Thursday, March 7, 2019

Sharing Our Secrets: Phrasing and Expression, ASTA 2019

I am really pleased to have the opportunity to present today at ASTA 2019 with my dear friends Dr. Rebecca Macleod and Jim Palmer.  We will be in the Sandia/Santa Ana Room at 1:00 PM on Thursday, March 7. In our session, Sharing Our Secrets: Phrasing and Expression, we will share tips and secrets that promote musical expression and nuance with your school orchestra. Topics will include a variety of approaches to identifying phrase structure, playing with different tone colors, grouping notes with speech patterns, executing rubato, and engaging students in functional listening.  Exercises that promote musical sensitivity and student independence will be demonstrated. Attendees are certain to enjoy and gain from the panel interaction with students and each other.  We are pleased to be working with Rebecca Simons and the La Cueva High School Camerata from Albuquerque, New Mexico as our demo group.  There is nothing like working with kids to demonstrate the skills of working with kids!

As for my part of the session, I will be utilizing the string orchestra arrangement of Slane (Be Thou My Vision), arranged by Percy Hall.  It is not a super-difficult arrangement, but there are many opportunities for interesting phrasing and expression embedded within the piece.  I will be focusing some of the best tips and strategies for phrasing and expression that I have developed over the years.

These will include:

Approach Arrive Depart

Note Grouping and Speech Patterns

The Importance of a Unified Downbeat

Pick up your instrument and play

Standing rehearsal

Concepts growing from the word "Dynamic"

The Roller Coaster

Finding Your Unique Voice and Perspective as a Director: Push/Pull


The Chorale and Breathing

and others

I will expand on these more in coming days. For now, I look forward to seeing you this afternoon!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Awakening, Todd Goodman

I am really excited to be conducting the world premier of a new work for orchestra this week.  It is The Awakening, by Todd Goodman.  This week I will be working with the top orchestra students in Western Pennsylvania as conductor of the PMEA Western Regional Orchestra.  I am particularly looking forward to this one because my sister, Stephanie Everett (Hollidaysburg High School) is co-hosting along with Kelly Detwiler (Altoona High School), and my other sister, Julianne Laird (Indiana (PA) High School), has students participating and will be there as well.  It is always a pleasure and honor to work with PMEA groups, but the family connection and the world premier makes it even more meaningful. 

I liked this work from the first time I set eyes on the score and heard the (albeit synthetic) recording straight from the the notation software.  There are magnificent sounds throughout and much for the orchestra (and conductor) to consider in preparing the piece.  Based on a 3-chord progression that eventually morphs in to a 4-note motif, the piece provides ample material for every section and is sure to be an audience favorite.  It follows an A-B-A'-B' form and features an unexpected ending.  It is always so exciting to program new music and discover my unique take on a work before anyone else has the opportunity.  I so look forward to sharing that sense of discovery with the students this weekend.  I have quickly become a fan of Todd Goodman's and I am pleased that he will be at the event this weekend to speak with the students and that I will have a chance to interact with the composer.

Goodman is no stranger to writing for this group.  The same event in 2018 featured another commission composed by Goodman entitled "The Precipice."

Other works programmed for this weekend include: 
The Cowboys Overture, John Williams
March to the Scaffold, Berlioz
Sinfonia No 2 in D Major,  Mvt I, Mendelssohn
Matinees Musicales: Second Suite of Five Movements from Rossini, Benjamin Britten

The liner notes are as follows:

"The Awakening is an orchestral tone poem commissioned by Kelly Detwiler and Stephanie Everett, hosts of the 2019 Western Region Orchestra of the Pennsylvania Music Educators’ Association.

When we set out to solve a difficult problem, we often go through a process of trial and error, which yields numerous moments of doubt. Although these moments can be quiet difficult, they can produce some of our most creative and productive work. As we work through our numerous solutions and
filter out the bad ideas, a wonderful moment happens in the process— when we realize that what we have created actually works. This piece is about that journey.

The Awakening is scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, 3 percussionists, harp, piano, and strings."

