From the Desk Of: Eugene Marlow
“No Day But Today” A Lesson in Risk & Courage

Production of "No Day But Today" Maple Hill High School, Rensselaer, NYThe Marlowsphere Blog (#137)

A few weeks ago my wife and I attended a musical revue—“No Day But Today” —mounted by the Drama Club of Maple Hill High School in Rensselaer County (in upstate New York, across the river from Albany). Our niece, Rachel, a junior, was one of the featured performers.

The other students—ranging from freshman to seniors—presented songs from a host of established Broadway musicals, including “Something Rotten!,” “Cabaret,” “Footloose,” Hair,” “In The Heights,” “Avenue Q,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” and “Rent,” among a few others. Instead of a presentation of song after song, the students wrote a script with a story line that led from one song to the next. It made the show enjoyable and move along nicely.

The set was virtually a bare stage with some scaffolding-type ladders upstage. The costuming was mostly black with splashes of red. The lighting was nominal (the light cues were clunky, at best). The sound system was funky. Throughout the performance a student’s electronic microphone would go in and out; regardless, the mostly family-filled audience was highly forgiving  and, of course, enthusiastic at every turn.

The performances ranged from highly engaging to “yes, we know this is a high school show.” Some students had great voices and inherent stage presence (our niece included). Most of the students had nominal voices—one male student sang a duet an octave lower than necessary. You could hardly hear him, even with the microphone.

At the end of the 90-minute performance, the 27 student-performers took their collective bows, and the pit band (guitar, drums, and piano/synth) was given its due, as were the backstage crew, sound technicians, lighting folks, teacher advisors, stage manager, and director. Flowers were abundant. Milling among the audience after the house lights came up, congratulations were had all around. You would have thought the show had just earned a Tony for “Best Musical.”

Production of "No Day But Today" Maple Hill High School, Rensselaer, NYIt was a 90-minute show perhaps typical of middle school and high school shows across the country. Will it ever make it to a larger audience? No. Was it heralded in the local press as the show of shows of 2017? No. Was it a spectacular moment in the annals of The Maple Hill High School Drama Club? Perhaps.

But none of this matters.

What matters is that this “musical revue” happened in the first place. What matters is that these 27 participating students took the initiative to mount this performance, write the narration, engage students and parents to support the performance, and get on that stage and take the risk to put on a “live” show despite the fact that the school has no official drama club, much less a budget for one. They did this on their own.

Whether highly professional or barely amateurish, the act of taking the risk of putting on a live creation, regardless of the content, is an act of courage and actualization. And to be doing this in one’s tender adolescent high school years is even more reason to applaud it.

The show’s director, Emma Grace Myers, put it even more plainly. In the program she points out that “Theatre education has proven to:

  • Improve SAT scores
  • Improve teamwork, leadership, and collaboration skills
  • Improve skills and academic performance in children with learning disabilities
  • Improve problem-solving and reasoning skills
  • Improve self-esteem, self-reliance, and self-discipline
  • Improve overall responsibility, confidence, empathy, and poise.

“No Day But Today” had two weekend performances, but I’m certain the memory of it will linger a lot longer, whether consciously or not, in the minds and bodies of the students who participated in it. And there should be more of this, especially Production of "No Day But Today" Maple Hill High School, Rensselaer, NYthat once again in Washington, D.C. there are two-dimensional thinking conservative politicians who perceive that to “Make America Great Again” means doing away with the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

There are approximately 98,000 public schools in America, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s latest statistics.  How many of them follow the model of the Maple Hill High School Drama Club is a matter of speculation; there are no statistics to provide a firm picture of this kind of “performing arts” activity. But it would be a striking movement forward if most of these public institutions supported and nurtured the kind of positive event that “No Day But Today” represents.

The fine and performing arts can reflect the positive character of a nation; not walls and trade tariffs.


Eugene Marlow, Ph.D., is an award-winning graduate of the High School of Performing Arts (New York City) where he studied drama, dance, and music.


