Tuesday, December 16, 2014
ME: If you don't practice a piece you don't like, it's like trying to vanquish your enemy with a dull sword. You'll just nick it, and make it mad. You want to go after it with as strong of a blade as possible.
KID: Like Escobar!
KID: Escobar. It's a sword in the legend of Arthur.
ME: That would be Excalibur.
Monday, December 15, 2014
ME: So what do you get when you tie two eighth notes together?
KID: A whole note?
Friday, December 12, 2014
KID: What is E-sharp again?
ME: Nope. Think for a second; that can't be true.
Monday, December 08, 2014
ME: This one is by Bach, who was of course a major composer. If I asked you to name me three classical composers, he'd likely be on the list, right?
ME: So who would the other two be?
KID: Let's see. Adam Levine...
ME: Wait, what?
KID: The lead singer for Maroon 5.
ME: Right. Ha, clever...
KID: But seriously, Beethoven and Mozart.
ME: There you go.
Friday, December 05, 2014
Thursday, December 04, 2014
KID: Before we start this one, I have to tell you...I really haven't practiced the second half of this étude.
ME: Well, I appreciate your honesty--but you really shouldn't have told me that yet. Suppose it goes really well this time?
KID: Then God actually loves me.
Wednesday, December 03, 2014
KID: I forgot my music again.
ME: Did you just leave it at home by accident?
KID: I forgot where my mom put it.
ME: So why did she have to put it anywhere? Do you leave it on the floor or something?
KID: Yeah, kinda.
Monday, December 01, 2014
KID: So they'd be the Box. B-O-X!
ME: Except it wouldn't be spelled that way. We have a student group at the college called "Music Bachs"--B-A-C-H-S.
KID: But he wouldn't get that joke, since he was deaf.
ME: Bach wasn't deaf; that was Beethoven.
KID: I always get them mixed up. I know that one of them was deaf, and one of them had weird hair.
ME: They both had weird hair...
Thursday, November 27, 2014
ME: Ahh, Pharoah...
DAD (reading screen): Are you familiar with Pharoah Sanders?
ME: Very much so. I've even seen him live.
MOM: So is he dead now?
ME: That's not exactly what I meant.
Friday, November 21, 2014
ME: And they named the two new months after their most famous Caesars.
KID: January and February?
Thursday, November 20, 2014
ME: So...if I asked you to name me three classical composers, who would they be?
KID: Bach, Beethoven and...what's his name?--J. Elliott?
KID: I think his name is J.S. Elliott.
ME: If you mean T.S. Eliot, he was a poet.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
ME: That would be cool if you could use (sibling)'s horn. It's really nice...
KID: The Selmer? I don't even know how to use that!
ME: it's still a saxophone...
Thursday, November 13, 2014
1) Colder temperatures.
2) Carols playing over the piped-in music at the mall.
3) Starbucks starts using the red cups.
4) You hear oboes playing "Deck the Halls" in the adjacent practice room.
5) All of the above, but you'd prefer to avoid #2 and #4 as much as possible.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
ME: So I can definitely make a space for you if you want; I had one at the beginning of the year, but you didn't take it.
KID: I was gonna come back, but I thought I knew everything...and then I went to All-District, and I heard all these people doing all these dynamics and things, and I was like, "Crap! How do you even do all those things in one measure? It was like a sucker punch!"
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
ME: The C# on the third beat isn't tongued.
KID: I knew that. I was testing you.
ME: Well, I passed....
Friday, November 07, 2014
Thursday, November 06, 2014
Wednesday, November 05, 2014
A beginner had his first "line" from the book that actually lasted more than a single line; as often happens, he stopped at the end of the first line.
ME: So how do you know you're not done when you get to the end of the first line? What's missing?
KID (points to double bar): Black thing!
ME: What's the black thing called?
KID: Black thing!
So one of them was fooled by the two-line line recently, and I asked him the same thing...
ME: So how do you know you're not done yet?
KID (points to double bar): It doesn't have that thing right there.
ME: What's that thing called?
KID : The stopper?
Tuesday, November 04, 2014
ME: We need to run through all your scales and the two etudes, and then we'll have a mock audition.
KID: What does that mean?
