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Friday, July 17, 2015

I Need a Library Job (no, really)

Tuesday: I apply for a job at a private college in Pennsylvania.
Wednesday: I receive an email from that college saying they received the requisite number of recommendations.
Thursday: I receive an email from that college saying the search has been completed.

I am asking, out loud,

WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE???

What's this life supposed to hold for me? I can't seem to get it right.

I'm good at what I do. Does no one value what I have to offer? Someone tell me. Please.

I'm a former career music educator who also worked in retail sales and management, and spent the last four years working in various library positions. I'm an expert multitasker--but when you're a family man and free-lance musician, you HAVE to be.

If you'd like to see my CV, email me at djdekok@yahoo.com. I'll be happy to talk to you at length about my life and work. Chaim Potok had it right: "It is nice to be rich and terrible to be poor--but the most terrible thing of all is to be useless (In The Beginning)".

Onward.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Alfie*

So much has happened in the last week, it's probably going to take several blogs to get thru it.
1) I'm finished at Rowan. My last day was Friday June 5. The library tekkie came over to unplug my terminal and return it to the main library.
2) Welcome Japan! You're country #35 to visit the blog. Enjoy! Don't forget to leave comments, good bad, indifferent...
3) UPDATE: It's six weeks out tomorrow, and I'm still looking for my next library job. Barely a nibble, but lots of rejections, including an interesting one from a school in Pittsburgh, who politely informed me that they were in the midst of interviewing finalists, and that a decision would be made soon. At least it wasn't the usual "you have an impressive profile but we decided to go with candidates who more closely fit our needs".

I was sitting at the computer last night struggling to fill out yet another application. I finally gave up and went to bed. I needed a night's sleep more than I needed to finish the application.

What's it all about, Alfie?
What's it going to take?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra*--my latest public performance.

Hey all, Daniel here.

I'm going to indulge in a little shameless self-promotion here:.

I'll be performing the Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra by Danish composer Launy Grondahl with the Warminster (PA) Symphony Orchestra at William Tennent High School, Warminster PA, on Saturday, March 14, 2015, at 8 pm. Tickets are available online and at the door.

The WSO will also perform Sibelius' Symphony no. 2, and short works by Halvorsen and Alfven.  I'm having a great time playing with the orchestra, and if you're a music teacher, I understand that there will be a tribute to you--it is, after all, Music In Our Schools Month.

*--Launy Grondahl, 1924.

Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night*

A colleague whom I've known since our undergrad days recently posted a Music In Our Schools Month meme, and added a few choice words in recognition of some issues he's having with the state of Music Education in his area. This was my response:

It's tempting to give an "Elevator Speech" answer to that question, but it deserves better, we both know that. From a music history standpoint, Jazz Band is as central to the music curriculum as American History is to the Social Studies folks. It may simply be a numbers game, Roger.  Band directors are putting their core ensemble, be it Marching band, concert band--whatever the largest number of kids is--in the class schedule in the hope of keeping it viable in the eyes of administrators.  

Academic demands have increased. More time and attention are being given to STEM and Language classes. The impression is that colleges want to see AP and Honors on those core classes. As a result, students, parents, and music educators are put in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between an arts class or no arts class.  When we were in high school in the 1970’s, we could take band and orchestra or band and choir during the same class week. There weren’t many of us who did, but we at least had that opportunity.  From a student body of 1000 at Holland (MI) High School, we had 150 in the marching band, well over 100 in four choirs, and 40-50 in the orchestra.  Some cross-over, but not a lot. As a music educator in 2015, you’re risking a lot to add to the curriculum, particularly at the secondary level. Adding Jazz Band to the class day could be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, your best players will become stronger musicians for the experience. On the other hand, you might not be able to stack that ensemble the way it should be because of class conflicts.  I had a 30-piece band at one of my last teaching assignments, playing well, doing right—only to have the principal say, well, these students can graduate early if they take this class, and kablooey, there goes half the group. My complaints fell on her deaf ears, and when I persisted I was reassigned.

Part of the problem here too, is that school administrations tend to have very narrow ideas of what a music program should be.  The biggest disaster is the concept that it should be all things to all people. It needs a central mission, a vision. Proverbs 29:18 says it best: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV). Band programs wither and die, too, and it’s sad.

In an ideal world, where the elementary and middle grade feeder program was solid and well-supported, I’d do this for my high schoolers:

1)      Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band would be classified as Honors classes, where there are prerequisites, auditions, and high expectations. Concert programs would be created “Collegium Musicum” style, whereby a different era, composer, or geographic area (or other criteria at the teacher’s discretion) would be studied in depth each semester, much like a school’s theater department concentrates on a certain play each semester or season. Administrators would have to understand that they couldn’t arbitrarily put student X in the group “because there’s room”.
2)      Concert Band would be the core of the wind band program, out of which comes
a.       Marching band, out of which comes
                                                               i.      Auxiliaries (flags, rifles, drumline) and winter guard, all meeting evenings and weekends
3)      Chamber Music would include Rock and Jazz combos, handled as group lessons taught on a “pull-out” basis and/or after school, with regularly scheduled performance opportunities.


Unfortunately, it’s not an ideal world, is it?

