Spring Cleaning Show and Tell !!!

I Hate Cleaning!!… Or more specifically, I hate the process of getting motivated enough to go through my things and- as Marie Kondo says (In a paraphrased form) Get rid of “What does not spark joy”.  You Know what I hate more than cleaning though? Feeling Claustrophobic because of having too much stuff around. Needless to say, I’ve been doing some heavy duty picking up lately. As such, I’ve unearthed a few treasures, and as this is a blog written by a music composer, I’m going to share some of these with you before I either get rid of the physical object or talk myself into putting it into a Save to Digitally Archive pile only to be burned a few years later.

1.) Old Forgotten Pieces

If you’re a composer (or even if you are not and dabbled for one reason or another) did you ever listen to a piece that you wrote eons ago, maybe for a class or just your own enjoyment? Here are some of my fabulous blunderous Musics.

This Beauty is Something that a piano player friend of mine dubbed “The Drunken Belly Dancer song”. It was my first Notated piece, after my mom got the free version of Finale notepad while I was in High School and I started experimenting. Take a look at THIS Masterpiece!


What Makes it “Bad”?

At the time, I had no idea what most note values meant, much less how to count (Thanks Pepperoni Hot-dog syllable method of teaching rhythm!). As such, I could only conclude that smaller looking notes sounded faster so I sounded out what I was hearing in my head, experimenting until it sounded “right” on the playback. Notation was a mystery to me. Unfortunately, there is no playback, but trust me, it sounds hilarious- and did when James played it for me to hear 11 years ago- after hours of course. Note the Gorgeous trills notated with 64th notes.

EDIT: I FOUND MY OLD LAPTOP AND GOT ONE! Here you go.

Also featured, for your enjoyment is something I wrote when I finally upgraded my finale a couple of years ago and wanted to experiment with the pretty new sounds and instrument options. Don’t ask me why it’s called Sandwich Dream- I honestly don’t remember.

2) Pieces and Arrangements Written for Classes

Most students of music theory probably have at least one of these projects floating around from an old class. I went to YSU, where the written theory program was excellent in that you would end up with at least one for each semester of written theory. The thought was to reinforce the concept that you were studying. However, as we know, forcing creativity does not always work.

Ironically, this was not always the easiest project wise for me to do. Take a look at some of these masterpieces.

For one Music History Class, a a couple of classmates and I teamed up. I arranged Korobeiniki (aka the Tetris Theme) for us to report on and perform. I’m particularly proud of how this arrangement sounded when we performed it live- on La’s of course. Neither one of us could pronounce the Russian properly so we decided to play it safe .

Also, my theory professors had some sick fascination with Radio Head. At least three semesters had a unit focused on examples from their songs and there are at least two of these projects floating around in my hard drive. Nice Dream is sort of Nice so I’ll share the first page.

3) Pieces that are not  really MY style. I.E. pieces written to please the professor you are studying with

Needless to say, when a grade is held above your head for a subject as subjective as sonic art (aka composition), you want to keep your professor happy.

There are several examples of pieces that have chords and voicings that don’t sound like me. I came from the sound world where videogame music,church choir, concert band, and rock music were part of my steady diet. As such, my natural tendency is to write melody and lots of it! Sometimes “gouche” harmonies and parallelisms would find its way into my music. Sometimes it still does- though I’m much more cognizant of it now thanks to theory classes and my professor scolding me on a constant basis until I picked up on what he was talking about. Usually, I kept the “corrections’ because I did not know any better, and over time, some of these sounds and concepts crept into pieces. For better or for worse, they are still there though, there was a period between my Jr. year and about a year and a half out of school that my music did not sound like me. Case in Point!:

I wrote this about 5-6 months out of school. There are bits that sound like me, but a lot of one of my teacher’s harmonies and chord voicing made it into this piece as well. I was a bit depressed and almost forgot how to write as me during this time.

