Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Joy of Making Music

I posted this on Facebook today, and want to share it with those of you who read my words here but are not on Facebook.

I'm exhausted from the stress of concert week, but I'm incredibly lucky.
If you wonder what 120 of my musical colleagues and I do in the evenings during Cleveland Orchestra concert weeks, we drive many miles and many minutes every night of the week to Severance Hall in Cleveland's University Circle, warm up our voices, then process and sit on stage behind the Cleveland Orchestra while we wait patiently for our turn to make music. For me it's 140 miles and over 3 hours total, just for the commute. We are at the hall from 2-4 hours, depending on the concert. There are those who drive further and longer than I. We receive no salary nor reimbursement for our expenses. The IRS lets us deduct 14 cents per mile for our auto expense. We spend over $200 a week for gas. It's a lot of money and a lot of time away from our families. Why do we do it? For the incredible experience of making music with the Cleveland Orchestra and with each other. We are truly lucky.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Work to Live; Live to Travel

I have a really good guy with whom every breath of every day is fun. I just found this photo that one of our traveling friends took of us on the Italian Riviera in May of this year. And now we're talking about the next big vacation.

How does a river cruise in 2013 through Paris and other European capitals sound?

Sounds pretty darned good to me.

Proving Oneself

The normal musician chooses a place for his or her career, puts down roots, makes contacts, and gets jobs. After the first job, if she is good, the future jobs just follow along like baby geese.

The abnormal musician (waving hand in air) follows the men in her life around the country. Each time she gets to a new location, she starts all over again to establish her credibility as a first-rate accompanist and lounge pianist. She must go out to suitable venues, find pianists whose work she identifies with, introduce herself and offer to sub for them when they want a night off, and be willing to drop everything at a moment's notice when the regular pianist is sick. She's got to be willing to work two and three jobs at a time, meet some sleezy characters, and—hopefully have fun bringing enjoyment to people sitting in bars or theatres.

In Orlando it began with someone in the entertainment division at Walt Disney World calling my university music department and asking for the name of the best pianist they had. They were given my name, and for seven years I served as Staff Accompanist.

First Husband and I moved to Sarasota and I served as church pianist, meeting several people who knew people in the entertainment community. I played for local musical theatre productions and for voice lessons at the community college. Then we moved to Ft. Worth and I started playing for ballet classes at TCU. When my husband and I divorced, I started playing at Tavern of the Fierce Sparrow at the Hilton on Mockingbird in Dallas, and experienced being handed a room key for the first time!

Second Husband (followed by 2nd divorce and Third Husband and ...) happened along and I moved to the D.C. suburbs. Over the next 16 years I played in hotel lounges and at private parties. When Nordstrom came to town, I introduced myself to the piano manager at the Pentagon City store and began nine enjoyable years of "making beautiful music to shop by."

With the move to Tucson following my husband's death and my meeting the next Significant Other, I started all over again. I started volunteering to play for an Alzheimer's Support Group at St. Phillip's in the Hills. Slowly I met more and more people. I began working in administration for the symphony and met people there who had contacts. Talking to a woman who was reading sheet music in my Starbucks led to my accompanying the CYT organization and meeting some wonderful and talented people. From that I had the honor of working with the megatalented Robert Encila on a showcase at St. Francis in the Foothills. And then I moved again.

With this move, I've had the hardest time re-establishing myself. I met people through Easy Street Productions when I helped my son with some projects there. I introduced myself to a well-known and well-connected pianist, who threw some gigs my way. My name was given to the production director of Opera Western Reserve and I began accompanying their Young Artists program. And then somehow a man in the chorus heard me say something about being an accompanist and asked—without ever hearing me play—if I'd accompany him on an upcoming cabaret night. What a leap of faith!

We had our first rehearsal Saturday afternoon for a show that will take place on November 3 at First Baptist Church on Fairmount in Cleveland.

I feel like I need to keep thanking him for taking a chance on me. How good it feels to be collaborating again and making lovely music with skilled and talented musicians!

Here's to never having to re-establish myself again!

(The photo? Nordstrom Pentagon City, Christmas season, 1990 or 1991. Each year Nordstrom would have a holiday preview night, with glitz and glamor. Great fun. Beautiful holiday music to shop by!)

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Ins and Outs of Cleaning

Over the past few days I've been trying to declutter and clean my sewing room, yet again. I took DGS to a lampwork beadmaking class last weekend, and now I'm trying to set up a glass and torch station for us in the sewing room. But there's so much stuff in there!

There are fabrics collected over years of travel and oh-isn't-that-pretty-I-could-use-that-someday. There are three sewing machines. There are materials for beading and cross-stitching and knitting and felting and dyeing and ...

You get the idea!

This morning, while devoting another hour to cleaning out that area, I found a card describing a handcrafted pottery bowl I bought in a Sedona gallery about nine years ago. The bowl is sitting on my antique breakfront in the front hall. Why is the descriptive card in my sewing room? Because I don't know what to do with it.

