Friday, December 30, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: Why Participate in the Walgreens Concerto Competition?

Dr. D has spent two days listening to 65 students from MYA's Orchestra Program compete in the 16th. Annual Walgreens National Concerto Competition at Bennett Gordon Hall at Ravinia.  We asked him to share his thoughts about competition.

Why should students participate in the Walgreens Concerto Competition?  Let me count the ways!

"Winning a competition" is not necessarily being selected as first place. If you are selected to play with one of the orchestras but really didn't learn anything in the process, I would not consider you a winner but if you weren't selected for ant prize but learned a whole bunch, you came out ahead and are a winner.  So winning means different things for different people.

It is important to learn that setting a goal and following through is the most basic step in "winning". Those students who use the WCC to prepare their work to the highest level are learning life lessons that they can use in any work situation.  It is in setting high goals for ourselves that we learn who we really are. Those who are afraid should realize that, at MYA, we all want the best for you, even your colleagues who are competing with you. I see it by their attendance, applause, encouraging words and smiles, as well as their friendship. So, if there ever were a place to try to stretch yourselves, WCC is it!!!

 Do your best to prepare for the competition. I try not to pray to "win" but to do my best, to achieve my potential for myself, my family, my teacher, my friends.  Learning a work completely is really a great thing. Heck, when first try out a new bass, I always play Eccles ( Kevin!!!) because I learned it for competitions a VERY LONG time ago - some might comment "before paper was invented"!  A piece learned well can and will always be returned to but the better you learn it, the more it "sticks to your ribs.

If you were selected to perform with the orchestras don't get too big a "bump" on yourselves!   Sure, be proud and happy but realize that this is your opportunity and do your best to learn something in the process. When someone complements you, use the opportunity to tell them something positive about themselves so they know you appreciate them as well. Prepare your heart out for the opportunity and let the orchestra know you appreciate their efforts on your behalf. A sincere " thank you" at rehearsals to them is greatly appreciated.

 So participating gives everyone a chance to learn about music, ourselves and others!  I only hope that the WCC helps create the atmosphere for all to feel challenged, nurtured, and supported.  Dr. D

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays from MYA!

As our young staff gets us into foursquare, Google+ and Twitter, I loved the You Tube video my best friend from college sent yesterday.  If you haven't seen it already, check out Digital Christmas Story. If you're in the midst of celebrating Hanukkah, maybe there are some good You Tube link, too?

With all the options for getting information about MYA now, I'd love to hear where everyone gets their information.  I listened to part of an interesting interview with Tom Brokaw yesterday on NPR.  Think he was talking about his new book, The Time of Our Lives, but the part I heard was his thoughts on the huge changes in journalism over the course of his career, from CBS and NBC having a monopoly on the news, to information from every part of the world, and every spectrum of opinion available at the click of a mouse.  Asked what he thought of the changes, he said it might surprise everyone, but he thought it was great.  However, the challenge today is filtering everything to determine what is real and what will last.  

Between running another errand, I heard him give another example that illustrates a huge change.  Didn't catch where the school was, but before President Obama could go in and speak to the students, there was a big discussion of what he was he planned to say and what he should say to the students.  Brokaw said, could you imagine this scenario if either Kennedy or Reagen were going to speak in a school? He said the irony is that students could go to the internet today and read and hear anything.  So, it seems that the important job of parents and teachers today is to teach children how to question and analyze everything they read and see. 

With all the changes in technology, I'm struck by the fact that music is still literally black and white notes on a page, and sounds as it is written, with only variations in interpretation.  Your thoughts?
 Photos today are from our recent mall concerts. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: Expanding Our Students' Horizons

One of our board members sent me a link to this You Tube Holiday Video.  It is a video from the small Yupiq Eskimo Village of Quinhagak, Alaska.  It was a school computer project intended for other Yupiq villages in the area.  Much to the villagers' shock, over a half million people have viewed it. 

