Diary of a Lounge Pianist…The Palasadium, Cliffside Park, NJ, May 19th, 2013


Hello, this is Gregg Zubowicz, Director of Curriculum here at the Old Bridge Music Center. It’s been awhile since we have posted a new blog, sorry for the delay, and stay tuned for two blogs soon from the past still in the Works- One from “Old Bridge Day,” and another from our Incredible Master Class here at the School with Music Legend Uli Jon Roth…

This is a Blog about My Gig today, Sunday,May 19th, 2013 at The Palasadium in Cliffside Park, New Jersey.

There are a number of Piano students who are interested in pursuing gigs as “Lounge/Event” Pianists, and with this blog I hope to share a few experiences and insights to help get a “feel” for a typical day in the life of a Pianist in this particular style.

As well, there are others out there who read this that would be interested in the mindset and what goes into making an event successful for the party/event/person hiring those of us drawn to the Major 7th and Altered Chord Substitutes, (Music Theory Jargon:)

This particular gig was for a 87th birthday party at a Beautiful place in Cliffside Park, New Jersey called “The Palasadium,” which is located right on the Hudson River, on the same site where the old Palisades Amusement Park used to be.

The gig was booked months in advance, and was easy as far as the choice of repertoire, as I was told to “play whatever you want”, as they were familiar with my performances from the past.

*Pro Tip #1-For those entertaining a career, and/or gigs in this field, it is essential to own a “Real Book”-Our favorite is the Sixth Edition, although all “Real Book” Editions have Jazz Standards to play in them.


Pro Tip #2-Every Aspiring Lounge Pianist should know the Standard Classics, such as “Misty”, “Autumn Leaves”, etc. Speak with your teacher to advise you of other Songs that are essential to learn in the Jazz/Lounge Standard Repertoire. There are a number of resources online as well that can help guide you in the right direction with this unique style of Piano Performance.

A few words about Jazz/Lounge/Piano Style- In most Rock/Pop styles there are particular chords that are common to those styles- These are primarily (although not exclusively with more intricate artists) three note chords called “Triads”. In Classical, Jazz, and Blues, it is more common to use “7th” chords, “9th” chords, and “Altered” Chords, (chords where you raise or lower a common indigenous chord tone) there are more notes in the chords that give the chords more “Color”. These chords require more knowledge and dexterity to Master, but really take the listener to another place.

*Pro Tip #3- Be sure to Master all of the Music Theory that you can, such as Scales, Chords, and Intervals, then start playing and improvising with this Theory as much as possible every day consistently.

*Pro Tip #4- Always find out what the Restaurant/Party wants to hear specifically. The Jazz Standards are always a given, but if it is a party or event, those hiring you may like some particular style or artist additionally. There a number of “Pop” songs from bands like the Beatles, etc. that people Love to hear. Find out what they like, and Master the songs well in advance- They will Love you for it!

Back to the Event…

Due to a variety of reasons, including a heavy work schedule with Lessons and Running both Schools, working on the Method Book for Worldwide release over the next year, Producing some Records, and writing songs for a long overdue solo album I am working on, this was the first Gig I had accepted and agreed to perform at in awhile.

Being I was given free reign in regards to performance, there were only a handful of new songs that I had to learn, the rest are Standards that I had played for years. (That is the neat thing about Standards and Holiday Songs- they never go out of style, and you can play them forever).

When working on new arrangments, (an arrangement is ones particular take on a piece of music,) the Arranger may play different melodies and /or chords and fills than written, as well as place their own “feel” to the song, their “character” which gives them a “sound” or “style.”

Before I knew it, the gig was a few days away, and I made my usual “Checklist” to get everything ready in advance- Suit Ready to go, all Sheet Music prepared,Birthday Card for the Host, Directions printed out, good to go.

Pro Tip #5- Preparing well in advance is essential. Do everything possible to have all of the above and any other additional special necessities done in advance.


Saturday night came, and I made it a point to get to sleep early to be well rested for the next day to be my best. Everything prepared, packed, and ready to roll in the morning.

*Pro Tip #6- Always take care of yourself health wise, and get to sleep early to be on your best- The person hiring you deserves it! Additionally, you will be really glad when you don’t have to rush around to get everything together, which sets the tone for a more relaxed, enjoyable ride to the gig.

This particular gig was an early Sunday gig, the requested time to be there was 12:00 noon, so I planned on getting there by 10:30 am, leaving time for traffic, detours, or any problems finding the place being I had never been there before.

Pro Tip #7- Always leave plenty of time in advance of the scheduled time. Personally, I always get to the gig at least an hour or two in advance of the requested time, (in addition to reducing the stress of rushing if you are late or “just on time,” it shows that you are a dedicated, responsible professional.) If you have to be to a gig at a certain time, get there an hour or two in advance, and leave an extra 45 minutes to an hour of travel time, just in case of any problems on the road. Another positive aside is that the Host/Client Loves to see you there before anyone else, even themselves! It is one less thing for them to worry about, and they will remember and take note of it. Additionally, if you are performing at a restaurant/wedding type of location, those who work there and handle booking the entertainment will take note of your punctuality, and will consider hiring you for another event, or refer you to those in need of someone to perform at their event.


