Tag Archives: music

Thoughtful Thursday #280 – Processing Emotions In Vicarious Ways


Vicarious – Meaning -experienced in the imagination through the feelings or actions of another person.

I never liked fluffy stories with forced happy endings like on the Hallmark channel,  I prefer to know what makes the characters tick even if there is a strange ending, on a regular basis I prefer non-fiction.

It is common that being in a psychologically dysfunctional environment growing up or as an adult it is unsafe to express our emotions.

When our emotions are not validated we can get them validated through music, art, reading stories, crime dramas, going to the movies, etc. you can add to the list.

We can better understand what we are feeling through these venues, we can relate to the struggles, fear, sadness, injustice or joy of the characters. By having these venues to relate to is a beginning to finding some safety within to express ourselves.

You are not alone, given the magnitude of how many people use these outlets all of us are using them to validate our own expressiveness.

Carry on. Express away.

Grounding And Unsettled Thinking


To ground oneself in an effort to gain healthy mental health is very necessary. It’s not easy because we get caught up stuck in our heads, thinking too much.

Grounding helps us to calm down our minds so we can get clarity. Grounding facilitates that emotional release we need to heal ourselves.

We can’t heal ourselves from unsettled thinking through a cerebral process. It doesn’t work that way. Our unexpressed emotions and unexpressed truths will consume us until they are looked at and this is where grounding comes in.

Here are a few examples of grounding that worked for me:

  1. focusing on the breath gradually working up to about 2 minutes.
  2. paying attention to what you are thinking and write it down.
  3. coming back to the present moment, what are you doing at that moment.
  4. meditation, quiet time, reflection.
  5. do artwork, draw, paint, doodle, sew, knit, woodwork any kind of crafts.
  6. write, even if it is a word, or sentence, write what you hear, write from the heart.
  7. listen to music, any music that you like.
  8. take a walk, breath in deep, look at nature, go to the ocean.
  9. take a different action, redirect your actions.
  10. exercise, any exercise is better than none.

Grounding is an important part of getting in touch with your body where a lot of negativity, hidden memories, and confusion  is stored.

Our mind needs grounding for clarity and our bodies need grounding to get rid of stored negativity, hidden memories and confusion that it holds.

By practicing grounding on a regular basis, even once a week reaps great benefit and help change your thinking by changing your emotional life for the better.


Music Is Healing


There is a ton of information out there about how the power of music is healing. Music has had a healing effect on me too. When I started meditation I listened to groups like Bliss and Carmen Warringtons meditation music. My favorite listening music is Jazz. Each has it’s place and I have been touched and healed by music in amazing ways.

Here’s my take in the subject.

1. Rythum is primal. The beat of a drum can be hypnotic or wild. Depending on the movement emotions can be intense or calm.

2.Tone is the rate of vibration of a sound. Tone has an effect physically and psychological effect on our being. Tone has the invisable effect that words can’t touch.

3. Melody is a group of notes put together to form a score. A melody can produce emotions, inspire imagination , bring up urges, effect our bodies and its functions.

Everyone listens to music and is influenced by it.

What most people don’t realize is that music touchs a higher level consciousness that is beyond worldly concerns.

It’s the times when you hear a song or hear lyrics that resonate in a place in your being that has no words. You could feel elation or serious sadness, love, empowerment, peace or centeredness.

Music has been called forth to be the language of the gods. It’s the language of the heavens and the universal language of the earth.

Musical sound is on the level of thoughts. Incognito but felt. Sound is the bases of the universe. There is sound everywhere whether you are conscious of it or not.

You have a choice to pay attention or ignore what sounds are effecting you.

In the store, in your place of worship, dance, in nature, on a seaside, on your radio, anywhere. Classical, Jazz, Tribal, Popular, Ethnic and many more.

Music is there just listen.



Melissa Goscinski – Modern American Singer


melisa goscinskiMelissa’s journey as a talented musician has not been easy nor linear. She is quite young to be in the music industry but her phenomenal voice is opening doors for her career. Melissa is committed to her path and it shows in her lifestyle. Her work has been influenced by Aretha Franklin, Miranda Lambert, Tina Turner, Amy Winehouse, Adele,
Jeff Buckley and so many more… She is an American Idol contestant for than once. Let’s find out about her unique life.

I have the great pleasure to introduce to my audience Melissa Goscinski who is the lead singer of Violet Skies. Her genre is Americana/Soul/Rock but just writing the words describing her work is not enough. At the end of the article I will put the links to some of her music. Melissa has also recorded her first EP.

PSW (Purely Simple Words): Welcome Melissa and thank you for taking the time to talk to me. How old were you when you started singing.

