Monday, September 11, 2017

We Still Remember

My remembrances of this day in 2001, first published two years after the fact (in the first year of this blog), and only edited slightly since then: Here's my story: I was on a break from teaching, like every Tuesday, and actually spent the time of the attacks in blissful ignorance at a nearby Starbucks. I had CD's on in my car instead of the radio, so I totally missed the news on both the way over and the way back. I did hear someone listening to a radio on the Starbucks patio and they were talking about "the second plane," but it didn't register with me at all. (It amazed me later that nobody walked inside and told us about it.) When I got back to the school, the flute teacher stopped me in the hallway and asked me if all my students were being pulled out of school (evidently hers were). I said, "No, why?" and she told me what had happened. I spent the rest of the day like everyone else, in shocked, depressed amazement, catching the news when I could. There I was, not even two weeks into being a homeowner, and the world suddenly felt so different. It added to the pall cast over everything when I found out that the sister of a girl I graduated from high school with was on Flight 93, the one that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. (I know that there have been quite a few lists of names read aloud today, so let me share hers: Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas. May she rest in peace...) The whole thing felt so surreal; how could anyone hate us that much? The concept of the suicide hijacking was unprecedented as well (before that, hijackers just usually wanted to go to Cuba, and that's why airline personnel were taught to cooperate with them rather than try to subdue them). I know there are still terrorist plots being hatched, and people capable of carrying them out...but I hope nothing like this ever happens on U.S. soil again. Or anywhere, for that matter. As I said a year ago, I hope nobody tires of talking about this every once in a while, because if we stop talking, we might forget, and this is a day that need not be forgotten anytime soon.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Abilities

On the last day of sectionals earlier this week, I had everyone play at least four bars of one of the All-Region etudes for the group. Part of it went like this: KID #1: I will play the first four bars of Etude 2. (does so) KID #2: I'm gonna play the exact same thing he did, but worse. (does so)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Musical Interpretation

During my recent sectionals, I was talking about the "artistic" way to do a trill on a long note--starting gradually rather than going full speed, since doing the latter in a slow piece often sounds overly aggressive, or even angry... ME: And there's nothing even remotely angry about this piece. If anything, it's a love song. KID #1: Eww! Why does it have to be a love song? I hate love songs! ME (somewhat surprised): Well, it doesn't have to be a love song. If you want, just think of it as a beautiful walk in the park. KID #2: I hate the park!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Kids Say the Darnedest Things at the End of Sectionals

At the end of a week and a half of sectionals for a couple of high schools, I always do the quick plug for lessons at the end... ME: So before we finish up, here's the quick "commercial." KID: So this means that the free trial period has ended, and now we have to pay?

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Kids Also Wear the Darnedest Things

Many ensembles dress alike for State; here comes one now... First kid: All black Second kid: All black Third kid: All black Fourth kid: All black, except for powder-blue shoes and white socks (and pants that are high-water enough to make the latter really obvious)

Kids Say the Darnedest Things at State Solo & Ensemble

Overheard earlier today: KID 1: Yeah, I probably got a 3 if the judge has mercy, or a 4 otherwise. KID 2: Oh, it wasn't really that bad. KID 1: I totally messed up! KID 2: Nah, you just forgot an entire repeated section, but other than that...

Thursday, May 18, 2017

An Apt Quote for Today

One of the better quotes I saw today among all the Chris Cornell tributes: "If I write a song and put it out there, it's not mine anymore," [Cornell] told CNN. "It takes on a life of its own, and when you listen to it, it becomes your song. And over the course of generations, those meanings will change." RIP, Chris. (And yes, Soundgarden was one of the bands I got to see live that some people might not have expected, even if they didn't make the "ten bands I've seen, one is a lie" thing a few weeks ago.)

Monday, May 01, 2017

Kids (and Their Teacher) Have the Darnedest Fixes for Rehearsal Problems

So the power goes out in the practice wing during quartet rehearsal? No problem; five cell phone flashlights illuminate the room just fine.‬

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Auto-Correct Says the Darnedest Things

I was typing a chord progression into my phone's notepad to remember it for later, and every time I tried to type "Eb," auto-correct tried to change it to "zen." Has anybody out there ever had a particularly Zen moment related to the playing of an Eb?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

This Could Have Been an Alarming Development

I was surprised to wake up to Clock #2 this morning, which is set for four minutes after (and located on the opposite side of the room from) Clock #1. I wondered if I forgot to set the latter, but...nope, it was flashing 2:53, which means 1) the power went out at least briefly during the storm, and 2) the backup battery finally gave its last after years of service. (And that, my friends, is why I have a Clock #2 in the first place.)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Baristas Say the Darnedest Things, and I Respond in Kind

