Pandemic Update

Now that I have limitless time on my hands, I figured it would be a good idea to give a status update to everyone who cares, since I rarely post on Facebook and not everybody know and love follows me on Instagram, the only social media platform I regularly post on anymore.

First, I’m still alive and healthy, which I’m very thankful for.

Second, I know I said that I have limitless time on my hands just a few sentences ago, but that’s actually the opposite of the truth. Due to a unique set of circumstances, I have actually become much busier since the pandemic began than I was for many months preceding. As everyone and everything else is shutting down in isolation, I seem to be just waking up.

This is due to a simple reason: I got a day job.

Now, I truly wish I could look each and every one of you in the eye and tell you truthfully that I got a day job because this pandemic cancelled my large portfolio of upcoming gigs and took away my healthy stream of income, but I cannot. To be frank, I dearly wish this reality (the same reality many of my working musician friends are unfortunately experiencing right now) was my own, but it is not. The real story is that I have been struggling to survive for well over a year now, getting very little work and having to sell quite a few instruments and other gear just to get by and be able to pay rent each month. So, I have been applying to day jobs for a long time now and happened to finally land one essentially right as the California lockdown hit.

It took a long time, but this employment opportunity was perfect for a few reasons. First, I was at the end of my rope financially. If I couldn’t find a sustainable income by the end of this month, it was likely that I would have been out of Los Angeles for good by the end of the next. And considering I had essentially no musical dates lined up for the entirety of 2020 well before and right up to when the virus shut everything down, I would likely not have been able to find that income through music even without the virus.

The second reason this job is the perfect thing right now is that it’s for an essential business, so I am working full-time when most other people are unemployed. It’s not glamorous work (no retail job is), but it IS steady income and my coworkers are great. So, in a very interesting twist of events, when most people in the country (and much of the world) are now being forced to experience the lifestyle I’ve voluntarily lived most of my life as an introvert, I am now out of the house most of the day and interacting with more people on a regular basis than ever before (since I finished school, anyway). Granted, the “interacting with people” bit has me concerned in the midst of social distancing and isolation due to a global pandemic that I have no idea how my historically weak immune system would cope with if I got it, but right now I don’t have a choice.

The final way this job is perfect is that it’s a few blocks from my house, so I can walk there. S C O R E.

With a full-time work schedule, I now only have a few hours every evening to myself, and most of that has been spent doing some quick remote horn recording for clients through Fiverr. So, that’s another twist: I’m suddenly getting quite a bit of online-only musical work, which is awesome. I still need the job to get by (LA is expensive), but it’s helping me to get out of my financial hole faster (and believe me, it is quite the hole). In an ideal world, the pandemic would be over very soon and I would begin getting all kinds of gigs once everything opened up again, allowing me to go back to being totally freelance sooner rather than later, but…remember how crazy optimistic I was about 2020 (along with everyone else I knew) in my last blog post? Yeah…probably not a good idea to plan for that.

But here’s the point, and I promise it’s a positive one.

I have a job that will cover my expenses, and during this pandemic there’s no gig that that job could get in the way of so I can get down and make some money grabbing all the hours they’ll let me work without worrying about compromising my career. I’m getting paid pretty regularly to record horn parts for people on the side, and there will (allegedly) be a $1200 stimulus check coming eventually which will help a ton. So, even though my bank account looks bleak right now, it will only get better from here. In a few months I could be doing better financially than I was before I moved to LA, so hopefully by the time this pandemic gets solved I will be in a great position to make the rest of 2020 (and the rest of the decade) amazing.

I’m blessed with health and employment and, although my mental health is still very fractured for a lot of reasons, I have reason to be joyful. And right now, I will gladly take that.

2020 Vision

It’s not very often that a decade ends.

Well, ok. That’s not strictly accurate. Technically the decade-long timespan that began at 3:56 pm on December 31st, 2009 (PST, obviously) is ending as I type this. But a calendar decade, like the ’80s or the 1350s BC, is a much rarer and more significant event. (I did some complex differential equations and determined that it happens every ten years.)

Of course, nothing significant happens when the ball drops and the clock strikes midnight every year. As far as I can work out, lots of people sharing a kiss is the only thing significant that happens when the calendar rolls over (not for me yet, but we’ll get there). It should be business as usual for the genesis of 2020, and the fact that the part of the world that’s already in 2020 (as I type this still stuck in 2019) hasn’t burst into flames and/or ascended to another plane of existence is pretty good evidence for that. But everyone I know, as well as society at large, is placing huge importance on the beginning of the roaring ’20s.

Why?

Well, at least from the 20th century forward, decades have been the unit of time that defines our society. When you hear or read “the ’40s” or “the ’80s” you can instantly conjure up music, fashion, pop culture, and world events that defined that decade. Probably more things than that depending on what you’re into (for me it’s cars and trains). Each decade leaves a unique weave on the fabric of our culture that can only be imitated…never matched. Many people wish they were born in a different decade or were in their prime in a different decade. Sure, you could probably claim some decades were worse than others with a reasonable amount of evidence (it’s probably safe to say that the Great Depression-stricken ’30s were worse than the Roaring ’20s), but ultimately each one remains as an important window into what it was like to be a human at that time. With the 2010s coming to a close, we can now look back on it as a snapshot of who we were, collectively and individually.

Additionally, many people think of a new year as a new beginning – a blank slate providing opportunities for personal growth and exciting new adventures. As mentioned before, nothing really changes when the clock ticks over to midnight, but a placebo effect that works is just as valid as anything else. Imagine, then, how much of a fresh start a new decade could be. With the 2010s on their deathbed (to the relief of many, let’s be honest), we (collectively) have 3,653 days to leave a new imprint on future history books. So it’s no surprise that people are excited.

For me, leaving the 2010s is bittersweet.

On January 1, 2010, I was a junior in high school. Still yet to begin breaking out of my perpetually shy and socially awkward self, still with a buzz cut and big Harry Potter glasses, and entirely unaware of the course my life was about to take. Now, on the eve of January 1, 2020, I have two college degrees, have unintentionally fooled people into thinking I’m an extrovert, have 2-foot-long hair and no glasses, and am still entirely unaware of the course my life is about to take.

The big stages of peoples’ lives don’t usually neatly mirror calendar decades, but mine is pretty close. And furthermore, I can confidently claim that the 2010s (essentially from exactly January 1, 2010, to now) were jam-packed with nearly every event, decision, and milestone that has shaped my life thus far and will continue to shape it until the day I die. (The one notable exception as far as I can remember is deciding to join the 5th-grade band in 2003 because my brother was in it.) Granted, that’s not at all a surprise considering you don’t usually have to make many life-altering decisions before you decide what to major in, but my point is that the 2010s were an extremely important decade for me. You could say that everything before 2010 was just a tutorial and 2010 was when I started actually living.

