It’s Only Hard While You’re Learning it…

Lately, my piano students have been running into the inevitable struggles of grasping a new concept. They’ve gotten past the point of learning the early basics of pitch and navigating the keyboard and are getting into things like scales, rhythms beyond half and quarter notes/ rests, and, the fun part of putting left-hand accompaniment together with right-hand melody.

Often one of them will gripe, “this is really hard!” when they try something new to them for the first time.

Usually, I find myself echoing a sentiment that one of my former teachers used to say A LOT.

“It’s only hard while we’re learning it.”

(Of course, the next lesson, these wonderful students will usually have the concept or exercise nearly mastered or on their way to doing so the next week. It’s amazing what practice does!) At that point it’s not so difficult- at least compared to when they were practicing, to accomplish the skill.

At our last lesson, to prove this when one student echoed that statement, I showed her the music at the front of the book she is working out of and asked her to play it.

After a flawless performance of “Ode To Joy”, I asked her, now was that so hard?

Student: No. That was really easy!” she replied.

Me: Well then, why do you think that was?

Student: Well, Miss Sam, I knew all of the notes and worked on this before (Back in March).

Me: that is a good answer.! Remember this the next time you are practicing and can’t seem to get it right away. … It’s only hard while you’re learning it.

Now, I don’t consider myself a master teacher by any means, but this piece of advice is a practical reminder for almost anything new that you learn in life. In fact, I think that teaching is something that can be hard at times, particularly as I am learning through experience and research how best to convey concepts that I know, to my students. Sometimes it doesn’t click after a few tries and mild frustration with myself (that I work to not show during the lesson) occurs. Why Can’t I figure out how to phrase it so that my student understands!?!?

But then I remember- It’s only Hard while you’re learning it. Teaching is a skill, just like playing the piano or composing.

When I was learning to drive, I did not find it terribly easy. Some crazy person let me operate this heavy motorized piece of machinery that, if I made the wrong move, I could easily be responsible for manslaughter. Additionally, my depth perception is not the greatest due to a mild case of strabismus, so learning how to safely operate the thing on the road was not only extremely nerve-racking but a bit more of a challenge than it might be with most people. It’s not only gas means go, break means stop, and keep your hands on the wheel. It’s learning road rules, figuring out how to control the rate of acceleration and stopping speed, how the vehicle responds to turning to avoid flipping over at higher speeds, and navigating this with my visual disability (which by the way, does not make it unsafe to drive, though, on days where I am tired so my eyes don’t work together as well, I try to find a ride just to be extra safe.) Also, I tend to leave a bit more space between me and the cars in front of me than might be necessary- while going the speed limit of course- just to be extra safe.  After a while though, I stopped hitting Mailboxes and cones so, it’s all good!

Heck, these days, I find the actual act of driving pretty easy, even with the strabismus, but the act of navigating is still a bit of a challenge. Guess I’m still learning!

That being said,  when you face a new challenge, and you haven’t quite figured out how to master it after many tries, remember…It’s only hard while you’re learning it!

Update Number 4 of 2018, and progress on my new year’s goals


Hello, Loyal Shogancomposer and Music friends,

2018 has been a whirlwind year, and it’s still not quite over!

Recently, at least in music, a few cool things have happened with my life.

First of all, even though I was not quite sure if I could or would be coming back (because, as you know life happens), I’ve joined the Golden Valley Orchestra as their Principal trombone this season. That’s right folks: A GIRL is playing Principal Trombone!- I can hardly believe it myself some days.

Anyway, I’m working on practicing the music as much as I can. Hector has certainly missed me (Though Glenn gets quite a workout in Swing band).*

Don’t worry though. I’m still in the Westwind Swing Band and keep  Musicing with these Cool Cats.

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*For those of you who are new, Hector is my Large bore Tenor and Glenn is my 1930’s Jazz bone.

I’ll also be subbing for a gig soon in the Swing Sisterhood Big band from the sounds of it-he he, music pun-, so stay tuned for gig details.

Plus, I’m going to work further on the Preparedness goal by posting concert invites and dates on my social media profiles as far ahead as possible, so that YOU might stand a chance at making them if you so desire.

Please follow me on Twitter or my facebook page (or both!) for concert date updates. 


