Best Day Ever!


I just had the most amazing day!! Today was my first full day of work at Disneyland! I was lucky enough to get called in as a sub for the Ellis Island Boys on the Paradise Garden Stage at California Adventure. I’m still buzzing from the day!

I drove in this morning with so much nervous energy, that I don’t even remember the drive at all. When I arrived, I went through the security check, which was super easy, despite the “heightened security” signs posted everywhere. Ralf was there to greet me, and we just talked about how the day was going to go. John and Katie arrived shortly after, and suddenly the shuttle arrived to take us in. However the shuttle was only for me! Somehow, the transportation department interpreted my subbing to mean that I would need my own shuttle. Thankfully, Ralf fixed that, and we all got to ride in together. I didn’t know where to go, anyway.

Ralf gave me the quick once-over of the backstage area near our area, and we went out to set up. I was just trying to contain myself and focus; this is something I’ve been wanting to do since I was 10 years old! Concentration was something that was not going to come naturally today. After I got my keyboard set, and we did a quick sound check, I stood up from my station. Suddenly it hit me like lightning. I was looking out at the plaza…… from the stage….. This was actually going to happen. I was about to make music with some of my favorite musicians in one of my favorite places. I know that I have a lot of friends who have either done the gig, or shun it, and are a bit jaded by its downsides. However, my heart swelled up inside as I looked out because I have an affinity and a faith for the classic motivations of the company, and just to be connected to that in some remote way makes me very happy. This has been quite a few years in the making, and though I was only subbing, it just made me very happy. Laugh all you want, current and former cast members, but to me, this is an extremely important dream I’ve had for a very long time.

I was actually subbing for the lead voice in the band, which is a little bit different for me. The guys, and girl, made me feel right at home, and as we played the first set, I was all smiles. In fact, that just continued throughout the entire day, through the Heat Index 1, as our sets were cut short by 5 minutes, and even through watching the All-American College Band on our long lunch break. Overall, it has just been so lovely.

I met some very nice people, including the husband-and-wife team that are responsible for so many of Disneyland’s Entertainment publicity photos. They are responsible for the photos above. I can honestly say, that with those connected to my Facebook page, I’ve never seen so much activity! Perhaps more people than I thought actually know how long I’ve wanted this to happen. I am very grateful for all of you, and can’t wait to be back there again!




It’s been a while… But silence is vital…


Hi everyone, I know it’s been a long time since my last post. I’ve been a bad boy. However, I think I’ve just been focusing a great deal on personal and interpersonal relationships, that I haven’t much felt like tooting my own horn. I’m hoping to be back in action soon, as I have some neat ideas coming in the future.

Life has been very good to me over the last couple of years, and it looks like they’re getting better. Of course it hasn’t been without its bumps. One thing related to this blog is that I lost my domain name to a squatter last week, but if that’s the biggest of my worries, then I’m doing great.

I don’t want to go very long right now. I’ll save that for the future. It’s nice to see everyone again, and I’d like to share the reason I decided to get up and write something after so long. I got this inspiring piece from my Mom, who knows me better than anyone, and I’d like to share it with all of you. I hope you find it uplifting, like I did.

Silence is really vital to the human heart.
You see the human heart can’t live with
Constant sound or noise.
It needs silence in order to heal itself.
The only two things that are ultimately required for spiritual
homecoming are stillness and silence
If in your day you can build little windows of silence
and little windows of stillness
You will never lose touch with your deepest voice.
You will never lose touch with your most secret belonging.
Even though you walk and talk in the world
You will never leave the inner, tender home of your soul.
Charles William Golding (1931-2004)

I’m 35!!

Well, the day has come. I have finally hit middle age. I don’t really feel the effects. They say it is all in your mind, so maybe I never will. I still feel like I am about 16, just with a few minor creaks here and there. This is a short post, because I want to spend the day enjoying myself. Get it while you can get it, as they say! So far, it’s all good. So far, the best wishes have come from my family, as always. My sister wished me a “Happy Barfday” via text message, and also made sure to tell me that if I thought it was an spelling autocorrect problem, not to, because it was completely intentional. My girlfriend got me a handmade wooden melodica! That will come in handy should I feel the need to play the piano and stroll. Good day so far!

