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Here’s the (rather long) opening essay from the evolving syllabus for the State of the Art course I am developing at the DePauw University School of Music. The entire document, with a reading list, is here.

Even as we see the Fort Worth Symphony on strike, and difficult labor negotiations underway in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, there are also many smaller groups and individual classically-trained performers doing well, happily engaged in a wide range of creative projects. It seems like a good time to share this essay (which seems to want to become a book) with friends and colleagues, especially since this weekend DePauw is hosting the absolutely amazing 21CMposium.

In this course, we look at the past and the present of life as cla...

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There are some days when I can’t believe I actually get paid to do my job. The day started with an engaging and inspiring talk by our (that is, DePauw’s) alum Bill Hayes and his wife Susan Seaforth Hayes, cast members of Days of Our Lives, continued with a fascinating presentation by my chemistry/biochemistry colleague Dan Gurnon on the life-saving genetic research he and his students are doing, and ended with seeing the riveting film Reparation, cowritten by my colleague Steve Timm and our alum Kyle Ham, who directed and produced the movie designed by another colleague, G. Duane Skoog.

While I’ve been trying to turn myself into more of a morning person (one who isn’t in the office at 10:30pm as I am right now), a...

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My inner voice is telling me to start vlogging, so here we go. The cream puff story from my last post, recounted a bit differently. I’d love your comments. This is my first “cream puff” of whatever this vlogging activity is to be.

Give Your Inner Critic a Cream Puff!

The phone rang. Actually, it buzzed, vibrating on the coffee table. I looked down, and there was my friend’s smiling face. I always enjoy seeing it–when I took the photo of her, I’d said, “Think of sex!” and she responded with a surprised laugh.

“Eric, are you home?” Yes. “Oh good! I have some Easter cheer for you. I’ll be over soon.”

Not much longer and there was a rapping, rapping, at my old front door. Once our fearsome miniature schnauzer, Riley, was under control, I went and greeted my smiling friend.

“I know how much you guys like cream puffs,” she said as she handed the foil-covered box of “Easter joy” to me, complete with a greeting card on top. I...

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Hey there, everyone in Alaska (I’m getting traffic from there, don’t ask me why)!

Friday evening, the amazing pianist/composer Fernando Otero and I did a short performance in a packed room at the elegant Consulate General of Argentina. It was one of three shows that doubled as showcases for attendees at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference taking place this weekend in midtown Manhattan. We played selections from our soon-to-be-released album, Dual, compositions by Fernando arranged for cello and piano. It is a dream come true to have now performed several times with him.

Saturday morning Mr. Photographer and I slept in, having been up a bit late the night before celebrating with my daughter and her aunt. T...

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Mr. Photographer and I headed over to Times Square last night, where nothing anyone does is going to attract much attention. Still, we had fun with some street performers.

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I thought they were having fun. Maybe they were, but they also wanted tips! Well, they don’t have full-time college professor jobs.

There was a beautiful moment when a mother and her daughter stopped to listen for a couple of minutes. The little girl, about two and a half, waved and sang out, “bye bye” when they left. Several people stopped and took videos. Some puzzled smiles from people who seemed to recognize what I was playing–and also wondering, I imagine, why someone would be doing this when it was about 35 degrees. (I did have to stop from time to time to warm up my left hand.)

It’s just really fun. What can I say? I love playing the cello. Everywhere!

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It was almost five years ago when I stepped out of a subway car at 96th St. and Broadway, near the apartment I was living in while on sabbatical, and there was Dale Henderson, playing Bach, quite beautifully. I’d read about Dale, the Bach in the Subways guy, had wanted to meet him, and there he was, at my stop! Serendipity.

I’d told Dale I wanted to join in, too, and together we organized nine string players (that’s my memory) playing Bach on March 21, 2011, Bach’s birthday. It was, as I understand it, the first annual “Bach in the Subways Day,” which has now grown into a worldwide movement.

