The Music World: Should I, Could I Be a Part of It?

“I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.” ~ J.S. Bach

DSC00387Friend: Hey Jim.  Based in large part on your enthusiasm, I plan to drive over to Spokane on Thursday to horse trade for a like new Yamaha pro 62 II Alto.  Guy there would like to have one of my Yamaha wind synths (WX-5), so I’m working a partial trade.  I’ll also likely pick up an Otto Link to go with the Alto, assuming I do the deal at all.

Before I drive 600 miles and spend a lot of money, I really should ask – do you still feel there is a need for another Alto player in our area?  You feel good Altos are more in short supply than good Baris, for example?  I’d hate to spend a lot of money on a horn and then not find an opportunity to play it.  As you know, my interest would be to play with a group like EMJO or MJJO with a more challenging and up-tempo book, as opposed to what I’ve been hearing from some of the other bands in our area. ~ Gary

Me: I firstly want to say, that making money is not in the equation for most of us. It might be for you, as you are a pro or semi-pro player (depending upon your definition). So other than resale value, and that instrument you have selected is good for that, it’s all about the value you get from playing. I know you probably know that, but I just wanted to make that clear.

PGSQ2017PracticeThe guys who have played at your caliber and whom I know, tend to own sop, alto, tenor, and bari saxes. They also have a clarinet and/or a flute. There are so many that are my close friends and they have *way* too many playing opportunities. For example, one joined DoctorfunK, two play with the Jazz Police, and so on. These are paying gigs, but not enough I suspect to cover your home utilities costs.

It you like playing lead alto and *can*, you should have an alto sax. If you love playing bari sax, then we need more of them on the Eastside. However, if you are ~3 years from retiring from music performance, maybe you would not get the benefit from these additional instruments. 

I can’t promise you will find a home with the 30+ big bands in the Seattle area. But I suspect if you network, cover some free gigs to meet the many band owners and players, and if you are are willing/available to sub, then you would be able to find that perfect band or two that you’d want to be a part of. And there are over 20+ theater houses doing musicals on and off throughout the year. So there are those jobs.

Me, I thought the pit jobs took too much time and didn’t pay well enough for a hobbyist like me. I did two shows with the Second Story Rep in Redmond and then decided it wasn’t for me. But the experience was worth the time and effort of slogging 3 to 5 instruments to the pit for 5 to 7 shows plus a two month of practice sessions.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my musician friends, and there are so many, are the bestest. Lovely people, they are very talented and hard working. These are people I would have never met had I not returned to music after a ~30 year break. I adore these people and they make my life fuller and better.


Here’s what I ended up doing. I created my own jazz combo (4-horn), big band, sax choir, clarinet choir and sax quartets. I also help three other big bands get up and running, two of which are still playing. I also had many community band projects including a summer band and ten years on a community band board. After a whirlwind ~10 years, about three years ago I downsized to playing in these select groups, my favs: WCB, MJJO, and the Professor Gadget Sax Quartet. I sub 10 to 20 times a year with other bands/groups. AND, I’m not half the player you are.

So that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it. Good luck.

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10 Essential Qualities of Great Band Leadership

As the founder of a number of music ensembles I have always meant to write an article like this. Christiana does it better. Pictures from my collection by various photographers, some of which I know.

10 Essential Qualities of Great Band Leadership
Features, leadership, Marketing & Promotion, Booking Gigs & Touring
Jun 30, 2014 05:32 PM
by Christiana Usenza

A band is a unique and complex relationship, and with so many different personalities and goals among band members, things can sometimes get tricky. Some people are direct, some are passive, some are more organized than others. “Musicians are sensitive and odd creatures,” says songwriter/guitarist Paul Hansen of indie folk band The Grownup Noise. “So inevitably, it will be a dysfunctional, but hopefully loving, family.”


When you’re creating, performing, traveling and practicing with the same people for hours on end, there’s no question that leadership within the band is essential to get everyone on the same page, manage expectations and create camaraderie. “There’s no ambition without leadership,” says Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Jeff Tobias. “Bands that function as total democracies can frequently be sluggish and often unsatisfying. In any case, someone needs to be steering the ship.”

Roger2013Leadership can come in various forms. Some have one appointed leader, whereas others have many leaders, acting more democratically. “If it’s a benevolent dictatorship where one person is in charge but they make it engaging and fun, that can be great,” explains Jeff. “If the band has more of a collaborative dynamic, then the leadership role can rotate when appropriate – for example, one person can lead on booking, the other person can lead on artwork, etc.”

No matter what your band’s unique culture is, these 10 essential leadership qualities will help you navigate just about any situation you encounter with your bandmates.

