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Archive for June, 2007

Home-Cooked Music

Are you fed up with the recording industry ? Hate having to follow everyone else’s schedules and pay fees up the wazoo for ridiculous things every time you record? Have you ever felt like you would just rather do it yourself ?  Well with the available technology and assistance these days, you certainly can. You don’t have to be a degree-holding individual with all the latest software to be perfectly able to record your own, and other people’s, stuff.  www.HomeRecording.com is the perfect place for the amateur, and veteran lovers of home recording. Whether you’re new to the business and really need the stepping stones for your chosen hobby or occupation, or you’ve been recording in your home for years and just need a tip or two to ease the pain of new technology, you have a place at www.HomeRecording.com.They have a great variety of information on their site, concerning Recording, Digital, Mixing, etc. They have a link to Frequently Asked Questions and Tutorials, and even a page for reviews. If you know what you’re looking for, you can choose the Quick Search option, or you can scroll through their links until you find what you need, if you even know what you need!

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Raymond Hutchinson loves music. He loves it so much it oozes from his pores. It forms sedimentary layers in his shoes. It radiates from his every breath. Kinda hard to miss.

In a small room in the Hutchinsons’ garage, Ray has set up a studio. It would be silly to try to put a modifier in front of the word “studio,” because it really isn’t just one kind of studio. It’s a place for musicians to practice, to record, to create videos, to write, to print, to surf the net, and to just be really, really creative. With a family full of kids who are, at the least, really, really creative, this room is pretty useful.Ray works at The Home Depot, doing pretty much anything they throw at him. Electrical, Paint, Lumber, you name it – he does it. He’s been there for years, just another guy in an orange apron, ready to help you with your home improvement projects. He’s seen all types – knowledgeable, competent people who are attempting complex feats of home grandeur, and also the assortment of people who have asked him “Do you have any longer yard sticks?” But that’s just his day job. Most evenings, he can be found in the midst of whatever local concerts are happening. He does the recording for the Vernon school systems’ band concerts, usually strictly on volunteer basis, too. He also frequents clubs like The Hungry Tiger, Husky Blues, and The Colony, checking out new and veteran musicians and always offering his assistance.A few months out of each year, Ray quits his job at The Home Depot to go on tour with the anti-drug musician Rob the Drummer. Rob goes to schools around the country and gives mind-shattering assemblies that preach music as the ultimate anti-drug. They do hundreds of shows each time, and every year, those schools want them back for the next wave of students.

When they return to CT, Ray reapplies to The Home Depot, and they always take him back. It can be kind of taxing, having to constantly quit and reapply to the job you’ve had for so many years, never really quite stable, but sometimes that’s what a man’s gotta do for the sake of the music he loves.

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  This summer, don’t let yourself get lazy about picking up your instrument. Amid all the swimming and camping and kayaking, or whatever it is that you do when the temperatures soar, put yourself out there and join a community band.

For years now, the Rockville High School band has accepted community musicians to play in their spectacular 4th of July celebration. The concert is usually in the last week of June or the first week of July, so you’ve still got a little time to join up. This is a great opportunity to join fellow musicians, and even meet up with people from your area that you haven’t seen lately. It’s an excellent way to pay tribute to the land that you love. As long as that land is America.

Most community bands are free to join, but some may require some sort of enrollment fee for the training you will inevitably receive as a part of their organization. This enrollment fee will also help to provide extra instruments for those who don’t own theirs, and P.A. equipment for concerts.

Whether you’re proficient at the triangle or an accomplished flutist; an amateur flugal horn player or a budding trombonist, you have a spot in the community band. Check it out!

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MTV has partnered with The Body Shop to produce a new perfume – an eau de toilette called “Rougeberry.” Not only does it smell like fresh raspberries and freesia, mix extraordinarily with all five other scents in the Invent Your Scent line, and cost a mere $16(or 2 for $26!), but a percentage of the proceeds from each bottle of Rougeberry Eau De ToiletteRougeberry sold is dedicated to an HIV research organization.

The Body Shop has long been heavily involved in environmentally sound and humane practices. They are one of the few large corporations to produce products that have not, at any stage in their production, been tested on animals. They are the only global cosmetics company to not test their products on animals.

A percentage of the profits from their gift wrapping options, their signature tote bag, their Daisy soap and Mint Lip Care Stick is donated to the Stop The Violence Campaign, an organization that stands against domestic violence. They collect cell phones to donate, recyclable bottles, and are notorious for their omnipresent Community Trade ingredients – a process by which the consumer gets a fabulous international ingredient in his or her product, and the farmers they source these ingredients from get a fair price for their export.This recent partnership with MTV has taken The Body Shop to a new level. They have been able to boast about their ability to produce a loyal customer base with minimal advertisement and mostly word-of-mouth. But their commercials on MTV reached the public and hit them hard. It was definitely a step in the right direction.

