Quick update …

Hi again!

I finished Donna Leon’s Beastly Things last night. My review is up on Amazon.com. Now it’s on to Vermont and Archer Mayor’s The Surrogate Thief starring Detective Joe Gunther. Happy reading! – Jim

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The heat goes on …

Greetings all!

IMG_0814Well, I’m one week past 67 and surviving! Thanks to many of you for FB birthday greetings. I must say I’ve enjoyed my summer and contemplated, several times, what it will be like to retire to this life. Not bad, I must say!

I’m toasting you with a cup of delicious Swiss coffee! This is from a cafe in the heart of Crans-Montana, Switzerland which we visited last summer on the Georgia Ambassadors tour. I’m afraid it may be bad news for next year’s tour. The numbers are quite small for this time in the recruiting period and the trip itself is in doubt. If it doesn’t happen, I’ll try to talk Mrs. Dr. Shrader into a European excursion on our own. I’ll be disappointed because we had a really fine staff and we all became good friends. I’ll miss hanging with them. Keep your fingers crossed …

On to the categories –

READING: I’m still into Donna Leon’s Beastly Things. I love the Guido Brunetti series that takes place in Venice. Leon, although American, lives in Venice and manages to impart descriptive sentences that maintain the flavor of the Veneto and still be perfectly understood by the rest of us. Brunetti is the benevolent detective who always manages to outwit the bad guys. This one goes a little dark, especially in the description of the goings-on inside a typical Italian slaughterhouse! Yuck! Anyway, I’m about to the denouement and, when I’m finished, I’ll post my review on Amazon.

WRITING: I’m making some serious progress on Cedar Key. Of course, not as much as I had hoped, but the plot is unfolding. It’s turning out to be a bit more complex than in my original outline. I’ll try to take a research trip down to CK in a few weeks just to re-encounter the vibes and atmosphere of the village and the island. I’m about to begin chapter three of a proposed twenty-seven, so a long way to go.

TEACHING: I’ve been consumed lately with setting up a variety of classes for the fall term. Just today I finished my online music appreciation class. The online rock and roll class is almost finished. I’ll be re-doing my Honors Leadership class with a new text book (that’s for next week). Finally, I have everything I need to design the vocal literature class, except students! We have a very small number of vocal performance majors, so I’ll wait until the students actually return to make a decision about offering this class. Then, of course, I need to select repertoire for my voice students.

COMPOSING: I’ve given up on Colla Voce in regards to When Christ Was Born of Mary Free. I think it’s one of my best works but obviously the powers to be at CV don’t agree! They ran a “Christmas in July” promotion online and there was no Shrader. I’ll keep submitting to them hoping to strike the right nerve, but it’s probably time to diversify a bit. I have a website called Donaldson Music where I could self-publish but I’m not sure I want to do that yet. We’ll see …  Meanwhile, if you click on the music page on this site, you’ll find some pieces that are available directly from me which might be of interest to you or your choir director friends.

TRAVELS: I’m off to Santa Fe in eight days, ostensibly to see some operas, but really to see Alek, Daniela, and the darling Eva. She’ll be almost two months when I’m there and I can’t wait to see how she’s grown! I’m seeing Rigoletto, Cold Mountain (premiere), and, of course, Daughter of the Regiment, featuring all nine high Cs of my tenorish son! The reviews have been excellent and I love the Santa Fe venue. Down the line will be Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Fort Worth, and others. There’s San Francisco, but I may skip that one. You can always follow the singing kids on opera base.

That’s a full 700 words or so for today and bless you if you’ve made it this far! I’m actually in my home office today (not the gazebo!), but now we’re all going for a dip in the pool which, yesterday, felt like a sauna! The rain usually arrives around 4 pm, but that’s summer in South Georgia!

