I could not have said it better...
October 04, 2015, 07:41 AM posted by Maria Choban

"[Steve] Jobs was often perceived as a harsh manager, but [Jony] Ive said that he was simply "beautifully focused," with little time for "behavioral niceties.

This trait was in full force during one design critique [Jony] Ive recounted, in which the late Apple C.E.O. [Steve Jobs] wasn't exactly complimentary toward Ive and his team. After the meeting, Ive asked Jobs why he had been so brutal.

"We had been putting our heart and soul into this," Ive said he told Jobs, telling his boss that he cared about "the team." Jobs responded candidly: "No, Jony, you're just really vain. You just want people to like you."

Ive admitted the comment made him "really cross," but only because Jobs had hit a nerve."

FROM Vanity Fair: Jonathan Ive Shares 3 Lessons He Learned from Steve Jobs

(bolded italics mine)

The Gravy Train
October 03, 2015, 04:23 AM posted by Maria Choban

What's wrong with $25 to $35 to infinity concert tickets to a classical music niche event when you have a core audience and can assure a 2/3 house?

Nothing...if you're not subsidized.

What this godforsaken genre needs more than anything is fresh young blood (and lots of it) in the audience. I'm talking teenagers not conservatory students. I'm talking smart, curious, everyday soccer and video game playing, texting, angsting, teenagers. What they and their parents need is a break in ticket prices. Not just $10 per student but FREE! Not $25 to $35 to infinity for the parents but $10! And stop this fucking insanity of funding mid-century Dutch or Finnish or Mongolian Modernists who will draw a new audience of exactly 4.

And while we're at this shared desire to build a young fresh audience which has no aural connection to Modernists or any inside-your-own-head composition, let's think about practicing and rehearsing so that the content is engaging. THEN, let's go at least one step further and think about the entire experience, from walking onto the stage for the first number to walking off after the encore. We want them back don't we???

I am so fucking tired of hearing from the uninitiated "I didn't really get it, I know it's because I just don't have the background." I now preempt all queries, telling people what to see and especially what NOT to attend (and why). This is about survival and I will be fucking DAMNED if I'm going to sit by quietly and say nothing when I see over and over this fucking narcissistic tendency to program shit because "I Like It!" I promise to never program an hour of Rebetika for classical music concerts even though it's my very favorite genre. I know y'all will think it's whiny shit. I also promise to think about and put into practice arcing a show the way the classical music role-models in Portland do: ARCO and Dianne Davies and increasingly Cascadia Composers and surprisingly, the new, curated CRPDX shows.

Do we really want to grow the audience or do we just want a bigger audience for our own show-and-tell privilege???

More Lessons from the Market
September 06, 2015, 02:38 PM posted by Maria Choban

Sell! Sell! Sell!!

If there is one thing I learn over and over it's SELL!

This Saturday we had a new neighbor vendor. She sells large-marble sized gluten free candy-cookies made with ground almonds or filberts and coconut. They are delicious and they're $1.75 per marble or a box of 3 for $4.75.

While I started warming up the floor show that is our stand - both vegetable and gluten - prior to the 8am bell, sounding like Carmen in the non-opera version ("Don't make me use my opera voice!") the new vendor on my right sat quietly on her stool, head down, writing in her notebook and punching buttons on her calculator.

Sharks gotta swim. The bell rang and I was getting antsy at the slow start. Customers were sparse and I needed to feed. Our new vendor next door kept punching buttons, paying no attention to the audience or lack of it.

I have just barely survived the heart-breaking low sales of the heat waved summer. No one wants to indulge in sweet bread or honey soaked cookies when it's 97 degrees in the shade of the tree we're privileged to set up under. Certainly no one in the heat of the blacktop (100+ degrees) was thinking anything except salads and that's where I had to learn how to swim and survive. We cut portions and prices, rounding down to something easy: One bill; a fiver. I got out from behind the stand and hawked product like it was 1925. My very able partner from behind the stand is as quick witted as me and our improv comedy routines were sometimes the only thing drawing people over.

With those beginners lessons fresh in my mind I watched the new neighbor sit quietly, selling little, attracting very little traffic while I badgered oncomers, enticing them with free samples I held out in front of me, invoking my mommy (who's sweet bread I bake) my grandma (who's honey cookies I replicate) and my godmother (who's butter sugar cookies I also produce) in the name of the Market, the Customers, and the Holy Sales.

It's a 5.5 hour floor show out there and it ain't enough to just have a product you believe in. I do not feel sorry for those who won't sell, feel self-entitled, self-righteous and whiny if they cannot make a buck. The audience owes you nothing! You live or die at their discretion. And welcome to the Market.

