Posted & filed under Art, Business, Entertainment, General.

Sophie Hintze is a professional singer/songwriter based in New York City. Sophie writes topline (melody and lyrics) for an array of genres with pop being a current main focus. Her songwriting and charismatic singing piqued the interest of BMG US in May 2014 and she was signed soon thereafter. Sophie works with accomplished artists/writers/producers in the industry throughout New York and often travels to LA and Nashville on writing trips. She has performed at New York’s Le Cirque Restaurant, the Metropolitan Room, and Somethin’ Jazz Club, to name a few. Sophie currently attends Tisch’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU.

Topic:  Education, Your Music / Songwriting Career, Your Philosophy on Family, Friendship & Love!

Lead up to questions: Sophie I know that you recently signed with BMG Music and you have a very successful woman attorney on your side and looking after your back. And you are studying at Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU.  Congrats on all that!  Great start!

  • DM – What keeps you grounded and how do you juggle school with your career and the desire to just do it!
  • SH- I feel like staying grounded is based upon my mindset and outlook about myself as a songwriter in the industry. I don’t put myself on any kind of pedestal or think more of myself because of it. I don’t talk about it either unless someone asks. I look at it as my job and something I love and am very lucky to be able to do. I think it also has to do with the people I surround myself with. The friends I’ve made at NYU, and my hometown friends, are very supportive and collaborative, rather than competitive and ego-driven. Prioritizing is definitely something I had to really wrap my head around this year, especially with starting school. My workload is incredibly heavy and coupled with songwriting, my days can get insanely busy. People always take pride in their ability to multitask, but I juggle school and my career by compartmentalizing. I devote my full attention to the task at hand. When I’m doing school work, I stay focused on that. And, when I’m doing my professional work, I direct my full attention to that. I’m very disciplined in that way. To put things in perspective and clear my mind, I make sure I find time to get to the gym or go to Silver Towers to kick my soccer ball up against the side of the building a few hundred times.


  • DM- You grew up with your family in Setauket, Long Island. What is it about your background that helps you to define yourself, who you are and how you will conduct yourself on any given day? And describe your parents and your siblings’ relationship before and now that you are out of the house and at University!
  • SH – I grew up in a very balanced environment and my imagination was always encouraged. I dug in the dirt, played house, built forts, and made up dances to Britney Spears. My parents were always right there encouraging me. It was a pretty typical day, however, to hear my sister scream, “Mom, make her STOP singing, it’s driving me crazy!” Besides that, though, I was never taught to suppress my creativity and I think that has a lot to do with the person I am today. I’m definitely a Type A personality and an ultra perfectionist. I put a lot of pressure on myself, but work very hard to maintain a balance on a day-to-day basis. I always have a list of things I want to accomplish in the day and I don’t like to waste time. Also, I come from a household of giving back—my dad is a retired FDNY Captain and my mom manages a nonprofit historic park. Having two people like that as role models I think has contributed greatly to a mindset of helping others, too, and it balances out the other side of my brain. Even now that my sister and I are both out of the house and in college, she’s still my best friend and I’m extremely close with my parents. And my St. Bernard, Shelby.


  • DM- What part of the songwriting do you do/handle and describe it? What do you look for in a collaborator?
  • SH- I write topline! That means I write lyrics and melody. I love topline because it’s the part that gets stuck in your head and the part you sing in the shower. I love the challenge of picking the best words for a given time range/melody to tell the best story possible. It’s all about the vibe in the room during a co-write. I look for someone who’s super chill and easy to work with. Co-writing is such a fun process with the right people, but I also look for honesty and people who work efficiently. I’ve been really fortunate to work with incredible artists/writers/producers who strive to create great songs, rather than just good ones. It can take three hours, ten hours, days, or even months to perfect three minutes of music.


