Weekend Gigs

I’ve got a few gigs coming up these next few days, so technically these span across into weekdays as well. Tonight, October 29, 2015, I’m performing with the Gamblers at the Halloween Ball at Eleven on Grove in downtown Asheville, NC. If you’re a swing dancer, the music starts at 9 PM. If you’re not a dancer, lindy hop lessons start at 7:30.

Tomorrow and Saturday nights, October 30 and 31, I’m going to be performing at the Atlanta Varsity Showdown with the Gamblers and the Low-Down Sires. This is a huge swing dance event with classes, competitions, and live music. The dances I’m playing both start at 9:00 PM. I will have some downtime on Saturday morning and afternoon, in case you live in the area and wanted to catch a lesson. Please contact me to schedule.

Sunday, November 1, 2015, I will be conducting the Smoky Mountain Brass Band in concert at Spruce Pine United Methodist Church in Spruce Pine, NC. We will perform a variety of British-style brass band music, including something for All Saints Day. The concert starts at 3 PM.

Finally, on Monday November 2, 2015 I will be back with the Low-Down Sires performing at our weekly Speakeasy night at Twisted Laurel, downtown Asheville, NC. There is a free dance lesson starting at 9 and the live music starts at 9:30.

If you are in Atlanta this weekend or western North Carolina tonight, Sunday, or Monday, consider coming out to support live music. Please be sure to say hello to me after the show!

Getting Paid To Play (or write)

In the past I’ve been very open to allowing folks to repost or translate my blog articles on their own sites or newsletters, as long as they include a link back to the original site. I figured that my main purpose is to get quality information out to people and allowing this is a good way to increase my internet footprint. After reading through a post by Will Wheaton concerning a very similar topic, I’m beginning to rethink my policy a bit. Wheaton was asked by a prominent blog if they could reprint one of his articles.

Huffington Post has a lot of views, and reaches a pretty big audience, and that post is something I’d love to share with more people, so I told the editor that I was intrigued, and asked what they pay contributors.

Well, it turns out that, “Unfortunately, we’re unable to financially compensate our bloggers at this time. Most bloggers find value in the unique platform and reach our site provides, but we completely understand if that makes blogging with us impossible.”

This is not too far off from the restaurant that wants a band to come in and play for their customers for “exposure.” I tend to avoid these gigs myself and typically encourage student musicians to avoid those as well. When too many musicians start accepting these deals then too many venues begin to expect that paying professional musicians is optional. I’m sure restaurants pay their chefs, shouldn’t musicians get the same deal?

The difficulty here is that I am already giving away my writing for free, so why not go a little further just to reach a bigger audience. It’s a tough call and it seems that, at least at this time, it’s one I will have to make on a case by case basis. Those folks who have asked me for permission and linked back to me have so far been mutually beneficial, since it has increased traffic to my site and allowed me to reach a bigger audience. At some point, however, I may have to start saying no and insist on some sort of renumeration.

The Music of Chicago

I’ll be performing tonight (Thursday, October 15, 2015) through Sunday (October 18, 2015) at the Hendersonville theater of the Flat Rock Playhouse. When I was asked to play “Chicago,” I assumed it was the musical theater production. It turned out that it’s the music from the band Chicago, a pleasant surprise. I’ve always loved their music and feel a certain connection to the original band who mostly all met at one of my alma maters, DePaul University.

The Music of Chicago will feature some of my favorite Chicago tunes, including BeginningsMake Me Smile, and Question 67 and 68. If you’re in western North Carolina this weekend looking for some live music, come check it out.

Weekend Gigs

I’ve got some public performances coming up this weekend. If you’re around any of these areas looking for live music, please come on out to one of these shows.

Tonight (Friday, October 9, 2015) I’ll be performing with the Greenville Jazz Collective Big Band at the Fall For Greenville. We’ll be playing at the Furman stage, located in the courtyard right in front of the Peace Center at the intersection of Broad and Main streets.  The address is approximately 300 S. Main Street, Greenville 29601. Our set is from 5 PM to 6 PM. I believe this is a free performance.

Tomorrow afternoon (Saturday, October 10, 2015) I’ll be playing salsa with Montuno at Asheville’s Fiesta Latina from 12:30 PM – 1:15 PM. We are performing at the outdoor pavilion next to Pack Square. This is also a free performance.

While technically not the weekend, Mondays are the new Saturdays at the Twisted Laurel, downtown Asheville, NC, when they are hosting their weekly Speakeasy Night. I perform there every Monday night from 9:30 PM to 11:30 PM with the Low-Down Sires. There is a free swing dance lesson that starts at 9 PM, followed by our sets.

If you do make it to one of these shows please come up and say hello to me afterwards or during one of the set breaks.

