Dancing the Night Away

We’ve truly enjoyed living in Noblesville; if for no other reason than the performing and visual arts programs at the Noblesville schools.  Over the years, our kids have been in musicals, dramas, choral groups, string ensembles, concert bands, marching bands and jazz bands.

Last night was another amazing example of the talent and hard work these kids dedicate to their art.  Their directors help them shine.

Below are a few pictures of the fantastic performances that the audience was privileged to enjoy.

The Noblesville High School Jazz Cafe

I was a band kid.  I played French Horn in Concert Band.  I played Melophone in Pep Band. I assisted with percussion from time to time and even learned the fingerings for the F-Trumpet for marching band. 

I get the band scene.  I’ve been there and done that.

But nothing in my history compares to the magic that happens at Noblesville High School when it comes to their music department and tonight was just another amazing example of the visionary leadership that makes this program so special.

In the course of six short years, my son has discovered that power of music because of the wonderful leadership that he has received from Mr. White, Ms. Robinson and Mrs. Hanlin.

He’s learned about music, sure.  But he’s also learned much more.  He’s learned the discipline that comes from marching band.  He’s gained the confidence that comes from jazz band.  He’s gained leadership skills from directing the Jr. High band.  He’s found reassurance in being asked to be a student assistant for the bands.

“Music is a moral law,” said Plato.  “It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

The band directors at NHS have given my son a great gift.  And I can never thank them enough.

 

ISSMA Solo and Ensemble Success

The ensemble poses for the cameras following their Gold-winning performance.
Members of the ensemble pose for the cameras following their Gold-winning performance.

Benjamin realized another benchmark in his high school career.  His trumpet choir, Heralds of the Mill, performed for this year’s Solo and Ensemble competition at North Central High School in Indianapolis.

Receiving a great score in the local performance, they earned a spot in the State Competition where they played very well and earned another Gold.

This is a self-directed project and the kids did a great job.

Good job, kids!

The Bright Midwinter

I’m listening to a newer Christmas album today and want to encourage you find a copy and add it to your listening list.  The Bright Midwinter offers an upbeat and soulful Christmas experience by Sarah Scharbrough Mclaughlin and is one of my new favorites.

Sarah is a fantastic artist with wonderful sensitivities and you will appreciate the beautiful piano, the smooth voice and the great arrangements.  I am particularly fond of her version of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and the gospel version of “Shine“.

This album is a good addition to your favorite Christmas music and can be found on I-Tunes, Spotify, Rhapsody, and Amazon.

Let The Countdown Begin

In my world, Thanksgiving is the kick-off event for the next few weeks of Christmas cheer.

Midnight Clear: One of my favorite Christmas albums of all time.

I’ve loaded over 1,000 songs on my Spotify play list. I have everything from the Jackson 5 to John Denver.  I’ll be listening to music that ranges from the beautiful melodies of Penny Rodriguez to the chipper chatter of the Chipmunks.  I’ll jam to 243 versions of Silent Night and Frosty the Snowman.  When I’m done, I’ll start all over again.

The perfect movie to kick off the Christmas count-down.

I’ve made the list of the best Christmas movies of all time and pulled the Christmas videos and DVD’s from the attic and dusted them off for the marathon that begins today with one of the best:  White Christmas.  I’ll move on to the Christmas greats of Scrooged and Die Hard and then settle on the classics like Charlie Brown and A Wonderful Life.

It’s been a long year and I need a little Christmas Cheer.  I’ll do everything I can to make it happen…even if it means overloading on some music, holiday decorations and cheesy movies.  I’ll get into the Christmas Spirit, at any cost.

Noblesville Jazz on the Square: Perfect

We like music.  We like outdoor venues.  We love the Blue Dorian Jazz Combo.  So a visit to the Jazz on the Square event last week was perfect for us.

If you’ve never been to Jazz on the Square, you should know that the event isn’t as uptight as Symphony on the Prairie but just as much fun.  Located right in the center of town, the event does take on a more casual tone.  After all, it has to contend with large trucks rumbling past and motorcyclists who rev their engines whenever possible. The crowd treats it more as a coffee shop setting, and often talks over the music.  You have to contend with people coming and going without a pause but it is a charming setting and a town favorite.

