June 30, 2010

An Ending

I just finished my last day at Cannonball...just engraved my final Cannonball saxophone...Wow! For the record, it was a Gerald Albright straight soprano serial# 144448 (good number eh Rob?).

A chapter of my life has come to an end and I'll admit that as I walked through the warehouse one final time its particular smell of Taiwan, air conditioning, and instrument dander evoked in me faint hints of memory. My time at Cannonball hadn't always been the trial it became for me these last couple of years. There were many good times as well and some part of me will always miss those. Well, onward and upward as they say. Cheers!

June 28, 2010

Self Portrait

A blog about my own self portraits...how much more narcissistic could I get?!

Yesterday (before my trip to the copper mine) I spent some time practicing in my office (well...MY office for the next couple days anyway) at Cannonball. It has a huge east-facing window that provides a wonderful view of the Wasatch and ever since the company moved to this new building (in 2005?...I think?), I've spent many an early morning sitting in that office playing trumpet with the lights off while watching the sun rise over the mountains. Early skies cycle through the most incredible hues and though I was sometimes a bit groggy during these practice sessions, (brass players often moan about playing too early in the day), watching the sunrise was always calming to my soul and an excellent way to start off the morning.

As I went through my warmup yesterday I was mesmerized by mottled shadows cast on the floor in front of me. There was a slight breeze tickling the leaves of a nearby tree and patches of golden light seemed to shimmer across the carpet. On a whim I set the timer on my camera and snapped a picture...a sort of self portrait...

I've never really done many self portraits and though I've had some success depicting others (maybe I'll do a blog about those in the future) whenever I've attempted to illustrate myself, I always feel my efforts come up a little short. In fact, yesterday's photo may top my list of most successful self portraits.

And this one (done as a cover for a homework portfolio in Mrs Penrose's 4th grade class at Willow Canyon Elementary) may be number 2...

I don't mind saying that I believe I've improved my overall technique quite a bit since then!

I have an odd self image. Sometimes I look in the mirror and cringe because I think I'm so fat, ugly and utterly without style. Other times I look in the mirror and wonder why so few people have ever noticed how beautiful I am (even despite being forever unstylish!). Unfortunately I think the former reaction is the most common. I've always been a fantasy nut and find myself completely drawn to lovely and magically-exotic women...real and imagined. I always sort of wished I fit into this category of beauty, and as I'd work to put it onto paper I could almost picture myself as embodying the most seductive features of whatever mysterious and beguiling siren I happened to be portraying. In that sense, perhaps all of my art could be viewed as a self portrait.

Every time I've attempted an accurate drawing of myself however, it's never quite seemed to look like me. While I'm working in front of a mirror I always think to myself, "Ooo, I've got it this time!", but when I look at the finished product a couple days later I see only the tiniest resemblance. The few times I've shown others a portrait I've worked on I tend to get a similar reaction, "That's not what you look like! Your nose isn't that big, your eyebrows aren't shaped that way, you have higher cheek bones..."and on and on.

Photography is a bit different. I may slightly dress up a photo for effect, but there's no denying that the image is an accurate depiction of my physical features. I still get embarrassed whenever I show these photos though. I imagine other viewers are quietly laughing about how seriously I take myself and how dramatic I sometimes try to appear. I can't really help it though...I feel dramatic and interesting and powerful inside...it's just that in public I am often a shy, unremarkable wallflower. When I allow others to see how I view myself, it feels extremely revealing...a bit like stripping down to the nude in public. For that reason, this may be the most difficult blog yet for me to post!...so please don't laugh at me...ok?

I took this photo late one night in front of the mirror mosaic above my fireplace (see my "Holladay Home" blog entry June 2010)...

On my list of favorite self portraits, this next one could be number 3. I like it because it's not nearly as personal as the others and is actually pretty lifelike. I sketched this with a Bic pen (No Erasing!...as I love to point out) one night during my second school year in NYC. I had settled nicely into my wonderful Inwood apartment, classes were well underway, and the 9-11 terror attacks were fresh in everyone's mind...

I like the innocent and careful attention that comes through in this sketch. Feet are full of detail and texture. 9-11 had affected me deeply and though I don't remember the specific motivation behind this study, I'm sure it was one way to focus my mind away from the noxious anxiety I was trying to suppress.

