For many of us, jacket weather stirs up nostalgia for school days. For the musical sophisticate looking to scratch an academic itch, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Carnegie Library are offering a monthly music-themed book club.
In the Oakland branch on Oct. 26, about 20 gathered for the book club, along with host Jim Cunningham, of classical station WQED-FM. "Sometimes adults aren't used to sitting in a circle and it feels very formal," Cunningham remarked, as they flipped through their copies of October's selection -- Violin Dreams by Arnold Steinhardt. The readers tended toward the mature -- I didn't see any restless glances at iPhones -- but not stuffy.
To Cunningham's left sat Associate Concert Master Mark Huggins, who answered violin questions and peppered the conversation with personal anecdotes about the author. For each discussion, Cunningham is joined by a different member of the PSO -- someone whose particular skills relate to the book in some way. For the next book, This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel Levitin, the guest will be viola player Penny A. Brill, chosen for her passion for music therapy.
"As musicians, they have a certain experience and perspective," says organizer Yonca Karakilic. "We try to make those connections." Discussions can also involve the author, either in person or via Skype.
If your school-daze nostalgia has you looking for something a little more rock 'n' roll, pack up your pencil box and head to the New Yinzer reading series at ModernFormations. The monthly event, presented by the local online literary journal, features live music and local and out-of-town writers reading across a range of genres.
"We're trying to expose those two audiences to each other, so that the people who come for the readings get to see some of the music in their community, and vice versa," says co-director Kris Collins. "It might be obvious to some of us, [but] not everybody does that, or considers doing that on the same night."
For the series' season finale on Wed., Nov. 17, Collins is bringing back everyone he can. "I would have put everybody on the stage if I could, but that would have been impossible," he says. "Even as it is, the show is going to be pretty large."
The next PSO book discussion is November 30; visit pittsburghsymphony.org/bookclub for more information. For more details on The New Yinzer's Nov. 17 event, check out http://tnypresents.blogspot.com.