I am passing it on because it features Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, but also because as I watched it, I felt that it gave me a good idea of idea of life in this village.  One of the things MYA has always felt strongly about is connecting our students with students from as many different cultures and places as possible, using the only universal language:  MUSIC!  Therefore, we have done lots of concert tours with our students, and when we have been asked to host visiting musicians, we always go out of our way to do this.

Last spring, we were asked by the Director of the Versailles Youth Orchestra from France if we could help them arrange concerts in the Chicago area.  Knowing that one of our interns was fluent in French and hoping to teach English in France this year, we said YES.  Luckily, James made most of the arrangements before he did leave in September to teach in Lyon.  Over one of his breaks, he visited the orchestra's director, Christophe, and his family. Pictured above in the center of the back row are James Rein and Rebecca Watts (also an MYA intern for two years who is also teaching in this same program).  It is a small world!

We will be looking for 33 MYA families to host French students from April 19-22, 2012, and know they will pull through because it is such a great opportunity to make the world a little smaller.  If you read this and want to sign up right up, let us know, and you'll be first on the list.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Midwest Young Artists Goes to the Malls!

For many years, MYA programmed holiday concerts at the 1525 seat Harris Theater of Music and Dance in Millenium Park.  Some of my most memorable concert programs included these December concerts including Night at the Opera with guest singers Lauren McNeese and Lauren Curnow (2005),  Holiday Music from the Silk Road (2006), Nutcracker Suite, both  Tchaikovsky and Ellington versions (2007), Selections from Fantasia (2008), and The Snowman (2009).  The goal of these concerts was to offer an affordable concert  for families to experience the joy of music during the holidays. 

Concert hall rental, the costs to market this concert, other competing downtown holiday concerts including the CSO's Welcome Yule concerts  with our own Voices Rising Childrens' Choir, and the Big Band performance at Midwest Band and Orchestra Conference this week, made us rethink our holiday concert plan for this year.  Credit goes to Dr. D, MYA's Maestro, for suggesting we take our music to the malls.  It was a great idea, well carried out by our staff, and tremendously popular with our parents, students and hundreds of mall shoppers yesterday at Northbrook Court and Hawthorn Westfield Mall.  Let us know what you think!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: More Christmas Spirit

Symphony Orchestra is performing Mall concerts next Saturday and holiday music is filling the hallways today as they rehearse.  We will be at Hawthorn (Westfield) Mall at 12:30 p.m. and Northbrook Court at 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. 

In the meantime, you might appreciate two YouTube video links that were in my Inbox today.  Ember Peterson, MYA's  Chamber Music Coordinating Intern, sent me this one:  Sugar Plum Fairy by Tchaikovsky - Glass Harp Version.

My best friend from college sent me this one:  All I Want for Christmas - HMS Ocean.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: Welcomes Chelsa Peterson


I have been a part of MYA for a little over a month and let me tell you it has been a whirlwind! I came here after working several years at both Lyric Opera of Chicago and Ravinia Festival, Steans Music Institute and I had no idea what to expect. I did not grow up in the area so I did not have the opportunity to be a part of this delightful music community or anything like it. I have met so many wonderful people who are dedicated to MYA and its beliefs, I have learned so many different things that I never thought I would have the opportunity to learn, and most importantly I have heard glorious music in the hallways at the MYA center. This past Saturday was my first Saturday and it was an experience. When the seasoned staff told me that you will print out so much music, or you will get nothing done, they were not kidding! It was one of my favorite days so far, I met some wonderful musicians as well as their parents, I heard more music, and it made the MYA Center really feel like a home.  I look forward to learning more about this great organization, learning more faces and names, and hearing much more music!

