Retirement Tales ~ Year One

“You know Jim, I’ve discovered that the more time one has, the more time one wastes.” ~ Byron Roberts (Suzy’s Dad) after hearing me talk about only having one job after retiring from the Army Reserves.

th (1)Last year at this time I retired from Amazon after two years of exploring that world, 20 years at Microsoft, and 20 years in the military. I started by loving the Amazon environment but a with a change in top bosses in my org and in no small part to some strategic mistakes on my part, I decide life was too short to try to make a bad situation better. So I said good by to my writing team I’d help build, a team that was amazing by anyone’s standards.

Financially I have a *lot* of things going for me, but I had thought I’d wait until my social security benefits were matured before I retired. When I retired last year I wrote this post: Retiring in Style for the Average Family. For me, retiring was not as much as a financial decision as it was a quality of life thang. My wife Suzy felt the same way so she and I reviewed the numbers:

  • House paid for: Yes
  • Credit cards paid off: Almost, we’ve been working on that for the last 5 years
  • Cars paid for: Yes
  • Saving in good order: Yes
  • Army pension: Kicks in full rate in 2015
  • Social Security: See below
  • Medical Insurance: Obama Care

She retired a month after I did. Here is a calculator that you might find interesting if you are thinking about retirement.

The Social Security Retirement Planner

This planner provides detailed information about your Social Security retirement benefits under current law. It also points out things you may want to consider as you prepare for the future. If you are:

Read more: http://www.ssa.gov/retire2/

Life after retiring

So with the financial analysis and decisions behind us we set about deciding how to spend our newly earned free time. I immediately got a part time job that parlayed my interest in music and social media into a monthly paycheck. As a contractor, my commute consists of padding my sock-clad feet down the hall from the bedroom to my office. With the music jamming, a cup o’ joe, and my two screen, two computer setup I spend 2 to 4 hours a day participating in musical forums, sharing my research, and writing blogs.

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Suzy had started an Etsy store that allowed her maximize her hobbies. She now creates custom child and doll clothing. She also runs two shops including one that creates that perfect preemie outfit and is based on her years as a neo-natal nurse.

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I also am in the 11th year of running the Microsoft Jumpin’ Jive Orchestra under the umbrella of a Washington State non-profit designed to provide adult music educational opportunities. Surrounded by stellar musicians who love the big band genre, the band is led by a music professional and friend who has been in the music business for 55+ years.

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Suzy and I still perform with the Woodinville Community Band and my Professor Gadget Sax Quartet. Music plays a big part in our lives and we hope it will for a long, long time to come.

Creating a life for yourself that allow time for some of the things you are really passionate about is possible. In our example I haven’t even touched upon our volunteer activities, exercise program, or how we use our increased time with family. But I think I’ve shared enough that you might get some ideas how you can structure your life so that you can spend 30 to 40 years of joyous retirement.

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MuseScore: Free Music Notation Software ~ AAA+ Rating

“As a musician I tell you that if you were to suppress adultery, fanaticism, crime, evil, the supernatural, there would no longer be the means for writing one note.” ~ Georges Bizet

I just signed up for a gig to play some original music for a friend of one of my now departed music instructors. A composer, this fellow only has Finale as his editor. (For the uninitiated think of “Microsoft Word” for the writer, “Finale” for the composer.) He didn’t know how to use his software to convert a composition to PDF, my normal means of getting charts. I had Sibelius, but lost it in a recent move.

MuseScoreSo I went online and discovered the free and highly rated MuseScore once again. Sibelius and Finale are so dang expensive that I decided to use MuseScore again. Wow, it really delivers.

I rarely have to gen up a composition. The work I do is usually a xtet part for kids in school competitions where they want to play with their friends who play disparate instruments. Think of a quartet with flute, clarinet, trombone, and sax.

On occasion I’ll create a transcription of a solo or a reduction of a six-page chart when it could be two if properly laid out. So here’s hoping musicians can find this excellent and free product before they shell out money, money that they should be using to feed themselves with.

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Bucket List #3 ~ Attend NAMM ~ check

If you have a music bucket list, attending NAMM at least once should be on it. NAMM 2015 was held in Anaheim this year and hosted over 75,000 attendees. Opening day included a visit by the Disneyland band. The best concert at this year’s NAMM was by Yamaha even featuring Toto, James Blunt, and Tom Scott amongst so many more excellent musicians.

