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Ronda Matson: News

And now there are THREE. - April 15, 2015

This is what happens when you blink. Time has its way with you!

My third grandchild, Vivienne Hays Murdock, was born safe and sound.

February 13, 2015, 7 lb. 5 oz., 20.25"

She's such a beauty!

VIVI 1

Then there were TWO... - January 24, 2014

My grandson, Michael Owen, has a playmate in the Tupperware cabinet now-- and Abigail Rae is surely keeping up. As swiftly as there are two, the "News" here happily rolls from smaller to bigger.  A new year is upon us and the bowls and lids are strewn :) 

I hope this new year will bring you all the good things life has to offer! 

Abby_1_16_14_2_resized.jpgMikey_1_16_14_resized.jpg

Happy New Year! - January 3, 2013

I hope your new year is off to a great start!  So far, it looks tricky, but I'm optimistic.  :)

2013.  It sounds futuristic to this old girl.  And, scary.  Personally, I think we should make the best of the unlucky Number 13, possibly even give it a make-over.  Let's have some fun this year... and maybe get into a little trouble?

Mikey 1

NEWS? - December 9, 2010

Looking at the “News” on my website, the last post being in APRIL, you’d certainly think there isn’t any.  Social media consultants would say I’m dead in the water.  But, do they really know?

As you might guess, many things are in the works as we roll toward our Happy New Year.  For the time being, you can find me in Upton every Thursday night at 7:30, host of The Rose Room Revue Open Mic.  It’s a cool place to be!  Hope to see YOU at The Revue~

Rose Room Revue pic

Deep Impression - April 29, 2010

I sat in a pew near the back of the church, nervous.  People walked in quietly.  They sat quietly.  Organ pipes let go of their sound quietly.  Compared with other churches there weren’t so many pews, but high white walls and long windows opened up the space.  Strangely, it gave comfort, this intimate grandness.  It held me close, but let me breathe at the same time.  I felt less nervous.  The moments grew bigger as I waited.  Before I knew it, the rush of modern life felt far away.  A bagpiper outside the sanctuary played his tune, welcoming more people and then, he was silent. 

I loved many things about the celebration for Georgia: the beauty of the surroundings, the slow, meaningful readings, the pauses, the words that came with difficulty from her broken-hearted grandchildren, the calm that perfectly reflected her. The pastor told a story about his last conversation with Georgia.  The eloquence of his words will stay with me for a long time, maybe for always.  She looked lovely that day with her carefully placed hair and painted nails, like she was going somewhere special, he said.  She told him she was waiting for the bus, that she was tired. She was ready for the bus.

I took many things home that day, all of them invisible.  I find myself reflecting on the singular sincerity of everyone present.  It was so apparent.  We were all so very, very thankful that she had touched our lives. Every person loved her, yes.  Every person recognized the impact and value of her long, wonderful life, yes.  And more than that (if there can possibly be more than that) every person reflected an honesty, a truth.  It was so very like her.  Stepping past the rush of life, we gathered together for those important moments, ones that (like Georgia herself) have left such deep impression. 

Peace~

Georgia

 

For My Georgia - March 29, 2010

For once, I’m glad it’s raining.  The day is a mirror of my sadness as I consider the world without Georgia in it. 

“I met her on my lonesome day.”  It’s so true. 

A week after yet another brain surgery operation, in the Fall of 2006, I met Georgia Allen.  I was missing half of my hair & had covered my baldness & stitches with Erin’s wide knit American flag headband.  Somehow, I felt stronger with it on.  I was determined that the guitar-picking nails of my right hand would not be lost like my hair, like so many dreams I once had, in a blink.  I knew that I didn’t have the fine motor ability at that point to save them, so I braved potential embarrassment & went to the salon.  I didn’t talk to anyone or look at anyone.  It was a perfect misery.  Suddenly, there was Georgia—and she was talking to me!  Her energy and (eventually) her love of music came at me full force.  Georgia, hailing from the great state of Alabama, showed me pictures of herself with the members of the band… ALABAMA!  Amazing.  I noticed her NASCAR coffee mug & commented on it.  She turned to pictures of herself with famous race car drivers…

Georgia was a treasure.  She turned my lonesome day & many days after that into something wonderful.  My outlook that first day became hopeful again, almost in an instant.  I was able to see “beyond the rainbow in my head.”  Yes, I was once again starting all over, fighting my way back, but I knew I could do it. 

I hope there is someone like Georgia in your world.  For some people, as with my dear grandmother, Catherine, 82 years of a wonderful life seems not nearly long enough.   But, this I know:  “In a world that might not care, close your eyes.  She’ll be right there.”

Peace~ 

Forward Motion - February 19, 2010

The Big Answers are rarely forthcoming and hardly ever clear-cut when it comes to, “What next?”  There is no certain path and, for most things in life, no perfect solution.  I have yet to get my hands on that crystal ball.  But, thankfully, I have met David Ginsburg.

David is a Social Media Specialist.  His earlier background in marketing and promotions, then as music director at Greater Media Boston and program director for 92.9 WBOS, has led him down the Social Media pathway.  His very particular set of skills, not to mention his bright ideas, offer much to a fledgling performing songwriter.  It’s exciting stuff!

What am I hoping for?  Direction.  Connection.  Forward Motion.

Call me crazy.  I’m aiming high.   

Peace~  

Aim High

 

Regarding Showcase Live - November 4, 2009

As everyone knows, bad things happen.  Sometimes, we can’t see them coming, can’t prepare for the battle.  If we’re lucky, the storm passes & we’re able to lift up our heads & look around.  On October 29th, I took a look around.  From the beautiful stage at Showcase Live, I could see images through the bright light & (better than that) I could see past the days of my debilitating situation, beyond the sorrow of my lost progress & the uncertainty of my future.  I had moved on.

