Monday, October 10, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
THREE LANES each way:
Please, if you are driving and there are 5 or more vehicles behind you, PLEASE pull over:
VC Section 21656. On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow-moving vehicle, including a passenger vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in line, shall turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout by signs erected by the authority having jurisdiction over the highway, or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the vehicles following it to proceed. As used in this section a slow-moving vehicle is one which is proceeding at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
6 - Recently heard at a professional orchestra engagement: "Is the (section brass part) supposed to be muted there?" SERIOUSLY? What is the rest of the section doing? If they ARE muted, use your mute. If not, don't. Do we have to interrupt a rehearsal for this question?
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
At the risk of sounding like a jaded old fart, why WOULD you want a degree in music? Here are your career choices:
Public School Teacher
That’s it. I’ll go over these one at a time, starting from the bottom.
First of all, you better be prepared to spend MOST (if not all) of your 20’s in school. NO college in the US will even consider your application without a PhD, or a DMA. Unless you’ve spent most of your life playing with the Canadian Brass, or the Julliard String Quartet, you’ll need the doctorate.
Plan on starting your career with almost $100,000 debt. Unless you are one of the fortunate few that can secure a free ride for your ENTIRE university career, you will have incurred some debt for tuition, lessons, materials, housing, and the like. $100,000 is not unreasonable in 2011.
Check into the pay. With SO many doctorates out there LOOKING for work, colleges don’t really have to pay much. I know of a recent opening for a university band director job that received over 150 applications. No PhD, or DMA, the apps were trashed. I know what the pay offer was. A public school teacher with 15 years service, with a BA +30 pays more. Recently, a good friend of mine was offered a college position, full time Assistant Professor teaching their instrument. At the same time, a job offer for teaching HS band was tendered. The HS job paid TWICE what the university offered.
I was having a few beers with some young college musicians, most of whom had at least Master’s Degrees and the rest had Doctorates. I was the lone un-degreed person in the room. I casually asked, “You guys are on the job search trail. What would you reasonably expect to be paid for a full time college teaching gig?” I was SHOCKED at the reply, “About $40,000.” Starbucks pays that here in California for a full time employee.
PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER
When I was in school (a hundred years ago), all of us ‘performance majors’ considered this a reasonable “fall back position,” should we not make it in the pro world. Along with practicing 3-4 hours a day, I learned to play the clarinet, bassoon, cello, drums (non-mallet percussion, really), piano, auto harp, and the recorder. I learned how to plot marching band shows, how to conduct basic band repertoire and how to arrange pop tunes for a field band. I took the history of the wind band, history of the symphony orchestra, all the counterpoint classes, 20th century techniques, form & analysis (Skapski was TOUGH!), and music history out the yin-yang. I even learned to be a copyist, using tips, nibs and vellum. All to be prepared to be a school music teacher.
Have you heard what’s happening to music educators all over the country? Tenure doesn’t mean a thing. If they want to cut corners, and they do, music is one of the first programs to go. If you have tenure, all they have to do is cut the program. No program, no class, no teacher needed. “Thank you and good luck.”
There is a lot of blame being laid on teachers for the lack of success of today’s students. Hey, I see your kid 5 hours a day, what are YOU doing to help your kid? It used to be, “Teacher is always right. Do what teacher says.” Now, if a kid fails, it’s the teacher’s fault. The inmates are running the asylum and the teachers are powerless to do anything. All discipline has been removed from the teachers, and the kids know it. Not to mention the rash of teacher assaults.
Pay: as recently as the 1960’s teachers, lawyers and doctors (the ‘noble’ professions) were paid on about the same level. Qualified college graduates would prepare equally for all three of these professions. With teacher salaries falling WAY behind the other professions, is it any wonder why our best & brightest are going elsewhere? I am not saying that there aren’t some GREAT teachers out there, there are, but MANY bright people are looking elsewhere. With jobs being cut, benefits being reduced, total lack of any authority to do any kind of classroom management, parents blaming teachers for their kids’ failure, and the pay not being commensurate with the tasks required, who in their right mind would want to go into teaching these days? Shrinking budgets, buildings falling into disrepair, instruments purchased in the 1970's, no money for repairs or replacements, music tattered and missing parts.....
PRO PLAYER, ETC.
In a word, fuggedaboudit! There’s no work.
Composer/arranger - For every John Williams composing and arranging film music, there are thousands of composers teaching private piano lessons. The only real hope you have to make a living is if you can write great band literature. Look at the successful models (not limited to these folks) – Ticheli, Ewazen, Camphouse, Stamp, Sparke. There are a few more. If you can’t write as well as these guys, seriously consider other options.
The conducting spots are far and few in between. Professional orchestra conducting is more about who you know, and being in the right place at the right time. You’ll be better off trying to be struck by lightening; you’ll have a better chance of success.
