Sneak peek

The Repertory Theatre of Saint Louis in December mounts A Christmas Carol for the first time in 35 years.

I have the joy and privilege of serving as Music Director and Arranger for this new Rep production.

This means that I have chosen carols, arranged them as needed, and written incidental music and orchestral underscore and choral underlay as required.

And what fun I have had!

Here’s an incidental sound cue from Act One:

And other, with “God rest ye merry, Gentlemen” treated in the style of a little Bach: 

And here are a couple of photos from a recent rehearsal:


From the recording session . . . by Skype!
From the recording session . . . by Skype!

Lessons learned

Or, perhaps I should title this blog post THOUGHTS ABOUT FRIDAY.

How can a whole classroom of musical theatre majors let me go through a whole 50-minute class with my fly down?

Meetings with colleagues, wherein we discuss substantial and meaningful items, are a true delight.

The rituals of life and death help bind us together.  I attended visitation for a donor to our music department on Friday, chatting with her sons just feet from her casket.  And I am reminded again of the power of love, and of community.

Friday evenings  at home, finishing music for a show, can be just as satisfying as going out and catching a concert or movie.

Caesar Salad is just a joy.  And my homemade dressing really is a winner.

The sun has come up every day this week.  The world is not ending. 


My students

Wednesday was a rough day at the office.

I quit counting the hugs I gave.  And I did not even try to count the number of students in tears.

Having been through nine presidential elections where I could vote, I forgot how powerful the first one is, especially when the choices are so stark.

And of course are students are artists, and emotions are often closer to the surface.

We had a rough day.  Despair was apparent.  So was a sense of “we are not letting this go.”

The revolution has started, and it won’t be alt-right bigots and the bankrupt Evangelicals who pitched in with a misogynistic, self-obsessed blowhard.

The revolution is going to be the kind, sensitive, progressive kids I see every day.  Of this I have not doubt.

From Wednesday’s New York Times:

The election seemed to pit a rising nation — younger, optimistic about the future, diverse in makeup and cosmopolitan in outlook — against a declining one: older and white, resentful of its lost primacy, desperate to win again.

Layered over the familiar fissures of American life — those of race and religion — a new divide yawned, one of education and opportunity.
“There is really a disconnect between the people who feel like they’re aspiring to do well and America is the place that they can do it,” said the demographer and sociologist William H. Frey, “and another group who feel like America has left them behind, and they don’t see a ladder.”

Americans with a college degree were voting for the Democratic candidate, Mrs. Clinton, by a wider margin than any other Democrat in modern American politics, polls showed. They were joined by immigrants and racial minorities hopeful that the ladder leads upward.

From Facebook today, an ever-present reminder:

“Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”
~Anne Frank

From one of my current students, on Facebook:

I had thought previously about what might happen if he won. If the unthinkable happened. I expected the despair, the hopelessness, the bowling ball in the stomach feeling. I didn’t anticipate the immense, incredible outpouring of love that is surrounding me. As I scroll down my Facebook feed, I see people giving of themselves to others, turning grief into passion, igniting a fire in their bellies. Love. Support. Healing.

Anyone who knows me probably knows I struggle pretty intensely with anxiety, as many of us do in this day and age. Last night and this morning were some of the worst panic attacks I can remember, with no remedy because the anxiety is and was justified. But my incredible, beautiful, lovely artists (That means all of you). We persevere, we create, we turn grief into masterpieces, sorrow into song, despair into hope. There is a strange, melancholy beauty in the softness that people are showing.

This is the remedy. Empathy and love.

Those who voted for Trump, their grievances are real, their concerns just as real as ours. Until we realize this, there can be no healing. We must reach out, connect, pray. Hold on.

“Come what come may, time and the
hour runs through the roughest day.” – Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 3

From a student in previous days in my life, who has a son born not long ago:

Going to bed. When I wake up, I will continue to teach my son that there is so much goodness in the world, even if he first has to be the source that inspires in it others. I will teach him that when one has the privilege of a voice, he or she must use it to defend the voiceless. I want him to grow up with friends who look, feel, and experience life in ways different than his own and to celebrate those differences, as they will make his life richer. And I will continue to strive, each day, to be the best version of the man I hope he, in turn, strives to be even better than. I’ve got you, kid.

