Category Archives: Audio

Regional Jazz Band Festival

I post a lot about Isaac’s middle school band but they are just so good, I can’t help but post more.  This weekend, they attended the Regional Jazz Band Festival in Huntington, WV and played as awesome as they always do.

Jazz Festival

In the Mood 

Ballad for Zoe


Big Noise from Winnetka

(Try the links below on your phone or if the links above do not work)
(Warning! They are huge and will use your data plan if you download on your phone)

In the Mood 

Ballad for Zoe


Big Noise from Winnetka

The band director is a fantastic guy and loves the kids…they love him too and it shows when they play.  The amazing thing in my opinion, is that there is no official jazz band program in the school.  The kids and the director work before school or after school or on weekends…on their own time.  I think they are amazing regardless of age, but even more impressive is that this band is 6th-8th grade kids.  It is just unbelievable I think!  I wish my phone captured the dynamics and quality of their sound better than it did.  In the end, they got a “superior” rating which is as good as it gets.  We will find out soon how they rank state-wide…here’s hoping for a top finish!

Marshall Honor Band

It’s been awhile since I have posted anything and I cannot decide if it is because I have the winter blues or if we have been busy or if it is the effects of the water chaos and snow.  Speaking of snow, we are covered again and stuck inside with the latest polar blast…like the other 250 million or so people in the country who are affected by it.

Omega March


Engines of Resistance

Anyhow, one interesting thing we did get into recently was Isaac’s involvement with the Marshall University Honor Band.  The Honor Band is an honor for middle school students.  Each school’s band director nominates their best students for a one day seminar with the Marshall University School of Music staff.  Students from the tri-state area come together in one day and get excellent instruction throughout the day that pinpoints their specific instrument.  Later in the evening, the students put on a concert.

What makes this concert especially impressive to me is that the band kids have never seen the music prior to the start of the day.  They learn the music and somehow pull together as a group in a single day.  It’s amazing but really so awesome to see and hear!  So, take a listen if you please…maybe you can forget about the polar vortex and poison water for awhile!

Middle school band concert!

With Christmas near, it is concert season!  Most recently Isaac’s band performed their Christmas concert.  I learned a few years ago that his middle school band is incredible and always puts on a superb show!

American Bell Carroll

Isaac plays tenor sax and is really pretty talented at it.  He picked up clarinet and can play it pretty well too.  I don’t know if his band director knows that but his first love is tenor so it probably doesn’t matter.  Anyhow, the local middle school band has around 120 kids and they can play as well as many older bands I have seen.  In addition to the concert/marching band, Isaac also plays in the jazz band, a group of about 20 or so musicians.

Mainstreet Christmas

So, I am so proud that both kids play music and I was especially excited to hear what they had put together this year!  I guess some people don’t look forward to this sort of thing, but I was on the edge of giddy waiting for their first number!

Jazz Band!
Jazz Band!

I think the music speaks for itself (of course, remember this is just my recording with my phone)!  These kids are amazing and work so very hard and their dedication really shows!  This concert really got me in the Christmas spirit and I couldn’t be prouder of Isaac and his band-mates!

At the auction

Last weekend I went to an auction that benefits the FFA in Ravenswood, WV.  I heard about it sort of accidentally so I didn’t really have any sort of a plan together but I heard that there were several different qualities of junk available.

At the auction

I have heard people say that at flea markets and auctions, you can only get junk…you can find your plain old, run of the mill junk up through first class junk.  As I wandered around the Jackson County Fairgrounds, I was surprised.  To be sure, there was a lot of junk available for a few dollars per ton.  There was some really great stuff too, and since I really like stuff like this, I spent a few hours perusing the piles.

At the auction

I think what I enjoyed more than anything was the sound of the auctioneers.  Most everyone knows the general sound of the auctioneer’s call and most people wonder how anyone knows what price they are paying for something.  If you have never heard a real auctioneer calling, take a listen to a recording I made of my favorite guy.

At the auction

From the recording, it is hard to tell what is going on I suppose, but I have to tell you, in person, I was never really in doubt about what he was selling (even if he just named it a big box of junk) or what the current bid was when he was calling.  If you have never been, go to an auction some time!

I think next year I will go again to this auction and this time, I will have a plan!

Superior rating

I have been remiss in writing about a significant event that took place last weekend.  Isaac plays in his school’s jazz band and they had a regional band competition and rating.  I had a certain expectation of how the middle school band would sound.  I mean, I have heard Isaac play a lot at the house, but getting an entire band to play together is another thing…and middle school kids…well, they aren’t always known for their attentiveness to detail.

