Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mandela Effect

Tis the season.  Advent, Christmas, Chanukah, Sandy Hook...
At this time of year needs and expectations tug at our hearts in magnified ways.
Nelson Mandela's recent death has trumped - or perhaps enhanced - whatever season I find myself in.
Spirit of America's trip to South Africa two summers ago has provided me an awareness of this man's life for which I will ever be grateful. The fact that he could hold forgiveness and reconciliation in his heart after 25 years in jail amazes me. I lose that ability simply being stuck in traffic. But his choices and the life he lived offered hope to a nation, and will serve as a beacon for future generations.
Thank you Nelson Mandela.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Healing Our Culture of Violence

It's feels ironically perfect that tomorrow our winter percussion kids will be providing music for Cape Cod's forum on Healing Our Culture of Violence. That a form of music created by hitting things can provide a backdrop of beauty, energy, and joy for this event is fitting. Almost redemptive......

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Spirit Indoor 2014 - Here We Come

We had a phenomenal final audition camp yesterday for Spirit Indoor!

We're doing an Asian Hero themed show this year and one of the things were doing to get familiar with it is learning Taekwondo! We are learning from a man with a 1st-rank black-belt in Judo and a 4th-rank black-belt in Taekwondo. He's originally from Ireland and a very upbeat teacher. It's cool learning to kick and throw punches;) I'm sure this stuff will be incorporated into our show soon!

We were also visited by a stray dog- a golden retriever who was the cutest thing ever! She was definitely lost, but was very happy being serenaded by our keyboard exercises!!! We wanted to take her home, but called the police station instead who came to pick her up and take her to the animal rescue league. Hope she finds her owners!

Last, and best of all, after the audition camp, we all piled into cars and went to Nauset Outer Beach for a new season kick-off party! We piled into a few truck beds and drove to the outer limits. What a blast! Great food, a fire, beach volley ball, football, huge waves, a great sunset, and lots of smiles! 
Its going to be an amazing season- Go Spirit Indoor 2014!!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cadets - Down to the Wire

Wow- the season's gone by so fast, yet each day has felt like an eternity! 
Now, 7 days away from finals, the competition is unbelievably tight! The top three corps have been clashing heads and it's anyone's guess who will actually end up on top.
This year's show is an extremely difficult show to pull off- especially in the major leagues of drum corps. We've been told many times that there is something unique about this group of 2013 Cadets. No one can pinpoint what, exactly - but it's there. Hop also tells us:
this show will take every ounce of each of us individually...,
absolutely no room for error..., 
only a perfect show and complete mental focus for 13 minutes! 

The show won't do it for us, it's all about the achievement of the performers.
Now is when the rubber hits the road. We're down to the wire. Can we ignore the doubts in our heads, or fear of failure? Can we be okay doing our absolute best, knowing it might not be good enough? I think we can, and I think we will do better than we ever imagined we could. The only thing holding us back is - us!
What an amazing experience! It's so exciting to have such a phenomenal opportunity and I can't wait to see what this corps will do. 
Go Cadets!!!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

From the Road - Halfway

Narrowing in on the last month of tour! 
They say that the last 15 percent of any goal is the hardest to accomplish.  It's true!!!!
We just learned a major change to the middle movement of the show, scherzo. Its going to work really well in the context of the show. I'm learning how to quickly implement and perform changes, which will be so helpful for this upcoming indoor season! We get so many changes, and learning to implement and perform them on the fly is definitely a good skill to have!
On anther note, There's something really special about the bond that forms when you live, eat, breathe, and rehearse endless hours with 150 people for 3 months! There are definitely times we've had our disagreements, or felt we couldn't tolerate each other another minute. But more often then not we're supporting each other, working hard, laughing lots, and encouraging each other when it gets tough!
The closer we get to finals, the more I think about how much I should cherish each of the friends I've made and each of the members that makes up the Cadets. You always hear people say, "enjoy this season because there will never be another one like it". But this summer it has a very tangible meaning; there are people from everywhere- Japan, England, Ireland, and all over the US- who I may (literally) never see again. So my goal is to enjoy every moment that I have being with such a great group of individuals. A group that will make the best Cadets in history!
Tonight is our first time facing our toughest competition- Carolina Crown and the Blue Devils. Hop tells us the confidence that this years corps exudes is astounding. Our Barber show - "Side by Side" - has incredible potential, but it still will take every ounce from each of us to pull this off. 
If anyone can do it, this corps can. 
It's going to be amazing!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

