Monthly Archives: August 2006

I’m a Singer? Achieving Goals.

Last night I auditionedto bea singer in a New Jersey choral group called The Celebration Singers. This is significant because I have never sung in public before (except in a chorus in 8th grade).

Actually, I once did try recording myself singing “Somewhere” from West Side Story at the Karaoke-type recording studio Sound Tracks that used to be at Downtown Disney in Florida’s Walt Disney World. The result was atrocious–which led everyone who heard it to confirm that I cannot sing. But I always suspected that the fact that the Sound Tracks recording engineer played Barbra Streisand’s high-pitched female voice into my headphones while I performed is the reason I couldn’t findthe notesas I tried to sing the song as a deep-voiced male.

Plus, whenever I tried to compose songs by singing into a tape recorder, I thought I sounded okay. And as a pre-adolescent, I took a mail-order course in ventriloquism, which taught me how to project my voice, and how to speak from my diaphragm, and do vocal warm-ups, all of which relate directly to singing.

Finally, I found that singing Brahms’ Lullabye with my wife to our twins over the last three years has been good practice and that if I tried, I could sing it–and other children’s songs–fairly well.

So, I courageously showed up at this audition. The Celebration Singers includes professional singers who have anumber of serious accomplishments in their resumes. The conductor who auditioned me is an accomplished professional who knows what he’s doing. What was I doing there?

He had me sing back to him what he played on the piano. Then he changed the key, so I sang higher and lower, to see what my range was. Then he asked me to sing an actual song if I knew one. I sang two verses of “Climb Every Mountain” by Rodgers and Hammerstein, a song I remembered word for word, note for note, for some reason, ever since learning it in music class in Fifth Grade (or was it Third Grade?). I had rehearsed it in the car while drivingto the audition, since it’s the only place where Icould bealone andwouldn’t disturb my family or embarrass myself.I wanted to continue and sing the middle part but he stopped me.

He said I had a good ear and seemed surprised that I had never sung before.

This morning I received a telephone call inviting me to join their next rehearsal!

I had no expectation that I could actually pass the audition but I thought, why not try. I drove to the hallafter putting my children to bed,showing upin the last 15 minutes of the audition period. This is how life-changing events take place. It’s always worth trying if you have a desire.

Here is a link to the web site of The Celebration Singers:

Interestingly, it started out as the company choirof, and funded by,Standard Oil, or Esso (now Exxon). It is now an independentnon-profit organization.

Besides this exciting new adventure, I recently drew some character designs that may be used for an animated version of a bear thatpromotes children’sTV programming at a local stationin Pennsylvania. These kinds of creative endeavors are exactly what I wanted my life to include when I planned to be a Renaissance Man (or at least a multi-talented creative person) during my childhood. It’s true, life gets better as you get older; you get to do what you intended to do, as you keep pursuing your interests over time.Eventually you do achieve your goalsas long as you keep trying. (And smaller arenas can eventually lead to larger ones.)

I’m also proud of my interviews on I’ve recorded two programs so far. (I would have done more but I have found scheduling times when guests and producer Prodos and Iare all available to be unexpectedly challenging.) Unfortunatelymy music-related interview withM. Zachary Johnson has not yet been put on the site due to a backlog at the Prodosphere, but I expect it to appear soon.

I will apply all this confidence I’m gaining from these achievements to completing my longer and more ambitious writing projects which are still in progress.

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Podcastic! My Interview with Composer M. Zachary Johnson

I recently recorded an interview with M. Zachary Johnson, composerand music critic for The Intellectual Activist. Deeply inspired by the ideas of Ayn Rand, he is articulate and thoughtful, answering questions with great intelligence. I learned a few things while chatting with him. Topics included what inspired him when composingpieces on his CD “Saxophone Music of M. Zachary Johnson,” the future of Romanticism in music, Ayn Rand’s hypothesis regarding why a series of tones can create emotions, whether serious music is losing its audience, the misleading distinction between popular and serious (classical) music, and how he first discovered classical music.

To hear samples of M. Zachary Johnson’s music,go tohttp://www.mzacharyjohnson.comand follow the links.

To hear my conversation with Matt Johnson, look for it to appear in a few days on, where it will be available as an MP3 file for listening, downloading or saving to your MP3 player.

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20th Century Classical Music I Like

I’m a layman when it comes to Classical music. I don’t play an instrument and I don’t read music, and I have trouble remembering the titles of pieces when they are numbers instead of evocative words.

That said, Ilove many Classical pieces. I prefer the Romantics and I love creative, lively, and also somber, tonal music, including choral music. Some of my favorites from the 18th and 19th Centuries are Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Beethoven, Verdi, Rimsky-Korsakov and sometimes Schubert.

Here are some composers I like who composed after the Romantic and tonal-musicperiod had “officially” ended:

Other thanthe 20th Century holdovers from the 19th Century, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Debussy (from the latter two I only enjoy certain pieces),there are some less-well-known 20th Century composers I like who were influenced by the Romantics and who composed tonal pieces with structure, lush andbeautiful sounds, and uplifting emotions well into the 20th Century. These are: Paul Creston (I enjoy his Symphony No. 1 and No. 2), Randall Thompson, and William Grant Still. I like a few of Henry Cowell’s pieces too. My wife happens to play theflute on some Manhattan Chamber Orchestra recordings ofa few of thesecomposers, but that has only led me to learn of the works, not to influence my taste.

On to the 21st Century: Online I have heard samples ofnew compositions by M. Zachary Johnson ( and I like what I have heard. He is directly trying to revive the spirit of Romanticism and he may well have succeeded.

Terry Teachout, a music critic, hassuggested that a return to tonal music and Romanticism by younger composers, whose pieces are being added to theconcert performancesof today’s orchestras, is a trend. I hope so.

Hereare twoessays on the subjectby Terry Teachout, “Back to the Future” and “Romantics’ Return”.,23657,996278,00.html

I don’t like (nor have I heard) all of the pieces to which he refers, nor do I necessarily agree with all he says, but I think his heart is in the right place.

In the coming week, I expect to have a new podcast available that will be related to this topic.

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