Sunday, December 03, 2006

Portsmouth Holiday Parade

For the third year in a row, the PMAC New Horizons Band entered a float in the Portsmouth Holiday Parade, and the bar was once again raised...

Let me first say that I really enjoy participating in the Portsmouth Holiday Parade. And this year the weather was such that we had some of the largest crowds we've ever seen. The members of the New Horizons Band and Wind Ensemble did a wonderful job performing on the float, and the float itself was nicer than it has ever been, much thanks to Aimee, one of our clarinetists who went above and beyond to decorate the float!

Aimee created five large candles and eight pairs of carolers for the float - with plywood and wonderful painting. That combined with the continued hard work of Dick (drums) and Jim (tuba) to create a safe railing around the large truck while overseeing the engineering of the float, made for a successful float and parade. Many volunteers came to our aid in making the parade float possible, and it is because of such community efforts that PMAC continues to thrive.

Our holiday selection for this parade was "Deck the Halls", which we must have performed 20 times over course of the parade. The only down side to the event was the unfortunate accident on a float in front of us, when a young child fell from the float and was seriously injured. But Portsmouth's rescue teams were on the spot quickly and we all hope for a quick and full recovery for the young boy.

This parade is just one of many events the New Horizons Band participates in each year. I can't say enough how wonderful this group of adult student musicians is, and what a life-changing experience participation in the program is (both for the students and the teachers!). Remember, this program is an open to any adult - whether you've played music before or not. We'll have you up and playing in no time!

So a great big thanks to everyone who made the 2006 parade such a big success. Thanks to Ricci Lumber for donating the truck and driver (thanks Bruce!). And thanks to Woodcraft of Newington for donating cutting services to create the carolers and candles for the parade. And thanks to everyone - I'm sure things are slipping my mind and I'm unitentionally leaving someone out. The day was a hit!


Sadly, I just learned that the 9 year old boy who fell from the float in yesterdays parade did not survive. Unfortunatley he suffered severe trauma when he was run over by the truck he fell from. My sincerest condolences go out to his family and loved ones.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Revenge of the Blog

All right, all right...I already have an entry titled "Return of the Blog", and then I quickly got too busy (read LAME) to write. So here is another, long awaited entry, an attempt to get everyone up to date...

It's been a busy year here at PMAC. We are growing like much that we've begun to look into a new building. We even have a new building committee that has been hard at work for about nine months. You'll hear more on this soon!

On the entertainment front, it has been a concert going year for Katie and I. Everytime I'm out at a concert, I want to blog about immediately...but unfortunately that urgency is quickly replaced with a need to keep up with the busy-ness of running an arts school. I could say I'll be better in the future, but I've said it before and you've seen what happens.

There are a few highlights from the past year's concert events. We discovered Brandy Carlisle at the first of two Jamie Cullum concerts we went to. She opened for him at the Opera House in Boston. Katie picked up her CD that night and we were instant fans. You should check her out - and not judge her by the fact that her big break was on the soundtrack of "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants."

Another highlight was Neenna Freelon at the Music Hall. Wow. And through our partnership with the Music Hall, she gave a clinic at Portsmouth High School. It was a great event.
More recently, we saw Bruce Hornsby at the Music Hall. Not really my cup of tea, but enjoyable nonetheless. Three of our students got to visit with him backstage after the show. (See picture below) He has the aloof demeanor you might expect of a musician who's spent too much time in LA.

Other concerts include New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra (for which I am now serving on an education committee), Portsmouth Symphony, Seu Jorge (WOW! What a show!), and so much more that is escaping my mind at the moment. Some great, some o.k., nothing really unbearable.

So its been a good year. But I have a sneaking suspicion that 2007 will be the best ever. New things on the horizon for PMAC. But I shouldn't get ahead of myself. We still have a month of 2006 to go.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Kronos Plays the Music Hall

I've had to think for a few days about this posting. I am a fan of Kronos' work. They are a unique quartet. And they have probably done more for contemporary composers than any other string quartet in history. But I left last Wednesday's concert at the Music Hall less than enthusiastic.

I've seen Kronos in concert before. And this time they played with the same precision, the same attention to detail, but something lacked. I don't know if they need to get back into the swing of things following a two month hiatus or if the group let their frustration over current events overshadow their performance (on more than one occaision violinist David Harrington shared his dismay over the Alito confirmation hearings that were happening in Washington). This is a group whose political leanings are an important factor in their sound and success, whether you agree with them or not. They are a group of musicians who play with the angst of young rockers, idolizing Jimi Hendrix in their encores, and championing the environment in their commissions. Thus the energy and enthusiasm of the politically fervent is expected in their performances.

On this occaision the spark was often missing. That is not to say the concert was poor - they know their music and bring out each detail and nuance. But the exploding energy you expect from Kronos was still on hiatus.

I don't want to be a cynic about the concert. The Music Hall's Executive Director Patricia Lynch and Programming Director Therese LaGamma have done a superb job of bringing world-class ensembles to Portsmouth and this concert will long be remembered as daring programming for this relatively quiet seacoast community. Programming that I want to continue. Last year's Turtle Island and Regina Carter concerts, and the upcoming Maria Schneider Orchestra and Nnenna Freelon "Blueprint of a Lady" are among the best of what they've accomplished in their short tenure. Add the Writers on a New England Stage Series (that brought Doris Kearns Goodwin and Alan Alda to Portsmouth) and the Ray Lamontaigne and Shawn Colvin/John Hiatt concerts and the Music Hall is doing more for our cultural scene than ever.

So I don't want to be negative about the Kronos concert. I just have to realize that when a group of this stature comes to town, I get my expectations up, way up. And those expectations can't always be met. But even if it wasn't the mind-blowing, life-changing, motivating, beautiful concert I had hoped for, I am glad they were here, I am glad I was there, and I hope that the Music Hall continues to bring such wonderful performers to town.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again - time to swear that once and for all you're going to do that thing you've been meaning to do...

I make resolutions every year. They vary from reasonable (switch to decaf coffee - #1995-6) to outrageous (I'll never go to Duncan Donuts again - #2001-17). This year I find my blog near the top of the list (#2006-12). Running a community arts school is pretty time-consuming. Yet it is the most fun I've ever had in my work life. And this will be the year that I find the time to do the things associated with my job that are the most fun - like writing in this blog.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "But, Russ, seriously, you've had a tough go at keeping the blog entries consistent thus far." (My web guru Steve is chuckling aloud as he reads this.) I know, I know. But this time I have a PLAN. My new year's resolution #2006-1: use a computer day planning system (no, I will not reveal the planner of my choice). Now I have a repeat task each week to write in my blog. Wohoo! Now my computer can remember for me. Just as it will remind me to go to the gym (#2006-4), prepare extra-thoroughly for my April 1st recital (#2006-7), and to clean the fish tank on the last Sunday of each month (#2006-72). As you can see, the computer planner had to be #1 just because of the sheer number of resolutions I need to keep track of. (Oh, darn. Not ending sentences with the word "of" was #2006-46.)

So for the person who actually checks my blog from time to time, this resolution is for you. Thanks for being there. This year I'll be here once a week. At least until late January.