Welcome to Music Collective, an online blogging community of musicians. We strive to entertain and inform you, covering the gamut of musical specialties from music business to early music. Welcome, stay awhile, and feel free to join the discussion!
Posted by: Paula Brusky on: January 1, 2013
It is the time of year where people every where make “resolutions.” Resolutions are really just objectives in a sexier package. Most New Years resolutions fail because they are not accompanied by goals. A successful resolution will be accompanied by SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. This is the goal setting process. Goals are the small things you can actually act on to reach a wider objective. A well considered objective will have numerous goals that when completed will accomplished the objective. Objectives are BIG where as goals are the small pieces that make the objective happen.
Successful Musicians are really good at setting SMART goals. Every time you walk into a practice room your goals should support your underlying objective of becoming the best performer you can be.
In business, setting realistic objectives with strategic goals is critical to success. In the first few years of a business it may be very difficult to measure the success of your objectives but your goals should be able to show a clear success rate.
So how do you go about setting SMART goals? I like to start with my objective. What is the big long term thing I hope to accomplished. Then I break it down into small measurable steps that become my goals. The SMART outline below works for creating both the objective and the goals that will accomplish it, the biggest difference is how the objective is measured and the time frame that it is to be completed.
Specific: When setting a goal you need to address the five Ws as clearly as possible.
Measurable: A good goal is able to be quantitatively measured. So make sure that when creating the goal you also create how success will be evaluated. By completing the goals you should be able to see progress towards the overlying objective.
Attainable: You must be able to successfully accomplish the goal. That may mean making a smaller goal that sets you up to take tackle the next goal. If your goal is unattainable it cannot be accomplished so it will not further you towards your object and, more importantly, by failing at completing it you will feel worse about yourself which will make your other goals harder to complete.
Realistic: You must be willing and able to work towards this goal. This needs to be carefully balanced with attainable. Sometime you do your best work when you reach a little higher than you thought possible but really wanted it so you worked for it. That’s a realistic goal; if no matter how hard you work you couldn’t complete the goal that is what makes it unattainable. Consider the difference between these to and make sure every goal is both.
Timely: a goal won’t get done without a timeframe. Set a specific deadline that is also realistic.
Posted by: jdunnavant on: November 27, 2012
For the past six months, I have done all of my practicing and performing on Baroque flute and recorder. My university flute students are traverso students, and all of my gigs since July have been on my wooden flutes. (I counted them up—it’s no fewer than ten performances since August. It explains why I feel so tired with Christmas coming on!)
Well, things are about to change. I still have gigs and students and will be playing Baroque flute and recorder nearly every day, but now, I have to get back in silver-flute shape for several upcoming recitals and conference performances. People, my goose is cooked!
I usually refer to myself as an accidental Baroque flutist. I love it to death, but I didn’t plan on this happening when I was in school, and, like everyone else, playing the French book and modern sonatas and trying to learn the Berio Sequenza. Somehow, opportunity and aptitude conspired against me, and here I am—in a place where a Baroque flute feels more natural in my hands than the old silver Muramatsu I bought from my flute teacher as an undergrad in 1997. Incidentally, I routinely play much fancier and more expensive Boehm flutes and, like a true plugger, I sort of grunt smugly and give the fancy flutes back, because I love the light action and the weight of that same old flute. I’ve only touched one I would trade that old Muramatsu in for—it was an Altus…maybe a 1507? But I digress!
I have never taken a six-month break from really practicing my modern flute before this fall, but for the past six months, I have only been playing it in flute lessons and the odd rehearsal for a recital I’m giving in April. I wouldn’t call this a plan. I just had too much music to learn for other concerts, and none of it involved a flute with lots of keys. Last weekend, over the Thanksgiving break, I cleaned up the stacks of sheet music surrounding my music stand and made a nice, organized pile of the rep that’s coming up. (Gulp…) Then I got down my old, battered Taffanel and Gaubert and a book of Andersen etudes. I pulled out my old friend and got about the business of reconnecting with it.
