Saturday, August 17, 2019


by Amanda Jacobs

 ‘Broadway Sound’ is the terminology that was originally used to describe the orchestral sound of Robert Russell Bennett’s orchestration during the Golden Age American Musical Theater of the 1950s and 60s.  Bennett was the king of orchestration during these years, and scored over 200 musicals.  He was the ‘go to’ man of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Kern, Berlin, Lerner & Lowe … and all the other Golden Age writers of Broadway musicals.  In his autobiography, he describes the way in which he came to orchestration, his background and training, and how he went about creating the organic and orchestral sounds he generated with smaller orchestras. He also wrote some important essays on the orchestration process.

As his life and career were ending, Broadway musicals were shifting in sound as Rock and alternative types of music entered the scene.  Bennett’s  ‘Broadway Sound’ no longer served the style of music being created and songwriting began to take on newer forms of sound that no longer fit in an organic sound world.  Electric guitar, greater prominence of percussion and amplified sound began to be the norm and sound engineers became extremely important.  Song writers of the 70s and 80s were not as tuneful and harmonies began to be simplified and predictable.   

This simplification of sound and song created a very real need for arrangers and orchestrators to be better skilled than the composers because the melodic and harmonic writing of the scores did not carry the emotional messages that the tuneful melodies of the past did.  

Arrangers and orchestrators had to fulfill those needs through their writing with their additions and symphonic tricks of percussion and musical commentary on lyric, because the songs themselves were inadequate.  These scores were what Jonathan Tunick described to me as ‘needy’. 

The quality of the songs needed the aid and band-aids of the arrangers and orchestrators to provide the emotional impact and to support the actors on stage.   As a result, ‘Broadway Sound’ became a catch-all phrase for orchestrators who happened to be working on Broadway at that time.  In reality, so-called ‘Broadway Sound’ splintered into styles that orchestrators claimed.  And so, the myth of ‘Broadway Sound’ was born.

Producers further complicated things because they needed even smaller orchestras due to the rise in salaries of the union musicians, as well as the rise in costs of producing musicals in Broadway houses.  Thus, more and more synthesized sounds came into the pit along with doubling and tripling of instrumentalists.

As a result, we now have Tunick-sound, Starobin-sound, Jahnke-sound, Besterman-sound, Hochman-sound, Troob-sound, etc.   Today, musicals are matched to the need of the score based on style.  These orchestrators create very successful scores because producers and composers agree that orchestrator-style will enhance the musical worlds of the stories.   

For example, if you want a clear, clean and elegant score of early 20th-Century, you go to Tunick.  GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE is only nine players by my count.    If you need bells and whistles, listen to Troob.   His ALADDIN is magical with the Disney sound he creates.  If you need bold, synthetic sound, try Jahnke—KING KONG--genius.  If you want huge sound that will blow you away, best go to Hochmann—BOOK OF MORMON, BIG FISH.  The unique style of sound of each of these highly skilled orchestrators is matched to the project in order to honor the world of the story and flesh out the original musical ideas provided by the composer and creatives. 

AUSTEN’S PRIDE is a lush and fertile score, so it does not need tricks to create emotional interplay between song and ear.   In other words, it does not need to be nurtured and tended to for the life to be drawn out of it (e.g. constant presence of a thick sound) because melodic shapes and harmonies were specifically created to evoke these emotions.   The arrangements are constant conversations between the singer and the instrumental.   The characters of this world would idolize the sound of the Classical period.  This is the sound that they would know and understand, and this is why they would sing.

We know this to be true about the arrangements because the score is beautiful with piano alone.   Its orchestral needs should be created by enhancing its present elegance and adding the shimmer and glitter of percussion.  The support comes internally with the strings and winds.

The story of AUSTEN’S PRIDE does NOT take place in the Romantic period.  The novel world of FIRST IMPRESSIONS is set in the late 1790s and the world of AUSTEN and the story of her encounter with her novel takes place in 1812.   If we look to music history for support of the show’s sound world , Beethoven was still in his early period (Classical sound), and his heroic period (or middle period) occurred during the setting of AUSTEN’s world.   Scholars do not recognize Beethoven’s late period until the late 1820s.    So, musically we are not yet to the Romantic period.

