This weekend, I traveled to Haiti for the first time. I didn't make it a big social media thing as I wanted the experience to be "untainted" and unclouded by the need to instagram, FB or tweet every moment that I experienced. I simply wanted to live the experience and take it in completely through the lenses of my own eyes and not a screen.
To say that my life has been changed is an understatement. The people, the music, the soul of Haiti is something that all should experience. Over the years, so many lies and untruths have been told to me about this countries culture, ranging from religion to their basic humanity, that I am reminded again that you truly have to experience something for yourself to get its truth for yourself.
Without going on a huge spiel, I have to say that we in the U.S. Have NO IDEA how fortunate we are. As I travel to certain places, I'm reminded that much of what I own/have is completely meaningless and what I think that I "need" is a frivolous "want" at best, and that I've been conditioned to believe it to be a "necessity". Haiti, thank you for reminding me yet again, as I've been reminded in other places like Caracas, São Paulo, Senegal, and yes, some places in the states and many others...that a simpler life with "less" allows more of what is real to occupy the spaces that are void in your soul.
Thank you John Bern and my new musical family in Haiti for your spirit, love and humanity!
The admiration that I have for my mother goes beyond cliché. I view her as a source of power, love, forgiveness, understanding and meekness.
At times, I attempt to view her objectively... setting the fact aside that I'm lucky to be her son, I view her through the lens of a man that has succeeded, failed, been weak, strong... conquered and been defeated.
To be a man knowing that my survival is due to the many attributes held by my mother and the powerful women that have been my foundation throughout my life, is truly humbling.
To see my mother as a man viewing a woman, I'm beyond blessed that this woman is MY mom!
Mom, thanks for being the great woman you are that just so happened to birth me 39 years ago!
Happy Mothers Day!
Today, I begin the Spring Tour with the SFJAZZ Collective and I’m reminded why I joined the band in the first place.
It’s important to surround yourself with musicians and PEOPLE that push you beyond your limits… force you to think in new ways… and challenge your personal views on music and life. Being with the collective has made me a better writer, a better trumpeter and a better man!
That being said, it’s easy to be the “big fish” in the little pond… it’s easy to be the best in your school band or the “top dawg” in your situation. If you find yourself in this position, CHANGE IT! Put yourself in situations that are completely foreign to you.
Challenge yourself musically, mentally and socially… it’s very difficult to grow as a musician if you stay in the same place forever! Also, this place may not be a “physical” situation… (I.E. school, city, band etc).
That place can also be your own mind!
So… force yourself into new situations!
Challenge yourself! Be the “weakest link” in a band! Don’t be comfortable with your position in life EVER! In the words of Jimmy Heath “once you’ve learned it all and done it all… time to start diggin”!
I’m looking forward to seeing some of you in the coming weeks with the SFJAZZ collective!
Last night, the band performed a piece that was written about one of the most profound aspects of love... Forgiveness.
When I originally wrote it, I was in a lot of pain and questioned whether or not love was even "worth it" or why even bother with it? Usually forgiveness is about forgiving someone that has hurt you or done wrong by you... last night, I was reminded that sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself...
On this Sunday, I wanted to share ...this tune with you all... Whether you're struggling with forgiving someone else or yourself... remember this... Life is short! We are human... we error... many times (maybe most of the time) not intending to hurt anyone. We all navigate through this life trying to get close to love... feel love... find happiness, acceptance, and peace. During the process, we often stumble! I hope that whatever you're dealing with, you find the strength to not only forgive others... but yourself!
Have you ever been in a practice session or even in a performance when you just can't seem to start right? You chip the first note, breath wrong, start with the wrong tempo... etc? This is WAY more common than you think and happens to everyone including professionals! Here are a few things to consider when starting a performance that may help you get past this issue.
1. Don't start until you're absolutely ready to begin. Try to eliminate that "I need to start right away" feeling. Breath deeply, embrace the initial silence in the room and relax. Many of my professors advised me to "let my body drop"... basically eliminating any tension. This will help put you in a relaxed state. Also, remember this... when you're in a performance, the audience is waiting on you to take them to where the magic is. In order to do this, you have to be there first! So, I'm fairly confident that the listener won't mind waiting a few more seconds for you to find your way into the musical moments that are to come.
2. Don't play until you hear whatever it is that you're about to play. This may be the most important thing to consider before you start a improvised solo, etude, concerto... anything. "Hearing" what you play, like a lot of advice we hear, often falls into the realm of the "sound bite" or cliche and loses some of its meaning overtime. I'd like to discuss "hearing" in this manner. "Hearing" the music means that it reverberates into every fiber of your being. You don't just hear the sound, you feel its spirit, its energy... you become whatever it is that you're about to play... THIS is "hearing it". It's important to lose yourself completely in the sound of what you're about to do before you play. By doing this, you're putting yourself and all of your quirks aside in order to allow the music to speak through you. Once you surrender your control and give the control back to the music, you'll allow its power to make the right decisions for you.
