Friday, December 20, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Accompanists

As my students pick their solos and turn in their forms, I always check to make sure they've contacted an accompanist as well...

ME: So are you using someone on the list?
KID: No, it's someone from my church.
ME: Ahh yes, the proverbial Nice Lady from Church. (I've found that many students use the Nice Lady from Church rather than people on the list at school; said lady tends to be either really good or just awful--very few in-betweens.)
KID: Yeah, but it's a dude.
ME: That's right--you told me that. The Nice Dude from Church, then.
KID: He's nice-ish, but he has his Ph.D in music, so I hope he's not too pushy about everything.

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Solo Pieces

One of my students is playing a Bach gavotte for his solo, and I was seeing if he could pronounce the title and composer correctly...

ME: So how do you say the name of this piece?
KID: Guh-VO-tay.
ME: Close. Guh-VAHT. And who's the composer?
KID: John Sebastian Bach.
ME: Close. But it's not John.
KID: Joanne?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Band Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Choir Kids

While working on a solo with a student, we noted that the arranger broke some eighth-note beams between phrases, and how that made it look more like choral music than instrumental music...

ME: Do you know why they don't often beam eighth notes in choir music? (The correct answer, in my experience, is that each note corresponds to a sung syllable of the text.)
KID: Because otherwise, they can't count it very well?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things at Concerts

At the end of the show tonight, a random kid I didn't recognize said hello to me in the hallway. Figuring maybe he was a friend or sibling of a student (and being an outgoing person myself), I said hello back.

KID: So are you Emily's dad?
ME: Nope.
KID: Whose father are you?
ME: Nobody's, so far as I know.

Kids Continue to Say the Darnedest Things About Musical Terms

At this point, most of my beginners have learned the term "divisi"--a divided part on a single line. One beginner noticed a divisi duet that took up four lines: his response was, "Wow, that's a long DaVinci."

(And yes, a brief discussion of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would follow.)

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Reason #247 Why I'm Glad I Don't Work for a Corporation

While out running my errands this afternoon, I decided I wanted a peppermint mocha from the Starbucks inside the Tom Thumb where I was shopping. But they couldn't make any specialty drinks, because they'd run out of milk--this, despite being in a grocery store that is full of milk that they were not allowed to buy (yes, I asked). Things would be a lot simpler if the barista were allowed to do that, but i guess that would've taken too many layers of bureaucracy to accomplish. *sigh*

I'd LIke to Thank the Academy. (No, Really.)

We're iced in here in North Texas, so I might as well blog a bit...

I've ranted about various aspects of the Grammys over the years--everything from how they award most of the jazz awards before the TV show even comes on, to ridiculous mispronunciations of artists' names on the broadcast (like "Pat METH-uh-nee" back in the day) that would never happen to pop performers, but I think they've done something right this year, and It's the first time I've seen this: Putting people like Dave Koz and Boney James in the Instrumental Pop category, saving the Instrumental Jazz ranks for, well, people who play music that most jazz musicians would consider jazz, like Gary Burton, Christian McBride and Kenny Garrett. Well done, guys! This was needed years ago.

(I'd also like to thank the voters for giving nominations to some great artists that deserve wider recognition, such as Snarky Puppy and Darcy James Argue's Secret Society.)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Choir Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Band Instruments

As one of my students came out of his saxophone lesson, the choir kids were already gathered in the hallway outside the practice wing...

CHOIR KID: Yeah, (band kid's name)! Way to rock that...trombone!
BAND KID: Nope. Saxophone.
CHOIR KID: I knew that. I was just checking to see if you knew.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Old Composers

This morning, I was doing solo demos in lessons, and a piece by Handel came up. The kid had heard of "Messiah" before and recognized the melody to the Hallelujah Chorus, but I didn't expect what came next...

KID (points to top of music): We have lots of those in our house.
ME (after thinking for a second): Handles?
KID: Yup.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Kids Continue to Say the Darnedest Things About Their Mistakes

A student was playing through a solo and suddenly had a measure where everything just came apart...

ME: Whoa, what happened there?
KID: I'm just looking at that as one giant measure of stupid.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When They Use Bad Grammar

This morning, I was working with a kid who had tempo problems with a certain passage...

ME: Think about a few years from now, when you're driving. Your passengers wouldn't appreciate a sudden burst of acceleration like that.
KID: Yeah, I've droven my sister's sports car before, and you barely have to touch the accelerator.
ME: "Droven," huh? I'm guessing you haven't had English class today.
KID: Yeah, I have.

(The same kid would tell me later in the lesson that Étude #2 was the "funnest" of the three.)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Greetings

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I may not have been able to post every day about the things for which I'm thankful, but I'll do it now: Family. Friends. Friends who are as close as family. And of course to my Sinfonian brothers, who are such a big part of my life, whether I've known you for my entire time in the brotherhood or whether you were just initiated in the past week.

And music. One of the finer gifts from God--a wonderful form of expression, an uplift of the spirit, and the literal soundtrack of our lives. Also, the chance to teach and play it every day and actually make a living doing so, while working with the most wonderful people (students and teachers alike) in the process.

May you and yours have a blessed day!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Nephews Say the Darnedest Things

As many of you know, I adopted a cat over the summer. His shelter name, which I kept, was Austin, which is also the place where my sister and her family reside. I was talking at dinner with my oldest nephew about the newest member of my household.

NEPHEW: You have a cat?
ME: Yeah, I got him at the end of the summer, since the last time we saw each other.
DAD: And you'll never guess what his name is...
NEPHEW (after a long pause): Kevin Jr.?

Sometimes the Teacher Says the Darnedest Things, Too

There's a spot in the slow All-Region etude this year that I, as a high-schooler myself, played incorrectly until we got in the audition room; I heard the three kids before me play it "wrong" until I realized that I myself was wrong. (I quickly fixed it and beat all of them, so I dodged a metaphorical bullet there.)

All my students know about this mistake and how strongly I feel about them not replicating it. So when a kid made that exact mistake this morning, I said "Whenever somebody plays an Eb there, Satan kicks a puppy." (The kid dissolved in laughter, saying that he'd had a rough week so far and really needed that.)

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Vacation Plans

As noted earlier, I always ask my students if they're going someplace exciting for the break. One kid came up with this gem...

KID: I'm going to Arkansas to go squirrel hunting!
ME: But you don't really need to go so far away to do that, do you? Couldn't you just sit out back and pick 'em off the utility wires?
KID: The ones here eat junk. We go where the tasty squirrels are.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Unfamiliar Places

Before a big holiday, I'll often ask my students if they get to go someplace exciting over the break. They will often return the inquiry, and I'll respond with the name of the Houston suburb where my parents currently reside. But those who are unfamiliar with that area don't always believe this place is real...

KID: So are you going anywhere?
ME: I am; I'm going to Sugar Land.
KID: Sugar Land--isn't that in a board game?
ME: That would be Candy Land.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Kids Continue to Say the Darnedest Things About Geography

The kid in yesterday's post with whom I was discussing Bach also knew of both Germany and Austria, and he knew that Austria and Australia are two different places.

So I complimented him on his geographical knowledge, and I mentioned how few people I taught last spring knew where Vermont was ("It's in Canada?" "It's in New Hampshire?"), hoping that he knew that correctly as well...

KID: Vermont...that's in Europe, right!
ME: Nope, it's in New England. One of the original 13 states.
KID: Well, I know where a lot of other countries are. Like Brazil. That's on the west coast of South America!
ME: It's on the east coast of South America.
KID: That's what I meant.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About the Musical Alphabet

Here's a bonus KSTDT, since I haven't posted too many this week: The subject of how there once was a note called H came up with another student, and after explaining it to him, I noted that a lot of Bach's friends and peers made musical tributes to him by using the motif Bb-A-C-B natural (B-A-C-H in old-school notation). Before i explained that, I wanted to be sure that he knew who Bach was...

ME: You've heard of Bach, right?
KID: Yeah! Johann What's-his-face Bach!

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About School Holidays

A student hadn't yet paid me for this month and wondered exactly how much month was left...

KID: Are there any more lessons in November?
ME: No, because next Thursday is...?
KID: Spring break!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About the Audition Process

I don't usually do KSTDT posts in weekends, but here's one in honor of the auditions I helped judge earlier today:  I was telling a seventh grader about the All-District process, where the kids go in one at a time to play. This is usually less "scary" than the high school process...

ME: It's not till 9th grade that you'll have to play with everyone in the room.
KID: Then I'll move to Oklahoma.
ME: Where they probably do the exact same thing!

