My “Elevator Pitch”

Thanks to WordPress, we’ll have to take a trip to YouTube to watch my Elevator Pitch. SquareSpace is really looking like a great option right now…

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String Quartets and Bruckner Symphonies

As the title may suggest, I’ve been listening to some music this week (and every other week in my life). The Danish String Quartet performed at SMU earlier this week, and as far as I can remember it was (somehow) the first string quartet I’d ever sat down and listened to. Holy cow, it was great! They played some really great music and played the heck out of it, it was a pretty incredible concert. It was enough to get me to buy their CD, and make me want to hear more string quartets, I can’t think of a more successful concert than that.

I realized that I really don’t know a lot about symphony repertoire, so I decided it was time to fix that. One of the first couple I listened to was Bruckner’s fourth played by the Chicago Symphony.. Oh my god, how had I never heard this before?!?! Every couple of minutes my jaw hit the floor from the ridiculous sound that brass section can create with such awesome music to play, not to mention the rest of the orchestra and symphony. If you’ve never heard it, it’s easily worth an hour, even if it’s just playing in the background. Although, some parts are so powerful I’d find them hard to ignore no matter what was going on.

Music is so cool.

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Skills, or something

Apologies to anyone who’s tried to keep up with this only to see very little actually happening. School got a little hectic for a while, but things should cool down shortly.

For the last blog post required by school, we’re supposed to talk about our skills. For me, this usually ends up as a reminder that I need to practice more, I’m not so great at networking, and I should probably have more friends. Really, though, I feel like college should help all three of those, and if not… I’ll figure something out. Actively seek out connections, performance opportunities, etc. etc. and see what happens.

Speaking of which, in the next few days three or four or five of us (exactly five of us) Meadows students are hopefully going to start getting together as a brass quintet and start looking for gigs around town. Need some party music? Wedding? Funeral? Birthday party? Donations to poor college students? Send me a mail and it can happen.

I’m really looking forward to having an ensemble. It’s much easier to get gigs as a quintet than as a solo tubist, and maybe I’ll finally have some content to post here. The multitrack sonatas are probably going to have to wait a bit, but I’m still experimenting with recording equipment and locations here on campus.

Well, I’ll try and get back to a weekly schedule with these posts and get some pictures up soon. Keep me honest.

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Home Again

SMU has no classes Monday and Tuesday thanks to fall break, so I got to go home for the weekend! I also got to attend the last half of the Southwestern District of the Barbershop Harmony Society’s Convention this weekend, which involved a lot of food, a lot of quartets and choruses, and a lot of tags.

Barbershop is one of the few mediums I can think of that people regularly get together and sing with people they’ve never met before (often singing tags they’ve never even heard before). As tedious as it is to try and remember the last couple notes to the bari part of some obscure tag, there’s nothing better than ringing some chords with three people who you just met a few minutes ago.

For anyone who’s unfamiliar with barbershop, here’s a great example. The best way to figure it out, though, is to get four guys together and just sing some songs, or just find a chorus in your area. Sing on!

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We’ve been talking and hearing about motivation a lot during class recently, which brings us to this post: what motivates me?

It’s a hard question, and not really something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. I just did what I did and kept doing it. I wasn’t motivated by money, since I hadn’t really considered music as a possible career until recently. I enjoy improving, and I enjoy finding new music, so those both contribute to me wanting to pursue music as a career.

Something I’ve been thinking about in the last few months more and more is teaching. The desire to show other people the really cool music and beauty found in it is important, and I’m still unsure if performance or teaching is the best way to go about that. It could be a combination of the two, but it reminds me of something Marc-Andre Hamelin said during an interview, something along the lines of: “I don’t like to think of myself as a virtuoso, but as a musician. I find music that many people don’t know about that is sometimes very technically challenging, but I play it to show people beauty and interest in the music”.

Clearly, he’s an incredible technician, but is motivated by bringing more obscure music that people wouldn’t hear otherwise to light. Now, I’m nowhere near the ability of Hamelin, but I want to do the same thing. Plenty of kids, teenagers, and adults, don’t know much about classical music. If it has a lot of notes, they’re impressed, just because they’ve never encountered music like Brahms’s intermezzos or Beethoven’s sonatas. Maybe if I can show just a couple more people how amazing this music is, more people will be interested, and take up a passion for it themselves.

It can’t hurt to try.

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What’s important

We’ve been asked to talk about our values this week, but I’ve never put a lot of thought into finding a way to communicate mine to other people. I’m a Methodist, and I consider my faith to be pretty firm. I’m planning to study a little organ while I’m at SMU so that I can play for a church, just because I feel that’s something I can do and should do.
Of course, this doesn’t mean I HAVE to play in the church (though I probably won’t take the organ outside of it), I just want to use my talents there as well. I have a great love for our country, which pairs really nicely with planning to join the National Guard Band.

