Scholarship Opportunity

Being a music teacher in Tennessee has been one of the most rewarding parts of my 4.5 years here.  Beginning with singing in church choir at the age of 5, I had had music teachers work with me privately or in groups on a weekly basis for two decades.  The more I teach, the more I recognize what has stuck with me, not just in terms of information but pedagogy.  I can still hear the voices of my early choir directors Mrs. Rodland and Mrs. Ho-Ho (yes that’s an abbreviation!) teaching how to read note values in a song:

“A whole note is – a great big circle.  A half note adds – a great big stem…”

As all students do, I had many opinions about my teachers.  It was through private music lessons that I started understanding how effective a teacher could be, and also how ineffective.  It’s a two-way street of course – the student must be prepared to learn and ask questions.  But sometimes extremely talented musicians were very ineffective teachers.  One element I try to keep in mind with my students is the term ‘education.’  Looking at the Latin root educo is very revealing: “to draw out.”  The greatest teachers are not renowned for the information they bestow, but the inspiration they provide.

Of course it’s easy to love Mr. Holland’s Opus when we see years of repetitive work pay off with a moment of clarity for a pupil.  Teaching exceptional students is easy – but what about the groundwork that must be laid in order to reach a point of inspiration?  And what if a student has the potential, but can’t afford music lessons?  Is that moment of inspiration more or less likely to occur if the fundamentals are never drilled in over time?

Truthfully I don’t know the answers to those questions.  But I am excited to say that at the time being, I no longer need those answers.  The Nashville Jazz Workshop is launching a Scholarship Lessons Program this semester for area students of all ability levels who are serious about music but can’t afford music lessons.  All the details are available at the Nashville Jazz Workshop website (or click the link above) – there’s an application and a brief audition.  But essentially students can qualify for entire semesters (and beyond) of free music lessons (and more). Feel free to hit me questions, and please spread the word!

The White Brothers of Kitty Hawk

Orville and Wilbur Wright were brothers credited with the first successful airplane flight on the coast of North Carolina.  As a child I was always thrilled by flight – my two favorite parts of trips with my parents would be the takeoffs of commercial airliners to and from the destination.  Sadly that’s no longer the case for me on jet planes, but the sensations that I remember from takeoffs are still thrilling.  Luckily I do still experience them, and most typically through music.

You’ve no doubt heard trumpeter Matt White – he’s featured prominently on Falling Up – but you likely haven’t had the pleasure of listening to his original material.  Just prior to moving to the coast of South Carolina to begin a trumpet teaching gig at Coastal Carolina University, Matt put together a great band to record eight original compositions (and one arrangement).  Matt’s writing is capable of producing flying sensations for me as much as any musician I’ve ever worked with, and the great ensemble he recorded took up that task with great aplomb: Joe Davidian, Jonathan Wires, Jim White (not actually Matt’s brother), and Don Aliquo on the sextet tracks.  The record was just recently mixed and mastered, so now I’m waiting with great curiosity (as you should be too!) to hear the finished product.

Click the link to hear a sample track, “The Yankee Poured Out the Bacon Grease.”  Wheeeeeeeee

Happy New Year

It’s hard to believe we’re now thirteen years into the ‘future’.  Pretty much every year from here on out sounds like a science-fiction number to me.  Then again, I watched a season 1 episode of The Sopranos the other day from 1999, and that seemed outdated.  Perhaps I’m just an anachronism.

Anyways, in 2013 I’ve resolved to be a bit more active on this blog.  As facebook has become a nightmarish tool for those afraid to have a civil discussion on a barstool, I’m trying to disengage from the malicious source altogether.  There’s all sorts of great things happening in Nashville’s jazz scene, and ideally this blog will give me a chance to illuminate them without inundating my “virtual friends.”

So to kick things off, I wanted to correct a problem on this website: there are no videos of my work on here.  I admit to being a mild technophobe, but that’s not a good excuse.  So allow me to ameliorate the situation with this: “Mahdernism” from the Falling Up CD Release Party at the Nashville Jazz Workshop in December of 2011.  This video features the band from the CD: Bruce Dudley, Jonathan Wires, Josh Hunt, and special guest Jeff Coffin.  Enjoy!

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