Thursday, February 14, 2013

Performance Diary

Here's a photo of the Kenwood Players in full Dixieland Jazz mode warming up the crowd earlier this month for the Bicentennial Celebration in the Town of Gordonsville, VA. This room, which is where I vote, is in the Gordonsville Fire House. 

One aspect of Gordonsville's history I've always remembered is that it was the little crossroads town Jefferson and Madison would pass through when they rode horseback back and forth between Monticello and Montpelier. 

Mayor Bob Coiner asked us to play for 45 minutes right as people were gathering and visiting and enjoying the food provided by local restaurants. We kept the volume down, so people could hear one another without shouting, and just played one tune after another without any talk between. The three players not in the photo are the tenor sax and the two Eb  tubas.

We had a great time and were very well received. The little boy in the photo was my favorite audience member. When he first walked up and saw up close how a trombone is played, he was absolutely mesmerized. 

One thing particularly nifty about this performance was that, since there was no audio equipment to bring and set up, all we needed was the stands and the mats for the brass players. We broke down and packed up and got out of the way in about five minutes. 

Thanks to Jeff Poole of the Orange County Review for taking this photo and letting me put it up on the blog. There's more info about the event at that link.

There was also a TV report on the event, in which you can hear about two seconds of our playing, here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


This article from Psychology Today is a great discussion of what "play" is. Here's a brief quote from early in the article:

(1) Play is self-chosen and self-directed; (2) Play is activity in which means are more valued than ends; (3) Play has structure, or rules, which are not dictated by physical necessity but emanate from the minds of the players; (4) Play is imaginative, non-literal, mentally removed in some way from “real” or “serious” life; and (5) Play involves an active, alert, but non-stressed frame of mind. 

Those points, and others made in the article, read like a good definition of music therapy if you substitute "playing music" for "play". 

One reason I choose the name "Kenwood Players" as a performance name for the Friday group is that I wanted to make explicit that "play" aspect of our music making. As I've noted from time to time, it seems to me that our visibly having fun playing engages audiences at least as much as the music itself.

One of the antecedents of "play" is the Old Dutch word "pleien - leap for joy, dance" according to the Oxford American Dictionary.

For me, the most striking correlation between music therapy and play was the author's elaboration of that first point. 1) Play is self-chosen and self-directed - players are always free to quit. 

Back when I did music therapy in closed classrooms for emotionally disturbed children, the cardinal rule was it was not mandatory. I always said something like "I'm sure there's other stuff your teacher can find for you to do if you don't want to participate in music." Right off the bat that eliminated the "power struggle" of trying to "make" the children behave. And the corollary to that was that I told them it was my job to find a way for them to participate that they could easily handle. 

I never had child choose to not participate, and the teachers were always impressed by the fact I had no real discipline problems.