Archive for the ‘Mike’s Musical Musings’ Category

  • What does music mean to you? An entreaty & a quiz

    May 2, 14 • ndemarino • 5enses, Mike's Musical Musings15 CommentsRead More »

    By Mike Vax This is my 10th column for 5enses, and I’m happy to be writing about things I believe in, things that I love, and things that concern me in the music business. Having said that … I believe that some of my columns might not agree with every reader’s views on music and the music business. I guess I thought that I would’ve heard from some people who’ve read one or more of my columns and disagreed with some of my beliefs and conclusions. But I haven’t heard from anyone at all. I know that I write a lot about jazz music and jazz education, and that the bulk of music fans in the Prescott area are not jazz or even classical listeners. This is the same nation-wide. If you add together all the jazz and classical recordings sold each year, the number accounts for only a small percentage of sales. So, to get a two-way conversation going, I’m asking you, the readers of this month’s column, five easy questions in the hopes you might contact me with your thoughts. 1. Considering the following genres of music, in what order would you rank them in regards to your preference? Jazz, classical, big band, top 40, pop, classic rock, modern rock, country, folk, and rap. Add something else if you want. 2. How often do you attend live music

  • Digital dearth & dilema

    Apr 4, 14 • ndemarino • 5enses, Mike's Musical MusingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mike Vax I just had an interesting exchange on an online music chat list. The topic: “The Price of Music.” Two major themes were that the ways in which recorded music is sold have changed and that this and other changes in recent years haven’t been good for musicians. If you trace the history of recorded material — disregarding wax cylinders in the early days — it all started with 78 rpm records. (A footnote for you younger readers: If you dropped them they broke.) In the beginning, they were fairly thick and only recorded on one side. Not long after that, technology got better and you could actually record songs to both sides. They revolved pretty fast on the turntable, and you could only fit a bit over three minutes on a side. These lasted the longest of any listening medium when you consider that they lasted from the early 1900s through the 1940s and early ’50s. Then things changed quite a bit. We had 33 1/3 long-play albums, each side of which could replay about 25 minutes of music. There also were 45 rpm singles with one tune to a side. The ’45s were mainly used to sell pop music, not jazz or classical. Tape came into play in the ’50s. We had 8-track tapes that were in a plastic container; they were fairly big and bulky

  • Competing motivations: How not-so-friendly competition in music ed misses the mark

    Feb 28, 14 • ndemarino • 5enses, Mike's Musical Musings16 CommentsRead More »

    By Mike Vax As you may know, I travel all over the country (all over the world, at times) doing music workshops in schools, colleges, and universities. I’ve been doing this for 44 years. In that time, I’ve seen many changes in how music is viewed and taught in educational situations. I’m afraid that it has not gotten better over the years. As the pressure to achieve gets stronger and stronger, it’s affected the way our young people are educated. The ridiculous fact that many schools are judged by arbitrary testing has made teachers teach to the test instead of to the student. It’s more important to many administrators and principals to have good test scores than it is to have students learn valuable skills that will help them live their lives and be successful on their own. In addition, a “wind/beat/put down” rival schools attitude has become paramount in the eyes of administrators, teachers, and, yes, even parents. This has always been the rallying cry for coaches and teams. I don’t see anything wrong with this feeling, as long as it isn’t pushed to the extreme, when underhanded practices mar the otherwise good name of institutions. (There’s apparently much more of this in college athletics than at the high school level.) The sad thing is that beating rival schools has also become the main thrust for far too many

  • Playtime: A postcard from the Jazz Education Network International Conference

    Jan 31, 14 • ndemarino • 5enses, Mike's Musical Musings16 CommentsRead More »

