Failure is a part of life.
Now, I know that sounds bleak and discouraging, but it’s true. Whether it’s in the practice room, the classroom, on stage, or in daily life, it’s a part of our being.
I see it with my students every day and I also see it within myself: we are afraid to fail. We live in a society that praises success and shuns failure–failure is seen as something that we should avoid at all costs. But the truth of the matter is, we all fail at some point.
Failure is a great learning tool. Overcoming failure is what allows us to succeed. Take this as an example: we are preparing for a performance and there’s a passage in the music that we are not comfortable with. We practice it, over and over again, until we think we have learned it correctly. Then, in actual performance, when we come to this passage, we don’t play it correctly and make some mistake. This is a type of failure, albeit, a very small form of it. It teaches us to try a different strategy next time, to avoid the pitfalls that we stepped into.
The same is true of teaching. We don’t prepare well for a lesson and it shows in our performance. So the next time we prepare more intelligently, more diligently, to avoid these mishaps.
Failure is our way of learning how to become more successful, in whatever endeavors we pursue. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so afraid to fail–after all, it will make us stronger in the end.
My latest article about composer Stephen Dankner and his saxophone music is now available from thesaxophonist.org. I am posting a link to it here on my blog page for viewers to have access to it. It was a great experience getting to know Steve and perform some of his music. Saxophonists, if you haven’t looked into Steve’s music, you’re really missing out!
Since my first collegiate saxophone teacher, Dr. Laurence Wyman, refaced a mouthpiece for me back in early 1999, I’ve been fascinated with mouthpieces and how they work. I’ve read several papers and articles on the subject (including Wyman’s doctoral dissertation), and in the interim I’ve had several more mouthpieces refaced by him and others. Now I’m finally taking the plunge myself: I recently bought myself some tools to begin measuring and refacing mouthpieces on my own.
Armed with some knowledge and experience playing all the various sizes of saxophones, I’m hoping that I can turn this into an interesting and enjoyable project. My goal is to become as knowledgeable and proficient as Dr. Wyman and Joe Giardullo, both of whom have years of experience working on mouthpieces and whose work I admire.
I’ll be posting some pictures of my mouthpieces and measurements in the near future. Stay tuned!
Autumn is the busiest time of year for teachers and, as it turns out, for many musicians as well.
Since September, I’ve been playing in rehearsals and/or performances almost weekly, ranging from jazz to wind ensemble. This will continue until Christmas, when my last official concert of 2017 with the Hudson Valley Saxophone Orchestra takes place on December 17th.
January is also looking to be busy, with the Navy Saxophone Symposium on January 12-13. After that things will slow down a bit, but they will inevitably pick up again in the spring for musical productions and the NASA Biennial Conference.
I’m lucky to be as busy as I am, because I know of many musicians who are not so fortunate. Time to get practicing!
I’m starting a new chapter in my career next month as the new elementary music teacher in the Ellenville CSD. I’m very excited to get to work with young musicians and assist them in taking their musical skills to the next level. I’ll also be teaching some general music classes, in addition to band.
As far as my professional playing opportunities go, I will still be active with the Big Blue Big Band, the Swing Shift Orchestra, the New York Wind Symphony, and when needed, the Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra. I’d also like to perform a solo recital this year somewhere in the Hudson Valley.
I have some ideas for upcoming conferences, and if they materialize I’ll be sure to post them here.
The article project of this site is still in progress, and I hope to have my analyses uploaded shortly.
I have written a series of articles for Saxophone Today, a journal that just recently ceased publication due to financial constraints. Since these articles won’t be available once the online versions of the journal are taken down, I’m going to set up a page on my website that contains the articles I wrote for them. These will be in PDF format for ease of downloading. I will post the page and links for the articles soon.
This past Thursday I had the wonderful opportunity to meet one of my favorite composers, Stephen Dankner. I have corresponded with Steve since I began my doctoral studies in 2005, played some of his music (including his Sonata, Piano Quartet, Symphony), and have listened to several more of his works on CD and in live performance. It was great to finally meet him in person and converse for a few hours at his home in Massachusetts.
