blog 9: my gear list

blog 9: my gear list

Tenor

saxophone selmer balanced action

mouthpiece jody jazz HR* 7

reeds vandoren traditional 3

reed case d'addario

humidity pack boveda

ligature ishimori woodstone

neckstrap 1 dejacques

neckstrap 2 marmaduke

neckstrap 3 jazzlab harness

neckstrap 4 balam

neck pouch bg

anti-stick pad invention key leaves

saxophone stand hercules

Soprano

saxophone yamaha YSS-675

mouthpiece jody jazz

reeds vandoren traditional 3

ligature rico H

case cover cavallaro

Clarinet

buffet R-13

mouthpiece richard hawkins

reeds vandoren V12 3.5+

reed case d'addario

Audio/Video Recording

video microphone rode videomic pro

saxophone studio microphone AEA R88

main camera canon T5i

lens for my main camera canon 10-18mm

small camera gopro hero 6

I vlog mostly with this iphone 7

drone dji spark

camcorder canon vixia HFR800

video light yongnuo yn300

tripod 1 joby gorillapod

tripod 2 joby griptight – for phone

tripod 3 amazonbasics

audio interface focusrite saffire pro 14

DAW logic pro x

Miscellaneous gear

metronome matrix

tuner korg

music stand manhasset

keyboard roland juno-Gi

computer apple imac

printer canon imageclass D530

hard drive lacie rugged 5TB

Some of my favorite books:

The Art of Learning

Zen in the Art of Archery

The Power of Now

The War of Art

Daily Studies for Saxophone

Melodious and Progressive Studies

blog 8: january books

blog 8: january books

This is the first of (hopefully) a monthly recap of books I have recently read. I'll give my general thoughts of each book along with a more in-depth look at what I found to be interesting/insightful/inspiring about the books. Or, I may find that things are best left in the words of the author, and leave a few notable quotes for you to digest yourself.

 

Art Inc

by Lisa Congdon

art inc.jpg

I found this book to be very practical and full of useful information, especially for up-and-coming artists in the fine art world. I especially liked the mini-interviews with successful artists, which were very informative and motivating. It's fascinating to hear so many different pathways to success, and especially inspiring to learn about artists who have created artistically fulfilling careers without sacrificing their vision. Personally, I skimmed over the two chapters that dealt with exhibitions, galleries, illustration, and licensing, only because I am not involved in those areas, however I would highly recommend this book as a road map for anyone who is interested in those topics.

“As an artist you have the opportunity to create your own unique stamp on the world.”

“Perhaps the most exciting aspect of being a full-time artist is the limitless potential for success. Once you shed the notion that an artist's life is made of struggle, you open yourself up to endless possibilities for exploration, innovation, and growth.”

 

The Power Of Now

by Eckhart Tolle

the power of now.jpg

This is probably the most profound book I have ever read, and I would highly recommend it to everyone. As I was reading it I started to write down notable quotes, but quickly realized that I would be quoting almost every page, so I stopped writing. If I can attempt to summarize the thesis, it would be that the main cause of suffering in the world is due to our inability to stop thinking. When you are thinking, you are usually mulling over a past event, or anticipating a future event, rather than basking in the joys of the present moment. This book helped me to understand the purpose of meditation, which I have experimented with but have had a hard time committing to yet. I won't try to provide more explanation, but I connected very strongly with this book and would encourage you to give it a try. Here are a few passages that I picked out:

“the Buddha's...definition of enlightenment...'the end of suffering.'”

“Being is the eternal, ever-present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death...You can know it only when the mind is still.”

“Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don't realize this because almost everybody is suffering from it, so it is considered normal. This incessant mental noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from Being.”

“...the single most vital step on your journey toward enlightenment is this: learn to disidentify from your mind.”

“The predominance of mind is no more than a stage in the evolution of consciousness. We need to go on to the next stage now as a matter of urgency, otherwise, we will be destroyed by the mind...”

“All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness.”

