Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Racine Concert Band

Remembering Del Eisch, My First Band Director

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Folks, last week, my first truly good band director died. (In all senses.)

Delbert A. Eisch — or Del, as he urged everyone to call him — was eighty-five, and had lived a good, long life. In that life, he’d done many things as a conductor, a trombone player, as an activist for live music, and much, much more. He taught in Racine for thirty-six years, and also conducted over 640 concerts while the conductor of the Racine Concert Band (previously named the Racine Municipal Band).

Much of this information can be gleaned from his obituary, which you can find here, but I wanted to summarize it before I got into what Mr. Eisch meant to me.

As I said, he was the first good band director I’d ever known. When I joined the Racine Municipal Band (not yet called the RCB), I was only fourteen. I played the oboe, then; I hadn’t picked up either the sax or the clarinet as of yet. I’d played in the Kiwanis Youth Symphony as an oboist and had played in my junior high school band and orchestra at Gifford (it’s now a K-8 school, but back then it was solely a junior high — our term for middle school at the time). But the junior high band was limited to what most of the performers were able to play, meaning I didn’t get a chance to play high-level pieces, nor did I get much sense at that time of what good band literature was all about.

Mr. Eisch knew how to program for his band, though. I figured that out immediately. We played marches — John Philip Sousa, Henry Fillmore, etc. — as nearly all bands do, but we also played more. We played show tunes. We played overtures. We played incidental pieces composed to be heard behind ballerinas, or with movies (as we certainly played selections from movie soundtracks). And we played the big pieces for concert band, including the two Gustav Holst Suites for Band, as well.

Mr. Eisch was extremely encouraging to me when I was a young musician. This was essential, as at the time I felt completely lost in my life. I loved music, loved to play, but otherwise I was a misfit. I read too much. I enjoyed talking with people much older than myself. I studied history and geography and some mathematics along with reading everything I could get my hands on, because I’d started to write stories and poems and wanted to be knowledgeable about my chosen subjects.

I loved science fiction and fantasy, of course, even back then. I was fortunate that my local TV station regularly played episodes of Star Trek (now called “The Original Series”), and I was even more fortunate that my junior high’s library had an excellent selection of SF&F books along with copies of Downbeat Magazine and other musically oriented magazines such as Rolling Stone. (That dealt with commercial music, sure. But things were applicable across all disciplines, and I tried to learn whatever I could, wherever I could.)

Anyway, I think Mr. Eisch knew, from all his years teaching at Gilmore School, that I was a bit of an odd duck. (Or at least that I felt like one.) He was gentle, kind, and patient with me as I learned the music — which wasn’t too hard for me, as even then I was quick on the uptake and an excellent sight-reader — and how to get along with the people in the band.

He encouraged my talents, to the point that I played oboe solos in front of the band, then later a clarinet duet, a saxophone solo, and finally a clarinet solo before I was off to my first undergraduate school. (Me being me, and more importantly being married to a guy who was then an Army Reservist and later in the active-duty Army, I needed to go to three different colleges/universities to finish my degree.) He also added in twelve bars for an improvised solo when I played “Harlem Nocturne” with the band, so it sounded a little jazzier and helped to give me a better experience as a musician.

My tale picks back up approximately ten years later, when my then-husband and I were back in Racine after his military service ended. Our marriage was breaking up, which I didn’t know then (but can clearly see now), and I needed music as an outlet. (I always had, so why not then?)

Mr. Eisch warmly welcomed me back to the band. (My soon-to-be-ex-husband also joined the band as a percussionist.) He had a need for an additional clarinetist, so would I mind playing clarinet?

I did not mind.

It was interesting, as I got to hear many of the same pieces in a different way than before. I learned how the various parts interrelated and asked Mr. Eisch many questions about music and conducting that he patiently answered. (At the time, I was hoping to eventually be a conductor myself. This is a dream that didn’t come to fruition, but the knowledge I gained was still invaluable.)

When I finished my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, I started looking for graduate schools. (I wanted to teach in college, and that was the way forward. Plus, I wanted to learn even more about music, harmony, melody, music theory, music history, etc., as I loved everything about music.) I discussed the merits of them with Mr. Eisch, along with several other wonderful musicians in the band; eventually, I decided on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Once I finished my degree there (it took me a few additional years due to family health concerns), Michael and I married. We knew we’d go back to his home in San Francisco sooner or later, so I didn’t rejoin the band at that time.

