Friday, December 30, 2011


I thought this might be a good way to end the Teacher's Log for this semester and the last post on the blog for 2011. It was a poem I sent to all my students at the end of the semester who are in my studio at New England Conservatory, New England Conservatory Prep Division, The Boston Conservatory and Longy School of Music. I hope there is something in it for everyone. I wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Meaningful New Year!

Dear Students,

As the semester comes to a close,
realize that there is a chance to recompose
In the midst of your holiday cheer
I hope you find time to strengthen your possible careers

By practicing those things you know you ought
To enjoy the wonderful opportunity you've got

Dig into your Art
It's there for you
Waiting for the moment you say "I do"

It is a marriage of you to It and It to you
But it needs your Love, Devotion and Passion too

It cannot do it on It's own
It gave you talent at the get go

But now you need to activate it
otherwise your talent will only be latent

Jump on board and sail full steam ahead
Drop your fear, it's all in your head!

I know you can if you really want It
It needs you.. a lot.. more than you know..

It's not about a job as the first important thing
It's you providing It with a way to be free

You are important, never doubt that
I'm on your side, always hoping for your best!

My very best wishes to you all!

Mr. Bolter
Mr. B
but NEVER Norm :-)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


What is Best for the Students?

In a conversation with someone recently, they told me they just want to do what's best for the students. I immediately thought to myself. " What is BEST for the students? A good question to ask that takes some probing to come up with some insightful answers.

I think the first thing to clarify is, what is a student? To me, the student is a person that is interested in a learning process that has it's goal developing a skill or gaining knowledge that will be used for a productive purpose in their life or career. If it is a 'skill', it will take knowledge, experience, dedication and guidance to be achieved.The greatest driving force towards that development is the student's own passion and intensity of desire to keep going through all the various challenges they will encounter. To have all this happen, an environment of support, trust, encouragement, honesty, and friendship is very important on the personal level. The school needs to have teachers who have a high level of mastery not only with the subject matter, but with working with students

The school needs to provide an ecology which would best foster this development. But if it only has a 'manufacturing plant' mentality, then the development of the student- person, is going to be short changed and possibly suffer.

There is not a 'generic' student. What is useful for one student is not useful for others. This is where skill in teaching comes in. Not all freshman are the same, neither are all graduate students the same. Attention to the individual is important and vital in my view.

If someone is taking a class on American History, should the class be run by 5 teachers? This is a question I have about instrument classes. Do you have all the faculty contribute to the instrument class? Are tons of views good all the time? Is one view good for 6 years? It depends on certain factors. Here are a few on the private studio level.

1. Is the student and the teacher in a relationship that grows deeper on a continuing basis with noticeable quality in the students work? If so, why should the student change teachers after 2 years or 4 years if the process is really connective and continues to bear fruit?

2. If the student and teacher really cannot get along and after a period of a semester not come to any terms of agreement or mutual understanding, it seems the best thing might be for both of them to part peacefully. Private lessons are very personal and close circumstances that can become quite toxic if things get to far out of balance in a negative direction.

3. A student can be exposed to many ideas and viewpoints at school and the city they are in. If the student is really taking an active role in their own development and not just waiting for the teacher to say do this or that, they will try things, go to other workshops, concerts and master classes and naturally incorporate things into their own work.

4. I think it is important for some classes to have one teacher with guests who come in every now and then. This gives a continuity and structure to the class.

5. Private studio teachers at anytime, should feel free to give a studio class to their own students. They should not worry if the other students of the same instrument in the school are not included.

A student can learn from various teachers that are not even playing their own instrument. Learning is very dependent on the student's own curiosity, need and application of what they are given and/or observing. I notice many students going from teacher to teacher and not making lots of progress because they are not sticking to something and seeing it through. When they get bored or run into a sticky point, some like to run to a 'new' situation for the 'kick' or' high' that gives them in the beginning of doing something different. Meanwhile avoiding the very things that they probably need to work on including their attitude.

So what is BEST for the students? To be given an atmosphere and ecology that provides them the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions with excellent guidance, expertise and humanity from caring teachers. A look at the word teacher is interesting for it has the word 'heart' in it and well as the word 'care.' 'The care' is a full anagram of the word teacher.

It also needs to be said that teachers are humans too who need to be treated well. Maybe our schools need to spend more time helping people become good teachers? Just because someone has great skill and/or knowledge and a high profile job, does not mean they are good with people or really even care about the well being of a person. This kind of teacher needs to have students that are very mentally tough that can withstand a certain level of rough treatment. If the student has that nature and knowledge to get what they can from such a teacher, then it possibly will be productive for them.

In the end, it is one big process that students and teachers are in that goes way beyond learning a skill. The circumstances in a school can help one to learn about oneself, others and how to deal with different kinds of situations. Sometimes rough situations can push a person into greater depth and challenge how much they really want to pursue their chosen work no matter what the odds are.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

4 years ago today....

Yup. It has been 4 years since my last concert as a member of the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestras. My last concert was a Christmas Pops concert. I really did love playing principal trombone in the Pops for so many years. There was a certain freedom playing Pops as well as being very challenging.

I love the orchestral literature. It was a wonderful opportunity to play in those great orchestras. Times have changed. The whole brass section is totally different with new players and style of playing from when I joined. When I joined it was near the tail end of when the character and uniqueness of a persons playing was really important as a musical component in the ensemble. In a way, it was filled with very individual players. Maybe it wasn't a 'perfect' blend, but wow, when it was happening it was really potent!!

My life is busier in a sense now but without the 'weight' of the orchestra. I choose to play in other kinds of musical ecologies at this point in time. There is no doubt in my mind that different orchestras have different ecologies. But hearing so much of how musicians are having physical, mental and emotional tension from the job, and oftentimes have to resort to taking drugs to ease the pain of nerves, saddens me. This of course was happening when I was in the orchestra. If the ecology was different, and the humanity and going for the spirit of the music was the most important thing, there would be no need for this stress and drug taking.

The High Art of music making needs an environment that is invitational to the essence of the music and the soul of the people who are being instrumental for it's appearance. I can only hope, pray and do what I can in my own way, that the values and deeper meaning of music and human life can be the most up-front feature and this other stuff just melt away in the brightness of that TRUTH.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Discernment is an interesting property. This property of discernment with most people develops with age. Sometimes younger people can have quite a developed sense of differences between concepts, styles and approaches. Other people younger or older, have this concept of everything is equal or valid. Well, in my experiences and looking at things, there are VERY CLEAR DISTINCTIONS in concepts, styles and approaches. Sometimes subtle differences can be the most profound.

Oftentimes if something feels good or is easy and comfortable, it can be viewed as more favorable. The real question is, is 'real' life comfortable and easy all the time? There is a difference between stupid sacrifice and going for something you really believe in all the way, blood sweat and tears, if it is worthy.

I would hope that having an atmosphere that is clean , respectful and allowing, can be the platform for the real intense work to have a place to happen where it is supported. Making something happen is not always easy. Helping people to grow is not always fun. The attainment of our goals is only done through Love, Dedication, Passion, Effort and continued reevaluating in an upfront, allowing, but very honest way.

A great mentor of mine said, "Be your own person, but love the truth." That is a real process and a journey, to me totally worth pursuing and not always easy or comfortable.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Grading... for me it is actually a bit of a pain. I can't fit it into that system of letter grades. With a number system you have more spectrum but it still can't fill it out in all circumstances

What do I consider in a grade? A combination of work ethic, love of the territory (passion), talent activated and potential not realized, attitude, progress or lack there of. The other consideration I wrestle with at times is, do I compare a student to all the ones I have had to make the grade? That would lower a lot of peoples grades because I have had some pretty extraordinary students!

