Success Is Easy As Long As You’re Willing To Work Hard

Success Is Easy As Long As You’re Willing To Work Hard

When I got up this morning, I took my Seeing Eye dog, Hadar out, made coffee, and then practiced arpeggios on the bass for about 30 minutes. Not new stuff; none of it’s new stuff. It’s stuff I do every morning and how I start my day.

After this I walk to my office (it’s on the other side of the house from where I had coffee), write some letters, review my marketing strategy for Open Minded Mic, make a few sales calls and schedule some appointments, write my blogs, respond to email and then I usually head out the door to meet clients, talent or prospects of either. It’s work. When I get back I practice bass for another hour, guitar for an hour and if I’m lucky, I latch onto a friend to head to a music store so I can play some guitars of basses and then write about the experience.  It’s all too much fun to call it work, but that’s what it is, work.

At night, I practice some more, at times with others and at times by myself. At night is when I write for the fun of it and spend some time with friends and family. By my measures, I’m successful. I do work that I love, get compensated for doing it, have my independence and I accomplish much more than I ever thought I would or could. The secret isn’t an abundance of talent because there isn’t such a wealth of it. The secret is I stay in motion and keep making progress. Over time, the cumulative effect is impressive.

One of the major obstacles that I had to overcome was permitting momentary obstacles and frustrations from deciding my path, stopping me in my tracks or diverting me to a course I really didn’t want to take. Well meaning family and friends would sometimes offer me advice not to frustrate myself, take a step back or don’t pursue such a lofty goal. There was some sense to that idea, but my choice in past decade has been that I’ll deal with the momentary frustration, work to overcome the obstacle and stay on track. I haven’t gotten all that I wanted, but I’ve accomplished a lot more than I thought I could.

I’ve stated it before in this blog that being blind makes everything more difficult, sometimes massively more difficult. If you’re a blind musician, you have to be resourceful, purposeful and persistent. Mastering music doesn’t happen quickly for anyone, and for those of us without vision, the road is longer still. Travel it anyway.

A SPECIAL NOTE: YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS NOT BY DONATING MONEY BUT BY SAVING IT. DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC HAS PLEDGED TO  GIVE 20% OF ALL MONEY WE EARN ON OUR ADS EQUALLY TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS. THIS WON’T COST YOU A PENNY MORE AND YOU’LL BE HELPING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD. JUST CLICK & YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING

So what’s your opinion? I’d love to hear from you.  Let me hear about it. Write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or reply on this blog. Be Heard. Prof. Dave

The Thins Hat Spill Chick Messes

The Thins Hat Spill Chick Messes

 According to Spell Check, there was nothing wrong with the title of today’s blog.  The spelling is correct, grammar is fine and it makes no sense. Over the years, I’ve had many such sentences sneak by Spell Check with some interesting results. In my years in the insurance industry, I wrote a tutorial of insurance coverage and intended to discuss damage by any “kind of vermin”, but what I wrote was about damage to property by any “king of vermin.” That one letter difference got a lot of response.

While in insurance I was teaching a group the detailed language in a bond that the company issued; it was all fine print and thankfully nobody ever reads those thiings anyway. On page six, in small print, was a sub  paragraph stating “that you (the person being bonded) will be responsible for the cost of any “suit”against you, but a typographical error that Spell Check annointd as OK, omitted the “u” in “suit” and substituted an “h.” I guess it was basically the same meaning.

Abut ten years ago I did some consulting work for the New Jersey Commission for the Blind an d Visually Impaired, and just before an announcement entitled “The New Jersey Coimmission For the Blind Project On Indepdent Living” was realeased, somebody realized that what was being announced was “The New Jersey Commission For The Blond Project On Independent Loving.” That was interesting and I bet it would have gotten read.

So what does this have to do with blind and visually impaired musicians? We use a lot of technology and are highly dependent on it ot make a very, very very difficult job become merely very, very difficult. The job of learning music.

Our computers translate score to braille and braille to score, voice to scribe to scorWhether blind or e or voice to score to braille and at each miraculously technological  step we depend on this techno-wizardry to deliver efficiently and accurately, and it usually does. But not always. The computer doesn’t really seem to care how something sounds, it does respond to a narrow band of behavioral rules and works within these rules which sometimes frustrates those of us who yell at our computers “Oh, come on. You know what I meant!”

Whether you’re blind or visually impaired or have perfect vision, if you’re going to call yourself a musician, you have to sweat the details and if you are blind, you have to pour more sweat than your sighted brothers and sisters. The secret to success in music isn’t different from the secret to success in anything else in life: you have to work hard. It’s reallynot a secret.

