Resolutions… Anyone?

The new year is a time for life changes and resolutions. I’ve never really been good at this whole new years resolutions, because, let’s face it, in the middle of winter, everything you can think to better yourself sounds like a good idea. But as the days get longer, it feels like you have more time to ‘take care of business’, and sometimes business does get taken care of. Other times, not so much.

Semi-Failed and Completely-Failed Resolutions of my past:

– I’ll wake up early (before 10) and do SOMETHING!
– No More TV!
– Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!
– Write letters to family friends
– No more drinking!
– Slow down on the drinking!
– Focus on the ‘Business Side’ of the Music Industry

Through the years it has just seemed odd to me, and rather random, to change my life on January 1st. For me, life changing resolutions have come from an inspired organic place that come and go in all of our lives. When I resolved to begin running, that inspiration came unfortunately in the middle of one of the hottest Indiana summers on record!

So my resolutions in 2015? I’m going to leave myself open for the inspiration, to listen to my body, to be aware so that I can better move into a better ‘me’ smoothly and naturally. I’m not going to force anything. This way I’m more likely going to stick with that life change, no matter how small or big, as we continue moving along this life!

Any resolutions you have planned for 2015? Let me know in the comments below, who knows…maybe I’ll be inspired

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What A Difference a Year Makes!

It is now 2015.

I ran for the first time today in months.

So it only makes sense that I’m writing a blogpost, the first one in a LONG time!

One year ago, January 1st 2014, I was in Shanghai China playing with the Hollywood Concert Orchestra. It was a long day. Another cold theater, an overrated ‘pop-star’ that couldn’t sing even the songs she chose to sing with us. A nonet of male vocalists, dressed the same, singing what sounded like nine bald Chinese men hurling racial epithets toward their audience. Whatever it was they were singing, the audience wasn’t having it, and JEERS rained down onto the stage.

I live a charmed life.

Actually, I do have a charmed life!! I’m now sitting in the living room of my home I share with my fiancee and our 2 month old baby, Griffin!

I am now a father. I could never imagine what being a father would be like before I became a father. Even now, I can’t imagine what it’s like being a father. I just do things that I need to do, the baby stays alive, he laughs, makes noises I love, and life goes on with a better pace and lilt I could have ever imagined.

Wow! What a difference a year makes!

Griffin was born Oct 25th. I think he's pretty darn cute!

Griffin was born Oct 25th. I think he’s pretty darn cute!

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30 days of Freelance Trombone

trombone bellI often meet new people.
Hey, I’m a sociable guy!

One of the first questions people naturally ask each other when they first meet is, “What do you do for a living?” Pretty standard question. Whenever I respond with, “I’m a musician, I play trombone”, people look puzzled. I don’t blame them! How many trombone players do you think people meet here in Indianapolis? I’m guessing not too many. Naturally people are curious about how one goes about making a living playing a musical instrument. After thinking about this myself, I too am curious about how diverse and varied my playing career can get. Anybody who freelances will play with many different groups and play different styles, so my list below is in no way unique or special. Below is a list of gigs I’ve done from February 15th through March 15th. This list is mainly to satisfy my own curiosity, and to demonstrate that all of us ‘freelancers’ have to do in order to piece together a living! It ain’t all champagne toasts and catered dinners. There’s some work involved!

Anderson Symphony Orchestra, Bass Trombone (Conn 72H):
We played Ruslan and Ludmilla, then two sets of great orchestral music with Sandi Patti.

Michael Feinstein Big Band, tenor trombone (King 3B):
This was a full evening of great big band arrangements of George Gershwin music fronted by the always entertaining Michael Feinstein.

Kessler-Dole Quartet, tenor trombone:
A new quartet that Mike Kessler and I put together in order to play some original music, rock/funk, and different takes on jazz standards. A working knowledge of standard jazz tunes including Cole Porter, JJ Johnson, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Jobim (to name a few), was required for this gig. Plus, it was a lot of fun!

