Recognizing the Deep Thinkers

Do not confuse nonsense with deeper thought. It is difficult to discern the two before you explore the depths yourself, because both appear on the surface to display certain disconnects. We expect one plus one to equal two. When someone presents to us something that breaks from our expectations, it is not a safe to assume that the nature of that disconnect is a form of deeper thought.

The ThinkerMy Definition

My idea of what deep thought really is may be a bit different from other people’s. I readily acknowledge this right now, before I write anymore on this topic. It seems to me that most other people I know see “deep thought” as being emotional, not practical or rational. They associate “deep thoughts” with more strongly “felt” emotions. Not me.

To me, “deeper thoughts” are thoughts that explore the depths of each subject in levels. Deeper thoughts explore deeper levels of cause and effect, deeper levels of historic significance, deeper levels of implication, etc. Deeper thoughts are like playing chess with life.

An example of a deeper thought I try to expose my students to is the idea of deferred gratification. A LOT of what I assign as a teacher is dreadfully boring. If the students cannot think deeper thoughts than just “I’m bored, I don’t like this, I want to play music that’s fun”, then they will never experience the greater levels of joy that come with practicing the things I assign to them. That is a wonderful example of second level deep thinking. Shallow thinking says “I’m bored, I won’t do this.” Going one level deeper says “I may not enjoy doing this now, but I know I will enjoy the results of my effort in the future.”

To me, the more levels you explore in your mind in that way, the deeper your thoughts really are. This is in stark contrast to the more popular ideal of what deep thinking is. To me, what is labeled most often as being “deep” in the music community is actually EXTREMELY shallow. I believe that thinking only on an emotional plane is as shallow as you can get. Thoughts that are MORE emotional are not deeper. Instead, such thoughts dig their heels into that first level, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge anything meaningful beyond just the emotional plane.

Why We Confuse the Two

A lot of what is lauded as “deep thought” in the modern music world is nothing more than disconnected gibberish. It’s as if the composers/musicians have thought to themselves:

“deeper music sounds unusual and sometimes even out right weird [or offensive], thus, if I compose/perform music that is unusual and/or weird, then my music must also be just as deep.”

This is flawed reasoning and no amounts of emotional expression invested into the music will ever cause it to become more “deep” than just first level, emotional thought.

Music of greater depth is indeed often strange sounding because we often miss the connections at first. Shallow thinkers will have great difficulty recognizing the difference. It takes a deep thinker to recognize deep thoughts. To those who think only on the shallow, emotional plane, they respond to things which are mostly peripheral to the music itself. They respond to the facial contortions and body language more than they do the music. The musician who writhes in agony during a performance of strange collections of sounds is, in their mind, obviously a very deep thinking individual.

How are they to know the difference between that bit of weirdness and the weird disconnect they experience in a performance of true depth? How could they possibly recognize true musical depth if they have never explored those depths themselves?

Outside of Music

The same is true, of course, outside of music. Deep thinking is not emotional. It is a matter of exploring things in a way that leads to a greater understanding of possibilities. This is true in politics, science, history, relationships, anything you can think about can be done so this way.

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Life Builders: Darryl Bayer

Darryl Bayer in Full Renfest Garb

A Natural Entertainer

Darryl Bayer is a trumpet and keyboard player from Boston Massachusetts. He is one of the few trumpet players I’ve ever met who is a true, natural born entertainer. When you see Darryl perform and see how easy it is for him to connect to the audience, it’s no wonder that he has become one of the more popular trumpet players in the Houston area.

My understanding is that Darryl has been performing since he was a high school student. He performed as a soloist with symphony orchestras and at some point along the way also worked as a keyboard player in a rock band. He has that certain flare that us brass musicians have come to expect from Boston trumpet players.

Darryl Moved to Houston not long before I did. He moved here after a short stint in California but has been living and working as a musician here in the greater Houston area for about twenty-five years.

Texas Brass 036

My First Gig Champion

Darryl Bayer gave me my first gigs when I got here to Houston and I have been working with him ever since. He became my champion months before I ever even met him. One of my best friends from UTEP, Chris Parks, was Darryl’s roommate when they were both students at the University of Houston. When Chris told Darryl about me, Darryl had already expressed a genuine interest in working with me. It wasn’t but a few days after I got here when Darryl popped into Mr. Austin’s office and introduced himself to me. Within weeks I did my first gig with him.

