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What a whirlwind of great music making this past week and half has been. I hit the road for San Jose on a rainy Halloween afternoon. My drive ended up being a little bit like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – minus the fun house music and bright, colorful, psychedelic objects popping out at your during the clunky ride in the little Disney go-cart. But I digress… here in California, even even during our biggest rain storm, it’s rare for us to see or hear big claps of lightening. How fitting that Halloween brought with it some serious weather. At times the lightening lit up the night sky like it was daytime. Pretty crazy weather, but a nice change from all of the high temps we’ve had in So. Cal, and definitely very cool!

Packing the essentials

Packing the essentials

San Jose was the location for this years San Francisco Flute Festival. I was invited to be a Guest Artist, presenting a Body Mapping class, and sharing a recital with three other terrific Bay Area friends/colleagues. The festival showcased an impressive line up of Guest Artists from all over the globe, as well as local flute ensembles, recitals, workshops, vendors, and of course, plenty of time to catch up with old friends.

Nicole Esposito, Ai Goldsmith and I, and the requisite flute selfie.

Nicole Esposito, Ai Goldsmith and I, and the requisite flute selfie.

Major kudos to the SFFS for locking in such a great space at Valley Christian School. Talk about a spectacular view, this place was something else. Valley Christian High School is perched atop a hill in San Jose, overlooking pretty much everything, with an unobstructed panoramic view of the whole South Bay. Wow! Presenting a Body Mapping class in a space that is not only beautiful, but also state of the art, and allows me to simply plug my lap top in, push two buttons, and voilà, I’m in business… well, let’s just say it’s not always like that and what a treat it was.

Some of the extra special performance highlights worth noting – in no particular order:
*San Francisco Symphony Piccoloist Catherine Payne’s Vivaldi on Sunday night was without question, the most beautiful rendition I’ve ever heard. Ever.

* NYC based flutist Sooyun Kim gave two extraordinary performances on Saturday and Sunday … phenomenal control and exceptional musicality.

* My long time friend and colleague Teresa Orozco and her wonderful partner Orlando Castro’s performance on Sunday was so much fun. I seriously could have sat and listened to the two of them for hours; great energy, great groove, exciting, and heartfelt. Bay Area friends, if Teresa and Orlando are playing anywhere near you, GO HEAR THEM! With any luck, we’ll see a recording from them in the near future.

* University of Iowa’s Professor of Flute, and my dear friend Nicole Esposito, gave a flawless and fabulous performance on Sunday afternoon. I loved every piece. Nicole has such a great stage presence and plays with energy and passion.

* OK, I know I said “In no particular order” but the concert I was a part of on Sunday with Ai Goldsmith, Ray Furuta, and Isabelle Chapuis may well be my personal #1 highlight of the festival. What an honor to share a concert with these three remarkable musicians for whom I have such respect. Ours was an unaccompanied recital – never an easy feat – and we had a full house. Tutti bravo, friends!

Ai Goldsmith, Isabelle Chapuis, Ray Furuta and I after our recital.

Ai Goldsmith, Isabelle Chapuis, Ray Furuta and I after our recital.

* The Saturday evening Gala Concert at the charming Le Petite Trianon theater in Downtown San Jose was the perfect way to end the weekend. Brilliant playing by all of the soloists, and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra sounded fantastic, too.

Back room silliness with Horacio Parravicini, modeling my awesome new bag, before his exquisite CPE Bach performance at the Gala Concert

Back room silliness with Horacio Parravicini, modeling my awesome new bag, before his exquisite CPE Bach performance at the Gala Concert

Gotta say, I am totally stealing this genius idea of a shared concerto concert and taking it back to CSULB, with hopes that our orchestra director might program a similar concert with faculty.

On top of all that flute goodness, it was a really fun weekend reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones. And as if that wasn’t enough, I scored the absolutely most beautiful new Fluter Scooter bag; turquoise suede with cream patent leather trim, lined with a super soft, plush, faux fur. Gorgeous! (OK, correction, the new flute bag was the #1 highlight, then all of the other stuff…)

Christie Beard and I, modeling our FABULOUS new Fluter Scooter bags!

Christie Beard and I, modeling our FABULOUS new Fluter Scooter bags!

