Peter and the Band

12 01 2013

Last night, an event occurred that made me very proud, and frankly, amazed me.

Although I retired from the Washington, D.C. U.S. Navy Band in 1996, I did not become a dad until 1999 for the first time, and Peter came along in 2003.  I continue to perform professionally in many venues, but until last evening, Peter had never attended a live concert of any sort.  His inability to sit quietly for any length of time (when not engrossed in something) has mandated this.

Peter attends his first concert

Peter attends his first concert

The Navy band came to Lorton for a performance in our high school last evening.  In addition to getting to see a few old colleagues who are still playing in the band, I would have the chance to see someone that I haven’t seen since September of 1981.  He is Brian Walden, and he has become the leader and Officer in Charge of the DC Navy Band.  Brian and I were ‘roommates’ in 1981 – along with 78 others in a fun little thing called boot camp!  Brian a trumpet player and I play oboe – each heading to different assignments in the Navy music program.

OK, so the stage was set.  Many old friends have not seen Kathy since I retired from the band, and with very few exceptions, no Navy Band friends have ever met my kids.  We arrived in 2 cars – just in case Peter needed to be somewhere other than the auditorium before the concert ended.  We sat on an aisle for the same reason.  Headphones were in hand in case the music volume was too loud for Peter.  The concert began, and there was no immediate protest.  Overture… march… vocal soloist… piccolo solo… Strauss Serenade (!).  One after another.  And Peter (and his headphones & Nintendo DS after an hour had passed) sat quietly.  If he looked a bit antsy, I nudged him and gave him a thumbs-up – and he responded with the same.

After the great concert, I took my family up on the stage to see some old friends.  Peter was cordial and careful, and even insisted on singing a tune for Captain Walden.  It was so great to hear the band once again, and to see many talented and great friends that I don’t see very often anymore.  Perhaps most importantly, I finally got to share an integral part of what I am with my son.  And it went well… VERY well.  I was very proud of many people last night.  Bravo all!





Marian Anderson

17 01 2011

Oboist Engelbert Brenner performed in recital with legendary contralto Marian Anderson.  Anderson’s voice was described as a rich, vibrant contralto of intrinsic beauty.  As an African-American artist, her role in the Civil Rights movement was monumental. Her legendary performance at the Lincoln Memorial (after having been denied the venue of D.A.R. Constitution Hall) will be forever part of American History.  Through her grace & talent, a blind American public was forced to see.

Anderson gave Brenner this autographed photo after one of their musical collaborations.  He prized it, as do I now that the photo has been left in my care.

Marian Anderson

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2011





Bernstein Symphony Recordings Resurface

19 12 2010

Over the years, I have bought hundreds of vinyl pressings and CDs of Bernstein/New York Philharmonic recordings.  As an oboist who grew up in the New York area, Harold Gomberg and Engelbert Brenner’s sound and playing styles were my earliest memories of the instruments, and are still the gold standard to me.

There is an exciting new release of symphony recordings on CD.  This is a SIXTY CD collection of nothing but symphonies.  Here is a list of the contents:

  • Beethoven: Symphonies 1-9 (Complete)
  • Berlioz: Symphony Fantastique
  • Bernstein: Symphonies 1-3 (Complete)
  • Bizet: Symphony in C
  • Blitzstein: The Airborne Symphony
  • Brahms: Symphonies 1-4 (Complete)
  • Bruckner: Symphony No. 9
  • Copland: Symphony for Organ and Orchestra, 3
  • Dvorak: Symphonies 7, 8, and 9
  • Franck: Symphony in D Minor
  • Goldmark: Rustic Wedding Symphony
  • Harris: Symphony No.3
  • Haydn: Symphonies 82-88; 93-104
  • Hindemith: Symphony in E-Flat
  • Ives: Symphonies 2 and 3
  • Liszt: Faust Symphony
  • Mahler: Symphonies 1-9 (Complete)
  • Mendelssohn: Symphonies 3, 4, and 5
  • Mozart: Symphonies 35, 36, 39, 40, and 41
  • Nielsen: Symphonies 2, 3, 4, and 5
  • Prokofiev: Symphonies 1 and 5
  • St. Saens: Symphony No. 3
  • Schubert: Symphonies 5, 8, and 9
  • Schumann: Symphonies 1-4 (Complete)
  • Schuman: Symphonies 3, 5, and 8
  • Shapero: Symphony for Classical Orchestra
  • Stravinsky: Symphony of Psalms
  • Shostakovich: Symphonies 1, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 14
  • Sibelius: Symphonies 1-7 (Complete)
  • Tchaikovsky: Symphonies 1-6 (Complete)
  • Thompson: Symphony No. 2
  • Vaughan-Williams: Symphony No. 4

