Joseph Caulkins, Conductor and Artistic Director of Key Chorale, Joins the Club

Joseph Caulkins, Conductor and Artistic Director of Key Chorale, Joins the Club

He is the recipient of the 2019 Arts Leadership Award for Artistic Achievement for Sarasota County, freelance writer and music critic, author of a new vocal pedagogy text, mountain climber, and conductor and artistic director of Sarasota's symphonic chorus, Key Chorale. 

Joseph Caulkins didn't get his start as a singer or choral conductor, but his jazz saxophone major in college wasn't quite working out for him. Hear how his musical journey of choral conducting brought him to the Suncoast of Florida as the musical leader of Key Chorale, his vision that expanded Key Chorale's mission to include music therapy for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's patients, and his new vocal pedagogy book, Developing Choral Sound Through the Warmup. 

All that and more on this week's episode of the Suncoast Culture Club podcast. Come along and join the club!

• Joseph Caulkins Website & Facebook & Twitter & YouTube

• Key Chorale Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter & YouTube

• Developing Choral Sound Through the Warm-Up Website

• Sarasota Ballet Website Facebook Instagram 

• Visible Men Academy Website

• Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson’s Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter & YouTube

• Circus Arts Conservatory Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter & YouTube

• Antoine’s Restaurant Website & Facebook & Instagram

• Mote Marine Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter & YouTube

• Big Cat Habitat Website & Facebook

• Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter

• Two Scoops Ice Cream Website & Facebook & Instagram

• Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter

• Selva Grill Website & Facebook & Instagram


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Robyn Bell: Hello, Suncoast Culture Club podcast listeners. This is Robyn Bell, your host and producer. I first want to thank you for being a loyal listener and culture consumer for the past year. When I first had the idea for this podcast during the pandemic, I had no idea how to do it and what would come up. But after one year we've had a total of 7,400 downloads have 1500 people on our email list, an average about 200 lessons a week. I think we have a very special product here, and I hope you will continue to enjoy and share with your friends, our weekly culture club, episodes, guests stories, laughs, and information about events on our beloved Suncoast of, Florida.

 As we begin season two this week, I want to point out that we've made a couple of valuable additions to our website, first, although you can and should still donate to the State College of Florida Foundation to support the SCF arts education programs through the support page on our website, we have added. Join the club page this season where you can make a donation directly to the podcast to help offset the monthly costs. And in exchange, I will send you a Suncoast Culture Club bumper sticker. So you can show everybody around town where you get your cultural information. Using buy me a coffee app through the website, you can donate as little as $5 to the podcast to receive your bumper sticker.

The other new feature on the website you may really enjoy and want to share with all your friends is our calendar of events.  This page has chronological information on every cultural event happening in Sarasota and Bradenton, along with links to those organizations websites, so you can purchase tickets. Feeling bored on a particular day or evening, or have friends or family coming to town and need to plan an entertainment excursion. Go to our calendar of events page at to see a complete listing of everything there is to do see and listen to in Sarasota and Bradenton.

And now enjoy our first guest for season two of the Suncoast Culture Club podcast. Maestro Joseph Caulkins conductor of Sarasota's symphonic chorus, Key Chorale.

 Robyn Bell: Today on the Suncoast Culture Club Podcast, we are visiting with the recipient of  the 2019 Arts Leadership Award for Artistic Achievement for Sarasota County, who also happens to be the conductor of Sarasota's key Chorale. He is a freelance writer and music critic, a mountain climber extraordinnaire, and just recently published a method book for choral group and individual singing. Here to talk about all of this and more is our good friend, Joseph Caulkins Joe, welcome to the club. 

Joseph Caulkins: Hey, nice to be in the club. Good to be with you. 

Robyn Bell: I haven't emerged for you or AI. They like that. You just say, oh, I'm in the club now 

Joseph Caulkins: I'm in the club. No,  do. I create like a little receipt or a, 

Robyn Bell: I could do that. 

Joseph Caulkins: Maybe like a little something I can frame. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, well, 

Joseph Caulkins: number of the club, 

Robyn Bell: you hang that in your bathroom.

Joseph Caulkins: Exactly. Yeah, 

Robyn Bell: Joe, we tend to start all of our episodes by letting our guests tell us their history and how they landed on the Suncoast of Florida. So give us the rundown here. Where did you grow up? How did you get into music in the first place? Where'd you go to college and what jobs in your background led you to become the conductor of Sarasota's symphonic chorus, Key Chorale.

Joseph Caulkins: Well, I I grew up in in the cornfields of Iowa. So it's an area full of lots of cultures. Yeah, yeah, not much. So I, I, it was very, it was a very small, I always tell people, yeah, it was a great place to be from. And it was a great place to grow up and we had, you know, really good bands and choirs, but,  there was not a string player within 150 miles. And, and so the first time I heard a live professional orchestra. I drove a 150 miles to Des Moines, Iowa to hear the Cleveland Orchestra. When I was a junior in high school, I'd never heard a live orchestra. The first ballet I  saw I conducted. So, you know, it's just kind of a strange grow up, but I  knew classical music was my thing. And even though I was kind of a duck out of water in the cornfields of Iowa, sort of found my way. And I was going to be a jazz saxophone. This was my original plan. 

Robyn Bell: I remember you telling me you played saxophone. 

Joseph Caulkins: Yeah,  I was going to be the next John Coltrane, but fortunately there's only one John Coltrane. So 

Robyn Bell: I know. Look how far though your career. I mean, still in that same path, but look how it diverge is fascinating 

Joseph Caulkins: Its strange I think, you know, music sort of chooses you, you know, I don't know if you choose music.  But I,   went to college thinking I was going to be a jazz saxophonist and that was really my, my kind of my role, but I also was really great was in this little town I grew up there, you know, you had to go get lessons. So there was no one in town giving lessons as a town of 2,500 people. So I had to drive to  the University of Northern Iowa as a  sophomore and getting my jazz lessons and, and my saxophone lessons from the college faculty there.

Robyn Bell: Is that where you ended up going to college then 

Joseph Caulkins: sort of, I, you know, I have my teachers there and they had to, it was a strange, it was a University of Northern Iowa go to a lot of geographical schools. So they don't have a, a direction in them that I can't go, but it was a Northern Iowa just called now, but I went there because they had a really great jazz program. And of course my teachers were there and they had seven different levels of jazz bands. So they were kind of like the, at that time, kind of the mini  Northern Colorado of jazz, 

Robyn Bell: North Texas, too. Right? 

Joseph Caulkins: Exactly.  And so they were really great in my  freshman year I got in I was playing in jazz two. So one from the top second tenor, I thought, yeah, this is going, this is the right one. I'm going to be. And of course they graduated a bunch of kids and a couple of kids came in and then the next year I auditioned and I practiced my butt off and I was sitting in the second jazz band and second tenor. This is not quite the trajectory I was hoping for. But you know, I practiced really hard and I,  love jazz.  I was quite good at it, but not as good as I probably needed to be to get the kind of career I wanted. And I started doing,  singing just for fun and, and won a couple of NATS competitions National Association of Teachers of Singing and some of those things and started conducting them went, oh, this is what I'm supposed to be doing. So it just sort of,  evolved, I think, cause I knew it was going to be music. And when I was immersed in music, just certain paths, 

Robyn Bell: but you, you didn't in high school, you were obviously in the high school band, marching band or jazz band, all that stuff, 

Joseph Caulkins: all that stuff, 

Robyn Bell: you weren't in the choir.

