Thursday, October 1, 2015

There's Jazz In Them Thar Hills

I just completed a short guest artist residency at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. My stay culminated in a concert of my big band music performed by their Jazz 1 ensemble last night. I shared the conducting duties with their director, Martin Saunders and also played piano on a few selections. In the three days leading up to the concert I gave lectures in jazz arranging and improvisation, in addition to rehearsing their two big bands and top combo.

Conducting the Marshall University Jazz 1 Ensemble (09/30/2015)

Marshall's jazz program is unique and well-poised in that they have three full-time jazz faculty members, and they benefit from a substantial endowment which included the gift of a designated jazz building, complete with a recording studio, plus rehearsal and performance space. There are about twenty undergraduate jazz majors, most of whom appear very open to instruction, and are "hungry" for new information. Many of these students come from remote locales throughout Appalachia, so jazz is a newly aquired passion for them, and they are keen to unlock it's mysteries.

Rehearsing with the MU Jazz 1 ensemble.
Besides the gratifying experience of having my music performed, brief residencies such as this are valuable to me for collecting new pedagogical approaches, as well as gathering administrative and recruiting ideas which I can apply back at home. I gain perspective as I assess the ensemble I am hired to conduct and rehearse, and consider how they compare to my students in Connecticut. Without question these experiences make me a stronger ensemble leader and educator.

Drummer Jesse Nolan
It is equally inspiring to hear about the research interests of professors at other institutions. Marshall's newest faculty hire, percussionist Jesse Nolan brings a lot to the table, with expertise in using new online platforms capable of transforming how information is collected and disseminated. As technologically impaired as I am, he managed to get me excited by the potential a customized version of "MashPlant" could offer organizations such as JEN (the Jazz Education Network). He serves on their Education Committee and has imaginative ideas which could transform the entire organization. Imagine an online destination connecting all the scholarly work of its members, neatly organized and in one place, which allows for collaboration and dialogue, in addition to documenting successful initiatives to demonstrate the effective use of donor's investments. Wow! Sign me up!

It's nice to have reached this point in my career where I can choose to occasionally bounce around the country and work with different ensembles, share the expertise I have to offer, while gaining new insights and ideas which keep me fresh and recharge my batteries.

Here's a glimpse into how I spent the last three days:

the Jomie Jazz Center, Marshall University
9:30am – Depart from hotel
10-11am – Jazz Arranging (JJ114)
12-1pm – Jazz I rehearsal (JJ210)
1-2pm - Lunch
2-3pm – Jazz II rehearsal (JJ210)

9:30am – Depart from hotel
10 - 11, 11 - 12: morning piano lessons
12 – 1pm - Lunch
3:30-4:30pm – Jazz Improv I (JJ210)
6-6:50pm – Jazz Jam Session (JJ210)
7-9:30pm – Extended Jazz I rehearsal (JJ210)

9:30am – Depart from hotel
10-11am – Jazz Arranging (JJ114)
12-1pm – Jazz I dress rehearsal (Smith Recital Hall)
1-2pm – Lunch
2-3pm – Jazz II rehearsal (JJ210)
5:30pm – Sound Check
7:30pm – Jazz I Concert

Reviews of last night's concert appeared in both the Parthenon (Marshall's campus newspaper) and the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, both of which are posted online.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"It's Trumpet or Nothing!"

I always said that when it came time for my kids to choose school band instruments, I would steer them towards the ones where there is a shortage of players, less competition, and scholarship dollars if they were to continue on to study music at the university level (trombone, double reeds, string bass, etc.).  I didn't take into account that my kids would have opinions of their own, not to mention incredibly strong wills.

The local middle school hosted an instrument demonstration evening at which my son declared "It's trumpet or NOTHING, Dad." I pulled him aside and explained how trumpet is a daily commitment. He said, "How much time are we talking, here?" to which I replied, "15-20 minutes at first...every day." He responded, "15 minutes is nothing!!"

So trumpet it is.

I talked to my trumpet-playing buddies about what brand of horns they would recommend, as well as what brands to avoid.  Uniformly they all said to stay clear of Jupiters.  But wouldn't you know it, that's the only brand the local music store had in stock.  The salesman did a good job trying to convince me that the new Jupiter trumpets were superior to anything else on the market... but as I was having an inner debate with myself, my 9-year-old son made one of his typically astute comments:  "Dad, who are you going to believe --- a guy who's trying to sell you his product, or professional trumpet players who actually know what they're talking about?!"  YOWZA!  This kid is wise beyond his years (in some ways)!  He also doesn't hold back.

