Diana Mangano has had an envious career, performing with Jefferson Starship for 10 years and others, as well as her own projects along the way. However, she is unlike most singers and is quite resistant to the limelight…below she talks about her inspiring journey as well as her latest project, The Great American Robber Barons:

TheGreatAmericanRobberBarons

“I love music, but I never intended to become a professional, working musician. I had a fantastic childhood; I lived a very simple life with my large, beautiful family. I grew up in the country, and never went anywhere near cities and chaos. The natural world was and still is what I resonate with and honor. Music was in my life due to my grandparents all having musical talent. My father’s dad started early as a working musician. He began to play guitar and sing at age five and never stopped. He had perfect pitch, played many instruments, didn’t read music, and was a sought out bassist and vocalist during the jazz years in Buffalo, NY. He had me carefully listen to vinyl with him at age four, but I had been hearing music since in the womb. Most musicians can read music, study music history and know all the facts, names, genres, etc…I don’t. I cannot read music notation, and can often go days or weeks without even listening to it.

Due to genetics I suppose, I was born with quite a voice, and from an early age was prompted to use it by everyone around me. Much to every adults shagrin, I was (and still am), rather shy and uninterested in being a “performer”. I loved to sing and love music, but the attention and demands of front and center stage, lead roles, solos, photos, interviews, recordings, videos, all the focus, makes me ill. I am 45 years old now and still feel exactly the same way. Everything I did, dance, gymnastics, singing, acting, just kind of happened for me. I was guided by my parents and teacher’s direction and dedication, and I simply went with the flow.

I never had the desire to be famous, nor the passion and drive to seek out a career in music like so many of my friends did. It is not surprising, that when I began singing with The Jefferson Starship, I asked Paul Kantnor if I could stand and sing way in the back and instead of being out front. I somehow managed to make it through thirteen years of touring the world with them as their lead vocalist and another 10 years or so, recording and performing with other musicians from around the country and San Francisco.

Prairie Prince was pivotal in my life. Not only was he my lovely partner for 15 years, he was my inspirational fellow musician and we collaborated on many projects together. Over the many years, I have experienced and participated in the music world with all its glory, horror, fun and hard work. I have dealt with every type of person one could imagine. I have loved, hated, enjoyed, tolerated, continued and discontinued many working relationships with these people. Growing up, I focused mostly on gymnastics for ten years, and was a natural there too. I loved dance the most, due to the fun factor and the abandon and creativity involved. No one pushed me too hard in any direction with this. I just excelled in gymnastics for some time. Dance and voice were what I could still continue to do after gymnastics had throttled my body. Having a large family and living far away from everything, made it very hard to continue my gymnastics career. It was too much stress for all of us. So, dance and singing then took the lead. In college, I was fortunate to work with some of the best musicians I’ve ever met. Their talents were and still are, far beyond those of most of the famous people I ended up working with. For several reasons, I did not dig in my heels and pursue singing for professional purposes. After college, I was going to enroll in school for Massage Therapy, and almost did, but then my friend Liz invited me to a Jefferson Starship concert and my entire life took a very different direction. I was 25 years old.

To make a long story short, I ended up speaking with the band after a show in New York, and a month later I was on stage singing with them. I never intended that to be the starting point of continuously working with The Jefferson Starship, or their various members. It all happened by chance and in the following months, I half-heartedly offered them my services due to their current lack of a female lead vocalist at the time. My taste in music was quite varied, so I didn’t expect to just end up working only with them. I simply did not want to limit myself to that one genre. I moved to San Francisco and toured with them, but also began to sing with other performers. I went from not doing much in western New York state, to singing on the same stages with some of the extremely famous musicians and groups that I had listened to all of my life. Then I began to travel the world with them.

I then also started to do some studio work for local San Francisco and international bands, but live performing was what I enjoyed the most, after finally getting over the pre-show anxieties I’d always suffered. Prairie Prince and I began a relationship and he was pivotal in my singing career due to his kindness, support, and the endless musical ventures and contacts he’d introduce me to. He helped me explore and execute various singing styles, while we collaborated together with many musicians. All of this happened without me really applying myself too much. I was just going with the flow and having a lot of fun while doing it.

