Monday, December 21, 2009

Monty Python + Trek = Pure awesome.

I'm just dropping by to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Joyous Holiday-I-Don't-Know-About or Just Another Day.

I'll be celebrating Christmas with my brother in a few days. We'll probably have pizza and play Animal Crossing. Totally non-traditional, but it'll be fun!

I also wanted to share a couple of YouTube videos with you. Some of you know I'm a Trekkie, but you may not know that I also enjoy Monty Python. I'm one of the many people who can recite the Holy Grail from memory. And since I'm a musician, I'm especially fond of the musical numbers.

Here is a video of the famous "Camelot" song from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

And here, for all the Python/Trek nerds like me, is the same song put to clips from the original Star Trek series:

Enjoy the rest of your week! :-D

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rock 'n' roll dreams...

I don’t know if I should call this a dream or a nightmare. I call it a dream because it occurred while I was asleep and was interrupted when it was getting interesting, as usually happens with dreams. Also, I was doing something that most likely won’t happen in real life. But I think it would be better labeled a nightmare because I was being my usual clumsy, absent-minded self.

I was in a really cool recording studio with the Dirty Guv’nahs. The studio looked like it was in someone’s house—dark brown, wood walls with lots of knots in them and whatnot. Like a cabin almost. It was most likely my subconscious’ version of Levon Helm’s studio since that’s what I’ve been reading about in the Guvs’ tweets and whatnot. Earlier in the dream I was talking with the guys about a song they were working on—apparently I’d heard them working on it or something, or maybe they invited me to hear it? Anyway, I was there and we both had some ideas for an orchestra in the background. Our ideas matched up, so James grabbed a score* (a rock band having a “score” seems so funny) and handed it to me. Then the rest of the band picked up their scores and we started brainstorming.

I was feverishly jotting the ideas down that we all came up with and pretty soon the score was covered in notes. I think the score I was given already had some other notes on it because I remember there being some larger writing in places, on top of the music (I usually try to write small and in the margins)! So anyway, we were getting a lot of stuff done—put strings here, put some brass there, etc. Everyone’s ideas complemented each other and it sounded like it was going to be an incredible number. I thought to myself Are these the same Dirty Guv’nahs I worked with a few months ago? I’m always wary of bands who start off one way and then blow up and start adding more musicians and entire orchestras and choirs and dancers and ventriloquists and whatnot… I don’t like the term “sellout” but I do wonder if some musicians lose their original vision when they’re faced with all the possibilities of modern technology and such. I worry too much. A lot.

But I digress. We were working hard and ideas were flowing like maple syrup over a mountain of bacon pancakes. But I kept losing my music. We would be working on a section and then I’d get up and walk to the window for something (don’t ask what; I have no earthly idea—my dreams rarely make sense all the way through). When I went back to the first place I was sitting or standing, I didn’t have my music in my hand anymore. So we lost several minutes of creativity while searching for my score. Then we got some more work done. Great idea here, interesting tweak there… Then my music disappeared again. Why was it so hard for me to keep up with this blasted music?!?!?!

I was beginning to feel really stupid. I wondered if the band would be better off working with someone else. [Why can’t I be close to normal in my dreams? Must my faults follow me into subconsciousness?] It was the second or third or dozenth time that I misplaced my music that an alarm on my phone ended it all.

I woke up with more feelings of frustration and self-loathing than excitement and creativity. I also woke up with the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” running through my head, so we must have been working on something along those lines. Often my brain won’t remember the music that my subconscious created while I was asleep so it will pick something that my waking mind recognizes—something similar to what was in the dream—and leave that in my brain. Or it could be that we were working on “All You Need Is Love” but in the dream it was an original composition. That often happens—for instance, I’ll see a friend from high school in a dream but I don’t actually know them in the dream, or I know them from somewhere else.

So that was my dream this morning. I’d like to thank my 10:30 alarm on my BlackBerry for ruining everything. I was probably about to redeem myself and come up with the perfect finishing touch (once I found my music for the umpteenth time) before the blasted real world got in the way. Oh, well. Maybe tonight I’ll dream of maple syrup-covered bacon pancakes…

*For the laymen out there a score is a printed version of a song or piece of music. Usually it refers to the conductor’s score which has all instrument and/or voice parts on it. Generally speaking rock bands, jazz bands, and other “popular” musicians/groups work off of chord charts or often from memory. Scores are more associated with classical music, though they can be used by anyone.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Post-Thanksgiving Check-In

Hi, all! If you celebrated Thanksgiving this weekend, I hope you had a wonderful time. If you didn't celebrate it, I hope you had a wonderful regular old weekend. :-D

I am now back from my MANY hours on the road and am very thankful to not be in a moving vehicle. VERY thankful.

I took my camera this weekend and snapped a few fun shots. Check out my Thanksgiving 2009 album here. My absolutely favorite shot is of the Georgia state line.

And speaking of my photography, check it out: chose one of my Georgia Aquarium photos (along with others) to be featured in their Atlanta guide. How cool is that?! This link takes you directly to the "Zoos, Farms & Aquaria" page, complete with my photo showing in the Aquarium section (look for the photo credit "Photo: Robyn Allegra"). However, if you scroll over anything else it sometimes disappears or is replaced by another photo. If you miss it you can also check out the original photo at Flickr.

Alrighty, that's all for now. I must find food... Or perhaps take a nap.*

*I'll leave you with one more link, since this is a particularly link-heavy entry. One of my favorite places to waste time: Yahoo! Games - Board Games

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy list!

In my personal journal over at LJ, I sometimes post “Happy Lists.” I usually wrote them when I wasn’t feeling happy and needed to find something to be positive about. But today I actually am happy and I thought I’d post a list saying why so that the next time I’m down in the dumps I can come back to this.

I highly recommend making a list of your own. If you don’t have a blog you can leave a list in the comments for this post. If you do blog your own list, be sure to let me know! It’s fun to read other people’s lists as well.

How appropriate that I’m making this list the day before Thanksgiving…. I totally didn’t plan that. Anyway, here goes.

Thanksgiving Eve Happy List

  1. This afternoon, as I left Pellissippi and walked across the parking lot to my car, the fall leaves made the coolest sounds as they were blown across the pavement by a gust of wind. The sounds made me smile.

  2. A close girlfriend of mine got some great news from the doctor today.

  3. A close guyfriend of mine, whom I haven’t seen since I played at his wedding 7 months ago (!!), also called with some good news.

  4. (Related to previous one) Having two friends call me in one day and share the wonderful blessings they’ve received from God is one of the best things ever.

  5. My student did very well in solo class today. :-)

  6. I’m about to take a road trip with my brother to spend Thanksgiving with our parents, some aunts and uncles, and probably some cousins, too.

  7. I’ve finally found shoes I can teach in without my feet hurting at the end of the day.

See, wasn't that fun? ;-) I highly recommend checking out TOMSshoes (the shoes to which I was referring in my last item). Great shoes and a great cause. I'm going to buy another pair--possibly two--in the very near future.

