On the afternoon of the 14th the musicians will come,
And audience members will see what's been done,
As students and players and performers of all kinds
Will gather at the church with a meeting of minds.
And music! The music we share is straight from our spirit;
Our souls will be speaking, if you'll just wait and hear it.
We know that our Maker has gifts to us given,
And we want to share them, and show what we've striven.
But mostly we gather to share holiday joys,
Along with the fellowship that music employs.
Come listen, come smile, come laugh, come nod;
We'll make the music and we hope you'll applaud!
The 2013-14 seasons have all officially begun. This past Saturday night, Swing Memories
swung into action at the VFW for our season opener. Some great music, some great dancing and I even sang a few numbers (which looks like will be a regular feature of our performances).
Sunday morning we had a special service at St. Mark's
. We performed several special pieces, some were even in Spanish (for our Spanish congregation). I love the opportunities that I have to make many kinds of music at church. It's a great community and they are all very appreciative of the music.
Today the Silveridge Pops
begins its season with the first rehearsal this afternoon. I'm looking forward to getting back in front of that group of excellent musicians. And, yes, I hope to keep working on the John Williams music with them!
And, of course, the Mesa City Band
and the Sunland Singers have been rehearsing for several weeks now. The MCB has had two concerts already in the past weeks. Both were very successful events.
This coming weekend there's more gigs with the Swing Band, including a four-hour affair at the country's best Elk's Lodge in Phoenix
and a Veteran's Day gig at The Citadel.
Last week my wife shared a web-comic
that has since been making the email/web circuit. It's beautifully drawn, but it is particularly significant to me because it incorporates some of Bill Watterson's (Calvin and Hobbes) words given at a graduation in 1990. Just like his strips about a young boy and his stuffed tiger, it is full of meaning and wisdom.
click to see the entire strip
When I left my teaching job, I encountered a lot of misunderstanding from a lot of people. I originally thought people would be happy for me because I had chosen to make the change to focus on what I loved doing. But instead I found that most people didn't know what to make of a person who wanted to be a freelance musician and teacher.
An artist I know once told me--when I was a much-younger and aspiring musician--that I would have to make sure to give myself time to create. I think people who don't create art often underestimate the amount of time it takes. Learning to perform music takes hours (upon hours!) of practice. Writing songs and composing, recording and arranging music takes just as much time. It's very hard to "squeeze" in creative activity around a busy schedule.
Then when we had a child, and I took on the task of adjusting my schedule to raise Elmer, I again encountered a great deal of misunderstanding. Honestly--looking back--our choice made a lot of sense. Anali has a regular job at an office from 9-5, whereas I worked from home and could adjust my own work schedule accordingly. Even so, I was told (and sometimes still am told) that it is "woman's work" and that I shouldn't be doing it. (This isn't to say that Anali hasn't had to give anything up! We both have given a lot to our little guy.)
You'd think in our modern society that has so changed--and is still changing--that more people would understand a non-traditional life. Bill Watterson did not let his commercial success or the allure of wealth guide his career. In fact, because of the difficulty of avoiding the influence of his commercial success he left the public sphere and never returned. Instead he focused on his family and living a life the way he wanted.
I think that's what makes him a success.
"To invent your own life's meaning is not easy but it's still allowed and I think you'll be happier for the trouble."
- Bill Wattersonhttp://zenpencils.com/comic/128-bill-watterson-a-cartoonists-advice/
Thanks to Gavin Aung Than (zenpencils.com) for his great artwork!
The recital this past Saturday went very well. Thanks to everyone who attended! I'm very proud of my students and pleased with the way all of us made some music.CLICK HERE TO SEE THE RECITAL PAGE
I have some strong thoughts about how music is used in our society, and I shared some of them with the audience towards the end of the recital. I jokingly referred to it as a "sermon" and I guess it is something like that. I hope, however, that it makes people think.
It is a shame that so much of the music people enjoy is separated from the rest of their life. Making music is a joy that should not be reserved for only the professionals and highly-trained among us. There was a time when music-making was enjoyed by all, whether trained or not, whether wealthy or poor, no matter what class, gender, race. The poorest commoner sang to the love of his life just as frequently as a wealthy man would have serenaded his mistress. Unfortunately, today both rich and poor alike prefer to passively rely on recordings for their musical needs.