“In the normal, mind-identified or unenlightened state of consciousness, the power and infinite creative potential that lie concealed in the Now are completely obscured by psychological time.”

“As long as you are in a state of intense presence, you are free of thought.”

“The art of inner-body awareness will develop into a completely new way of living, a state of permanent connectedness with Being, and will add a depth to your life that you have never know before.”

“If you remain in conscious connection with the Unmanifested, you value, love, and deeply respect the manifested and every life form in it as an expression of the One Live beyond form. You also know that every form is destined to dissolve again and that ultimately nothing out here matters all that much.”

“Humanity is under great pressure to evolve because it is our only chance of survival as a race.”

blog 7: sean imboden large ensemble

blog 7: sean imboden large ensemble

Indy Jazz Fest 2017 at IUPUI

Indy Jazz Fest 2017 at IUPUI

Indy Jazz Fest 2017 IUPUI

Indy Jazz Fest 2017 IUPUI

Indy Jazz Fest 2017 at IUPUI

Indy Jazz Fest 2017 at IUPUI

Ansyn Banks, trumpet

Ansyn Banks, trumpet

Evan Drybread, bass clarinet

Evan Drybread, bass clarinet

Ernest Stuart, trombone

Ernest Stuart, trombone

Jen Siukola (left), Lexi Signor (right), trumpets

Jen Siukola (left), Lexi Signor (right), trumpets

Joel Tucker, guitar

Joel Tucker, guitar

Indianapolis Artsgarden 2017

Indianapolis Artsgarden 2017

Jazz Kitchen 2017

Jazz Kitchen 2017

Broad Ripple Park 2017

Broad Ripple Park 2017

blog 6: a world of possibilities

blog 6: a world of possibilities

I still clearly remember the first time I tasted red wine. I was 19 years old, in a cramped crew cabin onboard the Carnival Cruise Lines ship, the Elation, somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. This was the usual late-night musician hang, including seven of us that covered a diverse span of ages, ethnicities, nationalities, and backgrounds. We just finished one of the live shows for the guests, and were each still adorned in our performance attire: all black (tucked-in) collared button-up shirt, pants, and shoes, with the gold Carnival name plate pinned to the left shirt pocket: “SEAN”. The drummer of our group, a man in his 50s who found himself in the cruise musician ranks after a career of freelance work in Vegas dried up, handed me a white paper cup filled halfway with the dark burgundy liquid. I held it in my hand for a minute before taking a sip. I tried not to seem over-anxious around my more worldly and experienced bandmates, but my heart was pumping fast with anticipation for this moment.

As I tilted the cup back, my taste buds started to process the room-temperature liquid. Immediately my body tripped an internal alarm system, and every cell of my being attempted to resist this new, foreign, disgusting taste. Bitterness, bite – UGH! Was this right? Was I given a cup of medicine on accident? I masked my shock and tried to act as though every thing was fine. “Yeah, it's good!”

I don't remember how I forced myself to finish the rest of my wine that night onboard the Carnival ship, and I certainly don't remember the second time I tried wine. I am, however, thankful that I eventually was able to move past my initial revulsion. A dry red wine is absolutely one of my favorite drinks now, and I feel like I'm only beginning to appreciate the complexities of flavor that are offered.

When I was slightly older, a mere 22, I had the opportunity to travel to Japan as part of a musical production. I was just about to graduate college, with no plans, only the feeling of excitement to finally reach the finish line of school. For a brief period of time, I actually considered turning down this incredible job opportunity. My reasoning was that I wouldn't be playing the exact type of music that I loved, and I didn't want to miss out on the freedom that I was about to have. Why do I need to go to Japan when I have everything I need right here?

I am glad that I came to my senses and accepted the opportunity to fly to Tokyo, to begin work as a professional, touring saxophonist. This was a life-changing experience that led to 3 other tours of Japan, totaling over 8 months of living all over that incredible country. I was lucky to be immersed in a culture so different from the United States, especially at a young age. This helped open my eyes to a world full of diversity.

