No Falsies


It's funny how last year, I was a Twitter boycotter, and now I'm using several different applications and programs to manage my tweet campaign. For me, this micro-blogging miracle has become one of my strongest tools to promote, educate, and give fans or colleagues a chance to glimpse into the world that is P. Murray. Of course, allowing such a transparent method of communication to spearhead my artistic campaign has it's dark side - you never know what kind of crazy folks are watching you. Still, I decided to take that risk and never look back.

With that said, I find it so interesting how people can act on Twitter. In the post-modern info age, we've learned, almost subconsciously, how to funnel our feelings into short messages and blogs, so as to try and accurately portray ourselves. Most times that portrayal is an honest one. But with sites like Twitter, you find that alot of folks (particularly music folk) have made the decision to use the platform as an opportunity to go "Hollywood' on us; that is, Tweet things about themselves or their situations that are partially or entirely untrue. What people who do this tend to forget is that the business is only but so big, therefore your bearing false witness about your daily biz will more than likely be turned out in the end if you keep pushing the facade. Just sayin.'

In addition, I've seen how fellow music tweeters decide that once they have a few key celebrity followers, their entire 'Twittatude' does an abrupt 180'. Suddenly the brazen, no-holds-barred artist you saw tweeting before is a demure, Christianized performer who loves everyone and has issues with no one. Now the person who was once so communicative with their fans only replies to people that are 'in their circle' or on the same rung of networking they are. It can be a bit nauseating. Usually I end up unfollowing those folks.

I believe that the key to the success of any aspiring artist that is independent is some level of honesty and transparency. Changing your whole style up because your positive now that 'important people' are keeping an eye on you is just making you look like a butt-kisser. It may be that those same important folks were watching you from the sidelines and you didn't know; playing to their appeasement is only a way to make you look more desperate. I decided that, while I have made the choice to be far more aware of what I write, I'm still the same P. Murray that opened up his public Twitter account, and that is the P. Murray I want everyone to know (including Brandy, Dru Hill, Swizz Beat, Kevin "A&R" Shine, and Steff Nasty - those are just a few of the folks who are part of my follower group).

Bottom line? Do you and be you. it's the best thing you can possibly do or be ;-).


An Open Letter to the UC Lounge & LES Productions

[Sent on August 20th, 2010]


I am sending this as an open letter to your company and establishment to express my acute anger, disappointment, and resentment at the series of events that transpired yesterday evening in regards to what was supposed to have been my third performance of this year.

Earlier this summer, I received what I deemed to be an automatic response to my newsletter from your staff, letting me & my team know about open dates and times available to perform at the UC Lounge on Ludlow Street. Though normally I am a proactive artist and search out venues myself, I took this message as an opportunity to conveniently book a day for the performance I was planning in August as per my marketing & promotional abstract. I responded to the message with a specific date & time: August 19th, 7pm to be exact. The response came back that the time was available and my slot was confirmed, along with contact information should I have any questions.

As the date got closer, I took it upon myself to reconfirm the date, time, and space for my show, entitled, "Pop-Hop." I was sent back that reconfirmation, along with details of the backline and what particulars I would need to be aware of to ensure a smooth evening and show. I took it on good faith that if any problems were to make themselves present, I would be notified beforehand. I even went so far as to visit the UC Lounge two nights before the actual show to get an overview of the space. The gentlemen I spoke to seemed confident that there wouldn't be any technical or logistics issues, and so I left, confident that Thursday the 19th would be another successful event. Evidently even this "detective work" wasn't enough to have things play out the way they were supposed to.

When I arrived at the UC Lounge at around 6pm, I was told by staff that because I had done the e-mail booking with 'Bruno (whom I have yet to have met or speak to),' that there was a complication with timing. Apparently, I had been double booked with another, more involved performance from a music school. I was then informed that I would actually not be able to use the stage or equipment until 9pm, possibly later. While I remained nonplussed, I assure you I was livid.

Please be aware that I understand completely how back-to-back shows can run into and over each other. But I was guaranteed the 7pm time slot for this date, received REcomfirmation, and was not made aware of any scheduling issues until an hour before the night of my gig. I would have even been willing to concede to an hour delay, knowing how situations like this can occur. However, completely shifting my start time to OVER an hour-and-a-half behind my slated time WITHOUT notifying me in advance is unprofessional, unethical, and absolutely unfair. It is for these and professional reasons that I had to officially cancel my performance at the last minute, to the disappointment of my colleagues, family, and fans. Keep in mind that I had musicians with other professional appointments that evening who were ONLY available for the 7-8:30 window of time, as well as corporate representatives and music industry executives who had promised their attendance because of the accessible time frame.

