from ASCAP’s Toastmasters Club to the Deems Taylor Awards

ASCAP Toastmasters ClubIt was with great pleasure that I recently accepted an invitation to be a guest at the ASCAP Toastmasters Club for an interview conducted by the cheerful club president Jo “Laurie King Live” Liu.

Toastmasters is a worldwide nonprofit organization whose goal is to improve communication skills by teaching its members how to speak more effectively in public and improve presentation skills; and they do so in a horizontal and team-work based environment. The conundrum (word of the day, that day) of speaking well in public without speaking as if you were speaking to the public, lead me to Toastmasters. After reading about it somewhere, in an attempt to improve my own public speaking skills to offer a better service at all the conferences I am speaking at, I had sought out what seems to be the only music-related Toastmasters club in NYC: the ASCAP one.

I was greeted by a very receptive and attentive group who welcomed me and was extremely cheerful and enjoyable to be around. One could tell that they are a very close team who probably works well together and tries to have fun while doing so.

In the picture you see (from left to right) Grammarian Adrian Ross (whom I asked for mercy, based on the fact that I am not a native English-speaker), General Evaluator Todd McKinney, Joy Wynter, Jokemaster and talented singer Nikki Blair (whose joke about a nerd in a strip club asking for a laptop I loved!), myself, Table Topics master Dana Thorpe, Greeter/Moderator/Toastmaster Lance Pope, Speaker Marshall Tarley (who gave a beautiful speech about change, touching on science, music and more), Richard Fairfax, Timekeeper Christopher Dobbins and Speech Evaluator Andrew Shreeves (who got me good with a trick question about Louis Armstrong playing his flugel trumpet). The lovable Jo Liu is not in the picture because she was busy pressing the shutter.

Indeed I had a great time at ASCAP and I hope to be invited back soon.

Before and after my “toasty” experience, I met with Senior Vice President Seth Saltzman (whose music I am looking forward to hear), Loretta Munoz (who every year does a tremendous job organizing the ASCAP Music Lounge at the Tribeca Film Festival as well as other Film Festival related music happenings) and Jim Steinblatt who does an amazing job at organizing special events such as the Deems Taylor Awards.

The 40th annual ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards took place yesterday at Jazz at Lincoln Center and was a great (albeit a touch lengthy) show to celebrate book, article and liner notes authors and publishers as well as radio and TV broadcasters: a very important award, given its nature and the fact that a lot of these formats are at risk of extinction in the current state of industry.

The ceremony included some peculiar performances, most notably a throat singer utilizing a singing technique described in the Béla Bartók Award winning book Where Rivers and Mountains Sing: Sound, Music and Nomadism in Tuva and Beyond by Theodore Craig Levin and Valentina SÏ‹zÏ‹kei (Indiana University Press) and a violin duet performance of a piece illustrating microtonality, written by one of John Cage’s students, Ben Johnston who wrote the honored book Maximum Clarity and Other Writings on Music (University of Illinois Press).

Personally, this morning I Amazoned (yes I am indeed pioneering the use of this verb, just as other people say “googled” or “fedexed”) three books that were honored at yesterday’s ceremony: Joe Boyd‘s White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s (Serpent’s Tail), Steven Mithen‘s The Singing Neanderthals: the Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body (Harvard University Press) and Lorraine Gordon & Barry Singer‘s Alive at the Village Vanguard: My Life In and Out of Jazz Time (Hal Leonard Trade Books). I am a slow reader (too busy, what can I tell you) but when I get through with these I plan to amazon myself (that’s right!) at least two more awarded book: the Debra DeSalvo book about the etymology of the blues lingo The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu, published (Billboard Books) and John Gennari‘s book about jazz critics Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics (The University of Chicago Press).

Also honored were several articles and liner notes. Amongst the articles, a few that caught my attention where Francis Davis‘s “The Singing Epidemic” (The Atlantic Monthly) and Ted Panken‘s “Smalls Universe” (DownBeat), the latter of which unfortunately I couldn’t find online (if there is a link I don’t know of please add it to the comments of this article).

Last but certainly not least (indeed it is the very why I attended in the first place), in the Television Broadcast category ASCAP honored American Masters – Les Paul: Chasing Sound, which aired on PBS and contains one or two scenes in which you can actually see my ugly mug, mixing with the much prettier Les in my studio, EastSide Sound. John Paulson, the capable director, accepted the award and to the delight and surprise of everyone introduced the unique Les himself, who told another one of his amazing stories (about how he came to New York) and even refrained from dirty jokes (strange indeed!).

A great event I was pleased to attend and that I hope will see many more editions.

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