Red-Hot Whisky Sippers, tenor trombone:
Another quartet, this time partnering with my good friend and guitarist Bill Lancton, plays an older more traditional ‘New Orleans’ style of music. We also play a lot of groove based music. Lot’s of soloing is involved in this group, plus some plunger work. This band played 5 different gigs during the past month.

Sunset-Stomp Jazz Band, tenor trombone:
This band is a very traditional type of Dixieland jazz band. The charts are simply lead sheets and the horns (clarinet, trumpet, and trombone) collectively improvise their parts. This is a new(ish) technical approach for me and is something that I am happy to develop!

Seven Pleasures, tenor trombone:
7P’s is a funk band/hip-hop band with a DJ and a full horn line. It’s funky, it’s loud, and it’s high energy! Mostly original music with this band, I really had to flex my muscle memory to remember all the melodies/harmonies from long ago!

Paul Berns Dance Band, tenor trombone:
We played for the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir Fundraising Gala and it was a blast. This is a well written book for 3 horns and rhythm section. We provided music for lot’s of dancers. There wasn’t a lot of soloing, just tons of sight-reading!

Second-line, New Orleans Funk, bass trombone:
Around Mardi-Gras, I get called to play in these second-line/marching type bands to play the role of the tuba. Playing funky bass lines on the bass trombone is fun, but extremely tiring.

B-town Bearcats, tenor trombone:
Here is another Dixieland type band I had the opportunity to play with on Fat Tuesday. Again, a front line of Clarinet, Trumpet, and Trombone collectively improvising the harmonies around the melody.

Obscure Neil Young Night, tenor trombone:
Finally I got to play some Neil Young tunes with Bill and LuAnn Lancton! I had to transcribe a few tunes to get the horn lines down in order to participate, but it was all worth it!

Cinderella the Musical, Large bore tenor trombone (Yamaha Xeno):
Playing in pit orchestras is a lot of fun. I never wanted to be on the stage, but I loved playing the music for musicals. There is just something nice about being in a dark and cramped pit orchestra making beautiful music. We had 4 rehearsals and 3 performances of this musical.

Jared Thompson Quartet, bass trombone:
Here was another Mardi Gras type of gig where I played bass lines on the bass trombone. We did more jazz standard repertoire on this hit, and I tried to make the bass lines funky.

Elevator Up!, tenor trombone, tuba, bass drum:
This duo plays all pop music from the 60’s to Disco, 80’s, 90’s and beyond including the pop favorites of today. I play simultaneously trombone (or tuba) and bass drum. Yes, you read that correctly. There are lots of mutes involved, humor, not much soloing, so it’s  a chop buster, but probably the weirdest and greatest gig I have every played. (We do play the second Tuesday of every month at The Chatterbox Jazz Club.)

Recording Session, large bore tenor trombone:
This session was with a brass quartet. We added some brass to a pre-recorded organ and choir tracks for an upcoming publication or album, I’m not sure which. The brass players in this town are all top-notch so it is always a pleasure doing more classical music every now and then!

Copywork, Finale 2011 laptop computer:
I sometimes will do copywork for extra money. For the musical Cinderella I played, a couple of the tunes needed to be transposed down a whole step and they asked me if I could do that, so I agreed to do the transposition. It only took a couple of afternoons to enter all the separate orchestra parts into the program, transpose it, format, print and tape each part. It’s an easy, yet mindless task.

Butler Youth Jazz Project: an 8 week, once a week session with area high school students where I rehearsed charts, worked on chord/scale relationships, and gave some brief jazz history lectures. The 8 weeks culminates with a big concert at The Jazz Kitchen.
University of Indianapolis: I teach 4 credit hours of a class for non-music majors called Intro to Jazz. This semester I have a total of 57 students between the two sections. I love teaching this class and exposing so many students to the importance of America’s classical music, JAZZ.
Private Trombone Lessons: I only have a couple of private students, and I’m looking to add a few more students this year. I truly love teaching students who work hard, have intellectual curiosity, and are serious and passionate about learning trombone.

