National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins is a rock-star of science who was instrumental in the identification of multiple genes for hereditary disease including cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s and neurofibromatosis.
He led the Human Genome Project in the 1990's that resulted in the mapping of the entire human genome sequence in 2003.
In 2009 he was nominated by President Obama to be Director of the Nationals Institutes of Health, with unanimous confirmation by the Senate. Since that time, he has boosted research efforts in Alzheimer’s disease, innovative brain science, set the stage for precision medicine, and many other areas.
We had the great honor to sit down with Dr. Collins and talk about scientific surprises and musical exploration, about the importance of collaboration and listening, and about how music, family and spirituality seem to travel in similar circles.
Song 1: Hallelujah / Leonard Cohen, performed by: Francis Collins, Renee Fleming and the National Symphony Orchestra - 2017
Song 2: New River Train / The Ward Family of Galax, performed by: The Monroe Brothers - 1936
Song 3: The Times They Are A Changin’ / Bob Dylan, performed by: Francis Collins, Joe Perry, Rudy Tanzi - 2009
Song 4: Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 55 “Eroica” 2nd movement / Ludwig van Beethoven, Berlin Philharmonic with Herbert von Karajan - 1986
Song 5: The What Makes Scientist Cry Blues, performed by Francis Collins, Joe Perry, Rudy Tanzi - 2009
Song 6: Disease Don’t Care / Francis Collins, performed by Francis Collins - Live at the NIH - 2019
A performance by A Far Cry - Live at City Winery Boston - February 28, 2019 in Boston, MA.
Recorded after our fourth ConcertCast - a conversation and performance in front of a live audience.
To listen to the entire conversation, go here: http://abovethwww.abovethebasement.com/131-a-far-cry
Johannes Brahms, Viola Quintet in G Major, Op. 111
Antonín Dvorák : The Terzetto in C, Op. 74 (B. 148)
Episode 131 - a ConcertCast Event with A Far Cry
Classical music is pretty much the only music in the world that still sounds beautiful when the musicians are tuning up. It sounded so great we decided to start the episode with a brief tuning session.
We were joined by Megumi Lewis, Omar Chen Guey, Caitlin Lynch, Jae Cosmos Lee, Michael Unterman and Jason Fisher, several of The Criers from the Boston based chamber orchestra A Far Cry.
We invited these fine musicians to City Winery Boston for another live ConcertCast.
Founded in 2007, A Far Cry has been nominated for three Grammys. Playing music from various time periods they incorporate both new and time tested works with the goal “to wrestle the music they love back from the cultural baggage it's accumulated”.
Throughout the episode you will hear movements of Dvorak’s Terzetto, played by Jae Cosmos Lee, Omar Chen Guey and Jason Fisher. Caitlyn Lynch then joins Jason and Jae for a conversation with us and they answer a few questions from the audience.
The final piece they play by Brahms is published separately as part of our In Concert Series above.
They both sound absolutely beautiful.
ConcertCast: Antonín Dvorák : The Terzetto in C, Op. 74 (B. 148)
In Concert Series: (separate episode) Johannes Brahms, Viola Quintet in G Major, Op. 111
Episode 130 - a conversation with Ari Hest.
With a distinctive voice and beautiful melodies, Ari Hest has carved out a diverse career as an independent artist. Several of his songs have appeared on TV and Film soundtracks, and 2014 collaboration with Judy Collins earned him his first Grammy nomination for their album Silver Skies Blue.
Now with a brand new baby in the mix, he and his wife, the very talented musician Chrissi Poland, have settled in the South Shore of Massachusetts.
We sat with him at of Lucky Finn Café overlooking the harbor in Scituate, Massachusetts. While sipping our espressos, we talked about how he started out in music, guitars, collaboration and babies.
Special guest co-host David Moore otherwise known as MALIN sits in for Ronnie Hirschberg this time around.
Song 1: Bird Never Flies (The Break In)
Song 2: Heart of a Lion (Natural)
Song 3: I Choose Love (Silver Skies Blue with Judy Collins)
Song 1: Sato (Single)
Song 2: Leaving Her Alone (The Break In)
Episode 129 - a conversation with Livingston Taylor.
Boston’s own Livingston Taylor is a musician, teacher and interested man. Yes – we said interestED, not interesting. Not that Livingston isn’t interesting, because he certainly is. This will all make sense in our conversation.
Liv is a full professor at Berklee College of Music where he teaches Stage Performance. He is currently celebrating a 50+ year career with a brand new album called "The Best of LIVe – 50 Years of Livingston Taylor Live". This album has 11 tracks from his upcoming box set of the same name featuring unreleased live performances spanning his career from 1969 through 2016.
