Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pittsburgh: Final Thoughts

After completing my first position at a major orchestra, I have a few thoughts about my time at the Pittsburgh Symphony:

1.) While a large orchestra has vast amounts of resources in terms of people and money, it is hard to create change without destroying a history of internal culture and sacrificing many talented staff members.

2.) It is perfectly acceptable to be interesting in things you know nothing about. By the end, you may just end up learning a few things.

3.) Make concerts exciting to attend, especially new works. Educate your audience.
Know before you go!

4.) Subscriptions, while providing stable income, should not be the main revenue source. Current audiences need flexibility and choice.

5.) Great music is made by great people, both onstage and off.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

One step closer

Today I completed another portion of my journey to complete my research paper. After spending several hours of my weekends here in Pittsburgh at the Carnegie Mellon Library, I finally have over 17 years of orchestra hiring history recorded. While I am not comfortable sharing the raw data yet, I can be comfortable saying my original estimations are holding true. I am thrilled at every new year of data I input and then map out. Hopefully I complete the data collection by March and have everything ready for publication by June.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Pittsburgh Symphony Orcherstra - Concert No. 8

Every conductor knows the legend of Leonard Bernstein's debut on the New York Philharmonic podium to take over for Bruno Walter. It make him an overnight sensation, and cover conductors now dream of the opportunity to one day repeat in the footsteps of history.

Leonard Slatkin, while having the same name as Maestro Bernstein, did not have no rehearsal time before being required to cover for the orchestra. Slatkin was stepping for Sir Andrew Davis on a month's notice, and came prepared to conduct a perfectly designed program.

John Corigliano's Phantasmagoria on "The Ghosts of Versailles” for Orchestra matched well with Mozart's final symphony. Corigliano's opera finds its material in the classical age, in which Mozart flourished. In between Anne Martindale Williams, the PSO's Principal Cellist, performed Elgar's poignant Cello Concerto. This work truly speaks with a human voice, the cello singing the sorrows of a country devastated by war. Elgar's last major work is truly one of his greatest.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra - Concert No. 7

As a singer, it is a real treat to hear a vocal work on an orchestra program being performed by one of the great voices of our time. Dawn Upshaw, known for her work with 20th century repertoire, has been a favorite of mine since I got into the performance business. Ms. Shaw performed Luciano Berio's "Folksongs," a collection of eleven folks songs from nine countries. A set of love notes to his wife, Berio takes these classic tunes and applies his distinct character to them, making each one distinct with an original voicing in the orchestra. While Ms. Shaw's voice was occasionally swallowed by the orchestra, I enjoyed the acoustic sound of her voice filling the hall, as a representation of one of the last temples devoted to unaltered sound.

The closing piece was "Roman Festivals" by Ottorino Respighi. The final of in his trilogy of works based on Roman themes, I had never heard this work performed live before. The amazing brass of the Pittsburgh Symphony blew full life and color into the melody describing the circus games. Maestro Noseda left no musical stone unturned, unleashing the full force of the symphony onto Heinz Hall, and it was met with great acclaim.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Cleveland Visit

With one of the great American orchestras right up the road, I decided to take advantage of the proximity and travel to Cleveland for a day.

The staff was extremely inviting and accommodating. After a tour of Severance Hall, I made rounds to all of the different departments. Everyone was very open about their policies and management styles, along with being very frank about the future of The Cleveland Orchestra.

In the evening, I attending my first concert of the orchestra in their home, and I was absolutely stunned. James Conlon steadily guided the musicians in a powerful rendition of Debussy's La Mer.
I have always loved the stirring theme in the horns, that lifts like waves crashing onto the sandy shore.

Jonathan Biss performed Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in his Cleveland debut. This piece is haunting me throughout my Fellowship year, with it being played in or around every one of my host orchestras. Yet this opportunity was great to get to compare the differences in the sounds of Cleveland and Pittsburgh. I was able to definitely discern a difference in sound, so I know my listening skills have improved through my intensive listening exercises.

I went to Cleveland hoping to gain insight into how another orchestra functions, and I came away with a great deal of perspective to take with me through the rest of my Fellowship year.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I took the holiday off to travel down to Atlanta and visit friends from my time in Cincinnati. It was good to reconnect with my old friends. I was quite sad to miss the weekend's performance of the full ballet score of Stravinsky's The Firebird.

No concert update for this week, but I did listen to Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust. One day I want to program for a symphony performance.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Update on my research

It has been a long time since I have talked about my what I have been doing to acquire the data for my expanded paper.

This fall I was able to get access to all of the enrollment and graduation reports beginning at the 1981-82 school year. After inputting all of the data into an Excel spreadsheet, I graphed out 25 years of information.

Yesterday I was able to access the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh archives. They contain, among other things, a huge collection of "International Musician" mircrofilms. I spent 3 hours inputting the 1980-81 and 1981-82 information. They have the magazine on microfilm up to 1997, so it should take me another 12 hours to fill in the gaps of what I currently have recorded.

It is too soon to make any conclusions, but I hope to be able to start writing after the first of the year. If only I had a free weekend...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra - Concert No. 5 & 6

These back-to-back concerts were linked together in order to finish a cycle of recordings of all four Brahms symphonies. The first two were recording at the end of last season and the final two were set to be finished in order to have the set relaxed next spring.

The first concert opened with one of my favorite symphonies of all time, Brahms 3rd. Every time I hear the piece, I imagine myself on a journey through the German country side. The first movement is the sights and sounds of the forest greeting me as I enter them and follow the path into the center. The second movement is a stream in the woods, moving amongst the roots of the forest's trees. The third is reminiscent of dusk settling, the sun dipping and the shadows crossing each other as the mood darkens. Night arrives in the fourth movement and the music portrays the sound of the stars and moon appearing in the sky to light the path home. I was very mindful to suppress any urge to mock conduct, which was hard since I know the piece very intimately.

The second concert was capped with Brahm's stunning 4th Symphony. From the beginning theme introduced in soaring strings, it was one passionate minute after another. The theme grew and fell, repeated, mutate and hung in the air in Heinz Hall. I really cannot tell you how good it was because I was so enraptured in the piece I was caught of guard at the conclusion. Stunned silence after 40 minutes of pleasure. I love those moments when I get caught in the music. It is why I am in this field.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What music do you listen to?

