Baltimore drummer makes comeback

Photo by Mary-Ellen Davis

A young man in deep purple pants sat with one leg over his knee and an empty pasta dish in front of him as he began to list off some of his favorite things.

Kevin Goren, a 22-year-old drummer from Baltimore, Maryland, is a fan of dogs, likes the color teal (“that’s, like, blue-green, right?”), and says his favorite food is Cheez-It’s because they are always consistent.

“I don’t get tired of eating them,” Goren said.

He has hopes to, someday, be able to make a living touring and playing shows for months on end as a drummer in a band. Goren had a taste of that lifestyle when he was a member of the local ska band, Stacked Like Pancakes. The band, which split late last year, both opened and closed doors for Goren who is trying to find the path that will take him where he has longed to be since he was 11.

“Obviously, right now with the situation that happened, there have maybe been a little bit more downs in my life… than ups,” Goren said. “But I’m self-aware of that, and I’m just accepting and moving on and doing everything I can to make the best of what I’m doing right now.”

Goren is currently working with the other ex-members of Stacked Like Pancakes on two new projects while also trying to finish school.

“You have to kind of just want to do it for the love of it, and not expect it to ever go further, honestly,” said Hares Breath Record label and store owner Kat Peach. Her husband, Matt Peach, nodded in agreement.

In the early 2000’s, Kat Peach said that to make it as a musician you had to get the record deal that many only dream about.

“You’d have a band, or a solo act, and you’d do loads of gigs and try to get name recognition and get money,” said Kat Peach. “Then [you’d] record a demo and then send that around to different record labels.”

After that, it was a waiting game to see if a producer saw potential and decided to offer the musician a contract to make a record.

The first of Goren’s new groups is a cover band, which the members will use to keep their skills sharp while they work on getting the other group together and ready to perform.

“We’ll just play small,” Goren said. “The goal with that is we’ll just book small bar gigs and make a little bit of money.”

The group still needs to determine how much each person will get payed compared to what goes into a band fund. Goren learned that documenting everything at the beginning is a good habit to have, since Stacked Like Pancakes crumbled over a contract disagreement.

The contract he received from Stacked Like Pancakes’ band leader before their 2018 fall tour would have required Goren to sign away all of his rights to the LLC.

“The contract said we have zero percent performance rights and that, I guess, is wrong or incorrect because we performed on [the record],” said Goren. “We technically wrote stuff. It really should be equal, what would’ve been a fair deal is we all have equal performance rights, the band leader also has compositional rights, and maybe he gets a little bit bigger piece of the pie.”

Goren’s other band, who’s name has not yet been released, will be performing original music in the hopes it becomes a national act.

“The goal with that is to just, at least my goal, is for us to tour and hope maybe one day make a living, or a good living doing that, touring for four to eight months or for me maybe 12 months out of the year,” Goren mused.

Matt Peach feels that one of the things musicians have to do to get big now is know how to draw consumers to one place in order to make any money off of music that new bands put out.

“You could sign up with an aggregate and they’ll put you on iTunes and Spotify and Amazon and well everywhere,” Matt Peach said. “But what that means is all your money’s spread out which means you basically never get any money. I know that because I’ve done it.”

For Goren, it’s all about interacting with his fans on more than a social media level and building a personal relationship with them.

“I want to go up to the people that came to see us and talk to them and learn more about them,” Goren said emphatically. “It’s like, you clearly know what I’m doing, I want to know what you’re doing and develop more of a friendship thing.”

For him, it’s amazing how many friends he now has out of state. Goren admits that its different from being one of his close friends, but he still makes the effort to reach out to the connections he’s made before, during and after his time touring with Stacked Like Pancakes.

“When you’re on tour mode you just put your friends aside,” Goren said. “Personally, I’m kind of like constantly ‘I’m coming here. Let’s plan things out. I want to spend as much time as I can with you the one day that I’m here’ and whatnot.”

Alec Leventis, 30, played in Stacked Like Pancakes with Goren and feels that networking is essential to success.

“Kevin has such a positively infectious personality that helps him make so many acquaintances and connections that I know he will succeed in whatever he does in the future,” Leventis said.

Yet Goren wasn’t always like this. Despite getting his start in fourth grade, he wasn’t “obsessed” with music until he met Matt Halpern, who was a private freelance drum instructor at the time. Halpern is now the drummer for the metal band Periphery.

“I just clicked with him really well,” Goren said. “What kind of lit the spark for me was seeing him grow from being a local musician and bartending and doing everything he can to get by, to becoming an internationally known drummer.”

Then during his junior year of high school, Goren joined a band that wrote progressive metal music.

