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“There’s no hope, but I may be wrong.”
 Pete Seeger
NPR: Weekend Edition, 2 July 2005

ol-pete

I have, until now, refrained from commenting upon Republican Candidate for Spokes-Vice President Sarah Palin and her oh-so-many commentworthy characteristics. I do have my opinions about Palin, but so does everyone else – and as far as I could see, everything I’d been thinking was already being said by someone else.

But now I feel I must speak up, being uniquely qualified to comment upon one particular facet of this multi-faceted candidate: Sarah Palin as Flautist.

This is in my bailiwick.

By now you may have seen the video of Palin playing “The Homecoming” during the Talent portion of the 1984 Miss Alaska competion (Though her name wasn’t Palin then, she was Sarah Heath.)

In case you yourself are not a professional flautist or music journalist like me, please allow me to give you the benefit of my expertise in evaluating this performance.

The MC introduced Ms. Heath, saying the piece she was going to play was arranged by “Sarah’s favorite artist, James Galway”. Unfortunately, the Galway influence was in no way evident in her performance.

Palin’s posture was good, and her flute position was generally good as well, but not her finger position. Among other things, she makes the classic rookie mistake of moving her fingers way too much, and most especially, sticking her left pinkie way up in the air. Good flute technique dictates keeping your fingertips close to the keys at all times, and using the absolute minimum amount of movement required to play each note.

It’s easy to see Palin’s stage presence, self-possession and charm in this video, as she smiles unwaveringly despite her generally horrid playing. If you watched the video with the sound off, you would probably think she was feeling good about a very successful performance. Her ability to put the best face on things in this way has obviously served her quite well over the years.

But with the sound on… well, that’s another story. Her breathing is shaky and uneven – like many amateur flautists – making her phrasing short and choppy, and her tone shrill and unsteady. More experienced flautists learn how to breathe through the stage fright everyone gets, so it doesn’t affect our playing.

There’s no passion or genuine artistic expression in her playing; what we hear here is a pretty rote delivery of (approximately) what’s written in the sheet music. Worst of all is Palin’s pitch – really, really bad pitch.

In all fairness, I must say that the live house band accompanying her is also pretty bad, especially in the pitch department, and the whole lot get progressively more out of tune as the song wears on. Unfortunately they’re all off-pitch in divergent directions, resulting in a painfully dissonant ensemble, rather than the sweet, slightly chaotic disharmony of, say, Lisa Simpson’s school orchestra.

All in all, I’d have to place Palin’s performance on a level with an okay grade-schooler, or a not very good junior high student musician. That said, as far as I know, we haven’t had any decent musicians among our Presidential candidates for quite a while now. Ah, for the days when politicans valued the arts!

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“I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.”
– Pres. John F. Kennedy, honoring Robert Frost, October 1963

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The Campaign Gets Personal – Episode 1

RNC, Part 1: Be Careful What You Wish For

There are some spiritual and psychological schools of thought which suggest that what we wish for others is what we ourselves will manifest. This could even be considered the basis of The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So doing good unto others is ultimately enlightened self interest. And vice versa.

This came to mind as I watched the Republicans virtually cancel the first night of their National Convention, to avoid looking like a bunch of uncaring partiers should Hurricane Gustav turn out to do a lot of damage. And I could not help but remember a couple weeks earlier when Stuart Shepard of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family asked people to pray for “rain of Biblical proportions” the night of Sen. Obama’s big speech in an open air stadium. As it turned out, the weather for that event could not have been better if Hollywood itself had produced it.

But the Grand Old Partiers faced not one, but two major hurricanes happening during their convention, with more queuing up right behind. And with Gustav blowing right by New Orleans, this guaranteed pundits would be talking about Katrina a lot throughout several 24-hour news cycles… not to mention whether global warming is causing stronger, more devastating hurricanes.

I’m sure many of those at the RNC making pleas for donations to hurricane relief were very sincere in their concern, yet I found it impossible to view the curtailing of the first day’s convention program without a great deal of cynicism. Sorry y’all, nothing you do now is going to make up for what happened to New Orleans. If you really want to make amends, help rebuild New Orleans, restore the coastal wetlands that used to protect the Crescent City, and make the levees that are supposed to protect the city as strong as they should have been BEFORE Katrina was ever heard of – and no, the job is NOT done. Not even close. (Want to help? Visit my Help New Orleans Musicians pages.)

And what’s that? Hurricane Ike got huge again and is bearing down on Texas? Adopted home of Mr. Bush, not to mention quite a few evangelical groups, oil barons and a passel of Christians? I wonder if we’ll be hearing Pastor John Hagee of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio (isn’t that in Texas?) saying afterwards that Hurricane Ike was God’s punishment for all those folks, like he did after Katrina. After all, Hurricane Ike showed up and headed straight for Texas right on the heels of Pres. Eisenhower’s granddaughter Susan speaking at the DNC, and very publicly leaving the Republican Party – that couldn’t be a coincidence, could it?!

Having been through a number of hurricanes myself, I would never, ever wish that experience on anyone, not even my worst enemy. And one would hope that anyone who called themselves a Christian wouldn’t either. After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said: “Love your enemy”? I don’t want to jump to any premature conclusions, but it seems to me that some Christians aren’t practicing that precept quite as thoroughly as others. So I’m not saying the folks in Texas deserve to be walloped by Ike. I’m just saying: Be careful what you wish for. Or pray for.

