Monday, February 20, 2006

A Slightly Unconventional Week

This was definitely a good week at TMEA...but then, I don't know that I've ever had a bad week down there. Each convention takes on its own identity after a while, although there are many things that are exactly the same from year to year. So here's my collection of random thoughts and observations from this year's event:
  • I don't know the exact head-count from the convention, but suffice it to say, it's massive. Freakin' huge. Ginormous, even. The wall of people passing through the convention center at the top and bottom of the hour is like a mini-New York transplanted to the heart of the Alamo City. I think it's especially energizing to me because 1) I know so many of the people, and 2) because everyone there is involved in some way in the teaching of music, which is a very good thing. Sometimes, as a music teacher, it's easy to feel isolated amidst a sea of colleagues whose only concern seems to be this year's standardized test scores, so it's great to experience that certain unity of so many kindred spirits in the same place. It's always a little sad on Saturday night when things are winding down, but it's great to be able to repeat the whole thing every February.

  • It's always interesting to see someone's face the first time they walk into the exhibit hall. Imagine a couple of football fields' worth of space (spread out over two halls this year) filled with everything that has even the smallest connection to music or music education: Instrument manufacturers, music stores, and music publishers, all the way down to niche marketers like marching drill designers, oboe supply shops and fundraising specilalists (thanks for the free giant lollipop, by the way). No one person would be interested in everything in there, but each booth meant something to somebody.

  • Incidentally, I managed to only drop a little over 60 bucks at this booth this year; my acquisitions included an Eric Alexander CD, a classic Thad/Mel recording, Mintzer's Art of the Big Band and a CD with three (!) bari players playing Mulligan tunes.

  • As I said, I know a lot of people down here every year; more than a few of them are people I went to college with, and TMEA is the only time we ever get to see each other. My encounters with some of them even take place at the same location (the exhibit hall, the UNT reunion, the Sinfonia sing) every year.

    One of my old friends noted that everyone always says "it's going well" when they're asked how things are, and that such a stock response would probably be offered even if things were going badly. But, generally speaking, everyone did seem to be sincerely having a good life. Perhaps that's related to being able to do something you really, really love and make a living out of it.

  • I was very impressed by the VIA streetcar system that runs downtown. I had been a little concerned about being so far away from the convention center and the Riverwalk, but the system pretty much ran like clockwork, for eighty cents a pop. As a result, we were able to leave the van parked in the hotel garage until it was time to take the guys and their gear to the concert, and we just came and went as we pleased. The service stopped a little early on weeknights, but the good thing about knowing so many people down there was that there was always a fraternity brother with a car to take me back if a social gathering ran late.

  • Tha Gud Spelr Awarred goes to a little shop that I passed every day on the streetcar ride: a CONVENIENT STORE that sold WATERS. (I didn't stop in, so I don't know if it sold COAKS as well.)

  • Since I had no computer access at the hotel (note to self: the laptop goes waaaaay up on the list of priorities), I watched the Olympics every night before bed. I'm not one for things like ice dancing, but snowboard cross in particular was a whole lot of fun to watch. I'd never seen it before, but I found myself enraptured every time it came on. (Althouse liked it too, though not all of her commenters agreed.)

  • The guys from my school did very well at their concert. I thought that the community college all-state jazz band as a whole sounded better than last year's group, and clinician Alex Parker (from Baylor) was knowledgeable, effective and full of energy. It's too bad that the crowd wasn't bigger, though "front and center" was mostly full. I bet that, with all the things going on, some people aren't even aware of the community college groups...but, as one of my friends who sat with me at the concert said, it was nice to come to an all-state concert where it was actually easy to get a seat.

  • Speaking of that, it was the first time in recent memory that I didn't get to attend one of the "regular" all-state band concerts, mostly because they happened when I was running the guys back and forth with their equipment. I'm sure they did well, and it's always impressive to see a band that fills the entire stage of the Lila Cockrell. I still hope to have someone in one of those bands before too long (it's been all jazz for me so far); the competition is massive, but someone's gonna do it in the near future, I think.
All in all, it was one of the most relaxing TMEA weeks I've ever had, even though I had official duties this time. There ended up being plenty of things to see but plenty of chill time in the middle. And with a state test giving me a "holiday" from public school teaching tomorrow, I should get all caught up on both work and sleep.


Anonymous said...

I watched ice dancing to see the couples fall. It was great!!! The performers and commentators were so horrified every time it happened.

I especially liked the soap opera caused by the Italian couple's mishap. They didn't speak or look at each other until they went out to skate their last routine 2 days later. After they finished the lady made the guy cry backstage. It was glorious. She was so evil.

Ms. Worley said...

I saw you in passing in the exhibit hall but wasn't close enough to say hi... I must agree with you that my favorite thing about the convention is truly just getting to see other people that teach music. As the lone choir director at my school, it's nice just to be able to talk to other choir directors and get ideas, support, etc. Someone told me over lunch (I don't know if this is true) that TMEA is the largest annual music convention there is. So, I think your New York analogy may be more or less right on.

Good times all around, I must say.

Kev said...

Ms. W--I was wondering if I'd run into you down there...but I also realized that, with you being on the vocal "track" and me on the jazz one, that it would be possible to be there the whole time and never cross paths, just because all our stuff would be in different parts of the convention center. And I can totally understand you not wanting to shout over some high school kid playing the highest note he could play on the trumpet to say "hi" to someone across the aisle. ;-)

Gary--Yeah, Alex and I did judge together, and I really enjoyed working with him. We were pretty much of one mind as far as the comments on nearly all of the bands, and he is a really good guy.