Friday, December 30, 2016

End of the year message and towards the next...

Looking back and looking ahead. It's the end and the beginning all at one time. Just like when you are  playing one note the next note is in the making. Even in metronomic time this is so. This is called the stream of relative time

My dear students, (and all others who read this too!)

I hope you have been enjoying your break and the holidays, if any, that you celebrate. Maybe practicing is part of it? I hope so! There are so many different kinds of practicing one can do on a break time. What kinds you ask? Well let's see.. how about playing in your usual warm-up range but play according to how you feel. Perhaps you do this anyway, but you could start with having a lyrical aspect in your slurs for example. Or do your long tones with vibrato (slide, jaw, diaphragm, neck, tongue) at varying speeds. You could play long tones and think of different colors for each one. You could use something very natural like the rainbow colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Try a scale using those colors. Here:
1. First connect to the color
2. When you take in your breath, inhale that color
3. Then play the note with that same color
Obviously there are many, many colors one can try this with!
4. What do you feel from the different colors? (There is not a right or wrong in this).

Get into something without your usual time pressure. Oh, I know that you might be focusing on festival auditions or recitals too. That's fine of course. Putting other things in might help in many ways such as exercising another part of your mind-brain. (Helps to get you out of a rut plus gives the part of your mind -brain a rest from your usual!)

Perception is a wonderful thing. It can be grown. But one has to want it. Trying things that are different can give us new experiences which over time create a vast storehouse that we can always access and use. It sets up a range of comparisons we can connect to and see them at play in our life outside of music. Doesn't our life experiences outside of music affect our music making?

When a new year comes along it always presents an opportunity to start again. What if we took that same idea and applied to every new month? Or how about every week? Everyday? Every moment...
It is probably easier to take every week or month to start with. This idea can be cultivated into an attitude that when practiced regularly, can be with us. What a great ally a wonderful attitude is! It will be there as much as we practice it and truly discover its meaning for us.

I want you all to know, that I don't consider you MY students, in the sense I do not own you. If my experiences, knowledge and perceptions offer your music, trombone playing and life something, then I can feel honorable. It is an honor to work with you all. Remember that the word teacher has the word heart in it. When you start working with people one day or if you already do, remember that. You are not a trophy hunter/collector. You are trying, to the best of your ability to assist that person in the goals that they are striving for. If someone along the way who studies with you says they want to change careers, voluntarily, that should not disappoint you. You are helping them on part of their life journey not just a music career. What they gained through wanting music is huge! Think about it. From discipline, dedication, determination, self reflection and soooo much more. Make your own list of what pursuing music has done in your life. It could be very interesting as you look at this coming year.

You are all unique beings of the human kind. That is how I view you and more...

May 2017 be a year that moves you closer to your true Self and Artistic wishes and your place in the greater humanity which music has and will always have (along with the other arts), a vital place to help unify us all beyond our differences. Even if it is just for a moment. For in one moment so much can (and does) happen. For aren't we are ALL moments in the stream of relative time?

Love, Peace and Joy,

Mr. Bolter, Norman

Saturday, July 23, 2016

FBSMC8, Recovery Series, Video 4

Three weeks of playing have gone by! It is most definitely getting stronger and more stable. One of the things I bring up in this video is the confirmation of certain aspects of playing I have known for many years but know can appreciate and understand them at a deeper level. Time away from something and then coming back to it has always interested me. Think of times when you have been away from home. Maybe first going to overnight summer camp or off to college. Then remember how it felt to come home again. I know for me, it had many different feelings not one. There was happiness along with the sense and knowing that I had changed from the last time I'd had been home. Plus a whole bunch of other stuff!

I felt the same way coming back to the horn this time. But now there is a greater sense of ease and freedom. I don't feel I have to prove anything or be under strain to be at a certain kind of playing level. So it is still in the 'we'll see and take it as it comes' stages. Perhaps part of that 'stage' is healthy to always be in. Once again it brings up the question; why do we do what we do? It is certainly worth a good ponder everyday, for it might be simple and complex all at the same time! It will also keep us connected to the reasons why we do what we do. This is vital for it is easy if one is not aware of it, to drift from the core sentiments of why we play and are in music to something more egotistically based which is further away from OURSELVES AND THAT WHICH CREATED AND NEEDS ART.

