Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Symphonic Band Concert

 ALFRED: Alfred University’s Performing Arts Department attracts students from all areas of study. Many students choose Alfred because they can continue their experiences in performing arts without committing to the rigors of a performance major or minor. Three such students, Kyle Merrifield, Katie Weiss and Jay Horwath, talked with me about their musical experiences as they prepared for the
Alfred University Symphonic Band Concert. (Friday, December 9, 7:30 pm Miller Performing Arts Center. Admission is free and open to all.
                Kyle came to Alfred from Amherst, NY to study Renewable Energy Engineering.  He chose Alfred because it was close to home, because he could continue to participate in instrumental performances and because he could compete in his high school sports – bowling, tennis and volleyball.
                Kyle began his musical career, like so many others, in fourth grade. He chose percussion because percussionists play several instruments. Mallets are his favorite. During some rehearsals Kyle will jam a set of mallets under an arm as he plays with a different set. Suddenly, he will switch mallets and zip over to a different instrument or he’ll hammer a chime.
                Kyle said the different mallets give different sounds. A harder mallet compares with woodwinds playing staccato while a softer mallet creates the legato articulation.
                Kyle played percussion from 4th through 12th grade but also picked up the French Horn in 7th grade just for the experience. While in high school, Kyle traveled to Chicago and Washington DC to compete in symphonic band competitions and do some sightseeing. He said it was always interesting to hear several groups play the same piece and have all sound different.
                One great thing about AU is that Kyle is able to be a die-hard football fan and a percussionist at the same time. Kyle bangs on the drums with the Pep Band at all home football games.
                For the upcoming concert, he notes that My Shot from the musical Hamilton is his favorite piece. For that piece he will set aside mallets to give his first rap performance on a stage. His only other public rap was the conclusion of a presentation on geothermal energy. That rap, a big hit in class, was his own creation.
                After graduation Kyle will work in the solar or wind industry. Right now there are more people employed in renewable energy fields than in fossil fuels.
                “I’m thankful for the opportunities to continue in performance arts here at Alfred. My life goal is to be well a rounded individual and my experiences in athletics and music help me attain that.“
               Katie came to Alfred from Rome, NY to major in Bio-materials Engineering. She hopes to help design new and better orthopedic medical implants. She told me that the research & developing in joints is constant. Doctors want implants that are easier to insert and everyone wants them to last longer and work better.
     Engineers work with an array of materials and try to improve attachment systems.  Implants are used to replace aging arthritic joints but also to replace joints damaged by traumatic injury.   
         Katie will play French Horn in the concert and you’ll hear her on some solos. She regularly plays trumpet with Pep Band, sometimes plays French Horn in the orchestra and always plays Tuba in "Tuba Christmas."
      Tuba Christmas is a national organization that helps to arrange regional groups to perform in December. The group has only tubas, euphoniums and baritones (essentially little tubas). She has played with groups of about 40 members but hopes to play with the New York City group one year. That group draws a few hundred performers.
                Katie chose Alfred because it is a small community and AU offered the program she wanted. She was attracted by the fact that she could play in the musical groups here because rehearsal times give her a break from study.
        As an added bonus, she met Scott DiFranco-Norton. Scott recruited her for pep band student but that was just the start of their time together. They were recently engaged and will live in Mahwah, NJ, where Katie will work, after they marry in June.
                In this concert, Katie’s favorite piece is Star Wars. Katie is a Star Wars fan. In high school, she and her best friends would make costumes and go to the films. Her favorite character is 3CPO so Katie's nickname is KTPO.
                Katie said, “Music is my source of sanity here. It gives me a break from study  and is totally different from my normal class work.”
     Jay is one of the rare students who did not start music lessons in 4th grade. Instead, this senior in glass engineering with a chemistry minor started working with a trumpet in 8th grade.
       In the summer before eighth grade, Jay went to his grandfather's house to help clean out a closet. Jay had been fooling around with a guitar but wanted to start taking lessons.  That day, they dug his Grand Dad's trumpet of the closet. It was the perfect time for a first trumpet lesson.
      Jay chose to attend AU because of the glass engineering program but the fact that he could play in Symphonic Band, Jazz Band, Pit Band and Orchestra without competing with music majors was a bonus.
    Jay said, "Having the opportunity to do so much with music has made me more rounded. Working with and learning from people with different perspectives has been a another benefit of my music experience."
     Jay's favorite piece in the December concert is Olympic Fanfare.  He likes it because it's challenging and fun as well as familiar because of the number of times it was played during the recent Olympic Games.
       Jay is planning on graduate school in the Philadelphia area, near his family's home in Doylestown. There are many community musical groups there and Jazz is particularly popular.     Jay told me about his 2 trumpets. They are both brass but one has a higher copper content and makes a darker sound so is more suitable for jazz. The voice of a trumpet is impacted by the metal as well as by the tightness of the curves. Two trumpets might look the same but sound different.
       Whichever trumpet he plays, you'll be impressed. The concert will be at 7:30 on December 9 in the Miller Performance Hall.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Alfred State Pioneers Show Timber Skills

