Aug 11

up NORTH, back EAST, & out WEST

After a whirlwind start to the summer that was spent in Tokyo, Los Angeles, and New York, I was happy to have one of my flights finally land at Cherry Capital Airport in Northern Michigan.  “Up in Michigan” (as Hemingway says) is probably the only place I can truly call home. In a small town that holds about 400 people during ice fishing season, and probably no more than 2000 in the warm months, rests Bear Lake.

I’m a 4th generation Bear Laker and it’s one of my favorite spots on the planet. A place where I can swim every morning, fish or golf in the afternoon, get my ass kicked in cards by my 90 year old Grandmother as the sun goes down, and then sit by the fire and drink Oberon under the stars.  In all my travels, I’ve never witnessed sunsets as perfect as the ones viewed each night at Bear Lake.  It was a beautiful week, surrounded by family and good old fashioned fun.  However, the concrete jungle was calling…..

Returning to Brooklyn in record time, thanks to a decadent direct flight from Cherry Capital to the Big Apple, it was time for a crash course in indie-pop score reading.  The following morning I was due at Avatar Studios to work on some songs for Ingrid Michaelson’s new record.  The album is being produced by David Kahne, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with before on records by Teddy Thompson and Renee Fleming, and whom I’ve come to know as a friend.  At the time, I had exactly one song by Ingrid in my iTunes library, and while it’s not traditionally the music that I listen to, I must say that I was blown away by her voice.  She is an unbelievably talented singer, a prolific song writer, and a lovely person to boot.  Of the five songs we worked on, there was a track in particular that I found to be one of the most vivid and enchanting tunes I’d heard in a long while, so be on the lookout for her album when it comes out!

My most recent performance took me to Vail, Colorado where we held a private house concert and dinner for a project that I am particularly passionate about, the June S Kang Love of the Arts Scholarship Fund.  Three years ago, a dear old friend of mine’s mother died in a skiing accident on Arrowhead Mountain.  It left her husband, daughters, and community understandably shocked.  The family got in touch with me and another close friend of theirs, the violinist Chee Yun, and wanted to plan a memorial concert.  That was the beginning.

What started as a simple duo concert for some friends and neighbours, quickly grew into a much larger scale event due to the overwhelming response and generosity of the people at Arrowhead and the Vail Valley Foundation.  The goal of the scholarship fund is to raise money to help send artistic students from the Vail Valley to college.  Our first benefit concert was held at the Villar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek in January of 2010 with Chee Yun, myself, and the pianist Jeewon Park.  It was such a success that we returned this past January for another performance and also visited with the young music students of Avon Elementary School.

Last week’s event was our first summer visit and was done with a few new twists.  With food by the genius chef and Managing Editor at Serious Eats, J Kenji Lopez Alt, and the additional talent of singer Christina Courtin and guitarist Ryan Scott, the evening proved to be a memorable one.  The team of people who come together each time to make these events happen are very special, and they do it all out of the goodness of their hearts.  It is an honor to be a part of it and I can think of no better way to celebrate the life and memory of June.  The next concert will be back at the Villar on January 13th, 2012 so if you like good music and powder skiing, come on out!