America the Beautiful

This has always been my favorite in our arsenal of patriotic songs. 
It doesn’t get the title of of “National Anthem”, open major sporting events, or fill a seventh-inning stretch. 
It’s a simple tune - easily sung be children.
But it’s words are powerful and it’s imagery vivid.  
Most only know the opening verse - but there are eight. (The third verse still sticks in my throat every time I try to sing it)

Happy Birthday, America.

Tis the season - take a few minutes and read the poem - let it inspire you.

America the Beautiful
O beautiful for spacious skies, 
For amber waves of grain, 
For purple mountain majesties 
Above the fruited plain! 
America! America! 
God shed his grace on thee 
And crown thy good with brotherhood 
From sea to shining sea! 

O beautiful for pilgrim feet 
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat 
Across the wilderness! 
America! America! 
God mend thine every flaw, 
Confirm thy soul in self-control, 
Thy liberty in law! 

O beautiful for heroes proved 
In liberating strife. 
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life! 
America! America! 
May God thy gold refine 
Till all success be nobleness 
And every gain divine! 

O beautiful for patriot dream 
That sees beyond the years 
Thine alabaster cities gleam 
Undimmed by human tears! 
America! America! 
God shed his grace on thee 
And crown thy good with brotherhood 
From sea to shining sea! 

O beautiful for halcyon skies, 
For amber waves of grain, 
For purple mountain majesties 
Above the enameled plain! 
America! America! 
God shed his grace on thee 
Till souls wax fair as earth and air 
And music-hearted sea! 

O beautiful for pilgrims feet, 
Whose stem impassioned stress 
A thoroughfare for freedom beat 
Across the wilderness! 
America! America! 
God shed his grace on thee 
Till paths be wrought through 
wilds of thought 
By pilgrim foot and knee! 

O beautiful for glory-tale 
Of liberating strife 
When once and twice, 
for man's avail 
Men lavished precious life! 
America! America! 
God shed his grace on thee 
Till selfish gain no longer stain 
The banner of the free! 

O beautiful for patriot dream 
That sees beyond the years 
Thine alabaster cities gleam 
Undimmed by human tears! 
America! America! 
God shed his grace on thee 
Till nobler men keep once again 
Thy whiter jubilee!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


There is something about the camaraderie of like-minded, similar-goaled people that is attractive. I don't mean beautiful (although it can be) - but magnetic. Yesterday, I had the privilege of welcoming the participants of this years Drill Design Retreat to our facility. I am not a drill guy, probably never will be. But as I spoke to these people I was almost envious of the invisible bonds that have formed between these music instructors. They don't even know each other - but the work they have done in the trenches of music education have linked them together in a palpable way.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Less is More

Due to a perfect storm of circumstances a smaller marching band will be hitting the street this 2013 season. At first that was a source of concern for me  - but as this season has progressed and we approach the threshold of our first parade I'm coming to the conclusion that bigger isn't always better. There certainly is a safety in the massive sound of 100+ players - but there is also a new excitement in the flexible sound of a smaller corps. Our marches - old favorites - have a new sound. A fresh face.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Notes from the Road

Today's been a rockin pit day! We met Neil Larrivee, one of the founding instructors and arrangers for the Cadets who revolutionized drum corps front ensemble playing and is now the director of education for Vic Firth!

We were filmed for the first Vic firth sneak peak promo video, which was super cool! (In the rain of course! )

This good day didn't come easily though because the past week has definitely been a challenging 'character building' one! It's definitely takes a little while to figure out how a group of almost all rookies can work, play and live together at the highest level of perfection possible! Pretty high standards, but nothing were not used to with Spirit! Being in Spirit has taught me so much more than just how to play - dedication, a positive attitude, leadership, and most importantly how to work as a team, care about the group, and keep on fighting when you feel it's impossible!

