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Local Buzz – Boston: What’s that in the water? It’s CODZILLA!

7 Sep

Last night my company had its annual summer staff outing, and it was a blast! As a quick tip for a fun thing to do on a sunny day, I introduce “CODZILLA!”

It’s a high-speed boat that fits about 130 passengers, and once you’re on-board they take you on a semi-informative / semi-silly (think a handful of history and a heap of corny jokes) ride through the Boston Harbor and beyond. Once you get out far enough, “Codzilla” goes super fast and pulls lots of fun turns, meaning almost everyone on board gets soaked! Don’t worry, they’ll give you ponchos if you ask!

It was about a 45-minute ride overall, with about 15 minutes of high-speed flipping around in the middle. For a large group, this was the perfect not-too-long adventure before heading to the bar. There were lots of children on board, too, but the little ones all ended up crying, so I wouldn’t recommend it for the younger crowd.

Cheers,

Nicole

Boston Harbor Cruises

1.877.SEE.WHALE (733.9425) or 617.227.4321

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ArtBeat, Boston- recap of a great weekend

24 Jul

Boston is the land of the Red Socks, the Tea Party that sparked the American Revolution, and my sister, Eve. I arrived Friday night after a long 7 hour bus ride from NYC (it’s only supposed to take 4). Saturday we woke up leisurely but excited for the migration-themed arts festival in Somerville we planned to attend, ArtBeat! At my job, I organize similar community events, although not to this scale, so I was curious about what’s happening in other cities and communities.

The smell of barbeque and brick oven pizza hit us almost immediately after we got off the train. ArtBeat runs along several streets and converges on Davis Square- where all the scrumptious foodstuffs were. Starving, Eve and I grabbed some gourmet hot dogs and brown sugar limeade (amazing!), and managed to find a seat in the shade. We sat next to some very nice ladies and chatted for a while about their upcoming travels and Somerville. One of the ladies gave us an excellent dessert recommendation, but more on that further down…

Hot dog- YUM!

After satiating our hunger a little, we took a lap around the festival. There were loads of artists selling their work, performances scattered throughout the day, and Somerville community organizations giving out information and talking about their work.  It was a beautiful day and the vibe was relaxing. Photographer Mike Ritter was taking free portraits, so Eve and I posed for a couple of shots.

Having some fun during our photo shoot….

Time for dessert (when is it not?!), we directed ourselves to Kick Ass Cupcakes, the dessert place our lunch buddy had recommended. The store name articulates exactly what I felt towards these cupcakes- they kicked ass! We bought three flavors, but the best by far was the “Green Monster.” Named after the famed Boston Red Sox, this cupcake featured a chocolate cupcake, with a chocolate beer ganache center, and green Sam Adams cream stout frosting garnished with cocoa nibs. Eve and I were sharing and we almost had an altercation over who would finish this delicious cupcake.

Kick Ass Cupcakes- note the Green Monster on the right…

Because I can never pass up a chance to samba and dance in unison with a large group of people, we hung around ArtBeat until SambaViva, a samba ensemble, performed. It was awesome! They had a bateria, a percussion band/drumline, carnaval dancers, and even taught the crowd some choreography. We worked up a sweat the best way possible: dancing!

SambaViva’s awesome bateria!

Sadly, ArtBeat only happens one weekend a year, but Somerville is a vibrant and diverse community that is definitely worth the visit, if for the cupcakes alone!

Cirque du Soleil “Totem” — Mind blown. Mind blown again.

13 Jul

My boyfriend and I went to see the Cirque du Soleil show, Totem, that is currently playing at the Boston Marine Industrial Park (right by the Harpoon Brewery) on Wednesday night. All I can say is, “Wow.”

It was set up in a huge blue and yellow tent right on the waterfront (sorry, I was too overwhelmed to get a picture of the outside!). Here’s what the reception/waiting area looked like inside:

There was a cool gift shop (I’m a huge sucker for gift shops) and everything was colorful and whimsical and fun. I didn’t purchase anything, but I did have fun trying on a few different masks and hats.

The performance was absolutely incredible. I wish I had more pictures to share with you guys, but photography was not permitted inside the tent, and besides, I was way too busy trying to raise my jaw up from the ground to think about taking pictures. Luckily, I was able to sneak a photo of the interior of the tent before the show started. It didn’t look nearly as incredible as it did later, but was still a fun set-up to get the audience amped up.

I’m still not sure what the theme of “Totem” was all about, because there was really a lot going on. The show included sparkly performers dressed as animals, disco balls, stereotypical Italians, clowns, Native Americans, and aliens. All the costumes were done with Cirque du Soleil’s signature style, and the effect was beautiful. Without giving too much away, I can safely tell you that this show includes all of the Cirque du Soleil essentials — over-the-top theatrics, silly humor, phenomenal stunts, dazzling visual effects, ladies on 6-ft unicycles, plenty of people flying through the air, and more bulging muscles than you can imagine.

All in all, we were blown away — well worth a trip to the Seaport! They’re still selling tickets for Totem, which will be in town until August 5th.

Enjoy the show — You won’t regret it!

Cheers,

Nicole

Cirque du Soleil – Totem

Boston Marine Industrial Park on the Waterfront

1-800-450-1480

Buy your tickets and learn more about the show here.

That’s nice, but what’s your real job?

9 Jul

Here’s some listening from one of my favorite pieces while you read, Daphnis et Chloé, suite no. 2 by Maurice Ravel.