So now we get into levels. If someone is a freshman at a music school like a conservatory, (I know this is general), and they have a certain goal in mind, the question, is are they working at their full or close to it capacity to get that to happen? Or, what about a senior that has a terrific potential but really has not significantly improved? What about the student that maybe wasn't given a terrific first stage (the potency of the natural talent) but has worked extremely hard consistently throughout their schooling and has made very good improvement but still is 'behind' in certain areas that will hold them back in a performance career?

So the subject matter can get very complex at times, but for me, it does come down to the person owning up to the fact that they are the ones that have to work for it. Not to please me, their parents or anybody else. But for themselves because they are moved to do so from the core of themselves. Even this level has several variations to it, but effort + talent + attitude + work achieved = grade, in most cases.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Discipline. The crock and the flail. The yin and the yang. The allowance and the resistance. The balancing of certain apparent opposites create a gate which will cause an environment and ecology for the life to thrive in, be challenged in towards a specific target, or one that will foster anything goes without a lot of development, or one that can be harmful and choking of the life. There are also many that can form an atmosphere of varying degrees and combinations of the ones already mentioned.

When a student is singled out because of some disruptive behavior, there is a combination of feelings that happen in the ecology. If the other students are not clear why the person is being singled out, this causes confusion and uneasiness. If it is clear why the person is being singled out and reprimanded, there can be a sense of relief in the other students because they are irritated with the disruptions themselves. These are just a couple of scenarios.

To have an ecology that wants growth and development towards a specific goal, there are balances to consider. How should one behave? In the case of the student, is making regular smarty pants remarks useful? I should say not. For when remarks diffuse and make a mockery of very important points, it infects the living organism that the ecology is. The ecology is only as strong as the person who is in charge is. But what can be stronger, is an ecology that is maintained by mutual agreement from everybody involved. In this case, students and teacher.

It is important to have humanity and allowance for all sorts of things. But it is vital for a teacher to be observant of patterns that cause to disrupt for the sake of disrupting whether it is conscious or not in the student. For any environment to sustain a level of cohesiveness and provide the optimum for opportunity, inspiration and growth, basic standards are needed. The teacher needs to uphold them. Not everyone, meaning the students in this case, will be able to understand all things if they have not been in serious pursuit for a prolonged period of time and have had the chance to get experience in dealing with many situations that arise. This is where the vital A.R.T. of the student comes in which is Appreciation, Respect and Trust. The A.R T. of the teacher in this case is Accomplished, Rsponsible, Tacticis.
More on this soon..

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The past couple of days I have been doing master classes and working with students into the area of sound. I love working with others to see what they are thinking. It is also so confirming to me how where our attention (consciousness) is located shapes the energy pathways and circuitry that become the acoustical theater of where are sound resonates into and out from.

When asked about where sound comes from or what makes our sound, most people said air. Others said the heart area. I said air needs a vibrating structure to vibrate into. This is called the embouchure. Sound consists of vibration. It is vibration. Air is the movement which moves across our lips causing them to vibrate.

Now, there are many ways to enhance and support this vibration. Here are a few:
Concept of sound
*Three dimensional sound exercises
Vowels and syllable shapes
Speed and temperature of air
Separate breathing exercises
Mouthpiece playing
Focusing the mind on different parts of the body
The nature of the vibration of the embouchure

*When people were asked about what they want in their sound, some of the words that came up were, rich, open, clear, sweet, supported, articulated, broad, relaxed, emotion. I added height, width, depth and projection. Here is where I did some experiments with three dimensional sound exercises having people focusing their minds in different directions. The results were very interesting. Some people's sounds became more alive when they thought of the sound coming from in back of themselves. Others from above their heads and others from the sides.

These are a few things that affect sound. The other one of course is the nature of the music one is playing.
I made a video this summer about playing with sound. You can play with sound like a child plays with play doh. And trying some of the various exercises expands our concept of sound and adds DIMENSION and PRESENCE to the sound.

Sound can be elastic and I understand at first students will want to get a stable and focused sound. It is important to keep in mind that stable and solid do not have to be made out of cement or steel. There are the elements to consider. Some sounds are more water in nature, others earth, others air and others fire. Of course we can all have control to incorporate them all into our music making but we will have a 'natural' inclination towards one or a combination of a couple of them.

Playing outside can be one of the great ways to work on getting a three dimensional sound. Lots of space to fill in all directions!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

18 years ago today the Frequency Band
came into the world!

18 years ago, from 10pm to 2am on November 17th, 1993, in the chorus room of Symphony Hall in Boston, about 14 trombone players gathered not knowing what they were in for. Either did we. It was the first Frequency Band gathering to ever happen. The Frequency Band in this form, came into the world.

It would be hard to describe the night that took place in words. To say it was a venture into the unknown and yet known, would be true. To say there were atmospheres of incredible potency of ancient and never happening before appearing would be true. To say it was magical, mystical, profoundly deep would be true. To say that a great 'something else' liked it would be true. To say that it touched deep into the human enigma would be true.

So what is the Frequency Band? This is the question to 'quest on' about. It is an experience and journey into the essence of where the music comes from. It is a training into the special Arts of human life that don't get much of a chance in regular day to day life. And so much more…

The music of the first night, was written from a connection to different colors, to ancient Egypt, well being, the mystery of time and other topics. But we did not just play them. It was how we prepared and tuned ourselves to play them. It was in the integrated spirit of sentimented- technology. Technology for a very needed purpose. To help maintain in the record of human history, the importance of the living Art. As my wife and co-founder and director of the Frequency Band, Carol Viera so eloquently says, "Music is the wrapping paper for the essence that is inside of it." And "The most important instrument is the human instrument."

The Frequency Band is first and foremost a human endeavor. The first principle of the Frequency Band is a Unity Born of Humanity. The tuning is to the "A" of attitude appreciation and awe. Without this as a living fabric of the environment, the Frequency band will not appear. It will not be invited.

We don't use metronomes and tuning machines. We tune according to connection. The greater the connection the greater the tuning. The greater the tuning the greater the connection. The Spirit of the music comes first, because that is closest to the heart of the human. The human is more sensitive and powerful than any man made machine. It is a matter of education and application that activates the latent human potential that is dying to get out and be free.

I am honored and humbled to be instrument to to this very special life. May I always be tuning and fine tuning myself to be a better receptor and translator of what "It" wants.

A special thank you to all who have been a part of it in one way or another. Whether you are in a major symphony orchestra, a teacher, a free lance artist or a student, the Light shines on all. Cultural position is not the measuring stick of success in the Frequency Band. It's all in the sentimented spirit of wanting to be included and transmitting it into the world. FOR THE LOVE THAT IT SHOULD BE SO.

Greatest gratitude to the special humans and lives that influenced Carol and myself with their wisdom and love of Life. We will keep on keeping on.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


It's amazing how much detail someone will give something technically. Some people are really geometry like in their approach to phrasing for example. That form of phrasing is mechanical if it is not empowered by another motive. Not wanting to stick out is intelligent only if it is musically based. Not wanting to stick out because one does not want to draw attention to oneself is 'safe' and certainly not always musically sound.

How much detail and specificity is put into creating the atmosphere of the piece? Not a lot generally. Tuning into the spirit of the piece and first of all discovering it does not mean one is deviating from the technique. A Mocking bird can make several sounds that are similar to other birds and animals but they are imitations. People who are knowledgable in the authentic calls of other birds can hear and/or feel the difference when the Mocking bird goes through their impressive 'list' of bird excerpts. It is the same with musicians. I sincerely hope that there will be those that can always tell the difference.