 

Stepping up, out or over doesn’t happen on a whim.  It happens because a person fights the good fight & does the hard work.  And, in my case, it also happened because of faith, my brilliant doctor & thanks (hugely!) to the support of my family & friends.   For all of that, I am so very grateful.  Thank you!

 

My performance at Showcase Live was a mere 15 minutes.  It was 3 songs.  By the clock, it was barely a spot at the local Open Mic, but it meant more to me than I can express.  I was blessed with the opportunity to perform on that fantastic stage, to be lifted up.   It’s nothing short of a miracle that I was standing there with a voice, hands that could play & a mind that could remember what I’d written.

 

In April, I had 3 brain surgery operations within 10 days.  Yes, bad things happen.  When they do, I hope you won’t give up! 

 

Peace~

 

 

 

 

Speaking of "Truth"... - January 15, 2009

I mailed the music on the last day of the year. It seemed symbolic, as do many things that happen in my world. This consuming labor of pain and sadness, doubt and defiance, love and hope, was out of my hands.

As I think back over these thirteen months—a very short time for the actual record-making, Fletcher says—I count myself so very fortunate. In this business of “who you know” I am a fledgling. I’m too trusting, perhaps, and essentially naïve, but I have come to feel that trusting pays off. For every five people who let me down, there is that one most important person who doesn’t, which makes trusting all worthwhile. My newest music, like all the music on “Truth Be Told,” continues to reflect that. The title track of the new record is one of the saddest songs I’ve ever written, but the regret that fills the verses refuses to throw away the good things that memory holds dear. “Weight,” “Illusion” and “Blind” were all written in the month of February (nearly two years ago) and are necessary sibling songs. Symbolism trots right after me as I will set these songs free on February 15th…

“Truth Be Told” is a celebration of emotions. Each song has its story to tell. Each song is very personal. My solace, my shelter—and ultimately my voice—is in the songs, but when you listen, think about people. Think about yourself. We climb the hills each day and see the minus signs that line the path, trying their best to trip us up. For all its emotions, “Truth Be Told” doesn’t succumb to the “woe is me.” I consider it a triumph!

As I write these words on a grey January morning, I feel the warmth of my little space heater and imagine that it’s the sun. Celebrate “Truth” with me!

Peace~

Good Karma! - July 19, 2008

What IS that? I’m starting to think I might know.

First I lucked on the announcement. It was way, way down, near the bottom of the Ticketmaster e-mail message. It was far past where I usually read when the promo list is long. Was it good karma that I kept on reading? There it was, right in front of me. Mark Farner would be performing at the Spring House on Block Island. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked at the date. The show was ON Bob’s birthday, July 13th. It HAD to be good karma. My sensible side did think to ask a question or two. What was the Spring House? Where was Block Island? Of course, I had absolutely no idea, but I saw “Rhode Island” and immediately decided to buy the tickets. It couldn’t be that far.

My husband, Bob, was twelve years old when he bought the Grand Funk Railroad double live album with his own money. It cost him $4.98. He didn’t know the band or the music, but he got two records for $4.98. What a deal! Little did he (or his parents) know it, but that album would create a kind of rock and roll blueprint. I do not exaggerate when I say that it is the DNA of his musical world. Mark Farner, the songwriter, guitarist and lead singer for Grand Funk, became a hero. Over the years, Bob bought more albums. He memorized the words and studied the cover art. He still knows all the guitar riffs.

I knew I couldn’t keep this birthday present a secret because it involved some planning. In the end, we would need to drive an hour and a half to Point Judith, R.I., then ride the ferry to Block Island. The concert was scheduled to take place on the lawn of the lovely old Spring House Hotel, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, 1:00 P.M., rain or shine. We would hope for shine.

The week before the show, Bob told me about an interesting video on Farner’s website. To be honest, I felt close to being hypnotized as I watched it. There was fabulous old footage, Grand Funk back in the day. There was also new concert footage and lots of guitar talk and amp talk. I wrote to my friend, Bruce Marshall, thinking he’d get a kick out of the video. The subject line of the e-mail read, “About Mark Farner.” Bruce’s response took me by surprise. He said that when he got my message, he just stared at it, wondering how I knew. Five minutes before that, he had been booked as the opening act for Mark Farner at the Spring House on Block Island. Good, good karma!

So many things owe themselves to the power of music. I try to remember that when the workings of the world make it seem small. As I had hoped he would, Bob met his hero that day. Mark posed for pictures. He signed an album, plus the original poster that came with the $4.98 double live album. What a deal! We were able to talk to him well before other fans arrived, as the stage was being set. He seemed to be in a very relaxed mode, in no hurry at all and he was extremely gracious.

If you click on “Images” and scroll through the “Good Karma” photos, you might get a sense of what I mean. Sometimes life manages to stack up the good stuff. Unusual and amazing things came together. They created the many perfect moments; it seemed, simply for the benefit of that single day. Major forces were at work. The weather was gorgeous and the music—from the immeasurable talent of Bruce Marshall to that of Mark Farner—was stellar.

Keep your eyes open for Good Karma in your world. It goes a long way ~

Peace ~

The BeachFire Surprise - June 11, 2008

Chasing down the music dream is a tricky business. I’ve been surprised how often the downs can outweigh the ups, even when good things are happening. I steer away from the minus signs as best I can, but at times I feel positively chased by them. Maybe it’s the nature of my over-analytical mind, getting in the way. Maybe that’s the price I pay for expressing intimate thoughts in public fashion, the risk of it—or maybe it is simply a kink in the armor of my human nature in general. Whatever the case, few things have surprised me more—or lifted me higher in an instant and when I really needed it—than The BeachFire Surprise.