The 2013 Cadet pit is definitely gelling now and we're beginning to become a 'well oiled machine', as our instructor Br. Andrew would say:)

Lots more learning to do, but this shows going to be the best yet! Phenom! I feel so privileged to be part of such an amazing ensemble and am psyched to see what we will become in August.

PS - One day Starbucks donated some iced coffee... Enough said:)

A New Parade Season

I am pumped about the marching band season- our first parade is about two and half weeks away, and I am hopeful that we will present the most “musical” marches that we have done in a long time. Can we produce that warm symphonic sound which is out there while we march down the street? I say YES! And we are getting closer each week. Perhaps the biggest challenge is not playing our own parts, but listening to all the other parts first, then adding our balanced sound to that mix…  we shall see. 
Most of our street marches this year are John Philip Souza marches, and they are all fantastic. Soaring melodies, intricate harmonies and brassy fanfare sections, but my favorite is The Crusader march. This is  a lesser known march, that has a gorgeous trio section with flute and clarinet playing a very lyric melody. Come and hear it for yourself! The trumpets and low brass add in, but are NOT the feature!(Catch that trumpets??)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Firm Foundation

SOA definitely prepared me to be a member of the Cadets. Work ethic, being able to take correction, rehearsal technique (following instruction...this can be attributed primarily to Ian Hale!) and even how to do a dot book, are huge skills that I have been crucial entry level skills at Cadets. These are the blocks that build a Championship Corps. The music this year is all Samuel Barber, and the show is coming together really well. We are 130 pages into about a 200 page show. It is so fun to play great music everyday, to have a single focus is very relaxing even if it is so hard, and I love hanging out with friends here who love hard work and the results it can achieve.

To Durban With Love

Today Spirit of America trumpet and trombone instruction resumed with our good friends in South Africa.  It is amazing how modern technology and a kindred love of music can keep this connection going.  As usual the first 10 minutes of the trumpet lesson involved multiple instant messages back and forth in order to connect the two computers, but once that was done we resumed with 4 trumpet players and 4 trombone players receiving instruction.

It is our goal to instruct enough players that one day will be able to teach a studio of fine musicians themselves.  Our focus in on playing with a good sense of sound and intonation, and on teaching the fundamentals of reading standard musical notation.  (This is a new concept for these students, as they are accustomed to playing by ear and by "call and response")

Hopefully every Wednesday for the next several months we will be able to chart the progress of this group, with the hopes that we are doing more than teaching music, we are sharing our hearts and our love for learning.  Look forward to good sounds in the halls of the Durban Community across the ocean in the weeks to come.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Play it Forward

Shortly after our 2013 Winter Percussion season came to a bronze finish two of our members headed out to join The Cadets for this summer's DCI season.  Kirsti Pugsley and Dan Pfeiffer are now heavily immersed in the music of Samuel Barber. It's always exciting to me to watch our kids "grow-up" and share their experiences and talents in other settings. I hope it's a great summer for them. If you want to keep an eye on the Cadets season - and maybe catch a glimpse of Dan or Kirsti check out the link above - or follow the Cadets on Facebook

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Great Season Comes to a Bronze End

A great season ends for SOA WP.
“Great seasons are all about the journey and not the destination.” As our unit director Ian Hale addressed us after finals on Friday night in Dayton, Ohio, this truth came as a great piece of perspective. This season has been great because of the hard work and the fun times we have shared as a team that have bound us tightly together. And our destination wasn’t too shabby! We won Bronze with a 92.8!
Yesterday evening, we were privileged to attend Percussion World Class Finals, and it was an exhilarating celebration of the sport we know and love. Father Ryan’s snare line was strapped onto wheels and spun upside down as they drummed to a standing ovation and a group from Japan called Aimachi incorporated complex and amazing guard work with drumming that looked more almost more like Cirque de Soleil than indoor drumline. If you have never seen a top Percussion Independent World Class performance it is worth the 8 minutes on YouTube to find out just how much can be achieved in this activity. We are excited and inspired to start again next season!

