Category Archives: Blog Stuff

Song of the Lark 2017 Advent Calendar!

Longtime readers know I have a thing for Advent calendars. I’m not sure why. I like the ideas of winter introspecting and daily chocolate, I guess.

Anyway, the blog’s first Advent calendar was a weird lockout-related joke / year-end retrospective in December 2012. I also assembled virtual calendars in 2013, 2014, and 2015, featuring Youtube links to some of my favorite holiday pieces in all of them. I didn’t do one last year, and I missed doing it, so…

The online Advent calendar is back for 2017! But it’s at a new address and with a new twist. Instead of my favorite holiday music (because after four years of holiday music videos, I was really starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel), every day between now and Christmas Eve, I’m spotlighting a piece of music written by a woman! You can follow along at songofthelarkadventcalendar.tumblr.com. I’ll also be Tweeting the links; you can find me on Twitter here. I’ve already included pieces by Emilie Mayer, Rebecca Clarke, Lili Boulanger, and more, and there are still sixteen days left to go!

In many Christian traditions, Advent is a time of reflection, meant to prepare folks for the good that is to come. The good that I hope is to come (should we choose to reflect on it together…) is a promotion of the unjustly neglected work of women. The time feels right for their arrival in listeners’, musicians’, and music lovers’ lives.

Wishing you all a blessed winter full of unexpected beauty.

Triptic_of_candles

Also, just a head’s up, I’m taking December off from my blog series on women. Readership tends to dip at this time of year anyway, and, to be totally honest, after the extravaganza of original research that occurred for the last entry, I fell behind on some other projects I want to get a handle on! So expect new entries on women starting January 3rd (I’m pretty sure we’re going to kick things off with a woman who was, along with Schoen-René, a student of Viardot), and hopefully this calendar helps tide you over in the meantime. xo

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The Sheepy Summer of Our Discontent

The summer I was in sixth grade, my mom painted the garage, while I took a ruler and a piece of chalk and drew a to-scale square on the sidewalk, captioning it “the size cage a battery hen lives her life in before she is sent to slaughter.” I had just learned about the existence of factory farms, and I was determined to share the bad news with as many passersby as possible.

Other mothers would have encouraged moderation in their daughter’s activism, but not mine. By never protesting my protesting, she telegraphed important life lessons: When you perceive an injustice, work to right it. And when your conscience compels you, use whatever means you have, to say whatever you have to say.

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Farewell to 2014

Well that was quite the year.

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In the tradition of years past, here’s a New Year’s summary of what all happened at this address over the past twelve months.

Here are the year’s most popular entries in reverse order. Spoiler alert: it was an Atlantapalooza!

5. Doug Hertz Takes On The Crazy People. 4 October. Woodruff Arts Center board chair Doug Hertz gave the strangest interview of the year to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, where he called his musicians “crazy” and suggested that his music director could help the negotiations with “ideas.”

4. Stanley Romanstein’s Massive Bonuses: 2012 Lockout Edition! 18 September. Former Atlanta Symphony CEO Stanley Romanstein raked in $45k in bonuses during the first musician lockout in 2012, and people were pissed.

3. Naked Nymphs and the Atlanta Symphony. 3 October. Arguably the weirdest entry of the year, in which I took a wide-eyed look at the Atlanta Symphony’s bewildering 2014-15 season brochure, which boasted massive naked ladies and lots of strategically flung red scarves.

2. Stanley Romanstein’s Massive Bonuses. 8 September. The #2 entry in 2013 was Michael Henson’s Massive Bonuses, so it’s only fair that the companion piece “Stanley Romanstein’s Massive Bonuses” received the #2 slot in 2014.

And the most popular entry…

1. The Atlanta Symphony Facebook Page Loses It. 11 September. It’s not often that you get to watch a major American orchestra throw a temper tantrum on their Facebook page, but 2014 was a truly special year. It also included my favorite reaction GIF of 2014.

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I spent a lot of time in the early part of 2014 volunteering for Save Our Symphony Minnesota. (As you can imagine, during the Henson / Osmo showdown and resulting administrative churn, there were a lot of things that community members needed to do to make their voices heard.) Mainly because of all that volunteer work, and also because of some sad losses in my personal life, there were only 41 entries in 2014, as opposed to 97 in 2013, and traffic declined by 36%. In other news, readers visited from 155 countries this year, as opposed to 149 last year.

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As for personal favorites…

Favorite Blog: Scott Chamberlain had some great entries at Mask of the Flower Prince. He was extraordinarily prolific this year, and he provided lots of food for thought about the Met Opera negotiations in particular. Scott’s now president of the Minnesota Chorale board, so that’s cool.

