Noe Valley Voice May 2003

This 'n' That

By Laura McHale Holland

Newborn babies stir up powerful feelings in most of us. Hope. Awe. Longing. Envy. Compassion. Fear. Joy. It's all there. And in May, what could be more beguiling than a new mother on the verge of her first Mother's Day?

The new mom on this page is Valerie Marquez-Klein. Baby Isabella joined Marquez-Klein and her husband Refugio Marquez on March 20. And since then, contentment has flooded their Valley Street home. Exhaustion may seep in a little bit, but not enough to dampen their joy.

"We're doing very well. I get to look at her all day long, and hug her, and love her. We're also taking walks, getting back on our feet," says Marquez-Klein, who gave birth to 7-pound, 3-ounce Isabella after 17 hours of labor at Kaiser Hospital in Redwood City. (It is the closest Kaiser facility with a midwife program.)

Marquez-Klein and baby Isabella have already made new friends in the neighborhood. "This is a great, baby-friendly place to be in. I met about four women with newborns on a walk the other day in a 15-minute span. We shared stories. It was really exciting," says Marquez-Klein.

Isabella is already exhibiting a gentle, sweet, loving nature. And Mom and Dad, who clicked romantically several years ago when she worked as a waitress and he was a cook at a Fisherman's Wharf restaurant, find that they click now when it comes to teaming up in caring for their daughter.

"It's been perfect. Refugio is a super-duper dada. He's wanted a baby since we met, so he's just been ready for this forever," observes Isabella's happy mom.


It's unconventional music that floods the 26th Street home of Belinda Reynolds and Dan Becker. Both are composers. They also happen to be married. Becker is the artistic director and Reynolds the vice president of Common Sense Composers' Collective, which Becker founded in 1993. It is named for Tom Paine's famous work.

"I happened to be reading Paine's Common Sense while dreaming up our first project: a collaboration with seven other composers (that I picked out of my favorite comrades) and a performing ensemble that we would create ourselves. It was literally one of those moments where I was pondering what to name this grassroots, populist-oriented, American, plain-speaking project. And then I looked down and saw the Paine book," recalls Becker.

Based both in San Francisco and New York, the collective's eight members are committed to experimenting with the ways in which music is conceived, developed, and presented. They work with a different performing group each year. They have collaborated with prominent groups working in new music, including Meridian Arts Ensemble, the New Millennium Ensemble, Twisted Tutu, and the Dogs of Desire Ensemble.

Common Sense Composers' CD, Shock of the Old, was created in collaboration with American Baroque, a group of baroque instrumentalists established in San Francisco in 1986 and known for their expansion of the scope and repertoire of historical instruments. The CD was released on the Santa Fe Music Label, and it hit the stores on April 8. It has already won a 2003 Chamber Music America/WQXR record award. (It was one of only six discs, and the only contemporary disc, to win.) It also got a five-star review from Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Now at work on their eighth collaboration, which will premiere at the Spoleto Festival in South Carolina in June, the collective has not recorded all of its projects. That is because it is "very difficult to raise the funds to record contemporary music of a 'non-commercial' nature. It needs to all be done with donations and grants," says Becker. "We recorded our third CD last year, and it's just waiting to be mastered. It should be released later this year."

For more information about this very accomplished and intriguing group visit their web site at


Another artist who continues to receive recognition is singer/songwriter Missy Roback. Roback was featured here in November, just after the release of her CD Just Like Breathing. Critics have compared her to Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams and praised her producer and husband Steven Roback's atmospheric arrangements. Her song "Compass" from the CD made it into a Felicity episode last fall. (Felicity is a hit TV show airing daily on the Women's Entertainment Network.) Now two cuts from the same CD, "Sight Unseen" and "Blue-Eyed Baby," are on the soundtrack of the independent film Save It for Later. Directed by Clark Brigham and shot in San Francisco, the film premiered April 26 at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

For the scoop on Roback's upcoming engagements, visit


Now it's time to bid a fond farewell to Jeff Troiano, who awoke to the squeal of the Breda streetcars on Church Street for six years. He was mentioned here in our July/August 2002 issue, a month after he published the inaugural issue of the San Francisco Reader, a free monthly arts magazine. No, he didn't die. He just left for greener pastures, literally. "Since graduating from college in Santa Cruz, I'd dreamed of living in another beautiful, peaceful, idyllic town in Northern California, somewhere just a stone's throw from San Francisco. All signs led to Petaluma," says Troiano.

He also received impetus from a new love in his life. "In 2002, I met an amazing woman [who wishes to remain anonymous], a single mom of twin boys, and became enamored," he says. It all began one sunny afternoon when Troiano was washing his car in front of his apartment. His soon-to-be love and her lads happened along. The boys jumped in to help him, and he was soon smitten.

"We became an item. We decided to live together. Our Noe Valley apartment just wasn't large enough to handle all of us. The boys needed a real yard, not just the concrete square behind my apartment. And just to make life that much more exciting, we're expecting a baby girl in July. We didn't think Noe Valley could handle one more stroller."

He's wrong about the stroller, of course, but we'll forgive him because he promises that his zine, now renamed the California Reader, will still be available in the usual places: Martha & Brothers, Phoenix Books, Cover to Cover, San Francisco Mystery Bookstore, Streetlight Records, West Coast Video, and Noe Valley Video.

You can write to Troiano at the California Reader, 503 2nd Street, Petaluma, CA 94952, or call him at 707-658-3100.

But before you rush any gems to him, consider your neighborhood rag. After all, we won't be changing our name to the California Voice.

Send us news of your enchanting babies, amaze us with your successes, inspire us with your inventions, tell us about your academic honors, athletic prowess, engagements, weddings, professional awards, book publishing parties, art show openings, literary salons, and any other personal news worth sharing with your community. If you're not sure whether your milestone is fit for the column, send it anyway. Let us decide.

E-mail leads to, mail them to the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114, or leave a phone message at 821-3324.