2007 December at John Mackey's Blog



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  • How I Spent My Teen Years
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  • December 31, 2007


    Everybody knows about the Rose Bowl and the Parade of Roses — but did you know that a few days before those events, there’s a horse show in Burbank, a showcase for horses performing in the parade? Well, there IS! We’re going to the Parade of Roses tomorrow morning (and confident it won’t rain like it did two years ago), and to get in the Rose spirit, we attended the Rose Parade EquestFest on Saturday.

    AEJ loves ponies, whether they be miniature

    … or Clydesdales

    … strangely fluffy (I’m talking about the horse)…

    … or simply stuffed.

    It was a three+ hour show. Fortunately, there were plenty of food options to keep us nourished. (Rod is an awesome name. Maybe I should change my name to Rod. Rod Burbank. Oh, that would rule.)

    The arena was packed with all sorts of people — and lots of sweet clothes. I was particularly fond of this sweater. What’s cooler than bird sweaters? (Okay, maybe Christmas sweaters.)

    Spurs rock.

    There were lots of different “acts” in the show. One of the best was the All-American Cowgirl Chicks (non-Americans need not apply). They did crazy stuff like stand on top of the horses while the horses sprinted in circles around the arena.

    Or, if that wasn’t insane enough, maybe they’d just hang off the side of the horse while the horse ran at full-speed.

    This looks like it’s gone terribly wrong, but this was on purpose. This rider, by the way, is eight years old. If she’s this fearless at eight, can you imagine what she’ll be like when she’s 15? I predict a life of crime.

    I think AEJ’s favorite horse of the day was this one.

    Not just a pretty face, it also did tricks.

    Some ponies pulled children around the ring at high speed. I’m all for that.

    I’m not totally clear what’s going on here.

    I think my favorite part might have been the performance by Medieval Times.

    They jousted…

    … and made lots of noise.

    Somehow, this was not nearly as lame as I expected. I thought it would be the type of fight choreography that was used in my high school production of “Dracula” (I was robbed of the Best Actor Thespian Award that year. Robbed, I tell you.), but it was actually kind of impressive and fun.

    This, however, was a little bit lamer. It’s color guard, not unlike you might see in a marching band, only this was on horseback, which did make it a little hipper than marching band color guard. Take that as you will. (I kid because I love, color guardians.)

    AEJ snuck a photo of me in my riding outfit.

    It was a fun afternoon. If only I could remember what country I was in. The whole experience simply wasn’t American enough.

    Happy New Year!

    1 Comment

    December 30, 2007

    Midwest 2007

    I flew to Chicago on Tuesday, December 18th, for the annual Midwest Band (& Orchestra, but really, who is that kidding?) Clinic. It’s really the “slow” day at Midwest, and there wasn’t a lot happening when I arrived — except that my friends Jonathan Newman and Steve Bryant were setting up their exhibit booth. Here, Newman — who is considerably larger than I am — balances precariously on a stool with legs that were, I was sure, about to collapse under him. So, rather than assist, I took what I assumed would be the last picture of Newman alive.

    After visiting with them for a few minutes — but not long enough to actually be roped into being helpful — I went back to my hotel room to rest for a little before dinner. Last year, I was lucky enough to get a room in the Hilton Towers, the hotel that hosts the convention. The Hilton, while no Tawaraya, is a nice hotel. This year, I called the hotel a little too late, and the Hilton was booked. The Travelodge is a mere one block away, so I figured how bad could it be?

    Ah. Got it.

    If you’re doing Midwest the right way, you’re barely in your room anyway (who needs sleep?), so it wasn’t that big a deal. After a short nap, I headed out to dinner with Tim Roberts – the sax soloist for the US Navy Band — and a few of the other guys from the band. Step one:

    And step two:

    After dinner, it was time to check out the Hilton Hotel bar, the place where all of the Midwest action happens. I saw my friend Mamoru Nakata, who organized the consortium that commissioned Kingfishers Catch Fire. (He’s also perhaps the best wind band arranger in Japan.)

    And here is one of my other friends from Japan, Kohtai Yoh, who took AEJ and I out for Kobe beef when we were there in March. I love pictures of people taking pictures.

    The next day, Newman and I headed out to lunch. There’s a sushi place around the corner from the hotel. Well, a sushi place of sorts. It was all kind of downhill after the salad. (I didn’t process this picture at all. The tomato really was that color.)

    Here are my spicy tuna tacos. They were… fascinating. Still, preferable to the actual sushi pieces, which appeared to be loaded with those nasty stringy parts.

    That night, the US Navy Band performed two movements of my Concerto for Soprano Sax and Wind Ensemble, with Timothy Roberts sax soloist. Here, Captain George N. Thompson leads the band and the audience in the National Anthem.

    The trombone section was featured in “MalagueƱa – Extreme and Variations” by Ernesto Lecuona, arranged by Gerald Ascione. This is Michael Schmitz, who is also one hell of a conductor.

    Tim Roberts was amazing on the concerto. I can’t imagine “Wood” sounding better than what he and the band did that night. They only performed two movements at Midwest, but they’re doing the whole thing at the International Saxophone Symposium in January. As much as I would love to be there, I have even more important things happening that weekend…

    Here I am with Tim after the concert. Tim looks suave. I look happy and dorky.

    I need to learn how to pose for photographs. You know who has it mastered? Composer Joel Puckett. This guy makes sweet love to the camera.

