My main website is temporarily down, so I’ve redirected the URL here, where I used to do a lot of blogging. The site should be back up soon, and this is a great time to update it with more recent videos a sound files, etc.

Meanwhile, I remain active as a performing cellist (recitals, chamber performances, principal cellist of the Lafayette [IN] Symphony, sub for other groups), and and have returned to DePauw University as co-director of the School of Music’s new faculty ensemble, “Backyard Gold Mine.”

Active, too, as a cello teacher, with a class of middle and high-school students I teach in West Lafayette, Indiana. And I am expanding my online teaching.

What else is this “non-reitred” phase of life (I took an early retirement offer from DePauw a few years ago)? I discovered a new passion in working with incarcerated men to put their past behind them and create new futures for themselves and their families. I do this through leading a life-changing leadership course developed by Werner Erhard, Michael Jensen, and Steve Zaffron, at a local medium-security men’s prison, through DePauw’s Hartman Center for Civic Engagement. (I’ve also led the course twice at DePauw).

And I have joined forces with Nick Berar, who has many years of experience leading personal development workshops, in developing a new program to empower people who are stuck in some area of life in getting unstuck. More on that soon!


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Back to blogging . . .

It’s only been 6 years since I posted here! As Facebook exploded, I did almost all my writing there–that’s where the audience has been. I see, though, that it’s so easy for posts to disappear into the mix, the maelstrom, really, of all that’s there. It’s much easier (at least for me) to find things by topic on blog sits such as this one.

There’s a lack of distraction writing here, as well. When I’m writing something on Facebook, notifications keep popping up. So-and-so has posted a new photo! There’s a message from something else. It’s almost like trying to write while sitting at a table with friends having coffee, drinks, or a meal.

Plus–and what an added attraction–I like to write blog posts on my laptop, rather than my phone, so I’m also spared the constant stream of notifications. (Yes, I suppose I could turn off more of the notifications on my phone.)

We’ll see how this develops. I haven’t updated the look of this WordPress site for more than 6 years, and the list of categories is overly long and complex (I never did figure out how or if it’s possible to streamline that or change the look of the site).

See you next time . . .

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State of the Art, September 2016

Here’s the (rather long) opening essay from the evolving syllabus for the State of the Art course I am developing at the DePauw University School of Music. The entire document, with a reading list, is here.

Even as we see the Fort Worth Symphony on strike, and difficult labor negotiations underway in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, there are also many smaller groups and individual classically-trained performers doing well, happily engaged in a wide range of creative projects. It seems like a good time to share this essay (which seems to want to become a book) with friends and colleagues, especially since this weekend DePauw is hosting the absolutely amazing 21CMposium

In this course, we look at the past and the present of life as classically-trained musicians in order to enrich your process of imagining possibilities for your future career. It is part of the ongoing question underlying the entire 21cm curriculum: What can it mean to be a musician in the 21st century?

Is there a classical music crisis?

Many people, including the most widely-read blogger on the future of classical music, Greg Sandow, say yes. Greg’s point of view, his narrative, if you will, is that classical music, once vitally connected to mainstream American culture, has become disconnected from contemporary life and needs to change, and change quickly. Orchestras in Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Philadelphia have gone through wrenching labor disputes that ended with the players taking significant and painful salary and benefit cuts. The Philadelphia Orchestra went through bankruptcy organization; the Minnesota Orchestra musicians endured a bitter fifteen-month lockout that led to the resignation of its music director (followed by the resignation of its executive director and a final, triumphant reengagement of the music director). Two years ago, the Atlanta Symphony musicians were locked out and the vitriol in the press, especially the “blogosphere” was astounding. In January, a similar mess played out with the smaller Hartford (CT) Symphony, and resolved itself only after the musicians and the music director (conductor) agreed to substantial pay cuts. And now (September 2016) the musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony are on strike,  the Pittsburgh Symphony and its players are in closed-door negotiations, and things are starting to heat up again with the Philadelphia Orchestra as well (the players having denounced management’s initial offer as “regressive”).

The New York City Opera, once a popular a thriving “people’s opera” offering a lower cost and often more adventurous alternative to its Lincoln Center neighbor, the Metropolitan Opera, went out of business in 2013. It was revived in a smaller and more flexible form in January 2016, with most of its performances in the Jazz at Lincoln Center venues on New York’s Columbus Circle, particularly the Rose Theater, rather than its former home, the cavernous David H. Koch Theater in the main Lincoln Center complex. (The Rose Theater has approximately half the number of seats as the Koch.)