Chelsa Peterson, Programs Cooordinator, Strategy and Communications 

You will hear more from Chelsa as she coordinates MYA Summer Programs and Auditions this year!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: Getting in the Holiday Spirit

Holiday songs were ringing through the hall this morning as bass performance class sight read Christmas carols, bringing a big smile to everyone who heard them practice.  After they rehearsed, they moved to a receptive audience in the lobby to share their music! Here's our first blog video so you can catch the spirit!

video

Tomorrow we are not able to use the Harza Building at Ravinia, so we are doing two chamber music recitals at ManorCare in Highland Park. These outside concerts always feel good as students share their music.  Residents will be able to relax and enjoy a rare live music performance!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Midwest Young Artists and Lang Lang Foundation

Two years ago, MYA honored international superstar pianist, Lang Lang, at our annual benefit. This has led to a collaboration between MYA and the Lang Lang Foundation. More details will be forthcoming, but I recently had the wonderful opportunity to see Lang Lang lead a special workshop of 100 young pianists on the stage of Roy Thomas Hall in Toronto. All the young pianists worked on the rythmic, yet melodious, Marche Militaire.  The workshop included the Ben and Jerry cartoon clip featuring Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, which Lang Lang said inspired him at the age of two to fall in love with the piano.  Audience members were also treated to a performance of La Campanella from his latest CD release, Lang Lang:  Liszt My Piano Hero.                   
The foundation's work is to bring the love of music to as many children as possible, and it was uplifting to see how inspired, proud and joyful the 100 young pianists who participated in this event were as they left the hall with their parents.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Midwest Young Artists and Chicago Ballet Collaborate

Pictured below are Ted Seymour, Choreographer, Allan Dennis, MYA Founder and Director, and Dan Duell, Ballet Chicago Artistic Director.

 
This team came up with a wonderful dance and music program for young students which was presented at Preston Bradley Hall on Thursday this week.  The concerts were part of Young People's Concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center, sponsored by the International Music Foundation.  Titled DanceVision, Young Artists for Young Audiences, the concerts included two dance interpretations of Antonio Vivaldi's Winter from The Four Seasons, accompanied by a chamber orchestra from MYA's Concert Orchestra, which featured Aidan Perreaut, 8th grade violin soloist who played well beyond his years.  Dr. D read the original poetry that inspired Vivaldi's music.  Students in the audience also got a chance to try ballet positions, I-V, plies and reveles, and to watch Dance of the Sugar Plums from the ever holiday favorite, The Nutcracker.  It was just the right mix to capture and keep the attention of this young audience!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Highwood Pumpkin Fest

Highwood is getting ready to try to break the world record for carved pumpkins (32,000) on Saturday, October 22 at 6:30 p.m.  Scaffolding is going up all over Highwood.  It's a fun event!  MYA families can bring carved pumpkins anytime this week or next Saturday.   Either bring them to MYA or bring them to the entrance logging stations downtown.  For more information and a schedule of events, check out this link.

FYI:  A little history of the current Fort Sheridan community.  When the Army base was closed in 1992, a joint planning committee of Lake Forest, Highwood and Highland Park was put together to decide the political future of the old Army base. When we moved into our current facility in June of 2000, Bruno Bertucci, a long time resident of Highwood and the Executive Director of Highwood's Chamber of Commerce for many years (an unpaid, volunteer position), stopped by and gave us a great big welcome.  He told us he was so proud that MYA was located in Highwood. When we wondered why part of the Fort Sheridan community was Highland Park, the story we heard from long time Highwood residents was that Highland Park had more money for lawyers during the base closure process.  We'll leave it there.

MYA actually ended up in our current building because the building we were awarded by the U.S. Department of Education was located in Highland Park which has zoning codes that allow for higher buildings.  We swapped our building which was on the site of the current high rise tower near the lake with the developer.  They tore down the building we were awarded and turned the stockade building into our beautiful music school.  

I used to tell people that everything on the west side of Lyster Road was Highwood, and across the street was Highland Park, but a couple of weeks ago, someone told me that isn't necessarily true.  It might have something to do with streets that have multi-residential buildings.  If anyone knows for sure, we would be interested to know.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What's New at MYA?

