Friday, October 02, 2009

A Week of Fun Events

I was invited to a taste-testing at noon. The university president's wife is hosting an event tomorrow before the Homecoming football game, and she invited me to taste all the food that she's considering serving and provide feedback so that she can finalize her menu. Well, not only me, of course; she invited about a dozen of us, some faculty and some staff. What a great idea for establishing goodwill and enouraging interaction . . . and treating us with some great food! Dining Services prepared all the food using the first lady's recipes, and she provided us with folders containing all the recipes featured on the menu. We ate, wrote down our feedback, and left with plastic-wrap-covered plates of leftovers!

I attended a banquet honoring this year's Alumni Fellows, distinguished alumni chosen from each department to return to campus during Homecoming and be honored for their accomplishments after graduating from our university. Our department's alumna spoke to one of my classes yesterday morning, and she gave an eloquent acceptance speech at last night's banquet. The alumna from the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science happens to be a woman who used to teach at the high school that I attended! Her husband (himself a DSU grad) got a job at our school and taught me geometry and computer programming. After they got married, she got hired at our school, too. In the years since, they have moved on to another district where he has become the superintendent, and she has distinguished herself in educational technology. It was a fun blast from the past to see them again and visit briefly. (And the food was delicious: salad with a teriyaki/mandarin orange dressing, marinated roast pork tenderloin, new potatoes, green beans almondine, and pineapple cake for dessert.)

Our family attended an absolutely phenomenal concert. We have tickets to the Dickinson Area Concert Association's series again this year (it has been a wonderful annual investment that's worth far more than what the tickets cost--incredible!), and tonight's concert was a performance by Stringfever, a "genetically modified" quartet of players of "violectric" instruments. They're genetically modified in that they are three brothers and a cousin. And the instruments are electric violins and cellos--much like electric guitars--made by Violectra. I had never seen or heard of such a thing: instead of solid bodies, the instruments consisted of strings over the plastic?/metal? outline of a tradition violin/cello shape! And they achieved sounds both traditional and funkadelic, making some songs sound like rock concerts and others like classical concerts.

They were talented and technically adept with their instruments, and they were also funny and fun to watch. And the highlight of the night was when they asked for volunteers from the audience who would be willing to come up on stage and help them with a certain song. Abigail turned to me immediately to ask permission to raise her hand, and both she and Hillary had their arms raised so quickly that I think I heard them slicing through the air!

And guess what. The two of them were selected to join Stringfever on stage! The song was a demonstration of how all four musicians could play one song using the same instrument: the cello. They gave Abigail and Hillary each one of the violins, showed them how to hold them, and instructed them to pluck a particular string on cue. Then the men played the song beautifully but comedically, making much ado of intertwining their arms, trading bows, taking over one another's parts, etc.

Hillary and Abigail waited patiently throughout the song, their violins in position and their fingers on the correct string, tapping their feet and keeping an eye out for the cue to play. A few measures before the song's end, the two men who had shown the girls what to do leapt away from the cello, crouched in front of the girls, and finally give them the go-ahead. Their simultaneous string plucks produced the note that ended the song! That in itself (i.e., all that waiting for just one note) added to the humor of the song, but it was thrilling for the girls to be on stage; and they hugged me so hard when they sat back down that I knew they were absolutely delighted. They got many compliments by other patrons after the concert; and in addition to autographing the girls' programs, the musicians gave them key chains and a magnet with "Stringfever" on them. Even Suzanna--as sister of the volunteers--received that treat afterwards!

I highly advise you to give yourself a treat and watch some of Stringfever's videos from their Web site. Those excerpts will give you a sense of what we enjoyed tonight. It was a great end to a busy, stressful week.


  1. It was a wonderful concert -- one of my favorites thus far!

  2. Totally loved it! I emailed one of the video highlights before I realized that you had it available in a link too! (oops!) cool!