4)Virtually Unplayable Pieces

One thing that I pride myself on is asking players whether something is possible nor not an the instrument and checking on the practicality before making an educated decision on whether to include it in the piece. That being said, I do occasionally make mistakes too. We all do (don’t deny it- unless you are a robot. Then I might believe you!).

5) One or two pieces that were actually Quite Good , even Beautiful

It’s always good to land on a high note. While searching through my archives I found my first attempt at a band piece composed during my first year at music school. Despite the timeline of creation, it’s surprisingly not bad. I never did get around to refining it, but maybe it’s time. Please enjoy the midi.

You know what? I guess some of these things do “spark joy” after all. Maybe I’ll keep em!

I’M TEACHING AT A MUSIC SUMMER CAMP!!!!!

EDIT: Due to the recent events in Minneapolis and the importance of allowing the voices that need to be heard in this moment to have the full attention they need , we have decided to postpone the camp . These specific classes may still happen whether through the camp or by my own offering in the future. Please stay tuned for updates and thank you for your understanding.

Hello Fellow Music friends and Fans,

I am excited to announce that I will be teaching some courses for a Summer Music Camp offered by Maestoso Music Studio. The best news is, that it is online so YOU- and/ or, your students/ children, can participate in real time, without having to leave your front door. There are lots of other quality courses to choose from, but these happen to be the three that I am excited to teach.

Session 1- June 8th- 30th

THE COMPOSER IS ALIVE!

This will be a listening and discussion based course where I will expose the participants to music they may or may not have heard before by LIVING COMPOSERS, written within the last 30 years, give or take, in several genres spanning from wind band and orchestra to jazz, and video game music. The purpose of this course is to open up the ears of the participants, expand their minds to musical possibilities and show them that composers are indeed real people who are alive and creating as we speak. We will discuss the pieces, how to find new music, and the class will conclude with a creative project

This class may include a meet and greet with a living composer- who is not me by the way- but you’ll have to participate to find out!

Age Range- 8th Grade – Young adult (though adults are welcome too)

When-Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2-3

Session 2 July

PRACTICAL THEORY

I will be teaching a bare bones introduction to music theory suitable for those who are curious about the world of theory and how to use it. I will also be sprinkling in some examples and instruction of how to use theory to improve your sight reading ability and learn parts of that solo on your own.

Some knowledge of theory is recommended but is not necessary for this course.

Age range- 8th Grade- Adult

When-Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2-3

Session 3 August

COMPOSE FOR YOU!

This will be a course for those looking to get their feet wet in the world of music composition and arranging. One class will be spent introducing the free software MUSE SCORE – though if you prefer to use another Music Notation Software, that is ok too. At the end of the course, each student will have composed a short solo for their instrument and a duet.

Some theory knowledge is necessary for this course. Might I recommend taking my Practical Theory course?

Age Range- 8th Grade- Adult

When-Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2-3

If you are interested in signing up for this course or any of the other courses in the Creativity Club Music Camp please follow this link.

I Can’t wait to see you there!!

A Well Traveled Rhapsody

Mr. Slocum was a wonderful human being. He was the one professor who, no matter who you were, would cheer you on and always have encouraging things to say after brass juries. It did not matter if you were in his horn studio or not. He always seemed to care about the students. Mr. (Bill) Slocum always took time out to talk with anyone who would listen to his recollections of his remarkable past, and he had a plethora of stories to tell from his experiences! It was through these recollections that I learned of his past performing summers at Tanglewood (under Leonard Bernstein!), his time with the Cleveland Orchestra, and his connection with my Hometown Orchestra of Buffalo NY, the Buffalo Philharmonic, having performed in this organization as well as several others. Sometimes these stories would trail into the next hour when you were trying to leave for class. You’d try to say good bye but somehow could not, as his stories always left you hanging on for more.

He also took time out to help me in a way that I’m not sure the other professors knew how. Although he was not my composition professor, he would give me helpful advice as to which pieces to study, and what I should try next. He also took me aside after a class once and did what most do not do: told me to my face how much potential I had, the good things he had heard around the building, and how he recognized my work ethic. (Sadly Mr. Slocum, I could not afford to go to the festivals that you advised me to go, but I promise to keep my promise to you to keep composing). Somehow, he knew that I needed that confidence boost.(Thank you!)

