I recently celebrated my 14th wedding anniversary. This led me to think about all the things that led up to meeting my wife and some of the humbling experiences along the journey.
I remember sending off many applications thinking one of these school would accept me, because of my playing. Later I was humbled to learn that every city and state has its own versions of motivated musicians who are passionate about performance and happen to be good students too. So luckily I was accepted to a conservatory in New York City called the Manhattan School of Music. My choices at the time were MSM or the Army.
It was my luck to be accepted there because that is where I learned about becoming a student of what I love to do. I also met my first Thought Entrepreneur. He later became best man at my wedding, to the woman who I fell in love with at MSM.
I was not as strong a performer as my colleagues. The result was not being placed into an orchestra (humbled again). However, this gave me the opportunity of play in the Jazz Lab Band, and play with the percussion ensemble/ modern music ensemble and a brass quintet. I found myself again, feeling lucky.
I love having time to just listen to something new to me. I also love checking out familiar groups with new projects. One of the groups I like to follow is The Westerlies. I came across their NPR Tiny Desk Concerts performance from 2016. And I loved it! It’s a refreshing and inventive program, with great brass playing. Hope you agree.
The Westerlies have a bunch of other video’s to check out, just look them up
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.
“What gives the artist real prestige is his imitators.” Igor 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”.
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”.
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.
Lately I’ve been enamored with experimental covers of pop musicians. My latest object of affection is the intersection of modern big-band and Bjork. The result is Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra. An incredible collection of jazz interpretations of music written and performed by Bjork.
Take a listen, buy their albums…or go see them live.
A few days ago I found a new podcast to add to my rotation. And apparently, I love this podcast! Song Exploder is hosted by Hrishikesh Hriway and it’s super interesting if you are into deconstructing modern songs.
I downloaded 3 episodes which included artist I admire and listen to often. I was blown away with the interviews and then felt more invested in following Björk, Tune-Yards and Open Mike Eagle.
Here are some links to those episodes on the Song Exploder Soundcloud page. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.