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My 2019 In Retrospect

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

 
Wow. Last year was a whirlwind of music, teaching, and big life changes. But I’ve realized that, outside of those directly involved, I didn’t really share my experiences with the world in any concrete way. I did the obligatory posts on Twitter, Instagram, and (rarely) Facebook, but to be honest I’ve been connecting less and less with the social aspect of those sites. Maybe it’s just my infrequent use, maybe it’s age, but for the past few months I’ve found myself completely overwhelmed by all the information I get from my feeds. Info that I forget almost as quickly as I learn it. (So, probably age then…) I’ve been less and less interested in posting there myself, but I have been wanting to share with you all in some form.


I’ve got a lot planned for this decade, and I want you to be a part of it. So I spent time at the end of last year really thinking about how to communicate all the different projects and activities, and I’ve decided to try out this more concrete format, the blog! I know, I know. I HAVE tried this before, but that was more of a free-form style, it was a write-what-you-feel/journal affair which I couldn’t keep up. What makes this time different? Well, this time around I’ll be keeping my posting on a schedule and keeping the topics and style of my posts consistent. So I’ve come up with a regular Friday blog entry plan that I’ll be trying out, and will adapt as I go. And this first post, the first of 2020, the first of the whole blog, is a look back at 2019.

I realize I’m a bit late to be doing a “look back”, usually they’re an end-of-the-year type post, but I wanted to share just a few highlights of my year, to give my thanks to the many people who made it possible, and to give you all a chance to experience the excitement that was my 2019. These are the moments that made my 2019 great.


The official title is either “Strings” or “Strings, tuLaLa presents: ROTH BART BARON + 成山剛with 弦楽四重奏” I’m not really sure…

February 13th, 2019: STRINGS”


It was my privilege to take part in this incredible musical event at WWW in Shibuya (Tokyo). The event was a collaboration between artists tuLaLa, ROTH BART BARON, and Tsuyoshi Nariyama (from sleepy.ab). I joined as guest percussionist, along with keyboardist Tatsuya Nishiike and a wonderfully talented string quartet. We played a selection of songs from each featured artist, all arranged uniquely for the evening’s show. While the rehearsal schedule was a bit panicked, I think it came out all right in the end; high-quality music with stunning live video to back it up. Personally, I was just happy to be back in my element on percussion. Anytime I can play vibraphone on stage I’m happy. Thank you to tuLaLa and Nishiike-san for inviting me to play!

You can check out a wonderful slide show and some videos about the event here.

A chance to be a student again!

 

March 25th-31st, 2019: Hokkaido Groove Camp

I got to study with Mark Walker!!! Ahhhh!!

Ok, let me back up. When I was studying percussion at Butler University I got a wonderful Berklee Press textbook called “World Jazz Drumming” written by Mark Walker, as well as being a great practice tool, I found it an extremely useful resource for expanding my knowledge of world rhythms and full of interesting background and history of many different styles from around the world. If you’ve never seen him play, here he is on drums demonstrating his understanding of different world music styles playing with other Berklee staff.

So, with that background, when I found out that he was teaching in Sapporo at this jazz-oriented camp, I absolutely had to go. And boy am I glad I did. Although I was one of the oldest members, the average age was about 13, the ensemble lessons he gave and the one-on-one lesson I had with him taught me so much, and it really kicked me back into that practicing mindset. I’ve been motivated ever since to really improve my playing. A big thank you to mom and dad for this one! (Best Christmas/Birthday present ever.)

Music festivals make the world go ‘round.

July 13th-14th, 2019: JOIN ALIVE

This year I was honored to play at the Sapporo summer music festival JOIN ALIVE for the 3rd time. I was asked by two bands, sleepy.ab and mahina, to play support drums for their sets this year, so a BIG thank you to both groups for the experience. This was the first time I played both days of the event! And what incredible days they were.

sleepy.ab played on the first day on the Sakanaction sponsored NF stage. A mountain-top stage with a great view, well near a great view, we couldn’t see anything but grass from the stage. The weather was great during our performance and, although the stage was a bit of a hike, a lot of people came up to see us. After the show we stayed and watched some of the other acts, and got to hang out and eat with the headliner Sakanaction after their set in the evening.

mahina was on the second day, and it was located at the heart of the festival on the New Waltz stage. The vocalist, mahina herself, is the singer from Softly, so playing with the group was like meeting up with old friends (although they seemed a bit more tired than usual). The show went well, and the fans all seemed to have a great time, but the group didn’t stay around too long after they’d finished. So I spent the rest of the day enjoying other acts with friends. As a bonus, one of my students was singing in a backing chorus for another group, so seeing her perform on a big stage was a blast!

Music festivals are amazing gatherings for musicians and fans alike, and I’ve always enjoyed them, originally as a fan, and now as a musician. There’s something about the crush of people, moving between stages, rushing to get to the front row of their favorite act, or relaxing on blankets a bit away from the stage. Now that I get to experience the event as an artist I can enjoy the high energy quiet of the backstage where artists from around the country gather in small groups to eat and drink together, maybe excited for their upcoming set, or finally able to relax after they’ve finished, or just freaking out because another artist they love is walking by. It’s a world I feel honored to be a part of, and one that I’m looking forward to enjoying more in the future.


Nothing feels better than playing a big show in Tokyo!

September 5th, 2019: Youryokutai Club in Tokyo

My band was invited to play an incredible show at Shimokitazawa’s legendary venue Club Que by our friend Oiyama-san. A huge thank you to him for putting together this absolutely incredible three-band show:


I’ve been a big fan of Syurispeiloff (it’s very strange to see their name written in English) since 2018 when I first saw them play at an event in Yoyogi. They have a unique post rock sound which they back up with raw talent and energy. They’re also originally from Sapporo! So, hooray for the home town team. This was my first time playing with Michinohi (also strange to see in English) as well. Definitely a group to check out if you like piano driven pop-rock. And their drummer is from Sapporo, too! Go team! Overall a wonderful event, and a wonderful after-party as well. I spent the evening hanging out with Oiyama and Syuri’s members listening to them tell stories of past tours. These kinds of events are what make playing music so much fun.

So those are just a few of my favorite moments from 2019, there are many many more of course, but I feel like including everything might be a little much. But that’s kind of the point of this blog. I wish I had been able to write about those events when they happened, and I don’t want to miss out on that opportunity going forward. So from now on I’ll be doing my best to let you know what I’m up to here, as it happens, so we can enjoy the experience together. In the spirit of that, feel free to leave me a comment and say hello!

Oh, and there was one exception to the list which I will be writing about in an upcoming post: My first 8 Bit Trio album! If you missed it, I released a Christmas album last month in December, so I’ll be going into the details of that album’s creation. See you soon!

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