Today is the Super Bowl. I am actually a big sports fan, but have never been able to embrace the charms of football.
So for me, this Super Bowl Sunday is a good day to do a short race (the Gridiron classic–lots of people in Giants and Jets shirts, as well as a few people of excellent taste in NY Rangers jerseys) and get some practice in
For “the Big Game” the temperatures here in New York have finally gone over the freezing mark. As in so many places int the country, we’ve had a rough winter. Of course, on all those single digit days I found myself checking the temperature in Madawaska (and yes, I have Madawaska, Maine bookmarked on the Weather Channel page) and have seen how much worse it is up there. Always a good 15 degrees colder.
Of course I have more then just idle curiosity about the weather in Northern Maine. Come March, Matt, Suzanne and I are heading north on tour.
This Winter/Spring seasons is our busiest ever. In January, we had our first annual benefit concert/party at Klavierhaus, here in midtown. We had a fabulous full house crowd. Sadly, Klavierhaus will be moving to a new location next year, but we hope to make this an annual event. Personally, I’m hoping to find a even nicer location with a view for next year. Our huge thanks to all the people who helped us, especially our board members Anne and Matthew, composer Scott Brickman, our hostess Bridget and Nicholas from Klavierhaus. Without everyone’s hard work, there is no way the night could have come off so smoothly.
In late February, we will be playing a small in-house concert at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. This concert will be presented primarily for the students there, in one of the beautiful new classroom overlooking the 9/11 memorial park. Next Spring, we will be playing in their brand new Shirley Fitteman Gallery, and that concert will be open to the public.
Then mid March we make the long trek north. We will be opening the University of Maine at Fort Kent’s Spring into the Arts Festival on Sunday, March 16. We’ll wend our way down state to Presque Isle and perform in the Weiden Auditorium at the University there on Tuesday, March 18. We’ll hit the road again and pending confirmation, play a lovely concert in central Maine on Thursday March 20. ( details to come, soon).
On Saturday March, 22, we’ll cross a few state borers and perform at the Arts in the Village series in Rehoboth, Mass. And the next day, March 23, we’ll return to the Empire State to play at the Henrick Hudson Free Libray in Montrose, NY. This concert was originally schedule for Fall 2012 but was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy.
After the tour, we will have a flurry of concerts around the five boroughs. First up, we’ll perform Scott Brickman’s French Suite at the National Association of Composers Concert at Christ and St. Stephen’s Church in Manhattan on Monday April 7. Two days later, we perform a free concert at the City College of New York, in Harlem. We intend to make afternoon concert in their Sheppard Hall a a regular event.
Finally, on May 17, we will be performing at the Queens New Music Festival 2014 in Long Island City. The program, which features all Living American composers, has Soprano Helen Gabrielson joining us to perform Songs of Schumann by composer Stefan Weisman and “Food” by Dag Ganrielson.
A big season! For details on all our performances, visit our In Concert Page. Better get some rest now!
One week ago, I ran the NYC ING (don’t forget that corporate sponsor) Marathon. It was an amazing and somewhat surreal experience. Going into it I had a few goals. I hoped to finish in under five hours, though I told myself I would be happy even if it took much longer. I really wanted to be able to walk home and up and down the three flights of stairs to my apartment and wanted (and needed!) to be functional the next day.
I actually did accomplish all of these goals. I finished with a time of 4:56:08. Had I not been so lazy on the bridges (Queensborough and Madison Aves.) I may even have come in sooner. After the finish I was able to walk without discomfort to the exit at 77th street, and then back down Central Park West to meet Matt at 63rd Street (did I mention that is another mile – not that I am counting!) and then make it through the crowds home to meet up with my mother and Suzanne. Got up the stairs no trouble, too.
The next day, I did have a little stiffness in my thighs but nothing major. Going downstairs – okay that wasn’t the best feeling ever, but still doable. By Tuesday I was sitting on the floor with my four year old violin students (and yes, I was able to get up as well) and by Wednesday morning, I was feeling great and was feeling ready to run. Yesterday, I returned to Central Park to do a nice easy 3 miles.
People keep asking me how the Marathon was, and I answer that it was great and it’s true. But on a deeper level, the whole thing was a huge learning experience. I learned so much about preparation, having realistic goals and a good plan to achieve them.
