Best known for the Off-Broadway musicals, "The Last Session," "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" and "New World Waking," a song cycle for peace and justice.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Prospero's Kidney Stone.

In class yesterday, I was doing a speech from Prospero which evoked deep feelings of mortality. It all felt so intense, I had to leave class after doing the scene.

But, actually, I was passing a kidney stone. I think I'm still passing it. I know the little tickle well. Thankfully, I'm not in pain. Just discomfort, like when you kind of sit on one of your balls and it didn't hurt so much as just cause a lingering ache, and you can't quite find a way to sit that doesn't feel like you're squeezing it again.

So today, I must drink lots of lemon water and convalesce. And pee.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Violence of the Tongue.

Ridicule of your opponent is strictly forbidden in a legitimate peace movement. #MLK called it Violence of the Tongue.

This is why it's ineffective in persuasion.

#MLKday #peace #nonviolence #resistance #soulforce

Monday, December 26, 2016

RIP George Michael, Godfather of New World Waking.

If not for George Michael, I wouldn't have played John Lennon's IMAGINE piano. We would not have had our mini-concert under the tree planted in Bill Clayton's memory which gave me the concept of New World Waking.

I'm sorry I never got to meet or speak to him and tell him how much he affected my life. I hope, in the new year, you will reach out to someone who affected your life in some small or large miraculous way, unknowingly perhaps, and let them know.

For instance, the creator of the drug that saved my life, Dr. Bruce Dorsey, reached out to me after reading about my new life in my Bonus Round journal, long before it was a Bonus Round. He got to see me come back to life, whereas his life was really constrained to a lab. He job was molecules, not lives saved.

He said, "It's so great to actually see someone living their life because of something I did. I usually only see the lab."

So, thank you, Caroline True, for coordinating the John Lennon IMAGINE piano project. I don't know what became of it, but I know what it did for me. And since you were his friend, I am sending you my sincere love and sympathy. I knew, in person, how much you cared for him.

This is, indeed, a sad day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bass Playing.

Bass playing is all about the groove. I almost felt the groove this morning. 20 takes in. For just one moment, I felt "it," the groove they talk about. It's sensual and controls everything in the song.

And as quick as I got it, it got away because, probably, I enjoyed the moment of getting it and became self-conscious. I can get the notes, but the groove? Stupid bass players never warned me. They just stand there, looking all cool and barely moving.

So, here I sit for the past two hours and all I want is to get this one song. Over and over, I play it. But I just don't lock in. It's elusive, this groove. I took it for granted as a pianist because I could coast over the top of it. Took bass players for granted because I essentially played their part on piano.

But it's different. It's almost as if you have to change your own brain-mind, force it into a different type of thinking and feeling.

So, I haven't been getting it. And then there was that moment. That one moment where I felt it.

Okay, enough about me. What eludes you?

(And I go back into the cave.)

#elusivegroove #stupidbassplayers #nowimoneofthem

Monday, December 12, 2016

After reading “Once, We Were Heroes”

After reading “Once, We Were Heroes”
By Steve Schalchlin

I found an essay about AIDS called

"Once, We Were Heroes by Mark S. King

I read it out loud yesterday in my Sunday afternoon acting class
At first I could tell I was rushing
I always rush through things

The first story in the essay is about a man
Trying to keep his dying lover from drinking the poison
The two of them had lovingly concocted together

He failed

As the gravity of that sheet-soaked passage hit me
Two tormented souls struggling for one more moment,
I became aware of the young people in our class.
I realized how shocking it must have sounded to them.

"Here, honey. Here’s that poison we mixed together!"

Because to me, having lived through that era,
It felt like a normal and completely understandable

To die of this disease is to suffer.
There were so many people dying so quickly
in such horrible painful excreta-filled
‘holocaust bodies and faces’ ways

So familiar, that I didn't even flinch when I read it myself


I looked up into the eyes of the 25-year-old boy sitting across from me
His eyes, normally so filled with animated hungry life, wide-eyed and bright
Seemed remote, turned aside
Like he was not wanting to absorb it
or perhaps he was fearing that I, myself, may still go down that way
I’m one medication-fail away from it.

