Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Hall of Fame

Today I'm thinking about Hall of Fame careers.

Recently, Terrell Davis, former running back for the Denver Broncos, found out that he will be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame this coming year. What a wonderful recognition of a great career, albeit a short one. A couple of days ago, I heard Mark Schlereth, former offensive lineman on the same team and current radio broadcaster, tell a great story about Terrell Davis. He said that Davis was on his Radio Show recently when Mark expressed a real sense of pride that his teammate was going into the Hall of Fame. He said, "It's almost like I am going into the Hall of Fame." Terrell Davis responded by telling Schlereth that he is, in fact, going into the Hall of Fame. He, in fact, owns a piece of that bust that will be put up and that yellow jacket. For, they were teammates. And nothing great ever can happen without a Hall of Fame team.

Schlereth then went on to tell Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, hosts of Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN radio, that he was really proud to have been on two Hall of Fame teams over the course of his career. The Denver Broncos, the team that Terrell Davis was being recognized for, and Mike and Mike in the Morning, the magnificent morning radio show that has been on ESPN's radio waves for the past 16 years. Schlereth went on to articulate how all Hall of Fame teams require sacrifice on the part of each individual. It's family. It's about taking care of each other and loving each other in many ways. Sacrifice is the central  important  concept.

I heard this story while I was driving in the car and it really moved me. I began reflecting on my career and the amazing Hall of Fame teams that I have been part of. I have made three stops in my professional career. First in Palmyra Pennsylvania where I was so fortunate to be mentored by magnificent music educators and others that cared for me as a young professional. They were, effectively Hall of Fame mentors and teachers for me.  Three of those individuals are: Dan Hoover, an amazing elementary instrumental teacher who modeled excellence, stellar musicianship, and consistency every day; JB Yorty, a lively and unique individual who taught elementary classroom music, kept me in line, and challenged me to look and act like a pro during my time in Palmyra; and Fred Otto, a hilarious and totally effective middle school music instructor who inspired kids to keep playing and laughing every day at Palmyra Middle School for many years.  These guys really shaped me during those formative years in my teaching career.

In 1991, I moved on to Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt Maryland where I became part of my 2nd Hall of Fame Team. When I landed at Roosevelt it became clear to me that I was working side-by-side with some of the best instructors and teachers that the music education business could possibly provide: Sally Wagner, Barbara Baker, and Judy Moore, along with principal Dr. Gerald Boarman. Sally Wagner was the band director at Eleanor Roosevelt High School for about 40 years and is the author of The Band Directors Guide: In the Pursuit of Excellence.  Sally and I shared an office and many great musical and professional moments over the years.    Dr. Barbara Baker, who was at ERHS for many years as well, is now retired and enjoys a vibrant career as guest conductor and speaker all over the world in the area of choral music. Barbra taught me more than I could ever express in one blog post.  Judy Moore was our department chair and administrative department leader. She had a keen sense of how to keep our multi-tasking department moving in a common direction and all on the same page. Dr. Gerald Boarman, principal of ERHS at the time, went on to serve as Chancellor of the North Carolina School of Science and Math and is now the head of the Bullis School in Potomac Maryland. He is noted nationally as a progressive leader of specialized and innovative academic institutions.

16 years ago I found myself at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham North Carolina and knew that I had left and amazing, Hall of Fame team of colleagues in the music department at ERHS. Since that day I had been seeking to recreate the environment that I experienced at Eleanor Roosevelt. There was something exciting about every single day working with these amazing colleagues and knowing that something special was going to happen in the classroom and on the performance stage each time we got together. We at NCSSM certainly have that team in place now!  Currently, I am so aware that things are really clicking in the Fine Arts Department at the North Carolina School of Science and Math. I am so blessed to have these Hall of Fame colleagues to work with. My colleague in the music department is Phillip Riggs, 2016 Grammy Award winner for Music Education. I couldn't have a more caring, humble colleague. He is a fantastic musician and and magnificent advocate for our students and our institution. David Stuntz, our Choral Director has just the right mix of musical expertise, choral chops, and caring father figure. Adam Sampieri, Theater Instructor, brings a young energy, artistic experience, and impeccable pedagogical sense to the classroom and theater rehearsal every day. Cary Alter, the newest addition to our team, rounds out this Hall of Fame team, bringing a real air of deep thought, fresh energy, and artistic talent to our Visual Arts discipline.

Hall of Fame teams require sacrifice on the part of each individual. It's family. It's about taking care of each other and loving each other in many ways. Sacrifice is the central  important  concept. I have had this 3 times in my career.  It is such a pleasure to go to work every day as part of a great team. Somehow,  Mondays rarely bother me. 

I wish each of you the opportunity to be part of a Hall of Fame team. It starts with sacrifice. 


Friday, February 17, 2017

Ives and Autumn

Last night, I attended a wonderful lecture at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh North Carolina. Associate conductor of the North Carolina Symphony and Musical Director of the Durham NC Symphony, William Henry Curry, presented a wonderful lecture on the life and music of Charles Ives . He will be conducting Ives's 2nd Symphony next Friday night at Meymandi Hall with the North Carolina Symphony. Quail Ridge Books is a progressive retailer that frequently features speakers, musical performances, and authors. They have a magnificent facility and really provide a great scholarly environment for folks to experience these educational and artistic events.

