Monday, September 16, 2019

Tuning Slide 5.7- Make Music- Get the Benefits

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
The power of music to integrate and cure … is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest non-chemical medication.
— Oliver Sacks

I’m not sure why I want to post this. It may be simply because I want to remind myself of all the good reasons why I play music. The idea came from a post on the Piano Power website on the benefits of playing an instrument. Perhaps it was originally conceived of to convince parents to agree to getting a child a musical instrument and training. Perhaps those of us who are already musicians can point to this when someone asks why we spend so much time with music- practice, rehearsal, performance; then repeat!

Many of us may know these things on an intuitive level. We know that we get into a “zone” when we play; we have experienced that change in body, mind, and soul that occurs when we play our instrument. Many of these ideas from the Piano Power post by Mike Levitsky may be useful in helping us name what it is we are experiencing on an almost daily basis. If you are not yet experiencing these on some kind of regular basis, look at the edited list below.

I’ll just start with the overview. These four would be reason enough.
Uses Almost Every Part Of The Brain. (from TED Ed)

◆ Enlarges The Brain
◆ Speeds Up Reaction Times
◆ Strengthens Your Immune System
⁃ These physical benefits are just the start, because they are naturally at the base of all the other reasons. In the end it is most likely these physical benefits that feed into allowing all the others to help us, as musicians, to do more than we think we are doing.

Some of the reasons listed are obvious, of course. We may not even realize they are happening. While we may not always succeed at having these occur, we at least become more aware of them.
◆ Allows You To Share With Others
◆ Develops Music Appreciation
◆ Increases Time-Management Skills
- I almost wanted to delete this last one. I know way too many musicians whose time management skills are just plain bad. No matter how much they may insist they want to be there on time, they are always late. I am willing to give them some break since they do manage to practice and get to concerts and gigs on time. Usually. But enough snideness. After all, there are exceptions to everything, and I’m certainly not perfect, either.

Most of the reasons listed fall under what can be called “developmental assets”, no matter what our age. These would be:
◆ Benefits The Brains Of Babies
◆ Benefits Spelling and IQ In Children
⁃ Some of these two benefits are still under investigation, some are questions of nurture vs. nature. There are studies being done to see if those with higher abilities in a number of areas are drawn to music more than those who don’t, for example. In other words, does correlation mean causation? The numbers do show some indication of at least a low level of causation.

◆ Increases Emotional Perception
⁃ Music is emotion through sound. It only makes sense that some music may increase our abilities to perceive emotions. As a counselor, however, I have a hunch that this takes a lot of work to reach that ability.

◆ Decreases Age-Related Hearing Loss

⁃ I’m not sure about this one. Many of us do have some significant hearing issues as a result of years of being trumpet players or playing without ear protection. But perhaps it has to do with being able to hear with better perception of things. In my case, that is true, when I remember to wear my hearing aids.

◆ Reduces Stress

◆ Produces Patience and Perseverance
◆ Increases Personal Discipline
⁃ These three go together. The more stressed we are, the less patience we have. The more we get worked up over something, the less likely we are to persevere. When we are working on a difficult piece, we can learn to be willing to work on it, sometimes with little patience and too much perseverance That’s when things get difficult. Patience and perseverance also means knowing how to pull back and take a different or more effective approach. Music can do that!

◆ Increases Memory Capability

⁃ If you can’t remember where you left your keys, maybe it is because you forgot to practice your instrument! At least that is what the article said. This may have as much to do with keeping the brain active and engaged than actually improving memory as such. Whichever it is, I’ll take it!

◆ Breeds Confidence

⁃ When all these things begin to show up in our lives, it only makes sense that we will be more confident in what we are doing. And confidence in one area often translates to a better sense of confidence in oneself. Again, the counselor in me sees how this can be sabotaged by other events, but success is a growth mode. Just don’t get overconfident.

◆ Cultivates Creativity

⁃ The result of all this is that we can also become more creative. I found this definition of creativity on the website Creativity at Work:
⁃ Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterized by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions.
⁃ If that isn’t what we learn on our instruments, I don’t know what is!
And, as if we needed any more, my final thought is-
◆ It is fun!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Buddy's War #30

    •    75 Years Ago
•    10th Armored Division/80th Armored Medical Battalion leaves New York- twice

    ✓    11 September 1944
    ✓    Company C Morning Report

Departed at 2120 from Camp Shanks, N.Y., for NYPE…via rail and ferry. Embarked 2320 to USAT Edmond B. Alexander for Overseas destination and permanent change of station. (MR).

USS America (ID-3006) was a troop transport for the United States Navy during World War I. She was launched in 1905 as SS Amerika by Harland and Wolff in Belfast for the Hamburg America Line of Germany. As a passenger liner, she sailed primarily between Hamburg and New York. … In April 1931, America ended her service for the United States Lines and was laid up for almost nine years.

In October 1940, America was reactivated for the U.S. Army… renamed USAT Edmund B. Alexander. … and was refitted for use as a troopship for World War II duty. At the end of the war, Edmund B. Alexander was converted to carry military dependents, remaining in that service until 1949. She was placed in reserve until sold for scrapping … to the Bethlehem Steel Company of Baltimore, on 16 January 1957 and was broken up a short time later. (Wikipedia)

    ✓    12 September 1944
    ✓    Company C Morning Report

Sailed on USAT Edmond B. Alexander at 0300. Ran aground while leaving harbor. Debarked at 1330 via harbor boat for transfer to USAT Brazil. (MR)

It was high tide, Nichols reported in Impact!, with heavy fog as they “slipped from the pier” and ended up stranded on a sand bar 200 yards from land

    ✓    13 September 1944
    ✓    Company C Morning Report

Sailed on USAT Brazil at 1730 for PCS [permanent change of station] and overseas duty. (MR)
SS Brazil was a US turbo-electric ocean liner. She was completed in 1928 as SS Virginia
Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation's 56th St Shipyard in Brooklyn, New York undertook Virginia's refit in 1938, then renamed Brazil.

From 1942 to 1946 she was operated by the War Shipping Administration as a troopship. In October 1944 she arrived in Boston carrying US Army personnel and prisoners of war from Europe. [This was most likely the return trip that had taken Buddy and the 80th Medical Battalion to France.]

She was laid up in 1958 and scrapped in 1964. (Wikipedia)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Buddy's War #29- The End of Peace

• August 31, 1944
Card saying Buddy was leaving. It is terrible
• September 1, 1944
Letter from Buddy and Dora. I am just sick
— Diary Entries, Beula Keller Lehman
I sit and stare at these entries and the ones to follow from late summer 1944. Over these past years of researching World War II and my Dad’s involvement, I have had some of the emotions that may have been a part of those days for my family members then. Having none of the letters they sent, and never having talked to any of them about it, all I can do is guess what it might have been like. The 75 years that have passed give the remembrances a glow that I am sure didn’t have at the time. Most images of World War II are either in black and white or that sepia tint of old pictures. Everything is frozen in time; each event is a unique moment in time. But they were connected- one flowed into the next. I have been discovering that for myself as I have gotten closer to today when peace, in whatever way Army training can be peace, was about to come to an end for the 10th Armored Division and their families at home.

• September 7, 1944
Canned pears. Sent some to Buddy. (Added later)- but he did not get them.
— Diary Entry, Beula Keller Lehman
We also live in a world that is so incredibly hyper-connected that it seems like ancient history to think about families who didn’t know what was happening to their loved ones. The Vietnam War was the first TV war. Even though it was delayed by a day or so, we could watch Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley bringing us the latest from halfway around the world. When the Iraq War started we all sat around the TV and watched the bombing of Baghdad live. Beula couldn’t do anything like that. So she just went on with her life. It was all she knew. Canning pears- and sending them to Buddy; putting money in an envelope for him to spend. Just normal and everyday behavior. Life was already disrupted. There are comments about getting ration cards or about gas rationing. Everything was uncertain and unknown. The best way to cope was to keep the feelings and fears as far below the surface as possible. To do that was to keep normal routines.