I crave your comments, replies, likes, shares, subscriptions,et al. Take care, stay cool and have fun!  Cheers!  -Jim

PS. I do have some political thoughts coming into my head, bu I’ll save them for a later post (God help you!).  Bye …

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Summer Reading Update …


Moxie - diving boardToday I’m writing from the cool (literally) interior of our local Books-a-Million store. I’m here because it’s right across the street from PetSmart and I just dropped Moxie off for her monthly grooming spa appointment! Here are some news snippets:

Writing – good news! Although I haven’t met my 2000 wpd goal, I did manage to crank out a thousand yesterday and the juices seem to be flowing. We’re into chapter three and events are starting to unfold.

Reading – moving right along:

Beaton – Death of a Liar
Eccles – An Accidental Shroud
Ellis – Fragments of the Dead
Ellis – Whispers of the Dead
Haddam – Festival of Death
Harrod-Eagles – Dear Departed
Jance – Remains of Innocence
Robinson – The Hanging Valley

Currently reading:
Donna Leon – Beastly Things (Guido Brunetti – Venice)

Still to come:
Mayor – The Surrogate Thief
Van de Wettering – Hard Rain
Walker – The Crowded Grave
Jecks – Blood on the Sand (This one is an epic!)

It’s very hot here recently – 99 yesterday and 97 today! I’m off to the mountains of Santa Fe again on August 1 to see Daughter of the Regiment (as well as Rigoletto and Cold Mountain). The new granddaughter is also on the visitation list! When I return, it will be time for school!

On Thursday, 67 will stand up and punch me in the nose! More later … Cheers! -JAS

Please comment, reply, like, share, subscribe and anything else that you care to do! AND, please tell your friends to check this out!  Thanks – J

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Fireworks, Schmireworks …

Hi all!

Pardon me whilst I weather another shower in the gazebo, although I did manage to get in a brief swim  before the clouds opened up!

So, on Saturday, July 4, we all went to Wild Adventures Theme Park to see the fireworks!

Valdosta is fortunate to have a venue like Wild Adventures. The complex includes a water park, a thrill ride park, lots of wonderful animal shows, a regular concert series featuring big-name performers, and all the typical accoutrements that one finds at a full-service theme park. Of course, that also includes an inflated entrance fee, a gigantic parking jam when leaving, sub-standard food, etc. But’s it’s our theme park, there is none better, and we love it!

Over the Valdosta years, we have experimented with different locales for firework indulgence. Last year, we trekked east to Jacksonville and joined a vast mob of humanity along the river to see a really good pyrotechnic show. Of course, Moxie escaped her harness in the middle of the crowd causing me some palpitations, but she was rescued immediately and gladly returned to my welcoming arms. A new harness made an appearance the next day! We also have tried to see the City of Valdosta display, but the instructions say sit anywhere between Exits 16 and 18 on I75 for best viewing. Hmmm. I remember the first year in town when we asked a local where to watch the fireworks. We were told the Valdosta Mall parking lot. So we faithfully lugged chairs, etc. over to the mall and set up waiting for darkness. Finally, way, way, way (did I say – way) off in the distance we saw some fireworks. “Gee, Honey,” I said, “someone has their own fireworks show going over there.” Lo and behold, that was the city show. No one told us to bring binoculars!

Oh well, on to this year’s saga.

We arrived about 4:30 in order to see the Tigers of India Show. It’s been one of our favorites for all the years we’ve been here. It was great again, despite the fact that two of the tigers urinated (we’re talking spray!) on folks in the front row. We were in the front row, but the tigers knew better …

After the Tiger Show, we decided that we would ride the Safari Train, a lazy little locomotive ride through various groupings of exotic animals that’s always fun. Unfortunately, everyone else in south Georgia also thought that would be a good time to ride the train. After moving VERY slowly through the labyrinth of waiting lines, we arrived at a opportunity to exit the queue. We took it!

We wanted to see the Ancients Among Us show which was a bird/dinosaur historical attraction. We made it just in time. The show was informative and more or less entertaining. The most exciting part was when a rather large EMU walked right by my front row seat (yikes!). There was a trainer along side the beast, but it was roaming free and unleashed! It looked into my eyes in a very unsettling way!

We decided not to try the train again and made our way to the other side of the park. We watched a science/comedy show that was pretty lackluster, but entertaining for the kids. It featured Mentos in diet coke and other such “experiments.”