Lesson wise,  I had my first Long-term Trombone student this summer and the lessons went extremely well. My student was looking to transfer instruments for their next year in Middle School band and they were able to do so with flying colors by the end. They even developed a good sound through their hard work and helped me realize that I’d like to teach more often- Hopefully, even more on trombone. My piano students are doing well too. I love teaching them as well! I’ve also learned a lot about teaching through this endeavor that I hope to share on a future post. That is if I remember. Life has a tendency to distract me.

Admittedly, I’ve had a few setbacks with getting this studio up and running, mostly due to not having an adequate space to teach at the moment, and moving this summer. Right now, it’s mostly in my small but shared living space, and I am working on getting into a store or church on the weekends and/ or an evening or two to continue this and give my students an even better learning environment.  For now, I make due with what I’ve got, and my students don’t seem to mind.


Now For Composition News! If you haven’t been spammed by following my social media profiles with this news, The Band Version of Of Wizards and Dragons was premiered by the Fredonia Concert Band (Raymond Stewart, Conductor) this past September, and it was Live Streamed. It was a great concert that I got to watch from the comfort of my own phone (Because Modern Technology is awesome sometimes) and they played my piece well.


You can listen to the recording and view a sample score on THIS PAGE.


Also, a piece that I worked on a few years ago will be heard in the Twin Cities Film Fest. Beth Peloff submitted our film, Blob’s Adventure,  to the festival and it was accepted. Congratulations Beth!  It will be screened THIS SATURDAY, October 20th, at 9:45 am and officially 11:30 am. Beth and (possibly but most probably I) will be in attendance to answer questions.

The location is:

1621 West End Blvd St. Louis Park, MN 55416

Please visit for more information


Freewill Fanfare was also recently played at a trombone choir concert and I got to conduct it, once again. This time, It sounded even better- even though the group hadn’t rehearsed together since March, and there were some new faces. If you are looking for a trombone choir piece for any reason, I may have one for you folks!


Lastly: in case I haven’t already given enough of a plug, Please check Samantha Hogan Composer on Facebook and/or Twitter periodically. I’ve got some things planned content-wise, in addition to posting performance dates, that will be arriving in the upcoming months.  I am also looking for ideas for what you would like more of from me (blog post Ideas, piano covers, recordings, etc )as time goes on. If you have any Ideas, please post in the comments or Contact me through this website or message me through my pages.


Stay tuned, because Update Part 5 will inevitably be written at the end of December, and I can’t wait to start a new list for next year!


Happy Musicing!

Freewill Fanfare- for trombone ensemble

Hello Everyone. After months of anticipation, we finally have the video up from the 2018 Minneapolis Trombone Choir Concert!

This was my first year joining in this experience and my first post-college conducting opportunity.

The opportunity came about because Jim Ten Bensel- the director- invited me to write something at my first rehearsal, and of course, I said yes. Little did I know that I would be receiving a phone call 24 hours before the next rehearsal expecting a new piece…whoops!

In the span of a night before our next rehearsal, and many cups of coffee later I had this full-fledged piece ready to go. Did I mention that I was also asked if I  would be conducting it (to which I replied.uh.. sure! I’ll give it a try.-not having conducted in a public setting before mind you)? Mozart level 1/100 completed!

The name comes from the Rush song Freewill, in which I quoted a line from Geddy Lee’s melodic bass playing. It is hidden in plain sight. If you know the song, see if you can find it! The form of the song is a metaphor for life, the greatest test of free will. An ostinato that carries throughout the piece starts with only the first trombones. Eventually, you meet other people and influences that begin shape who you are, which is why the remaining trombones add more musical ideas as the piece continues. The middle section fluctuates between time signatures and tone colors (confusion, emotions) and the ensemble and conductor choose how the tempo ebbs and flows. It is never played the same way twice. Eventually, everything comes together at the end, which is why the ensemble ends, with the original ostinato, together.

The experience of performing with this group, conducting, and getting to play on a few new premieres as well, was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to do it again next year (now that I have more notice of course :P)

Bits of the concert are being posted as well piece by piece (thank you Glen Newton), so I encourage you to take a listen to the rest of the concert in the next few weeks.

Update number 3 of 2018

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Glen, my “old-new” trombone.

