In Which Ryan Remembers Three Things

June 2022 | 3:6

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Koopa does not know what a mellophone is, let alone why it's out of tune, and is far more concerned with why he's not getting tummy skritches while the sunbeam is in prime location.

What's Been Happening

This month saw three main events that stick out in my mind as I write this.

First, even though I said yes to approximately three more groups than I meant to, I finished all my marching band writing for the season and I’m pretty pleased with all of it (cue emails with three pages of edit requests). I’m proud of this round of writing because I feel like each show is particularly unique and tailored to the personality and strengths of the group; first of all that’s kinda the point of writing a show from scratch, but also it’s just so much more rewarding than going “oh well it’s just marching band”. Yes, it’s definitely still marching band and so the idiomatic devices and formulas are there, but given that I’ve now written a little over 2 hours of music this year I’m really pleased by the variety that’s emerged. On a personal level, I’m also happy that I’ve gotten better at managing myself so I can stay on task and don’t completely burn out (due credit to wife and cats).

Second, I got to attend the premiere of a piece I wrote for concert band and world percussion commissioned by Ridge View High School in South Carolina. Huge thanks to Dustin King and Wesley Hipps for not only commissioning me and bringing me to campus, but also just being so fun to make music with. I’m sure I’ll be sharing a recording as soon as it’s available, and beyond being a really cool project it was great to work with a group in that context. Special shout out to JD Shaw for letting me crash in his guest room and hang out for the weekend (and now that I think of it, for introducing me to the program a couple years ago).

Third, we bought a chest freezer to put in the basement! While not the 100% traditional Midwest chest freezer or beer fridge in the garage, we did also get a nice mini-fridge for beer, seltzers, and brining meat before smoking it. We’re not yet the landed gentry, but I feel this at least solidifies our standing in the bourgeoisie. The process of getting it delivered was a bit of a sitcom including five separate delivery attempts, me becoming known to Menards as “Freezer Guy”, two separate freezers that came damaged still in the box, and the delivery guys that were a perfect comedic pair with one orange-shaped and one banana-shaped person. All that could have been arduous or stressful, but everyone was super nice and we have a chest freezer in the basement so we’ll call it a win.

Best of all, I don’t think there’s any overarching moral to the stories or a need for one. If you really want one I’d go with “do your best and be kind” since that’s a safe bet regardless, but I can’t promise it will result in a chest freezer.

Chart O' The Month

Haitian Fight SongMedium Ensemble
00:00 / 08:22

This is another arrangement of a fairly well known Charles Mingus tune and one I’m pretty pleased with. It’s also straightforward and the variations within the solo section are written out as opposed to felt in the moment like Mingus was probably more likely to prefer, but for all that I think it says everything the tune needs to and very little that it doesn’t.

I have several memories associated with this tune, but perhaps the most archetypical is that it’s playing in the background during a specific scene in Jerry Maguire where the characters on screen finally pause and go “what is this music?” and laugh. The first time I saw the movie I was specifically excited because there was a good Mingus tune being used as incidental music so I was a little hurt when they started laughing and I actually yelled “IT’S MINGUS” at the screen. In retrospect this made it not a great date movie, but now I’m at least able to smile wistfully and sigh internally instead.

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

Look, Nature!

As excited as my wife was about the mountain beaver, she did want to point out that we saw other pretty things on our trip to California. This particular picture is from the Oak Trail at Elkhorn Slough, and is one of those pictures I can instantly feel and smell somehow so I’m a big fan.

Education Notes

As we start looking ahead to band camps, I think it’s important to mention the concept of overtraining. It’s certainly something that can be done incorrectly, and there’s justifiable criticism of people that think they’re providing overtraining when in fact they’re just being jerks or punitive. That said, I’m a firm believer in making sure that your practice prepares you for your performance, and an essential part of that is making sure you’re stronger than you need to be in any way you can. The following are some key thoughts on properly overtraining as it relates to music education in particular:

It should occur over time. If you only do it randomly once in a while, you get all the potential negatives (discomfort, frustration) without the benefit of gaining strength.

Have a goal and communicate it. Avoid just saying it’s getting stronger or building muscle; articulate what skill or area you’re building. Additionally, if you can’t explain it you may want to rethink why you’re doing it.

Make it a positive experience. Be encouraging, and make sure students are encouraging with their peers. Note that tone is important; screaming “RELAX!” is delightfully ironic but not particularly useful.

Schedule recovery time. Don’t do overtraining right before a performance or right before an extended break. Make sure there’s at least a brief warm down immediately afterwards, and that there’s time for bodies and minds to recover and come back stronger before the next performance.