The year in review
It's December and that means that I'm reflecting on the past year. As I've gotten older, I reflect back on the past year and take inventory on everything that has happened. It started on one of my birthdays...not sure which one...but it was fun to think about all of the things that had happened since my last birthday. Now, I do it every year.
This was the "big" birthday...but was it really? So, I've orbited the sun 50 times. I don't feel any older...if anything, I feel younger than I have in the past. I must have a Benjamin Button thing going on? The day was spent with students at a jazz festival and the evening was spent with some of my closest friends. I can't think of a better way to spend my birthday. On three separate occasions, my students sang Happy Birthday to me: once with the assistance of the choir director and two more times on their own. They also got me a cake and they wrote on it one of the tag lines that I include in emails: Peace, Love, and Granola. I don't recall when I started saying that but I think I started saying it in college. With a year filled with so many amazing experiences, my birthday was just the icing on the cake.
It has been a great year for travel. As mentioned in previous blogs, I traveled to Arizona with my son. This was a trip I've wanted to do since 2005. Amazing in so many ways. Traveling by train, seeing new landscapes for the first time, revisiting the Grand Canyon, and of course, meeting new people. I met a journalist on the train from Algeria that now lives in Canada. I discovered that my understanding of French is just as bad as I thought it was...but that didn't stop me from conversing. "Je ne suis pas très à l'aise pour parler français" As we watched a storm across the New Mexico sky, we talked about traveling, parenting, and music. My niece made a friend in the Grand Canyon who was traveling across the country with her mom. The world is full of amazing people: go introduce yourself! And be as kind to people as you are to animals; the world needs a lot of love.
And how can I forget the three days in Kansas City with my son seeing Game Grumps and Snarky Puppy? That was a great way of starting the summer!
My travel adventures continue this week when I fly to DC to see my family.
This was also a year of friendship. Not just making new friends but strengthening the bonds with the people in my life. If I've learned anything, don't take anyone for granted. They've entered your life for some reason and that alone makes them valuable. Treat them that way, tell them, let them know.
It was a year of creativity and collaboration. I got to play music with some of my favorite people...a few that I hadn't collaborated with in a long time. July 4th was a busy day for me. It began before sunrise, when I arrived at Urbandale High School to open up the band room for the students. We rehearsed for the afternoon parade, jumped on buses, and then marched across Urbandale. I immediately left afterwards to meet Courtney Krause and friends for an afternoon performance that was immediately followed by an evening of recording with Gary Ruschman. Gary and I met in high school...or shortly after graduation. We went to different high schools but both attended Northern Kentucky University. We laughed at the same jokes, enjoyed the same music, and we could quote any Looney Tunes cartoon. As I followed my path with the saxophone, Gary followed his with his voice:
Hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as "funny and fresh-voiced", Gary has appeared with orchestras, opera companies, presenters, and music festivals around the world, including the Boston Pops, Kennedy Center, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Prague Choral Festival, Birdland, Portland Opera, Urbino Early Music, Royal Opera House Oman, American Bach Soloists, Cantus, and NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts.
He's always been a composer but in the past few years, he's really honed his craft. Gary's arrival at my apartment on July 4th produced two full days of recording. His album was just released a few weeks ago and can be found wherever you buy your music. Below is a link to his BandCamp page. You can hear me playing on three tracks: All Are Welcome Here, DipsyDoodle, and Biggest Sky.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of collaborating with Ducharme-Jones. I can only describe them as two wonderful people that light up a room when they enter. They also light up the city of Des Moines with beautiful songs and great performances. Their music is so honest and effortless:
“Criminally underrated, unassuming, yet packed with talent”. PoP Culture Press
I attempted to capture the session in the style of Bob Reynolds:
You can get the album and listen to more by clicking on the photo below:
The year also contained not one but two: "I've always wanted to play with that band" moments. One was with Canby and the other was Faculty Lounge. Go listen to both bands, you'll understand why I was excited.
The past few years, I've played with Scot Sutherland in a duo setting exploring how to interpret a song with just a saxophone and bass. We've always talked about how much we enjoy trios and this year we got to make that a reality with Russ Tomlinson. We still haven't decided on a name for ourselves and we don't know what to call what we do but despite our inability to market ourselves, we have a ridiculous amount of fun:
My collaboration with Scot and Russ has extended into other projects with Courtney Krause and Ducharme-Jones. Scot's living room has become an epicenter of musical activity throughout the year:
Shows this year with Courtney ranged from full band to small group and they were always enjoyable.
And last but not least: English. I feel that this has been a great year for English. We've done some out-of-town shows with Lily DeTaeye that we're a lot of fun. We played a Monday night at the Greenwood; also fun. And now that we've tested a number of songs in front of live audiences, we're ready to record an EP, scheduled to be released next year. We recently released a lyric video for the song Carnivore from our first album: Nothing New Under the Sun.
One more collaboration worth mentioning that made my year that much more special was with Gustav Art. Our past collaborations have always pushed the boundaries of art and music with installations and projection mapping. The exchange of art for art is best way to be paid and in the photo below, you can see "Lifetime" by Gustav Art hanging on my apartment wall.
Beyond collaboration, there is the ever-important inspiration. This can be found a number of ways but for me this year it started with a coffee date...and then brunch...and then an evening at the Art Center...and then a blur of beautiful conversations that included books, movies, crazy stories, crazier dreams, school days, parenting, success, failures, how we arrived in Iowa, joys of teaching, artistic challenges, food, fashion, more food, and more art.
Photos by Jami Milne
Thanks for reading, thanks for listening, and thanks for being part of my year.