The Deterioration of High Society

Okay friends. I went to the Utah Symphony yesterday, and it was mostly delightful, but a few pretty serious things went down, and I just really need to vent here.


I feel like I’m generally a reasonably kind, compassionate person. But when I get in a concert hall, I become an entirely different creature, and every little audiencal error (yes, I did just invent that term) deeply offends me.


For example, I don’t normally glare at people, but if your phone goes off during a concert, you better believe I will throw more shade than you’ve ever felt.

Other immensely obnoxious/ disrespectful actions:
1. Opening a cough drop during a performance. #agony
2. Talking. Even whispering.
3. CLAPPING BETWEEN MOVEMENTS. Have you no respect??? Stop being an idiot.
4. Compulsive standing ovations. Come on, people.
5. Texting. #rude
6. Humming along with the music.
7. PDA. Get a life.
8. Cheering/ shouting. Leave the whoops in the stadium.

If we’re going to last as a respectable society (my bad, too late.) we need to get ahold of ourselves in the concert hall. I’m doing my best to educate my 3rd graders on proper concert etiquette, but it only takes one clap to generate a rowdy raucous of uneducated morons. Let’s be the change.

10 Reasons I Love Jon Schmidt

I’ve been part of the Classical Piano world for the majority of my life, and there are several aspects of that world that make me proud. For example, we are collectively cultured, refined, disciplined, and appreciative of quality. We also perpetuate and maintain excellence by continually studying works composed by our faithful predecessors, such as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven.
However, there are a few aspects of our world that do not make me proud. One of them is our collective dislike for a certain Jon Schmidt, fellow pianist and exemplary individual.

He recently came with a few other youtube folks to judge a competition here at BYUH, and they all gave us a nice fireside while they were at it. Over the course of the fireside, I had the thought more than once, “Man! Jon Schmidt is so cool!” and I want to share my thoughts, because I’m sick and tired of hearing pianists talk smack about him. #pianosnobs #hatersgonnahate #youwishyouhadapersonalcellist

Here I bring you ten reasons I love Jon Schmidt:

1. He makes really awesome youtube videos. A few of my favorites are Me and My Cello, Beethoven’s Five Secrets, Let It Go, and Story of My Life
2. His music is accessible, and has opened the Classical Piano world to many who wouldn’t otherwise have found the door.
3. He is a man of incredible faith. Everyone at the fireside said good stuff, but man, whenever Jon spoke, I thought the building was going to explore because the Spirit was so powerful. He was testifying like crazy and just making me want to be a better person.
4. He has a cellist. Do you have a cellist? I didn’t think so.
5. He’s a family man. I’ve heard him talk about his family on several occasions, and you can tell that he does what he does for them.
6. He can play upside down. #legit
7. He knows how to give a fireside. Sometimes people have awesome skills, but they just don’t know how to talk about it. #MichaelPhelps. Not so with Jon Schmidt. He is a dynamic, engaging speaker, and just really fun.
8. He writes funny comments in his music. One of my favorite’s is a rhythmic cue for a particularly difficult rhythm: Strawberry, ice cold lemonade.
9. He’s made piano cool. The High School jock could be seen playing the piano in the school talent show because of Jon Schmidt. #takeabow
10. He’s humble. You know how you can kind of tell when a person is full of himself? I’ve never gotten that vibe from Jon. He just seems down to earth and ready to give all the glory to God. I really admire that. He also made everyone around him look good by complimenting them and adding to what they said. I love it when people do that!

Say what you will about his music or his playing style, I think he’s done for the music world what J.K. Rowling has done for the literate world.

Most Beautiful Songs Ever

1. Into the West
2. In Dreams (Lord of the Rings)
3. Gabriel’s Oboe
4. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, 18th variation
5. All of the Rigoletto soundtrack
6. Theme from Rachmaninov’s 2nd concerto
7. Nessun Dorma

Thoughts on Death, the Devil, and Music Cathartis

Did you hear about the shooting in the Aurora theater in Colorado? Oh my goodness. It’s times like this  that I am incredibly thankful for the gospel and for the Plan of Happiness. It also increases my desire to serve a mission like 10 times.

We have all this knowledge– we know that there is life after death, we know that families can be together forever, and we know that our Heavenly Father, who is waiting for us to come home to him, loves us. But so many people don’t know that! So many people grieve over tragedies like these (as they should) because they don’t know that they can be together again. But they can be! 

And I could be the one to bring them that happy message. (2 months until I submit my papers!)

My first class on Monday, shortly after the news broke, was World Music Cultures. My amazing professor Dr. Kammerer brought up a discussion about Satan, and how we know that he is real, and an actual literal son of God, who can get hold upon the hearts of men, as he has with this particular man. (Those aren’t his words. He didn’t even use them. I just like to quote scripture whenever I talk about Satan. See Helaman 6:30 for a better description.) We know that, and we know how we can fight against him, and we just need to spread the world. Also, Alma 30:60. True statement.

He also talked about the cathartic powers of music. We listened to “Gone Too Soon”, as excellent song by Michael Jackson. The emotion conveyed through the music, even without the lyrics, but certainly supplemented by them, encompasses the emotions that inevitably come with death. Isn’t music amazing? It is so powerful.

Also, if we had a checklist of the Signs of the Last Days, which we actually do, pretty much the whole list would be checked off by now. Seriously. I’m starting to wait for an announcement about the temple in Jerusalem.

My prayers go out to those affected by this horrible event. And I guess The Dark Knight Rises will forever be associated with it, which is unfortunate.

Hana Hou!

 Hana Hou
(Hawai’ian Pidgin ) Translates as “Do it again” ; “One more time”. 
An appreciative response to an event: usage similar to “Bravo”. Often as an exclamation.

Last night, I went to one of the most amazing concerts I’ve ever been to. My friend Clayton and I got tickets to the Honolulu Symphony, and I almost died when I saw the program. They were playing the Eroica Symphony, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Rhapsody in Blue, and Pictures at an Exhibition. Yes, it was incredible. The pianist was phenomenal, and I was actually the first one to stand up after the Rachmaninov, because I was so moved. 
However, as impressed as I was by the Gershwin, I chose not to give him another standing ovation, because I hold that gesture sacred. Clayton, on the other hand, said he felt rude not standing along with the rest of the audience, and it got me thinking about how different our expressions of appreciation have become. What if something is absolutely and breath-taking-ly surreal in beauty? How do we differentiate between that and an excellent performance? Do we jump on the stage and bestow 5 leis upon each player and give them all free tickets to Disneyland? 
Truth be told, I don’t know if many people really can differentiate. If they enjoy it, or maybe even if they don’t, they’ll stand. If they hate it, and it’s the absolute worst performance they’ve ever witnessed, they might grudgingly get to their feet and clap along with the rest of the audience. But music is music, and whatever.
Oh, no.
As pictured above, we have grown to value individuals like unto Justin Bieber more highly than artists like unto Queen. WHY? Oh, maybe because our ears can’t handle more than a 4-chord song with a whiny voice, coming from a boy that looks like a 14 year-old girl.
Sorry about that. But I do think we need to do some serious reconsideration by way of what we value.
It seems that a lot of the goodness in this world gets mixed in with everything else, and then we just get a big bowl of melted ice cream, and you can’t pick out the cookie dough bits or the peanut butter trails or the pralines, or the strawberries, because it’s all been stashed together for so long that you wouldn’t be able to recognize those individual delicious ingredients. Many people haven’t even been introduced to flavors like Sweet Cream or Praline Pecan or German Chocolate Crunch or Haupia. They’re just living life with a melted container of Western Family vanilla with brown sprinkles and peanuts. And it’s all in the same carton, so how is anyone supposed to stand up and cry out in ecstasy at the cascade of flavor from a single, life-changing bite? They can’t, so they just give every bite “2 Thumbs up!” and call it a day.
You know, the same thing applies to modesty and life styles and all kinds of other things, but I’ll stop here, since this has already gone on long enough.
Bottom line, I don’t believe in giving a standing ovation for any old average performance. But I do believe in giving a huge one if the performance is completely spectacular. That’s all I ask. Let’s encourage greatness, and stop celebrating mediocrity. 

Kauai: Shaka Steel and Brass Ensemble Tour

Last week, which just happened to precede several important tests, was a perfectly spectacular week. As I mentioned before, it was my best Thursday to Saturday so far (up to that point in my life. This week of course became my best week so far…). Why was it so amazing? you ask. Well, I went to the lovely neighbor island of Kauai! All I can say is we all gasped the moment we flew over the ocean and spotted the speck of the island, and only continued gasping (although breathing normally and taking in the crisp air) for the rest of the week. Gorgeous.

Great parts:

1. The members. Oh boy. They fed us so well! I tend to forget that as I eat at the caf everyday, but there’s a reason polynesians are so big. I honestly gained about 10 pounds, and I’m not making that up. There was some especially good butter mochi that I will never forget.

2. The kids, of course! I think one of the very best parts of a tour is getting closer to everyone, and we really did. This is us:

These are my fellow roomies:

3. Our living conditions. The two beds I was blessed with rival my bed at home, which is making a very grand statement. This is a picture of the first bed Suzie and I slept on:

The second one, that Erika and I had, was the memory kind that Brother and Sister Williams have, that sinks down and forms to your body when you first lay on it. Oh my word, it was amazing. One of the best Sunday naps I’ve ever had.

4. The performances. We performed for the members at the church, and that was really fun. We also performed at a super nice community college, outside an outdoor hotel pool, and at a mall. Each went very well, and I think all the audiences loved them. Steel and brass bands are pretty unique, and very cool to watch/ listen to. What can we say. We’re awesome.

5. The actual island.

You have permission to be amazed. Oahu is lovely, Kauai is a different kind of lovely. I live in Paradise.

6. The music. As I said, steel and brass are two awesome timbres, and playing the steel pans is one of the funnest things I’ve ever done. They sound so cool! I want to make a Jamaican club so we can perform on the steel pans at Culture Night.

7. Just the experience. There was a time that we were eating yummy food under a pavilion out on some beautiful hike, and this other group of tourists came over. (They were a lot of old people.) We sort of told them who we were, and since we were a music group, then wanted us to sing. So Dr. K had us sing I Am a Child of God. Man, the Spirit was so strong! It was great. It was like we were all bearing our testimonies at once, in the way we all do it best. Music does that, you know?

All in all, tour was fabulous. I’m hoping to be in steel band for as much of the rest of my time here as I can. I love being a music major.

The Piano Guys, Continued

If my previous post made you hungry, I hope you went and fixed yourself some excellent food. If it made you want to go listen to some excellent music, I wonder what kind you chose?

As for me, I’ve been listening to some absolutely INCREDIBLE music, namely works by Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, Bartok, Ives, Copland, Shostakovich, Hindemith, Messiaen, and Cowell. If you haven’t listened to anything of theirs, go now. Twelve- tone is absolutely the coolest thing that ever happened to music. (Thank you Schoenberg.) Have you heard of synesthesia? It’s when a person actually sees a different and specific color for each note he hears. Messiaen had it. Do you know Shostakovich’s history? I just did a big presentation on him for my class, and I have learned his life and music are immensely interesting and intriguing. I recommend an in-depth study of his life, and the lives of as many composers as you can possibly find time for.

This music that I’ve been studying is not your standard classical music. In fact, some of it may even offend the ears and possibly bring tears/ death wishes. But it remains extraordinarily revolutionary by way of musical progression (exploration-/ development-wise), and can strike chords that Classical (as in music from around 1750-1820) music just can’t. (Pun intended.)

Should contemporary music be studied? Absolutely. Should it be played? Oh yes. And then, the history behind it… Music history is fascinating! Music continues to evolve, and we learn more and more with each new discovery (like Bartok’s Hungarian rhythms, for example), while still building on giants such as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. It’s awesome. That’s all I can say.

But do you know what else is awesome? When a pianist and a cellist get together and say, “Hey, let’s go to Hawaii. Then let’s drive up to the North Shore of Oahu, and bring our piano and cello to the beach, and play and record a song!” This is the product of that:

Pounders Beach, ladies and gentlemen…

If Music Be the Food of Love

Blairs aren’t picky eaters.

Let me clarify this. Blairs are willing to give all food a chance, and enjoy foods of all types. Blairs like to eat new foods, and some of them have the gift of being able to get ideas for new recipes of their own from the new foods they try. (Not me.) Blairs know what is healthy and what is not, and know how make healthy food. Blairs try to eat that most often, but they eat what they are given, especially if someone made it for them. They are always polite about it.

More importantly, Blairs have a great appreciation for really well made food, and because of that, they are able to recognize food of lesser quality. Thus, if given the choice between high and low quality, they know which to choose and which will be the most enjoyable and nourishing.