  • DM- Describe a session with a new co-writer? And do you have the terms all set up once you meet up so there’s no chance to mix up what someone said or what they think they heard?
  • SH – I walk into every new session with a medium coffee. That’s very important. Hahaha. If I haven’t met the writer(s) before, we usually play each other some of our music first and talk about our goals and life in general to sort of break the ice before we get started. Co-writing is a really interesting process because you have to go into a room with other people you may not even know (or like lol) and write a piece of art that can get personal. You want the environment to be as open and comfortable as possible because then the good stuff comes out. Respecting each other and leaving your ego outside the room is very important. Everyone’s input is equal. Listeners and music lovers aren’t dumb, and they can tell when something isn’t genuine. Music has to come from a place of truth. And, this is why… terms of the song percentages/agreements should never, EVER be discussed in the creative room. That would kill the vibe faster than a New York minute! All my negotiations go through my awesome attorney, Dina LaPolt—that’s all handled in her office, not in the room where the music is made.


  • DM- Where do personal relationships fit into your life at this time? Both friendships and romantic? What is your experience / philosophy on both?
  • SH- My friends are super important to me. Building friendships and maintaining great ones is something I consider to be one of the highest priorities in my life. I love the company of my friends and to just be able to go out and make amazing memories with them. As for romantic relationships, my philosophy is that if the right guy comes along, then YAY! But I’m not really looking for anyone because it’s hard for me to find time for myself right now, let alone for someone else! Right now I’m just chillin.


  • DM- What is your favorite movie and why? And if your debut album was a movie, which movie would it be and why?
  • SH- So this is a hard one for me to answer because I don’t watch a lot of movies, but I’m a HUGE Harry Potter fan. If my debut album was a movie, it would be the entire Harry Potter series in one. Hear me out. I like albums that are a full experience, like Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly and Beyoncé’s Lemonade. There are so many layers to the Harry Potter series and every time you watch one of the movies, you discover something you hadn’t seen before. I would want a listener to experience that sort of intricacy with a common thread holding it all together, creating a place where people could escape to. In cheesier terms—something magical!


  • DM- What made you decide to study undergrad at Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU. Why that school?  and what kind of a degree and education will you have once you graduate?
  • SH- I signed with BMG US while in high school and was faced with a crossroad—go to college or go to LA and jump into my career. I think that people often forget that songwriting is a business that needs to be learned. Education is very important to me and I chose NYU because of Tisch’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. I wanted to learn from top professors who work and are successful figures in the music industry. It’s really awesome when your advisor, Jim Anderson, has four Grammys on his office shelf, you’re standing next to Questlove in the elevator, and Pharrell Williams is walking the halls. NYU is the only school I applied to and I’m very proud to wear the letters. I’m also lucky that my publishing team at BMG, including Kris Muñoz, Thomas Scherer, and Marian Wolf, all encouraged and continue to support my decision to pursue college. Honestly, it was really hard in the beginning because when you go to college, you literally have to start over. I was thrown into New York City, had to make all new friends, and adjust to 18-credits while juggling my songwriting career. But, after just wrapping up freshman year, I can genuinely say that it was the hardest and most formative year of my life. I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself and music in the past nine months. College is not just about education; it’s also about the experience of making your own decisions, forming relationships with people from all over the world, and standing on your own two feet. When I graduate, I will have a BFA in Recorded Music.


To Stay Connected with Sophie:

Twitter/Instagram: @sophiehintze

Thank you Sophie Hintze!

Denise Marsa:


Posted & filed under Art, Entertainment.

Chaney Sims is from Queens, New York and was raised listening to her parent’s collection of old school R&B, Soul, Blues, Jazz and Worksongs. Steeped in these musical traditions, Chaney is dedicated to sharing their significance; revamping classics to reflect her experiences as a queer woman of color; and telling her story.

In 2013 Chaney was nominated for a GRAMMY award, as well as two Blues Music Awards, with the Heritage Blues Orchestra (H.B.O.) for their debut album, And Still I Rise, an international collaboration that honors African-American roots music. She has also received an Award of Distinction from the Fresh Fruit Festival for her performance in tribute to LGBTQ Jazz greats at Joe’s Pub.

Chaney is honored to perform at venues around the world and to share the stage with amazing artists who incite and inspire, including Staceyann Chin, Phylicia Rashad, Keb’ Mo’, Bill T. Jones, Mavis Staples, Ruthie Foster, and the late Odetta.

