Monday, April 19, 2010

The Internet as a Music Resource

PMAC is about to launch a new blog - "Living Composer of the Month." It will be an educational resource, providing information about composers who are actively writing music today. I believe it is vitally important that our young music students, particularly classical and jazz students, understand that there is a thriving world of new music. Even our rock students sometimes get caught up playing the music of The Beatles, Led Zepplin and Cream - though they tend to be much more in touch with the music of the moment.

There is great music being written TODAY. Even though we cherish and continue to perform Beethoven, Ellington, Bach, Coltrane, and Mozart, there are wonderful composers living among us who are writing music that young musicians should be learning to play and programming on their concerts.

Our first "Living Composer of the Month" is a wonderful example of how the internet can be used to learn about today's music. Information about her music appears all over the net. There are wonderful interviews with her on YouTube and you can even stream complete recordings of some of her major compositions - without paying a penny. Of course, you can also buy her music on iTunes, or on CD from any music store (online or otherwise). You can also purchase her actual music (scores and parts) on the internet and learn to play it yourself. If you want to hear her music live, there are many resources for finding her concerts and purchasing tickets. And, through the wonders of the internet, I was able to interview her via e-mail - she doesn't live in this part of the world, yet communicating with her was remarkably easy.

I am hoping that this new project will be embraced by our students and reach an even larger audience. It is important that musicians champion the music of their time. Check back later this week - I will provide the link to the new blog. And then on May 1st we'll unveil our first Living Composer of the Month. I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Friday, April 09, 2010


Today's random playlist, with some notes.

1. Victory at Sea (Richard Rodgers) The Portsmouth New Horizons Band "Concert of Thanksgiving 2008" - This has never happened before, but I hit shuffle and the first recording to pop up is a PMAC student performance. One of our clarinet players recently asked me to put this arrangement back into our repertoire for this summer. Listening to it both reminds me how much rehearsal it takes to put it together, and how much fun it is to play. We might just have to bring this one out of the library again soon.

2. The Larger Bowl Rush "Snakes and Arrows Live" - My two sons are huge Rush fans, thus the presence of about a dozen Rush albums in my iTunes catalog. Do have to admit that taking the boys to see them in concert in 2008 was fun.

3. Off the Wall Michael Jackson "The Essential Michael Jackson" - Katie picked this one up last summer after his untimely passing. The title track from his pre-Thriller masterpiece. It can be hard to remember back to pre-scandal, even pre-Thriller Michael, but if you can ignore all the baggage, you can still groove to the self-proclaimed "King of Pop" who I think would have been better crowned the "King of Soul," as clearly evidenced in this track.

4. You Dress Up For Armageddon, I Dress For Summer The Hives "The Black and White Album" - Reminiscent of the punk-pop anthems of the early 1980s, I've never thought of The Hives as a terribly original band. But they can provide some great background music for a summer party. I'd sooner listen to the Arctic Monkeys any day.

5. Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground) The Jacksons "The Essential Michael Jackson" - Guess it's going to be one of those FriPods. Alright, I admit it. I hit the advance button as soon as this came on.

6. Piano Sonata No. 3 in F-sharp minor, Op. 23 - Andante (Third Movement) (Scriabin) Evgeny Kissin "Scriabin: Sonata No. 3, 5 Preludes; Medtner: Sonata Reminiscenza; Stravinsky: Three Movements from Pétrouchka" - Finally, something to really share! If you do not know Scriabin, listen to some of his piano music ASAP. This gorgeous recording is a great place to start - with the bonus of Stravinsky.

7. La la La the bird and the bee "the bird and the bee" - Another recommendation. Some of the more catchy pop out there right now with just the right amount of saccharine. Fun - but some explicit lyrics (not on this tune).

8. Perdido de Amor Luiz Bonfá "In the Mind of Jamie Cullum" - From an intriguing compilation album put together by jazz hipster Jamie Cullum. Beautiful piece. I might need to go out and find some more Bonfá. Cullum has achieved his goal.

9. I'm Shipping Up To Boston Dropkick Murphys "The Warrior's Code" - Love it. Dropkick at their best. Al Barr told me the story behind the discovery of this tune after a clinic he did with the youth rock bands at PMAC. Ask him about it the next time you run into him at Cafe Kilim.

10. Hook Blues Traveler "four" - From the definitive Blues Traveler album. Reminds me of Cat Stevens, in a really good way.

Well, that's what you sometimes get when you hit shuffle. The Scriabin alone makes it worth hitting "publish." Enjoy your weekend and I hope to see you tonight at PMAC's Spring Fever for the Arts!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Spring Fever for the Arts is tomorrow night!!!

It finally arrives tomorrow night: PMAC's Third Annual "Spring Fever for the Arts."

This is an amazing party. Please join us tomorrow night at the Discover Portsmouth Center - pre-party at 7:00 pm, and full-raging party at 8:00 pm. Everything you need to know can be found by clicking HERE.

This event raises funds for youth music and arts scholarship and community education programs. The Portsmouth Music and Arts Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit school, and support is needed to keep programs accessible to all in the community. This is a great way to show your support and have a blast at the same time. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

practicing and breathing

In order to have productive practice sessions, you really need to be there, in the moment. Find ways to shed the stresses of life, to remove preoccupations when you begin your practice routine each day. In my casual reading about Zen practices (I am no expert), breathing plays a significant role in attaining focus on the now. Being a saxophonist, I have the advantage of my breathes being an integral part of my music making. But in reality, breathing plays a role in the making of all music, for music is a living and breathing art form. If you play violin or piano or guitar - or any "non-wind instrument" - you must pay extra attention to the way you breathe as you play. Breathe with your musical phrases.

I begin most practice session with long tones. They allow for deep breathing and have a calming effect. They also focus me for the work ahead. How does breathing factor into your practice?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Do you play an instrument?

This one goes out to adults in particular.

Do you play an instrument? I'm looking to grow our adult New Horizons Band. It's an early-intermediate level concert band that meets on Tuesday nights and performs about 4-5 times a year in the community. We currently have about 20 adult student musicians in this group. ANYONE over the age of 21 can come sit in and play with this group to try it out for free. If you join, there is a tuition, but it is definitely worth it. This band is really designed for two types of adults:

  1. Those who played a band instrument in their youth and following a period of not playing want to return to their instrument and play in a band setting.
  2. Those who never had the chance to learn an instrument and play in a band. We can teach you how to play and get you into the band setting quickly so you can have all the fun of a band experience.
While we welcome new members on any instrument, I am particularly looking for:
  • trombones
  • flutes
  • clarinets
  • percussionists
  • French horns
  • baritone saxophone
  • bass clarinet
  • bassoons
Shoot me an e-mail at if you are interested. For more information, check us out at

Monday, April 05, 2010

A new week, a new blog entry

2010 has been a non-blogging year thus far. The rise of Facebook and Twitter changed where I focus my online efforts. But there's only so much you can say in 140 characters, and both mediums are so "in the moment" that each posting takes on a fleeting quality. Therefore I've decided to devote a little time to blogging again. Post may be short at first (call it a side-effect of Tweeting), but I do feel it is important to tackle weightier issues of music and art education - such as listing random iPod playlists, or reviewing the occasional exhibit or concert. So, with that said, I'm back.

Memorable concerts I've attended thus far this year:

Tegan and Sara at the Orpheum
The Monterey Jazz Festival Tour at The Music Hall with Kurt Elling, Regina Carter, Russell Malone and Kenny Baron.
Michelle Enos and Ben Tibbetts Junior Piano and Composition Recital at UNH
Jared Steer Trio at The Barley Pub