Music

Zero to Sixty: The Short Camp

In this previous blog, I compared the way I prepare for performances to a boxer's training camp. Well, this time I have something a little different: a short camp.

In late January I went to the doctor with pain in my side. Turns out I had three significant kidney stones - one on my left side and two in my right. This means I had to undergo two consecutive surgeries to correct them, which means it's been about two and a half months since I last played my horn.

I have a performance next Friday night.

Can I beg out? Sure. I even have my replacement lined up (the supremely talented Mark Dover), but I really want to do this one. Actually, I really only need to do one piece, but even that is a tall order to do in front of an audience when you've been off the horn for so long. I'm also determined to play this piece (more on that later). 

So how am I going to get to speed in just over a week? Once again, I think of boxing: sometimes fighters will take on bouts with very short notice - someone gets injured, gets popped for drugs, any number of reasons. It only works if you were in good shape to start out with. You can't come from LESS than zero. So I'm going to lean on my go-to routine, the method. This means lots and lots of fundamentals - getting back to the roots. I will take the method and expand it over five days until I'm as close to 100% as I possibly can get. The first day I will barely play an hour. By day five, I should be ready to play a full three hour rehearsal. How? I will literally show you.

Tune in to Open G Records' YouTube channel, where I will be sweating and suffering live for both my and your benefit.

So now let me tell you why I'm motivated to torture myself to get into quick shape. This piece, Moonset No. 2 for soprano and clarinet, is by my dear friend David Glaser. The first time I performed it was also the first time I met David. I played his piece at East Carolina University with a soprano who just murdered the piece, and I don't mean in a good way. David had come down from New York to hear the performance, and I was so fucking angry and embarrassed. Here I was, in North Carolina, trying my hardest to be great and then giving a shitty performance in front of a New York guy. It was almost unbearable. It was also clearly not my fault - normally I take it for the team, but this was really egregious. After the performance, I apologized to David and I said, "listen, man. Write something for me and I'll make sure it gets done right". Well, he took me seriously, and a couple of years later I premiered his clarinet concerto, the first concerto anyone ever wrote for me. This will be my first opportunity to play the David's Moonset since that fateful Carolina day, and that's why I'm so determined to be able to do it. I do love a challenge - it's a bit like "Fuck me? Hey, fuck YOU!"

Open G Podcast #10: John Harbison

In this episode, Chris interviews noted American composer John Harbison. In this wide-ranging, almost two hour interview, Harbison talks about his music, his work, and his life, including his time in Jackson, MS in 1964 as part of the Civil Rights struggle. Check out an incredible concert of Harbison's piano music, January 25 at National Sawdust. More info here.

Dealing with Disaster

There are moments in a performing artist's career that are truly terrifying. It is part of the essence of live performance that anything can happen - from sublime moments of absolute genius to complete and abject failures, all happening in real-time. When an audience is there to see you perform, and especially when they've paid for that experience, there aren't any real second chances. Oh, sure, every now and again you'll hear of a performance that gets off to a terrible start and everyone agrees to just begin again, but that's truly rare. For the most part, performances go roughly as expected - there are things you would like to have another shot at and such - bobbles, intervals you didn't quite make seamless. etc. - but usually you get to the end with no real harm, everyone claps, and it's on to the next one.

Sometimes disaster strikes.

In the past year or so, I had two moments of real disaster. Both were during the most important concerts of my life, and on both occasions I had to come back and play a show of equal importance the very next day. The first involved a memory slip and the second a technology problem and both needed to be overcome, or the next days' shows were going to be absolute hell. What happened and how did I deal with it? Well, let's get to it, shall we?

In November of 2014, I gave the world premiere of Jeremy Gill's "Notturno Concertante", a concerto for solo clarinet and large orchestra. There was a Saturday night show, and then a repeat performance Sunday afternoon. Jeremy and I did a podcast about this here - it's one of my favorites. Because I am an idiot, and an aggressive one at that, I decided that giving the premiere of a brand-new super-difficult 23-minute concerto from memory was truly prodigious, and so I went for it. I had a lot of time and a big memory, plus I would absolutely play Mozart or Nielsen from memory, so why not this? I drilled and drilled and drilled. I made a strict work schedule: a serious workout of a warmup in the morning, a long session working on the technical spots and smaller sections, and then one more session later which was all runs of longs sections (and, for the last month or so, the whole concerto) from memory. In fact, as soon as possible I was practicing without the music all the time, even for detailed technique work. I would say I spent the last two months without looking at the music. I had it cold.

Rehearsals with the orchestra went well, though I immediately decided that I would never ever try to memorize a concerto premiere again. It was almost unbearably intense. I thought the nerves would come from standing in front of an audience, but in fact it came from standing in front of the orchestra, in front of a hundred or so of my peers. They were totally cool, by the way. As any orchestra would, they approached a new piece and an unfamiliar soloist somewhat gingerly at first, but the piece is really great, and I'm not an asshole and clearly knew the piece in and out and was tagging the shit out of it, so we got along just fine. Still, I did not expect the level of pressure from myself to do well in front of my colleagues. It's hard to explain.

Saturday night comes. I'm ready. Dress rehearsal had gone well. Let's do this. I had to wait through the opener, Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story".  Great stuff, only I'm not listening, really, besides noting where they were and how much time I had left. Got my focus on, repeating a mantra I've had for a while which slows me down and gets my head in the zone: "focused, and in control". I say it a few times to myself. Focused, and in control. I hear the Bernstein end, the applause. It's on.

I go out, and I'm sailing through. I have this thing where I don't remember details of my best performances - I mean, I know I was there, and I know what generally happened, but I won't be able to recall whole movements or any specific moments. I don't remember shit about the first half of the performance, so I think it was going well.

And then my memory failed.

It was somewhere in here, a section in 9/8 which moves out at an insane 100 clicks on the metronome:

 Bitch

Bitch

My non-musician friends can probably look at that and generally tell that's an unfriendly section. My musician and clarinet friends can tell that it's even more unfriendly than you think, due to the chromatic AND wholetone stuff, plus a lot of going over the top break, and oh yeah it's fast. 

Anyway, somewhere in there I fucked up.

I have no idea what happened. None. I do know that I found myself on stage with literally no idea where to put my next entrance or, after a second or two, what notes to play at all - it just happened so fast, and I was just there, going Oh My God. What do I do? I noodled. I know it was 10 to 15 seconds, tops, but it felt like fucking forever. I recall my thought process somewhat:

Oh shit.

Where am I?