Now, having said that, there are people who genuinely play dry, others who play more wet, some who are mentally based and some who are more emotionally based. These are just a couple of examples and there are many various combinations of all of these mixed in with other variables. When it is REAL it is REAL. What is is until it is another way. My concern is this 'audition ready' government which is not where music originates from. 'Audition ready' is a skill for a commercial end. Which I know can be a very demanding 'science' and discipline. BUT, will there be room for the other side of music to actually enter into that confined space in a organic living way? That is the vital question to ask. At this point in time and from what I have witnessed, I am not convinced that it does. A more integrated approach with the formula music + technique = Art, will be more satisfying and fulfilling in the long run. From that foundation, going into audition training mode can be assistive to the refinement process if done with an integrated mind and heart.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Calendar of Past and Upcoming Events

There has been a lot going on these past few months, as a I wrote a few blog posts ago. Last night (Friday, November 4th), I did a fun and potent recital with John Faieta at Boston Conservatory. We performed works by Bartok, Mozart, Telemann, Blazhevich and Bolter (myself)! The audience was asked to view the recital as a TV show and to sit back and watch it. You had to be there to get what I'm saying but there was lots of humor, humanity and profundity.. and a very good turn out as well! Bravo to John Faieta for his fine playing and willingness to be a part of this journey! The amazing photo seen here was put together by my wife, Carol.



This coming weekend (Saturday, November 12th, and Sunday, November 13th), there will be a Brass Symposium at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge. This symposium, a first at Longy, is open to middle school, high school and college students. It will be a very full presentation, starting on Saturday at 4 PM with a concert by the Longy Faculty Brass Quintet featuring Steven Emery trumpet, Redline trumpeter Kyle Spraker will be assisting, Kevin Owen on horn, myself on trombone and Ken Amis on tuba, Redline Brass Quintet who are all in the Artist Diploma Program at Longy, Longy prep faculty and a combined large brass ensemble of faculty and students with me conducting. Following the concert, I will be conducting a rehearsal with all the participants and faculty in a mass brass ensemble that will be the grand finale to the many events that will be happening on Sunday. Before that, on Sunday, there will be master classes, brass topics discussion, breaking into individual instrument classes, playing opportunities for all to play a solo or excerpts and get feedback. Lots of informative and inspiring events!

PLEASE NOTE: IT IS VITAL THAT PEOPLE REGISTER ONLINE ASAP, MEANING BY WEDNESDAY. THE FEE COVERS MEALS AND SNACKS. If they don't have enough applicants at least 50 they say, the event will be cancelled. So register now if you are interested. To register, visit: Longy Brass Symposium or call 617-876-0956 ext 1760.

P.S. I am not sure if there will be the possibility to just walk in at the last minute. I really apologize for this and other and oversights in how the event was set up but since this is the first time tis is happening, i don't the PR people quite knew how to handle the details. Hopefully, next year will be it will be advertised more effectively and clearly.


On Sunday, November 20th from 10 AM-12 PM in Pierce Hall at New England Conservatory, there will be a Brass Blast at the NEC's Prep division. It will feature and premiere the new Faculty Brass Quintet! This quintet consists of myself on trombone, Eli Epstein on horn, Joseph Foley and Richard Kelly on trumpets and Ken Amis on tuba.

BRING YOUR INSTRUMENTS FOR A SIDE-BY-SIDE READING WITH THE QUINTET! It will be a fun and exciting time for all middle school and high school students! It's FREE and open to the public! Call 617-585-1130 to register.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


The older I get it is easier to see certain things and/or patterns. One of my interests for over 35 years has been to get to the core of an issue, the heart of the matter, the CAUSE.

One of the things I realize is the cause is simple once it can be seen (or heard). BUT! It is not always easy to come to the very core cause of something and see it because that is a matter of perception development. This comes from constant penetration into the subject matter over years of working into it. We can only see what we can see at any given time.

Genetics can be the cause of certain physical conditions like baldness, serious diseases or longevity for example. But HOW we live our lives I think can either activate the not so useful genetic tendencies or activate the healthier ones. Think about how science comes to a theory then alters it when new discoveries are made that alters what was once considered 'fact.'

For many years Carol and I have been concerned with the integration of the technical and the musical. We have also been concerned as I said earlier of the cause of things. Over many years of experimenting and getting constant and consistent confirmation, what someone is connected to when they think, act or play an instrument, is a huge governing force in the potency and effectiveness of their results in the world of action. You may be wondering what does this has to do with music or playing an instrument. I would say almost everything! (Actually I would say everything).

That does not mean ignore the body and just think it and 'watch' it happen. It has to do with working with the body, i.e. embouchure, tongue, breathing, with a supportive attitude and thought that empowers the physical work.

Thought is energy. Your thoughts govern your body. Some might say that the body can affect the thoughts, of course it can. But lets take a look at some practical things in our music to help bring in the practical application of what has already been brought up.

I was conducting a class the other day, and the trumpets and the horns had something in unison. I said for the trumpets to blend more with the horns and the horns to blend more with the trumpets. And like magic, the blend was totally unified in timbre as well as pitch. I did not not pick it apart bit by bit tuning each note. It all happened with that concept.

Another example happened when the horn and trombone had the melody in Saint Saens 3rd symphony.The players were not really lining up very well. I suggested to think about the piano marking in another way rather than a volume control knob. I suggested to think of it as distant. Something in the distance. Well, like magic it happened. All the pitch, timbre and musical spirit aspects came together beautifully. All in the class could hear it and agreed it was HAPPENING.

You have most likely heard the saying 'a picture is worth ten thousand words.' How many words are in one thought, idea or concept? A connective thought is a unifying agent which acts like a magnet to all the individual details and draws them together under one purpose.

My concern as a teacher is that students and professionals who have worked with me, (and Carol), and who have experienced this kind of approach with it's effectiveness and powerful results, don't often put it to use. Why? Because the majority of the people they work with don't. It is easier to see the physical metronome and tuner than a thought which is energy and abstract in comparison.

There is the complex and the simple. My way (and Carol's) can come across as too simple and magical without paying attention to 'details.' BUT! It can also come across as very detailed in it's explanation of why it works and how it works. The way of connection is simple but getting there has it's own technique that is extremely specific and far away from being abstract or airy fairy.There is no lack of being aware of the 'details' on our parts. But the question is: what is powering the details? What details? What are they pieces of? To dismember something into details and examine them is one thing, but to not see that they are a part of a bigger picture that needs a connected thought to pull it all together, derails the spirit of the music. At this point it can turn into 'critics corner' connoisseur, picky type mentality. If someone is prone to this way and style and are getting results that they are satisfied with, then keep on it. The problem I have is this is getting to be a trend in orchestral settings, especially the audition circuit. The orchestra world could be loosing fine gifted artists to this system. Who knows, maybe something else will come with those players who can't fit into this system and to those who can but feel straight jacketed and a 'new professional' and a new orchestra will be born.

Saturday, October 22, 2011



This October has been a very busy month! On top of all my teaching, coachings and classes, I have done extra master classes at Longy with the MAM (Modern American Music) program students and the Pedagogy class which is made up of all kinds of instrumentalists.

In the beginning of the month on October 7th, I also gave a master class for high school students at Rhode Island College in Providence, Rhode Island. I was also soloist with their wind ensemble in one of my compositions called "Timeline Contemplations".

A couple of days later on October 9th, I gave a master class at the Boston Conservatory on their first Trombone Day which featured master classes, recitals and performances by John Faeita, Larry Isaacson, Angel Subero, Blair Bollinger, Triton Brass with trombonist Wes Hopper, Michael Davis and Jeff Galindo. A very long and packed exciting day for sure for the many that attended.

I just got back from Toronto after doing a couple of master classes at the Glen Gould School which is part of the Royal Conservatory of Music. It was great to be there and the students were very open to me and kept up with me as my pace intensified throughout the day on a variety of trombone, brass playing and music topics. I was also thrilled to meet for the first time Gordon Sweeney who was Principal trombone of the Toronto Symphony for many years. I had heard so much about him for such a long time that it was a joy to be with him even briefly.

My feelings and I know my wife Carol Viera feels the same way, if a couple of people or only one person is deeply touched by what we say, it is worth it. I was very happy when several people from all of the different master classes and performances came up to me and were touched and wanted to keep in contact. I love when people can take something up and really work with it and see where it leads. This is very encouraging to me.

