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Digging Deeper: Keep on Writing

When I was a freshman at Emerson College, I dropped out of the journalism program. Ok, not really dropped out. Transferred out. I met with the Chair of the Visual and Media Arts Department, and continued my Bachelor of Arts in audio/visual studies and production, focusing on music and sound. I didn’t hate writing or journalism, but I didn’t want to be a Broadcast Journalism major. I am not going to rehash that, as it’s been explained a few times, but I wanted to keep writing. Honestly, I just didn’t think I needed to pay college tuition to keep writing. If I was going to be paying for school, I wanted to learn something new. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t have had great writing classes. I’m not an editor. I love grammar (I just read two books about grammar, and the Nerd Alert is still flashing high), but I’m no grammar pro. There is always something to learn. Writing is not likely something that will ever leave my system. I started writing as a kid, but would get so frustrated, I’d end up deleting 80 pages of fiction and starting over. I’m very hard on myself. So, after leaving my journalism degree path, I kept writing for blogs, websites, news channels, etc. I reached out to magazine editors and columnists, as well as Emerson alum who were successful writers, to get feedback. I felt like I was back in a music studio at times–where interns and volunteer employees were churned through, creative work being seen as a dime a dozen due to a saturated industry. Sure, I like writing pop culture pieces, music and art critiques, personal blog styles posts…but I guess one could say the three  topics I really hone in on, the topics that get me fired up, are education, healthcare, and arts/culture. That includes careers, women’s issues, my love of music, you name it. So, an idea was brewing for a story, based on some health insurance concerns I’d seen and a few Twitter accounts I was following. I wanted to explore more, and I did. I’m happy to say that my piece about eating disorders and health insurance coverage (or the battle for coverage) is now up on Marie Claire’s website! I’m very excited to have worked with the wonderful editorial staff at Marie Claire, a magazine I have admired for some time. I’m very grateful for the support of this topic and the platform the magazine has provided for it.   Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 12.03.52 PM Please share it, discuss, and let me know what you think! I hope to work with the magazine again, but until then, I hope this article makes a difference. And thank you, Joanna, for sharing your story! -Farah

Curse of the Overachiever

If you, like me, always want to be doing All Of The Things, then listen up.

When I was fairly little, I told someone that I was afraid of dying young because I had too many things to do, or that I would die without achieving anything that mattered to me. Maybe that was kind of morbid for an elementary school girl to be saying, but it’s true. It’s still true.

I think, for most people who feel this way, you have a sort of “Oh Crap” moment, when you decide you’re going to go for it and try to get the Millenium Falcon into hyperdive, so to speak. Ophira Eiseinberg explained this well in her book, describing how, after a horrible car accident, she suddenly became proactive.

Nobody’s going to come knocking on your door and bring you what you’d like. Well, aside from pineapple pizza, but you still have to order that. I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I can blink and have pizza show up.

I've tried.

I’ve tried.

However, once realizing all that you want to do, and all that you have to do to get there, it’s likely you will not be the type of person who leaves their job at 5 PM, gets home, and then just relaxes until you fall asleep.

Even the New York Times did a piece this past December, profiling millennials and the fact that most of us don’t have just one job title. I definitely don’t see myself as having one job title. Most of my coworkers have jobs, freelance or part time, outside of our office, where they write, design, photograph, paint, archive, perform, etc.

A few years ago, I was working as a producer for a weekly children’s series, freelance writing and attending shows as a photographer, and performing in a band. I’d arranged to display some of my artwork in one of my favorite coffee shops after work, and the time had come for me to take the artwork down. I hurried over before they closed up, packed up the frames and wires, received some free and delicious baked goods that had not sold from the day (bonus!), and hobbled back to my bust stop with a heavy bag of frames, my work stuff, and a box of breakfast pastries under my arm.

It was a steamy day downtown, and the bus was not only packed, but stuck in horrible traffic. On top of everything else I was doing, I had told my sister I’d meet her at the cafe next to my apartment to review some music stuff before going home to make dinner. I was going to be late.

As the bus made its way to my neighborhood, I noticed my friend at the back of the bus. It was far too jam packed in there to try and say hello, so I just texted him to say, “Hey! We’re on the same bus! I’m going to meet Sarah. Want to join?”.

By the time we got off the bus, he told me he had to use the restroom. One of us suggested just stopping by my apartment, instead of walking another ten plus minutes to his place.

Then, we figured…well, the cafe has a bathroom! Problem solved.

I found my sister and sat down in a chair with all of my junk. My friend walked by me and mentioned something to me. I didn’t hear him, I was so frazzled at that point and it was loud in there. I figured he was just saying, “be right back, going to the bathroom.”

I ordered a drink. Sarah ordered a drink. We talked. He hadn’t come back.

Hey, hey, there. Didja fall in?

A barista hurried over to the counter, frantically waving about.

“Is there a doctor in here? There’s a young man in his twenties in the bathroom. I think he’s in cardiac arrest!”

Let me tell you (and if you know this feeling, I am so sorry), but if you think your friend is dying in the bathroom, it’s enough to put your body in panic attack mode. I didn’t know what to do.

Scared, I called my boyfriend. He was a certified Wilderness First Responder at the time, so my panic ridden mind thought he could at least help if we couldn’t get a doctor.*

Almost in tears, I told him that our friend was possibly having a heart attack or something in the cafe bathroom. What do I do while they call an ambulance?

“But…he’s here.”

Insert record scratch sound effect

Turns out, when he’d walked by us, he’d actually been saying, “yeah, I’m just going to your apartment and I’ll hang out with your boyfriend”, or something along those lines. He was not, in fact, dying in the bathroom.

Thankfully, a doctor from across the street came running in to help. Everyone else was asked to leave as the medics arrived. I went back to the cafe the next morning to see if everyone had been ok but, of course, they couldn’t tell me details due to privacy, which I understand. But whoever the young man was had been conscious when he was taken out of the cafe.

So, there’s one story when, in the midst of trying to do so much in one day, missing the fact that my friend had gone to my apartment caused me to think he was dying in a bathroom.

On another note, I give you my recent article for CollegeXpress.

*Since people have been concerned, please be assured that 911 was called immediately by the cafe staff, and patrons were then trying to find a doctor or someone certified to help in the meantime.

On Being Tough

What makes someone tough?

I’ve been mulling this over in my head for a while now, wrote this before going on vacation weeks ago, but decided to post it finally…now.

Because, really, what deems someone as tough?

Is being tough implied through the way we dress? Is it indicated by how much we yell, perhaps boss others around or intimidate them, or refuse to follow rules? Is it by how loud we are, or how angry we get? Is it by how toned our muscles are, or if we listen to heavy metal?

I’m honestly not wondering any of the above questions, because I think those are all stereotypes of what being tough is. Like the girls in high school who thought being a tough girl only equated to wearing combat boots and low cut shirts, it’s a misconception brought on by misinterpretation.

When I was very young, I think I may have thought of tough girls as tomboys, or girls who could stare scary monsters in the face, maybe.

For instance, I really liked the characters Christina Ricci played at the time. Kat, in Casper, was not afraid of ghosts. Wednesday Addams was just delightful. She had a dry sense of humor, didn’t wear pink (like me!), and didn’t take crap from people. Then, it may have been third grade, when Now and Then came out, I thought Roberta was the bees knees. Her character made me feel less afraid to play sports during recess but, again, I was misguided. I thought if that one boy who thought he was super tough, because he would kick the ball so hard nobody could block it, could be taken down during soccer, it would make me tough. I blocked his soccer goals with as much might as an eight year old can, and his face would get beet red and purple as the soccer ball pummeled me in the abdomen. No internal bleeding! And I’d stopped him.

Did that boy just say girls can't play softball? Uh-oh.

Did that boy just say girls can’t play softball? Uh-oh.

All of this lead to some awkward moments. At one point, a girl asked me who my idol was. I didn’t really know what an idol meant. She said it was someone you liked, like an actor. So, since I liked Now & Then, Casper, and The Addams Family and Ricci’s characters, I told this girl that Christina Ricci was my idol. This prompted much teasing in my direction. The other girl said her idol was Will Smith, but whatever. He punches aliens in the face, so I guess that was cooler. And let’s not forget this.

When I was a little bit older, I definitely thought Buffy Summers epitomized toughness.


Joss Whedon’s uproot of the blonde cheerleader trope still holds up, in my opinion. Sure, a cheesy teen show full of monsters at first sight, the show covered a wide range of topics, and turned the age old story of a vampire’s predatory attacks on young females into a steaming pile of poo.


But, like Buffy or even Roberta, the question really is…what makes someone tough?

Did I ask this already? I suppose, but I’m interested in the making portion of this question.

When I was maybe six or seven, a boy in my class started bullying me. He would try to hit me during recess, with large branches around the playground or other sticks, slap me in inappropriate places in class (which I realize indicates a much wider problem here), and push me when we’d play tag outside. When my mom addressed our principal with this issue, he just told her, “boys will be boys”. I remember this very clearly.