I don't know.

What should I do?

I dunno, do something!

Ok, how about this?

That does not appear to be working. Try something else

How about this?

I don't know, maybe?

I knew the long whole tone run at the bottom was coming up. Does it end on a double high Bb? You bet your ass it does, and thank god for it. I decided the timing felt right and went for the whole tone run, knowing there was a big orchestra moment there, and if I was right we'd hit it and if not, I was going to hang on to that high Bb until they caught me. Lo and behold, I'd guessed right and thankfully I joined the orchestra correctly. Doubly thankfully, I only had about another 45 seconds of playing before a long break. Then I'd have a little while to recover, maybe as long as a couple of minutes. I made it, hanging on for dear life.

I still had 10 minutes left.

I caught my breath. I drank some water. And then I had to straighten myself out but quick. I had to forget it. One of the things I lean on heavily is sports psychology. High-level athletes deal with incredibly high levels of competition and pressure to succeed. What separates the great from the good is the head game, the ability to be mentally stronger and better-prepared than your opponent - or even yourself. In that moment, I thought, "Tiger Woods would forget this (I was obviously thinking of Tiger in his prime - an incredibly focused athlete). A great cornerback would forget this". Great athletes do completely whiff sometimes. But if you dwell on that whiff, another is sure to follow, and then another behind that, and then you're done. Tiger would occasionally shank a drive, Richard Sherman gets burned for touchdowns. It's bound to happen when you're doing difficult shit on a high level. What makes an athlete like Tiger in his prime special is the ability to truly leave mistakes behind. So, say Tiger borks a drive into the woods on the left. When he approaches that ball, it has become its own singular and particular problem. It no longer matters how the ball got there. It's there. How do you solve this problem that now presents itself? In the same vein, a cornerback or safety must let go of a great play or a blown coverage, because the opposition will assuredly test you again, and you'd best be ready.

So forget it. And I did. Played the rest, went fine. Took my applause, sat in the audience for the second half like a good boy, and got the fuck back to my hotel room.

I was devastated. I had spent so much time, and LOVE on this thing, and I couldn't believe I had dropped it like that. I called my wife, and I broke down and wept. I felt like I had let Jeremy down. I left like I'd let myself down. I had truly done everything I knew how to prepare for the moment, and I had dropped the ball. I couldn't believe it.

And I had to do it again tomorrow.

How? How should I prepare myself to overcome the memory slip and go out and tag it in my only other opportunity? Sports psychology had saved me in the moment, so I returned to it. The first person to enter my mind was Lebron James. Say what you will about him, but Lebron exists (and excels) on the highest plane of high level athletes. Yet he will miss more game-winning shots in his career than he will hit. He will occasionally have a 12 or so point playoff game, which for Lebron is throwing a big bag of bricks down a well. But an NBA player has an 82-game regular season, not to mention Lebron is usually playing in the finals, so add another 20-odd games onto that. That is a ridiculous number of times to have to get ready, be prepared, and have your head straight. So, I thought, what would Lebron do after a poor game in, say, game 2 of the NBA finals? He's going to have to come out well in game 3, especially with the opposition trying to seize an opportunity to take control of the series. I thought, he probably trusts his preparation. He probably trusts his routine. Everyone has an off night. Shooters keep shooting. That was it. Shooters keep shooting. The ball will go in. I thought, here's what you do. You forget about tonight. You get a good night's sleep. You get up, you get a good breakfast, you do your routine because you trust it, you check out the spot you failed on, but not too much: you actually know it, so just make sure the corners are swept out, and then just go do it. You know it. You didn't leave any work behind. Go do it.

And you know what? I did! I'm not going to say that no bricks were shat as the moment approached and then....PASSED! I definitely gave myself a big mental high-five, and the tiniest fist-pump on earth, and then got back to the business of finishing the piece off proper-like, which I did. It was a great success. Jeremy was happy. I was, for a moment, happy. More than anything, I was proud of my mental game for getting past the disaster of the previous night and delivering like I knew I could. I'm not sure I could have done that a few years ago.

Cut to this past October. I had two opening nights for Open G Records at National Sawdust, which, I'm proud to say, has become one of "the" places to play here in the city. It was a huge opportunity. I had two full variety shows of my favorite players, the guys on my label. All living American composers, some of whom were there including Mario Davidovsky, Steven Stucky, and my dear friend Ed Jacobs, who will become central to this story. Full lighting and amplification setup, two-time classical Grammy winning producer Adam Abeshouse running the live sound. I set up the concerts, I had four of my players from the label in town for the show, plus I played during the shows as well as emceed the entire evenings from a microphone at the side of the stage. In short, a big deal.

 The setup for the show. I mean, LOOK at this place!

The setup for the show. I mean, LOOK at this place!

One of the pieces I played was by the aforementioned Ed Jacobs - a piece he'd written for me called Aural History, which I had premiered and recorded, and was very excited to give the New York premiere of. This is it here, with me and my boy Xak:

So, the piece has a lot of pages, which I often spread across a few stands. In this case, we were making a film of the concert, so in order to present a cleaner look for video, I transferred the piece onto an iPad with a page turning app, which I connected to a bluetooth pedal.

This one right here. NOTICE ANYTHING?

I had gotten the pedal some time before the show in order to get used to it, and it did take some getting used to. It's a pretty simple idea though, right pedal turns forward, left turns back. You could read a book this way if you wanted to. After a while it became second nature, plus it worked like a dream. I was a total convert.

Cut to the middle of the first show. It's going great. It's a long, super crazy day, especially to be in charge of, but it's really going. I play Reich's New York Counterpoint, which I'd just recorded with Adam Abeshouse, we have the New York Premiere of Stucky's violin/piano sonata, I do a bit with my friend Jason, and then it's time to play Eddie's piece. It's a hard piece, but I really love it, and I'm pretty sure that I've spent more time overall on it than any other piece in my lifetime. Xak and I had recorded the piece and know it well and we're both ready to go, especially after I hit the gas pedal hard and really rocket us into the start of it. 

It's pacing along really well - Ed marks the beginning "on the edge", and I think we're really living on that edge. That's where I want it to be, and I had put in another level of work on the piece to make it so. First page turn comes, no problem. Kick some more ass, looking to rain down fire in the 3rd page. I have three measures of rest at the bottom of page two. I hit the pedal.

Nothing.

I hit it again. Nothing. Oh, man, this is real trouble. Still, you can turn the page with your finger. I do so during the rest. There is no rest on the bottom of page 3.