3. Stay in the mindset of performance! Do you feel like the stage is a foreign, scary, intimidating place? You're not alone! The ONLY reason that it isn't for me as much anymore, is the simple fact that at some point, I began to "live the stage". In other words, every single time I play anything, with the exception of quick warm ups, I'm thinking about performing. I don't separate my practicing from performing. If you have a hard time doing this, record yourself doing "performances" of the things you're working on. If it's an etude, record yourself playing it IN IT'S ENTIRETY! A tune you're working on? Get a band together and record yourself doing a performance of it. Once you get accustomed to being in this mindset, anxiety will begin to dissipate. If you stay in a meditative mindset, always seeking to perform the music at its highest level, at some point you'll just begin to think this way naturally without much effort.
One of the most difficult aspects of performance is simply starting.
If you're able to just take your time, allow the music to resonate inside of you and take you over, chances are you'll start off on the right track! As much as you can, stay in the mindset of performance always seeking to achieve the most honest and pure form of the sound that you're hearing.
We are human and make mistakes... but, music is not concerned with perfection! It wants us to be open, ready and willing to be the right vessel for it to travel through!
#doyojob #shed Open Studio
Berklee College of Music Brass Department
Berklee College of Music
Today at the Ohio Music Educators Association conference in Cleveland, OH I had the great pleasure of performing with my former alma matter's jazz ensemble, Warren Harding High school. In the picture are my 5th, 6th, 7th, and high school band teachers. Without them, I wouldn't be who I am today. Jessica Turner, on the right and Richard Rollo and Lynn Marlin on the left. I often mention a 6th grade band teacher giving me my first jazz album... that's Jessica! For all you educa...tors out there that are tired, frustrated, sick of the politics, don't want to fight anymore... allow this picture to fuel your fire! You NEVER KNOW who's in your program... who's listening... who's shedding... I'm eternally grateful that these individuals, and so many others, saw me... spent extra time with me, and helped me in spite of the challenges they faced everyday!!
#shed #doyojob #thedub
Tip Tuesday tip: On having strong opinions... I often hear folks say "I don't like this type of music or this type of jazz... this style vs. this style... etc. Be careful to not form too strong of an opinion about certain things early on in your development ... or, period... for that matter.
As you're exposed to many things in your development, something may not hit you right away or may jar you. Just give it a chance. Don't discredit it right away... you may be able to take something from it. A couple of brief points regarding opinions:
1. What is your opinion based on? Are you able to clearly state why you like or dislike something? "I just don't like it" in my opinion, is not the best answer. If you don't prefer a style, be able to explain why you don't prefer it. By studying what you don't like and being able to explain why through a clear understanding of its idiosyncrasies, it may help you solidify the sound that you want to make.
2. Did you form your opinion from hearsay?: Too often we allow our mentors, peers, or friends to either discount or force us into a style that we aren't necessarily drawn to because THEY believe that their style or preference is THE only way. I'm sure most of us have encountered the "jazz, classical, funk... (name a genre) police", and we've heard them say "THIS is where it's at ... or, this music is sad"... or, "why are you listening to THAT?" Respectfully hear their point of view while taking what's useful and discarding what isn't. Take knowledge in like sifter... keep the good stuff and discard the BS.
3. When you express your opinion, are you discrediting other genres, styles, etc?: Remember, music of all types all over the world exist because MUSIC wanted to be heard and that music spoke through another human being which makes it valid. It may not be your thing or your preference, but that does not invalidate its existence and purpose! If I style wasn't meant to exist because it was "bad, sucked, not hip",etc... it wouldn't have been heard, cultivated and introduced to the world.
I have been guilty of this in the past and I truly regret it for two reasons. 1. I may have stunted someone's growth due to my own inability to see or hear beyond myself. 2. I stunted my own growth by not being able to open up to the world around me and learn from it.
In a nutshell, have preferences but be open to learning from things that you don't really like, understand or care for. I remember a day when I HATED cognac... well, I eventually ended up at a bar that only had cognacs and scotches... guess who became a cognac drinker that night?
Hendrix said it best "I used to live in a room full of mirrors; all I could see was me. I take my spirit and I crash my mirrors, now the whole world is here for me to see"
New Equipment: When considering new equipment, it's important to consider two, maybe three key points.
1. Does it sound good? Does the equipment that you're checking out give you the sound and clarity that you're looking for? Is it one dimensional? Does it give you a wide range of "colors" or is it just bright, dark, etc... There isn't anything wrong with one or the other... I'm only saying that it's important to know what sound/sounds you want to draw from the equipment. SO... have a clear sound conception!
2. Does it feel good? Often times we sacrifice physical comfort to achieve an extra "big/dark/weighted" sound. Big mouthpieces, heavy equipment etc, although very useful for some, is not useful to all. It's important to consider the first point that I made in conjunction with the physical requirements of your daily musical output. Consider those that use certain equipment for certain purposes and ask yourself...
"Where do I fit in here?"