It was now time to grab a bite for dinner and then stake out our territory for watching the Fireworks Spectacular. We all ordered hamburger meals. The product quality did not reach that of McDonalds (make your own grading scale).

We found a great spot to observe the fireworks and set up our folding chairs and settled back with drinks and cell phones prepared to wait about 45 minutes until dark. About 9:15 pm an announcement came over the park’s speaker system that the fireworks show would begin in fifteen minutes. Thirty minutes later, an announcement proclaimed that the fireworks show would begin in ten minutes. About twenty minutes later, an announcement stated that the show would begin in five minutes. After another twenty minutes, an announcement said they were having technical difficulties and the show would begin as soon as possible. From here my recollection becomes somewhat hazy. I think there was another ten minute announcement followed by another twenty minute wait. At any rate, the next thing was a apologetic announcement explaining that they really, really wanted to give us the show tonight. The crowd was becoming restless. Words like refund started to jump out from the rumble. Some folks actually packed up and left. Suddenly, the park lights went out and fireworks started filling the sky. It seemed like all was well and we could forgive the park for issues beyond their control. About ten rockets went off and suddenly it seemed like one of the larger units exploded on the ground. There was silence for a minute (that’s a long time!). Then – an announcement came on thanking us for attending the Fireworks Spectacular.

Disgruntlement ensued …

We packed up, shuffled off to the car, endured the parking lot jam, and made it home (but not in time to watch the National Broadcast from Washington, DC!). On the way home, we discussed the management problems and possible solutions available to the park in a situation such as this.

My feeling is that it would have been nice for the park to reschedule the fireworks for another night (maybe even July 5th, the next night,which was a Sunday), and admit July 4th ticket holders free of charge. That didn’t happen.

Today in the July 8th edition of the Valdosta Daily Times, there was an article stating that the park was rescheduling the fireworks for a date in mid-August. No mention was made of any compensation for the July 4th patrons.

Did I mention that tickets for the park are about $40 plus parking.

I remember when I was a kid and when my kids were kids, the highlight of a July 4th backyard celebration was holding and waving a sparkler and being in awe of the brilliance of this wire thing that you held in your hand. I guess the best thing was – it never let you down. Of course, it wasn’t “the rocket’s red glare,” but it was fun and faithful …

I’ll see you soon online. Cheers!  -JAS

Oh – please comment, reply, share, subscribe, tell your friends to read it, etc.

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Happy Almost July …

inside gazeboGreetings on this overcast, but hot and humid morning from very South Georgia!

I was up and to the gym early this morning, then a bagel and coffee, a check of the emails, twenty minutes of meditation, and we’re ready to go! Errands today include a brief stop at my office in the Honors College, pick up meds at CVS, and replentish some staples at Publix. I hope to be back in time to write about 2000 words and reward myself with a few swim intervals. I’m cooking Shepherd’s Pie tonight from the Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Cookbook. After dinner, perhaps just a wee dram of Glenmorangie single malt scotch!

Reading News – I finished Jane Haddam’s Festival of Death and I’m now starting Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’s Dear Departed. Next up will probably be Donna Leon’s Beastly Things. I hope you’re doing some reading this summer. If you’re reading any books from my list, please let me know so we can compare notes.

Travel News – My buds from the Oklahoma Ambassadors of Music have returned from their 16-day European tour. Judging from the photos and reports, it was lots of fun and very successful. I’m going with the Georgia Ambassadors next summer. Incidentally, I’ll be composing some music to be performed on that tour! As for personal/family travel, I’ll be returning to Santa Fe the first week in August to see Alek in Daughter of the Regiment. Additionally, I’d like to squeeze in a day to the beach at either, Jeckyl Island, St. Augustine, or Cedar Key.

