What are we doing here?


When I was little, my father used to tell a story of a little boy from long ago. He was walking among many people engaged in a flurry of activity. "What are you doing?" he asked one man with a chisel and hammer in his hand. "I'm cutting this stone down to a particular size," he answered. The little boy walked over to another man and asked the same question, but he received a completely different response: "I'm building a cathedral." Sometimes I don't think we have any idea what we're actually doing. We only see the stone in our … [Read more...]

Discovering the Baroque Above a Torture Chamber


On a narrow street in the Colonial City area of Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, there is a building called Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana, the Memorial Museum of the Dominican Resistance. A converted home, with a central patio surrounded by two stories of walkways and rooms, its walls are covered with quotes from the heroes and survivors from those who resisted against many oppressive governments during the Twentieth Century, including the government of Trujillo, the dictator who ruled the Dominican Republic from … [Read more...]

A moment of attention is enough

Not too long ago, I was in line at a summer arts festival. People around me were laughing and talking as they waited in the ticket line. A few minutes later, as I stood at the front gate, waiting for a friend to join me, I noticed the same thing - this time it was the ushers that were enjoying themselves while they awaited the next wave of audience members to serve. There was a sense of ease all around; a joyful quality brought about by the beauty of the scene, the expectations of the concert that would soon begin, and the familiarity of … [Read more...]

A Time to Speak

I really WANT to spend time on this blog about music and about building arts communities. You can't build a community around the arts, though, if you don't have any left. So, I find myself making a detour for a moment because the issues of the day demand comment. There are two governmental issues confronting non-profit organizations and the arts. Both threaten this part of our civic life in ways that dramatically alter the landscape for all of us. The first issue is regarding a proposal to consider reducing the tax deduction for charitable … [Read more...]

The Fever of this Moment

Recently, I have been reading Lewis Hyde's absolutely brilliant book, The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World, and today ran across two quotes that seem to speak to the events of this week.As we all know, this has been a period in which the Detroit Symphony Orchestra canceled the remainder of its season due to the impasse between musicians and management, and in which the House of Representatives gutted the National Endowment for the Arts as part of its version of the continuing resolution legislation necessary to avoid a … [Read more...]

A Letter to Tim

To: Tim Walberg, Congressman, 7th District, Michigan Dear Congressman Walberg, As you are aware, we know each other. You are my congressman; we live in the same county, eat in the same restaurants, shop in the same stores and know the same friends. I have enjoyed having you among the members of the audience in the orchestra where I serve as Music Director. You've attended symphony fund raising events. I know your wife, and I like her. I know and admire people who supported you in your effort to get re-elected. One family, whom I dearly love, … [Read more...]

Being a bridge

Rick Robinson is a bassist in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Educated at Interlochen Arts Academy, Cleveland Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory, he is deeply committed to making a difference in classical music, which he refers to as CLAM. He has created Cut Time Productions and several ensembles as a vehicle for bringing classical music to new audiences and proving its continued relevance. He's a whirlwind of energy and positive viewpoints, as well as being a fine musician and recognized composer. I wanted Rick to answer a few … [Read more...]

Poking at the Dragon

It's Monday morning at 7:30, and I'm arriving in the parking lot of the local high school. Today my role isn't to conduct. I'll be hosting an educational concert and trying to create an atmosphere that encourages everyone to be open to new things. Instead of the full orchestra, today's program features a seventeen-piece swing band made up of some of the best jazz musicians from Michigan and Ohio. The concert begins with Harry James's Lush Life, followed by a brief introduction of singer Michael Lackey, who is currently appearing in the Vegas … [Read more...]

And now am full of tears

Imagine that you were born in a little village in the English countryside, spent your twenties farming the land, joined a local choir - although you don't really read music, and, years later, found yourself singing on the stages of the great opera houses of the world. Imagine you lived a life full of memories and then, with Alzheimer's Disease, began to forget it all. What was left behind, the rest of us won't soon forget. Goodbye, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, and thank you.To hear a rare and sensitive musician, click here. … [Read more...]

Summer Music at the End of the World

Argentina is practically as big as India, but with only 39 million inhabitants. About 40% of them live in the area directly in and around Buenos Aires. The rest are spread across the remainder of the country. Along the western side of Argentina lies the most remote region, Patagonia. There is a village there, and to find it, you would have to travel on a very small road until you arrived at the foot of the Andes. There you would find a town made up of people from Argentina and, surprisingly, from all around … [Read more...]