I Have Reached the Next Level (2) – June 29

On March 22, 2017, I set a goal to write one blog post a day for 100 days. It was the day after my birthday. The point of the challenge was to produce work; to encourage me back into the creative space in which I thrive.

Scanning through the posts, I’m glad to see that I experimented with technology, teased a few beta ideas for the next project, and kept within a framework of categories, while leaving room for new ideas to emerge throughout the challenge. There were a few short posts on days I wasn’t feeling well. But even then, I posted something to stay true to myself. It was my own prescribed therapy to help get past a painful job loss, and embrace the new opportunities that come from being open. So how am I doing now? Very well, thank you very much.

There are some pretty incredible people in my safety circle. The folks in Jakopa Punch, Ice House, Bel Canto/Bach Choir, Godfreys, ArtsQuest, Fine Arts Commission were all there, waiting for me to come back to functionality. Great friends To–, Pa-, Do—-, Ea–, S&M Ri—–, G&C Wa—-, Je—-, Du—-, Ge—-, Ja—-, Do—, … were there when I needed to talk it out. My kids were oh so patient with my sad days, and nursed me back when my spirit and body were bedridden. Steve, as always, was my champion: patient, encouraging, loving, supportive, did I mention patient?

Near the end of the 100 blog post challenge, I made friends with two (new to this process) people who turned up the heat for me in these last couple of weeks. They listened to my ideas, and are now encouraging me to take the next leap into a much bigger commitment of creativity. Ri– & Er–… I can’t thank you enough for being the sounding board that brought a year’s worth of conversations with my husband and close friends into focus.

So what’s next?

(deep breath)

Ladies and gentlemen, may I please make an announcement? On Saturday, July 1, 2017 I will be [soft] launching The Audience Guide. It’s a multi-channel resource for arts loving audiences to learn more about the lively and performing arts created in the Lehigh Valley.

The Audience Guide will be a web based resource that includes original content for exploring arts venues, insights into arts and cultural organizations, interviews with the “magic fairies” that make the moments possible, supplemental material to help audiences enrich their experience, and planning ideas to make the most of the arts and cultural scene for visitors and people who live like a tourist in their own community. Content will be available in audio podcast, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I will be directing traffic that comes to this website directly to the venues and artists, and also sharing inspirational content from other creatives in the Lehigh Valley.

The intention for the blog is to help readers connect to what’s here and to know more about what makes this place special. But it’s also to help audiences connect to the experiences on their own terms; and to be present in these moments to perhaps forget about the day’s troubles, or suspend time if only for a breath.

I hope you keep an eye out for the soft launch, and watch it build over the next two months. The goal is to have enough content ready for a robust arts season by Labor Day weekend. For those who watch it grow, I hope you’ll share your opinions and ideas. The Audience Guide will be for you after all.

And now…. a little celebration:

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What do audiences want? – June 28

What do audiences want? – June 28

Artists and arts organization struggle daily with the question, “What do audiences want?” Some artists might boldly declare a detached nonchalant response to this question. Their artistic genius matters not on commercial success, but on meeting their own muse’s standards. Other arts organizations may change their signature completely to meet a budgetary goal by programming more popular art, rather than artists with more quality of the discipline. Otherwise termed, “the sell-out.”

Every artistic genre has stories of artists who choose to align their work on one side of this balance or the other. Many arts organizations work toward inviting people into understanding what their work is about through various means of outreach and educational initiatives. M asterworks will stand the test of time. But how do audiences develop an interest in being part of the new art, the live art, or participating in the process instead of merely observing its existence?

As an artist, I was pulled into these questions during the culture wars of the 1990s. Intrigued, worried, and somewhat befuddled by conversations I heard from established artists in the professional orchestra I was lucky enough to perform with, I started a quest to understand the barriers to the first problem:

Our audiences are graying. What are we doing to reach out to younger audiences?

That was 25 years ago. Babies born in that decade are having babies now. There have been changes in technology, changes in art, changes in the cultural economy, but the problem of audience building is ever present. There have been studies on audience segmentation, white papers on low barriers to entry, theories, symposiums, cross-disciplinary studies, foundations willing to support good ideas, and on and on.

There is no one solution. There are many creative ideas, innovative technologies, and people willing to take risks changing how they promote their art. But it can’t just be the artists who change. What about us, the audience? How can we change?

I’m about to take a risk in putting something into the world that might help audiences know more about the arts scene in The Lehigh Valley. It’s a mix of behind the scenes stories, interviews with “magic fairies,” information about the works, supplementary content, suggestions for complimentary activities, a blend of concierge/maitre’d assistance to help readers discover artistic experiences produced in the Lehigh Valley.

I’ve been building this project for a while.

This post is not meant to be a tease. It’s an invitation to readers to share what they look for when they’re looking for an artistic adventure. There are so many brilliant artistic voices in our community. So many ways to participate in the process.

What would you want to be able to access that would help you learn more about what’s happening in our arts community?

Asking…. for a friend.