A few years passed. Michael and I had moved to Iowa. I’d looked into perhaps going to the University of Iowa as a doctoral student, once I qualified for in-state tuition…then Michael died, suddenly and without warning.

I have to include this, to explain the rest.

I didn’t feel like playing my instruments for years. I rarely composed any music, either. It was hard to write. Hard to do anything. I barely even recognized myself in the mirror, I was so upset.

So, because of that, I didn’t attempt to rejoin the band, or even find out if they might have a use for me.

I did, however, rejoin the Parkside Community Band in October of 2011 (not too long before my good friend Jeff Wilson passed away). And doing that led me back to the Racine Concert Band, where Mr. Eisch was now the band’s business manager (and conductor emeritus).

Mr. Eisch and I had several conversations along the way, once I rejoined the band. Some were to do with the band and its need for funding and fund-raising. Others were about life, and about loss, and about faith, as well as music.

Mr. Eisch then retired as business manager, and completely stepped away from the RCB. We did see him at concerts for a few years after that…then COVID hit.

Anyway, the last time I saw Mr. Eisch was earlier this year. I was going into Ascension All-Saints Hospital for an appointment; he was coming out of there, being medically discharged. He was happy to see me, and I was happy to see him; he asked how I was doing, how my family was doing, and asked me to tell my parents that he’d said hi (as he knew them both well, too, especially my Dad as he played in the RCB for ten years, himself, as a drummer).

I didn’t know that would be the last time I ever saw him, or I would’ve told him just how much his kindness and dignity and example had meant to me, along with all of the musical knowledge he’d imparted along the way.

Mr. Eisch was a very kind man. He was also a gentle man, in the best of senses. He loved music, of course he did, but even more so, he loved his family and friends.

Good men, good people, are sometimes hard to find. But when we get a chance to be around them, we hopefully reflect the light they can’t help but give out a little brighter. Then that light goes on, and on, and still on, for as long as people last…or at least as long as our memories do.

I truly hope that his widow, Anne, will be comforted by his memory. Always.

*****

An Addendum: I wrote this today, on the eighteenth anniversary of my beloved husband Michael’s death, because I wanted everyone to know just how much Mr. Eisch meant to me.

Michael only met Mr. Eisch once, I think. We were at the grocery store, or maybe at the mall…anyway, he did meet Mr. Eisch, and told him it was a pleasure to meet one of my formative influences.

I’d like to think that Michael again met with Mr. Eisch in Heaven, Eternity, or whatever The Good Place (TM) truly is, and that Michael has passed on what I’ve just said — as he knew I felt this way, because he knew me extremely well — just in case Mr. Eisch still did not know it.

Moving on, again (Plus: Answering the Q, “How Can You Still Edit?”)

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As my last blog said, I am no longer a member of the Racine Concert Band.

It’s been a couple of very strange weeks, I must say. Every time there’s a rehearsal, I keep thinking I need to go (until I correct myself); every time there’s a concert, I feel how wrong it is that I’m not there.

All I can do, though, is move on.

I’ve had many experiences lately where I’ve had to move on when I wasn’t ready to do it. It never gets easier. But I will keep working at it, because as I know well, much of life and life’s experiences remain out of my control.

Let’s move on to something else.

One of my friends asked me why I was so forthcoming in regard to admitting I had a pulmonary embolism in 2020 and haven’t been the same, health-wise, since. She was afraid I might mess up my editing prospects, as there are a lot of folks out there who don’t want to deal with anyone who admits to illness, much less chronic illness.

(To put this in perspective: my friend also deals with chronic illness and has for years.)

So, I figured I’d discuss the elephant in the room, which is this: “Barb, if you’re not able to play your instruments right now, how can you edit?”

Simply put, they are two different things.

Yes, both are creative pursuits. However, there are many ways to edit once you get past the grammatical aspect, and I tend to be as creative as possible while making my points to various clients.

As most of you no doubt know, music is usually performed with other people; even if you’re playing a recital with a pianist, you still must play with another person at a scheduled time and place. (Yes, sometimes there are late cancellations for different reasons, but then you have to find a makeup date.)

Editing is done by me and can be scheduled at any point in any given day. (I tend to edit at night, when there are fewer distractions, but I’ve proven I can edit at any time of any day if need be.)

I hope this answers the question as to how I can continue to edit despite all that’s gone on in my life since 2020.

