What I'm Working On This Summer

What I'm Working On This Summer

I’ve been a little quiet over here lately, but it’s not for lack of things to say or write about! 

The end of the school/church year is always busy (am I right?!), and this year was no exception (read more about what I've been up to lately below).

I’ve also been hard at work on a few big projects and am right in the middle of planning ahead for some exciting things for the fall.

Today, instead of keeping you all in suspense, I thought I’d give you a behind-the-scenes look at exactly what I’m working on this summer.


Getting Perspective 30,000 Feet In the Air

Getting Perspective 30,000 Feet In the Air

Sometimes, I need a little perspective. Because when I'm immersed in the details of planning, creating, teaching, and making music, it's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. And sometimes, it takes getting to 30,000 feet above the earth to get the perspective I crave.

.  .  .  .  .

A few weeks ago, SD and I flew south to sunny FL. He had a composition residency (rehearsals, presentation, and two premieres), I had a visit with church music friends (choir rehearsal, duet practice, and three services). 

We packed our bathing suits, new books, and clothes we haven't worn since last summer, and left our new home nestled in two feet of fluffy white snow.

The airport was quiet as we navigated to our gate, sandwiches from Au Bon Pain in hand. We nestled into our seats and I looked out the window (because SD always lets me have the window seat) at the grey morning sky.

Summer Travels: Asheville, NC


Last month, SD and I spent 24 hours in Asheville, NC before heading to Lake Junaluska for Music Week. Neither of us had ever been to Asheville for any length of time and were grateful to have an extra day during our trip to explore the city a bit. Here is a little recap: When we got off the plane in Charlotte, it was hot and the air was thick with that familiar Southern humidity. We were a little weary after our early-morning flight, but eager to begin the "road trip" part of our journey from Charlotte to Asheville. Unfortunately, we had a slight fiasco with our first rental car (a worrisome wheel noise as soon as we pulled out of the parking lot), but the second car was fine. Before we knew it, we were on our way up and over the mountains!

We arrived at our destination - the Rankin House Inn - just a few blocks from center-city. The house sits up on a hill, shrouded by lush green trees. We climbed the stone steps up to the wide, welcoming front porch with painted turquoise floor, potted ferns, and of course, a white wooden swing at one end.

Ashley Danyew | Asheville, NC

The innkeeper, dressed casually in a white T-shirt and khakis, greeted us warmly with that characteristic North Carolina drawl and made us feel right at home. We sat on the porch swing for a while, rocking our cares away and getting lost in the late afternoon breeze as it swept across the front porch. Heaven!

Ashley Danyew | Asheville, NC

We ventured out on foot a little while later to explore downtown and peruse menus of the local eateries. The city was alive with buskers, street entertainers, and folks out enjoying the evening. Fun!

Ashley Danyew | Asheville, NC

When we finally decided that yes, we really did want Southern cuisine, we stepped off the street into the Early Girl Eatery, a small but quaint restaurant with the kitchen in the front and dining room in the back. We couldn't resist the Skillet Fried Chicken and Gravy with sides of Collard Greens and Macaroni and Cheese and the Pimiento Grilled Cheese sounded almost too good to be true. Everything was delicious - a perfect first meal. Oh, and if they ask you if you want jam with your biscuit, the answer is yes. Locally made and the best we've ever tasted! We were a little too full for dessert, but we took a slice of Buttermilk Cake to go (because, Buttermilk Cake).

Early Girl Eatery

In the morning, over a breakfast of muffins and fruit salad, we asked the innkeeper more about the story behind the old Rankin house. He was happy to share its history and his part in preserving its legacy.

Ashley Danyew | Asheville, NC

He showed us around the rest of the house, pointing out trim here and floors there. He even pulled out a few old photographs from an old yellowed envelope from when he first bought the place 20 years ago. What a transformation!

Ashley Danyew | Asheville, NC

We walked downtown around 11:30 a.m. to stroll a bit more and grab a bite to eat before leaving town. We settled on crepes from Twisted Crepe and were not disappointed! Already looking forward to our next visit to this vibrant city!

Have you visited Asheville? What are some of your favorite things to see or do?

Photo Credit: Images of Early Girl Eatery by Meredith Perdue of Map and Menu

CMS Workshop / Knoxville, TN


Ashley Danyew | Meet the Community Earlier this spring, I had the privilege of presenting a workshop at the College Music Society (CMS) Southern/Mid-Atlantic Joint Regional Conference in Knoxville, TN.

Ashley Danyew | CMS

We had a little trouble getting there because of all the winter weather in Tennessee (the University of Tennessee cancelled classes the day before this picture was taken!) but everything worked out in the end.