Here are a couple of youtube links. (Not HD show quality due to WGI copyright, but gives you a good feel) :
RCC Percussion:


Friday, April 19, 2013

Broadway World Chimes-In

Even Broadway has a piece of the action as Spirit Winter Percussion heads into Finals tonight.
They gave us a great review and shout out:
MA Youth Percussion Ensemble Qualifies for World Championship Finals 2013

They performed a great show at Prelims. Enough to earn them a score of 93.07 and a great shot at the medal podium tonight. I couldn't be prouder!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Single Focus

There is a prevalent belief these days that kids can't concentrate. Terms like ADDHD, and distractible get kicked around like a death knell on this next generation.
It's simply not true.  Give them a task (or any activity) they value and they are all about it.
We tried to give the kids some downtime - volleyball, frisbee,etc...   It lasted all of fifteen minutes before they were back at their pads with mallets/sticks in hand. They are all about the task at hand.
Talk about life lessons - Indoor Percussion is full of them!

Monday, April 15, 2013

As Good As It Gets

Finally! I can't tell you how exciting it is to wake up and realize that after weeks of dreaming and prepping and hoping for this day, it's finally here. We are in beautiful Dayton, OH. Somehow, in Dayton the grass is always greener, the sun is always warmer, the air is always cleaner, and life is just a bit brighter.

We arrived last night at a mere 11:30pm, much earlier than I anticipated and stumbled off the bus into the warm evening air at our home for the week, Athletes in Action retreat center; a Christian retreat center with a passion for athletics. A shower and a comfortable bed after 18 hours stuck on a bus can be simply awesome, just saying. I'm obviously getting a bit older because after 10 hours in a bus, it definitely starts to lose it's magic. But at least I'm with all my friends. That seems to make it more bearable.

Today we got to have a slow start which has been nice. After breakfast, we had a brief pad-out session and a run/stretch before attempting to play a round of volleyball. Needless to say, we weren't very good- but that's ok. It didn't matter.  At least WGI isn't a volleyball competition! This afternoon we will start into our last week of tweaks and repetitions and last minute changes before Prelims on Thursday, and depending on our placement, Finals on Friday!. The competition is getting so close we can start to feel it. Like a little ember in our stomachs starting to build to a flame. As a snare drummer it's so obvious how in the last week our playing has gotten so much better and stronger. The show is finally starting to feel ready, where only days ago I wasn't so sure it was ready for a world wide audience like this. 
Is it good enough? Will we play the way the show demands? I wasn't sure, but now I am. We are ready  It's time for us to step out with our message and see where we stand and let the chips fall where they may. 
As our percussion director always says, "the numbers really don't matter". In the end, that's out of our hands. What is in our hands, is the do the absolute best we can at what we do and trust the work we've done. 
It's time for Perpetual Cycles to be more than just our show. There's a story there that it's now our time to tell. We had te opportunity to mature with it and watch it grow. Sometimes so frustrated we wanted to quit - sometimes unsure wether it would ever work - sometimes so excited we wouldn't know what to do with ourselves. But now it's ready and it's time to be shared, and I can't tell you how excited I am about it! 
I don't feel all that worried anymore. We're all here together in Dayton doing what we love, with who we love. It doesn't get much better than that!

The Last Five Percent

Hey all!!!
We just came off of the most upbeat show of the season... The Dessert Auction! It's our annual show for the home crowd where we talk about the activity, auction off mouth watering desserts, and perform our show twice to give our favorite fans the best chance of taking it all in. We had a blast!!!
We started the day with our normal routine of warm ups, sectionals, and ensemble, but the whole time gearing toward our exciting evening!
To keep the show alive, coming off of tech week we must continue to be both technically and emotionally engaged at the highest level. The road to Dayton is always about consistent perfection... the last 5% is the hardest to achieve, but the most rewarding!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Road to Dayton