Les Misérables… The Official Review


I have had quite a few people ask me what I thought of the film “Les Misérables”. I am not sure if they want to know my initial reaction, how it affected me emotionally, or my professional opinion, so I decided to make them wait while I write a formal review. So here it is: my full review of Les Misérables, the film.

First, I must provide a bit of background. I am a relative late-comer to the “laymizz” party, having only seen the traveling Broadway show for the first time this past summer. I thought it was fantastic, possibly the best show I’ve ever seen in my life. The cast was amazing, and the leads were even better than I thought was possible even on Broadway. Anyone who is familiar with the storyline, adapted from the Victor Hugo novel, knows that you really can’t go wrong with a great story, no matter the treatment. Overall, it was a great experience, so I was intrigued to find out how they were going to adapt this for film. I received my answer to that question last week.

An initial thought about this is one that suggests that a film adaptation like this does have some merit, though is not free of detriment. What do I mean by this? Adapting a stage show to film definitely allows it to become more personal in the sense that you can feel closer to the action. Camera angles can get right up close on the actors, so you can see the expressions on their faces. In some ways, this provides a better overall perception of emotion from the standpoint of the viewer. Oftentimes, when viewing a stage show, one is seated much too far from the stage to see any kind of facial expressions, so actors are forced to express emotion through gestures, causing the action on stage to seem “overacted” at times. This may be one of the reasons why so many film-buffs are not fans of Broadway shows, although I have heard that the main reason is the sudden bursting into song. But I digress.

This film lends itself very well to its ability to hone in on the characters and their emotions. It is extremely well-acted, and you are able to clearly discern this for yourself through the benefit of the film medium. As such, the actors must be much more discerning when it comes to how they perceive the emotions and motivations of their characters. This provides for a deeper narrative, and causes this picture to really shine where it counts. However, one of the other “benefits” of film is cinematography. One can contribute a great deal to the story, deciding on how the camera moves, as well as choosing sets and angles to provide the most impact. In this aspect, I think the film suffers in its adaptation from the stage. Sometimes those closeups of actors’ faces singing last far too long, leaving a desire for more movement. Other times, the camera is unnecessarily panning or zooming out, taking away from the emotion of a scene. It seemed to be the work of an unsure cinematographer, in this case, Danny Cohen, who has more experience in television than in film, let alone musicals. Still, there are some very beautiful shots in the film. The opening, where the convicts are pulling the ship into the dock, is definitely one. Some of the overhead shots of the city, as well as the enclosed spaces within its alleyways are quite good as well. However, one particularly bad piece of cinematography that sticks out in my mind (aside from lingering too long on the actors faces while they sing) happens at the end of “Bring Him Home”. Valjean is pleading with God to let Marius, the suitor for his beloved Cosette, survive the battles. It is a very intimate moment, and as it ends, the camera pans to a top-down shot, and quickly zooms out to a wide-shot of the city, ripping you completely from the intimacy without giving it a chance to end. The next bit of action is the second attack on the fort, but we see the soldiers marching on it through the streets from a bird’s-eye view. All this, as the song ends. What would have been wrong with a nice fade to black, followed by the abrupt sound of cannon fire? That would have allowed the moment to end properly, and then BANG! We are back into the action again. There were quite a few moments like this, that left me puzzled.

One cannot talk about Les Misérables without mentioning the portrayal of characters and, of course, the singing. One very “against-the-grain” approach that makes this film unique is that the director chose to find a way for the actors to sing live on the set. Normally in the film adaptation of a musical, all of the music is performed and sung in the studio, take after take, to get it “perfect”, and then that is applied to the shooting of the film, where the actors will lip-sync. This traditional approach, while making for good polish, it does so at the expense of acting. The film’s new approach, where the actors are acting and singing simultaneously, delivers much greater impact. It is vibrant, gritty, and more real, rather than contrived. Some have complained about the singing being pitchy, but I believe that this is a small price to pay for delivering the much heavier emotional impact.