Over the years of the show’s development, I see how my piano-vocal arrangements can be confusing to those who first encounter them because the arrangements of AUSTEN’S PRIDE are written with Romantic harmonies super-imposed on Classical styles of writing. A skilled pianist reads the writing of the arrangements and approaches it like a Classical score.  They see the phrasing and writing and know to play these romantic harmonies in a Classical style, whereas the less skilled player will play it in a Romantic style.  This is why it sounds beautiful on piano alone with a skilled player.  

Armed with this knowledge, successful orchestrations of AUSTEN’S PRIDE happen when both orchestrator and musicians understand the world of sound in this way.  The players in the pit simultaneously nod to the classical and romantic worlds, and the orchestrator wraps it all up with a generous sprinkling of shimmering glitter and the glamour of Broadway.


"The Broadway Sound": The Autobiography and Selected Essays of Robert Russell Bennett.  2002.  Rochester, NY: Eastman Studies in Music. 

Personal Interviews with Jonathan Tunick, July 7, 2015 and September 29, 2015.

Personal Interview with Chris Jahnke.  January 22, 2016.

Phone Interview with Doug Besterman.  May 2014.

Phone Interview with Larry Hochmann.  Summer 2015.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

When I was a child, I thought this was the funniest joke.  "Practice, practice, practice!"  And, while there is a great truth in these three words, the word 'practice' embodies so much more.

Tonight, I give my Carnegie Hall debut with THE SONG CYCLES of BEACHY HEAD as both a performer and a composer ...  Performing in Carnegie Hall was something I only dreamed of doing all those years ago.   Yet, today, as I prepare myself to go on stage, I keep thinking, "How did I get here?"

Yes.  I did practice ... years of practice to be able to play as well as I do ... Yes.  I did practice-- creating and composing music ... Yes.  I did practice playing this recital in many cities around the globe ... but, today ... as I sit here contemplating, I know that ALL of that practice comes down to whether or not I believed in myself.  A performance in Carnegie Hall never happens without belief, which I believe is action fueled by love.

I am filled with overwhelming emotion ... so much love will be there tonight ... family and friends ... perhaps even some of my greatest critics or enemies ... Who knows ... ?  But ... what I do know is that tonight my performance is a statement of belief about myself ... and I am saying to the world:  This is my best!!

Thank you, Beth Dolan, and Shelley Waite ... my favorite Beachy Heads!!
See you at WEILL HALL

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Feeling Lucky

Ever since I moved to Rochester, NY in 1996,  I have always felt myself fortunate to live here.  I love my home; I love the city, the people, and everything this wonderful city has to offer.  My gratitude was especially felt this weekend when I had the good luck to go to the Clothesline Festival at the Memorial Art Gallery.   

Walking on the campus of this museum is always inspiring because of the sculpture that dots the lawn, but it was even more inspiring this past weekend because of all the imagination and creativity that I saw in the booths.  So many vendors with beautiful wares to sell!  Pottery, Weaving, Clothing, Leatherwear, Paintings, Woodwork--the creativity displayed was in abundance, and I could have bought so many things--and did!  However, what was most meaningful to me were the stories of the vendors.

Here are some of the highlights:

Middle Earth Leatherworks makes some of the most stunning leather bags, all hand-crafted in Syracuse.   The young woman that talked to me about her work said that she started as her father's apprentice but now designs.  Her bags are so well made and beautiful as she uses contrasting leathers to create her works of art.

The same is true of the pottery I saw in the first booth I visited--works of art by potter, Hodaka Hasebe.  His story of dreaming of being a potter to actually becoming a potter was SO INSPIRING because he pursued his dream and lives it.  I could feel myself so lucky to buy one of his distinctive turquoise bowls to enjoy.  I could imagine how my yogurt and blueberries would look dressed in one of his lovely bowls, so I bought one and wasn't disappointed the next morning.

The Plein Air Paintings in Oil by Barbara Jablonski also drew my eye.  Her paintings tell me that she has been to the places she paints, and they are as vibrant as her personality.   Her story of how she was a consultant "to pay the bills", but made business appointments with herself to paint until she could do it full time showed me that creativity is a powerful force that can direct a person's life and lead them to happiness.

Lastly, I loved the illustration of an Ithaca artist by the name of Marika Chew.  Even her business card of the redwing blackbird is gorgeous!  I could see from her work that she loves creating and how she pursued that love by learning how to do it well.