Any techno stories you’d like to share? I love hearing from you. Bee herd.

A SPECIAL NOTE: YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS NOT BY DONATING MONEY BUT BY SAVING IT. DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC HAS PLEDGED TO  GIVE 20% OF ALL MONEY WE EARN ON OUR ADS EQUALLY TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS. THIS WON’T COST YOU A PENNY MORE AND YOU’LL BE HELPING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD. JUST CLICK & YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING

So what’s your opinion? Let me hear about it. Write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or reply on this blog. Be Heard. Prof. Dave

So Where Do I Find It?

So Where Do I Find It?

I’m in a restaurant with my Seeing Eye dog, Hadar, and I ask the server “Excuse me, where’s the men’s room?” Her reply is somewhat predictable, “Oh, it’s right over there.”

My sixth sense tells me that she just pointed the direction, so I ask Hadar “Did you get that?” He stands up, not to lead me to the men’s room, but hoping somebody nearby will recognize I can’t see and maybe he can sneak a snack from a compassionate person at a nearby table while I ponder my next question. An alert person at a nearby table picks up on my dilemma and clears up the matter for me.

“The men’s room is down a hallway to your left. It’s the second door on the right.” That’s what I needed to find it. Presumably the first door on the right is for women and I’ll know to avoid that and at the same time avoid a lengthy explanation regarding why I’m in there when I’m obviously not a woman.

So it is with the routine issues of the life of a blind person and so it is of the greater issues such as education, employment, recreation, socializing and other challenges that every person faces, but made all the more challenging by blindness.

For blind and visually impaired musicians, we have a small niche of the musician population as well as the general population. Educators aren’t always aware of the resources that are now available to facilitate learning and mastering music for those who can’t see. Some administrators, even if they did know about the resources, wouldn’t want to spend the money that such technology costs. The same is true for employers.

What about that landmark piece of legislation, “The Americans With Disabilities Act” or “A.D.A.?” What about Section 504, don’t they guarantee equal access to education and accommodations, and help and truth, justice and the American way? A.D.A. is a piece of legislation? Well, it’s a piece of something. A.D.A. is a poorly written, worthless piece of legislation with more loopholes available then an oil company tax accountant’s computer. I believe the threat of imposing these anemic defenses of rights is more influential than actually putting these weaklings to work. As a blind attorney I knew who graduated at the top of his class from Yale and couldn’t find a job told me “Not hiring me because I’m blind is a bitch to prove.” In other words, the law that would protect our rights is toothless.

So we need to find out for ourselves and be advocates for ourselves and others who are blind. There are ways to get the job done, done well, but not done easily. It’s never easy. If you’re a blind student, or a parent of a blind student, you’re probably aware of what an IEP is: Individual Education Program. Accommodations and modifications that will aid you or your child learn can be included in the IEP. There’s no restriction regarding how much an accommodation cost, but there is limitation in terms of providing an “appropriate” education as opposed to an “optimal” education. They pay for appropriate, not for optimal. So when does an accommodation move from appropriate to optimal? It’s a point of argument and often leads to protracted legal disputes. Most disputes can take 120 days to be resolved unless it’s an emergency in which case it’ll take 240 days to be resolved.

Many school swill do everything they can to help a student, but many other  schools don’t want to spend the money and will try to dissuade you from wanting something like a Lime Light (www.dancingdots.com), or a braille music score and someone to teach it. These are great tools for the visually impaired and blind music student.

If you want this, you really don’t need to fight this out with the administrator who handles the finances, you have to fight it out with the IEP team and if they agree, it’s done. Administrators aren’t allowed to interfere, another regulation that’s laughably ineffective and rarely enforced. I’ve seen that first hand.

Most colleges also will honor the accommodations and modifications on an IEP so make sure they know that you have one. So where do you begin the process of knowing what’s available so you know what to ask for? A good place to start with your school or college and if you don’t know who’s in charge of the Child Study Team in a school or the person in charge of accommodations for disabled students at a college, find out and talk to them. They may have a wealth of connections immediately available and be very supportive of your needs.

Most states have an agency or commission to assist blind and visually impaired people and within the agency it’s likely you’ll be able to find an expert in education needs for the blind student. Some of these agencies are easy to find, but some are  buried within a large network with the Department of Human Services. You can get frustrated trying to navigate through this mess so I suggest you call a number that’s fairly easy to find: call the office of your local state representative or state senator. There’s usually a staff member who is familiar with such issues and will get you in touch with the right person at the right agency. Politicians can be good for some things.

