Happy Independence Day!

2817823792_e8ce4d04e5“Where liberty dwells, there is my country…”

– Benjamin Franklin


Hope you and your families have a safe and happy holiday!



4 Surprising Takeaways from My Reader Survey Results

A few weeks ago, I launched my Reader Survey. This is the first year I have gone through this process, and I have benefited enormously. Ultimately, I think it also benefits you, because it helps me improve the content I create, whether on this blog, or elsewhere.


A few dozen participated in the survey that was made up of 10 questions pertaining to demographic information, as well as questions related to what content would benefit you most. To say I was surprised by the responses is an understatement!

If I boiled the results down into a “reader profile,” it would look like this.

  • My typical reader is a male (67%) between the ages of 41-60 (62%).
  • He enjoys learning about “Music Education” (95%), as well as “Educational Technology” (58%).
  • The biggest challenges he faces are “Not Enough Time” (47%), “Not Enough Money” (47%), and “Not Enough Inspiration” (42%).
  • He prefers learning through reading (80%) or through watching videos or webinars (75%).
  • My readers like my current blog format, but only 50% have recommended my blog to someone else.
  • They would like me to explore the following topics: “Challenging students in a fast-paced tech culture,” “Expression, creativity and emotions through music learning,” “How to deal with the changing student population in public schools,” “Teaching mentally unwell students,” “Time management,” and “Orchestration, music analysis, and basic composition of music.”

To be honest, I was very surprised by my readers’ comments, and through this process I have come to five conclusions:

  1. Keep Blogging. Nothing I do takes more work than creating new blog posts, and at times it’s quite draining. Creating new content all the time without repeating myself isn’t always the easiest thing to do, so if you have suggestions (like you gave me on this survey), I’m all ears. Also many appreciated the fact that I post regularly (though the last week of dealing with income taxes has prevented it!) I will continue to create regular content focused on Time Management, Overcoming Budget Problems, and finding Inspiration through Teaching Music.
  2. Stay personal, honest, practical, and down to earth. One of the main themes I picked up on the comments you like it when I tell personal stories. Nearly everyone said sharing a challenge or failure I am facing or have faced has mades them feel like they are not alone when they face similar challenges. They also appreciate breaking down specific how-to actions into step-by-step instructions. Be looking forward to more of this soon.
  3. Be more open about struggles I’m facing in teaching. Let’s face it…none of us like to admit when we’re struggling, but the fact is we all face difficult times in our profession. Not everything is roses all the time…not in my school district, or any school district for that matter. When you work with and for human beings, issues will arise. I intend to include more examples of how I’m weathering storms that arise in and around my classroom.
  4. Don’t try to please everyone. As I read through the comments I found people had differing opinions on many aspects of the survey. Some of the views were so different that there would be no way to please everyone, so while I am certainly open to input for topics and resources on the blog, the fact remains that I can’t please everyone all the time. My blog may or may not be for you and that’s fine. All I’m doing is sharing my experiences and hoping to help someone else along the way.

I received tons of great ideas from reading your responses and have already started working on several of them. Some of the content I thought was my weakest was appreciated the most by my readers. Others I thought were great didn’t resonate as well with my audience. But I’ve taken this information and have adjusted my plans for the future of my blog. I think you will like the changes I have planned for the rest of 2014. If you haven’t read my blog yet, it’s never to late to start! And if you participated in the survey, I would like to take this opportunity to officially thank you for taking the time to do that. It means a lot to me!

Please Take My 2014 Reader Survey

I want to make my blog better and more relevant to your needs and interests. To do that, I need to know more about YOU. As a result, I have created my 2014 Reader Survey.

Would you please take a few minutes to fill out the survey? By doing so, you will ultimately be helping yourself. Why? Because you will be helping me make my content even more interesting and relevant to you.

Your input is important to me. The survey is easy to fill out. The survey results are completely anonymous. I can’t tell who said what. It’s only ten questions and and will only take two minutes of your time.  Thank you in advance!

Yes I’m happy to help. Take me to the survey!

The Birthday of Andrés Segovia


SEGOVIA, ANDRES 1963       © ERLING MANDELMANNAndrés Segovia was born on this date, February 21, 1893. He brought our world beautiful music by elevating the status of the classical guitar. Rest in peace Maestro. We are forever grateful for the impact your life has had on ours.

Lean your body forward slightly to support the guitar against your chest, for the poetry of the music should resound in your heart.”  

– Andrés Segovia

3 Secrets to Successful Band Director Marriages

Today’s post is written by my wife Jennifer.  She’s a stay at home mom now, but taught band for six years prior to becoming a mother. She’s written a great post with some tips on keeping your marriage healthy while juggling the responsibilities of a being a music educator.  You can read her blog here! Hope you enjoy it!