Well, there it is. A month’s worth of gigs and teaching in one list. Each week is like a variety show of work, which certainly keeps things interesting!

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Feeling Connected through the Arts

Since my last post, a rather dark post to be honest, things around here have gotten back on track. Positivity is in the air, the future looks bright, and life is good! I did several things to change my perspective, change my inner dialogue, that all led to feeling happier, more grounded, and more connected to the people and life around me.

Here is a short list of things I have done to help me feel grounded, connected, and happier:
1. Cleaning
2. Cooking
3. Hanging with Friends
4. Therapy
5. Playing fun Gigs
6. Exercising semi-regularly
7. Organizing my life (somewhat)
8. Reading

The past month has been full of playing great music with wonderful musicians. That in itself can pull anybody out of the depression dumps! (I’ll write another blog post about how many different gigs I’ve done and all the repertoire I’ve had to play, because even I would like to see THAT list!)

Everything listed above helped me get out of that funk! I was doing those things when I was in the funk, but I wasn’t in the moment while I was doing them. I wasn’t enjoying those activities. This is where the Arts come into play.

Indianapolis is a smaller city, but it has a great arts scene. Usually when I am available, I will attend concerts, or go hear gigs played by my friends. But the past couple of weeks, I have expanded my artistic intake, and it was been refreshing to say the least.

My beautiful girlfriend and I attended Dance Kaleidoscope‘s presentation of “King’s and Queen’s of Country” last week. Then last night we saw the play “Other Desert Cities” at the Indiana Repertory Theater.

KingsQueensDK’s intensely beautiful execution of the brilliant choreography was engaging, entertaining, beautiful, and heart warming. The performance left me feeling happy and connected to those around me. Performances like that lifts you up to a higher place of existence where time kind of falls away. “Kings and Queens of Country” was so much fun and engaging, I recommend everybody to go check it out!

desertcitiesLast night, we saw an intense play at the IRT. Wow, what a performance! To laugh, tear up, sit on the edge of your seat, stealing ‘oh shit!’ glances from your partner next to you, all during the performance means you are ENGAGED with the stage! I felt slightly voyeuristic during the play as I watched this family dance around a secretive past. Each character was wonderfully developed and the actors pulled you in almost immediately. This play runs now through April 5th, so I also recommend checking this out as well!

Neither performance related directly to my life. No jazz musicians, no trombone players, and no vegan runners were present! However, after each performance I felt more connected, more sure of my self, more engaged with life and the people around me. Isn’t that exactly what the arts are supposed to do?

Not feeling good? Go see a play!
Feeling sad? Watch some dancers move gracefully on stage!
Future looking bleak? Go, sit and listen to a concert!

The ARTS connects all of us. The ARTS help you be MORE you.

Stay in the moment with the ARTS in Indianapolis, and bring happiness to all aspects of your life.


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It’s a little late, but allow me to wish all of you a Happy New Year, and a wonderful 2014!!

As many of you know I recently returned from a 5 week orchestra tour through China. For 5 weeks I rode in busses, trains, and planes. I slept in very hard beds, ate oily and meaty food, and breathed some pretty harshly polluted air.

Needless to say, I am SO grateful to be back.

My return HOME was all at once wonderful, exhausting, and detaching.

I have been floating over the ground, looking at things but not seeing them, interacting with people but not connecting, and I feel I have nothing there to offer. I’m feeling adrift, aloof, detached, stressed, insecure, loopy, bored, lonely, and crowded, all at the same time. These feelings of not being rooted or grounded have led me to have less than positive interactions with the ones that I love and care about the most.

sad-eeyoreThis is NOT acceptable.

What am I NOT doing that is creating this vague and intolerable atmosphere I am in?
1. I am not exercising like I should.
2. I am not listening well.
3. I am not engaged in the world around me.
4. I am not studying music.
5. I am not practicing.
6. I carry a heavy heart, and I look for things to be angry/upset about.