Rehearsal Etiquette

Here’s another list of rehearsal etiquette, mainly geared towards the orchestral string player, but as always, much of what is in there applies to all musicians and in any rehearsal situation. Some of my favorites:

Arrive early—at least 15 minutes early, or with enough time to both get your instrument out and warm up. There is nothing more awkward than shuffling through a crowd of seated musicians in the middle of Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn. If you are late (it happens), try to avoid taking your seat while the musicians are playing; if you can, wait for an appropriate break in the action to slip in.

And I would like to add that you absolutely must be there early for the gig. As a band leader, I am frequently frustrated when I ask musicians to be ready for a sound check at a particular time and folks are still arriving and getting their stuff in order when it’s time to start. Often the sound check is the only chance one of my groups will get to “rehearse” a chart before the gig (we sight read on the show a lot). I don’t want the audience to hear the “sausage being made” because we’re still trying to get the mic levels set and practice that tricky passage before the show.

Bring a pencil. This one gets its own paragraph. Attending rehearsal without a pencil is like sitting through a university lecture without a taking notes. Even if you think you’ll be able to remember every direction the conductor gives, every dynamic change, every cut, and every ritardando, really, you probably won’t. Keep a couple pencils in your instrument case so they’re always on hand.

And use it. Often times I hear musicians, particularly student musicians, tell me they already know what I asked them to mark. Or sometimes they tell me they are confident they will remember. That may be true, but we all have mental lapses and it’s best to be safe than sorry. And if that doesn’t convince you to properly mark you music, consider that sometimes players have issues that require a sub to play a rehearsal or performance for them. If your music isn’t clearly and cleanly marked your sub will not have a chance. Be prepared.

Leave your arrogance at home. Members of the orchestra are all equal; everyone is contributing. Don’t gloat if you have a solo, and don’t bust out personal solo concertos and performances pieces just to show off. Everyone will be more annoyed than impressed. Also, don’t practice another orchestra member’s solo to demonstrate that you can play it better.

This goes to jazz rehearsals too. I don’t feel it’s cool to jam on someone else’s changes between charts and show off how hip you are. It’s also rude to hog solos. By all means, if you’re not blowing many solos on the gig and want a chance speak up at the rehearsal and ask for one if something gets opened up. Sometimes the band leader will be receptive if you jump up and blow a chorus when it’s not specifically asked for in the chart or fill in behind the vocalist, etc., but remember that other folks like to solo too and if you’re already blowing a lot on a gig or rehearsal that those times are better for giving other folks a taste.

Check out more common sense, but often overlooked, advice for how to behave in orchestra rehearsals here.

Rise of the Synthesizer

Did you know that the early synthesizers weren’t really intended for rock music, but classical? How did synthesizers become ubiquitous with rock music, then?

In the summer of 1970, after popping into a pub for a pint, rock keyboardist Keith Emerson sat down at his enormous Moog modular synthesizer in London’s legendary Advision recording studio and noodled a few improvised notes. His goal was to add some electronic punch to the end of a mostly acoustic-guitar number called “Lucky Man,” written by his singer-guitarist bandmate, Greg Lake. As his fingers ran up and down the synthesizer’s keyboard, Emerson played along to the bass, drums, vocals, and guitars already recorded by Lake and drummer Carl Palmer. . .

Emerson would later say he was just fooling around, and that he definitely did not expect his first take to be his last, but Lake and sound engineer Eddie Offord liked what they heard so much, they deemed Emerson’s work on “Lucky Man” done.

Learn more about the Rise of the Synthesizers over at Collectors Weekly.

What Can a Japanese Pasta Chef Teach You About Jazz?

I continue to be very busy lately between teaching and gigging, so apologies for letting things be so “dark” around here. Tonight (Saturday, September 26, 2015) I’ll be performing at the Kinston Ballroom in Knoxville, TN for the Knoxville Lindy Exchange with the Gamble/Wilson Swing Orchestra. I really enjoy playing with big bands and this one will be especially fun because I usually end up having to be the music director and deal with all the business stuff when I do big band gigs. This time I get to be a sideman and just enjoy playing.

In the mean time, a bassist who grew up in New Jersey and New York went on tour to Japan and learned how to play jazz from a Japanese pasta chef.

The chef’s name was Toshiaki Yanase, and cooking pasta wasn’t even his main gig; he also ran a small fruit stand! His life story, and his dishes ended up being symbolic to much of what I experienced in the country, and drew some interesting parallels to improving in music. I was on tour with a wonderful Japanese pianist named Yuki Futami. And while traveling throughout the country, inspiring encounters like these were all too common-some directly related to music, and others like in the case with Toshi, perhaps a bit more metaphorical. I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned during my stay.

Weekend Gigs

Low-Down Sires LogoI’ve got some public gigs coming up this weekend, if you’re in the areas. Tomorrow night, Friday September 11, 2015, I will be performing with the Low-Down Sires at the White Horse Black Mountain, in Black Mountain, NC. The White Horse is a great music venue with good acoustics and sound system and a comfortable environment for both listening and dancing. With this show we will probably be focusing more on the listening end of the spectrum to fit the typical audience there, but everything we play is also suitable for swing dancing, if you’re into that. The show starts at 8 pm.

