20 May Rockin’ Grandma Lynda Kraar Shares Six Ways to Get Out of a Musical Rut
Interview by Rew Starr; Edited by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
One possible silver lining to the last two years is the surge in creativity. Many of us learned new skills, played new instruments, and made new Zoom friends we otherwise wouldn’t have met. Yet it’s hard not to feel the latent effects of stress that’s embedded itself into our collective psyche.
#1: Move to where your “people” are
#2: Don’t be afraid of branching out
#3: Embrace the challenge of doing unexpected musical projects
#4: Invest in Continued Education
#5 Travel far and wide with music
I’ve played everywhere from Russia to Poland to Israel to St Maarten to all over North America and even on the high seas. One big adventure was when I had a hospital gig in central Israel where I played in the brain surgery ward, where there were Israeli and Palestinian kids and their parents. That was so tough – but when the parents saw the kids were happy, the parents were also happy. That experience made me grateful. I understood that I must not waste the gift of my music. It helped me later in life when I became a music volunteer for Musicians on Call, an organization that coordinates musicians to sing at the bedside in hospitals and other health care facilities.
One of my other fondest memories is when my late husband, Marty Kraar, insisted that I go to Djangofest in Samois Sur Seine (France). He bought me the ticket, and, in the summer of 2010, just a few months before he passed away, I went off to France.
Yes, I cried the whole time in the plane. But when I got to the airport, I met up with the guys who had convinced me to come – Alain LeGrand from Dundee (Scotland) and his Hot Club. They drove me to the campground, an hour north of Paris, and brought me to my host, Menno van der Reijden, one of the most beloved and well-known unofficial “fathers” of Djangofest. From that moment on, the guitars came out and the jams were literally all night long. Hundreds of people from all over Europe and beyond, the Reinhardt family members, the Manouche and Sinti Gypsies who drove over in their caravans and were so warm and friendly. Everyone and their kids were excellent musicians.
Most of the Gypsies I befriended were children of Holocaust survivors. Some brought along their parents who had numbers tattooed on their arm from the camps. Between their German, Dutch, Romani, and French and my Yiddish, we made out amazingly well, sharing so many stories and songs. We’ve all stayed friends and have even visited each other. It was magical. I would love to go back!
#6: Go back to the experiences that brought you joy
[My husband] Jaime is working in the studio on some new material that sounds KILLER! And in our band project, we are actually making ‘old’ music. We have revived the Palisades All-Stars in Toronto (our band from New York) and we are sticking to a song list that only goes up to 1978. We share the vocals, and I am mostly playing my seafoam green Jimmy Vivino Custom Shop Fender Esquire with the Bigsby arm. These are the songs that resonate with our audiences, young and old. And we love playing them. So it’s a win/win. And there’s this: I’ve started playing music for the grandbabies, which is a real joy, to be in a place where you can see the full circle coming around.
Rew Starr is an actor, musician, and mother who lives in New York City.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.