Monday, December 20, 2010

December: TEDxNewYork salons

I have been attending the Friday TEDxNewYork salons for about a year now. TEDxNewYork is a one-hour long salon in which a group of people watch a TED video, and discuss it afterward. While they're only 1 hour long, and not enough time to really dig into any subject and reflect on it, the salons are a wonderful time to step away from other daily tasks to bask in imagination, and share and discover ideas with a very diverse group of inspiring people.

My friend Chel, who facilitates the salons, was leaving town to join the INK Conference in India as the social media point person, and she asked me to facilitate TEDxNY for three weeks while she was away. I was thrilled for the opportunity, as I love facilitating groups of people with great ideas.

It was my decision as to which videos we'd watch, and this proved to be much more of a challenge than I'd anticipated. Should I think of creating a scope over three weeks, with each talk relating to the next? Should I show videos about issues that are of interest to me, but perhaps not as intriguing to a more diverse audience?

In the end, I chose three talks that had little to do with one another, but that would hopefully provide a good basis for a conversation.

Here are short blogs about each salon:
December 3
December 10
December 17

December 17, 2010: TEDxNewYork salon

I need to look up the talk I showed on this day, because I'm drawing a blank. But the most interesting part of the discussion was not about the talk itself. Deciding to shift the conversation to focus on "dreaming big," I said, "As you know, TED gives away a prize to an extraordinary person who has a dream to change the world. This prize helps that person achieve his or her wish. In the spirit of the holiday season and wishes for the upcoming year, what would you do to help change the world if you were to be awarded a TED prize?"

It was beautiful. We didn't have much time, but here are a few ways that TEDxNY members would help change the world if granted a wish:

Conserve wildlife on the planet
Connect every child in the world to a caring adult
Connecting to our roots and nature (Something about the book "Ishmael")
Develop lifestyle innovation
Share the idea of cosmic consciousness
Start a campaign against rape in Africa
Develop a well-being institute
Inner life
Help bring more money into mass transportation system and arts education
Contribute to child health

December 10, 2010: TEDxNewYork Salon

The second (and by far most popular) talk we watched was Itay Talgam's Lead Like the Great Conductors. Just watch it. This one hit home for me, as I have spent most of my life playing under and watching various conductors, and it made so much sense to think about how we can learn leadership skills from great (or not so great) conductors.
My favorite comment of the day from a regular TEDxNY attendee: "I spent all week at other TEDx events, and I really thought I'd had enough, that I couldn't possibly come today. But this talk has made my entire afternoon, my entire WEEK! There's nothing better than hearing great music in the middle of a Friday afternoon."

I couldn't agree more.

December 3, 2010: TEDxNewYork salon

I had been thinking a lot about entrepreneurship, and the first talk I showed was Cameron Herold's Let's Raise Kids to be Entrepreneurs. Interestingly, many of the people who attended that day were entrepreneurs, and there were some differing opinions among the group about whether people agreed with Cameron Herold or not. What I took away from the discussion was this: it may not make sense to raise all children to become entrepreneurs, but rather, to raise children to develop entrepreneurial skills which they can bring to any profession they end up pursuing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Found Sound Nation party a success!

I'm extremely proud of the Found Sound Nation crew for putting together a fantastic party at Tammany Hall last night. We had a wonderful opportunity to share some of the projects of Found Sound Nation with friends, colleagues, and supporters. Thanks to all who came out on a cold Monday night!

The folks at Tammany Hall were fantastic, and we look forward to collaborating with them again. Chris and Jeremy showed video footage from their projects in Africa and New Orleans, and talked about future plans for a project in Haiti. Everyone especially loved when former FSN participants got up on stage and free-styled along to tracks they'd created during their FSN workshops.

Found Sound Nation, sponsored by Bang on a Can, is a mobile production crew that guides people to explore their voice and vision through creating multi-media music projects. I have been managing many of the projects with our stellar team: Chris Marianetti and Jeremy Thal (workshop leaders), and Elena Moon Park (project manager and development specialist). We're all revved by how these workshops allow young people to explore their potential in life by participating in a musical experience in which they create their own song tracks by using the sounds around them, and we want to get as many people involved in supporting this innovative, culturally-relevant, and socially-conscious work as possible!

