Part 2 – Alex Laing – Principal Clarinet of The Phoenix Symphony

Alex Laing is a very cool and interesting person. He is currently the principal clarinet for The Phoenix Symphony and is coming up on 20 years in that chair. He’s a very funny guy, a deep thinker and wants to leave his mark on social improvement in as many ways possible.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to work with him on a program he put together a few years back called The Leading Tone. It was an after school program where we got to work with very young students and teach them the process of working in an ensemble using buckets as a percussion instrument.

It was exciting to assist him in getting this program off the ground and to see the smile on the students faces when they got to perform in front of their classmates and their family and friends.

Alex has reached a very high level in the world of classical music which not everyone always gets to accomplish even if they pour their heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into their work. Being the principal chair in a symphony is no small feat.

The great thing about Alex is his “real”. You’ll hear in this conversation that he’s just one of us with maybe a little more discipline than most but still someone who I love hanging out with for  lunch or a beer.

Please check out this episode to hear how all this started for Alex at a young age as we bring you on a journey all the way to his appointment at the Principal Clarinet of The Phoenix Symphony.

In part 2, we continue to talk about the current status of The Phoenix Symphony during COVID-19 and all the projects he’s working on moving forward.

I hope you enjoy both parts of this interview with Alex and I can’t thank you enough for listening to my podcast.

Alex Laing:

Alex’s Website:

The Leading Tone:

Connect with Alex: [email protected]

Podcast Music By: Andy Galore, Album: “Out and About“, Song: “Chicken & Scotch” 2014

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Joe: All right, so and I know or I don’t want to keep you, but there’s so much more I have to add, so you have to cut me off when you have to cut me off, OK? OK, so you’re you’re now in Phoenix. And I moved here in 2004. I don’t remember when we actually met, but we met through a program that you started called The Leading Tone, which I want to talk about now so that we can make sure

Alex: Mm hmm.

Joe: We we given its do. So we met because you were starting this program and I’m only going to say the brief part of it, just

Alex: Yeah…please.

Joe: How it relates to me. And then you take it from there and you are doing this cool after school program where we were going to teach really younger kids. I don’t even remember the age range, which you can explain again, but it was Buckett drumming, which is basically for anybody out there that at this point doesn’t know what that is. It’s any time you’re walking any of the street basically in New York, that’s where it really blew up. But anywhere you are that you see somebody that has a bucket turned upside down, banging on it, sometimes with sticks, sometimes with all sorts of things. So take it from there. So The Leading Tone is this

Alex: Yeah,

Joe: Program that you started, so.

Alex: Yeah, so I mean, I think just to give it a little context right there, going back to school, you know, and this sort of sense of like my social life is inside, like the black community in Northwestern, but my academic life is inside the school of music. And there aren’t any black people in the school of music at Northwestern. And that sense of like separation is sort of a theme in my whole sort of journey. When I was at when I was in New York for grad school, first time, I started to learn about what at the time was called the community engaged music making. And I started to learn about like programs and ways of thinking about what I did and how that could be. Because also at the same time, right. I’m like Civic all playing all these places. I’m not there aren’t any black people in the audience either. Right. So so so how does that how can I musically be like engaged with useful to in communion with black people that I hear about community music making. And I did this year long sort of course, that had us put together a little ensemble and then I go into schools and play for kids mostly. So Manhattan schools up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, just just below Harlem. Right. So the schools that we were going into, New York, for one thing, but also where we were there, mostly harmless, mostly like black brown kids. And we had like something to say to them, wasn’t to be clear. It wasn’t like great. It wasn’t culturally responsive. There’s lots of ways of looking at that where it was like, you know, there was all kinds of room for improvement.

Alex: But for me, it was the first time where, like music and culture were sort of coming together in ways that sort of brought together my my personality, my personality and my interests. So fast forward to I’ve gotten the gig in Phoenix. I knew that that I wanted to have like a community engage music practice. And so actually, the first thing I did was reach out to Rosie’s House program here and give a shout out to Rosie’s house, go check it out, support them. They’re amazing. And I wanted to teach, but they’re like, wow, what what about what if you sat on the board? Let’s put you on the board. I know what that even meant. I was like, OK, so I learned a lot about like seeing an organization from that perspective, seeing the work from that perspective, and then some of the El Sistema stuff started to happen. So El Sistema, is this program out of Venezuela that really has captured the imagination and the storytelling about so-called classical music here in the states and El Sistema programs are starting to pop up. And I really wanted to participate in this in an applied way. And so long story short, I ended up sort of feeling like the best way I could get involved, especially after trying to do it some other ways, was to start my own thing. So when I first started before I knew you, Joe, when I first started it, I was thinking very much of like kind of replicating my own biography. Right. I was it was going to be instrumental music program. I was patterning it after a an organization, a golf organization called The First Tee.

