Three Trombone Resolutions for a Productive 2017

 

New year brings new ideas, new endeavors and new resolutions.  Whether you plan on reading more, losing weight, trying to learn a new language, or overall just be a better person, a resolution is an opportunity to commit yourself to an idea and really go for it.

Many times, I’ve made resolutions in my personal life: losing weight, becoming a more affectionate human, learn how to make the perfect omelet (which is extremely difficult, by the way), so on and so forth.  Sometimes I stick with them, to great benefit and results.  Often, I think like most other people, I let my conviction fizzle out and the resolution goes to the wayside and we wait till the next “new year” to make up for it. This got me thinking about my trombone playing and how I rarely make resolutions in my professional life and with my personal playing goals. 

 

1)      Be motivated to stay dedicated. 

Motivation is an amazing thing, and totally necessary to stay on top of your musical game.  Whenever you feel motivated you need to act on it immediately. A lot can be accomplished and many obstacles can be overcome if your aim and desire is true.  However, in my experience, motivation sometimes comes and goes. It isn’t always consistent, this is the wonder of being a human being, our convictions and motivation gets trapped in the death spiral of procrastination.  Getting motivated and running seven miles is great, however, if you only do this once a week it isn’t as beneficial to your health as running one mile, seven days a week.  How do motivate ourselves to stay dedicated and consistent?  Here are a few ideas.

·         Do your warm-up early in the morning, and find a warm-up that you can play along with (drum-tracks), or warm-up with other people.  Michael Davis’s 15-minute or 20-minute warm-up, downloading a drum-machine app on your phone and playing along with it, or getting a few of your friends and going through a warm-up together can really motivate you to get started and get the first hour of practice in immediately and provides a solid, fun base that helps you want to be productive the rest of the day.

·         Schedule your practice sessions in advance, and stick to it.  Treat your practice sessions the same way you would treat making a doctor’s appointment.  Sometimes our lives get so busy that unless something is scheduled, we lack the ability to make time for it.  If you’re someone who adheres to schedules, this will help immensely.

·         The most important aspect of any task, is starting it.  If you’ve scheduled a practice session, but really don’t feel like doing it.  Play something FUN!  Get in the room with a large speaker and play through pieces with a great recording behind you.  Play a few choruses of the blues with an Abersold track.  Do the Breathing Gym.  Find something you enjoy doing (and if you can’t find something you enjoy doing on that day, it might be in your best interest not to practice...) and do that. Once you get in the practice room, and start, you have completed half of the battle.

 

Here is a diagram of the three R’s of habit formation from a motivational speaker named James Clear.  This is extremely applicable to what we do as musicians.  Remind yourself of this diagram anytime you are struggling with motivation.

 

photo courtesy of www.jamesclear.com

photo courtesy of www.jamesclear.com

 

2)      Sight-read every day in at least 4 clefs, and learn etudes in transpositions.   

Simple concept, one that can greatly benefit any musician.  Clef studies and transposition is something I can honestly say that I am less fluent in than I should be.  The good news for me, is that there is a clear and easy solution. 

JUST DO IT A LOT.

I’ve heard Carl Lenthe say this many times, and if you are a trombonist or someone who hangs out in the Bass Clef most of the time, take this comment to heart. I am paraphrasing here, but the comment is something like: “85% of music is written in clefs other than Bass Clef.” 

Now, don’t hold anyone liable to that statistic, the point is that we as MUSICIANS must be able to fluently read all the clefs and be able transpose passages into different keys. This is something that you don’t see that frequently as a trombonist, outside of the alto and tenor clef. 

This sounds like a giant feat to become accustom to if you have never done it, but start small and slowly. Taking a line at a time of an etude you know extremely well (most likely a Rochut) and playing it through three times each in your four chosen clefs, and moving on.  The next day, do the next line, and try to add more measures until you’ve played through the entire etude with all your chosen clefs. 

*Note, repetition is a good thing, but this type of playing can be extremely taxing and could be problematic if done in large doses and without breaks.  Be sure to take your time, this will help increase range and displacing the octaves at any given point will also certainly aid your fluency of clef reading.

 

3)      Read more about brass pedagogy. Especially about basics of other brass instruments that you aren’t as familiar with.

To really understand and apply a craft, one must absolutely and completely absorb all the information out there about that craft.  Understanding the multiple ideas about how the mechanisms (embouchure, aperture, slide technique, air support) work, can only aid us as performers and teachers.  Wading through the large amount of information out there about the basic pedagogy of Brass playing will help narrow down the ideas that help you, and the ideas you might thing are total hogwash. 

Now, whether you decide to use that information or not in your daily routine is up to you, but I’ve found for me, that the more I know about the physical aspects of playing, the less I think about it when I’m trying to apply them in real time.  Meaning, the more outside work and idea absorption you do before you practice, the more it will subconsciously aid your product.

For me; I’m endeavoring to learn more about instruments outside of my specialty.  The more information you know, the more information will be relate-able and applicable to any given situation you might find yourself in.   Being an informed musician also involves knowing as much as you can about any musical subject.  I want to be that informed musician!

The last resolution I have, is to try as hard as I can to make all three of these things a part of my daily routine.  It doesn’t have to be hours a day, if I have a few extra minutes’ in-between class or a rehearsal, I commit those minutes to an article about embouchure placement, or practice an etude in alto clef.  This all adds up, and will certainly make me a better, more well-rounded musician.

Make some resolutions and stick with them!

Happy New Year to everyone! 

 

 

ARE YOU INSANE?

Mantras to help cure the "insanity" in your practice...


Effective practice forces us to build and repeat good habits. The difficult part is deciding what a good habit is, what is “good” and what is “detrimental” – for lack of a better term.  How to get from what we hear from ourselves to the ideal concept in our heads.  The short of it, is by practicing efficiently and effectively. 

Finding ways to practice effectively is one of the hardest things we do as musicians. Practice sessions inevitably get derailed for all sorts of reasons.  This is where the insanity creeps in…

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Often attributed to Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Ben Franklin, etc. pick your poison…It’s a quote heard often and used on many different inspirational posters, in many different languages.  Even though we don’t exactly know who it was glued to, I’d say that anyone who has been attributed with this quote ended up being pretty successful in their careers.  Why?  Because these individuals don’t accept mediocre results, and they devise and revise plans, often manipulating their original plans to get the best possible results.

When things get derailed in our practice sessions, do we even notice?  How do we know we are continually making progress and haven’t just gone on autopilot, doing the same stale things that provide the same results?  How do we know we’ve brought this insanity into the practice room?