So, it was ok for a young boy to try and hit me and slap me, but the girl who took my snack would be reprimanded? I look back at this now and think it was backward for our principal to say that he thought this was ok for a little boy to behave this way. My second grade teacher then took me out of the class to talk to me about it. She told me to tell her the second this boy came after me again.

My mom then had a talk with me about standing up for myself. I remember having a similar conversation with her when a girl I didn’t know randomly attacked me at a rollerblading rink when I was a kid. She told me that, of course, fighting is not good, but it’s important to defend myself if someone is hurting me.

A little while later, my class was playing tag again in the playground. This boy was tagged it and immediately jumped on me. Instead of just tagging me, he pushed me into the ground, poured sand on my face, and then covered my mouth. So I pushed him–hard. I may have hit him in the face, I don’t know. But I heard my mom’s voice telling me to stand up for myself. My fellow seven year old friends saw it and my teacher helped me. I don’t remember this boy being in my class or near me much after this.

Did something like this help me to become more tough? Sure. But I don’t think the act of pushing someone makes me tough. I think the act of standing up for yourself, and not being sorry, does. Though I do remember this year as being when I started to say “sorry” too much, and I think I still do. Amy Poehler actually sums this up quite well.

I say “sorry” a lot.  When I am running late. When I am navigating the streets of New York. When I interrupt someone. I say, “Sorry, sorry, sorry”, in one long stream […] but this doesn’t mean I am a pushover. It doesn’t mean I am afraid of conflict or don’t know how to stand up for myself. I am getting to a place right in the middle where I feel good about exactly how much I apologize. It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to feel sorry for. (from Yes Please)

I know this feeling all too well. For some reason, along the way, “sorry” became a knee jerk reaction. I have since used “excuse me”, or “pardon me”, instead. Not much better, but hopefully insinuating that I was not apologetic, but get out of my way/please explain again/I am going to interrupt you.

See what I mean?

Still, I can’t stand hurting people’s feelings, and I think this translates to “pushover” to some people. But I’m no doormat, and I’ve realized that my way of being stern didn’t always come across as such. I also find it interesting in another way. If you, like me, genuinely try to be nice to all decent human beings, take time to listen to people’s problems, etc, people may assume that you also can’t connect the dots, or are otherwise a little dumb. I’m not sure where this comes from, but I’m going to blame social media, where everyone complains for attention, and nobody expects to be questioned. Is that too cynical?

I think there have definitely been some situations in my life where people were surprised I didn’t behave in a more angry way. Sure, I have found a few moments that would have been perfect to throw a drink in someone’s face. If only the landing post for that drink actually read this…


Some of the toughest people I know may seem quiet. They may be small, or friendly. Not at all someone you’d think of as a stereotypical tough guy/gal. Some of these people had really rough childhoods. Some of them have terrible diseases. And some of them have experienced horrific incidents. And they are what I call tough. They’re not mean, and they may not be loud unless they need to be. Some of them are dainty, or physically weak. All of them are nice and kind, warm people. And they kick ass.

I hope kids who are bullied recognize this, too, because I often misunderstood it as a kid, until maybe high school. Being mean is not tough, and often those who are cruel are actually much more weak than the people they target. I feel like this should be obvious, but maybe it’s not. I recently realized that someone I’d always thought I’d been kind and friendly to thought I was a weirdo back in the day, and I admit that it made me feel bad. I tend to wonder if my over-friendliness lends to some people thinking I’m awkward and weird. I can definitely be awkward. But it made me angry that someone had taken my friendliness in such a negative way, in such a way to make fun of me for it. But, in fact, I’d always thought this person was so afraid of their own image and following others to be cool, it’s kind of funny to me that he took my personality this way. At least I was ok with being myself, which is more than I thought he allowed himself.

Tough is not scary, and tough is not mean.

summer-glau-river-tam-fireflyWhat is it that made you tough?

Well. Are you?

Just Ask.

Lean in, lean out, hang out, sit in, work out, meet up…geeze, by the end of the day you’ve made every geometrical which way around a social or networking circle, you may as well put yourself on the Auntie Anne’s menu as a pretzel and call it a day.

I’m really ready to call it a day, but I’m squeezing this out before doing some homework reading. It never ends! Homework, that is. I’ll probably have homework when I’m 87.

Back on track.

I think a lot of us, perhaps especially women, preface our questions by saying, “this may be silly, but…”, or “I have a stupid question”, or “sorry for asking, however”…

Psh! You know how everyone says there are no silly questions, only silly answers?

Is that a silly question, because you’ve very well heard that?

Well, it’s not even true, because there are some silly questions!

Well. Are you?

Well. Are you?

That’s totally ok. I’ve asked some questions that I thought were pretty lame, and received some pretty not lame answers in return.

I didn’t speak up as much when I was a kid.

Well, not so much. Apparently, when I was really little, and potty training, I asked an elderly woman how her deposit went on her way out of the bathroom. But once we obtain our social filters, we become afraid to ask questions.

Well, I’m glad I don’t ask people how their restroom visits pan out anymore, but I AM glad that I am not afraid to ask questions.

I think that doing theater and improv in high school helped with this. You’re given a few words, you can’t say no to anything in the scene, you just go with it! No negating. I’m a man from Texas and you’re in the mafia, and I just heard that we’re moving to Alderaan. Ok! I think this was actually a sketch I took part in during a Harold one night. Alternatively, the improv game where you have to do the whole scene in questions is helpful. A little contradictory, but I can do it. I can also keep a straight face for a long time, and sometimes people think I’m serious when I am just joking. I swear, this comes in handy for theater. Or in life.

Hey. Hello. Hi.

Hey. Hello. Hi.

So, when senior year of high school came around and I wanted to move on from High School World as fast as I could, there were many questions. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I was down at the career services and guidance office in my school weekly. Can I apply to this scholarship? What do I need for this? This college lost my application, so I’m going to bug the crap out of them and get some answers. From questions.

Ok, I’m not The Riddler or anything, but I don’t think curiosity killed the cat. I think that cat stayed in a corner and was too shy to find out how to move and maybe never asked for help.

Want to get into that program but need a mentor to lend a hand? Ask!

Want to be more involved in something really awesome at work? Ask!

Want to see if the store will give you a discount, because there is a loose thread on that dress? Ask! (Seriously, I paid 1/4 the price for a dress at Anthropologie because of this. That stuff is expensive.)

Want to try La Mer because everyone raves about it but you have tons of skin allergies, and also it costs more than my groceries? Ask.

Want to know why a venue rejected your band? Ask. Or if you’re rejected from anything. A lot of people will, of course, be too busy to chat after said rejection, but I like constructive criticism. I’m going to critique myself anyway, may as well hear from someone outside my head who is more objective. I did this after job rejections…super helpful.

If your insurance isn’t covering something…you get it. Ask. I had an accounts manager at the hospital find an error from my insurance once when I inquired.

Of course, going crazy with the questions won’t be advantageous. I ask my cat a lot of questions.



No answers there.

Overall, I’ve learned of these outcomes from the ever-so-ready question.

One. Someone else was probably wondering the same thing, but was too afraid to ask. Sharing is caring!

Two. The person you’re asking didn’t know you were interested in the answer. Aha! A door has opened. They’ll appreciate your interest.

Three. There is no good answer or the person you’re asking doesn’t know, so now you may have made someone feel awkward, but you can both get to the bottom of it. Because nothing jumpstarts a next step like Awkward does!

Hence why I wrote this lovely post for CollegeXpress about…asking. How did you know?

You’re paying for college. Ask some questions to make it the experience you want.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m asking myself when I can go to bed.

Dude looks kind of angry,

Darth Vader Didn’t Get His Ketchup

The darkest of dark fathers is sitting alone in the diner. And, just my luck, he is sitting at my table.

I meander over, tray shaking, to bring him his meal. Hamburger. French fries. Don’t ask me how he is going to eat this now without his life support system.

“Can I get you anything else?”

That’s when I realize that Darth Vader does not have a bottle of ketchup at his table, and I forgot to bring him one. Looks like my shift may at least end up Motti style.

This scene is one of my earliest memories of a nightmare. Possibly the strangest diner this side of Twin Peaks, and a terrifying scene for my three or four year old self. I can’t remember exactly how old I was.

The other nightmare I recall having around this age also relates to science fiction and, strangely enough, tomatoes.

Dude looks kind of angry,

Dude looks kind of angry.

As a child I was very afraid of Klingons and the Ferengi, because I had decided they were very grumpy aliens. I’m not sure why grumpiness was such a fear factor for me as a kid. I was also very scared of King Triton. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t yet know who Donald Trump is.

"And I'm a grump!"

“And I’m a grump!”

This second nightmare involved being on board the Starship Enterprise, uncomfortable bodysuit and all, and the door swooping open to at least a dozen Klingons.

They were, of course, grumpy. And evidently grumpy due to something I had done, because they all started throwing tomatoes at me.