Had a great turn-out for our Dessert Auction/Send-Off Show last night. The kids played well, and I think the local crowd was happy to be part of the festivities. 
Now I find myself in the middle of an 18hr bus ride to Dayton for the Nationals. It has become apparent to me that a long bus trip means something entirely different to a teenager than it does to me at 50!  The perspective of the two ten-year-olds behind me makes me feel both energized and old at the same time. “When are we gonna get there?!” seems to be their most pressing concern - I’m just glad to have the opportunity to do nothing. But being around youth keeps me young - Thank God. We should pull in around midnight and start in to all the rehearsing, prepping, and tweaking on Monday. In the meantime I have 7 more hours of “nothing” to look forward to before the games begin.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dartmouth Finals

Wow what a weekend! We are in the chute for Dayton and competition is fierce. Last
night was NESBA finales and we had a great show, definitely our best yet! The energy
felt awesome and a lot of the work we had done over the weekend displayed itself. We
won with a score of 91.8! Is the work over? Are we done? NO way. We won’t sniff
complacency, and we are going to push it out until the end. Some of the rehearsals this
year have been tough, but many people have said to us, “the hard days are the days
you’ll remember, and they make the good moments really great.” Last night was a great
moment, and as we cherish these last days and shows together, we’re going to knock em
dead. Dayton, look out!!!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Home Stretch

We are in the home stretch with our season.  We have completed the last of our regular season NESBA shows and we are looking forward to performing at the NESBA Championships on April 7 and then the WGI World Championships in Dayton, OH on April 18-19.  

The show has gone through many changes over the past three weeks and the members have done a great job handling them.  It's not easy to continue to refine the design of the show and make changes while it's being performed, but this is the nature of the indoor season.  Often times, groups will not have their shows completed until near the end of the season.  We have been fortunate that we've been able to use our time to really refine the show until we felt it was right, and we're almost there.  We have this weekend off before NESBA Championships so we will be using this time to refine the program, continue to develop confidence and consistency, and elevate the performance and emotional level of the group.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Art Imitates Life

This past weekend was awesome! We put the "final" show changes into action. This included voice overs, music and drill changes, design elements, props, and some "hot off the press" color panels for the front of the pit instruments! It was a very exciting weekend, and now that all the parts are in place, we can polish it for finals in Dayton!
They say that art imitates life. Well, our season has certainly mirrored our show concept.  We started out strong (life) - have had some real struggles clearly communicating the concept of our show to the audience (death) - and now with these new changes in place the message is stronger than ever (new life). It had to die to come back stronger.
What a cool experience!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Whirlwind Developments

So much is going on in the world of Winter Percussion; it has been hard to keep you informed, so here is a blitz to bring everyone up to speed! 
We had a great show last weekend, but the judges are having a hard time understanding some of the concepts. It is difficult, in a 6-minute blast, to clearly communicate the importance of needing death to have life…a “Perpetual Cycle.” (Some professors might say it isn't even possible in a whole semester!) 
We are approaching this weekend with a new voice-over, and a pile of changes and additions to the show that should help clarify the message. Our performance scores are consistently strong (how well we play), and our visual scores are not far behind…our job now is to clarify the design of the show and then start to perform and enjoy every performance. If we find our stride in performance energy and clarity, the general effect judge wil be on board from the moment we take the floor. Not to mention…we will have a great time performing it, no matter what the score!
A few new exciting updates:
1) New wires made for all the front ensemble keyboards…we are now using high quality connectors and wire that will keep unwanted interference out of our speakers!
2) New side panels so that the snares are completely offstage during transitions…no more distraction for the audience!
3) New miniature racks being built for the junior WP members’ equipment!

Can’t wait for the show in Mansfield, MA this Saturday evening…we are going to rock the house!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

WGI Regionals - First Place!

The 2013 competitive season is now underway! We have performed at two NESBA shows and we just completed the WGI Trumbull, CT Regional and won our class with an 83.65.  We are very pleased with the start of the season and how the shows have been going.  The group has really stepped up in the past couple weeks and worked extremely hard to make this happen.  

