Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fabulous Studio Band - Seattle, WA - June 2009

Fabulous Studio Band plays for appreciative Seattle audience
June 15, 2009 9:44 PM

(Photos by Esther Avila)
SEATTLE — Porterville’s Fabulous Studio Band continued to entertain young and old alike Monday afternoon when they performed at the Seattle Center in Seattle during the seventh day of their three-state Pacific Northwest tour.
The band, under the direction of Jim Kusserow, left Porterville June 9.
“This band has performed all over the place. They’ve performed in just about every U.S. Air Force base you can think of, before the U.S. Senate, the White House and Hawaii,” Kusserow said to the crowd gathered at the food court of the Seattle Center House. “We travel a lot, always at no cost to the students.”
The audience responded favorably by cheering, whistling and clapping heartily as the band opened with “I Remember Basie” and continued with “Hello Dolly,” “Georgia on my Mind” — featuring Clark Keele on tenor sax — and “It’s Almost like being in Love,” a number which featured George Andrade on trombone and Kusserow on trumpet.
Ernie and Kathy Lassman of Seattle said they could not resist getting up to dance as the band played “Moonlight Serenade.”
“We have heard a lot of big-band music and we must say, this band is great,” Ernie Lassman said. “They are top notch. We have enjoyed listening to them.”
But big-band music was not all the band played. They also treated the audience to a few contemporary numbers from Chicago; K.C. and the Sunshine Band; and Earth, Wind and Fire.
Sitting in the audience was the McMaster family from Porterville.
“Today is my birthday,” Dawn McMaster said. “What a great way to spend my birthday. We flew into Seattle yesterday and met up with the band in Port Angeles.”
The tour is the family’s last opportunity to see her two sons, Kyle and Kory McMaster, perform with the band, she said. The boys, recent graduates of Porterville High and Porterville College, are heading to Azusa Pacific University in the fall.
Also in the audience was a young woman with two children. The three tapped their feet and danced in their seats as the band played.
“I’m their nanny,” said Shanda Gimbel of Seattle. “We were having lunch here and the music started and the children started dancing like crazy. This was great. I loved it. Big band is still a timeless sound and it is evident that it appeals to all ages. We all loved it.”
The Fabulous Studio Band continues its tour with a performance in Everett, Wash.
All photos by Esther Avila

Fabulous Studio Band - Everett, WA - June 2009

Fabulous Studio Band continues Pacific NW trip
Tour: Oregon, Washington residents treated to band sound.
June 18, 2009 10:05 AM


(photos by Esther Avila)

EVERETT, Wash. — Members of the Fabulous Studio Band are on their way home from their three-state, 2,869-mile Pacific Northwest tour. They are scheduled to return Friday evening.
The band left Porterville on June 9, and has played in numerous venues in Oregon and Washington.
Tuesday evening they kicked off a summer concert series for the city of Everett, Wash.
With the harbor as their backdrop, the band entertained a large crowd with their big-band and contemporary numbers.
“I was walking by and saw them setting up and I just had to stop,” said Larry Wold of Everett. “I enjoy the big band sound. This group sounds pretty good.”
Estelle and Charles Spaulding of Mill Creek, Ore., said they attended because they heard that big-band music was on the schedule.
“It is our first time here. We enjoy concerts like these — and being out here in front of the waterfront — you can’t beat that.”
It was a sentiment expressed by several in attendance. While some dined or enjoyed a drink from restaurant patios, others brought lawn chairs and blankets and sat on the lawn.
Jordan Donato, 2, could not sit still. The toddler hit the dance floor every time the band played.
“She has always liked to dance. I don’t think she can resist it,” said her mother, 23-year-old Alexandra Donato. “We come often — whenever my mom invites me. I’m enjoying this. It is different from what I usually listen to, but it’s lovely.”
As the band continued to play big-band hits, couples danced. Judging by the hearty applause, they loved it.
“We play all over the country,” said band leader Jim Kusserow. “And next June, some of these kids will be playing at Carnegie Hall when we take the band to New York.”
George Sandia, 62, of Everett, applauded and cheered as the band played “New York, New York.”
“They play so well,” Sandia said. “I can see them playing at big cities. But I’m glad they came here — and are playing for us.”
After its Everett performance, the band performed Wednesday evening in Oak Harbor, on Whidbey Island.
“What we are trying to do, besides keeping the big band sound alive and let people across America know that there are still bands out there performing this music, is recreate what it was like for a traveling big band — letting the kids know what is like to be in a performing big band, whether just traveling up and down the state or across the country,” Kusserow said. “Some of these kids might have aspirations to perform. This gives them a little cross section of all it takes. They learn to work together. Everyone has a job and everything gets done.”
Pianist Jerika Hayes and Suzy Napieralski, who plays clarinet and saxophone, agreed. It was the first band tour for both.
“Setting up has been easy,” Hayes, a junior at Porterville High School, said. “It has been a real unique experience. I wouldn’t say it has been hectic though. Everything has worked out perfect — like a well-oiled machine. We have always had enough time for our performances.”
It was not all work, however. The band’s members had plenty of time for sightseeing.
Band members sand boarded at the sand dunes in Florence, Ore., toured a music and sci-fi museum, visited a rainforest in Olympic National Park, and toured through Forks, Ore. — home to the popular “Twilight” books.
“I was able to tour a lot with [former band director, the late] Buck Shaffer and I am merely trying to pass on the great experience I had,” Kusserow said. “It has been a great reward for me to do so. It has been a great trip.”