This work lasts approximately five minutes.
For information about the composer and his other works,
please visit

2 flutes
2 oboes
2 clarinets in bi
2 bassoons
4 horns in f
3 trumpets
3 trombones
percussion 1
glockenspiel, claves, marimba, H/L toms
percussion 2
vibraphone, suspended cymbal
percussion 3
tamborine, bass drum
violin 1
violin 2

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Culture of Grace

A couple of days ago, a longtime friend reached out to me and asked if there would be an opportunity for us to talk about my experience in arts administration.  He is a retired Arts Supervisor in PA and is now teaching arts admin classes at a couple of different institutions.  Later that morning, we connected by phone and had a great conversation.

I was happy to share some of my story of serving as Fine Arts Coordinator at NCSSM for much of my 18 year tenure here.  The Coordinator position is a unique one, because I really serve as a peer-advocate for my colleagues in the arts at a variety of levels.  I am not their supervisor, but I do have the opportunity to lead our discipline in many ways.  I promote our programs, provide feedback on events and activities, allocate foundation funding, provide feedback, lead interview and hiring efforts, and generally set philosophy and tone for the arts at our school.  All of this is in addition to my role as Music Instructor and Orchestra Conductor at the school.

During our conversation, I had the opportunity to articulate many of the core philosophies that have driven our success over the past 15 years or so.  I brought the seeds of many of these ideas to NCSSM in 2001, but others have been developed or refined as a result of my unique experiences here at this unique school.  I have been privileged to teach in a variety of circumstances over the years and certainly bring expectations and models from each to NCSSM.  I was reminded in the conversation of the stellar organizational structure that I witnessed during my student teaching at Williamsport School District in PA.  I also worked with and modeled much of my teaching after one of the most dynamic teachers I have encountered in my career, Walter Straiton.  Walt was always quick to remind me to develop my own style and to be ever mindful of my style/substance ratio.  One without the other is significantly less effective.  I was also reminded of the wonderful teachers and mentors I encountered in my first position in Palmyra PA.  The music instructors at the elementary, middle, and high schools were all top quality teachers and incredible mentors to me.  The community embraced me completely and my colleagues cared for me as I navigated the difficult early years of a career in music education.  They let me make my mistakes and always encouraged me to find my voice.  As I moved on to Eleanor Roosevelt High School, I encountered colleagues and leadership that expected excellence at every turn.  They were truly "world class" educators, musicians, and directors.  They provided models of stellar leadership and musical outreach that positioned me to significantly expand my sphere of influence, not to mention my confidence as a pedagogue and conductor.  All of these experiences came with me to NCSSM.  But, I had no idea how my perspectives would change as I got to know this new and unusual residential learning environment.

After a few years of introduction to NCSSM, it became clear that the traditional K-12 music program philosophies were not going to be sufficient at this place.  Students come here as basically math and science "majors."  They are here for this unique academic residential program - not exclusively (or primarily) for the orchestra.  The academic workload is heavy.  The expectations are high in every class and department.  The residential experience can be exhausting.  Student and parent goals and expectations are different than even the science and technology magnet school I had worked in for the previous decade.  I had to come up with some revised guiding principles if I was going to survive here and if the music and arts program was going to thrive in years to come.  I must admit, I thought about leaving more than a couple of times.  It would be much easier at a wealthy suburban high school.  I knew that scene.  I could kill it there.  But, there was something about NCSSM.  I knew I had a mission here.

During our conversation, my friend asked me to describe the arts culture at NCSSM today.  After thinking about it for a few minutes, I responded that I believe we have a "culture of grace."  I heard him typing.  He had never heard of that before.  I told him that many years earlier I had read a book called Love Works, by Joel Manby  The booked helped to shape some of the ways we look at student involvement and participation and faculty leadership in the arts now at NCSSM.  I also believe that in our arts hiring over the past several years, we have looked for folks that understand the complexity of life at NCSSM and embrace the challenges (and sometimes frustrations) that go with teaching in the arts here.  We have built and incredible team who all embrace the concept of "grace."   It is also important to note that for grace to occur, there must be a great deal of trust.  We have to trust colleagues (within and outside our discipline), administration, and students. Students have to trust us and the school.  As a residential school, our students' parents must have an incredible amount of trust in us as mentors and guides for their kids in order to send them here for the last two years of high school. And, our administration must trust us to make good calls at every turn.  Yes - trust and grace go hand in hand.