The show is called "Perpetual Cycles." It was inspired by the Mayan concept of the Life Cycle: With Life, comes Death,! and Death is necessary for New Life to occur.  The show is therefore organized into three sections: 1. Life, 2. Death, 3. New Life.  An important part of this concept is that the Life Cycle is never ending.  Once death occurs, new life begins and the cycle starts again.  A simple example can be found by looking at the changing of the seasons.  In keeping with that idea, Spirit's show ends in the same manner it began and could be performed without ever stopping! 

The music for the show is heavily based on Joseph Curiale's "Adelina De Maya."  This is the main source material for the program and occurs in the opening as well as the closing production.  Also included in the program is a Brazilian "Batucada," Alberto Ginastera's "Lamentations of Jeremiah" and "Third Wind" by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays.  

Now that the WGI regional is over, we return to our local NESBA circuit for a string of shows over the next three weekends before we compete in the NESBA circuit championships on April 7 and finally at the WGI World Championships on April 18-20.  During these next three weeks, we will be implementing a series of changes to continue to strengthen the design of the show as well as simply cleaning it and making it as perfect as we can. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

First Show!!!

Show Weekend
The air was electric on Saturday morning as we prepared for the long anticipated first show in Dartmouth, MA. We had an excellent although brief rehearsal to brush up on tempos and ensemble unity through large chunks of the show.  Our loading process was a little rusty, having had the luxury of not loading or unloading all of tech week. Nevertheless, we got onto the road to Dartmouth soon enough. The buzz, confusion, energy, and excitement when we arrived at Dartmouth was only compounded by a steady freezing rain. We did our best to maintain a professional posture amid the melee. The battery warmed up in a tight little classroom, the front ensemble was moved around the school from one hallway to another and once settled, we all got together to run some larger chunks of the show. The confined space caused our sound to be total cacophony. The show was excellent, and we received a score of 85.1, coming in first place in our division, and more importantly our best first show score of all time.
Back at the school were we have stayed all week, we unpacked, dried off our equipment, had some pizza, and went to bed.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Perpetual Cycles

Today was our last full rehearsal day of tech week before our first show! We worked out the logistics of getting on and off of the floor with our plethora of instruments, props, and a set background. We closed off the day in ensemble with a full costume run getting on and off the floor in record time.

An overview of our show:

It is called Perpetual Cycles, and it is all about the importance of the balance of life and the necessity death in order to have new life. We include Brazilian drums including surdos, tamborims, repiniques, agogos, rocar shakers, samba whistles, and our traditional marching percussion instruments. One of the coolest parts of the show is that the ending is also the beginning!
We can’t wait to get outside tomorrow, smell some fresh air, and do a great show!


We have officially hit the one week mark at North Bridge Middle School as day 7 has come to a conclusion. The day started out hard, not only were we tired but we also knew we would get even more tired as the day went on. After stretches, we ran 20 laps around the floor to wake our tired bodies. Which seemed to help since the blood started pumping again.
Rehearsal started with a good 'break down' (set to set) of our second half of the third book. Which was based off of Joseph Curiale's "Adelina De Maya". It has the same music as the first book - It is a fast paced part of the show that shows the difference between the old life and the new one. 
After lunch we finished our ensemble battery rehearsal - then broke into sectionals for some 'cleaning' - and finally put it together with the pit.
After a fantastic Brazilian dinner we made some final changes and did our last full runs.
After the last run (which was awesome!) we had make your own sundaes (with all the toppings) sponsored by all our parents! The sundaes really lifted our spirits for the Last day before our performance.

The show is almost ready to put into competition, all that's left is some transitional moments that are a little awkward. We are looking forward to kicking some serious butt on Saturday - our first show.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Day 6 - Just Keep Going!

