Monday, June 8, 2015

Keeping Performance Fresh, New and Interesting

Yesterday my nieces Isabel and Alexandra Esch gave another wonderful dance recital with the Woodbury Dance Center 

What made their performances so moving and special, besides the fact that the two sisters were featured together in several dance numbers, is that Isabel is graduating and moving on. This was her final recital with this particular group. Their talent and years of hard work and dedication were gracefully displayed in a unique one-off event that will never be repeated. The ephemeral nature of performance arts is that they are passing. Momentary and fleeting, we will try to hold these poignant moments in our memory but they are transient. 

The performances were energetic, touching, expressive, aggressive, athletic, gentle, dramatic, surprising, strong and beautiful. So much feeling and care put into each and every number. The choreography was entertaining, the solos sensitive, the costumes fun, the music selection amazing. Wow! The show was awesome! The best one ever! I couldn't help but appreciate that the arts are alive and well in Woodbury!

The dancers, ending a long journey before starting a new one, also took time to honor deep friendships made, lessons learned, the commitment of their inspiring instructors and generous parents. But how do these gutsy girls remember all those steps? It seemed like they never repeated a single move! There will be more dancing however this exact performance will never be repeated.

"I never want to repeat myself. I can't imagine anything else as 
upsetting as realizing I'm redoing something I did before." Doug Liman

When others are being creative it inspires me to be creative too!  So I am reminded to keep our own performances fresh, new and interesting. Some of the tunes we’ve added to our set list and performed recently include Happy by Pharrell Williams, Lost Stars by Adam Levine, Shake It Off by Taylor Swift and Wagon Wheel by Darius Rucker. Watch for the Paul Esch Trio to bring out the WOW factor this year with new arrangements, originals and guest artists.

Way to go girls! Hope to see you soon. Warm regards, Uncle Paul 
P.S. For our new and upcoming dates go to

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The War of Art

Dear friend, fellow musician, music fan and student:

One of my favorite paragraphs from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is

"Are you a born writer?" Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action. Do it or don't do it...if you don't do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got."

To that end, I've published a sample of an original song on YouTube at

I look forward to seeing our fans at our performances in 2015 with the Paul Esch Trio featuring Tim Sunde on bass and John Hiiva on drums.

For more info, go to

Happy New Year and thanks for taking a look at my creation!

Paul Esch

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Risk taking in performance

Dear friend, fellow musician, music fan and student:

A co-worker and music fan recently made an observation that the best musicians take risks and make themselves vulnerable to the audience and that an audience can tell when an artist is playing it safe.  I concur completely.

There are many ways a musician can take risks in performance, for example,  he or she can get out of his comfort zone to reach for high notes, stretch himself to play different guitar riffs and licks or go for fresh solos. He can arrange new songs, perform original compositions or take an audience member's request to perform a song that is he must remember by ear with the chance of hitting a wrong chord or forgetting a lyric.  By laying out his heart bare he transfers a feeling to the audience who may be quite forgiving if he sings the song imperfectly but with feeling.

Our bass player Tim Sunde delighted us all this summer when he took a request for a couple who was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary at Paradise Landing in Balsam Lake. He selected and spontaneously sang with sincere sweetness and sensitivity, "Can I Have this Dance for the Rest of My Life."  It was an especially appropriate song for the occasion, much appreciated and it certainly didn't matter if he had stumbled over a chord.

A former boss, friend and excellent drummer and musician in his own right, David Tuenge, once gave me a small wall hanging that read, "A good musician plays from the book but a great musician plays from the heart."

I'm sure Dave would agree that a good performance requires lots of talent and preparation. A performer's skill and hard work will be evident but a truly moving performance takes much more than that.  A performer must be willing to take a risk, put himself out there, be vulnerable and inspire us with his passion, love and commitment. I waited until I was 30 years old to take such a risk to start performing. Thank God! Sometimes the greater risk is not taking one at all.

Most importantly, it's not how much you love to perform. It's how much you love the audience!

I really had a great time performing this summer with Tim Sunde on bass, John Hiiva on drums. Playing live acoustic music at restaurants, outdoor patios and bars for you. It is always a highlight of my life. I hope to see you at one of our shows again soon.

For schedule info, go to

Sincerely and warmly, Paul Esch

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pairing Live Music with Outdoor Dining

Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of The Splendid Table, (See once had a guest on to discuss the question of best practices for pairing music and dining.  He suggested these excellent points:

  1. Start out with upbeat familiar tunes that swing and say "This is going to be fun!"
  2. Move to instrumental music and soft sounds that blend with the setting, lighting and the outdoors. 
  3. Send them home with romantic R & B tunes that have them hugging goodbyes, dancing out the front door, and feeling the love and intimacy, e.g., Sam Cooke's "You Send Me"

In our shows on restaurant patios we like to follow a similar plan and mix it up by performing upbeat songs such as Van Morrisson’s swinging Moon Dance, then weave in softer instrumental finger style acoustic guitar so people can talk with each other at their tables and end strong with lots of positive and dance-able love songs. You can see our set list at:

One restaurant had an ongoing poll on it's website. The question they asked:  "What music do you want to hear next time you visit our restaurant?"  The responses were:

Classic Rock - 53%
Top 40 - 17%
Blues - 15%
Hip Hop - 12%
Holiday Tunes - 3%

I always keep this in mind and we play a lot of cover tunes and light acoustic rock that appeals to the age group in the audience.

Hope to see you soon at one of our shows!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Celebrating with the Karenni

Dear friends, family, leaders, students and fans,

I enjoyed playing guitar of mass last Sunday at St. Bernard's Catholic Church in St. Paul, see:, where I met many members of their wonderful and growing Karenni community. To learn more about the people from Burma, see

Our next live acoustic music event is Lakes Tavern and Grill in Woodbury MN on Thursday, July 25th from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm on the patio. For more info, go to: and

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Road trip to perform again at Paradise Landing

Yesterday Tim Sunde and I hit the road to Balsam Lake, joined by John Hiiva, to play on the patio at Paradise Landing for the 4th consecutive season. The gift of playing music with good friends fills my heart and is very satisfying.  I really appreciate the time we have together.  

Tim and I have been performing live music together since about 1994.  He plays a mean 7 string bass guitar.  I brought my Breedlove cut away 6 string acoustic guitar. John adds great percussion, drums and cajon. I've always wanted to have a great percussionist with us. 

I love the music we play.  Our fans give me a lot of motivation and encouragement to continue.  I plan to do just that for a long time!