I sort of got off schedule with the bird pictures. Sorry about that. Here is the next installment. We are looking at African stonechat, black-headed heron, and black headed oriole.
What is most important to you? What are your priorities in life? Do you consider yourself selfish or selfless and how does that apply to your music? This is the last post in my series titled Wholesome Musical Priorities. In previous posts in this series we discussed putting your religion first, your health second, and your family third. All of these should be placed higher on your priorities than your music and other things you do for your own fulfillment or pleasure. Today we will add work and/or school to the list.
People rely on us!
There’s no getting around it. All of us have people in our lives who rely on us in a variety of different ways. Our families rely on us to do our part, to make a living, to make a home, to contribute in a way that benefits everyone in the family. Our co-workers rely on us to pull our weight at work so that everyone enjoys the benefits of producing a quality product. Our customers rely on us. Our communities rely on us. Our religious organizations rely on us. No matter who we are, even the most introverted of us have responsibilities to other people.
In the Wholesome Musical Priorities, we put other things above our work, but that does not mean that work should be neglected. Often times, it is through our jobs that we fulfill our responsibilities to the other people in our lives.
Providing for Our Families
The most important reason for us to work is to provide an income for our families. Remember that family is a higher priority than work. That means this priority isn’t always straight forward. We must work to provide an income for our families, but that work should never become more important to us than our families.
So yes, there are times when the father MUST miss his son’s soccer game or his daughter’s ballet recital because he is busy “putting food on their table and a roof over their heads.” But when that work becomes an obsession that completely removes the husband/father from the lives of his wife and children, then he has gotten his priorities completely turned around.
School for Your Future Family
For those of you who are still school students and don’t have families of your own to support yet, you should take school seriously for the sake of your future families. The work you do in school plays a big role in the way you provide for your family when you have one.
There are some famous rich people who say that getting good grades in school does not translate into having a successful life. I would agree with them except that I think that it gives the wrong impression about school. I agree that if you go to school just to get good grades and impress people, it will not automatically translate into a successful life. But then, what does?
I am “old school” when it comes to getting an education. I believe that you should be going to school to learn. It is what you learn in school that makes the biggest difference later in life. If you have a hunger for learning, it will eventually pay off in ways that will bless your future family.
Where Does Music Fit?
Music should take a lower priority than work and school.
So what does that mean?
It means that you don’t take easy band classes in an effort to avoid taking “hard” classes. It means that you don’t choose to practice instead of doing your homework. It means that you should never be late to class because you were practicing and lost track of time.
That’s what priorities are for. Your priorities help you make decisions before something happens. If you say that music is a lower priority than school, then your actions should be based on those priorities.
For the adults who have jobs and need to support their families, music as a lower priority than work means that you will not spend work hours reading music websites. It means that you will not call in sick so you can play a gig. It means that you will work overtime when asked instead of spending that time doing musical activities.
The biggest exception to this one point on the priorities list is when what you do for a living is music. Then music is your job and the time you spend practicing, rehearsing and gigging takes a priority over other luxuries you later find an interest in. If you are a professional musician and you don’t spend time practicing, you are hurting your family by limiting how well you are able to provide for them.
Another exception is when music is somehow worked into your workplace. I remember hearing about a factory here in Houston that had an employee jazz band. In a case like that, to a limited extent, what you do for your music partially enhances your work environment.
The same is true if you are involved in music in school. Being in band, choir or orchestra creates a positive learning environment for you and the other students. So as long as music does not become an obsession, it’s okay to spend some of your homework time working on your scales or band music.
What Is Left?
I understand that the picture I am painting here is one that leaves very little time for music. If you follow these priorities, you may feel like there is no time left for your music.
This is only true if you are unorganized. If you only ever do things when you get around to them or when you just happen to think about them, then you probably cannot be a musician AND follow this priority list.
But when you are organized (and I do believe everyone has the capacity to become organized), you can live the enriched lifestyle of someone who has honored all of his/her responsibilities and can now move forward in confidence with your music.
I remember once, back in the mid ’90s when I was just getting started online, someone accused me of lying. He said that no one person could do all of the things I had done and still have time to play computer games for a couple hours a day. I understand how unlikely it seems, but I was not a liar. In fact, it never seemed to me like I was getting much done. The truth was that I had been working on my work efficiency for about ten years by that time.