I still have ambitions to create the "perfect" self portrait--one that I'm pleased with both technically and personally.

I'll keep you posted.

June 27, 2010


Today I'm going to try to provide you with a striking illustration of scale.

After my morning practice session, I decided to pay a visit to the Kennecott Copper Mine: one of the Salt Lake Valley's most visible features and, in fact, the world's largest man-made excavation. This huge open-pit mine is so deep that if you stacked two Sears Towers (actually, I think it's called the Willis Tower now...the Big Willy...yikes!) one on top of the other, they would still not reach out of the mine. Seen from across the Salt Lake Valley its immensity is obvious...

...just as a reference, what is visible of the mine in this photo stretches over 9 miles.

Having grown up daily seeing this colorful mass of dune-like mounds emerging from the eastern flanks of the Oquirrh Mountains, I've become accustomed to its presence in the landscape and sometimes forget to notice how much ground it actually covers, but as I drove west across the valley this morning these massive piles of rubble loomed ever larger and I was overcome with the realization that all of it was once an entire mountain...

It's actually a little disturbing to think about--the mountain has been mercilessly bulldozed in order to get at deposits of metal that make up only 1% of the rocks they're found in. I realize that copper is hugely important and because of its conductivity and resistance to erosion is used in everything from cars, to computers, to plumbing, but still, our insatiable need for the stuff has left an awfully big scar. As I approached the security gate at the mine entrance, I started to worry that I'd leave after viewing the mine feeling horribly embarassed to be human.

I followed a winding road from the security gate to the visitor's center and was overcome by the colors, shapes, and scale of the operation around me. Unfortunately there were signs about every eighth of a mile warning visitors not to stop until they reached the visitor's center (which I'm sure must be for reasons of safety, but at the time I was thinking "So what is it they're trying to hide from my camera?" What a suspicious nut!).

At the visitor's center, you can go right up to the edge of the mine's main pit and watch as teensy little toy trucks loaded with rubble inch their way up the spiraling roads from the bottom of the hole and...let's do some zooming here...

...gradually grow to the size of a HOUSE!

I promise I'm not exaggerating! I know that in the picture above this sturdy little truck going back down the hill for a rocky refill still looks pretty dinky, but consider this: one of its tires (pictured here with a random tourist) is 12 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 10,183 pounds, is pressurized to 100 psi, and costs about $2500! Are you getting a sense of the size of things now? Kennecott has about 70 of these gigantic haulers working in the mine and each carries over 300 tons of material in a single trip. Over the years the Bingham Canyon mine (its official name) has produced more copper than any other mine in history...about 18.1 million tons. Wow!

As impressive as all of this seems to be, I still could not stop thinking about the environmental cost. When I've flown with Patrick, we've looked down on their tailings impound just south of the Great Salt Lake with disgust...from the air it's a completely vile and polluted mess. On the drive up, I could see where waste rubble has been dumped over the mine's steep slopes and has unabashedly covered up more and more mountainside (which in a way is actually oddly beautiful...if you don't think about it too much) and wondered what the place would look like in 20 years...would there even be an Oquirrh range left? As development spreads throughout the valley, will residents living in the mine's shadow have issues with contaminated drinking water?

Many of these questions were addressed in videos and displays inside the visitor's center. I was actually surprised to see demonstrations of work that had been done to restore damaged land and reintroduce native plants to areas of the mine no longer in use. The company has built water treatment plants to cleanse groundwater of its contamination so communities that tap in are not at risk. Even the disgusting tailings dump will (according to models in the center) gradually be returned to a "natural" living environment. Kennecott copper insists that they are the most sustainably operated and environmentally conscious mine in the world (everything is relative I guess) and they spend millions on research and invest in infrastructure and local maintenance to maintain this distinction.

Inside the theater there were also numerous plaques and displays that note Kennecott's ongoing contributions to the Salt Lake Community and various non-profit organizations to which they continually donate--The Museum of Natural History, Ballet West, Native American Organizations, and countless youth sports and education programs among them. I've gotta give kudos for that.

Sure, a lot of this is just the typical propaganda any company with such a dramatic impact would flaunt. The truth is usually a bit less rosy, but as I drove home I did notice how beautiful the landscape was immediately surrounding the mine. Pictures at the visitor's center showed this area had once been totally ravaged by negligence and waste. Looks like at least a few wildflowers are coming back...

