Flood Recovery Funding Secured!

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We received some great new today regarding the progress of our plans for our new School of Music. According to this Iowa City Press-Citizen article,

“Federal officials are dropping their opposition to a decision to send million in reconstruction funds to the University of Iowa campus. The Federal Emergency Management Agency had committed funds to rebuild a handful of campus buildings ruined by flooding in 2008. But earlier this year, federal auditors called some of that money into question, saying the projects didn’t qualify for reconstruction support. Wednesday’s announcement ensures those projects will move forward as planned.”

Alloy Orchestra Plays Nosferatu

Tonight, my wife and I enjoyed a rare night out. We went to the Englert Theatre in Iowa City to watch the Alloy Orchestra perform their original live soundtrack to the classic silent film Nosferatu.

To start the night off, we went to Molly’s Cupcakes in Iowa City. They have a ridiculous variety of flavors, including Boston Cream, Pumpkin Spice, and Peanut Butter Nutella – which we brought home for our daughter. They also serve an impressive array of espresso drinks.Prior to the performance, the staff at the Englert told us that this was the Centennial of the theater and of the many special events being held to celebrate it.

They also recognized their many volunteers and has a very special surprise gift for their head usher, Ken, who just marked his one thousandth show since the theatre’s reopening in 2004. Ken is known for personally greeting every single person who enters the theatre in his tails.  They presented him with a custom-made had and coat, similar to those worn by fancy doorman at expensive hotels. The whole ceremony and community atmosphere of the movie made us feel happy to be part of this city. As a surprise, we were treated to the recently restored colorized version of A Trip to the Moon. Created by Georges Méliès in 1902, this silent classic was the centerpiece of the recent film Hugo. The version we viewed included a recorded soundtrack by the French group “Air”.

Also present were the founders of Film Scene, a local nonprofit “dedicated to enhancing the cultural vitality of the Iowa City area through the presentation and discussion of film as an art form.” They have some exciting plans for the future and are one of the cultural gems of Iowa City.

More Trouble for America’s Orchestras

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

The recent fervor over NFL replacement referees has come to a boil, and in a similar manner, American orchestras are facing labor disputes of their own. Fortunately, the Louisville and Philadelphia Orchestras have (partially) resolved their issues from last year, but the latest news of trouble with the Minnesota and Chicago Symphony Orchestras is alarming.

Here is an excellent article about the Minnesota Orchestra, featuring Steve Campbell, principal tubist. It tells of the players side of the story from one of the more common trends of major orchestras cutting back during troubled financial times.

Orchestra musicians have a big public relations task in this contract fight; justifying their salaries to the public. The state’s median household income is almost $57,000. The average Minnesota Orchestra musician makes $135,000 a year; the guaranteed minimum for the SPCO is almost $74,000.

Steve explains our side of the story; the years of training, the expense, the stress, the disappointment and the dedication required. I understand that the average players pay may be above the state’s median income, but compared to other professions, such as lawyers, doctors, and politicians, I think that the $135K is reasonable – and appropriate to attract and retain world-class musicians.

Here is a follow-up article from September 25th. It speaks of a possible lock-0ut on September 30th. The players are facing a significant pay cut. The chair of the negotiating committee said: “We are having a difficult time understanding a proposal of a 30 to 50 percent pay cut for musicians, while at the same time, building a $50 million lobby (at Orchestra Hall),” I sincerely hope that the situation resolves itself. The last time I heard that orchestra, it was an amazing experience (read about it on the post “Hammer Time!“)

In a few weeks I will return to Louisville KY for the Klezmerfest. Last year the Louisville Symphony went on strike and have come up with at least a one-year solution. I hope that Minnesota doesn’t get to that point. In related news, I was shocked to learn that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra went on strike this past Saturday.

Many things simply boil down to the issue of money, and in the current economic troubles, it is no surprise that organizations are having significant trouble maintaining a bottom line. N0 profession is recession-proof, and musicians have always been told to “have a backup plan”, but to hear that some of the nations top orchestras are having trouble is ominous. I hope the best for these orchestras and their audiences and sincerely wish them luck in resolving their differences. I would hate to see the orchestral version of “replacement refs”.