3 Secrets to Successful Band Director Marriages – by Jennifer Stidham

50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri. What about divorce rates among band directors/music educators? According to this article, band directors’ divorce rates are at 50%. Most of us have friends in this profession who have endured the pain and emotional turmoil of a failed marriage.


My husband is a high school band director. Since I was also a high school band director for six years, I understand the long hours, the grueling schedules, and the emotional investment required.

That doesn’t exempt him of his duties as a husband or father.

We came to understand the following three things must be in place in order for our marriage to work and our home to be happy. When these three things happen, our family dynamics are fluid and we are all in tune. When one item is missing, we are out of balance and out of sync. We currently use these three methods of protecting our relationship:

Remember that each of you has jobs to do at home. If you don’t do them, your spouse will find someone else to do them (including sex).Click here to tweet this
Be as good at your home jobs as you are at your regularly paid job. We understand that I do the laundry, cleaning and cooking; hubby helps with dishes after dinner; we both help with our daughter’s bedtime routine.

Be present when you are at home. Put your phone down, turn off the tv, look your spouse or children in the eyes when you speak, spend time with your dog, quit trying to get that last bit of work done before the next day. Enjoy your kids while they are awake. A lot of time, my husband gets some practicing done or writes another blog post after baby girl goes to bed. Once we figured out where the OFF button was on the TV, our communication increased and our productivity sky-rocketed!

Schedule time for yourself. Make it a priority for each of you to spend a little time doing whatever you want to do, whether that is watching TV, reading, exercising, or tinkering in the garage. When Dadda gets home, Mama is “off the clock” until dinner time, which means it’s one-on-one time for baby girl with Dadda. This allows me time to check facebook, exercise, finish up any projects that are covering the dinner table…. My hubby usually needs his daily dose of Jeopardy to make his world feel right again.

Protecting your marriage is crucial and takes work.Click here to tweet this
It requires patience, understanding, and flexibility. Just as in a music rehearsal, the three-part communication cycle must be present: hear, assess, do it again but better. Use these secrets to protect your marriage and avoid becoming another divorce statistic!

Discussion Question: What do you feel is an important part of a healthy marriage?

Musician Alert: The New Law That Affects You

In 2005, I flew from Little Rock to Atlanta, from Atlanta to London, and from London to Munich.  Much to my horror, upon arrival in Munich, my prized and very expensive Jose Ramirez guitar didn’t arrive with me! After about a week without my guitar, it was delivered by the airline to my apartment in Munich (with a damaged case, of course).

In 2006, I flew from New Orleans to Dallas with a guitar as a carry on.  A few days later I flew from Dallas back to New Orleans but this time was not allowed to carry the guitar on the plane.  I instead opted to leave the guitar with family in Dallas due to the previously mentioned incident, and had to use a different guitar while on tour.

If you’ve had an experience like mine you can agree with me that Congress finally did something right!  Musicians everywhere can breathe easy now that a law written two years ago has finally gone into effect. The 112th Congress passed The FAA Modernization and Reform Act in January of 2012, but the law went into effect just this week. What does this mean for musicians?  In short, U.S. airlines are now legally required to allow you to carry small instruments onto the plane as a carry on with no additional fee.  It says so on PDF pages 74-75 linked above.  I’ve copied the appropriate section from the law below, which is really pretty self-explanatory.

Here’s a few pointers for flying with an instrument:

  • Know The Law – Chances are not everyone who works for the airline will be familiar with this new law, so my suggestion to you is to print these two pages of the law and carry it with you.
  • Call Ahead – It’s also always a good idea to call ahead to let the airline know you are traveling with a fragile and valuable instrument. They will often give you their check-in and boarding procedures. These procedures do vary between the different airlines, so check with them first.
  • Arrive and Check In Early – The law requires airlines to allow you to carry on your instrument only if it can be stored in the overhead safely.  The earlier you get on the plane, the more room you’ll have to stow your instrument.  Get an early boarding number so this isn’t an issue.
  • Protect Your Instrument Remove any loose items from your case and store them in your checked luggage.  Be sure that your instrument is in a proper case that doesn’t allow it to move.  If you are traveling with a stringed instrument it is always a good idea to loosen your strings a little to relieve a little of the pressure on the bridge.  Also be sure to attach as many “Fragile” stickers to your case as possible.
  • Make It Easy To Spot A case tag with your contact information is helpful in the event you are separated from your instrument. Also some bright-colored electrical tape on the handle will make your instrument easy to spot in the overhead bin.  And if you unfortunately have to check your instrument, it will be easier to spot coming off of the conveyor.
  • When Checking, Do So Carefully If you are required to check your instrument on the plane, insist that you carry it to the gate yourself. At the gate your instrument can be handed to the baggage crew and loaded under the plane. Doing it this way prevents anyone from playing frisbee with your instrument, or using their coffee break as an opportunity to see how well it plays.  It also insures that your instrument will be one of the last items loaded on the plane. This will place it on top of the pile instead of buried under hundreds of pounds of luggage. You can also request that the instrument be brought to the gate when you arrive instead of traveling on the conveyor, but I’ve found this doesn’t always work.