A friend ended up finding me a nice "gently used" student model Yamaha trumpet on Craig's List.  Here I am giving it a bath:

And here's my little man blowing some notes after his first band class:

Now... to track down the photo of Maynard Ferguson holding him as a baby, backstage at Manchester High School.  Maybe I'll print off a copy and put it inside his case.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Jazz Meets Hollywood Squares

Despite being touted as the exemplification of creative music, jazz could benefit from a new influx of outside-the-box thinkers. To a degree, the problem may stem from how jazz is now taught. Young jazz students are indoctrinated into a mindset of revering and emulating the masters who proceeded them. Oddly those same masters bucked convention in their youth. So, here we are, with a new generation of highly skilled players, well-schooled in the music's past, who are seemingly content to play in the style of their predecessors; and jazz (at least a good-sized chunk of it) remains at a standstill.

Ambrose Akinmusire's band has piqued my curiosity,
but they still need to ditch the suits.

The absence of challenging convention extends way beyond musical vocabulary in jazz. No one seems to be questioning why performing jazz quintets still dress like they are living in the mid-1950s. C'mon folks, let's stir things up; it's 2015 for crying out loud! 

Similarly it is rare to see a university jazz program embracing instrumentations other than big bands and combos (consisting of trumpet, sax, trombone and rhythm section).  Since when is respecting the music's lineage more important than artistic advancement?

Even big band seating configurations have become nonmalleable. Whatever happened to Kenton's "flying V" set-up? Ellington and Basie weren't locked into three rows with the rhythm section to the side for their entire careers.

Sure there are benefits and practicalities in setting up as we do, but with mic-ing and monitors, visually appealing, truly creative staging could be realized, that both compliments and enhances the music (like we see in dramatic art and pop music productions). 

Darcy James Argue needs to be applauded for taking the lead here. His most recent set-up, as documented in the New York Observer, resembles a clock face, with the horns seated around its perimeter.

  Equally stunning is the stage plot for his "Brooklyn Babylon" production. 

 The bar has been raised folks! Just think of the countless possibilities which could be explored!  Off the top of my head, I could envision "going vertical", with a variation of Hollywood Squares.

Hopefully others will follow suit in transforming not only the music, but how it is presented.  I'm tired of the same old, same old.  How about you?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Jazz Showcase

UConn JazzCoordinating a university jazz program is no small task; but it is especially challenging at the onset of a semester. In addition to teaching related duties (like planning course work and writing syllabi), there are ensemble placement auditions and the formation and scheduling of groups. It took lots of time, energy and organization, but I’m pleased to say that all the UConn jazz groups are up and running once again, like a well-oiled machine.

Our fall semester Jazz Showcase Concert is tomorrow night, Thursday, Sept. 24th, from 7 – 9 p.m. at the UConn Co-Op Bookstore in Storrs Center. All the UCONN jazz groups perform an evening of music spanning a wide range of eras, styles and instrumentations - from bebop-infused quintets to big band swing. C’mon down!

Here’s the program:

University of Connecticut Jazz Showcase Concert – Fall 2015
UConn Co-Op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Thursday, Sept. 27th, 2015
7 – 9 p.m.

Jazz Lab Band
Directed by John Mastroianni

Minor Matter..........Lennie Niehaus
Festival..........Rick Stitzel

Alto Sax 1: David Jardim
Alto Sax 2: Rebecca Demaio
Tenor Sax 1: Rich Sadlon
Tenor Sax 2: Sally Kurdziel
Bari Sax: Nick Oliveira
Flute: Haley Hanenbaum
Trumpet 1:Kameryn Larkins
Trumpet 2: Sarah Falkenstine
Trumpet 3: Jeremy Cruz
Trumpet 4: Nathan Kwak
Trombone 1: Liam Evans
Trombone 2: Matt DeNegre
Trombone 3: Akua Frimpong
Bass Tbn: Gregory Bicknell
Piano: Alec McCandless
Bass: Nick Monllos
Drums: Steven McArdle