In conclusion, I appreciate my clients. They are all great people, and many of them have become my friends, which is something that pleases me greatly. I enjoy their company, I enjoy their manuscripts, and I appreciate the work.

Oh, one final, thing (I know I sound like Lt. Columbo from TV, years back): My Elfyverse “holiday” story was accepted into the Fantastic Schools: Holidays anthology. Thank you all who asked me privately about this and reminded me to come say something about it.

What’s going on in your life, writing or otherwise? Tell me about it in the comments!

Racine Concert Band Parts Ways With Me

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Folks, this is a blog I never thought I’d write, but here goes.

Four days ago, I received a letter from the current president of the Racine Concert Band’s board of directors. It was titled “RCB Letter,” and at first I thought it was something they wanted me to look at to give my writing/editing opinion (as they’ve occasionally done that before).

That was not it.

The letter said it was “uncomfortable” for them to ask this, after my many years of service, but that they wanted me to resign for the good of the band.

I will not do it. They can put me out, and I’m sure they will. But I will not resign, and I will not pretend this was my decision. It wasn’t.

I have been a member of the RCB for over twenty years. Every time I was capable of playing music and in the area, I was in the band. I played oboe, clarinet, and saxophone in the band, and soloed (in front of the band) on all three instruments. I’ve also played in both the regular concert band and the jazz ensemble.

However, if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you have to realize my health is problematic. Especially for a band that has a summer outdoor concert series like the RCB, my health issues — which include asthma, allergies, and migraines — have always been difficult to deal with for me.

Until the last few years — after Covid-19 hit the US with great force — I was able to power through most of the time. I still had migraines and still had asthma issues (one knocked me out of half of a rehearsal, several years ago; I went to the local hospital’s ER to get a breathing treatment), but I played many concerts under hot, humid, and difficult conditions.

The difference now is, I suffered a pulmonary embolism in early 2020. (We did not yet know Covid was in the country, so all I can do is presume that’s why it happened. There were obviously no tests for Covid at that time.) I have really never been the same since then, though I have regained some strength and some health.

Just not enough.

Anyway, the RCB has been important to me for a long time. I was fourteen when I first joined. (Yes, fourteen.) I never have wanted to cause trouble for the band, or its members, or its board. (Especially as I was on the board for two years myself, once upon a time.)

I’ve loved playing the music over the years and have appreciated the fact that they put up with my health for the past two years before making this decision to part ways with me.

There are many great people in that band. I want them to be able to play music, enjoy themselves, and enjoy life.

But I will not say I resigned, because that is not the truth.

The truth is, I was forced out.

And it makes me very, very unhappy that this is so.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 28, 2022 at 9:35 pm

Where Can We Be Safe? #Updated

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Update #1: There was a mass shooting this afternoon — no deaths yet reported — at Graceland Cemetery in Racine, WI (where I live). No reason given yet, though the man who was being buried (Da’Shontay “Day Day” King) had apparently fled the police and been shot due to the pursuit.

Why anyone would want to shoot these mourners is beyond me.

In addition, as the names of the victims of the Tulsa Shooting have been released, I wanted to give a link about that. Four people died, including a pioneering Black orthopedic surgeon, Preston J. Phillips; Amanda Glenn, a devoted mother, wife, and also a receptionist; Stephanie Husen, another doctor known in the community as kind and caring; and a retired Army First Sergeant, William Love.

I have to mention two things. Dr. Husen had a devoted canine companion that is not going to understand what’s happened to his loving owner. I hope the dog finds a new forever home in honor of his brave owner. The second is this: William Love was 73. He was with his wife of fifty-five years (they married in 1967) when the gunman rushed in. He first held the door closed so his wife could get out safely, then confronted the gunman.

This meant until the end of his life, he remembered what he’d been taught in the Army.

All honor to him. All blessings to his widow.

Now to the original post, already in progress:

#

Folks, once again in the United States, we’ve had another mass shooting. This time, it was in a medical clinic, because (apparently) the shooter was upset that he still had pain from a surgery in mid-May of this year. The doctor (again, apparently) hadn’t been responsive to the shooter’s pain issues, so the solution for the shooter was this: Shoot the doctor. Shoot another doctor. Shoot the receptionist. Wound a whole bunch of other people. And then shoot himself stone cold dead.