Thanks to my friend and fellow musician, Vernon Northover, I recently headed north for a solo performance in Ogunquit, Maine. This was the farthest I had traveled for a paying gig, which goes to show you how green I am regarding some things. Two hours down the road is a big deal to this guitargirl! The dollars I would earn wouldn’t even come close to covering expenses, but there were many better reasons to perform. I really looked forward to the debut!

From the start, I liked the BeachFire MusicLoft scene. Upstairs from the main restaurant, there is a full bar, stepping down to a table area and potential dance floor. The big windows overlook the impressive Firepit in front, giving the room an open feel. BeachFire has its own PA system, so I didn’t need to bring all the usual gear. (Thanks for the tip, Bruce!) After setting up, Bob and I went downstairs for dinner. It was very quiet in the restaurant, which was a little unsettling since it was Saturday night, Memorial Day Weekend, but it was still early. I wondered if Bob might be sitting through a private concert... It wouldn’t be the first time. No matter. I was resolved and optimistic, in decent frame of mind. Little by little, people arrived and a few made their way up the stairs. That was about the time I was told, “Folk doesn’t really fly at BeachFire.” Uh oh. My inner folkie took the hit, but stayed on its feet, knowing that I had some Blues and some Rock ‘n Roll in my back pocket. All the same, it was a hit. So… what else could I do? I went to the ladies room.

You know how it is. You know people in your life and they have their places. The work people belong at work. The school people belong at school. The church people belong at church. You know the gym folks from the gym. When you see them dressed and in the grocery store, something doesn’t feel right. In fact, you might not even recognize a gym person when they turn up in the produce isle. So… imagine my confusion. I walked out of the ladies room at BeachFire Bar & Grille in Ogunquit, Maine, ready to perform—and found myself looking at four wonderful, but displaced faces. One of those faces had moved to Texas a long time ago, so it really didn’t make sense. Then it hit me. These were my road-trippers!

I’ve come to know, over much time, that you never can tell.

I’ve come to know, over much time, that when it comes to Quinta Andersen, you REALLY never can tell.

Quinta had picked up her three good friends, Marcia, Louise and Carolyn (who was visiting from Texas) at 10:00 A.M. that morning. She had an adventure planned, but she was very secretive. Destinations would be a series of surprises, she said, with the day ending in, perhaps, the biggest surprise of all. Trusting their friend, the three climbed aboard Train Quinta and the journey began. The Train stopped in Gloucester at the Hammond Castle & Museum, in Ipswich, at Bearskin Neck in Rockport, in Newburyport, in Kittery and finally, in Ogunquit. These four wild, amazing women—turned loose on the highway—loved their fabulous day. Bill, owner of their BeachFire final destination, had made their reservation for dinner. But, he had kept the secret.

One great thing—and something I didn’t get to see—was their arrival. According to Bob (who was just as surprised as I was), the three unsuspecting travelers came through the door… wondering… asking if Quinta knew the owner. A big poster I had mailed to Bill was posted in the case next to the door. Quinta pointed to the poster and that’s the moment I wish someone could have captured on film. It’s about as close as I’ll come to rock star status.

And so, after the dinner, the beverages, the music, and all the good times in between, they drove home that same night. I’m not sure I’d take any bets on who might have been napping on the road back to Holliston, Massachusetts. Based on the energy I witnessed, I’d say no one slept a wink.

It was truly a Grand BeachFire Surprise on what turned out to be a very busy night. My inner folkie was happy to hear whole tables of people singing along and to experience Ronda's-First-Ever-Dancers. There must have been some sort of Road Warrior Magic happening.

I thank my loyal, happily displaced friends from the bottom of my heart ~

Regarding "Paradise" - June 3, 2008

It’s been said that nothing lasts forever. It’s even been said that many things are only true in fairy tales, especially when it comes to love. In this ever-changing world, our fragile relationships are at the mercy of our human shortcomings, it seems. Our desires often outrun us and life’s trials take their toll. Science and Religion and Philosophy may all make their arguments and we may tend to choose our side of the fence—BUT—I’ve seen something amazing during my lifetime, not once, but twice. I must say it gives my poor brain a rest from all the thinking.

Every once in awhile, when it comes to love, some things are better than fairy tales…

Once upon a time, a long time ago, Arthur & Nancy got married. It was 4:00 on a Saturday, the 7th of June, in 1958. Once upon a time and very nearly that same long time ago, Ron & Alice got married. It was 4:00 on a Sunday, the 24th of August, in 1958. Up & down, here & there, around & through they went, hand in hand, the two by two. The years did what years are apt to do and flew themselves by. I think they probably met a crazy witch and the know-it-all wizard. I think they must have wondered about that candy house. (Some things are just too good to be true…) I know they have passed many moments in the dark woods. Fifty years ago, promises were made that have not been broken and therein, The Magic!

I wrote “Paradise” for my parents, Ron & Alice, and for Bob’s parents, Arthur & Nancy, thinking about their many battles lost and, oh so many won. Through all the years they have held each other close, no crumbs of bread left behind to lead them home. There was faith and hard work to build the road and excellent good humor to light their way.

“I look ahead where grass is green.
Our flowers grow.
That rollin’ wave and the evenin’ breeze,
they surely know
that nothing matters now.
The world can spin, my love.
You are the one I’m dreamin’ of.
You are the one I’m dreamin’ of.”

