Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Buddy's War: #3- 1940- A World Falling Apart

This is part of a series that over two years will follow the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. I did this five years ago in the series Following the 10th Armored, but I have been doing more research and expanding the ideas. The beginning posts will set the stage for the events of 1944 and 1945 when he was in Europe as part of the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.
• January 1, 1940:
New Year and a lovely day. Dad, Harold, and I were alone for dinner. 3:30 Mabelle (sic) and Carl came and stopped for a few minutes.
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman
My entry into the World War II era was the diaries of my grandmother Beula. I never knew her. She died at age 72, six months before I was born. I had ignored them for years. They sat in a box in closets and attics and back rooms. I opened one or two once or twice but found them uninteresting. All she seemed to talk about was doing chores, cleaning, and visiting with friends. Opening them at random was no help. When I decided I wanted to get serious about this research, I started reading. They were a mini-treasure chest of information. Sprinkled with the mundane and daily were hints of the man I was looking for. The myth would become reality.

As Beula wrote in her diary of the daily life in her home, the world was in the early stages of an already deadly war. Two days into the New Year President Franklin Roosevelt would address Congress and set the stage for a later request of nearly $900 million for defense ($16 billion in 2018 dollars). He asked the Congress to approve increased national defense spending "based not on panic but on common sense" and "to levy sufficient additional taxes" to help pay for it. (Wikipedia, The officially neutral United States was getting as ready as possible for the day when we would enter the war - still nearly two years away! In the meantime Europe would continue to implode beneath the blitzkrieg tactics of the Nazis and the expansions of the Soviet Union. Some of the more famous first events of 1940 would be:
• British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin’s appeasement policy in ruins, Winston Churchill became PM.
• Unable to defeat the Nazis on the mainland of Europe, The British would stage the massive evacuation from Dunkirk
• Hitler and his troops would take Paris
• The Battle of Britain began with seemingly incessant bombing that would continue well into the war. London was bombed and the Blitz began.
• German Jews were ordered to wear yellow stars
• The Jews of Poland were ordered to move into the Warsaw Ghetto which two months later was cordoned off.
The United State was in the middle of a debate on isolationism. People like aviator Charles Lindberg and the US ambassador to Great Britain, Joseph Kennedy, would be some of its greatest proponents. A group known as the German-American Bund, later shown to be a Nazi-supported front, spoke out in favor of the work of the Nazis in Germany. Roosevelt kept up his not-so-secret plans to involve the United States in the war. The future of western civilization as he and Churchill saw it, was in grave danger. Between mid-September and mid- November the Congress enacted a “peace-time” draft, registration began, and the first draftees entered service.

Little to none of this shows up in Beula’s diary. A Roosevelt Democrat, she “listened to President's speech and it was good.” She enjoyed the blockbuster movie, Gone With the Wind and even mentions when others of the family saw it. Lots of family things are there. She goes to the club or lodge. There were several trips to Bethlehem to see her daughter, Ruth; son Carl and his long-time girlfriend Mabel are in and out. Beula is often not feeling well and my grandfather has an accident at work (the finger incident?) and is in the hospital for four days in May.

One incident, though, stands out in the first half of the year. On April 25 she wrote:
Got [up] at 845 and heard the kids making a lot of noise and I looked out and saw a man climbing the flag pole at the high school to take down a German flag that had been put up during the night.
The high school, which would become my junior high school in 1960, was less than half a block from her house. The report in the Jersey Shore Herald the next day reported that the incident was under investigation but was being hindered by the fact that there was uncertainty about what laws might have been broken. The article ended:
The incident appeared this afternoon to have been little more than the work of some local "crank" with the apparent result of centering interest as the scene of one of the first rural demonstrations of patriotism, fanned by the outbreak of the European war. (Jersey Shore Herald, April 26, 1940)
The reason the incident stands out in my mind is part of the family myth. Somewhere in the past was a memory of being told that one of the “hellion” actions of my father had been to be part of a group that put a Nazi flag on the high school flagpole. There is no indication in the diary of my dad’s involvement in this, but the fact that such an event took place adds weight to the myth.

In reality. until the end of June there are few mentions of my dad in the diary. He is mentioned even fewer times than either of his siblings. That will change mid-year.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tuning Slide 4.14- Finding Motivation

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Amateurs Practice Until They Get It Right;
Professionals Practice Until They Can’t Get It Wrong
- Various Sources

Last week I focused on Barry Green’s insights on discipline as one of the pathways to mastery of music. While I didn’t talk very specifically or at length about it, we all know what discipline means.


I have had a love-hate relationship with the idea of practice no matter what the area of discipline. I played basketball (very poorly I must say) in my sophomore year in high school. Practice was lousy! No fun! Boring! The lack of willingness to really practice was the reason my parents in 4th grade decided I should quit piano lessons. Then came the trumpet. It would be fun and neat; then it would be dull and boring. Anytime I hook on to something new in my trumpet playing it goes along well for awhile, then it gets, well, the same-old-same-old. In other words- boring. Let’s see how fast I can play my long tones so I can move to something else. (What an ironic statement!)

Then I get interested again, for example in improving my sound and back I go to the more disciplined version of long tones, Clarke #1, etc. The new excitement, even of the same routine, can last for weeks, even into months, but it may easily get lost again. The question will always become, “What is motivating me at the moment and how can I expand and extend it?” Green raises that question in his book and went searching for answers from other professional musicians. These are the four sources of motivation that he found:

◆ Competition: Like Green, I am not a big fan of competition, but an audition or enforced competition between musicians by directors can be a motivating factor. I think The third and fourth motivators below are actually what make it work.

◆ Required Performance: Personally, this is probably my biggest motivating factor. When I know I am going to be playing this piece in public performance, I will make sure I know my part and become familiar with it. Again, the next two factors are probably most at work.

◆ Pride (i.e to prevent embarrassment): If I believe I am a good enough musician to play the piece, I don’t want to embarrass myself, either in rehearsal or in performance. My pride could take a hit and down goes my skills. I have related before the incident playing Taps when I was in high school that had more of an impact on my skills than any other single, negative event. That was a Self 1 issue, but I was embarrassed and have worked ever since so it doesn’t happen as often as I am afraid it will.

◆ Fear: The last phrase in the last one may say it all- afraid. The source of anxiety that has perhaps motivated more of my practice than anything else.

Of course my greatest motivator is the music itself. I continue to play music and work at improving my musicianship because I really do love it! The week I had earlier this month when I was unable to practice or play due to surgery was really tough. The evening I picked up the trumpet and produced a tone was a release of tension that I really needed. I play because of the music and the fun I get from it, but the other motivators move me to improve and grow as a musician and as a person.

Which leads to think again about disciplined practice. Those four motivators that Green described are what keep me digging into new things and taking lessons when and where I can. If all I wanted was to just play and doodle around on the instrument, I wouldn’t have to do those long tones or the Clarke, Schlossberg, and Arban exercises. I wouldn’t work on the Getchell pieces to see what I can do next. I would just pick up the horn and blow. But I wouldn’t be getting any better. I would feel as if I was just “good enough,” and that’s okay. But it isn’t. At least not for me.

We learn what we practice and we practice what we learn.
We spend too much time practicing our mistakes.

I saw one of those memes on Facebook that said I hate to give up my bad habits or mistakes. I spent a lot of time doing them. When I rush through the long tones or play a Clarke exercise as a throw-away, I am simply ingraining my mistakes, or at least my less than good habits. When I pay attention and work at it intentionally, I am rewiring my brain (and fingers, lips, etc.) to do it better.

Therefore: don’t practice mistakes

Green has a number of insights into this as well:

Learn first, then practice. Study the part before you play it is what he’s talking about. This is the first step of “sight-reading.” We know how to do that, we just don’t do it as often as we need to. Look at:
◦ key and time signatures
◦ key changes
◦ dynamic markings
◦ Repeats and coda

In a sense, as Green suggests, we need to “practice away from the instrument.” This may mean singing the piece. No, you don’t need to sing the right pitch, etc., but after you have sung it through, you will no longer be sight-reading!

He then suggests that we use the acronym STOP to help us focus, especially when we get to difficult parts or are having some problems in an area:

In other words, don’t go barreling through and learning the mistake instead of the right way.

Practice slow, is what he suggests next. The age-old adage that we seldom do. Slow it down. The faster I play, especially as I am learning the piece, the more likely I am to learn the mistakes. And once I do that, I will be certain to play the mistake more often than the correct way because that is what I have learned. Green quotes another musician that “legato is a doorway to velocity!”

