t-t-too much ch-ch-chai

Greetings from Victrola, my favorite WiFi coffee bar in Seattle…

I started my visit with an iced coffee. Tasty, but needed more milk. Having exhausted that, but still in need of their free WiFi, I’m now drinking a large chai. Good stuff, but having this much caffeine at this time of day is perhaps not the best idea. I’m getting pretty wired, and I need to be able to sleep tonight because I have to get up very early tomorrow. Ugh.

But I digress.

Seattle is lovely, as it was when I was here in October. It’s actually unusually mild today. (I spent the first half of my visit to Victrola sitting outside!)

I spent this morning at Eckstein Middle School, working with kids who are part of the Endangered Instruments Program (EIP). EIP is a great idea, and should be done nationwide. The idea is to teach middle school (and slightly older) kids to play instruments that aren’t as commonly played — ie, endangered. These are instruments like the bassoon, French horn, oboe, euphonium, and surprising to me, tuba and trombone. (Is there a shortage of trombone players? I know it sounds like I’m baiting a joke, but I swear I’m not.)

Part of my residency with the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra is two write a short piece for all of these endangered instrument students to play. Normally on their spring concert, they play in small groups — a bassoon quintet might play a piece, followed by a horn quartet, then an oboe trio, etc. I’m going to write a piece for all of them to play together. (Yes, that means a piece for an 80+ member ensemble consisting solely of oboes, bassoons, French horns, Euphoniums, trombones, and tubas. Think of it as an all-state middle school band with no clarinets or flutes or percussion or trumpets.) Today was a chance to hear a large group of them all at once, to get an idea of what I might be able to do.

Let me just say, if you’ve never heard 14 middle school-age oboe players play in unison — you must hear this. It was wonderful and almost exotic. To me, it sounded quite Turkish.

Tomorrow is a trip to another middle school to hear more endangered instruments. After that, I’m meeting with Lauren McLaren, the winner of the SYSO Young Composer Competition. I’m excited to finally get a chance to meet her and her family, and hear about the piece that she’s writing for the orchestra.

Right now, though, I’m going to to pull myself away from Victrola and get back to my B&B before I drink any more coffee.


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