Combo #2:
Doug Maher, director

I Mean You..........Thelonious Monk
Stella By Starlight..........Victor Young

Grant Eagleson - trumpet
Kevin Duffy – tenor sax
David Caffrey - guitar
James Duffy – bass
Michael O’Callaghan - drums

Earl MacDonald, director

No Moe..........Sonny Rollins
St. Thomas..........Sonny Rollins

Michael O’Callaghan – trumpet
Andrew Wynsen – piano
Nate Giordano – string bass
Earl MacDonald - drums

Combo #3:
Doug Maher, director

Darn That Dream..........Jimmy Van Heusen and lyrics by Eddie DeLange
Au Privave..........Charlie Parker

Jeremy Cruz - trumpet
Patrick Pierce – alto sax
Danny Cioffari - guitar
Alexandria Bodick – string bass
Steven McArdle - drums

UConn Jazz 10tet
Earl MacDonald, director

Sordid Sort of Fellow..........Earl MacDonald
Miles Apart..........Earl MacDonald
Smoke and Mirrors..........Earl MacDonald

Adam Harris – alto saxophone
Charles Salley – tenor sax
Kevin Duffy – bari sax
Grant Eagleson – trumpet 1
Michael O’Callaghan – trumpet 2
Alex Gertner – French horn
Liam Reynolds – trombone
Andrew Wynsen – piano

Combo #1:
Gregg August, director

Moose the Mooche..........Charlie Parker
Cheryl..........Charlie Parker
Lover Man..........Jimmy Davis, Roger Ramirez & James Sherman.
Confirmation..........Charlie Parker

Michael O’Callaghan - trumpet
Adam Harris – alto saxophone
Patrick Adams - guitar
Andrew Wynsen - piano
Nathan Giordano – string bass
William Trautmann – drum set

--- jam session to follow ---

Friday, June 26, 2015

Jim McNeely's BMI Summer Showcase Concert Remarks

I alluded to the seeming demise of the BMI Jazz Composers' Workshop in my last post.  Since then, there have been several "developments".  Deanna Witkowski and Miggy Miyajima had a 45-minute sit down meeting with Charlie Feldman and Pat Cook at BMI, during which they gave them a printed out copy of the petition with its 1000+ signatures.  This resulted in:

1. The band and its personnel staying intact.
2. The focus of the workshop - at least for the next two years, if not longer - remaining as it currently is, on writing for large jazz ensemble.

Pat Cook has given a tentative date of June 30 for announcing a new MD.  I'll go out on a limb and express my hope that it is no one affiliated with Jazz at Lincoln Center --- especially the self-appointed jazz spokesperson, Wynton Marsalis. (Trust me, I didn't vote for him and neither did any of my esteemed colleagues around the country.)