I wanted to share these two experiences as examples of the importance to break out of our shells. As a young adult, I didn't feel as though I “needed” to go to Japan, when in fact, as a white male from the United States, with little time spent outside of the country, that was exactly what I needed! The Japanese history, culture, people, food, cities, and towns all gave me a new perspective on what it means to be a citizen of the world. I fell deeply in love with the country, and could happily live there now if I chose to. After my initial sip of wine, I was ready to shun this liquid from my life forever. Only after trying different brands on many other occasions did I begin to realize the depth of taste that was actually present.

When I hear a person make dismissive comments about a type of food, or a country, or a genre of music, I wonder if they have given themselves the chance to fully acquire the taste, and realize the complexity of whatever they are referring. I don't think I need to explain the racial implications of this idea, but on a simpler level when I hear someone say something like “I don't like sushi”, I always want to exclaim “you haven't tried it in Japan, it will blow your mind!” Or the comment “I don't like classical music” makes me think to myself “can you name three classical composers? This music has been around hundreds of years, with thousands of composers...I bet we can find something you like!”

I hope I can continue to break through the shells that I have created for myself, and those that are built into society. Some discomfort or unfamiliarity should not be a cause for fear, dislike, or hatred, but rather an opportunity to learn and expand our knowledge and enjoyment of life. I believe this is an important viewpoint to strive for, and can ultimately help on large scale like international relations, or simply to love our neighbors as ourselves. An experience that might seem insignificant at first might actually be a doorway to a world of possibilities that we are initially unable to imagine.

 

blog 5: starting music school

blog 5: starting music school

I recently received an email from a young music student who recently graduated high school and was about to begin music school at the IU Jacobs School of Music. He was looking for any advice that I could share that might help him succeed in his new environment. What I came up with essentially boiled down to five main points. I thought that sharing his email could be helpful to others in a similar situation. I've copied the entire email below. Thanks for reading. 

 

Hey Sean,

I'll be starting at Jacobs this fall and I was wondering if you had any tips on how to get off on the right foot in music school. Stuff like how to develop a good routine, balancing class work, and so on. Any tips you have would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Matt 

 

Hey Matt, 

Thanks for getting in touch. Glad to hear you'll be at IU! I think the main thing to keep in mind is that you will have tons of time on your hands, so you want to use it wisely. Yes, you have a demanding course load and homework, but as long as you don't procrastinate your class work, you will have a lot of time (more than when you get out of school and start working/touring/teaching or whatever you end up doing).

Everyone is productive in different ways, and people approach work differently, but I like to have an actual work schedule instead of saying "I'll get my practicing done sometime later this week". When "later this week" rolls around, and people want you to go to a party, it's tough to resist! This might be helpful: https://www.seanimboden.com/blog/2017/6/19/blog-1-freelance-musician

After your first week of class you should have a good idea of the course work, and know how much time you'll need to allot to various tasks. Here are the main things I would do if I were in your shoes:

1. Plan your homework and practice time in a calendar (along with your actual classes and rehearsals, this means that 75% of your time will be planned in advance). Do your best not to deviate from this schedule. For me personally, I know that if I keep my schedule open-ended I am much more likely to go to social outings on a whim, or just watch Netflix when I should be working, etc. I treat my practicing like a day job that I must do, and plan 1 or 2 things with friends per week.

2. Go to as many of the best recitals and concerts that you can. There are amazing recitals by grad/doctoral students and faculty that can be pretty mind blowing that happen every week, so be a sponge and soak it all in. 

3. Build your network of friends in the music school, not just to have job contacts in the future, but it's nice to have people to hang with who can relate to the workload, etc. It's also nice to have friends outside of the music school, but this can be more challenging.

4. It's not too early to start making career plans and setting goals. Do this and start taking steps in whatever direction you want to go. 

5. Exercise, eat well, and work hard, but not to to point of a nervous breakdown. You're not there to compete with anyone other than yourself, so just do the best that you can do. You should find joy in constantly striving, improving, and achieving the goals you set for yourself. Don't worry about anything/anyone else. Basically, work hard while being kind to yourself. 

