Monthly Archives: February, 2013

Order out of chaos: Jazz students exercise creativity with free improvisation

By Jonathan Gradin (Short Article Written Feb. 24 for JAMM-425 Feature Article Writing at the University of Idaho)

Nearly 100 elementary to high school students entered the Kenworthy Theatre Thursday morning for a workshop on free improvisation using wind instruments. As they chattered, Eli Yamin, the workshop instructor, walked through the aisles with an energy and personality reflected in his light bluish-gray paisley shirt.

“Got your instruments?” he asked each group, his wavy black hair slicked back despite his excited motion. “Get ’em out!”

Around the theatre, gleaming brass tenor saxophones, alto saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a baritone horn emerged, as well as a few black clarinets. Those who didn’t have instruments present—including a dozen community members—could use their voices, they were soon told.

Before running through several exercises in free improvisation (music-making without set rules of chord progressions or tonality), Yamin polled the audience as to why the played, both musically and in general. Students around the room shouted responses:

“To be involved in the music!” Continue reading →

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Romans 8:28 and Car Accidents: A Personal Tale

My recent Feature Article Writing exercise, about a man for whom a providentially timed car wreck meant saving a family’s life, got me thinking about Romans 8:28—a verse that always seems to be mentioned in times of tragedy, whether tactful or not—and a car wreck of my own that happened more than a year and a half ago.

The oft-cited verse reads “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (NRSV 1989). Many people hear this and subconsciously think this means that everything should be smooth sailing for them, and are disappointed when problems and troubles arise. However, the wording indicates that this is not the case: God uses good and bad events to further his purpose. In this case, he is almost taking a slightly utilitarian view to fulfill the end result.

Personal trainers and bodybuilders are accustomed to the phrase “No pain, no gain”—which is part of the viewpoint this verse engenders, in addition to the contribution of positive life-goods and events. In my case, I saw the literal truth of this principle and verse in the time elapsed since getting rear-ended on July 29, 2011. Forgive me for venting with a long description of the incident, but I promise it builds to a surprising point. Continue reading →

A Crash in Time Saves Lives

(Written Feb. 13, 2013, this was a short writing exercise for JAMM-425 Feature Article Writing at University of Idaho.)

By Jonathan Gradin

History student Matt McCune does not fit the traditional image of a priest. The 41-year-old clergyman of the Holy Name of Jesus Anglican Catholic Church resembles a rugged cowboy, with bushy red mustache, long hair tied back and lines of age and experience creasing his face. He wears an informal, black buttoned shirt and a long, gray coat and walks with a well-worn wooden cane.

Yet like the cowboys of olden days, McCune has experienced many trials, including a car wreck in 2008 that had providential implications for this man of faith.

“In April 2008, I had gone to Austin, Texas, ahead of my wife,” McCune Continue reading →

Cold Anniversary: Moscow, Idaho, Resident Recalls 1968 Record Chill

(This was a short take I wrote Jan. 29, 2013, for JAMM-425 Feature Article Writing at University of Idaho.)

By Jonathan Gradin

Every year, new college students complain about the cold as temperatures dip below freezing. Moscow resident and retired physical education teacher Terry Peterson, who grew up in Pullman, holds that “they don’t know what cold is.”

Her claims are well founded.

Terry and her husband of 45 years, Mike, are survivors of the coldest winter in Moscow history, which peaked on the night of their first anniversary, Dec. 30, 1968. While temperatures in town plummeted to -42 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature in the low-lying Palouse Hills Mobile Home Park (southwest of town) further plunged Continue reading →