October 31, 2011


Two consequences of getting a parking ticket last week:

On one hand, I had to take valuable time out of my busy morning schedule to head over to the Evanston Civic Center, pay the ticket, and buy (at full price, I might add...even though there are only a couple months left in 2011...jeeze!!!) a 2011 city sticker.

On the other, I had to drive to school today (to avoid getting another ticket) which had the happy consequence of allowing me to both sleep in AND make it to the lake shore in time to watch a lovely sunrise...

I really wish I could've avoided shelling out such a meaningless $120, but at least the collateral benefit to all the hassle and expense offered some momentary refreshment.

October 29, 2011

Saturday Sunrise

I went out to my car this morning and discovered a bright orange parking ticket protruding from the driver's-side door.

A neighbor walked by with his dog, "They gave you a parking ticket?" He said.

"Yeah," I replied, puzzled, "It says 'vehicle without Evanston parking permit', but I obviously have a current permit."

"Is it your license plate number? Maybe someone moved it over from another car as a prank."

"Nope...it's my number, but it's obviously a mistake...I can't figure out how they could have missed seeing my permit."

I figured out the problem a couple minutes later as I drove to school. When I got my new Illinois plates I didn't update that information with the Evanston parking authority.


I'm going to at least try and beg for mercy.

I have proof of the license plate transition. It's an honest mistake...right?

I hope they think so...sigh...

Well, sunrise was awesome anyway...a reasonable distraction from my embarrassing (and costly) oversight...I guess...

October 28, 2011


For anyone wondering about the prolonged absence of new posts, I want to reassure you that yes, I'm still here, still as swamped as I've ever been in my life, and still somehow managing to make it to most sunrises...

(of course it helps a lot that sunrise is happening later and later every day!)

I'm doing well in my classes--well enough that my ethnomusicology teacher tried to talk me into pursuing a doctorate in the field yesterday--but the amount of work I been having to do in order to keep up at this high level has me nearly at my breaking point. After much thought, I reminded myself last night that though I thrill at every bit of praise given by admired superiors, though I have a broad range of interests and--given the time, opportunity, and desire--could convincingly pursue any number of them at a high level, and though becoming a professional musician continues to be one of the most challenging, competitive, and insecure career goals a person can have, I'm still here at northwestern expressly to become a trumpet player.

I've been letting my selfish (and arguably unnecessary) desire to take the most difficult classes and still maintain a 4.0 GPA interfere with my readiness to work in the practice room, my ability to take soul-healing strolls along the lake, and the freedom to spend some spare time exploring my imagination and creativity. I'm no better off than I was back in SLC--trying to survive a full time job AND stay active as a successful performer. Just as it was then, my attention is currently split...and I came here SPECIFICALLY for the opportunity to focus well on one thing.

I'm going to continue to do the best I can with this demanding schedule through the end of fall quarter, but for next term I plan to be a bit kinder on myself and try to recoup some of the positive vigor I had at the start of the school year. Right now, my time at NU is for the trumpet. If I find down the road than I do in fact want to pursue an advanced degree in musicology, I believe the opportunity to take up that goal will still exist.

October 25, 2011

Thank You!

I want to send a big thank you to all of those who tuned in to my recital on Saturday. In addition to those who attended live, there were a total of 16 discrete connections online--a small number by some standards, but certainly more than I imagined. Your support and encouragement (including many comments I received via email) has been much appreciated. I'll keep you informed about my next show!

October 20, 2011

Troubled Waters

Lake Michigan has been very short tempered this year...

Just a couple weeks ago I was amazed to hear about 15 foot waves out on the water, and then last night, along with 60 mph wind gusts, there was talk of swells up to 25 feet!


I didn't even attempt a "sunrise" photo yesterday because as I walked to school the wind took control of my umbrella, flipped it inside out, and left me with a nasty cut on my pinky and a feeling of relief that both my eyeballs were still safe in their sockets! I hurried the rest of the way to Regenstein anxious to get undercover and out of the driving rain. It was miserable!

Anyway, I've got my recital dress rehearsal coming up in about an hour and I'm trying to keep myself distracted until I have to head back over to the music building. I realized a few days ago that I'd thoughtlessly scheduled the recital on homecoming weekend (which means parking's gonna suck for anyone showing up in person) AND right in the middle of midterms...which means that I (and probably everyone else involved) is feeling a bit overworked at the moment.