Joe: Yeah,

Alex: You remember all that

Joe: Yeah,

Alex: Talk and

Joe: Yeah.

Alex: And what would it look like? And building sort of like what? Like in my mind, it was sort of like Rubinek bank method meets, like the Boy Scouts, meets for age, meets cultural responsibility, like I didn’t, you know. So that’s where the idea was before I met. Before I met you, I was thinking of myself is like I’m thinking it would make it better, like I’m going to teach in this thing. I’m going to be one of the teachers. I’m going to teach clarinet. I really wasn’t able to get out of first gear. Could people were like, that sounds really complicated. It sounds really it sounds good. I think it’s a good idea. But like, there’s a lot here. You want to build it, like big and unwieldy. And it took a lot of words to explain. A shift came when I sort of make two shifts. The main shift was one, changing the ensemble. Right. So a bucket band immediately, a little bit of sort of musicological like in music pedagogy that I started to build around myself and understanding. I realized, oh, well, you know, if you’re talking about, like, prosocial stuff, if you’re talking about kids being in communion with each other and building a sense of group and unity and learning through that. Right. An instrument that lets you can play an ensemble on a bucket in day one in a way that you cannot on a clarinet, right, because I’m going to spend all of day one on the clarinet, just maybe teaching you, maybe not even how to make a sound just like how to approach the thing. How does the thing work? Right. And.

Joe: Or you might be teaching that how to not put the reed upside down.

Alex: Exactly,

Joe: See,

Alex: Exactly.

Joe: I remembered

Alex: Yeah, but I see, as you did there, you brought it back. Thanks, folks.

Joe: That

Alex: That’s

Joe: I say.

Alex: Exactly what brought it home. This is my comedy routine, I realized. Oh, wow. The main shift, I realized was like shifting myself, shifting from seeing myself as the teacher and into more of a facilitator. Right. And then the the idea of a bucket band and realizing all the advantages came from that, like, oh, wow, we can talk about working together as a team, making a communal sound ensemble self in relation to others. All of the social emotional stuff that can come from that you can get to right from the beginning. The other thing that I realized was so that was the musical part. I also realized that I like seeing my building. The thing around what I could teach was actually really limiting. So I thought of it as like, oh, it’s like, you know, you go to war with the Army you have, of course if I’m talking about teaching music, I’m going to build it around like myself being a teacher, because I don’t have to pay myself and sweat equity. I’ll build this thing. So it was it was. It was it makes sense, except for you. I didn’t realize, like, how limiting that was because that meant that it had to be the things that I knew how to teach and what I thought. And so the switch to the bucket band, that’s like the musicological part. That’s like the sort of structure part. Then the storytelling piece, like people got it like and like people know what a pocket band is. They thought it sounded cool. It looks cool. It made sense. Some kids thought it was cool.

Alex: Some of the stuff that challenged me around, like doing this quote unquote, community engage music making. And from what I was interested in, black communities showing up with, like European classical music, we’re here with violins to save you from your blackness with white music like it gets complicated, right? Which is not to say you can’t do anything you can. I know a lot of people who are black violin. There’s lots of there’s lots of people doing amazing, amazing stuff. So it’s not it’s not a it’s not it’s not a hurdle you can’t account for, but you do have to account for it or or I think you do. But that doesn’t relieve you of that. This is even classical music. I don’t only have to like say like, you know, you hear me. I say so-called classical. Like, I don’t have this. I didn’t say any of that is bucket drumming. We could just deal with like I don’t have to deal with notation. I don’t have to deal with all kinds of stuff and we can just get it. So that’s when I realized I had something. And then things got really quickly from there. Soon as I made that shift, The Leading Tone like it was that much closer to being a thing. And so then enter stage left Joe Costello, because now that I’ve moved to the job, I still believe obviously. Sure I could. And, you know, at this point, I’m doing some stuff. I’m taking some awful Schulberg training. I’m really trying to learn, like, how would I do this? Right.

Joe: Mm

Alex: Because,

Joe: Hmm.

