Monday, March 23, 2009

Fresno Round-Up

What a trip! I had SUCH a good time in Fresno. I was a bit worried that it might look like “The Tony Clements Show,” but after talking to Gary Gilroy, Tony Mazzaferro and Larry Sutherland, and hearing the other 2 judges’ comments, I am glad we were all there. I think the bus deal worked out like a charm. I AM sorry for the ‘OWO only’ players who rode the bus & that had to hang out all day. Hopefully the “camaraderie” shared on the way home made up for it. It shouldn’t be an issue if we return to Fresno, as we won’t be playing on the evening concert again for quite a while; they DO have to give other groups a chance. I’ll make sure we can get all the bands playing back-to-back. Financially, it was a drain, so we’ll have to decide if we want to do the bus thing again, or drive ourselves. I AM aiming for an invite to the Reno CBDNA Convention in March 2010. 

After the SVBB played, MANY students approached their directors about getting one together. That’s cool, huh? 

After the OCB played, I had several people approach me and ask, “That is your SECOND band?” I don’t think of it that way, but it is a common (mis)nomer when there are two ensembles at one institution. I just closed my eyes & nodded. 

As of today, Monday, I have no Judges’ comments for SVBB; I got CSU Long Beach’s instead. I am in the process of rectifying that. I have gotten neither a recording nor a DVD for the OWO performance of Saturday night. Still waiting to hear about getting that. 

I did spend the entire morning listening to the OCB comments. I will outline those below. But before I do, the following appeared on my FB Wall Sunday AM. It’s from Tony Mazzaferro. Many of you know Tony, those of you who don’t here is a brief bio: 

And here is what he posted: 

Tony: What a pleasure it was to see you and to hear your fine groups! The OWO should be very proud of their performance last evening your approach to the music and your passion is almost Italian in nature! Perhaps all of those afternoons at Luigi's are rubbing off! In any case congratulations to you and the SVBB, the OCB, and the OWO for some memorable performances. 

Here are comments for OCB. I’ll post SVBB comments when I get the disk. 

ALL of the judges said this or something similar: 

What a fun and enjoyable performance. It’s nice to hear a band that plays with energy joy & passion; I hear MANY bands, that don’t. Terrific, highly spirited band. It’s great to see community leaders coming out and enjoying making music. THAT’S what Music Education is all about. Thank you for bringing your bands. 

More specific comments (they WILL sound familiar):

All 4 judges commented that the accompanying musicians needed to be more aware of who has the tune or solo line and be softer and more supportive.

There were some pitch issues. I’ll talk about this in band.

There were some rhythmic/ensemble issues. I’ll take the heat on that.

2 of the judges mentioned that I took the Holst too fast. BIG surprise here, no?

All were complementary of soloists, Sandy, Paula, Phil, Jacob, Steve Katz, and Jonathan.

ALL said they would like to hear softer playing in the high woodwinds.

One judge said almost nothing. A few comments on note lengths and like that, but LOVED the band. 

One judge gave extensive and very helpful suggestions. But LOVED the band. He liked the chamber music feel of the woodwinds in the beginning of Elsa’s. He loved the clarinet sound and the brass blend & balance. They ALL commented on our last Elsa note!  

I couldn’t be happier with our performances, attitude, professionalism, and enthusiasm. Thank you to all of you. 

Time & time again I am reminded how lucky I am. Saturday was a big one!


Monday, March 9, 2009

Counting My Blessings

Growing up, I heard A LOT, “Count your blessings.” Well, now I am. 

1 – I am married to a wonderful woman. Linda is the ideal mate for me; kind, considerate, smart, funny, tolerant. Almost 22 years of marriage is pretty darned good in this day and age. Her smile STILL melts my heart. 

2 – I had a great career with the old San Jose Symphony. I was able to purchase a home in California, with a swimming pool. I played the entire major tuba repertoire with an unbelievably talented collection of musicians, an AMAZING orchestra. The Brahms and Mozart that Cleve did brought tears to my eyes! All the while my best friend was sitting right next to me! While the new symphony, under Andrew Bales, is doing great, my personal contract with them is not very good. I don’t play much, and compared to my other income streams, it is the lowest. It’s odd how the old symphony was my life and the new orchestra is the least important project with which I am involved. I’m playing even less next season. BUT, Andrew has agreed to let me conduct a band concert in August. (More on this later). 

