Monday, March 24, 2008

Unusual Hospitality Items

I have posted many a picture of wonderful hospitality spreads, but this one was a little different. When we arrived in our green room area in Ogallala, NE, this was waiting for us:

Room temperature bottled water? Check! A cooler of ice for chilled water? Check! Fruit? Cookies? Check, check! Let's see what's in the basket:

Upon closer investigation, I discovered beautifully wrapped chocolates and mint candies, but what interested us were the rest of the items. There was a box of tissues, a few bandages, a set of post-its, and a fresh travel-sized bottle of Advil! Such practicality! We appreciated the thought and care behind the assembly of such a wonderful basket.

Now, I know I have claimed that us Claremonters do not require very much in terms of hospitality items, but we always appreciate yummy and beautiful spreads! On Valentine's Day, we played for the students at Hopkins High School in Minnesota. After the presentation, we hosted a Q&A session with the students and this went on for a while. We were about to wrap things up when the teacher piped up and asked us a question. As it turns out, he was stalling for time; since we were away from home and our significant others on Valentine's Day, he and the students wanted to give us something special. He confessed that he found it difficult to live up to some of the hospitality spreads posted on this blog! Well, instead of flowers and candies, a group of young male students in spiffy tuxes and top hats appeared just as we finished answering the teacher's question, and treated us to a "Heart-O-Gram"! It was a special Valentine's day message delivered in the style of a short song, sung a cappella by the guys! They were supremely charming, and it was such a wonderful way to start our tour for Allied Concert Services. Thanks, Hopkins High School!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

More Scenes From the Road

I believe I snapped this photo the day before the full lunar eclipse. The moon was stunning at dusk.

After one of our concerts, the wonderful presenter saved us some Rice Krispie treats for the road. Because of the constant below-freezing weather, especially overnight, the treats froze in the van and became one big brick of Rice Krispie-ness! Ryan enjoyed having Rice Krispies in a convenient driver-friendly form.

As usual, I was busy napping in the van (I am so very good at that), but when the van stopped, I saw the Jolly Green Giant! Ryan thought it would be amusing to see the world's largest statue of the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, MN.

As we drove from Spencer, IA to Ogallala, NE, we spotted a number of wind turbines along the way. These impressive structures are the modern version of the windmill and help generate electricity.

The drive from Spencer to Ogallala was quite long (483 miles!) so we helped Ryan out a bit. Here is Ryan enjoying the life in the spacious bucket seats in the back (with lots of leg room!) while Julie logs in some driving hours.

Onawa, IA claims to have the widest main street in the U.S.A. We are not sure if this is fact, but it is a pretty wide street.

Belmont Day School

Donna mentioned earlier that we spent two weeks in January in residence at Belmont Day School, a truly special independent school in Belmont, MA where Julie and I were lucky enough to be students (way back last century). Lenesa Leana, BDS's inspiring head, wrote a beautiful piece about our stay in the school's newsletter, and she has graciously allowed us to republish it here.

"On Wednesday, the members of the Claremont Trio, our artists in residence, were ensconced in the Erskine Library, its proximity to my office making it possible to listen carefully to their classes. Their Belmont Day School students were working with them to compose music and experiencing considerable success in the effort. The trio had just been playing a short selection from music written on a white board in front of the children as I walked in.

""If this were a story what would be going on?" inquired cellist Julia Bruskin, a BDS alum herself.

""I think it's a student who slept late and her mom is waking her up!" exclaimed a fourth grader in the class. "Yes, and then she gets up and goes to a soccer game and she wins. That makes her happy," added another.

"The students listened again to the music. Pianist Donna Kwong added dynamics and tempo indicators to the score on the white board and then returned to the piano. Emily Bruskin, the violinist twin of Julia and also a BDS alum, chuckled and commented, "When we were students here our soccer team never won a game! It's nice to know things are different now. Let's listen to the music again and see how the story you have told matches the key and tempo you have selected."

"Using carefully structured method, the trio has been teaching our students about the highly disciplined skills of composing music, providing short phrases of music sequentially for the students to select to add to their growing set of measures on the white board. In addition to the notes, key, and tempo, the trio also discusses dynamics, instrumentation, rhythm, and the underlying story of the music they are playing.

"On this day the students were absorbed in the exercise, eagerly voting on one phrase over another and directing which instrument should play at which time. One student commented, "I listen so much better when I think of a story to match the music."

"Musicians who teach must take time to reflect on their craft and find avenues to engage their audiences and bring them into the process of making music. There is a special demand on their efforts. In addition to playing exquisite music, they must have the skills to communicate to a wide variety of students the multidimensional array of factors that enter into the world of music. It is clear to me that we have been in the company of gifted teachers as well as gifted musicians this week.

"Considerable planning enters into their sessions with the students. Beginning with the premise that everybody has a fundamental musical intelligence, they provide a thoughtful sequence of building blocks as they compose pieces with the students. The scaffolding consists of short harmonic phrases that are presented with slight differences to the students who then select which of the two phrases they prefer. The trio then demonstrates how different keys, tempos and dynamics can change the story of the music.

"As I observed the lesson I found myself thinking of the late Ruth Laredo, who was a compelling storyteller as well as a pianist whose Metropolitan Museum of Art concerts were invariably sold out. When I mentioned this to the trio later in the day, they exclaimed that Ruth was one of the judges who selected the trio as winners of the 2001 Young Concert Artists International Auditions and was one of their most enthusiastic supporters.

"The connection leads me to think about the DNA of mentoring. Ruth Laredo has left her mark on these extraordinary young women who play, as Ruth did, with a stunning combination of feeling and skill and collaboration with their audience. Our students will, I am sure, internalize these lessons and carry them into their own futures. Indeed, it is happening now. A student remarked to me this week, "I have learned so much from these musicians. I can't imagine any experience I might have the rest of the year that will come close to the magic they have brought us.""