I flew into San Antonio early Thursday and was greeted by Ben Cadwallader, director of operations for YOSA (Youth Orchestras of San Antonio). Ben continued to expose me to more wonderful food in Texas--the only exception was the time where we both needed to flush out the Mexican food in our bodies--so we ordered something more simple: Subway.
I spent time with Maggie Raveneau (lead instructor of the Sistema program in San Antonio) over lunch. We ate at an authentic Italian pizza joint, complete with a 1000 degree oven that apparently cooks the pizzas in 90 seconds. This appetizer was really good as well...
I met the rest of the staff and kids of the Music Learning Center in the afternoon. One of the remarkable things I observed on Thursday was a silent theory class, which was a by-product of not having enough rehearsal space. The engagement level and behavior of the kids was terrific, and the teachers overcame their logistical obstacles to still provide two (one silent) great lessons in the same room.
Dinner that night was with Lee Hipp, my former tuba teacher, who ordered a little too much Indian food for the two of us…
I attended the San Antonio Symphony concert that night featuring a new transcription of the Brahms Four Serious Songs—a cool twist of Romantic and Twentieth Centry writing and orchestration. Following that, Lee gave me a tour of downtown, and I found myself face to face with this historic landmark:
On Sunday, I had booked a convertible to drive over to Houston to see some friends and attend another concert. However, after searching the lot for 15 minutes, the representative from Enterprise failed to find the convertible that I had booked weeks ago. Luckily, he was generous enough to offer this to me to make up for my inconvenience:
In Houston, I had yet some more Tex-Mex, and spent an awesome evening with the Farquhars. We agreed to take a photo after dinner with my car in the background.
After dinner, I went to the Baylor University Wind Ensemble concert led by Dr. Eric Wilson. The program and performance was spectacular in every way. Aside from works by Grantham, Bernstein, Grainger, and Stephenson (a new brass quintet concerto), the highlight of the night was Maslanka’s Fourth Symphony—encompassing one of the largest palettes of orchestration ever used. The audience went bonkers, confirming my theory about the attractiveness of the wind ensemble repertoire being written in the past 15 years. I should also mention that the bass trombone section was ridiculously loud. This makes sense, because no other than Erik Shinn was their fearless leader! Erik, Corey, and I had a few moments to catch up after the concert.
After two amazing weeks in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Houston, it was finally time to go home. Texas food and hospitality were second to none, and I am eager to plan a return trip in the near future.
After saying goodbye to Austin, I took the 30 minute hopper over to Dallas. I spent the weekend with the Asava family and what resulted were trips down memory lane, meeting new friends, cooking breakfast twice, and late night chocolate feasts. It is hard to replace people in your life that you have known since childhood, and the feeling of being at home for a few days was certainly replenishing.
On Monday, I rented a car for the first time, and this is what I got...
Let’s just say I had a little too much fun with it one night, and spun it out on the road. I need to work on driving real-wheel drive automobiles. That didn’t stop me from still pushing the limits the next day. I’m not sure if you can read the green speedometer, but it says 103MPH. Taking a picture probably wasn’t too smart during that time.
I spent the other half of my time in Dallas with Kim Campbell, his wife LeAnn Binford, and the rest of the Dallas Wind Symphony. Kim founded the group in the 80’s and hosted me for a spectacular dinner at his place on Monday night. The food was…delicious.
Passionate conversation about bringing El Sistema to Dallas bled to the following morning where I met with Big Thought—an incredible arts organization that provides numerous interventions in the Dallas area. The time with Kim and LeAnn culminated in their invitation to the Dallas Wind Symphony concert on Tuesday night. The best part about the concert was being joined by 8 of my local friends who had never seen a classical music performance before. The performance included Jennifer Higdon’s Oboe Concerto, and a brand new transcription of the finale from Copland’s Third Symphony. I was grateful to be introduced to the players, crowd, and board at the concert, and to share my passion for wind band with my friends in Dallas.
Also starting on Monday, I spent the afternoons in Fort Worth, where I was hosted so kindly by Jill Goff. Her family’s foundation started B-sharp Music in Fort Worth last year, an El Sistema-inspired program that is held at Como Elementary School. On Tuesday, I was invited to spend some time with the students and staff at B-Sharp, where I was treated to student-led performances, bucket-drumming demonstrations, and singing Coldplay. The music making was not only relevant to this community’s culture, but provided the students with three hours of artistic and academic instruction in a safe, compelling, and passionate environment. I was able to spend some time with Amanda and her amazing staff, who allowed me to get my hands dirty immediately.
Jill also introduced me to Performing Arts Fort Worth, Inc, an organization who has reached out to bring arts to over a million kids just this year. Their local political impact has enabled kids to view programming at bass concert hall (with this angel statue on the outside) at least twice a year, and also has made a music curriculum mandatory in the Fort Worth School District. After a great final dinner of Chile Relano, it was time to get to bed, return the Mustang, and head over to the airport early the next morning. Many thanks to all of my hosts!