Relaxed MoxieNB. It just started raining like crazy and our resident frog, who is quite vocal, is having a great time! The oblivious Moxie is asleep on the couch …

July News – I do a vocal masterclass tomorrow for the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program singers. Also in July, I’m going to make a concentrated effort to write 2000 words per day on the Cedar Key mystery novel (untitled at the moment). I’m hoping to be at 60,000 words by the end of the month. That a real self-disciplinary challenge for me! The good news is that I think I’m coming out of the slump and the ideas/words seem to be flowing again!

Okay, time for a quick lunch and then I’m off! Thanks to Rebecca Lanning for another comment here. I would love it if more of you would reply, comment, like, subscribe, share, and all the rest of it. When the book is done, I’ll embark on an interesting marketing plan that should generate lots more activity!

IMG_0148I hope everyone is well and enjoying the summer. I’ll see you soon, online!  -JAS

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Back Home Again …

Welcome Back!

We returned last night, just in time for Father’s Day and the first day of summer! It’s a very humid 95 degrees as I sit in the gazebo typing. About every 30 minutes or so, I jump in the pool to ostensibly cool off. Unfortunately, the pool temperature resembles that of a warm bath! Anyway, the breeze combined with a wet body serves to cool one down a bit.

I want to catch up on the summer reading list breakdown. So far, I have read:

Ellis – Whispers of the Dead
Hillerman – Spider Woman’s Daughter
Beaton – Death of a Liar
Eccles – An Accidental Shroud
Ellis – Fragments that Remain
Jance – Remains of Innocence
Robinson – The Hanging Valley

I am currently in the middle of Festival of Deaths by Jane Haddam.

Still to come are :

Harrod-Eagles – Dear Departed
Jecks – Blood on the Sand
Leon – Beastly Things
Van de Wettering – Hard Rain
Walker – The Crowded Grave
Mayor – The Surrogate Thief

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s seven down, one in progress, and six to go! If you’re reading from my list or you have constructed your own TBR, please let me know of your progress and what you’re reading. I read everything on the Kindle app on my iPhone 6.

The negative thing about doing this heavy reading during vacation days is that I’ve badly neglected my writing regimen! I’m thinking of doing my own NaNoWriMo in July to get a first draft into the editing process.

In academia news, my Fall classes are filling up as we’re in the summer enrollment period now. My Georgia Governor’s Honors Program masterclass has been set for July 1. I’m excited to hear and work with these talented high school students from across the state.

I was disappointed to miss the Ken Davis (my mentor) Chorale in their “Return to Lubbock” concert at Texas Tech yesterday. I think I was flying over Lubbock at just about the time the concert started! Hopefully next time …

Now, it seems like it’s sufficiently hot enough for another pool plunge, so, stay cool and enjoy the summer from this day one forward.  Cheers!  -JAS

Please leave a reply, comment, like, subscribe, share, or anything else. I value your participation in this forum!

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A Transient in Santa Fe …

IMG_1187Good afternoon!

On the left there is a shot of the summer outdoor office here in the Santa Fe casita! It’s been a gorgeous day and this will be a very brief update,


First of all – babywatch continues! Grandpa-to-be is still in waiting …

Yesterday I finished MC Beaton’s Death of a Liar featuring Scottish policeman, Hamish Macbeth.  My review is online at Amazon.com. That’s four down from the Summer TBR list! If you’re not reading from my list, I hope your reading something this summer. I’m now in the middle of The Fragments That Remain by Tim Ellis. This is the latest in the series featuring the English detective team of Inspector Jed Parrish and his step-daughter, Dectective Mary Richards. Watch for my review on Amazon. This entire series is not for the squeamish, but the dialogue is marvelous, sarcastic, and funny. It’s a bit irreverent, but strangely hard to put down. It’s not for everyone, but I urge you to try a few chapters just for fun. Next up is a return to Arizona with Sheriff Joanna Brady in Remains of Innocence by JA Jance.

IMG_1186Alek finishes up Candide in Vancouver tonight and comes here tomorrow. The next day we return to Valdosta for three days, but we’re back here on Saturday. I’m hoping the baby is cooperative and waits for our return!

There should be some choral music and authoring news on the horizon – stay tuned!

