Manda's Musings


Release. I’m all for it. Finding those things in our lives that feel stuck and ferreting out ways to unstick them.

I loved preparing for my CD release concert last Sunday. It was not only a release for a project I’ve held in abeyance since my teen years – but also a release of an energy and spirit I’d lost track of – the me that loves to front a band.

My performance just barely resembled the hours of practice before my 4’x4’ mirror by myself. I had forgotten how it feels to sing with a full band of great musicians behind you. Last time I was back in the 80s with Cruise Control, a five piece Top 40 band. One thing I’m beginning to learn now, though, with experience behind me – release comes from diligent, focused work.

I took our youngest to a trial trumpet lesson with a new teacher – as his old one (all of 24 years old!) departed for Virginia to boot camp and a career job as a marine corp trumpeter! While we knew him, he went to a few auditions and came in second (out of many applicants) after each one. He persisted and reaped his reward. This new teacher seems to have very similar qualities so we might be looking for another after a year or so as well!

Following the lesson, this fellow emailed exercise sheets over to me for Sam. Each sheet had a quote printed on it. The quote that resonated most deeply with me was ‘We are what we repeatedly do – Excellence is not an act but a habit’.

That was an ‘Ah ha’ moment for me. Another time I might wonder why it felt so revelatory. I realized that as I build the habit of calling up excellence (not perfection) from myself in what I do I am building toward freedom and release. And for so many years of my life I viewed practice as a cage. And now I see it is release. I’m all for it.


Yesterday I was being real clever. Sam had a Boy Scout meeting to go to and I had an engagement at WICN 90.5 – a Worcester radio station. They were kicking off their summer fundraiser and I was with Nick Noble on his Folk Revival show from 7-8pm . Lotsa fun. He played one of my album tracks and I finished the hour playing one live. The most fun, though, was singing to folk groups I grew up with: the Limeliters , the Weavers , Peter, Paul & Mary .

But – back to me being clever. Because final tests are happening this week for eighth grade I nixed all Playstation/computer time for Sam – ‘giving’ him extra time to study – which he, as a fourteen year old, fully appreciated. So – whereas Peter is away in Montana visiting son Charlie, and Sam would be home alone for a bit before a friend came to pick him up for Boy Scouts, I surreptitiously whisked away the cord connecting his Playstation to the TV.  I knew I’d potentially face great consternation – or at the very least muffled disgruntlement – when I got hom –  but figured it was worth it.

9pm and I walked in through the kitchen door to a chatty, light and affable fourteen year old. No trace of consternation whatsoever nor mention of any missing cord.

And so I stand before you – ever so clever.



It’s official! ‘Both Sides Now’ is FOR SALE on CD Baby!

I went to my Gmail account this morning and there was the notification! Instructions say to run through a mock sales transaction to make sure everything is in working order. It is! Click here to check it out:

Not only did I receive notification from CD Baby, but I also saw one from ACX – the gatekeeper company for Lo and behold, ‘Fixing the Dinosaur,’ one of my six radio plays, is now available on as well! Such a fortuitous day! (And heavily worked toward!) ‘Fixing the Dinosaur’ is a fun and whimsical radio play/song combo. The actors and musicians involved in this project did amazing work! And Philly Chatterton’s sound effects (Foley Artist who did the Muppet Christmas Movie) brought the whole soundscape to life! Check it out!

This journey has been long and adventuresome. I’m struck by how fortunate I am.

How fortunate to work with so many generous, creative, skilled and good-natured artists. How fortunate to encounter folks in the business world who are abundantly forthcoming with their wisdom, diligence, patience and encouragement. How fortunate to have family and friends who support my endeavors at every turn.

And most heartfeltly, how fortunate to have the means by way of my frugal and far-visioned father, to produce works I believe might have filled his heart with joy and his face with a smile.



Don White is one of my coaches. I’ve been working with him for a few months. As regards promoting my CD Release Party he said, “Do everything you can to get folks there, so when event time comes you have no regrets. And then – have fun! That’s our job – to entertain – to give folks a great time.”