So, let me get this straight. We’ve had shootings in the following places in the last decade: Temples of worship, churches, mosques, supermarkets, concerts (the Las Vegas country music festival comes to mind), outside basketball games (the shooting of 21 people in Milwaukee a few weeks ago comes to mind), movie theatres. People have been shot in their cars and in their homes. People have been shot in assisted living situations and in senior housing, too. There have even been shootings on buses and a few on subway platforms in the past few years. And, of course, there have been the senseless deaths at colleges, universities, and other schools, including the recent shooting in Uvalde, Texas, at an elementary school.

With all of that, I ask this question: Where can we feel safe?

Recently, I played a concert with the Racine Concert Band in a church. (Beautiful church, too.) It’s our 100th anniversary, and we’ve played free concerts in the Racine Zoo or elsewhere during all of that time. It’s certainly a setting where you’d never expect a gunman with a pistol and some sort of rifle (as this shooter at the medical clinic had today).

But as much as I enjoyed playing my saxophone with the band, I still was wary as I got out of my car and went into the building. I kept scanning the audience to make sure there wasn’t anyone suspicious or out to make trouble. (I’ve never done this before while playing a concert. Occasionally, I’ve done it in other places.) And I was glad to get through the concert, not just because we as a group played well (and I didn’t muff an extended solo as I’d feared), but because we hadn’t had our activity marred by senseless violence.

Why must we feel this way in the United States of America? Why is it that I feel as if we got lucky because there wasn’t any senseless violence where we were?

Are we as a band supposed to have armed guards around us to protect us as we play?

(If so, we won’t be playing any free concerts again anytime soon. Armed guards are expensive.)

Before anyone says this, I will: I realize that all life is risk. Every time you step outside, you are risking something. (Brushing against poison ivy or poison oak, for example. Or getting stung by a bee, which would be very bad in my case as I am deathly allergic.) Every time you get into a vehicle, you are risking your life to a degree because you can’t fully predict what other drivers will do.

Those, however, are manageable risks. They are known risks. You can, to a large degree, compensate for them.

With all of these shootings in all of these various places, they were not manageable risks. The Las Vegas shooter used a sniper rifle to kill people from a hotel room high above the festival. The recent shooting at the Buffalo supermarket was made by someone who was a racist and who wanted to kill Black people, and had scoped the area out with pre-planning. (That guy may have been evil, but he was not stupid. He didn’t even live in Buffalo, so how could anyone have predicted he’d do this?) The shootings in El Paso, Texas, a few years back, were also done by a racist who wanted to kill Latinos, and he, too, like the Buffalo gunman, didn’t live in the area and had driven from hours away to murder people for no good reason.

These gunmen were not on anyone’s radar, either, even though coworkers had mentioned that the killer of children and teachers in Uvalde recently had the nickname of “serial killer” at work. He was said to be a scary person, someone you didn’t want to cross. He also had discussed his plans with several young women online, but they didn’t tell anyone because they thought “this is just how guys are, always bragging themselves up.” (That last is a paraphrase of several comments I’ve read, and is not an exact quote.)

There is an argument in all of these shootings that they come from a culture known as “toxic masculinity.” That is, these are men (or in some cases, teenage men) who firmly believe they are right, everyone else is wrong, and because they are the “man,” they get to make the rules even if they’re against society’s covenant.

(Yes, I know this isn’t the way “toxic masculinity” is usually described, but it’s the way I think of it. I defined it this way because most men do not think this way. Thank goodness. Moving on…)

Personally, I think this is happening for three reasons. The first is because so many other shooters have gotten away with their violence in the moment that it’s emboldened other domestic terrorists to do the same. (This is one reason why I refuse to name any gunman at my blog.) The second is because local, state, and federal governments have refused to do anything — or in some cases have been blocked from doing anything — to protect people from deranged shooters. This includes prevention and identifying suspects and realizing that at least half of the domestic terrorists in the above cases were men below the age of twenty-five. (Somehow, the local, state, and federal officials need to figure out who these bad apples are and stop them before they do anything remotely like the horrid acts I’ve listed above.) The third is because people are apathetic and believe nothing can or will be done, because our politicians have made it so.

As I said, I don’t have the answers. I just have the questions.

Now, folks, you have the floor: What do you think? What can be done other than perhaps beefing up budgets to deal with people who are obviously deranged and having some sort of awareness campaign so young people will understand that a guy with the nickname of “serial killer” is not normal?

