The Small Pond Talk

Last Thursday a colleague asked me to give a talk to his Public Speaking class about serving on Lamar Town Council, working as a teacher, and how I balance the two.  Below is the written version of that talk, which is adapted in part from my post “Small Pond” (read the full version on SubscribeStar).

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The Art of Concert Programming

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Subscriberslast week’s SSS about Myrtle Beach is up, as is last week’s edition of Sunday Doodles.  My apologies for the delay.  —TPP

Every spring my school sponsors a big fine arts festival, a weekend dedicated to celebrating and showcasing our talented students.  The weekend includes two nights of our drama students performing whatever play or musical they’re presenting that season, as well as an exhibit of student artwork.

The first night, however, is the big Spring Concert.  After the dance students share some pieces, my student-musicians take the stage for their one big night of the semester.

The Spring Concert is like the Super Bowl for these kids:  it’s the biggest stage most of them will take during the academic year (though several of my students gig with bands and ensembles outside of school), and the one time they really get to soak up the spotlight.  The goal of my music classes is to put on good performances, not to seek fame, but the kids deserve some accolades and kudos.  Besides, a big part of music is being able to share it with other people.

With the Spring Concert about six weeks away, my students and I sat down this week to begin programming the concert.  Programming a concert is part science, but also an art; it requires a certain “feel” for the pieces, and how those disparate pieces link together to create a cohesive, exciting whole.

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Lazy Sunday XCIX: Romantic Music

After three Sundays, several SubscribeStar Saturdays, and some Mondays of movie reviews, it seemed like a good time to give the movies a rest.  Don’t get me wrong—there’s a good chance I’ll be writing a movie review tomorrow—but I realized the blog has been skewing a bit heavily in that direction for a few weeks.  Sure, it’s wintertime, the perfect time to vegetate while consuming schlock in the evening, but that doesn’t mean we can live on cultural junk food alone.

To that end, I thought I’d highlight the classier side of The Portly Politico with haute cuisine—my recent posts on Romantic music.  Seeing as Valentine’s Day is one week away, why not cozy up with passionate music from some of history’s greatest composersBon appétite!:

  • Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony” (and “TBT: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony“) – photog gave the TBT version of this post a shout-out in his most recent “Friday Finds” post.  I’m grateful he did, in no small part because everyone should hear this beautiful, programmatic symphony.  The Pastoral is a beautiful, melodious traipse through the countryside—all told musically.
  • The Joy of Romantic Music” – For a very brief introduction to and primer for Romantic music, I humbly submit this post.  I point out just a few of the many excellent composers from the time period, almost all of whom I’ve discussed in class this semester.
  • The Joy of Romantic Music II: Bedřich Smetana’s ‘The Moldau’” – Due to a WordPress error, the e-mail preview for this post went out a couple of days before the post was published, meaning that many folks missed it.  That’s a shame, because it’s an absolutely gorgeous bit of nationalistic (and naturalistic) composing, detailing a whimsical river cruise down the titular river, sailing through the Bohemian countryside, through Prague, and past an ancient castle.
  • The Joy of Romantic Music III: Hector Berlioz’s ‘Symphonie Fantastique’” – I’ve become fascinated with Hector Berlioz, which is apparently quite common:  music critics either love him almost as madly as he loved Harriet Smithson, or they reject him entirely.  I tend towards the former camp.  Berlioz was a Romantic’s Romantic—full of lofty ideals about the power of music and the passions it stirred.  The Symphonie Fantastique—which he wrote for and about Smithson, and his intense love for her—is likely the first psychedelic work, as it features an opium-addled artist descending into strange dreams.

I’m sure I’ll write more about Romantic composers soon, but these four posts should give you plenty of listening to get you started.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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Hustlin’ Towards Financial Independence

It’s another Bandcamp Friday, which means if you buy my music today, Bandcamp doesn’t take their cut; ergo, yours portly pockets a few more dimes.

Those dimes add up. Regular readers know that I’m a major advocate of sensible financial planning and reducing unnecessary spending (at one point, I would have been an “extreme budgeter,” but now some hedonic adaptation has kicked in and I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor a bit more).  I also promote hustlingworking hard and spinning different side gigs—to generate extra income.

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The Joy of Romantic Music III: Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique”

To take us into the last weekend in January, I thought it would be nice to do at least one more entry in my unplanned Friday miniseries on “The Joy of Romantic Music” (read the second installment here).  I very much enjoy the music of the Romantic composers, and have discovered some new favorites as I’ve been covering them in my Pre-AP Music Appreciation class.

I’m a real sucker for program music—music that tells a story or depicts an idea or place—and the Romantic period was full of it.  There was perhaps no greater champion—if not practitioner; Camille Saint-Saëns likely holds that title—of the form than French composer Hector Berlioz.

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The Joy of Romantic Music

This semester started with two weeks of online learning (of which today is the last day before students and teachers return to campus after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), so it’s been an unusually slow start to the already sleepy January term.  However, that hasn’t stopped my music classes from listening to great music; indeed, we’re now covering what is perhaps my favorite period in the history of Western music:  the Romantic Era.

