Music Business

The Unforgivable Sin in Music

As musicians, we are always pursuing the perfect performance. We spend years honing our craft. We practice incessantly, sometimes for hours every day. We pay experienced teachers lots of money, hoping that they give us the skills to play that one scale perfectly or sing that beautifully placed high note.

I’m here to tell you that all of that will only take you so far. There are lots of people who can play technically proficient music that I don’t want to listen to, and there are lots of people with significant flaws in technique that I do want to listen to. For crying out loud, computers can play things more accurately than a human ever could. It doesn’t mean I’m gonna go to a concert played by computers.

So what do I look for in a performance or a composition? I want to feel something. Make me feel the thrill of love or the despair of abandonment, the awe of the Grand Canyon or the power of Niagara. Draw me in. Give me no chance to look away. Do this, and I promise you I will pay attention.

The ability to express these powerful emotions engages the listener. This is what separates a good artist from a great one.  Ultimately, audiences will forgive a musician who plays wrong notes; they won’t forgive a musician who consistently fails to move them.

This is what I strove to do when I recorded the ballad that I wrote, The Hunter and His Love (SpotifyAmazon, and itunes). Did the musicians and I perform it 100% correctly? Nope. There will always be mistakes even if others don’t notice them. That’s not the most important question. Did you feel the darkness of a world where even the heroes can die? Did you feel the dark, personal tole paid by the heroes? That was what I was going for.

A good musician plays the right notes; a great musician feels the right notes. Sadly, students often miss this in their pursuit of musical mastery. Technique is not the end in-and-of-itself. Technique is what frees us to express ourselves exactly as we want, without the distractions of wrong notes and sloppy playing. And it is when we express ourselves clearly, honestly, and beautifully that people will stop to listen.

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The INTJ Artist and Defeating Self-sabotage

Last week, I finished the second concert of my Celebris Ensemble. We sang a really fun concert of madrigals, folk songs, and jazz and pop standards. As always, I tend to reflect (some might say overthink) about my concert and things that I’ve learned from it.

The act of creation can be a tough business. At least I’ve found it to be so. You receive that flash of an idea, that moment of inspiration, and then the next several months are carved up into research, planning, communicating with people, rehearsing with your fellow musicians, etc.

Any time you as an INTJ (or anyone really) engages in a creative act, two main obstacles stand in your way to complete it: you and other people. But before you engage with others, you must first fight yourself—your fears, worries, insecurities, weaknesses, and gaps in your knowledge. These keep you from succeeding. Author Stephen Pressfield, in his excellent book The War of Art, called these enemies “resistance.” The battle against resistance is renewed every morning. (Disclaimer: The book contains some objectionable elements).

Increasing Your Knowledge and Skills

As a creative entrepreneur, I’m astounded by the sheer volume of things I don’t know. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to create something—an event, a book, a business—and come across something vital that I need to know: some new skill, some vital piece of information, some tool or person I need to do the job. Instead of being daunted by the fact that you don’t know something, be excited that you get to learn something new.

One truly helpful place I’ve rediscovered on this journey is the library. Some of you might think this is obvious, but it wasn’t to me. I’d forgotten how valuable of a resource this place is. Your tax dollars already fund this, so you don’t need to pay more for books, which can be pricey. If the library doesn’t have the book, they can order it from another library. I’ve found this to be very helpful: Go to a bookstore, see what new books you want, and then borrow them from the library. It’ll save you a ton of money in the long run, and you still gain access to the info you need.

Defeating Your Fears

When engaging in an a creative act, please understand that the middle of the project is the hardest part. This is the time when fear creeps in. What if I fail? Will so-and-so get back to me in a timely manner? Will the right venue open up? Will the singers have their notes learned?

If unchecked, fear can self-sabotage you. You don’t work as hard as you need to, or you give up when victory was within reach. Neither of these things will help you. The nice thing about being an INTJ is that I don’t care what most people think of me. There is that handful of people though, and sometimes I worry that nothing I do will gain their approval.

The trick is to disregard the fear. So what if you fail? You’ve already done more than most people.  You’ve learned something new. You’ve grown as a creator. So what if the failure was your mistake? God still sits on His throne. He’s still controls everything. Stop worrying. It ain’t that important in the grand scheme of eternity.

Conclusion

I recommend some things here that will help you succeed on your next venture. Conquer your fears; expand your skills. Stop worrying and jump in with both feet. It’ll probably go a lot better than you think it will.

My Celebris Ensemble Concert Is This Sunday, Oct. 21!!!

Celebris is singing in Kazoo! If you are in Kalamazoo this Sunday, Oct. 21 around 1 pm, please come on down to First Congregational Church. It’s a beautiful space with wonderful acoustics. I could not ask for a better place in which to sing. The singers are talented, the music will be fun, and a great time will be had by all! We will not charge for admission, but we will be asking for donations for this nascent ensemble. We need your help in order to grow and create!

Here’s our concert order. As you can see, it’s got a lot of variety. There should be something for everyone. Please Come and Enjoy!

I

Tutte le bocche belle (Claudio Monteverdi)

Blue Moon (arr. Jonny Priano)

My Sweetheart’s Like Venus (arr. Gustav Holst)

My Bonny Lass, She Smileth (Thomas Morley)

II

Danny Boy (arr. Ryan Block)

And So It Goes (arr. Bob Chilcott)

III

My Lord, What a Morning (arr. Harry T. Burleigh)

Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal (arr. Alice Parker)

Will the Circle Be Unbroken (arr. J. David Moore)

IV

Fix You (arr. Philip Lawson)

My Single Is Out!!!!!!

