Manda's Musings


It took me a while but in my late teens, early twenties I became aware of Aretha Franklin’s magnitude. A voice that rocked like an earthquake in her up tempo commanding demanding tunes and curled in on you like Persian cat on her ballads.

I witnessed Aretha Franklin in full command of her music, band and audience at a concert some years back. A powerhouse.

A song I heard of hers I immediately felt drawn toward is, ‘Oh Me Oh My’. I heard it on a cassette tape (!!!) I bought (a while back) of her greatest hits. I don’t ever remember hearing this one on the radio, but to me it’s one of her greatest.

I will miss all Aretha Franklin spoke to me of through her life – respect, freedom, justice and decency.




I cringed when I saw another ‘thin blue line’ United States of America flag flying on the back of a pick up truck yesterday.

They miss the point. It’s not about police being upheld and respected. As a nation, they are. It is about righting a wrong to a group of us people who have not yet received the decency and respect from our country that is their absolute and unalienable right.

There’s not need to purport the rights of police. I utterly respect and appreciate police. They have been extremely helpful to me throughout my life.

Every person in this country should have the opportunity to experience that.

We don’t need ‘thin blue line’ flags or blue ribbons around telephone poles. We need to face our own tendencies toward dehumanizing those we choose to see as ‘other’ and begin to ferret out the riotous fear that has so sickened our national psyche. And we need to make a huge national amends to a group of our people who have been and continue to be greatly wronged due only to the shortcomings and wrongsightedness of others.

No more ‘thin blue line’ flags – rather – big bold brown hued flags declaiming all colors we humans come in!


I do believe if we were truly ‘impeccable with our language’ a lot of our social problems would right themselves.

It has irked me for years that we refer to ourselves as ‘black’ and ‘white’. And just recently in an interview I heard a young man refer to the prejudice toward ‘brown’ and ‘black’ people. ALL BROWN!!!! ALL BROWN!!! Even we ‘WHITES’ are BROWN! (Albeit it lighter and lighter shades of it!!)

And then you hear the terms ‘African American’ ‘Asian American’ ‘Hispanic’ and WHITE!


I am largely ‘European American’.

If we’re going to refer to each other by our heritage – let’s refer to each other by our heritage. If we’re going to refer to each other by color – then refer to each other by the true colors we are.


Typically I only read about these folks in  ‘People’ magazine waiting in a supermarket line. But this morning a video clip of a speech Ms. Markle gave popped up after viewing another video clip.

Markle’s speech brought me to tears. I vividly recall the moment I realized girls/women were looked on as ‘less than’ boys and men. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. It was around the age of Markle when she had her realization – 11 years old. Though I’ve always personally fought against that mindset, it still is a constant presence. Many women have risen well beyond that mindset – I have hovered somewhere in the in-between.

My mother said to me, at a formative age, ‘You can always be a secretary.’ Not quite the ‘go out there and give ‘em all you’ve got’ confidence building send off a young gal might benefit from. My mom was the woman I always thought of as a woman warrior – not letting the ‘stigma’ of being a woman hold her back. Now with years I recognize she struggled as I have let myself struggle.

At age 11 Meghan Markle heard her call for advocacy and took action. She saw a TV commercial for dishwashing soap that said, “Women across America are struggling with greasy pots and pans.” She felt indignant and told her dad who encouraged her to write to people. She did – one of them being Hilary Clinton (who wrote her back) and another – the soap company – Proctor & Gamble. Linda Ellerbee interviewed Markle for her ‘Nick News’ show in 1993. Proctor & Gamble changed their ad.

As a nation and world we have lost and squandered immense vitality and innovation due to faulty mental constructs: women less than men; dark skinned people less than light skinned people; individual wealth over national whole-peopled wealth.

Thank goodness for the Meghan Markles who are struck by injustice and act publicly! Not all of us can have as wide an influence. But for today I’m going to call up my inner 11 year old Meghan Markle.


This August 19thmarks the 2ndand final currently booked concert for ‘Amanda Maffei and Her Mercenaries’.

Working with a band brings me back to my teenage years when we put together summer bands. We used to practice in our basement – Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Wonder days. We rehearsed all summer and gave a concert for family and friends at the end.