Hello, fellow Music Fans and Friends,

I have some exciting news to share from recent months. It has been a year of many “Firsts”.

In my Composition Kitchen, I have cooked up a few new pieces and had the good fortune of receiving a few premieres. In fact, one of them is my first HEAVY METAL Piece. You read that right.  More specifically, this was my first venture in writing for the Brass band.

The piece is called Chorale on a Palestinnalied and I will be writing a co-authored post about it, and the experience working with the Ashtabula Brass Band soon, (pending that my cohort is available in the next few days).   It is getting premiered tomorrow evening and if you are in the Northeast Ohio area tomorrow, April 7th, you should come hear all of the hard work they’ve put in. Here is a link to the concert information.

Also, I have had the invaluable opportunity to conduct some pieces (Thank you Bo and Jim!) Besides the Minneapolis Trombone Choir premiering the Freewill Fanfare, they were encouraging and kind enough to let me make my conducting debut with this piece.It was also my first year in the Ensemble of 35-40 plus trombones. Bo Violette has asked me to conduct a piece tomorrow as well. However, I am letting Bo conduct the Chorale for the concert, as I like to hear the music that is made with my pieces and the conductor is part of the ensemble in my opinion. If you want to find out which piece I get to wave the fancy stick at, please come to the concert tomorrow.

In other news, I am still part of the Westwind Swing Band and played my first gig…..on lead trombone…with (Ghasp!) lots of solos…for Four Hours! It was an adventure for the band and a fun concert, though my face hurt for a couple of days afterword. I don’t think I’ll be repeating that first any time soon, but the experience was worth it.

Glen, my old-new jazz horn (a Conn from the 1930’s)  also made his debut after being restored by the Skillful Hand of Laurel Chapman at her Trombone Day spa.

Speaking of other firsts, besides this being my first year officially giving private lessons, my students are doing very well, which is encouraging on both ends. I just may venture out and try to teach more since I’ve found that I enjoy it… so far.

Recently, I joined the Golden Valley Orchestra and am looking forward to my first orchestral experience. All of that practice working on excerpts in college will finally come in handy. However, any commitment to ensembles will have to be limited to occasional sub opportunities, since I am trying not to stretch myself too thin between Musicing, Toastmasters, and work. Good thing that I am a natural night owl.

Hopefully, this year continues to be an exciting year of firsts and new experiences full of music (since the more of this I do, the happier I seem to feel overall). For now, I shall return to prepping for this Dress rehearsal tonight and contemplating my next piece and blog post.


Jump vimeo from Beth Peloff on Vimeo.

Hello, Fellow Music Fans. It’s time for Show and Tell!

A while ago, I participated in the MNkino Film Score Fest 2017 and had the opportunity to work with a wonderful Individual, Beth Peloff of Green Jeans Media. After the successful premiere of “Blobs Adventure” in July,  we spent a lot of time trying to get together to celebrate this fact.

Fast forward to December.: After a bit of a creative rut on my end, and lots of reasons involving life happening, Beth and I finally reunited. When I discussed my problem with her, she offered to send me a short film she had worked on to give me a worthwhile (and fun) project to focus on.

This is the finished product. I hope you enjoy!

Update on 2018 Goals

Good Morning loyal Music Fans,

We are quickly approaching the last half of January (and my birthday..gasp!), so I figured I would  use this as a checkpoint for how my goals are going so far,

After a long creative dry spell (carried on by winter sickness and a preoccupation with issues involving a broken heating system in our apartment for the last few weeks) it seems that I am back in a lively mood. It feels GREAT to be in this place again!

This week, I taught my first official paid music lessons ever. Though I was a bit nervous, it went extremely well and the kids are super excited to come back next week! Their mom even posted an endearing post on facebook about it. (Thank you Bo and the awesome Teaching Blogs on the interwebz for helping me prepare for this.)

I have also been creating more again. Yesterday morning (1/19) I finally wrote the middle movement to a solo viola and one-handed piano “passion project” that had the first movement written in 2013 and the last movement sometime last year. I have to enter it into Finale and make it look pretty before sending it off for feedback, but in essence, it is done! I also finished the latest Draft of The Chorale on a Palestinelied for the Ashtabula Brass band that is pending rehearsal review. My only regret is that getting it done was delayed a bit by my lack of focus due to sickness and sleep deprivation from worrying too much. Also, I wrote yet another short film score. More on that will be coming soon.

