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thoughts and reflections...
April 26, 2024

QUIET THE EGO: In a recent rehearsal with one of my ensembles, I was reminding them of a procedure/action that we had adopted in the rehearsal space. As I was articulating my opinion of its importance, I was drawn to a previous personal and educational experience that I had as a doctoral student studying conducting with my mentor. The focal point…you must be open to grow, to actually grow!


Almost 10 years ago to the date, I was in a rehearsal conducting some work (I don’t recall the specific piece) and I was having a difficult time. It was challenging for me to focus, to connect with the ensemble, to enjoy the process, and more devastating, to make music. Upon the completion of my rehearsal time, I thanked the ensemble and then began my graduate assistant duties of breaking down the ensemble. My professor (who was standing near the door I was preparing to exit) stopped me and proceeded to give me constructive criticism from my time on the podium. This was a usual practice. However, today was different. He had many notes, and with each critique, I had some sort of negative verbal rebuttal (with a bad attitude) to his expertise, advice, and suggestions (this was NOT NORMAL). This went on for about 15 minutes. We both left the rehearsal room and went home. I. WAS. FURIOUS!!! My entire drive home was spent complaining about how my professor couldn’t recognize all the hard work I was doing, my level of preparation, and my talent. Hours later at home my inner being yell out…WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING AND WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?


I tossed and turned all night and could not shake the terrible feeling, no matter what I did. I’ve been disappointed in myself many times in my life but none more than this specific moment. It was in reflection that I realized that not only was I being disrespectful, closed-minded, and childish, but I was also not doing what I proudly proclaimed I went to school for in the first place, to get an education. Who REALLY was talking back to my professor in such a tone? My EGO.


Upon my professor’s arrival at school, he went about his usual routine. He showed up at my office door to greet me (like he did everyday) with his bag, his diet coke, and some incredible revelation about music he had thought of the night before (he was a genius and a comedian). After his greeting, I apologized for my behavior and attitude from the day prior. He didn’t remember the encounter as negative and told me he appreciated the apology.


Why am I sharing this? Well, it’s to say that learning and growing is about being open. Open in your mind, your heart, and your spirit. One must be submissive to learning. Until this is understood and acted upon, you’re just wasting time. I don’t pretend to know it all. Hell, there are days that I wake up and consider selling car insurance from a fear I still don’t know what I’m doing. And yet, I show up every day, excited about the possibilities and work hard to understand more than I did the previous day. Tell your EGO to go shove it. You have no idea what you don’t know. When you find people who give a damn about your growth, trust them, shut up, and allow them to help you achieve your goals and dreams. Or you can let your EGO demonstrate to you how dumb we humans really are! #shapingphrases

December 2, 2022

CELEBRATION OF LIFE: It is just incredible to be in this place/space again celebrating the life of my late mentor and teacher, Prof. Gregg I. Hanson. The last time I was in this room, Prof. Hanson was on fire getting his wind ensemble to connect with Maslanka's Symphony No. 2 for his final concert. Yesterday, in a moment of "full circle," I was nearly brought to tears just standing on the podium as I prepare to conduct that very work, in his honor.

What is even more special is watching Prof. Hanson's former students (Prof. Chad Shoopman, Dr. Kevin Holzman, and Maestro Li) who happen to be friends and colleagues in the profession (and who are also all INCREDIBLE in their own right) take the stage one after the other, while bringing Prof. Hanson to the was powerful. Grateful to Dr. Chad Nicholson (Univ. of Arizona Director of Bands) for the invitation to be a part of this celebration.

I'm looking forward to spending a little more time here and looking forward to saying goodbye to my teacher, in a way that I am blessed to have the opportunity. Prof. Gregg Hanson WILL be in the room tomorrow during this concert, I saw him in rehearsal yesterday through his former students, and all I could do was smile (tear). I could also hear him asking me in a very direct way, about my tempo selection! (he is still coaching/teaching me). This one is for you, my dear Professor. #shapingphrases

November 21, 2022
I am an emotional wreck right now for all the right reasons. Today, I am in Las Vegas where I have given four presentations with hundreds of students on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and the impact it has on community. In a time where the divide in the country is strong and the love for each other is the weakest I have ever seen in my four + decades, it was incredible sharing stories and talking about solutions that really can make the world "a better place."

Stop waiting on people to make things better for humanity. No politician, celebrity, or commercial can take the place of what it means to look people in the eyes and create an environment where they will look back. I will continue to make this my life work. The expression of gratitude and warm embraces of these kind spirits as they left the room is just what I needed. Many thanks to Dr. Charles Maguire and Mr. Jordan Mathisen for thinking of me and connecting me with this opportunity. I value both of you as humans and look forward to our continued friendship.

"The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another's world." I too, still have much to learn...and openly available to do so. #shapingphrases 
June 2, 2022

My mentor instilled in me that our lives as musical leaders is centered on two important things: the MUSIC we make and the PEOPLE we make it with. I still believe him! 


Tonight, I celebrated a culminating year with the CWU Wind Ensemble. In many regards, as a teacher/conductor, it was one of the most fulfilling evenings of my life. It wasn’t because the concert was perfect, or that all the articulations came shining through...hahah. It was fulfilling because I heard and watched a group of students who not too long ago were strangers, mature in front of my very eyes in a way that I have never seen before. It was so special.


My job scares me, daily. The responsibility and pressure that I put on myself is massive. Underneath this energetic spirit is a person who like all of us, struggles constantly with whether I belong, whether I am good enough, smart enough, and talented enough to lead effectively. It is often exhausting and crippling. I’m thankful tonight that by the grace of God I don’t have to be everything, right away. That I live with the belief that I too, should have grace to become the best version of myself over time. I know that I’m trying, and it’s the most that I can ask of myself. I’m not the best teacher…but I want to be! The greatest news is, I’m the best teacher I’ve ever been, right now. Better than I was yesterday…and that’s enough for me. 


Thank you to the CWU Wind Ensemble for continuing to teach me what is most important in my universe right now…YOU! I fail often, but you remind me of why it’s important that I work toward succeeding. 


Thank you to my graduate conducting student, who in every turn, has been the real reason I have been able to teach effectively over the past year. Mike Cleary, I am so proud of the musician, conductor, and leader that I see you becoming and I’m so excited for your future. Remember what YOU did here…and use it as inspiration for what happens next. 


I will move into year three more wise, and conscious as before, using past experiences as a springboard for future growth and success. I look forward to continued failure, coupled with higher levels of performance and achievement as I too, seek a greater level of musicianship, mentorship, and being a person worthy of other’s trust. 


Gratitude, God, and Grace! Next, on to the next! #shapingphrases 

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




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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