Before I leave the 2010s (and 2019 specifically) to focus on the 2020s, I want to briefly summarize all of the great things that I was blessed to experience in the 2010s. (More detailed summaries of every year and group of years are covered plentifully by older posts in this blog.)

  • 2011: I graduated from high school and moved to Bloomington, Indiana to begin my seven years at Indiana University. Before graduating I got to perform on stage and trade solos with one of my trombone heroes, play three different instruments on my swan song high school band concert, and conduct the top band playing my first ever musical composition…all in one week. At that time it was by far the best week of my life thus far. Once I began studying at IU in the fall, I was placed in the Latin Jazz Ensemble, which began an incredible journey learning Afro-Cuban music via two of the best mentors on the planet.
  • 2013: I won a bass trombone solo competition at the annual Eastern Trombone Workshop.
  • 2014: In my junior year, I won the IU Brass Concerto competition on bass trombone and performed my winning piece as a featured soloist with orchestra. (I would win it again on euphonium the following year.) Additionally, I was recorded as the bass trombonist on two full albums, including one that was Grammy nominated.
  • 2015: I graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in bass trombone and euphonium (and a minor in jazz studies). Before graduating in May, I gave my senior bass trombone recital on April 27th, entitled Kodachrome. Kodachrome was a 40-minute piece I wrote for 42 of my friends and I to perform in lieu of a traditional, boring recital. The satisfaction of pulling it off after a very arduous journey, the thrill of performing it, and the immense outpouring of love I received from everyone (both performers and audience) afterwards made it a truly magical night. At that time it was the best day of my life thus far. And the reception afterwards, in which my family all took off their shirts to reveal matching custom shirts they had made just for the event, was the icing on the cake. (I couldn’t leave the 2010s without sharing that to the world at least once.) Finally, in the second half of 2015, I also began working for Dr. Tyron Cooper and the IU Soul Revue, which was the best job and family anyone could ever ask for and very significant in the course my life would take.
  • 2016: I began my master’s degree at IU. I wasn’t planning to, but I was offered an amazing assistantship to stay working for the Soul Revue for two more years. I felt that I didn’t need to get another performance degree, so I went for something that would broaden my pallette – jazz composition. (I also really just want to learn how to write like Brent Wallarab and Wayne Wallace do.) A jazz composition degree did not exist, but Tom Walsh (the chair of the jazz department) demonstrated his capacity for being the real-est of real ones and let me do it anyway. Additionally, in the second half of 2016 I joined the fledgling band Huckleberry Funk. Huck Funk became one of my cherished families, as well as very significant in my musical development. It exposed me (and got me addicted to) a side of playing music that you could never get in a music school (or even in the Soul Revue, really), and began my synthesizer obsession. Finally, I was recorded on another Grammy-nominated album, this time on four different instruments.
  • 2018: Possibly the banner year of the decade. I completed my master’s degree, played my last shows with the Soul Revue and Huckleberry Funk, received a prestigious jazz composition award, met and subsequently played a gig with Bootsy Collins, and then moved to Los Angeles (soon after which, the first Huckleberry Funk EP was released). I had been planning to eventually end up in LA ever since I arrived at IU, because I wanted to play on the big movie scores. I finally made the leap of faith in 2018 and began the long climb from the bottom. Before graduating from IU again in May, I staged the sequel to Kodachrome, entitled Ektachrome, as my master’s recital. This one was longer and far more ambitious, and it…sort of worked.
  • 2019: After a very optimistic end-of-2018 blog post, 2019 turned out to be a giant slog of a year, and one that I’m very happy is over. However, I got to do some pretty wild things in 2019, such as perform with the Los Angeles Opera and Pasadena Symphony Orchestra, record lots of horn parts that I wrote for a certain previously mentioned funk icon, and have four albums that I played on get released. I also played a gig in Tijuana wearing a sailor hat and played piano in a band (somehow). I also accomplished two very significant personal milestones in 2019: I wrote a symphony and released a solo album. Finally, I found an incredible church and community in January, which kept me sane as I barely scraped together enough money to survive throughout the year.

So, yeah. It was a pretty eventful decade. At this point I should probably do a more detailed total summary of 2019, but…I don’t really want to. I am very ready for this year to be over, so I’m just going to skip that. Now nobody can accuse me of padding my word count!

Alright. Now that it’s the late morning on January 1st, let’s talk about the very real new year and decade.

2020 has the potential to be the most important year of my life. I’ve lived in LA for 16 months now and, while it’s been a monumental struggle just to stay afloat, I think I now have a good foundation to build upon and potentially really thrive from. I have a feeling that the next few years will bring my musical career trajectory more into focus, or at least hint at it. As is I’ve put my foot in quite a few different areas and I don’t know what is going to stick…or make me a living. Additionally, the entirety of the 2010s has essentially set me up for where I am now, and it’s the job of the 2020s to grow the fruits of those labors. What are those fruits? At present, I have no idea. My career could go an infinite many directions, all drastically different from one another.

But forget about the potential for a moment. What do I want to accomplish in 2020 and the ’20s?

In 2020 I would like to write another symphony and release another album. (It feels good to say that these feel like very attainable goals.) I would also like to nurture all my friendships, new and old, and I would like to improve myself and (perhaps more importantly) my opinion of myself. Finally, I would like to make more than barely enough money to pay rent each month, so that I don’t have to sell any more instruments or be in a constant state of near-mental breakdown. That would be good! 

Meanwhile, in the ’20s, I would love to see my musical career blossom into something spectacular, in whatever form that may take. But as long as I’m playing good music with good people and making enough money to live comfortably, I’ll be happy. Honestly though, apart from finding love and moving into a place I’m really happy with, I can’t think of many more goals I have for the decade. The fact that everything that happened in the 2010s all happened in that single decade is mind-boggling to me. It feels like I lived an entire lifetime in those ten years, so I kind of short circuit when I try to imagine all the things that might happen in the ’20s. But I am confident that whatever does happen will be better than anything I can hope for.

Here’s one thing I know for sure, though:

Everyone is excited for 2020.

Many people my age that I love, know, or follow think that 2020 is going to be a great year, or even their year. The optimism is everywhere, and it’s contagious. And alongside this optimism is something else: a battle cry announcing that we are going to make 2020 our year, and the ’20s our decade, whether they want us to or not. That we are going to grab the year and decade and conquer them with maximum zeal. There is something in the air that says “this is our time”. Of course, people say confident nothings about the new year every year, but this feels much more palpable than the usual half-optimistic resolutions. And I am so here for it.

