The things students do

The past four weeks have been quite difficult for me. I had to take a significant amount of time away from my day job as a middle school music teacher to care for my father. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about that as I continue to cope with losing him. However with all that has happened, my students remind me (yet again) why I am a teacher, by creating this message for me.

They did manage to include music we have been studying and a song I made them research earlier in the school year. Great way of connecting our curriculum. Nice job Soundview Class of 2017.

Talking

This time of year has traditionally been a time of reflection on the year which had just passed. Sometimes I even look through some old journals just to see what I was on my mind previous years. Recently I had opportunity to participate, prepared and give a TEDx talk. The process of putting it all together offered a level of self-reflection which I was not really ready for. However by the end of this undertaking I felt the message in the talk represented some of my journey as an artist. The self-doubt, the persistence, the tension, and the development.

In the end, I would not have done this with out the help and encouragement of the TEDx coaches, my wife, my family, the other TEDx participants and ultimately the my friends.

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.

Music and Spaces

imagesRecently I played a concert in concert recital hall. The space was very intimate and the concert was around mid-day. At first I thought this was an odd time for a chamber music concert featuring the Stravinsky Octet and a few other works for the era. Odd until I listened to the New York Times Popcast: Jazz’s Takeover of Hallowed Museum Spaces. 

imgresPart of the discussion dealt with the classification of what jazz music is and how artist explore new sounds, spaces, and the integration of many forms of arts. One of the artist in question was Jason Moran. A fantastic jazz pianist and now Artistic Director for Jazz at The Kennedy Center.

Quick Warm Up

Having a quick warm-up at my disposal has been a very useful to me. Somedays I have 40 minutes to get my face ready for a day of playing. Unfortunately too often I get only 10-15 minutes to play in the morning. And that’s it!no-time-480-300x300

So when my private student informed me that they didn’t have much time to get in a good warm-up, I decided to help them and me with that problem. Here’s what I came up with…perhaps it might be useful to others.

Castro Quick Warm Up

Planets from my house part 6

My night started off with thoughts of jazz and beer. Brother Thelonious is great for both.

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Eventually I stayed up long enough to keep up with my latest hobby… Looking up. My kid calls Jupiter “daddy’s planet”, which lets me know the level of my geek is strong.

This may potentially be the last time I post about which planets I can see from my house. In general I feel the pictures I take with my iPhone does no justice to how cool I think this event is. The idea that I get to watch this pattern unfold before my very eyes is simply awesome. I think I’ll start saving up for a telescope. Perhaps my kid and I will enjoy looking up.Planets from my house part 6