So what about the characters? The singing? Well, lets just get the bad part out of the way. Really, there is only one truly bad part, and it has a very unfortunate, but frivolously necessary, excuse. I think we all can fathom that this world is full amazingly multitalented people, people who can act, sing, and dance very well. I think we can also fathom that the likelihood of a modern blockbuster-level Hollywood actor having this kind of talent is exceedingly low, and perhaps decreasing all the time. Still, there is this faux “need” to have big-name actors play the leads of Hollywood films. It is believed that without them, the film just won’t do well. No matter how often this has been disproven, it is still, and will remain, the norm. But let’s put this into perspective. Even on Broadway, this happens all the time. Usually the leads are played by those blessed with amazing singing voices, and who can do little else. Have you ever seen a lead on Broadway do unbelievably difficult and intricate dance steps? Not likely. However, the members of the company can do them, and act, and sing their little batooties off, but it goes unnoticed. Both Broadway and Hollywood are led by specialists, and supported by the truly multitalented.

Unfortunately, the worst of this film is truly horrific. I am speaking, of course, of Russell Crowe in this case. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw (because I cannot seem to remember the actual quote), if I had to rate his singing ability on a musical scale, it would be:

Screen Shot 2013-01-09 at 3.02.23 PM

Seriously, I understand the rationale of having a superstar in a leading role, but surely there are better choices out there. One that comes to mind is Patrick Stewart. At least that way we can say that Wolverine was being pursued by Captain Picard instead of Maximus or Lt. Bud White. Truly, Russell Crowe cannot sing. It is bad…. squirm-in-your-seat bad…. which is exactly what I did whenever he opened his mouth. On top of this, his portrayal of the character Javert was mediocre at best. However, I did notice that he got better as the film went on. Not much, but better. Better stick with pretty-boy tough guy roles, Mr. Crowe. Javert is too cruel and too musical for the likes of you. D…. the F goes to whoever cast him.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…… The real shining star of this whole film is Anne Hathaway. Her portrayal of Fantine is about the best I can imagine, better than the stage show. And who knew she could sing like that!?!? So beautiful, so powerful was her delivery, that I was stricken with extreme sadness that I wasn’t going to see more of her, due to her character’s necessary death. Still, it was the perfect role for her to play. The fact that she is able to capture the complete depth of the character in such a small amount of time shows how truly talented she is. She was, in a word, perfect. A+

Now let’s talk lead. To say that Hugh Jackman can’t sing would be completely unfair, not to mention totally incorrect. He has chops… REAL chops… THEATRE chops… Yes, he came up through Australian theatre, and has had plenty of Broadway experience. He is a very good singer, as well as a fabulous actor. In the world of big-time Hollywood actors, he is definitely one of the most qualified to assume the role of Jean Valjean. He brings a lot of depth to the character, and he does a great job with a very difficult singing part. Are you waiting for the big “BUT”? Yes, unfortunately there is one, and it is so very hard for me to even raise the issue, because I really loved his performance in that he was as convincing a Jean Valjean as I can imagine. OK, here it is: BUT…… I think that musically, the part was just beyond his abilities. It is just simply too much for him. That is not to say that he wasted his time on a futile effort. That would also be unfair and wrong. His effort was as valiant as the prince. I think it was also evident in his performance that he knew the part was just a little too difficult. It comes out in his undying effort: He really is trying very hard to make it as good as he can. Sometimes he would have unnecessarily forced vibrato to add an air of reminding professionalism to something that is just out of his reach. It still sounds good, very good in fact. Unfortunately, no amount of forced vibrato can propel anyone beyond their own limits. Mr. Jackman, you gave a very solid, very convincing performance. I must give you a B+, but you get an A++ for effort.