Ashley Danyew | CMS

At the end of the first day, SD and I explored a little bit of downtown Knoxville - walking distance from our hotel. Such a historic city! I loved the old theater signs, lamp posts, and brick sidewalks. We had dinner at Tupelo Honey Cafe - southern food! The tangy BBQ, sweet tea cocktail, fried okra, and goat cheese grits were our favorites.

Ashley Danyew | Knoxville

One the last day of our trip, we spent the morning exploring the city a little further. We stopped in a few adorable boutiques and antique shops, a cute kitchen store, and a bookstore with a charming small-town feel.

We discovered Just Ripe on our walk up Union Avenue and decided to share an egg biscuit and glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice as a late breakfast. The shop was charming - a combination grocery and cafe. As we sat at our bistro table by the window, people came in to pick up a dozen eggs, a loaf of freshly-baked bread, or to order a bite to eat. The food was delicious! In fact, we liked it so much that we went back a little while later to pick up lunch to-go! Who can resist a homemade pimento cheese sandwich?

I hope we make it back to Knoxville sometime soon - perhaps for the International Biscuit Festival!

June: Getting Organized

Let me preface this first item by saying I may or may not be the girl who adds things she’s already done to her to-do list just so she can cross them off.  Even though both of these events are already over, they both happened in June so they count! Studio recital + choir program.  Steve and I had our joint studio recital on Saturday morning and everyone did such a wonderful job!  It was a cold, rainy morning in MA – perfect weather for gathering inside to hear some great music!  On Sunday afternoon, the Sanctuary Choir (my adult group) had their spring program (read more here).  Though we were missing a few of our members, it was a wonderful way to finish the choir year and it was a beautiful reflection of the “reason we sing.”

Now, to continue with the things left to do this month:

Insurance.  This is one of those “it’s so much fun being a grown-up” items.  This month, we need to meet with an agent to determine whether or not we can keep our car insurance as it is when we move, research new health plans, and figure out how to cancel our current plans.

Schedule lessons for summer term.  We have a crazy travel schedule this month so I’m taking a break between my spring and summer terms and just offering lessons during the month of July.  I’d like to have this schedule set in the next week or two so that I can be ready to start when we get back into town.

Catch up on paperwork.  There’s a stack of papers on my desk… tax documents, paycheck stubs, orientation papers for Eastman, things to be filed, things to be mailed at some point, etc.  Time to clear the clutter, get things organized, and get caught up on paperwork!

Find a new apartment.  I am so excited about this!  If you missed my post last week, Steve and I are moving back to Rochester, NY this summer so I can begin work on my PhD (yay!!).  We’ve been doing some research via Craigslist, Trulia,, Zillow, etc., etc. but I can’t wait to see some of these places in person in a few weeks!  This is Part I of our crazy travel plan and…


Music and Arts Week is Part II!  After a hopefully successful apartment search, we’re flying down south to spend a few days with my family and attend a week-long sacred music conference in NC.  Good music, good friends, beautiful lake, and Granny’s Chicken Palace, here we come!

Previously: May: Getting Organized April: Getting Organized March: Getting Organized

Image Credit: one of my choir members, personal, personal

Take Time

It’s no secret that I keep a pretty busy day-to-day schedule.  I love the energy, the drive, the challenge of balancing more than one thing at a time.  This semester, I am segmenting my work a little more, in part to make it more manageable and in part to do my best to devote my whole self to one thing at a time.  Sunday mornings, Tuesday mornings, and Thursdays are for church; Mondays and Wednesdays are for school; Tuesday afternoons are for my studio; and Fridays and Saturdays are for lesson planning, running errands, and catching up. And recharging.

I love the opportunities I have to teach but it requires so much energy and so much of myself.  It’s important to find the time to be refilled and inspired.  Taking time to escape even just for a little while makes such a difference in the quality of my work.  I feel like I need to keep reminding myself that excellence is a journey.

Like I mentioned earlier this week, Steve and I have a sense of adventure every now and again and I love taking time to travel with him.  Often, we are only able to get away for a day or two but that’s enough of a pause for me to feel refreshed and renewed when I get back.  This is so important for my do-it-all, go-getter self.  This weekend, Steve and I are taking a tiny road trip to upstate New York, paying a visit to our alma mater!  It’s always great to go back for a visit and you can bet that I’ll be making a beeline to the cafe with the best lemon cookies ever.  Feeling the need to refocus?  Lacking inspiration in your work?  Take time to be refilled and refreshed this weekend.

The Premiere: Follow-Up

Well, we're back from our whirlwind trip to Rochester... and we're working on getting back in the swing of things. It's a little more than six hours each way and while we both love road trips, it was a little taxing to drive there and back in the span of three days.  On the way there, we were very productive: we mapped out an agenda for the wedding rehearsal (processional order, who sits where, etc.), made to-do lists for the days leading up to the wedding, made a list of things left to buy, and wrote down a list of emails to send this week.  On the way home, one of us drove most of the way and one of us took a series of short naps (okay, I confess - I just couldn't keep my eyes open!).