With love for you, all four ~

For Shoshana: What should music be about? - April 2, 2008

My voice teacher, Shoshana, has put her students to the task of an essay on this specific topic: What should music be about? Though the tone of my response may seem a bit edgy or cranky, I am NOT! So many positive, surprisingly amazing things have been happening over these past months, it would be impossible to be discouraged. She did, however, get the wheels in my head turning, so consider these to be "Observations from the Musical Trenches" of a lowly guitargirl.

She writes ~

"At times, I’ve come very close to making myself crazy, overwhelmed by the advice and opinions of those “in the know” and more experienced than I am about the music world. Content. Construction. Presentation. Performance. If I listen too much, I will go crazy. Songwriting is very personal to me and I can honestly say that I don't write according to a formula. Right or wrong, good or bad, I didn't buy the songwriting book or go to the workshop. Songs fall into my head and they bang their way out.

It's almost alarming. There are record numbers of songwriters who perform. They twist their notes and hang onto them despite their dissonance. It makes me wonder. The famous ones are all over the radio, warbling and sliding their breathy sensuality or attitude. These days, you can tap a key on your computer to hear one at any time. More turn up in bars and coffee shops in cities and towns I’ve never visited, all trying to fit in. Often, I’m hard pressed to tell one from the other when we do brush elbows. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a House of Mirrors where I am so blinded by the “sameness” that I can’t begin to see past it to find myself. A person could get lost.

I see the many guitar jocks. They remind me of testy thoroughbreds. Guarded, yet powerful egos can only allow them to eye one another and react with a kind of fear-laced bravado. There is great opinion and ranking among them. Occasionally, there is support. As I stand and watch, it’s easy to feel the odd man out. This is a game you have to want to play. Usually, the only game I’ll play is Scrabble, so there you have it. I’m odd (wo)man out.

I have never understood the imitators. They spend so much of their precious time trying to sound like someone else. Copying the riffs and the voices, are they hoping to make some tiny mark by clinging to success they haven’t earned?

In this great big ocean of music, where we are little more than grains of sand waiting to be washed away and at the mercy of the tide, what SHOULD music be about?

I really have no idea, but…

Shouldn’t music equal truth? Shouldn’t it reflect a real, truthful musical or lyrical idea? Any music I have written is rooted in some truth, be it a good experience or thought, a bad one or a sad one. Shouldn’t music be about “the truth” as anyone who makes an honest attempt of it sees it? I think it’s simple and makes all the difference. In truth, I can’t force a song to exist any more than I can stop it from becoming. Is it real if I sit down with the sole purpose of writing a hit song to make millions of dollars—and then that dream becomes reality? Is it BETTER music if it makes millions of dollars? Does that make it more important? If someone promotes me because I look a certain way or fit a certain plan and we achieve great success, does my music automatically carry more weight? It happens, but is that what music SHOULD be about?

It’s a loaded, likely impossible question. The topic is frustratingly broad. Subjected as we are to popular opinion and the power of the mighty dollar, odds are that my words fall short and seem naive. Therefore, I'll try not to dwell on it after I finish writing this. The question doesn’t live in the real world. You may think I've sunk to a dismal low, but I really haven't. I can see my own daylight. But, if I wrap myself up in what music seems to be about these days, I won’t be able to write another honest note. I’ll be trapped in the House of Mirrors. I’ll be standing in line watching the guitar jocks flex their amazing musical muscles. I’ll be turning myself into someone else.

I have no way of knowing if my musical truth telling will ever get me anywhere “worthwhile”—in the music world sense of the word—but I know that it stretches itself forward. I guess I hope the song's meaning might touch someone. For me, that's surely something music should be about."

Peace~

Regarding The Low Anthem - October 5, 2007

The first time I saw and heard The Low Anthem, such calm settled over me. I think I was barely breathing. It’s very hard to describe what their mood can do to a person. They’re so compelling that they make me forget things—like what I’m going to say and play. (I forget… do I even know HOW to play?) Once you’re swept up in their sound, you don’t want out and all I can say about that is it’s a very good thing. I think you should find out for yourself.

I’ve played music with Ben and Jeff and I consider that a great privilege. Last night, I named the songs and they had never played them. Of course, that didn’t matter at all. We climbed into the little boat and floated along. Ben played upright bass and harmonica, Jeff played percussion. The harmonies came from somewhere. They traded places for the next song and Jeff’s jazz instincts commanded the bass. Music is joyful and painful and imperative to The Low Anthem. I happen to think so, too. Maybe that’s why the river could carry us along the way it did.

~Thanks, boys~

Regarding The School of Bruce - September 12, 2007

I’ve been there, heart and soul. I’m a student at The School of Bruce. Anyone who really knows me and reads the title of my article will immediately think I’m talking about Bruce Springsteen. Believe it or not, there is more than one amazing Bruce in the music business.

I’ve come to realize that if you really watch, you learn. If you’re honest and truly open to it, if you can manage to toss away your ego and pay attention, there’s stuff to be learned. I walked into Bruce Marshall’s Open Mic a newbie, not knowing a soul. To say it was unnerving is a gross understatement. I was quite certain that I wouldn’t make the grade, whatever that was. Guitar jocks come out in force there… What did I think I was doing? More than a year later, I’m still not sure. My voice isn’t typical and my songs can be dismal and quirky. I’m not always okay with that, but then, I’m still learning my lessons. It’s all about the music at The School of Bruce. There are lessons in courage, passion, patience, individuality, acceptance of self, common courtesy, frustration management; the list goes on.

