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Personal

How do I briefly write a clever, riveting, and perky entry on my fifty-eight years (and counting) into a sub-headed tab called, “PERSONAL” on a Website?   I'm not sure but I am certainly going to give it my best shot here.  

 

 Check out the two original CD's under FOR CHILDREN on the website menu. Check out track 6 

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The only photo I have ever seen of my (biological) parents together, taken at their wedding. My maternal great-grandmother is on the far left and my grandmother on left
closer to the wedding couple.
When I was born computers were not in use in any homes. A website was something a spider spun in the doorway of our little cottage on the shore of Bantam Lake. Now, my beloved pencils and much more beloved books are in jeopardy of becoming obsolete. All hail the techno-age. Of course, what has not changed and never will, is content. And values. Whatever forms their packaging takes, the quality of our lives and how we choose to express ourselves remains as unique as our fingerprints.

 

 I could easily fill up a large book’s worth of pages in this “personal” section about my unique family constellation. I won’t. (Check out Track 10, I SING TO ME, on NOISY JOY TO THE BONEHOUSE BLUES, for my take on how to deal with the difficulties of life through music).  

 

Conceived on their honeymoon, my parents were no longer a couple by the time I was born. They divorced before I was two years old. (Check out TRACK 3, GONE MISSING, on NOISY JOY TO THE BONEHOUSE BLUES for my process of this experience.

 

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My Mother
I lived with my mother; we lived with and I was virtually raised by my maternal grandparents – Hungarian peasants: my grandmother pickled cabbage into myriad jars of sauerkraut that were stored in large glass jars in the earthen-floored cellar of their house in Brooklyn. My grandfather could no longer find viable a career as a horse smuggler; not in Brooklyn anyway…so he owned and ran one of the first garages servicing cars. He ate more sauerkraut than anyone in the world. It worked for him. He was still driving a car at ninety-two!  

 

 

When she was well into her eighth decade, my grandmother (who loved to sing in a sweet, high little voice) confided to me that she always wished to be a musical conductor. Can you imagine?! This barely literate, totally dependent, perpetually aproned, goulash and paprikas-cooking woman, born with a dishtowel in her hand, had such a dream…I will never forget the moment she shared this. Part of her is in the song that is Track 4, THAT’S WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT, on NOISY JOY TO THE BONEHOUSE BLUES.  

  

Me and my closest cousin, Rhea
Me and my closest cousin, Rhea
I was encouraged to sing from such an early age I remember coming home from preschool (at Kineret, on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn) to sing for my great-grandmother! My artistic inclinations were encouraged, appreciated, and rewarded in all “camps” of the post-divorce battlefield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was this Bubbe of mine who encouraged my mother’s considerable musical and artistic talents. My grandfather refused to buy her a piano. She practiced on a cardboard keyboard until my grandmother had squirreled away enough of the weekly food allowance to buy her a real one. My mother is a talented pianist, now cellist, and was a terrific singer. She could draw and paint and do lots of creative things: she made me a dress out of a bedspread one day…but that’s another story! She didn’t pursue the arts professionally. It took the next generation to do that: me. 

 

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My Mother and Maternal Grandmother
And, it took her good judgment to send me to the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School (in Greenwich Village), where they nurtured creativity and passion and individuality  (as they do to this day).

 

 

 

 See the “Other Media” tab on the Menu of this website for FIVE DIMENSIONAL PAINTED WORD THINGS – my unique hand-painted pieces with words and the write-up of how they came about are on display there.

  

 

 

On my father’s side of the family I got my Jewish cultural identity. My maternal grandparents went to an Orthodox shul that didn’t engage me – except when it came time for the music or for studying the baroque surroundings from the balcony where I sat with all the other girls and women. I learned all the Yiddish-isms I know and use from my father’s side. I also developed a sense of family there as most of the other side was fragmented early on. All of my father’s siblings and their children were close.

 

 

 

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The extended Dlugacz clan (Ben and I are in the center, directly above Miriam, the bride)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   (Check out Track 15, LET’S TELL A STORY – MEDLEY, on NOISY JOY TO THE BONEHOUSE BLUES for some of the rousing spirit of this aspect of my musical life).

  This side of the family appreciated and supported the arts. Although everyone in my generation was given all kinds of lessons on various instruments, and encouraged to dance and sculpt, most of the ten of us were intellectuals and went on to higher education to become professionals as lawyers, Ph.D.’s in psychology, and professors in history, etc. I have the least formal education of the group. I started working when I was fifteen years old. I put myself through school by performing.

 

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Me with my "Daddy", Frank Havas. This was not long before he died an untimely death at the age of 52. He was a very decent and good man.

 

 When I was two, my father remarried. There was an ugly court battle for custody of me – the repercussions are still resounding – my father lost. He was awarded visitation rights and that afforded me the time for relationships with cousins whom I cherish to this day. When I was five my father and stepmother had a son. When I was ten, a daughter.

