VCM Jazz Clinic -2012

Each year at the VCM the instructors get to host a clinic for the students during lunch. I always really enjoy talking so you can just imagine how much I like being listened to. Oh and I played some drums real fast – That always helps keep things going. Anyways here is a few shots and some notes on what I talked about.


This year I started teaching a business of music course and so I have been spending a lot of my time trying to quantify how the music world makes money and how we as artists can make money in it. And a lot of things are really obvious – like if you want to have money it isn’t so much about making it as it is about saving it. Yet we all tend to think that if we make a million dollars one year we will be millionaires. Which is true unless we spend five getting there. Which leads into one of my favorite music jokes:

“How do you make a million dollars in the music business? You start with two”.

So then it becomes a question of why do some musicians succeed where others don’t? Or why do some business’s succeed and others fail. We tend to think that what we do is totally different from say making computers or cars but it really isn’t when it comes to business. Thats not to say I don’t believe music is bigger than cars. I happen to feel that music is so big there aren’t words for it. Just imagine trying to explain music to someone who has never heard it before and you will know what i mean. It is hard to quantify because there aren’t words that can adequately explain it. And I will try and get into those missing words.

There is a really good Ted Talk by Simon Sinek called “How Great Leaders Inspire”. He makes some really interesting points and one that really made sense to me was his concept of the three rings. Now I think you should just watch him as he really has it down but the idea is this. The outer ring is the “What”, middle ring is the “How” and the inner ring the “Why”. And It turns out the most important thing is not “What” we do but “Why”. It’s the “Why” that sells.

He then makes a direct correlation to our brains. And that the Outer area is our new brain filled with language and the inner part is our primal brain that developed before language. And that’s the part of the brain that really connects with music. It makes us dance and move and do all sorts of things we can’t explain. It is the part that makes our body tingle and heat up during certain passages of music. All without the convenience of language. But it is this part of the brain that “buys” something wholly. Most interestingly it is that part that does the best job of selling. The “Why”. Yet we tend to start from the “What”.

“People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.”

“[Martin Luther King, Jr.] gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech, not the ‘I have a plan’ speech.”

So we should all take some time finding out “Why” we do this. Why we spend all this time at our instruments?

Hopefully your response will be another hold over from the inner brain…. LOVE.

Just as hard to explain as music really. And funnily enough for me music comes the closest to explaining how love feels.

Click Here to watch Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk-


 Malcolm Gladwell talks a lot about this in his book “Outliers” – “Ideas that succeed are rarely the result of some brilliant master plan on the part of their creators – some prescience about what the world needs right now. Usually, he says, they’re the product of someone’s obsessive, idiosyncratic pursuit of what they love.” And that Love comes from the middle brain.

Gladwell’s advice is refreshing in this relentless era of data-driven strategy: follow your bliss and resounding success will either follow or it won’t. In either case, you’ll be doing what you love.

Click Here to watch Malcolm Gladwell-

Another example Sinek uses is that of a family looking for their first baby-sitter. Should it be little Susie next door who is 16, has no child raising experience but they have know since birth. She has lived next door and they know her parents and have seen her grow up in their community. Or should they hire a stranger who has just moved to town whom they have only known for 2 months but has a years of experience working with kids. Our mind/gut says little Susie. It just feels right.

Looking again at successful people who followed their love I remember watching an interview featuring Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. At the end of it are some questions from the audience framed around starting a successful business. And these two guys look baffled. They didn’t set out with a good business plan they set out to make cool stuff that they liked. Just happens that it made them millions. But they weren’t driven by money. That came later.  They were obsessed with making these computers go beep.

Overcoming Blocks

 When I was about 21 I noticed an odd thing starting to happen to me while I was playing. I had years of experience on my instrument and could do a lot of things in the practice room that for some reason never appeared on gigs. I would try to force them to no avail and even more bothersome was this rising voice in my head. A lot of negative chatter. “Your slowing down, Oh you missed the middle of the drum, You already played that….” It would build and build until I felt drained and wanted to stop playing. This was most noticeable while I was soloing and I realized that there was some sort of block happening that was stopping me from doing what I wanted to do. Which was to just find a comfortable zone to be in that allowed me to release a continuous flow of ideas and music to an audience – to express myself!

At the time I was hipped to a book by a friend called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. It had some concepts in it that I found a bit hippy-dippy but I decided not to judge and push through –which is the basic idea of the book. It is a 12 week course that gives you some really excellent tools for getting rid of creative doubts and what is termed as your inner critic. The idea being that we have developed this critic to make sure we are doing things correctly but at certain points in the creative process we need to lose it to be able to experience the moment. Get in that elusive “zone”. It also has some incredibly good exercises to set goals and attain them. I always thought I had thousands of things I wanted in my life but I think I had a hard time getting 50 down. Check It Out….

Closing Notes:

Open doors. Say yes.

Patience!! Think the long con 🙂 20 year career….

Simple things played fast… Break Complex things  down till they are simple… 

Build your basics…. Quarter notes 🙂 r l r l r r l r  l r l r r l r l

Work with a metronome. 

Respect yourself, respect others and respect your instrument! Commit 100% every time you touch your instrument.

Write songs! Write lyrics! Write! Don’t judge Let others do that. remember the name of that critic who said the Beatles wouldn’t last? Nope 🙂

Go on long walks.