Hard Work and Sacrifice

Significant change begins with two words

Here we are at the start of another new year with high hopes and expectations for our resolutions. Eating better, losing weight, getting organized are all high on the priority list, but, how long before we slip back into our old ways of doing things?

How long before the resolution becomes a thing of the past? 

Given the slip in resolutions, which usually happens around February or even March for some who are really intense, I have come to the conclusion that there are two words most people have a hard time with. Hard Work and Sacrifice. It’s all of us, me included. When things get tough, or we get tired we say things to ourselves like, “Ive worked so hard, I deserve a …….,” or “I’ve done pretty well the past few weeks, its ok if I take a day off.” What happens when we take even that one day off is we tend to slip back into the comfortable pattern of what we have always done.

When trying to commit to a complete change, the fullest realization of these two words has to be understood. Committing 100% to complete hard work and complete sacrifice to accomplish a significant change in our lives.

If you are someone who is starting off the new year with a resolution, try to brainstorm ways that you can sacrifice. . .things that you can give up in order to make your goal more achievable, and work hard to continue that sacrifice for as long as it takes to accomplish your goal. If your goal is to lose weight, set a realistic goal, over a realistic period of time, and then think of the sacrifices and the hard work needed to accomplish that goal.

Hard work and sacrifice demands your complete and undivided attention.

It’s all in and 100%. Slip out of your comfort zone and go after what you want with complete drive, determination and motivation. Don’t stop when it gets tough. Significant change begins and ends with sacrifice and hard work.

Wouldn’t you like to look  in the mirror at the end of this year and say, “I am a completely changed person from the start of this year!” Make it happen with hard work and sacrifice!

A great book recommendation is the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Happy New Year everyone! What are your resolutions for the new year?

Music on Purpose E013: Guest Vincent DiMartino, International Trumpet Touring Artist

In this episode of Music on Purpose I had the opportunity to spend time with one of the greatest trumpet performers of all-time, Vincent DiMartino. He has performed and/or played with everyone imaginable from Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie to Canadian Brass and Doc Severinsen. He offers his advice on how to separate yourself from the middle of the pack and make your way to being extraordinary. He is an educator at heart and taught at the University of Kentucky for over 20 years and Centre College for almost 20 years.


Music On Purpose E010: Guests, Members from the Band Seabird

On this episode of Music On Purpose I was fortunate to sit down with three talented members from the band Seabird. Ryan Morgan, Aaron Morgan and Aaron Hunt all toured and recorded including being signed with the EMI label. Currently each member is now leading worship at a church in the Cincinnati area. Hear these guys talk about what it’s like to be a member of a nationally recognized popular band as well as life on the road, recording, writing songs and the transition to worship ministry.

Thank you to Ft. Mitchell Baptist Church for allowing us to use the facility to record this podcast.

Music on Purpose E009: Guest, Matt Hawkins Freelance Percussionist

On this episode of Music on Purpose, I talk with Matt Hawkins about his passion for being a freelance percussionist and doing what he loves as his career. He has some great insight about what it is like to be a self-employed musician. Matt also discusses his primary teachers and advice that has meant so much to him. He has an amazing sense of humor and is extremely laid back and easy to talk to. Listen to him talk about how to get along with others and the importance of what others think about you. He also mentions his love for playing Bach!

You can contact him at kwikslver@gmail.com with any questions.

Music on Purpose E006: Guest Andrew Marriner, Principal Clarinet London Symphony

What a pleasure to sit down with the long time Principal Clarinetist of the London Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Marriner. On this episode of Music on Purpose, Andrew talks about the things he has done to be successful at the highest level and gives advice to those planning to audition for an orchestra job. He also talks about the many recordings he is part of, and the conductors and mentors that have meant the most to him along the way. One of those mentors was his father, who founded and conducted the St. Martin in the Fields Orchestra, which is one of, if not THE, most recorded orchestras of all time. Take a listen to a wealth of experience and knowledge.

Tri-State Ensembles Advanced Jazz Combo

Live at the Greenwhich

Tri-State Ensembles is the only program in the Cincinnati area that focuses solely on the power through training in chamber ensembles. The mission of the program is to rehearse less and perform more, placing more personal responsibility on the student to prepare outside of rehearsals, like professionals. Each chamber ensemble plays at least one gig during the run of the program (which is 4 months).