    By Mike Vax I’ve just returned from a most enlightening week in Dallas, where I attended the Jazz Education Network International Conference. The Jazz Education Network is an organization dedicated to jazz teachers, students, and musicians. It’s a fairly new organization this being their fifth annual conference. Attendees included people from all over the U.S. and foreign countries from all walks of life. One of the intriguing things about this convention is that world-famous jazz musicians perform and work with young students and their teachers. There are performances and works from 8 a.m. to midnight every day of the convention. The schedule is similar to any trade show or business, science, or education gathering except for the fact that there are constant performances. Some performances are by professional musicians and bands, some are by school or university bands, and others are a combination of both. The last of these are probably the most fun. The joy on the faces of the young music students is remarkable. They’re actually performing with musicians they’ve heard on recordings or seen on TV — or even in the movies. Interactions like these are what this convention is all about. We, who have made our livings playing jazz music, passing the torch to the next generation of musicians destined to keep “America’s Original Art Form” alive and lively. There’s also an adjunct part of the

  • Incidental music? Not so incidental

    Jan 3, 14 • ndemarino • 5enses, Mike's Musical MusingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mike Vax Having just been through the holiday season, we are reminded that music is a huge part of our lives. Can you imagine Christmas without Christmas carols, or Hanukkah without the dreidel song, or New Year’s Eve without “Auld Lang Syne”? I think people take music for granted. After all, we hear it everywhere: in elevators, stores, hotel lobbies, at sports events, bars, and on and on. It’s there in movies, TV shows, commercials, and even in cars while we drive. Have you ever thought about where all that music comes from? It had to be recorded somewhere at some time, right? Thanks to the computer age some pop music bands, rock bands, country bands, and even jazz groups record at home in their living rooms. Many such recordings are basic, sound-wise, at best, but some come out rather well. It depends on the knowledge and expertise of the person doing the recording. More advanced recordings, however, are done in recording studios and can get very complicated. And very expensive. A typical professional recording studio might charge anywhere from $50 to $500 an hour. Keep in mind that many albums take anywhere from 10 to over 100 hours or more to record once you consider the main tracks, overdubs, vocals, and the final mix. Years ago, before digital recording, we used tape to record. It was even more

  • Music vs. art vs. science

    Dec 6, 13 • ndemarino • 5enses, Mike's Musical Musings7,024 CommentsRead More »

    By Mike Vax Our esteemed publisher and I were chatting about my previous column — about having scientific studies and facts to back up assumptions I made when talking about the good things studying music and the arts can do for young people — and it got me thinking. There are many similarities in art and science, but there are also things that don’t readily crossover between the two. For starters, art doesn’t have to be based on fact. I remember being a Trekie when “Star Trek” first came out and marveling at all the gadgets and stuff they used. One interesting thing about science fiction is when some of the pretend circumstances and gear actually comes into existence. In those cases, science took its cue from art. On the other hand, there’s painting — especially modern forms — in which there’s a speculative, highly personal treatment of reality. Sometimes the work has almost nothing to do with any reality except that in the artist’s mind. It’s up to the spectator to take away their own interpretation. To me, this about as far away from science as you can get. But, this column is mainly about music, so let’s look at music’s attributes. If you consider studying or performing music, you’ll find that it entails things like math, language, written symbols, and structure. It also includes communication on other levels

  • Thoughts on music education

    Nov 1, 13 • ndemarino • 5enses, Mike's Musical MusingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mike Vax How many of you played in a middle school band or a high school orchestra? Or, did you sang in choir or a school a capella group? The percentage of people who participated in music classes in middle school and high school is high. Did it give you a love of performing music? I’ll bet so. Even if you don’t perform anymore, you certainly enjoy listening to music in one form or another. What you may not realize is that the study of music is not just a means of learning to play an instrument or sing with others in a group. Learning music teaches young people success. Here are some things that I’ve found to be true after 40-plus years of involvement with music education: • Music students often get better grades than students who haven’t studied music. • Music students get better scores on college entrance exams. • Music students seem to do better in their adult professions • Music students are creative thinkers. Moreover, the study of music also gives students: • Knowledge that hard work often pays off in success. • Time management skills. • The ability to meet deadlines. • Firsthand experiences that practice really does make perfect. • Confidence in themselves and when dealing with other people. • Understanding of the importance of teamwork and knowledge that everyone’s part contributes to