Joseph Caulkins: No I was in the choir too. Yeah, because it's a small school  you had to be in the freezer. Yeah. You had to, you had to be  on the yearbook committee, you had to be in choir. You had to be in band. You had to  run track. You had to be in the football team. We had our, our little marching band. It was so awesome because it's such a small school at halftime, all the players within their pads and their outfits and everything would go up, we'd have their instruments for them. They'd pick up the tuba. They go, they play halftime. They go back,  and play the rest of the game. So it's  a risky thing because  you know, the running back and get hurt, but that means you also lost the second clarinet.

Robyn Bell: So it was about your sophomore year at Northern Iowa that you found maybe choral conducting to be a bit more your, your jam. 

Joseph Caulkins: Yeah, that's exactly right. Yeah. I  had a, a really great choral conductor there and he just sort of took a liking to me and,  we did a lot of stuff that was not on the curriculum. You know,  let's study B Minor Mass together, a lot of those kinds of things. And he just,  shared his knowledge and his passion with me.  And I think,  he saw something in me that I didn't but then after he sort of  opened up the door, you go, oh, I can walk through that threshold.  And I'm glad he did, because he was  one of those mentors that just arrives at the right time to push you in the way. 

Robyn Bell: It's funny how we all seem to have that one person in our life that did that for us. Me too. Yeah, totally. Now, what part do you sing, if you sing in the choir? 

Joseph Caulkins: Rusty tenor, 

Robyn Bell: rusty tenor, 

Joseph Caulkins: that's what you always, the nice thing about being a tenor is you always get more opportunities than you already deserve, because you're not very many of us. And, and, now that I conduct and don't play,  my voice doesn't get used as it should. And that's like any instrument, it doesn't get you. It gets kind of rusty. So that's kind of, it is now. And 

Robyn Bell: people come to my office. I go, oh, you're a trumpet player. And I go, well, my trumpet is over there in the corner, in the case. And it hasn't seen the light of day in like five years. 

Joseph Caulkins: I know where it is. I can put my hands on it. 

Robyn Bell: If it went missing, I might not notice. So you don't,  perform singing. You are a conductor like me. I don't prefer it. 

Joseph Caulkins: I do a little bit, but it's,  sort of like  the sideshow at a concert. Okay. I'll do one piece and. But I don't do much there. And then 

Robyn Bell: do you have keyboard skills? You, can you play piano, 

Joseph Caulkins: terrible. The piano, 

Robyn Bell: that's unusual for a choir director 

Joseph Caulkins: and that's  always been a real, I wouldn't say a struggle, but just a challenge that you deal with because  I don't have keyboard skills that are great. I mean, they're adequate, they're fine. But 

Robyn Bell: people kind of assume if you're a choir person you can accompany, you can. Yeah. 

Joseph Caulkins: Right. And I am not that  person,  and that's fine. Everybody has different skills. And I, you know, the thing I guess, works in my favor is I've always had a really good relationship with a lot of accompanist. And,  that makes me a better conductor. I would not be, you know, even if I had skills, I think that when you're playing at the piano and trying to do everything, it's just a lot that you're trying 

Robyn Bell: to listening as well in dissecting and yeah. 

Joseph Caulkins: And prioritize. So it's a whole different, you know, I think  a conductor is always going to be better when they're not behind the keyboard or playing an instrument if they can get away with it.

Robyn Bell: So you graduated from Northern Iowa with what kind of degree? 

Joseph Caulkins: Bachelor.

Robyn Bell: Bachelor's of Music. 

Joseph Caulkins: And then I went  to work on my master's at another geographical school. The University of Northern Illinois went there. Yeah. in Dekalb I had a friend there Elwood Smith who was a  buddy of mine that I got to know and was a director of choral activities there. And so I did a lot of stuff there and, , I enjoyed my college time, but really  I think I was old enough to have these mentors along the way  Eric Kunzel was one of my mentors. So he was,  the great pops conductor. And he was for a long time when I was with a Southwest Florida Symphony in Fort Myers as associate conductor and the director of choruses, he was the pops conductor, and I was sort of his handler. And,  I learned a lot from Eric and about programming and how to do it. And all of those things . And Robert Shaw was one of my great mentors, which is  the choral conducting icon of the 20th century and then Helmet Reiling. And who's a great Baroque conductor who recorded with the first one to re record all of the Bach cantatas but just an incredible man with a lot of talent. And,  another one that just sort of took a liking to me and w was one of the great Baroque mines. And then I had also a lot of time in the last 20 years with Dale Warland who was kind of like,  the professional. Sort of icon of the 20th century. So I just, I think I was just old enough that I kinda got all of these great conductors on  their last, you know, decade or two when they were already thinking about giving back. And for me, it was like you got  your pops mentor, your,  choral conducting, mentor your expression. Hmm, you know, and professional choir. So I think, you know, all of those experiences,  really found their way in my conducting I th I'm one of those people that says, you know, you don't want to, I think when you're young, you, you have a mentor and you really copy what that person's doing. And then, you know, after awhile you go, okay, well now that's not really me, but. These elements or these philosophies fit into me. And then you start pulling all these different characteristics that you try and test and that they fit and they work with you. Then they kind of  meld into your, conducting.

Robyn Bell: And I have a term for it. I call it my bag of tricks. And, and from everybody that I've studied with or watched or been around, you get something from them and you put it in your little bag and when you're in a rehearsal and you need something specific to fix something, you've got to like 20 things here to choose from, from all of those people. That's the great thing about being a musician and having teachers, and then being a teacher and passing that along to people. 

Joseph Caulkins: Exactly. And I think that's, what's so great about, I mean, anyone who's any good at what they do in music wants to give back and wants to share that knowledge because they're a recipient of, you know, the generation before them that did that.  But, you know, the, the bag of tricks is really important because,  sometimes you can have,  27 things in that toolbox and they all serve the same thing, but you go that one didn't work tonight. How about this one? 

Robyn Bell: Right. You finished at Northern Illinois. You got a master's. 

Joseph Caulkins: No, I didn't. 

Robyn Bell: You didn't finish. Okay. 

Joseph Caulkins: I'm a non finisher. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. That's all right. It didn't hold you back. Look at you now. 

Joseph Caulkins: Yeah, it was one of those things where I kept on getting throughout my career as sort of like, okay, I'm almost finished with X, Y, Z, and then somebody says, would you like this great opportunity to go? Oh yes, I would. And so I've been kind of chasing that I know with Robert Shaw, he would always say in which I, I kind of in that same mode, and this is in his late seventies. I feel like my whole career I've been trying to catch up for what I didn't get. And I think I feel the same way. I feel like I'm all, I, you know, I didn't get enough from this and I need to go back and learn that. And I think because you always feel like you didn't learn all the things that you needed to learn to do this job. Well, you just keep learning the whole time.   I think that's what really makes,  a conductor good is that you're learning continuously and. I liked it in the way I program was sometimes I programmed my weaknesses 

Robyn Bell: to make you better a hundred percent. 

Joseph Caulkins: Exactly. And you go, oh, okay. I can get, I'm kind of bad at that. Let's see if I can get a little better at that 

Robyn Bell: first or second year of teaching, I was really bad. Uncomfortable is the better word at conducting 5/4. I just was like so awkward. And I was what's going on with my arms, you know? And so I programmed a piece. It was all in 5/4 to make myself do it. And now yeah, we rehearse it for eight weeks. I better learn how to do it by the end. Right. So I totally agree. The other part of that is I used to, when computers didn't remember passwords, I would always choose a password. It was a word that I had trouble spelling. Oh yeah. And then it would make me learn. And then after I learned that word, I could spell it. I would choose a different password. 

