Sunday, December 28, 2008

Business and Music

Saturday, December 27, 2008


There are many good books devoted to the business of music and there is plenty of information on the internet. Read this information and study it so that you can protect your rights in making business deals and signing contracts. Don’t leave these details to chance and get “ripped off”. When I got past the 6th grade in school and knew how to count my money so people could not take advantage of me I was ready for simple business dealings. Read all contracts thoroughly including the fine print, before submitting them to your lawyer(s). Then go over the contract line by line with your lawyer so you can decide whether to sign or revise the contract. Look for someone who you can trust to help you handle your affairs successfully and then maybe hire someone to look at their books as well. I have been excited about offers I have received offers from people and thought that they were offering me good things to help my career only to find out that these people were not honest and were trying to take advantage of me. Be a great musician and know your craft and at least be a good businessman.
In order for a man to be truly happy and at peace with himself, he needs to have a sense of fulfillment. God has provided me shelter and given me a purpose in life through a ministry in music. The criterion for a happy life is not money, but the fulfillment of mans heart’s desires. This means the cultivation and use of his talents. These things should be placed above the importance of money in order that you live a truly happy life.
God and music have always been very kind to me. I have never had to go without basic survival things for long. I am actually not as well off financially now as I was a decade ago when I was teaching music in public school as well as working for churches, soloists, groups and bands. Although more commercial forms of music provide larger and more immediate finances, church music can be financially rewarding for those who negotiate a fair deal for themselves. Both the church and the musician must be satisfied with the arrangement of the individual contract between the musician and the church. Some churches do not care much about the music in their church and they provide compensation accordingly. However there are other churches that are interested in developing their music departments to the best that they can possibly be. Hopefully you will find a church to work for that is interested in developing its music. The ranges in compensation are quite broad and vary between volunteer musicians who work for free to musicians who make as much as $50,000 a year or more. If you are a member of The American Federation of Musicians, you will get their monthly newspaper, The International Musician. Every year around income tax time they usually publish a listing of deductions that musicians may claim. If you have to report income each year to the IRS, here are some deductions that you can claim.
1. Cost of brand new or newly purchased used instruments; I know some musicians who buy their own keyboards in addition to the instruments provided by the church.
2. Sheet music, music study books, music manuscript paper and music score paper.
3. Prerecorded music in any media format as well as unrecorded cassette tapes.
4. Cost of food, laundry and dry cleaning when out of town on business for the music department.
5. Cost of taxi or bus fare to and from your hotel when you are out of town on business for the music department.
6. Cost of transportation when traveling out of town on business if it is paid by you and not by the church. I went to a convention for black Catholics in Dallas, Texas a few years ago for the purpose of familiarizing myself with black Catholic music under Vatican II of the late Pope John Paul.
7. Cost of robes and/or uniforms if paid by you and not the church.
These are all legitimate deductions that are related to your work.
Be sure to save all of your receipts in case of an audit. Keep a daily diary of all your expenses while out of town on business.
There are many openings for choir directors, pianists, organists, keyboardists and good vocal soloists. In addition there is a demand for good instrumentalists on all kinds of other instruments. At this date my son has not shown any interest in following in my footsteps. No child has shown interest or even asked me about taking lessons or learning any thing about music where I work at present. I had one woman who expressed an interest in learning some things from me and she was a senior citizen of who graduated high school around the time I was born in 1950. By the way she didn’t show up for the lesson and has never tried to reschedule or get in touch with me to continue. So these jobs go unfulfilled, often and then sometimes the local “church folk” insult these beginners, intermediates and new journeymen so badly they quit, never returning to music ministry.
