I retired from instrumental music education in 2013. By the definition of retired, most people see that as a time of not having to be on the clock at a job. I did that for 34 years in public education and several years working for private organizations. I still do some occasional teaching. I usually go against the grain so why should my retirement be any different? I’m sure at some point I will “slow down” the pace and fully retire, but for now I’m having fun.
I was born before much technology permeated our world. Analog technology was becoming more the norm with whispers of something called digital. My dad bought our first color TV back in the late 60s. Our 2nd TV in the house, a Christmas gift from my parents, was also bought in the late 60s, was black & white because it was cheaper, but it made us a two-TV household.
I bought my first computer because teachers got a group discount by buying it through the local office supply in the community where I was teaching. The first 50,000 Apple IIgs computers that were manufactured had a reproduced copy of Steve Wozniak’s signature (“Woz”) at the front right corner of the case, with a dotted line and the phrase “Limited Edition” printed just below it. I bought one. “Whoopty-doo!” (My sarcastic voice used since there is no real value in that.)
There wasn’t much I could do with it other than create documents used in my teaching and my personal life – worksheets, course syllabus, letters, print out bank checks, household inventory, etc. I did an upgrade on it and my wife at the time got really upset because I spent $1,000 for additional drives and a memory upgrade. (I was still thinking like a bachelor. Huge mistake!)
My first PC was bought in the mid-90s. I was amazed at how much faster it worked. I could even surf the Web! Wow! (Sarcastic only because it would now be a slow dinosaur.)
So each time I gain on Technology, it quickly leaves me behind. Technology frustrates me at times and it is expensive.
Just as I gain a better standing and understanding in my studio, a piece of equipment wears out, it is no longer updated (for various reasons), or I need to add it to my system’s setup. That’s why many times during the year I feel as though I’m climbing a tree upside down (see picture). That guy and others exist. His name is Mukesh Kumar. He can go up 50 to 70 foot trees like that in less than 5 minutes. He started slow, short distances and increased over time. Here’s his short video: https://youtu.be/c1r9CeBpkNc). Besides the obvious, the difference between his work and mine is that the tree stays the same. Technology changes and marches onward.
Some days I feel like the next person in the next picture. That’s 24-year old Sasha DiGiulian from South Africa. She’s 5’2″ and all of 97 lbs. She has set several records as the first woman to make very difficult free climbs starting at age 11.
Composing and creating while I try to climb great heights in a musical sense, I sometimes find myself stuck because I need some type of additional equipment or additional software or an update of some kind to complete the task. Technology has captivated our world. It consumes us and swallows our time and money like a stellar black hole.
Like most people that have been trained to compose music, I find it is much simpler to use my No. 27: Carta Manuscript Paper, my Pentel Graph Gear 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil, my Ticonderoga Yellow Pencil, No.1 Extra Soft Lead, and my Staedtler Mars Plastic Erasers (latex free with minimal crumbling), or I just grab a blank sheet of paper and sketch out my initial ideas very quickly. Yes, easier and less expensive, but not accepted in today’s film/TV industry or anywhere that there is a need for music in a media project or an ensemble. Such is the price and headache of the “modern” world.
Could I have chosen an easier path in retirement? Of course! But where is the challenge in that path? At least I am doing what I love to do. I’ve composed music in some form or fashion for 46 years and still counting!
Take a moment and ask yourself a question: If I had all the money I could spend, would I not still do what I love to do? My answer is that the money would make some things easier, but then you have to spend some portion of time with your accountant, your investment manager, and your lawyer to keep from being robbed blind. I believe a person should do what they love. I say, “Do whatever gives you the most enjoyment.” I just happen to have strong creative urges. Being a composer is a solitary endeavor that requires peace and quiet without distraction. Some people like to write, I prefer to compose in the language of music. When I grow up, maybe I’ll be as good as this guy! This is Jyoti Raju a.k.a. Monkey King.
I’m glad my mentors taught me music history, music theory, and music composition techniques that allowed me to arrange and compose for them and others.
Knowledge + Practical Application = Growth
Repeat ad infinitum. Repetitio est mater studiorum.
Since the age of 4, I have loved music. I’ve always loved learning. Thanks to my mom and starting me at a young age, I love film and media of many kinds. To me, music, film, and learning go hand-in-hand forevermore. Retirement is what you decide works best for you. I know what I love doing.
Let me know what you think about technology and/or the creative process.
Music is more than just kids getting together and having fun. While doing some online reading, I came across this article giving highlights of a University of Southern California study that states their “initial study results show that music instruction speeds up the maturation of the auditory pathway in the brain and increases its efficiency.” This is fascinating information for parents, educators, and musicians.
Also, in Boston, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center discovered that “male musicians have larger brains than men who have not had extensive musical training.” The cerebellum area of the brain contains 70 % of the total brain’s neurons and the researchers found that the cerebellum was 5 % larger in expert male musicians.
One of my former colleagues and an instrumental director is hard at work on her Ph.D. and working toward a better understanding of these facts in her dissertation research. Luciano Pavrotti was correct when he said, “If children are not introduced to music at an early age, I believe something fundamental is actually being taken from them.”
The article I have referred to can be found at
As a composer, I believe it is important to pay attention to how different film directors think about and approach their craft, and ours. After all, we need to continually hone our collaborative skills since they are the focus for using our abilities successfully to serve and underscore the needs of the film, the TV show, or the video game.
For instance, I just spent last evening taking notes while once again reviewing the AFI Master Class where Spielberg and Williams discuss movie scenes that influenced their thinking and their collaborative process. My 34 years of teaching instrumental music, arranging and composing music, rewriting musical sections because they were too difficult or did not keep an audience focused, has everything to do with this business AND nothing to do with this business. In other words, I am still learning and making an effort to understand past the obvious. I’ve always truly believed that learning is a non-stop process; a continuous journey.
When I can, I prefer to learn from those that have already had success in this business. They have already forged ahead and are a wealth of knowledge and experiences. I have also discovered in my brief time of pursuing this path of composing for media that many within the category of experienced and proven directors and composers are more than willing to share their thoughts if the timing is correct for them. I would say to those just starting out to 1) zip the lips, 2) always be ready with your mind, 3) listen with empathy and deep interest, and 4) for Pete’s sake take good notes, 5) ask questions when the opportunity presents itself, and 6) be sincere as well as gracious with your compliments for their opinions and their time.
The attached Francis Ford Coppola interview presents his interesting perspective on the cinema. Some of the highlights include:
1) “If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before?”
2) “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money. You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money.”
3) “When you make a movie, always discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words.” (His explanation of why is quite interesting.)
4) “Napoleon once said, ‘Use the weapons at hand,’ and this is what a film director has to do everyday.”
5) Coppola discusses his idea from theatre and his use of a prompt book for his ideas.
6) When asked what the best piece of advice that he’s given to his children he said, “Always make your work personal. And, you never have to lie… It is very important for an artist not to lie, and most important is not to lie to yourself.” He also discusses how to handle questions in work or in life when you would prefer to lie.
7) What’s the biggest barrier to being an artist? Coppola answers, “Self-confidence always. The artist always battles his own/her own feeling of inadequacy.”