I’ve watched Bruce Marshall work small rooms at solo gigs. Always the professional, he can play an amazing guitar piece, sing, give a nod to friend, thank a fan and tweak his guitar all at once. He’s incredibly interesting and fun to watch all the time. I’ve seen him with his band. The guy’s a rock star. You know, I could go on and on, but here it is in the nutshell. He’s absolutely genuine and unbelievably generous. Honestly. I still can’t get over it.

Let me tell you about last night…

I was performing from 7 until 10 P.M. at Main Streets Market and Café in Concord, MA—just across the square from the Colonial Inn where Bruce Marshall happened to be performing from 8 until 11 P.M. (Cool. I love that.) There was no hint of a competition. There was no such idea. Here was the idea: I had the great privilege to perform on Concord Square at the same time as Bruce. It’s the coolest thought in my head right now and I hope the good feeling that it brings me will stick around for awhile.

So--

After the show, I packed up my gear with the help of ultimate roadie, Bob Matson, and we hustled over to the Colonial Inn to catch Bruce’s last set. We made it in time to hear him play his gorgeous all steel Dobro, which is always a special event. Eventually, an “Angel from Montgomery” duet seemed the right way to celebrate the night. We slowed it way down and Bruce mapped it out as we went along. (Night school...) Afterward, he looped the strap of his beautiful Martin guitar over my head, telling me about some condition or other that dictated I must play my song called “The Creeper” before I could leave the stage. (Detention…?) I did, on the condition that he sang back-up. Bruce asked me to close the night with one more song and although that didn’t seem right somehow, I did what the teacher asked. We pressed him for another Bruce Marshall song and the night ended as it should, with this guitargirl taking notes.

Thanks to Loring and “K” and to Marianne, Beatrice and Henry for making the trip to Main Streets last night~

Thank you, Michelle~

Bruce… I might be at a loss for words for once.

The Power of Lip Gloss - August 9, 2007

I’m not sure if lightning struck, but the lights went out. As the audience sat in a sort of surprised darkness, the three television camera operators remained at their posts. The Studio Session Live staff hurried to sort it all out. What had just happened? I know… It was the lip gloss. I had just finished telling everyone my silly little theory about why more women don’t play harmonica. Lack of glam! Just try to wear something lovely on your lips and play harmonica. It’s a “no go” situation; it will wreck your harps in short order. Most girls like to “pretty up”—but I’d rather not be bothered. The first two songs of my live concert were harmonica songs, followed by three newer ones that weren’t. Then, as I switched from twelve strings to six, planning to sit for a few songs, it occurred to me that a little color might not be a bad idea. I could wipe it off a few songs later. I pulled the lip gloss from my pocket and asked the audience if they minded. No, they didn’t. Blackout. That’s all I remember.

Thank you to my incredible audience! I can say it, but I don’t know that I can say it enough. You came from near and far, from many corners of my life. You made time in the middle of a busy week on a hot, hot summer night. I do thank you for it! I was told that my audience was the largest one to date at SSL. My next concert—slated for September or October—will include subtle, revised lighting to include my audience in the filming. See? Not only did you inspire me, you inspired the entire operation!

Despite all the excitement and the setback of a probable loss of about five songs, the experience is one I will hold dear. It was a little like riding a wave—unpredictable, thrilling, breathless at times, totally worth it. I think about the positive energy that came my way last night and how meaningful it is to be able to share my music on such an intimate level. Beyond that, thanks to Studio Session Live and HCAM-TV, many others might enjoy my living room show. More and more I understand that it’s only enough if you give it away.

So, never again will I underestimate the power of lip gloss~

Paths of the Wind - June 9, 2007

Lately, so many positive things have been happening that I forgot to keep watch over my shoulder, just in case. Although I’m a horrible sailor, I was sure I could feel the wind in my sail. The next piece of news I planned to write about was excellent… and now it is weighed down by life’s reality. It’ll have to wait. I guess you can’t trust the wind.

My friend, Marc, has died. We went to high school together. Although we really didn’t have much contact unless it was a big Reunion year, our history made that irrelevant. We would always have something to talk about, to laugh about, some bit of something worth remembering. That kind of relationship has the power to erase years. And it always feels good! I don’t know what it is about high school. It’s awful and wonderful all at once. Maybe it’s the intensity of those years, the hormones, the crazy hopes and fears of the days that bind us. The truth is, love it or hate it, you don’t really forget it.

I will remember so many things about Marc. Over the past few days, I’ve talked to classmates and traded email. We’ve all been walking backward, but there’s good in that. I’ve turned every page of my senior yearbook. It makes me look forward to our next big gathering in October, but it brings sadness when I think that I won’t hear his laugh. It was one of a kind. His kind, steady good nature was a constant that offered balance to types like… well, like me! Many, many thoughts are with his family and many hearts share their grief.

Paths of the wind are uncertain. The true sailors know this and are prepared for it. I can only hope that one day I’ll be a better sailor.

Peace~

Back on Main Street - May 7, 2007

Life has been a crazy clash of up with down since September, marked by an unpredictable and almost dangerous feeling. I’ve come to realize that I know very little and can trust even less. It’s sad, but not the end of the world. It’s not a reason to stop moving forward or to hope for something better.

When I was working in the exercise industry, I saw up and down all the time. It was my job to steer people past the issues of Life that kept them from doing well for themselves. Primarily, I was the motivator, but it amounted to much more than that. When I think of the times I jumped off of my Spinning bike to grab the attention of the class, I have to smile. As I told them many times, “Life is a hill. Just get up it.”

I’ve written a lot of new music over the past couple of months. It’s been a source of healing, but at the same time, the writing boxed me in. Playing at Main Streets Market & Café yesterday, I came to realize something. It’s not enough to write it. It’s only enough if you give it away.

I guess you could say I’m back on Main Street.