I'll be writing more about FSN soon. We have big plans for 2011, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December: Fred Hersch at the Vanguard

Among the many things I love listening to, a show at the Village Vanguard ranks high up on the list. Especially when Fred Hersch is playing. Tonight I had the good fortune to be invited into Fred's gorgeous sound. Now, as a brass player, I understand the concept of beautiful tone production. But-- despite growing up around a pianist grandfather who owned one of the top Steinway piano stores in the U.S-- I've never understood how beautiful tone production is achieved on a piano. This is probably for the best, because I revel in the naive amazement of being soothed by every note that comes out of the instrument when Fred plays.

Last time I came to the Vanguard was to enjoy the Brian Blade Fellowship, which was one of the pivotal concerts of the year for me. What I love most about the Vanguard is its intimacy: it feels as if you're in someone's living room, the walls peppered with several photos of jazz legends, and the welcoming sounds of the piano, with the perfect acoustical balance of warmth and clarity.

If you missed Fred's show, or if you want to relive the experience, check out a show from an earlier performance here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


It's been quite some time since I last wrote, and I realize that a blog needs to be regularly updated. I really wanted to share a little about the extraordinary events surrounding the TEDxEast conference on November 11 at the Times Center. I had the good fortune to help coordinate the event and work the event itself, and to spend some time with the speakers.

The theme was Inter-connectivity, which was a very relevant subject matter in this time when the Western world (and beyond) seems in a race to get as connected as possible. What struck me was the diversity of speakers: Jason Johnson of Re-think Books, Dennis Crowley of FourSquare, Gavin Starks of AMEE, chef Thomas Keller, artist Raghava KK, and more.

There was so much take-away from this afternoon, and I'm still wondering how all of the ideas around "inter-connectivity" bring us to a greater awareness about making change in the world. The event itself was certainly an opportunity for great thinkers and leaders from diverse fields to connect and share about big ideas, an inter-connective think-tank with video cameras and fancy cupcakes.

Because I am a glutton for inspiration, I'd like to share some quotes and thoughts that resonated most from the day. Do they have anything to do specifically with inter-connectivity? Maybe, or maybe not. Regardless, I'm hoping that by sharing them, you'll find a small connection, perhaps to something that inspires you to make one little change for the better in the world...

Sunny Bates: "We're looking for magic all of the time."
"Great men feel what good men merely know."

Chef Thomas Keller: "Success is... the memories we collect."

Gavin Starks, CEO of AMEE, an organization that collects data to determine our carbon footprint: Gavin spoke about looking at hard data to realize what we-- from individuals to organizations to governments- can do to make a sustainable change on the environment. We can measure how much energy we're using in order to determine how we can make simple steps to change. It's not all or nothing; it's making a contribution. And if enough people make a small contribution, we can make a major impact.

Raghava KK: "To unlearn, you have to be vulnerable." The idea of "unlearning" what we know, playing and exploring and putting everything we've learned aside to take new risks.

To enjoy the videos from TEDxEast, click here:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Blonde Redhead at Webster Hall

You know those shows in which you completely surrender to the music? In which all criticism, praise, and other worldly concerns seem to utterly disappear and you develop this perfect synergy with the music and the musicians who are performing it? That was the Blonde Redhead show for me tonight at Webster Hall.

I realize that this music isn't for everyone, but I've been listening to this band for years now, and I'm always moved by their surprising chord progressions, their ethereal voices, even their bizarre lyrics that I can't quite understand. This was the first time I saw them live, and their performance was just as gratifying, if not more so, as their recordings.

The two lead singers are married-- a Japanese woman and an Italian man-- and the man's twin brother plays drums. There's also a keyboard player. The Japanese woman started the set wearing a very unusual mask, with tight sequin pants. Why do I love this band so much? Maybe because they strike the right balance: provocative-yet-accessible harmonies, sexy without trying to be, and simple lyrics that are both profound and completely inane (like "Allow me to show you!!! The way which I adore you!!! Sometimes I think I must, Just let you be, let you be a horse, All I want is to be a rider...")

Such a blessing, to be taken out of oneself for a couple of hours and drawn into music. Which concerts have you experienced this with lately?

