We’ve got a full day of instrument clinics, masterclasses, and an informal large group performance scheduled, and we hope you can join us. This event is FREE and open to high school brass students, area community players and professionals, and band directors.
April 6, 2019, is not a day I’m going to forget any time soon.
It was a day that reaffirmed my two professional loves, pedagogy and performance.
Freelance musician/educator life is constantly in flux- long periods of moderate or low activity, short bursts of busy busy busy- and our states of mind can often match those highs and lows. February and March were relatively slow months for me, performance-wise, and as often happens when the balance between teaching and performing is so heavily weighted in the direction of teaching I was feeling distressed and burnt out. There were many things on the horizon, but there was also the slog to get there, through long days of lessons and rehearsals, and no small dose of a trauma anniversary relating to my time at the U.
In a word, I was feeling stressed, crispy (that stage just on the edge of burnout), and worried. But I have faith in my abilities, my knowledge, and my experience, and I knew I had to power through, so I got to work.
And having goals? That means everything. A huge component of my pedagogy is helping people find Flow- find that place where distractions and worries slip away, and they work in the moment toward musical communication. It’s an inherently healthy state for our minds to be in. In a focus-challenged society, Flow States help us balance anxiety, depression, and stage fright; they help us do something for the sake of itself and gain reward from the result. I’d been losing track of my own Flow lately. Too much time trying to manage a social media presence for both my personal and professional life here, a healthy dose of staring out the window willing the flowers to come up there.
So back to those goals. Number 1: Present my pedagogy in an hour-long clinic at Twin Cities Trombone Day. Be convincing, be engaging, let the science prove itself. Sitting down to refresh myself on the source material took away almost all my worries. Being honest with a few folks about the struggle I was having to create an introduction to the clinic led me to some awesome suggestions that ultimately let the whole talk tumble forth fully formed. And walking around all week reciting, “You are an expert, you are the boss” certainly helped.
Guess what? That presentation rocked. The audience, a mixed crowd of professional, student, and amateur trombone players, was so open-minded and supportive, asking good questions and giving great feedback to the young folks who came up to help me demonstrate. Afterward I talked with so many people whose eyes were opened to a new way of thinking, and took a few cards to follow up on taking the clinic on the road.
Goal Number 1 had a bonus effect on Goal Number 2: Rock the bass trombone parts on the AMO charts. Bass trombone, and in particular my 1970s Holton 180 BEAST of a bass trombone, sometimes feels like driving a U-Haul through the Rocky Mountains with one arm tied. It’s hard. I’ve been working for a year on improving my air efficiency, my intonation, and my control over the lower register.
In getting back into the research, the thinking behind my natural learning-based pedagogy, it reminded me that I have been overthinking the hell out of approaching the bass trombone. I was letting all the little things I didn’t hear myself doing well ramp up my anxiety, and man, the self-talk was DIRE. But coming out of a funk, remembering why I do what I do, and getting back into Flow made all the difference.
So how was the show?
There have been numerous times in my life that have been tremendously musically rewarding. Almost nothing can compare to the act of finally putting something out into the world that people can hold in their hands, an album, and celebrating the artistic labor of love that went into every second. I’m just a tiny part of the AMO, but when it all came together, it felt like no moving piece was too small. We were all working together to put Adam’s incredible music out into the world, and enjoying the collaboration.
And to have an appreciative audience. What a joy. The act of sharing art, and feeling the reciprocation back. Music requires an audience, and communication goes both ways. We give what we have, the audience tells us how that makes them feel, we give more, etc…the loop feeds itself and everyone is better for it.
So how am I feeling this week? Incredibly, incredibly lucky, but also satisfied. I’ve done the work, I’ve sought the knowledge, I’ve walked the walk. Owning one’s strength is not egotistical, even if it can sometimes feel that way. I’m learning to overcome that learned impulse and walk into every room with confidence that I belong there- because I do.
Stay tuned for more photos & videos from the AMO CD Release show. Meantime you can order the album here.
Trite though it may be, I’ve been indulging in the annual ritual of looking back on a year of work, as well as thinking forward to what 2019 may bring. I’m not huge on resolutions, but I do like setting some intentions for the year and putting some of my needs out to the universe. And so, in the spirit of the season, here are my reflections on 2018 and my goals for 2019!
In 2018, a lot of amazing things happened for me, professionally. I had general goals of working on big projects, like my clinic package, and building my business in new ways. Here are some highlights:
Hired as adjunct trombone instructor at St Cloud State
Played countless gigs, offered hundreds of lessons and clinics combined, showed up to jam sessions and pushed my creative limits
Learned how to better develop a healthy outlook on work and play that allowed me time for rest, productive periods, and fun
It was sort of a rough personal year, with the loss of fur friend Gatsby, but it was also full of fun: trips to Costa Rica and Scotland, kayaking, hiking, and camping with good friends, a warm house, regular meals. I have much to be grateful for.