Of course the Borg are much more terrifying, so I am glad they weren’t behind the Klingons and armed with marinara sauce or something.

I had begun to reflect on childhood nightmares this week amid all of the jokes about Boston starting to feel like Hoth. And, you know, with the state of our current commutes it is starting to feel a little bit more Battle of Hoth. And we’re all the Rebel Alliance.

Jokes and tauntauns aside, Hoth also really frightened me as a kid. Ok, not so much Hoth, but AT-ATs and any Imperial Walker.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved Star Wars and still do.

It’s really strange, actually, that the nightmares I had as a kid so often revolved around themes I liked.

More often than not, I would be having a normal dream, when an AT-AT or other walker would come crashing through the scenery. And not one Ewok to throw rocks at it.


I also had a recurring dream where I’d be in a mall, and then the T-Rex from Jurassic Park would come crashing through. It was pretty scary. I mean…malls. Blech.

The dinosaur, along with some raptors, would also make in appearance at my school. In my dreams.

And I was a dinosaur obsessed child. I had stuffed dinosaurs. Figurines. Dragons. I watched The Land Before Time like it was my job, along with pretty much any dinosaur movie. Prehysteria. We’re Back. Jurassic Park was like my dream come true and yet it turned into a nightmare in my mind.


But then, a lot of my friends cited childhood nightmares so similar to things they loved. For instance, loving the Wizard of Oz, but having the wicked witch show up in nightmares. Or the shark from the Little Mermaid. Or Sid’s toys from Toy Story.

As I grew up, the recurring nightmares evolved into

a) car accidents

b) tornadoes

c) alien invasion

Not surprisingly, the car accident dreams started around the time I started driving. I don’t have tornado dreams so much anymore, and they actually may have stopped around the time I decided not to pursue a degree in meteorology. One day my dream tornado came by and swooped up my drum set. I may have been so mad at it that it never came back.

The alien dreams always stay, though. It’s an irrational fear, and especially odd since I love science fiction.

I mean, what do you do? Stay in the city and end up hoping Will Smith saves you?

 giphy (1)

Run to the middle of nowhere to hide in the mountains, and hope the aliens know solfege?


Of course, the standard grown up dreams never fail to arise.

I went to floss but then all of my teeth fell out!

I went to the bathroom but then the door disappeared!

I’m still in school and I have an exam tomorrow!

I forgot to go to work!

Along with other ones that I know are more tuned to my personal fears, so I am not writing about them here. Aha! And you thought Klingons were personal.

They’re not. I’ve learned that Worf seems actually quite nice, and in fact nobody wants to listen to him.

Isn’t it funny how these fears and worries evolve over time, painted out so well in our dreams?

What was your typical bad dream as a child?

St. Vincent

My Reasoning: 2014 in Music

Allow me to explain myself!

Am I allowed to say that I’m proud to have voted in this year’s Pazz & Jop poll for the Village Voice? I am. Fine.

I know that my musical tastes tend not to lean on a lot of the popular stuff, as you can see with my ballot. It doesn’t really line up with this year’s poll for albums OR songs.

However, some albums or songs I voted for weren’t even songs or albums I enjoy quite a bit. There was more going on than that. Here’s my explanation, along with some tracks that I wish I had thought to include.


Farah Fard's Albums of 2014

Farah Fard’s Albums of 2014

Kimbra’s The Golden Echo has been one of my favorite albums from the year, despite the fact that I actually didn’t love it as a whole at first. Seeing it performed live enhanced my enjoyment of the album and helped me to understand some of the songs on another level. “Everlovin’ Ya” is just a great song to turn up when I need a pick me up. I didn’t expect to like that deep, electronic sound that was very prevalent this year. I have to say this was one of the songs that was very much enhanced by seeing it live. The deep pulse of the song, and Kimbra’s way of playing with the frame of the lyrics, really soars. One reason why I found Banks and Little Dragon’s albums to be important enough for this list was because of the direction this year’s music went in, and how their music played into it without being boring (to me).

Chromeo’s White Women is just a blast to listen to.

St. Vincent

St. Vincent

St. Vincent is weird, artsy, skilled, and she makes interesting commentary on society, like with “Digital Witnesses”.

Her collaboration with David Byrne a few years back was a happy kick for this Talking Heads fan, and her self titled album did not disappoint. She shreds, she sings, she robot dances.

For Beyonce, whose album did come out just before 2014, had a large impact on 2014. This was across many mediums, and also a slap on the industry itself. Even if you don’t like the album, which ebbs and flows between motherhood, feminism, and includes some racy lyrics (oh, my my!), the way it was released probably had more than a few business folks scrambling for their deodorant.

“Flawless” was a powerful single this year, though let us not forget the voice that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave to the song, with her speech being mixed into it.

As for other social commentary, of course I included Weird Al’s album, Mandatory Fun. Come on, I loved his notes on grammar, while also making a parody of “Blurred Lines”. I’d rather review my grammar, instead of seeing another man oggle a naked female in a music video.

Another album important to this year’s social commentary, in my opinion, was the much overlooked “…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin” from The Roots. The album, though different from the groove of other Root’s albums, touched on much of the violence going on in America, and added a sharp, while satirical, voice to the critical eye being given to hip hop culture.

As for Sharon Van Etten, though it was not one of my most personal favorites, I could not escape this album. It was well crafted, original and thoughtful.

However, Hozier’s self titled album from 2014 included the song “Take Me To Church”, though this was released in an EP in 2013. This leads me to my favorite songs from the year.

Farah's Top Songs of 2014

Farah’s Top Songs of 2014

If you haven’t seen the video for “Take Me To Church”, it’s a striking one. It’s not gentle to the critique of hate crimes toward gays and church hypocrisy, as when he says “that’s a fine looking high horse”.

In fact, though released in 2013, “Take Me To Church” was my favorite song from 2014 for its lyrics, arrangement, and video. The video is really hard for me to watch but, as the artist said, “Sexuality, and sexual orientation – regardless of orientation – is just natural. An act of sex is one of the most human things. But an organization like the church, say, through its doctrine, would undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation – that it is sinful, or that it offends God. The song is about asserting yourself and reclaiming your humanity through an act of love.”

I included the St. Vincent, Chromeo, and Beyonce songs for my previously stated reasons. Haim is a band I’d recently gotten into more, and “My Song 5”, recorded in 2013, but released as a single in 2014, was my favorite from the album Days Are Gone.

I know that’s not the best quality video, but I wanted to find a live version.

Spoon’s “Do You” made it in there for its popularity and ear worm worthiness, and FKA Twigs and her single, “Two Weeks”, for its weirdness, the deep electric sound that was so prevalent this year, and her album having made such a splash.

I wish there had been a category for music videos this year. There were so many good ones. Such great costume design!

How weird weird weird.

Janelle Monae’s “Electric Lady” is not  a new song, but the single and video for it was released in 2014.

I don’t think there is anything Janelle Monae puts out there that I don’t like. I saw her perform for the tour of The Electric Lady and it was one of the best performances I have ever seen. Her band is top notch, her singing is always great, and it was such a diverse and friendly audience. I love that she wears a uniform and refuses to fit into the categories many women fall into in the music industry. This song does not disappoint.

Heck, I’ll watch Janelle Monae on Sesame Street.

And while I know this Arctic Monkey’s song was released in 2013, it peaked on the Billboard charts in 2014, and was nominated for a Grammy this year. Some people may chide me for being into their recent album, despite the fact that their sound has changed and they’ve been around for a while, but who said that bands aren’t allowed to change or get noticed by other demographics? Come on. It’s music. It’s there to be enjoyed.

My one gripe is that the music video was such an interesting concept with the sound waves, but was not executed well, in my opinion. So, I’m just going to post the audio.

Oh, is something missing from my ballot?

Yes, women sort of dominated these ‘best of’ charts for the year, and Taylor Swift was all over that. I didn’t vote for her, but I wrote this commentary, which made its way into the Pazz & Jop Comments. If you want more in depth discussion on that, you know where to find it then.

Despite all of this, there are two songs that I regretted not listing here, after all was said and done.

Perfume Genius showed up in a lot of “Best of 2014” lists, and yet this song didn’t really sink in until after I sent in my ballot.

“Queen” is an interesting look at the stereotypes that get dumped onto gay men, and lines such as “no family is safe/when I sashay”, or “don’t you know your queen/cracked, peeling/riddled with disease”, bring us our worst assumptions and prejudices.

Alt-J is a band that peers have tried to get me into for over a year, and while I enjoyed the band, I never really dug into them. I heard their track, “Every Other Freckle”, though, and instantly thought…well, this is different!

So is the video, but be warned there are some naked butts in there. The video definitely circles around the whole primal/human thesis, so it’s not done to be cheap. We’re humans, so we are in bodies…is more how I took it to mean.

There’s also the male version of this video.

What was your favorite song or album of 2014? What did you think of Taylor Swift’s moves and statements? Are you optimistic about where the music industry is going?

