2004 October at John Mackey's Blog



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  • October 29, 2004

    Seattle, Part 3: Wifi Coffee Bars

    I’m writing this from Victrola, a seemingly hip coffee shop in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle. For the first time since I left NY, I’m actually using WiFi! Oh, the luxury. Dial-up = misery.

    I’m wondering if it looks pretentious to the natives to see somebody writing a blog entry in a coffee shop, or if this is what people do here. Looking around, I suspect the people here, if they notice me at all, are only noticing that I’m not dressed like them. I’m a bit too old and non-pierced to be here. Now I know how Newman feels in his neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

    Today has been a pretty easy day. Huw Edwards, the SYSO Music Director, picked me up for a nice lunch and then drove me to my radio interview with Megan Suckys on KUOW, the NPR affiliate in Seattle. Megan gave a great interview, and really put me at ease. I was nervous about doing a 20-minute, live interview, but she made it a real pleasure. We also managed to squeeze three excerpts of my music into the interview, marking the radio debut of “Redline Tango” and “Wrong-Mountain Stomp.”

    Tomorrow morning is the final rehearsal with the youth symphony. After that, I think I’ll look around downtown Seattle a little before I head to a discussion at the Seattle Conservatory of Music. A lot of the people attending the discussion are members of the youth symphony, and it’ll be fun to take questions from them and play a little music for them.

    Oh good — I just spotted somebody at the coffee shop who is at least 40. I feel better now. Of course, his arms are completely tattooed — but at least he has gray hair.


    October 28, 2004

    Seattle, Part 2: On the radio

    I just got back from a great day at Pacific Lutheran University. Scott Taube conducted the PLU wind ensemble in a great performance of “Redline Tango” tonight. While I was down there, I also gave a seminar to the composition students, and had a very tasty dinner with faculty of the PLU music school. It was a perfect day, and an excellent performance. My thanks to Maestro Taube for making it possible!

    I met a really nice guy at PLU — Gregory Youtz, who teaches composition there. I have a feeling that he writes really good music, and I’m excited to check out his website.

    I’ll be doing my first live radio interview tomorrow (Friday) afternoon on KUOW. The interview will be during the 2pm hour here in Seattle (so that’s 5pm for those of you on the east coast). I’ve no idea what I’ll say — it’s live after all (I’m a little freaked-out about that) — but the plan is to have a chat and mix in some of my music. (Hola, ASCAP royalties, I hope!) For those of you who are free and near a computer at 5pm EST/2pm PST, feel free to listen online!


    October 27, 2004

    Seattle, Part 1: You Have Nice Shoes

    I had such grand aspirations to blog daily from “the road,” but it’s turning out that I’m too busy to do even that much! In short, here’s what’s happened since I arrived in Seattle on Monday night…

    I’m staying at The Gaslight Inn. It’s beautiful. (Special thanks to EN for setting that up.) It was hard to find on Monday night, as the street signs in the Capital Hill area of Seattle are very hard to read in the dark. After calling the owner of the Inn from the street for directions (and waking him up, to my embarrassment – and about which he couldn’t have been nicer), I made it inside to my lovely little room.

    The next morning (yesterday), I started with a visit to Kenmore Junior High School to see my first “Endangered Instruments Program” session. “What’s that program, John?” I hear you asking. Well, there are a number of instruments that aren’t played especially well by a large number of people. These are instruments like bassoon, French horn, double bass, etc. Seattle has a program to encourage the education of these very instruments. (This is a brilliant idea.) My first visit yesterday morning was with the bassoon students at this middle school.

    Okay, for reference, as I said, almost no kids play bassoon. Well, at this one school — a middle school, at that — there were 5 bassoon players. Not trumpet. Bassoon. And they’ve been studying bassoon for 2-3 years. So I ask, “what are you going to play for me?” “Yesterday,” the teacher replies. “No, not when, what are you going to play?” “Uh, ‘Yesterday.’ By the Beatles.”

    So, I felt retarded. Good start.

    Anyway, they played through it, and they sounded really good — especially considering that they’re 13-year old bassoon players!

    The plan with this Endangered Instruments Program is for me to compose a piece for all of the students to play at their spring concert. Normally, all of the bassoonists (or a small group) play a short piece, then some horn players play a short piece, etc. This year, though, all of the students — all 120+ of them, consisting of oboes, French horns, tubas, double basses, and violas — will simultaneously perform a piece that I will write just for them. Any ideas from the peanut gallery?

