Thursday, August 23, 2007

Many Different Hats

As I dig deeper into this world of a full-time musician I realize that I must wear many hats in order to survive--and thrive--in this business. It's not enough to be a performer anymore and apparently you aren't as respected if that is all you do! Honestly, if I meet people who can survive solely on their performance money, I'm incredibly impressed! But the general consensus--or so I've been told--is that you need to be more than just a performer. Teaching, lecturing, composing are all avenues that need to be covered in order to be truly accepted and respected. I'm not really sure if I believe this 100%, but I do know there is some truth to it. AND, it is important to find other means of income when and if performance dates become lean and the bills still need to be paid. :) But not only is this important to latch onto, but you also need to be a good business person, know marketing, have a good vision towards the future to make sure you remain a viable force in the music business. It's a lot of things to have to think about, but also just as essential if you are to remain in this business.

We, as in the Patois Record label and I, are in the process of creating a good business plan to prepare for the launch of my next CD. There have been some good ideas thrown around so far and I'm pretty excited about the prospect of having a label backing me up while this next CD is "born". There is so much to think about and so much preparation before the CD actually hits the stores--it's amazing to me how much actually goes into the creation of the music. Not only does it have to be recorded, mixed, mastered and designed, but then a whole marketing plan must be put into place if it is to be successful. Although it sounds daunting at times, it is also very exciting and I look forward to the coming months as the gestation process continues and the whole package takes shape and grows into what I hope will be a truly spectacular event!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Surviving in this World

How can one survive in this world doing what they love to do? It appears there are plenty of people who are capable of such a feat and I SO want to be one of them. Am I surviving as a full-time musician? Yes and no. If it weren't for my savings I would have never made it this far. So I am scrambling to find other avenues of an income source. I know I will make it because of my tenacity and perseverance, but it gets scary sometimes. I don't/won't end up back in a cubicle, but I'm also not yet ready to go and work at Starbucks to make ends meet!

I love to teach and am currently looking for a new teaching gig that will supplement my income and also allow me to give back to children what was given to me. I have a strong sense of "duty" to contribute to society. But I want my contribution to be a creative one, one that will open new doors for children and help guide them on a more positive path.

I went to see a Gymnastics competition the other night with my mom. There were a ton of kids there who obviously were aspiring gymnasts. It was great to see so many families out with their children. But there were two young girls behind me, neither more than 10 years old who were looking for all of the mistakes of the gymnasts instead of appreciating the hard work and dedication each was giving to their sport. It occurred to me that even at a very young age, our children are learning to view things in a negative light rather than a positive one. How did it happen that we have become such a cynical society? I am just as guilty--everyone is--but I am making it a point to change my way of thinking by approaching things in a more positive light, trying to see the good in things rather than gravitating straight to the negative. This is part of what I want to give to the children I will be teaching.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Fantastic Weekend!

What a fantastic weekend! I had so much fun performing three days in a row and with such amazing talents with me on stage and all around me at the San Jose Jazz Festival. I am blessed and honored to have been a part of such an inspiring weekend. Yesterday's performance definitely topped all the others for me. Mainly because I was able to work with a fuller band and we were able to better represent the new music with a horn section (Wayne Wallace and Masaru Koga). The crowd was energetic and attentive and seemed to really enjoy what we were presenting to them. My voice was in great form and my energy level fed off of the audience's energy. In other words: it was FUN, FUN, FUN!! And what a great turnout of people! There were some folks that came who I haven't seen in years. What a treat that was. I even got to meet the inspiration behind "Quitate La Queta"--a new song I wrote that will be going on the next CD. Queta was in the audience when we presented the song's world premiere! I think she was pleased. :)

Another highlight for me this weekend was doing some serious hanging with Ray Vega. Although we never really got a chance to perform together on stage (he did, however, come and sit in with us during Wayne's big band show), we had some good quality time to talk about life and music. He is becoming a good frined to me and a great source of inspiration and encouragement. He brings a lot of positive energy to the table and won't tolerate bullshit; I think that's what I appreciate most about him--he cuts right through the crap in order to get to the heart of things. He motivates me to stay on my path and not look back.