Of course, you can’t argue with the price:  FREE.  Unlike Symphony on the Prairie, there wasn’t a $27 charge to get in and parking is reasonably close.  You don’t need a boy scout with a wagon to get your supplies to the site.

Best of all, the music was spectacular.  The Blue Dorian Jazz Combo is made up of three very gifted musicians:  Daniel Sterner, who keeps the rhythm going with his creative and complex drumming.  Bethany Robinson, who’s amazing bass playing adds depth and feeling to each number whether it’s with the standup Bass or the electric stick.  And Eric Baker, who on keyboard and vocals is front and center but often steps back to allow his team to shine.  As individuals, they are each a talent unto themselves but as a trio, they combine to provide fantastic music that covers everything from Duke Ellington (Take the A Train) to Coldplay (Viva la Vida).  At one point in the evening the trio was rocking James Taylor’s “How Sweet It Is”.  A woman clearly in her 70’s yelled out, “I LOVE this song!”  I think nearly everyone in the crowd felt that way about the entire evening.

The weather was stunning, the band was hot and we enjoyed great jazz under a perfect sky with all our neighbors from Middle Harbour (a break-away faction of homes located between South Harbour and West Harbour).

It was just a great night.

Spotify: A Very Good Thing

I’m an eclectic music listener.  I appreciate music of many different kinds:  From A Capella to Big Band.  From Blue Eyes to Black Keys.  From Classical to Show Tunes.  From Gospel Music to the Black Eyed Peas.  From Little Richard to Lil Wayne.

So, when my youngest son introduced me to Spotify, I knew right away that this was the program that would make my listening pleasure complete.

You see, I live on a budget that doesn’t include hundreds of dollars for music.  I want to legally enjoy new music and old favorites.  With Spotify, I can listen to nearly every album that exists at one low monthly fee without worrying about copyright violations or breaking my bank.

If you are looking for a great program that offers unlimited listening pleasure, Spotify is for you.  If, on the other hand, you are determined to spend $17 per CD or risk jail time, then don’t even consider this humble recommendation.  Just keep ripping your friend’s copies and pretending it isn’t a problem.

But, until you come to your senses, you can find me with my earphones in…I’m turning up the soundtrack from Footloose even as I type!

The Music Must Continue

My son, Ben has rhythm in his soul.  He loves music of nearly any and every kind.  He plays multiple instruments.  He dances whenever possible.  He grooves to the beat.  And so, when Noblesville High School throws its annual “MayFest”, Ben is in the thick of it.  He plays in the Jazz Band, performs for Open Mic, and rocks the stage with NHS Singers.

It was a really long day but one that was full of fantastic music, talented kids, and great entertainment.  Take a moment and take a listen to this fantastic piece from the Jazz Band.  Ben is the trumpet player on the far right.  He’s the one who is in constant motion!

Enjoy.  I did.

A Jazzy Day

My son, Ben has joined the Jazz Band at his school.  He is the one in the white tie bopping in the upper right-hand corner of most of this song.  He loves his music and takes it very seriously – but never fails to have a good time.

Today’s event was a great opportunity to play on a big stage.  Ball State’s Emens Auditorium hosted Dimensions in Jazz and the band did a great job.

Thanks to their director, Ms. Robinson who sets a great example for all the kids by playing a pretty mean jazz set herself.

Good Job, Band!

Ringing In My Ears: Midnight Clear

Released in 2000, Midnight Clear by Penny Rodriguez is one of the best Christmas albums we own and I would encourage you to add it to your library.  For the past 10 years we have placed this CD into the player and enjoyed the beautiful, familiar melodies and traditional hymns as we decorate our home for the holidays.  Each piece is a new and heart-felt arrangement and lightens up the holidays with each playing.