There is also a fantastic documentary called "Livingston Taylor: Life Is Good” that won The Van Gogh Award for the Feature Documentary category at the Amsterdam International Film Festival and you can check that out on Amazon.
Livingston has played with Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, Jimmy Buffett, and Jethro Tull to name just a few and he continues to play and tour internationally.
Liv flew in from Martha’s Vineyard (and I mean he actually flew himself in as he is an instrument-rated pilot) to have a truly great conversation in his Watertown offices with us.
We talked about teaching, performance, learning and even about Steel manufacturing – he’s a man who has an insatiable thirst for being interested and he will tell you without asking that he loves you.
And he means it.
Song List: All songs from the album "The Best of LIVe – 50 Years of Livingston Taylor Live"
Song 1: Our Turn To Dance (From Snapshot)
Song 2: I Ask You Once (Demo)
Song 3: Get Out Of Bed (Live)
Song 4: Good Friends (Live)
Song 5: Sit On Back (Live)-
We are taking a little detour from our usual format to bring you this very special episode.
We hosted a conversation between the illustrious sports reporters Gordon Edes and Steve Buckley with arguably the most well know Presidential Historian in the world - Doris Kearns Goodwin.
With the 2018 Red Sox World Series Trophy in the room, we talked, sang and celebrated Red Sox Baseball while raising money for the amazing Pete Frates Family Foundation.
We would bet that most of you listening either participated in or at least heard of the Ice Bucket challenge. Started by Pete Frates who was struck with ALS a few years ago, with his parents John and Nancy and the millions of people who took part in the challenge, the foundation has raised a ¼ of a billion dollars to fight ALS, which is just astounding.
We were truly honored to have John and Nancy Frates join us on that Sunday evening to say a few words as well as Red Sox great Sam Horn, Red Sox Poet Laureate Dick Flavin and the Sox Fenway Park organist Josh Kantor.
It was a special night, made all the more wonderful not only by the money raised but the gathering of friends and family.
Episode 127 - a conversation with Jared Bowen.
We took a ride early one morning to the WGBH studios in Brighton, Mass to sit with arts and entertainment reporter and Boston native Jared Bowen. Jared has talked with all sorts or amazing people.
Jared can be found, well – really everywhere. He is an Emmy award-winning host of the TV series, 'Open Studio with Jared Bowen', a contributor to the WGBH magazine program, 'Greater Boston” and you can also hear him the radio on 89.7, where he talks about what’s going on in Boston for the performing arts on WGBH’s 'Morning Edition' and 'Boston Public Radio'.
He is also a coach and judge on the choir competition show 'Sing That Thing!' These are only a few of the things Jared does. He is a busy guy and we were happy to get a chance to sit and talk Boston arts and culture.
Music and narration outtake courtesy of WGBH Boston from Open Studio with Jared Bowen
Episode 126 - a conversation with Oompa
We first ran into Oompa at Boston One Night Band back in 2018 – listen to Episode 123 for our conversation with Richard Bouchard about that event - but Oompa immediately stood out to me and I quickly put her down as someone to reach out to.
Fast forward almost exactly a year later and we happily got a chance to sit with her and also guest host and Hip Hip know it all Ike Walker for a great conversation.
Oompa is fresh off her two Boston Music Awards for Best Unsigned Artist and 617 Sessions winner and is currently in the studio to release her next album.
We talk hip hop of course, but also touch on teaching, writing, and her being the gay auntie of Boston. Oompa is all energy and is passionate about her music, poetry and the City of Boston.
Song 1: Nicky’s Song (November 3rd)
Song 2: Say Her Name (November 3rd)
Song 3: Dear Mama (November 3rd)
Song 4: Dope
Song 5: Catch 22 (November 3rd)
Episode 125 - a conversation with Peter Gammons.
As a Boston Red Sox fan living in the NY/NJ area back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, life as a Sox fan was...well...difficult. Especially after Game 7 of the ALCS when the New York Yankees walked off the Sox in 2003.
But that was just the beginning of a Red Sox renaissance that eventually brought the city of Boston 4 World Series Trophies since - including the recent 2018 championship. With 11 championships since 2001 – Boston fans really have nothing to complain about when it comes to sports.
But during that painful time of losing before all the winning, there were a few people we turned to for our Red Sox fix. Peter Gammons was number one on that list.
So what is a world class sportswriter and analyst doing on a music podcast?