Below I have a listing of other organizations that may be incredibly helpful to you:

  1. Dancing Dots has some wonderful software and hardware for blind and visually impaired music students. Many schools don’t know about it but now you do. This could be a huge help for you. www.dancingdots.com
  2. Learning Ally which was formerly Recordings for the Blind & Dyslexic has a massive audio library. Membership is required, and you can find novels, text books, music books and virtually any other kind fo book that will come directly to you. www.www.rfbd.org
  3.  National Federation for the Blind is a very influential, well run advocacy organization for the blind  & visually impaired. www.nfb.org
  4. The American Federation for the Blind is a strong advocacy organization working to establish equality for blind and visually impaired citizens. www.afb.org
  5. The Lighthouse is one of the oldest and most highly regarded resources for the blind and visually impaired. They have large print and braille book, calendars and even watches. Check out what they offer at www.lighthouse.org
  6. Hadley School for the Blind is located in Illinois but has online programs available in a wide range of subjects for students age 14 and up. They can offer diplomas or supplement a high school program They also have a program to learn braille music anywhere in the world. You should check out this opportunity. www.hadley.edu

If you’re having difficulty with your school, need some ideas on how to approach and IEP meeting or some feedback, Please send an email to me at dave@openmindedmic.com and I will get back to you. I’m not a lawyer (that’s probably a good thing) but I was a school psychologist for many years and dealt with IEP issues all of the time. I can certainly give you ideas to consider.

A SPECIAL NOTE: YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS NOT BY DONATING MONEY BUT BY SAVING IT. DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC HAS PLEDGED TO  GIVE 20% OF ALL MONEY WE EARN ON OUR ADS EQUALLY TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS. THIS WON’T COST YOU A PENNY MORE AND YOU’LL BE HELPING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD. JUST CLICK & YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING

So what’s your opinion? I’d love to hear from you.  Let me hear about it. Write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or reply on this blog. Be Heard. Prof. Dave

Teachers Have It Easy

Teachers Have It Easy.

In my life I’ve discovered that the easiest jobs are all those jobs that I don’t have to do. A few weeks ago I brought my Babicz Spider acoustic – electric guitar to my favorite music shop, Music Central, with a minor problem I needed help fixing. The fitting to the ¼” outlet for an instrument plug. It was loose and if it wasn’t fixed, eventually it would fall off. I reached in the soundhole and into the body of the guitar to try to tighten the nut, but couldn’t get my arm all the way in and it wouldn’t tighten. So I took the guitar to Billy, the bright young tech at Music Central.

Billy popped the outside bushing off with a little twist, put only his hand into the body, not his entire arm, and pulled the unit that I was struggling trying to tighten out of the soundhole and held it outside of the guitar body. He then ran the nut on the unit down to near the end, popped it back into the soundhole and through the hole at the bottom of the guitar, and then put the bushing back on and tightened it with a quick little twist. It was fixed! Quickly, correctly, perfectly. That was so easy! I could have done that. I could have, but I didn’t. Without knowing how to do it, or being able to figure out how to do it, the job was impossible. But it looked easy. It was easy for Billy because he knew what he was doing and in the process he taught me a valuable lesson: I”m not mechanical so bring mechanical jobs to someone who is.

Now for the “easy” job of teaching children: It’s a job I know well, I worked in public education for many years as a school psychologist. I know how “easy” it is. I hope I can find the words to adequately express this insight. The joy of the job made even softer by lofty salaries, incredibly generous benefits and tenure. Who needs tenure anyway? I’ll begin with some examples of life in the easy lane.

My friend Susan is a Kindergarten teacher: can it get any easier than that? Her job is to teach basic reading, writing, math, social skills, conflict resolution, hygiene, work and study skills, tools and habits,  deal with cuts, bruises, tears and the joy of being five years of age (the “joy” of the kids that is). Kindergarten teachers were also the best ally I had in identifying kids who were struggling with all sorts of issues so an effective intervention could be enacted. In child development, early intervention is critical even though a lot of administrators lived by the principle of “if nobody notices it’s broke, don’t fix it.”

It’s so easy. Any of us would welcome 23 such delightful kids to be in our care for 7 hours a day, every day. Would we be able to teach them at the same time? I doubt we’d be able to get a word in over the all the chatter and while you’re chasing down one runaway child, four more have broken loose. They’re little kids, it happens. OK, so maybe Susan doesn’t have it so easy, but Meg does.

