Community – June 23

When I’m out with my kids, and I run into someone I know, there’s going to be a chance for conversation lingering beyond their bank of patience. After the conversation ends, one of them will say, “Mom, you know everyone.”

On our way home from her harp lesson today, my daughter was looking through my phone messages and told me that I know too many people, because I apparently don’t erase text messages. To this I said,

“I hold onto texts and emails in case there’s something I need to remember. What does that have to do with how many people I know?”
“Do you know how many people are in your contacts?”
“Do I need to?”
“How many friends do you have on Facebook?”
“All of them – and many more that I haven’t yet met.”

I was volunteering at Godfrey Daniels tonight. There was a gentleman there who came up to me after the concert and asked, “You’re Silagh, right?”
I didn’t know his name, and I didn’t remember meeting him.
“Our mutual friend introduced us at Levitt Pavilion last summer.”
And now we’re friends.

See kids? That’s how this works.

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Made in Bethlehem – June 22

Made in Bethlehem – June 22

There’s a group of people making a documentary film about the Bethlehem art scene. The project started last summer with the support of a Mellon Foundation grant through Lehigh’s Digital Humanities program. The production team is interviewing dozens of people in our community who have built the current cultural scene that has helped the local economy recover after the fall of Bethlehem Steel.

What we see today is because of the perseverance of people who were determined to make something special. Now they want to make that special thing last.

As I say to my students, having assets in a community is great. The quality of the assets are what define the quality of the place we call home. Assets are parks, independent businesses, concert venues, diverse dining, art galleries, coffee shops that sell locally roasted beans….  those tangible things that shape the character of a community.

But assets are not just the things; they are the results of creative and contributing citizens. But if we all don’t take and share the care and support of the assets, especially the people, they go away.

This film is about supporting the people who are the voice of our community’s culture, history, art, music and personality. This film is about giving respect to, and taking care of the people who define the Bethlehem arts scene.

Here is a direct link to the Kickstarter page so you can see updates on the project make a contribution. This crowdfunding effort has less than three more weeks to reach its goal. I hope you’ll consider giving your support to the people in our community that are true treasures to behold.

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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 Watching – June 19

What I’m Watching – June 19

There was an event today; a gathering of Lehigh Valley people involved in the arts, humanities, and libraries. The people in the room have dedicated their lives to the arts, not because they are determined to succeed, but they are called to serve. They dedicate their hearts and skills to keep the arts, history, and our collective human knowledge in tact for our community, and for our future.

There was also one other person in the room; Rep. Congressman Charlie Dent, leader of Pennsylvania’s 15th congressional district since 2004. Perhaps more significantly, he is on the Appropriations Committee in Congress.

The reason for the gathering was a program suggested by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, who requested time in Congressman Dent’s schedule soon after the last presidential election. With good reason, statements from our current president cause much worry for us. To be threatened with a proposed elimination of the federal programs that have supported the character of our country is a doomsday scenario. Not that life wouldn’t go on, but the impact would be traumatic.

Since the culture wars of the 1990s, artists and arts organizations have been at the front of the firing line for each fiscal year budget (perhaps even since their foundations). While the comparative allocation of funds for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museums and Library Services PALE in comparison to the national defense budget, the programs of these agencies provide national recognition of the ongoing work to preserve and nurture our national culture. There are many young artists that don’t understand how government funding or even the administration of government funding works. The people in this room do. We also know that we must summarize our truths in ways that translate to others who may not have the same emotional attachment to the issue.

Congressman Dent has been a part of the appropriations process for years. He understands the cycle that the president presents his budget ideas, but the congress actually is the branch of government that dispenses the funding. He took the time today to share with us, what he feels about the importance of the humanities, libraries, museums, and the arts, and to give a picture of the process. He took the time to communicate to us what we can do to support the future of our community’s pride, its soul, its creativity, its history, its character – its humanity.

Our local, state and, national arts agencies gather data on the economic impact the arts bring to communities. They facilitate research on programs that enhance education, health, and community vitality. One thing we learned today is the stories of our work could make the biggest difference in supporting the value of the intangible.

Do you have a story about how a musical experience, a play, a book, a poem, a piece of art, a film, or an historical site changed your life? If you do, it’s time to share that story instead of posting a complaint. The Lehigh Valley Arts Council launched a project to gather your story.  The Power of Story Project, an arts advocacy campaign that highlights how the arts touch lives. 

So the next time you have a complaint about a local mural, or a free outdoor concert, or your local library, or how a group of kids come together in the summer to learn to sing School House Rock, think about the group of people behind the scenes doing magical things to make that happen. Oh wait, it’s not magic? There’s actually knowledge and skills and long hours? Yep.

