My blog

My blog is a place where I can tell you a bit more about me, the venues I have played and other things I have found or done in my life’s travels!

You can read in more detail about how a gig went, how great (or bad) the venue was and if anything new or exciting happened as a result of my playing somewhere!

I will also tell you about any new updates and releases I may be making or thinking about, things I have done, and quite possibly just the odd rant about things now and then.

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On Getting Reviewed

Of course, if you never got a bad review, you won’t have the least idea of what this post is about. And how wonderful for you!

But most of those of an artistic bent who have ventured into the public arena, know perfectly well what a bad review feels like. Devastating, not to put too fine a point on it.

For example, early in my recording efforts, I read a review of one of my albums that began with “First of all, you should know that I hate this kind of music, but…..” and the reviewer went on to inadvertently reveal that he hadn’t listened to more than the first track. My music is very eclectic, a fact which marketers apparently hate, and my fans appear to love. So his detailed description applied only to the first track, and not to the rest, a clear sign that he’d based his review on one track. Be that as it may, it was still shocking and painful to read. Especially since it was my first foray into the public arena. (Fortunately, others liked the album better.)

More recently, a reviewer attacked the production on an album, describing it as “crying out” for more simple treatment. The word “tedious” came up. Ouch.

With any luck, after one recovers from that initial pained surprise, one learns from the legitimate points. Hopefully. And picks up the pen/brush/instrument and lives to write/paint/play another day. And it must be said that most reviewers try to publish well-thought-out, constructive criticism, not mean-spirited one-liners. But because of that, it can feel especially painful when their opinion of your work doesn’t include glowing praise.

OK. But how about when glowing praise is  included?  How about when the reviewer loves every word/stroke/note? How does one respond to that?

“Hah! I knew I was right!” doesn’t really seem appropriate, does it.

I know, of course, to post the good reviews where others can see them. After all, this is a business too, and I want to encourage people to take a chance on my music. But as far as what it does or doesn’t do for me as an artist, that’s kind of a mixed bag.

That being the case, I found a couple of quotes that I have hanging where I can see them easily in my work-space:

“Success is nothing more than going from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill


“Think of yourself as a sieve when it comes to the opinions of others. You’re going to hear wonderful things about yourself. You’re going to hear horrible things. Because you are a sieve, they’re all going to pass through. Do not believe the positive any more than you believe the negative. All feedback falls through the sieve. The only opinion that should matter to you is your own. That is the only opinion that should be solid enough that it doesn’t pass through the sieve.” – (no attribution, I’m afraid. If you know who said this or wrote it, please comment below.)

Both of these quotes speak to the point of not letting “failure” or “horrible things” derail you from your artistic efforts, and that, I think, is a good point to take to heart. (I have a musician friend who is a perfect illustration of that idea. When he started out, people used to wince at his music and smile behind their hands. Now he is an international household name.) But I also believe there is another point to keep in your heart. Don’t let the “successes” and the “good things” derail you either. Smile. Say thank you. Move on. With undiminished enthusiasm.

PS:  Here is one of the reviews for my latest CD.

“Beautifully arranged and sober orchestrated self-penned songs are forming the basics of Jan Seides’ newest record ‘Siren Song’. Her soft and relaxing lovely voice is the so-called ‘cherry on the pie’. She should not keep us waiting for another six years to hear her compositions on a new album.” –

If you’d like to hear the music, please go to There, you’ll find samples and instructions for purchasing. :-)

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Making Sure All the Kids Get Music

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Every once in awhile I get a call from a mom or dad who has recognized an interest in music in their son or daughter, and would like them to take lessons. It seems they have a little electronic keyboard, or what amounts to a toy guitar that an uncle gave for a birthday, or sometimes not even that. But the child has been picking out tunes on the piano at church, or at someone else’s house.


I personally believe that every child should receive some kind of music instruction, and I have lots of scientific evidence regarding the benefits of music education to make my opinion pretty unswerving (The abstract from one such paper is below. If you’d like to see the whole thing, just email me through this site, or request it in the comments section, and I’ll send it). But in order for them to get any benefit from lessons, private or not, they must have some way to practice.

I used to refer the parents to the band or choir director at school, if they didn’t have any instruments at home. And up until recently, there was time made weekly for instruction in music, art and physical education. (When I was in the school system, there were music and art classes twice a week, and PE every day.) But lately, a lot of the school boards across the country have been pulling the reins back on a lot of activities they consider “frivolous”, music, art and PE being in the vanguard of those headed to the chopping block. You’ll hear claims about the budget, mandates coming from higher up, or the like. But the fact is, despite all the various studies, there is still a strong belief among those controlling the agenda that those activities should happen outside of school.  That they are “extra” and “unnecessary”. I find that horrifying to say the least, as I know it means that not every child will be exposed to a skill that is increasingly important as their education continues. Or doesn’t.

In some cases, those things can happen outside of school, it’s true. If the parents have money for it, or the time and attention it requires for someone’s child to learn a complex skill at home. But sometimes not.

We are fortunate in our town to have the University of Texas, with its Butler School of Music. For a long time there have been programs like the String Project, that not only trains children as young as 3, but supplies instruments to them as well.  And I’ve been told there is a new program of free piano lessons taught by University students. So, if the parents can get the kids there, an opportunity exists.

But the other day, I was browsing articles about music in general from all over the country, and I ran across this one:    Ministry seeks musical instrument donations at Dana Point festival

The article describes the charitable work of a couple in Orange County, CA. They collect used instruments from the community and pass them along to children who otherwise could not access them.