I’m ready to go big and not go home in the Roaring ’20s. I’m ready to take that optimism and fervor and turn it into a life worth remembering. And I’m ready to do it side by side with the people I love.

You in?

I Made an Album.

At the very end of November, I released my first ever album. (It’s called “Small Talk” and you can listen to it for free on Bandcamp.) This blog has been a good place for me to collect my thoughts and spit them out after doing or experiencing anything significant, and I definitely need that closure with this album so here we are.

Since 1999, a project called National Novel Writing Month has taken place every year. Its goal is to get participating writers to break free of never getting anything done under the constant oppression of that almighty personal dictator, Perfection. This is accomplished by setting a timeframe of just one month to write an entire >50,000-word novel. With such a short amount of time to write something that large, you cannot afford to take the time to make every word and phrase perfect…you just have to start writing, and not stop. And if life has taught me anything, it’s that looming deadlines are the ultimate motivator.

Although I do love writing and aspire to write a novel someday, I am not exactly well-equipped with zero novel-writing experience to participate in NaNoWriMo. However, in recent years a musical equivalent called National Solo Album Month has gained popularity, and as it was inspired by the novel-writing challenge it has much of the same ideals. The NaSoAlMo website explains it perfectly:

NaSoAlMo favors enthusiasm, creativity, and perseverance, rather than perfectionism. It encourages musicians and would-be songwriters to silence their inner critic for thirty days in order to inspire and maximize productivity. The albums are likely to be hastily written, off-time, and out of tune, and that’s okay! The main objective is to just do it.

There are a couple of other similar challenges during the month of February, but NaSoAlMo has my favorite set of guidelines (and 30 days instead of 28 or 29). I’ve meant to participate for a few years now, but this year I decided I was going to commit to it. I had a light schedule throughout November and all the tools I needed to record. However, based on previous years I was still unsure if I would have the motivation necessary to finish, so I told several of my close friends about the challenge and asked if they would be interested in making an attempt as well, so we could be more motivated with our friends at our side. In the end I ended up surmounting the challenge by myself, but the thought of others potentially doing it with me helped me actually start and commit.

One of the guidelines set by the challenge is that you can’t use pre-existing material. Everything has to be done in November, including the earliest stages of songwriting. So, in the few days before November 1st, I prepared by organizing synth sounds and getting my recording setup in order. Once November arrived, I hit the ground running. For the rest of the month, I worked on the album with every ounce of free time I had (except for Sundays, so really I finished the album in 26 days). The result, obviously, is that I successfully made an album from start to finish in under one month.

So what did I learn?

First and foremost, I learned that the paralysis of perfection is a bigger problem for me than I had thought. I knew it was a problem, but I didn’t realize the extent until I began working on this album. The second I started, deliberately trying to avoid perfection and just crank material out, I was insanely productive. The first eight days of November I finished almost all of the rhythm section tracks for the entire album, including coming up with the initial ideas for nothing, figuring out chord progressions and form, and deciding on specific sounds. That means about one song a day – all that was left was to put vocals and horns on top. How crazy is that? I was completely shocked and bewildered at my own productivity.

The rest of the month was a bit slower because I got busier, but I was still able to knock things out quickly. And – crucially – everything I had been creating (regardless of how quickly) was good. Not just passable or “okay”. Every song on the album came from the first idea I had while messing around on a synth, which I just ran with once I had it. I only needed one tiny spark of an idea to blossom into a full song skeleton within hours. How this was possible I couldn’t fathom, but when the time came to write the horn and vocal parts on top of the base I had, it all became clear.

When I was getting my master’s degree at Indiana University, I worked as the horn coach for the IU Soul Revue. A big part of that job was composing horn parts for the horn section to play for songs that had none. I got extremely fast at it, especially because I discovered that my very first idea for a line was almost always the best one. I could write new horn parts for a full song in as little as 15 minutes by singing ideas along with the song and immediately inputting them into my notation software, orchestrating them and then making the parts look good. When I was done I had new horn parts that I legitimately loved and was excited about without having to so much as entertain a second listen of the song for other ideas.

The same thing happened with the horn parts on this album, and I realized then that the same thing had happened with the songs themselves earlier. I took my first idea and ran with it, and it turned into something I was excited about every time. As far as composition goes, I think that’s one of my greatest gifts, second only to another one which I also used in this album.

My greatest compositional gift (in my opinion) is the ability to subconsciously have the music’s existing melodies and motifs influence what I write at all times. And when I say subconsciously, I really do mean that. When I compose, whether it’s classical or jazz or the songs on this album, I almost never think about thematic continuity but go back to discover that it exists in beautiful ways anyway. I didn’t even realize it had happened on this album until I was in the shower thinking about one of the songs (the title track). I sang through one of the verses and then the disco section at the end, and had a eureka moment where I realized the vocal melodies in these two sections, which are very different in feel, chords, and texture, have exactly the same rhythms and contour. I wrote the ending disco melody long after I wrote the verses, on a different day and without listening to the verses first. Yet I still wrote a melody that perfectly mirrored what already existed in the song. This is a phenomenon that I have noticed after the fact all over every piece I’ve ever written, but it’s mind-blowing to me every time.

One of the hardest parts of the album was writing lyrics. Apart from a few words here and there that never went anywhere, I had never written lyrics before in my life. How was I supposed to do it now, in a time constraint? I had to take extra time to listen over and over again and try to think of words to go with the music, but I did end up with lyrics I was very happy with. I notably always wrote the melody first and added lyrics to that, rather than writing the melody to the lyrics. As a brass player first, it worked much better that way for me. The only downside, which I only discovered when trying to record the vocals, was that a lot of the melodies were not very easy to sing! I was still in my horn section frame of mind and that made the vocal recording take quite a lot of time. I’m not a vocalist by any means, so I having to coax my voice into navigating these hard melodies I had written for myself was no easy task.

The other hard part of the album was attempting to mix it. Just as I’m not a vocalist, I’m also not a sound engineer, and apart from adjusting balance and panning on some of my brass multitracks, I had never tried to legitimately mix anything. That took a lot of time, and although the result is far from a professional mix, I have been pleasantly surprised at how the balance and quality of the initial mix has held up on phone speakers and other sub-standard sound systems. These songs definitely deserve to be professionally mixed and mastered, and I am positive that I’ll pay to get that done eventually, at which point I can think about physical releases and things like that. That said, I’m very glad I did it by myself because this album was intended to be a learning experience and I definitely know a lot more about production and mixing than I did before.

