School of Rock

School of RockIf you closed your eyes and just listened you would think, “Wow, Jimi Hendrix is still alive and well.” The blazing guitar licks sounded dead on. However, the reality is that those guitar licks are coming from a gifted 13 year-old shredder from Southern California. This isn’t 1967 in Golden Gate Park, it’s just another day at Soundwall, the summer rock n’ roll music camp founded 17 years ago in San Ramon, California.

In 1992, Jana Pantazelos, a Danville resident and former music teacher, was looking for a summer music program for her 13 year-old bass-playing son, Nick. She found lots of music camps, but not a single one that was rock-oriented. Private lessons were available, but lacked the well-rounded practicality of what musicians can expect in the real world of rock music.
The next summer Jana launched the first-of-a-kind Rock N’ Roll summer music camp. With the help of music director, Mike Williams, they developed a program that stressed music fundamentals with an emphasis on rock music. Soundwall Music, the first-ever Rock N’ Roll Summer Music Camp, was established in 1993 with 25 students enrolled for a 5-day summer session taking place at Cal High in San Ramon, CA. For the next four summers Soundwall continued to expand and evolve.

In 1996, thanks to continuous media coverage from the likes of CNN, Teen People magazine, local T.V. and newspapers, and due to a growing demand, Soundwall moved to the University of Santa Clara and started its residential (week long) camps. The camp offered two one-week sessions where the students stayed in the college dorms and worked on developing their musical skills in the university music building from 9am – 9pm. Soundwall attracted students from all corners of the globe including France, Spain, Chile, England, Mexico City and Japan as well as just about every state in the US.

In 2000 Soundwall suffered a great loss when its founder, Jana Pantazelos, lost her battle with cancer. Mike Williams took over as camp director and John Xepoleas, SF Bay Area drummer, educator and author, took over as music director. By 2001 Soundwall had outgrown the Santa Clara facility and moved to Santa Cruz. With its breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean, rustic dorms and a state-of-the-art music center, the University of California at Santa Cruz became Soundwall Music’s new home.

The Soundwall Summer Music Camps offer a unique music education program for young rock musicians in an environment not found in private lessons or school music programs. The program offers students a variety of courses to help them hone their craft including: instruction on their instrument of choice; vocal, song-writing and performance workshops; rock music history classes and music theory workshops.

In addition, the students have the opportunity to play a ton of music with other young musicians. On the first day of camp the students are assigned to bands based on their age, skill level and musical taste. The bands spend the week preparing for a Friday night concert for their friends and family in the University concert hall with a full-blown professional sound and light system. Each day the students rehearse with their band under the direction of pro staff members who guide them and offer tips on how to present the best possible performance. Each day the students also learn songs by AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Green Day, Nirvana, Everclear, Sublime, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Metallica and many other of their favorite rock artists. And, if that isn’t enough, the famous Soundwall “Jam Room” is available to students throughout the day to jam with other campers, work on songs they’ve written or put in a little extra rehearsal time with their camp bands.

To facilitate the Soundwall curriculum a talented staff of experienced pro-musicians has been assembled. The majority of the staff members have been with the camp for 10 or more years. They include many of the San Francisco Bay Area’s top musicians, some have which have performed and/or recorded with artists such as: Mars Volta; the Counting Crows; Joe Satriani band; 50 Cent’s band; Pink’s band; Montrose; Britney Spears’ band and many others.

The Soundwall Rock N’ Roll Summer Music Camps have often been copied, but never duplicated. Soundwall Music is a non-profit organization that has spent the last 16 years putting education before profit.

This summer Soundwall Music will hold its 17th session of rock n’ roll summer music camps. They will be held at the University of California in Santa Cruz from July 18 – 23 and July 25 – 30. Enrollment is open to guitarists, bass-players, drummers, keyboard players and vocalists ages 12 – 17. If you are a young rock musician and want to have an experience of a lifetime, go to and sign up.

“I just want to tell you what a wonderful experience this was for Peter. He has had lots of band experience with his own band and his school jazz band, but this camp added a whole new dimension for Peter. He is planning to play with a couple of the kids he met at camp and has a much better attitude about playing with other bands – formally and informally. Between the skills and technique workshops and the band experiences and the exposure to working musicians, etc, etc, he has come away with a much broader scope and a really inspired attitude towards music in his life. We plan to send him again next year. Thank you very much!!”