Last Saturday, my orchestra performed Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C minor. The students did a wonderful job and I could not have been more proud of their performance.  One of my cellists was at the state swimming championships earlier that day and made the finals.  She had not expected to go that far and fully expected to be back in time for the concert.  She e-mailed me about the situation and I encouraged her to swim and miss the concert.  Grace.  I dropped her a quick note after the concert to see how she did.  I received this note in response:

"I actually did really well! I hate that I couldn’t be there and my mom was planning on coming to see the concert and then I realized that we were going to make finals and I was honestly crushed and stuck between two very hard decisions. I ended choosing finals because I knew my team was counting on me to be in our two women’s relays and I didn’t want to let them down. Thank you for understanding and I am looking forward to Trimester 3 :)"

I can't tell you how happy this note made me. She trusted me.  I trusted her.  Love works and a "culture of grace" works.

There are other guiding principles and philosophies that I haven't touched on here.  We try to consider the individual before the ensemble.  I try to always find a way to say "yes." We believe in mastery based learning.  I believe the concepts of "essence" and "functional musicianship" are key to great ensemble success - musical and otherwise.  I could go on.

But for now, I am so appreciative of that conversation.  It inspired me to reflect on how the heck I got to this point.  There are many new hurdles to clear in coming months and years at NCSSM.  My close colleague and friend, Phillip Riggs recently retired and I am trying to re-imagine what life and work here will look like without him here with me on a regular basis.  Another long-time colleague and musical collaborator is looking at retirement in the very near future. We are opening a new campus in Morganton, NC and there are many decisions to be made regarding curriculum, staffing, etc.   Technology keeps marching on.  We have to keep up!  New students, programs, and opportunities continue to show up in Durham and we will work to stay in front of all of it.  But, I am certain that I will continue to believe in and promote a "culture of grace."  This we need.  This, we ALL need.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

All of the Possibilities Sixteen

These are my notes and ideas from the introduction for:

Opening Reception for Vernon Pratt—All the Possibilities of Sixteen. Scott Laird, music director at NC School of Science and Math, introduces.
October 11 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm Free


 Trinity Pratt Findlay and John Pratt
Meth through Mother: Debbie Pratt
Thank Roger Manley and Zoe Starling
Acknowledge William Dodge - recently introduced me as “One of the two biggest Vernon Pratt Artwork Geeks in the world.”  (He is the other)

 My notes from this evening and some musical samples are posted on my blog, Thoughts of A String Educator.  I would encourage you to check it out when you get home tonight for a more in-depth understanding of the ideas presented here.

My History with Pratt family and Vernon Pratts artwork:

I am Fine Arts Coordinator and Music Instructor at NCSSM


  • John Morrison
  • Introduced me to Debbie
  • Trip to warehouse

2014 exhibit - Geometric

2015 Exhibit - Coltrane -fall curriculum

2016 - Gregg exhibit and my lecture on his work and my perception of its relationship to music

As part of the research for this lecture, I spoke with a number of friends and colleagues of Vernon.

Thrilled when Roger invited me to make some remarks tonight on my perception of All of the Possibilities of Filling in 16ths to Music

This work immediately reminded me of:

  • Steven Malinowski - Inventor Musician and Software engineer.  
  • Music Animation machine - - which produces animated graphical musical scores. That permit the listener to visualize music using a system of colored shapes, taking information from a MIDI file.
  • This is all over Youtube and I encourage you to look for it as a way to further understand music and form of music composition.
  • The Fugue
  • A Motive and Finding “All of the possibilities of counterpoint on that Motive”
  • a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject (a musical theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and which recurs frequently in the course of the composition. A fugue usually has three main sections: an exposition, a development and a final entry that contains the return of the subject in the fugue's tonic key. 
  • Bach's Little Fugue in G Minor, BWV 578

2. Minimalism 

Defined: it is marked by a non-narrative, non-teleological, and non-representational conception of a work in progress, Prominent features of the technique include consonant harmony, steady pulse (if not immobile drones), stasis or gradual transformation, and often reiteration of musical phrases or smaller units such as figures, motifs, and cells. It may include features such as additive process and phase shifting which leads to what has been termed phase music. Minimal compositions that rely heavily on process techniques that follow strict rules are usually described using the term process music.