The craziest thing to me about this album is how many parts of it I had never done before, despite being an experienced musician. To recap, making this album is the first time I have ever:

  • Sang lead vocals
  • Written lyrics
  • Finished a song
  • Attempted to mix and produce
  • Made an album

…all within 30 days. With all that considered I’m enormously proud of what I’ve created. Looking forward, I definitely plan to do more time-restricted albums, but I want to change it up. I’d like to make my own restrictions rather than participating in the February challenges with their inferior rulesets or just sticking to the NaSoAlMo guidelines. I’d like to have friends play on songs rather than do everything alone. I’d like to experiment with different lengths of time like two months or six weeks. I’d like to try different genres to explore more of my influences. But most importantly, I’d like to keep doing it because I’m learning and improving so much, and that’s the point.

Well, there is one other important point.

Possibly the best thing about this album, as told to me by close friends and colleagues, is that I did it for me. I didn’t do it because someone else asked me to, or because I’m getting paid to, or because I needed to. I did it because I wanted to. I did it for fun, and to learn. As someone with a career as a sideman playing other people’s music (and I wouldn’t have it any other way, mind you), to make something entirely because I want to and not because I have to or was hired to is pretty significant. At the end of the day, music is still what I’m passionate about and I’m happy to fill up my whole life with it.

Still gotta make another Christmas Multitrack though…

A Year in LA

One year ago, to the day (and nearly to the hour, as of this writing), I arrived in sunny Los Angeles, nursing my overloaded Subaru Forester to its new home after an arduous three-day journey across the country. The months that followed were going to be difficult ones, as starting from scratch in a new city where nobody knows your name is never easy. But I jumped in as best I could and am still standing a year later.

Am I standing tall yet? Not really. To describe my current situation as a struggle is quite an understatement, but I never expected it to be easy and I will not quit. And in the midst of tribulation, I’ve been blessed to be a part of some very cool things.

I got to play with the Los Angeles Opera, I got to perform in the Disney Concert Hall where the LA Philharmonic plays, I got to perform in Tijuana with the voice of Spongebob, I’ve played trombone quartets (and cornhole!) semi-regularly with three LA legends, I got to record for Bootsy Collins, I got to record on a film soundtrack, I got to play a musical in the heart of Hollywood, I got to meet and jam with several world-renowned artists, I wrote a symphony, and I ate copious amounts of the best tacos in the world.

I also wrote a multi-movement trombone quartet based on IHOP menu items.

Truthfully, since I happened to arrive here on the 1st of a month, I kind of feel like September 1st is now my New Year’s Day. January 1st never meant too much to me since it falls in the middle of the scholastic year, but now it means even less. I’ve even had to think about it when people ask me how my year has been – a moment of hesitation occurs when I have to work out if they mean my year or just calendar year.

So what’s in store for year 2? So far not a lot, but that will hopefully change. I have been inexplicably getting some gigs playing principal trombone in orchestras, which is something I’ve never really done before. I played one last night in Laguna Beach (for the Pageant of the Masters) and I am playing another one with the Pasadena Symphony in a couple of weeks. Later on, I will be taking an audition for the bass trombone spot in the San Diego Symphony, a couple of albums I’m on will come out, and that should round out 2019. A lot of other things are in the works and 2020 is really up in the air, but if things line up the way they seem to be trending I’ll be in great shape.

Speaking of 2020, I’m not ready for that to be a real year.

When I was little, one of the things I did a lot was watch VHS tapes of a TV show called “Extreme Engineering” that my mom would record for me. Every episode was about an existing idea for some future megastructure, like a mile-high skyscraper or a vacuum tube train underneath the Atlantic Ocean or a huge bridge across the Strait of Gibraltar. Every feature would be explored with detailed CGI, and at the end of every episode a scenario would play out where the completed structure had to cope with some emergency. I mention all of this because in every episode the year of the scenario was 2020.

I watched those episodes countless times each, and since then my mind’s dictionary has defined “2020” as “the future”. To me, that year can only be in the future – it’s science fiction. For it to be the present (not to mention in a world in much worse shape than those programs portrayed) is not something I’m at all prepared for. Ten-year-old me would probably be shocked that I wasn’t an architect, as that’s what I wanted to be right up until I decided to major in music. I’m happy with that decision, but not happy that 2020 is four months away. Anyway, I digress.

I suppose with year 2 upon me I should set some goals. Goals are always a good thing and the few people who do keep up with this blog are welcome to hold me to them. So, without further ado, here are my tentative goals for 1 ALM (After LA Move):

  1. Don’t die or run out of money
  2. Play gigs more frequently, meet more people
  3. Play on at least one more film session
  4. Write another symphony
  5. Begin to thrive (rather than just survive)

The first goal is the easiest to understand, but possibly the hardest one to execute. Rent, gas, and pretty much everything (except street tacos) is very expensive in LA and it has been an uphill battle trying to stay afloat. Goal number two will help a lot with that. As is gigs have been very infrequent and often low (or no) paying, which in this town will cause your bank account to panic very quickly.

The second goal is easy enough to understand, especially as meeting more people is a good way to get more gigs. I just have to meet the right ones.

The third goal makes sense when you consider that although I really just want to make a good living with music however I can, the main reason I moved to LA was to try to be a session musician. I was fortunate enough to play on a film session last October and it was an awesome experience, so I think playing on one more is a reasonable goal.

The fourth goal is a lofty one but could be possible. I wrote the first one in a month (even though I essentially planned for a decade), so one year could be enough time especially considering I also wrote two symphony-sized pieces in college in much less than a year each.

The fifth goal is the most important of the five. It’s obviously essential to accomplish the first goal, but just surviving and barely squeaking out a living has been what I’ve been doing this year and I would very much prefer to not have to spend another year, or even another month, that way. To thrive is something else entirely; it means you no longer have to constantly worry if you’ll have enough money to pay rent each month. It means you can devote all your free time and energy to being creative, building relationships, and ultimately doing what it is you really want to be doing without having to worry about putting food on the table or gas in the car. And, crucially, that your trajectory is only pointing upwards.

We all strive to thrive. Let’s see if it will be my turn this year.

I Wrote a Symphony.

When I was in the eighth grade, I had an old Casio keyboard. I don’t remember how my mom got it, but she gave it to me one day and from that day forward I regularly tinkered around with it, not really having any idea what I was doing. At that time my musical experience was playing euphonium in school band and nothing else, and I had no knowledge of keyboard playing or music theory or anything like that. What I did know was that this old Casio made sounds and I enjoyed playing around with it.