Peter Gelb, the general director of the Metropolitan Opera, said during union contract negotiations in 2014 that even that institution–perhaps the most famous opera company in the world, and the largest-budget classical-music institution in the United States– faced possible bankruptcy if its employees didn’t take major cuts in compensation. While a settlement avoiding a strike or lockout was reached (Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal, asserting the cuts in compensation the singers, players, and stagehands agreed to were too small, called it Apocalypse Later), the Met’s still-shaky finances have been the subject of much discussion. New York Times business columnist and New Yorker staff writer James Stewart, a DePauw alum and trustee, wrote A Fight at the Opera, a major New Yorker piece examining the situation, in March 2015, which we will read.

How’d this happen? Whose fault is it?

We will see that there are competing narratives. Performers and their supporters blame administrators and boards for ineffective fundraising, poor marketing and counterproductive artistic choices. Administrators and boards blame a changing culture and ever-rising expenses, especially the costs of unionized employees whose salary and health and pension benefits are, they say, unsustainable. The Met’s Peter Gelb, who asked its unions for major cuts, has answered his critics in part by saying, “The problem that we face is a social and cultural problem, and the question is not whether I think I’m doing a good job or not in trying to keep the opera alive. It’s whether I’m doing a good job or not in the face of a cultural and social rejection of opera as an art form.” [emphasis added]

As we will see when we read Jim Stewart’s article, others respond that Gelb, who had little or no experience in opera when he took over the Met, has funded over-priced new productions that don’t attract a large enough paying audience or inspire wealthy patrons to donate enough money. Various commentators have pointed out that other opera companies regularly sell out all their tickets–the Vienna State Opera being one of the most notable. On the other hand, while the Met has 3800 seats, Vienna has 2284; a ticket-sales triumph in Vienna is a disaster in New York. It’s complicated.

There are major orchestras doing very well, including those in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles. And there’s new enthusiasm surrounding the orchestras mentioned above as having had strikes or lockouts. Their near-death experiences triggered renewed energy and commitment as key segments of the community realized what they were so close to losing, as news coverage of the labor situations generated much needed publicity for the institutions.

When the San Diego Opera board announced in March 2014 that the organization would be disbanded, the city rallied. A new board was put in place, and the institution was saved (at least for now). (Something similar almost happened with the Green Bay Symphony. When its closure was announced in June 2014, a Facebook Group to Save the Green Bay Symphony was formed; it nevertheless ceased operations in April 2015.)

Smaller groups are flourishing in many cases. Our alumnus and oft-quoted blogger Jon Silpayamanant has documented well over two hundred small opera companies that have been formed since 2001, with nearly all of them still operating. One is the Intimate Opera of Indianapolis, co-founded by another School of Music alum, Amy Elaine Hayes (Steven Linville is her co-executive director). The summer music festival I started in Greencastle in 2005 had its biggest audiences and most successful fundraising season ever this year. The part-time Lafayette Symphony (led by SoM alum Sarah Mummey) is thriving.

Perhaps someday we will look back at this period and say, as Mr. Dickens once wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Chicken Littles? Some commentators, including consultant Drew McManus (who writes the Adaptistration blog), call proponents of the “classical crisis” narrative (like Mr. Sandow) “Chicken Littles.” Mr. Silpayamanant, who in recent years has tried to steer clear of inflammatory “Chicken Little” language, often suggests that that problems with attendance are indeed failures of programming and marketing, asserting that the sort of “cultural and social rejection” Mr. Gelb perceives is actually excuse making (the employees of the Met clearly agreed).

Climate Change Deniers? Additional commentators argue classical music is doing fine overall. When the online magazine Slate published Mark Vanhoenacker’s piece “Requiem: Classical Music in America is Dead,” it was met with cutting responses from William Robin in The New Yorker and Andy Doe at his blog Proper Discord. Not surprisingly, those who suggest all is well with classical music are occasionally compared to climate-change deniers (by a commenter on Greg Sandow’s blog, for example) by those enumerating the struggles mentioned above. Dismissing the folding of the New York City  Opera, the Indianapolis Opera cutting its 2013-2014 season by 25%, and the strikes and lockouts and drastic pay cuts as inconsequential while pointing to some successes–isn’t that like saying, sure, it was the hottest summer, glaciers are melting, hurricanes are more intense than ever, sea levels are rising, the water tables in portions of Miami are starting to rise above ground, but heck, there was a lot of snow and record cold temperatures in January, so what’s the problem?

