You Need a Light Touch: Hitting the High Notes with Thomas Edison

I’ve told you how I’m battling the winter blues trying to finish a book.  I’m hoping that a light bulb will go on in my head.

American Inventor Thomas Alva Edison in 1922

My grandfather New York composer Joseph Ferraro on his wedding day in NYC in 1925.  He was 29 years old. He lost the love of his life Ermelinda to brain cancer when she was 50.

Program from Carnegie Hall May 25, 1947. My grandfather’s Neapolitan Rhapsody, a 100-piece orchestral work, was played at Carnegie “Pops” Concert.

Some of my grandfather’s compositions for piano

My grandfather in NYC at his West 46th Street office in the 1930s. He was conductor and musical arranger in charge of live orchestra programming for WOR-WOV radio stations. This was the Golden Era of live classical music programming.

My grandfather in NYC at his West 46th Street office in the 1930s. He was conductor and musical arranger in charge of live orchestra programming for WOR-WOV radio stations. This was the Golden Era of live classical music programming.

Inventor Thomas Alva Edison in 1878

American inventor Thomas  Edison said:”Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Maybe I need to use more deodorant to finish my book.  My late grandfather Maestro Joseph Ferraro, a composer who in his early career was recruited from Italy to work as the First Viola player at the Metropolitan Opera, met Edison when the inventor made recordings of his music.  In the 1920s and 1930s when classical music was in it’s heyday, my grandfather’s music topped the American musical charts. As a child he took me to musical soirees with the opera stars and conductors he knew in New York City.  He would play the piano and tell me about the Golden Era of classical music. I think parents really need to encourage their children to listen to the stories grandparents have to tell. It’s such a link to the past.  My grandfather said Edison was a pleasant, lovely man who personally came to record him and did everything himself. Grandpa said he thanked Edison for giving the world light remembering how as a young man growing up at The Royal Conservatory of Naples, Italy he struggled to compose at night holding a candle close to his ink and paper. He told me how exciting it was the night he saw the city of Naples light up as the street lamps suddenly illuminated.  One night when my grandfather was performing at the Metropolitan Opera,  the manager stopped the performance and announced that Edison had died.  My grandfather said he was very touched when the manager shut off the chandeliers.   My grandfather said a hush fell over the audience as people sat in the dark, as if no one was even breathing. My grandfather quoting the manager said: “This is the darkness that Edison moved us away from.”  Ironically, this friend to the music community, would put most live orchestras out of business with his invention of the phonograph and records people  listened to at home. Progress has a price.

Perhaps it’s time for me to follow Edison’s advice and sweat out writing my book.  I’ve rewritten it dozens of times.  I would hope that I am nearing a conclusion  but “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” I have no idea who the fat lady was or what she was singing.

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Some people think she was singing “America the Beautiful” at a baseball game.  Others think she was an opera singer my grandfather might have coached.  I’m thinking that she was singing the blues.


Brain Freeze:How to Battle the Winter Blues and Writer’s Block

As the holiday decorations come down, the winter doldrums set in.  If your mood is falling faster than the cold temperatures outside, an article written by  Brigitt Hauck for the monthly women’s magazine Real Simple has some good ideas to beat the winter blues. I actually hate “winter.”  My hands always rip open and crack in the cold.  I think the short days and lack of sunlight really get me down.  Just call me Debbie Downer.  It’s hard to do anything well when you’re feeling this way.  It’s a slow time.

I keep trying to finish a holiday book for children but just keep monkeying around.   There are a lot of well-meaning people in my life who distract me, like my husband, who always wants me to watch a TV show or see a movie when I should be writing.  Right now he’s cupping his hand and calling up the steps saying, “Lady Gaga’s halftime Super Bowl show is starting and it’s great.” Who can resist?

With a husband, three kids, a broadcast career and now this blog, the book always winds up on the back-burner.  I’ve probably rewritten the story 500 times.   I talked about the frustration of feeling like this unfinished work is a monkey on my back over a steaming cup of coffee with an old friend this week at our favorite cozy cafe.

“Maybe you have it this time,” she said trying to be optimistic.

I’ve had so many false starts.  I know I don’t.  One thing as a writer I never do is to lie to myself. I’ve very consciously put my family first as a mother, but I want this book to be the one thing I’ve done just for me.  I want it to be a mark I leave on the world.  Another friend who joined us who has a job as a manager encouraged me to set aside two mornings a week to write.

“Just sit there until it’s done,” she said, “schedule it like you’re going to the office.”

Okay then.  Suuuure…that’s it.  As the pathological liar, created by comedian Jon Lovitz, on Saturday Night Live in the 1980s would say:

I’ll just sit at my desk and schedule the time to write two mornings a week. I’ll schedule in three hours for each session. I’ll listen to the birds outside the window, sharpen my pencil a few times and stare at a blank notebook.  Then I’ll meet my friends for coffee to talk about how I can’t write the book.