You should have an easier time when flying with an instrument, thanks to the new two-year-old law.  With a little planning on your part, and some good fortune from the airline, you and your instrument can have a safe and enjoyable flight.

Discussion Question: What’s the worst thing that’s happened to your instrument/luggage while traveling?

(a) IN GENERAL.—Subchapter I of chapter 417 is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘‘§ 41724. Musical instruments
‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—
carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a violin, guitar, or other musical instrument in the aircraft cabin, without charging the passenger a fee in addition to any standard fee that carrier may require for comparable carry-on baggage, if—
‘‘(A) the instrument can be stowed safely in a suitable baggage compartment in the aircraft cabin or under a passenger seat, in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator; and
‘‘(B) there is space for such stowage at the time the passenger boards the aircraft.
carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a musical instrument that is too large to meet the requirements of paragraph (1) in the aircraft cabin, without
H. R. 658—75
charging the passenger a fee in addition to the cost of the additional ticket described in subparagraph (E), if—
‘‘(A) the instrument is contained in a case or covered so as to avoid injury to other passengers;
‘‘(B) the weight of the instrument, including the case or covering, does not exceed 165 pounds or the applicable weight restrictions for the aircraft;
‘‘(C) the instrument can be stowed in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator;
‘‘(D) neither the instrument nor the case contains any object not otherwise permitted to be carried in an aircraft cabin because of a law or regulation of the United States; and
‘‘(E) the passenger wishing to carry the instrument in the aircraft cabin has purchased an additional seat to accommodate the instrument.
carrier shall transport as baggage a musical instrument that is the property of a passenger traveling in air transportation that may not be carried in the aircraft cabin if—
‘‘(A) the sum of the length, width, and height measured in inches of the outside linear dimensions of the instrument (including the case) does not exceed 150 inches or the applicable size restrictions for the aircraft;
‘‘(B) the weight of the instrument does not exceed 165 pounds or the applicable weight restrictions for the aircraft; and
‘‘(C) the instrument can be stowed in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the Administrator.
‘‘(b) REGULATIONS.—Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this section, the Secretary shall issue final regulations to carry out subsection (a).
‘‘(c) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The requirements of this section shall become effective on the date of issuance of the final regulations under subsection (b).’’.
(b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT.—The analysis for such sub- chapter is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘‘41724. Musical instruments.’’.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

John Mackey: The World Premier of “Wine-Dark Sea : Symphony for Band”

What an amazing night of music! It’s about an hour after the world premier of Wine-Dark Sea : Symphony for Band by the gifted John Mackey and my mind is still reeling.  If you weren’t fortunate enough to attend this concert as part of the TMEA Convention then you missed a truly amazing musical experience that one doesn’t often experience.

Let me start by saying that Jerry Junkin and The University of Texas Wind Ensemble mesmerized an auditorium full of music educators this evening and left them inspired by the level of musical artistry achieved by these amazing university students.  The musicality and technical abilities of this ensemble are first-class. Network by Kevin Puts was fantastic and the amazing virtuoso of Marianne Gedigian performing Lowell Liebermann’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra was a joy to witness. But the highlight of the evening was the new work by John Mackey.

Wine-Dark Sea : Symphony for Band is a programmatic work (commissioned by Jerry Junkin and The University of Texas Wind Ensemble in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Butler School of Music) based on the story of Odysseus as found in Homer’s The Odyssey.  For more on the background of the piece, click here.

I can only tell you that the compositional genius of Mackey in conveying this story through music is stunning.  Sometimes we encounter programmatic music that seems trite and unimaginative, but not this piece! The themes were beautiful, creative, and treated with the utmost thought and care as they are woven throughout.  The tonal pallet was inspiring and colorful. The percussion was truly impressive and robust. The work was powerful and thrilling while also providing beautiful moments of emotion and introspection.

I truly can’t wait to listen to this piece again (hopefully with a score) to further analyze all the wonderful little moments that make the music of John Mackey so magical. After the concert Mackey was so humble and more than willing to sign autographs, pose for pictures, and answer questions while discussing his music…he’s truly a class act!

If you have an opportunity to hear this work performed, don’t miss out. Mackey managed to capture lightning in a bottle with this one, and listeners will definitely not be disappointed!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.