P.S. Before I end this blog, I also want to point out that most police officers, sheriff’s deputies, federal and state law enforcement, and other personnel are good people. They do the best they can with the limited resources they have. Usually, these folks are maligned when something awful happens (sometimes rightfully — at least, so it seems — as in Uvalde), but they’re the first line of defense. They should be appreciated as much as possible rather than denigrated or besmirched. They stop many bad things from happening that most of us never hear about. Which means things might be even worse without their help…awful as that seems, considering how bad it is already.

Had a Covid-19 Scare, but I’m Fine

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Folks, last week I was preparing to play a concert with the Racine Concert Band. I was looking forward to the concert (which was held this past Saturday evening) as it was going to be the first time I’d played in a concert since the beginning of the pandemic.

However, my health did something weird. I ended up going in to urgent care, and they thought it was Covid-19. They tested me…

And I’m fine. I do not have Covid. (Whew!)

However, I still did not play the concert as I missed the two rehearsals beforehand due to the medical scare. I felt awful, missing out on the concert as I did.

That said, I did the best I could with the information I had. (Sometimes, adulting is hard.)

Right now, if you get a fever, or chills, or in my case, both, any reasonable person has to assume they have Covid until it’s proven otherwise. (Unless your state or country doesn’t have that much of a problem with Covid, of course. Right now, all of Wisconsin’s counties have a big problem with it.)

And yes, I’ve done everything right. I’ve gotten the two vaccinations. I’ve had the vaccination booster shot. I wear masks when I go anywhere outside of my car or my parents’ homes. (I have to take my rescue inhaler far more often with a mask on than without it, as I am asthmatic, but I still wear the masks as long as I can.)

Still. The point remains, I will not give someone else Covid if I can help it.

There are folks out there who do not believe Covid is that big of a deal. I have to say I don’t understand that. Even if you just — just! — see this as akin to a bad case of the seasonal flu, the seasonal flu can kill you. (It most often kills those with depressed immune systems — immunocompromised — or the very young or the very old, granted.)

As I’ve said all along, I hate wearing masks. I don’t know how much good a normal mask does. (A N-95 or a Korean N-94 is different, but I can wear them for even less time than a more normal medical-type mask.) But I do know that at the beginning of the re-opening after the first pandemic shutdown, two hairstylists (I think in the South somewhere) went to work not knowing they had Covid. They cut several people’s hair that day, and neither of them gave Covid to anyone else.

(That’s the main reason I keep trying to wear my mask. But I digress.)

Anyway, the point of this blog is that I do not have Covid. I am very, very glad not to have Covid. I hope I never do get Covid, because I’ve worried all along about my parents and friends, and I do not want to spread Covid to them or anyone else.

Have any of you had any issues with regards to Covid? Are you as worried about it as I am? If not, why not? (Aside from politics, that is. I still don’t know how politics got messed up in medical care.) Please tell me how you feel in the comments.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 31, 2022 at 6:50 am

Music and Bad Sinuses

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Folks, over the last week, I had to make a difficult decision.

You see, while we were dealing with the pandemic, the band I play in — the Racine Concert Band — was not able to play any concerts. But now that the pandemic is on the way out, the RCB will be playing its entire free summer concert season every Sunday night in July and August.

The thing is, I’ve been battling some health issues. (This should not be a surprise to any regular reader of this blog.) And as of today, I have been diagnosed, again, with an acute sinus infection.

I wasn’t sure, last Thursday, when the RCB had its first rehearsal since 2019, if I could play or not. But that night, I was not able to go to rehearsal as I just felt too ill. As I look forward to playing in the band, this was very disheartening, to say the least.

Anyway, after some thought, I decided that I needed to take a leave of absence from the band for this summer season. This was hard to do for two reasons. One, I love to play. Two, I am — or anyway, have been — a member of the RCB’s board of directors.

So, that’s the upshot. I have a sinus infection, again. And I won’t be playing in the RCB’s summer concert season, though I still urge you to go if you live in Southeastern Wisconsin or Northern Illinois whenever you can. (It’s excellent music, the setting at the Racine Zoo is beautiful, and it’s absolutely free. What more can anyone ask?)

Risk-taking and Concerts

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A few hours ago, I finished a concert with the Racine Concert Band. I played a solo on clarinet in front of about three hundred people at the Racine Zoo; they weren’t there to see me, because we had vaudevillian Pinkerton Xyloma there and he’s always extremely popular. (He’s a man of many talents, is Pinkerton Xyloma. But I digress.)

Anyway, the piece I played was the “Pie in the Face Polka,” by Henry Mancini. It has a lot of runs, arpeggios, and is meant to be bouncy, a little jazzy (in an old-timey way), and fun.