My neighbor's head was still buried in her music stand when I walked over and introduced myself at a lull around 11:30. I had just sold out of 2 products. She is lovely. Her product is lovely. She let me sample everything and now I was armed. Back at my stand, instead of just exuberantly directing folks to my neighbor's gluten-free stand when they couldn't sample my wares, I described her desserts, letting them know which I preferred. She'd turn to me when she'd make a sale with a huge grin and 2 thumbs up! She was warming to the crowd. Her sweater came off and she got off her stool, threw back her head and her lovely head of red hair and had a ball! I believe she sold out.

Beethoven and Baklava
August 18, 2015, 06:18 AM posted by Maria Choban

I just opened a Greek bakery*. A lot of people interested in pastries ask "Will you bake Baklava?" That's like asking the pop star classical ensemble Ethel if they're going to perform a cycle of Beethoven's string quartets.


You will never get me to bake the ubiquitous Baklava! Go to Costco and buy it! Greeks are as fucking lazy as most classical ensembles. If it makes money (Greeks & Baklava) / loses only a little money (classical musicians & Beethoven) why fix it?

The difference between Greek pastries beyond Baklava and the mess that is contemporary classical music (beyond Beethoven) is that people gotta eat and they wanna eat sugar and life in the Greek lane beyond Baklava is addictive. While life beyond Beethoven and similar incredibles (composers and pieces) who remain standing and thriving over time is as risky as contemplating going vegan and being subjected to tofu cheese. You won't die of starvation if you change your mind about listening to tofu cheese music.

What I have in common with Ethel is . . . well . . . Ethel is as delicious as Phinikia, Kourabiethes, Tsourekia - none of these are Greek pastries you've probably heard of. But listen to Ethel's Heavy and eat a Tsoureki. Most of you will be back for more of both.

*Marika's Greek Bakery pastries are currently only available Saturdays at the Beaverton Farmers Market.

Ai Weiwei or The Highway!
July 22, 2015, 03:28 PM posted by Maria Choban

What are you doing Friday night?

Travel Alitisa recommends getting to the Portland Art Museum around 5 pm when doors open for FREE to the public (until 8pm) and take in the Ai Weiwei exhibit. Take the kids. Take the neighbor's kids! Hell - take the whole damn neighborhood!!!

While you're chaperoning the munchkins, keep them busy going in and out from the museum to the courtyard where they'll catch Piano!Push!Play!'s FREE Friday evening show outdoors! P!P!P! "rescues pianos and puts them on the street for Everyone to play." No need to coach the kids on concert etiquette unless they have chocolate chip cookies and they're NOT sharing. You'll love the show, they'll love the show. The main act - ARCO - performs on amplified instruments from memory - LOUD AND PROUD! The opening acts - The Mousai and MC Hammered Klavier - bring a different kind of audience friendly to the mix. The Mousai are charming storytellers, weaving words around the sexy lush music they play. MCHK is full force adrenaline.

5:00pm: Ai Weiwei at The Portland Art Museum
7:00pm: P!P!P presents The Mousai and MC Hammered Klavier
7:30pm: P!P!P! presents the main show - ARCO!

What do Ai Weiwei, P!P!P! , ARCO, The Mousai and MC Hammered Klavier have in common?

Rebels with a Cause! Music and Art for ALL!

Only one of the above have been in the slammer though (and for all the right reasons).

After the show?

YOU take the stage and play the piano parked all summer long in the PAM courtyard!

You Can't Make up this Sh*t!
July 18, 2015, 03:42 PM posted by Maria Choban

I have a witness!

At intermission we were given pointy gold unicorn horns (birthday hats) and kazoos. Where am I? At a PDQ Bach concert, of course, feting Peter Schickele who's 80th Happy Birthday we're kazooing. Back in my seat waiting for the second half to begin I eavesdrop on the conversation behind me.

He: Were you able to get your kazoo to work? I couldn't get mine to do anything!

She: Me neither.

He: Cheap crap lot they bought from probably China!

And although Schickele was funny as usual, nothing topped this exchange. My only misgiving was that no one would believe me if I wrote it up as Alitisa.

Outside after the concert my partner asked whether I heard the couple behind us discussing kazoos and wryly ran on "Perhaps for the price of the gala he expected a well crafted Italian instrument."

