Did that REALLY just happen?!?

I’m as sure as one can be that I saw Will Rogers Follies at the Kennedy Center back in the early 90s with Mac Davis playing Will Rogers. I was actually thinking it was more like the mid/late 1980s, but my online research has clearly shown that it must have been in 1993. I know I saw Cats somewhere in D.C. in the 1980s, and I think it was at the Kennedy Center, but I could be wrong about that. My cursory research did not yield any viable conclusions. So I have to go with Will Rogers Follies as my only clearly validated experience going to the Kennedy Center. (Incidentally, I ended up playing one of the Wranglers for a production of Will Rogers Follies in 2002.)

If I could time travel back to my 25-year-old self going to this show and tell him that, one day, he would play piano and sing at The Kennedy Center, then there is no way in hell he would have believed me. Of course, proper context and perspective is important here. It is totally awesome to be able to say I did such a thing, but I’m also not going to let it go to my head, given full context.

I had the pleasure of being contracted to music direct and accompany a dear friend and fellow artist, Greg Burgess, for a staged reading to be presented as part of the 2016 Page to Stage festival at the Kennedy Center. The play is called Character Building, and it is a musical adaptation of the teachings and lectures of Dr. Booker T. Washington to the students of Tuskegee University. The adaptation was by Martin Blank, and presented by American Ensemble Theater. Dr. Washington specifically refers to some spirituals in some of his talks, and this was a motivation behind Martin’s choice to conceptualize this show as a musical. The way I approached this project was to do research on 19th century spirituals, work songs, and hymns. I didn’t want to focus too much on them being so specifically African American spirituals and work songs. The whole point of these teachings from this wise and important person is that they transcend concepts of race, and I wanted to just focus on finding 19th century songs that connect in some way to the lessons or wisdom expressed in his words. Most of them can certainly be considered as African American, but it wasn’t the only driving force to the approach.

So, fundamentally, I was one of hundreds of artists participating at this festival at The Kennedy Center. Our performance was in the South Atrium Foyer on the Terrace level. Certainly one of the more modest performing spaces at the venue, but I’m pleased to say that we had a full house. As far as my singing boast goes, I just came in for a few lines at the end of our closing number: Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho. This makes it factual for me to say that I played piano and sang at The Kennedy Center. I find it fun and artistically satisfying to say such a thing. But the context is so incredibly important, because this was part of a collaborative production involving three artists, and it was presented as part of a very large festival involving many other artists and production companies. I played some VERY simple accompaniments for well-established traditional songs, and sang a bit for a few lines. If it sounds impressive, it really isn’t as impressive as it sounds without this full context thing.

I’m also incredibly happy that some very important friends came out to share the experience with me. Many thanks to Dave and Leti, a lovely couple who I have know since my teenage years. They are both so incredibly supportive of music and the arts, and having them out in the audience was wonderful since they knew me from back in my early years as a developing artist. Also out there was my friend Steven who I have known since I was 16, accompanied by his lovely wife Renee, and his two sons. Also, my friends June and Renfield. By the way, a common thing about all of these couples is that I got to be there and share in all of their weddings!! Also out there was another dear friend Marc Okrand, who is a wonderful chap that is very connected to and in-tune with the D.C. theatre scene. (If you google him you’ll find out another interesting thing about Marc, but since he’s really just a friend to me, I try to avoid getting hung up on that part. But, it is also pretty darn cool!)

So, yes, it really happened… I played piano and sang at The Kennedy Center. I like to think that my work relationships and abilities were a big help, but ultimately I owe this to Greg Burgess. It’s ALL HIS FAULT! So, thanks to Greg for thinking of me as the guy to help out with this project! Here is Greg and I in the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company production of A Midsummer Nights Dream in 2011:


Next Big Thing: Character Building

I am currently working on the American Ensemble Theater production of Character Building. This is a new musical adaptation of the teachings of Dr. Booker T. Washington, and features traditional African American spirituals and work songs.


