Category Archives: World Information

Expanding on the Jazz vs. Classical Worlds

Duke Ellington

Ludwig von Beethoven


I hope the title above doesn’t sound contentious. I truly don’t believe that there is a battle between the jazz and classical worlds. However, I believe that many musicians do believe that one must make a choice between playing jazz or classical.

Let’s make it very clear here that playing jazz and classical well takes years of practice and devotion. One is not easier than the other and just because a musician can play jazz doesn’t mean they can also play classical and vice-verse. I have one foot firmly placed in the jazz world (I do have a Masters degree in Jazz Studies) and my other foot firmly placed in the classical world (I sub quite often in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra) and I work hard maintaining a high playing level in both fields and I never take that for granted.

As I have been traveling down both paths, the more I realize how similar the paths are. When I think about how I want to play jazz, this is what I think about:

1. Playing with a good sound (ALWAYS!!)
2. Playing with good time
3. Playing stylistically correct
4. Playing with good technique
5. Playing with good and clear articulations
6. Playing with a studied knowledge of the music
7. Being a nice person to those around me (so I get hired again!)

The above list are the exact points I think about when I’m playing classical music! So, yes, there are differences between jazz and classical styles, but there are more similarities and those similarities are what I have been working on. And that work has paid off. I do several gigs a month with one of my various jazz groups (Standard(ish) Jazz Trio, Trombononymous, Elevator Up!) and I have won a bass trombone position with the Sinfonia da Camera orchestra in Urbana Illinois.

In future blogs, I will go into detail of what I am practicing for each classical, jazz, bass trombone and tenor trombone. These topics can be useful to musicians on any instrument that want to make themselves as marketable as possible to work as much as possible in these hard economic times.


Leave a comment

Filed under Music Education, New Music/Ideas, World Information

A New Chapter

The page has turned.

RBD and mda have both moved on from our untimely departure from our previous jobs (read our blog ‘Struggling Arts Hits Home’ directly after we lost our jobs). mda has found a great new home with the Percussive Arts Society or PAS, where he is now the Director of Marketing and Communications. Congrats to you mda!!

I, however, has gone a slightly different path. Instead of hitting the pavement and going out and looking for another job (hopefully within the arts industry), I decided that since I had enough gigs and money saved up to pay bills through the calendar year, I would invest my time into the bass trombone, tenor trombone, orchestral trombone and jazz trombone. My goal was (and still is) to become a solid player on both the bass trombone and tenor trombone in both the jazz and classical worlds. No small order to be sure.

I’ve always had one foot in the classical world and one foot in the jazz world. I work in both and have been successful in both. But I wanted to be the best all around player. I wanted to be able to go do a small group jazz gig on my tenor trombone, and turn around and win a bass trombone orchestral audition. Well, five months later, I’m getting closer and closer to my goal.

I recently won a position with the Sinfonia da Camera out of Urbana Illinois, conducted by Ian Hobson and I am also on contract with the Anderson Symphony Orchestra in Anderson Indiana conducted by Rick Sowers. These are two small orchestras with a grand total of 12 concerts I’ll play, but its a start and I’ll be blogging about each orchestra as the season unfurls. Each orchestra has a good brass section, clear and easy going conductors and are playing good repertoire so it should be a fun season of playing!

Later this week, I’ll be blogging about working within the Jazz and Classical world and expanding on how I am practicing for each genre!

Leave a comment

Filed under Music Education, Performances, World Information

Lecture on Courage: MLK 2011

On January 17th, 2011 I went to the Indianapolis Museum of Art to listen to ‘A Conversation with Artists: Courage to Pursue the Arts’, featuring artist Willis “Bing” Davis, author Mari Evans and my mentor David N. Baker. The talk was moderated by Modupe Labode.

First the panelists:

Willis “Bing” Davis is a contemporary artist and educator. He is currently the President of the Board of Directors of the National Conference of Artists. Art to David “is a wonderful way to understand self and to understand others.”

Mari Evans is a poet, author, orator and educator. Her career includes teaching literature at Marion College, Washington University at Sait Louis, State-University of New York, and Cornell University.

David N. Baker is a jazz musician, composer and conductor. He studied music and education at Indiana University where he received a Masers of Music Education. Dr. Baker has served on multiple boards, panels and has received numerous awards for his work including serving as a senior consultant for music programs at the Smithsonian.

The talk was all about courage. The panelists all grew up before the Civil Rights movement and were beginning their illustrious careers during the 60s.  The talk also occurred on the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday. Many of the questions circled around the idea of courage, being courageous and teaching courage. The panelists were all inspiring and had great stories to tell. I felt invigorated and yet still somewhat ashamed of my acceptance of the way things are instead of challenging and changing my surroundings. Below are some of the thought provoking quotes I was able to jot down during the session:

Dr. David Baker

Dr. David Baker, Distinguished Professor of Music

David Baker:

I can outwork your talent.

Question Everything

One thing you can’t change is the fact you are a human being. If you aren’t’ a good human being, everything else is greatly diminished.

Mari Evans:

Poet, Author, Orator, Mari Evans

The only obstacle I ever faced was my own ignorance.

Facts have meaning when they are attached to other facts.

Don’t say: How do I become famous. Instead say, how do I reach excellence.

