Rolling Into 2018

New Year’s Eve is here once again, and I have just enough down time today to reflect on this past year.  Free time is a bit of a rarity for me recently!

A lot of positive things have come to fruition this year.  “Dreamcatcher” was released in July (you can hear it here, or purchase the 2-CD set here hint hint).  I’m very proud of the work and the recording, and now I’m itching to dive into another large scale work.  I can’t thank trombonist Haim Avitsur and conductor Ovidiu Marinescu enough for their efforts.

I’ve also heard the preliminary edits for “Woman A/Part,” due out next May on the newest Trio Casals CD.  The trio (Sylvia Ahramjian, violin; Ovidiu Marinescu, cello; and Anna Kislitsyna, piano) did yet another amazing job, and I’m incredibly pleased with the result.  I can’t share the artwork or title with you just yet – it hasn’t been officially announced – but the folks at Parma Recordings have done an outstanding job.  Look for the CD release in May, along with another concert in New York City.

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a new work for the Vision of Sound New Music and Dance Festival, coming up in early April.  I’ve been partnered with choreographer Christina D’Amico, and I can’t wait to see what she does with the new piece!

On the performance end of things, I’m still playing with Samba Laranja.  As a matter of fact, we have been in the recording studio recently, working on yet another CD which should be released in 2018.  This is the fourth CD for this group.  I’m also still part of the Central New York Flute Choir, playing my wonderful contrabass flute.  The CNY Flute Choir held a workshop this year, as well as putting on several concerts, including the premiere of J.C. Dist, written by Jelle Hogenhuis (who made my contrabass flute), and which I transcribed and arranged.

I’m also continuing in my role with the Syracuse Opera, translating and projecting the supertitles, as well as jumping into a new role presenting the pre-show interviews with the stage and musical directors.  This is a great way for the audience to get a bit of insight into each opera before the curtain rises.

Things are still going strong at the radio station as well.  I’ve had some really fun interviews (including my chat with Anne Akiko Meyers, who was incredibly warm and charming).  Feminine Fusion is also doing well, and gaining more and more listeners every week.  It’s been over a year now, and I can’t wait to see what next year has in store.

And so, as we get ready to turn the calendar over once again to ring in the new year, I’ll take just a moment to thank everyone who has touched my life in 2017, and look toward a 2018 filled with music and joy.

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

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Marching in the Westcott Street Cultural Fair Parade with Samba Laranja

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Trio Casals rehearsing “Woman A/Part” before the New York premiere

Diane Jones and the Central New York Flute Choir

Performing with the Central New York Flute Choir

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Interview with Anne Akiko Meyers at WCNY

 

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Two Full Time Jobs?

Leaving the corporate world and entering college full-time to learn music composition at 40(-ish) years old was a huge lifestyle change.  And not an easy one.  I knew that working in the arts was not likely to be a highly profitable career move.  At the same time, I knew that music – both composing and performing – was my passion, and I felt compelled to pursue it to the best of my abilities.

That hasn’t been easy.  Part-way through my graduate degree, we had a significant setback in our household income (one of the risks of self-employment).  And when your income is cut in half, I’m sure you’ll understand the temptation to say, “Screw the music degree.  I’m going back to making money.”  Believe me, there was an awful lot of discussion and soul-searching in that challenging year.

At some point during that time, I saw an interview with Penn & Teller.  They – well, mostly Penn Jillette – talked about when they decided to truly make a go of their partnership.  They decided that, from that point on, they would not take any work outside their chosen field.  No unrelated “I’ll do this ‘until’ we start to make it” jobs.  That decision really resonated with me.  Working full-time as an administrator (or whatever) meant my musical ambitions would be at the mercy of the needs of my non-musical job.  So together, my husband and I decided to follow that example.  I would not take a job that was not musically-related, and we would make whatever sacrifices were necessary in order to allow me to pursue my music.

One of the most fun things to come out of that decision has been my role at WCNY-FM, the Classical Music station based here in Syracuse, NY.  For the better part of the last 6 years, I’ve been the “fill-in” host.  I always said I had perhaps the most fun job at the station.  I got to fill in at all hours of the day, weekdays and weekends, and learn how all the other hosts did their programming.  In some ways, it’s like a book editor – you get to know how the personality of each individual host by the idiosyncrasies of their programming.  During that time, I also did a lot of the weekend programming and hosting, which allowed me to explore and share my own sensibilities with our listeners.  Not to mention, I had plenty of flexibility, which allowed me to continue to compose and perform.