Just a short one today as I'm waiting for Allan to finish coaching.  Wouldn't think we're excited about resurfacing the parking lot and new lines, but it was great to know where to park today.  Did you think the spaces were a bit smaller than before?  We didn't, but one of the parents commented that there wasn't as much room as before.  Great new look for a beautiful fall day.  Hope we don't have the parking lot covered with snow many weekends this winter!  Keep those plowing bills low!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: Practicing

One of our students asked me the other day what we did during the summer.  Well, we've been as busy as during the regular year.  We are just finishing up four weeks of summer programs, and are getting as much planning done for next season as possible.  Here is a photo of students from the Chamber Music Camp at the Chicago Botanic Garden when they performed a concert on Tuesday. 

We're also cleaning out files, and I came across a something that might be of value to parents when they are trying to get their children to practice, or even motivated young musicians who might use an idea or two from this list of Forty-Five Fabulous, Fun Ways to Practice.  The list was submitted to the American String Teacher Magazine in May of 2001 by three teachers from Millard Public Schools in Omaha, Nebraska.

1.  Practice in the bathroom. (my children's favorite place)
2.  Practice outside.
3.  Play for someone special over the phone.
4.  Tape record your practice.
5.  Perform a family recital.
6.  Practice with lights off.
7.  Memorize your favorite song.
8.  Start your favorite song on a different note.
9.  Dance while you play.
10. Sing while you do the note fingerings.
11. Practice in slow motion.
12. Play twice as fast.
13. Practice with your eyes shut.
14. Practice in front of a mirror.
15. Produce a monthly music video starring you.
16. Play for your pet.
17. Create an animal sound on your instrument.
18. Wear a funny hat while you practice.
19. Make up a new rhythm.
20. Make up words to one of your songs.
21. Play "Name That Tune" with your little brother or sister.
22. Be the featured act in your home on Sunday for "Bagels and Band" ??
23. Play a song for your neighbors.
24. Practice before school.
25. Give a candlelight concert.
26. Walk while you practice.
27. Wear sunglasses while you practice.
28. Give yourself a reward for good practice.
29. Serenade your family chef while he or she prepares dinner.
30. Compose a song.
31. Dress in a costume for a song you know.
32. Stand while you practice.
33. Leave a "song" message on an out-of-state relative's answering machine.
34. See how long you can hold a note.
35. Practice in a new place.
36. Practice seven days in a row (or 100!).
37. Practice with a metronome.
38. Practice in your pajamas.
39. Practice with a timer.
40. Perform for "Popcorn and Pizza Night."
41. March while you play a scale or a memorized song.
42. See how many times you can play something in one minute.
43. Play duets with a friend over the phone.
44. Invite a friend to your house to practice.
45. Keep a practice record and brag.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: Great Season Ends


We are finally slowing down a bit.  Yesterday was the final performance for our 2010-2011 season!  The Symphony Orchestra performed for a packed house of school children under the Pavilion at Ravinia yesterday.  The sun was out, but it was cold and windy!  Students watched a couple song and dance demonstrations that the artist teaching staff of Ravinia had taught children from several schools in Chicago, and then we played Ravinia’s One Score One Chicago for this year, Suites from Romeo and Juliet by Sergei Prokofiev.  To make the program end on a less tragic note, familiar snippets from Prokofiev’s well known Peter and the Wolf were played with a happy ending, and the children marched out for a picnic lunch on the lawn to the strains of Washington Post March by Sousa.  
Do you know who this is and what the happy ending to Peter and the Wolf was? 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: NEA Funding Comes Through for 2011-2012!

We can officially announce that MYA was awarded a $58,000 grant to support our Orchestra, Chamber Music and Music Theory Programs from the National Endowment for the Arts.  We were one of 1,145 not-for-profit organizations that received more than $88 million to support projects nationwide.  When we heard this great news, we breathed a sigh of relief and thanks!