From a much-loved friend:

“Lord of the Flies” and its assertion that there is no beast other than the beast we create.

We are all complicit – every one of us – in so very many ways. And we must first recognize this before we will ever change.

I promise to be better about loving you.

And from one of my alums, again on Facebook:

The world is on fire. It burns with the anger of masses that yearn for change, yearn for identity, and have run blindly into the arms of fear mongers and instigators. It is clouded with the smoke of lies and misdirection that have perverted our passions against the meek and the innocent.

I have been raised in a constant state of war. Since I was 10, the United States has been embattled in a global conflict against an enemy that knows no battle lines, no uniform, and no morals. I have been raised to fear this enemy as though they were on my doorstep. I have witnessed the second worst economic collapse in modern history.

However, never in my life have I been as afraid as I am on this darkest night. I am afraid for the rights of my sister. I am afraid for the safety of my friends. I am afraid for my future and the future of my nation. I am afraid because I am watching the fears of my fellow countrymen evolve into a blind, indiscriminate rage. I am afraid because the most powerful political, economic, and military force in the world has given in to the threshing evil that it has worked so hard to contain.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. For Roosevelt, this fear seemed natural because his world was on fire as well. However, could Roosevelt have possibly imagined that fear, guided by lies and deceit and propelled by tabloid journalism, leading his nation down a path so counter to the ideals it holds dear?

Tonight, unless there is a divine intervention before dawn, Donald J. Trump has won. With him, Andrew Breitbart has won. David Duke has won. White nationalism has won. Economic protectionism has won. Vulgarity and indecency have won. Most horrifying, the power of lies and hate, projected loud enough and long enough, has won over the power of sensibility, compassion, and fact.

If I am to find any silver lining tonight, it is that I have found some personal clarity. I have begun to understand what my calling in life must be. My only regret is that I hadn’t come this understanding sooner.

As I am about to go to bed, Judy Woodruff of the PBS News Hour has told me that, against all odds, against all of my sensibilities as an American, Donald J. Trump will be my new President.

In a few hours, the sun will rise on a very different America. In a few hours, we must unite as a country and step forward into a bold new world.

I have work to do.

So do we all.

One of my students brought this song in so we could work it on Wednesday.  It’s perfect:

Post-Millennial Musical Theatre

I presented a session on Sunday at the National Association of Teachers of Singing Central Division annual meeting in Iowa City.

The topic? A discussion of post-millennial musical theatre composers.

Here’s the whole thing:

Iowa City

Friday evening.

Another Hampton Inn.

This time in Iowa City.


The National Association of Teachers of Singers – Central Division holds our student conference and auditions (singing competition) this weekend at the University of Iowa, in their gorgeous new music building.

Less than 24 hours after returning to Saint Louis from New Mexico, I was on the road for the long drive north, via US Highway 61 and US 218.  I drove through Hannibal, just blocks from the house where I spent part of my childhood. When I return on Sunday, I’ll swing through Canton to see Culver-Stockton and the Mississippi River.

My one and only visit to Iowa City was in 1995 or so, when I helped a friend move here to start his doctorate.  I recall some good ethnic restaurants, but that’s about it.

The Cubs are on the telly.  I have SO much work with me after being gone much of this week too, and I’m glad to have a hotel room with a king bed and a sofa where I can stretch out to do some school work.

But my presentation for Sunday is ready to go!

My primary role on Saturday is Registrar for this competition, where 430+ students will be singing on Saturday.  I’m glad to have a super staff to help out at the morning rush.

And I enjoy service to the profession, and I enjoy being in charge, so this will be fun!


Last leg

I’m on my last leg.  Flying home today.  Weary, but satisfied that we’ve done good work this week.

On Thursday evening I watched the Al Smith Dinner festivities from NYC, and noted again how angry Trump looks, and how unhappy his wife looks. Meanwhile, L’Hilary is gladhanding and yukking it up as The Donald and Wife talk only amongst themselves.

Come soon, blessed Election Day.  This weary citizen is on his last leg with The Donald as well.

Here’s a Thursday evening photo after I dropped of the rental car.  Oh wait — car?  Chevy Tahoe.  2017.  6500 miles on it when I started.  Mother of all big vehicles.  ‘Twas a glorious ride through four states.