2019 promises to be something entirely different than 2018. I’m feeling less motivation to come up with big ideas and projects, but more motivation to practice and perform the things that I love. I want to take the work I’ve done in the last few years and leverage it to have more name recognition, more performance opportunities, and more financial security. Here are some of the things I’ve been starting to focus on this year:
Continuing to improvise, arrange, and compose- looking for pathways to make this a bigger component of my career
Developing a modular recital program I can use for artist-in-residence and clinic visits
Filling in gaps in my pedagogy (the big one here is: teaching articulation in a holistic way)
Buying a wireless mic, for Brass Lassie, but also use to experiment with effects and looping
Becoming proficient enough at piano to accompany students on basic repertoire and improvisation
Making the clinic package as viable and desirable as possible to get bookings
Determining what the future might look like from several different angles- what work do I want to be doing in 5 years? 10? 20?
And here are some of the exciting things that are already in the books for the year:
Conducting the Hamline Wind Ensemble while regular director Dr Janet Greene is on sabbatical
On a personal level, I hope for 2019 to be a year of joy, balance, and passion for what I do and experience. My word for the year is ‘fire’- I want to acknowledge the things that have burnt out for me and reignite what I still have value and love for. Fire can be destructive- but it can also be cleansing, life-saving, and necessary. I have been ‘water’ for a long time- flexible, adaptable, constant- this year I feel the need for change, for energy and warmth.
What are your 2019 goals and dreams? What happened in 2018 that motivates you still?
When I was 17, during my senior year of high school, I got accepted to the music program at the University of Wisconsin. I was using a school trombone, a Bach 42, and it was time to find my own horn.
My dad did a little research, and as it turned out one of the San Diego Symphony players was selling a horn (embarrassingly, I don’t remember who it was). The price was right and it suited me, so home came my very own Edwards tenor, with two(!) bells to swap in and out.
I’ve played that horn for almost 20 years now. One of the bells tragically lost a battle in the cargo hold of an airplane, and the original Thayer valve was eventually replaced with a newer Edwards model, but all the other parts remain the same. My horn and I have traveled the world, played every type of music, and become nearly inseparable.
And so I am greatly honored and humbled to have been asked to join the Edwards Instruments Artist family. I see my photo up there with some of the greats, some of my trombone heroes, and some of my incredibly skilled contemporaries, and I am gobsmacked. I know it’s just a title, but for the teenager who got her own trombone all those years ago, it feels like she’s made it.
You’ll be seeing more about this as I figure out how to milk it for everything it’s worth!
(Click on the link above and scroll through the list- it’s alphabetical) and you’ll find me!)
So things tend to come in threes, and this post full of exciting professional announcements is no exception!
My new clinic, “Ear on the Prize: A holistic approach to effective brass instruction” is now available for booking. Check out the link in the name for more information- I’m really excited to begin offering this clinic to schools in the region!
~TWO~Brass Lassie’s album is DONE and ready to be released! We are having a party and concert to celebrate the new album for local folks on September 7th. Details here! The album will be available to purchase in physical form or digital download on our website September 7th as well.
I am extremely pleased to announce that I have accepted the adjunct trombone instructor position at St Cloud State University starting this fall. I am joining a faculty of incredibly talented musicians and educators, and I cannot wait to meet the students of this fine music department. Look for some great events, concerts, and opportunities coming from this direction throughout the academic year.
Hi all, It’s been a while since I’ve had an opportunity (or the inspiration) to write…I hope you haven’t missed me too much.
July was a month of travel and adventure, and lots of positive change. I spent two weeks exploring Scotland and London on vacation, taking in all the beautiful landscapes and culture. I took Brass Lassie with me, as you can see:
And someday I’ll come back with the whole band on tour.
Upon returning to Minnesota I got back to work teaching and performing, with some notable highlights:
-Brass Lassie performed at the Scottish Fair in Eagan on my birthday, July 21st, and it was a marvelous day of love and music all around.
-Subbing in for the TC Latin Jazz Orchestra at Jazz Central- truly a great group, great music, and a supportive crowd!
-Rebecca and I traveled up to St Cloud State to perform a few works (A Caged Bird and Loveletter, Postmark San Jose) and talk with the students at the Athena Band and Leadership Camp. I had so much fun answering the intelligent and insightful questions of these future musical leaders. I will have some more thoughts on what I learned from this day soon.
