Musing on Music, late night thoughts after a great concert, and the past meets the future or vice versa!
Last Saturday evening, I sat upstairs at the Caffé Sorrento as part of the sold out audience to enjoy the final concert of this year’s new CHSO Jazz at the Caffé Sorrento series.
We were privileged to hear local native, and Boston jazz scene legend, drummer Bobby Tamagni and his quintet that he put together just for this concert – Greg Hopkins on trumpet, Mark Shilansky on piano, Alan Chase on saxophone and bassist Keala Kaumeheiwa. It was an extraordinary evening – the atmosphere in the room was electric, and the whole restaurant was buzzing – upstairs and downstairs with the thrill the rebirth of live jazz at the Sorrento.
It is truly one of the best “perks” of my job as Founding Executive & Artistic Director of Claflin Hill – the chance to sometimes just sit back and watch amazing musicians at work, plying their craft honed over decades of practice and gigging with each other – and to savor the realization that this thing we have built together over the past almost twenty years – Claflin Hill – is making it possible for this happen more and more frequently every season. I get to do that standing on the podium leading the CHSO all the time, but now and then, it’s really nice to just sit back as a “civilian” and watch them make their magic on their own.
A big part of the evening was an “homage” to Milford native son, Henry “Boots” Mussilli – who went forth from his hometown in the 1950s to become a renowned saxophone artist and lead alto solo sax of the Stan Kenton orchestra. Boots performed and toured with the Kenton band for years, and often brought them home to Milford for performances when the band was on tour in the region. When he left the band to come home and settle back into being a Milfordian, he opened a teaching studio and started the Milford Area Youth Orchestra. It immediately sprang into life with over 60 kids joining and become a focal point of pride for the town – much the same as many towns had “youth oriented” organizations that brought a community together in support, such as the St. Joseph’s CYO Band in Medway in the same timeframe.
Bobby Tamagni was a young drum student and a member of the Milford Area Youth Orchestra, and he had some funny stories to tell from that short time the band was in existence, including their fabled performance at the Newport Jazz Festival, invited there by none other than Duke Ellington himself!
Unfortunately, Boots died the next year, and the youth orchestra died soon after he did, and the music went silent in Milford for a few decades.
I was thinking this week that if Boots had lived, and if he had continued building the cultural entity he had in mind, then there probably wouldn’t be a CHSO today! Instead of coming to town and starting an orchestra, I might have come to town and tried to get a job working for Boots!!
But, life is full of “serendipitous” detours in the road, and in the end, it’s best to just sit back and enjoy the scenery as you travel along towards your yet to be revealed destination.
This Sunday afternoon, we get a chance to witness the future and the ongoing re-birth of great culture continuing in Boot’s hometown, as Claflin Hill presents our annual Family Symphony Matinee concert at 3 PM in the Milford Town Hall Grand Ballroom – the scene of so many great evenings of music for over 100 years.
We’ll be performing Benjamin Britten’s popular “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” and the Claflin Hill Youth Symphonies will join together with their CHSO professional mentors at this concert for a “Side by Side” performances of some of the great classic orchestral literature. Several of the students will also be featured in “starring” roles as soloists with the CHSO.
I spend every Sunday afternoon, from 11 to 6 PM together with some of my CHSO colleagues working with these bright and eager young musicians, and it’s always one of the best days of the week, for them AND us. Teaching young students is a constant re-juvenation for us as professional musicians – it’s inspiring to see them start down the same road as we did when we were their age, to watch them struggle with the frustrations of learning to play better, to set higher goals, to come back every week and try harder again and again. I sometimes actually chuckle out loud when I’m teaching my private students – “yeah, I remember when I thought that was so difficult, but now it seems effortless and you’ll get to that point someday too!” (I actually broke my clarinet in half when I was ten, because I was squeaking so much!!)
In teaching, you rediscover every single day the reason you had for doing what you do and why you love it so much. And yes, it’s also a great thing to nurture the future and help kids achieve.
Come join us on Sunday for a great afternoon of amazing music and an inspiring and hope-filled view into the future – a future that Boots probably had in mind – though I think that he, like me, didn’t really have a “business plan” but just started out to do something he had an urge to do and it would take on its own life and lead him to the next step. It’s been how CHSO has grown, and I hope Boots approves of what we’re doing in his old stomping grounds!
Even if you don’t have “kids” or want to try out an instrument at the instrument petting zoo, it’s another opportunity to get together with your friends for a nice afternoon out, sit by one of the big windows in the hall and let the sunlight and the music bath you into euphoria!
And next week, Saturday, April 13th, I get to sit in the audience yet again and watch more colleagues – the Family Valchinov – display their amazing artistry at our season finale of the CHSO Apple Tree Arts Chamber series. More about that next week, but watch for Richard Duckett’s feature article this Sunday in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette!
See you at the concerts!