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 My husband and I have long been avid Broadway fanatics. We know all the words to the Rent soundtrack (of course I’m Mimi and Joanne and Maureen while he’s Mark and Collins and Benny and Roger, and we take turns being Angel). I’m addicted to Guys and Dolls. He’s addicted to Aida. And we’re famous for busting out into CATS at parties. One of our wedding presents was actually a pair of tickets to Wicked.

But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that the Broadway scene ever seemed like a potential reality. We were at a family wedding, just sitting down to our respective chicken and prime rib dinners, when my cousin Kathy sauntered up behind us, giving hugs and hellos, and then letting the bomb drop.

“So Erik… how would you feel about going down to the city to audition for a new show that’s coming out?”

He nearly spat up his White Russian.

“Um… what?” he responded, a bit taken aback.

“Well it’s just that I have a friend who’s a producer in NYC, and he’s producing a new show that has a part I think you might be perfect for.”

Well what do you say to something like that!? A once-in-a-lifetime offer to actually make history and be in the original cast of a Broadway show!

He was, of course, eager and interested. She retrieved the practice CD from her car and he’s been listening to it ever since, practicing for his audition, which will be some time this summer.

Is it really that easy? There are millions of actors and actresses out there, roaming the streets of talent-ridden NYC. Does a small-town high school English teacher have a shot at beating out all those people who have made acting their career of choice? And is that fair?

Well, it is that easy. In the world of entertainment, it really is all about who you know. But once you’ve secured an audition, it becomes a matter of how you perform. Not only do you have to be a phenomenal actor, singer, and dancer, you also have to be right for the specific part. Casting for specificity plays a huge role in the final decision.

Erik was egged on by my cousin because not only is he extraordinarily talented as an actor and singer (although he could use some work on the dancing, but hey – two out of three ain’t bad, eh?), but he is also a 24-year-old man with the body of a 14-year-old. That’s the clincher. They can do a lot with makeup, but they can’t shrink a person, and Erik is exactly what they need at 5’3”.

If he makes it, he’ll be touring all next year, from Arizona to the Midwest and then finally back to New York. But am I going to play the nagging wife role and start complaining? Absolutely not. Because if I was in his shoes – and who knows, maybe someday I will be – I’d be packing my bags ASAP!

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Summer of Steve

                    My father-in-law, Steve Nielsen, is a Renaissance man, to say the very least. He’s a loving husband, a firm-but-fabulous father, an affectionate pug-owner, and the director of Music & Worship at Trinity Covenant Church Manchester, CT. You may remember a pastarticle detailing his endeavor to produce an album of Christmas music with his phenomenal church choir, including guest members. Well, the album was recorded just this past weekend, and it will be on sale this summer, after mixing and copying has been completed. I’m told that the recording went off without a hitch, and it actually concluded an hour and a half early, which is absolutely not heard of in the music recording industry. The choir was praised by the sound technician as being one of the top five he’s heard, which was quite a compliment for them because he’s been recording choirs all over the country performing the same music.

But this article is not actually about the recording. No, it’s more about Steve himself. You see, I know how amazing he is, and his family and friends know how amazing he is, but even he wasn’t aware of the sheer breadth of his following in the community. Every year, his Christmas Cantata sells out (which is really unfair to say, because tickets are free), and hundreds turn out to watch him bring the Christmas season to life in a completely non-commercial way. How refreshing, you might say! And I would quite agree.

This year, however, he discovered how invaluable the citizens of Manchester truly find him. This spring, he received a letter in the mail from the Manchester Community Arts Commission, commending him for his years of service to the town of Manchester, and its continuation of a thriving arts program. He was informed that on the 6th of June, 2007, he would be immortalized in their Manchester Arts Hall of Fame.

I think the reality of the situation failed to hit him in totality until he was standing at the lectern, graciously accepting the prestigious award. Pausing to blink back tears as he spoke of the road he took to get to this point, he eloquently dedicated the award to the big guy upstairs. Audience members were moved by his acceptance speech, and he exited the stage to a standing ovation, not without a few cat calls from his closest friends and family.

Steve will not let this go to his head. He is, was, and will always be a man who is grounded in his faith and wholly devoted to creating music for the Lord. Really awesome music. We would be remiss to assume that this could be the last award he will receive for his hard work and passion. He will doubtlessly keep giving to the community until he has nothing left to offer.

             Trinity Church, Manchester, CT

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