Happy New Year - a 2010 wrap up of sorts ;)

Greetings and Happy New Year! It’s that wonderful time of year, that week between Christmas and New Years, neither of us is working and so we finally have a chance to catch up on things, including our yearly holiday letter.


We’ve had a pretty amazing year so it’s hard to know where to start so I guess I will just touch on some of the things we’ve been up to.

We are both still working part time at Harold Washington College (HWC) as the college music tutors, we split the 40+hour/wk job. The hours are very flexible with our gigging schedule and helping the students (who can range in age from 17 - 65+) learn and appreciate music is extremely rewarding to both of us. This year we moved from having a desk in the music computer lab to having our own office, which we’ve decked out with all sorts of “musical” cards. We get a lot of non music students stopping by our room to ask questions just because of all the colorful cards on the wall. HWC is part of the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) and has the largest music offering of all the CCC schools. Because of the ever growing need for rap artists in the world and the ever expanding recording studio at HWC our particular department has been growing by leaps and bounds. This last fall the music department grew by 200+ music students!

Gigging has treated us both well. Mick is still working with his main band, Lynne Jordan and the Shivers. The group traveled to Kansas City, Denver, and Ottawa Canada this year in addition to all the amazing places they get to play at here in the city. Mick also reunited with Sam Winch, The Lullabadeer. You might recall that name from a few years ago when Mick was deeply involved with the group, touring to New York and working on Sam’s newest album, Sam Winch- Senator! Well the album is out and not only is Mick playing on it but he arranged the majority of the horn parts for the album. I even make an audio appearance on the track, “Sparrow” ;) You can listen to the tracks and buy the album at: Sam Winch, SENATOR!

Speaking of albums, about the same time Mick was working on SW’s album I was working with Millar Brass on their first album release in 10+ years. It took some time to get the permission to record some of the songs, then there was the mixing and editing and of course the album art-but we finally got it done! In January 2010 our album, In Memoriam, was released and so far it has been very well received by the brass community across America. I am especially proud of this album, not because I played on it or that I did all the graphics (my Mom took the cover photo) but because the groups performance sounds amazing and the arrangements are some of the best I have ever had the privileged to play. You can check out more about the CD at the Millar Brass site: Millar Brass Website

For myself much of this year was a blur. When I wasn’t working at HWC I was at home in my studio practicing for several auditions...I spent most of January and February in that little room...when I wasn’t sequestered practicing I was working with Mick on various projects through out the house and when we weren’t working on the house I was far away from it, usually in another state! I spend a lot of my time on the road traveling to Michigan and Indiana where I play with local orchestras. This year I spent even more time on the road as I was called suddenly to join the 3 month North America tour of Star Wars in Concert (SWIC). I had about a week to get everything I would need to be on the road for three months and travel thru three countries! The production itself was amazing. Think Rock and Roll concert with lasers and smoke, an orchestra, and Anthony Daniels as narrator (yeah that’s C-3PO I’m talking about) and you have one pretty awesome concert;) I had several family members and friends attend the show and most quite honestly were not Star Wars fans in particular but they all had a great time and expressed interest in watching all 6 films after seeing the show! For me it was so much more than just an awesome show that I got to be apart of (I play through the pieces still every now and then, the music is just sooo good!) but I got to see America from a bus...and it was amazing! I got to see and visit some places I had always wanted to go to...and now never want to see again (Vegas for example) and I got to experience cities I never had a desire to see and can’t wait to get back to (Austin, Vancouver CA, and Philly for example). I caught up with more friends than I can list, the joke on the bus was that I somehow knew someone in every city...Mom always did call me a social butterfly ;) But I also met up with every single member of my immediate family! I saw my cousin Chelsey first off in Estero, FL. In Fresno, CA I had a whole slew of family make a little trip to see me and the show...my sister Andi and her husband Scott, kids Alex, Scotty, and Austin, and Andi’s mom Linda, our grandma Betty, cousin Doug and I even saw my Dad Mike and his family. I hadn’t seen my Dad in almost 24 years (I don’t really count Melissa’s funeral). My Mom flew down to see the show in Green Bay,WI, it was a quick trip, I think two nights...but she got to see the show, tour backstage and meet Anthony Daniels so it was pretty cool. And last but not least I met up with my brother Roger and his wife Dawn and their kids Lindsay and Ryan in Richmond, VA, that was a fun and much needed visit with them...I had been on a bus with out AC for a few days at that point and in addition to seeing their dream house completed (I saw it framed out a few years prior) I was treated to a home cooked meal which was nothing short of awesome.

