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In Which Ryan Makes Observations From The Pressbox

November 2022 | 3:11


Koopa reminds you that life is full of peaks and valleys, so you may as well make them into a comfy nook.

What's Been Happening

In the midst of another busy Bandtober I had a bit of a realization about myself; I like creating frameworks for success. That’s not particularly profound, but for me the interesting thing is how much of a commonality it is for me in terms of the things I do, and enjoy, and even the things that frustrate me.

I was lucky enough to go do some teaching in Hawaii this month, and beyond it just being a wonderful place to do anything (or nothing) I was blown away by the program at Mililani High School. I have never seen a high school group with movement skills like them (seriously, look them up on youtube), and they use a lot of great educational tools that I’ve seen before, but their success is all about how they use them. I’m not even sure if what they do is replicable somewhere else, but that only makes it more special and definitely got me thinking about how something like that comes about.

How did the Blackhawks become such a great team in the early 2010’s, and how did it fall apart? How did the Bluecoats alumni corps catch lightning in a bottle, and what parts could simply never happen again no matter how hard we tried? Why does someone flourish in one situation and flail in another? How do I find balance without feeling stagnant?

These aren’t new questions for me or anyone, but the fact that I’m so perpetually interested in them is what made me realize their affect on my life. When I was younger I wanted to find or give instructions; clear, step by step ways to succeed. As I’ve matured (note, I didn’t say I am mature, just that I have matured), I’ve learned the importance of letting go of “control” and leaving room for magic while accepting the potential for failure. It’s why I’m so frustrated by situations where I don’t have efficacy; if the expectations don’t match the tools or potential, why would I put in the work or trust the person creating the situation? It’s why I crave understanding and not just knowledge; how I fit is as important to me as what I’m doing or why. It’s the common thread of why I like and seem to have an aptitude for things as diverse as writing jazz, managing large groups of volunteers, planning auditions and educational strategies for drum corps, and cooking.

I’m not quite sure what to do with this knowledge yet. It’s definitely interesting though, and I’ll bet it’s part of the framework.

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


Chart O' The Month

Trio Volume 1Mutzabaugh/Pinto/Deitemeyer
00:00 / 01:04

When I started this newsletter it was partially in the aim of highlighting some of my favorite music and musicians that you might not know about. Thus far I've pretty much ignored that aspect, and per usual it's because I was too ambitious; in my head I would call my friends and interview them, and have a thoughtful presentation of their music. I do still want to do that, but not at the expense of failing to share some great music so I've decided to start with one of the best recent records I've heard.

This is a trio album by three of my favorite Chicago musicians; Paul Mutzabaugh (leader, bass), Mike Pinto (guitar), and Jon Deitemeyer (drums). Paul is one of those annoying people who is great at everything, and charming, and kind, and probably even has nuanced and helpful opinions about tea. Case in point; Paul is the bass player on this record, but I met him as one of the better keyboard players I’ve ever worked with, and as an added bonus he marched tenors for the Cavaliers and took second at I and E in 1998. I had the pleasure of going to grad school with Mike Pinto and last month I mentioned the influence his writing had on me, plus he was the original guitarist in the Medium Ensemble. Jon Deitemeyer is the drummer on basically all the cool jazz records that have come out of Chicago in the last several years and is a great composer in his own right, so look for his own record to be in this space soon.

Given all that it was a no-brainer to buy this as soon as it came out. Here is where I’d like to have a bunch of great stories behind the charts and insight from Paul, or in the absence of that a critical review of the record. Instead, this can be a call for you to check it out and decide for yourself as you enjoy it, and maybe reach out to Paul yourself to get his thoughts.

Below is a link to the album on bandcamp where you can stream or download sample tracks and order a physical CD, so go do that now before moving on to the fancy nature pictures.

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

Look, Nature!

This picture is from Volo Bog which has become one of our favorite places for a quick day hike. The water is the open "eye" of the bog, and the golden pines are tamaracks which are deciduous pines whose roots spread across the herb mat to give them stability which is fascinating to me.

I might also be totally wrong about lots of details; I'm the music guy and my wife knows plants. The important thing is it's pretty.

Education Notes

This month also saw the most judging I’ve ever done in a season, not counting the first time I watched Chicagoans trying to drive in the rain (rain; not snow… I still don’t understand it). After judging some drastically different shows and groups from around the country, here’s a few things that have really stuck with me:

Considering how much thought goes into judges sheets and percentages of points and areas of emphasis within a caption, I can’t remember a single time it affected who won a show. Regardless of everything else, if you move and play well and the show makes sense you’re going to do well, and at the top level of any competition that’s way less subjective than we all think as instructors.
Show dynamic (order of performance, when breaks are, strength of the group directly preceding a group) is really tough to overcome even with effort and training on the part of a judge. As a community, we should spend way more effort on this and way less effort on judges sheets.
Considering how much money we spend on electronic reinforcement, and how much time we spend worrying about exact staging of people and props, and how aware we are of bell facings in winds, we are remarkably bad at consistently pointing the speakers at the audience. Less than half of the groups I saw this month had their speakers consistently spaced and angled appropriately.

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