I’n trying to avoid buying a marketing and promotion service, so again I ask you to please reply, comment, share, like, subscribe – whatever all those things mean. Thanks and see you soon – possibly from very hot South Georgia!  Cheers!  -JAS

IMG_1184Here’s a far-off shot of the Santa Fe Opera Complex taken from the condo patio (It’s that white thing sticking up from the mountain in the upper center of the pic). It’s a great season here this summer. Try to come see some shows if you can – especially Donizetti’s  Daughter of the Regiment featuring my first-born as Tonio (yup, all nine high Cs!).

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Summer Reading In Progress …

Good morning from Santa Fe!

The Summer Reading Project is off to a great start! You can see my TBR list a few posts ago.  I’ve finished Whispers of the Dead by Tim Ellis featuring Tom Gabriel a retired cop and new PI in St. Augustine, FL. I’ve also finished Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman (Tony’s daughter) which continues the series featuring Navajo policemen, Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee, and Bernie Manuelito. My reviews of these two excellent books are available on Amazon.

These two USA locations were very interesting reads for me. Although Ellis is an Englishman, his Gabriel series in St. Augustine and Jacksonville is captivating. His UK-isms come into play occasionally – ringing someone instead of calling, measuring weight in stones instead of pounds – but beyond the occasional Queen’s English quip, it’s a delightful read. From Valdosta, we visit St. Augustine and Jacksonville often, so reading this series has a sense of familiarity to it.

Anne Hillerman has more than successfully picked up her father’s mantle in re-starting the Navajo police series which takes place on the Arizona/New Mexico border, just a bit south from where I sit writing this post. What was amazing to me, was when most of the action moved right here to Santa Fe! Even more amazing was the hospital where Joe Leaphorn was sent for a gunshot wound was Christus St. Vincent. This is the very same hospital where, any day now (any moment, actually), Alek and Daniela will welcome their first daughter and I will become a grandpa! Even in fiction it’s a small world!

So, I’ve knocked two off the list so far. I’ve now moved to the Scottish Highlands for Death of a Liar featuring village policeman, Hamish MacBeth. I love this series so much and I’m sad because I’ve now caught up to the author, M.C. Beaton, and must wait for her to write the next Hamish book. This is an “easy read” series. The books are perfect “cozies” and can be read quickly and for great enjoyment. My review will be published on Amazon as soon as I complete the read.

If you’re reading any of the titles on my TBR list, please reply or comment below. I’d love to get your thoughts on any or all of these books.

In other update news: Alek sings Candide tonight and Monday in Vancouver with the Symphony. He’ll return to Santa Fe on Tuesday to begin rehearsals for Daughter of the Regiment. The question is can his first-born daughter wait for him to get here before popping out to greet us! So far, so good – but we’re on serious babywatch!

I wish you all could be here to enjoy this glorious Santa Fe morning! Until next time – Cheers!  -JAS

PS. Don’t forget to share this with your friends, reply, comment, subscribe, like, and all the other good stuff! Now, back to Scotland!

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Santa Fe, Babywatch, and more …

Good morning!

FullSizeRender (1)I’m blogging today from the patio of a heavenly condo/casita in the hills northeast of Santa Fe, very close to the opera complex. The condo is the summer residence of Alek and Daniela, our two opera stars! Alek is here singing Tonio in the Santa Fe production of The Daughter of the Regiment, and Daniela is here expecting their first child, due on or about June 14 (Ye gods – that eleven days from now!). Last summer they were both working here with Daniela starring as Carmen, and Alek as Ernesto in Don Pasquale. The summer before that, Alek sang the title role in Britten’s Albert Herring. So, this is very familiar territory to them and, since we’ve visited them each summer here, it is for us as well. I have a brief history with Santa Fe from the years I spent as Associate Director of Choral Activities at Texas Tech, but that’s for another blog.

This morning I took Alek to the Santa Fe airport where he flew off to Vancouver to sing Bernstein’s Candide with Bramwell Tovey and the Vancouver Symphony. That reveals the real reason that we’re here – we’re on babywatch with Daniela. The fact is that only the baby and God knows when the blessed event will occur, so I could be a grandfather at any moment now actually!