Peace~

Meeting JP - April 2, 2007

As we ticked off the miles on our way to Northampton, I sat thinking. I seem to get myself into some very interesting situations… Strangely, I wasn’t at all nervous stepping into this next unknown. So much has happened recently that is beyond my control, I have become oddly accepting of uncertainty. I’m stepping over new lines easier. I used to prepare for the step, but I’m sure not doing that these days. Some might argue that stepping blindly is foolhardy, but I can’t look at it that way right now. Sometimes you don’t have a choice. I’m finding out that’s when a person can learn a whole lot.

I looked forward to the prospect of meeting John Prine like I look forward to our Cape Cod vacation. How could it be anything but good, worthwhile, exciting, enriching, potentially life-changing? And so I wasn’t nervous.

Now that I’m looking back, I sit thinking. Can words paint the true picture? I doubt it.

John Prine is the real deal. I watched him work some kind of magic on Saturday night. His easy sense of humor, along with his unique ability to tie it to heartache, so evident in his writing, stretched out. If it didn’t touch every single person in the lovely Calvin Theatre, then all I can say is that those unaffected folks had to be without emotional pulse… or they weren’t listening… or they had too much to drink. He smacks you over the head with sincerity. He spreads the meaning out in front of you and says, “Here’s how I see this.” If you miss it, it’s pretty much your own fault. With Dave commanding the upright and electric bass and Jason masterminding lead guitar and mandolin, he played on and on—well over two hours—and never left the stage. His solo set contained the songs that allowed me to uncross my fingers. He shared his music in a way that I can only aspire to share mine and in doing so, was inspiration beyond the meaning of the word.

After the show was over and the crowd cleared out, we waited. Our bright orange “AFTER SHOW” passes were like gold. Roadies and Techies scurried about onstage, up and down the aisles. Dave and Jason came and went and came back again. For whatever reason, they kept us company. I didn’t get the impression they were just putting up with us. If they were, they can add Acting to their list of many talents! Conversation turned to our opera singing daughters, Erin and Amanda, our University of Michigan jazz drumming son, Bobby, and our youngest son, John, who’s currently attempting to conquer the lacrosse field and the automobile. It was fun for us to hear about the musicians’ lives as well. Before we knew it, midnight had come and gone. The theatre was quiet. If this would be all that there was, I was still happy. And then John Prine walked through the side stage door. At that moment all I could think was, “Steve should be here…” and “God, I hope he’ll sign this flyswatter for Steve…” Of course, after the introductions, our thanks were the first words—to Fiona Prine for making it all possible, to him for his music and for saying hello to us after a long, long night. Actually, it all seemed easy. We just talked. I wondered how many thousands of pictures he’d posed for with fans and why he was so willing to stand for not one, but two more, “just for insurance.” For no good reason, those pictures appear ghostly, double-exposed in digital while all the others turned out fine. Well, my tech-less brain has no hope of figuring that out so I’ve decided it must be an indication of the spiritual nature of the meeting! He seemed to be in no hurry to shoo us away and, Lord knows, we would have stayed… but we didn’t. We shook hands again and I handed him a little present for Fiona. I wished like heck the night didn’t have to end.

Guess what? He signed the flyswatter for Steve.
Watch for the mailman, my friend.

“There’s flies in the kitchen…”

Peace!

Coming Up For Air - March 13, 2007

I’m fairly certain he won’t be thrilled that I’m writing this, but here I go.

There are so many things in life that are not constant. In fact, there are times when the inevitability of change is my only constant. Over some years of my musical life, though, Steve Reed has been the steady guy. Strangely, it feels like I’ve always known him. I guess that’s why he can move away and somehow that’s okay. Well, it’s not really okay… but it doesn’t feel quite so final. As I told him when we parted, one of the hardest things is that I can’t say, “See you tomorrow.”

Sometimes I wonder what he thought of the blonde chick with the guitar. It must be eight years or so since he first said, “Sure, play an original song.” In his work as Minister of Music at Christ the King Lutheran, he was willing to take chances. I’m sure he was going on faith when it came to me, though. I can’t even remember if I would play the songs for him first—but for sure, there was no other guitargirl doing some of the things I did. Here’s one example. Early on, I had become obsessed with an Indigo Girls song—“Kid Fears.” I wrote lyrics I thought appropriate for Communion to the tune and I think one or both of my daughters sang harmony. Steve would let me do stuff.

I learned many things from him. My head was swallowed up with writing, but he would say, “You know, you should sing some Bonnie Raitt.” So I did. And then I sang some John Prine and Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan and much, much more. It became a different game. My mind spread out more and, as a result, my own music is different in a very, very good way. He made me play “Lonely Stranger” because he loves that song. He knew those bar chord changes twisted my brain at first and gave me a run for my money on the 12-string, but he also knew they would be no big deal after awhile.

When we would play, it was a very loose thing. That took some getting used to for me. I’d want to make a set list, but usually he didn’t care. Let’s see how it goes… I think the most organized we ever got was the time I alphabetized the songs and attempted to get us to do them in order. I should highlight the word “attempted.” The last show, I thought, “It’s the final gig. We’ll be organized this time!” I walked into the hall as Steve was walking out saying, “I’ve got a great idea for another song. I’m going to Google the lyrics.” Never mind that we already had twice the number of songs we’d have time to perform. Never mind that Ronda had never heard of the song. But of course, it was cool and he was right. It worked like a charm and I could handle those four chords and a little harmony.

So… I thank Steve for many things. For his friendship and easy manner. I thank him for our many conversations about and beyond music. I am grateful that he was willing to teach multiple hours of children’s guitar and piano lessons, eat some chickenish thing at my kitchen table and then work through twenty plus cover songs for a coffeehouse gig over the next four or five hours. Many times, midnight would roll around. I thank him most of all for sharing his love of music with me.