For Dora, only married four months, she celebrated her 31st birthday on September 10 as her new husband was boarding a troop carrier.

• September 8, 1944
Wrote to Buddy and sent him some money
— Diary Entry, Beula Keller Lehman
I have been surprised over these months and years of working on this story. It began as a way of honoring my Dad’s service and making some distant connection with a man I hardly knew. I discovered that many of the family stories and myths were true. At the same time, the diary entries hide as much as they reveal. I have been a pacifist for the past 50 years. I have wrestled with my interest in the war and how it was fought. I found myself intrigued as I dug into the stories. The events that were about to happen at this time 75 years ago changed my dad, I am sure. They changed who we were as a nation, first for the better, and then…?

In recent months I have also been challenged to figure out what these all mean for me. It is one thing to simply recreate a world that ceased to exist when the war ended. It is another entirely to discover what the personal impact of all this might have been - or has been - on me. How did this world-shattering war impact who and what I have become? I do not want to take anything away from the story I am attempting to recreate. It stands on its own. It is the story of Beula and her son, of my dad and my mom. It would be less than 20 years after these events that all those connections would be gone for me. All that would be left would be pictures and some words in diaries.

• September 12, 1944
Letter from Buddy and Dora. I think Buddy has left NY
— Diary Entry, Beula Keller Lehman

Monday, September 09, 2019

Tuning Slide 5.6- Stretching the Boundaries

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
The only limits in your life are those that you set yourself.
— Celestine Chua

Reflections from a Concert Band Camp
Last week I ended the post by saying “I would have never believed I could do what I am able to do today just a few years ago.” Some of that is my reaction to being at a different camp in mid-August. I decided to skip the Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop and attend an adult concert band camp at the Birch Creek Music Performance Center in Egg Harbor, WI. My main reason was to move outside of my musical comfort zone of the past few years.

One word explained it all.

I have a very difficult history with auditions. I freeze up and get nervous and generally blow it, just as I have done with solos over the years. When I saw that I would have to “audition” at the start of the camp I knew I had to go. The audition was simply to position the musicians and to give the directors an idea of what the band will be able to do. It was to consist of doing a two octave chromatic scale; doing two scales- concert Bb and concert F; bringing a piece along as a good example of ability; and a sight-reading. None of that scared me. My biggest enemy would be Self 1 telling me that I should be nervous and get all worried about it. It is time to exorcise that demon!

Another reason to go to this camp is summed up in the word

Different styles of music have different languages. One does not play trumpet in a concert band or orchestra the same way one plays in a big band. In fact, even within styles, one plays differently in a concert band than in a brass quintet, even playing the same type of music. The dynamics of the music, the tonguing, articulation, and tonal harmonies, as well as many small but significant details are different from genre to genre. This is language.

My first trumpet language was wind/concert band music. As with most school musicians, that repertoire is my native tongue. We learn what a march sounds like and can almost intuit what is going to come next. We discover what it is like to play waltzes and suites; we fall in love with Percy Grainger and Gustav Holst; we begin to know melodic changes and rhythm styles. We then allow it to sink into the Self 2 so even if the notes are different, the styles and rhythms are familiar.

I wanted to dig back into that native language and discover what my new skills and insights have to offer me in utilizing that language. I have played in wind/concert bands consistently for most of the last 35 years. Here was a chance to intensely work on that language in a camp setting.

Finally, one more reason- I would be
Playing with different people, people who are strangers to me.

This is an extension of the audition piece. These would be people who have never heard me play before and with whom I have no history- good or bad. I am just another trumpet player in the section. It therefore becomes an opportunity to just be who I am- who I have become over the past four years of intense practice and growth. In doing that I will see if all this stuff I've been working on is real!

Yes, that is stretching my own limits- and testing my inner confidence.
◦ Can I do this?
◦ Am I doing as well as I think I am?
◦ Will others judge me?
◦ Can I keep up with them?

The short answer is that I was amazed!

First, the audition.
After four years of Clark #1, two octaves of chromatics is second nature.
After four years of learning and practicing all 12 major keys, concert Bb and C are the basics.
After many years of playing the 2nd trumpet part of Gabrieli’s Canzon #2, it flows from my trumpet without thinking.
There was no sight reading, but I had no fear.
What I did have was some nervousness- the dry mouth was the giveaway on that. But I didn’t let it get in the way.
As far as digging into the language of concert/wind band- that was exciting. One piece we played was Frank Ticheli’s Sun Dance which we had just played in the community band. Like at home I was on 1st trumpet; thanks to the intensity of the rehearsal schedule, we were able to really dig into the music, to listen to what Ticheli was trying to do, to see how the parts work together, and finding ways of listening and blending with the rest of the band- and with the other trumpets sitting next to me. The music became far more internalized than is possible with a once a week rehearsal schedule. I discovered how it is possible to move beyond the notes to feeling the music, intuiting the rhythm, letting the harmony carry it all forward.

What a great experience. We also did that with other pieces that I had never played before as well as a couple others that I have played, but never in that type of setting. What all that did was add a sense of language to what I already knew- and I learned how the improved skills of the past four years can help me learn the musical language. The skills are the same for all kinds of music, but here was the payoff for all those hours of long tones, scales, and the basic Arban’s exercises- music!

This happened partly because we were in a new and different setting. Not just the intensity of the schedule, but the chance to listen to new insights from different directors with different ways of explaining what we were doing allowed me to pick up more nuances of the language of concert band. I have been doing this with a lot of excitement over the past four years through the Shell Lake Adult Big Band Camp. Here I was doing it in my first musical language- the wind band.

When I got home, the community band had a rehearsal and concert. I found myself applying some of the new insights and language skills there. And it was an even better experience for me.

My take-away for all this applies to life as well.
Let yourself be challenged.
Look at what it is I may be afraid of and face it. Most things are not as frightening when I face them and apply what I already know to dealing with them.
Listen to those around you and learn from them what I may not already know. It doesn’t have to be the experts, it can also be the person in the chair next to me who has had different experiences and different insights.

In short, this is what makes being part of a music-performing group so powerful.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

If the Jews Would Have Had Guns...

That Gun Argument Citing Nazi Germany doesn't stand up to history.  From Wikipedia:

Few German citizens owned, or were entitled to own firearms in Germany in the 1930s. The Weimar Republic had strict gun control laws. When the Third Reich gained power, some aspects of gun regulation were loosened, such as allowing firearm ownership for Nazi party members and the military. The laws were tightened in other ways. Nazi laws systematically disarmed "unreliable" persons , especially Jews, but relaxed restrictions for so-called "ordinary" German citizens. The policies were later expanded to include the confiscation of arms in occupied countries. (Link)
 In other words, the gun laws were actually loosened under the Nazis, except for enemies of the state, which included Jews.

It should also be noted that there were two very powerful things happening in Germany that worked against the Jews and other enemies of the state, and a third that would have happened.
  1. Hitler and the Nazi regime were NOT unpopular. In fact, he was seen as a savior to the country by many. They followed him and said nothing when he did things that were clearly way outside the bounds of civil society. 
  2.  As a result, by the time anyone really recognized the issues and what was happening, the power was so great and so consolidated, that his power was overpowering. He had already convinced even the official German church to support him and bless his vicious and horrific government actions! Only if the troops, en masse, turned against him could there have been a different outcome. That became impossible within only months of his legal appointment as Chancellor.
  3. The instant, the very second the Jews would have started to defend themselves against the laws of Nazi Germany, at that moment they would have been the bad guys with the guns. From that single moment on, all those good guys with the guns would have been given the go ahead from Hitler and the government to kill them!
 The real lesson is to oppose bullies, scapegoating people who are different, taking away the rights of people we may not like, and believing the lies and rationalizations based on nationalism and race supremacy!