What. Do. I. Do. Now?

I play, trying to not lose focus whilst navigating a briar patch of notes and gestures, much of which happens in unison with the piano - not exactly a good time to collect my thoughts, much less formulate a plan. I'm just hoping the pedal had a hiccup and it'll be no harm, no foul and let's get to the end. Here comes the bottom of page three, and...

Nothing.

Xak goes on. He has to. That's what the piece does, it goes on. But I'm hopelessly fucked now, because I've had to take a couple of seconds to swipe the page (to my recollection it took two tries) and then get my hands back on my horn, and then where the fuck am I? I know I'm on the top of page four out of five pages of continuous 16th and 32nd notes. Other than that, you got me. I have to stop Xak. "Let's just go at the top of that section", I say. A quick look confirms my knowledge that there is a two-measure rest at the bottom, and I'll be able to finish this movement without another incident. I know I will not be so lucky for the next two. I finish the movement.

Fuck. I have to figure this out (or not) right now in front of an audience. What can I do? This is happening right now whether I like it or not. I'm a little fortunate in that I'm generally a funny guy who can at least be somewhat witty when the chips are down. The chips are down. I'm not sure what I say, but I say something like, "hey, sorry folks. Excuse me for a second while I check out a technical issue I'm having". And then I pick up the pedal. Seems fine. I press the pedal down with my finger. Nothing. I try the page back. Works fine. Try the forward again. Nothing. Wiggle it a little bit. Nothing. I put it to my mouth and blow on it, which is a call-back to part of the bit I had done earlier with Jason (clarinet players are always blowing shit out of their horns in rehearsals and performances - it's kind of our calling card). Secretly, I'm hoping it actually works. It doesn't. OK. So now I've spent about a minute doing this and that's about all I can afford, especially as I can't seem to even start troubleshooting the issue. I have to go on.

I go on. Second movement is slow. I still have a page turn. I deal with it as best I can. I know the third movement is fast, at least two fast page turns. Fuck. I stumble through them, the last coming before maybe 20 last seconds of music, all of which is pure hell, just one of those times where you know you aren't on but there's not a damned thing you can do about it, so have a big bite of that shit sandwich for the road.

Pretty much like this

It's done. Xak and I take the applause, I point to Ed so he can get some applause. I walk over to the microphone to introduce my friend Scott, who's getting ready to play some Boulez; and also to vamp a little bit while the crew moved the piano offstage and did some resetting in the hall. So, now I have to spend four or five minutes chatting with these folks when really, truly I'd rather be in the green room throwing up. My instincts say to address the problem, but I have no idea what I'm going to say. I just start talking. I say something like, "hey, everyone, thank you. So, I had a little technical SNAFU there, I'm sure you noticed. Trying something new with new technology, sometimes that happens." Then I smile a bit and say, "if you'd like to hear a COMPLETE performance of that piece, you can hear it on my CD, available for sale in the lobby!". 

I'm gonna switch back to past tense now, ok? So I finished my spiel about Scott: best friends forever, great player, good dude, yadayada. I was trying my best not to really look at Eddie - it was too hard. I caught a glance or two. There he was, all supportive looking and smiling. That made it worse. 

Even after I finished speaking, I STILL had to stay out in the hall, because I was assisting Adam with the quite extensive technical part with the Boulez that Scott was playing. No hiding for me; not one moment yet offstage to even sigh. I sat there, trying to focus intently on the music, trying to be at my best for Adam and Scott (and Boulez). I did my best, I really did, and it was fine. But humming behind my eyes was a brewing sadness. Of all the pieces to have a problem, the last one I wanted was for it to be Ed's. See, Eddie is special to me. When I showed up at East Carolina as an interim professor in August of 2001 (I'd get the job outright the following year) Eddie was the first person to try to connect with me - in fact, he took me to dinner my very first day on campus. I latched on to that, and we became fast friends. We played poker, we lunched several times a week, we got high and listened to Radiohead (sorry, Eddie, hope that don't cause problems for you, but you're a full professor - fuck em), he shepherded me through the ends of a couple of disastrous relationships. Real friends. And we made music together, the cornerstone of which was the piece that had just eaten some shit on its New York premiere. Damn. Damn damn damn. As I sat through the twenty-odd minutes of the Boulez, I sank further and further into a plush couch made of melancholy. I knew it wasn't truly my fault, but it had happened. I had let Eddie down. I have an interesting artifact from that moment. As I mentioned, we were making a film of all of this, and the crew had placed a small camera on Adam's desk.

I know I'm probably not showing what I was feeling. I can look at myself, though, and really feel it. Damn.

So, the concert finished. Had to shake hands, meet and greet, do the thing, be the guy. Stayed at the front because Ed was in the back. Eventually I made my way back there. He was talking to a couple of people I knew had shown up just to hear his piece. Damn. I shook his hand, told him I was sorry. He was cool and totally supportive, as I knew he would have been even if it HAD been totally my fault. It didn't make me feel any better. I knew it had to be a disappointment, even if he wasn't really going to show me. I tried to believe everyone when they said I dealt with it with elegance and humor. I guess I did, but again, it didn't make me feel any better. To this day I have trouble dealing with it. Eddie and I normally speak or text quite regularly - maybe every couple of days, at least weekly. Since the concert I have basically ghosted the shit out of him. It's hard for me to get over. I feel the disappointment still.

I shook more hands, I went to the bar, I got all my guys into a car back to Manhattan, and then I Googled the living fuck out of the pedal issue until about 2:00 in the morning. It was working again. What the hell? I decided that it was a bluetooth pairing issue, and that it had tried to randomly pair with someone phone and somehow screwed my connection. See, here's the problem: I had to come back the next day and play another show. I had planned to use the pedal because the piece I was playing (Davidovsky - Synchronism 12) stretches across five stands when using paper (it's not some odd format or anything, it's just that it's 14 pages over six minutes, and no time to turn pages - you just have to kind of lay them all out in a row). Again, that looks like shit on video. I fixed the problem with the pedal. I tried it over and over. 100% success rate. I went to bed. I woke up. I tried it a few more times. 100%. OK, the bluetooth was the problem. I'd just add a part to my talk where I ask everyone to turn off the bluetooth on their phones, boom. Problem solved.

Cut to 5:00. Show's at 7. It's been another crazy long day. I only have time to run through the Davidovksy, because we've spent all day getting good takes of Boulez with Scott. It's important, the run-through, because the Davidovsky has electronics and there are always issues of balance, etc. Check the pedal again. No problem. Sweet. Start the rehearsal, it's going fine. I go for the first page turn.