June 25, 2010

Approaching the End

Tonight I spent some time working at Cannonball and finished the very last limited-edition horn currently in stock. There will be another shipment arriving in a couple weeks that will include more instruments in each series, so it's not truly the end of anything overall, but it was sort of a goal for me to put my work on as many limited-edition saxophones as I could before I left. For the next few days I'll just be engraving more of our non-limited horns: the Pete Christlieb and Gerald Albright Signature models (like the Gerald Albright Soprano pictured below--I designed all the laser engraving you see on this as well).

Maybe this is just the fantasy of a typically big-headed trumpet player, but I've sometimes wondered if someday these horns we've engraved might mean something to collectors...like maybe people will seek out horns that specific individuals have worked on...maybe the small part (bumps and all) I've played in saxophone-manufacturing history will be noted by those who seek out unique "vintage" instruments...

...just another thought that keeps me always trying to do my best...

June 23, 2010

Feeling Better

Wow...check out how beautiful my mountain is tonight!

I suppose I've been feeling a bit better today.

I've begun my search for an Evanston apartment in earnest and am getting more excited about the move and what's in store for me at Northwestern.

I only have one week of work left (my last day is June 30th) and though I still have to check myself once in a while about my feelings towards Cannonball, for the most part I believe I've cleared my brain of concern about leaving and how the engraving will be carried on after I go.

I have an odd sort of relationship with my art in that I view everything I produce as my own offspring. Because of this, I tend to be quite particular and protective towards it. One of the biggest struggles for me in regards to the engraving at Cannonball has been patiently accepting and appreciating the work my coworkers have done with it as well. Ever since others began learning the craft alongside me, I've been hyper-concerned about whether or not everyone else takes it as seriously as I do. I'm admittedly pretty anal about certain things and when I've noticed even slight lapses in attention to detail it's sometimes been difficult for me to devise a tactful way to suggest any needed improvements.

Though engraving at Cannonball requires hundreds of horns to be etched with the same design, each saxophone must be a work of art on its own. It may feel like a simple and tedious assembly-line job, but it can't be. Every horn we send out the door will eventually translate someone's individual voice into music, and I want to know that the aesthetics of the horn somehow match the purity of its purpose. Every saxophone should be one a player could fall instantly in love with--most importantly for its sound, but for its beauty as well.

Anyway..I'm moving on...(sigh)...and I am confident that the engravers at Cannonball will do just fine without me and continue to dress up some beautiful saxophones!

June 22, 2010


It's tough to come up with something positive to write about when you're depressed.

One of the main purposes for this blog was to help me focus on the positive things in my life in order to keep moving in an upward direction rather than continuing on into a downward spiral...and, truly, it has helped. over the last couple of months I've found that in general I've been able to react to (most) people and situations in a more confident way--reminding me that I've not always been a sullen, untrusting, and difficult person. But still common are situations where I find myself impossibly relapsing into an anxious, suspicious, guilt-ridden, hateful mess and in a spasm of terror and desperation I'll turn around and unwittingly hurt people I respect and care about. After this happens, I find that additional fear makes it very difficult for me to remedy the situation directly and instead I hide away and just avoid the people I've affected.

This bout of depression has been different than those of my past in that I'm still able to bury myself wholeheartedly in my work and remain productive. In fact, my motivation to work may be the one thing that's consistently held me together lately. I pull out my trumpet and allow the required focus of practicing to help shove all those terrifying and disturbing feelings into the background of my mind with the hope that eventually they'll dissipate and I'll be able to move forward as if nothing had happened. The problem is: it's unlikely anyone else realizes this is what's going on, and because it's natural for me to imagine that others must be constantly thinking about how completely horrible and rotten I am, (and maybe I am), when I'm asked to "hang out" in a "relaxed" setting (where there's not an active endeavor to ease the social pressure) I find myself cringing and hiding and unable to interact in a "normal" way. This does nothing to help the situation or people's perception of me, so my reaction is to leave or just avoid placing myself in that position to begin with.

As is usually the case with this kind of thing, it's just another one of those never-ending cycles. I have no idea how to fix myself and will likely be seeking some help when it becomes more readily available to me as a student. Till then, I guess I'll just keep "starting today".

