Citizen Musician Weekend

Feb 1, 2011

Hanging out with Yo Yo and Manny Ax in the Windy City!

click photo to enlarge

This past weekend I had the honor to play the Brahms Clarinet Trio with Yo Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax at Symphony Center in Chicago. It was a wonderful experience. The concert was the pinnacle of a weekend celebrating the launch of the Yo Yo Ma/Chicago Symphony’s Citizen Musician Initiative. The concept is a wonderfully simple one to grasp and hopefully will begin a movement to spread the gift of music to the largest amount of people. We went around to different places in the city, played, talked and spread music and friendship all over the place.

So what did I do exactly and why is it important?

I woke up Saturday and went to The Parkway Community Center and played for and talked with kids about the power of music and what meaning it had in my life. I had fun just spending time together and letting them know that I discovered at their age what I loved to do and went for it all the way. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago and I understand the struggles of so many young people. We discussed how you can focus your energies on positive people and positive endeavors to achieve your goals in life. My medium was music but the process is the same in all areas of life. We had a great time and then were off to the next destination.

We arrived at the Chicago Public Schools All-City Band rehearsal at Saucedo high and totally took them for surprise. I hopped up on stage and sat in during the rehearsal.  We first played Granada and then I got up, did a little talk/Q and A and then sat right back down. I put in a request for Thriller which I heard on the way in and we rocked out!!! This was so awesome because they totally could see me as a teenager no different than them, playing in the band and having fun. Well, they are all taller than me anyway!

We said our goodbyes, shared some photos and then headed downtown to meet up with the others for a talk and official launch of the initiative.

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I truly believe the concept that we are all apart of the same community is an important one psychologically for arts organizations and I applaud the CSO and other organizations such as my childhood home, the Merit School of Music, for believing in it’s importance. This approach can indeed change the way we perform, listen and reach out to others. The more we connect with one another on an individual level, whether professionals or amateurs, young or old, the more music will become important to us and vital to our modern world. Read the reviews and articles about this very special weekend below and visit for more info.,0,5184194.column



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