Golden Age of Train Graffiti on view @ City Lore

NYCSubwayGirl loves to share about cool discoveries in NYC. City Lore has amazing advocacy and outreach within NYC communities.  They support the arts in ways that are more important than ever before. City Lore documents, presents, and advocates for grassroots cultures to ensure their living legacy in stories, histories, places, and traditions. It's thanks to City Lore that I have information to provide street performers who want to know their rights.

I wasn't singing in the subway's back in the '70's and '80's (honestly never occured to me until the late '90's) but I do remember the graffiti on and in the trains , they are captured in an amazing exhibition that opens tonight at the City Lore gallery.  Hope you join me.


City Lore is pleased to announce the exhibition: Moving Murals: Henry Chalfant & Martha Cooper’s All-City Graffiti Archive, opening Thursday, April 3rd with a reception from 6-9pm, and running through July 10, 2014.

Shot during the “Golden Age of Graffiti” in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, Chalfant and Cooper’s images of graffitied subway cars are among the major documents of American popular culture in the late twentieth century. Moving Murals presents their images in a way that they have never been seen in New York: a wall to wall mosaic of over 850 muraled trains, creating an ultimate All City graffiti trainyard environment complimented by wallpapered photographs of the writers in their element.  And for the first time, the exhibit provides an interactive audience experience through the addition of Chalfant’s recently published iBook viewed on a large screen, complete with the train image archive, artist interviews, and videos.

These classic train murals, which have been the inspiration and guide for thousands of youthful artists around the world, did not survive on the trains for long before the city cleaned the cars, or the artists’ rivals painted over them. Chalfant and Cooper’s patience and determination in hunting down and capturing these ephemeral masterpieces with their cameras has left the world with a representative cross section of some of the best work by the most talented young artists who painted New York City’s subway cars in the seventies and eighties. These images pay homage to the young artists from the City’s underserved outer boroughs whose work—though often dismissed as vandalism—challenged contemporary fine arts standards, and lit the fuse for the street art and hip hop explosion heard around the world.

Where: The City Lore Gallery, 56 E 1st St. New York, NY 10003

How to get there: Take the F train to 2nd Ave or 6 train to Bleecker St.

For more information: 212-529-1955 x13 or

Street I Am, Guest Blogger about Buskers @NewMuseum

Street I Am is about about: Street Entertainment News – Street Art, Buskers, Street Performance, gatherings, festivals, parades.  I am happy to post their recent blog about the opening night at the New Museum where I performed.  Also featuring another street performer Jacob Cohen the subway cello.  Read on…...

1_street i am_logo.jpg

February 19, 2014 by Iru Streetiam 

Subway Buskers meet The Neighbors, Pawel Althamer

Subway buskers in collaboration @NewMuseum - Pawel althamer ” The Neighbors” Sculpture and Music as One -

Collaboration commences as Subway Cello sets tone at exhibit opening,- NYCSubwaygirl to follow -

Two of New York City’s finest subway buskers are a part of an innovative gallery experience at the New Museum in NYC. Polish born sculptor Pawel Althamer’s, The Neighbors exhibit runs into the month of April. The sound track is provided by some of the best street musicians in town.


subway buskers One of these outstanding subway buskers is Jacob Cohen from NYC, known as the Subway Cello. He is seen here playing his heart out for the exhibit’s Grand Opening. Positioned  in the middle of the visitors creative space, he set the tone for collaboration. People who attend the exhibit are invited to draw an the walls as you see in the picture. Musicians play live music from the street below the gallery. The live music is broadcast throughout rooms of magnificent sculpture. 


Althamer-roomfull A multi-level collaboration.

The Subway Cello has many styles and all of them resonate with a timbre of sophistication. Sometimes classic sometimes jazz, maybe hip hop or even pornographic. His many sides are revealed for one and all on his website and his YouTube documentary. Jacob Cohen Documentary

 and here's another Street I Am post by Patrick Rulh 

Busking NYCSubwaygirl one of The Neighbors collaborates in Althamer Exhibit @NewMuseum

The 2nd of the subway buskers, Cathy Grier has a website and a lot more. She not only loves to play in the subway but she likes to write about it too. This is part of what she has to say about the Pawel Althamer exhibit The Neighbors

On thursday February 20th from 6-9 pm I will be performing at the New Museum during the Pawel Althamer exhibition. Pawel wanted to have street musicians performing during the exhibit to express the idea of collaboration and connection. I will be performing from time to time until April 12th (here’s a link to my schedule).  Many other street musicians have been selected to also perform.

Someone asked me why I don’t consider this a concert series in a museum lobby. I am being amplified so that the live music is carried up into the exhibition onto the 3rd floor. Since I have seen the exhibition, it changes the way I perform.

Cathy Grier – NYC Subway Girl : The Back of the Busk

This documentary will give you some music and a chance to meet this New York City talent.

Tod Kelly's Virtual Musical Advent Calendar

Tod Kelly has a unique perspective on Holiday songs. As a child I always enjoyed the ritual of opening each little window in our families Advent Calendar every day. Even if I don't celebrate Advent I've been enjoying Tod's Virtual Musical Advent Calendar posted on the Ordinary Gentlemen blog. This one was posted on December 4 :Maybe This Christmas and used by permission. At the bottom of this post I'll be adding all of Tod's Virtual Musical Advent Calendar postings. Thanks Tod

View all posts by Tod Kelly

                   Maybe This Christmas by Tod Kelly

a-charlie-brown-christmas   My guess is that not a lot of readers are familiar with today’s Advent Calendar selection, Ron Sexsmith’s Maybe This Christmas.  I suspect over the coming years this will change; I have no doubt that a generation from now it will be part of our Classic Holiday canon.  This is no easy feat, as we shall see. But before we get into all of that, take a listen to Maybe This Christmas:    

Every year recording companies push their artists under contract to come up with a new Holiday song, hoping to strike gold.  It’s one thing to have an artist like Harry Connick, Jr. or Mariah Carey put out an album of standards that will sell by the millions.  But what record companies really want is that single song that will become a perennial yuletide hit, re-recorded by dozens of other Harry Connick, Jrs. and Mariah Careys each year, and to which they own the exclusive copyright.  This is why each year so many top-selling artists who don’t have a Christmas album coming out will release original Holiday singles.  When those singles invariably don’t catch on, the record companies will often hand the failed song to another artist under contract, hoping that a fresh voice and audience might succeed where others have failed before the title enters the dreaded state of Public Domain.

Because the potential revenue earned by owning the rights to a Holiday standard is so astronomically large, record companies tend to throw everything they have at these numbers.  As a result, the recordings are too often over-produced, over-hyped, and over-played at even a single listen.  With the bigger artists, more time and effort is spent on the music videos made to “push” the song than in writing and recording the actual songs themselves.  Not that any of that helps, mind you.  Each year, famous, top-tier recording artists release dozens of the things; every following year, no one remembers that they were released at all.  They are almost universally horrid, saccharine, unlistenable dreck.

For fans of individual artists, this answers questions they’ve probably long wanted to ask the objects of their affection:

“Why did Kelly Clarkson put that terrible Wrapped In Red on her Christmas album, and why in God’s name did she have it be the very first track?”

“What on earth were The Killers thinking releasing A Great Big Sled?”

Christmas Lights in so obviously forgettable, dull, and uninspired -- why did Coldplay even bother?”

“Oh, Britney, Justin, N Sync, Toby and Sammy, how could you?  What the hell did we ever do to you?”

Maybe This Christmas, however, is simply an amazing piece of song-craft.

Unlike other new holiday offerings, the recording’s production is small and intimate, relying instead on an uplifting and catchy melody.  The lyrics are both simple and threadbare, yet they still convey complex layers: in a season of supposed good cheer, the singer privately longs to leave behind his melancholy depression in favor of the love and happiness he sees around him.  As much as he secretly wishes to do so, however, he recognizes wistfully that he may not have it in him; everything is couched in the word “maybe.”

“And maybe forgiveness will ask us to call

Someone we love, someone we’ve lost

For reasons we can’t quite recall.

Maybe this Christmas?”

That simultaneous feeling of hope and loss -- who amongst us hasn’t experienced this sensation at least once at Christmas?

Unlike most new Holiday offerings, Maybe This Christmas is starting to be covered a lot, especially by other independent artists.  Because of this, it seems destined to eventually take a place in the Classic Holiday canon.  Regardless, it will always be an entry on my own Christmas playlists.

You should add it to yours as well

Side note:

As long as I’m writing about Maybe This Christmas, I might as well note that there is another Ron Sexsmith original that almost-kind-of made the Advent Calendar: Snow Angel.

Like Merry Xmas (War Is Over) and Baby It’s Cold Outside, Snow Angel was never meant to be a holiday or even a seasonal song.  Rather, it’s an achingly sad reflection of the lugubrious regret we feel in later life at letting the things that really mattered slip through our fingers in our youth.  And unlike Maybe This Christmas, I don’t think it has a prayer at ever becoming a standard.  But because of its snow angel imagery (and its gorgeous melody), it gets placed in a lot of my longer holiday music playlists.  And because I’m pimping Ron Sexsmith today, I’ll post Snow Angel as well:

Follow Tod on Twitter, view his archive, or email him. Visit him at

"Yes Sir, That's My Baby" - A Tribute To Marriage Equality.

I met Sarah Kilborne and Ryder performing last night at a benefit in Hudson NY for Child Advocacy.          

They sang Yes Sir That's My Baby and shared their desire to "Kiss Inequality Goodbye" 5 days from now the Supreme Court will begin a historical debate. One I believe will come down on the right side of history ending DOMA, allowing equality in marriage for all. Nothing like the power of song to say it best.  

video made of Sarah and Ryder of Missy Mister by Johannes Courtens

Read Sarah's writing I discovered on Huffington Post:

by Sarah S. Kilborne Writer (author American Phoenix), historian, musician (Missy Mister) and editor

The Supreme Kiss: Let's Kiss Inequality Goodbye

In the Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." But not all Americans are at liberty to live their lives openly or pursue happiness to its furthest and fullest conclusion,

We can help change that.

