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For those not acquainted with my friend, Caleb Chapman and the amazing things he has accomplished with his Crescent Super Band, myriad other ensembles, and his Soundhouse professional musician training program, please take a moment to learn some about it all here: http://calebchapmanmusic.com/

Recently, he posted the below thoughts that he’s allowed me to share. They immediately caught my attention because of his citing of the oft-debated business topic  of “core strengths.” Is a company better served by diversifying its activities, or sticking to what it does best? There are great examples on both sides of the argument within the business world, but here is how it looks through a musician and conductor’s lens. Enjoy!


A common topic in business is playing to your strengths – focusing on the things you are best at. In a similar manner, as music educators we get the best results in the classroom when we emphasize our unique skills and abilities. No educator is a master of every style or instrument, but focusing on our strongest areas will allow us to continue improving our program until we can develop the abilities we lack.

When I first began directing our jazz ensembles at the Soundhouse, I felt incredibly inept. While I was an accomplished jazz musician on my instrument, I had extremely limited big band performing experience, and no experience leading one. In fact, the bulk of my formal training was in symphonic conducting and classical music. At that point in my career I didn’t have the luxury of failing or quitting the bands. I was forced to find a way to successfully lead the students.

I first had to pause to consider what I could possibly bring to the equation and evaluate my strengths. As a symphonic conductor I had developed skills in rehearsing, conveying energy from the podium, and memorizing scores.

Next I needed to find a way to transfer these skills into a different idiom. I took my rehearsal skills and began to surgically rehearse jazz articulation with the band in the same way I cleaned articulation in symphonic rehearsals. I directed the band with lots of energy – even dancing at times – which inspired high energy from the ensemble. And since I was able to memorize my scores I could more easily move around our rehearsal space to hear different sections and correct errors.

The result was highly unconventional directing for a jazz ensemble, but also surprisingly effective. I was able to use these previously developed strengths as a crutch until I could fill in the gap in my teaching abilities. I also learned that just because music has a tradition of being taught a certain way, that doesn’t mean there isn’t another way to do it.

Often as music educators we find ourselves in situations we aren’t comfortable with – an instrumentalist directing a choir, a percussionist leading a guitar ensemble, a classically trained musician leading a rock band, etc. When faced with these circumstances we can throw in the towel, or we can take inventory of our strengths and use them to bridge the gap. And in the process, we may discover different and possibly even better ways of teaching concepts.

Have you had a similar experience? I would love to hear about it below.

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“Gimme The Ball!” This is for the dreamers who don’t give in.

So I wrote this song that is all about the effort and determination it takes to give it your all in life. It was inspired by a World Series of a few years ago, and I wrote and recording it to share in conjunction with our very own St. Louis Cardinals starting their 2014 post-season run tonight!

Here’s a link to my bandcamp page, where you can listen to it for free, and if you like it, buy a copy for keeps! Please feel free to distribute liberally, of course!

Go Cards!


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Since Everyone Deserves A Chance To Fly, Let It Go!

We celebrate the rugged individual, we fete the rebel, we praise the rule-breaker, and revere those who crash through the barriers. We celebrate those who defy the constraints of the boxes in which they find themselves, those who “think different …” 

At least, in our dreams we do. But in reality?

Inspired by a link shared recently by a real-life friend I admire very much and the ensuing comments of her acquaintances, I would like to share links to two songs that tell us – and perhaps women and girls in particular – that it’s a good thing to break out, to defy convention, to take flight, and go your own way. One comes from the current hit movie, “Frozen,” and the other from the recent Broadway smash, “Wicked.” 

Let It GoImageFeatured in both is Idina Menzel’s captivating voice, which, with it’s “knock-down-the-back-wall” power, creates a compelling emotional rush that makes anyone believe that, with a great tune and a hot new dress, the world is yours for the taking.