Then there were the 80s into the early 90s when I performed with a couple Top 40 duos/trios and a five-piece band called ‘Cruise Control.’ I wore my hair in a perm, donned colorful clothes and remembered getting so into it I did a ‘David Lee Roth-esque’ jump/split onstage at a Naval Base in Newport, Rhode Island. Cruise Control rehearsed a couple times a week and played out weekends. Kept that up for a couple years.

Becoming a single mom I gave up the late night work and became a teacher, where perhaps (‘David Lee Roth-esque’ split-jumps may have come in handy – especially in my middle school teaching years.)

So all summer long rehearsing. Rehearsing two times a week. And with these guys we rehearse once and then off we go on August 19th.. Brad Hatfield, Jim Gwin, Jesse Willliams, Larry Luddecke and Billy Novick are joining me. My mercenaries. Though I am loath to dwell on the terminology, I smile when I think of them showing up, making a (musical) hit, and taking off.

Come to Hopkinton Town Common Sunday, August 19th, 5-7pm. FREE!

Come hear (me) Amanda Maffei and Her Mercenaries – for FREE – Sunday, August 19th, 5-7pm. It’ll be a couple of the best hours you’ve spent for free in a long time! Love for you to be there! CDs & T-shirts available.


It was with a full heart and whimsy of spirit that I handed our son the clippers and said ‘make the garden beautiful’. The north side garden had become overgrown with vegetation and lack of attention – in dire need of trimming.

Aware of these long, steamy summer days wrought with motherly instruction I felt freedom for a task was in order. I personally love grabbing clippers and going at it. I step back, look at my potential masterpiece and set to work. I stand in long enough stints to get inspiration and then go forth accordingly.

I thought our son might feel some semblance of that in his own way. He seemed happy enough, plugged into his phone, clipping away. What I didn’t know was that he was listening to a podcast on serial killers – intermittently laughing. That should have been a warning signal right there.

But I kept my eyes glued to my own task of releasing the crease between our sidewalk and road from the strangle hold myriad clumps of grass had on it. I refused to look back and comment until he said, ‘done’. I looked.

Our wild, riot of a forsythia bush was his target. Sawed off at the knees – ankles really. The longest shoot now pushes five inches – maybe.

Maybe next time I should take into account what ‘make it beautiful’ might mean to a teenager listening to a comedic podcast on serial killers.


Wednesday evening, due to the ingenuity of my husband Peter, he, Sam and I found ourselves sitting on a blanket on the Esplanade smack dab between the Charles River and Storrow Drive waiting for the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, One City Choir and Back Bay Chorale’s Verdi Requiem to begin.  As we walked from Arlington Station, across the Arthur Fiedler footbridge, I remembered the first orchestral concert I came to on the Esplanade – July 4th1976 with Arthur Fiedler conducting the Boston Pops Bicentennial concert – replete with cannons! Sixteen years old. Over 40 years ago?! And now I’m crossing over his bridge.

I listen to the Verdi Requiem every Holy Saturday. Holy Saturday in the catholic tradition is the day between Jesus’ death and resurrection. For me it feels like a cave day. A day to enter a spiritual cave and take stock of what’s inside – what I’d like to leave behind and what I’d like to build on.

However, my main touchstone for the Verdi Requiem is the death of my mom. In my twenties, shortly after she died, I either heard or sang the Verdi Requiem. (At this age with this many pictures stored in my craw I can’t recall which.) I did have the opportunity to sing the Requiem with Seiji Ozawa and the BSO in the early 80s, when I sang alto for the Tanglewood Festival Chorus..

In reading liner notes Wednesday evening I learned Verdi wrote the ‘Libera Me’ for a requiem he charged various composers of the time, along with himself, to write in memory of his close friend and colleague, Gioachino Rossini. Apparently due to unwieldy demands made by Verdi that project never reached fruition. But Verdi did write his ‘Libera Me’ which acted as a catalyst for a full requiem he completed a few years later.

Every Holy Saturday’s, and this Wednesday evening’s ‘Libera Me’ is the movement I prepare myself to take in all the way through the rest of Verdi’s soulful requiem. Verdi gets death. The ream of emotions that come with the passing of a loved one and the contemplation of our own. The rage, outrage, fear, confusion, disbelief, pleading, acceptance and surrender.