On Thursday of this week, the BMI Jazz Composer's Workshop had it's final summer showcase concert of the Brookmeyer/Albam/McNeely/Abene/Holober era.  Jim McNeely, who is stepping down as the workshop's director, delivered the following remarks, which are posted with his permission:
Every year I’ve stood up here and talked about the state of the workshop, and here I am again, for the last time. This past year has been typical—we’ve had 27 members in the two groups. We’ve looked at probably 50-60 pieces for big band that were at least started, if not all finished. Members commute from Philadelphia, Maryland, and Boston. There are members who originally come from Japan, Israel, Holland, Colombia, and Uruguay. And, of course, we always have members from Canada (it would be interesting one day to document the impact that Canadian composers have had on the workshop). The reputation of the workshop is, indeed, international. 
It all started in 1988. BMI’s Burt Korall approached Bob Brookmeyer about forming a jazz composition workshop, to be funded by the BMI Foundation. Although Bob had written for many sizes of ensembles, in the ‘80’s he was essentially re-defining the way that a lot of us thought about big band composition. So the decision was made to keep that the focus. They also asked Manny Albam to come in as a second musical director. They all approached BMI’s Robbin Ahrold, at the time the VP for Corporate Relations. He was all for it, as was BMI CEO Frances Preston. So the groundwork was laid and the workshop began. It was designed to be a non-academic institution. Bob was quoted as saying he wanted an alternative to the current system of students being “taught by teachers, who were taught by teachers, who were taught by teachers.” He wanted the composers to be active professional musicians, taught by active professional composer/arrangers. 
Three years later Bob decided to move to Holland, and he proposed that I come in as associate musical director. Back then I was well-known as a big band composer in Germany, but not much in the U.S., so Burt also brought in Roger Kellaway. Roger’s mother-in-law, in Los Angeles, got quite sick, so after one year Roger and his wife moved out west. After that it was Manny and I. We brought in Michael Abene as a third director when I became chief conductor of the Danish Radio Big Band in 1998. When Mike became chief conductor of the WDR Big Band (Cologne) we brought in Mike Holober, who has been Associate M. D. for eight years now. I’ve learned so much from all of these people, especially Manny, who became kind of a mentor. I benefitted from not only his immense knowledge of orchestration and harmony, but also his sense of history, giving me a sense of what it was like to be staff arranger for Charlie Barnett (3 arrangements a week), or writing arrangements for countless big band recordings in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. 
In all of these years I’ve seen several big developments: 
• The change from pencil & paper to computer notation. When I entered the workshop in 1991, virtually all scores were done in pencil, on conventional score paper. If you get stressed out now, the night before a reading session, because your printer is having issues, imagine what it was like back then (the Dark Ages, I know!) when you had to copy out all your parts by hand! After a couple of years there’d be an occasional piece done in Finale, or Encore, or Music Printer Plus. They looked terrible, printed on a daisy-wheel printer. We used to say, “Who’d want to read this stuff? Who’d even be able to read it?” As time went on the software and printer technology improved by leaps and bounds, and composers started to really learn how to use the programs. Now virtually everything that comes into the workshop is done on computer, although many of the members still use pencil and paper for the initial sketches (as do I). The computer has its upside and downside, to be sure. But it is a fact of modern life.
• The growth of the B group into a force unto itself. In my early days the level of the B group was quite low, relative to the experienced writers in the A group. Around seven years into my tenure the B group started to really improve. I had the sense that the raw creative spirit of some of the “B’s” was high, sometimes more so than some of the “A’s”, who might have had better big band craft but not as interesting ideas. The improvement in the B group coincides, not surprisingly, with… 
• The evolution of the reading session from an occasional, “special” event, to a regular A group event, to an alternating A-B event. When the reading sessions became a regular monthly event, composers had something concrete to work toward. In the beginning they were A group events, with one or two B readings thrown in. But as time went on we alternated the groups, A-B-A-B-A-B-A-B-A. This gave the B members a lot more feedback for their music; it also increased their motivation to write. The reading sessions also gave the band a chance to see potential concert pieces well in advance of the concert rehearsals. This was a huge improvement. (I remember in my early years we would program 12 pieces on the concert, and the band wouldn’t see them until the actual concert rehearsals. Chaos!) We finally made it workshop policy that the concert would contain at least one B group composer. In the last few years the concert has regularly featured two or three B composers. And the increase in reading session activity helped to fuel…
• The growth of the BMI/NY Jazz Orchestra—a dream of Burt Korall’s, who wanted to establish a big band in residence to work with the composers—into a real band. Along with the musical directors and the composers, they have become the third member of the workshop trinity. I do a lot of work with European radio bands, where the challenge for the players is to figure out their identity—their “character”—from project to project. In the BMI band the challenge is the same, but from piece to piece, due to the wide diversity of the music. Most of the players in tonight’s band have been doing the readings and concerts for many years. John Eckert was at the first-ever reading, and has played almost every one since. Rob Middleton has been playing tenor sax in the band since 1994.  Several of the band members are former composer members: Tim Sessions, J.C. Sanford, Rob Middleton, Pete McGuinness, and Deanna Witkowski. And a couple of the players-- Rob Middleton and J.C. Sanford--are large ensemble leaders in their own right.