I was reminded of John Adams : rather than set up small engines of motivic materials and let them run free in a kind of random play of counterpoint, he used the fabric of continually repeating cells to forge large architectonic shapes, creating a web of activity that, even within the course of a single movement, was more detailed, more varied, and knew both light and dark, serenity and turbulence

John Adams Piano Concerto, Century Rolls

Slonimsky's Earbox, John Adams

Lollapaalooza, John Adams

No remarks about the relationship of Vernon Pratt’s Artwork to music would be complete without some reference to John Coltrane.  

I am by no means a John Coltrane Scholar.

So, I googled “Johns Coltrane” and “All of the Possibilities"

3. John Coltrane

 Sheets of Sound Technique: The term ‘Sheets of Sound‘ was coined by music critic Ira Gitler in the liner notes of the Coltrane album Soultrane (1958). He used it to describe the Coltrane’s improvisational style at the time.

the Sheets of Sound technique is a vertical improvisation technique; that is, it uses arpeggios, patterns, licks and scales that trace out each chord in a progression.

So let’s say one is playing a song, and we have the chord G7 for a full bar. Now, let’s just list a few scales and arpeggios that you could plausibly use to improvise over this chord:

  • G7 arpeggio
  • G13♭9 arpeggio (extension)
  • D♭7 arpeggio (tritone substitution)
  • D♭13♭9 arpeggio (tritone substitution with extension)
  • Am7 | D7 (II-V)
  • G Mixolydian (C Major)
  • G Wholetone
  • G H/W Diminished Scale
  • G Lydian Dominant (D melodic minor)
  • G Altered Scale (A♭ melodic minor)
  • G Blues Scale
  • G Major Pentatonic
  • We could keep going, but let’s stop there…

If you play all of these scales/arpeggios in their entirety over those 4 beats of G7, you are playing Sheets of Sound. Now, obviously, this is impossible so you just try squeeze in as much as you can.

It is, in fact, all of the vertical possibilities over G7

Blue Trane


What matters here, in my opinion, is the large impression. The Big Picture. Taking it all in. 

And that is the case the three musical forms that I referenced, the overall impression is what matters. 

With all these musical forms as with this piece, there is  microscopic precision and they are numerically complex. We can certainly marvel at the microscopic.  

But to truly appreciate it, we must really step back and drink in the big picture while appreciating the complexity of thought that went into the minutia.

Thank you so much and enjoy All of the Possibilities of Filling in 16!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

10 Songs I Can't Live Without

Sirius XM/Volume has a new series called 10 Songs I Can't Live Without.  In this series, musicians and celebrities chronicle their favorite all time songs.  They list them and explain the song's impact on their lives.  It is really fun to hear the lists and perspectives. So, I am starting a little series of lists here on Thoughts of A String Educator.   I will start with 10 Songs I Can't Live Without.  I would love to hear your reactions.

1. More Than A Feeling, Boston 
It was Christmas 1976. The first present that I opened that morning was a brand new stereo from my mother and father. I didn't own any records yet. I just had a feeling that this would be the sonic vessel for tons of music that was to come my way in the ensuing years. I had that stereo for nearly 10 years and it had a part in introducing me to so much music that shaped my life over the years. Later that Christmas morning, I opened my first record album. It was a gift from my sister. Boston's first album had been released earlier that year and was one of the biggest albums of 1976 and 1977. It went on to be one of the most enduring record albums in history. The first cut on the album, More Than A Feeling, still gives me chills every time I hear it. It represents much more than a song. It encompasses all of the possibilities of music.

"I looked out this morning and the sun was gone Turned on some music to start my day. I lost myself in a familiar song. I closed my eyes and I slipped away." 
It's more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)  

I can't tell you how many times I have turned on some music to start my day and close my eyes and slipped away into that incredible place that this music took me as a 12 year old kid. Can't live without this one.