His ‘Libera Me’ (Free Me) begins as a fugue – a sort of round. As it continues to build, the soprano, sung gloriously by Meredith Hansen Wednesday evening, both demands and pleads to the powers that be, in long sweeping sequenced lines, to liberate her. This is the end of the entire requiem.

These lines stretch the very fibers behind my sternum.Tears come to my eyes as I speak this even now. The plea crashes in on my being with all its human helplessness trust and faith – that all that’s in store for us is not lost to nothingness.

Oh how I wish we could release ourselves into that plea as one people and recognize our bondedness in all life means to be human.

Here is the Russia State Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Claudio Vandelli. It’s worth a quiet 5 minutes all the way to the end:



I should write a 50’s rock ballad to my MBTA angel.

I and my youngest son and husband waited at Riverside for the Green Line train to bring us into Boston. We each had our own Charlie cards – Peter and I standing, milling about, Sam sitting on a bench. There was a fellow with a bright neon MBTA vest sitting at the other end of the bench from Sam.

Checking in, Peter asked Sam if he had his Charlie card. I saw the MBTA fellow shake his head slightly, but his expression was hard for me to read. Upon hearing Peter’s question to so, I then asked him to give me his card for safe keeping, for fear it would fly from his pocket as he shifted his iPhone in and out to adjust tunings. Another shake of the head from the MBTA fellow with this time, I thought, a much readable expression. Thinking he was in parental agreement with me I said something clever to start up an ‘oh you know how kids are’ conversation.

“I’m just embarrassed,” he said. “Embarrassed?” I asked. “Yes, for him.” “Him?” “Yes. He’s so polite he’s not saying anything so I’m speaking for him. You’ve just told him you don’t trust him – and done so in front of all these people.”

Hit by a brick by my MBTA angel. After processing through myriad inner gulps, as our exchange continued, I gave Sam back his Charlie card and apologized.

In the aftermath of that encounter I think to myself, ‘what a grace to be given a moment with this person, unknown to us, who cared enough for humanity to step in and speak up. Yet another reason to love being alive.


It’s difficult living in our country with the person acting as our president. I have never felt this way before. I admit to being a tried and true democrat, but I have never felt this way about any other republican president – even George W. Bush. Though I questioned his judgement, knowledge and motives, I always felt he was humane. Most words and actions of this man in office speak to me of a severely limited and damaged person.

I heard the story of a Mexican journalist whose life was in danger due to challenging some powerful people in his country. He escaped over the border to the U.S. for protection. Within weeks I.C.E. locked him up, though he had no criminal record and had gone through the necessary legal channels to seek asylum. The judge denied him but he was legally in our country awaiting appeal. While here he criticized our Administration’s policies on immigration. Shortly thereafter he was picked up and put in jail.

Easy to hear –  through his friends and people who care for our constitution he was freed. Not through a judicial hearing, but through the courts demanding I.C.E. turn over all correspondence relating to the detainment of the journalist. I.C.E. freed him the day before those documents were due. That was hard to hear.

Freedom of Speech.

We keep a man in office who has mocked handicapped people, declared whole nationalities of people rapists, terrorists and murderers all from his opinion for effect, and he is free (apparently) to do as he will. And a journalist, intelligently (and with due cause) expressing his opposition –in tune with a large swath of U.S. citizens – to our present Administration’s immigration policies – is locked up for stating his views based on fact.

I am finding the ethos of this Administration harder and harder to hear.


I am striving to keep an open mind. I consider it important to honor those in charge of running things, knowing that I do not have access to the knowledge and information they have, nor have I made the commitment they have to serve. I have found this practice particularly challenging since January of 2017.

A few days ago when I opened my email account to see the news that 12 billion dollars in aid was being set aside for farmers due to the newly imposed tariffs, my jaw tightened.

I heard one commentator say our current president practices creating his own crises; resolves his own crises; then claims him self the victor/hero/genius.

Earlier this year there was no need for an extra $12 billion because apparently things were thriving.

I truly do hope l am not seeing things with a broad enough perspective and what he’s doing will ultimately aid our nation.

But I also know the tendency to create one’s own crisis. I’ve done (and perhaps at times still do) it. Just not as President of the United States.