Under Construction

Please excuse the mess while I get things sorted out.  If you’re looking for some specific content, you might find what you’re looking for here.  Bear in mind that if you bookmark one of those pages your link will be broken in the near future.  Come back here to find it.

Music Education Will Make You Business Savvy?

Will music training prepare you to deal with the demands of the business world?  Brian Pertl, a musician, former Microsoft senior manager and now Dean of Lawrence Conservatory of Music, believes so.  He writes about the qualities that companies are looking for in prospective employees, including focus, self-motivation, a collaborative attitude, good communication skills, and creativity.  Being a successful musician, Pertl argues, necessarily involves developing those five skills and they can directly translate into success in business.  He writes:

“. . . from where I sit now, as a conservatory trained trombonist, the current dean of a major conservatory of music, and a former senior manager at Microsoft with 16 years of experience in the business world, I see the connections between conservatory training and core business skills from a unique vantage point. Over the years, as I analyzed the reasons for my successes as a business manager, it always came back to the skills I had learned as a musician and had honed at my conservatory of music. Now that I am back in the world of the conservatory, many worried parents of prospective students ask me what good conservatory training will do if their child doesn’t happen to become a professional musician.”

I really want to agree with Pertl, but I think he’s piling on a lot of spin on this topic. Continue reading Music Education Will Make You Business Savvy?

Bolivar Blues Analysis By Pere Soto

Guitarist Pere Soto visited Asheville a few years ago.  While he was in town, I was able to arrange for him to talk to a couple of my jazz classes.  He’s an expert in Django Reinhardt’s playing and talked to my Jazz History class.  He’s also a very fine jazz and contemporary classical composer.

Currently, Pere is working on a project where he analyzes in incredible detail the compositions of various jazz tunes.  David Valdez, a frequent collaborator of Pere’s, has made one of the tune analysis available.  It’s an analysis of Thelonious Monk’s Bolivar Blues. Continue reading Bolivar Blues Analysis By Pere Soto

Highly Rated Professors are Overrated

Anyone who has ever been a college student is probably familiar with the once-a-semester ritual of filling out student evaluations for the professors teaching their classes.  As a student, I was typical in not taking them very seriously.  When I did make an effort to do more than merely fill in the right bubble on the scan form, it was either because I had a beef with the professor or really, really, enjoyed the class.

As a college professor receiving student evaluations, I’ve discovered that most students behave similarly.  One college I taught at switched from a paper and pencil evaluation form filled out during class to an online system where the students were requested to evaluate their courses by logging onto a web site and completing them outside of class.  Not only did the number of students who evaluated their courses drop significantly, the results of the evaluations got skewed towards both extreme ends.  Students who really liked or hated the class were likely to fill them out, but not many others.

So it comes to me as little surprise that student evaluations turn out to not be very effective methods of evaluating the quality of education the students are receiving.  A study done by Scott E. Carrell of UC Davis and James E. West of the USAF Academy entitled, “Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence from Random Assignment of Students to Professors” looks at this very thing. Continue reading Highly Rated Professors are Overrated

Embouchure Misconceptions – Five Myths About Brass Embouchures

If you look around at a number of different resources for brass players and teachers you will notice that while there is a general consensus on topics such as breathing, there is a lot of contradictory advice on brass embouchures.  In the above video I look at five commonly held myths about brass embouchures.

1.  If you want to sound like a famous player you should use the same embouchure as that player.  If you want your students to have a well functioning embouchure, they should use the same embouchure as you.

Most players and teachers seem to feel that the embouchure that works well for them personally must be the correct one, so they instruct others to play similarly.  Sometimes students who emulate a famous player believe the key to sounding that good is to adopt the same embouchure as that player.

