Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Musician’s Musical Experience

Musicians don’t always have the same listening experience as non-musicians. Unfortunately, the music we love the most and are most connected to (music for our instrument), while it can be very moving to perform, is often ineffective at providing us with a significant musical experience when listening. Sure, we’re impressed by an amazing performance, but the emotional power of this performance might actually touch a non-musician more profoundly.

When we listen to others (or ourselves) play our instrument, it is difficult to avoid listening on a technical level.  We can hear the tone on that middle C#, we know that playing the fast altissimo stuff is hard, we’re waiting to hear “the tough lick” in the piece, etc.  We are saddled with too much baggage to really be engaged in a rich musical experience.  This is not to say that there may not be moments that do touch us, but so much is lost on us due to our familiarity with the instrument.

If we listen to another closely related instrument (i.e. a saxophone player listening to a clarinet), we are probably still too close to the act of performing for the music to have a profound effect on us. There are still issues here.  Is the breath steady?    Is the reed too hard?

When listening to instruments that are very unlike our own (i.e. wind players listening to string instruments) the music has a better chance of reaching us since we are further from the technique of the instrument.  But we do have the professional-musician mindset that may still cloud our listening experience.  Is the tone even?  What about the pitch on that low note?  Man, this is a hard piece!!

In order to actually experience music more in the way non-musicians do, it might be better to listen to music that, as a solo instrumentalist, we cannot perform.  Large ensemble works are great for this.  The repertoire for orchestra, wind ensemble, and chorus provides a wealth of very powerful music that can provide us with significant aesthetic experiences.  Chamber music, electronic music, jazz, bluegrass, and other styles of music are also good options for the musician’s listening list.

Different styles of music can speak to us in unique ways.  One of my most memorable musical experiences took place after an artist conference in North Carolina.  A number of guitar and banjo players (maybe a harmonica player too) got together to jam, to sing, and to share some Appalachian mountain music.  I sat and listened.  The picking and strumming went on for hours. I was transfixed and deeply impressed by how this music--born of tremendous suffering, sorrow, joy and tenderness—was able to touch me on a very personal level.

Food for thought.  I'd be interested in your comments/experiences (click the comment link at the end of this post).

Monday, February 1, 2016

Stuff I Like

Simply, a list.

Aukey 24 watt Rapid car charger.
Featuring two, 2.4 amp charging ports, this thing can keep your phone charged even if you are using power-hungry navigation apps all day long.


Micro USB Charge-Only Cable
Need a quick charge? You may not be able to use this cable to sync your phone or tablet to your computer, but boy does it charge fast!!  The difference is especially noticeable in the car, or when charging from a USB port on a computer. I keep one in the car, and one plugged into my computer at work.

Roller Coasters
With Busch Gardens and Universal Orlando nearby, there are plenty of exciting options.  Favorite nearby coaster: Sheikra at Busch Gardens and its 200-foot, 90-degree drop. Hope to get to roller coaster mecca Cedar Point (Ohio) before too long.

Solar Shield Sunglasses
Sun protection that can be worn over prescription glasses without scratching them, or making you look like a geriatric glaucoma patient.




Republic Wireless 
Cell Phone Service
$10/month.  'nuf said.

Moto X Cell Phone
Lots of cool features.  Looks great, too.






The Google Universe
Seamlessly work across devices--phone, home and work computers... Fantastic apps (calendar, maps, Google Now...), desktop applications (Audacity), and, of course, the Cloud (Google Drive).


Popcorn
My favorite snack/comfort food.  Extra tasty eaten with thin-sliced cheddar cheese.

MUSIC GEAR
Selmer Paris Super Action 80 Series II Saxophones
Selmer Paris S80 Mouthpieces
Vandoren Traditional Reeds
N-Track Tuner App
Metronome



Toyota Prius
50 miles per gallon, thank you.

PIZZA in Gainesville
Leonardo's of Millhopper Deep Dish Pizza
Rivals the best Chicago has to offer. I know--I lived in Chicago for 13 years.  If you haven't been to this place, go there now.


Piesano's Pizza
A most excellent thin-crust, wood-fired pizza.  Plus free garlic rolls.

Blaze Pizza
Tasty, fast, pick-all-the-toppings-you-want-for-one-price, even-thinner-crust pizza.

Lenovo $300 laptop computers
My go-to computer for work, communications, and video streaming. Saw one with an Intel i3 processor for $270 recently. More power than most people will ever need.  And if it gets lost or stolen....hey, it's only $300.