Every music major dreads this general get-to-know-you question. Our passion is music, our lives are saturated in the element. Asking to name your favorite piece is akin to asking a doctor what is their favorite muscle or bone.

I wanted to walk through how I obtained my own musical tastes. These were given to me through interactions with good friends and experiences with organizations I have worked with.

National Public Radio ( 90.7 WAUS - Andrews University )
Brahms - Symphony No. 3
Listening to the music in between the crackling on my old FM radio after dark, I began my love of classical music, and Brahms in particular.

My Mom ( Best of J. S. Bach tape )
Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
I wore out the tape listening to the first movement of this piece and it is still one of my favorites to this day.

Brian Lane ( High School Choir Director )
Schubert - Ave Maria
My first voice teacher provided me with an introduction and appreciation for the art song genre.

Dr. Johnny Poon ( College Choir Director )
Orff - Carmina Burana
My first year at Evansville I was a part of this classical masterwork, and it was thrilling and just got me hooked on oratorios.

Dr. Robert Jordan ( Music History Professor )
Reich - City Life
This was just one in a set of required pieces to know for our listening exam, and I was hooked with the novelty of the work and the addictiveness of the sounds.

Miranda Meadows ( Friend and Cellist )
Beethoven - String Quartets
She gave me exposure to this form of chamber music, which has quickly become my favorite combination.

Jessica Powell ( Roommate and Double Bassist )
Any Atonal, Serialist or post-1960s music
My standard reply regarding my opinion on any 20th century music was "It's interesting." Jessica kept giving me more and more music to experience. Now one of my favorite genres is 20th century music, such as Berg and Adams.

Jason Mraz ( Roommate and Percussionist )
Mahler - Symphony No. 5
I had only know of Mahler through various sound bytes. Jason introduced me to the full power of his works and Mahler has become one of my most listened to composers.

Julia Starr ( Friend and Bassoonist )
Shostakovitch - Symphony No. 10
The piece was on my first listening exam for my graduate music history course. Julia helped me to study it in Russian context (aka with vodka).

Elizabeth Fleming ( Friend and Hornist )
Strauss - A Hero's Life ( Ein Heldenleben )
It could only be a horn to encourage me to embrace Strauss's music.

Cincinnati Ballet/Leigh Lijoi ( 1st Job )
Any Ballet Score
I can now understand the connection between dance and music, having worked for a ballet company. I now want to see the all ballet's I have only just heard.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mid-Term in Pittsburgh

I really cannot believe is has been eight weeks since I began my assignment in Pittsburgh. From day one it has been a workaholics dream, with meetings and projects and people to occupy every 40 hour work week, and then some.

Since I have just completed my mid-term assessment, for the program, I wanted to pass along my thoughts to everyone. This whole year is focused around me developing the skills required to lead a symphony orchestra. After attending graduate school for arts management and working in the field for two years, the basic principles of the industry are innate. Now is the time for me to develop my own set of ideals and strategies when I am called upon to lead.

Here is just a few short things I have learned:

1.) I miss cooking. I miss the creativity it provided me.

2.) I enjoy face to face communication and seek to have a personal connection with everyone.

3.) I am working on balancing being an active and passive participant in meetings. Speaking up has always been difficult for me, so by confronting it I hope to conquer it.

4.) I am only leading one group project at Pittsburgh. While it mostly boils down to a coordination of efforts, I am making strides in developing my personal leadership style.

5.) Bob Moir, Vice President of Artistic Planning worked with me to create a huge list orchestral repertoire. I have already begun to work my way through it, familiarizing myself with these essential pieces of the genre. I am planning on posting what I have completed soon with my thoughts on the works.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra - Concert No. 3

I have a confession to make. I am not a huge Sibelius fan.

Alright, let me quantify that statement. I am not a huge Sibelius violin fan.

I know that you are saying. Brandon, Sibelius wanted to play violin professionally. He suffered long and hard working towards being a great player, wrote one of the most popular violin concertos of all time and you are just blowing it off.

Yes. Every time I heard the violin concerto previously, it induced in me a serious case of yawns and made my eyes droopy and sleep filled. I believe it was the organicness of Sibelius's music. The growth of the theme and the washing of it from one tonal section to another seamlessly, whilst beautiful, was unable to keep my attention. Until this weekend. Nikolaj Znaider was amazing, drawing me into his warm tone and fresh bowing that kept any sign of slumber off my mind. I do not remember much else past the music, having suspended all disbelief that I was anywhere but wrapped up in the dulcet tones. An absolutely breathtaking performance of the concerto, which caused me to get home and listen to it again, along with more of Sibelius's compositions. He was such a stunning composer, lyrical and ethereal, with everything he wrote sounds so organic because it just moves without you having to do much other than enjoy it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra - Concert No. 2

Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 is an interesting piece of music. Totally ingrained in our culture, it is the theme all of Western civilization connects with the classical music genre. The first four notes, the infamous four notes, are worked and reworked throughout the first section of the piece, showing just how much something can be created out of so little. I have often pondered if Beethoven lost a bet while in the composition of this work, being the loser in a game of "Compose that Song" and he said he could create a work using just 4 notes.

Every time I listen to the piece, I get excited. Yes, it is on the all-time Top 5 pieces of the genre, but it does not meant the work is not exciting. The Pittsburgh Symphony was able to convey an energy to it that is often lacking. Every movement of the theme around the different sections of the orchestra had my eyes following in step right behind my ears. I know the work well, one of the few pieces I can make the claim, but this performance made me forget about the score and live in the moment.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra - Concert No. 1

My first introduction to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Classical Concert series began with an empty stage. This really was not an anomaly, but the opening of John Corigliano's Promenade Overture. In a reversal of Hadyn's Farewell Symphony, Corigliano begins the piece with a retrograde of the last few bars of Hadyn's work and then the musicians begin to trickle onto the stage. Flutes and horns march on, playing the theme while the cellos and violas lumber in, playing as they go. The final note is played by a sprinting tuba player, who missed the introduction and reached the stage just in time.