Yes.  I feel so lucky to be here.  In Rochester.  Living among the courageous people who create --Living among people make our world a more beautiful place.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

IN HIGHLAND PASTURES - Writing a Christmas Carol

Every year, I write a Christmas Carol for my family, friends and people I have worked with throughout the years.   I send it as my Christmas Card ... and feature a talented friend/singer ... Every year, I wonder ... can I write a carol that actually means something? ... that actually contributes something?  ...

I am always afraid that everything has been said about Christmas and I am always surprised when something takes hold in my mind and the lyrics appear.  This year was a remarkable spiritual journey through the lyrics and as I traveled through the story of Christmas.

In preparation to the actual construction of a melody, I read 100s of old Christmas poems in the public domain.   So much of the language of 100-year-old religious poetry is archaic, feels old-fashioned, or dwells on the thought that somehow I am not worthy and sinful ... but usually, there will be something so beautiful, that I will be drawn to a thought.

This year, I was inspired by Margaret Deland's 1907 poem  "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night" .  As I contemplated the role of the shepherds and sheep in the Christmas Story, I began to question who I am in the Christmas story ... "Am I like the shepherd or the sheep?  Do I run to the manger or sleep?"

What I realized is that no matter who I am today spiritually ... no matter how Christianity is seen in the world today, this story is part of who I am as a person because I was raised in the Christian faith.   And, every Christmas, I have a choice to embrace the story joyfully or reject it by my a humbug attitude or apathy.

This year, I choose to rejoice.

Down through the ages the story still rings
I will cling to the message of hope it brings
Angels are singing 'Gloria!'  Bringing 'Good News'  Gloria!
Peace to All upon the Earth.
Love comes to us with the Savior's Birth.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


On Monday, I arrived at 9 Church Walk in Aldeburgh, UK.  It is the former home of Imogen Holst, daughter of Gustav Holst and long-time assistant to  Benjamin Britten.   Imo lived in this small bungalow, built in the 1960s, that has a sound-poof room with a piano where she worked.  The bungalow now belongs to and is managed by the Britten-Pears Foundation, and composers are sometimes invited to come and work here.  I happened to be so lucky.

Many of Imo's books and furniture are still here ... and thoughout the day, I have the distinct feeling of walking in her footsteps wherever I go in Aldeburgh, and whatever I touch in the house.  Black and white photos of Imo are in the kitchen and living room ... The one in the kitchen gives me the most pleasure because she is smiling and holding a cup of coffee.   It feels like she is smiling at me, and I feel encouraged ... like I am doing what I was called to do.

The quiet is a gift; every day here is a gift.   With this time, my hope is to finish The Song Cycles of BEACHY HEAD.  I appreciate being here and thank the Bitten-Pears Foundation for their generosity and this gift of time.

Monday, August 29, 2016


Hearing the Intricacy of Charlotte Smith's Beachy Head:  

A Collaboration 
by Elizabeth Dolan, PhD

One of the most fruitful outcomes of our Visiting Fellowship programme is the varied and multidisciplinary collaborations that can result of different scholars having time together in an inspiring environment away from their usual lives. the musical interpretation of Charlotte Smith’s poem Beachy Head is one such collaboration. Elizabeth A. Dolan, Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University, tells us more.

At the end of a gloriously sunny July 2015 fellowship month, the JASNA international fellow, composer Amanda Jacobs invited me to collaborate with her in setting some of Charlotte Smith’s poetry to music. Charlotte Smith shaped Romantic-era poetry by initiating the sonnet revival, celebrating subjective experience as a legitimate poetic topic, and boldly experimenting with poetic form. Her 731-line poem Beachy Head (1807) depicts the landmass of the same name on the eastern coast of the British Isles, the coastline that was once joined to France. Writing the poem during England’s long war with France, Smith poignantly articulates themes of separation and continuity in the very spot the British expected an invasion. But the poem’s exploration extends well beyond Smith’s immediate historical moment to investigate the geographical, paleontological, botanical, commercial, and martial histories of this iconic landform. solitary figures wander in the landscape, including a shepherd, a smuggler, a heartbroken poet, and a hermit who recovers bodies from shipwrecks to bury them in the chalky coastal cliff. 

We felt that Beachy Head ’s formal variety, thematic complexity, and range of voices would lend themselves to a song cycle. At least one of Smith’s short poems has been set to music, yet no one has attempted Beachy Head. Indeed, very few Romantic-era women’s poems have been set to music, although poems by Blake, Byron, and other male poets have long been celebrated in this way. Amanda and I hope that our collaborative project will offer additional insight into Smith’s impressive contribution to the British poetic canon.