Nevertheless, it was a great trip.  We arrived in Rochester around 6:00 p.m. on Sunday and settled on Dinosaur BBQ for dinner.  Y'all are probably thinking, "Barbeque?  In upstate New York?"  Let me tell you, it's delicious and authentic and in all the time we lived in Rochester, we never visited the restaurant!  We ordered a pulled pork sandwich and half of a rack of ribs (along with several sides: cajun corn, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, cornbread, and baked beans).  We ordered a piece of Blackjack Pie to go (pecan pie with Jack Daniels and chocolate chips).

We spent most of Monday soaking up Gibbs Street: Eastman's Main Hall, Java's, sitting in on an RPO rehearsal (Steve), surprise visits with professors and friends, and observing the Wind Ensemble dress rehearsal.  This was the first time either of us heard Steve's new piece ("Distant Moons") - great experience.  The director even asked him to come up on stage to give a few comments!  Reason #54 for upgrading to a phone with a camera.  We changed into our evening attire, had dinner down East Ave. at Veneto - a wood-fired sausage, pepper, and onion pizza with salad - and even had time for a cup of coffee (and our third visit to Java's) before the concert at 8:00 p.m.

This was a combined concert for the Eastman Wind Orchestra and the Eastman Wind Ensemble.  Here is the program:

Eastman Wind Orchestra: Husa: Smetana Fanfare Camphouse: A Movement for Rosa Holst: Suite in F (100th Anniversary of the work)
Eastman Wind Ensemble: Danyew: Distant Moons Cahn: Night Ride for Timpani Sierra: Carnaval (premiere)

As a side note, the Eastman Wind Orchestra is the school's freshman/sophomore wind ensemble, focusing on standard wind band classics, music for chamber winds, new music for wind ensemble and transcriptions.  The Eastman Wind Ensemble is America’s leading wind ensemble, and has frequently toured and recorded.  Its core of about 50 performers includes undergraduate and graduate students performing wind ensemble music from the 17th to the 21st centuries.

"Distant Moons" is a work based on the black and white photography of American icon Ansel Adams.  Musically, the piece is full of contrasts, imitating the light/dark, near/distant, high/low contrasts of Adams' work.  "I can see Ansel Adams' work when I listen to your piece," a woman said to Steve at the end of the piece.  It was so exciting to be a part of the audience for this world premiere!

The Premiere

Today, we are back at Eastman.  It's a perfect time in the semester to escape for a few days and what better reason than for the world premiere of one of Steve's pieces for wind ensemble!  Yes, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Mark Scatterday will be premiering "Distant Moons" tonight at 8 p.m. in this hall.  This is the inside of Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, by the way.  The chandelier is one of my favorite features. A few things I am looking forward to during this trip:

- Hearing the whole program tonight - it's been such a long time since we've been to a concert! - A walk down to Orange Glory for the best lemon cookie in the world - Visiting with teachers and friends - Quiet dinner out (still trying to settle on a restaurant!) - Apple Cider from Java's

While we're still quasi-working during our visit, I think it's important for us to set everything aside (at least for part of the day) and take a breather.  The past few weeks have been crazy with school, teaching, choirs, and wedding planning and the next few are going to be just as busy.  (I'm dreaming about ivory vs. white tablecloths, y'all.)  I just keep reminding myself how important it is to prioritize and give 100% of myself to one. thing. at. a. time.  Grace, not perfection.  This is not a multitasking competition (though, I think I would be awesome at that).  The joy is in the journey!

Saudades Do Brasil

IMG_0035 Spring weather, vivid colors, hospitality, time to explore, and best of all: moments where music overcame language barriers.

My time in São Paulo, Brazil was my first experience with international travel and as such, I have many vivid memories.  I traveled that week with a group of friends from school.  The purpose of our trip: to share music and ministry at a small United Methodist Church outside of the city.  With the aid of two translators, we met and conversed over large family-style meals, learned the songs the children sing in the streets, and participated in several Portuguese worship services.


Other highlights of the trip include sightseeing in São Paulo (including a trip to the observation deck of the tallest building in the city) and visiting the large, indoor farmer’s market.


IMG_0183 - edited

In Brazil, music is an integral part of the culture - it is a part of everyday events.  In the cool night following a delicious supper, an impromptu dance/singing circle made up of children and adults alike formed out of an innocent game of “football.”  The combination of complex rhythm (compared to our traditional 4/4 in America) and a cappella harmony was incredible – moments I wish I had captured in a form other than memory.