Joseph Caulkins: I'm really in trouble. I'm I'm dyslexic. So it's just another one of my ailments. So passwords I'm one of those people that go, oh, this is the fourth time I got to get it right. Really concentrate. Let's get all those letters. 

Robyn Bell: We could do a whole podcast just on passwords in our loathement passwords. 

Joseph Caulkins: Oh, I hate that. 

Robyn Bell: I know. I know. Okay. So  you're. Key Chorale, but you didn't go straight there. You mentioned being in Fort Myers. So tell us all of the different things that you've done, because really every job kind of leads to where you are now, right?

Joseph Caulkins: Yeah, it is. It's interesting.  One of my other mentors would say that, in life, you see all these, what seem like random sort of job to job to job. But he said, this doesn't make any sense. And they said, you know, when you're like 70 and you look back and you go all the dots connect, you know, and I think when  we're going through life, we don't necessarily see  the connections, but I would help me as I had a, I did a lot of barbershop choruses, strange enough when I was young.  I had the international caliber choruses and these are kind of like at the time I was doing the,  barbershop chorus international conventions, or like DCI with singing. So they were like  choreography and tearaways and all this crazy stuff. And they work on their performance set for 6, 8, 9 months. 

Robyn Bell: By the way, you may be the only choral conductor. I know that knows DCI. You just went way up on my scale there, Joe. Congratulations. 

Joseph Caulkins: See what I grew up in. Rockford where the Phantom 

Phantom Regiment. Yes, of course. Okay, so we digressed, sorry, go ahead. 

  So anyway, I was doing these barbershop choruses  and that was a great experience because, you know, I always tell people that conductors learn at the expense of whoever's in front of them.  We have to kind of get better as we work. And I learned a lot about rehearsal techniques because there were mostly singers who didn't read music and I was really young and I could try something and see if it worked. And so I did that for a long time and I had no courses that were like a hundred, 140 guys. You know, and we're like, the highest we do was six internationally, but they were great choruses, great learning experience. And  one of my persons that I met that was another mentor of mine,  his job opened up, he had won the international with this chorus and they had been someone else that had followed him and he said, you know, I think you're the right person for this and got me this job when I had no business or no skill yet, but he could just see that I could grow into it. And it was the perfect kind of incubator. Draw out a lot for me. And so I did a lot of that and always did church music is kind of my fallback. So I was doing that for a little bit. And then finally I got my first big full-time church job in Rockford, Illinois, and so moved out there. And then through that time I ended up  working with a group called the Bach Chamber Choir and Orchestra. And I kind of mentored that group a little bit because they were a group that like a lot of community choirs would do two concerts a year and they'd spend all time doing it and which was not my thing. And they didn't do much with orchestra and I'm going, you can't be a Bach Chamber Choir and not have orchestra. So we were in a great position because in Rockford that time, this was kind of in the 1990s. You know, we're geographically in a great place because we were close to Milwaukee, we're close to Madison, we're close to Chicago. And at that time there wasn't much Baroque music really on the scene. So a lot of the players from the Chicago Symphony and the Milwaukee Symphony would go, oh, we're going to play  some Bach concerti, or we're going to do this. Or, and so  that was another great experience cause he had these great musicians that were coming really cause they liked the repertoire. And so I got a lot of,  experience with that. At one point I was. A candidate for Music of the Baroque, which is a great group, I think Joanne Falletta, I think wasn't there. Yeah. And I was in that same group and I did not have a recording contract, so I got the assistant job, but then I ended up moving to Florida. So  that would have been. That was kind of like the ideal job. And I had a friend of mine that was a,  talent agent that said, you know, your problem is you're trying to be too specific about these job searches. He says, you know, just apply for anything that's even remotely possible because he said, he said, yeah, he says, you, you don't know if that's the right job or not. Every search committee is different. And I was in that mode of everything in the world and I got this call it was like a, this isn't late August. I got this call for the Southwest Florida Symphony in Fort Myers and it was the conductor. And he said, you know, I'm just calling to see if you're interested in this position. I'm looking through to see what this position is because I don't even remember. And I find the sheet and I said  you're asking if I'm still interested. He says, yes. I said, well, the deadline was last week. I just sent it in. So yeah, I'm still interested. And I said, most of these conductor gigs, are you know, one or two seasons out.  So I said, this was, you know, for not this season, but the season after he says, no, it's for this season, I said  this season, that starts like in two weeks, this season and he says,. Yeah. Are you still interested? 

Robyn Bell: Wow. 

Joseph Caulkins: And I said, Hmm, that's a real tough one. I said, but why not? At that point I was doing the Bach Chamber Choir and Orchestra. I was adjunct at a Benedictum the University. I was doing a full-time church job. And so I said, well, let me see what I can do. And then I ended up taking this job because it was associate conductor with a,  pretty sizable orchestra and then help them rebuild their choral program. So it seemed like a really good,   fit, but  the hard part was for about six months I flew back and forth and did all those jobs 

Robyn Bell: because you don't want to leave them. 

Joseph Caulkins: Exactly.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Joseph Caulkins:  Midwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines, and I were,  pals, 

Robyn Bell: holy sky miles.

Joseph Caulkins: Exactly. It was a lot of sky miles. I  think it was like a Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I was in Rockford and doing church stuff and doing. Chamber stuff. And then the rest of the time in Fort Myers and it was it was, it's just a strange thing, but that was the right, kind of thing. And I was with a symphony there for about 10 years. And then about maybe two thirds of the way, I guess, about six years into it, the Key Chorale position opened up and it was kind of a strange way it happened because  I was the associate conductor and thankfully Paul Nadler, who was our conductor, was a cover conductor at the Met and got called out a lot, which is the perfect thing for the associate connector. I go, Paul, you leave whenever you need to. I'm happy to. So the Southwest Florida Symphony was actually booked to do Carmina Burana with a Sarasota Ballet and Key Chorale. And Paul couldn't do it cause it's a long run. It was like five performances, very unusually a lot of performances. And so I was sitting with my executive director and she's going, well, you know, this is,  the schedule and you to have to work out. Here's the,  choir guy. It's Dan Mo call him and work everything out. And I said, great, I'll call him. And,  so I'm calling Dan Mo whoever Dan Mo, as you know, and I'm talking,  to Dan Mo and,  we're working on the schedule and everything. And after a while, I kind of thought, you know, this is not Dan Mo this must be Daniel Moe. So I said,  I have to ask you,  are you the Daniel Mo. What do you mean by the danger? I said Oberlin College choral conducting icon. Daniel Mo yeah. He says, oh yeah, that's me. Yeah. And I, so I said, that's crazy. I said, I should, be preparing the chorus for you, not the other way round, he's just, oh, I think it'll be fun. I'm like, oh. And so, you know, he came and I did the contract exactly. Right. Daniel, Moe, who taught like everybody. And,  so I did those performances and got to know them. And   they invited me out after one of the rehearsals for a little,  lunch or something. And I'm after that rehearsal chatting with everybody. And it's like, one of those conversations where you're getting exhausted. Cause he goes, anyone else have anything to share? I just feel like I'm being peppered with questions. And yeah, it was like going home guys is kind of intense and finally.  I said, I think everybody should have a part of this. I feel like I'm just being interviewed here. 

Robyn Bell: You didn't realize it. Maybe it was a job interview. 

Joseph Caulkins: We were interviewing you. I said, for what? Well, don't, you know, the positions open. I said, no, I had no idea. Are you interested? I said, I don't know. I maybe I don't. I don't know. So I asked more of their questions and apparently it was enough questions I  answered, but 

Robyn Bell: you got the job, 

Joseph Caulkins: but yeah, it was funny cause it was just,  serendipity that I was here. In town doing that you know, that Carmina Burana 

Robyn Bell: well, how long ago was that? When did you become the conductor of Key Chorale? 