Let’s take a little time to give out some Rookie of the Year awards. First up is Daniel Huttlestone. No, he is not some Flintstones second-cousin reject. He plays the part of the young boy, Gavroche. It is his first film, and he does a fantastic job being gritty, edgy, and intrusively in the faces of all the rich characters. He provides a character whose motivations you can get behind and support, all while singing infinitely better than Russel Crowe. Not bad for a kid. The other Rookie of the Year goes to our Éponine, Samantha Barks. Though she had already played the character as part of the 2010 35th Anniversary cast, this is her film debut. And what a debut! She does a stunning job! I must admit that I am a bit biased because I love the character so much. Most people are infatuated with her song “On My Own”, and rightfully so as it is beautiful and reveals her inner sanctum. She then becomes my favorite character, since she is completely transparent to us, the audience, but that all of that complexity is hidden from the other characters. However, the one that gets me every time is “A Little Fall of Rain”. That song wrecks me, and will probably lead me to my ultimate ruin. As soon as Éponine sacrifices herself to save Marius, I’m already thinking to myself, “OK… I’mnotgonnacryI’mnotgonnacryI’mnotgonnacryI’mnotgonnacryI’mnotgonnacry!” Futile chanting for a futile cause. As far as I’m concerned, Samantha nails it, revealing everything to her protector, and bringing tears to everyone’s eyes. Perhaps I just love the melody, or perhaps I just identify with the character. Either way…. A+

What treatment of Les Misérables would be complete without a little comic relief? Those who have seen the stage show know what I mean because there is a LOT of it. Thénardier and his wife, Madame Thénardier, provide us with the quirky, unscrupulous, but humorous ways of the French underworld. In the stage show, the overly exaggerated overplaying of these characters is difficult to avoid, given the medium. The emotion on stage must be shown through gestures and overacting in order to reach the people in the back row. To imagine a much more introverted, but equally funny, pair of Thénardiers seems almost impossible. That is where Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter come in. To overact these parts on film would be artistic suicide! Isn’t it interesting that they would cast the current reigning champion of overacting, Borat himself, to play one of these parts? However, and to their credit, both Sacha and Helena manage to bring much subdued and welcome complexity to the characters. I can’t help but think that Helena’s stage-to-film chops ruled this particular roost, and that Cohen took a few cues. I did love them both in Sweeney Todd, but since Cohen’s role was markedly smaller, it is definitely nice to see him stepping it up here. Helena Bonham Carter is just as brilliant as ever, and they both seem to bring some real motivation, besides making the audience laugh, to their characters. If you’re looking for the usual crazily loud and outlandish husband and wife pair, you won’t find it here. Crazy, yes. Loud and obnoxious, not so much. Hilarious? Of course. A

Just a quick side note, does anyone know why Madame Thénardier looks almost exactly like Mrs. Lovett? I don’t mean that they are played by the same actress, but the characters look very similar. And, what’s with Helena Bonham Carter and her sunglasses? I know that France was and is the center of the world for fashion, but did they have sunglasses during the French Revolution? Puzzling…

All I can say about Cosette and Marius is that they were well-acted and sung. Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne did these two fairly shallow characters decent justice. The singing was exceptionally nice without sounding too innocent and mousy, which is often the case with these two. The medium of film helps to add some depth here, but not a lot. I’ve always found it strange that in a story with such deep themes there would be a shallow love at first sight. Still, it contributes well.

This brings me to one of my favorite parts of the film, the men’s chorus. This particular men’s chorus is made up of young revolutionaries from the university, led by Enjolras, played by Aaron Tevit. I can’t seem to find any clever words for their performance, so I will make it plain: They sound fabulous! Their singing of “Red and Black” is absolutely heavenly, so powerful that it made me want to stand up on my chair and sing along. Guys, it will get your Y chromosome stirring; ladies, well… you know. A+

Viewers will be happy to know that the budget of this movie was big enough to have separately cast choruses for every scene with extras. This is where the talent of our world really shines. These people are all multitalented in ways that none of the lead players could be, given their hard-earned specialization. Every small-part soloist is very good, and some are better than the leads. I goes without saying (though I’ll say it anyway) that they are all better than Russell Crowe. I am very happy to know that talent like this is not being overlooked. Shine on, extras!