Tchaikovsky's 1st Piano Concerto, originally thought to be oafish and unplayable, was the only disappointment to an exciting program. The work should have been full of thunder, but it was played with boasting pomp and heavy handedness. It began to lag from the first few bars and compounded upon itself to add 9 extra minutes to the work.

Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique ended the opening weekend program. Berlioz's lush music was at home in the voices of the instruments of the Pittsburgh Symphony, with the only jarring sounds being from the baseball fireworks adding to the pastoral scene. The large bronze bells which hid stage right all week were finally struck, echoing the dies irea throughout the sold out hall. Such a splendid way to kick off a season.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Back to work, finally!

For the last two weeks, I have been a shadow to the senior staff members in the various departments at the Pittsburgh Symphony. The objective was to both see how the senior members of the management team operates on a day to day basis and begin to draw a picture of how the organization functions. While most of the days were spent in meetings, I did get to have precious one-on-one time with each of them to discuss their career paths, career philosophy, my background and how to create my own path to learning during my time in Pittsburgh.

Last weekend was the Pittsburgh Symphony Gala. A star-studded evening, billed as Four Singular Sensations. As a rule of thumb, it is unwise to bill a number in a title, because almost always one or more of them will be unable to show up. First, the original tenor bailed because he wanted to rest. A poor excuse if you ask me, but it is his career that sidelining. Then, Kristin Chenoweth fell down some stairs in her home, resulting in a concussion and broken ribs. Since the Gala would not really function without any vocalists, the PSO replaced the tenor with an "up and coming" one and Kristin with the famous Bernadette Peters. It turned out to be an amazing show with these "substitute" sensations. And I got to meet Miss Peters. There are certain perks to my job that I can admit to enjoying.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Welcome Maestro Honeck! and that fellow guy

Since it was my first day as a Fellow with the Pittsburgh Symphony, one would think that I would be the focus of the staff's attention. Special meals, numerous introductions and tours of the building would be followed with bundles of brochures, magnets and CDs.

But, that was not the case. My first day happened to coincide with the arrival of the new music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Manfred Honeck. He was visiting from his home in Vienna to meet the staff and get a sense of the people behind the organization. I thought it was an extremely bold move for a European conductor to spend a week of his own time to learn about how an American orchestra develops audience and raises supplemental funds. At the end of the week, Honeck surprised the classical preview concert audience with performance of a waltz by Strauss. The audience went crazy at that moment, not even knowing that backstage there was a manager-in-training closely observing the operational aspects of a major symphony orchestra.

Well, maybe I'll be noticed tomorrow, when I being shadowing the senior staff. One cannot miss a 6 foot man in black suit sitting in the back of the room asking random questions.... can they?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Aspen Conclusion

This Aspen season was concluded in a thunderous hail of notes that could only be the infamous classical-pop crossover (read tired) that is Carl Orff's Carmina Burana.

But, overall, I would have to say that my time spend at the Aspen Music Festival was a success. The artistic envelope was being pushed from the first day, with the performance of John Coriglano's Symphony No. 3 "Circus Maximus." Now if this piece is unfamiliar to you, let me share with you a part of the score:

“A 12-gauge shotgun is required. It should fire a full load/black powder “popper” made by Winchester. Smokeless gun powder charges are an acceptable alternative, but the black powder is louder and throws a much larger flame from the barrel. Because of safety/insurance issues, a licensed pyro-technician may need to be hired to fire the gun shot instead of having a percussionist do so.”

Yes folks, this piece, which is undoubtedly the loudest classical music composition I have ever heard, requires the use of a shotgun to complete the piece. Just watching the piece come together, combining all of the winds and brass in the Festival into a main ensemble, jazz band, surround band and marching band. I encourage you get yourself to a performance. You won't be disappointed.

Over the 13 weeks, I developed a solid knowledge of orchestra operations. I had my own personal failings, which dug deep into my core. Yet, I overcame my feelings of organizational inadequacy by constantly reminding of myself that I am doing this for the musicians, despite their feelings and attitudes towards me.

I was most sad to leave behind all of my fellow Fellows. If I ever had a bad day, I could always count on them to listen to my problems and offer solutions. Pittsburgh will be lonely without them.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sinfonia Concert No. 5

Stravinsky - Scherzo fantastique

The Aspen Music Festival had developed the idea of a mini-festival, a week long celebration of a selected composer with at least one work feature on every concert. Igor Stravinsky was selected for this mini-festival, so a lot of his early and rarely played works were highlighted. For our concluding concert the third piece he every published was programmed... and it was hard. Featuring 3 harps to drive the melody line of the piece, it was fast, rhythmic and proved to be a good challenge for the orchestra, though I could not really see how it fit in with the rest of Sinfonia's program.

Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 4

John O'Conor, Aspen Faculty member, performed this concerto with Sinfonia. While not as popular as concerto's No. 3 and 5, it has a unique quality that always draws me to it. The beginning alone had a precedent that other Romantic concerto would follow - having the piano introduction proceed the orchestral one. The orchestra deftly followed the soloists fingers as they played their way across the lovely slow movement and into the stunning finale.

Mahler - Symphony No. 4

While the performance was stunning and powerful, it was the adventure leading up to show day that was most exciting to watch. Mahler's Fourth Symphony is known for the sleigh bells that introduce the work. On the first day of rehearsal, our principal percussionist was double-booked and unable to make it our rehearsal. Unfortunately, this also meant that she had the sleigh bells. When Peter Oundjian, Principal Guest Conductor of the Detroit Symphony, dropped the first downbeat of rehearsal, the hall was filled with the familiar sounds of the flute introduction, but there was no cling-cling of sleigh bells. After confirming that we had no bells, I suggested to the percussionist to improvise. Maestro Oundjian repeated his opening downbeat, and he was now greeted with the semi-familiar sound of bells. Maestro Oundjian started laughing and the orchestra turned around to see the source. The percussionist was standing in the back of the orchestra, knocking out the beat on a tambourine.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sinfonia Concert No. 4

Mozart - Symphony No. 39

I am partially ashamed to admit it, but it is the truth that I am not that familiar with the body of works by Mozart. Of course I know the operas, the overtures, the horn concertos, the massive body of piano concertos and sonatas and his final symphony, but I have not studied them well, dissected them and made their themes as familiar to me as those of Brahms. It is not that I find Mozart terribly boring, but the compositional style of the Classical period is just not as inviting to my ear as those of the Romantic or 20th Century styles. But, this is the industry I have chosen to work in, and to be successful I must grow my knowledge base.