Life happens, you roll with it and you bump into folks for reasons and that’s what happened with Keith Dion and me. We knew similar musicians, and one day, we just started to all create together. Here we are now, due to Keith’s hard work and consistent efforts…and superior attention to the business end of things and all the details. This is what makes him stand out: His kindness, business savvy and talent are all rolled into one. It is quite odd to find that combination in someone, and even more odd to continuously work with someone for years without having any money, ego, or personal problems present themselves. I am blessed. My past experiences with at least 60% of all the other musicians, producers, agents, managers ( “damagers” , to quote Billy Eckstien) etc. I’ve worked with has proved to be less than enjoyable. One manager in particular, disgusted me so much that I left the band after 13 years and never returned. Performing and working with Keith has been a joy and I am very grateful for the opportunity. He and I both understand the ups and more commonly, the downs, of the music industry and so we resonate on that level. This makes our foundation similar and our desire to dodge the bullcrap and get to the good stuff, the ultimate goal. I still have a hard time with the role of being a front person/lead vocalist, so I am enjoying my current collaborations with Keith and other bands today from more of a background vocal role. I have plans to record some of my own creations in the upcoming years too. For now, I am loving life as a childcare provider and Professional Massage Therapist, with a few singing gigs in between.

More on Diana and The Great American Robber Barons

# 1: Diana performing with The Jefferson Airplane at their Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Induction 1996

# 2: The Great American Robber Barons performing on the Bruce Latimer TV Show in Pacifica August 7th, 2013 as shot by Vivian Vosu.

Music Videos

1: Reno Nevada:

Using Keith Dion’s father’s 8mm home movie clips from the 1960’s of the Las Vegas and Reno NV Gambling Strips. This is the classic song by Richard and Mimi Farina

2: At The Hands of the Robber Barons:

An expose of the financial criminals that run our world – to be used by the Occupy Wall St. Movement

In the past 15 years internships have gone from a great opportunity to rise above the rest, to a requirement to even be considered for an interview (and then face rejection in favor of someone with more internships.) Although internships as we know them have been around for a while, there has been a clear shift in their purpose and benefit. In fact, people are getting fed up and have begun fighting back against big companies, including Warner Music Group.

According to Forbes, there are the six legal requirements for a position to be considered an internship:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If these guidelines were followed by every company offering internships, there wouldn’t be a problem. But that’s rarely the case in the entertainment industry. Here are ways companies are screwing over their interns…and anyone new to the workforce.

1. Hiring Interns To Do Unpaid Labor

Companies abuse this power in many forms. The most common is setting their interns up to do infinite data entry, which provides little to no value to an eager college student. More than that, though, it causes them to become bored and disengaged (as it would most anybody,) which is exactly the opposite of what these “learning opportunities” should be doing.

Another, less common but still prevalent, abuse is using their interns for various janitorial or maintenance duties. This is more likely to occur when a business’s revenue is primarily earned through entertaining, such as a venue or a restaurant. For a personal anecdote, I interned for a venue and my daily tasks included cleaning the vents, fixing a plant hanger, scheduling Twitter posts, and removing tape from windows.

As I already had a fantastic, engaging internship, I made the decision to leave the venue internship (even though I was very interested in learning their operations. I tried several times and my inquiries were ignored.) and spend more time in a better environment.

2. Intern Requirements Go Beyond School Experience

This one is particularly frustrating, because the whole concept of an internship is to get experience. If a company’s internship requires candidates to have “a proven ability” to do anything, are an “integral part” of the company, or need knowledge of something they wouldn’t learn in school (for instance, Photoshop for a music marketing intern) it’s not an internship. It’s an unpaid job.

3. Internships Are Indefinite

It’s generally accepted that internships should be kept short – about a semester long. Three months is enough time to gain some knowledge and make connections, but more importantly, that’s the standard because internships usually provide school credits. If you’re in school, and in an internship for longer than a semester, it’s likely not worth your time. Unless you are always learning something new, keep it short. If you want more experience, find a new internship.

4. Entry-Level Jobs Have Been Lost

There once was a time when entry-level meant exactly that. Anyone with a knowledge of the industry and a little bit of experience could find a job at a company, which would then train them for the job. Now, however, entry-level requires 2-3+ years of experience, a difficult feat when coming right out of college. To get this experience, students have to know exactly what job they want when they graduate, and then find internships in that field to rack up experience. Not sure what field is best for you, so you tried a few different areas? Good luck finding a job.