Both songs serve the same function in the stories they tell: of two heroines, one conventional and one not, and the unconventional one’s decision that the uniqueness that she has heretofore been taught to believe was a weakness, is, in fact, a great strength, and it’s time to escape the oppressive worlds that would contain the full expression of her power.

Personally, I love songs like this. I’m sure everyone has one in their personal soundtrack of life, ready to be used during the long days, the hard workouts, after the bad break-up.

But are we telling our kids they can do or be anything they want, then rushing them out into a world that forces them into wickedImageconformity? Are we getting them ready to thrive in their own individuality, to survive on their uniqueness? Or are we setting them up for disappointment when their dreams of independence are smashed against the cement wall of intransient reality? 

Schools are increasingly flooded in standardized tests, and filled with kids given prescription medication to ensure their behavior in class. Every school is being invited to glom onto a “common” core. Skills that show individuality and initiative – music, art, drama – are increasingly cut in favor of classes where success is measured by everybody getting the same answer. We want no child left behind, but no child to get too far outside the lines, either.

The ADHD kids have it worse. Not only do they have to fight their own impulses, but they have to face a world rigged for micromanagement, a uniform world set up to deal with unique individuals like antibodies in the bloodstream deal with an unrecognized organism. This is going to trigger the worst kinds of responses, such as increased rebellion, escapism, or simply checking out because of the boredom of it all.

Will their uniqueness become a scarlet letter, an albatross around their necks in a world that treasures its uniformity and group-think?  Wether one sticks out on the high end, as too rich or powerful, or at the low, as poor and racked with instability, individualism is no longer trusted that easily. People on a mass scale are insulating themselves more and more from the challenge by burrowing deep within “The Group.” Nails that stick up get hammered down. Squeaky wheels used to get the grease. Now they just get replaced.

Maybe it’s our fault for being mean to each other, for making fun of one another on late night TV. Maybe it’s the greed, and the impossible task of having enough stuff to feel satisfied that we appear just as we should to our neighbors. Maybe, with the things that used to be considered long-run institutions failing ever more – employment and marriage, for example – we’re feeling the anxiety of not wanting to stick our necks out too far when there is the very real possibility that promises and your heart will get broken, anyway.

I don’t know. I’ve been shown, over and over, that not everyone thinks like I do, so that’s why I tell you this is how I feel. I just feel like it’s harder than ever to be an individual, to be who you really are.  

My own life includes many examples of the rip current of conformity pulling at my feet: It’s crazy to expect to have a music career; going it alone is too risky, you tried that once, it’ll never work. That kind of thing. At sundry times I, too, have shouted, “No more! I just want to get a regular job, a mortgage and a car payment, and to live a normal life like everybody else!”

At one such time of rebellious conformity, I vowed that my next job would be of the Wall Street variety, for a large bank. That’s where all the money is after all, and that’s all I wanted to be interested in. I made some calls, polished the résumé. I soon found myself sitting across the desk from a man whose great great grandfather’s name, one of the most venerable names in investment banking, was on the building. And he liked me. He asked some pointed, very insightful questions. I must have answered satisfactorily. He asked his second in command to come in. Lots of handshakes, lots of looking one another up and down. I told them to set up a desk for me. I was ready to go to work. 

But when I left to find my car again in their covered parking structure, I couldn’t shake the weird feeling that I just tried to sell my children to gypsies. I got in the car and drove, aimlessly. I called my then-wife, no answer. I called my best friend. No answer. My brother out of state, and my parents in state. I called a friend and leader from church. Radio silence. I was truly on my own. 

I ended up driving way out by the airport, somewhat near an employment center where the year before I volunteered time as a résumé consultant. I went in. I spent some time chatting with a very nice old gent on a church mission with his wife of many years. We talked about nothing, really, but I felt better, decompressed, and soon made my way home. Since none of the people I tried to call answered their phones in that strange moment of desperation, I told no one about that feeling of almost succeeding at giving in to the pressure to conform, how near I came to fulfilling that wish to just be what everyone else expected of me. (It is unfortunate that I have to report that moments such as those are the most unhappy moments of my life.)