Artist, Lecturer, Willis "Bing" Davis

Willis “Bing” Davis:

Ask yourself ‘Who am I?’

Give back what you’ve been given.

You may travel the world, but keep dust on your shoes.


1 Comment

Filed under Art, World Information

Spring Training 2010 Trip #1

Spring Training Baseball!!

Travel Day, March 6th, Indianapolis, IN to Tampa, FL

Indy to Tampa, Florida

DAY 1:
After ingesting fried seafood accompanied with sweet tea in Southern Georgia, our  trip to Spring Training baseball has truly begun. Having traveled for a little over 12 hours, 700 miles and only being 3 hours from our destination, blogging seems the only possible course of action to subdue the tremblings of our bowels and strain on our hearts.

RBD: So far this trip has been fairly uneventful. Being too excited to sleep and waiting for laundry to finish, I didn’t really fall asleep until after 3am. 7:30 am rolls around and mda pulls into my driveway. We load the car and hit the road. Then I receive a text from my great friend, jazz trombone playing brother and in demand around the world as a jazz composer and arranger Brent Wallarab. This text said simply, ‘Did you get a chance to send me those trumpet solo parts for the overdub session?’ Simply stated…no I did not. So, mda and I drive around downtown Indy looking for free wireless (remember it’s 7:30am) We found a hot-spot, I converted the parts into pdf’s and while in the car emailed said parts to Brent. Crisis diverted.

Stop eating that cookie mda!!!

Red Bull

mda: After a quick grocery store stop, RBD informs me that we would NOT be living on Red Bull, Oreo’s and Doritos for the entire week.  Instead we loaded up on veggies, fruit, hummus and sandwich fixins’ (southern drawl). Finally around 8:30 am, we hit Interstate 65 pointed south. After reaching our cruising altitude and speed we played one of our new favorite albums, ABACUS by Frank Glover. This is a complete masterpiece and when it is finally released to the general public in May of 2010, every person should purchase, love and enjoy loving this incredible album! ABACUS pretty much got us to Louisville KY, where


we switched to Vince Mendoza. While passing through Louisville, KY, we began discussing the arts scene there and compared it to the scene in Indianapolis. It seems to us that the jazz scene in Louisville is having the same trouble the Indy scene is having. Having no way to fix anything, we pressed on.

RBD: I must have dozed off, because I woke up and we were through Kentucky and getting close to Nashville

Rich's white knuckles through Atlanta

TN, where we hooked up with Interstate 24. This is where I took over the driving. Little did I know that we would soon be hitting the mountains, the state of Georgia and Atlanta. Let me say this with all due respect to anybody affiliated with Georgia and Atlanta: LEARN TO FU*%)N@ DRIVE! Ouch, sorry, I mean really! I don’t like to speed too much, so I had the cruise control set conservatively at 76 when the Speed Limit was 70. And 72 when the Speed Limit was 65. I had people passing us easily going 80-90+ miles per hour. Then the same people would pass us again and again. “Why was that?”, we thought. The speeds that people were driving fluctuated so much that they would jolt up to a high rate of speed, pass you, then pull over in front of you and slow down to below the speed limit. OVER and OVER this happened! I got cut off so many times it started to seem like a natural occurence in my life. Not ONE person would slow down to let me into their lane. No, they would SPEED UP!! DAMN! Needless to say, I white knuckled the steering wheel, took off the cruise control and proceeded to go as fast as it was possible to go. The only thing to settle the nerves was to put on some awesome music. What did we listen to mda? I remember having music on, but I was too busy cursing the damn Georgia drivers. Fill me in.

Bjork: Verspertine

mda: Well, that awesome music would be Bjork! We listened to Vespertine, Medulla and Post.

RBD: Oh yeah! I remember Bjork! I’m really starting to get into her music. What was the vocal album we listened too?

Bjork: Medulla

mda: That was Medulla. Every sound on this album was created by the human voice…well 98%, they used a piano on that one track and an electronic sound on another track. Everything else, is vocal based. From the low, low bass notes, bass drums, cymbal crashes and everything in between. If I remember correctly, she used the Paul Hillier Vocal Ensemble. He is famous for teaching at the IU School of Music and his ensemble’s interpretation of Renaissance Music.

RBD: Yeah, that was truly a beautiful album. I only have one Bjork album and that is Verspertine. Zach Lapidus turned me on to that album. I’ll soon be picking up Medulla too.

mda: Then, once your nerves settled and we cleared Atlanta, we listened to a couple of episodes/podcasts of WNYC’s incredible radio show, Radiolab. We listened to an episode about the Musical Language which was specifically interesting.

RBD: I agree, very interesting. RadioLab always gets me thinking.

mda: Yup, me too.  After that was a very bad dinner at Tifton, Georgia.  I have personally banished myself from making any other choices on where we will eat for the rest of the week.  So Rich you will either make all the decisions for restaurants or we will be going back to Red Bull, Doritos, and Oreo’s.  Whatcha think o’ that boyo?

RBD: I will make the decisions necessary so that we don’t gain 50 pounds in a single week. We are going to have fun, but be responsible about it. Deal?

mda: yes, sir….



Filed under Baseball, New Music/Ideas, World Information