UPDATE: I hope the kid has the moving van ready, because I found out this week that, starting this year, the middle-schoolers  do go in all at once now.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Numbers (and Other Random Stuff)

As often happens, a rhythmic discussion touched on the idea that the counting done by musicians isn't that hard compared to other uses of numbers...

ME: We do the easy math in here. You rarely have to count past 16 to be a musician. Maybe for other things in life, like spending money.
KID: But $16 is a lot of money!
ME: Unless you want to replace your iPod. You wouldn't really want a $16 iPod...
KID: Yeah, you probably couldn't even get it to turn on!
ME: Or if you could, it'd be loaded with all these really bad heavy metal songs that you can't take off.
KID: My dad loves that stuff! He's weird.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Musical Expression

Here's a bonus KSTDT since I forgot to post a few times this week: One of them recently put an unscheduled molto ritardando in his music, and it sounded really strange.

ME: What was that all about?
KID: I just really like to make my music sound deep and thoughtful.

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When They Forget Song Titles

Recently, a beginner regaled me with the following: "We learned a new song today: Swing Low Sweet Something Something." I can only assume that, since he said "something" twice, he initially heard the title as "Swing Low Sweet Cherry Ut."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kids Buy the Darnedest Things

A sixth-grader was very happy to find a used copy of the beginner method I use for lessons at Half Price Books for literally half price. And she was very surprised--as was I--that said book had my handwriting in well as my beginner outline, my attendance policy contract, and some random flute music.

(Considering that the attendance contract has my name, address and phone number on it, I'm glad that it was sold to my student and not a stranger, though I guess I could have potentially picked up a new student in the latter case.)

UPDATE: Just a clarification: The book in question has my handwriting in it because I taught a previous student out of it, rather than it being my own former personal book. I don't think I've ever sold back a music book; even my old Grout music history text is still on the shelf (though I did ceremoniously burn the paper cover when I finished that sequence of classes).

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When They Give Their Teacher Compliments

I was explaining the point system for All-District to a seventh grader who'll be going for the first time; the maximum possible score is 200 points.

KID: That's a lot of points. I'd have to be pretty much you.

(Everybody say "Awwwww.")

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Kids Continue To Say the Darnedest Things About Their Mistakes

A middle-schooler was trying scales from memory for the first time in preparation for All-District auditions in a few weeks, and one of them wasn't quite there yet...

ME: Don't forget--there's an A-flat in that key signature.
KiD: I memorized it wronger.
ME: Well, by all means, let's make it righter.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Local Rivalries

When a student mentioned something about an unusual echo in the practice room, I noted that it was even more pronounced at another one of my schools...

ME: You should hear what it sounds like at, you know...that "other" school.
KID: Which one is that?
ME: You know--your hated rival.
KID: We hate lots of other schools.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Holiday Decorations

With people staring to play Christmas music in band, I mentioned to a student that I used to work at a Christmas store in college, and we used to get shipments of multiple German trees in giant crates, and how long it took to unpack them.

KID: And these were real trees?
ME; Yeah, they chopped up the branches and you had to glue them back together.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Halloween Costumes (or Lack Thereof)

One of my high schools allowed their students to come to school in (approved) costumes if they made a small donation (to charity? Scholarship fund? I'm not sure). One girl I was teaching showed up in a black shirt, flowing black skirt and a fancy white scarf, giving off sort of an "island" vibe; I wasn't sure if it was a costume or not.

ME: So what are you dressed as today?
KID: Basic White Girl.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Earliest Musical Days

Today, I reminded a middle-schooler that, while he was still playing out of an "elementary" method book, that didn't mean it was only intended for elementary-schoolers...

KID: We played those little recorders in elementary school...and they were cheap! They didn't even record anything!
ME: So you didn't get to record anything on it, huh?
KID: I made a little song that goes like (*hums a few notes*).
ME: Nice.
KID: But it became a big hit in Australia. The kangaroos loved it!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When They Randomly Pass By You in the Band Hall

This morning, one walked by with the following lament: "He broke my spirit of hatred!"

That was on the heels of someone last week who came in chanting, "I'm a cow, and I don't know how."

Friday, October 25, 2013

KIds Say the Darnedest Things About Their Schools

Listening to a particularly noisy lesson coming from the practice room next door, my student asked why the rooms didn't have better soundproofing...

ME: When they build a school, they take bids to see who can pretty much build the school as inexpensively as possible without the building falling down.
KID: *laughs*
ME: Which means they forgot a few things, like putting a water fountain in the Fine Arts wing.
KID: The Fine Arts wing? Where's that?
ME: We're in it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Theoretical Situatiions

This time, a beginner played a C instead of an A, and I was trying to help him remember the correct note for next time.

ME: How do you know it's supposed to be an A? (The answer I was looking for was "because the stem points upward.")
KID: Because it's in the A space.
ME: True, but I want you to remember it in other ways than that. After all, that little house in your backyard might be called a doghouse, but suppose I put a weasel in there?
KID: It would jump out.
ME: Why?
KID: Because there might be a dog in there.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

KIds Say the Darnedest Things About Their Mistakes, and the "Mistakes" of Others

Today, one was nailing the really hard counting in the half-time etude and then proceeded to mess up a half note. I reminded him that doing such a thing was like writing a really brilliant essay and misspelling the word "cat."

KID: But there is the candy bar...
ME: I know; that's the usual excuse--the Kit Kat bar.
KID: I almost punched someone the other day for eating a Kit Kat bar wrong.
ME: Wrong?
KID: Yeah, you know--how it's supposed to be broken into four parts?
ME: Right, and so...
KID: He ate it sideways!
ME: And that bothered you?
KID: Yes, it did!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Totally Random Stuff

Not sure how this came up, but the kid in question is kind of a chatterbox...

KID: My brother has a duck call! It's from the Duck Dynasty people. He uses it all the time. I wish I could use it!
ME: But then you'd have ducks in the house. Better have some crackers...
KID: Bread and crackers for the ducks; we have both of those at our house...Do you know if ducks like Wheat Thins?
ME: Ha--no clue.
KID: And if not, all the better, because I love Wheat Thins!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Patriotic Songs

One way I teach the importance of rhythm in music is by playing a familiar song with no rhythmic change at all, such as The Star-Spangled Banner all in quarter notes. I did that for a student this morning and awaited her reaction...

ME: So did you recognize that?
KID: Yes, but I forgot the name!''s that song where you go up to the flag!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Household Products

I was teaching a kid who forgot his ligature two weeks in a row, and both times, I had a spare one to loan him. But I pointed out that a while back, my own ligature broke, and the one with my jazz mouthpiece didn't fit my classical mouthpiece. Faced with a full day of teaching at the house and no time to run an errand, I improvised by making a temporary ligature out of duct tape...

KID: So you were in a sticky predicament.
ME: I see what you did there.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Kids WEAR the Darnedest Things

I just saw a middle schooler wearing a T-shirt with "FML" in big letters...and below that, in much smaller letters, was the explanation: Flute Marching Line.

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Classic Literature

While working with a student on the jazz ballad for tonight's region tryouts, I tried to put the traditional idea in his head of the ballad being the love song...

ME: So just think of how you'd romance your true love when playing this--standing with your horn below the balcony, sort of like in Romeo and Juliet.
KID: You wanna know my favorite part of Romeo and Juliet? The part where they drink the poison!
ME: You're a true romantic, I see...

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About the Calendar

Here's a bonus KSTDT that I forgot to post last week:  As this one was initialing the attendance log, I was also hoping he'd brought his first-of-the-month payment...

ME: So did you bring me something today?
KID: *looks confused*
ME: Your payment?
KID: It's October already?
ME: For three days now! You haven't been writing "September 33rd" on your papers today, have you?

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About History

I can't remember how the subject of Albert Einstein came up, but I pointed out that really smart people weren't necessarily amazing at all aspects of life...

ME: According to legend, Einstein couldn't even tie his own shoelaces.
KID: I didn't know they even had shoelaces back then!
ME: Einstein just lived this past century; it's not like he was wearing those big Roman sandals or anything...
KID (does old man voice): Back in my day, we didn't even have shoelaces!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When They Make Mistakes

After a kid accidentally left a note completely out of a measure in the music he was working on today, he exclaimed, "Oh, my weirdness!"

