September 30, 2011

Lake Michigan Today

Today's forecast for Lake Michigan in my area:

"Northwest gales to 40 kt becoming north. Slight chance of showers. Waves 12 to 16 feet."

Kt stands for knots. One knot is about 1.15 mph so we've got gusting today up around 46 mph! Ever since I arrived in Evanston over a year ago I've been wanting to see one of these monster 15 foot waves I hear about every once in a while. When I walked right down to the sandy shore, the stature of the breakers had diminished enough so that they might just make it over the top of a seagull...

...but when I got to Regenstein and assumed one of my usual posts atop the large seawall that borders the music building's parking lot, the situation changed.

I'm estimating that the wall's height above the water level is about 10 feet. On a day like today when waves are rolling into shore, they hit the seawall and rebound back toward the center of the lake. When these east-bound waves encounter the barrage of oncoming west-bound waves it can create a veritable explosion of water. There were waves I saw today whose combined energy shot plumes of heavy gray water straight up into the air and peaked above my eye level from on top of the sea wall. I'm 5' 7" so if the sea wall is indeed about 10 feet above surface level...that's a pretty monster wave!

It's pretty dang hard to time photos properly in order to capture moments like that (especially when there is a delay between the time you push the button and the time the shutter on my camera), so I missed the biggest explosions, but here's a medium size one to give you some idea of what I saw this morning...

One brief news update before I sign off: Ein Heldenleben went great yesterday!

September 29, 2011

Public Success

Sunrise has been getting later and later (today it was at 6:45), but apparently, so have I...

It is one of my favorite things to be at the lake shore in time to see the sun break above the horizon, but as the demands of graduate school have begun to more firmly sink their teeth into my flesh, I've found it more and more difficult to make time for such simple pleasures.

Things are going alright. I've had a lot of private in-the-practice-room success, but precious little of the public success I've been working toward (solo class sort of fizzled yesterday). Still, I tell myself the year is young, and I will undoubtedly have far more opportunities to prove myself publicly than I could possibly desire. In fact, the next one is just a couple hours away. I'll be playing the first E flat trumpet part of Strauss' Ein Heldenleben in excerpt class. I feel prepared. I hope to do well.

September 27, 2011


I was walking from the library to the music building and ran into this little guy--no bigger than a plump cherry--running around on the sidewalk below a canopy of ornamental grasses. I know he'll grow up to be a pest with destructive capabilities that belie his minute and fuzzy stature, but for now...ain't he just the cutest little thing!

September 26, 2011

News Brief

The concert last night was incredible. A collaboration between the American Brass Quintet and the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the program ran the gamut from Gabrielli to Joan Tower and filled the Pick Staiger Concert hall with the most resonantly glorious brass sounds imaginable.

Afterwards, I went backstage to say some final goodbyes to the ABQ and was pleasantly surprised when I was able to introduce myself to James Stephenson, the composer of one of the pieces I'm planning for my recital (Vignettes for Trumpet and Percussion). He was very personable and said if I wanted some fun tidbits for my program notes I should give him a call.

SWE started today; a minor miracle considering Dr. Thompson's recent accident: a nighttime fall leading to forehead stitches, a couple of broken ribs, and a collapsed lung.

The weather has been bad--windy and wet--but there are always moments of beauty within the storm.

Otherwise I'm swamped, but reasonably happy.

Nuf said for today.

September 25, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Yesterday I woke up early and made a killing at the local farmer's market. I loaded up on apples, exotic mini potatoes (check out the amazing selection below), swiss chard, broccoli, peppers, mushrooms and a cornucopia of heirloom plum tomatoes. The salad I made for myself last night was out of this world!

Sunrises for the last couple days have been cloudy and wet, but here's a nice shot I got yesterday mid-morning...shifting pockets of sunlight shimmering atop the water...

The American Brass Quintet is in town presenting a couple of concerts with members of the Chicago Chamber Artists. I first met the ABQ at the Aspen Music Festival during the summer of 1999. That was a great summer for me: I studied for the first time with Ray Mase (trumpet in the ABQ), won the brass concerto competition, got to perform my piece with the orchestra under the big music tent, and was a member of a great brass quintet coached by John Rojak (ABQ bass trombonist) that played regularly outside in downtown Aspen. A little over a year later I had transferred to Juilliard, where the ABQ is in residence, and got to work with all five of its members on a regular basis. Playing in a brass quintet became one of my favorite musical activities, and after my graduation in 2002 I continued to keep in touch with the ABQ; running into them a few times when they came to perform and teach in Utah. It was a thrill to see and hear them all again yesterday, and I can't wait for their concert tonight!

