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Reunions of All Sorts in Philadelphia

As I sat drinking in the luscious LA Phil performance of Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony tonight at Verizon Hall, I also found time to meditate on the happenings of the day. Now that my part of the concert was over - playing the piano in John Adams’ “City Noir” on the first half - it started to dawn on me how much I had managed to fit in this afternoon. There were reunions of all sorts: – with dear friends, colleagues, and the City of Brotherly Love itself – Philadelphia.

The highlight of my day was a visit with one of Philly’s grand institutions – La Grand Dame of the Curtis Institute - my former teacher Eleanor Sokoloff. Every bit as vibrant as I remember her from my student days, she regaled us with stories from her 75 years of teaching.

How many 96-year-olds do you know who own an e-book reader, use a PC every day, and love HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” - while continuing to devote their life to nurturing young piano talent?

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Violins in DC

With our noses to the grind this tour, flitting from city to city, I’ve not really had a chance to fully experience the amazing cities we’ve been playing in, but in DC, my free day gave us a chance to visit the National Gallery and the Library of Congress. Any day that I might be lucky enough to see a real Van Gogh up close and personal is a good day, but I had little idea of just how fulfilling my day would get…

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Photos: Visiting and Rehearsing in Philadelphia

Music & Culinary Tour: Part 2 - D.C.

Our gastro-adventure continued in D.C. This time we expanded our group to ten for tapas at José Andrés' Jaleo. In my last blog entry I mentioned that I had to drop Dudamel's name to get seating for our large group. It turns out that José Andrés and Gustavo are good friends, so after the restaurant presumably vetted our reservation, Gustavo and Deborah Borda showed up and crashed our party! The food and drinks kept coming and each dish was a revelation of Spanish culinary arts. My favorite was the Jamón Ibérico de bellota Fermín - black-footed Ibérico pigs which are raised on a diet of acorns. Unlike the other black-footed pigs I am used to eating, this one had a distinct nutty flavor with a buttery texture....I will never be able to go back to honey baked ham.

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KUSC Tour Blog

KUSC is on the road with us and covering the tour. We especially enjoyed Brian Lauritzen’s blog post about last night’s performance which opens with:

So, here’s the Coolest Thing about the Kennedy Center. Well, okay, I’m not going to give it away immediately, but I will share some things I’ve learned about the Kennedy Center since arriving here in Washington, D.C. yesterday that, while they’re very cool, they’re not the Coolest Thing.

You have to read the rest of Brian’s entry to discover “The Coolest Thing” about The Kennedy Center. It’s worth it.

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Show in D.C.

It's been a long time since the orchestra was here in Washington, something like 12 or 13 years, and that last time was while the Kennedy Center was being renovated. We arrived at the new stage entrance and went inside seeing other changes to the backstage area and the hall itself. Some of us met with friends from the National Symphony and then we rehearsed a little to check the acoustics and get a feel for the room.

At intermission we had a surprise visit from a long-time friend from LA, Placido Domingo, here to attend to his other regular gig with Kennedy Center's National Opera.

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Photos: The Orchestra at White House; Playing the Kennedy Center.

Great Grandma Morgie (or First Day in DC)

It was drizzling this morning, but the rain didn't stop us from our plan. I also came to DC one day ahead of our "big troupe" and met up with my family who flew in from LA last night. We headed to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural & History.

Have you ever wondered what the first mammal was? I discovered we have a 210 million years old ancestor. Judging from today's rodents, it looks like a type of mouse and its name is Morganucodon. About four inches long, the mammal was nicknamed "Great Grandma Morgie" by the Museum of Natural History.

It's always exciting for us to perform at the Kennedy Center. After a short acoustic rehearsal to get us used to the hall, the concert started at eight o'clock. The place was jam packed and the crowd kept cheering endlessly after the performance. Light in the hall came on after one encore, signaling us to leave the stage.....

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A Rainy Day in Our Nation's Capitol

I just took this photo of one of our two tour semi-trailers outside the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The tour has been fantastic so far, and our musicians have performed brilliantly in San Francisco, Phoenix, Chicago and Nashville.

It was very exciting to walk into the imposing and impressive John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to pick up my ticket for tonight's sold out performance. The staff member who helped me at the box office was overwhelming in her praise for Gustavo and our orchestra, having seen last night's segment on 60 Minutes. She kept saying 'how great it is for the kids', and I couldn't agree more.

Earlier on the tour in Chicago, my hometown paper, The Hinsdale Doings, ran this fun 'Local Boy Makes Good' article, and it was great to hear from family and friends who read it.

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Video: Pre-concert Happenings

From the bus to the stage, the orchestra gets ready for another concert.

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