Although I teach Beachy Head regularly, this magisterial and capacious poem became more vivid to me in July when I visited the ‘stupendous summit . . . o’er the channel’ that inspired the poem (ll. 1-2). the sun-drenched white cliffs of the ‘projecting head-land’ came alive through smith’s lines (ll. 12). the air was filled with the ‘shrill harsh cry’ of ‘terns, and gulls, and tarrocks,’ punctuated by the vocalise of the ‘bleating flock’ (ll. 21, 23, 28). even today, the sheep farms seem to run up to the edgeofthecliff,sothatonefeelstheperilof ‘the little careless sheep/ On the brink grazing’ (ll. 684-85). Watching the ‘changing colours of the sea,’ one imagines smith’s hermit on a stormier day scanning the water for bodies to recover (ll. 693). Beachy Head calls one to these cliffs and these cliffs invite one more deeply into smith’s poem.

As Amanda and I read Beachy Head aloud to each other via skype, we began to hear the poem’s intricate structure. Although they are not explicitly marked, discrete thematic cycles in Beachy Head emerged, which we are translating into song cycles. We have identified and named both the cycles and the individual songs. the ‘Beachy head Cycle’ contains a prologue and 4 songs (ll. 1-117); a long, single song interlude, ‘historical Contemplation,’ follows (ll. 117-166). next smith takes up ‘happiness’ in a 5-song cycle (ll. 167-309), and then begins the 7-song ‘nature Cycle,’ which includes lines that speak back to ‘historical Contemplation’ (ll. 309- 505). Five songs make up the ‘stranger’s Cycle,’ one of which harkens back to the ‘happiness Cycle’ (ll. 506-671). Finally, three songs comprise the ‘hermit’s Cycle’ (ll. 671-731). In all we identified 5 song cycles containing a total of 26 songs, a major undertaking for Amanda to set. With this framework in mind, we worked through the poem again, examining each line to extract lyrics for the songs. In order to preserve the integrity of the poem, we did not add, but only took away smith’s words. As Amanda has
taught me, the music can fill in for words so that nothing is truly lost, just translated.
With a draft of the lyrics in hand, Amanda began to compose. Amanda first sketches the melody and chord progression, and then formally sets the song with the full piano accompaniment. smith’swordsspeakinanewwaywhensetto Amanda’s beautiful music. Quite different from anything literary critics might write, the musical setting offers insights based more in feeling and the senses than in analysis. For example, in the song ‘Afternoon,’ the line ‘the sloop, her angular canvas shifting still catches the light and variable airs’ begins in Amanda’s setting with a whole note, then moves to a two beat triplet voicing the word ‘angular,’ then ascends a half step, goes down a whole step, and up a half step through ‘canvas shifting still.’ the rhythm and intervals together capture the visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic sensory experience, including the angular shape and small movements of the sail. the piano accompaniment flows beneath these lines with the repeated oscillation of eighth note intervals.

As she was composing, Amanda noticed a thematic rupture in the lines we had identified as ‘evening.’ the magic of the collaborative, cross-disciplinary process lies in moments like these. Amanda’s observation that the lines about commerce and slavery did not fit with the emerging sunset clarified another aspect of smith’s structure: in the ‘Beachy head Cycle’ smith alternates evocations of the landscape at progressive times of day with recreations of the activity or industry in that landscape. to be specific:

‘Prologue: Fancy’s day’ (the titles are ours) locates the poet on the ‘stupendous summit,’ then depicts the work of ‘the Omnipotent’ rending england from the continent (ll. 1, 6). First smith describes place and then work.

‘Morning’ lifts the ‘glorious sun,’ to illuminate the daily labour of the chattering birds, who ‘seek their food,’ as well as that of the ‘lone shepherd, and his baying dog,’ who, together, ‘drive to the turfy crest his bleating flock’ (ll. 16, 23, 27-28). the beautiful light reveals the noisy industry of the birds, shepherd, and sheepdog.

‘Afternoon’ stretches out lazily at first, the ocean ‘murmur[ing] low . . . upon the level sands’ (ll. 31-32). Yet the eye is drawn to the distant ‘ship of commerce’ that carries the pearls and adamantine collected by slaves’ ‘perilous and breathless toil’ (ll. 42, 53). With this juxtaposition, smith suggests that the leisure evoked by the quiet afternoon is made possible by the violation of ‘the sacred freedom’ of ‘fellow man’ (ll. 59).