One girl who is a student at Rhode Island College came up to me and said that the piece I played and talked about when I was there (Timeline Contemplations for trombone and band), helped her understand time better in regards to life and are limited time in this sphere. That was such a joy for me to hear! Other people told me similar things there and at the other classes that were given in the other places. Meaning, that what was said had an impact on them that helped to answer or give direction to challenge they are having. For some it caused a rebalancing that needed in their playing and approach.

It is important as a teacher or clinician to remember that not everybody will 'buy' your product. Therefore 'to thyself be true' and adhere to what you believe in and someone will be on some overtone of resonance with where you are at and will benefit in some way to what you are saying and communicating.

*On a brass technique point: it was amazing how this one young lady bass trombonist's tone focused on her low C when she went from thinking 'Aah' as her syllable to "U!" The "U" sound is made like it is in the word tube. I love syllable work! What a vital ingrediant to the air-embouchure relationship. Not one syllable fits all ranges or all people.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


In order for one to remember to keep working on a vital needed part to one's playing, it is necessary that they be applied in all circumstances, especially if those things are air support and embouchure structural support. When students just 'casually pick up the horn and start mindlessly playing, they are going back to their default system. This system might not be the one they need to keep reinforcing! Integration of new ideas, comments or techniques are not part of the automatic systems yet and need to be taken up every time the person plays or practices or rehearses. I know it is difficult, but it can be done.

Even when I say to students to write down on a piece of paper what you want to remember and look at what you want to consciously activate and add into your 'useful' habit life, it still can take a long time if the person is not constantly at it themselves on their own without me breathing down their neck.

That is why it is important to practice 'correctly' in small bits so it doesn't get overwhelming and the new habit can be formed without pressure in natural way. Again, oftentimes it is the power of the person's will and desire that comes into play or not. That will and desire holds the person to the task and see that it is done as good and as regularly as possible. Without this, nothing will really form the next steps to continuing growth. That makes it pretty tough on the teacher and ultimately the student will end up suffering the most.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


It is so refreshing when a student comes in having been in their own process of discovery. I can always tell when people are actually taking a serious look into their playing. Some people express it with telling me what they came across with the exercises I have them do. This is a vital part of the relationship between teacher and student. The student eventually needs to come to the realization that they need to know themselves.

A person going through some changes in their playing is put into a situation to have to think about what they are doing. There is nothing wrong with this! A teacher really can only do as much as the student allows them to do with what they offer the teacher as a next step. If a student really wants to accomplish higher levels of playing, it is NATURAL to come across obstacles in the path. Not everything is easy! That is why it is a development process which takes a person through a variety of so called ups and downs, curves and unexpected twists. If the persistence is real in a person, answers will come. And those answers might be temporary, just help at that particular point in time. Then, something else might be needed further down the road.

It is so absolutely clear to me that everybody is unique. Some seem to not have 'obstacles.' To that I say, "Not yet anyway!"

It all depends on what is the motivating the person and how much they are willing to endure and pursue.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Teacher's Log, School Date 10-7-11

Sometimes it is important at any level of accomplishment to use the wisdom of one of the great songs from the musical "The Sound of Music," "Let's start at the very beginning...."

Friday, September 30, 2011


It is so very interesting and telling how different states of attention affect ensemble and rhythm. It is so amazing to me how one flick of the mind turned in another direction of attention can alter EVERYTHING. I had a group shift their attention to focus on just one of the players in the group. EVERYTHING at least on a technical level was BETTER. Before this switch happened there was unsynchronized starts, pitch was not lined up, blend was jagged. This ALL changed in a big way. The one adjustment in focus altered the whole thing. I LOVE it!

I have done these kind of things hundreds of times but it never seizes to amaze me that it works so incredibly well. This change of attention to one player, ( you have to find the 'right' player for people to focus on or the reverse can happen) is an excellent way to 'create' better ensemble especially if there are issues with concentration or scattered thinking due to attempting to process too much. This makes the mind singular yet has multiple affects. Just like a magnet drawing all the individual iron shavings to itself. Wow! I hope the students remember and put to use some of these techniques and methods and find where else they might apply.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


It is so interesting when asking a small chamber group to think of certain things and to see what generally happens to the music and of course them.

When asking a group to blend, the dynamic gets softer.

When asking a group to listen to pitch, the music gets very dry and tentative.

When asking a group to play with a resonant sound, the dynamic gets louder.

When asking a group to play with better time, articulation gets cleaner and so does the group beginnings of each note.

When asking a group to focus on pitch and blend, the tempo gets slower.

These are some things I've noticed for a long time and it says something about what happens to the person when they focus on individual aspects or 2 at a time. It is really says something about group and individual tendencies. When asked then to just focus on the spirit of the music, the technique in groups that do not have a clearly defined musical agreement on what the piece is about, starts to fall apart. I'm going to experiment with these things more.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Starting the day with a warm-up is a means of connecting you to your instrument mentally, emotionally and physically. It is just not a physical thing. Rehearsals and coachings also need a warm-up or tuning time, (which is just not about pitch!) so people can acclimate to the environment that is generated by everyone in that rehearsal. That atmosphere can be so dispersed because by majority people come in unfocused to the task. They are offset to what the task calls for. Warming-up the individual and the group is vital to be able to work together in shared purpose.

On another note, it takes so much more effort of the 'right' kind to accomplish something at a higher standard than what most students are aware of. I feel my job as a coach and teacher is to help bring awareness to that point. Air-support is one great example. AIR-SUPPORT MEANS ACTIVELY ENGAGING SOMETHING WHICH IS INVOLUNTARY INTO A VOLUNTARY DELIBERATE ACTION. (Breathing is involuntary and brass playing is voluntary). That takes EFFORT. Effort of the right kind. This can only come through practice, meaning constant, regular, thoughtful, attentive work. Even when we have some accomplishment and our efforts are closer to the 'right' kind, (meaning our automatic systems are filled mostly with habits that are efficient, and balanced in their mechanics), we still can't totally go to sleep at the wheel. This is another great thing about warming-up, it keeps us 'tuned' so to speak to what we are doing. If warming -up is regular, we can tell when things need adjustment.

It seems at times because of all there is to learn, retain and juggle, students can loose track of what they are aiming for. When I am coaching my groups, I always try to assess afterwards if I was too demanding. My focus is on what it takes to get the musical results, which does in my mind, automatically include the basics of ensemble playing. But each person has to be at full and that is where oftentimes the efforts fall short. If the standards in the practice room were higher, then maybe the attitude of finer standards would appear in the ensemble playing as well. Because focus and holding to the standard would have been 'practiced.' The greater efforts would be a regular feature.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


The great juggling act of pitch, rhythm, articulation, breathing, tone, blending, listening, concentration and last but not least...the SPIRIT of the music! My wife Carol has a fantastic saying that "Music is just the wrapping paper for the essence inside it," that magic something that is the life of the music, it's spirit. Sometimes people spend so much time on the basic mechanics of playing they loose track of the spirit of the music or actually don't give it much thought. It can become an empty, pretty, shinny container.

In a coaching today, I listened to the terms the players were using to describe how things were going coming along in what they were playing. All about the ensemble aspect. In fact, that is all they were talking about. When they played, it sounded more spirited then how they were talking about it. However I brought up some points about terminology. Talking about chord changes, leading, being an 'ensemble' player as opposed to 'leading' a section was some of how they were speaking. Perfectly fine but I find that language limiting for me and it does not accurately translate what is going on to me. But they all understood what they were saying. I put some thoughts in for them to think about.