In short, this has put a serious damper on several of my networking opportunities and business relationships, simply because no one on your end thought it wise to call and let me know about this problem in enough time to deal with it in a timely manner.

Were I a more vindictive individual, I would have use my connections to the NYC Fire Department to have your establishment inspected; seeing as how poorly the staff operates, I have no doubt there are several unsafe building code issues that more than likely have been overlooked, which I assure you would not be passed over this time. However, I will pacify my need for reprisal by editing this personal e-mail and creating an open letter for my fans & colleagues to see. Please note also that I will be forwarding this e-mail to any and all of my close musician and industry associates as a warning to stay away from booking anything with your company and this establishment; believe me when I say that my words have no problem reaching very influential eyes & ears. In addition, should I find out from even the smallest group of artists who have had similar problems with LES Productions & The UC Lounge, I will promptly be filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

It is my sincere hope that others like myself do not have to experience such poor professional conduct with folks like you. I do wish you well in your business endeavors; as this has been a hard learning experience for me, I advise that it is the last time you let something as egregiously improper as this happen to you.

Joseph P. Murray


My thoughts on a Diva: Jane Pesci-Townsend



[NOTE: The following contains my thoughts on actress and faculty member Jane Pesci-Townsend, who sadly passed away August 6, 2010. Please be advised that in a time of grieving for many, these thoughts are not to eulogize Jane, but rather my honest account of my experiences of her over the past eight years. As such, the thoughts and views expressed here are my own and will contain memories both good and bad. To all those in mourning for her death, I wanted to make sure I said this before you read below; it may even be a sound decision to wait to give this blog a skim until some time has passed. Let me be clear in saying that I grieve along with you all, but I am more overjoyed that Jane is finally at peace. She is with God, and for that I am forever thankful.]

While in college at the Catholic University of America, I came across many people who would change my life & the way I viewed the world forever. Some for good, some not-so-good, but all of it was an ongoing five-year lesson in how to survive as a working musician in the 21st century. While the administrative aspect of CUA is one that I can't say I endorse, the faculty, in their brilliance and experience, does make up for alot of the lack of efficiency in their various departments. As a graduate of CUA's Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, I found myself in the midst of a cornucopia of accomplished students & teachers, and quickly discovered the reason as to the odd juxtaposition of the many wonderful talents & performances against the irksome and often-times abrasive behavior of all who passed through the building: we were a family.

In larger and more famous schools of music, you will find that while attendees and professors do model a high standard of excellence, there is a lack of fellowship and bonding. This can be attributed to many things, but it usually comes down to a simple truth: the institution is not designed to harbor such camaraderie, only to educate you, take your money, and throw you out into the world of music as a fresh-faced performer or creator. For many, this is all that matters, and so the best students audition and try out for the Juilliards, the Manhattan Schools of Music, and the Berklees. CUA's music school certainly provided any student with an excellent level of training if you sought it out, but it also provided an invaluable level of togetherness that only a family would understand. Thus, like any family, we either adored or detested each other. We fought, argued, loved, despised, held family members in contempt, supported their efforts, and did it all together; one musical family, one sense of solidarity.

I wouldn't trade this aspect for any full-scholarship to a prestigious Conservatory anywhere in the world.

The late Jane Pesci-Townsend was one such member of this family. Looking back, one could surmise that she was very much the protective godmother of many Music Theater majors. To me, she was like a distant Aunt with a "Mama Rose" complex. I got the gist of her popularity at Benny Rome in our freshman faculty orientation when many students whooped and cheered as her name was mentioned. During my first few months, I came to learn that she was a character that was both adored and equally deplored. There was no middle-ground with Jane; either you were with it or you weren't. At first, I decided to play Switzerland and keep a neutral stance on it all, since I was a Vocal Performance major anyway, having little to do with the curriculum or stagecraft of the Music Theater Dept.