I wish him well as he begins again and hope we might find ourselves in collaboration down the line. It’s easy road between here and there.

What do I wonder? If a Gettysburg guitargirl will turn up.

What will I miss? Everything.

So many things have changed and continue to change, but I feel as though I might be coming up for air.

Peace, my friend!

Regarding the Kindness of Strangers... - December 7, 2006

Now that the leaves seem to have settled on the medical chaos this guitargirl’s autumn, I find myself looking ahead. If you push past darkness, you can find light—and it can come from the most unexpected places.

This past summer, I was sitting in the cottage we rent on Cape Cod, playing music with two friends. I had just finished performing “Angel from Montgomery” for our small, but attentive audience when I heard Abby say, “That song was written by John Prine.”

“That’s right, Abby. Good for you!”

Then she said it. “I know him.”

I looked at Mary, Abby’s mother. Thinking back, my eyes must have been moon-sized, matching the one outside our window. Mary was smiling and nodding. “Abby and Eli go to school with his kids.”

WOW… “Abby, please tell John Prine I said ‘hi’—okay?”

Fast forward to the night before Thanksgiving, 2006. It had been a busy day… all the kids were home. Randy and Robin had driven up from Maryland and were taking up slack everywhere, making things happen—as they usually do! I was pretty sure we’d be ready to feast when the rest of the family arrived the next day, but I still had that slight feeling of panic. Details have a way of killing me.

I’m not sure when the FedEx truck pulled up. If I saw the envelope, I must have ignored it. Thankfully, Bob didn’t. He handed it to me and watched as I read the label. To: Ronda Matson. From: John Prine. Talk about goosebumps. To think that he wrote my name so many times still amazes me. The picture, the poster, the CDs, the T-shirt, the fly swatter—“There’s flies in the kitchen. I can hear ‘em, they’re buzzing…”— all caught me by surprise. Fiona’s handwritten note ended with, “Be well.”

I have goosebumps all over again, just with this brief retelling of the story. Thank you, John and Fiona Prine!

Regarding the kindness of strangers, I can say no more.

And regarding the kindness of friends? Once again, the words escape me... save... Thank you, Abby and Mary!

Gathering The Wanderers & Regarding The Big Haircut - November 3, 2006

Just when you think you have your ducks lined up, they make a run for it. Why is that?

Although many people know about The Big Haircut, some are still confused. To look at me now, you really wouldn’t know the difference. I see that as a good thing! It lets me get on with my life and, generally, folks are more comfortable with the idea that I look like myself. Truly, it’s not a deep, dark secret. People live with things they don’t talk about all the time, right? So, here’s the long story—as short as I can make it—because rumors are not a good thing!

Seven months after the birth of my first child, Erin, I became seriously ill and was diagnosed with hydrocephalous. The Aqueduct of Silvius had mysteriously collapsed in my brain and spinal fluid could no longer drain normally. I was 24 years old, had been athletic all my life, never an illness worse than the chicken pox. Thankfully, we had recently moved to Boston, Land of the World’s Best Medical Care. It was apparent to my neurosurgeon that I would need to have a permanent shunt implanted to survive. The shunt’s line would begin in my head, regulated by a pressurized valve, and run the length of my torso. Needless to say, these events changed the course of my young life. Any fast track I might have imagined for my future suddenly seemed boring and beyond trivial. Uncertain of my prognosis—but optimistic—I wanted only to have more children and to live long enough for them to remember me. I did lament the loss of my long, blonde hair…

When my second child, Amanda, was 20 months old, a second surgery was needed to revise the shunt. Since I’m shunt dependent, I experience symptoms quickly if my bionic parts are out of whack. Suffice it to say that I was mentally kicking myself for letting my hair grow again! It was back to wearing a “wiffle” and dealing with odd looks and comments from insensitive people. Luckily, it was November and we were moving toward winter. I had an excuse to wear hats.

Fast-forward two decades and here we are. Life is a fantastic gift! Once upon a time, I worried about the days I might not have. However, Life has a way of carrying you along for the ride in spite of circumstance. I had two more babies and, either I forgot my fear, or I just didn’t have time for it. I worked in the exercise industry for many years as a certified personal trainer, taught Spinning, aerobics, water aerobics, step aerobics, urban rebounding—you name it—and most clients were none-the-wiser about my medical adventures. All the while, my children kept growing. I joined a Masters level cycling team to see what it was like to race bicycles and joined forces with the riders of the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, hoping to make a difference in the battle against cancer. Meeting with training clients, many thought that I couldn’t possibly understand their issues because my life was so “perfect.” Right. I usually shared my story only when I thought it would help someone. In the end, I think you just have to get on with it. The kids are still growing and there are many things to do!

For all of my life, music has been my mainstay. Writing music in the middle of many, many nights, I stole other moments when babies were napping, wrote poetry sitting in the car waiting for kids to emerge from school, carted my 6-string to the gym to serenade tense riders before leading their mental and physical Spinning journey. I have since closed my Spinning studio, though, to follow the Music Muse. My children are older and charting their own amazing paths. Now I can write in daylight and practice my instruments more than I used to. Incredibly, I launched my website and made a record! I still can’t believe it…

Then, on September 24th, 2006, life reminded me that sometimes there are very, very big hills to climb that don’t involve bicycles and that sometimes you can’t see them coming. I was facing another medical trial after many days of misreading my symptoms. My words to the surgeon? “Please try to save some of my hair.” And so, he did.

