Sunday, May 11, 2014

Strong Women

It's been FAR too long since I've posted here--more about that another time.  Today is Mother's Day, and I'd like to focus a bit on that......

"Strong Women"
I have the pleasure of being raised by and surrounded most of my life by strong women. Not the settler-build-a-house type of strong, (although my mom could easily get in and kill a chicken or help out with a hog-killin', and did, when needed) but strong of thought, action and deed. I grew up knowing both of my grandmothers and a great, great aunt. Aunt Florence, even though she died when I was an early teen, had a great influence on me in knowing what a strong woman was all about. My mother and her sister Martha, were obviously guided and heavily influenced by her as well. Both of these women, even though I didn't see Martha all that often over the years, have shaped me in many ways that I didn't always recognize. I've always said my mother is just about the smartest person I can ever imagine knowing, and she continues in that role. Probably, though, the most important thing mom ever did for me was to allow me to go. There as needed, but never overtly limiting or requiring me to be other than I was.
As I became involved with my wife, and learned her family, I recognized a similarity of strength, in her grandmothers as well as her mother and her aunt Martha (which we all chuckled that it must be fate, since we both had aunt Martha's....) The strength there was different, still strong, just carried out in a different way. Although my mother-in-law passed away five years ago, the strength of her life and way of living still comes out in much that we do. Both of my brothers-in-law married strong women who are shaping the lives of their children similarly to the way my life was shaped.
So what is "strong"? My descriptors can best be realized in my wife, Kim. We've been through so much together (you know, the for better/worse, sickness/health, richer/poorer) that I could point to almost any month of our nearly 26 year marriage and give significant definitions of "strong". Here's a snapshot/overview of how I see strong in her: in the early years of our relationship, she finished the entirety of a music education degree in 3 years, having switched from being a journalism major (many stretch to 5....but not her); immediately upon graduation, we were married, and moved to Penn State---what did she do with that hard earned music ed degree? became a bank teller.....; then off to Michigan, where some teaching commenced, but not really what she trained for; the back GA where we had our first daughter, Taylor, the finally to NC, where we've been and raised our family. And, she finally got to teach music, but realized that in order to support our family best, being a music teacher was not the right path, and she changed to best fit the needs of us. Our first five years together she showed strength I still am in awe of---and her abilities as Mother have only caused me to stand back and watch with amazement.
All of these described things, this strength, come down to one fundamental element:
Love. All of these women I describe were/are full of love, and know how to share it, use it, and demonstrate it in all they do. They love through romance, through tenderness, through discipline, through leading and guiding, and by just being.
thank you to all of them, and all other strong women who fill our lives.

Friday, December 24, 2010

tireless intensity

I received an interesting compliment earlier this week--at least I think it was a compliment.....

After a concert with the quintet, a friend came up, shook my hand, and said:
"Dennis, you have an amazingly tireless intensity about you."

He went on to talk about how many things I'm involved with that have influence on others. That thought has stuck with me through the week. Yes, I do a lot of things, but never think about breadth of duties, only about being helpful. Our time here is only truly validated by our ability to serve others. Surely, we do have to take care of ourselves, our families, etc. But the true mission in life is to serve. If we lose sight of that and it becomes too much about us, then life loses purpose and we move about aimlessly.  (this is not idle observation--I've wandered around in circles many times in my life!) But I digress, and don't want to be preachy--

It is oh-so-easy to wear down, get exhausted, become negative, etc. when we go full bore all the time--obviously we need some respite, some "something" that allows us us to recharge.  This December, I've had a pleasant traveling companion as I've driven to and fro to quintet concerts--I asked one of my students, Brock, to put together a compilation cd of his favorite holiday music.  (now mind you, this guy loves Christmas music--he has something like 500 hours of it on his itunes) (or something like that--I do know he has a minimum of 90 min. of just "Silent Night")  The cd he gave me is an amazing grouping of new and old, indie and pop, traditional and fringe.  This, for me, has been a wonderful respite during my travel time. Two settings, in particular, I keep going back to.  (the tunes themselves were always favorites of mine)

In the Bleak Midwinter has such a wonderful feel to it as a carol, and this setting great, with a bit of an updated twist, but doesn't lose the nature of the tune....

Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming is just a gorgeous hymn.  Again, this one just charms and challenges me.

Playing as many concerts, taking part in so many services, it's been far too easy for me to become jaded with the "same old, same old" in regards to many things over the years.  I'm reminded that we must find ways to renew ourselves and avoid the same old, same old in order to be able to function at our highest levels.

