Making music in the South Loop

Making music in the South Loop
Me on my piano playing "Bruce's Theme" /photo/Bruce Oltman

A lot of music-making-and-me took place in the South Loop in recent months.  And you can read one side of the story here.

Yes, I composed, well, helped compose, well, Ok, sort of watched a piece being composed with renowned composer and Roosevelt University music professor Stacy Garrop.  A simple one minute piece, based on the way Philip Glass compositions sound:  oscillating, as Stacy described it when we zeroed in on what I would compose.  Because it was to be a gift for my boyfriend  Bruce--and Glass is his favorite composer.  You can hear the final composition here, being played by Stacy's husband, pianist Joe Francavilla.

First it was going to be Bruce's Christmas gift.  Then it was to be his January birthday gift.  Finally, it became his Valentine's Day gift.  Because it took me that long to resurrect what I'd learned at my long-ago, many-years long piano lessons with Miss Zumbrennan.  And Mr. Dodds.  Not to mention a few returns to the keyboard with a teacher during my college years, and as a young adult.

The meager skill I had attained at one point in my life came back and I muddled through--and by Valentine's Day I could get through the minute piece within two minutes and with a minimum number of mistakes.  And so, there I was, on my South Loop corner on my South Loop piano playing a piece I sort of composed with a little help from my friend Stacy.  She also helped me bring back the art of practicing, and of things such as getting the timing and the fingering right.

It actually all started at the Chicago Cultural Center back in the Fall.  Cedille Records, a not-for-profit recording company hosted a fundraiser there that Bruce and I attended.  And right on the silent auction table was a composition lesson provided by Cedille recording artist, Stacy Garrop, in which it was guaranteed in not so many words that I'd compose a piece, and it would be in the world, and I could call it my own.  How could I resist?

I beat out the competition, which was considerable.  And the dream of composing a real piece of music became mine.  At first, I thought it should be complex, and stately and have a cello, and a harp and a piano….  Stacy reminded me that in order for Bruce to hear the piece I'd have to hire a group of musicians to play it for him.  So we decided to go piano, which I own. And to go simple, so I could do it myself.

And so we did it.  Stacy suggesting a sort of concept--and then a sort of multiple choice of notes, sounds, chords, melody, harmony, sharps, flats, the whole darn keyboard our oyster--until we got to the end.  The minute, 10 second finish line.  The part that put me up there as a composer.  With her, Philip Glass--and Bach, Beethoven and Mozart.  I'm in the club now.

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