Congratulations to Viviana Guzman and the host of others behinds the scenes who made this event possible. Viviana’s dedication and passion for all that she does as a person, musician, flutist, educator, artist, and entrepreneur is inspiring to us all. BRAVA!

With Niall O'Riordan at Starbuck's after a long weekend

With Niall O’Riordan at Starbuck’s after a long weekend

After the flute festival came to close, I made my way up to Oakland for our opening concert of the season; Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 and the West Coast premier of Chris Brubeck and Guillaume Saint James’ brilliant new work “Brothers in Arts: 70 Years of Liberty.” Just when I think I couldn’t love my job in the Oakland East Bay Symphony any more, something comes along and takes things up a level. First the Tchaikovsky; even after all these years, I never tire of this war horse. I have so many fond memories of the performances I’ve enjoyed of this work over the years. A favorite memory that comes back to me every time I play it is the golden nugget of wisdom my former teacher Anne Zentner gave to me about a hundred years ago. Tchaikovsky flute parts have about a zillion notes, most of which are doubled in the strings, and are often marked ff. The Fifth Symphony is no exception. When I was studying with Anne, I was performing the piece somewhere and lamenting some of the trickier technical spots. Her response was “yeah, those spots are great opportunities to work on your pianissimo playing!”
Back to Oakland, this past Friday will be added to my list of memorable performances. The orchestra was in top form. Even after a whole summer away from one another, it was like we just played together last week. The concert was simulcast on the Great Wall of Oakland for all of the First Friday attendees to enjoy for free, and it was live streamed as well … two big firsts for us in OEBS. Our Executive Director chose me to be interviewed before the concert by KDFC’s Dianne Nicolini, which went out live on the simulcast and webcast. Things were really abuzz not only around town with all of the foot traffic for First Friday, but especially backstage at the Paramount. Everyone was feeling the love Friday night. What a concert!

Interview with Dianne Nicolini

Interview with Dianne Nicolini

The Brubeck/Saint-James was nothing short of awesome. Chris Brubeck joined us two seasons ago for a unique and memorable concert, as we all paid tribute to his father, the legendary Dave Brubeck. How lucky are we to have gotten him back with us this year, along with a group of extraordinary French jazz musicians. I can’t recall a time in my life that I have heard finer accordion playing, or a better jazz drummer. These guys were on fire! Both Chris and Guillaume co-wrote the piece, honoring their fathers, both of whom witnessed D-Day in 1944; Brubeck was a soldier in Patton’s army, and Saint-James’s life was saved by Allied doctors at Normandy. This 8 movement work, for jazz quintet and orchestra, really takes you on a journey. I especially enjoyed the back stories for each movement, which Chris took the time to share with the orchestra during rehearsal. Working with Chris is a lot of fun, you always know exactly what he wants. It’s all about the music and whatever sounds best and makes the most musical sense for you as a player. He has a great sense of humor, and sometimes his descriptions of what he wants are pretty entertaining. There was a boogie-woogie section in one of the movements where he wanted a particular style from all of us and his instructions to us were “think Herman Munster, doing the twist, in 5/4.”

with Chris Brubeck and Guillaume Saint-James before the show

with Chris Brubeck and Guillaume Saint-James before the show

Image 8After the show, as per usual, a sizable group of us left the hall and walked a short 50 steps away to the newish beer garden next door, Lost and Found, for post-concert beverages. We were all feeling the love, not only for the great concert we just played, but for our orchestra and for Oakland. That city has come a long way since I won my job back in 2004. Back then, there were very few places to grab a bite, a drink, or even a decent cup of coffee right near the hall. Now, there are tons of great local joints – all of which are walking distance from the hall.

Leaving home in Long Beach for a week or more at a time to work out of town is not always optimal, but it’s what I do and most of the time I enjoy it very much. Making the schlep up I-5 to OEBS once a month or so, is 100% totally worth it. I love my orchestra.

My studio looks a little bit like a train went through it as I unpack from 8 days of performing and teaching in the Bay Area, and repack for 8 days of performing and teaching in NYC and Connecticut. Yet, I feel a sense of calm and gratitude. Is this what I thought my career would look like all those years ago when I set out on this journey? No. But, it’s pretty awesome, and I’m digging the ride – with or without Mr. Toad.

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