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William Chapman Nyaho and Dale Henderson (photo by Tomek Berezinski)

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It’s a busy week, as I’m preparing for an APAP showcase performance with Fernando Otero on Friday night (celebrating the upcoming release of our new album “Dual”), and a recital with Taka Kigawa of Bach, Debussy, Schnittke, and Prokofiev on Tuesday the 19th at Spectrum, a relatively new venue in Greenwich Village. And Thursday through Sunday last week I was attending the Chamber Music America Annual Conference here in New York.

Sunday it was warm–nearly 60 degrees. But it was raining most of the day. As late afternoon approached, the skies cleared above Carnegie Hall (down the block from our hotel), and so Mr. Photgrapher and I grabbed the camera, the carbon-fiber cello, and my camp stool, hopped on the subw...

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In Central Park a few days ago, I was playing the Bach G Major Allemande.

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Several people stopped to listen for a while. These two women, and a baby, stayed for the entire movement and perhaps a few more, taking photos and video. When I was done, I walked over to say hi and give them a flyer.

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“May I ask you a question,” asked the lady on the left (mother of the lady on the right). “Of course,” I replied.

“Do you practice?”

I laughed a bit. “Of course!” She asked how much, and I explained that with concerts coming up 3-4 hours a day at minimum.

“I’m a music teacher in Alaska. I will be able to show my students the video of you playing this beautiful music in Central Park and explain that even someone like you has to practice.”

We had a lovely conversation and went out ways.

And if she and her students find this, I have one thing to say: practice!

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I wrote Thursday about my encounter with three NYPD Counterterrorism officers who were on duty that day at Columbus Circle. Mr. Photographer and I were headed into Central Park to take some #celloeverywhere photos when the desire to play Bach for these men suddenly hit me. When I approached to ask them, I got too close. Their supervisor yelled “STAND BACK!” I ended up playing, one of them asked if they could see the photos, and we gave them a flyer.

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That night, I received an email from one of the officers, who had also found and liked the photos we posted on Instagram. He’s given me permission to post it here:

Subject: Counterterrorism NYPD

Sir,

If we startled you with our request to keep back, I am sorry. New Yorkers are notorious for a lack of personal space and with the long weapons out, it is a safety issue that we must prompt people to keep their distance–frequently abruptly. However I thoroughly enjoyed your music as we stood our post. To me, it was a serendipitous New York moment where clashing images seamlessly coexist as residents and tourists alike go on with their agenda, enjoying your music and shooting us concerned looks.

. . . I had our handler officer get the information from you because I loved hearing it, loved that moment that shows all the quirky things one can see on a New York City street. Please keep doing what your doing, and be safe.

Respectfully,
[name]

PS, please feel free to ask for photos with the officers who do not have a rifle out, most are usually more than happy to oblige!

This was, of course, a delightful surprise. And it helped me realize that #celloeverywhere isn’t just a photo shoot. It is about playing for and with people, about connecting, just as all live music is.

I answered him with my thanks and an offer to play for him and his colleagues at a time and place when they aren’t on duty. He’s passed the offer along to his superiors.

I’ve deduced he’s about my son’s age (mid-twenties). As I go about the city, I keep noticing how young so many of the NYPD officers on duty in the subways and on the streets are. Of course, they are grown men and women, doing serious work, but they also could be my sons and daughters. I’m acutely aware that, unlike my own grown children, each is a potential target for terrorists, or isolated people who think they are terrorists, as was the case that same night in Philadelphia.

I worry about a lot of things. Too many and too much. “Generalized anxiety disorder.” Therapy, medication, meditation, it all helps some, but at times it is still paralyzing. I’m not alone in this, I know. Seems like half or more of the people I know have issues with anxiety and/or depression.

For some reason, though, I’m completely comfortable playing for people in these seemingly random encounters on the street. A new friend told me yesterday that this may be one of my “superpowers.” (We all have them, she says.)

Superpower or not, I’m pretty sure no one is going to shoot me because I’m playing the cello, so I haven’t invested in any Kevlar for this aspect of my work. I’m grateful to everyone in the NYPD and in law enforcement everywhere for their work keeping the rest of us safe.

Thanks again, guys.

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