MG (Melissa Goscinski): I was singing since I was about two. But I was really discovered when I was 12 accidentally by my elementary music teacher Ms.Weltz.

PSW: When did you start studying music?

MG: I started studying professionally about 12 – 13 years old. I discovered I could really sing when I was about 11 early 12. I started with teachers when I was 13. I am trained in classical opera. I haven’t been in vocal lessons for a while but I am going to start up again because I was recently diagnosed with vocal nodules.

I am doing therapy with a vocal therapist and various doctors. I do vocal warm ups three times a day to get rid of them ad if that doesn’t work then surgery is the other option. But I haven’t been singing for a while and that is really sad.

PSW: How long have you been on break from singing?

MG: I have been on a bread since June 27. the day after the school term ended I went to the vocal doctor because I was experiencing vocal hoarseness and got tired very quickly, then I would get laryngitis were I couldn’t speak, I knew something was not right. So they they were. The nodules.

PSW: How long has it been since you sang classically?

MG: I haven’t been singing classically in 6 years but I am with a band and we started together since 2010. We do Covers. We do rock music like Aerosmith, Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Adele and some new stuff. When I am not preforming I work with kids. Between my day job and singing it was stressful and I guess it got to me.

PSW: Where is your day job?

MG: I am a para professional for the Board of Education in NYC.

PSW: Do you want to be a teacher?

MG: No, I need to find a job to help my mom out. My friend recommended me at her school and I got the job. That is how that happened.

PSW: How many days a week do you work as a para professional?

MG: I work 5 days per week, I am not permanently hired yet but there is an opportunity to work as a substitute in one school for a whole year. But you don’t bet paid vacations. I work in on High School and one Elementary. This year I worked with kids 4-11 and last year 15-16 year olds.

PSW: Did you finish college?

MG: No not yet. I was a music major and I took a year leave of absence but I want to go back for Media Studies for a back up plan because I want to stay in this business. I know goal of achieving stardom is extremely hard but I came to terms, and I know I love the business so much I would do anything whether to work on the front line or behind the scenes.

PSW: Tell me about your experience singing with Jennifer Hudson. I understand it was a contest.

MG: My mother had knee surgery and was in the hospital. She was watching TV and saw a contest on the Today Show in NYC. She called me and said I had to get on it right away because it was the last day to enter. I had to video record myself singing “And I am telling you” which is the Etta James song but Jennifer Hudson sang it in Dream Girl. I did record the song and it is on Youtube and sent it in and didn’t think anything of it. Two days later I got a phone call from a Manhattan number and it was the Today Show asking for me. They didn’t believe I was the same person because I sing like a black person but speak like a little girl. They asked if I could sing a little over the phone for the. So I did. They said they were really impressed with my singing and invited me to be one of the finalists in the competition. There was myself and three other contestants.. I remember being picked up in a private car really early in the morning and driven to the Today show. It was a wonderful experience. Jennifer Hudson picked the winner a surprisingly she chose me.

PSW: Did you sing with Sherri Shepard.

MG: Yes, one of the guys in the band knows her. He is a producer at the ABC show the View. She was having a house warming party and invited my band to preform. I was a wonderful experience plus I met a lot of nice people in the audience and met May Pang who is now my friend.

She invited me to her birthday party in October, and a Memorial Day BBQ. She is always inviting me to her awesome parties and recently I asked if I could ask her question about the musics industry. She is generous in helping me and is really a fantastic person.

PSW: I listened to your album online and it is beautiful.

MG: Thank you. Rich Guerzon produced the album. He wrote the lyrics and composed three of the songs. On the other two songs I wrote the lyrics that he wrote the music to. We haven’t seen each other lately because I am on break from the vocal nodes however I am still writing the songs that come into my head.

PSW: What Advice would you give to someone who wants to be a singer like you?

MG: That’s a good question. Vocal lessons once a week. A large repertoire so that at any given moment you can sing and audition for someone on the spot. Something that can really show off your talent. This is something I still work on. I have been to American Idol audition a couple of times and got to go a couple of rounds but didn’t make it.

PSW: Do you recommend being persistent?

MG: Once you give up that is the biggest failure. No matter how many times you get a “no” you have to keep trying because eventually someone out there will believe in you. If you have a really big talent they can’t deny that.; even with this nodule thing I am still learning and speaking to people about the music business. I am told my voice is outstanding by some and others will not acknowledge it. You don’t need them they need you . That’s my new motto that I keep repeating to myself. Be positive and it is hard in the field. I am humble and I am willing to learn.

PSW: How did you meet the band you are in?

