Midwest 06

My flight from LA to Chicago for Midwest was delayed by nearly four hours. If you read this blog often, you’ll know that I’m afraid of flying to begin with, and delaying a flight twice for two separate mechanical problems doesn’t exactly put my mind at ease. It was one of those flights where it looks like you’ll be on time, and right before you pull away from the gate, the pilot says there’s a mechanical problem that needs to be fixed. An hour later, he says it’s fixed, the plane pushes back from the gate — and we sit there for five minutes before pulling back to the gate for a new problem. Over three hours after our scheduled departure, we taxi to take off, and I wonder, were those the only two problems, or is the pilot just thinking, aw, screw it; we’ll be fine. Regardless, we did make it safe and sound to Chicago — just really late. Also late: two other people on my flight — Tom Lee, Director of Bands at UCLA, and composer Frank Ticheli. Frank was in first class. Someday…

I was supposed to go straight from the airport to a rehearsal with the Permian High School Symphonic Band, but by the time we landed, the rehearsal was basically over, so I headed straight to dinner. Jerry Junkin, Director of Bands at UT Austin and Music Director of the Dallas Wind Symphony, had graciously invited me to dinner with him, his wife Stephanie, my former teacher John Corigliano, and a gang of other fun folks. By the time I arrived, everybody had already warmed up with cocktails, but I was still buzzing from my Xanax, so all was well.

Dinner was at an incredible restaurant called Ambria. Our “Tribute to Spain” tasting menu included some tasty caviar…

… smoked salmon…

… a melt-in-your-mouth crab cake topped with a quail egg…

…and course…

… after course…

… after course…

… and followed by… souffle’ ! There were 6 to choose from. I went with Grand Marnier.

This place was incredible — and word seemed to get out. At the next table was another who’s-who of conductors: H. Robert Reynolds, Richard Floyd, Eugene Corporon, and Craig Kirchoff. At the table behind them was Adolph Herseth, who, for 50 years, was first trumpet in the Chicago Symphony. (Corigliano went over to say hi to Mr. Herseth and thank him for his playing on the first recording of Corigliano’s First Symphony. It was all a little surreal.)

Dinner ended with pretty cookies.

The next morning, I finally got a chance to hear the Permian High School Wind Ensemble perform “Turbine,” under the direction of Michael Watts.

The band did a hell of a job. “Turbine” is awfully difficult, and no high school has ever performed it. They did the piece proud. Thanks to Mike and the gang!

Lunch: a shrimp and citrus salad at the hotel restaurant.

Tasty — and a light contrast to dinner the night before. The company was good once again, this time consisting of Newman, Steve Bryant, and Steve’s better half Verena. Oh, and Corigliano was there, too. It was like he was stalking me. He had a rare steak…

… and his bad-ass mirrored Aviators.

(Okay, the glasses might be mine, but they look better on him.)

Wednesday’s dinner was with Rick Clary and Jonathan Newman in what is becoming an annual Midwest tradition. For the second straight year, we went to Wildfire. Rick apparently asked for “the biggest knife in all of Chicago.”

We started with crab-stuffed mushroom caps. Mmm…

I had pork loin as a main course.

Newman had ribs, but by the time the camera had warmed up, he’d already devoured them all.

We ordered one of each dessert — or wanted to.

After dinner, I ran into Mamoru Nakata, one of the consortium members on my new work — “Kingfishers Catch Fire” — that premieres in Japan in March. As AEJ pointed out, I don’t normally give the “teeth smile” in a photo, but it was such a pleasure to meet such enthusiastic consortium members that I couldn’t contain myself.

From there, it was off to the late-night performance of Corigliano’s masterpiece, Circus Maximus, performed by Jerry Junkin and the Dallas Wind Symphony.

The next night, the Dallas Wind Symphony gave two knock-out performances of “Redline Tango” in front of two huge audiences.

I’ve never heard such sultry performances of the piece. The program also included a cool fanfare by Frank Ticheli called “Nitro.” I’m sure that piece will be everywhere soon.

The concerts concluded with the biggest band hit of all time, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Lunch the next day was some great sushi — by myself. Something kind of sad about eating alone during Midwest. The sushi was tasty, though.

Of course, I followed up the semi-healthy lunch with a dinner consisting of a burger with grilled onions and cheese.

Friday night included a performance of “Strange Humors” by the Friendswood High School Wind Ensemble, conducted by Gregory Dick. The performance was fun, and I’ve never heard it — particularly the saxes — with such clarity. A big ol’ thanks to Greg and his group! And this guy — Travis Urban — must be getting sick of me and my music. He played soprano sax not just in this performance, but also in the 4A Texas All-State band’s performance of “Redline Tango” in 2005! This guy rocks.

And that was Midwest 2006. I had a wonderful — but exhausting — time. I can’t give enough thanks to the conductors and players who performed my music there this year, and made me look awfully good in the process. There was some damn tasty food, too. I’m looking
forward to next year — when I’m sure things will be a lot more laid back, but hopefully no less delicious.

Christmas was fun, as it always is with AEJ. My gifts to her included a vintage Lite Brite, circa 1968. (Thanks, Ebay.)

Her gifts to me included this awesome watch from Hong Kong — the Casio Magic Watch, featuring tricks designed by Tomohiro Maeda. Yes, it’s a watch that does magic tricks. The only thing cooler than this watch is, well, AEJ.

Happy New Year!


Jamie Henderson says

It was good to talk to you for about five seconds. I came just at the wrong time.

On the other hand, I probably drove Steve crazy, seeing him everywhere.

Happy New Year!

Daniel Montoya Jr. says

That moose in the background reminded me of Montgomery Moose.

Or at least his lower-case cousin, Marty Moose.


FOSCO says

Wow, what a fun trip! You've answered all my questions but one:

Why does the Permian flautist on the left hate you so much?

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