So, there you have it, a few short thoughts on Les Misérables. I really think that the film adaptation has a lot to offer everyone, even die-hard Broadway fans. There are times when the stage show can feel like it is running away from you because your distance from the stage separates you from the action. This film tightens all of that up and makes it much more accessible for the average viewer. It does so in a way that should please even the most blind lover of the awful (in my opinion) 1987 Original Broadway Cast Recording to the most discerning hater of all the recordings. But oh, Russell Crowe…. that is one difficult blemish to remove from the mind.

I met my Hero!!! :-D

John Williams and Me 5

OK, I finally have some time to write down a few thoughts on the concert. I attended Saturday night’s performance (Dec. 8th), but preceded with the Gala dinner. The dinner was really quite nice, and the tables were labeled with each hit film scored by our beloved maestro. I was at the Harry Potter table, and there were also tables for Star Wars, Jaws, Jurassic Park, and E.T.  All the hits, all the time! I happened to sit next to the Chief Operating Officer of the San Diego Symphony. We had quite a nice conversation about music and its role emotionally. While he could not seem to admit directly that he was a fan of John Williams’ music, he did assert that he longs for a by-gone age of film music by greats such as Bernard Herrmann and Alex North. When I told him that John Williams had scored Hitchcock’s last film, The Family Plot, he didn’t believe me at first. He checked his sources (iPhone), and suddenly was quite interested in my viewpoints. Funny thing. That was when he asked me if I had ever met John Williams. “No,” I said, “I have never even imagined that such a thing would even be possible.” He then asked me if I would like to after the concert…. Hmmm… meet my biggest idol of all time? Nah, I’ll pass… kidding of course, I readily accepted. That was a wonderfully personal experience that I won’t share here.

As for the concert, it absolutely opened beautifully! Close Encounters was stunning, nearly perfect! I really thought the Cello Concerto was fantastic, as I had never heard it live before. Moser, the soloist, I thought had some definite skill, but it seemed as though he hadn’t taken on the concept of the piece, but instead focused on the technical wizardry of it. It seemed like he was busy trying to be amazing the whole time, but he really could have paced himself better. His interpretation seemed a bit anticlimactic because of this.

Elegy for Cello was a different story. Moser clearly had a conceptual handle on this one. Beautiful.

During intermission, I attended a short party, where the CEO of the Symphony felt he needed to assure everyone that the second half of the concert would be much “easier on the ears”. What an odd thing to say to your own benefactors. Incidentally, I found out that the program itself was completely John Williams’ idea, and that he had explicitly insisted that he be able to perform the Cello Concerto. This was in exchange for completely donating his time. What a nice man!

The second half of the concert was a really great program! I was especially excited for Adventures on Earth, as I had heard the entire cue to screen at the Hollywood Bowl. Here was a chance to hear the concert version! The real shining star ended up being the Far & Away Suite, a rare treat, and a very underrated score. I enjoyed every minute of that. The Harry Potter selections were really great as well, especially the middle one, which featured only the woodwinds. This, I think rivaled the Far & Away Suite for my favorite part of the concert! I do agree that the Theme to Schindler’s List was quite rushed, although I thought it was rushed all the way to the end, instead of just in the beginning.

Despite all of this wonderful music, the entire second half was plagued by a problem that I just could not get over. The execution in the brass section, namely the trumpets, was like a ball and chain. It seemed that anything requiring the trumpets to stay on task at what would be a brisker tempo was just too much for them, as pieces had a tendency to slow to a crawl. This was especially true for Adventures on Earth, as well as for the Raiders’ March and even the two Star Wars pieces in the encore. I am aware that there is a delay between the front and rear of the orchestra, but the tempos actually suffered quite a bit. Personally, I thought the french horns were spot on. I was sitting in the grand tier, which is a pretty decent place to hear, so I’m told. When I went backstage later, I wanted to find the trumpet players and slap them all. Maestro’s tempo, not yours!

The concert arrangement of “Malice Toward None” from Lincoln was really well done, and a perfect first encore. I enjoyed the principal cellist’s playing even more than Moser’s from the previous half. I cannot seem to remember what was different about this arrangement vs. the film score, as I am not completely familiar with Lincoln yet. Rest assured, it seemed much more tightly woven into a package, as concert arrangements often do.