ME: Thar means that you audition, and then I mock you.
KID: (gives me a sad look until he realizes I'm not serious)
ME: Don't stop and hang your head in shame; we have a lot to do today.
KID: Is this the mocking part?
ME: Only if you miss easy key signatures like that.
Friday, October 31, 2014
Thursday, October 30, 2014
But the kid was still able to play, resting his thumb up against the bottom of the chromatic F# key guard. (I told him that if he felt it rubbing up against the metal too much, he could tape his thumb up like a conga player might do.)
Friday, September 26, 2014
ME: I really can't remember; it looked like a lot of fun; a bunch of my friends were playing it...so, it wasn't exactly "all the cool kids age doing it," but that was a factor.
KID: I've seen those selection sessions at school before, and it's crazy. These people who are going to be musicians...it's like picking your Pokemon at the beginning of the game, and it's yours for the rest of your life.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
ME: That's a cool harness you have there. And I bet you like it a lot more than you would a neck strap.
KID: A neck strap would break my spine!
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
(Reminds me of the time in my youth when my dad--the official starter for the neighborhood swim meets--called out an event as the "13-14 year-old girls' breaststyle.")
Friday, September 19, 2014
KID: This is my bari. Actually, he's more like my friend that I completely control.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
KID: So you still teach (other kid's name)? Do you bring your bari or something?
ME: I don't have to bring my bari to teach a bari player. We play the same exact notes an octave apart. The bari is an Eb instrument, just like you and I both play the Eb alto.
KID: Oh yeah...
ME: So do you remember why we play Eb alto saxophones? (I was hoping he'd remember that our C matches the Eb on the piano)
KID: Because we're cool?
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
KID: This horn was supposed to cost $4000, but it's used, so it was only $2000.
ME (thinking $4K was a bit steep for that model, and doing a quick online search): That's interesting; I see one here on Amazon for only $1300.
KID: But you have to remember tax.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
ME: I think that's the easiest way to imagine that articulation. Just think of some Russian gymnast or figure skater; Tatiana is a nice Russian name that's easy to remember.
(Kid plays passage with correct articulation, but his fingers fumble and he adds a few extra notes to one beat.)
KID: Tatiana fell down.
Monday, September 15, 2014
ME: So are you taking Spanish? You might recognize this term if so.
KID: I just don't have an interest in taking Spanish. I'd rather take a more interesting language, like German or Irish.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
I was on a break from teaching, like every Tuesday, and actually spent the time of the attacks in blissful ignorance at the Rockwall 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 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.)As I repost this in 2014, we know that the evil in our world is far from being eradicated. But I say once more, may we never forget, and may something of this nature never happen here again.
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. (Since it's common on this day to have roll calls of the people who were lost, I'll state her name here, with a link to her foundation: Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas.)
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.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
KID: I've never played in this many sharps before. What's the new flat?
ME: There are no sharps in the Eb scale; the new flat is Ab.
Thursday, September 04, 2014
ME: So I'm going to explain this in terms of food...and you know, it seems like the vast majority of my analogies involve either speaking, or driving, or food.
KID: Ha, that's true. But really, except for sleep, those are the most important things in life--talking, driving, and food.
ME: True enough--and the sleeping part is covered in music by the use of rests.
ME: So here's my philosophy on vibrato; A lot of people approach it as if it's an addition to the sound, when to me, it's really a part of the sound. So if you think of your sound as a pie...instead of treating vibrato like it's the Cool Whip on top of the pie, it's really baked into the pie. Does that make sense?
KID: Yeah, it does...and now I want pie.
ME: Yeah, I want pie, too.
Wednesday, September 03, 2014
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
ME: So remember, you can get the tempo for this off your watch (looks over at kid)..,oh, wait--you don't have one.
KID: I've been planning on getting a watch, but I just haven't had time.
ME: I see what you did there.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
OTHER TEACHER: I tried to teach next door, but the room was full of suitcases.
ME (after looking in that room): Suitcases? Those are bari saxes! (smiling) How dare you disrespect my instrument like that!
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
KID: I've decided to be in band after all.
DIRECTOR: You did? Good deal. What do you want to play?