**If the formatting looks weird that's because I'm posting this from my phone. Will fix later (I'm currently on the road)!**

Friday, November 20, 2009

I almost got married!

Fun dream time! I was getting married to friend and coworker (we'll call him "S"). We were sitting outside, maybe waiting to take pictures? We were at a beautiful church and it was a GORGEOUS spring day. S was in his suit but I was dressed down. We were sitting on a bench talking about random stuff (none of that old-fashioned don't see the bride on the wedding day stuff, I guess), in love and completely oblivious to the chaos around us.

At one point I looked at my watch: 1:15. The wedding was at 2:00 so I said I should probably go get dressed! Next I was in the church in what looked like a choir room. I had a couple of girlfriends trying to help me but the mothers were getting in the way and were starting to STRESS ME OUT. So I said "Hey, isn't it about time for you two to get into your dresses?" That got them out of my hair and I was then able to focus on makeup and whatnot before putting on my dress. A little while later my mom and S's mom poked their heads in the door to say hello on their way to the sanctuary. My mom had on an off-white shell dress with jacket and S's mom had on a halter-style, light green dress. We exchanged smiles and waves and I got really giddy. "I'm so glad I chose to have a Spring wedding," I squealed, "even though I always said I'd do it in the Fall! I mean, look at all these colors!!" I was totally freaking out.

Before I knew it I was walking toward the back of the sanctuary to make my entrance. The sanctuary was pretty big and there were several entrances at the back. As I made my way to the center aisle, some people saw me before they were supposed to! Suddenly I started panicking. "Where's my DAD?!" I whispered to no one in particular. Finally I saw him and smiled as I walked toward him. He actually started down the aisle before I'd placed my arm in his--I had to sprint to keep up with him!

I tried my best to smile because hey, it’s my wedding day. Unfortunately my processional music was 1) that @#$&%$ Wagner march and 2) being played terribly on a slightly-out-of-tune piano. Dad and I paused halfway down the aisle to pose for a picture, and then had to stop again before we got to the end because three bridesmaids—in long, beautiful marine (blue) dresses—were also posing for a picture. Weren’t they supposed to be out of the way before I started my walk? Whose wedding was this anyway?!

Well, they were finally gone. And we apparently hadn't had a rehearsal because Dad took me on this weird route. It turns out we hadn't gone down the center aisle so we had to make a left turn to get to the altar. Then he kind of zig-zagged me between the bridesmaids [several more than I'd ever have in real life] and then planted me in front of the minister (who was facing the congregation, as usual) and directly to the groom's right. I motioned to Dad, trying to explain that he was supposed to stand between S and me. As I was trying to correct Dad and switch places, S was switching places with a girl on his left side (what the heck was he doing with a girl on his arm?!!). It looked like we were square-dancing with all this do-si-doing going on.

Well, I don’t know exactly what happened next. Dad never got to the giving of the bride because a couple of the bridesmaids on the other end of the wedding party (stage right) started fighting. I didn’t even know who these girls were! All I know is that the wedding never even really started because of the scene they were causing. The next thing I remember was sitting with my mom in a pew, trying not to cry. What in the world had just happened?!

Some moments—or maybe a lot—went by and then I had an idea. We were already dressed up, the reception was still booked. Why don’t S and I go to a Justice of the Peace or something and have a quick private ceremony, head back to the church for pictures (it’s SUCH a gorgeous day, after all) and then go to the reception? I don’t even think I ran the idea by S or not but I decided to run with it. Then it occurred to me “Hey, the minister is a good friend. Why not ask him to perform the ceremony, then head to the reception?” So I searched out the minister.

I found him, but guess what? The minister was now S. I know, it’s crazy. But this is one of my dreams, remember? Crazy comes with the territory.

So anyway, S was the minister so I don’t know who the groom was. I asked him if he’d be willing to continue with the ceremony with just the wedding party. He said he’d love to but that he might not be able to due to an injury he sustained (possibly during the bridesmaid fight?). He tried to smile and I saw bruising on his gums. Someone had punched him on his left cheek! I know this is crazy but even his teeth were purple and bruised, and maybe even swollen. Holy crap! I quickly explained that he didn’t have to do it if it was going to hurt! We could just as easily find a judge or other official to perform the ceremony.

And there you have it. I woke up sometime shortly after that. I almost got married.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What do dreams say about a person?

I don't really think every dream is a window into a person's inner workings but I do often wonder if my dreams have any meaning. This was a relatively short one; or maybe I only remembered the end. Usually I remember most if not all of my dreams, with lots of detail. I enjoy reading them later and sharing them with friends so I usually try to write them down or type them as soon as I awaken.

This is a dream I had a few days ago that I'd like to share.

The KSO were rehearsing for a concert at an aquarium (but not the TN Aquarium). The hall featured a round, glass window in the low, arched ceiling. During a lull in rehearsal a bunch of dolphins showed up (interesting since they would need open air as well as water; perhaps the hall was underground??). First they paused to see what the funny humans were doing. They dipped their noses toward the glass and we in the orchestra made googly-eyed faces and silly noises, as if we were talking to babies. Did I mention that musicians are often easily amused? Suddenly, a LARGE group of dolphins swam past (over) very quickly. It was a steady blur of dolphins for a good few seconds. A couple of us violists broke out into an a cappella version of "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish." It was totally spontaneous and hilariously awesome.

Next I remember Maestro Richman rehearsing the end of a work and fixing a percussion part. I guess I should say the percussion part because it looked like Clark (our co-principal percussionist) was all by himself! Anyway, it turned out that Clark had a different part than what was in the conductor's score--he referred to it as the "Scott Eddlemon edition" (didn't know Scott was an editor, haha!) and apparently it had an alternate ending and changed keys. I took my part back there and showed it to Clark (as if that would help?!). He gave me this look and shooed me away, saying "You have fun with your alto clef..."

So what do you think--any deeper meanings? Hidden messages? :-D

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Intrusive music...

Dear friends,

Having a music player on your website/MySpace page/blog/etc. is totally cool. It gives us a chance to see your musical taste and, if it's a customizable, your favorite color scheme and whatnot.

But it's totally not cool if it automatically starts playing when the page loads. Not cool at all. I love you, but please change your settings. If the settings can't be changed, get a new player. Please.

Yours truly,
Robyn Allegra

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A great music scene right outside my door!

Sorry it's been a while since I last blogged... Life kind of hits you sometimes, you know?

Today I'd like to say how thankful I am that I live in Knoxville, TN. The football thing (read: obsession) is a little overwhelming but I LOVE the music scene. There is so much to do in this town, especially on the weekends. When my students complain to me that there are no music events to go to I just shake my head and think You didn't look hard enough... Or at all! I then point them to a number of places where they can find event listings (, the UT School of Music,, etc.).

