Thursday, October 12, 2006

Greetings - The Inaugural Blog

Greetings and welcome to my blog, which will focus principally on what's happening at Spivey Hall from my perspective -- that of Executive & Artistic Director. I was honored and delighted to receive this appointment, following a national search, on October 1, 2006. Previously, I'd served as Acting Executive Director after founding Executive & Artistic Director Sherryl Nelson retired in June 2006, and as General Manager & Assistant Director when I joined the Spivey Hall staff in October 2004.

This blog is my first, and the first for Spivey Hall, too -- something of an experiment. I have several goals for it.

First, there's a great deal of information about artists and programs that we can't fit into a brochure published many months in advance of our concerts. Plus, there's news about them that happens throughout the season. Blogging seems like a practical and timely way of getting the information out to people who care to read it, without overloading Spivey Hall patrons with email messages, or having to make significant updates to our website ( every day.

Second, I hope what I and others post might enrich our experience of what happens at Spivey Hall, stimulating dialogue among people who may attend concerts here, participate in our educational programs, listen to Spivey Hall performances on WABE or National Public Radio's Performance Today, or are just curious about one of the nation's leading fine-music venues. The blog may occasionally contain other more general musings on what's happening in classical, jazz and/or world music.

Third, I hope to learn more about people who come to Spivey Hall -- what they experience, what they like and don't like, what they think. In the course of our concerts, which take place most weekends from mid-October to mid-May (with some holiday breaks inbetween), I do talk with many concert-goers before and after concerts, and at intermission. I attend almost all of our 120 major presentations each season, but can't always speak with everyone I'd like to. This blog can be a chronicle of the season, which in turn can lend perspective to my experience here, as well as to that of others.

Fourth, I look forward to responding to questions and comments about Spivey Hall, and the musicians and music we present here, from The World At Large, should they be asked or made. Depending on the activity the blog generates, I may or may not be able to respond to every post. I probably don't need to, especially if others pitch in with their comments. There are many loyal and knowledgeable fans of Spivey Hall who attend concerts here regularly, are members of the Spivey Hall Children's Choir Program, or hear our concerts on the radio. If I don't have the answers, most likely one of them will -- or I can try to find someone who does. I'll try to respond to comments and post new things myself as frequently as I can.

I'm a novice blogger, and don't (yet) spend time reading other blogs, so I'm not familiar with current blog protocol or fashion. Nonetheless, I intend to observe some self-imposed blog rules.

1. Courtesy and civility are important to me. People are passionate about music they love (and don't love). Tastes vary widely. Emotions can run high. All this is fine. In music (and art and life), opinions will differ, as will levels of knowledge and degrees of experience. I intend through my comments to respect the sincerely-held and carefully-expressed views of others, and hope readers who want to join in with comments will do the same.

2. What I post on this blog I would say to anyone, including the artist who performed the night before, or the patron who is (or isn't) happy with something that happened at Spivey Hall. Truth is good, but so is consideration for the feelings of others.

3. I'm not here to "tell all," gossip about people, or speculate. I do, however, think that some "insider information" can be very illuminating -- especially when it reflects enthusiasm for and knowledge about music and musicians, or explaining why Spivey Hall does or doesn't do something.

4. I am here to reflect on what's happening at the Hall and with the artists we're presenting, what I'm hearing, what I'm liking, what we currently do, and what directions we'll be taking in the months and years to come.

Doesn't all of this sound rather formal and serious? It needn't be... ("Lighten up, Sam!") Most musicians have a joke or two up their sleeves, and my excellent Spivey Hall colleagues have a very healthy sense of humor, especially when the caffeine and chocolate (both consumed in abundance here) kick in. I invite them to participate as well.

Okay...enough of the Spivey Hall Blog Manifesto. I write this on the eve of the opening of Spivey Hall's Sixteenth Season. The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet and the amazing Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza will perform tomorrow night (Friday, Oct 13 at 8:15 PM) to a sold-out house -- which is a fantastic way to get the season started. We're going to have fun during this concert -- the LAGQ never fails to please, and they're a favorite ensemble here -- and then there's a dessert reception for everyone afterwards, courtesy of the Spivey Foundation. The high-energy Eroica Trio performs on Saturday night (tickets still available, with a free pre-concert talk an hour before the concert starting at 7:15 PM -- come enjoy the wild ride of Paul Schoenfield's Cafe Music in addition to piano trios by Beethoven and Dvorak), and the trio led by celebrated jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller makes its Spivey Hall debut on Sunday at 3:00 PM (good seats available). (Okay, I'm going to make a few sales pitches now and then, too.)