Is there any part in a piece of music which is really not important? My answer is NO. All parts are equally important in their role. For example, if there is a quartet, each person is 25%, and they need to play their role, part, at a full 100% no matter what that role or part is.
Each voice is a vital living sonic membrane of the group organism. Sometimes you might play the role of the brain, or kidney and bones. All vital to the well being and functioning of the musical body. The music and the technique come together as one living breathing life. But if there is only technical and mechanical considerations and language, will that summon the spirit of the music to inhabit that body of technique? The answer again is NO. The sentiment of the players and their committed search for the meaning of the piece will summon the essence. Otherwise, there will only be nice wrapping paper.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


A teacher's job has complexities. A private studio teacher can have several faces to the student. I am interested in the person finding their way in the field. I am also interested in the person as a human. But I am not a trained psychologist like my wife, Dr. Carol Viera, who is able to deal with both the musical and human aspects at many different levels. However, I do try to deal with certain basic things, if I see it is within my ability and not go beyond that. It can be a fine line! But, if there is real care and sensitivity involved, the right course of action has a better chance of appearing.

I think it is important that the trust is key in the relationship. It is also a nice added touch if student and teacher happen to like each other as people. That does not mean students and teachers have to be friends as such but can have a warm interaction with respect towards one another.

Depending how big the age gap gets, it can feel more like parent-offspring relations in a way. When I started teaching at the college level, the BIGGEST gap between a student and myself was 2 years or so. That is basically the same age and it was easy to become actual friends and hang out together. Now with incoming freshman it is 38 years. BIG DIFFERENCE! That does not make all the relationships the same because you are dealing with unique people and chemistry. When the music really gets happening or there is a strong connection and flow between student and teacher in the territory being made, any age gap disappears into the shared experience. All become ageless.

Monday, September 19, 2011


What is the difference between a coach and a private lesson teacher? Is there one? Should there be one? Can a good coach not be as good at teaching in a private lesson setting? Can a good private teacher not be as good when coaching a group? I do think there is a difference in the two. They are different functions and require their own set of skills.

Some private lesson teachers have not been in a 'serious' (meaning long term playing, working, performing and/or recording together) chamber music situation to know the ins and outs of the circumstance. Some private lesson teachers might not warm to working with groups for whatever reasons. Coaching is dealing with a group entity. Private lesson teaching is dealing with a person with issues no matter how small or big they are. There are similarities of course in these functions but they are certainly not the same.

The group or individual student needs to trust the teacher or coach. The group or the individual student needs to practice on their own and take up what the teacher or coach suggests. A private lesson is a more intimate close range circumstance. However coaching can get pretty close and touchy because of the factor of 'public' exposure or one member being singled out in front of the others. This needs lots of care on the coach's part.

One of the jobs of a coach is to act as a unifying agent or magnet when the group is separating from its intactness. This of course should only be temporary. Unlike an orchestra when all the rehearsals are with a conductor, the chamber group rehearses on their own. This is a real significant difference. The chamber group needs to develop a certain kind of relationship and understanding with each other to be able to communicate and stay on task. The coach needs to be able to spot where the weaknesses are in the group dynamics and make suggestions, offer exercises and/or give techniques for them to work on.

In either scenario, it is a duet between the teacher and student or the coach and the group. Both of these relationships call for agreements, understandings and open communication that is held together by worked out standards and criteria.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Taking time with a student who is not at the level of the majority of the others in an ensemble is important for a couple of reasons. First, to help the player gain confidence and get positive feedback from the others. Secondly, to build tolerance and patience in the rest of the players.

Depending on the situation, the player who is having trouble keeping up because of not being as advanced as the other players could get more out of being with others closer to their own level. Especially if it is creating a lot of stress on them and the rest of the group is getting very frustrated. This can happen more easily in a larger group such as a band or a large like instrument ensemble where there are lots of people playing the same part.

If the students are keen and the teacher or conductor has skill working with people, there is an opportunity to observe and learn what can be done in those situations where someone is struggling. Now, what if the reason for the person struggling is unpreparedness? How the coach, conductor or teacher deals with that is also a good educational experience for the other students. If a person really is not taking the time to do their work, how much allowance should the teacher have? What is the breaking point? I am starting to rethink this in my own teaching. I can have a huge allowance but is that always useful? I think not. But, when should a person (student) realize that their development is up to them? I would say in general terms, the earlier the better!

At the college level the allowance does shrink even for me. But I always am examining how I can broaden my perceptions. That is why it is very important for me to understand what the person's reasons are for wanting a career in music. Plus, what do they want and how much are they willing to work for what they say they want. I realized when teaching at a few state universities the goals were different (from conservatory students) in terms of how much a student really wants to improve on their instrument. Now that is generally speaking of course. Some end up being terrific performers on their instruments. Many of the students I have taught at the state university level were interested in teaching/conducting high school, middle school or elementary school bands. I would encourage these students to practice a bit more and push themselves so they even have a better understanding of what it takes to advance. This will also help them deal with playing situations and challenges they will come across with their students because of how they learned to deal with their own issues. The more a person keeps going regardless of the ups and down they will encounter, the more they can see and understand others because of what it took for them to get to the next stage in the process of their growth.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I really believe that if a student takes up a couple of things from a class of mine or a lesson and actually remembers to work on them, those things will yield results. Practice is a form of either conscious, semiconscious or unconscious repetitive acts which cause a habit to be formed in our automatic systems. Practice in this case really means repetition of an action or thought. These repeated acts can form and govern our behavior. In seeing this, one eventually can see the importance of conscious, deliberate planning in practice sessions. (And of course in the rest of life).

Much of what I say in lessons, coachings or classes, is trying to assist the person in becoming more aware of what they do at the point. Not just in playing mechanics but in attitudes and judgements. This is as important as any technical portion of a practice session because of how it can influence the whole session. I gave an example today of the potency of a person's focus on the first week of a new job. Then I brought up the thought that if everyone focused like that before coming to class and during class, how the difference in quality, attentiveness and progress would jump exponentially. If that was the only nugget they put into practice from what I say all year, it would be huge. Especially if it were used in their own practice rooms.

Some of these ideas will not be realized until the person is in a situation where they really see it's validity based on their own need. Until then, it will be put off for things that would appear to be more pressing or immediate. It truly is all part of the process. The interesting thing is when these things are tried and the results are stark ravingly obvious, you would think that would make a deep impression and the territory would be taken up. But... not generally. Timing is everything and someone has to be ready, willing and urgent to want to take certain things up. You can lead a horse to water but....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


To be able to listen is certainly one of the arts a teacher needs to have or develop. Not just in hearing someone play, but listening to them speak about themselves and their circumstances.

A question I ask myself is, "How much is too much information for someone to absorb?" Again, in general terms, it depends on the individual. Some people seem like they can absorb a lot or rather take a lot coming at them. That doesn't mean they can utilize, apply or even remember what was said. Others can take a little bit and really work with that bit and make it their own. Some students in the exuberance of wanting to do their best and really go for it, can swamp themselves with unrealistic expectations and end up drowning themselves in a sea of trying to do too much at one time. This is where having a plan and a couple of goals at one time can aide in keeping the student on task and productive. I've seen some students recently discover the meaning of the saying, "go slow to go fast." Or the saying, "a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step." A step at a time with a goal in mind. Hey, that just came to me, I like that. It has a flow that might be easy for people to remember. A step at a time with a goal in mind.

In listening to students play chamber music, it is obvious when things are not in sync. Not only in rhythm, pitch or starting and ending together, but in agreement of what the music is about. Often times people just need to play the music a lot with their group to even get a feel for the music and then have ideas come as each person gets to know the piece. There certainly is a period I call the "getting to know you, getting to know all about you" ( a Rogers and Hammerstein song from the play The King and I) that is like dating the piece. Not only the piece, but a new chamber group needs to get to know each other at least on the playing and conceptual level. This of course is just not a student issue!