This symphony, one of his last, is a unique compositional gem. Writing for strings, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and timpani, Mozart leaves out the tender voice of the oboe. But the rest of the orchestra makes up for the lost instrument by writing very energetically and melodically.

A Selection of American Arias

This concert also featured four soloists from the Aspen Opera Theatre Centre. One song was by William Bolcom and three by Kurt Weill, two from his musical Street Scene. It was really great to get to work with vocalists again. Backstage, it was enjoyable to laugh and talk "voice shop."

Mendelssohn - Symphony No. 4 "Italian"

One of the pillars of the modern symphonic repertoire, this symphony's melodies are a joy to hear. It was exciting to watch the members of Sinfonia dig their teeth (and bow arms) into this piece, and sharing their energy with the audience.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sinfonia Concert No. 3

Jorge Villavicencio Grossman - Pasiphae

This 21st century composition used the language of soundscapes. Based on the composer's interpretation of a Jackson Pollack painting, I was at first unimpressed with the piece, its rhythmic language being simple when compare with the building chords and dynamics. But, as it was ground into my skull through repetitious rehearsals, I finally came to enjoy it, in at least a passive sense. Yet I will never consider it a masterwork.

Ralph Vaughn Williams - The Lark Ascending

This sonorous piece for solo violin is perhaps one of the most hauntingly beautiful in the entire repertoire. Every time I listen to the violin, my mind just floats away, just like the lark of the title taking flight. Adele Anthony played the part of the graceful bird, winding her way up in the sky, propelled by the movements of the string orchestra.

Edvard Grieg - Orchestra Songs

Jennifer Root, soprano, filled the tent with the sounds of three beautiful Norwegian songs. Grieg has always had an affinity for the lyricism of the human voice, writing nearly 180 songs that are now celebrated anthems. I sat on the edge of my seat in pure wonder.

Edvarg Grieg - Peer Gynt (Complete)

It is not everyday that an audience gets to hear the entire music composed for the play. People are familiar with the famous pieces "The Hall of the Mountain King," "Anitra's Dance," and "Morning Mood." The suites have been vastly popular with audiences, but it was not until 1988 that the complete score was prepared and published for concert use. While German and English translations are now available, the Aspen Festival chose to go back the original Norwegian texts. Combining the forces of a full orchestra, a choir and a 6-member cast of opera singers was not an easy management task, but in the end it was one of the best performances of the summer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sinfonia Concert No. 2

Prokofiev - Overture on Hebrew Themes

A wonderful Jewish clezmer tune, played tunefully on clarinet and echoed in the bassoon, settled over a churning lyric in the strings that emulated a street music box. This little piece, originally written for small chamber ensemble, provided a dash of humor to the audience wrapped in a classical music idiom.

Saint-Saens - Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor

One of the most fiery showpieces a violinist can have their arsenal, the student soloist took the helm of the orchestra and make them follow his bow through the work. Andrew Wan made the audience anguish over the slow movement, then gasp and rise to their feet.

Schumann- Symphony No. 2 in C Major

I have never been impressed with the symphonic writings of Robert Schumann. I have always thought of them as labored, lacking any decisive themes and leaving in more yawns than awe. But after watching Michael Stern work the orchestra hard to master every passage, I have a much greater appreciation for the work. I may even listen to it again...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sinfonia Concert No. 1

Shostakovich - Jazz Suite No. 1

This short piece is a comedic mash of early 20th century musical styles, but with that special flair that Dmitri is know for. What really makes the piece is the use of Hawaiian guitar. On keyboard!

Stravinsky - Violin Concerto in D

I was unfamiliar with this work until this concert cycle. But, despite the odd mixture of rhythms and thematic ideas, Shih-Kai Lin made me open my mind to the new compositions.

Ravel - Mother Goose Suite

This piece, originally written for four hand piano for the amusement of children, has been brilliantly orchestrated to show off the intricate details in the score. The contrabasson, emulating the Beast, converses with the Beauty, as the clarinet, before the magic of the violin solo breaks the enchantment.

Gershwin - An American in Paris

What more can I say. It is a standard in the American symphonic literature and it has car horns. That are now in tune.

I am so proud of my orchestra. I relished the applause, although I did little more than shuffle names on paper and make a few announcements.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Music that moves you

Since my last post I have:

  • Assisted in checking in the nearly 750 students for the Aspen Festival.
  • Meet up with seven of my old friends from my two years at the NRO.
  • Worked until 1am Monday morning to get version one of my orchestra's roster.
  • Refined the above roster 5 more times to finally get an orchestra.
  • Enjoyed wine with the librarians.
  • Managed my first rehearsal with Maestro Xian Zhang, to a wonderful success.

And I still am worried that I will be a failure as a manager. It is tough to wield the power of a manager when you are sweating before a sea of people with large, expensive instruments. So intimidating, but then again, that is why I am in this fellowship.... to beat down this fear and conquer it.

But, something amazing did happen today. After all my "work" was done, I stopped into the Academy of Conducting orchestra, where tomorrow's conductor work on their baton skills today. I was called over to sit with me fellow Fellow to enjoy the reading of Tchaik 5. And suddenly I was sitting IN the orchestra, right at the back of the 2nd violins. Now, this may not sound like anything special to most of you, but check this out from a vocalist point of view. I have never experienced being in the center of a body of individuals creating instrumental sound, so it was electric to just be there.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I want Carl Kasell's voice on my home answering machine

This post was inspired while I was driving across the Great Plains, with nothing but NPR stations and my podcasts on my iPod. This one's for you, Carl.

I remember how I got hooked on NPR. After the many afternoons of catching All Things Considered on my drive home, I actually started paying attention to the programs that were playing on the weekends. It was after a long week full of car problems that I tuned into, quite serendipitously, to Car Talk. With the witty banter between Click and Clack, and the knack for more jokes than actually car advice, I began to fall in love with the allure of radio broadcasting.

