Between Thanksgivings

I’ll start with a quote, because all great blog posts begin with a quote.

This particular quote comes to us from Karl Paulnack, Director of the Boston Conservatory‘s Music Division, in his 2004 welcome address to the school’s incoming freshmen:

If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life.  Well, my friends, someday at eight PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary.  Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

End quote.  Keep it in mind.  I’ll get back to it in a bit.


Forty-six days separate Canadian and American Thanksgivings, which sounds like a long time, but in reality, those forty-six days seemed to pass as though each were chasing the next at gunpoint.

Canadian Thanksgiving falls on a Monday — in the motherland, this coincides with an observance known as Columbus Day, which serves little purpose other than shutting down the post office — making for a three-day weekend that pales in comparison to American Thanksgiving’s five.  I celebrated in a triptych of dinners: vegan tacos, duets, and oboe reeds with a lovely friend on Saturday; a potluck and Cards Against Humanity (Canadian expansion, naturally) with quintet members on Sunday; and cashew-cauliflower soup, pumpkin pie, and Friends (“The One with Joey’s Interview”) with my fantastic roommate on Monday.

During Sunday’s festivities, I learned about the following, slightly traumatizing PSA that aired throughout western Canada in the early Nineties, which I am sharing here because viewing it is — truly — a life experience that everyone ought to have:

Thanksgiving is a time for many things: food, friends, gratitude — and, apparently, Clinton-era, public health-related puppetry — which is why Day 33 of my inter-Thanksgiving countdown was such a horrifying antithesis to the spirit of the season.

Day 33 was November 13.   Continue reading

Classical Music Round-Up: 12/5/15

Classical Conditioning presents recent worthwhile reads.

Orchestra Updates

taylor-swift-orchestra-243x180
TSwift’s monumental gift to Seattle can’t be shaken off – link at right. (image via)

Peace & Politics

A New Approach

Learning & Growing

Just for Fun

Classical Music Round-Up: 11/13/15

Classical Conditioning presents this week’s worthwhile reads.

Money Matters

Nigerian soprano Abiodun Koya brings her unique crossover act to Atlanta, linked below. (photo via)

Diverse Voices

Interesting Reads

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Infographic: Building a Better Experience

Throughout my summer internship, senior staff from a variety of departments presented informative seminars to the interns.  I took extensive notes during these seminars, and have been organizing them into unnecessarily elaborate visuals using the wicked fun infographic generator Canva, because let’s be real, I’d rather do that than make reeds.  Here are some words of wisdom from the Executive Director of the WNO, as he describes how customer service is as important a part of the artistic experience as the art itself.

Continue reading

Suggested Listening: “Scherzo: Finale” from Symphony No. 3 by Florence Price

For this week’s SUGGESTED LISTENING for the CLASSICAL MUSIC SKEPTIC, check out the riveting finale from Florence Price’s Third Symphony, performed below by the Women’s Philharmonic (US), Apo Hsu conducting.

About the Composer:

Florence Beatrice Price (1887-1953), née Smith, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, the youngest of three children.  Her father was, at that time, the only black dentist in Little Rock; her mother was a schoolteacher, musician, and businesswoman.  Price and her siblings were raised in a prominent and intellectual household, and were encouraged by their mother to pursue musical studies, with Price giving her debut piano recital at the age of four.  In 1903, Price graduated at the top of her high school class and entered Boston’s New England Conservatory as a student of piano and organ — but her mother feared for her daughter’s safety and reputation (the year 1903 saw eighty-four lynchings of African-Americans), and listed Florence’s hometown as Pueblo, Mexico, on her enrollment papers so the young composer might “pass” as Mexican and avoid the brutal prejudice faced by the African-American community.  At the time, the New England Conservatory was one of only a small number of American music schools that accepted students of color (the great composer William Grant Still also attended several years after Price).

After graduating with a performance degree in organ and a teaching degree in piano, Price moved to Atlanta and became the head of Clark University‘s music department in 1910.  Two years later, she married Thomas J. Price, a respected attorney, and moved with him back to Little Rock.  However, an escalation of racial violence in that city, including a 1927 lynching, led the Price family — now with two daughters — to relocate to Chicago.  It was there that Price’s career as a composer truly blossomed: she studied with prominent local composers; published numerous works; forged connections with Harlem Renaissance icon Langston Hughes and renowned singer Marian Anderson; and won a competition for which the prize was a performance of the winning composition by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  This performance made Price the first African-American woman to have a piece premiered by a major symphony orchestra — just one example of the pioneering work and creative spirit that define her legacy as one of America’s most significant, though sadly underperformed, composers.

About the Piece:

Composed in 1940, Price’s Symphony No. 3 in C minor is a masterwork of the Chicago Renaissance.  This vibrant creative movement — though of less national renown than its sister movement in Harlem — brought the talents and intellects of leading African-American artists and scholars to the forefront of society in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood.  Energized by the Great Migration of African-Americans from continuously deteriorating race relations and socioeconomic conditions in the South, the Chicago Renaissance gave voice to this thriving and evolving community as they adjusted to, shaped, and contemplated this new, urban environment.  Price’s Symphony, however, stands uniquely among other output of the Chicago Renaissance: rather than overtly spotlighting musical elements of African-American culture, she synthesized such familiar syncopations and folk melodies into her own symphonic style.  This fourth and final movement from the symphony is a thrilling one.  Swinging and swelling in compound meter, the brass and strings compete for domination while nautical clarinet interjections interrupt the hurried heroism of the main theme.  A quieter interlude — woodwinds wandering through unsettled harmonies — is the eye of the storm, before the full orchestra returns at gale force, charging toward the final, crashing chord.

If you enjoyed the finale from Symphony No. 3, you might also like…

Classical Music Round-Up: 11/6/15

Classical Conditioning presents this week’s worthwhile reads.

Orchestra Updates

The New York Times takes us inside the Kronos Quartet with 3D point capture, linked below. (image via)
The New York Times takes us inside the Kronos Quartet with 3D point capture, linked below. (image via)

Interviews & Introspection

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Just for Fun