Alex: You know, and what what is general music and what what is it to teach kids sort of music in an after school setting and what skills do you need? Whatever. And so, yeah, the first thing that first summer, what I just I got an opportunity through a local five and six and some connections there to run a little pilot program in conjunction with the Youth Development Program that needed some extra programming. And so it was sort of a win win. They got the access to the union hall and the air conditioning that comes with that, which is a big deal and a big space rented space that can hold like 15, 18, 19 kids. And they’re like, yeah, great. Tuesdays and Thursdays. You know, you can sort of try out this thing that you want to do. So I did a little Kickstarter and

Joe: What

Alex: Raised

Joe: Year was

Alex: The money

Joe: That?

Alex: To pay a teacher that was twenty fourteen I think maybe

Joe: Ok,

Alex: Two thousand thirteen fourteen.

Joe: Ok.

Alex: And yeah, I called up some friends and they were like this guy, Joe Costello, I think you should give JoCo. So I gave you a call, sort of explained it to you and you got it was into it. I did a little Kickstarter online to sort of friends and family just to raise enough money to be able to tribute you. And it really wasn’t that very cost. I got the buckets donated. I got sticks donated. I think we had a pizza party and some T-shirts made with some of that money, but mostly just wanted to pay for teaching. And that gave me something in the real world. Right. So now this was a thing and I could show it to some people. And then that led to a charter school that didn’t have any after school programming and was looking for something and sort of was into what I was talking about. And that was just a college prep. And so we started at fourteen, fifteen year doing after school. The other thing I learned in doing that was again, a lot of it is in that lesson from Riccarton and you got to get over yourself. A lot of it. Is that right. Like what happened? What have you did in setting yourself. Like what if you didn’t you said yourself even more. Even more, even more. So I had this idea we were going to build this really robust curriculum and, you know, core values. And and we did that for, like, I don’t know, that pilot. We did it for maybe we tried for like the first four classes or something. And then I realized there are this that youth development program already had a curriculum.

Alex: So rather than trying to invent a new curriculum, what can we use music to explore and unpack the curriculum they already had that thing started to go better at that point. So when we got to the device, the college prep in the fall, we are sort of in that mindset. So now it was about, OK, we know you guys have core values. So their core values were respect, enthusiasm, achievement, courage, hard work, which is what it goals. And so that’s what we made ourselves. Right. We were the Reach Bucket Band. You know, we met two days a week after school and everything was sort of the youth development piece was sort of filtering through those core values. And, you know, looking back, obviously everybody knows a lot more now, myself included. But that’s that’s that’s where The Leading Tone started and went and grew. And I hope that this will be news to you that I’ve kind of actually sort of it’s not dormant. But we did wind it down last year and sort of transitioned to another sort of piece of the puzzle which was supporting teaching artists, which is something I really. So that’s another thing that I learned right at the beginning. I had these. Ideas of what we would teach and what the curriculum would be, and as circumstances changed around us, it got to a point where like I could untack why later. But the point is that things things were dynamic and changed. And what I realized was, oh, when you when you give teaching artists a relatively blank canvas and some some support and say, like, what do you want to do? You get better stuff. Right.

Joe: Mm hmm.

Alex: You and so that just for The Leading Tone was a big learning. And so the last two years was very much about like, what do you want to teach and how can we build around that as opposed to I’m hiring you to teach this thing and do it do it this way. Right.

Joe: Ok.

Alex: And then I started to work with a guy as you who you know, I think Evan Tobias is one of Richard Maxwell teachers, I

Joe: Mm

Alex: Think,

Joe: Hmm.

Alex: Or their friend, I think in any case, probably friends. I think Richard’s been done with school for too long to study with them in any case. So working with Evan and similar interests. And so the last two years, we I don’t know what this year is going to be like. Everything’s up in the air with everything. But the last two years we ran something called “Artistry After School”, which was basically a lot of those lessons that I took from the leaving town about supporting teaching artists and really made that the only focus. So it was about. Bringing in teaching artists, paying them for their learning, right? So I think if you look at teaching art history, there’s very little paid, there’s very little opportunity to reflect and to grow. And there’s almost there’s even fewer opportunities where you’re paid to do that, where that’s part of your growth was part of your sort of program. So we created an opportunity to do that.

Joe: Can

Alex: And

Joe: You give

Alex: That’s

Joe: Me an

Alex: What.

Joe: Example of what that would be like?