The Art of the Student is in a sense similar to the Art of the Teacher. Their needs to be a balance between having Allowance to experiment and find things coupled with a Resistance to drifting and not sticking to something. The balance of these two gates will either open or close the possibility for Transference of greater perception, knowledge and ability.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


What to do when students don't come in with the prepared assignment? This is an excellent question I ask myself because some students really have reasons that make sense. BUT, should this be acceptable on a regular basis or at all?

Again I look at each individual situation. I can see in certain people that they are struggling at some level of playing and life. Playing really is just a microcosm of the person at various levels. Some might need to change aspects of the embouchure. Others, the air support systems and others attitude. What can I do as a teacher to help them? I can't give them a dose of determination really, but I can try to inspire and bring out the best in them that will act as a positive force and give them hope.

There are reasons for things. I know through the course of my life's studies and interests, that a person is very influenced by the environment they are in. Some students for example do play worse in front of the teacher others can play better. In the teacher's 'presence' either energizes the student who can handle more energy or it creates a barrier to some because of the higher standard the teacher comes with. This is important for teachers to understand. It is an energy related matter. Some students do start to play better as the lesson proceeds and they acclimate to the higher criteria. But will they be able to keep it up during the week on their own? That is always a big question, concern and interest of mine.

I look at each student and ask myself, "Where do they put their security?" On a physical level, some really put it on the embouchure, others on a strong air flow. Some, but it is rarer, but it on their musical connection. Others are quite balanced and have a tripod of the three, chops, air and a musical concept of some kind.

So the question is, how are these students practicing? What are they practicing? How do they practice what they practice and what is their threshold before they call it quits or say 'good enough!' Do they know when enough is enough? It is all part of the learning curve and process.

I try to have the student be responsible for their own development knowing that I will be there to help them. The roller coster ride to gaining more command can be a tough one and even tougher for some. I am convinced that the attitude and life outlook can play a huge part in keeping one sane.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Most of us have seen some version of the TV show Star Trek. I started watching it in 1965. Hmmmm... that was awhile ago, but nothing compared to the bigger sense of universal time! Anyway, I was thinking of starting a Teacher's Log with a School Date which of course is an idea coming from the Captain's Log and Star Date from the various Star Trek series.

In this, my aim is to boldly write about what my thoughts are in my teaching experiences without naming names or specific circumstances, but to reflect about what my experiences are, coming from my side, the teacher's side. They will be my thoughts and it is a way to shed light on the subject of teaching. It is a form of journal writing without bringing specific names or places into it. If by some chance someone 'sees' themselves in these writings, well, it might be interesting for them! On the other hand, it is important to note that it might not be 'them.' At the same time, they might see something about themselves in it. I will try to write in general terms even though the writings will certainly be inspired from real everyday situations that arise in my teaching life.

As I told a group of students the other day on the first day of school, I see each one of them as 'an ocean of possibilities.' Those are my true feelings. So from that standpoint and knowing that each student has their own unique journey, I will boldly attempt to write my thoughts down as often as I can about the actual day to day happenings in the Bolter studio.

Monday, September 5, 2011

FBSMC 3, Video 11, Life Companion-Personal Art

This is the last video closing off the 2011 season of the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection 3. I hope for those of you who are interested in the vast territory of Personal Art, that these videos and contemplations will help spark more of the flame of life art that is already in you, known or yet to be discovered.

In this video 11 called "Life Companion-Personal Art", I demonstrate how I apply my Personal Art into different styles of music having made them all personal to me. From that personal place, I feel there is a more potent communication that can touch on the personal life of another.

Quest on, enjoy and discover!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

FBSMC 3, Contemplation 6

Time: realm of the transient

As musicians, we know that music has tempo and rhythm. From that, we can see that life itself has tempo and rhythm. Think of some popular expressions like; 'This day is really dragging' or 'The day slipped right by me' or 'The years go by so fast' or 'This homework assignment is taking forever!' These expressions point out to the quality or type of mental, emotional or physical condition we might find ourselves in in certain circumstances that give rise to how fast or slow time appears to move.

I bring this up because making time for our Personal Art, can bring about a deepening of our musical endeavor which will add quality time to our life. Take the time now before it is taken from you.

Now that the summer is almost over and school, new symphony season or the whole fall- winter schedule starts up, I find it is good to have reflection. Reflection is a great thing if it is taken seriously. If you are a student going back to school (or whatever you might be doing if not a student) ask yourself:

What did I accomplish this summer?
Did I have some kind of plan to begin with?
How was my time spent?
Was there any improvement?
What was the balance of work and play? (there's a good question!)
What was the quality of my practice sessions?

I'm sure there are many questions one could ask of oneself. I try to do it everyday. Asking myself these types of questions, keeps me in touch with myself and I try to be totally honest. The more honest and objective you can be the better. If you hit a 'sore' spot in yourself with some of these questions, feel the ache, and make a plan to find a better way to make the most of your time. It is a process and it is very easy to get out of balance.

I used to practice an absurd amount of time. Some of it was a release and/or an expression of emotion.Was that practicing? Looking back, it was a great need to express and to never want to leave the music. In this way I spent a lot of time with the horn and music. I would practice, meaning working on weaknesses by repetition of exercises, studies, solos, excerpts and drills that I would make up or design to improve specific areas of my playing. I tried to touch on as many aspects of playing as I could.

Now when I practice, efficiency is a very important part. I know what to target and I don't try to cover all areas of playing everyday. It depends on what I want to maintain and what is in my schedule that I have to play for. I really play everyday. I took maybe 30 hours off a few times this summer. Usually I would play well within a 24 hour period of time. I could have laid off but I really like to play everyday. Some days I spend with the horn in a more devotional way. But always the basics are addressed daily. I like having a good 'reed'! When the 'reed' is good, there is a freedom from focusing too much on the physical so the soul-spirit can soar. Good thorough preparation makes for a better lift off, flight and landing!

Friday, August 26, 2011

FBSMC 3, Video 10, Instruction 6, Personal Art, more personal

I speak very openly in this video about my first approaches in Personal Art. The first aspect of Personal Art if you recall from the other videos, was to 'play' in various territories like tone and articulation and discover their properties. Here I talk about how I used the instrument to express any emotion that was going through me. I also talk about my mother's influence on me as a person and as a teacher. She encouraged freedom of expression and to not be afraid to have big dreams of what you want in your life.

Most people that I know who wanted to be in music, felt something very personal in the music. 'It' spoke to them. Then with wanting to get a job, comes the intense work of refining our basics in a certain kind of way. Even if one just wants to get better on the instrument, it takes a lot of technical practice. Wanting control, stability and consistency, if not balanced with a musical element, can be very stifling for many people. That is why it is important to allow yourself to 'play' in the territory and to find the spectrum and freedom in the mechanical aspects. This finding the freedom will not happen right away. Each person needs to find their own way. If the passion and desire are great enough, and the person manifests this passion and desire into action, much will happen organically over time.

The development of the Personal Art is a choice. Just think for a moment if some of the great painters just thought about technique only. They would not have been able to capture the essence of the subject matter and make their painting seem so 'alive'. I'm sure many students of painting and drawing get very captivated by the world's great artists and wonder how they did it and what techniques they used. That is natural to want to know how and if it is motivated by the love of art, not just for the love of art itself but what it can express, anchor and transmit, then the desire for the technique has a real purpose.

Here to highlight a few of the important points of developing our Personal Art, I made a small list of things to keep in mind:

1. Allow yourself the freedom to let go of judgment and heavy standards so you can have the room to find your Personal Art. A little bit at a time.

2. 'Play' with your sound, articulation and phrasing like a child plays with something they love and can't put down.

3. Pick up your instrument and play the way you feel, mentally emotionally or physically. It could even be one note or a phrase.

4.Here are two different ways of approach at making your playing more personal:
a) Start with trying to access your own emotions and/or experiences and put them into your music.
b) Try to capture the nature of something outside yourself like a plant, animal, person or situation and play whatever comes to you about it.