“We played a couple of shows and yeah, there was just kind of high school drama and stuff like that that occurred in the band,” he reminisced. “It was just kind of at that time a toxic situation, but everyone grew up, and everyone is doing fine, and I respect all of the people in that. We were just young and silly.”

From there, Goren moved on to become part of Stacked Like Pancakes after meeting the drummer at a gig.

“I didn’t know about stacked like pancakes at the time but as soon as I saw this guy play, I knew I had to be his friend,” Goren remembered. “So, I approached him afterwards and just talked for a while and then we eventually hung out.”

He was eventually phased in to become the permanent drummer for the band, and at first, Leventis wasn’t sold.

“He was a skinny little kid with a mohawk and honestly I didn’t think much about him and was just grateful to have someone play drums for us,” Leventis said.

Over time though, he watched Goren transform into the person he is today and feels he’s a great friend and reliable musician.

“Right now, I know I have the utmost confidence in him as a musician to give a skilled and energetic performance,” said Leventis.

Ana Johns, 22, said that Goren has always been down-to-earth and hardworking. She became good friends with him during their junior year of high school together, and she has been able to watch him become increasingly passionate about his music.

“I actually had a huge crush on him in high school,” Johns said about Goren. “I was trying to be a cool edgy girl and really liked musicians.”

For now, Goren plans to continue pushing forward by picking up gigs where he can and practicing for several hours a day all while watching some of his favorite shows: “Breaking Bad, Stranger Things, Agents of Shield, South Park, Big Mouth.”


A critical analysis of “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” by Iron and Wine

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

“Flightless Bird, American Mouth” by Iron and Wine is a delicate song about losing and finding lost love. This analysis of the piece will demonstrate how the performers use of dynamics, instrumentation and timbre create the sense of loss he so clearly feels, and the fulfillment he has when he thinks he has finally won his love back.

Performed by Sam Beam, the singer and songwriter behind Iron and Wine, the song was released as part of his 2007 album The Shepherd’s Dog. The four-minute piece was also featured in the soundtrack of Twilight, and is one of Iron and Wine’s most recognizable pieces.

The song feels different from most others in the Indie-Pop scene while still maintaining the quiet serenity that many acoustic artists strive for. Beginning somewhere between mezzo piano and mezzo forte, the listener is almost lulled into the piece as if it were a lullaby. In the first verse, Beam primarily uses an acoustic guitar and his vocals to create an airy feel.

The timbre of his voice is soft even as he sings in an upper register, and he uses echoes in the room to make his voice sound more layered than it is. The acoustic strumming is kept simple, with two different lines playing together. Beam also uses a tambourine or other similar instrument to signal the first beat of the measure throughout the verses of the song.Beam’s use of soft dynamics and gentle, clear timbre make the listener feel sad, but hopeful at the same time.

As the song moves into the first chorus, listeners are introduced to another instrument, as well as the beginning of a homophonic vocal layering. Beam begins to layer his own voice over itself on multiple tracks at different pitches to create a thicker sound. Throughout the first chorus, the dynamics also sound relatively similar to those of the first verse.

Towards the end of the section, Beam’s voice tappers off a little bit, only to come back stronger and louder in the second verse. The use of the guitar becomes heavier and more pronounced, as the player becomes increasingly heavy handed while strumming. The listener here is also introduced to the use of the piano in the song. The player simply uses it to pound out a couple chords per bar, but it puts an emphasis on various beats in each measure. The song then returns to the verse, where the instrumental dynamics increase to a solid mezzo- forte but the vocals stay closer to a mezzo-piano. The pronunciation of words in this verse also becomes harder and stronger, emphasizing the things he’s singing about.

About midway through the section, the vocals start to become more homophonic, as Beam layers different vocals timbres over each other while they sing the same parts. This characteristic is carried into both the second chorus and the outro of the song in order to create a less hollow, sad sound and bring out the hopefulness that Beam seems to want to convey. It fills out the auditory space, creating a sense of satisfaction after the climax of the piece.

The song begins to fade out as the vocals loose a defined shape, and the layers start to sing their own sounds. There are no more hard lyrics, and the begin to quiet as the song sets to resolve itself. While the song begins to quiet, it still stays fairly loud at the end until little by little, instruments begin to cut out. Only then does the song go from what is at this point a forte to something softer. It fades out into a slightly metallic sound before cutting out all together.

Ultimately, the slow but constant change in dynamics creates a sense of hope, as the singer feels her is getting closer to what he is looking for. The timbre of Beam’s voice, along with instrumental timbre and layering, create a slow sense of fulfillment as they get louder and more pronounced. These aspects create a feeling of love lost, and listeners can feel as Beam searches for what he is missing.



Listening Guide: “Flightless Bird, American Mouth”

Listen for a gradual increase in dynamics, the entrance of new instruments with each verse and chorus, and the textured layers of the vocals.