Meg is a Special Education Teacher in an elementary school. She does some work in a classroom with another teacher as “in-class support” where she works primarily with children who are “classified” and have an “IEP” (Individual Education Program) that has a list of individual accommodations and modifications that the child needs to receive a “Free Appropriate Public Education” or “FAPE.” The children have a wide range of disabilities including perception problems (such as dyslexia which we don’t call dyslexia but categorize it under the much more descriptive “Specific Learning Disability” or “SLD” (who comes up with these names and how much do they get paid?) which covers a huge range of neurologically based issues, blind and visually impaired, communication impaired, orthopedically impaired, emotionally disturbed, behaviorally disturbed, deaf and hearing impaired, traumatic brain injury cases, autistic and the list goes on. No, it’s not easy either.

What about the lovely, well humored and energetic Jasmine, one of the greatest English teachers I’ve ever known inspiring her 14 year old high school freshman to put aside the tendencies to chat, gossip, fantasize, text constantly (under the desk of course), sleep, and just being teens. We all know how easy it is to deal with our own teenagers (those of us who have or had them or once were one), so dealing with twenty-five or so at a time must be twenty-five or so times easier. Teaching them to clearly express themselves and being literate is the goal of Language Arts (not English) in our schools? In a pig’s ass it is. The goal is to get your students to exceed the minimum standards on the 11th grade standardized tests, the God Almighty HSPA (High School Proficiency Assessment).

No, it’s not easy, it’s damn hard work. And it doesn’t pay well, that’s a myth. In order to teach you need a college degree and in case you’ve been a sailor marooned on a remote island in the Philippines since the end of World War II, you’ve probably heard that college is expensive. It’s a big investment and the return on the investment is small, especially when compared to others with similar degrees. Why is there a pay disparity? Because historically, it’s “women’s work” and this pay disparity mirrors the societal pay disparity between men and women. I’ll take that to public debate any day.

It’s not easy and it doesn’t pay well, so why does that justify tenure? That doesn’t justify tenure, but I think this does: politicians stink. There’s nothing novel or new in this, those in position of power broker that power. It’s been going on as long as humans have agreed to have governing bodies. Politicians reward supporters and those who comply and punish those who oppose and resist. Tenure came into being to put a barrier against such political abuse. Without this, I have little doubt that the job of someone who opposed the political power would be given to someone who supported it. I have not only witnessed such conduct, I have experienced the harsh reality of this. It’s true.

Politicians have enacted laws, rules and regulation that not only direct curriculum, but specifically how something is to be taught. All in politics boils down to procedures. You’re told what to do, when to do it and how to do it. In spite of this dictatorial approach the politicians don’t accept the results as their own doing, unless the results are good of course. If we fall short in our education, as we have been doing in recent years, they argue and look outside of themselves for an answer. It’s the teachers on the block, not the authors of the grand plan. Among other things, our political leaders have failed in understanding the difference between blame and responsibility: blame is focused on who caused it, responsibility is focused on who has to do something about it.

We pass laws and enact abundant procedures. Procedures are the arch enemy of thinking and the handmaiden of mediocrity. I’m not sure of the meaning of what I just wrote but it sounds good so I’m sticking with it. Oh, what the hell, I’ll take that to public debate too. I’m not saying that procedures are without purpose, but when they become substitutes for wisdom, energy and passion they become ineffective hopping through procedural hoops in order say that we did what we were told to do. Procedures usually represent our best attempt to clarify the minimum acceptable standard, but to many the floor and the ceiling become remarkably close to one another. There’s not much room to stand up in there.

Teaching isn’t easy. So much has changed in a generation. Technology has revolutionized everything, so much more needs to be taught today in order to have children prepared to compete in a very competitive world. So much has changed but I suspect child psychology, adolescent psychology and the psychology of power hasn’t. Neither has the politician’s irresistible tendency to enact laws, poorly written, overflowing with meaningless procedures and randomly enforced. But then again, they have it easy.

Tomorrow I’ll  get back to blind and visually impaired musician stuff, but for now I’ll part by quoting (or perhaps slightly misquoting) Shalem Alechem, a satirical writer and humorist in the Yiddish Theater in New York in the late 1800’s who I’m proud to say, occupies one of the limbs in my family tree: “Life can be hard, but  you have to go on living, even if it kills you.”

A SPECIAL NOTE: YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS NOT BY DONATING MONEY BUT BY SAVING IT. DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC HAS PLEDGED TO  GIVE 20% OF ALL MONEY WE EARN ON OUR ADS EQUALLY TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS. THIS WON’T COST YOU A PENNY MORE AND YOU’LL BE HELPING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD. JUST CLICK & YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING

So what’s your opinion? I’d love to hear from you.  Let your opinion be heard. Write to me or reply on this blog. Be Heard. Prof. Dave

Have Some Time To Waste? Take A Shortcut

Have Some Time To Waste? Take A Shortcut!

