Fortunately, South Carolina is a free State, and live music is making a real comeback. Indeed, I had the opportunity to hear my buddy, poet Jeremy Miles, play a gig with his new band, Jeremy and the Blissters, at a hopping coffee shop Friday evening.
The experience was electric—and not just because of the piping hot sound system and stacks of amplifiers. The band—which, in addition to Jeremy, consists of good friends from the local music scene, two of whom have opened my front porch concerts—was stunning and powerful, offering up an eclectic mix of New Wave, punk, pop, acid rock, and more.
Beyond their impressive musical prowess and sweeping repertoire, Jeremy’s group reminded me of how fun live music can be—and how desperately we need more of it to return.
Thanks again to subscribers and regular readers for your patience. It’s been a wonderfully quiet day at home—literally, I’ve only gone outside to check the mail and to cut some oregano from my garden—so I’ve gotten a ton of writing done today.
Halloween is easy, because it comes packaged with all sorts of fun activities: Halloween songs, costume contests, spooky décor, etc. A generic springtime theme is a bit more vague, and with it already feeling like summer here in South Carolina, the theme presented some initial problems.
Happy Belated Mother’s Day, Mom, and to all the other mothers out there. I didn’t serve my mom breakfast in bed, but I’d like to think my presence was enough to brighten her day. She did go to the trouble of making a delicious banana pudding, proving once again that moms are great—at least my mom, anyway.
Given that we all enjoyed a fun, busy Sunday, I’m a bit behind on the blog, and plan on returning with more substantive posts tomorrow. I’ll likely pick up with a belated Monday Morning Movie Review, but on Tuesday.
In all seriousness, the blog has been doing pretty, with fairly consistent daily pageviews and a small uptick in readers leaving comments. Work and my illness late in April have eaten up some of the time I can dedicate to writing, but summer break is fast approaching, and I’m hoping to resume work on my next book, a collection of the first fifty editions of Sunday Doodles, and begin working on a planned collection of new, original short stories.
My poor health recovered, I tested negative for The Virus, and the Spring Concert was a smashing success. I managed to get back to work Wednesday, giving me time to build—for the first time since the 2019 Christmas Concert—my Frankenstein’s Monster sound system, rehearse my students, and wire up a ton of microphones, amps, keyboards, and the like.
After every big concert, I spend part of a class period conducting a “concert postmortem,” my pet term for reviewing the highs and lows of the previous night. It’s a good opportunity to discuss elements that could be improved for the next concert, but also to allow the students to bask in the glory of their performance a little longer.
Not surprisingly, this process tends to work better with high school students, who have developed politeness filters and know how to phrase suggestions diplomatically. They’re also veterans, so they understand better the realities of live performance, and don’t have unrealistic expectations. Middle school students tend to either be over-awed by the experience (one student Thursday evening exclaimed, “That was awesome!”) or very critical of small errors. That’s why we frame these discussions as “constructive criticism,” which helps the students understand the purpose is to build each other up and point out areas where we can all improve.
Regardless, I’m letting readers in on that process a bit with a general “concert postmortem,” including our finalized set list.
This past weekend I was sick with a low-grade fever, a cough, and some mild chest congestion. I got home from work Friday and sat in a chair in my mudroom for about two hours without moving, thinking I was just worn out after a long week of work.
I spent most of Saturday and Sunday sleeping, and finally began feeling some relief Sunday evening. I took Monday off, as my temperature was around 101.4 Sunday evening.
That doesn’t make for exciting reading, but every time I am sick, it reminds me of how thankful I am for the vast majority of days I am well. God and genetics blessed me with a very hardy constitution, so I get sick a.) infrequently and b.) mildly. Rarely—about once every five-to-ten years—I get very sick for a spell of a week or two, such as last summer’s bout of Maybe-The-Virus and The Great Christmas Flu of 2014.
Next week my little school will host its annual Fine Arts Festival. It is for artsy students (and their teachers) the equivalent of the State Championship game for athletes—a big stage onto which the students have an opportunity to showcase their talents, and to demonstrate the works they’ve been laboring over all year.
It is a fun, stressful, exhilarating, and exhausting week, all in one. As both the Music teacher and the de facto sound and lighting guy, I have the dubious task of constructing a sound system that works for dance performances, a concert, and a Shakespearean play. I call this setup the “Frankenstein’s Monster Sound System,” as it consists of various bits of differently-branded technology, all linked together in a glorious tangle of cables.
But the effort to build an ad hoc sound and lighting system in a high school gymnasium is worth it in the end, especially during and after the concert.
Well, another week of distance learning is in the books (nearly), and it seems folks are settling into an uncertain new normal as The Virus—what I’ve taken to calling the coronavirus (or COVID-19, to your cool kids)—continues to spread its invisible tentacles.
I personally have enjoyed the transition to distance learning, though I wish it were under rosier circumstances, obviously. It’s been stimulating to solve the puzzle of moving instruction online, and while I think I’m actually working harder and longer most days, I am far more refreshed. Being able to wake up at 7:30 AM and shuffling to the computer with some coffee is much more pleasant than my typically frantic morning routine, with both starts earlier and is more hectic. It’s also nice knowing that, once 3:30 or 4 PM hit, I am done, if I wish to be.
Naturally, I realize many Americans don’t have this luxury—they’re either in essential jobs that require them to risk constant interactions with other people, or they’re in non-essential work that can’t simply move to the Internet, so they find themselves out of work. My heart goes out to both groups. The real heroes of this situation are the garbage men, nurses, doctors, utility workers, cooks, plumbers, and the rest that soldier on.
One reason for the Christmas music focus is that my students have their big Christmas Concert this Friday. It’s always a great deal of fun, and we try to go for a homemade Trans-Siberian Orchestra vibe (if only I could get the administration to spring for some laser lights and pyrotechnics).
As an independent musician and a music teacher (I also teach history), I find myself playing the role of concert impresario quite a bit. One lesson I’ve learned is that the money people—the producers—will always have their notes and revisions, often last-minute. Your well-oiled, tried-and-true concert formula can often get totally upended with changes. Learning to roll with the punches is hard, but necessary.