Alex: Yes, so it would be well, I mean, the example that happened last year, well, one the first year we did sort of we ran the two sort of side by side. So the league term was still offering programming. And what would happen is, is I hired we brought in about, I don’t know, five or eight teaching artists who are going to be teaching in the after school program and artistry after school served as that place where they would get they would be paid for their time and they would get to develop the programming that they would then deliver through the leaving town.

Joe: Ok,

Alex: So you Billy, I think you remember Billy right

Joe: I think so.

Alex: There. So Billy, like, what do you want? Billy wanted to do something around, like storytelling and narrative and play and and fables. And so were artistry after schools where the this where the idea would be sort of born and formed and shaped. And as a cohort, the teaching artists, they would coach each other up. And what about this and what about that in The Leading Tone is where they would deliver the thing. Right. And then come back to our studio after school with some reflection, like, oh, I did this, you know, and that was the first year. The second year, which was last year, of course, got completely upended by

Joe: Mm hmm.

Alex: The pandemic. But, you know, again, sort of a just a decent turn of events. I mean, we were we were up and going. We had our artists selected. The idea at the time was that they were going to have this applied space. So they were going to work in the orchestra after school program for two or three months, develop their ideas, develop some theories about what would happen, go out and apply them, you know, get some videotape of them doing their teaching again, just like, you know, come back. Let’s look at the tape, what happened here, all that kind of stuff, then the pandemic. And so we were in a position. We had to move everything online. We had all this teaching artists, you know, seven teaching artists who were also sort of like the rest of the world, like, well, how do I move all of this online? And so one Evan, my partner in all of this, he’s like a big tech person. He’s pretty savvy with that and has been working with that for a while. So he was a huge help in that regard. And also, it’s his big thing is digital music. Right? So the idea of like not needing sort of physical instruments in the same sense, you know, you can make music anywhere. I don’t need to explain that to you across the digital space, but in every case. So, yeah. So then so that’s so that’s where things are now. That’s that’s so The Leading Tone is for now I think we’ll see. I mean, it’s possible there’s something to come along and we bring it back. But I’m more interested right now in this creating learning environments for teaching artists and supporting supporting that part of the ecosystem

Joe: All right.

Alex: And learning how to create, you know, sort of learning environments for people and. Yeah.

Joe: Cool, 20, 17, 18, 19 were big years for you is the twenty seventeen musical Americas professional of the year, right? And then you got the Sphinx Medal of Excellence in twenty eighteen and I believe was twenty eighteen the year you got to perform at Carnegie Hall.

Alex: I think that that was. Yes, it was, it was. Eighteen, fall of eighteen, yeah, and then again in like that same later that season, maybe in nineteen spring of nineteen, I think. That’s right. I think that’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Crazy man. Crazy. It was this thing. The Medal of Excellence was really the believer.

Joe: Mm hmm.

Alex: The that selection was, it was announced and you get the prize in like all the whole sort of hoopla event happens in like spring of eighteen. But the announcement is made in August of seventeen. So they just announced the Twenty Medal of Excellence, the twenty one Medal of Excellence awards like, I don’t know, four or five weeks ago. Right.

Joe: Ok.

Alex: So and I think it was the Medal of Excellence attention that then brought musical America’s attention to me and then put that gave me gave me that recognition in twenty fifteen is when I started to get some attention sort of on the national stage in many ways really grateful for. I got to sort of labor in relative anonymity. Phoenix not anonymous to all my Phoenix friends and colleagues, but the eyes of the world aren’t necessarily on us in the same way. And we don’t have a big broadcast presence here. And so I got to work some stuff out, got some really stupid stuff that, like no one heard a place of some giant eggs and big clams that no one heard in twenty fifteen. I got sort of started to get invited into some national spaces and conferences and some of it was around playing, some of it was around talking about playing some moves around, talking about what’s often referred to as diversity, equity and inclusion as it relates to symphony orchestras, programs designed to do that where the paradigm is in place. So I again, I was. I had my own sort of life experience to reflect on, and I was able to talk about it in ways that resonated with people, and so that’s where that all started and started to get voted down. It’s around then that I started to not as maybe is after the Medal of Excellence, that I able to sort of put the whole thing together and articulate sort of like what I’m doing and talk about my practice. And in a way that’s a crisp and concise and sort of speaks to everything.