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Morning Routine update – June 26

According to my phone apps, it’s been over a week that I’ve been getting out for a dog walk at 6am. Thanks to an accountability partner, and an eager dog, I only skipped Tuesday to account for a late rehearsal. I’m thinking that maybe I should get out at 6am anyway, and work in a nap on Tuesday afternoons. The action gets me moving to the point of not crawling back into bed.

I’m still writing morning pages, and limiting digital surfing. Still riding my bike to work when weather cooperates. Still getting to my projects and feeling ready to take on more productivity.

One could say the daily routine is normalizing, and I’m getting more done.

I’m feeling quite settled. Which is a good thing before the work goes from second gear to third gear this Saturday.

While I’m nearing the end of the 100 posts in 100 days, I also have a count down to launch in 6 days. I’m so excited.

And I’m going to leave it at that for now. Cryptic for a reason.

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Albums & Ice Cream, edition 5

Earlier this week, two things happened to inspire the 5th issue/edition of Albums & Ice Cream. The weekly CSA (farm share) offered second pint of sweet cherries and I had a day trip with my son to the Jersey shore.

The first quart of cherries were pitted and set out on the table last week, eaten within a couple of days. The second quart was pitted, but after listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in the car with my son explaining to me all of the musical details, it only made sense to put these together on this post.

I had a job as a teen at the Kenosha Spot Drive In; serving ice cream sundaes and making shakes, malts and root beer whirls. We had four flavors; vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and one rotating “other” flavor, either butter pecan, or New York Cherry. I loved that ice cream with hot fudge. I don’t see this flavor very often in our regular ice cream parlors, so I wonder if it’s a “vintage” flavor, or one that was more regional to the mid-west. Which would be weird since it was “New York” cherry.

Oddly, the only recipes I found were Philly style base.  I prefer the French style. I’m getting better at making my own custard base, with a bit of consideration toward sensibility. I’m not religiously following the instruction to use 6 egg yolks. I use three whole eggs, and temper them more carefully. The strainer takes care of the tiny bits of white that cook. I also add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to keep it from freezing into a solid block of ice. This batch was a basic vanilla ice cream with an added splash of almond extract, then fresh local cherries cut in half and stirred into the custard by the machine.

While my son’s insights into the Pink Floyd album were more focused on the drums and lyrics, I was listening with a flush of memories of recording a Tribute Band of the album name in Rochester for my doctoral studies. I was applying anthropological theory and research practice to understand the attraction of a then new phenomenon in the local music scene; the tribute band. I saw a connection to audience building for the symphony orchestra, and made the case in my work, much to the dismay of the conservative music history department at Eastman. This was 1995, the height of the culture wars, and before the term” audience building” was a thing in the arts. I was onto something then, and I still am today.

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It’s OK, I’m in the band – June 21

It’s OK, I’m in the band – June 21

Six months ago, I challenged myself and performed in a rock and roll band on my bassoon. Not just on Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown,” but on the entire set list. I never thought in all of my conservatory training I’d find myself on this kind of stage with some awesome people.

The February show was a fundraiser for the summer program we’re doing in a couple of weeks. Conceived by Touchstone’s Artistic Director, JP Jordan, he wrote a post about the band’s February performance and a bit about the band’s origin story. I was not part of the original line up.

The show we are about to do in three weeks is all newly conceived music based around characters that are matched with each member of the band. The story follows a hero’s journey and includes muppets, stilt walkers, and an aerialist. It’s a mobile story that takes place in three separate locations on South Bethlehem’s Greenway linear park. Yes, I will need to stand and walk while playing the bassoon. And cue the Woody Allen movie reference.

Images taken from Jason Hedrington’s Facebook page; so he’s not pictures with his accordion of awesomeness
This is the spectacular cast.

Last night the band rehearsed with the actors who are voicing the dialogue and operating puppets. There’s is also a chorus of pirates and other characters. Oh, and we hope spectacular audience participation. It was the first time we all came together to run the script. We all left the “The Peace Train” room <- the name of the upstairs studio at Touchstone Theatre -> with such a high level of energy. In fact, when folks were dismissed, we hung out for a while. When people linger after rehearsal, it’s usually because you don’t want to leave that energy too quickly. It’s a great feeling.

Here’s a close-up of the puppets created by Yodi Vaden; an incredible Renaissance man from Allentown. Not only does he make these muppet-like creatures, he also makes ginormous puppets that actors need to walk on stilts to operate them. He’s also a sensitive poet and a mad awesome chef. Check out his Instagram feed for pictures of his work. It gives you some nice insight into the puppet making, and also how inventive he is in multiple art forms.

As I was driving home last night, I was thinking about the show; reviewing spots I need to woodshed a little more, mental notes of making time for more reed production since the weather will require multiple options in the reed case, and … Holy Moley! I’ve been made into a muppet! Pretty sure this is a career peak.

Barbara Volgelgesang and I make the wise Acolyte of the Oracle.

Jakopa’s Punch Processional is part of a collaboration in South Bethlehem between Touchstone, Zoellner Arts Center and ArtsQuest. The other venues have interesting shows. You can find out about ArtsQuest’s HERE and Zoellner’s HERE. The concept of a three day festival that celebrates community and circus arts comes from the brain of Deborah Sacarakis. I enjoyed working with her on numerous cirque programs when I was at Zoellner. It’s neat to be a part of this as a performer.