The fact the we realize we are different shows that we are, in fact, different from everybody else. We really shouldn’t expect to be anything else. Does anything else in nature bend to uniformity? Famously, snowflakes are unique, and so are leaves and the trees from which they fall. Neither are hills and mountains alike. Are we not also spiritual creations akin to all of Nature which surrounds us? Can we really expect our minds, or our personalities, to break with the pattern of every one of God’s creations, to be absolutely the same?

Embracing this fact of non-uniformity can be liberating, just as the voices of Elsa and Elphaba would have us believe. But this does imply, however, that uniqueness includes some “imperfections,” some inflection points when we feel that we don’t quite measure up next to whomever we are tempted to compare ourselves. But this should be accepted only as a matter of perspective, our own perspective. And it’s usually wrong to think of ourselves as insufficient (although it’s okay to be wrong, now the we understand that being “imperfect” is not what we thought it meant). Do not substitute “unique” or “special” with “flawed.” Consider the snowflakes. Which are “better?” Or two leaves; which is the “perfect” one? Or two flowers, and so on …

Confidence to be our unique, individual selves comes when we learn to accept our singular character, with all of its potential to be like absolutely no one else, AND with all of the things that we will be tempted to call “flaws.” We may not like those flaws, but we have to accept them. Then, like testing of a piece of material, such as metal or rock, we  we might benefit from finding those weak spots so we can strengthen them, or work around them. That’s another place where the world fails us miserably, with the attitude that any flaw requires a scandalous response and complete rejection of the whole person. Let us remind ourselves of how many perfect people the demand for perfection has produced.

So what to do? Let’s take a moment to conjure up a world where being an individual is still rewarded, uniqueness is not punished, and where the individual is free to thrive. There’s no such thing as whole cloth. We are all strands in an enormous tapestry, but we are individual strands, nonetheless. Every individual has the capacity to contribute to the whole just the way they are. Everyone has a unique right to exist as the person they are.

in short, if everyone deserves a chance to fly, and if the cold doesn’t bother you anyway, this is the place we all should live. 


Let It Go


Defying Gravity


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My Digital Album

My Digital Album

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Listen To My New Album! “Eddie Carr, Composer”

Over the years, it’s been a privilege and a thrill to write all kinds of music for all kinds of groups, from jazz combos and salsa bands to projects for film and theatre.

“Composer” is an album of a little bit of everything. It starts with three tunes written recently for my alt rock/fusion jazz combo, The Eddie Carr Five, followed by two originals for big band jazz ensemble. What follows are selections from films, theatrical projects, and other things that I consider some of my favorite work.

I decided to launch it exclusively on line, on bandcamp.com, a reliable and proven distributor of digital musical product.

And here’s the deal:

Yes, you you can buy a whole album of 25 tracks for just $9, or you can buy individual tunes, for $1 each.

Still, I know that many people just listen to the music for free. And that’s okay. I do that a lot, too. It’s one of the cool things about the internet. And frankly, every composer or artist should be very grateful for the people who listen to our music, even if we don’t get a dime for it.

But here is what I would like to ask of you. Listen to it all, and even come back whenever you’d like, to listen as often as you’d like.

But every once in a while, buy a tune or two. Pitch in a dollar if you don’t have a lot right now, or spend more if you can. In fact, you can set your own price on Bandcamp.

See, for most of my life I’ve been making music. During certain times I’ve been more productive at it than at others, and it’s absolutely true that I am happier and more positive when I am making more music. Obviously, then, I would like to do that as much as possible.

What ever you “contribute to the cause” makes it possible for me to spend more of my time making music, which makes me happy. And if you like what you hear, then I assume it makes you happy, too. And if it does, that makes me feel even better!