Peter is also a songwriter and guitarist and has played with the likes of Eddie Vedder, Will Dailey, Buffalo Tom and many others. He also started Hot Stove, Cool Music – which is the signature fundraiser for The Foundation To Be Named Later started by Paul and Theo Epstein.
But Peter is much more than just a sportswriter and musician, he is also a humanitarian who works hard for the kids in the city of Boston. We spoke with Peter at his scholarship dinner for the Peter Gammons College Scholarship in Boston and got to talk with Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, CEO and Executive Director of The Foundation to Be Named Later Allyce Najimy, Scholar Program Manager Lesly Suriel, the Foundation's founder Paul Epstein and Boston musician Will Dailey.
All songs from the album Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old
Song 1: Tanqueray
Song 2: Come, Labor On
Song 3: Model Citizen
Every so often we get the opportunity to catch a musical coming through Boston and then sit with the actors or musicians for a chat.
We were especially lucky to have a conversation with the lovely Zina Ellis who plays the Fairy Godmother in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA at the beautifully restored Emerson Colonial Theatre.
We saw the show the night before talking with Zina and had a fantastic time. The show is a fresh new take on the beloved tale of a young woman who is transformed from a chambermaid into a princess. Hilarious and romantic, CINDERELLA combines the story’s classic elements – glass slippers, a pumpkin and a beautiful ball along with some surprising twists.
But we aren’t going to give anything more away – you’ll just have to catch the show before it moves on to another town.
Cinderella runs in Boston through December 30th and you can get your tickets at www.emersoncolonialtheatre.com
Episode 123 - a conversation with Richard Bouchard.
Last year we went to our first One Night Band event at The Sinclair and left with a long list of possible guests – Thalia Zedek, Cliff Notez and Oompa to name just a few.
We thought we would get to the bottom of this by talking with the guy who started this unique event, Richard Bouchard.
We tend to run into Richard everywhere. He currently works with the band Sidewalk Driver and runs a business that supplies on demand management, booking and promotional campaigns for bands that need a hand with short or long term projects.
But the One Night Band is really different.
40 or so musicians are organized into bands (for one night – get it?)
Then the magic happens.
Live songs recorded at The Sinclair - Boston One Night Band 2018
Song 2: Five Steps (Sidewalk Driver)
Episode 122 - a conversation with Jenee Halstead.
We are no longer surprised that our guests are much more than just musicians. Jenee Halstead is a great example.
In addition to being a singer-songwriter, Jenee is also a learner and teacher and recently started a new project called The Inner Song, where she is a holistic vocal and self-expression coach, spiritual teacher, and energy healer.
In her own journey through music, training and self discovery, Jenee now shares how people can safely and authentically discover their own true voice and power of expression.
She has a beautiful singing voice made all the more special by her songwriting skills. You only need to hear her sing to understand why Jed Gottlieb of The Boston Herald called her "a tremendous voice in an otherworldly, shadowy soundscape".
She also has her own podcast that she hosts with musician Danielle Miraglia called Let's Put It Off that we sincerely hope is resurrected, as - I am sure you all agree - we need more great podcasts in the world.
Song 1: Sophia (Edge of the World)
Song 2: Dusty Rose (The River Grace)
Song 3: Bitten By The Night (Raised By Wolves)
Song 1: Juarez (Edge of the World)
Song 2: Disposable Love
Mike Block - Live at Indian Hill Music - November 17, 2018 in Littleton, MA.
Recorded after our Mike Block ConcertCast - a conversation and performance in front of a live audience.
To listen to the entire conversation, go here: http://abovetheb.libsyn.com/episode-121-mike-block
Song 01: Slow Day At The Cafe
Song 02: Sweet Tea On The Porch
Song 03: Julienne Johnson
Song 04: Courante 3
Song 05: Saygun’s Partita for Solo Cello
Song 06: Can't Ya Hear Me Callin’
Song 07: The Blackest Crow
Song 08: Cornelia’s Song
Song 09: Prelude 6
Song 10: My Heart Goes
Song 01: Prelude 4
Song 02: Lay Down Your Weary Tune
Song 03: The Chicken
Song 04: Raghupati Ragava Raja Ram / Where The Soul Never Dies
Song 05: Prelude to a Dream
Song 06: Never again
Song 07: “HAPPY” with Indian Hill Music students
Cellist, educator, innovator and pioneer, Mike Block breaks the mold and the norms. He plays, sings and creates percussion with what is normally imagined as an orchestral instrument while he moves around the stage with his strapped on Cello.