Today was one of those days where the most important thing is to just keep going, and trust that the work will take you where you need to go. I won’t lie to you, as the day began, we all felt sure that we didn’t have the energy it was going to take to get through another 16 hour day of running around the floor and fine tuning the show. But, I think we’ve all begun to realize that once the choice to dig-in is made, the energy and the drive always follows. I know I felt that way.
Today was slated to be a day to "deep clean" the first half of the third and final section of our show; the part where we realize the ‘life’ on the other side of death leads to a newer and more exciting life. And how necessary that death is to bring that newlife.
The music for this first portion comes from Third Wind by Pat Matheny- a driving ostinato in the keyboards is laid on top of a fun and rock-like rhythm in the string bass and synth. The tenor and marching timbales are a really unique sound to the activity - then add fun interchanges in types of Brazilian percussion and you've got yourself a bucket-load of fun.
At first it was a lot of just repping to get into the tempo and groove of the piece, but as we began to find it, it really began to breathe and have some life and character. As a member of the snare line, the entire show began to fall into place.
Dartmouth is just two days away!!

Day 5 - Book 1

Today in Whitinsville, we focused on Book 1.
There are three main parts to this chart:
a) The first section is a segment of Joseph Curiale's Adelina de Maya.
b) The middle part is a batucada (a Brazilian samba) wher we use traditional Brazilian instruments and gather on the floor for a groove party.
c) The last part is a continuation of the beginning and a transitioning into Book 2.
Book 1 improved a lot over the day thanks to various sub-sectionals and great instructors.
Tomorrow we're moving to Book 3
We've hit the half way point.

Day 4 - Batacuda!!

Today was Book Two - Battucada day!!! 
For the battucada section, everyone plays ethnic instruments from Tamborims, Surdos, Repiniques..... It's very cool to be expanding our overall knowledge of percussion and exploring different instruments and techniques. We worked on defining every move and motion of our choreography.Combining those moves with tight ensemble playing makes the show a lot more powerful!
We also practiced playing with capes covering our faces! Wow - that was a challenge!! Not so much the challenge of not being able to see the keys - but missing the body language of those around me is what threw me the most.  I had no idea my connection to my fellow players was so critical.  (I guess it really isn't all about me!?) 
Overall, it was a great, hard working day!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Day 3 - Uniform excitement

Today, we all wore our uniforms on the floor for the first time! They pose a few logistical challenges—such as two entire layers of pants, shirts, and a cloak that have to be removed in perfect time. However, they look very Brazilian, in brilliantly colorful contrast to the darker floor.

Day 2 - Hello Whitinsville

After a crazy late night of unloading food, instruments and bedding though a huge school, we manage to have an awesome rehearsal day. We honed-in on the third portion of our show. “Every detail counts,” yells our instructor from the stands. As more of our members arrived, we worked more on the Brazilian samba part of our show. We look forward to having the whole group here tomorrow. We are gaining a lot more confidence in our show, and we're looking forward to our first performance.

Day 1 - Let the Games Begin!

Day 1 - Let the Games Begin!
School vacation is upon us which gives us the opportunity to devote some single-focus time polishing the show for our first competition of the 2013 season. So for the next 8 days Northbridge Middle School will be our home away from home as we prep, polish, hone, tweak and perfect our new show. We’ll keep you updated everyday with blogs and pictures. Can’t wait to finally put it on the floor - let the games begin!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In the Chute!

Our first show weekend (Feb. 23-24) is fast approaching and although there is still much work to be done, rehearsals have been going really well. 
Our first "tech week" of the season starts this Friday Feb. 15 and runs until our first show in Dartmouth on Feb. 23.  This is an intensive week of daily rehearsals where we prepare the group to perform! We have done our first full run-through of the show and we are now in the process of detailing the show, implementing changes, getting the costumes and props worked in and slowly taking the metronome away.  Many of these things will happen during tech week.  It's always an exciting week for us where we get to see the show really come to life, not only as the costumes and props get worked in, but also as the confidence and comfort level of the group goes up several notches. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Snow Day

Winter Storm Nemo single-handedly shut down our Winter percussion rehearsal schedule this last weekend. On Saturday we were gearing up for a 15hr day.  One of those often dreaded, but very much needed days in which we can clean-up and solidify so many aspects of the show before we put it on the floor for the first time.  When word came out that we would have to cancel our rehearsal - I fully expected cheers from the kids. Much to the contrary - they were visibly disappointed. They are so invested in this show - that the thought of leaving it for even a weekend was upsetting. That was inspiring to me.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Evelyn Glennie

