Gimme a hand. (Please?)



So, the past year has been a pretty bumpy ride.

I would probably liken it to the old defunct roller coaster at the CNE in Toronto, “The Flyer”.  In its heyday, The Flyer was where it was at.  Long before Canada’s Wonderland, it was THE roller coaster in Canada to beat.  It had one great big hill and a few small ones, but the thing was pretty damn rickety, and all wood.  It was a great ride, to be sure, but you always felt that it was just one step away from going straight off the rails.  (And then a bunch of people were finally hurt in an accident on it, and that was the end of the Flyer. But I digress . . .)

Like the Flyer, there were some great ups in 2013 (landing a music publishing contract, nailing down an East Coast tour for the first time and playing at the awesome “Musideum” in T.O.) and some pretty big downs as well – a nasty car accident back in March, followed by months of rehab, and then this:


Yes, this is my right hand.

There’s not much worse that you can do to a pianist than wreck their right hand.  Except, perhaps, wreck both hands . . . This was actually a direct result of the therapy from my car accident, which is especially annoying.  They actually wrecked my wrist by pulling on my hand to stretch out my shoulder (don’t ask).



At the last band rehearsal I had, my friend Jason Lapidus asked me what happened, and then recommended that I change my story to say I saved someone’s life by pulling them out of danger.  Or performed some other massive heroic feat of some sort.  Perhaps lifted up a car to save a kitten?  Or rescued a poor old lady from a runaway bus?  I don’t know – maybe I should make up a new story for each new inquiry. It certainly beats the truth.

At any rate, a few days after feeling a little bit of pain in my wrist from the wayward physiotherapy, I woke up in severe pain.  Unable to move my wrist or my hand at all.  With two gigs coming up in less than a month.

I use my hands a lot.  More than most people.  Besides being super-animated when I speak (every description has to be accompanied by a life-size air drawing), I have to conduct, write and play as a music teacher.  And then there’s that piano playing thing too . . .

So needless to say, I was mortified to find that I couldn’t even dress myself, let alone touch the piano.  Luckily, some good friends suggested some specialists, and after a trip to a hand and wrist surgeon, a music injury specialist and a physiotherapy clinic that specializes in musicians, things started to (very) slowly improve.


(This isn’t my hand . . . mine is much more handsome.) 😉

An MRI showed that I had a “Stage 2 ligament strain” (Stage 1 is minor, Stage 3 requires surgery because the ligaments are shredded).  I was given a series of masochistic stretching exercises to try to regain some movement in my wrist, which I initially balked at because each one felt like I was shredding the tendons and ligaments all over again. But, like the surgeon said: “use it or lose it”.  I had developed scar tissue in the 3 months before I was able to get in to see anyone (thank you Ontario Health Care), and in the process of breaking through it I learned a lot about my tolerance for pain.  I had none.  I would often have to grit my teeth and fight back tears every time I did them, up to ten times a day.



When my wrist was first injured, I thought “3 weeks”.  It will get better in about 3 weeks.  3 months passed before I could even see a specialist, and the pain was still constantly there, night and day.  Then after treatment started, I thought “Ok, 3 more months and it will be over”.  So here I am, over 9 months later, and I still can’t play piano.



I’ll be honest here.  There have been more than a few times that I have been raging mad or close to tears because of pain and frustration.  Despite even lowering expectations (forget playing, I’ll be happy with pulling up my pants without pain . . .), I was making incredibly slow progress. Even the doctors and physiotherapists couldn’t explain it.  The wrist surgeon was convinced I was making it up. “Your tests are not consistent”, he said, as I screamed when he twisted my wrist every possible way to check my range of motion. “You feel pain in one place, and then another – it doesn’t make sense”.  He couldn’t operate on it, so he quickly lost interest in actually, you know, trying to help. His last comments to me were: “You don’t need to see me again, right?”. Um, definitely not.



Luckily the Musicians Clinic of Canada was a lot more helpful.  After having electrodes taped to my arms while I stumbled through an atrocious (and painful in more ways than one) version of Fur Elise on the grand piano in Dr. John Chong’s Hamilton office, I was referred by his colleague Dr. MacMillan to a physiotherapy clinic in Newmarket (why don’t any of these doctors actually practice in Toronto?!?) where I finally got some much needed advice on stabilizing and strengthening my wrist.  It’s not too often that adults get to play with silly putty and rubber balls, so I jumped at the chance.