Saturday, September 07, 2019

The Same Difference?

I've been reading the book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis about the financial crisis of 2007–2008  and had a sort of "A-ha" moment. In general, and the short version, it goes like this:

  • The supposedly smart ones (financial advisor, business leaders, politicians) did not believe the data that a catastrophe was imminent in the subprime field because, if it happened the catastrophe would be so great, it couldn't happen.
  • The wise ones (business leaders, politicians) do not believe the data on that climate change catastrophe will happen because, if it happened the catastrophe would be so great, it can't happen.
The even more generalized view:
  • The belief is that the greater the possibility of a catastrophe, the less likely it is to happen- if not impossible.
  • When catastrophes DO happen, it is not the financial advisors, business leaders, and politicians who are impacted the most. They make money and are often even not implicated in the causes of the catastrophe.
  •  It will always be the poor and those who have few resources to do anything about it who will be hurt the most.
I will just leave it at that.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Tuning Slide 5.5- Making a Commitment

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

The most crucial ingredient by far for success in music is . . .what happens in the practice room.
—William Westney

It is Labor Day and for some school has begun while for others it will happen tomorrow. One last summer “prepare for fall” post. Naturally it is about the most important and essential ingredient of being a musician- practice. We all have heard that the way to get to Carnegie Hall is to “practice, practice, practice.” That’s where I shortchanged myself. I got to play in Carnegie Hall in college and I didn’t really practice. So I guess I thought I didn’t need to practice. It cost me many years of advanced enjoyment! As fall arrives, make a commitment to yourself AND your music:

Commit to practicing.

In light of this, here’s some thoughts from a post I found at Live About. They had eleven tips for practicing. Here are several of them with my comments in italics.

1) Aim to Practice Everyday
Even the best musicians strive to practice their instrument daily. Make practice a part of your daily routine. Determine when is the best time for you to practice. …If you skip a practice day, don't worry, but do try to make up for the missed practice session by extending your practice time for at least 5 minutes for your next session.
[See closing comments below.]

2) Practice for at least 20 Minutes Daily
Why 20 minutes? It's not too short that you get nothing done and not too long that you end up feeling bored. 20 minutes refers to the lesson proper itself. Devote 5 minutes for warm-ups and 5 minutes for cool downs, just like a regular exercise. That means you must set aside at least 30 minutes a day for practice sessions. …As your interest grows you'll find that your daily practice time will also extend.
[As I have increased my skills and endurance, I have found that it takes 20 minutes to get ready to practice.But I have also found that if I don't have more than 20 minutes at a time, that doesn't mean that I only pratice 20 minutes once a day. Three 20 minutes sessions over a day can be a great goal. I have been amazed at how my endurance has increased with just that "little" bit of practice, daily!]

3) Listen to Your Body
Sometimes musicians forget the importance of being fit not only in mind but also in body. If you're straining to read the music sheet in front of you, do have your eyes checked. If you're having trouble deciphering tones coming from your instrument, consider having an ear exam. If your back hurts every time you sit down to practice, determine if this has something to do with posture. Listen to your body; if it feels something is not quite right, schedule a check-up as soon as possible.
[Many of us may be more likely to take better care of our instrument than we do of ourselves. (See # 6 below). Not a good idea to ignore either.]

4) Make Your Practice Area Comfortable
Is your seat comfortable? Is the room well ventilated? Is there proper lighting? Make sure that your practice area is comfortable and free from distractions so you can concentrate.
[That isn't always possible, of course. The most important is that you can feel comfortable and relaxed. Make your practice room a "familiar and safe place. By the way, this also means having the right equipment and things like pencils, metronome, paper, etc. That helps keep distractions to a minumum. And we love to be distracted! Avoid it.]

5) Remember, It's Not a Race
Keep in mind that each person learns at varying speeds, some are quick learners while others take time to progress. Don't be ashamed if you feel you're progressing slower than your classmates. … The best musicians reached their level of success through determination and patience. It is not about how quickly you learned to play a music piece; it is about playing from your heart.
[Also, don’t get discouraged when you come to a plateau. That does not mean you have reaced the end of your ability- it usually means you have reached a point where your skills and endurance are about to increase! This is an almost foolproof sign for me that I am about to make a jump or even leap in my musicianship. I now get excited- and motivated- when I think I have hit a plateau. Amazing!]

6) Take Care of Your Instrument
Your musical instrument will serve as your friend and partner as you continue your studies. It isn't enough that you're a good player, you must also have an instrument that is of good quality and in top condition. Take care of your instrument; if you feel it's starting to have problems, don't wait and have it checked immediately.
[Okay, I have not always been good at this until I realized that if I don't take of my instrument, I am not taking my craft seriously. Like taking care of my body, I need to watch the care and cleaning of my horn!]

7) It's Okay to Have Fun
We all want to be good at something but for me loving what you do is more important. Never forget that despite all the hardwork you will and are facing, playing a musical instrument is enjoyable. As you improve, your love and enjoyment of music will also grow. You are …on a wondrous journey, have fun!
[Fun! It is definitely okay to have fun, even when practicing. In fact, if you aren't having fun in some way or another, you won't continue. I have to find that practicing is a goal in and of itself that will get me to greater goals in my musical ability.]

I would have never believed I could do what I am able to do today just a few years ago. But that will be in next week's post. A life in and with music is such a gift. My times of daily (!) practice give me the opportunity for daily joy and gifts of grace. Make that commitment! Do it!

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Buddy's War #28- Arrival at Camp Shanks

    ◆    75 Years Ago
    ◆    1 September 1944
Arrived Camp Shanks, NY, 1430 via rail from Camp Gordon, GA for permanent change… Distance traveled 384 miles. Discipline excellent. (MR)
Through the next year there will be many references and quotes from the daily Morning Report of Company C, 80th Armored Medical Battalion, Buddy’s unit. The screenshot here is from two days ahead in October. The top locates the company and then lists any changes in personnel followed occasionally by a record of some events. The bottom section is an accounting of numbers of personnel in each of the categories, officers first, then enlisted men. Different units had slightly different styles of morning report forms, though they were all for the same general purpose.

Jennifer Holik at the WWII Research & Writing Center has a couple of good articles explaining both their use in the military during World War II and their value for researchers.
Company Morning Reports
A Morning Report was created each day outlining events of the prior day for the events of a Company. …Morning
Reports listed many details about the company which include:
    ◆    The location of the company for the date of the report.
    ◆    Strength of the unit in numbers of men
    ◆    Details of those entering and leaving the company
    ◆    Names of those declared AWOL, Missing In Action, Killed In Action, or wounded.
    ◆    The reports also provided information on the day’s events. Some clerks reported weather conditions, in addition to the usual information on where the unit was fighting, and other enemy encounters.

The companies were required to report numbers of men at each meal, which provided information to the Army, who then was able to provide food and appropriate supplies for the soldiers. These numbers also alerted headquarters when the ranks were depleted and replacements were needed. (-Link)

I have been able to obtain the Morning Reports for Co. C for the entire time in Europe beginning with today, 1 September 1944. They have given me invaluable information on where my Dad’s company was every day and, when appropriate, a record of events. Whenever I use one of the reports I will note it with (MR).