MG: It is strange the way things happen sometimes. My mom works at the post Office and one of her friends delivers mail. He heard that one of his mail recipients wrote jingles. He spoke to the guy and said he knew of me and suggested he listen to my amazing voice. My mom’s friend gave him all my contact information. The guy did listen to my youtube recording and emailed me immediately. The man’s name is Glenn Sherman and he asked if I could write with him on a few things.

I was busy at the time but he called me and told me of a band who was doing a wedding and said I could benefit if I sang with them to make some money. So I agree. These guys are older than me and have been around for years. I had no idea what I was walking into and thought it was going to a karaoke CD instead it was serous band stuff. After a while it became a regular gig. We played in lots of different place in New York. Band member Rich Guerzon started wiring and I have been singing it. I have been with them four years. It’s an interesting story. I kind of just walked it on it.

I am lucky I walk in to opportunities like this all the time. Like meeting Sherri Shepard and other who know other contacts. And it is becoming a whole circle. Luck so far is on my side in some ways and not on my side in some ways.

PSW: Is there anything else you would like to add?

MG: I am working on getting better, and writing new tunes so stay tuned. And lastly I want to mention my Mon has been completely supportive of me throughout all of this. I can’t go without saying that. Thanks Mom.

Melissa is the essence of persistence. Her message is to keep learning, keep going and thank and acknowledge those who have helped you along the way.

Her band Voilet Skies consists of Melissa and John Ferry on percussion, Rob Cafaro on Keys and Vocals, Mark Magliaro on Guitar and Vocals and Rich Guerzon on Bass and Vocals.

Her future is bright and she is an inspiration to anyone who wants to be persistent.

For more information about Melissa go to:Violet Skies on Facebook.
For Youtube videos type in Violet Skies..
And here is her email: Violetskymusic@hotmail.com

John P Pickett – Actor


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Welcome John P Pickett, actor and percussionist. Born in the northern bayous of Louisiana John is no stranger to the world of acting and music. In the music world he is known as Voodoo John and plays congas, bongos and timbales. I have watched his demo tapes and whether he is acting evil or comedic his transition is flawless. His acting experience began as a child doing plays for his family and classmates which naturally transitioned into adulthood. He played supporting roles in the movies: Tommy the Great, Gumbo Vision and The Promise. He was featured in Sin City 2, Machete, Man of the House, She Gets What She Wants, Serving Sara, Pendulum and Any Given Sunday.

His theater credits include: An Evening with Myrna, Vivat! Vivat! Regina!, Brigadoon. John has extensive training with the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute , Actors Arena, Bright Lites Studio, Alex Newman Casting Director Workshop, Ryan Giorioso Workshop, Brent Caballero Workshop, Audition Techniques Workshop, Brook/Allen Casting Workshop, Shakespeare Workshop and the Institution Theater Improv Workshop.

PSW (purelysimplewords): Welcome to New York John and thank you for sharing your time and experience with us. What brought you here to New York?

JP (John P Pickett): I moved to New York September of last year (2013) with my friends, Myrna and her husband Daniel. We had a mass sell off of most of the items we didn’t think we would need, packed a U-Haul with the remaining items, loaded up the F-J with the pups and left Austin, Texas on Labor Day.

PSW: What was your reason for moving here?

JP: I had a full time job and was a part-time musician in Austin, Texas as are most of the people that live in Austin. I lived in Austin for nine (9) years and played in a couple of bands. The first band I played in was called “70 Through Selma”. It was a trio but definitely not a power trio. As the band slowly progressed playing mostly open mics Myrna Cabello came and auditioned as a singer. She was amazing and I later found out she is a working actress. After a couple of gigs and getting tired of open mics we decided to form our own band. We decided to make it a Latin-Blues band. Additional musicians, including Daniel, were gathered and Myrna and the Gris Gris Blues Band was born. (Sometimes bands should not be named after a long rehearsal and many drinks.)

We recorded a CD, Myrna Cabello/Letting Go. We were fortunate to have some notable musicians play on the CD such as Rock Roll Hall of Famer, Jerry Martini who was a co-founder of Sly and the Family Stone. When it came time for the inevitable CD release, Myrna wanted to do something different. So, Myrna developed a multimedia stage show around the songs on the CD. From the great response we got, Myrna suggested that I take a serious look at acting. Prior to that I did background work in movies and one independent film shot in Dallas, Texas where I lived prior to moving to Austin. So, I began taking acting classes in Austin and was cast in a couple of short/student films.

Myrna came to New York and had a very successful three (3) day acting intensive at the Actors Connection. From the intensive, she returned and said let’s move to New York. So in a Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland “Let’s put on a show” kind of way it was decided we would move to New york. After many starts and delays which included a burst appendix on my part, we made it to New York.