Today I want to share something that became my first step forward in my efforts to achieve this efficiency. Most major changes must happen in your mind first. I knew this and I refused to let people tell me that what I wanted to do could not be done. And one of the ways I reprogrammed my mind was with the following chart:
The Total Trumpet Player
I used to refer to this as my “Total Trumpet Player” chart. Many people told me that I could not be great at all four of the things listed on the chart above: Classical Performance, Jazz Performance, Composition and Teaching. But I knew that to be great at all four of them, I would need to stop seeing them in my mind as separate fields of study.
So I made the “Total Trumpet Player” chart, using a black marker on regular construction paper. In it, I outline how each of those four areas benefits the others. Then I put this chart on my wall so I could look at it every day. It was like a form of self inflicted brainwashing, a brainwashing that I continue to inflict upon myself thirty years later, using the same chart we scanned to post it here.
And it was successful! Not only did I manage to change the way I think, I also had great success in actually living it out. As I said, most people cannot believe I have done so much with my career. But it’s because they still see all of those things as different and contrary fields of study.
Change Your Mind
If you have something you wish to accomplish that seems impossible to you, then do something to change the way you see it. For many things that seem impossible to us in life, they are only impossible because we think they are impossible. When you change your thinking, you change your life.
I know that a lot of my readers have been following the progress we are making with Jazz Forever. We would like to announce that Jazz Forever Volume One, our debut CD, is now available at our music store, Tiger Music.
If you purchase a copy of this CD, or anything else from our store, by the end of the month, you can get a 25% discount if you use the code “Houston25” at checkout. Thank you for your continued support!
Do you practice lip slurs? Tired of the same old, same old? We just released my newest book, Trumpet Switchbacks, at http://tigermusicstore.com with 108 lip slurs for trumpet students of every skill level.
Not only have we just released this new book, but the timing is perfect because we are currently running a special discount of 25% off if you use the code Houston25 at checkout. For just over two dollars you can add a bit of variety to your trumpet life!
These lip slurs are completely unique, never published before by me or anyone else for that matter. They are based on my original lip slur design, but modified for comfort. I believe most trumpet players will enjoy working them into their routines.
To purchase the new lip slur book, click on any of the links on this page and use coupon code “Houston25” at checkout to receive the 25% discount.
Twenty-five years ago this month I made the trek from El Paso to Houston. It have now been living in Houston for over half of my life. In some ways it has been the best half of my life, in others the worst. But for the rest of August we will be celebrating this anniversary by offering 25% off of everything at our music store at http://tigermusicstore.com. Use coupon code Houston25 at checkout.
My First Day in Houston
I moved to Houston in the late 80’s with hopes of eventually becoming an orchestral trumpet player. My first trip into town was with my brother, Gerald. I didn’t have a vehicle at the time and he volunteered to bring me to Houston to meet Jim Austin, get registered and start looking for a place to live.
What I remember most about that first day is getting this crazy idea to sleep at the beach in Galveston that night. My family was used to sleeping in the car. We grew up that way so it was no biggie. But since we were so closed to the beach, we decided to drive a little further and sleep on the beach.
We got there, spent a little time walking around, then went back to my brother’s truck to sleep. Of course, it was hot. Being from El Paso, we were used to hot, but not like this. It was sauna hot. But hey, no problem, right? We’ll just roll down the windows.
Not a good idea. Within minutes were were covered with mosquito bites. After about two hours of trying to tough it out, we started the truck back up and went back to the city to find a place to sleep.
Coincidentally, the place we ended up parking was in the neighborhood Gerald now lives in. We parked out front of a public pool with the idea that we could swim when the pool opened in the morning.
Ha! Looking back at it now, I don’t think we ever even considered the possibility of getting a hotel. That just wasn’t done.
Bath Water Swimming
I took care of business and Gerald took me back to El Paso. I would be returning in a week with my stuff.
For the first few weeks, I lived in a hotel with a weekly rental. I got a job right away delivering pizzas for Dominos (no one can tell me I didn’t pay my dues!). And I remember one night getting back to the hotel and thinking that I really needed a swim. When I jumped into the hotel pool, I couldn’t believe how hot the water was. It was hotter than my typical bath water!