Again, sometimes the treatment can seem worse than the affliction.  My wrist would ache beyond belief after doing exercises with 1, then 2 lb weights and silly putty/rubber strengthening balls.  You really have to have faith that what you are doing will end up fixing your wrist, because you really feel like you are breaking it.


PUTTING THINGS BACK TOGETHER (or, saving yourself from becoming Grumpy Cat)

One of the things that a lot of people don’t think about when you have a hand or wrist injury is just how much of your life it affects.  It’s not just about playing piano.  Showering, dressing, driving, cutting a sandwich(!) . . . it’s amazing how useless you can feel.  There were certainly days when I was just downright depressed and didn’t want to do anything. Getting out of bed? Pain. Putting on a shirt? Pain. Tying your shoes? Forget about it.

Friends and family have been very supportive. But I’m sure at some point, everyone was thinking: Ok, surely it must be better by now. What’s taking so long?

The physiotherapist I was seeing was helpful at first – she tried stretching, massage and muscle stimulation. Over time, things definitely did improve. But there was always a problem with my wrist getting “stuck” when stretching – using warm water helped, but it was always an issue.  Finally, there was a breakthrough when we realized that with her compressing my wrist with one hand while stretching it with the other, the problem disappeared. She had the brilliant idea of using athletic tape to help support the wrist in the same place. It worked.

While obviously not a long-term solution, it has allowed me to actually start playing piano again. Mind you, I’m still playing at a student level for short periods of time, but it’s a huge change.  And it makes me hopeful for the future. Hopefully with continued exercise, the muscles will strengthen enough to hold the wrist themselves, eliminating the need for the tape.

I’m now approaching the one-year anniversary of my wrist injury.  I can only hope that I will be well on my way to recovery by then.  I have resigned myself to the fact that I may never get back to the place I was at before, but I am hopefully positive.  I will take it day by day, with no expectations.  Then perhaps, like with the athletic tape, I may have a pleasant surprise.


YouTube Milestone! Over 4,000 views of my cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill”!

I have just past 4,000 views on this video, as well as almost 15,000 views of my artist page at:

This is one of several videos from my CD Release show at C’est What in Toronto. Complete with full band and string section!

Hope you enjoy it!



Freeman’s Little New Yorker and Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia!


I had one more show before I headed back to Toronto from Halifax.

Freeman’s Little New Yorker is a pizza and burger chain that has a number of locations in Halifax, and you won’t find it anywhere else.  For Torontonians, you could compare it to a Boston Pizza but with more of a pub vibe, and a really great commitment to live music.


And they have a lot of live music at Freeman’s.  They have three locations in Halifax (since 1956!), two of which offer live music of some sort, during day and night.  It’s great to see so much emphasis on the music.

That said, it’s a little intimidating to walk into such a huge place with a big stage and do a solo four-hour show!

In Toronto, these kind of venues would be all cover songs, all the time.  But Freeman’s had specified a mix of covers and originals, so I had three full sets of originals and all sorts of new covers that I had learned specifically for this show and the Wolfville Farmers Market.  The last week before the tour I was still trying to remember the lyrics to “Still Rock And Roll To Me” by Billy Joel (damn, there’s a lot of lyrics in that song!!), “In My Life” by the Beatles and “Give A Little Bit” by Supertramp.  I decided to pull out my favourite piano-based songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s, so I had a good collection of Beatles, Supertramp, Elton John and Billy Joel mixed in.

When I came in to set up, I found another band just leaving the venue, complete with a standup acoustic bass, drums and full rhythm section.  They were the “Lucky Dog Blues Band”.  I also quickly realized that I was the replacement for “A.J. and the Last Shots”, another blues cover band that usually plays on Sunday nights.  I really didn’t know what kind of reception I was going to get for my music.  It’s pretty far away from the blues.


When I started, the restaurant was about half empty, and quite noisy.  I got some scattered applause here and there, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in the music.  I finished my first set, thanked everyone, and headed over to the bar feeling a bit dejected.  There was a fellow drinking at the bar who asked me some questions about my trip from Toronto, and I sat with him and chatted for a while.  Turned out he was a contractor from the Halifax area who used to live near Toronto.  His friend, a bass player who played in the Halifax area, joined him later and we started having an animated discussion about the music scene on the east coast and the fact that there were “too many blues bands” in the clubs here.  They both said it was refreshing to hear something different, and I felt a lot better after hearing that.