Much has been written about the history of marriage, and soon much more will be added. Five weeks from now the Supreme Court will begin to consider marriage equality in this country. March 26, 2013, inaugurates a historic moment in the history of the United States when, for the first time, the highest court in the land will hear arguments on the constitutionality of marriage rights for gay and lesbian Americans.

These will be groundbreaking days. A generation ago America was not ready for marriage equality, but today is a different story, with a November 2012 CBS News poll showing that 51 percent of Americans are now in favor of same-sex marriage.

Let's show the Supreme Court that we are indeed ready to evolve and embrace another chapter in civil rights. While the lawyers are making their cases, let's make our own.

On March 26, kiss someone you love, and share your kiss with the world. Text it, tweet it, post it. Tell everyone, "I kiss for equality!"

Throughout time and across borders, giving a kiss has been a symbol of support, love, friendship, peace, respect and union. Couples unite at the altar with a kiss. Heads of state kiss to show understanding and accord. Adversaries kiss to "make up" and restore harmony. Friends kiss to greet one another "hello."

On March 26, kiss your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, lover, partner, son, daughter, mother, father, colleague or friend, and do so with a consciousness that you are supporting equal rights for all.

Kisses are free. Civil rights should be too.

In his second inaugural address, President Obama said something profound: "We are made for this moment." And we are!

On March 26, show the Supreme Court that you believe in equality for all.

Kiss for peace. Kiss for justice. Kiss for history.

Gay rights are civil rights, and love is a universal right.

Together, let's kiss inequality goodbye!

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American Music Project

I;m giving this space to the American Music Project created by Eric Santagada and Marie Sullivan. I met Eric at a concert I performed in in Hudson, NY to benefit Habitat For Humanity.  He talked about this project and I was intrigued.

I look forward to following Eric and Marie on their musical journey and I hope you will too.

from Eric Santagada and Marie Sullivan:

We are travelling across the country, documenting the best music scenes in America.  The American Music Project - Every city has a sound.

We made this video for our Kickstarter fundraising campaign –  It explains what we are doing.


We will spend one month in each city, living out of the AMPmobile (our  van converted into a studio), documenting festivals, popular venues, street performers, and more.  We will produce videos, photographs, and the AMP Blog to tell our story. Our content will be shared using social media.

Everything will be available, for free, on this webpage.

We have successfully raised $9,000 for our first installment -  Nashville, New Orleans, and Austin TX.  We are using the money for our vehicle expenses, additional recording equipment, and for baseline living expenses.  We hope that merchandise sales and sponsorships will allow us to become self-sustainable.

Our content will take four forms:


To make you feel like you are there.    ”Welcome to Nashville,” “SXSW,” “Street Performers of New Orleans,” etc.


Concerts, Portraits, Cityscapes, Behind-the-scenes, etc. to give you a closer look.

The AMP Blog

To chronicle our adventures and insights.

Social Media

We will connect you to our journey, in real-time, using Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, etc.

In the future, we hope to cover more cities, building a rich resource and community for music lovers across America.  Consider following us on Facebook and Twitter, or signing up for updates to the right!

If you know any music lovers in these cities that may be interested in talking to us, please connect us!   We may also need an occasional couch to surf on.

Feel free to email us any time at  info (at)

Welcome to the American Music Project!

Harry Belafonte

From Democracy Now February 18, 2013

Along with his rise to worldwide stardom, the musician and actor Harry Belafonte has been deeply involved in social activism for decades. One of Dr. Martin Luther King’s closest confidants, Belafonte helped organize the March on Washington in 1963. On Friday, the NAACP awarded Belafonte their highest honor, the Spingarn Medal. "Numerous strategies in the quest of our freedom have been played out at all levels of the social spectrum," Belafonte says in his acceptance speech. "What is missing I think from the equation in our struggle today is that we must unleash radical thought... America has never been moved to perfect our desire for greater democracy without radical thinking and radical voices being at the helm of any such a quest." 

more Harry

One Billion Rising 02-14-13

The ONE BILLION RISING campaign began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS. On February 14, 2013, V-Day’s 15th anniversary, activists, writers, thinkers, celebrities and women and men across the world will come together to express their outrage, strike, dance, and RISE in defiance of the injustices women suffer, demanding an end at last to violence against women.  

"Dancing insists we take up space, and though it has no set direction, we go there together. Dance is dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive, and contagious and it breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere, at anytime, with anyone and everyone, and it's free. Dance joins us and pushes us to go further and that is why it's at the center of ONE BILLION RISING," said Eve Ensler, V-Day Founder and Artistic Director. “With beautiful music and infectious lyrics from Tena Clark, amazing vocals by a talented group of V-Girls, and Debbie Allen’s bold choreography, Break The Chain is sure to inspire women and men worldwide to rise.”

The campaign is growing every day in the lead up to February 14, 2013, with women and men around the world signing on. To date, thousands of activists, over 13,000 organizations around the globe, and 176 countries have committed to participate and hold events.  From the International Rescue Committee, to NOW to the AFL-CIO, to OXFAM Australia, to Sangat South Asia and Lila Pilipina, to Amnesty International USA, thousands of organizations are spreading the word amongst their millions of members in an effort to make the campaign the largest volunteer mass action ever.

V-Day’s short campaign film ONE BILLION RISING, shot and edited by South African filmmaker Tony Stroebel, has been viewed and shared over 170,000 times since launching this fall. Celebrities including Jessica Alba, Connie Britton, Anne Hathaway, Donna Karan, Jennifer Lawrence, Dylan McDermott, Riley Keough, Thandie Newton, Yoko Ono, Laura Pausini, Robert Redford, Charlize Theron, Lily Tomlin, Kerry Washington, Ruby Wax, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Monique Wilson, and Zoe Kravitz, are all actively working to raise awareness about the campaign and recording PSAs to inspire others to sign on.

Ensler kicks-off a multi-city tour with stops in Mexico City, Lima, and Guatemala City to meet with officials and activists. Governments and politicians around the world are already supporting ONE BILLION RISING. From the First Lady of Nepal to the Mayor of Lima, from the Los Angeles City Council to British MP Stella Creasy, from officials in Santa Fe to France, around the world leaders are joining the campaign.

Regional coordinators are working around the clock, building grassroots coalitions. From Iran to Fiji, from Hong Kong to Guatemala, the reach of the campaign is already upwards of hundreds of millions of individuals. Renowned writers and thinkers including Alice Walker, Adam Hochschild, Naomi Klein, Dr. Denis Mukwege, and Christiane Northrup are supporting the effort. Every day the campaign grows, and more women and men are committing to rise together on February 14, 2013.

Individuals and organizations can get involved with ONE BILLION RISING by:


Written by Renowned Producer Tena Clark, Featuring Dancer and Choreographer Debbie Allen, and Directed by Tony Stroebel, New Video to Spread Awareness of Global Campaign

ONE BILLION RISING Campaign Escalates with 176 Countries and Over 13,000 Organizations Signed on to Support Global Day of Action to End Violence Against Women and Girls

NEW YORK – V-Day, the global activist movement to end violence against women and girls, unveiled an exclusive new song and music video to support its ONE BILLION RISING campaign.  “Break the Chain,” written and produced by Tena Clark with music by Tena Clark and Tim Heintz, debuted world-wide (November 19, 2012).

Directed and shot by South African filmmaker Tony Stroebel in New York City, “Break the Chain” spotlights a cast of V-Girl dancers and activists from around the City, led by acclaimed dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen (“So You Think You Can Dance,” “Fame”).  The song features moving vocals by Liz Byrne, Shelea Frazier, Ashley Juedy, Dana Kluczyk, Jenny Mollett, Jenna Brooke Scannelli, Tanyaradzwa Tawengwa, Naomi Walley, and Caitlin Witty. 

Break the Chain,” aims to raise awareness around the world about V-Day’s fastest escalating global campaign to date, ONE BILLION RISING.  V-Day will create a “how to” video, featuring choreographer Debbie Allen, and accompanying curriculum outlining the steps and lyrics, so that activists around the world can hold their own flash mobs using “Break the Chain” on February 14, 2013.

About V-Day

V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness through benefit productions of Playwright/Founder Eve Ensler's award winning play The Vagina Monologues and other artistic works. In 2012, over 5,800 V-Day benefit events organized by volunteer activists in the U.S. took place around the world educating millions of people about the reality of violence against women and girls. To date, the V-Day movement has raised over $90 million; educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it; crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns; reopened shelters; and funded over 13,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq. Over 300 million people have seen a V-Day benefit event in their community. V-Day has received numerous acknowledgements includingWorth Magazine's 100 Best Charities, Marie Claire Magazine's Top Ten Charities, one of the Top-Rated organizations on Philanthropedia/Guidestar and Great Nonprofits.


Here's my clip of the song I wrote honoring Eve Ensler and the One Billion Rising campaign and why I'm Rising on February 14th


Influential Women Speak Out on the Election

I have posted this from an 10-28-2012 Huffington Post article

Marianne Schnall is a widely published writer and interviewer whose writings and interviews have appeared in a variety of media outlets including O, The Oprah MagazineIn Style,,, the Women's Media Center, and many others. Marianne is a featured blogger at The Huffington Post and a regular contributor to the nationally syndicated NPR radio show, 51% The Women's Perspective. She is also the co-founder and executive director of the women's web site and non-profit organization, as well as the co-founder of the environmental She is the author of Daring to Be Ourselves: Influential Women Share Insights on Courage, Happiness and Finding Your Own Voice based on her interviews with a variety of well-known women. You can visit her website

Influential Women Speak Out on the Election

Posted: 10/28/2012 11:10 pm


Featuring remarks from Isabel Allende, Joan Blades, Martha Burk, Eve Ensler, Gloria Feldt, Kim Gandy, Kirsten Gillibrand, Carol Jenkins, Shelby Knox, Elizabeth Lesser, Lisa Ling, Courtney Martin, Pat Mitchell, Robin Morgan, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, Kathy Najimy, Nancy Pelosi, Ai-Jen Poo, Amy Richards, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Gloria Steinem, Barbra Streisand, Loung Ung, Rebecca Walker, Marie Wilson

The inspiration to do this piece occurred when two very special people in my life highlighted for me how critical this election really is. The first was my good friend, playwright Eve Ensler, founder of the global anti-violence movement V-Day, who at the end of a recent interview, expressed to me her heightened concern about what she feels is at stake, followed later that evening by my spirited 14-year-old daughter who has been intensely engaged with this election. She made a compelling plea that I write an article about it. It is after all her future -- and the future of all girls and women -- that hangs in the balance of what path we pursue -- forward or backwards.