Monday, August 26, 2019

Tuning Slide 5.4- Exercise is Important, Too

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.
– Jim Rohn

Something I have been more than just slightly aware of over the years is the importance of exercise and physical fitness. I have never been great at it and sometimes have had to force myself into complying with my own principles, but I have had the desire and some motivation for many years. It is not a surprise to me that physical fitness can play a part in our musicianship- and perhaps even vice versa. My trainer tells me he doesn’t see many people (my age or not) who can hold a plank as long and as well as I can. When we discussed it, he said that it may have something to do with my trumpet playing. The importance of the abs in playing trumpet is clear- it’s where the power comes from. So maybe they do go together.

In any case, I came across this graphic at a blog called Take Lessons with 10 exercises and activities for musicians. (Link)

Some of the information from that blog talks about why these are important and can help musicians. Here is an edited version that brings out these advantages.

Power yoga
Learning how to properly and deeply breathe isn’t just important for singers! Taking full breaths is known to reduce stress and improve concentration. Breathing slowly and deeply, especially during challenging yoga poses, will help you to do so during stressful moments, calming both your mind and your body.

Core strengthening
Put simply, you need a strong core to hold yourself upright. It’s not just about having a six-pack; having a weak core can put strain on your back and ultimately cause chronic back pain. Core strength also helps improve your balance and stability — super important for all the sitting and standing we do!

Posture work
Sitting at a computer all day, being hunched over our phones, and slouching in general can wreak havoc on our posture. Over time, our spine begins to morph into the wrong shape — chin jutting forward, shoulders hunched, feet forming a v-shape. Not to mention that a performer with poor posture just doesn’t look as confident or as professional!

Arm strengthening
No matter if you’re a singer or you play an instrument, chances are you’re going to be holding something up, whether it’s your music, your instrument, or your arms. Some instruments may even require using the strength of your arms for certain techniques. Strengthening your arm and shoulder muscles can help prevent injuries, especially to the joints that end up fatigued when they aren’t supported by strong enough muscles.

Intense cardio
Cardiovascular health is important for everyone, but musicians especially can benefit from the mind-over-matter mentality that it takes to push yourself past your limits. And increasing your heart rate during exercise can ease stress, relieve anxiety, and help you sleep better — all of which benefit both your practice and your performance.

Dance classes
Dance classes with choreography require you to stay present and focused, and to memorize moves in the context of the music. These skills come in handy when you need to memorize a piece of music, especially if you are singing or playing with others. They also require coordination and improve your rhythm by forcing your body to feel the beat. Lastly, dance classes can expose you to types of music you might not listen to on your own.

Neck and shoulder stretches
Keeping tension in your neck and shoulders while practicing can cause you to suffer more over time. Especially if you allow your shoulders to come up and forward, this can really weaken your posture and cause back pain, in addition to the neck pain already present. Tension can also inhibit your playing, since many techniques require your muscles to be controlled but in a relaxed way.

Hip flexor stretches & backbends
Tension in the front of your body causes it to be imbalanced and ends up pulling on the back of your body. This takes a toll on your posture and can cause muscle and joint pain. Some say that we carry our stress in our hips, so opening them up would naturally help relieve that stress. Backbending opens your chest and lungs and can help you breathe more deeply.

Outdoor hobbies
In his piece “For Poets”, Al Young advises “Come on out into the sunlight/ Breathe in Trees/…Don’t forget to fly”. The message rings true for all artists — the best inspiration comes from being out in nature and experiencing life. Many musicians spend so much time holed up in studios and practice rooms, so it’s even more important to remind ourselves to get out there and have those one-of-a-kind experiences.

Meditation not only reduces stress and anxiety, it also improves focus and memory. And when you have the skills to calm your mind anywhere, anytime, you can handle anything! For performers especially, practicing meditation will connect your mind and body and allow you to keep calm, no matter how many people are in the audience. (Link to Take Lessons)

Of course, be cautious. Don’t get into some exercise class or regimen without checking with a doctor, especially if you have not been active. Plus, take it easy- build into it. It takes time to get into shape, just as it has taken time for any of us to get where we are with our music. We can do great damage to ourselves and our health if we don’t develop balance.

The interplay between fitness and musicianship is clear. It is not to become fitness champions, it’s about doing what you can do to keep yourself in shape. There are plenty of places to take yoga classes, work on the Alexander technique, discover T’ai Chi, get out an hike. I am too geeky to be able to take a dance class, but maybe that will be the right way for you. Yes, it takes planning, work, and discipline to get into a fitness routine. But we already know the importance of being in a good practice routine. Time to apply it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Buddy's War #27- Almost Ready

    ◆    75 Years Ago
    ◆    6 June - 21 August 1944
D-Day to D-Day+76: Allies moving south and east across France after D-Day.
The Normandy landings were the first successful opposed landings across the English Channel in over eight centuries. They were costly in terms of men, but the defeat inflicted on the Germans was one of the largest of the war. Strategically, the campaign led to the loss of the German position in most of France and the secure establishment of a new major front. In larger context the Normandy landings helped the Soviets on the Eastern Front, who were facing the bulk of the German forces and, to a certain extent, contributed to the shortening of the conflict there. (-Link)

It was not a smooth and easy invasion. In fact, through the month of June and most of July, the Allies made very little progress. They needed a breakthrough- a breakout from the Normandy peninsula and get moving across France. It came from July 25-31 in Operation Cobra.

Operation Cobra was the codename for an offensive launched by the First United States Army (Lieutenant General Omar Bradley) seven weeks after the D-Day landings, during the Normandy Campaign of World War II. The intention was to… break through the German defenses that were penning in his troops… (-Link)

As seems to be the story of the invasion and much of what would happen over the next months, the operation was delayed at first- by the weather. When it did begin on 25 July, it proved as decisive as Bradley and the Allies hoped. Within the next few days, the Allied forces managed what has since been referred to as their “breakout. “

The immediate aftermath was the ability to expand the forces and put further plans into action.
At noon on 1 August, the U.S. Third Army was activated under the command of Lieutenant General George S. Patton. Lieutenant General Courtney Hodges assumed command of the First Army and Bradley was promoted to the overall command of both armies, named the U.S. 12th Army Group. Patton wrote a poem containing the words, 
So let us do real fighting, boring in and gouging, biting.
Let's take a chance now that we have the ball.
Let's forget those fine firm bases in the dreary shell raked spaces.
Let's shoot the works and win! Yes, win it all! (-Link)

The U.S. advance following Cobra was extraordinarily rapid. Patton and the Third Army were hell-bent for leather rush across France as can be seen below. This is an animated series of maps showing

An incredible series of maps from June 6 - August 21, 1944. About 10 weeks into the invasion. It is interesting to note that the Allies were relatively slow until the very beginning of August, then they seem to explode across France. Click on map if it is not moving. (-Link)

Animated maps, 6 June to 21 August
Three days after the final series of maps above, the "Battle of Paris" ended with Allied troops liberating the French capital.

The 10th Armored Division, one of the key elements of Patton’s plan for the Third Army, was now at Camp Shanks, NY, waiting to board a ship. Within three weeks they will be heading east among the first divisions to travel directly from the United States to the mainland of Europe.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Tuning Slide 5.3- Advice for a New Season

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.
— Ludwig van Beethoven

Back in March, I found a post by Melissa Chu titled 25 “No-Nonsense” Lessons on Mastering Your Craft, According to Beethoven. As we all get ready for the post-summer back to basics time, I picked out and edited 7 of the 25 that seemed like good thought starters for this new year of The Tuning Slide. As usual with these types of posts, my reflections are in italics following each idea.