Alex: And it really comes down to this. I don’t believe that music is just sound. I believe that music is sound and words and people. And I want to have a practice that’s engaging with all of those. And I had that before. The words peace is actually what really started to come on around 20 or 15. I started writing. I started talking. I started sort of putting my ideas out there. People would ask me what I would think and I started to have something to say. But that’s really sort of that’s that’s that’s where it is for me now. Right. And I think that, of course, music isn’t just sound, but I think the training that I went through doesn’t say that explicitly and isn’t clear at all that you can be active in all of that. Right. So you learn music history and you learn all kinds of things that makes it clear to you that music isn’t just sound. What is not made clear to you is that you can you can choose the words and you can choose the people. You can contextualize and frame and put sort of layers and frameworks of meaning around this thing based on what you want it to mean, say and do. And that was that wasn’t something that I understood, because I know it sort of a thousand times. So anyway, so that’s where things are now. Music is sound, words and people. And so I had my sound practice, which is mostly the Phoenix Symphony,

Joe: Mm hmm.

Alex: Obviously less so right now, but not just the Phoenix Symphony. Fortunately, been invited to do some really cool collaborative stuff, just as a sound maker on the clarinet and then on the words piece. You know, I talk like this and I’ve done some writing and, you know, I try to be clear about my ideas, the people stuff. Right. Is is through all of that. But of course, the work we did together with The Leading Tone right it’s about people and how can music be useful to people? And, you know, anyway, so that’s sound word to people, people, words and how you order it. Right. Like music that says it’s I say sound more people. I don’t know. Maybe, you know, I don’t know. Maybe. I mean, if you change the order, it changes things to write music as people sounds the words people words and sound like it’s, you know, how do you treat us that

Joe: Yeah, well,

Alex: Never

Joe: You

Alex: Ending.

Joe: Know, I know and as you as we said earlier as being wise, old man, you’re becoming a deeper and deeper thinker every time you and I get together. But I

Alex: Younger

Joe: Don’t want to. Before we

Alex: And

Joe: End, I

Alex: Older.

Joe: Don’t.

Alex: And

Joe: Yeah,

Alex: Don’t forget

Joe: Well,

Alex: That

Joe: Yeah,

Alex: Again,

Joe: At

Alex: Older,

Joe: Least we can both look at each other and go, hey,

Alex: Yeah.

Joe: You’re losing your hair. It’s like, no, we’re

Alex: Yeah,

Joe: Not. It’s already gone,

Alex: Yeah, it’s gone.

Joe: Shaved

Alex: I

Joe: And.

Alex: Lost it this morning in the shower every morning I lose it again.

Joe: So I don’t want to brush over this because to me it’s I don’t know how important it is to you, but that’s why I want to ask the question. Carnegie Hall, was that the first time you got to perform there?

Alex: Yeah, it was it was Carnegie was was was great. What was it’s great. You know, it’s it’s a name that makes a noise when you drop it. Right. So that’s helpful. It makes a noise to just about everybody. Certainly

Joe: Mm hmm.

Alex: That’s a rare thing in this business, to have something that really resonates outside, you know, just let people get it and feel like, oh, wow. So that’s certainly helpful. It was a thrill. It was great to feel like I was ready. You know, I’m saying it was great

Joe: I

Alex: To.

Joe: Remember

Alex: Really?

Joe: You saying that, like,

Alex: Yeah.

Joe: You walked out there and you’re like, this is

Alex: Yeah,

Joe: It’s

Alex: I

Joe: Like.

Alex: Was like, oh, I got this in the bag, this is nothing, I was like, Oh, but I was ready, right? And so I really sort of completed that eliminate hope. Jeremy, I know I got to come up with something less grim. That sounds terrible to eliminate help. But I wasn’t walking out there hoping I knew how to. I was ready for it. It was a definitely a big moment. And so, you know, it’s it’s it’s it’s you know, it’s like playing Madison Square Garden or anything, you know, making the final shot with no time left and stakes are high and feeling like I, you know, I know how to do this. So that was great. That was a big thing for sure.

Joe: And then weren’t you on that? Did I make sure I’m not getting this wrong, but I believe were you on the cover of the Musicians Union

Alex: I did,

Joe: Magazine,

Alex: Yeah, yeah,

Joe: Which I called

Alex: Yeah,

Joe: International musician?

Alex: We are international musicians. Yeah,

Joe: Right, because I

Alex: Yeah.

Joe: Think I even wrote to you, I texted

Alex: Yeah,

Joe: You

Alex: Yeah,

Joe: And I got

Alex: You’re

Joe: My

Alex: Like

Joe: Copy

Alex: You’re

Joe: And

Alex: Like,

Joe: I was

Alex: What

Joe: Like,

Alex: Are you doing in my mailbox?