I have been doing quite a bit of research coming up with some appropriate songs to fit Dr. Washington’s words (deftly adapted to this 1-hour 1-man play version by Martin Blank), and it’s been a very rewarding experience. I am music directing Gregory Burgess, a friend and fellow performer who I have worked with many times before with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. I shall also be playing piano for this world premier staged reading coming up over Labor Day weekend. (Official date/time is still TBD.)

This production is happening at this little dive of a venue in D.C. you may have heard of… THE KENNEDY CENTER!!!


So, yeah… I’ll be playing piano at The Kennedy Center. This is surreal, frightening, and exciting all at the same time. Which is certainly what it is SUPPOSED to be in order to motivate some good work!

Returning to Musicianship

I’m recording an album this year, and I’m shooting for an October 2016 release! So, now I’m going to babble (probably way too much) about this, and the circumstances leading up to this project.

I haven’t really mentioned this specifically here on my own blog and web page, but I did complete my Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management from Notre Dame of Maryland University in December of 2015. Working on the Masters was certainly the main focus of my energies for almost 2.5 years. Even while working on the Masters, I was able to engage in many artistic and creative projects. Also, at the same time having a full-time job. However, for my final semester of work in Fall of 2015, I made it a point to not take on any artistic projects. I found myself overriding my natural state of not wanting to turn down any kind of paid artistic work, and actually saying “No” to opportunities. My final semester was quite intense. My capstone project was a “For Dummies” style guide on how to start a community chorus, which I will actually look into getting published at some point. I earned an “A” for my capstone, and completed my Masters with a 4.0 GPA.

Clearly, avoiding additional projects for my last semester was the right decision. However, since I had been saying “No” to projects, I found myself at the end of December 2015 without a sense of what would be my next artistic/creative thing! I thought about the fact that a vast majority of the artistic things I have been doing over the last 10-15 years were really more about teaching music, acting, or music directing. The less frequent times where I was being a musician left me feeling very rusty and self-conscious about my musical abilities. So, I started to just play piano more. I started pondering the idea of releasing an album. I already have 4 individual tracks floating out there for sale, but I haven’t really put together a cohesive album. I have also had plenty of ideas for what I would want to do as an album.

I wanted to wait before really talking about this to the general world. I’ve always been fond of the saying, “There are two kinds of people: those who talk about doing things, and those who do things.” My own experiences have taught me that it is better to wait until I know I am both mentally engaged in a project and also have the time and energy to see it through, before I start talking about it. I feel like this is a good thing, and it keeps me honest and held accountable!

Another big impact on this decision was the passing of a dear friend and musical colleague, Nick Delaney. Nick was an incredible and natural musician, and had a fantastic ear. He was the kind of guy that EVERYONE loved to work with. He also began music directing himself quite a bit, and frequently honored me by asking me for input and advice on projects he was directing. (Not that he ever really needed it!) I was a Music Theory and Composition Major, not a performance major. I’ve done more teaching and music directing than actual playing. I know a whole heck of a lot about music, the best way to teach music, the best way to help musicians prepare how to perform, music history, analyzing music, and music in an intensely “scholarly” sense. However, not since high school have I ever devoted the right kind of focus to just PLAYING MUSIC. This lead to solidifying the decision of, “Damn it, I’m going to focus on playing as best as I f*(#ing can, and release an album!!”

So, the name of the upcoming album will be: “Scott plays Scott.”

The basic goal was to have at least 12 tracks of pieces written by somebody with “Scott” in their name. This was fueled by the simple fact that I’m a big Scott Joplin fan, I can include some original pieces, and I had a curiosity and fascination with Cyril Scott, a friend and contemporary of my favorite composer Percy Grainger.

At this time, I have two Scott Joplin rags pretty close to recording ready, one Cyril Scott piece, and one of my own pieces. I believe the finished album will certainly include at least these two Scott Joplin rags (possibly another), at least two pieces by Cyril Scott (possibly more like 7 pieces if I record a whole suite for which I am anxiously waiting the sheet music from Germany and which has not been recorded by anybody), a rag by James Scott (“Ophelia Rag”… not sure if it is a Shakespeare reference, but it’s a great piece!), at least 2 (probably more like 4) of my own folksong settings, and an original setting/interpretation of the Scottish folk tune “Annie Laurie” which was written by Alicia Scott, also known as Lady John Scott. If that ain’t enough Scotts for ya, then I don’t know what is!! “Scott plays Scott”!! Ya get it?!?!

