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In Which Ryan Is Back To Abnormal

December 2021 | 2:12


Good news; the radiator is back on.

What's Been Happening

I’m becoming inherently distrustful of calendars, but multiple sources confirm that it is in fact December. Aside from meaning that the radiator now accounts for a higher percentage of the cats’ daily migration pattern, for the first time in a couple years it means that drum corps season and music conference season are both in full swing, which is both daunting and exciting. If you happen to be going to either Midwest or the JEN conference please make sure you find me and say hi, and if someone you know is interested in auditioning for DCI tell them it’s not too late and to check out the various remote audition options that many groups are offering.

I also finally updated at least one area of my website this month because I realized I could make my archive of these newsletters much clearer and easier to access. The links are the same ( and I still need to get better at formatting pictures, but now all the “back issues” are available as web pages instead of PDF’s of emails that look like the internet equivalent of pages from a dot matrix printer.

To follow up from last month, I’m starting to relearn how to schedule my life with the main difficulty of finding a balance between all the great opportunities I have and the positive life habits I created in the last couple years. Just a guess, but it sounds like the kind of project that is well worth the blessing of the challenge and also something that I’ll probably keep working on indefinitely. I wouldn’t say I’m actually any less stressed yet, but I’m more at peace with the fact that just because there’s no path doesn’t mean it’s not the direction I should be heading.

May your masks smell pleasant and your packages arrive without incident,


Chart O' The Month

DoxyJazz Community Big Band
00:00 / 03:44

I chose this chart for a couple reasons; first, it came up in conversation the other day as one of the last charts I did while in graduate school. On first listen that probably seems odd since it’s not a particularly advanced chart (conceptually or compositionally), but that was actually specifically why I chose to do it as I was finishing my most formal training. I had developed and explored lots of advanced techniques and had great opportunities I would never have again once I went kicking and screaming into the real world, but as I prepared for that inevitability it occurred to me that I had never done a “stock” chart before. Therefore I wanted to do a chart that checked all the cliche boxes; under 200 measures, on a standard in the original key, no repeats, feature trumpet and tenor sax, with a basic form. Holding myself to those constraints while also making sure it was interesting was actually really challenging, so I’m really glad I had the foresight to make myself go through that process before it was a commission and it was at least as educational in professional terms as anything else I learned while in school.

This ended up being premiered by the Pete Ellman Big Band which still has it in the book and plays out in the Naperville area of the Chicago suburbs, but the recording is by the Jazz Community Band which I played with at least a couple times a month for the better part of ten years. The other reason I chose this chart was because this was a staple of the book for that band, and unfortunately it’s not getting back together post-COVID.

I’ve known for several months that this was the case, but now that other gigs are coming back it seems more real. With love for everyone in that band, I’ve played with better bands, and while I was always taken care of I’m certainly not taking a financial hit with the lack of gigs. But the book was great, and the cats were better; it was a band where you could hear stories, and try things, and laugh, and feel better leaving the gig than you did when you got there. They were the band at my wedding reception, which was as much an excuse to invite everyone to my wedding as anything else. I get why the band isn’t coming back, and I frankly agree with the decision. We’ve all lost far greater things than a big band in the last couple years, and there’s no reason I can’t just call them up or even book a gig and tell them to show up if I have that much of an itch. This chart isn’t a fitting tribute to what the band was, but it is a reminder. I miss that band, and I will.

Epidendrum 'Pacific Sunset' x 'Pink Rabbit'.JPG

Look, Nature!

As promised, we're back to pictures my wife took (read as, "pictures that may actually be in focus").

This is from Volo Bog which has becomes one of our favorite hiking places near Chicago, and it shows the various plant layers around the bog in a really cool way. The top layer shows the changing yellow needles of the Tamaracks which are deciduous conifers (look at me knowing fancy words for trees!).

Education Notes

As music conference season approaches, I’m reminded of how I have always threatened to give a clinic called “So you’ve decided to perform/present at a conference (everything you want to know and are afraid to email production about)”. While I still want to create that at some point, the two biggest points I would want to drive home are these:

When in doubt, reach out in advance. Yes we all like to be self-reliant, and yes the information is probably somewhere in the 234,590,873,456 page PDF you received. Music conferences are a labor of love, so even if it’s just to establish direct contact before you arrive it’s worth reaching out before something is a last minute crisis.

Have a backup plan. Especially if there is a piece of equipment you can’t present or perform without, have a plan for how to replace it in the moment when it inevitably doesn’t work during your set-up time. Number one example (and all-time great word) is dongles; make sure you know exactly what you are connecting your equipment to and how.

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