Jazz band kid

We headed to Huntington to one of the high-schools  where school bands had been playing all day.  Band kids are super cool and mostly a lot of fun to hang around, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend my day sitting in an auditorium listening to a bunch of hormone fueled kids screeching out jazz tunes.

I couldn’t believe how wrong I was about pretty much all of my assumptions.  I still think band kids are really cool, but I had no idea how awesome they could play a huge variety of jazz tunes.  Most of these kids had only been playing 1-2 years but to hear them, you would think that they had been playing since way before puberty.  Anyhow, their music speaks for itself so without further adieu:

Song 1

Song 2

Song 3

Song 4

Extra points to anyone who can identify the names of the songs!  I am so proud of all of these kids.  They did one heck of a good job and all of their hard work definitely paid off.  They were given a superior rating, the highest rating possible!


I was in Las Vegas all week last week for a conference related to work.  It’s funny – I work in technology and the conference was related to technology.  The only thing was, there was no technology available at the conference so I was stuck with email and internet via phone.  So, anyhow, I am back and am somewhat comforted by the sweet hum of my computers.

I won’t bore you folks with conference details.  Instead I will share my favorite part of the conference…Carlos Santana was in concert at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas.  We got to see him opening night which was pretty cool.  Even cooler was the fact that we were something like 15 rows back and at center stage.  We could actually see the band and stuff.

I like Santana’s music and I especially like some of his most recent stuff.  Of course, he has been releasing great music for 40 years and it’s hard to say anything bad about most of his music.  We got to enjoy a tour through his years as a performer and it was a blast.

(click the image above for a video.  If that link doesn’t work on your machine, try the one here)

He’s a free spirit and kind of fun to listen to when he talks.  I can’t really explain it but he feels very “spiritual” in his own way.  He also has marijuana leaves as one of his backgrounds on stage.  Surprisingly, I didn’t smell a single bit of smoke.

for B.H.


The view from my room

So, I am glad to be back from Las Vegas and if you ever get a chance, definitely go and see Santana in concert!

No sax but plenty of violins

Last night was the All County Strings Festival for Kanawha county. Many of the schools from the county sent their best string players to the Clay Center for a wonderful evening of music. Isaac was one of the students selected from his school…and he was so excited!

The funny thing is all of the lead up to the performance. We found out that he had “made the team” a few months ago so he has been practicing his pieces. The last few weeks or so, he has attended group practices where all of the kids get together and do their thing. Still, none of it really seemed to click with him that the performance was near.

We aren’t a dress-up sort of family so Isaac was pretty excited when he found out he had to have dress shoes, nice shirt and pants and a tie. We had all sorts of fun (and a small fight) about learning how to tie a necktie. I think he was unimpressed. Anyhow, with the purchase of clothes and hours (it seemed) of looking at himself in the mirror, it finally clicked that the performance was near. He has been super excited…so much so that last night, before the show, he walked around the yard playing his pieces for the neighbors to hear. It was wonderful!

So we all headed to the Clay center where the kids performed on the same stage as the WV symphony. I didn’t know what to expect but the kids (Isaac thinks there were 112 4th graders) all settled down when the conductor walked on the stage. As they started, I couldn’t believe the sound that came from those kids! They did an absolutely wonderful job!

Click for video

(or click here if the other link does not work on your computer)

Fifth graders played, then junior high students and finally high school students. The talent we saw last night was pretty amazing and all because the WV symphony sponsors a strings in the schools program in Charleston area schools. Bravo for music in WV and bravo to my budding musician!

Click for video

(or click here if the other link does not work on your computer)

Poop = Spring

Sunday was absolutely beautiful in WV. The high temperature was in the 50s and the snow started to give way to small signs of spring. Daffodils are breaking  through the ground and my bees were able to get out of the hive to poop. Bees, you see, won’t poop in the hive. They also cannot fly outside in cold temperatures. Bees are cold-blooded so if they break the cluster (bees cluster together very closely in the hive in cold temperatures and rub together using friction to stay warm all winter), they very quickly slow down and die. What’s a bee to do then? Well, they hold it of course…sometimes for months!

See it? Yellow spots...both sides in the snow...relief!
Why am I fascinated with this?

So, it always brightens my day in the early spring when I see yellow…I love the yellow of daffodils, the yellow of forsythia, and the yellow of fresh bee poop!  When temperatures rise such that any of my three yellows are possible, I get out and frolic a bit (not like the rabbits frolic of course).

Fifteen minutes after I washed my car!

