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M is for Montgomery County Community College Lively Arts, A to Z Challenge 2013


M is for Montgomery County Community College and the Lively Arts Program, Blue Bell, PA.    For more than 25 years, MCCC has brought dance, jazz, and classical music, and theater to Montgomery County.  It is a place of creative expression, and creative energy.

On April 13, 2013, Stratoz and I went to MCCC see the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, Indian Classical Dance, presented in partnership with Sruti: The India Music & Dance Society, Philadelphia.  I had not heard of this dance tradition, and it was a delight to discover.

“I dream of building a community of dancers in a forsaken place amidst nature.
A place where nothing exists, except dance.
A place where you breathe, eat, sleep, dream, talk, imagine – dance.
A place where all the five senses can be refined to perfection.
A place where dancers drop negative qualities such as jealousy, small-mindedness,
greed and malice to embrace their colleagues as sisters
and support each other in their journey towards becoming dancers of merit.”

“A place called Nrityagram.”

– Protima Gauri (October 12,1948 – August 18, 1998)

I am grateful for all the beauty I have witnessed at Montgomery County Community College.
In 2012, I had the opportunity to hear Kurt Elling perform there,
and I leave you with this hopeful and haunting tune.

Music by Duke Ellington
Original Lyric by Mitchell Parrish
Vocalese Lyric by Kurt Elling based on Von Freeman’s improvised melody from
Freeman’s 2001 recording, “The Improvisor”.
The lyric adapts the words of the 13th century poet Jelaluddin Balkhi,
or Rumi, as translated by Coleman Barks.

Don’t worry about saving this music / or be scared if the singing ends
or the piano breaks a string / for we have fallen to a place where everything is
music and singing / everything is recovered and new / ever new and musical
and even if the whole world’s harp should burn up / there would still be hidden there
the spirit of song there to linger on / and even if a candle’s blown out by wind
the fire smolders on in an ember and then sparks again / the singing is a drop /
just a drop in oceans of seas / grace keeps it moving through bodies like these. . .

Red-Tailed Rainbow by Margaret Almon.

Friday Five: What Makes You Smile?

I am playing the Friday Five at the RevGals.  This week’s question is What Makes You Smile?

Stratoz at the Rochester Jazz Festival
Stratoz at the Rochester Jazz Festival


1.  Listening to live jazz with Stratoz.

It’s coming up on 10 years since we started enjoying jazz music, and it has brought us many smiles, especially since the musicians are usually smiling themselves.


Bingham's Homemade Pies, Lenox, PA
Bingham’s Homemade Pies, Lenox, PA


2.  Pie.  From Bingham’s Homemade Pies(which is on the way to the Rochester Jazz Fest, fortunately) to Pie Night with our friends at the home of Good Food, Happy Man, pie makes me smile, especially when in good company.  I had my first black walnut tart this year.


Red-Tailed Rainbow by Margaret Almon.
Red-Tailed Rainbow by Margaret Almon.

3.  The Color Wheel.  As evidence of how much the transitions between colors makes me smile, check out my Color Wheel Pinterest Board.


The West Main Diner, Lansdale, PA
The West Main Diner, Lansdale, PA


4.  The West Main Diner.  Stratoz and I call this our World Headquarters for Nutmeg Designs.  The friendly service and good food is always worth a smile, and helps the business meetings run smoothly.


5.  The Grout Monster.  My friend Joanne, who delights in grouting, and helps me when there are too many mosaics to grout alone.


What makes you smile?


Related Posts:

Nutmeg Designs Mosaics and Icelandic Jazz of Sunna Gunnlaugs

Color Wheel Love

Studio Listening on Saturday: Dorothy Ashby’s Hip Harp and In a Minor Groove

Dorothy Ashby - Article from Detroit Magazine - Nov 13, 1966 (An Insert Supplement for The Detroit Free Press) Features Article " Dorothy Ashby At the Cafe Gourmet" An in depth article on Dorothy Ashby as a jazz musician.
Dorothy Ashby – Article from Detroit Magazine – Nov 13, 1966 (An Insert Supplement for The Detroit Free Press) Features Article ” Dorothy Ashby At the Cafe Gourmet” An in depth article on Dorothy Ashby as a jazz musician. From beyondrecords.

Curt’s Jazz Cafe blog has a wonderful Unsung Women of Jazz series, and on Curt’s recommendation I checked out Dorothy Ashby, and have been listening to Hip Harp and In a Minor Groove in the studio.  Every time I listen, I catch a few bars where I’m not sure what instrument she’s playing, and then I remember it’s the harp.  Dorothy Ashby and her husband had a theatre company in Detroit, and her creativity manifested in composing, playing, and in finding ways to make the harp hip to other jazz musicians.  Frank Wess plays flute on In a Minor Groove, and I am glad to be introduced to him via Dorothy Ashby.  I could only imagine playing with his tone when I was taking flute lessons.