There are so many talented bands who call Knoxville home (The Dirty Guv'nahs and Dishwater Blonde, just to name a couple). One of the coolest things is to go to a show for one band and discover another band while I'm there. Like this weekend: I went to Barley's Taproom to see Dishwater Blonde and was blown away by the opening act, The Distribution. I couldn't wait to get home and look them up on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, etc... Yes, I am that kind of fan. :-D

And speaking of Barley's, that's another great Knoxville trait. Sooooooo many venues. Baker Peters Jazz Club, Bijou Theatre, Preservation Pub, Square Room, Tennessee Theatre, and many more. I started labeling some as "a personal favorite" but it ended up being almost all of them! I do prefer the ones which don't allow smoking inside, but sometimes I just have to decide before I leave home that whatever I'm wearing will go straight to the hamper when I return. You gotta make sacrifices sometimes, right?

Out of all the venues in town the Bijou Theatre, which is downtown, is especially close to my heart because it's where
  1. I saw the Guv'nahs for the first time (and got hooked),
  2. I saw an awesome Hanson concert (what of it?!), and
  3. I sat on the second row for Bryan Adams' acoustic tour and then met him outside after the show!
So what about you guys? Who's your favorite band? Where's your favorite spot to hang out, grab a cup of coffee, socialize, etc.?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Companies "Going Green"

I just saw an ad for an "earth friendly" violin case at Shar Music and it made me think...

When a company decides to overhaul its entire structure in order to help the earth--switching to those fancy light bulbs, cutting down on paper usage and all that jazz--that's pretty cool. It's a huge undertaking and doesn't happen overnight. I say kudos for doing your part, companies.

But what about the companies which decide to offer eco-friendly products and continue to manufacture and sell their regular products as well? Does that seem a little hypocritical? It seems like they're jumping on the bandwagon to make some dough instead of embracing the concept.

I'm not preaching by any means--I do what I can when I can but I'm still wasteful at times (I'm working on it!). I was just thinking--am I being too analytical? What are your feelings on going green in general?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Who are you? (Who-who... Who-who...)

I heart Twitter conversations:

@robynallegra: There are 18 other people with my 1st & last name on Twitter. I think I'm about to officially adopt a stage name.

@RobMader: @robynallegra Wait a second. How do I know you are who you say you are?

@robynallegra @RobMader Hmm... Because no one else would claim to be a violist unless they really were? O:-D

@RobMader: @robynallegra Fair enough. I believe you!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

On Being a Rock Star...

Be sure to check out the Photo Album at Flickr!
I officially stepped into the rock ‘n’ roll world last night. I had the time of my life. I am utterly exhausted but way too excited to sleep. It’s the craziest thing and I don’t ever want to lose this feeling (though I would like to go to sleep eventually)!

In case you’re wondering what in heaven’s name I’m talking about, I played my viola on a couple of songs with the Dirty Guv’nahs tonight. They performed at the Square Room, a great venue down in Market Square here in Knoxville. If you haven’t heard of the Guv’nahs, you are missing out on so much! Go to their website and their MySpace, and if you’re on Twitter, follow them. You won’t regret it because they are made of pure awesome.

So last night’s show was amazing. I’m just so happy and honored to have been a part of it! The band invited me to play with them once before but I couldn’t because of a symphony obligation. I’m so glad that this time worked out—my birthday is Monday and this show was the best present I could ever ask for! After I played I made my way back to the crowd and people were so nice. They all wanted to shake my hand and a few even wanted hugs—they truly enjoyed my playing. One woman said that she was so taken by my sound that she just watched me the entire time (glad I didn’t know that during; it would’ve made me nervous!). A couple of guys stopped me and as one said “You totally made those songs!” the other interjected “I wanted to hear you play some more by yourself!” Yet another person said they were inspired by my calm while playing. That’s the second time someone has described me as “calm” while playing—which is sometimes the exact opposite of how I feel. But I must be doing something right! I also smiled through the many compliments on my "violin" or "fiddle" playing. ;-) The best part is that my peers—the band and other musician friends—all had positive things to say. It’s a blessing to have a gift and have people appreciate and enjoy it.

Side note: The funniest moment of the show was running into a former Music Appreciation student. I spoke with him a little, and told him I wanted a concert report afterward! The second funniest moment was when I realized that "Oh, Jericho," the song before my part of the set, was a short tune and I had to get to the stage pronto. James had to vamp the beginning of "Born to Theives" as I got into the elevator, went up two floors, went down two flights of stairs and finally made my way through the (dark!!) backstage area. Sorry, James! :-D

What’s amazing is that I wasn’t really nervous this time around. I kind of freaked myself out when I realized that over 350 people had RSVPed as “attending” on Facebook and that the Square Room can hold 600. But I promised myself that I’d just have a good time and really enjoy making music with these six talented guys. And that’s exactly what I did. It’s also amazing considering that earlier Friday I was running a fever and skipped soundcheck to go see a doctor. And I didn’t get to nap like I was planning on doing before the show!

I had a magnificent time last night. I’m running out of adjectives, and none of the ones I’ve used so far can really describe how I feel right now. I’m just so very thankful. The Guv’nahs are going places and I’m thrilled that I got to go along for the ride.

**Thank you so much to Ethan and Carla for taking pictures!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Are there things which bother you but really shouldn’t? I.e. actions by others which don’t greatly affect your life but annoy the everloving bejeezus out of you? For me it’s people who don’t understand the concept of highlighting entire words/sentences/lines when editing something on the computer. Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace-Backspace drives me CRAZY. Just use Shift-Arrow or even Ctrl-Shift-Arrow for crying out loud!!!!

*calms down*

What about you?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Memorable People

Do you have a song which reminds you of a particular person or event? Sure, we all do. But how many of you have a song which reminds you of a teacher? I’m not talking about Beethoven’s 5th reminding you of a conductor you worked with in the past. I’m talking about a song you’d hear on the Top 40 radio or an “oldies” station.

The song “Break on Through to the Other Side” by the Doors always reminds me of my conducting instructor at UNCG, David Kish. He was a graduate conducting student and a really cool teacher. I remember there was something funny about his syllabus… It was along the lines of this: He told us to read the syllabus for homework and there was a line in it that said “At the next class meeting go to your seat, and just sit there and smile.” I don’t recall exactly what it said because I was one of the students who didn’t read it. *smiles innocently* What I do remember is sitting there being confused because some people were smiling and exchanging knowing glances and the rest of us were thinking “Um… What’s going on?”

But back to the topic of the post. The song reminds me of David—I think he let us call him David. It seems like ages ago! Anyway, the song reminds me of him because he was always encouraging us to break out of our shells and be bolder with our conducting. Every time he made that request of someone on the podium, he’d start singing the refrain (if you can call what Jim Morrison does in that song singing).

Wow. I just Googled him and found out that he now has his doctorate. I think I’m officially no longer on a first-name basis with him (if I ever was in the first place, haha)! He’s currently Director of Bands and Assistant Professor of Music at The Metropolitan State College of Denver. Congratulations, Dr. Kish--keep on breakin’ through!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Moved... FINALLY.