Legacy institutions: the hardest hit. Climate change or ineffective management and marketing, the problems we’ve looked at above have been experienced in the most pronounced way by what are sometimes called the legacy institutions of classical music. These are the large organizations which have existed for decades (some over 100 years);  have a large number of full-time employees (both administrative and artistic) who receive health-insurance and other benefits, and many of whom belong to powerful unions that resist any change to the status quo; and in most cases perform in very large concert halls or auditoriums which are increasingly difficult to fill. (As I mentioned above, when the smaller scale, revived version of the New York City Opera performs in the Rose Theater at JALC, they have less than half the number of seats to fill than they did at their former home on the main Lincoln Center campus.)

New model/21cm approaches. While many of the legacy institutions struggle, there are a number of ensembles and individual performers who are doing very well. In this course we refer to them as new model and/or 21cm performers and groups.  Particularly well-known are the thriving new-music groups such as Kronos, eighth blackbird, Alarm Will Sound, and the International Contemporary Ensemble. The River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston is frequently cited as a successful model; its repertoire includes more standard classical music. Performing in recent years at DePauw have been the vocal group Roomful of Teeth, the versatile string quartet Ethel, the world-influenced Trio Globo, The King’s Singers (an ever-evolving vocal group), and the innovative cellist Maya Beiser. (We bring these groups here primarily to give students in the School of Music a first-hand experience and an opportunity to interact with cutting-edge, “21cm” performers.)  

Blue Oceans. Here’s a fascinating metaphor: when many businesses are compete in the same market for the same customers, it’s like a bloody red ocean filled with sharks fighting over the same carcass. Do something new, something original. Then you have no competition. You create your own market. You find yourself sailing in a pristine blue ocean. (Read more at

21cm success stories seem to embody this blue ocean principle. The majority of the 21cm groups we study have a unique repertoire. On the whole, traditional, mainstream string quartets play the great works from Haydn (the first important composer to write string quartets) up through Bartok, with some occasional new pieces. They compete playing pieces which form an essential part of the canon of Western art music. Who plays the best Beethoven or Brahms or Debussy? There are at least a hundred genuinely excellent groups playing this music. It can be a very red ocean. And the same holds true for solo pianists, for singers, for violinists, etc.

21cm groups, on the other hand, aren’t competing with each other playing the same repertoire. Almost always, they have their own: pieces they have commissioned from composers, or that members of the group have written themselves. Many perform new arrangements or “remixes” of music from non-classical genres.

Merging Genres and Intercultural Collaboration and Influence. One thing you’ll notice is that many (although not all) of these groups are deeply involved in combining genres. Time for Three’s virtuoso string players play their own arrangements of Appalachian fiddle music and remix classical standards with a Bluegrass influence; Sybarite5 is famous in part for its Radiohead remixes. The trailblazing cellist Matt Haimovitz, who pioneered playing classical music in rock clubs and bars, has toured with arrangements of songs by Arcade Fire, Radiohead, and others by his performing partner, the pianist Christopher O’Riley (which can be heard on their album Shuffle.Play.Listen.).  

Cross-cultural collaboration, fertilization, and mutual influence are frequent as well. Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project has been the most high-profile and well-funded of these efforts; it’s performances and other initiatives bring non-western and classical musicians together in amazing global collaborations. Classical performers who participate in Silk Road, such as the the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and the chamber orchestra The Knights, (of the BR members are core members) have embraced the new eclecticism and broad vision of the Silk Road Project in their own work. In their DePauw concert, Ethel worked with the Native American flutist and composer Robert Mirabal.

Music: It’s Not Just for Concerts Anymore. These 21cm, new-model organizations have also transcended a performance-0nly model (i.e., “we are a music group, we give concerts, and that’s it) to what I first heard the arts consultant and former President of the Kennedy Center Michael Kaiser refer to as the expanded portfolio model. They are deeply involved in education and community-engagement activities and performances in non-traditional venues. “I don’t think of us as a performing organization,” Adrian Ellis, then the executive director of Jazz at Lincoln Center said in a 2011 talk I attended. “We are an educational institution that also presents events.” We’ll see that many of the groups we study, including Fifth House Ensemble and our current ensemble in residence Decoda have educational and community-engagement activities at the core of their work. Decoda’s work in prisons is especially notable, and is definitely the sort of thing that virtually none of your professors thought we were preparing ourselves for when we were in music school.  