In the end he is saying that we are to find “the beautiful voice inside” each one of us. The instrument, we all have been told, is an extension of the voice within us. It is an external version of the song and music that is part of who we are. Effective and efficient practice allows that voice to expand and live.

These thoughts on motivation and practice are actually more important than we realize. Most of the time we think we have to rely on “will power” to move us to do things like this. In reality will power is a limited quantity. We can get tired, exhausted, by exerting will power. That is when the motivation of fun can make all the difference. I have found that the better I get at being a musician, the more fun I am having. The more fun I am having, the more motivated I am to practice so I can have more fun.

What a great cycle to be part of.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Buddy's War: #2: Finding the Past

This is part of a series that over two years will follow the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. I did this five years ago in the series Following the 10th Armored, but I have been doing more research and expanding the ideas. The beginning posts will set the stage for the events of 1944 and 1945 when he was in Europe as part of the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.
Much of what I thought I knew about my family was based on hearsay, rumor, gossip, and bits of overheard information. While much of what the “big ears of little pitchers” hear is filtered through misinterpretation, wishful thinking, and a family’s desire to maintain a semblance of normalcy, much of it may well be based on truth. And these truths become the stuff of myth, a family’s “creation story”. The story becomes enhanced and even embellished and its mythic element grows when we read out lives back into the past

How much of myth was fact? How many of the feelings are history? After many decades, it can be a daunting task to dig and open up the stories. Since this is the story of my father in World War II, he is the center of the myth. While not seen as a “patriarch” of the family, he is the center of what I needed to dig into to find the man I never had the chance to know.

Harold Keller Lehman. He was known as “Red” to his friends, “Buddy” to his mother. Born in November 1905, he was the youngest of three children of William H. and Beula Keller Lehman. Bill and Beula grew up on neighboring homesteads in the Pine Creek Valley, north of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, along the edge of the Allegheny Plateau. Both families were of German background. Bill’s grandfather and Beula’s father were born in Germany and came to the United States as children. However, through the Lehman-Kline (Klein) family, we could trace back to pre-Revolutionary days. As best as I can discover, my brother and I were the 9th generation born in the United States. All branches I have found settled somewhere in southeastern and central Pennsylvania. Many even came from the same general area in Germany.

Bill and Beula were the fourth generation of the family in the Pine Creek Valley. Beula was one of five who lived, with one older brother, one older sister and two younger brothers. Bill was one of fifteen children, the second oldest to survive infancy. They married at the end of the 19th Century in 1899.

Beula came from a farm family; like many in his family, Bill was a railroad man, a brakeman on the New York Central. In the late 1800s the area was the logging capital of the world. By 1900 the logging boom in the area had slowed, but the railroads continued to connect the valley to the greater world. The Pennsylvania and New York Central Railroads ran through the valley and the NYC had shops in Avis near where the Lehmans lived. Bill had a couple fingers on one hand shortened by getting them caught in the couplings of a freight. I never got the sense that the Lehmans were a close family, or were all that good at connecting with other sides of the family. All kinds of aunt-this or uncle-that were tossed around. By the mid-1950s their numbers were legion in the valley with more branches and leaves on the tree than I ever understood. I never met most of them. Even when they lived nearby.

The quintessential image for me is the family picture of my grandfather’s parents and siblings. At least one, my grandfather, is pasted into the picture. The story was that the whole family couldn’t stand to be around everyone at the same time. When I looked at the old family picture from the late 1890s I would chuckle at the story, the myth, of the family that couldn’t get along. It was my little family joke. Meanwhile, by the 1970s I left home and hardly looked back. Perhaps myth infuses us with direction or destiny? Perhaps we are predisposed to follow the old stories in whatever ways they may fit our lives.

True or not, though, myth is the story we tell ourselves. It is the “better story” as understood from the point of view of the wonderful novel, Life of Pi. Myth is the story that explains us- both our strengths and weaknesses. Myth gives order to the chaos of real life. It describes roots and explores meaning.

When we don’t have all the information, myth takes on more importance. Overheard data bits, oral tradition, pictures from an old scrapbook get enmeshed with what we feel about ourselves. They become as real as anything that actually happened. We can’t live well without myth. We can’t make sense of who we are without it. But at times neither can we see clearly what is right in front of us because of the fog of myth.

Harold shows up in a couple pictures I have from his high school days. In one he is a member of a record-setting undefeated football team.  During his junior year the team went undefeated and set what is still a national record of averaging over 75 points per game in a season of less than 10 games. According to records every game was a shutout. In another picture he is sitting cross-legged next to a cousin in the front row of what is labeled as the “yearbook committee”, the only male in the picture, and in a third, his 1924 class picture, he sits to the left of the class banner. He appears in a couple other pictures with friends on a camping trip and another at a beach. In all pictures there is a certain self-assurance that I identify with my own memories of him. He has a slight, almost mischievous grin that I also find on pictures of his siblings- and sons.

He was apparently a good student as he went off to college- the Philadelphia School of Pharmacy and Science. His brother Carl by now was working on the railroad and his sister Ruth was becoming a teacher or whatever then led her to work for Williamsport Wire and Rope which eventually was bought by Bethlehem Steel where she and her husband moved to what would later be part of my story in Bethlehem, PA.

For Harold, a railroader’s son from the north woods heading into Philadelphia must have been a challenge; it would appear that he was able to handle it. In 1928 his senior yearbook shows a handsome, almost dapper, young man, same smile as before but now sporting the mustache that is, in my mind, almost a trademark. He never lost that mustache and every subsequent picture through his death shows it-including his military ID.

But more than the image is the description. They note two nicknames, “Shorty” and “Dutch.” He is called “short of stature but mighty in brain power.” They say that he has “enlivened many a session” with his “ready wit and can speak with authority on subjects other than Pharmacy.” He seems to have been the one to turn to when the “boys want to take in a show” as this is one of “the first things he looks into.” They refer to an easy ability around the labs but also note his shyness and humility around the opposite sex. 

The summary ends:
He likes football, appreciates sports, shy at women, is keen on cars and knows what Pharmacy is all about. He will succeed.
Between his college graduation in 1928 and the beginning of this story, Harold returned to his home became a local businessman and lived what may have been the life of a carefree bachelor. He lived with his parents in the house where he had spent much of his youth. It would be his sister’s house, and my home, when I graduated from college forty years later.

The myth here adds bits of data that give a slight shadow to the image. I remember one incident after his death when I was talking with one of his high school classmates who started laughing about how Red was somewhat of a “hellion.” Dad’s friend, realizing that he was talking to a high school student smiled and said something to the effect of “but you don’t really need to know any of that.”

World War II began in Europe on September 1, 1939.
Harold was two months shy of his 34th birthday.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Tuning Slide 4.13- Mastery # 3 & 4: Discipline and Joy

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.
-Roy L. Smith

Last month I posted the first two in a series discussing the “pathways to true artistry” that Barry Green outlined in his book, The Mastery of Music, his follow-up to the groundbreaking Inner Game of Music. In each of them he looks at musicians and outlines a different pathway they embody. The first was communication, the second was courage. For the third and fourth pathways he talks about Discipline and Fun. First let’s look at

Discipline: The Way of the Will

Just by the name, this sure sounds like it’s going to be a lot of work. Discipline! Nose to the grindstone! All that wonderful stuff that sounds dull, boring, and keeps us from enjoying life. Yet a quick search for quotes about it finds more motivational statements than we can ignore. Without it, we are told over and over, we get nowhere! We will never get to where we want to go! We will never reach our goals.

In short, as Barry Green notes, discipline is simply another way of talking about maintaining focus. We lose our focus, we lose sight of what we want and what our intentions are. We lose the interest and excitement of the possibilities- and we stop. Green describes this in Inner Game terms by saying that loss of discipline or focus is taking Self 1’s criticisms as gospel that we will never make it to where we want to be- so why bother. Discipline instead, he says is choosing to follow Self 2’s assurance that “I can do this!”

He of course talks about goals in all of this. Discipline for the sake of discipline may make us focused and intentional- but to what end? Why do we want to do this? Why do we want to discipline ourselves, often taking the more intense road when we could just sit back and relax? What are my goals? Of course, as we all know there are different levels of goals- long-, medium-, and short-term:

✓ Long-term goals: These are the dreams that we have. They can be years- or even lifetime-long goals.

⁃ Somewhere back in the dimness of my adolescence I committed in some way or another to the dream of being a trumpet player. It was more than just for the few years of high school and college. It never went away. My goal has always been to be a musician in more than just name. It was something that was deep inside me. It has informed and guided so much of what I have done as a trumpet player, but also as an amateur guitar player, or wannabe composer.