Steve’s Sonata was one of the first saxophone works I heard when I began my undergraduate degree at Fredonia (20 years ago already!), and I was completely blown away by it. Dr. Gwozdz, who would later become my teacher at Southern Miss, recorded the Sonata at Fredonia, and released it on CD. I remember sitting in my dorm room and listening to the Sonata repeatedly, following along with the score, completely captivated. Fast forward about nine years, and I’m now studying it with the person for whom it was written and performing it in recital. I sent Steve a copy of my program and a CD of the performance, exchanged a few emails, and did the same when I performed his Piano Quartet (which includes saxophone instead of viola) two years later.
Through a series of emails and conversations with Steve, we agreed to meet and discuss music, the saxophone, and anything else that came up. These conversations will serve as the basis for an article I will begin writing shortly about Steve and his music, specifically that for the saxophone. His admiration for our instrument is inspiring, and I hope to capture that in my prose. If you are not familiar with his music, please visit his website http://www.stephendankner.com/ and check it out. I hope that you will find it as enjoyable as I do.
I work hard. I always have.
To say that I’m persistent is an understatement. Anyone who knows me is aware that I put forth as much effort as possible, whether it be in the role of performer, teacher, or researcher. I don’t like giving up on something. Over the last few years, my mettle has been challenged by life situations and changing times. The academic climate is not as stable as it once was; the demand for regular performances has dwindled; families grow and change; teaching responsibilities become more demanding. I do my best to keep my head above water and to continue doing what I love — playing music.
I truly believe that hard work pays off. The only question is: when?
It has only been over the last few months in which I may have an answer to that question. I have had to accept (in a quite formal manner) that I am not getting any younger, and that some of the dreams and aspirations that I had when I was in my late teens and early twenties may have to remain exactly that: dreams. Along the way I have accomplished many things (degrees, dissertation, articles, recording, performances) and I am proud of them. I have realized and accepted that careers are made out of whatever opportunities I make for myself, and that I have complete control over them. My musical life is whatever I want to make of it — whether it’s solely teaching, or performing, or researching, or a combination of these endeavors.
In a recent conversation with a colleague, I mentioned the evolutionary process of musicians and how we are always constantly evolving and staying current. Just like in nature, if we refuse to adapt, eventually we will become obsolete and have no place in our world. Over the past eight years, I have adapted, slowly (to be sure), but adapted nevertheless to my changing musical roles. I am consciously embracing my adaptation to the musical world around me, and I will work to the best of my ability to be successful in it. There will be some stumbling along the way, sure — but from each setback, there will be personal growth from which to learn and implement new strategies.
I will meet these challenges head on and do what I do best — work hard to play music for as many people as possible.
Well, it’s certainly been quite some time since I last posted. I recently had the great opportunity to be interviewed for The Modern Saxophonist podcast by host Mark McArthur. I had such a great time getting to know Mark and discussing some of the things I’ve done over the past few years, including writing my dissertation, performing, teaching, and living in New York.
If you aren’t familiar with his podcast, definitely check it out! It’s available to download through iTunes, and you can follow it on both Facebook and Twitter. I’m looking forward to continue connecting with Mark, as well as listening to all of the other great saxophonists he has as guests on his show.
Here’s the link to the most recent episodes of the podcast:
Time to keep practicing!
I’m fortunate to know some really cool people in the saxophone world. One of them is Joe Giardullo, owner of Sopranoplanet.com. Joe doesn’t live far from me, and over the past few years I’ve gotten to know him and his mouthpiece work very well. If you play soprano saxophone and have issues with your mouthpiece, Joe is the guy to talk to.
He recently contacted me about trying out a new mouthpiece design that he is working on. I’m very excited to try out his prototype and see what it sounds like. I’ll post my thoughts after I get to try out his new mouthpiece.