Alternatives to the Single-Employer Model: Consortiums. In the decades after World War II, symphony orchestras began to pattern themselves on the booming corporate/industrial model of full-time, full-year employment, with unions representing the players, negotiating for increased benefits (such as healthcare and pensions) and better work conditions (a music director can no longer fire a player on a whim, for example, and rehearsals end when scheduled, or the players receive overtime pay). This worked for an increasing number of orchestras for a while (and still does for some), but came at a cost for many players of workplace satisfaction. Players who don’t resonate with a music director and/or section leader’s approach to making music can feel trapped (which is to say that while a lot of full-time orchestra musicians love their jobs, plenty of others are unhappy). To be happy in a  full-time orchestra, you have to embrace the fact that other people are going to be deciding what music you’ll play, how it will be interpreted, when the rehearsals and concerts will be, etc. There’s little if any artistic control, which can be deeply frustrating.  And as we are seeing, full-year, full-time employment for orchestra musicians is financially unsustainable for an increasing number of institutions.

Meanwhile, more and more groups are working with a consortium model (“an agreement, combination, or group [as of companies] formed to undertake an enterprise beyond the resources of any one member”). Groups such as Fifth House Ensemble, ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), and Decoda have many member players (10 for Fifth House, 33 for ICE, 32 for Decoda). Often small subsets of the group, two to three musicians, perform a concert or engage with students at a school or inmates in a prison, with the entire group performing together only on special occasions. Here’s how ICE explains it:

ICE projects are by nature modular and malleable. The ensemble is comprised of 33 soloists, among which myriad combinations of instrumental configurations are possible. ICE can be a comprised of a laptop alone on the stage of a nightclub one night; a performance installation in a gallery with three ICE musicians the next night; a large ensemble on stage at Lincoln Center the night after that; and any imaginable combination among, between or beyond.

Portfolio Careers. Relatively few of these new-model/21cm groups are based on the full-time, single-employer model. Instead, most 21cm musicians have portfolio careers, in which they perform with multiple ensembles, play solo concerts, teach privately or through educational institutions, and sometimes even do non-musical work that complements and informs their core artistry. Many musicians thrive on the creative variety and interaction with new collaborators that this career structure embraces, and if they are based in a consortium-model organization, they report that their other experiences enrich their work with the core organization.

The consortium/portfolio career model, with its infinite flexibility and virtually unlimited opportunity for creative growth, is appealing to many musicians who are more attracted to creative control and growth than financial stability. Teaching, through private lessons, workshops, and masterclasses, fits easily into this model as well. Many artists enjoying this kind of career prefer it over a full-time orchestra job. And with full-time jobs becoming fewer, and the long-term health of many legacy institutions at risk, it is important that you are aware of these possibilities as you imagine your own future

In this course we investigate and document these phenomena, at least as much as a single class of undergraduates can in one semester. We look at successes and failures, at old models and new. We look at the competing narratives. We will develop our own meta-narrative(s), bringing to bear as much information about the philosophy, sociology, history and economics of classical music as we can. We are not only artists, we are intellectuals. We are critical thinkers. And we will exercise those skills, as well as our creativity, in this course.

Most importantly, we will will draw on all we explore and learn to imagine powerful new possibilities for the role of musicians in 21st-century society and an inspiring future to energize you as you move through the rest of your time at DePauw.

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Sometimes I Can’t Believe They Pay Me For This . . .

There are some days when I can’t believe I actually get paid to do my job. The day started with an engaging and inspiring talk by our (that is, DePauw’s) alum Bill Hayes and his wife Susan Seaforth Hayes, cast members of Days of Our Lives, continued with a fascinating presentation by my chemistry/biochemistry colleague Dan Gurnon on the life-saving genetic research he and his students are doing, and ended with seeing the riveting film Reparation, cowritten by my colleague Steve Timm and our alum Kyle Ham, who directed and produced the movie designed by another colleague, G. Duane Skoog.

While I’ve been trying to turn myself into more of a morning person (one who isn’t in the office at 10:30pm as I  am right now), at 7:30am today I set the alarm for 9:15, stuck the apnea mask back on, and had some more sleep.

