In Which Ryan Erik Adamsons Starts A Newsletter
September 2020 | 1:1
For the record, Koopa (pictured above) is skeptical of this whole idea. He would like you to know that this first update is longer than most will be, so he apologizes on my behalf and would like you to feel free to skip ahead as desired.
What's Been Happening
You probably noticed that the universe got fed up with how we were acting, so we all got sent to our rooms for a timeout to think about what we did. As tends to be the case, it's been a moderate success with the relative effectiveness a reflection of the people doing the reflecting, and to that end we've arrived at the latest sign of the apocalypse; the creation of this monthly newsletter.
Like most of us, with the advent of quarantining I found myself with more personal time than I'd had in recent memory. As a chronic list-maker this means I've been able to actually get to some large items that have been on my "To Do" list since time immemorial, and/or finally admit that the item should've been crossed off years ago as something that wasn't going to happen. One of the major items that I'd been putting off for several years was redoing my website, which you can see is now actually complete! As I started the planning of what I wanted my new site to be, a major element that came up was that I wanted to make it easier to update regularly, and give myself reasons to do so. Partly this was due to having learned some marketing through osmosis (blah blah blah engagement blah blah content blah), but a lot of it is enjoying the game of fooling my future self into doing things my current self wants me to have done, and even if he ends up a little bitter that he got tricked I’d like future Ryan to have a more regularly updated website.
Some of the plan is boring website architecture stuff, but I also set up two regular but achievable goals to help me stay on track:
Weekly Progress Bar: I totally stole this idea from one of my favorite authors, Brandon Sanderson, who has “progress bars” on his website to show at a glance where he’s at in the various books he’s writing. The format of this will probably evolve, but regardless I like the idea of a simple place where I can put quick updates for my various projects on a weekly basis without giving me the opportunity to get bogged down in extended explanations.
Monthly E-mail Newsletter: Where the progress bar is weekly and quick, this will be monthly and more in depth. While I’ll try not to make things too long, most of you have met me so you know what to expect and can take solace in the fact if I’m going to actually do this monthly there’s a finite amount I can write.
As I started thinking about the newsletter, it started pairing in my mind with my evolving relationship with social media. While I’ve never been a huge social media person (I basically stopped at facebook), over the last several years I’ve even trailed off of that until as the pandemic hit I basically stopped going on at all. As I’ve told several people who’ve asked (and many who haven’t) it’s not a commentary on facebook and I don’t intend to delete my account or anything, I’ve simply been forced to admit that right now I can’t use it in a way that’s healthy for me. That said, I do miss the positives of social media; knowing what people are up to and the opportunity to share my own thoughts, which lead me to my goals for this newsletter.
First and foremost, I want to use this to let people know what I’ve been up to. Yes, this will include some “business” of what charts and projects I’m working on and how you can support them if you’d like, but my intent is to have a personal update that includes business rather than the other way around.
Second, I want to do so in my own weird way. There will be pictures of my cats. There will likely be pretty plant pictures from my wife. I will probably make valiant efforts to be funny, and on rare occasion I may even try to make a serious social point. For the record I’m probably going to fail, or say things that are factually incorrect or offensive to someone, so in all seriousness please respond and let me know when that’s the case. I actively want to know and grow from those kinds of things, and the best way to do so is to find out from your friends and people you trust.
Last but not least, I want to provide a bit of interest and levity to your month. I won’t pretend to know exactly how I’m going to do that, but things like the backstories to some of my music, reviews of my friends’ albums, and interviews with interesting people are all on the “To Do” list. We’ll see what gets done and what should never have been put on the list in the first place, but that’s all part of the game.
In closing, I just want to say thank you for signing up, I hope you enjoy, and if you don’t please let me know so I can either fix it or stop bugging you.
May your masks smell pleasant and your packages arrive without incident,
Chart O' The Month
"Mr. Clean Teeth" gets the honor of being in this first newsletter because it has a quick but fun backstory. Back in 2012, the Medium Ensemble had a monthly gig at the Gallery Cabaret in Chicago, and I called my friend Andrew Thompson to sub on trombone. There’s a long standing half-joke amongst my friends that I turn out charts with unnatural speed, so as part of the conversation Andrew bet me that I couldn’t write a chart and have it ready for the gig before he picked me up. I honestly can’t remember exactly how long I had but it was something like an hour or two so I took/won the bet and this chart was the result. Shout out to Kevin Kozol (keys), Bryant Scott (trombone), and David Agee (drums) as soloists on this particular recording.
The title also comes from Andrew. I can’t remember if it was the same conversation or one about playing a salsa gig, but regardless he said he’d pick me up at 7:03pm and I said to make it 7:06pm so I could brush my teeth, at which point he replied, “well if we’re late then it’s on you MR. CLEAN TEETH”. It’s worth noting that my dentist has heard the chart and highly approves of the title, although I could definitely still floss more
Musically, I knew I could do this one on short notice because I’d been wanting to do something in the vein of RH Factor and had some riffs and ideas in my head already. A couple years later I realized that part of the reason the opening piano riff came together so quickly was because it’s actually Chick Corea’s riff on “Fingerprints” with a different turnaround and I overtly transcribed it from my subconscious. So Chick if you’re reading this; my bad and let me know if/how you’d like to split the many fractions of dollar I’ve made off the chart, or better yet if you want to put together a session and play on a version of the tune.
For anyone who doesn't know, my wife works at the Chicago Botanic Garden and thus I get to see fun and pretty pictures of plants and nature in general. This is an "Epidendrum 'Pacific Sunset' x 'Pink Rabbit'" or as I call it, "Yelling Lady with Silly Hat Flower". No word yet on if it will be officially renamed.
Especially with the amount of ongoing change in the world of education, I want to make sure everyone reading this is aware I’m an available resource for educators (or really anyone) as we navigate through uncertainty. I personally have been planning and executing remote learning plans for large groups and individuals since 2012, and have a large network of colleagues with more and different experiences. I also know that when I hear people say things like “I’m a resource” I immediately catch myself assuming that they want a paid consulting gig or that I would be bugging them, so let me be really clear:
You won’t be bugging me. If I’m too busy I just won’t reply until I can, but frankly I like hearing from people and I’m the one that’s putting it out there.
I’m not trying to drum up consulting business. Yes, lots of conversations in this vein lead to projects that I would expect to be paid for, for instance if someone decided they want me to design and run a full curriculum. No, I don’t expect to be paid for talking conceptually about things, and if something comes up that I think I need to be compensated for I’ll be clear about it long before I start any kind of work.
Fundamentally, I just believe in education and want to help how I can regardless of the traditional resources available to any given individual or program. So, if you, or a colleague, or a friend, or a friend’s colleague, or a league of collegial college friends have questions or need some ideas please feel free to reach out by replying to this e-mail.