Bernstein, Gomberg and Brenner are all now gone, but in this age of vanishing classical music ensembles and recordings, it’s heartening to see this release.  Lenny was largely responsible for a generation’s awareness of a symphony orchestra, and I’m glad to see that people can still experience those magical recordings today.

This set is available for around $100 – that’s pretty amazing when you consider its contents!





little feet – giant steps

27 05 2010

We recently attended our annual Independent Educational Plan (IEP) meeting with Peter’s teachers, specialists and school administrators.  These meetings are where we learn, in great detail, how and what Peter is doing in school.  We are able to discuss how well he has met his goals, and plan any strategies for future goals in the coming school year.

Peter has had an awesome year as a first grader.  His progress from September to May has been remarkable.   He is reading and writing sentences and paragraphs!  His artwork is immediately recognizable.  He needs no help in P.E.  He converses with classmates, and is very popular.  Other students love to help him if he falls behind in a task.  Peter’s reading ability is about in the middle of the range of his mainstream 1st grade class, and his math may be a bit higher than that.  Peter is a leader on the playground, and other kids want to play with him – his basketball court “posse” is a very popular crowd.  Membership is exclusive, reportedly.

Both Peter’s Autism & mainstream teachers fully agree that he does NOT need to be in an Autism class for 2nd grade.  He still will receive services, and will have an aid for certain activities.  Starting immediately, he will be going directly to his mainstream 1st grade class to hang up his backpack and start his day.

We went into this IEP with a list of questions and concerns.  We did not have to voice a single one.  Peter’s success and progress is not anything that has come on suddenly.  He has been in the best hands since his 1st day of preschool over 4 years ago.  Peter’s teachers have all been exceptional and we credit them all every day for their skill and caring.  There will probably be some stumbles along the way.  We will, however,  do our best to take them in stride.  One thing’s for sure; Peter has his eyes focused forward and marches onward.  Stay tuned.  Peter’s on the move.

Today was our annual Independent Educational Plan (IEP) meeting with Peter’s teachers, specialists and school administrators.  These meetings are where we learn, in great detail, how and what Peter is doing in school.  We are able to discuss how well he has met his goals, and plan any strategies for future goals in the coming school year.

Peter has had an awesome year as a first grader.  His progress from September to May has been remarkable.   He is reading and writing sentences and paragraphs!  His artwork is immediately recognizable.  He needs no help in P.E.  He converses with classmates, and is very popular.  Other students love to help him if he falls behind in a task.  Peter’s reading ability is about in the middle of the range of his mainstream 1st grade class, and his math may be a bit higher than that.  Peter is a leader on the playground, and other kids want to play with him – his basketball court “posse” is a very popular crowd.  Membership is exclusive, reportedly.

Both Peter’s Autism & mainstream teachers fully agree that he does NOT need to be in an Autism class for 2nd grade.  He still will receive services, and will have an aid for certain activities.  Starting this coming Monday, he will be going directly to his mainstream 1st grade class to hang up his backpack and start his day.

We went into this IEP with a list of questions and concerns.  We did not have to voice a single one.  Teachers, Peter’s success and progress is not anything that has come on suddenly.  He has been in the best hands since Laura took him from our arms 4 1/2 years ago.  Laura, Christie, Heather, Andrew – you have all been exceptional and we credit you all every day for your skill and your caring.