KID: I forgot what it was called.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Among those who stayed were a group of energetic high-schoolers a few rows in front of us; I overheard a few of them say that they were band kids who had an early rehearsal the next morning. Someone in the group suggested that they should go, because they might grow old before this game would finish.
But in response to that, another kid came up with the quote of the night: "No--baseball games are like Neverland! You never grow old when watching baseball!"
Monday, August 11, 2014
ME: So without getting too complicated, you can hear how the minor key sounds sadder, right?
KID: Yeah--it sounds like the soundtrack for "the Christmas that never came."
Friday, August 08, 2014
ME: How is this different from a major key?
KID: It's minor.
(Again...thank you, Captain Obvious. And this was a different kid than the one who said something similarly obvious the other day. At least this kid somewhat redeemed himself right afterwards by saying "it sounds sad.")
Monday, August 04, 2014
ME: This is interesting; I don't think I've ever been in this part of the school before.
KID: This is the upstairs.
ME (laughing, along with the other kids): Thank you, Captain Obvious.
Friday, August 01, 2014
KID: I just don't like vegetables very much. I need something with some fat on it.
ME: So which fat would you put on these vegetables to make them tastier?
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
(I liked that one so much that I wrote it on the board.)
Friday, July 11, 2014
KID (maybe 5 years old): The train is farting? Mom, why is she saying "The train is farting?"
MOM: She's not saying "The train is farting," sweetheart; she's saying "The train is departing."
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Two things immediately came to mind:
1) At least he didn't say it was "one of the funner maths I've tooken."
2) Perhaps his time in school would have been better spent taking one of the less funner Englishes.
(Yes, I have some catching up to do on this blog. I'll try to post some of the better KSTDT entries from the past few months shortly.)
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Mistakes (and the Well-Worn Analogies Used to Prevent Them)
ME: What note does the F scale start on?
KID: E. (thinks for a second) No, wait...
ME: Thats supposed to be an easy question, like "Who's buried in Grant's tomb?"
Thursday, June 26, 2014
ME: Did you look at this part of your assignment?
KID: I accidentally sleeped.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
ME (demonstrates fingering): So remember, it's these three on the left side, and this one on the right.
KID: And the octave key?
ME: Oh yeah--you always use the octave key for notes this high, or you'll end up making a seal sound.
KID (ponders that for a moment): But *can* I make a seal sound?
ME (ponders as well): Sure man, knock yourself out.
Friday, June 13, 2014
(I'm glad to know the spammer "fought the website," because it's always good when the site has spam protection in place. And was this person really expecting "Mrs. M" to send them an instrument, now that they've found a "practice website"? Lol)
Sunday, June 01, 2014
LADY: I've never told you how much I love your horn...your saxophone. It adds so much to the service.
ME: Thank you so much.
LADY: It reminds me of, oh...that famous saxophonist.
(ME, to self: Please don't say Kenny G.)
LADY: I can't remember his name, but I have one of his recordings.
(ME, still to self: I really hope you don't mean Kenny G.)
LADY: You know who I'm talking about.
ME (smiling); There are lots of famous saxophonists.
LADY: You'd recognize him if I told you. But anyway, you sound just like him.
ME: Thank you. (To self: Maybe she's a Stan Getz fan...)
Friday, May 30, 2014
KID: Is there anything faster than a 16th note?
ME: Sure--there are 32nd notes, with three beams, and even 64th notes, with four beams.
ME: Here--let me play you something with 32nd notes in it, which was actually played by 7th and 8th graders a few years ago.
KID (after hearing passage): That was so fast, I thought it was a flute!
Thursday, May 29, 2014
ME: And one more scale: B-flat.
KID: (moves as if he's going to lie down on the floor)
ME: You're trying to "be flat"?
KID (grinning): That's right.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
NEPHEW: His last name is Washington?
ME: That's right.
NEPHEW: He must be George Washington's son.
(I reminded him that George lived in the 1700s and Ron was in his early 60s, so they probably couldn't be father and son.)
Sunday, May 25, 2014
NEPHEW: Which would you rather have--ice cream with wasabi sauce, or chili with orange juice?
SISTER: How much orange juice?
Feel free to comment with your own answer...