✓ Medium-term goals: These are the goals for the next 12- to perhaps 18-months. These are steps along the way to achieving that long-term goal.

⁃ At different points in my life I had some to none in this area. Usually it was just getting ready for the next Christmas or Easter at church. Then it was the summer community band season. Then it became a year-round community band season. That long-term goal was always underneath it all, but lots of other things kept me from really getting down and dirty with the discipline needed. Time- I was after all a full-time pastor, husband, and then father. The overall medium-term goal was simply not to lose what I had of being the musician I wanted to be. That meant I had to keep looking for times and places to practice, even without a concert or performance goal.

✓ Short-term: These are the goals for the next week to month. These are the goals needed to become more adept at the musicianship on an almost micro-level. Where do I need to focus (!) more specifically? What needs work? Where can I find what I need to learn?

⁃ Late last month, for example, I said my goal was to have a lesson sometime by mid-October. I had been working on the things from the last couple lessons and I needed to make some plans. A few beyond-my-control issues cropped up that have delayed this, but by the time this is posted, I hope to have one scheduled. I was also aware the other week that I needed to be more specific on the practice routine of slow and even, with discipline needed on making a fuller sound. That was my focus for the week before I had to take some time off due to surgery.

Even at my age and place in life, that first long-term goal has been maintained. It has gotten a little more focused thanks to The Shell Lake Big Band and Trumpet Workshops and I have discovered more tools and directions than I ever thought possible. I am probably the best trumpet player I have ever been. I am doing things that I only dreamed of. A long-term goal like mine can be an end in and of itself. I find incredible pleasure out of being able to do what I do and to play the music I am playing.

Over fifty years ago my HS band director assigned me the 1st Characteristic Study from the Arban’s book. If there has been an unspoken long-term goal for me over these fifty years it is to be able to play that. I have worked on it in various ways over the years, but never with discipline. A couple years ago I made a medium-term goal of working on it. I didn’t succeed very well due to a number of things. But I kept working on my musicianship, my articulation skills, my sound, my sight-reading. About a month ago I started a disciplined approach and found that I was actually closer to playing it than I have ever been.

After this brief surgery-caused hiatus my short-term goal is to make progress on the middle two sections of that study, the two that are my least polished. It is a very clear short-term goal, based on the medium-term goal of increased musicianship, undergirded by the long-term dream of being a trumpet player! Arban’s #1 will add one more example to my growth.

I will look more into the practice aspect of all this next week, but I don’t want to end without mentioning the fourth pathway to true artistry:
Fun: The Joy in Music

If this weren’t fun and fulfilling, I wouldn’t be doing it! I would have long ago given up and sold the trumpet. (I know- unbelievable, huh?) Fun is essential. As I said a few weeks ago- we “play” music, we don’t work it. Music touches my soul. It energizes and directs and moves me. Especially playing it. This past week of not being able to play has been difficult. I have been out of sorts. There is a piece of my joy missing.

But more on that next week. Until then- Stay focused. Be disciplined. Self 2 knows you can do it. So do it!

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Not Being Trumped

The President is coming to town tomorrow. I'm leaving for the day.

What a mess the downtown will be all day. Streets closed starting at 8:00 am. Rolling closures later after his plane lands and he travels into town. More tickets handed out than there are available seats in a relatively small venue.

Someone suggested I should go see him to actually hear him in person. I must admit I did think of that for a moment after it was announced he was coming. My news-based, political science-major curiosity would have been interested.

But I didn't think I could remain civil- or that my blood pressure could take it. He is a mean, uncaring, self-centered narcissist. His language at the rally the other day about "evil" democrats as the "enemy" is bordering on a very dangerous approach to American politics.

What have we become? My God, what have we become?

So I'm leaving town for the day. Too close for comfort.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Tuning Slide 4.12- Don't Ignore the 10%

You have to, take a deep breath. and allow the music to flow through you. Revel in it, allow yourself to awe. When you play allow the music to break your heart with its beauty.
― Kelly White

Here’s where we started last week and then looked at the biggie- mental.

• Trumpet playing is
o 90% mental
o 9% air
o 1% physical

Now it’s time to move to the other two- the physical stuff- our instruments and our bodies.

Ever wonder how some truly excellent trumpet players can always use the same mouthpiece? Or how they can have a completely different tone in different parts of the same piece without changing the mouthpiece?

When I went to trade in my first trumpet my good friend and fellow trumpet player picked it up and played it. His comment was, “How can you play this thing in tune?” which I had been doing for 25 years at that point. “I don’t know,” I said, “it’s the only horn I ever had so I just played it.” Then I got my Bach Strad. Yes, it made an immediate difference! It was “easier” to play, more efficient a horn. I also could build some endurance when playing in a band since I wasn’t always lipping the notes to stay in tune.

Sadly, I didn’t become Doc or Maynard when I started playing it, though. I was a better player and the horn offered me the opportunity to have a better sound and style, but it didn’t turn me into a virtuoso. Let us not forget that in the end it is deliberate, efficient practice that makes us into better musicians. That takes the right attitude, of course, and the proper mental training as well as “equipment” that helps.

So, as I thought about this week’s post I made a list of what does the “physical” entail? Combining “air” and “physical”, what is the 10% that is not directly mental? My non-exhaustive list, in alphabetical order, along with my thoughts on how that may be something to be aware of:

◦ Articulation- These work together to keep us from getting tired as quickly. Efficient articulation styles can certainly help us as we continue to enhance our skills.
⁃ Learning effective tonguing techniques.
⁃ Double and triple tonguing
⁃ Goldman’s exercises and, as always, Arban’s.

◦ Body relaxation- This one takes both the physical and mental into account.
⁃ If I am stressed, I will not be relaxed and my sound will falter.
⁃ Learning how to tense and relax muscles in my arms and upper body will give me a better, brighter, clearer sound.
⁃ Even having tension in my legs and feet will translate into tension in how I play.
⁃ Developing relaxation thoughts and actions is important.
⁃ T’ai Chi and Qigong can be helpful here.

◦ Breath- It’s often all about the breath, the air, and how I use it efficiently.
⁃ Shallow vs. Deep slow breaths.
⁃ Learning to breathe from the depths of the diaphragm
⁃ Keep the air moving through, not at, the sound.
⁃ I have been told that at least an important part of my problems in endurance and sound come from not breathing effectively. It is what I am always working on.

◦ Dexterity- Ease of movement of fingers and lips, builds hand/eye coordination and wires the brain for many different actions. Dexterity- being nimble and agile- is a wonderful skill. You can’t play bebop without it!
⁃ Finger exercises- scales, chromatics, Clarke, Arban’s
⁃ Lip slurs- many ways to do these, but do them.
⁃ Pedal tones- the ability to really play those pedal tones is an important foundation for high register playing, I am told. Slurs and pedals; pedals and slurs.
⁃ Working on balance and agility of movement in the whole body can certainly have a positive impact as well. The movement of energy and oxygen through the whole body system can be quite helpful.

◦ Embouchure- the lips, facial muscles, tongue, and teeth in playing- yep, it is physical.
⁃ Sometimes (too many times?) we get stuck on this as the end-all and be-all of becoming a great trumpet player. It is one part of the physical, but the more I focus on it, the less I end up focusing on playing and getting the sound! I must never forget that the sound is what we are after. Embouchure helps, but it won’t do it alone.

◦ Endurance- All these physical things combine to give us the ability to do what we do for longer and more intense sessions.
⁃ Surprisingly most endurance is built in (relatively) short actions done smoothly and only to about 80% of full effort.
⁃ It is cumulative.
⁃ To build endurance, rest as much as you practice. This is appropriate balance of the physical and mental, for when we push too hard for too long we WILL lose our mental sharpness. It is built on endurance; endurance is not built on extreme will power.

◦ Posture-
⁃ How we sit and stand
⁃ A method called The Alexander Technique is finding an increased number of adherents. It works on posture as well as issues of breath and body relaxation.

There are some of the things I have personally discovered over the past 4 years of growing into a more advanced trumpet player. Most of us will wrestle with these on a regular basis. I for one always want to go one more exercise, one more song, five more minutes, thinking that this will truly push my endurance. Most of the time it won’t. It may only go so far as hurting. I learned this as a group fitness trainer, I learned it the hard way as a musician. Easy, steady, deliberate.