When I listen to recordings of my playing from those years (late 1980’s), it makes me appreciate Darryl all the more. I was not a very good player. I am almost ashamed to admit that I was so bad that I didn’t even know how bad I was. I’m not saying that I thought I was hot stuff. Not at all. But I didn’t realize how bad I really was. I know I had skills (and that was my saving grace), but I sounded really bad.

But that’s how Darryl is. He is sort of the Art Blakey of trumpet players here in Houston. He likes to take the up and coming players under his wing and nurture them the way he did with Chris and I. That’s something I really admire and respect him for, not just because he helped me get established but also because he continues to help younger players get their careers started.

The Texas Brass Ensemble – Sounds of the South

About six years later, Darryl invited me to be the second trumpet player in his quintet. I did some of the renaissance festival gigs, various recitals and lots of church gigs. This eventually lead to us recording a CD of mostly original music titled Sounds of the South. Some of those compositions were by Thomas Hulten and some of them were mine. The Texas Brass has performed more of my compositions than probably any other brass ensemble in the world and it is always a wonderful honor.

As a composer, the most difficult part of writing music is getting your music performed. I have been extremely blessed in that regard and Darryl has always been a big part of that. Once again I find myself using the word “champion.” Darryl has always been a champion of my compositions and my books.

About 90% of all the classical work I’ve done in Houston has been with Darryl.

The following is a video of the Texas Brass at one of our school concerts.

Music Business Sounding Board

This Life Builders series is about acknowledging the people who have contributed to my success in life. One of the ways that Darryl has contributed to my success in the music business is by providing opportunities to discuss the business with someone who was already successful himself. I have learned a lot from Darryl over the years, not only directly but also indirectly by having an opportunity to share my ideas with him.

A lot of people don’t think music and business go together. They believe that tending to the business side of our art will take all the joy out of it, but I disagree. The way you make it “all about money” is to take the money out of the picture. I feel the same way about business in music as I do technique. I have often said that the surest way to make technique an issue in your playing is to not have any! When you have limited technique, THAT’S what people hear in your playing. Well, it’s the same way with the business. When you take care of the business ahead of time, then the music can be just that….all about the music. But when you fail to take care of the business, then you FORCE it to be all about the money.

That’s why learning about the business side of our art is so important. There are very few people in my life who have had the desire to sit and talk with me about that side of the music world. So I appreciate Darryl so much for being there for me that way.

Continued Support

Even though I don’t work with Darryl nearly as much as I have in the past, he continues to show his support for my writing and for my books. The Texas Brass continues to play my compositions and arrangements and Darryl continues to be an outspoken advocate of the Daily Routines book.

This means a lot to me. I once read a business book that said, “You can’t move forward without your back end.” What it means is that you shouldn’t turn your back on the people who already appreciate what you do. The people who like what you do are your home base. Without them, you are no one, your product is nothing and you are going nowhere.

So yeah, it’s important to me that Darryl and others like him have been consistently supportive of my work. Without this “back end” support, I would have nothing to stand on. I can trace all of my current success as a arranger/composer back to that support. Remaining true to the purpose of these Life Builders posts, I must admit that it would be an act of pride to never express my gratitude for all that Darryl has done for me in that respect. (That’s what the Life Builders series is all about. Pride is when we fail to acknowledge the people who have contributed to our success in our lives. This series is my way of doing that.)

That said, I should also mention that Darryl is on our approved teachers list. Darryl has been using my Daily Routines book since it first came out and knows it as well as anyone. So for those students in Houston who don’t live close enough to take lessons with me, but want to learn some of the aspects of my method, we strongly recommend that you sign up with Darryl for lessons. Darryl is on the north side of Houston while I live on the south side. Please feel free to send me a message if you are interested in getting his contact information.

Summary

As always, with these Life Builders posts, I couldn’t possibly list all of the different ways that Darryl has contributed to my success in my life and career. I would like to close with this… Darryl is a relatively young Christian. He has been an inspiration to me to see how “on fire” he is about our precious savior, Jesus Christ. It would be wrong for me to not mention this because it is such a big part of who he is today.

Darryl is a good man. He is on the right track, doing a lot of good for a lot of people. He is one of my friends on Facebook and it warms my heart to see that he has been gigging and teaching so much. That said, I strongly encourage everyone who reads this to buy a copy of his recent CD release titled Soaking Reign. There are no words to describe his music on the new recording. It cannot be boxed into a single genre or style.

Thank you Darryl for all you’ve done for me. I know I don’t often express my gratitude, but I do appreciate all you’ve done. God bless you my friend.