Friday, May 23, 2014
KID: How did you know I got in Honors Band?
ME: They gave me a piece of paper saying so.
(brief pause) I was going to say "Because I'm smart like that," but I didn't know if you'd believe me.
KID: I don't think I would.
ME: Wow. No money *and* insults. I see how this is...
(Regarding the "no money" part: This was a kid who also forgot to pay me for the third week in a row. This weeks's excuse: "My parents are distracted.")
Thursday, May 22, 2014
ME: That was very good! So as your "reward," I'll give you something even more challenging to work on--the C# scale.
(after slight pause) Oh wait, that's not really exciting, is it?
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
ME: Let's see--your horn has a high F# key, right?
ME: Do you know how it works to make a high F#?
KID: You just push it down?
(I suppose he was technically correct here, but I was of course looking for a specific fingering combination...)
Monday, May 19, 2014
KID: I really want to play the tenor next year.
ME: That could be fun.
KID: But would you still be my teacher if I did that?
ME: Absolutely. There's not a separate tenor sax teacher or anything...
Friday, May 16, 2014
ME: That's right, C-flat, with all seven flats
KiD: I don't even know what that sounds like...
(I reminded him that yes, he does--it sounds exactly like the B scale. To drive the point home in a most sarcastic way, I played him the same scale twice in a row, calling by a different name each time.)
"A great teacher is one who realizes that he himself is also a student and whose goal is not dictate the answers, but to stimulate his students creativity enough so that they go out and find the answers themselves." - Institute Chairman Herbie Hancock
Thursday, May 15, 2014
ME: How do you finger Eb?
KID: (blank look)
ME: (demonstrates) What is this fingering?
KID: That's D#.
ME: And D# is the same as...?
ME: Which is also known as...?
ME: Which is also known as...?
Friday, May 09, 2014
(WWMMS bracelets available soon. Order yours today!)
Wednesday, May 07, 2014
KID: So yeah, about my music...it's kind of at home.
ME: So you couldn't try to levitate it here by using the Force?
KID: I tried; it didn't respond.
ME: The Force was out of order?
KID: I guess so.
Monday, May 05, 2014
Kids (and Teachers) Say the Darnedest Things When Kids Offer Semi-Lame Excuses for Missing Their Teachers' Gigs
KID: Sorry I missed your concert the other day. I was gonna go, but then my friend came over and he didn't want to go.
ME: Well, you obviously need to get better friends.
KID: He's a vocalist; what can I say?
Friday, May 02, 2014
ME: So did you lose your music, or leave it at home?
KID: I left it at my house.
ME: So you can't levitate it here from your house by using the Force or something?
KID: I wouldn't be here if I could use the Force.
ME: You wouldn't need education, just Jedi training?
KID: That's right.
Thursday, May 01, 2014
ME: Let's look at it this way: What does a sharp do when you add it to a note? And I want a more detailed answer than "it makes it sharper."
KID: It raises it half an octave!
(Could you imagine what music would sound like if a sharp really did shoot the note up a tritone?)
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
ME: The word "maestoso" means majestically. How would you play something majestically?
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
ME: So what does "stately" mean in terms of a march?
KID: It's known all over the state?
Monday, April 28, 2014
ME: We're just genetically engineering our vegetables here...
KID: Cool! Then they can glow in the dark!
Friday, April 25, 2014
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Wait...so the objective is to not attend prom?
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Monday, April 21, 2014
ME: What is that word?
ME: Not quite.
ME: It is like the Spanish dulce. Are you familiar with that word?
ME: Whst does it mean?
KID: I don't know.
ME: I thought you did.
KID: I lied!
ME: Any more guesses?
ME: No, although "doce" is twelve in Spanish.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
ME (to new combo member): I'm sorry you never got to meet (older guy's name); he's quite a character. He's a 74-year-old retired pilot.
KID #1: With one leg.
ME: Correct; the gentleman is an amputee.
KID #2: With one leg? So did you say he was a 74-year-old retired pirate?
WHOLE CLASS: (*uproarious laughter*)
ME: I'm not sure that pirates retire, but...yeah, good one.
KID #3: This is going on Facebook, isn't it?
