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Artist Profiles

Charlie Banacos: Recollections of a Legend

By Published: January 28, 2010

"He will be dearly missed to us who knew him and learn so much from him and more important to so many other to be his future students. He was the best!! Me being a Jewish man, he had this funny thing he would tell me every time he saw me: 'Hey Mordechai, don't be a loser without a mezuzah.' This is the first thing that came to me now, I'm sure more stuff will come to me the more I think about this time in Boston. All the best. Shalom"

From Charlie on November 27, 2009

Hi Everybody,

Just a short note to let you know everything's cool. All of your messages are so great and are helping me and my family cope with all this. First I thought I had a cold, but no! It's pneumonia! Then, while treating the pneumonia they find out I have an aggressive form of cancer. So I'm being treated for that with some of the greatest doctors in the world. So basically that's the story.

I also just wanted to mention a couple of things that might help somebody else. As you do things through life you'll learn a lot of things and some of them never really get tested. In other words, it's all just theory unless it actually gets tested against something. So I've been testing certain things and I wanted you to know the results of some of the tests.

I've studied meditation and breathing exercises for example from a young age and I noticed that when I have tests here in the hospital there are certain breathing techniques that do help you overcome the pain more than others. So you might want to try learning some techniques like this, and hopefully you'll never have to go through anything like this, but it's good to have them in your "arsenal."

Another great way to practice when you can't move around too much is figure out the chord or chords that you hear in the hospital and use that to practice different sonorities. I'll give you an example of what's happening right now: most of the electronic sounds of this hospital at this moment are Bs, D#s, F#s and A-naturals. Now there are other sounds, but those are the predominant sounds coming from the electronic equipment (and people yelling 'Code Red!!!' Just kidding...). So you could say, right at this moment, I'm swimming around in a pool of Bdom7. If you use that as a basis, the next time you hear somebody yell "code" you can practice and name its function against the B7 chord as quickly as possible and it makes a type of symphony.

For example, let's say someone says "saline" and you notice that they said it on E and G, you would say to yourself "sa" is four and "line" is flat-6. Let's say you hear a nurse say "stat" and it just happens to be an F, you might say "Oh, that was #4 (or flat-5)." This way you can do this all day long and have a mini symphony going on. I hope you never have to use this kind of exercise in this type of situation, but it works everywhere—in diners, supermarkets, etc. So try it and you might have fun playing that game.

Once again, thank you for the really great messages. And I really feel bad that I can't be giving you lessons right at this time. I'm using this time as much as possible to prepare things that my family can help me with to pass on information. One of my daughters, Barbara, has been especially helpful on the music end of things, as she is a great classical pianist and just started to get into the jazz "thing" recently. She's the one who's actually taking this dictation for me and just mentioned that we should pretend we're just around a camp-fire instead of in a hospital room. Maybe my positive-thinking and imagery here in the hospital is influencing her just a little too much—huh?

God bless you!

Hope to see you soon!


From Charlie on December 7, 2009 (the day before he passed away)

Hi everybody,

It's been a few days and I just wanted to give you an update.

The yoga breathing is still working out good. Some of you have asked what breathing techniques I'm using. Mia Olson's book (Yoga for Musicians) is a good place to read about it. I highly recommend her book. She really seems to know what she's doing. Please let her know that I was already recommending that people read her book. And just in case you're wondering, this is not a paid endorsement! :)

All the letters, cards, gifts and emails are so powerful with your spiritual messages and prayers. Many of you are also doing a good job of cracking me up with your humor. They're really helping me and my family. I really appreciate it and I know they really appreciate it too. I wish I could answer every one of them personally but there's just too many. I hope you understand. Some people have even offered monetary gifts and organ transplants. And I've even heard from people I've never met and only know me through my teaching. You are all telling me how much I've given you, but what you are giving me and my family right now cannot be measured.

Please continue your prayers for me and keep practicing your usual 10 hours a day. It's nice to see real musicians that do music for music's sake.

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