I might have to change the title of this blog if I keep talking about non-musical things... Oh, well!

I'm here. My new home for at least the next 12 months. I'm too exhausted to be excited, and will continue to be so until the eleventy hundred boxes have been unpacked. Ugh.

I've learned some very important lessons during this move:

1) Know that there can be a HUGE time difference between hiring someone to move you and hiring someone to pack and move you. If the company schedules the packing and the moving on the same morning, take your business elsewhere.

2) Put important items--soap, TP, medicine, lamps, change of clothes, whatever--together, or at least know which box they're in. That way you can still be clean and dressed while surrounded by boxes and sparse furniture.

3) Hmmm. Thought I had a longer list. Maybe not.

So we're here. I'm now sharing a 3 BR, 2.5 BA house with a friend/coworker. Good heavens, this was a lot of work. I can feel the ibuprofen kicking in... Hopefully tomorrow my feet won't have turned into swollen, unrecognizable masses. Oh yes, and those of you fortunate enough to follow me on Twitter ;-) know about my recent joys with dental surgery--I was so tired this evening that my teeth were throbbing. Did I mention that ibuprofen is a Godsend?

In other news, maybe I can soon rid my parents of all the junk they're holding in "the renter's room." That's how my dad jokingly refers to my bedroom in their house, the house in which I grew up. Also, I will have internet tomorrow. And TV! Can't wait!! Okay, maybe I do have a little energy to be excited.

I hope all who read this are having a wonderful weekend. If you're working, work hard so you can play harder. If you're playing, have some fun for me! Good night, all. :-)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Joys and Challenges of Teaching Children

How many of you teach music to children? I currently have 5 kids: two girls, ages 11 and 14; and three boys, ages 6, 7, and 8 (or thereabouts). I'll be focusing on the three youngest for this discussion. I’ve never taken an elementary ed course, though I did sit in on quite a few when my mom taught it. But I mainly go on what I’ve observed over the years—I’m a people watcher so I observe behavior and how people interact and save the good stuff in the back of my head. I also go on instinct and my own interaction with children, usually at church or family gatherings (I've never had a babysitting job—crazy, I know).

Over the years I’ve learned several important lessons about children. First, they are more sensitive than I thought. Such generalizations won’t apply to every child, of course. But I’d say my kids definitely fall into that category. One student—we’ll call him T—gets upset and frustrated fairly easily. I'm not a "meanie" or a slave driver by any means but he has teared up a couple of times in his lessons. He once missed a lesson with no advance warning and the next week his mother explained that he got so overwhelmed when looking at what he had to practice that he didn’t practice at all. She asked if I could lessen the amount of homework I give and I happily obliged. I don’t wanna give this poor child an ulcer over Mary Had a Little Lamb!

This leads to my second realization--children are resilient. I kind of knew this already, but it's amazing how quickly then can bounce back from a low point in a lesson. I worked with T a couple of weeks ago on things he can do when he gets frustrated during practice time. I gave him three options: He can 1) take a deep breath and try again, 2) play a song that he likes or can play well, or 3) put the violin down and do pinky pushups with his bow (he's really good at them). There are many variations on this, of course. Last week was awesome because if a lesson went downhill I just had to mention Harry Potter coming out on Wednesday. Then I played a bit of the theme on my violin and they thought I was the coolest ever.

Last, I’ve seen evidence of something else I already knew: Kids are fast learners. They really are like sponges and if you have their attention you can teach them so much! The possibilities are endless when a child is truly excited about learning something. Another student, D, began his study with a friend of mine. She’s moving and she referred his father to me. D is my youngest (6 years old) and he’s very bright. He shied away from using the bow so my friend let him focus on pizzicato. I start kids on the bow as soon as they know their strings and understand common time (read: count to 4 over and over). I let them pluck first before going to arco for a while but moving on to the bow is very important.

So near the end of D’s first lesson I asked him if he would like to play a song with his bow. He explained that he didn’t like it so he had plucked, and I asked him to just try it. I have learned that this is a huge risk—we were only 5 minutes away from finishing and the whole thing could’ve gone terribly sour. I want kids (all my students!) to leave their lesson feeling like they’ve accomplished something, you know? But I took the risk and decided that I’d let him pluck his favorite song if the bow didn’t work out. But it did work out and he didn’t even need much coaching! Of course the bow wasn’t straight but he got a decent sound and—the best part—he enjoyed it. His little face lit up and suddenly it was as if he could see the world of potential he’d just discovered! Cutest thing ever.

When teaching children I have to remember all these things I've mentioned plus their attention spans! I could go on and on and tell more stories but I’d really like to hear from you all. What are some of your experiences with younger students? Methods and approaches that worked, ideas which backfired horribly, etc.? Leave a comment so we can all share in your learning experience. Thanks!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Soloist

I saw The Soloist a few weeks ago at the $1 theater (which is really the $2/$4 theater) with a friend. Overall, I really enjoyed it. Even though I don't really care for Robert Downey, Jr., he did a good job. And I enjoy seeing Jamie Foxx in serious roles--he did a great job.

Being a musician--especially a string player--I went in knowing that I'd be unhappy with certain things. For example they had coaches for Keri Russell and other actors who portrayed musicians in August Rush, yet the majority of the musical performances were just terrible. I want to hug Ben Hong and Jamie Foxx because it takes a combination of good teacher and good student to achieve the wonderful musical performances that Foxx gave. He was convincing in not only the articulation-to-bow relationship but also the note-to-finger relationship. I was not expecting the latter! Being a nerd with frustratingly good relative pitch (some say it's perfect pitch but it isn't) I noticed that there were only a couple of places where we heard an open string but he had a finger down.

Now for some symphony things. I found it cool that the Juilliard Orchestra was seated like the UT orchestra, with the viola and cello sections switched. What I found very odd was that the Los Angeles Philharmonic had the celli seated where the 2nd violins traditionally go (second from stage right). I'm sure there's a reason behind it but... it really threw me off!

*turns off music crit--Oh, one more technical thing. When Steve gave Nathaniel the donated cello, Nathaniel lovingly ran his hand along the hair of the bow and I cringed. I had to restrain myself because I really wanted to scream "Don't touch the hair, Mr. I Went To Juilliard!!!!"

Okay. *turns off music critic* My one non-musical critique deals with the Beethoven sequence during which we see (what I'm guessing is) a representation of how Nathaniel's brain interprets the music. It's very bright and colorful (read: psychedelic) but it did quite a number on my already-hurting head. Pretty soon I think we need to start putting warnings on movie trailers for people who are prone to migraines or photosensitive epilepsy. Anyone else feel this way?