Now, why was this a risk, as if you’ve read my blog for a long time, you know I play clarinet as well as alto saxophone? Simple. I haven’t had as much time for my clarinet in the last few years as I’d like. I’m not playing steadily in any groups on clarinet. And my health has not been what I’d like it to be, so that means I have had to concentrate on what is in front of me — the groups I’m already playing in, on saxophone, mostly — rather than other things I’d like to do in addition (that is, playing my clarinet much more often).

Even so, I’d asked to play a clarinet solo for three years running. This year, I got one. I learned it in a couple of weeks.

And then we had our rehearsal — as we have one rehearsal for each summer concert — and I thought I played terribly. At best, I got seventy-five percent of it, but between playing sax for most of the rehearsal (as I also did on the concert) and being tired to start with, I knew that was the best I could do at the time.

Of course, I practiced even harder in the intervening three days. And I felt much more confident with it tonight, even though I still made mistakes and played at about ninety percent of my own personal capacity.

In other words, I didn’t embarrass myself. And while it’s not the best I’ve ever played, it’s possibly the best I’ve played in two or three years on clarinet.

I’m very glad I had the opportunity to play the “Pie in the Face Polka.” But it was a risk. And not just because of the information I’ve already given you.

See, I was recovering from some sort of upper respiratory infection (again). My back went out (again). And during the previous Sunday night concert, I’d managed to turn my right ankle — meaning I was walking with a notable limp (and very slowly, besides).

Not to mention, it was also my late husband Michael’s birthday. (Yes, he was born on Bastille Day.) He wouldn’t have celebrated it, but he’d have turned sixty-one, had he lived. And of course I knew that…so I wanted to play the best I possibly could in honor of him, wherever he is in the cosmos. (As matter can’t be created or destroyed, I firmly believe at least a little of Michael continues to exist outside of me, somewhere and somehow.)

You see, Michael always enjoyed hearing me practice my instruments. (Any and all.) He also read any of my music compositions, as he could read all clefs, and he could talk intelligently about music. I knew if he’d have been here, he’d not have BSed me in any way, but he’d still have enjoyed himself — the ten percent I didn’t get, he’d have said was due to the vagaries of performance and art…and that who wants to hear a perfect concert, anyway? (It’s the imperfections that make it interesting, he always said.)

So, despite all the obstacles, I got it done. That’s the important thing.

And the audience seemed to enjoy it, too…even though I still think they were there for Pinkerton Xyloma! (Wink.)

 

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 15, 2019 at 2:55 am

That Irreplaceable Someone…

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As it’s Sunday, I wanted to talk about something vaguely inspirational. Enjoy!

We are told, as we grow up, that we need to be that irreplaceable person. Be the best. Be the brightest. Be the only one who can do everything that’s required.

What we aren’t told is that not everyone can be the best. Or the brightest. Or be the only one that can do everything, either.

However, what we’re told isn’t wrong, exactly. Because we can only be ourselves. And if we are our best self — well, then, that is something no one else on the face of this Earth can be.

And that is, indeed, attainable.

I write this as I’m about to play a concert this evening with the Racine Concert Band. Tonight, I’m playing alto saxophone. Next week, I’ll be playing clarinet. (And, possibly also, alto saxophone.) And when I play a part on one instrument, someone else has to cover the part I’d usually play. And while they can and will cover the part, they can’t and won’t do it the same way I can.

(This sounds obvious, but hear me out, OK?)

The other person will get things right I won’t. The other person will miss things I would’ve gotten right. Or, maybe, we’d both play it note-perfect all night long, but have different nuances to add — or not — to the equation.

But what’s important is, that other person is playing the part the best way he can. Doing his best, making his best effort, trying his hardest, all that.

While of course I’m doing the same wherever I am, as nothing less will do.

Tonight in the band concert, we’re playing a piece called “Jubilation Overture” by Robert Ward. This is one of our conductor Mark Eichner’s favorite pieces (it should be, too; it’s really a fun piece), and so that means I’ve played it before. The last time I played it, in fact, I played the solo clarinet part — which means tonight on alto, I have to remember other people are playing that, and I have to concentrate on my own part instead, thank you. (Otherwise, my fingering and embouchure will be off, to say the least.)

And, this week, my section leader and stand-partner, Vivian, is off on vacation. While I’m covering her parts for her, I can’t do anything the same way she would — just as she can’t do anything the same way I would.