Taylor Swift, You Used to Really Annoy Me

I mean…really annoy me. Skipped any song of hers, dismissed her performances, rolled my eyes at her magazine covers…the whole kit and kaboodle. And yet she surprised me this year. In fact, I get where she is coming from.


This may seem trivial, but let’s just say it’s a huge turnaround for someone like me. My favorite albums consist of Synchronicity, A Love Supreme, Moving Pictures…you get the idea. As a kid and teenager I collected tapes of showtunes, soundtracks, film scores, and classic rock. The first CD I ever bought myself was Metallica’s Black Album. You might say I’m not Taylor Swift’s demographic.


Swift’s approach from her early popularity drove me nuts from a musical and industry perspective. As someone who knows plenty of female guitarists (rock, metal, jazz, anything really), the tag of Swift and her guitar irritated me. Fine, call me a music snob, but everyone shouting from the rooftops of how awesome they thought it was that she was young, female, wrote her own music, and played her own guitar was enough to prompt me to grab a barf bag. Really? We were being marketed a female guitarist, and the songs were all about boysboyboys, with the same style melodies and chord progressions? That’s all good and fine, but I didn’t see what the phenomenon was. Were women in music so poorly regarded, that this was considered a big deal?


Most pop songs (and even as country, Swift was already tiptoeing around pop) have co-writers, a lengthy list of producers shaping the song, or the star of the song (think Rihanna) has no creative shaping of it, as this New Yorker piece from 2012 so bluntly explained. Having had to keep track of some of Swift’s publishing and licensing agreements at one of my previous jobs, I could see that those songs were all under her name, or with one additional writer. Ok. Somewhat of an anomaly in the Top 40, which is usually full of Ryan Tedder and Max Martin produced tracks.


Maybe I had a mental block, fiercely preventing absorption of Swift’s singles, but I had trouble telling the difference between them. However, with any popular singer that I’ve had a knee jerk dislike for, I try to find out more, curious as to whether I can see eye to eye. I looked into Swift’s musical background, where and how she started out, and some of the ‘behind the scenes’ videos available on Youtube. To put it lightly, they didn’t do much at the time other than water her down more for me. The singing didn’t blow me out of the water. She was cute, but that’s a sexist reason to peddle a child into entertainment, and kind of wrong all around. One behind the scenes show in particular showcased Swift’s earlier recording and home life, which I’m sure was meant to make her seem more relatable, and just came off as spoiled and clueless, however fair that is, showing her driving around in a giant SUV, walking around a house that screamed “I’m very well off”, and edited in a way that really made her seem less intelligent than I’m sure she is.


As Swift steered away from country music, I sneered along with others. When 1989 was released, I scoffed, but told myself I’d be ignorant if I didn’t look into it, listen, and read about her intent.


“Welcome to New York” is a manufactured representation of what is arguably one of the best cities in the world. It sounds like the beginning of a Cars track, with the life sapped out of it, and all the things that tourists like about New York City. Hardly getting me off on the right foot with that one.


I listened to some of the other tracks, and actually chuckled when the video for “Blank Space” was released. It’s not a terrible pop song, and it has a sense of humor. Because if Swift didn’t notice, her discography started to look like she was a serial dater with a penchant for stacking up men for lyrical fodder. The music video is enough to make any eligible bachelor leave a man shaped hole in Swift’s wall, and it knows it.


“Out of the Woods” and its heavy Jack Antonoff sound, and M83 style synths and reflections, is another big departure. Pop? Sure. Happily not about princess style daydreaming and boy crushing, though. Relationship centric? Most songs are.


What I found most compelling about Swift’s apparent 2014 makeover was the Spotify debate. What, you didn’t think I’d mention it? I’m a nerd for music licensing. While some in my circle argue that this was a move by Big Machine Records to try and amp up records sales, for fear of their own business status, especially with many touting that Swift’s 1989 could be the last Platinum album ever, others pinned her move from Spotify as a temper tantrum to make heavier sales elsewhere. I disagree with these sentiments, and the fact that streaming services produce fluff royalties has since been circulating everywhere. In a society where artists are constantly asked to work for free, a big time celebrity like Swift is one at the top who can afford to pull the plug on streaming, without it hurting her exposure. Small time acts depend on free downloads, streaming, and Youtube to help boost ticket sales and fans, which Swift is already raking in.


The decision to speak out against how musicians and labels pay out, while shifting gears in genre, could have flopped, and yet Swift deliberately changed her image. I have to admit that I was one of the individuals who dismissed her, and probably assumed less of her based on lyrics that just seemed like pure fluff in her previous records, but reading about her blunt decision to turn away from country was interesting, to say the least. Swift acknowledges that she’s not trying to fool anyone–she’s not in the same category she was in before, and she doesn’t expect you to think otherwise. Her image has gone from fairy princess sweetheart, to outspoken with mature costumes, and sometimes a little pissed off.


What irks me a lot in pop music is when a song is credited to a performer, and you then see the song was engineered entirely by a team, sans said performer. Swift promoted 1989 and put Max Martin out in the open for everyone, citing that she insisted on listing him in the credits because he recorded so many takes, even tracks he wasn’t co-writing or producing. If this is true, Swift is not only saying that musicians don’t get compensated fairly by streaming, she’s acknowledging that pop writers and producers, along with recording engineers, have as much to do with a pop hit as the performer who is writing with them.


Lastly, Swift used to irritate me with her persona of the princess mourning a boy, and all of the other tropes that just made me feel like young girls deserved a better musician to look up to. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t vulgar or anything like that, but it seemed pretty vapid to me.


As I’ve read more and more interviews about Swift’s recent decisions, I see her point about people not taking her seriously, and their way of picking her apart being pretty sexist. Facing criticism for not putting her dolled up mug on the album cover, for going against the advice of sticking with country, or for bringing up the fact that men like Bruno Mars don’t face the same criticism of writing about their exes that she does…I reflected and have to say I agree with her.


So, congrats Taylor.


While I don’t see myself actively seeking out her music anytime soon, I see where she’s coming from, and respect her decisions. I appreciate her activeness in bringing artist royalties and women in music to our attention. I don’t think she’s an over the top amazing guitar player or lyricist, but anyone looking at negative comments from men on most of her videos will see how derogatory they are. If she were a male performer in the same level, I don’t think people would treat her the same way. I guess time will tell as to how she will evolve.


So, when do we get to see Taylor Swift shred?

An excerpt from this appeared in the 2014 Village Voice Pazz & Jop commentary.


2015: What’s My Blog Got To Do With It?

Did my post’s title get that Tina Turner song stuck in your head? No, well, there’ll be other chances. I am not going to use this post to share any resolutions for the new year, because I know that 99% of you don’t care about that…let’s be honest! I am going to lay some things out on the table, because I believe that writing these items down creates a more concrete plan to stick to. I almost feel guilty that 2014 was so much more promising on a personal level, when the world suffered so much as a whole. I know I’ve said this before, but after feeling so low during two years of job searching and repeated layoffs, and finally being in a better place, I really felt it necessary to spend more time giving back to the community. While I’d started writing for Sonicbids in the beginning of 2014, I stopped in September. Coincidentally, my last post was also the article I wrote for them that seemed to catalyze the most anger I’ve ever seen from…pretty much anything I’ve ever written. What I’d meant to be a simple post about tricks and tips if you’d like to record your own demo was somehow interpreted as a complete bash on recording engineers. Which is funny because I feel like I spend most of my time defending artists, and was only writing these tips based on what I’d seen go wrong in studios. You know, having worked in them. Because I respect them. At the same time, if you’re a band who is just starting out, and don’t have much of an audience yet, I would personally rather record a demo with one of the many friends who have studios (just be sure they have sample tracks you can listen to), instead of sinking thousands of dollars at a studio where you’re paying for every minute there. The anger from this post showed me a few things. 1) Many of the guys commenting didn’t bother to read the article or my ‘about me’ section, and wrote me off as some air-headed girl who didn’t know what she was talking about. 2) At least 90% of the people writing angry comments clearly showed that the person didn’t read it in its entirety or misunderstood the point. 3) Following up with angry readers by replying to their comments was fruitless. I should have known. For all their angry words, not one of these men responded to my explanation or clarification. I couldn’t tell if they were embarrassed or just had no respect. I think some of them didn’t put two and two together to realize that I wrote the piece (hence the not reading it very carefully), because one guy even wrote that I must be some sort of fat guy living in my parent’s basement, recoding with Garageband, and making my minions get me coffee.


My minion, tuning the snare drum. I am really mean in the studio.