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Youtube: Standing on the Promises

Here’s another new piece that we just added to our inventory:

This arrangement of Standing on the Promises is one of my more successful adaptations from the traditional hymn style to my personal salsa influenced style. You can purchase the sheet music for this arrangement at www.tigermusicstore.com.

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Youtube: Three Famous Soldiers

We have finally added one of my most major compositions to the music store. This piece is called Three Famous Soldiers and was performed by the Texas Brass at Dave Kirk’s faculty recital at Rice University. Here are some notes I wrote about the composition soon after it was completed.

THREE FAMOUS SOLDIERS

BY EDDIE LEWIS

COMPOSITION NOTES

The Three Famous Soldiers was originally supposed to be part of my 21Quintets collection. I laid out the form and began working on it. After a month of work, I realized that the piece was going to be way too long. The concept behind the 21 Quintets was that all of the pieces would be two pages or less. I wanted each part to open on the stand to both pages of the piece. So I decided to put the soldiers on hold until that project was over. When I went back to the soldiers again, several months later, I soon realized that this was going to be my most significant brass quintet composition to date.

The form I used is A B A1 C A2. What makes the soldiers unique is the harmonic treatment. A careful harmonic analysis will reveal that every chord in the A sections is a major ninth chord or its inversion; every chord in the B section is a minor ninth chord or its inversion; every chord in the C section is a dominant seven with a sharp five and sharp nine – or it’s inversion. In some isolated areas of the piece, these chords are treated in parallel, but more typically not.

This harmonic technique forced me to do two other things with the composition. First, it forced me to deal with rests. Since every chord is a five note chord, that means everyone in the quintet is playing all the times. So I decided to split up the ninth chord sections with short solo passages. My concept was, if every one solos, then everyone rests. The result is that this five page per part beast is not as physically demanding as you might think.

The other thing this harmonic approach forced me to do was to write more interesting rhythmic content. If all the chords are of the same flavor, then there’s not harmonic, tonal gravity. The only way the piece was going to move forward was if I used the rhythms to make it move forward.

Of course, there’s more to it than just that, but those are the main features of the theory behind the Three Famous Soldiers. This is the third piece I’ve written with this technique, but now that I’ve perfected it, I promise you it won’t be the last.

PROGRAM NOTES

The Three Famous Soldiers is a Bible story about three soldiers who risked their lives to bring King David a drink of water from the well in Bethlehem (while it was occupied by the Philistines). When they gave him the water, he poured it out as an offering to the lord and said that drinking that water would be like drinking the blood of those who risked their lives to get it.

You can purchase the sheet music for Three Famous Soldiers at Tiger Music.

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Youtube – Houston Jazz Musicians

I’ve put together a play list of over 100 Youtube videos by Houston jazz musicians. I hope you enjoy it!

I like to run my Youtube playlists instead of listening to a radio station. With this playlist, I get to listen to my friends. How cool is that?

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Be the Cream, Not the Milk

How can you stay competitive in a market where most teachers are charging less than you are? Should you lower your rates? How will you survive if you charge “too much?”

Photo by Pin Lim at Forest Photography

Photo by Pin Lim at Forest Photography

Be the Cream, Not the Milk

I recently posted something on Facebook about the prices some people charge for lessons and one of my friends responded with a question that I would like to answer here, on my blog, instead of directly on Facebook:

I’ve been teaching in C*** ISD for about six years. I raise my rates every couple of years, but I’ve found it difficult to find an area where I’m remaining competitive while not undercutting the other teachers in the area. I’ve been told on many occasions that my services are worth more than I’m charging, but I don’t want to scare away the clientele. Any thoughts? Great post, Eddie! Thanks!

Communicating Value – How to Remain Competitive

I never understood the association between low prices and the word “competitive.” People often say that a lower price is a “competitive” price, but does it really work that way? I believe that the people who are forced to lower their prices do so because they are NOT competitive. If they were competitive, they wouldn’t have needed to lower their prices.

Of course, the problem for them is that there are other people in the market who are charging a lower rate than they are. Rather than think of those rates as being more competitive, why not acknowledge to yourself that this is your opportunity to stand out above the crowd? When your competition lowers their rates, that is a sign that they have lost confidence in their products. Your job, at that point, is to let people know that you are worth the price you charge.

I call this “communicating value.”

Not Perceived Value, But Communicated Value

At this point I would like to stress that I am not suggesting that you should create a false image of your product in an effort to lure new students. Not at all.