But do I miss her playing? You bet I do. And do I miss her being there, steady as a rock, on nights I quite frankly don’t feel well? Absolutely.

She is irreplaceable, you see. (And yes, so am I. But that’s not the point.)

We as human beings need to concentrate on what we can. Not worry so much about what other people can do. Just what we can do. And do it to the level best of our abilities, and keep doing it, as long as we possibly can.

That’s what our parents and teachers and others meant, when they told us to be our best selves. And it’s something we can continue to work on, all the days of our lives.

Summer Concert Season, Again

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Folks, I wanted to drop in a little bloglet, and let you know that the Racine Concert Band’s season of free summer concerts has started.

As of last night (June 30, 2019, to be exact), the RCB will have seven free concerts at the Racine Zoo. And if you live in Southeastern Wisconsin or Northern Illinois, and want to hear some fun band music, you should stop out and see us. (Did I mention it’s free?)

Now, as to why I didn’t say anything before the first concert? Well, last year, we had a rainout the night I talked about the band, and I knew inclement weather was forecast. So call me superstitious, if you will — and you probably will — but I didn’t think I should say something until at least one concert was in the “good books.”

Plus, I will admit that my health the past week wasn’t the world’s best. (Even by my admittedly low standards, unfortunately.) I was diagnosed with an acute sinus infection, asthma exacerbation/bronchitis, fluid in both ears, allergic conjunctivitis in both eyes…basically, I was a hot mess.

Fortunately, after a breathing treatment at the doctor’s office, and six prescription medications later, I’m starting to feel better. I even wrote a little fiction, for the first time in three weeks…and, of course, I’m writing this little bit right now, to keep y’all informed.

So, I did get the first concert in. I didn’t feel that great. I don’t think I played up to my standards. (I think I played maybe 3/4 or a bit more of my usual standards.) But the crowd was appreciative, no band members gave me any dirty looks (which can happen when you’re playing very badly, as it’s the only way we have to blow off steam silently), and I didn’t collapse.

Which, of course, is the very definition of a win. And while that’s not precisely the win I wanted, I am glad I was able to do it…and as I am responding to the antibiotics and prednisone well (two of the six Rxes), I expect that in coming days I’ll be able to do more and more of what I normally would.

Concert Aftermath, Etc.

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Well, as promised, here’s a report on my latest concert with the Racine Concert Band, which was held at Horlick High School in Racine, Wisconsin, on February 26, 2019. I’m going to give you my general impressions of each piece, in the hopes you’ll appreciate the music even without hearing any of it.

The band played four pieces, which started with Richard Rodney Bennett’s Farnham Festival Overture. Overtures, along with marches, are traditional to start a band concert with; they have a known structure and pacing that audiences are accustomed to. The main difference between Bennett’s version and other overtures I’ve played had to do with how well Bennett understood how to write for symphonic band, and exactly what instrument could do which thing the best. A part written for euphonium was meant for exactly that instrument, rather than being a part that could’ve been given to a tenor saxophonist in a pinch; a part written for the tuba was idiomatic for the tuba, and worked perfectly with the rest of the orchestration.

In other words, it was a cute little piece that did exactly what it ought: it started the concert out well.

The second piece was an arrangement of Joseph Haydn’s St. Anthony Divertimento, which is known predominantly for its second movement (a chorale). This piece has four short movements, and is a staple of classical music because of its form and feeling. There is some dispute as to whether Haydn wrote this himself or whether one of his students, Pleyel, wrote it instead; what there isn’t a dispute about is how pretty the music is, how measured, and how much it embodies the feeling of stately grace.

The band seemed to enjoy this one. It’s another sweet piece that audiences enjoy, and it helped the concert move along nicely.

The third piece was an unusual work by Ottorino Resphigi called The Huntingtower Ballad for Band. Written in 1932, it was commissioned by the American Bandmaster’s Association to be played at a memorial concert after the death of John Philip Sousa (composer and bandmaster legend). Respighi is known for big orchestral works like The Pines of Rome, and he brought that sensibility with him into this piece. According to my conductor, Mark Eichner, who looked into the writing of this piece at a deeper level, Respighi had only six weeks to write this piece before the concert, and that made it perhaps shorter than it needed to be.

But what was even more interesting was the story behind why Respighi wrote it in the first place. It was meant to be programmatic, as it was about a historical love story (and nearly everyone can get behind those!), and there were three definite sections: the first being a lead-in to the main section, which is about the two young lovers trying to figure out a solution to their seemingly doomed love affair, and the third, quiet section where it’s obvious the lovers got away and have started a new life free from anyone getting in their way.