I am really stymied by how alien it feels, here in the first week of playing for myself, rather than simply to demonstrate to students. It is so heavy! The keys make me feel so disconnected from the music! My face, arms and wrists are struggling to get used to the weight and heft of my metal flute. Oddly enough, my hands and fingers are having no problem. I’ll be fine—just give me another week or so of daily fundamentals, and I’ll find myself again. I’m writing this post simply because…well, I’m not sure. I guess because it’s such an ironic moment in my musical life! The first time I learned to play Baroque flute, in undergrad, I enjoyed it but did not connect to it in any way that would suggest this turn of events. Even in grad school, playing in Florida State’s Baroque ensemble, really taking to it, loving the Baroque friends I made, I still expected a much more traditional performing life and career path. Yet here we are.
I’m enjoying this process of reconnection. I think it’s probably like meeting a friend you haven’t seen in a long time, or like rediscovering your attraction to your mate in the middle of a long marriage. By the time I am standing on stage, ready to play the Doppler, Mozart, Faure, and, God help me, Franck (NOT all on the same recital!), I will feel as connected to my modern flute as I do to my Baroque flute. In the meantime, I’ll be the one playing T&G slowly and with great concentration, wandering along and finding my way.
Posted by: jdunnavant on: November 4, 2012
One of my very best flute students came to her lesson with tears in her eyes a few weeks ago. They’d had their monthly chair placement test in her school band that day, and horror of horrors, she fell from first chair to third. She was sure that her flute-playing life was over. Who would ever let a pitiful third chair flute player do anything? After we talked for while, she was beginning to dry up, to smile, and to admit that the two girls who were sitting above her, one of whom is her best friend, are also very good musicians, and that you can really put up with anything for a month.
Anyone who has been a musician for more than ten minutes has probably faced some rejection. It is my strong personal opinion that people who claim they’ve never been rejected from anything will lie about other things, too. In eighth grade, you might lose face, lose your chair in band, even lose a solo, but as an adult, rejection is much scarier. You can lose your livelihood, your security and benefits, your reputation–all things we need to keep a roof over our heads and the wolf away from our doors.
I really don’t have an answer to the central question I’m asking in this post, which is this: how do we do it? It takes a lot of courage to allow yourself to be vulnerable by trying again after facing strong rejection, and still, we do it every day. When young friends who have just finished school talk about keeping a file of their rejection letters, I always have to laugh a little–when do you stop keeping count? I did that, too, when I was ABD and first applying for jobs. I think we all do! At some point, it ceases to matter. Is that because of a rise in self-confidence, or because eventually, you get a job, or just stop caring?
Any normal person (read, not an artist/musician/creative type) would not put up with the amount of NO that we all experience. NO, there’s not money for that project. NO, you’re just not the one we’re looking for. NO, you can’t have that chair, that office, that travel money, that grant, that commission…you know what I’m talking about. What drives us through such resistance? This is the part I don’t really have an answer for–I just don’t know. We must all be some kind of crazy! (Or some kind of dedicated, some kind of inspired, some kind of emotionally involved and attached to our music…)
As the weeks have passed and the next chair test looms closer, my student has learned a lot by sitting third chair. She has learned about practicing more efficiently, and I challenged her to use her third chair time to learn to listen more specifically and creatively to what’s going on in other sections of the band. I can’t begin to speculate what chair she’ll get next time, and honestly, I don’t care much, as long as she’s happy and playing and enjoying band. Maybe that’s the answer right there–the simple practice of our art makes us happy, productive and peaceful, even in the face of a world full of NO–happy enough that we’ll let ourselves be knocked down, only to pop back up and keep fighting for the chance to create something beautiful.
Posted by: Paula Brusky on: October 10, 2012
One of the goals in business is to always give the customer the same fantastic experience. Consistency of your product is the aim. That’s how you build a solid brand and repeat customers. In music, being a consistent player gets you work. So where and how is consistency taught?
