So: I’m a featured subject in a just-released documentary film.
The documentary is titled “Orchestrating Change” and is all about Me2/Orchestra, the orchestra I’ve been playing French horn in since 2011. Me2/Orchestra was founded to raise awareness and fight stigma about the realities of mental illness. The members of the orchestra run the gamut of conditions — bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism spectrum, anxiety, and everything in between — but you don’t have to have mental illness to be a member. The orchestra is specifically “for individuals with mental illnesses and the people who support them” — so anyone who plays an instrument can join it. We form a model organization, in which people with and without mental illnesses work together in an environment of acceptance and mutual support.
Emmy-award-winning creators Barbara Multer-Wellin and Margie Friedman heard about Me2/Orchestra a few years ago and immediately realized that this group of amazing people would make for an equally amazing documentary. They spent several months (spread across about two years) visiting Burlington and Boston, spending time with the members of Me2/Orchestra Burlington and the newer Me2/Orchestra Boston — then went back to Los Angeles to do the hard work of compiling all the stories and pain and accomplishment into one incredible documentary.
It was screened here in Burlington at Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center the evening of October 12 and then was screened repeatedly in Boston over the following days. As one of the featured participants in the film, I was asked to be part of a roundtable discussion after the showing, along with the other featured members of Me2/Orchestra Burlington.
I wish I could share the whole movie with everyone I know because it really is a phenomenal, outstanding picture. In my opinion, it really tells the story of Me2/Orchestra in the way that we hoped it would be told — revealing the members as musicians, friends, people — showing that those who suffer from mental illness can still have prodigious talent and creativity. Since it’s not yet in wide release (they’re still working on that), I can point you to the website for Orchestrating Change, the film, which has a lot of nice resources including a few short scenes from the film and a printable discussion guide. There’s also a nice article in the Boston Globe that’s worth a look.
The Green Mountain Horn Club has been a thing here in Vermont for several decades, changing in membership over the years but always managing to come together every few months to put on fun French Horn-only performances for our legions of admiring fans.
We did a performance recently in North Hero, Vermont at a little roadside venue called Island Arts (North Hero is one of the town-sized islands in northern Lake Champlain). We had assistance from a piccolo player (for the “Stars and Stripes Forever”) and several drummers from the talented pool of Vermont percussion players. Four of our horn players also brought their Wagner tubas — brass instruments that look like skinny, stretched-out French horns — to use for three numbers. It was a fun evening and I’m grateful to our legendary conductor and organizer, Charles Mayhood, for putting the whole thing together.
Jay sat on a blanket in front of the band and did his best to film the performance on his cell phone, but predictably had a few “oops”-es along the way. Fortunately, a cameraman from Lake Champlain Access Television was also present, to film the performance for later broadcast, and just the other day the video went up on their website. Enjoy.
So now it can be told: Carole did a splendid job on the Star-Spangled Banner at the July 22 Vermont Lake Monsters game, and I suck at throwing out first pitches.
As I said, throwing out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game ain’t no thing. No one gives a damn how spectacularly well, or spectacularly awful, the first pitch is unless it’s a celebrity at a major league game… and this certainly wasn’t that. Heck, there was hardly anyone at Monday night’s game – 1,566 was the announced attendance, but at game start, honestly, I think it was probably half that. (That number may actually denote tickets sold, including season tickets, as opposed to butts-in-seats.) It was a gray day and it’d been raining off and on all afternoon and wasn’t really a great night for baseball.
A few minutes before the game, we (Carole and I and Carole’s dad Glenn, who was visiting from Ohio) were shown out onto the field along with some folks from the presenting sponsor for that night’s game (a pet supply company — the first 500 fans got a collapsible pet bowl) and briefed on our duties. Carole got to do a quick sound check, which eased her nerves, and for my part, I was reminded that I didn’t have to throw from the mound and that I could come as far forward as I wanted. Wish I’d paid attention to that.
I was a little surprised when it turned out that I wasn’t the only person throwing out the first pitch — they had five balls to throw out, one for me and one each for the two adults and two kids from the sponsor. The sponsors got to go first — and it quickly devolved to the younger of the two kids, basically toddler aged, wobbling cutely around holding a ball while the parents and a catcher from the Lake Monsters coaxed him to toss it. Eventually the kid did and the catcher snagged it from approximately two feet away. Then the Lake Monsters mascot Champ stepped up and played catch with the kid for a bit. It was adorable.
So, this whole time, I’d been standing a few feet off to one side, kinda awkwardly, and when it finally was my turn, I wound up being my own worst enemy. Even though I’m quite sure that no one would have minded if I’d taken a few seconds to get myself squared away, I found myself kind of in a “must-throw-ball-NOW” mindset; we’d been out there for quite a while and I imagined that people in the stands were thinking “get on with it”.
So… pretty much as soon as the catcher had stepped back to the vicinity of home plate (he’d come almost all the way out to the mound for the toddler), I stepped up and …
… basically lobbed the ball right into the ground a few feet to one side of the catcher.
The catcher alertly snagged it on the bounce. I got a handshake from the catcher, got the ball back for a keepsake, and then it was time for Carole to sing.
(As we were leaving the field after the anthem, one of the Lake Monsters players in the dugout cheerfully snarked “Nice pitch” — but he was smiling as he said it, and to my credit, I just smiled back and said “Thanks!”.)
I took part in the 2019 “Gather at the River” choral conference hosted by the Vermont chapter of the ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) this past weekend at Harwood Union High School in Duxbury (quack) Vermont.
I was part of the Hawaiian music “chamber choir” in addition to singing in the massed choir. I really liked the Hawaiian music we sang, and I got permission from our director, Jace Saplan of the University of Hawaii – Manoa choral program, to share the videos of our performance with you. (For more about Jace, see this article.)
(Jay was sitting in the audience recording and stopped recording at the end of the three-section Hawai’i Island Suite, not realizing we had a fourth piece — ‘Oiwi E — that we were about to do — but he turned recording back on as soon as he realized what was about to happen.)
We (the massed conference choir) also performed “Dona Nobis Pacem” by Ralph Vaughn Williams. We had two wonderful soloists and a great all around choir and I was more than happy to just be a member and enjoy being part of such a terrific group.