*--composition for Concert Band by Elliott Del Borgo, 1978; also scored for full orchestra.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Still Crazy After All These Years*

I watched the last hour and change of the Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary special. I knew it would be impossible for someone like me, who reveled in the antics of some of the minor characters--Dr. Jack Badofsky (Tim Kazurinsky) and Operaman (Adam Sandler) spring to mind--but there were palpable yawning gaps in what they presented.

I did enjoy the too-brief clips of actors breaking character, but they didn't show Debbie Downer at Disney World. Adding Jon Lovitz to the necrology was a weird but funny touch (He's not dead yet), and it reminded me that folks like Jan Hooks, Jon Belushi, and Phil Hartman were gone all too soon.

But the two moments that really gave me pause to reflect both involved Paul Simon, a performer who had graced the 8H stage at 30 Rockefeller Center many times over the years.  The first was Miley Cyrus singing "50 ways to leave your lover" sounding for all the world like Reba McEntire in her prime--but hardly my first choice to cover that song, especially given her stage antics of late.

The second, and far more poignant, was Simon himself, singing "Still Crazy After All These Years". Looking downright elderly--and I guess he's entitled, being 73 (but when do the pop stars of our youth gain the right to look their age?)--he creaked through the song, leaving out some of the high notes, but it was as though he had the presence of mind back in his early thirties to pen lyrics of such wisdom and strength that would serve as inspiration to the next generation of singers and songwriters. They've become timeless, along with Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages", Harry Chapin's "Taxi", and Dan Fogelberg's "Same old Auld Lang Syne". There are no doubt other songs like that, and I'll add them as I think of them--but I'm not the only one who knows song lyrics.  If you think of them, let me know.

Onward, SNL, to whatever the future holds.

Cheers.

*--Paul Simon, 1972

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Songs of Innocence and Experience"

I was advising a student this morning, and it reminded me of what a great opportunity music school can be. He was looking for Mozart piano sonatas, a typical enough request, in particular K. 331, which includes not only the well-known "rondo alla turca", but a delightful, lilting first movement. In some dusty corner of my brain I remembered an old promotional recording I'd received many years ago from the Eastman School of Music, on which was a piece by the late U-M composer William Albright, one Sleepwalker's Shuffle, the opening of which was based on the opening of that first movement.
My memory being what it is, I mistakenly told this young composition major that it had been composed by William Bolcom. He responded with the question I'd hoped for--'who's that?" So i took him through the story about how he'd won the Pulitzer for his first set of 12 etudes for piano, when in fact people were remembering his magnum opus from the year previous, "Songs of Innocence and Experience", a complete setting of the poems by William Blake, using everything from Reggae to 12-tone to (yes) cowboy waltz. If there was ever a 20th century musical version of "everything but the kitchen sink", this was it. (Bad joke alert). Bolcom was obviously saving the kitchen sink for Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise (no, really, this song really exists).
I was in Ann Arbor, and attended the North American premiere of the work, which featured Charles Holland, Leslie Guinn (cowboy music), and Richard Taylor(rock and reggae sections)--and that was just the baritone soloists! I attended the dress rehearsal, and I have a lot of stories, but I'll just make you suffer through one. Carl St. Clair, then associate director of bands, was sitting a couple of rows behind me, taking in everything.
This piece was a study in contrasts, and undoubtedly displayed Bolcom's dazzling talent in many different musical genres; There was a piece called "the shepherd", which started with rather noisy, menacing music, and just as suddenly stripped down to two violins playing ever so slightly off key, but unmistakeably a country waltz. I hear Professor St. Clair guffaw loudly, but the best was yet to come--as opera luminary Leslie Guinn steps up and, in his best semi-cowboy yodel, sings "How sweet is the shepherd's sweet lot, from the morn to the evening he strays". Gustav Meier (conductor/traffic cop for the performance) stopped to correct something, but the choir gave Prof. Guinn a rowdy cheer for decidedly stepping out of character.
I DO wish I didn't have to leave before the semester's over, but c'est le guerre..I've done good work while I was here, and I left a lasting, positive impression on nearly everyone I worked with. Yet. 
Onward...

*--William Blake, set to music by William Bolcom over the course of 25 years (1955-1980)..

Friday, January 16, 2015

Rebirth*

I'm in the third day of cleaning out a storage practice room/sorting through some of the personal effects of Dr. Hoyle Carpenter, late and esteemed Professor of Music at Rowan/Glassboro SU/STC.

I started to keep an excel file of the work I'd done, only to be told not to--making too much work for yourself, I was told.  So in the interim, I'm going to keep an informal record here, with the eventual intention of creating and publishing a paper or article.

So far--boxes and boxes of books.  You can tell a lot about a man by what he holds on to.

Dr. Carpenter studied organ music; Portugal; languages; organ construction; architecture; early music. Dr. Carpenter taught music theory, history, and perhaps composition.

FRIDAY: It's the end of the week, and I've processed a couple dozen boxes of materiel from his collection.  I'm feeling good about the amount I've done--and I hope the feeling is mutual. Time to bug out for  a long weekend.  Happy MLK Day, readers. I'll be taking my son back to college on Monday.Ordered his textbooks yesterday, not as big a hit as last time, which is good. Onward.