I found Curry's remarks to be insightful at every level . I took 16 students from the North Carolina School of Science and Math to the lecture as well. The kids were engaged throughout and the folks at Quail Ridge Books were very excited to see such a wonderful group of high school students at this lecture.

I learned a lot about Charles Ives last night and hearing it through the perspective of William Henry Curry was particularly interesting. He covered lots of the standard Ives details which include his commitment to dissonance as a reflection of the sounds he heard in nature and music around him, his love of patriotic music and folk songs and how he incorporated them into his classical music, and, some things that I didn't know before.  One of my favorite aspects of Ives' composition is that he would depict sounds that happened accidentally around us - like folks singing out of tune, random sounds and noises, marching bands in 2 keys being heard on the street at the same time, etc. - and include them in his composition.  In my 20th Century Music History courses, I admiringly refer to this uniquely Ivesian compositional technique as "Accidentalism."  He talked a good deal about Ives' relationship with his father and how important that was to his development as a musician and composer . He also spoke a great deal about his wife, Harmony who supported him throughout his life and career. I also learned a fair amount about some of his insecurities which included his reaction to being called a sissy when he was a young boy because of his interest in classical music. Curry speculated that perhaps some of the dissonance and masculinity in Ives' music grows from that insecurity. This is something that many young classical musicians can probably relate to.

Curry also shared several audio excerpts for us to learn from . the most interesting was certainly a rare recording of Ives playing piano and singing a raucous politically charged Anthem that he wrote. The nearly unhinged tone of his voice and heavy-handed piano playing was incredibly telling. I enjoyed this very much.

One of the most interesting stories of the night really didn't involve Ives, but rather provided some insight into the life of a composer. Curry told a story of when he was Associate Conductor of the Baltimore Symphony and was assigned to be assistant to Aaron Copland while he was conducting the symphony for a week. Curry explained that he was afraid to speak to Copland for the entire week and never said a word to him until the last day when he found out that he had to drive him back to the hotel after rehearsal. Curry introduced himself to Copland as his assistant and asked if there was anything that he might need. Copland asked for a few minutes to simply sit and relax after the rehearsal, before the trip back to the hotel. Curry explained how physical the act of conducting is and likened it to claim an entire football game. (I could really relate to that because I am always sore after a day of conducting at an honors festival that lasts all day. I have developed a close relationship with ice bags on my shoulders in the evening!) While Curry and Copland sat for nearly 40 minutes after that rehearsal prior to going back to the hotel, Curry had the opportunity to speak with him on a very personal level. Upon getting to know him a bit , Curry allowed to Copland that he was interested in becoming a composer . Copland's response was to remind Curry that when you're conductor you are competing with all living conductors. But, when you are a composer you are competing with all living and dead composers . What an interesting thought! And, it would really give all aspiring composers pause. Just consider the folks that are programming for symphonies having the conversation,  "What shall we program on this concert Beethoven or Curry "?  Fortunately, William Henry Curry continued to compose and has contributed a great deal to the repertoire!

Which brings me to the final part of his talk . William Henry Curry will be premiering one of his original compositions on the same concert, entitled Autumn. He talked a bit about the piece and the title which is semi-programmatic. He explained that as a sixty-two-year-old man, he is facing his mortality on a daily basis. "Autumn" refers to his stage in life as well as a more symbolic thought about the season of autumn and the turning of leaves. He shared a good deal about his thought process and particularly some of the imagery associated with the season of autumn. He explained that when leaves turn and fall off a tree, they beautiful, yet are essentially dying. As they decompose on the ground, they provide nutrients and food for new life to thrive. These concepts are embedded in the music that he will be presenting at the upcoming concert.

I found the talk to be extraordinarily enlightening and inspiring. I've thought a great deal about many of the topics that William Henry Curry covered. I would encourage everyone to check out Quail Ridge Books and attend one of their lectures for musical performances.  NC Symphony Musical Director, Grant Llewellyn will be giving a talk on The Music of World War I on April 3.



Thursday, February 9, 2017

TMEA 2017

Hello to all of my new friends at TMEA 2017.
I am honored to be here to share some of my pedagogical thoughts with you and hope that you gained some new ideas from my sessions.  I am posting some documents and links here that you may find helpful!

Pedagogy from the Podium: Thursday 11:30

  • For those interested in finger pattern resources

  • Handout

  • Shared folder of resources

  • Backtracks and playlists

  • 10 Practical Strategies: Thursday 2:30

    Teaching Habits of Mind of the Orchestral Musician: Friday 1:00

    Approach Arrive Depart: Friday 4:00 with Julie Post and the Bradley Middle School Orchestra

    Please let me know if I can provide anything else for you. I am always happy to share ideas and materials!



    PS A really great Spinach dip Recipe :)

    1 box (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, cooked, cooled and squeezed dry
    1 container (16 oz.) sour cream*
    1 cup Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise
    1 package Knorr® Vegetable recipe mix
    1 can (8 oz.) water chestnuts, drained and chopped (optional)
    3 green onions, chopped (optional)
    Combine all ingredients and chill about 2 hours. Serve with your favorite dippers to your favorite people.