Whatever you contribute I promise to use to support myself as I make more music. Oh, my daughters will probably get some of it indirectly, of course.

So please buy when you can. The more you do, the more music I will make. I’ll keep putting it on Bandcamp, and you can keep listening.

I hope that makes us all happy!

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In Response to “Careers In Jazz”

I will use today’s entry in “All I Really Need To Know” to respond to an interesting article That I was turned on to by a Facebook friend and fellow jazz musician.

It begins with a large photo of Depression-era men lined up outside of a free soup kitchen. This is the bright spot. From there, it laments that thousands of yearly university jazz students will graduate to realize their diplomas are worthless. Ostensibly, they make this realization on the way to visit the pawn shop, a jarring rite of passage for the once musical elite.

The rest of the missive is written in the tone of a jazzer who as stepped out of the true light and has lost his way in the mists of darkness that surround it. He has no doubt let loose his grip in the iron rod of the One True Music, and, without it’s guidance toward the life-giving fruit of the Jazz Tree of Truth and Light, now wanders an angry cynic, a former pilgrim lost to an unholy land. He suffers the typical cycle of grief; there is shock, anger, pleading, denial, depression, and ultimately resignation.

Nonetheless, I cannot fault him for being untruthful, for he is not. Any jazz musician – indeed, any professional musician at all – who reads this rather lengthy article all the way through will in turn smile at its insights, then occasionally guffaw, snort, furrow one’s brows, argue with, and be insulted by its conclusions, before turning away to spending what’s left of the night engaged in a destructive addictive behavior of choice, anything from whiskey to Candy Crush.

Certainly, the most idealistic of people are those who believe that there is a way to hammer out a full career from their personal dedication to the arts. These are those who find the term “starving for your art” an endearing badge of honor, not sign of danger. But sometimes these sensitive idealists fall the hardest, finding the force of reality most crushing, indeed. I’ve hoped that I would find ways to bridge the bright idealism of the creative with the harsh realism of the world around me. I studied business in hopes that it would help sustain my music career. I’ve sought positions where my creativity might be an asset in my attempts to build a career. It seems like every time I seem to find a good balancing point, something happens that forces me to start all over again. It is with my own bit of cynicism that I muse that life may be just one of those old-fashioned plate-spinning acts.

But that’s going to be true no matter what career you choose, or what career chooses you. I’ve met some pretty bitter lawyers, doctors, and airline pilots, too. I suppose the best anyone can hope for is to be keen enough to feel when a bout of the blues is coming on, and make some adjustments. There is no single job, no singe true course, that constitute the one and only path to success and happiness. Knowing when to tack and when to tack back is probably the closest thing to a formula for success. So jazz musicians – and everyone else – REJOICE! Keep trying, and when that fails, try something else!

And for purposes of full disclosure, using the “Jazz Classes” Mr. Anschell describes in his article, I am an Epiphyte, but one who thinks he is a Silver Spoon. As with virtually all jazz musicians, I dreamt of being a Chosen One, but just as the title implies, one must be chosen for that, and making that call was and is out of my hands. I tried to be a Career Professional, but found the work required to sustain a proper Plan B career to be overwhelming. Having a Working Jazz Wife was a plan that was rejected for me, by my ex-wife. I dabble at being an educator, as it salvages what little self-esteem I have left after having lived the hard-scrabble life of a Gig Whore. In fact, there’s not even enough self-esteem left in the tank to be a Survivalist. Plus, my 16 year old Buick wouldn’t survive the wear and tear of delivering pizzas.

And yes, I did seriously consider a role in Industry, and even got an MBA to prepare me for it. But apparently, there are some things that even a delusional, worn-down, former whore and epiphyte reject won’t do.


“Careers in Jazz” is a June, 2012 article written by Bill Anschell in his “Notes from the Lobby” column in the online magazine All About Jazz (“Serving jazz worldwide since 1995”) – retrieved 11/15/2013 at http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=33754&pg=6&page=1#.UoXW8mTwJZd


The Way Of The Trumpet Lesson #1: Don’t Forget To Breathe!

