My magical, musical journey: Part 4 – my return to organized music

By Ande Jacobson

As I mentioned at the end of Part 3, something was sorely missing during the dark years when I wasn’t involved in any organized ensembles. I still played my instruments at home and whenever I would drop by my mother’s house to visit. At some point during every visit, I would play a little ragtime or Chopin on her piano. She really didn’t want me to get my own piano because she was afraid that I would visit less often if I could play comfortably at home. Also, she really enjoyed it when I would bring my clarinet with me and play along with her for a bit. Still, between my own personal practice, the occasional simple duet with mom, and attending professional productions from time to time, I still had a pretty big hole in my life. Work was going well, and I eventually married a very dear friend. The marriage didn’t last, but it would turn out to be a very pivotal point in my life, especially musically. Continue reading

My magical, musical journey: Part 3 – the college years

By Ande Jacobson

This piece of the journey picks up where part 2 left off. When I started college, I was torn. I loved music with every fiber of my being, but I also very much loved science and math. I wanted to become a doctor, but I still considered majoring in music for a very brief moment. I knew that to get into medical school, one only had to fulfill the required coursework and take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), but they could major in anything they liked. Still, I loved math and science, so I decided that I would major in the sciences, but still pursue my music somehow. Long story short, I never got into medical school. In fact I never even applied. Along the way, I switched from majoring in biochemistry to electrical engineering (still heavily in the math / science realm), and I pursued my music as well, just not as a major or even a minor. I also made one very firm decision before I got to the campus to start my first term. I never wanted to march again. Continue reading

The performing arts during a pandemic

By Ande Jacobson

With the country in the throes of an ever expanding pandemic, all non-essential group activities have been suspended. This is of course a necessary measure to help slow the spread of a serious health threat. Numerous businesses are affected, and many won’t recover with such a sustained stoppage of commerce. Not unlike sporting events, this is also a particularly devastating blow to the live performing arts where audiences normally gather to enjoy the efforts of artists presenting theatre, music, and dance right in front of them. Audiences cannot gather in person at this point, and realistically with social distancing, performers can’t perform in their normal fashion either since that would put them in close proximity to one another. In an attempt to keep the arts alive, even in these difficult times, this situation has sparked a widespread and creative use of technology. Continue reading

The leapling’s struggle

By Ande Jacobson

29 February only occurs in years divisible by 4, and for centennial years, only in those divisible by 400. This little oddity has been written about in verse in that famous poem that has become a favorite mnemonic for remembering how many days each month contains:

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap year.

29 February also figures prominently in musical theater in that Gilbert and Sullivan favorite, The Pirates of Penzance. In the G&S story, the hero, Frederick, through an unfortunate accident had been apprenticed to a pirate in his youth. He was slated to be released from his servitude on his 21st birthday. Alas, the lad was a leapling (one who was born on 29 February). Because of this unfortunate birth date, he wouldn’t have the 21st occurrence on the right date until he had lived for 84 years. The story of course doesn’t end there, but it takes a few interesting turns along the way.

There are also many more pragmatic issues associated with 29 February in the world of software. Julian Day 060, i.e., the 60th day of the year, occurs on 29 February in leap years, and on 1 March the rest of the time. This can serve to inspire many software tests to make sure that the accounting is correct. Of course the larger problem is at the end of a leap year rolling into the next year since there are 366 days rather than 365 before rollover should occur. The year 2000, the first centennial year since entering the computer age, was predicted to be the end of every computer system. Software engineers the world over prepared for the rollover into that year, across JD 060, and for the rollover into 2001. The world didn’t end, and although there were a few small hiccups in some systems, there was no worldwide computer shutdown.

Other concerns surround when to credit a birthday for leaplings in non-leap years. Does it fall in February the day before the date should occur, or in March, the day after? There is no real consensus in the leapling community for when to observe one’s birthday when there is no 29th in sight, and solid arguments can be made either way. Fortunately, a standard has evolved where official documents and events depend on one’s birthday to keep it in one’s birth month, at least in the US.

The real struggle for leaplings occurs when they reach what would normally be their eighth birthday as a child. For people born on every other day of the year, there is no confusion. Their birthday rolls around on the same day each year, and they get a year older. When one is young, these events are often cause for great joy as they get closer to being able to achieve various milestones in their lives. When one gets much older, the number of years tends to be less important, until they get to those decade milestone birthdays. But when a child reaches the age of eight, most of the people in their lives insist that no, they are only going to be two, and this can present a difficult obstacle. After all, what eight-year-old wants to be a toddler?

By the time a leapling approaches age 12, they start to enjoy the idea that they are only “3” and yet can do things a toddler could potentially only dream of doing, or more likely couldn’t even comprehend. After that, the game ensues for the rest of their lives.

Still, many milestones will occur on the wrong day, and quite possibly in the wrong month. Decade milestones only fall on 29 February every 20 years, rather than every 10 like they do for everyone else. And 29 February only falls on a Saturday every 28 years.

29 February is unique day. Be kind to the leaplings in your lives.

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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