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Coda Connections
Columbia Band Fans' Quarterly Newsletter
Summer 2010

News & Calendar - Summer 2010
Feature - Happy 100th to the Cantankerous Clarinetist
Behind the Baton - Director's Thoughts
Fun Stuff - A few words about...
Official CB Positions - People in Charge
Contact Information


This edition of Coda Connections features an article about a famously gruff jazz clarinet virtuoso, an example of how a music teacher can learn from his students, and a slight realignment of Board members.


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- Len Morse, Editor

News & Calendar

Summer News

The concert band is preparing a variety of music for Band Day and the summer gigs, and the jazz band is rehearsing for two local concerts before departing for Europe in July. The calendar shows each group's public performances.

Summer Calendar

  Sun, 6/13 (Next Sunday!), Concert Band at William A. Humbert Amphitheater,
    Bel Air, MD, Maryland Community Band Day
  Sat, 6/19, 6:00PM, Jazz Band at Lurman Woodland Theatre, Catonsville, MD
  Sun, 6/20, 6:30PM, Jazz Band at Lake Kittamaqundi, Columbia, MD

  Thurs, 7/8 - Thurs, 7/22, Various times, Jazz Band at Amsterdam, Holland -
    Bruges, Belgium - London, England - Wigan, England - Edinburgh, Scotland

  Sun, 8/15, 6:00-8:00PM, Concert Band at Lurman Woodland Theatre, Catonsville, MD
  Sun, 8/22, 6:30-8:30PM, Concert Band at Lake Kittamaqundi, Columbia, MD

by Len Morse (Percussion)     Musical notes on staff
Happy 100th to the Cantankerous Clarinetist

Jazz legend Artie Shaw achieved much in his lifetime, but was not satisfied with any of it. Known by most as a brilliant jazz clarinetist and bandleader, he formed and broke up at least five successful ensembles, was married eight times (to Hollywood icons like Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, among others), survived a stint in WWII, and later wrote books. Shaw's 1938 recording of Cole Porter's Begin the Beguine was a smash hit and helped propel him to (and some say beyond) the already huge popularity of one of his contemporaries, the "King of Swing" himself, Benny Goodman. His playing was technically brilliant.

So where did Shaw's unrest come from? Why did he quit at the height of his musical career? According to a 2002 interview on NPR, he did not enjoy the media and public frenzy that came with stardom, nor did he enjoy dealing with record producers. He only stayed with music until the age of 44 because of the other trappings of being famous, which were a constant temptation. Shaw was a strikingly attractive man, and he had numerous "flings" outside of his eight marriages.

He was also a perfectionist. He became bored easily, and was constantly trying to expand and experiment with new music, but all his fans wanted were the tunes that made him famous. In fact, the outspoken Shaw frequently felt that his jitterbugging followers did not fully appreciate his music, calling them morons. This gruff, opinionated thinking may have started during his childhood.

Arthur Jacob Ashawsky was born on May 23rd, 1910 in Manhattan's Lower East Side to Jewish immigrant parents. The family moved to New Haven, Connecticut when he was seven years old, and it was there that he experienced open anti-Semitism for the first time. He was shy, and longed to escape from the bullying. He also resented his parents' acceptance of their impoverished lot in life.

Shaw studied piano more to please his mother than from any real interest. However, after hearing a saxophone vaudeville act, he convinced his parents to let him purchase his own instrument and lessons, financing this plan by working at a neighborhood deli. According to a 2003 LA Weekly interview, Shaw says, "Lots of kids joined the service to change their lives, but I learned how to play the horn instead, by listening to [trumpeters] Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke." Such was his hunger to make a better life for himself via music.

From 1925 to 1935, Shaw switched to clarinet, shortened his name, and freelanced with many different swing bands and ensembles, including the CBS orchestra. He earned a living as a session musician as well as a director and arranger, living in Cleveland, Chicago, and New York.

In 1936, Shaw formed his first group with himself on clarinet, backed by a string quartet and a 3-piece rhythm section. They played his new composition Interlude in B Flat, which was a smash. The group's first contract was short-lived, though, as the public paid little mind to the unusual instrumentation, forcing Shaw to disband the ensemble and form a more traditional swing band in 1937. Shaw was a proponent of racial equality and frequently hired black musicians. Singer Billie Holiday and trumpeters Roy Eldridge and Oran "Hot Lips" Page can be heard on various Shaw recordings.

