College Teacher Wages

David C. Levy was formerly the chancellor of the New School University.  He recently wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post where he asks Do college professors work hard enough?  In his article he argues that college professors earn too much for the amount of work they do.

I have to admit to being biased against Levy’s position, having been teaching college either as an adjunct or full-time since 1998.  My first issue is with his seemingly mistaken view of how much work a college professor actually does.

Though faculty salaries now mirror those of most upper-middle-class Americans working 40 hours for 50 weeks, they continue to pay for teaching time of nine to 15 hours per week for 30 weeks, making possible a month-long winter break, a week off in the spring and a summer vacation from mid-May until September.

Now in Levy’s defense, he does admit that a college faculty’s load is more than just the 9-15 actual contact hours per week.  There is also grading, advising, serving on committees, research and other professional development and more.  However, he does seem to be less than honest when making many of his points.   Continue reading College Teacher Wages

Appreciating Jazz Part 11 – Miles Davis and John Coltrane

Trumpet player Miles Davis and saxophonist John Coltrane were two of the most significant and influential jazz musicians of all time.  In this podcast I’ll discuss the life and music of these two innovative artists, including discussions of their musical styles and important sidemen and other collaborators who helped drive the direction jazz took along with Davis and Coltrane.

You can download this podcast in the download link below and also by subscribing through iTunes.


Western Carolina University Jazz Festival Featuring Joel Frahm April 14-15, 2012

Another jazz event for those of you in western North Carolina this weekend.  Remember, tonight you can come listen to the Asheville Jazz Orchestra.  If you still haven’t had enough live jazz (who can have too much?), come on out to Western Carolina University and check out the WCU Jazz Ensemble performing with guest artist Joel Frahm on saxophone tonight, April 14, 2012.  Also on the performance, which starts at 7:30 at the Bardo Fine Arts Center, will be Pavel Wlosok’s trio.  Pavel is the Director of Jazz Studies at WCU and an excellent pianist and composer.  The A.C. Reynolds High School Jazz Ensemble will also perform, under the direction of Bill Bryant.

If you can’t get out to this concert but still want to check out some of the jazz events going on in conjunction with the WCU Jazz Festival there are some open rehearsals and workshops going on all the way through Sunday April 15, 2012.  Go here for more details or contact Pavel at 828-227-3261.

Blackhawk Blues for North Buncombe Middle School Jazz Ensemble

A couple of weeks ago Mary Jo Sparrow, director of bands at North Buncombe Middle School, invited me to visit her students and give them a workshop on improvisation.  She specifically asked me to run them through an introduction to blues in the key of E flat, since they were working on a piece that included an improv section in those changes.  That afternoon, after finishing the clinic, I wrote out a simple blues head in E flat that I though would be playable by middle school music students.  Today I finally got around to scoring out that head for a middle school jazz band.  I call it Blackhawk Blues, after the North Buncombe Middle School mascot.  Here’s a MIDI realization.

[audio:|titles=Blackhawk Blues]

As always, you have to use your imagination when listening to a computer play back music written for live musicians.  Usually I like to stick a Band-in-a-Box generated solo as a placeholder for solo improv sections, but for this MIDI realization I intentionally left it out so that students could use it as a practice track.  If you want to download this MIDI realization right click here and select “download linked file” or whatever similar option you get.

Spit Valve Etiquette

Brass players get so used to working the spit valve that we tend to empty it willy-nilly without much thought about where and how to do it.  While I do want to point out that it’s really just mostly water and not something to freak out about (get over it, string players!), I’m not insensitive to the fact that we should follow some etiquette regarding how and where to use our “water keys.”

Fortunately, in most rehearsal and performance situations I find myself in this isn’t really an issue.  Auditoriums and rehearsal halls that regularly have brass performers in them are pretty much used to the little pools of spit, I mean, water in the brass sections.  As long as you’re not emptying them right where people will step, it’s not worth worrying about.  Be aware, though, that even just a little moisture can make a patch of floor slippery, so don’t empty your spit valve in areas where people are likely to be walking.

Trombonists, you will want to be aware of where your slide will be while playing and suggest to those woodwind players sitting in front of you that they may not want to put anything underneath.  A little bit of water will drip off of your spit valve as you play and whatever music, purse, case, etc. the players in front of you put down will likely be “christened” by your spit valve during the course of the rehearsal.

There are some halls where emptying your spit valve will be more of an issue.  A lot of the churches I perform at have carpeting down in the area where I sit and they are keen on keeping it looking nice with minimal effort.  The Land of the Sky Symphonic Band keeps a set of small towels that we take to performances so the brass players can throw them down on the ground and empty their spit valve onto them.  I keep a small towel in my trombone case for situations like this.  When I’m rehearsing at someone’s home I will either use my towel or sometimes just empty my spit into my case.  I wouldn’t intentionally spill a glass of water on someone’s floor, so I will go out of my way to avoid emptying my spit valve unless they specifically give me permission.