Video 4

Thursday, July 7, 2016

FBSMC8, Recovery Series, Video 3

Welcome to week two of the FBSMC8 the Recovery Series. This third video was made nine days after the first two videos were made. It shows me in week two of playing and I talk about some of the discoveries of the first week. It really has been a fascinating journey let me tell you! My sternum is almost 90% healed. This makes a huge difference in how it feels to hold the horn. It is getting easier because for a while holding the horn straight out was putting a slight strain on my arms.

As the video will point out, I am letting things happen organically. There is now more stability in my sound because of the strengthening of my embouchure and support systems. Because of the gradual nature in which I am letting things develop, there has been no strain mentally, emotionally and physically. I have no expectations or timetables as to when I should be able to do this or that on the horn.

My usual equipment for most of this past year before the surgery was my Shires heavy weight rose brass bell, gold wide slide and a Greg Black 4G-5G mouthpiece. Now I'm playing my old Conn 88H with a Greg Black 5GS mouthpiece. It feels really good to play this smaller equipment!

I just want the art that is in me to lead the way. And to let my Soul summon the Art that needs to come out of me at this point in time. Art is a living thing and should be free to grow and develop according to its life.

Video 3

FBSMC8, Recovery Series, Video 1 and 2

Hi Everyone!

I can't believe that this is the 8th year of the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection! There are many of you who follow this blog and many others that just look at the videos when they are put up on YouTube. Thanks to all of you who email me and leave positive comments. It makes it so worthwhile that there are some that can hear the message that is attempting to be transmitted.

FBSMC 8 will be focusing for the most part on my recovery from having a quadruple heart bypass surgery in April. There was a video put up on YouTube in late May I believe called "From That Little Guy After Heart Surgery." You might want to take a look at that just for some insight into the circumstance of the surgery. Video 1a of the Recovery Series does speak to the circumstances of that first five weeks in South Carolina a bit as well.

I have been shown many times that life is not always a rehearsed script! This heart bypass experience certainly pointed that out. But I feel that there is a reason for everything that happens in life no matter how difficult it is or how hard it is to understand. By getting all the varied experiences in life (the good the bad the ugly the joyful the painful etc.), we have the opportunity to discover more about life and ourselves in it. We have the choice for those experiences to strengthen ourselves or weaken ourselves.

Videos 1a and 1b (which is video 2) are really the same video because I had an accident with my mic and had to make a cut and continue where I left off as best as I could on the second video 1b. Life is not a perfect recording! There are mistakes and those mis-takes are all part of the ongoing movement of life and the possibility for continued development as a person. In the first video you will hear my very first notes on the horn with almost three months off. In this series my hope is for the viewers to not fear recovery of any kind but to let it happen organically.

Video 1a

Video 2 (1b)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

"From That Little Guy in the Corner," video 8,
Making Music Where It Is

As we get in older in years, it is natural for the body to change. But the body is not the only thing that changes. We have experienced more of life and those experiences alone can cause huge changes or subtle changes that affect us, the person. Greater knowledge puts us in a very different situation than before we came into that knowledge. Experiences mold us, and what we want as a life goal governs us deeply. This video 8, "Making Music Where It Is," is primarily for older brass musicians (but certainly for the open minded younger person too) and gives valuable tips on how to handle that which inevitably will come.