And to be completely honest with you, if it weren’t for the music scene here in Houston, I don’t think I would have stayed for quarter of a century. Between the miserable seven month summers and the traffic, there was not much to entice me to stay.
That said, the musicians in Houston are, for the most part, wonderful, kind and loving people. I was accepted as a friend almost immediately. I think I became established as a jazz musician far sooner than a classical player, and that tipped the balance enough that today I am certain most Houstonians do not think of me as a classical player. Which is fine. It used to bother me a lot, but I have learned to be less covetous and see things from more of an outside the box perspective.
But yeah, I had a lot of struggles musically because of the way I divided my career across that stylistic line. If it weren’t for Darryl Bayer, I probably never would have been recognized as a classical player in Houston.
Thanks to Darryl, I did have a wonderful opportunity to work with the Texas Brass Ensemble and at the peak of those times, had the honor of recording a CD with Darryl, Thomas Hulten, Ben Jaber and Dave Kirk. That was certainly one of the highlights of these past 25 years. And the icing on the cake was that about half of the songs on our Sound of the South CD are my original compositions.
Jazz Growth and Maturity
On the jazz side of my career, I had a lot of growing to do. My first jazz recording in town was with Phil Blackmon. Phil took me under his wing for a while and I got to play with his band for about a year I think. From those humble beginnings, I worked with a variety of different bands. One of the most significant was the Tom Borling Be Bop Band. On the jazz side of my career, the Tom Borling Be Bop Band CD was much like the Texas Brass recording. I wrote all but one of the compositions on that CD and it was my work with Tom’s band that sort of “put me on the map” as a jazz player here.
I said earlier that I was accepted as a friend very soon after I arrived here. But I was not as well excepted as a player until that recording with Tom Borling.
It was Tom’s band that introduced me to David Caceres, which was another very big step for me in my career. David later hired me to play in his wedding band and I have been working with him ever since….learning so much along the way.
It’s kind of funny, because I consider myself a classical and jazz trumpet player. But throughout the 90’s, the majority of my income came from playing salsa gigs. I got into that scene at first by joining a Mexican band called Promessa Band. We worked a lot but the band eventually folded. Then from there I started doing more work with the salsa bands.
I played salsa so much that I got to where I could read the music correctly, even if it was written wrong. I knew the style so well that I could sort of fill in the gaps on the part when I knew it wasn’t right.
There was once a salsa band leader who didn’t like me at all. But he hired me for a few gigs. One time he insulted me and complimented me at the same time. He said, “well, at least when you get lost, you stay ‘en clave’.” That was a wonderful compliment that I think summarizes my experience as a salsa trumpet player.
I have also done a lot of teaching in the past 25 years. I have taught literally hundreds of private students. I stopped counting after 500. I have always had a passion for teaching and in fact, the main reason I ever perform is to give credibility to my teaching.
It’s kind of funny. A friend of me heard me saying how much I love to teach and he said, “That’s a lie. You hate teaching, Eddie.” I was shocked to hear him say that. But then I thought about it. We worked together as private teachers at the same schools for most of the 90’s. The pay was so bad that I was forced to teach seventy students or more per week. What I didn’t like (I don’t use the word “hate”) was the degrading pay and the lack of respect the schools have for their private teachers.
Yes, I did quit teaching in 1997. I was burned out. But it was not because I hated teaching. I was burned out because I was putting in full time hours for part time kiddie pay.
Here’s the thing that most people do not know about me. Of the 25 years that I’ve been living in Houston, for 18 of those years I lived “beneath the poverty line.” Teaching $7 lessons and playing $150 salsa gigs (with three rehearsals) was pushing me to work 16 to 18 hour days. I was working long hard days trying to scrape out a living and I thought it wasn’t paying off.
And yes, there was a time when I was actually bitter about that. What I didn’t know back then was that the reason I was working for such low pay was because I was working for low pay! So there you have it. It was all my fault. No one held a gun to my head and said I had to teach $7 lessons.
It wasn’t until I understood what was happening and changed my mindset that I began to earn enough income to pull myself up from beneath that infamous poverty line. But love is a wonderful motivator.
