One Day in the Life

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.

Sam wanted advice on improving his bass trombone low range in the double trigger register. I refocused his attention on a musical goal- performing Mary Had a Little Lamb- so he could stop worrying about the technical aspects of low range playing. Video credit: Keith Hilson

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.

Working on that airflow

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.

The Adam Meckler Orchestra performs with Toki Wright, April 6th, 2019
Photo by Reid Baumann

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.

Weekly Round-up 3/7/16


Performances: Easter Services at Bethlehem Lutheran in S Mpls on March 27th are the next thing up for now!

Rehearsals: nothing this week.

Practicing: Starting to make a plan for how I want to be best prepared for doctoral work in the fall. Collaborating with my future professor on the best course to take!

Listening: Blackstar, David Bowie.

Teaching: Healthy practice habits- this includes posture!

Studying: Flow. Plus, looking deeper into our physiology to find how our body moves and works and how we can let it learn naturally.

Relaxing: Doing crossword puzzles, having tea with friends.


Weekly Round-up 2/29/16

Happy Leap Day!

Performances: As always I keep a calendar updated on this site.

This weekend I’ll be performing with Exultate Choir and Orchestra on their series “Emmanuel”- a performance of the best of the best oratorios we know and love. Check out their website or my calendar for dates and locations.

Rehearsals: A dress rehearsal for ECC is the only thing planned, although I am beginning my stint as player-coach for Hamline U’s Wind Ensemble brass this afternoon!

Practicing: I’m getting back into the groove of tunes by adding a few new simple ones to my roster: He’s a Jolly Good Fellow, Camptown Races, Zipadeedoodah.

Listening: Elliot Smith took up my Sunday.

Teaching: Accessing the music- how do we hear each phrase? Are we directing it or waiting for the phrase to guide itself (spoiler alert: we steer this ship)

Studying: Flow. And, I’ll make this official in this section, because I’ll have to start studying some theory and history soon- I was accept to UMN’s music doctoral program! I begin my program in September on track to receive a Doctorate of Music Arts in trombone performance. Ee!

Relaxing: Enjoyed the lovely weather Saturday on a bike ride. Yesterday I took a short class on working live sound and understanding sound boards. It was amazing and I’d love to try it in the field someday soon.


Weekly Round-up 2/22/16

Performances: As always I keep a calendar updated on this site.

Nothing happening for the rest of February- phew- but first weekend of March I’ll be performing with Exultate Choir and Orchestra on their series “Emmanuel”- a performance of the best of the best oratorios we know and love. Check out their website or my calendar for dates and locations.

Rehearsals: As noted above, Exultate rehearsals start this week.

Practicing: I took a nice little weekend off- a bit of self-care after a busy and somewhat stressful start to the music year. It always takes a little bit to get back to fighting weight, but the perspective gained is worth it.

Listening: Nick Drake, Bruckner 4, Hamilton OCR.

Teaching: Practical theory and ear training high on my list today.

Studying: Flow is here! Can’t wait to dive into it.

Relaxing: A friend visited me this weekend, hence my opportunity to take some time off and have a mini homebound vacation. We did touristy Minneapolis things and ate good food- it was wonderful! It’s tough to go back to work but I feel refreshed and happy.