June 19, 2010

Bryce Canyon

"If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it"
--Lyndon B. Johnson

These seemed appropriate words to consider while standing at Yovimpa Point: the southernmost tip, and highest point (over 9100 feet) of Bryce Canyon National Park. The view from here is utterly breathtaking. While buffeted by a strong chilly wind, my dad and I gazed out over the vast panorama, and though few words were exchanged, there was no doubt we both felt humbled and blessed by the fact that this land had been set aside expressly for the preservation of the Earth's beauty and profound wildness. The view carries the eye over a sequence of descending rock layers called the Grand Staircase. The Pink Cliffs, out of which the striking formations at Bryce have evolved, are the topmost step and way off in the hazy distance are the rolling hills of the Kaibab Plateau: the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

This past Thursday I had invited my dad to come down to Bryce with me for one of the summer astronomy programs I volunteer for. After a late night of excellent stargazing with a large crowd of interested park visitors, "Dark Ranger" Kevin Poe generously allowed us to overnight at a volunteer-house inside the park and we spent the following day touring the canyon and seeing the daytime sights. Though I'd come to the park several times for the astronomy program, it had been years since I'd been able to venture out past the lodge and visitor's center to experience one of the most beautiful (and fascinatingly bizarre) landscapes in the world.

We arrived in the early evening and met Patrick and Ranger Poe for dinner and chatting (actually the only one who had dinner was Patrick) at the Subway across from the Bryce Canyon airport. Poe is fascinating to listen to. He regaled us with stories about the area including the worst plane crash in Utah history (which took place near the Bryce airport), current efforts in Bryce to improve its already nationally-known public astronomy program, and his ongoing campaign to promote the use of sustainable energy.

After dinner we drove into the park where Poe set us up in the volunteer house. It had 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and a sizable living room and kitchen. I've been having fantasies ever since about volunteering over a longer period--maybe a week or 2--and being able to live in the park. As I'm a complete nut for nature, working in a national park has held an ongoing interest for me. I'll likely never be able to be anything more than a volunteer, but I love the idea of checking out of the "real world" for a while and somehow contributing to the park service's mission to preserve these vestiges of wild America and enhance people's ability to see and experience them.

Once we had settled in, my dad and I drove over to the lodge where we walked up to the canyon rim to watch the last bits of sunlight illuminating the landscape and get our first glimpse of the canyon.

With early-evening twilight setting in, the brilliant hues of the cliffs and Hoodoos (the unique sandstone formations that dominate at Bryce) were softened and as the breeze died down, the atmosphere at the canyon rim was hushed and reverent. Park visitors strolled quietly along the rim, which drops off steeply from the trail, and we all marveled at the changing colors of the landscape as daylight drifted away.

I had to get back to the visitor's center to set up my telescope, so I left my dad at the lodge to watch Patrick's NASA presentation, which is as funny as it is fascinating.

Though the moon was just shy of 1st quarter, it still promised to be an excellent night for viewing. 7 scopes were set up by rangers and volunteers (as usual, all of them MUCH bigger than mine) and as dark fell, we planned a strategy for viewing that would give the public ample opportunity to take in various views of Venus, Mars, Saturn, the moon, and anything else we could think of.

I had spent the previous day scouring books and the internet for interesting things to talk about. I was prepared with fascinating little tidbits about the planets, the moon, Albireo (a colorful double--actually a triple--star in Cygnus) , Mizar and Alcor (a lovely triple--actually a sextuple--system in the Big Dipper), M13 (the good ol' Hercules Cluster), m4 (another cool globular in Scorpius), and various stars and asterisms that would be visible that night. Though I always feel outgunned at these events, this time I was confident I could at least keep up with the other scope operators when it came to show-and-tell. We had an excellent crowd and as the night wore on I was able to sneak away for a couple of my own glimpses through the other giant scopes...and you ain't seen M13 till you've glimpsed it through a giant dobsonian!

After a late night, my dad and I "slept in" (when you're used to getting up at 4:00, 7:30 feels absolutely luxurious!). We missed the famous Bryce sunrise, but made it over to the Sunset Point in enough time to catch some of its late-morning radiance.