Music in Porterville - Fabulous Studio Band and Sierra Vocal Arts - June 2009

Music in Porterville

By Esther Avila
Southern Sierra Messenger

There is no doubt about it – Porterville is a musical town, not only during the school year but year round. The music is everywhere – with elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as community groups, local bands and individuals performing with choirs, orchestras and bands.

One does not have to look far to find it, either. It is as close as the center of town.
“Music on Main Street” – sponsored by the City of Porterville and the Porterville Chamber of Commerce – continues at 6:30 tonight with Duggin’s Citrus Express taking center stage at Centennial Park. The concerts, which run every Friday night through the end of June, are free and open to the public. Centennial Park is located directly in front of City Hall on Main Street.
I also find it heart-warming that local musicians, such as the Fabulous Studio Band and the Sierra Vocal Arts Ensemble, are currently on tour – sharing their music with the world.
(photo by Esther Avila)
The Fabulous Studio Band, under the direction of Jim Kusserow, left Porterville Tuesday morning. The band is performing in Portland, Oregon tonight and Saturday night before continuing towards Seattle, and Whidbey Island in Washington. They will log more than 2,800 miles as they perform at numerous venues during their 10-day North West Pacific tour.
A small group gathered to see the musicians off. Among them was Dawn McMaster, mother of Kyle and Kory McMaster, recent graduates of Porterville College and Porterville High School.
“This is the last time they will be playing with the band,” McMaster said. “It has been an amazing experience for them. They have grown so much, in music, and as young men. They won’t be here next year. This is it. Both are attending Azusa Pacific next year. Both are majoring in music.”

The Sierra Vocal Arts Ensemble is also on tour. The community choir, celebrating their 20th season, left Thursday and will be visiting and performing in some of the most beautiful and historic cathedrals and churches of the world – London, Salisbury, Stratford-upon-Avon and Cambridge. They will also participate in a workshop with English composer John Rutter.
“There will be something for everyone. There is so much history within the area where we will be traveling that one can’t see it all,” said Fred Knutson, the ensemble’s founding conductor. “I do know that for many of our singers, having the opportunity to have a choral workshop led by internationally renowned composer John Rutter, will be the highlight.”
This is the ensemble’s first extended tour, said Sara Guinn of Hanson Travel Ideas of Porterville. Other than performances in Modesto, the choir has performed only in the Porterville area.
Guinn has arranged for the ensemble to visit many historically important sites, including Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, William Shakespeare’s birthplace, Winston Churchill’s burial site, Anne Hathaway’s cottage, and numerous museums and historic churches.
“We will be performing in some of the most beautiful and historic venues in the world. Salisbury Cathedral was built within a period of 38 years beginning in 1220,” Knutson said. “Imagine something built in the 1200’s that is as beautiful and functional today as when it was built. So much of the music we perform was composed for beautiful buildings much like that cathedral, it brings a singer so close to the original performance sound, which we rarely get to experience in our modern church buildings. Probably the most exciting part will be experiencing so much that’s new with the great friends I have in the Sierra Vocal Arts Ensemble. They are a dynamic group of people and I know that it will be fun to ‘ooo’ and ‘ahhh’ with them.”

Yes - I am still writing.

I started writing for Exeter Sun Gazette and for Southern Sierra Messenger - and I did freelance a couple of band stories for the Porterville Recorder.

Southern Sierra Messenger has been wonderful. I actually got my own column with them and my editor (not me) named my column "Esther Avila's Porterville."

My column has my memories about a Porterville moment and comments about a current situation, festival, or person from Porterville.

I've talked about meeting Buck Shaffer when I was 4-years old, the old kiddie wading pool at Murry Park, first day of school jitters, the fire pits at Taco Bell, ...... and other such memories.

I love having my own column.

I've also been writing all of the copy for a special publication for an upcoming apple festival. I've written a dozen stories and will spend most of the week as a photographer.

I love my job.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Update: September Skies

September 2009

“Now do you believe me?”

