Live Concerts, Concerto Recording, Airplanes

The good stuff!

It’s both familiar and exciting to return to travelling and performing, connecting with audiences and colleagues, plus the never-ending surprises of dealing with travel and unexpected circumstances in the post-pandemic return to the concert stage. And the extended debut of Blue Bell, my beautiful new custom-made Bell bassoon.

World Premiere Concert and Recording — paid for by someone who is not me!

Very happy to return to the US with the world premiere and recording of Augusta Read Thomas’ magnificent and challenging concerto CARNIVAL with the Fredonia Wind Ensemble (conductor Dr. Paula Holcomb). This mind-bendingly virtuosic-in-new-ways work was commissioned for me by SUNY Fredonia and funded by SUNY Fredonia with support from a Sorel Medallion in Recording grant and the Carnahan Jackson Fund for the Humanities, both through the Fredonia College Foundation, as well as a Sigma Alpha Iota Project Grant. We also had student bassoonist, Wolfgang Scheitinger, present a segment of the concerto to honour the connection to the University. Wolf stepped up from the contra chair, played the excerpt from the concerto, and then returned to his chair…. amazing. Wonderful composer, dedicated and virtuosic conductor, energized and laser-focused student musicians, supportive community, transformative concert. The day following the world premiere, we went into the recording studio for six hours, led by engineer Bernd Gottinger and recorded the concerto for a collection of new concerti for soloists and wind ensemble commissioned for SUNY Fredonia. And I got covid 😂 (ultimate booster). I’m fine.

World premiere of CARNIVAL for solo bassoon and wind ensemble by Augusta Read Thomas, soloist Nadina Mackie Jackson, director Dr Paula Holcomb

Photo from the world premiere of CARNIVAL, Nadina, Augusta Read Thomas (aka Gusty), Dr. Paula Holcomb… I dare say the first time in the history of the classical world that three women (soloist, composer, and director) take the stage for bows after a world premiere of a bassoon concerto with wind ensemble. (screenshot capture by Cassandra Bendickson)

Beloved Lussier Concerto – repeat performances of new concerti are RARE and wonderful

Also gave three performances of ODDBIRD CONCERTO by Mathieu Lussier, twice with the very well-prepared Peterborough Symphony Orchestra (conductor Michael Newnham) and again with my hometown band, the Prince George Symphony Orchestra (conductor Michael Hall). Fabulous review here (actually, it is a letter to the editor from an audience member, even more fabulous).

I left Prince George with souvenir Boulet cowboy boots (I am a diva after all), one of which had to be expertly stretched by Steve and Sons (local boot whisperer) and a walkie-talkie programmed with northern channels for my next trip back to the out-of-cell-range mountain roads of my birthplace. When I tried to drive back to the ranch on Maurice River Forestry Road, my fragile little Honda first got a flat tire, then the next day had a problem with the gas… I will rent a Hummer next time.

And I enjoyed the paycheques, press conferences, interviews and even a TV spot where I played snippets of 8 concerti in 3 minutes in support of the Prince George concerts, all fun.

Hillbilly Golden Boulet boots

Hillbilly Golden Boulet boots

Stuff they don’t tell you much about in music school…

Less fun were the epic airport lineups while carrying a loaded bassoon case, and wearing an unnecessary leather jacket (my own fault, I know), delayed flights, delayed luggage, catching covid in NY (we already talked about that), being told that payment would arrive in the indefinite future (I stood in the university office and was paid within the hour, why don’t people read their own university-issued contracts???), rental car mix-ups, a gas station that contaminated its regular gas tanks with diesel and stranded me in a town with no rental cars (I got a nice compensation cheque for that mishap tho it meant I couldn’t visit my home province as planned), and an awkward hosting situation with a newly-acquired boyfriend of a normally wonderful host that was resolved and will never ever happen again to another visiting musician.