There is nothing wrong with getting older, even though our culture does not really embrace it and does everything under the sun to make it that if you are 65 you should still be like you're 25. Well, that denies the incredible gift that getting older is. Therefore, youth is just not physical; it is a state of mind. Plus there are many things we can do to keep ourselves physically and mentally fit well into our senior years. I believe that making music where it is, meaning to be open to adapt and find new ways, will promote the music that needs to come out of us now. Perhaps the music we need to hear that we don't' know we need to hear. The video gets into this quite deeply.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

"From That Little Guy in the Corner," Video 7:
Arbans and Oatmeal

How we think about anything shows up in our actions, in one form or another. If our attitude is, "This is a boring unimportant part," then it certainly will contain that frequency when it is played. Imagine if the majority of an orchestra thought that about pieces they'd played a lot…. Those pieces would result in uninspired performances, at the very least! In reality, there is no such thing as an unimportant part! Every note, and corresponding attitude of the musician, contributes to the whole of the musical atmosphere and vibrancy -- or lack of vibrancy for that rehearsal or concert.

The title of this video was inspired by my brass orchestral rep class. I love working with them because this example points out how our music-making is directly related to our feelings, thoughts and attitudes.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

"From That Little Guy in the Corner," Video 6:
To Buzz or Not to Buzz, That is the Option!

Boy, has this topic been the 'buzz' around the trombone world for the past several months! For someone to say mouthpiece playing is bad for you, or not useful, shows they have a lopsided view of the subject and have not come to the realization that different people have different needs. It is that simple. If it works for you, great. If not, then don't do it or discover times where and when it might be useful for you. The dynamic (loud, soft, etc.), in which you play the mouthpiece, can make a big difference in your results. Mouthpiece placement is in interesting topic in itself,  and some of that is talked about in the video. This video is meant to encourage people to find out what they need. It is not a 'one size fits all' situation. It is an option, not a question to be answered in a 'yes' or 'no' way. It is a tool for our physical trombone playing development. HAPPY DISCOVERING!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

"From That Little Guy in the Corner", Video 5:
Nuance & Vibrato

Nuance and vibrato are very personal. Listening to many artists, whether vocal or instrumental, proves that right away. Now, if someone comes from a school of vibrato, you will most likely be able to hear that in those who are staunch supporters of that particular school.

In this video, I demonstrate a few different kinds of vibrato. Since the name of the video is "Nuance & Vibrato," I am trying to highlight vibrato as a kind of nuance. More to come on this topic!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"From That Little Guy in the Corner," video 4
Nuggets of Finesse

In this video, "that little guy in the corner"(me),  talks about an aspect of creative practice, the kind of practice that often times gets missed and has so much to offer. When one gets bored in their practice sessions, it means that they have lost sight of the reason and purpose for practicing. The title of this video 4, "Nuggets of Finesse," gives a simple but profound example of making the most out of our time using the basics of playing to practice finesse. It seems we all would like more and more control over what we do, but have we ever thought about approaching it from the perspective of finesse? For how can one have finesse without having the control to make the finesse happen? This is a very different mind-set process for practicing control. It flows and utilizes more of our 'human instrument."

Friday, February 19, 2016

"From That Little Guy in the Corner"
Companion Post for Video 3

Warming-up is not for sissies. Years ago, I was about to try some new-on-the-market trombones with a well-known brass player listening to me trying them out. I mentioned to him that I needed to warm-up for a bit before I tried out the horns and he said, "What's this warming-up stuff?" Well, that is what some people think for a number of reasons. Maybe they have a physiology that perhaps does not need to warm-up too much. That must be nice! Or they never hurt themselves playing and don't have to make sure things are in place and settled in their embouchure before they play to prevent awakening their past injury. Whatever the case may be, I need to warm-up! Period. If someone doesn't like it, who cares? I certainly don't because it is my life and this is important to me for the good working order of my trombone playing.

One time, I asked a very fine and well-known trombonist about warming-up and they said they really didn't need to. But, in the end, they said when they do warm-up, they play better. My mind thought, "Isn't that also a good reason to warm-up?" My mind also started to wonder: would this person, or others like this, not want to be in touch with the horn before playing, for example, "Bolero" or a Brahms Symphony or how about Berg "Three Pieces" or Mahler 3rd? A former student of mine, Jarred Vermett, who has been Principal Trombone of the Hong Kong Philharmonic for quite a few years now, said he played the Martin "Ballade" with the orchestra and his first notes of the day were the first notes of the solo in the concert! He said that is how he felt the freshest. My mind couldn't even imagine doing that! This is the point, know thyself. What works for one does not work for another, necessarily.