Nothing.

I lose it. I really lose it. Not AT anyone. Not TO anyone. But the emotions of the last couple of days, not to mention the months of planning that had gone into the damned thing, erupt out of me in the form of a lengthy, deeply blue, and oddly specific FUCK YOU to the gods, to the universe, to anything you might have on hand. Even on everyday occasions, I can swear with the best of them. Now I really pop the top off, like a barrel full of illegal fireworks. I have to get out of there for a second. I go out onto the street. A late October wisp of a mist is in the air, and it feels good. I take a few deep breaths, walk up and down the block. I gotta figure this out. I call my wife, tell her to bring my sheet music. I walk back in.

While I've been gone, the crew has figured out a jury-rigged solution to the problem: the left, or "page back" pedal, has always worked. They disconnect the cable from the right pedal, extend it a bit, and run it to the left. It works like a charm. That's the solution (and the source of the big "X" in gaffer tape on the photo at the top of the page) Should I trust it? I did mention before that I'm an idiot, right? Meanwhile it's 6:15 and Davidovsky has arrived and he'd like to hear the piece, because of course he would. Well, here's a chance for at least a real-world test. I play it, everything works fine. I'm rightly nervous about the tech, and it shows a little, but basically everything works. He tells me to play softer in spots. Cool. He doesn't know there was a problem. What problem? Time for the show.

Show starts and it's going well. It's becoming apparent, actually, that it's going REALLY well. It's like the stress and effort of the past couple of days fall away and we all say "fuck it" and just go out and play, and that's when the good stuff usually happens. The time approaches for Davidovsky. I wait backstage, clutching my horn and my pedal. Please work. One time.

I go out, make an intro at the mic, and then walk to center stage to do the thing. I start by myself. The electronics enter. The first page turn comes really fast. I cross my fingers (figuratively, obv) and hit the pedal with my foot.

yes

Oops. I make a mistake because the fucking thing actually works! Can't do that. I turn my focus to executing the piece, and everything turns out well. Everyone seems happy with it. I am relieved. I hit the mic again, introduce Scott, and sit down to assist with Adam. As I do, I see Eddie in the audience. He comes to both nights even though his piece is one on the first, because he's a mensch. I put a big smear of regret across my relief. Still, the concert finishes well and is an actual good time (I know, at a classical show! Shock!)

Cut to now. I return to speaking in past tense. So that's what happened. Two instances where I had to deal with truly difficult issues pretty much in real-time. The first key to overcoming things like that is preparation. Without hard, dedicated preparation you can never really get to the second key, which is trusting yourself. Without those two things, you can't achieve the end, which is to be able to forget mistakes or problems and be the best player and person you can. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not sure I could have gotten past those things so quickly when I was younger. I find that it's a skill like any other, and gets better with practice. Be prepared, leave mistakes behind, and be better in every moment moving forward.

I'm going to finish this one with a thought that's so good I wish it was mine. It's actually from Adam Neiman, who is a fabulous and wise pianist. As part of his preparation, he does as many full runs of pieces (that is to say, he starts at the beginning and plays all the way to the end without stopping) as possible. For some pieces, including concertos that run 30 to 45 minutes, his full-run repetitions number in the thousands. Pianists. . .Anyway, that is (almost literally) insanely prodigious. So I asked him about why he goes for that level of prep. He said (and I'm paraphrasing - it's been a few years), "well, everyone gets to that spot in a performance where you go 'oh, shit. What's next?'. The thing is to have the answer to that question".

The thing is to have the answer to that question.

And, Eddie, I'm not done with our piece in New York. Not by a damned sight. It's the next thing to overcome.

Four Prayers: #1

If I spend enough time with the empty blue sky in front of me, will I stop dwelling in the darkest corners of my dreams?

 

January 15, 2015.  2 PM. I found myself staring at the Ohio River from the balcony of a room in the Lafayette Hotel in Marietta, Ohio.  The Lafayette, as the writer Jim Harrison would have it, is one of my “panic holes,” a place to hide for a good head clearing, purging, to hell with it all day or two.  Since I’ve already revealed one of my secret hiding spots, I might as well mention that there are two rooms with covered balconies and panoramic views of the river.  It has free parking, decent restaurants nearby-basically, all the anti-social comfort of deep woods off the grid anonymity, but with the trappings of an historic hotel with a friendly staff. As long as you don’t let the idea that you are sitting in the gateway to European expansion across the west and the ensuing genocide bother you, Marietta is a nice quiet spot.

 

I had a bottle of scotch on hand, an empty legal pad in case a coherent thought or two should drift into my head, and one goal.  I wanted to watch barges go by.

 

 How did I end up in such a place on a Thursday afternoon? The day before, Schall (the badass engineer) sent me the huge file of recording session raw material from the previous week. After I helped get the kids in bed, I opened it and had a listen. 

 

I did not make it past the first ten seconds of the first take.  The first note of the Gaubert Sonata was slightly flat. Tight. The vibrato lacked the exact color I wanted. The rest of the phrase lacked warmth, shape, and direction. I completely flipped out, convinced that I had torpedoed months of preparation, wasted thousands of dollars, and potentially ruined a defining moment in my artistic career. 

 

So I ran away to go watch barges.

 

Now it is ten months later, and you know the obvious punchline.  I came home from the panic hole, listened to more, and found plenty of much better material for the record. We released it in August, a handful of people have purchased it, and quite a few of those tell me they like it. 

 

But the January jaunt to the river still haunts me. On the surface, of course, it is nothing more than the behavior of a self-centered asshole with disposable income and a propensity for taking himself far too seriously. Like most moments in my life where I lose control, I look on it now with a deep sense of embarrassment. Yes- I over-reacted, high standards and high strung don’t mix, it all worked out in the end, that sort of thing. 

 

What lingers is simple: doubt. Not the concern that I could do better-of course that will always be true, and I have made my peace with that.  As I tell my students, to be an artist you have to strive for perfection, but you have to acknowledge that you will never be perfect.  Reconciling that koan-like riddle is your life long struggle. It is a different kind of doubt- a nagging thought that despite all the hard work, despite the deep sense of pride when seeing the completed project, despite the warm reception, there is something missing. 