Where am I going with this? Well, I was a little bummed that my last article went out with a bang, and mostly because I didn’t want anyone thinking that was the reason for it being my last Sonicbids post. I hear that you know you’ve done something right as a writer once internet trolls start coming after you. Oh, boy. I decided to stop my Sonicbids posts because I wanted to focus on a class for work, and volunteering. As someone who was really helped my mentors and scholarships, I’d started volunteering more with mentoring programs, and one of my goals in life is to establish a need based scholarship for someone who was in the same pickle as I was in back in the day. School is expensive, and education is one of the best things for society, so how does that work out? I’m so happy to have joined BookPALS, and if you’re a performer, producer, or really just interested, you should check it out! In the organization’s words, “BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools) is a signature children’s literacy program of the SAG Foundation designed to provide an opportunity for performers, gifted in the art of storytelling, to help develop a love of reading in children and give back to their local communities”. The program I am involved in goes to read at one of the major city hospitals, in the pediatric ward, and it’s way more rewarding than trying to plug my face on social media. What I’m trying to say is, this year kind of made me look at myself and say, “you only live once, and you should try living in the moment more, instead of worrying so much”. When I’m on my deathbed I’d rather say I spent a few hours a week reading to a kid, over saying I spent a few hours trying to be internet famous. When did everyone become so obsessed with becoming famous on the internet, anyway? I’ve seen good writers go from writing investigative pieces, to posting for shock value, just to gain followers. The internet has certainly increased the greed for everyone’s fifteen minutes of fame, but you’re lucky if it’s 120 characters of it. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with writing fluff pieces, or comedy (comedy as a craft is underrated…it’s not easy), or even simple things to make you smile. I just don’t like this obsession some people have (and I do think my generation is very guilty of it), of wanting everyone to care about their every move. Posting every outfit, inside joke, anecdote maybe you found amusing but nobody else does? Well, before I sound like a major old fart here, I’ll get to another point, and that is that this blog is going to remain as where I update my external article links, write some blog posts, and am happy to answer any career questions through the Question and Artist page. I have one upcoming Q&A with Noa Griffel of Tory Burch. If you have questions regarding a photography or fashion career, send them my way, and soon!

Noa Griffel

Noa Griffel

The Question and Artist page is not something I want to stress about or smash in people’s faces. I’ve had some writers ask me why I don’t just post sessions based on what I think students or job seekers want to read, but I want it to be user or reader driven. I don’t care if it’s a short question, or in depth ones. It could be generic (what’s a career in photography like?) or more specific (like the very detailed questions I received for the Aaron Blaise Q&A). Right now I’m focusing on pitching to magazines, too. One of my 2015 goals is to publish something in print again. I have two current pieces under review, and neither of them are about music or film (gasp!), but more focused on some social and health issues I care a lot about, and want to investigate. We’ll see. This will also be my first year participating in The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop poll as a critic, which I am very excited about. The band I perform with will also be returning to my hometown area for a show, which makes me happy. We want to support local venues! I have a lot of goals for this year but, again, you don’t want to know all of them. Will I ever try stand up comedy open mic night? Time will tell. Is that on my list? Who knows. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite moments of 2014. I’m not going to post any of the photos I took after this, because I look frightening. I look like a kid who just met Santa in real life. I will say I was a little bummed, being both a Rush fan and a Jason Segel fan, that he himself is not a fan of the band. I felt my journalistic integrity had to be upheld, so I asked him if it’s just a coincidence that so many of his characters are Rush fans, or if he really is? His character’s scene in Freaks and Geeks was sort of a final push for me to be a drummer.

I mean, who doesn’t want to be that kid?

Alas, he said that it is just coincidence. Rush was before his time, he said, and he is probably too young to be a Rush fan.

But, Sir, I am younger than you. Teardrops on my ride cymbal. In 5/4.

EDIT: So, I’ve heard that some took this post to mean that I was not going to write here anymore. This is not the case! I’m just not one of those writers who is going to be posting every day. This website will be a place for some blog posts, updates on my other writing, and Q&A posts, when submissions come in. I’m just not one of those bloggers who’s saying, “INTERNET, make me famous now!”.  Someone once told me my blog was more quality over quantity and, while that is very flattering, I do agree with the quantity evaluation. I’m not just posting to get Twitter friends.

Question & Artist With Mathew Tucciarone. How Do I Become a Music Photographer?

A request came into Question & Artist a short while ago: how does one become a photojournalist?
So, I decided to parse these interviews out into different types of photo careers, starting with music photography. I touched on it a bit in this previous post about how I got into concert photography, but I haven’t pursued it anywhere close to the level Mathew Tucciarone has. I first met Mat through covering the Rethink Music Conference in Boston. Mat has worked closely with Karmin, and I’d been working on interviews with the duo. Since then, Mat has gone out to LA and has been working with Rolling Stone and LA Weekly.
Here are some key points that I think are essential to make note of if you want to pursue a similar career. Mat was kind to correspond with me through email to crack down on these questions, and offer some informational insight to all of you blossoming music journalists and photographers!
Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction from the Sunset Strip Music Festival. Copyright Mathew Tucciarone.

Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction from the Sunset Strip Music Festival. Copyright Mathew Tucciarone.

What does someone need to study in school in order to cover music as a photojournalist? Is it best to learn on your own?
It’s great to have a foundation in writing to best communicate your ideas and probably more importantly photography, but there are two things that I did (to begin with) that fueled my passion for music photography. First is that I listened to a lot of music… Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pearl Jam…anyone who stood for something and were pioneers of their genre. I became obsessed with, and genuinely curious, about the artists and the music they created. This led me to buy a guitar and teach myself how to play, to feel what they were feeling. After going to my first big concert I instantly knew that I needed to be involved and that this needed to be my life. I would finally get a camera and begin shooting all of the time, whether it was music, people, places, landscapes, or sunsets. Like I did with the guitar, I was teaching myself photography.
I don’t like to preach that going to school is the answer, because it isn’t. It helps provide a high level of commitment to pursue your passion and is extremely valuable especially with all of the relationships you build and how you utilize them. It is informative and provides an environment for learning. Is it required? No. I earned a bachelor’s degree in film and does that directly help me get work? No. Buy a camera and go shoot.
What was your first assignment and how did you get to that point?
Although I’ve been published in magazines, newspapers, and websites, my first official assignment was this year. I was to go out and photograph an artist’s concert which was being reviewed by a fairly prominent publication and deliver the photos that night to an editor in New York, which would be published the following morning.
I’m a firm believer in doing what you do regardless if you are being contracted, sent on assignment, or hired. For me that thing is photographing music. I started my own blog 3 years ago, my own type of publication that I would shoot, edit, write, and market. At the time I had applied to hundreds of jobs and wasn’t even getting rejected, I wasn’t receiving any response at all. I think that fueled something in me to begin creating opportunities that didn’t even exist. I began reaching out to artists, publicists, management companies, publications, and venues to get access to photograph concerts. After you do this for years you learn about the industry, make connections, and build a network that leads you to work.
Digital? Film? Is it best to use both, to become familiar?

I believe it’s best to learn film first. I took a 35mm black and white photography course initially and materials were not cheap, resources were limited, and it was time consuming. You really had to compose, focus, expose, and create photographs. When I say photographs I mean physical images on photo paper, that were made by spending hours in a dark room to produce a visual.

Digital is wonderful because there’s no waste, your images are available instantly, and there are infinite possibilities to use your work. However there’s something aesthetically pleasing about a physical photograph [created] with film that is hard to replicate. Grain, contrast, and flaws all add to the art. In my opinion, it is best to use both. Gain both perspectives and try to incorporate the practices of one into the other.

Phillip Phillips. Copyright MathewTucciarone.

Phillip Phillips. Copyright Mathew Tucciarone.

What’s the hardest thing you have to deal with as a music photographer?
In an era where everyone has a camera in their pocket at all times, where thousands of pictures get taken at every concert, how do you separate your work and style from the rest? The rest can also be another person who has a “nicer” camera than you who isn’t even a photographer. I’m not competing again cell-phone photos, I am competing against the saturation of the internet and content that gets created at each show or event. Some publications big and small actually settle for bad photos. At the same time there are more and more decent images being created. Everyone wants to photograph music. It’s an evolving industry and I think separating your work is always a challenge. You have to rely on your instincts.
What sort of paperwork do you have to deal with?
Mainly it’s a contract that states that all images you take at the event you are covering for that outlet, whether they are used by the publication or not, can not be licensed elsewhere for a period of time. Sometimes it’s 30 days, sometimes 90 days, etc. Each instance is different.
What do you do to ensure people don’t steal your photos?
There’s nothing you can do to prevent people from stealing your photos. I know people who don’t put their name on the image at all. I sometimes put my name on photos to receive it bit more exposure, at this point I’ll take as much exposure as I can get. There are preventative measures you can take to help minimize this for example, only displaying low quality images of your work online or only allowing password protected viewing. The people who steal photos are people I would never work with anyway.
(side note: I can attest to Mat’s statement about only providing lo res images online. In my field we always need to request hi res images for professional use, and that needs to be delivered by the photographer.)
What’s the biggest problem you’ve run into in this job?
For most photographers, myself included, there’s never enough lighting. As a concert photographer you basically are never allowed to use a flash, so exposing the shot correctly sometimes can be a challenge.
How did you land an assignment for Rolling Stone?