As you’re reading this and might want to jot down the details of the Jakopa’s Punch Processional. July 14 & 15, 2017 at 6:30pm (run time 60 minutes). We’ll be on the South Bethlehem Greenway, meet us at the Chinese Harmony Pavilion between Webster and Taylor Streets.

Oh, and by the way, both of these shows are FREE. (Zoellner and ArtsQuest shows are ticketed)

It’s going to be a great weekend in Bethlehem because it’s also the time for the annual Historic Bethlehem Partnership’s Blueberry Festival. I also learned that there will be an opening of an art walk in the South Bethlehem Arts District that weekend. And this is supposed to be a quieter time of July as we commence to “restin’ before [Musik]festin’.” Ha!

Face it. I live in a community with lots of people who love to create and make special moments. Gosh, I love this town.

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The Power of the Snooze – June 20

When I was a little girl, I hated naps. I felt like I was going to miss something important. I remember vividly being told to lay down on the living room couch. It was a fancy couch with a pattern of raised red fabric on a white background. The red part was a really short velvet-like texture. If I fell asleep without a pillow, the patterns would transfer to my face.

I remember one nap time of resistance in which I laid down and kept calling to my mother in the nearby kitchen,
“Can I wake up now?”
“Can I wake up NOW?”
“How about now? Can I wake up, now?”
(poor Mom)

I was a stupid college student for so many years, putting practice, studying, performing, bartending, socializing, and anything else ahead of sleep. I’d crash on the weekend, but somehow made it through the week with 3-4 hours of sleep each night. I’m sure sleep deprivation made for many stupid decisions.

When I became a mom, sleep deprivation was a whole new (pardon the irony) awakening. I’ve heard the phrase “bone tired” but didn’t feel it until the twinning. Somehow, the aliens ended up cooperating with a sleep routine. Or maybe I got good at sleeping when they did. However it happened, we are all still alive today.

Now that I’m in my 50s, I still have to consciously observe my sleep habits. As much as I try to build a regular routine around work at the office and my own projects, I have to be more mindful of how I pace myself for late night rehearsals.

For the past year, I consoled my grief with lots of sleep. Too much sleep. I was lost and frustrated by my situation. Now that I’m not in the pits of that sadness, I’ve got stuff I want to do. The goal is to get out of bed at 5:30am so I can do three important mind/body health things before I go into work by 7:30am. I want to be home by 2pm to give myself the rest of the afternoon to work on my own projects, or finish up Bel Canto deadlines. Family dinner is important to us and afterward, I want to spend time with my family or friends, or enjoy a good book, watch a movie, write, or listen deeply to music.

When I was at Lehigh, in order to meet all the work of the admin position, teaching, M.Ed., and community engagement, I would regularly go back to campus in the evening or back to South Bethlehem on the weekends. Eleven years of this pace. Now I choose to do go out at night because I want to be there – not because I feel like I have to be there for institutional representation. It’s. So. Liberating!

But what to do about getting enough sleep on the days I have a late night rehearsal? Sleep a little later the morning of the late night rehearsal. Adjust the day. And try to recover the next day with lots of deep breaths.

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What I’m Creating – June 14

What I’m Creating – June 14

I now have more time in the next six days than I would have had if I went to the reunion in Wisconsin. To fight the creeping feelings of regret, I’m going to make this weekend as purposeful as possible.

I’m going to take some time for self-care of the motherly kind. I’ll hack away at some built up reading and getting to inbox zero. And I’m going to investigate a few projects…

I’ve recently discovered an eBook that reviews task management techniques. It’s seems a good time to review how I can plan for work projects and my own business goals. I also found (yet) another planner that looks really interesting. It’s a combination of features I liked from three separate systems, and flexibility to move pages around. Of course I can’t recall the dang planner company, or the title of the eBook. I printed them out and left them in a bag that is not sitting right next to me. Otherwise, I’d share them.

Maybe. If I’m feeling generous, I’ll come back to the post and update this paragraph. Maybe. I’m on vacation, you know.

What I have time for now will not be wasted binge watching TV. Perhaps I’ll use this time to establish a morning routine that sticks. I figured since I’m nearly done with the 100 posts in 100 days challenge, I actually might stick to a new habit.

All of the “maximize productivity” articles I find suggest that you do that important thing in the morning before breakfast. But what if I want to exercise, do yoga, meditate, free write, practice bassoon, and walk the dog? That’s at least three hours of stuff. And if I want to do that before daily mass? I love Jesus, but I don’t think starting my day at 3:30am will set me up for success.

Yet, this is what is in my head every morning. If I miss any of these activities, I’m starting the day a failure. But if I get to mass – it’s amazing how much that makes me feel good about how I started the day. I just wish I could feel satisfied with the options of what I could do, instead of kicking myself for what I should do. And who’s standards are these anyway???

I guess this means that I’m either on my way to creating a routine, or creating a monster.

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