i'll make you famous

you can't get by with anything anymore, thanks to the irresistible fetish of instantaneous posting to twitter, facebook, younameit.  this affliction runs rampant throughout our world.  you can find out what's going on with your interest du jour at any moment.  hell, even my mom comments on my occasional status updates within the hour.  my MOM.

good old iowa has made the front page again.  a guy drove his zebra and macaw parrot to the local watering hole, went inside to get loaded, and got pulled over on the ride home with his pets buckled in next to him.  you can't write this stuff.

i am sitting here at my bar chugging a mug of coffee, rocking some serious bedhead, listening to pete rock & c.l. smooth, sporting a beater & basketball shorts, posting my thoughts with accompanying images, and broadcasting it to the entire world.  the internet has managed to shrink our world into a 15" screen while expanding our minds directly beneath our fingertips.  shit is crazy.

kevin mahogany and his big self came through iowa city back in grad school.  i remember that during his masterclass, me & my friends immediately dismissed the giant crooner and swung our antennae towards his trio; kenny barron, ray drummond, and ben riley.  kenny said something about how, if you want to make it in the music business at any level, you need to end up in new york city.  all of us iowa kids felt pretty lousy about that, but saw his point - how are we ever gonna meet more people who are like minded?   the assumption was that all things at the cusp of newness take place in metropolitan areas, and the only way you could achieve viability is to live the dream in the big city.  cue the slow exodus of uhaul trucks to either coast with "art or bust" written on the windows.

music has certainly changed with the internet.  streaming audio, digital distribution, webcasting, apps, electronic press kits, facebook events, blogs, and (the big kahuna) youtube.  creative minds can now put their noggins together in the virtual world.  i recently worked with my friend marcy on a project, and technology saved the day.  after finishing one of her arrangements, i fired out pdf copies and audio scratch tracks from my office - me in ames, she in new jersey.  she stuck music in dropbox for the entire band and emailed links to other stuff. we were able to put this all together quicker and cheaper, and the worldwide web helped make it happen.

my buddy ryan plays fiddle with the indie folk band trampled by turtles.  they played a show here in town about a year ago, and he told me then that the band was slow-going and on the verge of taking a hiatus of undetermined length. they booked a couple of bigger festivals in their swan song and posted some new music up on soundcloud.  they advertised their tour online, got a couple videos up on vimeo, fans snapped pics on their phones and posted them to their respective social networks, and suddenly the band's popularity rose to epic proportions.  their most recent gigs have been on letterman, craig ferguson, and atop the cnn news tower in atlanta.  

i am proud to be an iowan and, at the same time, am sheepishly thankful for the internet.  my priorities have changed since that decree from mr. barron, and they continue to evolve.  i like having a university gig.  i like having a house.  i like raising my kids, mowing my yard, sticking a quarter in the meter for an hour of parking, watching the sunset over the cornfields, and listening to the quiet.  i am blessed to play shows with very talented musicians here in iowa, hidden gems.

dave king once told me, amidst my anguish and disgust with moving to a smaller community like ames, that it's one thing to move to a scene and another thing altogether to move and make a scene.  i assume he wasn't insinuating that i throw a tantrum, so i decided to be a part of the solution to creative musical thought in the heartland of america.  i do like to go to metropolitan areas and get my batteries recharged. there's really no substitute for that.  but my desire/need to relocate has fizzled.  i guess the great philosopher treach was right - wherever you go there you are.  0:58, baby.


not a game, not a game

i'm not a big sports memorabilia guy.  remember those sports illustrated posters from back in the day?  i used to have a couple hanging in my room; dwight gooden, walter payton, and magic johnson.  i collected a ton of baseball cards but, at some point, became disenchanted with sports fandom.  i'm a casual fan of cardinals baseball, vikings football, and cyclones basketball.  i quit throwing my money at all that collectable stuff.  the few sporty things on display in my office are a signed 5x7 picture of andy van slyke, a ric flair figurine, and a rookie card of my namesake.

i own a couple of jerseys that i never wear anymore.  i strutted around in them while i taught inner-city middle school music in the twin cities, in an effort to garner and retain any ounce of juice with the kids. i looked ridiculous, but i've still got 'em.  they represented two of my favorite ballers -  kevin garnett for the timberwolves and allen iverson for the 76ers.  both of these former mvps switched teams long ago.  k.g. won his ring with the celtics, and a.i. swam around the league before ending up broke and now playing for a team in turkey (with an eye on china).

the big ticket was stricken with the curse of the t-wolves. we could never put people around him that could get us over the hump.  on the other hand, a.i. was pure domination.  flashy, mouthy, irrepressible.  he was thrilling at georgetown, could score at will in the nba, and rose to elite heights, starting with this killer crossover on mj.

yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of allen's tirade on practice.  he was criticized for not going to shootarounds, and responded with the insinuation that the games were far more important.  i'm in the quartet workshop, a great band that plays original tunes and creative treatments of other stuff.  i like playing in this band for two reasons: 1) the players are great.  strong musicians, devoted to thinking outside of the box, and cool guys.  2) we rehearse.