The Advanced Jazz Combo recently performed at the Greenwhich Jazz Club in Cincinnati and this is a video clip of their performance. Check out Tri-State Ensembles website for more information as well as their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Keeping Student Musicians Engaged

Varying musical experiences to add variety

Why do we educate young musicians? What is the philosophy behind our daily routine? I think so often we meander down the same hallway or drive the same drive to work stuck in a rut that is driven by habit instead of intention. Why are we actually doing what we are doing and how is it benefiting our students. . . .and us?

We have the same schedules, the same concerts and the same educational experiences everyday which in turn can drive us to be complacent and bored. If we as educators become bored and tired then most certainly the student will reflect the same feelings. I think we can become stale and sterile in our techniques and offerings without even knowing it. Life gets in the way. We get busy and pushing the limits educationally takes time, mental energy and further education. Then we think these thoughts to ourselves . . . .”I wish I had a better studio,” ” I wish I had more students,” “I wish I had a more successful band program,” etc. Well, there is a way but doing things the same way over and over and expecting different results is the actual definition of INSANITY.

It can be scary to think that if we spend less time working on concert literature and offer more varying musical experiences, our students will actually be more proficient at the concert literature. Let me try to explain.

For example: Most band directors rehearse their band music over and over and also add after school rehearsals because they cannot quite get the music learned in the time alotted during the school day. The problem is not the time, its the engagement of the student. Because the student is bored with the same thing over and over, they are engaged less than 50% of the time they are in rehearsals. Because of this, it takes 50% more rehearsal time and drives the director crazy to get things accomplished. The same can be true for private lesson instructors. Because of the recitals and exams, teachers feel pressure to teach for the test and the student becomes bored and lacks enjoyment practicing the material. Adding varying experiences to your daily educational routine will provide more enjoyment, more variety and keep the brain engaged and growing. The concert material will improve faster by spending less time working on THAT specific material. That is hard to believe I know. . . .but it’s true!

What are the varying experiences?

They are different for each instructor and each situation but it could look like the following:

1. Creating a chamber ensemble program that thrives and works as consistently as the actual band. These experiences can happen certain days of the week during the band class to break up the “same old” band rehearsal, and to provide new sight-reading experiences and enasembles without conductors.

2. Implement improvisation into private lessons and/or music class. It doesn’t neccessarily mean jazz improvisation, but getting the student to be more creative and learn to bring the passion and musicality out without being “stuck” behind the page. Let them learn the fun and excitememt from creating their own musical product.

3. Bring professional players in to work with your students. Do not be afraid of not knowing everything, or not be able to provide your students with everything. Showing humility and knowing weaknesses will help strengthen the core program by filling those voids. One cannot be expected to be proficient on every instrument. As a music educator, give your kids the opportunity to learn from the best players that are actively doing it on a daily basis. Have those players work with your chamber ensembles, do masterclasses and get students excited about the possibilities on their instrument.

4. Take field trips to hear professional concerts. Get your students excited about all different kinds of music. Talk to them about the experiences and why you feel the importance of each trip. What are you trying to gain by the experience?

5. Perform more often and more music with less rehearsal. Make the students (and the educator for that matter) feel a bit uncomfortable with the lack of “spoon-feeding” and put the responsibility on the student to do well because of their individual responsibility.

6. Take a day out of class for a performance day. Have students prepare solos, or bring in a CD they love and let them talk to the class about what they love about it and the history of it.

Think outside the box. Enjoy the daily education with your students and the possibilities are endless.

These are just a few experiences but each requires just a bit more thought. Each requires the educator to take a different daily route, to self educate and be more prepared.

Do you have another experience that might be great to implement as a music educator?

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Indiana State Fair Band Day

I want to say THANK YOU to Mr. Mark Culp and Mr. Jimmy Haskell for asking me to be part of the CITSA this year and adjudicating with Team Pagentry in the 2015 Track Band season.