As a Professor, I strive to be very clear with my students of the goals and requirements for success in my classes, then I follow through and exhibit consistency where appropriate. I’m absolutely SHOCKED at how this surprises them. For example, this week an assignment was due. My policy is to submit it online via the dropbox for the class by 10am on the day it is due. At 10am the dropbox closes and there are NO late submissions. If you miss the deadline, you get a zero. Why? Because in real life there are absolute deadlines that you need to meet. This policy is stated in the first class, in the syllabus, and the students are reminded of the 10am deadline multiple times. So 10am came and went on the due date and I get an email at 10:10 from a student who wants to submit via email late and receive partial credit. I politely respond, “I’m sorry but my policy clearly states that I do not accept any late work so I cannot give you partial credit for a late submission.” The student writes back, “I was aware of the policy but didn’t want to drop your class over it as I hadn’t experienced that practice with my actual professors…”
Ok, so “actual professor” comment aside, last I checked I was one….the student KNEW the policy but figured I wouldn’t actually enforce it because others in the past have not enforced policy and were inconsistent. Hopefully my being consistent and standing by the policy has taught the student to meet deadlines. But I wonder, since the student dropped my class instead, if the message is getting through. How can we teach the younger generation to be consistent when it isn’t being exhibited by everyone they come in contact with? How often in a day do you say you’ll do something and fail to follow through? Is consistency a trait that we desire in our businesses but fail to exhibit in our educational and personal lives?
Posted by: bwalters on: October 2, 2012
The last few months have brought a world of change to my small little corner of the world. The passing of Spring to Summer accompanied my completion of doctoral studies and eventual graduation from the University of Georgia. Unfortunately the Spring-time job search was less than fruitful and after consulting with the family we decided to make a small change and move to a new residence for the upcoming school year, thus stabilizing the kids for the next year. Summer brought vacations (a trip to Minnesota) and a gymnastics camp for my eldest child (and a trip to New York City for me) and some unexpected excitement in the form of a job offer. The offer came a small two-year institution here in Georgia to teach music appreciation- I accepted of course! Further excitement came when a former classmate received and accepted a job offer from a school in his home town in Wyoming. Because of our close association and shared pedagogical background he graciously paved the way for me to take over his private teaching studios in the NE suburbs of Atlanta – for which I (and my bank account) am very grateful. So, you might be asking yourself, what does all this have to do with the saxophone and the years 1870-1942? Allow me to continue the story.
Over the past few weeks one of my “inherited” students has been applying for the Governor’s Honors Program here in Georgia. A part of the application process involved answering a questionnaire related to the student’s particular instrument (as well as some personal questions). The student (who has since made it into the second round!) asked me to look it over in order to make improvements. Most of the questions were somewhat innocuous, except one – “Why is the saxophone not in the orchestra?”
This really got me going! At last, I could unleash upon the educators in Georgia (and the World) all that I knew about the saxophone and all things related to it – because I was a doctor now and had the diploma to back it up! So, after several failed attempts at writing something concise and hitting the delete button and Ctrl-Z for what seemed an eternity I stepped back from the keyboard to gather my thoughts. Below the surface of this seemingly benign question there seemed to be a multitude of others needing to be answered; all of which could not be included on his questionnaire nor here. However, I will attempt to put forth a few initial thoughts on subject with the intent of expanding on them further, hopefully in the form of an article.
At roughly 174 years old, the saxophone is the new kid on the musical block (not withstanding the advent of all manner of electronics). From its creation it was intended to be a member of two distinct musical organizations – the French Military Band and the wind section of the modern symphony orchestra – evidenced by Sax’s creation of two distinct sets of instruments ranging from soprano through bass - the orchestral set in alternating keys of C and F and the military band set in alternating keys of B-flat and E-flat. The set pitched in C/F has since fallen out of use and production due to a multitude of factors too numerous to discuss at this time.
Throughout history there has always been a period of adaptation after an instrument was invented where performers/composers/teachers “sought its true voice and musical function and developed players capable of expressing artistry.”1 Thus is the case with the saxophone, however, there is a period of some seventy years where the instrument received no widespread pedagogical advancement – no development of artist level teachers or performers and no artist level contact with significant composers of the time (until the early 20th century). This period, 1870-1942, is what I refer to as the “Lost Years.” Many of my saxophone associates understand the significance of these dates, but for the rest, let me clarify.
In 1857, Adolphe Sax (the inventor of the saxophone) was appointed as the first saxophone teacher at the famed Paris Conservatory. His primary role was to teach the intricacies of this new instrument to performers who would eventually fill the saxophone positions in the expanding French Military Band system – an organization that Sax himself had helped to realize a standardized instrumentation. However, in 1870/1 due to the French government’s financial difficulties brought on by the Franco-Prussian War the class was disbanded.