Favorite Microreview: the November 14 concert

Favorite Ousted CEO in the Non-Profit World: Impossible to choose

Favorite Non-Ousted CEO in the Non-Profit World: Kevin Smith.

Favorite Interview: Actually, my only interview…a chat with Emily Green, founder of Young Musicians of Minnesota

Favorite Essay / Favorite Concert / Favorite Life Experience: the Sibelius 1 and 4 concert in March. It will never be repeated. It will never be surpassed. My essay about that concert is here.

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And in case you missed it first time around, here’s the 2014 SOTL Advent calendar, which surveys the year and includes 24 wintry-themed music videos. If you haven’t stopped by yet, and you enjoy that kind of shameless nostalgia, be sure to check it out!

2015 will be a crucial year for the Minnesota Orchestra. I hope you’re ready to donate, to support, to brag, and most importantly, to buy tickets! The possibilities are truly endless, but first we all need to step up to the plate together.

And I’m sure you will. You always have, because you’re the best. Catch you in 2015.

Some notes I'm working on

Some doodles I’m working on

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Musicovation Guest Blog

This week I partnered with the music website Musicovation (their tagline?: “the positive news about music, for a change“) to write a guest-blog entry. For my topic I chose the relationship between amateur and professional musicians: two great tastes that taste great together.

The piece begins:

Thursday night rehearsal. I’m in a small room with twenty other string players, members of my local amateur string orchestra. I’m rehearsing a solo of the Piazzolla Oblivion. I shake my wrist out. I’ve got jitters for no reason at all.

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 Adult amateur musicians are almost universally embarrassed to play in front of other people. An adult who has just come to classical violin (or just returned to it) will invariably apologize for how they sound. Self-deprecating jokes – with an edge of desperation – proliferate. The violinist.com discussion board regularly features entries from adult amateurs asking questions like: I’m the only adult at my teacher’s recital, should I even participate?

I can relate. If I’m ever complimented on my playing, I’ll smile graciously, but in the back of my head I’ll invariably think: honey, go to Minneapolis, watch a program of their Sibelius, and get back to me on how good you think I am.

Why?

Read more here.

Thanks to the Musicovation team and especially Zachary Preucil for the opportunity. Definitely check out the website while you’re there, and follow their Facebook page and Twitter account! We can never have too many positive stories about music!

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2014 Advent Calendar

Hey guys, it’s that time of year again:

Advent Calendar Time!

The blog has a long and proud tradition (and by “long and proud tradition,” I mean “a tradition that began on Tumblr in December 2012”) of Advent-calendar-making.

So I threw another together this year, just because it’s fun. Every day from now until December 24, a new entry will be posted at the calendar. This year features a variety of my favorite wintry musical selections (some of which were chosen by readers!), as well as various memories from the past year. A new entry goes up every morning at 6AM. I hope you enjoy the pieces and maybe find a performance or two that is new to you. So be sure to bookmark the calendar and keep coming back throughout December: sotladventcalendar.tumblr.com.

My attempt to make the world's most annoying holiday SOTL Blingee ever. Animated Christmas cats, guys!

My attempt to make the most annoying holiday SOTL Blingee ever. Animated Christmas cats, guys! AWW!

And since I’m using the same Tumblr account that I used last year, you can even scroll back to read 2013’s calendar. Can you CONTAIN your EXCITEMENT?

Also one more tip: the Minnesota Orchestra has a Cyber Monday sale going, and most 2015 tickets are 50% off, so you might want to check that out. Even if you have all the seats you need for this season, tickets are a great gift idea.

If the thought of the holidays or holiday music makes you want to strangle kittens, stay tuned, because there’s a lot more non-holiday content coming. I actually think this December might be my content-heaviest month of 2o14… Right now I’m sitting on a whole clutch of rough drafts.

~Emily

who is apparently an elf now

and a hen

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Thanksgiving!

I don’t usually post anything on Thanksgiving (I’m more into Advent calendars, to be honest), but this year has been a special one, and I think it’s worthy of a word or two of gratitude.

First off, I’m grateful for my readers. You guys are so inquisitive, so smart, and you care so deeply.

I’m grateful for the knowledge of teachers, and how generous the best are with their very selves.

I’m grateful for technology. I’m grateful I can write and publish long essays on Rebecca Clarke or Baumol’s Cost Disease while curled up on the couch. (Keep an eye out for those.)

I’m grateful that sarcasm is a thing.

I’m grateful for sound, and especially the layers of it I hear in Orchestra Hall. You can spend a lifetime in that sound and never tire of it.