Ultimately I think it all comes down to the idea of sacrifice. What is most important to you? There is no right or wrong, just what you want to do. Do you want straight A's, or to meet the most people, or to be the best flute/oboe doubler, or to get a military gig right out of school? I think all of those are actually great goals, however it is most likely impossible for any one person to do all 4 of those things. So it's helpful to narrow your focus to some extent rather than trying to do everything and spreading yourself too thin. Think about what you want to be doing in music, and plan on being as possibly prepared as you can be for whatever that is in 4 years. So if it's playing Broadway shows, you should have your doubles and reading rock solid. 

I hope this is helpful. Have fun, and keep in touch!

Sean

blog 4: the beginning of a journey

blog 4: the beginning of a journey

Today I'd like to tell the story of how I began my musical journey, and the five decisive moments that set me on a joyful path of discovery. I feel incredibly lucky that I've had so many people guiding me, especially during my early formative life. Here I'll try to highlight the times that were most influential.

one

I've been doing musical ear-training since before birth. My mom is a violinist and my dad plays a dozen woodwind instruments. As my brother (who played trumpet) and I grew older, it wasn't uncommon for four or more instruments to be playing simultaneously in different rooms of the house. Just like a kid who grows up in a bilingual household, I was learning the language of melody, harmony, and rhythm through osmosis. It was this constant exposure of music at home, and gigs/rehearsals that my parents took me to, that started to hardwire my brain from an early age.

two

Before turning about 15 or 16, music wasn't a passion. I was pretty immersed in it, since it was part of my family's lifestyle, but for me personally, lightning had not yet struck. Then in high school, I was given a few albums by some friends: Cannonball Adderley's Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, Joshua Redman's Timeless Tales For Changing Times, and Charle's Mingus' Ah Um. The flood gates were opened. Suddenly my brain started to connect the dots and realize all of the possibilities and creative potential that I held in my hands with my Yamaha alto saxophone. Also, during this time, I was extremely fortunate to have a long-running weekly gig with my high school combo. We explored music together and even recorded a couple of albums.

Here's the first track from this 1966 album, complete with Cannonball's explanation at the end. This album won a Grammy in 1967, and changed my life in 2003.

Here's the first track from this 1966 album, complete with Cannonball's explanation at the end. This album won a Grammy in 1967, and changed my life in 2003.

31 years after Cannonball's album, Joshua Redman's band incorporated the same tenets in their music that Cannonball did - energy, improvisation, interaction - but now with a modern interpretation.

31 years after Cannonball's album, Joshua Redman's band incorporated the same tenets in their music that Cannonball did - energy, improvisation, interaction - but now with a modern interpretation.

three

The third pivotal moment in my development, that I can pinpoint with great detail, was, while still in high school, hearing Joshua Redman (who's CD I had completely worn out by then) play live at a club in Indianapolis. Prior to this moment I had been living and dying with every note of his that blasted through the speakers of my small boom box at home. Experiencing this live was like being thrust into a new universe of emotion. I wanted to scream and dance, and to please, somehow, anyhow, learn to play like him.

brain music 2.jpg

four

Going to the IU school of music was the equivalent of being dropped in the deep end of the pool while barely able to tread water. It was trial by fire, one in which I saw many classmates fall by the wayside. I feel as though it was a combination of my solid upbringing and pure luck that gave me the state of mind to avoid a nervous breakdown, addiction, and a general feeling of being overwhelmed that seemed prevalent in this high-pressure environment. The faculty here gave me all of the tools necessary to reach my potential as a musician, but in particular it was the involvement with more experienced grad students (hearing them and playing with them) that really blew my mind. Every Monday afternoon was our saxophone masterclass, where I would soak up information like a sponge. I still treasure all of those times.

