Written by Phil Cerroni
By Phil Cerroni
The blues player is an essential part of the American self-image: the old man sitting on a stoop creating beautiful, melancholy sounds that waft from his instrument. Although the harmonica is not a dying art form, it is rare to find someone who plays something besides the diatonic or “rock” harmonica. But if you happened to wander through the Westin DFW Airport Hotel in Irving, you would have seen many people sporting a multitude of different harmonicas from the massive chord and bass harmonicas to the smaller, extremely versatile chromatic harmonica. The reason all these musicians were wandering around the hotel is because SPAH (the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica) held its 2012 Convention here.
Mike Street came all the way from Richmond, VA for the week shared some of the benefits of participating in the convention.
“All the bigwig harmonica players are here, sort of the who’s who. It’s a great place to learn and to make new friends,” Street said. “During the daytime you’ve got your choice of seminars and workshops where professionals are sitting there breaking down steps for you, or they teach you everything from technique to equipment you can use; even tuning and fixing harmonicas. There’s so much that I’ve absorbed in this short week.”
Like many people at the convention, Street’s love for the harmonica goes far beyond a single genre of music or looking cool.
“I wanted to be different, but it quickly grew into loving the instrument, loving the whole blues history behind that –trying to develop and preserve it as an American art form,” he said.
One reason that Robert Logan came to the convention was to discover new styles of harmonica music that he would not otherwise have been exposed to.
“Today I was sitting at a table in one of the seminars, and a guy was telling me all about – he called it old time music – it’s fiddle music, but I’d never been exposed to that before. The tunes and the rhythm are different than the blues, and I’ll go home and try some of it – see how close I can get,” Logan said.
Sixteen-year-old Norman Patton was one of five recipients of SPAH’s youth grant.
“They took five young people who were playing the harmonica and helped give them rooms so they could be at SPAH to show what young people are doing and show older people hope that there are young people who also play harmonica,” Patton said.
Passing on the harmonica’s legacy was a desire shared by many of the convention’s participants.
“One guy who is in college is playing the same song that a guy in his 80’s is playing,” said Rob Fletcher, a chord harmonica player. “They have different takes, but at the same time there’s a common ground.”
Joe Filisko’s story is a great example of what life could be like for anyone who does plays harmonica. At this time, he is not only a masterful maker of custom harmonicas, but he is also a very successful musician.
“When I was in high school I fell in love with the guitar,” Filisko said. “When I got into college I developed a very strong interest in American roots music and blues and that got me really listening to the harmonica. And the harmonica became, from that point on, my love and affection. I pursued the art of harmonica player rather feverishly.
“In 1992, a couple things happened. I started teaching at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, and I was also recognized by the Associated Press for the high end, high performance, harmonicas I was building. It was really the beginning of an international career for me. I went to my first World harmonica Festival in 1991 and became a featured performer in 2001. I didn’t really start recording too much until 2006.”
But Filisko says that playing as a professional is no different than playing as an amateur. This was not just something he said, however. He was jamming with the rest of convention’s participants in the hotel lobby at 11 p.m. the last night of the convention.
“Music is music,” he said. “People want to listen; people are into it. They’re a lot of people really expressing themselves.”
Dallas is shaping itself to be a major destination of American music. From its historic piece of blues history that is Deep Ellum, to the world-class steel guitar manufacturers based here, to events like the SPAH convention. The trend appears to be on the rise, and with new means of transportation like the DART Orange Line, that just make it much easier for residents from all parts of the Metroplex to expose themselves to this amazing music that is so much a part of our heritage.
Last Updated on Sunday, 26 August 2012 19:46
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
Youngsters became fantasy princesses and monsters of the night through the magic of makeup during the West Irving Library’s Glam & Gore Stage Makeup Workshop on Aug. 18. Through the workshop, professional stage makeup artist, Stefanie Glenn from the Plaza Theatre Company taught the kids how to apply basic stage makeup, as well as fantasy and gory makeup.
“Stage makeup isn’t typically taught in the public school curriculum,” Glenn said. “A lot of these kids do theater in school or locally, and stage makeup is a good skill to have.
“This is a good group of kids, and they are really creative. They are doing fun things with makeup and asking good questions. They really seem interested in what is happening.”
Jade Coyle (13) coaxed her younger sister, Jenna, into attending the workshop.
“I’ve always liked the fantasy makeup, so I wanted to come and learn how to do some of the makeup,” Jade said. “It is interesting to learn about the different types of makeup and how much you should use, instead of just putting it everywhere.
“I really liked putting makeup on my sister. I just put it all over her face. She kind of didn’t want to do it, so now she’s taking her revenge out on me by doing my makeup.”
Activities like the makeup workshop bring people into the library and encourage reading, according to Debra Miller, the West Irving Library’s Volunteer Coordinator.
“Off and on throughout the year, we are doing more drama related projects, because theater is a good gateway to literacy,” Miller said. “There are kids who couldn’t care less about reading, but you give them a chance to perform and with a script in their hands all the sudden there is some motivation to read.
“Through theater kids learn a form of self-imposed self discipline. The focusing skills learned in theater can help improve a child’s grades and behavior.
“We are bringing more and more drama into the library, because there is a huge desire for theater in this community. I moved here from New Mexico, and I have never seen so much musical theater going on in such a small area. So we are definitely filling a demand, and it brings people into the library.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 26 August 2012 19:45
Written by Phil Cerroni
There is a group of epicures which has existed almost unbeknownst to the people they serve every day. They are everywhere: you see them in restaurants, you read about them in the newspaper but unless you know their secret heraldry, you will rarely realize you met one.