When I was a youngster in the 50’s and 60’s there were many of us who took music lessons outside of our regular school classes if our parents could afford it and make the sacrifices for us. I paid for my own lessons after I became a teenager because I was making enough money from playing and teaching students to pay for my lessons which I continued all the way through college. The generations have changed over the years. I once had as many as 15 students when I was in high school and used to have an annual recital for my students at the church where I was playing. My home town of 115,000 people has got 50 different denominations of churches printed in the 2003-2004 Yellow Book. The church community continues to grow since those days. The reason I know this is true is because I just buried my mother back in that town this past November 2008 and saw new churches in several places in addition to the ones that were there when I left there. The controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright has a new church there since the Barack Obama miracle occurred. Most of these local churches need help in their music departments. They need musicians and can’t get them. They put ads in the local paper and on the local talk radio stations but the positions go unfilled.
One has to study ear training and harmony and know these two aspects of music very well. Some have a natural gift for this but others don’t. However all who pursue it must spend a great deal of time in study and practice. The world needs a new supply of musicians to help keep the music alive and moving forward.
If you have some desire in this direction and you feel you have the natural ability, then you should make a commitment in this direction and dedicate yourself to the highest cultivation of this art that you can possibly bring forth through yourself. May this music continue to survive and bring forth blessings to the public and to those who perform it.
Do you love music enough to make a sacrifice in order to play it? Are you willing to wrestle with the angel and not let go until He blesses you? Sorry to say it is not the music of the masses. We pray that one day it will be, because we who love and perform it make financial as well as other sacrifices in order to perform the music we love and have the privilege of performing.
Do you love gospel music enough to “go through changes”? All of the great masters of this music made great sacrifices! Their names have gone down in history and their contributions to our music will always be remembered.
I notice that the record industry still does not know what to call this music. I have started to see it called “soul” on the internet.
Do you have the courage and daring to become a great exponent of this music? You cannot play it safe and have courage and be willing to take some chances. What kind of “guts” do you have? If you truly love this music, be willing to make any necessary sacrifices. I challenge you to forge ahead to become one of the innovators of this music. The rewards may take a little time coming, but they will definitely be there if you are willing to make those sacrifices for the music we love. The rewards will be three fold: spiritual, mental and material.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008
How dedicated are you? Have you dedicated your life to music? If you wish to make any kind of music that is improvisational and not written down as your strength, then you must dedicate your life to it. You have to marry this music. It must come first above and beyond everything else. With this kind of attitude and perseverance, your success will be assured. There will be mountains to climb, but with your aspirations to succeed, those mountains are surmountable. If you take care of music, then music will take care of you.
If you make your decision to dedicate yourself then move forward. Then your life will be one of fulfillment, contentment and happiness.
The roots of improvisational music stem from African tribal music frequently used in the performance of religious rituals. This music was brought to America by slaves and eventually evolved into Negro Spirituals, and black gospel music. These styles of music are folk music. That is common people created this music and it was passed on to others in the community and to the coming generations by word of mouth rather than by media. Blues, jazz, Soul, Rhythm and Blues, Hip Hop, Rap and other Popular American Commercial music including Rock and Rock and Roll have borrowed from this original music. Essentially all good music has a spiritual quality. This inherent quality is capable of uplifting the soul of man. The listeners as well as the performer are both blessed spiritually. We, who have worked to cultivate the gift of music, love our instrument and dedicate our life to the cultivation of the music and our instrument. The true musician puts musical integrity, love and dedication to his art above fame and fortune. All the love he puts into his music is synonymous with the spirituality that will come out of it.
To perform this kind of music requires intellect. To listen and really hear this kind of music requires intellect as well. You are challenged to concentrate on it to get the most out of it. You are required to let the music into you without filters. This allows the music to get into your spirit. You absorb the music by letting the music consume you. This kind of music stimulates the minds and uplifts the souls of those who perform it as well as those who listen to and immerse themselves in it. As the mind is stimulated and the soul uplifted, the bodies of the producers and listeners reflect this uplifting in improved mental health and well being.