When he passed away in April of 2015 , I was heartbroken. I can only imagine the grief his students and family must’ve felt upon hearing this news.

At the time, shortly after graduating, I had reluctantly moved to MN to live at my Dad and stepmom’s home, and was broke, car-less and jobless. That day (April 15th), after taking the bus to the next town over to job search for the afternoon, I had some time to burn while waiting for a ride back, so I stopped at a Perkins for some coffee. It was there that I received the news.

Shortly after that bombshell, a theme in 6/8, distinctly played on a horn appeared inside my head. It was a theme fit for a hero! Thankfully I was prepared with some scrap staff paper to scratch it down, and fatefully place my coffee, leaving a ring- or “seal of approval” over the new melody.* This melody would remain untouched for about four years.

*This is also the origin story of how I came up with the coffee seal of approval and why I call my self publishing business Coffee Seal Music, summed up in one sentence!

This past Summer, Bill Richter, who I hadn’t heard from in almost 3 years, contacted me asking if he could commission me to write something for his Master’s recital. This came as a surprise, as the last time I had heard from him, he’d left YSU and transferred schools and as far as I was aware, was studying something completely different. At the (no doubt incessant- he had an almost magical way of making his thoughts and intentions known ) urging of Mr Slocum, Bill had returned to school to study the horn! In a stranger twist of fate- call it serendipity if you will- Bill had requested that I put the ending to Mahler 1 in the piece as this was the last piece that Mr. Slocum had coached the YSU Horn studio on, and, this melody that had been sitting there since Mr. Slocum’s passing fit PERFECTLY alongside Mahler’s melody.

A Well Traveled Rhapsody starts with the hero’s theme, where it morphs into several references to many famous horn lines and solos, of which I am told Mr. Slocum enjoyed on his time on earth. Some of these you may catch are a reference to Holst’s Jupiter (as he exuded Jollity), Mozart’s Jupiter (the piece he advised me to study as it has everything I’d ever need), variations of the opening to Strauss’s Horn concerto and Wagner’s Siegfried Call and , of course, Mahler 1.

The middle section, while not a direct quote, alludes to the melodic horn writing of Jerry Goldsmith as heard in the Star Trek the Motion Picture Soundtrack. As the piece seems to wrap up in the last third, I tried to emulate the feeling of listening to his stories and trying to leave his office, but truthfully wanting to hear more as he’d trail on with his wonderfully interesting recollections. Finally, the hero’s theme rises up gracefully in the piano, octave by octave just as his spirit, as far as I can tell, may have risen towards the heavens upon his departure from this mortal realm. It ends on a plagal cadence because, well, of course it does!

Mr. Slocum with his Students at the YSU Horn Studio Pumpkin Party circa 2008

Bill Richter will Be premiering A Well Traveled Rhapsody at his recital on April 19th , 1 PM at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. This piece is written in the memory of William (Bill) Slocum and his gregarious, giving, uplifting, musical spirit.

2011 Mr Slocum and his last horn studio class before retiring.

Staying Healthy at Brass Chix 2020

It’s that time of year again. The mid winter shuffle of Fellow Female identifying Brass Players to the once a year event we like to call, Brass Chix.

The theme this year was Women’s Health as it pertains to brass playing. This year was a bit different for me as well because I got to help plan it!

Before I yammer on about the event, if you are wondering what the heck Brass Chix is and why the fish would woman Brass players gather for this seemingly “girls only” club, please refer to last years blog Post , where I explain it all.

When Sarah Schmalenberger and I met to begin planning this a few months prior, we realized that there were many facets to women’s health that go beyond just the obvious physical aspects. We could include spiritual health, emotional well being, instrument health, and go well beyond the usual advice of exercise, eat and sleep well.