They are America’s sommeliers, a small but prestigious group of individuals who have dedicated themselves to the art of wine, and they gathered at the Four Seasons in Irving to for the 8th annual Texas Sommelier Conference (TEXSOM) and the Texas’ Best Sommelier competition on the weekend of Aug. 11-12.
Fred Dame, a member of the English Court of Master Sommeliers and the man who established the tradition to America, elaborated on the significance of TEXSOM.
“This event is two-fold,” Dame said. “First of all, it’s to support the hospitality industry and the sommelier profession in the State of Texas and to show the great food and wine we have here. Most of all, it’s to have a great time drinking wine and eating food because, in the end, that’s why we all do this – otherwise it’d be pounding nails.”
Sommeliers from all around the nation attend TEXSOM every year in order to hone their skills. Julie Dalton, a sommelier at the Four Seasons in Baltimore, MD has been coming to TEXSOM for three years.
“This is like a sommelier’s dream come true – über-geeky seminars with amazing people. It’s my favorite thing – I look forward to it every year,” Dalton said. “Wine is the most multi-disciplinary subject there is. It’s exciting to be able to talk about the weather, religion, biochemistry, taxonomy and geology in one conversation. No meal is complete without wine – to be able to talk about that all day long –who wouldn’t want to be able to do that?”
Although it takes a lifetime to become a true master sommelier, even at the entry level, certified and advanced certified sommeliers are vigorously tested to prove their worthiness to serve as the moral compass of America wine drinkers and restaurant goers. Mike De La Vega, a certified sommelier at Biga on the Banks in San Antonio talked about some of the tasks that aspiring sommeliers must face.
“Level 1 is a seventy-two to seventy-five question theory examination all on paper,” Biga said. “Level 2 is a very similar theory examination on paper followed by one white and one red in a blind setting. You deduct what the wine isn’t to determine what the wine possibly is. The third scenario in level 2 is the service examination in which you enter a room and you have Master Sommeliers at a circular table as if they were in a dining setting asking you questions off the top of their heads such as how do you make a Sidecar or what’s in a Cosmopolitan. Wine, liquor, beer, sake, cigars – a Master is a walking encyclopedia of beverages in the restaurant setting.”
De La Vega was also one of the participants in this year’s Texas’ Best Sommelier competition, which besides being a chance for young sommeliers to face off with each other, is a scholarship opportunity for continuing education in the field. He revealed some of the rigorous challenges competitors were subjected to.
“When I walked into my theoretical examination, it was a four page exam, fifty to sixty very difficult and particular questions that your average clientele are not asking for,” De La Vega said. “The second part of our examination had to do with our blind setting. The blind setting that I experienced yesterday was two whites and two reds in front of me on a table with a panel of four Master Sommeliers. The third part was a service examination where the Master Sommelier would say “I’m going to have a Sidecar to start off with as an aperitif; make it - the bar’s right there.’”
Although it might be easy for sommeliers to put on airs of superiority, Dame said that this is completely contrary to what being a sommelier is all about.
“Wine is fun. It’s not a challenge, it’s not an exercise, it’s not a board game,” he said. “The real adventure of wine is the fact that it’s not the same. It’s not like going to buy ‘X’ brand of beer because it’s what you’ve been drinking for the last twenty years of your life. Even if you buy the same brand of wine, every vintage is going to change. You never have the same experience twice, and I think that’s really a cool thing.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 26 August 2012 19:44
Written by Phil Cerroni
A man from Irving was sentenced Aug. 9 to 20 years in federal prison and 10 years of supervised release following his guilty plea in April 2012 to child pornography charges. This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
Hugo Magdaleno, 27, has been in custody since his March arrest in Houston. He pleaded guilty to one count of possessing child pornography, and one count of transporting and shipping child pornography.
According to documents filed in the case, Magdaleno admitted that he used file-sharing software to trade images of child pornography, including images of prepubescent minors and sadistic, masochistic or other violent images involving minors. Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) executed a search warrant at Magdaleno's home in January 2008. The forensic analysis they performed on his seized computer equipment revealed more than 6,000 images and hundreds of videos of child pornography.
HSI conducted this investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Miller, Northern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Last Updated on Sunday, 26 August 2012 19:43
Written by Phil Cerroni
The Obama Administration recently announced that it won’t allow infrastructure funds to sit idle as a result of stalled earmark projects at a time when hundreds of thousands of construction workers are looking for work. U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is making over $470 million in unspent earmarks immediately available to states for projects that will create jobs and help improve transportation across the country.
“My administration will continue to do everything we can to put Americans back to work,” said President Barack Obama. “We’re not going to let politics stand between construction workers and good jobs repairing our roads and bridges.”
“We are freeing up these funds so states can get down to the business of moving transportation projects forward and putting our friends and neighbors back to work,” said Secretary LaHood.
President Obama has vowed to veto any bill that comes to his desk with earmarks and would support legislation to permanently ban earmarks. But $473 million in highway earmarks from FY2003-2006 appropriations acts remain unspent years later. Those acts contain provisions that authorize the Secretary to make the unused funds available for eligible surface transportation projects. State departments of transportation will now have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway funds, some of which are nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, or port project.
States must identify the projects they plan to use the funds for by Oct. 1, and must obligate them by Dec. 31, 2012.
“Particularly in these difficult fiscal times, states will be able to put these dollars to good use,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “These funds will create jobs in the short term and help bring about what President Obama called ‘an America built to last.’”
To ensure that this funding is quickly put to good use to improve our nation’s infrastructure, funds not obligated by the Dec. 31 deadline will be proportionally redistributed in FY 2013 to states that met the deadline.
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation
Last Updated on Sunday, 26 August 2012 19:36