 

Hello Everyone,

You heard it right. My new single is now posted to the cool places on the internet! This post is a one stop shop for my ballad. Take a listen, add to your playlists, and all that other stuff you whippersnappers do!

As always, I also want to let you know that the book that inspired this song is available for sale at Amazon and Kobo! Buy it! Buy it! Buy it! You know you want to. Support your local (or not so local) artist. Thanks, and enjoy!

Here are some links:

Spotify

iTunes

Amazon

Here’s another Youtube version!

 

 

Announcing Our Kzoo Ensemble’s Name!

After much deliberation, we have come to a decision! Finding a name for your ensemble isn’t easy. Not only do all of you have to agree, but it can’t be taken, or copyrighted, or anything like that.

Our new name is Celebris (pronounced Cheh-leh-brees). It’s Latin for “festive, honored, or celebrated.” We think it fits with our mission of providing a variety of high quality, enjoyable music. Our audiences will enjoy not just early music or contemporary music, but music that will uplift the soul from different genres and time periods.

As an interim step to making our own website, I have created a tab on this one. Please take a look. Recordings included! If you are interested in collaborating with an exciting group of talented young professionals, please contact us at celebris.ensemble@gmail.com!

I’m Singing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Next Week!

Earlier this year, I auditioned for Audivi, a Detroit-based professional choir under the direction of the very kind and capable Dr. Noah Horn. He asked me if I would be willing to perform with them in the opera chorus for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s production of Puccini’s Turandot. I figured it would be a good chance to spend some time with family and sing with some wonderful people. If you’re in the Detroit area next week (June 8 & 10), please come on out! You even get to hear this beautiful aria:

One of the challenges singers face in the classical job market is whether to be a specialist or a generalist. Should they specialize in opera or professional choirs, early music or contemporary music, straight-tone or full-voiced vibrato? The answer, in my opinion, is complicated.

The answer boils down to several questions, to which the answer can vary according to the person. 1) What do I enjoy? 2) What am I capable of doing well? 3) What can I make money doing?

What do I enjoy?

Artists need to enjoy what they are doing. If they don’t enjoy what they are doing, the art will suffer because their hearts and souls are not fully engaged. The art might be technically good, but it won’t be great. Also, artists need to enjoy it because there will usually be a lot of rejection before success comes. Arts business is not for the faint of heart.

What am I capable of doing well?

Singing early music (music written pre-1750) typically requires a singer with a smaller, lighter voice. Singing the operas of Richard Wagner typically requires a big, heavy one. Often, the singer’s instrument determines whether or not a singer can do that specific kind of music. The vocal generalist is somewhere in between. S/he can sing well in multiple categories, but will frequently struggle to find a niche.

I’ve found myself to be somewhat of a generalist in this regard. My voice is pretty loud, and I can sing with full vibrato for those Puccini operas. On the other hand, I can sing straight-tone and light vibrato for early music and choral music. What’s more, I enjoy the variety. I get bored doing one type of singing. “Variety is the spice of life” is kind of an unofficial motto for me. Take a look at my Singer Page to see what I mean.

What can I make money doing?

Sometimes, specialization and generalization boil down to which will make more money. Like everyone else, singers need to pay rent, electricity, etc. Some singers can kick enough backside and take enough names in early music or opera that people are willing to fork over enough cash for them to live on. Others need to do early music, contemporary music, opera, oratorio, and professional choirs in order to make a living. They cast their nets widely in order to pay the bills.

Conclusion

How people fall on these questions will determine where they should spend their time and energy. I recommend trying a bunch of different types of music and figuring out what you are good at. Then, pursue that/those type(s) as diligently and intelligently and artistically as possible. Take risks. Grow. Life might just surprise you.

 

 

 

On Floaters and Burrowers, Or Reflections on My Kalamazoo Ensemble Concert

I’ve been recently reflecting on an old TV episode I watched once. In the episode, one of the characters mentions that another character is a floater—he would float through life and things would just kinda work out for him. We’ve all met people like this. They always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Others naturally like them, want to do things for them, and give them things/opportunities. And since they are floaters, they probably don’t even know that they are. If you’re this person, count yourself blessed.

Then the TV character mentions the other kind of people—burrowers. These are the people whose faces are always buried in the mud and dirt of life. Any opportunities they get are the ones that they made happen through blood, sweat, and tears, and it’s usually half of the opportunities that the floaters get. Frankly, I’ve always felt like a burrower. I work hard on projects, always going two steps forward and getting pushed one step backward. On the plus side, I always feel like I’ve really accomplished something when the project is finished and I can reflect on a job well done. Wearing the dirt feels like a badge of honor. The dirt makes you feel like you’ve really accomplished something.

Which brings me to the ensemble concert last night. I remarked to one of my ensemble members how much easier this particular project has been to create than others I’ve done. Sure, there were struggles and the obligatory musician who drops out at the last minute (honestly, guys, we gotta start doing better about that), but overall it went pretty smoothly. The singers came with their notes learned. We got things done in the rehearsals, which were still fun. Everyone pulled their own weight. We created beautiful music.

So I want to thank everyone that helped with last night: the audience that came and enjoyed our hard work, our recording engineer who was willing to come and was easy to work with, the ensemble that worked hard and sang well, the good folks at Bethany Reformed Church who welcomed us with open arms, and those that supported us financially as we try to get this ensemble off the ground. You are all wonderful people. I’m so privileged to make music with all of you.

Here’s some video from the concert!

Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal (arr. Alice Parker)

 

Danny Boy (arr. Ryan Block)