1. Professionalism
Musicians are sometimes stereotyped as partiers or just downright unprofessional people, but any band with aspirations of making it big knows just how important it is to prove that wrong. As we all know, music is an incredibly challenging career that requires a ton of knowledge, years of practice, discipline, creativity and organization. The hard work behind it all can be taken for granted. One way to set the precedent for being respected and get the results you want is to maintain high standards of professionalism.

This includes scheduling rehearsals and shows in advance, being on time, being totally prepared for rehearsals, promoting your shows in advance replying to emails and phone calls in a timely fashion. Professionalism helps present the band in a positive light to the outside world while also setting an example for internal expectations.

Someone might be a brilliant songwriter and have lots of great ideas, but a good band member becomes an amazing band member if he or she is also on time, respectful, organized and prepared.

2. Patience
BandOneIt’s going to take a lot of time to get to where you want your group to be, so enjoy the journey. If you’re too eager, you might shoot yourself in the foot. Gather the right people for the genre and instrumentation you’re looking for, and then practice, practice, practice before performing or recording. Make sure band members are comfortable with the material, and if they need extra practice, schedule time for it before booking your first gig or studio session. The right things will line up if you’re patient, positive and humble.

3. Respectfulness
Just like in a relationship, each person’s expectations and needs should be discussed. Remember that each musician brings his or her own expertise, talents, ideas, personal goals and passions, so let that flourish. If someone feels taken for granted, unappreciated or overworked, resentment might build up and affect the music and performances. On the other hand, if members feel valued and appreciated as individuals, they will be amped up to bring positive energy and ideas to the group.

“If someone’s going to grab the reins, they should appreciate the support of other musicians and behave accordingly,” Jeff Tobias says. “A good bandleader should inspire confidence and interest in the other musicians, making their time and efforts feel worthwhile.”

When someone does something well, give positive feedback – it’ll motivate them to perform at their absolute best more often.

4. An Open Mind
The creative process is a vulnerable experience. When you’re working as a group to create new material or learn new songs, there will inevitably be moments of imperfection. Since learning styles and creative vision will vary from person to person, it’s important to stay open-minded throughout the whole process. Have a brainstorm session, let the creative juices flow, and allow people to contribute and play around with ideas. This will happen more freely if the leaders create a supportive atmosphere. When the leader(s) make final decisions, band members are more likely to support it they were able to contribute their own creativity in the process.

5. Big Picture View
DSC04159-1Even though many aspects of a band can change and develop over time, it’s good to at least have a sense of what you’re creating and the direction it’s heading. This requires some preparation and thought ahead of time. It’s important to be able to see the big picture as well as all the little details. Ultimately, it’s up to the leader(s) to visualize, communicate the concepts and determine what needs to be done to materialize that vision.

6. Ability to Delegate
Sometimes, it’s just too much responsibility for one person to handle all the details. “In my own experience, it seems best to have two leaders in the band,” says Paul Hansen. “That way, the one leader won’t be overwhelmed and alone, but also there won’t be too many cooks in the kitchen.”

If you have too much on your plate, delegate – and be clear about it. No one wants to be the one loading all the equipment at the end of the show while the others socialize, or the one marketing the band while others aren’t taking it seriously. If multiple members of the band have responsibilities beyond learning their parts, it’ll become more equal and enjoyable for everyone.

7. Strong Communication
It’s super helpful for the other band members if the leader(s) express their ideas, goals and vision. This can be anything from genre to frequency of gigs to long-term vision. It’s also important to lay down the logistical expectations: everyone coming prepared to practices, being on time, making their availability known so you can schedule gigs, etc.

“The most high-functioning bands that I’ve been in benefited from well-defined roles and reasonable expectations,” Jeff adds. It’s up to the leader(s) to set expectations and to hold the band members accountable for it. Even if you’re the passive type, you’ll learn fast that the best thing to do is be direct and open when something is bothering you. Otherwise, it may spill into other aspects of the band and affect the enjoyment of collaborating and making music. Although it may feel a little awkward, it’s perfectly okay to call someone out if he or she is not living up to the band’s expectations. No one wants to put up with that person who never practices and slows the rest of the group down, so it’ll actually ease the tension in the long run.

8. Decisiveness
Good bandleaders have to be able to think quickly and be confident in their decisions. For example, if it turns out that there’s only time for one more song instead of two at your show, everyone in the band should automatically know who will choose the final song. Discussing it for several minutes on stage just looks unprofessional, and you lose valuable playing time in the process.

9. Self-Awareness
MollySop3It’s okay to give guidance, but you also need to give people some control. A strong leader is able to catch himself/herself before micromanagement rears its head. Even if you don’t fully agree with your bandmates’ opinions, at least support them by acknowledging that their opinions matter so they don’t feel like just a cog in the machine. They’ll be more invested in the long run. Self-awareness means treating your band members, engineers, publicist, techs, venue staff (and pretty much anyone you’re working/collaborating with) as you’d like to be treated if the roles were reversed. Really, it’s a pretty good life rule.