i want to be involved with projects.  rehearsing strengthens interplay and trust, solidifies song choices, and quasi guarantees that the ensemble members are invested in the final product.  i prefer to play in a BAND.  most of the leaders in my field have working bands.  potter underground.  the bad plus.  keith's trio.  brad's trio. fellowship.  human feelmasada.  metheny.  charlie. dave.  don't get me wrong - i will continue to do pick-up gigs, because that's often the nature of this beast, yet i'm smitten with that feeling of rapport and inside joke-like understanding between musical minds.  in order to accomplish this, ya gotta practice as a group. individual work, although vital, is no substitute.

the art of the band is becoming extinct.  it's tough to find time to get together, space that will allow for it, and finding the right formula of players so that 100% of them are down with rehearsing.  i'd rather not get hung up on money and, instead, swing my energy towards a stronger and collaborative goal.  yes - it takes more time, is often a hassle, and may even prove to be less financially fruitful. however, that pot o' gold at the end is totally worth it.

this is where a.i. and i split up.  gotta go to practice.
for the record, iverson totally owns westbrook, paul pierce, and the mailman.  kd?  well that's another story...


everything's better with bongos

i'm wrapping up my 7th year of teaching at iowa state.  i was interviewed in my first semester by the student rag for some segment called 5 minutes with..., a clever and brief snapshot of new faculty.  the student journalist asked me what was my favorite thing about working for isu.  my brutally honest response of "free internet, nice speakers, and a place to practice" got me in all sorts of hot water with the wife. although i had been teaching a combo of public school and higher ed for 6 years prior to my current post, i had yet to become smitten with the trade of instruction.
i like the schedule - pushpushpush for big stretches with sizable vacations plugged in.  my calendar is automatically plugged in with performances and other cv-building engagements.  i am the local expert, occasionally impressing the kids in my ensembles and simultaneously giving my ego a stroke.  these selfish feelgoods are undeniably enjoyable, but they all have become trumped by my deepening love for and newfound pride in education.  whodathunk?

the wife recently spent a day with jeanne baxtresser, former ny phil flutist and current pedagogue at carnegie-mellon.  the entire isu flute studio traveled via school minivan to kansas city for a series of masterclasses with jeanne, only to encounter tornadic activity on the return trip.  they made an unannounced pit stop at an unsuspecting farm house in southwest iowa, nervously enduring stories of nascar and secondhand smoke while waiting for the weather to turn.

jeanne is a big time orchestral flutist and an energetic lady who, on the back side of her career, has found a refreshingly unique perspective on professional musicianship and education. she talked about being a musical guide instead of an outright teacher.  sure, there are technical and historical and equipment and repertoire things to share with your students, but they also need guidance during this period in their lives.

there's something beautiful about being a senior.  you have seen your studies to their fruition.  high school kids have done their parents proud and are on to the next phase of their life; attending college, picking up a full time job, mooching off their folks.  college seniors see different scenery through their windshield; continuing on to graduate research, moving somewhere to chase their dreams, mooching off their folks.  when these kids play their senior recital or portray their last role or display their final painting, the village of classmates and emotionally-attached teachers huddle around and embrace each other. the energy shared in those hugs is a lethal concoction of gratitude, joy, sadness and dreams.

i never considered jennifer warnes to be the voice of reason (and up until now didn't even know her name) but she has registered some real gems that have stood the test of time. in the market for catchy lines beefed-up with fortuitous lyrics? we've got the classic "who knows what tomorrow brings. the road is long, there are mountains in our way, but we climb a step every day."  and then there's the swayze jam "i've had the time of my life.  i've never felt like this before, yes it's true, and i owe it all to you."


the trick for our graduating college kids is to stay involved and motivated, fighting off the haze of humdrum daily life. creating art out in the real world is a long and often lonely path to travel.  making concerted efforts to practice, listen, learn and stay on the radar of your community's creative scene are each sizable undertakings in their own right.  being a good person to yourself and others needs to be numero uno on your list. remember that gigs go to those that are both outstanding at what they do and super cool people to be around.  mickey was right, man - it's a small small world.

the real world is daunting.  the learning curve is deceptively steep, but one you can navigate.  getting out there and really doing it benefits from a head-first dive lathered in nerve and initiative.  i consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside aspiring artists as they get their feet wet, sharing my experiences and thoughts in an effort to facilitate their personal discovery.  thanks folks.


phew 3

well... what can i say?  epic fail on my end.  i'm not sure i've either journaled or exercised since my last post.  i sure have listened to a ton of music and have definitely been practicing a bunch of stuff.  for example, just today i heard clarinet pieces by lutoslawski & stravinsky, followed by trumpet stuff by napoli and haydn.  i listened to tunng while working in some reeds for a rehearsal (and performance soon thereafter) of a wind sextet arrangement of poulenc's piano nocturne no. 8.  i did a quick transcription of judas iscariot and set it for a quartet gig this evening.

have i been busy?  you bet.  should i be drumming up excuses for why i've fallen off the wagon?  nope.  my phew needs to be a lifestyle change, one i can realistically jumpstart.  my summer vacation commences tomorrow afternoon, so i ought to be able to get my ducks in a row again.  i hate that i get so engrossed with simply hanging on that i forget to put myself first, so this installment gets a huge thumbs down a la joaquin phoenix, whatever that means.  i can't remember.