The day started out with a Mindful Start, led by Sarah where we focused on breathing together without a conductor and thinking about our awareness as musicians. She led us in another mindfulness exercise where we assembled into two circles and were instructed to face one another. Upon the resonant cue of Tibetan singing bowls, we were to introduce ourselves on one tone, and silently looked each other in the eyes for a brief moment, before rotating the circle to introduce yourself to the next person on the next tone. It was an effective way to make each other aware of the other’s energy and existence as well as help break the ice among these multi generational women.

We then broke into our usual instrumental groups. The low brass session was led by my Colleague, Lara Dietrich. She led the low brass in some warm-ups, talked about preventing injury, and thoughtfully ended with a reminder that, for emotional well being, it is ok to say NO to things.

After concluding the session, we scuttled down to the presentation room where Sarah shared a fascinating lecture which featured her and Dr. Patricia Maddox’s research on Women’s Health and brass playing- The Brass Bodies Study. She and all of us had a candid discussion about how our bodies at different stages of life- down to years weeks, and days, can and do effect our brass playing due to our unique physiology. Rather than complain that “the men just don’t understand”, she opened up the discussion to encourage women to help each other and shed light on the realities that exist. An article featuring her research can be found here and is well worth the read regardless of how you identify.

Lunch was a fun bit of show and tell.

(a bit of backstory……During our planning session, we came up with an idea to showcase both Brass chix Business owners, who run their own repair shops on opposite sides of the cities; Laurel Chapman and Melanie Ditter. In order to do this, the suggestion came up to make a video that they could also use beyond this and would give them a chance to show off their shops, skills, and teach the Brass Chix how to better care for their instruments. Thanks to my coordination skills (learned in Toastmasters), my friend and talented Filmmaker Jason Shumacher’s assistance (ok, he shot and edited the whole thing 🙂 ), and the amicable agreement of Laurel and Melanie to allow us into their shops and interview them, two videos were produced and shown at lunch. ) People now know about the crud that lies in their instruments if you don’t clean them regularly or eat a hamburger before playing- tee hee.

The after lunch session was a split of two types of networking events. We had the younger (high-school and college aged) group, talk about healthy networking -led by Emily Green and the “Mature/ Experienced” group speed dating activity where we mentioned what we needed and what we could offer. It was fairly helpful and I even met a fellow SAI sister.

The penultimate event was a talk led by a panel of Women- who also had a part in planning this event, and of which I was invited to be a part of as well. This consisted of Me, Lara Dietrich, Allysin Partin, and Tina Cavitt, and each of us talked about an aspect of life that we overcame – or at least learned how to better manage. The subject that I was requested to speak about was…being different. I will admit, while I was humbled yet excited to be asked in the first place, the topic left me initially taken aback. After all, other than being a composer, how am I different enough to justify speaking about this?

My approach was to talk about how I, like everyone else, took my own path, and how due to my circumstances and personality which does not quite fit in with the norm of my chosen field (I’ve always been a paradoxical free spirited introvert, too humble for their own good at times), I had to find other ways to get to where I am today and learn to accept myself just the way I am. I tried to help my audience realize that everyone has things that make them unique which is a beautiful thing in and of itself, and that they should love themselves just the way they are, akin to what Mr. Rogers tried to teach in his lifetime. It must have worked because several of the young (high school aged) girls surprisingly opened up after this. This was the highlight of my day.

Lastly, we ended the day with a good ol’ session of brass choir experience and the Brass chix salute. Overall, it was a good year and I feel that a lot of good will be carried out beyond this day.

If you are a fellow brass Chick , I hope to see you next year where we meet at Schmitt Music in Brooklyn center to focus on……..Gear!

My 2020 Music Goals

As is now the tradition for me, I have written down my music related goals for this coming year.

The reason that I do this is because it gives me something tangible to periodically look back on and remind me of the things that I set out to accomplish. As a person who is very focused yet paradoxically gets distracted easily, this is very helpful to have when it comes to staying on track.