All that aside, it was a good movie with a good message. I immediately put the book on my wishlist so maybe after my birthday I'll be reading it... :-D

Favorite moment:
  • The principal cellist gives Nathaniel a copy of the Bach cello suites to play and says "If it weren't for Johann Sebastian there would be no Ludwig van."
I'd love to hear anyone else's thoughts. Have you seen the movie? Do you have the soundtrack and if so what do you think of it? I look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Georgia Aquarium

Howdy, all! I hope those of you who celebrated July 4th had a wonderful weekend. Actually, I hope you had a good weekend whether you celebrated or not! :-D

I had a great time at my family reunion in Atlanta. While there I visited the Georgia Aquarium with my dad. I made an album of photos and a couple of videos at Flickr: Georgia Aquarium What's really cool is this: after I tweeted about my visit, the Georgia Aquarium followed me on Twitter. How awesome is that?

Upcoming Blog Posts: A review of The Soloist and some thoughts on teaching violin to elementary-age children.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

Hello from downtown Atlanta, GA! The family is waiting to take a group picture before the banquet. Expect pictures from the aquarium sometime next week.

For mini updates be sure to check my twitter page: :-D Have a great weekend, especially my fellow Americans--have a safe and happy 4th!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Robyn James Trio, est. May 2005

I'm messing around with Picasa, Google's free photo editing program. I decided to make a photo album for my trio's website so I've been going through our photos from 2005 to today. Talk about a trip down memory lane!

This is from our very first photo shoot. It took at place at the UT music building. My friend Connie volunteered to photograph us. Connie, have I told you that you rock? Because you do!!

If Picasa doesn't turn on me like all other new-fangled technological things I attempt to learn, you'll be seeing more pictures soon. Maybe I shouldn't say soon. You'll be seeing more pictures later. ;-)

To all my American readers, have a great holiday weekend! To everyone else, have a great regular weekend.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 26, 2009

The stars fade but the world keeps turning.

Of course people are talking about the losses we've had in the past few days: David Carradine, Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson. My prayers go out to all the loved ones who are mourning their passing, as well as the many fans.

I remember Carradine from Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (I totally had a crush on Chris Potter, Kwai Chang's son) and reruns of Kung Fu. Ed McMahon is more associated with American Family Publishers in my mind than with the Tonight Show w/ Johnny Carson, though I do remember seeing the latter. And I don't think I've ever watched a single episode of Charlie's Angels or any of her other work, but I definitely know who Farrah Fawcett is--even Strong Bad has her poster in his room!

Yet MJ's passing hit me the hardest. As silly as it sounds, I can't imagine my life without Michael Jackson in it. My big brother is a huge fan and he passed that on to me as a child. I remember listening to Bob's Thriller album while he was at college--I played that LP over and over and over, and probably drove my poor parents crazy!! I loved every song on it, but I especially loved the title track. I tried my best to memorize Vincent Price's "rap" and thought it was crazy awesome that he used the word "y'all" (not "yawl" or "y'awl" like many lyrics websites say)! Ever since then I've been a huge fan. I regret that I never got a chance to see him perform live.

I guess soon there will be footage of the 6 pm Moonwalk in London. I look forward to seeing it and wish I could've been a part. I guess we each have to find our own way to remember the King of Pop. I've been watching his videos on YouTube and I'll probably buy some of his albums* soon, to complete my collection.

I'll leave you with three of my all-time favorite videos:
  1. Remember the Time
  2. Smooth Criminal
  3. Thriller

*If you plan on completing your collection as well, I suggest buying the mp3s instead of looking for physical CDs and albums. My guess is that a lot of people have already hit the music stores to grab what they can. Here are the search results for "Michael Jackson albums" at Amazon MP3.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jelly beans + peanuts = crazy dream escape?

This is part of a longer dream. This was the most recent thing that happened right before I woke up so it’s the freshest, most detailed part I can remember.

I was part of the Enterprise (1701 D) crew and apparently part of an away team. The team also included Data, Worf, and I think Captain Picard. Maybe Commander Riker? Anyway, we ended up in an alternate universe. I shouldn’t say it was a mirror universe ‘cause our counterparts didn’t have goatees... But they certainly weren’t very trusting. We'll say "mirror," just for clarity.

I think what happened was one of our men ended up on the mirror Enterprise and I was on the team sent to retrieve him. We materialized on the bridge, freaked out all the people on the bridge, grabbed our man, and then tried to beam back to our ship (and universe). It didn’t work. We tried twice. Nothing. The sparklies showed up but we never left.

So now we were prisoners on this alternate Enterprise. They took good care of us, though—I remember this huge spread of food set up on the bridge. Probably the first time there’s ever been a bridge buffet! Eventually I started trying to find ways to get back to our world and somehow the food got involved. I figured out how to make a jump rope with a string of jelly beans or something and the mirror crew tried to confiscate it. I refused to give it up and instead started hopping and jumping and doing crazy moves with the rope all over the bridge. After those shenanigans, the women of the away team (it was an oddly large away team) were banned from the bridge buffet.

The men of the away team, however, were free to do whatever. The women were also banned from several other things because of my attempts at doing whatever I was doing (I still don’t understand how we could’ve gotten off the ship with a jelly bean jump rope). Were the men even trying to get home??

The next thing I remember is being allowed to go back to the buffet. My friend Sarah, whom I haven’t seen since grad school, was there and I was raving about how we could have peanuts once again. I have a feeling that somehow the peanuts were going to get us home, but don’t ask me how.

And that’s about all I can remember. For those of you who’ve never heard about my dreams before, they’re always like this. I remember them in great detail if I type it all up shortly after I awaken. They rarely make sense. Sometimes they take recent events from my life (say, a Monday night Star Trek: TNG marathon) and sometimes they are completely random in their subject matter. For example, I remember that earlier in the dream I was with the Griffin family in Quahog and several of us were falling from the sky. Instead of reaching the ground we fell into a cloud with a hole in the middle—think, instead of a ring of fire, a ring of fluffy cloud. I haven't watched Family Guy in weeks, so I don't know where that came from!
Robyn ||3: (You like my alto clef? It was created by the awesome @ViolaMaths!)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Road trip with the Symphony

I got home about half an hour ago from a trip to Cade's Cove with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO). The most grueling part was the 2-hour bus trip including lots of curvy roads and lots of going 5 mph because of heavy traffic (but heavy traffic = bigger audience so it's all good!). Once we got there it was great. The scenery was beautiful, and the people there seemed to really appreciate it. As we (orchestra members) made our way to the buses after it was over, many people thanked us and said they enjoyed the music.

The concert was part of a celebration of the 75th annivesary of the Smoky Mountains National Park* (did I say "of" enough times?). The performance featured some patriotic tunes, an original composition by James R. Carlson commissioned by the KSO, a work dedicated to the people of Johnstown, PA (penned by KSO's music director, Lucas Richman), and lots more. We also had a special guest--U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander played the piano with us on three numbers. Out of all the music the symphony played, my absolute favorite was an arrangement of Chopin's Prelude in C Minor. It started with Senator Alexander playing the traditional version and then, after a 2-bar drum solo, the symphony joined in with a 70s-style version. It. Was. AWESOME. When we ran through it at last night's rehearsal, I immediately thought of Walter Murphy's A Fifth of Beethoven from Saturday Night Fever. After totally geeking out, that is.