For a similar take on internships, which includes a guide to finding the best one for YOU, check out this SlideShare by Julian Weisser, whom I respect very much, of Ideas Then Lemonade.

Story Time

Three weeks ago, I (and a very kind soul) traveled from central Ohio to the Rockies. It was a little over a 20-hour drive, with the largest stretch of the trip going through Kansas. If you don’t know anything about driving through Kansas, it is one of the longest, most monotonous drives known to man. Probably. There is very little in the way of “civilization,” being mostly filled with grain, corn, and other agricultural endeavors.

No hard feelings, Kansas

At one point in the afternoon, we had been driving for about 8 hours, with 5 more to go, and were running low on fuel. Plus I had unfortunately consumed a little too much Cherry Coke Zero…so we decided it was time for a pit stop. There was just one problem with our plan – Kansas hates gas stations.

We got off at an exit that had a beat up, worn out “gas here” sign. After driving half a mile down the road, we found an equally as worn out station with three old-fashioned pumps. Unfortunately, as we pulled up, we discovered a “sorry, we’re closed” sign taped sketchily in the window.

Back on the highway, and a few bypassed exits later, we repeated this same decision, with eerily similar results. The whole thing left me wondering if Kansas had closed early.

Proving the durability of the human spirit (and because we didn’t really have a choice) we traveled on. Eventually finding exit that took us to a veritable oasis in the middle of the Kansas desert, including a gas station complete with working pumps and bathrooms.

Cheesy metaphor time.

There’s little more frustrating in life than making a decision and having it fail. Whether it’s because you can’t see the path ahead (like on a road trip), are given bad information (that stupid gas sign), or just make a poor judgment call (too much Cherry Coke Zero), it’s a very defeating experience. In the music industry, this is a reality for every band, manager, venue, booking agent, engineer, producer…you get the point.

It seems like it should be common sense: no one can see the future, therefore everyone can make mistakes. But it’s something almost everyone struggles with.

Huskies make everything better

Truth-telling time

Since I’m at a time in my (and most people’s) life when I’m diving into the “real” world for the first time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the decisions, opportunities, and denials that come along with it.

So my lesson to myself and everyone in my position: Just say screw it, the world will have to deal with me as I am. Fear can take a back burner.

Disclaimer: This is meant to be a critique of my generation (and my generation’s parents/teachers/mentors) as a whole. I fully believe my parents did a wonderful job of raising me and this in no way reflects their parenting style. That is all.

I was born smack dab in the middle of generation Y, which means I grew up amidst a massive shift in parenting techniques – most significantly, my generation was told we could “be anything we want,” and that we should “follow your dreams,” unlike previous generations who had to go a more traditional route or rebel.

At first glance, there is nothing wrong with our parents’ professions that we can take on the world and that all our loftiest dreams are reachable. It was great motivation, and many of us have grown up with confidence and high aspirations. There is a darker side, however. Because there was so much emphasis on boosting our self-esteem and making us feel like we’re special individuals, it’s resulted in a generation of kids who grew up and are currently being hit in the face with reality. Your parents think you’re special? Sorry, that won’t get you into OR pay for college. You want a job? Here’s an internship. It’ll help you get a job. Maybe. You want to be a musician? Okay, play these bars until you can rustle up a fan base, then you can play these tiny venues for a while, then MAYBE you can get a big enough draw for a mid-size venue. Tour? Good luck with that.

This has lead to a common, rather nasty reaction, which has gotten us the unfortunate nickname, The “Me” Generation. Said reaction comes in the form of the dreaded entitlement, and it has tainted my generation with a stereotype of being selfish, lazy, and too good for minimum wage jobs.

We grew up during the “self-esteem” movement, which means we were told that we’re all beautiful, all special, all have value, and often we weren’t given the ability to link self-esteem with accomplishments or anything of meaning other than just…being alive. Due to this shoddy foundation, there is an excess of young adults who are going into college and the real world believing that they deserve to simply be given what they want. We’re called The Me Generation for a reason.