Jack and Jill Crosscut Saw 

Josh preparing to throw pulp log

Josh with pulp log airborn

Bow saw

ALFRED: You’re invited to the Woodsman’s Conclave in Alfred this weekend. That might sound like a small, lazy gathering around a campfire but after spending time with a rugged bunch at Alfred State I know that conclaves and timber sports are not lazy and this one is definitely not small.
            There will be over 300 students from 16 schools from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and more. These men and women will be chopping, sawing, throwing axes, rolling logs, lighting fires, racing on land and in water and running sure-footed on slippery, floating logs. This serious, and slightly dangerous forestry action, will sort out who can claim honors at the 70th Annual Northeast Woodsmen’s Conclave.
            All of it is free and open to the public starting on Friday, April 22 both at the Lake Lodge, 3107Terbury Road, and on the campus athletic field. The Alfred State Pioneer Woodsmen hope their community will cheer them on.
            Attending practice sessions has given me some understanding of the events. Competition can be between individuals or involve pairs or teams of six.  Alfred State has 2 men’s teams and one Jack and Jill team (J&J). You can likely guess that’s 3 men and 3 women. Some schools will bring all women teams also with a total of 40 teams registered.
            I watched a J&J cross cut saw practice. Three people lined up on each side of a squared off log and at the signal the first man/woman team cut 3 slices (cookies) off the end of the log. They balanced the wicked-looking saw blade on the log while handing it off to the next pair who did the same and then the last pair cut. .
            They also practiced with the bow saw, a smaller saw used by one person at a time. For a turn, each cut 3 cookies and then handed off to the next person until all 6 had cut. All sawing events are timed.
            Both of these events involved head to toe work. The competitors each had their own style and rhythm but those with the most practice, as in any sport, showed the most power and grace.
            “Experience is everything in timber sports,” said Scott Bingham, Club advisor. “Some of the students have been doing this for 4 years and they understand the wood and tools and they predict the moves of their partners. I tell them that partner work is a lot like dancing. They each react to the moves of their partner at a matched pace.”
            Bingham competed at the college level when he attended Finger Lake College and then continued in professional competitions for a while. Six years ago he started the club at Alfred and has helped students saw through mountains of white pine.
            The logs are donated – rejected by lumber mills – but the students transport them in their trucks to the club’s saw mill behind the Vet Tech building. Some of the logs are left round, others cut square, all eventually reduced to splinters and chunks.
            Here’s some of what I learned. For axe throwing, they stand 20 feet from the target and throw a double-bit axe so that it will rotate in the air and (hopefully) bite into the log. Points are awarded with higher points for those hitting closest to bull’s eye.
            Pulping is like horseshoes but they throw a small log. If it lands between a pair of metal stakes, it gets a point. 4 logs are used, tossed from one end to the other and back. The first team to score 48 points wins.
            Birling is running on top of a log. The log has a flag to allow a judge to count rotations. The log has to rotate 10 times. The fastest time wins.
            This “log” is a plastic device that is filled with about 50 gallons of water. It has the same buoyancy as the traditional 12’ cedar log. Its disadvantage is that spikes can’t be used on it but the advantage is that it weighs 75 pounds when empty.
            Log rolling uses wooden logs, pushed across a field with a device called a peavey. Partners work together for this timed event.
Peavey poll used to roll logs
            Fire building allows the use of matches and dried wood to build a fire and the winner is the one who first gets a can of soapy water to boil over.
            There will be chainsaw competitions, a relay called pack boarding and some furious chopping while wearing safety gear. Canoeing events are also relay races, done in teams in the water as well as portage.