Friends of mine who were friends and students of Jane were some of the closest I've had, and I gravitated towards them because they did seem to give off a bright, addictive energy. It was reminiscent of the popular kids I wanted to befriend at LaGuardia High School, but at LaG it was a combination of wanting to belong and desiring to match their talent. At CUA, I already knew my worth as a prodigious music student, so it was more about surrounding myself with fun people. Still, my involvement with the inner MT sanctum was nill for a good while. Until colleagues and friends began to inadvertently pull me in.

Another thing for which I am thankful.

As college wore on, I began to note the duality of JPT's comportment. Through my experiences as accompanist for my friends' end-of-semester evaluation juries, as well as being part of the stage crews for several music theater productions, it became clear to me that while Jane was certainly someone worth having as a mentor and ally, it could be surmised that those on the opposite side of that pole may have been seen as troublesome. The major faculty shifting in the MT department and subsequent retirement of former chair Maureen "Reenie" Codelka during my 3rd year was a time that nearly tore my friends apart. No one wanted to fight or be openly bitter over the changes, but everyone who knew about it took a side. It was one of the darker moments in my group of college memories, and I openly voiced my concerns against it all. Funny how things seemed to end up coming around full circle in my interaction with her later on.

For those who didn't know, through all of this, Jane was in the throes of an ongoing battle with cancer, something that she and her circle tried to keep quiet at first, but then became another moment of solidarity for many Music Theater students. I remember the men of the department all shaving their heads around the time Jane began her radiation treatment and chemotherapy. Whatever you felt about her, you couldn't help but be touched by this moving public display of love & friendship; if only everyone could do something like that for someone in their time of need. Here again is the example of family ties and how they bind.

My own personal experiences with Jane truly began after I auditioned (and got turned down, rightfully so) for the title role in "Jesus Christ: Superstar." I went into that audition, vocal guns blazing, and ended up only doing a mediocre, poorly acted audition. Real talk? I was pissed. In my quiet frustration, I asked Jane later (laying on one of the couches in the Rome School lobby), "what did I do wrong?" Her response? "You closed your eyes. We couldn't see what you were feeling." It hit me like a ton of theatrical bricks then; all my belting, falsetto, crazy riffs & runs, and vocal technique meant absolute shit if i couldn't properly act out the emotions of a song. I knew then and there that whatever feelings or guesses I had about Jane would have to be put aside, and I'd need to see what she was about in the classroom.

The steps into Jane's teaching studio were small and uncalculated at first; seeing if she would help with the emotional content of my voice recitals, the occasional small conversation, visits to her Body Movement & Stage Deportment classes - these were all things I attempted to get a feel for the Jane way of teaching. Mind you, I had already been called upon by her to perform in several events at CUA, including the opportunity to sing in front of world-renowned counter-tenor, David Daniels; I'll never forget feeling like I was going to melt into my leather shoes and her coming over to me with a huge grin on her face, asking, "So are you like, totally nervous?!" Thinking about that makes me smile every time. However, my full-fledged JPT learning experience came from a mutual set of problems we both faced in my final year at the Rome School.

In the fall of my 5th year, Jane made the decision to have the fall musical be "Grand Hotel," a music theater version of an earlier movie about an imagined famous Hotel in Europe and the lives of several men & women staying in it, each with their own problems, but all somehow connected through their time together in the hotel itself. I remember Jane sitting me down in the courtyard of the music school and explaining to me that the show had roles for two Black men. As the MT department only had one in their roster (a wonderfully talented and kind brother named Jase Parker), she was in need of another man of color to fill the role. I happily obliged; it was my first full role in a college musical, you couldn't have told me not to do it.

My rehearsal time with Jane and the Music Theater majors was amazing & so much fun. I specifically recall having our first run-through of the music. Co-chair and music director Tom Pedersen was concerned that Jase & I wouldn't be able to take our number, "Maybe My Baby," at the brisk, hot-step tempo in which the song was written. What he didn't know is that Jase & I has already spent ample time in the rehearsal studio going through the song multiple times and had it down to a science. We gave Tom & accompanist Gabe Mangiante the OK sign, and began the number. Through the first 8 bars of the opening jazz scat, I distinctly recall hearing Jane's piercing "HA!" and the laughter from my friends & fellow students. We ice-skated through that song, and after the applause and chatter, Jane went on to state (in that same piercing voice), "THIS is what it means to be PREPARED for rehearsal!!"

I couldn't have been more proud.

