City of Roses
**********Saturday, April 10, 2004**********
Almost Everything Is Really Simple, And Life May Not Be, But That's Good Enough For Me!
Another sleeper thaws! We stand informed, thickly warmed! Joie de vivre again breathes through spring’s rhytidectomy! And my oh my, how sweet it is!
I made the most of the 56th Annual Conference Of World Affairs this week and immersed myself in the wonders of this cherished tradition, catching up on the infinite fellowship of the world through the arts, humanities, politics, and cultural identities. Monday marked the inauguration of the event, with a hallmark breakfast buffet provided by Illegal Pete’s and CoPirg. So I enjoyed my matutinal breakfast burrito, a nice cup of Bolder Blends ginseng tea and then expanded my minds in this cosmic vaudeville.
There is so much to say, but my favorite day would have to be Friday. At 1:00 I thumbed my way to the University Memorial Center, Lecture Hall 235, for 5502: Musicians: Born Or Made?. It was moderated by Jack Walker and featured an incredible group of panelists. Nora York, a singer and visual artist who has performed at numerous concerts including the Newport Jazz and Bell Atlantic Jazz Festivals, written scores for TV series and movies, and teaches the renowned class, “The Creative Voice” at New York University, a class that teaches pathways to fundamental elements in a creative process, as interpretation has been integral to her creative process. There was Nelson Rangell, who was rated among the most underrated artists in the jazz industry by JAZZIZ magazine, a trained soprano, alto and tenor saxophonist and flute and piccolo virtuoso, who started the flute at age 15 and in only six months was studying classical and jazz at the Interlochen Arts Academy, was voted Best High School Jazz Soloist by Down Beat magazine's national competition and went on to attend the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he won the prestigious magazine's college-level national competition. Ever since, he’s recorded 12 CDs, with three being Billboard Jazz best-sellers. And finally, Brad Goode, a Steeplechase recording artist and started playing violin when he was four, played guitar at age 11, learned many of Louis Armstrong’s solos at age 13, who now plays at major festivals at night clubs around the world.
And so there I was, an aspiring artist ready to tickle my fancy with more of the philosophy to the universal language, asking myself the apostrophized question: “Are musicians made or born?”. Nora stepped up to the plate first, speaking of how she was an unruly child in Chicago, who virtually at two years old got dropped off at Carl Orph’s training classes, practicing with rhythm sticks and glockenspiels, and shortly after remembered Dr. Zipper’s orchestra bringing Peter And The Wolf through Chicago, influencing her to take piano, and, until she was 15, studied the guitar, cello, violin and flute as well. Then, she said she stopped abruptly at 15, then eventually had a band with Peter Allen, who she called “the 6th grade Mick Jagger, even when hard to imagine one” where she rehearsed in his basement “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, then when she finally made the public performance, she got tense, and was fired for the first time, and then was only interested in visual art. From there, she spoke of graduating from high school, working in a South American literacy program, then going to college. That’s when she said when she was 20, a defining moment of her life eclipsed when she went to Bangkok in 1976 and met a Wayne Newton look-alike at the Italian Pavilion night-club, and sang there, where, through finishing college, had that bee in her bottom to continue to sing and perform and moved to New York, where shortly after working for Sears and Roebuck, found a voice teacher in 1979 and put her vocals to the test at the Barbie Doll show, playing Nora of the North on the downtown art circuit. Then she expressed her obsession with Jimi Hendrix and “Manic Depression“, having a short time in the ex-cop heavy metal rock band Distracted in Brooklyn, and meeting Dave Foster, a jazz musician who she said she became rebelliously crazy and loyal to, also working with Television drummer Billy Ficca and eventually earning a recording contract in Japan, earning an impressive $40,000 for a jazz record, where she said time wore on, and new ideas always comes from a conceptual platform, saying, “I’m really a thief, absorbing harmonic information!”. Finally, she believed musicians are made and they work on their hearts and minds.