That, my friends, is one of my biggest problems. When I come across something that I don't know what to do with—where to put—I leave it where I found it. Each time I'm cleaning or organizing that room, I find the item again. I pick it up, look at it, wonder what to do with it, and put it down. Pretty soon I don't see it any more.

When the Jazzman first moved in with me, he laughed at the places I put things. A plastic storage box of picture-hanging equipment was on the shelf in the coat closet off the front hall. Why? Because the last time I hung a picture, it was in that hall. And because I know the box is there.

Light bulbs? They're in the upstairs hall, in the small storage space behind the door that leads to the attic. At least they were. The last time I went looking there for a lightbulb, the Jazzman told me they were now in the tool room in the basement. Along with the picture-hanging equipment and all the tools and the step stool. Along with everything an organized handyman would need to fix any problem in a big old early-20th Century house.

Of course. Because he's organized.

Me? I'm just befuddled!

When I try to clean house, I get waylaid by every little this or that which should be put away someplace, if I could only figure out where.

Can you understand why I love my Molly Maids so much? They come every other Friday, and nothing befuddles them. They move through my house like machines, and I'm left with order and fresh smells.

Now that's love!

(The card describing the fabulous handcrafted bowl? It's now in the top drawer of the breakfront on which the bowl rests. Isn't that a step in the right direction?)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Yahoo Groups Migration to Google Groups

This post will be of no use to most regular readers, but it will be useful to those who are Googling, trying to figure out why their clients can't log in to a Google Group.

I just migrated the Design Outside the Lines workshop forum from Yahoo Groups to Google Groups. I had a number of problems, which I want to document for others to use.

Leaving Yahoo: Export your memberlist, pull it into a spreadsheet, separate out the address only, and place in a Word file. Replace the hard returns with commas, then separate into groups of ten. Google restricts you to adding or inviting 10 people at a time.

Importing to Google: When I was first adding, after I finished my 8th group of 10, the system locked me out, saying I had reached my maximum number of invites and to try again later. I waited 10, 20 minutes to no avail. As all the members of this group were selectively added to Yahoo in the first place, I felt I could direct-add them with no problem.

I switched to the Add New Members link and added another 60 or so before being locked out again.

Much, much Googling and reading later, I figured out I could add the rest with another ID. Fortunately, I have three Gmail IDs, one of which had been added to the list earlier. (Note to readers: make sure you have more than one way to get into the list!) I made my second ID a co-owner of the group, then opened another browser and logged in with the second ID. (I have not found a way to log in with two different IDs in different tabs of the same browser. Best to use a second browser.)

I was then able to direct-add another 60 or so before being locked out. I switched to Invite New Members and was able to add the rest of my 310 users.

Now the fun began! My inbox exploded with emails from users who clicked the link in the invitation email, then couldn't get in again.

If your users have Gmail addresses or are already using a Google app, such a Blogger, Groups, or Calendar, and have registered their non-Gmail address with Google, they should be able to sign in with no problem.

The snafus began with members who had non-Gmail addresses that were not recognized by Google. Here's the list I made for these users:

If you have a Gmail account:
You should be fine. Gmail and Google Groups are both Google applications, so Google already knows who you are and will let you right in. Go ahead and click the link when you receive the email.

If you do not have a Gmail account but use other Google apps, such as Calendar, Docs, (maybe Blogger - not sure about that):
Again, you should be fine. Go ahead and click the link. If at any time Google tells you you're not a member of the list or do not have access, please email me offlist at xxx and I'll work with you to resolve the problem.

If you do not have a Gmail account and do not use other Google apps:
First, register your email address with Google at https://accounts.google.com/NewAccount
If it tells you that you're already registered, go to https://accounts.google.com/Login. If you don't remember registering and don't have a standard password that you use for everything (Smart Girl!), you can tell it you can't access your account and go through the password reset process.
Once you have a password and Google knows your address and recognizes you, then click the link on the GThreads invitation and go into the group.

I had one member who only had one email address. She had registered it previously with Google, but couldn't remember the password. Google wanted to text her the recovery code, but her phone doesn't text. I walked her through the "Verify my identity" process with Google, but it requires a second email to which to send the recovery code. She chose not to jump through Google's hoops to set a new password. Because she was a direct-add to the group, she was receiving the emails. I edited her account and changed her to digest. She's content with reading the posts and not contributing to the discussions.

Another user said her computer was so old that she couldn't access the group. She also will just read the digested posts and not contribute until such time as she upgrades her equipment.

For several users, simply deleting and re-adding/re-inviting them solved their problems.

So given all these hardships, would I recommend the migration again? Absolutely! The owners and moderators of the group were unhappy with Yahoo's user-unfriendliness for several years. There seems to be a general happiness among the members with the new formats (despite the difficulties in getting in).

My strongest advice to moderators who are performing this migration: patience. Be patient. Remember when you were first learning about computers? Be as gentle as you can with your users who are having difficulties, then pour yourself a large adult beverage at the end of the day!