OSU & Michigan

Upon my return to LA, I realized that I didn’t take nearly as many photos in Ohio and Michigan as I should have. Still, there are a few good ones. Here we go…

I arrived in Columbus on Sunday evening, October 23. My first activity was on Monday morning at 10:30am Eastern Standard Time — that is, 7:30am LA time. Let’s just say I was in a bit of a haze. I usually get up at 9am PST, so to BE somewhere at 7:30am was a bit of a shock to the system. Fortunately, upon my arrival at OSU, I was greeted by two great guys, Rick Blatti (the Associate Director of bands at OSU) and Russ Mikkelson (the Director of Bands). We chatted for a few minutes before we went over to the rehearsal.

I had no idea that the OSU band was so good. I mean, being from Columbus, I know about the Ohio State Marching Band — the Best Damn Band in the Land — but I didn’t know the concert band. I’d heard a recording of a piece by Jim Bonney, performed by a group consisting largely of OSU players, and it was really, really good, but that morning was my introduction to the wind ensemble. They’re really something. This was going to be a good concert…

That night, Rick and Russ took me out to dinner at a place called Lindey’s. I started with shrimp cocktail. AEJ is allergic to shellfish, so I usually only eat it when I travel.

They were delicious. The other appetizer was this tasty crab cake with a side of sweet potato fries.

My main course was this pork tenderloin over sour cream mashed potatoes.

Dessert was fabulous — molten chocolate cake with homemade vanilla ice cream.

Here’s a photo of Rick (left) and Russ (right) at dinner — just to prove that I wasn’t, in fact, eating alone.

The next morning, I headed back to OSU for another rehearsal — this time with Rick and the second band, who are performing Sasparilla in a few weeks. Rick had decorated the cover of his score. This, my friends, is the coolest cover I’ve ever seen on any of my pieces. How flattering and funny is this?! I love that the pony is thinking my name…

Sasparilla starts with an accordion solo, which is supposed to sound like a huge harmonica. OSU, though, is taking advantage of the talents of one of their own faculty — the musicology professor who actually plays harmonica! Yep, here he is, playing harmonica at the beginning of the piece. It was great.

Here’s Rick Blatti with the group.

The band, with Russ in the background.

One little thing that happened during this rehearsal… There’s a mariachi trumpet part in Sasparilla. The guy who was playing the solo sounded really good, but there was a detail that was missing that makes it sound “mariachi.” The problem is that I can’t explain verbally what it is in the playing technique that makes it sound like a mariachi trumpet player. What I said to the group was something to the effect of, “that’s not quite it yet. I don’t know how to explain what makes it sound like mariachi, but I know it when I hear it. Like porn.” I was making an analogy to Supreme Court Justice Stewart’s quote about obscenity (how many of you are leaping at the chance to click that link? you’ll be disappointed, I’m afraid). The reference was lost, though, and all I did was shock the students by mentioning porn at 11am during a band rehearsal, which I think may be a first. Fortunately, I was at Ohio State, not here.

That night, my dad and stepmom drove down to Columbus to attend the concert. We grabbed dinner at my favorite restaurant in Columbus, Massey’s Pizza. As AEJ said when she saw this picture, you can tell it’s Ohio when even the salad has salami on it.

And here’s the pizza. I’ve written about it and photographed it many times in the past. It’s the perfect pizza. Crispy crust with a dusting of cornmeal on the bottom, and the best pepperoni I’ve ever had: thin and crispy so it curls up into little grease bowls. Mmm…

The concert that night was really special. I hadn’t had a performance in Columbus — my home town! — since I was in high school, and let’s just say that those performances weren’t on the highest level. This, though, was spectacular. It was incredible to have a performance at home, with my sister and her family, my dad, my first composition teacher, and my best friend since sixth grade all in attendance. And they didn’t just hear a concert; they heard a great concert. The band played everything so well, and I was so proud of how they did Redline Tango. It was a night I’ll remember for a long time.

The concert also included Symphony for Band by Donald E. McGinnis, Director of Bands at Ohio State for 27 years, until 1979. This piece, written in the early 1950s, was a contemporary of the Hindemith Symphony for Band, and at the risk of heresy, I have to say that I liked McGinnis’s work infinitely more. It was inventive from start to finish, scored masterfully, and was both powerful and at times humorous. I don’t think a recording of this work even exists, and that’s a shame, as if there were one, I’d put it on right now. This is a guy who can write in 12-tone (as he does in three of the four movements), and it sounds somehow still harmonically rooted in some other-worldly key. After hearing a performance of the piece in 1954, even Percy Grainger praised the piece in a letter to McGinnis. (“It seems to me the most expressive piece for band I have ever heard,” Grainger wrote. “Your Symphony is full of new sounds and new mental attitudes.” Not bad, coming from Grainger…) Anyway, it seemed a shame to me that this piece is largely lost from the repertoire now. I only heard it once, but it immediately felt like something that should be heard a lot more.

I had a few days off before I headed up to Michigan, so I went shopping. I’m terribly weak, as evidenced by my completely unwarranted purchase of a new video iPod.

It’s awfully fun, even if it was unnecessary. According to my count, AEJ and I now have seven iPods between us. We’re so very weak.

One night, I had dinner with my above-mentioned friend Scott and his family. We’ve been friends since middle school, and it’s one of those friendships that doesn’t seem to change, no matter how long we go between visits. We went out for tasty Indian food. It was one of those meals that was really, really spicy — and I love spicy. This, though, was so spicy that if it had been ANY spicier, it would have been pretty unpleasant. As it was, it was kind of “funny spicy,” with eyes and nose watering non-stop through the meal.

Here’s a picture of Scott’s son, Ethan. AEJ and I aren’t, shall we say, “fans” of kids, but we love this guy. How could you not?! I mean, look at him!

The next day, on my way to Michigan, I passed this sign. Funny, because this was my nickname in high school.

Here’s the band at Michigan, led by Michael Haithcock, rehearsing in Hill Auditorium.

There was a fun Halloween concert one night while I was there, and Michael Daugherty invited me to come with him and his family. Here they are, after the concert. Michael’s wife, as far as I know, doesn’t normally look anything like this.

Sadly, those are the only pictures I have from Michigan that actually turned out. I’m sorry for that. You’d think I hadn’t even eaten while I was there!

When I returned home on Wednesday night, I was greeted by this bowl of candy. Why did the neighborhood kids shun our house on Halloween? I’m not complaining — I’m happy to have all of this chocolate to myself — but really, not a single kid rang the doorbell on Halloween.

It’s good to be home. 10 days away was a long time, but it was a great trip. Big, big thanks to Russ and Rick and Mike and the bands at both schools. I can’t wait to return!


Robert says

Hey, Just wanted to let you know that I visit your site just about everyday and truly enjoy your entries and photos. I've talked to you online once or twice a year or so ago about your piece Annuals. I tell a lot of people here in Oklahoma about your music and share it with as many as will listen.


AIM - knowdaybut2day

Robert says

p.s. there is a sign by my parents house that says "Speed Hump Ahead" followed by, of course, "Speed Hump"

Anonymous says

That "porn" story is priceless. I'm sure it woke the band up.


Kevin Howlett says

If you had read "America: The Book" by Jon Stweart and the Daily Show writers, you would learn that Potter Stewart later expanded on his original remarks by actually making an attempt to define "the kinds of material": "That which gives me wood."

Kyle says

Just wanted to say I was the trumpet player who needed to find out more about mariachi! So it's kinda my fault why the whole porn thing happened but it was hilarious and we still talk about it!

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