Goals, failure and growth

kites-nest-drawing-white-webThe New Year is a time to celebrate, look back on the previous year and look forward towards the future. I sometimes wonder why in our culture we place so much significants on this time, January 1st as to the examining the direction of our lives, what we’d like to improve on or change and reflections on the past year among other things.

I remember last year being really excited about 2015 and all these things I wanted to do as far as my art and music. I set out to release a blog, song and piece of art a week which I did for a couple of months and then completely let go of. Here’s what I learned from that:

1. Set attainable specific goals. I have many different things that I do and my life fluctuates day to day, week to week and month to month. I recently listened to the SocialMedia Examiner podcast and the host Michael Stelzner had on John Lee Dumas who is launching a new book this year called The Freedom Journal. John spoke about setting a SMART goal. A SMART goal is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound. What I like about this is it helps define what a goal is and gives it some meat, something you can dig your teeth into.

2. Accountability. I’ve had some help over the past couple of years with people helping hold me accountable for what I set out to do. This has helped me though with the initial goal I set out for last year about what I wanted to create, I fell short on, way short on. I know for myself that I get lost in tasks and the day to day stuff and lose focus on the bigger picture and things I’d like to accomplish. This is where being held accountable is key in having someone to bounce things off and not feeling alone in your decisions.

3. Time management. Distraction is such an old friend. It’s fascinating that when I have more time to do something, I’ll find ways to distract myself. I do get things done, especially for other people but when it comes to something for myself I get lost in the details or find something else that grabs my attention and focus away from actually accomplishing something bigger then myself. There is plenty of room for improvement here. I’ve been reading the Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss and listening to his podcast lately. It’s been helping open up ways in which you can maximize your time and output when doing something and minimize the little tasks and shit that gets in the way of your productivity. One take away that stuck in my head, and I’m paraphrasing here: Humans have much more potential to do something in much less time they think it takes to do. Example: leaving a term paper that you’ve had a semester to work on until the day before it’s due, stay up all night drinking coffee and stressing and then nailing the paper. This is a great book I’ve been meaning to read for years and am thankful to have started it.

There are more things I’ve learned throughout the year from the goal I set last year. All in all, it’s good to remember to be nice to yourself and not beat up on yourself for failing. Failure is key to growth and an important part of living. It’s what you do with the failure where the magic lies in moving forward.

Well alright…I had some other epic personal failures that I responsibly worked through last year as well that I’m not going to share in this post. If you’re interested, leave a comment or shoot me an email at tonykieraldo(at)

With failure comes success. I’ve been drawing pen and ink portraits of buildings and still life since the winter of 2009 when I was living in Norfolk, CT. I am self taught and generally work from a photograph. I do not use a ruler, just my eye and intuition. I hold my breath for long straight lines.

This past December I was commissioned by Kite’s Nest to draw a new building they were just gifted down by the Hudson River. I’m proud to say this was my first commission and I see a future of more commissions. Now’s the point to set some SMART goals to get that going. Here’s to 2016 and all it’s failures and successes!

Amtrak train 259 North

ford-theaterI’m on an north bound Amtrak from Penn Station to Hudson, NY. It’s been a long day of travel having woken up at 5:20 to catch a bus to a plane in Eagle, CO then a layover at DFW, plane to Newark, bus to Port Authority, walk to Penn Station and train to Hudson. I just spent a great week in Colorado working for Celebrate the Beat. It was a week long residency in which 130 kids danced at the Ford Amphitheater for the Vail International Dance Festival. It’s amazing the precision and work that goes into creating a 4 minute dance with so many children. It’s also incredible playing on a stage like that.

Before my week in Vail I did a rock & roll tour with Tommy Stinson and some incredible musicians. Frank Ferrer (Guns & Roses) hit the drums, Cat Popper (Norah Jones & Jack White) thumped the bass and Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi All-Stars) rocked lead and slide guitar. It was a short east coast run, 4 dates sandwiching the Newport Folk Festival. Tommy and I were a little late for our set and rolled up, took a leak in the porta-potty and ran up on stage to rock out. It’s so fun playing rock & roll! I played keys naturally and sang a little harmonies.

tommy-bandAt the beginning of July I taught at a school in Manhattan for a couple of weeks. I worked with kindergarteners – 4th graders in creating a piece of music they composed based on science. Given the short amount of time I had to work with them I thought it came out pretty well.

The week before that I taught a jazz camp at Hawthorne Valley which was a lot of fun as well. It was a smaller group though all the kids who took it were engaged and learned something more about music, theory and jazz. I love inspiring kids to get into music.

This blog lacks word colors and details I have in my mind but I’m a little spaced out from this traveling day. Also, the motion of the train humming down the tracks is making me a little dizzy while I stare at my computer screen.

The Hermitage

tony-hermitageWhere to begin… I had the most incredibly inspiring experience last week in Florida performing some of the great drummer/composer Bobby Previte’s music in Sarasota. Bobby recently won the Greenfield Prize, an award given to one artist every year and he couldn’t make the award ceremony in Sarasota so I’ve been working with him the past month or so, transcribing and learning his piano music.