When the concert was over, I went backstage to meet John Williams. I won’t talk about what happened, as that is personal. However, I can tell you all that although he was very tired from the performance, he seems to be in very good shape, and just as thoughtful as ever. He definitely doesn’t seem like someone who just celebrated his 80th birthday. So, here’s to many more scores from our most beloved, the best of the best!

Wanderung, tradition, and Innsbruck

Well, I haven’t been able to write very much over the past few days because I’ve been extremely busy here in Bavaria. A lot has happened, and hopefully I can remember most of it.

Sunday was a really beautiful day. The sun was out, and it was quite warm. What a perfect time to hit up the Wanderung, or hiking trails. In order to walk them, one must get to them first by taking a lift up the mountain. Sounds scary, but it really isn’t. The trip takes about 20 minutes or so, and there are waterfalls and trees all around you as you ascend. Once at the top, there is, and I’m convinced now that these are in every possible small corner of Bavaria, a café, as well as hiking trails taking you further up, around, or back down the mountain. There was also a small cattle ranch up at this high elevation. The cattle still wear their cowbells, and it was so neat to hear them ringing off in the distance. Denise and I decided to hike a little further up the mountain, but not too far seeing as how we are both a bit out of shape.

One thing that struck me, and made us both feel quite incompetent, was how many local elderly people were hiking great lengths both up and down. There were both men and women, probably in their 70s, hiking even further than we could! And it was not just one or two, it was more like 10 or 20 that we saw, so it must truly be a normal thing here. I guess we Americans are not exactly conducive for Wanderung like this, especially with all of our urban sprawl. Who wants to go hiking through the streets of cities? I’m sure that if I lived in Bavaria, I would hike the mountains all the time!

We ended up eating at the café, having the best sauerkraut ever, and a couple of beers: Dunkelsweißbier to be exact. And yes, I finally tried out my poor German-speaking skills and was quite a bit more successful than I thought I would be. Unfortunately I made the mistake of trying them out in front of quite a large group of people on our tour. Now they seem to think that I know everything, and they ask me questions constantly, which, usually to their disappointment, I cannot always answer.

Coming back down the mountain was an equally great experience. The view is incredible!

We came back and had dinner on our own. Our little group of people decided to go Italian that night. Did I say little? There were about 12 of us. I wish I had gotten the whole dinner on video, because everyone was acting like your typical obnoxious Americans in a foreign country. It was hilarious. The wait staff only spoke a small bit of English, so I did my best to translate here and there. However, they were also extremely busy, so my speed was not good enough for them. It is also difficult to translate words into German when their English counterparts evoke an air of uncertainty. Also, when the staff came to the table to settle up the bills, our deficiency in math skills seemed to shine brightly. The difficulty in translation didn’t help matters. Eventually, I just told the waitress, “Verzeihung, wir können nicht zählen,” which translates to “Pardon us, we can’t count.”

Sunday ended with a fantastic Bavarian show, with traditional music and dance. They called it Heimatabend, or “Home Evening”, when German people celebrate their heritage. This really hit home for me because it made me feel a connection with my roots. I had had a little bit of the tradition, slightly Americanized of course, when I was little and visiting the extended family. This reminded me of being very young, but took it to a whole different level, being so much closer to the roots of tradition. It was a fun time, with beer and dancing and oompapa music. I found myself tearing up here and there as the night unfolded. They had traditional Schuhplattler Dancing, as well as Goaßlschnalzen, which is the cracking of coach whips to music.

Monday (yesterday), we went across the Austrian border to the town of Innsbruck. This town is completely butted up against the alps, and has no room for expansion. It is a beautiful medieval town, that has modernized quite a bit, but it still manages to hang onto its old tradition with its “Old Town” center. Of course, the old town is a pretty major tourist trap, mostly made up of shoppes and restaurants. Overall, the feel of the area is one of nostalgia. While everyone seemed to be interested in the walking tour, Denise and I decided to tool around the city on our own. We visited the famed golden roof in the middle of town. By the way, this area is very interesting because it was once a walled city, but as it changed over the years, buildings were built into the walls, but keeping them mostly intact. Also, we visited the Wiltener Basilika, a Baroque-styled Catholic church with beautifully carved walls and painted ceilings, but with no stained glass of course.

