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).

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

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

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

Rare/Medium rare.

Cell Phone Apps:
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!)
The navigation app I use on long trips. Circumnavigates heavy traffic, road closures. Warns of road hazards, traffic backups, speed traps.
Reads incoming texts when driving. Also allows you to reply to texts hands free.  Can silence the phone at night while you sleep.
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.
Allows you to send texts from your desktop computer. You can also ring your phone, in case you've misplaced it.
Talk to the phone and it will look stuff up for you, or make a call, or send a text, or find a restaurant....
The only tuning app I've found that can hear very high notes.
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.

- 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.

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

    – 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
• Student loan interest
• Tuition, fees

Form 1040 - Other credits

Standard deduction
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
Tax Guide for Small Business
Starting a Business and Keeping Records
IRS Tax Calendar for Small Businesses and Self-Employed
Business Use of Your Home
Retirement Plans for Small Business
SEP Retirement Plans for Small Businesses
Instructions for Schedule C (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Business (Sole Proprietorship)
Business Expenses
Miscellaneous Deductions
How to Depreciate Property
Depreciation and Amortization  
Information on Schedule C income and Schedule SE tax
    click here to link   
Information on Estimated Tax payments 

Other Resources

"Establishing a Private Studio"  New England Conservatory Career Services Center

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

Sample Registration form / Studio policy / Fee schedule

 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.

Tips from Piano Teachers


Internal Revenue Service
Small Business Administration

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)

PBP Music

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

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
William Albright
Doo-Dah (1977)
   Jonathan Helton
   Michael Bovenzi
   Geoffrey Deibel

Dorn Publications

Friday, July 6, 2012

Saxophone and Cello

I’ve been performing with cellists since 2002. It all started for me when I bought Edison Denisov’s Sonata for saxophone and cello and went to look for someone to play it with me.  My current collaboration is with Steven Thomas, my colleague here at the University of Florida.  We’ve been playing together since 2008 and have performed for audiences in the United States, Canada, China, Japan, and France.  Watch for our newly recorded CD, Music for Saxophone and Cello, to be released by Centaur in early 2012.  Performing with cello has been a lot of fun. 

Now, saxophone and cello may seem like a rather unexpected instrumental combination.  Okay, it is an unexpected instrumental combination.  But, hey, we didn’t make this up.  Jean-Marie Londeix’s indispensable  Repertoire Universel de Musique pour Saxophone 1844-2003 lists thirty-eight original works for saxophone and cello duo written between 1965 and 2002. Others have been written since and we premiered another new one just a couple of weeks ago.

I find that the saxophone and cello can blend surprisingly well.  Truthfully, I am amazed at some of the sounds we make together.  To get an idea, you can hear a couple short audio excerpts on our web site at:

Steven Thomas and I have rehearsed together a LOT.  In my many years of playing chamber music I have found that with certain people ensemble playing and musical expression seem to just “click.”  Steven and I have this together.  Our musical ideas and sensitivity to the expressive needs of a particular piece tend to be very complimentary.  It is very nice to be in agreement, or to find that we have the same types of questions for a composer.  Also, it did not take us much time to learn to play together, with good ensemble.  The sound clips on our web site are taken from our very first concert together.  I am really thankful that Steven is willing to put in so much hard work to learn this repertoire.  Cellists have so much other great music they can be performing!

Several of the pieces in our repertoire have been with us since the beginning.  We have performed Edison Denisov’s Sonata for saxophone and cello(and a few other pieces) over 20 times. Living with music for several years, performing a lot, rehearsing and traveling together all make for an ensemble experience of significant depth and maturity.  Every time we come back to familiar music we are surprised at how well it goes together.  It’s like putting on a comfortable set of clothes; it just feels right.

We continue to add new music to our repertoire.  New music helps us grow as we face new challenges both technical and musical.  It also allows us to play return engagements at places that request it!  We’ve enjoyed performing a wide variety of pieces and, in many cases, working with the composers who created them.