3 through 6 (in no particular order) - I conduct a GREAT Wind Ensemble. I conduct a great Tuba Ensemble. I conduct a GREAT Community Band. I conduct a superb group of musicians totally committed to playing in the Silicon Valley Brass Band. Am I lucky, or what? Recently, a conducting colleague told me, “You have the PERFECT position.” Yeah, I guess I do. 

7 – I am surrounded with truly exceptional human beings. I KNOW that at any time, if I were in trouble, I could call on a NUMBER of people to help me out. There is no doubt that SOMEONE would be there. A mentor told me many years ago, “A measure of a man is in the company he keeps.” WHOA! How did THIS happen? I pray sincerely that I really deserve this. 

8 – Excellent health. Yeah, I have the aches and pains of a 54-year old body. But I am healthy. Knock on wood, no illnesses or injuries. No lingering ‘war wounds’ or hidden viruses. If I can keep diabetes at bay, I’ll be pretty lucky. Yeah, yeah, I’ll watch the visits to Luigi’s. 

9 – A generally happy, optimistic outlook on life. I hear a lot of complaining in my business. Somehow, I have managed to avoid this negatively affecting my appreciation for my craft and my overall outlook on making music. EVERY Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night, and every Saturday afternoon, I go home with a HUGE smile on my face (see #3-6 above).  PLUS, I think Linda has a lot to do with this. 

10 – Being Union President. This is an IMMENSE source of pride for me. I feel like I am a position to actually HELP my friends. I have negotiated several successful Collective Bargaining Agreements so far, and I look forward to several more not only this year, but for the rest of my tenure. How many people feel like that they can actually change their lot in life? I CAN make a difference. I can help! 

11 – BCMW -  Brass Chamber Music, what can be better? 

12 – I am blessed in many small ways each day, but these have risen to the top.

What are YOUR blessings?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

New Music

Can we talk for a moment about “New Music?” Recently, I was asked to play Jerry Grant’s Tuba Cycles, which, I believe, to be the major contribution to the tuba literature since “Encounters II.” I was please to be placed on a concert of all works that had been composed within the past few years. I was speaking to a few people I knew and invited them to the concert, not to just hear me, but as a show of support for all the living composers who were going to be in attendance. NONE of the people with whom I spoke planned on attending the concert, nor did any of them show up. I asked them why they didn’t plan on attending and their unanimous answer was (and I quote), “I don’t like new music.” Being heavily involved in new music, I don’t get this. I tried to figure out from where this pervading sentiment originated. This came screaming back to me as I VERY recently played a concert of all music by a well-known composer.  The piece I played on was a good piece and fun to play. The orchestra was terrific and the conductor was pleasant and well prepared. The work was not really intended as a symphonic piece, but rather was intended to go along with another live-theater medium. One work that was performed before I walked on to the stage was so bad, that at one point I laughed out loud. Honestly, I have NO compositional skills, but the music I have TRIED to write is better than this stuff. I would not embarrass myself, or make my listeners uncomfortable, by performing my music; it’s garbage! I can write great tuba quartet arrangements, but that’s it. 

So, now I try to trace the history of the anti-new music sentiment. ALL the greats, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Wagner, Stravinsky had their works performed right after they were written. The best I can figure out was back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s there was so much new music written and performed, much of it awful, that the 1970’s - 80’s audiences were bombarded with so much crap, that “I don’t like new music” became an anthem for serious concert goers. You HAVE to blame someone for this as there are WONDERFUL composers writing truly GREAT works. I blame conductors and orchestra managers. Lack of courage and embarrassment is responsible. An orchestra would commission a work by a composer and when the work arrived, since they had paid for the music and had already scheduled it, good or bad, they played it anyway. Subjecting their ticket buyers and supporters to bad music, either KNOWING the music was bad, or not taking the time to truly consider the quality of the music that was being presented. Being right in the middle of that, I have played HOURS of crappy music. On one concert, my colleagues joked about playing the concert with brown bags on our head so no one would know we were playing that garbage. Many people with whom I have spoken opined that they didn’t understand new music, or they didn’t like it. Truth is, many concertgoers can really discern the difference and they don’t dislike NEW music, they dislike BAD music. And since so much BAD contemporary music is scheduled, bought, and played, it has turned their minds off. 

Folks, it is up to US to fix this. We HAVE to play ONLY quality music by living composers. We must purchase, schedule & play excellent new music. We must encourage talented composers to keep writing. BUY their music, invite them to performances, and work with them to promote their work. We must play well-crafted pieces and NOT be intimidated by the name of the composer printed on the upper right hand corner of the title page. There might be a budding Mozart in our midst and it is in our best interest to get his/her music played. 

You are with me on this, right?