10. Motivator
You’ll get 100% from your bandmates if everyone is having fun and feels motivated. Recognize that your band members are carving out time in their busy lives to learn the songs – possibly for not a whole lot of money – when they could be doing other things. Make it an enjoyable and stimulating experience for everyone involved.

Found here:

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Twitter 2017

“Twitter provides us with a wonderful platform to discuss/confront societal problems. We trend Justin Bieber instead.” ~ Lauren Leto

Back in the mid 2000s I created a twitter account for work. I stayed on topic for CRM, an industry that I was part of, and some hobbies like music. I didn’t really think the platform would go anywhere, but it took off and in so many ways. The business oriented used it to talk to their customers, musicians used it to get their music out there, and the movie industry … etc.


Speed ahead ten years and as I retired from the corporate world, I get picked up to do some social media for a friend. Hey it covers utilities at casa du Glassa. Part of the reason I was hired was because of my contacts on Facebook, G+, and yes, Twitter. Now a daze I use the platform for my band, my quartet, and my part-time job.

twitter-vintageAn average Joe, I am constantly amazed that I get as many followers as I have, but maybe they are for the most part reciprocating to me for following them. I use social media mostly for myself, to follow the kind of news I’m interested, mostly about my hobbies and as a reference for key times in my life. 

I take no offense at people who despise Twitter and other social media venues. I was told by one of my brothers that Facebook, for example, is all about bragging about one’s self. My response was, if that’s how you use it then that’s true. (Shrug) Not everyone uses it that way. Personally, I take great pleasure in seeing a video performance from way back, pictures of family and friends, some of whom are now gone. It works for me. I wish I’d had it in my youth, pictures were so much more expensive then. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

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Writer’s Block

“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?” ~ Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


When I realize that I haven’t written in a long time on the many, many, … (sigh) many social media properties that I squat on, I will often cull through the pictures I have saved on my computer to post hoping that I will be inspired to write. Doesn’t provide a lot of continuity, but there you have it.

I also write to capture a moment, a project, something special that I might want to refer to later. I know the ages of my dog and cats because I’ve added an entry when I added them to our family. Often these collections of topics, quaint proses of mine, become quite long and there is now stuff from 15 years ago. That seems like a lifetime to me. At the risk of boring you, my how time flies. Be well my gentle readers.

“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.” ~ [The Guardian, 25 February 2010] ― Hilary Mantel

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Matthew Stone: Cry Me a River

Matthew Stone’s YouTube recordings have long been a fav of mine, almost always inspires me to pick up my sax and give the song a go. (Click on picture for sound.)


Published on 17 Jan 2013

About 25 years ago, when I was 18, I had an older girlfriend, she a much wiser 27. She was nice, cool. She had a little flat right in the centre of town. Sometimes in the middle of the night we would sit at her window, smoking, looking down at the busy streets below.

She had a cassette tape of Julie London’s “Julie is her Name” album and we’d listen to it on rotation. This tune of course is a classic, but let’s not forget the haunting “Laura”, “Gone with the Wind” and “It never entered my mind”

I was playing the guitar back then, just learning some jazz. I was blown away by the lovely guitar of Barney Kessell. That music will stay with me for the rest of my life. The girlfriend, sadly did not.

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Makin’ Music: This year’s MJJO Recordings

“Making music together is the best way for two people to become friends.” ~ Hermann Hesse

This year I decided to take my band to a recording studio, TopOfTheHill Music Studio. This is the second time I’ve done this. The first time was so much fun and I love the CD we cut. Upon hearing we were doing this, Al Lowe, a friend of mine suggested I just post the music and forego the CD costs. Checking with my friends, most of the young kids don’t even have a CD player!

Since we had already done the first CD drop on ReverbNation, I decided to release it on that site. In fact, the music is now playing in the background of my office as I pen this post. Click on the link below to hear some of these amazing songs.


Bill Sheehan, our director, picked the songs for both CDs. He chooses the music based on our overall sound, the soloists we have that year and to optimize the vocalist’s range and style. Both times I wasn’t impressed until we spent the year working on them for the final recording. In hindsight, I should have know it would turn out to be a smashing recording set. I love both of the CDs and listen to them all the time.

Let’s talk about how I placed the music in the list. First I listened to the cuts over and over for about a month. Then I picked the first and last songs. As Bill is fond of saying, “Primacy and Recency, remember that folks. Audiences tend to remember the first and the last thing they heard in songs and solos.” Or words to that effect. I’ve heard that so many times from him that it’s now part of my music patter.


Then I mix vocals with instrumentals with an ear towards the instrumental solos. So, not that complex of a formula all in all.

