My magical musical journey: Part 2 – high school acceleration

By Ande Jacobson

This piece of the journey picks up where part 1 left off, the summer before my freshman year of high school. Leaving junior high behind, there was a lot ahead, and that summer was an eventful one. Normally, the incoming freshman class didn’t start band rehearsals until school commenced in the fall, but this particular summer was different. The band had been invited to participate in a massive summer parade as part of the Lions Club International conference in San Francisco, so there was no time to lose. The high school’s band was an award winning organization known throughout the western region as a top notch marching band. Their strength wasn’t in the drum corps style of marching or field shows. They thrived on military-style street marching competitions where everything, including standing inspections of the uniforms, hair length, musical interpretation, and marching precision was scored. My class, as incoming freshman, had a lot to learn in short order. Continue reading

My magical musical journey: Part 1 – the beginning

By Ande Jacobson

My earlier commentary, Why care about classical music?, got me thinking back to my musical roots. As mentioned in that article, years ago, my ex-husband had asked me if I hadn’t had my early exposure to music at home, would I have still developed such an affinity for it. At that time, though it surprised him, I told him that there was no way to know for sure. Still, music has always been the one constant source of comfort throughout my life. It hasn’t always taken exactly the same form, but it has always affected me deeply, and it has been central to who I am no matter my endeavor. That said, I wanted to further explore my personal musical journey through a series of essays, and this is the first (chronologically at least) in that story.

As that famous Hammerstein lyric states:

“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

I can’t begin my own story without starting with my parents. No, I’m not referring to the obvious fact that without them, I wouldn’t physically exist. I am instead observing that they gave me my first concentrated exposure to music. From the very first days at home, a few things happened. Continue reading

My first pit experience

By Ande Jacobson

Last fall, I had the privilege of both music directing an exciting community production of Urinetown, and mentoring a very promising young musician through his first pit experience. It’s one thing to watch a production unfold from the podium, keeping track of all the various things that a music director must, but it is quite another to watch the show develop through a young musician’s eyes, particularly one who is new to the pit perspective. This was an adult community theater production, and this young keyboard player was the only kid in the pit. Everyone else in our mighty little orchestra was an experienced adult player. Continue reading

Relive 2019’s SJ SaxMas

One of each type of sax playing for 2019’s SJ SaxMas

By Ande Jacobson

The year is rapidly racing to a close, and while Christmas is behind us, the music is still something to savor. I described, with anticipation, San Jose Saxophone Christmas (SJ SaxMas or just SaxMas for short) in a recent article intended to inspire local saxophonists to join in, and urging everyone else to come see and hear this unique event. As mentioned in the article, this has been an annual holiday tradition for over a quarter of a century down in San Jose California, always taking place on the third Saturday of December. This year that was 21 December, and while that day has come and gone, 228 saxophone players delighted their audiences as they brought their instruments together for two rousing, free concerts. In case you missed it (or if you just want to relive it a little), read on. Continue reading

Fandom is theater or My friend Mark: The making of a 49er fanatic

The ad that ultimately spawned 49erMark

By Ande Jacobson

The holiday season is upon us, and there are myriad music and theatrical events to celebrate the season. It is also the heart of the football season where a different kind of theater plays out all over the country. For some, the drama is in the game itself.

For college teams, there is the battle for the bowl games, one of which often ends up being the college championship game. For the pro teams, each franchise tries diligently to win a coveted spot in the playoffs, and if they survive the elimination ladder, they make it to the biggest bowl game of them all, the Super Bowl.

There are various halftime spectacles such as college marching bands putting on riveting displays of precision marching and music, although in recent years, the bands are generally only seen by those attending the games in person. The television coverage of the halftime breaks tends towards talking heads endlessly analyzing the game. In the professional ranks, the Super Bowl halftime show is a lofty presentation going far beyond the main sporting event, and that one is shown everywhere. Big names are brought in to entertain the crowds in the expanded Super Bowl halftime display. For those watching at home or at their favorite Super Bowl party location, the commercials are yet another entertaining feature.

Finally, there is another kind of spectacle playing out in stadiums across the country, but this one engages fans from all walks of life. Some fans don team jerseys and scream their lungs out trying to motivate their teams. Others use a bit more costuming and makeup. Finally, there are the extreme fans. These are the ones who take fandom and raise it to a performance art form bringing a type of theater to light beyond the traditional halftime shows.