Then Brad Good offered a second opinion, speaking of several anecdotes, the first traveling with the Woody Herman Orchestra in New England, and someone saying, “Hey, you think you’re good, wait till you hear these guys play!” and then, describing the way the orchestra practices, with one band playing, then the other playing, then with all the musicians divided into clinics, he recalled going to the gymnasium, and surely enough, he found the other band to be “a young version of the Buddy Rich band”, then remembering being put into clinics and teaching his students how to play Three Blind Mice by taking a simple melody, making sure you can sing it all the way through from the first to the last note, and not to worry about the keys and only start from a starting note. Then he heard and would tell them, “OK, you got the rhythm, but you don’t have the right notes, so play it again!” and continuing to practice, with one student getting the notes higher in succession, another lower in succession, the fifth student with all three notes the same sounding, and so forth, he’d tell them, “OK, we’ll deal with this issue soon, I promise!” until the and director stood behind suddenly, beginning to shake, red in the face, shouting, “Come on, you can do it!” and Brad, though not intending to do so, got on the spot, saying “Stop! Let’s just get out of this alive!” and, going through the ordeal, later got back on the bus, with the trumpet section complaining, “Oh, how could you do that to us?”. It would be that moment when Brad noticed, “There wasn’t anyone who knew about music!” and that here in America, the relationship is purely visual, with the notes, set of directions, and mechanical and visual components, but believes improvisation is also essential, saying “You hear music in your head, let it come through your fingers without much interruption to the brain!”, otherwise meaning, “You pick up your instrument and play what you hear!” as being important. He then shared his early life anecdote to support his pojnt, recalling when he was four having no parents with musical background, and learning the violin at Lincoln School every morning at 6:30 with Mr. Ninnyginny, who would smack his knuckles with a bow if his hand position of the instrument was wrong or if he missed a note, expressing the act as a cruel form of torture that grew him to hating the violin and music at age 8, noting the fact no other kids were playing the violin, there were no groups he could play with, and every boy’s childhood dream was to play baseball and he wanted to do just that, and after a hiatus from music, discovered Dave Novias, whose dad had a guitar and played Rod Stewart, KISS and Aeromsith tunes which he grew to be fascinated with and began to play the guitar at his house, who then at age 11 began to play music for the fun of it with other people without a piece of paper with his agile fingers disciplined through the violin years effortlessly grasping the strings Taking it in stride, he was introduced to Kenny Rogers, Barry Manilow, and his fist jazz record as a teenager by Hornet Colmon and Don Cherry, which he said expressed all his teenage feelings, then, later, stepping into a music store and rummaging through the Free/Take More bin, he found Bay Brown and May Roch in the bunch, warning his friend, “Check it out, this may sound like Hornet!” then hearing it, thought, “This sounds like what they wish they could have done!” Finishing up his thoughts, he believed in his experience that the real question for aspiring musicians is, “How do you perceive music, and what are your options?” and musicians usually at first are not encouraged independent thinking and are trained to close their minds and ears and be prevented from relating to certain kinds of music, believing if you are fooled, you were born with a trumpet in your mouth, and musicians are born, though many are just unmade.
Then yet another illuminating view came in! Nelson Rangell reminisced coming from a musical family, whose father used to be a violinist but became a doctor and psychiatrist, who said his parents were aesthetic people, both too poor to have an instrument living in Brooklyn. Yet his siblings also had musical blood, he said, with his brother Andrew a former C.U student and well-known concert pianist in Boston, who has good and bad days due to an unfortunate case of hand paralysis, his brother Bobby living in Europe more than twenty years now and being a woodwind player for the National Jazz Orchestra of France, and his sister Paula a jazz and R&B singer in New Orleans. He then spoke of getting married, having two children, and living a simple suburban life, who recalls one day going to the Boulder Humane Society with his friend Brad to get a dog, and got Jes the Labrador, saying, “Hey, Jes and Jake could be friends and we can take them to the park each day!” It was then he compared choosing the right dog to how he chose his path into music, believing music is almost demonstrative of the gene pool, with something intrinsic of that strain to a certain type of seven dogs, which one would have the capability to be his dog, which the relationship between the dog and him and his wife was generic but soon enough, spending more time learning of certain things, leaned against him affectionately as a sort of communication, which he believed musicians also have that communication. He believes every place has “The Kid” and remembering being in Columbus with Brad, he saw “The Kid” there, who noted there they drew the line at 11 for young talent and if you were older, they were not interested, but believed personally that regardless of age there are a lot of good button-pushers everywhere, and he’s interested in the notion, “Try to listen, take a good look inside myself!” and see always to the first degree “What are they doing with their gift, what is the musician’s humanity, what is their experience?” Still young, he went to the New England Conservatory as a classical flutist, and also played the saxophone a bit and loved being the loudest most obnoxious saxophonist. He spoke of his love and philosophy of music saying, “Joy is limited, but I am a great believer in execution, in getting the parts and the tuning right fast!”, and that in modern music education, it is all style over substance, and we’re “jaundiced to a skill level, but only to a certain degree, and great skill is not that rare!”, and that the style over substance condition is a lackadaisical form of execution in his mind, where only a modest amount of discipline and education would make good button-pushers in aspiring artists everywhere. He finally believed that musicians are born with talents, but he wants to know how they experiment with them and how they follow up and through, how their drive and ambitions are formed, and what they hope to accomplish. He finally spoke of his amazement in how caddy it is how students search for mistakes in music and says, “It’s amazing how fast this goes by!”, and of his stepson’s incredible spatial intelligence, solving puzzles at breakneck speed, making him ask him, “How do you do it so fast?” and his simple answer being, “I just see it”, and with his wisdom believing for musicians to pinpoint mistakes and form musical execution, they “just know it!”