Then I was at DePauw at 10:20am for our weekly School of Music recital hour. Two weeks ago, I had the honor of opening the first session of year with an improvisation, played over the students and faculty singing a drone. Last week, Dale Henderson, founder and guiding light of the international Bach in the Subways movement, the “man who inspired the world to play Bach,” (OK, lots of us played Bach before Dale, but not thousands of us in 40 countries in all sorts of unexpected places in an extended J.S. Bach birthday party), was our guest artist, and I interviewed him and led a question and answer session that left many of us inspired to find ways to bring classical music to new audiences. (Dale played all six suites in a standing-room-only performance that evening.)

I know, I’m rambling. This week, no Eric in the recital hour, except in the audience.

Two of our students, Derrick Truby and Dylan Prentice, led a fascinating and inspiring “Storytellers” session with our 1947 (!) alumnus Bill Hayes and his wife Susan Seaforth Hayes. They are best known for their roles on NBC’s Days of Our Lives (Susan since 1968, Bill since 1970), and have many other credits, including Bill’s 1955 chart-topping rendition of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett.” Charming, witty, entertaining, and inspiring, they had great rapport not only with each other but with the student hosts as well. Terrific advice for everyone on being enthusiastic, energetic, resilient and professional. I was moved when Bill reminisced about campus life in the 1940s. Women had to be in their dorms by 10:00pm on Sundays and weeknights, 11:00pm on Fridays, and midnight on Saturdays. Men–evidently with a later curfew if one at all–would gather on the front lawn of a dorm or sorority house to sing four-part harmony to the women, who, gathered on a porch, would sing back to them. We all, even the current students, seemed to feel nostalgic together, especially when Bill told us the tradition was one of the reasons he came to DePauw.

That came to an end and I ambled over to the Memorial Union Building for a Faculty Forum lunch. A couple of times a month, we have a light buffet lunch while a colleague does a presentation on their work. Today, Dan Gurnon, of our chemistry and biochemistry department, did a fascinating–well, not just fascinating but engaging and entertaining, the kind of thing that could help get a guy named the Indiana Professor of the Year–presentation on the work he and his students have been doing on diagnosing rare genetic diseases, in conjunction with the Rare Genomics Institute. After giving us a crash course in proteins, genes, and DNA, followed by a brief history of the story of DNA sequencing and how breakthroughs in technology have lowered the cost from a billion dollars to just a thousand or less, Dan showed us how he and his students can take the genetic information from a patient and their parents and pinpoint a genetic abnormality resulting from a recessive gene in both parents. He explained everything so clearly, and with such a great set of slides that you’d think he had an entire production team working for him, that despite having multitasked through chunks of his talk (trying to get someone to retrieve the backpack I’d left in the recital hall), I believe I just summarized his talk accurately.

It was the second “Oh, wow, I’m getting paid to be here” moment of the day. If every lecture was as informative and engaging and delivered with as much enthusiasm and humor as this was, they wouldn’t be going out of style.

Then it was off to teach a cello lesson–that’s so much fun (really) that I’d do it for free. (So when I’m at meetings that are truly work, I tell myself I do all the music teaching for free and I’m getting paid quite a bit to go to two or three or four or five meetings in a week.)

Tonight I attended a showing of the film Reparation, which has been winning film festival awards right and left, based on a play by my colleague Steve Timm, and cowritten by him and our 1994 alum Kyle Ham, who directed and was one of the producers of the film. Shot (gorgeously, with cinematography by Jay Silver) here in Putnam County, much of it in Greencastle and on the DePauw campus, it’s an intense drama involving PTSD and some psychic mystery. I would have been totally lost in it, except I kept recognizing locations and friends like Amy Hayes, Gigi Jennewein, Susan Anthony, and Joe Buser in small roles. In a very big role is the young Dale Dye Thomas, daughter of my colleague Ron Dye, who (not surprisingly) won the Best Child Actress award at the 2015 Breckenridge Film Festival. The production designer was G. Duane Skoog, who is the technical director of DePauw’s Judson and Joyce Green Center for the Performing Arts; the fights scenes were choreographed by another colleague, Andrew Hayes.

Here’s the trailer:

OK, I didn’t actually get paid to go see the movie. The ticket was $6. And it was so good I had to come back to the office and write about it. It’s 11:40pm. So much for becoming a morning person!


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Cream Puff Energy: Video 1

My inner voice is telling me to start vlogging, so here we go. The cream puff story from my last post, recounted a bit differently. I’d love your comments. This is my first “cream puff” of whatever this vlogging activity is to be.