Joe: Yes.

Alex: Get out of here. You just brought my house value down and then later that year, the same year is a nice run for sure.

Joe: Yeah,

Alex: It was.

Joe: Yeah.

Alex: I got to play the I got to go out to L.A. and play in the orchestra that recorded the soundtrack for The Lion King with Hans Zimmer,

Joe: Mm hmm.

Alex: Which was amazing. I got to do that through a group called The Re-Collective Orchestra, which was started by my friend Stephanie Matthews and Matt Jones. And they’re the ones that sort of secured a place for The Re-Collective Orchestra in that recording project. And then they went about sort of filling out that orchestra. And I was lucky that I was someone they wanted to have come and join. And that was amazing, right? I mean, and, you know. You know, it’s very much like getting to sort of. Come in at the Cadillac level of like Los Angeles studio work, I

Joe: Yeah.

Alex: Mean, I totally recognize that and I’m grateful for it, you know, great musicians, great project. It was really interesting for me. Yeah. It’s just really interesting and something really cool. And again, something my kid thought was interesting

Joe: Yeah,

Alex: That

Joe: Sure,

Alex: Was cool.

Joe: Yeah, yeah.

Alex: You know, let’s not kid she does not think her dad is cool really about anything. But Beyonce had something to do with the Lion King, so I got

Joe: Right.

Alex: Some of that like

Joe: Yeah.

Alex: Association association. So yeah. No, it’s been it’s been amazing. A nice run here, a nice opportunity. I don’t take it for granted. I remember I have a buddy who did he wrote he does mortgage brokering and he was talking about two thousand seven six five, you know, and anyway, long story short, like, you know, the phones ringing a little bit more now, and I don’t assume it’s going to keep ringing and I keep sort of pushing myself to try to say yes to as much as I can, really, because, you know, you’re hot for a little bit, but you don’t know how long it’s going to last. And I want to maximize these opportunities and best

Joe: Yeah,

Alex: I can and

Joe: Yeah,

Alex: Do the stuff I want to do. Right.

Joe: Yeah,

Alex: Do the

Joe: Yeah,

Alex: Stuff I want to do.

Joe: Yeah, so cool. So in wrapping this up, what is happening with the Phoenix Symphony right now?

Alex: Yeah, well, you know, honestly, I don’t know. I think obviously it’s going to be

Joe: But

Alex: A

Joe: You guys

Alex: Different.

Joe: Aren’t rehearsing or anything,

Alex: We’re not I

Joe: Ok?

Alex: Haven’t seen I haven’t seen my colleagues since March 6th,

Joe: Wow.

Alex: Except except over Zoom, we have done some asynchronous stuff, which

Joe: Mm

Alex: Is

Joe: Hmm.

Alex: Great. We still have some stuff in the can actually that we recorded last spring that I’m hopeful, hoping that’s going to get released. You know, just stuff

Joe: Mm

Alex: To put on

Joe: Hmm.

Alex: The interweb and Facebook and stuff,

Joe: At.

Alex: But some cool projects. This is an exciting time, I think. Scary time, right. All kinds of levels. Scary for non-profit arts. I don’t think that, you know, very many orchestras are going to be the same on the other side of this. In some regards, I hope none of them are,

Joe: Mm

Alex: Which

Joe: Hmm.

Alex: Is to say, I mean, I do think some many of us are going to be dealing with the impacts of the financial situation changing. So that might be some orchestras are shutting down operations for this year because you just can’t see if you can’t gather a group of more than 50 people, how do you get your ensemble together and much less, you know, make the margins work.

Joe: All right,

Alex: Right.

Joe: Yeah.

Alex: Other orchestras that have, you know, some deeper pockets are continuing and doing some streaming stuff. And so Phoenix is yet to sort of settle all of that, but all of that aside, I think, you know, our understanding as a society about like why do we get together in large groups? What’s the point of that? What’s that for? I think our understandings about that are changing, not for the worse. I think actually in some regards, we’re holding those things in greater value,

Joe: Absolutely.

Alex: I think. Yeah. So I think that’ll probably impact actually like what a symphony concert is on the other side of this. I hope it is actually,

Joe: Mm

Alex: Because

Joe: Hmm.

Alex: I think maybe if we could maybe that’s what we should call our podcast, get over yourself. Both of us would be like tons of therapy to actually ever host that thing.