2. Carry On Wayward Son, Kansas
As a kid who played violin and loves rock music in the 1970s, the day I discovered Kansas was life changing. I couldn't believe the amazing energy that came from the violin on stage. Kansas was actually my first concert that I ever attended. My Dad took me to the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh to here to see them. I remember vividly that Cheap Trick was the warm-up act. But when Kansas came on I was transformed. It was 1979. I was 14 years old. And I knew right there that I had to be involved in music the rest of my life. That said, Carry On Wayward Son has become much more than just another song that Kansas wrote and performed. It has become in many ways my anthem and my theme song. Anytime that I feel a little bit down or defeated those words, "Carry On My Wayward Son,  there will be peace when you are done," resonate in my mind. I can't tell you how many times I have jumped in my car after a particularly challenging day or situation, turned on the radio, and there is that song. Ready to get me through to the next challenge, coaxing me on through the noise and confusion.

3. Fooling Yourself, Styx.

In 1977, my sister had a boyfriend who came around the house a fair amount. His name was Brett and I remember thinking he was a really cool guy. This was her first high school dating relationship and I just remember thinking how hip he was, how cool his clothes were, and what a good guy he was. I remember that he turned me on to this band called Styx. He told me about their new album, The Grand Illusion. So I went out and picked up a copy. That was the beginning of a decade-long obsession with Styx. I memorized all of their lyrics. I love their melodies. The concept albums really gave me lots of things to think about. I was just inspired by them at every level. There are many great songs on the Grand Illusion but none of them inspired me the way Fooling Yourself did. Tommy Shaw's voice was amazing on the song. And the song chronicled the story of a young man who was trying to find his way in the world. As a middle school student, the young man was me. Anytime I felt mad or angry or helpless, I would go to that one too that song. It got me through lots of middle school anxiety and insecurity.

You see the world through your cynical eyes
You're a troubled young man I can tell
You've got it all in the palm of your hand
But your hand's wet with sweat and your head needs a rest

And you're fooling yourself if you don't believe it
You're kidding yourself if you don't believe it
Why must you be such an angry young man
When your future looks quite bright to me
How can there be such a sinister plan
That could hide such a lamb, such a caring young man

You're fooling yourself if you don't believe it
You're kidding yourself if you don't believe it
Get up, get back on your feet
You're the one they can't beat and you know it

These words still lift me up to this day. I had the great pleasure a couple of years ago to go backstage after the Styx concert and meet the band. It meant so much to me to be able to say thank you to Tommy and JY. In many ways, Styx are the reason that I'm a musician today and I can honestly say Tommy Shaw is my favorite songwriter of all time.

In the summer of 1983 I had just graduated from high school. Synchronicity came out and my whole crowd of friends was highly anticipating this record. I already loved the Police and Sting. Roxanne had been a big hit and the band I played in  throughout high school did a ton of Police tunes from the Zenyatta Mondatta album including one of my all-time favorites, Driven to Tears. That tune just rocked. Synchronicity to me is a no-holds-barred anthem of energy and anticipation. Every time I hear those that opening riff I just want to get up and move. And, the lyrics. They just made me think.

With one breath, with one flow
You will know
A sleep trance, a dream dance,
A shared romance,
A connecting principle,
Linked to the invisible
Almost imperceptible
Something inexpressible.
Science insusceptible
Logic so inflexible
Causally connectable
Nothing is invincible 

If that doesn't speak to a 17 year old guy, I don't know what does. I can't live without this one.

This is the first one on the list that many of you won't know. Donnie Iris was a regional star in Western Pennsylvania with really only a couple of national hits. The big one is Ah Leah, which I still hear occasionally on classic rock radio and turn it up to 11 every time it comes on. This one though is from an album that was released in 1982 called The High and the Mighty. This Time It Must Be Love is a deep cut on that record and I don't believe it really got much, if any, air play. I loved it though. I can remember that I was coming off of a hard break up in 11th grade and every time I heard this song I hoped that I would feel that feeling again. This one expresses that joy and exuberance of the beginning of a new relationship. I loved that feeling back at when I was a kid and the thought that there was more to come kept me from getting too bummed out about my current situation. I knew that I would feel this way again. Now, after being married for 28 years, every time I hear this song it reminds me of how cool it is to feel this way every morning when I wake up. After 28 years, I'm pretty sure that this time it must be love.

