Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sometimes you just have to paddle faster!


A few days ago I was talking to my friend Robert about how much we enjoyed our first trip to Alaska this summer. He proceeded to tell me about this kayaker who inadvertently became dangerously close to becoming a cracker for this whale's kelp dip. It got me thinking about how most of the big stresses that overtake me in life get most of their intense energy from their inherent "surprise" factor. However, in spite of my adrenal surges, to everyone else involved the "whales" in my life are really not so surprising. Truthfully, it is quite miraculous that there is so much smooth water for most of my paddling day after day. Still "kelp" happens and there are those times when we simply need to paddle faster.

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Reclaiming the territory


This is a picture of my studio after the piano was moved in earlier this summer. I am still putting things back into order, but it is a glorious space in which to work. It seems as if I have been throwing things away all summer and there is still too much "stuff" for the space. This week I am working on Beethoven op. 81a and some pieces by Griffes. Oh yeah, school starts today, too.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Parting Thoughts to My Graduating Students

As a rule, people don't ask me to give commencement addresses, homecoming speeches or to speak at formal convocations. But if they did, this is the kind of thing I would say. . .
  • Read at least one book that changes your life every year (or, at least has the potential to do so). This could be something by Dostoyevsky or something a bit more serious like, Snorkeling for Dummies.
  • Every so often learn to do something new that is hard. Remember how to be a beginner.
  • Teach something to somebody else who really needs your help, if and when they ask, the rest of the time, not so much.
  • After you are 35, listen to music you cared about 20 years earlier. And even more importantly, remember why it mattered.
  • Invest yourself in people and causes that you care about passionately. Bind yourself to these with all the heart you can muster.
  • Keep a journal or notebook so you can write down things you think matter: ideas, things you want to do, song lyrics, drink recipes, phone numbers, etc.
  • Collect interesting stuff, sea shells, old cameras or wood carvings.
  • Wear clean underwear most days. (If you are male, wear underwear most days.)
  • Get over yourself; allow your screwy habits and failures to make you interesting, rather than living in denial.
  • Do what you are good at; it is usually what you love doing.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

A Backward Glance at 2010

Today I was reading a post in Seth Godin's blog where he posed the question: What did you ship in 2010? (read it here)

In response to the question I have compiled this short list of highlights from my year.
  •  Performed a recital to celebrate Chopin's 200th anniversary recital at PLNU the Preludes Op. 28 (complete)
  •  Recorded and launched Garden Music CD with a great release concert featuring a jazz quartet. Thanks so much to John Reynolds, Nate Hubbard and Doug Welcome for making the music so much fun to play. I think a sequel is in the works for later in spring of 2011
  •  Presented two lecture-recital programs in honor of the Chopin and Schumann Bicentennial celebrations for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on the UCSD campus. I will be returning to Osher in June 2011 to play an All-Beethoven program with violinist, Philip Tyler
  •   Played for the first time on Chamber Music at Cuyamaca College with Päivikki Nykter and Cecilia Kim, and enjoyed the Mendelssohn D minor Trio. What great performance partnersand what a great venue!
  • Played a solo recital with music form the Chiaroscuro CD and presented two workshops (Beginning Improvisation for Clssical Pianists and Performing with Poise) as part of Piano Discoveries Camp at the University of Mississippi
  • Directed the 12th annual Point Loma Keyboard Institute on the PLNU campus
  • Sent my 2nd son to college in August, the house now feels much emptier
  • Played music from the Garden Music CD at the Kenyon Organics Tomato Tasting  Party in Salt Lake City
  • Played a  solo recital at Master’s College with music from Chiaroscuro and Garden Music CDs
  • Gave a Schumann lecture and Masterclass to Presto Piano Group of San Diego
  • Played a sonata recital with violinist, Päivikki Nykter, on the PLNU Cultural Events series with music of Janacek, Nietszche and Magnard. What a privilege to play with such an extraordinary artist and such unusual repertoire!
  • Presented a Schumann lecture at Ambrose University in Calgary, AB, and enjoyed the first blizzard of their season!
  • Played the Schumann Piano Concerto with PLNU Chamber Orchestra. What a treat to play this great music with our students and it was a great way to finish the year. 