I have to honestly say I learned a great deal about the discipline and visual art of music from these fascinating maestros(as). After their fifteen minute chats, there was a panel discussion, where after someone asked about their opinion of smooth jazz music, which they generally saw as a huge corporate involvement that best functions as background music at work, a pen pal of Arbitron and “increasingly generic and mundane, crushing many ambitions, having a negative effect on artistic ambition”, I asked, “Joni Mitchell said, ‘Record companies don’t want artists anymore, they only want those who cooperate!’ In a broader sense, what are your feelings to the FCC’s increasing deregulation of media and large corporate conglomerates like Clear Channel dominating the airwaves and touring industries, and do you see this as helpful or harmful to the future of artistic invention?”. My question certainly provoked the panel, LOL! Dora spoke of her disappointment to the further homogenization of the media and of Phil Donahue’s and Howard Stern’s punishing from the airwaves, and at this rate everyone will be desensitized to the point people can’t tell sugar and maple syrup apart, or the thin edge of the wedge. Then another asked, “What is your ideal view of education for young children, what would it sound like?”, which Brad answered, “Encourage them to experiment, have fun, use user-friendly instruments! I believe the general teachings of music can be categorized in four quadrants: sound, melody, harmony and rhythm. Melody and harmony should be held till later, start by relating intuitively or ‘ear-based’, trust their instincts, then eventually introduce more difficult techniques!”. Nora added, “You know, the older I get, the more I find myself going back to childhood songs! I love singing them, and believe anyone can learn to sing, for singing is a built-in instrument. It’s like being a painter; if you are a painter, you have a palette, and if you sing green and white, you just sing green and white! I only sing how I feel I started singing professionally when I was 29, and I considered myself audible when I was 34”. Then Nelson added, “If you are a parent of a musician, do NOT push them to practice, let it be their thing, let them decide, and when they decide, they’ll DECIDE!”. Finally, another asked, “If you stop doing it, can you un-make the talent?”, which generally they believed it does happen sometimes, especially with prodigies who have meteoric talent but end up never getting an inch better since they were 18, and conversely, in life, there can be certain internal experiences that can harden our abilities, that there are indeed scenarios in talent! Let’s pray that my canary song does not become unsung anytime soon, yay!
Right afterward, I also stayed for 5701: A Poetry Party in the same room, moderated by Judith Houlding, featuring a diverse mix of talented poets and scholars, including Al Young, a U.C Berkeley graduate who has taught poetry and fictional writing at nine universities, written novels, collections of poetry, essays, memoirs, anthologies and film scripts, and a two-time recipient of The New York Times’ Notable Book of the Year award, Shamako Noble, a hip-hop artist and MC who founded the Hip-Hop Congress, an organization aiming to raise awareness of social issues of the hip-hop generation and work as a clearinghouse for social justice and equality, who is a San Francisco underground favorite who recorded “The Return of the Coming of the Aftermath” and an immense community-building force, Liz Weir, an Irish professional storyteller who promotes Irish literature, traveling the world telling stories to children and adults, the author of Boom Chicka Boom, a children’s story compilation, the presenter of BBC Radio series The Gift of the Gab, the writer of children’s commercials in Northern Ireland, helping to establish peace in the region and educate the children in respecting differences, and David Watts, an on-camera medical host for PBS and Lifetime, a host of a radio program on medicine for NPR’s “All Things Considered”, and the host of a forthcoming one-hour special, “Powerful Words: Poetry and the Art of Healing”, also the founder and director of Writing the Medical Experience, a conference where writers and doctors speak of the healing experiences between literature and medicine, and the writer of three books of poetry!