After my second set, a lovely (and slightly crazy) elderly lady named Barbara came up to me and said “welcome to Nova Scotia!  I love your music!” with a warm smile and a strong handshake.  She went on to repeat that about ten times during the night, and even danced across the floor a couple of times to my songs.  It was nice to know that people were actually listening.  My new friends (the contractor and the bass player) were also more supportive now, clapping after every song and throwing some positive comments my way.  They ended up being my only audience at the end of the night (I finished at midnight), so I really appreciated them being there.

In the end, it would have been nicer to have a bigger audience, but like at the Rockbottom and Plan B, they were positive and supportive, and I came away with a great feeling about the East Coast in the end.  I may not have been able to reach a lot of people, but the people that I did seemed to like my music.  And in the end, that’s all you can ask for.



I had an extra day to do some sightseeing thanks to the very kind Gloria Burbridge, who hosted the house concert I played in Brooklyn.  She graciously offered a place to stay on the way back, which allowed me to look around Halifax and visit Peggy’s Cove.

Peggy’s Cove was quite the hike from Halifax, and incredibly busy for a Monday (!?).  Beautiful, but very touristy.


Some other beautiful bays near to Peggy’s Cove.


I also took some time to visit the Swissair Flight 111 memorial just outside Peggy’s Cove.  Like many who watched the news at the time (1998), I was heartbroken to hear about the terrible disaster that claimed 229 lives (the plane crashed due to an onboard fire and all of the passengers and crew perished).  But there was also a heartwarming element to the story, as the people of Peggy’s Cove and neighbouring communities opened their homes and hearts to the relatives of the victims who came from all over the world to mourn and come to terms with the disaster.  It showed the best of Canadian heart, warmth and spirit in the face of tragedy.


So many other places I wanted to see on this trip – I missed the lookout near Grand Pré (which is supposed to be spectacular) and a bunch of places I would have liked to have seen in New Brunswick.  Oh well, I guess I will have to save that for the next tour!


Wolfville and Halifax, Nova Scotia!



July 20, 10:00 am.

Wolfville is about an hour away from Halifax, so I left early to allow lots of travel time from Dartmouth, which is where I was staying.

For once, Google Maps was correct!  I had back-up directions from Jenny ready too though, just in case.

I had just recently escaped the heatwave in Toronto (45+ C with humidity) and I was appreciating the lower East Coast temperatures.  Until today.

It was the hottest day of the tour.  40 degrees with the humidex on this very sunny Saturday.  There was a nice breeze at the Farmers Market, but unfortunately the stage was against the wall of a building.  No breeze.

I could feel the heat burning me as soon as I stepped on the stage to set up.  For those of you who don’t know, heat and me don’t get along.  I tend to sweat copious amounts on a freezing, air-conditioned stage just because I’m under the lights.  So you can imagine what 40 degrees while performing is like.


I set up my equipment, grabbed a towel and made the best of it.

I was booked to play from 10 am to 1 pm, with breaks, but due to some power issues, I didn’t get started until about 10:30.  Apparently a lot of people stayed away from the Farmers Market because of the heat, but there was still a considerable crowd milling about.  It was certainly the biggest audience I had played for since coming out to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

There were a couple firsts at this show for me.  #1 – it was my first outdoor show as a solo artist.  I had done a couple before with bands, but this was the first time it was just me and my piano.  No helpful stage banter, no jamming with the band, no one to cover if you didn’t happen to know a good joke.  The whole spotlight was on me.  #2 – this was my first “busking” show.  Ever.  The Farmers Market was kind enough to let me put up a sign, advertise my CDs and also collect money through busking (and the show was paid as well!).  Pretty awesome.


Photo by Chris Peters

You know what else was really awesome?  People actually sat and listened.  People clapped.  Little children danced to the music, and parents gave them money to put in my busking basket.  Several people took pictures and video, and took the time to tell me that they enjoyed the show.  I sold three CDs, made a couple of new fans and really enjoyed myself.

That is, until I started feeling lightheaded and dizzy, and started forgetting which song I was playing (I literally blanked on the lyrics to my own song that I had played, oh, about 1,000 times).  I had taken regular breaks (and thanked God for the breeze just off the stage), but the heat was really getting to me.  I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and I looked like I had a third-degree sunburn.  But I wasn’t in the sun!!  I was just being cooked.  Slowly, and well done.


