More Album Covers

I didn’t feel the need to keep a day by day accounting of the album covers I chose like in the previous post, however, I think I will mention the combination of day 2 and day 3, and why they struck me as significant. Significant in part because they were both introductions to several aspects of music for me. Coincidentally both of these albums found their way to me around the same time.

In the case of the Low End Theory; yes it was a big deal for me culturally because I was a teenager growing up in NYC, and I was starting to form my own opinions about Hip-hop. From my teenage point of view, I started down an explorations of sounds from this album which enviably led to a greater appreciation of jazz. Which is not difficult to hear in tracks like “We Got The Jazz”. I didn’t see it then, but the intersectionality of both of these forms of music is why I still listen to both genres today.

The other album covers is about the first brass quintet in saw live. The American Brass Quintet often performed recitals around NYC. My trumpet teacher at the time insisted her studio go to Lincoln Center to listen, learn, and enjoy. I remember hearing Ewald, an arrangement of Elizabethan music, Eric Ewazen, and perhaps some Gunther Schuller.
In any case, I became an instant fan of the group and soon after saving up some cash to buy their album. I can point to that concert as the inception of my love for brass chamber music, and my obsession with brass quintet literature.

Teaching Orchestra and Band in a Digital Space: Day 1

It’s hard to imagine how someone could remotely teach an interactive music class like an orchestra or band, but given the current situation, with Seattle being the epicenter of the Coronavirus, this is now my new reality as an instrumental music instructor. This week starts our three-week (or until further notice) experience teaching and learning in a digital space. The concept of remote teaching isn’t new;  in fact, in music, students and instructors have been connecting digitally for decades and in real time. However, with less than a week’s notice, I had to think about, and then quickly become, a virtual orchestra and band instructor.

Fortunately, today marks the start of a new term and all that comes with starting over. Somethings are familiar, like the online portals for assignments and grades. Attendance is taken and I still have to manage the class the same way I would as if I were physically in the same room with students. I’m finding out that by already having set the expectations at the beginning of the year in my physical classroom, students are naturally carrying these over into the digital learning space.

Although there was a lot of prep to get this virtual teaching endeavor going, I think picking out the right tools and setting up both my physical space and digital environment will pay off. In the weeks to come I’ll try my best to document what tools worked for me and what tweaks I end up making along the way.

Day 1 down…more to come.

My Experience With Classical Music This December

As a trumpeter within the symphonic musical sphere, I don’t always get to look into the audience and notice the demographics of the patrons. A few years ago I started to take stock of the audiences I get the opportunity to perform in front of in December. I wrote about this in a post called Color and Classical Music In December and thought it was just the nature of where I live (the Pacific Northwest) and the genre of music I’m asked to play.

Little has changed in my pattern of performance. I still get to play chamber music with big and small ensembles and larger works with symphonic orchestras. For example, I had the opportunity to play selections from J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, a mass by Palestrina, a few Tchaikovsky Nutcrackers, a brass quintet concert/sing-a-long, Christmas music for large brass ensemble and organ and of course a Messiah to boot.

Diversity is not as often in the audience as I would expect, however, we are coming out in support of these programs. The change for me is in the colleagues I get to perform with. I’m glad to see more Black, Latinx and Asian American soloists singing with the choirs I get to play with. I enjoy looking into the orchestras and chorus and making eye contact with other people of color and receiving a warm smile.

Having grown up on the east coast, I took for granted the diversity I saw at every rehearsal and in every classroom, I sat in.  Now in my 40’s, I’m glad to the changes where I now live.

Thinking about a new school year…

It’s that time of the year. The summer is starting to feel like it’s winding down and my mind is moving toward the kind of teacher I want to be this year while thinking about concerts, big projects, and possible themes for the year. I’m also thinking about what the new school year means for my family and how much time I’ll spend away for home because I’ll be at school events or performing music.

When considering that I am a working musician and a teacher, I know I can’t take either for granted. The version of me that seems whole is the version that does both. With that in mind, I want to include more work related to diversity and inclusivity in my music curriculum. Not just dead white guys when talking about classical music, and including women who were instrumentalists, composers, and arrangers when talking about jazz.

I also need to be active in projects that promote D&I works as a performer. Remember to promote living composers when picking new repertoire and take more chances as a composer. It seems like the right thing to do as a person of color who what to see more diversity.

Persistent Ear-Worm

Over the summer I find myself going between the dropping off my kid at summer camps, helping the family with home-related projects, working/ continuing to learn how to care for my house, writing/ arranging music and (of course) practicing my instrument. Summer is a convenient time to make significant progress on some of these things.

With that in mind, I took to expanding some of what I do on my trumpet. If you spend time practicing an instrument, typically one plays exercises in a pattern. In my case, scale patterns. In order to switch things up, I thought it would be a good idea to rehash some of the jazz improvisation patterns I did so long ago as a student.

After working on transcriptions of Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Fats Navarro, and Clifford Brown, I started working on scale and arpeggio patterns related to Giant Steps by John Coltrane. As a classical guy, I tend to use chord changes in several ways.

First as a way of staying flexible through the different registers on the trumpet.

Second, it’s great for ear training because it reminds me that I need to hear the music before I play it.

Third, when breaking down some chord patterns, you can use them to practice alternate fingering. I often practice a small section and try to find natural lip slurs. Kind of like doing Clark #3 with mainly lip slurs like playing G major with a 1-3 fingering at the start.

However, Giant Steps is a different animal. First I can’t get the tune out of my head, and I can’t get Coltrane’s playing out of my ear as well. His navigation of those harmonies is mesmerizing. After listening to it for a period of time, I started to dream in these chord patterns. It’s an incredible piece of music and art.

 

 

Retrace your steps

I’m back at writers’ block. I think it should be good for me to just start writing and then send it out into the world, but I don’t think there much to mention. All I want to do is watch the NBA Playoffs and listen to music. So I’ll tell you about that. Perhaps if I retrace my thoughts, I can send out something worth mentioning.

For work, I’m listening to a lot of Percy Grainger. The is something truly satisfying about his orchestration for both band and orchestra. It’s been fun unpacking his music with my students. Between Grainger and Anderson Paak, I can’t decide who’s music I have spent more time listening to the past month.

Anderson Paak was a students’ suggestions and I’m so glad he reminded me of the incredible musician. Check out the Tiny Desk Concert if you think I’m kidding.