Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflections on Another Musical Year

New Year’s Eve is always a time for reflection and for making plans, so it seems appropriate to consider what I’ve accomplished with this blog in 2011, and what’s ahead for the G. Oliver Riggs project in 2012.
I don’t know what 2012 will bring, but I’m pretty sure it won’t involve me wearing a tutu.
There are different ways of measuring success; I could pull some statistics from Google to tell you what 2011 posts are among the most read (Jump: A Composer Discusses Her Craft is tops with 343 views), or how many people from South Korea have found my site (820), but the truth is, I don’t know how to make sense of all that information.  What’s gratifying for me is to know that people are reading the blog and occasionally commenting on posts they have enjoyed.  

It’s difficult for me to pick favorites from the past year, partly because I’ve written so many, I sometimes forget them (that’s the problem with having a 44-year-old brain).  There are a few that stand out as being particularly gratifying to write, such as My Musical Manifesto, which articulated my feelings about the importance of music education in the public schools.  I also am proud of ones in which I’ve used my research to connect the dots between G. Oliver and other historical figures (like Doc Putnam’s Gold Star Band).

It was fun to discover this year that G. Oliver taught music to a group of nuns in St. Cloud (Sister Act: the G. Oliver Version); I definitely plan to follow up on that story.  I was pleased to finally write a couple of posts about my grandfather, Ronald (including A Young Man in the Jazz Age), and I still plan to write a few more about his career. 

I loved writing the most recent blog post about my dad – goodness knows, there’s plenty more material there, like his winning a spot in the National Band in high school and being directed by Henry Fillmore – so you might read more about him in 2012.

I have not yet had the chance to address the career of G. Oliver’s other son, Percy; my dad has been uncovering more details about Percy’s career as a band director in South Dakota, and I look forward to delving into that material for some good stories.
Brothers Ronald, left, and Percy in 1957
You can also look forward to some posts about G. Oliver’s early career as a teacher at the Iowa Wesleyan Conservatory of Music in Mt. Pleasant.  My dad and I have been invited to give a presentation at Iowa Wesleyan College in March as part of the Friends of the Harlan-Lincoln House’s 2012 historical lecture series.

I started this blog in January 2010 out of frustration; I had compiled mounds of research about my great-grandfather’s life and career with the hope of writing a book about him, and I thought writing a blog would help me figure out a structure for the book and give me direction for my writing.  One hundred and 31 posts later (or 132, if you count this one), I am not much closer to writing a book proposal, but I have gained more from the experience than I ever expected.  The blog has become an invaluable way of sharing information with family members and friends, it has helped me make connections between the past and the present, and it has taught me how important music is in my life.

I look forward to another year of exploration and discovery in 2012!