Penny Rodriguez is a piano master.  Her beautiful piano solos and fantastic choir pieces combine to make one of my favorite Christmas CD’s of all time.  A perfect example of Penny’s talent and artistry is “Kings and Masters March”.  On this one song Penny uses the entire keyboard, running from the lowest registry to the highest keys.  She transitions between gentle trills to a powerful march with perfection.

But my favorite song on the album is an arrangement that involves nothing more than vocal instruments:  “Infant Holy”.  An acapella arrangement performed by a local high school group, this piece forces me to stop, close my eyes and enjoy the subtle harmonies and beautiful melodies every time I listen to it.  As I’ve written this, I’ve listened to the piece at least five times.  I just can’t get enough of this.  It beats anything you will ever find on The Sing-Off!

If you have to have one Christmas album in your collection, I suggest Midnight Clear.

The album is available on Itunes, Rhapsody, Napster, Yahoo Music and Amazon.

Ringing In My Ears: Michael Buble “Christmas”

I love this time of year and I’m not afraid to say it.  Christmas is all about the sights, sounds and smells that provide such joy!

That is why my lights are hung for the entire neighborhood to see.  It is this reason that my Christmas movie list is being completed with each passing hour of viewing.

But NOTHING makes Christmas better (other than some snow) than good music.

Buble’s newest album released October 24, 2011, Christmas, is a faithful rerun of the old faithful seasonal hits.  Nothing really new with a very strong exception of Blue Christmas.  This wonderful song is new, jazzy rendition of the familiar with the very first note placing you in New Orleans and in the middle of a Big Easy Jazz Parade through the very end.

The next tune, Cold December Night is a pop tune that will be played frequently on radios around the country.  It is peppy and fun and will capture the ear of Buble fans everywhere.

It isn’t the best Christmas album on the market but it is perfect for the holidays.

 

Ringing In My Ears: The Goat Rodeo Sessions

What do you get when you combine the talents of Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Stuart Duncan on violin, Edgar Meyer on stand-up bass and Chris Thile jamming on mandolin?  Only one of the best albums to come on the music scene in a very long time.

The Goat Rodeo Sessions is an instrumental spectacular that causes you to stop and think about the music, the intricate combinations and the fantastic melodies.  These four masters mix their genius into a set of tunes that are deep and thoughtful.  Each song is a brilliantly structured with layers of riffs and fantastic solos.  The listener will enjoy the rich chorus of sound without losing the individual voices of each artist.

You can get a free copy of the solo track, Here and Heaven at I Tunes.  I highly recommend it.

So strap on your spurs, grab the reigns with both hands and hold on for the wild ride and a great musical experience!  The Goat Rodeo Sessions will leave you breathless!

Ringing In My Ears: Hope & Thin Space

I am not a music critic.  I don’t know a pop song from Jiffy Pop.  I can carry a tune but it DOES require a bucket.

But I know what I like and Eric Baker’s newest release, Hope and Thin Space is something I like very much.

Perhaps it is because I know Eric and hear his life through the lyrics.

It might be because I have the privilege of hearing him play live quite often.

I might like this album because I know that most of these songs were written to move people’s hearts and lives into a better place, a closer relationship with those around them and an Almighty, loving God.

Hope & Thin Space provides a wide variety of music styles.  From the driving, rhythm of the opening track, “Kingdom Breaking Through” to the easy sway of “The Chair”, each song has its own strength and quality.

My favorite track on the album is the last cut, “Have You Been To The River”.  Written and performed for baptism services at Grace Community Church, this song touches the very heart of Eric and each one of his listeners. I am quickly taken to the edge of the water and relive the joy I experienced nearly 30 years ago.

I’ve listened to this CD several times this week and each time I am amazed at its quality, clean production and soulful presentation.  It often reminds me of another great artist.

Shortly after the CD was released, I had it playing in the car.  As we drove along, my son turned his attention to the radio and asked the name of the artist.  I said that I was sure he knew who it was if he paid close attention.  He closed his eyes and allowed the melodies and words pour over his mind and heart, soaking in the keys, the drums, the smooth voice.  After a short time he opened his eyes wide and proclaimed with confidence that it was James Taylor.  “But I didn’t know James Taylor played piano!” He reported.