The longest distance between two points is usually a shortcut.

When people get to know me, they’re sometimes surprised that even though I’m blind, I’m not miserable. In fact I’m not at all miserable, I’m actually very happy and positive. It seems undeniable to me that not having one’s vision is no more a guarantee of misery, than having perfect vision is a guarantee of being happy. But being blind does seem to guarantee at least one thing: whatever you do, it’ll take longer.

That’s true for cooking, cleaning, shopping, traveling  putting new strings on your guitar, and especially, learning music. An emphasis is placed on “it takes more time” but it’s not impossible, not at all, you just have to work harder than your sighted peers. This, I suppose, is one of the more practical reasons why you can’t afford to wallow in self-pity; you can’t afford to waste the time because the bathroom needs to be cleaned. There are other reasons not to wallow in self-pity.

So let’s get to work and recognize that it can be done. For many blind people, including me, blindness isn’t total but still very significant. I can’t read music any longer, and even large print versions don’t do it for me because I usually have trouble moving from line to lin. A company called “Dancing Dots” at www.dancingdots.com has an incredible device called the Lime Lighter where a screen shows a line of music on a high contrast screen and you advance the musical score using a footswitch so your hands are free to play, just like any other musician.

Dancing Dots also offers programs to translate music into braille or braille into a musical notation. This is great for the music student or someone who wants to compose music (thanks for the tip on this Karen!). From the Dancing Dots web page “Blind musicians can independently create print and braille scores, with GOODFEEL, Lime and Lime Aloud, and sophisticated sound recordings with CakeTalking for SONAR. You can now order our Dancing Dots Accessible Audio and Notation Workstation.” They offer a lot for the blind musician.

Sibelius is an interesting program that can help a blind musician compose music, with sighted help write it and have it printed as a musical score or braille (thanks for that Oswald!).  These technological advances not only help blind musicians, in some cases they make the study of music possible.

A young man in Thailand named Younsit who is a master, advanced student of saxophone, recognized the need to learn braille music in order to study higher levels of music theory and composition. He knew basic braille music notation and like regular braille is quite different from regular print, the same is true about musical braille. Is there a shortcut he can take? No. And maybe that’s a plus.

When I’ve considered learning braille, I noted that I’m too old to learn braille. That’s really not true. The truth is I’m too old to learn braille within my lifetime. It takes time to learn and master. While your fingers “read” the braille they can’t be playing the instrument at the same time. You have to rehearse, memorize and rehearse some more. So where’s the benefit in this?

So where’s the plus in this? There are a few. The repeated practice of small c hunks of material enhances both memory and mastery. Memory isn’t just a mental phenomenon; it’s a physical one too. Your hands learn where to go, your body learns when to breathe, your toes learn when to tap. Memory is part neural and part practice and like muscle, improves with exercise. We live in an age where memory is considered a burden and have devices designed to replace our memory so we can follow the directions of a GPS voice as if we were the drone, not it.

Memory is  a critical function of being human. Blind musicians have to exercise it if they’re to be musicians. So take your memory out, expand  it, exercise it, use it. It’s not a fast journey, but when your blind, speed isn’t the focus of our thoughts: we’ll get there. That’s a worthy focus.

A SPECIAL NOTE: YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS NOT BY DONATING MONEY BUT BY SAVING IT. DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC HAS PLEDGED TO  GIVE 20% OF ALL MONEY WE EARN ON OUR ADS EQUALLY TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS. THIS WON’T COST YOU A PENNY MORE AND YOU’LL BE HELPING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD. JUST CLICK & YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING

So what’s your opinion? Have you used an assistive technology to advance your work in music? Let me hear about it. Write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or reply on this blog. Be Heard. Prof. Dave

You Need Confidence In Order To Accomplish?

You Need Confidence In Order To Accomplish?

Wrong. I know we hear it all the time and probably say it as often as we hear it, but we have it backwards. Confidence doesn’t precede accomplishment, first we accomplish and the confidence follows. Does this perspective really matter? I think it matter enormously.

So many times, we shy away from trying because we just don’t feel confident that we can do it successfully. This can range from tackling a complex musical piece, to traveling across country unassisted, to asking someone for a date. We haven’t done it before, the fear of failure, confusion or rejection dominate our thoughts and we move back from the challenge. It’s understandable, nobody wants to be failed, confused, anxious or rejected.