I survived all of these little mishaps and it is a reminder of what travelling musicians sometimes endure when going on the road to connect with the world and make a living. My long-ago professional training certainly never addressed the real things that can happen on the road and despite my decades of experience, it still happens. But for real, always demand a hotel when you are the featured artist for an orchestra! Can’t believe I didn’t remember that. And if someone is mean or bizarre, sexist or downright vulgar with you, or doesn’t pay you on time, kick them in the shins and report it immediately to management. Sheesh.

underestimate me that will be fun

underestimate me. that will be fun.

Oh, in case you’re wondering and are afraid to ask…

Oh, in case you’re wondering and are afraid to ask…

I will never retire. First of all, I don’t have a job to retire from, and equally important, I have not yet attained my goals. I will keep imagining what is possible, I will keep hustling for concerts and funding and opportunities for myself and others. I will keep teaching, making art and exploring new ideas. You’re welcome to join me if you are equally motivated, resourceful, resolute, imperfect and kindhearted.

Nadina Mackie Jackson

Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Nadina Mackie
Blue Bell's first concerto recording

Blue Bell’s first concerto recording

Underestimate me that will be fun

Underestimate me that will be fun (gift from Gusty❤️)

Uncomfortable nagging thoughts…

It was sobering to witness the extreme poverty and homelessness in the towns and cities to which I travelled for concerts and music-related stuff to Peterborough, Ontario, Fredonia and Dunkirk, New York, Prince George, B.C. and Portland, Oregon… most dramatically in Portland where thousands of tents LINE THE STREETS. I was shocked.

I stayed in a massive historical hotel in Portland, built in 1912, a scene of thousands of past and present conventions and gatherings of business people and those pursuing the American dream (like all of us). Right beside this monument to ambition and well-being, the flimsy filthy tents flutter in the wind as the residents scurry quickly and furtively, trying to stay out of trouble but really, no way to avoid it.

“This All Happened More or Less”

“This All Happened More or Less” by Crystal Schenk & Shelby Davis 2014, bronze, dolomite, stone

What are we doing to equalize opportunity for everyone? Where do classical music concerts fit when thousands of people have no safe place to sleep, let alone a means to find good food? Musicians need work to keep off the streets, and as hard as it is for us to find work, we still seem better off than many. It seems that a major tipping point has to come sooner than later if we don’t address this in a daily steady way. Regardless of the political party, there is an army-in-training on the margins of all the towns I visited… literally marginalized people who are surviving with very little and yet, are tough, resilient and possibly getting angry. If you are doing anything at all to help, that is good. I’m still thinking about this. I regularly donate to music charities, including educational groups and regional orchestras, and I established a nationally registered education charity, the Council of Canadian Bassoonists… these things help with the educational and cultural layer, but what about all the others who face stark, immediate poverty? And how many of those destitute people are also talented musicians, as deserving of education and opportunity as anyone? More than I few, I reckon.

Favourite Restaurants from my recent travels

Excellent affordable restaurants during my travels…

superb Indian menu at Windjammer Restaurant in Clarion Hotel in Dunkirk, New York (limited hours but worth adjusting your schedule to go); in Prince George, B.C., Spicy Greens (I loved the lamb palak dosa),  the homey Madras Maple Cafe along with Wasabi Sushi & Wonton and great coffee at Ristretto  …heaven)

Also really enjoyed Burns Lake’s Dragon Palace restaurant  / for comforting Chinese food and the Boer Mountain Coffee house for excellent coffee etc. And in the formerly sleepy tiny mill town of Houston, BC, near our former ranch, there is another fine expresso joint, The Pallisades Cafe.

And while in Portland, Oregon, I really enjoyed the Stumptown Coffee Roasters on Division Street (and am still enjoying a bag of “El Puente” Honduras coffee beans) and when I visited nearby Mount Hood, the Mount Hood Roasters time stopped for me with a finely-textured latte and a childhood-memory-inducing huckleberry cheesecake “pillow”, a gluten-free pastry (I think).

Madras Maple Cafe

Butter Chicken from Madras Maple Cafe