What's a vacation? Adventures on the road with a family of four, and dreamlessness that brings on a change in dreams.
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The Mouthpiece - August 2015

Dear Friends and Family,

So much to catch up on! If you want to skip ahead to gigs I have in August, scrooooool down. Otherwise, enjoy a bit of an update from my world.

I didn’t manage to write to all of you in June. (Whoopsy!) You didn’t miss much: my wife and I had a few grand experiments in family “vacationing” over two of those weekends. The four of us—our three-month-old daughter and our two-year-old son—took a short weekend trip to Seaside, OR, renting an Airbnb room a few blocks from the ocean; and a longer trip up to Seattle for a family reunion.

For us grownups, getting out of town is a refreshing change of pace. Different smells in the air, different food in the belly, and a spotless hotel room to make the stresses of home feel far away. But, we found that for our son, all those things just stressed him out to the point that he got sick. Needless to say, none of us slept very well.

Nights with sick kids are even more sleepless than usual, so sleeplessness is on, and perhaps weighing down, my mind. But, what it really makes me think about is dreams, both in the literal sense, and in the abstract—aspirations. I’ve written a lot about the changes in my life that children have brought, but the interesting thing is that my artistic dreams have changed quite a lot.

When my wife first got pregnant, she was much more tired at night, and couldn’t tolerate the bedside lamp being on. So, I switched from books to podcasts, and I got hooked.

If you aren’t familiar with this medium, podcasts are basically on-demand radio that is distributed on the internet. You subscribe to a show, and then your podcast app will feed each new episode to you whenever it’s released. Podcasts range from the highly polished productions—by public radio stations or independent producers—to the highly messy—a few friends crowding around a cheap microphone for a rambling, unedited conversation.

There are some amazing shows out there. A few of my favorites: public radio shows like This American Life, On Being, and Radio Lab; and more edgy, creative shows like The Truth, Snap Judgement, and Home of the Brave.

As I started listening to more and more shows, I started to imagine myself contributing music to radio projects, but over the last year or so I’ve become more and more interested in producing an entire show myself, with collaborators or on my own.

Coming up this spring, AnyWhen Ensemble will be premiering a new collection of music that I’m creating in collaboration with my good friend Ellen McSweeney, a violinist, singer/songwriter, and writer from Chicago. This new show will take shape on stage in performances in Oregon in March, and as podcast episodes. More about this soon, I promise. We nearly have a first piece done!

Soon after we moved back to Portland, I became the Executive Director of the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble. After a lot of thought, I decided to take this (volunteer) job to see what I could do as the head of a non-profit organization. It’s been a lot of work, but I’m happy with how the organization has grown, and I think it will continue to grow. (If you’re curious about the PJCE, you can learn more at pjce.org. If you’d like to support it with a donation, well, that would be super nice of you! Learn about a special matching grant we’ve been offered by a generous, anonymous donor here.)

I’m excited about a new thing from the PJCE: a podcast, called Beyond Category, that features artists that are connected to the organization in intimate interviews that I produce into well-polished little gems of about five minutes each. You can hear the latest, with Darrell Grant, here. I’m hoping to give the organization a broader platform to spread the word about our mission, and to also create more opportunities for sponsors to advertise with us. (Have a business that might like to reach our audience? Just respond to this email and I can tell you all the cool stuff about us.)

Diving into non-profit management and podcasting isn’t the only major change. I’ve also committed to learning to play clawhammer banjo, and I performed on that instrument for the first time earlier this month with a new trio (sorry I didn't send out an email about it!). If you aren't familiar with the instrument, this video features a duet with two banjo players, one playing the older clawhammer style, and one playing the newer bluegrass style.

The trio, that I’ve called Tale in the Telling, will features me on banjo, cornet, and voice; along with Mike Gamble on guitar, and Barra Brown on drums. We’re playing a lot of traditional music that I’ve re-arranged quite drastically, but still retains some flavor of the original version that inspired me. You'll be hearing more from this band.

I’ve been trying lately to remember what dreams I aspired to as a younger man, because lately I’ve been wondering how I came to be on this track. Sometimes I wonder if I’m on the wrong track simply because a ten-years-younger version of myself simply wouldn’t recognize what I’m doing now. It’s hard to remember exactly, but I do know that none of them included leading a non-profit, playing the banjo, or podcasting.

Isn’t it ironic that this would happen at a time in my life where I’m often too tired to dream? Its true: I hardly ever remember my dreams these days. My literal dreams, that is. (I apologize for the mixed metaphors!) But, perhaps this dreamlessness and radical change of aspiration, of metaphorical dreams, are related? My new life has introduced new pressures, and that’s how things change. I think in this case, it’s helped me dream new dreams, and all I have to do is accept them so that I can continue to act on them.

My (very exciting!) gigs in August:

August 15

PJCE at the Montavilla Jazz Festival
Our 12-member jazz chamber orchestra plays music by Ryan Meagher, James Miley, Reed Wallsmith, Jessika Smith, Thomas Barber, Andrew Oliver and yours truly.
Portland Metro Arts, 9003 SE Stark St, Portland, Oregon 97216
6:40 pm, Tickets: Saturday or Sunday day pass: $10-­$25 sliding scale.

August 22

Classical Revolution PDX’s “Debussy Revolutionized” with Juniana Lanning, electronics; and Holland Andrews, voice. We’ll be performing an improvisational version of Debussy’s song “La Flute de Pan.”
Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St, Portland
7:30 pm, $10-$50 sliding scale

Thanks so much,

Douglas Detrick

Copyright © 2015 Douglas Detrick, Composer, Trumpeter, Educator, All rights reserved.

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