I’ll be honest, here; this particular work was challenging to put together. Not because any part was all that difficult, mind; it’s that the harmonies were not what you usually hear and the phrase lengths were either shorter or longer than most. (I know this isn’t very concise of a description, but describing music in words is quite difficult. Please bear with me.) The horns and low brass stood out in the Respighi, and they made this piece shine.

And the fourth and final piece of the band’s solo part of the program was the Malcolm Arnold English Dances. This is another four-movement work, but it’s a difficult one because it’s both lively and technically challenging. This was the one piece I had a solo part on, and I hope I did it justice.

The Arnold, for me, was by far my favorite piece of the night, and not just because I managed to snag a solo part. There were melodies, counter-melodies, and outstanding orchestration (Arnold was known for his orchestrational abilities). They were immediately accessible to the listener.

In short, you don’t have to love classical music to have enjoyed our program on Tuesday night. You just have to keep an open mind and listen, and hear…”those who have ears, let them hear,” as the Bible said. (I may be misquoting this.)

Our coda, concert-wise, was the Moorside March by Gustav Holst. We played that alongside members of the Horlick High School band. It’s a very short, English march (short in Holstian terms, anyway, as Holst is known for pieces like The Planets, First Suite for Band, and Second Suite for Band.) The Horlick members did a fine job on this work, and the audience seemed to enjoy it.

My reminiscences here wouldn’t be complete without saying a few more things.

First, I played this concert through a very bad back strain. Afterwards, I was down for about a day and a half. (Right now, with the physical limitations I struggle with, anything I do, I’m going to pay for in pain. It’s just the way it is.) Because of this, I wasn’t in that great of a mood either on the night of our dress rehearsal or on the concert itself.**

Second, I have to admit that it was difficult, again, to go to a concert, play the concert, and have no one there to listen to me play it. Sometimes, I’m fortunate and my Mom is well enough to go; that wasn’t the case this time. Other times, my sister can go, which also wasn’t the case. Still other times, my good friend who lives in town can come hear me play…but again, that wasn’t possible this time.

It’s at times like these, when my back is out, I must play the concert anyway, and I have no help whatsoever to get in (though I did have help on the night of the dress rehearsal, as one of the horn players helped me in and out of rehearsal when she realized I was in distress — bless her forever for doing this!), that I start feeling extremely frustrated.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to play music. I hope the audience enjoyed what we did. And I was happy to get a solo, and as I said before, I hope I did it justice.

Because of my physical limitations, I am now among the first to get to rehearsal (to make it easier for me to get settled and put my horn together) and the last to leave. This was definitely the case on Tuesday with my back being as painful as it was; my conductor, Mark Eichner, and his wife Esther, were waiting patiently for me to finish getting my winter boots back on (as I brought dress shoes along for the concert, of course), get bundled up, and get out. They couldn’t leave until I did, as the room had to be locked behind me…sigh.

That said, the only way I got through that concert was to pretend my husband, along with my best friend Jeff, were in the audience. They both loved music. They would’ve enjoyed seeing me play. And I can’t imagine, had they lived to see this day, that they wouldn’t have been there. So it made me feel a little better to picture them there, and made me feel far less alone in the bargain.

And yes, in case you’re keeping score, I also pictured them waiting for me as I was the last to leave. And tried to think about what they’d say, while I drove home, in great pain.

I was fortunate when I got back, because my father helped me get inside with my saxophone (he carried it, and my purse, too, as he knew I was in agony). He didn’t ask much about the concert, though, as the Badger basketball game was on, and he really wanted to know how that game would end.

So, that’s my wrap-up. I hope you enjoyed it, even with my additional conversational fillips regarding my bad back and the difficulties I had playing this concert. If I did my job correctly on that stage, the audience never knew thing one about it…and that’s as it should be. Because music, like any form of art, should speak for itself.

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**And in case the person at Horlick High School who was in charge of moving the chairs, etc., for the band to sit on sees this, I want to apologize to him. I was curt there, when I realized a whole row of chairs was missing. (We needed eight more chairs for the saxes and the French horns.) Normally, I wouldn’t be as short (I hope I wasn’t rude, and I didn’t use any foul language, but still), because I do understand how difficult it can be for one person to try to set up and strike a stage after a concert.