It seems only natural, oh Grasshopper, that breathing is the first step in playing any wind instrument, but especially the trumpet. The trumpet sounds because the metal vibrates. The metal vibrates because the lips vibrate. The lips vibrate because moving air makes them vibrate. The moving air comes from the player breathing it in, first, then breathing it out in a focused manner. 

We shouldn’t really have to be taught how to breathe. If you have not been doing it successfully since the moment you were born, after all, you wouldn’t be reading this. But when we take a thing like a trumpet and put it to our lips, suddenly, it’s as if we have forgotten what to do and have to learn all over again. Let’s remind ourselves that it is not that hard.

A good trumpet breath is a fairly deep one, and that’s what makes it healthy. Think of filling up a large container with water, and how gravity pulls the water to the bottom to fill the container from the bottom up.  In fact, the Spanish have a great device for carrying wine or water called a “bota bag,” that, because of it’s soft sides, might provide a great visualization of how to think about this. 

Fill it up from the bottom, then let the sides expand. You may actually hear this happening. First your belly expands out and down, then the life-giving air rolls up the front of your core, and the ribs expand. The upper part of the chest then lifts up and out as air takes up the last spaces at the top of your lungs. That is, at least, how we think of it. No need to raise or scrunch the shoulders around the neck. That only creates tense muscles. 

 And no need to overfill!  This may go against how some of us were taught. In fact, when I was in drum & bugle corps, we did breathing exercises to full up the lungs in four counts, then eight, then twelve, ultimately gulping in the last few desperate gasps of air.  Granted, the idea was to get us to increase ourlung Imagecapacity by stretching to take in ever more air. Also, if you are a marching musician, your body is also going to insist on sharing some of that new air to transport oxygen through your blood stream. But cramming “extra” air into your lungs may just be an exercise in creating unwanted constrictions. 

 Instead, think of taking in enough air. A long passage played loud and high will require more air that a short passage in the low register, for example. Make sure you can take in enough air to get all the way through it. 

 There are many resources online and off that talk about “yoga breathing.” Look them up see how they apply to breathing for trumpet playing. 

 While you’re at it, see someone like  trumpeters Bobby Shew or Jim Manley to learn about the “wedge method,” or how to properly focus the air when blowing out. They will talk about using your diaphragm and other core muscles in the stomach and lower back to compress that healthy air you’ve breathed in. The idea is to compress the air by driving your bellybutton backwards toward your spinal cord. When you do this, the air will have no choice but to go up and out to escape through your windpipe and mouth. Exactly what we want! And why did we want to be so careful to not allow any tension in your upper chest, shoulders, or neck? Because we want that air to move with little or no obstacles! Let your core muscles compress, “Wedging” that air up and out very naturally. 

 When it gets to where your lips are placed against the mouthpiece, only then is there some resistance, naturally! But until then, breathe deeply, making sure to get enough air, then wedge it out through proper use of your core muscles, and let it flow unobstructed and tension-free right up to your embouchure and into the horn. 

 “Don’t Forget to Breathe” is also excellent advice for our daily lives. Life often makes us hurry. It often makes us worry. When we do either, we tense up. Breathing gets shallow, restricted. Shallow breathing makes our muscles even more tense by limiting the life-giving oxygen source. “Slow down, take a deep breath;” as cliched as it may sound, it is excellent advice. Oxygenate your body. Unclench. Remember that, like any other part of your body, the brain needs a consistent flow of healthy, oxygen-rich blood. Breathing deep will lower your blood pressure, slow your pulse rate, doing you a world of physical good in the most simplest of ways. 

 Say it often when you play, say it often during your daily life: Don’t Forget To Breathe!

 This, too, is The Way Of The Trumpet.


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