I use this quote often because it seems to be effective in getting students to understand how important it is to think and question when we practice.  Too often we let our minds wander to and from what we are trying to achieve, this is only human.  Don’t worry!  It happens to the best players; however, these players know exactly how to reorient themselves in the practice room and vary things up to try and get the elite results.  Avoiding the insanity and increasing the efficiency in your practice will only aid you in getting better, faster.

Here are a few different phrases and techniques you can use to try and get back on track if things get derailed. 

Make mistakes fast.   Realize these mistakes even faster.  Resolve these issues slowly.  Practice the solution even slower.

“Make mistakes faster” This is a phrase I’ve heard lots of software developers use.  Software developers have thousands and thousands of characters of “code” they input into a program to build something that will replicate the desired product, every time.  The slightest error can have extreme consequences. By allowing themselves to make mistakes fast and realizing these mistakes even faster, they help ensure quality and that their work is reliable. The more they make mistakes and realize them, they learn from this and retain this information.  As musicians, we try and approach our fundamentals and basic production, much in the same way.  If musicians make mistakes fast in the practice room, and start to become aware of these mistakes even faster, it is likely they will learn from these mistakes and change their approach to achieve a different result for the future.  Understanding that the progress on mistakes found fast, will ultimately be slow, but rebuilding good habits is a long venture, which I can guarantee will be worth your time.    


Keep your mind and your ears moving.

When I first learned how to drive, my driving instructor told me to “keep my eyes moving.”  From my side mirrors to my rear-view mirror, to my blind spot, this makes you an active and engaged driver.  When I’m the most aware of my playing, my mind and ears are moving and constantly questioning.  From my tone, to my intonation, to my rhythm…Was that in tune, if it wasn’t, pull out the tuner or drones.  Was that the best tone I could have used for that passage, if it wasn’t, record it and figure out methods of making the buzz more efficient.  Is that rhythm right in the pocket?  No?  Metronome and drum machines.  Be active with your mind and ears, and have constant vigilance to fix the problems with innovative (to you) methods.

 

Can this be easier? If it isn’t easy, MAKE IT EASY.

Beyond understanding and producing good tone, time and intonation, or replicating good style, articulation, range mastery and interpretation; the goal is to make these things sound as easy as possible.  Ease comes from mastery; mastery comes from efficient, effective repetition.

“Efficiency is doing the right things; effectiveness is doing the right things all the time.” - Bill Gates.   

The path toward ease ironically isn’t easy at all.  Here is a tip to simplify things: quality repetition is helped by taking a difficult passage, chopping it up into smaller units and slowing it down.  Once you have achieved mastery of each unit, start to think about ease and increase the tempo.  Once each unit is easy, add a unit and master the combination of the two, eventually adding all the units back in and making them all seamless.

Don’t be busy, just be productive.

Just because you spend four to five hours in a practice room, does NOT mean you are getting four to five hours of quality practice time. 

Michael Mulcahy likes to say that every minute you spend in a practice room, you’re depositing time into a practice bank.  If you have two hours of good, quality, productive practice, you’ve put two hours of credit into your bank.  If you use the other two hours as time where you are building bad, lazy unconcentrated habits, those two hours exhaust the two hours of good practice you had just deposited into your practice bank.  Therefore, it is so important to be concentrating on ways to keep variance and efficiency in your practice, and avoiding the insanity that provides the same tired results.


 

Reminding yourself of these mantras, and repeating them when you start to bring the insanity into the practice room, it gives you a cognitive way of challenging that insanity that inevitably comes into our everyday routine.

By the way…it is possible to be insane AND productive…Please check out the video below.  If we can all be efficient as this in our practice, we would all be in a better place.

 

Organizational Practice

Organizational practice

How often do you go into a practice room with a plan? A plan of exactly what it is you’re going to do in that room, and when you’re going to do it? A minute by minute rundown of exactly what you’re going to practice, and when?

 In our studies, and especially when we are working in the field, it is extremely easy to just “go through the motions” and daily life to creep into the practice room.  This in turn allows our practice to become extremely disorganized and passive.  Just having the horn on the face isn’t enough, there must be focus, intention and retention.

In organizing ourselves for the most effective practice we must first, “Tidy our minds”.

A tidy mind is a mind free of needless clutter.  This clutter arises from irrelevancies, asides, distractions, unimportant details, trivia, and the like that can fill the mind and detract from learning and pursuing the most important things.

Especially in this day and age of information overload, and technology that is attached to our hips, it is so easy to become distracted, unfocused and unorganized.  One of my professors, Peter Ellefson always says, technology can be a disease in the practice room, but it is easily curable (AIRPLANE MODE, or OUTSIDE THE ROOM).

Secondly, we need to learn how to control the time we have. The aspects of our practice in which we can organize, we should. 

How do we make the most of the small amount of time we have in that little room? 

Organization, and preparation before we enter the room.

Here are some hints to help you stay organized and on task in your practice room (other than turning your phone off, or removing yourself from social media).

The average attention span of the human brain is 5 minutes. Although, we’re able to refocus our attentions on one particular thing for roughly 20 minutes at a time.  I would bet that it is even less now, but in an effort to maximize the retention of our sessions, limit yourself to 20 minute increments of practice on any given thing.  For example, a warm-up session should include 10 minutes of long-tones, 10 minutes of slurs, 10 minutes of articulation exercises, 10 minutes of scales and 10 minutes of range extension. If you’re working on excerpts, limit yourself to 15-20 per excerpt. This not only keeps your brain active, but doesn’t allow you to get bogged down on one aspect of your playing.

Set a timer! Set the timer, and get lost in your own focus, when the timer goes off, you’re done. Often times, we think we keep ourselves on schedule, when in reality, we aren’t even close.  Keeping yourself honest with the time can make a big difference in the efficiency of the practice

Make a daily schedule. Making a daily or weekly schedule and bringing it into the practice room with you can help to organize your thoughts beforehand, and allow all of the focus to be on the work that needs to be done musically or fundamentally.

Keep a notebook (or recordings) of practice sessions. This helps specially to retain and re-engage what you have been working on, and what needs to be worked on for future sessions.  Documenting everything allows you to not have to store that knowledge in your often overworked brain, and allows you to effectively plan your practice sessions for the upcoming days and weeks based on concrete material you’ve documented.

