Boston or Busk

In my role as high-school orchestra parent/roadie/groupie, I often accompany groups of violin-toting teenagers as they perform in various venues. One of the activities of the T.C. Williams High School orchestra is busking. Don’t know what it means to busk? Here’s a definition:

1. perform music or other entertainment in the street
or another public place for monetary donations.

Small groups of students play outdoors to raise money for orchestra activities; currently, that means raising money toward the spring orchestra trip to Boston. On Saturday, a group of seven orchestra students — six violinists and one violist — braved cold temperatures to play in public in Old Town Alexandria, just after the annual Alexanadria Scottish Walk Parade. A cello would have been nice, but none of our cellists was free that afternoon, and the musicians did just fine without one.

They set up in front of the Christmas tree on Market Square and performed for nearly two hours, despite cold temperatures that make it hard to keep fingers agile and strings in tune. But they sounded great, playing holiday songs and other favorites.

And they raised more than $500 for the orchestra!

My son is the tall, curly-haired one in back.

December 8 Writer Birthdays

65BC – Horace, Roman satirist & lyric poet.

1832 – Björnstjerne Björnson, Nobel Prize-winning Norwegian novelist.

1862 – Georges Feydeau, Belle Epoque playwright and a forerunner of absurdist theater.

1881 – Padraic Colum, Irish poet, novelist and dramatist who was a leading figure of the Irish literary revival.

1894 – James Thurber, author, journalist and cartoonist; especially known for work published in the New Yorker magazine.

1903 – Katherine “Kitty” Muggeridge, British writer and translator.

1906 – Richard Llewellyn, Welsh novelist who wrote How Green Was My Valley.

1912 – Jura Soyfer, Austrian political journalist and satirist; died at Buchenwald in 1939.

1913 – Delmore Schwartz, poet and short-story writer.

1930 – John Morressy, U.S. science-fiction author.

1943 – Jim Morrison, poet, songwriter and musician; lead singer of the Doors; he attended George Washington High School in Alexandria, which is now my teenager’s former school, George Washington Middle School!

1949 – Mary Gordon, American writer of novels, memoirs, and literary criticism.

Let the Judging Begin…

Yesterday was the Northern Virginia PTA Reflections deadline. In other words, it was the day when Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax’s top entries in the annual PTA preK-12 student art contest to be advanced to the Northern Virginia contest to compete at the District level.

The PTA Reflections contest is multi-tiered. A student enters the contest at his or her individual school, creating art that interprets a theme. For 2019-20, the theme is “Look Within.” The top winners from each school then move on to the city or county contest, and the top winners from that level advance to the Northern Virginia District contest, which is the contest I run. When we complete our judging, NoVa’s best entries will compete at the state level. And yes, each state’s 1st Place winners go to National.

The contest has divisions for different age groups and one for special-needs students, and students can enter work in any or all of six arts categories: Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography, and Visual Arts.

I spent all day yesterday at the Fairfax school system’s Gatehouse Administrative Center, accepting the entries, getting them sorted, and making sure everything was complete. Working with Northern Virginia PTA District Director Debbie Kilpatrick and the Reflections chairs from the three PTA Councils (Margaret McLaughlin for Alexandria, April Maddox for Arlington, and Denise Bolton for Fairfax), I received terrific artwork from some of Northern Virginia’s most talented students. And now the judging phase has begun. Here are some of Debbie’s photos from yesterday’s activities.

And did I mention that there were cupcakes? And pastries. And scottish shortbread….

In later blog entries, we’ll talk about the amazing student art.

December 7 Writer Birthdays

1872 – Johan Huizinga, Dutch historian and linguist who is considered one of the founders of modern cultural history.

1873 – Willa Cather, American author known for her novels of frontier life, like O Pioneers! and My Ántonia.

1878 – Akiko Yosano (与謝野 晶子), the pen-name of Hô Shô, a Japanese author, poet, pioneering feminist, pacifist, and social reformer who is one of the most famous, and most controversial, post-classical woman poets of Japan.

1888 – Joyce Cary, Anglo-Irish novelist and artist who chronicled his childhood in the fictionalized memoir A House of Children.