Joseph Caulkins: This is my 16th season, I think. 

Robyn Bell: So when you first got it very okay. 17 season. And when you first got, it was a very part time 

Joseph Caulkins: super part-time. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Not the case now. 

Joseph Caulkins: No.

Robyn Bell: Okay. So let's segue then and talk to us about key Chorale about how it operates and  the kind of people that sing in it, your season, just  like your elevator speech. 

Joseph Caulkins: Sure.

Robyn Bell: Yeah, 

Joseph Caulkins: it's a, , essentially 120 voice audition symphonic chorus. 

Robyn Bell: So everybody has to sing for you to get into the end. Do you have a cap? Like, I don't take anybody until someone dies. I kinda thing. 

Joseph Caulkins: I don't really do that way because there's enough coming and going from year to year that I kind of, have a good sense and kind of hope the numbers work out and we can,  be as,  small as a hundred. Big as 130 and sorta be able to make music as long as they're good people. And then they have to re audition every three years. So there's kind of a, way that we can kind of keep everyone. At the level we want them to be. And if,  someone needs to retire, then they have an opportunity to do so. But  we're trying to create the best artistic product we can, but we still want to be a family and care about everybody. So 

Robyn Bell: in a way with dignity. 

Joseph Caulkins: Exactly, exactly. So we always like people to take the victory lap. So if it's going to be your last year, let's celebrate every concert we do and celebrate you and enjoy it because so many times, somebody comes to an audition and they don't pass and it's,  usually in the summertime and they just sort of drift away and  their friends don't get to say, Hey, it was great singing with you and all those things. So we want to try to find ways to celebrate people. Cause you know, there's no,  product in Key Chorale without singers.  

Robyn Bell: And over time, I mean, before I moved here, I actually conducted a church choir. And so  in that situation, you that's really hard to go. You're time is up. But what I did notice is over time, the vocal chords really do stretch and they can   get loose and you get sort of this strange virbrato and maybe an older person's voice and really no way for them to prohibit that. You know? So  I know it's tough. 

Joseph Caulkins: It is because it happens to all of us, especially if singing, because it's such a, you know, your mechanism is your,  body,  but you know, there are a lot of things that people can do through technique and all the things that will, prolong that    I find with singing. Older, you get, the more you have to rely on technique. You can get away with things when you're younger, but that's,   one of the aspects. And I know when I first started with a group, they were kind of in that community chorus,  mode of doing two,  performances a year. And then we moved them to four and them are like, I dunno, where an eight or 10 or something. And now they're in a more of that professional mode where,  were going to do a concert this month, the next month. And you're going to have to prepare two programs at once. And I wouldn't say that was not an easy transition for them, but as we grew together and they got sort of into that, that really changed the way the organization is. 

Robyn Bell: And  your musicians paid? 

Joseph Caulkins: We have about a core 16, so we have, 

Robyn Bell: okay. 

Joseph Caulkins: And the Chamber Singers, which is,  mostly made up of the core is about 25, 28 singers. And so that group is doing a lot more in during COVID was really are carrying the flag. But it was great that we have  a smaller size ensemble that gives us more access to programming. We can do repertoire that we wouldn't do with a large group and vice versa. So it gives us more diversity. And then we have   amateurs and  professionals alike. So it's a really a combination. You have a lot of people that have a lot of extensive music background and some who are just really talented hobbyists. So it's a real mixture and they come from, Tampa and Fort Myers and everywhere in between. And

Robyn Bell:    How often do you rehearse 

Joseph Caulkins: essentially once a week in season. Tuesday nights are kind of our night. And then during our production week, they'll have a couple extra rehearsals to get ready for that. 

Robyn Bell: And where do you rehearse? 

Joseph Caulkins: We rehearse right now at First Presbyterian Church, which is downtown off of Oak Street. And it's, they've been a great partner for us just because we've got a lot of space. That particular night is kind of a quiet night on the campus. So, you know, we can do sectionals, we can work to two groups at the same time and it's really been blessing and it's centrally located in good parking and all those kinds of things. So, 

Robyn Bell: and how many folks does Key Chorale have on staff? There's you as the conductor? Do you have an  full-time accompanist 

Joseph Caulkins: We don't have a full-time accompanist contractor. So our accompanist is part-time. So she plays during,  season and essentially gets paid  an hourly rate. And then counting me it's five staff people. So we kind of do everything on staff and  when I started  working with the organization. Budget of around 180,000 and now it's over half a million. So it's changed a lot in a lot of times. Yeah. You know, with that, our staff has grown, but you know how that is with a nonprofit. I mean, adding one staff person is an act of God and prayer and  a lot of things it's, so  we're in the process of doing a little bit of growing again for this next season, but it's,  still going to be a pretty small group, but there are a talented group that,  really believes in the passion and the mission of what we do. And our board of directors,  in all my 30, some years of doing this, I've never had a board that was probably more. In tune with each other and the mission and trying to deliver that. And so everything that, when we talk about trying to deliver our mission, they really do that. And the decisions we make are based on that, you know, before five, six years ago, we had our really lame mission statement  that didn't say anything and was never active. And so now,  it's more about  the artistic excellence and it's also about community and educational outreach and really making that  important. 

Robyn Bell: Well, I'm glad you said that because not only do you have your professional singers and your amateur singers, but you guys have a really great educational program. So tell us about how that works with Key Chorale.  

Joseph Caulkins:  I think what happened for me as I had a real kind of change of heart. At one time, I was doing a video of kind of like those evergreen videos for Key Chorale. What is Key Chorale? I was,  writing the script for this and I said to myself, you know, if Key Chorale, didn't exist, what anyone really notice? And I sat and I thought about that now. I said, you know what, not really you know, the singers would notice what the community noticed. Some people would miss a really nice concert, but we weren't doing things that were, they were meaningful that if you took us out of the equation, someone say, oh my gosh, what a gap? And I said, we have to change that.  We have to be doing things  where the actual performances are a celebration of the music and mission you do every day. Not just only, we only do these great concerts. And so,  when you only do really great concerts, It's hard to fund an organization because  there's some people that really that's important too, but there's a lot of people that isn't, but there are a lot of people that care about education that care about community involvement. So we've changed a lot of that. So our education program now is you know, we do a couple of different things. I'm the one that's the, probably the most recent is we work with the Visible Men Academy, which is a charter school for at-risk K through five boys. And they don't have any music program at all. So we come twice a year and we work with the kids so that each one of these hundred students has a musical touchpoint, some kind of experience so that,  their world expands. And so that's. So we've been doing that since 2018 and then we've also have  what we call  tomorrow's voices today, which is our High School Choral Festival with the Sarasota County Schools, and need to work with the north county schools one year and the south county others. And so that's great. I get to see the students every year and that's, it's a nice festival because it's not just high school kids working with high school kids, but high school kids working with our professionals that are amateurs. So there's a, 

Robyn Bell: like a side-by-side performance. Yeah. 