Keep your materials organized and ready to go.  All too often, do we waste tons of time looking for a book, or excerpt or etude.  Organizing all of these into one place, easily accessible and in order, seems like a trite thing, but can save a lot of time and energy that can be used for music-making.  

Take breaks to reflect.  Extremely focused and organized practice only works well if we take time to rest our minds and reflect on what we’ve just done, or are trying to accomplish.  The all-mighty Arnold Jacobs’ refers to this as wearing two-hats.  One of intense focus and preparation, and one of rest and reflection.  Reflection also helps as mental practice, as our physical muscles can only take so much stimulation before they need a break as well.

 

Of course, the hardest part of all of this, is to be consistent with your preparation. Creating a routine, and being organized and structured over a consistent period of time will elicit great a great seriousness, fantastic discipline and will no doubt improve many skills, musical and beyond.  

Harsh Realities

 

Reality is always an extremely hard pill to swallow.  Figuring out how to “make it” in this business can be extremely physically and emotionally draining.  Something I’ve learned through a career in music, and as I continue to try to forge a career playing the trombone; reality sets in when things don’t necessarily go the way you thought they would. 

I’m willing to bet that if you decided to become a music major in college, you enjoyed a fair amount of success at it in high school.  If you decided to continue on to grad school, the same situation is likely.  

Getting used to this success is not reality. 

It’s important to recognize the realities of your situation as a musician as you try and continue to chisel away at a career, and make a living for yourself. 

Here are some thoughts to consider:

What exactly do you want to do with your career?

Do you love teaching?  Do you dislike teaching and JUST want to perform?  (good luck with this, if this is your goal, most to all of the top performers in our field also teach)

o   Determining this early can help drive your career organization in the future.  If you want to primarily play in an orchestra, fundamental, excerpt and collaborative practice will be extremely necessary.  It is also imperative to understand the chances of getting that FULL TIME orchestra job.  According to ICSOM, there are 60 current or former members who employ their members for a full-time season (at least 36 weeks.).  Personally, as a Bass Trombonist auditioning for orchestra jobs, there are 60 full time jobs that provide health insurance and pay a living wage.  Compare that with the amount of people that will potentially be at any audition, which in my experience runs anywhere from 30 to 150 for one position. This makes for a pretty intense reality. It is do-able, it is a goal to work towards and it can happen, but understanding that first of all, it is extremely difficult, and two, this is not your only avenue in music, can be an empowering thing.

What type of music are you interested in? It is important to diversify your talent.

Rock? Dixieland? Jazz? Film? Broadway? Classical?

o   Often times students and young professionals have blinders on as far as what type of music is possible to play and create a career with. There are so many opportunities out there, if in fact you’re interested in a wide variety of musical stylings.  Broadway shows, wedding bands, historical performance gigs, all of these together can provide a solid living and great variety and joy, even if you don’t get that big time orchestra gig you’ve been hoping for.

o   Going to graduate school in an area that seems to breed “those” types of players, is probably a smart thing.  If you want to play on Broadway, going to school in NYC and making connections is necessary.  Playing soundtracks? Move to L.A. for grad school, and meet the right people to break into that market.  Play in an orchestra?  Study with someone who is currently playing in an orchestra, or has had success in that field and can help you make necessary connections.

Finances will most likely be rough, but that doesn’t mean you have to be poor.

o   If you’re looking for a financially rich life, a career in music will most likely not be it. 

There are tons of other reasons to live a life as a musician, but becoming rich is not something you should expect. This is a harsh reality.  

(Having said this...many musicians make a great living, but if you were to ask any of them if they went into music because they were looking to get rich, they would definitely be lying.)

o   Having a second job on the side is OK!  Whatever helps pay the bills and allows you to live a happy, healthy life is beneficial to your well being.  It might also peak other interests you’ve had, and might help you live a well-balanced life.

It is important to define your own success in your own way, not by comparing yourself to others or by letting success and failure define who we are as people.

o   All too often we get discouraged when we see others who we deem “successful”.  This affects our thought-process and how we perceive the word success.  It is imperative that you have a clear and realistic definition of what success might look like for you, if you choose a career in music, and work your hardest to try and attain that realistic goal.   Realistic success would look like “I want to play three recitals this year, all different musical programs”.  Unrealistic success would be “If I’m not in the New York Philharmonic by the age of 25, I’m a failure”.  It is easy to get lost in the big picture, and not focus on our small successes and the overall level of joy we get from doing our daily activties.

Only try to make a career of it, if you absolutely love doing it.

o   This is true of literally any career, but especially a career in which you are rewarded with experiences, great relationships and musical fulfillment, not financial gain.  Life is way too short to spend your time trying to do something you don’t absolutely love.

The R.O.A.

 The Realm of Acceptability

(It is important to note, before reading this that these musical values do not exist in a vacuum. In all of music, we mostly live by the standard of “if it sounds good, it is good”, but for the sake of this blog and defining improvement, I’ve decided to categorize specific things in the hope that it helps someone make sense of what to value, and how to improve those values.)

The human race is built off of a wide variety of different life stances, views about the world that each one of us has formed through years of personal and learned experience.  These life stances, learned behaviors and ideals, ultimately determine what our views, values, and core beliefs are (whether it has to do with social, political, or economical ideals, these are all learned behaviors.).  This isn’t so different from how musician’s form their own set of views and core beliefs about what is good and bad, and what to value as good or bad in their own musical acumen and music making.

Estelle Jorgensen, one of the most distinguished music education experts in the country, says; “Most simply put, a value is an idea that one treasures and lives by.  Values guide one’s actions and one not only assents to them but loves to live in reference to them.  They constitute imperatives that cause one to be disposed to act in accordance with them.”

How do we learn what good values are?  I’m sure we can all remember someone saying to us “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all”, which is a great humanistic value to have. Or how many times have you fundamentally disagreed with something someone has done? This helps define our system of belief and value structure as human beings.  How do we determine what is good, and what is bad? Do we base our opinions and thought processes on personal experience and social acceptability? I think, for the most part, yes.

What exactly does this have to do with music?

Quite a bit, actually…

In such a subjective and critical discipline, such as music, how do we determine the spectrum of quality?  Some things are very clear cut and objective, others are aesthetic and subjective.  How exactly can we determine what our musical values are, if they’re good or bad, and how to stick to them and develop them?  Is there a right, and a wrong?

We know there is a wrong.  How do we determine what is right?

This is where we find ourselves up against the Realm of Acceptability (ROA): Everyone has their own musical tastes, and we develop these tastes based off any number of different human characteristics.  Music aesthetics is a difficult thing to quantify because of its subjectivity to peoples specific taste.  To reasonably achieve success in this subjectivity, you must fit inside of the extremes, or into the realm of acceptability.