Every day after school I would come home, eat a snack while telling my mom about my day at school, then go down to the basement to sit on the floor and poke around on the Casio. (I’d then do my homework and watch Home Improvement at 6 and Monster Jam at 7 to complete the daily ritual.) Eventually, I began playing the same things each time on the Casio, having learned what keyboard sounds and harmonies I liked best out of the ones I had discovered. One day I decided that I should take these things I kept playing and write them down, and my journey as a composer began.

I had always been interested in classical music thanks to my mom, and my listening collection (consisting of CDs borrowed from my grandmother) was almost entirely orchestral works played by great orchestras. That was the sound in my head, and so when I started composing I almost immediately came up with a goal: to write a symphony. From that point forward everything I wrote was written with that goal in mind, but as a young, totally inexperienced composer the progress was slow. My parents helped me along by buying me the student version of Sibelius 5 as a birthday gift, and later the full version of Sibelius 6 as a Christmas gift (which remains to this day the best gift I’ve ever received). But as my compositional ability increased, the amount of time I had to compose decreased. AP classes in high school caused my homework load to skyrocket every night, and I began playing in more groups outside of school. Playing was (and remains) my primary passion so I wasn’t bothered by not being able to compose a lot, but by the time I shipped off to Indiana for college I still hadn’t written much of the symphony.

During my undergrad studies at IU I thought about the symphony a lot. I brought my book of music staff paper everywhere with me and would spend boring lectures sketching out ideas, but it was slow going. By the end of my undergrad I had two movements written, but I never got a note further. Ironically, while my symphony stagnated I wrote two symphony-length pieces for my last two IU recitals. The second of which, Ektachrome, consisted of 100% original composed material for 70 musicians and could very easily be considered a symphony. But it wasn’t the symphony, the one I started writing at the genesis of my compositional career.

Fast forward to about a month ago (February 2019). With the massive increase in free time afforded by not being in school anymore, I decided to tackle the symphony once again. After listening through what had been written for years, I made a startling conclusion. If I was going to write this symphony, I needed to start from scratch. I had progressed so much as a composer during my time at IU (especially during my master’s, where I studied composition directly) that I was unsatisfied with everything I had written.

So I started over.

Now, I didn’t start completely over. The symphony’s identity came from the themes I had written for it over the years, and although I had discarded what I had written, the themes still held up and I wanted desperately to finally get them out of my head and into a piece that everyone could hear. The symphony’s identity had to remain strong even as I started over.

One of the struggles I have as a composer (as does every composer) is lack of inspiration. Sometimes I get a massive burst of it but it only lasts for maybe one day and then is gone again. Professional composers must keep a constant output instead of always waiting for inspiration – taking over a decade to write a piece (no matter how long or large) doesn’t really fly if you have to use your compositions to pay your bills. Fortunately, although I have gotten paid to arrange and transcribe music enough that I consider it part of my professional portfolio and career, nobody pays me to write symphonies so I can take the time. But “taking the time” (combined with being incomprehensibly busy) resulted in the symphony remaining incomplete after over a decade.

But something interesting happened when I started over a month ago. I was inspired immediately and never lost that inspiration for a month. I spent entire days doing nothing but feverishly writing, trying to milk this uncharacteristic sustained inspiration for all it was worth. Maybe it wasn’t all inspiration – maybe I had just matured as a composer enough that all I needed was one spark to get rolling for a while. Whatever it was, it worked. I wrote four movements in about two weeks – twice as much material as I had written in the past twelve years. I slowed down significantly for the fifth and final movement, wanting to give extra care to the finale to ensure the themes occupying my mind for over a decade were given the best possible send-off.

Yesterday night, on March 6th 2019, I wrote the final note.

Now, I should clarify that my work with the piece is far from over. Editing the score and parts to make them look nice and be easily readable takes a very long time and will occupy me for a good long while. Engraving is an art form in itself, one that is entirely separate from actually composing the music. But the important thing is that all the notes are written, and the symphony as a musical (not visual) entity is complete.

I wish I could describe how it feels to complete something I’ve been working on for over a decade, or most of my life as a musician. I wish I could describe how it feels to listen to it in its entirety and to be ecstatic at the product from start to finish. But words, as they so often are, are woefully inadequate at describing those feelings. The only thing that can really describe the elation, pride, satisfaction, and overwhelming joy I feel is the music itself. And one of the most beautiful things about the piece is that I believe it really does convey all the emotions I have felt during the writing process. The ending calmly states “it is finished” and flourishes to a final outburst of pure euphoria.

But don’t let my words try to describe the music: here is the audio of the piece in its entirety.

Now of course, this recording is made by exporting the playback directly from the notation software. But the sounds are surprisingly good, and sound convincing enough that I think the listener can get an idea of what the piece should sound like. Obviously the ultimate goal is for it to be performed by a real orchestra, but even if that doesn’t happen in my lifetime I will be happy.

The symphony is scored for a large orchestra with some unusual instruments included: bass trumpet, contrabass trombone, lupophon, subcontrabassoon, chromatic hammered dulcimer, and an extended-range grand piano. Looking through this list brings me to a point I’ve wanted to discuss for a while.

From the day I first bought my mellophonium on eBay, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with rare and unusual instruments. I think it’s a shame that there are so many different types of instruments out there that don’t get used, or at least don’t get used nearly enough. Recently I’ve realized that this interest in the obscure has matured into a desire, above all else, to contribute to the repertoire for all of them, in hopes of making them a little more common, well-known, and understood. This does not mean that I’ll shoehorn an octocontrabass clarinet in a piece that really doesn’t call for it, but rather that I won’t feel restricted in what instruments I write for based on if something is commonly used or not. To compose for these instruments and expose them to new ears and minds, both with performance pieces (as soloists or part of a larger ensemble) and etudes/method books, has become one of my primary quests in life.

Take the subcontrabassoon for existence. This is an instrument that does not even exist yet, but is in the lengthy process of being built by an intrepid contrabassoonist/machinist/CAD designer named Richard Bobo. Because it doesn’t exist yet, there is no repertoire for it. Or rather, there WAS no repertoire for it before some composers learned of the project and started writing for it. Instruments like this will never get past the prototype stage if nobody ever writes anything for them. It falls on composers to make these instruments needed, not the players (excluding in an improvisational setting of course)!

