From Marching Bands To Thought Entrepreneurs

I think I was in shock. The day had come and I was standing in line in my cap and gown ready to go through a security check point to enter the commencements for our graduation from graduate school. My friend was next to me and he was acting like everything was normal, singing songs we both had a mutual love for like “Scenario and Scenario Remix” by a Tribe Called Quest, dancing…just have the time of his life. But that’s who he is and this is who I am. He was one of my first Thought Entrepreneur, at least I recognize now that he fit this role in my life.

There are some of us who take opportunities when they come at us, and then there are those who make their own opportunities, these folks are “Thought Entrepreneur’s”. I am in awe of these folks, they seem to have a great idea for a project all the time, or at least they have a way of making something unique or exciting.

7cfb5935403eb75cdbd4fef504b989d6Sometimes it’s an idea for a book they want to write, or a recital they need to put on. A project with visual art, music, dance and poetry, a pep band with of only turntables… you get the point. The ideas seem endless.

However, there are those rare occasions when the grand idea becomes real, your are forced to reckon with your own jealousy. After a moment of self reflection, you can only applaud the effort and vision made by those risk takers. True Artist….

51rvafkzotlGoing back to standing in line with my friend, I don’t think either of us had a plan, but he was like the Pangloss to my Candide. Always the optimist and the keeper of “good vibes” in any situation. I on the other hand was and am still lucky to be where I am. Somehow a path seems to land in front of me and all I have to do is choose to follow it. I learned to be comfortable with my previous travels (try not to second guess myself) and enjoy the path right in front of me.

Part of the reason I have pick my particular path, is because of my personal struggle with fear and anxiety. I see it in my daughter and I recognize that I am almost powerless to do anything about it.

But then I remember that at one point it all changed. For me it was joining my Junior High School Marching Band.

It may seems odd that picking an instrument in the 7th grade would change things for me, but the safety of being part of the marching band gave me a huge boost of confidence. Yes safety! As a result of join the marching band, I would now had 3 place which were safe havens for me. Home, The Class Room and now being with the marching band. Later, that school year I joined a drum and bugle corp. which was an extension of the safety I felt in the band room.

I often wonder if I am creating safe places for my daughter and for my students. As a teacher I try my best to imitate the feel of the places and environments that felt like safe places for me, because those places helped me get past some of my anxiety. When I got past that wall, I could be comfortable with the idea of being an artist.

Composition out of imitation

“What gives the artist real prestige is his imitators.” Igor StravinskyIgor Stravinsky

I deal with insomnia often. When this happens I try to do something productive. I’m a teacher, so I try to use this time to think about teaching or projects for my students. But before I was a music teacher I was a freelance musician. As a freelance musician you tend to give yourself project to match your thirst for creativity. At one point I decided to arrange a few pieces of music for a brass quintet. I did this often because I happen to be a member of a few brass quintets and thought, I might get some good traction if this arrangement becomes part of our normal repertoire. However the piece I choose was not working out in the way that I wanted it to work. The version I wanted to use as a scaffold was written for a large ensemble and a vocalist. The piece is by Kenny Wheeler and it’s called “Gentle Piece”.p03kc96g

After several attempts, over a few days, I totally hit the wall. At the time, I was also working on a graduate degree and preparing for a recital. So I had a lot on my plate. However, these sounds which I thought would work so well for the brass quintet and didn’t, felt great coming out of my out of tune piano. In fact when I tried the improvised section of Kenny Wheeler’s piece, I stumbled on to the opening ideas to my piece for trumpet and piano call “Fractured Trance”.33010

The opening idea lead me to explore more ideas around rhythm and space within that movement. That idea lead to a two more movements and later this became my first piece for trumpet and piano. I followed the same process with the second piece I wrote for trumpet and piano, which were both recorded by a Brian Chin. Finally I used this same process to compose a piece for my middle school students.

Out of that experience I figured out that I can use another source for inspiration, with the full intent on trying to recreate an idea, a vibe or a feeling offer to us by another person. It’s okay to imitate. This kind of imitation can lead to personal breakthroughs.