WMMN-TV Presents: Recital Video!

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I was very pleased with how my recital went on Wednesday! What I am less pleased with is how tedious the task of editing video is… but I do it for you, music nerds! If that’s not love, what is? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here’s the first installment, featuring my charming stage commentary and the first piano piece on the program, For Brian’s Birthday (part of the 30 Days Project). Enjoy!

Stay tuned for more to come!

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Miss Music Nerd’s Musical Monkey Mind!

A mind is a terrible thing.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the concept of Monkey Mind. Even if you didn’t already know the term, I’m sure you’re familiar with the experience it refers to. It’s a very human thing, to have all manner of thoughts scurry through one’s head while trying to focus on a task or otherwise keep the mind still. The mind doesn’t want to keep still!

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Sometimes it seems that the more crucial it is to quiet the chattering and concentrate on an important task, the noisier and more obnoxious the Monkey Mind becomes. I’ve noticed this while getting ready for my recital. I need all the focus I can muster right now, but my monkey has been kicking up quite a ruckus!

One issue is what goes through my mind while I’m actually playing the piano. You’d think my mind has enough to do just looking at notes and sending the signals to my fingers to play them, but random thoughts do creep in, from whether it’s too hot or cold in the room, to that thing that guy said the other day that annoyed me. Or, if I feel I’m playing well, I’ll start thinking, “This is going really well!” or, “Dang, I’m good!” which basically guarantees that I’m about to go splat. Chiding myself doesn’t work any better — no point in thinking, “That bit didn’t go quite how I wanted” when that bit is in the rearview mirror.

Performing music is a very Zen activity. The only thing that really works is just to take it moment by moment, not worrying about what just happened or what’s going to happen in a few minutes. And if something goes less than perfectly, you have to instantly forgive yourself and move on.

I find myself having to keep an eye on my thoughts while away from the piano as well. I can feel myself starting to freak out, but I know that there’s no cheese at the end of that maze, so I tell myself to knock it off. And I’ll tell you what, I’m in favor of all manner of new-age, woo-woo, power of positive thinking techniques right around now! I don’t know whether there are atheists in foxholes or not, but I’m quite sure that the Green Room is no place for Debbie Downer!

Oh, and here’s a funny thing I noticed: I’ve started having the urge to tie up any and all loose ends in my life. To return anything I’ve borrowed, to spring-clean the house to within an inch of its life, to make sure I’m good with all my friends and family. Geez, it almost sounds like I’m stepping in front of a firing squad instead of onto a stage! ๐Ÿ˜‰ But it’s just so I can be free of little nagging thoughts that like to come up while I’m doing something difficult that requires deep focus.

I imagine that high-level athletes training for big events have similar experiences. I think if I were preparing to run a marathon, I would be wrestling with my mind this way, too. (I’ll probably never know for sure โ€“ I’ll take my runner friends at their word!)

When I shared these thoughts with McDoc, he reiterated that I should give recitals more often. Evidently, there’s nothing like assigning yourself a huge task to get yourself whipped into shape right quick!

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Miss Music Nerd in Concert!

I’ve been slaving over a hot piano quite a bit more than usual lately!

I’d like to say it’s due to a frenzy of inspiration, but truthfully, it has more to do with perspiration โ€“ if you’re a perfectionist/procrastinator like me, you know that there’s nothing like a deadline to get you motivated… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Next week I will make my official Boston musical debut! I’m giving a recital of my own music as part of a weekly concert series at the Church of St. John the Evangelist. I’ll play several pieces from the 30 Days Project, and my friend and fabulous singer Peter Terry will join me for a couple of pieces. If you happen to be in the Boston area, you are cordially invited!

Here are the vital details:
Wedesday, April 28, 5:30 pm
Church of St. John the Evangelist
35 Bowdoin St., Boston

No admission charge, but donations gratefully accepted.

The program will last about an hour, and a reception will follow.