That is why I feel strongly about people who want to teach and only have one way they do things and demand that the student just do that one way, as well. The teacher is in a powerful position. Depending on how famous they are, or how known they are in their own local area, students who don't really have a grasp on themselves will seriously listen to and try to do what is 'right' by that teacher. It brings up some great questions about the student-teacher relationship. The student does need to trust and respect the teacher. The teacher also needs to have humanity and be very sensitive to when something is not working. Of course, this is after the student has given something a genuine concerted effort over a period of time. This is also a tricky point: what is a practical length of time to give something a try? Again, this responsibility might need to fall on the teacher's assessment. Sometimes, a week is enough; sometimes 6 months is not long enough. This depends on what the territory is the person is working on developing and the teacher's experience, based on their work with past pupils, and their own knowledge on the nature of the work itself.

More will be written soon! Happy contemplations!

NOTE: Video 3 is located in the previous blog post.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

"From That Little Guy in the Corner,"
Video 3: Warming-up

Warming-up is a custom job. It has to fit the individual and be altered from time to time as we change. Warming-up is not just a trombone thing. Dancers warm-up, athletes warm-up. Even people meeting each other have to warm-up to each other and not take for granted, by being too familiar and assuming they already know where the other person is at or feeling that day. Warming-up is a respectful and considerate attitude and practice and demonstrates a care to our body-mind-soul that we want to take care of it and are thankful for the service it has given us. 

More companion notes will be coming for this video. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Companion post for "From That
Little Guy in the Corner," Video 2

When you go to a country side, a shoreline, a mountain range, a forest or your own backyard, one can see and feel there is a difference in that which is man-made and that which is not. Now, a human being can create marvelous things, things that have a purpose. Nature does not make anything without a purpose. when you are out in the woods or the ocean beaches, or other parts of the natural worlds, can you hear-feel their music? There is pitch, rhythm and timbres flowing continuously. And the melodies and harmonies they create outside and inside ourselves...

Think of how the birds sing. Their singing is for a reason and expresses the land in which they live on. Different birds have different songs just like the composers who don't write all the same music. In various parts of the world the birds, trees, animal life, soil, insects were born on that land and function according to the nature of that geography and climate. So the music that comes from all over the world has variety and flavors reflecting and expressing the land and culture of the people at any particular time.

So! What about these particular times? Are they fashions or periods of time that have their own uniqueness locally and globally? We have named periods of time haven't we? Renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic etc. are some examples people have named as distinct periods not only for music but for architecture, painting and fashion too. So we have all these eras of time and change. Time is change but what are the things that don't change? 
For sonic music, you will always need rhythm, pitch and timbre in one form or another. For anything in art, architecture and fashion you will need a medium to work through. It would be interesting to see if the song of the bluejay has changed in the past 200 hundred years as much as the various periods in music have. I doubt it, but I'm sure there could be some change because of how the environment has changed. 

In the context of human art, the human is instrument and what comes out of the human in terms of music, poetry, dance, painting, architecture, fashion and so on, reflects and expresses the times we live in. But the question is, WHAT CAUSES THE MOVEMENT OF CHANGING TIMES? Is it just man made? Perhaps it is the movement of creation expressing itself through humans as best as it can given the development of the human at any given point in time? As a great mentor of mine said to me, "what is the music the human needs to hear, that it doesn't know it needs to hear?"

NOTE: Video 2 is located in the pervious post

Monday, February 15, 2016

New Video Series:
"From That Little Guy in the Corner"

Welcome to my new video series "From That Little Guy in the Corner." I hope those who are interested will enjoy and be moved deeper in their art -- whether you are practicing, teaching or on a stage performing.

Posted here are the first two videos. The first video is an introduction to the series and the second tells the story about how the name of the series came about, and from there it went everywhere!