I told him that was the second-funniest thing I'd ever heard a kid say in that situation. The funniest? A Southern belle-type girl who always used to say "Oh, my land!" after her mistakes...which eventually devolved into "Oh, Mylanta!" (Maybe her mistakes were giving her digestive distress?)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Principals Say the Darnedest Things

My district is now requiring students to wear ID badges on lanyards at all times while at school, and one of the schools, after a long roll-out, is going live with the process on Monday. In anticipation of the event, an assistant principal made a very (unintentionally?) amusing announcement this morning.

PRINCIPAL: So you guys get on Twitter, or whatever it is you do, and remind yourselves to wear your IDs starting on Monday.

(This made both the kid I was teaching and myself laugh uproariously. But at least the principal didn't call it "the Twitter," like someone much older and less internet-savvy would have done.)

KID: I don't even have a Twitter! I have enough trouble with Facebook and Instagram...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Old Cliché Phrases

ME: What's up with all the missing slurs all of a sudden? You're tonguing everything under the sun today.
KID: Maybe I even tongued the sun!
ME: Now that would be painful...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cashiers Say the Darnedest Things

I had to make a late-night run for some drain cleaner last night, and the cashier was in a jovial mood...

CASHIER: Alright--that'll be 464 pennies.
ME: I bet you'd love it if I actually paid you that way.
CASHIER: Ah, I wouldn't care; I get paid by the minute, and I'd have to count each of 'em slowly and carefully.

He then regaled me with a long-but-funny story about an old buddy of his who ended up with a $4000-something tax bill, and--after multiple trips to the bank over a week or so--paid his accountant the entire amount in pennies. The guy, the cashier and a few other friends evidently had a grand old time sitting around, drinking beer and unrolling the pennies to stuff them in more than a few gunnysacks.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Musical Notation

One of the Region etudes has a breath mark after bar one, mostly because there isn't another logical place to breathe until bar five. But a kid this morning just blew right through that breath mark as if it weren't there...

ME: So why do you think the composer put a breath there?
KID: Because there was a bug on the page?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Musical Markings

A middle-schooler and I were discussing the use of the accent mark in music...

ME: What happens when you play a note with an accent?
KID: You start speaking French?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kids Frequently Say the Darnedest Things About Rhythmic Values

This semester, nearly all my students (middle school, high school and college--everyone except beginners) have some sort of double-dotted quarter note rhythm in their music. I've had multiple occurrences of this scenario:

ME: So the double-dotted quarter note is like a quarter note tied to an eighth note, tied to a sixteenth note. How much is all of that worth?
KID: 1.75.

(While counting in decimals would solve the argument of the "and" vs. "te" subdivisions once and for all, it would be kind of annoying in regular usage. Imagine a director saying, "OK, everyone come in on the .5 of beat four.")

Where Were You...

...when you heard the news, a dozen years ago? This entry from 2004 bears repeating:
I was on a break from teaching, like every Tuesday, and actually spent the time of the attacks in blissful ignorance at the Rockwall Starbucks. I had CD's on in my car instead of the radio, so I totally missed the news on both the way over and the way back. I did hear someone listening to a radio on the patio and they were talking about "the second plane," but it didn't register with me at all. (It amazed me later that nobody walked inside and told us about it.)

When I got back to the school, the flute teacher stopped me in the hallway and asked me if all my students were being pulled out of school (evidently hers were). I said, "No, why?" and she told me what had happened. I spent the rest of the day like everyone else, in shocked, depressed amazement, catching the news when I could. There I was, not even two weeks into being a homeowner, and the world suddenly felt so different. It added to the pall cast over everything when I found out that the sister of a girl I graduated from high school with was on Flight 93, the one that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

The whole thing felt so surreal; how could anyone hate us that much? The concept of the suicide hijacking was unprecedented as well (before that, hijackers just usually wanted to go to Cuba, and that's why airline personnel were taught to cooperate with them rather than try to subdue them).

I know there are still terrorist plots being hatched, and people capable of carrying them out...but I hope nothing like this ever happens on U.S. soil again. Or anywhere, for that matter.
As the school where i was teaching this morning held its traditional 9/11 moment of silence during the late 8:00 hour, it struck me that the sixth grader I was teaching at the time was still a year away from being born on that fateful day in '01.

It's been a long time now...but may we never forget.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Is Our Schools Learning?

I saw this the other day on the way to church, and it was too funny not to share in as many places as possible: 

As I said on Facebook, I hope that the "teachel" is a better speller (or perhaps a better "spellel") than the person who's in charge of this sign.

It's a New School Year, and Kids Are Already Saying the Darnedest Things

This morning, a beginner was looking ahead in the book...

KID: So when I get to the duet down there, how am I gonna do that? Will I be playing along with a recording or something?
ME: *scratches goatee* Hmm...I wonder where in the world we might find another person who plays saxophone, who could do the other part...
(The kid figured it out at that point.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Rhythmic Values

One of the All-Region etudes has quarter notes tied to sixteenth notes, and we were trying to establish the value of that rhythm...

ME: So how much is a quarter note worth?
KID: One.
ME: Right. And how about a sixteenth?
KID: One-sixteenth.
ME: One sixteenth of a...?
KID: One sixteenth of a beat!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Band Directors

Overheard at a school today, from one director to another: "[Kid] thinks you're 58 years old because you have gray hair. She says if you have gray hair, you must be 58 and nearing the end of your life."

(I bet that director hopes that kid will go prematurely gray by age 25, just because of karma )

Friday, August 09, 2013

Kids Continue to Say the Darnedest Things About Musical Terms

We're still having fun with the cadenza in the slow All-Region etude...

ME: So above this big string of notes is the abbreviation "Cad."; what does that stand for.
KID: Coda?

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Patriotic Songs

A middle-schooler was playing all the right notes, but some wrong rhythms, and despite several tries, he couldn't identify rhythm as the problem he was having. I did a little exercise to show him the importance of rhythm in music...

ME: (plays "The Star-Spangled Banner" entirely in quarter notes) Now, what song was that?
KID: No clue.
ME: Probably because it was all one rhythm. Now, here it is with the proper rhythm (plays song properly). Do you recognize it now?
KID: Yeah! It's the State of Texas song!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When They're Making Puns Out of Instrument Names

Today, I saw a student who had been out for a few weeks..

KID: So what's new with you?
ME: Well, you haven't been here since before the Fourth of July, so the newest thing with me is my new bari out there.
KID: Well, I'm bari glad to see you!
ME: You do know what a bari is, right?
KID: Yeah--that thing you pick off a tree...and sometimes they're poisoned if you're not careful.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Note Values

The slow All-Region sax etude for high-schoolers this year starts with a double-dotted quarter note, so there's been a lot of (relatively easy) math this week while introducing it.

ME: So if the first dot adds half the value of the note, and the second dot adds half the value of the first dot, how long will the whole thing be?
KID: Almost two.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Musical Terms

This year's All-Region music for saxophones has a cadenza in one of the etudes, and the sight of all those tiny notes in a row alarmed one student upon first viewing them...

ME: So let me explain what that is. Do you see the abbreviation "Cad." above that passage? What does that stand for?
KID: *thinks for a second* Cadenza!
ME: That's right! And what does cadenza mean?
KID (enthusiastically): I don't know!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Dynamic Markings on Their Music

In my camp band this morning, I pointed out a place where the music got softer...

ME: So, please notice that this section suddenly goes to "mf." What does "mf" stand for?
KID: Morte forte!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Kids Know the Darnedest Things

This was from an incoming sixth-grader this morning...

ME (after a note struggled to come out): That one had a little trouble.
KID: Yeah, I need to ret my weed. (Laughs) Did you hear that? I said "ret my weed." I spoonerized!
ME: know what a spoonerism is?
KID: Of course! Because they're so much fun!

Monday, July 08, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When Learning Instrument Care

During the very first lesson, I was advising a beginner about the potential downside of using a Reedgard...

ME: If you don't dry the reed off completely, it might mildew at the point of contact.
KID: (makes face)
ME: Do you know what mildew is?
KID: Gross stuff.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Kids Continue to Say the Darnedest Things About Note Values

This time, a new beginner was being re-introduced to half notes, which he'd already encountered when playing the recorder in elementary music class.

ME: So how much is a half note worth?
KID: (hesitates) Half?
ME: Half of what?
KID: A note?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Note Values

A middle-schooler missed an eighth rest, and we were discussing it...

ME: So how much is an eighth rest worth?
KID: I don't remember.
ME: much is an eighth *note* worth?
KID: One-eighth.
ME: One-eighth of what?
KID: Eight?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When They're Running Late

One of them explained his lateness as follows: "I suppose I could blame my tardiness on our pet mongoose...except we haven't gotten one yet. And I don't exactly know what a mongoose is."
 After that last sentence, I showed him this. And while he agreed that a mongoose would be a pretty unusual pet, he did note that it was "kinda cute."

