Interesting Week of Thoughts

When I share something that is linked somehow to popular culture, it’s often because “I am late to the party”, but still want to participate. In this case I may still be late to this party, however, I can’t shake how I felt after watching Black Panther.

My insights won’t offer anything new to the conversation, but I am very appreciative of having another platform to jump from when discussing certain topics with my students. We talked about the music and the imagery of the film. We talked about the significance of the cast and why representation is important. We even got to discuss (or at least I mentioned) they ways in which we view our parents and our roles with them as we get older and start to understand the world differently.

Ideas around representation and imagery of people of color were front and centered in my thoughts as students, a colleague and I watched parts of JAZZ by Ken Burns. Some of the images and ideas were shocking or disturbing to students, however, the discussions were honest and informative. Making sense of these connections in my own mind has been fun. I like being a teacher during weeks like this.

Appreciation, Hip Hop and Fatherhood

As a musician and a teacher, I have had the pleasure to be a part of many cool moments of discovery. This even happens with my daughter sometimes. I still remember with pride when I asked her “Can I Kick It” and she replied (appropriately) “Yes You Can”. Thank you, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed and Jarobi for that moment. 

Recently I had another one of those with my kid. She asked to listen to “Intergalactic” by the Beastie Boys…so  I put it on in the car. She said she likes the robot sounds in the song, but she always cracks at the end of the track when Biz Markie jumps in at the end of it. We listened to it again with the same result, so I decided to play “Just A Friend” for her. She loved it and sang the chorus the whole way home. 

Soon we’ll have an awesome playlist for our father-daughter car rides.

Playing Games

I’m sitting here watching my kid play with her friend and I start to reflect on what winter breaks of the past.

Winter break has always been tricky for me, like my kid I need a structured day. Work tends to give me the grounding I need, a task list or a deadline gives my day order. Whether I get it all done or not depends on the amount of time allowed over the course of my day.

Last year at this time and in this vacuum, I was totally lost. However, my kid seemed to have a plan. With no hesitation to my question “What should we do today?” my kid answers “Let’s play a game. Let’s play the lava game!”

We then proceeded to build an obstacle course from the playroom through the living room and into the dining room. Which in truth is all one big space anyways, but our furniture makes it feel like three separate spaces.

Knowing this my kid makes a course which requires us to climb up, in and over stuff. Stepping on, crawling through and stretching over stuff like pillows, shoes, pots and pans blankets and trampolines.

Needless to say after doing this for about 30 minutes as fast as we could go I was sufficiently sweaty. Sucks being old and out of shape…still fun though!


The other day I talked with my uncle over the phone. We joked around and laughed at each other for being too serious. I guess that’s just where I’m at these days.

With social media making it possible for friends to stay in touch, I forgot what it was like to actually talk to my friends and hear them laugh.

Although social networking sites make it easier to see what your friends are up to, it seems that I talk to them less or not at all. I know they’re “doing fine”, so I don’t need to bother them with a phone call or meet them for a drink.

We all seem super busy with family and work pulling at us in all directions. I guess I just forgot about actual person to person contact.

Quotes and New Starts

Starting a new school year at a new school. I find myself thinking about all the lesson plans and units of study I put together over the past decade. Eventually, I get to a place in my thoughts where I think about “change” being the only thing that is constant in life. I think that is a quote or a thought attributed to Heraclius. 

Other quotes that come to mind relate to the kind of teacher or musician I’d like to be…or at least the methods. Stravinsky chief among them has helped me with:

  • What gives the artist real prestige is his imitators.
  • Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal.
  • A good composer does not imitate; he steals.

Finally, I land on my favorite Einstein quote.

Podcasts and Eddie Huang

There are times when I feel I’m getting too much of something. Lately, it’s been, a lot of  Eddie Huang. Everywhere I turn I see or hear him. He’s everywhere and I kinda like it.

Recently I listened to an NPR podcast called What’s Good with Stretch and Bobbito. The topics have been broader than I expected, and it’s been refreshing to listen to these guys banter with each other and conduct interviews with their guests. But, for my first listen to What’s Good was with Eddie Huang. He talked about his book “Fresh Off The Boat”, which led to the creation of a TV show of the same title. They discussed his show on Vineland, Huang’s World.

One of the ideas that Eddie Huang communicates, which really resonates with me, is the idea that you can look at a plate of food and learn about the culture of a region. I think about that when ever I cook food I think my mother and grandmother would appreciate. His shows also remind me of another truth about myself, I am first born-first generation American and that come with some built in straddling of cultures.

Finals week approching

DCI finals are approaching and I am catching up with videos on Youtube and Facebook. Of course, this starts me down the rabbit hole of reminiscing. I start to think about all the years of drum and bugle corps I marched.

In 1990 I started marching in a drum and bugle corps in the Bronx. Those years were transformative for me. I learned a lot about dealing with people and becoming a participant in a large ensemble.

I went to the Jersey Surf Drum Corps camp with a buddy after we participated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with an Allstar Drum Corps in 1992.

My buddy showed me what it was like to belong. He showed up and settled in and asked to be taught. Later he became one of the leading members of the organization and eventually became an instructor with the drum corps.

I marched the 1993 & 1994 seasons with the Jersey Surf. However, if I’m being honest, I was really marching with my friend.

The summer of 1995, I went to the  Boston University Tanglewood Institute Music Festival. That HS orchestra music festival, the summer after my senior year taught me a lot about being a musician and responsibility of making music and being a chamber musician. A humbling experience for me. I felt most of these music students were much better at this music thing than I was. But somehow I felt I still belonged. I’m curious to see where my kid spends summers.