    After that school visit, I headed to the University of Washington to speak with the graduate dance students. Mark Haim, a resident choreographer at UW, set up the session, although he, unfortunately, had to teach another class for much of my session. In addition to the student choreographers in attendance, one composer from the UW music school attended. (This guy, Jonathan Haek, seems to be in great demand by the choreographers at UW, and will be composing scores this year for no less than three of them! In fact, right before the seminar started, the third choreographer came in and pleaded to him to write a score for her. I may have to keep an eye on this guy… I already discouraged him from moving to NY, as I really don’t want the competition.)

    The UW chat was great. It’s a very smart and inquisitive group of choreographers, and I hope I get a chance to see their work while I’m in Seattle.

    Later last night, I attended my first rehearsal of the Seattle Youth Symphony — my whole reason for coming to Seattle. They started the rehearsal with the final movement of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. (For the non-la-de-dah, that means “Fantastic Symphony.” Nice ego, Berlioz.)

    So, it turns out that the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra is awesome. You should hear the low brass! (Granted, you can’t not hear the low brass.) They really nailed the Berlioz.

    When they got to my piece, they had a little trouble at first — this was the first time they’d played it in the huge Benaroya Hall – the home of the Seattle Symphony — but by the second time through, it was 200% better, and sounded great. After another 45 minute rehearsal on Saturday, I’m sure they’re going to just nail it. I’m excited.

    Day 2

    Yeah, that was just the first day of the residency. Today was day 2.

    Today has been a little lighter. I had another Endangered Instruments listening session, this time at Eckstein Middle School, where I heard a half-dozen French horn players. The highlight? At one point during a Q&A with the students, one guy asked me — and this is a first — “are those new shoes?” It took me a second to realize that yes, in fact, he just asked me if I was wearing new shoes. I was, as it turned out. “Um, yeah. They’re pretty new. I mean, not like, ‘this week’ new, but pretty new.” “Oh. They’re nice,” the kid said.

    That was followed by an interview on KING-FM. The interview seemed to go well, but when I do those things, I never have any recollection of what I’ve said, as my brain is constantly working so hard thinking, “what will I say next? I can’t let myself sound silly, or stupid, or like I’m trying to hard, or that I’m making myself sound too self-absorbed, blah, blah, blah.” Interviews are fun, but it’s tough to be “on” the whole time. This one wasn’t bad, as it was short — 10 minutes, to be edited down to probably 4 minutes — and it wasn’t live. My interview on Friday, though, will be longer, and it will be live. I’m trying not to think about that one yet.

    Tonight is a dinner at the home of the president of the board of the youth symphony. I’m looking forward to that. Sounds like good company.

    Sorry this is so lengthy, but I’ll try to update more regularly from now on, thus avoiding these rambling entries.


    October 25, 2004

    And We're Off!

    I’m leaving for the airport in about an hour — heading to Seattle to start my residency with the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra . I’m excited, but I get nervous before I fly, so I’ve bought the new Daily Show book, “America,” to distract me during the flight.

    The conductor of the orchestra, Huw Edwards, must have given my e-mail address or website address to the orchestra, because I’ve been getting “Welcome To Seattle!” e-mails from several very nice orchestra members. (Hello to Sarah, Mikaela, Annika, and Kyla — I’m excited to meet you, too, and the rest of the orchestra!)

    I’ll be blogging from Seattle with regular updates, so stay tuned!

    Oh — and a special shout-out to RN for agreeing to watch Loki once again…


    October 21, 2004


    I just received an e-mail from Marin Alsop, confirming that she’ll perform my piece, “Redline Tango,” at the Cabrillo Music Festival next summer! I am insanely excited about this. Marin is a not only a true champion of living American composers, but she’s also one of the best American conductors. My former teacher, John Corigliano, said that her performances of his music are consistently among the best. I am psyched.

    AJ and I went suitcase shopping tonight. I’m heading to Seattle on Monday for my first of many trips this season. (1 week in Seattle next week, a week in Arizona and several days in Chicago in December, Texas in February, Seattle again in March, Kansas and elsewhere in April, and then two more weeks in Seattle in May! Whew!)

    The suitcase is nice, but the evening’s highlight – other than finally seeing Stacy voted off of “The Apprentice” – was homemade shredded pork burritos for dinner. Holy delicious. (Somehow this blog is becoming my diary of music, shopping, and eating. Weird.)

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