 

When I listen to it now- never complete, just a track here and there- I still have little moments of cringing, but many moments of satisfaction.  I wonder, however, if my initial reaction was about more than a flat note.  We make music with our entire being. Maybe I wanted to hear an idealized vision of myself as an artist, not the one I really am.   I am at my best when I crawl into the music itself and inhabit different places- e.g. the opening phrases of Rorem take me to a painfully lonely young version of myself walking alone on a snowy day in Northern Michigan.  Gaubert makes me embrace the joyful part of me, the one that cried when eating a simple lavender sorbet in a restaurant in Metz, France as I realized that there are moments of profound beauty in this world.  And so on.

 

I am still trying to decide if that artist is the one you hear on Four Prayers, or if I fell short. Incidentally, I only saw one barge in Marietta. It did not have the calming effect I was seeking.  The empty blue sky on my walk today did not either. 

 

Nothing erases doubt. Maybe it is time for a new koan-  “Your Doubts and your Light are the same.”  Or something.  Suggestions welcome…

A Classical Nerd at Coachella: Day 2

After a marathon day one, we made a rather later entrance on day two. None of us particularly wanted to sit in 95 degree sunshine, especially since we were all different degrees of hazy hangovers. We showed up at about 4:00 after some vigorous pre-gaming. This time we actually showed up at the proper entrance and made the long hike into the site. It takes about 25 minutes to walk the paths and get through security, which is cursory at best.

I was feeling pretty good. As we entered, we passed at tent that was booming the loudest techno music of all time. I wanted absolutely no part of it. The last tent in or out? The end of the line. No thanks.

There were thousands and thousands and thousands of people walking through. All colors, shapes, sizes, outfits, costumes. That kind of scene is bewildering to me under the best of circumstances. In this case, I just decided to hang with the flow and not be concerned. Not so easy. Eventually the crush of people coming through the entrance began to lighten up and then we were here:

Milky Chance was finishing their set as we arrived. The lead singer was quite ill and apologized for not being able to sing, so we didn't feel too bad about getting there late. Then it was another amazing crush to get into the beer garden - hundreds of sweaty people fighting through a chokepoint for alcohol, the smell of pot literally everywhere. I went on autopilot and tried to make sure not to trample any tiny women, who were surely getting the worst of it in the exchange. As the logjam hit its peak, we realized they were turning people back who had "over 21" wristbands from the day before, making the salmon ladder much, much worse. We started to boo the people who were being turned back, until I suddenly realized they were my guys, and so then I shut up.

We lost everyone in the crush, so bit by bit we found each other (and beer) and sat down to wait for Hozier.

By the way, I know a lot of these pictures are from similar angles, but once you get inside the beer garden, you pretty much don't want to go back out into the fray. Anyway, I liked it OK. The crowd, much more sedate today, really enjoyed it, lots of singing along, girls on shoulders, stuff like that. For me it fell short of being really good - there was the pretense of sophisticated music-making, but every time they went for something I could feel the seams come apart a bit.

Back to the crowd. Friday's crowd seemed somewhat overcharged. Lots of jostling and bumping, spilled beers, kids passing out and falling over (amateurs). Today's crowd was older, more well-heeled, and there was more convivial vibe, and even though it seemed like there were more people there overall it felt more relaxed and somehow felt like there was more personal space overall.

While my friends got food and wandered around, I decided to go check out something called the Corporate Headquarters, where there are guys in suits and hippo masks doing random shit all day. Looks like this:

The lines of balloons in the background are pretty cool. They have human anchors, and the anchors move around in different configurations all day. I thought it was my imagination. The balloons plus the enormous caterpillar that prowls the grounds add up to a somewhat otherworldly experience, whatever was happening in my bloodstream notwithstanding.

We got back together as a group to hit alt-J.

Honestly, at this point I have to admit that I don't remember much of this show. I think I thought it was cool, and they used the video screens on the sides of the stage to great effect. My focus hit the wall for a bit, and I spent the set looking around at this:

Pictures can't really do justice to the vivid scene. it's absolutely otherworldly, like some strange desert planet where everyone has gathered to not give a fuck about anything for three days. There were lots of colored lights, including neon-lit palm trees that would change colors throughout the evening. Just beautiful, and something I'll never forget.

When alt-J was done, we wandered over the food tents for some much-needed sustainance (pizza and beer, obv), then chilled out on the lawn. I had wanted to see Tyler the Creator, who started at the same time as Jack White. When he came out on stage, shouting incoherently into the mic with a day-glo Romper Room set and like 1,000 guys with him, my crew immediately turned on the idea. One of my guys called it "angry Nickelodeon". At that moment, a huge explosion of sound came over us from the other side. It was Jack White, and we made our way over with a quickness.

Holy. Shit.

It was like a bomb of absolute awesomeness exploded in the crowd. Everyone around me was flipping out, totally into the set. From time to time, it seemed like people holding onto their heads to keep them from flying off from the onslaught of badassery.

It was, honestly, one of the best shows of any genre I've ever seen. He and his (fucking killer) band hauled ass through the whole output of his career, from heavy rock through four-on-the-floor country to childrens songs. It was extraordinary. When I was a college professor I saw the White Stripes in Raleigh at a small club called the Disco Rodeo, and that was also a great show, but always obviously limited by Meg's rudimentary but essential drumming. Now, surrounded by really badass players at every position, I really felt the full flowering of an idea, a through-line that became almost impossibly great. The band communicates (verbally and non-) constantly. I loved it on every level.

We walked out slightly early to beat the huge traffic rush, and looking back I took this shot:

Pretty much looks like my memory. Making more tomorrow. My last from this evening is walking outside, pulling the screen door behind me, then turning directly back around and walking right into the screen. Winning.

A classical nerd at coachella: prelude

So, I find myself at the Coachella music festival, as part of my brother-in-law's bachelor party. Over the next three days, I'll see (hopefully) any number of killer acts and ingest (definitely) any number of illicit substances, and reporting in this space about both of those things. In my mind, these blogs will hopefully have an almost anthropological bent - I've never been to a major music festival before (though I've been to plenty of shows), and I quite literally have no idea what to expect. I'll be live tweeting @ChrisGrymes and recapping each day here. Fear and loathing in Palm Springs.

Show The Work

I often think about a conversation I once had with my father. It was after one of many concerts of mine he's attended over the past 15 years or so. He said, "when I see you up there, and you're playing without music, it seems like magic, because I can't imagine how you do that." And to my not-a-musician as there ever was not-a-musician as my dad is, it must seem that way, much the same way it does to me when I see a great dancer or a Cirque du Soleil acrobat - my body does not do any of these things. In fact, most of the time I feel like I'm pretty much strapped to the earth.