It’s only fitting that my first post be about music and the lifestyle of a classical musician.  I find it difficult to explain my everyday life and this process of work to non-musicians, so I’d like to offer you a brief glimpse into the inner workings of my world.

Before I go on, I’d like you to read this article that pretty accurately describes the infinitely repeating method of working towards an audition. It will take you about 5 minutes, but it’s well worth it. I’ll wait here!

It’s a disturbingly common assumption that because music is a passion, it’s just a hobby to do on your downtime and not a ‘real’ profession. The same is said about visual artists, writers, and others who work an extremely specific and creative trade. (I suppose I’m something of a visual artist, as oboists are required to make our own reeds. Here’s an abridged description: I take a stick of bamboo, split it, plane it, gouge it, shape it, tie it and then scrape it so it’s thinner than paper and perfectly proportional to the .01mm. It’s a process that takes hours on end for a reed that will only last a few hours!). One of the main things we creatives have in common is our lack of income, i.e.“starving artists.” Why, though? In my opinion it’s an accessibility issue: when it comes to music, many young people think that classical music is for the old and stuffy. Meanwhile, the generation who DOES love our work is slowly dying, all of which lowers demand as well as our paychecks.

About 1/3 of my reed making tools, all that I could fit in my suitcase!

Back to the point, though. We work just as hard – some say harder – than professional athletes. We train for hours upon hours a day (recalling the article, the subject practiced for 14-20 hours a day, and scheduled meetings with his wife just so they could talk), often pushing through overuse injuries, all for a brief 1-2 hour period of intensely critiqued performance, which we then review and learn from for an improved subsequent concert. By the same token, if we blotch a solo or derail in concert, it haunts us for days or weeks, as we’re then constantly thinking about what we could have done better and how we let down the orchestra. Performance anxiety is prevalent throughout the musical community, and there is rampant use of beta-blockers to prevent nerves from interfering with execution.

My brother and I performing at my Masters Recital

The question I always get is: “why would anyone choose such a life?” To be honest, this is a good point.  With digitized orchestral music replacing live performance, why on earth would anyone subjugate themselves to a life of 10-hour practice days, intense stress, and low income? One great answer is the travel. I’m writing this post from the mountains in Aspen, Colorado, where I’m a musician at the Aspen Music Festival. Two months, multiple orchestras, and over 300 concerts! While here, I’ll play under world-renowned conductors and next to some of the best musicians in the world from top tier orchestras like the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra. The phrase “music takes you places” isn’t just an empty saying. Thanks to music, I’ve been to almost every continent, toured the most incredible countries, played in amazing concert halls, and enjoyed unforgettable experiences.

Breathtaking views every day in Aspen. Photo courtesy of panoramio.com

Then there’s the most obvious answer: because you love it. There cannot be any other reason other than you can’t imagine life any other way. The absolute rush of an orchestra knee-deep into an epic phrase is a reason worth waking up every day to brave the grueling work. And though we’re stressed out and poor, rather than working a dreary 9-5 and live only for the weekends, we get to explore the creative process and share a little bit of our souls with every performance. It becomes absolutely worth it.

This is my day job. Find me in the oboe section!

I hope everyone reading this has something that they wake up excited about! As Albert Einstein famously said, “Do what you love and love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

-Michelle

Local Buzz: 4th of July in Boston

6 Jul

Okay, okay — I know it’s July 6th, but bear with me. This Independence Day marked 13 years that I’ve been living in the United States, so I’m excited to share with all of you a little bit of Boston love for the 4th of July. To celebrate, my friend Abby and I headed into the city from Cambridge. (At this point I will quickly apologize for the terrible quality of some of these pictures — all I had was my iPhone!). The weather was beautiful (read: hot), so we decided to walk across the Longfellow Bridge (colloquially referred to as the ‘Salt and Pepper’ Bridge because of the big columns that look like giant salt and pepper shakers!). Check out our view of the city — what you can see in this picture is the quaint Beacon Hill neighborhood nestled in front of the financial district (and the stretch of trees down the waterfront is the Esplanade, where Bostonians gather every 4th of July to watch the fireworks).

Abby and I were accosted on the bridge by this funny trio of guys who insisted we weren’t dressed patriotically enough. To prove their point, they gave each of us a little flag and agreed to pose for a picture! They were definitely wearing enough red, white, and blue to make up for our stars-and-stripes-less outfits.

A popular activity for the 4th (especially when it’s so hot out!) is to enjoy the holiday hanging out on a boat on the Charles River. My pictures were taken about five hours before the scheduled fireworks and there were already a whole bunch of people on the water!

I was pretty surprised to see people swimming, since the Charles is not known to be the cleanest river (Remember those lyrics, “I love that dirty water…” – by the band “Boston” — Anyone? Anyone?). Yuck!

As many boats as there were on the river, there were even more people already lined up along the Esplanade. People tend to arrive early to ensure a good view of the fireworks, but this year it totally backfired! An unfortunately timed short thunderstorm forced the Boston Police and Firefighters to evacuate the Esplanade and also the riverbanks on the Cambridge side of the water, so all of those people lost the spots they had staked out all day… Bummer! Fortunately, the fireworks were only delayed and not canceled, so I hope most of them got to watch anyway.

Here’s a shot of the fireworks when they finally went off (not my own — I’m an old lady on the inside and was already asleep!):

Photo via The Boston Globe, credit to Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff – http://www.bostonglobe.com

I’ll end with a shot of the funny shirt my friend Caiti was wearing for the festivities — after all, the 4th of July is all about American pride 🙂

Happy 4th everyone! How did you all celebrate?

Cheers,

Nicole

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