I’m honored and excited to be singing TONIGHT with Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia in our debut concert of the season (that would be our 145th season, for the record! Not to brag…) in the stunning space of the Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square.
It’s a concert featuring a moving and exciting range of American music on the theme of water, including music by Leonard Bernstein and Eric Whitacre that is variously soothing, exhilarating, hair-raising, and sublime.
But I think the most exciting music for me is the series of works by Philadephia composer Rollo Dilworth, commissioned by Mendelssohn Club. They span a number of styles, emotions, and textures, but on the whole, they consistently make me smile and want to move! (particularly the more directly gospel-inspired pieces). We’ll be joined by a beautiful children’s choir comprised of kids from all over Philadelphia, as well as a true rhythm section for these ones. Set to the text of a beautiful and profound 1904 speech by W.E.B. Du Bois, Dilworth’s Credo combines our choir’s voices with those of the kids in a way that is truly moving and rousing, and which makes Du Bois’s text seem as relevant and forward-thinking now as ever.
OK, there's still more to this exciting program, but I’m running out of effusive, positive adjectives, so I guess I should stop. But come out and hear us if you can! If you buy tickets online, you can get a 15% discount by using the code “MCSinger2018”.
Our spring term piano recital is coming up tomorrow, Sunday, June 10 at 1:00 PM. We'll be sharing music together at Friends' Central School's Shallcross Hall, in Wynnewood, PA. Please invite any and all friends and family! No tickets are required. The recital will be followed by a brief reception.
Well, a little over 4 months later, I am hereby submitting my second “weekly” blog entry! As some of you know, I often get perfectionistically bogged down in how I’m going to do something (write a blog post, compose a piece, make a sandwich) just right, and, as more time passes and the pressure to do it even righter grows and grows, I often just give up and don’t start.
Well, not this time! I am going to write this damn blog entry, by golly, even if it’s just a semi-stream-of-consciousness bullet-point list. A lot really has been going on in my world here in Philly, and I do want to share it with all of you.
Free show Friday night
First and foremost: I’m playing a show this Friday, 3/23! (Yes, that’s tomorrow -- no, I’m not going to let my perfectionistic shame stop me from writing this for that reason.) I’ll be performing some of my original songs at the intimate Candelit Series in West Philly. This will be my first such show since moving to Philadelphia last August (and, incidentally, my first show in Philly since my Northeast tour back in 2012). As the name implies, this is an intimate series of concerts with...candles! It seemed like the perfect venue for my music, and a perfect way to light a fire under me to brush up some of my songs and get back into performing in this vein.
The show is free/donation, but because space is limited, you need to reserve a ticket through the Eventbrite. Doors open at 7:30 PM, music starts around 8:00 PM. I’m up first, followed by Philly band Black Horse Motel -- I don’t know them personally, but I’m looking forward to hearing ‘em! Check out the Eventbrite page for all the details. There's also a Facebook event if you want to RSVP and share that way.
OK, I’m already rapidly running out of words here in my 700-word-count goal, so here goes a rapid-fire list of recent highlights:
OK, I’m already well over that 700-word limit, even after lots of cutting, but, oh well. Believe it or not, there is more exciting news to share, but I will have to save that for my next blog entry. Till then, happy spring from snowy Philadelphia!
On the road again
It’s been nearly a decade since I first struck out with the semi-harebrained idea of making my way in life with music at the center. In 2008 I left my hometown of Saco, Maine headed for Portland, Oregon. And in 2012, I drove back across the country to Maine, resettling in that Portland (yes, this has been the source of many a confused conversation!). Although I love Maine for countless reasons, I felt the need to try out life in a big city again, with the greater diversity (and plain quantity) of people and musical opportunities it offers.
So now, ten years and two cats later (Toni Scratchton and Ding-Dong, in case you were wondering), I’ve returned to Philadelphia, where I also lived around my time studying music at Swarthmore College. Though Maine -- and Portland, in particular -- is a truly vibrant and special place for its size, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a small pool, for better or for worse, and it seemed like the right time to try a bigger one.
Starting at square one in a new town
So, this is essentially my third big move as an independent music professional, working to build up a livelihood and a reputation from square one. I feel like I know a bit more about how to navigate this tricky process, but it’s certainly not easy. For me, it can be an adrenaline-rushing adventure at one moment -- pounding the pavement to put up lesson flyers, an American dreamy-y, scrappy can-do attitude springing my steps -- and a somewhat frustrating one at others.
I’ve already been enjoying some great opportunities to play piano, sing, and teach music, though
I’m putting my skills as a pianist, singer, and educator to work all at once in my new role at Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, just across the city line from Philly. I’m glad to continue working in Quaker education -- a tradition I first encountered as an undergraduate at Swarthmore -- and to work with a great group of kids as Associate Director of Vocal Ensembles. And I’m constantly learning from the other dedicated faculty members at FCS.
I’m also honored to serve as a Visiting Instructor in Piano at my alma mater, Swarthmore College. It’s been an exciting challenge to craft engaging and effective courses of study in piano for these bright young adults, most of whom are taking lessons for the first time. I’ve found my experiences with teaching piano and voice to adult beginners and my work as a Spanish teacher to be equally relevant to this work. Music, truly, is a language just like any other, and so the same principles that animate effective language teaching -- providing immersive, appropriately challenging, and personally meaningful experiences with the language -- have also animated my work with these students.
Zach Zaitlin Piano Studio takes West Philly! (do you get the Muppets reference?)
My private teaching studio, located in the University City neighborhood of West Philly, is also off to an exciting start. As fate would have it, I currently have an all-adult studio, including one composition student from Maine who chose to continue lessons with me remotely via video -- a first for me! I’m eager to get to work with more kids and teens as well, though. So, if you know of anyone looking for great instruction in keyboard, voice, composition/songwriting, or music theory in the Philadelphia area, please send them my way! My studio is easily accessible by public transportation, easy for parking, and also a quick drive from many communities in Delaware County and Montgomery County, including the Main Line. Oh, and I offer a free first lesson/interview.
I’m doing other stuff, too
Apart from teaching, I’ve been doing some other fun stuff -- singing in the excellent Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia chorus, doing my best Rocky impression on long runs through the city, enjoying all the Ben Franklin statues, etc. But I’ll have to save that for another time. The internet says good blog posts are 300-700 words long so I must tamp down my verbose proclivities here!
Happy Thanksgiving, all!