Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘concerts

The Transformative Power of Music

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Folks, this is the first in a three-part series. All will start with “The Transformative Power of…”, so you have been warned if this isn’t your thing. (Though why it wouldn’t be, I haven’t any idea whatsoever.)

Music can transform your life, if you let it.

What do I mean by this? (I can practically hear a few of you thinking, “Barb, you have gone off your rocker with this one. What gives?”) It’s simple: music can actually heal you. Or at least improve your mood while giving shape to your feelings, which is nearly as good.

Who hasn’t felt better after singing in the shower? Who hasn’t felt better after singing along to their favorite songs in the car?

For me, playing music takes that feeling and amps it up to eleven. (H/t if you got the Spinal Tap reference, there.) And being able to play music in a group, whether it’s a concert band, a jazz band, a small group, or just by myself, is one of the best feelings there is when it’s going right.

But as this post is titled “the transformative power of music,” I suppose I should get down to brass tacks.

After my husband Michael died in 2004, I didn’t want to do anything. My grief was so profound, it took me at least five years to process, and another few after that to realize I still had a life to live — and what was I going to do about it? All that time, my health worsened, my hands especially, and when I decided I wanted to play my instruments again (sax, clarinet, and oboe), I was barely able to do it due to my hands aching so much.

And it wasn’t just trying to play my instruments that made me frustrated. I was to the point with my hands that driving in the car was painful. I could only use one hand a few minutes at a time, and then switch off to the other. It was just that bad.

Fortunately, I went through a few rounds of occupational therapy, which helped a great deal. The pain lessened, I gained range of motion again, and I learned how to properly stretch the areas. And ever since, when my hands have started approaching that state again, I’ve asked for — and received — another date with the occupational therapist, and gone through more therapy as required.

Mind, I’d have never gone through with any of that if I hadn’t wanted to play my instruments again. But I did. And that allowed me to make a positive decision in the depths of my grief to do something positive, meaningful, and healthy.

Anyway, in September of 2011, I asked to play in the UW-Parkside Community Band again. (I’d been a member before I left the area for graduate school, back in the day.) One of my professors from Parkside, Mark Eichner, was still conducting it, and he told me when rehearsals were for the December concert. So I rejoined it in late October, played the next concert, and voila! I was a performing musician again.

(For the record, my first concert back was on alto sax, and I played a lengthy solo on a piece called “Roma.”)

Soon after, I rejoined the Racine Concert Band in 2012, again on alto sax. (I’d been a member of this in high school and again in college, and only stopped when I moved away to attend graduate school in Nebraska.) Ever since, I’ve played many concerts with them. Most have been on alto, but a few have been on clarinet.

And last week, on Saturday, I played clarinet — first chair, de facto concert master/mistress — with the UW-Parkside 50th anniversary alumni band. That was an exceptionally challenging concert, as we had only one rehearsal beforehand and the parts were very tough. But I was there early, practiced my parts, and was as prepared as I could be.

It paid off. The concert went well. And I had a few folks come up to me afterward, praising what I did (nice, when you can get it), along with asking why I wear a neckstrap to play the clarinet as few clarinetists do. (It helps keep the weight off my hands, and allows me to play for a longer period of time with a whole lot less pain.)

Why am I going into all this detail? Mostly to explain what playing music has done for me. It has given me my confidence back. It has reminded me I can still do something, something positive, something very few other people can do.  It has rewarded my perseverance and search for excellence…it has allowed me to give the gift of music to others in performance, also.

All in all, music has transformed my life.

You don’t have to be a musician to allow music to transform yours, though. Just listen to whatever you want. If you are hurting, let the pain out. If you are healing, allow yourself to feel safe and comforted. And if you just want to hear music for the sake of music, good for you: that’s the best listening experience of all.

What do you think of this blog? Tell me about it in the comments!

Brief Concert and Voting Reminder

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Folks, I’ve been working on a story and an edit this past week or so, which is why I’ve been so quiet. But I wanted to do two things before I forgot, so here goes:

  1. Tonight at 7 PM is the Racine Concert Band’s final free Zoo concert of the summer. We will have a giveaway called “the summer sweepstakes spectacular,” and all you have to do to get involved in that is show up, and pick something in the multiple-choice quiz. Fill out a paper, give it to the guy who collects ’em, and they’ll all be put into the tumbler for various drawings. I’m not sure about all the prizes, but one of them is a Fitbit; there also are usually gift certificates to local restaurants.
  2. The Wisconsin 2018 primary is upon us, so if you are a Wisconsin voter, don’t forget to vote on August 14. Your vote is your voice. Use it!

Hope to be back blogging later this week, providing I can get the story I have slaved over to lay a bit better…stay cool!



Written by Barb Caffrey

August 12, 2018 at 6:03 am

Concerts and Life

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Folks, I’m preparing right now for a concert later this evening with the Racine Concert Band. We’re playing at 7 PM at Park High School in Racine, a joint concert with the Park High School band…and I have a few things to say about concerts and life.

First, sometimes you prepare for something, and it doesn’t happen. But that preparation is still a good thing to do, because it might help you down the line with something else.

In an immediate sense, we had this happen last night in our dress rehearsal with the RCB. Our first-chair clarinetist was unable to play for a very good reason, and her husband brought the folder in so someone else could play her parts.