The saxophone would not be taught at the Conservatory again for another 70 years until in 1942, at the direction of Claude Delvincourt (director of the conservatory), the saxophone class was reinstated under the direction of the emerging saxophone virtuoso Marcel Mule. Mule is considered the father of modern saxophone performance and pedagogy (sometimes referred to as the French school of saxophone) . Mule taught students from around the world who would bring his performance and teaching style to some of the most prestigious musical institutions – Frederick Hemke at Northwestern University, Eugene Rousseau at Indiana University, Daniel Deffayet who succeeded Mule at the Conservatory, and Claude Delangle who followed Deffayet and currently teaches at the Conservatory. Mule’s influence is also felt through the numerous works dedicated to and commissioned by him. Thus securing a future for the instrument as a concert instrument and not just a vagabond of the various popular idioms (vaudeville, jazz, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, etc.) of music history.
I have chosen to focus on the saxophone’s absence from the Conservatory during this 70-year period, because as you may know, Paris has been one of the two main musical centers for much of the history of Western Music – Vienna as the second. I am in no way suggesting that anything that occurred outside the walls of the Conservatory as without merit, as there are numerous talented saxophone performers that emerged during this 70 year period - Edouard Lefèbre (1834-1911), Jean Moeremans (?-1937), Benjamin Vereecken, H. Benne Henton (1867-1938), Jascha Gurewich (1896-1938), Elise Hall (1853-1924), Rudy Wiedoeft (1893-1940). 2
However, these individuals achieved much of their success through their own self study or by studying with other wind instrumentalists – not through an established idiomatic pedagogy. I will discuss the historical implications (and possibly an “alternate” history for the saxophone) in later posts. Thanks for reading and please come back.
1. Jean-Marie Londeix and Bruce Ronkin, A Comprehensive Guide to the Saxophone Repertoire, 1844-2003, 1st ed. (Cherry Hill, NJ: Roncorp, 2003), p. iv-v.
2. Richard Ingham, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Saxophone (St. Andrews, Scotland, University of St Andrews, 1999).
Posted by: Paula Brusky on: September 13, 2012
With the school year starting I now have my full time university teaching position to juggle between my two business and performing life. I’ve gotten a lot of people asking me how I manage. There are a bunch of little things I do to meet the demands of my strenuous career.
First off, I constantly remind myself that everyone is busy. Society has become this busy stressful place where every single person is busy. Yes, even the person who works a stress free 8 hours a day and then goes home to their worn-out couch is as busy as they feel they can handle. So when someone tells you about how busy they are, accept that maybe by your life standards they don’t even understand the meaning of the word, but that they have reached their maximum point and feel just as busy as you do.
Then I do a whole bunch of little things to manage my life more efficiently:
Finally, remember that life is’t about how busy you are. Life is about the moments when you aren’t busy that you get to enjoy things. Make sure you make time for that. In the second week of classes, I’m stressed. But last night I was in a decent spot with work and was planning on working ahead on next weeks powerpoints. Instead, I took the time out to play 9 holes of golf with my dad. It was a gorgeous night for it. I even hit the ball well (unusual!) Now today, instead of feeling burnt out and tired I feel happy and excited about the classes I’m going to teach and all the other things I have to get done. Taking time to take care of yourself is just as important as all your commitments. Make sure you remember to make time in your busy life for you.
Posted by: jdunnavant on: August 2, 2012
Yesterday, I spent the afternoon in a marching band flute sectional with a bunch of my favorite high school students. They are perky, peppy and hard working, and they smell like sparkles and sunshine, even when they’ve been out in the unbelievable late summer heat. In other words, they’re flute players.
They’ve been at it for about two weeks now, and for the freshmen, the honeymoon is over. Marching band is fun and all, but at this school, the music is difficult, and it’s just so sweaty!
We were going over the same passage, over and over, slowly, with practice rhythms, all together and in smaller groups, and I could see that they were starting to melt down. I quoted Yoda to one of them–yes, Yoda–”There is no try–only do!”