  • 0:00 – First Verse
    • All acoustic (vocals and guitar), Slight pause before cutting into chorus
    • The use of echoes creates a layered vocal sound that isn’t actually there
  • 0:39 – Chorus
    • Introduced vocal layers, Increased dynamics
    • Tambourine introduced with hits on the first beat of each measure
  • 1:17 – Second Verse
    • Increased dynamics
    • Piano introduced, heavy guitar strumming
  • 1:52 – Second Chorus
  • 2:30 – Bridge
    • Transition from steady lyrics to various layered vocal sounds
    • Very subtle note changes in some parts that are almost indistinguishable
  • 3:26 – Outro
    • Instrumental dynamics are reduced while vocal dynamics are increased
  • 3:43 – Fade Out
    • All vocals cut out, ends in a complete stop, as sounds are not faded out completely

Gabi takes on graphic design

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Gabi Castillo, a graphic design major at Towson University, works to put together her resume and envelope. (Photo by Mary-Ellen Davis, Towson Student)

Sitting in front of her computer, Towson University sophomore Gabi Castillo plugs away at her project. She is creating a resume for her typography class.

Castillo is working towards becoming a graphic design major, and is currently getting ready to go through the screening process. To read more about Gabi and her graphic design journey, click here.

It’s competition time! Here’s how to prepare.

This is a picture of me warming up with my brother before one of my competitions.

Photo by Shawn Howell; Photo used with permission

If you’re in martial arts for the sport aspect, then I feel it’s safe to assume that down the road you would like to compete. If it means anything to you, I support your decision 100 percent and I wish you the best of luck.

Many schools encourage and even push students to compete. Professor Garen Baghdasarian does his best to help his students get to a place where they feel comfortable competing.

A biology professor from Santa Monica College, Baghdasarian also teaches Shorinji-Ryu, a style of Okinawa karate. He also sends his students to the Zentokukai Annual Karate Gathering  convention in Arizona where they can learn from other karate masters.

Conventions are one way to prepare for competitions, but going isn’t the only thing you can do to get ready.  There are a lot of things that you can do, and that you should know, before heading down the tournament road. A lot of these tips are things I wish someone had told me before I began to compete, and I want to pass them on to you so that later, you won’t have to find out the hard way.

  1. Stay Motivated: While it’s easier said than done, staying motivated will help you stay excited, even during the most grueling parts of the preparation process. Good training partners and masters can be really good at helping you with this part, but if you find yourself struggling you should take some time to figure out what motivates you. Once you know that, the preparation process becomes a lot more tolerable.
  2. Be Wary of Weight Classes: Some forms of martial arts, like BJJ, may require you to group into a weight class if you’re competing. Make sure you plan accordingly, and pick a weight class that you fit well into. This is important because cutting or gaining weight to make it into a bracket can be tricky, and even unhealthy, if you don’t plan ahead of time. There was one time that I decided to compete and signed up for a tournament a week before it happened. I wanted to drop into a lower weight class, so I started cutting weight the day I registered but because I didn’t plan ahead of time, I ended up cutting almost twice the amount that I needed to (almost 10 pounds). Needless to say, I did not perform well so heed my warning and pick carefully.
  3. Practice a lot: Knowing your techniques or forms well is essential to competing. It does not guarantee a win, but as some people like to say, you should be more scared of a person who has practiced one thing a thousand times than the person who has practiced a thousand things one time. This means that you have a much higher chance of success the more you practice.
  4. Take a Day Off: In the 24 hours before you compete, you should take a day off from practicing to give your body a rest. You do not want to be overly sore or tired the day of, so a day of rest will do you good. Doing a little light stretching, taking an ice bath, drinking a lot of water, and eating well on your day off will also benefit you because not only will you not be sore, but you will be well rested and recovered from training so hard.
  5. Don’t Eat Right Before You Compete: The day of, make sure you drink plenty of water but try not to eat a lot before your competition. I usually spring for a small
    A little peanut butter and honey is a good pre-tournament snack. Photo by Mike Mozart; Photo used under Attribution 2.0 Generic

    portion of peanut butter and honey mixed together because it will give you the protein and sugars your body needs, but it won’t make you feel heavy or lethargic.

  6. Get a Good Nights Sleep: The night before, try going to bed early. You will most likely be a little nervous and excited so  giving your body a little extra time to wind down could help prevent you from being up later than you would if you went to bed on time, since it may take a little longer than normal to actually fall asleep.
  7. Warming Up is Important: Always make sure, before you take the stage/mat/etc., that you do a quick warm up. Run through your forms, practice your techniques, and get your body ready to go. The last thing you want to do is go in and get hurt because you didn’t get your body ready beforehand.