All photos by Jan Sileo of “No Day But Today” Maple Hill High School Drama Club, Rensselaer, New York


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2017 Upcoming Events
March 13 Single Track Digital Release: “Delicate Flower.” Composition by Eugene Marlow, Performed by oboist Virginia Chang-Chien  
April 7 Performance: Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, Milt Hinton Jazz Perspectives Concert Series, Baruch College (New York City)
Eugene Marlow Hosts
April 10 Performance: The Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra (under the direction of Maestro Bobby Sanabria) performs Eugene Marlow’s “bembe” arrangement of “Maria” (from West Side Story) at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola
April 30 Digital CD Release: In conjunction with International Jazz Day, MEII Enterprises releases “The Jazz Poems of Grace Schulman
May 7 CD Release: Nada Loutfi’s “Vienna: Brahms and Nada” (Second CD in the series.)
June 3 & 4 Performance: The Double Take Dance Company performs at Periapsis.
Music by Eugene Marlow from his “Les Sentiments D’Amour” collection.
Nataliya Medvedovskaya, pianist
June 15 Digital CD release: “Virginia Chang-Chien, Oboist: Works by Marcello, Schumann, Ravel, Piazzolla”
July 5 Performance: Eugene Marlow’s Heritage Ensemble–Midtown Jazz @ Midday
July 14 Private Event: The Heritage Ensemble (trio) at the Pierre Hotel,
Zicklin Executive MBA Program graduation reception
July 24 Digital Single-Track Release: “Taylored for Billy,” a big band version
of Marlow’s small ensemble composition dedicated to Dr. Billy Taylor
August 7 Presentation: Dr. Marlow to speak at the Aspen Composers Conference
(Aspen, Colorado) “Jazz in China: The Video”
September 9 CD Release: “Gene Marlow & Friends @ Rombex”
October 10 Performance:  “Yotam Silberstein in Concert,” Israeli-born jazz guitarist,
Milt Hinton Jazz Perspectives Concert Series, Baruch College, (New York City) Eugene Marlow Hosts
October TBA Book Release: Jazz in the Middle Kingdom: From Dance Hall Music
to Individual Freedom of Expression
(University of Mississippi Press)
November 9 CD Release: “Three Blind Mice and Other Nursery Rhymes” Music
by Michael Spivakowsky. Performed by the Spivakowsky String Quartet
November 12 Presentation: Dr. Marlow to speak at Adas Emuno (Leonia, NJ), “Zikkaron/Kristallnacht: A Family Story”
December 5  Performance: The Heritage Ensemble at the Baruch Performing Arts Center  (New York City) “Ninth Annual “A Not So Silent Night Holiday Concert”
………………….

Please check back often as updates with new dates and more details
will be added to the schedule.

Click here to learn more about Eugene Marlow’s Heritage Ensemble

EMHE

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Eugene Marlow’s Heritage Ensemble–Midtown Jazz @ Midday 7-5-17

Midtown Jazz at MiddayWednesday, July 5, 2017 >> 1:00 p.m.
Midtown Jazz @ Midday
Midtown Arts Common
(St. Peter’s Church)
Lexington Avenue @ 54th Street
New York, NY 10022
TICKETS: $10 donation is requested
212-935-2200

Eugene Marlow’s Heritage Ensemble brings their popular audience-interactive “We’ve Got Rhythms” performance to Midtown Jazz @ Midday

“We’ve Got Rhythms” — An interactive musical performance of the Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian rhythms underlying The Heritage Ensemble’s arrangements. They will play selections from their CDs  “A Fresh Take,”  “Changes” as well as their recent CD “Obrigado Brasil!”

Described as “. . . a cross-cultural collaboration that spins & grooves” by the New York City Jazz Record, Eugene Marlow’s Heritage Ensemble’s music reflects the mixing of cultures.  This is imaginative and tight quintet celebrates the melodic & rhythmic commonalities among Jazz, Afro-Caribbean & Brazilian musical cultures.

The result is a fresh sound and experience that jazz audiences and beyond can access, be inspired by, and appreciate.

This ensemble of first-rate musicians includes: Award-winning bandleader/keyboardist Eugene Marlow, five-time Grammy nominee drummer Bobby Sanabria, award-winning saxophonist Michael Hashim, virtuoso percussionist Matthew Gonzalez, and electrifying bassist Frank Wagner.