When we stopped laughing, I looked around at the older students and asked them this: “Your freshman year, was there a point when you were pretty sure you wouldn’t be able to do this?”
They all said yes, and then a beautiful thing happened. Those older girls began to mentor the younger ones, offering tips on how to practice, support and pep talks about how much fun it will be once they get into their competition season, and just generally boosting them up. I’m still concerned that a couple of the younger kids will give up, but probably that won’t happen today.
It’s always easier to quit. It’s easier to give up, to stop expecting more from yourself, to just be what you are right now. It’s easier, but not more valuable. When things get hard, we find out what we’re made of. When you have to walk, remember music, play your flute and also remember drill and be part of a large team, all at the same time, you find out what you’re made of. I think it’s exciting, because almost always, we will exceed our expectations for success with just a minimum of effort, but the effort must be made. Who are these freshmen going to be? I don’t know yet, but I can’t wait to find out. Watching this new team be born out of old relationships and new ones, again, is a beautiful thing. Is marching band terribly important in the grand scheme of anyone’s life? No. But the lessons these students learn by pushing themselves through it will serve them over their lives. This won’t be the last time something in their lives is difficult, inconvenient and sweaty, or the last time they have to multi-task, compete, or live up to a high level of expectation. Here’s hoping for all of them that they’re up to the challenge of besting themselves!
Posted by: Paula Brusky on: July 29, 2012
Every business knows that advertising can be a big asset in recruiting new customers. But with so many choices it is really easy to waste money on advertising avenues that won’t produce customers. So figure out the following before making any advertising decisions:
Once you have a basic idea of the above questions, brain storm every advertising method possible that will reach your target market. Where do they go? How can you get your message to them? Be creative in this brainstorm. Sometimes you can come up with unconventional ways to reach your target audience that will save you a lot in advertising expense.
After making a list and contacting the appropriate people at each option to find out the actual cost, look at your budget and decide which are your best options. I personally prefer to have a multi-tiered advertising plan. Instead of putting all my funds into one option I try to have at least 3 different methods of advertising in practice.
Traditional advertising is great, but with all the noise in the market you need to have a solid message to share that is consistent. That is where branding comes in. To properly brand your product, pick ONE thing and go for it. For example, FedEx is known for overnight delivery. That is their brand. They have let the consumer know over and over that they are THE place for overnight delivery. If they also told the consumer that they do cheap shipping and shipping odd shapes, would the message be as clear? NO. Pick one specific thing that separates you and shape your advertising message around it.
And of course, make sure you have paid attention to google. The internet is extremely important for getting new customers. If someone searches for your type of service online, will they find you? What if they are using a smart phone? What about on the map services on their phone or computer or GPS?
Finally, don’t forget the obvious. If you own a traditional brick and mortar music business don’t forget to have your hours listed on the door! People still stop by randomly and they need to know how and when to reach you.
Posted by: dhaslam on: June 25, 2012
Earlier this year I ran my first half marathon. At the same time I was training to run, I was preparing repertoire for one full solo Art Song recital and two shared recitals, with very little overlapping repertoire, all of which took place within the space of two months. I found that there was a lot in common between my two disciplines and it was interesting to compare the training for these two ‘marathons’. Here are a few tips I’d like to share:
1. Commit to the training.
Whatever you are training for, there is no getting away with less than full commitment to practice. In running, you find a good training program and follow it. In recital preparation, you need to create your own practice discipline, a daily routine, so you learn the pieces thoroughly well in advance of the show and keep your voice in shape to be able to accomplish the task. You may want to set yourself a deadline for memorization – no later than two weeks out from the performance, since it is important to give your memory ‘practice’ as well as your technique and your performance.
2. Watch the breath.
It seems such a cliché to talk – once again – about the breath, but, as I tell my students, we always have to come back to the breath, check up on it, and regularly observe what it is doing. The breath is your guide to what is going wrong, and also your path to fix virtually every problem. In running, just by paying it some attention, encouraging it to be deeper, the breath will begin to calm and make your run smoother and easier. In singing, finding the right rhythm and depth of breath and connecting to its energy will be the path to freeing the voice and thus taking full control of the sound.