So instead of analyzing each aspect of my ‘Eeeyore-esque’ attitude, I’m just going to make some changes.
1. I will run more. (In fact I ran yesterday in 21 degree weather, and it felt GREAT!)
2. I will engage the people around me actively and enjoy what they bring to my life!
3. I will notice everything and open myself to the world.
4. I will study and listen to music.
5. I will practice and not be too critical.
6. I will look at all the wonderful aspects and people in my life and celebrate them every day!

It’s funny, just by writing the above lists, I’m already feeling a bit better! Changing ones perspective and outlook is never easy or fast, but getting a glimpse of that perspective, as I just did, feels so good!!

I’ll leave you with a video I took from a Buddhist monastery I visited in Chengdu, China. The monastery and its gardens were located in the middle of this huge city, yet it was so peaceful. I spent many hours there just walking around experiencing the calmness and beauty of this sactuary. An emotional wave came over me while I was there, and I wept. Things became focused: my life, my future, my love. I felt connected, warm, and safe. All those feelings came from within. Those feelings are always within me. I just need to access them when I lose my way.

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Thoughtfully Checking In…

August is over half over, so my self imposed “no drinking and running/biking/exercising to get back on track” edict is nearly over, so I thought I’d check in.

I miss drinking. I am so boring sober. My jokes fall flat. My witty cynicism is locked somewhere behind an anonymous bar waiting to be opened and poured out. I sleep better and longer, and I’ve lost some weight. It’s awful. Just awful.

On the bright side, I do sleep better and longer, and I’ve lost some weight, so I have that going for me. I have been cooking A LOT more and I’ve gotten a lot of reading done. I’m clear headed and ready to face the day much earlier.

Currently I am vacillating between not ever drinking again, or doing a high-dive off the wagon into a pool filled with sweet, sweet, intoxicating elixirs. Who knows what will happen, I have have 13 days left to make that decision.

These past 19 days have been enlightening (and boring). Only a few days (between day 7 and day 10) have been rough, so that’s nice. I’ve learned to take things slower. I’ve learned to do things because I want to do them. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things. Sitting outside on the porch sipping my morning coffee, soaking in the beautiful start of the day is a new ritual I’ve started and it really makes the whole day fall into place.

Of course, having incredibly supportive friends through this month has been nice too. Running, biking, and cooking with you all has easily been the highlight of the month. I don’t want to lose that.

WARNING: The Following section gets REAL.

What defines a drinking problem? Does writing a blog about not drinking qualify as a drinking problem? How much is too much? Can you only have 2-3 drinks in a night, or is it all or nothing? Let me know your thoughts!

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Stalled Out, Coast, and Restart

i'm lost

You know when you’re just chugging along down the road and you look up and have no idea where you are and where you are going? You do? Good. That has been the past 8 months of my life.

A little over a year ago I did my 30-Day Experiment by going vegan and running. I lost weight and felt great, but somehow along the way, I lost my direction, my passion, and my inner focused energy. I was waiting for the energy, the passion to return, but it never showed up.

The waiting is over. I’m getting it back. I’m doing something about it!

no drinks

For the month of August, I am passing on all the alcoholic beverages. It ain’t gonna be easy, but I feel that this needs to happen. My weight loss and energy level has stalled out. My running routine is coasting, and I need to restart the dedication to my life. I’m going to need all the extra energy I can muster, so the no drinking decision is a no brainer!


But why will I need more energy? What else has changed?!!

Glad you asked.

Starting this fall, I will be teaching at University of Indianapolis, Butler University, and the after school jazz program at Park Tudor instead of being on faculty at IUPUI.  This has been a difficult decision to make. I didn’t come into it lightly, but I feel happy and confident that I have made the correct decision. I need some security in my financial and teaching life, and teaching at UIndy, Butler and Park Tudor is the best way for me to achieve that security.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a run to catch and a beer not to drink later tonight.

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