Click on any photo for the full version! Happy end of year!!
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.
Webster University’s annual holiday greeting is posted today, and I’m one proud professor.
The concept for this started to take shape in August. Our friends in Global Marketing and Communications wanted to feature a Department of Music ensemble. I pitched some ideas.
And then I wrote some scratch lyrics for one the ideas, using the tune PASSION CHORALE by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612). We know this tune best in the 21st century as “Because all men are brothers” or “O sacred head, now wounded.”
The idea stuck, and we enlisted Nathan Rauscher (BM ’19), a jazz major, to write a score for Jazz Singers. Several iterations later, we had a brilliant approved product.
Then our genius vocal jazz teacher, Debby Lennon, started to work with Jazz Singers. And the visual storyboarding started. And then it was time to record in the studio. Then came video recording. And editing. And final product and approvals.
And today? A fine little greeting card, thanks to Karen Burch and her staff; to President Beth Stroble and others in the group who green-lighted the project; and to Debby and Nathan and all the students along the way who made this project sing.
The annual meeting of the National Association of Schools of Music is now over.
Our plenary sessions were held in this large ballroom, where in 1992 Bill Clinton picked up the sax and played a ditty at his first inaugural ball.
But by the end of the conference, this is how I felt:
Some of the scenes from this film were shot in my office at Webster University. I caught glimpses of my stuff on the walls! And even the cover of the trailer is of a wall in my office, slightly re-dressed.
The movie screens on November 10 at the St. Louis International Film Festival.
Day One of sabbatical is sunny, brisk, and lazy so far.
I had a few minutes yesterday of “what’s my purpose now? Who am I? Does anyone need me?”. Drifting off into a nap, these were the thoughts on my mind.
The whole scenario is odd: I leave work one day, not to return for nearly five months.
Had this sabbatical been a full semester, instead of a split (part Fall, part Spring), I’d have eased into it with a summer buffer or a winter holiday break. But no — finish a faculty meeting and a photo shoot, and bye-bye.
The emotions associated with this are strange.
But I’m still celebrating with a steak dinner tonight. (Last night was homemade tacos.)