If you have never seen this activity, you really need to check it out. Bands participate in their marching activity over the summer months for a much shorter season than fall marching band. They work up a 4:30-6 minute show for a final performance at the Indiana State Fair on a horse track. Yes, you heard me correctly. They actually perform their final show on dirt.


It was spectacular to see what these fine programs can accomplish with a smaller field and less time to rehearse. I enjoyed getting to know all of the band directors and staff this year and hope to be part of it again in the future.

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Also, thank you to Music for All and Mark Harting for sponsoring this event.

Congratulations to the “Force” of Winchester on their 2015 First Place victory at Indiana State Fair Band Day.

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

This is the time of year when music educators start getting stressed about upcoming performances and marching band competitions and rehearsals get a bit chaotic and stressful.  As these performances draw closer, let’s remember the phrase author Stephen Covey made popular in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Keep the main thing the main thingMusic Education!

We are in the business of training young musicians to be intentional about their music making. We are also in the business of instructing young musicians to be proactive with their thought process in their individual practice and in group settings. If we are attempting to be successful in our upcoming engagements our rehearsals should be even more focused on the main thing which is educational thoughts and training young minds to engage.

Being more intentional about spending daily time teaching fundamentals, technique, tone production, articulation, etc. will actually help the overall product be more successful without spending time on the actual product itself. Its scary, however. It is our nature to get stressed and feel pressure to make sure the product is perfect for an upcoming performance. What we end up doing is trying to think for the students, which makes them engage even less. Why do they need to think when someone else is doing it for them.

Keep the main thing the main thing.

What is the main thing? We are in the business of helping young musicians be the best versions of themselves. Plain and simple. The challenge is making sure we are continuing down the road of education and thoughtful intent instead of rote teaching out of fear that the students will not acheive what we are asking in time to be successful.

I have heard many times from music educators that they start out with great fundamental training, especially in the marching arts, but as the season progresses they just do not have time to work on the fundamentals of playing any longer. It seems logical, and I have certainly fallen into this trap in the past. If you move away from educational thoughts regarding fundamental playing and breathing what are students thinking about while playing? Probably nothing. The harder the season gets, the more relaxed approach and educational thoughts young musicians need. If young players have thoughts of intent always on the front of their brain, we will not need to rote teach as much.

The harder it gets, and the closer those big shows get, take more time to keep the main thing the main thing. Keep giving your young musicians daily vitamins to keep them healthy! Keep them on the path to success through intentional educational thoughts pushing them to be a more advanced version of themselves. The results will be beyond your wildest dream.

Do you find it difficult to find time for the main thing when important performances are approaching?

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Passion Leads to Hard Work

When I was in college studying music, I honestly didn’t know what path I wanted to take in my career.  Actually I thought there were only a couple of choices for me; Band Director or Orchestral Musician.  I am thankful for the training I received while in college, but does college help us form educated decisions about our potential career paths while helping us get to know ourselves and our passions?


It wasn’t until I graduated and got out on my own that I began to realize that I wanted to be involved with many different musical experiences.  I felt I had a wide variety of expertise and had many things to offer and there was no way to limit that to one particular career path.  One quote that is heard more often than not is “You can’t make any money as a musician.” While on the surface this might seem logical, my belief is “You can’t make any money if you arent a passionate, hard-working musician.”  As with any career, the people who are most successful are the ones with passion for their craft and the ones putting that passion into work with a very intense work ethic.

Will we ever work hard at something we aren’t passionate about?

 Do you love what you do for a living? Are you truly passionate? Is that passion translating into a driven work ethic? Do you wake up every day with a yearning to “get to work?”  Many of us, whether in school, or in a career feel stuck. Are we living our true passion, and if not,  how do we find our true passion? These steps helped me when wondering what I should do.

1.  Don’t be afraid of change!

2. Ask questions, and be a constant learner. Do you have an interest/ability that makes you tick?

3. Be very curious and observant of others who have become successful doing the thing you love.

4. Seek help, and step outside of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to talk to people (and not just on social media or text message!)

5. Don’t be afraid to fail.

My undergraduate degrees are in Music Education and Music Performance, and my masters degree is in Music Performance.  My passion is Music but almost equally I have found a new passion in Business/Marketing.

What is your passion and are you living that passion?