• In the spirit of jazz since Jelly Roll Morton and Dizzy Gillespie, the influences of non-jazz elements. These days these elements are minimalism, many different genres of World Music, and Indie—Electro—Dance—EDM whatever-you-call-it things like Dubstep, etc. At the age of 66, one of the reasons I love teaching is that it regularly puts me in contact with people 40-50 years younger than me, and the different music they listen to. I don’t like all of it, but it’s fascinating to learn about. 
Now, at the end of my tenure in the workshop, I’ve had time to reflect on what Bob and Manny started; and what we’ve been able to continue. And, honestly, I’m a bit overwhelmed. 
I’ve worked with, probably, two hundred composers, with so many different results. There are many who formed their own rehearsal bands; got gigs with their bands; recorded CD’s. In the last few years the “Size Matters” series of big band performances at the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn, curated by J.C. Sanford, became the de facto performance arm of the workshop. The majority of composer/bandleaders showcased there were former or current BMI Workshop members. And for a few people the workshop was a game-changer—it set them along a new path for their musical life. The important thing was that so many people got so excited about composing for large ensemble that they would devote time, energy, passion, and sometimes money to starting their own venture.  I hope that they all learned something about jazz composition. But, more importantly, something about themselves. You can do this. Composition has an aura about it; but it isn’t necessarily some magical, obscure process. It takes belief in yourself and your ideas, the courage to put those ideas on paper, the opportunity to hear those ideas played, and then a brutally honest assessment of the outcome. Then you repeat that process—again, again, and again. I’ve been writing for big band since high school—50 years.  Over and over. And I still feel like I’ve just scratched the surface.
In the workshop our aim was not to tell people what or how to write; it was to inspire them to find their own voice and let it grow; to ask questions of themselves—and if they didn’t ask them, I would ask them. To accept that their musical ideas are valid, worth pursuing because they are theirs; not better, or worse, than someone else’s; to not judge an idea, but develop it; to not accept an idea merely at face value but work with it.  Also learn to tell a story—develop the plot, the story line. Your ideas become characters in the play; the musicians, the actors. When we were little children we were entranced when someone would tell us a story. And we are still like that. We all want to hear a good story. 
As listeners we want to be excited. Sometimes we want to be challenged; other times comforted and soothed. We want to be moved. We want to groove. These are all crucial aspects of composition that have little to do with chord voicings and scales. But they represent the human aspect of music. We can’t ever lose sight of that. 
So at the end of my run, I must thank a number of people: 
• First, the three godfathers of the workshop—they’re all gone now: Bob Brookmeyer, Manny Albam, and Burt Korall.
• Robbin Ahrold
• My fellow musical directors: Roger Kellaway, Mike Abene and Mike Holober.
• Raette Johnson, who was Robbin’s assistant. After Robbin retired from BMI she became the go-to person for logistical and financial affairs. She always supported us, and was always a joy to work with.
• The BMI Foundation, for supporting the workshop for 27 years.
I give special thanks to:
• J.C. Sanford. For years he has been the band’s contractor, always putting together a great band for the readings and the concerts. And so many times when a player had to bail from a reading session 3 hours before it starts, J.C. always could scramble and get a very last-minute replacement.
• The band. Not just for working so hard and supporting the workshop; but also for the feedback they’ve given the composers on issues like notation, orchestration and conducting. One of the principal ways a composer learns about those things is hearing comments from players. And the members of the BMI band have always done that in a positive, constructive way.
• Deanna Witkowski. She is, first of all, a marvelous musician, the band’s pianist. But of late she has functioned in another important way. In the aftermath of my resigning, there has been, let’s say, “a bit of turmoil” regarding the future of the workshop. I was, frankly, stunned at the outpouring of emotion, ranging from nostalgia to concern to great anger. Deanna, with the help of Migiwa Miyajima and Erica Seguine, was able to channel all of these feelings into a positive force, meeting with BMI executives to talk about and ensure that the big band format remain in the future of the workshop. 
And I’d like to give a Very Special Thanks to Mike Holober. He’s been my official colleague in the workshop for eight years. I’ve known Mike since he was a grad student at NYU in 1983. We’re also colleagues in a few other areas, notably Manhattan School of Music and The Frankfurt Radio Big Band. He is a great musician—composer, arranger, conductor, and pianist. And his help, knowledge, point of view, and input have been immeasurable. I can’t imagine having done the last eight years without him. 
When I first came into the workshop I saw what it wasn’t, but wasn’t quite sure what it really was. As time went on I came to regard it as a meeting place—where jazz composers could get away from their solitary existence—meet like-minded individuals—present what they were working on, and hear about what their colleagues were working on. Hear their music at reading sessions, and present their best efforts in a yearly concert.  This definition worked for me for many years. But in the last few weeks I’ve come to realize that the workshop is even more than that. The workshop is THIS. TONIGHT. The synergy of so many elements: the composers; the band; the musical directors; and you, the audience—current and former members—spouses and significant others, who all know the feeling of seeing their loved one disappearing down the compositional rabbit hole for hours at a time, wondering if they’ll ever see them again! And fans of the workshop; I see people out here tonight who have never been members, but have come to every summer concert as long as I can remember, to hear what we’ve been doing. And the judges, both from tonight and past concerts. You are all part of this; we have all come together over the last 27 years, to form tonight’s version of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop.
It is my fervent hope that, wherever the workshop goes in the future, this spirit, energy and synergy that we have created will not just survive, but grow and flourish. As Billy Strayhorn put it: “Ever up and onward!” 
Jim McNeely