I fully realize that using multiple abnormal instruments will affect my pieces’ performability, but these instruments will never become more widespread of somebody doesn’t start writing for them, and as I’m not making a living cranking out symphonies I’m perfectly fine with writing pieces that don’t fit an easily performable mould if it means doing my part to popularize instruments otherwise left to the forgotten vaults of musical instrument taxonomy. If I can help make the 97-key piano from F0 to F8 the new standard, or to make the bass trumpet and euphonium more than a novelty in the orchestra, I will jump at the chance. I encourage any composer with an interest in more than just standard instrumentation to do the same.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to start writing my next symphony…

Equal Divisions of the Blog

This morning, as I typed a very long reply with several paragraphs to someone on Reddit (a pastime I indulge in fairly often), I had an epiphany. Not a world-changing epiphany, mind you, but the sort of highly insignificant epiphany you get when you realize that today is actually Wednesday and not Tuesday like you initially thought. (Unfortunately I didn’t get the pleasure of that specific epiphany today, as I knew it was Wednesday from the start.)

My epiphany was that when I am on Reddit, which most of the time involves me refreshing the synthesizers subreddit every five seconds or browsing the latest prequel memes, I frequently type very long comments and comment replies at a very rapid pace as I did this morning. I then realized that this feverish pace could possibly be a perfect candidate for bottling up, driving to a top-secret laboratory, and carefully releasing in a treated room onto a test subject called “posting on my blog more than twice a year”.

There is a catch though: the things I type about very quickly are usually obscure things I’m interested in, usually related to music or instruments. But, based on the readership of my biannual life updates, I don’t think that’s such a stretch for this blog and I figure if at least one person gets something out of a post then it’s done it’s job. Also, it’s my blog so why wouldn’t I write about what I want to write about? It’s almost as if that’s why this blog exists in the first place!

So, allow me to explore the latest object of my fascination. It’s something I’ve been interested in for a while, but I don’t think I’ve ever discussed it with anyone but a select few who I thought would enjoy the Illuminati-level of crazy this particular subject emits. It’s a subject that speaks to my obsession with new sounds and textures.

I’ll begin by asking a question: what is something that 99.9% of music has in common?

There are many answers to that question (it uses notes and rhythms!), but the one I’m interested in is the fact that 99.9% of all music uses the same twelve notes. This is treated as a given; it is a common trope among musicians that “there are only twelve notes”, and what follows is either a) “it should be easy to find one of them that sounds good”, or b) a debate on whether or not truly original music is still possible, because how many different ways can you arrange twelve notes? (That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way – more on that later.)

Allow me to ask a follow-up question: why does 99.9% of all music use the same twelve notes?

This question, too, has many answers – answers that have been documented, theorized, and pontificated about. People have graduate degrees in answering that question and there are countless academic publications written about it. I liken it to a question of similar gravity to the business of music as the Ultimate Question (as posed in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) is to the business of existence. (And the answer to this question is a bit more interesting – but less funny – than “42”.)

The basic answer as far as I can work out is that these twelve notes in equal temperament provide a decent approximation of the purest harmonic intervals with the least amount of effort, in a way that works in any key center. Certainly the aggregate sonorities of C major and F# major are much more preferable in equal temperament than they are in C major just intonation (even though the justly-tuned C major chord is far superior to the equal temperament one).

By now you’re probably thinking that there’s inevitably a “however” coming, and you’d be right.

(Okay, I’ll say it: however.)

The problem is that twelve equal divisions of the octave (shorthand 12EDO, also written 12TET or 12ET for “12-tone equal temperament”) is not a perfect system. Far from it, in fact. Its most practical use is on fixed-pitch keyboard instruments that need to be able to play in any key center equally well. Or, put another way, that need to be able to play in any center equally unwell. But for instruments with the freedom to individually adjust individual pitches, “equal temperament” doesn’t really exist. For example, it is standard practice for an orchestral brass section to tune every chord to be harmonically pure as it would be in just intonation in that key. If they didn’t, those powerful brass chords everyone loves (if you don’t, you’re wrong) would sound terrible.

Yet keyboard instruments for the most part soldier on with 12EDO, and nobody listens  to a Beethoven piano sonata and complains about its harmonic impurity. This is why 12EDO works and is the standard, but it also only works because our ears are used to it. If you play a C major chord in just intonation and then play a C major chord in equal temperament, you suddenly hear just how out of tune the equal temperament chord really is. (As an aside, there is actually a keyboard instrument that can play any chord in just intonation, called the Tonal Plexus (with up to 1688 keys!).)

Before I go further, I’d like to point out that many people have written about and made videos about this subject much better and in much more detail than I can. If you’re interested in learning more from people who really know what they’re talking about, just Google or YouTube some of this stuff and you’ll find dozens of articles and videos about everything I’m talking about. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll become a little bit obsessed like I have. To get you started, here’s a video about 12EDO from an excellent YouTube channel, “12tone”. It discusses some things I’m about to, so if you don’t want spoilers you can save this rabbit hole for later. Secondly, here’s a simple video audibly demonstrating the difference between pure intervals and their impure equal temperament equivalents.

We haven’t even reached the actual subject of this post yet, so let’s get closer with another question.

Can there be more than twelve notes?

For many musicians, this question also has an easy answer. Of course you can have more than twelve notes, you can use quarter tones (using the notes equally spaced in between each chromatic half-step). The problem is that quarter tones have a pretty bad reputation, mostly because the vast majority of compositions using them are unlistenable esoteric exercises in sounding excessively unpleasant. For those with a little more taste, they do have musical use. Jacob Collier, a paragon of modern harmony and musicianship, uses them very effectively as passing tones or even to modulate everything up by a quarter tone to give a different mood such as in this example. For Jacob Collier there are infinite notes as he uses different tunings (A=432 instead of the standard 440 for example, which is an entirely different subject (if you would like to know my personal opinion on the matter, A=442 for life)) and even slowly glissandos between them (including in the linked example). In short: he’s a beast.

Fangirling aside, even quarter tone microtonality is not really what I’m getting at here. After all, the 24EDO quarter tone scale is still based on 12EDO, just with another note in each of the spaces. It has the same tuning issues as 12EDO with the helpful (?) addition of some alien-sounding notes.

By now we’re over 1200 words into this post and you probably really want me to get on with it. Fortunately, we’ve covered everything we need to get to the main subject of my fascination and explain it well. To do this, I’ll start by asking one more question:

What if you divide the octave by something other than twelve?

That is what this blog post is really about. While the harmonic series and harmonically pure intervals and ratios are fixed as they are based on mathematics and the physics of sound, temperaments and systems of tuning are artificial creations that can be anything you want. While we’ve explained the good reasons for 12-tone equal temperament being the standard, it seems a lot more arbitrary when you look at it as just a number with EDO after it. So think about it: what if instead of 12 tones per octave, you used 13? Think about the implications of that. Suddenly everything you know gets thrown out the window. The distance between adjacent notes is completely different, the scales and modes you can use are completely different, and most importantly: the sound is completely different. Playing anything using 13EDO creates harmonies not possible with 12EDO, and vice versa. 13EDO is an entirely new world of music waiting to be written.