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Veterans Day Is About Remembering

Honoring All Who ServedThe Marlowsphere Blog (#136)

Veterans Day is this Friday, November 11. It became a national holiday in 1938 twelve years after Congress passed a resolution to celebrate it as a national event. It is coincidental that this year it is celebrated in the same week as America’s national and state elections, pitting at the national level one candidate who has a deep knowledge of the military and the international consequences of war (former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) and another candidate who never served in the military and has bragged about his greater understanding of ISIS than the generals who deal with it every day (Donald Trump).

Whatever the outcome, Veterans Day is about remembering. Remembering that in the last 100 years millions of people, military and civilian alike, have died in two world wars and several regional and civil wars, some of which are still raging today, such as the wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Nigeria, and war-like terrorist events in places like Paris, France.

We should remember that putting on a uniform is not child’s play or a John Wayne movie. Putting on a uniform makes you a target as many policemen all over this country have known for some time and even more so in the last couple of years. However, a Army Service Uniformuniform also endows the wearer with responsibility and duty to one’s comrades, community and country.  It is also symbolic: symbolic of authority and, in a sense, symbolic of the collective power of people and machines that can protect and destroy.

Veterans Day is certainly about the people in uniform. We should remember that those who put on a uniform served not only our country on the frontlines, but also directly the people behind the lines: families, friends, communities. In a larger sense, those in uniform past and present help perpetuate the concept and practice of democracy.

The question now is: what will we remember about recent and past military events? Will we remember, for example, that the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan was about liberating the Afghani people from a repressive, fanatical regime cloaked in religious precepts while protecting Osama bin Laden? Or will we remember it as revenge for 9/11? I think we have forgotten, but the Taliban have not. It is ironic that we once helped the Taliban with arms in order to defeat Russia’s presence there. The Russians ultimately had the good sense to leave. Why don’t they also have the good sense to leave Eastern Ukraine and the Syrian regime?

What we need to especially remember is that this is a time of war on a global scale, not just militarily, but economically and philosophically. There is a war of cultural values going on all around us and this war will not abate soon.

I would like to think that in the future we will remember this time as a time not of business as usual, but as a time of great stress and confusion that in the long run will bring many voices to the planetary table. We have traveled to a place of a global economy, Military Cemetarybut there is no global culture. This journey has been and will be littered with the bodies of many people, some in uniform, others not. We will perhaps remember that there are no innocents in this matter and that change is not a gentle process. It is painful, but the result could be a new beginning.

We need to embrace this period of change. Change is the constant in the universe.  Those in uniform are on the front lines and risk their lives in periods of culture clash.


Eugene Marlow, Ph.D. teaches courses in media and culture at Baruch College (City University of New York). He is a four-year United States Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam War.  He co-founded the Annual Veterans Day Luncheon at Baruch College, CUNY in 1998.


Eugene Marlow, Ph.D.
November 7, 2016

© Eugene Marlow 2016

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Kids + Jazz Is Alive And Well

"Jazz for Kids" at Jazz StandardThe Marlowsphere Blog (#135)

It would be easy to make the statement that the younger generation (however you define it) is not being exposed to jazz, America’s classical music, and that is one major reason why jazz is not a popular music anymore.

Well, it would be easy, but it would be a mis-statement for several reasons. Jazz has not been America’s popular music since the end of World War II and the advent of bebop at almost the same time. Jazz went from a dancing and listening music, to a listening music, and sometimes to a hard to listen to and understand music.

Nonetheless, in New York City, at least, there are several ongoing instances of kids, that is students not yet in college, who are being exposed to jazz, not only as listeners, but also as participants. The instances include the jazz program at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music Art and Performing Arts (used to be the High School of Performing Arts and the Music & Art High School before 1982), the jazz program at the Dalton School, the kids initiatives at Jazz@Lincoln Center, and the “Jazz for Kids” program at Jazz Standard, one of New York City’s leading jazz clubs.

I visited the “Jazz for Kids” program a couple of weeks ago, on October 16—a Sunday—when Jazz Standard opens its doors to a program it has been running and promoting for many years. I arrived at around 11:30 a.m. It was an amazing sight in this David O'Rourke, guitarist and bandleader "Jazz Discovery" program for kids at Jazz Standardleading basement jazz venue. On the stage—a stage frequented on Monday nights by the Mingus Legacy Band and on other nights by many of the world’s leading jazzers—was a somewhat diminutive young girl (turns out she was nine and a student at Saint Ann’s located in Brooklyn Heights) at the piano performing Gershwin’s “Summertime.” She also worked through the standard “Blue Bossa.” She was accompanied by a much older, and much more accomplished upright bass player and drummer. Granted, she was no Joey Alexander—she played all the chords on “1” and her improvising was highly formative—but nonetheless there she was performing in a jazz trio.