I’ve been running for many years. I started in 2000 and Suzanne was my first, and only, running instructor. While up in Maine, we would run those horrible hills on the Schoodic Penisula — no, that is not true: Back then, Suzanne would run the hills and I would watch her, and half walk, half jog. Man, do I hate hills! But she was, and still is, a patient teacher and I got better. When I decided to run the marathon, I talked to friends who had already completed it, read some books and looked at training plans on paper, but ultimately I was still have trouble sticking to a plan. Then in July, I got an email form NY Road Runners, offering their virtual online training plan. I wasn’t sure if it was worth it, but Matt thought it was and ultimately purchased it for me. Perhaps he sensed that I needed some serious running help.
The training plan was great. It set out a real progression over a four month period, gave feedback and maybe most importantly, had an online forum so you could interact with live human coaches and other nuts who were also training for the race. It was through the forums that I found the best doctor ever for my wonky knee, and learned about nutrition and body position.
In retrospect, training for this race was very similar to preparing for a recital. The first time you play a solo recital is a huge learning experience. There’s the planning: figuring out how to learn an hour and a half or more of music, often from memory, and having it all ready by a deadline. There’s logistics: even in school, you need to book the hall, make sure your program is submitted on time, advertise, hire a pianist — so many things. Then there are the nerves… You need to deal with your own expectations and those of the people around you. Much like running, there are no short cuts. You have to do the work and do it consistently and be realistic. If you can play a piece from memory, but stumble on it five times out of six, chances of stumbling in a concert are pretty high.
Now that the race is over, I am back focusing on trio details. In a way, we have our own marathon going. This is a very busy season for us. We have our annual concert at Tenri later this month, a fundraiser/showcase concert at Klavierhaus, near Carnegie Hall in Manhattan on January 17, a free afternoon concert at The City College of New York in late February and a tour of Maine in March. There is new music to learn and a thousand details for each of these projects to work out. It’s easy to be overwhelmed, but if we take it one step at a time, one mile after the other, we will get all things accomplished.
The summer rushed by and suddenly it is fall! Even though blogging has been slow, planning for the trios 2013-14 season and beyond have been busy.
We’ve been grant writing, booking concerts, updating our mailing lists and yes, rehearsing new repertory. More about that later. We’ve also been working to be more organized in how we run things.
I have to confess that I watch too much food based reality TV. Watch a few of these shows and you see that the biggest issue in running a restaurant are people who have no business experience. They kind of make their way through hoping that a good product is enough.
But it isn’t and that is true in the Arts as well. Just look at City Opera,which most likely will go into bankruptcy tonight and according to their general manager, won’t emerge. I grew up going to City Opera and while I may not have always enjoyed the experience as a young child, I knew it was part of our city’s culture.
Now it is on the verge of extinction. Lots of fingers are being pointed but the bottom line is bad fiscal planning and a lack of understanding of how to tap their fund raisers as well as their general audience is to blame. The nail in their coffin was leaving Lincoln Center, which alienated their audience base.
But back to reality TV, which is easier to deal with than actual reality. This summer, I learned that successful businesses have staff meetings, where you get the staff together and figure out what needs to be done and everyone has to be accountable.
We’ve always done this to some extent and certainly we have done it musically, but a mistake I think we have made in the past is tagging on “business” stuff to rehearsal time. These little conversations would come at the end or worse the top of rehearsal and eat into valuable rehearsal time.
So this year we are trying something new: Bi-monthly staff meetings, often via FaceTime, since getting together in person isn’t always feasible. And so far, I think it has been effective. It has definitely left our rehearsal time less disturbed.
So what are all theses meetings about. Well, I don’t want to spill everything at once, but of course our upcoming Tenri concert in November, where we will present the New York premieres of John Newell’s “…and nothing remains the same”, and “Conversations” by Australian composer Robert Davidson, as well as the world premiere of Randall Synder’s “New Ghost Tones”. We are also planning a special event at Klavierhaus, here in Manhattan, in mid- January. We have a March tour of Maine (mud or snow season, depending on how far north) and more! Keep an eye on our concerts page.
Also keep an eye out for Suzanne’s upcoming interview with composer Robert Davidson. I got a sneak peek and it is really an interesting view inside his life as a composer and musician.