I guess you can say it was one giant leap of faith. Not moon landing leap but big nevertheless.

PSW: Do you like New York so far?

JP: I love New York. You know, I’ve never been to New York prior to moving here so my first time seeing New York outside of television or movies, was when we crossed the George Washington Bridge into New York.

PSW: I read your extensive and impressive resume, tell me about your role in “The Promise”.

JP: “The Promise” was an independent film I did for a friend when I lived in Dallas, Texas. My role was that of the main characters best friend. The story is based on the two (2) main characters promise from high school to get married if neither are married by a certain age and the situations involved when one is more committed to a promise than the other.

PSW: Was “The Promise” based on a book?

JP: No it was an original script.

PSW: What are the challenges to being an actor and musician?

JP:They are both hard and challenging industries. In both, the goal is to get booked. As a musician, do you play the style of music that suits the venue, can you bring in people and will you play for little or no pay. As an actor, how good of an actor are you, does your look fit the idea of the role and are you an established/bankable name.

PSW: Are there benefits to the type of work you do in acting and music? You must meet a lot of girls.

JP: (Laughing)

PSW: Girls like musicians.

JP: Girls may like musicians but very few middle-aged musicians. The benefits come as you get established. Here it is about getting started, seen and known. I just completed a movie on Staten Island with the working title of “Frankenstein vs. The Mummy”. I played an unsavory character of “Carter”. I believe the scheduled release date is toward the end of the year. Who knows? If the right people see the film it could be a spring board but you keep grinding it out.

PSW: What was your life like growing up in Louisiana?

JP: I had, what I consider, a normal childhood growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana. Shreveport is in north Louisiana close to the Texas/Arkansas border. At that time Louisiana was like two (2) different states with the line drawn through Alexandria, Louisiana. I have an older brother and sister which makes me the “baby” of the family. All in all, growing up in the 60’s and 70’s had to be the best time because of my family. Louisiana was and to some extent a conservative state and I can say I am not a conservative person.

PSW: You are not supposed to be conservative. You are an artist. When you are an artist you have license to do the weird wonderful things artists. do. You can be unusual. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If people don’t like it:tough on them. When you are young and you don’t know any better you want to fit in but who you are and what you are always comes out.

No matter what a person does, no matter how hard you try to fit in somewhere else it is not going to work. If you are not in a place you are supposed to be it will not work out. If you are meant to be in the theater that’s where you will be. I am a firm believer you must follow your dreams.

When was the first time you felt strongly about acting?

JP: I guess it was in first or second grade. My teacher was somewhat progressive for the time and developed a play around the song “Puff the Magic Dragon:. My role was that of “Little Jackie Paper” (who loved that rascal Puff). As I was growing up, going to the movies and watching television I thought I can do that. It can’t be that hard. Well, it is. I guess it was always in the back of my mind but at the time there was nothing to move it forward. So, instead, I started playing music, percussion, in junior high school and have continued playing in some form since then.

PSW: I know the name of your band was Myrna and the Gris Gris Blues Band and you played congas, bongos, timbales and assorted percussion instruments. What kind of music did your band play?

JP: Initially it started out as Latin Blues but morphed more into a more contemporary rock with a touch of Latin Blues. We played mostly original songs written by Myrna and Daniel with the occasional covers to fill out the set.

PSW: What is your favorite music?

JP: I like the blues, zydeco, which is a style of music from South Louisiana. I also followed bands from New Orleans such as the Neville Brother, The Radiators, The Subdudes, Funky Meters and Dr. John. I guess you can say I like jam bands such as The Grateful Dead and Little Feat.

PSW: What will you do to increase your skills and knowledge?

JP: I will continue taking classes here in New York because acting is an ongoing process. Myrna started me in acting classes when we were in Austin and continues to be my best coach. I took more classes in Austin with the last being the Actors Arena with Terry Kiser who is a very established actor best known as “Bernie” from “Weekend at Bernies”. Here, in New York, I’ve taken classes at the Actors Connection.

PSW: What insights have you learned that you would like to pass on to others who want to persue a career in acting?

JP: Study, observe, research. There are a lot of methods of acting and there is no right or wrong. I am inclined to lean toward the Strasberg method. But no matter the method/style, you have to bring yourself to whatever role you play and believe in the work you are doing.

PSW: Is your family supportive of your pursuit of acting?

JP: Yes, my family is very suppoetive. They don’t always understand what I am doing but they support me. In fact, my mother and father were my first audience. I would put on little plays, mostly around the holiday, with my brother and sister but my best performances when I was young was the acting I did to get out of chores and going to church. I had asthma as a child and learned early on how to use that to my advantage.

