Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

See You Next Summer

I figured it out.

It took a little while… most of four weeks… but I got it.

I’ll back up.

My image of summer camp – the stereotypical summer camp of low-budget movies – was not my idea of a good time, not least because it usually involved enforced swimming, and my experience of swimming involved the letters P, T, S, and D.

Swimming and crafts and singed marshmallows around campfires and anything overnight… yeah, kinda no.

My parents found the sixth-grade me a summer day camp.

Oh yay.

I spent the first two weeks of the four-week camp session being very side-eye about it all. At least it was a day camp. You didn’t have to take swimming. I could write for the camp newspaper. Good, I suppose. But I was pretty sure I could have enjoyed my summer just as much, riding my bike and playing catch.

I spent the last nearly two weeks of the session begrudgingly coming around to the idea of this particular camp being kinda okay after all. I connected with a couple of really friendly counselors, made a couple… no, a squadron of pretty good friends… and got mixed up in shadow drama, whaaat?, and fencing (swords, with masks and protective jackets and advance-retreat-ho-hah-dodge-parry-thrust-PRANGG). Not bad, as it turned out.

And at the end of the four weeks, there was a big ol’ camp musical. I wasn’t in it, but some of my new friendlies were, so I went to closing night.

It was tons of fun… catchy songs… good story… great performances… the thing was a full-scale musical, but it was so entertaining that it just flew by. And just like that, it was over.

I made my way over to where the pit should have been breaking their equipment down, but instead was cranking out a celebratory blues jam. I caught the eye of the counselor on the drums. “Thanks for a great summer, Bob!” He smiled, not missing a beat (ever!), and nodded once, almost ceremonially. And I peered around the edge of the upright piano, and caught the eye of the counselor banging out chords upon it. He grinned – “Robbie!” – and I called out to him, over the blues changes.

See you next summer, Jackie!”

Yeah, I said it.

I guess summer day camp was acceptable, after all.

The musical production, by the way, was called “Monopoly”.

The performance, after which I had stumbled upon the truth, that the Charles River Creative Arts Program had passed the audition … was forty years ago tonight.

It had been there all along. And there would be many next summers.

I finally figured it out.

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August 19, 2018 Posted by | arts, CRCAP | , , , | Leave a comment

Worthwhile

‘Twould be hypocritical of me to crack on someone who seemed to be writing about topics about which they weren’t exactly experts.

Exhibit A: … this Blogge, hello!

Talk about not staying in my lane.

So with that in mind, I shall tread carefully.

 

Seems like almost every year at this time, someone leaps onto social media to say some intemperate thing about that curious activity about which I swoon, namely, The Marching Band. Makes sense: if you watch TV on New Year’s Day, you may be subjected to more sights and sounds of the marching arts than on any other TV day, what with the Rose Parade and various college football bowl games and all.

So it makes sense that people who are apt to be critical or prone to mockery, regarding this activity, are going to be that way right around the New Year.

And so it was, yesterday, with a fellow called Bill James.

Honestly, if I wanted to save time … I could just direct you to a piece I posted here three years ago; you could read it and every time you read the words “Jim Rome” you could replace them mentally with “Bill James” and be just as far ahead. You would be forgiven if you did this. Or if you didn’t.

Mr. James leapt onto Twitter and, as you do, Tweeted:

Does the world really need marching bands? I know I am [in] trouble for even asking this question, but what do you think?”

And offered Twitter followers a poll, the results of which happened to end up 88 to 12 in favor of “Yes, we need bands”.

A futile poll, as it happened, but 7 to 1 in any sport constitutes a convincing win, I should think.

Myself? Rather than losing my ever-lovin’ mind – as a couple of my colleagues have done – trying to change Bill James’ ever-lovin’ mind – which is futile because anyone who posts an opinion online and is then pushed back against … digs in that much harder and We Shall, We Shall Not Be Moved – I merely sighed, “ah, he’ll never understand, and it’s his loss.”

True enough, at least to me – a fellow who understands that the marching arts can be dreadful if done poorly, BUT if they’re designed and done with a certain amount of skill and caring can be positively transcendent, even if the purveyors do wear feathers on their heads. So there’s that bias built-in.

 

My curiosity got the better of me, though; and so I peeked at the replies to Mr. James’ Tweet. The replies were predictably – how dare you, sir – but it turns out that Mr. James felt the need to engage with many of the aggrieved respondents. And in the process, he revealed a couple of interesting things about himself.

First, I guess maybe I should have known who Bill James even was.

Not that jazz composer who wrote the theme from “Taxi”.

Not that fellow who co-starred with Will Smith in that romantic comedy movie of a few years back.

He’s a baseball writer. Who invented “Sabermetrics”.

Sabermetrics is the empirical analysis of baseball, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity. … Sabermetricians collect and summarize the relevant data from this in-game activity to answer specific questions. The term is derived from the acronym SABR, which stands for the Society for American Baseball Research, founded in 1971. The term sabermetrics was coined by Bill James, who is one of its pioneers and is often considered its most prominent advocate and public face.”

Mm’-kay.

See, I knew I should have recognized that name right away. But I guess I didn’t.

And, more importantly and with less needless snark … something else that Mr. James revealed about himself was this: it turns out that he wasn’t, after all, violating the rule of “only write about what you know”.

One Twitter respondent noted, “That’s a funny question coming from the ultimate sports nerd. Let the music folks have their fun.” Mr. James shot back:

I was in the Marching Band in high school. I was on the field at the halftime of many football games. In retrospect, I’d like to have those 500 hours back.”

In retrospect, it was a shame that there wasn’t one of the Drum Major Academy drum majors in charge of that band, as that student leader might have been able to get to Mr. James before his attitude went all toxic and he either quit the band or destroyed it. (I know; that drum major would have needed a time machine, since Mr. James’ age is closer to seventy than seventeen; you get my point, I trust.)

Sorry! I’m sorry. That was not how I meant this to go. I really wasn’t going to be all snarky about this. I was going to let all it roll off my back. I was going to stay positive.

 

I know a good way to stay positive. It’s this angle:

When another Twitter respondent wished Mr. James would respect the amount of work that goes into being in a marching band, Mr. James shot back:

I respect their work. I just think I would respect if more if they worked on something more worthwhile.”

Mm’-kay.

Is it worthwhile to commit all that time and effort to marching in a band?

Is it worthwhile to commit all that time and effort to being a Sabermetrician?

Is it worthwhile to make solar panels?

Is it worthwhile to paint sunsets?

Is it worthwhile to learn how to play chess? To play autoharp?

Is it worthwhile to create computer graphics software that will allow more realistic renderings of video-game backgrounds?

Is it worthwhile to write a blog?

Is it worthwhile to commit ridiculous amounts of time and effort to activities that other people don’t understand, and can’t understand, and sometimes even mock?

Sure it is.

Because the alternative is having a population full of people who aren’t curious, aren’t creative, don’t know how to commit time and effort to something … but instead are just drones who only know enough to be “prepared for the 21st century workforce”. Or who would rather mock the people who are curious, creative, and willing to sweat a little – because throwing Internet snark is just easier. Far less risky. Much easier to get attention any which way one can. Look at me and my disdain for people whose activity I think isn’t worthwhile. I made you respond. I win.

Unless, apparently, you get under the skin of the band people, some of whom Tweet things at you like..

It appears the father of Sabermetrics has not found a new audience amongst band members.”

…or…

We used to be awfully quiet about you, because we had no idea who you were. Must suck to be insignificant, until the bandos come after you.”

 

Then it doesn’t make you come out looking like that much of a winner.

At which point it doesn’t seem as worthwhile, I guess.

January 2, 2018 Posted by | arts, band, baseball, DMA, Internet, marching band, music, social media, sports, Twitter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Say No To This

The headline: “President-elect Trump Demands Apology from HAMILTON Cast”

That breathless news story of today, the timing of which has caused many people to note that it owes its existence to the need to bury a different breathless news story (namely a $25 million settlement of a civil case involving a certain real-estate “university”), is nonetheless what I’m going to focus on today, here, since … well, there are a couple of tiny things to note about it. And those things are anything but tiny.

Especially to someone (me) who has spent the bulk of his life pretty tight with the arts, and artists, and free creative expression.

Quickly now, the back story:

Current Vice President-elect, Michael Pence, paid a visit to Broadway’s revolutionary mega-hit, ‘Hamilton’ last night and reports from inside the theater confirmed a less than enthusiastic reception. The forthcoming Vice President got a mixed reception from the packed as he was both cheered and booed upon arrival.

So the current President-elect did the Presidential thing, which of course was to immediately climb onto the Twitter machine without adult supervision:

Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”

Further back story:

Following the show (as reported by the Washington Post in the quote below), Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor currently portraying Aaron Burr, read a brief statement to the Vice President-elect on behalf of the company:

‘You know, we have a guest in the audience this evening,’ he said to audience laughter. ‘And Vice President-elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There’s nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen. There’s nothing to boo here. We’re all here sharing a story of love. We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out.’

As he pulled a small piece of paper from his pocket, Dixon encouraged people to record and share what he was about to say ‘because this message needs to be spread far and wide.’

‘Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at “Hamilton: An American Musical.” We really do,’ Dixon said to further applause. ‘We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, we truly thank you truly for seeing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.’”

The current President-elect tweeted, by way of response:

“The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!

Great art doesn’t always feel safe. Great art doesn’t always spare your feelings. Great art doesn’t always confirm your beliefs. Great art doesn’t always stay polite. Great art doesn’t always conform to its audience’s idea of propriety.

Great art takes risks and dares you to experience them too. Great art challenges your feelings and your beliefs. Great art is a bumpy ride. And great art wouldn’t be great art if it did exactly what you wanted, all the time – that being the case, it would be pablum.

So the President-elect’s tweets make sense. Because all his life he’s reacted badly to having his feelings and beliefs challenged, to having people do something other than exactly what he’s wanted, all the time.

Not long after the President-elect expressed all that dismay, and demanded apologies, one supporter of his on Twitter (whose Twitter handle I won’t include here, because I’m uninterested in giving that supporter any more exposure) tweeted this:

An artist’s job is to make people smile, not to make political statements. Apologize to Mike Pence, or stop calling yourselves artists!

The President-elect seems so concerned about the artistic environment being a safe and special place – when his political friend’s feelings may be endangered. He wants an apology from the “Hamilton” cast – for expressing those subversive thoughts about the effect they hope their show has.

He’s not likely to get it.

Fair is fair: I’m pretty damned concerned about the coming Administration’s policies making the American environment into a not-very-safe or special place for many groups of people – when their rights and freedoms, livelihoods and very lives may be endangered. And I want an apology from the President-elect – for the past seventeen months of expressing truly subversive thoughts in the past seventeen months about the effect he hopes his “show” has.

I have a feeling I’m not likely to get that, either.

But what’s obvious is the President-elect’s (and his groupies’) fundamentally stunted understanding of free, creative, artistic expression.

Happily for him – and for us – I have the sense that he’s going to experience a lot more of it in the next few years.

He’s going to get an education, all right.

Apologize, … or stop calling yourselves artists”?

Say no to this.

RESIST.

November 19, 2016 Posted by | arts, current events, music, news, politics, theatre, Twitter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment