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In Which Ryan Erik Adamsons Is Demonstrably Older

December 2020 | 1:4


This is Goomba auditioning to be the emoji for upside-down question marks. Also, it turns out that upside-down question marks do not have a special name other than “upside-down question marks” which seems like a missed opportunity, so I propose that these are henceforth referred to as “Goombas” (capitalization optional). I’ll keep everyone posted as soon as I hear back from the Chicago Botanic Garden about all my flower name proposals.

What's Been Happening

I don’t really remember my tenth birthday. I’m sure my folks put on a good party and that I got presents that were meaningful and appreciated, but I definitely don’t have any specific memories without doing some research. The odds are good that I was playing in a soccer all-star tournament at the time, and I was working on a pinewood derby car for cub scouts which I only know because a little over a month later I was at the pinewood derby when Operation Desert Storm happened.

On my twentieth birthday, I had recently transferred colleges and moved to Ohio, was relearning to play the trumpet for approximately the fourth time after getting my braces off and playing a G bugle all summer, was intending to be a music education major and had not yet taken a lesson with either of who would become my two primary trumpet teachers. I don’t have a specific memory of the day, but I was probably at/preparing for/recovering from a drum corps camp where we were extremely happy to have moved up from thirteenth to twelfth place and back into DCI finals. It was a little less than a year before 9/11.

I actually remember my thirtieth birthday. I was on my way back to Chicago after teaching my first drum corps camp after a couple year hiatus, and it was a Sunday so my friends at the bar I worked at were planning on me coming in as soon as I got home so they could have a crazy party. There was a traffic slowdown somewhere in Western Ohio, so I took that as an excuse to stop for the night. I let my friends know I wouldn’t be back until Monday (I wasn’t really bailing since I had already told them I might not come in even if I was back), got a cheap hotel room, ordered a pizza, picked up a six-pack of decent beer, and called my folks to let them know I was stopping. My mom was concerned that I was depressed, which was a legitimate concern given everything I went through with mental health in the previous decade, but I truthfully assured her I was fine and proceeded to eat half a pizza, drink two beers, and watch football until I went to sleep. Lots of people I’ve related that story to find it sad, but that birthday sticks out in my mind because I didn’t need a party, or a present, or anything. As the odometer turned over I was content, which was and is no small thing.

As another odometer birthday passes and I turn forty, you can tell I’m introspective. Now that I’ve solidly passed from the demographic that advertisers care about to the demographic that doctors feel the need to run more tests on, a couple things stand out:

Lots of things happen and change in ten years, or even one year, or in an instant. It seems likely that will keep happening, which is both scary and exciting.

The big profound things that happen (wars, societal events, pandemics, elections) have such a broad effect that their real meaningfulness is measured in how I go about my daily life. This doesn’t diminish their importance, it makes it more important any changes that result are conscious choices about who I am and want to be.

If my thirtieth birthday showed me I had learned how to be content, the last ten years have shown me I can be content and still grow or work to make things better. As we pass a Thanksgiving where I daresay it was more of a struggle for many people to truly feel thankful in their heart of hearts, I find myself particularly thankful that I feel comfortable in that duality.

May your masks smell pleasant and your packages arrive without incident,


Chart O' The Month

SanderoMedium Ensemble
00:00 / 07:52

“Sandero” is a chart with a few layers of backstory. It was first written to be premiered as part of an educational concert with the Medium Ensemble highlighting the latin jazz tunes I have in the book (full audio from that concert is available here). The tune itself is a gag on the standard cha cha piano pattern most people know from “Oye Como Va” where I just kept descending to make a longer progression, then added a bridge using a hip hop idea I stole from one of Aaron McEvers charts for his band M13. The title is actually a reference to the Dacia Sandero, a car that was part of a long running gag on Top Gear UK (BBC), because the name sounds vaguely latin and so does the tune.

This chart is also notable because a small group version of it won the 2015 Jazz Palettes Composition Contest sponsored by the American Jazz Museum. Despite being quite an honor I was actually a little bummed because it meant I had to stop making the joke that my sister was the only award-winning composer in the family (see my bio if you’re confused). Regardless, I like the chart a lot and this particular recording comes from a performance in the Washington D.C. area exactly a year before this newsletter is being sent.

Epidendrum 'Pacific Sunset' x 'Pink Rabbit'.JPG

Look, Nature!

For anyone who doesn't know, my wife works at the Chicago Botanic Garden and thus I get to see fun and pretty pictures of plants and nature in general. This is an "Epidendrum 'Pacific Peacock' x 'Raspberry Valley'" and he is aghast that I would call his wife's hat silly. I have duly apologized to both parties, but they haven't figured out how to make me a hat like theirs yet.

Education Notes

Remote recording is obviously a big part of music education right now, and there are lots of ways to accomplish this depending on your resources, the purpose of the project, and lots of other factors. Here’s a couple I’ve been a part of recently:

Bluecoats Veteran’s Day Tribute - I’m sure most of you know I have a long history with drum corps and am an alumnus of the Bluecoats, so it’s been nice to get involved with some of their alumni projects over the last couple months. This one was put together by Jay Wise and was a fun way to celebrate Veteran’s Day and highlight the veterans that are a part of the organization as well.

Christmas at DePaul - I’m also an alumnus of DePaul University here in Chicago, and this year they did their annual “Christmas at DePaul” event as a virtually recorded program that they are making publically available. It’s free but you do need to register by December 9th at 5pm CST.

Besides being ones that I can share right now, these are also good examples of successful projects with drastically different levels of investment (both time and money), talent base, and scope. The most important thing that made them successful is that the plan was realistic and aligned with the desired end product, so if you’re considering a project like this and want advice or just to discuss some ideas don’t hesitate to reach out.

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