If you primarily play jazz quartet gigs on the trumpet that last 4 hours, salsa gigs, or long wedding gigs.... you may want to consider NOT using the biggest, darkest horn you can find. Likewise, if you're playing concert halls and your gigs last about 75 minutes (Orchestra gigs, recitals, shorter intimate gigs)... you may not want to chose something that's brighter or compromises resonance just to make it easier to play. Balance is KEY! Know exactly what your "work load" is in conjunction with the basic sound you want.
Last point is this
Are you consistent? Have you been playing and practicing consistently on the equipment that you're currently using? If the answer is no... you likely will run into a brick wall with any equipment you chose. Prof (William Fielder) always said this....
"The trumpet is the mirror of the mind"..
Meaning that the sound comes from your aural conception and not just the equipment you use... SO.. in order to have a strong aural conception, you need to refine and reinforce that concept through constant daily practice. One of my favorite moments in the J@LC orchestra was when Wynton sat in on a jam session with my horn and he sounded EXACTLY like Wynton... How can he do this? He has a solid foundation and a clear conception that supersedes the equipment he uses... The tools that he chooses enhances what he already does, not creates it.
"On this day you can do anything, sleep, play in the take a walk, etc
1. Does it sound good?
2. Does it feel good?
3. Are you consistent with the equipment you have?
Three important things to consider when checking out a new toy!
First Tip Tuesday tip of 2017:
New Years Resolutions regarding practicing/playing/projects etc...
My advice... don't make them...
The year changing, time changing, or date will not change who you are and what you do! Everyday is a new day and a new opportunity to be better than you were yesterday. The key is to resolve to do these things NOW, and pursue them until they are complete! Many times we place goals in our paths with "start and end dates"... time can get in the way, leading to disappointment or a false sense of a real resolute start!
So, don't get caught up in the hype of the "new year"... it's just another day in time
However, you can become "new" at any moment in time by starting and working until the work is done!
Today's Tip Tuesday Tip: "Where do I start?"
This is a question I'm asked often and I've come up with a variety of answers over the years... However, I think there's only one real answer to this...
You start at the beginning... YOUR beginning.
Everyone has a unique starting point. We're all different and are on different journeys. In fact, we've all come to our profession, career, passion many different ways. Some folks, like me started with Gospel music..others, blues, jazz......etc... However, paths have intersected, knowledge gained, knowledge expanded...
I think the key is to start at your unique beginning... then make steps... deliberate steps along the way while being open to what comes your way.
So, pick up that etude book, that recording, learn that tune, learn that set of chords... grab that instrument... And, start with whats in front of you. Don't worry... you won't miss anything. The first scale I ever learned was a Db pentatonic scale because that's what key was used in church... At some point, I got around to the Bb scale!
All this being said, know that general knowledge comes in many variances of thought... Truth comes in many ways... Just start with the way the truth is presented to YOU! Then, walk into that truth.
Your first step is uniquely yours, starting you on your unique path to uniquely shape the world around you!
"A Journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step" Lao Tzu
Here's a quick tip Tuesday Tip regarding lesson preparation...
It's simple... A lesson is only going to be as good as your preparation for it... Often times, students enter lessons feeling as if it is their instructors job to teach them everything there is to know about a certain etude, tune, exercise, etc... not realizing that this is almost impossible for even the greatest pedagog to achieve in a finite space of time... That being said... if you wish to maximize your lesson... time with your teacher, it's best that you get the basic nuts and bolts out of the way before the lesson takes place so that you and your instructor can get to advanced concepts faster...
Far too often, instructors waste time teaching notes, reminding folks about crescendo's... teaching musical terms...etc that students can take care of before they get to their lesson. THEN suddenly.. the half an hour or hour is gone and the student finds themselves reviewing things that they could've on their own... leaving frustrated.
So, I say... DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
Lay the ground work for a successful lesson by giving your instructor or teacher something to work with. Remember: You're in the drivers seat! Your instructor is a tour guide! If you want to maximize the journey... make sure there's gas in the car, engine checked, wind shield wipers working... etc...before the journey begins...or you'll spend the entire trip at the service station! #Doyojob #shed Berklee College of Music Brass Department
It's important to be aware of what your body is doing and how it's reacting to the process of "getting to know" your instrument without obsessing over the details of the change...
As you practice more and develop a closeness to your instrument, your body will begin to "adjust" to it. Often times your jaw may feel like it's setting, teeth may shift slightly, certain "discomfort" may come into play..(NOT PAIN..., but DISCOMFORT... t...here IS a difference) or even a change in your posture... It is my belief that these incremental changes are somewhat normal as your body adjusts to becoming one with a foreign object.
In my experience, I've noticed my body adjust slightly to the instrument the more I practice it. I notice certain muscles develop, my tongue get faster, my ability to hold breaths... measured pressures... etc ...
These changes have been taken into account without me obsessing over them. It's important to rehearse the successes of your practice through repetition and reinforcement without worrying about every little tweak, shift, adjustment, etc that the body makes...
Remember... you were not born with an instrument attached to you...so the body has to adjust to it so that the body and the instrument become one...