Monday, December 30, 2013

2012 and 2013 in review

You're probably wondering why I would combine two years in my (nearly) annual reflective post, but I figured it was appropriate given that I forgot to do such a post at the end of last year.  Anyway, here goes:

2011 was a year of significant change for me.  In addition to some personal happenings near the end of that year, I earned my master's degree from St. Rose, earned tenure at my job in Germantown (tenure, in simple terms, means increased job security due to longevity), moved to the middle of nowhere (Coxsackie, NY, upon which I bestowed many slang names, none of which are fit for print here), and found myself with a level of (relatively) free time and mental energy that I had been lacking, honestly, for most of the 25 extremely busy, non-stop, no-time-to-breathe previous years.

What sticks out in my mind about the last two years is how fortunate I have been, particularly on the musical and theatrical side of things.  Shortly after moving to Coxsackie, I went to an open mic night at the Cask and Rasher (fantastic pub with some of the best Buffalo wings and burgers I've ever had) and met local guitarist, singer, and music personality Phil Massaro.  I've shared the stage with him, and several other great players, many times at the Cask and elsewhere, playing everything from the Beatles, to the Doors, to Zeppelin, and even some Death Cab for Cutie on occasion.  I also sat in on his latest EP playing, of all things, bari sax and trumpet.  Point being, it's a connection I'm glad to have made and I look forward to much more music making with Phil and his "symphony".

Shortly after this began, I got an email at work telling me that a local theatre group was searching for a vocal director and pianist for their upcoming production of Next to Normal (one of my absolute favorite musicals and one of my favorite piano parts to play).  I nearly pooped myself as I responded to the note.  This began an incredible collaboration and friendship with Steve Sanborn and Connie Lopez, the driving forces behind The Two of Us Productions.  To say that my ongoing involvement with them (I've done vocal direction and instrumental work for every one of their musical productions since and including Next to Normal) has been life-changing would be an understatement.  So many of my closest friends and favorite people to do music and theatre with today are people I've met through The Two of Us Productions, and they've even gotten me into doing some straight acting (I participated in a cemetery re-enactment tour a couple months ago).  My involvement with this group is something I know will continue for years to come and I couldn't be luckier or more thankful.

Including and beyond Steve and Connie's shows, I've had a great couple years theatrically.  I was privileged enough to work on such titles as Next to Normal, Songs for a New World, The Last Five Years (TWICE IN ONE YEAR!!!!), and Spamalot, among others.  Wow.  I have no words.  It's been a blast!  And the friendships I've made and strengthened with cast members, pit members, directors, etc. are incredible.  You all know who you are, so I'll save the space of putting every single name down here.

I made a resolution a couple years ago to play out more regularly than I had been, and I am pleased to report that I have succeeded with that resolution.  I've got a website up now ( and FINALLY had some business cards created, and I've been playing at the Century House in Latham pretty regularly.  One gig that sticks out is a late September show at which a handful of people from the Two of Us Productions' "Spamalot" showed up.  I was playing Piano Man and they were signing along.  I stopped at the beginning of the final refrain, and they sang through the stop-time.  It was surreal.  I've also been collaborating a bit more with some great friends from high school on some jazz standards and not-so-standards and am hoping to do some gigging with them in the new year.

I've also been fortunate enough to see some incredible performances over the last couple years and meet some cool people, including perhaps my largest influence as a pianist and music director, Mr. Jason Robert Brown.  I've seen him in concert on a few occasions, and seen several outstanding performances by the New York Philharmonic, the Birdland Big Band, and so many others!  Great live music is downright inspiring and I encourage all of you (even the non-musicians that read this) to see at least one live performance, and hopefully many more, in the new year.  It's well worth the money and it's well worth leaving the comfort of your couch and the ease of going online to see music, to see it in person.  Do it.  You won't regret it.

Another thing worth mentioning......I took a road trip across the country with my good friend Jess this summer and lived to tell the tale.  Without going into too much detail (I could write a post on the trip alone), I'll say that if you haven't seen the country, you should do yourself a favor and do some traveling.  Some highlights were the warm Pacific Ocean and even better New England Clam Chowder (on the Santa Monica pier), the sheer glitziness and opulence that is Las Vegas, the breathtaking scenery along the highways in Arizona, Utah, and Colorado, the hiking in Colorado (particularly the nearly 15,000 foot elevation of Mount Evans and the spectacular view from the top), the diners, drive-ins, and dives along the way, and the music scene in Nashville.  Such a great time!

What else?  I'm in my sixth year as Germantown Central's band director and I've reached the point where I'm in a really solid groove there.  I'm also old, given that some of my first year students have college degrees and can legally drink, and some of my first year elementary students are now in 11th grade and lead players in my sr. high band and jazz band.  I'm living in East Greenbush and sharing the bottom half of an awesome house with one of my cousins.  It's pretty sweet.  I've discovered that the best way to reheat pizza is to put it on the top shelf of a grill while cooking bacon-wrapped filet mignon on the bottom shelf.

What lies ahead?  Well, I'll be....

1.  Hitting the gym on more days than I don't hit the gym.

2.  Vocally directing a production of Les Miserables with The Two of Us Productions in the spring!

3.  Playing out regularly at several different venues, both solo and with different groups of people.  Check regularly for an updated gig calendar.

4.  Updating this blog more regularly; I have several car reviews and restaurant reviews that need to be written, so expect at least one post a week along those lines.

5.  (Hopefully) inspiring the young minds of Germantown, NY both musically and otherwise.

6.  Making some slow but steady progress on a musical project that you'll hear more about in a couple years when it's (hopefully) completed.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Until next time,