Bryce's terrain is so striking I don't know how to begin to describe it. A sign along the rim trail reads:

"Before there were any Indians, the Legend People, To-when-an-ung-wa, lived in that place. There were many of them. They were of many kinds--birds, animals, lizards and such things--but they looked like people...For some reason, the Legend People in that place were bad. Because they were bad, Coyote turned them all into rocks. You can see them in that place now, all turned into rocks; some standing in rows, some sitting down, some holding on to others. You can see their faces. with paint on them just as they were before they became rocks..."

--Paiute Indian Legend

After breakfast, we took the Navajo Loop Trail,"World's greatest 3 mile hike", and ventured down among these petrified animal people.

The descent is incredible. Every few feet I'd look up and the view had changed completely. I was stopping constantly to take pictures. I would tell my dad "ok, I'm going to quit with the photos now", but then 2 minutes later the view would be impossible to resist and I'd pull out my camera once again. Eventually I stopped feeling guilty and just made sure that I also took the time to catch the sights using my eyes alone.

In one area it looked like the walls had been sloppily painted with a wash of mud...

There were cascades of "sandcicles" (not a technical term, just one my dad suggested)...

Candy-cane trees...

Eerie daliesque dreamscapes (featuring relatively young bristlecones)...

And crowds of towering sentinels hovering curiously over the trail.

It is truly a wonderland! Any further description I might offer would just be annoyingly full of almost religious superlatives...so I'll just leave you with the pictures and trust the old adage that just one "is worth 1000 words".

As the day progressed, the landscape seemed to lose all clear indications of dimension. Earlier, patterns of light and shadow would allow the eye to make sense of the canyon's contours: you could see where fins and hoodoos would separate from one another and thereby somewhat easily comprehend the scale and distance of what you were viewing. With the mid-day sun however, all became a baffling mesh of texture. This harsh lighting didn't make for great photos, but what an interesting large-scale illusion! Here is a scene at Inspiration Point...

We returned to our house mid afternoon, collected our things and, after having lunch at the lodge, hit the road for home.

After the 5 hour drive back to Salt Lake, I was too tired for much further activity, but I have since been fantasizing almost non-stop about going back for another Bryce Canyon adventure. I'm a little intimidated to ask Ranger Poe if I'd be useful as a longer term astronomy volunteer, (I'm still such a beginner!) but maybe if I do some practicing over the next month, I could pull some time together for such an excursion in August before I take off for Chicago...we'll see.

June 15, 2010


I don't remember when I started doodling...it's just one of those things I always did. My school papers from elementary through college are decorated with eyes, trees, anatomy experiments, butterflies, and weird abstract shapes, and I have all sorts of notebooks and folders lying around that are chock full of odd little doodles that I keep thinking I'll go back and revisit someday. I always sort of felt that when my hands were busy, I could concentrate more effectively. I would take notes in class and would later be able to recall something about Biology or Music History based on the odd little drawing that grew up in the margins around that portion of my lecture notes.

My doodling gained a new intensity when I started using Bic round stic medium pens. This is not intended as an ad, but to this day I love the way ink emerges from a medium Bic. It's consistently smooth and dark, and with practice and sensitivity can be manipulated into creating various textures and grades of shadow. Most of my largest and most involved drawings are done in Bic pen and Sharpie...with a bit of #2 pencil thrown in occasionally as well. The techniques I consider most particular to my personal style have all been born from a habit of idly fidgeting with these cheap simple materials.

The picture on the left illustrates this technique perfectly. I drew it during the summer (maybe 1996 or 1997?) I worked as a housekeeper at the International Music Camp on the border between North Dakota and Canada. I loved the IMC and had already attended several years as a camper. Some of my most formative adolescent memories center around the IMC's performing ensembles where I was surrounded by students from around the world who had just as much, if not more, excitement about playing music as I did. Housekeeping on the other hand was a tough job and we were given only one day off per week...our only day to be free from dirty toilets and stinky trash...and my only day to revel in the musical goings on I otherwise had to ignore.

On one of my days--a particularly damp one--I huddled myself into a corner of the main performance hall with some paper and a pen and began to doodle an eye...which, admittedly is how I've begun about 90% of everything I've ever drawn. While I sketched, one of the ensembles was rehearsing the Holst "First Suite for Band". There is magic that happens in those IMC bands and I remember being absolutely transported as I listened. From there I just let the picture emerge as it pleased...let the line tell its story without imposing judgement or any preconceived structure.