Being a pro player – when Ms. Jantsch won the Philadelphia Orchestra position there were (I was told) 197 candidates applying for the position (PLEASE correct me if I am wrong. I don’t want to seem delusional). I would guess the top FIFTY (or more) were qualified for that level orchestra. I would guess the next fifty would be just great in the job. I bet the next fifty could actually DO the job. Seriously, do you think you could win a position against those odds? Really, I wish you luck, but please, take a healthy dose of reality with your morning Malt-O-Meal. When I was on the audition trail (back in the dark ages), one of the options was being in the service bands. I can’t TELL you how many times I heard, “I can always get into one of the service bands.” Man, has the tide turned on this. Playing in Washington in one of THOSE bands? What a privilege, what luck! Good luck winning one of these gigs. Even the smallest bands, in the remotest areas have GREAT musician/players these days. IF there are openings.
So now, where does this leave this rant?
I have the answer: become a plumber. When the guy rings my doorbell, I pay him $129.95, just to show up. If he looks at my problem and can’t fix it, I pay him for his expertise. If he can actually DO the work, he adds a few bucks the to price of the parts, weedles a cup of excellent coffee outta me and he’s out the door in 20 minutes. If he does 5-7 of these calls a day, his gross income (figuring 5 calls a day, 28 days a month, 10 months a year) $182,000. Do the math: ((($130 x 5 calls) x 28 days a month) x 10 months).
But I LOVE playing my instrument!
You can still be out playing your instrument 5-6 nights a week. There are tons of community bands & orchestras. Chamber music is BOOMING. In our small area there are TWO British-Style Brass bands. Here in the San José area, there are a dozen community theaters producing shows. NO problem addressing your creative needs.
As always, your comments are most welcome.
Friday, February 18, 2011
I love playing and hearing new music, and sponsoring new music contests. One of the most exciting things in which I find myself involved, is new music. As I write this, there are EIGHT brass players sitting right next to me playing new music written in the last few months. Imagine being the first people to hear a BRAND NEW WORK. I sponsor a composition contest each year for brass chamber music. So far, we have generated over 300 new works for brass chamber music. The prize fund is $3,500. We have received entries from Japan, China, Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Peru, Iceland, England, Finland, France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Russia, Austria, Romania, Canada, Estonia and, of course, the US. Some of this stuff is really great!
The other thing I like is paying composers for their music. Like many freelance professionals, many composers & arrangers write stuff and don’t see much in the way of remuneration for their talent, hard work and intellectual product. Many people who play music (especially chamber music) think nothing of Xeroxing® parts. This screws ALL of us. If composers, arrangers and
I only have one problem I am overcoming right now: Music Rentals. I will NOT rent music. I don’t care if it is the greatest work ever written, I HATE rentals. I will pay composers, arrangers and publishers for the music, but do NOT ask me for a rental fee. Recently, I decided to do a work with my Wind Orchestra (http://www.ohlonewindorchestra.org/). I contacted the composer with unbridled enthusiasm for the wonderful work and the opportunity to play really great music. He said, “Thank you very much. You can call so & so to rent the parts.” “No, I don’t rent music.” “Well the only way you can play the music is if you rent the parts,” was the reply. “I don’t rent music,” was mine. To make a long story short(er), we were at an impasse. Finally, I said, “Look, you are a composer. I like your music, and want to perform it. Don’t you WANT to have your music played? Please, I would like to give you money for your music, fine musicians will play it and enjoy the experience, and it’ll get played in public where many people will hear it. Doesn’t this sound like a good deal?” Bear in mind, at this time we weren’t negotiating a price, I didn’t care. I just wanted to BUY THE MUSIC. You know, I give you money; you give me music. Sounds pretty simple, no?
I digress -
So where are the really great composers hanging out these days? There are choice few making money in the film industry; Williams, Courage, Horner, Goldsmith, Broughton, you know the names. There are some wonderful composers writing for TV. One with whom I went to school, Jeff Rona, is extremely successful. And another I know from my summer at Disneyland, Mark Wolfram, is also doing VERY well. Where are the others? Writing for winds (band). Let’s say a composer is lucky enough to get a commission from a prestigious orchestra (i.e. LA, NY, Chicago, SF), the work might get one playing, or if it is a really outstanding work, it might get picked up in the pipeline and get a second playing with another orchestra. Write one decent band piece and it gets played at Midwest, or CBDNA and the composer sells thousands of copies. EVERY wind conductor I know owns Frank Ticheli’s Amazing Grace.
I LOVED playing the Cabrillo Festival, in Santa Cruz, California. In two weeks, that orchestra plays 30 new works (I would guess). For me, this was Nirvana. All that new music!!
With orchestras all over the US closing shop, it is time for us to try something different. Instead of playing music by a bunch of dead, white guys, maybe we can play some NEW music.