Another thing that was a great message to me this weekend was how the Sephardic music was received by the audiences. People seem to really love what we are doing with the music and that makes me feel really good. I know what we are developing is special and I am glad that people are responding so positively to it. It's also good to know that the path I have chosen for my music is the right path for me. I realize that, although long in arriving, I have been given this vision and I need to see it through. It doesn't hurt, however, that I am having a blast in the process! I am so happy I had the guts to leave Cisco in order to follow this dream. I don't remember a time when I have felt so centered and happy.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

San Jose Jazz Festival Weekend

The weekend was officially launched last night for me at the Agenda Restaurant and Lounge. I had such a fun gig with the guys. Wayne Wallace also came and sat in on a few songs which added a whole new dimension to the music. We had a fantastic turnout of people--thank you to all of you who came to hear the band! We even tried out some of the new songs that will be on the next CD and I'm really pleased with how they are translating into a live performance situation. I was a little worried that we wouldn't really be able to pull off the most intricately complicated arrangements without a full band with horn section, but it actually works out just fine and I'm thrilled that I will be able to perform them on stage. People seemed to really respond to the new material--and it feels really good to be able to add more exciting and vibrant music to my repertoire. I'm now even more excited to play with a fuller group on Sunday (4pm, Silicon Valley Stage).

The only bummer last night was that Ray Vega wasn't able to make it to the gig. He was going to come and sit in but his luggage was lost on his flight and he had to go back to the airport to pick it up once it was found. Needless to say, that took most of the evening for him so he couldn't make it down to the club. Bummer for me, but even more a bummer for him. What a drag to be on a plane for hours and hours only to finally arrive to find your luggage is nowhere to be found. I'm sure he wasn't a happy camper last night. I'll go to his masters class today at 1pm at the Improv to say hello and see what he's got going on for the weekend. Hopefully he can drop by the silicon Valley Stage before he heads over to finish out the jazz fest on the Main Stage on Sunday.

This is going to be a really fun weekend. I'm looking forward to exploring all the different stages at the festival and then performing with Wayne Wallace's big band tonight on the latin stage. I will definitely have to pace myself in order to maintain some semblance of energy for all I've got going on!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Music Education

I've spent the entire summer without much of an income and so am/was looking forward to returning to my music teaching duties at the elementary school in Redwood City where I taught last year. But then I come to find that the school district has knocked the arts down to an even lower peg than it was before--and believe me we were on a pretty low peg last year. Their thought is that if the children receive their music lessons twice a week for 9 weeks then that will be sufficient music education for them for the entire year!! 9 weeks, as opposed to the 28 weeks we were contracted for last year!! How is it possible that the administration of these school districts are still SO in the dark that they can't recognize the essential value of the arts in a child's life, as well as, education? There have been scientific studies proving the validity and strength of the arts, not only in helping to develop an appreciation for the arts, but in helping to develop cognitive thinking, discipline, mathematical skills, etc., etc. But it's because teachers are having to teach their students solely on the goal of good test scores that the arts are being relegated to the back burner. What is this saying about our society and the value we put on education? Will these children really get a well-rounded education that will inspire them to continue to develop their skills in college? And where will the new artists come from if we are not allowing our children to get a taste of the beauty of creativity in the schools? Will it just be the wealthy that are exposed to the arts since the poorer schools do not have the funds to support them? Yes, I am passionate about this and it boils my blood to think that test scores have become more important than the actual learning experience for our children. Even the teacher's creativity is being sucked out of them because of the pressure of delivering better test scores.

Taken from Making the Case for Music Education (
"Early this decade, Gordon Shaw (University of California-Irvine) and Frances Rauscher (University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh) incited discussion of the connection between music and learning when they revealed the results of their work with college students. The researchers found that listening to 10 minutes of a Mozart piano sonata improved students' abilities to perform some spatial-reasoning tasks (for example, to see patterns in objects or numbers). While the benefits faded quickly after the music was stopped, that research opened the door to a follow-up study with preschool children.

In the follow-up study, 78 preschoolers were given tests designed to measure spatial abilities. Then a fourth of those students then were given a 12-15 minute private piano lesson each week for six months. At the end of that period, the tests were administered again. The results confirmed the impact of music instruction on students' spatial-reasoning skills. On one test that required students to assemble a puzzle of a camel, the students who received piano instruction show significantly more improvement than the other children did.

In another study, published by Martin Gardiner (currently at Brown University's Center for the Study of Human Development) in the May 1996 issue of the journal Nature, groups of first graders were given music instruction that emphasized sequential skill development and musical games involving rhythm and pitch. After six months, the students scored significantly better in math than students in groups that received traditional music instruction. (Reading scores for the two groups didn't show marked differences.) Follow-up studies with different groups of students showed similar results."