CD:  "Music for Saxophone and Cello" by the Helton-Thomas Duo
:)







Steak
Rare/Medium rare.





Cell Phone Apps:
HERE
Offline navigation. Turn-by-turn navigation without using any cell data. Works all over the world. I used it in France this summer. THE app to use around town or out of the country. Priceless!  (also, free!)
WAZE
The navigation app I use on long trips. Circumnavigates heavy traffic, road closures. Warns of road hazards, traffic backups, speed traps.
MOTO ASSIST
Reads incoming texts when driving. Also allows you to reply to texts hands free.  Can silence the phone at night while you sleep.
GOOGLE CALENDAR
Seamless integration with the desktop version. Can automatically silence the phone during meetings (or concerts). Tap the location of your event and it will open a navigation app.
MOTOROLA CONNECT
Allows you to send texts from your desktop computer. You can also ring your phone, in case you've misplaced it.
GOOGLE NOW
Talk to the phone and it will look stuff up for you, or make a call, or send a text, or find a restaurant....
N-TRACK TUNER
The only tuning app I've found that can hear very high notes.
MR NUMBER
Blocks spam phone calls and texts.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

New Tricks for Old Dogs

This blog post provides additional information and references for a Master Class I presented at the 2012 Biennial Conference of the North American Saxophone Alliance on March 15, 2012, at the University of Florida on September 13, 2013, at the Queensland Conservatorium on May 13, 2014, at the Australian Saxophone Retreat on May 17, 2014, and at Eastern New Mexico University on October 2, 2014.

Session Abstract
This is a topical master class (or lecture-demonstration) which explores music learning in the context of research conducted in the areas of cognitive load theory and motor learning. Key principles drawn from the research are applied to difficult passages performed by students in the class in order to achieve rapid skill acquisition.

Movement and the Brain
The body's motor control system is quite complex.
Let’s say we want to move from an E to an F. First the eye sees the new note. Optic nerve sends information to the primary visual cortex which sends processed information to the frontal cerebral cortex where the required movement is planned. The cortex exchanges information with the basal ganglia about your goal in moving the finger (which muscles to use) and the strategy to adopt to achieve this goal, based on your past experience.  The basal ganglia collects information from the parietal lobe (spatial recognition) and the temporal lobe (past experiences) and sends information back to the motor cortex via the thalamus.
              
Then, the secondary motor areas (PMA, SMA) in your cerebral cortex, and the cerebellum make the appropriate decisions concerning the amplitude, direction, timing, and force of the movements to make with your finger, determining specific angles required to actually push the key.  These areas send these instructions to the Primary Motor Cortex, your brain stem, and cervical spinal cord, which trigger a coordinated movement of the many muscles in your arm and fingers.

Musicians routinely call on the brain to coordinate extremely precise physical movements, informed by continuous visual and auditory input.  Almost the entire brain is used.

Cognitive Load Theory
Studies in the area of cognitive load theory have shown that our brain can really only process a very few items of information at once.  The most recent studies have found the effective limit of cognitive brain load to be 3 or 4 items at a time.

Application
- Reduce the load on the brain by avoiding unnecessary tension and movement.
- Reduce cognitive load by breaking passages into 2-, 3-, or 4-note groups. Group easy parts: scale/arpeggio fragments, major seconds. Look for patterns: contour, shapes, harmonic/chromatic progressions.
- Stay relaxed. repeat, repeat, repeat.  Do it again tomorrow, and the next day.

Bibliography
Clark, R. , Nguyen, F., & Sweller, J. (2006). Efficiency in Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines to Manage Cognitive Load. San Francisco: Preiffer.

Clark, R. & Mayer, R. (2007). Elearning and the Science of Instruction. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

Cowan, Nelson. (2001). The magical number 4 in short-term memory: A reconsideration of mental storage capacity. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24 , pp 87-114

Dubec, Bruno. (2011). The Brain, Top to Bottom.
Chapter on "Body Movement and the Brain"

Medina, John. (2008). Brain Rules.  Pear Press. Seattle.

Sweller , J., van Merrienboer, J. J. G. & Paas, F.  G. W. C. (1998). Cognitive Architecture and Instructional Design.  Educational Psychology Review, Volume 10, Number 3, 251-296.



Friday, July 11, 2014

Saxophone Equipment Recommendations

This post provides supplemental information for my presentation at the Florida Bandmasters Summer Professional Development Conference on July 10, 2014.