As far as the logistics of recording goes, I am intending to record and render a MIDI version of my performances that will be sent to a recording studio in Oregon and used to drive an acoustic Yamaha piano. So, this will be an actual recording of an acoustic piano. I suppose it is akin to a player piano version of the mechanics of the playing, but this is combined with the current state of 21st century technology and recording techniques. I feel a little like I’m cheating, but at the same time it lets me do a whole lot of the work in my own home studio and reduces the recording costs. And, the end result is the same because it really will be a recording of an acoustic piano which will include MY touch, tempo and phrasing, and all the sympathetic vibrations and sounds that one would hear if I were actually there playing the piano!

I am really looking forward to the effort and energy that I will be throwing out over the next 6 or 7 months to achieve this goal! I firmly believe that it is the best thing that I could be doing right now. It will rekindle my love and appreciation for MAKING music, so that it will rekindle and re-energize my abilities and skills at directing and guiding the making of music. I’m so excited, and even more so now after sharing all this!


Farpoint 2016

Over this last weekend, I attended Farpoint 2016. The last time I had attended Farpoint (or any convention, for that matter) for the entire weekend was in 2010. I have not missed a Farpoint, but for the last 5 or so years I have only gone for a couple hours, or just for a day.

(For those who just want to hear about the convention, and pass on the self-analytical crap, you can just skip the next 2 paragraphs!)

As backstory, my dear friends Jamie and Steve dragged me into the whole convention thing at the tender age of 16. So, yeah, for those who are counting, that’s 31 FREAKING YEARS AGO! For a good chunk of that time, I was frequently attending Shore Leave and Balticon as well. Of course, if we go all the way back then we aren’t talking about Farpoint, but one of its predecessors: Clippercon. After some research, I can confidently say that I attended at least 2 Clippercons, although I don’t think I attended an OktoberTrek, which is also a Farpoint predecessor. I think somewhere around 2005 is when three conventions per year got to be too much, and I pretty much focused on Farpoint. I was also a staff member and committee member, so I was pretty active in the community of amazing individuals that make the convention happen every year. I want to emphasize this… AMAZING individuals that give so much of their time and energy to a weekend-long event. Often, without enough thanks (and WAY too much criticism) from those who choose to come to an event like this. Science Fiction fans are some of the most amazingly intelligent and creative people in the world. However, this population also has some more negative aspects that are typical to that demographic. They can also be a bit too analytical, too vocal in their criticism, and a bit too lacking in social graces.

I emphasize this, because I basically got burned out myself those 5 years or so ago. I suppose it is perfectly understandable for one to get burned out on something after having it as a part of one’s life for over 20 years. Conventions stopped being enjoyable and rewarding for me. That actually happened about 10 years ago, and it just took some extra time for me to acknowledge that and make the decision to walk away. I always knew that it would just be for a time. I have made too many important friends in my life because of a shared love of science fiction and fantasy. Staying for the entire weekend this year helped me to re-connect on those friendships, and the enjoyment of the convention experience.

The big guests for Farpoint 2016 were Sean Maher and David Gerrold. For those who may not know, Sean’s sci-fi-convetion-worthy credential is that he played Simon Tam on the Firefly TV series, and the Serenity motion picture. David Gerrold is an absolutely amazing author, and one of the bigger key items for him is that he wrote the screenplay for the Star Trek: Original Series episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Having said that, the actual guests, historically speaking, have always been among the smaller parts of the convention experience for me. Now that I was much more an attendee and not actively involved with the operation of the convention, they did become more of a highlight.

So, I now feel moved to throw out some bullet-point highlights of my Farpoint 2016 experience.