5. Find important personal things in your life and play a piece that you think expresses your feelings or thoughts about it.

Personal Art in it's higher form is the person being instrumental for something else to play them.
This is being in service to a higher need. As my wife and partner in the Frequency Band Carol Viera says, "The most important instrument is the human instrument." You can use these thoughts if you wish, as a contemplation.

Enjoy, discover and quest on!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

FBSMC3, Contemplation 5

For those interested in teaching...

Teachers are guides to help, assist, inform, inspire, reflect, wake you up and remind you when you loose sight of what you say you want. They are not there to put their thing on you and eradicate your own unique voice and pathway.

At a higher level:
The higher duty of a teacher is to awaken or enliven the essence of the person and assist in encouraging and inspiring the subject matter in them and their unique expression of it. The ART OF CONNECTION

Sunday, August 14, 2011

FBSMC3, Video 8, Instruction 5, Part 1 and Video 9, Instruction 5, Part 2

These videos are meant to be viewed one after another in one setting. They dive deeper into integrating Personal Art with daily practice. Plus, there are some insightful words about teaching and when would be a good time to bring up the topic of Personal Art to a student.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

FBSMC3, Video 7: Instruction 4, More On Personal Art, Part 2

As we take our beginning steps into the Personal Art, more awareness of ourselves is an excellent byproduct. For those interested ones, lets keep the ball rolling down a wonderful hill of allowance, patience and discovery! This video will offer some guidance when the resistance comes from within ourselves.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

FBSMC 3, Personal Art


This thought 'start with what you can do but start' is a slight variation on the phrase 'start with what you can do', something people have heard me say many times. Starting can be difficult for several reasons. Sometimes we don't know where or how to start or we don't start because we want to do it 'right' and not get off on the 'wrong' foot.
In the unfolding of the Personal Art, letting things happen in their own time without judgement or hard critique is essential.

You need lots of ALLOWANCE to balance the RESISTANCE you might come up against. By having allowance and letting the discovery process happen, there will be a TRANSFERENCE to you from the process which will ALLOW for a new type of TRAINING to occur and RESPOND to. This will open up a vast RESOURCE of knowledge and ACTIVATE a new but latent TECHNOLOGY within yourself.

Near the end of Instruction 3, I was getting into the process of 'playing' something I saw on a walk. This might be a good place to start for some people. To find something on the outside of oneself to take a 'sonic picture' of before getting inside oneself. The caution would be not to avoid getting into yourself and accessing your own experiences, thoughts and feelings. Going inside oneself and having the music come from there, will help in taking a 'personalized sonic picture' of something on the outside of ourselves. The reason is that we will be in touch with our own 'registrations' of our internal processes more and having them come out of our instrument. This is, eventually, a very important component element in opening up Personal Art.

It should be getting clear that this is a huge and incredible area to be getting into! Something that can always be with you that will have lasting benefits outside of music. As my dear wife and working partner Carol says, "The most important instrument is the human instrument."

Much more to come..

Saturday, July 30, 2011

FBSMC 3, Instruction 4, Part 1

More On Personal Art

This video starts to deepen and gives insights into the huge possibilities and benefits of discovering one's Personal Art.

In the course of these videos on Personal Art, we will look into different angles of approach. The most important thing in this for those who are interested, is to just try. To spend a little time each day in our free expression time and just play. See if you can play without music. If this is too difficult, then find a piece that matches how you are feeling at the moment. If one is not available, play a piece you have on hand but play it from how you are feeling. Try to let go of expectations. In part 2 of Instruction 4, more will be said to help you on your way into this amazing territory. I hope that you are also spending some time with each of the contemplations as they appear. They are also there to help and encourage you in the unfoldment of your own special art.

Friday, July 29, 2011

FBSMC 3, Contemplation 4



Close in..


Urge to find

What stops?

What urges?

Give it time... personal time.. your time..

You to you... and watch it unfold.. it will if you keep at it

'It' wants you to..

You want 'It' too..

To stand in your own treasure and not know 'It'.. why?

Give a little time for 'It'..

'It will make itself known to you..

You making yourself known to you..

Sounds like a good start doesn't it?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

FBSMC 3, Instruction 3, PERSONAL ART

This is the first approach into the fascinating, wonderful and curious realm of Personal Art.

It is so easy to get lost in all of the things we think we should be doing that we can loose ourselves sometimes in the process. This can be very useful in certain processes and not beneficial in others. See what Video 5, Instruction 3 can do to enliven this vital territory in your music QUEST!

Friday, July 15, 2011

FBSMC 3, Contemplation 3

The law of accumulation is different to that of growth and refinement.

One can accumulate all sorts of things. Just go into peoples attics, basements or garages! You will see much that has accumulated over the years. Much of those items have a history with them that might have significance in one's past. But accumulation of experiences do not equal growth unless there is thought and direction that can sort out what needs to be dropped off and what needs to continue  and what needs to go through a refinement process and journey. This is governed by the motivating force of one's musical or life goals at any given time throughout a person's life.

So, there is a natural discarding or letting go that takes place on the journey-quest isn't there?

Like, maybe we don't have to write the slide positions over all the notes anymore.
Maybe we don't have to take a certain breath in a piece we've been working on anymore because our breathing has changed and we have more embouchure efficiency. But, maybe we still find mouthpiece playing useful so we continue it and find more effective methods in it's practice and further applications.

Think of the things we will always need as brass players.
-Air (lungs and diaphragm, etc.)
-Embouchure (teeth, lips, facial muscles etc.)
-a body…
-a mind...

Those aspects will certainly change throughout our playing career so don't be alarmed when they do! Good MAINTENANCE PRACTICE will keep you in touch with your needs.

Change can really alarm people when it seems to threaten their playing for example. Maybe we are not supposed to play the same our whole lives. Maybe our view of what is good playing needs to find a new outlet and viewpoint so we can continue to the next levels. Maybe those levels are UNKNOWN and they are not based on the criteria of what we thought good playing was or is.

Think on this: Our bodies do not maintain a youthful form forever. (I know that!) Either do our sounds, ranges and technical facilities stay youthful forever. Can we find the expression through what we can do at any given level? This is really a contemplation for players who are feeling the effects of 'age'. You do not need to be 65 to feel this change. It can happen at anytime. This is the value of 'playing' with the territory and being in touch with our physical, emotional and mental selves, (a three overlay system) so we can move with the changes and make course directions, pit stops and tune-ups along the way. It is vital to EMBRACE these changes and not AVOID them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection 3, another take in case it helps!

Here is another take on Instruction 2 in case it helps. Plus there are some extra points to consider and 'play' with!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Frequency Bone
Summer Music Connection 3

Instruction 2

This video will expand the territory of discovery further with more demonstrations and insights to encourage your own process.

Letting go. What does this mean and when is it or can it be important? In this video, I am wanting people who are interested in discovering more about their playing, and themselves in it, to drop some of the bias we can build up over time. If I give a student who is studying with me a task to work on, it is important that they do it and see what that process does to them. Part of discovery is letting ourselves get out of the way, usually letting go of certain concepts like: never use alternate positions in the orchestra, or never think 'er' for a syllable in our tone, or our tongue should never change positions for different registers. The list goes on and is not the same for everyone. Let yourself feel what you need and that discovery can take time. But! If you let yourself 'play' by taking away worry, by not thinking of right or wrong based on some previous conditioning, things will start to unfold. But! Don't put a time expectancy on it.