Thought you might like to read this Open Letter to the U.S. Congress from actor Tim Robbins.  He makes a great case for supporting the arts!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Charitable Tax Deductions Up For Grabs?

First, a quick introduction. My name is Beth Coughlin. I write grant applications for MYA and generally try to help out when possible. So here I am writing a blog post.
It all started when I forwarded an email to Karen this morning. The email was from the Donor's Forum, an advocacy group for non-profits based in Chicago. It asked me to contact Senator Dick Durbin and urge him to protect the charitable deduction as a fair and important incentive for charitable giving. The tax deduction that donors receive for individual contributions to non-profits is up for grabs in the current budget debate. This tax benefit for charitable giving has been in place since 1917. The Donor's Forum included a Fact Sheet

So anyway, I forwarded the email to Karen suggesting that she might want to mention this issue in the MYA blog. She wrote back asking if I had time to put a post together, since she is swamped with preparations for the big concerts this weekend. So here I am. No good deed goes unpunished.
While I do not think that people only contribute to organizations like MYA because they will get a charitable donation deduction on their taxes, I do think that it is a nice perk and makes some people, like myself, set aside a few hours every December 30 or 31 to make donations before the tax year is over. I also believe this deduction incentive is another way that our society can recognize the value of the work that non-profits do.
I recently completed the annual Illinois Arts Council grant application. Two years ago, Illinois joined the Cultural Data Project, an effort organized by the Pew Foundation to collect data on arts organizations in each state with the goal of documenting their role in the economy - in addition to their cultural role. The Illinois Arts Council has required all grant applicants to participate in the Cultural Data Project and it has been my little ongoing project to collect and enter reams and reams of data on MYA's operations over the years. One of the items of information I have had to track down is the annual amount of charitable contributions received from individuals and how many individuals gave them. This is an important marker of an organization's engagement with its community. Whenever I write a grant, I include information on what percentage of MYA families have made donations to the cause. A strong percentage shows a belief in and appreciation for what MYA tries to do for all its members and its community.

I do worry that without the tax deduction, donations might drop a bit. What do you think?  How would losing the charitable tax deduction affect your donating habits?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Menahem Pressler: The Consummate Artist and Teacher

This afternoon was another reason I love my job.  Allan saw that Menahem Pressler was going to do a master class for Northwestern University students this week.  It was an opportunity to reconnect with someone he has respected for years and who was our guest artist back in 2001. He called and asked if he might be willing to coach two of our piano trios, and he graciously said "Yes!"  Mr. Pressler is Professor of Piano at Indiana University, and founding pianist in the Beaux Arts Trio.  This is the first chamber music ensemble I discovered on my journey of falling in love with classical music.  Before Allan started IU, I had discovered symphonies and solo bass repertoire (not too exciting, I'm sorry Allan and all you bassists out there!), but discovering chamber music and particularly the Beaux Arts Trio's recordings of the Mendelssohn piano trios, provided so much listening enjoyment.

This afternoon Mr. Pressler worked with Trio Bravo and Trio Fantastique, two of MYA's experienced piano trios.  The students quickly realized that this man knew their pieces. . . every note. . . every phrase. . . every nuance of the music.  And, he was quick to point out wrong notes!  It was just an unbelievable opportunity for the students to witness this amazing musician with a wealth of information.

Thank you, Mr. Pressler!
Trio Bravo:  Jorie Butler Geyer, violin; Hannah Kay, piano; James Stinehart, cello
Trio Fantastique:  Amy Pikler, violin; Frank Wu, piano; Emily Camras, cello

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: Notes

Only two families showed up this morning for orchestra rehearsals!  We're taking an Easter/Passover break this weekend, but there's always students practicing in our beautiful facility.  Today, we had several groups practicing for the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition which is held in South Bend, Indiana, May 13-15, and dedicated chamber musicians who took advantage of the time available to rehearse with their ensembles! 