Recommended Mouthpieces
  • Selmer S-80 C*
  • Selmer S-90 190
  • Selmer Concept
  • Rousseau NC4
Recommended Saxophones

Student Models
  • Selmer 500
  • Yamaha 26 (23)
Step-Up Models
  • Selmer Model 42**
  • Yamaha 480 (475)
  • Yamaha 62-II (52)
Professional Models (new)
  • Selmer Super Action 80 Series II
  • Selmer Reference 54
  • Yamaha 875-EX (with a V1 neck)
Used Professional Models
  • Selmer Super Action 80 “Series I”
  • Selmer Mark VI
  • Selmer Balanced Action
  • Yamaha 62 (52)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Business Tips and Tax Strategies for the Independent Music Teacher

This post provides resource links for my presentation entitled Establishing a Private Teaching Studio: Business Tips and Tax Strategies for the Independent Music Teacher, most recently presented on September 28, 2013 at the Florida Collegiate NAfME State Conference in Lakeland, Florida.

Growing Your Business

Advertising
    – Print, Social Media, Online advertising
    – Web site
    – Brochure, Business cards
Music stores
    – Get to know the owners, buy reeds, music
    – Eventually you will want them to stock music for your students
Offer free clinics to schools
Offer incentives to current students for referrals
Perform, network
    – Play in a local concert series or library
    – Play in churches, get to know music directors
    – Make contact with school music directors
    – Perform in the Community Band/Orchestra/Chorus

Business Model

Sole proprietorship.  One owner--you.
Business name = Your name.  You can register a dba with your local government if you want to operate under an assumed name ("Bob's 39th Street Music Academy").  Most people just use their own name.
Cash accounting
Fiscal year (calendar year)
No inventory
• All investment is “At risk”

The above items are all called for on the various tax forms.  Choose these options unless you have a compelling reason to make another choice.  The listed options are the correct ones for a service business like music teaching and performing.

Deductions and where to declare them

Schedule C

• Advertising: print ads, web sites, business cards, brochure design/printing
• Car expenses: mileage, tolls
• Depreciation: instruments
• Insurance: instrument
• Legal and Professional Services: collaborative musicians, accountants
• Office expense: paper, pens, tape, envelopes, printer toner…
• Repairs: instrument, computer
• Supplies: Music, reeds, strings, valve oil, rosin, books, tools, tuners, CDs, music downloads...
• Travel: hotel, meals, entertainment expenses
• Other:
    – Concert tickets
    – Association dues (MTNA, NAfME, CMS, NACWPI, NASA, ITG, IHS, NFA...)

    Union dues
    – Postage

    – Costumes
    – Computers (restrictions apply)
    – (Phone--must be able to show proof of percentage of business use--phone numbers/minutes)

    –  Web hosting fees, domain name registration (but not Internet service provider costs)
• Use of room in your home
    – Exclusive use
    – Percentage of rent, utilities


You do not have to teach in your home for an office space to be deductible.  It just has to be a dedicated room.  One huge advantage of a home office: all your driving to other teaching/performing locations is tax deductible.  Without a home office, you cannot deduct the trips to and from home (commuting miles).

Form 1040 - Adjustments to Income

• Qualified Performing artist expenses
• Moving expenses
• Percentage of the Self-Employment tax
• Retirement contributions (SEP, SIMPLE, etc.)
• Health insurance
• IRA
• Student loan interest
• Tuition, fees

Form 1040 - Other credits

Standard deduction
Exemption
Education Credits 

Deductions reduce your tax liability considerably--up to 28% of the cost of items deducted.  So $4000 in deductions could save you over $1000.  Another way of thinking about this: you get a 23 or 28 percent discount on any music-related item you buy!  Keep careful records of your expenses and you can save thousands of dollars per year.
 

Tax forms you will need to file

Form 1040 - basic tax return form***
Schedule C - to report self-employed income
Schedule SE  - to pay the employer's portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes**
Form 8829 - if you claim a home office deduction
Form 4562 - if you claim a deduction for an instrument or computer
Form 1040-ES - for paying quarterly estimated taxes

** Note: if your taxable SE income (after deductions) is under $400 you are not required to pay SE tax. However, it will benefit you to declare enough income to pay some self-employment tax each year.  Your eligibility for Social Security benefits is based on the number of years you have been paying into to it, as well as your total salary.  A small tax payment now will earn you a year of eligibility and can be very valuable when you retire. (If you contribute to Social Security and Medicare through deductions from another job, you won't need to worry about this,)

 *** Negative income (declaring more deductions than you have in income) can offset income from another job.  However, if you continually declare a loss from your self-employed business, the IRS may decide that this is just a hobby and disallow all of your deductions.
 