It was in that mind-set that I set out to do this piece. In my career as a journalist and as founder of the 17 year-old women's web site, I have been fortunate to have interacted with some of the most influential women of our time. I couldn't help but wonder - what were they thinking right now? So I posed the following question to some of them, "What message would you most want to get out to women about the upcoming election?" Here are their inspiring answers.

In alphabetical order: Isabel Allende, Joan Blades, Martha Burk, Eve Ensler, Gloria Feldt, Kim Gandy, Kirsten Gillibrand, Carol Jenkins, Shelby Knox, Elizabeth Lesser, Lisa Ling, Courtney Martin, Pat Mitchell, Robin Morgan, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, Kathy Najimy, Nancy Pelosi, Ai-Jen Poo, Amy Richards, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Gloria Steinem, Barbra Streisand, Loung Ung, Rebecca Walker, Marie Wilson

"Beware, there's a terrorist attack on women's reproductive rights by religious and right wing groups. If Republicans win the election, women may lose the rights they take for granted. Think of your daughters when you cast your vote!!!"
-- Isabel Allende, author of Paula and The House of the Spirits, founder of the Isabel Allende Foundation

"The middle class is being hollowed out as the division between the the haves and have nots has escalated over the last four decades with women, children, and families among the most adversely impacted. The influence of money and power on our political system underlies many of the dynamics creating this rift in economic health. Voting is the heart of citizen power, the time when we can elect leaders that fight corporate influence and pass laws that bypass legislatures that are beholden to special interests. This is our best opportunity to move toward a more fair and healthy society. Celebrate voting!"
-- Joan Blades, co-founder of, co-author of The Custom-Fit Workplace: Choose When WhereHow to Work and Boost Your Bottom Line, and The Motherhood Manifesto

"I would want to tell women to do their own research, not only into what the candidates say (and look for specifics, not broad generalizations) but also their party platforms, since those are the official positions of the parties. Even if they say they will, for instance, keep abortion legal, if their own party is able to restrict it to the point of being meaningless through legislation, a president will not veto such legislation. Which brings me to the second point: who controls the Congress is every bit, if not more, important than who is in the White House. Veto proof majorities can indeed rule."
-- Martha Burk, Director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women's Organizations, author of Your Money and Your Life: The High Stakes for Women Voters in '08 and Beyond, Money editor for Ms. Magazine

"After witnessing the Republican party's siege on women's rights and bodies, after Romney choosing as his running mate Paul Ryan who tried to write "forcible rape" into federal law, after Romney standing by Richard Mourdock who believes in "God-intended rape," the mindset of the current Republican party and its leader has been revealed. A party that is blatantly contemptuous of women, their rights, their access to healthcare, to fair pay, to freedom. This mindset is both psychotic and terrifyingly ignorant of the core issue impacting women -- violence, which impacts one out of three women during their lifetime. It would be simply suicidal for any woman to vote for Romney. Voting for him is actively voting to erase yourself, your body, your rights, not to mention those of your daughters'."
-- Eve Ensler, playwright and author of The Vagina MonologuesThe Good Body andEmotional Creature: The Secret Lives of Girls Around the World, founder of V-Day,One Billion Rising

"Value yourselves. Don't let anyone put you into binders. The power is in your hands to determine the outcome of this election. But power unused is power useless. Vote. Vote your best interests. It's really OK to put yourself first for a change. If you want economic and reproductive justice, if you want your daughters to get fair pay, health care, and equal job opportunity, if you believe women should be able make their own childbearing decisions, if you want to safeguard Medicare and Social Security for yourselves and your parents, if you care about the Supreme Court, then you'd better vote for Obama and those who share his positions on down the ticket."
-- Gloria Feldt, author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About PowerThe War on Choice, former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America

"With candidates who oppose women's rights, and in fact would like to roll back many of the very real gains women have made over the past 40 years, now is no time to sit home and let others make these decisions. Start now. Know the issues, ask questions, and vote as if your future depends on it, because in so many ways it will."
-- Kim Gandy, former President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)

"It's important for every woman to have their voice heard this election because decisions are being made in Washington every single day that affect every aspect of their lives, and if they don't participate, they will not like what they find. It is demeaning to keep having to fight the same battles our mothers and grandmothers had already won for access to basic health care. I hope that not only will every woman in America vote and hold candidates accountable, but also seize this historic opportunity to send more women to Congress than ever before. I can assure you that if women were 51 percent of Congress we would be debating the economy and not access to birth control." 
-- Kirsten Gillibrand, New York State Senator, founder of Off the Sidelines

"We are faced with many complex issues in this election, issues certain to be tempered by life experience, perhaps faith. But one unambiguous subject is equal pay for women. How, in 2012, could there be disagreement on this point? If women were paid their due, the economy would rebound, families would be lifted out of poverty, children would not know hunger. At its core, opposition to women's equality belies a sinister, mean-spiritedness that we must yank up by the roots from our society. And, absolutely, no candidate who shies away from this essential element of our democracy should be able to choose a Supreme Court Justice.That would be malfeasance of the highest order."
-- Carol Jenkins, writer, former television news anchor, and founding president of The Women's Media Center

"Women must understand that the votes we cast this election season are the most effective protest to talking points that distill 'women' into a monolithic special interest group rather than thinking human beings who happen to be the majority of the population. When we vote for candidates that understand that all issues impact women - and each issue and policy decision impacts each individual woman differently depending on the identity intersections at which she lives her life -- we show in numbers that we don't vote with our reproductive organs, we vote with our brains. That's the body part we'll use to 'shut that whole thing down,' thank you very much!"
-- Shelby Knox, writer, speaker and activist

"Besides the obvious message -- that there's an international war on women and its showing up here in the States in this heated election and it's critical that we vote for candidates who value women's bodies, minds, spirits, opinions, wages, jobs, families, and health -- the message I am most interested in is something that Eleanor Roosevelt said: 'It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.' Let's be light-bearers in these dark times. Let's not succumb to cursing the darkness, which seems to be the prevailing modus operandi of this election: the mean-spirited, macho, rooster-strutting, and lie-spewing behavior of so many candidates and their supporters. Can we get our message across by lighting truth candles? By using loving, passionate, funny, bold and beautiful words and actions? Can we model a new way without getting run over by the tanks? I think we can. It starts with us."
-- Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder Omega Institute and the Omega Women's Leadership Center, author of The Seeker's Guide and Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow

"This is a vital election that will determine whether women move forward or backwards. Our rights are being threatened, our bodies are under attack. We must not ignore the fact that the winner of this election will appoint one if not more Supreme Court Justices to the highest court in the land, this could hugely affect women for generations. We cannot be complacent, far too much is at risk." 
-- Lisa Ling, Executive Producer and Host of Our America on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network and Co-Founder of Secret Society of Women

"The mind and heart play strange tricks on the American voter in the circus that is campaign season, often luring her to vote against her best interest. I say, block out the posturing and the politicking, and take a hard look at what values and policies make your life healthier, safer, and more community-oriented. Vote for the guy that gets those things best."
-- Courtney Martin, blogger, speaker, and author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women and Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists

"VOTE!!! Remember what the suffragists said when they finally won their long hard battle to get us the right to vote, knowing that they probably would never get to exercise the right or see the results; they said, 'this is not for ourselves alone.' It was for us and every generation of women to come. If we don't vote, we are ignoring history and giving away the future."
-- Pat Mitchell, President and CEO of the Paley Center for Media, organizer ofTEDxWomen

"It took women 100 years to win the right to vote. Since the Gender Gap is alive and well, if we don't exercise that right in massive numbers on Election Day, it will take only four years of right-wing government to send us back to the Dark Ages."
-- Robin Morgan, author of Sisterhood is Global and Sisterhood is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millenium, founder and President of The Sisterhood is Global Institute, co-founder The Women's Media Center

"There are many things that need to happen for women to have full recognition and participation within our current political system. The first is supporting politicians and legislation that actually impacts our life being fair and maintains accessibility to services that make our day-to-day lives livable (whether that be access to abortion or fair wages). And the second is an ability to participate in the political process. As of right now, the amount of money that has been fed into the election prioritizes the needs of constituents that are not us -- this is not just about women, this is about all voices that are drowned out and not answered to when their only interest is lobby groups (especially ones that support retrograde anti-woman legislation). Justice is the ability to fully participate in the political process, be represented by it and demand that our needs are met and it's important we don't let this issue die down after the election."
-- Samhita Mukhopadhyay, Strategist at and the Executive Editor

"Here is the message I would like spread far and near to ALL of you about the upcoming election. If you go online the morning of Nov. 7th (perhaps The Huffington Post?) and read that Romney is our president... Your heart will sink, your back will kink and I promise you your uterus will retract and shrink.

You may not see the bitter fruitcake fruits of his untimely victory that minute. But when your friends and neighbors, daughters and sons, nieces and nephews or granddaughters and grandsons, stand in front of you in their glorious, authentic selves -- asking for access to important information about their bodies and their sexuality, asking for accurate information about birth control and reproductive rights... AND their freedom to choose... you will see it then.