Last Sunday, three of our ensembles were featured on the Pilgrim Chamber Players concert which they present as "Stars of Tomorrow."  This has become the most popular concert in their series and is offered free to the public.  It was another great performance opportunity for our students, and we appreciate this organization's  interest in promoting young musicians.

Quartet Sienna, coached by Rami Solomonow
Trio Fantastique, Coached by Charlie Pikler
Trio Bravo, Coached by Desiree Ruhstrat
First day of bicycling to MYA!  Hope the spring weather continues!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: Children Introduced to Woodwind Music!

What a surprise today!  There's so much music going on at MYA that we can hardly keep up with it.  Parents know what their own children are doing, but I just had to take time this afternoon to tell you about a musical experience we had at the MYA Center this morning.  One of our woodwind quintets (Tori Calderone, flute; Liah Watts, clarinet; Abigail Chow, oboe; Sarah Farbman, bassoon; and Kirsten Lopez, horn) prepared and performed a concert for a big crowd of little dudes and their parents.  The title of their show was "Does Your Brain Have a Soundtrack?" It was just a perfect mix of music and demonstration of individual instruments and just the right amount of time to hold the audience's rapt attention. 

Hopefully, M.C. Chow, dad of Abigail, got a recording we can post on wmya.fm.  Thanks to Jessica Jordan, who spread the word amongst her Miniature Young Artists students and provided a nice reception for the audience and performers.   We're so proud of these students who came up with the idea and implemented it!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: Weekend of Music

Midori Hisaeda; Kanae Tsuruga; Hideko Amano, Consul General of Japan, George Hisaedo
The weekend was full of music!  In addition to the rehearsals getting ready for our final large ensemble concerts the next two weekends, Saturday night was the last of this year's Music at the Fort concerts. Hideko Amano, an outstanding flutist and dedicated teacher, performed a wonderful program of romantic flute works.  Her final selection, Furusato (My Homeland) was poignantly appreciated by the large number of Japanese in attendance, including the Consul General of Japan and his wife, Midori.  Both the Consul General and his wife are music lovers.  Midori takes violin lessons from Sonia Hadar, and her husband, George, told me he practices trombone two hours a day.  The concert was dedicated to help support the disaster relief efforts from the earthquake in Japan.  Instead of wine and cheese, guests were served a sampling of exquisite teas and ginger biscuits from from The Green Teaist in Lake Forest, making for a wonderful evening.

If you also wish to make a donation for the Japan Disaster Relief, you can send a check to: 
Consulate General of Japan
(Attn:  Disaster Relief:  Japan's earthquake)
737 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 1100
Chicago, IL  60611

Monday, April 11, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: Benefit

What a beautiful evening last night.. . .worth all the work that so many people put into making this a wonderful event!  Thought today a few photos might capture some of the evening for those who couldn't attend.



Sunday, March 20, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: St. Louis Music School Students Visit MYA

We were very proud parents this weekend!  Our daughter, Kirby, teaches at the St. Louis School of Music. She and her husband boarded an Amtrak train early Saturday morning with 9 students from the school for Chicago.  They arrived in time for a dinner at MYA and to listen to our Music at the Fort concert featuring Rose Armbrust.  We are equally proud of our MYA daughter, Rose, a graduate of Julliard (B.M. degree), Curtis Institute of Music (Artist Diploma) and Indiana University (M.M. degree).  Rose got married and relocated back in the Chicago area and joined our chamber music coaching staff this year.  Her prodigious talents were evident in her performance of works by Shostakovich, Bach and Franck.
Sunday morning, the students participated in master classes given by Charlie Pikler and Rose.  An old pro and a kid magnet, both brought new insights to the music.  What a educational experience!  The tour Kirby arranged was a first for the school.  Chamber music is also new for the the St. Louis School of Music.  Her ensembles performed on our Sunday Soiree at Ravinia, a great opportunity for them to play at a very special place and to also hear other groups at different levels of experience.  What a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: A Touching Tribute to the Value of Music

It's been awhile again since I posted.  Time is the factor.  We are getting ready for our April 10 benefit and the work behind the scenes is something that could be another topic for a blog.  But, an email from Patrick Pearson, our beloved Orchestra Director, gave me an opportunity to post something that follows up the last blog. 