1. Work around your obstacles.
At age 26, Beethoven began experiencing hearing difficulties. Over time, his hearing worsened to the point that he became completely deaf. He was devastated and had suicidal thoughts, since he believed that this meant his music career was over. But later, he changed his mindset and was determined to continue producing music…. Beethoven composed some of his greatest works while he was deaf, including pieces such as Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise. Everyone faces obstacles at points in their life. Instead of making excuses for why something won’t work, find a way to overcome your challenges.
[Many times the obstacles can actually help us by forcing us to get out of our comfort zone and find new ways to work and live. Most of us won’t be faced with anything as drastic as Beethoven’s deafness, but we can still get stalled. Don’t let that happen.]

2. You are never too good to get help.
Beethoven was acknowledged as a child prodigy by his father…. In his adult years… he was gaining popularity and success, but he still sought the instruction of others for feedback and improvement. The world’s best in any field have coaches and instructors to guide them in becoming even better.
[Find teachers at any age. I love learning and I have discovered that learning from others is one of the best ways. I have met a number of new teachers in the past few years- and the results have been astounding.]

3. Surround yourself with people who will contribute to your successes.
Beethoven moved to Vienna in the hopes of meeting Mozart. In the process, he was introduced to other important people in the process who would act as mentors and financial supporters. He surrounded himself with people who were enthusiastic about his work, enabling him to get motivational and financial support to continue his art. Your environment is one of the most important factors for your growth. By placing yourself somewhere that aligns with your goals, you can reach them much more quickly.
[But it isn’t just teachers who are around us. Don’t overlook your friends as part of your movement and growth. They don’t have to be only musicians, either. The right group of positive and supportive friends is always helpful!]

4. Be willing to wait.
Part of being strategic in releasing content is waiting for the right time. Sometimes choosing to act at a later time is wiser. Although Beethoven’s reputation as a piano virtuoso was rising, he chose to withhold works from publication until they would have a greater impact. Two years later, he had his first public performance. He decided to have his works published then, which proved to be a large financial success.
[Four years ago I thought that within a few months of intentional, regular practice I would be a truly superior trumpet player. I wanted to excel quickly. Well, that never happened. Some of the biggest and most significant changes that I worked for only happened in the past six weeks! I didn’t just sit and wait, though, which leads to the next one…]

5. Expect and plan for failures.
On the road to success, there will be a number of ups and downs. Instead of giving up or stalling, expect and plan for them. Although Beethoven was well-renowned during his life time, there were many times when his works were not well-received and his personal and family struggles made it difficult to make ends meet. Instead of becoming frustrated and giving up, he took a step back and evaluated his work so far. Doing so brought about a change in musical style as he decided to move in a different direction. His move influenced the shift in Classical music at the time.
[Failure isn’t the end. Ups and downs occur; plateaus happen. I came to realize that a plateau usually means I am about to make a move forward. My Inner Game self 2 knows that now and sees that as times of consolidation of resources to move on.]

6. Your tastes and preferences will evolve over time.
Beethoven’s work is divided into three periods: early, middle and late. In each period, he was influenced by different composers and environments. His own personal development and maturity affected his musical style as well. As we get older, our outlook on life and work changes. We might spend time being influenced by different people, or have events occur that change our approach to things.
[For me the change was in my outlook on life and how to move forward. I listened to my teachers, friends, and colleagues. The result was I discovered new things that I would never have expected to like. I continue to deepen my understandings of more contemporary jazz, for example, and have learned new understandings of mood, melody, and musicality as a result.]

7. There is always room to improve.
Even if we think we are good enough, we can always get better at something. This could mean putting in more work to improve our skills, or taking a different direction. Beethoven was quoted as saying:

“I am not satisfied with the work I have done so far. From now on I intend to take a new way.”

Midway through his music career, Beethoven had already composed a number of works. Yet, he still wanted to do even better. And if Beethoven thinks he can do better, then all of us can always strive to get better at what we do.
[That says a lot right there!]

The barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, 'Thus far and no farther.'
— Ludwig van Beethoven

So as I move into this fifth year of The Tuning Slide, I am as excited as I was when I began. These ideas from Beethoven will be woven in and through the posts in the year ahead. More ideas will be in the next couple of posts and then we will dig deeper. I am hoping to be a little more expansive in many posts and move beyond the specifics of the trumpet- but even when I stay with my main instrument, I plan on expanding into more general applications.

As always, if you want me to look into something, email me.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Power of the Novel

[Yes, this is a non-Tuning Slide, non-Buddy's War post. I will try again to get back in this blogging swing. More on that at another time.]


I stood in the kitchen and couldn't stop crying. I was almost a blubbering fool. Nothing had happened, other than I had just finished reading an amazing novel. I had spent the last 20 pages or so trying to focus through tears and now I was able to let the emotions go.

There was absolutely nothing new in the novel. I did not learn anything new about World War II or the Holocaust. I have been reading books like this, fiction and non-fiction since I first heard of Adolph Eichman in 1960. I have cried many times over these nearly 60 years.

But here I was doing it again with as much emotion as the first time, whenever that might have been. The good novel is not about learning new facts but experiencing a story of something we have always known in a new way. There is truth in the old line that there are only so many different plots to write about, we just repeat them over and over. But it is not the story that's new. We are new each time we read something. I am not the 12-year-old who first learned of the horrors of Hitler's Final Solution. But I experienced it yesterday for 2019. (That will be another post in a few days or week.)

It was so powerful that when I stopped crying I pulled out my journal and started writing what I was feeling. I wrote for almost five pages. It flowed more powerfully than the tears had. These were thoughts and emotions hooked by a story I knew, only this time with different characters and tugging on my heart in new ways.

Hence the importance of the novel. I have had people tell me they don't bother with novels, after all, they aren't true. Oh, but they are Truth in ways that facts can only hint at. Yes, the novelist wants to hook the emotions of the readers. The novelist is trying to get our attention and force us to look at life from a new perspective. That works best when our emotions are engaged.

Is that fair? Of course, it's fair- it is part of the unspoken contract between the writer and the reader. I read novels to give me new perspectives and new insights by looking at people responding to life as it happens. I want the novelist to be there with the story and to open me up.

But I've heard the story before. No, not with the awareness and experiences you have today. Hence my nearly five pages of longhand writing in my journal about a story that I pray will never become old, but will always challenge me and the world to want it to never happen again.

Yes, facts and histories can do that. Well-written non-fiction can have all the power of novels, but the novel has the advantage of taking us places where the facts my at times hide some truths that we may not want to see. The novel can sneak through our emotional backdoor and wake us up.

Novels are dangerous which is why they are so often the target of groups who want to control others. Banned books often contain uncomfortable sights. They can shine a spotlight of truth on what may be hidden in plain sight.

We are better for the work of the novelist. May they continue to take us to depths of emotion and so lead us to hope.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A Thought for August 13

August 13, 1727, Berthelsdorf, Germany, the Renewed Moravian Church was born. The Spirit descended in the midst of Holy Communion and they were changed. The people responded at the end of the day,

"We learned to love!" 

The Moravian motto has been

In essentials, unity;
In non-essentials, liberty;
In all things, love.
 Perhaps then, LOVE is the #1 essential? After all, God IS love and we remember that God so LOVED the world... Yet, too often, we hate and divide. We judge, blame, point fingers, seek to build ourselves at the expense of others.

How then, in an age of division, can we again learn what it means to love? Ah, but love attracts less attention than attacking. No one gets hurt, no great headlines can be written, no "Film at 11:00!" because love is much deeper. Everyone gets hurt when we hate- and it makes for good ratings.

How do we love when all around us there are calls to yell, get angry, shake the hateful fist, retaliate?

How do we stand for the work of the Holy Spirit when the Spirit and the Word have been undermined by a culture of division where those who are different are an enemy?

