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.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Revisiting the Work

Last Wednesday, my friend Steven Daigle gave me three CD copies of MAYTIME by Sigmund Romberg.  The CD's mean a great deal to me because they contain the orchestrations that I created and re-constructed from a piano/vocal score for the Ohio Light Opera's 2005 Festival Season.  It was a cathartic experience to listen to the recording because I had not heard them since the opening performance in 2005.

As I listened, I was overwhelmed by what I actually accomplished eight years ago.  The way I remember it ... in 2005, Steve called and asked me if I could re-construct/create orchestrations from a piano/vocal score ... that it was an emergency.   He told me that the original Romberg scores no longer existed--that they had literally crumbled and the show was set to go into performances within about three weeks.  I told him I could try ... and spent the next two weeks reconstructing a score of a much larger show than I anticipated.

What AMAZED ME in my listening is that the orchestrations are very, very good.  AND  how much I LOVE TO ORCHESTRATE.

I realized too, how wonderful Time can be.  For in the reflection, I can see that I am a skilled orchestrator ... and an even more skilled composer today than I was then ...  I can acknowledge --without bragging --that have great skill because these CD's are evidence.  Time shows me that  I can look back with greater knowledge and acknowledge (and in this case applaud) something that I did ...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Artistic Journeys

This past weekend, I took the early train from Rochester, NY to New York City, and arrived around lunchtime.  The trip was easy and relaxing.  With the added bonus of wireless Internet on the train, it enabled me to review notes, read online scholarly articles, and make notes in books about Emily Dickinson.

The trip became an artistic journey in and of itself because my time was spent preparing for a project I have begun with the great actress/writer Sarah Dacey Charles.    When I arrived at Penn Station, I was prepared … and I could feel my joyful anticipation of working on the project combine with the pulse of the city. 

In any artistic endeavor, it is a marvelous experience to be in the same room with an artist you respect and admire because there is an almost palpable excitement in gathering talent and ideas together to create something meaningful.  Faith is at work because an understanding already exists before the meeting—the understanding that something magical may happen.   

Faith is present too when there is recognition of the extraordinary gifts of each other and what we each can contribute.   And … in this case … how could we ‘go wrong’ when respect for each other was/is present and the poems and letters of the extraordinary and enigmatic genius of Emily Dickinson were/are our source material?

The hours flew by, and through our work, next steps became clear:  We meet this week via Skype; we visit ‘The Homestead’ (Emily Dickinson’s home in Massachusetts) later this month, and Sarah attends the Emily Dickinson International Society conference in D.C. to hear lectures about Dickinson.  The gathering of knowledge about Emily Dickinson fuels our creative process.  And so, our artistic journey begins together. 

Experience has taught me that whenever next steps are identified, a new work can emerge.  Next steps empower the artist and make a project real because they reveal parts of an undiscovered path. 

They allow the artist to dwell in the possibilities.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Satisfying Moments

There is something so incredibly satisfying when I complete a composition project.   During a very long holding pattern with our show Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, A Musical and its anticipated move forward into a UK production, I have taken this time as an opportunity to complete projects that have been in folders atop my piano ... a new Christmas Carol called "Noel" arranged for unison voices and then a more complex arrangement of it for SSA, and now another art song for my Garden Verses.  At the moment, I am also almost done with a new melody for the dark Advent hymn: O Come, O Come Emmanuel for SATB and flute.

As I complete each one, I realize what an astonishing thing it actually is for a composer to create something--especially since on paper, it still really lives in an abstract form  ... I am also astonished to recognize that as I bring every creation into this realm, I never really know if it will ever be sung, performed, or enjoyed.  And yet, I still create ...

This is why I am so grateful for all of the opportunities I have been given to have my work heard.  Each time anything is performed, the work is given a chance to live ...

It is why today I am so extraordinarily grateful for all of the people who believe in me and the work that I do.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Encountering “Unexpected” Genius

Last night, I was supposed to meet a friend in Tacoma, Washington at The Grand Cinema to see the movie “42”.  However, plans changed unexpectedly as traffic was unkind and we were delayed.  Instead of being upset about missing the movie, and not waiting for the next showtime, we opted for the very next movie “whatever it was”.  At the time, we didn’t realize that the movie we were going to see would be “Caesar Must Die” (Cesare deve morire), that it was part of a film festival with only one showing at The Grand, and that it was an Italian film about a theater program where prisoners learned and performed Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”. 

It was awesome!   … and I truly mean AWESOME.  Not only did we see the genius of Shakespeare’s play of Julius Caesar and his murder (in Italian and with English subtitles), but throughout the film, we witnessed the miracle of what theater does in our lives, whether through observation as audience or participation in the production process.  Based on a true story, it was clear that the men who portrayed Shakespeare’s iconic characters saw their lives reflected in the art.  They “got it”, and lives changed.

Theater has the power to bring us into community, into harmony and to understand ourselves.  This was never more evident in the story telling of this film … and I was never more uplifted than through this unexpected encounter with genius.  Serendipitous too, it was Shakespeare’s birthday!

Here is a review from the New Yorker
If you have a chance, see it!!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Encouragement and Appreciation

Last week, I had the pleasure of returning to my alma mater, Wesleyan College, as a guest composer/playwright.  In celebration of a centennial year, the college collaborated with the Morning Music Club of Macon, Georgia to present a musical review of our show, "Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, A Musical".