  • Sitting RIGHT NEXT to Sean Maher at the Friday evening festivities. In fact… I TOUCHED SEAN MAHER. I didn’t really MEAN to, and I almost feel it was possibly inappropriate. I sat down, and he was there, and we were introduced, and I just kinda touched him on the shoulder and said, “Welcome to Baltimore.”
  • Almost using Sean Maher’s fork. Okay, so, as I said, he was sitting next to me, and he had finished his salad. Then, he got up to be in the live performance by Prometheus Radio Theatre in a Batman parody audio play written by one of my other dear friends Lance Woods. Renee Wilson was also in the play, so she was on stage. But, she left her macaroni and cheese behind, and the very lovely Dottie (a violin-playing friend and Sean’s assistant for the weekend) and I decided that we would partake of the forgotten macaroni and cheese. I no longer had a fork, and the closest fork was Sean’s. I went for it, but then realized what I was doing. Ultimately, I didn’t use his fork because it just felt wrong, and I used my last remaining utensil which was a knife. Have you ever tried to eat macaroni and cheese with a KNIFE?! In hindsight, I should have just used the man’s freaking fork! So, now, this has to be the longest story you have ever heard about a fork. But, I hope it was amusing!
  • Witnessing David Gerrold’s initial reactions to the news about the passing of Antonin Scalia. (I’m just going to leave it at that statement, and not choose to elaborate! Okay, I will say that I did hear him singing a particular song from Wizard of Oz…)
  • Really re-connecting with some friends that I just have not seen enough of in recent years. I’m scared to try and throw out names, because I know I will forget some. There are MANY, and I feel blessed to have made the friends that I have in that community. Suffice it to say that if you are a friend reading this, and we exchanged words at all over the weekend, it was *very* important to me. Despite the fact that I’m normally not very good at expressing that!
  • My dear female friend, whose name is also a month of the year, (and I’m trying to be discreet by not actually saying her name) deciding that her blood alcohol level had reached the point where she felt she was a gay man, and expressing the hope that *MY* blood alcohol level had not yet reached the point where I became a heterosexual man (as history has proved to be the case). This probably doesn’t make much sense if you think about it, but it’s amazingly flattering is it not?
  • Seeing so many examples of younger fans experiencing the convention. This was really very important to me! As I mentioned in the self-analytical-crap-portion of this post, I started the convention thing myself at 16. I got burned out. Seeing so many young fans creating costumes, and enjoying their experience over the weekend, helped me to reconnect. Some of these younger fans are the children of many of the friends I made back when we were those young fans!! The idea that some of these young, intelligent, and creative individuals are making friendships that they can talk about in 30+ years is *very* rewarding!

Those are the big things about the weekend. Now that I look at them, I have to say that they certainly seem to be rather wordy for bullet points. Thank you for following this far! In conclusion, I will just say that if you have EVER considered the idea of attending an event that is devoted to the Science Fiction genre, then Farpoint is a damn fine choice. Peter Jurasik, who played Londo Mollari on Babylon 5, called Farpoint the “Rolls Royce” of conventions when he attended back in 1999. He said that the experiences of other actors he talked to were a key reason he chose to be a guest!

I’m glad I reconnected with my love of this community, and I’m proud to be the big old nerd that I am!


Does Anybody Really Buy Sheet Music Anymore?

Or, I suppose I should say, “Does anybody really buy sheet music written by somebody who isn’t dead anymore?” Not that I mean they *were* dead and somehow became not dead and then wrote music which nobody would buy. I meant… Well, I’m sure you know what I meant. Forgive me, I just saw Eric Idle and John Cleese at the Hippodrome last night, and clearly some silliness is lingering in my noggin.

So, ANYway… At the beginning of this year I decided to try using sheetmusicplus for selling digital sheet music versions of my pieces. I had been trying to sell stuff through my own web page for about 10 years or so, with very limited success. It’s also a pain to maintain and keep up with it. I’ve only had a couple handfuls of sales over that period of time, so it hardly seemed worth all the fuss of putting this stuff out there. So, this seemed like a good option since I could just upload the PDFs to a digital publisher/distributer, link people to the stuff there, and let them handle the sales part and all that nonsense.