Joe: Is.

Alex: But all that to say, if orchestras, orchestras make it over themselves in terms of like. What is a concert on the other side of this and like, do we need to have longer intermissions? Do we need to have more sort of ability to get up? And like, what does that look like? I’m not sure. Right. We need to have I don’t know. I don’t know. Like, what what what what do people want? What do people need. Yeah. So there’s some deep stuff I think some some. So all that’s going to change for sure. And then of course is the financial piece. It’s going to be a tough year for everybody and that’s going to lead to changes in the other side of this. Yeah, so the Phoenix Symphony is still determining what its season is going to look like and we’ll see. Meanwhile, unfortunately, developing continues to develop relationships and opportunities and some phones running to do some stuff. So, yeah.

Joe: And besides the symphony, I know that you’ve played in a group that I believe it was, was it your own or you had one with Mark and you had did you have one on your own also or.

Alex: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, well, so you’re talking about Mark Dicks,

Joe: Yeah,

Alex: Our

Joe: I know, I’m

Alex: Friend

Joe: Just trying.

Alex: Of ours.

Joe: You’re definitely not one dimensional, but besides being principal

Alex: Sure,

Joe: Clarinet

Alex: Well,

Joe: In

Alex: Smuggling.

Joe: The symphony, you’re doing other stuff.

Alex: Yeah, so right now, yeah, some of that’s some of yeah, so project going right now, I’m I finished this summer, so I do some teaching. So this summer I was teaching for the National Youth Orchestra. It’s a program run by the Weill Institute, which is Carnegie Hall, sort of music education arm. So that was interesting. I’ll distance teach for the League of American Orchestras. They have a course called the Essentials of Orchestra Management. So I’m one of the faculty members for that. I’m actually teaching a course this fall, a professional development course for musicians through Juilliard in their ninth division. So I do some teaching stuff, sort of, in the words of my words, practice on the people practice side. So I’ve got artistry after school, which we’ll see what artistry after school does this year. But I think that work will be ongoing in some respect. I also started to do a little bit of consulting with my brother, who has a consultancy called Hillombo, which is interesting and exciting. And so he he does some of his clients are nonprofit arts organizations. And so the ones that have been close to sort of what I do, symphony orchestras, I’ve been able to come in on some of those projects and offer some insight and I continue to do some music stuff.

Alex: So this is actually I actually just this morning agreed to do my first sort of travel gig since all of this started so late September. I’m going to fly to Philadelphia and do a project with Opera Philadelphia, which is the project is a production of a piece that I actually was really fortunate to be in the world premiere of called “Cycles of My Being”, which is a piece written by Tyshawn Sorey and the libretto by Terrance Hayes and Lawrence Brownlee, who’s an amazing tenor soloist, Opera tenor solo. And the piece is written for him and he helped write some of the words. So it’s a we’re in there were pieces for voice soloist, piano, violin, cello, clarinet. And so we’re going to do that again. So I’ll go out and do that. No audience. It’s going to be both a recording project and for streaming as well. So sort of my first toe in the water on this stuff. A little nervous about the traveling Joe, I got to be honest with you,

Joe: Yeah.

Alex: Man. But, you know, I think I think to take all the precautions and and do my best.

Joe: I think the flights are still pretty light, so you can be pretty far away from other people.

Alex: I hope so. I

Joe: Yeah.

Alex: Was looking at that today, I was looking at that today right before we got on the phone. So,

Joe: Cool.

Alex: Yeah,

Joe: That’s

Alex: So

Joe: Good, that’s exciting,

Alex: And then

Joe: Man.

Alex: Actually you’ll appreciate this. I’m sort of making so I’m going to do a rollout of a new website and a little newsletter, probably September 1st, try to, you know, transition my personal I only have to one email box and it’s been like difficult

Joe: All right.

Alex: To keep everything, especially as, you know, I don’t love email to begin with. So trying to ride herd over all of that. You might even see me on the Sociales at some point, but

Joe: All right.

Alex: But

Joe: Oh, yeah,

Alex: Yeah,

Joe: We talked about that. That’s

Alex: Yeah,

Joe: Right.

Alex: At some point. At

Joe: All

Alex: Some point,

Joe: Right, cool,

Alex: Yeah. But at some point.

Joe: Cool. So where is there anything else that I missed that you

Alex: Now,

Joe: Would love

Alex: Many.

Joe: If you’re.

Alex: Yeah, no, I think I think we’re good. I think we’re good, more good.

