Local Heroes

As YouTube’d and Wiki’d and Facebooked and blogged-drenched as we are today. And as wicked cool as it is to have the entire world in digital form at our fingertips- we still need people to do stuff –Locally.

I might have the Mona Lisa as wallpaper on my computer screen, but it is the mural on the wall of the building around the corner that brings out the pride in the place where I live.  I might have an ipod full of the greatest recordings in the history of jazz, but it is the consistent swing of the drummer that plays at the club down the street that provides the heartbeat ofmy daily experience and the face to face inspiration that makes my kid want to study music.

I can listen to TedTalk’s and Fresh Air broadcasts, read Huffington Post and New Yorker articles that open the portals of the world. I can order in a bounty of exotic products from Amazon and Zappos and Ebay and never leave my couch. But I need real people to rub shoulders with, and inspire me, and  remind me the possibilities of the life I might aspire to–here in my own zip code.

I need people to make the great ideas of the world live on MY block.

I need local heros.

Why Megan McGeorge is my hero…

What Megan is doing has been done before. But not here. And so to me, even though her idea is simple, it is brilliant.  In retrospect it seems obvious, but that makes it no less inspiring.

Megan is my hero because she is one of those people who make a decision that a thing needs to happen, and then she get’s it to happen.  She didn’t wait to get a grant.   She didn’t wait for someone else to give her permission.  She gathered her courage and asked. Then she rolled up her sleeves and pushed.  The thing she decided was that our public spaces would be enhanced if people had the means to fill them with music.   I happen to agree with this. I believe that providing the means for music to return to the commons  make all our lives better. 

She is also my hero because this was not an idea she pursued in order to enrich herself.  She wasn’t looking to busk for cash. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with that occupation.  She was after something more elusive.  She was providing the means for music to be given away.  She was planting something. Some people plant trees.  Megan plants pianos.   And once she planted a few, she mobilized her community of musicians-professional, student, amateur to join her in showing the rest of us what could be done with this new resource.

Megan is my hero because she is finding a way to bring a voice to the commons.  She reminds me of how engaging with music, not recorded, but actual, real-time music was part of the rhythm of daily life. for all people- youngest to oldest. trained artist or novice, professional or amateur.  Music was usI

I did a show today called Piano-Rama in part to draw attention to the work of Megan and Piano, Push Play, to try to spread her story a bit further. 

Tnanks Megan.

Testing, Testing

Gloves- B&WSo, since I had nothing else going on this fall (ha,ha)  I thought it was time to make a radical experiment in audience building.

I’m a jazz piano player. There is a long history and deep tradition in this instrument and this music.  My question is this:  Is there a way I might dig into the historical precedent of my musical tradition, and find a way to engage with a very atypical audience?  What would happen if  I rethink the performance conventions  to draw on the practices of other artistic forms-theater, magic, or comedy for instance.  They all engage audiences. But they use different approaches.  What if I embrace some of the techniques that sporting events use to create drama, for instance.  Can I create something that pro wrestling fans, NASCAR viewers and yes, even jazz fans can  gather around.  All while having a good time AND not sacrificing the quality of the music?

I don’t know.

But I’m giving it a shot.

This Saturday afternoon.

Over The Shoulder

Payette_Lake_HBIt is one month today since we performed “The Territory” at Chamber Music Northwest.  A month seems like a good amount of time for a pause.  Long enough to let things settle down-not so long  that forgotten what all the fuss was about.

The “inevitable post-project letdown,” –which always catches me by surprise no matter how many years I’ve been doing this–was delayed this year.  The day after the final performance at St Mary’s Academy  I went right into solo papa mode so my wonderful wife, who had been shouldering the whole “run-our-daily-lives-while-my-partner-pursues-his-artistic-destiny” thing for far too long, could take a little restorative camping break.  Not surprisingly, my son Malcolm and I went the other way. We rolled out to Seaside and threw down at some skee-ball, bumper cars and arcade games.

After that I jumped right into The Shed, our PSU Intensive Summer Jazz Camp.   Four days of  all jazz all the time, 9 AM to 8 PM.  Did I say it was intensive?  Not that I’m complaining. We had some great young players, and it is inspiring to to be in the music with a bunch of people from sunup to sundown.  Needless to say I forgot all about post-project letdown for those four days.

No sooner did we turn out the lights on The Shed, than I got in the car and drove to  McCall, Idaho for a family vacation on the shores of beautiful Payette Lake, which I was privileged to enjoy thanks to the generosity of  my colleague Jeff Baker.  His family’s “cabin” – a euphemism that borders on the silly- right near the water is like a mountain paradise.  We chilled, we swam, we read books, we played foosball, we paddle-boarded, we sat in the sun, we ate ice cream, and then chilled some more.  And for a week I didn’t think about much of anything.

After a quick trip to Seattle the following Monday– (The Bolt Bus feels suspiciously similar to Greyhound when it is completely full, and the wi-fi conks out, as it did on both my trips) –and my “summer” was finally ready to start. And damned if the “inevitable post-project letdown” didn’t pick that exact moment to mosey up and slap me upside the head.  Surprise.

I’m happy to say it has done its dance and left the building–just in time to commemorate the one-month anniversary of “my big project.” And in the space left behind, I’m feeling  ready to look back at the endeavor so far. I’m also feeling energized to think about what is next- which is turning out to include some pretty awesome opportunities.  So it is time for mapping again. Time to sharpen the tools, check supplies, scout out new ground.

Meanwhile, here is a link to a recording of the 1st movement “Hymn to the Four Winds” from the performance at Kaul Auditorium.  Thanks to Matt Snyder for an awesome job of live recording.

http://www.instantencore.com/work/work.aspx?work=5074269

Interlude (Reading Break)

ImageWell it is August 1 and I still haven’t done the wrap up post on my Territory concerts in Portland. 

The desire to relax and take a bit of summer has overtaken me.  Or maybe it is just that the first gray day in a month or so has inspired the irresistible urge to stop working and catch up on a backlog of pleasurable reading.

Which is why I just discovered this funny, thought-provoking and very satisfying essay by Dan DeWeese in the spring edition of the Oregon Humanities Magazine  called “Burning Bushes.”   It is a very apropos comparison of our culture’s complete saturation in media  with what he playfully defines as an original media spectacle– The Burning Bush from which God spoke to Moses.

My favorite line (among many) so far in  my first reading:

In other words, attempting to live while constantly surrounded by spectacle is not a quality problem, it’s a quantity problem. I know Terry Gross is smart, a good interviewer, and a valued figure in the media landscape; I’m also tired of her, because she has been chattering for years. How am I to reconcile that I like and respect her and also wouldn’t mind if I never heard her voice again?

If you enjoy essays, long-form journalism, or, like me, need some worthwhile act of civil disobedience to the hegemony of work- read the whole thing at this link:

http://oregonhumanities.org/magazine/issue/spectacle/dan-deweese-on-burning-bushes