BIG GOAL: Pay off the last of my student debt

As of December of 2019, after years of sacrificing 90% of of my “fun money” (the little bit left over after bills and minimum payments are made) , I am down to my last 5K. Though there is far more debt to tackle (mainly the mess that is my SO’s student loan and the last bit for the used car that we purchased after their’s died), this will be a huge load off my back. The bit of anxiety I’ve felt since starting college because of this will finally be gone! Additionally, though much of my “fun” money will still go to start helping with my SO’s loans, I can start saving for things like buying scores, taking colleagues out for coffee more often, and grad school applications (if that is the road I go down for sure. This year will be a big indicator if/ when I can or should do that).

Mini Goal: Actually get better at marketing

I am going to start by aiming to get something out at least once a week. This may be a piece, a blog post, or (ghasp) a youtube video. Stay tuned for more on this one.

I will also make more of an effort to be more interactive on social media by either posting or commenting at least once a day.

Mini Goal: Finish setting up the store and sell some gosh danged scores (at least 5)

This is self explanatory. 2020’s the year it’s going to happen.

Part of my plan is to contact some music distribution companies to help get my music electronically accessible as well. (As of now, I can only offer physical (but personally autographed) copies as I lack the funds to pay for the technology that would help me prevent electronic file theft at a level that I’m comfortable with.

Mini Goal: Increase teaching studio numbers

My goal number for 2020 is 10 students. I am trying to keep it to no more than 3 evenings to avoid burnout as I already work 40 hours a week at my day job. This makes it more difficult, but, I am determined. Also, this will certainly help me build up the wealth I gave up by committing to paying these loans. The ultimate goal though is financial freedom.

Marketing with social media posts, hanging posters for my teaching business, and handing out cards for those who can help me with the word of mouth factor should help.

BIG GOAL: Be more giving/ pay things forward more

Though there is a long way to go to get where I want to go, I am thankful for where I am in life and acknowledge that a big part was because of the help and kindness I’ve received from strangers, mentors, and friends.

As soon as my 5K is done, I am going to begin donating a portion of what I used to have to pay on a regular basis. I am going to pick a couple of the helpful podcasts I’ve taken advice from or gotten enjoyment out of in an otherwise bleak existence over past years, and join their patreon pages. I won’t name which ones I’m going to pick. But, I have an idea for a future post where I outline my current favorites and you can speculate from there if you’d like.

I also aim to help out with a charity at least once (preferably more) this year by giving back some time.

My last part of this goal is to treat at least one person to lunch and/ or coffee per month.

BIG GOAL: Participate in at least 3 speaking, conducting or solo performance opportunities

As someone who wants to do this for a living, I need to get out of the Toastmaster’s training grounds and start putting these skills to use in the outside world. This is the bare minimum and I will do my bet to list them in next year’s follow up post.

Mini Goal: Participate in at least 1 Collaboration

Assuming that participation in Film Score Fest works out, this goal should be no problem.

Mini Goal: Finish all Current Works in progress and don’t add any new ones if you are over 3.

As of now, I’m finishing up the last Painless Parker’s Giant Bucket of Teeth (for Concert band), the electronic piece that my Composition Mentor has me learning with, and this year’s Minneapolis Trombone Choir Concert Piece.

Once one of these is finished, I’ll begin work on a Project that I cannot talk about….yet, and brass band piece.

BONUS: As this is a special year being the beginning of a decade, I thought I’d list a few things I want to accomplish in this upcoming decade that are music related. These may have to change, but for now I can dream and begin aiming. At the very least, I have this list to refer back to when making future goal posts.

  1. Go to Grad school- FOR MUSIC-and not go into debt to do so
  2. Pay off All Debt
  3. Attend some composer retreats and workshops
  4. Teach at a high profile event or music camp
  5. Be able to travel a few times a year for my Ideal music “job”
  6. Write my first symphony and compose at least one Big piece a year (with premiers and commissions of course)
  7. Be able to make my living composing, teaching, and performing/ occasionally conducting by the end of this decade

Thanks for reading!!!