Just a typical recent coffee order... BARISTA: And what's the name for that order? ME: Kevin. BARISTA: Ok. I don't have to ask you how to spell that, do I? ME (laughs) I hope not. (pauses) Actually, I spell it with a Q... BARISTA: (laughs) ME: I would be so mad at my parents if they'd done that. (I suppose that, considering all the viral posts about misspelled names at Starbucks, they have to ask almost anyone whose name is more complicated than "John" these days.)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

(College) Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Famous Jazz Venues

Earlier this week, I was talking with some students at the college about my gig tonight. I explained that the annual event recreates the atmosphere of the famous Cotton Club, with lots of people in period attire, highly skilled swing dancers, and so on... KID: I want to go to the Cotton Club! ME: Well, I'm afraid you'd have to do some time travel and snag a flight to New York City in order to do that. KID: It's not in Dallas? I thought the Cotton Club was in Dallas. ME: You're thinking of the Cotton Bowl.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Annual Band Marathon Never Fails to Please

Even though I don't do a whole lot of pure blogging right now, you can always count on something from me on the second or third Friday in January: The annual high school All-Region Band concert in the region where I teach.

The concert is really a series of five mini-concerts, with each band--a freshman band and four high school bands (which freshmen can make as well, but they surrender their chair in the freshman band if they do), all at 45-minute intervals. That way, if family members are only attending for their kid's band, they can make way for others to be seated (I have no idea if any school auditorium could hold the families of all five bands' members, plus all the directors and private teachers, not to mention the members of other bands who stick around to see their friends play). Also, having preset starting times allows the families of the later bands to show up as close to the downbeat as possible.

As always, what follows is not in any way a review of the concert, but instead some random thoughts that entered my mind as I was listening:

  • I mention every year that, as a whole, I prefer the newer "wind ensemble" music to the older "band" music, but a well-played classic will still thrill me, especially if it's something I've played before. This year, almost all the music was new to me, save for the occasional march used to cap off a group's program. A lot of lesser-known (at least to me) new composers were represented (Ryan George, Ryan Nowland, and Daniel Weinberger, to name a few), and there are some brilliant fanfares out there that started a few bands' performances on an energetic note. And I was reminded how much I like Brian Balmages' music; it was extremely cool that the band who played two of his pieces Skyped him in during part of this morning's rehearsal.
  • One of the bands used student announcers to introduce each piece, which I thought was a nice touch. It wasn't that the clinician himself didn't talk, but it was cool to hear some different voices from the mic, and I'm sure it was a thrill for the kids (and their parents).
  • Speaking of...well, speaking, all the clinicians engaged with the audience (there have been times where some of them have barely said a word). As I've noted in previous years, since the programs often read "to be selected from the following" and then list a variety of pieces which may or may not be played, it's crucial for the audience to know what they are about to hear, or just heard. Plus, as I see it, an engaged clinician just makes a better impression on the audience.
  • Kudos to the organizers for doing something I've asked for in these pages for years: Listing composers by first and last names, instead of just last names. It's one thing if you say "Sousa" (most people won't mistake John Philip for some random guy named Fred Sousa or something), but with so many new composers being programmed, it's good to provide more information.
  • It wasn't as chronic as in years past, but there still were some problems with door etiquette among certain audience members. If you have to leave, please do so quickly and quietly, and make sure the door doesn't slam behind you. Several of the pieces had very soft introductions, and I hope none of the door slams made it onto the recording.
  • The one thing I've noticed this year that's different among the announcements to the audience is the one about TMEA licensing agreements prohibiting recording of the concerts...and all I can say is, it's about time! And believe it or not--save for the one guy at last weekend's middle school concert who had a full-on camcorder with a tripod--people are obeying the request. It's so nice to be able to watch the whole concert from anywhere in the auditorium, instead of through someone's iPad.
  • Only one more comment about the audience: I bet there's at least one person who will have better concert etiquette next time, after their not-whispered conversation wafted into the auditorium during an unexpected grand pause in one of the marches...)
  • I sometimes use this annual post as a chance to brag on my studio (as in how many of my students made the bands); it's smaller this year because of some heightened commitments elsewhere, but I still had students in three of the five bands (even if one of them made a band on an instrument other than the one I teach him). It's always nice to be able to stand up when private teachers and directors of the students on stage are recognized.
  • Even if I don't have a student in the top band, I always stay for the entire concert. Why? Among other things, because the college directors who have the top two bands always do amazing things, especially considering the short time they have (Thursday evening and Friday morning/afternoon) with their bands. Texas is famous for its school band programs, and when you combine the cream of the crop with some inspiring university bandmasters, some magical things happen. Kudos to Bobby Francis from TCU (Wind Ensemble, aka top band) and Dennis LlinĂ¡s from LSU (Wind Symphony, aka second band) for bringing so much out of these young musicians in such a short time.
This concert is always an important part of my year; I get to celebrate the accomplishments of some of my students and their friends, hear some great new music, and spend more time with some of the directors I teach with than I do during a busy school week. I know what I'll be doing on a Friday night in January a year from now, and I'll take to the keyboard again when I get home.