First we must develop a set of criteria to judge our musical landscape by.  

What are the most important aspects of musicianship and fundamental instrumental playing?  

Personally, I have five major musical criteria that I base all of my subjective and objective musical knowledge and value on.

They are:

  • Tone
  • Intonation
  • Rhythm
  • Articulation
  • Style

It is important to come up with your own set of criteria on which to work and develop.

Secondly; to understand what is good or bad, right or wrong, we must determine which subjective musical values are and which are objective.  

OBJECTIVE MUSICAL VALUES

The “easy” ones, are the objective values; these things are clear-cut, there are both right and wrong ways to do these things. Ironically, these are also the most noticeable and easily spotted if they are underdeveloped and incorrect.  These things would be:

  • Intonation
  • Rhythm

Since these things are so objective, we must scrutinize about the details of these extremely fundamental aspects of trombone playing. Trust in the process and constantly listen to yourself. 

Making a distinction between criteria that have clear-cut, right and wrong ways, and criteria that exist on a realm of acceptability, helps a great deal to help determine what is, versus what should be.

SUBJECTIVE MUSICAL VALUES

Now the hard ones…the relatively subjective criteria - Tone, Style and Articulation.  These criteria are largely based on aesthetics and years of development and research into these particular areas of interest, and as said before, exist on a spectrum of acceptability for the field (forever known in this blog henceforth as ROA).  

How do we determine if what we’re doing is good, or bad?  If the values we hold, would be pleasing and within the realm of acceptability for our own musical tastes, and for those listening to us?

  • Tone – To fit into the ROA and understand what a great tone/sound is, we must step outside of what we’re currently doing and look to outside sources.  Listen and absorb what a decidedly great sound in your field sounds like.  In the trombone world, the ones that come to mind are of course George Roberts, Randy Hawes, Joe Alessi, Jim Markey, Mark Lawrence, Pete Ellefson, to name a few at the very top of the heap.  There are clearly specifics that are involved in how these players make their sound so fantastic, but by listening and trying to mimic the sound of your favorite player, this helps clearly define the value and determines the “what is, versus what should be”. 

 

  • Style – Similar to how we develop our values in regards to tone, the way we develop style is to listen and understand history and acceptable practices.  Bad musical values would be to play everything you do with the same style and ideas.  Contrary to that, good musical values would be to do everything on a ROA, and be informed as to the histories and stories behind each piece of music you play.  Learning style is done through immersion into the time period and character of the piece.  If you're playing a Baroque Sonata, make sure you listen and are familiar with the intricate nuances of music of this time period.  Having a solid grasp of the historical and theoretical background of any genre of music that you wish to portray is paramount.

 

  • Articulation – This is the most difficult of the three to qualify, more than any of the criteria, articulation falls in the “if it sounds right, it is right”.  However, just like human speech, in which the articulation of words is not uniform, the way we articulate notes and phrases must not be uniform.   The wider the arsenal of articulation, the better for the ROA. Remember though, the way to articulate things depends greatly on the physical structure of each person’s mouth, so what works for one, might not work for the other.

 

Now, this isn’t to say that this is all there is to making music, because it clearly is MUCH more involved than just this.  We are all still developing our own musical values, and identities. By categorizing and qualifying some of this information, it might bring some insight into what falls into the ROA, and how to develop your own musical values.

 

[1] Jorgensen, Estelle Ruth. The Art of Teaching Music. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2008. 

Finding the right teacher for you, and the difference it can make...

 

Finding the right teacher for you; it makes all the difference.

Let’s rewind for a minute to when you were a high school senior music student looking for music schools to spend the next four (well…let’s face it…at least 5) years of your life. 

Maybe you ARE a High School senior/junior reading this, in which, I hope you gain some type of tangible information to think about. Or, maybe you’ve already gone through that supposed four years of an undergraduate degree, and decided to continue further in your music studies.  Do you remember this time in your life?  I certainly do (well...I’m still experiencing it, actually.). For me, I lucked out to an extreme degree the first time I chose a teacher, but knew that was not likely to happen again. So I made sure I knew how to do my due-diligence and make the right choice of school and teacher the times after that.  

Applied instrumental study is an inherently important part of any music student’s education.  It’s where the most time SHOULD be spent in the younger years of college music development, and it is where you have the most interaction with your “major” professor.  This means that this person has a profound impact on your career going forward.

When I was in high school, I had some amount of talent, but literally couldn’t have worked less at what I wanted to do.  I loved playing the Trombone sometimes (marching band, jazz band, wind ensemble), but I didn’t know what it took to get fundamentally better.  I took lessons from an amazing teacher in high school, but never practiced for them (sorry Kip…). Which perpetuated the fact that I was a serious underachiever (not necessarily great for a career in music, but I have since turned that around). 

I knew I wanted to go into music at some level but was too afraid to work for it, and knew my natural talent wasn’t good enough to get me accepted into the music schools I thought I wanted to go to. This made me shell up and not try…something I vowed later in life to never do again.

At a crossroads in my young life, did I work harder and actually attempt to audition for schools?  

Nope. No I didn’t.

At that point in my life, did I really care where I went to school, or think about the ramifications of the course of a four year course of study? 

Nope.  No I didn’t…. Imagine that. 

I ended up going to Western Michigan University, and enrolled as a business student.   Did I know that the right teacher, and right situation happened to be at WMU?  Again, no I certainly did not.

Boy, did I get lucky.

Through a series of events during that first year, and much hanging around the music school… I ended up auditioning for the trombone studio, and was accepted on the condition that I switch to the bass trombone during my second (really first) year.  Something I had never ever really thought about considering but since they had actually said yes to me, I decided to switch to the dark side.

Enough background…What’s important to understand is that I fell into a good situation for my four years of undergraduate study. I had a teacher who really cared and had an extremely good grasp on how to teach as well as an understanding of how to help students be successful.  Not only this, but he really, REALLY enjoyed doing so.

What this ended up teaching me, in hindsight, is how important it is to have a teacher like this, helping to guide your development.  How it made all the difference for me and how I see countless amounts of students in music programs who have the choice of schools and teachers, but sometimes get swayed to make a wrong decision based on many different outlying factors.