One topic that does come up at our staff meetings is how intermittent the blogs are. Now that I have to be accountable, they should show up a bit more regularly.
Less then a week ago we were in Maine and I was worried that I would be cold at our concert in Machias. Having only brought sleeveless tops, and with temperatures in the 50s there was reason for concern. Now, in the 90 degree heat of New York, it is hard to believe that was real.
Our time in Maine was wonderful. Matt and I headed up early, as we were teaching at the SummerKeys program in Lubec, Maine. Officially, we were both on faculty, though Matt did the heavy lifting with eight students. I had a much more relaxed time, coaching a few chamber groups. Of course Matt put me, and eventually Suzanne to shame by getting up at 6 AM to practice.
Suzanne flew up a few days later and we spent the next week practicing, rehearsing, cooking and running. (Okay, no running for Matt, but more teaching.)
As those who follow our Facebook page know, Suzanne and I , along with composer Scott Brickman and 300 others ran the first ever Bay of Fundy 10k. Another 500 runners tried their luck on the marathon. With all the hills in Lubec, I was content to stick to the 6.2 mile run.
The run was fun. I’ve run many races in NYC, about 30 or so, and this one was both similar and different. Having always run for New York Road Runners, I was used to a very well oiled, organized machine. My biggest concern coming in was that things wouldn’t be well set up – there wouldn’t be enough volunteers, water stations and such. Also, I wasn’t sure if it would have he same sense of community I am used to. Here in NY, the smallest field of runners I’ve seen is about 3000, so 300 is pretty small. Thankfully I was wrong, as the organizers had things set up beautifully.
The morning of the race, Scott came over for some coffee and he, Suzanne and I headed over to the high school to get a bus to the start. One of the side benefits of this race was getting to know Scott a bit better. An avid runner himself, he was actually in town to hear composer, pianist John Newell perform one of his works at the SummerKeys concert that week. As luck would have it, we were performing one of Johns works during our summer concerts.
At the Lubec High School, I managed to demonstrate all my grace and charm by falling down hard on the cement floor in the bathroom. Nothing like getting off to a good start! Too bad I wasn’t wearing an Eight Strings T- shirt as one of our Board members had suggested.
At the start of the race, I taught Suzanne the most important skill I have learned in racing- get to the potty line fast! Much like racing in the city, here is where you meet many people and have some of the most interesting conversations.
Eventually we all made our way to the start and this is where my only real complaint comes- there was no real sound system. A man with a bull-horn, who apparently had no idea how to use it, was giving instructions. I made my way closer to hear – though others, accuse me of just wanting a better start position. I knew we were in real trouble when a women asked me “what the girl was singing” and I had to explain it was the Canadian National Anthem. (The anonymous young lady, sang well, if only minimally audible.)
And soon we were off. Having fallen on my butt only 30 minutes earlier I determined not to push, and soon I saw Scott go past me. I was pretty sure he was leaving me in his dust and figured I’d see him at the end.
Meanwhile, around mile 2 we started seeing people out front of their homes, cheering and banging on pots. Somewhere around mile 3 I overtook Scott. I still feel a little badly, as I didn’t say anything to him when I did.
The biggest challenge in the race, at least to me, was the final hill, a short one on Pleasant Street – short but very steep. Just the kind of hill I like to walk- but not this day, as I knew Matt would be at the top and I just couldn’t walk in front of him. Matt dutifully took pictures of me, Scott, Suzanne and our other friends.
At the final turn, John Newell was there, waiting for his son to finish the marathon. He told me if I moved I could get in under an hour and so I moved…and got in right at the 60 min mark. Scott was right on my heels and Suzanne who insists she runs slowly ran a great first race at 1:02. Go team Eight Strings & a Whistle.
This was the first time I have shared a race with my trio friends. In the summer of 2000 Suzanne taught me how to run, while we were playing concerts on the Schoodic Peninsula, and we have run together during summer tours over the years, but this was the first time we raced together. Adding in Scott, and a good violist friend who doesn’t like to be mentioned by name on the Internet and John Newell and his son (10th place finisher in the Marathon!) and all the SummerKeys students and Lubec locals we know, it was a truly unique experience.
On Tuesday night, Matt, Suzanne and I trudged over to W. 59 Street and 11th Avenue, in the rain and taped ” Minding Your Business” with June Middleton.
