Monday, December 31, 2007

Music Lessons Part 1

In 5th grade when they hand out the information on band instruments, well, it was in the late 60s and it wasn‘t totally nerdy to want to play one then. My parents loved big bands like Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey so they were right there with me when I said I might like to play the trumpet in school. My mother had not ever played an instrument and didn’t sing much, although I think she could carry a tune better than my dad who had a couple of years playing the baritone saxophone when he was young.

They rented an old Elkhart trumpet from the local music store for me to start with. Then as I showed them that I’d stick with it, they bought me a new Olds Ambassador for $214. That was a big investment for them in something for me that I really didn’t HAVE to have. I must credit them both here for thinking that music was an important part of my academia. They had no way of knowing how important it would be in my life later on.

I had a very good music teacher in elementary school. He was young, just out of college I believe, and had kind of long curly blond hair and those little round John Lennon glasses. He looked a lot like Warren Zevon did in the 80s. He was a soft-spoken guy with a glint in his eye that I would not understand for many years. His patience seemed endless, perhaps he was so green in the teaching arena that he suffered from the same enthusiasm of his students, most of whom where 10 and 11 years old. Perhaps, or maybe he felt the way I now feel about music then and just couldn’t be beaten by the sour sounds produced by several young players that probably had no business with a harmonica let alone a trumpet or clarinet.

The “music room” at that school was in the basement next to the boiler room. The "old building" section was built around 1900 and had a coal-fired furnace. Everything had soot on it in the winter. That didn’t matter. We were now musicians and music class was much better than anything else going on there. We got to leave the rest of our class to go to music class. We were musicians. I knew it was cool that we got to go, I just didn’t fully appreciate the difference between us and the rest of the kids now.

Our teacher took us through the cursory snipets of tunes in the beginner book, tried to focus us on what the term “tone” meant, although I remember just hitting the right note was such a victory for most of us that he left it at that and we moved on at a good pace. He encouraged even the worst players and had surprising results. You just wanted to please him since he was such a likeable guy. I‘m sure the girls in the band found him even more “likeable”. That didn’t matter, we were his band now and we could actually play a song or two all together that didn’t always sound like crap. Once or twice we all played it right and it gave some of us that feeling that we didn’t understand then, accomplishment. We could make something out of all those separate parts that other kids couldn’t. Music. A whole song. Something we made. Something that didn’t always sound like crap.

The second year of class we were in a brand new school. As 6th graders we were the big shots at the new school and the oldest kids in the band. Our teacher asked us what we wanted to play. Well, of course we had the 2nd year Hal Leonard Band Method book to go through, but what did he say? What did we want to play? We told him “rock and roll”, laughing a little, knowing that we’d maybe get a little Herb Alpert out of him.

Well, we DID get “Tijuana Taxi” but the big surprise was that he went out and got us the charts for “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies that was now playing on an endless loop on the local top 40 AM radio station and on the Saturday morning cartoon show where Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead had their own rock band now. We loved it, and I remember us driving our parents nuts learning it. Lot’s of practicing at home and of course listening to the 45 of it over and over.

This move, letting us learn by playing contemporary tunes we liked, was the magic that kept most of us in band on into junior high school. We still had to master “Shortnin’ Bread” out of the band book, but playing “our music” did something that has stuck with me all this time. I seem to remember our folks looking a little surprised and even proud when we played it for them on concert night at the new school. My first memory of “stage time”. Nervous, yes. Proud of my accomplishment and our band, very much so. Our teacher and leader seemed very pleased and that was a reward all on it’s own.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

We Just Want To Help You...

Dawn of the Un-Dead Promoter Services (Or Feasting on the Starving Musicians).

You may see a letter like this in your band’s website email or myspace mail inbox:

Your music ROCKS!

If you’re not currently signed to a major label, big dollar recording contract - Please read on for exciting news regarding your big industry break!I think I have something for you, which you might find to be quite useful. I'm now offering a wild variety of booking services, writing services, and contact downloads for bands. Writing can mean your complete bio, press release, newsletters, web content, and more!

We have a full time professional writing team with credits such as people who know Guns-N-Roses fill-in players and other famous guys, and many more. We also have database downloads available with contact information for thousands of Record Labels, PR firms, Managers, Producers, Publishers, and Finance Companies that will show you how to come up with the knowledge (cash) to get work in the music industry.

I know that bands spend thousands of hours trying to get this info, so in this case – we did it for you. All files are in PDF and Excel file formats and we offer them free of charge to Gold Members (see details on our site under member benefits).We are also offering booking services for selected bands. We currently have about 20 bands on our roster, and have some of the best booking agents in the country dedicated to getting YOU gigs!

We are currently accepting applications for bands, and conducting telephone interviews to see if YOUR band is ready for the next level of touring. After listening to your band’s music on your site, I believe you are next in line to apply!

Also if you are a promoter, feel free to respond to this email with your contact info! We have an automated booking system which can help you book bands on your gigs, guarantee ticket sales, oh and did we mention…its completely free to Gold Members!If you are interested in ANY of these services, please go to, register, log in, and you will find all you need. The writing and download services are completely automated, and pretty easy to figure out once your logged in. If you are interested in our booking service – please log in to the website, and you will see instructions on where to apply in the main menu.

You can’t afford to wait any longer for this important info that might somehow lead to your big break. People are getting discovered and signed to major label recording contracts while you are reading this. Wouldn’t it be cool if your band got all the information it needed to find the names of important music industry people who actually know some of the folks who do the discovering of some of these bands??? Don’t wait another minute, apply (charge it) for your BBS Gold Membership NOW!To find out more please go to – DO NOT reply to this email with press kits, epks..etc. We will ask you for it if we need it.Thanks, We‘ll see you on tour!

~ Adrian J - Vice President of Best Band Service (Ever).

While this letter is a fictious amalgam of some of the many letters I’ve received over the last couple of years, it’s not too far off base. Beware of someone VERY interested in your music career out of the blue, there are almost always strings attached. They are mainly interested in separating you from money you either can’t spare or just don’t have. They offer services that you can do on your own if you want to work a little at it. If it seems too good to be true - IT IS!