Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Snow. I love it. Shoveling. Don't love that so much. In normal winters it doesn't bother me at all. It's almost a nice challenge, a small workout since our driveway is only about 30 feet long or so, and the sidewalk/steps to our front door are short too.

But since this winder is far from normal, I'M TIRED OF SHOVELING!!! And chipping. And walking around the house, which isn't easy in thigh high snow, to try to remove ice from areas that need to drain away from, and not into, our house.

Without help from my wife Jeanne and my wonderful neighbor Scott and his snow blower, things would be really bad.

Of course most of us in Baltimore have been doing some amount of snow/ice removal in recent days/weeks. What has been hard for me is trying, and sometimes failing, not to do so much as to affect my violin playing. Those forearms get pretty tight after hours of shoveling. I have to be careful since I need my arms and hands for playing violin even more than I need them for shoveling.

Yesterday was the first day in over a week that I didn't shovel or remove ice. And last night, I finally slept through the night without my numb hands waking me up at 5 am or so! Guess I might be better off with an icy driveway and a little water in my basement, huh? At least I would still be able to play the violin. Actually, I can still play...I just worry sometimes that, being a "musical athlete," I could injure myself.

Playing violin should be fun this week, with Itzhak Perlman coming! It's been quite awhile since he has been here. It will be interesting to see him conduct, as we haven't experienced that here in Baltimore before. And he is playing a great Bach Concerto with Katherine Needleman so we won't miss his amazingly beautiful violin sound. If there are any tickets left, don't miss him!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Symphonic music and the Olympics? Yes, there is a connection.

Those who know me would not find this surprising, but while I am sitting here watching the 2010 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony in Vancouver tonight on my telly, I cannot help but ask, who composed this fabulous score?
After more digging than I thought it would take, the answer is Howard Shore. Famed composer of movie scores such as Lord of the Rings, and most recently, Doubt, Canadian native, Shore, recorded the opening ceremony music with the Montreal Symphony. While you're paying attention to the great special effects and visuals, don't forget to let your ears enjoy it too!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mission Accomplished

I wanted to post this entry sooner, but with all the snow, I spend the weekend digging myself out! I hope everyone out there stayed safe and warm.

I enjoyed my time with all the Rusty Musicians on Tuesday and Thursday. They were all there to play their best, and I just hope that they enjoyed the experience as much as you did, Dianne! Sorry about those day long butterflies. I know other "Rustys" were nervous also, from what they told me. That can come with the territory even for us professionals at times. Sometimes they days that I am the most nervous about a performance are the days I play the best! (Sometimes not.)

Marin is very personable, isn't she? I agree that it was classy for her to come around and shake everyone's hand after each segment, but I'm not surprised. She absolutely believes in connecting with everyone who comes into the BSO's orbit, so to speak. You probably already know that Rusty Musicians, at least for the BSO, is her idea.

I'm glad to hear that you were so excited that you almost floated away! That's the kind of excitement we hope we generate whenever we make music.

By the way, Lorie (my Tuesday 6 pm stand partner,) if you read this: thanks for your generous comments you wrote for B Magazine about sitting with me on Tuesday evening. I strive to let the music "speak through me," so to speak. I'm glad that it seemed that way to you. Because while we pros might have more experience doing this than you "Rustys," we often have the same concerns and fears that you might. "Will I be able to play this difficult passage fast enough? Can I keep a beautiful sound at all times? Can I hit that high note that I have to shift to?" That's life as a musician: the goals are very lofty, and the real life issues are pretty commonplace. Usually when the final note of a concert is played, you can let go of those concerns for a while, but they always return with the next concert or rehearsal.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rusty in Review!

Tuesday evening the BSO held its first Rusty Musician event at Strathmore Hall. Thankfully I had had my annual physical the day before and my doctor told me that I was due for a tetanus shot :)

Rusty Musicians was fun! The format was a 40 minute chunk of time devoted first to rehearsing, then a short performance of "Nimrod" from Elgar's Enigma Variations and then the 4th movement of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony. (We did this 4 times in the course of the evening, with each BSO musician scheduled to play either the first 2 or the last 2.)

My two stand partners were charming. The first, Lori, does research at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She told me that she had played consistently through her sophomore year of high school, so it has been a few years for her since she played with an orchestra, I think. Nevertheless, she was able to hand in there and contribute!

My second partner, Jay from Columbia, was clearly very well prepared. After rehearsing the first few bars of the Tchaikovsky, I said to him "you've played this before, haven't you?" He was getting every note! He nodded yes. As it turns out, Jay plays with the Annapolis Symphony, Concert Artists, and other local orchestras. I wasn't expecting that I would be sitting beside a violinist with as much ability and experience as Jay has. It was a treat!

Overall, the combination of BSO musicians and "Rustys" sounded pretty good. Tonight we do it again; I wonder who I will meet?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Feeling Rusty?

Today we begin our Rusty Musicians rehearsals/concerts. This is new to me in an orchestral setting, though I do something similar a couple of times each year with my family. My two sisters both teach music, but my dad was a pension fund manager and my brother is an architect. The chamber music we play at family get-togethers is sort of a min Rusty Musicians, I guess.

It's easy as a performer to focus on getting the right notes and rhythms, making sure that the quality of the sound is just so, and whether or not you are perfectly in tune. I occasionally have to remind myself that while those efforts are important, it is the expression of music to the audience which is most important. Over the years, I can remember concerts that were technically imperfect but musically extraordinary. A bond of sorts is formed when the music leaps from the stage out into the hall and moves through, bounces off, is absorbed by everyone in the hall hearing and performing the music at the same moment.

I guess that is what should happen tonight with Rusty Musicians, though on a more intimate scale. Having done our "Side by Side" rehearsals and concerts with Baltimore, Anne Arundel, and Harford county high school students over the years, I know that it is gratifying not only for the students, but also for us BSO musicians, to make musical connections by sitting next to each other and by experiencing great music together. So I guess I have done a version of Rusty Musicians with the BSO after all, only with Developing, not Rusty Musicians.

I bet some of the Rusty Musicians will be nervous tonight, not knowing whether or not they will play "well enough," so to speak, to be on stage with us. Don't worry, Rusty Musicians! We'll have fun, probably laugh a little at all the missed notes (ours as well as yours,) and enjoy the camaraderie. (Sometimes, being somewhat perfectionist, we wonder if we are good enough, too!)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Spring Arts Preview in Washington Post

The Washington Post published their Spring Arts Preview yesterday in the Style Section. Although you have to cipher through the other music sections to find the Classical Music list, there's a better view of everything in the hard-copy version (the luxury of paying for print). Anne Midgette's Classical Music and Opera Picks completely excluded the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's Spring Season, but then again, I'm inclined to think she favors the aura of The Kennedy Center since over half of the events listed occur there. The BSO is listed in the general calendar for

Feb. 11- Dave and Chris Brubeck

April 29- Alsop conducts world premiere of Jonathan Leshnoff's "Starburst";

June 10- Alsop conducts Barber's "Knoxville" and Brahms Requiem,

all at the Music Center at Strathmore (and the Meyerhoff, but that's just too far for the Post to include, of course).

I was pleased to see Midgette finally included the UMD School of Music on her list with the world premiere of Shadowboxer: An Opera Based On the Life of Joe Louis in April, as well as the Kronos Quartet on Feb. 12 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

On another note, it was disheartening that the BSO did not receive the Grammy for their Bernstein Mass recording, but it was nice to see Marin Alsop win for the Higdon Percussion Concerto recording with the London Philharmonic, and the Mass' Producer, Steven Epstein, won as well for Producer of the Year, Classical. See all the Grammy winners Here.