Currently, Chaney is taking time off of touring to enjoy NYC and work on an EP inspired by her daily haiku project, #haiku365. You can find out more about her travels, performances and inspiring verses on Facebook ​and Twitter (@chaneysims) and on her website:

Topic: Your career, your life’s inspirations, touring and what’s next?


DM – If you were to make a movie about your career and it could be animated, documentary or scripted- describe it. It does not have to be your actual career- more like

a metaphor for your journey; from when you first started singing until now.

CS – Interesting question! I guess it would be part documentary and part word animation. My #haiku365 project in 2013 was all about documenting my experience as an artist in transition. I would write a haiku every day and share it to all of my social media platforms. At the time, I had recently quit my full-time job at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and then 6 months later I was nominated for Grammy, two Blues Music Awards and touring the globe regularly. Even though I had been performing music and poetry in NYC for a decade, in 2013 everything changed so quickly. I was new to the world of touring, the hustle and bustle of being a full-time independent artist and I was also transitioning out of relationship. There was a lot of turnover in a short period of time and haiku helped me stay present and grounded.  For anyone reading this that is unfamiliar with what haiku is it’s a short form of Japanese poetry. Here’s a link to read more about it:

It became sort of a meditation I did everyday to not only practice my writing, but also to allow myself to be vulnerable and at the same time, sharing my story. So much of the imagery conjured during that time is about hope, healing, rebirth, blossoming, letting go and getting free – this is what my journey as an artist is about for me. It would have to be a part of any documentary concerning my journey as an artist.

DM – Who are your life models?

CS – I have people who inspire me, but I wouldn’t call them models.

I’ve always been very moved by the work of Toni Morrison and Beloved is one of my favorite books. Morrison’s ability to tell a story, speak the unspeakable and have it linger is something I also reach for when I sing. I hope you really feel what I’m saying when I sing. I want to show you my underbelly and convey as much with the timbre, tone and colors in my voice as the actual words in the song.

As a teenager I listened to records all day. I’d listen to Dinah Washington’s The Blues Ain’t Nothing, Donny Hathaway’s entire collection, worksongs from the Alan Lomax archives and anything by Aretha Franklin. I’d play their records over, and over, and over again and go sing my heart out in the bathroom (for the great acoustics) for hours. I hadn’t experienced half of the things they were singing about, but their voices haunted and enchanted me. They felt instantly familiar, and there was an undeniable, almost tangible truth there. I could feel their voices and I knew I wanted to do that too.

I was recently featured at the Blues Hall of Fame in an exhibition called “Screamin’ the Blues” by Francoise Digel. The collection highlights how artists emote and embody music they are performing. When I look at the images it reminds of a little nugget of advice I heard Aretha Franklin say once as a youngster that I still carry today: something to the effect of – make whatever face you need to get the note out. In short, your job is to go there even if it isn’t “pretty” and be about telling the story. I guess that is who I’m most influenced, effected and inspired by: storytellers.

Right now I’m obsessed with Beyonce’s new album Lemonade. The storytelling by all the artists involved, the use of different mediums, genres and histories as well

as the focus on black arts and feminism, is just amazing.

DM- I know you have toured a lot? How many months out of the year the past 3 years

have you been on the road? Share the best and worst parts of touring.

CS – Last month I realized that in 2015 I was only at home in NYC for 3 months out of the year. I’m not even sure how many days during those 3 months I was here.

Touring is wonderful because you get to experience parts of the world you never even dreamed of, and at the same time you are doing what you love. Pretty flipping awesome! I am so thankful that I’ve had the privilege to travel for my work. Also, the foodie in me loves trying different cuisines — my first stop is always the local grocery store.

The tough part is all that travel can be very hard on your body and your spirit. When you’re on the road, you are always on the job. You’re at the whim of wherever you land and it is extremely physically demanding.