Of course, we can all name many musicians who are not in good physical shape, who don’t take as good a care of their bodies as would be helpful. In fact, that group would probably include most of us. Fortunately we don’t have to be in great physical shape to be great musicians. But I am coming to believe that it does help. As I have worked slowly on my physical conditioning again, I am finding that I do see benefits to my playing. When I have worked on my “core”, I find I can hold notes longer and have better breath control. With the weight/resistance training my arms don’t get as tired as quickly. Yes, these are small, but every little bit helps.

By the way: Barry Green, author of Inner Game of Music and Mastery of Music also has a third book called Bringing Music to Life. In it he works with these ideas applied to breathing (air), pulse (rhythm), and movement (body). He addresses a number of these topics that fit in with what I have been writing about here. I will be doing some posts based on that book sometime in the new year. It’s an excellent resource!

Sidenote: This past Friday I ended an 18 month and one week stretch of not missing a single day of playing my trumpet! I had to have some minor eye surgery and the doctor said “No trumpet playing for a week.” I am a couple days into that right now- and it’s a bummer. As any (in)sane trumpet player would, I Googled whether it was true that I should not play. Maybe I could just play low notes or do long tones below “C” on the staff. “No!” said everything I read. It isn’t worth it. Ever. It is only a short period of time. Mess it up and I’m off for a longer time.

It’s still a bummer. But there is that part of playing that is physical and I have to respect it and take care of the physical. I will let you know what happens as it develops further in the next couple weeks.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Tuning Slide 4.11- It's (Mostly) All in Your Head

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

• Trumpet playing is
o 90% mental
o 9% air
o 1% physical
— Attributed to a number of people, most often Bill Adam

When it comes right down to it, this is what the Inner Game of Music is truly all about. It is the mental side of playing music. It attitude. It is mindfulness. It is how we think and act out what we are thinking- or not thinking. I am not sure I like that idea. It means that things like building endurance or a perfect embouchure, the right mouthpiece or instrument, or heavy caps aren’t as important as we like to think they are. They are attempts at short-circuiting the process of becoming a musician.

Not to disregard the physical side. (More on that next week.) That is real and does impact the way we play. But it is the more effective use of our energy through the mental that in the long run as the most positive impact on what we are doing. Why might that be? Here’s a thought:

The brain consumes energy at 10 times the rate of the rest of the body per gram of tissue. The average power consumption of a typical adult is 100 Watts and the brain consumes 20% of this [energy].

We also know a great deal about the many ways the brain can impact our actions, our physical health, how our bodies function. While much of it is a mystery, the effects have been seen in many studies.

This also shows why that sometimes the tiredness we feel after a period of playing is perhaps even more mentally caused than physical. That’s a lot of energy going out when we are playing. For example, here are some things that are regular actions of the “mental” that impact what we do:

◆ How we practice- we have to think about that as we do it.
⁃ Slow, fast, articulation, slurs, etc

◆ Hearing the music and notes in our head as we play.
⁃ I am fairly sure that the best way to learn to play is to hear the notes in your head before you play. This is especially true of the upper register, but applies equally to the whole staff.

◆ What we think of our abilities and how far we believe we can go
⁃ I know I can’t play that run. I am unable to memorize. I am crappy.

◆ Self 1 criticizing or Self 2 wanting to just do it
⁃ This goes beyond the previous one. This happens in the middle of a performance and we get distracted. “I just missed the note! OMG! I’ll never get it,” Meanwhile I didn’t get the next three measures because I got lost. Self-fulfilling prophecy.

◆ Memorization
⁃ It takes concentration and mental effort to memorize. I have not been willing to spent the time or take the effort. And that does impact my playing. (I also tell myself I can’t do it.)

◆ Listening to ourselves and others.
⁃ I have to pay attention when listening. Engage the brain!

All that takes mental activity. The more difficult it is, the more we are distracted and the harder we have to work- and playing becomes more difficult. Part of it is what is the story we are telling ourselves about ourselves? What is it we believe about our abilities? But it is also about being intentional about taking care of our brains- the mental activities that can strengthen what we do with the trumpet. So I Googled (always a good place to start) “How do we train the brain to be more efficient?” and I got some interesting thoughts from an article on Here are their eight ways to improve brain power (the ideas are from the article. The thoughts about them are mine) (Link):

1. Exercise.
⁃ The work of endorphins and other neurotransmitters is essential. Exercise helps generate them and regenerate cell activity. Most of us (pointing at myself as well) do not get enough physical exercise. It really doesn’t take a lot- average about 30 minutes of walking a day and it will enhance brain power! That and the oxygen boosts efficiency, too.

2. Drink coffee.
⁃ It’s a stimulant and helps in learning. It is only a short-term solution, but what you learn helps build the brain connections.

3. Get some sunlight.
⁃ Yes, get outside. It is actually more than the sun- it is the vitamin D, I am told. But to me it is also the ability to take-in fresh air, see and experience the world, and discover new things all around you.

4. Build strong connections.
⁃ We are not meant to be lonely. We have been created as social creatures. Some have even theorized that what we call “spirituality” is the need to have connections with the world and others. When we are isolated unhealthy things can begin to happen to our bodies and brains. Get out, be social.

5. Meditate.
⁃ Mindfulness/meditation has become the “In-thing.” For very good reasons. Not the least of which is that it works. Ten minutes a day can make a big difference. I don’t just mean “sitting meditation. I would add T’ai Chi and Qigong or walking meditation to a meditation regimen. The increased inner balance gets us more “in tune” with ourselves and what we are doing. Maybe do some yoga as part of a weekly exercise program as well.

6. Sleep well.
⁃ I know the old dictum we have heard from some- “You can sleep when you’re dead” as a way to get us off our lazy couches and do something. But to ignore healthy sleep habits can potentially get in the way of health itself. Sleep hygiene can be a big help, even if you sometimes have to struggle to get enough. Look into it.

7. Eat well.
⁃ I read that and said, “Yep, I will love to eat a lot.” I don’t think that is what it means. To eat well is to eat healthy, to not subsist only on junk food, or high sugar content drinks. Feeding your body healthy fuel will certainly help the brain!

8. Play Tetris.
⁃ For some reason, Tetris is considered by some researchers to be one of the better video games. It works on spatial recognition (an aid to balance), hand-eye coordination (like translating all those black marks on the page into music?), and keeps brain matter alive and working. Why Tetris? I have no idea. But I remember when I played it on the old Gameboy. It was fun and probably helped. (Maybe I'll download it on the iPhone.)

I would add a couple other things:
◆ Take time for relaxation and hobbies.
◆ Journaling can be a great way to get in touch and keep in touch with what is going on in your own head.
◆ Read more than you watch TV.
◆ Listen to music more than you watch TV.

If I want to be a better trumpet player, I guess I need to take care of the mental. Losing my mental sharpness will not have a good result in my music.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Overcoming Inertia

A body in motion tends to stay in motion;
a body at rest tends to stay at rest.
-- Newton's First Law of Motion

Yep, been there, done that! In fact my life in "semi-retirement" has been a cycle that illustrates this. Take this year.

January through March was our annual trip to the Gulf coast. While there I do a great deal of, well, resting. I don't want to call it "nothing." I practice my trumpet, go to band rehearsal, take sunset (and other) pictures, edit many pictures, and read. That isn't nothing, but it's at an easy pace, relaxed, healing, renewing.

In April I came home and got into the motion routine. More band rehearsals, no longer doing the picture editing but moving around to different events. And back to work, full-time! Get up at 6:30, go to work, come home around 5:00. Trips to music camps and a great festival in North Carolina. My daughter got married. It was not the easy, relaxed, renewing pace of the first three months.

In both those parts of the cycle I was minimally focused on some things I had wanted to be doing. After going back to work, it was even more difficult. Several significant projects were placed way on the back burner.

At the end of August the full-time work came to a halt, though I am still working part-time.  In the midst of that came several unexpected concerns that distracted my attention and added tension to the situation. Now all I seem to want to do is stay at rest. Everything seems to take an extra effort. Facebook nerding became a default. But the nightly reading was the great pull of the past few weeks. (That had kept up during the full-time cycle. I am not sure I would have made it if it hadn't.)

There is a clause missing in what I put at the top of the page. The motion or rest will continue:

unless an outside force acts on it,

So here I sit at my "office/coffee shop" trying to get moving.I can't seem to find that outside force to move me. So I start writing with no goal in mind other than to write about what is in front of me. As I write I let the words flow and the fingers to respond. As I do so there is a bit of free-flow of ideas that goes on under the surface.

For some reason I feel more tired than usual. Yes, that does happen from time to time. This one, though seems a little more difficult. I have a hunch that there are a couple different factors that keep the outside force from acting.