It took about 10 months, but somebody in Colorado bought my cello and piano piece. Yay for few bucks that I didn’t have before!! I purposefully didn’t engage in a whole lot of marketing efforts or talking this up, because I just wanted to see what would happen for a handful of pieces up there over a stretch of time. Since it seems to work, I can start throwing more stuff up there for sale and also start engaging in more of that “hawking one’s wares” stuff that we artists have to do but aren’t always that great at doing.

Feel free to check out what is up there now, and I’m sure I’ll start mentioning things as they become available!

sheetmusicplus logo

Wilderness Anticipation

In less than 24 hours I will be on my way to Shenandoah National Park. This is actually the first significant trip I have taken where it has been completely by choice, and a destination of my own choosing that was not influenced by other factors. At least, no factors other than wanting it to be within driving distance and staying within a particular (and frugal) budget.

Usually, trips and vacations have been influenced almost completely by family or friends. Either because family or friends were going somewhere, or they have been the destination. Significant business trips can be counted on one hand. These trips have always been quite enjoyable, but it is nice to feel more in-command of the content and character of a vacation. I feel less like a hanger-on, or somebody who is taking advantage of the hospitality of others. I honestly feel like this is my first “grown up” vacation.

I’ll be heading out tomorrow morning, and going to the North entrance of the park at Front Royal, VA. Then, I’ll drive almost half the full length of Skyline Drive (41.9 miles) to Skyland Resort where I have a cabin room waiting.


I have a few things that I want to do for sure: Visit Luray Caverns; Hike a stretch of the Appalachian Trail; Try some Geocaching. There are a couple of other hikes and rock scrambles I’ll probably try, but want to get there and ask around before making decisions on those.

I invested in some good basic equipment, including good hiking shoes, backpack, water bottles, food, headgear, bug repellent (I’m already a little bitten-up from rehearsals at the PFI!), sunscreen, and more. It’s not really going to be particularly dangerous, but since I will be on my own, I wanted to be well-prepared.

I haven’t quite decided if I will go completely dark. I imagine I will still be connected, and will probably not be able to resist the urge to post some photos and micro-blog on Facebook. There are some other hopes about the trip, in terms of inspiration. I’ll have my music notebook with me, and my keyboard app in case any musical inspiration strikes. I’m bringing along some reading, including the writings of John Muir.

This trip comes at an interesting time, where there is a bit of a change in the wind. I will be finishing my Masters in December, and when I return from this trip I will start officially searching for that Arts Management Rock Star job that I want to land by some time in 2016. I will be looking beyond just local opportunities, so my search will not be limited by geography. So this trip has excitement to it for what it represents, and for what it is leading into after.


The Artistic & Creative Side of Life

When I made the commitment to graduate school, I did so with the understanding and companion decision that I would not be able to do any music or theatre projects of great significance. In fact, I had settled on the basic idea that I probably wouldn’t be able to do anything else in the context of working full-time and school. If I learned anything in the couple years prior to starting the Masters, it is that my fuel tank of time and energy is hardly bottomless. I would really need to give some careful thought and analysis of how any side project might impact my studies, before adding it to my stack.

The first thing that came up was doing the sound design for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s Fall 2013 production of Dracula. Doing a sound design is the kind of work I can schedule anywhere, and most of the work is done once the show opens. It also isn’t necessary to be at a large number of rehearsals, although I tend to go to more than just a few as part of how I approach a sound design. Based on these facts, I decided to just go for it even though it came up during my very first semester of study.

This one was a lot of fun, and the most challenging aspect was finding enough different and realistic versions of wolf howls and bat sound effects. I also enjoy the opportunity to do a sound design with lots of underscoring. The basic idea was to make it seem more like the audience was watching an old, Gothic, horror film. This production was a moveable production, where the audience moves around to different sections of the ruins for each scene. This, of course, presents certain technical challenges in terms of producing the sound. One of my favorite experimental ideas was using a wireless bluetooth speaker for some of the scenes. For one, the audience was standing and surrounding the players, and we hid the speaker in a bowl of fruit on the table. The sound person played the cue from their mobile device while standing there amongst the audience. The background music for the scene was relatively subtle and unassuming, but also quite spooky. And the audience could see no obvious source for the music which was clearly coming from right where the players were. This technical choice had some shortfalls and issues, but I look forward to a chance to try it again and improve upon the idea.