But it's not magic. Those performers, like myself, have spent countless hours - really long, hard, repetitive hours refining their craft until they appear almost superhuman. Just last month at the Big Apple Circus here at Lincoln Center I watched two women fold themselves into a glass box about 3 feet cubed. My brain told me that wasn't possible, but I watched it happen and I immediately wondered how long it took to learn how to do that.  The same carries for any number of endeavors: professional sports, Olympic-level ice skating or gymnastics, almost anything where talented people are doing things for other people. At the heart of it is the work, and we almost never see it. The outcome often almost appears as if out of thin air.

But it didn't. Whether it's Lebron James, Tiger Woods (in his prime), Joshua Bell, or anyone who excels under public pressure, every person who is consistently on top of their game is working hard to make that happen. I'm fascinated by how people achieve high-level performance and try to emulate that at every opportunity. I just wish more people would show their work. I get that in situations where big money is on the line i.e professional sports (I'm a fan, can you tell?) you don't want to give away your secrets. In other lines of work, I hope the trend continues toward more exposure of the "process". I can see it happening in fields like cooking and fashion (obviously reality television helps - I for sure would not have known about what "sous-vide" or "empire waist" was if not for Top Chef and Project Runway, respectively). I'd like to see more of it in my business as well.

To that end, I've been showing my work for a while and will continue to do so. You can find me at this link right here. Every time I practice I turn on the livestream. It's completely un-glamorous - in the morning I'm often clearly unshowered (don't judge - I have a two-year-old. You have to take it where you can get it) and I'm usually working on scales or doing reps on whatever literature I have coming up. When the stream is not live, you'll be able to watch the most recent podcast from Open G Records, or you might catch me gaming as I stream my play from my Playstation 4. It might not be much, but it's my small effort to say: this is the life of a working artist. Come check it out sometime. It's totally boring, but it's totally interesting.

Chris Chaffee makes a record

 It Begins.

           

            It seems so simple.  Set some goals, make a plan, apply yourself, and then you are done.  Of course there are setbacks, failures, some unexpected twists and turns, that week where you just “weren’t feeling it,” a “life event” that derails you for awhile, and so on, but you made it happen, right?  You said that starting January 1st you would lose 20 pounds in one month, starting this summer, you would finally learn Mandarin, starting tomorrow you would tell your wife you love her once a day, by the end of the year you will finally send that novel to the publisher, etc. Yeah, bullshit.  It is not that easy, and it does not happen that way a majority of the time. I know- I am a slowly recovering overachieving goal setting high-strung musician.  In my student days, the start of every academic year was that big salient date that was supposed to be the start of all the grandiose plans.  This goes all the way back to High School, and for full context, I was a four year student at the Interlochen Arts Academy, a wonderful pressure-cooker of high artistic and academic standards where we used to make fun of the “B” students for not keeping up, the exact opposite of peer pressure in the real world.  Before my senior year, I remember telling myself the week before school was “the calm before the storm,” and making lists of all the goals- competitions, school auditions, personal achievements that I was sure were in my grasp with just the right amount of focus and discipline. The list was insane and impossible.  And, every subsequent year well into doctoral study? Repeat.  “This is going to be the year that I….” 

            Crash.  I did not meet my own expectations. Yes, I turned out just fine- I have a stable career, I have been a productive member of the music performance and education community for quite a while, and even at my worst, I can still function as a member of normal, everyday society. Mostly. Thankfully, somewhere around the end of my time as a student, I started to realize that things would come to me one day at a time, one small step at a time, and once I stopped looking, I’d find what I was looking for.  Before I had this epiphany, I had many unhappy years. 

            Why the hell do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we think that we can simply flip a switch on a given day and everything will start moving in one direction? What’s worse, why do we fall for the “quick fix?”  This holds true in music as well- I am always equal parts amused and annoyed when I see my professional colleagues offering clinics that promise a “complete flute makeover” or “30 days to your best tone” or “unleashing your inner artist in 3 steps” Again, Bullshit.  Face it; just because today is some random day on the calendar, say, 1 January, or you gained some fresh new wisdom from an “expert” in a masterclass or whatnot, you are not a brand new person.  You are still the same person tied in the same knots, with the same strengths and weaknesses you had the day before. You are still the person who sneaks down to the fridge at midnight to sneak a few pieces of cheese, still the person who cuts corners when you practice your scales. Change, for better or worse, is part of life.   Make your choice – decide which way you want to go, and enjoy the daily ride.  Recognize that change will occur with time and effort and learn to be content with small accomplishments.  I often joke with my students that I am still learning to play three notes in a row in tune with a good tone.  It’s really not a joke.  To do it the way I want to, i.e. on a high level that very few others can achieve, with a sound and a way of phrasing that makes me stand out from all the other musicians vying for attention in my incredibly competitive yet tiny world- it’s much harder than it sounds. 

            What does this have to do with making a record?  Simple.  I have an opportunity ahead of me that is rare, wonderful, and challenging. For the 2014-15 academic year, I have earned a Professional Development Leave, also known as a sabbatical, from my university. I started planning for this more than a year ago, and I am proud that my competitive bid for this opportunity was successful. Better still- I have a grant to make a record while I am on leave, so I get to combine a period of professional improvement with an important musical milestone- my “debut” recording.

            I have to remind myself on a daily basis not to set unreasonable and stupid goals for this project. I have more free time than usual, and I intend to use it. Along the way, I am exposing the entire process to the public- I live-stream my practice sessions online, we will live-stream portions of the recording process, and I will continue blogging as the process unfolds.  I could go into hiding, go thru all the ups and downs behind closed doors, make a really nice (highly edited) record, and then emerge and hand it to you and say “look what I did!”  Nope.  I want everyone to see the process, start to finish, warts, swear words and all.  Yes, I expect it to be on the highest possible level, but I have a much better idea of how to get there than I ever have before.  I have denied myself all thinking that “today I will start my new practice regimen and in 6 months I will be better at this, better at that, etc.”  I have a plan, I will stick to it, but I do not expect that I will be new and better than ever, I will just be a more polished, and content version of the artist I already am. 

            Recently, I told a student that she needed to “spend time everyday looking at clouds until you stop using words to describe them.”  In my journey ahead, I want to be able to practice what I preach.  I want to find the clarity of vision it takes to be the artist I believe I can be. 

