Ever since I started playing drums, the reasoning behind it was for the pure fun of it. I never dreamed of "making it big" or "getting a job," and that was mostly because I had no idea that it could've turned into those things, until I began my time with the Percussion Scholarship Group. What peaked my interest in that group in the first place was a very interesting field trip in the third grade.
This was a trip to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Education Concert. Of course being a kid, I bypassed what it was called and just saw FIELD TRIP!!! So, I had no idea what I was in for I'm sure. The concert "started" with everyone warming up on stage, and this mime walks out and starts taking pictures of the orchestra and other antics. Basically from then on, the mime tries to join the orchestra as a conductor, a trumpet player and a singer. There's even another mime in the mix, after a while, and then it really gets interesting with some partner tap dancing. In the end, the mime learns that he could just listen and be a part of the orchestra in that way, just like we did as audience members. Meanwhile, in my mind, "Oh this is so cool, and funny and interesting and fun looking. I wanna play with people like that, and do concerts like this. This is so much fun!"
Fast forward about 16 years to my 25th birthday week. I'm playing my first "acting principal" job with the Illinois Symphony, and it's an education concert. First thought, "I love doing these!" We begin rehearsal and the mime begins his act, and I'm thinking to myself, "This seems really familiar.....A trumpet playing mime......Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra......It can't be...." Literally, when I realized who it was I had to hold back tears. I never thought I would actually remember that day, let alone meet the person who got me so excited to be a performer in the first place. So, after rehearsal I went to the two mimes, asked them questions about their act, and just like I thought, they were the same mimes I saw when I went on that field trip.
I'm sure a lot of us have that person who encouraged us to start our careers. For most, I assume the inspiration was more close to home, like a teacher or a family member. But also that inspiration can come from someone less accessible, like a celebrity. So, for me this was just a special and meaningful experience that I will never forget or take for granted, and I hope they know how grateful I am for them and how they changed my life. Don't ever lose your reason for doing what you do, because when things get tough, that might be the one thing that keeps you going.
One of my favorite things about being a kid was getting to watch new episodes of Batman: The Animated Series with my dad. Every time I heard that first note from what I guess were the low strings, I knew Batman was on. This opening was probably the most epic of all the cartoons on at that time, and it was only one minute long! The other cool thing was that there was never a title posted in the opening. You just knew, it was Batman. My favorite part was, close to the end, when the tam tam sounded as the cops were running, and the music gets a little softer so it could crescendo into the lightning crash. Like, how much more epic can you get? This series as a whole had amazing music, and one of the coolest, most poetic soundtracks for a cartoon series came in the form of it's first movie, Mask of the Phantasm (if you are a fan of Batman, definitely give it a watch). The opening credits...If you haven't heard it, you are i for a treat. From what I heard, the directors of the film hired Shirley Walker to compose the score, and gave her basically a blank check to get it done. So, she hired a chorus, a fully stocked orchestra, and went to town. The entire soundtrack is amazing! This series and the movies that came out about it were such a joy to listen to. I always dreamed about playing the parts myself, or conducting the orchestra, and I guess I still kind of do. Definitely have Batman to thank for all of those great experiences!
Like Hunchback, Fox and the Hound was an inevitability for me. This movie was not only a "buddy drama," but also a type of discussion on how society views people who are "inherently different." In the story, two animals become friends, not knowing that they are "born to be enemies." One is just a normal fox and the other a hunting hound dog. In this scene, the fox's owner is taking him to the forest preserve to protect him from the hunter, and she recalls all the good times that they had. I don't know why this scene affected me so much, but every time I hear and watch it, I start to get teary. This was really sad, even more than Mufasa's death to me. I actually used this scene to demonstrate, on the documentary, how much music impacts me. Fortunately, they didn't use that scene because of how sad it was, but everyone there was really amazed at exactly how strong that connection was to this film, even after years of not seeing it at all. You never forget.
Many of my friends knew this would be an entry at some point. Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of, if not my favorite, Disney movies and probably my favorite Disney soundtrack. Again we have a story of characters overcoming prejudices, one for appearance and the other for stereotypes of their nationality. The themes in this film were extremely adult, especially for Disney. It was a big risk going through with the production of this film and it did not do well in the box office. Still, for the risks that it took at the time, it really pulled it off in my opinion. This epic soundtrack is really what makes it worth the watch because of how much it adds; A chorus singing in Latin, and huge orchestra to back up solo vocal scenes, and awesome animations to go with it all. This scene's long emphasis on minor chords establishes such a feeling of evil and tragedy until you hear the choir chanting "Gloria" as Quasimodo climbs the cathedral walls with Esmeralda until finally, he gets to the top and screams Sacntuary with church bells in the background and a huge major chord from the orchestra and chorus. My ears could not get enough. There probably will be at least one more entry from this movie, but this one was definitely had the largest impact on me. Alan Menken composed the score for this movie and we will definitely see more of him here.
