Night is Alive Feature: Bill Cunliffe, Pianist

Upcoming Performance at Nighttown, Cleveland

Bill Cunliffe, his all-star octet, and jazz vocalist Andy James are currently in the middle of a multi-city tour. In addition to serving as James’ Music Director and arranger, Cunliffe is featured on the international Flamenco star’s recent EP “Mean to Me” ( Be sure to catch the group’s dynamic performance at Nighttown in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday, July 19, 2019, at 8:00 pm. Tickets can be purchased at This is an evening you will not want to miss!

Honorable Mention

In June 2019, Night is Alive artist Bill Cunliffe was mentioned in the award-winning JAZZIZ Magazine. The article, which can be found at, praised vocalist Maggie Herron and Cunliffe for their co-produced, recently released album, A Ton of Trouble. The album won a high honor: Jazz Album of the Year at the The Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, Hawaii’s equivalent of the Grammy Awards. Not only did Cunliffe arrange six of the album’s songs, but he also accompanied Herron on piano for those tracks. In a separate interview with Big Island Music Magazine, Herron stated, “Bill has the knack to speak for me stylistically with his arrangements after listening to my bare bones renditions at the piano.”

For more about award-winning pianist Bill Cunliffe and Night is Alive, visit

Great Bands Require Great Teamwork

At Night is Alive, we recognize that one of the biggest elements of success in any band is to show respect for your band-mates. Great bands require great teamwork, which means that everyone can’t be the leader, but all have vital roles to play in the band’s success. Being willing to show up to rehearsals on time and in tune is one of the first steps to achieving band greatness.

You need to truly listen to the input of your other bandmates and then have one person in the band who is the executive decision maker. On a basketball team you wouldn’t have 3-point guards all calling out different plays; same goes for a band, pick a leader and they ultimately make game time plays. One person will be responsible for making the ultimate decision after listening to others’ input. These can be simple decisions like how long a song intro should go or more complex ones regarding the tempo or key that a song should be played in.

Everyone should have a chance to contribute ideas to improve the sound of the band and the quality of the performance. Everyone should be able to try ideas, especially during practice, that might result in a better sound.

All band members have critical support roles to the overall team success. It isn’t just the playing of the music that will determine the band’s ultimate destiny. Someone in the band also must be the booking agent and the collections/money distribution person. These aren’t always the same person in a band, but the band does have to agree on who will do these functions, since without a gig being booked none of the magical performances can ever happen.

A fantastic example of teamwork and band performance can be seen with Ralph Moore‘s West Coast Band and Willie Jones III‘s WJ3 All-Star Band. Both groups travel the world together, selling out venues and attracting their loyal fan bases. They never could have got to this level of jazz stardom if it wasn’t for their exceptional teamwork and communicating skills.

The Mind Behind Music

We all know based on our own anecdotal observations that musicians’ brains seem to function a little differently than everyone else’s. Well, it seems that research, in fact, does confirm that to be true. According to multiple studies, playing music has been found to increase the volume and activity in the brain’s corpus callosum — the bridge between the two hemispheres — allowing messages to get across the brain faster and through more diverse routes.

It is suspected that this is what allows musicians to solve problems more effectively and creatively than most other people. Playing music, it seems, is extremely beneficial to higher brain function. Playing an instrument involves almost every area of the brain at once — specifically the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. And, as with any other workout, we get stronger as we repeat the same workout exercising the same muscle or our brains.

Playing music also involves creating and understanding its emotional content and message.  Therefore, musicians also have higher levels of executive function — a category of interlinked tasks that include planningstrategizing, and attention to detail, and requires simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects. According to the Journal of American Medicine, most non-musicians do not generally have this combination of brain function.

Playing an instrument also has an impact on how our memory systems work. And, indeed, musicians exhibit enhanced memory functions — creating, storing, and retrieving memories more quickly and efficiently. Studies have found that musicians appear to use their highly connected brains to give each memory multiple tags, such as a conceptual tag, an emotional tag, an audio tag, and a contextual tag — like a good internet search engine. This allows them to do things like being able to recall entire pieces of music that they may not have played for many years. Doesn’t it seem like they have an entire library in their minds when you make a special request and they know it perfectly without looking at sheet music? Part of this is because of those emotional tags that they seem to effortlessly access “that library” at will.