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Cream-puff Energy: The “Easter Cheer” Delivery

The phone rang. Actually, it buzzed, vibrating on the coffee table. I looked down, and there was my friend’s smiling face. I always enjoy seeing it–when I took the photo of her, I’d said, “Think of sex!” and she responded with a surprised laugh.

“Eric, are you home?” Yes. “Oh good! I have some Easter cheer for you. I’ll be over soon.”

Not much longer and there was a rapping, rapping, at my old front door. Once our fearsome miniature schnauzer, Riley, was under control, I went and greeted my smiling friend.

“I know how much you guys like cream puffs,” she said as she handed the foil-covered box of “Easter joy” to me, complete with a greeting card on top. I thanked her profusely. We chatted a bit. She said she hoped to see me in church tomorrow, and I said I’d be there. With–surprise!–my daughter, home briefly from NY, and also my ex-wife (whom we all love), who is coming in for the night as she returns home from a concert and teaching trip.

There were more Easter cheer deliveries to make, and so my friend went happily on her way. I went and told my husband, still in bed, that “Mary just brought us cream puffs.” He smiled and stretched his sleepy body with surprised ecstasy.

What a great way to spend a sunny Saturday morning, I realized. She’s having a blast.

I’m sitting here feeling stuck with a writing project. My inner critic is always worrying that whatever I’m writing or playing is not good enough, that it will be judged, that my worth as a person will be judged.

If I notice that, I can step aside from it, let it be, and connect with other energies. My friend Dale keeps nudging me to meditate, and suddenly it seems like every other article I read or podcast I listen to discusses meditation. OK, OK, universe, thanks for the messages, I’ll meditate!

The Easter cheer delivery lady, who loves to bake, has, I’m sure, thought about what her friends’ favorites are and made them to deliver this morning. It’s an act of caring, attentive, loving friendship.

Time now, I think, to reimagine much of what I do, with writing, with playing, with preparing classes, as creating the gifts I can deliver to friends.

Let’s call it cream-puff energy, a nice replacement for anxiety.







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Celloing the Brooklyn Bridge

Hey there, everyone in Alaska (I’m getting traffic from there, don’t ask me why)!

Friday evening, the amazing pianist/composer Fernando Otero and I did a short performance in a packed room at the elegant Consulate General of Argentina. It was one of three shows that doubled as showcases for attendees at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference taking place this weekend in midtown Manhattan. We played selections from our soon-to-be-released album, Dual, compositions by Fernando arranged for cello and piano. It is a dream come true to have now performed several times with him.

Saturday morning Mr. Photographer and I slept in, having been up a bit late the night before celebrating with my daughter and her aunt. Then came a lot of practicing as I prepare sonatas by Bach, Debussy, Schnittke, and Prokofiev for a Tuesday 7:30PM concert with Taka Kigawa at Spectrum, a venue in the East Village.

Since it was about 50º, we decided to go down to the Brooklyn Bridge for some #celloeverywhere. It took me a bit to get packed, and then the trains were slow, so it was just about sunset when we arrived. It was actually quite packed; it seemed like most of Manhattan and Brooklyn and decided to go to each other’s side of the river.


I’d got as close to the fence as possible to stay out of peoples’ way. There are actually two lanes, one for walkers and one for people on bikes, and the walkers were trespassing in the bikers’ territory with abandon, and I didn’t want to make the situation any more complicated than it was.

There were some smiles. It was getting cold, and dark, and not many people stopped to listen. Then along came a gaggle of young men who did stop and listen. One very sweetly took a dollar out of his wallet and tried to give it to me, but I smiled and said, “No money!” One of his companions pointed out, “It’s a photo shoot.” And I finished the Bach Allemande I was playing, explained #celloeverywhere, and gave them a card. They explained that they, too, are musicians, singing Monday night at Carnegie Hall, in a concert of music by Sir Karl Jenkins.


They went on back to Manhattan. Mr. Photographer headed towards Brooklyn.

And then it got very windy, and cold, and started to rain a bit. But just a bit–and then it stopped. We tried some photos with Manhattan in the background. The light was difficult–we’d need a different lense or some lights to make it work with me in the foreground and the city lights behind. This photo works best in black and white with some adjusting of light levels:


think it’s pretty cool!

Finally we got towards the middle of the bridge, and during a break from foot and bicycle traffic, were able to get this shot:


That one, Mr. Photgrapher, is very cool. Thanks!