The type of healthy “teacher-student” relationship I had was something Estelle Jorgensen, in her book “The Art of Teaching Music” calls Reciprocal Empathy. This is the process teacher putting themselves into the student’s psychological shoes, and figuring out how to motivate them from the inside.  She has this to say about it:

“Since teachers and students embody and are essentially committed to particular beliefs and practices and disposed to act in particular ways, our choices of each other figuratively represent other considerations regarding the particular subject matter to be studied, time and energy devoted to practice, rehearsal, and performance, ways in which the subject is taught and learned, and commitments to act in particular ways.”[1]

Even though it’s hard to get a complete sense for how this teacher will teach, or you as a student will learn…here are a few of my criteria on how to determine which person will be the best mentor for you. 

My best advice, is to spend more than just 10-15 minutes of your audition with them.  Get a lesson beforehand, read their book, learn their ideas and really get to know their teaching style before you take the plunge and spend your two most valuable resources (time and money) studying with this specific person.

Things to look for in a teacher/school, or questions to ask (remember, you’re auditioning them as well, a good fit will make all the difference in the world):

·         Depth of knowledge in their field.  How do you know they know what they’re talking about? 

·         Are they a good communicator?  Can they effectively pinpoint problems in your playing, and give you thoughtful, understandable ideas on how to work on these things?

·         Do they seem to know who they are, and what their interests are, and are they true to this?  Do you gel with these ideas?

·         Someone who can recognize, and set you up for success, and help fight for your success.

·         Are able to inspire, and motivate you?

·         Do you enjoy being in a room with them for an hour (for 4 or more years?)?

·         Wisdom from learned experiences, both from teaching and playing.  Are they doing, or have they done, what you want to do with your career?

·         Someone who values other professional’s opinions, and lets his students interact with them.

·         Will you get what you want from this person/school?  Will you have playing or teaching opportunities, scholarship, ability to grow as a person and a musician?

Things to avoid in a teacher/school:

·         Self-contradictory or under-developed musical and technical ideas.

·         A poor communicator, in words or with the instrument.

·         Preaches one specific way of doing things for every student they have.

·         An outdated or inaccurate knowledge, doesn’t seek new or useful information.

·         Going somewhere JUST BECAUSE OF THE NAME. (Many, many places have great resources and teachers, don’t pick the school by the name, and pick the teacher by their ideas and the relationships going forward.)

·         As much as scholarship money is tempting, you have to really consider how your development will be affected by the choice of school and teacher.  If they give you a full-ride, but you don’t reach your full potential by studying at this particular institution, or with this particular person, is it really worth it? 

 

 

Only you can decide that.

 

P.S.  I can't thank these people enough for what they have and continue to do for me.

In my opinion, you should seek these people out.

Steve Wolfinbarger - Professor of Trombone; Western Michigan University

www.wmich.edu/trombone

Steve Menard - Professor of Trombone; University of North Texas

https://music.unt.edu/faculty-and-staff/steven-menard

Peter Ellefson and Carl Lenthe - Professors of Trombone; Indiana University

http://www.peterellefson.com

 http://www.indiana.edu/~trombone/CarlLenthe/studiolenthe.html

Jim Markey - Bass Trombone, Boston Symphony and Professor of Trombone at New England Conservatory.

 

 

[1] Jorgensen, Estelle Ruth. The Art of Teaching Music. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2008. 

Jeff Albert, Trombone Mercenary...

Entrepreneurship in the world of music is a difficult thing, certainly among classical and non-mainstream musicians.  The career prospects for musicians getting out of college with performance degrees are rather slim, not many orchestral jobs are available with intense competition for each one.  The prospects of being a soloist or a recording artist are reserved for the top 1% of the top 1%.  How is one supposed to forge a career and actually make a living doing so? It's very possible, but you reap the benefits you sew.  My recent interview with Jeff Albert, Trombonist, blogger, professor, and all around trombone ‘mercenary’ as he likes to call it, explains exactly how he was able to create his own career and steer it in the direction he wanted it to go. 

Jeff is professor of digital media at Loyola University in New Orleans, and has maintained a performing career that has spanned 20 years in the New Orleans area, having played in a vast array of ensembles ranging from The Louisiana Philharmonic to Lady Gaga.  Jeff usually makes his home in the avant-garde though, playing mostly left of center jazz and hosting a weekly gig called Open Ears at the Blue Nile, a club in New Orleans.  Always very insightful, Jeff was nice enough to answer a few questions about his career and how he made a name for himself with a very unlikely career.

 

You can check out Jeff here: http://jeffalbert.com/

 

Do yourself a favor and pick up his CD’s, here

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Evan: You maintain a record label, a blog, you’re a full time professor, a full time performer…When did you realize it was important to diversify yourself as a musician, and how did you go about starting to do that?

Jeff:  Yeah, so a lot of what I do is a mix between my gig here at Loyola as professor of Music Industry and playing gigs.  I suppose I was in the right place at the right time a lot, I guess a lot of the stuff I've gotten involved with has come out of my feeling of some need to either to do that specific thing say, Blogging, or for that thing for happen in my community and no one else was doing it.  I said, ok, well maybe I should do these things that interest me.

Evan: So you feel like you have to spearhead a lot of the things you’re doing?

Jeff:  I tend to step into leadership vacuums sometimes.  Let’s take blogging for example, I haven’t blogged nearly as much lately, but there was a time in which I was blogging a lot, and I remember the exact gig in which I decided I was going to start blogging.  It was a gig at a place called the Big Top (in New Orleans) and I think there was some traveling musicians in my band, and the gig was poorly attended.  I thought, none of the music outlets around here back then, this was early 2005 probably, were covering the type of music we were playing…kind of avant-garde Jazz.

 

Evan:  By music outlets, what exactly are you referring to?