Over the years since my first discovery, I have become a true NPR junkie. I would totally classify myself with the NPR brand (as described in a recent Weekend America report). The throaty voice of Diane Rehm cuts through my car to provide me with great thinking points before I even step in the door at work. A recent program of Fresh Air interviewed the creative force behind the new comedy "Knocked Up," which was provided much amusement while Kansas was passing by. The ever impressive Garrison Keillor plainly states how life is in a small, Minnesota town, which could be a sister city to my own birthplace. And then there Ira Glass, who every week brings to life stories of the common person, with universal themes that echo to the depths of my soul, and provide a great soundtrack while I work out.

My favorite show, however, is one that got me several stares when I shouted and jumped outta my seat while on I-70 through Missouri. When heard that Mo Rocca was a panelist on Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me, I was extremely happy. A news show that is part information, part humor and all liberal is perfect for me.

NPR is wonderful, so please support your local station. The same individuals who listen to NPR are those who also are quite apt to patronize local performing arts, so by supporting the radio shows you enjoy, you are feeding the future symphony audience.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Let's Dance

This entry has been sitting on my mental white board for the past month, so I finally have decided that it was time to commit it to electronic paper.

For the last show this season of the Cincinnati Ballet, one of the pieces they performed was “Baker’s Dozen” by Twyla Tharp. This piece, set to the sound of flowing jazz music, was a wonderful mesh of classic dance steps with modern motions. Okay, I fully admit it, I cannot talk about dance. But, after 20 months with the ballet, I developed an admiration for it, a desire to learn more about it, and to be entertained by it in the future. But, what fascinated me about this piece was how I observed it go from being just a few individuals learning a set of moves into a 12 individuals moving in a cohesive force onstage.

During one of my lunch hour’s, I took time to lean in the entrance of the Mickey Jarson Kaplan Studio Theatre and observe this evolution. Now, in ballet the modus operandi comes in the form of a reperteur. This individual was attached to the originally choreographer in some fashion. This could either be a former dancer or a person specifically trained and licensed to set, or train, the dance. This reperteur will travel to a company and work directly with the dancers to set a piece. Sometimes films and videos are sent to the company beforehand to get the company a general idea about the steps and movements, with the reperteur only coming in the week before to perform any clean up and resolve spacing issues.

This piece must have been fun to set. Just to watch the energy, the stopping and starting of various flailing motions and the large smiles on the dancers faces as the overcame tumbles and missteps to get the piece just right.

Now, I have often though of having a musicologist on the staff of a symphony could provide a great wealth of knowledge. From program notes, to performance practice to just having another musical mind with which to engage the more active and educated patrons, the person would have a lot of work in my orchestra structure.

Dr. J, would you come work for me?

Monday, June 04, 2007

I've finally stopped moving

After traveling for a good portion of a week, I have finally made out to Aspen, Coloardo, Home of Aspen Music Festival and School and site of my first assignment for the Fellowship.

Over the next few days, we (the Fellows) will have orientation about our next year, develop learning objectives for ourselves and get to know our place within the Aspen organization.

I have a few updates that will be posted in the comming days, as soon as I can get online at our condos.

Until then, just know that I am safe, tired and do not want to get behind the wheel of my car for a good, long while.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Supply, Round 2

After nine months of waiting, I finally received all of the research from Dean Lowry that I needed to continue with my paper. The National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) each year compiles what it calls Higher Education Arts Data Services (HEADS) reports. This report contains information on enrollment, degrees awarded, numbers of faculty, music schools budget and other educational data and is designed to provide comprehensive management data on arts in higher education so that deans and school officials have knowledge about the industry and will be able to make the proper decisions about the organizations future.

I extract the enrollment and graduation figures from this data to form the basis of supply curve. Now, there is a lot of other data contained in the HEADS report on faculty and administrative qualifications and pay scale that are not relevant to my report. I will also be casually observing the demographics data of the music students (gender, ethnicity, etc) to see if there are any major shifts or trends. If there is, I will collect this data as well for analysis, through it will not demand as much of my attention as the enrollment and graduation figures.

So now, I have to look forward to a long weekend ahead, where I probably will forgo Margaritas and Derby pie for Excel sheets and white noise.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I was just doing my job...

Today, I received one of the highest honors I could get. For serving for the past four years as Chapter Advisor for the Gamma Beta (Cincinnati) Chapter of Phi Kappa Tau, I received the Key Award. I started out as an advisor to meet people in Cincinnati within a safe environment, in addition to being able to give a little bit back to a group that I did not think I gave back to enough while in undergrad.

Over the past four years, I have made several great friendship, experienced a very different type of college fraternity lifestyle and seen several individual mature from freshmen into men.

I could not have been prouder of the chapter I have served, and the fraternity I joined. This was an honor that while extremely unexpected was extremely humbling.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Outside the box

Today, while driving back from working out, I heard a piece of classical music that was refreshing, fun, exciting and new to me. I really just obsessed over it, downloading it from iTunes when I got home, Goggling the composer, etc.

The piece - Escualo by Astor Piazzolla, the Argentinian tango composer.

The twist - arrangment for orchestra and solo trumpet, performed by Alison Balsom.

It was a fabulous musical discovery. I love to come across gems like this. Thank you WGUC.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Onward, research!

I meet today with Dean Lowry of CCM. He assured me that I will have my research on the music student enrollment and graduation rates over the last twenty-five years before I head off to Aspen and the rest of the Fellowship year. While it has been difficult waiting for nine month for this data, it is just part of the game. Chasing down the research, forging through the unexplored forest. I just wish I could start hacking away now.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Champagne Toast!

I can finally share the results of the ASOL interview weekend with the world:

I am an Fellow for the 2007-2008 Orchestra Management Fellowship Program.

For more information, you can click here.

I am extremely pleased with the group that was selected.

I worked with Ashleigh in our small group interview sessions, and was extremely pleased when I was working with her. She is sharp and very passionate about the work she does. Emma and I have a connection through a mutual friend, in addition to us both working for the E'ville Philharmonic. I admire Martin for deciding to cross the line from musician to management and I look forward to hearing his perspectives on the issues that are facing the orchestra field. Finally, Carolyn's wonderful upbeat outlook will be a breathe of fresh air during the next year.

