My 2021 Music Goals

If 2020 was a year of dismantling and destruction, 2021 will be a rebuilding year. This coming years resolutions have a lot to do with this, and I aim to rebuild my existence into the individual I’ve been aiming to be since starting this musical journey over a decade ago.

BIG GOAL: Make More Money/ Be able to solely do MUSIC to survive.

I’m sure that this seems like a lofty goal, but the years preceding this one were the steps on the ladder to that loft. Thankfully, I am used to being frugal and making a little go a long way when needed, and am LUCKY to have my SO around to help these days. Don’t worry. I still aim to do my share financially. We aren’t the Rockefeller family after all ūüėČ

One of my reasons also has to do with my desire to work for myself and control my schedule. I am much happier when I don’t have to ask permission from someone else and can control my own schedule. Yes I know that to make a music career, it requires more hours than the typical 9-5, but I’ve tried that several times, and found through trial and error that I am much happier immersed in music. That, and I’m wise enough to know that I need to keep variety within the spectrum of music activities to avoid burnout and know the signs much better now.

Mini Goal: Sell 10 scores of my own music. My goal is a minimum of 25 total including arrangements.

For me, joining SMP was a good move in 2020. This has allowed me to start selling some of the arrangements I’ve had sitting on my hard drive for the last decade and allowed me to offer digital downloads. This was something I had been trying to figure out how to do, but the start up cost far outweighed what I can afford, especially given I’m not quite at the point where I can confidently say that my sales would recoup the cost. Originally, I joined because 2 distributers I had contacted in January of last year decided I wasn’t for them but ironically recommended each other for me to contact. I guess I’m ……unique?

So far, I’ve sold far more than expected, but because most of my sales have been arrangements, I’ve made just enough to afford 4 cups of Starbucks coffee in commissions. It’s definitely a start though!

In 2021, I’ll be updating my FB page weekly as new arrangements and pieces come out. If you have a request for an arrangement and it’s on the SMP list, please contact me and let me know.

I’ll be curious to see how this pans out as I add more.

Mini Goal: 15 students by June

While I don’t like putting a number on people, this is the realistic number I’ve calculated to be able to pull my weight financially and still be safe on average. This is of course after calculating taxes and rent.

As of now, thanks to a Festivus miracle, (actually some amazing people providing referrals) I am only 5 away from this goal.

Ultimately, I hope to grow this number a bit beyond 15. This is my benchmark for the moment.

BIG GOAL: Get to know more people

Mini Goal: Contact 2 new people in music/ month minimum

As an introvert, this is not easy to convince myself to do. I often think about it and even draft emails in my head but never get to it for whatever reason. 2 people a month is manageable. I might even surpass it if I can safety attend some music gatherings in 2021 ( and convince myself to do so of course :P). I’ll be keeping a checklist in my journal to remind myself.

Big Goal: Write 3 hours minimum of music

In my journal I will have a thermometer and every time I finish a piece ( even if it’s something that might not see the light of day), I will color it in. If I remember, I’ll even update you on my progress at every check in post.

Mini Goal:Create more creative opportunities

Talking with more people will hopefully help with this!

Big Goal: Be even more giving and spread more JOY

Mini Goal: Send more notes in the form of cards and emails

A few months ago I started picking a composer on my social media friends lists every few days and listening to their music. In 2021, I will continue this as I’ve gotten to hear so many wonderful creations and gotten to know my colleague’s music better. I will be letting composers know I listened to their work and send more encouragement in the form of DM’s and emails.

Mini goal: volunteer my time in a musical capacity at least 4 times

Time will tell how this shapes up. Maybe I’ll perform for a charity event or just for my community. Or, maybe I’ll be able to help out a fellow musician some random way. Who knows.

One of my goals for my teaching studio is to have at least 3 recitals this year and am hoping to stream at least one to a retirement community. Fingers crossed this works out (and that I have some willing fellow volunteers).

So, what are your 2021 Music Goals? Please let me know in the comments and may 2021 be a WINNING year!

Happy Musicing!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2020 Goals – How Did I Do?

It’s that time of year again; the end of the year review where I scrutinize my goal list from the beginning of the year and give my performance review. Boy was 2020 quite the year for this! Let’s look at the list, shall we?