3. Pace yourself.
Both the preparation and the race itself take careful pacing for the runner. Whether at the beginning of your training program, or at the beginning of your race, one of the most important things to do is begin slowly. Give your body a chance to adjust to the demands, a time to warm up. This is not what you will want to do instinctively: in training you may want to run too far too soon and risk injury; at the beginning of a race you are full of energy and may want to rush out of the gate at full throttle. Bad idea! Both strategies will risk your ability to fulfill your goal. When practicing a song or aria, the temptation is to try and put the whole thing together right away, sing the difficult passages perfectly from the beginning. But it takes patience and slow practice to get it all to work as you want it to, so don’t rush things. A recital also takes careful pacing in preparation and performance: always begin (practice or performance) with songs that are not too demanding, that you feel very comfortable with – save the fireworks for later.
4. Allow yourself to coast on the downhill sections.
Hard work and effort have their place in both running and singing, but you have to understand when these things are appropriate: knowing when to back off and let things flow can be the difference between success and failure. If you are aiming for a fast pace in a race, you may be tempted to push things on the easier (downhill) sections of the course. Avoid the temptation. Instead of working harder to gain a second or two, let gravity or your own easy rhythm carry you through and give you a sense of ease and even ‘rest’. Saving energy like this will give you a greater return in the difficult sections of the course (like the hills) than you can ever gain from the downhill push. Preparing for a recital, you will have to carefully determine the section, phrase, or even individual notes where you can let your breath ‘coast’, but doing so will save you stamina (and breath) for the difficult passages or songs and even give you better control overall. When planning your program, then, as well as beginning with a ‘warm up’, you should also plan a few easier (‘downhill’) songs to insert now and again, so you allow yourself the moments to recharge your energy for the ‘big’ numbers.
5. Pay attention to the details and observe your body.
We have to be very aware of observing details of our form, both in running and singing. The easiest way to injury is to shrug off a recurring pain caused by a less than fluid gait for the runner; the quickest route to creating a long term vocal problem for a singer is ignoring discomfort or tension in the throat (or elsewhere). Avoiding problems comes from acute awareness – at all times.
6. See the big picture.
As a runner, I find it much easier to think of running, say, for two hours, than of running thirteen miles. If I think in miles, I find myself ticking off every mile, and each one seems to be longer than the one before! Whereas if I’ve told my body, “OK we’re going to be doing this for the next 2 hours, get used to it!” I seem to be able to settle down quicker and have more stamina at the end. In a recital, ‘the big picture’ can include visualizing the whole song, rather than just the note or phrase you are about to sing, or it might be riding the wave of the recital program as a whole, feeling the overall shape. At certain moments it is vital to allow the right brain to take over, and leave the details to your instinct, trusting your thorough preparation to guide you through.
7. Watch your nutrition.
Running magazines are full of advice about what to eat and drink before, during, and after a race – for good reason, since you have to have the right fuel to drive the engine. The singer should not underestimate the importance of food and drink either. We have to think about nutrition several days ahead of a big performance to make sure we stay well hydrated and don’t over stimulate that nasty mucus that always seems to be threatening to sabotage our voices! Do some research to find out how to best prepare your body for the big day.
8. Play the crowd.
When we practice running or singing, we tend to do so alone. Maybe with a partner or accompanist, but generally we don’t have an audience. In a race or performance, however, we are suddenly confronted with lots of people. As a runner, this means a lot of other people running with you. Finding myself in my first serious race, I tried to allow the crowd to ‘carry me’, helping me to run a little faster than usual. This is a more winning strategy than focusing on ‘beating’ them, which can set you up to run too fast too soon and use up energy pushing yourself to pass. In recital or concert the way you deal with the audience is the key to success. Allow yourself to ‘feel’ the energy of the audience and use it to adjust how you communicate with them. Remind yourself that there is give and take going on, and you need to stay in touch with your listeners. Pretending the audience isn’t there, or are all stuffed dummies (as I’ve heard suggested) will do nothing to help your nerves or your performance. Don’t disconnect your lines of communication. Your audience will help, feed, and encourage you, if you only stay connected to them.
Of course you don’t have to run marathons to be a good singer. But keeping fit is highly beneficial, and your experience with physical training programs can certainly help inform your discipline as a musician. So now, in the words of the famous commercial – Just do it!