The result...well...it is what it is. People look at it and tell me what they think it says about my psyche: that I'm in emotional pain...a tormented artist...that from my grief is born a cruel sort of beauty...that as I create and share my gift it is also eating me alive. Maybe, maybe not...in any case, I did not start out with the intent to draw a speared fish, and that pleading expression could have just as easily turned into the frolicking gaze of a unicorn.

Since then I've done dozens of these kind of drawings. Some of them are just as random and surreal (and slightly morbid) as the speared fish...

And others ended up retaining a consistent theme and stayed relatively tame...

Some do illustrate nightmarish fantasies (Oooo...branched out into some blue Bic!)...

And others are optimistic and even a little light hearted (used a hint of colored pencil here)...

By far the most complicated drawing I've ever completed that is still completely an unplanned doodle is "Bad Trip". Let me just say I have NO IDEA where this bizarre image came from, but as with the speared fish, I started with an "eye"...

Yes, that is an eye...of sorts. The small black dot in the middle is the pupil, the oddly transparent tubular growth around it is the iris...can you see it now? I started this doodle on a large (19 x 24 in) sheet of very nice paper and had intended (and hoped) it would end up being one of my more "serious" works, but I had no idea how utterly obsessed and disturbed by it I would become. It's based roughly on a nightmare I'd had previously (and only vaguely remember at this point) where a gigantic eye had slowly, over the course of "dream-days", peeled itself out through the top of my skull.

I began the drawing on a Sunday afternoon and (as I've frequently done) stayed up late into the night working on it. I eventually pulled myself away to get a few hours of restless sleep, but I couldn't stop thinking about that horrible eyeball...it literally made my skin crawl knowing it was laying out in my living room...looking around...

When I woke up for work the next morning, I could only think about finishing the drawing. I called in sick and spent the rest of the day, well into the evening, watching the psychotic image create itself before me. Other than the eye I had no idea what would come out of the page. It was a doodle that lasted two days...and almost used up an entire Bic pen!

I promise...I've never used any sort of substance to induce a drawing. This just comes out of my naturally wacky imagination.

One of the things I'm looking forward to most about going back to school is that I'll once again have to take notes in class. Maybe my old habit of thoughtless doodling will resume and a new spark of creativity will ignite. If I'm lucky it will help end the horrible dry spell I've been experiencing and I'll have a whole new series of interesting doodles to share with you!

June 13, 2010

A Very Large Tattoo

Look what I did yesterday!

Yes, that is a tuba, and though the words and the head of "Neptune" in the middle were already on the horn, all the other frills and lines you see are mine. Mike McCawley, tubist extraordinaire with the Ballet West Orchestra, was brave enough to sit and watch as I scratched up the bell of his beloved instrument. The tuba itself is only seven years old (is it cruel to tattoo a child?) and had been through 2 previous owners (one who played with the President's Own Marine Band) before Mike picked it up.

Before I made my first cut I drew the design on the horn using washable marker and paced around the enormous instrument trying to find a good starting point. Mike was standing over the table when I made the opening slice and was likely a bit relieved (as was I) to see that I hadn't slipped.

That initial cut is always the tough one. From it I know how the hardness, texture, and feel of the lacquer and metal will influence the rest of my engraving...and every horn is a bit different. Even among the Cannonball instruments--with which you'd think I'd have complete familiarity--every individual horn has a unique feel. With some, after the first cut I know the next two hours will be Hell, and with others, that cut is accompanied by a sigh of relief as I know it will be smooth sailing from there on out.

Mike's horn behaved beautifully and though I struggled at times to find good angles from which to approach my lines, I enjoyed this engraving from start to finish. Mike had set up a low table in his garage and left the outside door open. There was a fresh breeze blowing in and I could hear the pattering of rain on the roof: one of my favorite sounds. The setting was quite comfortable and brought to my imagination a possible future engraving workshop of my own.

Mike wandered in and out watching me work. He told me that before he'd majored in music, he'd studied art--specifically sculpture. This was a surprise to me and at first I was a little intimidated to have another artist scrutinizing my work, but Mike is about as amiable a guy as you can imagine and I eventually stopped worrying. Maybe his artistic past was the only reason I was there in the first place...what else would have given him an open enough mind to watch his several-thousand-dollar musical instrument carved up in front of his eyes?!