He surprises you with music usually reserved for other instruments - his takes on classical, folk and pop songs are unique and his own compositions invigorated the crowd at Indian Hill Music.
This is another episode for our ConcertCast series – Mike Block, Live at Indian Hill Music, where we had a great conversation with Mike in front of a live, sold out crowd, followed by a two set performance that we will publish as a separate episode.
Mike is a member of The Silk Road Ensemble, founded by Yo Yo Ma, who called Mike “the ideal musician of the 21st-Century”.
As you will hear from our conversation and the concert that followed, Mike is committed to inspiring musicians and connecting communities through music. Full episode of the two part performance coming soon!
Song 1: Can't You Hear Me Calling (Bill Monroe)
Song 2: I Can Finally Breathe
Berklee College of Music in Boston is one of the premier music schools in the world. We have talked with many fantastic Berklee grads, including the folks from Honeysuckle, RIPE, Alison Keslow and Matt McArthur to name just as few as well as musicians and Berklee professors Bonnie Hayes and Susan Cattaneo.
We wanted to talk with the man who helped make this school the institution it is today so we jumped at the chance to speak with drummer, humanitarian, entrepreneur and Berklee president Roger Brown.
Roger has had a prolific career, including co-directing one famine relief program called Land Bridge on the Cambodia-Thailand border which was the largest emergency food distribution effort ever attempted and another called Save The Children in Sudan.
Later he co-founded Bright Horizons Family Solutions, which provided on-site child care for client-company employees and is also the founder of the Horizons Initiative, which provides services for homeless children, and the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children, which creates play spaces in homeless shelters.
Mr. Brown became president of Berklee College of Music in 2004.
We sat with Roger in a performance classroom at 1140 Boylston Street and talked about his humanitarian efforts, Berklee goals for its current and future students, how they prepare students for a successful career and why music is so important.
Song one: Beautiful Ones (Roger Brown)
We were honored to sit with the amazing Pardis Sabeti who is doing her part to help those in need with her work at The Sabeti Lab where she is working to eradicate the Lassa and Ebola viruses.
Dr. Sabeti completed her undergraduate degree at MIT, her graduate work at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, got her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and she was named a TIME magazine ‘Person of the Year’ as one of the Ebola fighters.
But perhaps the coolest thing she does is perform as the lead singer and co-songwriter of the Boston based rock band Thousand Days.
Song 1: Breathe In (Turkana Boy)
Song 2: One Truth (Small Joys)
Song 3: Phoenix (Single)
Song 4: Neda (Radiate)
Song 1: Amazing Grace - Grace Kelly
Song 2: Otherside - Macklemore
Song 3: America the beautiful - Livingston Taylor
Song 4: More than just a dream - Fitz and the Tantrums
Song 5: Live my life - B-RAiN
We went to City Hall in Boston to talk with the new Chief of Arts and Culture Kara Elliott-Ortega. The Mayors Office of Arts and Cultures mission is to support artists, the cultural sector, and to promote access to the arts for all.
Kara recently worked as the Director of Planning and Policy in the Arts cabinet for three years, implementing Boston’s cultural plan called Boston Creates.
We were also happy to have Communications Director Kristina Carroll join us.
We sat in a conference room overlooking Faneuil Hall and discussed how the Boston Red Sox duckboat victory parade will crawl through these historic streets once again this week.
Other than our recent World Series Championship, we talked about the current state of the arts in Boston and the work Kara’s team is doing to promote equity, diversity and inclusion in the Boston arts scene.
Boston native Katie LaMark grew up in a musical family and hit the ground running after graduating from High School in Andover MA.
A musical theater grad from Syracuse University, she has appeared on stage in national tours of Mamma Mia, Rent and Rocky Horror Picture Show to name just a few and now returns to Boston as Sherrie Christian in the Broadway hit Rock Of Ages which opens next week at The Boch Centers Wang Theater from October 23rd to the 28th.
You can purchase tickets at bochcenter.org.
We met Katie across the street from the Wang at The Shubert Theater and had a great talk. We even belted out a few tunes.
All songs courtesy of Rock of Ages 10th Anniversary Tour
Song 1: I Wanna Rock
Song 2: The Final Countdown
One thing that is clear when you have a conversation with Ceci Juno, thoughtfulness is the theme to her work, whether in the studio or in the hospital treating patients.
Her songs are soothing yet at the same time catchy, and seem to draw from jazz, pop, folk with traditional Latin inspiration. Ceci is a graduate of Berklee College of Music with a degree in Music Therapy. She is an active Neurologic Music Therapist in her home country of Ecuador and serves as a true ambassador of this important field.
