#shapingphrases
thoughts and reflections...
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October 30, 2021

I do believe that when WORDS fail (and they often do), that MUSIC speaks. At the end of the last academic year, I was tasked (as many of my colleagues around the globe were) with programming repertoire for a variety of ensembles for the upcoming year. Programming becomes a balancing act in my opinion of three things; what music am I drawn to? (with a clear understanding of why), what music could have the potential to speak to the hearts of my ensembles and the audience, and most importantly, how can this repertoire help to development independent music making skills. 

I love the wind band. In fact, it was my first love. I love the color of the ensemble, the repertoire (for the most part), the sense of community, and the medium's ability to be a vehicle for artistic expression. Thus, I am constantly seeking out composers from around the world who display a sense of craftsmanship, honesty, and creativity in their work. I recall my mentor encouraging me to have standards around what I choose, always. He encouraged me to write those standards down, to check them often, and to return to past repertoire to see how I was doing in holding on to my own standards.

What we choose, matters! In the year 2000, Robert Reynold's article titled "Repertoire is the Curriculum," resonated with me greatly. I've used this article as a "springboard" (not a final destination) on how I think about building my own standards around repertoire selection. As conductors, this is our most important task (next to the well-being of those in our care).  Having said that...we must do better. What is new is not always good...Popularity does not validate quality...We MUST think about the people in the room in this process. There's a lot of bad music out there...I'm just trying not to play any of it! #shapingphrases 

June 12, 2021
I am proud of all of the students who have graduated from Central Washington University. But on this day, I'm overwhelmingly proud of the graduates from the department of music. Although we have known each other for a short period of time, our spirits, and common goal of professional and musical high standards unite us. More importantly, your capacity for being kind, loving, and passionate beings make each opportunity to share our joy of music together, even more impactful. I wish you love, happiness in your exciting new journeys and pray that He will guide you, watch over you, and keep you as you move forward. #shapingphrases
March 20, 2021

I have never encountered a fellow musician or music lover that fell in love with music for some technical reason. At its core, I believe that people fall in love with music because of how it makes them feel. Feelings, which are often ignored, are at the center of what attracts us to ANYTHING. Music is no exception. As we work to teach and share music with others, we should do so recognizing there should be hierarchy in our studying, listening, and understanding. I subscribe to the following belief that music is first, for the EAR…followed by the HEART…and finally to the EYE. In more simple terms, we should always consider the questions of…What do I hear? How does it make me feel? What is it?

 

Often, in the training of musicians (at least in my experience) the formula looks a little like this…Music is first for the EYE…followed by the EAR…the end! Problematic? I think so! (and then we wonder why performances and the study of music in academia is boring, lifeless, and cold) When we ignore the connection that one has with music, we hinder the love and appreciation for music. In our study, in our listening, and in our understanding, let’s continue to work toward adding the HEART into the equation. Music is for the EAR, to the HEART! #shapingphrases

February 2, 2021

 

When considering the word “character” as it relates to music, I tend to gravitate toward two definitions provided by Merriam Webster. The first, being “main or essential nature especially as strongly marked and serving to distinguish,” and two, “a symbol (such as a letter or number) that represents information.” Character in music is everything. I believe that the discovery of a piece of music’s character reveals information that encourages the music to live in its element. Too often, our main focus in rehearsal is a quest to see how much we can “fix” in a certain amount of time. The reality is, the more you “fix” AWAY from the character, the further you get AWAY from revealing the essence of the music. Of course, technique is important (to include an elimination of error in performance), but what is the point? The point is to reveal the music, to decode the message, to communicate with clarity, artistry and expression. As you tackle the music, tackle with a goal of discovering the music’s character FIRST! Afterwards, guide your musicians (and yourself) through a process that seeks to protect that character with unwavering consistency. #shapingphrases 

January 7, 2021
It is impossible to fully express my feelings on the events that took place at the nation's capital in the United States of America on January 6, 2021. My message today is short, direct, and to the point. Educators... don't you dare take days off without connecting with your students about what is happening in the world around them and their ability to make it what it can be. They need YOU and MUSIC to help show the way. WE ARE THE AGENTS OF CHANGE! #shapingphrases
December 13, 2020

There are many resources in academia that ease the pressure of teaching the whole student such as the inclusion of a band director, orchestra director, choral director, jazz band director, percussion director, applied music faculty, musicologist and ethnomusicologist, and many others that assist in the education of students.

 

Often, these resources are limited in the high school/middle school setting (and sometimes limited within smaller programs within academia). When it comes to teaching music at the secondary level, I recommend taking a collective approach to working together with your colleagues for the benefit of the students. As one begins to consider repertoire and musical experiences offered, consider collaborating with the whole music faculty to see how you can improve the depth of your teaching. Flutes are not typically included in jazz band, the euphonium player rarely has the opportunity to connect with works within the orchestral repertoire, students who are vocalist rarely have the opportunity to connect their experience within the instrumental repertoire…and the list goes on and on. Make this awareness part of your planning process! When we have the opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues and connect with their methods of instruction as well as with the chosen repertoire in their specific genres, the STUDENT  (not just your ensemble/program) gets to be involved in the kind of musical experience that expands the scope of learning. The fluid musician (able to flow easily between genres) is one who understands music on a more wholistic level through experience. Never has this been more important than right now!  It takes a village. #shapingphrases

December 6, 2020

 

WHERE ARE YOU GOING?

 

I love movies and I love Diana Ross. As I reflect on the lyrics from the theme song from the movie Mahogany staring Diana Ross, I am compelled to go deeper into the lyrics. In the opening she asks directly, “Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showin’ you? Where are you going to? Do you know?” I immediately made a connection to the importance of score study and building a personal relationship with the music. The act of studying ANYTHING properly takes care, awareness, and attention to detail. Score study is not a speed race! I have been an audience member of various workshops/talks where the “hook” of the presentation centered around “tips and tricks” for the busy conductor. WHAT?!?!? ARE YOU KIDDING? As I heard comedian, author, and speaker Jenifer Lewis once loudly proclaim, “The elevator to success is broken, you must take the stairs!”

 

Think of your musical study in a more personal way and see if you are able to make more meaningful connections. Like a great friendship, it is built over TIME and through UNDERSTANDING. Score study is more than being excited about where you placed all of the Roman numerals in your analysis…more than listening to your favorite recording 700 times on loop… more than conducting your heart out in your bathroom (or whatever room that large mirror currently lives), only for the ensemble to discover that there is no real meaning! When one looks closely at the elements of music and the impact these elements have on the whole, a door is open that will allow you access to a deeper understanding. Yes…this is time consuming, tedious, and challenging work…BUT, it will help you to answer Ms. Ross’ questions posed in the lyrics. 

 

If you don’t know the destination, you can’t take the trip! #shapingphrases

November 27, 2020
In Memoriam | Gregg I. Hanson (1943-2020)

How do I say goodbye? By thanking God, for who He is to me, for who He has been in my life, and for His help. Today, I lost my teacher, my mentor, my friend, and the greatest musician I have ever known. Gregg Hanson changed my life...because he saw me, he valued me, and heard me in a way unlike any other in my life. What I annoyingly did, was make sure that he knew that I loved him too! My heart is broken today, but I am so thankful that I can see and hear Prof. Hanson in the music that I make, in the words that I speak, and in the life that I am trying to live. My last words to him this week...I miss you. Rest well Professor, I'll miss you. #shapingphrases
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