Some commentators have concluded that all this shows that God supports Obama for President. But I say unto those praying for God to smite the Democrats: God has nothing to do with it. You brought this on yourself.

~ ~ ~

RNC, Part 2: Best RNC Coverage

The Daily Show, intercutting Fred Thompson’s convention speech with Foghorn Leghorn, and Joe Lieberman’s with Droopy Dog. The resemblances are uncanny! Whoever came up with this totally rocks!

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RNC, Part 3: I was astonished to hear Heart’s “Barracuda” being played during the end-of-convention aerial balloon bombardment – for two reasons:

1. I knew Heart would never, ever give permission for this bunch to use their music.
2. The lyrics accompanying shots of the candidates and their voluminous families were not exactly flattering, and I couldn’t figure out why this music was even being used – didn’t anyone listen to the song before choosing it? In fact I found a lot of the music played during the RNC to be rather mystifying.

I immediately went to my computer and discovered that Palin’s sports nickname was Barracuda. And that Ann and Nancy Wilson had, before the convention, issued a cease and desist order to the Republicans to stop using their song – and after the RNC continued to use it, they released the following statement:

“Sarah Palin’s views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song ‘Barracuda’ no longer be used to promote her image. The song ‘Barracuda’ was written in the late 70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women. (The ‘barracuda’ represented the business.) While Heart did not and would not authorize the use of their song at the RNC, there’s irony in Republican strategists’ choice to make use of it there.”

and a few other choice words….

~ ~ ~

RNC, Part 4: Oh, and one more thing: Hurricane Gustav provided just the excuse Bush and Cheney needed to stay away from the RNC. So Bush addressed the convention from the White House, making a clearly partisan political speech in support of a campaign candidate. Isn’t it against the law to use the White House for political campaigning? I’m not hearing any commentators talk about this, but I’m sure I saw something about it on The West Wing.

I’m excited to announce that I have a new article titled “How To Be Creative” in the September 2008 issue of Natural Awakenings – Broward County, South Florida edition. The theme this month is Creativity, and there are lots of other interesting articles in this issue as well. You can read the print version, available at numerous healthy locations around South Florida, as well as the online version here: Natural Awakenings – where you’ll also hear one of my original flute compositions – “Oriental Expression” – from my CD Sarabande – Solo Flute Meditations, accompanying the beautiful painting of a flautist on the magazine’s cover.

If you’re wondering who that is in the snapshot accompanying the article, it’s my big sister Eleanor and myself getting creative!

From my good friend and colleague, Annie Wenz – kayaking gypsy shaman folk nurse!

Hello Beautifuls!

I thought I’d send this out in case maybe just maybe some of you have in your hearts &/or pocketbooks to contribute to an absolutely wonderful cause/song camp for teens age 12-18, sponsored by “Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Texas & Texas Folk Music Foundation” (Our friends at The Kerrville Folk Festival)

The camp is SUCH an AMAZING gift! Many of these kids have at least 1 parent in Iraq, & most of them come from incredibly difficult situations. Music has been the perfect tool for bringing them together, building their self esteem, teaching them leadership skills & giving them hope!

They are actually the most diverse group I’ve ever worked with. (this will be my 3rd year teaching) They arrive from various areas around Texas not knowing each other, keeping to themselves, initially, shy insecure & out of their element. Within 24 hours, they stand arm in arm, cheering each other on, laughing, crying, sharing the joy of music & art. They are totally transformed.

Cost of sponsoring 1 teen is just $50 (but even part of that would be a huge help) Also if anyone out there just won the lottery, we are also in need of a “food sponsor”- that will cost $1500. (if not, we’ll just feed them bread & water & maybe some wild grapes & armadillos from the ranch 😉 )

This years music instructors are myself; Tom Prasada Rao; Donna & Kelly of “Still on the Hill” & Roy Wooten of Bela Fleck; Texas artists Frank Meyer & Bill Oliver, & Poetry instructors Tim Mason and Jena Gessaman.

It is SUCH an honor to share music with these kids. I know we are making a huge difference in their lives as we pass the torch of music & community.

If you are at all able to donate even a bit, please contact:

Jon F. Charles (Camp Director)
304 W. Ave B
Killeen, Texas 76541
(254) 699-5808 Ext. 106
(512) 525-9037 Cell
bgclub@seacove.net
jcharles@cbgclub.org
Deputy Chief Professional Officer
Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Texas

or Dalis Allen

THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!
Annie
Annie Wenz
Singer/Songwriter/Percussionist/RN
Player of Harleys/Guitar/Piano/Drums/Indigenous Flutes

Stay tuned to this category, I will be posting more opportunities to do good in the world, and inspiring stories about people doing good deeds (unless those end up in my Inspiration Category! 😀)

Great Words from Great Wordsmiths

“I am the strings, and the Supreme is the musician.” - Carlos Santana

“What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner.” - Collette

“I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung.” - Rabindranath Tagore

“A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” - Maya Angelou
June 2017
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