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
ME: This is a good one, and it was written by a very famous composer.
KID: (Blank look)
ME: Oh, you haven't heard of Mozart? He's one of the best-known composers of all time. They even made a movie about him!
KID: I'd think that would be Beethoven with the movie.
ME: Yeah, they made a movie about Beethoven too. He's also very well-known.
KID: Wasn't he an orchestra singer or something?
("Orchestra singer"?? And I hope the Beethoven movie the kid was talking about wasn't the one with the dog...)
Monday, April 14, 2014
ME: Ok, let's go ahead and start the étude.
KID: From the beginning?
ME: Unless you want to start from the end and play it backwards...
KID: No, I think I'm good.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
It would take a while, but I would eventually have everything surgically repaired that June, wearing a knee brace until around September and using a cane until October. It felt like a long road to recovery with physical therapy and all that, but looking back, I was really only disabled for a total of six months.
My time of recuperation was not without its inconveniences (most notably related to driving; even when I could angle my knee enough to get behind the wheel again, I couldn't use the clutch until August), but I also gained some valuable perspective as a temporarily handicapped person, and and I learned out of necessity how to slow things down for a bit. But I also found out just how much I was able to transcend my challenges with dogged determination and hard work (I resumed teaching four days after surgery, and I hopped on a plane three weeks later to attend the Sinfonia National Convention, where I freaked out the rest of the Province Governors' Council by hobbling into the meeting room using a walker).
As I look back on the past five years, I'm grateful that I made a full recovery, with only a few visible signs of the procedure, and I'm grateful to my wonderful friends and family who helped me out along the way.
TL;DR: Today is my "falliversary." I can't believe it's been five years. TS; WM (too short, want more): Click the link under "Labels" at the bottom of this post to read the whole thing as it went by, week by week.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
KID I think there should be a pep rally for fencing!
ME: Is there even a fencing team here?
KID: No, but if there was, I'd be on it.
ME: Do you really think anyone would trust 7th and 8th graders with swords?
KID: That's why there are tryouts!
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
ME: Let me once again remind you that your powdered wig dancers are very upset right now...
KID: But they're dead!
(He also noted that "there may be some imitators out there, but it's not the same.")
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
ME: So have you guys started doing vibrato out there?
KID: Vi-what-o? (pause) Oh, the wavy thing.
Monday, April 07, 2014
ME: I don't really get the whole thing of people getting nervous playing in front of me, though. I mean, especially compared to some people in my profession, I'm not exactly the scariest person out there.
KID: Yeah, but you do kinda look like Chuck Norris.
ME: I do? I've never heard that before.
KID: Oh, you should.
(Do I really remind any of you of Chuck Norris? I don't see it. But if so, that's a big step up from the days when I wore glasses and didn't have a goatee, and looked like Bill Gates.)
Sunday, April 06, 2014
This definitely hasn't happened before: Said stranger turns out to be a former trombonist who studied jazz at UNT before changing her major. I think we may have gained a new Metroplexity fan (and maybe one of the Maniacal 4 as well).
Friday, April 04, 2014
Thankfully, the day has been pretty decent since then. But what a start...
Thursday, April 03, 2014
ME: This town is called Cody, Wyoming; it's named after Buffalo Bill.
KID: Buffalo Bill--he was a real person?
Wednesday, April 02, 2014
ME: So don't worry--I'll be scheduling around the band trip at the end of the month.
KID: It's crazy! Everyone is going to Corpus Crispy this year!
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
ME: Remember, a minuet is a dance in 3/4 from the powdered wig days. By putting an extra beat in that measure, you probably caused a few of your dancers to get mad at you, and maybe even fall down.
KID: Its not my fault they wore high heels!
Monday, March 31, 2014
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Though rumors of a PMG revival had floated around in recent years, a couple of things changed: According to a post on the Metheny website that I can't locate at the moment, longtime collaborator Lyle Mays is evidently enjoying semi-retirement, while bassist/producer Steve Rodby is kept busy by numerous projects. And during the Unity Band tour, the guys realized that they wanted to keep the band going, but with a different twist: The ability to play nearly anything from the PMG repertoire, along with the Orchestrion music. And thus was born the Pat Metheny Unity Group--the four members of the Unity Band, plus Italian musician Giulio Carmassi, who not only does the heavy lifting of playing piano and contributing the trademark soaring vocals, but also adds eight other instruments. The new recording, "Kin (<-->)," dropped just a few weeks ago, and it certainly evokes the classic PMG sound, enhanced by Potter's woodwind artistry and an increased role for the Orchestrion. The epic-length compositions, the cinematic qualities of the music...the classic sound was back, but in a new way.