I’m grateful to live in a place that values, treasures, and loves its symphony orchestra so intensely. It would have been so easy for Minnesota to give up this past year. You didn’t.

I’m grateful for those dreamers back in 1903 who said, “Let’s start a symphony orchestra,” and a community that said, “Okay!” I’m grateful to all those board members who raised so much money over so many decades, and to the musicians of the past who played on to achieve the highest levels of musicianship, despite all the economic uncertainties surrounding them.

I’m grateful for the modern-day musicians who had the courage to risk their health, their careers, their homes, to save an institution.

I’m grateful for the people I criticized so harshly during the lockout, because without them, I wouldn’t have you. Without their myriad of muck-ups, the Minnesota Orchestra would be in a much weaker position than it is today.

I’m grateful for strong, wise leadership – for Osmo, Kevin Smith, the heads of Save Our Symphony Minnesota. They’ve married professionalism with passion, and the results are deeply moving and deeply inspiring.

And most of all, I’m grateful we have the chance to begin anew, to embark on a process of self-invention. The thought of it is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating, and also terrifying. (And exhilarating…)

The Minnesota Orchestra posted an adorable picture on their Facebook page of musicians holding up signs of gratitude. Mine isn’t nearly as wonderful, but I did just sit down at my desk, scribble my own handwritten sentiments on a notecard, and place a sprig of holiday sparkle next to it.

Happy Thanksgiving, all! And…

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Lockout Stuff

Hey, friends!

Say, did you hear that the 2014-2015 Minnesota Orchestra season has just been announced? The lockout era of 2012-2014 is now over, and it’s time to move on. In the recent words of Osmo Vänskä: “I think that there was a time to whine, but, it’s time to cry and then it’s time to stop crying and start to work again. And I think sometimes working is the best therapy for the mind, and I think that is right now happening.”

He’s right. In that spirit, I’m finishing and then archiving this “Lockout Stuff” directory. A link to this page will always remain under the Reference Posts page, and of course the articles themselves will always stay up, but the link to “Lockout Stuff” is coming off the main SOTL header. It doesn’t mean that the past will be forgotten, but it does mean that our energies should be focused on the future. New and better things await us all! So if you want, take a moment to breeze through this, relive old times, and then set your GPS for The Future!

Thanks for journeying along with me for the past two years. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together.

In solidarity, Emily

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New Year’s Notes

It’s New Year’s Eve, so it’s time for some sentimental naval gazing.

Well. 2013. You wanted soul-crushing disappointment? You wanted dizzying ecstasy? You wanted proof that arts activism is alive and well? (You wanted proof that orchestral music is alive and well?) You wanted proof that improbable, impossible things are, in fact, quite possible? Then 2013 was the year for you.

Here were the year’s most popular SOTL stories in reverse order…

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2013 Advent Calendar

As long-time readers of the blog know, I have a weakness for Advent calendars, even when they don’t include chocolate. (Although…chocolate is good.)

chocolate… nom nom nom

So here’s the second annual virtual SOTL Advent calendar, sans chocolate. After the introductory entry of December first, each day will feature a Youtube video having to do with Christmas or winter music, along with a favorite memory of 2013. (Perhaps astonishingly, given the circumstances, I have a lot of favorite memories.) Yes, it’s a weird tradition – I don’t think any other classical music blogs do this? – but I get a kick out of assembling it, and I like to spread the joy of Advent calendars, so…

http://sotladventcalendar.tumblr.com/

Entries are queued to post at 12am every morning. So enjoy, and warm holiday wishes to you and yours.

If you’re not sure what to buy for yourself or your family members this holiday season, you should really consider purchasing tickets to see the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians in-concert later this month in their Tchaikovsky extravaganza. Because everybody loves the Nutcracker, am I right?

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Introducing Lark Notes!

Once upon a time, in the halcyon days before September 2012, I thought of myself more as a historian and wannabe musicologist than as a commentator on never-ending orchestral lockouts.

Crazy, right?

Well, it’s been a year, but my heart’s still in the whole history thing. I’ve ignored it and I’ve missed it. I’m not giving up analysis of orchestral politics – by any means – but I do want to try to shoehorn some history onto the blog.

Consequently I’m embarking on a new series…

lark-notes-condensed

So what are Lark Notes? Great question. I’m not even 100% sure yet. (Let’s hear it for flying by the seat of your pants!! Woohoo!) I do know that the Notes will be my exploration of a particular musical topic, and that exploration might come in the form of essays, Youtube videos, interviews…who knows! We’ll have to see how the Notes evolve as time goes by. For the foreseeable future, they’ll likely tie into the programs of the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra.

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