So far, I’ve been keeping up with the Friday morning Email goal as well. Here’s hoping that I can keep up this resolution.

Next month, I will continue to work on the goals laid out on this post, and start the ones that have been delayed, including doing more to get out into my musical community. Speaking of which, Brass Chix is coming up next week so…..


Maybe there will be a post on that next week. Time will tell. Until then, have a great week and keep on Musicing!






PSA: The Importance of Cleaning your Instrument

As I sit here staring at this winter tundra and trying to keep warm, I’ve been daydreaming a lot to keep myself occupied. One thought that randomly popped into my head this morning is that it has been awhile since I’ve cleaned Hector Lannible (my trombone), and by awhile, I mean almost a year ….oops!

I am posting today to remind you of why you should clean your horns and why winter may be the best time to get any adjustments done to keep your horn in top shape.


When I went to clean Hector, (not to be too graphic),  a lot of green coppery residue (along with some other gross things that have been growing in there, I’m sure) came out. Once, a line of what looked like black mold came out with it after a particularly long hiatus. Thankfully, I had the sense to clean it before resuming my old practice regimen.

While actual deaths from playing a contaminated instrument have been rare (though here is one documented case), you have got to remember that this is the time of year that people are most vulnerable to respiratory illness and breathing in mold that may have taken up residence in your instrument is not going to help you stay healthy. In addition, not cleaning periodically is going to make cleaning in the future that much more difficult and can add undue wear and tear to your instrument.


If you have a brass instrument, a chem clean (a sort of deep clean that will help rid it of chemical deposits that will not come out with just soap and water and may obstruct the air column and in some cases effect valve action) along with an adjustment may be in order. Believe me when I say that it makes a difference when you are blowing through a squeaky clean pipe rather than a stalactite of lime that has grown in the dark cave of metal tubing over time.

If you can not clean your horn yourself (or after reading tutorials for your instrument are still afraid to try it yourself), please consider bringing it to a specialty shop to get it serviced. If you are in the Minneapolis MN area, here are links to a few good people and places that I know of that specialize in instrument repair and maintenance.

Laurel Chapman

Services Woodwind and Brass

Hours: Made By Appointment

Location: The Ivy Building, Minneapolis (Map)

Contact/Website :


Melanie Ditter

Services Woodwind and Brass

Hours: Made by Appointment

 Location: East St Paul




Twin Cities instrument Repair

Services Woodwind and Brass

Location: the downstairs corridor of Schmitt Music in Edina (Map)

Hours: Monday – Thursday: 10:00am – 5:30pm, Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Contact: (612) 238-9930 Ext. 3


If you do not live in this area, ask around for recommendations. Those in your instrumental circles will know who “the Guy or the Gal” is, so don’t be afraid to ask for several opinions.

One last thought: If you need a chem clean or refurbishments, taking care of these needs during wintertime could help you avoid the rush that comes just before and after marching band season, so your horn is more likely to come back to you sooner. Remember though, that demand at shops varies so if you need your horn back in a hurry, always ask the shopkeeper for a rough timeframe and be upfront with what you want. They need some flexibility to make sure that you are getting quality work done right the first time. Or better yet, bring it as soon as possible to allow plenty of time to get it back before you need it!



My Music Related Goals for 2018

Ah, the “new year”. A time of new beginnings, creating resolutions that you don’t intend to keep  ( or begin with good intentions) or, just another day with a new digit at the end.

Just as most people in the westernized world have gotten used to the idea of New years resolutions, I tend to use it as a preprogrammed reset point. However, I have gotten rid of making set resolutions and have decided to create reachable goals and a plan of shorter goals to get there.

2017 was a strange year as far as successes and setbacks. I composed my first Successful film score, Won a couple of Toastmaster’s Speech Contests-and thus improved my public speaking skills, paid off a good chunk of my student debt (more on that later) and managed to make some music with some good people along the way. However, I also got into a car accident, held 3 jobs at one point which exhausted me mentally and emotionally to the point that I had to give up two of them at various times in the journey of 2017(though rather than throwing a pity party, I did something about it darn it!), and don’t feel that I accomplished enough composing wise for my own personal satisfaction. That being said, I did manage to create some which are always a success and luxury I suppose.