PSW: On a personal note, what makes you happy?

JP: Little things. Memories of the times shared with friends and family. The little things that made me laugh, watching an old television show or movie from the past that brings back happy times. A good song will also bring a smile to my face.

PSW: Do you think you run more on your gut feeling or facts?

JP: My gut. For each character, of course, you have to do your character development but once that is done it still comes back to a gut feeling for me.

PSW: If you could have any super power in the world what would it be?

JP: Growing up my superheroes were Batman, Superman, Spiderman but I think it would be great to be invisible. I could watch and observe what is going on. If I saw someone doing something stupid I could slap them in the head and say stop it.

PSW: Why do you have “Voodoo Man” as a reference to your name?

JP: As you know I am from Louisiana. Long ago my friends in Shreveport decided to go to the New Orleans Jazz Fest. On the first trip I went to Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo and I bought a chicken foot necklace. Every time we would go I would add something like a gator foot, boars teeth and an iguana foot I got on a trip to Mexico. Over time a “Voodoo” necklace emerged and my name went from “Chickenbone” to now “Voodoo”. “Voodoo” John was also a character I developed further in the band along with other characters like “Voodoo” Claus for holiday shows and “ Voodoo” Libre for other shows in which I wore a Mexican Libre mask. I still have the necklace.

PSW: I saw the necklace in the photo section of your website. It’s a real Voodoo necklace as far as I am concerned. Tell me about your website.

JP: Myrna created and designed my website: johnpickettactor.com. My demo reel is based on movies I have done and class work that was taped. My goal is to have the demo reel contain only work I have done and delete the class scenes. I like the class scenes but they are soley a learning experience and not representative of film work.

PSW: How do you get into character?

JP: When I receive a script for an audition or role, I read through it first and learn the lines. After that I work on the character depending on the action in the script or a backstory I develope for the character.

PSW: Where do you see your career going in the future?

JP: My goal is to be a working actor. To continue learning the craft. I really don’t have a desire to be famous. I leave that for the current “reality stars” on the “unscripted/scripted” shows. I remember a time where there was more creativity in television. Now, you just point a camera and people act stupid.

PSW: What are you thankful for?

JP: I am thankful for everyone who has been in my life and helped me along the way. My family, Myrna and Daniel, Rachael, Stacey, Stephanie, Bernadette and Brandye from Dallas and all the drinking buddies from Ben’s Halfyard House. Pedro Martinez, Andrew Levy, Walt Collins and Mike Crossan who allowed me to continue working for the company from Austin here in New York. All my acting coaches and classmates over the years and being allowed to fail in order to achieve. And I can’t forget Ester and Jorge.

PSW: What is a typical acting day like?

JP: On a typical acting day I try to be the most prepared I can be. Have a good idea of the character, know the lines but be willing to change depending on direction. I also try to get to the set early. I have always done that even when playing music. For me, getting to a set or gig early helps me put the trip behind and relax and concentrate on the job at hand. When I was playing music I would get to a venue about two (2) hours early to make sure everything is set up correctly and make it easier on my bandmates.

PSW: Will you be doing music gigs in New York?

JP: I don’t know if I will continue playing music in New York at this time. Mainly because I sold all my equipment prior to moving. It takes time to re-aquire equipment that was obtained over the years. Maybe I will but on a smaller scale.

PSW: Thank you again John. And the best of luck in all your endevors. As a native New Yorker I feel it is my duty to take you on a little sight seeing.

At this point we loaded our selves in the car and started sightseeing. I took him on a mini tour of Long Island City and Astoria.

JP: I enjoyed the personal tour of Long Island City, Astoria Park, Roosevelt Island. It gave me a prospective of New York I may not have seen otherwise and a different view of Manhattan. Thank you very much.

After spending some time with John I realized he is a very laid back guy. It doesn’t seem too much bothers him. However, I am deeply impressed by his leaving all he knew with a leap of faith, courage and belief in his path and come to New York. Most people don’t have the burning desire to change their lives for the better like John has. He is a role model for anyone who wants to pursue their heart’s desire.

I hope John Pickett is an inspiration to all of of you. It is my sincerest hope that everyone takes the same leap of faith as John did and march forward toward the path of your dreams.

To contact John go to his website: johnpickettactor.com.




John Scuderi – Graphic Artist



Please welcome a fascinating man and his solo graphic business. John Scuderi is a talented graphic artist with uncanny business know-how. With his expertise in the arts and technology he understands and really listens to his clients needs. As a result the end product makes his clients look professional and up scale. Read on and let’s find out how John does his amazing work.

PSW (Purely Simple Words): Welcome John, your website syncromeshdesign.com is eye catching and full of information. I see that your work is geared towards arts, trades and technology. Can you tell me about the type of work you do?