Minding your Business ( here after MYB) is a local New York Public access show about interesting small business owners. I assume that everywhere has their version of public access. Here in New York , Manhattan Neighborhood Networks has four channels devoted to it. The shows range from cultural and historic programming to educational and, well, things that are just not for family viewing. For a long time when someone mentioned public access TV to me, I thought of Robin Byrd or Ugly George. ( I am not providing links- if you are curious you’ll have to do a Internet search- but again, be forewarned. Not family viewing)
So when Suzanne suggested we appear on MYB I wasn’t sure what we were getting into. To back track, Suzanne had appeared on the show last year, with New York Women Composers.
The show itself is a half an hour long, and there are no commercials. The host, June Middleton, herself an attorney, has a wide variety of guests, but many, many of them are musicians. She has a very comfortable manner and she does her homework.
Before going on the show, Matt and I watched the video of Suzanne’s previous appearance. I tried to think what kind of things she would ask us. Maybe she’d ask about out recent 501(c)3 status. Or, about our use of social media. Maybe about dealing with presenters or how do three working musicians manage to book concerts in the first place. Maybe she’d ask us about selling a program of lesser known composers to presenters skittish about getting an audience in a bad economy,
I’m not going to reveal too many details of the show here, as I think you’d be better off watching. (It will be airing mid June here in New York and available on line too. As soon as we have info we’ll post it all). What I can tell you is this- TV studios are cold! Really, really cold. Now mind you right now as I type this in my apartment it is very hot, so cold is sounding good. But I think you’ll see when you watch it how cold we were.
I will also say that we performed three works on the show: John Newell’s “…and nothing remains the same”, an allegretto movement from a trio by CPE Bach and the final movement of Peter Jona Korn’s Aloysia Serenade
By the time we finished taping it was 11:15 – yes, PM. Afterward, we took ourselves out for a celebratory drink .
So I hope you all tune in and let us know what you think. June is a wonderful host and I was impressed by her skills and I think it will be a worthwhile thirty minutes of your life.
And no fears- this one is safe for the whole family.
Last Thursday, my cable modem died. It just stopped working. So after calling Time Warner cable and speaking first to a local customer service person, who was very nice and then to a “support person” somewhere in the Midwest, who quite frankly was useless, I took myself down to 23rd St. and got a replacement cable modem. (By the way TW customer service lady, East 23rd St is not in the Bronx!)
Problem solved! But no, it seems then that my router felt sad at the demise of its friend the modem and decided to commit router suicide. So after more wasted hours on the phone, I finally discovered that my two year old router was no longer entitled to customer service (Cisco generously offered to help me for a mere $29. Good to know they stand by their products). Thus, I went and bought a nifty new Apple Airport Express.
So problem solved! Well sort of. I had a little issue setting that up, but fortunately the nice people at Apple solved it right away. (Go Apple!)
But, after all this,my nifty wonderful wireless printer can no longer find our wireless network. So for the last many days I have wasted lots of lots of hours on the phone with Samsung. I’ll give Samsung credit — they are super nice, very responsive and they keep trying to help, but no matter what, my printer still does not respond. I’m sure I am listed in some file at Samsung as cray women in New York. I can almost hear it in their customer service agent’s voices- they think I haven’t connected the USB cable correctly or perhaps I don’t really own a computer? I can actually them hear sigh when I tell them I am running Mac OS 10.4- how do I manage with such outdated equipment?
It has been too long since I have written a blog and when I contemplate why that is I am confronted with the amount of time I have wasted on things like dealing with technology that 15 years ago I neither had or needed. Now, not being able to print student assignments or musical scores is a big deal. I hate that. I hate that things are obsolete only two years after purchase. My bow is nearly 200 years old and outside of rosin and rehairs it works just as well, if not better, then when it was made.
There are a lot of time sucks on-line. Some are important: booking concerts, finding music, applying for grants, while others are just fun or frivolous. That is life in the Twenty-first century. But the black hole of trying to make things work that just should work is the most frustrating to me.