Friday, October 15, 2010

From von Bingen to Gaga: lasting musical divas

If there are boundaries between musical genres, then I'm quite blind to them. Bob Dylan, Mozart, Stereolab, Aaron Parks, and The Roots are currently holding equal space on my IPod. If the music moves me, I'll probably explore it further. As for women in music, my taste ranges from Maria Callas to Joni Mitchell to Blossom Dearie to Catpower to Emeline Michel to Maria Joao Pires to Jacqueline du Pre to Betty Carter, and the list goes on and on. So I was pleasantly surprised last night when I found myself seduced into the universe of Lady Gaga. After watching her videos repeatedly on YouTube for an hour and marveling at the production, the music, and the odd sensation that she might be pulling the public's leg with videos that are perhaps a parody of traditional pop-music videos, I began to wonder, "What makes a musician last?" In Gaga's case, I'm certain that it will be a winning blend of excellent song-writing, a good voice, sense of humor, die-hard individualism, a team of extraordinary people, and risk-taking. I loved her music, and can't wait to see how she evolves over time.

Which of course led me to look up Madonna and her videos. Is she ever going to grow old? How does she still look so hot? What will she do when she's 70?

Quite accidentally, the next morning I had the pleasure to be taken back to my university days in music history, when the transcendent Hildegard von Bingen came on the radio. Talk about longevity: her glorious liturgical songs have been around since the 12th Century!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Yoga Teacher Training

October 8, 2010
I have been practicing yoga for many years. It began with Sivananda, until I discovered Iyengar with my teacher and dear friend Elizabeth Smullens in Berlin (check out her classes at Yoga Studio if you're there).

I started teaching friends a couple of years ago, and loved bringing what I had learned from Iyengar about alignment to people who had never been taught how to do poses correctly. I wanted to get a teacher certification so I could share this practice that has benefited me so much in my life with others.

I found a gem of a studio in the East Village called Finding Sukha Yoga School, and I can't speak about it highly enough. I'm now immersed in a weekend teacher training, with a small group led by the studio's wonderful, nurturing owners Sarah and Shaun, and it has been such a blessing. I'm learning again how to be a good listener, learner, sharer, and teacher. I come back from class teaching friends little things I learned that day, and I can't wait to get my hands on a full class!

Please come take a class at this perfect community studio (mostly Vinyasa style, but so nurturing and conscious of individuals' needs). Read my reviews on Yelp and Citysearch.

October Fests: Inspiring networking events

Friday, October 1
TEDxNY at Grey Group
No better way to welcome October than to join a group of great thinkers and leaders at the TEDxNY meeting. Watched Ellen Gustafson's TED talk about FEED, her organization with Lauren Bush to reach children around the world through the sale of their FEED bags. Immensely inspiring, with a riveting conversation that followed about how we can change what our children are eating around the world.

Monday, October 4
All for Africa International Palm Out Poverty party at Slate: A wonderful event to benefit All for Africa, which supports economic sustainability in Africa by developing business models for non-profits. John Legend, ?uestlove, Bajah + the Dry Eye Crew and many others were there to sing for and celebrate this important cause.

Wednesday, October 6
Frank's Chop Shop cocktail gathering for a group of many "good brains." Met some fascinating people, including one guy who designed a bartending piano. Check out his website, it's amazing!

October Fests: Inspiring Music Events

Last week was a true inspiration of extraordinary music.

Jazz: Nightly shows at the Jazz Standard with Joshua Redman, Matt Penman, and Gregory Hutchinson. A marathon of groove.

Classical, October 2: Heard the second half of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by everyone's friend, Gustavo Dudamel. I'd never connected the word "seductive" to Ravel's Bolero ever, until that performance.

Jazz, October 3: Village Vanguard, Anat Cohen quartet. So beautiful, soulful, honest. First time I heard Jason Linder on piano and decided I'd like to be a fly on the wall of his practice room.

Wednesday, October 6: Sphinx Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. I loved the string sound of this lovely young chamber orchestra.