I stayed at the Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key, a pristine little artist beach retreat. My cabin has about 30 steps from the beach and ocean with an acoustic and electric piano, murphy bed, writing desk, shower, sink, toilet and a little porch. The energy in the room had a power and vibe like some serious creativity has been realized in there. I spent most of the time topless in either shorts or my bathing suit. What a rough life.

hermitageThe day of the performance was last Saturday. I was a total bone head and almost missed my ride from the Hermitage, which was an hour away, to the venue in Sarasota because I didn’t know what time we were leaving. I decided to take a walk on the beach and swim in the ocean without bringing my cell phone. I came back to my cabin and there was a note in the front door. “Tony, we’re leaving at 11:15. See you soon.” It was 11:32. Shit! I scrambled and called the numbers I had missed on my cell and fortunately got a ride into town.

I performed four of Bobby’s pieces, the last one being the most memorable because Bobby instructed everyone who was able and wanted to surround the piano and listen to his meditative slow piece in Ab called, Veltin. Mrs. Louise Greenfield, the name sake and co-originator of the Greenfield Prize was a sprightly 98 with a firm hand shake and twinkle in her eye sat next to me on my piano bench and listened to the piece. Afterwards she asked if she could have a copy of the music. I gave her my scores and she thanked me and said she was going to play them the following day.sunset-hermitage

The next couple of days I was able to enjoy the gift of the Hermitage, walk on the beach, swim in the ocean, compose music and practice piano. After it was all said and done, I felt a new invigoration towards music and being an artist like I haven’t in years. It was truly a memorable and life changing experience.

Since returning from Florida I’ve been with Louise as a single Dad since Wednesday. It’s probably been the longest stretch that I’ve been with her one on one. For the most part we had a blast. I now this already but after spending a chulouise-kitenk of time with Louise like that, I realized in a different light how much of a responsibility it is in being the guardian of another life, especially when you’re doing it for the most part on your own.

Some highlights from our days together was that we had some music lessons, a sleepover at our friend Tommy and Tallulah’s house, baked cookies, made jewelry, Louise flew her first kite and we co-wrote a book. I do feel a little exhausted from everything and am ready to start my week. I’ve been shedding excerpts from Mozart’s The Magic Flute lately for Hawthorne Valley which has been a fun challenge. It feels so rewarding to play such beautiful music, especially with a choir.

Crimson Ravens

I wrote this song for my friend Luke who I lost when I was 19. I was inspired to write the song because my friend Melora Creager did a project where she had people write songs about people who were lost to suicide or drug over doses… not the most uplifting topic. Melora played with Kurt Cobain towards the end of his life and came up with this idea in memory of him on his birthday.

Snow Spring and Free Masons

louise-guitarIt’s the first day of spring and it’s snowing again. I love the snow but I’m ready for a change in temperature and precipitation. It’s also been two weeks since my last blog post and I’m publicly acknowledging that I’ve broken my commitment to blogging and putting up a piece of art each week. Well, shoot damn! Life has definitely been full, with lifey stuff which I’ll get to in a bit… however, anything I would write as to why I didn’t blog would only be an excuse.

A couple Saturdays ago I played a gig with Tommy Stinson. The gig was at a little lake house in north Jersey. On the way down we stopped at a truck stop to take a leak. After relieving myself, I stepped outside for a minute until I realized I wanted a beverage of some sort. I walk back inside to see Tommy by the vending machines talking with this middle aged guy who seemed very enthusiastic about their conversation.

tommy-reststopTurns out, he was the grand puba high priest of the free masons and was coming back from a free mason conference. Tommy asked him how one gets to be a free mason. He said you just have to know one. Cool! Let’s be free masons. Sweet, I’m in!

We both realized after the conversation we didn’t really know who the free masons were or what they do. You know, it’s like a phrase or something you’ve heard before but you don’t really know much about it. Like the illuminati…with a dash of conspiracy.

After getting in the car and cracking up about how trippy life is, I asked how he met the guy. Tommy told me, “So, I was taking a piss and this guy turns to me and says, “Tommy?” Not being one to talk in those situations I went outside. I was getting a coke from the vending machine when this guy says, “Has anyone ever told you you look a lot like the Tommy Stinson from the Replacements?”” Conversation ensued proceeded by a couple of pics by the restroom sign.

kites-nest-machinesThe gig was fun, with a great turn out and attentive audience. It’s a blast playing with Tommy!.. such a treat and honor.

Other highlights in newsy news from my point of views… I have a performance with Kite’s Nest this weekend. It’s their EXPO where each class shares what they’ve been studying and learning for the past 10 weeks. In my class, the kids will be performing 3 songs they composed. One song is called, Cannibal Animals, an original that we wrote as a group. It combines a loop of 4 different chordal sections they composed. I’m running the loop through Ableton Live and some of the kids are playing live percussion to follow the steady pulse of a loop and others are singing about a farm that had too many animals, and all the animals got hungry and ate each other.

disney-princessesIt’s been interesting watching the evolution of this song because when we first started this exercise, I had them individually and in small groups choose a subject to write about. On the last day of class, one of the girls told me that she liked how I rolled with the Cannibal Animal song and idea because they were first writing it as more of a joke then something a they thought a song could be about. I wanted to challenge them to go with it and see what happens if they were to write about cannibal animals, something I don’t think they were expecting. By the last day, they were analyzing the lyrics and thinking about it a much deeper way, like, “maybe the chickens are really Monsanto chickens… Ahh!!”

Louise is doing great! We’ve been spending some quality time together. She’s definitely into Disney and princesses right now. We’ve watched The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Snow White together. We’ve also read various books on the stories as well as I’ve been drawing some of the characters from the movies and Louise has been coloring them in. She told me after finishing Jasmine, from Aladdin, “Dad, you’re really good at drawing princesses!” Thanks, Louise!