Tip of the conference: Don’t forget to bring your mouthpieces, reeds, neck strap, and camera. They don’t sell stuff at NAMM. But if they ever let someone sell this kind of thing, that company will probably make a killing.

NammEntranceMy adventure as the Quinn the Eskimo Vintage Horns social media and woodwind guy was to try as many wind instruments as I could. I started with the offerings of the big three, Yamaha, Selmer-Conn and Buffet-Crampon. Then I sampled some of the lessor known brands. Here are my personal favs this year:

Clarinet: The Yamaha’s new CVSR clarinets were a standout with such a controlled sound and keyworks that were as smooth as butter. I don’t play clarinet enough to switch from my Buffet R-13 Festival, but if I were considering, this would be a strong candidate. The Selmer Privilège bass clarinet still was my favorite, again for the keywords and for the low C sound.

YamahaZSax: The Selmer Paris Ref 54s still have the sound and feel that I endorse for alto sax. There were many styles and flavors but the sound was uniformly wonderful and the feel perfect to my hands. The Selmer Paris Ref 36 for tenor sax had the kind of sound and feel that I was looking for. So don’t forget to try it out too if you are looking for a modern tenor sax.

I really liked the Yamaha Custom EX and Z too. They were very nice rides, both having great intonation across the registers with very little effort on my part.

Reed: I have taken to trying synthetics a lot more because I have so many gigs with multiple instruments to play. I like the Légère Signature reeds the best, which wasn’t always true for my alto sax or sop clarinet. Benedikt Eppelsheim recommended them to me 8 years ago for my bass sax and bass clarinet (mostly used in the pit) but I didn’t like the sound for my main stay instruments. Now the sound is the same, the sizes match what I get in reeds that are not synthetic (thank you!) so I don’t have to guess what size is correct for me.

SepiaVImMouthpiece: I didn’t expect to find a mouthpiece that was better than what I already have in my collection. But the Gottsu handcrafted mouthpieces were so sweet, that I almost broke my promise to my wife not to buy anything. Uniformly high quality, some interesting marble looks, and such a lovely sound, these are worth looking at if you can find a dealer carrying them.

Teaching media: I ran into Greg Fishman trying out Yamaha’s new line of instruments. I have so many Jazz method books by him, that all my instructors have played my dog-eared copies at lessons. This year he came out with his new book, The Lobster Theory, which is available in paperback or digital (through Amazon and iTunes). As Jeff Coffin sez about this reference:

What Greg Fishman has accomplished in this book is to explain, and then show through the use of awesome drawings and complete musical examples different concepts and ideas that are essential to our development development as musicians. The Lobster Theory is a really fun read and I enjoy Greg s sense of humor and wit. The ideas he presents here are effective, long lasting and inviting for students and educators alike.

SaxStandSaxRax: For those hobbyists like me who are over 50 years old, some gigs that we’d love to have done are now off the list. For me that is sitting in with a Tower of Power style band with my bari sax. But standing with that weight hanging around my next would put me in a world of pain.

Well SaxRax is introducing the Sax Stand for your consideration. You can move with this adjustable stand, play your heart out and still be able to walk tomorrow.

Fav Musician: I actually got to talk too: Mindi Abair let me take a picture with her. She is so busy with her Grammy nomination and new CD called Wild Heart. She MC’d one of the Yamaha concerts and played a song off her new CD.

MindiPlays  MindiAbair  MindiSings2015

She also sang which was a nice treat.

ChateauSurprise Music Manufacturer: Chateau is a company working out of Vietnam (need to confirm this). Not only did they introduce me to the Gottsu mouthpiece (see above) I got to play their top of the line saxes. The overtones just popped, the ergonomics were just right, and the price of these instruments were surprisingly affordable. I liked some of their other accessories too like the leather neck strap. I expect to hear a lot more from this company.

So the question is, will I ever go to NAMM again? Well, I’ll have to think about that because I’m hard-pressed to think it ever could be as good as my first time. But if going to NAMM is not on your bucket list, maybe you might want to rethink that.

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Can You Name that Saxophonist? ~ Take One

I see pictures of so many people who played sax that are surprising, at least to me. So here is the game today, can you name these musicians?

