The happy moment pictured abovewith Mimi Fox and Alex de Grassi was after one of the most stress-inducing situations you can imagine. It was the annual Lick concert Saturday, September 12th, to start at 7pm. Behind us is the bust of James Lick, who built Lick Observatory. Here's what happened:
Once a year I drive hours for the artistic highlight of my year—a concert I produce called Great Guitars!at Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton, an hour outside of San José up a crazy, windy mountain road at 4,200 feet. Each year I play a set and bring up a big name touring artist, and this year it was contemporary fingerstyle icon Alex de Grassi. I was a littled worried that his gig in Illinois the night before and travel the day of my concert might have a hitch, and that is exactly what happened.
I was just about to leave for the long drive from Folsom when I got a call from Alex's wife telling me his flight from Chicago was cancelled due to fog shutting down O'Hare for four hours. Now it looked like he would arrive in San Francisco at 7:30. This was my nightmare - that this would happen and he wouldn't make it - so she and I and Alison were all on the phones trying to come up with a replacement. Try to find an artist of that stature who isn't touring or performing on a Saturday night and who can be at the observatory in a few hours! Almost hopeless! We finally reached Mimi Fox, a jazz master who lives in the Bay Area and was off for the night and agreed to help. So that was what I was adjusting to as I drove - how was I going to tell the audience, who had bought their tickets weeks in advance and sold out the concert, that the artist they had paid to see would not be there?
Meanwhile, Alex, who hadn't missed a concert in a thirty year career, found and took a flight to Dallas and literally ran from one end of the Dallas airport to the other with his guitar to catch a connecting flight that arrived in SF close to 6pm. He was determined to make the concert. His wife raced for three hours from Mendocino County to pick him up. There is no cellphone coverage on the mountain, so most of the time I was in the dark, but after he got connected to the gift shop land line, they called me in to take it. We agreed that he would come late and maybe, just maybe, even in time to perform before the after-concert viewing through the telescopes began at around 8pm. I doubted he could make it! My set was strong, and I brought Mimi up. The audience was very understanding, and Mimi played an incredible set. With minutes to go before she ended, Alex showed up! The audience stayed in place and got to see him play for a half hour - a shortened set, but wonderful. They got to hear who they came to see plus Mimi, a straight 90 minutes of music.
Despite the madness, this year was among the best in the many years I've played Lick. I had my friends Herb and Olin with me, and we enjoyed being atop the mountain, staying overnight and waking up to the fog rolling through the mountains.
STUDENT FOUNDS MUSIC OUTREACH PROGRAM FOR CHILDREN IN HOSPITALS
I was delighted to hear one of my students, Niharika (Niki) Gupta, announce that she had started a program to bring music performances to children at Shriner's Hospital for Children and UC Davis Children's Hospital. For children stuck in a hospital, this is great—a real morale boost. Niki writes,
"I am a music student and a sophomore at Mira Loma High School in Sacramento.
This past year, I had the opportunity to visit UC Davis Children’s Hospital and Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Sacramento. These
visits have inspired me to organize a music program, MUS.ICH (Musicians Inspiring Children in Hospitals). The details of the program are inside. I will appreciate if you can encourage your students to participate." Her program description continues:
"Attention musicians of ages 11 through 17, come perform for the wonderful children at UC
Davis Children’s Hospital and Shriner's Hospital for Children! The coolest part? You can chose any music you want to play! Plus, you can choose a day and time that is convenient to you.
What: MUS.ICH is a student organized program for children receiving care at UC Davis Children’s Hospital and Shriner’s Hospital for Children. Musicians come to either hospital to perform a piece of their choice!
Who: Musicians, ages 11 through 17.
Where: UC Davis Children’s Hospital
and/or Shriner’s Hospital for Children, Stockton Blvd, Sacramento
When: MUS.ICH is an ongoing, weekly program. Performers will be able to choose a 30 minute time slot.
Why: Research shows that the best therapy for children in hospitals is music. Whether it’s playing Mozart or singing along with the Jonas Brothers, music proves to be the healing power.
Benefits: Performers will be able to earn community service, gain valuable performance time (as well as more confidence performing in front of audiences), and enjoy their time with the children!"
Is that cool or what? If you would like to provide support of any kind for Niki and this program, contact me and I will pass it along to her.
I mentioned the place I can go out for some practice on Thursdays, the Back Wine Bar, which, besides being a wine lover's fun destination, serves excellent lunches and dinners.
Owners Jeff and Gail Back were excited to hear that the Sacramento Bee was sending a reviewer for their Dining Section. A videographer was coming that afternoon - and I popped over between lessons to get recorded. Check out "Like Cheers With Stemware" and the video clip with moi playing "Sounds of Bells" throughout. Nice!
LOOKING BACK - You can see the twisty Mt. Hamilton Road and waaaaaaaay in the distance, San Francisco Bay.
LOOKING UP - This is what it looks like in the daytime inside the dome housing the 57 foot Great Lick Refractor Telescope, an engineering marvel, especially considering that it was built in the 1880's!
LOOKING TOWARD SAN JOSE AT NIGHT - See how much light is generated from all the development in San José, bouncing off the cloud cover.
More Folsom Studio News
People often ask me if I have another CD besides the Great Guitars! 2004, and I say not quite, real soon, getting ready, gotta get some time and some gear, whatever, and I resolve to move forward. Now I have another distraction from recording my CD—all my students are making CDs—I am recording them at lessons and making the CDs in time for the holidays in December.
Pictured here is the latest iteration of my recording gear - what you don't see is even more cables and a laptop sending music into the Mackie mixer, which routes it into the Zoom H4n Handy Recorder, a kind of Swiss Army Knife of digital recorders. We record weekly, and by December, we'll have CDs to give to friends and family. Maybe I can get one out by December myself!
When I'm not teaching and have the time, special events call for specialized practice. Coming up are Flute & Guitar Duo gigs with Francesca Anderson for Themis Computer in Livermore, Saratoga Country Club, and a pair of concerts shaping up in Novato and Benicia. We just did a really interesting job providing music for a very special 20th Anniversary Party for Folsom-based Gekkeisan Sake, the first overseas branch of a Kyoto-based company dating back to the 1600's. Dignitaries from Japan and the U.S. celebrated the happy relationships that keep the company thriving. As for solo events, I have a number of things coming up, including a Concert for Seniors in Folsom October 12th and another January 7th in San Jose at the City Hall. I hope to see my Bay Area friends there!
The Sacramento Guitar Society has met monthy at California State University Sacramento at Capistrano Hall. Meetings are usually Sunday afternoons - see the SGS website for the current calender.
GRAMMY winning Fingerstyle guitarist, teacher, author and publisher MARK HANSON will present a guitar workshop at my place Saturday, February 13 - 1:30-3:30PM
Mark offers his considerable insight into fingerstyle guitar in a hands-on workshop at the studio of Daniel Roest in Folsom, California. Bring your guitars. Mark will happily address any questions you have, and be prepared to learn some cool new music. For players at every technical level. For reservations, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (916) 294-0400. Check out his CDs, Love Songs for Guitar and Great American Songbook for Guitar.
TEACHERS - Check out my teaching column written especially for teachers at Mel Bay's Guitar Sessions webzine. It provides answers to vexing questions, and I enjoy the process of putting out the monthly column. The September 2009 column shows how to breaks down the hierarchy of left hand technique, and the October column has plenty of tips for teaching barre chords.