October Fests (Minus the Lederhosen and Dirndel)

So far, October has been a thrill and a panoply of great music and fascinating people. I'm separating my entries into music, networking, and other experiences. Yes, it is truly Oktoberfest over here in New York City. For those of you who have been to the real thing in Munich, you may remember this:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

September in New York: Surfing for Peace Documentary

September 25, 2010
Tomorrow brings me to the screening of "God Went Surfing with the Devil," a documentary of Surfing for Peace/Explore Corps' project to bring surfboards to Gaza and teach young people there how to surf. I had sat next to the director of Explore Corps- Matt Olsen- on my flight back from Israel in August, and he told me a little about his program and some of the challenges he's encountered over the last two years in trying to get the surfboards through security and into Gaza. Once again, I feel so inspired by people like him who are going out and trying to make life a little better for people by providing stimulating and enriching learning opportunities.
Check out Matt's work here:

September in New York: New Music Bake Sale Brooklyn

September 25, 2010
Tonight is the New Music Bake Sale in Brooklyn, featuring several cutting-edge new music groups such as Newspeak and Ensemble de Sade. Should be fun, with booths and performances by many of New York's leading contemporary music ensembles.

September in New York: From Cocktails to Contemporary Classical Music to Gaza Surfing Documentary

September 25, 2010
This has been the most beautiful month in New York City. The sun is shining, there's an energy in the air as people immerse themselves in work and school, and a sense of urgency to enjoy these last gorgeous days before the weather turns and the sun goes down earlier and earlier.

Last weekend in September. Next weekend is October already, when I'll be off to learn all about yoga in my teacher training course at Finding Sukha!

Friday, September 24, 2010

September in New York: Out on the town, a cocktail heaven

September 24, 2010 Early autumn New York nights are the most magical of all, and New York is a playground of activities for all tastes and interests. Last night, I ventured out with a friend to the West Village and took her to Little Branch, the gem of a cocktail bar on 7th Avenue. We didn't even have to wait more than a few minutes to get in (unheard of). Here's what I highly recommend for next time you're there (can't remember the drink names):
Mint, fresh muddled ginger, lime, gin, soda
A sazerac with apple brandy
Anything with blackberries

We walked by a party where Kevin Spacey was standing outside in black tie, and my friend (who looks like Julia Roberts) tried to cajole the security guard to let us in, to no avail. So we ended up at the Blue Note for a night-cap, where a charming Cuban bass player invited us for tequila shots. And, oddly, I feel just fine today...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Palma de Mallorca, Deutschland?

Written on July 14, 2010
I have just entered the Palma de Mallorca airport and am instantly reminded of the film "Man Spricht Deutsch," about a West German family that goes on holiday to an Italian beach town, which hosts only German restaurants, German tourists, and German street signs. The family becomes irritated with Italian tourists who don't speak any German. So when I was greeted in German and asked if I spoke Spanish, I began to second-guess myself: Did I miss some important bit of history? Is Palma de Mallorca somehow governed by Germany? Well, at least there's the Bier Garden in the main terminal case I get hungry for a Currywurst.

On publishing writing to the web...

July 18, 2010
It occurred to me in a Spanish airport a couple of days ago that perhaps it's time to jump on the social media bandwagon and start a blog. I've never really read blogs, and those that I have read struck me as self-indulgent, poorly-edited ramblings. So in the spirit of global, new-media sharing in an efficient, hopefully meaningful way, I am starting "If On a Winter's Night, A Traveler" (the title of an Italo Calvino book) to share:
1. a few remarkable/evocative/resonant moments from my travels
2. information on interesting projects I'm learning about or working on
3. music and cultural events that inspire me

My goal is to keep each post as concise as possible, and to keep the entries focused on the thoughts that seem only to be inspired by the wonders of travel.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

On the road with Joshua Redman in Spain: Guggenheim, paella, Dianne Reeves

There is truly nothing better than experiencing a city through a musical lens. Eating paella on the Mediterranean coast of Valencia, Spain by day, hearing Joshua Redman's band and Richard Bona by night.

The highlight of the trip was Vitoria in the Basque country. After enjoying a stellar performance of Joshua Redman's double trio (or, technically speaking, quintet) with Matt Penman and Reuben Rogers on bass, and Gregory Hutchinson and Bill Stewart on drums, I had the pleasure to experience the transcendent voice of the jazz vocal goddess Dianne Reeves.

And all the musical adrenaline that carried the audience and band members late into the evening lasted through the next day, when I visited the breathtaking Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. I was greeted by Jeff Koons' playful, enormous puppy, before entering into a maze of astonishing installations. Anish Kapoor's exhibition was scintillating, and drew me into an almost dream-like state of contemplating how a void is created through color and shape.

I fell in love with Spain and look forward to learning Spanish and returning again to explore more of this delightful country. Not that Spanish will help me navigate the Basque country...