BIG GOAL: Pay off the last of my student debt

Did I succeed?- HECK YES, and just in time for the pandemic to hit and rendered me jobless for a bit. This goal has been 6+ years of sacrifice. I’d read these reports of people paying off their debt on “just 30K”- Which, congratulations to them. I’m not knocking them one bit. But to give you an Idea of what I’m used to living off of, I just topped 25 K for the first time in my life last year and before that was working lots of hours ( more than 40 most weeks) to bring in 20K or under most years, , and overpaying on the minimum of my student debt every chance I could. Maybe I’ll have to post about the journey sometime.

All I have to say is that I am grateful for my SO splitting rent and putting up with my frugal ways. Now we get to tackle THEIR debt together !!!!!!

Mini Goal: Actually get better at marketing

This is still a work in progress, but I will say that I’ve been improving. My Facebook Page saw a lot more activity than the previous years combined.

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

Did I succeed- Yep ūüôā

A few months ago, I bit the bullet and began selling on Sheet Music Plus, as well as setting up separate pages for each piece to sell both physical copies via this website and digital downloads via SMP. These pages are still a work in progress what won’t likely be 100% finished until May of 2021, but they are all set up and ready for a preview of each piece. Now it’s just a matter of adding freshly edited perusal scores and store links once they are done. I’m about 75% of the way there so far.

Ironically, I’ve actually sold a lot more arrangements of other people’s compositions than my own works so far, and made just enough to buy 2 cups of Starbucks coffee in the endeavor, but it is definitely a start!

Also, in the beginning of the year, before the pandemic hit, a couple of people bought some Trombone works and I got to send them physical copies with the Coffee Seal of approval.

If we count arrangements and compositions I’ve actually tripled this goal. Now to raise it for next year!

Mini Goal: Increase teaching studio numbers

Thanks mostly to Laura Dietrich of Maestoso Music referring me to several new students, and a few others found through Toastmasters, I’ve succeeded. Next year the bar is raised further because I’d like to be able to add this to my portfolio career and be able to teach enough to make a full time income from it. Also, I’ve found I honestly love it and, as evidenced by the progress and enjoyment of all of my students, am pretty good at it too.

BIG GOAL: Be more giving/ pay things forward more

Did I succeed?- Yes, but not as much as I would have liked. The pandemic threw a bit of a wrench in things for obvious reasons. I did my best to spread joy in other ways, like sending notes, stickers to my students, and making more phone calls. While I still feel that I fell a bit short, particularly remembering to get to everyone, at least an attempt was made. Next year I will try to do better.

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

Did I Succeed?- Um, maybe? Before the pandemic, I was slated to conduct the Minneapolis Trombone Choir again and at least got to rehearse with them. Back in July, Sakari had me guest speak/teach at YouTH Can Compose. Also, last January, I was invited to speak at Brass Chix . That counts for 3, right?

Mini Goal: Participate in at least 1 Collaboration

Well, I got a horn piece composed this way with Bill Richter. Once the premier happens officially next year, We’ll get to share it with you all! As an added bonus, I’m working on my first flex band piece and collaborating with a local band director and his students to write it. It involves a bit of aleatoric percussion. More will be posted soon!

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

I finished all but 2 but have not released them yet. 2021 should have you see a lot more piece releases from me- more than I’ve had since my college days.

I also inadvertently stuck to the guideline, mostly because for awhile I had lots of time. When the motivation was there, I was able to get a lot done in a small amount of time, because I tend to get in “the Zone”.

BONUS: Last year, I set decade long goals. Here is the progress:

  1. Go to Grad school- FOR MUSIC-and not go into debt to do so- N/A.
  2. Pay off All Debt One Check. Check two will be when we are finished with my SO’s.
  3. Attend some composer retreats and workshops– I attended one hosted by Alexandra Gardner and Meghan Ihnen last month online focusing on Music Business stuff. More will be added to this list. Hopefully I have the privilege of attending at least 1/ year.
  4. Teach at a high profile event or music camp– N/A, at the moment. YouTH can compose was definitely a start and may become ” high profile” in the future. You never know. Sakari is pretty amazing at what she does.
  5. Be able to travel a few times a year for my Ideal music ‚Äújob‚ÄĚ– N/A
  6. Write my first symphony and compose at least one Big piece a year (with premiers and commissions of course)– No Symphony , yet, but I finished a band piece and a half. This year made premiers darn near impossible so, check mark with an asterisk- kind of like those years in baseball records where everyone was making historic records but there’s an asterisk because all those players were taking steroids.
  7. Be able to make my living composing, teaching, and performing/ occasionally conducting by the end of this decade– N/A but I am absolutely working on this.

