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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Eggs after Easter

Right now I'm prepping two gigs that require totally different skills - Friday night I'll play Mozart with choir and orchestra, and then next week I start a 24 show run of Wicked. It's like getting ready to figure skate and follow it with a hockey tournament. Different equipment, different challenges, different highs. 

Playing Mozart looks so simple. I have probably five or six different pitches in the whole piece, and trumpet parts usually just double the timpani. It's incredible exposed and delicate. It's like the pursuit of the perfect over-easy egg; keep the shell out, and don't cook it too much or too little. Figuring out how loud or soft to play, and how much accent to put in is a trick. 

Practicing Wicked is more like making an omelette. A little shell in the mix doesn't matter as long as I have lots of ham and cheese. The picture above is my setup for practicing wicked. Two horns, five mutes, and a laptop with video of the conductor. Today until the show starts I'll try and run half of the show so I'm ready without being burnt out.

I haven't practiced as much as I hoped for Wicked. The music isn't the problem - it's familiar to me from last time - it's just very physically demanding and I hoped I'd have more chops by now. Since last time, I did buy a new mouthpiece which will make it a little easier. 
Hopefully there's not too much egg on my face once we start performing.
I want to be eggcelent.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Community Helper

I had two gigs yesterday, and both reminded me why I'm a musician.

The first was playing for my son's 2nd grade classroom. The project the kids are working on is an updated inclusive version of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The teacher asked "Which community helper would you like to be?" She gave an open invitation to the parents to come in and talk about their role in the community.

Early in the process the teacher had the kids naming community helpers they see.
"Police Officer!"
"Oh no, musicians aren't community helpers!" she said. I don't know quite what definition she had in mind, but needless to say, I was a little fired up, and eager to be a parent volunteer.

I showed up for my time in my full tux and tails with two trumpets. After playing a couple short songs, I opened it up for questions, and they were great! "Do you know my dad who plays drums in this band?" "Where did you go to school?" "How long have you been playing?" and then this question "How are you a community helper?"

I said there are two ways I'm a community helper; one is that I teach. I help people get better at music and help them enjoy playing trumpet. The second way is that I offer music to the community, often at some of the most special times in their life. A wedding, a funeral, a worship service. And then a kid raised his hand and said "There's a third way - you provide entertainment!"

As my closer I played this version of Amazing Grace by Ronald Romm. (I added a fast verse after the slow intro) and it was lots of fun. Lots of trumpet growls and shakes.

And then a kid asked "Why do you play trumpet?" My answer came easy in that moment. "I love making the sounds you just heard - didn't you love hearing it?" The room was full of the happy energy of kids getting an unexpected treat late in a school day. They all loved it. So did I.

That night I had a unique symphony gig. We played at a hotel for an intimate concert for about 100 people while they dined on food paired to go with the music. This is one of the few gigs I've had where the musicians weren't invited to raid the kitchen. The food looked really good!

The music was light - West Side Story, Sound of Music, Star Wars, Rodeo by Copland. We closed with Sing, Sing, Sing and in addition to the raging drum solo, I got to blow a little. I played well, and of course the drums brought down the house.

As I walked out, a couple that had been there stopped me for a second time to say how much they enjoyed the concert. More than that, that it really mattered to them and had changed them. "I feel enlivened." one said.

Me too.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The View From the Hill

I turn 40 today, and it feels big. Today I feel good. Leading up to this, not so good. When I shared the not so good feelings more deeply with my wife, she listened like the sensitive wonderful woman she is. She let me have my pity party. When I started to share some of those thoughts with my best guy friend, he said "WHAT?" He slapped me in the face with the reality of how wonderful my life is and kicked me in the pants with what life would be like if I had taken another path.

The thing about turning 40 is that I thought I would be a grown-up now, and that grown ups have life figured out. They have established careers, 501Ks, and do focused meaningful service to the world.

I'm not quite there, but the pity party is over, and I'm counting my blessings turning 40. But there is definitely a good amount of reflection and pondering going on.
Life doesn't look like I thought it would or would have planned it.
Thank goodness!
Some of the things I've wanted most haven't happened.
Some of the things I wanted and got weren't quite what I expected.
Things I never would have guessed could happen have happened.
I guess that's what life is - pursuing new things each day and navigating the surprises that come your way.

Well wishers today tell me this about being 40
40 is young!
50 is the new 40
I don't even remember 40

Is a mid-life crisis coming? Probably not. I already have the hot wife. But if I'm allowed a mini mid-life crisis, here's what it looks like.
I buy a car that I like to drive (right now that would be a mini cooper)
Our family gets a dog. (a golden retriever or boston terrier)

A mid-life crisis may be an over correction to change your life's direction, but a little course correction may be healthy. If I change course it looks like this. More travel for my family. Being less strict with my kids. More flowers for my wife.

And of course, more practicing trumpet. I have learned about my self that I'm happiest when I'm doing what I'm meant to do well. I'm pretty out of shape right now, so it's time to get going preparing for what's coming up.

Since I'm so old now, maybe I should start blogging in large print. We'll see.