           

 

 

           

Outside the Echo Chamber, Pt. III: Frequencies

    In my previous post, I spoke of the need for young musicians who are interested in a career in classical music to venture beyond what is accepted tradition and create unique musical experiences of their own while they are still within the safety net of their music school, their parents, or both. This process can be really frustrating at times, as it involves lots of trial and error. However, the lessons learned through that effort are an exceptional complement to formal classroom work; and spending time each day working with your friends to create something of your own can be a huge relief from the everyday stresses of music school.  

    As I was writing that post, I tried to find websites or articles for various student-led ensembles across the country that I could hold up as examples. Unfortunately, finding those examples proved to be too much even for the mighty Google. So this week, I decided to take some initiative and throw a spotlight onto two groups from my own alma mater that are doing some very cool work outside the lines of their assigned curriculum. One of these stories is below, and the other will be posted later this week.


    Today I’m going to highlight a group founded by clarinetist Wesley Rhodes, who is in his final semester of study at East Carolina before he heads to Colorado State to pursue a Master’s degree in performance. Wesley founded Frequencies two years ago as part of ECU’s New Music Festival, which occurs each spring. The idea was to put on a concert where students could select modern chamber music that appealed to their own musical tastes and perform that music for their peers and faculty. As Wesley puts it, “For me, the goal was getting the students to be aware that these pieces are out there, get them aware that they can actually do them, and then getting the faculty aware that we, the students, can do them in front of people.” If you’re currently a music student who is reading this and wondering why I’m making a fuss about this, think of all that goes into planning a recital for yourself, then imagine adding four or five other groups to that recital and not having your professor help you pick out the music from start to finish. Hopefully that puts in perspective how cool this undertaking was, particularly at a school where this sort of thing was not really happening.

    The first step to turn this idea into a reality actually did involve a faculty member. Specifically, Wesley had to get the blessing of Ed Jacobs, who is the director of the New Music Festival, as well as a dear friend and collaborator of ours here at Open G. What was Eddie’s response when a student came forward and said he wanted to organize a concert by students and for students? As Wesley tells the story, Eddie’s first words were “I’ve been waiting thirteen years for someone to do this.” Teachers: that is the perfect response to a student telling you that they want to try and create something of their own. Students: if you have an idea, don’t automatically assume your teachers will shoot it down and tell you to stop distracting yourself from that Bach partita.

 Wesley Rhodes, Founder of the  Frequencies  concert series at East Carolina University

Wesley Rhodes, Founder of the Frequencies concert series at East Carolina University

        From that initial conversation onward, Eddie let the kids play but was there to offer advice if they ever needed it. “Dr. Jacobs was kind of like a facilitator making sure I wasn’t taking on too much or too little,” Wesley says. “I was really lucky to have that.” The two traded a long series of emails to find the perfect name for the concert while Wesley began the tedious work of filling out the bill with other performers. When I ask about his mindset in deciding performers and repertoire, Wesley tells me that he tried to find willing performers before worrying about rep because “It’s easier to get the people together than it is to say ‘I want to do this piece’ and get very close to the end and not have what you need.” The first concert featured performances of Ian Clarke’s Orange Dawn (flute and piano), Krzysztof Penderecki’s Capriccio (solo tuba), Leon Kirchner’s Five Pieces for Piano (solo piano), V.J. Manzo’s Discourse for Clarinet and Interactive Software (Eb clarinet and electronics), Antal Dorati’s Cinq Pieces pour Oboe (solo oboe), and Gregory Wanamaker’s Duo Sonata (clarinet and alto saxophone).

    The hardest part of the whole process as he relates it was scheduling proper rehearsal time for each of the groups to play together amidst the chaos that can be music school in the spring. For the concert this past year, Wesley estimates that no more than seven rehearsals occurred, so it was absolutely important that each rehearsal run in a smooth and focused way.

    They found pieces to play predominately over the internet and on occasion had to contact a composer directly in order to acquire the actual sheet music. “Some of the pieces written after 2002 are more of a case where you’d have to actually email the composer and say ‘I have this event going and I’d like to put your piece on it.’ And so you’d have to sort of wait a little bit and hope that they’d get back to you. More often than not, they would, which is really awesome.” Google’s ability to find music and the proper contact for acquiring that music truly knows few limitations.

    Frequencies has now been a part of ECU’s New Music Festival (now the North Carolina New Music Initiative) for two years and is gearing up for its third. Their performance this spring will be on March 20 at 7:00 pm, in the event that any of my readers are in the eastern North Carolina area.    Wesley is set to graduate and move to Colorado this winter, at which point the leadership of Frequencies will be passed on to junior flutist Benjamin Sledge (remember that name for my next post). When I ask Wesley if he feels the group has met their goals, he emphatically replies, “I think we met them splendidly. There’s always a little bit of fear with any recital you give that someone or something is just going to crash and burn, and we didn’t have that either time. It was amazing. It was well received, and the faculty wanted to see it again; and people from the community who came out were very excited to see that it was a younger crowd making these things happen. I think, in the long run, it’s going to help draw in a bigger crowd.”

 

    If I haven’t made my point painstakingly obvious by this point, it is simply that we young folk are highly capable of creating things at any point in our schooling or not-quite-yet-professional careers. The sooner we start, the better for each of us in the long run. I am very excited to see how this group develops beyond Wesley’s tenure and am confident that it will continue to be a staple in the already exceptional new music scene at ECU. 

    I’ll close with a quote from Wesley when I asked him if he had any specific advice for students who had an idea but weren’t sure they knew how to begin realizing that idea and making it a reality. “Just don’t be afraid to jump in the water. It could crash and burn, but there’s a good chance that it won’t. Before I approached Dr. Jacobs, I was a little skeptical of it, because I was thinking ‘What if he says no, or what if he says yes but I can’t get anyone [to play] and we have to withdraw the whole thing?’ So it’s just something where you have to be ready to jump in the water; and if there’s a shark in the water, you deal with it.”

 

William Carrigan is a bass player and songwriter based in New York City, as well as the current Chief Operations Officer at Open G Records. He graduated from East Carolina University with degrees in classical and jazz performance and currently attends New York University in pursuit of a Masters degree in music business. He can be reached at will@opengrecords.com.

Outside the Echo Chamber, Part II: Killing our idols

            I recently read a Playboy article (SFW) where the author laments a stranglehold that he perceives nostalgia has on the output of Hollywoods biggest movie studios. Im going to spare you any jokes about Michael Bays obsession with ruining 90s-era television shows and simply point out that there is a real trend here that is equally prevalent in our world of classical music. It is a difficult argument to make that the upcoming release schedules for classical musics largest record labels - Decca and Deutsche Grammophone - will generate any buzz whatsoever outside of conservatory music libraries just dying to catalog another edition of Dvoraks cello concerto. If you look at the recent programming of premier orchestras, you will see a similar pattern: long-dead composers dominate, and movie karaoke performances of black-and-white Hitchcock films are seen as edgy attempts to woo the general public. It seems that we, too, in the classical music community have a serious nostalgia problem.