Before I knew it the alarm had gone off, I wiped the sleep from my eyes, had a good healthy breakfast, took my vitamins and supplements, (good health sensibilities really help with one’s performance, and the general feeling of the day,) headed into the shower, dressed, a couple trips out to the car in the rain, (remember, all clothes ready, and bags packed from the night before, so no stress “rushing around” before the gig looking for things,) 9:00 am, and off to the Palasadium!

Many Years ago I used to go into NYC on Sunday mornings for Church Services, and I had forgotten the different sense of calm that the Turnpike and Highways hold on Sunday mornings. There is a certain quietness for a few hours on Sunday mornings, similar to when it snows, that can’t be beat. There is also something intrinsically great about doing something positive to start the day. It sets the tone for something greater ahead.

Another thing that I always like to do on the way to a Gig is to listen to a CD from a Musical Artist similar to the style of music I am performing. This is a educational teaching trick I use at the School with students- By listening to a particular artist or style of music, the music becomes you to a certain degree it you allow it. The influences of that artist are in the songs, through the speakers, and into your soul to carry. It really works, and conversely with that in mind, I chose one of my favorite Classical Pieces of all time , Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” (Piano Sonata No.14, Opus 27, No.2 in C-sharp minor all Three Movements. ) I am partial to the Van Cliburn Version of this Beautiful Piece, but since I only have that on vinyl, I put in another great version from Evegny Kissin on CD, and as I listened to the opening as the lanes behind me left a trail of mist from the wet tires. Slowly the morning began to take shape in another direction…I was now on a Mission to make todays performance to a different level. For a few moments I was transported back to my early days of Collegiate studies at one of the World’s best Music Schools, the Mannes College of Music, NYC, which is ranked amongst the Top Ten Music Conservatories in the United States.

Mannes College of Music


There is something really Incredible about studying at a Classical Conservatory or Music College. The level of expertise is beyond anything you can imagine. What would be considered “Virtuosity” in the Rock world is de-rigueur in the Classical world. Everyone can play at a High Level. If it weren’t for the heroic sacrifices and encouragement of my parents, Lou and Bev Zubowicz,I would not have ever been given the opportunity to have that Level of experience, for which I can never Thank them enough.

Here is Evegny Kissin performing the Beethoven “Moonlight Sonata” Part 01, Live, (I listened to the Studio Version from the Cd below, but this is equally as Great)…

Evegny %22Moonlight%22


Before long the GPS was telling me that the exit for Route 46 was coming up, and I thought “Wow, this wasn’t so bad after all, I will be there in less than 45 minutes from door to door, but alas, it was not meant to be! As I made it into Cliffside Park, I noticed police vehicles with flashing lights up in the distance, as I got closer I saw that they were blocking the one way road that I had to travel down to get to the Palasadium. No big deal, I will just go down to the next one way…Blocked as well, and so it went that all of the streets leading to where I had to go were blocked because of the Palisades Marathon that was happening that day!


*Students and aspiring Musicians, remember the earlier  thoughts about leaving early because of unforeseen troubles?

I finally was able to ask a police officer of an alternate route, one of which got me lost in Edgewater for almost an hour! Eventually somehow I ended up full circle back in Cliffside Park where I had started, and found a parking spot on the Main Street that I knew I could get back to easily, and decided that the only way to get there was to walk almost 3 miles in the rain. I grabbed my cooler and briefcase with my sheet music and headed out into the somewhat cold rainy streets of Cliffside Park determined. I must confess that a small voice of doubt began to tap me on the shoulder to invite me to think that maybe this was a premonition of what was to come in the day ahead. Walking almost a mile down a street that was the wrong one that you have to backtrack in the rain with a brand new suit on soaked can do that!

*After I parked my car and was walking to the Palasadium, I noticed there was a Record Store in Cliffside Park called “Music Country,” that claimed to be “The Oldest Record Store” from 1934. Being an avid fan of Records and Record Stores, I was hoping that they would be open when I finished to get a chance to go inside and check it out and  support the local record store,but they are closed on Sundays. Maybe another time! Check it out:

Music Country

“Music Country”, Cliffside Park, New Jersey…

Pro Tip #8- Always keep a positive attitude regardless of what “bumps in the road”, “difficulties” that may arise before or during an event. Remember that how you view something is oftentimes what it becomes, so keep in mind when these things happen from time to time that they are just that- “Things that happen” from time to time in the Life of a Musician. It comes with the gig, so keep a positive attitude, and know that any “difficulties” that arise will pass.

Pro Tip #9- Always bring a small cooler with some healthy snacks and beverages to keep you full of energy. Greek Yogurt is an Excellent source of Protein, as are certain nuts like almonds. Also bring enough Bottled Water to keep you Hydrated, as you don’t always get a chance to take a break as you will soon see!