“I just want to let you know what a fabulous time my son, had at Soundwall. He came home feeling inspired and had nothing but praises for the instruction that he received while there. Friday’s concert was amazing! It far exceeded my expectations. Nate is already talking about returning next year. Again, thanks for giving our son an excellent week of music!”

“We just wanted to say thank you again for Ryan’s WONDERFUL experience at Soundwall. He got so much out of it, met so many nice people (students AND staff), and definitely wants to come back next year. You and the multi-talented staff did an incredible job of working with the kids so that they could perform as a team, and also provided some valuable life lessons. It was truly amazing to see so much talent last Friday, and it was a great experience that we’ll be reliving for a long time to come!”

I Wish I Was a Dog

Our family recently got a puppy. She’s a very cute little Cocker Spaniel/Chihuahua mix. Her name is Ivy. She has a white fur base with maple colored spots. At 16 weeks, she weighs 3.5 lbs and is about the size of a Guinea Pig. Truth be told, she may very well be a Guinea Pig, but for the sake of my kids and this article let’s assume she is a dog: A carnivorous domesticated mammal, also known as a canine, a pooch, a hound, or mutt.

Ivy’s charming disposition has blended well with our other dog (Trudy) and our two cats (Annie and Smokey). My daughters love her and even my wife and I have grown attached to the adorable little fur ball. Ivy spends her days barking at dust, wind, undetectable sounds or the subtle shift of the earth’s axis. She eats everything she encounters (i.e.; dried animal poop, dead birds and discarded bathroom tissues, in addition to the gross stuff).

The little Pit Bull wannabe loves chasing and tormenting the aforementioned household animal inhabitants, in addition to pooping/peeing wherever she pleases and sleeping approximately 20 hours a day. That is the life. The closest resemblance to a dog’s life that we humans can relate to is probably that of a rock star. I bet John Meyer, Beyonce, Bono, Eminem and Lady Gaga spend their days much like Ivy, when they’re not in the studio or on the road touring. Next time someone bumps into Blackhawk resident and Motley Crue front man, Vince Neil, ask him how he spends his down time. I bet it’s similar to that of a dog and if it is, I wish I was a dog (or a rock star).

After months and months of tenacious/relentless/crazed persistence, my two daughters finally wore us down (we caved in). Technically, when we made the promise to them that at some point in their young lives we would get them a puppy, we were secretly hoping that their other interests and activities, such as sports, school, friends, fashion, music, theater, scouting, boys, money, television and the lifelong study and practice of origami would keep them distracted until we were ready to ship them off to college.

Alas, the desire to have a furry barking machine proved to be stronger than we anticipated and we finally acquiesced to their non-stop begging, pleading and cries of lonely desperation. When I live my next life, as a dog, I’m hopeful that my highly developed hearing will completely block out the excruciating whine of a “tween” girl begging for an iPhone, Facebook account, boy friend, extended text time or worst of all, a puppy.

Searching the local area animal shelters in hopes of finding a dog is actually quite enjoyable. We found our first dog, a terrier mix, at the SPCA in Dublin. The SPCA has a beautiful facility, qualified staff, educational classes and a very nice collection of mature adult dogs. Our area also supports other organizations such as ARF and East Bay Animal Shelter. Adopted dogs are wonderful in large part due to their appreciative attitude being given a second chance at life. I suppose knowing that if you aren’t adopted you may be chasing Frisbees in Heaven makes rescue dogs inherently grateful.

As terrific as above-referenced local agencies are, when searching for a puppy, we elected to work with the folks at the Tri-Valley Animal Rescue. Our friend, Nikki Steffens, whose family fosters dogs for the TVAR, was very helpful throughout the process. She worked with us to define what type of puppy would be best for our family, given the petting zoo atmosphere we are nurturing in our suburban home. Did I mention we’ve also had hamsters, rats and fish? I’m currently looking for an anaconda, a giraffe and a Ligor (a lion bred with a tiger) to qualify as Dr. Doolittle of Danville.

Once we finally identified the most appropriate dog for our family, that being a curious, rambunctious, bright, loving dwarf dog with attitude, Ivy seemed to find us. Pleasanton’s weekly Farmer’s Market often hosts animal adoption days so that’s where we headed and that’s where we found Ivy.

If I was a dog, I would like to be a German Shepherd. Not because I’m of German decent. If human heritage was the determining factor in breed, I would be an Irish Setter/English Bulldog half-blood. German Shepherd’s are, by nature, protective, strong, brave and intelligent. All of those qualities are admirable if you’re describing a dog or human.