‘Evening’ bursts open, shifting from the underwater darkness where slaves dive for pearls to the jewel tones of the sunset, whose ‘transparent gold / Mingles with ruby tints, and sapphire gleams’ and the rise of the early moon, who throws ‘her pearly brilliance on the trembling tide’ (ll. 81-82, 99).

‘Night’ shifts from the sunset scene to labour, bringing not the expected quiet of night, but instead the return of fisherman from the sea, unloading their boat ‘with loud clamours’ (ll. 108). Amanda has brilliantly set this final song in the cycle as a sailor’s song to capture the feeling of camaraderie and industry.
together the song cycles illuminate the deep structure of smith’s posthumously published Beachy Head. An advertisement for the volume
in which Beachy Head was published, probably written by smith’s sister Catherine dorset, asserts that the poem was ‘not completed according to the original design’ (215). stuart Curran observes that ‘it is unlikely... that we will ever be able to determine whether her masterpiece Beachy Head was as unfinished as the introductory note to the volume assumes it to be’ (xxvii). nonetheless, Curran argues ‘a work that begins atop a massive feature of the landscape and ends immured within it bears a remarkable coherence’ (xxvii). And, indeed, Amanda and I are excavating an intricate internal coherence that reveals Beachy Head as a complete and refined work of art.
We were delighted to perform excerpts from the song cycle as a lecture recital at the Romantic studies Association of Australasia’s July 2015 meeting, with Amanda playing piano, mezzo- soprano Jeannie Marsh singing, and me
introducing the song cycles with short lectures. We also presented the the song cycles at Lehigh university, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on september 11, 2015 with Kathryn Cowdrick, a mezzo-soprano at the eastman school of Music, singing with us.
Works Cited
Smith, Charlotte. Beachy head. The Poems of Charlotte Smith. ed. Stuart Curran. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. 214-47.
Curran, stuart. ‘Introduction.’ The Poems of Charlotte Smith. ed. Stuart Curran. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. xix-xxix.

There will be a conference on Charlotte smith’s work at Chawton house Library in 2016 organised by Profs Elizabeth A. Dolan and Jacqueline Labbe. details will be added to our website as they become available.

The Female SpecTaTor from Chawton house Library 


In a few days, I will leave my home to spend the month of September in New York City ... It is really exciting because instead of spending my time there as an artist, I will be working as a scientist gathering research for my dissertation about LEARNING IN MUSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION.

My research will be gathered through interviews of people in the BROADWAY and OFF-BROADWAY communities and through my observations of a Musical Theatre show in its rehearsal process.   Instead of looking at a show as a work-in-progress, my intent will be to examine the interactions of people as they are learning 'in the room'.

Being 'in the room' is a term professional actors and creatives use to describe the time spent in rehearsal and preparing for a show, and it is undefined by scientific standards ... so every minute I spend watching the interactions will work to shed light on a process I hold dear--a process that will illustrate yet again how valuable the Arts are beyond the Aesthetics they teach.

Saturday, August 6, 2016


Today at, I encountered a CALL FOR SCORES from the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra.  

From what I read in the description/rules, in order to be COMPOSER OF THE YEAR 2017, this organization REQUIRES a composer to: 

1.  PAY for entry into the competition.  ($25)
2.  PROVIDE the printed scores to the orchestra FREE OF CHARGE  (printing + postage $250)
3.  GIVE UP  his or her premier WITHOUT BEING PAID for this work.  ($1,000 to $2,500)
4.  PAY for his or her transportation costs to Sioux City ($500 from NYC) 
5.  PAY FOR food costs while there. (5 DAYS $50 = $250)
6.  PROVIDE additional time BY GIVING lectures and talks to the community/college (a lecture will be anywhere from $75 to $100/lecture) —all WITHOUT PAY
7.  If the composer has to take time away from a PAYING job, the composer incurs additional loss of income.  Most young musicians I know are fighting for financial survival.   

In return, Sioux City Symphony Orchestra  promises that THE COMPOSER GETS a concert performance of HIS/HER work, transportation in Sioux City, publicity (which is billed alongside the publicity the organization is already doing to promote itself), and the right to be called COMPOSER OF THE YEAR in a city that is on the border between Iowa and Nebraska.   

