Sunday, March 26, 2006


Whenever I go home to New York City after a tour my first priority is to catch up with friends. I've got a wonderful group that grew out of my beloved college suite at Columbia and has stuck together over many years.

For a long time we did Sunday evening milkshakes at Tom's (of Suzanne Vega and Seinfeld fame, though the show only uses the sign, not the interior). Ask for the Broadway shake, a yummy blend of chocolate and coffee.

And then there were the glory days of Quiz Night at the West End. This local hangout hosted Tuesday trivia games with questions announced over a loudspeaker and teams around the room submitting answers on index cards. We won many $50 bonuses towards our tabs with our collective knowledge and strategic acumen.

This week some of us tried a different spot: Divine Bar, a trendy, atmospheric wine bar with both West Side and East Side locations. Order from the tempting tapas menu and be sure to try a wine "flight". Pick your varietal and they will bring you 4 or 5 glasses with tastes of different specimens.

Nate, me, Anna, Richard. I missed you guys!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Harbingers of Spring

So despite the fact that most people in NYC are still running around in hats and scarves, the first signs of spring are here. The fruit stands and ice cream trucks are back out on the streets. Though I must confess to a Grinch-like hatred of the tinkly little song the ice cream trucks play continuously on repeat (if they park outside your window you will go insane), I was happy to return home and see the optimistic retailers, who are undoubtedly right that warm weather can't be far away.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Downtown Seattle

Our last afternoon in Seattle was free of concerts and school visits, so we took the opportunity to walk around downtown. I was surprised by the topography (the hills in downtown Seattle remind me of San Francisco) and impressed with the public library (a "dazzling avant-garde symphony of glass and form" by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas - see the library's website for more info and the source of that quote).

Photo by Benjamin Benschneider. Copyright 2005 The Seattle Times Company.

We also spent some time shopping... and searching out a few good laughs.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

School Dog!

We performed at a wonderful school today and there was an energetic school dog! I wish we had one at my elementary school...this one was named "Bunny" and is very much like the one pictured above. We were told she is part pug and part Boston terrier, so get this:

Pug+Boston terrier=Bug!!!!!

Music or Math?

At the end of our last residency performance today, a 5th grade boy in the front row raised his hand and enthusiastically said "Encore!"

As I was smiling and wondering if we had actually inspired a new chamber music lover, he added, "If you keep playing more, then we'll miss math class!" ....

Friday, March 17, 2006

Seattle Concert

Yesterday we played on the University of Washington's World Series at Meany Hall.

Donna first played Meany Hall when she was only 13. She gave her concerto debut then with the Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto... WOW!

Since Seattle is relatively close to Vancouver, BC where Donna grew up, Donna's parents and piano teacher were able to come hear us play. Here's a shot of us with Donna's parents after the show.

And here we are with Lee Talner (board member and photographer extraodinaire... the other pictures in this post and the last are all his), Eric Rothchild (treasurer), and Matt Krashan, (director of the series).

More School Concert Pics By A Pro

Lee Talner has been our photographer, tour guide, chauffeur, and good friend all week here in Seattle. Here are some of his pictures from our school performances.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

School Concerts

We're in Seattle most of this week playing a bunch of concerts in schools in addition to our performance at the University of Washington tomorrow.

Playing for kids is both challenging and fun. Challenging because if they don't like something, they are more than happy to tell you so. (They won't pretend to like Beethoven just because it is generally accepted that Beethoven is great.) Fun because they don't have preconceptions about music. (Most notably, they're not scared of new music.)

Kids also ask all of the questions that adults won't. (How old are you? How much money do you make? Why do you move your head so weird? Why don't you look like your picture? Why aren't there any boys?)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fruit Logs, Plums, Fish and More

Our first day in Seattle was gorgeous so we took advantage of the sunshine and checked out Pike Place Market. Cello Bruskin accompanied us on the adventure!

These days, it's hard to find anything marketed as "fat" but apparently, with dungeness crabs, it's a great thing. They look pretty yummy to me!

What on earth is that?! Ah...a monkfish! That's quite the expression! I hope I never look like that when I play!!!

Those are some of the biggest, juiciest scallops I have ever seen. Mmmmmmmmm...

Look at that wonderfully arranged produce! All those colours! We sampled some of the best plums ever -- Larry Anne plums.

Never had fruit logs before, but they looked enticing (don't they?) so we tried some. I had the apricot one, which was delicious. These fruit logs are dried fruit sticks covered in coconut.

Palm Springs, CA

Ahhh...Palm Springs, CA. We spent less than 24 hours there but were fortunate enough to perform in the pretty Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Above: The beautiful Sculpture Garden where Julie and I ate our lunch, drinking in the sunlight.

View of the stage from the red-hued theater.

Cool stairs leading down into the seating floor of the theater.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Radio Interview

While we were in Kansas City for our concert with the Friends of Chamber Music, we found time to stop by the local NPR radio station, KCUR for an interview. Steve Kraske hosts a show called Up to Date ( which features all kinds of guests from politicians to economists to entertainers. We were honored to be invited to speak with him this week.

Radio interviews are always fun and challenging - you have to negotiate the headphones, the microphone, the cough button (!), and put together coherent and interesting comments on the spot. But luckily Steve made it feel more like a conversation than a quiz on our previous acheivements!

