead vocalist Michael Sadler. The track features Michael as our guest lead vocalist, and other guest appearances by guitarist Fernando Perdomo, cellist Ruti Celli, NY-Phil Violinist (and my wife) Yulia Ziskel, and blind prodigy and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Flowers on piano and flute.
The track has been getting some love from Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services.
In 2015, I was commissioned to compose a solo piecer by my good friend/world-renowned violinist Rachel Barton Pine.
The result was an 11-minute piece called “The Electric Lake of Soul,” inspired by the novel “Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates” by one of my favorite authors, Tom Robbins. On December 4th, the day after my birthday, Rachel performed this piece as part of her weekly “Family Fridays” livestream series. She plays my piece right after a caprice by one of my favorite violinist/composers of all time, Mark O’Connor. Check it out!
All of these projects that I’m involved in cost money; Paying musicians, engineers, videographers, promoters, managers, etc etc etc. I would love nothing more than to continue making music for you and the rest of the world to enjoy and to hopefully inspire people. In these dark and uncertain times, it is harder than ever for us musicians to survive. Live gigs have all but disappeared, and I am mainly teaching and recording online, which provides a fraction of the income I had before the pandemic. It will take a long time before I build up that revenue stream to come close to what I was making in the “before time.” Patreon is a wonderful site which enables fans of artist to subscribe for as little as $5 per month. In return, you get a monthly free unreleased download, bootlegs, exclusive sneak peaks, early access to new releases, private concerts, music lessons, free swag, and more!
Attention String Players and Orchestra Teachers! Joe Deninzon string arrangements NOW AVAILABLE on www.sheetmusicplus.com!
Over the years, I’ve written string duos, trios, quartets, and string orchestra arrangements for weddings, high school and college residencies, music camps, hired arrangements projects, and just for my own enjoyment. Some people curl up with a good novel, but I love to sit with my laptop, sip a beer and crank out string arrangements. It’s my therapy & takes me to my happy place. Anyway, I have over 100 titles and will be uploading plenty more in the next few months.
Music by ACDC, Journey, Guns N Roses, Nirvana, Coldplay, The Beatles, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Queen, Van Halen, Rihanna, Tylor Swift, Katie Perry, and much much much more! I also have original pieces up there. Check it out! Arrangements for levels ranging from beginner/intermediate advanced!
Visit my store at: www.sheetmusicplus.com
It is my great honor to teach alongside such great artists and colleagues in the “multi-style” string universe. Strings Without Boundaries is a program founded by violinist Julie Lyonn Lieberman, who has been a pioneer in the field of “alternative/multi-style” string playing for over 40 years! I have contributed to her latest book, “A Festival of Violin and Fiddle Styles,” and had a chance to teach at her online symposium this past summer. She has put together an incredible world-renowned faculty to teach this virtual schmorgasbord of classes. There is no tuition and classes can be taken a-la-carte. Visit the website for the schedule and list of classes. www.stringswithoutboundaries.com Mine will include:
-How to Read Chord Charts and Lead Sheets
-Getting in the Groove
-Intro to Live Looping
-Learn the solo to “Stairway to Heaven.”
A little over a year ago, my son Max was playing a short piano piece by 19th century composer Friedrich Burgmüller, called “The Storm.” The piece was stuck in my head because I would hear him practicing it every day. I started to imagine it as a rock power ballad and began to sketch out a slowed down version with the basic chord changes and structure.
I had no lyrics, but I showed it to my band and we laid down the rhythm tracks in May of 2019. Long story short, we got backed up with other projects and here we are a year later!
Our drummer, Jason Gianni, has a sketch of a song he never finished that he thought would be a perfect fit as an insert to the song. I layered a huge string orchestra on top of that section and recruited the great Fernando Perdomo to lay down a soaring guitar solo.
Next, I was hearing a flute during the breakdown section that followed. We have never had a flute, or any woodwinds for that matter, on one of our recordings!I asked the genius multi-instrumentalist Rachel Flowers to play flute and lay down a piano track for the song. Rachel has been blind since age 3 and plays piano, flute, bass, guitar, drums, stick, sings, and records and mixes her own albums! I’ve meet and worked with hundreds of talented people in my career, but don’t think I have ever met a person with this level of talent! Check out the documentary about her, “Hearing is Believing,” on Amazon Prime.
Finally, I’ve been into the idea of using outside singers in Stratospheerius. Up until his time, I have always been the lead vocalist. The new album we are slowly putting together will have feature many special guests.
We’ve been longtime fans of the 80’s Canadian band “Saga,” bee known for their hits “Wind Him Up” and “One The Loose.” When we played the afterparty at Progstock back in 2018, Saga’s lead singer Michael Sadler caught our set after his performance at the festival, and was raving about the band! We were incredibly humbled to receive such words of encouragement from such an iconic artist in the world of prog.
We felt Michael’s voice would be perfect for this song! He ended up contributing a jaw-dropping vocal performance, enhancing the melody, and adding Queenesque harmonies. As a side note, he and his wife Gwen turned out to be some of the nicest and most gracious people I have ever worked with!
So in the end, the song is awriting collaboration between myself, Friedrich Burgmüller, Jason Gianni, and Michael Sadler.
Storm Surge is about the anxiety we all feel in these uncertain times. With the global pandemic, racism and the continuing struggle for social justice, climate change, political upheaval, economic turmoil, and a future of uncertainty, there is a storm that’s raging inside of us right now.
This Saturday, Stratospheerius will be live-streaming our first full band performance since March. Thank you to our friend Matt Vanacoro for letting us use his studio! The performance will culminate with the WORLD PREMIER of the STORM SURGE video!