Monday, June 03, 2013

Burlington, Part IV: The Part Where I Rave About Dave

BURLINGTON--Some people describe trumpeter Dave Douglas' music as "out." (Those who aren't jazz musicians and aren't familiar with that usage of the word might call it "avant-garde.") And I noted long ago in these pages that the older I get, the "outer" I like, but tonight's concert by Douglas and his quintet at the intimate basement venue known as the FlynnSpace was not only far from "out" to these ears, but it was some of the most engaging music I've heard for this entire long weekend.

Douglas has long been known for his prolific output (and his music now has a ready home, since he started running his own record label a while back) For a while, this music was spread over a rather large number of bands, but lately, he's been concentrating on his quintet, consisting of Matt Mitchell (piano), Jon Irabagon (tenor sax), Linda Oh (bass, with Chris Tordini subbing for her tonight) and Rudy Royston (drums). This group recorded two distinct albums in two days during April of last year: Be Still, a reimagination of traditional hymns and folk songs (with special guest vocalist Aoife O’Donovan, who didn't appear tonight), and Time Travel, an all-instrumental set of contemporary acoustic tunes. These two albums provided the material for tonight's show.

Having been familiar with Douglas' music since a friend turned me onto him about seven years ago, there certainly were familiar elements to be heard. For all this talk of "out," a typical Douglas melody is fairly, well, melodic--even if the notes sometimes take interesting turns or land in unexpected places relative to the chords. The solo work--mostly by Douglas, Irabagon and Mitchell, was both virtuosic and heartfelt, and the mood was appropriately playful or reverent, depending on whether the Time Travel or Be Still music was being played at the moment. Tordini, while not a regular member of the group, provided a solid foundation for things and added a couple of enjoyable, energetic solos, and Royston was full of energy for the entire show.

To this sax player's ears, the really big "find" of the evening was saxophonist Arabagon. Given that the tenor chair in previous Douglas groups has been held by such luminaries as Chris Potter and Donny McCaslin, it's a given that Irabagon is no slouch, and the onetime Chicagoan indeed boasts an impressive resume. He provides not only tasty licks, dazzling technique and clever use of harmonics, but also a warm, enjoyable sound and a definite sense of fun--all of which make him a perfect foil for Douglas. This is definitely someone to watch in the future.

Despite this being my fifth trip to the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, tonight was my first time to ever see a concert in the smaller FlynnSpace (though I'd seen many of the "Meet the Artist" sessions there, including one with Douglas this afternoon). While I'd like to think he could have drawn well upstairs in the main theatre, it was great to see Douglas and company up close and personal in this club-like setting. The sound was great, and it was easy to see, despite being in the back section of chairs (Note to self: show up more than fifteen minutes early for any future shows here).

So, there's still that question of how "out" this all is, and I believe (as I said in the earlier post linked above, and paraphrasing Dewey Redman) that outness is in the ear of the behearer. To me, the only thing even remotely avant-garde about tonight might have been when Douglas and Irabagon engaged in some collective soloing, but the interplay fit so well together that I didn't even bat an eye (or an ear). And while some of the people who were with us tonight thought it was a little too out for their tastes...well, I might not have liked it at age 19 either. To those folks I would say this: Keep studying the music, and your ears might open up to this a little more. From my standpoint, it was one of the emotional highlights of the four days of headliner concerts here so far: Beautiful writing and beautiful musicianship. I can't wait to see this group again.  

Another voice: Once again, I invite you to read another take on this concert, by Brent Hallenbeck of the Burlington Free Press. We may occasionally say similar things, but I never read his take before posting mine.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Four Really Good MFs Were Playin' Tunes at the Flynn Tonight

BURLINGTON--Among the slew of tenor players in the jazz world, it might be easy to overlook Branford Marsalis, or at least take him for granted. He's not as flashy as a Joshua Redman or Chris Potter, and he spent his early years in the shadow of his younger but slightly better-known brother Wynton. But over all this time, he's been building up a solid body of work, which was on display tonight at the Flynn Center.

Though Marsalis has worked with groups of a variety of sizes over the years, it's his quartet (Joey Calderazzo, piano; Eric Revis, bass; and "new" drummer Justin Faulkner, who's been with the group for three years but only one recording) that serves as his primary vehicle. During a pre-concert interview/Q&A session with noted jazz writer Bob Blumenthal, he stated that the reason for doing this was similar to why so many of the great classical composers kept returning to writing for the string quartet: "Because it works." And with the longevity of this working group, they've been able to build up a solid repertoire of original compositions and the occasional standard that encompass a variety of styles.

After making his name as mostly a tenor player, Marsalis has spent quite a bit of time on soprano sax lately, even recording a classical album on the little horn a while back. And while his soprano work often does have a classical bent to it, his tone quality on it is full and beautiful (and, yes, in tune), and the improvisation never strays far from jazz.

The group's newest recording, released last August, is called Four MFs Playin' Tunes, and that's certainly both cheeky and understated, as these are no ordinary MFs. The presence of Calderazzo alone adds a major element to this group, as it becomes a powerful trio in its own right when the leader isn't soloing; the pianist also adds many fine compositions to the mix, including tonight's opener, "The Mighty Sword," which also serves as the lead track for the newest album. Revis provides a solid foundation throughout, especially on the ostinato bass lines that underpin so many of the group's tunes, and he adds tasty solos when called for. New drummer Faulkner, younger than his bandmates, provided energy and creativity throughout. In the pre-concert session with Blumenthal, Marsalis stated what he believes to be the problem with many jazz musicians these days: The tendency to go for technique at the expense of communication and emotional connection with the listener. And while some of his tunes may be a bit angular and less-than-singable by the average Joe on the street, there is certainly a lot to be enjoyed here by jazz fans who aren't working musicians themselves. While the programming may have been unusual--the group closed with the ballad "As Summer Into Autumn Slips" (also from the new album), after playing what Marsalis dubbed the "big song" (did anyone get a title on that?)--there was a lot to be enjoyed tonight. And the encore, "Tiger Rag" (yes, that one) closed the evening in rollicking fashion. He may get taken for granted a lot, but I for one am glad that Branford is around; he's making great contributions to the music that can't be ignored. Another voice:,/b> Brent Hallenbeck of the Burlington Free Press has his take on the concert.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Don't Worry...a major artist can do an entire show without performing his signature song, and the audience will still Be Happy about it.

BURLINGTON--Day Two of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival is in the books, and tonight was definitely something special, as the amazing, beyond-category vocal master Bobby McFerrin brought his new "spirityouall" show to the Flynn Center.

The new recording of the same name finds McFerrin presenting fresh interpretations of a fine collection of great American spiritual numbers in a variety of styles. He was inspired by the work of his father, the noted operatic baritone Robert McFerrin, Sr., and this album shares three songs with one recorded by the elder McFerrin in the late 1950s...but the results are all Bobby, doing the things he's known for best: Vocal percussion, dazzling impersonations of instruments, and seamless transition from deep bass notes to extreme falsetto within a note or two.

Though McFerrin is best known for his solo vocal endeavors (and with a talent like his, a band is not even necessary in most cases), he is backed by a full band on this new effort, and what a band it is: Keyboardist/accordionist Gil Goldstein (who's worked with pretty much everybody who's anybody in the jazz world), multi-instrumentalist David Mansfield (who counts guitar, violin and lap steel among his arsenal), guitarist Armand Hirsch, bassist Scott Colley (featured on several of the last Michael Brecker tours I saw) and drummer/background vocalist/guitarist Louis Cato (whose singing blended so well with the leader that some of us thought he was McFerrin's son). The band provided the perfect accompaniment to the dazzling vocals as the styles changed between gospel, country, blues, and--of course--jazz.

It's hard to decide on a highlight of the concert, because the whole thing was a highlight from start to finish (running nearly two hours without an intermission, and only the shortest break before an encore that was well-earned in this case. Every tune was a true gem, no matter what the style (and it wasn't uncommon for something to take a stylistic turn mid-song). Part of the charm of it all was that it was never certain when McFerrin would take the place of any instrument that was playing, and the solos and melodies were simply all over the place, yet delightfully so.

He was also engaging with the audience, inviting people to come up to the mic and contribute a verse of "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands" and even taking requests for a while; whether he truly knew the song or not, he and the band would give it a try. (And thankfully, requests for "Don't Worry, Be Happy," shouted from near where we were sitting in the balcony, were either unheard or ignored.)