In addition to conducting our Cadet, Concertina and Philharmonia orchestras, Mr. P is the Orchestra Director at Oak Park River Forest High School.  Like Wilmette, Oak Park will be voting on a referendum in April.  If it fails, instrumental music is one of the many programs that will be cut in elementary schools. 

I’m not going to belabor you with studies that show how music uses both sides of the brain or how music students’ GPA’s are significantly higher that non-music students….blah, blah, blah.  Please allow me to share a personal story.

I grew up in a middle class, blue collar family in Sandusky, Ohio.  My father worked nights at a factory and my mother was a pediatric nurse.  Both worked very hard to raise 6 children in a tiny bungalow.  I didn’t realize at the time, but they worked very hard to make ends meet.  I distinctly remember some of the things my mother, in particular, would do save a couple of dollars – like making us purchase our popcorn for the movies at the Hills Department Store, instead of at the actual movie theatre.  Hills’ popcorn was 15 cents.  I was so embarrassed to walk into the theatre (matinee, of course) as the ONLY family with Hill’s popcorn.  I also remember wearing the same Halloween costume for several years in a row.  The costume was actually white thermal underwear (long johns – top and bottom) which worked great as an angel costume.  Just add a halo made of a wire hanger and wings made out of paper.  That was 2nd grade.  In 3rd grade, my mother dyed that same pair of thermals the color red, to convert that same angel costume into a devil costume.  I was mortified, but she forced me to wear it.  All of my classmates wore store-bought costumes.  You remember – the hard mask held on by a rubber band and a plastic costume, sort of like a garbage bag – usually a superhero or a princess for the girls.  Do you think it ended there?  Nope - In 4th grade, she dyed, yes dyed, that same set of underwear the color, black and turned it into a cat, converting that devil’s tail to a black cat tail.

That was it.  I was ready to run away from home.  At the time in my life, I felt like the biggest outcast.  Oh, I failed to mention that I had horrible grades, poor eyesight (I began wearing thick glasses at age 5) and suffered with a speech impediment.  I stuttered – particularly with words which began with a “W”.  I was constantly teased and bullied by my classmates.  Then one day, angels sang (They weren’t wearing white thermals).  My music teacher, Mr. Blake and Ms. Dunphy, the orchestra director held a presentation in the evening at the school.  My parents were too busy to take me, so I went alone.  It was music instrument demonstration night, where we had an opportunity to try to play instruments, ultimately deciding if we wanted to play in band or orchestra.  I was immediately drawn to the violin. 

To make a long story short, I began taking the group violin lessons with Ms. Dunphy and Mr. Blake taught me music theory in an afterschool program.  Rhythm was my strength.  That same year, I won the “Rhythm-Bee” for the entire school.  In 5th grade, I immersed myself with practicing my violin and piano, which Mr. Blake was teaching me. I begged my mother to buy me a piano, but we just couldn’t afford one, so my neighbor gave me a toy organ, so I could practice.  I entered a composition contest for the Daughters of the American Revolution and won 1st place - $50.00.  5th grade was the first year I made straight “A’s” in every subject.  I made friends, many who were in music and some not.   I became more confident. In 6th grade, I was chosen to give the farewell speech to entire school at the final assembly.  I did it without stuttering and never stuttered since.  In Jr. High, I joined band (alto saxophone) and choir, which were in-school curricular classes.  I was able to take band, orchestra, and choir as a curricular class during school, while taking Honors and AP classes.  (Yes, we had AP in the 80’s) Throughout my primary and secondary years, I achieved the Honor Roll (elementary/junior high) and Dean’s List (high school, all while continuing to participate in curricular orchestra, band, and choir. 