“No. I don’t. I mean, look at the sky. It’s almost perfect. Perfect blue September skies,” Hannah said, as she rubbed her arms.

She felt chills and she was sure she was trying to convince herself of something. Of what exactly, she wasn't quite sure.

She was glad Douglas didn’t notice. He was still looking up.
But suddenly he looked at her, his eyes serious as they locked on hers.

He had come to visit and had just spent the past hour explaining it all to her.

“Exactly. That’s the point. This isn’t 1970 anymore. Look around you. Something is not right. You can’t deny that.”

Truth was, she didn’t want to see it. She didn’t want to believe it. It was the kind of day that she remembered as a child – a day spent running barefoot through green grass, a day filled with sunshine and laughter. Days of laying on he grass, looking up at the contrails left by jets – wondering where people were going. She liked to make up stories in her head and occasionally traveled to far away exotic places with them.

The contrails – they were as fun to watch as watching the clouds – white, fluffy ones that looked like puppies chasing butterflies and bunnies hopping through rolling hills.

That memory was fading and it scared her. Whenever the sky looked blue, it was easier to believe that those days still existed. There was a certain tranquility about it.

But then the blue disappeared. It was gradual. Not everyone noticed. They were too busy.

For months, word was officially out – the chemtrails were real. And they had several reasons for existing. Most were composed of barium and aluminum oxide and used for the purpose of attempting to affect the climate by reflecting sunlight in the atmosphere. The result would reduce the world temperature and counteract the greenhouse effect.

But some people were not convinced that was their sole purpose. Some believed that the high-altitude spraying was done to affect human beings in populated areas. Others proposed a different chemical composition -- and a purpose unknown to the general public.

“That’s Douglas,” Hannah had thought to herself.

But whatever the reason, and whatever they were, the chemtrails in the prior months had been different and once someone learned to recognize them, they were simple to differentiate from normal contrails.

The chemtrails were thicker and extended across the sky – laid down in varying patterns of Xs, tic-tac-toe grids, cross-hatched and parallel lines. And instead of dissipating into the atmosphere, they expanded and within the hour would open into wispy formations, creating fake cirrus-type clouds.

As strange as days may have been, they remained basically normal – until September 10 of 2008. Then things changed.

That was when the “Big Band” collider – Large Hadron Collider – was fired up in Geneva, Switzerrland, and for the first time proton beams had circulated in the LHC’s main ring.

On September 19, the operations were halted due to what scientists said was a serious fault between two superconducting bending magnets.

At least, that was what was reported.

But many believed that was not the case, and the operations continued as 10,000 of the world’s best scientists and engineers collaborated.

It was confirmed when it caused a nuclear reaction in the center of a supermassive star, causing it to collapse upon itself.

The explosion formed what people had feared – a black hole with a gravity pull so strong it sent scientists scrambling to work together to find answers. They worked together and found the answer to keeping the hole from pulling the world into itself. But not before the darkness had engulfed three fourths of the world’s sky.

And just like that, the sky – or most of it – was gone.

For two weeks the sky had been dark. Gray at first. Gradually turning darker as more and more people held candlelight vigils in parks, churches, and street corners.

“It’s like the eye of a hurricane, isn’t it?” she finally said.

It was calm. And pretty. For a little while anyway. The storm had come through and settled. Or so a few people thought. The smart ones knew it was only a reprise. It wouldn’t last.

“End times” and “the end of the world” – people everywhere were preaching as they searched for answers.

But answers weren’t coming and people were panicking. Oh sure, they had said it before and had panicked before. It was a cycle. They got used to it and they moved on.

This time it was different and even Hannah couldn’t deny it – to herself. To others, she would.

And just as suddenly, a small blue patch appeared against the black sky. And it did not take long for the chemtrails to return.

“It will turn all blue again,” she said. “All of it.”

Douglas looked sadly at her. He wasn’t mad at her for not believing. He knew she was confused. A lot of people were.

“No,” he shook his head. “It won’t. You can’t live with blinders on.”

Hannah knew he was right. She just wouldn’t admit it. And Douglas knew she knew it. Or he thought she did. But every now and then, he wondered. What if she really didn’t know. What if she had really blocked it out. Was that possible?

“Yes. It will,” she said, interrupting his thoughts.

Sometimes you have to believe. When no one else does. You have to believe, she thought. Isn’t that how she survived all these years. Isn’t that what she had been telling herself?

Douglas looked sad as he placed his hands on her shoulders. He pulled her close and wished it weren’t so – but it was. He could feel her heart beating fast. She was scared, that he knew.

He kissed her head before gently turning her around.

“Look. Please,” he said. “Does that look normal to you?”

Hannah knew he was right but she wouldn’t dare admit it.

(This is still only an excerpt - and I recopied this story here because the other had links attached and I did not want to disable those.)