One of the biggest issues where this crops up is that of the internship. Supposedly the gateway to a career, many college graduates have been let down when their one internship didn’t lead to a high-level position right after they walked across the stage and received their degree. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. With the majority of college students taking on one or more internships, the expected level of knowledge and experience has risen. If you want to get a high-level position, you still have to work your way up – there’s no getting around it. The only other way to start off working your dream job is to try your hand at self-employment, which may sound like a shortcut, but it can be far more stressful than working up through the ranks. Unfortunately, Generation Y often doesn’t think that way, which leads to a lot of unemployed, self-righteous grads living at home.

It may seem like I’m being harsh, but I’m not here to condemn my generation – or our parents. What I am here to say is that we all need to step back and take a look at the way we’ve been raised, knock our egos down a peg, and make sure we raise the next generation to be a balance of self-assured and hardworking.

Also, we should all boycott unpaid internships. But that’ll never happen.

It’s difficult to be productive when I visit the place I lived for my first 18 years. A month went by and I didn’t really notice, because “home” feels like some entity separate from my life. But I recently relocated and my brain finally realized it wasn’t being used for its intended purpose (i.e. something other than an 8 hour shift at a sandwich shop and an overdose of movies and hummus.) Welcome back to reality, self!

I also realized I haven’t updated about my life happenings in a while. So here’s a list of life-changing moments I’ve had in the past 3 months, in no particular order:

1. Graduation!

Yep, I completed my last semester at Berklee, celebrated copiously with my family, woke up way too early for the ceremony, and shook the hands of Carole King, Willie Nelson, and Annie Lenox as I walked across the stage at the Agganis Arena. Having stayed up way too late enjoying Boston with my family, I very nearly fainted waiting the four hours before we could sit down, but luckily I made it ;)

2. Production Company

I briefly mentioned a startup company I was working on at the beginning of my last semester. It started out as one thing, and turned into a concert production company. While it didn’t last (mainly because neither I nor my partner will be in the same place come fall,) I learned quite a bit and was able to help out a few local bands on the way. It helped me realize that I would very likely be happy working on the putting together concerts, tours, or even festivals. Which leads me to…

3. Colorado!!!

I got an internship (housing provided!!) in Colorado this summer as a “Special Projects and Marketing Intern” at the Breckenridge Music Festival. This is definitely a completely different universe from NYC or even Boston, but I have always been drawn to the prospect of Colorado and this will be a kind of “trial-run” for that beautiful, mountainous state. Similar to last summer, I will post updates about my time here! First up will be about my cross country trip and first week on the job.

4. Job Hunting

This really began in earnest a couple months ago. Although I wasn’t looking for an internship, as they don’t pay in this industry, I’d rather be doing something I love and working on the side than working full time in a position that flattens my life. Currently I’m looking for a position to take once my internship is complete, and I am open to any place with people who are passionate and want to make great music.

In the meantime, I am starting my career as a freelancer! (and baby/pet/house sitter when needed. Hey, it pays.) If you know anyone looking for copywriting, web content, or social media management, send em my way!

Shoot me an email at musikleigh@gmail.com for more information.

 

Image  —  Posted: May 9, 2013 in About Me
Tags: , , , ,

I have lived in Boston for nearly three years now, and much of that time has been dedicated to enjoying and planning live shows. I’ve seen great bands play in amazing venues to create a transcendent experience, but I’ve also seen these same bands play in venues that leave everyone involved with a sour taste in their mouth. To assist in avoiding the ladder, I’ve compiled a list of Boston venues and ranked them out of ten. Although this is not a definitive list, as I haven’t been ambitious enough to have been to every venue the city has to offer, these venues are by and far the ones that I get invited to on Facebook the most (what other proof of legitimacy do you need?) That being said, the one venue I really wish I had a chance to check out is Church, so if anyone has any thoughts on it, please share in the comments. It’s a public service, really.

For this review, I’ll be judging venues based on ambiance, quality of music, and ease of booking.

My Guide To The Top 5 Venues Boston Bands Play

The Middle East

Ah this venue. Every band has a story of when they played here. Even my brief stint as a performer resulted in a (poorly-attended) corner show.

The Middle East refuses to be contained in one venue; it consists of two restaurant portions, both of which lead to a stage area, one called “the upstairs” and one “the downstairs.” Not satisfied with that amount of confusion, the owners added a restaurant in between the other two called Zuzu, which also hosts musical acts on occasion.