The trouble with this logic is that everyone has a different face and what works well for one player doesn’t for another.  There are examples of successful brass players with very different looking embouchures.  A one-size-fits-all approach to embouchure development will be successful if you or your student happens to have the anatomy suited to that instruction, but others will fail. Continue reading Embouchure Misconceptions – Five Myths About Brass Embouchures

90-9-1 Rule

While I no longer actively participate on any online fora, at one time I was not only an active poster at the Trumpet Herald Reinhardt Forum, but also served in various moderating and administrating capacities at the Online Trombone Journal Forum, and briefly for the spin-off, the Trombone Forum.  For a variety of reasons I haven’t made any posts at these sites in quite some time, but I frequently look through the discussions and am always curious about what people are talking about there.

Recently I came across a topic that intrigued me, entitled Up stream.  The initial post was a question.

Can someone explain to me what blowing upstream is. I am told it is the way to break past the double c range. I was about to learn more about it when I was young but went on the road leaving my teacher behind. At that time we did not have forums to learn from.

Continue reading 90-9-1 Rule

Composer Jason Robert Brown Talks Copyright With Teen

Jason Robert Brown is a Tony Award-winning musical theater composer.  He writes in his blog about his experience searching on a sheet music sharing site for his name and discovering to his dismay that he got more than 4,000 hits of people giving away copies of his music.  Rather than threaten a lawsuit, Brown decided to simply write a few of the offenders an email:

“Hey there! Can I get you to stop trading my stuff? It’s totally not cool with me. Write me if you have any questions, I’m happy to talk to you about this.

Thanks,

J.”

While most he emailed apologized and marked the music “not for trade,” one teen took issue with him.  In the ensuing email exchange Brown is patient, classy, and treated the teen with more respect than she showed for him.   Continue reading Composer Jason Robert Brown Talks Copyright With Teen

The Tongue Controlled Embouchure

Looking around on the internet for information about brass embouchures will often lead to references or instructions in a playing method that is commonly referred to as a “tongue controlled embouchure,” or sometimes just TCE for short.  While I generally don’t recommend this method, I wanted to put together a resource for players who want to learn a little more about it without having to purchase a book or video.  At the same time, I’ll also explain my reluctance to endorse it.

There isn’t a widely agreed definition of what constitutes a “tongue controlled embouchure.”  Generally speaking, however, a tongue controlled embouchure can be defined as a method where the player keeps the tongue on the lower lip while the pitch is being played.  Most also will keep the tongue on the lip at all times, attacking pitches as if “spitting a seed.”  Often the tone is stopped with the tongue closing off against the lips as well.  Additional characteristics that are sometimes described with a tongue controlled embouchure include a more open jaw position, looser mouth corners than typical, and puffed cheeks.  For my purposes here, any embouchure method where the player keeps the tongue anchored on the lower lip, including but not restricted to the “spitting seeds” attacks, will be what I’m referring to as a “tongue controlled embouchure.”   Continue reading The Tongue Controlled Embouchure

Three In Ten

I’ll start this post with a disclaimer.  I’m not a mathematician.  My dissertation involved some statistics, and I knew enough to get help from someone more qualified than me.  I learned a lot about how statistics really work from that experience, most notably that I shouldn’t trust my impressions about how the numbers really would end up.  Our intuitions can fool us into thinking we’ve found a pattern when one doesn’t really exist.

Let me offer a hypothetical example related to brass pedagogy.  Let’s say you’re a brass teacher working with beginners and you notice that out of your ten students, three improve with a flat chin embouchure while the other just don’t seem to make it work right.  You find it curious that only 30% can make a flat chin work (after all, that’s what you’ve been told is correct), so you write a method book and point this out.  A graduate student looking for a research project for his thesis reads your book and decides to put together a study to check this.  He tests 90 brass players and finds that 45 of them improve more with instruction that recommends a bunched chin. Continue reading Three In Ten

Jazz Jam Session Etiquette

I really enjoy going to sit in at open jam sessions when I get the chance.  They are an excellent way to apply things I’m practicing at home in a low pressure performance context.  It’s also a great way to meet and check out other musicians and pick up on new tunes and concepts that other musicians are exploring.

They can also be tortuous when they aren’t organized well or the musicians who are sitting in aren’t considerate of the rest of the players (and audience).  In that spirit, here are some basic rules of thumb for how to behave at a jam session. Continue reading Jazz Jam Session Etiquette