Jeff:  Oh, print media that usually covers the ‘scene’ here.  Gambit, Downbeat, etc.., and their websites weren’t huge presences…most of what you were able to get from them was from their magazines, the internet wasn’t as widespread back in 2005.  They just weren’t covering the interesting music that I wanted to go hear…which I can understand, if I were running those magazines I wouldn’t cover that music a ton either…But I thought, maybe I should start a blog and write about the niche stuff that I wanted to deal with, kind of take matters into my own hands.  So, the blog started like that, and when Katrina happened within a couple of months of me starting to put the blog out there, and it kind of blossomed into something different, because there were no gigs for months and months, I started writing a lot.  There was a sort of a heavy ‘Jazz Blogisphere’ back then, there probably still is, but I’m just less involved with it.  There were some heavy New York cats involved with it, Ethan Iverson from the Bad Plus, and Darcy James Argue who has that great big band, and we just started to comment on each others blogs and chatting…I ended up getting to really know these people to the point that even though we had never met in person, I would go to a show in New York, and they would recognize me and say, “Hey, Jeff! How’s it going?”.  Anyways, I found that what I really got out of it, it was more of a social thing, you got to meet people and get in peoples mind’s eye and it ended up being really beneficial for me.  When I went back to grad school in 2008, the blog got relatively neglected…

Evan: That being said, you’ve still made a name for yourself in that realm and it was still very beneficial to your career…

Jeff: Right…I’ve met a lot of people through this avenue, and it sort of naturally moved into other forms of social media, like twitter and Facebook and what I’ve found from that, that has really worked for me, is the social aspect of it.  Not so much using twitter to say, “Oh I’ve got this gig here” or “Oh, I rehearsed with the meters yesterday”, but the interaction with people that I’ve had with people who are noted and really active in scenes that aren’t New Orleans.  I’ve had long twitter conversations with people who I really respect and can really learn from, and that’s the beauty of the day and age we live in, getting yourself and your ideas out there can really do a lot for your career and for your own art.

Evan: So you’re saying that this blog, and your diversity in your art form is a way to put yourself out there, and allow people to see the things you’re doing?

Jeff:  Yeah, so I see it as a way to create and foster relationships, since all of what we do in our industry is relationship based.  I function almost entirely in a system that is word of mouth, “I need to hire a Trombone player, oh this guy is around and he isn’t a jerk, lets hire him.”  So, knowing people is vital to working.  I see all of this usage of social media as a way to really get to know people and create those relationships which really lends itself to my diversity as a performer.  I think there is a lot of value in people thinking they know you as an artist which gives them a more vested interest in your specific art.  Since a lot of my own personal interests and artistic experiences happen on the edge of the mainstream music, and even if I was playing mainstream Jazz, it would still be on the edge of the mainstream, but since I’m playing Jazz that is even on the edge of the the Jazz mainstream…

Evan: That’s what makes me so interested in your career, because you’ve been able to be so successful in such a niche market and on the edges of the mainstream…

Jeff:  However, that niche market is almost entirely financed by being a ‘mercenary’ Trombonist, there is no financial success in any of the free Jazz records I’ve recorded, but I’ve been able to pay for all of those records by wearing a Tux and playing Brick-house at weddings. 

Evan: Do you feel as though a lot of the things you get paid to play aren’t necessarily the things you feel artistically strong about?

Jeff: Sometimes.  You know, it’s funny, because after I got this full-time College teaching job, I realized I didn’t have to play stupid gigs for the money anymore.  Although, I also realized that all those stupid gigs I was playing really helped my Trombone playing.  I came to this realization that a lot of the things I wanted to do, and started to do were a combination of two of three things…it was music I liked, it was playing with people I liked, or it happened to be a lot of money.  I spend a lot of time playing gigs that have great music, and great people I liked for very little money.  If the music sucked, but the pay and the people were great, I’d still take it.  Every once in a while, I’d get the trifecta, but that doesn’t happen that often, and it usually happens in Europe.

Evan:  When in your career would you say that you realized that you didn’t have to do every gig that came up, because you had to for either financial reasons or because you felt you couldn’t say no?

Jeff: Fairly recently, actually.  When I was 18, if you asked me what I wanted to do, I would have said I wanted to make a living playing the Trombone.  Some guys paint houses, some guys build cabinets, I wanted to play Trombone.  Initially, that was my goal, it wasn’t necessarily an artistic pursuit so much as it was a craftsman pursuit, I wanted to be a bad-ass Trombone player who could do pretty much anything.  One night, I remember playing an Opera called Susannah at Jefferson Performing Arts Society, and then right from there I left and played a gig with a Reggae band and thought, man, I’ve arrived, this is exactly what I want to do.  Just being able to do anything on the Trombone…

Evan: So at this point, it didn’t necessarily matter what type of music you were playing?

Jeff: Just out of college, no it didn’t really matter, because my goal was to make a living playing Trombone. I didn’t want to have another job, playing the Trombone for a living was my goal, and this helped me achieve that.  Pretty much, if someone called and that spot in my book was open, I said yes.  When I was 29, I got married, and essentially between when I graduated and up until I got married, I was able to make a living playing the Trombone, I did a few cruise ships here and there, but I was playing a lot of gigs, and it was cheap enough to live here at the time.  When I got married, my wife has a pretty solid job, I feel like that freed me up for some more artistic pursuits, I didn’t feel like I had to take gigs I didn’t want to, because they put food on the table.  I started to be able to do more of what I wanted to do, because quite honestly, my wife is very supportive of my career and she made enough money to pay the bills.  This allowed me to take a lot of the money I made playing the Trombone, and reinvest it into my art.  I have to say, I really enjoyed staying home and taking care of the kids, too.  I loved being Mr. Mom, lots of time to practice as well!  When the kids are watching Sesame Street, they don’t care if you’re in the back corner playing Long Tones. 

Evan:  So did you feel like you were successful as a freelancer? 

Jeff:  Yeah, I took pride at the fact that I could take gigs for the money, and no other reason.  The accomplishment was that I was getting called, and kept the gigs.  Maybe there were things I didn’t really enjoy musically, that wasn’t really a concern at that point for me.  When I went back to do my MM at UNO (University of New Orleans), from 1998-2000, I guess I started to get more artistically focused at that point.  I was making a living playing, but OK, I wanted to get better.

Evan: To refocus a little?

Jeff: Yeah, to refocus, and the act of going back to grad school, and studying with some heavy hitters at UNO, made me realize a little bit more of what I am.   Around that same time, I started to get called to do more interesting creative things, such as the Naked Orchestra, and Tony DiGradi’s band.  There were a bunch of people in these groups that were very active on the scene, who kind of opened up my ears a little bit.  I felt very lucky to be involved in these things, putting me into an artistic space with all these people who truly considered themselves as artists, it made me realize that I can really hang with these guys.  Maybe on some level before performing with these guys, I wasn’t really sure I could hang, until I was in that space, doing it with them.  Then I thought, oh ok, I can do it.  Then I started to lead my own groups, and seek out more artistically driven situations rather than financial situations.

Evan: Do you feel like the type of avant-garde, free jazz, and your art comes from a need to express yourself in a different way? 

Jeff: Well, I don’t know if its “oh, I need to express myself”, I think it’s more that it’s that I like making that type of music.  Even the stuff that appeals to a very fringe audience, I think it does some societal good.  I think challenging art, makes the world a better place.  It makes us think differently, even in the situations of the mainstream Orchestras…Orchestra’s program Beethoven 5, and then Orchestras program things that people aren’t sure what to do with, they walk out of there not sure what to think, and I think that’s good.  Making people think about stuff, is good.  Getting emotional responses from people, confusing them, making them see beauty in things that they didn’t previously realize were beautiful.  All of that, I honestly think that has some societal good.  I kind of justify my arts participation from the angle of, this needs to happen; someone needs to do this stuff. I suppose we don’t HAVE to, but it’s a better world if we do.

Evan: Speaking of making people think, and making people feel something different…You run a series called Open Ears, a weekly gig for people, who have the same thought processes as you, who like music on the fringes of the mainstream.   A place where people can try things out, and do it in a club setting.  Can you talk a little bit about Open Ears, and how it started?

Jeff:  I have to admit, that it started completely from a selfish space…There used to be a club on North Rampart Street, called King Boldins, run by this guy named Mario…on Tuesday nights, Mario had what he called “Jazz” night.  On the weekends, he would have reggae, DJ’s, whatever…he made tons of money on the weekends…but Mario loves Jazz, left of center, creative improv type of stuff.  He would have different groups on Tuesday, and once a month Mario would call me to do something, anything I wanted.  Mario made so much money at the club, he would pay us decently, so it was great gig.  He ended getting shut down by complaints from some whiny neighbor, and jive liquor licenses, typical New Orleans situation.  After he got shut down, I was thinking, oh man, we need gigs…what are we going to do? So I talked to a buddy of mine, who said that the club owner at the Blue Nile was cool, and like Jazz.  So I started to scheme up an idea for a weekly series.  I have some friends in Chicago, and there is a long history of musicians, self-presenting in Chicago.  Starting 10-12 years ago, there was a resurgence on the north side of Chicago by guys like Ken Vandermark, and that group of people, doing weekly series.  This would happen in clubs that usually had other things, more popular acts most nights of the weeks, like in Chicago it would happen at the Empty Bottle, a pretty well-known rock and roll club.  So, these guys would find a whole new audience by playing at clubs that they wouldn’t normally. 

Evan: What did you take away from these guys? Did you learn a lot about running a weekly date from them?

Jeff:  I played in a band with Jeff Berman, who organized the series at the Empty Bottle, I called him up when I was starting this series and asked him some advice, things I might need to know…He said you have to do it on a night that the club doesn’t make any money, so any money the club does make is lagniappe, he said you have to be there every week you can, because if you don’t care enough to go, then the club won’t care.  Support the people who support the series, lots of people will ask you for gigs, but make sure you hand out the gigs to the people who come and hang out.  Use it as an opportunity to build community.  One thing he mentioned, that we got really lucky with, is that you have to have the right bartender.  If the bartender working your event hates your music, people who listen to weird music don’t generally drink a lot, so the bar ring is going to be low.  So if the bartender hates the music, and all the club owner hears about, is “this music sucks and I am making no money”, then it’ll slowly come to a halt. 

Evan: So how did it work at the Blue Nile?

Jeff:  I called Jesse at the Blue Nile, and I said look, this is how it’ll work…I’ll take care of all the bookings, I’ll make sure the bands get paid from donations and door charges, all you have to do is send a bartender and open the doors.  We don’t want a piece of the bar, I don’t want any flak from you about what we’re going to play, and we want to do whatever want.  He said ok. 

Evan: Really?

Jeff:  Oh yeah, they were closed on Tuesday nights anyways, so any extra money they made was cherry on the top.  It’s literally no work for him.  And what he soon realized was, is that he gets this credibility as a “real” music club, because he hosts a creative thing instead of just filler rock bands. 

Evan: Yeah, this series has been talked about in downbeat and the Blue Nile has been mentioned as a must go to club, because of the Open Ears series, which is great publicity for him.  This series has been running for 8 years, since then, have you had many challenges to keep it going?

Jeff: Well, at the beginning it was three of us doing the series, Justin Peak and Dan Ostrander.  Justin ended up moving to Brooklyn and Dan is in Trombone Shorty’s band, so he is on the road a lot.  So it’s really kind of cut down to being just me running the gig.  But in the beginning, it was difficult to get acts to play, so we ended up filling a lot of the dates ourselves. We’d look at the schedule, and we’d say “who is going to put a band here” because we don’t really have anything…early when we were discussing it, the frequency was talked about, should we do it every other week? Once a month? And I argued heavily for having a weekly date.  It needs to be a thing where people don’t have to think about it, it’s every Tuesday, there is something interesting going on at the Blue Nile.  I think it’s worked really well for us.  Especially for this type of a thing, because we were working to create a community.  So early on, we had to work to fill it up, and then word started to spread.  Now I have people call me, and we’re booked 4 months in advance.  Sometimes if there is something I want to hear, I’ll call those people, but it’s mostly people who call me.

Evan: So this has also provided you with another artistic outlet, has it opened your eyes and ears at all?

Jeff: Oh definitely, it has totally changed the way I played.  Like I said, I played more often early on, but like anything, to be a good improviser you have to improvise a lot, and I was doing that.  I also think the scene throughout the city is stronger because of it, because they now have an outlet to do it.  That really has been my goal for it, I wanted it to be a place where things could happen that wouldn’t happen otherwise.  Like, if you wanted to write a song cycle for Soprano and Saxophone quartet, where are you going to do that? Come do it at Open Ears.  I don’t want Open Ears to be all about me though, most of interesting creativity coming out of the community is coming from the creativity of those people, I feel like my role really has been to provide a safe place for that to happen.

Evan: How do you keep all of this straight?  You have a full-time teaching job, a full time performing schedule, not to mention two kids. How do you make time to see support the arts, and still get out there to see live music?

Jeff:  Well, first of all, I sleep a lot when I get the chance.  I believe on a certain level that if you claim to like music and you don’t go hear people perform, that you’re lying.  The root level of music is people performing for other people, in the same room.  That’s the most basic form, and if you don’t like doing that, you’re lying about liking music.  It’s just important, I have to go hear things to keep me fresh in some artistic way.  In some way, I do feel an obligation to support the arts as someone who financially can. 

Evan: Don’t you ever feel burnt out?