To Summarize, 2020 was an unusual year to put it lightly, but at least some good things happened. With any luck, this test will have shaped me up for the coming decade. Only time will tell.

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!

Podcasts I like

*DISCLAIMER- This Blog Post was written before the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent quarantine.I tend to write several posts at once and have them timed to be released periodically these days. Please keep this in mind when reading this. Also, for those of us quarantined with not much to do and those of us who are working WAY too much overtime ( I was actually part of the latter camp until recently) and don’t have much “me time” but need to temporarily escape pandemic focused news and conversation for mental and emotional clarity, hopefully this list comes in handy.

Hello fellow Music fans and friends.

Sometimes I like to listen to podcasts for the sake of learning and/ or laughing when I’m er- on the -er- job, because who has time to read books these days, amirite? In actuality, my time for reading tends to be scarce these days, and while I miss it, the sound of people edu-taining you through a speaker that can be run on a website while you do mindless tasks in the real world in order to multitask and get more out of the limited time we are privileged to exist, has added a lot of value to my life.

Here is a list of some of the podcasts I’ve gotten a lot out of- both music related (actually mostly) and not, in no particular order.

  • 1. The Entrepreneurial Musician– I have gotten a lot out of Andrew Hitz’s (the host) constant yammering and interviews of people in the music industry. He prioritizes pointing out Actionable Advice, and will take the best advice from the previous interview and expand on it with his TEM shorts. Although my own journey has been slow, listening to this podcast has helped keep me motivated over the last few years.
  • 2.The Brass Junkies– There is a podcast for and by Brass Players run by the Cheekiest Brassholes I’ve ever heard. Lance LaDuke and Andrew Hitz (yeah, the guy with the more serious music business podcast I just got done writing about) hosts this podcast which gets released bi weekly on average. They’ve interviewed a lot of famous people in the Brass world and, as is typical for brass players, they all pick on each other. There’s also this long running joke with Jenz Lindemann ( don’t ask, you’ll just have to listen to a few to get the gist) that they refuse to let die. IT’S BEEN 6 YEARS!!!!! The interviews have useful information as well, but the conversations may or may have caused me to choke on coffee, get a few weird stares from coworkers, and bruise a few ribs in the process.
  • 3.The Portfolio Composer– This is the first Music Business related podcast ( I started when it was still called Composer on Fire- before it was cool :P) and one I still listen to thanks to my friend and fellow composer Sakari. Garrett Hope, a composer who wanted to figure out how to make a living doing the thing he loves – composing- started interviewing composers who have made it and some music business professionals to figure out how this is done in today’s world. His generosity in sharing this information and these interviews with the world has helped a lot of composers.

Fun Narcissistic Fact: Once, My question was featured on this podcast and answered by Alex Shapiro!!! (this is the closest to radio fame I’ve ever gotten folks.)

  • 4.Composer Quest– One other Podcast that Sakari introduced me to and, although it ended a few years ago , it is still one of my favorite podcasts I’ve listened to. Charlie McCarron, Composer, Producer, and Minnesotan, started this podcast by interviewing friends as just a way to start doing something with music, and grew to interviewing all sorts of musicians in almost any style imaginable about MUSIC (my favorite subject in the whole wide world if you couldn’t already tell). Nearly every episode had a new theme composed by the guest, new music from Charlie in some capacity (the Patreon Shoutout Jingles were a scream), and even featured quests that other composers/ listeners could participate in. Unfortunately, I started listening too late to participate in many of them, but I did get to participate in the last Quest- The Composer Quest Olympics- which you can read my series of blog posts if you have time . Or, you can listen to the last few episodes of this podcast. I warn you though, it is a bit long.

This podcast is also what informed me of the MnKINO film fest which is a great experience and has led to a lot of other opportunities. This was also the podcast that helped me get out of the non- creative depressive funk that my factory/ reception job had me in.

  • 5.The Everything Band Podcast– This is a podcast hosted by Composer and Music Educator Mark J Connor. He rotates between interviewing composers and music teachers all for the benefit of the music education community on a weekly basis. Although I admittedly started listening solely for the composer interviews, as a private music teacher, I’ve gotten some valuable advice myself that I’ve effectively used with my students. For example, to paraphrase one episode “when possible, limit instructions to no more than 7 words when possible when teaching kids in their beginning years”. I’ll have to come back and cite it once I find it for your benefit .