This past February I was in Mumbai for the Mahindra Blues Festival. A few days later I switched gears (and a few time zones) to do performances and poetry workshops at The University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA and then I headed for the mountains of Utah with the Heritage Blues Orchestra to fill in for the late Allen Toussaint. I was extremely honored to do all of these performances, but in March my body retaliated and I was sick for weeks from not getting enough rest.

Exhaustion and missing family and friends is the worst part of touring. Thankfully there is Skype and iMessage and Facetime and WhatsApp to keep in touch with your loved ones, but nothing compares to having sustained, in-person time with people that you love … and sleeping in your own bed.  I miss these things the most when I’m on tour.

Different cities and hotels every night can get lonely and confusing, so I am eternally thankful to my friends and chosen family for holding me down when I tour. Keeping in touch, sending funny videos, supportive messages and being so available – it means the world to me.

DM- what’s the best part about singing on stage to a crowd? How is it different than

singing in the recording studio? Please describe the emotions before during and after-

both stage and studio.

CS – I’m always nervous before I sing. Whether it is on stage or in the studio, my head and heart fill with very loud questions: What if I forget the words? What if my voice isn’t there? What if I come in at the wrong time? What if I fall?

All of these have happened, by the way, and I was okay – I survived.  I have to remember to trust myself when worry hits, and that whatever happens I know I’m doing my best.

I prefer singing to crowds than being in the studio. There is an energy, a living energy that is present during live performances for me. Everyone in the room contributes to the space. The audience trusts us with their time and their ears; I trust myself with my voice and the story; all the musicians are talking and listening to one another with their instruments. There is a very sweet surrender that happens in live performances that I just adore.  I’m usually so full of energy for hours afterwards that I couldn’t sleep, even if I wanted to.

Being able to capture that in the studio is hard. You’re in a room, surrounded by equipment, walls, foam that literally buffers the sound and usually singing to a pre-recorded track. Soooo very different. I have to dig much deeper into my imagination in the studio. It is really an art unto itself that I’m still learning. Also, I realize that I’m much harder on myself in the studio because I want it to be “perfect.”In live performance I don’t even think in those terms, I really just want to have a good time and be open.

DM – What do you look for in a song when you decide to sing a song?

CS – I choose songs that move me: that make me want to dance, or clap my hands in agreement, that make me tear up, fill me with profound desire and longing or tickle me with joy.

They have to strike an emotional chord. Singing for me is very healing; I work through my emotions in songs and sometimes go places I didn’t know where there.

i think music can

heal everyone in the room

even the songbird

That is one of my haiku’s about it 🙂

DM – What is your wish list for the future? Both personally and professionally.

CS – I want to take some time this summer to focus on myself, my music, get grounded, expand on my skills as a teaching artist at Lincoln Center Education’s development lab and spend quality time with loved ones enjoying NYC and going on food adventures.

In the fall, I wrote a few songs from the #haiku365project and I’d love to share them.  Maybe do some living room concerts, and more intimate salons like Sofar Sounds to try the songs on and see how they move.  Once the EP is finished I’d love to do some low key touring around the U.S. to visit and perform places I’ve never been like New Mexico or the Jazz Heritage Fest in New Orleans.

This summer, I’ll be doing a couple of out of town gigs with the Heritage Blues Orchestra. I’m really excited about participating in Chicago’s free music series on July 21st at Millennium Park. It’s a double bill with Toshi Reagon, whose music I love, and I think it is gonna be kinda magical.

Last summer I walked by the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park after the Chicago Blues Festival and said “I’m gonna perform here.”  I took a picture of the outdoor theater, and posted it to my Instagram with the caption “dream big y’all. #oneday” A few months ago, we got asked to perform there. My wish came true!

DM – Thanks so much to Chaney Sims for taking time out to share with me and our readers at Ask a New Yorker. And keep on dreamin’ big Chaney! Keep on!


Posted & filed under Art, Entertainment.

The entire world is taking photographs on their phone cameras! Read about NYC Street Photographer Robert Herman as he discusses his newest book – THE PHONE BOOK on Schiffer Publishing. Critics are raving about THE PHONE BOOK and its images taken from around the world on an iPhone. Denise Marsa asks Robert Herman to share about his process of putting together his newest book and how he continues to develop his life-long work and passion, street photography.