Oh! I must mention the John Williams piece--we played the overture from the John Wayne movie The Cowboys. The film came out in 1972 and, as my stand partner pointed out, you can already hear a little bit of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and other Williams classics. I was thinking the same thing when he said it--I heard a melody reminiscent of Princess Leia's theme in one spot and the rhythmic drive of the entire work reminded me of Indiana Jones!

All in all, everything went really well. It was a gorgeous day and though it was hot it wasn't very humid (a blessing this time of year in the Southeast). Also, the ominous clouds didn't make an appearance until everything was over (thank you, ominous clouds!) and the ride home was quicker than the ride up to the Cove! :-D

I think I'll reward myself with some ice cream. What am I rewarding myself for? I don't know exactly. But I like ice cream and I shall have some! I hope you're all having a wonderful weekend.

*It was not to commemorate the mountains themselves as I originally thought. ;-)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I'm doing my happy dance!!!!!

I totally just screeched like a 15-year-old girl.

I store my 300+ CDs in large CD wallets. It's much easier to pack and move with three 128-CD wallets than it is with 300+ jewels cases and shelves. It's a great solution, unless you're like me and are constantly putting CDs in your car and then switching them out for new ones every few weeks. When I bring in the retired CDs, they don't go back into the wallet like they should. They either go into a pile (which migrates--last week it was on the ironing board) or a box on the floor.

After months and months of weeping and gnashing of teeth when I couldn't find an album that popped into my head, I decided to go through the box and piles of un-filed CDs and put them back where they go. Or put them at the back of the last wallet and organize them later (they were alphabetized until a couple years ago).

I was so proud of myself! I put everything away and even discovered some CDs I forgot I'd bought. I probably went through 70-80 CDs and yet I was still missing some. And guess which ones they were? That's right, my FAVORITES. I found it oddly coincidental that the most important CDs were unaccounted for. I knew they were all together somewhere, just waiting for me to find them. Wait a minute, I thought. I have two smaller wallets I use for the car--where's the second one? I haven't used it in forever. *searchsearchsearch* Could it be in the TV cabinet? Why in the world would it be there? May as well look...


JACKPOT, BABY!! I found all of the CDs I'd been dying to listen to--and was about to buy used at Amazon--plus a few that I didn't even realize were missing. The crazy part is that I thought of looking in that cabinet several times before now but apparently I got distracted before I could execute the plan. Now I shall share with you exactly which CDs caused me to squeal like the teenybopper that I am (at heart).

That's right--it's all boy bands or former members of boy bands. Laugh all you like--I LOVE pop music and you can't do anything about it! Guess who's going to have some new JC Chasez and JT ringtones tomorrow...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Film Festival with a Side of Polyphony

Good day, all! I hope you've had a lovely weekend. The rain finally left Knoxville and I've been enjoying the sunshine.

I'm currently listening to the CDs which accompany the book I use to teach Music Appreciation at Pellissippi (McGraw Hill's Music: An Appreciation, 6th Brief Edition). I am such a music nerd--and I LOVE IT! Oh, man--the harpsichordist is tearin' it up in the solo near the end of the first movement of Brandenburg Concerto No. 5. I haven't listened to the first movement all the way through in a long time. If we had time to listen to all the examples in their entirety in my class, I'd be the happiest nerd on the face of the planet. My students would watch in amazement as I floated up to heaven, riding on the high F near the end of Hildegard's O succesores.

By the way--for those of you keeping score at home, when I typed the title of the blog I was listening to Machaut's Puis qu'en oubli. 150 music nerd points to the first person who correctly identifies the period and genre of the three works I've mentioned. No teachers can participate, sorry (it's not fair)!

Onto the first part of my title. My friend James invited me to attend the Marble City 10-Hour Film Festival screening with him yesterday. Filmmakers are given a list of elements then must shoot, edit, produce, and deliver a 3-minute film using those elements in 10 hours. Seeing all the different ideas that people came up with was the best part. I had a feeling that there would be at least one group who would try to get their "message" across and I was right. One film consisted of a young woman speaking about today's society and how certain groups of people are trying to control our resources and monopolize power. The entire film (which seemed longer than 3 minutes) consisted of mostly tight shots of her face while she delivered her monologue. Images of religious and monetary symbols as well as nature scenes were superimposed on her image as she spoke, and a large part of the dialogue was repeated (same footage of woman with different superimposed images). At first I was interested and tried to follow, but the woman's character was that of a person just rambling on about something. After a while I started wondering when it would be over.

Now, I'm not saying this to be mean and I'm not saying it was a bad film. I'm just saying that there's a time and place for that sort of thing and I don't believe that this festival was the right venue. And judging by most of the audience's reaction--rude shouts, jeering, and the like--I believe I'm not totally off base. However, this could be an opportunity for Marble City Films to introduce a new genre (I can't recall in what genre the film was originally placed) to their festival.

Overall it was a positive experience, preceded by my first trip to Barley's (Caribbean pizza = YUM). I also learned about Rootclip, a really cool collaborative filmmaking site. As they explained, it's kind of like Choose Your Own Adventure meets YouTube. Definitely check it out. I've already been bitten by the filmmaking bug and I know nothing about the process!

I'll close with the link to a movie that I will be seeing this Friday: The Hangover

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Music, Money and Ministry

Have you ever been at a crossroads and didn't even realize it? I had been subconsciously asking myself a question for a while now and I didn't even know until the question was answered today. I firmly believe that God sometimes uses other people to speak to you. It might be because some of us are too dim to understand when he speaks to us directly, but that's another blog... :-D

So anyway a good friend called me this afternoon to discuss a dilemma I'd actually forgotten I had. I've been active in two churches during my time in Knoxville and both times I ended up regularly singing and/or playing an instrument in the worship service(s). It's great because my musical talents were given to me by God and using them in worship seems appropriate...

Enter the economy. Living in these difficult times and being self-employed, I've been trying to figure out how to make ends meet. I got to the point where I said to myself Hey, music is my gift but it's also my livelihood. I get compensated for performing everywhere--except at church. It seems kind of wrong to say "Hey, church--I need money to use my God-given gift here." It's something I've struggled with in recent months.

But there's an even bigger issue--my lack of connection to the body of Christ (aka the church). I end up getting so involved in the musical aspect of my church homes that I don't really get to know anyone outside of that ministry. If you're not in the choir or praise band, chances are I don't know you very well. And I don't even really know the musicians I interact with on Sundays. I chat with them in rehearsal and form mostly superficial friendships, only occasionally scratching the surface to get to a deeper connection.

I believe that God made us to be social creatures. That doesn't mean that every person is outgoing, the life of the party, or anything like that. But he made us to be friends and to be there for one another. Just look at the book of Acts (one of my favorite books of the Bible). People were active in each other's lives--not like nosey, gossipy neighbors but supportive and helpful friends to those in need. The second chapter tells us:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47, NIV)
They shared with anyone who had need and they spent time together, eating and worshiping and just sharing their lives. No wonder more people were being saved--I'm sure others were thinking "Okay, what are they doing that I'm not? They must be doing something right. I need to know more."