And the best part? That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

There are hundreds of xenharmonic tunings, and everything about them challenges the standards of music. Everything from 5EDO to 313EDO and beyond, each with their own sound. You don’t even have to be restricted to using the octave (ratio 2:1, or the second partial in the harmonic series) as the dividing interval. You could instead use the tritave (ratio 3:1, or an octave and a fifth and the third partial in the harmonic series) as used in the Bohlen-Pierce scale (13 divisions of the tritave, or 13ED3), the perfect fifth (ratio 3:2) as used in the Carlos Alpha scale (9 divisions of the perfect fifth), or even the pentave (ratio 5:1, the fifth partial in the harmonic series, which is so large that there are fewer than five pentaves within the range of human hearing) as used by Stockhausen (25ED5). Furthermore, there are xenharmonic scales which are not equal divisions, scales and modes created within each temperament, and anything else you can think of. There’s an entire Xenharmonic Wiki which you can use (like I have) to really dive into the black hole of information. It has articles on every tuning and which ones have good pure intervals to use.

So what’s the point, apart from “oh that’s pretty cool”?

There is a YouTuber called Sevish who puts out electronic music that’s entirely xenharmonic, and it sounds great. Not only does it sound great, but in the midst of the unfamiliar sonorities it’s still pleasing to listen to like any good 12EDO composition would be, rather than the dissonant noise most microtonal music (and, it must be said, a lot of contemporary 12EDO music) tends to be. Microtonality (and as an aside, these scales are properly grouped together as xenharmonic rather than microtonal because some scales, like 7EDO for example, are macrotonal, as they have more space between the notes rather than less) is for the most part not very well accepted for this (valid) reason, but Sevish proves in my mind that xenharmony is a valid musical avenue to pursue. And that means something very profound.

Remember when I said at the beginning of this post that “how many different ways can you arrange twelve notes?” is not a rhetorical question? Well, the exact number for arranging twelve notes (using each only once) is 479,001,600. Add repeated notes and note lengths and harmonies and different instruments and the amount of possibilities for music using 12EDO is practically infinite. Millions of pieces have been written throughout human history using just 12EDO, but 12EDO is only one star in an entire galaxy of temperaments. In a nutshell, we haven’t even scratched the surface of what is musically possible.

There are, of course, some problems. Not only is 12EDO the established standard, not only is nearly all existing music written and performed in 12EDO, and not only are peoples’ ears used to 12EDO, but nearly every instrument that exists is built with 12EDO in mind. Instruments that can glissando like fretless string instruments, the trombone, the theremin, and the human voice can of course play/sing in any temperament possible, but the hurdle there is doing it in tune with ears unfamiliar with every note in the scale. So what we need are relatively fixed-pitch instruments that can play in xenharmonic temperaments. There are a few that do exist; people have made Bohlen-Pierce (13ED3) guitars, the woodwind maker Stephen Fox sells three sizes of Bohlen-Pierce clarinets, and with extended techniques even some traditional instruments can be played to a much higher degree of accuracy (such as the saxophone, which Phillip Gerschlauer can play with 128 notes per octave). But essentially if you want to play in a non-standard temperament you need a custom-built instrument.

Another problem is notation. All standard Western notation is specifically for 12EDO (or sometimes 24EDO) music. For every xenharmonic temperament a new notation system would need to be used, but thankfully many of them could be based on the standard system with only a few changes.

Interestingly, keyboard instruments could be the champion of xenharmonic tunings. While the least flexible regarding traditional just intonation, they are already the most flexible with xenharmonic tunings. More and more software synthesizers are being designed with xenharmonic support in mind by including alternate tunings and/or having the ability to import scale files from a software called Scala, which is a program specifically designed to create xenharmonic scales to use with MIDI instruments. This is how Sevish is able to create his xenharmonic tracks for YouTube. Using these softsynths as live (rather than sequenced) performance instruments is more difficult, because you need some way to play them and using a typical 12EDO keyboard is not very intuitive.

Then there’s the simple problem that very few people know about xenharmonic tunings at all and much fewer actually use them. For such a vast undiscovered world of sound, the amount of people exploring it is infinitesimally small. Perhaps this post can get a few more people to join the expedition, but I have solutions for the other two problems as well. Here is a page out of my sketchbook that has designs for keyboards in other tunings, with the typical 12 note per octave keyboard at the top left for reference. And here’s one with ideas for notation systems for certain xenharmonic scales. This is obviously far from complete, and many tunings will require more complicated notations than that (such as only certain note letters having accidentals), but it’s a proof of concept demonstrating that notation for tunings outside of 12EDO doesn’t have to be completely foreign.

Although it is much more difficult to attempt to compose notated music in xenharmonic tunings than it is to load up a software synthesizer that uses Scala files to play in different tunings, it is one of my goals to persevere and write a collection of concert etudes for a xenharmonic keyboard in order to create accessible xenharmonic classical repertoire. But as I am me, I have many other composition goals besides that, so we will see. In the mean time, I challenge any and all musicians to learn about and experiment with the world of xenharmonic temperaments. I’m sure there’s lots of wonderful xenharmonic music waiting to be created.

2018: The Year of Transition

Tomorrow is the last day of 2018, and in the biannual spirit of this blog it feels necessary to write a post. But it’s not just that; 2018 was a very important year for me and I’ve been wanting to collect my thoughts on it for a while now. If you read my last post a few months ago you’ll notice that I predictably didn’t end up posting frequent updates about my adventures in Los Angeles like I said I would. Turns out frequent blogging really isn’t my thing; I prefer collecting lots of thoughts into one long post rather than making more numerous short posts.

First, I owe it to those who follow my escapades to update you all on life in the City of Angels. I posted last the day after I first arrived in the city, so I hadn’t yet begun experiencing life in it. Well, I now have months under my belt as an LA resident and I think I can say that I know a few things about living here.

First of all, yes the traffic is terrible. However, I personally don’t think it’s quite as terrible as everyone says it is. Even during rush hour the massive freeway traffic is almost always moving, and drivers here are much more competent than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. I feel more relaxed driving here than in Washington, DC because here I know in general drivers are predictable and know how to operate a motor vehicle properly (neither of which I can say about drivers in the DMV area, or Indiana for that matter). That said, every town has its share of bad drivers to deal with and LA is no exception. The biggest difference between LA and other big cities regarding traffic in my opinion is that the traffic never really stops. I’ve driven home from a gig at midnight and still hit several jams. But if you plan and schedule for traffic and use a GPS to help you out, it isn’t a big deal. Finally, although LA drivers are competent, they seem to be exceptionally bad at staying in their lane. It’s drift city, and not in the fun way.