1909 – Nikola Yonkov Vaptsarov, Bulgarian poet, communist, and revolutionary who is considered one of the most important Bulgarian poets ever, despite working most of his life as a machinist and publishing only one poetry book in his lifetime.

1928 – Noam Chomsky, American linguist, philosopher, author, and prominent cultural figure.

1943 – Susan Isaacs, bestselling American novelist, essayist, and screenwriter.

Photo Friday – The Violin Lesson

It’s Photo Friday! This week, It’s a photo of my son.

Anyone who knows me knows that my teenage son is a gifted musician. He composes classical music as well as playing piano and violin. On this day, I went to pick him up from a violin lesson, and the light streaming through the gauzy curtains cast him in silhouette, making this color scene appear to be black and white.

December 6 Writer Birthdays

1478 – Baldassare Castiglione (Count of Casatico), a prominent Italian Renaissance author who was also a courtier, diplomat, and soldier.

1721 – James Elphinston, Scottish philologist, orthographer, and English-language grammarian.

1884 – Cornelia Meigs, American children’s author of fiction and biography, best known for her 1933 biography of Louisa May Alcott, Invincible Louisa; in addition to winning the Newbery Medal for that book, she also wrote three Newbery Honor books.

1886 – Joyce Kilmer, American writer and poet best known for his poem “Trees”; though a prolific poet whose works celebrated the beauty of nature, Kilmer was also a journalist, literary critic, lecturer, editor, and religious writer.

1904 – Eve Curie Labouisse, French-U.S. writer, journalist, biographer, activist, and pianist; as the daughter of Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie and the sister of Irène Joliot-Curie, she was the only person in her family who did not become a scientist and win a Nobel Prize. She did write a biography of her mother and a memoir about her experiences as a war correspondent. She was dubbed the “First Lady of UNICEF” for her commitment to working for UNICEF to help mothers and children in developing countries.

1905 – Elizabeth Yates, Newbery Medal-winning American author of children’s books who is best known for the biographical novel Amos Fortune, Free Man .

1910 – David M. Potter, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian who wrote extensively about the American Civil War.

1949 – Linda Barnes, American mystery writer, known for the “Carlotta Carlyle” series.

1951 – Tomson Highway, Canadian indigenous (Cree) playwright, novelist, children’s author, and musician who was also the librettist of the first Cree language opera, Pimooteewin (The Journey).

1970 – Joumana Haddad, acclaimed Lebanese poet, translator, journalist, and women’s rights activist.

December 5 Writer Birthdays

1830 – Christina Rossetti, English writer of romantic and children’s poems, best known for her long poem Goblin Market.

1872 – Vir Singh (Punjabi: ਭਾਈ ਵੀਰ ਸਿੰਘ ), Indian poet, scholar, and theologian who was a key figure in the movement for the revival of Punjabi literary tradition.

1886 – Rose Wilder Lane, American journalist, travel writer, novelist, and political theorist who was the daughter of American writer Laura Ingalls Wilder; Along with Ayn Rand and Isabel Paterson, Lane is considered one of the founders of the American libertarian movement.

1896 – Ann Nolan Clark, Newbery Medal-winning American children’s author.

1934 – Joan Didion, American author of novels, essays, and literary journalism, known for her lucid prose and incisive depictions of social unrest and psychological fragmentation.

1935 – Calvin Marshall Trillin, American journalist, humorist, food writer, poet, memoir writer, and novelist.

1936 – James Lee Burke, Edgar Award-winning American author of mysteries, best known for his Dave Robicheaux series.

1954 – Hanif Kureishi, English author and playwright; The Times named him one of Britain’s 50 greatest writers since 1945.

1968 – Lydia Millet, American novelist of literary fiction with a hint of dark humor.

December 4 Writer Birthdays

1795 – Thomas Carlyle, Victorian-era Scottish satirical writer and historian.

1817 – Prince Nikoloz “Tato” Baratashvili (Georgian: ნიკოლოზ “ტატო” ბარათაშვილი), Georgian poet credited with combining modern nationalism with European Romanticism to introduce “Europeanism” into Georgian literature; often referred to as the “Georgian Byron.”