And so our confidence remains low and we become convinced that the challenge at hand is just too formidable. That seems to be how it works and how it can dominate us. We remain in this state of low confidence until we find the nerve, determination, conviction and willingness to overcome the barrier. We take a cross country trip by ourselves and manage our way though unknown airports and discover that we can do it. No, not easily, but we can do it. If we do it more, our confidence grows.

We take that challenging piece of music and practice it. Break it down into small chunks and master it chuck by chunk. It’s not easy but when we find we can do it, our confidence appears. Are you alone and would like to meet people? I’ll bet there aren’t many available single people in your living room except you. It’s scary and in truth, not everyone would want to date a blind or visually impaired person but some will. You have to challenge your reluctance, accept that on the road to success you will have setbacks and do it anyway. It will work but like everything else, it’s not easy.

First you accomplish and the confidence will follow. Go forward, knees knocking, uncertainty raging and the voice inside shouting “DON’T.” Overrule that voice and tell yourself “Do.”

A SPECIAL NOTE: YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS NOT BY DONATING MONEY BUT BY SAVING IT. DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC HAS PLEDGED TO  GIVE 20% OF ALL MONEY WE EARN ON OUR ADS EQUALLY TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS. THIS WON’T COST YOU A PENNY MORE AND YOU’LL BE HELPING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD. JUST CLICK & YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING

So what’s your opinion? I’d love to hear from you. Write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or reply on this blog. Prof. Dave

Saililng, Quitting & The Art Of Music

Sailing, Quitting & The Art Of Music

I’ve often said that if there is such a thing as reincarnation, this has to be one of my more interesting lives. Today I start with an excerpt from my memoirs. Yes, I’m writing my memoirs, not because there are legions of people who want to know the sordid details of my life, but as a gift to my children, my friends and myself. It’s a labor of love and I’ve become rather addicted to such labors.

“I can’t do this.” I was close to tears. “Dad, help me. Dad, please. I can’t do this anymore.”

“You’re doing fine.” he responded softly. “Just keep us pointed to Perth Amboy. You can do it.”

I was nine and sailing with my Dad in a big, clunky, wooden hull sailboat. We sailed Raritan Bay and beyond in a heavy wooden boat that somehow also managed to be very fast, and leaked constantly. It was late in the afternoon on a mild summer day, we had a lazy, rolling following sea and a moderate, steady breeze off the stern.

This sloop didn’t have a sleek wheel, it had a huge chunk of lumber tiller bar, which was hard for my nine year-old hands to grasp. I needed both hands

Dad sat up in the bow and looked at the water and the shore. “DAD!” I was getting agitated, “I can’t do this. You take it.”

“No. You do it.”

If my Mom were there she would’ve given him hell and he would have come back and relieved me. But she wasn’t there. She was home with the other sane people. He wasn’t going to help me. With the following seas I had to constantly work the tiller to keep the boat on course.

“I can’t do it. I’m going to just let it go and I mean it.” my complaints were getting louder and more determined. He looked back at me in silence. He knew a few things I didn’t count on. He knew that if I actually did let go of the tiller bar, the boat would simply turn into the wind and we’d bob like a cork. No big deal. He also knew I wouldn’t just let go of the helm. He turned, again pointed to Perth Amboy like Babe Ruth pointing to the right field stands, and didn’t say another word.

It felt like hours, but it was likely closer to twenty minutes, and I brought the boat up to its mooring. My Dad grabbed the little buoy that marked our anchor, secured the boat and we blasted the horn to call for the launch to come and get us. I was pissed, now it was my turn to be silent.

“You did a good job, Dave.” Dad said breaking the silence. I said nothing. “I knew you could do it and you can’t argue that you couldn’t because you did it.” He was right, damn it.

He paused a moment as the launch approached and before we boarded he put his big hand on my shoulder and made me look him right in the eye. “If you’re going to be a quitter, don’t expect me to help you to become one.” He never said another word about it.

This was a magnificent life lesson, not just for me to cope with blindness later in life, but to cope with all manner of obstacles that life hurls at us whether we’re blind or perfectly sighted. So often our perception is that we can’t do it when the reality is that we can and often even more critically that we must. I’ve used this lesson countless times throughout my life and it’s the foundation of my progress, initiative, spirit and perhaps my disposition. Never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up.

Relating this to music isn’t that grand of a stretch. You will have days when the music will flow and days when the music will flop. You will have times when you’ll produce a sound and with delight ask “Is this really me?” and times when you’ll produce a sound and with disgust ask “Is this really me?” You will have some bad days and sometimes a string of them. I’ll share with you the secret to success: persevere. This is no secret at all, you have to work hard, work through the tough times, stay focused and keep at it until you get it.