Reflections on the A to Z Challenge 2012: Almost the A, B, and C of It

Artwork by Ada Z from Collagepodge.com

I often wake up to a jazz standard in my head, and today it’s Teach Me Tonight, particularly, Dinah Washington’s version, with the lyric:

Starting with the ABC of it
Right down to the XYZ of it
Help me solve the mystery of it
Go on, teach me tonight

The alphabet is a mysterious thing, with its evocation of detail, range and completion.  I loved the alphabet song on Sesame Street, and choosing words for each letter as a first grade assignment.  In college I was pleased to discover the word abecedary, which is a delicious way to describe the inscription of the entire alphabet.

I particpated in the A to Z Challenge in 2011, and met a blogger who is one my most faithful commenters, and I love her thoughtful reflections on being a playwriter, piano teacher, and creative person dealing with inner critics and taking courage, Play off the Page‘s Mary Aalgaard.  For 2012, Mary did a fabulous A to Z, where she took a picture of each letter from her surroundings to begin the post.

This year, I was yet again drawn to a writer, Beth Stilborn, who writes on writing, reading, the arts and life.  Beth kindly referred to my L is for Levels and Loving Them  post in an an article she wrote on art for the visually impaired.

For 2012, I chose a loose theme of my art, and this simple modification made the challenge, though still a challenge, much more inviting.  Going through the alphabet is like practicing scales, exploring the whole range of notes and how they connect together.  At first it seems artificial, but then you recognize those connections, those runs of notes, in the beautiful music you wish to play.

What were your favorite posts of the 2012 A to Z Challenge?

Note:  It’s “almost the A,B, and C of it” because I started with C!

Jazz bonus:

A to Z Challenge 2012: X is for Xylophone

Xylophone Sales Ad 1919
Xylophone Sales Ad 1919 via Dean Sabatino.


Jazz musicians who play the Vibraphone are rightly sensitive about their instrument being called a Xylophone, since many people have never even heard of the Vibes, and even though I do know they are different,  I didn’t realize that Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo each started on a Xylophone in the 1920’s.  The Xylophone’s shorter wooden bars made it difficult to sustain notes, and the Vibraphone solved this problem by including resonating tubes under aluminum bars, and a small electrical motor which amplified the resonance.

Check out George Hamilton Green doing Ragtime Robin on  Xylophone in the early 20th Century:


My Life as a Soda Jerk and Some Art Tile and Duke Ellington for Good Measure

Soda Fountain via airstreamlife on Flickr
Soda Fountain via airstreamlife on Flickr

A little known fact about my biography is that I was a soda jerk for the 1986/87 school year at community college, at Kostas Drugstore in Bethlehem, PA, across the street from Liberty High School.  I came across the book Sundae Best: A History of Soda Fountains by Anne Cooper Funderburg, which brought back memories of my tenure as preparer of sundaes, ice cream sodas, milkshakes and cherry, lemon, vanilla or chocolate cokes.

Two unique sundaes, of which I had never heard(and I’d never been to a soda fountain either) were the “CMP”(chocolate, marshmallow sauce and ground peanuts) and the “Dusty Road” which involved vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and a dusting of malted milk powder(my first one was just ice cream and malted milk, because I didn’t realize chocolate was included.  My customer was amused).  I had a long list of prep duties, including mixing fluff and simple syrup to make marshmallow sauce, chopping the peanuts in a meat grinder, refilling the syrups, cones, straws, and napkins.  The best perk was being allowed to eat as much ice cream as I wanted.


Franklin Fountain Mosaic Floor

Kostas was already archaic when I worked there, since soda fountains peaked in the 1950’s, and were done in by suburbia, but the location across from the high school insured we had a steady stream of students after school and football games descending upon the counter.  Kostas lasted 10 more years after I left to transfer to a 4-year college.  Stratoz suggested we find an authentic soda fountain for our anniversary in 2011, and a friend who knows about such things told us about the Franklin Fountain in Philadelphia.  I had a fabulous “Cherry Bombe” soda, with cherry syrup, soda water and chocolate ice cream.  I dived in before Stratoz could get a proper picture of it.

I was fascinated to discover in Sundae Best, that there was a genre of soda fountains at the turn of the 19th century which featured art tile, from companies like the Low Art Tile company.  The fountain above is at Eagle’s in Yellowstone, and has delightful “pillow tiles” with rounded corners.

front of old soda fountain

In a synchronicity of my love of soda fountains and quilts, I found a photo of the Needle Basket in Sutton, WV, which was formerly a soda fountain and is now a quilt store, and the owner keeps all sorts of notions in the old stainless steel drawers and dispensers.  And even more cool was discovering the article Confessions of a Soda Jerk which lists some famous soda jerks, including one of my favorite jazz musicians, composer and pianist, Duke Ellington.  The story goes that he wrote his first song, Soda Fountain Rag, while working as as soda jerk, at age 14 or 15.


Check out My Secret Life as a Soda Jerk on Pinterest.