I don’t think I have to play in my preferred denomination of church or with the military, but I’ve been lucky enough to have opportunities and talents arise that fit very well with what I value: family, country, and God. If I can stick with those three things, I shouldn’t have a lot of issues regardless of what I actually have to do (though performing sure would be nice).

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Here’s where we talk about work habits

Self explanatory.
To be completely honest, I’ve had terrible, terrible study and practice habits in the past. I was very procrastinating, practically never practiced besides what it took to get the music under my fingers, and didn’t really do any homework. This did not help me. I’m still in the process of recovering from the results of those habits and developing my ability to make myself get work done when work needs doing, but I am definitely making progress. I’ve probably practiced more since school started than I did all of last school year combined. Well, maybe not that much, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s close.

This is really one of the things that I was/am most concerned about in regards to me; just about everyone who talks about success or doing what you enjoy always brings up something about having to work hard for it. I assume this is true, except in a few cases of great luck, and have been really worried about it for a while. I’m still not sure exactly what “steps” to take to fix this, it seems like something you just have to make yourself do every day: find something to do, do it well, and do it as well as you can. Hopefully it’s something you can do every day, so eventually it will become something you’ve really put time and effort into.
Well, no one’s ever done learning and improving, so neither am I.

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A slightly less voluntary history

As the title suggest, this post isn’t quite born from my desire to talk at anyone who will listen (though that does let me enjoy it). At Meadows, first year arts students take a class called FACE, or First-year Arts Community Experience, which is basically about functioning as an artist, entrepreneurial skills, and all that fun stuff. One of our assignments is to make weekly blog posts (done), but they have specific topics (getting there). So, as the first assignment, I want to talk a little more about my background in music. I was raised in the United Methodist Church, and have been singing hymns since I could sit through a service. My dad, my older brother, and I played recorder trios for our relatives around Christmas time, and in the second grade my dad started giving me piano lessons. I never practiced enough, but I was decent enough for an eight-year old. A year later I started taking lessons from Carol Feist, still didn’t practice enough, and was still decent for my age. In the sixth grade I was still playing piano, and was put on tuba by my middle school’s band directors. I’m fairly sure the reason for this was that I showed the tiniest bit of interest in the tuba, and that was more than enough for them to give me one. Turns out, I really liked tuba, and kept playing it through all of middle school and high school. During high school, I started studying piano with Dr. Timothy Woolsey, and started to get into the more “serious” classical literature for piano. It seems to me that this was when I started to really start making progress as a musician; I learned a huge amount from working on pieces by Brahms, Mozart, and Copland. Brahms’ Intermezzo in Bb minor was more important to me than any other single piece I’ve played so far. It was so different, so much more intricate and emotional than anything else I’d played that it really changed how I looked at the rest of the repertoire I was working on and even music I played on tuba. Gaining the technical skill to be able to play this kind of music is really exciting for me, and lets me set a goal for everything else that’s out there. As I work on Chopin’s revolutionary etude, something I couldn’t have even imagined playing two years ago, it’s a little relaxing to think back on how much progress I’ve made the last few years, and to think about how much more I can make in the next few.

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Hump Day

The week’s half over, and college is great. The other two tubas here at Meadows are really cool guys (and so is pretty much everyone else I’ve met), and I’m looking forward to big ensemble rehearsals starting up. It’s really neat moving into somewhere with such a nice practice facility and having grand pianos available all hours of the day just a few minutes from my dorm. It also helps that there’s a space in the music building where I can leave my tuba safely; it’s great to not have to carry it up and down three or four flights of stairs every day.

FACE, the entrepreneurial class that kick started me making this website, meets Friday for the first time. It seems like it’ll be one of the more practical, instantly useful classes I’ll take. Freelance work and self-promotion never hurt anybody — at least, not their income.

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Last day of freedom

School starts tomorrow. It’s nerve-wracking, but also exciting because of all the opportunities I’ll have to play with other musicians and groups I’ve never played with before. Before all that, though, I’ve got auditions for SMU’s ensembles later today, so I’ll be hitting the practice room for a good while. I’d better get used to that, though, since I won’t have a lot of time to practice except for very early or very late some days.


I’ve been listening to Béla Fleck a lot the last couple of days, and really hearing for the first time how his groups can manage to blend sounds from drastically different instruments and styles to make something really different that still seems familiar. Who else would put a drum machine, banjo, bassoon, throat-singing, bass, and saxophone together? However unconventional it may be, it sure works.

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