For now, I just want to celebrate an honor that I have been looking forward to receiving for over three years.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Much Appreciated Guidance

After about 4 weeks of disconnect, I finally was able to meet up with Mr. George Seltzer. A past professor of Miami University, player with the Dayton and Rochester Orchestras and author of several books dealing with the union and educational management issues in the field. He has written several articles dealing with the supply and demand problem of orchestras. He used the same types of estimation methods I am now using.

I wanted to talk to him to not only use his connections to get some additional data, but to talk to him about why he got started in this line of research.

We met in a quaint Chinese restaurant in Miami, Ohio. We both had copies of the others articles and papers, so we knew each other by the bulky stacks of paper under each arm. We talked about our various musical background and interests, and then launched into an hour long discussion about supply and demand. He was fascinated with my research, and that I had picked up where he left of without even meaning too. I was humbled that this professor and researcher held me in such high regard, but this is just one thing that I have been working to overcome. Humble is good, but as potential leader in the orchestra field, I have to appear proud and accepting of compliments.

Mr. Seltzer ended the conversation by providing me a new direction to take my paper: how music schools and conservatories can better prepare the next generation of musicians. They should not only be concerned with the musicians in training but with those individuals who were musical before college. They will provide the perfect future fan base for orchestras, but in this day and age when music programs in our schools are fading from memory, it may be up the colleges and universities to use music students to outreach to the student population.

A wonderful proposition that I may have to revisit once I have all of the data analyzed.

Monday, April 09, 2007

And the results are in...

After several days of working and reworking several Excel formulas, I finally was able to put together a master spreadsheet that dynamically updates when one of the individuals sheets are updated. For computer laymen, this means that I can easily develop models and statistics from one spreadsheet without having to do a lot of messy formatting.

The first model I was able to develop was a demand curve, combing all 67 orchestras I am using as my base. The results were surprising. The model that emerged mirrored my previous predictions. This is important because my previous model was based on a statistical progression based on 12 data points. I am thrilled at this revelation, and now I am extremely curious to collect more information to feed into my model.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Final Stages

With today being Good Friday, and since the Ballet gave me a day off, I decided to complete my research of the all the International Musicians available at Blegen Library. Over the course of three hours, I was able to not only input the final year into my spreadsheet, but also verify that I collected all the data from the outlying orchestras (smaller ones that I may have passed over).

Now, having complete the final calculations, I can now begin to put together the first model of demand data. It is going to be an exciting, Excel-formula filled weekend. Let the party start now!

Monday, March 26, 2007

A New York State of Mind

I just returned from a trip to New York to interview at the Finals for the Orchestra Management Fellowship Program from the American Symphony Orchestra League. This is my second time in the finals, so I went in having experienced it all before. Now I just needed to show the panel just how passionate I am about the orchestra industry.

This set of interview was the hardest challenge I have ever faced to date. 48 hours of group exercises, mock negotiations, one-on-one role plays, concert attendance and discussion and three paneled interview sessions.

The best part of the weekend, though, was the interview but connecting with several old friends. A day in New Haven allowed me to experience music in an Ivy League setting. One of my dearest friends is studying for her master's degree at Yale. She knows that the music field can be harsh to break into, so she is working towards a degree that will give her a firm background to do whatever she wants.

I had an exquisite dinner with my old roommate and her friend at a Brooklyn hotspot. Great conversation, great wine and cupcakes from SoHo make for a perfect evening. I even got to spend a night drinking with several of the Cincinnati Ballet's principal dancers. No matter where I go with my career, it is the connections I make with other artists that will fuel my passion.

Friday, March 16, 2007

What's in a name?

In an attempt to get squeeze in one more year of data from the annals of the International Musician's Help Wanted section, I went over to Blegen Library and recorded the 88-89 Season. The library would soon be entering a week long hiatus for UC's Spring Break and I would be busy with performance's this weekend and traveling to New York the next. I was one of only three people in the entire library, so fighting for the microfilm room was not an issue. It almost never is. I wonder at times if this information is already in electronic form that I could download to a .pdf file, but this the moment is fleeting. Conducting research like this makes me feel like an adventurer, cutting through the uncharted forest to find a lost civilization. Or, something like that. I have found that entering the information directly into the spreadsheets on my laptop is easier on the hands, but my wrists get tired and the chair is not all that comfortable to sit in for an extended period of time. Such are the prices for discovery, eh?

At the conclusion of this session, I did a quick review of the data I have collected to date. Most of the 67 orchestras I picked to analyze had substantial records. While there was no noticeable pattern displayed, there was a natural-feeling rhythm and cycle to the records, which made me pleased. I was building an actually history of labor on which I can be able to confidently make conclusions.

But, there were a handful of sparse pages. These six or so symphony orchestras had mid-sized budgets (less than $5 million, but more than $1 million) and were in populous cities all around the United States, but do not immediately strike you as being a big name in the symphony world. Examples include the Richmond (VA) Symphony, the Tulsa Philharmonic and the Toledo Symphony.

I also noticed several symphonies that had name changes or have recently closed. After I come back from New York I will complete the last two years of data, and then go through all of the reels again to catch these under looked orchestras, as they provide the front line training grounds for future stars of the major orchestras. Examples of these changes are the Louisiana Philharmonic (formerly the New Orleans Symphony), the Florida Orchestra (formerly the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony) and the Florida Philharmonic (declared bankruptcy in 2003).

This also brings up a very interesting tidbit of music history and marketing. How does an orchestra decide if it is a symphony orchestra or a philharmonic orchestra? Today, the terms symphony and philharmonic are often used interchangeably to describe the local orchestra. Yet there is a distinct difference that characterizes the origin of the organization. A group of patrons interested in music would form a philharmonic society to sponsor a series of orchestra concerts. A symphony would be organized by a large governing body (town government, royalty, etc.) or the musicians themselves. While these conventions are not used today to in an attempt to provide an entomology back to the group's formation, I think it is always fun to wonder how it would sound to hear the Chicago Philharmonic instead of the Chicago Symphony.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Labor Landscape

For the past three Sundays I have spent two hours each day hidden in the lone microfilm room in the CCM Section of Blegen Library. Despite the weather becoming increasingly more spring-like, I sacrificed the pleasure of having a relaxing afternoon to continue to develop a picture of the labor situation for orchestras during the 1980s.