Everyone knows that tubas are large, but I don't think I'd realized just how immense they are until I'd done this engraving yesterday. I may risk getting myself into trouble by saying this, but the tuba, like the cello or the string bass, is a truly embraceable instrument. As I worked, I steadied the horn and found my balance by holding the tubing or the bell, always making sure I didn't press too hard and push the horn off the edge of the thin table. The curves of the tuba are wide and much more relaxing to my hand than a saxophone. Though I occasionally had to contort myself to reach an effective cutting angle over such a large instrument, it was pleasant to be able to open my frame as I worked. Compare that to crouching low and tight over a soprano saxophone with my hand clenched uncomfortably around its spindly little neck and you might be able to appreciate what I'm saying.

I finished the job in about 2 hours and was quite pleased with the result. I think the new engraving ended up blending nicely with the previous design: as the horn's title is "Neptune", my idea was to create the impression of waves of water being blown by the figurehead in the middle of the bell. Mike seemed thoroughly satisfied as well. He wanted to make sure I got plenty of pictures and couldn't wait to take the horn to his next gig (which happens to be with a classic English style brass band...maybe I'll get some more business outa this!!) and show off his newly decorated instrument.

June 11, 2010


Last night I played with the Timpanogos Brass Quintet at a benefit concert in Alpine. We provided background music as people were milling around looking over silent auction tables and finding their seats for the main show. All funds raised were donated to a family with multiple children suffering from Crohn's disease and lukemia. It was a freebie for us, but we figured it was good exposure and a worthy cause...so why not? The concert was held at the Alpine Arts Center which features a western-art/LDS culture themed gallery, sculpture gardens, and a nice gathering space suitable for a variety of events.

In an effort to avoid the worst of rush-hour and freeway-construction traffic, I left quite early. As soon as I got around the point of the mountain, I was hammered by a terrific gale. The point of the mountain is a gravelly rise that juts out from the main Wasatch range and divides Salt Lake and Utah Counties. It's high enough that the weather on either side of it can be markedly different, and on nice days hangliders and paragliders can be seen cruising around its top. From the summit of Mount Timpanogos (the actual peak, not the cave) the point of the mountain looks laughably insignificant. After putting in a strenuous day of hiking to reach the top of Timp, I've looked down on the point and wondered "How in the world can that little hill affect the weather like it does?"

As I continued to drive, the gale did not let up for a moment. It wasn't one of those gusty kind of winds, but a strong steady blow. My knuckles were white as I gripped the steering wheel and tried to steady my swaying car. I watched enormous cottonwoods bending heavily and in a few places the road was covered in broken branches and debris. When I pulled into the Arts Center, I noticed the wind was so strong it was even affecting one of the bronze sculptures near the parking lot...can you imagine a wind powerful enough to blow hair this stiff? (ok, I know...silly joke:)

I wandered around taking a few more pictures and trying (with mixed success) to keep my shirt from blowing up over my head. The view from the sculpture garden was awesome:

The mountainous area spread out behind this bronze elk lies just to the east of Lone Peak, but I don't know the names of any of the specific features you can see here. Alpine is just northwest of American Fork Canyon and this is the view I found so distracting the other day while driving to Timp cave. I'm glad I ended up with this much more convenient opportunity to take a photo!

Here's a better view of the same terrain:

Isn't Utah gorgeous?! I am really going to miss these mountains...

June 10, 2010


This morning at Cannonball I engraved three "Vintage" straight soprano saxophones. These, along with a 4th I had engraved earlier, are slated to go to a reviewer with Downbeat Magazine who'll write an article about this new addition to the Cannonball line for an upcoming issue. I'll admit, I'm really proud of the engraving I did on these horns and am hoping that I (or just the engraving itself I guess) get a brief mention. Maybe it will say something like, "Each saxophone features luxuriously spectacular hand engraving by the amazing and multi-talented Kelly Ricks". Well, ok, I suppose that might be asking a bit much...especially considering I'll be leaving the company at the end of the month. Still, I'll be looking forward to reading the article and seeing if my work gets a little nod.