Speaking of which...I've got some reading to do out of the Oxford Handbook of Medical Ethnomusicology. Actually not a bad read. It's a collection of essays and papers that attempt to forge a new area of scholarly research that combines ethnographic and musical data with studies on health. There are articles on music prayer and healing, music therapy for sufferers of dementia, and "The Lakota Hoop Dance as Medicine for Social Healing." It's interesting stuff--relevant and provocative, though I have to admit that some of the ideas presented push ALL of my skeptic buttons. Our class discussion on tuesday should be...stimulating!

October 18, 2011

Symphony Fantastique

I titled this blog after Berlioz's masterpiece because that's what we played this morning in excerpt class, but the title also aptly describes the symphony of colors that played across the sky this morning...

While working on my recital poster on Friday, I opened up my box of colored pencils and began testing out the colors to see which would work best for my autumn-themed design. When I'd encounter a particularly flamboyant shade, I'd crinkle my nose and set it aside. "That color never shows up in nature," I thought.

And then I see a sunrise like this morning...

Man, I'm envious of that guy out on his kayak!

The interesting thing about this sunrise was that all the colorful stuff happened before the sun actually broke the horizon. One minute the sky was aflame, and the next the sun was nothing more than a pale pink apparition of brightness behind a thick layer of gray clouds.

October 17, 2011


This morning I watched the sunrise while on a phone call with my mom...I guess I'm pretty lucky to have a mother who doesn't mind being woken up before the crack of dawn!

As we talked I found myself mesmerized by sheets of water that flowed over the sandy flats and left a thin mirror like sheen in their wake...

October 16, 2011

The Unanswered Question

I'll be the first to admit that since I've been living here in Evanston I haven't visited downtown Chicago nearly as much as I should have. One of the first bits of advice I received as a new grad student was to take full advantage of "our little metropolis" to the south, but always--as the demands of life and school begin to pile up--I find I'm frequently too busy or too exhausted to muster up the wherewithal to devote a full afternoon/evening to experiencing all that Chicago has to offer.

Last night I had to make an exception. The CSO put on a program of Ives and Strauss that I couldn't possibly miss, AND they were featuring one of NU's clarinet faculty performing a bass clarinet concerto. How often does the bass clarinet get a feature? Well...like...NEVER. It was a once in a lifetime experience I couldn't pass up.

Though many of my fellow brass geeks might be shocked to hear it, even with a big "warhorse" like Also Sprach Zarathustra on the program, I was still most excited to hear Ive's The Unanswered Question (a personal favorite I'd not seen live in at least 13 years) and Three Places in New England (an iconic work with which I was previously unfamiliar).

Except for an annoyingly disruptive couple one row in front of me who were laughing (mostly) silently but hysterically throughout The Unanswered Question, the performance was transcendent. The piece is performed by three "characters": a string section--representing "the silence of the Druids--who know, see, and hear nothing," a trumpeter who asks "the perennial question of existence," and a quartet of flutists who "seek the invisible answer, but abandon it in frustration, sot that ultimately the question is answered only by the silences." (I'm quoting from Wikipedia there) The strings began their etherial chorale so softly I felt that if I were to close my eyes I would no longer be able to hear them, and each time the invisible offstage trumpeter entered with a new statement of the "question" he used a different horn or mute, creating the impression of a single question being asked from a series of perspectives.

I hate to sound overly mystical here, but I've occasionally felt that there's a quality about Ives' music that seems to well from some eternal state of being in the universe and reach into the core of my soul like a magnet seeking its complimentary pole. I suppose it's not just Ives' music (though his offers an especially poignant example), works from a few composers, artists, dancers, and writers occasionally resonate within me in this manner. And it's the same quasi-religious feeling I get when I watch the sun rise, look out into the radiance of the milky way illuminating a dark sky, watch the form of a drawing take shape out of a blank piece of paper in front of me, or gaze upon the profile of my beloved in a moment of clarity and warmth.

I guess it's primarily a sense of timelessness I'm talking about here. Always was, and always will be. Permanence...

Ok...I guess that's enough gushy babble for one afternoon, and I should be getting back to writing my midterm soon anyway. As a parting gift, here are a couple interesting sights from the last day and a half.

First: the largest orb weaver I've ever seen in person...

And second: a Sunday morning sailing class going on just as beautiful autumn light begins to break through a cloudy morning...