There is a possibility that you have experienced times when you were totally absorbed and moved as you listened to a great performance of music and realized that your physical aches and pains were gone, but returned after the music had ceased. This is an example of the uplifting, stimulating, mind altering, blessing and healing aspects of good music.

Good music is dedicated to truth, purity and principles that line up in harmony with nature and foster a holistic approach to life and can tap into the universal consciousness of humanity.

Some music is for moving your body and some is for listening. Patting your feet, clapping your hands and moving your body are entertainment and healthy exercise for the body. Some music brings joy and happiness to the soul and mind which in turn reflects in the body.

In order to maintain consistent great performance of music, you are required to put all of your spiritual, mental and physical energies into the music. Your love, intellect and strength have to be projected whole heartedly “in and through” the music. You are challenged to give your all! You are required to hold nothing back. Do not accept halfway is good enough in your own musicianship or those musicians which whom you are making music. Try for an A+ every time. B+ effort is not acceptable, so you have to develop, spiritual, mental and physical discipline. Stay in shape and never allow your intellect or physical energy to become dull or lazy. Never allow yourself to become complacent about your art. Always strive to do better. Keep seeking to experience more. Search more and give more. This is SERIOUS PLAY.
If you are a composer of music then you have a great deal of freedom in how to manipulate the elements to create your music, as performers or interpreters we have less freedom, but still have enough freedom to ruin or improve upon the music the composer has written. Egotistical music has no thought of gratification for the listener. It sounds vibrations and frequencies only for self-gratification. It says “see how smart I am and what I can do”.
Strive to develop unselfishness in your music. You have been given a talent to share with the world, that all may be gratified by it. You may have a great talent, but your ego will not permit you to consider the gratification of your listener. Your career may suffer. Your destiny may be unfulfilled. The unfulfilled creator of music suffers a terrible inner pain. Frankly in my opinion Contemporary, Abstract or Modern Serious Music of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries lost its audience because of ego.
Make your music with a conscious desire to gratify the listener, and not as a sell-out or commercial artist seeks out slick music business people to be exploited so as to make the most money he can by dumbing down his music to as simple as he can get it. There are countless Rock Stars who have done this over the years as they use the media to brain wash the unsuspecting public with low quality music. People like this are not musicians they are exploiters of most people’s lack of knowledge about what they are hearing in music.