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Tuning Slide 5.2- What I've Learned

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.
—Henry Ford

As I get into the fifth year of The Tuning Slide I took some time to think about what I have experienced and learned since that first August at Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop. I have decided to put it into the form of a letter to Bob Baca, the director of the workshop and my main mentor these past four years. I am not ignoring the other faculty and people at home who have been part of this journey with me. Together they have helped me implement the ideas and more to where I am today!

Hi Bob,

Well, I missed the trumpet week at Shell Lake this year. It was a tough decision, but I have an opportunity to do some different kind of stretching in my musicianship and I’m taking it. As I told you I will be going to an adult concert band camp in Door County in a couple weeks and couldn’t swing both this year. But more on that later in the year. Instead I want to summarize the many things that you (and the others) have helped me achieve.

What I have learned from these past 4 years:

1. Routine!
I remember from these years at Shell Lake that you and the faculty have often said that one plays a high C the same way one plays a low C. At first I didn’t understand, but I believed you and kept waiting for it to happen while doing what I needed to do. The time spent on playing the lead pipe and LONG TONES has paid off. Last year at the Brass Festival in North Carolina I found myself just playing what was on the page- and the notes came out. The answer to that was a routine. A routine that is regular and consistent.

2. The Basics.
I learned that if we don’t continue to work on our skills, develop our tone, practice rhythms and etudes, we can become stale. Over these past four years I have been renewed in my skills, I have practiced and discovered more ways to speak the language of the trumpet and to put more style and tone and life into it. If I am to grow in any way in my abilities I have to practice the basics- which you have taught me to do and then move into greater technical proficiency. All I wanted to do was be a better musician- and it has happened.

Many years ago I was a first-chair, lead trumpet with whatever skills a high school senior could have in1965. I have learned the importance of being a section player and have discovered all kinds of new techniques. I have never stopped playing, but in the past four years I went from “just playing” to “being musical”. I would never have believed it when I left Shell Lake after that first camp in 2015. I have been amazed at what can happen- and yes, as I have said before, even an old dog can learn many, many new tricks.

Perhaps above all else I have discovered the absolute necessity of never leaving the basic behinds. The Bill Adam routine has taught me not to forget or neglect these basics on a daily basis. I play 10-20 minutes of long tones in various forms every day. It is the foundation. I play exercises in all 12 major keys; I go back and use the first Arban exercises regularly; I discovered that if I can hear it, I can play it. My fingers now move more fluidly through muscle memory and my ears hear more through aural memory. I have learned to always have a beginner's mind!

3. Easy does it. Patience, slow down.
Don’t force it; don’t rush it. The secret to playing fast is to play slowly. Sometimes so slowly that you may not even recognize the tune. If it isn’t working, go back to the basics behind it. So simple, yet so powerful.

4. You can skip a day but you’ll never get it back
I have missed very few days over these last four years, mostly when I was recuperating from surgery and wasn’t allowed to play. Once in a while I may take a day off because there was no way around it. More often I will do the basic long-tones and scales for 30 minutes. On most days I play and now I can play a lot.

5. Listen, listen, listen
Pay attention to yourself in your own practice and to those around you in rehearsal. We practice alone to get to now our part. We rehearse with others to know how our part fits in with the others.

6. The Inner Game- trust self 2
The Inner Game ideas have been around a while and they work. I have known them for years; now I know how to better utilize them and to trust me - Self 2- to do what I can do.

7. Play out. Just do it.
Some may think that a “timid trumpet player” is an oxymoron. Put me in a group or public performance and I would become a timid musician. What a waste. It is exciting. That doesn’t mean to over-perform, be over loud or obnoxious. I means what it says- just do it!

8. Stretch outside the box
I know the importance of stretching one’s skills. It is how we grow. What I have learned in these past four years has given me some directions on how to do that. I enjoy it too much now to even think of stopping.

9. It’s at least 90% mental.
The basics of playing and performing music are the easy parts. Just keep practicing. This goes back to- and expands on the inner game. If you don’t think you can do it- you won’t be able to do it. But if you believe you can- you will- even if it takes months and years of practice.

10. Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the basis of a life of hope and growth. Being self-aware and then being aware of all that is around me and living within it- that’s the ability to be mindful. It doesn’t mean lack of growth or being content with just leaving things as they are. It means being attentive and in my musicianship knowing where I can go next.

That’s what I have learned. Here is what I have received:

A. Play like you like it- and you will like playing.
This is perhaps best described in the meme: If you don’t like playing long tones, you probably don’t like playing trumpet. Really? Yep! It is fun to discover something new with different ways of doing long tones each day. I really like playing and it makes a real difference each day.

B. Confidence
Two weeks ago at a community band rehearsal I had to play a solo part that I had never read before since the soloist wasn’t able to be at that rehearsal. Then I had to play some upper register lines. Yep- I did both. Confidence has built. I don’t get panicked when I see some of those notes or at a passage I would have backed off from before. Now, later this week, I will be attending that concert band camp where I have to audition. I am not the least bit afraid. Call out a major key- I can play any of the 12. Give me a sight-reading page- I know the basics. Am I nervous or anxious. Not any more. Now I am excited.

C. Energy and excitement
What can I say? They sum up what I have been given. The other day I was feeling a little under the weather and restless, unable to find something to direct me. My wife looked at me and simply said, “Go play your trumpet. That always works.”

And it did.

Thank you, Bob and the Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop. You have given me one of the greatest boosts of the past 30 years.

Crazy? Yep- crazy good!

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Buddy's War #26- Movement Begins

    ◆    75 Years Ago
    ◆    July 31, 1944

The 10th Armored Division left Camp Gordon for Camp Shanks, NY, point of embarkation
With six-weeks left until embarkation, the 10th Armored Division, along with Buddy’s 80th Armored Medical Battalion, left Georgia. The training was done; Tiger Camp was closed; they were ready to become active participants.

Orangeburg, NY, 19 miles north of New York City, was home to Camp Shanks, known as "Last Stop USA," the largest World War II Army embarkation camp. 1.3 million US service personnel en route to Europe were processed at a sprawling camp that covered most of the town. On the western shore of the future site of the Tappan Zee Bridge. (— Link)

Memorial at the site of Camp Shanks
The area was served by two railroad lines; it also had quick access to piers on the Hudson River which could handle large military ships, so troops could get in from bases across the country and then back out to New York — and on to Africa and Europe.

As only the Army can, 17,000 workers were mobilized to transform Orangetown’s farms into a city of nearly 50,000; the base included Quonset hut barracks, headquarters buildings, stores, chapels, a theater, a laundry, a bakery, and a hospital. “In three months, they built more than 2,500 buildings,” says Donnellan. “You can’t put a deck on your house in three months now.”

Named after the general who commanded New Jersey’s Camp Merritt during World War I, Camp Shanks opened in January 1943. Here soldiers would be “staged” — inspected for proper equipment and supplies and made ready for deployment. “After being trained all over the country, they came here to make sure their rifles worked, that they had the proper boots, then they got their orders and were put into units,” Donnellan says. There were seven staging areas, including one for the Women’s Army Corps — and one for African Americans. The military was still segregated, Donnellan says, and blacks were at times treated worse than prisoners of war, who also were housed at the camp. “The WAC area was near the POWs, but the blacks were kept all the way across the camp,” he says. (— Link)
Shanks was part of the New  York Port of Embarkation (NYPOE).