Joseph Caulkins: So it's kind of been enriching a different way. And we've been doing that for many, many years. And then we also started about four years ago our Student Scholar Program, which is designed for juniors and seniors, who plan to go into music. And along with that,  they sing in the chorus, but  that's just one little piece of it.  We give them free lessons. So they get free eight lessons. We get them ready for their college auditions. They have masterclasses with our guest artists, all those different things that really prepare them for music school. And it came about because David Verdoni at Riverview. Another good friend of mine.  We were talking. Maybe launching this program. And I said,  what would you like this program to be? And he said, I'd like it to be all the things that are, I didn't have when I went to college. And so we went with that 

Robyn Bell: again, filling that gap 

Joseph Caulkins: and saying, what are the things we missed or didn't have that would have prepared us better. And so that's what the program  really is,  a college preparatory thing. But of course what happens with all of these things when they're in music, They become better musicians, but they become better people. They become better leaders, all those kinds of things. And so,  for education, those are our kind of main pieces. And then for community outreach, we have what's called the Off Key Chorale, which is our choir for Parkinson's 

Robyn Bell:  My mom suffers from Parkinson's. And so this is one of your projects that's really near and dear to my heart. Yeah. Tell us about that. 

Joseph Caulkins: So we've been doing it since 2012 and I had  the Neuro Challenge Foundation, which is a for Parkinson's our partner with them. At that time Doreen Sutherland came to me and Judy Bell, who was a friend of mine and said I was, at that time I was commuting back and forth. I had a full-time church job. I was working with a symphony. I was doing Key Chorale. And she says, you know, we've heard about these choirs that are happening that are for people with Parkinson's. Would you be interested in,  creating one of those? And I went, oh my God, how am I going to fit that in my world? And I said, I don't know. I said, let me think about it. But I said, I don't know how I can juggle that. And she said, well, let me send you an article. Okay. Is it some of the article and read it? I said, great. And I was on vacation. I got this article in the email and it was an article about a dancer, a ballerina,   who had got Parkinson's. And she says, you know, every day of my life Parkinson's has taken something away from me. And she says, I always wanted to sing. So I got in this choir for,  Parkinson's patients and their caregivers and all of a sudden Parkinson gave me my voice.  And I said, okay, I'm in, I'm in. Because  that's really what, it's about. Is  taking the skills that we have. And I sat down with the,  neurologist and said, well, what are the kinds of exercises you do? And I took my, essentially my vocal pedagogy and my voice teaching and said, okay, well,  what are the ways I can take some exercises and create things that are specific to them, that will be fun, enriching, but yet they're getting all the therapy they'd be doing if they were going to therapy. And they hate that because everybody does. And so I S I sat through what they have a program called loud and sat through that and saw the different kinds of exercises. Then over probably five or six years, we kind of crafted exercises that were really made for  people with Parkinson's and what I find, we do  eight sessions each semester, and almost every one of the people that are participating. I can hear a difference in their speaking voice by the time the rebel, because we're really focusing on breathing. We're focusing on all the techniques. Techniques that are applied to voice. And that's the biggest thing is, you know, it's already an isolating disease, but when you have this isolating disease, along with my voice is getting softer and softer. And I can't talk to my caregiver. It becomes really important. And you know, they have so much fun and, it's really the therapeutic benefits of singing. And I tell people with Off-key chorale that it's, like  watching music make a difference in people's lives in real time.  Minute by minute, you see why it's important. And so we're looking at ways to expand that with Neuro Challenge into different counties in the coming years. And then we also started a group called Where Are My Keys Chorale? And that's for

Robyn Bell:  like Alzheimer's 

Joseph Caulkins: or dementia. Yeah. Yeah.   I gave him a bunch of titles, but they pick this one it's and it's, you know, We only were able to do about  three semesters before COVID took over for a little bit, but we,  found that  it's a great model. And what I learned working with Parkinson's, I can apply to dementia and we kind of came up with a system of doing this, that they're not saying what does a D S I don't know where the repeat is, what verse are we on. And I kind of rewrote the music in a way that they never turn a page. They just go forward. And the goal was, keep them singing as much as possible. And keep me talking as little as possible. And that's, that's a recipe for success all the time. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. And you've seen the studies where people that can't remember anything in a play Amazing Grace, and they can sing right along and know every word. So it's a part of that music therapy for them. That's just fantastic. And I have some other questions and some other topics I want to get to with you, Joe. But the first time I ever saw Key Chorale, my father was in town and I was looking for something to do and there was  Cirque des Voix, and I really didn't know what it was. I just said, well, it's a good time. We have that afternoon free while he's visiting. We'll buy tickets to that. And lo and behold, I went and I was like, this is the most amazing thing I've ever seen. So talk to us about  Key Chorale event every year that you guys do called Cirque des Voix.

Joseph Caulkins:  It's a very cool thing. It's like, I tell people it's like a Cirque de Solei, but with live music and. It's a really came out of my executive director of the time Richard Storm introduced me to Pedro Reis with then Sailor Circus, but now the Circus Arts Conservatory and he says, I really think you need to make Pedro. I think we could do something with them, you know, and I'm thinking we're going to do something with a circus. Why? And I kept putting the meeting off and Richard was very persistent and I said, okay, I'll go meet this guy however long it takes. So I go to his office and, you know, Richard knew he had a good sense of knowing creative people that you put them in a room they're going to come up with something and he didn't know what was going to happen. And so Pedro and I were talking, it was very reluctant to start because, you know, I remember one point he said something about the Ring curb, and I said, what's the ring curb. He says, Joseph, how long has it been since you've been to the circus? And I said, I don't know, I was six. He says, oh, we got to get you.  But anyway,  by the end of that first meeting, we'd already decided to do something we'd named it. We came up with kind of the concept, although we didn't really know what we're doing. And,  the funny part was he says,  I think you should be the ringmaster on boom. Well, sure. Why not? And that seemed like a great idea. 

Robyn Bell: Interject here you are fabulous as a ring, man. It's like, you've been doing it your whole life. Really, really great. I was in awe and I didn't even know you that I was like, God, this guy's good. He can conduct. And he's a ringmaster, like my hero 

Joseph Caulkins: it's well it's yeah. I mean, you're really funny which sites I would like to steal from you. 

Robyn Bell: It looks aren't everything. 

Joseph Caulkins: Yeah, it was funny because he said to me, he said, well, yeah, you should really do that now.  In retrospect, I know why he was doing that as he didn't want to hire a ringmaster, he thought  let's do this on the cheap. He can't be that terrible. And so I thought, that's great. I said, well, I said, are you going to write the script? And he says, oh no, I don't write the script. What do you mean? He didn't write the script? I said, well, I don't know what I'm doing. He says, well, you write it. I'll tweak it. Okay. All right. We could try that. And so I  decided that I had to figure out how to do this. And it was kind of like the week of, and you kind of go, oh, this is a terrible thing I've said to do. And I have no idea what I'm going to do. And I've got this,  smelly tailcoat they gave me. And, and so I decided I'd seen Joseph Bower. Who's a lot of times the ringmaster for  Circus Sarasota. And I kind of saw him and I thought,  I'm going to combine a little bit of Joe Bear, a little bit of Kermit the frog, a little bit of Oprah and they're ready to rumble guy. And so I just kind of put them together and I went, okay, let's just roll with this and hope it's not too terrible.

Robyn Bell: Memorize that script. Right. You don't have any, yeah, 

Joseph Caulkins: well, I I'd memorize it and sometimes it comes out. Right. But 

Robyn Bell: yeah, that is impressive with everything else. That's going on, conducting the music and getting that going to then on top of that, have to memorize this whole script. It's very impressive. I don't do that. I have a little monitor. 

