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07 January 2010 @ 05:50 pm
November into December  
More backlogged things I wanted to talk aboot.

There were three other performances I went to around the OBOC weekend showtunes extravaganza. First, I saw the touring production of In the Heights at the Fox Theater. I'd been dying to see the show for some time, and was quite disappointed last winter when I went to NYC and couldn't get tickets, thus ruining my chances of seeing Lin Manuel Miranda in it. However, the show was amazing. I'm not sure what I can say about it that hasn't already been said, but the show simultaneously had a classic feel to it, while still being quite revolutionary. The book wasn't fantastic, but the music and choreography did impress. I found it very easy to empathize with the characters, and found their story lines generally intriguing and unpredictable (in a good way.)

I also saw the St Louis Symphony Orchestra play John Williams. Elise couldn't go, so I bought a single ticket, that happened to be in the third row, right smack dab in the center. It was one of the most intense musical experiences in my life. I realized that I never saw John Williams played by a real orchestra before, much less from the third row. Its hard to explain how much the music moved me. The first CD I ever owned was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. This was the music that hit me in the formative years from late middle school into high school. It inspired me to load up my iPod with all the John Williams I could cram in there. When the concert finished, one of the little old ladies who was sitting near me leaned over and said "You must have really enjoyed that." I guess I was grinning a bit.

Thirdly, I saw the Tin Ceiling's production of "Artemis Burn" which they adapted from a radio drama podcast they did a few years ago. The set was amazing, and the production enjoyable, but the whole thing was bittersweet since it was their last production in the physical Tin Ceiling theater. Having done two 24 hour play festivals there, plus their previous one act play set, it pained me to know that the one place I had found in St. Louis to do theatre, the place where I actually felt like I belonged, was no longer going to physically be a place. Of course, they do promise to continue the 24 hour play festival somewhere else. Let's hope that happens.

There was also stark contrast between the Tin Ceiling productions I did, and my most recent theatre excursion, a local production of A Christmas Carol. "The Tin" made me cocky, thinking that whatever theatre I found in St. Louis would be just as awesome. False. Whereas the Tin Ceiling productions were always ambitious in some way, this production really put the "community" into "community theatre." I don't want to bash it too much, but the production wasn't so much "directed" as "observed," and the direction that was given (especially in regard to makeup(!)) I generally disagreed with. There was just a general lack of organization that infuriated me. I was under the impression that this was going to be a minimal time commitment, but that turned out to be false as well. For whatever reason, I had too much "professional" integrity to quit when I realized this wasn't going to be the production I wanted it to be. Not sure why. However, the worst of it was that I kept promising myself that it would all be over on Saturday, and that if I just got to Saturday, I would be okay. Then, partway into Saturday's performance, my mood is crushed when I'm told there was a Sunday matinee that hadn't been prominently listed in the emails. Dick Wilkins begrudgingly lived another day.

I did do some performing in the end of 2009 with some groups I actually enjoyed. WU Pops continues to be a horrendously fun escape. It's the whackiness of Stingers, the scale of URSO, the student-run chaos of OBOC and the music of my CD collection. As assistant conductor this semester, I got to conduct both Return of the King and Indiana Jones, in addition to playing Jupiter, Chicago, Spiderman and Band of Brothers. Meanwhile, I formed a "chamber group" as a subset of the WUPOPS Brass section. The name for the group is "The Deciduous Brass", but at certain points we were also called the Coniferous Brass and the Arboreal Brass. Deciduous Brass just sounded right and the rest was just variations on a theme. Between the two groups, in the course of two months, we managed to have 5 different gigs.
  1. WashU Students for Israel Concert - Brass
  2. Thanksgiving Homeless Dinner I - Orchestra
  3. Thanksgiving Homeless Dinner II - Brass
  4. WU Pops Main Concert (a.k.a. ONE WUPOPS TO RULE THEM ALL) - Orchestra AND Brass
  5. Brass Caroling - Brass