The movie Purple Rain came out when I was in sophomore in college. I was already really into Prince. I thought he was a complete genius. The rumors of him writing and performing all of the parts on his records had certainly hit our little music department in Indiana Pennsylvania and I couldn't believe how talented he was. In many ways I wanted to be just like him. He was cool. He was mysterious. And, man, was he a great musician. When I first went to see the movie I was absolutely obsessed. Applolonia was absolutely beautiful. The musician got the girl. And the music was mesmerizing. I love every song on that soundtrack. It was so deep and it was so personal. I couldn't really relate to the story, but I could relate to the struggle of wanting to be a musician. And I definitely wanted to be in that band. I could have probably picked any song from this record. But Purple Rain is really the anthem. This really was solidified for me years later when Prince performed Purple Rain at the Super Bowl. When the rain started falling that evening I was on my feet crying. What an amazing performer. What an amazing anthem. He laid his heart out there on the stage and we were all better for having witnessed it. I really miss Prince. He is gone way too early.

If you're clicking on the links, check this one out. The Sweet Comfort Band is a fairly obscure reference. But this song means a great deal to me. This is the song that I proposed to Barbra with. When I first heard this song in 1981 or 1982, I actually had a feeling that it would be how I would propose to my future wife who I had not met yet. I just thought it was beautiful and expressed love in a simple and clear way that I understood. I desperately wanted to become a musician who was on the road, touring, and dreaming of home. These were the stories that I could really relate to as a kid. As it is turned out, many of these ideas have been part of my life. I wanted to meet someone who could understand my life and that these words would make sense to in the future. Thankfully I did. I still sing this song. Every time I sing it, I sing it for her. 

If you gave me an inch for every mile I've had you on my mind 
They would stretch on down the highway in an endless line 
If I had a dime for every time I've thought about us too 
I could buy myself a lifetime just to spend on you. 

I love you Barbie. I knew this was your song before I knew you.

All I want to do was a huge hit in 1993. Barbra and I were living in the Washington DC suburbs and were enjoying life as a couple pre-children. We loved to go down to Ocean City, MD and spend our weekends at the beach enjoying the waves, sun, and each other. This song became our beach trip theme song. It was on the radio constantly. I can remember driving back and forth to Ocean City from Bowie, MD in my black Jeep Wrangler, with the top down, and every time this song came on Barbra and I would crank it up and sing it at the top of our lungs. In many ways it represented all of the freedoms that we were enjoying. Sun, sand, the wind in our hair, and our best friend at our side. What an awesome tune. What great memories!

In the mid-1990s, a former student (and current friend), Mike Gray, introduced me to Dream Theater. That introduction changed my life. My recollection is that Mike gave me their first CD, Images and Words. He had a hunch I would like it. What an amazing band and what an amazing record. This is another record that I could pick almost any song and it could fit into this category. But Another Day is my favorite. It's a ballad. Has an amazing saxophone solo in the middle. But the musicianship is just amazing.  Every instrument is perfect. I love the production and performance on the record. This is just a great instrumental performance.

From 1983 until 1987 I was an undergraduate music education major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. As a result of my work with the big bands at the school I became friends with a number of guys who were really into jazz fusion and smooth jazz. Groups like Spyro Gyra, Weather Report, the Chick Corea Elektric Band, Jeff Lorber, and others hit my radar for the first time. I seemed to gravitate particularly to the smooth jazz sound of the early 1980s and artists such as David Sanborn, Lee Rittenour, Dave Grusin, and others became my favorites quite quickly. Tom Grant is an artist who I sort of stumbled upon in a record store and bought the album. One of the tunes, Witchitai-to was on that record. This song has some lyrics, but really, it's more of  and instrumental conveying a general musical idea. The mood of the song grabbed me. This be game one of my go-to songs in the dorm rooms and in my first apartment when I wanted to just chill after a long day of work as a young professional. Give it a listen, it's super cool.

Bonus tracks:

To me, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters is the quintessential rock-star of our generation. His work with Nirvana is well-documented and the Foo Fighters are, in my opinion, the last great rock and roll band. I could have chosen a lot of other Foo Fighters songs as well. But Best of You rings as a great anthem in my mind. I love the passion. I love the urgency. I love the energy. I love the band. And most importantly I love what Dave Grohl stands for in rock history.