It turned out she was auditioning to become part of Jazz Standard’s “Jazz for Kids” program, a Sunday afternoon program, during the school year, curated by guitarist David O’Rourke.

Irish born David O’Rourke was introduced to the U.S. jazz scene in 1982 via Bucky Pizzarelli and Les Paul. Influenced by Pat Martino (with whom he studied and now collaborates), David has performed with jazz legends Tommy Flanagan, Cedar Walton, Jackie McLean, Billy Higgins, Curtis Fuller, Kenny Davern, Jack McDuff and many more. His arrangements have been recorded and performed by many jazz legends, as well as the RTE Concert Orchestra (Ireland) which he guest conducts.  David leads his own 20 piece Big Band (The O’Rourkestra), co-founded and directs NYC’s Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra and the Jazz Standard Discovery Program.

orouke-n-kids-capFollowing this audition, groups of junior high and high school students one after another took over the stage to rehearse. The quality of the playing was significantly higher, especially the bass players and the drummers. One pianist in particular, a senior level student from LaGuardia High School (at Lincoln Center) displayed a high level of technical ability and confidence. In a very quiet way he commanded not only the piano and the stage, but also the other players.

The instrumentation among the students was what you might expect: piano, bass, drums, guitar, alto and tenor saxophone. The tunes they played also met expectations: “There’ll Never Be Another You,” “Autumn Leaves,” and “Back Home in Indiana,” among other jazz standards. The by-play among the musicians was also standard fare: a few choruses all around, trading fours, and incorporating quotes from the bebop litany, Monk, and “Trane” in their evolving improvisational technique. An appropriate mix of ethnicities was also present: white, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian.

However, the star of the afternoon, for me, at least, was Max Borak, an 11-year-old vocalist who performed Jerome Kern’s Oscar-winning song “The Way You Look Tonight.” Not exactly the kind of tune you would expect an 11-year-old to choose to sing, but then Max Borak is not your usual kid. I spoke with him briefly after he concluded his rehearsal. Turns out his singing model is Max Borak, 11 year old singerFrank Sinatra. Apparently, when he was younger he saw the movie “The Parent Trap” and fell in love with Sinatra’s rendition of the song of the same title. Try to imagine Wayne Newton’s voice in the body of an 11-year-old who is not yet five feet tall. This “kid” displayed poise and audience connection way beyond the norm. His use of the microphone also showed a professional understanding of stage mechanics. You’ll hear from him one day.

The afternoon audience (doors opened at 1 p.m., show time at 2 p.m.; no cover, but the food costs) was mainly parents, friends of parents, and people generally supportive of young people playing jazz. The program benefits everyone: the “kids” who get to perform and gain from the experience, the parents and friends of parents who get to see their kids grow professionally, and the Jazz Standard which gets to bring in an audience on a Sunday afternoon which otherwise would be dark.

The question that has to be posed is this: from what circumstances do these “kids” come to perform jazz? Why aren’t they looking to emulate any number of pop music icons that bombard all forms of media every day? It’s clear each musician understood the correct, professional stage demeanor required, understood how to relate to an audience, and knew how to relate to one another. What is influencing them?

The answer lies in two places. After doing a little questioning with David O’Rourke and several audience members it was obvious that many of the 16 or so students present that afternoon had parents who were either musicians themselves or had connections in some way to the music business or show business. Second, the educational system they were in was also a very strong influence. In this one afternoon they were students there from a specialized school—LaGuardia, a New York City high school one has to audition to get into—or a private school, such as Saint Ann’s or the private school in New Jersey Max Borak attends (even though he lives in Riverdale in the Bronx).

If anything is a truism it’s that where you come from will have a strong influence on your future. Jazz Standard’s “Jazz for Kids” program provides an ongoing environment for these future professional musicians, but it’s the parents and their school environment that provides the evolving talent.

Eugene Marlow, Ph.D.
October 31, 2016

© Eugene Marlow 2016

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