    Here are two of my favorite conductors — and they’re both based in Georgia. On the left is Robert Ambrose of Georgia State, who gave one of the best performances of “Redline Tango” I’ve ever heard, and on the right is John Lynch of the University of Georgia, who recorded “Redline Tango” on Naxos.

    The next morning, I had a rehearsal with the Harrison High School Wind Ensemble. Their conductor, David Vanderwalker, was preparing “Kingfishers Catch Fire” for their concert.

    They are a great band. I worked with them extensively last year on “Redline Tango,” and I think they’re somehow even better now.

    After rehearsal: lunch. Pizza at Giordano’s. Ever seen any cheese?

    On Friday, I stopped by the Michigan State University‘s rehearsal. I heard them work on Carter Pann’s “Slalom“…

    … Jonathan Newman’s “As the Scent of Spring Rain…

    … and a new piece by Donald Grantham, “Starry Crown.” The Grantham is a masterpiece. I was too blown away to even think to take a picture. It was that good.

    After rehearsal, Newman had an apple…

    … never using his hands.

    That night, I had a lovely dinner at Nick’s Fishmarket with Rick Clary, Steve Peterson, and his wife, Beth. We started by sharing the chopped salad. Here it is, pre-mixed.

    Here it is, mid-chop.

    For my main course, I had the lobster and shrimp risotto. The waiter cuts the lobster out of the tail at the table.

    Rick had the scallop special.

    And then there were the dessert options.

    We were all stuffed, so we shared some things. Rick and I had the key lime tart.

    The next day was the Peterson’s wedding anniversary, and they were treated to the chocolate molten cake with a special greeting from the kitchen.

    Harrison High School’s concert was fantastic, and I have never experienced a crowd reaction to one of my band pieces like the audience showed after David finished “Kingfishers Catch Fire.” People seem to like F major a lot. I’m excited to see how the piece comes off at TMEA in February…

    It was another fun convention, but wow, it was good to get home — and get there on time, unlike a lot of people that weekend. I wish the convention weren’t right before Christmas, but it does always make me extra-grateful to be home.


    December 24, 2007

    Merry Christmas!

    Back from a busy and exhausting trip to Chicago for the Midwest Clinic. I had two great performances, saw old friends, met lots of new people, had some tasty food, a few cocktails, and got into an argument with some dumb-ass drunk who mis-overheard something he thought I said — but I didn’t say. (Him: “You should be careful what you say to people, because you never know who is listening.” Me: “That’s not what I said.” Him: “Fine, but I know what I heard.” Me: “You’re a dumb ass.” It went kind of like that.)

    It was good to get home on time — which is a lot luckier than what I’ve heard from friends who were hugely delayed by the weather that arrived shortly after I left. It was also good to sleep 13 hours the night I got home. I’m getting too old for Midwest.

    I’ll write a full debrief soon, but today, it’s Christmas Eve, and there are cozier things to do — like admiring what AEJ did while I was gone. She made Loki his own stocking! Is that the cutest thing or what?!

    She also made little name labels for our stockings. Cozy time!

    Stay tuned for the Midwest debrief, but until then — Merry Christmas!


    December 16, 2007

    Ridgewood’s recording

    The Ridgewood Concert Band — only the second group to perform my Soprano Sax concerto — has posted their recording of their premiere. Christian Wilhjelm conducted, and man alive, he did a great job keeping all of the tempos up and holding the monster together. Lois Hicks-Wozniak, the soloist for the performance, sounds just beautiful throughout; Lois played the hell out of the piece. Newman was there and raved to me about her and about the band, and he was right. The energy of the “Prelude” is great; you can hear every tricky alternate fingering in “Felt”; “Metal” is just beautiful, and really sings; “Wood” is hot ‘n’ sultry; and the “Finale” is a fast and exciting, and Lois nailed the cadenza. The band — keep in mind, this is a community band that rehearses once a week, not a college group! — worked like crazy and it really showed. They played like they really loved supporting Lois for those 25 minutes. I really wish I could have been there to hear it live. I’m really happy that at least there’s this recording.

    I’m heading to Chicago on Tuesday for the annual Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic. I have two performances there this year:
    Wednesday, 9pm: US Navy Band with Timothy Roberts, soprano sax, will perform the final two movements of my Concerto for Soprano Sax and Wind Ensemble
    Friday, 8:45pm: Harrison High School Wind Ensemble, conducted by David Vandewalker, will perform the second movement of “Kingfishers Catch Fire”

    See you there!

    Oh, and here’s my favorite new band: Uptown Bill & the Elmos


    December 12, 2007

    I've been accepted into Yale, Princeton, and Harvard

    I’ve recently been accepted into Yale, Harvard, and Princeton. I know you’re as shocked as I am, considering I’m generally an all-around stupidhead, but yes, I’ve been accepted into all three. And I didn’t even apply! They all contacted me individually on their own and asked, “would you come and be a part of our institution?”

    Well, their music libraries, at least.

    Breakdown Tango” is going to the Yale music library, the original chamber version of “Strange Humors” is now at the Harvard music library, and both the orchestral and band scores for “Redline Tango” are in the Princeton music library.

    After several years of feeling a little inadequate next to AEJ and her Princeton degree, well, no longer! Go Princeton Tigers! (and their awesome marching band, too)