Waddya think?? I’d love to get your opinions on this……
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Recently I read an article that had me thinking:
And thought about another article I had read:
All the musicians and music educators I know accept this and other articles, as fact. Why is it that with this knowledge, school administrators continue to give the arts the axe, and insist on teaching to the test instead of educating our young Americans? To me, it seems like it’s the old “teach a man to fish” story. If the students garner the correct skills required, they should be able to excel at testing. They won’t garner the required skills by preparing for testing. You know that, I know that, why doesn’t the upper echelons know that?
There are a shocking number of students simply skipping school. They won’t learn, if they are not there. One of the best districts in my area, Palo Alto, reports a 70% truancy rate:
WHAT?? What is really shocking is that is just 44% higher than the state AVERAGE. State average is 26%. So our students are absent ¼ of the time, on average.
In my mind, the obvious question is NOT, “What can we do to get our test scores up?” but rather, “What can we do to get our kids to school?” I got news for you, it won’t happen by strong-armed tactics. It won’t happen by fining the parents. It won’t happen by sending a truant officer to scoop up the ditchers. We have to make the kids WANT to attend school. The 3 R’s alone ain’t gonna do it.
I know the answer since I am the POSTER CHILD of why we need the arts in school. I hated school. I hated getting up early; I hated trudging through the snow. I hated what is now called “terrorist activities” (we called it playground fights). I hated English. I hated social studies. I had a mild interest in science and math (only because there were really cute girls in my math classes). What MADE me want to go to school? Band, orchestra and chorus. THAT’S IT. I only got good grades in my solids, because the result was I would have gotten booted from band. The odd thing, to pass my classes, I had to study and keep my grades up. And oddly, I learned how to read, write and I am pretty good at math (can’t do trig or calculus, though). I can actually spell without a spell checker (this doc proves it!).
In high school, after I moved to California, I learned right away that I was getting a sub-standard education (NY is #2, Calif is #7 from the bottom). So I checked out. I hated, HATED high school. Where my mother dragged me to church, the masses were in Spanish, there were no Italians, I got bullied by some of the cowboys & Mexicans, and my Brooklyn accent all but made me an outcast. And I dressed weird. I liked getting dressed in “school clothes,” all the Oakies dressed in “dungarees” and t-shirts. But, boy, could I play the tuba! Thomas Downey HS in Modesto had an award-winning band, choirs that always got Command Performances and a really wonderful and eccentric orchestra conductor. When some of the stoner friends I made in French class, or math said, “Let’s ditch school.” My answer was always, “But I’ll miss BAND.” Stoner: “Tony, let’s go to the lake. We’ll take a few girls, get some beer….” Tony: “But I’ll miss band.” Different Stoner: “Dude, lets go get high.” Tony: “But, I’ll miss rehearsal.” OTHER stoner: “Man, I scored some great weed. We’re going to Modesto Reservoir Saturday.” Tony: “I have Marching band.” See a trend here?
Here’s another true-life story: Once there was this Jr Hi kid. In all kindness, he was just a big, fat, dumb kid. No one paid him much attention. He went to school, stayed out of trouble, got average grades. He was totally unremarkable. He played ‘the drum’ in band. Well, his band director pulls out a tune, “Surfin’ Safari.” It was a Jr Hi band arrangement of some 1960’s surfer tunes. In this tune, was the inevitable “Wipe Out” drum solo. Dutifully, the kid goes over to the drum set and plays the solo, THEE solo for all of us drummer wannabes. The Holy Grail, of drum solos (this was before “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” and “Toad”). The kid does ok, and goes to back to class, another unremarkable day. The band schedules a school assembly, on which “Surfin’ Safari” will be performed. The band plays the assembly, and now suddenly, this kid is a hero. EVERYONE on campus knows who this kid is. People hang out with him, girls notice him, his teachers acknowledge his accomplishment. Grades go up, weight goes down, self-esteem up, and this kid is a new man. In HS, he goes on to marching band where he ultimately becomes a drum major and ends his HS career on the Honor Roll. Where would this kid have ended up without 16 measures of drum solo?
Where would I have ended up? I thank GOD every night for High School band.
The other thing: the lifelong friends with whom I have the most affection, and with whom I have kept in touch, were my band friends. As young adults, we need a place to fit in; a group of scared, inquisitive friends with whom we could huddle together and feel safe. Band was that for me. Not math, Not English, not social studies. My lifelong friends are band, orchestra and drama people.
We need the arts. Now get out there and tell EVERYBODY! Hold our elected officials accountable. Go to Sacramento (like the bikers!) and raise a fuss. Vote out the incumbents and vote in those administrators that promise to fund the arts. Get your parents to write letters to these fat butt superintendents that slash the programs that WILL keep kids in school. It’s all in our hands.