And when they have the courage and honor to stand in front of you as a proud gay young woman or gay young man seeking support, advice, love, acceptance, and RIGHTS... IF you haven't voted or didn't vote in favor of freedom and respect and choice... knowing you the way I do? That is the day you will put down your blueberry scone, double latte and iPad copy of The Huffington Post and feel remorse.

So my dears -- I implore you to DO it -- VOTE and encourage others to -- and vote not only from your hearts, souls, consciences and minds... but from the bottom of your vaginas."
Kathy Najimy, actress, activist and writer

"There are few elections in our history in which there has been more at stake for America's women: everything from our health care to the economic security of our families and opportunity for our children is on the ballot this November. Women understand the real impact of public policy on their families - what it means for their jobs, their children's education, and for the future of our middle class. I feel great optimism because the voices of America's women will decide the path our great nation takes in this election."
-- Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives

"When women vote our values, we make a decisive difference. When women organize and build our power together, we make history. Let's vote, and let's organize. Our leadership is needed to bring the country together toward a thriving, caring future for everyone." 
-- Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Co-Director ofCaring Across Generations

"Nothing gives me faith that the Romney ticket will take women's issues seriously when he is so closely aligned with The Tea Party, which would strip women of their political power if they could. In the specific, Obama certainly needs prodding when it comes to women's issues, and that's unfortunate, but he knows enough to consult the strong women who surround him and not ignore their value in shaping this country."
-- Amy Richards, author of Grassroots: A Field Guide for Feminist Activism,Manifesta: Young Women Feminism and the Future, and Opting In: Having A Child Without Losing Yourself, co-founder of Third Wave Foundation and

"Women and mother voters matter. Women are more than half the electorate, and 80 percent of women in our nation have children by the time they're 44 years old. Women's votes determined the outcome of the last presidential election, and are poised to do so again. But not only are women's votes powerful, we have a tremendous amount at stake in this election. Women are central contributors to our economy and now comprise half of the paid labor force for the first time in history. Three-quarters of moms are now in the labor force, with half of those moms serving as the primary breadwinner. We're concerned about being able to provide for our families financially, making sure we and they have accessible health care, equal pay for equal work, affordable child care, access to earned sick days, and that there are structures in places so that we can raise healthy, happy kids who can be a vital part of our nation's future success. It's time to use our power, and our votes, to elect candidates on November 6th who will fight for women and families on Main Streets across the nation and not just Wall Street."
-- Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-author of The Motherhood Manifesto and Executive Director/CEO of MomsRising

"Do what Democracy demands. And, that is to make change from the bottom up. It is a lie that it comes from the top down. No. That's what they want us to think -- to disempower us. No, it comes from us. Like a tree, it comes from the bottom up.

Mitt Romney is the most undemocratic, anti-equality, authoritarian, extremist candidate I have ever seen, and there is the most distance between what he says and what he does.

He has the nerve to say he is for job creation. His entire career has been job elimination. He is not even willing to say he is for equal pay. And it happens that equal pay for women of all races is the greatest economic stimulus this country could ever have. Equal pay, and I mean for equal work, would put $200 billion more into the economy every year. That means about $137 for every white woman per pay check -- something like $300 for every woman of color who are doubly discriminated against. And you know that those women are not going to put that money into a Cayman Islands bank account -- they are going to spend that money, and that is going to create jobs...

[Romney] has pledged, on the Republic Party platform, to go around the Supreme Court, and achieve the human life Amendment to the Constitution, which would declare the fertilized egg to be a person. I would like to say that neither the corporation nor the fertilized egg is a person. Pregnant women do not have two votes.

... This voting day is the one day of our lives and on Earth and I have to say we owe this to people in the world whose lives are dictated by U.S. policy, too, but this is the one day on Earth where the least powerful equal the most powerful. I hope that however you can, you will make sure that from now until voting day, you make sure people are not only going to vote, take 10 people with you, take 100 people with you -- make it a party. Sit with people's kids so they can vote. And they are not only going to vote, they are going to fight to vote. If we can't vote, we are going to sit there until we can vote. We are not going to take no for an answer. We are going to get rid of these crazed extremists who do not represent the majority even of their own party."

Excerpt of Gloria Steinem's speech, Saturday, October 20, 2012, St. Petersburg, Florida

Gloria Steinem, activist and writer, author of Revolution From WithinOutrageous Acts and Everyday RebellionsMoving Beyond Words and co-founder of Ms. Magazine and the Women's Media Center

"If you want to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat... you know who to vote for. If you want more money spent on education... on alternative forms of energy... on our crumbling infrastructure... because investing in our country will promote the growth we seek... you know who to vote for. And, if you believe in affordable healthcare, a woman's right to choose what happens to her own body and in protecting Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of health care to low income women... you know who to vote for. If you want to move the country forward, rather than go backward... then you certainly know who to vote for. So on November 6th, no one, especially women, can afford to stay home. We have two candidates with very different views of what America should be. Inform yourself, engage in discussion, make a decision about the kind of country you want to live in... and VOTE." 
-- Barbra Streisand, singer, actress, director, founder of The Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute

"Voting is not only our right, it is our power. When we vote, we take back our power to choose, to speak up, and to stand with those who support us and each other."
-- Loung Ung, human rights activist, author of First They Killed My Father, Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites With the Sister She Left Behind and Lulu in the Sky

"Vote your uterus." 
-- Rebecca Walker, author of Black, White and JewishBaby Love and Black Cool, co-founder of Third Wave Foundation

"Choose wisely or we'll lose our right to choose at all."
-- Marie Wilson, founder and former President of The White House Project, co-creator of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day and author of Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World



Follow Marianne Schnall on Twitter:

Your Right To Vote Painfully Earned

As we head into the election next week I urge you to vote. Recently I was forwarded an email about how the right for women to vote was hard won.  I haven't been able to find out who the original author is, but the text and photos create a very emotional and powerful story. And on the personal humorous side of reading the story I had to look up what Bunco night is!

Read on Thank you anonymous contributor.

Please Vote November 6th

Only 90 years ago... 

Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent - remember to VOTE. 

This is the story of  OUR  Grandmothers and their Mothers who lived only 90 years ago. Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.' 

Thus unfolded the 'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food- all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because - why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining? 

(Alice Paul) When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press. 

(Berthe Arnold, CSU graduate)

(Conferring over ratification [of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution] at [National Woman's Party] headquarters, Jackson Pl[ace] [ Washington , D.C. ]. L-R Mrs. Lawrence Lewis, Mrs. Abby Scott Baker, Anita Pollitzer, Alice Paul, Florence Boeckel, Mabel Vernon (standing, right) 

(Dora Lewis) They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. 

(Helena Hill Weed, Norwalk , Conn. Serving 3 day sentence in D.C. prison for carrying banner, 'Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.')

(Lucy Burns) They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. 

(Miss Edith Ainge, of Jamestown , New York)

(Mrs. Pauline Adams in the prison garb she wore while serving a sixty-day sentence.)

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie 'Iron Jawed Angels.' It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. 'One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,' she said. 'What would those women think of the way I use, or don't use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.' The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her 'all over again.'

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order. It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy. The doctor admonished the men: 'Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.'

We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party - remember to vote.

the end

written by anonymous


2012 Pumpkin carving by Elizabeth Davis

Freedom To Love Concert October 30

The 'Freedom To Love Now!' concert has been postponed due to pending weather conditions. Thank you to everyone who purchased tickets to support this concert, Freedom To Marry, and the fight for the equality for all Americans.  With all the goodwill, momentum, and awareness this concert has generated, we are rebuilding the show on a future date, likely in the Spring.  

You may hold on to your tickets as they will be valid for the rescheduled show.  We will notify you with updated details of the new show very soon.  Alternatively you may request a refund through TicketMaster at this time.

The battle for marriage equality in the US will be far from over even after this election.  And, we hope you'll join us in the future as we continue the fight for social justice with the beauty of music.  Our beneficiary organization Freedom to Marry is doing everything possible to support the ballot campaigns in the four states in the last week before the election.  You can help by making calls for Mainers United for Marriage and Washington United for Marriage without ever even leaving your couch. Just sign up, and an organizer in Maine or Washington will help get you started.  Sign up at these links:

Additionally we will keep you posted on 'Freedom To Love Now!' developments and other projects at and on Facebook at


October 3oth live at the Beacon Theatre 8pm

Inaugural Marriage Equality concert featuring too many artists to mention here.  Freedom To Love Now a concert for marriage equality.

A very special discount for those of you that still need to get your tickets to the Concert on October 30th at the Beacon Theater!

The 15% off discount code is: OCT30NOW  

Get your tickets here:

see you there!


on 2013-02-19 00:55 by NYC Subway Girl

cancelled due to Storm Sandy

One Good Deed by Erin McHugh

Today I'm sharing the work and writing of author and delighted to say friend, Erin McHugh.  

She is a former publishing executive and author of twenty books, including the snarky midterm elections volume COFFEE, TEA OR KOOL-AID: Which Party Politics Are You Swallowing?, and THE L LIFE: Extraordinary Lesbians Making a Difference, a photo essay on lesbian heroines. She lives in New York City and South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Her latest book One Good Deed came from her personal odyssey to blog about doing exactly that. It's a wonderful read, makes you not only feel good, but makes you think about what you can do to make our chaotic world a bit more on the thoughtful side.  

ONE GOOD DEED: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better 

$18.95 in hardcover. You can order now at your local independent bookstoreBarenes + Noble and Amazon

Here's an excerpt from book seller Suzzana Hermans of Oblong books in Millerton and Rhinebeck, NY discussing Erin's One Good Deed on WAMC radio show The Rountable  

I wrote about Erin's blog when she was at day 265. You can read that post here.

and here's her latest blog:

The Mentor – September 7

by erinmchughwrites

Sure, over the years I've helped younger, newer people. People working under me, folks new to a job, people trying to get a job. Newer members on a board of directors. Kids just out of school. Certainly I've given a … Continue reading →

Read more of this post 

Why One Good Deed?

Because we can do a little better....


Follow Erin McHugh on Facebook or on Twitter as @ErinHere.

