Meet in the Middle: When You Want to Improvise, but it’s Not Entirely Jazz

I grew up playing classical music and longing to be in jazz band.

Granted, it didn’t take long for that to come to fruition—by eighth grade I was taking solos and groaning at lead parts like I’d done it all my life—but with jazz comes an often-stifling series of mistreatments. I don’t have to tell you that; I haven’t touched the art form in over a year, and while I still miss the music, I’m waiting for the opportunity to get back into it on my own terms with people who won’t shut me down at every turn. The thing I loved most about jazz, though, was simultaneously what I hated: the improvisation.

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Taking Time Off and Why I Don’t Miss Jazz So Much

It’s been a couple years since I’ve been okay with how the jazz world is run. Sure, the music’s great and it’s fun to go to shows, and I’d be lying to say I didn’t desperately miss those aspects (and others, like playing with the Nash Composers’ Coalition out in Phoenix), but if you’ve been with me for awhile you know that all the jazz scene manages to do is break my heart and piss me off. I spend almost all my time in male-dominated fields, but for whatever reason, traditional jazz is the one intersection of maleness and music that seems to just keep kicking when I’m down.

Before I go any further, let’s be clear: I’ve spent the most time in jazz circles that glorify swing and bebop, that don’t advocate for experimentalism, whose primary interest seems to be preserving tradition. The jazz people I’m around now aren’t like that; indeed, lots of the creative jazz scene in LA seems to intrinsically value the blending of genres, including jazz and non-jazz. I like that a lot more, but I’m still hesitant to dip my toes back into a world that has repeatedly told me I have no place in it. I thought about trying to explain why, but then I found some old writing I did on the subject and never sent out into the world. It still rings true, so I’ll let it speak for me:

Continue reading Taking Time Off and Why I Don’t Miss Jazz So Much

March Favorites are here!

Like every YouTuber ever, I’ve decided to start a monthly favorites segment. Ultimately, my goal is to highlight music, creatives, and moments I enjoy. If anything catches your attention, don’t keep quiet!

March has been an absolutely insane month. I had the privilege of playing on three recitals (including my own), joining ensembles on various other concerts, clearing a couple commissions off my plate, and preparing for premieres of new works. That said, this is what’s caught my eye and ear:

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Ensemble Talk: On Working with Composers (Successfully)

Beginning in undergrad (and sometimes earlier), composers are taught how to approach performers—what to say, what not to say, how to phrase critiques, ask questions, and ensure a successful performance. But because traditional performance institutions, particularly those following the conservatory model, value dead composers above all else (except for that one large ensemble concert a year that’s reserved for new works), it’s not uncommon to encounter performers who haven’t thought all that much about how working closely with a composer can require something beyond basic professionalism. Young performers, particularly those who play works by a composer friend, seem particularly susceptible to this, but everyone can stand to benefit from some organized consideration every once in awhile. So what do composers wish their performers knew?

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Musicians are People, Too: A Smart Dude’s Guide to Improving the Jazz Scene

Most musicians will tell you that plenty of us need to work on our people skills. (Kind of funny, since our lives revolve around networking.) We like being on stage, but we aren’t always good at subtlety or tact or comforting or the things that remind your friends that you’re a pretty okay human. As a result, most music schools feature a crop of nineteen-year-olds who make jokes about women (and men) that are tasteless at best and downright offensive at worst. This happens a lot in the jazz world; lots of guys just don’t put a filter between their brains and mouths. And somehow that’s okay, because the jazz stereotype is that you’re supposed to be your raw, unfiltered self, and everyone else is supposed to think that’s the greatest thing since the iPhone.

More than a couple well-meaning jazz people have danced around the question of how to make women feel more included. I’d like to introduce my suggestions on how to not only invite women into the space but improve the interpersonal relationships in our scene as a whole:

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We Now Return to our Regularly Scheduled Performances

Man, what a semester it’s been! I premiered five new works (Don’t TellLiar, LiarTipping PointStorm Warning, and Flatline); I gave my senior recital; I visited Michigan, Canada, and Los Angeles; I spent quality time with family and friends; and I made big decisions about my future. After all that, it’s been nice to get back into the routine over the last couple weeks. I thought I’d take a moment to outline where I’ll be playing, attending, and presenting work for the rest of the semester, for those of you who are interested:

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Multifaceted: It’s Time for the Recital

After four fantastic (and incredibly challenging) years at ASU, I’m thrilled to be presenting some of my best work for various instrumentations on my senior recital! You’ll get to hear some trumpet music and some non-trumpet music as played by a swarm of my friends and collaborators from the Phoenix area. The program is as follows:

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Bringin’ it Back: Don’t Tell Enters the Jazz World

When prepping a senior recital, most music students stop working on anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, I’m not most music students, so despite scheduling myself into three sets of rehearsals and overseeing two more, I’m still on a creative kick. That’s really helpful when I need a break from thinking about logistics, but when I run into a musical quandary, I find it even more difficult to overcome than I usually would.

Take last week’s dilemma: I’ve been invited back to the Nash Composers’ Coalition (yay!) for our spring showcase of new works.

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