I washed Steve Sunday morning and parked it in the driveway so I could watch it shine in the sun.  Much like birds are able to find a clean car, so too can bees.  Of course, remember that there can be as many as a quarter of a million bees in the hives at my house…and all of those bees have had their legs crossed for a long time.  My formerly green car now has a yellow tint…but you know what…I love yellow…it means spring!

Smart pills!

Emily says I am preoccupied with poop and animal anatomy so you can imagine my fascination with this pile of deer poop in my yard.  My Dad used to call those pellets smart pills.  I don’t think they really worked very well, but that’s another story.  Anyhow, Momma deer are now with fawns so my finding smart pills gives me hope that I will get to see newborn fawns again this year.

Oh yeah, check out this bird’s song!  Beautiful…and very springy!  Charleston is starting to break through I hope (though we have snow forecast for the rest of the week…but I choose to ignore that).

By no means do I want my yard overrun with natural fertilizer, but I have to tell you, a little poop means spring and in my book, that’s a great thing!

Like a lightbulb

We were sitting in the car (aka our recording studio) when the kids decided to sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  Abigail was going to sing it with her kindergarten class so she wanted to practice.  I just happened to have my handy dandy voice recorder with me and I recorded this…the debut of Isaac and Abigail with backup vocals by Mom.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think kids singing and having fun is about the best sound in the world.  I don’t like regular kids’ albums where they have kids singing in wishy washy, overly sweet voices (do kids ever do anything gently or softly?).  I really love to hear kids singing loud and proud!

I was just a few days ago lamenting the fact that I was not yet in the Christmas spirit.  Things still feel a little different this year, but we are making great strides towards getting us fully Christmas-ey.  I may work half a day tomorrow but hanging with the family, just playing (and singing this song a bunch more times) will bring us into full Christmas swing.  I didn’t ever get how Mom and Dad could be content getting each other underwear for Christmas, but their real present was seeing their kids have a lot of fun playing games, singing, dancing, eating too much, and crashing at the end of a hard fought day.  I am a slow learner but I think I get it now.  Getting myself in the Christmas spirit is a change in attitude…it’s not about me anymore…and that’s cool!

Cookie tin banjo

My homemade cookie tin banjo!

I was browsing through some old Firefox books a while back when I came across some folks talking about making banjos and dulcimers.  In particular, one fella talked about making a cookie tin banjo.  I had 4 cookie tins in my office that I saved after we emptied them last Christmas which seemed perfect for the job.  So, since I had one insignificant piece of junk I needed, I felt compelled to find the rest and build a banjo!

For the neck of the banjo, I used an old piece of bamboo flooring which I glued to a pine 1×4.  The floorboard by itself was not thick enough to provide support where it enters into the cookie tin.  I am not exactly sure that it’s the right thickness now but it seems to fit in my hand ok.   I left the bamboo top squared off but I rounded the back (the pine part) off smooth so I could hold it easily.  Now, I know you are curious how I came up with the shape for the peg head…I traced two Mt Dew cans.  This part is important…you have to use Mt Dew to get the thing just right.

My homemade cookie tin banjo!

My homemade cookie tin banjo!

The tail piece is a chunk of an extra slat from plantation blinds we installed last Summer.  I think there must be a proper way to do this but it seems that the only measurements that really matter are the distance from the bridge to the nut (basically, from the wooden peg on the face of the banjo to the point where the neck joins the peg head.  My homemade cookie tin banjo!

My length is 25 inches though there is some flexibility in that size.  The distance from the bridge to the 5th string which attaches to the side of the neck is 18 1/2 inches.  Just about everything else negotiable as far as I can tell from reading in Firefox 3.

The hardest thing for me to do was carve the tuning pegs.  I tried using steel thumsbcrew and eye bolts and regular screws but none of those things would hold the string tight enough to tune.  That left me with carving wooden pegs which hold their position by friction.

My homemade cookie tin banjo!

My homemade cookie tin banjo!

I bought square 1/4 poplar dowel rods and cut off 2.5 inch sections to carve the pegs.  I rounded the bottom 2/3 of the peg to fit in the hole.  The top part I left square so I could get a better grip on it for tuning.  It seems simple enough but it was a real drag to carve them round.  My hands are killing me from messing with those tiny pegs.  Anyhow, I drilled a small hole in each to catch the string and they seemed to tune and hold pretty well.

My homemade cookie tin banjo!

I have a chromatic tuner that I got to tune my violin.  I messed around a bit to get the tuning right for the banjo.  I think it is pretty close although the 4th string doesn’t sound right to me.  We’ll see.  It definitely has a banjo sound.


So, the $6 Martin banjo strings are about the only money I have in this thing.  Gosh, if only I had any idea how to play a banjo!