I packed up around 1:30, and quickly headed for anywhere with A/C.  I ended up at the Just Us Cafe, on the main street of Wolfville.  After dunking my head in the cold water in their sink, I managed to hang out long enough to cool down and feel better.  I had definitely been suffering from heat stroke, and I’m glad I didn’t have to play any longer than I did.  And it was a very cool coffee shop.


Artwork at the Just Us Cafe, Wolfville

When I had recovered my balance and my sanity, I took the scenic tour out of Wolfville (very pretty town, reminds me a bit of Unionville in Ontario).  Here is the stunning Blomidon Inn, which is where I would really love to stay when I come back!!


My future home, Wolfville NS



July 20, 10:00pm

Here’s another first.  Two shows in one day!  Not only that, I had already played for three hours and was suffering from heat stroke.  Was I going to be able to pull this off?

Luckily I had already been to the Rockbottom Brew Pub a few days earlier for the Open Mic.  So my chances of getting lost were reduced.  A bit.

This was the first time I actually was able to meet the wonderful singer/songwriter who had booked the whole tour for me, Jenny MacDonald.  I was actually on my way to see her in Toronto several months earlier for NXNE, when my car was hit by someone running a red light in Pickering.  Needless to say, I didn’t make the show, and felt incredibly guilty about it.


It was great to chat with Jenny and although it was a slow night, both her and her friends and fans were wonderfully supportive.  And despite not feeling well from the morning show, I actually put on the best performance of the tour.  I really had fun!  And Jenny’s set was fantastic – she has a wonderful, bluesy voice with some very personal, captivating songs.  You can check out her original music here:

Next up:  Freeman’s Li’l New Yorker (huh?) and Peggy’s Cove!!


Brooklyn and Halifax, Nova Scotia!


Next stop on the East Coast Tour . . . . . Brooklyn?

It seems most on the East Coast don’t even know where Brooklyn is.  I mentioned I was playing a house concert there to a few people in Moncton and received puzzled looks.  It’s a very small town, far off the beaten path, about 40 minutes from Halifax.  Problem is:  Google Maps thinks it is in Enfield.  That’s right, Google Maps is pulling an Apple Maps and trying to put people in the middle of the ocean. Well, kind of. I had to triple check directions, and they were more than a little confusing.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to ever get there.  I found by putting in the postal code that it gave more accurate directions that I could combine with the host’s directions and hopefully end up where I was supposed to.  Google calculated the time as about 3 hours, 7 minutes to get there.  I had plenty of time, right?

So, I stopped for breakfast and lunch in Moncton before heading out.  While sitting in Starbucks for breakfast, I noticed what looked like a familiar face a few tables down.  Paul Milner?  Couldn’t be.  Paul was a producer and engineer (and genuinely nice guy) that I worked with in the 90s for a few recordings.  I hadn’t seen him in about 15 years, and the last I heard he was working at some studio in the U.S.  So, I figured he was also living in the U.S.  What the hell was he doing in Moncton??  I looked up info on him online, and couldn’t find any information on his location.  He was busy talking to someone, so I thought I would approach him to ask just before I left.  Next time I looked up, he was gone.

So I messaged Paul through Facebook and it turned out, it was him!  He lives in PEI now and he offered to put me up and find me a gig there!  Unfortunately it was for a night I couldn’t make it.  And that was the second gig in PEI I had to turn down because of my schedule.  Damn!

So I gradually found my way to the highway, and I left with plenty of time (3.5 hours) to get to the house concert about an hour early to setup.  Right?  NO.

It turned out, not only did Google Maps have the location initially wrong, the travel time was wrong too.  3.5 hours later, I STILL WASN’T THERE.  I was looking for “Exit 4” for half an hour.  It was a really long stretch of highway.  I was basically flying all the way there, thinking I was going to be late for the show.  I eventually got there 40 minutes before the performance, which really wasn’t ideal.  But I was there.


My host was Gloria, a lovely lady who runs a “healing centre” called “Flap Your Wings Empowerment Oasis”.  They offer services such as Reiki, Theta healing and “spine cleansing”, which sounds mildly horrifying (but I’m sure it’s wonderful).   Gloria was a very welcoming host, as were the hundreds of mosquitoes in the area, who made a quick lunch of my knee (how do you end up with three bites in the same place??).  I quickly doused myself with mosquito repellent and went to set up.


Gloria, Donny and me.