I feel privileged to have had so many great teachers all the way from grade school through the present, and wish to express my gratitude to all of them for their exceptional care and inspiration. Nothing quite compares to the influence a good teacher can have on a young life and I would not be here today without each of their contributions.

September 23, 2011

A second home

The Northwestern University Library (the older, more romantically beautiful section anyway). The music and listening libraries are located in this part of the building...

while I spend most of my time studying in the newer sleeker portion...

Each certainly has its charms...and the central plaza between them offers great views of both for brief mid-day study-break photo sessions.

Stormy Day

I didn't expect to see much of a sunrise this morning, but was instead enamored of the massive clouds hanging dark and heavy out over the water. They appeared almost low enough to touch...

This is looking north toward the NU arts complex...

Eventually a bit of light did peek through for a few minutes.

I saw a worn out looking monarch butterfly alight in the grass and went over to investigate.

The poor little guy was exhausted, damp, and cold.

After sitting on my fingers for a while, he languidly flapped over to some bushes and dropped half-heartedly below a wet canopy of leaves and grass where I wasn't able to reach him. I don't have much hope for his continued survival. It breaks my heart to see a beautiful life struggle so...

September 22, 2011

The news

So things at NU are slowly revving up.

I found out that I'll be playing in SWE (the affectionate acronym for NU's Wind Ensemble) this quarter, and that by some miracle I made it into excerpt class.

I have two academic classes, Alexander Technique (a practice of efficient posture reputed to help with issues from stiffness to performance anxiety), and Ethnomusicology.

Ethno is going to be the biggest challenge (you should see the reading list for the quarter!), though it could also prove to be one of the more stimulating classes I've had the privilege of taking. When I signed up for the class last spring, I naively assumed it would be a survey of "world music" styles and practices. I imagined spending hours in the listening and video labs absorbing the cultural offerings of "native" communities around the globe and enriching my vocabulary and knowledge of the societies that created them. What the course is actually designed to explore, however, is the very meaning of the term Ethnomusicology (surprisingly, a fluid definition that has been hotly debated for decades), and the implications that changing definition is having on our global society and the musics it creates.

The class is made up of about 10 students ranging in experience from doctoral candidates in musicology that regularly present at academic conferences, to novices like me who have had a few brushes with music outside our own cultures and want to know more, and is taught by an Azerbaijani woman who loves asking difficult probing questions and directs our discussions down surprising and fascinating roads. If I can survive the substantial homework load it should be a blast!

Finally, here's the sunrise for the day...

I was excited to see Mr. and Mrs. Fox still going about their morning routines (one of whom is not pictured, but was sniffing around the bushes about a block away)...

And when I made it into the gym I found the scale read 175. Minus three pounds...nothing to complain about.

September 21, 2011

Nursery Rhyme

Red sky in the morning,
Sailors take warning...

And I take photos...

September 20, 2011

Real Class

One benefit of attending an institute of higher learning built on a lake shore: sailing class.

Oh, if I just had a few more lifetimes...

Short and sweet

My blogs for the next while are likely to be rather brief. The ethnomusicology course I'm enrolled in this quarter looks like it will be incredibly interesting, but incredibly challenging...mostly because the amount of reading and writing required is, well, SUBSTANTIAL.

So, without further ado or explanation, here was today's a word: GLORIOUS!

September 19, 2011

Where do I go from here

Tough day.
Nerves led to a botched pool audition.
Went to the gym and worked out HARD to channel feelings of despair into something more productive than crying into my pillow.
Knowing that make it any better?

September 17, 2011


"[Anyone] can fully feel it--this dying of night with the birth of day--this supreme moment when the mists and dimness and low voices of the one exhale into the melody and brightness of the other.

It is a daily miracle--this sudden transition from gray to rosy light--this unrolling of the dew-covered landscape--this assumption, in delicious crescendo, of sound--this quickening of the day's life over the sleep of night--this flying of darkness, as of a ghost pursued, before the flooding of light--this oldest of all stories again told.

Awake, for the day has dawned."

--Ellen Chapman (Hobbs) Rollins

(the originally intent of this quote has been slightly altered by me: instead of "Anyone," Rollins asserted that "only the country liver" could appreciate a sunrise thus. I obviously--and wholeheartedly--disagree. Despite her prejudice against the aesthetic sensitivity of urbanites, I liked her description of daybreak and decided to share it with you here. If I were more gifted poetically I might have written my own grateful I spared you!)

September 16, 2011

Mourning cloak

This morning Lake Michigan was as deep blue as I'd ever seen it; a bottomless hue that mirrored the heaviness of the clouds overhead and banished the golden light of morning to the farthest reaches of the horizon.

As I walked up the stairs to Regenstein an odd shape perched atop the garden soil caught my eye. When I crouched down to get a closer look I discovered a giant mourning cloak butterfly huddled up against the morning's chill.