I hope these tips are helpful for you. If you want a few more, feel free to reach out to me and I will send you a few extra helpful hints and tricks for competing.  Good luck, and remember every competition is just another chance to learn so if you don’t win, that’s okay. Let that experience teach you something new.

‘If martial arts isn’t a cake walk, how do I stay motivated?’

Photo by Shawn Howell; Used with permission

You’ve finally found that perfect studio and decided which art you want to pursue. You’ve finally started to train. it isn’t easy, is it?

Sure, those MMA fighters on the screen make it look so easy, but now that you’re looking behind the curtain and seeing what it’s all about, you’re probably wondering if you really are cut out for this. The answer is yes, you are. You are cut out for anything you set your mind to, you just need to find the motivation to do it.

Different things keep individuals motivated. Competition may be one way for some people. Photo by Shawn Howell; Used with permission

Motivation is not a “one size fits all” type of thing. For every individual, motivational triggers are different, thus making it clear that there are also different types of motivation. Eva Short describes two types of motivation and four different types of people in her article.

According to Short, an individual can be internally or externally motivated, which creates four classifications of people: the upholder, the obliger, the rebel, and the questioner. With the help of Short’s article and info graphics, I determined that I fell into the “obliger” category.

Being an obliger means that I often times struggle with goals I set for myself, but am motivated by external accountability. Looking back on my training habits, I can definitely see these traits in myself. I have always been more driven after someone sets a goal or bar for me, often by telling me I can’t do something.

Figuring out what type of motivation works best for you is key. If you don’t know how to stay motivated, you won’t want to continue, and when things get hard, you may be more inclined to give up. After you figure out how you are best motivated, you’re going to need some ways to appeal to that type of drive.

Here are a few tips to keep you going even when training wears you down, makes you sore, and tires you out.

Setting short term goals, like achieving the next belt, can be a helpful tactic to stay motivated. Photo by Victoria Howell; Used with permission
  1. Find a training buddy: Yes, I know it’s cliche, but for those of you like me, it makes you feel obligated to go, even if the other person ends up not going with you. If they don’t go, you feel good about yourself for making that stride on your own. If they do go? well, you have you’re own person hype woman (or man). Plus, having a friend there makes classes more fun and a familiar face will make you comfortable.
  2. Set short term goals: Long term goals are great, but they are also kind of deceiving. They make it seem like you have more time to accomplish something than you really do because in martial arts, you have to always be moving forward. A goal I used to set and try to stick by was to learn a new technique, and be able to execute it well withing a week or two.
  3. Compete, compete, compete: Competing doesn’t necessarily mean participating in tournaments, but it can. You can also compete with yourself, your training buddy, and your classmates. Make competing about learning where you stand, and let it help you make those short term goals we talked about. By learning where you stand, you can figure out what you need to improve, creating opportunities to compete with yourself to get better, and create goals that help you get to where you want to be.

These four things kept me going, even though I didn’t always want to. If you need to stay motivated to train, try some of these tips. If they helped me, they may help you, and if they don’t work, ask around. Someone out there can give you some tips on keeping that martial arts drive alive.


Towson University’s art galleries showcase student life

Art major Emma Kehrman takes a break from making vases and ponders the importance of art galleries.  Photo courtesy of Emma Kehrman

Peering over a potter’s wheel at a lump of tan clay sitting on top of it, Emma Kehrman sat sculpting vases for her clay making class and talking about the importance of art and art galleries. A fine arts major at Towson University, the 19-year-old worries that many large art galleries aren’t seeing a lot of turn out.

“A lot of galleries these days, they don’t connect with people,” Kehrman said. “If you can’t connect with art, then it doesn’t seem relevant. If it doesn’t seem relevant to you, you aren’t interested, and you don’t go to look at it.”

However, she does not echo this sentiment when talking about the attendance for the University’s three art galleries which often get high turn out. According to Susan Picinich, Towson’s Dean for the College  of Fine Arts and Communications, the galleries get “thousands of people every year [that] come through the galleries.” Continue reading “Towson University’s art galleries showcase student life”

Stop relying on mace, and learn martial arts instead.

This photo is of a female airman learning to defend herself from sexual assault.

Photo by Presidio of Monterey; Photo used under public domain mark 1.0

Growing up, girls and women are often told to carry mace and walk with our keys between our fingers. And if we get attacked? Scream, gouge the eyes, knee the crotch, and do whatever it takes to get away. Our attackers aren’t playing clean, so we can’t either.

Too often however, these techniques don’t work because maybe we are paralyzed in fear, or simply over powered. Whatever the reason, it is essential to learn how to properly defend ourselves as women. Continue reading “Stop relying on mace, and learn martial arts instead.”