That’s a work doctrine to live by. Don has expertly mapped out the job of an entertainer. I won’t go into details because people pay him for that! Though his business approach to entertaining is comprehensive and sensible – it is not necessarily intuitive or easy for the average artist. So I’m doing the promoting – the thing that comes most unnaturally to me – so far so good.

Now for the natural – I’ve set up a mini-stage at home to practice. It harkens me back to coming home from school, closing our TV room door, dropping the needle on Jackson Five records and pretending to be Michael Jackson on stage. I even mastered some of his footwork! (No, not the Moonwalk!)

Games. I love games. Hey! Let’s have folks scavenge for musical nods and jokes in my songs. T-shirts by Sarah Beth Wiley Smith for prizes! Let’s even get them singing if we can! I place myself in my make-believe audience and ask what I want Amanda Maffei to say and do up onstage between and during songs. (Everybody here inside just loves to chime in on that one!)

I am thrilled to venture into this new landscape. Not that music and performing is new – but the desire to develop my artistry entertaining is. After all, that’s the entertainer’s job – to give folks a great time.



 (This isn’t Eliot.)

It’s that first eye-to-eye that strums the heartstrings of this gramma.

After a diaper change, Eliot was lying out on his changing table. For his educational entertainment I shook a black and white double handled rattle for a while, then we talked. Or rather, I talked. I love a captive audience – especially when it’s my non-verbal grandchild. (As they grow verbal I become pleasantly captive myself!) Eyes glued, I asked Eliot where he might like to go, now that he’s been here for just over a month.

Maybe Hawaii – certainly an excellent choice, but best wait until Volcano is done erupting. Of course I had to put my foot down at my mention of bodysurfing. No bodysurfing for one so young. Completely and utterly out of the question.

Next – Africa to ride a lion. Though previously Eliot had most assuredly advertently (some might vie for ‘inadvertently’, but grammas know better) bumped, then (brilliantly) grabbed hold (okay, perhaps it was more of a gramma-aided finger wraparound) the rattle’s handle, I suggested he might want to wait until he had thoroughly mastered grasping in order to successfully hold fast to a lion’s mane.

I’m afraid, though, my next (and last) suggestion both broke our mutual eye-to-eye rapture and, far more concerning, my grandson’s heart. I should have known better – but who could fathom the depths from which these new beings emanate? Yes – I suggested Alaska and polar bears. Just the mention of it scrunched his eyes right up – his visage severely reddening – and sent forth peals – no, not bell-like peals – more like unoiled door hinge ear grating peals – of despair.

I understood. Before arriving to give Mom and Dad a respite that morning, I had heard NPR’s report on the Alaskan polar bear’s dire situation pertaining to the severe progression of climate change. Admittedly bowled over by my grandson’s innate understanding, I did my very best to console him. But truly, how long can that last in one so young who experiences such deep and vast sensitivity?

What’s that? until the next feeding?


The radio plays are almost available on! The goal is for them to be there by  CD release concert time on June 10th

As I listened through each of them as part of the audio upload process, I couldn’t help but feel deeply honored and grateful for the tremendous work of my artist friends Vance Gilbert, Diane Edgecomb, Jackson Gillman, Judith Black, Dylan Campbell (my son,too!) and Mary Scarlata-Rowe. Their performances, along with the sound effects of Philly Chatterton and the editing of James Bridges, bring these plays to a level of artistry that quite frankly astounds me. I like to think I speak without bias, but my son & daughter-in-law suggested that might be a wee bit unlikely in that I wrote and produced them.

I was listening to ‘Leo’s Lullaby’. Leo’s deep down desire is to sing his cubs to sleep. There’s only one problem…and you’ll have to find that out when you purchase the radio play/song combo for yourself! 🙂

But it got me thinking about my own deep down desires. One main deep down desire has always been to sing my music with a really great band in a fun, meaningful and uplifting way to give my audience a good time. And it dawned on me – what Leah, Leo’s wife and best friend says about deep down desires getting done. And even though I wrote it I didn’t know it until now. How does that happen?

