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Last week, the American music world’s shine grew just a little dimmer.

Richard Toensing (‘Dick’ to his students), a composer, conductor and music educator, passed away on July 3, just a month after announcing to his friends and colleagues that he’d been diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer.

The honors Dick achieved in his time on Earth place him in the finest class of American composers. You can read about them in his obituary, here. But since his accomplishments have already been well-documented (and maybe since I tend to think we spend entirely too much time talking about awards and jobs in this business), I’m going to use this space to share some other thoughts. (more…)

Photo by nomilknocry. CC-A.
Photo by nomilknocry. CC-A.

My mornings often start the same: a sunny alarm jingle. A lingering war with the snooze button. A reluctant trudge from the bedroom to the shower. Highlights from last night’s Daily Show or a brief spin of Nils Petter Molvaer. Finally, a bowl of freshly-made oatmeal… accompanied by lots, and lots, and lots of freshly-made coffee.

Coffee, either black or with a splash of skim milk, is a key thread in the fabric of my life. I have a cup in the morning, a cup in the afternoon, and often an emergency cup before class (likely needed because of the amount of coffee that I drink, but whatever).  It’s not just the caffeine that fuels my coffee addiction. It’s the sensory assault of complex, yet rewarding aromas and tastes that shocks one awake; the remarkable ability of a brown-black liquid to simultaneously speed up and slow down time; the delicate balance of water, grounds and time – which I haven’t yet perfected – that will determine whether the five-minute drinking experience is a rich bath of smoky, chocolaty velvet or a charred mess of disgusting, caffeinated water. Coffee is more than a start to the day: it’s a concentration etude, a meditation. To borrow a phrase from Vonnegut, it’s a “Buddhist catnap.” (more…)