The schedule
Friday, April 22
·         8:30 am to 12:30 pm – Men’s canoeing, pulp, and log roll (Lake Lodge); Women’s singles, doubles, and pack board (events field); Jack & Jill singles, doubles, and pack board (events field).

·         12:30-5 pm – Men’s singles, doubles, and pack board (events field); Women’s canoeing, pulp, and log roll (Lake Lodge); Jack & Jill canoeing, pulp, and log roll (Lake Lodge).

Saturday, April 23 – athletics field only 
·         8-11 am – Men’s team sawing, Women’s triples, and Jack & Jill triples.
·         11 am to 1 pm – Men’s triples, Women’s team sawing, and Jack & Jill team sawing.
·         2-4 pm – Stihl Championship.

Information - 607-587-4230,

closeup of cross cut saw

Logs enter the competition cut to size and shape for events and they go out as sawdust and wood chunks.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Getting Started: Tin Can Folk Art

WELLSVILLE: Aviator snips, duct cutters and scissors turned cookie, candy and popcorn tins into raw material hammered straight on an anvil and then cut into pieces to make Tin Can Folk Art Welcome signs in Wellsville in a class sponsored by the Allegany Arts Association.
The concept presented for the class as a suggestion
            Eleven participants were on hand, this time all of them women, during the 7 hours it took to turn a significant pile of cans into thorny mass of metal scrap and fun signs.
            While the class offered the chance to make a welcome signs, it was noted that welcome could be spelled any way. Some spelled their family names, others their house numbers. One sign says “home” and other ignored words in favor of flitting butterflies and summer flowers. There weren’t any limits put on creativity as long as the participants worked with safety in mind.
by Karen Dickerson
            Working with tin cans does require some hand strength and when a fellow participant was struggling, others came forward to help. Planning and color choice was another area where people worked together to help and encourage.
Sue Lacy
            The class was taught by Elaine Hardman, better known as one of Wellsville’s potters but someone who has worked with upcycled tin cans since taking a class from Charles Orlando in 2010. Orlando’s class was also an Allegany Arts Association program.
            Marianne Hass, a participant, generally works with the softer, kinder material of fibers to make mice and monsters. Hass said, “The class was great and I loved the location and I think everyone worked together and helped each other. Great class - and I only cut myself once.”
Judy and Tara, neighbors and friends
            The location that Hass noted was at the rear of LaGra Salon and Day Spa on East State Street in Wellsville. Barb and Cal Graves, owners of the building, have been giving free use of space in their building to local artisans and antique vendors since November 2015. A portion of all sales is donated to the Hart Comfort House but the Graves keep none of the money.
            In like generosity, they offered the rear of the building to the Allegany Arts Association for classes they wished to present to the public.
            Karen Dickerson, president of both the Wellsville Art Association and the Allegany Arts Association said, “It was nice to spend the day with family and friends. I learned a lot of ‘tricks of the trade’. We identified the right tool for the job. It made the day go by quickly for us. I will start collecting more tins and be ready for another class. I want to Thank Barb Graves & LaGra for allowing us to do all that pounding and hammering. It was a perfect place for the class.
Kristen Kruger
            Kristen Kruger, a mixed media artist said, “I am excited to be able to apply what I learned in this class to the things I already do and can't wait to get my own tools.”
            To see some of what is for sale to benefit Hart’s Comfort House go to or, better yet, visit the Little Gallery in person. Programs offered by the Allegany Arts Association are always listed at Hardman will help people make aluminum can flowers at the Cuba Library on July 19 under their Community Arts Program.

Elaine Hardman's Sunrise Chicken
Elaine Hardman's Splashy Chicken