Al Young began, speaking of his experiences in North Carolina at Davidson College, a Presbyterian one, only later learning both Ava Gardner and Thelonious Monk were North Carolinans, sharing a poem about Ava Gardner titled “Ava, She Was One Of Your Women”, followed by a poem about jazz musician Lionel Hampton, and a final poem inspired by his travels to Europe, where he said people can memorize 10,000 line poems and when people make mistakes, they start back from the beginning, and read the poem “April in Paris” inspired by the song.
Shamako Noble followed with, honestly, one of my favorite performances I’ve seen yet! He orally-interpreted his whole poem, “Almost Everything Is Really Simple”, a grand socially and politically motivated hip-hop metronomed masterpiece, and another piece from his acclaimed, “The Return of the Coming of the Aftermath”. It honestly felt like I was front and center at a hip-hop concert, or at least at a coffee shop in San Francisco witnessing his poetic somersaults.
Liz Weir enlightened the crowd with her accent, reading “Exchange”, her admiration of my beloved Dushanbe Teahouse and fantasizing Dushanbe reading a Sky-Map on an entire airplane flight in “Sky Map” , her love of Claire County in Ireland and of the Good Friday Agreement there in “Post-Script”, the compassion of a sad child in “Red Rose”, and the sensual confidence of a woman in “Homage In My Hips”.
Finally, David Watts ignited us all with the comedic firecracker of the party with “The Day I Showed My P**** To The Lady Doctor”, all about a nervous feeling he felt revealing his genitals to the doctor where he had a rash and worried of infection, and another grand ballad from his collection.
Then, we all got together to read our own pieces of poetry in the Poetry Party, where I stepped up to perform my piece, “Birkenstocks In The Snow”, which I got an applause out of and a huge compliment from both Liz and Shamako, yay! (gives self hug) I couldn’t have been more ecstatic taking part in the company and sharing my living voice in the company of others, especially from all around the world, in a room of over a thousand people! Perhaps my life story can grow to be as romantic as all their exciting journeys and quests! Of course as Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”
Speaking of which, it sure felt like a huge step to me Wednesday, when I got to step back onto the campus of my beloved Denver Academy for the first time in twenty-two months. Waking up at 5:15 in the morning, getting to the RTD Park N Ride by 6:30, and taking the DD bus down U.S 36 and across Denver on Colorado Boulevard to Denver Academy will always be beyond worth it in my heart, as so much of my heart and soul grew and was nurtured there and I never want to take any of my friends for granted, as that is truly my second family. By 7:15, I got to Evans Avenue, and there it’s just a two-block walk to Denver Academy, and when I finally got there, seeing the campus before my very eyes, it literally made me shiver and cry in tears of mixed emotion, as it can feel so emotional to retrace your footsteps onto grounds of sentimental value and gentle, warm tears fall from your eyes, seeing that special place you’ve loved is just the way it always was, knowing, “Boy, it still feels like home, and it’s the most beautiful feeling of all!”
Because the Prep School building is usually the first to open, I went in there first, and, boy, how the interior design has sure overgone a gargantuan metamorphosis! There’s paintings all over the walls, new white and black tiles on the floors (it used to be a polyester type of carpet), and in the lounge where there only used to be the lockers, a grand piano, the secretary’s desk, a couple of study tables and vending machines, there is now computers, a Foozball table, a glide hockey table and standing lamps. Wow, some things do change, and some things don’t, like the charm and mission statement of Denver Academy!