We spent most of our time walking, people-watching, and sitting at a café, where I had the best apfelstrudel of my life. It was a very relaxing day, aside from the long bus ride. When we got back for dinner, I was told that the local music teachers’ band, with whom we have a joint concert on friday, will not have a pianist, since he/she suffered a bad burn. They asked me if I would substitute. I very graciously accepted! Today, I am taking it easy because tomorrow will be extra long, since I get to rehearse with the local band tomorrow night. It is a big band/swing group, which is right up my alley! I can’t wait.

OK, it looks like I’ve written enough. Between sleeping in and writing here, I’m already running out of daylight. Plus I’m starved, and it’s a beautiful day! Time to get out!

Castle of Madness

Today made for one interesting day in Bavaria! We visited Herrenchiemsee, a castle built by the maddest of kings, King Ludwig II. More on that in a bit. It seems the real story involves the process of getting to the castle.

The bus ride to Lake Chiemsee was a fine one. Once we arrived, we needed to get on a boat that would take us to the island where the castle stands. Apparently, our fearless tour director made quite the faux pas making us go ashore onto the wrong island. The band was playing, and things were going well. However, when we got off, our tour director didn’t even seem to recognize that the island was the wrong one until after the boat was pulling away from the dock. We had to wait another 30-45 minutes for the next boat, which took us back to where we started, and then finally to the correct island. What an ordeal. I asked if perhaps we were on the wrong lake.

Arriving on the island, there was clearly no castle in sight. Apparently, King Ludwig II liked seclusion. We walked through the canopy of forest, which eventually opened up into a vast garden grounds complete with 3 gigantic fountains. As I looked around, I thought to myself, “This reminds me of Versailles in France.” To my amazement, I ended up finding out that the King was infatuated with everything French, especially Louis XIV, and his castle of Versailles. Ludwig wanted to build an exact replica, and in 1878 that is exactly what he set out to do. The only problem was that he eventually ran out of money. The castle is unfinished, which is why you only see the main portion without the two extra wings like Versailles has.

I thought it was quite amazing how recent the building had begun on this castle. 1878 is not really that long ago. Unfortunately, I was unable to take any pictures inside the castle and the museum, but let me just say that it was unbelievably ornate, with lots of gold leaf everywhere.

One of the best parts of the day was finding out that King Ludwig II was very patriotic, and as a result he really loved Richard Wagner. Wagner’s death mask is held in a small case inside the museum underneath an enlarged playbill for “Tristan und Isolde”. I think we were the only ones from our group to even acknowledge that it was there. Everyone else missed it. Unfortunately there were no pictures allowed inside, so I just have to file it away in my memory.

What an amazing place to visit! And what rich history! Today was a great day. Tomorrow it looks as though we will be hitting the mountains and a Bavarian show in the evening. Before that, I have to get up and play a faux church service at 9:30am. Time to get to sleep. Bye for now!

Greetings from Bavaria

Finally got some rest here in Germany. I think I’m starting to recover from the jet lag. However, it seems to keep coming back now and then. Immediately after we arrived yesterday, I thought I was going to die of exhaustion. I got very little sleep on the flight, and to top things off, it took forever to get everyone together in order to move on to our hotel. We arrived at 7:30am, but we had to wait around until about 1pm before we could go anywhere. The main reason for this was that our tour guides were actually arriving after us. They were not already waiting for us like a professional would be. Anyway, we are here, and things are much better today. The food is good, and the beer is great!

Today we visited the Farmer’s Museum in Amerang. It was really quite interesting because it celebrates 500 years of farming, an amount of time that would be very foreign to even the oldest and most experienced American. It was amazing to find out that 500 years ago, people lived in conditions where in order to heat your house, you needed to light a fire inside the house, but that the materials used to hold the fire were made of wood. Essentially, a wooden fireplace! To keep fires from burning down the house, they coated the wood with mud. On top of all of this, there was no such thing as a chimney, as it had not yet been invented. So you basically walked around inhaling smoke all over the house. It’s a wonder that there are descendants of these people! They must have been very strong!