The Sioux City Symphony Orchestra will sell TICKETS to the April 29th, 2017 concert featuring the work.  So they will GENERATE INCOME for their organization USING the work of the composer WITHOUT the burden of paying the composer.  This is OUTRAGEOUS.

How can this competition be a commitment to educate, develop and promote American composers as they claim?  Is this really how this organization wants to treat a young artist?

From my perspective, this competition is robbery --plundering of the creative --because this competition makes the organization look like it is preying on early career composers who are desperate for their work to be heard.  

How can 'new and upcoming' composers be 'new and upcoming' if the established music organizations do not invest in them with REAL MONEY instead of taking it from them? Why not instead ask for a corporate sponsorship so that the young artist can be treated like a respected artist and BE PAID?  

How can The Arts EVER be respected and considered valuable in our society if The Arts organizations THEMSELVES do not lead by example--with RESPECT and APPRECIATION for whom and what they claim is valuable?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Group Creativity

Over the past several years, I have been working on my PhD in Educational Psychology.   My work has concentrated on the Arts in Human Development because I believe that the Arts hold their greatest value beyond the aesthetics they teach.  My PhD work has only confirmed this.   For example, group creativity is one aspect of this 'greater value' I am talking about, and what Education today aspires to teach.

Group creativity requires a community; Musical Theater is a community of learning.   It requires a group of people (with multiple areas and levels of expertise) to come together in order for it to be created, and Musical Theater teaches so much more through the creating of the show.   It is why in completing my coursework and comprehensive exams, I chose to write my dissertation: THE PROCESS OF LEARNING IN MUSICAL THEATER PRODUCTION, A GROUNDED THEORY STUDY.

Today, in preparation for writing Chapter 2 of the dissertation (Literature Review), I read a peer-reviewed article called "Group creativity: musical performance and collaboration" by R. Keith Sawyer.   Through his research on Jazz improvisation and theatrical improvisation, he identifies three characteristics of group creativity: Improvisation, Collaboration, and Emergence.   Sawyer also mentions how group flow is at work, and that this emerges through the process of creation.

These observations are similar to much of what I have observed in the creation of a musical theater production.   The creative team, the actors, the stage management--everyone involved--is open and listening, while simultaneously performing their designated job.   Every person in the group is important, engaged and necessary to the overall outcome.  Through interaction and communication each person is inspired to bring their creativity to the creation.

Throughout his paper, Sawyer illustrates how group creativity aids the teaching of interactional skills--listening and how to respond appropriately, as well as how collaboration requires communication in social contexts--necessary life skill.  Sawyer vicariously demonstrates how VALUABLE the Arts are beyond the aesthetics they are teaching thus arguing for and supporting the need for the Arts in our education today.

Below is the reference.  It's a great article--well worth the read.

Sawyer, R. K. (2006). Group creativity: Musical performance and collaboration. Psychology of Music34(2), 148-165.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Six Weeks in Chawton

Many American women like me are passionate about Jane Austen, and often dream of visiting Chawton.  So when I applied to the International Visitors’ Program, which is sponsored by the Jane Austen Society of North America, with a project proposal to set Jane Austen’s prayers to music for congregational worship and was chosen, my dream of living and working there became a reality.  For six weeks, I was composer-in-residence in the village of Chawton. Through the process and my time there, I learned so much about myself, and what an artist can do when artistic needs are met and fulfilled.
Everywhere I looked in Chawton, there was beauty: a white rose growing up along a brick wall, a tobacco flower peeping into the office window, a nasturtium plant flowing over the edge of an old watering trough.   This kind of beauty inspires sound in me because beauty makes my artist heart sing.  In Chawton, this was overwhelming and completely unexpected.  

Because I found manuscript paper (music staff paper) in the office, this provided me the tool to compose sketches of the tunes I felt and heard in my heart and head. These sketches became my “Chawton Notebook”, which now provides me with valuable melodic material that I can and will incorporate, or use in future compositions.
Also, because a 1928 Steinway is beautifully maintained at the Chawton House Stables where I was living, I practiced.  I reconnected with Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart, and Mendelssohn, which led to opportunities to play historical instruments including the 1810 Clementi piano at the Jane Austen House Museum, the refurbished 1828 Stodart grand piano at Chawton House, the extraordinary opportunity to play Chopin’s piano (among others) from the Alec Cobbe Collection at Hatchlands Park, and a Broadwood (Beethoven’s preferred instrument) at The Vyne.