Getting your foot in the door of any publication or company requires persistence, a thick skin, and some luck. First of all, make sure you have a body of work somewhere that is presentable and can be easily linked to. Like a job application, you must effectively display what you’ve done and what you are going to do to help benefit a company. You must also be prepared for things to not go as planned. Over the course of almost two years I reached out a large number of times. Eventually I received an email to shoot and it happened.

I can also say that being friendly, optimistic, and having a positive attitude can go a long way. There are people that are far more talented than me who have not received these types of opportunities, including people that I learned from.

Nathan and Matt from  Cold War Kids from SSMF. Copyright Mathew Tucciarone.

LIGHTS. Copyright Mathew Tucciarone.

What is your work week like?
As a freelancer, there’s not an exact schedule. I have my little routine in the morning, coffee, emails, guitar playing (ha ha), editing photos, updating my website and social media sites, and reaching out to potential new clients. I can say that if you are photographing a concert and don’t get back until midnight, you might need to spend a few hours on photos after even if you’re tired. I’m always attending events, networking, reaching out, and photographing concerts. There can be times where I work 30-40 hours a week with a very small paycheck. But it is all geared towards getting better because I am constantly looking for ways to move forward with my career.
Nathan and Matt from  Cold War Kids from SSMF. Copyright Mathew Tucciarone.

Nathan and Matt from Cold War Kids from SSMF. Copyright Mathew Tucciarone.

What is a common misconception for your job?
That it’s all music, concerts, and rock and roll partying all of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I get to do my fair share of that stuff and you would be amazed what kind of doors open because you have this little machine that records images. For instance, I went to a festival with a band, and naturally I was backstage. During different parts of the day we’d be hanging out and there would be Rita Ora, Weezer, Skrillex, John Mayer, and even Kanye.
However, a majority of my time is spent editing, re-working images, creating opportunities, traveling, and marketing my work, as well as creating video content which is something I also do. These are things that no one sees. They only see the final product which is a photograph and it’s easy to overlook how hard photographers work.
If there is one thing you wish you had done in high school, that would have helped your career, it would be…
I wish I started taking photography courses in high school. I only took (I think) two photography courses ever, not including filmmaking courses, and the first was five years after high school. I wish I started earlier.
If there is one thing you are GLAD you did in high school that has helped your career…
I learned a lot from playing sports in high school. I played basketball all the way up and even a little in college. With sports you learn the value of hard work, dedication, commitment, teamwork, sportsmanship, and organizing your time. I spent hours in the gym shooting…every day I wouldn’t leave until I made 10 consecutive 3-pointers in a row. The foundation that playing sports created for me continues to help me in the professional world. To this day I can still shoot a basketball, but most of my shooting now is music photography.
What has been your biggest setback?
My biggest setback was figuring out what I wanted to do. I know people who are my age (still in my 20s for the moment) who still don’t know what they want to do and they have a good paying job. Some people never figure that out and before they can commit to their passion, obstacles get in their way, and have priorities such as taking care of a family. Eventually, I figured out it was music photography and have in some ways clawed my way to where I am. As a freelancer and an artist, you learn dial in to what you are good at and what might distinguish you from thousands of other people.
What do you see as the future of music photography?
The future will be that everyone will have a 30 megapixel camera in their pocket at all times. Every phone will have this capability. Each concert and event will have thousands of hi-resolution photographs. Staff photographers won’t exist and only freelancers will have their work published. Anyone will be capable of creating news or content. The only way to separate your work from another’s will be through your eye for storytelling.
So, music fans and photographers alike: do you have any additional questions for Mat? Comment here! You can also find Mat’s work on his website at, his portfolio at, and some of his great work with Rolling Stone here.

How Do I Book Shows If I’m Under 21?

Hi, arts friends! I still have upcoming posts plans for photojournalism (musician photography, fashion photography, and news), but in the meantime I received this query for Question & Artist.

This question comes from an anonymous high school student in the Boston area:

“What might a music venue or booker look for in underage bands, if they hire them? Is there a particular style of music? How would they suggest a high school band go about getting gigs, since playing shows during the week is difficult?”

First, a booking agent works with a band to help you book shows. A talent buyer is the person who books talent for the venue. I’d previously interviewed Dan Millen, owner of event promotion company Rock On! Concerts, and co-owner of the future Thunder Road Live Music Club in Somerville, about…well, how to book that show! There is a lot to keep in mind when approaching a venue, similar to prepping yourself for a job interview, or pitching to a magazine, for instance.

That being said, I reached out to Dan again today to ask him these particular questions for our under 21 audience. I appreciate Dan’s honesty and insight (plus his tons o’ Star Wars jokes).

I’d say their options are really limited.  While we would all like to be supporters of the music in all its forms, most venues are bars, are regulated like bars, and exist to sell drinks to people over 21, and a few venues will do 18+ shows.   This obviously presents bad logistics as underage acts all have underage fans that only present liability to bars, and underage members have to be watched closely to ensure they don’t try to sneak any drinks. 

 There are several community center type venues that don’t serve drinks, TCAN (Natick Center For The Arts) comes to mind, and occasionally places like The Middle East over in Cambridge will do afternoon all ages shows, so opportunities are there, just limited.

As an entrepreneur I would suggest that high school bands create their own venues, rent out a church or a function hall that is not dependent on drink sales, charge a small cover to recoup PA costs, invite all their friends and their friend’s friends and make a party out of it!   

As someone who was also in a high school band (eeeek), I support what Dan is saying here. I didn’t play in Boston back then, and we played a lot of venues that were coffee shops, or kind of coffee shops (does anyone remember Curly’s?), under 21 music clubs (was it called Drifters?), and teen events, parties, and town festivals.

What Dan suggests is something to consider even when you’re over 21! It can be tricky to find a venue that is a good fit for the band I play in now, even. When I attended the Rethink Music Conference, I asked musicians like Amanda Palmer and Karmin what they thought of playing shows when your style is unconventional, and they pretty much echoed a similar sentiment. Play at parties! Post quality videos online. Play at event centers, arts studios, and function halls.

Another great way to get your music out there is to play fundraising events, and then you’re also helping a cause!

Let's be real. Nobody wants to feel like this. Unless you're actually a muppet. Who is also a baby.

Let’s be real. Nobody wants to feel like this. Unless you’re actually a muppet. Who is also a baby.

I hope this helps and, as always, feel free to send your arts oriented career questions to Question & Artist. I’ll snag someone to start a dialogue.

Fellow band members and musicians: what sort of shows did you start out playing at when you were under 21? Or, if you are under 21, what sort of shows do you perform at?


I Want Epic Classical Music

Ok, music friends, music supervisors, and whoever else is welcome to this conversation.

Here is a question I’ve heard multiple times. It goes something like this:

I’m looking for music that is epic, like film score. But more like classical music, because I need something public domain for my project.

Two things I would like to point out about this common question.

One, I’m going to get real nerdy picky here, because some may think you are referencing the Classical Period only, which was from around 1750 to 1820, and produced well known composers such as Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart…so, yes, a lot of the composers you think of as classical music. But this is between the Baroque and Romantic movements, which also have a ton of good stuff in there. So do many of the other periods of Western music categorized as ‘classical’. Ok, so there’s that.

Two, just because the piece of music is public domain, does not mean the piece you’re looking at for your project is public domain.


Music has a very unique relationship with licensing and intellectual property practices. There’s the written piece, the arrangement, the publishing, the recording…you get the idea. So, while “Give My Regards to Broadway” is public domain, an arrangement or recording of the song post 1922 would not be public domain. If you think lifting a portion of Black Swan’s audio where Tchaikovsky’s music is played would be ok for your project, because Tchaikovsky’s music is so old, you’d be wrong. That performance in Black Swan is not a public domain version. It includes very new musicians, a composer who worked it into the score, and more.

(An interesting side note is how this music was not eligible for the Oscar’s music category).

Likewise, if you wanted to rip the music from the opening sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey, you may have the same problem. “Also sprach Zarathustra” is a public domain piece of music by Strauss, but I believe the piece was performed for the film by the Berlin Philarmonic.

I hope this is all clear. If not, please feel free to comment. I welcome these discussions!

All of this being said and done, if you can find public domain recordings or are recording your own version of a public domain piece of epic, classical music…these are some of my favorites. Enjoy!

Sibelius: Finlandia.

As a student, I edited this with scenes from A Christmas Story to remake the trailer into a very serious film.

Holst: Mars, from the Planets

This was used in my senior project on film score semiotics (oh, joy!). The sounds of war and Mars were influential to one of our favorite dark father’s themes. I saw the Boston Pops perform this last spring, presented by Leonard Nimoy and, oh, boy, now that’s epic!

Dvorak: New World Symphony (Symphony No. 9 in E minor)

As I also found in my project, the fourth movement has been highly influential. What film do those opening measures remind you of?

Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

Did you know that your cartoon’s favorite spooky music is actually from Bach? A toccata is a piece written for a virtuoso, because it’s fast and used to demonstrate just how much you can Paganini that instrument. Yes, I just used Paganini as a verb. I think it’s appropriate because people thought he was Satan’s fiddler. Something like that. Okay!

A fugue is a compositional technique. It all makes sense if you listen to this piece for how it is constructed, Try not to imagine this guy banging on the organ.

© Bettmann/CORBIS

© Bettmann/CORBIS

Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain

Speaking of Halloween cartoons and such, get your minions ready. This piece is used a lot, and for obvious reasons.

Berlioz: Witches Sabbath from Symphonie Fantastique




Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, finale.

I know this may be expected, but the piece from act four, deemed the finale, is one of the most beautiful and epic pieces ever. Hearing it performed by a symphony is overwhelming, in a good way.

Saint-Saens: Le Carnivale Des Animaux, Aquarium

Some have mistaken this for Harry Potter music. Nope. This is not John Williams, but the French composer, Saint-Saens, also known for the great Dance Macabre. Can’t you just see Morticia and Gomez dancing to that?


Stravinsky-The Rite of Spring. All of it.

This piece, and its accompanying ballet performance, was so jarring to audiences during it’s first production in 1913, that audience members became ill, angry, and nearly sparked a full blown riot.

Mozart, Dies Irae (Requiem Mass in D Minor)

Is it weird that this is likely my favorite work of Mozart’s?

Charles Ives, The Unanswered Question

So cinematic. Note that there is a 1930s version of this that Ives edited, which would not be public domain.

Clara Schumann, Piano Trio in G Minor (Op. 17)

I’ve always found Schumann’s work to be very expressive, and I love where this piece picks up at around two minutes.

Rimsky-Korsakov: The Young Prince and the Young Princess, from Scheherazade.

I couldn’t get by without sneaking this in! Not so much epic, depending on what you’re going for, but one of my favorite pieces of music.

Lastly, for the record, I have to include these epic pieces of music, but they are NOT public domain, having been written in the 1930s. But we all need more epic music.

Prokofiev: Montagues and Capulets, from Romeo and Juliet.

Samuel Barber: Adagio for Strings

This is constantly rated as one of the saddest pieces ever written. I dare you to listen to the entire piece with dry eyes. I used this in my senior thesis on film score semiotics, because I felt it was heavily referenced in Marionelli’s Elegy for Dunkirk, for the beautifully tracked long take in Atonement. Oh my word, where are my tissues? You think I’m joking. I’m not. Both of these pieces of music bring out some heavy waterworks.

What are your favorite classical pieces?

Content producers, do you often use public domain versions of musical works? How do you go about it?

Reader Submission: What are some of the fundamentals of singing and producing tone with one’s voice…?

While the Question & Artist page is directed at an informational interview style post with a professional in the field of your choosing (art design, curators, choreographers, music supervisors, educators, voice actors, press, whatever your creative heart desires), I welcome all questions here in order to foster a collaborative and welcoming arts discussion.

This question came my way via the Question and Artist form, but it’s a little different.

JT says:

What are some of the fundamentals of singing and producing tone with one’s voice?  What are some good resources to learn more about the component pieces and common philosophies of singing?
Field of Work Interested In: Singing, sound engineering

 While I love singing, and know basic fundamentals, I asked my sister for some guided insight for JT, since she is a music teacher with a master’s degree. Sarah says:

“Much of the fundamentals of singing come from breathe support. Then there is vowel shape/diction. I think if [you are] interested in what makes a good singer, you need advice from a professional singer that can basically reiterate what I’ve touched upon…”

“Being on key, etc, is mostly based on breathing. There are good resources on singing, but you might want to first narrow it down to Western or Eastern, then what type. I would say that argument of what is good and bad singing can even vary between professionals and professors (like how one of our friends, an opera singer, was told in her graduate school that everything she’d learned in undergrad was wrong), but there are some things like vibrato and diction that vary depending on style.”

I’ve worked with many vocalists who are also voice actors. Two things anyone recording or editing voice overs will notice right away is that 1) pacing and breathing goes a long way, and 2) your mouth makes funny sounds. I don’t mean that in a negative way, it happens to all of us. But you must be aware of it on a recording. I recorded someone whose voice made so many mouth clicks, spits, and pops, that I started to feel a little woozy after three hours of scrubbing through. Of course the right mic and filters are important, from an engineering perspective. But…SPIT SPIT SPIT. Spit is loud, man. It’s loud.

If you’re interested in connecting with a vocal pro, I’d be happy to pull the conversation in that direction. I currently have some on the site, such as Amal El-Shrafi (opera), Erica Gibson (pop music), Doe Paoro (a very unique vocal training!), and more. I’d also gladly connect you or go more in depth with someone in the field of sound engineering, which I do touch on here, and here. While I work in licensing now, and managing assets for projects (audio, video, and other content), I started out working with audio, so there’s quite a bit to dig into there! I love talking about sound!

Was this helpful?

She & Him 2010 ©Farah Joan Fard

But How Does One Become A Concert Photographer?

For the words of the prophets were written on the studio wall…concert hall!

An upcoming series of posts for Question & Artist will be centered around some photojournalism career queries. Hooray! I’ll be splitting it up into three segments: news, music, and fashion (turn to the left!).

As I’ve been conversing with a peer of mine who has shot dozens of concerts, and is now a Rolling Stone contributor, I reflected on how the heck I got into concert photography myself. It’s still a hobby of mine, if you can call it that, but I don’t consider myself anything fancy. Then again, I need to fortify my self esteem and say, gosh darn it, I’m proud of some of the shots I’ve taken and it’s quite a thrill to be up at the stage.

So, to preface the photojournalist series, here’s my story.

I’d switched out of the journalism program at Emerson College. I decided that I wanted to keep writing, but I’d already been writing for some local papers and websites, and wanted to learn something new. I wanted to stay connected to arts and music, and had long loved audio and video. I applied and transferred to the Visual and Media Arts Department.

Since I was still writing for the school’s paper, and wanted to mainly write about music, I just started pitching. I actually got through step one of pitching to Modern Drummer (I have yet to have this luck since. We’ll see about that!), when I thought, “hey, I didn’t think I’d get through that”. I ended up writing for some online zines, and wrote for a metal site for a while. Rest assured, these album and band reviews have left the interwebs. I wrote a blog post for Drummerworld’s website. I can’t remember what else.

I’d been taking classes at Berklee, through the ProArts Consortium. One day I checked my Berklee email to find a call for music journalists. MyFox Boston’s music page, which also has left the interwebs, needed someone to review albums and go to concerts. My first review was for the White Rabbits.

I received press releases and press kits from artists, and pitched my own assignments. For instance, I was going to see Fiction Plane, so I offered to cover the show and interview the band. It was my first big phone interview! And, no, we didn’t have iPhones and Google Voice back then, so I wrote the whole thing down with a pencil while I was talking. Nerd.

I was very proud of this terrible photo.

I was very proud of this terrible photo.

Toward the end of the summer, the site’s content producer asked if I’d cover a show as a writer and photographer. It was a super 90s show. Emerson Hart (from Tonic), Collective Soul, and Live. Get out your flannel and Doc Martens! Oh, wait. Those are in style again.

I’d never shot a show in the pit before. I had a little Kodak camera (that little guy carried a lot of shows, next to lots of high powered Nikon and Canons), and I didn’t even know what the pit was.

If you’re unfamiliar, as I was, the pit is the area at the stage, before the barricades where the audience starts. The pit may also house the video track.

The woman rep from Live Nation met me, a completely wide eyed and nervous student, and basically laid it out for me. The rules that follow every photo set.

“I’m going to bring all the photographers out in the pit and Mr. Hart will start his set. He’s allowing three songs and then you’re out. Stevie Wonder was here last night and he only allows thirty seconds, so you’re lucky you get three songs. After that you can go back out to your seats.”


This felt so exciting, yet natural, that when I had tickets to see The Police a few months from then, I wanted to review the show. I was already going. Why don’t I…cover press and photo?

My producer wrote back. “There’s no way we can get you a press pass to The Police, but you can certainly review it. If you want to try and get a press pass, go for it, but it’s not likely.”

So, I shrugged, sighed, and gave up.

WRONG. So, I sat down at my computer and put those journalism skills to use.

I was seeing one of my favorite bands, one that I never thought would perform together again.

I was reviewing it for a Boston news site.

You’re darn tootin’ I’m going to see if I can get a press pass for photos.

There is one skill I have that I am very proud of, aside from Name That Tune or imitating R2D2’s scream.

And that skill is being able to track people down. You can run from Farah, but you can’t hide. That’s one reason why Question and Artist is quite the happy challenge, too. The challenge of finding the artist!

Anyway, I’m pretty sure I emailed Sting’s wife by accident at some point, or something. Awkward much? I didn’t want to feel like this:

Eventually Sting’s manager sent me to The Police’s tour manager. I was put on a waiting list to review my credentials. Days later, I received confirmation with instructions on where to go and who to meet.