Joseph Caulkins:  It's harder than it looks. And it's like, I,  never worry about the music part. That's,  like falling off a log, but still, I mean, for Cirque des Voix, you've got a hundred voices. You've got probably a 35 40 piece orchestra. You're coordinated that in a circus tent, which is wacky, and of course you have sound the light and all that stuff. And so it's, it's a lot to coordinate and then you're doing a lot of film scores, so it's changing meter and it's all, you know, kind of hard things and you've got the choir is like 27,000 feet away from you. And yeah, 

Robyn Bell: but the gist, if,  we have any listeners, that's never been to it. That gist is  the orchestra and choir is performing while the circus and entertainers are circus athletes or they are doing an act and there's, there is everything from  juggling to high wire acts to just everything 

Joseph Caulkins: it is. And it used to be when we first did it, it was kind of. Us accompanying them doing an act. And then it became like, well, no, this has gotta be like ballet. We gotta make this really. So now it's  especially because we've been doing it for more than 10 years. So now the,  whole idea is whatever the piece is the act   tailors their work to fit the music. Or we find an act that we love and I go, I'll find a piece of music that fits them and we adapt it. But it's, finding that  synergy between the act and the music that works really well. And then you add a live component to that. And that's what makes it work.

Robyn Bell: My dad might say the best part of all was that we went to a concert and had popcorn. So while we were there 

Joseph Caulkins: cotton candy, 

Robyn Bell: it was great. 

Joseph Caulkins: Some get a little laughs and be scared to death by the high wire and all the different things. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. We go every,  year now it was really fun. So Obviously you do this choir, you are very active in all of the musical and performing arts scene. What did COVID look like for you personally? And for Key Chorale as an organization? 

Joseph Caulkins: I would say the thing that really struck us and, you know, if you're not in the performing arts or in choral arts, you wouldn't know this, but it was in May when we discovered that, oh, what we do as choral singers is the most dangerous thing in the world to do during COVID. Because we sing in large groups of more than a hundred, we sing in small spaces. We're next to each other. Because of the way singing is you're projecting aerosols and droplets and all those kinds of things. And so we're at May and it was,  certainly the darkest time of my career of going  is my whole life that I put into this over, because we can't do anything. And, and I probably went through, I was probably a good six weeks of being pretty remorse and, sad and 

Robyn Bell: Some have said they went into a little depression. 

Joseph Caulkins: I definitely did, I definitely did. And  then something I was I think it was Chorus. America was doing kind of a virtual conference and  they had a bunch of people speaking about the pandemic and what do we do? And,  somebody said that, you know, the most important thing is not focusing on what you can't do, but focus on what you can do. And I went, ah, that's my way out of this hell. And I said, okay, then let's just be creative and  yes, we have that loss of gosh. You know, my full group singing and what are we going to do? And so we just, over the summer trying to learn as much as we could. We tried about, must've been 10 or 15 different singers mask trying to find a mask that worked. And we just tried to be the best researchers we could and figuring out what was going on and what we could do. And then in August we started doing rehearsals with, you know, maybe 10 singers, maybe 12 singers eventually moved into having 25 singers. We did two  online concerts with a 20 piece orchestra. So it just kind of kept growing as we got better at,  learning how to adapt with it. And part of it was, you know, Had a really, multi-layered a plan like everybody does, but you know, we flogged the room. We did the temperature checks. Everybody was in a mask. We social distance, the choir. We had to learn how to sing when you're eight feet from the next person. That's all 

Robyn Bell: Boy, doesn't that create some independence? 

Joseph Caulkins: Oh my God. And that's,  the advantage. Everybody became better musicians. I became a better musician for COVID. We  were experiencing different kinds of challenges and how we overcame them. And,  the moment when the first time 25 singers came together and could sing, I mean, everybody was crying because we thought we had lost this outlet. And then,  it got better throughout the year. And,  it's hard to imagine that the time when I was in my depression to May thinking I'm not going to do anything for a year two, we did we did six online concerts at events. We did a thing called The Come Together Choir, which we did actually as a way to give the program to our Parkinson's and dementia patients. And that was really what was great is we recorded, eight rehearsals with a 10 person choir, did the lessons as if they were in the room. They can put their headphones on, sing along with us. And we did that thinking,  40 people would watch it when we'd done three volumes of that now. And we've had more than 650 unique households register for music for those. So it's just all over the country, all over the world. So we did a lot of that. Since we were working with our small choir that means we have about 85 90 people at home going, what are we doing? And so he did the same kind of thing we said, you know, let's find a way to keep them connected because I did not have a desire to do the zoom rehearsal for choir. Cause it's just, it just doesn't work. It's not very meaningful. So we came up with the next best thing, which is. 10 of us would rehearse with a pianist.  We do a rehearsal just as if they were in the room, I'd stop and say, okay, measure four. We're going to make that a half note and then eat the rest and blah, blah, blah. And we'd go through. And it was just like always, I would talk to them. I looked at the camera, I was able to communicate with them as best we could we'd do announcements. And it was kind of our way of connecting with each other. And, you know, we thought we'd do 10 of those or maybe 12. We ended up doing 25, 90 minute rehearsals.

Robyn Bell: Wow. 

Joseph Caulkins: So it's, you know,  and that was a interesting experience, but that was one of the few ways that we could really connect with them.  And they, say, you know, it's not like singing with everybody, but because of the way we filmed it in the way we did it, they really felt that connection. And that was, you know, that was important because,  the bulk of our chorus, wasn't able to gather and then. You know, a lot of people did these virtual choir things. And we did,  one that we're going to release here in this month in June, 

Robyn Bell: that's a lot of video and audio editing, push yourself.

Joseph Caulkins: So what we did is we did something a little different. We had one of the concerts we did, which was a Lord Nelson Mass called the Mass in Troubled Times, which is a great piece. And that was the one that we did with a 20 piece orchestra. We had twenty-five with singers socially distance in a 400 space church. We had vocal soloist, all that stuff, and it was a really great performance. So we did is we took that piece and then gave the, choir at home. They got three pieces they could do as a virtual choir. And that we did is we were,  layering the virtual choir over the live performance. So in some ways it's kind of like. We're all together in a way that we couldn't. So the people that are singing live in the recording, but also our virtual people. So it's great. It's kind of moving to see that because you  feel like, okay, we found at least one way to sort of connect and perform, and that's what we're missing. 

Robyn Bell: So, you know, this podcast was what I call my pandemic project. And I saw on Facebook, you have developed this really what we would call an education, a method book, a warmup, book you know, when I first saw it, I thought, oh, how applicable to high school choruses. But when we talked about it, I saw you at the Reserve a couple of weekends ago. You're like, well, it's also for individual, you know? So,  anyway, it was this book kind of your pandemic project. 

Joseph Caulkins: Yeah. Was it's one of those projects that I have a lot of these as a freelance writer.  I'm always working on a book. Well, this one I've been working on and off for 20 years. And I had one colleague that said you know, I really want. To get this book. Cause  she saw the early, versions of it, so I really want that. And I got it done just in time for her to retire, but I said, at least, it wasn't before I retired. 

Robyn Bell: That's right. So tell us about the book. 

Joseph Caulkins: So it's called  Developing Choral Sound Through the Warmup and what it is is it's 200 vocal exercises, vocalizes everything from,  posture and breathing to phonation to 

Robyn Bell: oh phonation what is phonation? 

Joseph Caulkins: Is the act of producing a sound. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. Ooh, that's fancy. I'm gonna use that in a sentence later today. 

Joseph Caulkins: It's not,  quite as cool as embouchure but you know, it, it works. And then things like ensemble techniques, singing in tune, unity of vowels learning to tune different chords, balancing all those different things, 

Robyn Bell: Doing all the things we would want a choir to do in a piece of music, but doing it in a warm-up setting without actual literature worrying about  text and that's our thing. Good. 