I began to weep
And breathe
And slow down

As I continued describing A Medieval past
An alt history
Of bloody painful isolated death

And then I realized

Back then, he would've been among the first to go.

Like most young actors, he is physically beautiful
Talented and reckless

Like most young people who come from good parents
From Indiana,
He is Eager to sample life

We were all eager to sample life
It was all so very innocent
We were all so very innocent
Kids in a candy store
Away from home
In a profession where the goal is to play

We were all beautiful
We came from worlds without outside voices
We lived in bubbles untouched by the Other
We didn’t know there were others like us

So, when we found each other...

After weeks of a steady grind here in
My bonus round life
I had been questioning myself

But, in this moment, as the faces of the dead
Appeared in the faces of every person around that table
I was reminded why I grab life so by the throat
And ride it like a freight train

And live the shit out of it

Why learn guitar all of a sudden after 62 years?
Why write songs?

Because, if I do not, I will be betraying them
the ones we lost
the ones who fell by the wayside
my entire dead generation

How dare I get the opportunity to live
And then squander it
Those hospital beds
People who, in a matter of weeks,
Went from being breathtakingly beautiful to skeletal

I could not look at him and not see them
or worse, imagine what he would look like
if he were them
See his eyes sunken and hollow
His robust cheeks sagging and yellow

I have to live the life they were begging for in each doomsday prayer
I want to grab him and tell him that HE also has to live the life they fought for
How easily it can be taken away

Every single one of them died with a broken fantasy image
of the life they would have led
The dances they would have performed
The Broadway roles they would have created
The New York Times reviews!

But I'm the one who got the bonus round
I feel like I have squandered a lot of it, as it is
But I have found a place in my life where I can do my work
I have a room in which I can rehearse
People helping me
People coaching me
People singing with me

I have people who want to act scenes with me
Who Want To Teach Me To Dance

They would have fought for these opportunities
They would not have wasted their lives
Well maybe some of them would have
Don't all of us waste parts of our lives
Or feel like we've wasted part of our lives

But sometimes I feel them watching me
And they are saying, Really?
That’s the best you can do with your life?

And my answer is always, No. No.

I can do more. And I will.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Only Kind of Music (with Jake)

Jake Wesley Stewart came over for lunch, so I did what I always do. Dragged him behind a mic and made him sing a vocal. This was yesterday. Here he is.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

High Water Road

My first demo recording with me playing the bass guitar!

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Christmas Cherry Red.

Each year, I have slowly added to my ability to create music from home. Last year, I picked up the guitar (acoustic) and have been learning it, while writing guitar songs. I've been making demos using it. This Christmas, I thought, now I want to play electric guitar.

But, as I listened back on my demo, though some aren't bad, there was always something missing.

A real, live bass.

I was playing a bass on the keyboard, a nice sample, as a matter of fact. But the rush of energy that you feel when you hear fingers gliding over the strings of a nice bass, it just can't be matched. So, though my heart wanted to be Keith Richard, I knew I had to first be Peter Tork.

So, I wandered into Sam Ash and told the guy in the bass department my plight, that I wanted a bass, but nothing fancy, nothing tricked out. And, lo and behold, rather than upselling me, he said, "Look, see that Yamaha there?"

"Yeah." (Most bass guitars want you to spend upward of $600 to $1000 or more.)

"$200 and it's solid, stays in tune, has both pick-ups. It will get the job done. Want to play it?"

I have never plugged in a guitar in a store before. Now everyone would hear me. "Yeah. How do I...?"

He brought me over to an amp -- they sell Hartke amps -- and that's when I found out that Larry Hartke, the inventor, was my salesman.