Sunday, May 31, 2015

BMI: Disregarding A Legacy

The following letter comes from Deanna Witkowski, the pianist in the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra. I urge you to sign the petition she has initiated following BMI's decision to abandon the Jazz Workshop's current structure, thereby disregarding the legacy established by Bob Brookmeyer, Manny Albam, Roger Kellaway, Mike Abene, Jim McNeely and Mike Holober.

 Bob Brookmeyer, co-founder of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop

Dissolving the professional big band which read the new works by the hand-picked, professional participants, is nothing short of deplorable. 
It has come to our attention as current band members of the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra that there are core components of the current configuration of the workshop that are about to be dropped (namely, the professional jazz orchestra). Many of us have performed in the orchestra for over a decade; some have been here since the workshop's inception in 1988. Many of us are not only performers: we are composers who have participated as writers in the workshop. Furthermore, some of us are BMI-affiliated writers and publishers.

All of us are aware of the one-of-a-kind experience that the workshop affords us as a community-- most keenly, to the composers who are able to study big band writing free of charge with the most respected large ensemble composers writing today. Many of the workshop composers have gone on to receive significant awards and accolades and credit the workshop as a key part of their development. As band members, our monthly playing in and of itself provides a sounding board for composers to hear what works and what doesn't. Both the composers and the performers are vital parts of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop.

To be a longtime affiliate or supporter of a performing rights organization- one whose mission is to serve composers not only by collecting royalties but by providing opportunities for their musical development (and, in turn, providing performance opportunities for performers)- and to be a longtime member of the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra, where we provide services mostly free of charge for the entire year- is a commitment that all of us take extremely seriously.

To come to a final reading session and to not be met by BMI's director of jazz, or, frankly, anyone on senior management and then to be told that the professional reading band will not be used after next month's concert does not show any of us the same respect that we have faithfully given to BMI.

We ask that Patrick Cook mee t with the current workshop composers and band members to discuss his vision that seems to disregard the vibrant community of jazz composers and performers that have, in conjunction with the legacy of artistic directors including Bob Brookmeyer, Manny Album, Jim McNeely, and Mike Holober, made BMI attractive as a creative home for jazz musicians.

Finally, we realize that the dissolution of the jazz workshop as it has been known for the past 26 years does not merely affect us as current band members and composers: we realize that it affects those composers coming after us who are losing the opportunity to learn this idiom in this environment, and it affects the public who will have fewer opportunities to experience progressive big band music. 
That's why I signed a petition to Patrick Cook, Director of BMI Musical Theatre and Jazz, Charlie Feldman, VP, BMI Writer/Publisher Relations, New York, and Michael O'Neill, CEO, BMI, which says: 
"We urge BMI's senior management to seriously consider the legacy and the uniqueness of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop as they plan for the workshop's future. We also ask that Patrick Cook meet with the workshop composers and band members in person to explain his vision that does not include the professional big band that has been an integral part of the workshop since 1988."

Will you sign the petition too? Click here to add your name:
Deanna Witkowski 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Weekend Itinerary

Back in the day when I was out touring with Maynard Ferguson, a daily itinerary was slipped under my hotel room door each morning.  Ed Sargent was a marvelously organized tour manager who made our lives trouble-free.  My only concern during that period of time was making sure I was on the bus punctually; he took care of the rest. I spent my days transcribing, listening to, and thinking about music.  That's it.

This morning I received a slightly different itinerary from my 6-year-old daughter:

If you're having trouble interpreting some of those phonetically spelled words, here's a translation:  
  1. go swimming
  2. go to the (UConn) Dairy Bar. Eat a lot of ice cream.
  3. go have a picnic
  4. watch TV, with popcorn
  5. cuddle
  6. go (out) for dinner
  7. eat junk food
It looks like a plan!
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