December 1, 2012

It’s Saturday morning and I am sitting in on one of our MECA Continuing Education Classes that has focused on Data Driven Instruction.  Students are presenting their projects and as I sit in the back of the room and observe their work, I am continually amazed with the creativity and great teaching that these music teachers are doing with their students…and the great, creative work their students are doing in their classes.

So many times we are just wrapped up in being so busy that we completely miss the point.  We don’t take the time to “smell the flowers.”  By gosh, we don’t have time to teach music, we have a concert to get ready for.   But as I watch the variety of projects, approaches, foci, I am totally impressed with their work.

More to follow on this …. but for now, take a few minutes and reflect on what you are doing on a daily basis and how you can bring some variety to your daily routine.   Tomorrow, do something different.  I’ll bet that you too will be impressed.


I’m Always Up For Inspiration

November 8, 2012

On Tuesday, VanderCook College of Music was honored to host John Hagstrom at the college where he played and spoke to the students for an hour.  John is second trumpet in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and one of the nicest people and finest thinkers you will ever meet.

John played for the students a bit and it was fantastic.  But the real magic  for the day was when John spoke to the students about preparing and getting ready to perform.  His message was simple but so re-affirming.  He talked about the need to have repetitions in performance, and that every time you perform a piece of music, you find spots where you can do better the next time.  He spoke of how often we all play something once and then put it away,  I realized that it is as if we are checking it off our to do list….Haydn, DONE!  Hindemith, DONE!  Hummel, DONE!   But music is not like that.  The more we hang around with, practice and perform great music, the more it becomes a part of who we are.  We not only know the music, we feel the music, we share those emotions and feelings through our performance.

John’s words inspired me.  His passion for what he does, his commitment, his sense of humor, his ability to articulate the process of going from good to great without using the labels.  It was great.  Thanks John.

There Comes A Time

November 5, 2012

On Saturday evening, I had the honor to be in Kiel, Wisconsin to hear my good friend and the chairman of our Board of Trustees at VanderCook College of Music, Dr. Lew Schmidt, conduct his final concert with the Kiel Municipal Band.  Lew has conducted the band for the past 29-30 years and it has been an integral part of his life.

As I sat in the audience, I could not help but look around the gymnasium. Every chair that had been carefully set up on the floor was filled.  The audience was full of townspeople, family, and friends.  All had come out to hear a fine community band perform, to support a family member who was also playing in the band, or to be there to thank Lew for his years of dedicated service and music making.

For these people, the Kiel Band is like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  It is an important part of their lives.  They tapped their foot to the marches, they sang along as the band played selections from The Sound of Music, and they stood and applauded when Lew was presented with a plaque thanking him for his leadership, musicianship, and vision to keep this community treasure alive.

After the concert there was a reception and everyone stayed around and talked, and all were sure to make their way over to Lew to say “thanks.” For me, it was a melancholy moment, as I look ahead to the day when I put down the baton for the final time and say, “that’s it.”  I don’t look forward to that day, but it will come, and when it does, I hope that I have the courage, class, and grace to do it the same way my good friend Lew did on Saturday night.

My old buddy Tim Lautzenheiser says, “when you have class it shows, and when you don’t, it shouts.”  Lew, thanks for showing us what class is all about.