The prices are also terrible. Everything here seems to be ludicrously expensive. This (along with traffic) was another thing I was expecting, but it doesn’t make it sting any less. A medium meal at McDonald’s costs over $10 and a beer costs $8+, so I’ve lost any reason to go to McDonald’s or drink beer (not that either of those is much of a loss). Gas prices hugely vary…some gas stations are $4 or even $5/gallon, but I just don’t bother with those because some are $3.50/gallon or even less. That said, taco trucks are usually cheap and also amazing. The sheer amount of great local restaurants and food trucks is overwhelming, and I will never be able to eat at them all. As for the ones I have tried so far, suffice it to say that my stomach is very happy here.

Getting familiar with the area has been fun, and I’ve discovered firsthand just how diverse the various boroughs are. Places for the rich and famous like the Hollywood Hills are the stuff dreams are made of (unfortunately I haven’t seen any celebrities yet…), while places like Compton and east LA are exactly the opposite. Then there are places somewhere in the middle like Pasadena, Burbank, and Eagle Rock that I enjoy very much.

LAX is not as bad as its reputation suggests in my experience…the worst part of flying in or out of there has been the cost of the Lyft to get back to my house. The first time I had to fly out of the airport I got there three hours before my flight boarded just to be safe…I was through security in 10 minutes max, and this was during a busy time of day and time of year. It was the same story the next time I flew out from a different terminal/airline. Plus, the Southwest terminal (terminal 1) has a Chick-fil-A in it, which legally makes LAX a good airport.

I have to say that one of my favorite parts of living and working in LA has been just how much like its video game counterpart (“Los Santos” from GTA V) the real city is. Many areas look exactly the same, the people act much the same, and the radio stations even play the same music. It’s surreal, and for someone with many hours in Los Santos it never gets old.

Now that what I think of LA is out of the way, what have I done in LA so far?

Believe it or not, I have already managed to play quite a few gigs on quite a few instruments, including my first movie session! I am ecstatic at the progress I’ve made in the four months I’ve been here, but it must be said that I’m still very far from being able to support myself with the gigs alone. Thus, I have a day job that I landed two weeks after I arrived in LA. It takes up most of my time and energy and I intensely despise it, but I’m paying my bills and making money each month and for that I am very thankful.

The day job combined with my very cramped living situation means that my quality of life currently is not that great. Ever since I’ve started working this job I’ve sent out applications to better jobs as they became available, but the process is slow and it’s not like I have stellar qualifications for “normal” jobs with two music degrees. As much as I like it here and am on my feet regarding bills and the like, I won’t stop being stressed and frustrated until I no longer need this day job and can devote more of my time to doing what I came here for in the first place. However, there are a couple of very exciting things on the horizon (that I can’t talk about yet) that have huge potential for my current life and career. Truth be told almost everything about this LA experience (apart from the constants, like traffic and cost of living) has been different from what I expected. Connections that I thought would be a big part of my life have been all but absent, and new connections have come out of nowhere to propel me forward.

That’s what the last four months of 2018, and the entirety of my life in LA so far, have been like. The first eight months have already been covered in other posts as far as I can remember, but let’s recap before looking forward.

Before moving to LA, in 2018 I won the 2018 David N. Baker Jazz Composition award, gave my master’s recital (Ektachrome), played a plethora of memorable gigs, completed my master’s degree, got very close with some people I wasn’t close with before (you know who you are!), and a whole lot more. Most of that has already been covered, especially in the post “Another Chapter Complete“.

However, I would like to take some time to give two special shout outs that haven’t really been covered before.

The first is to my brothers in sisters in the IU Soul Revue and the IU African-American Arts Institute. For three years (2015-2018) I worked as the Horn Coach to the Soul Revue, an amazing job from day one that blossomed into an experience I will never forget. I became part of an incredible family, and felt so welcome and at peace in the walls of the Neal-Marshall that, as I’ve told many people in person, it was the first place that I truly felt like I belonged. It felt like home. And to leave that space and that position was very difficult for me. Of course, I know that I’ll be back, but I dearly miss it and everyone in it every day.

I’d also like to spend some time talking about Huckleberry Funk. This is a band that I joined very early in its life in summer 2016. At first I joined just as a trombone player, but through the best and wildest of rides I ended up playing synthesizers, all kinds of brass instruments, auxiliary percussion, and background vocals on every gig. I helped write much of the band’s repertoire and recorded an album with them. (If you didn’t know, the album (“The Teardown“) is out on all platforms – check it out!) It was an amazing experience that allowed me to experience a side of music I never would have experienced otherwise; this classically trained freelancing concert and studio musician was now playing wild synthesizer solos in front of jumping, screaming crowds. The members of this band became family, and when the band decided to stay in Bloomington, I knew that losing Huck Funk would be the hardest part of leaving. I was right.

But before I left, my brothers in Huck Funk gave me a final parting gift. It was a night I’ll never forget: August 1st at the Bluebird – my farewell show. The band made sure I got sent off properly. In secret they had custom T-shirts made that had an inside joke I had with that member of the band written on them, and wore them on stage. They made little paper Hawaiian shirts with blank backs that they asked people to write notes to me on and gave me a box full of notes after the show. They made signs for people in the audience to hold and wave around. That night, I discovered through multiple bouts of cacophonous applause and cheering that lasted for minutes on end, to my complete shock and disbelief, that the entire town of Bloomington loved me.

Every day I hope that one day the band will end up here too so that I can play with them again, and forever more. There’s a hole in me where Huck Funk was, and although I still talk and joke with them almost every day nothing can replace jamming and performing with them. To my brothers still holding the Huck Funk torch high, thank you for including me in the Huck Funk family. Thank you for everything. And I hope that one day I can hold that torch with you again.

I believe that’s all I can really write about 2018 at this point, and I’m happy to close the book on this transitional year. It was a very important one, and also a very exhausting one. Overall I think it was a good one, and I can’t deny the amount of important events and milestones it contained. But I’m also happy it’s over.

So…what do I think about 2019?

I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about a new year. 2019 is a totally blank slate. I’ve completed my move to LA and am making a living in a new city and a new scene. I can only go up from here, and that’s enormously exciting. The amount of potential 2019 holds is astounding, both personally and professionally. And in the midst of all my friends releasing albums, getting big gigs, landing forever jobs, and a whole host of other milestones (congrats to all of you by the way – you know who you are!), I think everything’s going to work out in a big way for all of us.

I can’t wait!