The Students for Israel concert was interesting, if for nothing else than I felt supremely uncool coming out with music stands and brass instruments to play a fanfare following a freestyle rapper. It's UR Performing all over again. Having two Thanksgiving themed concerts for homeless people on two consecutive days was interesting. The funniest part was there were only a couple dozen people watching the full 60-piece orchestra, while there were a couple hundred people watching the 9 of us play Christmas songs in the brass ensemble. The real WUPOPS concert was my debut conducting the orchestra. It went relatively well, although I should have practiced what I was going to do when I was done conducting. I was quite nervous, and so I apparently looked pissed when I turned around. The brass ensemble's interlude was interesting. We played three pieces: WUPOPS Fanfare, written by Kira's boyfriend, The Doctor Is In, arranged by me waaaay too long ago, and Viva La Vida, also arranged by me. While we were getting ready for the concert, I made sure that everyone was going to have music in front of them when we played, without having to swap stands too much, HOWEVER I failed to notice that I did not have the Bass Trombone part to Doctor in front of me until we were about to play it, forcing me to wing it. Fortunately, it wasn't too noticeable from the audience.

Finally, brass caroling was awesome. I ordered a set of books for a bunch of easy Canadian Brass christmas tunes with flexible instrumentation. That is, flexible IF you have two trumpets. Turns out there's not much music arranged for 1 trumpet, 3 horns, 3 trombones and a euphonium. We faked it pretty well though. The day we decided to play was pretty cold. We thought it was going to be physically uncomfortable to play outside, but what we did not anticipate was it being physically impossible to play outside. Fortunately, after we moved to a less windy location, our valves and slides stopped freezing up. We also managed to get politely told to shut up by an RA who informed us that we couldn't play outside of the dorms during 24 hour quiet hours.

The trombone section also managed to continue our habit of dressing up each week throughout the semester (since our previous escapades). Highlights included pajama day, Christmas day, and toga day.

In other awesome low brass news, while trying to find somewhere to get my trombone cleaned up, I stumbled across the website for the St. Louis Low Brass Collective (which is almost as cool of a name as the New York Trombone Conspiracy). Unfortunately, I missed their Christmas play-in, but I'm going to look for another way into the group soon.

Other notes: I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the first time I ever, in Columbia with Elise and her mom. I made the turkey, mashed potatoes and apple stuffing, the last of which I was most proud of. That week also marked 6 years of being together with Elise.

Professionally, a lot of stuff has been happening. I finished the architecture class here. I spent a bit of time working on writing a chip in VHDL, which was made harder because VHDL is such a cludgy language. The take-home final was also time consuming, made all the more difficult by trying to do it backstage of A Christmas Carol.

The most exciting thing going on is the fact that Bill's workshop proposal on (essentially) my research got accepted to HRI2010 (Human Robot Interaction) AND I got my first paper accepted to a workshop as a roboticist/computational dramaturg. This means in March, I'll be going to Stanford for the latter, and JAPAN for the former. Elise is kinda mad at me, because she was a double major in undergrad: East Asian history and Genetics. And by the end of the semester, I'll have gone to conferences at Cold Spring Harbor, the alleged mecca of genetics, and in Japan. Fortunately, she's coming with me. We already have plane tickets, which weren't even disgustingly expensive.

Lastly, what I've actually been doing at work: kicking Lewis until he moves. I actually successful got him to move around back in November, which Bill and other people in the lab found amazing since he had not done so since early 2008. However, right after I finally got some demos rolling along, the power supply in the computer popped, and I've been forced to fiddle with wires ever since. It's been all sorts of fun dealing with converters, going from DB9 Serial to RJ11 Serial to USB and then having to write all the appropriate drivers after that. But I plan on purchasing one more serial converter soon and THEN maybe then I'll have Lewis rolling around the lab.

But until then...More Musical Theatre! More Tromboning! More Being a Husband! More Robots in Disguise.

Next time: The Journey into the East and back. Plus, 2009 Review!