Pearl and Her Influence
I won’t go into the details, but it was Pearl coming into my life that motivated me to see things differently. I began to see how working for peanuts was actually hurting my performances, my teaching and my writing. It was also creating a business environment that was making it more difficult for others to make more money. Doing real work for hobo pay is not a loving way to live. It is actually a very selfish and hateful way to live. The whole starving artist facade is an evil lie that musicians tend to perpetuate because of their “love for music.” But if they had so much love in them, then they would take a step back and look at how their attitudes are hurting so many people.
And that’s what Pearl helped me to see. She took this “dues payin’ musical maniac” and helped transform me into a man, a real man, who is better equipped to support a family. And really, what changed? Just my attitude. That’s all.
You know, there is a wonderful trumpet teacher in Houston who recently announced that he is no longer teaching lessons. After years of struggling the same way I did, he has come to the conclusion that it is no longer worth it. He has a excellent reputation as a teacher with students who are really going places. But as good as he is, he just cannot make ends meet. This is just wrong! It shouldn’t be this way.
And the only reason I’m mentioning it here is because I want people to know how much “cheap lessons” hurt people. It hurts the teachers, the students, the band programs and so on.
Anyway, enough of that. I don’t want anyone to think that I am bitter about this. I just feel it’s important that people know that the money side of being a musician is not nice.
Another important part of my work over the past 25 years has been on the publishing side of my career. I have written almost twenty trumpet books now and there are dozens more just waiting to be finished. All twenty of those books were written and published here in Houston.
- The Physical Trumpet Pyramid
- Daily Routines
- Go With the Flow
- Creative Inflection
- The Jazz Style of Gerald Hunter
- The Jazz-O-Witz Scrolls
- The Eddie Lewis Jazz Sampler
- 20 Studies
- Celebrations: 101 Original Trumpet Duets
- All-State Prep for Trumpet
- Twelve Tunes for Linear Diatonic Improvisation
- Total Tonalization: Trumpet Player Level
- Groups 8 & 9
- Trane for Trumpet
- 21 Brass Quintets
- Chops Express
- Switchback: Comprehensive Melodic Lip Slurs for Trumpet
- Trumpet Apprentice Tonalization Studies
- The Beginners Jazz Motif Dictionary
- Trumpet Pro Pentatonic Tonalization Studies
Also on the publishing front, Houston is where I composed literally hundreds of original compositions for jazz and brass ensembles. As a composer I have progressed through three different style periods in the past 25 years ranging from free jazz/avant-garde style compositions, to post-romantic work, to something of a synthetic blend of all the styles I’ve had the privileged of performing during the course of my career.
The people who know of me from outside of Houston know me for my published work. My compositions have been performed by musicians all over the world, and even though my work is rarely performed here in Houston (a prophet in my home town?), Houston is where it all comes from.
25 Years In a Nutshell
So there you have it. A brief summary of my 25 year career as a musician in Houston, Texas. It’s not exactly a rags to riches story…not yet anyway. But the trend is most certainly leaning in that direction. Every year is better than the previous years.
The mosquitoes are still biting, the pools are still hotter than bath water and the traffic still plods along. But I have had the honor and privileged of making so much beautiful music with so many wonderful people. Since I am approaching my fiftieth birthday, I have now been living in Houston for over half of my life time.
Is this something worth celebrating?
Sure it is. And the way I want to celebrate it today is to offer everyone 25% off of everything we sell at http://tigermusicstore.com. Remember to use the code Houston25 when you check out.
If you have memories you’d like to share from the past twenty-five years, please feel free to leave them here. This anniversary is more about YOU than it is about me. I wouldn’t have stayed in Houston so long if it weren’t for the people and the music we’ve made together. So thank you, all of you, for putting up with me all these years. 🙂
I just spent some time this morning getting caught up on responding to comments left on this blog. I do apologize for taking so long. I am not a professional blogger. This is something I just do on the side, so there are “seasons” during my career when I cannot devote as much time to blogging.
But please know this…that I do respond. Please do not let the fluctuation of my blogging time discourage you from posting comments. I read and eventually respond to all comments.
I believe in living according to priorities. I cannot justify blogging about being a musician, a music teacher or composer if I make blogging a higher priority than my actual career. I hope that makes sense.
That said, I want to thank all of you who read this blog. And thanks even more to those who take the time to comment. It means a lot to me. If it weren’t for you, I would have no reason to spend the time it takes to do this work. So thank you!