 

 

 

 

My mother remarried when I was three. She taught me to call this man, my stepfather, “Daddy”. Upon her instruction, I called my father by his first name. I remained in my grandparents care until my mother was pregnant with my half-sister, Eva. I was nine when she was born. We lived together – while I visited my father’s side every weekend – until I moved out of the house for good at eighteen.
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Me and my sister Eva
                               

 

 

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Me and Harry Max

I moved in with my former high school music teacher, Harry Max. We lived together for two years and married when I turned twenty. He is a brilliant musician, composer, and arranger. We had 25 years of marriage; we were happy together for quite a while. I grew up during the course of our marriage. We were especially delighted upon the birth of our son, Benjamin Franklin Max. He was and continues to be the best example of my finest hours of creative endeavor. Unfortunately, due to a number of variables, Harry Max and I grew apart. We lost it for a while but we have resumed a fondness for one another that continues to this day. I am joyful that he is playing bass on four of the tracks on my album (which he insisted upon gifting to me), and one of the songs he wrote for me is recorded here (Originally entitled, “Sari’s Song”). 

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Me and Ben, Mother's Day 2011

 

 

 

(Check out Track 6, UNDREAMABLE, for the song for which he wrote the music, and 1,2,3, and 13, for those on which he plays bass on NOISY JOY TO THE BONEHOUSE BLUES).

 

 

  Just prior to our divorce, with a career that had blossomed and grown in the greater New York area, I moved with Ben to Bantam Lake, in Connecticut.  

(Check out the two original CD’s under “FOR CHILDREN” on the website menu).

Although I continued to perform, I accelerated my “retirement plan” to design, develop, and implement multimedia workshops. I called them, “Music & Movement & More with Sari Max. There is a section on my website which describes them further. In a very short while I was running this new business and weaning away from the performances I had been doing at a rate of three hundred plus per year.

 

I also began running semi-private and private music workshops for piano, voice, songwriting, and a camp called, “Bits & Bites of Broadway”.

After my divorce, I had two brief unsuccessful relationships and finally developed an indescribably romantic and deep love with a man I had known since the age of thirteen as a friend, confident, and extended family member (along with many others at the summer compound on Bantam Lake called, “Westover”), Harry (Kranner) Fiss.

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Me, at 13, when I met Harry (Kranner) Fiss.

 (Check out Track 7, NOISY JOY; Track 5, THE BONEHOUSE BLUES; Track 19, REMEMBER HIS SPIRIT on NOISY JOY TO THE BONEHOUSE BLUES).

Harry’s wife passed away after a long battle with a devastating illness. We found ourselves single at the same time, for the first time. We gravitated towards spending more and more time together. Ultimately, we agreed that we were destined to be together as husband and wife. We had an all too short but intensely loving and multifaceted marriage before he passed away May 2nd, 2009. I am still married to him…he simply doesn’t have a body any longer. Sigh. During the course of our marriage, (especially during the times of his illnesses) I worked very little and then, not at all, as a performer and workshop leader/teacher. I chose to be with him as much as possible. A choice I will never regret. I have more love letters and cards from him – and dedications in books, too, than I can count, which I read from time to time and are in his precious hand. They comfort, buoy, and inspire me.    

 
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Our Wedding, November 23, 2002
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Harry and Me

 (Check out Track 12, A PATH TO LOVE, on NOISY JOY TO THE BONEHOUSE BLUES. This song was informed by our great love and my desire to pass its timeless “lessons” on to the bride and groom for whom it was written).

Now, I am reclaiming my creative life. I am reentering the world of music and art and performance. I come to it from a very different place in my life, with all the new experiences I have had during this hiatus.

I have completed a recording of my original music – some written with great collaborators, most on my own – which has necessitated the creation of a website. NOISY JOY TO THE BONEHOUSE BLUES is the title of the album and the title of the autobiographical performance piece I am working on (with the great director, choreographer, dancer, activist, equestrian Paula Josa-Jones). The recording has provoked quite a few unsolicited comments. They are all quite positive - which makes me so happy! And, the interesting thing to me is that most of them state that I should perform a theatrical version of the music on the album. That delights me as it means I’ve set the right course (with Paula Josa-Jones as a guide)!  

Most of the songs on the recording are connected to various projects which are on the menu or subsections of the menu, on the website. Thanks to Jon Truelson at trumedia.com for his extraordinary efforts, experience, and skills which make my website an accessible, clearly marked journey into all the facets of my career and life.

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The collage with photos from each decade of Harry's life which I prepared for his funeral
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Harry and Ben talking their favorite subject: U.S. History - illustrated by Harry's stamp collection

Along with the resurrection of my artistic career I am working on a documentary on the life and work of my husband, Harry Kranner Fiss, Ph.D. entitled, “REMEMBER HIS SPIRIT”.  This is the same title of a poem (written by Ben Max at Harry’s deathbed the day before he died) that I recite (track 19) on the album, with my original music (track 7, Noisy Joy improvised on piano) as an underscore. The poem was my inspiration for the documentary project.

 If you go to the website menu bar and click on “filmmaking”, you will see the ‘Tribute to Harry Kranner Fiss” I created (with the expert help of Jeff Schlichter). This is not a trailer for the documentary but will give you a flavor of Harry’s life none-the-less. Track 19 is used as the sound with many photos as the visual for this (three minute and forty second) video.

 

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Popcorn, 19,  & Peanut, 20, my soulful buddies - Maine Coons

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 I, Jonesy aka "La-Lu" am a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriver, 4  1/2
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Yes, I am this cute!

Thank you, Dear Reader, for the time you have taken to witness my personal journey.
I hope my music and creative endeavors speak to you in a meaningful way.

 

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