I just passed by 70th birthday. Yes, that is one of those significant decades. There have also been a couple of times when what I call "mortality" issues have cropped up in myself and other family members. I am also coming up on the 30th anniversary of my sobriety- an almost unbelievable number.

As a result I have become more aware of the issue of aging. Which leads to the obvious question:

What now?

Well, one of the answers to that is to come back to writing. So far that has taken more energy than I expected, but at least I am doing some of it.

Another is to go with the flow. My wife and I are going to be doing a number of fun things over the next month- concerts and plays. We are taking the time to continue to enjoy each other's presence. That is precious and essential.

Maybe it is also time to slow down more and smell more roses.

Over the years, I realize, I have faced this a number of different times. Which is part of life. Which is why I am writing this. To remind myself and do it publicly to make it more difficult to ignore.

So after these words and a half hour of writing I am at least for the moment off square one. It is always about taking the first step to get away from where you are to where you can be.

Friday, September 21, 2018

A New Documentary Executive Produced by Ken Burns
To Air on PBS Tuesday September 25, 2018 
9-11 p.m. ET on PBS
(Check your listings)

I was fortunate to be among the Mayo employees and friends who saw the premiere of this wonderful documentary. I have been working at Mayo Clinic for nearly 11 years and the history is both inspiring and still very alive. It has been an honor and a pleasure to be a small part of this amazing institution.

Ken Burns does his usual excellent work. It is not to be missed.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Buddy's War: #1- May We Never Forget!

This is part of a series that over two years will follow the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. I did this five years ago in the series Following the 10th Armored, but I have been doing more research and expanding the ideas. The beginning posts will set the stage for the events of 1944 and 1945 when he was in Europe as part of the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.

We are in danger of losing our memory of World War II. What may arguably have been the single greatest moment in US (and world) history is on the brink of losing its hold on our American psyche and soul. We seem to be losing the unique greatness of who we were and how we got there- the living (yet admittedly flawed) embodiment of our ideals and who we believed ourselves to be. We are forgetting what we fought for- and against.

This is not the first time this has happened in our history. After a generation or two, many great acts of history flow into myth and their raw facts are lost. The following generations then lose the real-life examples of what was involved. It is then that, having forgotten history, we are condemned to repeat it. In the early 20th Century the Civil War was lost as those who opposed it began to reassert control in the South, the KKK was established, and racism was legalized without slavery. In mid-Century there was a time of remembering and attempting to assert our ideals, perhaps partly due to World War II. The Civil Rights movement advanced the cause of the Civil War 100 years after Antietam, . But its reality and advances are continually up for grabs as America’s original sin never goes away. Incredibly, the story of the Civil War remains a matter of debate.

There are many things about World War II that defined us as a nation and as a world leader in the second half of the last Century. The willingness of the nation and that generation of men and women to sacrifice for the survival of democracy, western civilization, and freedom is possibly one of the most significant world-embracing actions in human history. The darkness  of that era is forgotten; the Holocaust is an academic subject; totalitarian government is seen by some as “effective”; Nazis can be good people. The catastrophic danger of forgetting is sitting on our doorstep.

I am a son of that “greatest generation”. My father was a medic in Europe during the last year of the war. I was born just three years after his return home, a Baby Boomer who was nursed and nurtured in the air of the World War II victory as were many of my generation. I grew up in a small rural community in northern Pennsylvania. There were veterans everywhere. My classmate's parents, my teachers, my neighbors were vets.

I never heard a word about it from my father. Admittedly I was too young to hear the real stories- TV newsreels and documentaries and movies were the story we heard. I was never privy to what it was like or to hear the stories- if they even shared them- from the nights at the American Legion or VFW.  Patriotism- pride in our soldiers and the courage of a nation that stood up for what it believed as right and honorable- was everywhere.

On my tenth birthday, hundreds of miles away in Philadelphia, my father had exploratory surgery to find the cause of his “spells.” They removed a non-malignant tumor. All that meant was it wouldn’t metastasize. He died six-years later, two and a half years after my mother, in a VA hospital, the final thank you from the country he served. With him went any possible access to his stories or experiences.

Death is an irrevocable divide and what wasn’t learned before the death may forever be lost; they become secrets, intentional or not. Much of what I think I know of my family is based on hearsay, rumor, gossip, and faintly remembered or overheard bits of information. “Little pitchers [may] have big ears,” but often what we hear is biased, misunderstood, misinterpreted, and colored by a lack of depth of understanding. The information becomes the stuff of myth, not unlike the “creation stories” of all native people worldwide. These are just narrower in their scope picking out a single branch or two of the human family tree. As time passes and more people die the more mythic becomes the story, potentially more enhanced by ones own experiences that are read back into the past.

All I ever learned of Dad's service was second hand from family members- mainly his sister who became my brother’s and my guardian. Not that I was all that interested at the time. What I knew about World War II was that it was big, important, and horrific. There were family stories that he had served in the 10th Armored Division under the mythic General Patton and that he was at the Battle of the Bulge. Other stories told of how he was too old to have been in the war, 39 years old and the owner of a pharmacy, when he went overseas. There was the family creation story of his meeting my mother in Georgia while in training and marrying her- a younger Jewish woman from Brooklyn- at the Jewish USO. He was, of course, not Jewish.

Then about six or seven years ago I began to do some more reading about the war as its seventieth anniversary approached and worked on family history. I opened my grandmother’s diaries for the first time in years and discovered, hidden between the everyday events were clues, bits and pieces that fit the “mythic” stories from my family. I was about to fall headlong into World War II. Four years ago I followed the 10th Armored and my father’s 80th Armored Medical Battalion in their year in Europe and wrote about it for my blog. I found things about what my Dad was involved in and learned some of his story as shaped by the events of that year. But I knew there had to be even more to the story than what I had found in a relatively cursory exploration.

We are now coming up on the 75th anniversary of the end of the war. I have been reading and researching continuing to look for more clues to what Red Lehman faced. For many this is history. For me and my generation, it is recent events. It is what made our parents' generation into what we now call the Greatest Generation. Perhaps it has taken me all these 70 years of my life to begin to understand what that means. I am humbled by it and am just here to tell a very small part of that story. As I see us forgetting the meaning and sacrifice of that era, I want to do what I can to see that it is not so easily set aside.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Tuning Slide 4.10- Mastery of Music #2: The High Road

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Success is not final, failure is not fatal:
it is the courage to continue that counts.
― Winston S. Churchill

A few weeks ago I posted the first in a series discussing the “pathways to true artistry” that Barry Green outlined in his book, The Mastery of Music, his follow-up to the groundbreaking Inner Game of Music. In each of them he looks at musicians and outlines a different pathway they embody. The first was “communication”- the silent rhythm as found in conductors and ensembles. For the second pathway he looks to the French horn and percussion for his ideas. They, he says, can teach us about

Courage: Choosing the High Road.

Music, Green tells us, has little (to no) tolerance for error. Unlike many sports where errors can win games (or lose them), music is far less flexible. Imagine if Doc Severinsen missed one of every 15 to 20 notes he played. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but we, the audience would get the feeling that it was time for him to retire. Every time we play in performance we get only one chance to get it right. We could come in early or late, loud or soft, crisp or mushy articulation, in one or out. All kinds of things can happen in the middle of the piece. Four measures before, we can’t call a time-out to make sure we are ready; we can’t ask for a do-over.

Green says it takes courage to face this performance after performance. He goes on to look at courage from the inside. Watching someone be “courageous” we may often think that they have no fear. In fact it looks like the opposite. In reality we are seeing fear that someone knows how to deal with. “Keep going,” the horn player reminds us as they play one of the trickier instruments. “Don’t stop,” says the percussionist who is almost always a soloist. This is, Green reminds us, “to go for it in spite of the fear of negative consequences should you fail.” That is “choosing the high road.”

That Green says is a “joyous choice.”

They “go for it” because of the “beauty of music and the joy of playing it.” Any musician who has played in a public performance knows that beauty and joy. Last week the director of the local community band arrived at rehearsal literally beaming. We were going to sight-read what he felt was one of the greatest wind band numbers- one that most of us have never played or even heard of. He was joyous that he could direct and we could play the piece. And no, it wasn’t a simple piece. But we played it- sight-reading the whole 15-minute piece.

Yes, it was a joy! Of course it didn’t take courage to do that in rehearsal. But it is in rehearsal that we learn the music and the beauty it has so we can play what it takes when it comes to the performance. Later in the same rehearsal we played another piece that was new to many of us. We got to the end and the three of us trumpets sitting together looked at each other. “That was hard,” one of us said with a smile. “Yes, but wow, was it fun!” another said. We all agreed.