Growing up, my family had a pure white German Shepherd named Snowy. I have so many good memories of times spent with that dog. Summer sleep outs in the back yard, 5K runs, getting ready for the start of football season and long talks about politics, religion and girls. Snowy was deep. Snowy assessed everything he came into contact with as Friend, Foe or Food. It’s simplistic, but not a bad way to go about making impressions and assessments.

In Doggyland, I could scratch myself, lick myself, pee and poop wherever I wanted, drink from the gutter, pool or toilet, sniff human crotches, sniff my friend’s behinds (it’s like shaking hands), bark, howl or growl until my throat hurt and sleep, sleep, sleep. Did I also mention that dogs don’t get married? That’s right, they “hook-up.” I don’t judge them. In fact, I appreciate their animalistic approach to relationships. They take care of their primal instinct/physical urges and yet don’t feel the need to comply with the institution of marriage.

That’s not to say that if I were a dog I would forgo my fatherly duties. I would undoubtedly want to be there for the delivery of my litter and would stick around to help raise my pups, but that whole marriage thing just isn’t part of dog life. In this fantasy world, I would have a neighborhood full of female “dog friends with privileges.” That is until my owners took the responsible action of having me neutered. Oh, the shame. Come to think of it, once that happened, I might settle down with a nice Collie.

History is filled with famous dogs in every form of art, athletics and literature. The painting of dogs playing poker is a masterpiece. While dog fighting makes me sick, dog racing has been around since early Egyptian times. Racing the incredibly fast and agile Greyhounds is immensely popular while watching dachshunds (aka wiener dogs) is just delightfully amusing.
Dog actors, such as Lassie, Old Yeller, Rin Tin Tin, Toto, Benji, Air Bud and the Shaggy D.A. haven’t won any Academy Award (yet), but they have made significant contributions to some wonderful movies. There have been dogs on television going back 50 years, starting with Pete, Spanky’s Pit Bull on the Little Rascals, Tiger, a sheep dog who lived with the Brady Bunch, Buck, also a sheep dog who housed with the Bundy’s on Married with Children and finally Eddie, the cute little Jack Russell terrier on Frasier.

Many of us can all recall commercial pitch dogs like Loren Green’s dog, Duke, chasing sticks for Alpo as well as The Taco Bell Chihuahua and Budweiser’s Spuds Mackenzie. There are also the always entertaining comic strip and cartoon dogs including Marmaduke, Scooby Doo, Under Dog, Lady and the Tramp, Clifford – The big red dog, Bolt and, of course, Snoopy.

Finally, in literature, who could forget Shiloh, White Fang or Cujo? However, to truly understand dogs, take the time to read the beautifully crafted book, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. The story is told in the words/thoughts of Enzo, a Golden Retriever. If you ever wondered what a dog was thinking, this book provides you with an enlightening notion.

I’m not saying everything about a dog’s life is ideal. Dogs can’t get a job, pay bills, drive carpool, follow politics, look for a job, invest in a 401K, Tweet on Twitter, shop, mow the lawn or dance. Who am I kidding? I don’t even like to do any of those things. Dogs don’t need materialistic possessions or stressful responsibilities. A dog’s life is awfully darn appealing right now, especially given today’s economy.

As I do believe there is a possibility of reincarnation, maybe I will be a dog in my next life. Fifty or seventy-five years from now I might be a German Shepherd guide dog, who greets people at the library or grocery store with my sight impaired human partner. My name will be Thor or Rock and I’ll shake my tail and extend my paw because life is good.

What Triggers Emotional Eating?

Emotional EatingEmotional eating is a yearning for something that reaches far beyond nutritional fuel. Stress often triggers us to indulge in emotional eating. When we are emotionally hungry we may be starving for love and understanding; we may be yearning for respect, acceptance, or a sense of belonging. Transitions during the day are common stressful times when many of us become vulnerable to emotional eating.
Repeatedly, I hear from my weight loss clients that the in-between times throughout their days—the times when they’re shifting from one activity to another—are challenging and often lead to emotional eating and compulsive snacking.
For example, the transition time of:

  • Driving from one destination to another
  • Shifting from one project to another (at work or at home)
  • Coming home from work (shifting from work activities to home activities)
  • Getting ready for bedtime (shifting from evening activities to sleep)

Emotional eating is “using” food in an attempt to mood-alter or push down painful and uncomfortable feelings. In this mode, feelings may be viewed as enemies that need to be avoided. While indulging in emotional eating, we may succeed in avoiding some feelings, but after overeating, we often have a new set of feelings to deal with…guilt, shame, and in some cases, self-loathing.

