Memoriam for Dr. David Kirby

My friend and colleague, Dr. David Kirby, passed away unexpectedly yesterday. David was the Director of Bands at Pfeiffer University and one of the finest woodwind players I have known. We had been collaborating on different projects recently. He and I co-conducted a concert combining the Land of the Sky Symphonic Band and Pfeiffer University Wind Ensemble last April. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember his name as one of the members of the Lenoir Saxophone Ensemble, a group I recently wrote a number of arrangements for.

Today I composed this short piece for saxophone trio: soprano, tenor, and bari. David played alto saxophone with the Lenoir Saxophone Ensemble. It’s simply called Memoriam.


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.

All Songs Considered On Owning Music

Emily White, an intern for NPR’s All Songs Consider, has sparked some controversy with her blog post I Never Owned Any Music To Begin With.

I am an avid music listener, concertgoer, and college radio DJ. My world is music-centric. I’ve only bought 15 CDs in my lifetime. Yet, my entire iTunes library exceeds 11,000 songs.

Like White, I tend to get my music as downloads these days, rather than physical CDs. Unlike White, I actually purchase that music. She seems to miss one of the points about purchasing music and thinks that when you download it through file sharing, that’s bad, but copying a physical CD you don’t own is just fine.

During my first semester at college, my music library more than tripled. I spent hours sitting on the floor of my college radio station, ripping music onto my laptop. The walls were lined with hundreds of albums sent by promo companies and labels to our station over the years.

David Lowery has a very thorough response.  The online debate continues at All Songs Considered.

What Teachers Really Want To Tell Parents (and Coaches and Administrators)

The article is a few years old, but the sentiment still holds true. Ron Clark, writing for CNN, tells parents what many of our teachers want to tell parents today. Here are a couple of examples.

 For starters, we are educators, not nannies. We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don’t fight it. Take it, and digest it in the same way you would consider advice from a doctor or lawyer.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, “Is that true?” Well, of course it’s true. I just told you. And please don’t ask whether a classmate can confirm what happened or whether another teacher might have been present. It only demeans teachers and weakens the partnership between teacher and parent.

Perhaps these situations are more reflections on a larger issue, that of American society’s mainstream beliefs about what it means to be a teacher. Mike Rose writes in his book, Why School? Reclaiming Education for All of Us, makes note of how many politicians and philanthropists do the “teacher for a day” photo-op.

 What is telling to me is that we don’t see this sort of thing with other professions. A presidential candidate tours a hospital, but isn’t a “urologist for a day.” A philanthropist visits a women’s shelter, but doesn’t lead a counseling session.

Parents today have a reputation for being so supportive to their children to the point of making excuses and insisting that teachers change grades or otherwise be more accommodating. These so-called “helicopter parents” have become such a large problem that some colleges and universities hold separate events for parents and students in order to keep parents from intervening in student activities. It’s even gotten to the point where human resource departments get contacted by parents of recent graduate job applicants.

Fortunately, I haven’t had too many problems with parents intervening with my students. I’ve only had three or four real problems, but a couple of them are interesting. In one case a new student auditioned for an ensemble I was directing that semester and didn’t make the group. His mother called me up to tell me how talented her son was and surely I just wasn’t capable of seeing that so put her son in the group. I tried to explain that while her son did have the abilities to perform with the group, it was an auditioned ensemble and an older and more experienced student beat her son for the chair, but he was welcome to audition again the next semester. She was having none of that and after hanging up on me called the department chair (who was supportive of me and dealt with it).

Returning to Clark’s article, he describes even worse situations.

I had a child cheat on a test, and his parents threatened to call a lawyer because I was labeling him a criminal. I know that sounds crazy, but principals all across the country are telling me that more and more lawyers are accompanying parents for school meetings dealing with their children.

I’ve caught students cheating before. While I’ve never had to deal with parents after this happens, I have had to defend my actions to coaches and administrators after the fact. I should say that my department chairs have always supported me when this happens, but a couple of the coaches seemed to expect me to cave and allow their student athletes more slack than I would any other student.

Clark finishes his article with good advice for parents (and coaches and administrators).

We know you love your children. We love them, too. We just ask — and beg of you — to trust us, support us and work with the system, not against it. We need you to have our backs, and we need you to give us the respect we deserve. Lift us up and make us feel appreciated, and we will work even harder to give your child the best education possible.

Stealing Like An Artist

Steal Like An Artist is a book by Austin Kleon.  I haven’t read it (yet), but I did enjoy looking through Kleon’s blog post covering ideas he wrote about in that book.  While Kleon is writing from the point of view of an author and visual artist, I find much of his advice to be helpful for composers and musical improvisers too.

Number 1 on his list, look at other works closely, take what you like and leave behind the rest. Continue reading Stealing Like An Artist