Last night, I finally abandoned my printer woes to attend a performance of the New York Youth Symphony Chamber Music students at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater. Both Matt and Suzanne coach ensembles in the program. It was a really lovely evening. Across the board the students played well and while it might not have all been perfect, whatever that means, everyone played musically and with commitment. It was wonderful to see so many young students committing so much time and energy to produce beautiful and well crafted music. It was the perfect reality check. Today we had an excellent trio rehearsal as well, where we began working on our new summer program. Again, so good to focus on music and not looking at a screen.
So as I sit here typing away on my Ipad, I know that eventually I will have to confront the wifi/printer situation. But not tonight. I think I’ll just pretend it is 1985 for a day to two, and hope nothing pressing has to be printed.
I was taking a long run in Central Park today and realized I have not blogged in many weeks. So today I wanted to post this very, very short blog. The trio has been plenty busy, preparing for our Winter/Spring concerts – the first of which is this coming Saturday, March 2!!! We’ll be playing two brand new works, one by composer Michael Kibbe and the other by John Newell. Check out our upcoming concerts page at http://eightstringsandawhistle.com/in-concert/upcoming.html to find out about all our concerts.
A lengthier and more action packed blog coming very soon!!
2012 has been an interesting year. It’s difficult to reflect back and not be stunned by the incidents of overwhelming and senseless violence that have occurred. Additionally, there are the strange and horrendous acts of nature – since when do we get hurricanes in the northeast? Homes and lives lost to fire in Colorado and other strange weather occurrences. It’s a good thing there isn’t a problem with the climate. Could you imagine how bad it would be then?
In the arts there have been losses too. Major orchestras locked out or on strike for months on end. When they settle, it is for reduced seasons and reduction in pay and benefits. And with reductions in federal funding, arts in schools are also the first to be cut – You know what programs will go if we go over the infamous fiscal cliff? They’ll cut orchestra long before the kill sports programs. Don’t get me wrong. I love sports and feel they are an important parts of a school community, but so are the orchestra and the studio art classes. It shouldn’t have to be a competition to get the money to survive.
We’ve seen many great artists pass in 2012 as well. Dave Brubeck, Etta James, Whitney Houston, Ravi Shankar, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Ruggiero Ricci, Marvin Hamlisch, and Elliot Carter to name a few. On a more personal note, we say goodbye to Patricia Gilchrest, Leo Goeke and Isaiah Sheffer.
Of course, all hasn’t been terrible and overall, it has been a good year for Eight Strings & a Whistle, We finally became a not-for-profit organization and have started to write grants. We have a fabulous, if small Board of Directors. We had the opportunity to work with wonderful composers and premiere more new works, and we had the privilege to present these pieces for fantastic audiences. We’ve learned to usetechnology to both promote the trio as well as run it. (Surprisingly productive are our meetings on Facetime). And we have a few new exciting projects up the pike, as well as a few great new collaborations with composers.
So goodbye 2012. You were….interesting. Let’s see what 2013 brings.
Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. Generally I am not one to spend much time giving thanks on Thanksgiving. I don’t come from a family that sits around the table, holding hands, with each person offering up their list of things they are thankful for. It is not that we don’t care, it just hasn’t been something we’ve voiced publicly.
But this year I am feeling thankful and also grateful and lucky. Just a few weeks ago, the tri-state area was hit by Hurricane/super-storm, Sandy. Matt, I, Suzanne and her husband Winslow were all amazingly lucky. We live in parts of the city that never lost power. We didn’t have any flood damage and suffered no real loses.
Instead, we watched, as we saw friends, family and students plunged into darkness, forced from their homes, some losing everything. The majority of my students, who live on the lower east side, spent a week without power and longer without heat. (While power was up in about a week, it took nearly twice as long to get the steam lines going, not a small inconvenience with temperatures in the 30’s and 40’s.) Living and working without heat is not fun. Matt and I both teach in lower Manhattan at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, which was completely flooded in the storm. Amazingly, the school reopened a week later, but without any heat (but with a strange smell of bleach and mold). Trying to teach in the cold was difficult. Living and sleeping in it must be a nightmare. (To see some amazing pictures of the storm from lower Manhattan check out http://www.bmcc.cuny.edu/news/news.jsp?id=9129)
Of course there are so many people we know of who were without power for so much longer or who are still out of their homes, not knowing if they can ever return.
