2017 has been a year marked by change. This has been as true for me personally as it has been for the country at large. In neither case has it all been welcome change. For instance, about four weeks ago my 12-year-old broke his leg falling off a merry-go-round. Not a change I would have wished for. But, it is also true that with change comes opportunity. As we wind down this tumultuous year, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to develop and teach the new course “The Artist as Citizen” at Portland State University.
My colleague Suzanne Savaria and I began this artist as citizen project with a series of questions:
"...he played with a lightness and a subtle swing, whether that was via a Gershwin-by-way-of-Cecil Taylor original or a positively breathtaking rendition of James Taylor’s “Fire And Rain,” which was almost Rachmaninoff-like in its romantic warmth."
Next weekend, I'll make my debut as a classical solo piano composer when the phenomenal British pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason is in residency with Portland Piano International (PPI). I was commissioned by to write a piece inspired by an existing work in the solo piano canon. I have long been inspired by Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Born in 1875 to a Sierra Leone Creole father and an English mother, Coleridge-Taylor was referred to as the “African Mahler.” His celebrated oratorio Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, based on the epic poem Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was as popular in its day as Handel’s Messiah.