I Wanna Practice But...
July 12, 2015, 06:27 PM posted by Maria Choban

Putting Out Fires
July 05, 2015, 02:16 PM posted by Maria Choban

Because a friend emailed me that he was "watering, watering, watering" his little plants today, I stepped outside to water the basil and check my spring planted blueberries and everbearing strawberries. Flames were licking over the top of the ditch in front of my house! Thankfully the hose which we use to water the artichokes was within reach and I ran to the faucet, turned on a jet stream and put out the five foot swath of flame. I soaked the area and watched as cops talked with my neighbors across the street. I heard "fireworks" "kids walking up the street talking loudly." I did my own investigation because I saw no evidence of firecrackers or any other fireworks around the smoldering portion. Instead, when I crawled into the ditch I found a cigarette butt right where the smoke had been swirling after I doused the rest of the flames.

It burns me when kids are automatically blamed. I was in my studio which faces the street the entire time, either reading on the couch or working on this computer but never practicing the piano. I never heard kids or firecrackers. First of all, kids are way too smart to be out in this heat! It occurs to me that it was probably a jack-ass around the same age of these parents who was either a passenger or a driver of the car that flicked the cigarette butt out of the window into my ditch.

And that's what I told the cops.

I showed them the butt I collected and asked if they wanted it. They did not. But they thanked me for putting out the fire, saving a trip by the fire department.

Dirty Downhome Democratic FUN!
July 01, 2015, 10:58 AM posted by Maria Choban

Portland is in an extended heat wave -- temps in the 90s with threats in the 100s. Last Friday, I set into town at 5pm with the temperature in the high 90s, on the air-conditioned MAX. I showed up for a dress rehearsal in the courtyard of the Portland Art Museum along with TEN donated pianos turned into artworks by 10 different artists. Five pianists, one conductor, and Richie Greene, the composer, ran through Askew Reflections - Richie's piece for 5 pianos commissioned for this event. 500+ people showed up for Megan McGeorge's Piano!Push!Play! party!!! prompting the director of the art museum to quip "Thank God temperatures are so high; how would we have managed the crowd otherwise?"

On a high after the show, here's what I emailed to a friend:

It was AMAZING!!! 500+ people! standing, sitting on the stairs, in the park blocks, filled the capacity chairs. I thought Megan was going to cry! the director of the portland art museum and the director of the portland parks and rec were both on hand to speechify on megan's behalf. both likeable guys, dressed down. you missed a lovely performance of an audience member (there were 2 chosen randomly from a hat) performing ravel's jeux d'eau. the richie greene piece went swimmingly. you MUST get down to PAM and see the artwork the pianos have become! my personal fave is a toss-up between the white&black, the doug-fir (with antlers!), the paws.

this was exactly what I had hoped and more. democratizing music. the variety of ages was like nothing you'll see anywhere. little 5 or 4 year old dancing in the aisle through several acts. street folks sitting on the cement wall (park block side) enjoying. it will be hard to top this event this summer. megan should be very very proud.

Megan McGeorge and her pianos at Piano!Push!Play! party Friday night.
Photo: Alicia J. Rose

Saturday was Beaverton Farmers Market day. We got lucky. Temperatures did NOT climb into the mid-100s as predicted. In fact, we sneaked out just barely over 80. Where $8 bags of kettle-carmel-pop-corn compete with $10 bags of hand-braided sweet Greek Easter Bread (just hold that thought in your head), who's buying which bag? You'll be wrong about 50% of the time. It never fails to make me giggle. Democracy blows my profiling mind.

And while my partner spent the weekend in San Francisco covering Terry Riley's 80th birthday party put on by the Kronos Quartet at the same time as 1 million were marching in celebration of equal marriage rights at the same time as The Grateful Dead were giving one of their last five concerts EVER, I finished my weekend in PDX as a soldier in the Timbers Army. On Sunday I was sandwiched between a seasoned Scot soccer fan who popped in, scored a last minute (sold-out) ticket to the Timbers/Sounders rivalry intending to check out the rumors that The Army rivaled Scottish ruffians, and a woman slightly older than me who kept me laughing from her opening line: "Don't worry about the words to the chants. When in doubt, yell a potty-mouthed explicative!" While no fan was maimed during the game, the Scotsman was impressed enough to hug my (very cute) sister every time Portland scored a goal. I, on the other hand, was busy conjugating and declining my substitute explicative - "FUCK!" - through the chants/cheers, complete with hand (finger) gestures and at throat-blowing decibels. I got Kronos/Riley, Gay-Rights, Family-Rights and Grateful Dead tie-dye all in one arena! It was particularly bemusing when at the end the Portland players brought their children onto the field and faced The Army and bowed. I wondered how badassed we would respond. The by-now drunken thugs let out a collective "AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW. . ."

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