So I have issued a call to everyone to engage with music. This first and foremost means to make
music, whether singing or playing an instrument. Don't tell me you can't sing: everyone has the necessary tools. A bit of advice: this is best done with other people.
Secondly, however, everyone should listen to live music.
It doesn't have to be an expensive concert--there's plenty of inexpensive and free options around if you look. Here's another piece of advice: Go to church. You'll almost assuredly encounter some live music there as well as some people to share it with.
Anyway, I've posted the audio of my 'sermon' on the recital page
along with recordings of the music.
I'll end this post with a YouTube video of a flash-mob performance. Maybe someday I can get one of the groups I work with to do one. They look like a lot of fun and what a great way to share music with the community!
It's been a year since I became the organist and music director at St. Mark's. (I was only the band director before). Needless to say, there's been a lot of changes over this past year in my life. However, I really feel good about the changes that we've made and I truly feel that my organ technique has improved a lot.
Thinking about my own growth as an organist (and, generally speaking, as a musician) reminds me about a guiding philosophy that I hold: Everything about music is connected to growth and development. A musician ought to embrace change and have an honest assessment of their own abilities in order to be in a proper state to facilitate their own improvement. A common mistake that I frequently encounter is people too afraid to try new things because they are afraid of revealing that they aren't perfect. Perfection is a fine carrot to dangle in front of your eyes, but there is wisdom in not planning on getting it for dinner.
This is probably true in all fields of work, but I especially see it among the musicians with which I work. Too many people waste their energies in trying to appear to be good at something, when instead they ought to work at actually getting good at it.
By the way, we're having a recital in a few weeks. Save the date!
Saturday, August 24th • 3pm
We'll be featuring the usual crowd of musicians: Jenna and I are doing some neat duets, and she's got some nice solo pieces too. Julia and I are doing a Beethoven duet, and she'll be singing a song. The Mesa Winds have some fun stuff, including a jazzy rendition of "Satin Doll". The Tempe Guitar Trio also has a jazzy number we've been working on. Of course there's more, and refreshments after the recital.
Hope to see you there!
The Swing Memories
gig season has slowed a bit (just three in May, one coming up in June) but we still have a good time. Here's some photos and a recording from our last gig this past Wednesday. A mellow tune with some nice solos: "Here's That Rainy Day" (Not that we get much of that in Phoenix).
Pam Wolfe--who plays both Alto and Tenor with us depending on what we need--is a real funny lady sometimes. Anyway, she saw a tie and thought of me. It's a piano tie that actually plays (kinda, don't expect any fast scales on it). It's cute. Naturally I put it on as soon as she gave it to me and I wore it for the rest of the gig. We're playing today for a Memorial Day event and I'd wear it to our gig today but we're supposed to be wearing Hawaiian shirts. Maybe I'll still wear it. I wonder if it goes with Hawaiian flowers? :-)
By the way, I wouldn't mind if it actually rained today. Here's to that rainy day--that we rarely get to see.
Easter has come and gone, and suddenly I feel a bit more relaxed. Fair warning: I think I need to decompress and ramble. If you came here looking for deep thoughts or vast musical insight, you had better click to another page. (I wonder why you came here looking for those things anyway...)
I think these past five months have been the busiest for me since I left the school in 2010. Not including church services (of which there were many), I've had forty-something concerts, gigs and performances since November. And, of course, each of those performances represents hours of rehearsal, practice and preparation. Anyway, I offer this bit of information up to excuse my absence from the Internet airwaves. Otherwise, I've never liked listening to others tell me how busy they are, and I don't want to start doing it myself. (I know I've just done it but, honestly, I'm finished now.)
Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to talk about my son. (As if that's better than talking about how busy I am).
The church thrift store had two electric organs they were trying to sell. They kindly offered one to me (as if I needed any more stuff in the house). I tried it out for a while, but I think Elmer liked it better than I did. In particular, he liked the large, friendly, colored buttons and the electronic synthesized drum beats. Cue an 8-bit 80's samba.(Who knew there was a blog titled "8-Bit Samba"?)
