Tag Archives: sabbatical projects

The year 2018

Greetings to friends and family around the world. I write on the day of the winter solstice, and note with sadness that this world seems particularly darker than it did a year ago. I pray for light and truth to again be kindled in the hearts of those who lead, and who alone can set to the tone for this world.

May it be so.

Even with the death of my father in the waning days of 2017, my own 2018 has been significantly brighter than national and international news might allow!

Winter. A solo cabaret act. Loads of teaching and concert-going and the robust time of the year at the office. A quiet winter without any significant travel except for a quick trip to Naples, Florida to see Spencer go on as Prince Chulalongkorn in The King and I.

Spring. Begins with a trip to Moscow to discuss collaborations. Attend a concert in Tchaikowsky Hall. Tourist for full, long day in Moscow. Holy Week in London, with services at St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey. My former student sings Gerontius at King’s College Cambridge. Wrap up the school year with a sizable graduating class. Pack up and finish work on my father’s estate. A week in NYC, and confirmation of a budding relationship. Solo/ensemble contest brings solid results. Senior recitals with three voice students. Attend the Tony Awards. Celebrated the completion of 10 years at Webster University.

Summer. Begins with a week in Lincoln at a conference. Then to Vienna on the Messing Faculty Award for three weeks of research and curriculum development. Side trips to Stockholm and Florence. Allergies abound in Vienna! Wept copious tears at the sight of Michelangelo’s David. Start the new school year with days of meetings, and a robust new-student class. Yufei visits Saint Louis. Start work with Variety Children’s Choruses as the new conductor. Celebrate my 57th birthday with a day of museum visits in Vienna, and a screening of The Third Man at a kino.

Autumn. Auggie turns 8. Sabbatical begins in mid-October. Accept a gig with Circus Harmony as composer and music director for the big January show. Start traveling immediately. Chicago with Yufei. Toronto and Niagara Falls with my nephew Luke. Washington, D.C. (pandas!!) and NYC with Yufei. Chicago again. And Christmas at home in Lee’s Summit with my sisters. Attend multiple Circus Harmony classes and practices. Conduct a holiday concert with the Variety Children’s Choruses. Attend Joffrey Ballet and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Over the course of the year I’ve witnessed powerful live concert performances. Viewed some of the world’s greatest artworks. Learned more about cooking. Kept up the slow renovations on a 100+ year-old home. Enjoyed some stunning meals (Stockholm, Vienna, Chicago, NYC all were gastro-delight locations). Worshipped in grand and beautiful spaces. Composed some decent music. Shot loads and loads of photos (I’m starting to understand light much better). Whipped up homemade plum jam and blood orange marmalade. Taken various architectural tours. Read more books than the year before, and also a big chunk of the Bible. Extended my cufflink-buying spree with a dozen new pairs. Imparted lessons about singing, and about life, with students. Loved on my dog. Caught up with friends in far-flung places. Bought more new eyeglasses. Fallen in love.

Not a bad year indeed.

May 2019 bring us comfort and joy and challenges that we can together address.

Circus Harmony

I’m delighted to announce that I am the new Music Director for Circus Harmony!

Our big public shows are in January.  I’ll be writing and arranging music for the band, and leading the band during the shows.

Circus Harmony has just been named the 2019 recipient of the Missouri Arts Council award for arts education.  I’m delighted to be joining this team!

Nov. 7, 2018 (St. Louis, MO) – The Missouri Arts Council and the State of Missouri have named Circus Harmony the recipient of the Missouri Arts Award for Arts Education! Circus Harmony is Missouri’s only social circus organization and also the state’s only complete circus school. They are internationally renowned for helping children defy gravity and other limitations. This is especially appropriate because the Missouri Arts Awards are meant to honor the state’s arts heroes and Circus Harmony’s students literally fly through the air like superheroes!

Since 1983, the Missouri Arts Council and the State of Missouri have been honoring the people who make the arts happen. The annual Missouri Arts Awards celebrate people, organizations, and communities that have made profound and lasting contributions to the cultural and artistic climate of the state. Honorees are selected by an independent panel in six categories: Arts Education, Arts Organization, Creative Community, Individual Artist, Leadership in the Arts, and Philanthropy. 

The actual awards ceremony will be held in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building in Jefferson City on Wednesday, February 6, 2019 at 1:00 pm. It coincides with other activities that are sponsored that day by Missouri Citizens for the Arts’ Annual Citizens Day at the State Legislature. Do not be surprised if Circus Harmony’s Artistic/Executive Director, Jessica Hentoff, attends the awards wearing a sparkling cape!

Central Library

Dr. P. introduced me to the idea of spending time at the venerable and beautiful Central Library in downtown Saint Louis.

As I write on this Wednesday, I’m at a table in the visual arts room, enjoying the high ceilings, free wi-fi, quiet, and ability to concentrate without Auggie barking or me deciding I need to do something else for five minutes.

Truth be told, getting out of the house is the best thing to help me accomplish the non-reading tasks I need to accomplish during this sabbatical.

The largest of those tasks right now?  Curriculum paperwork for the Webster University Department of Music.  I’m on a deadline!

This library was renovated and updated within the last decade.  The Old World touches were retained, however.  This particular room boasts an intricately designed plaster ceiling, modeled after a 16th-century abbey in Florence.

But modern touches include stellar lighting designs, composite floors, and updated public amenities.


The stack of books grew on Friday as I started picking books from the shelves in my study at home.

I  hope in the next few months to make it through nearly three-dozen books as part of a professional enrichment regimen.  

But first, I need to finish these two:


One of the sabbatical projects: a bit of cleaning every day.

Today I decided to scour the grates and pans on the gas stove.  I soaked them in ammonia for an hour (incredible, the mess in the sink afterward), then ran them through a full cycle in the dishwasher, and then scrubbed the pans again by hand.  Meanwhile, I took cleaning solution to the stovetop, scrubbing until it glistened.  Then I went after the backsplash.

The stove is now clean.


Inspired, I also took bristles to the grout between the countertop tiles.

Little things make a huge difference!  The oven awaits another day.