What a brilliant idea, and so easily duplicable in communities across the US. Don’t you agree?

Now all they need is teachers to donate a little time. Anyone?

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The most unusual place you ever …..

“Singer stages gig in store window
May 16, 2014″

That was the headline that caught my eye, and started this train of thought.

When I was in high-school, my girlfriends and I once had a conversation in which we were supposed to name the most unusual place we’d ever kissed a boy. (Yes, I know that can be taken more than one way, but it was a more innocent time.) Some of the suggestions were under a street lamp, behind the garage (We lived in the city. No barns.), on the football field, under the bleachers, backstage.  All sorts of places that are available to teenagers. No bedrooms or airplanes ever came into play.

The question that occurred to me after I saw this headline was, where are some of the more unusual places you’ve put on a show? I’ll start the ball rolling and I’d love your comments.

One night I dreamed that I was playing a show in a dance studio, complete with mirrors, a barre and an audience of about 100 people. On waking, I thought that was such a good idea that I started calling around to tell people about my dream. No one took the bait and the idea languished, unfulfilled. Until I was having dinner with a couple of friends, one of whom was a dancer.  When I was suddenly reminded of my dream, and said something about it, she said “That’s totally possible, and I even know where you could do it.”  We ended up doing several shows at Cafe Dance in Austin, TX. We had a great time despite obstacles like the acoustic unsuitability of the space, and the fact that it was pretty much off the beaten track, as music venues go. Still, it was a dream come true, and we got a radio interview out of the press release — never hurts.

I’ve also had several friends that played in store-front windows to an audience standing on the street. Most notably, when SXSW first started expanding into “official” and “unofficial” showcases, a band I knew convinced a store owner in the heart of Austin’s 6th street entertainment district to let them take over for the night. The passing crowd loved it, and most stopped to listen for a song or two, which is as much as anyone can  hope for during SXSW.

The most truly unusual gig I’ve ever had as far as location was concerned, was also one of the sweetest.  I received a call from a gentleman who told me that his wife was about to go into the hospital for brain surgery. But before that could happen, she had to have her head shaved. He asked me to come to the beauty salon and sing love songs from him to her, including “You Are So Beautiful”, while the haircut was happening.  He told me after I’d finished that his wife was formerly a singer with the Dallas Opera, had studied under Beverly Sills. I’m glad I didn’t know that while I was singing. And she really was beautiful, even when her hair was gone.I also sang her the song which I’ve included at the bottom of this post, which is one of my own.

So how about you? Street corner? Subway? Living room? Standing on a table? Comment with the ones you found the most surprising.

Oh, and here’s the song I sang her:

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About that absence of protest songs ….

Screen shot 2014-06-02 at 10.38.16 PMIn January, when Pete Seeger died, there were many tributes to him, in all forms of media. Most of them talked about his championing of various left-wing causes, his responses to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, his support of labor unions, and, of course, his music. Though not many mentioned it, his fostering of leftist causes was based solidly on his experience and love of folk music, and vice versa.

I have been seeing comments in the media since  the beginning of the millennium, and especially since Pete Seeger died,  about how there is a a noticeable absence of anti-war songs, based on the abundance produced during the Viet Nam War. While it’s true that if you turn on the radio, you hear very little music about social issues of any kind, far less even than in the 1990s, songs protesting war, among other things, both old and new songs, are far from absent.

If you go out on any night of the week in Austin, Texas, for example, and listen to those playing in “listening rooms”, you’ll hear plenty of songs about social issues. Good thought-provoking, rebel-rousing ones too. And I suspect Austin is not alone in this regard, given that there are listening rooms all over the country and in Europe.  That music is also being recorded, though those recordings not being produced and promoted by record labels, but by the artists/songwriters themselves – out of their own pockets or through crowd-funding mechanisms.

Those who bewail the absence of folk songs, or anti-war songs, or whatever they mean when they say there are no good protest songs anymore, have clearly not been paying attention. To start with there are Steve Earl, Neal Young, Utah Phillips, or they can listen among their local crop of songwriters (They’re everywhere!). Every major city, and quite a few of the smaller ones, boast venues where the subjects of pure food, Citizens United, climate change, domestic abuse, and, yes, war  (to name a few) come up in songs all the time. It’s not that there are none. It’s that one must be paying attention.

The truth is, there are lots of politically  and socially committed performers and songwriters. If that’s what you like to hear, get out and look for them, because you sure as heck won’t find them on the radio. But they are still out there. I hear them all the time. Seek and ye shall find, I promise.

Some folks in Austin, TX who are dwriting and singing songs about social justice:  The Therapy Sisters, Steve Brooks, Gina Chavez, Patrick Dodd, Mary Gautheir, Darden Smith, Eliza Gilkyson, to name a few. And that’s just one city.

If you woiuld like to hear some of my own songs go to  While the songs are not specifically social protest, they touch on those subjects. Or check out the entire album at and click on “Behind Closed Doors” in particular.


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A Dozen Tunes for Earth Day

Rise Up – Works Progress Administration

Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell

Paradise – John Prine

Everyday People – Jan Seides

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Earth Song – Michael Jackson

Eyes Wide Open – Gotye

Already On Their Way – Ben Bochner

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Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson

Gentle Arms of Eden – David Carter and Tracy Grammar

This Land is Your Land – Woody Guthrie

Dust Bowl Refugee – Woody Guthrie

R U Ready for a Change — Jan Seides
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