The next opportunity to present itself was music directing CSC’s summer 2014 production of As You Like It. Since CSC productions aren’t really musicals in a traditional sense, but productions that incorporate live songs and music, this project would also be more about preparation. My spring semester would also wind down just before the need to make some stronger commitments of time and energy for the show, and my one Summer class would not start until after opening when I would no longer really be needed. So, this was another easy one to say yes to, and I think it is CSC’s strongest presentation of live music in one of their productions so far. This can be highly attributed to the fine pool of musical talent (and enthusiastic giving of energy) that was available in the cast. Preparation, guidance, and decision-making were certainly involved, but everything went so smoothly that it was a magical and rewarding experience for all.

I could say that the next “possible” project proved a bit more challenging to consider. It really was more of a no-brainer, and I simply had to make it work. Not many people actively involved with a theatre company have a chance to be a part of the grand opening of a brand new theater unlike any other. Whatever I might be asked to do, I would very happily do. As it turned out, I got to music direct, play piano, and appear on stage as Snout for CSC’s inaugural production of A Midsummer Nights Dream. To make this possible, I decided to take both of my program electives in the Fall semester, which were online courses. So, I could more flexibly schedule the coursework around the time commitments required for the production. Since I could go on and on about this experience, it’s probably best if I just say that it is certainly at the top of the list of most rewarding experiences ever.

Following this, was a very light commitment to help music direct a choral piece used in Richard II. And then, was our first of what will be an annual production of A Christmas Carol. Christmas Carol was definitely one of the more challenging nuts to crack. It is much closer to an actual musical than anything done so far, as there were many musical selections incorporated into the production. But, we also had 2 professional musicians, and that was a big help. My personal favorites were the rendition of Sleigh Ride we presented, as well as a very charming and laid-back version of Good King Wenceslas. Both are holiday favorites of mine. A lot of important lessons were learned in the first production, and I have no doubts that those lessons will be very helpful for the company when we do it again next year.

Wrapping up 2014, and leading in to the first week of January 2015, I took on a little project for The Vagabond Players production of Interlock. This is a seldom-performed play by Ira Levin, who wrote Deathtrap and Rosemary’s Baby. One of the characters is a piano player who wrote an award-winning composition when he was 14. I provided pre-recorded piano music for the production, coached the actor a bit on the mock playing of the (non-working) stage piano, and one of my pieces was used as the piece the character composed.

Right now I am in one of those moments where a project has just wrapped up, and I don’t officially have a next project lined up. This is okay, because I certainly have plenty to worry about with the two main priorities of the day job and the graduate school. Until I have the piece of paper, I will continue with the current approach. If something falls in my lap, I will carefully consider if it is something I can devote the right time and energy to doing well without negatively impacting my grades. Clearly, I’m managing the balance okay, since I’ve kept up the 4.0 GPA.

In the meantime, I ordered a book and picked up some other books at the library. I’ve had an idea for a musical bouncing around in my head for a about a year now, and it is about time I do some research. But, this is a subject for a future post…

In Pursuit of the Masters

My main focus since early 2013 has been my graduate work. At this current moment, I have completed 24 credits of the 36 credits in the program. I have maintained a 4.0 GPA the entire time, and completely intend to keep that up for the final third. I will actually earn two credentials when I finish: A Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management, and a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Leadership of Nonprofit Organizations. The latter is actually an 18 credit program, but the way things are working out means I take a required course for both programs in the final semester.

One of the things I’ve greatly appreciated about this program is the real world element to the coursework. Almost every class has incorporated projects or presentations that involved working with actual organizations. I have also made it a point to add a Performing Arts focus to as much of my coursework as possible. The goal, after all, is to become an Arts Management Rock Star.

Some of the highlights of my graduate studies…

Strategic Planning in the Nonprofit Sector (Fall 2013) – The first main project was to do an analysis of the Mission, Vision, and Values statements for an organization. Since this had just come up recently with the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company artist retreat earlier in the year, it was a natural choice. I can’t go into detail, but I can certainly say that CSC constructed a very good set of statements. We also did a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis for The Wise Penny. The final group project was to develop an actual Strategic Plan, and my group had the chance to work with a very spiffy organization in Baltimore called The Book Thing.