My friend Mark is one such fan. Through an odd sequence of events, he accidentally became a theatrical sensation because of his fandom. Today, many 49er aficionados know him as 49erMark, a man who puts on a bit of a show at every home game and even some away games. Continue reading

Remembering Peninsula Saxophonica

By Ande Jacobson

With SJ SaxMas just around the corner, this time of year I often fondly remember our old saxophone quartet, Peninsula Saxophonica. The group disbanded a little over a decade ago, but for a time the four of us got together a few times a month to share our love of saxophone music.

We were all affiliated with the Woodside Village Band when we formed our quartet and initially performed as part their concerts. We also played for a few outside events where a sax quartet was requested. Woodside’s director, Richard Gordon, was an avid saxophonist, and our quartet was the place where he put down his baton and picked up his bari sax to join in the music making. While the Woodside Village Band was Richard’s band at the time, in our quartet, everyone got an equal say in what we played, how we played, where we played, and we shared various administrative and directorial responsibilities. Continue reading

‘The Will Rogers Follies’ has staying power

Will Rogers from 1922 / Photo Credit: Google Images

By Ande Jacobson

Sometimes a show touches you in ways that you don’t really expect going in. My recent run of The Will Rogers Follies was such a show. I wrote a previous commentary/promotional article chronicling the journey to opening from the pit’s perspective, and the music was both challenging and very rewarding to play, but the show became so much more than any one piece of the production. The run finished several weeks ago. Still, the story continues to linger in my mind as I contemplate how things could be if more people held attitudes like Will Rogers. The show is a musical with book by Peter Stone, music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and opened on Broadway in May 1991. The story, told by the title character, takes a biographical look at the life and times of Will Rogers via musical acts, conversations, and monologues that contain many quotes from Rogers’ actual speeches and writings. Rogers was known as an entertainer and humorist, but more than that, he was a keen observer of people. He had an almost unheard of talent for poking fun, even at controversial subjects, without offending anyone. He’s also very well-known for stating that he never met a man he didn’t like. Continue reading

Playing to live vs. living to play

By Ande Jacobson

In December 2012, I wrote an article about the role of the pit musician in musical theatre. That article was written from a musician’s point of view and focused on the physical environment; equipment; training; mindset of performers who worked in the shadows; versatility that was required of pit musicians; and only mentioned compensation as a cursory aside. This article takes a closer look at the differences between pit musicians who live to play as opposed to those who play to live and discusses the challenges community theaters face with respect to pit musicians. Continue reading

‘The Will Rogers Follies’ pit chronicles in getting to opening

By Ande Jacobson

West Valley Light Opera (affectionately known as WVLO) is presenting a spectacle chronicling the life and times of Will Rogers in its production of The Will Rogers Follies. The show opens on 22 June 2019 and runs through 20 July 2019 at the Saratoga Civic Theater. Will Rogers’ personality comes through in this stage adaptation highlighting the more memorable aspects of his life. Rogers was known for offering his observations from his many travels, and while he poked fun at various controversial topics along the way, he did so gently, offending no one and appealing to people from all walks of life. This production is full of folksy charm, the color and glitz of The Ziegfeld Follies, and of course a smattering of rope tricks. Continue reading

‘The Wiz’ pit chronicles

By Ande Jacobson

Sunnyvale Community Players (SCP) opened The Wiz on Saturday, 27 April and continues Thursdays – Sundays through 19 May 2019. This closing production of its 50th season has become a quick crowd favorite for many reasons such as its stellar cast, impressive technology incorporated into the show, and of course the orchestra. With many musicals, the orchestra, while certainly not incidental, is often unnoticed. This time, music director and co-producer Kevin Surace has recreated the power of the Broadway arrangement with a 23-piece instrumental ensemble. Due to the cozy performance space and the equally cozy pit, his orchestra is spread across multiple locations in the theater as the pit cannot contain it. As a result, the music wafting through the facility is noticed in a very good way. Great care has been taken to individually mic each player and balance the entire ensemble to achieve a smooth, powerful sound. This article discusses how we got there, and what it’s like in the pit for The Wiz. Continue reading