The road to mastery, by its nature, is difficult otherwise everyone would do it. Whatever you aspire to achieve in your musical pursuits are your goals and desires and they won’t be reached without overcoming adversity at times. Something else my 59 years has taught me: this isn’t just true for music. Never give up.

A SPECIAL NOTE: YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS NOT BY DONATING MONEY BUT BY SAVING IT. DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC HAS PLEDGED TO  GIVE 20% OF ALL MONEY WE EARN ON OUR ADS EQUALLY TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS. THIS WON’T COST YOU A PENNY MORE AND YOU’LL BE HELPING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD. JUST CLICK & YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING

So what’s your opinion? Do you have an opinion of this? Write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or reply on this blog. Prof. Dave

Do You Really Need To Learn Music Theory?

Do You Really Need To Learn Music Theory?

I get this question all of the time and my answer is always the same: No, you don’t, but I think you’ll be incredibly limited as a musician if you don’t understand music and music theory, especially if you’re blind or visually impaired. Most learners don’t want to take the time and most music teachers, wanting and needing the work, please the customer by teaching them how to play songs, run bass lines, trills and tricks, or use amplification and distortion. Guitarists and bassists can sound impressive by learning and using finger tapping, pull-offs, hammer-ons and play within a formula and sometimes at blazing speed. It sounds impressive, but it’s the fast food approach to music and every riff and lick tends to sound like every other riff and lick.

If we get stuck in this, I think what we have is a fast track to mediocrity. I’m not saying don’t learn these licks, tricks and techniques, I’m saying don’t limit yourself to that. Develop and tighten your mind too.

So if you have trouble reading music because of your vision (like I do) or can’t read it all because you’re totally blind or your vision is too impaired, you’ll need to memorize. If you have use braille to study the music, you still have to use your memory and rehearsal routine. The same is true to other very wonderful assistive technology. It’s a huge asset and great to have but you have to memorize, practice and put the music to work.

If you improv, which is cool and fun, you’ll need to know what you’re playing and when to play it. If you don’t understand music theory, what you’ll be trying to memorize or understand will seem like a random series of letters and symbols and will be very difficult to commit to memory. If you understand music theory, you’ll see that all music, including complex types like classical and jazz, have patterns and methods and it makes memorization much, much easier

Why do we have sharps and flats? A B Flat is exactly the same tone as an A sharp. There are exactly and only 12 notes in the western musical scale, let’s count them starting with “A” and using only sharps because my computer doesn’t have a flat symbol. A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G# and that’s it, twelve. Why can’t each one have only one name? It’s a good question and there actually is a good answer that has to do with being able to write and read music. You’re not going to let me off the hook without an explanation?

OK, a common key for a lot of music, especially music involving horns and woodwinds is B flat. But since it’s the same tone as A# we want to call it the key of A#, not B flat. So remember how to make a major scale (a scale is music theory, isn’t it) is Root, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step. So what? Here’s what: what’s a half step below the A#? An A is a half step down. When you write the score, you’d have two notes on the same line or space of the staff. You still don’t get it? My primary argument here, you need to learn music theory if you’re going to really learn music.

For those learning guitar or bass guitar, I have an article you may want to check out. It not only includes a slightly different version of this discussion but also about a technique I use to know where my hands are on the neck: it’s a good learning and practicing skill and is helpful even to sighted players who want to be able to play without looking at their hands. Check it out. Here’s the link.

http://www.openmindedmic.com/?page_id=410

A SPECIAL NOTE: YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS NOT BY DONATING MONEY BUT BY SAVING IT. DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC HAS PLEDGED TO  GIVE 20% OF ALL MONEY WE EARN ON OUR ADS EQUALLY TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS. THIS WON’T COST YOU A PENNY MORE AND YOU’LL BE HELPING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD. JUST CLICK & YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING

So what’s your opinion? Do you have an opinion of the need to learn music theory? Write to me at dave@openminedmic.com or reply on this blog. Prof. Dave

Learning Music Without A Note In Sight

Learning Music Without A Note In Sight

In 2009, the winner of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was a totally blind 20 year-old man from Japan, Nobuyuki Tsujii. One doesn’t have to wonder how he managed to remember and master complex classical pieces, but I think it’s fair to marvel at how he did it. So much of a blind musician’s ability depends on a blind’s musicians memory.