On the page for this album on McFerrin's website, he says the following: "What I want everyone to experience at the end of my concerts is . . . .this sense of rejoicing. I don’t want the audience to be blown away by what I do, I want them to have this sense of real joy, from the depths of their being. Then you open up a place where grace can come in.” I think it's safe to say that tonight's audience left with a sense of joy and were blown away by what you did, Bobby. So glad you could grace us with your presence tonight.

Another voice: Arts writer Brent Hallenbeck of the Burlington Free Press also has a review of the concert.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Blogging from Burlington

It's been quite a while since I've done a concert review on here, but I'll be spending the next several days at the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, and it's my intent to review the four concerts we'll be seeing starting tomorrow night: Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio and John Scofield's Uberjam Band on a twin bill; Bobby McFerrin; the Branford Marsalis Quartet, and Dave Douglas.
The wi-fi at the hotel is rather spotty at this point, so the reviews may not be as timely as I'd like them to be, but they will be completed after I get home at the latest. Here's hoping that these reviews will become a regular part of this blog again...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

As Predicted, Kids Continue to Say the Darnedest Things About Geography

The kid from last week who thought Vermont was in Canada was having fun with that today, repeatedly telling me to "have fun in Vancouver, Canada." After letting him know that he was only off by an entire coast, he eventually said, "So Vancouver is really in Minnesota, right?"

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When You Reject Their Fundraising Efforts

KID: Would you like to buy some candy to help my church?
ME: I'll have to use that lame-but-true teacher excuse in this case: if I bought something from you, I'd have to buy something from everybody.
KID: But not everyone here goes to my church. (points to kid across the hall from him) This guy hates God!

(He was kidding, of course, and the alleged God-hater took the joke in good fun.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Famous Classical Compositions

Since I slacked yesterday and didn't post, here's a bonus KSTDT: Last week, I was letting a student know that we'd be starting the very basics of improvisation the following week...

ME: So next week, we'll go the piano room and start improv.
KID: But I don't play piano!
ME: You won't be playing piano; you'll be playing your sax. I don't play very much piano myself, but I can play the two chords we'll use for your first improvisation.
KID: The only thing I can play on piano is that "Da da Da da Da da Da da Daaaaaah."
ME: Ahh yes, "Für Elise."
KID: Yup--by Mozart something-or-other.

(To his credit, the kid did pronounce "Mozart" correctly...)

Kids Continue to Say the Darnedest Things About Geography

I have a feeling that a lot of kids will say the darnedest things before I leave on my trip next week. It happened again...

ME: Next week, we're taking the jazz band to a festival in Vermont.
KID: Vermont--that's in Canada, right?
ME: Close-- it's right next to it. And that's funny; the other day, a kid thought it was in New Hampshire.
KID: Well, I was closer.
ME: Actually, you're equally close; Vermont borders New Hampshire on the east and Canada on the north.
KID: I'm still closer.

(I did have to concede that the part of Vermont where we'll be is slightly closer to Canada than New Hampshire.)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Kids Still Say the Darnedest Things About Geography

When I mentioned the upcoming college jazz trip to Vermont, the kid nailed the area of the country but missed badly in terms of sovereignty...

KID: So you're going to Vermont?
ME: That's right.
KID: Isn't that in New Hampshire?
ME: Right next to it.
KID: Oh yeah--it's a state!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Modes

 I was reviewing them with a kid earlier in the year, and he thought he remembered all the names...

KID: I know all the scales: Dorian, Midolyxian...Mixolyxian?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Musical Elements (and Food)

Another one that got caught up in the pipe until now...
A while back, a student came up with this gem: "I don't like scales...unless I'm eating fish."

(But even then, wouldn't you remove the scales before eating?)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When Their Teachers Bend the Rules

I just realized that I've stockpiled quite a few Kids Say the Darnedest Things quotes that never got posted during the I'll post one of them every school day from now till the end of the public school semester (unless any new ones come up). Here's the first one, from a high schooler...

KID: We watched a "visual representation" in English class.
To "enhance our understanding" of To Kill a Mockingbird. Because we're not allowed to watch "movies."

(For everything in quotes above, the kid was making air quotes with his fingers.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Alternate Fingerings

Here's how a student described his reluctance to switch from side Bb to bis, even when it made the arpeggio in question a lot easier to play: "It's like switching religions."
(I spent the rest of the lesson repeatedly encouraging him to join the Church of Bis.)

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Other Sections in the Band

I was reminding a student of the importance of keeping going after making a mistake when we're in "performance mode," and I was treated with this gem...

ME: Imagine what the whole band would sound like if everyone stopped whenever they made a mistake...
KID: Our trumpets wouldn't even play!

(Cue sound of trumpet section being thrown under the bus...)

Monday, May 06, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things (Written Edition)

I was amused by a handmade recruiting poster for the high school colorguard that I saw today. According to the poster, Reason #1 to join is "Get tan."

(Reason #2, in case you were wondering, is "Make tons of friends.")

Thursday, May 02, 2013

(College) KIds Say the Darnedest Things About Professional Licensing

The subject of medical excuses for missing class came up, and someone wondered if anyone who was a doctor would be able to write his/her own excuse note in that situation...

ME: We had a doctor in big band who lasted about 2 weeks. He even came to auditions in scrubs! But he was still interning, and he always ended up being on call during rehearsal times and having to leave.
KID: So what, he didn't pass his bar exam or something?

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Math

This beginner was learning about dotted quarter notes and reviewing the idea that a dot placed after a note adds half the value of that note...

ME: So how many beats is a quarter note worth?
KID: One.
ME: And what's half of one?
KID: Zero?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things (Classic Edition), Part 3

On this day in 2005, an eighth grader was in rare form...

KID (after having a lot of rhythmic trouble on a piece of music): I think I should start tapping my foot again.
ME: Yes, you really should; it's important.
KID: I thought it was just sort of a sacrificing a pig.
(That one stopped me in my tracks; did he really say "sacrificing a pig?" Why yes, he did...)
ME: Well, some people would refer to sacrificing a pig as "barbecue."

And one more:
ME: OK, let's play this all the way through one more time, and don't stop, no matter what.
KID: But what if I sneeze, or have a baby or something?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things (Classic Edition), Part 2

The same kid who dissed on flats as a sixth grader (as quoted yesterday) hadn't gained any love for them as an eighth grader when he was given a scale sheet where some of the usual sharp keys (F#, C#) were written as flat keys...

KID: I hate flats! Why would anyone write these scales in flats?
ME: Yeah, most saxophonists don't like flats at all, and I know you don't like 'em. Do you remember a few years ago when you said something about E-flat being a wannabe and F-sharp was the president?
KID: Yeah! That's right! Sharps are cool! Sharps are like the really popular kids that are all "gangsta" and everyone wants to hang around them.
ME: (laughs) And flats are what...the chess club?
KID: Exactly! They're like those little nerdy kids that always get picked on.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things (Classic Edition)

While many of the kids are away this week, taking STAAR or TAKS tests, I'll post some of the earliest things in this genre (from my blog, in my pre-Facebook days). Here's some from 2007:

SIXTH-GRADER: I rememberized my chromatic scale already.
(At least he had the basic idea of what he meant to say.)

And then the next kid came in...

SIXTH-GRADER #2: I don't got stuff.
ME: What's that?
SIXTH-GRADER #2: I don't got my check. My brother has the chicken pox, so we're focusing on that right now.
(I was laughing too hard at that to get mad at him for forgetting the money.)

And the second kid came up with another gem the same year. He was playing a piece with two flats in it and kept missing the E-flats. That set up the following exchange:

ME: Someone kidnapped the E-flat! It's the case of the missing E-flat....
SIXTH-GRADER #2: Who cares? Who cares about flats? Sharps are what matter. The E-flat is like some wannabe off the streets. The F-sharp is the president.

There's rarely a dull moment in my job... (And by the way, I still teach Sixth Grader #2 as a high school senior; I wonder if he'll recognize himself when he's able to friend me on Facebook in a little over a month.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When They Make Up Their Own Jokes

Today, one of them started off a lesson with this groaner:

KID: Why does a flute play so high?
ME: I don't know; why?
KID: Because the instrument does drugs!
ME (shakes head): Boo! That's a bad one...
KID: Oh, c'mon; it's on the flute jokes website!
ME: Really now...
KID: It is! It's really old, though; it's been on there since back when people did drugs.
ME: You mean the 1960s? The only websites in the 1960s involved spiders...