When performing in a solo situation, either in front of an ensemble or in a recital situation, I think it’s classy to not call too much attention to emptying out your spit.  I will turn slightly to the side and without any fuss empty my spit out behind me.  It’s more subtle and less distracting than unceremoniously blowing all the water out in full view of the audience, many who may not have any idea why you’re doing that.  This also has the benefit that it keeps the spit away from where most people are likely to walk, especially important if you’re sharing the recital with other performers who may slip on your puddle if you’re not careful.  Let alone the conductor, if you’re performing a concerto with an ensemble.

Beyond that, it’s mostly just a matter of being aware of your surroundings and being polite.  While I admit it’s fun to sometimes make fun of the string players and woodwind players aversions to the puddles we leave on the floor, they typically understand it’s part of the price we pay for playing the instrument we chose and will leave us alone about it as long as we keep it confined to our area.  Now can we please just get the woodwind players to start being more careful about where they leave their broken reeds and string players to quit spreading their rosin dust around?  Those are much more serious issues than a little water on the floor!

Asheville Jazz Orchestra at Highland Brewing Company April 13, 2012

Tomorrow evening, April 13, 2012, the Asheville Jazz Orchestra will be performing at the Highland Brewing Company from 6-8 PM.  The brewery is located at 12 Old Charlotte Highway, Suite H in Asheville, NC.  It can be a little tricky to find if you’ve never been there before.  After turning on Old Charlotte Highway take the second left at the guard shack, go up the hill and on to the end of the building.

Not only does Highland Brewing Company make some great beers, but they usually have local restaurants and caterers there with food, so you can grab a great meal while you’re there.  There is absolutely no cover charge for our show, so if you’re in Asheville this weekend you’ve got no excuse to come listen to the AJO play two sets of live big band jazz.


Guess the Embouchure Type – Giuliano Sommerhalder

I bookmarked this video of Swiss/Italian trumpet player Giuliano Sommerhalder playing Rafael Mendez’s virtuoso arrangement of Mexican Hat Dance a while back and have been meaning to do a “Guess the Embouchure Type” for a while now.  I don’t remember how I came across this video, so if you forwarded it to me my apologies for no credit.

At any rate, Sommerhalder is a very fine player and this video has a few places where you can get a good enough look at his chops to guess his embouchure type.  Take a look and see what you think.  My guess after the break.

Continue reading Guess the Embouchure Type – Giuliano Sommerhalder

Appreciating Jazz Part 10 – Cool Jazz

In the 1950s a number of jazz musicians began reacting to the hot approach of bebop and began toning down their music.  Taking their cue from Miles Davis’s album, The Birth of the Cool, many players began to perform and record in a similar approach, sometimes borrowing elements from classical music as well.  This podcast covers some of the most influential musicians of cool jazz.

You can download this podcast in the link below or by subscribing on iTunes.  You can also view all my available podcasts by going to my Podcasts page.


Land of the Sky Symphonic Band at the White Horse Black Mountain, April 7, 2012

Tomorrow evening, April 7, 2012, the Land of the Sky Symphonic Band will be performing a concert at the White Horse Black Mountain, beginning at 7:30 PM.  For this performance I’m sharing the podium with Dr. David Kirby, a long-time friend of the band.  Last night we performed a concert and were joined by students of Dr. Kirby’s at Pfieffer University.

If you’re in western North Carolina tomorrow night and would like to hear a fine concert band perform please come.  Be sure to say hello during intermission or after the performance!

Jazz Arranging Tutorial by Doug Bristol

Doug Bristol teaches music at Alabama State University.  He has also put together a nice tutorial on jazz arranging that can be accessed for free here.  It includes topics on the instrument ranges, voicings, various compositional techniques, harmony, and more.

It is designed to go along with the University of Northern Colorado Jazz Lab Band I’s compact disc, Alive XV: This One’s for Sandy.  While I don’t have this album (you can probably get it by contacting UNC’s School of Music, if it’s still available), you don’t need the audio examples to get a lot out of Bristol’s tutorial.  He has examples in notation for you to look at and excellent discussions of a variety of topics.  For example, here is what he has to say about using muted brass.

Many textural colors and shades can be created using muted brass. Many different types of mutes were created and used during the swing era. Still in common use today are the following: cup, straight, plunger, harmon, bucket, and sometimes the hat. For the latter two (bucket and hat), you are more likely to see written into the part “play into stand”, as a more convenient replacement. Have a musician friend demonstrate each of the various types of mutes and ask what to avoid when writing for them.

There are certain circumstances where mutes are essential. To help adjust balance problems, to blend better with flutes and clarinets, and to create special harmonic textures.

When writing muted parts, give the player ample time to take a mute out or put it in – especially trombonists. Mute changes should be clearly indicated in the parts – see example below. Use the term “Mute Out” not “Open”, because open could have a different meaning, such as a solo section in which the repeats are open ended.

His whole tutorial is worth poking around in more detail, so go check it out.