Man Suffers Head Injury and Becomes Musical Prodigy

Derek Amato had played a little guitar when he was young, but never really was serious about music. However, after suffering a head injury Amato had an interesting experience when visiting a musician friend at home. He writes:

We were just sitting around, talking, when I felt an intense, utterly compelling need to touch his piano. I just moved over and started playing – there was no transition, it was all at once, like I’d been doing it all my life.

As it turns out, this condition is called acquired savant syndrome and there are other cases where after a head injury an individual with no particular interest or talent suddenly displays amazing artistic abilities.

As you might expect for an adult to suddenly display prodigy-like talents, Amato notes that his technique is somewhat unusual.

I’ve played alongside a classically trained concert pianist, who was fascinated by my technique – in some respects, I play like someone who has just started learning, in others my skills outstripped his.

Read more about Amato’s story here.

Land of the Sky Symphonic Band Concert, Sunday November 18, 2012

If you are around Asheville, NC this weekend I want to invite you to come hear the Land of the Sky Symphonic Band perform our annual fall concert at Diana Wortham Theater this Sunday, November 18, 2012. The concert will start at 7 PM.

We’ll be performing a varied program, including some classic concert band repertoire like Gustav Holst’s Second Suite in F and William Schuman’s George Washington Bridge. Also on the program is a nice transcription of Gabriel Faure’s Pavane and Robert Sheldon’s Pride of the Grenadiers. We’re also doing a couple of marches, By Land and Sea by Kenneth J. Alford and King Cotton March by John Philip Sousa, and a very nice medley of Duke Ellington tunes arranged by Tommy Newsom. There will also be a couple of Christmas pieces to get everyone in the mood for the holiday season.

Wilktone Podcast – Episode 20

Show Notes

Drop the Needle – Answer to last episode’s contest. Submit your answer for this episode through my contact form.

Music History Spotlight – Throat singers of Tuva
Tuvan Throat Singing
Huun Huur-Tu
David Hoffner
Genghis Blues
Paul Pena
Sixty Horses In My Herd
Tuva/Voices from the Center of Asia

Music Theory/Composition – Secondary dominant chords

Secondary dominants

Practice Tips – Practicing more efficiently

The Inner Game of Music

Download more Wilktone Podcasts on my podcast feed or by subscribing through iTunes. For more information on these and other music related topics visit

Red June “Soul’s Repair”

I’m fortunate that I live in a community that attracts artists of a wide variety. For example, my next door neighbor is also a musician (always good to have a neighbor who is friendly to the sounds of practice coming through his wall). Will plays guitar, violin, piano, mandolin, and who knows what else. However, we run in completely different musical circles so I had never really heard him perform until recently. A couple of weeks ago I went to a show for one band Will performs with, Red June.  When my fiance and I arrived we learned the show had already sold out, so we hung around and listened in from outside. Afterwards, Will treated me to a free copy of their latest CD, Beauty Will Come. While there’s no brass playing on it (we can’t all be perfect), there’s some really tuneful melodies with great original song writing on it. Download a sample, Will’s tune Soul’s Repairor watch their live performance.

Physical Therapy For Musicians

The other day I had a great phone conversation with David Shulman.  Shulman is a physical therapist who specializes working with musicians who have repetitive motion injuries related to playing.  He had contacted me to ask for some ideas working with brass players who have injured lip muscles.  We talked for a while about some of the things brass musicians can do away from the instrument to help build (or rebuild) muscles around the lips without actually playing, which can lead to re-injuring a damaged muscle.  I talked to him a little bit about free buzzing, the pencil trick, and the P.E.T.E.

Here’s a short video he has put together where he describes his practice and the workshops he presents to music students and teachers.

One of the things I asked David about was about which lip was more prone to being injured.  Donald Reinhardt felt the upper lip was more likely to be injured due to excessive mouthpiece pressure.  David also noticed that the majority of lip injuries happen on the upper lip.  Reinhardt’s advice to keep more mouthpiece “weight” on the lower lip should help brass players avoid injuries like this.

Ben Cameron on The True Power of the Performing Arts

Ben Cameron is the Program Director of the Dorris Duke Charitable Foundation and supervises grant programs for the performing arts.  In  his recent TED Talk Cameron discussed the role that technology has played in how we consume performing arts today and also who participates in them.  He sees a paradigm shift that blurs the line between professionals and amateurs, with less of a separation between performers and audience.

Frankly, what we’re seeing now in this environment is a massive time, when the entire world is changing as we move from a time when audience numbers are plummeting. But the number of arts participants, people who write poetry, who sing songs, who perform in church choirs, is exploding beyond our wildest imaginations. This group, others have called the “pro ams,” amateur artists doing work at a professional level. You see them on YouTube, in dance competitions, film festivals and more. They are radically expanding our notions of the potential of an aesthetic vocabulary,while they are challenging and undermining the cultural autonomy of our traditional institutions. Ultimately, we now live in a world defined not by consumption, but by participation.

Here’s the video.

Pacing Your Brass Section In Rehearsals

Last weekend I had the pleasure of directing the North Carolina Western Region Honor Middle School Jazz Band out at Lenoir-Rhyne University.  The students worked extremely hard for me, were very well behaved, and improved remarkably over the two days.  Here’s a video that was taken during the performance.

The whole concert was taped and can be viewed here.

Clinic situations like this can be particularly challenging for the brass students.  With only a short time to put together 4 tunes or so it’s difficult to get the music sounding good without doing a lot of playing, but the more the brass students play the harder it will be for them to have chops left for the concert.  There are some strategies that you can use to help pace your students through rehearsals and let them save their faces for the performance. Continue reading Pacing Your Brass Section In Rehearsals

Land of the Sky Symphonic Band Concert February 24, 2012

For those of you living in western North Carolina, I’ll be conducting the Land of the Sky Symphonic Band in concert tomorrow night (Friday, February 24, 2012) at Calvary Baptist Church (531 Haywood Road in Asheville, NC).  The concert starts at 7 PM and is free, although we will be collecting a good will offering for the band.

I like to program a variety of literature for any ensemble and tomorrow night’s concert is no exception.  There are some standard concert band pieces, like A Festive Overture by Alfred Reed and Gustav Holst’s First Suite in Eb.   We’ll also perform a very beautiful hymn setting by David Holsinger called On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss and a neat march treatment of the Phi Mu Alpha hymn by Clifton Williams, The Sinfonians (Symphonic March).  Monty Python fans will recognize John Philip Sousa’s The Liberty Bell March and if you like Glenn Miller you’ll recognize the medley In the Miller Mood arranged by Warren Barker for concert band.

If you do get out to hear us please make sure to say hello to me after the concert.

Confirmation Bias and the Art of Music

In blog posts lately I’ve been noting confirmation bias and its role in determining how teachers and players determine the best pedagogy or best way to practice.  My personal example of fooling myself into thinking I could accurately predict a player’s embouchure type by looking at their anatomy alone is one example of what I mean by this.  Crunching the numbers showed that very few of the physical characteristics I thought would be helpful predictors turned out to be statistically significant.  There are plenty of other examples of how our biases can even change how we perceive the exact same performance.  Science itself is a process which strives to distance ourselves from confirmation bias and control for it in such a way that we don’t fool ourselves.

But there is another side to this discussion that I haven’t really written about too much before, how confirmation bias affects the musical perceptions and enjoyment of the art music making.  Writing for the Scientific American blog, Samuel McNerney explores this topic. Continue reading Confirmation Bias and the Art of Music