Category Archives: Travel 2019

#TBT: places

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:

Nelson Atkins Museum

Last week, while I was in Kansas City, I visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

This kind of stuff makes me weak in the knees:

I enjoyed viewing this Chinese orchestra:

And revisiting Persephone by Thomas Hart Benton:

The Chinese temple exhibit is one of the Nelson’s great glories:

This Stonehenge is one I don’t remember seeing before:

But the crowning jewel of the Nelson collection?  This Caravaggio of St. John the Baptist.  It’s gut-punching in person:

2019 in pictures

And now abide (according to these photos):  family, faith, friends, travel, MUSIC, Circus Harmony, Variety, cooking, Auggie, the garden, and Webster University.  That pretty much sums it up.

2019 holiday letter

December 2019

Dear friends and family around the world:

The Christmas tree is decorated.  Candles are lit.  The house is increasingly scented with the warm spices of the holiday season.

And while all is not well in the world, all is calm here on Lawn Place.

I began the year on sabbatical, and now end the year in a frantic rush to finish a major accreditation report at the office.  The private studio has exploded in a lovely and fulfilling way.  My circus composing is going well. And I am loving working with the Variety kids.  Fulfilling is indeed the watchword.

As I near 60 years old, I’ve made some decisions about what the next few years are going to entail.  More on this as it unfolds and becomes real.  The great news here is that I’m figuring out how my contributions to my profession and community are maturing, strengthening, and broadening, and that makes me very happy indeed.

Virginia the Landlady, JC, Dean Peter Sargent

So changes are coming, and are present as well.  Peter Sargent retired in July after being the only fine arts dean Webster has ever had, and I now have a new boss.  Sadly, Peter died just a few weeks ago.  His death has left me in a well of grief for a father-figure and mentor I loved deeply.

One of the realizations this year: my life is enriched by a web of acquaintances of various degrees of closeness, without whom life would be infinitely less interesting and connected.  The New York Times earlier this year posted an article about how people with a robust group of acquaintances are generally happier.  Circus Harmony and Variety has helped me fill some of these gaps.  The brief conversations with parents of my private students add to connection as well.  And I’m grateful!


Travel this year included not one but two trips to Morocco. I enjoyed the first trip so much I grabbed my friend Kevin and went back again a few months later.  I’ve had some Chicago time, two trips to Washington, D.C., several NYC trips, and a bit of time in Lee’s Summit.

We are all getting a bit older.  My sisters and I are all in our 50s.  Karen is a grandmother twice-over now.  Beth has only one of her three children still in public schools.  JoAnne, our father’s widow, is now in a care center, and her home (the one she shared with Pop until his death) is now on the sales block.  Change is a constant.

With my sisters.

I’ve taken numerous cooking classes this year.  Sourdough bread has been a favorite, with a starter I’ve somehow kept alive.  A cooking class in Tangier was a delight too.

The Variety Chorus finished our Spring season with a performance with Sting in April! And my circus music was hit in January.

I’ve seen a TON of shows this year!

And this summer I said ‘see you later’ to three much-loved students:

Students fill my life with joy!

I had two incredible meals this year, one in Tangier, the other at a Cuban place in DC:

And finally, some of the circus kids have become my adopted family here in Saint Louis.  The Bailey brothers helped me celebrate my birthday this year, and their family has become a fixed point for me.

This holiday season is a time of darkness and expectation, light and hope.  May the light be victorious, and may we all enjoy blessings during this season.

Jeff

NASM 2019

I am in Chicago as Webster University’s voting representative to the annual meeting of National Association of Schools of Music.

The meeting is always the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, and we are often in warmer climates, but Chicago is the place this year.  I arrived early to take in some of my favorite places at the Art Institute of Chicago, and to catch a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert.

Around the conference sessions, I’ve also had hotel-room time to finish some projects and write plenty of emails.  I’m feeling a bit more caught-up at the office.

One of the joys of these conferences is seeing friends and colleagues from around the nation.  Hallway conversations turn into meals or drinks.  Quick hugs turn into lingering conversations.  And all is right with the world.

Another joy?  Food!

I dined on Chicago-style pizza, AKA ‘heart attack in a deep dish,’ on Sunday evening, at Lou Malnati’s around the corner on State Street. The buttery crust was heaven.

Afterward, walking back to the hotel, I was asked by four nice men hanging around street corner “Are you stuffed, ’cause I’m really hungry”.  I gladly handed over my box with the last two chunks of pizza, and in fact had left the pizza joint with that box, hoping to run into someone who looked like a meal would be a nice thing.  I demurred, though, at buying the same man a 40-oz. beer in the corner 7-11.


The Hilton Chicago has a huge gingerbread display in the elevator lobby on the main floor:


The conference’s plenary sessions always feel a bit like an old Soviet five-year meeting, with dutiful approvals of pre-ordained decisions.

But there’s some fun too, like asking the question “Which of these photos best represents music theory meetings at a conference like this?”.

This was a rolling photo display on a meeting room call board . . . .


Finally, an obligatory selfie from Sunday morning:

I think I had on the only pink shirt in a room of 800 people.

CSO

Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  Saturday evening subscription concert.

Juanjo Mena conducts the CSO in a program featuring Holst’s powerful and haunting The Planets. Sally Matthews, a soprano of “incandescent verve” (The Times, London), performs two scenes from Barber’s 1966 opera that opened the Metropolitan Opera’s new house at Lincoln Center. Detroit-based composer James Lee III’s celebratory Sukkot Through Orion’s Nebula illustrates an ancient Hebrew harvest festival refracted through the lens of the Book of Revelation.

My soul thus refreshed, I am ready for the annual meeting of the National Association of Schools of Music.

Chicago afternoon

I arrived yesterday, dropped my bags at the hotel, and immediately set out for the Art Institute of Chicago.

I made my way quickly to the stunning and magnificent collection of Impressionism, spending some decent time with Renoir and Monet, and of course Georges.

And I’ve never visited the small Islamic collection at the Art Institute, so I spent some time there.

And then the Chagall windows.  These amazing Chagall windows:

My leg was talking to me — well, screaming at me — so I walked back to the hotel and took a two-hour nap.

Last two weeks

I am missing three shows, but this is the loot from the last two weeks.

Missing: Lightning Thief, Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and Big Apple Circus.

What a two weeks! Two operas at the Met. Circa from Australia as part of the White Light Festival at Lincoln Center. John Williams with the SLSO. My own voice student heading Brighton Beach Memoirs. And all these musicals, both in NYC and in STL . . . .