“Tuba or Not Tuba” Goes to the DUMBO Festival

Next week, I will be traveling to New York city to perform at the DUMBO Arts Festival . (The acronym stands for Down Under the Manhatten Bridge Overpass, a neighborhood in Brooklyn) I will be performing with dancers in “Tuba or Not Tuba (What is the question?”, which was choreographed by my colleague at the University of Iowa, Charlotte Adams. Two years ago, we performed the work in Santa Monica California at Highways Performance Space.

The work involves some improvising by myself and hornist Erin Vang. We “invade” the dancers space, blasting the dancers offstage, but the work has a surprise ending. Our performance is part of the DUMBO Dance Festival organized by White Wave Dance Company.

If you are interested in attending, the performance is at 9pm on September 29th on the Mainstage at the John Ryan Theater, 25 Jay Street (Enter on John Street) in Brooklyn.

Tuba or not Tuba goes to DUMBO

Next week, I will be traveling to New York city to perform at the DUMBO Arts Festival . (The acronym stands for Down Under the Manhatten Bridge Overpass, a neighborhood in Brooklyn) I will be performing with dancers in “Tuba or Not Tuba (What is the question?”, which was choreographed by my colleague at the University of Iowa, Charlotte Adams. Two years ago, we performed the work in Santa Monica California at Highways Performance Space.

The work involves some improvising by myself and hornist Erin Vang. We “invade” the dancers space, blasting the dancers offstage, but the work has a surprise ending. Our performance is part of the DUMBO Dance Festival organized by White Wave Dance Company.

If you are interested in attending, the performance is at 9pm on September 29th on the Mainstage at the John Ryan Theater, 25 Jay Street (Enter on John Street) in Brooklyn.

Random Bits

Here are a bunch of random bits:

Iowa Brass Online
This year, the University of Iowa brass area has created four new online and social media outlets: the Iowa Brass Area Website, a Facebook page, a Google+ page and a Twitter account @UIowaBrass. Check them out!

Droning On
I was recently looking for some kind of tuner app that would play pitches and I discovered these wonderful tuning drones on  Jennifer Cluff ‘s blog. They were originally created by David Valdez for saxophone players. You can download all twelve of them for free and that last for about three minutes and they sound like a combination of a didgeridoo and a sitar. They immediately inspired me to improvise to them, but both Jennifer and David have excellent suggestions on how to utilize them.

Start Making Sense
A student of mine recommended I listen to a new recording by David Byrne and St. Vincent. The recording is called Love This Giant and you can hear the album in its entirety on NPR’s First Listen. In typical Byrne fashion, it’s unique and quirky, but the best part is the horn section. The lines are funky, creative, and minimalistic – but they seem to really drive the entire album, and yes Virginia there is a tuba, and a baritone sax at the bottom of the band.

Clark’s St. Vincent cohort John Congleton, who co-produced 2009’s Actor and 2011’s Strange Mercy, programmed percussion long-distance, emailing files that the pair would pull apart and reconstruct. A few friends came in for overdubs: drummer Anthony LaMarca and percussionist Mauro Refosco, but once the horn parts, arranged mostly by Tony Finno, had been laid down, Byrne and Clark did the rest themselves. Says Byrne, “Often when we could, we didn’t use any bass. The tuba or the baritone sax would do the job of the bass and Annie and I would play guitar. I was more the rhythm guitar guy. And she was the incredible lead guitarist.”

STEW
This summer, two of my students participated in the newly-formed Southeast Tuba Euphonium Workshop (STEW). Held at the University of Georgia, the workshop consists of a week of lessons, master classes and chamber music and the faculty includes Ben Pierce, Demondrae Thurmon and David Zerkel. By all reports, it was a stellar program.

Atlantic Brass Quintet Seminar Turns 20!

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Atlantic Brass Quintet Seminar, and we have just concluded our first of two weeks. We’ve held the seminar at many places; Boston Conservatory, Boston University Tanglewood Institute, University of Massachusetts Amherst, SUNY Buffalo, Boston College, Boston University, and now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This year we have eight quintets with students from across the country. Watch the videos below from our first performance class.