When it comes to playing music and instruments, Night is Alive represents several of the jazz industries greatest. Learn more here and feel free to contact Kathy Salem with any questions you have!

Why is Image So Important for Musicians?

There have been studies that suggest how a musician presents themselves visually is more important than their music. If you are a musician reading this, you’re probably a bit conflicted; you know that your music is an important form of expression to you, but at the same time I am sure you’ve seen other musicians who may not have your same level of skill behind their instrument and yet they seem to garner a lot more attention.

“Image is everything”, is a truism in any medium where you are going to present yourself to an audience. Even artists like Sia, who work hard to hide themselves from view, have cultivated an image (although perhaps unwittingly) that appeals to their audience.

But hey, this shouldn’t be news to anyone. Nearly every musical artist we’ve ever fallen in love with has their visual and auditory game on par with one another. So then, how do you go about sowing a strong image and reaping the benefits?

First, understand who your audience is and then play up to that. Ever notice that grunge bands all sort of looked and sounded the same? Coincidence? Nah, not at all. It was a popular movement that was defined by flannel shirts and Dr. Martens as much as static guitars and raspy vocals. Take a moment, look at your audience and cultivate a look that’s in line with your music and their ears.

Second, jump right into social media. People want a back-stage pass to your life and you should deliver whenever appropriate. Let them peer in on your day-to-day goings on. Let them meet your pets, introduce them to your favorite coffee shop, give them a world-first listen to your new riff, etc. Leverage your image by letting people experience life through your eyes.

Third, never stop branding yourself. Once you get a few likes and follows, don’t stop there, keep pushing! In a world where everyone wants to, “go viral”, you must be ready for the long haul. 99.995% of people do not become viral sensations within days. You need to be ready to work for every like and build your social media audience over time.

Forth, start marrying your music to your image. Music videos are the obvious solution here. You don’t need to craft the next award-winning motion picture – keep it simple at the start. Work with other artists in the area who are looking for exposure and see if you can form a mutually beneficial relationship.

Once you start thinking of your image as your brand you’ll soon be making better choices about to cultivate and nurture a following through the visual mediums.

From Ralph Moore to Terell Stafford, Night is Alive represents some of the industries highest ranking artists to date. To learn more, contact Kathy Salem!

Why We Like FAMU

If you don’t know by now, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, or FAMU, is an academic institution that is near and dear to Kathy Salem’s heart. Back in November, four talented jazz musicians from the school were inaugural recipients of the Kathy Salem Jazz Scholarship. Salem started the scholarship because she believes that it is important to foster the talents of the next generation of jazz musicians. The scholarship allows her to support the genre of music that she loves so much and enrich the lives of aspiring performers.

So, you’re probably wondering, “Out of all the schools that she could have supported, why FAMU?”

Allow us to share a few interesting things about this university.

Founded in 1887, FAMU is the fifth largest historically black university based on enrollment and the only public historically black university in Tallahassee, Florida. FAMU is also a land-grant university.

At its start, the school was known as the State Normal College for Colored Students. Four years later, the school became a land-grant university under the second Morrill Act and its name was changed to the State Normal and Industrial College for Colored Students.

There were three Morrill Acts. One in 1862, one in 1890 and the last one in 1994. Under these acts, schools were designated to teach agriculture, military tactics, mechanic arts, and classical studies so the working class could obtain a liberal and practical education.

The second Morrill Act in 1890 was created to extend access to higher education by providing additional endowments for all land-grants, but prohibited the distribution of money to states that discriminated against students based on race. However, states that provided separate land-grant institutions for black people could receive funding.

While FAMU was eligible for the grant, it didn’t become an official learning institution until 1905. After a few more name and leadership changes, the school became known as Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in 1953.

Today, FAMU’s main campus has 156 buildings that are spread out over 422 acres of land. The university also has several satellite campuses in Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, and Tampa. FAMU enrolls around 11,000 students annually from the United States and more than 70 countries. The university offers 54 bachelor’s degree programs, 29 master’s degree programs, three professional degree programs, and 12 doctoral degree programs.

FAMU is also home to a nationally ranked Jazz Ensembles that is composed of eighteen musicians selected from approximately four hundred musicians in the university’s band program.  The Jazz Ensemble is noted for its diversity of styles and is often invited to perform at jazz festivals across the country.

These are just a few things that make FAMU special. You can read more about the school and its history, here.