Rather than me telling you what she says, I’ll let her and Leo do the talking:


One of the six radio plays is based off an acapella tune of mine by the same name. Each radio play is followed by the song it came from.

Performing ‘Celebrate the Colors’ solo I accompanied myself on djembe. The audience and I did a call and response. On the recording Jesse Williams plays a cool bass part with Fabio Pirozzolo adding his classic percussion expertise. But the biggest thrill for me was to sing it with three other wonderful women – Renese King, Heather Williams and Barbara Kessler. Renese & Heather are able to join my for on June 10th for the concert.

I wrote this song from my frustration with terminology. We call ourselves black and white but we’re not. And in my researching for writing the radio play I learned some science behind skin color: there’s no evidence linking any skin color to intelligence or ability; we had dark skin for well over their first 100,000 years of human existence to protect them from the African sun; and the one I love the most – light “white” skin comes from MUTATION!

As humans moved north lighter was more beneficial as it would soak up the sun’s rays – hence Vitamin D – more efficiently. Considering the trouble our nation’s psyche has handling the beautiful diversity of all us humans, I love the irony that “white” people are mutants!

Getting back to the language thing, though – ‘Celebrate the Colors’ explores new skin color terminology if our practice was to describe  each other’s skin colors in their true colors. Here’s a clip of my try at it with Renese, Heather and Barbara on vocals:



When I was growing up my one of my dad’s most oft repeated phrases was “If it took intelligence to build a computer it took intelligence to build this hand.” That still makes a whole lot of sense to me – although our two understandings of the nature of that intelligence may differ. I do not necessarily believe there is a bigger than life mind out there thinking lots of things up – or into existence. I do believe our universe and this force we know as life and love is pretty miraculous.

It’s the little things that let me know there’s more to life than I can possibly know.

About a week ago I was driving down the back road I take to cut over from Rte. 9 to Rte. 85. I hit the timing just right to see two elementary school age boys I knew from church getting off the school bus at home. One, Jonathan, is an altar server.

I am a cantor at our church. This past Sunday I was on.

I arrived a half hour early to go over the music with our organist Jonathan. I was turning to Hymn #148, as per the sign at the front of the sanctuary, but he was playing a different one. “Did you misread the number,” he asked. As it turns out the Saturday cantor switched the last two numbers when putting them up. Hymn #184 was the actual hymn docketed. I’d change the numbers when I headed back down from the loft.

I forgot.

Change to  the sacristy a few minutes before mass. Altar server Jonathan came in and donned his robe.

We say ‘hi’ and then I say, “I saw you earlier this week getting off your school bus.” “Where?” “At home.” “Where?” “Home. Your mom was there and I saw you and your brother get off the bus.” (More adamant.) “Where?” (Stumped.) “What do you mean, ‘where’?” “What number.” “I don’t know what number – I wasn’t snoopy enough to look.” (An anticipatory pause on his part.) (Yielding.) “What number do you live at?” “184.”

I lurch towards the hallway door. “Oh! I forgot to change the number of the hymn!”

Those things are all the proof I need there’s an energy greater than me working in this world!



I thought it was an epiphany. For me they were two disparate entities: Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowin in the Wind’ and Sam Cooke’s ‘Shake.’

Last night at Amazing Things Open Mic, host Dan Cloutier had his annual ‘Bob Dylan Birthday Bash’ where each ‘Hooligan’ performs a Dylan song. I was planning on listening as the only song I know by heart is ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and prep for my CD release party is in full swing.

Yesterday afternoon I was practicing our encore number by Sam Cooke when suddenly it hit – my epiphany – put ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ to the feel of ‘Shake’. Here’s the result:

In prep for this blog entry this morning I searched Sam Cooke and Bob Dylan. I still don’t know if they met in person but they certainly met in spirit. The story goes that Sam Cooke heard ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and was inspired to write his ‘A Change is Gonna Come,’ which Dylan, in turn, quoted in his autobiography.

What totally blew me away, though, was that Sam Cooke did his own version of Dylan’s ‘Blowin in the Wind’. On the coattails of the masters…