JS (John Scuderi): I have always had a connection to both areas arts and technology I started out as a physics major. But changed to journalism major. I have a journalism degree. It was tough getting a job. One day I looked around the room and realized that there were art materials everywhere. I decided to go to night courses in illustration. Later, as many art students do, I switched teams from illustration to graphic design. I have had the pleasure working for the largest independent distributor of music CDs and I worked as a catalog artist there. I have done websites and CD packages for musicians, some of them top flight, but “under the radar” public-wise. I have worked for a couple of tech companies on Long Island, New York. They were surprised I could speak the language to a certain extent.

PSW: How long have you been doing this on your own?

JS: I started in 2000 on a freelance basis, and worked to learn the business on my own. I would usually have a full or part-time position to supplement the work.

PSW: I see you work very hard. What is this type of graphic design called. Because it is so specific. It is more like film.

JS: Ah, you’re referring the the slide shows on my site. There are so many different divisions in graphic design with separate mentalities. There are some who can spend all day working on logos —not my specialty. Or photos or typography. I am closer to that. There a people who can do informational design they can take a bunch of material, take directional and descriptive information, and make a beautiful, easy-to-understand, map out of it. There are those who work primarily with text, posters, cards, website, package design, and sometimes you can work across many areas and sometimes you can’t and you have to hire a specialist. I’ll tell a client that I will not be top flight in this area or that —that’s responsible. In many designs there is an observational hierarchy, there will be things you’ll notice in one, two, three order. That’s programatic, almost like film. In film you are showing these things in sequence; in graphics it’s all at once. It’s all sandwiched together. For example if you have a poster — let’s say it’s a circus poster — you have to cram a lot of information there. It escapes a lot of peoples attention but you are answering the basic questions of who, what, where, when and why. And much of graphic design is about making decisions. Like how can I bring the viewer in hold them and get them to read everything and get the full experience of this piece of communication.

PSW: Tell me more about the slide shows.

JS: It serves an internet purpose. In this case, by having these pictures in the same location, as a slide show, you are saving screen real estate. You can only assume the viewer will initially take in just so much of a view and, if you don’t grab them right there, you are going to lose them. There’s a lot of laziness among viewers so they are not going scroll through. They get a first impression and that’s your chance. The advertising line you mentioned is just an distillation of what I do. Together with a client, I strive for  the best that a client can look and it’s shaped to meet with what the customer expects. It’s no different from “putting your best foot forward.” That’s about it.

PSW: Do you specialize with just one group, such as musicians, or do you work with everyone.

JS: I work with everyone, as much as I can. There are disciplines that are beyond me, and I will let the person know right away or if its something like logos that I am not good at. I let them know that you  may not get the best logo in the world but you will get a good logo. It depends on the budget. If you want a professional logo from professionals, I think they’ll charge something like $1,000 and up.

PSW: So you look to satisfy what ever the client  needs and that is how you put something together.

JS: Yes I have yet to work with art directors of large companies, with people who actually know the art communication business. And there is a difficulty there to secure work from a professional; it’s more demanding and competitive. I am in the growing the stages and I work with people who don’t have a marketing manager don’t have an art director; they might be a small business, a one-person business, or they might be a slightly larger small business with 4-5 people employed and they don’t know how to navigate the job, so it becomes key to the assignment that you be a good communicator — unless you have some sort of charisma and bowl them over or you have a reputation, and instantly impress them that you must know what you are doing.

There are always questions, because people are bombarded with information about design impressions and hearsay. People don’t know the process because they are not design knowledgeable, and don’t process or catalog it. They don’t perceive the strategy, style or cultural elements the way a graphic designer would. I can give you an example. I was helping a proficient talented jazz guitarist who likes to do things himself and he needed help setting up technically a brochure. He also did a CD cover, and wanted to show off his work. He said “take a took at this CD cover I designed.” So I looked at it and it had this Gothic typeface similar to the New York Times masthead. Looks old and fancy almost in a religious way. And I was shocked because anyone who has been to a record store or observed the general use of that typeface knows that it’s used for heavy metal music, almost symbolically. They all use that kind of typeface because it has that Gothic/Fraktur look, serious look, and it’s become a tradition. Now here is a jazz guitarist who probably wanted nothing to do with rock and roll, and here he was offering up this. So there’s different considerations that have to be taken in graphic design that the average person really is not totally conscious of. Graphic designers are constantly concocting mixes physical, psychological and cultural and they are using the ingredients of shape, color and size and looking to get a desired reaction from a viewer.