Well, starting August 26th, that’s going to change a bit!  Long-time mid-day host Bill Baker has decided to retire.  I’m terribly sad to see him go, as he has been a fixture at WCNY in both Radio and TV for many years.  BUT . . . I have been asked to step in as the new mid-day host!  I can’t wait to share my programming with a wider audience, not to mention the opportunity to bring you the Concert Hall (sharing those hosting duties with Bruce Paulsen), and some incredible interviews with the Live at Noon Series (including Matt Haimovitz, the Neave Trio, and Jeffrey Siegel, for starters!)

I must say, though, that before I said “YES!” to this exciting opportunity (and I promise you, it was a big, enthusiastic “YES!”) I took the time to think it through very carefully.  As much fun as it is to work at the station, I am, first and foremost, a full-time composer.  Part-time fill-in work is easy and fun – jump in, chat on the air, and zip home.  The responsibilities of a full-time position require more effort, for sure.  I had to think about what I am willing to give up, or not, to do this job.

First and foremost, I cannot give up composing.  That, more than anything, is the second greatest joy in my life (outside of my family).  Nor will I give up performing.  Working with Samba Laranja and the Central New York Flute Choir is waaaaaay too much fun to set aside, not to mention the individual and small group performance opportunities that continue to come my way.  On the other hand, being a host on WCNY-FM gives me the opportunity to immerse myself in an exceptional catalog of classical music every single day, including the newest releases hot off the presses.  Having access to such an incredible array of music, plus the opportunities to meet and converse with outstanding musicians and other professionals in the classical world?  As the commercial says:  PRICELESS!

That’s not to say there won’t be a bit of an adjustment period!  I don’t think I’ll be staying up until 6 or 7 am to work on the newest piece anymore.  (Unless you want to hear me snoring on the air!)  But I am confident that I’ll be able to balance both hosting and composing duties, and still have time to attend some concerts, or for the occasional trip to wine country, or just for some quality time with Dear Hubby and Benson the Dog.

So do me a favor.  Watch my Pet Dragon Music website for monthly updates on my compositional activities (and remember, you can listen to my works and purchase the scores from there as well).  Give me a “Like” on Facebook for more frequent updates on my various activities.  And if you like classical music trivia, follow me on Twitter – I’ll be sending out a daily tweet with an interesting tidbit about the music I’m playing on the radio!

When Things Come Together

It’s an exciting time!  Rehearsals for the 2014-15 concert season have started, the Brazilian ensemble has had two performances in the last week, with two more scheduled for this week.  The flute choir repertoire is set after our reading session last week, and rehearsals start in earnest next week.

And CDs!

Last night I got a copy of the (nearly) final master for the upcoming Samba Laranja CD, featuring my work, Travels.  I am so privileged to have been involved not only in the recording of Travels, but in both performing and giving artistic input on the rest of the CD as well.  The last CD won a SAMMY – and honestly, this one is sounding even better.

Which has raised my excitement level for the new Trio Casals CD as well!  I’m working closely with the sound engineers at PARMA right now, to get Three Songs sounding just perfect.  (Not a difficult job, really, given the incredible performances by Trio Casals!)  Now I realize what a difference it will make when I can hear it in context with the rest of the CD.  I’m even more excited to hear the full master!

It’s also exciting – and a bit nervewracking – to watch the Indiegogo funding campaign.  With just 18 days left, I haven’t quite hit the 20% funding mark.  So here it is, another request for you to check out the campaign and make your contribution.  Then share it with your friends and family, and ask them to support it as well.

Trio Casals: Sylvia Ahramjian, violin, Anna Kislitsyna, piano, & Ovidiu Marinescu, 'cello

Trio Casals: Sylvia Ahramjian, violin, Anna Kislitsyna, piano, & Ovidiu Marinescu, ‘cello

 

Still not sure if you want to support a new and untried work?  That’s understandable.  And so I encourage you to read this article from Minnesota Public Radio.