She is also a vocalist, pianist, guitarist and songwriter who holds the #1 hit song in Ecuador called Fantasmas.
Ronnie sat with Ceci between lectures at the annual American Congress of Rehab Medicine (ACRM), where music and the arts have come to play in the same space as treatment and science for people with neurodisabilty.
Song 1: Ahora Se
Song 2: Libre
Song 3: Fantasmas
Thalia Zedek came to Boston in 1979 and started her first band White Women and from there became ingrained the Boston music scene – a mainstay through an impressive string of different bands including Dangerous Birds, Uzi, Come and Live Skull, when she moved to NY for a brief stint.
She currently has a trio called E with Gavin McCarthy and Jason Sanford, but focuses much of her energy on her solo work in the Thalia Zedek Band.
Her most recent release is called Fighting Season that is in my opinion a perfect fit for a Fall Season playlist. The album has a raw power that you hear not only through her guitar but also in her mournful and earnest voice – backed by a fantastic group of musicians that includes violist Dave Curry, bassist Winston Braman, pianist Mel Lederman, and drummer Jonathan Ulman.
Song 1: Fighting Season (Fighting Season)
Song 2: Bend Again (Fighting Season)
Song 3: JJ85 (You're A Big Girl Now)
Song 1: Of The Unknown
Song 2: Ladder
Most of you probably know Wyc Grousbeck as CEO, Governor and co-owner of the Boston Celtics. Some of you may know him as a member of the business community with Causeway Media Partners, or even for his philanthropy working with Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary.
But what many of you may not know is that Wyc is a lifelong drummer and plays in a Boston band called French Lick – named after Larry Bird’s home town.
We met with Wyc at their brand new gorgeous practice facility and after a tour got to talk about not only his passion for music and basketball, but the philanthropy and causes near and dear to his heart.
And while we touched on the banner raised in 2008 and the promise of another this year, he turned the tables and asked us all: “What banner are you going to raise?”
In our conversation with Austin’s Darden Smith last year, we covered some of the history of Americana. Recently Ronnie was on a call with Mr. Smith who highly recommended getting in touch with Rob Bleetstein - who we shall learn had co-coined the term Americana in the 90s.
Rob has been a connoisseur of several genres of music since he was a kid, and they all share one common thread: Culture.
Rob entered the radio world with guns blazing, becoming an archivist for New Riders of the Purple Sage / NRPS. In recent years he became producer of Pearl Jam Radio while sharing his ongoing expertise as host of Grateful Dead Radio, both on SiriusXM.
Ronnie mentioned to his brother-in-law Cory that Mr. Bleetstein would be a guest on ATB, and Cory, being a Pearl Jam super-fan, simply stated, “Wow, you’re going to talk to The Rob.” That certainly set our expectations high for this conversation.
Rob highlighted his love for the live experience, and how the common thread of music fandom culture transcends genres. He also gave us a perspective on just how important Pearl Jam fans are to the musicians and how the fans in return emulate their missions and causes.
Whether we realize it or not, the current opioid crisis affects us all. And while many people donate their time and resources to fight this huge problem, we met two women who imagined something unique and bigger.
In November 2017, Kristen Williams-Haseotes created the Above The Noise Foundation – an organization that promotes awareness, education and advocacy for this addiction crisis that has touched so many lives.
Maureen Cavanagh is a mom, advocate and author of the recently published book If you love me: A Mother's Journey Through Her Daughter's Opioid Addiction.
They are both determined to wipe out stigma and proudly share this mission.
They were joined by a passionate team, coming together to give rise to the first large scale sober music festival - paying tribute and raising awareness to addiction and stigma and to honor and support those who have made to the “other side” - recovery.
We were honored to sit across from these women as we learned about their personal journeys, their message of recovery, and the road that led them to their wonderful event in Pawtucket, RI on 9/29/18 - Recovery Fest 2018 with Macklemore, Fitz & the Tantrums, & PVRIS.
We had heard of Jimmy Connor over the past year through the grapevine – rumors of a young musician with guitar chops making a name for himself while only just graduating from High School.
We decided to find out for ourselves what all the hubbub was about.
Boston native Jimmy Connor is a talent. He now lives in Nashville and just released his first EP called It’s About Time. We talked about his roots, his ambitions, the challenge of making the grade in High School while at the same time starting a professional career in music, and his aspirations that include but are not limited to his own tour bus.
Song 1: Party Girl
Song 2: Nowhere's Where I Wanna Be
Song 1: It's About Time
Song 2: Four Door