Not sure yet, I decided to go to Guitar Center where I met with a guy who, after I told him my economic plight, immediately tried to up-sell me with an impassioned speech about the need for a quality bass. I was sure he was right, but all I could think about was that solid little Yamaha.

I exited Guitar Center and went right back to Sam Ash, found Larry and said, "I want that bass."

He took me over to the display and asked what color I wanted, sunburst, black or cherry red.

Oh, please.

Cherry red!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Yes! I made today's birthday list. I wonder how many of you, if it was awhile since we communicated, checked here first to see if I'm still alive?

I post! Therefore I am!

All is well. Tests are generally good. HIV undetectable. Bit too much fat in the blood (side effects of the meds) and I'm staying rigidly faithful to my multiple pill regimen.

Mentally, I'm still keeping my "University of Steve at New York" paradigm for my daily existence, seeking out mentors, giving service in order to create and build community. Always learning more, reaching harder in this most amazing Bonus Round -- but also keeping a quiet "just do the work" zen approach.

GYM 101: I'm having a bit of a kidney issue when I run, so I've taken to stair-climbing in our building while listening to Hardcore History podcasts. Because of my frozen shoulder, which is much better, I can't lift weight. So I climb. Up to 45, down to 1 and back up again. I miss running the streets of New York. But it's getting colder and perhaps this is all for the best.

GUITAR 101: This year, I taught myself guitar off of YouTube and immediately began writing songs with it. All I've ever wanted to be was John Fogerty. And Neil Young. You should see me in the bedroom.

VOICE 101: I sing in the St. Clement's church choir and write music.

COMPOSITION 101: Wrote the score for the Space Pirate Puppy Musical which opens on Saturday, so it's frantic right now. I have two different rehearsals today. (And it's so fun and exciting!)

LOVE 101: I have Jim and without him, I wouldn't be enjoying any of it.

I'm 63 with the body of a 73 year old and the mind of a eager first year student. I remember a time when I just wanted to get to the millennium.

I hope your life is great and that you appreciate every waking moment. I hope you checked in on me because you remember me fondly. Or because you liked my songs. This year was the 20 anniversary of The Last Session in Los Angeles, where my co-star was Chip Esten! (heart throb)

This next year, 2017, is the 20th anniversary of the New York production of The Last Session. I don't know what we're going to do -- people are talking about an all-star revival. I know I'm going to be around singing them.

Thanks for any part you might have played in my life. You're the reason I'm alive. I hope to continue to earn my keep.

Steve Schalchlin
Living in the Bonus Round

Monday, September 26, 2016

"At One" with my instrument.

Yesterday was a personal landmark for me. It was my first time since learning guitar that I confidently played and sang a 20-minute set in front of strangers. I had previously sung one or two songs for mostly friends, but my concentration was always so focused on getting the guitar part right, remembering where my fingers were supposed to be, that my attention felt divided.

But yesterday, after much practice, I had total focus on the song, the lyrics and the performance. I wasn't demonstrating my songs, I was performing them. I was being an entertainer, confident and having a blast. The guitar felt as natural to me as when I play and sing at the piano.

The exhilarating feeling is one that cannot be described. It's powerful to have control of one's instrument, whether it's a piano, a guitar or even just your voice.

And yes, I know I'm too old to be a rock star to anyone but myself, but here in the Bonus Round, where time speeds up and the prizes are better, this was a lifelong dream fulfilled. I could see the audience perk up, sing along, laugh along and I was completely into the lyrics of the song -- meaning I wasn't thinking about the guitar at all during my set. It was just a natural extension of my body and my music.

As I said, all my life, I've wanted to experience this. It took me a full year of constant practice, but even when I dropped my pick, NO BIG DEAL -- I just grabbed it off the floor and kept on moving like it never happened. No nerves. No fright.

Just the pure experience of being at one with myself and my instruments (guitar and voice).

But that's what it takes: Hours and hours and hours of just staying at it, conquering the fretboard, figuring out where the strings are, understanding rhythm and then marrying them together so that they feel whole and natural.