  • 6.Listening to Ladies-Although I’m not sure if this podcast will continue or not, this is a fun one to listen to, being a female identifying composer myself. This podcast is a series of interviews, hosted by composer and artist Elisabeth Blair, that solely focuses on woman composers and their lives. In fact My good friend Sakari Dixon-Vanderveer was featured on this podcast. You can find her interview here. Even if you are not a female identifying composer, this is a great podcast to listen to to get exposed to new music from living composers and, if you are a person interested in the different paths people take to get to where they are, a great listen for that reason as well.
  • 7.The Nerdist– Back in 2015-16, I worked a factory job that took up all of my time and numbed my brain. Therefore, I needed some brain juice that could inform me of what was going on in the real world and be funny and light-hearted as well. That’s where the Nerdist came in. They would invite celebrities and talk about anything from pop culture to sciency stuff. I stopped listening regularly around the time I left factory work, but it’s still a fun one to come back to from time to time.
  • 8.The Billy West Podcast– Boy, I wish he’d return to this podcast. Although it is only a few episodes long and features Billy’s acrobatic voice talent in the telling of stories, it had me rolling on the floor while working my mundane factory job ( hey, one perk was that they would let you listen to the radio though so it wasn’t all bad ūüôā . I especially enjoyed the song dissections, especially when he commented on every line of Piano Man.
  • 9.Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone– My friend Bo Recently introduced me to this podcast. It’s like listening to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me on NPR but with more questionably useful advice with occasional swearing and conversation that would probably be censored by public radio. That’s probably because it is hosted by the usual hosts of that radio show and they are real people. You have to start from the beginning though because it evolves as you listen. Also- be very cautious if listening out loud at work. You’ve been warned.

Happy Listening!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

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!!!

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

Good News Everyone!

A few weeks ago I wrote a preview post of what I was currently working on and now have some news to accompany one of the projects.

In it, I mentioned that I was working on a film score that included 12 tone craziness among other things. Well, I’m proud to say that the film that Jason Schumacher and I have been working on the past few months was selected for the MnKino Film Score Fest.

This means that it will be screened with a LIVE ORCHESTRA playing the score simultaneously!! As a bonus: there is a theremin in the orchestra this year ( and yes I utilized it in the score)!!

The Event takes place at the Science Museum in St Paul MN on July 20th at 7:00 PM.

A link to the Facebook event page can be found here where you can reserve tickets. But, you’d better act fast because I’m told they go quickly.

Additionally, there is a pre-screening at 4:30 of the films that did not quite make the cut for the live orchestra to play. They are the product of months of hard work by talented collaborating artists of differing disciplines and deserving of viewing as well.

If you can’t make it because MN is a bit too far away, or have another reason (i.e. work and family obligations, or you couldn’t get tickets) I have even better news for you.

This event is live Streamed!!! Please make sure that you follow the Facebook page and click the “interested” button in order to get reminded of the event and receive a link to view it.

Additionally, if you got the Futurama reference in this post, we can be friends.

Hope to see you there!

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.

How to Plan a Compositon recital….and avoid the stress that can come along with it

As just about  any music major can attest to, planning a  recital is a lot of work. As a Composition Major at YSU, I have had the required opportunity to plan two of them (so far) in my academic career. Recitals in general will always require some type of assessment usually known as a jury/ hearing, that must be played in front of a committee as  a preview of the recital before permission is granted to go ahead and plan the main event. The experience can be nerve racking for any musician. However, the Composition recital is unique in that, not only does the student composer have to make sure that the scores are pristine when  presenting them to the jury committee; They must rely on others to play their music at an acceptable level and coordinate the musicians by themselves. In short, when in this position, you not only compose the music but you become a  concert manager, secretary, and presenter and advocate for your own music. Depending on the nature of the pieces, you as the composer may also become a performer of your own work as well.

Step 1: Start Early

What I mean by this is do not procrastinate when planning. As I’ve stated before it is a lot more work than it may seem at first. Get the deadline dates of latest possible jury and recital dates and the number of days that you have to submit program info between the end of the hearing and recital and WRITE THEM DOWN IN A CENTRAL LOCATION that you can refer to. Don’t forget to get names of people that you may need to submit this information to as well. I advise getting a binder to keep all materials such as jury paperwork that may need to be signed at the hearing by the jury, dates, and eventual schedules. If you can, get this information¬†the semester before your anticipated recital date.

Step 2: Read all paperwork for requirements and begin selecting potential pieces

Keep in mind how long the program needs to be and how long each piece you have in mind is.