Big Goal1)-Create more income….

…to pay off my debt faster BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO BE A SLAVE TO THE LENDER and, I  just want to work for myself DOING MUSIC within 5 years. This plan involves paying off my student loans in 3 or fewer years from January 2018, all the while preparing for the big plans in years 4 and 5.

This was a goal that I started working on in 2016. Coupled with my selfish desire to create my art and try to work in the industry that I got a degree in, I got a job at a music store and added that on top of my Manufacturing gig and Receptionist gig at the beginning of the year to increase income. I had hoped to transition to working full time at the music store eventually and also teach there like some of my co-workers had been. After January, I moved to “Part-time” between working reception and the Store, hoping to get good enough that I could work full time.  However, at that time, I was not realizing that I would need to make more in base pay to justify this goal financially, the schedule was not conducive to what I neede to do to build myself personally at the time, and that I needed to build more experience teaching before thinking that I could even ask to teach there. Also, past fears (More on this in a future blog post) had prevented me from trying this in the first place back in my not so far away college days. The eventual almost full-time schedule (just short of getting benefits), having no weekends or days off for an extended period of time (plus driving in completely unpredictable pre Superbowl road construction traffic ranging 23 minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes each way some days), along with some other factors put a level of psychological stress on me that I just broke. I went down to only the receptionist job back in August, realizing that I need to recover (and that this is the job that could pay the bills, provide the consistent schedule that I need, and that I  can happily do a good job).  However, I learned a heck of a lot of what I need as a person to be happy, healthy, and most importantly stable, and there are some days I miss it, minus the schedule and driving chaos of course. These were my mistakes and lessons of 2017.

Mini Goal-Start Selling my Music

I don’t expect to make a lot but at least I am getting started.Recently, I  Followed John Mackey’s advice and (Surprise!) I registered as a publisher with ASCAP in order to secure 100% of the funds as Coffee Seal Music for my self-published works. My calendar is filled with re-engraving schedules for my best works and will be released one by one. I also plan on approaching others about distributing these works once I have a few more ready to go by the end of March. Then, the advertising begins.


As stated before, I avoided this in college as I felt that I was not worthy since I opted not to be an education major. I was also afraid of taking jobs away from those who I felt deserved it more. I have since come to the realization that I am in fact a capable knowledgeable musician (hey, I pushed to make my teachers expect the same quality of work as the Ed. majors at least from me on my instrument) and that I enjoy giving people one off lessons (which included the Brass Pedagogy students as well). Also, several people out there teach privately without degrees, the few educational music talks I’ve given in Toastmasters have gone very well, and I love enriching others lives so why can’t/shouldn’t I? In addition to increasing my income, I hope that I can write better music for students in the future from this learning experience. Time will tell if it is meant to be.

So far I will start by teaching piano lessons in my apartment or, if it works out, 1-2 evenings at a local school.

Mini Goal -Keep educating myself and pick up some side gigs.

I will keep reading personal finance blogs and asking around for potential side gigs. 2018 is going to be busy.

In the End, All extra Money after Savings and Bills will go toward the loans because it’s preventing me from doing what I really want to do with my life-Creating Music with and for others and being stable enough to give more.


Big goal 2): Create More on a consistent basis.

This is pretty self-explanatory, especially since I fell short last year.

Mini goal-Preparedness

This year, I will put my calendar to use. It has scheduled times to create.

Also, I’ve made List of Blog and Social Media post Ideas for a rainy day and as another mini goal, I aim to post something at least once a week to start with. This is a good first benchmark for me and as I succeed in doing this for a few months, I will aim to add more like two posts a week, then three, etc).

My next mini goal and addition to making sure that I am creating on a constant basis is that I will be doing a Thing a week challenge with my good friend and fantastic artist peer  Annaliese Torella. More on that Soon.


Big Goal 3) Work on anxiety issues associated with creating and becoming a member of my musical community.