The show went off extremely well, with alot of great times in between. It was my first time ever singing and dancing (at the same time) in a musical, and believe you me, it was NOT easy (you're talking about someone with clinically diagnosed A.D.D. trying to multitask on stage! LOL). At dress rehearsal, Jane gave the succinct note to Jase & I that summed up what she wanted from us dramatically: "BE BLACK AND HAPPY!" Anyone else who would've said that in my presence would've seen the backside of my jeans as I walked out of the theater, with an angry e-mail to the Dean and a followup phone call from my parents. But with Jane, a woman whose cries of desperation during rehearsals have [allegedly] included, "[bleep] ME WITH A CHAINSAW, it's COMEDY!," what was I to do but throw my car keys down the aisles of the theater and double over in laughter? There was never any racial tension, and I would NEVER say otherwise; she was just being Jane in a dress rehearsal, and I loved it.

My final semester at school found me once again in under Jane's tutelage, this time in two of her classes: Senior Music Theater Workshop (a substitute for the acting classes the Drama Department refused to let me take - douchebags), and the ever-so-popular freshman academic music theater gauntlet, Body Movement (or Stage Deportment, as it was so called in the Spring Term - this was to make up for my missed Stage Movement class). It was here, through Jane's teaching, that I truly learned how to properly emote a song, rather than just sing it with raised eyebrows (classical vocal faces). My triumph, if you will, came with the end-of-year performance of "Hero and Leander," a song from the "Myths & Hymns" collection by composer Adam Guettel,grandson of Richard Rogers (of Rogers and Hammerstein). It felt so good to be on a stage and really get into the guts of a song, and have it be appreciated as such.

At the end of my college days, it would suffice to say that Jane & I came to a mutual understanding and yes, a friendship. What I came to understand about Jane Pesci-Townsend was that through all the rumors, strange behavior, great times on & off stage, and the moments in between, she was just like the rest of us at The Rome School of Music: a human being, trying to make sense of a talent given by God in a world that will never fully understand it. She fought hard and sometimes harrowingly for things she believed in, as we all would for things we want to have happen. In her most disagreeable moments, she was no better and no worse than any of us in ours, though there are those who would believe otherwise. Like all of us, she was imperfect, but tried damn hard to achieve some sense of perfection in the world she lived in, and who out of any of us can say that we haven't gone to great lengths and even hurt people to do the same? If you are reading that question and think you haven't, you are wrong, my friend.

What I feel is most important to remember about Jane - and what I identify with most - is that for good or for ill, she made you feel something. The JPT's of the world never go quietly into the darkness, even when they've lost a battle, because they were never meant to. I firmly believe that Jane was put here to be a fulcrum, a spring-loaded lever, if you will, for peoples lives. For some, it was Jane who opened their eyes to love & real friendship; for others, it was Jane who made them realize that a career in performance was not their calling; for others still, it was Jane, through actions benign or questionable, that lit the fire under their ass, making them work twenty times harder at becoming a successful working actor, if only to prove her wrong. We absolutely need those people around to do that. Without them, we are doomed to life of mediocrity and poor choices. By virtue of this observation alone, it can be aptly stated that Jane truly was a blessing to those around her, because God's blessings aren't always the ones you expect, but they will always, always be the ones you need.

In closing, I'd like to note that Jane Pesci-Townsend leaves behind a husband and two children (George and Rosie). If nothing else about all that I've written here resonates with you, I hope that this fact will. In the middle of everything else going on in her life, particularly as it pertained to her CUA family, Jane was able to be a good wife & mother to the real one she helped create. I have no doubt in my mind that man and those children will carry memories, music, and love that will last throughout their lifetime. We can only hope & pray that we will be able to do the same when God calls us home.

Thank you Jane. For everything.

See you when I get there. And say hi to Fred Ebb for me ;-).


Everybody wins...or loses. You decide


I've been inspired once again to give some insight into some interesting industry inner-workings today. If you liked that alliterative sentence, then you'll LOVE what I have to say *big grin*. This tweet came across my timeline earlier this morning via @Jkits:

"Why do Major Labels put Terrible songs on Albums becuz they were produced and written by A-Listers? Wow..."

Now, P. Murray 1.0 would've gone off the handle answering this question. Said answer would've most likely contained lots of resentment, expletives, and a whole lot of shade. However, P. Murray 2.0 has gone through alot of positive changes, and can respond to this query in a way that is honest, realistic, but still hopeful. Let's attack some basic common-law music business practices first.