IU.jpg

five

My time in New York offered a diverse cultural left turn, and was a period of self discovery that solidified my desire to play music. Grad school was full of incredible times with the faculty and students, but the most dramatic shift for me during this time was the opportunity to hear all of the great musicians that I had previously worshipped on CD, now play live. It was like night and day. Players really stretched out (meaning they played longer solos, took chances, and didn't play it safe), with a seemingly endless supply of energy and ideas, in a way I hadn't heard on recordings. The interaction between bandmates was at such a high level, that urgency of the music seemed to flow directly up from the cement that covered every block and borough in the city.

Thank you for reading this look into my early musical development. I hope to expand upon some of these events in more detail in the future, as well as other topics that interest me.

blog 3: revisions

blog 3: revisions

I've always assumed that great painters, writers, musicians, composers, and other artists created their masterpieces on their first try, without revisions. I'm not sure why I thought this, but I never imagined that Beethoven, Dostoevsky, or Picasso even owned erasers. Then a couple of years ago I went to the Indianapolis Museum of Art to see a Henri Matisse exhibit. I walked through the rooms filled with exquisitely vivid paintings, cut outs, portraits, and drawings. As I am with all of my favorite artists, I was transported to a different place as I absorbed the elegant work. Then something completely unexpected happened. We were given a glimpse into Matisse's artistic process, which involved...revision! On display was his famous 1935 Oil on canvas painting, Large Reclining Nude:

Next to this painting, on a wide, white wall, hung two long rows of black and white drafts of this painting. Matisse had documented his process through photographs over a five-month period. He would pin paper to the canvas to make alterations. Here are just a few of the many photos I saw that day:

It was admittedly an astonishing experience to see evidence of revision from one the world's most illustrious artists. This did gave me a sense of comfort in my own work, as I am certainly one to make many changes with pieces I am composing, arranging, or playing. In some ways I have even felt as though my need of constant revision somehow devalued the final product. Since it didn't appear in front of me like a bright shining ruby on the first try, could it really be a product of true artistry?

Thankfully, with my discovery that day at the IMA, I know that self-editing can be a viable and necessary tool. This makes me wonder how many works Matisse never developed all the way to the “final draft” stage, and maybe weren't even released?! I'll have to do more research.

blog 2: the war of art

blog 2: the war of art

It's about ten-thirty now. I sit down and plunge in. When I start making typos, I know I'm getting tired. That's four hours or so. I've hit the point of diminishing returns. I wrap for the day...How many pages have I produced? I don't care...I have overcome Resistance.”

Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art has had my head spinning the past couple of months. As someone who attempts to do creative work, this text has been full of eye-opening revelations. Pressfield has confirmed and solidified many nagging suspicions I've had, especially relating to the force (“Resistance”) that battles artistic work. He describes Resistance as an internal force that is present during any activity that “rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity.” Pressfield states that we can gauge the importance of an activity to our inner calling by the amount of Resistance we feel towards it. I'd like to share some excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful, and add a bit of my own perspective. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with creative aspirations, or those that have fallen prey to procrastination in other ventures.

There's a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don't, and the secret is this: It's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write.”

I've known this feeling for a long time, but never really identified it, or knew how to deal with it. Rather than waiting for motivation to strike, or blaming inaction on some sort of writer's block, Pressfield's approach is hard-headed and direct: get to work, even when you don't feel like it. Lately I've been doing a lot of composing for a new large ensemble. There are no deadlines, meetings, or bosses telling me when the work needs to be done, so it's easy to procrastinate. However, I've found that if I spend the first 3 hours of the day working on this project, then I am focused and productive over a period of weeks/months.

How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip, and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don't do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to?”

I've never thought about it like this, but I can see what he means. If you are not fulfilling your soul's purpose, you will find other things to fill the void. Luckily I haven't dealt with any harmful addiction issues, but I do fight the urge to allow certain objects have more control over my actions than I like to admit: money, television, food, YouTube. The more work I do towards my creative goals, the less stress I feel, the more content I am, and the less I feel tempted by these indulgences.

pre-netflix

pre-netflix

As artists and professionals it is our obligation to enact our own internal revolution, a private insurrection inside our own skulls. In this uprising we free ourselves from the tyranny of consumer culture. We overthrow the programming of advertising, movies, video games, magazines, TV, and MTV by which we have been hypnotized from the cradle. We unplug ourselves from the grid by recognizing that we will never cure our restlessness by contributing our disposable income to the bottom line of Bullshit, Inc., but only by doing our work.”