Future postings probably won't be this long. (Already I feel this blogging thing could get addictive fast!) Please let me know what you hear, what you experience, and what topics you might like the blog to explore.



Blogger John Cooledge said...

I'm delighted that you will be blogging, and have already bookmarked you.
John Cooledge

1:22 PM  
Blogger Irene McCullough said...

Congratulations, Sam, from the Atlanta Balalaika Society! We love your blog, and shall visit often, frequently sipping coffee with our chocolate!

1:23 PM  
Blogger Thomas D. Watry said...

Congrats, Sam. Welcome and please know you already have a boatload of loyal supporters!

Tom & Anne Watry

6:58 PM  
Blogger Momto2 said...

Congratulations! As the Mom of a Spivey Hall Children's Choir member we are so thankful for Spivey Hall's Education program. It has enriched my daughter's life so much. I look forward to reading your blog - has anyone warned you blogging can be addicting? :)

9:04 PM  
Blogger suzanne shull said...

Sam, congratulations! Your blog and your involvement with our teacher workshop this summer show that you will be a hands-on manager.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Scott said...


Thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful and talented Eroica Trio last evening. Spivey Hall was built for music such as theirs. And thanks for creating the blog! What a great idea!

Scott Shearer and Conrad Zimmer

3:30 AM  
Blogger LaPartera said...

I hope that you will consider booking some early music groups, especially recorder and vocal groups. This year's calendar doesn't offer much for those of use who prefer music prior to 1700!

9:44 AM  
Blogger Jorge Vilanova said...

I repeat my congratulations to your appoitment. I expected it.
I attended the LAGQ and the Eroica.
Both excellent. My only (slight) negative comment was the use of amplification. Maybe the vocalist needed it (I doubt it) but in this hall I think amplification is superfluous.
Looking forward to future concerts and to the blog.
Jorge Vilanova

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Patricia Turmel said...

Mr. Dixon,
I want to thank you for your complimentary critique of the Spivey Hall Honor Treble Choir concert. My daughter is an 8th grader and performed in that event. All the participants displayed an electrifying and contagious enthusiasm, brought out in them in great part by Emily Ellsworth. I know my daughter will always remember this wonderful experience which taught her that hard work and practice do bring the reward of appreciation and enjoyment from the audience and a sense of self-achievement. I also want to make sure you know that Ms. Amber Dimkoff is an extremely experienced, courteous and helpful member of your organization. She helped make this concert an unforgettable event for all involved. Sincerely,
P. Turmel

7:03 PM  
Blogger P. Turmel said...

Mr. Dixon,

Are there any plans for Spivey Hall to videotape any Honor Treble Choir concerts in the future? Since audience members are not allowed to film or to take photographs during performances (which is very understandable), I am sure some would appreciate a visual memento from that special day. I think that a video CD would be a great addition to the audio CD that is already available. Thanks for considering this idea!

7:13 PM  
Anonymous michael Tanner said...

I am so delighted that your appointment has become a reality. I can't think of anyone more qualified to carry on the traditions begun by Sheryll. I look forward to seeing concerts in the upcoming seasons, and beleive me, I am not one to hesitate to let you know what I think of artists.
Congratulations !

3:19 PM  
Blogger Spivey Hall said...

Many thanks to all who have posted comments! I appreciate your good wishes and the great feedback on our concerts and events, as well as on the blog.

Early music at Spivey Hall (including music before 1700)is a significant topic for future planning. I'm a former recorder player myself (I did two summers of music camp in the Netherlands as a teenager) and love this literature. In the past, it's been a challenge for Spivey Hall to attract any sizeable audience for these performances, but I'm not resigned to the idea that we cannot do it, but it needs to be worked out artistically AND financially. If anyone wishes to underwrite early music concerts at Spivey Hall, please let me know!

Regarding recording the Choral Workshop performances with both audio AND video -- an idea indeed worthy of investigating for next year. We had Workshop concerts this year with special visual dimensions of the performance. The camera position would have to be static, but we might be able to capture the "big picture" as well as close-ups of clusters of singers.

7:34 PM  
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10:23 PM  
Anonymous Don'tMessWithReality said...

Please refrain from using amplification and making up excuses for it. There is no excuse for adulterating (spoiling or destroying you can call it whatever you like) the sound quality of an acoustic performance. If the sound has changed, it is not as good as the original, because nothing beats reality. You are being illogical, irrationally biased and frankly a bit thick for defending the choice of "reinforcement". Any loudspeaker sound is like throwing a pile of stinking trash on a pristine aural crystal.

4:46 PM  

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