The conscious desire to gratify the listener will become subconscious and part of your natural way. Think of yourself as a channel through which God strives to uplift mankind. What a privileged and honored position you have been placed in. Become aware of the good that you can do through your talents. Once you become aware of and accept this responsibility, there won’t be any room left for your ego to get in the way of your music. With the right attitude your music will expand to gratify and uplift the listener and lead you to the total fulfillment of your destiny. Strive to make music in such a manner that others may be gratified and that you may be fulfilled.
Some would have you believe that drugs and alcohol help a musician to perform better. All of the great musicians that I have had the honor of working with who were into drugs and alcohol performed greatly not because of the drugs and alcohol, but in my opinion, in spite of the handicap of having used them. Drugs and alcohol are no substitute for talent, hard work and practice.
True there were many of the old-timers in years past that were like that, but times have changed. Those musicians gave us clear examples of what not to do, as we have seen how drugs and alcohol have distorted the minds, wrecked the bodies and taken the lives of some of the musical icons over the years.
Drugs and alcohol is a crutch that men use to cope with certain situations in life, or they are used for temporary pleasure which ends in displeasure, discomfort, bad health or death over time. Learn to cope with all situations by having faith in God and in yourself and you won’t need drugs or alcohol.
Music requires dedication, but dedication is of little use without discipline. Unless you discipline yourself and your study habits, your progress will be slow.
You must discipline yourself to practice some things that may seem trivial and boring to you sometimes. You need to concentrate on the effect you are trying to achieve regardless to whatever it is. If you let your mind wander and do not focus then you are wasting your time. You might as well stop practicing and go do something else, because that kind of practice is not going to help you achieve your goals in music and may in fact teach you some bad habits that you will need to unlearn because you have now set yourself further back than if you had never even tried to practice.
Study with a disciplined schedule, so that your energies are focused and you will find that you will make progress. You will be delighted in your progress and you will realize just how important discipline is and start to apply it to other aspects of your life.
“Do not shuck and jive” when you are singing or playing your instrument. Music is serious business and demands your intensity, concentration, energy and feeling coupled with listening to what is going on around you. Try to blend your sound in with the rest of the sounds you are hearing. As that blending becomes a thing of great beauty. There is no time for ego trips here. Teamwork is the name of the game. If you have section leaders work on your breathing so that your section sounds like just one blended sound. Rehearse group phrasing until it is uniform. The people with whom you perform either add to or detract from your level of performance to some degree. That is why you should always strive to associate yourself with the best musicians; however this is not always possible. Strive to sound your best and give 100% of yourself and your talents always, no matter what the caliber of the musicians with whom you find yourself performing.
Your conduct should uplift the image of the group. I think I have a good sense of humor and like a good laugh and a joke just like many other people. However rehearsal and performance are not the places to try out your comedic skills. You and all the fellow members of your group should regard the group as your musical family and strive for teamwork and togetherness.
Business is business. Tardiness on your part can wind up costing responsible people serious cash money. Chronically tardy musicians end up being fired by whomever is paying them, or if they are the leader they go out of business. If it is a non-profit group they loose their audience.
As a member of a musical group, always remember that your purpose is to perform the music you are to perform to the very best of your ability, and in the manner in which the leader directs. If you are a person who cannot take direction, you have no business being a musician.
When performing in a group, you must unify and harmonize with the group and with all of their concentrated efforts in order to project that group in its most favorable light. The audience is watching and listening to the soloist as well as the performance of the group. You as a soloist must rise above every limitation and press on to build your own reputation as a soloist, regardless of any limitation. You cannot blame others for your lack of projection. A great soloist accepts no limitations and blames no one for his lack of projection, because he is determined to overcome all obstacles and rise above the situation to project himself and build his reputation. The acceptance and utilization of these principles helps to change the amateur into the pro and the mediocre into the great.
Don’t bring your personal problems to rehearsal or a performance. Leave them at home. When you come to work, be prepared to take care of the business at hand, which is to produce great music.
Become the great soloist you want to be. No other person can detract from your greatness if you are determined to rise above each situation and project yourself as a soloist who demands attention. Change your attitude. Don’t be a “musical leech,” waiting to be inspired by other great performers in the group. You must inspire yourself, project yourself and seek to make yourself one who will inspire others. Quit blaming others for your lack. Get with it and project yourself.
Beyond the beginner, apprentice and master of a craft lies the artist professional. A true artist always maintains a level of consistency. In my opinion consistency comes from constant determination to keep your art at the highest level possible at all times. There will be those rare moments when your art rise above the highest level of consistency that you have set for yourself. In those moments you will experience a sense of great self-satisfaction. However don’t allow yourself to linger too long with this self-satisfaction lest you get an inflated head and think that this greatness is coming from you rather than through you.
Then we have the contrary rare moments when your art sinks far below any level of consistency that you have set for yourself. In those moments you will experience great despair. Don’t allow yourself a pity-party. Sing to yourself, read inspirational literature, search for internal and external sources and condition your mind to rise up and find your way back to the channel through which love, beauty and solace may be beamed forth to humanity.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Give'm Hell Harry

You’ll Need a New Nose’
And so she came to Constitution Hall in Washington.
“Because of my father, I was more easily able to obtain important engagements,” she wrote in her book “Letters From Father: The Truman Family’s Personal Correspondence” (Arbor House. 1981). “But I also received more attention by first-string critics and more demanding audiences, who felt that because my father was the president, I had to be not better than average, but better than the best in order to justify my appearing on the stage.”
Mrs. Daniel thought her performance at Constitution Hall to be one of her better ones. But Paul Hume, the music critic of The Washington Post, while praising her personality, wrote that “she cannot sing very well.”
“She is flat a good deal of the time,” Mr. Hume added, concluding that she had no “professional finish.”
Incensed, President Truman dispatched a combative note to Mr. Hume, who released it to the press.
“I have just read your lousy review,” it said in part, adding: “Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”

I have to admire the guy for sticking up for his daughter. I don't necessarily agree with some critics in music. Some of the best music on record that I have heard got bad reviews. I was severely criticized by some of my music teachers and almost failed at music. Had I listened to them I would have never had a successful career in music.