The last of my bonus selections is Come to Jesus by Chris Rice. It's beautiful. The words are beautiful. The idea is beautiful. This song speaks for itself. Give it a listen. #truth


Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Start of School and Hurricane Preparation

This morning, I am home while schools across North Carolina closed in preparation for the arrival of hurricane Florence. Here in the Triangle area, it looks like we will spared the damage of what was predicted to be a category 5 hurricane. Now like it will be more like a category 2 and will miss our area for the most part. That said, students at the North Carolina School of Science and Math will not have classes today and tomorrow. Many went home for the weekend and those who stayed at the school are hunkered down and ready for a wet, windy weekend. So, this seems like a good time to reflect on the first month of school and to start thinking about the upcoming fall season.

Orchestra at NCSSM is off to a great start. We would have had our annual Family Day on Saturday. It, of course, was cancelled due to the hurricane. Our plan was to play the classic string orchestra work, Folk Tune and Fiddle Dance, by Percy Fletcher. I was first introduced to this piece by my friend Dorothy Straub in 1988 at the Central Connecticut State University String Pedagogy Workshop It has been a staple of my repertoire sense that time and I was pleased to pull it out this fall. My new students at NCSSM have embraced this work and were clearly ready to perform it. At one time I heard that all music is either a love song or a pirate song. This two movement work definitely fits that description. The first movement, the Folk Tune has elements of both a love song and a swash-buckling pirate tune.  The second movement,  Fiddle Dance also swashbuckling pirate feel to begin and then finds its way to a love song in the middle "B" section. It is such a great work and there is so much one can teach an intermediate string orchestra contained within the work.  It was the perfect selection for early in the year with my kids.

The other string orchestra piece we have spent a good deal of time on is Howard Hanson's Variations on Two Ancient Hymns. This, too, has been a staple of my repertoire and is a really strong fit for my Orchestra this year. The work conjures up images of medieval cathedrals throughout.  The ending of the work is very large and features a huge ending with divisi celli. I have a huge cello section this year and truly the orchestra sounds like a plane taking off during this powerful ending of the work.

We have also begun putting together some full orchestra repertoire. I will be focusing on Brahms throughout the course of the year. So, how else would we begin the year but with Academic Festival Overture. My intention is to perform Brahms' Symphony No. 1 during the second term of the with my group. In addition the Brahms, we are preparing the beautiful piece entitled Wondrous by Karel Butz.  It is absolutely gorgeous and provides lots of opportunity for the mallet percussionists and keyboard players. I also have John Williams' Cowboy Overture and March to the Scaffold in the folders. I think that we may employ a large brass sections from our Wind Ensemble to participate in these pieces. Stay tuned for the final decisions for our fall concert in October!

Other highlights of the past month or so include a wonderful start to all three of the sections of my Classical Piano and Guitar course. I have students with a wide range of backgrounds and musical experience in the class. I find this class to be challenging on a daily basis in all the right ways. In addition, I have been hard at work with the board of the American String Teachers Association . We had our first Content Development Committee meeting this week and I was pleased with our strong start. Additionally, I have been performing a great deal around Durham. It has been wonderful to pull my looping technology for solo performances back out and get it in front of the public with a performance at the Iron Gate Winery in Mebane NC. We had a great crowd for a very hot Sunday afternoon! I'm looking forward to conducting All County events in Anderson South Carolina and Calvert County MD in coming weeks. Also, I will be making an appearance at Kennesaw State University in early November. So, there is a lot going on and a lot coming up. As we move through this wet and windy weekend in North Carolina, I wish all of you safety and protection from the crazy weather we are having. And, I wish you each inspiration and happiness as you move through the upcoming fall.



Saturday, August 18, 2018

Links and Resources for Charlotte Mecklenburg In-Service

Hello to my friends in Charlotte Mecklenburg!
I am looking forward to seeing you all on Monday.

I am honored to be representing Conn Music and Arts this week and to be invited to present to your string and orchestra community

As part of my sessions, I want to make a few resources available to you today.

Bringing STEM into the String and Orchestra Classroom
Handout with Links

Finding Fulfillment in Your Career in Music Education
Here is the link to the Pre-session  Survey
Here is a link to the full handout for my general session, "Finding and Maintaining Fulfillment in your Career in Music Education."

I can't wait to get started and see you all.

Best wishes for a wonderful 2018-2019 academic year!