IRS Publications for small business

Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center
    http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Self-Employed
Tax Guide for Small Business 
    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p334.pdf
Starting a Business and Keeping Records 

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p583.pdf
IRS Tax Calendar for Small Businesses and Self-Employed 

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1518.pdf
Business Use of Your Home 

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p587.pdf
Retirement Plans for Small Business 

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p560.pdf
SEP Retirement Plans for Small Businesses 

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p4333.pdf
Instructions for Schedule C (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Business (Sole Proprietorship)  
 
    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1040sc.pdf
Business Expenses 

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p535.pdf
Miscellaneous Deductions 

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p529.pdf
How to Depreciate Property 

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p946.pdf
Depreciation and Amortization 

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i4562.pdf  
Information on Schedule C income and Schedule SE tax
    click here to link   
Information on Estimated Tax payments
    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040es.pdf 

Other Resources

"Establishing a Private Studio"  New England Conservatory Career Services Center
http://necmusic.edu/pdf/careerservices/Career_Services_Establishing_A_Private_Teaching_Studio.pdf

Music Teachers Helper, Teachers' Blog
(Studio management software site.  The blog is good.  I don't know anything about the software.)
http://www.musicteachershelper.com/blog/

Sample Registration form / Studio policy / Fee schedule
http://www.happymusicstudio.com/pdfs/Private_Registration_Form.pdf

 McKnight, Michael. Exploring the Private Music Studio: Problems Faced by Teachers in Attempting to Quantify the Success of Teaching Theory in Private Lessons through One Method as Opposed to Another. Master's Thesis. University of North Texas, 2006.
http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc5356/

Tips from Piano Teachers
http://www.mtna.org/member-resources/teaching-tips/studio-operations/

MTNA 
    http://mtna.org/

Internal Revenue Service 

    http://www.irs.gov/
 
Small Business Administration 

    http://www.sba.gov/




Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ibert Factoid


At dinner in St, Andrews, Scotland earlier this week, Jean-Marie Londeix related an interesting story about the Ibert - Concertino da Camera, probably the most famous saxophone concerto.

Jean-Marie Londeix used to practice and sight-read music with his sister on piano.  One day they were playing the Ibert Concertino and M. Londeix's sister mentioned that he was playing a wrong note.  He was playing an F-natural (as notated in the score of the earlier editions, mm. 2 and 4 in the excerpt above) and his sister pointed out that it should be an F-flat.  Later that week he played the piece in his lesson for Marcel Mule.  M. Mule insisted that it should be an F-natural, as in the part.  After some discussion, Mule said he'd ask the composer.  Jacques Ibert cleared up the misunderstanding and reaffirmed Londeix's sister's observation.  From then on, Marcel Mule also played the F-flat.

Daniel Deffayet and Jean-Marie Londeix collaborated on the corrections to the part that is being published today.  They fixed some inconsistencies (wrong notes) in the saxophone part, and they added Marcel Mule's articulations. The articulations as published in the earlier part were those of Sigurd Rascher.  The articulations that were originally written by Jacques Ibert were published in the original 1935 part, and are still in the orchestral score as published today.  Ibert did not call for ANY articulated scales in the entire piece.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

World Saxophone Congress XVI

Here is more information on the pieces I will be performing at the World Saxophone Congress this week:
________________________________________

Wednesday, July 11, 2012. 3:00 pm
All Saints Church
St. Andrews, Scotland

The Onyx Saxophone Quartet
Jonathan Helton, soprano saxophone
Michael Bovenzi, alto saxophone
Joseph Tomasso, tenor saxophone
Don-Paul Kahl, baritone saxophone

Jonathan Elliott
Quartet for Saxophones (2010)
   Wheel
   Organum
   Prayer
   Calliope

PBP Music


Georgy Ligeti
Sechs Bagatellen
   Allegro con spirito
   Rubato, Lementoso
   Allegro, grazioso
   Presto ruvido
   Adagio, mesto (Bela Bartok, in memorium)
   Moto vivace, capriccioso

Schott
Adapted to conform more to the original piano work:  
Musica Ricercata (1951-1953)

________________________________________


Thursday, July 12, 2012, 2:00 pm
San Salvador's Chapel
St. Andrews, Scotland

The Florida Chamber Saxophonists

Sarah Hersh
Four for Two (2012) World Premiere
   Jonathan Helton
   Michael Bovenzi

Not published
sarahlhersh@gmail.com
 
 
William Albright
Doo-Dah (1977)
   Jonathan Helton
   Michael Bovenzi
   Geoffrey Deibel

Dorn Publications