HerStory 52 women. One year of history

 52 women. One year of history. #HerStory is a project for 2012 in which each week, a contemporary woman shares the story of a historical woman who inspires her. Hear elected officials, academics, mothers, filmmakers, authors, activists, CEO’s, and more provide a snapshot of these women’s lives, from the headliners to the lesser-known gems. 

Rebecca Price  creator of Chick History who has an MA in Museum Studies writes, "The challenge of women's history is the challenge of moving away from the "Great Men" method of telling stories through unique biographies and moving into a more holistic vision of social history. It’s about the contributions of individuals who did remarkable things but weren't in a position where they could distinguish themselves individually - because of societal biases of the time and of early historians. 

The more I study Women’s History, the more fascinating history as a discipline becomes. I will try and do it justice, and I hope you enjoy, learn, and have fun along the way." -Rebecca Price

Cathy Grier writes: I'm excited to be a part of


a project by

Chick History

.  I chose to speak about the life of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. I discovered Vincent's poetry and life, in the late 1990’s  after returning home to the US after living in France and looking to immerse myself in American culture, I discovered  “Savage Beauty,” a biography  by Nancy Milford. I was taken by Vincent's poetic style and her artistic expression on and off the literary stage. I also learned from my mother that my grandfather her father, loved to recite Millay’s work.

here's the link to listen to my episode 

#HerStory 33: Edna St. Vincent Millay by Cathy Grier

What inspired me about getting involved in the Chick History Project? Rebecca was looking for contemporary women to share their inspiration of a women in history and in what ways they connected with her.  Frankly far too many women have been rewritten out of history.  This is a fine way to preserve and honor them.

        read more about HerStory and Chick History:

How many women in history can you name? 20? 10? Who are your favorites? Who has inspired you? How would you tell her story?

In 2012, Chick History will tell the stories of 52 women, not through names and dates of textbooks, but through the voices of contemporary women. Chick History is inviting 52 diverse women to take ownership of the historical women who have inspired them - from the headliners to the lesser-known gems - and is asking each one to share her story with us.

Hear elected officials, academics, mothers, filmmakers, authors, activists, CEO’s, and more offer snapshots of these women’s lives. You may know some of these stories. Others, you may not know. But over the year, #HerStory will provide a collection of inspiring and fascinating women of history who form the foundation on which modern women are building today.

#HerStory is also an empowering way for contemporary women to express their gratitude to these historical women, by becoming an advocate and amplifier of their lives - sharing their stories with the larger world so that others may also find inspiration in their lives.

There is someone in history for all of us. Someone whose actions and words, courage and commitment, is a touchstone for us. Someone who has shaped our values, our points of view, our careers, commitments, and beliefs. Someone whose words cheer us up and motivate us to begin a difficult new project, make a career change, or just help us to get through another depressing day at the office. Someone who inspires us and gives us the strength to make a change in our lives.

Somewhere in these podcasts, during this year, Chick History hopes you will find a connection with one of these women. That she speaks to you on a personal level through her story, and you find something of what you have done, what you are doing, or what you have thought you might try in your own life.

So tune in each week for a new story and get inspired. And when the year is over, the next time someone asks you “How many inspiring women in history are there?” can start with these 52 and go from there.


How do you write someone out of history? read

Rebecca's piece in the Huffington Post

about removing Hilary Clinton out of the photograph of the Osama bin Laden mission from the White House Situation Room.

I was introduced to Rebecca Price through a friend -media guru Nancy VanReece, hear her episode HerStory

#08 about Kathleen Lee Bates 

My partner Michele also got involved, hear HerStory #30 about Anne Morrow Lindbergh 

Another wonderful discovery is the group The Edna Project led by husband and wife musical team Liz Queler and Seth Farber who put music to Vincent's poetry,  set to edgy, sometimes sultry Americana melodies. My favorites are “If Still Your Orchards Bear”, “Wraith” and “The Penitent”.  

follow HerStory on





Smithsonian Folkways

August 10, 1846 the United States Congress passed legislation creating the Smithsonian Institution.

Smithsonian Folkways mission is the legacy of Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records in 1948 to document "people's music," spoken word, instruction, and sounds from around the world. The Smithsonian acquired Folkways from the Asch estate in 1987, and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has continued the Folkways commitment to cultural diversity, education, increased understanding, and lively engagement with the world of sound.


from Writers almanac Friday Aug 10 Garrison Keiller  

It was on this date in 1846 that the United States Congress passed legislation creating the Smithsonian Institution.

James Smithson was an English scientist. He was also the illegitimate son of a nobleman and a widow who was related to the royal family. He was born in secret in Paris, and though he inherited a lot of money from his mother, his illegitimacy kept him from any of the social or career advantages that his family connections might have given him. He once wrote, "On my father's side I am a Northumberland, on my mother's I am related to kings, but this avails me not." He never married, and spent his life traveling and getting to know some of the greatest scientific minds of Europe. He believed scientists should be "citizens of the world," and wrote, "It is in knowledge that man has found his greatness and his happiness." Smithson published more than two dozen papers on a wide variety of subjects.

Shortly before his death in 1829, he bequeathed his estate to his nephew. But if the nephew died childless, Smithson wrote, then the money was to go to the United States for the foundation of an institution for "the increase and diffusion of knowledge." The nephew died without any heirs in 1835.

The bequest sparked a debate in Washington between the Federalists and the supporters of states' rights. The states' rights people argued that the Constitution didn't make any provisions for a national institution. But the Federalists won out, and in 1838, the entire estate, worth more than half a million dollars, was transferred to the United States Mint. The debate didn't end with the Federalists' victory, though. For nearly a decade, people argued about what he meant by the "increase and diffusion of knowledge." Did he mean a university? If so, what kind? Did he mean an observatory, a research institute, a publishing house, a national library, or a museum?

In the end, it became all of those things, with the exception of the university. The Smithsonian complex now includes museums of natural history, American history, fine and decorative arts, and air and space technology: 16 museums in all. It also encompasses four research centers, a research library, and the National Zoo.

Smithsonian Folkways Mission

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States. We are dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among peoples through the documentation, preservation, and dissemination of sound. We believe that musical and cultural diversity contributes to the vitality and quality of life throughout the world. Through the dissemination of audio recordings and educational materials we seek to strengthen people's engagement with their own cultural heritage and to enhance their awareness and appreciation of the cultural heritage of others.

Our mission is the legacy of Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records in 1948 to document "people's music," spoken word, instruction, and sounds from around the world. The Smithsonian acquired Folkways from the Asch estate in 1987, and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has continued the Folkways commitment to cultural diversity, education, increased understanding, and lively engagement with the world of sound.

Our History

Folkways Records & Service Co. was incorporated in 1948 in New York City by Moses Asch (1905-1986) and Marian Distler (1919-1964). Under Asch's enthusiastic and dedicated direction, Folkways sought to record and document the entire world of sound. Between 1948 and Asch's death, Folkways' tiny staff released 2,168 albums. Topics included traditional, ethnic, and contemporary music from around the world; poetry, spoken word, and instructional recordings in numerous languages; and documentary recordings of individuals, communities, current events, and natural sounds.

As one of the first record companies to offer albums of "world music," and as an early exponent of the singers and songwriters who formed the core of the American folk music revival (including such giants as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Lead Belly), Asch's Folkways grew to become one of the most influential record companies in the world.

Following Asch's death, in 1987 the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington D.C. acquired Folkways Recordings and the label's business papers and files to ensure that the sounds and genius of its artists would continue to be available to future generations.

As a condition of the acquisition, the Smithsonian agreed that virtually all of the firm's 2,168 titles would remain "in print" forever—a condition that Smithsonian Folkways continues to honor through its custom order service. Whether it sells 8,000 copies each year or only one copy every five years, every Folkways title remains available for purchase.

In the years since 1987, Smithsonian Folkways has continued to expand on Asch's legacy, adding several other record labels to the collections and releasing over 375 new recordings that document and celebrate the sounds of the world around us.

A Worldwide Educational Online Download Network

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings launched its Smithsonian Global Sound®educational initiative in 2005. This unique online resource delivers easy access to tens of thousands of audio recordings and hundreds of video features from the U.S. national museum's Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections (which includes Smithsonian Folkways) and content from partner archives including the International Library of African Music at Willard Rhodes University (South Africa), the Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology of the American Institute for Indian Studies (India), the Aga Khan Music Initiative for Central Asia of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (Central Asia) and others still to come.

Listening and viewing are enhanced by extensive documentation, indexing and search capabilities, including in-depth features in the online Smithsonian Folkways Magazine and educational resources in the Tools for Teaching section 

Today, the website and all of Smithsonian Global Sound's features have been strengthened and renewed within a single website Smithsonian Folkways offers downloads and streaming video, tools for teaching, in-depth features, and institutional subscriptions (via Alexander Street Press) to Music Online/Smithsonian Global Sound® for Libraries. The initiative provides unparalleled accessibility to less-often heard voices of people from all over the world. Smithsonian Folkways will continue to partner with other audio archives worldwide to increase global, digital access.

The revenue received from you for individual downloads and institutional subscriptions supports the creation of new educational content and is shared with archival partners, who in turn pass on a portion of those revenues for the benefit of artists and their communities. The development of this initiative was made possible by generous support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and folkwaysAlive! at the University of Alberta.

listen to Folkways Radio

videos from Folkways Radio

Drew Rouse Canadian artist

Drew Rouse is a fiercely independent writer and musician who has toured extensively throughout North America and Europe. He has captivated audiences from coast to coast and across the oceans with his songs of environmental and social justice, plus other fare. Drew has a unique propensity and ability for meshing smooth rhythms with driving and hypnotic melodies around deeply relevant issues. Drew crafts his songs, not to perpetuate thoughtless escapism, but rather to fortify thoughtful, independent thinking with lyrics that prompt us to maintain and assert our freedoms while urging us to protect our future generations. Never preachy, the result is often described as “Conscious Soul Music”. Soulful yes, but Drew effortlessly meanders through many different styles and multiple genres within each set. His sound is melodic and powerful with a heightened sensibility that keeps your mind and body moving. Drew’s extensive and constant touring, energetic live performances, paired with his solid charismatic presence have earned him a very diverse and loyal following. As he always says “All my songs are love songs. Some are of the simple and usual, boy meets girl variety, but most are of a more complex nature, love of life, freedom, forests, oceans, justice, inner and outer reflective manifestations of love, sometimes sweet and other times tough, but all are love songs and none are the lesser”.

