Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pi Day Update:

I am very happy to report that our St. James Pi Day Celebration 2014 was a wonderful success.  Our fifth graders had a blast, and everyone came through the festivities smiling. It only took me a day and a half to recover, which isn't too bad.  By the way, our math field day received excellent news coverage with many interviews on our local radio stations, Portland's K103 fm and our local KLYC am 1260 (they even sent the YamVan for the occasion).  Our McMinnville News-Register also covered the story with student interviews and pictures. I want to thank Fr. Kelly Vandehey, our principal Jeananne Bloudek, and all our St.  James School staff for their support. Also, here is a shout out to Linfield College for sending over one of their math majors as a guest emissary.  Pi Day 2014 was a big project, but it was worth the effort.  There are now 184 students and assorted teachers and parents who have experienced how much fun math can be.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

How I found the Portland City Grill and how they found me!

March 14th St. James Annual Pi Day Celebration Update - So far we have received confirmations for 175 5th-graders and 16 teachers and chaperones.  I will have a final total Tuesday or Wednesday for our huge math field day event. It's going to be a blast.

My plans are still to be at the Portland City Grill Friday, March 14th.  It is Pi Day (3.14), and Albert Einstein's birthday. But not only is it my birthday, it is also my anniversary of the opening of Portland City Grill.

The Portland City Grill opened to the public on March 19, 2002, but this was after a "soft opening" to friends and guests the week before. That's when I first came in contact with this new Portland hot spot. It really began with a surprise call that had received from the PCG office. They had been told by a business friend that I had played piano professionally in Los Angeles, and that they should consider giving me an audition.  I had heard of the new restaurant/bar (it was wildly anticipated by the city), but I had never been to the place, even when it was Atwaters in the old days. It was now under new ownership and was scheduled to open soon.

I went up to meet the managers, and I was invited to have an audition - more precisely I was asked if I would like to play ( it was one of their soft opening nights, the week of my birthday).  As I looked around, my first impression was that it was a gorgeous night club: elegant, classy, with a spectacular  view of the Portland city lights 30 floors below, and with a wonderful Yamaha grand piano surrounded by tables.  I admit that I assumed they were expecting to hear the usual society background stylings of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, etc., which actually is an era of music dear to my heart. But that evening, just before I started toward the piano to begin my "audition set," one of the managers stopped me and explained, "Now remember, we don't want any of that old music here. We want fun music, rock and roll, 60's - 70's - 80's, everything young and upbeat."  With a grin on my face, I sat down in the middle of a huge, enthusiastic crowd and let the music begin.

It was just like being in college again. The place was literally packed with thoroughly enraptured guests. The energy was high with lots of laughter and singing. It was like a continuous party; the hours just zipped by. At the end of my audition, the managers said they were pleased and gave me a choice of playing nights.  I picked 8 pm on Friday, thinking it was my one free weekend evening (working around my choir schedule).  They said that was great, and asked what other night I could play. I picked 5 pm on  Wednesday (again working around choir practice and school).  And then they asked for another!  So I went with Saturday with an 8 pm start (enough time to accommodate my 5:30 Mass).  I went up for an audition thinking that I might be able to play there once or twice a month, and I ended up playing there practically every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evening for over ten years.  I was chosen as one of several fine pianists who eventually filled out the week's house musicians. Three of our original group still entertain there weekly.

So it has been 12 years this week. I still smile on my way to play there, and I usually smile all the way home.

Happy Anniversary, Portland City Grill.  See you Friday.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Concert season is over

The Christmas concert season has gone very well. The MelloMacs entertained brilliantly at the MAC and around town. CTK Choir was superb at their Sunday hometown concert and Monday's Grotto Festival of Lights appearance. Tuesday's Ivories Holiday Bash was a sell-out sensation - we all had a great time.  The students of St. James Catholic School were wonderful in their Christmas Program.  All is well in the musical world!  Thanks to everyone who helped make it so successful a season.

Now I can settle into a little more regular schedule.  The Yamaha grand at the Portland City Grill is still a great place to enjoy songs, and I will be there one more time before Christmas (this Sunday evening), so we still have one more chance to sing Christmas songs together.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas to everyone, and I hope this new year is the best one ever for all of us.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Christmas is coming

Christmas music is already playing in my classroom and my office. I'm not trying to push up the holiday; I just love the music, and let's face it, the holiday season truly is upon us. Important upcoming  concert performance dates: the first MelloMac concert of the new season this Monday, Nov. 11th;  the MAC  Open House Holiday Fest  is Thursday, Dec. 5th; CTK Choir Concert at the Grotto Festival of Lights on Monday, Dec. 16th; The Gus Pappelis Holiday Happening at Ivories on Tuesday night, Dec. 17th; and the St. James School Christmas Program on Wednesday, Dec. 18th.  A quick look at my calendar  explains the Christmas music in the classroom.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Woodie Guthrie tribute

Woodie Guthrie died on this date in 1967 at the age of 55.  His younger years were troubled with monetary challenges.  His last years were troubled by physical and psychological difficulties. Despite his many personal hardships, Guthrie's career as folk-singer and songwriter inspired a generation of folk music enthusiasts who in turn inspired a folk-rock cultural explosion in the 1950's, 60's, and 70's.  I grew up listening to Peter, Paul, and Mary, Bob Dylan, and even Arlo Guthrie (Woodie's son), but  Guthrie's influence touched so many performers and groups of that time.  Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Pete Seeger, and so many more have acknowledged him as a major inspiration for their work.  Although he may be best know as the composer of This Land Is Your Land (1940), his numerous songs reflect the America of his time: The Great Depression and Dust Bowl days, Hoboes and farm workers, politicians and corruption, wars, famines, class inequality, etc.  Regardless of our individual social and political bent, I think we call all appreciate Woodie Guthrie for being one of the unique and original voices of the American spirit.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

George Gershwin tribute Sept. 26

Today we celebrate the birthday of one of America's musical gifts, George Gershwin. A bright light of the Jazz Age and the golden days of Broadway in the Twenties, Gershwin's use of the Jazz idiom infused the American spirit into his compositions.  So many of his songs have become beloved standards in the American songbook; they are rediscovered and enjoyed by each generation of artists and audiences.  His larger works like Rhapsody in Blue, Concerto in F, and An American in Paris are a tribute to his orchestral abilities and innovations.  His biggest masterpiece may be his folk opera, Porgy and Bess.  So much great music from this American original.  I will enjoy playing many of his songs at the Portland City Grill, as I celebrate one of my greatest musical inspirations, George Gershwin.

An interesting side note for Sept. 26: this is also the Broadway premiere date for a great musical by arguably America's greatest composer, Leonard Bernstein.  In 1957, with Bernstein's music, Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, Jerome Robbins choreography, and Hal Prince's production savvy, West Side Story lit up the Broadway lights with a story that grabbed the hearts of our country.

Two of our greatest composers remembered today.  Let the music begin!