Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 in Retrospect

The final countdown of the year always make me think about what happened over the course of the past 365 days.

Each year seems to have a theme, or a certain quality. 2005 was a very difficult year, for example. My mother died in March and we had a serious accident with our first Airstream trailer on July 4th. (Our "big boom!")

2006 wasn't as difficult. We spent the summer touring Canada with the show (better then than in winter!), and unfortunately had to put down our dear cat Mary while at our first stop, in Vancouver. She had been ailing for several months.

2007 has been a very eventful year, with many changes.

A year ago today, James and I left Bisbee by car to go back on the road with Phantom. Our destination was Toledo, Ohio. Our first overnight stop was Albuquerque. It had just snowed a record 22 inches, and I-40 was closed. We were stuck at a Motel 6 for three days!

We barely made it to my first rehearsal for the show (2000 miles away), two days later.

In January, my 90-year-old father contracted pneumonia and went into the hospital. He was in and out of various facilities for the next six weeks, and died on February 17th.

My final show with Phantom was the next day!

James and I came home to Bisbee and experienced a "crash course" in small-town politics and small-town mindsets. We must have been wearing blinders for the past five years!

Our house was filmed for national television (HGTV) on April 9th, because of James' wonderful artwork inside and out. What an experience that was!

On May 15th (the day after James' birthday) we decided to move to Northern California. The first of several trips took place a few days later.

On June 9th, my brother Buzz hosted a wonderful Memorial for my parents at the family house in Sacramento. Many friends and relatives attended, and we shared many special moments which I'll treasure always.

We went back to Bisbee a few days later and started packing. Then we realized that we needed to prepare the California place better to accomodate all our stuff! So we went back to CA on July 6th to clean out the barn.

We didn't return to Bisbee until past the middle of August. We packed up the rest of our stuff and rented a small truck to haul it to our new home.

It's hard to believe that we haven't been in Bisbee since the end of summer!

We've been fixing up the place here In The Woods, and have come a long way since late Spring. And an even longer way to go! ;)

I have been pleased to get some horn work in Sacramento and San Jose since October. My most recent stint was playing the Nutcracker in San Jose. It had been eleven years since I had performed this wonderful holiday music, and it really put me in the mood!

So it has been an excellent year, taken all around. James and I are very happy in our "little piece of heaven" (as our Florida friend Arlene just termed it).

May 2008 bring each and every one of you happiness and prosperity!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mixed Emotions

I just received word this morning that a former musician colleague of mine was killed in a motorcycle accident on Tuesday night.

He was riding his motorcycle down a two-lane highway and hit someone in a pickup truck turning into the roadway. Mark was immediately killed while the lone occupant of the truck was uninjured.

How tragic. Mark leaves a wife and three teenaged children behind.

I feel a combination of sadness and guilt. The first is totally understandable. The second is a bit more difficult to process.

You see, Mark was not well-liked in one of the orchestras I played in. He was Personnel Manager for a number of years and did some things which were definitely not supportive of the musicians, whom he was supposed to represent.

He was also a bridge between musicians and orchestra Management. This is a very difficult position for someone who was also a member of the orchestra. One foot in each camp, so to speak. Which way was the wind going to blow?

I think that it's best to hire a Personnel Manager who's not a musician in the orchestra, but this does not often happen.

Some orchestra personnel managers lean more towards the musicians, while others favor Management. The former sometimes lose or quit their jobs, so it is no wonder that the latter wants to "play it safe".

In late 1990, Mark went out of his way to disenfranchise one of the musicians in the orchestra.

The musician in question took one sick day a year, during the run of Nutcracker ballets in December. He took off for a matinee and was back in time to play the evening performance. It was sort of a long-standing "tradition", understood by musicians and even the conductor that this person would take off in order to go skiing. A sub was always notified in advance.

This was no big deal, although it wasn't strictly "kosher". This particular musician did not abuse sick-leave at any other time during the nine-month orchestra season, unlike many of his colleagues (including Mark).

But Mark and another musician who had a bone to pick with this person, decided to take matters into their own hands.

They followed the "sick" musician up to the ski resort in the Sierras with a video-camera, and documented his activities away from the orchestra.

This resulted in a suspension of the musician for an entire month. No pay.

You can see why I have mixed emotions about this. One can say that Mark was just doing his job. But most members of the orchestra were horrified at this Gestapo-like behavior, going to such lengths to discredit this musician.

Also, this event came at the worst possible moment, because the musicians were then embroiled in contract negotiations with Management. (I was on the Orchestra Committee, in the thick of all this.)

The organization had just hired a new Executive Director, who needed to flex his muscles and show the musicians "who was boss".

Mark chose to align himself with the Executive Director rather than with the musicians, who were fighting pay cuts and new restrictive work rules proposed by Management. Together, they undermined the musicians' position.

This video-taping event ripped the orchestra apart. It was the beginning of a very long, agonizing, lingering demise of the organization. It wasn't the cause of its eventual death in 1996, but it was the first nail in the coffin.

There were many hard feelings. The other musician who had participated in the videotaping made a public apology, but was never quite forgiven over the next six years of the orchestra's existence.

Mark held fast to his beliefs that the "sick" musician was in the wrong.

Technically Mark was correct. But the lengths he went to to discredit this musician seemed overly harsh, especially at such a vulnerable time for the musicians at the bargaining table. It had devastating effects on the orchestra, and ultimately on the entire community when the organization declared bankruptcy six years later.

A few months following this incident, Mark stepped down as Personnel Manager. Shortly thereafter, he resigned from the orchestra.

Sigh. I do feel sad that Mark was killed. It is very tragic, and my heart goes out to his wife, children, family and friends who have lost him so suddenly.

I had not intended to go on so long about this, or even write about it at all. But I do feel that I've released something in the process.

Rest in peace, Mark.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Late Sunday night, the patter of rain on our tin roof changed to the sizzle and plop of snow, as we had hoped.

James threw one last log on the fire in the Franklin stove as we went to bed, burrowing under the layers of quilts and blankets, greeting the immediate warmth of flannel sheets.

A few hours later, the snow had accumulated an inch. It was a light storm at this relatively low elevation of 2600 feet, with higher accumulations further up the Sierras, just a few miles away.

There was another inch by the time we got out of bed at 8:30 Monday morning.

I stayed snuggled in the warm bed while James went out with the camera to capture the beauty of the snow on the trees near our barn compound.

After I got out of bed, I took a picture of the view from my computer chair, looking out the windows:

Then I brought out the video camera to capture our cat Rupert's first experience with snow here. He might have seen it in his previous incarnation in Vancouver, but we will never know for sure.

We'd like to think that this was Rupert's first time. For the sake of dramatic license.

I spent several hours on the video yesterday. After editing, I added original music and subtitles.

It's the first time I've ever tried setting music to video; something I've always wanted to do. In a parallel universe, I would have liked to become a movie soundtrack composer.

After several fits and starts, I managed to post Rupert's video on his blog. Please check it out, and Rupert welcomes your comments!

The Adventures of Rupert

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Same Blog in two different places

I started with Blogger a couple of years ago, then switched to WordPress because I liked its overall lay-out better.

But today I have decided to revive my (renamed) blog here on Blogger because it is javascript-enabled, which means that I can use the syndication service BlogRush. Hopefully my blog will get more traffic as a result.

I will continue to post in my WordPress blog of the same name.