It’s been too long… but here’s an update on what’s happening.

School: we are in our last year of being in temporary digs, although truth to tell, our temporary quarters in the downtown mall in I.C. have been much nicer than the old music building. This fall we move into a brand new state-of-the-art building. Where the old music building was a great architectural example of of early Medieval Dungeon (but with less charm), the new one exudes joy and light. The former was all dark spaces and ugly, depressing concrete (redundant?); our new one is all glass and open spaces. I am already gone from the temporary quarters – because this semester I am on….

Sabbatical: the one, the only, the brilliant James Naigus has taken over for me this semester leading the UI Horn Studio. While I am off doing some completely different things than usual. My study topic for the semester is…. rhythm! It occurred to me some time ago that all my (and everyone else’s) training is about pitch – get the note, don’t miss the note! Rhythm we pick up mostly haphazardly as we go, although in, say, an audition, a sterling sense of rhythm and pulse is more important that getting all the notes. You can nick a note, but you are out instantly if you can’t count. Although we can read pretty well, in general we classical musicians have a very weak sense of pulse and rhythm. Natch: we were all raised on a diet of very vanilla rhythms – most everything is in duple meter, with a bit of triple thrown in. Odd and mixed meters give us fits, as do ties and syncopation.

If it weren’t for Spike Shaw and more recently Ricardo Matosinhos, we wouldn’t have any exposure to jazz rhythms either. We simply have no systematic training in rhythm during our studies. The bits we get in theory class are – like everything we do in theory class – divorced, separated from our instruments. Bad idea. So although I wish I had a year (a semester is barely time to get started in a topic this deep), I am working on various drums and percussion instruments, reading books and articles, taking lessons, and talking to experts to try to get a new perspective, new knowledge, and new skills to use to put together…. something(s): article(s). Book(s). Composition(s). Etude(s). We’ll have to see what pops up when I sit down to write in July or so. Until then, I am have a great time. Congas before breakfast!

Travel (looking back to last year): Kendall Betts Horn Camp for 2 weeks June 2015. I taught at Acadia University in Nova Scotia again last summer – capstone improv course in a special master of music program designed and led by the brilliant minds of Ardith Haley and Dale Lonis, as I did the summer before. This coming summer there will be no cohort at that stage, so I won’t be there this summer; I’ll have to wait another summer. This is good, because I need this summer to work on the sabbatical material. Acadia was July; I was back in Canada as the keynote speaker of the annual music educator’s conference of the province of Prince Edward Island in November. Busy time: besides the speech, I gave 5 workshops during those two days. As ever, I adore the Canadians, who are all bright and cheery and clearly the Best People On Earth. Closer to home, I had the great privilege of being Bernhard Scully’s replacement teaching his horn students for a week.

More recently my long time collaborator pianist Evan Mazunik and I did a three day residency at Southern Mississippi University at the kind invitation of superstar Jackie Adams. It was great fun; wonderful students; it was great to play with Evan again – our last concert was in Montreal in 2013. But we have more chances to play together: I have a 3 week Colorado tour coming up mid-April to the beginning of May: we’ll be doing workshops and/or concerts during that time at Colorado State U-Ft Collins, University of Northern Colorado, Denver Metro Community College, University of Denver, and probably the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. We have one more that we couldn’t fit in during this time, so we will be back for a workshop and concert at Mesa State University at the end of September.

Other news: my new book Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians Vol. II (372 p.) will be coming out in the next two or three weeks (GIA – 642 new improv games! I will post again the day it comes out. I am currently working on what should be my magnum opus: Horn Technique: A Systematic Approach, which should be of interest to all hornists when it comes out. I have ideas for several other interesting books, but I have to get this one done before I can get going on the others, sigh.

I have one other “tour” planned: a trip through several midwest states to talk to percussion/rhythm experts about learning and teaching rhythms. If you read this and you have a great idea or name of a book or youtube video or other reference, don’t walk, run to your email and tell me about it.

What have I learned so far? Simple: drumming is great. Feels good (well, ok, the hands swell up a bit when you do a lot of slap tones). Clears the head. Fun. Engaging. Very therapeutic! I think everyone should have a drum!