Joe: Ok, cool. So where is the best place for people to get in contact with you?

Alex: Well, the best place would be and email [email protected]. I will say that when

Joe: And

Alex: I

Joe: Lang

Alex: Don’t know what.

Joe: Is spelled, L.A.,

Alex: L.

Joe: I

Alex: A,

Joe: And

Alex: I

Joe: G

Alex: And

Joe: And

Alex: J.

Joe: G

Alex: Yeah,

Joe: Current.

Alex: Yeah, yeah, and the website is not live yet. The email address is up and going and the website, it’s finished but I’m just we’re just tightening stuff up and then we’re going to roll it out probably September 1st. It’s not going to be a huge interactive thing, but it will be a place where you can see what’s going on with me and get a picture of what I do and what I’m about, see what’s coming up next for me. And

Joe: And

Alex: And

Joe: How

Alex: Then

Joe: About

Alex: Maybe

Joe: Your.

Alex: After that, we’re going to do some sociales. We’ll see.

Joe: Perfect,

Alex: We’ll see.

Joe: Perfect. The.

Alex: You’re like 20 years late, old man.

Joe: No, listen, you’re going to live longer than a lot of people for not being on social, so

Alex: Fair

Joe: Don’t worry

Alex: Enough,

Joe: About

Alex: I

Joe: It.

Alex: Have

Joe: Yeah.

Alex: To say, I have been relieved, I have to say for the last little while, no one has been like, Oh man, I love it on Facebook.

Joe: Yeah, yeah, down here, you’re doing just fine where you are, don’t you?

Alex: Fair enough,

Joe: How

Alex: Fair

Joe: About

Alex: Enough.

Joe: The artistry program?

Alex: Yeah, that is that’s still just a quiet thing that doesn’t have a website I quite like secret, but it’s really just a project that so we were fortunate last year. We got some support from Asou,

Joe: Mm hmm.

Alex: The first year of their distinct smell that you mentioned came with some prize money. And so I used it to transition to this is what I was interested in. And so that’s what the whole you know, it’s like someone gives you a gift, do something with it. So we’ll see what comes next with it. But yeah, there’s no there’s no where to go. Check that out. But but it’s there. If there is a place, you’ll be able to come at it through the website. That’s the point of it. To try to create a landing spot for all that stuff.

Joe: And The Leading Tone will be there also,

Alex: Yeah,

Joe: If it

Alex: The

Joe: If

Alex: Leading Tone

Joe: It continues

Alex: Yeah,

Joe: Are.

Alex: You can, yeah, and you can go check out The Leading Tone’s website,, it’s it’s up and going if you want to just like, see what’s going on there. There might be a picture of Joe Costello on

Joe: Oh,

Alex: There. If there’s not,

Joe: Man,

Alex: I’m going to go I’m going to go put one out there back when he had hair.

Joe: Exactly,

Alex: No, I’m just kidding.

Joe: You’re right. I might have spilled and I can’t remember. I think I think I did well. All right, man. Well, I really appreciate you doing

Alex: Yeah,

Joe: This.

Alex: Absolutely.

Joe: This is so long overdue. Even though you and I have got together for coffee or lunch and had some cool conversations. This was really interesting for me to actually learn all about, you know, how this all started for you. And and I really appreciate your good friend. We don’t see each other enough. We promise we we’re going to try to do it every month. But obviously, the war of the world is right now that that became hard to put a little wrinkle in our plans, but.

Alex: Yeah,

Joe: Yeah.

Alex: Well, I really appreciate this and I appreciate you. You know, I mean, yeah, I mean that that’s that’s real talk right there. And it’s true that we don’t get to see each other enough. But I, I like I like that when one of us reaches out and says, hey, man, can you help with this or whatever the other one’s like, yeah, sure, I got you.

Joe: Yeah,

Alex: And so I

Joe: Yeah.

Alex: Really value that. And that may be very easy for you to find time today to sit down and chat.

Joe: So I really appreciate it, man.

Alex: Yeah, man, Go Joe

Joe: All right,

Alex: Costello.

Joe: Well, you take care of yourself, right,

Alex: All right, man,

Joe: And

Alex: Awesome.

Joe: You’ll be you’ll be safe on that flight.

Alex: The banks, yeah, said

Joe: All

Alex: To prepare

Joe: Right.

Alex: For me. All

Joe: Thanks

Alex: Right,

Joe: Again.

Alex: Take care.

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