Not that he needs any encouragement to put things into his mouth, but Elmer has progressed very well at his recorder playing. He can now play what I call "Elmer See Sharp", otherwise known as "Jamming On the One". Maybe, in time, he'll get good enough to learn a few other notes. He likes it especially when I finger the notes and he blows. Especially when I trill.
Honestly, I can't wait to get him to learn more recorder. I really think it's one of the best instruments made by man. It's supremely portable. It's very easy to play and with only a relatively small amount of effort one can get a very nice sound out of it. With all the seriousness that I can muster at this hour, I think that if I were only offered a few possessions to take with me to some deserted and remote wilderness, one of them would be a recorder.
Elmer also likes to play duets with me. In fact, if he is awake and I am playing the piano he feels that it is his duty to come and assist his father. His specialty is bass notes, but now and then he focuses on high trebles. When I am recording anything, his sense of timing is perfect (...in the ironic sense).
Needless to say, I try to do all my recordings when he is asleep or gone from the house.
But now that I think of it, maybe I can do a whole series of recordings using his own musical invention as a ground. Surprisingly (and perhaps revealing Elmer's vast genius) his compositions tend to sound a lot like the grounds of the music Moses and I created for Sounds of a Sphere
I have finally upgraded my old workhorse. You probably would be surprised to know that I always had to mic my old keyboard because it didn't have a line out. Needless to say that is an extremely awkward way to amplify a keyboard on stage. So I've finally got a decent stage piano with proper outs. You can see Elmer was the first to try it out. (He let me have a go after he worked it in properly).
Don't get me wrong; I love my old piano. I've had it for many years and have played countless gigs, concerts, recitals with it. It was in my classroom way back when I first was teaching, and many kids played, pounded, puked and everything else on it. It is like a battered but still-servicable old car. I guess I've just decided that it would be more professional of me to have a stage piano that actually plugs into a house's PA rather than has to be mic'd in.
My old beloved keyboard has been moved to St. Mark's. The keyboard I have been using there for the past nine years was on it's last legs and my old keyboard is leaps and bounds better than it.
Elmer and I are glad that the busiest season is over. I know he'll be glad to not be so busy with his father. (Mama is glad to have Father around more too).
Happy Easter everyone!
He is risen!
UPDATED 4-1-13 at 1 PM
I suddenly felt guilty about giving the organ back (Thanks Kerry!) Then I remembered that I have an old keyboard that I've owned for thirty years (I think I was ten when my parents gave it to me). I guess it qualifies as an antique (or at least historic license plates). Anyway I have officially bequeathed it to Elmer. It has plenty of colorful buttons on it and he was greatly amused by it. It is still in great working order. In fact, among all its various sounds, it has a Samba rhythm. I would bet money that it is produced with an 8-bit processor.
Go to the Recital Page
to listen! Pictures will be up soon.
Happy New Year!
...to our largest audience yet. Thanks to all of you who came to support all of us!
The music was great and I am very pleased and proud of all we've accomplished this Winter. Please click the program cover to the left to see the entire program. I'll have the recordings and photos posted soon--as soon as I get a chance to edit & prepare them.
This week I have lots of concerts/gigs so I'll be pretty busy up through Christmas. Please take a look at my calendar on the front page
if you're interested in coming to any of my concerts.
Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a quote that I read to the audience Saturday afternoon. This is from John Philip Sousa, back in 1909:
"These talking machines are going to ruin the artistic development of music in this country. When I was a boy...in front of every house in the summer evenings, you would find young people together singing the songs of the day or old songs. Today you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal cord left. The vocal cord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape."
Luckily the vocal cord hasn't been eliminated yet. However, he shared my current opinion on the emphasis of recorded music over live music. There's nothing quite like a live performance, and there are plenty of them around if one takes the time to look.
Another quote and then I'm done: "The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." - Henry Van Dyke (18
It's the time of year where friends and students gather and make some music! Come and see what we've been working on. Several of my students will be performing as well as some of the groups with which I work: The Tempe Guitar Trio, The Mesa Woodwind Quartet. I even have a special piece I've composed for my son -- a surprise! :)
We'd love it if you could join us: Saturday, December 15th at 2PM - St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Mesa