Then think about your story of how art changed your life. Think about who was involved in the moment. Think about all the conditions that led to that moment. Think of how empty your life would be if you hadn’t experienced that moment.

That’s how empty our future could be. Share your story. Be a force for positive change in your community.

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What I’m Thinking – June 18

What I’m Thinking – June 18

Sundays are good days for taking things a little slower. For getting up a little earlier to weed the garden before it gets too hot. To not be bothered by the kids sleeping in. To have a quiet conversation with my husband. To give my son the brunch making duties. To hide away in my office for some blogging reflection.

I’m nearing the end of the 100 posts in 100 days writing challenge. I started to build a habit of writing daily, and to push through the demon self-editor. I haven’t read my posts. OK, I have read one or two, but only to see if I had written about the topic before. To get through the challenge, I started categories to help me think of topics, hoping they’d be interesting. But trying not to think about if readers liked it or not.

It’s not that I don’t care if the reader is engaged. It’s that if I worry too much about what people think, I will not try. The fear monster gains strength and her greatest weapon of destruction is procrastination.

I’ve mentioned a daily blogger that I read, Seth Godin. There are too many days when his morning post supports the exactly thought I’m having. Today was spot on:
The 100 posts in 100 days challenge was like learning to walk. Of course, I stumbled. But I’m happy to say that I feel really good about persisting through the “ah, screw it” thought.

As a musician, I should know this is the only way to really learn how to do something. This mind set informs my own teaching as well. But I don’t always approach change this way. I’m sure it’s fear of ridicule, imposter syndrome, or showing signs of weakness.

But I want to be successful in other areas. Too many other areas. I have to make some choices and small changes. The biking to work goal is going well; but I have to manage saboteurs better.  Other health decisions are too easily passed to “ah, screw it” because I haven’t developed better choices that lead to long term habits. If I limit the choices, I may make better decisions. Funny, that’s how I got my toddlers to cooperate…
“You can have strawberries or bananas.”
“You can wear this outfit, or that outfit.”
“When you sit quietly through this lecture, you will get a reward of playing in a fountain. If you choose not to cooperate, no playtime in the fountain.”
“You either come with me now, or I’ll leave you in the park all alone to be eaten by wolves…” (This is what I say to them now, as 14 year olds.)

I’ve got to mother myself. Give myself less choices. Take smaller steps and be happy with the steps, not the distance covered in a day, or a week, or a month.

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Albums & Ice Cream, Issue 4- June 17

Albums & Ice Cream, Issue 4- June 17

I’m starting to understand how to adjust the timing for making home made ice cream, if I want it firm enough at serving time. I made the custard yesterday to give it a full 24 hours chill in the fridge before churning in the ice cream machine this morning. It only had to run for 15 minutes before it was ready to set in the freezer for tonight.

I’ve been visiting my favorite local ice cream shop for more pointers on my experiments. I was telling one of the owners that I was surprised at how well the salted caramel ice cream came out. It wasn’t a solid block of ice.
“That’s because there’s salt in the custard. Salt melts ice.”
… duh … you’d think a girl from Wisconsin would know about the properties of salt on ice.

Today’s flavor was a request from Master S: peanut butter. After finding a recipe that had similar ingredients to the successful salted caramel, I bravely adapted 6 egg yolks to 3 whole eggs. Cream, sugar, whole milk, vanilla, and peanut butter. That was it. It was a little harder than the salted caramel, but still pretty creamy.

I wanted to play with the idea of a Snickers sundae; thinking to stir in chopped chocolate bar bits, peanuts and drizzle with a caramel sauce. Then I found a new flavor of Caramel M&Ms. What I didn’t expect was how much harder they would be when chilled. They are much softer off the shelf.

The album that accompanied this experiment was another new one to me, discovered by my audiophile husband. The Hard Working Americans have a sound that is reminiscent of the Grateful Dead. Maybe it’s the organ, make it’s the folk rock drums, maybe it’s the lyrics. Maybe it’s that if I was in Appleton instead of Bethlehem, I’d actually be listening to the Grateful Dead on someone’s archive music for our reunion class.

Hard Working Americans is a jam band supergroup. The lineup includes bassist Dave Schools and drummer Duane Trucks of Widespread Panic, guitarist Neal Casal of Chris Robinson Brotherhood, keyboardist Chad Staehly of Great American Taxi, and singer-songwriter Todd Snider on lead vocals. Shortly after the release of their first album, HWA added Tulsa guitarist Jesse Aycock to the fold. (ref link)

Listening to this album may be more appropriate with a beer while tending the roasting of various meats on a grill. But for this rainy Saturday, it’ll do quite nicely with my bowl of Snickers Ice Cream Sundae.

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