Bottom line, Blairs love good food. I learned that from my mama a long time ago, and it remains true to this day. (Although I know a few picky Blairs…) But the real question is, what is good food?

I love gourmet. When we’re feeling really fancy, and have a special occasion, we’ll go down to The Cheesecake Factory or Haleiwa Eats, which are two nicer restaurants that are pricier than what we’d normally go for, but definitely worth it. However, Ted’s Bakery (a restaurant on the North Shore near Sunset Beach, which happens to be the home of the world-famous Ted’s pie. My absolute favorite food, incidentally) is a personal favorite, and it’s way more casual. Different style, different setting, different attractions. But of lesser quality? I don’t think so. Good food can be found anywhere, if the right ingredients and culinary knowledge of the chef are present.

Two of my greatest loves are food and music, and all that I just wrote about food can also apply to music. (In the same way that I can’t cook, I also can’t compose.)

Jon Schmidt and Steven Sharp Nelson just came out to Laie for a concert, and I’ve been looking forward to it for several months. However, the day before they came, a friend in my music history class asked our professor what he thought about them, leading to an hour lecture of his feelings, followed by another two hours in my next two classes with him. Needless to say, he’s not a fan.


I am in the sad position of declaring that I have the strong suspicion that there is some elitism in the Classical world in general, specifically with that particular professor, but almost certainly along with many other Classical musicians. I also have a feeling there is some subconscious (or conscious) jealousy in said world that their music isn’t received in the same way as that of other styles.

So the next question is, what is good music?

I’d say good music should be defined by the musicianship of the composer and performer(s), and can be found anywhere. Beginning with a good chord progression/ motivic idea/ melody line/ instrumental configuration, or any number of other good bases (“ingredients”) can lead to an exciting and wonderful (“good”, for the sake of our definition) piece of music.

To continue with my food analogy, I was talking with another one of my music professors, and he told me he thinks of music like a buffet. He loves prime rib, but eating prime rib alone every time he goes would be awful. He loves his potatoes (say, Jazz) salads (reggae) desserts (etc.) and all have a place in a very delicious meal. I agree. Music of every genre (minus a few, I suppose, which is obviously the case with food as well) has value and is worth consuming.

To conclude, good music can be defined in many ways, and is in no way limited to expertly-played Classical pieces. Consider the Beatles, Alan Menken, John Williams, Coldplay, Jack Johnson, U2… Actually I can’t continue. The list would be extremely lengthy. But the point is, there’s a reason Heavenly Father blessed so many different sorts of people with musical talent. Music is a language in itself, and different types speak to different people in different ways. (I don’t dig escargot, which is apparently of the highest level of gourmet. It’s just not for everybody!)

If music be the food of love, sing on. And keep the chocolate ice cream coming. And the steak and red pepper fajitas. And the spinach-artichoke pizza. And the maple doughnuts. And the sweet potatoes. And the pie. Just keep it all coming.

And as a report of The Piano Guys concert, it was fantastic. Piano and cello together is extremely cool, and they know how to put on a show. They seem like really good guys, and it was great to have them on the island. They made a video on Pounders Beach, which they debuted for us. All in all, it was just a fun night.

This is an article about them


This is another Mommy Blog post. (Last advertised was Alexander’s Amazing Adventures.) If I was a mom and I was writing about how amazingly intelligent and musical my children were, and how yours too could be the same, I would credit it to this great program that I’d put them through.

We’re doing method reports for my piano pedagogy class, and I’m doing mine on Kindermusik. Oh my word. Genius! I love every bit of it.

This is what they say at the top of their website: “Kindermusik® is about kids, parents, and teachers—coming together and having a great time! It’s about helping you grow closer to your child. Enriching her environment and her development. Giving him a lifelong love of music and a foundation for learning.” Sounds pretty good to me.

This is cool: Psychologists, neuroscientists, and experts in early childhood development have demonstrated that music does more for children than bring them joy; it helps their brain cells make the connections needed for virtually every kind of intelligence, including the kinds that the right hippocampus assists in. Kindermusik’s curriculum is built on that research.

That’s awesome.

Want to know more? Go here to read all about it and SIGN UP TODAY!

Then you’ll have kids just like mine. (Patient, loving, musical, of good report, praiseworthy, obedient, popular, and beautiful.)