Sometimes when you're sitting in the radio studio you wonder if anyone out there is listening or if you're just speaking to the empty air waves. But later we heard from many people who had decided to come to the concert after hearing us on the air ;-)

If you want to listen in on our interview, check out this link to our show in particular:

In Flight

I am a notorious scavenger of print media. Walking off of a flight, I always scan the seat back pockets for reading material left behind by other passengers. (The first class cabin is particularly fertile territory.) Anyone can snag a Times (New York) and a Journal (Wall Street) on a flight out of LaGuardia, the USA Today is available for free at hotels across the country, and there's occasionally something intriguing in the in-flight magazine. For me, an interesting find might be a Washington Post, an LA Times, the Economist, Harpers, the New Yorker, Vanity Fair. (And I have to admit that every once in a while when I'm feeling totally brain dead, I do indulge in Cosmo or People... and make myself even more brain dead.) I enjoy collecting papers from several cities on the same day and then checking who headlines what where. I like comparing the 25-cent dailies in a city to the main publication. I do sometimes feel badly about mooching and not supporting the publishers, but I figure I'm saving paper and money and flight attendants' time, so it can't be all that bad.

When it gets dark I often just look out the window and think... and sleep :-)

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Check out our new friend Pepo. (Her name is pronounced "pay-poh" and is derived from the Latin word for pumpkin... like some of her fur.) She lives with Cynthia Siebert, artistic director and president of the Kansas City Friends of Chamber Music.

Pepo thoroughly enjoyed Donna's purse...

...and our rehearsal.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Free Wireless in Charlotte, NC

Right this minute I am sitting at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) in Charlotte, NC using their free wireless internet. I'm psyched! Despite the fact that Super 8's across the country now offer free wireless, airports and higher end hotels still generally charge for the service. Clearly, this is a popular offering.

I already had fond feelings for CLT because I used to visit a friend in NC quite frequently and connected through here many times. Also, they have a beautiful atrium with lots of light, tons of rocking chairs, live piano music (!), and TCBY.

Ok... better go catch my flight!

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Getting Attitude...

...several times today!

We did a mini concert for 7th and 8th graders. One girl's t-shirt read: "Watch out. I had a bowl of attitude for breakfast!" Luckily, the kids did not live up to their shirts.

At the toll booth for the George Washington Bridge, crossing into Manhattan:

Donna: May I have a receipt please?

Toll-taker: You know I don't have time for that!

Whoa, sassy! Then we noticed she was wearing a headset... she was on her cell phone, presumably talking about something other than our toll transaction. (She soon handed Donna her change and receipt without further prompting.)

Monday, March 6, 2006

Finger Push-ups

Well, more often plain old scales and arpeggios. We put hotel fitness centers to many good uses. (Note the armwarmers I'm wearing to help me warm up.)

Sunday, March 5, 2006


MSP - not the artificial flavoring in cheap Chinese food and Hint of Lime Tostitos (that's MSG), but traveller's lingo for the airport at Minneapolis/St. Paul and our current home away from home (we've been there 5 times this month)! MSP rates rather high in our book among airports as it's new, clean, airy, has decent food options, and plenty of seating. It is also inhabited by many friendly Minnesota moose. However, it can be a rather long hike from one end to the other, and the shuttle trains between sections are not as well designed as those at some airports.

From MSP you can catch a ride on the nice new light rail system that connects the airport to downtown Minneapolis and the Mall of America. During one layover at MSP we took advantage of this convenient train to go meet Ryan for dinner (Ryan is our friend and was our wonderful tour manager during our month-long tour in February - you know he was super cool since only a week later, we still wanted to see him again!)

But our real airport home base is LGA (La Guardia) - New York's smallest aiport but the closest and most convenient to our apartments. JFK has many more airlines and international departures, EWR is newer and snazzier, but LGA means home and that's where we're headed today! Yay!

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Dwarfed by a Yukon

You know when you show up at the rental car counter, and they inform you that you've just received a free automatic upgrade to a steamroller that gets 2.3 miles per gallon, and then they look at you as if you're supposed to be grateful?

Friday, March 3, 2006


This 540 mile stretch from Meridian, ID to Butte, MT was driven, not by us, but by two intrepid new fans we met tonight at our Butte concert. She had heard us play the Beethoven Triple Concerto in Boise, ID about a year ago, but he had missed that performance because he had been in the hospital at the time. She was excited enough about that performance that she managed to convince him to drive across 2 very large mountainous states to hear us live. (That's roughly the equivalent of driving to New York from Detroit to hear a 2 hour concert.) Needless to say, we were EXTREMELY flattered!

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Cheese, Brots, and Beer

On our way back to Minneapolis, MN from Minocqua, WI, we stopped for lunch in Chippewa Falls, WI at the Bake & Brew Cafe. When we first headed out to Wisconsin, we were told to look out for "cheese, brots, and beer". The store attached to Bake & Brew offered all three... and more. (This was the genuine article, the quirky small town boutique that Cracker Barrels across the country so overenthusiastically try to replicate.)

Cheese curds!


(Well, almost beer...)

We found other intriguing surprises...

...and even some imports from Virginia!

We had a very distinguished new driver for our jaunt out to Wisconsin: John Folin of Allied Concert Services, one of the people who made our whole February tour possible. John has been coordinating concert series all over the upper midwest for many years, and we could tell by his detailed discussions of each town we drove through (there must have been 50 of them on this trip alone!) that he knows not only this country, but also its people, history, and character.

We had a really great time with John... especially trading dude ranch stories and discussing the meaning of the term "unincorporated town". (Click here if you, too, are curious about the unincorporated bit.)