DM – Which iPhone did you shoot THE PHONE BOOK on? When did you start thinking you’d release a book of your photographs using an iPhone and is that the best phone camera?
RH- I started shooting with the iPhone in 2009 with the 3S. As the technology evolved, I moved up to the 4S and then the 5S. I’m not sure if it is the best camera, but for me it was ideal. It allowed me to shoot on the street and be almost completely invisible, and I felt more comfortable and less self-conscious making pictures. I wanted to be free of having a big camera up to my eye and I wanted to have a camera with me at all times, whether I as traveling or just running an errand.
I began to imagine making a collection of my iPhone images in 2013, when I realized that I had enough strong images to be included in a book. The idea began to take shape when I came up with the title: The Phone Book.

DM- Why did you pick the Hipstamatic app to work with, what features does it have that attracted you? Is it hard to use?
RH- I started shooting with Hipstamatic because back in 2009 it was the only way to shoot with a square format, Instagram hadn’t been invented yet. The iPhone camera app could only shoot rectangles and I was fascinated and challenged by making photos in a 1:1 format. I was starting to feel a bit stale shooting with a Nikon DSLR, It forced me to think about composition in a different way.

DM- Who helped you put the book together, design wise, size, cover, etc and how long did that process take?
RH- I was having dinner with a friend, Nick Phillips of Phink, a designer from the UK, when I mentioned I wanted to do a book of iPhone photos called The Phone Book. When Nick heard the title, he immediately warmed to the idea and started working on it straight away. It was his idea to include the GPS data from the metadata recorded with each image. At first, it seemed a little too much info, but after a while I came around to believing it would add to the enjoyment for the reader… they could look up the coordinates on Google Maps and see exactly where the photo was made. It took about 2 years to complete the design and the sequencing. It went through many iterations until I was satisfied. As we were working on the layout and the design elements, I was continuing to make pictures and these images were incorporated into the final version. I am very careful when laying out a book: each photo on the left hand page has to relate to the photo on the right hand page. And I am very aware that even a book of photos made around the world needs to have a narrative arc, a beginning, a middle and an ending.

DM- Your first book The New Yorkers was self published. What made you decide to find a publisher this time and what was the process like? Did you put together a proposal and a group of photos?
RH- I decided to go with Schiffer Publishing this time, because I wanted to experience working with a publisher, and seeing if their clout in the marketplace would make a difference in terms of placement in the big bookstores, getting reviews and increasing sales.

DM- Both your books are in the MOMA permanent library collection now. How did that happen?
RH- I first became in contact with MoMA when I was self-distributing The New Yorkers. I sent a pdf to the book buyer and he asked to see the hard copy.
After that, it began to sell and he continued to reorder the book. After that, I submitted the book to the photography department curators and asked if they might acquire the New Yorkers for the permanent collection. I am happy to say they agreed. When The Phone Book was published, I repeated the process.

DM- What is the most difficult part of being a street photographer in NYC? How is it different than any other city/ people you \ photograph?
RH- Doing street photography is my joy and my avocation. It is a part of my DNA and I have done it continuously for forty years. The difficulty is always in the editing. Making a coherent edit of only the best photos and creating a context for my work so that it can be understood by a wide audience, takes much thought and detachment.
But as it is the case of any artist, getting your work noticed, appreciated and written about is always a difficult process. It takes years of networking experience to be able to get a body of work in front of the right people.
Making collections like The Phone Book or The New Yorkers has been the most challenging aspect of being a photographer, and at the same it has been the most rewarding.

For more information about Robert Herman please visit:


Posted & filed under Art, Entertainment.

Svjetlana Bukvich Teams Up Again With Carolyn Dorfman Dance on TRACES.

From the intimacy of the duet to powerful, driving ensembles, the work of choreographer Carolyn Dorfman conjures rich worlds for audiences to enter through a program that features the world premiere of Traces.