The music goes on and the parts must be played! If we can’t deal with our fears and doubts we better decide to do something else. We will inevitably get stuck in that spot. I have told that story of my nearly 50 years of fear of a solo here before. It kept me stuck in many ways. It prevented me from taking a new leap into my musicality. I lacked the courage to fail. Again.

Let me be clear that the courage Green and I are talking about is not the courage to face those potentially life-altering events of ultimate success or failure. If I fail in a solo or play that F natural when it should be an F# the world, mine or anyone else’s is not going to fall apart. But courage is a very broad term that can have all kinds of subtle or explosive meanings. It takes my own courage to get through my fears. Even when it is “simply” playing the solo in the 2nd movement of Holst’s Second Suite.

When we come to those moments, Green calls it a fork in the road. (No Yogi Berra jokes.) One fork leads to the music in it’s beauty and power; the other leads to doubt, hesitation, or paralysis, says Green. So how do we move into the musical fork? He gives us four ways.

1. Be prepared. Practice- and then more practice- increases the familiarity with the music and reminds you that you are ready. Courage can often just be preparation. When you doubt you have the skills or haven’t prepared, Green reminds us, we are choosing to fail- to take the low road.

2. Don’t panic- keep focused. Stay with the music. Feel it, get its sense and rhythm and flow. Go with it. Know what you can do, not what you can’t.

3. Remind yourself of what brought you to this moment. Why do we do this crazy thing called music? Why do I take the time every day, day in and day out, to practice? Why did I get started in it in the first place? Play with that passion.

4. Believe in yourself. Self 2 can do this. Let it happen. When we have practiced and know the music, we can play with conviction and that will show in the music that comes out.

Channel your fear and courage. Take the adrenaline that pumps in the fear response and use it to the positive production of your music. It is extra energy that can be focused into heightened sense and increased awareness. The mindfulness that ensues will allow your self 1 to let go and trust self 2.

This is the courage to follow dreams. As we do this, we find that our soul will be enriched and skills will be strengthened that we can use to move the music into places we never thought we could go. In the end courage is not really overcoming fear, Green says, it is knowing that you are ready to give as honest a performance as possible.

And maybe even more!

Here is the piece that our director was excited about. It is Holst’s Moorside Suite. The third movement, The March, is incredible.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Short Reflection on 44 Years

September 15, 1974,
Grace Moravian Church,
Center Valley, PA

I was ordained into the ministry of the Moravian Church.

Not what would have been expected just slightly more than 13 years earlier when I had my Bar Mitzvah. (God can have an incredible sense of humor.)

For the next 30 years I served four different congregations and then took a leave of absence, then retirement, to move into the world beyond the church. I was already working very part-time as an alcohol and drug counselor, but decided it was time to make that my full-time work. As I said a few years later, I finally heard God calling me into ministry outside the church.

I am still at that ministry of addiction counseling! Back in the 1970s days I used to say that the older pastors should retire when they got to 65. They had earned the rest; they should relax and enjoy life. That kneeling 26-year old in the picture had no idea what he was talking about. I am now 70- and still working. Admittedly it is on an as-needed basis. But for the past four months that has been 40 hours per week. I have no thought of hanging it up. I like what I am doing, although admittedly the 40-hour grind can get a little much. I'm now at 20 hours/week.

But it is always and forever about being there for people. That's what ministry means to me. Over the years I have asked many non-clergy about how they "do ministry" in their daily jobs. Most were not able to answer me because they saw ministry as the work of the clergy. What I do now is not done because I am an ordained pastor (Ret.) Nor is it a job. It is an expression of who I am and what I have received and experienced from God, as I understand God.

It all officially began in that moment pictured above. After 44 years, it is no less exciting. And I still have so much to learn.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Where Have You Been, Pilgrim?

Hi All,

Yes, it's me again. The postmodern Pilgrim is back. When I posted Tuesday for 9/11 that was only the third non-Tuning Slide post since Easter. A bunch of things happened back in March and April, not the least of which was an injury my wife had which took a while to heal and then I went back to work full-time.

In addition I just decided I was more than fed up with the politics going on around me. I stopped writing about it. My wife and I also stopped watching the news way back in January and only watched the local news for the first time last week when we were facing some serious, possibly tornado-producing storms. I also rediscovered last winter the joy of lots of reading. Books galore have been devoured- 60 already this year. (No, the sidebar is not quite up-to-date.) I would sit outside most evenings, enjoying summer, and reading.

Two weeks ago I ended the full-time work schedule and have decided to see what I can do again with this blog. I will probably do some political blogging, and perhaps even find some of the videos, etc. that I used to like posting. It will not be the attempt at daily posting that I did for most of the 15 years of this blog. But I am planning more time at my various "offices" (aka- coffee shops) to write posts, the Tuning Slide, music, and get back to World War II.

That is my focus of attention for the next couple years. We are in the midst of the 75th anniversary of the events of World War II. Five years ago I wrote about my dad's journey with the 10th Armored Division in Europe in the series, Following the 10th Armored. (Link in sidebar.) Since then I have been doing more research, reading, and digging and am about ready to start writing again. The first in this new series will be posted next week. As I will expand on then, I am afraid of losing the history of the 2nd World War. I fear we must remain aware of the great sacrifice we as a nation made at that time and are in danger of having it undone.

I have been overwhelmed by the history I have been reading and I want to connect that to what my Dad faced. It will be for me a search for more connection with him, but also to bring that now-fading story to life.

In short, I am back. Let me know what you are thinking. The pilgrimage continues.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Tuning Slide 4.9- Recreation and Playing

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Recreation’s purpose is not to kill time, but to make life,
not to keep a person occupied, but to keep them refreshed,
not to offer an escape from life, but to provide a discovery of life.

I have a hunch about why, at least in English we say that we “play” music.

If you are a musician you may have wondered about the word we use in English to describe what we do when we make music with an instrument. We, of course, “play” the instrument, “play” music. What a wonderful way to describe it. We “play”! We don’t work, or stress, or force music. (Well, we may do that, but that’s what we are doing to ourselves, not the music.)

It got me to thinking about the deeper meaning of this. But first I checked out what some other languages use.

In German, it is the word spielen- to play; in French, it is jouer- to play. Both these are the same meaning for playing a game, etc. as in English.

In Spanish, though, it’s a little different. The word used with music is not the same. It is tocar- to touch, be in contact with, play (as in music.) (The word for playing games, etc. is jugar.)

I love the idea that we play when we make music. It truly is why many of us were hooked by it’s magic, lured into a lifetime of developing playing skills. It is far more than the ability to turn some marks on a page into a sound that can touch souls. (Notice the word “touch”? I’ll come back to that.) To play is to take part in something or to engage in something for enjoyment and relaxation. (Google) Why else would we spend all these hours practicing and learning, running scales and long tones? It must be fun. Since most of us will never earn a living at it, there has to be some deeper and more important thing to making music.

Not that we don’t “work” at it. Of course we do. We run the routine, do our scales, learn (and relearn again and again) the basics of something we may have been doing for decades. That has to be fun, enjoyable, entertaining, purposeful in some way, or we would have quit long ago. But we haven’t quit. We may feel like it some days when we can’t do what we did so easily last week. But we don’t. We know the truth that we haven’t yet reached our best sound, no matter how good it may be today. But it is “play.” Recreation.

But, like “play”, “recreation” is not something purposeless and inane. It is to “create again,” to “renew”. That quote for this week says it so well. Recreation (and the related, relaxation) are paths into life and discovery of wonder and renewal. We are not as good at that as we could be. There is always room for improvement that leads to many positive things. When we take time to re-create, to relax and renew there are many benefits. I went to the Mayo Clinic, Healthy Lifestyles, Stress Management Web page and found a long list of the benefits. I am putting a mark at the end of each one that can be a good example of what playing music can do: (Link)
• Slowing heart rate
• Lowering blood pressure
• Slowing your breathing rate << Playing wind instruments can help us learn how to breathe more efficiently.
• Improving digestion
• Maintaining normal blood sugar levels
• Reducing activity of stress hormones
• Increasing blood flow to major muscles << Increased oxygen from more efficient breathing.
• Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
• Improving concentration and mood << The mindfulness and focus needed certainly carries into the rest of our lives.
• Improving sleep quality
• Lowering fatigue
• Reducing anger and frustration << Many things about playing music and practicing can help relive these tensions.
• Boosting confidence to handle problems << Being successful can only make us feel better about what we can do.
The Mayo Clinic site then gives some good suggestions about relaxation techniques that I know help improve our music playing- and will then help with stress and recreation- which will then help our music… and it just keeps on going. You will, in fact, find many musicians and books on music (such as Barry Green’s books based on the “inner game”) suggesting many of these.
Autogenic relaxation. Autogenic means something that comes from within you. In this relaxation technique, you use both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress.
You repeat words or suggestions in your mind that may help you relax and reduce muscle tension. For example, you may imagine a peaceful setting and then focus on controlled, relaxing breathing, slowing your heart rate, or feeling different physical sensations, such as relaxing each arm or leg one by one.