Drew has been offered numerous recording and publishing contracts over the years but has always turned them down for deeply principled and ethical reasons. He understood long ago that in signing such “deals” his music would most likely be used to sell unconscious products, thus helping perpetuate a toxic paradigm. Drew has always acted in part as a “Green publisher” and is always interested in licensing his music to truly green products and services, independent films, documentaries, environmental and social justice issues, independent radio, public sponsored media and other such noble causes. The times have caught up with Drew’s vision, the lean, clean, green, renewable energy paradigm is upon us and Drew has been busy for years writing the soundtrack.

Drew choses to remain completely independent and continues to “Occupy” stages and is busy writting songs that seem to reminisce of a beautiful future, while others songs like “Chicken Hawks” with it’s  scathing and correct assertions on war, scold the powers that shouldn’t be. Other songs like “Mountain” and “FatWood” that warn us about deforestation and other forms of environmental destruction or degradation. He has numerous other such songs, that cover a wide variety of pressing issues, everything from genetic pollution to global warming. Drew takes great pleasure in butchering the sacred cows of our belief systems and disassembling the fictions of our, presently, highly controlled societies. He explains: “I write songs to expose and to reveal. I ask this question over and over. Why should we live a controlled, generic, consumeristic, wasteful existence? When we can live a self-controlled, authentic, creative, low-impact experience. That’s living, the other is just as I mentioned, an existence.”

Drew began writing poetry at age 7, he would often roam the forest surounding his families farm writing in his small notebook he titled “My Thinking Spot”. He then started composing professionally at age 14. He has numerous poems and short stories, over a 150 original songs and has released six independent albums, so far: Rage, Flowers, Live From Bearsville studios, In My Movie, The Flesh and The Spirit… and Singing To The Choir. Drew now releases mostly singles, which can be downloaded, right here, off his website.

Drew performs solo or with many different arrangements of musicians and instrumentation. Thus, “The Gathering” is a blend of those musicians, other artists and supporters who come together at Drew’s performances to celebrate live, original music. This provides for an exciting and ever evolving live show.

Drew follows in a long tradition of great Canadian songwriters and storytellers. He is the real deal a troubadour with a gypsy’s soul. If he’s not on tour he is planning the next one. Keep an eye out for Drew’s upcoming performances and his latest releases.

If you try to ask Drew about himself you will quickly realize that he starts to answer, but then moves rapidly onto an environmental, social justice or government policy conversation. An interviewer recently called him on it and he replied: ”Please, I began many years ago to exclude myself from this process. To limit, then evict and finally delete all that my ego had injected. Long ago I made the message, not the man, paramount. Truthfully, I have forgotten the formulaic who I am, where I’m from and how I want others to see me, etc. I mean, I can tell you trite stories of my past, childhood, etc, but they seem more dream like now, then real. I have none of the usual musician addictions. No rock star sex, drugs and booze war stories, no tale of woe. I have no excuses and nothing to blame. To the contrary, I feel spared, informed and a deep responsibility to share with others what a life of resonance with the natural world has taught me. I have an urgency to express these lesson through writing, music, film, conversation and the teaching and practicing of yoga. I will never forget what I stand for, those I love and those who love me, but it has been a blessing emptying myself and, if only for a moment, becoming just a conduit for something greater to pass through. Truly, my personal story is simple and rather boring. Please lets not waste time on personalities, we must focus on policies. We must dedicate our interaction here to addressing the serious issues that are negatively effecting our shared environment and try to ethically answer the numerous questions that are facing us. Its up to us, at this time, to usher in a new paradigm. Our children, their children, are depending on us” And as always, Drew concluded the interview with                             “Love and Respect to you and yours…”

Through the Turnstile: Subway Performing in NYC

May 2012:  This month's guest blogger is from writer Laura Hankin

Laura Hankin grew up in Washington DC, but since 2010 has been enjoying a passionate, live-in relationship with New York City. She graduated from Princeton University with a major in psychology and a minor in theater. In addition to GALO, she writes regularly for The Artist’s Forum, and has been published in The Washington Post and The Daily Princetonian. As a performer, she has toured the United States in a musical for children, acted off-Broadway, and sung back-up for The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O. She's not quite sure where she'll end up, but she hopes to spend more time talking to interesting people and passing on their stories to the world. In her free time, she attempts to teach herself how to play guitar, bakes a lot of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and likes to read as much as possible.

from Global Arts Laid Out, an interesting article on subway performers

Featured in Global Arts Laid Out

By Laura Hankin:

A New York City musician playing guitar in the Times Square subway station in NY. Photo Credit: Mo Riza. Photo Courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons.

One cold morning in 2007, a man stood inside the entrance of a Washington, D.C. subway station and played the violin. Occasionally, the people walking by tossed money into his violin case or, in extremely rare instances, stopped for a minute to listen. Mostly, they kept going, eyes fixed anywhere but on him. Playing for a mobile audience of 1,000 people over the course of 45 minutes, the violinist made $37. That violinist was Joshua Bell, widely regarded as one of America’s best and most famous classical music interpreters.

The now-notorious experiment, conducted by The Washington Post to determine whether a person’s innate appreciation for beauty could override their rush hour routine, called attention to the plight of subway buskers. Five years later, in New York City, these performers are a familiar sight to anyone who rides the train. Passing from one track to another, commuters might find themselves caught in the glorious cacophony that can arise from the exertions of a single drummer, his beats echoing off the walls. Doo-wop groups set up shop mere feet from where the trains pull in. Most days of the week, a mariachi band executes a delicate balancing act, the members playing their way through the moving MTA cars. A guy with a didgeridoo confounds neophytes to Australian aboriginal music with the duck-like sounds he produces. But in a world where people increasingly glue themselves to the phones in their hands and the music pounding from their headphones, how do performers reach them, either to give them a transcendent musical experience or to convince them to drop a crumpled bill into a tip jar so that rent can be paid on time?

For some performers, the keys to a successful experience are straightforward. “I think Joshua Bell picked a stupid spot and the worst time,” says fellow violinist Filip Pogady, alluding to the fact that Bell played in a passageway during rush hour. “You need five minutes to convince people you’re good while they have to wait for the train.”

Pogady, who came from Slovakia to earn a Master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music, initially started street performing for fun with friends. In the third year of his Master’s program, however, he realized that busking could be a powerful tool for exposure. “Everyone passes through the subway, people who wouldn’t normally get to hear you,” he says. Now, in addition to playing professional gigs and teaching violin, he performs frequently in stations, complex classical pieces emanating from his instrument with ease. He has come to know the stations where the money flows freely (“The East Side is just terrible,” while the best spots “are usually the touristy ones,” he says) and learned not to look directly at people as he plays, so he doesn’t make them uncomfortable. If a couple of people stop to listen, it’s easier to build a crowd drawn by the spectacle.

Ron Wingate, who has made singing and playing guitar in subway stations his primary job since 2001, jokes with the people standing on the platform with him, and high-fives children who drop money into his case. “I’ve gotten so comfortable with what I do,” he says, “and I’ve learned techniques so that, at the end of the night, I’m going to have some money, and the people who pass my way are going to have a good time.”

But even once performers learn the ropes, setbacks abound. A gulf of misunderstanding stretches between the police officers who patrol the NYC subways and the musicians who play there. Three different policemen, none of whom gave their names, maintained that the law forbids all performance in the subway, unless artists obtain a special permit. Buskers can apply for an audition with the city and, if deemed talented enough, they get to perform under a legitimizing banner in certain locations at set times every week. These policemen said they usually only gave warnings to banner-less musicians, but could arrest them if they wanted. Yet the section entitled “Entertaining on the Subway” on the New York Police Department (NYPD) Web site states that “artistic performances on transit facilities are permitted” as long as they abide by a laundry list of rules forbidding amplification, specifying the number of feet performers must stay from token booths, and so on. Police officers have ticketed Wingate multiple times over the past eleven years, even though his actions were not violating any of the laws listed on the Web site. He estimates that he has been to court ten times, always successfully fighting his way out of paying the tickets given by cops who were unfamiliar with the rules. Morgan O’Kane, whose banjo playing produces more sound than one would expect to come from just ten fingers, says, “I’m chased and harassed by police all the time. It has become part of the job,” although he has also had positive experiences with cops who bought the CDs he was selling and listened to him play for hours.

Sometimes, more straightforward law-breaking occurs. Minhao Lu, who came to subway performing after many years of working in electronics manufacturing, and who elicits sweet, wrenching sounds from the minimal-looking Chinese violin he plays, once had to chase after a couple of young men who stole his full tip jar. He keeps the iPod that plays his backing tracks strapped to his knee, so that no one can easily grab it. And although there’s nothing illegal in mockery or neglect, it’s hard to keep spirits high when countless people pass by without a second glance, or make overtly snide comments. A 2011 New York Times piece by Aaron Retica asked, only partly in jest, “If a bad musician on the subway damages my train trip, may I take a couple of dollars from his case?”

Still, it’s hard to find commuters who will publicly admit to disliking these hard-working musicians. Most enjoy and move on, like actress Carol Linnea Johnson, whose young daughter always asks, in anticipation of taking the subway, “Is someone going to entertain us?” Pre-school teacher Julissa asserts that “it makes waiting for the train much easier,” although she rarely gives money. Others, like filmmaker Matt Finlin, feel the effects in more momentous ways. Upon moving to NYC and “navigating the chaotic arteries of the subway system,” he realized that performers always put a smile on his face. His ode to them, the short documentary film Below New York, has now won awards worldwide, and continues to play the film festival circuit.