            Now, there is rarely a less productive discussion than the one that seeks to assign blame for a complex issue. Truthfully, the woes of the classical music industry largely reflect those facing the music industry as a whole; and if we really want to understand what ails the broader music industry, we have to acknowledge a world where the average disposable income is shrinking and global industry has become obscenely consolidated. If we set aside these larger questions for now, we are left with the task of finding ways for creators of classical music to combat the aging of our audience and inspire new generations to become loyal listeners. This problem is fairly specific to our niche within the industry and is one that I optimistically believe is manageable.

            This brings me back to that original Playboy article. Its obviously true that programming classical classics is a proven way for orchestras to attract more conservative donors; and I certainly dont mean to insinuate that Mozart and Brahms should be forever abandoned to obscurity. Students in conservatories certainly need a foundation in this standard repertoire; but it seems also imperative that young musicians and writers be empowered to shape the future of music in their own unique way that moves beyond what is standard. After all, a foundation is only as enticing and worthwhile as whatever you build on top of it.

            If were going to shape a future of concert music that is exciting to others, as well as ourselves, we have to insist on an environment of creation and collaboration that doesnt necessarily stop at the boundaries of the classical community. I dont think Im being unreasonable when I say that the burden for this falls predominately on the shoulders of my own generation (well say 18-26 year olds) and those who serve as our teachers and mentors. If we want people our age to take an interest in the music that we play, we have to stop relying so disproportionately on what has already been done a thousand times. The reality is that all young musicians can benefit from working with their peers to create and market a musical experience that is all their own. Teachers who encourage this sort of experimentation and provide opportunities for their students to collaborate with each other will be providing their students with invaluable experience and perspective for the rest of their careers. When the youth within the classical community begin to universally adopt a forward-thinking mentality and the release schedules of Decca and DG start to resemble those of smaller labels - such as New Amersterdam and Nonesuch Records - the future for classical music will be bright, indeed.

 

William Carrigan is a bass player and songwriter based in New York City, as well as the current Chief Operations Officer at Open G Records. He graduated from East Carolina University with degrees in classical and jazz performance and currently attends New York University in pursuit of a Masters degree in music business. He can be reached at will@opengrecords.com.

Outside the Echo Chamber, part I: Introduction

            For those who dont know me, my name is William Carrigan, and I am in charge of operations and business strategy here at Open G Records. You are currently reading the first of a series of blog entries that I am writing to advance a concept that plays an important role in our strategy at Open G, and is also important for anyone seeking to make a meaningful and successful statement in their artistic career. This concept is a phenomenon called the ideological echo chamber; and although it is most often associated with political and religious groups, it can just as easily be used to describe groups within the art world, particularly those possessing a rich tradition. (Side bar: If I ever start to seriously use phrases like that, shoot to kill.)  Put simply, an echo chamber is a group of people who think alike, primarily share ideas amongst themselves, and rarely venture outside of their group to seek the counsel of others. Though my comments will generally be directed at those who would identify themselves as classical musicians (after all, this is a classical record labels blog), artists from all art forms and genres will hopefully find ideas in these entries that they can use to avoid artistic echo chambers and further their own unique vision in new and exciting ways.

            We live in a time when most major universities in the United States have a freestanding music school that offers degrees in classical music and jazz music. I dont think its absurd to predict that as soon as the traditions of rock and hip hop have been quantified and shaped into a curriculum that can be shoveled into the mouths of eager students, degree programs for these genres will come to exist in many of the same schools. In all of these programs, students will spend hours learning everything they could ever forget about the rich tradition of their chosen style of music. They will stay up late cramming for exams and having deep conversations wondering what they will do after they have graduated into a world where people dont seem to care about their art. Many will graduate without an answer to this question and will postpone the real world by going on to get their graduate degrees. Those who are truly enamored with academia will spend even more time in school getting their doctorates. When graduation can no longer be avoided, a select few may go out into the world and pursue a career creating and performing, though the majority will fall back on non-musical jobs or become professors. These professors will go on to teach the next generation of students, and the cycle will begin again.

            Now, I dont mean to imply that school is horrible and that music with historical traditions should just keel over and be dead already. Personally, I am grateful for the time I was able to spend studying music during my undergraduate years, and the general knowledge that I now have of the Western musical tradition has proven to be helpful in my practice and in my playing. What concerns me, however, is that those of us who care about historical music face a cultural dead end if we continue to close ourselves off within self-feeding collectives stubbornly adhering only to our selective enlightened traditions. After all, if  real music died in 1897 (Brahms) or 1955 (Charlie Parker) or 1970 (Jimi Hendrix) or even 2006 (J Dilla), then what the hell is the point of being a musician anymore? Nobody really gets THAT excited about a cover band.

            No, Ill be writing these blogs in hopes that they will be a starting point for those who are looking for ways to break through the crushing mold of tradition to create something that inspires both their own artistic spirit and, I believe more importantly, the imagination of the community around them. Along the way, I will point out people and groups that I believe are doing exciting work in this regard; and I welcome any and all suggestions of artists who have inspired you through my email which is listed below. I hope that these blogs will prove as challenging to your own artistic beliefs and priorities as the process of writing them will be for my own.

 

Until next time,

William

 

William Carrigan is a bass player and songwriter based in New York City, as well as the current Chief Operations Officer at Open G Records. He graduated from East Carolina University with degrees in classical and jazz performance and currently attends New York University in pursuit of a Masters degree in music business. He can be reached at will@opengrecords.com.

Last day in St. Louis

So, I'm just about done with my trip. So far I've gathered a lot of video and audio of Nina and Scott warming up, rehearsing, and performing. Today I'll gather some shots of their life with their family and sit them down for a short interview about the project.

I feel good about what we've done. All of this will be edited for a short film to be part of a Kickstarter campaign to fund the record and build the Open G community. It's exciting and scary. I've never done anything like this before, and it's so far outside of my comfort zone that I just have to try not to doubt myself.

Scott and Nina are so much fun to hang with and listen to. I just know that the ethos of this project and the Open G concept are both beautiful and strong, and I truly believe that people will want to be a part of this and future projects.