Here is the “official” flyer:

Now, back to work I go! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Tchaikovsky in the Concert Hall and on the Runway!

If I were an old-school classical music critic, I might say that an event like the Boston Symphony‘s Project Tchaikovsky was just the latest in a string of desperate attempts by orchestra marketing folks to hype classical music to a wider audience by contriving a tenuous connection to popular culture, watering down what should be a Very Serious Experience and neglecting to pay due attention to the music itself.

Fortunately, I am nothing of the kind! ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s not that I don’t take classical music seriously, of course. The concert hall is a sacred space for me, and I believe a great live classical performance is one of the most transporting, transcendent experiences life has to offer. But just because something is sacred doesn’t mean it can’t ever be lighthearted and fun!

Not to mention educationally valuable. I had the chance to speak to several of the design students who participated in the contest, and it was clear that Thursday night was just the icing on the cake of a great learning experience for them. Most of them are in their final year of school, poised to head for internships in places like New York and San Francisco, where they might have to do a lot of grunt work before they get another chance to see their very own evening wear design on the runway, so this was a wonderful opportunity. Click Mr. Readmore for photos and details!

Oh, and the designers did get to know Tchaikovsky’s music better during this process. In this video, Professor Mary Ruppert of Lasell College, where two of the design contestants attend, mentions blasting his music in the classroom while brainstorming their designs:

I always like to hear about anyone of any age getting inspired by classical music! Some of the designers were already familiar with the music — Melissa Higgins said she had danced to it as a ballet student, for example. But I know these are hip young folks who don’t listen to classical music exclusively, of course. When not listening to Tchaikovsky, Samira Vargas-Pena merengue from her native Dominican Republic, as well as rock, sung in Spanish and English.

On Thursday evening, the designers and models circulated through the lobby and lounges during the hour before the performance. Patrons were encouraged to vote for their favorite design using paper ballots or via text messages. McDoc voted for two that he particularly liked. I just couldn’t decide — I liked them all!

It was interesting to compare the designers’ sketches to their finished products, so I’ve placed photos of the designers and models next to photos of posters that were on display, featuring the designers’ sketches and descriptions.

Photos of designers and models by Michael J. Lutch, used by kind permission of the Boston Symphony. Photos of posters by Miss Music Nerd.

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After the concert โ€“ which I’ll talk about in a separate post โ€“ย it was time for the runway show! These two appropriately-dressed gentlemen ushered us into the hall of fashion…

photo by Miss Music Nerd

…where we met our esteemed panel of judges:

…and our jocular emcee, WGBH arts reporter Jared Bowen.


L to R: Michael DePaulo, Alexandra Hall, Mary Nobile King, Jared Bowen, Nara Paz, BSO Director of Marketing Sarah Manoog, Wendy Putnam. Photo by Michael J. Lutch.

[Side note: the composition of that photo above reminds me of an even more famous image. What can I say — my brain is warped!]

One by one, the models took to the runway, with the designers looking on in the background:

photos by Miss Music Nerd

And then it was time to pick the winner!

Fallon Coster got the nod for Patron Favorite:

photo by Michael J. Lutch

And Rain Delisle was the judges’ pick:
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photo by Michael J. Lutch
This, by the way, was McDoc’s favorite! The two-way zipper across the bodice is really interesting, and I thought the combination of gingham and tulle was pretty original. But like I said, I thought all the designs were amazing!

Up next: oh yeah, there was a concert that night, too! stay tuned for the Nerd’s-Eye View! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Project Tchaikovsky: Music and Fashion, Together Again! (What Am I Gonna Wear?!)

Confession time: for a professional classical musician, I don’t have a very impressive CD collection. When fellow music nerds start discussing questions of who made the best recording of such-and-such a piece, my first impulse is to change the subject as quickly as possible: “My, a lot of weather we’re having, isn’t it?”