("Back when people did drugs"?  No way was I going to burst his innocence on that one.)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Work Habits

This one started right at the beginning of the lesson...

(Kid enters room)
ME: Sup?
KID: ¡Hola! ¿Cómo estás?
ME: Estoy cansado.
KID: I don't know what that means.
ME: It means I'm tired. I thought you were taking Spanish this year.
KID: Just because I'm in Spanish 2 doesn't mean I know all the words yet.
ME: Of course, but I figured that's one you'd know by now.
KID: I don't actually try to learn in there; I just want to pass.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Vocalists

At my high schools, we share a practice wing with the choir, so my students have to get used to hearing unusual vocal warmups and so on.

KID: I walked by the choir room and they were doing that "do-re-mi" thing.
ME: Yeah, that's a common vocal warmup.
KID: But it sounded like they were summoning a demon.

(It turns out that this was men's chorus rehearsing, and what the kid heard that sounded demonic was the low-register warmups.)

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When They Hear Their Teacher Play Advanced Stuff

I often do a quick chromatic or arpeggio passage to "wake up" my reed if I'm about to play along with a student after a period of not playing. In this case, it really caught the ear of this beginner...

KID: Whoa! How did you do that?
ME: I practiced hard and ate all my vegetables.
KID: That's not a very logical answer.

(It turns out that he totally believed the practice part, but wasn't sold on the vegetable aspect, although he later conceded that I was probably healthier from eating some vegetables than if I'd subsisted primarily on chocolate cake the whole time.)

Later on, I did a similar fast lick when joining him again...

KID: Wow, you must know all the notes!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When They Get Musical Terms Mixed Up

This one started when a kid added an extra eighth note to something he was playing...

ME: Yay--a 4 and a half/4 bar!
KID: That's a fun key signature...

(I'm not sure that I've ever played in the key of four and a half beats per measure before.)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When Making Musical Puns

I was getting ready to play a duet with a beginner; when he saw what was coming up next, he said, "Oh, it's a duet! And I can't duet without you!"

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When You Pass Them in the Hallway

Heard this morning:

CHOIR GIRL #1: I like your shoe bottoms!
CHOIR GIRL #2: I know, but my feet are freezing!

(Shoe bottoms??)

UPDATE: I realized later that she could have been wearing these.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When They MIsunderstand What You Say

The kids are on a roll again: This one said that his mind was working a little slowly today, describing it as "having a blonde day."

KID: Most people don't believe it, but I used to be blonde.
ME: That's not so unusual. I was born with blonde hair and blue eyes, then my hair got darker and my eyes turned green.
KID: What? Your hair turned green?

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Nonverbal Cues

This morning, a student was having trouble coming in on an upbeat while playing a duet where my rhythm was different...

ME: I'm not sure how you missed that again; I even gave you a cue leading into the upbeat there.
KID: Oh, I thought you were just spazzing out.

(A few minutes later, the same kid said "You look like a tomato" when I played a long passage on one breath. My reply was, "Wow, you're full of compliments today, aren't you?")

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Adults Say the Darnedest Things

As I was teaching lessons at the home studio tonight, the doorbell rang a few minutes before the next kid usually arrives. I had the kid who was finishing up his lessons continue to play as I answered the door.

But it wasn't the next kid; it was a lady that I had never seen before.

ME: Hi, can I help you?
LADY: Oh, that's just beautiful! What is that sound?
ME: It's a saxophone.
LADY: That's so nice. I'm just in the neighborhood seeing if you'd like to have your rugs shampooed. (Hesitates a second, still listening to saxophone.) And that's your doorbell? It's still going?
ME: No ma'am, that's someone playing saxophone, and I'm teaching him a lesson right now.
LADY (looks embarrassed): Oh, I see. But that sound really is beautiful!

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Jazz Standards

I had mentioned something about how undesirable it is to play robotically, and this kid was trying to reference the video of the robot playing Giant Steps...

KID: I was looking for John Coltrane on YouTube...what was that song called, Small Steps?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kids Still Say the Darnedest Things About Geography

The kids are on a roll today: We were discussing slow tempos today, and I mentioned that one of the slowest ones, Grave, was usually reserved for funeral marches...

KID: Oh, like in Louisiana, right?
ME: You mean like a New Orleans jazz funeral?
KID: Yeah, like they do in New Orleans and Louisiana.
ME: New Orleans is in Louisiana.
KID: Oh man, I couldn't remember; I thought maybe New Orleans was in Florida.

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Physical Ailments

Overheard in the hallway this morning on a cold day: "I'm gonna get no-monia from workin' out." (As one of my Facebook commenters pointed out, that's better than having some-monia.)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Themselves

This morning, one of them was happy about an upcoming birthday...

KID: I'm so happy! Next week is my birthday!
ME: Oh, you'll be 16, right? The drivers license birthday!
KID: (gives sad look)
ME: Oh, you haven't completed driver's ed yet. Well, you can still go get a job!
KID: I don't know. I don't think I could get like a fast food or server job, because I don't like people...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Adults Say the Darnedest Things, Especially When Kids Set Them Up For It So Well

At the beginning of a lesson...

KID: So what are we going to do today?
ME: Same thing we do every day, Pinky--try and take over the world!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Good Grammys/Bad Grammys

Good Grammys: Having Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Kenny Garrett doing a Brubeck tribute. Bad Grammys: Having that tribute last about 2.5 seconds.

Good Grammys: Their support of music education and the announcement of an outstanding music educator recognition award starting next year. Bad Grammys: Of all the musicians in the "in memoriam" montage, the studio audience applauds the loudest for MCA of the Beastie Boys. (Not slamming his skills in the genre, but more applause than Brubeck or Andy Griffith?)

So Your Kid Wants to Be a Music Major...

Perhaps you should let him. It is interesting how supportive some parents can be in terms of their kids' participation in band, orchestra or choir, right up until the point when one of them decides to pursue it as a career...
A weird thing about a lot of parents is that they beam and glow when their kids get solos in orchestra, band and choir in high school, but they freak out when the same talented kid says “I want to study music in college.”

I don’t get it. You raise a kid to have pluck and self-determination, and then when the kid says “I love playing my instrument more than anything, and I want to pursue my passion as a career,” the parent flips out.

Right now is the time of year when parents call me in a frenzy of parental angst about their children’s musical aspirations. They sound panicky on the phone. A child has decided that he or she loves music, and the parent is certain the love of music is going to send an accomplished, self-directed kid straight to Skid Row. They ask me, “Am I dooming my child to a life of poverty if I let him major in music?”

That's from a wonderful new blog post by Liz Ryan, CEO/founder of Human Workplace, and, yes, holder of a vocal performance degree. She calls her post "Let the kid study music, already," and she makes some great points about how the study of music has value that carries over to other disciplines, even if the student doesn't end up doing music full-time after graduation.

I know I mentioned it on this blog before, but a good friend of mine--a tuba-playing mortgage broker--feels that his music education degree is his ace in the hole; the discipline, time management, and multitasking skills, along with other good qualities noted by Ryan in her post, have given him the edge over many of his coworkers over the years who may not have had such a rigorous course of study.

Like any major, music isn't for everyone, but, as Ryan says, studying it doesn't necessarily doom someone to a life of poverty.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

KIds Say the Darnedest Things About TMEA, Parts 1 and 2

PART 1: I was reminding a student at the end of a lesson that I wouldn't be there next week because of the big music convention, and his parting words were as follows...

KID: Have a nice trip to San Antonio! Is your wife going with you?
ME: She'd have to exist first.

(He gave me a sad look, so i tried to alleviate his embarrassment by adding, "Maybe I'll meet her down there!")

PART 2: As I was reminding more people that there would be no lessons a few days next week because of TMEA, I explained the whole concept--that it's a big music teachers' convention in San Antonio--to a beginner.

KID: I've been to San Antonio twice! But I still can't spell it.
ME: Oh, I bet you can. S-A-N, space...
KID: A-N-O...
ME: It's just the name Antonio.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Heritage

I can't remember what prompted this, but it was funny...

KID: My family's mostly from Asia--the Germany area.
ME: Germany's not in Asia.
KID: OK...they're near Asia.

(College) Kids Say the Darnedest Things About the Role of the Bassist in a Big Band

I forgot to post this one earlier: During a rehearsal last week, the bassist kept dropping out at random times, much to the chagrin of the director, who's also a bass player. Finally, he had to make a strong statement...

DIRECTOR: Bass players never stop playing!
BASSIST: Even when there are rests?