Thank you all for being a part of my life--I hope you all will be able to rest, relax, and enter 2011 with a new sense of tireless intensity!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Just. Breathe.

recently I had a friend say to me "you never blog anymore".    my response was something like "life is too busy" or "don't have time" or something to that effect.  while that may be, it boils down to me not making the time to do it.   maybe it's because I didn't have anything to say.  (if you know me, you should laugh now, as I always have something to say.......)  at any rate, onward..........  

Topic:  Just.    Breathe

Being a "brasswind musician" I, of course, must be concerned with the concept of correct breathing.  We could go on, and on with suggested exercises, books/videos/inspiring audio on the hows, whys and heretofores of breathin' right.  This topic isn't about that......

Today's society has us going so damn fast in whatever we do that it's terribly easy to be caught in a maelstrom that we call our "life".  I'm not going to lecture on slowing down, changing what you do, etc.  there are tons of blogs and other writings on that--hell, I subscribe to several to seek tips in organization, paring down, and so on.
Nope, this is about saving what little sanity you may have left in your crazy, over-scheduled life.    Bottom line:

 Just.  Breathe.

If we can find a way to take 30 seconds, close our eyes and breathe, often that will allow just enough of a break to regain focus, and feel better about the next activity.  If one can take as much as 5 minutes to do this (and not fall asleep!!!) then a good amount of time (likely as much as several hours) that follows can be easier to take, easier to get through, etc.
I'm not going to go into the physical nor spiritual reasoning behind all this, nor suggest you do anything but breathe.  It's requisite for living, so why not take 30 sec. to enjoy it?

Yes, this is aimed at you, the college student who put off the projects/papers and are now scrambling; yes, you, the band director whose band just isn't jelling this week; yes, you the adjunct running around trying to make sure everyone is happy, while living on .00003 cents per day; yes, you the high school student trying to keep it together long enough to get into college, and ultimately, me.  We ALL need to take a moment and breathe.

Just.          Breathe.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

end of summer....

Well, the summer started off busy, with the ITEC in AZ, and never really significantly slowed down!

Demondrae Thurman and I presented the Miraphone Academy here at UNCG in late June, we had our annual UNCG Summer Music Camp in July, and now it's time to crank back up for school.  I must admit, though, I feel like more time was spent NOT thinking about the busy-ness but more on family things, friend visits, trips to visit family and friends some of whom I hadn't seen in a long time--this is important, more important than I tend to make time for, normally.  As a result, I got less "work" done, I think, but feel much better about life, less stressed out, etc. and I still have plenty of time to get done what needs to be done for school.  hmmmm--maybe this needs to become more common in my summers!

We also added the extra activity of following drum corps much more closely, since Alex is marching with Spirit this year.  He seems to have had a wonderful experience, overall, thus far.  We only got to see two shows, but will be heading to championships next week in IN, and bringing him home with us.  I'll have much more to talk about regarding that as time goes on, as I want to better collect my thoughts on his/our experience and DCI as a whole.

anyhow--off to practice, well, since, I have a recital in a month and all............

Friday, June 11, 2010

the future -or- the now..........

this is a rough time for some parts of the music industry.  some would say for all of the music industry.  others might say only for the parts that don't want to "modernize".

well, maybe it's true for all of the above.  I have a good friend who has decided to take a break from playing his horn.  a long break.  he hasn't played since Easter and doesn't plan to try to play until late next spring.  why?  because he needs to figure out his place, with his performing, in the current world.  the recording industry served him well for a goodly number of years, and along the way he hustled and built a good life for himself, and has a good number of other ventures in music that are not performance oriented (at least for him).  he's spent a good amount of his own money over the years promoting himself, trying new things, forming new groups, attempting to "modernize", etc.  his income from performing for the recording industry was less than 5 grand last year.  he's taking some time off. 

what does this say about the future of real, live musicians playing their "axes" for recordings?  probably not a good thing, honestly. 

that said, this is the time for a couple of things:

1. we must, must, must not cease to actively musically educate our youth, nor cease to actively advocate regarding the importance of music. 

2. we have to not just "modernize" but spend significant amounts of time conceptualizing/dreaming/what-if-ing
about how the next level of what we do is to take place. 

point 1 has had many much more erudite writers and speakers than I make wonderful points about how these things should take place--MENC, MTNA, etc. have many a good article on these kinds of ideas.  Seek them out.

point 2 is much more problematic, I think.  as the past four centuries of "western art music" have developed, changed, modernized, etc. the pace of technological evolution has been slow enough that the musical world has been able to adjust at a safe rate and not been terribly left behind.  nowadays, this is far from truth. technology moves forward at such a rate that, while it begs the world to keep up with it, economically the reality is that it can't.  at least much of it can't.    where does that leave us in the musical world? 
if we keep our heads in the sand and only "do what we do" we will be more irrelevant than an alto flute being used in a marching band.  (not bashing on the alto flute, but it just doesn't have a place in a marching band!)