At the heart of any business, the key to big-time success is (drumroll please) NETWORKING. At least that's what the case has been for the past few decades or so. Hard work, hustle, and talent - regardless of the field - will pale in comparison to the right connections. It was, at one point, understood that the hard work, hustle, and talent would get you to those connections. Such is not the case anymore, thanks to over-extended nepotism, hard-held executive positioning, and plain old greed. Ergo, the music business, a business already based on inter-personal relationship and the commerce of art, exemplifies this case-point several-fold. It truly is all about "Who You Know."

With this in mind, let's examine the plight of the break-out mainstream artist. If you are new, and signed to a major label and your A&R team is shopping around for material to place on your debut project, chances are they will do one of two things: either trust in the power of good music & search out that music by way of their network (this is highly unlikely), or seek out the Big Name writers/producers to procure a single from them at a nominal fee (this is VERY likely). Any credited creator who is actively placing with the majors right now can tell you that album content means crap if there is no super-hot-big-named-give-you-a-pop-wedgie single to front the project. In the business' current climate, the labels have been banking on the single to be something that can take off and be played ad nauseam, so as to ensure that the masses will be certain to at least buy the single and hopefully gravitate towards purchasing the album. This means that even though C-List producer w/no big credits may legitimately have the hottest new set of songs that could launch his career and be great additions to any pop project, A&R's will pass him/her over if they know Swizz Beats is willing to provide the label artist's breakout single, simply because he is...Swizz Beats (cue claps on the 'and' of every count of the track).

Let's be clear: the A-List creators really have no vested interest in the new artistry coming forth from the labels; some may argue it's because the talent and brands are lacking - I'm pretty sure and have on good authority that it's because of the pricing issues and poor financial practices of corporate music. Why would Danja Handz (I dig his work, PS) have a care or thought for someone like a P. Murray if he's already placed hits with Britney Spears (to the tune of thousands of dollars in upfront checks and mechanical royalties), and can be guaranteed similar slots on other established artists' projects? The answer is: he's not - hypothetically - and if him or someone like him DOES get called in to be part of an album from an unknown major label kid, chances are his interest will be diminished, leading him to take less time on the quality of whatever comes out of the studio; i.e., the "terrible" song. The truth is we can complain about this cyclical musical mudslide, but it's not something that's about to stop any time soon. Folks in the business are too bitter and far too concerned with their own security to break out of the pattern. I mean hey, we've all got a job to do...right?

You might be asking yourself, "Well at least we can expect good stuff from these guys when they're working with the veterans in the game right?" Wrong. In the case of the established artist taking to the A-Listers for their music, even the most prolific and creative artistic minds need to submit their will to the A&R guidelines if they are to ensure their placements. It may be a case where the artists themselves are in full creative control - though rare in corporate music - but in any case, whatever sound, style, feel, or songs are desired, those A-List creators seeking to get a credit on the project will need to fall in line with that. I know for certain that folks who wrote some of the less...insightful music on the Xtina album are fully capable of composing beautiful and profound sonic masterpieces; but the album was called "Bionic," Aguilera's foray into the Euro-Electro-Bubblegum-Dance/Pop world, so while super-writers like Linda Perry (writer of "BeautifuL") could be promised an amazing ballad slot, OTHERS would've had to make sure their records matched up with that hyphenated genre, A-List or not. In the words of Wendy Williams: "It is what it is."

My personal solution to much of this can be boiled down to the simplicity (and subsequent complexity) of the following statement: start with good music and build around it. The complexity of that statement can be found in asking, "Who decides what is good music?" Well I know one thing for sure: as aptly tweeted by my godbrother Ryan-O'Neil, letting lawyers, budgeteers, and other such non-musical persons have majority say over the content of the material will usually never make for a high-quality music project. Sorry. You can't expect for an executive accountant to be able to make the final decisions in the operating room of a high-risk brain surgery; it wouldn't be their place to do so. Such is the case of the legal & financial sector of the industry and their having far too much input on the art itself. Alas and alack, it seems that it will end up taking the full implosion of the business as it's been known for the real changes to occur.

In the mean- and in-between-time, I'm gonna keep on making good tunes and doing good business with those tunes. I advise others to do the same.