Wyoming – Where the hills gently rise to meet the sky

With big plans to hike through the badlands, I woke up this morning, not to sunny skies and warm weather, but to rain pitter pattering on my tent, gusts of wind almost as persistent as last night, and a slowly awakening brain that was coming to the realization that I was probably going to have to pack up and head to a warmer location. After savoring every last moment in my sleeping bag, I finally jumped up, found some warm clothes, my rain jacket and boots and emerged into the elements. I packed up all my stuff, took the tent down and headed to the lodge to get some coffee and breakfast. After waiting around for a long time after my breakfast gone and the check paid, I finally gave up on the weather. It was, in fact, raining even harder then when I had first woken up.

The drive out of the badlands and into the great open countryside again was strangely satisfying. Perhaps I have just gotten used to driving through these vast spaces and how it makes me feel. And how wonderfully open and inviting Wyoming is!

I stopped in Cheyenne for the night, checked into a hotel and went to get a bite to eat. At the bar I met Jack. We had some really great conversations, and after about two hours he showed me around town. There were shops everywhere that sold cowboy boots and cowboy hats, and a live country band playing in the town center. After a few songs, the band started playing one that everyone knew, based on the cheers, and hoops and hollers. It was the current song at the top of the country music chart, according to Jack. A couple came out from our right and started dancing; an Asian cook with his apron still on from one of the food carts, and a girl with pigtails in her hair. Their feet mirrored each other almost perfectly, as they stepped, hopped, looped, and ran forwards and backwards in front of the stage. I was so elated at that moment that I started laughing. What a great night!

Nimble on their feet
Hopping, skipping, jumping ’round
In perfect rhythm

Open expanses
The magic was spellbinding
Even in the rain

South Dakota – The Badlands

There is a reason they are called the Badlands. I arrived under a canopy of pregnant and ominous clouds, occasionally spitting out of their invisible mouths and blurring my right of way.

The great rock sculptures passively watch as the winds whip around them, knowing that to a human observer holed up in a building away from the elements it looks as though everything is perfectly still. Taking a closer look at the vegetation at the rocks’ feet, however, one only then realizes the unrelenting power of the wind.

I found a campsite, and under the spotty sunlight that was itself being taken advantage of by the wind, I struggled to put up my tent. Having succeeded (after about 20 minutes) I set out to do some exploring while the clouds remained somewhat cooperative.

The layered clay and sandstone figures look jagged and sharp, dipping and climbing with comparable determination that makes the negative space between them look as equally striking. They stand fast in their seemingly ever-reaching climb, however, it is known that over thousands of years they have been slowly eroding. These quiet monsters look down on the grasslands of South Dakota and weep away an inch of themselves every year.

To me, they are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in my life. There is a peacefulness about them, a stoic beauty that enthralls me, and lifts my spirit. I want to hear their story, I want to see what they see. Tomorrow I will attempt to see a tiny sliver of their life on a somewhat adventurous ten mile hike through the BADLANDS.

Alive in the night
Uneven patter of rain
And the roaring winds

Darkness surrounds me
Winds whip to corral rain drops
Like cowgirls in spring

Wind against the tent
Sounds like someone airing out
Sheets above my head.

Nebraska – Cousins

In Iowa everything opens up. There are gently rolling hills speckled with cows, and the sky is so BIG! Never in my life have I seen such an expanse, such wide open space. Nebraska is a continuation of this, with the radio station playing country and christian music.

Today I went to visit my cousins in Omaha. We haven’t seen each other in over ten years, so when Erin opened the door and her first born son, Caleb, lingered in the background I almost fell over in shock. I remember him as a baby, with big chubby cheeks and appendages. Here he is now, 14 years old, and all grown up! There are two more boys in the family that I had never met before, Jace , seven, and Xander, two. Her husband Nick and her sister, my cousin, Tasha, was there as well to join in on the reunion. The fact that we haven’t seen each other in ten years is downright silly, because we all get along so well! I stayed with them for two days, and on the second evening Erin, Tasha and I had a girls night out. After a really nice dinner and fancy cocktails we took a walk downtown and then over the only footbridge that connects two states: Iowa and Nebraska. We took a bottle of wine, some home made spanikopita and some other fun treats and sat alongside the open field in Iowa looking at the skyline of Omaha. It was such a perfect night!

Many years apart
Wine and spanikopita
Just the three of us

Chicago – To the sound of flutes and jukeboxes

Driving through Ohio, the sun low in the horizon, surrounded on either side by farmlands, looking mostly like boxes of varying shapes and colors. Some fields are tended to and ready for a prosperous season, while others are left forgotten, filled with old dry yellowed corn stalks bent over and brittle from months of neglect. Separating these boxes of different shapes and colors are trees, whose trunks are covered in vines racing to the sky. Every so often there are twisted figures; white and grey in stark contrast with the surroundings greenery, that reminds us of the ever present circle of life.