-I played in the live orchestra for MNKINO’s Film Score Fest on July 28th, joining a small orchestra in playing scores for about 20 short, independent local films.
Next up is a busy August: lots more Brass Lassie, a heavier teaching schedule, and trying to soak up all the remaining summer free time I can!
I’ll admit that at the beginning of May I was a little bit of a wreck. I’d made an unforgiving and jam-packed teaching schedule for myself, and April and May were busy with gigs, recording sessions, and rehearsals. I was also navigating the resurgence of a traumatic episode in my past, which often happens around the event’s anniversary. In short, I was more than burnt-out, I was ready to sweep out the fireplace and move out of the building.
At the end of last year I set myself some hefty goals for 2018, and I started out January with my usual nose-to-the-grindstone pace & a to-do list miles long. It might be no surprise to anyone, but I have trouble taking days off. There’s always something I can get done if I have the time. Just sitting down- with no real agenda- is incredibly hard. Now, procrastination- that’s another story. I’m happy to set myself a task and then avoid it at all costs, only to rush the work just at the end of the time I’ve allotted for it.
What I’ve learned this month is that overwork does no one any good. I’m self-employed, and many of the tasks and goals I set for myself do not need to have deadlines or be rushed. No one but me is suffering if I don’t get a certain product out into the world when I said I would. If I let myself get it done as I’m inspired to do it, or even just forgive myself when I miss a day of work on it, it’ll get done, and be even better than I thought.
In June & July, I’m intentionally not setting a theme for the blog. I’ll be writing and checking in, but I’m giving myself permission to go back to freeform posting. I’ve also assigned myself only one big project- the marketing and pricing design of my music clinician business- and put a few others on hold. Less is more, this summer, as I give my tired mind a chance to reconnect with the inspiration music and teaching give me.
What have you learned in May? How will you move forward in new and healthier ways?
Wednesdays this month, I’m aiming to feature the writing of a colleague who’s doing good work helping musicians find ways to balance work, life, and play. Whether they’re finding paths for themselves and sharing their journey, or actively guiding people through the process of gaining a good groundwork, these folks are truly thinking outside the box of our traditional grindstone mentality. The result is careers and people that are happier, more productive in the long run, and ultimately, more successful (and it all depends on how you define ‘success’).
This week I want to feature the insightful writing and mentorship of my Alexander Technique teacher, Tully Hall. Tully is as kind-hearted and wise a person as I have ever met, and we’ve really bonded over our mutual ideas about brass playing, movement, pedagogy, and life.
After many years of being intrigued by Alexander and thinking “I should try that”, last July I finally got a recommendation to contact Tully, and I am so glad I did. I’ve done just about every little bit of bodily self-care you can think of in order to manage chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain: acupuncture, yoga, physical therapy, cupping, massage, flotation tanks… Every one of them was great, and combining them helped a little, but nothing has made quite the difference that AT has, and in as short an amount of time. I stopped fighting my body’s tension spots and started reorganizing how I stood, sat, moved, and flowed through my day. Talking with Tully about intention and external focus of attention has reminded me that the pedagogy I teach doesn’t just have to apply to brass playing. We can move through the world without grasping, without working so hard. We can be open and curious.
Here are some of my favorite posts by Tully on the topic of intention and curiosity, but I highly recommend her entire blog.
Descriptions of Alexander Technique can often include the dreaded p-word (Posture!), which can bring up a maelstrom of ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ for many of us. But what is posture really? A few weeks ago I listened to ‘On Being’ host Krista Tippett talking with physicist Carlo Rovelli. The episode is titled: All Reality is Interaction. One of his phrases really stuck with me: “the huge wave of happenings which is a human self.” One aspect of that wave is our interaction with gravity. We are made for gravity: we meet its presence with our own wave of anti-gravity. We’re so elegantly designed that we don’t have to exert direct muscular force to do it.
My great niece has this uncluttered freedom that I admire very much. (It’s wonderfully common in the 1.5 year old demographic.) Using my Alexander Technique know-how lets me get some of that freedom for myself:
I can enter a listening, curious state rather than a “just let me get through this so I can get to the next thing” state.
If I don’t rush, I don’t tighten.
I don’t have to hold myself up, I can rest on whatever’s supporting me.
I can orient my attention outward into the environment surrounding me.
I can find a state of flow that makes me available to move.
If I’m holding or moving something, I can ask it, “how would you like to move?”
Have you experimented with Alexander Technique? How has it affected you, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally? Do you find, like I do, that after a lesson you feel like you could take on anything in your day with poise and grace?