Below is a collection of Ande’s essays, articles, and stories about music and theatre.
My magical musical journey
This sequence of essays chronicles my musical journey throughout my life. Although I initially started in the middle with my first pit experience, I’m going back to fill in the details both before and after that experience. This series will grow over time.
My magical musical journey: Part 1 – the beginning
(Published 27 January 2020): This is the beginning of my musical journey, starting with my first exposure to music and the beginning of my studies.
My first pit experience (technically, this fits into the second phase of this musical journey)
(Published 13 January 2020): Every time I play a run of The Music Man or have the opportunity to share in a young musician’s first pit experience, I am taken back to the first time I got to play in a pit orchestra. This piece discusses this experience and the effect it had on me.
My magical musical journey: Part 2 – high school acceleration
(Published 16 February 2020): This is the next part of the story – my high school years. A lot happened musically during that time, and this piece talks about some of those events.
My magical musical journey: Part 3 – the college years
(Published 30 March 2020): This installment picks up with my college years. This changed my musical involvement quite a bit, but even though I wasn’t a music major, I still continued to study and make music where I could.
My magical musical journey: Part 4 – my return to organized music
(Published 1 May 2020): This installment picks up some 16 years after grad school after establishing myself in my career, I still was missing something. This piece follows my journey back to ensemble play. Good thing I never completely abandoned music.
My magical musical journey: Part 5 – practice, performance, and repeat
(Published 13 March 2021): This installment continues with my intensive music schedule as I not only tried to make up for close to two decades of no ensemble play, but it marks my musical growth as not only a player, but also as a music director.
My magical musical journey: Part 6 – outside challenges
(Published 30 April 2021): This is currently the final installment of this series (although there may be future installments down the line). In this part, I talk about how the challenges of AB5 and the pandemic have affected musicians, and in particular my own musical journey through these unprecedented times.
My magical musical journey: Part 7 – Am I still a musician?
(Published 28 August 2021): This is the new current, final installment of the series. I briefly explore some decisions I’ve made with respect to musical participation for now, and maybe for the future. Music and theater are back, but I’m not now ready to jump back in and may never be. I’ve spent the pandemic reevaluating my priorities, and music will always be one, but not necessarily a public one for me personally.
My magical musical journey: Part 8 – Nostalgia
(Published 12 September 2021): Perhaps this series won’t actually end after all. This latest installment is a reflection on the gift my parents gave to me by encouraging me to study music, and how my evolution to enjoying my music privately, personally, in some ways makes my memories of my parents even more vivid.
You can’t run a theater on a shoestring anymore
(Published 22 February 2023): This essay tells the story of The Shoestring Theatre Company, a community group that ran for over a quarter of a century making the arts available to all no matter their economic status. Unfortunately, between the pandemic and the side-effects of AB5 in California, they recently had to close their doors.
The end of the Tabard era is nigh
(Published 18 February 2023): Between the pandemic and AB5, it’s tough for the arts in California. Tabard Theatre Company is calling it quits after 22 years, and it’s sad to see it go. This piece tells a little of Tabard’s story, and offers a few key memories from my time working with the very unique little company that could.
The 28th Annual San Jose SaxMas happened
(Published 18 December 2022): San Jose’s Saxophone Christmas (or SaxMas) is an annual tradition bringing sax players together to share in the joy of making holiday music together for a one day extravaganza. 2022’s event happened on 17 December, and this piece records that festive event. Included is link to the video playlist of the last concert of the day taken by Kevin Stopper.
Sometimes you just have to do a little Pink Panthering
(Published 8 November 2022): To get away from the stress of waiting for the 2022 midterm results and to stop thinking about the future of the country for a bit, I looked back on some musical collaborations with myself that I created in mid-2020 and decided to boost a couple of attempts at Pink Panthering to escape into musical bliss.
Profile: Val is making the world a better place through the arts
(Published 11 December 2021): This profile piece talks about Val Zvinyatskovsky, a very talented and eager young artist who spans across the world of the performing arts in the spotlight, behind the scenes, and as a composer and arts creator. At the time of this profile, Val is only 15, but his wealth of experience, energy, and aspirations are going to take him far.
The arts are alive again in the SF Bay Area
(Published 6 July 2021): This commentary talks about how the California reopening has affected the community arts. While most COVID-19 restrictions have been removed, the arts groups in the SF Bay Area are varied in how they are approaching their reopening, and this commentary looks at some of that variability as well as how this affects those who participate at any level be they performers, volunteers, or audience members.
We need a little SaxMas right now!
(Published 19 December 2020): The third Saturday of December should have been the 27th annual San Jose Saxophone Christmas (SJ SaxMas for short), but because of the pandemic that didn’t happen. For so many in the local area, this is really the full start of the holiday season, so I wrote a piece about the event and the music, and what I did instead this year to still be musical and festive.
The performing arts during a pandemic
(Published 22 March 2020): This commentary explores how the performing arts have morphed a bit in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Artists are ever creative in their quest to pursue their art.
(Published 28 December 2019): In case you missed it live, enjoy a replay of 2019’s San Jose Saxophone Christmas with videos and descriptions of the concert that took place on 21 December 2019 at Eastridge Mall in San Jose.
Profile: Fandom is theater or My friend Mark: The making of a 49er fanatic
(Published 10 December 2019): Fandom can be like theater as can sports. All provide entertainment, and sometimes a super fan is like a character in a play. This piece profiles one such fan, my friend, Mark Castanon, better known as 49erMark.
Remembering Peninsula Saxophonica
(Published 4 December 2019): During the holiday season, with SJ SaxMas bringing lots of saxophones to light, I fondly remember more humble saxophone pursuits with my old quartet, Peninsula Saxophonica. This short piece shares some memories from those days.