One of my responsibilities during the week was to give a speech before the opening performance.  I was delighted that after the show, I was asked to submit my speech to the Morning Music Club for their archives.  I called the speech,  "Encouragement and Appreciation" and share it with you now.

It is a great pleasure to be with you tonight, and to celebrate with you the centennial year of the Morning Music Club.  It is an honor to be here.

Throughout an artist’s life, there are several things an artist must be given.  Two of the most important things are encouragement and appreciation.

About thirty years ago, the Morning Music Club encouraged me by presenting me with a scholarship … and tonight I am encouraged even more by the fact that you have included my work in this celebration.  The very act of producing my work, validates my artistic life and I feel appreciation.

It is amazing to me to think how I performed on this stage for the first time in 1983 for my Junior Recital.  Throughout my artistic life, I have always held great reverence for the stage and what a stage represents. 

Some of you who knew me when I was 18 know that my earliest dream was to be performing artist, a pianist, and … in the years that followed, my life as that performing artist dramatically transformed into who I am today, a composer, a playwright, and an artist educator.  I now have the joy of working professionally within three artistic disciplines: music, theater and the visual arts.

I marvel at how all the artistic disciplines are connected, how they inform each other, and what they teach me.

The visual artist uses tools and materials— paintbrushes, pencils, a blank canvas, clay, paint, etc.  Through her work, the artist transforms those materials into a work of art, and when she is finished with a piece, the work becomes tangible--something lasting.  The cycle of her creative process is complete when her work is displayed within a frame on a gallery wall or placed upon a pedestal. 

The act of displaying the work is remarkable because an audience viewing the work can visit and revisit the work again and again, judge it, criticize it, admire it, and decide whether or not to develop a relationship with that work of art through purchasing it or displaying it.

Within the other three artistic disciplines, this isn’t possible.  The work of the dance, music and theater remain within the minds and memories of its creator, the performer and within the mind of the audience.  The dancer dances, the musician plays an instrument, the thespian tells a story before our eyes.  For the creative artist, it is the live performance that completes the artistic process as a composer, a playwright and a choreographer..  While recordings and videotapes are possible, they are mere shadows of their work.

Like the visual artist, each of these three disciplines requires a platform or a place to display.  And, that platform is a stage.  This is why a stage is so important.  This is why the stage in Porter Auditorium means so much to me.

Tonight, you will have a window into my life as a composer/playwright through a musical review of  “Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, A Musical” , which is a work I share in collaboration with Lindsay Warren Baker.

When Lindsay and I began writing the show in 2000, we wanted to create a show that we wanted to see.  Throughout its development, the show has seen several incarnations … productions, workshops, and staged readings.  We have researched, written and rewritten, cut songs, added songs, rewritten songs.  And today, we are under commercial option with producers in London who are working toward a West End production.

Throughout our process, Lindsay and I have generated and amassed lots of material.  In celebrating the centennial of the Morning Music Club, we prepared and created a production especially for  Wesleyan College and its Music Department.   (As a side note) We thought it serendipitous too that 2013 marks the 200th’ anniversary of the publication of Austen’s novel … Pride and Prejudice.  So … The show you will see tonight is a musical review of our work.  It draws, from both current and earlier work—work that helped create the commercial show we have today. 

Many many thanks to Nadine and Ellen—all of the young women involved, and everyone who made tonight possible.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Making Things

This past week, I spent a few days at my sister's in Macon, Georgia.  She has two teenage daughters and I enjoy spending time with them because they both like to "do" things.  Margaret is especially interested in trying things and together we explored the art of making origami book marks out of her old french assignment papers.  After folding them, we then proceeded to decorate them using pencil, watercolors, and crayons.  Very simple art supplies ... and yet how fantastic they turned out!

What I loved most, however, was spending time with Margaret and learning about the kinds of books she enjoys reading.  What I realized is that the act of making something together created an activity not only for our own self-expression, but it also gave us a window into each other's lives and the things we like to read.  I plan to incorporate this activity into the YOGA-GIRL curriculum!

Monday, February 18, 2013


One of the greatest gifts an artist is given is the vision and a capacity "to do" whatever comes to him/her.  This is especially noticeable as I work on a new (and unexpected) project I am calling "The Alphabet Flowers", which is a collection of 28 little poems to celebrate the love of flowers.  The poems encourage literacy and they are designed to create positive adult-child interactions as a child learns the alphabet.

Ordinarily, I work on music or plays or some aspect of educational psychology and the integration of the arts into our lives.  So, I was surprised when I had the inspiration to create poems about flowers--alphabetically, and that I feel so compelled to illustrate them using techniques I experimented with this past summer (crayon, watercolor, regular 8 1/2 x 11 office paper and gold craft paint.)

The poem paired with the illustration above is:

Bachelor Button petals are
raggedy and blue.
Plant seeds early in the spring
and they will bloom for you.

Since I am a composer/playwright, what the project is teaching me is that no matter what realm of art we work, we can be open to the possibility of expanding ourselves in all kinds of ways ... and when we do, we receive so much more joy by exploring that unknown.  For me, I am receiving the gift of "Delight" ... Creating the poetry was a delight!  Printing the poems and placing them into a working binder made the project real ... as did creating its community FaceBook page .  These tasks were a delightful process.  And now, for the next several evenings,  I will color the letter/flower designs and work to complete the pages ... preparing for whatever follows.

Click HERE for a link to a slide show