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Duet for Memorial Day

God Bless AmericaFor the past several years I’ve had the privilege of playing Taps in echo with a colleague as part of a Memorial Day service at a local cemetery.  It’s a helpful reminder to me of what this day of remembrance is really all about.  And I’m always aware of how the playing of Taps, in spite of its simplicity, is deeply meaningful to many people, especially those who have served in the military or who have loved ones who have.

We also usually play a fitting, two trumpet rendition of God Bless America.  Here are links to the simple arrangement in two different keys:

God Bless America in F

God Bless America in G

Music memorization

Why it Might Be Worth Memorizing Your Next Solo

sheet-music-1229481_1920A few years ago, if you had asked me to memorize a piece of music I probably would’ve quickly dismissed the idea. Other than marching band, a few orchestral excerpts, and some warm-ups, I played very rarely without music. More recently, however, I’ve come to realize what I had been missing by not getting away from written music at times. Here are a few things I’ve discovered:

1) The process of memorizing makes learning the music more important than learning how to play the music. Here’s what I mean: too often we focus on the challenges that a piece demands of us, like the fingers, tongue, range, speed, endurance, etc. Of course, we have to work on these things, but when we are working to make music away from the page, we’re more focused on getting the sound of the piece inside of us. Recalling the musical story becomes the goal rather than overcoming any technical hurdles involved.

2) Memorization can free us up to pay attention to the other parts of a piece of music. Single line instrumentalists and vocalists too often forget that there is more to a musical work than what they hear in the practice room. The fact is that our part in most pieces works together with other parts, such as a piano or ensemble. A great benefit to memorizing AND a solid way to build memory is to get to know the other parts that work together with ours.

3) Once we start memorizing a piece of music we can practice it anywhere and anytime, with or without our instrument or music. My eight-year-old son who studies with the Suzuki method goes about many days singing or whistling the pieces he is working on. I’m convinced that even though he doesn’t know it, he is essentially practicing at these times. Subconsciously, he’s working out the details of the sounds, patterns, rhythms, phrasing, etc. This is a great advantage, especially for those of us who have limited practice time with our instrument.

4) It’s an empowering feeling of accomplishment when we really know a piece of music, not just because we can read it from the page. We’re no longer dependent upon something like a teleprompter to feed us our lines in performance. Plus, we now know the piece better than we ever would have with the music staring us in the face for the thousandth time.

If you were like me and rarely have committed music to memory, why not try it? Let me know what you discover along the way.

Extra-musical skills

Neighborly Networking

hello my name is dogA few weeks ago I met up with my kids as they were walking home from school.  As we turned onto our street they caught sight of a neighbor, whom I had only met once, near the other end of the block.  Actually, it was the neighbor’s dog that drew their attention and caused them to race ahead of me.  Even my two-year-old joined in the pursuit, shouting the dog’s name as they ran pass several houses.  Of course, I was somewhat embarrassed by this scene, and the dog’s owner, bundled up in the cold, was oblivious to their excitement.  Once they met up, though, it was clear that the neighbor was more than glad for her little pooch to bring so much joy to my kids.  And once again, my kids helped my family make some new friends.

I recalled this experience the next day as I was reading Angela Myles Beeching’s Beyond Talent on the train to the Midwest Clinic in Chicago.  I was reading the book in preparation for a class next semester, but the section I happened upon was particularly applicable to that day’s conference performances, sessions, and schmoozing that inevitably comes along with it.  In a section on networking, Beeching encourages us to view these occasions as more than self-centered promotion.  She writes, “Networking is about being neighborly, interested in others, and open to making new friends.  It’s about connecting with others: sharing ideas, resources, and experience” (p. 22).  I couldn’t help but think about how much my neighbor appreciated her dog’s little admirers.  What might have seemed like a one-way transmission of enjoyment to my kids (or simply an annoyance), was actually a mutually satisfying experience that built a relationship around a shared interest — her dog.

So, the next time I feel like introversion is the more humble option in a crowd of professional counterparts, I will remember the importance of being neighborly.  Sharing of ourselves — whether across the street or across the convention center — is what develops communities.