Joseph Caulkins: And the idea is, you know, I think all of us as young conductors, especially  when I was young we all do the warmup because we've been told we have to do the warmup and it ends up you going, okay, we're going to spend 10 minutes doing  and doing that. And you go at the end of the 10 minutes, everyone looks at each other and goes, well, I think we did it. I don't know if I think he has accomplished, but let's keep on. Now. We're going to the repertoire and 

Robyn Bell: We are warmed up, 

Joseph Caulkins: we are warmed up. And so my thought was  warming up the voices only a tiny piece of it. It's warming up the ensemble, get in the people focused, all those things. And so  over the, decades, I already found that the warmup time used effectively can be really important for the whole night of rehearsal. And so it's not just, you know, I had these 10 warmups I did when I was young and I did the same 10 warmups, but, it was like, who has time to go find warmups? It's kind of a boring little job. So I really spent probably better part of two decades, just trying to find as many different warmups that I could, that I liked and I'd see something and adapt it and try it and test it. And so it's nice about these. They aren't just warmups. I go, oh, here's a bunch of warmups or warmups that I've been using that I know work and what I had to do for this, my pandemic project was find the right editor who is willing to do all the Finale stuff and get it in because it's a really, every exercise is a little different thing to learn and Finale, which is music notation software. 

Robyn Bell: Right.

Joseph Caulkins: And so, you know, it was a really complicated thing and we did probably over a better part of a year, probably 27, 28 different revisions. But,  the great thing about the book now is it's got 14 different sections. It's great for children's chorus, which I've worked with. It's good for men's choruses. Women's choruses mixed. It's good for  in the voice studio  for lessons for vocalizes. And the,  whole idea is. I always tell young conductors, it's like, you're doing a warmup. Why are you doing it? You know, they have to know what are they trying to do? Are they working on intonation? Are they working on  dynamics, there's gotta be some sort of purpose. And so what I do with this as all of these 200 and some exercises, each one of them says, here's what the goal, here's what you're trying to do. A lot of times, it'll say here's two or three variations that you can do based on your ensemble, your circumstances, but what's really important what the warmup time is. If you do it well, not only are they warmed up, but you're setting them up. We were talking about, you want to find ways that things you're doing the warmup apply to the rehearsal.  They shouldn't be two separate things and too often they are. And so this. I think a guide to help people integrate those warmups, to find warmups that deal with more than just warming up the voice, but,  warming up the ensemble, getting the ensemble to learn different techniques. 

Robyn Bell: And it's a huge part of my philosophy of making music and music education is that the warmup, whatever we do relates directly to the literature that we're going to perform that in the warmup, we're going to improve some technique, but play whatever key it's in whatever articulation we need to do. Rhythm pattern that goes right to the music. And you know where I got this from because I played basketball in high school and we go to basketball practice. You don't just play a game. Right. You know, we didn't just run two laps and play a game. We worked on dribbling and we'd work on passing. We shoot layups. We do free throws. We'd work a drill  and. Dawned on me as I was going through music education. That that is what a warmup should really be, is like, oh, a basketball practice session, you know? And so I've always built it upon that, using that. It's about the only thing I got out of playing basketball, but, 

Joseph Caulkins: Well, you know, it's funny cause  with the vocal warmup, what I think is I teach voice eight 10 minutes as you deal with a band, you're teaching them how to play better as an ensemble. And that's, I think that's part of it. And the other thing I did with this book is there's 14 sections, but there's room at the end of every section to put your exercises. Cause everybody has their bag of tricks and they've got certain warmups that are essential to them. We'll then write it in and you don't have to have 27 books spread out over your studio. You can say, I can use 

Robyn Bell: nice. Yeah, well, I'm,  anxious to see  people using this and seeing how it improves their choir. So  really good luck on that. I think it's a great, it's a beautiful book. It's a pretty blue color. I'm looking at it right now. Spiral bound. Nice. So since you have been here, Joe,  in the Suncoast, because you.  Didn't move here until rather recently, right? Maybe about four or five years ago. You and your wife, Michelle built a home here, right? What are some of  your favorite things to do in our area? Like favorite restaurants or activity, cultural arts events to support like, the perfect date night for Joe and Michelle, 

Joseph Caulkins: The perfect date night. It's pretty easy. Cause you gotta,  get a sunset in there because we have great sunsets and we handle off our little favorite sunset spots. There's. There's the one that I liked near theInn at Sarasota Bay, which you don't really think about. And it's kinda quiet over there. It's really beautiful. I love the little under the bridge under the Ringling, which is a nice spot. The one that is also really pretty as Sapphire Shore.

Robyn Bell: Oh yes. Over by the college. 

Joseph Caulkins: Yeah. I mean, that's, that's the way, it's a really nice thing. Especially if I have a cocktail in my hand and a girl with me and 

Robyn Bell: Life doesn't get any better than that. 

Joseph Caulkins: And then our  favorite restaurant is Antoine's. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, yes. The mussels. Oh yeah. We love Antoine's. 

Joseph Caulkins: It's such a great place. And it's,  in this tragic strip mall and you,  think, I don't want to think, I want to go in 

Robyn Bell: and you go in there and you just like, you're transported to Belgium. 

Joseph Caulkins: It is. And it's like Olivier, who's a really close friend and his wife, Angela had just been, they've been good friends forever, but even if you don't know them and you walk in the restaurant for the first time, Olivier ensures you that you're a part of the family and he's such a great host. 

Robyn Bell: Joe, we all have to go there sometime together. It's our favorite restaurant. 

Joseph Caulkins: I didn't know that. I love that place. That's the best place in the world. 

Robyn Bell: And they've survived. COVID 

Joseph Caulkins: they have, they've done really well. And I always think with I it's like one of those things. I always tell people my two favorite French restaurants, Belgium.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Joseph Caulkins: And then I think the other thing that we did recently, I had my mom was here for eight days and she's one of those that always says, well, I don't know. I don't want you to say, what do you want to do, mom? I don't know. I don't want to do anything you don't want to do. And what would you do if I wasn't here? And I finally said, you know what, I'm going to program her for every day. I'm not going to ask her and 

Robyn Bell: you're sticking to it. 

Joseph Caulkins: I did. I stuck to it. And all the years I've been in Sarasota since like 2005. I've never been to Mote Marine 

Robyn Bell: oh,

Joseph Caulkins: I just have never gone. I thought 

Robyn Bell: a cool place. 

Joseph Caulkins: I had a such a great time. We went on like a, 

Robyn Bell: you go on a little boat excursion thing. 

Joseph Caulkins: Yeah.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Joseph Caulkins: And we did it like on a Thursday with my mom and Michelle was working my wife, Michelle, and then we went back on Sunday and rode our bikes out and did it again. And it's, such a cool place. And I can't wait to see the new,  very cool 

Robyn Bell: tell by my house UTC mall. Yeah. 

Joseph Caulkins: So that was, yes. So I figured no, every, every 15 years I'll do you know? So we did the Big Cat Habitat Sanctuary and Selby Gardens. And, you know, I, as like Selby Gardens is one of those things. It's so great. And you go, why seen it a million times? But it's different every time you go, 

Robyn Bell: that's right.

Joseph Caulkins: And it's such a treasure. And  the best restaurant I have is,  Bungalow Vert, which is our home because Michelle's essentially a private chef. So the best thing about COVID was she had time to cook and it was like divine at Bungalow Vert has a very limited seating capacity, right? Yep. That place rocks. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. I see pictures on Facebook and I go, Ooh, how do I get a ticket to that? Outstanding. But that sounds like, yeah, there's so much to do. It's one of the things that podcasts and we tried to do is to show that off, you know, there's just, you can't choose. There are so many things to do here in so many cultural arts events and beautiful places to go and see. And we'd like to go head out to Anna Maria Island to Bean Point, you know, 

Joseph Caulkins: that's a great place. Michelle's or favorite ice cream place. There is 

Robyn Bell: Two dips scoops. Yeah. 