The Group's inaugural tour brought it back to the House of Blues last night, and anticipation was running high: How deeply would they dip back into the PMG catalogue? Would we really get to hear Chris Potter soloing on The First Circle or Minuano? But more than anything, the anticipation of hearing the large-group magic once again was surely on my mind, and likely those of others as well.
The concert started--almost exactly on time--with a solo turn from Metheny on his specially-built, 42-string Pikasso guitar (a tradition that dates back to the Trio tour, if I'm remembering correctly), and then he was joined onstage by Potter, Williams and Sanchez; they proceeded to play a number of tunes from the original Unity Band recording. The sound problems that had plagued the 2012 appearance were not apparent this time--Potter came through loud and clear, which was not the case at the earlier show--and the musicianship of all four players was of course outstanding.
But something seemed out of place: Where was Carmassi? And where was the new music? As much as I was loving this, it appeared to be almost a repeat of the last show. And then it hit me: They must be serving as an opening act for themselves! A quick review of the old material, and then they'll bring Carmassi onstage and start the new music? OK, I could see that...
And this was precisely what took place as Metheny came to the mic for the first time: The Unity Band was "opening" for the Unity Group. Carmassi was introduced, and the group proceeded to play several numbers from the new disc, which amounted to a fairly substantial set, seeing as how the opening three tunes all clock in at over ten minutes apiece. Carmassi's vocals, the various sounds of the Orchestrion (from our vantage point this time, it was easier to see the keyboard percussion being "played" by the machine)...this was indeed the classic sound, done with new twists.
The rest of the band got some break time as Metheny played duets with each of them in turn, whether it was standards (raising the roof with "All the Things You Are" with Potter; a heartfelt but energetic take on Jobim's "insensatez" with Williams) or originals (Carmassi channeling the great Pedro Aznar on "Dream of the Return") and a wild romp with Sanchez, who got to blow things wide open on his solo turn. Yet Metheny--a ball of energy as he approaches his 60th birthday--remained onstage the entire time, moving tirelessly from one tune to the next.
After another tune from the new album, Metheny announced that there would be one tune left--which in this case meant one more tune until the encore(s) would begin. For this, they did indeed reach back into the PMG oeuvre for a masterful version of "Have You Heard" (I might have been among those who let out a whoop upon hearing the opening measures of this one).
But of course, the show wasn't over. Returning quickly for an encore, the group launched into another PMG classic, "Are You Going With Me?" The lengthy tune has a brief, simple melody (doubled wonderfully here by Potter on flute), but mostly exists as a relaxed groove that serves as a vehicle for an extended Metheny solo on his synth guitar that builds to a frenzy as the piece modulates upward several times, and this performance showed that a song that's over three decades old can still be amazingly fresh in these hands.
The band left the stage again, after a rousing ovation. So was that the end? Well, yes, for everyone except Pat, who closed the show as it had begun, alone onstage with his guitar, mashing up several of his well-known tunes (including "Minuano" and "Last Train Home") that hadn't made it into the set tonight.
So for those of us who loved the new energy of the Unity Band but missed the PMG repertoire, the Unity Group is the best of both worlds. Having Potter in the group not only recalls the great Metheny collaborations with Michael Brecker (on the latter's solo recordings and Pat's own "80-81"), but also adds a number of colors to the group (tenor and soprano saxes, bass clarinet, flute and bass flute); in addition, Potter, while already a young titan in his own right, seems to have been positively influenced by his work with Metheny, as his soloing style has evolved to fit this setting. Williams is a great new talent on bass, combining solid lines, jaw-dropping solo prowess (including some great arco moments) and a beautiful sound on the instrument. Carmassi provides the necessary elements of piano and vocals in fine fashion (and I'd love to hear him play some of his other instruments live), and Sanchez is as masterful as ever, providing the cymbalistic underpinnings that drive so much of the Metheny sound, yet given lots of freedom to crackle with energy when the music calls for it. And the leader himself, perpetually young, continues to be among not only one of the finest guitarists in jazz, but one of its finest improvisers and writers. I mentioned the cinematic nature of his large-form compositions, and so many of them have provided a major portion of the soundtrack of my own life.