‘The Will Rogers Follies’ has staying power
(Published 12 August 2019): Since playing in the pit for a recent production of The Will Rogers Follies, I can’t stop thinking about the story, and how Will Rogers’ observations were so prescient. Even though he talked about how things were almost 100 years ago, his America was dealing with the same problems we are today. This commentary talks about about the story, and how we could all learn from Rogers’ observations and attitudes.
‘The Will Rogers Follies’ pit chronicles in getting to opening
(Published 22 June 2019): This combination promotional piece and commentary takes a look inside the orchestra for the WVLO production of The Will Rogers Follies. It takes a great deal to put on a show of this magnitude with an extremely challenging score, and this piece looks at it from a musician’s point of view. This is not a review in any way. It’s a chronicle on what it took to get to opening.
Living to play vs. playing to live
(Published 1 July 2019): Building on my 2012 piece discussing the role of the pit musician in musical theatre, 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.
(Published 2 May 2019): This commentary provides a look inside SCP’s pit for The Wiz. This high tech production, has an orchestra spread throughout the facility, and players in the pit have a unique perspective.
(Published 20 March 2019): This commentary provides a look inside the orchestra pit from a recent production of Shrek the Musical.
To rewrite or not to rewrite, that is the question
(Published 2 February 2019): To rewrite, or not to rewrite a script is a question that comes up for discussion often in theater circles. This commentary considers several reasons why a company might wish to rewrite (or slightly modify) a script for production and explores some of the pros and cons involved in making such script changes.
Fiddler on the Roof
In fall of 2017, Sunnyvale Community Players presented a very special production of Fiddler on the Roof, one where we didn’t know if our fiddler would make it through the run, but even though he was dealing with a terminal brain tumor, his virtuosity stayed with him, and he captivated audiences and performers alike in what was a magical run of this classic show.
‘Fiddler’ 2017 breaks all SCP records – L’Chaim!
(Published 2 October 2017): There is a lot to mounting a quality theatrical production. This article gives readers (and viewers) a bit of a video chronicle into the journey that Sunnyvale Community Players’ 2017 production of Fiddler on the Roof has taken to capture the hearts of all involved whether from the audience, the stage, the pit, or the booth. This show sold out every single performance before it even got to its final weekend, and it created a lifetime of memories for the community.
SCP’s ‘Fiddler’ 2017 – why this run
(Published 25 September 2017): After completing the first two weekends of the run, this piece gives a few more samples and insights inside this extraordinary production of Fiddler on the Roof.
SCP’s ‘Fiddler’ 2017 Tech Week Chronicles from the pit
(Published 20 September 2017): This piece is an inside view of how this extraordinary production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ came through its final week before opening as experienced from the depths of the orchestra pit. This production is part tribute, part the fulfillment of a life’s dream, and part celebration of life.
The piano: the principal prelude to musical prowess
(Published 9 July 2017): The piano has served so many budding musicians well, whether they stayed strictly with the piano, or went on to other musical endeavors. Having personally benefited from starting with the piano, this commentary shares some insights as to why someone might want to consider studying the piano first. Even as a singer or a reed player, having some piano skills helps.
Why care about classical music?
(Published 27 June 2017): Classical music has been a personal lifelong passion, and one that has many benefits. This commentary discusses how this passion developed, the benefits of classical music to both musicians and listeners alike, along with a short discussion of what makes a piece of music a part of the genre.
Playing at light speed – the music behind “Driven”
(Published 31 January 2016): Have you ever wondered how film music gets created? I have, and in 2013, I had the opportunity to be a part of the studio orchestra behind the animated short film, Driven. In addition to having the opportunity to play some very unique music, the experience gave me a whole new respect for studio musicians. I describe the experience from a player’s point of view in this commentary.
The fuzzy line between amateur and professional theatre
(Published 22 October 2015): Since writing the commentary, “A theatre reviewer’s role”, that described A Good Reed Review’s philosophy on reviews, including the fact that we don’t review amateur and professional productions differently, I’ve been thinking about what actually comprises that distinction. This commentary discusses how fuzzy the line is between amateur and professional theatre.
A look inside The Pear’s new digs
(Published 22 August 2015): A Good Reed Review was fortunate to have been invited to attend the ribbon cutting and open house at The Pear on 15 August. In this short news piece, I give readers a brief look inside the new facility as the South Bay community eagerly awaits the start of The Pear’s debut season as The Pear Theatre, now located at 1110 La Avenida St. in Mountain View.
(Published 11 July 2015): “There are many approaches to writing theatre (or any arts) reviews, and there is significant debate over the role a critic should assume…the reviewers writing them also have varying opinions on what should, and should not, be included.” In this piece, I explore some aspects of what readers may be looking for and provide insight into the review philosophy on A Good Reed Review.
(Published 25 March 2014): This commentary turns the tables a bit. Instead of playing in the pit or directing the music for a 2013 production of one of my favorite shows, I instead climbed out of the pit and joined the cast. This commentary takes a look at that experience.
The role of the pit musician in musical theatre
(Published 24 December 2012): “Imagine that you have gone to the theatre to see a performance … Before long the lights dim, and the conductor’s hands drop in a dramatic downbeat. Chills shoot up your spine as the bold, fortissimo, opening chord’s perfect fifths ring out.” This article provides some perspective on the pit musician’s role in musical theatre and explores how it differs from the actor’s role.
(Published 13 August 2012): “Chicago” was the first show I’d played at City Lights Theater Company, and it was a rather unique experience being under the lights, instead of on the “dark side” as a reviewer. This article captures some of my experiences being part of the on-stage “Chicago” band.