What I am suggesting is that all of us start off in the red when it comes to communicating our worth or the value of our products to potential students. No one knows the value of our product (music lessons) until we communicate that value to them.

Instead of lying to our future customers, instead of trying to con them into paying a higher price, we need to learn how to better communicate the true value of our lessons so they know what they are getting for the money they pay.

I do not believe in making a sale at all costs. I believe in honesty and integrity in business. It is wrong and unethical to “rip people off” with high prices if you have nothing to offer. So this is not about pulling the wool over people’s eyes. This is about recognizing the value of your product and then communicating that value to your potential customers.

First Step – Stress What Makes You Different

One of the mistakes people make about music is that they assume all things musical can be measured on a linear scale. We have a tendency to thinking in terms of better or worse. But it really doesn’t work that way.There is no need to put others down in an effort to make yourself look better. No, you don’t need to be better. You need to be different.

Different strokes for different folks? Right? Not everyone wants the same thing from a teacher. In fact, it has been my experience that many potential students are so specific in what they are looking for in a teacher that they are willing to pay a more to have that need met.

The problem is, if you don’t tell them what makes you different, the chances of them ever finding you are slim to none. So it’s important to emphasize those things that set you apart from the other teachers on your instrument, in your area.

Second Step – Do Best at What You Do Best

It’s not good enough to only be different. You must deliver high quality for whatever it is you do. If what makes you different is that you like to have fun with the students (that’s not my thing, but I know a lot of teachers who enjoy having fun with their students), then do it right. Give them the highest quality fun that you have to offer. No slip shot, half committed attempts.

Whatever it is that you do differently, whatever it is that you are communicating to your potential students that makes your lessons different, do that thing to the best of your ability.

Third Step – Blow Your Horn

Advertise!

When you charge more, you can expect to turn away far more students than what you would when you were undercutting everyone else. That means you must reach more people in your advertising. The number of people who want specifically what you have to offer will be a fraction of those who contact you for lessons. The farther your advertising reaches, the more students you will attract to your studio.

When you advertise, once again, be certain to emphasize those qualities that make you different. I can’t stress this enough times.

Fourth Step – Offer Options

The worst thing you can do is offer one “product” for one price. Not everyone can justify paying $150 per lesson every week. It’s important to offer the students a variety of pricing options so they can match their costs with their needs.

We have found that people want varying degrees of commitment and perks. We have lesson options for people who have no desire to make a weekly commitment and they pay a different price from those who do want weekly lessons.

The tricky part here is in creating a pricing structure that works for you in a practical sense, paying you what you deserve for the work and time you invest, while at the same time creating value for the students. We have eight different pricing variations in two three different categories. Consider how much this can boost your confidence in your lessons when the student gets to choose his or her pricing plan. If the students only have one option, then they are more likely to feel as if your lessons are not worth it. And really, they would be right.

Scholarships

One other option that sort of falls outside of the other pricing options is scholarships. On a fundamental level, I am opposed to arbitrary scholarships for trumpet lessons. I have been disappointed so many times by students who I gave sort of informal scholarships to. They have all ended up with the worst attitudes and made the least progress.

What we are doing differently now is making the scholarships more formal with qualifications that we take very seriously. If the student falls short of those requirements, they loose the scholarship and their rates revert to the current full price. This is a new thing we are trying out but we are very excited about it.

Summary

I believe that most teachers who charge so little are actually worth more than they charge. But the problem with not communicating that value to the customers is that you end up with a teacher student mismatch in the end. Your lessons may be valuable to some students and not others. If you only arbitrarily raise your rates without communicating value, then you will most likely end up with a dissatisfied student.

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Are You Guilty? Stealing Is Stealing!

I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say that everyone commits intellectual property theft to some degree in their daily lives. Some steal more than others, but we are all guilty of it. The following video explains why this kind of theft has become so prevalent in our modern society.

I have experienced intellectual property theft for many years now. Within weeks of the publication of my first book people were sharing copies of it without my permission. Since then it has only gotten worse, not better.

On the one hand, you cannot say that it has hurt me if I never had it to begin with. Right? Things are different for me than they are for people who were already established before the internet made intellectual property theft so popular. But on the other hand, what if people actually paid me for everything they’ve ever taken? Where would I be in my career today?

I know there is an entire generation (or two) that believes music should be free. Those people are shallow thinkers who cannot see this topic any deeper than the topmost level. They do not look deep enough to see just how many people are hurt, including themselves, when people do not get paid for the work they do.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video.

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