Pressfield's method to achieving your potential is cut-and-dry: identifying your priorities, cutting everything else out, and getting to work. Luckily, he helps us sort through the cobwebs and break down the barriers that arise during this process.

Are you paralyzed with fear? That's a good sign...The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Resistance feeds on fear. We experience Resistance as fear. But fear of what?...Fear That We Will Succeed...We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us. That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity. We fear that we truly can steer our ship, plant our flag, reach our Promised Land. We fear this because, if it's true, then we become estranged from all we know. We pass through a membrane. We become monsters and monstrous.”

Fear is designed to help keep us alive (we are scared to walk too close to the cliff or stick our hand in the tiger cage). However, if we do not attack our own creative fears head-on, we will not break through these natural mental blocks and complete our work. Composer/bandleader Maria Schneider tells an interesting quote from David Bowie: “David had such a fearless and playful attitude about music. He said 'If the plane goes down, everyone is walking away.'” Personally, I feel lucky that I would consider myself a fairly fearless musician. I've naturally always been excited by the unknown (in a musical situation) and enthralled by the chance to create something new.

It is a commonplace among artists and children at play that they're not aware of time or solitude while they're chasing their vision. The hours fly.”

I get the same feeling when I play and write music as I did when I was a kid playing legos

I get the same feeling when I play and write music as I did when I was a kid playing legos

Many of us cringe at the solitude necessary to do the required work, however once we commit this “act of courage” Pressfield claims that we gain the support of our “Muse” which are the unknown forces that come to our aid when we do work that benefits the greater good.

Rationalization...keep(s) us from feeling the shame we would feel if we truly faced what cowards we are for not doing our work.”

Here I feel as though Pressfield is speaking directly to me. Many times without even realizing it, my mind will tell itself tall tales to make itself feel better, and to avoid doing what is necessary. My brain will say things like “I sounded ok on that recording yesterday, I can take it easy for a few days” or “That arrangement isn't due for another week, I can go to the movies instead of starting it.” These seemingly harmless rationalizations ultimately spiral into more and more procrastination.

I wake up with a gnawing sensation of dissatisfaction...I'm not thinking about the work. I've already consigned that to the Muse. What I am aware of is Resistance...I afford it the utmost respect, because I know it can defeat me on any given day as easily as the need for a drink can overcome an alcoholic.”

Acknowledging the power of Resistance gives us strength and the mindset to be prepared to face it. For myself, the later in the day that I wait to begin my work, the less likely that it will get done. I try to combat this by working out a schedule ahead of time and sticking to it. This helps me to use time as an ally, rather than allowing it to feel like an enemy. 

The professional respects his craft. He does not consider himself superior to it. He recognizes the contributions of those who have gone before him. He apprentices himself to them. The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come. The professional is sly. He knows that by toiling beside the front door of technique, he leaves room for genius to enter by the back.”

This could not be a more apt description of how an improvising instrumentalist (or any musician) must approach their work. A conscious, focus practice of fundamentals gives you foundation and the tools necessary to execute the abstract ideas that start flying around once the music gets going. For example, if I'm playing with a pianist or guitarist, they might play a particular chord that I find interesting, and I may want to react to it. To be able to do this I need to have done the required ear training, study of theory, and technical work to be able to process the sounds I am hearing and formulate a response.

The professional blows critics off. He doesn't even hear them. Critics, he reminds himself, are the unwitting mouthpieces of Resistance and as such can be truly cunning and pernicious. They can articulate in their reviews the same toxic venom that Resistance itself concocts inside our heads.”

I believe that we all have our own inner artistic GPS. If I follow my own map as close as I can, I will get to my destination, and I will achieve my goal of realizing my vision. If I allow myself to be swayed by outside forces, I may get off track and compromise my true purpose.