So what’s my excuse? Well, none really… But when pressed, I’ll say that I prefer hearing classical music live. It’s true — nothing compares to a live performance. But the real reason? Very little room in the budget. You see, chances are that when I have money to spend, I’ll spend it on clothes. Yeah, that’s right, I’m a girl! So sue me! ๐Ÿ˜‰

That being the case, when I found out about an event this coming Thursday at the Boston Symphony that combined classical music and fashion design, I knew I had to be there. Stay tuned for the nerd’s-eye view!

You’ve heard of Project Runway — maybe you’ve even watched it! (But if you want to pretend you’re the kind of Serious Person who doesn’t watch TV, except for classical music performances broadcast on PBS, I won’t tell anyone! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) The name of the BSO’s Project Tchaikovsky event riffs on the name of the reality show. But It’s only one evening, not a series, so there won’t be a process of elimination spurring a lot of tearful set departures. There will be a runway show, followed by the selection of a winner by a panel of judges, including an orchestra member and the director of the Chanel boutique in Boston.

Oh, and before that, a concert of classical music performed by the Boston Symphony, by the way! The concert will, of course, feature Tchaikovsky’s music: his Symphony No. 2, Little Russian. I’m excited about the other pieces on the program, too: Concert Romรขnesc by Gyรถrgy Ligeti (one of my fave composers) and the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Shostakovich.

The contestants are design students from Boston area schools, and the winner will get a write-up in Boston Magazine, among other goodies. Pretty cool!

You can see sketches of the competing designs here. Now, I’m not sure why you learn how to draw models as if they’re in the skinny part of a fun-house mirror when you go to design school — maybe I’ll ask when I interview the designers on Thursday. But primarily, I’ll be excited to learn how the music relates to the designs. The advance word is demure about discussing that, though I did find a mention of Tchaikovsky’s music being played at high volume during classes. As one who wants to see classical music get a wider audience, I applaud! ๐Ÿ™‚

Now I just have to figure out what I’m gonna wear! I don’t think I’ve been this preoccupied about picking an outfit since right before the GRAMMYSยฎ! ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you’re in the Boston area, you can preview the designs and hear the concert on Tuesday, April 13 or Thursday, April 15. The runway show and announcement of the winner is April 15 only! For information and tickets, click here.

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Happy Easter Monday, Music Nerds!

Well, I did it! I got through my first Holy Week and Easter in my new organist-choir director position!

Feel free to share this badge of honor with any church musicians, clergy, altar guild members, church office workers, etc., that you know!

I had taken a sabbatical from church music when McDoc and I got married. The idea of having weekends uncommitted as a newlywed was appealing. ๐Ÿ™‚ So appealing, in fact, that I swore I wouldn’t take another regular church job again. My plan was to be a substitute organist, living the free and easy life most of the time, and riding the to rescue when organists desperate to get out of town needed someone to fill in. Being indispensable has its advantages!

Slowly but surely, though, I got sucked back into the regular church gig scene. So I was really happy when the opportunity came my way to work at a church that McDoc and I liked and had already decided to join. McDoc is now a member of my choir!

I started right at the beginning of Lent, which is a slightly stressful time to step into the job; it’s kind of like climbing into the roller coaster car as it slowly creaks up to the top of the hill, right before it begins its rushing, unstoppable descent. Nothing to do now but go with it!

Holy Week consists of a service with every night from Thursday to Saturday, and then the big show on Sunday morning. My choir is small but mighty, and did an admirable job. We had a fine young trumpet player, a first-year Boston Conservatory student, join us on Easter Sunday morning, too.

By noon yesterday, when all was said and done, I was more than ready for a nice brunch, complete with mimosa! Here I am afterwards, with Tiny Dancer, our official choir mascot:

…And then it was time for some of this:

Now that I’ve gotten through all that, I can tackle the backlog of stories I need to post, and then turn my attention to some exciting upcoming adventures. Stay tuned! ๐Ÿ™‚

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