As I add more openings I strip from the pages of the International Musician into the various spreadsheets, I begin to see a curious pattern emerge from the seemingly independent organizations. While I am waiting to overlay all the data until I finish out the last three years I have access to on CCM microfilm, I get the feeling that there are two separate actions driving the number of openings.
  1. Smaller budget organizations must replace several musicians a year due to losing players on part-time contracts.
  2. A large budget orchestra will often post an opening and in the following months another orchestra will post a similar opening. The data may infer that individual musicians attempt to move up to larger/better orchestras, something that happens in every profession.

I will wait until I have at least 10 years of data before I begin to even rudimentary compile it into anything that could form the basis of a report, but it is still nice to conjecture.

I also received another three reports back from personnel managers. I am now near a 10% reply rate and second, more forceful reminder will be going out this weekend. While I am not confident in a 100% return rate, having at least 50% would help me to be able to compare against the data I am collecting from the International Musician.

Also on the agenda at the end of the month is to meet with Mr. Seltzer in person to discuss my research and where I can go from here. I do not yet know what information or opportunities may open through this avenue, but I welcome the discussion.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A related opportunity

Today I found out that I have been invited to return to the Finals of the American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL) Orchestra Management Fellowship Program (OMFP).

This opportunity is not only great for my career, since I aspire to one day run a symphony orchestra, but also for my research. The Fellowship would provide me with not only an additional set of connections to information and statistic regarding the orchestra industry, but it would also bring more creditability to myself when I requested information.

Creditability is the one thing I tend to struggle the most with. Even with all my degrees, some years in the field of orchestra & non-profit management and the press my research has received, I acknowledge a resistance to my information requests. This possibly could just be fictionalized, that the resistance actually is rooted in the personnel managers lack of information. I can also see the point about how a gentleman in his mid-twenty's may be ill-equipped to properly handle and analyze the data he is requesting.

Still I press on, despite the hecklers, the pessimists, the people who feel that a review of the labor market is not relevant, and that the aspects of my analysis are flawed and would only serve to create more instability in the orchestra field. Yet these individuals are far outweighed by the individuals who champion my cause, who assist me with gathering the information and offering opinions on their employment outlooks.

Monday, February 12, 2007

International Musician

Today I went to the CCM's Blegen Library in search of the long road to record labor demands in the orchestra industry. While it was my hope that Personnel Manager would supply me with enough substantial information to not require me delving into the archives of International Musician publication, I believe that in the end this level of grunt research is the way to go to reach a solid conclusion.

I poured over the most recent year of the International Musician, searching through the Classified Ads to record all the published openings. As I was writing each entry down, I wanted to know more about the people behind these jobs and why they were leaving. Did they get a new job at a different orchestra? Did they decide to retire from their careers? Did they unfortunately pass away and now a gap has been left to be filled. Each one of these openings represents a single life, a person whose desire it is to perform onstage. It is my job to reduce them to mere numbers for analysis, but I must always remember the human element.

After I completed that task, I went back to the beginning of the records that CCM had. Microfilm reels contained ten years of archived magazines, beginning in July of 1983. I only had an opportunity to record six months of posts before my hand began to aggravate me. I need to figure an easier way to record the data other than scribing it onto a yellow legal pad for later uploading into an Excel sheet.

This coming week's goal is to streamline the data entry process by creating a master data spreadsheet and returning to Blegen for another session with the microfilm.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Mr. Seltzer

In response to a copy of my research paper I recently sent, Mr. Seltzer has agreed to meet with me and discuss how his previous research and connections in the music industry can help with my research.

Since my last update regarding survey returns, I have received another two responses. One organization is working on obtaining the data while another could not supply me with anything at this time due to a recent change in personnel.

In addition, I am planning on visiting the CCM Library on Monday to surf through the rolls of microfilm in hopes of painting a picture of the orchestra labor market beginning in the early 1980s.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Background Research

To supplement the original research I am conducting and provide readers with a complete history of the American orchestral labor market, I will need to pull information from several books.

Here are a few that I am planning on using and my thoughts on why they would be relevant:

More than Meets the Ear:
How Symphony Musicians Made Labor History
by Julie Ayer
This book contains a details history of the struggles the American musicians and the AFM as they sought equality in the workplace. It should provide some colorful anecdotes on the background of hiring practices and labor structures within orchestras.

Education of the Professional Musician
by Hildegard Froehlich
This collection of articles hopes to shed light on educational practices for musicians and possible solutions to creating an individual better prepared for the lifestyle of a potential orchestra player in the 21st Century.

The American Symphony Orchestra:
A Social History of Musical Taste
by John Henry Mueller
Cited in my original paper, this book explains the origins of the first major orchestral societies in the United States.

Classical Music in America:
A History of Its Rise and Fall
by Joseph Horowitz
Cited in my original paper, this book details the personalities behind the classical music industry in America.

Monday, January 29, 2007

AFM and Mr. Frey

This evening I meet with Mr. Frey regarding my research. An elderly man, Mr. Frey was a former clarinetist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and has held several leadership positions in the AFM, both locally and nationally.

Mr. Frey provided me with a wonderful outlook on the difficulty of being a musician in the new century and the problem the union is having with non-members forming ensembles and performing for a paying public. He acknowledged that many individuals have the desire to create music, but not the aptitude nor the passion to make it a career. This is the same in any other field of work. But while other industries have track records of hiring practices, the arts have not been able to replicate a similar history.

Mr. Frey did provide me with two pieces of information that I intend to use.

The first was a directory of all the musicians that have been affiliated with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra over its first 100 years. While it is not recently up-to-date, this would begin to fill in the information I need from the beginning of the data period.

The second was to contact a Mr. George Seltzer. A past music professor at Miami University (Oxford, OH), he had written a book and several articles on this very topic. I had actually cited him in my original research paper. I did not know he was still alive and living in the area, even.

I plan on sending him a letter of introduction along with a copy of my paper and ask him if to assist me with either information he has collected or with the contacts of people I could get information from.

I'm moving forward. It is a slow trek, but still forward.