Joseph Caulkins: So she's like going for ice cream. It's like, yeah, absolutely. 

Robyn Bell: You don't have to ask me twice 

Joseph Caulkins: the beach without ice cream would be insane. 

Robyn Bell: Want to give a shout out. There's a new ice cream place. You're in the UTC mall area called Jeni's. 

Joseph Caulkins: Oh.

Robyn Bell: And it is worth your time and $6 to go get, cause you can get like a waffle bowl and they'll put three different scoops of ice cream. So you can kind of have like a buffet. Right. And they treat their ice cream like wine, like it's, you know, they have this elaborate thing where they describe the taste buds and the, this and the, that, and it's like fancified ice cream Jeni's, 

Joseph Caulkins: I like fancified.

Robyn Bell: It's next to the California pizza kitchen. Good. Go try it. 

Joseph Caulkins: Check that out. And then we just went to the Selva Grill out there, 

Robyn Bell: right there by across 

Joseph Caulkins: my God. And you know, the Selva one downtown, we've all been to. It's really wonderful. The food's great. This place is so swanky and awesome. And cool. And you walk in and there's this very cool kind of fire feature. That's just swankapotomous I mean, it's just, it's got, it's got everything. It's just, and it's just you walk in and go. I just feel it. 

Robyn Bell: So I see us dinner at Antoine's, dessert at Jeni's can be like that 

Joseph Caulkins: And then you're practically home. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. Or maybe we start at Selva for cocktails and then go to Antoine's for dinner and then come back. Okay. I'm on it. All right, Joe, we have reached our rapid fire question and these are really difficult. Take your time. But it's rapid fire. So the faster, the better. All right, you're ready. 

Joseph Caulkins: I'm ready. 

Robyn Bell: Favorite mountain to climb. 

Joseph Caulkins: Oh that's hard. Cause I climb a lot of them, but I would say I would go agree to Akita Argentier, which is in the French Alps. One of the favorite mountains. I've climbed. It's very good. 

Robyn Bell: That's the one I was going to say to see, okay. A choir, a choir performance in a church or in a concert hall. 

Joseph Caulkins: I'm going to say church, 

Robyn Bell: just acoustically. 

Joseph Caulkins: Acousitcally and 

Robyn Bell: where it's all about right where it's all from. Baton or no Baton. 

Joseph Caulkins: I'm a Baton guy 

Robyn Bell: always.

Joseph Caulkins: Mostly, but I do tell people during COVID I use my tape measure more than my Baton. 

Robyn Bell: I never conducted without a baton. Always 

Joseph Caulkins: rarely do anymore. I mean, if it's rarely 

Robyn Bell: a choir piece, you could not live without. 

Joseph Caulkins: Mozart Requiem. 

Robyn Bell: Beautiful. You're winning. You're like five for five here four for four a dream piece to conduct something you maybe you've never have. And you just can't wait to get your hands on 

Joseph Caulkins: the Phillip Glass Symphony Number Six. 

Robyn Bell: Well, I would not have guessed that. 

Joseph Caulkins: Yeah,  it's a piece that was written for the millennial and it's like, Requiem, Nirvana. And  it's an incredible Phillip Glass piece for choir and children's chorus. It's just a big cast of thousands, but it's such a cool piece. 

Robyn Bell: Maybe we somehow work that up. 

Joseph Caulkins: It's on the list. It's always on the list. 

Robyn Bell: I'm going to go check it out. I don't know it. 

Joseph Caulkins: I should learn the name though. 

Robyn Bell: You're doing pretty good. All right. This one's hard. Where should the Sarasota Orchestra next call home.

Joseph Caulkins: Oh, that's easy. The dog track. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, I think so too. Greyhound Hall. 

Joseph Caulkins: Exactly. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: You're right. Oh yeah. I've thought I've thought this several times. Of course there'd have to be some sound abatement with the planes and stuff, but I think it's the perfect spot. The Greyhound track people hate me for saying it though. Cause 

Joseph Caulkins: there's perfect spot. 

Robyn Bell: I know. I agree. Okay. Sunrise with coffee or sunset with cocktails 

Joseph Caulkins: Oh, sunset with cocktails, 

Robyn Bell: you kind of already answered that one day. This one, you know, I, I come up with these questions before the interview and so I think, you know, sometimes like, oh, they're going to say this, but after talking, I don't know, Bach or Brahms 

Joseph Caulkins: Bach.

Robyn Bell: That's what I thought 

Joseph Caulkins: Close though. 

Robyn Bell: So yeah, Brahms is fun to conduct Brahms as a trumpet player. Snoozer 

Joseph Caulkins: if I could conduct Brahms First Symphony every day of  the rest of my life, I love the first two. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, that'd be special stuff a day at the beach or a day on a boat. 

Joseph Caulkins: Oh, that'd be a day in the mountains. But if I, if those are my options, I'll go the beach. Sorry. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, we don't have mountains around here, so, okay. Here's the last one. And as I say, this is the life changing question you're going to really, you're going to influence a lot of people here and they're going to leave with like totally being inspired by your answer. So think carefully, 

Joseph Caulkins: good luck, 

Robyn Bell: roundabouts or stoplights. 

Joseph Caulkins: Roundabouts.

Robyn Bell: Why is that? 

Joseph Caulkins: We spend a lot of time in Europe and we're just so used to roundabouts and there's so much faster. And, and I would like all that time. I've sat at a stoplight going really? No one's going in there. 

Robyn Bell: That's true. Yeah. You know,  I don't feel safe in the roundabouts. I always feel like I'm going to die, not here, but Ronnie Romm, do you know, Ronnie Romm the trumpet player, we did an interview with him and he said the only thing that's changed my mind about this. Cause I would say stoplights any day because I can check my phone. I can, you know, I'm listening to a podcast. I don't care 

Joseph Caulkins: exactly.

Robyn Bell: But he said people are more alert in a roundabout and you have a better chance of someone checking their phone, listen to a podcast, running a red light. where in a roundabout  your brain is just actively more engaged, 

Joseph Caulkins: a lot more stimuli happening 

Robyn Bell: for certain well, congratulations, Joe Caulkins. You are now officially part of the club, tell our listeners where they can go to follow you. And the Key chorale 

Joseph Caulkins: for Key Chorale, it's www dot, which we don't ever say anymore, but it sounds fun. And that's not like the OK corral, but key corral, C H O R a L And my website is Joseph Caulkins C a U L K I N And if you go there now, you're going to say, wow, that website looks kind of tragic, but if you go there another week or now you'll go, gosh, it looks so nice. It's getting, it's getting a facelift so that we can sell the book and stuff like that. So you can get on Amazon, but. You go to Joseph Caulkins and see if it looks better in a week.

Robyn Bell: If we go to those websites, other links from those websites to social media, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, this things. Okay, good. So what we'll do is we'll put links to all of that in our show notes. So if people are listening on the web, they can go, right. That well was so many performing arts organizations on our beautiful Suncoast. I can't believe it's taken until season two of the Suncoast Culture Club podcast to get you on. But I do want to thank you for sharing your story with us today. You're truly a gem in our business of entertaining people. We wish you all the luck in the world on getting your fabulous new book in the hands of every choral teacher in the country. And I look forward to attending all the Key Chorale concerts, this coming season. Thank you for joining us today. 

Joseph Caulkins: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.