To The People Telling Us To “VOTE.”

To the men who are my peers and colleagues (and plenty of other people in my spaces):

I’ve seen a lot of “VOTE.” lately, especially since RBG died. While I’m excited you’re all (theoretically) taking your civic duty seriously, I also know that for some of you, this is what constitutes activism. For some of you, this is how you check that little mental box of being a good feminist or an activist or someone who’s doing the work.

I’ve seen a lot of “VOTE.” lately, and it’s easy to understand why. When you’re used to the system working in your favor, when you’re used to your requests being granted, it’s easy to assume the best way you can help the people around you is to reach upward and ask. But if that’s how you think the marginalized get rights in this country, by asking politely and waiting for the system to work, you might want to go refresh yourself on some history. Go back and look at how suffragettes and Civil Rights leaders and rioters at Stonewall were treated at the time. Go back and see how reluctant everyone was to give up power.

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Paying Your Dues (and other bullshit)

Since moving back to Phoenix, one phrase (besides “it’s better now”) has begun to permeate my consciousness—and weigh on my mind—more than it ever did while I was in California. I absolutely spoiled any chance at a surprise with my title, so yes, that phrase is “paying your dues.” Despite all the time I’ve spent wandering through various genres and fields of music, it’s never quite rung true to me. This is, I think, partly because of how intentionally nonspecific it is and partly because of the conditions under which I make music and move through the world at large. The depths of this issue are murky, and from here it’s difficult to see the bottom, but if I had to take a stab at a thesis, it’d be this: the gatekeeping, favoritism, and institutional bias that create the foundation of “paying your dues” stifle creativity, discourage participation, alienate newcomers, and serve the white patriarchy.

Wow, that’s a lot to unpack. So let’s take it a bite at a time, shall we?

Before we get into it, I’m not sure why this didn’t come up a lot while I was in Los Angeles, but the answer is probably partly regional and partly cultural. A wise jazz musician once pointed out to me that the prevalence and outward manifestation of misogyny varies drastically by location. Generally, New York and LA are noticeably different (though not necessarily less misogynist) than most of the rest of the country. And while this “paying your dues” thing can undoubtedly play into that, I think another part of the equation is that mindless playing-for-the-paycheck work isn’t as looked down on in LA as it sometimes is in some pockets of Phoenix—in part because gigs are a step up from the carousel of day jobs, plural, needed to pay Los Angeles rent.

The other part of this, I suppose, is that I wasn’t told to pay my dues in LA; I was told to put in the work. While both phrases carry similar weight, there’s a lot more flexibility to the latter. My friends and teachers saw me making angry assault music and counted that as “doing the work.” They saw me advocating for student life improvements and institutional change and counted that as “doing the work.” They see me blogging about the need for better treatment across the board and count that as “doing the work.” But regardless of the details, I didn’t hear or talk about or think about “paying my dues” much in California, and I do in Arizona, so it’s time to break down some concepts.

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Choosing Music (and/or Money)

I distinctly remember when I started telling people I planned to go into music.

It wasn’t some grand announcement—I mean, I was a junior in high school—but the way people reacted, you would’ve thought I’d just proclaimed I was going to major in winning the presidency.

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Who I Am and Who I’ve Been (I Won’t Apologize For Either)

Four years ago, I was a very different person.

If you’d seen me at my college orientation, you would have encountered a girl feeling the keen edge of homesickness, shielding herself with a smile and throwing herself into social life in an effort to find some friends—any friends—to fill the gap between her and those she’d left behind. You would have met a girl who had a lot to say to the right people but who found that there weren’t many of those individuals cloistered within the walls of her fancy new dorm. So she remained quiet, because that was what she could do with who she had.

That girl didn’t last long; though she made the occasional reappearance, the woman she became found it far easier present the world with honesty and attitude in the hope of inciting genuine responses. And to a degree, that’s worked pretty well.

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The Pursuit of Relaxation: Brianne Borden on Music, Yoga, and Balance

Mornings start early in the Arizona desert. Though summer and fall are by far the most torturous, runners, cyclists, and the athletically-inclined start going out before dawn as early as March in order to avoid heat stroke. It’s part of the state’s culture—get up early, be outside, then retreat to the depths of air-conditioned buildings until it’s safe to set foot outdoors again.

Brianne Borden’s mornings start early no matter how warm it is (or isn’t).

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Band: Dreams and Doorways Release ‘Hidden Reflections’

The members of Dreams and Doorways don’t make a big deal about their entrance.

Sure, a fog machine is at work and they’re accompanied by the fixed-media piece, aptly titled “Enter,” that opens their album, but they don’t need an elaborate light show or an announcer to herald their arrival. Their 150-odd audience members are already cheering.

That fact itself is perhaps one of the most refreshing aspects of Dreams and Doorways’ live show: the five men on stage are unassuming and earnest, there to officially release their debut LP, Hidden Reflections, and have fun doing it. Their stage, swimming in amplifiers and instruments (everybody does at least two things over the course of the show), is otherwise simple; a few model ships and airplanes accompany a sole hot air balloon, but visual distractions are minimal. This show is all about the band.

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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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Don’t Tell: February Premieres and Shenanigans

Hi everyone! I hope your holiday season was restful and filled with friends and family and all that jazz. Mine involved lots of traveling, but now that we’re back to a (mostly) normal school schedule, I’ve returned to my normal music-making groove. February is a busy month for me – despite it being the shortest of the year, I and my peers have a lot going on! Here’s a sampling:

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