Flap Your Wings is a nice old house with a fairly big living room, which is where I set up.  It turned out to be another small audience (6, if you include the host), but I knew that it would probably be small in advance.  They were very friendly, and I made good friends with Donny, an elderly gentleman who had recently had a stroke and had difficulty walking and speaking (he had lost much of the use of the right side of his body).  He shouted out “Good!” at the end of every song with a big smile on his face.  That made my night.


Gloria put me up for the night at her house next door, and even offered to let me stay longer.  That was extremely nice of her.  But I had just booked a hotel in Dartmouth for the two nights I was off (I was panicking that I wouldn’t have a place to stay, and would have to pay last-minute prices on a hotel).  So, after a nice breakfast and after Gloria and Winnie (her best friend and resident house concert cook) sent me with a nice care package of delicious home-made sandwiches and banana bread, I headed off.


Avondale Wharf, Avondale.

My plan was to do some sight-seeing on my way down to Dartmouth, but one wrong turn on the highway and I accidentally ended up in Halifax instead of where I had planned to go.  I did see a beautiful little town called Avondale, which had a pretty little wharf with the reddest sand you have ever seen (except, perhaps, in PEI!).



It also had a really gorgeous church just down the road.


So, what do you do when you arrive in Halifax at 3 pm in the afternoon with nothing to do?  Well, you go sight-seeing in Halifax!  So, I drove around the city trying desperately not to get lost (but did, several times – DAMN YOU GOOGLE!!).




Halifax Public Gardens, Spring Garden St.

Found my way downtown to the Rockbottom Pub (which I am playing Saturday), found the all-important coffee shops (Second Cup!  YES!).  And eventually found my way to Dartmouth over the INCREDIBLY slow MacDonald toll bridge.  It’s bad enough when it’s rush hour in Halifax . . . why do you have to stop for tolls too on your way across the two busiest bridges in Halifax???


There is also a toll portion of the highway between Moncton and Halifax.  I understand that they need money to maintain them, but surely there could be a better way than slowing everyone down to a crawl.  407, people!  Check it out!  Yes, the fees are way too high, but the cameras work a lot better than toll booths.

It turned out that the Rockbottom Pub had an open mic night on Thursdays.  So I decided to go down to promote my Saturday show.  People were really friendly – I met another touring musician from B.C., Michael Averill, who I spent a good deal of time chatting with on the pros and cons of touring, and how to save money on accommodations (apparently, in 3 years, he has never had to pay for a hotel.  And he’s done a LOT of touring around Canada).

The bar was pretty loud, so I didn’t get a lot of “listeners” for my set, but it was a good experience and I got some positive comments afterwards.  The highlight for me was seeing a local Halifax reggae band. Yes, you read that right.  REGGAE.  Three older gentlemen, one of which had a cowbell, two cymbals and a tambourine permanently attached to his djembe.  Very cool.  And they were quite good!

I headed back to the hotel to prepare for a couple really intensive days of shows (two in one day!!) and to get some sleep.  Next up, Wolfville!  (awoooooooooooooo!)  🙂



Lots of excitement for 2013!


Well, it’s been a while since I posted, but there are so many exciting things coming up that I just had to provide an update.

It’s now a NEW YEAR, so it’s time for lots of new things!!  How about a couple of great shows to start with!


Saturday April 13th at Habits,

and a huge one at Musideum on Wednesday, May 22.

Both will be with a full band, and the Musideum show is going to be featuring a beautiful Bechstein grand piano (fifth member of the band, perhaps?), and it will also be filmed and recorded live!  I’ll also be introducing a very special guest – the lovely and talented Holly Cheng on violin!

But wait!  That’s not all!  😉


I have four brand new songs that I will be showcasing along with material from my most recent album “Great Expectations”!  I have been a very busy, busy little songwriter the last couple of months . . . those who know me well can tell you it often takes me 6 months to finish a song.  So this is a big deal for me!

And last, but certainly not least . . .


I’m going on an East Coast tour!  Yes, plans are already underway with a great amount of help from a wonderful East Coast songwriter by the name of Jenny MacDonald.  Jenny has been a terrific help with setting up a series of shows in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for me, and the details will be coming very soon!  In the meantime, don’t forget to check out her CMW show at the Cameron House on March 22nd (7 pm).  She really deserves the support!

You can read about the new shows at my website here:

And I will be posting some new videos featuring some of the new songs soon!  You can always check out my latest videos here:

Thanks, as always, for your wonderful support, and I hope to see you all at my upcoming shows in Toronto or out east!