Friday, January 19, 2007


In the first week after I sent out my survey, I received 7 responses from personnel managers. Some of them were only able to provide me with some information, others wanted to clarify some of the questions I was asking. Only one of the respondents was unable to comply with my request.

He did, however, point me in the direction of a potential source of research. The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) is the union that all musicians, beit popular, jazz, recording or classical, are members of. I had originally contacted their Symphonic Services division in late 2004 to see if they kept track of employment figures, but no one returned my emails or phone calls. This is what lead me to send out surveys to personnel managers for my first paper.

If the AFM does actively not keep track of the openings from year to year, there is a second, more labor intensive option. This would be to obtain all of the International Musician publications from the last twenty-five years. This magazine contains not only information about the union, but advertisements on upcoming job openings. Since most upper-level orchestras are members of AFM, they are by law required to advertise an opening as part of the United States Laws against discrimination in the workplace.

To elevate the pain of having to possibly spend a whole weekend in the CCM Library pouring over microfilm, I contacted the AFM union in Cincinnati, Local One. Mr. Eugene Frey agreed to speak with me about my project and how he could help. I had spoken with him before about my project and he guided me to several books that were extremely helpful in providing background research for my paper.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Step 2: Demand

Today I finally began to explore the other side of the orchestra labor curve. After about two months of research, I began the task of contacting 67 orchestras in the United States. These orchestras were category 1 and 2 (meaning budgets of $5 million or more) and most had once received a grant from the Ford Foundation.

While I indirectly wanted to link the Ford Foundation's involvement in the growth of orchestras to the problems that are occuring today, the primary objective is to gather data on positions filled over the past twenty-five years.

I fully acknowledge that most orchestras do not keep this data or if they do, their records do not date back that far. But it is an attempt, at the very least. I must test the waters before I take the full plunge to figure out just where to enter. If I must make changes to the scope of my research, I aim to that under the proper conditions.

I contacted the personnel managers at the orchestras selected and supplied them an Excel sheet already built to house the data and an brief explanation of myself and my project.

On the three Excel Sheets, I asked for
  1. The number of job openings/filled positions over the last twenty-five years
  2. The number of principal/unique positions open/filled over the last twenty-five years
  3. A small survey regarding Union issues and education background (if known)

Once I obtain the data, then begins the massive task of breaking the employment history down per orchestra and creating an interactive Excel spreadsheet to draw a picture of the orchestra hiring history over the past quarter-century.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Step 1: Supply

In a first step to obtain data on the number of students both working on and graduating with degrees in music, I contacted the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). This organization is in charge of giving accreditation to schools of music (and other arts programs) and also collects data regarding enrollment figures, graduation numbers, etc.

The main data vehicle they use is the Higher Education Arts Data Services (HEADS) Report. It was this report that I used to base my ten year study on while in graduate school.

After writing to the chief data officer, I learned that:
  1. the organization began collecting data from the 1981/82 school year
  2. the data was not complete because several schools had been added and/or did not complete the survey in a given year
  3. only members were allowed access to this data, and at a price
Upon learning this, I proceeded to ask Dean Lowry of the College-Conservatory of Music for assistance. He had been instrumental in helping me obtain the data for my previous paper. After a brief discussion, he decided to help me with my current project. He told me not to expect quick results, since his time was limited and extremely busy.

Once I obtain this data, I will begin the long task of entering it into an Excel spreadsheet and formulating an analysis of the data across the years and identify any patterns.

Simple Economics

There are two parts to exploring the labor market in a particular industry. It follows the same convention as goods supplied vs. goods sold. The graphs are typically described in units of quantity versus price.

Supply - How many units can a business create using their limited resources. The more units a business creates, the greater the price. The relationship is that more units created means more raw supplies must be purchased and thus the individual unit cost rises which in turn raises the price. This curve slopes upward when moving left to right.

Demand - How many units can the business sell in the market. The more units a business creates, the lower the price. Rare objects fetch a high price, since there is a limited quantity. A massive amount of units creates a flooded market, and since the consumer can readily obtain the product, the price falls to allow people to purchase the amount of inventory. This curve slopes downward when moving left to right.

Several factors can affect both the position of the curves on the graph and where the actual business is at on the curve itself, but those conditions will be saved for a future post.

Equilibrium - This is the point at which the supply and demand curves intersect. This represents a point where the market will be able to fully digest the amount being produce and allow the company to realize maximum revenues. It is the goal of all businesses to reach this point.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Musical Chairs continued

Since this is going to be my professional blogspace, and my contribution to the blogsphere, I decided to use this as the vehicle to describe my ongoing research.

After being published on My in December 2005, in various newspapers, and even interviewed on a local radio program, I decided to extend the scope of my research.

I fully acknowledge the uphill battle: the potential limited resources that I would have to extract information from, the resistance I could get from individuals who believe that the issue of too many students preparing for a life as an orchestra musician is a non-issue and a labor environment not be prepared for the disturbing truth that is known but not quantified.

I feel charged by my musician friends to complete this project. Without them, I would not have had a project to begin with. I must complete my obligation and provide both current and future individuals who seek a career as a musician an accurate picture of the industry.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

times, they are a changin'

On my list of New Year's Resolutions, the one the supersedes pay off debt and loss weight is be a more active Blogger. I know that as a person I am very timid and reserved, and not very forthcoming with my thoughts, feelings and desires to the general public.

So, to battle this, I plan to begin to Blog more. More than just a public forum for my thoughts, I really want to use this as a way to reach people with my thoughts, notions and possibly absurd conclusions.

Since I really like the look of this site over Livejournal, I am planning on utilizing Blogger as I become more professional. I will probably keep updating my LJ, since it has that nifty Friend's Page, but I will make that claim that is will be my blog.

And so it begins, again, anew.

I will keep the title for now. I really struggle with putting a name on myself. My parent's did a decent job of it with me, but I really have not found something apropos for myself.
One of my (now defunct) blogs was headed after a line from an e.e. cummings poem.

since feeling is first, who pays any attention to the syntax of things

Still, I always come back to the line from High Fidelity where Rob discusses his internal supply problems when it comes to his feelings.

I guess I'm a Rob, just with more of an acumen for my iPod than LPs.