“He doesn’t,” I replied.  “But if he did, he would sound just like this.”

Ringing In My Ears: Bruce Hornsby Greatest Radio Hits

I’ve listened to these tunes while mowing the yard.  They’ve been the rhythm to my 5k run.  The songs have put me to sleep late at night and awakened me in the early morning hours.

They are melodies that call for change and offer a challenge to the status quo.

They are moving and meaningful.

They are fun and fulfilling.

They are my favorite collection of music.

If you haven’t plugged these fantastic songs into your Ipod lately, you are long overdue.

Ringing In My Ears: Billy Ocean Ultimate Collection

The conversation went like this:

Curt:  “Who is Billy Ocean?”

Eric:  “Don’t you EVEN!”

We laughed and laughed.  Then I went on-line to check: who, in fact, was Billy Ocean?

And then I uploaded the Ultimate Collection.  I was immediately taken back to my younger days by all these great hits.

I will admit that I had a hard time remembering “License to Chill” and “Red Light Spells Danger”.  I suspect that these didn’t make it on Billy’s Greatest Hits album.  But when it comes to the great ones, no listener will be disappointed by the biggies:  “Get Out of My Dreams and Into My Car” has to be one of the best songs on the album.

I’d forgotten how good the producing was on that song.  It is worth the price of admission for that single alone.

Now, I can say with confidence, “Who is Billy Ocean?”  Because now I know the answer and am glad I took the time to do the research.

Piano Man


My son is 10, soon to be 11.  His school provides a music class in which the students are introduced to the piano.  My son loves it.  Every evening he finds his way to our keyboard and pecks out familiar tunes.  He’s pretty good, too.

As part of the class, the teacher provides an opportunity for the kids to perform for the parents. And so, we, the proud parents, file into the school and find seats on the risers of the music room. A piano is pointed toward the crowd like a loaded gun. And believe me, some of these kids use it like a weapon.

The youth file in.  Nervous little rows of children find seats and await their turn.  One at a time they make their way to the piano.  They stand beside the big black instrument and introduce themselves and the music they are about to play.  Most of the kids are so intimidated that you can’t even hear their names.  When they find the seat behind the keys, they are timid and shy.  Others just want it to be over and play so fast and hard that you are unable to recognize any of the notes or the song they are playing.

As a hobby I keep lists and I couldn’t help but start a list of the songs these kids were tickling from the ivories, one agonizing finger at a time. On one hand, I was surprised by the variety. On the other hand, I was not surprised by the repetition. Below is my list and the number of times each piece was played.

1 time each: Bingo, Scooby-Doo Theme, Bridal March, Star Spangled Banner, Any Dream Will Do, Lean on Me, Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, Take Me Out To The Ball Game, Snake Charmer, A Spoon Full of Sugar, and Puff the Magic Dragon

2 times: Chop Sticks
Be Our Guest (from Beauty & the Beast)

3 times: This Land is Your Land

4 times: The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Yankee Doodle
It’s A Small World
America The Beautiful

6 times: Star Wars

7 times: Ode to Joy

I am happy to report that Beethoven’s work stood the test of time and the 5th grade music class. But I will admit that Star Wars was a very close second and actually led the pack for a while.

My son, Ben played two classics. He offered the moving rendition of Puff the Magic Dragon and rounded out his performance with a soulful interpretation of Ode to Joy. I thought it was the best version of the day.

The music aside, which is easy to do, I did have one other observation during my time in the miniture seats of the music room for 10 year olds: These kids are very flexible. Throughout the concert, each kid nearly broke their necks looking over their shoulders to see if their mother, father, grandmother, or aunt was watching. With their mouths contorted, their arms flailing, their eyebrows in deep furrows, they made every effort to find their supporters. And when contact was made the relief on their innocent faces was obvious. Smiles spread wide. Nervous guestures and waves followed. It was repeated by nearly every kid in the room. It was worth the price of admission.