Due to the nature of my project, the prayers generated opportunities to connect with the 18 Austen-related churches throughout England.  Prior to my visit, the JASNA Churches Committee provided me with contact information that created opportunities to visit nine of the churches, which led to opportunities to set up, produce and perform a concert in Godmersham, and premiere the prayer settings at St Paul’s Church Covent Garden in London.  These concerts connected me with musicians and talent throughout England, which is now creating more opportunities.
Chawton inspired me.  It still inspires me.  When I think of my time there, I am empowered by those thoughts.  My success happened because everything I needed as an artist was provided and available to me.  I know I ‘hear’ my first symphony there and very soon I hope to go back and write it.  Until then, I will work to create an environment like that for myself here in the United States.  By doing this, I keep Chawton alive in my heart and continue to empower myself to do what I do best.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Being Part of Something Great!!

This spring, I have had the extraordinary privilege to visit many high schools throughout Washington State who are taking part in this year's 5th Avenue Awards and to see their musical theatre productions.   I have seen some GREAT theater, great acting, and wonderful music making and imaginative  productions … I APPLAUD them all and my hat is off to the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle.

For almost fifteen years, the 5th Avenue Theatre has been honoring High School Musical Theater with "Tony" style awards to high schools.  These awards recognize the astounding talent in this state.  Based on its history and continued improvements to the program over the years, it now serves as a model for other theaters around the United States.

Its impact is far-reaching.  These shows are more than just a show.

Theater has the power to bring together a community of people -- as a family.  Through the process of production, the act of making theater is what creates the community of people who are learning and working together to achieve a common goal.  When the goal is achieved, they present their collective learning to an audience who appreciates and learns from them.

These awards recognize and encourage the amazing talent!! … and …  What these teenagers can do is absolutely incredible.   With the guidance and support of talented school teachers and administration, they achieve and learn about themselves and what they can do as an individual and as member of a community.

I rejoice!  What a marvelous thing to be part of something so great!!   … something that encourages and brings out the best in all of us!!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Last Thursday, The Simon's Rock Chamber Orchestra premiered "Nestis"  one of my pieces from The Four Elements of Empedocles.  This is a two-year project where I explore Fire (Zeus), Air (Hera), Water (Nestis) and Earth (Aidoneus) --one each semester.

The challenges of writing for this awesome little orchestra are that the members are at varying ability and their participation is largely volunteer.  … and yet in composing for this ensemble, it created a lot of joy for everyone involved.

My daughter is the flute player and had one of her friends send me a YouTube video of it (below) so I could hear it as soon as possible.  (The school  is sending me an archive copy).  It was truly satisfying to hear it … to hear the ensemble's success at realizing a piece written especially for them …

And now … Onward!  Fire, Air & Water await!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Baking Friends

This morning I made a batch of Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti … As I pulled out the little battered recipe book, I couldn’t help but think about my friend, Tony Day.  He gave me that biscotti recipe book years ago when I first moved to Rochester, and Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti was the first biscotti I ever tried to make.  It was a success, and over the years, biscotti became one of my favorite things to bake.

Tony died in the Fall of 2008, and I have missed him very much.  He was a wonderful person who had a way of making people feel successful. When I met him in 1996, he had retired from the Rochester Police Department.  In his retirement, he took on the job of looking after the neighborhood and everyone in it.   The neighborhood where I live was like his “Beat” and we all felt safe and cared for as he walked the street and talked with all of the neighbors.

I especially appreciate all the things he did to help me learn how to be a homeowner. He would often come to my house to help me because he enjoyed my creativity and wanted to help me realize my dreams of a beautiful home.  He seemed to intuitively know what I needed and helped me because he seemed to know that I would never ask anyone to help me.

He would do things like … bring me a better tool, give me unused building supplies he had in his stash or had scrounged up … or he would show me how to do something … like tiling, or changing a light fixture.   He would put me in touch with good repairmen and others who could help me get the work done if it was beyond his knowledge or expertise. 

So today, as I work in a new house, and I bake biscotti, I think of this wonderful man and how he touched and changed my life –and so many lives –in so many ways.  Thank you, Tony Day.  Thank you for helping me.  With every bite of my biscotti I thank you for showing me how to do things and for helping me succeed.  Most of all, thank you for being my friend.