As it was getting colder and darker, and I was concerned I was more in peoples’ way that actually offering a gift, we went back across the bridge, and along with everyone else, found Starbucks to warm up.

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Playing in Times Square

Mr. Photographer and I headed over to Times Square last night, where nothing anyone does is going to attract much attention. Still, we had fun with some street performers.


I thought they were having fun. Maybe they were, but they also wanted tips! Well, they don’t have full-time college professor jobs.

There was a beautiful moment when a mother and her daughter stopped to listen for a couple of minutes. The little girl, about two and a half, waved and sang out, “bye bye” when they left. Several people stopped and took videos. Some puzzled smiles from people who seemed to recognize what I was playing–and also wondering, I imagine, why someone would be doing this when it was about 35 degrees. (I did have to stop from time to time to warm up my left hand.)

It’s just really fun. What can I say? I love playing the cello. Everywhere!


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Sunday in the Park with . . . the Rain

It’s a busy week, as I’m preparing for an APAP showcase performance with Fernando Otero on Friday night (celebrating the upcoming release of our new album “Dual”), and a recital with Taka Kigawa of Bach, Debussy, Schnittke, and Prokofiev on Tuesday the 19th at Spectrum, a relatively new venue in Greenwich Village. And Thursday through Sunday last week I was attending the Chamber Music America Annual Conference here in New York.

Sunday it was warm–nearly 60 degrees. But it was raining most of the day. As late afternoon approached, the skies cleared above Carnegie Hall (down the block from our hotel), and so Mr. Photgrapher and I grabbed the camera, the carbon-fiber cello, and my camp stool, hopped on the subway, and got off at West 4th St., all set to head to Washington Square Park.

And it started raining again. Not just mist, but rain. So we ducked in the coffee shop, had coffee only (Mr. P wouldn’t allow me any pie, and my blood sugar thanks him), and waited for the rain to pass. What a world we live in–we could watch the weather radar on our iPhones. At one point it was just like the good old days in Tampa: it was sunny and raining.

Finally we were able to walk down to the park. The wet pavement was gorgeous, it was still cloudy, and I was in the mood for the Bach D Minor Suite:


Funny how the world had turned black and white! Well, actually that was a photo-editing filter. As the sky continued to brighten, more people walked by, a few stopping to listen for a bit.

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Bach, Not in the Subways

It was almost five years ago when I stepped out of a subway car at 96th St. and Broadway, near the apartment I was living in while on sabbatical, and there was Dale Henderson, playing Bach, quite beautifully. I’d read about Dale, the Bach in the Subways guy, had wanted to meet him, and there he was, at my stop! Serendipity.

I’d told Dale I wanted to join in, too, and together we organized nine string players (that’s my memory) playing Bach on March 21, 2011, Bach’s birthday. It was, as I understand it, the first annual “Bach in the Subways Day,” which has now grown into a worldwide movement.

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William Chapman Nyaho and Dale Henderson (photo by Tomek Berezinski)

This past Friday night, I walked from my hotel on 57th St. up to 69th St. to hear Dale perform all three of the Bach Sonatas for Viola da Gamba and Keyboard at Christ and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church with a truly remarkable pianist, William Chapman Nyaho. (Dale substituted his cello for a viola da gamba; these works have become staples of the cello/piano repertoire).


Dale played with total commitment, a warm sound, lyrical musicality, and virtually flawless intonation (that left me quite admirous.) His playing has a deep intensity that comes from his core. Nyaho is a marvel of imaginative yet unexaggerated phrasing and nuance, and plays with an effortless (or so it seems) technical facility. They spoke with the audience about each of the sonatas, pointing out that they are actually

They spoke with the audience about each of the sonatas, pointing out that they are actually trios–two voices in the keyboard, the third the cello, and invited us to listen to the interplay of the counterpoint and the jazz-like dialogue.

The distinguished-looking husband of one of Dale’s adult students served as the host of the event, introducing each half. He spoke about how Dale “owns “the Bach Suites, and compared him favorably to many better-known cellists. He,and Nyaho, play the Gamba Sonatas with a genuinely engaging sense of ownership and commitment.

One of my mottos, and the motto of the summer festival I organize, is “friends making music for friends.” The musical and personal friendship between the two performers, and between them and so many in the audience, was amply evident. It was a great energy to be a part of–and it reminded me a bit of home.



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