In our family car we had about five or six cassette tapes that we listened to. A couple jazz, gospel and Disney tapes. One of them also was a Rocky 4 soundtrack that we constantly played over and over. Aside from the over used trope of montages in the series, this particular song was interesting to me because of the amount of percussion and rhythmic combinations used. Again, I listened to it so much that I could sing each part separately and even kind of play it on the arm rest in the car. This was also one of the few times I started to notice differences between an album and movie version of a piece of music. These particular differences are pretty blatant, but others weren't so obvious as a kid. I personally like the album version better (on the right), but I still own both regardless. Won't I loved every Rocky movie, but a lot of the scenes were great and very emotional for me then and even now. I still warm up with this track every once in a while to get pumped up.
One of my earliest blogs was about Balto. If you don't know the story, this movie is based on the true story of the lead sled dog and mushers that traveled 674 miles through a blizzard to get antitoxin medicine to Nome, Alaska during an outbreak of diphtheria. Needless to say, the movie is embellished with an "overcoming prejudices" story line, but for children, I really think this addition was awesome, maybe even more now than then. This scene in particular is the climax where Balto feels he has failed to save the sick children of Nome. In previous events, he was shunned from being a sled dog because he is half wolf, not a pure bred husky (wonder where I've heard that before). Regardless, he travels to find the team when they have been reported missing to get the medicine to save one little girl in particular that showed him kindness. This scene is him coming to grips with, what he viewed as, a failed attempt at saving the team, and he is confronted by a white wolf that calls out at him to get up. At first Balto rejects him, probably because being half wolf has gotten him nowhere so far, but then he recalls what a friend told him before he left. "A dog cannot make this journey alone. But, maybe, a wolf can." And with that, he accepts his heritage and howls with the white wolf. As I got older and experienced prejudices of my own, this scene became even more relevant, but at the time, I just felt so touched by the music's accompaniment of Balto's acceptance of himself, a very empowering scene for me back then and even more now. James Horner was the composer and his music would be a big part in my life from then on. You'll be seeing a lot of him here.
My mom bought this movie for us and often told me that this was my favorite movie as a child. She even gave me a book with sound buttons for certain pages that went with the movie, and it would always run out of battery because I used it so much. I can still remember how it looked and felt in my hands as a kid. This scene was super cool to me and I remember wishing I had the clock sounds in my little book. Since that wasn't the case, I instead would sing along with the movie, making similar noises that I heard, in the rhythms that each sound would be in. My favorite part was when the hunter is firing at the bird, because it was in, what I thought was, a completely different rhythm than the rest of the clocks (3/8 against 2/4), but it still worked out in the end, and I thought that was the coolest thing. This occurrence of me memorizing certain songs and aspects of songs would always be present after this, and would prove really helpful in the years to come. The more I learned about music, the more I actually could understand what I was hearing/singing. Today is actually my mom's birthday, so I just wanted to share this story of one of the many small things she did that made a huge difference in my life. Happy birthday mom!
Um. Yea. Not a very happy start, but this is my earliest memory with music. I have no idea what age I was when I saw this movie, but I usually tell people that I was 4-5 years old when this event happened.
When I was younger I would wake up to loud noises that were in my head, kind of sounded like orchestra blasts on a keyboard. For a while I thought things had just fallen from my dresser or closet, but one night something different woke me up. I assume that I had watched "The Lion King" before I slept, and I also assume that I was sound asleep for a few hours. This particular night, the loud noise came back, but it wasn't a blast of sound. It was the music from this scene. I literally thought that the movie was playing in the living room, so I went to go shut it off. As I got closer, the sound increased until finally it was at the section where Simba says, "Dad?" Of course the television was off, there was no movie on, but clear as day I could hear this soundtrack, and I proceeded to recite, verbatim, Simba's entire dialogue until I started sobbing in the middle of the living room. Then I went back to bed.
This was my earliest memory as a child and it was my very first conscious encounter with the power of music in my life. The next one was a lot more lighthearted, thank goodness.
We all have different stories about why we got into music, and no two experiences are exactly alike. As a child, music was enticing because of its emotional content and how it would enhance certain scenes in movies. Movie scores were my gateway into classical music, without me even knowing it, and they still hold a very special place in my heart. So, in an effort to pay tribute to the music that inspired me, and for you to get to know me a little more, I'm going to be blogging on here about the music that influenced me the most before I was 16, when I made the conscious decision to be an orchestral percussionist.