Ignoring the tiny restaurant performances, the upstairs and downstairs venues are actually pretty decent (once you find them.) Having attended many upstairs shows, the bands that play there are generally of at least decent quality, and a good portion are of great quality. The sound varies depending on the night (moody sound engineer perhaps?) but it’s never unbearable, and generally is above average. If you can stay in between the random pillars on either side of the room, the sight line is great and grants a visual of the entire band.

The downstairs is a venue I am more familiar with behind the scenes. I’ve managed a couple shows there and management has been very accommodating. It’s a larger capacity room, with two bars and a larger stage. It’s great for rock and punk bands, as it’s underground and has that grungy, dirty vibe to it. My main suggestion would be to bring your own sound guy, because at least one of the house engineers is kind of a dick.

There are two separate booking contacts for the upstairs and the downstairs, but both respond to emails and will give any band with decent pitching skills a chance.

Rating: 6/10

TT The Bear’s Place

I seriously love this place. Having only made it out there for the first time a few months ago, I was surprised to discover that it’s right behind the behemouth that is The Middle East. It definitely deserves a spot with higher visibility.

The venue is separated by a half wall (and some pillars) into two rooms. One hosts the stage area while the other contains the bar (there’s also an area to play pool, but that didn’t really appeal to me.) There’s something about this setup that is just perfect – when I’m in the stage area, it feels like the band and the audience have formed together to create their own little ecosphere, where the audience feeds off the music and the band feeds off their sweaty, dancing energy. The sound is great and, although I’ve only been there a few times, I thoroughly enjoy the music showcased.

The other side of this musical ecosphere, the bar area, is perfect for people who just want to take a step back during a set that isn’t really their style, or are tired of standing and jumping around, or just want to get wasted. It’s far enough away that the music isn’t overpowering to conversation, but close enough to feel the pulsing energy coming from the stage.

The one thing that brings this venue down is that management can be difficult to get ahold of. I have tried, and failed, a couple times to make contact with their booking agent, but in this industry, I might just not know the right people.

Rating: 8/10

The Red Room at Cafe 939

There may be a bias in the sample here, seeing as this venue is run by the very college I attend. But I can assure you it’s not just a “college venue,” they have many larger acts, such as The Civil Wars and The Lumineers, come in quite frequently – often right before they hit it big.

I have attended and managed shows at The Red Room, and the best thing about this venue is that it has high sound quality. Let’s be real though, as a Berklee-run venue, it would have to unless it wanted to hear every other sound engineer-in-training bitching about the room’s shitty acoustics or the apparent deafness of the sound guy.

It’s also a very unique atmosphere. It’s a small venue with a classy yet cool feel to it – the walls are decked in dark red and the stage area looks like a mix between a recital hall and a jazz club. The music is extremely varied, ranging from students singer/songwriters to jazz-funk ensembles to country bands and back.

A downfall is that working with The Red Room management can be frustrating…they are extremely busy and tend to take a while to respond – even sometimes double booking nights. That being said, they really are passionate about the music and try their best to be accommodating.

Rating: 7.5/10

PA’s Lounge

Consider this a PSA for the musicians of Boston. Please, for the love of everything great about music, never play here. I’ve only been once, but that experience was enough to put me off the place like it’s day old Chinese food. Not only is it a bit too far of a trek outside the city to easily draw a huge crowd, but the sound is horrible and the management is pretty much nonexistent. I was there to watch a friend’s band and ended up having to pester the sound guy for a different microphone cable, seeing as the one they were using was opposed to the idea of actually staying attached to the microphone. Unless they change their ways, I would highly recommend staying far, far away.

Rating: 2/10

Midway Cafe

Midway is an underrated venue, mostly because of its inconvenient location in Jamaica Plains, but it has a great vibe and deserves more credit. It’s a small venue with a low stage and dive bar attitude that allows for a feeling of closeness with the band. I’ve never noticed issues with the sound, although I’m sure you could bring your own engineer if desired, and the bartenders are always extremely friendly and accommodating. It feels more like a community than any other venue I’ve been to in Boston.

My suggestion with this is to maybe make a night of it and try to get an after party in the area. Or to focus promotion out there instead of primarily with friends in Boston. At the very least, check it out sometime – it re-inspired my passion for music and it could do the same for you.

Rating: 7/10