Pittsburgh – Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild

Beautiful Pittsburgh for me! Which for me has a lot to do with the physical beauty that comes from the confluence joining three rivers, and their surrounding hillsides (So much like San Francisco, but much more accessible). Pittsburgh is also beautiful for me because of what I know of the gorgeous and fabulous steel and glass industry, that built America. Iron was smelted in huge blast furnaces, that became the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, interstate highways, railroad tracks, and aspects of our country. There are window panes everywhere in the world and America, as well as the glass and steel buildings throughout “downtown”; hence, steelers!
Well, here’s another one for the books! Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild is another sign that Pittsburgh is working to pull itself back from the edge of the brink of disaster, the edge of the black hole! Real true signs of American ingenuity, and guts and determination. How heartbreaking to see deserted, dilapidated broken down steel mills, with miles of empty parking lots, with weeds growing where workers used to park their cars at six in the morning. Heartbreaking to see the quiet lonesome smokestacks of steel mills looking like tall sad soldiers, with amputated arms, quiet and mute. Well… Once again, true to the old American spirit, of resilience and guts, there are new industries in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that have started up, like insurance and health groups, and business machine corporations, that employ a skilled labor force, that’s replaced the old steel worker, glass, and paint manufacturers. And I, for one, have to think, that underlying all of this rebirth and revitalization, is that we are all in this love together and have joint survival attitude amongst corporate management giants, cigars and bankers with board rooms.
So along comes Bill Strickland, and in that same spirit, he’s pulled together lots of resources, including corporate leaders, and grass roots volunteers, who have acquired properties in the old warehouse industrial district, and in fact, constructed new eye-popping facilities, that OF ALL THINGS features music and creative arts! When you walk in the music facility, you’re struck with all the big black & white photos of jazz artists and orchestras: Basie, Grey Brown, Ella, Ellington, and many more. This collection of photos can be in their own room or hall at the Gugenmheim, Paris, the Reichs Musee in Amsterdam. Somebody’s in love! Music and creative arts program for the elderly, poor, and marginalized in the Pittsburg area. They come and spend the day and discover a whole new side of themselves. And that’s hot and progressive! And a push back against all those forces that want to remove music and arts from our grade schools and high schools. Whether the art piece is Van Gogh’s Starry Night, B.B. King’s blues, Swan Lake,  Porgie and Bess – All these things represent the artist’s portrayal of all the human emotions that make us as we are, as human beings. They are the end product of the artists showing the artists own joy, pain, laughter, and putting it into physical form. There is nothing more important than being aware of our own shared joys, laughter, pain, and sorrow. The arts are the workshop of human sensitivities; therefore, so very good that our young people have the opportunity to explore the playing of sadness of sorrow or joy on a violin… aware that those feelings are there, in us all. People with those awarenesses don’t knock little old ladies down and snatch their purses. They don’t carry guns and shoot each other over territory and drugs. They tend to be concerned of the well-being of each other and those around them. They may be real interested in environmental issues: clean air, clean water, and preserving the wild life and foliage, for the future generation of kids they’ll leave behind.
Well, they called the right guy to come and sing for them!  The spirit of the whole opportunity was high energy positive, generous, and giving. The staff that greeted us was laughing and happy. They knew they were onto something good, and enjoyed being a part of it.
We did not let them down at all, and they brought their spirit, generosity, love, and kindness, and open heartedness, and the band was amazing. There were some people who had been to earlier concert dates with me and George Duke, but for the most part, this was a new audience. Many of them were hearing about me and listening to me for the first time – how truly satisfying for me to be making new friends. They enjoyed Turano’s soaring soprano solos, Mark Simmons’s kick drums and cymbals and special solos, Chris’s shared vocals with me, and Larry’s silver flute, and John’s screaming guitar lines. They called for encore, and we called back. With lots of smiles and congratulations back stage, off we went to meet Bill Strickland, and his special staff and guests. HE WAS SO PROUD, and I was proud for him, wishing there had been a chance for the two of us to talk about his dream. This was a real serious multi-million dollar accomplishment. For me, being at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, was an opportunity to return to Pittsburgh, and remind my long time audience that I’m still around, and to also find some new friends and listeners.  Off I go to the next city!
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