Feeling legit.

Feeling legit.

 Being backstage with Stewart Copeland’s drum set (can we call it a drum set? Drum land?) was magical. The roar of the audience behind you is such a buzz! And then seeing a performance from that perspective is just out of this world. It’s like the bass just soars right through you.

The Police 2007 ©Farah Joan Fard, Andy Summers.

The Police 2007 ©Farah Joan Fard, Andy Summers.

I was definitely hooked. I wasn’t paid, but when you cover shows you usually get a comp ticket with the option, sometimes, to bring a guest. Some high security or sold out shows will not offer a comp ticket.

From there I pitched a lot of the shows I wanted to cover. The tour manager for The Police notified me that I could cover their last stop in Massachusetts, about ten months later. And a few years back one of these photos was optioned as a press shot for Andy Summers. Point being: don’t burn bridges.

Can you imagine some of the junk tour managers and agents have to put up with? Let us not forget the Sting Stalker, and other follies. After interviewing the friendly guys of Gentlemen Hall, for instance, they and their manager agreed to let me photograph their soundcheck. I had a brand new Nikon. Not only did it present a defect at the soundcheck, the strap on it gave out and I dropped it. All of the photos came out terribly. After all that. I was embarrassed to show my shots!

Even if I don’t cover shows much anymore, it led me to so many opportunities, and gave me a lot of work skills. I made working relationships with tour managers, PR reps at labels, venue managers, and some of the musicians. Some of these people have helped me with obtaining other press passes, interview subjects, or even job applications.

And, as I went on to finally cover an event as just myself for the first time, I met the photographer who will be first up for the Question and Artist photojournalism series. Do you have any music photography specific questions for him? Questions about this post? Send those questions my way!

Kimbra at Royale 2012 ©Farah Joan Fard

Kimbra at Royale 2012 ©Farah Joan Fard

More photos here.

Courtesy of Aaron Blaise

Question & Artist With Aaron Blaise

How does one become an animator, and what about 2D animation?
This is my first entry for the Question & Artist series!
If you don’t remember what that is, I’m more than glad to refresh your memory.
A little while ago, I decided to start a page on this site, where anyone interested in a specific industry within the arts can send their questions along. From there, I’d connect with a professional in that field, and we could then present the Q&A here on LaParadiddle. So, maybe you want to get used to informational interviews. Or perhaps you’re a prospective student and aren’t sure what to major in, though you want to stay connected to your art, whether it be music, visual arts, or theater. Maybe you’re just a curious cat! If anything, Question & Artist should serve as a way for the artist community to help others. I think we tend to feel a little stuck in arts oriented industries, and it can start to feel even more competitive, due to saturation in the market.
My first submission comes from a student who is not currently studying animation, but is curious about it. She is a 2D animation lover, but would like to remain anonymous for her Q&A submission.
She says, “I watch online critics catered to animated films. I listen to songs and think of how I would storyboard it. I just love to read up new for animated films that won’t be out for years, if ever […] one thing that leaves me immensely dejected is the lack of presence of hand-drawn animation. Perhaps in Europe and Asia the absence is nonexistent, but in the U.S., studios see the hand-drawn medium as a crutch. I really feel saddened by this mentality, because hand-drawn has just as much artistic potential as does CG.
Year after year, I keep getting built up inspiration from professional animators who similarly do not wish to see hand-drawn go away. To name a few:
– Andreas Deja is working on an independent animated film called “Muska”
– Glenn Keane recently did a beautiful short called “Duet”
– James Lopex is fundraising on Indie Gogo to make a hand-drawn short called “Hullabaloo”
– Aaron Blaise & Chuck Williams recently funded and are now working on a hand-drawn film called “Art Story
I would love to hear from someone who animates stories outside the “common” animation studios. They do not necessarily have to be the aforementioned animators (although that would be incredible), but just anyone who is familiar with and is a lover of storytelling and hand-drawn animation and is pursing it on a freelance or independent scale.”
I am excited to say that Aaron Blaise was kind enough to answer questions for this first entry in the Question & Artist series. You may recognize his work from Pocahontas, Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Rescuers Down Under! Mr. Blaise’s answers are below, and my comments are added in italics.
Photo courtesy of Aaron Blaise's Creature Art Teacher website.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Blaise’s Creature Art Teacher website.

How should one interested in hand-drawn animation look at their college career and college major? As a building block to the interest they have, or as a practical back-up plan in case hand-drawn animation is not viable?
I highly recommend a degree in animation. There several great animation schools out there. Ringling, Savannah College of Art, Cal. Arts. A job in hand drawn animation is becoming more and more hard to come by with most of the work being done in commercials or television animation. Nobody is really doing any full hand drawn Disney style animation anymore from a feature standpoint. I recommend getting a degree in computer animation. You will learn the same principals as hand drawn and will come out of school with many more options available to you.
Is New York City a good place to make independent animation, or is better to move elsewhere?
To be honest, I don’t really know the best place to do independent animation. With technology the way it is now, I would imagine you could make it anywhere you like.

Are there ways to make independent animated content less financially risky?
Really there are only two ways to make animation less financially risky.
1. Make the story as good as it can possibly be! It needs to be entertaining or no one will want to see it!
2. Cut back on production costs. Find ways of producing the product that will cost less. Think about the style, the number of shots, the number of back grounds that can be reused, the character count…the list goes on. All of these, and more, contribute to how expensive or inexpensive a film is.

How does one get suitable voice actors to participate in an animated project? Do the circumstances change if the project in question is going to be an online animated series of shorts, or an animated web series, or an independent animated film?
I come from the big studio world where we use casting directors to help us find the voice talent and then go they go on to help make the deal with the actors. For something independent you might want to find up and comers or friends with good acting skills to cover that ground. You will not get an “A” lister to participate.
Farah: From a personal perspective, I know many who do voice over work or hire for voice over work, and use their own networks, casting agencies, or even online voice acting libraries to find talent. Whenever I’d had to cast for voice over, we went through finding talent online or through our own network.

Similar to the above, how do the music compositions get handled?
Music is handled the same as above in the big studio world. We have a music executive that helps us find the artist we want and then that person goes on to make the deal. I worked with Phil Collins and Tina Turner on “Brother Bear”. That is how their deals were made. The same advice applies to smaller independent productions as above. Also scour the internet…there are a lot of composers fresh out of school that are itching to do something like that. I get contacted all the time by these people.

How can other animators willing to do independent work be found?
It comes down to money. Quality animators will not work for free. If you have a budget you can use social media quite well to find potential candidates. If you don’t have a budget, look to the school that you attend to find the talent.
How can artistic ownership be protected when doing independent projects?
Farah: Non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, are often used on features.
I work a lot with the Artists Rights Society at my full time job, and they have a lot of information on artist copyright here. Your artistic ownership may depend on your work for hire agreement. If you’ve created your own artwork for your own project, and somebody wants to use it in a project for profit, they really should be asking your permission. A permission agreement may include the term of the use, whether it will be print or digital, the print run, if applicable, the territory, and the fee.
Aladdin concept art, courtesy of Aaron Blaise and

Aladdin concept art, courtesy of Aaron Blaise and

You can check out more of Aaron Blaise’s work at his website, which also includes great blog posts about his animation work, as well as prints. I’m so thrilled Blaise was able to help with this…his work has been so influential to animation…and our generation, too!
Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 9.50.25 PM

Arts Matter Day 2014, A Group Effort

Arts matter more than my ego.

Why do I say that? Because, sure, this isn’t the best cutting I’ve ever done on a video. No L cuts, noise reduction, color correction. I’m pretty sure I hear some clipping, I myself look pretty goofy, and I wanted to spend some more time on the audio levels, but that’s not the point of this video.

October 24 is Arts Matter day, supported by MassCreative.

A little over a month ago I expressed the idea that I’d like to put together a video for Arts Matter day, comprised of different Boston artists or artists who’d studied in Boston.

Why the group effort? Because I believe that is one of the qualities of the arts community that is so compelling. I find art to be collaborative, not competitive. Sure, we have battle of the bands and competitions, but the arts community needs to be collaborative to survive, and survives on the support of each individual in the community. I felt that I could demonstrate this quality by reaching out to those in the community, past and present, and putting together a sort of collage of why arts matter to us, and why the Boston arts scene matters to us in particular.

So, here it is. Special thanks to Adam 12 of Radio BDC, Gaby Dunn, George Watsky, REKS, Rachel Cossar of the Boston Ballet, Timothy Genis of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the performers of Fermata Town, and Lucius (for their support and enthusiasm, and sorry that I was not able to obtain their video…their support is much appreciated!).

This, in a 5 minute collaboration…THIS is why to me and should matter in the November election.

Why do arts matter to you? What are you or your community doing to support the arts?

Timothy Genis

Adam 12


Gaby Dunn


Rachel Cossar

Fermata Town