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Andrei Strizek is a doctoral musicology student at the University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign. He holds an assistantship at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, in the Events office, where he advances all of the School of Music concerts and several Marquee performances.

Andrei is an active performer, and is in demand as a music director and keyboardist for many musical theatre productions.

He earned his Bachelor's of Music Education from UW-Eau Claire in 2005, after studying with Dr Jerry Young, Dr Mark Heidel, Dr Randal Dickerson, and Dr Donald Patterson, and his Master's of Music Education from the University of Illinois in 2011.

He holds a wide range of interests, from musical theatre to jazz and popular music history to aesthetics, from the use of technology in education to audience development.

Please contact Andrei if you have any questions, comments or suggestions!

Read here for a full bio, or download Andrei's CV.


Exploring OKC: The First National Building

One of the things I like about being in a new city - and that I appreciate about the Grinch tour, having a week in each location - is spending some time exploring, wandering around the city, and seeing what pops up. I'm sure it drives my walking companions crazy, as I pause to read signs and take pictures and espose trivial facts. Heading into our first full week of shows, I knew of a few places in Oklahoma City that I wanted to go to (the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the botanical gardens, Bricktown), but today I stumbled upon the First National Building and its second-floor bank lobby.

I don't know much about this bulding (all I really know is what is on the Wikipedia page...): the third-tallest in the OKC skyline, the bank lobby isn't in use anymore except for, apparently, the occasional party and ball. (Although, based on the shape it's in, I'd imagine it takes a lot to spruce it up. There was also a random Suzuki "Disklavier" piano there, roped off.) It was weird that the lobby was open to the public; no need to sneak past security and climb over fences to visit this place. (Although the esclators had "no public entry" signs posted, but the main staircase is wide-open with nothing blocking entry upstairs.) Practically empty, it still has an aura of its grander days, when it was no doubt full of people tending to their fiduciary matters.

Part of my personal attraction to this space is its Art Deco styling. I'm honestly not sure I'll ever tire of that style of architecture. Built in 1931, it was erected during the beginning of the Great Depression but before the Dust Bowl swept through the Great Plains. The unique tower at the top of the building was an airplane beacon. When it was built, it was the fourth tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

Some of the bars on the teller windows are cracked or missing; some doors are done; the carpet in an office area is shabby; but the marble - which basically covers the entire space, and makes up beautiful columns (and drinking fountains) - still holds its sheen. There are four paintings in the corners: two depicting the land runs in Oklahoma, one showing the Shawnee Trail, and the fourth portraying the Louisiana Transfer, when the area that makes up Oklahoma became part of the United States in 1803. There are numerous "tokens" on the walls of the space. I'm not sure what any of them mean; there were too many for me to look at for later exploration, but based on the paintings, my guess is that they are related to Oklahoma heritage.

Next to the stairs, on the ground level, is a gate that led to where security deposit boxes were held. I'm sure it was better lit in its heyday, but today it looks a little foreboding, like it should be part of a horror film or The Strain. The clock above the staircase is permanently stopped at 12pm. (Or 12am?)

I'm not certain, but I believe the building has normal business hours. (The ground floor has a host of shops and restaurants that are worth visiting.) The building is showing its age and lack of tenants, particularly some of the other entrances, but next time you're in Oklahoma City, take a few minutes to check this area out. It's a unique piece of history in the middle of the city that is working to redevelop and grow.

I have a few more pictures here. If you have any more information about this building, let me know!


Gardiner's Opening Thoughts on Bach

I recently started reading John Eliot Gardiner's Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven - partly because I want to learn more about Bach, partly because I want to read about something other than music from the 20th century, partly because I've always loved Gardiner's recorded interpretations of Bach, partly because I don't know his vocal/choral music as well as his instrumental and keyboard works, and partly because I'm really interested to see Gardiner's interpretation of Bach as a human, and the conclusions he draws ... so quite a few reasons, actually. I'm only on the second chapter (tech week doesn't allow for much down time), but I am already enjoying it particuarly much of what he wrote in the preface, about how we've dealt with Bach since his death:

A nagging suspicion grows that many writers, overawed and dazzled by Bach, still tacitly assume a direct correlation between his immense genius and his stature as a person ... But why should it be assumed that great music emanates from a great human being? Music may inspire and uplift us, but it does not have to be the manifestation of an inspiring (as opposed to an inspired) individual ... Any God-like image that we superimpost on Bach blinds us to his artistic struggles, and from that point on we fcease to see him as a musical craftsman par excellence.

He also goes on to quote from Peter Williams's The Life of Bach, and looks ahead to how he draws information about Bach's life from his (vocal) music. I'll save some interpretations and reactions to Gardiner's writing until I get further in the book, but I already appreciate his attempts to draw Bach out from the Romantic world concept, which still has a powerful hold over how we view classical music and composers. (For something recent on this idea, read Alex Ross's recent article in The New Yorker about Beethoven, who, much like Bach, still has a power over contemporary composers, performers, and listeners - as much his fault and those who helped to create and maintain his myth.)


How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

In one week (!!) I hit the road again with the national tour of Dr Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. Last year I was the replacement Keyboard 2, and I played about 30 shows in the 3 weeks I was with the show (most weeks we have 10 performances). I'll be on the entire tour this year. I'm looking forward to working with this great team again, and performing this fun and heartwarming show. If you're in any of the cities below, let me know so we can meet up! I'm looking forward to visiting some great cities - many of which I've never been to before!

Fah who foraze!


Carson McCullers on Beethoven 3

"After a while a new announcer started talking. He mentioned Beethoven. She had read in the library about that musician -- his name was pronounced with an a and spelled with double ee. He was a German fellow like Mozart. When he was living he spoke in a foreign language and lived in a foreign place -- like she watned to do. The announcer said they were going to play his third symphony. She only halfway listened because she wanted to walk some more and she didn't care much what they played. Then the music started. Mick raised her head and her first went up to her throat.

How did it come? For a minute the opening balance from once side to the other. Like a walk or a march. Like God strutting in the night. The outside of her was suddenly froze and only that first part of the music was hot inside her heart. She could not even hear what sounded after, but she sat there waiting and froze, with her first tight. After a while the music came again, harder and loud. It didn't have anything to do with God. This was her, Mick Kelly, walking in the daytime and by herself at night. In the hot sun and in the dark with all the plans and feelings. This music was her -- the real plain her.

She could not listen good enough to hear it all. The music boiled inside her. Which? To hang on to certain wonderful parts and think them over so that later she would not forget -- or should she let go and listen to each part that came without thinking or trying to remember? Golly! The whole world was this music and she could not listen hard enough. Then at least the opening music came again, with all the different instruments bunched together for each note like a hard, tight fist that socked at her heart. And the first part was over.

This music did not take a long time or a short time. It did not have anything to do with time going by at all. She sat with her arms held tight around her legs, biting her salty knee very hard. It might have been five minutes she listened or half the night. The second part was black-colored -- a slow march. Not sad, but lik the whole world was dead and black and there was no use thinking back how it was before. One of those horn kind of instruments played a sad and silver tune. Then the music rose up angry and with excitement underneath. And finally the black march again.

But maybe the last part of teh symphony was the music she loved the best -- glad and like the greatest people in the world running and sprining up in a hard, free way. Wonderful music like this was the worst hurt there could be. The whole world was this symphony, and there was not enough of her to listen."

-Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

Minnesota Orchestra performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, Op. 55.


Playlist w/e 10/12/13