Mick came and saw the show twice, once in Corpus Christi and again when I played principal in Grand Rapids, MI. Towards the end of the tour we spent about two weeks here in the midwest and Mick drove all over just to spend some time with me while I was sort of close to home. He took great care of me as well as I got pretty sick there for a week or so while close to home. The most memorable visit with him though was when the tour landed in Milwaukee, WI after having been in Canada for two full weeks. We arrived at the Milwaukee International Airport on July 2, our 10 year wedding anniversary...10 years can you believe it!!!!!!! We had planned to spend the whole weekend together on tour as SWIC was headed just to Green Bay but Mick got called to go to Ottawa Canada just as I was returning so we had one day/night together so he met me at the Milwaukee airport to drive me to Green Bay but he surprised me and showed up dressed as a chauffeur, carrying a sign reading “Horn Star” and when I walked to the car (in front of the whole rest of the tour as we were waiting for our buses) he gave me 10 white calla lilies, dropped to one knee and re proposed to me...it was all very sweet and somewhat embarrassing but I got over it pretty quick when I saw what he was handing out to me, a Tiffany diamond engagement ring;) It was a gift Mick had talked about getting me for years but I never thought he’d do it..it is gorgeous. Mick was in Green Bay with me long enough to enjoy a nice dinner and to pick my Mom up from the Green Bay airport before he had to run back to Chicago to catch a flight to Canada. All in all the tour was just an amazing experience. The music, the sights, the friends...I could babble on all day about what a great time I had but that is why I took notes and wrote (still catching up though) a blog about the whole experience...you can read about the adventures I had during the first month on our BLOG. I hope to finish all my adventures soon so I have a clean slate when the tour heads back out :)

A few weeks after SWIC ended Mick and I took a short trip home to Alaska. We hadn’t been home for a vacation in years and it was nice for me to go back with out having to attend a funeral or help my Mom after having neurosurgery. Instead we helped my Mom finish moving...that’s right she moved to a cute town house right in downtown Anchorage. It was so great to be able to walk downtown to eat and shop. While home we got to go to the Alaska State Fair for the first time in over ten years and we took a K-2 Aviation flight seeing tour over Mt. McKinley, it was AMAZING! We had the most perfect weather especially considering that Anchorage experienced record rain fall this summer, I think they had 30+ consecutive days of rain!

As usual we had several house guests this year. From Alaska we had Rina and Andy - both were friends of ours from as far back as elementary school and my Mom came down on her way to and from Ireland, though I didn’t get to see her here as I was already on tour. My cousin Kortnie also stopped by one afternoon on her way back to Anchorage from a seminar she was in Chicago for. This fall my cousin Gideon came out to run the 2010 Chicago Marathon. His girlfriend Tiffany came as well as his Mom, my Aunt Debbie. We had a fun time running around Chicago cheering him on through out the race. It was one of the hottest races on record! It had been fifteen years since I had seen Gid and Deb, the last time I saw them was 1995 so it was really fun to catch up with them.

It’s been an incredible year and we are looking forward to all the coming experiences 2011 will bring us. We hope to see you all in person in the coming year. Drop us a line about what you’ve been up to and please never hesitate to stop on by Chicago for a visit!

Mary Jo and Mick

Audrey and Leroy

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