Last Sunday, November 11, we performed at Good Shepherd Church, in Marine Park Brooklyn, near Gerritsen Beach and Mill Basin. These areas of south Brooklyn, much like Far Rockaway, Staten Island and Long Beach (where my extended family lives) were hard hit by the storm. The church had to cancel two of the concerts in the series and ours was the first one after the storm. The church’s school is taking care of hundreds of students from surrounding schools, both public and private. Additionally, they have taken up collections to help a number of families that have literally lost everything. All proceeds from their annual Messiah performance, scheduled for Sunday Dec. 16, are earmarked for this fund. We chose to contribute all the money collected at the door of our concert to this effort. I wish we had been able to do more. For more information on the Good Shepherd series, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/97925602815/10151119801622816/?notif_t=group_activity#!/groups/109199819168997/
On Friday, Nov. 16, we presented our annual concert at the Tenri Cultural Institute. We had a wonderful, capacity crowd. We are so fortunate to have good friends to help us: William Dickerson, not just a great composer but also an excellent stage manager and Winslow Browning, who did everything from seating audience members, to helping reset the stage for “Food”. Thanks to Courtney and Raymundo, student volunteers, who greeted guests and collected tickets. John and Janet, who organized and helped serve at our reception and Anne Wigglesworth, board member and baker extraordinaire. Our thanks as well to Dag Gabrielsen and Pèter Köszeghy, for their wonderful works that we had the good fortune to premiere, and soprano Helen Gabrielsen for her fabulous singing. Helen is the first guest artist to join us. Not only did she sing beautifully, but she also managed to put up with all out craziness with great grace. Without all these people and everyone else who has supported us, presenting concerts like this would be impossible. And for this, I am again thankful.
It’s been a month since my last blog. I could offer all sorts of excuses why I haven’t written and they would all be valid, but why go there. Simply put things have been busy and now it is mid- September.
I just read an article posted on Facebook by a violist friend, Nick. The premise of the article (written by Michelle Jones) has the ominous title “The End of the Symphony and How Today’s Music Students Should Adapt”. Her premise is simple – Music schools are graduating too many students for the few orchestra jobs out there and music students (and schools) ought to change their game plan. It’s an old song. People have been saying it since I was an undergraduate and probably before. And truth be told, Symphonies are in trouble. Most cities do not have full time symphonies. The regional orchestras are constantly facing money issues, resolving them by reducing their string sections, programing works requiring smaller wind and brass sections and only timpani, (sorry Mahler fans – not this season) and getting away with less rehearsals. Orchestra after orchestra has accepted contracts for less money than they made the season before. Worst of all, many of our great orchestras have either canceled their seasons or postponed their start.
And why do orchestras have these troubles – well for one thing, it takes a lot of money to keep an orchestra going. There are a lot of players in even a small symphony. Multiply that by hours of rehearsal and performance fees and it comes out to a big sum. Add in the venue and staff costs, insurance, music rental or purchase fees, conductor and or guest artists fee and, well you get the idea. It’s a lot of money.
Ms. Jones offers a laundry list of ideas. Some are intriguing though most of them, at least in my opinion, don’t solve the over all problem. She feels musicians need to be more diversified, play more styles, know something about recording, dress correctly — none of which addresses her initial thesis that there are just too many good instrumentalists out there for the amount of jobs.
But one thing she does discuss that I do agree with, is the need for musicians to be smarter business people. She says that all musicians “should be required to double major in business.”1 While I do not think a double major is necessary, a series of core classes required over the four years of a bachelor degree would be perfect. Graduating students should know how to keep records, create and balance a budget and know what expenses are tax deductible. English classes could be tailored to teach students how to write program and liner notes, bios, and criticism. None of this will help you land that coveted orchestra job, but it may help you know if you have enough money to pay the rent at the end of the month.
And why am I giving this so much thought? As mentioned many times before in this little blog, Matt, Suzanne and I are a self-managed group. Little by little, we have had to learn how to do all the little things that running a business entail. Now, we are a 501(c)3, Not-for-profit corporation and there is even more to learn. Just today, we applied for our first grants as a NFP. I won’t say anything more specific about it, so as not to jinx it, but I will say that writing the grant was an education. This was the first time I ever had to create an operation budget. Truth be told, until a week ago I didn’t know the difference between an operating and organizational budget. Now I do, and while it didn’t take long to find out, all I could think was how much faster and easier this all might have been had I had a class or three in it back in school.