One of the reasons I love these songs is because they tend to be lyrical representations of the genre. I’m not keen on pure jazz with a soloist who reads changes with the intention mostly being of showing how good of chops they have. Also these are unique songs, and most are not the same songs that are played in every big band out there.

Finally, and this is mostly about me, Bill let me play a very sweet and sometimes loud bari sax to these songs. I do tend to go a little overboard on my bari sax bleatings. But it does my heart good to hear some of the licks I get to share, some of which were NOT written into the part. My adlibs can be credited for the most part to one of my instructors who, after I had spent ~30 years away from music performance, spend years working with me on my sense of timing, vocalizations, and solo interpretations. Thank you Neil Proff! 

For the first CD we had a niece of one of our players do the cover art. She was studying to be a commercial artist. This time I just through some stuff together using a shot of a ‘40s auto that I took at one of our gigs that included a vintage vehicle show.

Here’s hoping you like our little contribution to that vast library of big band music out there. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll see you at one of our dances or catch you singing with our favorite vocalist, Robin Hilt.

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Protect Yourself From Equifax ~ take two

From my friend and retail partner Steve Green…

LockMazeQuick Background: Between mid-May and July of 2017 cybercriminals stole the personal data of 143 million U.S. consumers by hacking into Equifax, one of the three major U.S. credit bureaus.

Equifax discovered the hack on July 29 and disclosed it publicly on September 7, at which time newspapers started exploding with all kinds of information about what consumers should do to protect themselves. After a review of many articles, here’s a shortlist of experts’ top recommendations:

1. Assume your data was affected.

Equifax offers an online tool for you to check whether or not your data was stolen, but people have reported getting different results when they entered their information more than once.

2. Be careful of what you sign up for.

Equifax is offering a free year of their TrustedID credit monitoring service to affected consumers, but initially the language in the agreement appeared to require people to give up their right to sue Equifax. They have now added an opt-out provision, and some attorneys believe the language applied to suing TrustedID and not Equifax – but when attorneys don’t all agree it’s a sign that consumers should be especially cautious.

3. Consider locking your credit with a security freeze.

All three credit bureaus allow you to prevent access to your credit by “freezing” it.
The upside: A security freeze makes it much harder for thieves to open up new accounts in your name.
The downside: It typically costs between $5 to $10 to freeze your account with each credit bureau (although read below to find out how to avoid the TransUnion fee), and it can be inconvenient if you need credit checks when you’re doing something like applying for a loan or changing cell phone providers. There’s a small fee to temporarily unlock your account with each credit bureau.

One of the most helpful articles on this topic is by Michael Roub on the DoughRoller website – click here to read it. He is a big fan of security freezes.

Tip: Security freeze fees are often waived for seniors.

4. If a credit freeze sounds like too much, place a fraud alert.

Anyone who believes their information has been compromised can place a 90-day fraud alert on their credit files for free. The first credit bureau agency you do this with is required to contact the other two bureaus on your behalf. The fraud alert means that any company opening up credit in your name needs to contact you first.
The upside: There’s no charge, and it’s relatively easy to grant access to companies that legitimately need to see your credit history.
The downside: It needs to be renewed every 90 days, which most people are unlikely to do. Also, there’s some disagreement as to the standard of verification that companies are legally required to follow.

5. Be clear on what various resources do and don’t do.

– Credit freezes and fraud alerts are preventative. They help stop criminals from opening up new accounts, but do nothing to protect the accounts you already have.
– Credit monitoring detects suspicious activity that has already taken place. (This can be done via a service, or you can check your own reports regularly.)
– Identity theft protection tells you if personal information such as your Social Security or driver’s license number is being used in ways that don’t show up on your credit history, for example, to open up new utility or medical accounts.
Checking your own financial statements regularly is the only way to make sure you’ll detect any suspicious bank withdrawals or card transactions.

The Bottom Line:

The Equifax event was basically the Hurricane Irma of data breaches, affecting 44% of Americans. Fortunately, by acting now we can ward off a lot of trouble.

The following steps taken together provide a strong combination of prevention and detection:
1. Credit Security Freeze:
Use the links below to set them up.
Equifax Security Freeze
Experian Security Freeze
TransUnion TrueIdentity Service (A free service that includes freezes.)
2. Identity Theft Monitoring: has what appears to be a well-researched review of identity services.
Click here to read the review.
3. Credit Monitoring: Keep an eye on your credit history, or use an identity theft protection service that includes credit monitoring.
– The official place to get your annual free credit report with no strings attached is
4. Track Financial Transactions: Review financial activity regularly, and set automated alerts for withdrawals.
5. Think Long Term: The stolen data will probably be as relevant in ten years as it is today, so keeping on top of things is important.

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