Progressive muscle relaxation. In this relaxation technique, you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group.
This can help you focus on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. You can become more aware of physical sensations.
In one method of progressive muscle relaxation, you start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. You can also start with your head and neck and work down to your toes. Tense your muscles for about five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.

Visualization. In this relaxation technique, you may form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming place or situation.
To relax using visualization, try to incorporate as many senses as you can, including smell, sight, sound and touch. If you imagine relaxing at the ocean, for instance, think about the smell of salt water, the sound of crashing waves and the warmth of the sun on your body.
You may want to close your eyes, sit in a quiet spot, loosen any tight clothing, and concentrate on your breathing. Aim to focus on the present and think positive thoughts.

Other relaxation techniques may include:
• Deep breathing
• Massage
• Meditation
• Tai chi
• Yoga
• Biofeedback
• Music and art therapy
• Aromatherapy
• Hydrotherapy
One last thing, though, which goes back to the Spanish word used for “playing” an instrument. That word, tocar, to touch or be in contact with. It is an apt description of the two-way street of making music. It touches us, moves us, gets us in contact with something greater than ourselves. Music is certainly that! But, if we stop and think about it, that is also what we do with music. We “touch” it, make “contact” with it. I can feel that contact when the music is in the groove, or in harmony, or just plain old centered. That’s what our hours of practice can lead us toward- the contact that makes music such a central part of our lives. And from that, we learn how to do that in the rest of our lives as well.

Here is a podcast about mindfulness and self-talk as relaxation and music-playing, music-touching exercises.


Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Tuning Slide 4.8-

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
— Mark Twain

Summer is over. Yesterday was Labor Day and it’s now time to get back on track. I hope you didn’t take time off from your music for the summer. Summer can be a time of getting things together. There can actually be more time for the music. But regardless of what you did, we often look at the end of summer as a time to get going again. It probably goes back to the dangerous idea that we only have to be learning the nine months of the “school year.” It’s dangerous because it leads us to go the wrong direction and not stay focused on what is in front of us.

As we now mentally get back to whatever it is happens when summer is done, we are heading in the right direction again. We are heading into the future. For me one of the ways I have done this with my music for four years in a row now has been the Shell Lake (WI) Trumpet Workshop. I have an incredible time learning and sharing and growing in those six endurance building (!) days. Some of it is simply (!) remembering the basics that I need to be reminded of. Some of it is getting to play with other musicians or take a lesson. No matter how many things are involved there is often one thing that stands out.

This year for me it was a reminder that at the heart and soul of music is the sound. Not a new insight. Not even all that radical. But with so many trumpet players (myself included) focused on equipment and technique and “how to…”, we can lose sight of the sound and how we get it. We get it by listening to each other. We get it by working with others who have the sound we want and then we work on going that direction. To do that takes concentration and listening. Some of it may be technique, but only to the point of it helping produce the sound.

One specific for me from this year was discovering in my lesson that when doing scales, for example, I would drop the sound just before I went to the next note. That, needless to say, interrupted the sound, weakened it, and got in the way of the musicality. (Thanks, Matt!) I wasn’t playing through the sound, I was playing at the sound, at the note and not through it. How do I change that? By listening and practicing the scales or early Arban and Getchell exercises. But not just going through them to get through them, but intentionally, slowly, mindfully, while listening to the sound. My Self 2 knows what to do and how to do it. I need to relax and play with the sound not against it. That also goes to the breath and style. It is the same whether I am playing a G on the staff or the high C above the staff.

With that example, here is this year’s list of reflections from the students about what they learned from the workshop. I will again deal with a number of these over the next year. They can be a good regular reminder of what making music is all about.
• Sound
• Know what we want; study it; act on it.
• Tone quality
• Have the mind of a child, i.e. be open and ready to learn.
• The power of ask
• Sight reading
>>> Play everything
>>> Read the sound (pay attention to rhythm)
• Conscious and confident rhythm
• (Slow it down so we) don’t make same mistake twice
• Accomplish something- that’s what makes us happy.
>>> Set goals and meet them.
>>> Setting goals is an essential action but make them achievable
>>> Small victories add up
• Accountability
• Motivation
• Rest as long as you play
• Set a constant routine
• Have different sets of practice each day
>>> Plan what you might do in each set during the day
• Why are the (Bill Adam) routine pieces we learned in that order?
>>> Relaxed breath
>>> Always, always no matter what the part of the routine it’s the breath and sound
• Don’t practice- perform
• Eliminate distractions when you are practicing
• You only see your path of dots looking back
>>> Just make good dots- from a Steve Jobs graduation talk.
• Have continuous energy in your sound
• Record yourself
• Life is about learning and sharing.
>>> Wise ones know what to do when
• Intent with every note
• Play through the sound, not at the sound
• Phrasing consists of tension and release
• Imagination- imagine your best sound - and then play it
• Be solution-oriented
• Non-judgmental practicing
• Principles over emotion
• Listen to music and listen deeply- listen with a musician’s mind.
>>> What is the shaping of the line? (For example)
>>> How can I learn to do it?
• The most successful person sticks with it the longest
>>> Persistence leads to success, therefore…
>>> Be persistent
• Plans- long-term.
>>> Pick something you really want and move toward it
>>> Start with end goal in mind and work backwards to today
• Professional reputation starts today
• Always give 100%
• If you’re on time, you’re late
• Urgent, important, not urgent, not important, etc.
>>> Time management
• Failing forward
>>> Say thank you when you fail
>>> There’s no failure, only feedback
>>> What’s between the two mountains? Valley.
>>> Don’t take yourself too seriously
• It only matters that you are on the journey for today
>>> Journey comes before destination
• Just be yourself- we are constantly evolving
• Inner game- p. 37- the rose. It’s always a rose from the seed to its death.
>>> Petals and thorns. Don’t criticize it for not having the flower.
>>> Grow where you’re planted
• No limits- but be smart
• Solo will never sound good if thinking- look how good I can do
>>> Good soloist is selfless
>>> How it fits with whole.
• Get inspired
• Worst sin is feeling sorry for yourself
>>> Causes many problems
>>> Root of so many issues
>>> It is the sin of pride
>>> Don’t put someone else’s light out to make yours brighter
>>> It’s self centered
• Be engaged with everything you do
>>> Make everything interesting
• Concentration happens in the presence of a quiet mind
>>> Develop mindfulness and focus
• Perception is reality
• Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
• Reality of dreams comes from na├»ve idealism
• The way you do anything is the way you do everything
• Put it out there and see what happens. Take risk and do it.
• If you think there’s a ladder of comparison between you and another player, you’re done.
>>> When we compare ourselves to others, it takes away our potential.
• If we have a month to prepare, takes a month,
>>> If we have a week, it takes a week
• The part number doesn’t mean a talent level. It’s NOT: first or your dirt.
• Most difficult thing about practicing 3 hours a day- mental preparation.
• If you do something, you will want to do more. Have to start with something.
• If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.

Which ones do you need to focus on this week?

Monday, August 27, 2018

Tuning Slide 4.7-

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

The feeling of togetherness- not togetherness as in some rigid lock step, but togetherness as in dance- is vitally important in music making.
-Barry Green, The Mastery of Music

Barry Green is the author, with Tim Gallwey, of the classic book, The Inner Game of Music. His second book looked at The Mastery of Music: Ten Pathways to True Artistry. In this book Green expanded beyond the Inner Game ideas into developing “true artistry” in our music. Every couple weeks I am going to take one of these ten pathways and bring it to my life and the applications to the Tuning Slide goals.

In The Inner Game of Music Green talked about two of three disciplines than demands mastery. The first was the techniques, the second was concentration. These two are basic, essential, foundations of making music. The conflicts and agreements of our Self 1 which is always ready to remind us of our mistakes and Self 2 which is the innate and intuitive side that knows how to do it are the building blocks. The third discipline is developing what Green calls, “true artistry.” In my view this takes the technique and concentration and begins to develop musicality. To find these, Green looked at different instruments and different people who seem to live and even embody these 10 pathways. He interviewed them and put it all into this book. Let’s start the journey with Green.

