The NAMM Show

The NAMM Show is the annual conference for the National Association of Music Merchants. It is, by far, the largest music event that I have ever attended. It brings together performing artists, buyers, sellers, manufacturers, music agents, and music education advocacy groups all under one conference.

Mike and Karen McCausland at the NAMM Show.

It was held at the Anaheim Convention Center and attracted thousands of people. It was just a stones throw from Disneyland. I stayed for 3 days and I still haven’t been to all of the vendors. I have also been to many workshops, most involving education where I still have a passion.

One of the great things that I was able to do was to meet new and aspiring artists in the field of music. I spoke at length with a couple at a round table discussion for the industry. We met an AR guy who gave many insights to those there. I was pleased to meet a delightful young lady from Oklahoma named Ciara Brooke. She was typical of the countless number of people following their dreams.

I will certainly go again to this amazing event. It was well worth the trip.

A Night at the Opera

Having seen the movie, Amadeus, I was confident that I knew all that there is to know about this work.  I did not.  I learned much and was excited to be seeing this production.

Several weeks ago, I attended the opera. It was my first opera in awhile.  I saw The Marriage of Figaro in Philadelphia’s historic Academy of Music.  Prior to the Opera, I went to a lecture on the story of this opera’s creation.  Having seen the movie, Amadeus, I was confident that I knew all that there is to know about this work.  I did not.  I learned much and was excited to be seeing this production.

My seats cost $20 and were low cost due to the obstructed view seats that are common at this venue as it was once a concert hall only location.  Since getting it’s Broadway makeover, it has many seats that are behind columns.  My column was not a huge distraction and with some courtesy on the part of all attendees, there wasn’t going to be a problem. I brought my opera glasses…aka…tiny little binoculars…and turned my $20 seats into a significantly better deal.  I could see all of the little facial expressions that actors have become known for thanks to the movie industry.

During the 3rd act, after the intermission, a man in the row immediately behind me decided that being silent was a choice that he didn’t have to live with.  He proceeded to talk at full voice to his increasingly irritated date and when he was corrected by her, the girl next to me, and finally me…his response was to mock me in response.  He then proceeded to play YouTube videos on his phone with no headset.  After 10 minutes of this behavior, he and his date left.  The whole incident left me bitter about how a person could exhibit this behavior in public.

Yesterday, I took my high school choir on their final trip to Broadway.  We saw The Phantom of the Opera at an unusual Thursday Matinee.  Our seating was upper mezzanine, but in the front row for the most part.  A section of about one dozen front row seats were unoccupied at the start of the Overture.  If you know this show, the overture includes the coming to life of a dead chandelier and a riveting orchestration as the stage is automatically transformed in time.  It was at this moment that the theater staff attempted to seat a group of students late without first ascertaining the order that they should sit in their seats.  The moment was stolen from me.  This is one that I anticipated and for my first time attenders, I was extremely disappointed that they lost this experience.  There is no late seating at the opera!!! Why is this tolerated at the Phantom of the Opera?

When the show ended, I was separated from my entire group as we made our way to the bus.  I had my students board the bus that was double parked on 8th avenue and once again was told that it was my fault that they got separated.  I later found out that the group that was late had a person that was irritated by the behavior of the students in my group.  The person took issue with one of my teachers who took issue with the late arrival of the group.  Later still, I found out that a person from my group yelled toward the stage an inappropriate remark.  It makes it hard for me to write to the theater to take a position on their bad choice of seating those late arrivals and the poor execution as well.

I believe that we all have to take responsibility to teach those who “don’t know” what they “should know” and why.  If they choose not to “learn” the skill necessary to appreciate the art, then they should not be around those who do know how to act.  It all boils down to manners.  There’s a reason for it and I’m not going to “let it go”.

The Creativity Conundrum

What became apparent when attending a workshop was the challenging notion that what I was doing was the “least creative thing” I could be doing in music. This gave me pause. I dwelled on it and realized that it was true.