Today, I gather my wandering ducks and move past The Big Haircut. Minus ten inches of my hair's length and with about one third of my head shaved, I think, “Never mind.” My children will remember me. Maybe someday I’ll even have grandchildren who will remember me.

Join me SOON for new music and old music—as always, Life’s celebration!

~Keep the Faith~

MelDiva On My Mind - September 18, 2006

When you look at them, you’ll think the photographic images of the night are grainy and the color is not true. You’ll be right. I posted them anyway, though, as a reminder to myself that they are a stark contrast to the intentions of my audience, which were crystal clear and brilliant in color. Friends, old and new, were there to watch and listen. In one case, old friends from Plainville brought new friends from France!

Lately, I’ve become accustomed to the noisier environments of restaurants and bars. Even in a coffee house, I expected more chatter, but the whir of the blender and the comings and goings as orders were placed was about the extent of it. People tuned in. Honestly, I think music like mine “finds” itself at a place like MelDiva. Even as I was playing, I had the feeling that the words were stretching themselves out and that the notes were dancing along until they found their mark. Nothing was in their way. Such focus can be disconcerting at times, but it just might be the way I like it best. If I have the courage to play a new song, they’ll really listen. And if a lyric or a note goes wrong, oh well. That’s the beauty and the frustration of playing live music.

I hope you’ll “stop by for a listen” the next time I’m playing at MelDiva. I’d love to see you!

By the light of the ladies room door… - August 28, 2006

Something literary is echoing in my head as I begin to type. “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.” I’m sorry, but something’s wrong here. Why am I thinking about that quote? Was it a Robert Burns poem? Whoever might have written it, I don’t much like that it’s so correct so much of the time.

Dale Freeman and I had a collective thought about the concert, I’m sure. We envisioned playing music in the park during the early hour of a warm summer night. He would start off with tunes for the little ones and I would jump in. Then we’d appeal to the moms and dads with “grown-up” tunes in the second half. The dream in my brain painted a lovely picture. Choate Park boasts a beautiful body of water, grassy areas, scenic trees and even a new playground… perfect. If you think I’m exaggerating or just being horribly corny, scroll down through the “Destinations” on my website to “Images” and view the pictures from the last time we played there. See what I mean? I think we had very realistic expectations!

As I drove to the park, the sky began to spit. In spite of the rain and with excellent good humor, we set up beneath the overhang of a concrete block concession stand, a little snack shack of sorts that was manned by women. (Maybe I should say it was “womened.”) Attached to the concession stand were the rest rooms. Imagine where I might be going with this…

From the onset, as grey skies choked the sun, the seams began to fray. Dale worked incredibly hard to rope in the kids as the rain intensified. Phrases like “going with the flow” or “rolling with the punches” or even “troubleshooting” just don’t describe it. There was the honest potential for a total crash and burn. Children were spinning like tops, dancing, running, jumping, chasing, pulling leaves from trees, falling down, crying. They weren’t really cooperating.

Because it gradually became my only source of light, I was forced to move my music stand closer and closer to the Ladies Room door. Poor Dale was winging it by then, three feet away and totally in the dark. He was pulling chords and fancy fingerings from somewhere in his brilliant musical head. Meanwhile, I was mentally kicking myself for not memorizing every song I could possibly have been asked to play. I breathed a sigh of relief when we played one that I knew and I was free of the music stand. I cringed as the little girls ducked past me on their way in and when I heard the telltale flush. At the very end, I had no idea that I had trapped two pre-adolescent girls in the bathroom until the song ended. They giggled and didn’t seem to mind, really, but… it was just weird. And at the very, very, very end, I could only see one guy sitting out there.

I chalk it up to the experience. It’s always wonderful to play with Dale. Rain or shine, noisy throng or one guy in a lawn chair, it’s honestly great. I wish you could hear my favorite bootleg CD of a Warren Zevon concert. Earth Day, 2000, he played alone in Seattle, Washington, distanced from his audience and out-ranked by another performer. An honest troubadour from the get-go, he says, “This is what they call that character building s#*t!”

Amen to that.

The Whirlwind - August 3, 2006

There are some people who might call me a control freak. I’m not sure if that’s fair. When you’re the mother of four, working part-time and/or full-time depending on the year and volunteering most of the other hours away, you need to line up your ducks. It’s just a matter of survival. I’ve written songs in the space between—in parking lots waiting for kids to emerge from school, while making dinner, on airplanes, in the still of night. However, any little arrangement I may have had for my time went straight out the window at 2:40 P.M. on July 29th, 2006.

I thought my daughter, Erin, was to be performing an opera concert. After receiving her Masters Degree from the Eastman School of Music in opera performance in May, she wanted to offer a concert back home. At least, that’s what she said. We arrived at the church and when the door was opened to us, I felt transported. There stood my mother. There stood her best friends from Maryland. We hadn’t seen Bobby Vi, a member of our wedding party, since 1988. (For a moment, I thought it was 1981 and I was at my wedding!) The room was filled with people from all the different parts of our lives, a wave of family and friends, many from afar. Truly, it was surreal, like a slow motion movie scene of smiling faces and clapping hands, all known to us. “Erin, you’re going to SING, aren’t you?”

The surprise was beyond complete and the effort needed to make it so was enormous. It seems that many months of planning and deception were required! It’s been a 25th Anniversary whirlwind, to say the least. We’ve loved hearing the stories and are overwhelmed by the love and generosity that has been shown to us. Thank you for the donations that were made to the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge on our behalf. When we take to the road on August 5th to pedal the bicycle miles once again for The Jimmy Fund at Dana Farber, we’ll hold you in our hearts.

That most amazing day will not be forgotten.

Love to you all!
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