Thanks to Farnell, ever the documentarian, for sharing his words and photos from the project.

Recently, I was asked by pianist Darrell Grant to be a part of his new project called Step by Step – The Ruby Bridges Suite.

Whenever I get the opportunity to play with Darrell Grant, I know that the music is going to be good, and I will have a great time as well. When he told me who would be performing, I could not turn this down. He mentioned drummer Brian Blade, vibraphonist Joe Locke, saxophonist Steve Wilson, and bassist Clark Sommers, some of the top musicians on the planet, and I knew I had to take this gig. Rounding out the band was Anthony Dryer who I have seen around Portland but never met, Marilyn Keller who I love to perform with, and John Nastos who always brings his “A” game to every performance he is involved with.

The crazy thing about this group is…

View original post 673 more words

About “Step By Step”-The Ruby Bridges Suite

We premiered my latest project “Step By Step.” a suite inspired by the story of civil rights icon Ruby Bridges. at Kaul Auditorium last night.

Since we did not have a concert program, I thought this blog would be a good place to provide information for those who are interested in finding out more about the piece and it’s background.

The suite  has nine musical numbers, which are interspersed with a narrative that tells the story of Ruby’s experience as the first negro grade school child to attend a white school in New Orleans.

I hoped to tell her story in with instrumental music, songs and spoken word drawn from poetry, oratory and passages from her autobiography entitled “Through My Eyes.”

The songs are:

1. Prelude

2. Step by Step

3. Why have you Forsaken Us

4. Summer 1959

5.  Tell You This (Jim Crow’s Song)

6.  Hold My Hand

7. The Cheerleaders

8.   Come In

9.  We Rise

The instrumental pieces: Prelude, Summer 1959 and The Cheerleaders each portray particular times or incidents in Ruby’s story.

Some of the source material for the narration (wonderfully done by actor/director Kevin Jones) include:

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

The Supreme court ruling from the landmark desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education

Excerpts from:

Speech to Niagara Movement by W.E.B. Dubois from 1906

“Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom” by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  from May 4, 1966

and Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”

I also benefited from two very enlightening websites

Civil Rights Movement Timeline

Who was Jim Crow

Here is a link to the Oregonian A & E preview of the piece.

Here is a link to Ruby  Bridges’ website for those who want more information

I hope we can move forward to develop this piece and that it will be performed again soon.


Readings for “Planning in the Pacific Northwest” -October 26th

Thanks for inviting me into the “Planning in the Pacific Northwest” course.

Dr. Seltzer defined the course as  one that would “get our students better acquainted with the Pacific Northwest as a place, especially in light of the fact that they might one day be intervening in the territory through their work.” He further said that it is “less about planning institutions and laws, and much more about planning, planners, and cultural landscapes… understanding their work in the context of place and sense of place.”

I might easily rephrase his statement to refer to musicians instead.  How do we intervene in the territory through our work?  How do we understand our work “in the context of place and sense of place.” These are questions I have been thinking a lot about for the past few years and look forward to talking with you about.  I see this as a chance for us to share ideas and think I have as much to learn from you and your field as you may from mine.

In preparation for the class I have posted some links to music and writings that can fuel our discussion.  I also pose  3 assignments.



This Public Radio Exchange piece on Alaskan composer John Luther Adams

An sample of John Luther Adams’ music

A clip from Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen. On this album he explores the genesis of his own universe: Strjon is the medieval name of Henriksen’s home town– it roughly means “streaming water,”  Drawing from a wealth of home-taped sounds from his youth in Stryn.


Native American Jazz saxophonist Jim Pepper’s anthem Witchitato. This song has become almost a spiritual emblem of the Pacific Northwest.  It has been recorded probably 100 times by groups from all genres & countries.

Gil Scott Heron- The poet of the African America 70’s  – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Marvin Gaye-Ditto for the African American 1960s- Inner City Blues


This particular example of economic transformation of place, driven by artists intrigues me.  I want to know if we can  plan for this kind of change. Further more can we seed and cultivate it?

Musical application of conservation ecology by ethnomusicologist Jeff Todd Titon.  Titon is the biggest influence on my thinking about music and it’s relationship to sustainability & place.   I’m curious to know how the ideas in these 3 posts might relate to the planning environment.

Theses on Sustainability- I have been using the idea of cultural sustainability (#7) as fuel for my work around the sustainability of music.  How does it relate to your field?

Writings by John Luther Adams- Especially “Resonance of Place” and “The Indigenous Context”


Assignment #1- Find a piece of music that you feel is evocative of place.  Not the place you were when you heard it, but a place the seems to come from the music itself. Try to describe what it is about the music that gives this sense of place.

Assignment #2- Give me an idea or an example of how you as planners might engage with musicians to shape a vision of a place.

Assignment #3  Give me your take on how Jeff Titon’s ideas  might resonate in the planning environment.   Can you think of your planning environment as an ecology?

Think Differently.

Anita Tieleman

My friend Binnie Brennan sent me this link about a new way of bringing art to the people.

Lars Kaiser is a 35-year-old artist from Potsdam, Germany, near Berlin. He came up with the unique idea to put small art samples into vending machines so anyone can buy a piece of art any time of the day or night. Even Kaiser’s vending machines have been uniquely decorated to attract attention to the artsy wares inside. There are now about 100 of these machines found in bars, public buildings and on outside walls across Germany. Back in the 1960’s and ’70’s these vending machines sold condoms, gum or cigarettes, but have been refurbished to sell the artwork of around 140 professional artists now.

The Way Forward

Alan Levine

I heard an interview that struck home on NPR this morning with French-Algerian guitarist Camel Zekri.

When I think about the kind of musician I want to be and the kind of musicians I want to encourage my students to be, his story resonates with me.  Both his thoughts about musical categories:

“Jazz is a word — it’s not the music,” he says. “Why not salsa? Why not bossa nova? Reggae? You can’t say this is not jazz. It’s an encounter of people who have given us music. It’s not one person who has given us this music. It’s a meeting of different people and cultures.”

Even moreso, his desire to connect with people through music.

That’s what interests Zekri — human encounters. Like so many children of immigrant families, he found it hard to bridge the cultural divisions within himself until his own guitar taught him how. He set aside classical technique. He changed the placement of his hands. He expanded the scale to encompass Arabic, Berber and African sounds.

To me its the model of the musician’s role. To quest after mastery,  to resist definitions, to courageously seek a personal vision, and to embrace the power of music to connect.

This is the way forward.

I recently came across an organization in my town called Colored Pencils that is seeking to create these kinds of encounters through art in our community

You can read and listen to the rest of the interview and see more videoclips of Zekri here.