Leadership & Organizational Development in Nonprofits (Fall 2013) – One key aspect of this class was exploring the difference between Leadership and Management. The basic summation is that Leaders are concerned with doing the right thing, and Managers are concerned with doing things the right way. For an early class, the professor announced that she was going to show a video of segments that feature charismatic leaders as depicted in the media. Before she hit play, I chimed out that the St. Crispin’s Day speech should be in there, or I would be very disappointed. It was, and this event helped create the situation where I was being referred to as “The Shakespeare Guy”. (I didn’t find this out until my second semester, but was very amused…) I read and analyzed a very nifty paper about Cultural Leadership. This wasn’t one of the official leadership styles or classifications we studied in class, but it is the one that I latched on to as it really resonated with me and is much more applicable to the Performing Arts. It helped define my other projects. I did a presentation that was a profile of Francesca Zambello, the Artistic Director of the Washington National Opera. Our final project and presentation was to profile and analyze a personal nonprofit leader we admire. I ended up thinking a bit outside the box, and my presentation was about Franz Joseph Haydn as a “Great Nonprofit Leader from History”. He really can be considered a nonprofit leader by today’s standards, and this project was a lot of fun. My main point in my presentation was that Haydn was the kind of leader that always stood up for his musicians. Even in cases where they shoot off a pistol and start a fire, or poke out a fellow musician’s eye. (Yes… really happened!)

Board Development and Human Resource Management in Nonprofits (Winter 2014) – As a winter term class, this was rather intense since it happened in such a short period of time. One of my projects was an analysis of the diversity of an interesting organization in Baltimore called The D Center, which was part of a full group project. Another big take-away for this class was some good information on working with volunteers.

Nonprofit Marketing (Spring 2014) – Everyone in the organization is in Marketing! (It’s true…) That’s the pretty key point right there. This time I got to do some work for a group I am connected to, and did a paper and presentation reviewing the marketing efforts of The Baltimore Homeschool Community Center. Up until I started my graduate work, that was the home for my piano studio and I certainly miss my students. But, it was nice to revisit them and throw some good ideas their way. (I think they actually used some of them!) For our final group project, we created a marketing plan for Annapolis Dog Rescue. One of my areas of focus for that was an analysis of the social media efforts, and suggestions for best practices.

Program Evaluation Methods (Spring 2014) – My favorite class so far! I’m clearly fond of the more technical classes like this one and the Strategic Planning class. I developed a program evaluation plan for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s summer High School Corps program. I’m really excited at the idea of finding a clear way to evaluate organizations and specific programs in the Arts. It requires some creative thinking, since it can sometimes seem a little less clear than something like a program to feed the hungry where you can see and count how many meals you have provided. How do you quantitatively measure the success of a music or theatre camp? There are ways, and I can see myself really enjoying this kind of work!

Government Nonprofit Relations (Summer 2014) – Probably the most dry course so far. However, it was important and had useful information on things like the legislation process, and lobbying regulations. My main paper and presentation was a detailed look at The Wireless Microphone Users Interference Protection Act of 2013 (H.R. 2911), and the potential impact to nonprofit performing arts organizations. (See what I mean about “dry”?)

Data Driven Business Decisions (Fall 2014) – This was one of my electives. Also a very technical, but enjoyable, class. I know I took a statistics class in High School (that I don’t even really remember), but it certainly wasn’t as intense as some of the math for this class. This featured sampling, hypothesis testing, regression analysis, and decision trees. For a while, I was actually a bit worried that I wouldn’t pull out the A in this class.

Web Development (Fall 2014) – My other elective. (My two Fall 2014 electives were online, and this was necessary due to my involvement with the Chesapeake Shakespeare productions.) Since I already had some good experience with web pages and HTML, this class was not hugely challenging. I did learn a lot more about CSS specifically, and that was really quite useful. My final project was to create a new web page for The Venus Theatre Company. At the present moment, the web page I developed has not been adopted. They may end up going a different route with it, and in many ways I think they would be better off using WordPress as a platform.