Previously, New York State: farm and grape country, and gently rolling green hills. A distinctly different taste of American soil. What little of Pennsylvania I saw was similar to Ohio. Indiana was a clumsy combination of both the lazy rolling hills of New York, now speckled with baby coniferous trees who were unsure of where exactly they belonged, and a more self conscious version of the fields of Ohio.

In complete contrast to the natural colors of these four distinct states was the industrial landscape of Chicago, breathing fire and smoke along either sides of my highway filled with the constant blur of fast moving vehicles and images of Sissy Hankshaw hitchhiking all over America. How appropriate a novel for the beginning of my travels!

Lights dancing around
An industrial playground
A giants’ abode

Rochester – The beginning of a summer full of adventures

I love driving. It makes me feel alive and free. Knowing that I will be spending the majority of my summer in the car is therefore not overwhelming, but exciting!

The itinerary for the summer? Get to Colorado Springs by June 2. On the way stop through Rochester, Chicago, Omaha, then Yellowstone for camping. Make music and meet new people at the Colorado college summer music festival for three weeks. Leave my car in Denver and fly back to New Hampshire for a month to play with Apple Hill. Then fly back to my car in Denver and take it out west to Yosemite, the Redwoods, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, LA, San Diego, the Grand Canyon, Austin, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, Lexington, then back to NH for a couple days, and finally to Lake Gorge Music Festival. Any other suggestions are welcome! I know I’m missing a lot, but I only have a little under four weeks for the second half of my road trip.

The first leg of my journey took me to my old stomping grounds: Rochester, NY, seven years ago. Everything was so familiar it was as if I had never left. I experienced moment after moment of pure nostalgia, especially when smells filled my nose that transported me, digging up vivid long forgotten memories. No, they weren’t specific memories, they were visceral feelings of home, accompanied by a less familiar feeling of heaviness that I wasn’t used to associating with that place. This shyer feeling of sadness was for the lack of all the people with whom I used to walk those halls. The buildings were the same, the smells, the light and the way it filtered through the windows, yet there was not one classmate present. Not even the professors were around.

There were, however, a few wonderful surprises. My old friend and boss, Nigel, was found in his normal spot – the computer lab in the dorms. That was, in fact, my first stop. Our reunion felt like we had just come back from summer break. How wonderful it is to have connections like that! He took the the next few hours to accompany me in my trip back in time, unlocking doors to rooms that I hadn’t seen in seven years. We also explored the new building, which was beautiful and exciting (as new things tend to be) but held no significance for me. Interesting, how memories can shrink time, and transport one to a place that is neither past nor present. It is strangely almost dream-like.

The city itself gave off less of a feeling of home than Eastman did, despite my expectations. It was, however, still as familiar as the back of my hand, with its semi deserted streets, and cold weather, beautiful blooming trees along Park Ave and the many iconic shops and cafes that I frequented while a student. Even more of a surprise was a connection that I found between me and an old acquaintance. We held long conversations over drinks that blossomed over the first couple hours of my arrival. They continued over dinner and flowered into the evening. Some chance encounters such as this, although fleeting, can be life changing. It was a lovely way to experience the city in my memories.

A chance encounter
Like a faerie in springtime
I light up for you

An ode to the beginning…

Because I will be seeing many different places and spending so much time on the road, I don’t think I will have much time to write in depth about every little thing I see. Therefore, I will try to write a haiku every day that will hopefully distill my experiences down to their essence. Of course if I find myself with spare time I will write more…but for now…

Adventures surely to come
So away I fly

Upcoming Shows

HELLO! I’m looking forward to April 20th. Why? The Fireband Concert Series is having their last performance of the season, and it’s going to be a good one! Below please find the official press release for this concert.


Music For Social Justice to be presented Saturday, April 20th, 2013 at 7:30pm, St. Paul’s Episcopal Parish at 26 Washington St. in Malden, MA 

MALDEN, MA—This April, Firebrand Concert Series will present its last chamber music program of the season. The program is centered on themes of social justice and will include string quartets by Dmitri Shostakovich, Felix Mendelssohn, and the premiere of a commission by Firebrand Concert Series’ Composer in Residence Oliver Caplan. In addition to a keynote performance at St. Paul’s Episcopal Parish where the concert series is in residence, Firebrand will hold three Open Performances of the works at Malden’s YMCA, Teen Enrichment Center and Senior Center.

Mr. Caplan’s piece is inspired by the Bike to the Sea’s Northern Strand Project and dedicated to the people of Malden. The Northern Strand Project will create a bicycle and pedestrian trail lined with a community garden extending from the Malden/Everett area to Nahant. Mr. Caplan chose to dedicate this piece to Bike to the Sea’s Northern Strand Project because of the benefits the trail will offer to the environment and to the community’s public health through nutrition, exercise and social wellness. For many, the Northern Strand Project represents an act of social justice, since urban planning projects can help to correct inequality in access to environmental and health benefits for minorities and economically disadvantaged constituents.