Pathway #1— Communication: The Silent Rhythm (Ensembles and Conductors)
I am working under the assumption that we are musicians because we like to make music and that we practice so that we can do that with others. A solo recitals can be nice, but that isn’t really what making music is all about. Even practicing with a play-along CD doesn’t get to the real joy of music that playing in a combo or band can. In order to play well with others there has to be some way we learn to communicate with each other. There has to be some method, style, trick, or just plain intuition that leads us to do more than just be a collection of musicians doing our own things and hoping (or believing) it works together. And most of the time we have to do it without speaking, on the fly, in the midst of a piece.
Green calls this the “silent rhythm” that unites us in communicating with the audience. He calls it “non-verbal, rhythmic union.” Musicians playing in a group get into something called “entrainment.” They sense the rhythm of the music as played by their colleagues. No one is micromanaging the rhythm through conducting. They feel it. As the group locks into a pulse they become more in tune and more efficient and musical in their playing. Yes, there is a science behind it.
In 1665, Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens, inventor of the pendulum clock, was lying in bed with a minor illness and watching two of his clocks hanging on a wall…. He noticed something odd: No matter how the pendulums on these clocks began, within about a half-hour, they ended up swinging in exactly the opposite direction from each other.
Research has shown that the reason for what Huygens noticed is in vibrations (sounds) on the wall caused by the pendulums swinging works to move them into synch, in tune with each other. In reality this falling into synch is improving efficiency. The two pendulums are no longer working against each other. They are “in tune.” In order to get to that point as musicians we have to go back to the technique and concentration Green related to in the Inner Game. We have to know how to play the parts we have- mistakes, flubs, ineffective fingerings can get out of synch with the rhythm.

We must also give in to the group. We must cease being a lone musician who just happens to be playing with others and let Self 2 do its thing. Self 2 is not as worried about your own technique. Self 2 knows what you or I can do and just wants Self 1 to let us do it. Self 2 knows what’s needed- so let it happen. Distraction, whether by the hyper-critical or hyper-analytical Self 1 or a lapse in focus can easily get you out of synch. Concentration- mindfulness and surrendering to the music- keeps us on.

As we share that with each other, Green lets us know that we are receiving guidance from the music itself, from its pulses and chords, phrases and rhythm. In so doing we receive energy (those vibrations) from the music and our colleagues in the group. In Eastern philosophy there is the idea of “Qi” or “chi” as energy. (Hence Qigong and T’ai Chi). As we play in a group it is that same type of energy that is being shared, silently yet powerfully among us.

Green talked to both percussionists and conductors to explain this idea since it is they who must most fully embody that in the group for all of us. They can get the rhythm, or even set it and communicate non-verbally with the rest of us. As we all fall into it, the “groove” sets in and, well, then it “swings” no matter what the genre of music!

But it is not something that can be forced. One of the musicians Green talked to (Ralph Towner) called it a “zen thing— as soon as you think you have its you lose it.”
There are no secondary roles in music: everything you do affects the total music. So it is critical to be one hundred percent attentive to everything, all the time, and hear the whole as it evolves.
Is it any wonder that right behind “sound” is “rhythm” in the building of musicality? Green concludes:
We don’t just play notes: music is a live current, and we navigate it. This current can be shaped and gently guided, but not pinned down…. The moment we interfere too much, the music’s power, effectiveness, and flow will be disturbed…. We have to be silent, attentive, and sensitive to its shape. We have to intuit a silent rhythm that has the power to unite us. We each have unique capacities to respond to the music, and the better we understand, the more we feel, the closer we will come to the true spirit, and the more artistry we shall have to express.
Just like life.

"No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
— John Donne (1572-1631)

The Mastery of Music: Ten Pathways to True Artistry by Barry Green, chapter 1, pp 21-43.
(2003, Broadway Books.)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Tuning Slide 4.6- Learning from LIstening

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

If there is a behavior you are trying to change, be it large or small, listen to what you are saying to yourself as you work on it. You could be the only person/voice standing in your own way.
— Samantha Smithstein Psy.D.

Last week I talked about the importance of recording oneself for learning and improvement as a musician. I didn’t talk about two things, what I discovered and am doing about it and what does this all have to to do with every day living.

Let’s start with the trumpet stuff. I am not an expert, but have managed to pick up a great deal of insight from the great faculty at the Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop. I hear their voices and suggestions whenever I seek to play better. It is always, they will say, about the sound! What do you hear? Are you listening? It’s also about the breath. How are you breathing? Is it relaxed?

Listen to yourself. Listen, listen, listen.

Well, when I listened to myself on the recording I liked what I heard in general, but was really aware of what needed work. Let’s be honest. We can be our own worst critics, hearing everything that’s wrong even when it’s only a brief slip here or there. I was needing to be my own best critic- that means I needed to be a constructive critic of my playing. I needed to listen musically as if it were someone else.

I know how to do that. I have listened to live music and heard things that I knew were needing improvement. Ever since my first experience of hearing my tired, blah sound those six or so years ago, I have been more aware of it when I hear it. It is because I know what it sounds like- and that it can be dealt with- that allowed me to take the leap of faith unto the recording a few weeks ago. I knew I could trust both my Self 1 and its “great” analytical powers and my Self 2 and its love of music to lead me in the right direction when I wanted to change and grow.

What I learned in more depth than I ever realized it was that I tend to be a sloppy player. I had at times a very sloppy sound. Not always. I noticed that the songs I knew best in the set were usually much, much better than some of the newer or more complicated pieces. There were several songs that we have been playing as a group for most of the ten years I have been with the group. Those I heard my sound clearly and with a musicality that I could appreciate. (Pat on the back, Barry. See, you can do it!)

What does a sloppy sound mean? That was my question to myself as I listened more closely. It was not enough just to say that it was sloppy. That was an immediate reaction which could be discouraging. Go deeper, I told myself. What is sloppy? I was aware of four things, listed from the most basic and obvious to those I have learned from my mentors:

1. Not hitting notes cleanly. That meant I would either slip to a higher note or stick on a lower note. It also meant that old bugaboo of mine- the dull, non-energetic tone. I also learned this past few months that this is also a sign that I am not centering the air and holding its strength as it plays through the music. This happened way too often, even on the songs I knew well. That meant another problem that I talk about later.

2. Articulation issues. Part of that was the air from above. But it was also inefficient use of valve changes and careless movement of my fingers from note to note. I was not being as precise in my fingering as I could- and the result was that at times it sounded like I was simply playing a series of notes and not a melody line. Again, the older songs, even those that were more complicated, didn’t have this as much as the newer ones.

3. Distraction. Since it is me listening to me playing, I know the musician quite intimately. One thing I know is that I can be on the edge of ADD way too often. (Squirrel!) My mind can easily move off its own center line. I know from hard experience in my practice room that when that happens I can easily get lost even when playing a simple C major scale. I could hear that in my playing. Some of those flubs were just silly moments when my mind went somewhere other than the music or its sound.

4. Finally, playing at the music, instead of through it. This is a deeper discussion of what I mentioned in the first one above. Let it flow, move the air in a steady stream and keep the tongue from getting in the way.

What then is there for me to do? Thanks to my teachers and mentors I have set up a few things to handle these.

First, I am paying attention to the basics of the long tones. (Oh, not them again!) I have been doing them every day for a year and a half, but there is always something new they have to teach me. I am discovering that they are my best friends. (If you don’t like playing long tones, you don’t really like playing trumpet I have been told.) I do a set of them in whisper (very, very soft) tones. I am listening, carefully, trying to keep the sound centered and what it feels like.

Second, I am doing it slowly. Most mistakes come from trying too fast. Slow on the long tones, slow on the exercises from the beginning of the Arban’s book, slow from Getchell- so I can listen while still moving the valves deliberately.

And third, go for a lesson! Which is scheduled for later this week and then I am planning one a month through December when it can be arranged.

For life, then, in this whole discussion about recording oneself and listening:

• Focus. Unless we learn ways to maintain focus in life, we will get sloppy. We will miss important things that are around us and in front of us. And the best teacher of focus can be-
• Mindfulness. The non-judgmental action of bringing one’s attention to the present moment without putting values on them is an invaluable skill. This gets us in touch with our feelings and reactions. We miss so much of our daily lives by losing focus and mindfulness. We ignore important things and settle for the trivial because we don’t see what’s around us. But for it to work we have to have-
• Teachability- honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness. There will be countless times each day when the opportunity to learn something new will be in front of us. Watch for the teachers, listen for the mentors. Then move forward.