Friday, February 01, 2013

Ten Years Later, We Still Remember

I can't believe that it's been ten years to the day since the Columbia disaster--part of which I witnessed firsthand without knowing what I was seeing at first. One year later, once I had become a blogger, I recounted my recollection of the morning, but I'll repost it here in its entirety as well:
GREENVILLE, TX: The sun rose brightly on the outskirts of town on a crisp Saturday morning. I wasn't usually up this early on a Saturday, now that I was freed of the weekend job I'd had off and on for over a decade. But this was a special weekend: my annual Province Workshop for Sinfonia, where all the chapters get together for a big weekend-long meeting. This year it was being held at Texas A&M-Commerce--a small school in a small town, but one of my stronger chapters.

Seeing as how Commerce wasn't a big place, I didn't want to tax their hospitality by staying with one of the local brothers, so I got a hotel in Greenville, the nearest big town. I had the place to myself, at least on paper, but James (my collegiate representative), Baker (who would be elected this morning to that post for next year), and about four other guys from UNT crashed on my floor that night. No biggie--it's all about the brotherhood.

Since I was running the meetings, I left around 8:00 a.m. to get back to Commerce. I went in the lobby to check out of the hotel; Baker, who was riding up there with me, stayed in the car. When I came out, I was greeted by a loud noise, the likes of which I had never heard before. Baker was outside the car, looking at the noise's source.

A large jet contrail, much bigger than usual, appeared in the morning sky above. It was I watched it, the main stream kept going forward but also split off into equal arcs to the right and left. I wasn't sure, but I thought I was watching an exquisitely-choreographed military training flight. Baker had been in the military before college, so it made sense why he was watching it, but I was equally enraptured.

The only thing was, I was pretty sure that we weren't anywhere close to a military base. That spawned an exchange that neither of us would understand for a while: "I wonder what we're near," I asked. "Armageddon," replied Baker. Even though that didn't make sense, we watched the display until it no longer could be seen, and then we got into the car to head to the meetings.

As the coffee-and-donuts hour drew to a close and we got ready to start the meetings, James pulled me aside for a second. "I thought maybe you might want to make an announcement or something; I just heard on the radio that the space shuttle blew up." Only then did I realize what Baker and I had seen, and our conversation now made sense (he knew it hadn't been a training flight and thought maybe it was an asteroid hurtling toward the earth).

Just like when Challenger had gone down so many years before, the viewing audience had gotten complacent, taking the safe return of NASA missions for granted again. To tell the truth, I had even forgotten that Columbia was still up there, much less that it was scheduled to land today.

Though the meetings continued, the thought of what happened was never far from anyone's mind. On the way home, my radio was glued to the news station. There was a definite pall over the day--that sadness that you feel because of what happened, whether you knew the people or not. Thankfully, other things weren't canceled either; seeing my buddy Lee in Grease proved to be a good escape from reality on this day.

Even a decade later, everything written above is pretty much seared into my mind for good, I'd think. We have not forgotten you, Columbia Seven.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

(College) KIds Say the Darnedest Things About Departed Jazz Masters

Yesterday in combo, a question arose regarding which octave the bassist should play in when using a bass clef lead sheet; we decided that the high notes were meant for trombone melody, and the bassist should play roots, as the melody notes were not in the typical bass range in the first place.

ME (to bassist): Or you could just double the melody using harmonics. It'd be really high, but I bet Jaco could do it.
OTHER COMBO MEMBER: No, he couldn't...he's dead.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Kids Continue to Say the Darnedest Things About Musical Terms

This one had to stop after the tempo went astray...

KID (pointing to the word "subito," which means "suddenly"): So "subito" means to speed up, right?
ME: Ha, not at all. How'd you get that? (sounds out syllables) Soo-bee-toh...suh-peed-up. OK, I see how you got that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

JK is Carrying Esbjörn's Torch in Fine Fashion

On New Year's Day, I posted a list of my favorite new jazz CDs of 2012. Despite formidable competition from the likes of Pat Metheny and Kenny Garrett, I gave top honors to a Swedish piano trio that's not particularly well-known, but should be. The group is called the Jacob Karlzon 3, the CD itself is called More, and my favorite tune on the album is the opening track, "Running." It has definite shades of both Metheny and Esbjörn Svensson (Karlzon's late countryman, from whom it could easily be said that he has inherited the title of standard-bearer for the "New Piano Trio" genre).

"Running" was featured in a teaser video promoting the album's release last August, and now there's a full-length video for the song. Enjoy!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Some Great Words from MLK About Jazz

Happy MLK Day! Dr. King was a big jazz fan, and he wrote some program notes for the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival. He had some great things to say about our wonderful art form. Here's my favorite quote:
Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life's difficulties, and if you think for moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.

This is triumphant music.

As always, read the whole thing. (Hat tip: Kurt Elling's Facebook page.)

This Blogger Speaks the Truth

Via multiple Facebook friends, I came across this post from a blogger calling herself Facetious Firecracker, entitled What Every Music Teacher Wants You to Know. I'll share a couple of the "money quotes" here:
Without music programs in schools, we risk losing part of our culture for the future. When we examine past cultures, what do we use to judge how civilized they were? Paintings, musical compositions, architecture, tools, language, and clothing. In other words – ART. In fact, we use the fine arts of past cultures to judge how much they knew about our current so-called “core subjects.”

Do you think people in the future are going to look at our standardized test scores to see how well we lived? Of course not. They’re going to study our ability to create ART.

[...]We didn’t go into teaching music because we wanted to get better at math. We want what we do to be valued for its own purpose. We want people to think it’s important to have music in schools, well, just because it is! Imagine your life without music.

Silent commercials and movies, with the exception of dialogue. Awkward silences while shopping. Silent car rides. All in all, pretty boring. We teach music because it’s like painting for your ears. It expresses emotions. It can even change your emotions.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Region Ruminations

No matter how seldom I may blog these days, I always find things to say on the night that I've attended the All-Region Bands concert every January. The region where I teach is known for having strong band programs, and the result is a fine evening of music, even though the kids have had less than 24 hours (last night and most of the school day today) to rehearse the music. And while I've blogged about Region for almost the entire ten years in which this blog has been in existence, the post has been very similar each year, with only minor edits (I somehow neglected to post last year, but 2011's post may be found here), but this year, I seem to have come up with several new ideas. As always, this doesn't pretend to be a review of the concert, just whatever random thoughts popped into my head as I was listening.
  • Let's get my own numbers out of the way first: There were eight in all from my studio--five freshmen, a sophomore, a junior and a senior (plus one more junior who plays another instrument but studies jazz saxophone with me). The fact that five out of the nine saxes in the freshman band are my students certainly bodes well for the future, I think.

  • This concert is set up to run like clockwork--there is a 45-minute slot allotted to each band, and everything started within a minute of the posted time. While this meant that, for "marathoners" like myself who stayed for the whole thing, there were some fairly substantial lags between bands, it worked out perfectly for the families of the students in the later bands, who may have just been there to hear their own kid's band. But the fact that five bands--one freshman band and four high school bands--can complete a concert in less than four hours, year after year, is indeed impressive.

  • Thinking about the above, it occurred to me for the first time that this event really isn't one concert--it's five mini-concerts. There was a more substantial amount of turnover between bands than I recall seeing before, but that may well have made room for everyone, though there were seats to spare during each band. (I've never done the math to figure out whether anyone's auditorium could hold a cumulative audience, but I have my doubts, especially if kids stuck around to watch their friends in later bands.)

  • In many ways, this concert hasn't changed much over the years. But here's one way in which it has: During one band, I looked up a few rows to see a parent recording the concert on his iPad. Granted, that's less obtrusive than a big honkin' video camera (a few of which were there as well), but it was funny to watch a small facsimile of the concert in real time on a tiny screen like that.

  • One of the conductors programmed his own composition, which he claimed received its final edits on the plane ride to Dallas. I'm trying to remember if we've ever had a composing clinician in this region before; surely we've had Holsinger or Ticheli at one point. (Also, the composing conductor went baton-less for the composition right before his, but picked up the baton for his own piece. Anyone have a big philosophical statement about baton vs. no baton? It's been a while since I've picked one up, of course...)

  • What's up with weird lighting things going on at this concert? Two years ago, the dousing of the house lights resulted in the stage lights going off as well...while a band had started to play! This time, the lobby lights went dark for a while; it was funny to watch everyone proceeding cautiously through the hall by cell phone light. Also, the house lights here apparently had no dimmer switch; it went, rather jarringly, from very bright to very dark within a nanosecond.