And here is what is needed to finish…

Nonprofit Law and Ethics (Winter 2015) – I have just started this class. A good chunk of this will be the actual nuts-and-bolts of creating a nonprofit organizations. Plus, some case studies on issues relating to ethics.

Managing Financial Resources in Nonprofits (Spring 2015) – This looks like it will be about accounting, financial reporting & analysis, and budgeting. I’m guessing I will get a lot out of this one, since I’m a numbers guy.

Fundraising and Grant Writing (Fall 2015) – Pretty self-explanatory. Since I needed to take both my electives in Fall of 2014 due to the aforementioned involvement with Chesapeake Shakespeare productions, I actually missed this course that semester. I’ve already gotten permission to take and transfer courses at Goucher College to meet this requirement. At Goucher it will actually be 4 credits since it is a 3 credit class on fundraising, and a 1 credit class specifically on grant writing. I’m actually excited at the idea of taking the classes at Goucher, as they are a part of their Masters in Arts Administration program. I have a feeling the classes at Goucher will be more detailed, and have more of an Arts focus anyway. And fundraising and grant writing is one of the most important things about Nonprofits!

Masters Project Seminar (Fall 2015) – This will be the capstone project. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do, and I actually have the secondary goal of looking to get it published after. So, for that reason, I won’t go into huge detail. It will have a focus relating to music organizations.

So, I am on track to finish all my coursework at the end of this year!

Looking beyond the Master’s…

I have actually been scoping out possible Doctorate programs. In many ways, I think it would be completely insane to continue. However, I have been so successful with this that it is also worthy of consideration. A few that look interesting or promising are: Doctor of Public Administration from University of Baltimore (I like the idea of staying local), Doctor of Philosophy in Strategic Leadership from James Madison University (based on the fact that the more technical and analytical classes have the greater appeal for me), or one of the several Arts Administration PhD programs I have found.

Up next in the January 2015 series of reflections… The artistic and creative efforts!

Hello, 2015!

I didn’t do a usual reflection process at the beginning of 2014, and there’s so much that has happened over the last couple years. I don’t think I can successfully go through the process of reflecting on 2013 and 2014 without compartmentalizing. The overall summary is that 2012 is still at the top of the list for most craptastic year ever. I succeeded in starting to turn things around in 2013, and that year worked out reasonably well. At least, up until the very end of the year (for now, I’ll refer to it as a “perfect storm” of financial whammies). Some really awesome and exciting things happened in 2014 (participating in the opening of Chesapeake Shakespeare’s new theater and the opening shows in its first season of productions), but these were counteracted by some equally powerful negative things (the way-too-early passing of a dear friend I’ve known for over 15 years). In general, I do feel like I continue to dig myself out of a pit. There’s been some avalanches, but I think I’m making progress.

So, a quick and general run-down would be:

2012 – Craptasticist ever
2013 – Much better, but challenging
2014 – Extremes, balancing into what can only be called a “not so great” year

I shall leave things there for now. I’m pretty sure this will be a series of posts. Since my last real post of substance was about my orientation for my graduate program, I will make my first more substantial reflection entry about the graduate school experience so far.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! (Plus a few key updates…)

It is nice to be busy, and I’ve had a lot to add and update to the page. A reasonable chunk of this work was just knocked out, and I found myself digging through some old programs as part of this process. There was a bunch of recent stuff to update, but I also wanted to stretch back and touch on some older archival things as well. This included adding my very first stage appearances as an actor back in Junior High!

Another important update, is that a new recording is now available! The Laden Swallow is a solo piano piece, and my very first composition which was composed in May of 1992. It is now available at CDBaby, and should be finding its way to iTunes and other online distribution sources over the next several weeks. The main motivation for this offering? This piece will be used in the upcoming Vagabond Players production of Interlock in January & February of 2015. It is playing the part of Paul’s Nocturne, a piece composed by a character in the play.

That’s all for these wee hours of Christmas Day. More substantial updates on graduate school, recent artistic projects, and life in general, coming soon!