The NYPOE was the largest of eight Port of Embarkation commands, the second largest being the San Francisco Port of Embarkation and the second largest on the East Coast being Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation. By the end of the war 3,172,778 passengers, counting 475 embarked at the Philadelphia cargo port, and 37,799,955 measurement tons of cargo had passed through the New York port itself with 5,893,199 tons of cargo having passed through its cargo sub-port at Philadelphia—about 44% of all troops and 34% of all cargo passing through army ports of embarkation. (-- Link)

How does one prepare for going overseas to war? Or more to the point, in the midst of what may be an unprecedented expansion of overseas troops, how does the Army prepare so many people in such a short time? In 1943 as the Army was putting the finishing touches on its post-Pearl Harbor buildup, the Medical Field Services school in Carlisle, PA, published a thirty-page pamphlet for officers on what to do before leaving for war. Most of it was what you would expect with the possibility that the reader wouldn’t make it home.

The introduction began:
Personal affairs of your family become personal problems only when they remain unsettled. Over here, you have the time and facilities; over there, you may not.
The Table of Contents
    I.    Wills
    II.    Powers of Attorney
    III.    Survivorship Bank Accounts
    IV.    Class E Allotments
    V.    National Service Life Insurance
    VI.    Certification of Officers
    VII.    Designation of a Beneficiary
    VIII.    Clothing & Equipment for Overseas Duty
    IX.    Pensions
    X.    Checklist for Personal Identification

It told you what the Army would provide (gas mask, tent, tent pole, canteen, etc.) and what you would need to provide (belt, shirt, soap, socks, towels, etc). And then gave a postscript of the things they might wish they had when they got overseas.
The pamphlet concluded with a one-page summary and well-wishes.

    ◆    75 Years Ago
    ◆    August 4, 1944

Military ID issued to Harold K. Lehman

Monday, August 05, 2019

Tuning Slide 5.1- The Important Moods of Music

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

This will be our reply to violence:
to make music more intensely,
more beautifully,
more devotedly than ever before.
— Leonard Bernstein

I had already started this week’s post, the first of year 5 of The Tuning Slide. I wanted to look back and see what I’ve learned over the first four years of the blog and where music is taking me. When I woke up Sunday morning and checked the morning news on Google I was forced to face another day of mass killings, the third in a week. I decided I needed to do something else. I needed to search my own soul and find a place of peace and hope in this endless news stream of senseless violence and death.

My first thought was the quote above from Maestro Leonard Bernstein. They were part of words he spoke a few days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963. It was a difficult time. Bernstein, like the nation, was in shock and mourning. He said it was made worse by the violence involved. He asked..

And where does this violence spring from? From ignorance and hatred…

By saying that, Bernstein knew that the response to such violence can often be calls to even more violence. The anger and sadness of a mourning and shocked people can lead to finding ways to make the situation worse instead of better. The Maestro knew that was not the way of people of music and art!

But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art…. This must be the mission of every man of goodwill: to insist, unflaggingly, at risk of becoming a repetitive bore, but to insist on the achievement of a world in which the mind will have triumphed over violence.

Our reply to violence, he ended with the top quote, will be to devote ourselves more fully and more deeply to our music! By making beauty in music and art perhaps we can move the world a little more distant from the feelings and actions of hatred and violence. Music may be unique among the arts, it can touch us without words, move us without saying anything, surround us with hope with a depth and intensity unknown in other ways. Again, from Bernstein:

Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.

Music’s connection with life is at the level of experience. Music causes synapses to fire in our brain and nervous system; it starts a process that can flood us with important neurochemicals that change our mood. It prompts awareness of things we never can explain and inspires us to actions of hope. Yes, there is angry music that can do the opposite, that can incite violence and fuel rage. There is also music that can be used as a sedative, numbing us to the world around us. It is the responsibility of the musician/artist to be wise and mindful of all the consequences of what we produce.

A few years after Bernstein’s words at John Kennedy’s death, the group The Rascals were in a similar situation when Robert Kennedy was killed in Los Angeles. They penned their immortal words- "All the world over, people got to be free." Many were inspired. At the same time singer Dion reflected on this history of violence in Abraham, Martin, and John. These gave voice to people’s emotions and allowed people to both grieve and move forward.

Bono, of U2 understood this when he said:

Music can change the world because it can change people.

Will your music or mine change the world? Yes, it can. If we are willing to be devoted to the music, seek to make it as beautiful as possible. We may only start with changing ourselves when we pick up our instrument and play. But isn’t that where all change must start- within each of us as we dare to think and act differently? We then learn to live with the promise of peace and the reduction of violence. As we live it, as it becomes part of us, others can be touched, if only momentarily, but it is a start.

Musicians and artists are important. Don’t lose sight of your gift- and use it well.

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. let it be.

Let it be, let it be, .....

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, .....”
― Paul McCartney

Monday, July 29, 2019

Tuning Slide 4.53- Practicing and Performing (from Year 1)

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
(I’m taking four weeks off from new posts while I do a number of things, not all related to this blog. In these four weeks I am posting some from the very first year of The Tuning Slide. Some of it will be to refresh my thoughts, and some of it will just ground what I am doing in the purposes of the blog. This one was post #1.29 on 3/16/2016.)

Be harder on yourself in the practice room and
be easier on yourself in performance.
---Bryan Edgett
Going through my notes from the end of last year's [2015] Trumpet Camp at Shell Lake, I came across this note:
Practice like you want to perform; perform like you practice
I had some kind of intuitive idea of what that meant, kind of along the lines of the quote above from trumpeter and professor Bryan Edgett. Practice is where you work out what you want to do and performance is where you share it with others. It also meant to me that when I am practicing I should NOT just be playing the notes on the page. Instead I need to be digging into all the aspects of the music- tempo, tone, shape, groove, etc. If I can't find those in the practice room, they won't be there when I go to perform them.

I have seen that happen in my own playing with a concert band. I practice my part and have it down cold. Technically it feels right and I'm feeling good about myself. Then I get to the next rehearsal and I hear my part with the rest of the band and, oops, I can't make it happen. That means that on some level my practice has been missing some things. One of those is to see practice as a performance.

So I dropped an email to one of the faculty from last summer's camp, Bill Begren. I asked him what he took that statement about practicing and performing to mean. Here's his answer:
Performing at a high level is a habit. Develop that habit by practicing at a high level. This most often means:
  • Fundamentals make up 50% to 75% of your daily practice.
  • Slow down to the point where you can play without mistakes.
  • Repetition is your friend.
I told Bill that I would riff on what he said- and he gave me lots of things to think about. Let's start at the top.

I had never thought of high level performing as a "habit." Sure, I knew about muscle memory and getting in the habit of doing things the right way so I don't have to fix them later. But to see performing itself as a habit was an expanded insight. If I have not gotten into the habit of practicing at a high level, I won't be able to do any performing well.

About the same time Bill wrote me the above, we had a brief conversation online about the meme that Malcolm Gladwell wrote about in his 2008 book, Outliers. What has come to be called the "10,000 Hour Rule" basically says that the key to becoming expert in any field is to have put in 10,000 hours of practice. In our instant gratification society this came as a shock to some. You mean I can't be an expert at this for what, 3 1/2 years of 8 hour days? Sorry, not for me.

The other side of instant gratification is finding an "easy" answer to getting what I want. So, if I sit down and play for x amount of time for x amount of days, even if it is 3 1/2 year, I will be an expert. Let's get started. That naturally doesn't happen that way since someone with that type of attitude isn't going to stick with it for 3 1/2 months let alone 3 1/2 years because they will not see themselves changing.

That's because just practicing for 10,000 hours alone isn't going to do it. If you do it wrong for those 10,000 hours, you will be an expert at doing it wrong. If you settle for less than your best for those 3 1/2 years, you will be great at being less than your best. Hence, Bill's comment above that the practicing at a high level is what it's about.

But 10,000 hours of practicing and performing at a high level will lead to even higher levels of practicing and performing. THAT I find exciting and motivating. That does mean making a commitment to doing just that. After a few months of that kind of practice and performance, you will know whether you want to continue that commitment.