  • I got to thinking about the whole idea of how to set up a band. It was different with every conductor tonight (with the exception, of course, of obvious things like the flutes in front and the percussion in back). Most other musical ensembles--big band, orchestra, chorus) have a fairly standard setup, but the band is subject to not only the whim of the conductor, but perhaps the pieces being played (to possibly create a "stereo" effect of different motifs being passed from section to section).

  • I still like the new "wind ensemble" music better than the older "band" music (and I have yet to make my post about how film scoring saved classical music), but there were certainly plenty of composers making great, symphonic music for band before John Williams and his progeny came on the scene. Two of the best of the "old" composers writing in a "new" way--Vittorio Giannini and Ron Nelson--were represented tonight.

  • One of my favorites among the "old" works is Ralph Vaughan Williams' "English Folk Song Suite." Both the MC and the conductor who programmed this work pronounced Vaughan Williams' first name as "Rafe"--just as I've heard with the English actor Ralph Fiennes, but never with anyone else. RVW was always just good ol' "Ralph" to us. (Also, if you're familiar with this work, ask me about my programmatic interpretation of the second movement--it's very dark. Also, the first theme in the third movement sounds a lot like "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Gets a chuckle out of me every time...)

  • The "theme" in our region has been to get the top two directors from a major university to be the directors for the top two bands. This year, the guys came from Oklahoma State, and they did an outstanding job. While all the bands did well, the top two, being made up mostly of kids who made at least Area if not State, take things to a whole new level. It's hard to believe that they're high school kids who had less than two days of rehearsal to put this together.

Did you really make it through this whole post? Congrats; you're a marathon winner in much the same way as those of us who stayed for the entire concert!
I'm sure I'll be writing a similar post next year. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Kids Still Say the Darnedest Things About Their Mistakes

Today, one of them just completely fell off the track, rhythm-wise...

ME: Hang on a second--not only did you miss a note, but that sixteenth note section just got really, really fast all of a sudden.
KID: Yeah, I'm not sure what happened there.
ME: It's almost like you stopped controlling the horn, and it took over.
KID: In Soviet Russia, saxophone plays you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When They're Making Excuses for Their Mistakes

ME: Hang on--you turned that eighth note into a quarter note. And you also forgot to tongue anything.
KID: That's 'cause it's a Wednesday.
ME: What does that have to do with anything?
KID: I'm just not a Wednesday person.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Band Music

This one was describing some of the new stuff that was passed out to them this week...

KID: We have a lot of weird key signatures, like 6/8.
ME: The key of 6/8, huh? So how many sharps or flats are in that one?

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Why They're Rusty After the Break

This beginner was definitely in that situation ...

KID: I couldn't play over the break, 'cause I was sick the whole time...
ME: That's no fun.
KID: My mom said I couldn't get my germs on it.
ME: I see..
KID: I gotta get back in the rhythm and mojo.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Kids Say the Darnedest Things on the First Morning of a New Semester

While most of the kids I saw before first period were (as expected) dragging a bit, one was almost literally bouncing off the walls. As she jumped up and down a bit, she turned to me and waved. KID: Hello! I'm hyper! ME: Nice to meet you, Hyper.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Kev's Top Ten Jazz CDs of 2012

Happy New Year! As I try to get back to regular blogging (a pursuit which has often been sidetracked by my involvement with Facebook and Twitter), one of the seemingly obvious things to post here would be a list of my ten favorite new jazz releases of the past year. If you're my friend on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, you've seen all these recordings under the "Playing in the Kevmobile" heading (a weekly summary of which should return here this coming weekend, and I'll try to update the missing past year or so shortly), but I've never actually tried to rank them in any way until now.

So without further ado, here's my list. (Your mileage may vary, of course, and you're welcome to put your own thoughts in the comments.)

  • 10. The eponymous debut by the Dafnis Prieto Proverb Trio (Dafnison Music). Cuban-born drummer is joined by keyboardist Jason Lindner and singeresbjorn/rapper Kokayi fuse together a wide variety of styles into something that's truly unique.
  • 9. Christian Scott, Christian aTunde Adjuah (Concord Records). Ambitious double-length release from New Orleans-born trumpeter who constantly pushes the boundaries of his music into adventurous new places.
  • 8. Donny McCaslin, Casting for Gravity (Greenleaf Records). Prolific tenorman who would be a household name in a perfect world scores with a new release that blends electronics with more traditional sounds and includes a great cover of a Boards of Canada song.
  • 7. Esbjörn Svensson Trio, 301 (ACT Music). The late Swedish pianist had not one, but two albums' worth of music in the can at the time of his untimely passing. The first one, Leukocyte, had a much darker air about it than any of the trio's earlier releases; the remaining material, found here, is overall a return to the more uplifting mood that one came to expect from e.s.t. Overall, a fitting coda to a remarkable body of work.
  • 6. Neil Cowley Trio, The Face of Mount Molehill (Naim Label). I've really been getting into a lot of European piano trios who have been doing some very interesting and creative things with that format, and this UK threesome's latest release is loaded with memorable tunes that keep me coming back again and again.
  • 5. Snarky Puppy, groundUP (groundUP). The Pups celebrate their own imprint under the Rope-a-Dope umbrella with their second "live in the studio" effort. As always, it's full of win--memorable tunes, funky grooves and virtuosic musicianship. These guys have done their hometown of Denton proud, though their repidly-expanding tours mean they don't get to come home as much these days.
  • 4. Kenny Garrett, Seeds From the Underground (Mack Avenue Records). Perhaps the finest altoist of his generation (and certainly, outside of Bird and Cannonball, the most-imitated by younger players), Garrett returns with his first album of all originals in a while, and to these ears, it's his best work since the classic Songbook album.
  • 3. Gwilym Simcock/Tim Garland/Asaf Sirkis, Lighthouse (ACT Music). The Lighthouse Trio has appeared on a couple of previous albums under the leadership of saxophonist Garland (and primarily featuring his compositions). But with their ACT debut, the trio has moved towards being more of a true collective, with everyone contributing to the songwriting and the musicianship of young British pianist Simcock coming more toward the forefront. The tunes are catchy, the musicianship is superb, and the combination of textures (Garland often puts the sax aside in favor of bass clarinet, and Sirkis' unconventional drum kit is made up of all kinds of things) is always enjoyable.
  • 2. The eponymous debut by the Pat Metheny Unity Band (Nonesuch Records). The highly-anticipated meeting of the eminent guitarist with reedman Chris Potter, bassist Ben Williams and Metheny's longtime drummer Antonio Sanchez more than lives up to expectations; it truly is a unified whole, rather than just another "supergroup," and the collaboration translated to an equally impressive live show.
  • 1. Jacob Karlzon 3, More (ACT Music). The Swedish pianist, joined by cohorts Hans Andersson on bass and Jonas Holgersson on drums, was not unfamiliar to me, as I already owned two of his prior releases, but when this new release was announced on Karlzon's Facebook page, the audio samples and teaser video grabbed me and never let go. It's as though Karlzon is taking the work of his late countryman Svensson to interesting new places, with a strong Metheny vibe thrown in (especially on the opener, "Running"). There are a lot of styles represented here (he covers Nik Kershaw and Korn on this album), and of all the recordings that made it into my CD player or laptop this year, this is the one that had the biggest emotional hold on me and kept me coming back for, well, More.
OK, there's an elephant in the room here--an album that I can't possibly rank, but it deserves mention in any year-end post on this blog: Kris Berg and the Metroplexity Big Band, This Time/Last Year. Why can't I rank it? Because I play on it! But I'd sure love it if you bought it, and I'd like to think that I'd listen to it regularly even if I wasn't one of the performers. My longtime friend and colleague has come up with some outstanding compositions and arrangements for large ensemble, and the solos--from the likes of Wayne Bergeron, Clay Jenkins, Chris Vadala, and Delfeayo Marsalis, as well as some outstanding local players, are just killin'.

Also, you may notice that three of the albums on the list come from Germany's ACT Music, which has easily emerged as one of my favorite labels this year. I finally got a couple of actual CDs from them (the Lighthouse recording, and one by the Yaron Herman Trio), and I love the packaging and liner notes as well. I'd buy all of their stuff in hard-copy form if the imports weren't so pricey.

And coming up in 2013, the most anticipated new release of this month ahead has to be Chris Potter's ECM debut, Sirens, with Craig Taborn, David Virelles, Larry Grenadier and Eric Harland. It drops in just four weeks!