Many great blind musicians, were self-taught and developed their own, and sometimes ingenius techniques for remembering information and developing the physical skill demanded of musicians. As a college professor and school psychologist, there were a few time tested techniques to enhance memory and all of them started with a simple step: rehearse or the other word for rehears which is practice.

Today computer technology can enhance the learning process. Computer software can easily convert a musical score into braille which is helpful assuming one can read braille; many blind people, including me, can’t. A computer software program called “JAWS” offers a sophisticated bit of software where a musician can hear a composition being played and a computer voice telling them the note (or notes for a chord) and rhythm (the voice might say 4/4 time, C# 1/8 note.” This can help a blind musician learn but can be difficult to keep up with the voice and the music.

Whether it’s voice which involves listening or braille which involves touching, you can’t do them and play at the same time so you have to memorize. If this sounds inefficient, it is. But for us, there’s not too many options, in fact, I can’t think of any options. If you’re going to be a musician and you’re blind, you’ll have to invest more time and energy than your sighted brothers and sisters.

But you can get there. Think long term. While learning, do small chunks of music at a time, master the pieces then integrate the entire musical piece. Before starting and at times throughout the learning process listen to the entire piece being played, and play along with what you’ve already learned. Play the chunks of the piece slower but with a consistent rhythm. For example, if a piece is normally played at 80 beats per minute, set your metronome to 40 beats per minutes and keep the rhythm pattern consistent. Finally, use a metronome in all your practicing.

Here are two great resources for the blind or visually impaired music student and music teachers. The National Resource for Blind Musicians (http://www.blindmusicstudents.org) and The Music Education Network for the Visually Impaired (http://www.menvi.org) and you’ll get links for assistive technology, techniques for teachers and direct help for students. The resources are there for you, don’t be shy or reluctant.

A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC WILL ODNATE 20% OF ALL THEY EARN ON ADVERTISING  ON THIS WEB SITE EQUALLY TO THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATOIN AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS. IF YOU ARE GOING TO BUY FROM AMAZON.COM, AMERICAN MUSICIAL SUPPLY, GIBSON’S LEARN & MASTER GUITAR, TEACH ME BASS GUITAR OR ANY OTHER AFFILIATE, PLEASE CLICK ON THE BANNER OR AD TO PROCEED TO THEIR SITES. IT WON’T COST YOU A PENNY EXTRA AND YOU’LL BE HELPING TWO INCREDIBLE ORGANIZATIONS. Prof.

Do you have any suggestions for blind or visually impaired music students? I’d like to hear from you. Send me an email to dave@openmindedmic.com or hit the reply button below.

What Does Music Do For Us All?

What Music Does For Us All

We live in a day when we are so phobic about public programs and reducing costs at any cost, we fail to show any understanding of the difference between an investment and an expense. In general, education is an investment, the way we hack and chop at meaningful education in favor of making sure every childcan hop through hoops that every child actually can’t hop through, is expense. The motto among politicians is, when times are tough, kill the arts.

I have very good math skills, and I attribute these skills to the early start that I had in music. Before I knew what ¼ was, I knew what a quarter note was and its relationship to a whole note and a half note. I saw it graphically represented on the staff, I heard it in the percussion section and I did this years before I knew what a fraction was.

Music and art aren’t merely a means to pass time and amuse ourselves and others. It’s a thnking, sensing process, and a great way to amuse ourselves and others and pass the time too. When blindness came to me, music gave me another gift: a well schooled and strong memory. As a blind man, I have to remember a lot of things that my sighted friends take for granted. The relationship of the streets where I live, where I place things in my kitchen, zip codes, phone numbers, and because I play music, I have to remember my music theory and what I’ve practiced.

In our education system and the politics that govern it, we grossly underestimate the importance of memory and exercising memory. At an early age, children use calculators to ge the right answers but don’t undertand the concept behind the answer. Using memory is considered unnecessary because it can be calculated or looked up quickly.

In our work, we push icons, don’t calculate change and perhaps can’t with the training we’ve received. As we ride home or once home we love to hear some music – forgetting that the creation of music is quite complex, requires practice, refinement, and getting both your body and mind to memorize what has to be done to create the music.

Music, among other huge contributions, exercises memory and puts it to work. The process is rich in knowledge, reflection, reason and unreasonableness. Music, as all forms of artistic expression are critical links between our souls and our beings. And all the politicians can think to do is eliminate it in the name of saving expense instead of removing waste.  I’m sick of it.

What’s your opinion? I’d love to hear from you. Send an email to dave@openmindedmic.com andI’ll reply. Write a reply on this blog and I’ll post it. Sned me a stinging insect and I’ll kill it – either that or have elected to congress. Peace, Prof Dave