I certainly hope for more from this group in the future, and you'd better believe I'll be there when they return. Check them out if the tour is coming to your area.-->
Friday, February 21, 2014
We do a lot of sightreading in lessons after Solo and Ensemble, and I always emphasize the importance of checking the key signature--but sometimes after the fact...
KID: (misses key signature notes in the first measure of the piece)
ME: What's the first rule of sightreading?
KID: Don't mess up?
Thursday, February 20, 2014
ME: Do you know what a canon is, with only one N in the middle?
KID: It's a camera!
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
ME: So this time, I want you to keep going no matter what happens, just like you'll do on Saturday. The only reason you would stop on Saturday is if you stopped breathing--which would of course be sad--or unless the judge stopped breathing and you went over to administer CPR.
KID: No mouth...
ME: Totally understandable.
Monday, February 17, 2014
ME: I know you're just getting back into the swing of things, so I'm not expecting you to have this whole assignment ready for me today.
KID: That's good, because I might have to call you the Grinch if you did.
ME: No, I'm not the Grinch. But here's a piece of trivia for you: Remember the song, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"? The guy who sang that is the same person who did the voice of Tony the Tiger.
ME: The mascot for Frosted Flakes. He's in all the commercials. He always says, "They're GrrrrrrrEAT!"
KID: Oh, that tiger guy? I didn't know his name.
(And if you're into extreme trivia, the tiger's voice artist had a great name: Thurl Ravenscroft.)
Friday, February 14, 2014
I tried to explain (in a mere three floors' worth of elevator ride) how TMEA was a lot more than just "some sort of band competition" and how it was attended by most of the music educators in Texas and even from other states.
LADY: So they do what--they practice?
ME: Yes, the all-state groups rehearse, but there are also clinics, concerts, exhibits, things like that. We probably have around 10,000 people here.
LADY: I believe that; I think we've seen most of them.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
ME: But even though the cover looks funny, Niehaus is a wonderful saxophonist and composer. He's in his mid-80s and still plays, so far as I know.
KID: He still plays at that age? Wow, I wouldn't have any air left!
Monday, February 10, 2014
I guess that makes sense; what in the world would the saxophone sound like if the kid made it like he was non-verbally speaking?
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
KID: Guess what--I grew two inches since the last time you saw me!
ME: That was just two weeks ago. You really grew two inches in two weeks?
KID: Yeah--I'm wearing boots!
Friday, January 31, 2014
ME: The only time you'd have to go straight into the next movement is if the music says "attacca" at the end of the previous movement.
KID: If it says what?
ME: Attacca. A-T-T-A-C-C-A.
KID: Oh! I thought you said "a taco."
ME: Yeah, because you'd definitely want to stop and eat a taco between movements. That'd be really good for the horn...
Thursday, January 30, 2014
KID: I hate country!
ME: Amen, brother.
KID: But I guess country-rock is OK; it's really just rock, with the people dressed up like cowboys.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Friday, January 24, 2014
- Let's get my own numbers out of the way first: There were twelve in all from my studio--four freshmen, a sophomore, four juniors and three seniors (plus one more senior who plays another instrument but studies jazz saxophone with me). The fact that four out of the ten saxes in the freshman band are my students certainly bodes well for the future, I think. I was also pleased to have my studio represented in all five of the bands tonight; it had been a year or two since that had happened.
- This concert is set up to run like clockwork--there is a 45-minute slot allotted to each band, and while a few bands started later than their posted times for the first time in a while, the whole concert still finished before its anticipated 9:45 ending. While the nearly precise schedule meant that, for "marathoners" like myself who stayed for the whole thing, there were some fairly substantial lags between bands, it worked out perfectly for the families of the students in the later bands, who may have just been there to hear their own kid's band. But the fact that five bands--one freshman band and four high school bands--can complete a concert in less than four hours, year after year, is indeed impressive.