Mourning cloaks are among my favorite species of butterfly. Their roughly-textured and somewhat unremarkable exterior disguises a velvety red-brown inner plumage; sequined with sapphire dollops of iridescence and edged with radiant gold, their raiment is as luxurious as that of a king, but without any garrulous pretension.

I must have somewhat disturbed this poor guy when I picked him up. As he sat atop my fingers and later my knee he shivered mightily in an effort to warm his system enough to fly away. I edged my face close to his and gently blew a few puffs of warm air against his body. With each breath he responded by fully opening and closing his beautiful wings as if to stretch.

When I was around 5 or 6 years old I found a caterpillar and kept it in a jar with a few sticks and leaves I thought it might enjoy munching on. I was lucky, and after a couple days it climbed up one of the sticks, hung itself upside down, and spun itself into a cocoon. A few weeks later I watched wide eyed as a new mourning cloak emerged wet and shriveled from its chrysalis. After an extended period of weary stretching and inflating, the young adult flapped out its beautiful wings and readied itself to go out into the world. Watching its transformation had been magical. Though part of me was sad to see it finally take off from my finger and fly away into the sunshine, I felt proud and happy to have been its protector for a time. I'm sure this experience also contributed to my special affinity for the mourning cloak.

After I gave it a few more warm breaths, this morning's butterfly took off from my finger, fluttered high into one of the trees nearby, and settled atop one of its loftiest branches. I suppose it may well have been thinking, "Thank goodness that monster didn't eat me! Maybe NOW I can FINALLY get some peace!"

September 15, 2011

A few good things

Yesterday evening I spent the twilight and early dark hours walking around campus and contemplating doing an entire post about "NU after dark." That idea didn't materialize into anything remotely worthwhile, but I guess I did get a few nice pictures of the city (sheesh! Look at all that light pollution!)...

...and got to watch another spectacular moonrise over the lake (Wow! Even more light pollution!)

The morning dawned sunny and cold--according to newscasters, the coldest predicted high temperature in 15 years (which sounds particularly scary in a place like Chicago, but just meant we had lovely late-fallish 50-60 degree weather).

The wind and currents were whipping up some terrific waves that glistened exuberantly in the sunlight...

I could have watched their rollicking foam-capped curls until lunchtime...BUT...I had scheduled a rehearsal with Yoko (NU's accompanist extraordinaire) for early this afternoon and needed to make sure I got my chops into good condition.

Despite it being a rather stiff day on the horn (which usually signals a sour mood), I managed to pull off a worthwhile and fun rehearsal on the Plog (my selection for the upcoming solo class a week from Wednesday), earned $10 for participating in a psychology study (WooHoo, I'm in the money!), and when I weighed myself at the gym after my workout the scale read 176 (that's minus 2 lbs thank-you-very-much!).

Not too bad I suppose.

September 14, 2011

seeing double

Yesterday afternoon our air was thickened by clouds of smoke that had drifted down from wildfires in Minnesota. Everywhere I walked it smelled like a campfire, and after nightfall the haze turned the waning moon a deep rusty orange that was reflected in the black water below like a river of fire. I tried photographing the eerie scene, but was, unsurprisingly, unable to capture the true effect--though the photo by itself does possess some charm...

I hurried to the lake shore this morning anticipating a spectacular smoky sunrise, but I never seem to get exactly what imagine. Despite the muted tones and gray surroundings, this one was beautiful in its cool and calm reserve highlighted by pinpricks of blazing gold (the sun's face) slowly ascending behind the clouds...

About halfway to school I was happily surprised to again encounter my foxy friend in precisely the same location I had seen him/her yesterday. This time however, he/she was with a companion. The pair sat near one another in symmetrical poses...hungrily stalking the dozens of squirrels frisking nearby...

As I sat on the curb with camera in hand, a biker passed and said, "Foxes...they live on the beach." If he was right, then I'm likely to be seeing more of these beautiful animals throughout the season--yet another good reason to keep up my early schedule.

My diet/exercise goals are going well--by which I mean that I haven't cheated or gotten lazy. The scale still said 178 this morning. It's only been 3 days though. What else should I expect? I do at least feel like I'm doing my body good. Except for waking up with calves so sore I could barely make it to the bathroom without stumbling I feel great!

September 13, 2011


It was just another typically gorgeous Lake Michigan sunrise...

Or so I thought...

Now, I've certainly heard stories about the coyote population in Chicago, and in fact, they act as sort of unofficial city employees by patrolling parks and green areas for pests like voles and rats, but sighting a wild fox roaming the city (even if it is just suburban Evanston) is a rare treat.