1822 – Frances Power Cobbe, Victorian-era Irish author, essayist, and activist who wrote about women’s suffrage, human rights, and animal rights.

1835 – Samuel Butler, English author and satirist, best known for Erewhon and The Way of All Flesh.

1875 – Rainer Maria Rilke (born René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke), Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist who is considered one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets.

1883 – Katharine Susannah Prichard, Fiji-born Australian author of novels, plays, and short stories, who was also a founding member of the Communist Party of Australia.

1903 – Cornell Woolrich, American novelist, many of whose works were adapted into noir films.

1905 – Munro Leaf (born Wilbur Monroe Leaf), American author and illustrator of children’s literature; he is best known for The Story of Ferdinand, a children’s classic that he wrote on a yellow legal pad in less than an hour.

1934 – Wen Shaoxian (溫紹賢) – Chinese translator, scholar, novelist

1949 – A. Scott Berg, Pulitzer Prize-winning American biographer.

1969 – Plum Sykes (born Victoria Sykes), British fashion writer, editor, and novelist.

December 3 Writer Birthdays

1807 – Gamaliel Bailey, American journalist, editor, and publisher

1857 – Joseph Conrad, Polish author who wrote in English after moving to Britain and became one of the best-known authors in the English language; he is famous for such classic novels as Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim.

1897 – Kate O’Brien, Irish novelist and playwright.

1914 – Alaíde Foppa de Solórzano, Guatemalan and Argentinian poet and human-rights activist

1923  – Malcolm Franklin, Shanghai-born American author who was the stepson of writer William Faulkner and wrote about his life with him.

1924 – Francisco Sionil José, novelist and short-story writers who is one of the most widely read Filipino authors in the English language.

1929 – John Howie, American author and philosopher.

1937 – Morgan Llywelyn, American-born Irish author known for her historical fiction.

1942 – David K. Shipler, Pulitzer Prize-winning American nonfiction author.

1944 – Craig Anthony Raine, English poet who is one of the best-known exponents of Martian poetry.

1953 – Boris A. Novak, Slovenian poet and translator.

1955 – Michael Musto, American journalist, author, and Village Voice columnist.

1962 – Francesca Lia Block, American author of young-adult novels, short stories, screenplays, and poetry, best known for her “Weetzie Bat” series.

1980 – Zlata Filipović, Bosnian writer, author of the bestselling journal Zlata’s Diary which she wrote when she was between the ages of 11 and 13, during the war in Sarajevo.

College Craziness

Help! It’s college application time. My son tends to wait until the last possible moment to get his applications in, which is increasing the stress levels associated with this whole process. And the stress levels, in any case, are high. So many applications (and application fees) to pay. So many requirements to fulfill, essays to write, questions to answer, details to track down, financial aid packages to apply for, and red tape to cut.

I believe he’s a good candidate for all of the schools he’s trying for. He has better than a 4.0 average, stellar SATs (with a perfect score in math), and plenty of AP classes. Even more important (for the music schools, especially), he really is a gifted composer. On the other hand, a lot of students are good candidates. So he’s applying to his list of schools, and then we’ll see what happens.

He applied Early Action to UVa, so that one had to be in by November 1.

This week, he submitted applications by yesterday’s December 1 deadline to Boston Conservatory at Berklee School of Music and to Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University.

I was really hoping he would get his Johns Hopkins application in at the same time as the Peabody App. He wants to get into the Dual Degree program. Students who apply and get accepted at both the Homewood campus of Hopkins (that’s the main campus) and the Peabody campus can double major between the two. But the Hopkins application isn’t due until January 1, so he does have some time on that one. I would just like him to submit more applications soon, and be that much closer to finished.

His next due date: December 16 for the notoriously selective Curtis School of Music.

Fingers crossed.

This is the dorm Jon Morgan lived in for two weeks in July 2018, when he attended the High School Composition Intensive Summer Program at Boston Conservatory, which is part of Berklee School of Music. It’s in the lovely and vibrant Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, very close to Fenway Park.