Three Songs Re-launch

I love September.  In many ways, it feels like a re-birth to me.  Rehearsals start up again for Samba Laranja and the CNY Flute Choir.  The concert season begins in earnest for most music and arts organizations.  Days are breezy, nights are wonderfully cool, leaves are showing the first signs of turning.  It’s as though everyone and everything is pausing just enough to catch a deep breath.

Sure, August ended on a low note.  But I took my own deep breath last weekend, and now I feel re-energized and ready to push ahead once more.

That’s why I’ve launched another campaign to raise funds for my Three Songs, this time on Indiegogo.  Once again, I’m starting from scratch, but I am much more confident this time around.  I’ve learned a lot, and I expect I’ll be better able to spread the word to not only the folks who tried to back me the last time (and hopefully will renew that backing!), but to an even broader audience. 

I’ve said it before, and it’s not news – making new music available to a broad audience takes resources – monetary resources.  Recording, publishing, performers and performance spaces, publicity – all of this comes at a cost.  No matter how frugal I am, it won’t happen for free, especially considering this is much more than a simple CD release.  The enhanced CD includes extra digital content (scores, liner notes, interviews), and the whole process culminates in two live performances, one in New York and the other in Philadelphia.  Believe me, every single dollar is being stretched to its limit!

As for the actually fundraising, this time around I’m concentrating even more on sharing my music with you.  I’ve added several music videos to my Vimeo page for you.  And I’ve given you a little more insight into the inspiration behind the Three Songs in my Indiegogo video, in the hopes it will inspire you to fund these Three Songs

I’ll also be giving you more blog and Facebook entries, and I would love to hear from you with any questions or thoughts you may have.  The smallest funding level is just $1, which means our conversation can start with, “Thank you so much for your support!”

Damaging More Than Instruments

Another story cropped up on my Facebook feed today about yet another manhandled instrument.  It’s gotten bad enough that WQXR published a “Top Five Flying Disasters for Musicians” list.  The fact that a) I’ve already read about all 5 of these, and b) there are at least half a dozen more I could add to the list without thinking, is getting me worried.

Part of the worry is, of course, the frustration that the mechanisms of musician’s livelihoods are being carelessly tossed around – and too often, destroyed – by individuals who have no understanding of what they are handling.  Sure, not everyone can recognize the difference between an inexpensive student bow and a $20,000 ‘cello bow(So why not treat them all like $20,000 bows?)  But causing this kind of property damage is more than just frustrating and expensive.  It is hindering these musicians’ ability to make a living.  And it’s more than just TSA agents at fault.  Airline baggage handlers are not noted for their gentle ways.  They have limited time to load and unload the cargo hold, so everything gets tossed and tumbled.

I have a bigger fear, however.  Of those 5 incidents mentioned by WQXR, two have culminated in cessation of traveling for performances.  (Those decisions have surely included more reasons than just instrument damage, but that was clearly a significant factor.)   How many more musicians have to curtail their travel before this becomes a significant problem?  Do orchestras have to add extra days to their tours just to navigate through the random seizures and fines?

I know it’s cliché to talk about music as the “universal language,” but sometimes a cliché is accurate.  Music transcends language, moves without borders, and unites individuals in unexpected ways.  Music can become the ultimate melting pot, bringing together voices and instruments from a wide variety of cultures and perspectives, opening listeners to new experiences.

Part of the melting pot comes from the internet.  Services like YouTube and Vimeo bring performances to individuals who might not get a chance to see them otherwise.  But nothing compares to a live performance – the energy, the charisma of the performer, interacting with the audience in unpredictable ways.

But what if the performer never leaves home?

Imagine what it would be like if Yo-Yo Ma limited his performances to a 3-hour driving radius from his home in Cambridge, MA.  Or if James Galway never left Meggen, Switzerland.  Want to hear the Preservation Hall Jazz Band?  Get yourself down to New Orleans, because they’ll never leave the hall.  And orchestras will surely never tour again.

I’m an idealist.  I hope to eventually live in a truly global community.  But these kind of antics are forcing us to hunker down, afraid to venture away from home.  We are isolating ourselves and worse, our art – the aspect of ourselves that is best able to reach across boundaries of geography and culture, and speak directly to the human heart.