Throughout this dismantling and re-forming of bands, Shaw became frustrated with the commercialism of the music industry, although his popularity and financial success kept returning after each re-invention. His boredom also got the better of him. After a year of directing what would be his last group in 1949, he "couldn't stand it anymore. The same pieces night after night after night -- no matter how many changes you make, it becomes sickening, so I broke it up," according to the LA Weekly interview.

Shaw finally stopped playing in 1954, retiring for good from the music world, although he enjoyed listening to classical music during his later years. This famously cantankerous man always thought "outside of the box" and wanted more, and he hated repetition. Yet, he was an intellectual, a musical innovator, and seemed aware of his own genius. His passion for perfection was eating away at him, but through professional analysis, he learned to accept himself for who he was, and according to the LA Weekly interview, that may have saved his life.

He began writing and made a life of it, finishing three books. One of his last forays into music was the 1986 release of his last band's 1949 studio recordings. Artie Shaw died on December 30, 2004 at the age of 96.

Besides Begin the Beguine, Shaw's popular recordings include Hoagy Carmichael's Stardust, George Gershwin's S'Wonderful, Shaw's own Summit Ridge Drive, a Mexican tune called Frenesi, and many others.

For a much more in-depth look at the life and music of Artie Shaw, check out author Tom Nolan's 2010 biography, Three Chords for Beauty's Sake.

Behind the Baton
by Mike Blackman (Concert Band Director)     Conductor
Why Dumbo is My Hero

I am finishing up my first year of teaching high school music (after 18 years of teaching elementary school) and have had the pleasure of teaching a Music Theory class. As I prepared for this new venture, I tried to recall what I had learned in my college Theory classes and looked at some exams from recent years. I came into the year very enthusiastic about teaching my students the basics of voice-leading, analysis, and ear-training.

As we progressed through the curriculum, however, it became increasingly clear that one has to be a total music geek (like myself) to find much inherent pleasure in these disciplines. The content had to be taught, but my overall goals for the students have evolved over the past nine months. I realized that what I really wanted was for them was to listen with "bigger ears" - to understand and appreciate what they are hearing at a more sophisticated level. And, as you might guess - they started enjoying music more. ALL kinds of music. It has been very gratifying.

So I challenge you, the music "consumer," to grow some bigger ears. Take a class, talk with musicians, or listen to something you don't normally choose. There are many educational videos that you might enjoy as well, such as Leonard Bernstein's "Young People's Concerts" from the 1950s and '60s, videos about the instruments and conducting, and documentaries about composers. I'm quite sure that you will enjoy this learning process and develop some Dumbo ears in the process!

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your continued support of Howard County's own community band - the Columbia Concert Band!


Mike Blackman, CCB Director

Fun Stuff
Quarterly Word: "Virtuoso" - A person with notable technical skill in the performance of music.

Quarterly Quote: "I would rather write 10,000 notes than one letter of the alphabet." ~ Ludwig Van Beethoven

Official CB Positions

Columbia Bands Executive Board

Folks in parentheses have been elected or otherwise chosen for various offices and will begin serving on July 1, 2010.

President - Bob Frantz (Woody Wingfield)
Vice President - Len Morse
Secretary - Carolyn Hipkins (Michael Pack)
Treasurer - Aileen Borders

Music Directors

CCB Director - Mike Blackman
CJB Director - Pete Barenbregge

Appointees and Volunteers

Historian - Melinda Frisch
Publicity Chair - Jim Kaiser
Fundraising Chair - Woody Wingfield
Equipment Manager - Len Morse
Grants, Programs - Jeanette Donald
Facebook Fan Page Moderator - Carolyn Hipkins
Accountant - David Weisenfreund, CPA
Librarian - Marilyn Kelsey
Curator - Jeanette Donald (Acting)
Uniform Manager - Bill DeVuono
HCAC Liason - Tanya Hoegh-Allan
Insurance Liason - Jenn Ambrosiano-Reedholm
CCB-CJB Liason - Russell Perkins (Maurice Feldman)
CCB Webmaster - Suzanne Hassell (Len Morse)
CJB Webmaster - Matt Williams
Members-at- Large - Jenn Ambrosiano-Reedholm, Maurice Feldman, Jim Kaiser, Meghna Lipcon, Kathleen Shoemaker, Jim Wesloh, and John Zontek


Contact Information

phone: 301-598-4587
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