  • And the band plays on

    Oct 1, 13 • ndemarino • 5enses, Mike's Musical MusingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mike Vax Musically, it was the best festival we’ve ever done. We presented 40 musicians from Prescott, around Arizona, California, and Washington, plus the Prescott High School Jazz Ensemble. A festival such as ours clocks in at more than 25 hours of music. This year’s venues included Courthouse Plaza, The Elks Opera House, The Ruth Street Theater at Prescott High School, The Prescott Resort, The Hassayampa Inn, and Murphy’s Restaurant. Many people, I think, don’t realize what goes into the making of a musical festival. As soon as the festival is over, we’re already planning for the next year’s events. Since we also produce a New Year’s Eve party at The Club at Prescott Lakes, the Howlin’ at the Highlands Concert Series, and other events besides the festival weekend, our volunteer board is constantly planning, organizing, and promoting all of our endeavors. Our volunteer board consists of 14 very dedicated people who love jazz music and love the Prescott area. By my best calculation, if you added up all the hours board members spend working on Jazz Summit, they amass some 10,000 hours per year. As with any nonprofit entity, it just takes lots of time — especially to work on sponsorships and ad sales. Musical endeavors cannot survive on ticket sales alone. Most symphony orchestras derive probably half of their operating expenses from sponsors and donors. It’s the

  • Music inc. & music ink

    Aug 30, 13 • ndemarino • 5enses, Mike's Musical Musings26 CommentsRead More »

    By Mike Vax “What we play is life. My whole life, my whole soul, my whole spirit is to blow that horn.”  — Louis Armstrong I don’t think anyone could have said it better. For those of us who are truly wrapped up in the arts, what we do becomes our primary focus in life. It’s almost a compulsion. I know for me, not only performing on my trumpet, but also promoting music and musicians has been the main thrust of my existence for the past 50 years. (I’ve actually been playing trumpet for 63 years.) I must say, first of all, that my wife, Peggy, has been a true angel for the past 38 years of our marriage. She’s put up with my compulsions, even to the point of me losing money keeping bands and festivals such as the Prescott Jazz Summit together. In the entertainment business, long marriages aren’t common — mainly because of the overriding desire we musicians have to perform and perfect our craft. It’s an all-consuming drive that’s hard to control. There’ve been many days that, between warming up, practicing, rehearsing, and performing, I’ve spent 10-12 hours on my horn. Because I seem to have a knack for the business end of music, I’ve also tried to help keep musicians working and to help keep jazz music alive. This is certainly no easy task. Those

  • Mike’s Musical Musings: Why jazz?

    Jul 30, 13 • ndemarino • 5enses, Mike's Musical MusingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Mike Vax First of all, let me say I’m thrilled to be asked to write a monthly column for 5enses. I hope that you, the reader, will enjoy my thoughts on music and how it relates to our everyday world. Since August is the month of the Prescott Jazz Summit, I’d like to talk about the heritage of jazz music in our country. Quite a few years ago, Congress designated jazz music as a “National Treasure” and “America’s Original Art Form.” These aren’t just catchy quotes; they’re important facts. Jazz music really is the only art form “invented” in our country. Many other artistic endeavors have been brought to great heights here, but they were originally developed in other countries. Jazz music really did start in New Orleans. That’s because of the many different cultures that were brought together in that area at the same time. Rhythms and vocal traditions from Africa, melodies and musical forms from Europe, excitement and joy from the Cajun community, and even influences from South America and the Caribbean were in the mix. These musical and cultural interactions formed a style of music that originally had no name. There’s a story that a classical reviewer from the Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans hated the new music and said that it sounded like the “braying of a jack ass.” The musicians, as a protest of

Celebrating art and science in Greater Prescott.

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