2019 Goals- How did I do?

Big Goal: Continue to increase income

Mini Goal: Set up the rest of my online store:

Did I succeed: Ha Ha. Nope. This is still a work in progress. But, I did manage to find a friend who is helping me set this part up-FINALLY!

Mini Goal: Sell more music

Did I accomplish it: Yes- I sold one score and even got my first concert music commission (Thanks Bill!). That’s one more than last year. Woo hoo!!

2020 is going to be the year where I aim to sell at least 5 scores- but hopefully more. Actually setting up my online store will probably help this goal come to fruition 😛

Mini Goal: Increase my teaching studio size

Did I succeed: Yes! I am now teaching at Maestoso Music studio and have a total of 2 trombone students and 3 piano students. I am also, teaching a couple of ukulele students as well. That’s up from just 2 last year!

Big Goal: Get out there even  more than in 2018

Mini Goal: Jam More

Did I succeed: Yes!…sort of. I managed to get together and play 4 times this year with friends.

Mini Goal: Go to more music gatherings and concerts- that are not my own.

Did I succeed: Yes, but barely. This summer kicked my butt when the swing band went a little uh, gig happy, a relative passed away, and life once again happened. Summer was when I had hoped to go to something every weekend as summer tends to be more relaxed schedule wise yet filled with a plethora of free concerts to listen to. This did not happen as planned, but I averaged about 1.5 every other month, which is way better than it could have been.

Mini Goal: Get better at this Marketing thing.

Did I succeed: I’m going to have to say no. Other life things took priority this year. Next year though, this is going to move more toward the top of the priority list. I do like to eat food ya know! (also, getting paid to perform and write is nice too.)

BIG Goal: Get healthier

Did I succeed: Yes- but mostly during the spring and summer. I sort of fell off the wagon once it started getting colder as far as exercise is concerned. Excuses- excuses, I know. But, I do eat a lot more veggies than I did last year. Now to see if I can drop the sweets a little. My miserly tradition toward buying new jeans before they have irreparable holes in them depends on it! (also, cavities are expensive and painful as I’ve come to find out.)

Big Goal: Write More:

Did I succeed: Yes- please see my final thoughts.

Also, as the urge to write seems to happen most often at night when I *should* be sleeping, I am no longer going to fight this- even if I do have to get up an hour earlier now with this self-imposed schedule. Bring on the Insomnia!

Final Thoughts:

I did manage to accomplish a few things this year that were not goals. For starters, this has been the most productive year composing since graduating from YSU in December 2014. This was not only in terms of volume but in variety as well. New pieces were written for a church brass gig, trombone choir, the VGM challenge and a brand new film score. I was able to put on a successful concert of newly composed and arranged works with my friends from Coffoa Brass in October. Also, thanks to my wonderful mentor, I am now beginning to explore the world of electronic composition. All it took was someone patient enough to show this technology illiterate, broke, and frustrated person how to steer the ship.Overall, 2019 was a step in the right direction.

~Tomorrows post will consist of 2020’s goals, but please feel free to comment with your accomplishments this past year. I would love to hear about them!~

Thanks for reading!!!!

#21 Days of VGM Days 4-6

Hello Friends and Fellow Music Fans,

Here are the next Three Pieces from this challenge for your enjoyment. Please feel free to comment if the inspiration strikes you.

Composed 7/4/2019
Today, I started with an uncommon interval to start with- a Major 7th. This is what became of it.
Composed 7/5/2019
I reached Level 2! Woo Hoo!
This was the Name game. I took my full name, only took the letters that were in the musical alphabet, and created a bass line Motive that the piece builds around. While composing I thought in layers, before putting this into the computer. There are several types of bells used for the accompaniment and Crystal Glass for the melody. It could probably be used around a shrine, oracle dwelling, or religious site in a game.
Composed 7/6/2019
I wrote a very short, loopable blues tune.
It is 7 bars long because I like messing with form sometimes.