Stay tuned.  Peter’s on the move.  Time for more tears of joy for Mom & Dad.





toscanini rarities

12 05 2010

From 1926 to 1936, Arturo Toscanini was at the helm of the New York Philharmonic.  In 1931, Englebert Brenner became the 2nd oboist of that orchestra.  Toscanini was fiery and feared, yet revered as the best conductor, and many say he has never had an equal.

During a rehearsal of the New York Philharmonic, a photographer sneaked on to Carnegie Hall’s stage and took some photos while hiding behind the bass drum.  Had Toscanini known of this, the camera would surely have been smashed on the spot.  A few of these (perhaps never before seen) photos came into Brenner’s possession.  They were kept hidden away in his studio, and he treated them as if they were contraband.  He showed them to me on occasion, but mentioned each time that had Toscanini known these photos existed…

I proudly own many of Engelbert Brenner’s musical belongings.  While going through some boxes the other day, I found that mystical envelope.  I knew what was inside – the rare Toscanini photos!  Here are 4 of them.  You can see the emotion – the motion – the intensity.  Perhaps for the first time for the world to see – Arturo Toscanini rehearsing the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall, sometime between 1931 & 1936.

contraband




have it your way

29 03 2010

Today was a banner day for the Mankin family.  Long-time readers of this blog know of Peter’s reluctance to eat a variety of foods types.  He does very well in the school cafeteria, but he has an extremely narrow diet at home.  Those of you who know Peter have probably witnessed the futility of negotiating with him.  No means no to food items.  We should have bought stock in Pepperidge Farms Goldfish when he was born.  We have invested millions already.

Taking Peter out for any length of time has always mandated bringing a separate bag of his favored food items – juice, goldfish, chips, peanut butter sandwich – his staples.  For some reason, Peter decided that he wanted to go to Burger King this week.  He was very insistent that we go.  Actually, there was no living with him until he was taken to Burger King.

There was the obligatory bag of juice, Goldfish & peanut butter sandwich packed in the car for our outing.  Peter mentioned over & over that he wanted to go to Burger King.  Burger King it is.  We asked Peter what type of kid’s meal he wanted.  He replied confidently “hamburger’.  Kathy unwrapped the burger, sat down the bag of fries next to it, and off he went.  He tore into the burger, and when he was through, only a sliver of bun was left.  It was a sesame seed roll, by the way.  He ate all his fries, and drank his juice box until it was virtually empty.  When he was through, Peter placed his spent wrappers & juice box in the trash can.

Most parents wouldn’t be boasting about their kid eating at a fast-food place.  I’m not inferring that this was a nutritious meal for him.  The important thing to note here is that this was a family meal… without special prep or a compromised menu.  We all went and had a quiet (?) meal together.  No big deal to most – a BIG deal to us!

Oh sure – the day had its share of frustrations for Mom & Dad today.  Lunch, however, went like clockwork… for the first time EVER.





Wolfgang & Rémy

24 01 2010

This week, the 254th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart occurs. I recently played on an all-Mozart concert.  We performed some choral works, the well-known Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and a piano concerto.  Not required to be on stage for the Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, I was able to sit, watch and listen from the wings.  Although this piece is extremely familiar, I found myself listening intently to the work, analyzing the harmonic progressions, and revisiting the occasional (and brilliant) asymmetry.  What a remarkable piece.  What a remarkable composer.

Grapes grow on vines.  Some of the best grapes are nurtured and grown for wine production.  There are bad wines, there are good wines, and there are excellent wines.  They change and age with time.  A nice table wine can be found on any table in Italy to accompany any dinner.  It is simply “right” for its purpose.  A fine wine… refined further becomes cognac.  It becomes more intense, multidimensional and therefore takes on a different “purpose”.  There are bad cognacs, good cognacs, and the precious few that are extraordinary.

Sound is everywhere.  Organized sound can be categorized as music.  There is bad music, there is good music, and there is great music.  Then there is the music of Mozart… refined further.  It does not change or improve with age.  It was born of brilliance, and remains so for the ages.  We change in the way we hear, analyze, ponder and enjoy Mozart’s music.

No one can define your favorite wine but you.  No one can establish a best cognac for you to enjoy but you.  This week, I hope to enjoy Mozart and Rémy Martin.

Happy Birthday, Herr Mozart.








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