October 15, 2011

Urban Moonset

I don't have a sunrise for you today.

The SWE concert was last night and I felt that after a long week and a good performance I deserved to sleep in a little extra. Plus I had multiple weeks worth of laundry and dishes piling up and needed to devote a morning to making my living space a little more livable again. Still, while going back and forth between the neighborhood laundromat and my apartment building, I was able to get some interesting photos of the waning moon setting over a rugged urban skyscape...

I love the cold messy look of the wires juxtaposed against the moon in a clear sky...

I thought I could hear the honking of geese somewhere off in the distance, but took little notice until a whole flock flew right over where I was standing...

What a happy surprise!

It felt like one of those moments that great photographers always talk about...when multiple unexpected elements fortuitously coincide to create a uniquely memorable scene.

October 14, 2011

Beautiful Science

The sun was back out again this morning, though the balmy 80 degree temperatures of indian summer we'd been enjoying for the past week have gone...perhaps for good.

To tell you the truth, I'm totally ok with that. My little studio apartment retains heat really well...uncomfortably well in the summer, and even a little beyond what I'd like in the winter when my radiator gets going at full throttle. I find that I'm actually looking forward to the briskness of late fall...wearing sweaters, drinking hot tea, and cuddling up underneath my covers at bedtime. And as for the brutal chill of Chicago winter...bring it on! (I can't believe I just said that!)

And if you'd like an extra portion of eye candy this morning check out the Winners Gallery of Northwestern's 2011 scientific images contest. Appreciable on an "Art-for-Art's-sake" level, these beautiful images are also valuable components of research projects currently taking place at NU. My personal favorites are the clustered bipyramids of gold nanoparticles and the wispy film of carbon nanotubes...what are yours?

October 13, 2011

Moon Glow

Not much of a sunrise this morning...

...but the moon and Jupiter sure put on a pretty show last night!

October 12, 2011

Squirrel Rescue

Good morning!

I have one quick story before I get into the rest of my day...

Last night I planned to rehearse with a pianist for today's solo class (I'll be playing Dvorak's Song to the Moon, one of my favorites from this summer at AIMS), and after a 3+ hours long ethnomusicology meeting followed by a hastily gobbled dinner at the student union, felt I needed to catch my bearings a bit before attempting to "sing" on the horn. I found a nice spot of grass on a hill overlooking the lake, laid down, and spent 15 blissful minutes watching the clouds go by.

When my time was up I stood and stretched...ah! Much better...and then headed back over the hill towards the music building.

On the way I noticed a lady standing on the opposite side of the hill laughing hysterically and following something with her digital camera. Curious, I took a moment to see what she was filming. My heart broke when I saw a poor little squirrel running around frantically, turning cartwheels, leaping sideways, and trying desperately to shake a yoplait yogurt cup off its head. The squirrel suddenly bounded in my direction, landed on the pavement directly in front of me with a nauseating "thunk," and froze. His breathing was heavy and frantic and his limbs were splayed in all directions; it was as though he landed at my feet to beg, "help me!"

I slowly bent down--trying not to make any noise that might startle the terrified creature and send him flailing away again--grabbed the base of the yogurt cup, and pulled gently. It slid off the squirrel's head with only a little resistance leaving a wake of milky strawberry slime all over its fur. With the cup removed, he remained frozen for a fraction of a second more before darting away into the safety of a nearby tree.

None of the other onlookers said anything to me, just turned off their cameras and went their separate ways.

On the one hand, I could see how the scene had been humorous...at least at first...but I also felt angry that no one else had stepped in to help the poor animal before I did. We humans can be so cruel and heartless at times...laughing at another creature's pain, finding amusement in the disgusting gore of another's life-and-death predicament. What is it that makes us so attracted to suffering? I don't know how to answer that question. Frankly, it just makes me sick.

This morning I googled "squirrel stuck in yogurt cup" to see what came up. "Maybe that lady posted her video somewhere," I thought. I was only a little surprised to discover this story (along with a bunch of others) instead. It was heartening to see another happy ending. Maybe there's hope for our species after all.

October 11, 2011

A Good Kind of Busy

It's been a beautiful morning...especially lovely to see the reflections of clouds in the water...

...along with the sunlight.