I'm missing that community--that fellowship--and my friend helped me realize that today. He said that I'd been on his heart and I know that God put me there. I'm thankful that he did. He (my friend) wasn't even sure if his concerns were accurate, but as I told him on the phone, he hit the nail on the head. I need to plug in to a church home and get involved, whether it's at my current church or a new one. Not just for myself, of course, but in order to make the world a better place you often have to start with yourself, right?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Summer wedding

The Jonas Brothers were on my MySpace login page earlier.  Ugh.

So I've played 3 outdoor weddings in the past couple of weekends. They're not all bad, but when there are thunderstorms in the forecast, anything could happen. Even if it doesn't rain, there's still the dreaded "h" word. I think "humidity" was probably one of the first words I learned as a child. And I soon learned that it was evil...

Some of my favorite wedding stories to tell are the ones where brides requested/chose odd or inappropriate music. But often the interesting weddings aren't the ones with special requests but the ones where the unexpected happens during processionals. Until recently, I would've said the most excruciating processional was when my trio played "Maybe I'm Amazed" for the bridesmaids. Everything was going well--until the ushers started letting tardy guests sit down inbetween the bridesmaids' entrances.* There weren't even that many bridesmaids--it was a small ceremony--but with all the late people, we ended up playing about 14 verses of Paul McCartney's song.**

(Un)fortunately, that record was broken this past Saturday. I played with a friend's group and, once again, it was during the bridesmaids' entrance that it all went down. This time it was a Lennon-penned tune, "Dear Prudence." We started playing. Nothing happened. We continued playing. Still nothing. We started looking around. Finally we saw the bridesmaids making their way from the fenced area to the beginning of the "aisle." But they didn't walk down the aisle. They stopped to take pictures. Not just a few--we're talking full photo shoot. By this time we've played 5 or so verses. Eventually the minister and groom processed. Then the groomsmen processed. One. By. One. Have you ever seen that? 'Cause in my 15+ years of wedding performances, I've never seen it. By now the verse count is probably up to 12 or 13, including a few trips to the bridge and back. As you've probably guessed, the bridesmaids eventually processed. Total verses of "Dear Prudence" played: Around 20. I lost count after a while...

There are many more stories like that one. Maybe I'll tell you another one soon. 

This portion of the post is slightly irrelevant, given that you are currently reading the "more open blog." [In other news, I hope to be moving to a more open blog. I was reminded that my readers can't comment on my posts unless they have a MySpace account. And I wouldn't wish a MySpace account on anyone who has managed to escape the suffering.  I'm currently working on a new blog at (location concealed for now). Will keep you updated.]

Any special plans for Memorial Day? I'm going to hang out with my brother and watch movies. He wants me to see Private Ryan so I'll probably watch it. But I'm going to make him watch something totally unrelated, like Finding Nemo or my Bryan Adams concert DVD. 

Okay, it's (past) time to retire. Enjoy your holiday if you're celebrating and if it's just another normal day, have a great Monday!

*This is one of the many reasons I would LOVE to offer courses in wedding ceremony management (among other things), especially for those brides who choose not to hire a wedding planner. So many awkward moments and disasters could be avoided!!! 

**My trio vowed that though we love Sir Paul, we never want to hear that song again as long as we live!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Star Trek Review - Part II (SPOILERS)

Okay, it’s finally time for the second part of my review. I think it's time to see the movie again. 


5) John Cho as Sulu When Kirk asked Sulu what his hand-to-hand training was, I was like Please let it be fencing, PLEASE let it be fencing! Sooooo awesome.  Was it me or does it seem like his character was the least explained? I feel that he got the least amount of screen time of the main 7 and he was the crewman we learned the least about. Maybe I need to see it again, but I can’t really comment on Cho’s performance because there’s not much to talk about. The fight scene with Sulu, Kirk and the Romulans was awesome, though. 

6) Simon Pegg as Scotty Funniest scene in the whole movie: After all the action on the bridge, Scotty goes “I like this ship—it’s exciting!”  Pegg did a wonderful job of creating his own version of Scotty. But did anyone else cringe at his little alien sidekick thing? I thought one thing: Jar Jar. Maybe that’s a little extreme, but I worry. 

7) Anton Yelchin as Chekov I haven’t seen Charlie Bartlett but now I want to. This kid—sorry, this guy; he only looks young—was great as Chekov. I loved the ego combined with the eager-to-please mentality. The bit where he ran through the corridors going “I can do that! I can do that!” was hilarious and of course the part where the computer didn’t understand his code was classic.

8) Eric Bana as Nero I would say great job on the makeup, but I really think the reason I didn’t recognize him is because I don’t know who the guy is. I know the name but I don’t think I’ve seen a single movie of his! It’s nothing against him, I guess he just hasn’t done anything in genres I care about.

Anyway, onto Nero. Am I the only one who thinks this character was a little weak?  Also, why the heck did they have to change what the Romulans looked like? He reminded me of Shinzon, another under-developed bad guy (IMHO).

Other thoughts: When Kirk relieved Pike at the end of the movie, my first thought was Oh man, dude STILLends up paralyzed. But my next thought was But at least he’s not burnt toast in a black box with flashy lights. He still looks hot. 

The scene on the planet where Kirk ignored the advice to stay inside the shuttlepod was also classic Trek. Very nicely done. And as Matthew reminded me, the Uhura’s-first-name bit was also ingenious.

So that’s my bit. How do y’all feel about it? I still need to see it a second time, though it probably won’t be at an IMAX theatre. I knew it would be more expensive but double the price of a regular theatre ticket is a bit much.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Summer's Here!

I'm sad to say that I'll be skipping the monthly madrigal meeting (yay, alliteration ) tonight. My heart is willing but my body is like Um, no. Remember when you almost felt like dozing off while driving to teach this afternoon? You're going to go to bed. And no we don't dress up when we sing madrigals (everyone asks that, lol!). We just sing & sometimes drink wine. 

That is an awesome smiley.

Okay. Onto other, hopefully more interesting, topics. I played with the KSO on their final big concert of the season. The program was Wagner's Overture to Lohengrin (well, Act III of Lohengrin), Liszt's 1st piano concerto, and Mahler's 5th symphony. What a program. It was demanding but still fun! I would've loved about 6 more rehearsals on that Mahler but you know how that goes. The pianist was simply amazing and his encore was Horowitz's transcription of Stars and Stripes Forever. I almost went straight home afterward because it had been such an exhausting week.  Instead I chose to go to Calhoun's and spend some time with my friends before we all go our separate ways for the summer. It was a good choice.

So now that's summer's here, what's a self-employed musician to do? Well all the symphonies are off until the Fall and I didn't get any summer school courses at Pellissippi, so I'm just teaching and gigging as much as I can. Also working on some repertoire I didn't have time to work on during the school year and recruiting more students for the coming school year. So summer isn't really much of a break but I think I prefer it that way--these stretches of time where I have nothing to do are confusing! 