For our U.S. Internships, the fellows were dispatched all over the world: Scotland, Costa Rica, Juneau, Baltimore, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Chicago, Cincinnati, New York, and New Orleans. I decided to split my time between Boston and Texas. (More on the Boston portion of the trip later… )
On Halloween Monday, I landed in Austin. My flight was a little nerve-racking trying to take my euphonium on regional jets, but Delta came through and offered me a free seat for my horn on both legs of the trips. Big kudos there! I was immediately greeted in Austin by former fellow Patrick Slevin, program director of Austin Soundwaves. From that point on, it was Southern hospitality all the way. Patrick hosted me all week at his crib, and showed me around one of America’s coolest cities. We ate, talked, ate, talked, ate, talked, ate more, talked in Spanish, and oh ya, taught too.
Speaking of teaching, Austin Soundwaves is the newest El-Sistema program, just three weeks young. I was thrown right in into teaching the percussion students just hours after my arrival. The program is partnered with four terrific organizations: The Hispanic Alliance, Southwest Key, East Austin College-Prep, and The University of Texas. The program began with 40 players, all string players and percussionists, grades 6-8. I arrived just in time to see the end of the paper-instrument process. Within four days of spending time with Patrick and his incredible teaching artists, the transformation and progress of the kids was remarkable. The discipline of orchestra rehearsal was demonstrated, the values of community reiterated, and the music making initiated. By Thursday (the 4th day of the trip), the kids were singing Bombay-La, and conveying respect for one another. They are slated to receive real instruments early next week, and have shown the promise to do spectacular things with them. All in all, pictures and videos say it much better than words.
I also had a meeting with Doug Dempster—dean of fine arts at UT, lunch with Jerry Junkin—director of bands at UT, and dinner with Egda Ruelas—executive director of the Hispanic Alliance. All inspiring people with a deep perspective about the arts.
Corey Durham came up to see me from Waco, and I dragged him to a vegetarian restaurant called Bouldin Creek Café—best decision ever made. Totally friendly, totally progressive, and totally delicious! A sample of their values…
Patrick took me to his late-night Spanish study session, where I attempted to understand what was going on over the wine and guacamole that was served. He tried to introduce me to juggling and tennis ball back-therapy, both of which will have to be continued on my next trip. Lastly, we indulged in colorful Argentinean cuisine, enormous donuts from a food truck, and a local American dinner overlooking the horizon. Southern Hospitality or former fellow hospitality—either way, it was a great week.
Cheers, here's to Austin!
The past month in the fellowship has been spectacular.
Some of what I've learned:
There are more nuances to each situation than initially meets the eye
The era of the "Arts for Arts Sake" is over. We need to focus on the Arts for many sakes
Make a conscious decision about how you behave under stress
Orient your staff to the organization, not just their jobs
It's a leader's job to create something that does not exist
Reach out to people who have inspired you in the past.
The highlights of what has happened:
Ben Zander invited us to the Boston Philharmonic Concert and we watched an exhilarating performance of Nielsen's Fourth Symphony. After the concert, we were introduced to Roz Zander and Ilya Kaler, who amazed us with his rendition of the Tchaikovsky Concerto.
The Fellows presented an interactive seminar at Harvard on El-Sistema principals. The presentation culminated in everyone singing collectively in a large rotunda in Cambridge.
In my spare time, I finished my softball season, went whale-watching, saw Christiaan perform Jake Heggie's Three Decembers, ate amazing Indian food at the Woodcock's, got visits from Natalie, Kate, and Monish, and even went out on a date.
Our trip to New York included a Venezuelan dinner at Jamie Bernstein’s aparetment. (Leonard’s daughter), the Tigers beating the Yankees in game 5, a meeting with the League of American Orchestras, time spent at the Corona Project with Alvaro and Jennifer, and a UW reunion with Leelanee, Joe, Matt, and Jenny. (somehow only the guys got into the photo)
Mentoring and conducting at the Boston Arts Academy led to an unexpected trip to Symphony Hall to watch Yo Yo Ma rehearse the Dvorak Concerto.
After the rehearsal Mr. Ma and Maestro Mena came upstairs to spend half an hour with all of us. Their humility reminded me how the most inspirational people can also be the most grounded.
The NEC brass ensemble performed the first movement of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony on an innovative concert dubbed Mahler Remixed, organized by the fine staff of the Entrepreneurial Music Department.
I also spent numerous days observing and teaching at the Conservatory Lab Charter School with Rebecca Levi, David Malek, and their awesome teaching artists. A few weeks ago, we were joined by special guest and former fellow Lorrie Heagy, all the way from Juneau, Alaska.
Now, off to Texas for two weeks!!
From 2013 on, this blog will serve as a photo-blog encompassing students, friends, family, and other fun life events!