You know, I think I turned out to be an o.k. guy!  I wonder if MUSIC had anything to do with it.
Patrick A. Pearson

We think he is an OK guy, too, and we are all so lucky that he shares his talents and time with MYA! 

Does anyone else have a story of how music influenced their life? 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: The Importance of Music, Part I

Since I last blogged, we have had a weekend of concerts (February 19 & 20) and the Discover National Chamber Music Competition (February 27)! These concerts and events highlighted outstanding musical achievement and how hard students worked to attain this level of performance.  

The most interesting performance I observed was the Be Authentic!  Early and New Music concert which featured performances of the pieces written by winners of our 1st MYA Composition Contest.  Allan thought he’d have a couple of entries this year, but we ended up with 11!  The winning pieces were written for woodwind quintet, (Celebrations! by Bryan Sanoshy) and string quartet (Quartet No. 1 by Tyler Katz).   I say “written,” but probably “created” is a better term.   An avid read, I equate composition to developing characters and creating a novel versus researching and writing non-fiction.  It’s an impressive talent which then, in both fields, has conventions and lots to learn to perfect the product.

This morning, Jane Kim, a journalism major at Northwestern University, asked if she could interview me for a project she was working on.   The interview was thought provoking.  She said that someone had told her that Classical Music was going to be dead in 100 years and asked me what I thought.  My immediate response was that I didn’t believe that.  Bach wrote over 250 years ago, and we are still listening to and appreciating his music and will still be 250 years from now.  Granted, I am not and haven’t been an avid listener of pop music since I was in high school, but I think we see more students each year because there is something spiritual about the music, from Bach to Debussy to Shostakovich to Puccini, there is a feeling that you get from classical music that keeps you coming back to listen.  It’s probably even more exciting to creatively make the notes come alive!

Then, I thought quickly about why someone would think that classical music is dying, and remembered that Lali Watt had come in the office today with a VOTE NO button.  I asked her what she voted NO to, and she said that a proposition in Wilmette, if passed, would eliminate music in the public schools, so she was going to vote NO.  My own knowledge of music, key signatures, scales, note values, appreciation for The New World Symphony, all came from general music classes and plastic recorder and clarinet lessons in school music through the 8th grade in New York State public schools. There are over 600 public elementary schools in Chicago and about half of them do not have art or music classes.  When a wealthy suburb like Wilmette considers eliminating music or charges for it as an extra, it does have you take pause. 

What do you think?  Will classical music be dead in 100 years?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Midwest Young Artists: NEA Funding Update

Allan has been struggling with next year’s budget all week, and I have been helping Sandra get the MYA E-Auction up and ready to start on Sunday!  Please check it out!  You might think of it as a way to make a donation and pick your premium, similar to campaigns for NPR. 

Thinking about next year's budget, I did write and send that letter to our elected officials this week about how cuts to the NEA would affect our organization.  Bottom line is that the funding we receive from the NEA supports at least one full time employee.  Funding from the Illinois Arts Council, which for many years was $30,000, has been cut back to almost nothing. 
Congress will begin a 10-day recess on February 18.  When they return, the U.S. Senate will begin consideration of their version of FY 2011 funding legislation as early as February 28.  Here is a link if you want to contact elected officials.  Now U.S. Senator Mark Kirk has been a strong supporter of the NEA and of MYA, specifically as he is on our Honorary Board.  You might want to contact him and ask for his continued support.  This is a link to information on how to contact elected officials. Link to Contact Elected Officials  

FYI, our newly elected representative, Congressman Robert Dold (R) did not vote for an  amendment to cut an additional $20.5 million from National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funding which passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a close vote of 217-209The amendment offered by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) reduced the NEA budget to $124.5 million. This was after the House Appropriations Committee had already cut the NEA’s budget by $22.5 million before it even got to the floor.   

Concerts this weekend will be great!  Am looking forward to sitting back and listening to all the wonderful music!