In some scenarios, buskers receive big, tangible rewards for their hard work. O’Kane, who was featured prominently in Below New York, now sells his music on iTunes, and has embarked upon a European tour, none of which would have happened without him honing his banjo skills in the subway. Wingate has been flown to France and Australia for gigs he landed playing on platforms. Sometimes, Lu gets flowers. Girls drop their phone numbers into Pogady’s violin case. But the less glitzy, incorporeal benefits add up too. Tarah Williams and Alana Kelley, college students who sing cheerfully while accompanying themselves on guitar and ukulele to make pocket money, echo the feelings of many buskers when they talk of the enormous fulfillment they feel when children dance along to their music or when they notice that they’ve made a positive change to someone’s day. And, according to Wingate, who toured for many years as a guitarist in multiple bands, “Before I got to NYC, I didn’t even have a personality ‘cause my smile onstage was painted on. Playing on the subway taught me to be an entertainer. If I was playing on Broadway, I’d have the best pay and benefits, but I wouldn’t have the freedom to stop and talk to people.”

When Wingate first got to NYC, he lost six pounds in two weeks because he couldn’t afford to both pay his rent and eat. Now, he makes enough money performing in the subway to support himself. It’s not always the most glamorous job, and buskers can never count on a steady income. But, on occasion, Wingate earns $100 an hour from the people passing by. Eat your heart out, Joshua Bell.

written by Laura Hankin Through the Turnstile: Subway Performing in NYC

Davy Jones RIP by Bob Lefsetz

March 2012: My guest blogger this month is by none other than Music Industry take no prisoners Bob Lefsetz.  I receive his "Lefsetz letters" and mostly not only am I amazed by his tireless energy, but ability to truly understand the world of music, not just the biz of music.  In Bob's world if you don't start with honest truth you get nothing in the end.  He's shameless, he's guileless, he's tough, funny, irritating and sometimes just unabashedly sentimental.  That's why I read him. Why not join his list, you don't have to be in the music biz to learn something. At least his opinion is entertaining.


And I thought love was only true in fairy tales.

The legend of the Monkees is that they didn't write their own songs, they didn't play their own instruments, the whole think was fake.


The Monkees were the first indication that we'd won. That the old guard, the establishment, our parents, were no longer in control. We had our own sitcom on TV. Featuring our music. That was a gigantic breakthrough.

But what was even better was the music was great! In the case of "I'm A Believer", spectacular! Credit the songwriters, credit the delivery, but never forget it was a band, which came together through obtuse circumstances, like so many, but went on to not only create music, but stay together, even after their eponymous television show had been canceled.

And Micky Dolenz might have sung most of the songs.

But Davy was the front man, he was the cute one, he was the one the girls swooned for, the one we wanted to be.

Even better, he had a sense of humor about himself. He was funny back then, and knew he'd lived a charmed life until it all ended today.

"Here we come

Walk down the street

We get the funniest looks 

From everyone we meet"

There's not a baby boomer alive who does not know "(Theme From) The Monkees". This was not a Justin Bieber sideshow, the Monkees had more impact than Mr. Bieber or Lady Gaga. They were ubiquitous in a three network world where we were addicted to the radio when we weren't in front of the tube.

There are classic album openers, like "Gimmie Shelter" and "Back In The U.S.S.R.", and "(Theme From) The Monkees" is a member of this club. You're hooked from the initial drumbeat. And unlike modern hip-hop culture, the listener didn't feel excluded, put down by the group, but invited in.

But the hit was "Last Train To Clarksville". It played all fall until... "I'm A Believer" took over and owned the airwaves, through Christmas and beyond.

A magical track, "I'm A Believer" pivoted on Micky Dolenz's breathy vocals, but we didn't see it as a solo cut, but a masterpiece by the Monkees. It still puts a smile on my face today. I played it incessantly back then. I have never ever burned out on it. In a pre-Internet era where we didn't have our music on demand, you listened to the radio until they played your favorite song and then you went out and bought it.

Which I did.

I even bought the songbook, so I could play the songs at home, on my guitar. Not because I thought I was gonna be rich and famous, but because I wanted to share in the joy.

And I'm stunned how joyful I feel when I hear "Pleasant Valley Sunday" today. I'd given up at this point, as you often do. I bought the first three albums and then dropped out, but years later I realized I was wrong, this was a killer track.

But, once again, Davy did not sing the lead vocal.

But not only did Davy carry the hit "Daydream Believer", he sang "I Wanna Be Free", "This Just Doesn't Seem To Be My Day" and "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)", which were as big as the hits to we who wore out these vinyl records.

I saw Davy twice in recent years. Once at the Pollstar Awards, where he demonstrated the aforementioned sense of humor about himself and last summer at the Greek, as part of the Monkees reunion.

At Pollstar, Davy talked about being a fading, aged rock star. The bills for college. He mocked his height, or lack thereof. And was essentially shilling for work, that's why you present at the Pollstar Awards.

At the Greek, the band played all the hits, we reveled in the memories. They showed video, we marveled over who we once were. It was thrilling, but shortly thereafter they broke up once again and the rest of the tour was canceled.

And that's the story of rock and roll, of being a fan. We want our bands to last forever. But they almost never do. The alchemy is so fragile. But the music remains. We put our faith in it. It keeps us going.

Such that when one of its purveyors passes to the other side, we're shocked. We thought they'd be here forever, with us, like the music. We looked up to them. If they're old and gray and pass away, what is to happen to us?

I don't know if Davy Jones went to the doctor. If he adhered to his prescription. In any event, he's now gone. He was a thread, however thin, to what once was, my formative years, I didn't have a bad memory about him. But if he goes, that means I'm next.

Yes, we baby boomers are heading into our sunset years. And as we're shuffled off the horizon, they want to rewrite our history.

Let it be said that we were mad about the Monkees. Their music stands the test of time. They were trailblazers. They were not hula-hoops, used briefly and then discarded with disdain, but a group of four men we embraced warmly. They let Jimi Hendrix open for them. They created one of the first psychedelic films. Hell, to get "Head" you've got to be high on drugs. It was co-written by Jack Nicholson before anyone knew who he was. Don't pigeonhole the Monkees as a trifle, as a mere footnote, as puppets. With their television show on the air it showed us not only that we had won, but the music was the decisive weapon in our battle. Soon bands like the Jefferson Airplane would be testing limits, we'd all gather at Woodstock and blow the mainstream's mind.

We owned the country. It was now ours.

And it would have happened slower, and it would have been different without the Monkees.

Great songs, great performances... If that ain't the essence of music, I don't know what is.

Davy, we'll never forget you. 

Visit the archive:


A point about the Occupy Wall ST movement

A worth while read from Isabell Moore, about the Occupy Wall Street movement and how we all are in this crisis together.  We can either run from it or learn from it and certainly we can all do something about it.  This is not about Hippies and Anarchists, this is about honest people wanting to be part of society.  Isabell's blog was sent to me from a cousin of mine living in San Francisco who has been part of the movement to honor humanity with social justice for all. 

We are not a great nation until all of us are strong.


here's an excerpt follow this link to read the whole blog:

October 7, 2011

Dear [Paternal, Maternal & In-Law] Extended Families,

As many of you may know (or may have noticed on Facebook!) I’ve been getting really super excited about all this “We Are the 99%” and “Occupy Wall Street” stuff.  Coincidentally as these protests have been spreading, it’s been at the same time that we’re covering the American Revolution, the French Revolution and the Haitian Revolution and all of the incomplete uprisings before and after each one in the community college history classes I teach.  Its making me remember that no one knew the Storming of the Bastille was going to happen a week or even a day before it did.  Of course during the French Rev, few people were talking about slavery in French colonies, the French role in taking Native lands and women were written out of the Declaration of the Rights of Man.  And the French Revolution began and ended in terrible violence, which is something I don’t want to see again.... read on

A Defense of Pragmatism

A Defense of Pragmatism ~by RTod When I was in high school I briefly embraced Communism. I did so for all the reasons white suburban 16 years olds often do: Communism was defiant and rebellious, seemed at first blush to be “fair,” and having Che Guevara on your t-shirt impressed more girls than the Up With People logo. (Added bonus: I had no money so any redistribution of wealth was definitely going to be a net gain.) As I grew older I did what most other WASPy kids that embrace Communism do: I abandoned it when it became clear that Communism in real life did not match Communism on paper, and that in order to believe that it did you had to be dogmatic to the point of irrationality. A pretty common path, really. The difference between myself and others that have travelled this path is that as I’ve grown older I have come to similar conclusions about pretty much every other political ideology. In fact, I’ve gone one step further: I have come to believe that ideological dogma of any kind – when used to steer public policy – at best keeps us from finding the best solutions to problems, and at worst creates problems that are even worse. I am starting, in other words, to embrace a philosophy of pragmatism as I get long in tooth. To state the obvious: This does not make me popular with people who like politics. I would say that pragmatists are often dismissed out of hand at the League, but this would be myopic; pragmatists are often dismissed out of hand everywhere. I had always assumed pragmatism was viewed as a fairly benign in a useful but low key and non-threatening kind of way – kind of like a tea cozy. However, since I have started calling myself a pragmatist in political discussions I have been surprised to find wonks of all stripes regard me in a way similar as they might a bedbug infestation. So I have asked the esteemed editors of the League if I might offer my own defense of – and call for -pragmatism. I do this for two reasons. First, I think that pragmatism deserves a bigger and more formal voice in these discussions than it normally gets. Second, I think of my pragmatism as a work in progress, and so I welcome the criticism and counter-points I know this group will serve up. (Who knows, maybe after this is over I will be convinced to renounce pragmatism and declare myself a neo-techno-acrachno-libertariacrat or some such thing.) First off, a definitional point: When I think of pragmatism, I am not intending it to mean “devoid of values.” I just don’t think of any specific political philosophy as being a core value. (For a fish-in-the-barrel illustration, Rush Limbaugh would list conservatism as a core value. And he really means it; after Obama’s election he famously declared that he would rather see the country go into financial ruin under Obama’s watch than see the new administration’s policies work and make the country prosperous again. That’s being true to your values.) While I recognize most people do list their political ideology
Read More

Aubrey Lynch Arts Educator

Cathy’s Question

I had a thought about one of my favorite questions that Cathy aka NYCsubwayGirl asks regularly. “What inspires you?” I was thinking that what inspires you today may terrify you tomorrow and that is okay. In fact, when the thing that drives you begins to frighten you, this is a sign that you are alive and pushing towards your fullest self. You finally started that business and you know in your heart that the only way for it to grow is to quit your day job. That’s pretty scary. Or, maybe you have lost your job and the hobby you did for fun is now looking more and more like the way to make a living. Not so bad until it comes time to figure out how to make money doing it. How about this one? You’ve been at the same job forever and you know it is time to go. You have no idea where to go or what to do but you know you can’t stay where you are. Deep stuff. So many of us are living these realities including me! What should we do? Look to our inspirations. There is light there.