Mr. Caplan writes of the piece, “Like tributaries that converge to form rivers that flow into the sea, communities are built by individuals who collaborate to achieve something greater than the sum of their parts. For the past twenty years, ‘Bike to the Sea’ has been a catalyst for community collaboration. Its reach extends far beyond the trail to the spirit of Malden.”

Like Caplan, Shostakovich also addresses social justice concerns in his works. In response to Soviet oppression and state-sponsored violence of the 1930s, Shostakovich expressed through his string quartets what he could not show in his more scrutinized symphonic works. At a time when Russia was projecting nationalism, fascism and anti-Semitism, Shostakovich’s compositional voice wove irony and Jewish folk tunes throughout his works, and his compositional style was considered “formalist” for having espoused Western influences. In other musical displays of social justice, the composer wrote his Symphony No. 13 to commemorate a massacre of Ukrainian Jews in World War II and his String Quartet No. 8 to protest the Communist Party’s stronghold on Soviet work and life, while publicly dedicating the piece “to the victims of fascism and war.”

As part of Firebrand’s devotion to performing masterworks of the chamber music genre, the program also includes Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, op. 13.


Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, op. 110

Oliver Caplan “To the Sea,” World Premiere

Mendelssohn String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, op. 13

Lino Tanaka, Abby Swidler – Violins, Lauren Nelson – Viola, Diana Golden – Cello

Open Performances Dates and Venues*

April 16th, 2013 2:30pm –Malden Senior Center, 7 Washington St., Malden

April 22nd, 2013 3pm –Malden YMCA, 99 Dartmouth St., Malden

April 22nd, 2013 5:30pm –Malden Teen Enrichment Center, 1 Salem St., Malden

*Free and Informal performances including discussion on the music

Firebrand Keynote Performance

April 20th, 2013 7:30pm –St. Paul’s Episcopal Parish, 26 Washington St., Malden

Attracting exceptional and highly sought-after professional musicians with advanced degrees from the world’s top conservatories, Firebrand performs high-quality, innovative, educational, and fun chamber music concerts for the greater Boston area. Firebrand Concert Series is committed to honoring and celebrating the vibrant diversity of cultures in Malden through creative and varied programming with which audiences can identify.

Audience members are welcome to join the artists for a free reception following the April 20th performance. Tickets for this performance can be purchased for $15 via http://www.firebrandconcertseries.com or at the door for $20. Family and group discounts are available at the door by e-mailing a request to firebrandconcertseries@gmail.com or by calling St. Paul’s Parish Office at (781) 324-9544 during regular business hours.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Malden Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.



Firebrand Concert Series Presents:

Firebrand Community Music Workshop 

Anyone can make music, everyone is creative, and we all have something to offer. Firebrand Concert Series believes that music can enhance people’s everyday lives. We believe that music is not only fun, but has the ability of transcending boundaries and overcoming challenges.

If you’ve always been curious about making music, or have wondered how to unleash your own creativity, we invite you to join us in the Firebrand Community Music Workshop, which aims to bring together people of all musical levels to share in a fun-filled learning experience! Over the course of three days, we will explore music from many different angles. Firebrand members will teach two different songs for voice by American composer, Aaron Copland and English composer, Benjamin Britten. Firebrand will lead improvisation activities based on ideas from these historic composers, as well as lessons on basic note-reading and notation. There will also be opportunities to collaborate with the Firebrand ensemble, and at the final concert we will all come together on stage to share what we’ve learned and created. Whether you are a seasoned musician or someone who is just looking for something new to explore, the Firebrand Community Music Workshop will change the way you hear music! Please join us in our community-building adventure!


Firebrand Community Music Workshop Application

Dates of Workshop:

Tuesday Dec. 4 – (4-6pm kids/7-9 adults)

Thursday Dec. 6 – (4-6pm kids/7-9 adults)

Saturday Dec. 8 – (12-2pm kids/2:30-4:30 adults)

Final Community Concert: Dec. 8 at 5pm

Deadline for Registration: December 1st, 2012

Registration Form: FREE

Workshop Participation: $15

(If interested in scholarship, please contact us at the email address provided)

No previous experience required!

No need to attend all workshops


Firebrand Concert Series

I am pleased to be a part of this new organization! In their second year, the Firebrand Concert Series is movin’ and groovin’ on forward! We are currently planning for our Community Music Workshop in Malden on Dec. 4th, 6th and 8th. Please check out our website for more info! http://firebrandconcertseries.com/

Also if you are so moved to donate to our organization, please feel free to look at our “Boom for Tumes” Campaign page!


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