Dorfman is known as a creator of evocative dances that reflect her concerns about the human condition. Traces, which explores the forces that create and change us across time, distance and circumstance, is set to a commissioned score by award-winning Svjetlana Bukvich and video design by Kate Freer, both collaborators on Dorfman’s visually stunning Interior Designs.

The evening also includes Dorfman’s popular Echad (One), described by The Star-Ledger as “… ingenious, a fascinating metaphor … amazing timing and brilliant athleticism.”

Presented as part of the Jersey Moves! Festival of Dance.

Advance Discount Parking Vouchers for this event are $15 and may be purchased here.

Denise Marsa asks Ms Bukvich about the process of collaborating with Carolyn Dorfman on TRACES

Svjetlana Bukvich & Carolyn Dorfman Dance (CDD) Collaboration:

TRACES- World Premiere, April 8, 2016 NJPAC Performance & Gala Benefit

DM: TRACES is a commissioned piece. How does that work when a choreographer is looking to apply for a grant? Are you / your talent/experience a part of the process, request?

In my work with CDD so far, the company applied to three major grants to support the music portion of the project with me as a composer. We were fortunate to get them; from the O’Donnell-Green Music and Dance Foundation, Inc., New Music USA, 2013 Live Music for Dance and New Music USA, 2016 Live Music for Dance.

The granting process is drawn out and daunting at times, especially when traveling abroad. The 6 month deadlines often and on average don’t coincide with the faster pace of the festival circuit in smaller countries around the world.

Luckily, the company had the funds from sponsors for my fee secured, regardless of the grant status, so I had one less worry there.

DM: How do you go about writing for a dance piece? Did Carolyn show you the piece first, do you both discuss intention, ideas, gist, feel? The title? Meaning?

The “theme” for the pieces is Carolyn’s vision. I love her take on life through dance. She may not have the choreography done but a few “bar lines” or a meter, and a tempo. Then she’d ask me for musical ideas. I’d send them, and then we go back and forth. The conversation about intention takes place. Sometimes she’d have larger sections done; I’d experience them in rehearsal or on video, and then come up with the musical language for what I see. It does help that I give her temporary (temp) music to work with (usually another artist that I like based on her “theme” for the piece), so that when it comes time for original music, I’m not faced with movement that was developed with a totally alien composition.

DM: How do you start the process and then develop your inspiration?
It’s a bit like scoring for picture. The feel and the speed/timing are paramount. I’m a structuralist and timbre obsessed, and I find these qualities in Carolyn’s choreography. There’s a story in my music that is separate from the story in her choreography, but to us, they fit. Like parallel universes that have many overlapping points. When she called me on the phone three years ago and asked if I’d like to write for her company I was floored. Now I see the possibility she saw then, realized. On a deeper level, life to me is about how one moves through it. Dance is a natural expression of that. Movement is inherent to sound, any sound. The two are never separate in my mind.

DM: How much time does it take to put a composition together for a new choreographer’s dance movement?
It depends largely on the length of the piece. This 30-minute work took two months to compose. It helped that I had worked with the company before, know the dancers, the videographers, the light and costume designers and the choreographer’s body of work.

DM: Did you study dance?
No, not officially. But I love to move to sound, always have, in some kind of Gesamtkunstwerk in my mind. The work of Meredith Monk interested me in this way, and also of Janis Brenner with whom I took a moving, sounding, and acting workshop many summers ago. To me, how one moves in his/her own kitchen is a multimedia piece. It is, essentially, abstract. Also, in my old country (the whole region of former Yugoslavia), dance was everywhere.

DM: How do you go about finding, picking your musicians for the live and recorded part of TRACES?
That is a good question. The musicians need to be very aware and sensitive to the theatrical side and presence when playing and they need to have superb chops in various genres. Something like choosing the right kind of thorough bred for the right kind of race. The instrumentation for TRACES is somewhat uncommon. With the exception of drums and percussion, the electric harp and electric violin viper were not so easy to come by. I went by composers’ recommendations and musicians I worked with before. I play the minimoog synthesizer in this piece, so I have that covered!

For more information about Svjetlana Bukvich please visit: