Tag Archives: Bach

“The violin chose me…”

Daniel Bernard Roumain - Photo by Leslie Lyons

Charles Darwin. Lady Gaga. Starbucks. Sydney Opera House. Homeless Basketball. Abraham Lincoln. Children of Haiti.

A quick scan of his bio only served to increase my intrigue with the work and play of Haitian-American composer, performer, violinist and band leader Daniel Bernard Roumain — also dubbed DBR.

My daughter Lizabeth and I met Roumain a few years back when Roumain served as an artist-in-residence at Arizona State University.

She was nearing a decade of violin study and performance, and he was graciously working with several students from Arizona School for the Arts.

Recently we chatted about his own foray into the world — he might say “worlds” — of music. I began by asking Roumain when and why he started playing. Was violin his choice, or something his parents chose for him?

Daniel Bernard Roumain - Photo by Leslie Lyons

“The violin chose me,” he quipped — leaving me to wonder how exactly such a thing might be possible. Seems he was in kindergarten when he walked by a room in which the 6th grade orchestra was practicing.

Hearing the violin was all it took. “It called to me,” recalls Roumain. He asked the music teacher if he could play, but the teacher explained that students didn’t start playing at school until first grade.

The teacher suggested he come back the following day. Roumain suspects the teacher never expected him to return. But he did — and he got the okay to play.

Because his earliest violin lessons were at school, there was no charge. But eventually Roumain progressed to weekly private lessons, getting his first violin during 5th grade.

At first Roumain practiced just an hour or so a day — but admits he eventually hit six to eight hours a day. It hardly seems possible until you read reports that put teen technology use at nine hours a day.

Still, practice should never be a chore. “Music should always be fun,” shares Roumain. Who can really say what we will be when we grow up? There’s no reason to pressure young children when it comes to making music.

“When I grew up in Florida,” recalls Roumain, “music was everywhere.” Now music is scarce in American schools. “What’s becoming,” wonders Roumain, “of all the musicians, all the music, the world will never know?”

A violin certainly can’t speak to a child who never hears it.

Still, Roumain feels it would be “presumptuous” to offer a single “magic bullet” sort of solution to declining arts programs in our schools. It’s something parents, educators and community members have to work out in the context of a larger question.

What really comprises the ideal education — the perfectly balanced school day?

Daniel Bernard Roumain - Photo by John Walder

Roumain, age 40, is the father of 18-month-old Zachary. He’ll be faced soon enough with evaluating arts offerings from a parent perspective.

The composer likens music to a “medicine” or “anecdote” in a world where “there are so many ills.” Music, he reflects, is like exercise. “It can never hurt or harm you.”

While he’d like to see every child exposed to music, Roumain says parents need to give children the freedom to forge their own relationships to it. Some will want to play night and day. Others will want to play casually. Others will want to attend concerts. And some are perfectly happy to listen to CDs.

And while schools can choose to reduce art offerings, Roumain is convinced that they lose something in the process — believing that decreased art programs in recent years are related to increased school violence.

“Music,” says Roumain, “is as vital as a school lunch.”

Roumain, who was born in 1970, recalls growing up with a diverse record collection — including music by ABBA, Al Stewart, Bach, Beethoven, The Jackson 5 and Stravinsky (the alphabetizing was his own).

As he got older and went to more concerts, Roumain listened to everything from Prince to Dizzy Gillespie. MTV was in its early days, and a lot of music contained political themes.

Roumain is a fan of the many technologies that make it possible for kids to hear more music, and more types of music, today. He speaks of watching a Lang Lang performance on television with his wife and son over a meal, of listening to the radio during long driving jaunts.

Today his personal favorites include Rhianna and Jay-Z. To get the Lady Gaga reference, you’ll have to read his bio. At home, he says, the family listens to “everything from Bieber to Bach.”

Roumain brings his own passionate blend of music, art and movement to ASU Gammage in Tempe on Sat, Feb 5. There’s a 7pm show for the kids, and a 9pm show for adults.

Daniel Bernard Roumain - Photo by Julieta Cervantes

He’ll be presenting a world premiere titled “Symphony for the Dance Floor,” featuring “the raw uncompromising photography of Jonathan Mannion” and DBR music “inspired by hip-hop, electronica and symphonic sound.”

The work is choreographed by Millicent Johnnie with lighting design by Miriam Crowe and direction by D.J. Mendel. Roumain describes it as “an ecstatic journey” traveled with “a soundtrack of our time.”

“I have hope,” reflects Roumain. “And hope is America’s greatest national resource.”

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “Symphony for the Dance Floor” and other “Gammage Beyond” events presented by ASU Gammage in Tempe. And check your local PBS listings for days/times you can see “Children of Haiti” — a film for which DBR wrote the soundtrack — which will help you learn more about Haiti as we all remember the 2010 Haiti earthquake one year later.

Coming up: A touring production of “A Chorus Line” comes to Mesa and Phoenix this week

Photos from www.dbrmusic.com



From Senegal to Seeger

Michael J. Miles performs on banjo at the MIM this Wednesday

I’m told there’s a gentleman who has quite the diverse banjo repetoire, and will be playing seven of these babies Wednesday night at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix — in a concert dubbed “From Senegal to Seeger.”

He’s Michael J. Miles — musician, composer and musical playwright. Think J.S. Bach. Woody Guthrie. And wordsmiths like Walt Whitman too. They’re all part of this picker’s performance art.

Michael J. Miles sports an impressive banjo collection

Miles’ concert is described as a sort of “social and political portrait of America.” And it makes me wonder. Is there some odd alignment of banjo playing with brilliance?

I ask because only yesterday morning I witnessed Renaissance man Steve Martin playing banjo on CBS News Sunday Morning. Martin also spoke of his experiences with art and his newest novel, titled “An Object of Beauty.”

The banjo has its own special sort of beauty

If you’ve never considered the banjo itself, or the music it makes possible, an object of beauty — it might be time for you to experience the banjo up close and personal.

Perhaps at the MIM Museum Encounter this Wed, Dec 8, at 11:30am or 2:30pm. It’s an opportunity to “meet Miles and hear his entertaining mix of music, history, literature, politics and humor.”

Miles makes a serious fashion statement with this banjo

MIM Museum Encounters are free with museum admission, so you can explore the MIM collection of banjos and other instruments while you are there.

And it won’t cost you a thing to jump online and watch the Steve Martin segment on yesterday’s CBS News “Sunday Morning” show — as well as their hour-long webcast.

If you conjure images of “King Tut” or “Pink Panther” when you think of Steve Martin, you’ve got quite a bit of catching up to do. He’s also author, musician, art collector and more.

Martin makes his own "Peace Corps" fashion statement

I love his description of writing — really three simple elements — which is part of the interview you can listen to by clicking here. I’m off to curl up with “An Object of Beauty” now, so I can enjoy the theory put into practice.

The upcoming Miles concert also got me thinking about Arizona Theatre Company’s next production — “Woodie Guthrie’s American Song.”

It runs Dec 30, 2010-Jan 16, 2011 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, and features “songs and writings by Woody Guthrie.”

Fans of folk and theater will appreciate this ATC offering

The “play guide” is already available online, and it looks to be stellar. It’s my next read after I’m done musing over Martin.

I’m also rather smitten with Bruce Springsteen’s 2006 work titled “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.” Turns out Springsteen plays a mean banjo. Check out this version of “Fever” featuring Bruce on banjo if you doubt me on this one.

Some heard Springsteen play folk during concerts at ASU Gammage

Watch for a future post exploring more of the beauty of the banjo — and ways you can introduce your children to the richness of American folk music, past and present.

— Lynn

More proof that banjo players are brilliant

Note: If you’re a fan of American folk music, I hope you were tuned to PBS last night for “My Music: Folk Rewind” featuring folk singers of the ’50s and ’60s. It reminded me that the online PBS gift shop is another great resource for holiday shopping.

Coming up: “Narnia” from books to big screen, Art adventures: Arizona Science Center, Hippies hit ASU Gammage in Tempe

Lynn’s library: Lives of the…

Lives of the Bloggers. It might make for an interesting book title, but bloggers have yet to catch the interest of Kathleen Krull, author of several books about the oddities and foibles of some rather famous folk.

Krull tackles the lives of presidents, extraordinary women and athletes — with wit and wonderment appealing to both children and adults.

But it’s her three titles about the lives of great artists that I’m especially pleased to count among my personal library.

Ever wondered what motivated, amused or maddened famous musicians?

Krull’s Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought) was my first foray into the series.

It’s a work at once instructive and amusing, revealing tidbits and tales about musicians of many ilks. Here are a bit of Krull’s own musings from her website…

The life stories of famous musicians — Bach, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Woody Guthrie — are familiar to many. But what were they like really?

What kind of children were they? How did they die? And what went on in between? What did they eat? What did they wear? How did they spend their money? What were their phobias, quirks, and bad habits?

Who were their “significant others”? And what did the neighbors think? (Music is not a quiet career.)

The 16 musicians profiled — with caricatures — include Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Vivali, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Stravinsky. Also Joplin, Gilbert & Sullivan, Guthrie and more.

Given the book’s emphasis on classical music, I’d like to see Krull tackle another music-related title — Lives of the Rockers. Think Elvis, Lennon, Jagger and Springsteen (but please, no Bieber).

Seems some artists are rather odd.

Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces and Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought) tackles the quirks of 19 artists.

This is precisely its charm. One recognizes after reading it, as with other titles in the series, that famous folk are people too — and not without their shortcomings.

Featured artists include Leonardo, Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Cassatt, O’Keeffe, Matisee, Chagall, Picasso, Dali, Noguchi, Rivera, Kahlo and Warhol and others equally diverse.

The artist who illustrates Krull’s “Lives of the…” series is Kathryn Hewitt. And Krull herself is married to another children’s book illustrator, Paul Brewer.

Writers are indeed a quirky folk.

Finally, there’s Lives of the Writers: Comedies, Tragedies (and What the Neighbors Thought) — featuring twenty writers, mostly novelists and poets.

Targets of Krull’s tattle tail trivia include Poe, Dickinson, Twain, Austen, London, Cervantes, Andersen and Shakespeare.

I rather wish that Krull had included her own profile in this one, for surely a writer this drawn to others’ oddities must have a few of her own.

So far I’ve learned only that she lives in San Diego and was fired from her first job as a teen. Seems folks at the library expected her to work rather than read all those fascinating titles.

The latest book in my Krull collection came from the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix

Alas — we are left to wonder about the lives of all those fascinating dancers and actors who’ve yet to pique Krull’s curiosity. One should never peak (or peek) too soon, I suppose.

Or pehaps these stage folk are simply better than others at keeping their secrets. Certainly a lack of idiosyncrasies isn’t the issue.

But no matter. It’s always good to leave something to the imagination. As it is, these three titles will give you plenty of fodder for holiday festivities when conversations dwindle to celebrity gossip.

Your famous folk will be far more fascinating than those of partygoers enamored with the likes of “Snooki” or “The Situation.” There is a reason, after all, that no one has ever penned a book titled Lives of the Reality TV Stars.

— Lynn

One of Krull’s newest titles features the fine art of…

Note: Krull’s other works feature fascinating fare about the likes of Dr. Seuss, L. Frank Baum, Hilary Rodham Clinton, Cesar Chavez and many others. My latest Krull aquisition is M is for Music — which I picked up during a visit to the MIM gift shop. Visit her website at www.kathleenkrull.com to learn more.

Coming up: Lives of the hippies — the musical “HAIR”

The world of film

I rarely strike up a conversation these days without it leading somehow to the topic of film. Recently I attended an event at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, where I sat at a table with several MIM volunteers.

There wasn’t a boring one in the bunch, and I felt a whole lot smarter walking out the door than I’d felt walking in.

One of the remarkable volunteers I chatted with beamed when telling me the story of her son in law’s move from a career with Goldman Sachs to a career in screenwriting.

She clearly applauds his decision to follow his heart.

It reminded me that I’ve long wanted to write about the MIM’s first annual film series — which begins with a screening of “BACH & Friends” on Oct 23 (a reprise screening is scheduled for Oct 28 @ 6:30pm).

Here’s a brief rundown of upcoming film offerings at the MIM — which are free with museum admission:

Laya Project. Sat, Nov 6 at 2:30pm. Features “the peoples of coastal and surrounding communities in the 2004 tsunami-affected regions of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, and India.”

Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders. Live with host Marco Werman. Sun, Dec 5 at 2:30pm. Features “the adventures of travel and the sould-satisfying, hip-shaking pleasures of great music.”

Mighty Uke. Sat, Jan 8 at 2:30pm. Features insights into “why so many people of different cultures, ages, and musical tastes are turing to the ‘uke’ to express themselves, connect with the past, and with each other.

nomadak tx. Sat, Feb 5, 2:30pm. Features two musicians as they “embark on an extraordinary quest to Mongolia, India, Lapland, and the Sahara in search of sounds and voices.”

Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037. LIVE with filmmaker Ben Niles. Sun, March 20 at 2:30pm. Features “the hand-crafted creation of one concert grand (#L1037) from forest floor to concert hall” and “the relationship between musician and instrument.”

So what of the financial whiz turned film maker? Turns out his talents mirror his instincts. He’s Jon Hurwitz, writer for several “Harold & Kumar” films — whose “American Pie 4” project is expected to hit movie theaters in 2012.

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts opens its 2010-2011 “Talk Cinema” season this week — on Tues, Oct 19 at 7pm — in their lovely Virginia G. Piper Theater.

The monthly film series features screenings, discussions and opportunities to offer feedback on featured films.

I can’t share the titles because they’re kept under wraps until shortly before showtime for patrons who prefer the element of surprise (others can go online to read a spoiler shortly before each film’s screening).

I’ll have to miss “Talk Cinema” this month because I’m already scheduled to see and review Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” on opening night at ASU Gammage — but I’m eager to attend future screenings.

Student tickets run just $10 (with current student ID) so it’ll be easy to take along any of my kiddos (now in high school and college) who can manage to tear themselves away from homework for the night.

Film as an art form is coming into its own — with a following far beyond those with the financial resources to cross the globe from one film fest to another.

I’m delighted to have these two remarkable venues, and several others in the Valley, for enjoying some of the finest that filmmakers have to offer.

— Lynn

Note: Several museums, including the Phoenix Art Museum and the Heard Museum, offer film selections — as do local libraries, community colleges and other venues. To learn more about the fine art of film criticism, save the date: “Film Criticism with Harlan Jacobson” comes to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on Tues, Jan 18, 2011 from 5:30-6:30pm. Admission is free (first come, first served).

Coming up: Award-winning storytellers take to Valley stages, Kennedy Center tours Arizona