Here’s My ” I Didn’t Cheat” Proof! 😀

21 Days of VGM Days 1-3

Hello Fellow friends and Music fans.

Every once in awhile, it is good to get out and try something new. In this case, it’s a challenge.

This summer, I am trying the 21 days of VGM Challenge in order to get back in the habit of writing every day.

As posting takes some time and realistically, I do not have time to write a blog post every single day this month ( July tends to be a heavy performance month) AND finish my writing goal, I can and WILL make time to write something for this challenge every day. That being said, you can expect a post about once every 3 or so days with new pieces attached from now until the end of the challenge.

Additionally, The Challenge officially started July 1st. I have been writing by hand every day in keeping with the challenge’s intent to compose every day. However, realistically , I do not have enough time to input my ideas into the computer as well most days, except for the weekend so today (Sunday) is the first day I have audio available. Just to prove that I have not been cheating though, here is a selfie with my notebook.

I did the Thing!

If you want to know what this is about (and possibly join now or in the future) please follow the link for more information, but in short, I will be following writing prompts that are sent to my inbox in order to write these pieces.

Here are the First 3:

Composed 7/1/2019
Today, I just came up with an 8 bar Melodic Idea
Composed 7/2/2019
For Day 2, I took the Write Something in Minor Prompt and expanded on yesterday’s Melodic Idea
Composed 7/3/2019
Day 3’s chosen prompt was Compose in a Compound meter. I chose 5/8 but did a time displacement in the baseline as well. It is what I would envision would play while talking to a giant owl or Fantasy creature (Griffin, Chimera, etc) in a game.

Enjoy!

P.S. Speaking of trying new things , here is a picture of me Jamming, on stage, in front of strangers, and with people that I mostly don’t know for the first time ever. It was fun, just like I hope this challenge will be.

Image may contain: one or more people, people on stage and people playing musical instruments
Me with the Rogue Jammers, June 29th, 2019
Photo credit Robyn Barziza Chargo

Music in the Wind

Hello Fellow Music fans and friends,

This is a short blog post where I wanted to share an experience from a few days ago.

Did you know that if you take the time to listen, you can sometimes hear music in the space around you?

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Minneapolis Sculpture garden (the one with the famous cherry spoon and now blue cock) for the first time.

A typical touristy pose commemorating my first visit here. No trip is complete without it!

There, among one of the most eclectic collections of sculptures I have ever seen, they have an air sculpture in the trees comprised of dozens of wind chimes. The tones on the chimes were chosen from a John Cage chance music piece titled Dream (1948).

Standing a good distance away from the tree, it sounds like you might expect a typical cacophony of chimes to sound. When we arrived beneath the tree though, I could not help but notice a few low and mid range frequencies that appeared and produced a soothing yet eerie vibration. As these tones shuffled between each other, I could not help but feel the music that was being produced by only the wind and these suspended pieces of metal vibrating in my bones. The sound was beautiful. and not unlike Tibetan singing bowls in tone color. It was as if there were an invisible ensemble perhaps of faeries, improvising, creating this piece just for those patient enough to listen.

Though my phone did not do justice in capturing all of the colors, here is a video of the phenomenon to give you an idea.

A few minutes later, my friends and I took the opportunity to lay in the grass near the giant swing sculpture as it was a gorgeous day. It was there that I experienced a miniature symphony in the air. As the clock struck 6, the bells from multiple churches began to ring one by one and add melody to the gentle accompaniment created by the invisible faerie band in the wind-chime laden tree behind me.

Here is the video of this experience (and yes I shushed my very verbose S.O. so I could capture this magical moment of air music- ha!).

Though you may or may not not agree with me calling this music, I hope that you enjoy these sounds. Perhaps they will inspire you to create your own music in some way.

The art of Improvisation at Brass Chix 2019

Every year since 2014, Woman Brass players from the Minneapolis-St Paul Metro have been gathering at the end of January for this annual one day conference.

I have been attending this amazing shindig since 2016 (having moved here in March of 2015) and have had the opportunity to see it grow. This year was easily the best program that I’ve attended.