DavidBowie  GeorgeHarrison  SonnyRollins

SigurdRascher  10393981_378833405622821_8198067694434694699_n  RayCharlesSax

Good Luck! 

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2015 ~ Year of the Sax

Don’t play the saxophone. Let it play you. ~ Charlie Parker

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I’m looking forward to a music filled year. I am playing in a concert band, running a big band, and nursing my favorite sax x-tet (where x = the number of sax players) along. I have been subbing for a number of bands, the pay is nice.

Now retired almost a year, I have been listening to more music. I have doubled my time practicing the sax and the clarinet. I replaced my Yanagisawa b-991 with a b-992. And I’m starting to make my way through libraries of music that need filing. It should be a wonderful 2015.

Posted in Band, Band Management, Quote, Sax Quartet, Sax Quintet, Saxophone | Tagged | 2 Comments

Bothell Crows

We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned cleverness from the crow, and courage from the jay, who will attack an owl ten times its size to drive it off its territory. But above all of them ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit. ~ Tom Brown, Jr.

BothellCross

Shortly after moving to Bothell, WA, we saw the world-famous murder of the Bothell crows.

From fall to late spring, more than 10,000 crows call the UW Bothell campus home.

While no one on the UW Bothell campus at dusk could miss the swooping, perching, and cawing of the crows overhead, many do not realize how intelligent and interesting these animals actually are. In many ways, “crows are very similar to humans,” says Professor John Marzluff, from the University of Washington School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. ~ Crows on Campus

It is an amazing thing to watch and hear. Here are videos:

There is even a Facebook page for this phenomenon: https://www.facebook.com/BothellCrows

imageThe flock of crows that descends on Bothell every evening is a striking site. The more than 10,000 crows in the group, or murder, come from as far as downtown Seattle and Sultan and Gold Bar to spend the night roosting in the safe deciduous vegetation of the University of Washington Bothell campus.

Crows behave like humans in many ways, said John Marzluff, a UW professor who has studied crows and similar birds like magpies and ravens for most of his career.

“They’re very smart animals and very successful,” Marzluff said. “They are, just like us, trying to survive in this environment.”

Some crows eat fast food, scavenging from the garbage bins of KFC. Crows also smoke and drink, Marzluff said — they drink coffee, beer, wine and soda, and they pick up cigarettes, although they don’t actually smoke them. When it’s sunny, crows sunbathe. ~ Crows see food and shelter

At our bird feeders in the backyard we see Stellar Jays, hummingbirds, grosbeaks, red-wing black birds, etc. Rarely do we see a lot of crows although we have some regulars. Along with our squirrels (Fred and Ginger), there is always a lot happening back there. But I couldn’t image what we would do if 10,000 crows stopped for a visit!

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Composition of Love and Family

Nothing goes by luck in composition. It allows of no tricks. The best you can write will be the best you are. ~ Henry David Thoreau

imageJust before my senior year in high school, my dad was relocated to Minneapolis for his job with Sears. Suddenly I was going to have to start all over at a new school, and in my senior year no less. I was devastated, how could my parents do this to me!

We rented a house and my room was a refurbished garage that had a piano in it that was too large to ever leave the room. It had been brush painted a rustic red and had faded in time both in color and in tonality. But I was thrilled and spend many an hour plunking away on the piano with my skills from the three months I had lessons in first grade.

That year at 17 years of age, I purchased an easy to play book and note by note sussed out some of my favorite popular tunes. At some point that year, the year before I left for college, the year I met my wife Suzy, I created a song that I liked. Just from noodling around, I composed a song that spoke to me on a couple of levels.

Speed ahead a number of years, Suzy and I were married with two lovely children both of which were fascinated with the piano and my song. Both of them learned it just by watching me. We still play it sometimes today. Even I do on occasion although I never pursued playing piano in any serious way.

For this festive holiday season my son Aaron captured my first and last composition and put it on paper. He even named it for us. So I thought I’d share it with the family.

AllegroAndVivace1  AllegroAndVivace2

AllegroAndVivace3

Here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/n4prdls4y13e5kg/Allegro%20and%20Vivace.mp3?dl=0 is a link to the audio of my son playing it. Happy holidays folks.

Posted in Family, Hobbies, Music, My World | Tagged , | 1 Comment