To review those things: physical, it’s like in physics the effect of color light shapes size optics, and the psychological is how you are impressed by something even though it doesn’t make sense —how it effects the mind. For example, you can have an issue when adjusting type. You can have letters of the alphabet equally set, measured by the physical width of the letter, and it doesn’t work. Why doesn’t it work? Because the letters have different optics so you can have a V and A next to each other and they will look too far apart. There are typeset single words in which it looks as though they could be seen as several separate words. It’s because they didn’t do a good job on the typography, so that’s optics. There’s the psychological, black has a number of effects on us — yellow also. Then there is culture, as I just mentioned of in the case of Gothic type being used for heavy metal. If you don’t know the style and culture, then your message is going to be hidden, corrupted, or made ridiculous.

PSW: You are right I never noticed that.

JS: And sometimes we have to do research for the jobs. We don’t necessarily know the client’s world. Sometimes the job seems as simple as being a personal buyer or shopper. I will take this type from here and this picture from there put it all together. Sometimes its a journey of discovery; you don’t know what the end piece will be. You try different things. It’s a volatile changeable mix. You massage it together until it jells and all works together.

PSW: What part of your work do you enjoy the most?

JS: I like problem solving and creating something that starts as a Frankenstein, then takes a life of it’s own. You put type and colors and shape, and put it together. When they have a life of their own and are cooperating, that’s pretty exciting. I like the discovery thing again. To add to this, sometimes you research or begin meditating on a problem. Usually it’s a combination of all those things.

There’s something that is usually hidden or neglected and that’s judgment. People know the term graphic design and sometimes they oversimplify it down to fashion design or pressing buttons. It takes a lot of judgment sometimes; inspiration frequently. There is no clear formula.

There is is cloudy area for the designer as to what the public or audience understands in design. There are different audiences with different levels of savvy. Sometimes you are astonished. You’ve managed a deft sort of embedding of style and information in a piece and they get it! There’s the realization “they’re just as sharp as me.” And then there are times they don’t get it, and you are puzzled. And that leads you to think “I guess I am sort of special, I have this number of inclinations or attitudes.” A graphic designer is different from a non-designer; a designer is a student of visual effects.

PSW: Is there or have there been any other graphic artists that have inspired you or any other special influences that have inspired you in your work?

JS: There was a book that got me started. It was by a graphic design group in England called Hipgnosis. The 1970’s was one of the golden ages of album design. Their work was exciting and their designs had a lot of depth. They moved things ahead from a time when previously package designs for music was “let’s see how cheap we can get away with,”—”just add a touch of emotion to the album theme.” In the previous days, they almost always put a picture of the artist on the cover. If it was a popular artist, and there was a good budget for photography, it would mean styling the photograph and nothing more. It wasn’t thought out or intriguing. If you could the record buyer to recognize the artist, that was all you need do. The album cover just had to be different from previous albums of the same artist, that’s all. Hipgnosis was paramount in changing all that. I should stress, that Hipnosis was far from my only influence. For a designer, however, this was just a great book.

I’ve been thrilled by so many great designers. They come from all places and all walks of life.

PSW: Who did they do album covers for.

JS: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, 10CC, Wings, Peter Gabriel. With the advent of CDs, covers became a bit more difficult because you are going towards iconic — almost like a postage stamp. There is less space to deal with you so you can’t depend too much on detail or lots of elements. It’s a smaller field of view which alone suggests that there’s less to enjoy, less to savor. It changes things.

Now, even though unpackaged digital files are popular for distributing music —mp3s and the like— you still have to identify an album or song with a visual. Visuals still really help to make the idea of the music become more “sticky” — longer held in the person’s mind. Having a visual helps people “place” the music. Most music buyers are not musicians or musicologists. They are a little bit unsure what this music is about it, and it’s really rewarding to them to have a kinship and better connection with the musician. Visual interpretations do that job and more. It’s important. There are thousands of pieces of music a person might buy; a visual helps them form a better bond with a song and pushes the artist’s selection to the top of the priority for buying.

PSW: Do you have any direction of where you are taking your business or is it where you want it?

JS: I want to move towards more conceptual, artistic work for customers than at present. I have customers that have relatively modest budgets. They also have moderate understanding of graphics and do not want to go too far afield from what they understand. So my work is not as artistic or gorgeous as I’d like. But there is plenty that can be done at any budget level. And I do find that clients grow from small jobs to larger, more developed ones.

PSW: If you had a client that had a enormous budget what would you do.