So, What is Brass Chix?

It is a once a year event where woman brass players of all abilities from High School age all the way to Seniors come together to learn from presentations by professionals in the field, and by talking to each other about issues ranging from performance on their particular instrument of choice, to the social aspects of being a woman in what traditionally has been a male dominated area.

Why do we, a group of Women from multiple generations who just happen to play brass instruments, gather for this event every year?

Sarah Schmalenberger puts it best when she says that what makes us unique is that “We as women, never have a straight path”. Because of how most of us are conditioned by society , we are more prone to sacrifice for others before our own needs and desires, and are expected to take a back seat instead of fighting for what we want, whether that be to stay home and take care of the family, or back down and compromise in order to keep peace when faced with conflict.

Men (in general) tend to plow through obstacles hard nosed while women, tend to go around these obstacles. It takes a bit longer for most of us to get where we are aiming to go as a result.

It helps to have this event to discuss these issues and remind ourselves that we handle things differently and are all very capable and powerful in our own ways. Empowerment builds confidence to work towards success. Also, there is just something very special and healing about getting together with others TO MAKE  MUSIC!

My own journey has been a roundabout way of getting to where I am and continues to be this way- but that is a topic for a future blog post or possibly a book someday. For now though LETS GET TO THE BLOG ENTRY OF THE DAY OF BRASS CHIX 2019!!

The day started at St Thomas Student center where I Got to help at the check in table with Sue ( a trumpet player) and noticed a few new faces. When someone asked Where the Horns were rehearsing, without a beat, Sue Responded, “OUTSIDE!!”- the lol moment of the day. (Note: remember, this was in the middle of MN winter, where the temperature outside is easily below zero).

We soon gathered in our respective brass subgroups; Horns, Trumpets, and Low Brass (aka the coolest chix who play Trombone and tuba respectively*).

*This is my opinion that may be a more than a little bit biased

Becky Haines, trombone superstar,  led us in a warmup and reading session, providing excellent advice on breathing exercises and focus techniques.

Lunch was filed with more conversations and LEGOS, meant to be a part of the improvisation theme.( Or maybe a ploy for advertising the then new Lego Movie ha ha). Some lunch conversations ranged from trying to figure out how Legos fit into the music theme to how our every day lives tend to be improvised, especially when trying to fit our passion of music into everything else that goes on around us. Our path around life obstacles tends to be improvised after all.

After LEGO LUNCH,  we gathered in a group and were treated to a Masterclass workshop on practical improvisation advice, led by Local Brass Superstars .

We talked about how jazz improvisation actually works, ways to do it effectively, and learned a little about Judy Gaunt’s (trumpet) experience going through University among some crazy analytical, genius jazz cats. When the presentation was over, several volunteers attempted to do a group improvisation with Oh when the Saints Go Marching In- with some live coaching of course.

After this we separated into our respective subgroups to put this advice into practice. Lauren Husting led the low brass session and introduced us to easy backing tracks with chord changes on YouTube.

ALL of us tried our hand at improvisation and by the end we were all sounding fairly competent. I even managed to “improv” Smoke on the Water when it was my turn during the Dorian chord changes. Thankfully, this got a laugh.

Then it was picture time for our annual group photo.  Heidi, Laurel, and I shared a special moment when we reprised the Oh When the Saints improv. exercise while riding on the elevator on the way down to this part of the shindig.

Our Grand Finale of every year is where we play pieces in a massive brass choir, and share the experience of Making this Music Together. This happened once again, but with the most amount of vigor I’d heard coming from this group since first attending. We always break from the day by reaffirming our bond as Musicians and Women, by doing the Brass Chix Salute.

Next year, the topic of focus will be….WOMEN’S HEALTH as it relates to brass playing. If you are or know a Woman who plays a brass instrument, please spread the word about this event. We learn something new every year, it’s a ton of Fun,  and we have a great time experiencing it together. I Hope to see you in 2020!