Another great day in Portland. Woke up buzzing from last night’s open mic.
First stop, breakfast with Ezra Ace Careaff, local music editor for the Portland Mercury and owner of indie label Slowdance (home of the Velvet Teen). I continue to be inspired by the entrepreneurs who have started these labels. 50/50 joint ventures. It’s the future model for indie music.
Spent a fascinating couple hours with Bob Price, music teacher at the local DaVinci Arts magnet school. I knew we were in for an interesting conversation when he told me the first record he heard, at age 11, was Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. Grew up in the Amoco-funded arts mecca of Dallas Ft. Worth, TX in the 70’s, where he dove straight into experimental improv on the clarinet. He has had a long career in academia, and has witnessed the gradual decline in funding for music education. This is truly one of the great tragedies of today – the gradual dissappearance of music programs in youth education.
In his effort to interest his kids in jazz, he recently created a big band arrangement of System of Down’s BYOB (Listen Now). I got a great kick out of this – one of my greatest complaints about music education at all levels is the unwillingness of teachers/departments to accommodate the relevant interests of kids, and use that to draw them into theory. I think it’s the reason there is so little collaboration between rock musicians and classical musicians. Which if you ask Paul, John, Ringo and both Georges, has its benefits.
Spent the afternoon with Christopher Cooper, founder of Cavity Search (who had the honor to release Elliott Smith’s first solo record Roman Candle)- a true music fan. Had a great conversation with Connie Wohn who that very day had been the subject of a front page profile in the Oregonian life section on “queen’s of portland rock”. A long time booker of DJ’s, she clearly brings a passion for music. I was really jazzed about a program she works with called “Rock N Roll Camp for Girls” – a 6 year old program for 6-18 year olds to empower women through music. It sounds like just a fantastic program. They don’t even need to have played an instrument. The kids form bands, write a song, rehearse it, and record it – all overseen by a steady stream of female rocker role models. Can’t say enough about how valuable this is (see previous paragraph on the decline in education funding).
Topped the trip off with a magical evening at Millenium Records. About 70 people showed up for a lively conversation about digital music and the future of radio (with Peter Carlin and Rick Emerson – thanks gents). A very engaged audience, including folks currently working in radio from all sides. One emerging thesis was the need for terrestrial radio to localize more. Thanks again to owner Terry Currier and his crew (pictured here holding their favorite obscure disks for the genome). Their hospitality was a reflection of the whole trip.
Final thought – after spending two days talking with music fans, I’ve come away even more convinced of the transformative power of music. One thing I noticed about all the music fans a ran across – they all look much younger than their years. Something we should all contemplate…