JS: It depends.  There’s a good amount of discipline within the largest flights of fantasy of serving the client, and serving the client’s client. It’s is my job to connect those two people; it is not my job to show off, but to do the best I can within the framework and budget. For a large budget, the level of detail is greater, the level of stylization is greater, the level of strategy is greater. For modest clients, they want style and functionality that works; you are not overdoing it. In many cases, independent of budget, over-fancy, over-design, is a dead end because you want people to retain the information on the website, not be overwhelmed.

I would like to get into the art direction area when doing CD packages and music graphics. The tendency is for artists to take care of their business and not think ahead and think about what the audience needs so they will call you at the last minute and you are not going to work through too many concepts or looks and not take the time to take a photograph. They don’t want the expense of that. That’s fine. I would hope in the future for more collaborative work, not “I have these materials and throw anything there and that’s sort of good enough.”

My job is to have people come to me and have comfort with me. I hope that, little by little, I do better work and they are intrigued to allow more time, intensity, and interest in communication with their audience or fans. I am happy to say I have a few clients in industrial / craftsman area. I have one that sells refrigeration parts and one client who does upholstery for cars. On the surface, they are not glamorous. But the customer I have for upholstery is marketing savvy. I’ve used more types of media with this customer than with any other and he’s total pleasure to work with. When first going in with a client, you don’t know what the range is for the client, and I am very open to having clients dip the toe. I do understand that it’s very scary when they hear graphic design. They see huge figures popping in their head as well as difficult decisions on style. They are a little anxious to start out with. I will take them and try to win their confidence slowly and then have them slowly understand what is going on and what I am really doing. I and happy to do an interview like this because it helps me to dispel the illusions of graphic design.

PSW: You explain it well and do nice work I can see that from your website I think you have not left any stone unturned. You are open to talking to people and working with a client and making them happy. I can tell from the way you speak and the way you explain things so nicely and neatly on your website. I have a question. What is a video Flash?

JS: There’s a multimedia program called Flash, and it’s been around for more than a decade. It has been used for animation and video and it can be programmed. It is still at the top for games. It’s almost UNused on mobile players. It’s processor intensive, using a lot of your computer’s ability. So, it’s slowly falling out of favor on the web. Sometimes you have to tell people the reason you are not seeing this on your smart phone is because it’s in Flash. Apple has refused to accept it. I have some older work in Flash, and it’s fine for desktop computers.

PSW:: I saw it somewhere on your website but I did not know what it was.

JS: What’s popular now is HTML 5 animations, though they don’t have has much facility or ability as flash. That said the audience is largely growing. So we need to consider that audience.

PSW: Is there anything else you would like to add.

JS: It’s been a pleasure being invited to discuss exactly what a web designer does, and the designer’s approach, and I hope other people become more attuned to it. It is really becoming a necessary language for people to learn because there is so much visual selling. We don’t go to the general store and ask for recommendations as much. We are bombarded with information in a visual way, and people getting to learn more of the techniques, and to be more critical and appreciative of what is going on, is good for them, even if they are not selling anything. Again you are doing a service. Whenever you are communicating, visually or verbally, you are doing a service for the audience, viewer, end user; you are making their life easier, empowering them with information, probably entertaining, and hopefully you are delighting them. So I think its a wonderful thing when you combine these items. And graphic design extends from the very basic to things that approach fine art, and should be enjoyed as such. And that’s all I can think of.

PSW: You taught me a lot because I know nothing about graphic design. I can see how you are going to do really well because you know what you are talking about.

JS: People know inherently a lot about graphic design, though they might not be in the habit of verbalizing it. It’s not different from the way we can all enjoy a movie, but we really can’t discuss the acting the way an actor would. That’s not the point of it. The point of it is to enjoy and receive some information from the work. Thank you very much.

PSW: You are welcome. It is my pleasure to share your story with my audience and the rest of the world wide web. Good Luck.

John Scuderi is very approachable and eager to answer any questions you might have about his work. You can contact him via his website synchromeshdesign.com or call by phone: 516-359-5716.

Thoughtful Thursdays #20


There are many kinds of Creativity. Here are just a few. Give your own Creativity a try today.

1. Creativity heals broken minds. Read up on Creative Arts Therapy.
2. Tell a story you need to hear.
3. Paint a picture in your own style.
4. Boil a tasty soup to warm your insides.
5. Sew up some brand new pretty clothes.
6. Crochet a cozy blanket.
7. Take lots of pictures with your camera or cell phone.
8. Write your life story.
9. Learn a musical instrument, even if it’s a recorder. (Remember those?)
10. Some sturdy string and beads will make a simple bracelet or ring.
11. Try a new recipe.

There are countless ways to be creative. Find one thing that makes you happy and do it. You will gain confidence and be proud of yourself. Any creative activity will strengthen your brain and help you improve your problem solving ability. Go ahead, give it a try.

Happy creating.