To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution.”

Yep.

When the hack sits down to work, he doesn't ask himself what's in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking for. The hack condescends to his audience.”

One thing that I know has strengthened my own musicianship is the realization that if I play what moves/interests me, then it will most likely have the same effect on others. It becomes a very shallow and unfulfilling guessing game when I start to play for the audience.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got.”

blog 1: freelance musician

blog 1: freelance musician

Today I'd like to shed some light onto my work as a freelance musician. There are plenty of varying models and examples of successful freelancers, but rather than get into the infinite permutations of possibilities, I'll try to focus on what kind of work I do, how I do it, and why I do it.

Why am I a freelancer? I certainly could try to design an easier, more stable work life (while still being a musician) with benefits and a higher level of dependability. I supposed it comes down to priorities. I've realized that I become pretty unhappy if I don't have the freedom to be creative. I love to improvise, play original compositions, collaborate with like-minded people, and strive to create fresh and exciting music in the moment. I love working with students who chose to study with me. Ultimately, I value artistic, fulfilling experiences through playing, writing, and teaching more than I value the perks of a “normal” job.

I think of my work as being divided into 3 categories: playing, writing, and teaching. The amount I spend with each topic may fluctuate slightly each day, but usually they are all present to some extent every day. Here are the activities within each category:

 

Playing

gigs, rehearsals, recording sessions, festivals, concerts, recitals, and all of the practice & preparation that goes into each

Writing

arranging & composing music for bands, schools, churches, orchestras, string quartets, etc.

Teaching

private lessons at home/schools, group lessons, masterclasses, middle school beginner classes, high school wind ensemble sectionals, college courses, etc.

 

Let's look at a typical work day, and how I fit in things from each category. I will use this past Monday as an example, which had a fairly even balance of events. Here is the breakdown:

6:30am-9:00am  exercise/breakfast/read

9:00am-11:00am  practice

11:00am-12:00pm  private lesson

12:00pm-12:30pm  lunch/administrative stuff

12:30pm-3:30pm  writing

3:30pm-4:00pm  caffeinated tea/new yorker cartoons/stare out window mindlessly

4:00pm-5:00pm  practice

5:00pm-7:00pm  private lessons

7:00pm-8:00pm  dinner/commute to gig

8:00pm-10:00pm  gig

10:00pm-11:00pm  post-gig kombucha/wine/chess game

gig location, monday nights in indianapolis

gig location, monday nights in indianapolis

This schedule is pretty productive, and the tasks are broken up throughout the day, which helps to give a sense of flow and variety. I did plan this day out in advance (as I do with most work days). By committing to the specific time frames outlined here, it keeps my business/work well rounded and continuously growing and improving. I have had periods of time where I worked 8 hours a day on one specific thing (either playing, writing, or teaching). The problem I've noticed by doing that is although I might make big strides with a particular area in a small amount of time, I get burnt out, lazy, and ultimately accomplish the same amount in the long run as I did with shorter, more focused efforts on a variety of things.

piano workspace at home

piano workspace at home

A quick note that only musicians might find interesting: No matter what is happening on a particular day, I try to get in 3 hours of focused practice time. This helps to keep me in good shape for any upcoming gigs, as well as advancing my playing toward whatever goals I have set. As a doubler, I've chosen to focus my efforts on three instruments: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, and clarinet. Some days I will practice all three, some days only one. The average breakdown of practice time is usually around 70% tenor, 20% clarinet, and 10% soprano. This may get flipped around for various reasons. For example, this past Christmas I was called with short notice to play a somewhat challenging soprano solo at a church service, so I spent about 80% of my practice time on soprano for about a week to prepare. In future blog posts I'll share what I do to maximize practice time.

I realize that this is a broad look at my life as a freelancer, and there are many areas and sub-categories that I could get into. I may delve deeper into these topics in future blogs, but for now feel free to send me any questions/comments you may have. Thanks for reading.

computer workspace at home, where dreams become reality

computer workspace at home, where dreams become reality

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