Speaking of dancing, the Sires will be off to Durham, NC the next day, Saturday September 12, 2015, to perform for the Triangle Swing Dance Society’s dance at Murphey School. There’s a dance lesson at 7 PM and the dance starts at 8.

If you’re able to make one (or both!) of these shows please come say hello on one of our breaks.

Recent Happenings

In my business being too busy to do much blogging is a good thing. So in lieu of something more interesting today, here is a rundown of some of the various happenings around here.

The most exciting news for me is that I have taken on administrative duties with MusicWorks! Asheville, now serving both as a teaching artist and site administrator for the program. MusicWorks! is a El Sistema inspired program of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. I like to describe El Sistema as social activism through music education. We are a free, after-school music program that specifically targets at-risk children. Our goal is to teach them important life skills through teaching them music.

Tonight, Monday August 31, 2015, is the final night of the weekly Speakeasy Mondays series that have been held at the Dirty South Lounge in Asheville, NC. I’ve been performing there with the Low-Down Sires from 9 to midnight almost every Monday for the past three months. It’s been neat to see the event get built up from just a handful of swing dancing friends of the band into a pretty well-attended party. Andrew, the bartender who has managed the night, is moving on to bigger and better things so the Speakeasy Mondays will end after tonight. That said, it looks like the whole party may be moving to another venue and when it becomes official I’ll try to announce it here.

Lastly, some of you may have noticed the recent comments section here have been frequently in Japanese. That’s because Basil, an American horn player living in Japan, came across Wilktone and asked if it would be OK with me to translate some of my embouchure posts into Japanese for his readers. I, of course, said yes and he has been translating a storm. I’m excited about this because my main goal has been to make the information I’ve come across more accessible to more brass players and having my articles available in another language is a great way to introduce this research to a whole new population. I’ve gotten requests over the years to translate my articles and videos into Spanish and Portuguese especially, so if you speak one of those languages, or another, please let me know if you’re interested in taking on some translation.

Why Is Sheet Music Necessary For Music Education?

Robbie Gennet, a “songwriter, musician, educator and journalist,” tried to make the case that learning to read music notation is irrelevant for music education. His case is that none of the following musicians learned to read music:

All four Beatles. Elvis Presley. Jimi Hendrix. Jimmy Page. Eric Clapton. B.B. King. Stevie Ray Vaughan. The Bee Gees. Eddie Van Halen. Robert Johnson. Slash. Angus Young of AC/DC. Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine. Adam Jones of Tool. James Hetfield of Metallica. Danny Elfman. Stevie Wonder. Dave Brubeck. Andrea Bocelli. Wes Montgomery. Jimmy Smith. Charles Mingus. Erroll Garner. Irving Berlin. Chet Baker. Pete Townsend. Tori Amos. Jerry Garcia. Bob Dylan. Kurt Cobain. Taylor Swift. Bob Marley.

Many of the commenters on the article have already deconstructed Gennet’s argument and offered many strong reasons why learning to be musically literate is not only useful, but necessary in most musical professions. His rationalization is similar to saying one could become a great actor without learning to read a script. It’s certainly possible, but very limiting to learn your lines and communicate with your colleagues without being literate. Similarly, you will limit your musical abilities and possibilities if you eschew learning to read music. Gennet wrote:

As a musician, your ability in most live situations to quickly transpose a piece or adapt to sudden deviations is way more valuable than being locked to an inflexible script, as is your ability to stretch out and at times improvise.

He creates a false dichotomy here. Your ability to read notation has no bearing whatsoever on your abilities to adapt and improvise. While Gennet lists some exceptional jazz musicians in his list of musically illiterate musicians, by and large jazz musicians both work hard to be able to sight read and perform from sheet music as well as to improvise and deviate from the notation. They are two sides of the same coin, not two mutually exclusive skills. Many orchestral musicians, trumpet players for example, also work very hard to be able to transpose sheet music by sight as well. Learning to read notation is integral to this skill.

Furthermore, I call shenanigans on the list of musicians Gennet claims did not read music. As some of the commenters on his article have pointed out, many of those musicians had other folks in the background that were highly musically literate helping them out. The Beatles, for example, had George Martin notate parts for their recordings. Others, such as Charles Mingus, Danny Elfman, and Dave Brubeck may have not learned to sight read well, but certainly were musically literate.

I don’t know Gennet’s music or his musical literacy, however my suspicion is that his article will get used more as justification for musical illiteracy, rather than evidence that ear training, transposition, and improvisation are useful tools for creativity. Shame on Gennet, as a proclaimed educator, to rationalize illiteracy of any kind.