So, what happened? One of the other clarinetists moved up to play the parts instead. That clarinetist is my former teacher from my college days, Tim Bell…if anyone can play a concert on one rehearsal, it’s Tim.

But Tim had prepared the second parts. He didn’t really want to move. And he would’ve preferred playing the parts he already had, with the first-chair player being healthy enough to play. (I think we all would prefer that, as the first-chair player is a beacon of light whenever she’s around.)

Still, he was called upon, and he answered the call. And he did very well. (Come to the concert tonight and see just how well he did, learning the parts in one rehearsal.)

Second, as is seen by what happened to the first-chair clarinetist, you can do everything in your power to do everything right, and something out of the blue happens so you can’t perform. This is incredibly frustrating, and it’s not easy to deal with whatsoever.

All you can do in such situations is your best. That seems trite to say, but it’s the absolute truth.

Right now, for the first-chair player, rest is what she needs. She’d rather be playing, but she can’t right now. So all she can do is rest, recover fully, and get back to being that positive presence she’s always been down the line.

That’s the winning strategy, now that life dealt her a bad hand. But because she’s a mature and thoughtful soul, she realizes that bad hand is temporary.

Third, while concerts are ephemeral, music itself isn’t. Music can last forever, even though the pieces we play will sound a little different every time we try, as we learn and change and grow and become wiser (and hopefully, just a bit better, too).

This is why music is important. The players may change, sometimes through no fault of their own. The pieces change, too. And the audiences definitely change, something no musician can ever predict…nor would we want to in advance, as that’s half the fun of playing, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Anyway, that’s why I think concerts are interesting. They are a microcosm of life, in their own weird way, and as such, the preparation for the actual event may — or may not — match what ends up happening.

But no matter what, the music will endure. And the Racine Concert Band shall do its best to play it with passion, vigor, and authenticity, later tonight at Park High School.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 17, 2017 at 2:44 pm

About to Play a Concert

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In an hour, I’ll be playing a concert with the Racine Concert Band over at Mound Cemetery to commemorate Flag Day.

For those of you who live in the Racine area, please feel free to stop by and give us a listen.

(Yes, this is a mini-blog. And no, I still don’t feel particularly well — but I’m not about to let that stop me. I’ve had tea and toast and am dressed to play. So here goes . . . something?)


Written by Barb Caffrey

June 14, 2014 at 11:09 am

Posted in Music

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Support Your Local Musicians

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Tonight, the Racine Concert Band played a concert at Horlick High School.  We played four pieces alone, and with the section leaders from Horlick’s Symphonic Band, we played Dmitry Shostakovich’s “Folk Dances.”

Now, we’re fortunate in Racine that people do come to the Racine Concert Band’s concerts — whether they’re the free ones in the summer over at the Racine Zoo, or in combination with local high schools.  We tend to have good, solid audiences who appreciate what we do; they enjoy live music, and want to hear more of it.

And that’s what I wanted to talk about — live music.  And hearing more of it.

The easiest way to support live music is simply this — go to a concert, and support your local musicians.

I can hear some of you now.  “But I live out in the middle of nowhere!  We don’t have any musicians here — we can’t have any here!  So what am I to do?”

In that case, I’d urge you to look around, because there probably are more musicians around than you might think.  But whatever area you live in, you need to get out there and listen to some live music.

And for those of you fortunate enough to live in a big metropolitan area, do me a favor.  Don’t limit yourself to the symphony orchestra, though that often is a great place to go for good music; go out and watch whatever music you can, as there’s probably much more going on in your area than you might be aware of.

Consider, please, that in Racine, we have several high school music programs, all of which have their own strengths — these are at The Prairie School, at Racine Lutheran, at Case, at Park, and of course at Horlick.  These programs have orchestras, bands, jazz ensembles, choirs, and much more — so get out there and listen to their music.

Also, keep an eye out for community bands and orchestras; for example, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside has both a Community Band and a Community Orchestra.  Good music is being made by these groups, and going out to listen to them is often less expensive than seeing a first-run movie.

And, of course, my own Racine Concert Band is in its 89th consecutive season.  Winner of the Sudler Silver Scroll for excellence in musicianship and in elevating the cultural and musical environment of Racine back in 1995, the RCB continues to make good music and help get the word out that Racine has more live music than the music being made by the Racine Symphony Orchestra, the Belle City Brass, the Racine Dairy Statesmen (for men only) and Opus 2000 (for women only).

Racine, you see, is blessed with many great musical groups, from choruses (the Dairy Statesmen, Opus 2000) to a brass band (Belle City Brass), to the RCB and the RSO.

But your area — whatever area you’re in — probably has a lot more going on, musically speaking, than seems to be the case.  That’s why you should do whatever you can to support music in the schools and in the community — whether it’s rock, jazz, country, swing, symphonic music or anything in between, go out and support your local musicians.

And if you think supporting your local musicians at such a difficult economic time is a frivolous act, I have news . . . you’re helping keep various musicians, music teachers, and associated others employed.  Which is a positive thing, possibly even a life-affirming thing — and should be commended.

So, once more — get out there and see a concert or two.  And support your local musicians.  (Please?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 16, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Posted in Music

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