Having been a music teacher for years and directing choirs has been rewarding for me. I have been fortunate to both perform in music ensembles and direct them with the firm belief that this art form and its inherent creativity was beneficial to the members of the group. What became apparent when attending a workshop was the challenging notion that what I was doing was the “least creative thing” I could be doing in music. This gave me pause. I dwelled on it and realized that it was true.

The person directing this workshop indicated that the persons who participated passively in the experience of listening to music also could be brought into the experience of creating music. Again, it gave me reason to think. Using digital software, you can create music and you don’t even have to know how to write it. In education, I have become somewhat of an elitist in that I believe that to be a musician you had to learn and use notation. When the ultimate experience of music is audio…why is that the case.

I bought the software and I was fortunate to have a young lady, who loved to sing, record “cover tunes”, just so I could learn the process of using the software. Still, creativity eluded me. So, we took some of those covers and made a few videos. Here, I first discovered how I could use the music to create a visual experience that would give a greater impact. I was on my way, but I didn’t understand why I was finally on my way. The cover tunes gave me structure. The structure gave me parameters to develop something. The truth is, we all need parameters.

The first day of school in the subsequent year, a contest was presented to me to produce a 2 minute video to support the need for music education funding. You needed original music. There were only 72 awards and this went nationwide. There was only 4 weeks until the submission deadline. Truly, the odds were against winning, but I finally had parameters. I finally had purpose…and the creativity flowed and the contest was won. All the participants, myself and 9 students, felt that “we had accomplished something great” For me, it was more meaningful because it supported my belief that we can all be creative. Now, I need to get others to believe it as well.

On this site is my “ongoing attempt” at creativity. I hope that you enjoy as I continue to explore this side of me that has been dormant for many years.

(This is a re-posting of an entry on a previous server.  I felt I needed to revisit it.)

We need the Arts…

While watching this production I couldn’t help thinking two things.  First, a colleague warned me that it was “dated” and second, I realized it is more relevant today than ever before.

Yesterday, I went to see Miss Saigon on Broadway.  I remember seeing that show in 1993 because it was the hot show then.  I just don’t remember being affected by it, but in the arts, performance is only part of the story.  Recently, I performed some of the music with the Philly Pops.  During the preparation we got the back story from the conductor.  We found out that a person in our choir had a father who lived the story at the heart of Miss Saigon.  This was that many GI’s married Vietnamese women and fathered children.

While watching this production I couldn’t help thinking two things.  First, a colleague warned me that it was “dated” and second, I realized it is more relevant today than ever before.

The character of the Engineer, who go the final bow, wouldn’t have been my call…but…anyway…he ran the local brothel and made money off of the hostilities by supplying American GI’s with female companionship.  One such girl who was new to the business connected with a soldier with a conscience and he soon fell in love with her and married her.  During the fall of Saigon and the departure of the American soldiers he lost touch with her and didn’t even know he was a father.

During the second act there was a slideshow that showed all of these Vietnamese children and the song that the men who assembled sang had a line that said “Conceived in Hell, And born in strife. They are the living reminder of all the good we failed to do.”  This was in reference to the children that came out of these “temporary” relationships.

When we are in the storm, or the war, we seldom take stock of what our responsibilities are beyond “today”.  The human cost can only be measured when we put a face to the name or group of people who are affected.  Drama and music put allow us to do just that and experience that pain and longing of the individual.  It is a part of our nature to feel through these mediums and sometimes it takes these mediums to connect to our feelings.

Ken Robinson has said that we do ourselves a disservice when we try to justify the arts in our schools by saying things like, “the arts are worthy to be included in education because there is a positive correlation between participation in the arts and increased test scores in academics.”  This argument is the worst justification for the arts.  The arts speak to a part of our person that is otherwise left untouched.

On March 29, 2017…I was moved emotionally by the same show I saw on June 3, 1993 and was completely unaffected.  Those emotions are necessary for living and should not be discounted.  They should be an important consideration when making decisions at the national level.