Many years ago I had the privilege of attending a master class with the amazing percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Her journey (deaf since the age of 12) is amazing in and of itself. Being in the same room, her charisma is palpable. She is a delight to watch and listen to.  However, the piece that has stuck with me over the years is this. She asked the class "What is the most important piece of information on a piece of music?"  Eager hands shot into the air "Tempo!.... Key Signature!... Dynamics!!...."
Her answer - "The Title".
She felt that the name a composer chooses colors and informs us on so many levels. It provides a lens through which to interpret the road map he has provided in the score.
It's such a great concept - that can bring a fresh sound.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Be Brave - Rub Elbows

"Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On it's foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy, and sustainable human development." Kofi Annan

Education is not limited to the classroom. That transformative power can be released in so many ways. Sharing a laugh, admitting ignorance, giving a minute I don't have - every human interaction is pregnant with the opportunity to learn and grow.  When the walls come down and the doors are open it's amazing what can happen.   Be brave - rub elbows!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Giving Back

True education is all about giving back. Over the last few months I have been in the presence of some great teachers. People who are accomplished, even famous, in their field of expertise. What I find so inspiring is not just what they share - but why they share. It goes beyond paycheck or occupation - and becomes vocation. They love what they do so much that they are compelled to share. It's changed their lives and they want it to change ours. That passion is contagious and it creates a desire to learn.
This concept could - if we let it - if we dive in with both feet - not only enhance how we learn, but change how we live. Imagine what it would be like at school, at home, at work..... if we all just "gave back". 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wynton Marsalis - Improvisation

I had the privilege of hearing Wynton Marsalis deliver the keynote address at the Midwest Clinic this last December. He spoke for over an hour about the importance of music and it's educators. His heartfelt words were not only inspiring, but transformed my view of American music.  Most notably,
Improvisation. As a musician I have always avoided it - unproductive, unpredictable, messy, and frightening. Wynton's words stopped me in my tracks:
"Improvisation is a pivotal pillar in the American Trinity of Fundamental Music Skills.  It teaches self-acceptance and personal pride through developing your own unique sound. It teaches you to identify and investigate your own emotional identity through truthful self-analysis, contemplation, introspection, joy, love, sorrow, weakness, and pain. All through searching for something meaningful to play in our own language."
Inspiring, challenging words. No wonder Improv is so frightening to me. But look what I've been missing. So - this 2013 - I'm jumping in the pool.  May I be brave enough to let it shape my music and my life.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ducks in a Row

Although we’ve only officially begun the year 2013 a couple days ago, the Winter Percussion has already been hard at work preparing for the 2013 season. In fact, preparations began back in the summer of 2012!
We currently have about two thirds of the show on the floor (marching and playing), so we are very much on our production schedule. Both the battery and front ensemble sections have been working hard getting the music learned, so when it comes time for learning the remaining drill and visual package, everyone is prepared.
Preparations “behind the scenes” are also very active: costumes have been designed, the floor is finished, the set pieces are being built, and all the other important logistical elements that are critical to the success of the ensemble are in place.
Our first show is February 23rd in Dartmouth, MA and although we still have a lot of work to do, we are looking forward to the first opportunity to show people the 2013 edition of the WP!

Sandy Hook Benefit Concert

As we all continue to mourn the tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, the question is raised what can I do to help repair the damage, ease the grief, and support the victims families. As Newtown itself is bombarded by media and visitors with good intentions, it seemed to me like the best thing to do was just to pray for the people that God comfort them. And yet, I found myself wishing I could do more.
For this reason, I was honored and blessed by the opportunity to play at a Sandy Hook Elementary Benefit Concert last Saturday in Salem, CT. My musical training as a part of Gloriae Dei allows me to participate in the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps, and the corps was invited to participate in this great event. A representation of the Cadets hornline played Shenandoah, Simple Gifts, American Elegy, Doxology on Amazing Grace, and Philip Bliss as a small segment to close the concert. The event raised $4200 for the Sandy Hook Elementary Foundation and I was blessed to have given of myself for the victims of this tragedy.