While I adore Baroque and classical composers and their works, Romantic music builds upon the forms established in those eras, stretching and expanding upon them to reach new heights of emotional intensity and musical expressiveness.  The music of the Romantic composers delights with its musical exploration of the supernatural, the mysterious, the Gothic, and the nationalistic.

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The Virus and Live Music: The Story of The Roasting Room Lounge

Christmastime always puts me in a musical mood, as blog posts this week suggest.  Christmas is the perfect season to illustrate the power of music, as so much wonderful music has been written about Christ’s Birth.

In The Before Times, in the Long, Long Ago, before The Age of The Virus, it was also a lucrative season for musicians.  Other than wedding gigs (a market I haven’t managed to crack into yet), nothing pays better than a Christmas party.  They’re fun, full of free food, and they pay well.  The spirit of free-flowing generosity (and the generosity of free-flowing spirits) results in some warm winter paydays.

Of course, this year has been particularly tough for musicians, as I’ve detailed many, many times before.  Revenues from private lessons and gigs seem to be bouncing back (at least for me), and the struggles of The Virus brought forth a burst of generosity.  Bandcamp Fridays really helped inject some much-needed cash into the coffers of independent musicians (myself included).

Musicians have also had to get creative.  That’s why I hosted my annual Spooktacular from my front porch.  Venues are constrained by various local and State laws (and sometimes dictatorial edicts) limiting their capacities, and many eateries have been slow to resume live shows.  That’s created real limitations on venues and artists, but it’s also opened up opportunities.  My Spooktacular was mildly profitable, but it also brought people together for desperately-needed fun and camaraderie (and put a few bucks into the pockets of the musicians involved).  I don’t know if that model will endure once The Virus is defeated, but it’s something for musicians to consider in this strange new world.

But for all I’ve written about the damage The Virus has caused to musicians’ finances, I haven’t looked at the impact on venues at all.  That’s an unfortunate oversight on my part, because a venues’ success or failure can directly impact that of an artist.  Many musically-inclined venues are coffee shops or small restaurants, so they largely cut live music as they went to take-out-only and delivery formats.

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TBT: A Little Derb’ll Do Ya: Haydn’s “Derbyshire Marches”

The blog of late has been focusing more and more on culture, specifically music.  That makes sense because I am, after all, a music teacher, and am increasingly moving away from teaching social studies.  That’s never been truer than this year, where I am teaching, among other things, a detailed Music Appreciation course covering the major works and stylistic periods of Western music.

This focus is also a result of a desire to move away from the constant flux of politics.  More and more, I’m coming to believe that the best way to improve our lot is to focus on creating culture and building our communities.  Decentralized, localized bulwarks against progressivism offer one peaceful form in which like-minded conservatives and traditionalists can continue to live freely—at least to some extent—and happily.

So in casting about for a TBT post this week, I stumbled upon this one from 16 December 2019, “A Little Derb’ll Do Ya: Haydn’s ‘Derbyshire Marches.’”  My Music Appreciation students and I have been discussing Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, and have listened to a number of their works this week in class.

Joseph Haydn lived a remarkable, long, and successful life.  He grew up poor, and his early musical experiences involved hearing and singing the folk tunes of his native Austria.  He spent his childhood singing in a church, but was turned out when his voice changed.  He then made ends meet teaching music lessons and taking side gigs, slowly teaching himself how to compose.

His fortunes changed at 29 when he joined the Hungarian Esterházy family as their Kappelmeister, writing and composing a mind-boggling amount of pieces (at one point, the family staged two operas a week in their personal theatre in Hungary, all of which required Haydn’s pen and conductor’s baton).  But the position—difficult as it was—made Haydn wealthy and secure.

Even in spite of his workload and an unhappy marriage, Haydn maintained a positive attitude, and adopted an optimistic, humorous outlook on life.  It shows in his compositions, which are light-hearted, whimsical, joyous—and fun.

With that, here is 2019’s “A Little Derb’ll Do Ya: Haydn’s ‘Derbyshire Marches’“:

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Singing Christmas Carols with Kids

Today is Bandcamp Friday, which means if you purchase my music on Bandcamp, Bandcamp doesn’t take their usual 15% commission.  You can pick up my entire discography for $15.75—seven total releases, including the popular Contest Winner – EP.  If you want to enjoy some good tunes and support an independent musician, today is a great day to do so.  You can also support me directly with a tip.

It’s that time of year when Christmas music dominates the airwaves and our collective consciousness.  It’s always a tad irksome to me how folks will complain about Christmas music during the Christmas season.  Of course you’re going to hear Mariah Carey every fifteen minutes—it comes with the territory.  Naturally, let’s at least get through Halloween (and, preferably, Thanksgiving Day), but at least make an attempt at getting into the Christmas spirit.

Last year I wrote extensively about Christmas carols.  Indeed, one of my many unfinished projects is to compile a small book containing the stories of some of our most cherished carols (I want to write a similar book about hymns, too).  I play and sing a lot of carols this time of year:  I’m a music teacher.  Perennial favorites—and the selections my classes are currently playing—are “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “O Holy Night.”

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