Remember, everything has a spectrum of expression. Make sure you give yourself room by balancing between what you will allow and what you will not. This is part of the process. Breath the freshness of new possibility into yourself!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Frequency Bone
Summer Music Connection 3

Contemplation 2

Let it
Direct it
Drop it
Stop it
Keep it
Do it

Which one or ones applies to you at this moment?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Frequency Bone
Summer Music Connection 3


Knowing ourselves is a process that does not happen overnight. The same is true about our playing. In the hustle and bustle of practicing to get better, to win auditions, to keep up our skill for the job, how much time do we allow ourselves to 'play'? Oh, we probably play the horn a lot! But, what about letting ourselves explore the territory of our instrument. The sandbox of tone color, syllables, articulations. To let ourselves play with our sounds like a kid plays with silly putty. Yes it can bend, make shapes, be thin or fat. If we would only let ourselves discover it. Not just tone of course, but every aspect of our art. How could this not help us in discovering ourselves and our own wonderful uniqueness? This video takes a look at discovery and 'playing' with our sounds.

After watching this video, I hope you also take some time to do the Contemplation 1 that is on the post before this one. Build an attitude that loves discovery! It will open up so much new territory for you!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Frequency Bone
Summer Music Connection 3:
Contemplation 1

Discovery… uncover… find, look, play with

don't wait for someone else to do it for you
most lessons with people can be that way
they wait to hear the next bit, BUT!

are they/we awake during the practice?

feeling, noticing, sensing trying and waiting…
BUT! not impatient or in boredom



Children play.. they are serious about their play
Really IN IT they are.. lost to the world
this is the state of concentration, one pointedness

Or a mother lion protecting her young..
there are many examples..find some examples and ask yourself:

How does my focus compare in it's intensity to the examples I've found?


Friday, June 24, 2011

Welcome to Frequency Bone
Summer Music Connection 3!

It is Summer time again and I welcome you to Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection 3!

I hope you had a very productive year in your music making and life as whole. This video is an introduction to what I would like to work with you all on this summer. Enjoy the video. Come with an open mind and heart. Let's go on a quest!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's been awhile...

A lot has gone on in the past couple of months on lots of levels. On the musical side here are a few events that I was involved in.

In March I went to to New York and did a master class at Juilliard. Joe Alessi was an excellent host and we have a good time when we get together. My goal was to challenge the students in a thinking way about basic concepts like, what is a good sound and how our likes and dislikes can be like a cholesterol to our perceptions if they dismiss something too soon. I hope it was useful to the ones who were open to hearing it.

In April I went to Morehead State University and did a mini residency for a couple of days plus was featured on their Trombone Day. I did a couple of master classes, played a lecture recital of some of my compositions and conducted the college choir and a mass choir of high school students, teachers and other guests. The students were a real pleasure to work with.

Dr. William Mann, the trombone professor at MSU was a great host and we had a fun time together. Unfortunately he took me to a bakery that made incredible cookies and pies. It was a challenge not to stuff myself with those goodies. But being allergic to gluten surely keeps me on my toes and helps to control my urge for delicious bakery!

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing several student recitals including Jonathan Randazzo's. He played wonderfully. We have played duets together in lessons so I decided to write a duo for us to premiere at his recital. The duet consists of four movements and is titled "Dances and Chants". In one of the movements, we used our favorite mutes. Jonathan's favorite is the bucket mute and mine is the Harmon mute. It was a joy to play with him! He will be starting as the new second trombone of the North Carolina Symphony in September.

I also was asked to speak at the Longy School's commencement. That was really interesting since I have never spoken at a graduation before. Looking at all those students embarking on the next stage of their lives. What could I say to them that was not just more advice? My main message was to keep the bright sparks of your life that you have accumulated to this point in time very close to you and keep them lit! For when the dark times come, you will will have a light that no darkness can put out.

I wish all of you a happy, healthy and productive summer. My online summer music camp the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection, will be starting in the next few weeks. Stay tuned! Lets go where few have gone before, into the deep waters where the music is always fresh and the essence of our lives shine brightly! Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Much In Little

By this time those of you who are interested in the last contemplation have considered what you like to practice and why. Now, to complete this contemplation, ask yourself this;

What do you avoid practicing?

This usually becomes apparent pretty quickly in most cases. Let's face it, it can be more fun and immediately more satisfying to practice things we are good at. But, is it serving to improve our ability on the instrument and musical expression? Is it helping us to develop discipline?

We are all prone to doing certain things better than other things. But depending on our goals and aspirations, avoiding aspects that need work will limit us as players, musicians and people too. It is not always easy to confront the difficulties but the rewards on many levels can be huge. It certainly will make us better teachers as well having gone through processes that are not naturally easy for us. Because we will have had to find our way through trial and error to make it happen. This brings appreciation and understanding about the nature of hard work and development.

Even if we never develop our difficult areas as fully as other aspects of our playing, working on them broadens our awareness of the craft and strengthens other areas that are related or that seem to not be related to what we are working on. It has been my experience that working on one area has a multi- level result throughout our systems.

We can't have growth and progress without hard work and the love and desire to keep at it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Much In Little


What are your favorite things to practice? Why?

This is a very telling question to ask yourself. In this seemingly small question, much can be discovered about why you do what you do. Spend some time with it. Ask it to yourself nonstop for at least a week or two. See what answers you get.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Much In Little

Many of you who spend time with music either listening, playing or practicing, start to build a value for the small things. The so called 'small' things are most often the building blocks for the so called 'bigger' things. For example, how could our 'big' bodies exist without the 'small' atoms? The power is in the small or often times 'unseen' worlds.

So I was thinking of putting out a series of posts called "Much In Little". This will be the first of such posts. They will consist of a tip, clue, exercise or contemplation all of which are 'small' but with practice will yield 'big' results if they are taken up and of course furthered.

This exercise is for brass players. On trombone if you want to trill, it most often needs to be a lip trill. A great builder of the corners of our embouchures can be cultivated in practicing lip trills a certain way. Many trill exercises have the player start with a natural slur and rhythmically speeding up until it gets fast enough to sound like a trill. I have found that the greater control comes from getting out of the trill, in other words gradually getting slower and slower from the fastest point of the trill. The mental image I have is of a fan being shut off. How smoothly the blade gets slower until it stops. A smooth gradual slow down. No sudden changes in the speed. This I have found to be an excellent corner builder. You might discover that certain ranges target the corners even more during the exercise.

A few minutes a day is all it takes. You might need to take some small breaks in between the different trills if your corners are really feeling it. Take a try if you are interested and leave a comment on the blog. I'd love to hear about your discoveries.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Birthday Reflection and Gratitude

When your birthday comes around what do you think about?

I generally have a day of reflection and thanks for my life. I try to spend it with my wife and other close family if they are around.

When I pick up my horn I say, here you are still playing a year later. What is different? What is the same?

The difference in ages 16 and 56 is huge, but what is the same? Physically big changes have happened. Emotionally and mentally as well. What are those changes? Are they beneficial to my life and to others? That is my big concern and contemplation.

As far as my trombone playing goes, there are things I cannot do like I could when I was 19 or 20 years old. Especially with volume power and overall endurance. Now it is different on that level. The 'power' expresses itself in another form. The reason for playing is the same but much more refined and 'highly' tuned.

Do you ever ask yourself, who or what you play for in your mind's eye? Is it your teachers, parents, mentor's or artists you look up to and respect? I realized who I have always played for. Regardless of the many cloaks it took over the years. I used to play for my grandma, mother, father or some teachers and performers I looked up too. I always played the best for my close relatives. They believed in me and loved me. Playing for my wife Carol is truly an experience of a profound kind. Her 'acoustic' resonates with whatever is coming out of me in a pure and truthful way. With great support for my life wanting it to be as good as it can be.

All these people represent the One behind all life. That is who I play for and have always played for whether I consciously knew it or not. I always wanted to express what was in me with a purpose. I never needed a big audience to feel satisfied. I never feel 'alone'. For I believe you are never alone.

For that living reality, for all the close people in my life from the beginning to now including , parents, grandparents, siblings, wife, son, uncles, aunts, life guides, teachers, band directors, friends, pets, and students too!, I have the deepest gratitude for you all for making my life richer, more honest and fulfilling.

Music is no different to life. The One sound in all sounds. The One life in the many!