Jeff:  Of course, there are times when there are things I feel like both for my own musical interests and as a member of the community that I have some obligation to go hear, and I just don’t make it.  It just doesn’t happen, but I make every effort to go when I can.  I think a big part of it is the “hang”.  The social interaction in person is really important.  I was talking to a student earlier, and he was talking about sitting in with people, I told him you have to be seen.  You won’t be called for gigs if they don’t think of you when they need a bass player, and they won’t think of you as a bass player if they haven’t seen you for three weeks.  You have to be seen, be out there in the scene.  A lot of work is a function of being around, and being a member of the community, and contributing to the community.  I feel like, if people aren’t willing to make a time and investment into the community, then the community doesn’t owe them anything.  Supporting artists is important, we should go see music so that people keep making music, and as a musician the things I gain by going to listen to music are great.  Even if its music outside the realm of what I’m doing, I still learn a lot and find levels of inspiration from that.  It makes you think differently.

Evan: Transitioning into something a little different, what do you think as an educator, a music industry professor, are some of the bigger challenges facing your students today?

Jeff:  Well, our philosophical way to teach this, is that you will get the jobs that you create.  My students are going to be dealing with issues like, how do we develop a fan base for our band, they’ll be going into varying careers, managers for bands, rappers, producers.  The challenge for them will be figuring out where the money comes from.  This seems to be a problem across the music industry going forward.  People seem to be over paying for recordings, and we haven’t figured out how to really deal with streaming services yet, so it’ll be a challenge for a lot of these kids to figure out where the money comes from.  Sorting out the balance on how we are going to get paid for art is a gigantic challenge facing all of us, maybe not just my students.  The problem is that we all make art because we like making art, but we have to be able to afford to keep making that art.  You can’t make the art if all you do is work at the grocery store.  In most fields, the pay is the money, in our field, the pay is the art, it’s the process.

Evan: The last thing I really want to know about, is really some of your musical background and your musical influences…how you got to be Jeff Albert the musician?

Jeff: My mom sang in the church choir when I was a kid, and she was pretty musical.  She had a voice scholarship to go to Stephen F Austin.  My dad was NOT musical at all, his joke was always that he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket…but my dad’s family is full of musicians.  His father was a band director in the army, his uncle was director of the navy school of music, one of my dad’s cousins was the associate dean of Shenandoah Conservatory, and his son Matt was the original violinist in Eighth Blackbird, so it sort of just skipped a generation.  Every time we’d go to my grandfather’s house, there were tons of musical instruments around and he’d always play something.  I grew up around it, and I always knew I liked music.  When 5th grade came around, it wasn’t a question of if I was going to play in band, it was more of what I would play.

Evan: Why did you pick the Trombone?

Jeff:  I didn’t, actually.  I went to my grandfather’s house the summer before, and he gave me a coronet, and a few lessons.  I showed up the first day of 5th grade band, and there were 500 people who wanted to play the Trumpet and only one person who wanted to play Trombone.  My band director was smart, she knew that the Trombone player was my next door neighbor and we were good friends, she said “Jeff, you have bigger lips, you should play Trombone, Robert can help you.”  My mom was not happy because we had just been given a free trumpet.  So I started playing Trombone, and it worked out great, because I’m a Trombone player by heart, not a Trumpet player.

Evan:  Have you always been very interested in avant-garde type of music?

Jeff: So, the High School that I went to had a really great Jazz band, a number of people who were older than me who were great musicians and who were really into that type of left of center type of music. There was a culture there, that being into it was really cool.  When I was in junior high school, I was more into Rush and Styx, and then I eventually got into Maynard Fergueson.  A few of my buddies were getting into more interesting stuff, like Miles Davis.  And I remember reading the name J.J. Johnson on this album called Jazz at the Philharmonic with Dizzy, and Stan Getz and J.J. Johnson.  It blew my mind, they did a take on Sweet Georgia Brown and J.J. played like 8 choruses.  I heard that, and thought, I didn’t even know you could do that with a Trombone.  I was really into Thad Jones and Mel Lewis in High School, much more mainstream.  When I came to college I wanted to be J.J. Johnson.  What I later realized looking back is that whenever I heard stuff that was more adventurous, I always reacted to it well.  I always liked it, I had a proclivity for liking weirder stuff.  In my high school there was a guy name Clint Majen who plays with Preservation Hall Jazz band now, and a bass player named Charlie Wooten who plays in Cyril Neville’s band, we all grew up together, so we had a weird confluence of a bunch of us who remain professional musicians to this day.  I remember going to Clint’s house one time, and it was John Coltrane live in Japan.  We had all sort of gotten into Coltrane, but it was more mainstream Coltrane.  Clint puts it on, and it starts going and Pharaoh Sanders is making all these crazy whale noises and I looked at Clint and said, dude…what?  Is this?  But it was fascinating, I didn’t really get it at first.  Things progressed to when I was a student at Loyola, and one day we had 15 minutes left in class and Tony DiGradi turned off all the lights, and he said “OK, I’m going to turn off all the lights, I’ll play a note, I want you to react musically to what you hear”.  We ended up going for 30 minutes, and when the thing ended it was like a trans formative experience for me.  I was totally free.  What I found as my career went on, is that every time I tried to sound like J.J. Johnson, people were nice about it, but I felt sort of hollow.  Whenever I went and played in freer situations, people seemed to react really well to what I was doing, and I felt great about it.  I realized, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing, that’s what my artistic outlet is supposed to be.

Evan: Why do you think that is?

Jeff: I think it’s sort of how my brain works, I tend to think in terms of shapes and textures and big picture.  Not a whole lot in terms of real details and minutia.  To really play Be-Bop well, you have to deal in the super fine detail.  I would much rather make the shape and not have to worry about exactly what’s in the middle of those thousand notes.  Even the way I hear things, I’m not so note specific, I hear shape and rhythm much better.  In the freer less harmonically specific spaces, that approach works much better.  I love the interactions of timbre and the free space that deals more with timbre.  Maybe it’s because the first time I did the free jazz, avant-garde thing, I was comfortable doing it.  So maybe it’s more of a social acceptance thing.  I had a really influential experience playing in Michael Ray’s band, who was the trumpet player in Sun Ra’s band, and the trumpet player in Kool and the Gang.  So, I think that helped a lot.  I realized that everything was always on the table, anything you wanted to do, I learned to turn the sensor off.  Now, your musical tastes will keep you in line, but you can’t be thinking of what you’re not allowed to do because it’s not allowed in this space, you just have to follow what you feel.  Play what you feel that the music needs right now. In freely improvised situations, that really is the case, everything IS on the table.

 

Thanks Jeff!