But what is "high-level" practicing all about. Bill gives three parts to it. The first is fundamentals. Back in the 60s and 70s Earl Weaver was the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Weaver was known for preaching one thing over and over- it's the fundamentals that win ball games. You practice the fundamentals until they are routine. Next time you watch a baseball game, notice things like how the first baseman moves to his position to get the ball. It's habit. You watch him throughout the game and you will see him do it the same way almost every time. I have taken hundred of pictures of pitchers pitching. For each pitcher I very seldom get a picture that is unusual. He always pitches the same way.


I didn't ask Bill what he considered fundamentals. I already know the answer:
  • Long tones
  • Chromatics
  • Daily Drills and Technical Studies
  • Scales
Google "Bill Adam Trumpet Routine" and you will find the best-known of routines and many variations on it. THAT is fundamentals. Doing them over and over. One is never so good that you don't need to work on some of those early Arban's routines. Herb Alpert told me he plays scales every day. Keeping the fundamentals clear and sharp makes those 10,000 hours effective. If you have an hour to practice, at least 30 minutes of that hour should be fundamentals. I know- we don't have that kind of time. Sure we do. We find it when we up our level by practicing at high levels.

Bill Bergren's second insight into high-level practicing is to "slow down." But Bill, it says allegro! So what. I read on one of the sites I was looking at the other day that if you recognize the tune when playing it, you're not playing it slow enough. Slow down. Make sure you can ht the notes cleanly. Make sure you know what the phrase looks like. Give the phrases feeling- but do it slowly. My one teacher had to keep at me for wanting to play it too fast. I want to be able to show I can do it, that I have the technical chops to succeed at it. But when I do that I always flub up.

Sure we will get faster as time goes on, but it is the ability to play it slowly with meaning and purpose without mistakes that leads to high-level performance.

Finally, repeat, repeat, repeat. Repetition is our friend. Don't run it once and forget it. Play it. Then play it again, only better. Build your confidence. Remember the Inner Game tactic of trusting yourself in your playing? Repetition is how you get that confidence.

This isn't deep rocket science or even deep music theory of performance. It is plain old common sense. Which is why we ignore it. We think we have an easier, softer way. We think we can get it done in half the time with half the effort. Well, if it's going to take 10,000 hours no matter how you practice, why not make those 10,000 hours count!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Buddy's War- A Pause to Remember

    ◆    75 years ago this week
    ◆    July 23-25, 1944

Soviet troops liberated the first of the concentration camps- Majdanek in Poland.
In Guns at Last Light, the third book of his amazing trilogy on World War II, Rick Atkinson says that at this point, the war came to have a "vivid moral structure." As the Allies were moving toward Paris, the Soviet troops in Poland had arrived at the Majdanek camp. A New York Times reporter said, "I have just seen the most terrible place on the face of the earth." (Atkinson, p. 183ff)

He had no idea that he had only seen the tiniest glimpse into a horror that we still have difficulty putting into perspective. The full horror that would be unveiled in the winter and spring of 1945 still stuns and paralyzes the imagination.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Tuning Slide 4.52- Perception is Reality (from Year 1)

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

(I’m taking four weeks off from new posts while I do a number of things, not all related to this blog. In these four weeks I am posting some from the very first year of The Tuning Slide. Some of it will be to refresh my thoughts, and some of it will just ground what I am doing in the purposes of the blog. This one was post #1.12 on 11/18/2015.)

Don't be afraid,
just play the music.
― Charlie Parker

As a counselor, one thing I always have to keep in mind is that when someone sees reality a certain way, they believe it. For them it IS reality. It doesn't matter whether it is true or imagined. Reality is often what we perceive it to be. So when they come into my office or group for therapy I have to start where they are- even if I know it to be false or mis-perceived.
As we pick up our horn to practice or to perform, what we consider reality will govern what we do next.

For years I believed I could not play a solo.

I was right. I couldn't play a solo. I would always mess it up. Even though I kept at it in church, for example, if I had a organ or piano and trumpet duet I never, ever got it right. Never. Something would always go wrong. I would miss a count and therefore come in early or late. I would miss a sharp or flat and play a discordant note. Any one of a number of things happened every time. Most people didn't notice it as significant most of the time, but I did.

"See," I would say to myself, "you can't play a solo."
I was proving the truth of Henry Ford's statement:
Whether you think you can,
or you think you can't--
you're right.
― Henry Ford
Fortunately I loved playing trumpet so much I never allowed it to stop me from trying or from continuing to play in bands. I would avoid solos, even in band. My trumpet soloing above even 55 other musicians would send my heart into high gear, the adrenaline would flow, the fight or flight mechanism would kick in- and I would mess it up.

Over and over the refrain- you can't solo, you can't solo, you can't!

My perception of reality was true- even if it wasn't.

Note that this was not a fear of being in front of people. I have been in public for 50 years preaching, radio DJ, cable TV host. I could stand and talk to hundreds of people and not be nervous. Put a trumpet in my hand and make me solo in front of a handful- forget it. I can't do that. So said my perception of reality.

So what happened, esp. since I wouldn't be writing about it if it hadn't changed?

My first step was to work with a teacher. Just to play in his presence was a big step. He gave me some assignments; I worked on them; I improved.

Second, I was invited to join a brass quintet. When there are only five of you, each part is, in essence, a solo. We had a lot of fun practicing and developing a repertoire. When we finally did play in public performance I did okay, but I still messed up somewhere in each performance. Again, not always noticeable and never as badly as I had before, but I was building confidence in myself- and reality was shifting.

Third, I began playing some first parts in our community band. I found that most of the time I could do that! But that wasn't a solo. Again- perceptions were changing internally.

Fourth, one year ago this week the community band had a concert and with a solo on one number. My teacher was also playing first and he told me that I was playing it. I didn't argue. I figured that if he thought I was capable, maybe I was.

We worked on it in my lessons. I could play it very well- at home or in the lesson. But not at any rehearsal. Never.

I can't play solos!

But I refused to back down. (Stubborn ol' cuss!) The director never suggested I give it to someone else. The night before the concert we had our dress rehearsal and ...

Nope, still not right.

Concert night. The piece comes up. ("Valdres March" by Hanssen) It starts with my trumpet solo. I do okay. A little weak, but not particularly strong, either. Maybe I can solo? Maybe?

We get to the end and approach the D.C. back to the top- and the solo. One last chance. As we move along toward the D.C. I have a conversation with myself.
  • This music is supposed to be fun.
  • You're not having fun.
  • Have fun.
  • You can do it.
  • Screw it.
  • Play the damn thing!!!
Yep- it worked.

I nailed it. My teacher gave me a thumbs up!

The first solo I played well in almost 50 years.

Reality made a seismic shift and I was now a "real" trumpet player again.

After the first of the year I will be doing some posts on the idea of "The Inner Game" about how we sabotage ourselves with a "Self One" and a "Self Two". That's what this is really about. It starts with our perception of reality. What we believe is what guides us. Reality or not, if we see it that way, that's the way it is. Don't confuse me with facts.

Unless you want to learn to do it differently. I didn't realize that's what I was doing when I started this journey about five or six years ago; when I said yes to the quintet or decided to take lessons again.

  • Get out of yourself and seek support and new insights.
  • Stretch yourself. Take some chances and risks. All you can do is make a mistake. It's not the end of the world.
  • Keep practicing.
  • Hear the perception of reality that is keeping you from doing what you can do.
  • Then do it.
That's what I did over the years in my life. It works with any task I think I can or can't do. The trumpet isn't any different.

And it is supposed to be fun. Enjoy it!

(BTW: Thanks to Warren, Steve, and Mike for sticking with me through these past years!)