However, in all of this, as time marched on, technology, however crude, made people’s lives better. That was its goal. And even now I couldn’t say that I would have been brilliant enough to even think of the crude advancements that were made way back then. It took a certain kind of brilliance, which was probably pretty rare then as well.

Overall, it showed me that the point of advancing technology has always been the same: It exists to make our lives easier. And so we should never be afraid of it.

Well, we just got done playing a two-set night, and we have to leave tomorrow at 9:30 to go for a lake cruise and look at castles! Ah Europe! Good night!

Best Concert Ever!!


Well I just got home from the most amazing concert ever! John Williams conducted the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl! What an orchestra, and what a genius! The program was full of fantastic music: Lots of pieces written for the Olympics, since we just finished up with the London 2012 Summer Games. Bugler’s Dream and Olympic Fanfare and Theme opened the concert, after a prelude of The Star Spangled Banner, of course. John Williams also brought out The Olympic Spirit, and later Call of the Champions complete with chorus.

A few other memorable notes were music from War Horse, music from Tin Tin synchronized to film of historic sword-fighting scenes, and guest violinist Gil Shaham playing music from Schindler’s List and Fiddler on the Roof.

But the greatest of all the night was a rare treat celebrating the 30th Anniversary of E.T.! Maestro Williams actually conducted the 15-minute Finale, Adventures on Earth, synchronized to the film!! This made my entire lifetime! I think it is the greatest piece ever written, and I got to see it performed live at my first John Williams concert! Unbelievable!

I can’t believe that he is 80 years old, and that he can still conduct with energy and passion the way that he does. I can only hope that I could aspire to be even one-tenth what he has become! He encored with music from Star Wars, including the Main Titles and the Imperial March. I felt like I was attending a nerd rock concert. There lightsabers and Star Wars t-shirts everywhere you looked!

Back from the Most Amazing Place

Yes, it’s that time again. A very, VERY sad time. Are you sitting down?

Jazz Camp is over…………….

I know. It’s a tragic thing. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to experience this truly unique and inexplicable path into the center of human creativity will tell you that we have no idea how we are going to survive the next 51 weeks of our lives without being able to be around each other. Thank goodness for social media! I am always reminded at this time of how difficult it was to keep in touch with my best friends from camp many years ago, when I was attending as a student. I think I only managed to have one single pen-pal who mattered to me, and to whom I mattered enough to be able to keep in touch on a semi-regular basis. I still keep in touch with her today and refer to her endearingly as my “little sis”. However, in remembrance, it truly is quite amazing that we were able to stay in touch.

I also had local friends that attended the camp, and I managed to see them on a regular basis, so that was helpful. Still, there were also the standout musicians that I got to see about twice a year, and who returned to camp every year until they graduated. I have laughed, sweat, and performed with them many times over the years. It’s never enough!

Currently, there are even more people who continue to enter and leave my life through the wonderful medium that is Jazz Camp…. Even more than before. And the best part is that I never have to lose them subsequently throughout the year. Anyone who has made a lasting impression on me at camp (which pretty much amounts to nearly everyone), including those who have attended only once, will always have a special spot in my heart. Not only that, they will also have a constant spot in my thoughts. I will never have to forget about anyone. I really didn’t know how well the human brain actually works until I experienced the wonder of social media.

Years ago, I would never have had the capacity to keep track of even one-tenth the people of whom I can do so now. It is astounding. In addition, I have been able to reconnect with the camp friends of old. Still, even though this is all in place, it definitely does not lighten the heavy weight on my heart every year when we all–campers, counselors, faculty, and staff alike–part ways again after having spent the most amazing and gratifying week of our lives together. I will never forget the laughing, music-making, breakthroughs, and friendships to which we have all contributed!

Here’s to a great camp, and to a wonderful 51 more weeks to wait. May it be speedy! I can’t wait to see you all again!