wicn 90.5 fm features ‘mr. clark’s big band’ book

I had a blast appearing on WICN 90.5FM Jazz+ for New England with Jamie Clark (THE Mr. Clark from the book) to talk jazz, music education, the Trottier Middle School Big Band, and just how much coffee Jamie actually drinks.

Host Howard Caplan played excerpts of pieces performed by the 2012-2013 Big Band — whose year is chronicled in Mr. Clark’s Big Band — and spoke with us about Jamie’s teaching, about Jamie’s penchant for tossing pencils, and how he inspires his students to play top-notch music that sounds as if it’s produced by much wiser, more experienced musicians.

A link to the specific interview will be forthcoming. In the meantime, for two weeks only, a stream of the February 17 “The Saturday Swing Session” is available online. The interview with Jamie and me appears in the last thirty minutes of the program.

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talking books, writing, and music in hopkinton

The trio that make up the Hopkinton Coffee Break hosts — Darlene Hayes, Colleen Wright, and Patricia Duarte — recently invited me to dish with them about my writing, my kids, and journalism during their lively half-hour weekly talk show.

We discussed my latest book, Mr. Clark’s Big Band (2017), about a Southborough jazz band led by a risk-taking teacher, as well as my other books, Mortified: A Novel About Oversharing (2013), about a fictional blogger who reveals way too much personal info online, and my collection of humor/parenting columns from when my three children were but wee youngin’s, A Suburban Mom: Notes from the Asylum (2007).

special super bowl original: how I’m preparing to watch ‘this is us’ on super bowl sunday


In honor of Super Bowl Sunday weekend, here’s a special original piece by yours truly. 

*Spoilers ahead from the latest episode of This is Us.*

In the final moments of the last episode of the ten-hanky drama This Is Us, viewers learn that Jack Pearson, the father of three teenagers, will likely die in a house fire after the finicky Crock-Pot he and his wife Rebecca received from a neighbor, fatally malfunctions. The tight shot on the family’s battery-less smoke alarm, combined with an earlier scene of a wailing Rebecca in front of the Pearsons’ burned-out house, have foreshadowed this ugly turn of events for weeks.

But the first indication that Super Bowl Sunday would be the night of the house fire was when the oh-my-God-something-bad’s-gonna-happen music — those spare piano notes, the aching voice and lyrics — started playing at the end of the most recent episode. You just knew what would happen next. You could just feel it.

Continue reading “special super bowl original: how I’m preparing to watch ‘this is us’ on super bowl sunday”

media literacy & ‘fake news’ panel: video

The League of Women Voters of the Worcester Area recently posted the video of the late-2017 panel of journalists and news media educators discussing the importance of media literacy and how to combat the scourge of “fake news.”

The 33-minute video above is of the second half of the panel discussion, the academic portion in which I participated as a faculty member at Northeastern University’s Journalism Department. Joining me were fellow panelists Chris Gilbert, Assumption College assistant professor of Communications, and Mary Robb, Andover High School civics and media literacy teacher.

saturday morning jazz: radio segment on ‘mr. clark’s big band’ slated for 2/17

wicn_4c-152_1Southborough middle school music director Jamie Clark, the main character (and real-life dude) in Mr. Clark’s Big Band, and I will be making a joint appearance on Saturday, Feb. 17 from 11:25 a.m. through noon with “The Saturday Swing Session with Howard Caplan” on WICN Public Radio 90.5 FM, Jazz+ for New England.

Clark and I will be chatting about the history of the Trottier Middle School’s elite Big Band, including its evolution, and the shelf-load of awards it has accumulated during Clark’s tenure, as well as how the book Mr. Clark’s Big Band, about the 2012-2013 Big Band, came to be.  Excerpts of recordings of Trottier Big Bands, including the ensemble featured in the book, will be played during the broadcast.

Given Clark’s penchant for loquaciousness, don’t be surprised if he attempts to hijack the show and stretch our 35-minute appearance into a marathon take over of the airwaves. Ya never know.

You can stream the interview live at: wicn.org.

Image credit: WICN.

kindle version of ‘mr. clark’s big band’ out this week

Screenshot 2017-12-04 10.14.05Want to hear what Mr. Clark’s voice sounds like? Want to hear him talk about Mr. Clark’s Big Band, the ups and downs of teaching middle school? Want to hear a recording of the jazz band premiere “Kaleidoscope” at the memorial service for their beloved friend Eric Green, for whom the piece was written?

The Kindle version of Mr. Clark’s Big Band, out this week, contains those special goodies.

However, if you’re a lover of all things tactile–count me among them–consider getting the music lover, the teacher, the band parent, music student in your life a copy of the paperback book for the holidays. Better yet, get them both the digital and the paperback and they’ll think you are a wildly generous soul.

An added Christmas/holiday bonus: If you email me, you can buy a copy of the book which I will sign and mail to the recipient of your choice! mereditheobrien@gmail.com. You will be my (and their) holiday hero!!

Image credit: Amazon.

worcester forum on media literacy: be wary of what you read

img_5174I was honored to participate in the League of Women Voters of Worcester forum “Media Literacy and Fake News: Decoding Media in 2017” on Nov. 29.

The two-panel forum included remarks from journalists (from MassLive, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and Worcester Magazine) and academics (from Assumption College, Northeastern University — that would be me, and Andover High School) who urged news consumers to be smart about their media consumption and to read a wide variety of sources.

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MassLive.com’s coverage, “How can you tell if the news story you’re reading is ‘real,'” began this way:

“Identifying fake news is no straightforward task, but a panel of local journalists and academics says there are strategies readers can take to stay accurately informed.”

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Here’s how the Worcester Telegram & Gazette’s story, “Communicators on Worcester panel urge critical eye on media in age of ‘fake news,'” started:

“Understanding the ideas and motivation behind the notion of “fake news” is important, but as several panelists pointed out Wednesday night at a League of Women Voters forum, the onus on ferreting out truth in a broadly diversified media landscape is increasingly being put on the consumer.

Image credits: Alban Murtishi of MassLive.