The Kids Are Alright

My orchestral music has been featured in seven children’s concerts over the past six months. In years past, this might have bothered me: I always like to imagine my listeners as sophisticates, grown-ups who during intermission sip martinis and maybe even (dare I say it) smoke cigarettes. But I’m beginning to come around. Recently, I went to hear the Capital City Symphony play my jaunty and nostalgic 12-minute piece My Own Personal Rocketship for an audience full of Washington, DC public elementary school students. It was an attentive if boisterous crew, and the piece got as great a reaction as I could have hoped for. Afterwards, the kids stuck around to learn more about the instruments from the players. At right, concert-master Robert Spates explains the intricacies of violin playing to a few interested third-graders…or should I say “future sophisticates.”

Only Connect

Sometimes a gig comes along that seems like it’s just about the money, but it rarely turns out to be in the end. This one was a vanity album project that came my way via master rock producer Jim Ebert. The client, Dave, was a man on a mission: to record an album of emotionally meaningful songs as a peace offering to a beloved family member. Dave would sing on the project, but he had zero thought of releasing the album commercially. It was simply a plea for connection through music. I got to arrange the pieces and then play piano in the studio with a bunch of top-flight rock session guys, including the remarkable guitarist Buddy Spier, drummer-to-the-stars Andy Hamburger, bassist Greg Watkins and a superstar horn section consisting of Al Williams on sax, Joe Jackson on trombone, and Kevin Burns on trumpet. With Dave’s emotions flowing through all the sessions, it turned out to be a very good rock recording and an unforgettable musical experience for me.