Unfortunately, attempting to push down our uncomfortable feelings by consuming large amounts of food is routine behavior in America today. Unhealthy emotional eating habits—in combination with cravings for the wrong foods and a lack of exercise—has become the national recipe for staying stuck and adding inches and pounds each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 60% of American adults are overweight. We are bombarded by messages from various health care experts today—messages that repeatedly warn us that being overweight can be hazardous to our health and well-being.

My weight-loss work with clients who emotionally overeat includes exploring what feelings lie below the surface of the unwanted behavior. Once the hidden underlying layers are identified, then unconscious emotional eating can be addressed. Subsequently, people learn how to use tools that encourage them to deal directly with their emotions and the stresses in their lives.

In my private practice, before I teach clients tools and strategies for breaking unwanted overeating habits, we often investigate under the topsoil. For instance, if a client is deriving a benefit or a secondary gain from indulging in emotional eating or from being overweight—then there may be a protective part in the client that will unconsciously rebel against changing. For this reason, one of my early questions to anyone wanting to break an unhealthy habit is offered to investigate whether there is any hidden benefit resulting from the habit. If there is a benefit or a secondary gain, then that’s where we focus our initial attention.

For example, a few years ago a middle-aged woman named Katie came to see me in my private practice. Katie’s doctor referred her to me. For health purposes, her doctor encouraged her to lose weight. During our first session, Katie explained to me that she’d been struggling with unhealthy habits of emotional eating, and subsequent weight gain ever since her divorce fifteen years ago. I learned that Katie had experienced a major (and stressful) “life transition.”

Katie explained, with tears streaming, that her husband asked for a divorce after he began an affair with a woman twenty years his junior. Katie felt devastated that her 27-year marriage was over. And, Katie’s ex-husband was never willing to seek couples counseling with her. In fact, he was already engaged to marry the younger woman when he told Katie that he wanted a divorce.

Katie identified her secondary gain for being overweight within her first couple of sessions. Katie hesitantly admitted that she used her weight as an excuse for the fact that she hadn’t had a date since her husband left. She shared that she isolated herself a lot after work and that food was a comfort to her. As we explored this further, it became clear that since the disintegration of her marriage, Katie lost her ability to trust a man with her heart. She turned to food for comfort and pleasure. She also realized that she “used food” to push down her anger, her sadness, and her overwhelming loneliness.

So, before we worked on weight loss, Katie and I focused on the unresolved grief that she harbored stemming from her marriage ending. After Katie moved through various stages of her unfinished grieving process, we addressed her negative core beliefs about feeling unattractive, “too old,” and unlovable. Through several empowering tools that I offered her, Katie compassionately addressed her negative core beliefs. To her surprise, she discovered that her negative core beliefs originally developed in childhood. This discovery led her to stop blaming her ex-husband for being “the creator” of her poor self-image…and she stopped feeling like a victim. Through her courageous explorations, Katie gained a much greater understanding of herself.

Next, we focused our work on uncovering the positive core beliefs that were buried under Katie’s negative core beliefs. Together, Katie and I went on a treasure hunt and “mined for gold.” And, I’m happy to say—she struck gold! Her inner gold, that is. Katie was thrilled with her new tools, insights, and personal growth. As a result of all her hard work, Katie felt strengthened at the core of her being.

When Katie began accepting invitations to parties and social activities, she was no longer focused on her feelings of being unattractive, “too old,” or unlovable. Katie was delighted to find that she now had enough internal peace, self-acceptance, and confidence—to focus on the people around her. Meanwhile, her self-conscious inward focus shifted outwardly allowing her to be interested and curious about others.

After her life became more balanced, food was no longer Katie’s only comfort or pleasure. Consequently, Katie’s weight began to drop, and her zest for life (including exercising) picked up dramatically. Within five months she was no longer emotionally eating in an attempt to push down her unmanageable feelings. Katie not only reached her weight loss goals, she moved forward into a life…that included dating again!

Finally, I’m happy to report that I have numerous clients, in addition to Katie, who no longer live to eat, but are now eating to live…healthier and happier lives. That’s why it is vital to explore under the topsoil of emotional eating, to discover what is triggering the unhealthy habit…and create a nourishing transformation.