Anyone want to play some chamber music this summer? I'm totally game. I miss chamber music so much--it was always my favorite part of college and grad school. 

Oh! Random news--one of my violin students graduated from high school and is on her way to college. I'm so proud of her, especially of what she's accomplished in the short time I've had the privilege of working with her!  Congratulations, Rachel! 

And now to take a brief nap...  Leave a comment and tell me what your summer plans are! 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Star Trek review - Part I (SPOILERS)

Alrighty. I know it's a music blog, but it's also my blog so I can bend the rules a bit, right? Right. I saw the new Star Trek movie Sunday and I'm still on Cloud 12 1/2. I'm totally going to see it again. I think the 2nd time around I'll go see it at the IMAX theatre. So, on the the review. I have so much to say that I have to break it up into chunks. More exciting that way, no?


I’m so excited that people care what I think! Of course by “people” I mean 3-4 friends who know I’m crazy about Star Trek and find my drooling amusing.  But anyway, here goes. This is basically a re-write of a nerdfest I had with my friend Matthew, plus other things I thought of as I typed this up. 

First, some thoughts about casting: OMG Ben Cross as Sarek. I remember Ben Cross as Barnabus, the vampire in the “Dark Shadows” miniseries. Gorgeous then and gorgeous now. And I didn’t even recognize Winona Ryder (Amanda Grayson), which is good. I was a bit thrown when I saw Tyler Perry because I associate him with Madea and “Meet the Browns” and all that. But it’s most likely similar to “24” or “Heroes” fans seeing Zachary Quinto as Spock or Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz/etc. fans seeing Simon Pegg as Scotty. Everyone did a great job though, and any problems with suspension of disbelief were because of my personal bias and not the actors’ abilities.

It was such a cool movie that nothing could distract me from its awesomeness for too long. :-D

How many of you got the least bit misty-eyed at the beginning? ‘Cause I sure did. I mean, it was obvious that George Kirk—captain of the Kelvin for all of 12 minutes—wasn’t going to make it. But it was just written and played so well… Wow. Also, my brother and I totally geeked out (the first of many times, I assure you) as they picked the baby’s name. Very well done.

Onto actors and characters and their similarities/differences:

1) Chris Pine as Kirk Amazingly cool. Some people complain that he didn’t get Shatner’s Kirk right but his goal wasn’t to be Shatner’s Kirk. This is an alternate timeline so stop your whining!!!  And I think he did get the basics of the Kirk we know—not accepting defeat, a bit on the cocky side and humorous. Two of my fave scenes with Kirk were the scene where Bones kept giving him hypos to make him appear sick and then to get rid of the symptoms (swollen hands, numb tongue—classic!!) and the Kobayashi Maru scene where he just non-chalantly ate an apple while ignoring all the “danger” around him. I think that’s one of the times I laughed the hardest.

2) Zachary Quinto as Spock At first I thought he looked a little young, but I did some research and Spock’s only 3 years older than Kirk. Quinto has this almost distracting baby face thing going, but I think I’ll eventually get used to it. I think it reminds us that this is still a young Spock. I don’t have as much to say about his performance—not because it was unremarkable but because I enjoyed it so much and I can’t really put it into words. I think he did a great job of portraying how a young Spock would’ve reacted to illogical situations, losing his mother, meeting his future self, etc. Oh yeah, and marooning Kirk on the planet—I was soooooo mad at him but soooooo amused at the same time.

3) Zoe Saldana as Uhura Gotta get this off my chest. I was not cool with Spock and Uhura being an item. First because it just threw me for a curve and second because I’m jealous, LOL! I always liked Spock and I don’t know if you noticed but Zachary Quinto ain’t to bad lookin’!

But back to Uhura. I’m glad with what Saldana (and the writers) did with Uhura’s character. Because of the time of the show and whatnot, Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura wasn’t fleshed out very much—we knew so little about her, you know? She was from (the United States of) Africa, spoke Swahili, could sing, and was a kickass communications officer. Oh yeah, and she was gorgeous.

Saldana did an excellent job of breathing new life into Uhura, making her intelligent and tenacious. I love how she confronted Spock about being assigned to the Farragut instead of the Enterprise. In case you haven’t committed it all to memory like I have (this is paraphrased, as my memory isn’t THAT good):

Spock: I wanting to avoid accusations of favoritism†--

Uhura: *leans in determinedly* I’m on the Enterprise.

Spock: *does something on the PADD* Yes, you are.

4) Karl Urban as Bones Oh. My. Heavens. This man nailed it soooo well. If any of the characters had to stay the same, it was Bones. (Bones is my favorite Star Trek character of all time so I’m biased of course. I'm such a hypocrite aren't I [go back and read what I said about Kirk]?) Urban was fantastic as a young Leonard McCoy. He just nailed it. The accent, the stubbornness, the irritability… All the things we know and love about the good doctor. Also, I’m glad they chose an actor who was visibly a bit older than the rest of the crew, as Bones was. Can’t say enough good things about Urban’s McCoy. Crazy awesome.

All these years I thought that word was spelled "favortism," like it's pronounced. Wow. Thanks for correcting me, Microsoft Word.


Part II to come within the next few days.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pops Concert!

KSO is hosting Peter Cetera tonight for the last Pops concert of the season. Just got home from rehearsal. I was okay until we got to "Glory of Love" and then I totally started geeking out. Some of you know exactly why that song is special, but for those of you who don't: Karate Kid II.

That was my childhood, y'all!!! I had a
HUGE crush on Ralph Macchio. I don't even remember all the details from the movie (cute guy is wimpy, mean guy fights better, a girl is in the middle, blah blah) but I remember that song. I think it played during the closing credits...?

So in today's rehearsal, when Cetera got to that familiar refrain "I am the man who will fight for your honor..." I was grinning from ear to ear like a complete dork I am.

Speaking of Cetera, his voice isn't quite as nasal as it was in earlier years, which is good. Unfortunately, I think he's a bit of a diva. While the orchestra ran through the charts, he walked around and then hovered over a section while they played, as if he were surveying his kingdom. Seriously, dude--you worry about your part and we'll worry about ours.

In addition to his own tunes, he's also doing some classic Chicago (You're the Inspiration, Hard to Say I'm Sorry, After All that We've Been Through) and some random covers (Lady Madonna, Yesterday, Daydream Believer). Guess who's sitting right in front of the brass and had to ask for a sound shield during Lady Madonna? And it didn't even help because the bandleader asked the brass to STAND when they have the familiar riff. Yippee. I'd better find the souvenir ear plugs I got at Tommy before tonight's show.

All in all it'll be a good evening. The violas actually get some pretty cool licks in a couple of songs and it's a pops show so the audience will be more responsive. Now off to find some dinner, dig up some earplugs, and maybe practice some Mahler.