I stepped into Mr. McMillin’s room first, where Josh, my former team-mate and friend on the cross-country team, recognized me, and, honestly, he was saying, stunned: “Wow, you look a WHOLE lot different!” (I have grown my hair out and wear more imported clothing and Vedic beads since my days at Denver Academy) Blushing with a smile, I nodded and like old friends we asked questions and talked and each moment he was literally exasperating, even hysterically laughing, saying, “My God, you look SO much different, I can’t get over it!” (giggles in delight)
Then I went to, you guessed it, my old buddy Mr. Ernewein’s trailer, and got to meet all his wonderful students as well this year, yay! I sat around and read along with his homeroom on a selection about real-life Leo The Late Bloomers; students with special, unique learning capabilities, which made me cry reading of so many beautiful children’s rises over adversities in their own individual ways! Then I followed them to their weekly hall meeting in the Core Division (which now they have a special talent show as part of the program, yay!) and got to see a wonderful improvisational score ditty and a talented pianist performance.
Even more astonished I was, discovering I had come to visit on the same day the Ambassador of Iran was visiting, yay! So I went to the Prep Division, where he was guest-speaking in Mr. Petry’s former room and laboratory, where I got to hear him speak to me and Mr. Miller’s homeroom about the importance of his career, his thoughts and concerns of the war on Iraq, the war in Israel and Palestine, George W. Bush, and how one should put the love for his or her own country above any single person by all means. I also earned his complimentary handshake, ooohhhhh…I ain’t ever washing this hand! LOL!
Of course, a visit could never be complete without visiting my friends Ms. Doyle (Paloma de Paz) and Ms. Dunlap, yay! I visited Ms. Doyle first, catching up on our post-Shakira lives, then I shared with her the new Shakira CD/DVD “Live & Off The Record” and in return she gave me a CD with some of her music videos on it, yay! I played to her some of my new songs and some Shakira covers and other favorite covers of mine (I played much worse than I usually play as I wasn’t used to playing an acoustic with much larger frets and strings, LOL!) Then I rushed over to Ms. Dunlap in her art room, admiring all the wonderful new doors, sculptures, and paintings (My favorites were a pair of doors with the flower-power watercolor theme and a huge mural featuring various single frames drawn by all different students!). Immediately we gave each other an angel friendship hug and I cried in joy seeing her beautiful smile that always brings a tug to my heartstrings and she smiled, saying, “Awwwwwww, you are one of the most loving hearts anyone can be blessed to know, you are a true giver, Noah!” and I told her all about my new songwriting and dreams and moving to Portland and then she showed me her new loveseat sculpted all from clay, and then I gave her a whole new idea, saying, “Ooooohhhh, maybe you can paint this in a way that it represents a loveseat, like a proverbial loveseat with smiley face hearts and flowers and baby bumblebees and everything that represents love, friendship, and happiness!” and in cheerful arousal, she said, “Ooohhhh…Noah, that’s a wonderful idea!” and soon we are going to decorate it as a love seat, yay!
Finally, at 1:00, I went back to Mr. Ernewein’s and met a good old friend of mine who I used to be part of a carpool with for my last two years a Denver Academy, Bryce Lawson. My, how he’s grown! He reminds me very much of Pee-Wee Hermann (Paul Reubens), without the problems with the law he’s been having, which are very unfortunate indeed as I always loved watching the Pee-Wee Hermann show and the movie “Pee-Wee Hermann’s Big Adventure” as a boy. It is quite coincidental indeed, as Bryce also loves to ride his bicycle, in fact, he always rides his T-REK 2200 from Arvada to Denver and back, a distance covering about 25 miles. He’s born to make it to the Tour De France in the not so distant future, yay!
So, it was beautiful seeing all my old friends, as I believe it is important to revisit the friends we make along the path of life and catch up on times, for the primrose path would never be magical when there’s no butterflies flittering and fireflies flickering and bunnies hopping along the way cheering you on, which I believe friendship makes up the whole natural order of ones joie de vivre. So with the move to Portland being a couple months away, it indeed is an emotional time for me, but I welcome it with open arms, as I know my friends won’t forget me and will always love me and I will always keep in touch with them and even more blessings await me ahead. After all, they’d have to especially in the “City of Roses”! There’s entire Japanese gardens there buzzing with flowerbeds of beauties!
(angel friendship hugs for everyone) You have waited much too long for a new entry, so you deserved this long, heartwarming one from my heart to yours! Love you all and remember, “A child needs love the most when he least deserves it.” so always nurture that inner-child of yours and you’ll never go wrong, for we may grow up, but we never grow older!
Current Mood (Happy)
"You'll find something that's enough to keep you
But if the bright lights don't receive you
You should turn yourself around and come back home" MB20