somehow, someway, we have to energize some folks to conceptualize new realities that include what we do, but maybe in different frameworks.  I'm a big fan of TED (not the educational theory courses, but the stuff found at   a recent presentation revolved around UI--you know the blow-your-mind computer stuff that was used in the movie Minority Report (which you should see, or see again). 
here's the presentation:
it is 15 min long, but WELL worth your time.  there's some cool stuff there--and at the end, the statement is made that in 5 years this technology will be standard.  who knows if that is the case, but it certainly made me think, a lot, about having music delivery systems be more dimensional, and allow more of a sound fabric to be brought to us during the listening experience. 

are these thoughts heretical to what I was just pontificating about?  maybe.  I'm not smart enough to be able to dream through the process--I think that the interface of experience can be re-designed, albeit maybe not in this model, but it can, and likely must, be different--so that we (live musicians) can stay relevant to future generations (or even the next one).

before I get jumped all over on this and am told that "nothing can replace the feeling of playing" or "the
sensation of a live concert"  I agree with you--but if all we do is the same old, same old (which, honestly folks, has only been in something resembling out current "way" for less than 200 years) then we will be shelved, and perhaps rightly so.

sermon/rant over.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

on being real

often, I think, we live our lives as we feel others expect us to.  this in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but we run the risk of missing out on sharing our inner selves.  i'm not suggesting in any way that we should run around and wear our hearts on our sleeves--that drives everyone crazy--but that we shouldn't fear being honest about how we do what we do and shouldn't necessarily worry about being judged.

i love the idea of teaching tuba/euphonium at the college level--i feel i can help players get better, but even more importantly as i work with future educators, i also have the privilege and opportunity to help them figure out why they want to teach, why that's important, etc.  i won't say that i succeed with every student, but i certainly give it a good go.  when asked to state my philosophy of teaching, my primary statement regards helping students learn to teach themselves. that's what my teachers did for me and therefore what needs to be passed on.  that's about as open as i can be about what i do.

recently, I've been struck by other open & honest situations. I mentioned in a blog last week during the ITEC how much Jim Self's performance meant to me--just laying it out there, with no worries of how it would be judged.  that's just badass, in my opinion. i don't have video or audio, but wish i did, so i could share.

two other examples for sharing, just performances that lay it out there, with no real concern about acceptance

Dennis Hopper (RIP) on the Johnny Cash show, reciting Kipling's "If"

Johnny Cash (also RIP) with his version of NIN's "Hurt". 

certainly, we do need to be concerned with how what we do effects others, but overall, we need to be as true to ourselves as we can.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ITEC 2010 redux......

well, the trip home wasn't nearly as interesting as getting there, at least flight-wise.  Why?  Because I slept almost the entirety of both flights--which shouldn't be surprising since I didn't go to bed on Saturday night!  I know, I know, but since my flight was at 5:45 am, and the shuttle picked me up at 3:30.........just made sense.  I never thought I would be happy to have the sensation of feeling humidity, but it really did make my body feel better once I was in the humid Atlanta air.  (Unfortunately, I missed the Spirit drumcorps picnic on Sunday afternoon, but my wife, daughter, father-in-law and others from that side of our family were able to go and hear my son in, what by all accounts, was some very good early season playing.  Can't wait to see their first performance on June 20 in Rock Hill, SC.)

In looking back on this conference, I believe we have hit levels of consistency that we just never hit before, in terms of the overall production.  With the efficiency of ITEC 2006 in Denver, 2008 in Cincy, and now 2010 in Tucson, we have laid the groundwork for new standards in international conferences.  This time was the first time that ITEA actually owned the conference financially.  I know that may sound odd, but until this conference, the host was responsible for the financial bottom line. Regrettably, we've had several former hosts go into significant financial debt, even with a good amount of organizational $$ to help out.  (amazingly, this change was still met with some resistance, and had been discussed over the years and voted down, until now!)   Kelly Thomas and Mark Nelson put together a very strong, but conservative, budget and stuck with it--as a result, moving forward with this blueprint will be quite easy, I feel.

Our Board of Directors meetings held throughout the week were amazingly fruitful. Everyone involved with those meetings feels energized and empowered to move the organization  forward--the next few years are going to be fun, I think!

Artistically, the conference was top notch--the new method of having every performance be submitted via proposal allowed the hosts to program interesting, entertaining, insightful, and educational performances, presentations, discussions and lectures. The after hours hangs were just as invigorating--lots of tours, guest recitals, etc. were negotiated, as well as times of just plain, good ol' camaraderie.  Just a time to be remembered. 

While this one is gone and over, there will be significant reviews coming later in the summer in the ITEA Journal and on the ITEA website, to give more than this overview I've been rambling through.

all the best to you as you continue through what the next months bring you!