However, I find that inspirations aren’t so inspiring if we attach outcomes or goals to them. In my current life transition I have faced this a lot. I turned to my inspirations and found fear where I once saw possibility because there was an expectation that these inspirations were supposed to do something for me, propel me forward into the next phase of my life. The most important thing that I could have done was to notice this way of thinking and turn the lens just a bit to refocus.

Remember, while you are looking to inspiration look FOR inspiration and nothing more. Does that make sense? I mean, look for inspiration and expect to find it but just leave it there before you like a sunrise. Inspiration will be everywhere. When I caught myself and did this, I even found inspiration in my fears.

In fact what would it be like to look for inspiration in each other, in each other’s eyes while expecting it to be there? If we all did this right now everything would change. We couldn’t think of hurting someone purposefully if we looked for inspiration in them. What would it be like to look for inspiration in the eyes of our enemies? There’s a scary one. Not an easy thing to do. However, even the thought of doing so starts to open the mind. Okay, I’m pushing the envelope here but we’re going to have to if we hope to get our planet back on track. This need for global awareness starts within each one of us. We can do this.

So what inspires you when you expect to see it? I would guess almost everyone and everything...


on 2011-06-06 21:38 by NYC Subway Girl

check out a part 2 clip from Aubrey and my conversation in LIRR Station

Aubrey Lynch stopped by LIRR station while I was performing. In this clip he describes what he's up to now. Another spontaneous interruption provided us with a touching moment. This month Aubrey is my guest blogger   

Check out Aubrey's What's Your Inspiration? clip. See how he has taken a career of dancing, choreography, and producing to now mentoring and using dance art to heal people.

Singing In The Subway

Guest Blogger, Journalist Katherine Ulrich contacted me to do a story on buskers, we had a great chat on the phone, here's her story

Singing In The Subway

by Katherine Ulrich

Her voice echoes beautifully, not competing with the din of the school children chattering and the homeless people shouting and the clicks of turnstiles and clattering of shifting train tracks, but complementing it. The harried commuters rush by to get to Penn Station to take the LIRR, the hipsters head to Brooklyn on the NQR, and mothers pushing strollers rush to catch the uptown 6, but for just a moment, people in the Union Square subway station are brought together by that age-old unifier: music. And in that moment, there is a community in the subway, one of the least friendly places in New York, all because of Natalie Gelman

subway chanteuse. 

“You have to be prepared for anything. You don’t know who you will connect with, who will open up their heart to your music,” says Gelman. “You’re throwing people out of their normal daily commute…you’re giving them something more substantial to think about than ‘what’s for dinner?’”

As a native New Yorker born to musician parents, Gelman began performing at open mic nights in clubs like CBGB and The Bitter End when she was only 17, but it was the subway that really influenced her music style, allowing her to sing for a wider variety of listeners.

“In a perfect world, the term alternative would still mean what it used to in the ‘90’s,” she says of her genre. “But it [my music] straddles the line between the quieter and more intimate stuff, but also powerful and rocking. It’s alterna-rock punk-pop.”

After a few attempts at “busking” (as street performing is called) nine years ago, a friend encouraged Natalie to start playing guitar and singing in the subway for money. It was here she realized the influence not only she can have as a performer, but subway performing can have on her. As a member of Music Under New York, or MUNY, Natalie now has a schedule of where to perform, her MUNY permit affording her protection from harassment by police officers for starting crowds.

MUNY was initiated by the Mass Transit Authority in 1987 to promote the music culture by “presenting quality music to the commuting public” according to its website. With over 100 musical acts performing music of various genres, from folk to opera to blues, the popular program is positively changing our commutes. Just ask Cathy Grier, or NYC Subway Girl, a MUNY member since 1999.

“The message of MUNY is just ‘good sounds’,” says Grier. “Whether you like the genre or not, any music is definitely more pleasing than door alarms and metal scratching and grating train brakes. The program is to create and provide diversity, and as a performer, your lofty ideals of life, career and success are turned around. It’s a humbling experience.”

Despite having performed her “folked-up blues” music everywhere from bars in Key West, Florida, to across Germany as a member of a touring French girl band, Grier is most inspired by subway performing, favoring three spots within Grand Central (each location has different acoustics and atmosphere, so she “changes rhythms and tempos accordingly”). She is even recording an album of songs about the subway in the subway.

“Music becomes different in the subway. I’m influenced by what’s around me,” says Grier. “I’m not just standing there-it’s different every time. You pick up on the energy around you.”

Tom Swafford, a classically trained composer and arranger with a PhD in composing from UC Berkeley, also recorded an album about performing in the subway called 7th Avenue. At first, he did not even realize he was improvising the same songs repeatedly, but when he did, he decided to make an album. 

“An album would literally give me a record of what I’ve been doing with my life lately,” says Swafford. “I played so often at the 7th Avenue subway station in Brooklyn, people who knew my music appreciated it.”

Although Gelman, Grier and Swafford have had very different performance experiences, all describe the subway as one of their favorite venues due to the inherent spontaneity of busking underground.

“It took me awhile to understand the concept of performing in the subway. Live performance is a type of art in itself,” says Cathy. “The immediate reaction, or no reaction. Either way, you’re part of the fabric. It’s a pass-through because people are not coming to hear you [like at a concert]. This is a way to just make people happy.”

This is a sentiment shared by all subway musicians; regardless of what type of music they are playing, it is about how that music makes the listeners feel that matters. Across the board, the goal is to put a smile on the face of just one person.

It is not a requirement to be a MUNY member to perform in the subway, however. Plenty of musicians perform without a permit due to a variety of reasons, including the competitiveness of becoming a MUNY member.

Morgan O'Kane taking a break in Union Square subway station

“The nice part about playing on the streets and in the subway is there are no real rules,” says O’Kane. “The city just wants a piece of everyone, and I’m doing my part to give it with my music.”

In other words, he does not need MUNY because it’s the freedom that comes with performing that he enjoys. O’Kane does not have another job besides busking around Union Square and Lorimer stations, but does make “a decent living.”

This is what makes playing in the New York City subway the ultimate performance: you do not need a permit, contract, producer, album, or big name. You need your voice, perhaps a musical instrument, and that is it. Commuters can come and go, but that experience of performing will last forever. You were there and sang a song, and even if only with a smile, you changed someone.

“Subway performance is just about the music,” says Swafford. “It’s about the expression of the players, what we are communicating to the commuters. It’s not about flashy labels and showing off. It’s about expressing a genuine love for music, plain and simple.”


interesting notes from Katherine leading up to the piece:

May 2, 2011

Hi, all. I hope we spend some time on Tuesday talking about the coverage of the reported death of bin Laden. Interesting, indeed.

As for my project, this week just made me realize how many incredibly talented musicians perform in the subway. I recently made friends with a man who plays the didgeridoo, a group of male break dancers, and a really strange man that sings while he makes a puppet move to the beat (!?). I need to figure out who my
“star” stars are though for the piece – I need better quotes. So far, I don’t have any stand-out interviews, but I do have a lot of background information on what subway performing is like. It’s coming together, but slowly. I want to get some high quality videos to include in the final blog post (I do have one so far, but the acoustics are a bit off). Lastly, I put a call into two of the Arts for Transit authorized (and publicized) musician groups. I think it will all come together.


APRIL 25, 2011

Ok I don’t know why, but the “links” feature is not working for me right now. I keep trying to link to all of the various websites I have used for my research so far, but it won’t let me. Basically, I got the idea to write about the subway performance artists (most of whom are musicians) through a NY Magazine article from February 27. Then, I read various online articles about the musicians, including the March 21 blog post from the NY Times (about the changing face of subway musicians), a April 19 NY Daily News article about Lyle Divinksy (a singer/guitarist), and additional NY Magazine articles about different performers (one about Susan Cagle, who has now sold 30,000 copies of her album because of her subway performing). Additionally, I researched the various laws associated with performing, especially in regard to MTA – Arts for Transit and MUNY. In the past week I have checked out musicians at Lorimer, Union Square, Battery Park and Bed-Stuy stations.

In my research, I have noticed a couple of (random) things that might pose problems/become more interesting. A) It is going to be hard to find new ways of saying “performer” throughout the piece without being contrived. B) Many of the laws contradict one another, or at least the resultant discrepancies between law enforcement and musicians contradict the actual laws. C) People actually can and do get arrested…for singing too loud? Shameful. D) Some people have actually garnered moderate fame from this. E) MUNY is actually very selective, but also a permit is NOT necessary to perform down below the city.

So, as for my angle: I know we discussed the MUNY tryouts and such, but I’m trying a different route. I, of course, am intrigued by the legality of the whole thing. I get a kick out of interviewing police officers (“I’m sorry, ma’am, but I can not give you an answer at this time”) and I want to focus not on the shiny cool performers that cover freaking Oasis/The Beatles, but the homeless guys that just belt it for kicks. So basically I’m going to figure out the intricacies of the nitty gritty underside of performing underground