I have realized that most of my anxiety comes from my own trait of annalizing everything in a given situation and second-guessing myself often as a result. Additionally, It has been a few years since I’ve had constant guidance on making decisions that affect a career (something that I know many artists struggle with once leaving school). This does not help, especially as I become paralyzed with an overwhelming amount of choices and sometimes wind up doing nothing as a result. Also, being perceived the wrong way and misjudged permanently scares the heck out of me, which has prevented me from taking action too many times before now.

Mini goal- Get over my anxieties related to looking for work

Right now, I’m reading Break Into The Scene by Seth Hanes, which gives a good battle plan for finding gigs, giving back,  and even how to email strangers, one of my biggest fears. I will be trying out his advice in future interactions.

Mini Goal-Get out and interact with the community more

I am doing this by Picking something from the list that the American Composers Forum emails with local events and attending at least one event or concert every 2 weeks.

Additionally, Every Friday morning before work, I will be emailing someone each week, even if it is just to say hello, or, in the case of releasing music, to bring it to someone’s attention who may be interested. I hope to get better at this as time progresses.

Lastly, the ACF is graciously helping me (Seriously, these guys are that awesome!) find a  tutor for a few lessons  as I am offering to barter my skills from copyist work to pet sitting and Yard work, in order to have more of a grounding of which direction I should go and narrow my choices down a bit for next years goals.

Eventually, I want to do my art on a full-time basis, so why not use this year to start with the baby step of semi part-time. Also, maybe if I get out there, I might get some gigs to help fund my financial goal as well!



Overall, I feel that I am still bumbling like Alex Shapiro said she did for many years but I’m doing my best and have last years habits and lessons under my belt and this years plans ready to adhere to the best of my ability.


What are some of your 2018 goals, music related or otherwise? Please let me know in the comments as I would love to hear about them.

What’s New, Early 2017 Edition


Hello Everybody,

A lot has changed in the eternity since posting here, but I will  try keep it short. For those that are wondering, here is what is “new” in my life.

-Recently, I left one of my day jobs, working in the factory. It took a lot to leave, as the company has overall been good to me and the paycheck was helping me get ahead on my student loans. However, the longer I worked there and between the other jobs, the less time I had to be myself and do the one thing that makes me feel whole: music.At one point I was putting in 70 hours between the places and was becoming severely depressed and moody, which is not at all like me. After much forethought and planning, I finally took the leap of faith last week.We shall see how this pans out, but for now I will be splitting my “work to pay bills” hours between working at Schmitt Music (where I’ve already learned a lot in s short while!) and the Office, and have a new daily routine to Get Stuff Done with my composing and work toward the goals I set for myself long ago.

_ I am on Twitter (more regularly) Now. Please follow me @Shogan_Composer. Yes, I will still update the Facebook page as well, but you will get some commentary or content that you might not get to see or laugh at on my “professional” page. Plus, the challenge of coming up with clever lines in 140 Characters or less is quite a bit of fun.

_ A New Newsletter! This will not only include news on upcoming pieces or other composer related business, but will also have some info geared towards helping you. These could be book recommendations, new music by other composers, Info on helpful Podcasts/ resources, and other things. Also, I promise not to spam you with constant email bombs and plan on posting every 3-4 months or so. By the end of the month, I will have a link up to sign up. For now, please contact me with interest,or keep checking  the site or my  Facebook page for an update.

_Brass Sight Reading/ Arranging Group: A fellow Trombonist and I have started a Brass Get together group where members arrange and/or compose music for each other ever 2-3 weeks.We are hoping for it to evolve into something bigger over time, but our goal will always be to create a supportive environment for brass players and composers to try out their stuff (and keep up their sight reading chops).

If you are in the Twin Cities Area and are interested in more information, you are welcome to contact me with questions on the contact page.

-Recent success:

My Lonely waltz was chosen by the Third Wheel Trio for the Fifteen Minutes of Fame call. It will be premiered on March 25th in Glenndale CA.

-Pieces in the Works!

  • I am working together with composer Zae Munn to write a piece for her student chamber group, with flexible instrumentation, which will be premiered this Spring.
  • Winter Ice is in the process of being orchestrated and added to for Vibraphone (2 players) and Alto Flute.
  • A bass and violin duo is also in the works. Stay tuned for more in the near future.


Additionally, Website tweaks are finally being made. Keep checking back for updates and thank you once again for visiting the site!