All posts tagged: Glenn Kurtz

My 2018 Year-End Reading List

As 2018 draws to a close, I’m sharing this list of the books I read over the past twelve months.  Since returning from sabbatical early in 2016, I committed to reading more, and to seek out a wider range of works beyond my normal histories and biographies. Here are the treasures I found on my reading shelf this past year. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. I began the year with a work of fiction. In this at times perplexing yet ultimately satisfying novel, Saunders builds off the fact that in February 1862, just a year into the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year-old son Willie dies of typhoid fever. It is known from contemporary accounts that the President went several evenings to stay in the crypt with his son’s body in Georgetown’s Oak Hill Cemetery. Saunders takes that bit of knowledge and turns it into a rich story populated with dozens of spirits who reside in the Bardo, which is the Tibetan Buddhist name for a transition period between death and rebirth. Tears …

Practicing

Over the holidays I returned to a book I first read some ten years ago.  Glenn Kurtz’s Practicing:  A Musician’s Return to Music is, in its simplest form, a memoir of a young child prodigy on the classical guitar who attends the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music and then quits playing in his early 20s when he realizes he won’t be the next Segovia.  Fifteen years and a career change later, Kurtz returns to the guitar and finds, in the process, a richer love for music. But like all good memoirs, Practicing is so much more than a simple life’s story. Kurtz has been practicing since he was eight years old, but it isn’t until he returns after his hiatus that he begins to understand all the richness of the various aspects of preparing for performance, or life. “Practicing is training; practicing is meditation and therapy. But before any of these, practicing is a story you tell yourself, a bildungsroman, a tale of education and self-realization. For the fingers as for the mind, practicing …

Playing Music

Playing music with friends over Thanksgiving has pushed me to reorder my schedule to find even more time to play.  And – no surprise here – I’ve loved it.  I’m reacquainting myself with some of the playing of Norman Blake (check out the Nashville Blues video below of Norman and the Rising Fawn String Ensemble) and other musicians I admire. In the delightful book Practicing, author and musician Glenn Kurtz says, For me, sitting down to play has very little to do with discipline.  “It isn’t just education and discipline that makes one so devoted to work…it is simple joy.  It is one’s natural sense of well-being, to which nothing else can compare.”  Love of music brings me to the practice room. I am finding that joy in playing again and it is a wonderful feeling. So I’m off to play a bit now, and then tomorrow evening I’ll be at the Celtic Christmas concert of the Institute of Musical Traditions for some great acoustic guitar by Al Petteway and Robin Bullock.  If you’re in the Washington, …

Practicing

Four restful days on the Patuxent River in Southern Maryland brought our summer holiday to a close.  We used this time for unwinding from our western travels, reading, talking as a family – but mostly for being.  The sunset on the river was illustrative of the four wonderful days of weather we experienced…nary a day when the AC was required…but it also struck us as appropriate for an end-of-summer-holiday post. We’ve been fortunate enough to have access to this retreat for nine years, and there are some traditional activities we’ve taken on during that time.  While our visit was shortened this year, we were still able to visit Cone Island at Solomon’s to buy the traditional “Monster” ice cream cones that Andrew and Claire showcase below.  It just wouldn’t be a summer without a Monster! Candice and I were also able to finish some reading over the weekend.  Candice completed an out-of-print book she bought on Amazon entitled Nourishing the Soul:  Discovering the Sacred in Everyday Life and said it was transformative in its insights.  …