Step 3: Begin selecting players

I advise to write down all instruments that will be required in each piece in a list format. For example:
Bastet’s Lullaby:

1Harp

1Piano/ Tambourine (I put these together  as one person who could play both)

1Voice

Then begin by listing potential ¬†musician friends that would work together well on your piece.If you can, try to keep it limited to as few actual personnel as possible. (in this last experience, I had the situation where, due to musicians’ busy schedules and realizing that it would be unfair to ask any one person to learn more than two of my pieces along with their other degree requirements, there were 23 people involved in my senior recital and it was a nightmare to plan). Keep this in mind when selecting pieces.

Step 3: Contact the potentials

If they say no, do not hound them. This is one of the fastest ways to annoy and loose the respect of the musicians who very well may be the ones who could recommend or hire you in the future. Remember, they are busy people too. Please allow at least a month before the hearing to give them ample time to learn your music.

Tip: if you have ensemble pieces with standard instrumentation, ask the ensembles¬†that are already set up first as they probably already have set rehearsal schedules. This worked very well for Matt’s Music (a brass quintet).Also, it helps if the musician has played your piece before.

Step 4: Get Everyone’s schedules

….and keep them on file with the ensembles for your pieces that they are in. This comes in handy when scheduling rehearsals. It is likely that you will have to organize them and keep them in communication with each other so that rehearsals happen. Also, don’t be surprised if it is you who has to ¬†reserve the room they are to rehearse in. After all, they are doing you a favor.

Step 5: Select potential dates for the hearing and Recital

Doodle polls work great for this. I had 5 dates and multiple potential times picked for each and had everyone involved fill out when they would be able to make it and went from there. The potential times and dates were picked out of the results of examining all schedules for free times. However, how you do this is up to you but always double check with everyone involved before scheduling anything.

Step 6 Find Venues and select a Jury

After you have your potential Hearingdate figured out, find an acceptable committee and ask them which out of these times they can make. Then, reserve the space well ahead of time so there is no last minute fumbling for a location. Do this for your Recital location as well (not forgetting to allow at least an hour of time before and after the concert to allow for setup and the reception/tear down). I advise allowing at least 3 weeks between the Jury and Recital date in case something happens at the jury where you have to do something over again in order to pass.

Step 7 Contact all players again

Let them know these dates times and places and KEEP REMINDING THEM. Do this for your jury committee as well. If you wish to have it recorded professionally, you will need to contact these people too.

Step 8 Print our all scores- at least 1 copy of each for the jury committee members.

It also looks better if you have a set plan and put the scores in the order in which they will be heard.

If you can, keep extra parts on hand as well as you just never know when music can get lost before a performance. Assuming that you pass (which you probably will if you took the time to get all ducks in a row), the fun part begins.

Step 9- plan the program and submit information

Keep in mind length of pieces and what feels natural to a concert flow. It helps for stage setup and tear down if you can put pieces together that have the same players or stand set up. Also, decide if you want an intermission and where to put this.

Pleas from a brass player: If your recital is particularly long and there is no intermission where a brass player can warm up. PLEASE avoid having us play toward the end, as the chops don’t always respond at their best when sitting for long periods and there is no guarantee that your piece will not be effected by this fact. Though warm up time¬†is also helpful to woodwind players, they have the advantage of silently soaking the reed in their mouth where as we can’t warm up much more quietly than making fart noises through our mouthpieces.-end rant

Step 10: Advertise

Make recital posters with all information- Date, time, venue,and if you plan on having a reception (free food draws crowds). Post them all over the music building and anywhere else that is appropriate. If you want a bigger crowd, ask friends to advertise and hand out posters as well.

Making a Facebook event page and inviting anyone you can think of is a great way to get the word out as well. After all, the people who have seen you progress will want to know so they can come out and support you.

 Step 11: Have the recital

Congratulations! You have made it to the ultimate prize.

If you are comfortable talking about your pieces, great. If not, program notes are a big help. A friend can take on the MC duties as well if you prefer.

On recital day, make sure that there are enough stands for your players and that the programs have been picked up. Arrive early and bring your extra parts. prepare for the worst, and expect the best.

 

Final Advice: While all of this planning is going on, try to find time to thank the musicians for working on the music and encourage them. Also, if questions come up from them, mark them in your scores and make sure they are corrected before the hearing. Don’t forget to have fun, be flexible and keep a sense of humor during this process. Refer to Step 1 to keep stress minimal. Happy planning and Composing!