I used to have a tradition each year of spending time during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve summarizing the previous year’s accomplishments and failures. That tradition sort of ended when I began playing New Year’s Eve with David Caceres at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. The exception is this year because I am here in Phoenix with my mom during this week and all of the last minute end of the year tasks have already been taken care of. So I want to spend some time, here on this blog, talking about some of the year’s accomplishments.
Photo by Jeff Grass at http://jeffgrassphotography.com/
By far the most significant accomplishment for the year 2013 was the work I invested into Jazz Forever. In mid 2012 I was hired to write charts for a new ten piece band that eventually became called “Jazz Forever.” The band was to record three CDs and all of the music for those CDs were written by me. Mr. Ben Pokluda had purchased a few of those charts for the band, but they were in the wrong instrumentation. So I augmented those arrangements to fit our band’s needs. But the majority of the other arrangements were from scratch.
We recorded all three of the CDs this year. The first is called Jazz Forever Vol. 1. Then Vol. 2 followed soon after. Then we managed to squeeze in a few more sessions for a Christmas CD before the summer ended. All three CDs were available by December and the band opened its first year of existence with a big bang.
Jazz Forever is part Dixie-Land Rag Time band, part ballroom dance band. Along with the three CDs, we have also performed five times. I am the band’s musical director. I introduce the tunes and am responsible for tempos and such. In short, with Jazz Forever, I get to do all of the stuff I am good at, the writing, the performing and the introductions, and my partner George Chase gets to do all of the stuff that I am not as good at…like communicating with clients and most of the business tasks for the band.
It has been a great honor working with Mr. Ben Pokluda, George Chase and all of the fine musicians in Jazz Forever. I STRONGLY encourage all of our readers to buy our recordings. If you like happy jazz music, you will not be disappointed by our CDs.
South African, East Cape Tour
Another very important accomplishment this year was that Pearl and I were able to tour the East Cape, in South Africa. You can read about the details of our trip here on this blog.
Some people have asked us why we setup a business tour in South Africa? It’s no secret that Pearl is from there and that we do have property there (in Port Elizabeth). But the reason for our business interests there are more than just that. I like South Africa. I like the people there. I like their music. I like their attitudes and outlooks. And I want to be part of all of that. I feel like Pearl and I, as a team, have much to offer the people of South Africa and even though it sometimes feels like walking through mud (simply because of the distance), we are determined to continue growing our business presence there.
Yes, we have family there. Yes, I am growing friendships already with some of the people there. So we do enjoy our time there, almost as if it is a holiday. But it’s not. During those times when we were not working with students or offering music to local churches, Pearl and I were collecting photos and video for future composition projects…for which we hope to perform and even perhaps record on future trips to the area.
So yeah, this was a major milestone for us as a business and also for our personal lives.
I haven’t told many people, but I had sort of quit writing original compositions. I think I went three or four years without writing anything major. I won’t go into reasons for it on this blog post. If people want to know what happened, and enough of you ask, then I will write a separate post about that. But the reason I bring it up today is because that slow spell has come to an end as of this year.
The time I have spent writing arrangements for Jazz Forever has infected me with the composition bug all over again. No, the amount of composing I did this year was not even close to how it was before. But that’s because I have been spending so much time writing for Jazz Forever (hours of writing almost every day). However, I did manage to compose the six trumpet version of the Four Parables…which is a pretty major work. Here’s the Youtube video of that piece:
The Four Parables was originally composed as an unaccompanied trumpet solo. When I gave a copy to Marie Speziale, she said she liked it, but that it seemed very difficult. Orchestrating the work for six trumpets was my attempt to make the piece a bit less difficult. And to some extent, I believe I was able to accomplish that. But the way I wrote it caused the piece to take on other difficulties from an ensemble perspective.
Also on the composition front was a performance of a brand new work for brass at the Houston Composer’s Forum (thank you Thomas Helton for the invitation). I wrote a new “Spider Chord” composition for brass quartet (3 trumpets and tuba) titled Body Soul and Spirit. It was the first “Spider Chord” work I had written in years.
The performance was not as good as I had hoped. But it inspired me to work more on that side of my compositional output. I am in the process of reworking the Spider Chord code, incorporating a new tweak that was inspired by this great opportunity.
The most important accomplishment on the publishing front is the creation of a new area of the store called ELM Modules. This area is for smaller e-books of specific types of trumpet exercises and etudes. It is not populated yet with very many products, but we expect this to be the most popular section of the store in the not so distant future. Many of the books are almost ready to be released but require finalization before hand.
2013 was also the year we posted many of our books as e-books on the store’s website. Between those publications and a modest number of digital sheet music releases, we have boosted our digital inventory significantly.
Jay Herder in one of his lessons.
Our students know that we invest time into them outside of their actual lesson time. This is an important reason why we limit our student load and why our prices are a bit higher than other trumpet teachers in Houston. A lot of that time invested outside of the lessons goes into writing materials specifically to meet the individual students’ needs.
2013 was a year of lots of that sort of writing. I learned a long time ago that the most successful music method books are those that were written for the specific needs of specific students. That’s why my books seem to work in such a practical way. It turns out that a need that is met for one person can also be met the same way for another person.
In that way, my books were never about “this is how I play the trumpet.” No one needs to know how I play the trumpet. What people want and need is ideas about how they can discover the way THEY play the trumpet. I believe that each student has his or her own most natural way to play the instrument. My job is to do whatever I can to help you find that way for yourself.
So yes, this is a bit different from most pedagogical approaches which tell you “thou shalt play the trumpet this way” (in other words…do it the RIGHT way….which is MY way). He he he…. No, I don’t teach like that. And to that end, I often write new materials for the students to encourage them to discover for themselves their own right way to play the trumpet. These materials often end up as products in the Tiger Music store.
On the Performance Front
2013 was my most active performance year since I raised my rates about five years ago. As the economy recovers from the 2008 downturn, the gig opportunities continue to grow. Most of that work has been commercial in nature, but there have been a few more artistic performance thrown in there for variety. Jazz Forever falls in that category. But there have been other jazz and classical gigs along the way, and I always enjoy those opportunities.
I haven’t had any of those “milestone” performances that I enjoy so much. 2013 was a year of weddings and other social events. But I received much satisfaction in the comments that my coworkers have had about my playing. It’s a wonderful thing when the people you work with express their appreciation for your musicianship. So many people have been saying such very nice things about my playing that I really don’t mind not playing any high profile gigs all year.
So I can’t look back and say that I took my jazz group to a jazz festival or anything like that. But it was a great year for my playing.
2013 was a very good year for our music endeavors, and we want to thank everyone for making it that way. We praise God that He brought each of you into our lives and our career.
I had started this blog post in Phoenix, but didn’t finish it until later. In that time it has become very clear that 2014 may be far better than 2013. Wonderful! We eagerly look forward to a year of loving service!