Finally I arrived at The Palasadium, a bit cold, totally soaked and drenched, and was greeted by the Ornate Entrance Way to the Rooms, and began to walk in…

Lounge Palasadium

Despite all of that, I took a look around the place, and came upon the room where the reception was in, and was Blown Away by the Panoramic Views of the Manhattan and the New York Skyline directly across the Hudson River.

Palasadium View

I also noticed that I was still an hour and 15 minutes ahead of schedule, and in fact was the first one there along with a few wait staff who were setting up the fine linens and silverware.

“Ok, this is going to be good,” I said to myself, then changed that to, “I am going to Make this be good!.” I learned a long time ago that perception and attitude towards ones surrounding greatly influence how they manifest.

I sat down at the piano to see how the tuning was, (slightly in need of a tuning, but not really bad, it’s just that my ear is very Acute in hearing out of key pitches), and the first thing that I noticed was that my hands were cramped and tight from carrying the cooler and briefcase all that way in the rain, so I went and ran my hands under warm water and all was good again:)

I went through a couple of the newer pieces I had learned, as well as some scales and technical exercises, and soon thereafter the Hostess had arrived, and we went over the game plan.

As a footnote for something extra, I had brought along a CD Player, as well as some Classical CD’s that I know the Party would have enjoyed.

Pro Tip #10- Always do whatever you can to offer the “Extra” for your customers. Remember when you are in the Service Industry, the Customer is Your Boss, and that Complete Satisfaction on Every Level is Paramount. Everyone likes to get more of a High Quality Service than they paid for. An Observance of Humility and Gratitude for having the opportunity to be of service with your Skill or Craft goes a long way when done with Sincerity. Here at the Old Bridge Music Center we carry those Beliefs and Ideologies, and our Students and Friends sense that. They know intrinsically that we care. Do the same with the Gigs that are offered to you and the People you meet, and watch how Great things move along and turn out.

Eventually I dried out from the walk, and took a seat at the Lobby Piano. Here is a picture-

Palasadium Thumbs Up

Eventually it was getting closer to the scheduled time of arrival for the Guests, and so I made my way back to the Main Room, as I have another “Golden Rule” when playing Lounge Events/Parties-Always play when people are arriving and departing. Always.As well, if there is a sit down dinner, I always make sure to play while they are eating, and if (as they did today) insist that I eat, I normally have a CD player, (or small PA System if a Large room) and some CD’s, (or an Ipod  or Laptop to sync to the PA System)

Pro Tip #11- Always make sure that there are no periods of  “Silent Spots” when you are booked for an event. Find out in advance the size of the room, and if they can play music through a PA System, or if you need to bring something to play Music on. This is not essential, many players don’t take care of this, but I always like to give those hiring me for an event a “Five Star” Experience from beginning to end. They really appreciate the extra effort, and it increases your chances of getting more good gigs. *Footnote- the same applies to Holiday/Reception/Special Event House Parties-always bring appropriate music to play during any short breaks you may be taking.

Cd:Ipod Player

As mentioned earlier, Being there was no DJ for the event, I had brought a CD Player and some Classical CD’s to play during the short break from playing, but due to the rain, and having my hands full, I was not able to bring them. This also meant that I had to play for the duration of the 4-5 hour event, with no breaks! *This was a personal record of performance for me, playing almost 5 hours without stopping, as I really didn’t want to lessen the experience for those in attendance by having the Music stop. Eventually the Hostess came over and insisted that I take a break and get something to eat, to which I reluctantly agreed, got a small plate of food, a glass of Coke, and was back on the Keys in less than 10 minutes.

Pro Tip #12- Students take note of the importance and relativity of knowing how to read music fluently, having all of your Music Theory Mastered, as well as being able to Improvise in any Key Fluently. Having these skills made it possible for me to play and perform for almost 5 hours with confidence without repeating myself, as I was able to go through a number of pieces in the “Real Book”, as well as some other Sheet Music I had brought with me.If you have a deficiency in any of the above Musical Skills, it will be very difficult to play and perform with confidence, as you will be “thinking” while you play, rather than letting the Music flow from Inspiration.

Before long the Guests had filled the Elegant room overlooking the Manhattan Skyline across the River, and I was having a Blast going through all of the Classics while people talked about days of old and future dreams while I got lost in the Melodies and Chords written decades ago from some of the Best Composers amongst the chatter and clinking of glasses and laughter.

5 hours came to pass, (remarkably fast), and the guests began to file out, many of them stopping to say some nice things about the Music, ask for some business cards to book me for future events, etc.

The Hostess was the last to leave, and all agreed it was a Fantastic day and success for all involved.

I said my last “Goodbyes”, and stuck around for a little extra while playing a song or two for the help who were cleaning up the Cake Plates, Cups of Coffee and Assorted Desserts  that were left behind. With the New York Skyline behind me, the last G Major 7th chord trailed off into the distance, and I took a look out at the City behind me…Full of Dreams… And so it remains with the Lounge Pianist…Always another Dream, another song, another chance to play the Music…

Until Next Time,

Gregg Zubowicz

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Treble Clef

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