The effort on my part extended back for a few weeks now, but the three main events have occurred over the past week.
1. Events began with the Native American flute concert I put on with my friends as the Cobbs Hill Consort ensemble at the Pittsford Community Library a week ago, Sunday, 2 March 2014.
2. The second and third big events were today, Sunday, 9 March 2014. Today at Tora-Con 2014, I played several instruments with the Symphonic Anime Orchestra.
3. This was followed an hour-and-a-half later by my monthly shakuhachi lesson with Grand Master Ronnie Nyogetsu Reishin Seldin, with the bonus addition of my first beginner's honkyoku intensive.
1. The Rochester Fringe Festival, September 2013, was the last time I had played with my friends in ensemble, Sandy Gianniny on harp, Steve Piper on guitar, Steve Imburgia on percussion, and myself on Native American flute. Last week, it was great to put on a concert sponsored by the Pittsford Community library, with a new name for our group, the Cobbs Hill Consort. We had a lot of fun, and our music was well received. Next steps include recording our CD and preparing for the third Rochester Fringe Festival this fall! [Cobbs Hill Park]
2. When I pre-registered for Tora-Con earlier this year, I noted that guest artists Symphonic Anime Orchestra (SAO) would be performing, and that they were recruiting anime fan musicians to participate. It was quite intriguing, and somewhat on a lark I applied, including descriptions of my diverse offering of flutes and percussion. I later found that I had maybe gotten in over my head, but I was up to the challenge. Lots awesome songs, and some solos, yikes! After much practice, and two intense rehearsals that were amazingly friendly to musicians of a diversity of levels of skill and of various ages (I might have been the old timer), the concert was teriffic! I ended up playing Native American flute (G minor pentatonic), ocarina (E flat major), Irish flute (D major), low drums, bongos, and shakers, and it was a blast! I greatly admire SAO leader Katie Vedder for her dedication to bringing these anime and video game music favorites to the fans through an orchestral medium, and for bringing out the fan performers' passion and excitement for music. Members of the Symphonic Anime Quartet, the professional core of the SAO, include Katie Vedder (clarinet), Justin Peterson (trumpet), Sam Terry (Euphonium), and Craig Potter (tuba), and they are all great folks. I look forward to playing with them in the future, maybe at next year's Tora-Con, or maybe at one of the cons they perform at around the country. (If anyone was wondering, my cosplay was Dr. Who, the Eleventh Doctor.)
3. Ronnie Seldin has been moving me through the beginner's shakuhachi music book as quickly as possible, and I had also been practicing in preparation of today's lesson here in Rochester. He gives lessons on one day in Rochester every other month (with a virtual lesson on in between months). I've been learning on a great shakuhachi made of Eastern Red Cedar by Native American flute maker Colyn Peterson of Woodland Voices and Shin-Sei Shakuhachi. I'll eventually need to start saving for a traditional bamboo shakuhachi, and we're talking about thousands of dollars in price, from a few thousand for a low end one, to several thousand for a nicer one. My first beginner's honkyoku intensive this evening involved group learning traditional music pieces played by Zen buddhist monks. It truly was intensive, and tough, with a bunch of stuff quite complicated and sailing right over my head. It was a great start though, a nice exposure to real shakuhachi music and a contrast to the popular traditional and nationalistic songs that comprise the beginner's music book. All together it was about two hours of shakuhachi instruction this evening. Whew! I hope to attend the KiSuiAn Shakuhachi Camp this August.
With all the practicing, performing, and learning going on this past week, on top of the "day job" that included an exhausting night shift thrown in mid-week, and packing heavy loads of musical instruments all across RIT campus this weekend, I am absolutely beat. And I'd do it all again!