I ran through a quick warmup before our 7:45 am excerpt class (Prof. Geyer loves those early times) in which I played the 2nd trumpet part of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony. Tchaik 4 is one of those pieces that tends to follow me around. I've performed it (as well as Tchaik 5) multiple times while never having been given the opportunity to play any of his others, even though they are no less standard. Well...we did go over Tchaik 6 in excerpt class last year...so I guess that's something!

This afternoon I'll be taking part in my first ever video conference. Rob does these all the time--touching base with the rest of his group members at Caltech at least once a week--but for me it will be a new experience. At the first meeting of my ethnomusicology class we were each given a copy of the first draft of a new book being written by Tim Rice, the director of UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music and an eminent scholar in the field. He sent us a list of questions to keep in mind as we read and asked us to share any additional comments we felt might help him improve the text. Today we're meeting with him over a live video feed that someone much smarter than myself has set up for us in a library classroom. He's already read each of our responses and will be communicating with us further about them--hopefully our input will prove insightful. It's scintillating to consider that something I say could influence the final publication!

And now I'm off to a lesson...whew! Busy day!

October 10, 2011

Creative Writing

I spent some time walking by the lake this evening in order to center myself a bit before a final practice session. The nearly full moon was rising...fading in and out of view as it ascended between bands of wispy pastel-hued clouds. I sat down on one of the concrete boulders at the edge the lake fill, took a few photos, and found myself mumbling through counted syllables in an attempt to compose a haiku to fit the moment...

Hush. The whisp'ring wave
blows asunder cloudy veils.
The moon stands...singing.

I looked up for a moment and noticed an asian man crouched nearby with his camera pointed directly at me. As I gathered my stuff and prepared to head back to the music building he approached with a friendly "Hello!" and showed me the screen of his digital camera.

"I take picture of you. Very beautiful. Red coat very beautiful."

I glanced at the photos. There I was, in my red jacket, lost in thought, scrawling syllables into an open planner, and totally oblivious to the fact that I was being observed.

I pointed at the moon and replied, "Thank you, but the moon is even more beautiful."

"Yes, it is." he nodded, but then insisted I look at another picture. "Red coat very beautiful. Rainbow on rock and red coat..."

Ah! Then I got it! I had been so lost in my poetic reverie that I hadn't noticed I'd been sitting on a piece of concrete decorated with a rainbow and signed by the members of a creative writing group...how strangely appropriate.

The man said goodbye and continued walking north along the lake shore. I stumbled away a little embarrassed, but warmed to the core. It had been a perfect evening. And I was looking forward to a good practice session.


I wasn't the only photographer at sunrise today...

...actually, there were quite a few spectators...

It's a good thing too...the dawn put on a good show this morning!

Here's a random picture of an interesting (to me) coil of wire I found on the beach...

In other news, I proofed the draft of my recital program this morning and gave the concert hall people the go ahead to print it up...I guess this means it's actually going to happen...! I will be broadcasting the performance live online (more details to come about that later) so you are all welcome to tune in if you're free October 22nd at noon central time.

October 8, 2011

A Quick Peek

I was thrilled when the sky stayed clear last night and I was able to once again visit the Dearborn Observatory for their weekly rain-or-shine open house. The website said that reserved hours were from 9:00-10:00 and that the general public would then be welcome for walk-in visits from 10:00-11:00. I finished working out a little early and arrived at the telescope just before 10:00. There was a short line of kids and adults taking turns viewing Jupiter, each climbing a large step ladder to reach the eyepiece.

I was lucky to have showed up early. Turns out that "winter" hours began last night. Though it wasn't yet advertised on the website, public viewing actually began at 9:00 and ended at 10:00...I had arrived just in time to get one quick peak at a glorious Jupiter before the observatory was closed. Though my time last night was brief, I'm looking forward to more clear friday evenings; very glad I won't have to stay up too late to get some good views of a few of the sky's brightest objects...whatever the extensive level of local light pollution will allow.

October 7, 2011

Campus Oddities

Today's sunrise was not all that dissimilar from yesterday's.

It was lovely to be sure, but not particularly unique. I fear that after so many mornings by the lake I'm allowing myself to become a little jaded...which is nothing short of tragic!

For a little change of pace I thought I'd draw your attention to a few oddities I've run into around campus.

1. The monument to nothing...

Yup, that's right! And just in case you can't read the fine print...

2. Sharks in Lake Michigan...cute...

3. The eco-friendly organic bike lock...

This baby's not going anywhere!