Over the past few weeks I have been reflecting upon these things and making plans for projects to come. There has been a lot to celebrate this year, and I am not always good about acknowleging when things work out well. Along the way, I also learned several lessons for improving my work so that I can do some things better the next time around. At present, I am in the middle of crafting a paralel list of things that I hope to deliver in 2011. In a few days I will be posting it here as a way to keep myself accountable over the coming months.

I would really enjoy hearing about your celebrations and lessons from 2010 and you dreams for 2011, so send me your lists and comments when you have a minute.


Many thanks to Erica Sipes who shared an interesting New York Times op ed piece from Oliver Sacks about a different kind of New Year's resolution. To read it cick here

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Saturday, January 01, 2011

Back At It Again

About six months ago I abandoned my blogging habit to focus upon some other things, such as summer vacation and sending our second son to college. At the time I was also finishing a semester-long sabbatical and the re-entry process was a bit more daunting than I had anticipated. As the calendar page has turned and there seems to be a natural punctuation mark in my life’s narrative, I have decided to get back into the habit of writing here on a more-or-less regular basis.

During my sabbatical leave of spring 2010 I posted some 60 odd entries to this blog, and the response generated was very gratifying to say the least. Many friends sent flattering comments about my writing, and I have been pleased to learn that some of my ideas resonated in helpful ways. Probably the most useful thing about this little writing habit of mine is that it provides a level of accountability for me with people who support my work.

So, in this first posting on the first day of a new year, please let me know if you have ideas about where you would like me to explore with my writing. At this point I expect to spend some time thinking more deeply about material from my Performing with Poise workshops. Also, I am always interested in exploring ways that musicians can build lives that are viable both artistically and financially.

Please leave comments here, by e-mail or connect with me through social media. I would love to hear from you so we can learn from each other.

All the best for 2011!

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Schumann on Bastille Day

It's July 14, so it is time to celebrate Bastille Day. It is also the Schumann bicentennial. In a rare confluence of thought I was reminded today of this well known lied that incorporates the "Marseillaise" in its closing lines.

Here is a wonderful video of Darnell Ishamael singing Robert Schumann's Die Beiden Grenadiere op. 49 No. 1

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All Children are Artists

All children are artists, and it is an indictment of our culture that so many of them lose their creativity, their unfettered imaginations, as they grow older. But they start off without self-consciousness as they paint their purple flowers, their anatomically impossible people, their thunderous, sulphurous skies. They don’t worry that they may not be as good as Di Chirico or Bracque; they know intuitively that it is folly to make comparisons, and they go ahead and say what they want to say. What looks like a hat to a grownup may, to the child artist, be an elephant inside a boa constrictor.

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Searching for Ithaca

This morning I was catching up on reading the odds and ends that had accumulated in my inbox over the holiday weekend when I came upon this poem posted on Chris Guillebeau's blog the Art of NonConformity Cavafy's verses have been favorites of mine ever since my mentor, Dan Bredeman, shared them with me years ago at a time when my impatience with life was limiting my progress.

Searching for Ithaca

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

-Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Feux d'Artifice

In honor of the United State's annual Independence day celebration I share with you a decidely French musical celebration. Debussy's Feux d'Artifice from Preludes book 2 remains a perennial favorite for its pianistic brilliance and colorful depiction of a fireworks display.

Enjoy this a brilliant performance by Hoang Pham, from the Hilton Head International Piano Competition in 2008.

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Evelyn Glennie on Listening

Yesterday a Twitter friend posted this link to a fabulous video that I had
forgotten about. The message would be profound on its own, but it is all
the more remarkable coming from a member of the deaf community. Oh, and by
the way, the performances are absolutely stunning.

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