As travel restrictions mount, I’m thinking of all the wonderful and meaningful places I’ve traveled since 1994, and the important cultural and personal relationships that were the focus of these trips.
A lifetime of memories lives in these photos:
I took Joseph and Beth to the Museum at Prairiefire, a museum of American natural history, last week whilst I was in Lee’s Summit.
We visited the mythical creatures exhibit, and then Joe had fun creating dinosaurs to walk across the big screen in the lobby.
Today is Christmas Eve. My annual holiday letter is late in arriving, but with Christmastide just a few hours away, this still makes the mark.
I am listening today to the international broadcast of Lessons & Carols from King’s College Cambridge, and I find myself thinking about how much I miss conducting choral music. Perhaps a change is in order? A new group here in Saint Louis? We shall see.
Meanwhile, life continues to be full and rich and sometimes overwhelming. Last week, I completed my 25th year of university teaching. What began in January 1990 as a one-class gig plus choir at the community college in Blue Springs has led me through a half-dozen other institutions, numerous choral groups, international-level volunteering, and a life’s work. I am in my 7th year as Chair of the Department of Music at Webster University. We go from strength to strength, with a significant focus on excellence amongst our current students and growth in capacity and focus as we move forward. Generational shift is happening too: we have hired a new faculty member for next year as we fill a hole left by the retirement of a 42-year member of our faculty, and we have a search going on right now for another faculty member in a new line. These are positive signs of growth and life!
I have composed a bit less this year than in past years, focusing instead on reading a great deal of music that is new to me. But I did make my first stab at a popular-style song (musical theatre style) in January, and I’m very happy with this year’s Christmas carol. These next few weeks should bring a burst of compositional activity, as I have a song cycle to work on, plus an anthem for the local Episcopal cathedral.
My life includes a new gig this year: I am resident music director for New Line Theatre in Saint Louis. We have our first show of the three-show season down, with the next one starting just into the new year.
Travel this year included a couple of NYC trips, one of them with my niece Anna in tow for her first-ever experience in the city; a conference in Scottsdale, Arizona; a quick trip to Chicago in May to see Christine Brewer in The Sound of Music; a summer vacation with the Johnsons in Portland, Oregon; and a few short business trips including San Antonio. I’m excited about the next big trip, to Amsterdam, Berlin, and Prague this next July.
Ingrid the Volvo retired in May, and I now lease Birgit the Volvo, a 2015 S-60 with way too much power under the hood. She’s exactly the kind of sedan that is right for a middle-aged man who has broken his leg twice in the last two years.
Perhaps the two big newsy items this year are the death of my beloved great-aunt Esther Summers in April, just a few days shy of her 102nd birthday; and my broken leg and surgery a few weeks prior to that. I spent the latter part of February and March learning how to walk with a titanium rod in my right tibia!
Aunt Esther’s funeral happened on the same day that I was inducted in the Lee’s Summit High School Hall of Fame on a day filled with contrasts and emotion.
Saint Louis has been rocked in the past few months with overt and clear indications that sin continues to wrack our world. I do what I can to support important local institutions that are working to facilitate change. My parish family at Christ Church Cathedral is on the forefront of some of these efforts.
The family continues to live in Lee’s Summit and other points in western Missouri. I shall join them tomorrow for a holiday meal and to give some presents to the wee ones. Samson, newly slimmed down and in fighting shape at age 14, will remain here in Saint Louis with a dear friend.
The year 2014 closes with economic hope but civil uncertainty, with questions all around. But people of good will can and will overcome and bring about the world we wish to see . . . of this I am certain. Justice and mercy and grace shall prevail.
The rounds of holiday concerts and end-of-semester tasks are over. Now silence, and peace, and growing light and hope. A blessed Christmastide to all!
The 90th annual meeting of the National Association of Schools of Music is ended.
I return home today, to a city that I love, and that I hope is not tearing itself apart.
The conference is always a time to catch up with folks you know and respect, to learn new things, to refresh ideas and concepts, to stretch and grow.
And to eat.
I shall have to reimburse Webster for most of the cost of the sumptuous meal I enjoyed Sunday evening at the Ocean Club. A small town could have been fed for the price I paid for a piece of Japanese wagyu beef.
Monday night, post conference, I drove to a nearby In-&-Out for a second and final pass at a double/double.
Notes from Monday’s plenary session: Stretched around the room are representatives from 700 member institutions. Over yon, sitting side by side, are KU and UK. I’m seated between representatives from Weber State University in Utah, and Wesleyan College. From my seat I see Moody Bible Institute, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Pfeiffer University, Pasadena Conservatory. The University of Rhode Island is directly in front of me. Four-fifths of the voting representatives here are men. And I’m told that in recent memory the music that opens the first plenary session was only written in TTBB format, such is the male-centricness of this organization.
Next year’s annual meeting is in Saint Louis. I shan’t have my ‘go somewhere warm’ junket next year . . . .
I’ve enjoyed seeing Ball State friends here, including my old boss Peter McAllister, Jeff Pappas, John Scheib, and Ryan Hourigan. Funny thing: Jeff and John are both leading major programs now, and we were all faculty colleagues at the same time in Muncie.
I spent hours today at the Phoenix Musical Instrument Museum, the world’s only global musical instrument museum. And I could have spent hours more.
Imagine if you will: togs that Elvis wore, the piano on which John Lennon wrote ‘Imagine,’ the world’s first Steinway piano, Joshua Bell’s first half-size violin, an original Theremin, a pig-bladder bagpipe, and a Malaysian nosepipe, all under one roof.
This place is amazing. Stunning. Incredible.
I had the most wonderful day.
And I played a Theremin for the first time in my life.
According to the New York Times, yesterday was the rainiest October 22 ever recorded in New York City.
Doh. I could have told them that. So could my soaked clothes.
I’m so glad I brought my wading boots this trip!
Off to the airport in a few minutes…..