When I was Director of Music and Fine Arts at The First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland, I wrote a brief piece on Advent as a time of waiting, i.e., waiting for the traffic light to change, waiting for the water to get hot (or cold), waiting for the Messiah, etc. So, now I guess we’re in the advent of a beautiful granddaughter! And I can’t wait …

When Alek returns on June 9, we’ll go home to Georgia for a few days and then return here for another week, hoping to be here to greet the new family member. Later, in August, we’ll be back again to see the Santa Fe shows including Alek’s Daughter (pun intended!).

In other personal news, my darling wife of 37 years, Aija, had a birthday yesterday! The four of us had a wonderful dinner at the Four Seasons Resort. When we moved to Georgia, Aija re-invented herself from being an outstanding singer and vocal pedagog, to one of the top realtors in Valdosta. Even as I write this she is inside on the phone and web keeping her team of professionals busy and productive. She is a marvel!

In other news, I have again been asked to do a masterclass with the voice majors of the Georgia Govenor’s Honor Program. This will be my third one with them and it is always a very enjoyable event. It will happen in July somewhere between Santa Fe trips.

As for reading, today I’m embarking on the summer reading program starting with Tim Ellis’s Whispers of the Dead featuring retired and now reactivated private investigator, Tom Gabriel. The details can be found in the previous post about my TBR list. I hope you join me in a reading regimen this summer – it’s good for the mind and the soul!

Finally, I’m using this babywatch time to try to move the Adrian Stone mystery/thriller (Venice Key)into act two. As a matter of fact, when I post this blog, I’ll mentally head for the Gulf coast of Florida to see how far the investigation of the skull found atop the Indian burial mound has progressed. When I can better determine the direction of the action, I’ll post some small snippets here to whet your appetite for the whole thing.

IMG_1172That’s all for now …  I’ll close with an “artsy” shot of the morning sky as I aim my iphone camera up over the patio.

Cheers!  -JAS


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A Day for Tweaking …

Good inside gazeboafternoon! Working in the gazebo again today – you can catch a glimpse over there. It’s hard to believe it’s been eight days since last I blogged! Anyway, it’s a beautiful day in the deep south! After several days of excruciating heat, it’s actually quite pleasant today with a gentle breeze. The evidence of the high heat lately may be found in the pool which has assumed it’s annual temperature of what I term “bathtub!”

The Tweaking in the title refers to the effort I’ve been putting into the music page on this site. I’ve uploaded several recordings of my choral works, both published and not; a video of the premiere performance of my Really Short Opera, Frogs Always Get You in the End (This is in front of a gym full of 3-5 graders! BTW, we do eventually get the “musical bugs” worked out!); a performance of the first movement of my Sonatina for Oboe and Piano; and a complete recording of 140 – A Cycle of Songs with texts from Twitter!

There are still some pieces that need to be recorded, so if you are a choral director and would like to tackle one of those, let me help you access the music. Also, if you have performed any of my pieces, I love to know about it! Maybe you have a recording …

I’m initiating a new Really Short Opera project and I’m collaborating with some literary, and just downright creative, friends to construct a unique libretto. If you read this and have any libretto-istic ideas, please pass them on – or maybe you want to join in the collaboration?! Just let me know and I will get you the details.

The Venice Key (working title) book is chugging along in the background. I spend a little time each day plotting ahead and writing the first draft of those scenes already plotted.  I confess that I’m a very slow novelist, but there is progress. Meanwhile, the completion of Twin Killing also looms on the horizon.

I hope you waded through my summer reading list last time and will try a few of the books on the list. I’m currently finishing up A Death of Distinction by Marjorie Eccles, and then I’ll dive into the list.

Enjoy your holiday weekend and stay safe! I’ll talk to you next week! Remember to reply, comment, subscribe, share, like, and all the stuff I can’t think of right now!  Cheers!  -Jim





PS: Moxie went to the spa yesterday to get her summer cut! Here she is – I can’t tell if she’s impressed or not!


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