- Thinking about the above, it occurred to me a year ago that this event really isn't one concert--it's five mini-concerts. There was a more substantial amount of turnover between bands than I recall seeing before, but that may well have made room for everyone, though there were seats to spare during each band. (I've never done the math to figure out whether anyone's auditorium could hold a cumulative audience, but I have my doubts, especially if kids stuck around to watch their friends in later bands.)
- I still like the new "wind ensemble" music better than the older "band" music (and I have yet to make my post about how film scoring saved classical music), and this was very much reinforced for me tonight. While most of the groups leaned toward modern music, one band played nearly all older compositions, and to these ears, there's a definite difference between the two. I guess the best way I can describe it is that the older stuff was written so that things would blend together into a more homogenous sound ("like a big organ" is a common description I've heard),whereas the modern stuff (whether influenced by film scoring or not, it's the best way I can describe the sound) takes advantage of a much larger timbral palette, with different sections playing off each other and combined in unusual ways, along with a greatly expanded percussion section, with an emphasis on mallets, piano, and so on. To me, the sound just pops compared to the older works.
- Speaking of modern, this was a new one for me: One of the bands played a piece written for winds and laptop! I've always been a fan of electronic sounds, and the ones used in this piece were tastefully done. The piece is called "Mothership" by Mason Bates; that's a name I'll be looking out for in the future.
And who knew that you could make the All-Region band on laptop? How cool would it be to serve on that judging panel? But just imagine practicing the music for four months and then having your battery die during auditions. You'd have to carry extra batteries in your pocket the way we saxophonists carry spare reeds. (But seriously, the laptop appeared to be played by a director, or a very old-looking senior.)
- While the audience was rather good about not clapping between movements, there were still some concert etiquette problems, mostly related to people walking in during a performance and (only occasionally) letting auditorium doors slam. I'm not sure how well this could be enforced; a big sign telling people not to enter might work, but otherwise, it would require monitors, and I'm not sure who would do that job; directors wouldn't want to miss hearing their students play, and students themselves would be put in the awkward position of having to tell adults what to do. Not sure what the answer is here...
- The "theme" in our region for many years to
get the top two directors from a major university to be the directors
for the top two bands, but this year was different (though the directors of the second and third bands had former and current ties, respectively, to Texas A&M-Commerce. While all the bands did well, the top two, being made up mostly of kids who made at least Area if not State,
take things to a whole new level. It's hard to believe that they're high
school kids who had less than two days of rehearsal to put this
(And a thought hit me tonight: Perhaps one of the reasons that these bands sound more like college bands than high school ones--besides the obvious fact that they're being conducted by college directors--is that the bands are often quite senior-laden. That means in around eight months, many of the people on stage will be playing in college bands.)
- I only have two mild bits of criticism of the concert: For the first time that I can remember, the parents, directors and private teachers of the students on stage were not asked to stand before each band's performance. In the private teaching world, we often do our jobs behind the scenes, and I have to admit I really missed having the one opportunity (besides this concert's middle school counterpart last weekend) to stand in support of my students. I was also surprised that, while the players who made Area were recognized in the program, those who made All-State were not singled out this year. To me, that's all a bit unfortunate.
- Quote of the night, from the concert coordinator/emcee, noting that few things in education can compare to the All-Region concert experience: "It's not as if, when you're named to the All-Area football team, that you get together and play a game after eight hours of practice." Well said.
I'm sure I'll be writing a similar post next year. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
ME: So do you know who wrote "Für Elise"?
KID: I should know this...
ME: He's one of the famous ones. If I asked you to name three famous classical composers, who would they be?
KID: Beethoven, Bach, and...that other guy.
ME: That narrows it down...
KID: He was from Europe!
ME: That *really* narrows it down...
KID: Wagner? No, wait--he was Russian.
(Props to the kid for pronouncing Wagner correctly, despite the geographical gaffe...)
Friday, January 17, 2014
KID: What kind of a name is that?
ME: It sounds Scandinavian to me. Do you know where Scandinavia is?
KID: In England!