Versatility has been a guiding principle throughout my career. As a performer, I've made myself comfortable in a variety of genres, styles, and mediums. From classical to jazz, traditional to contemporary, symphony orchestras to funk bands, I've tried to do it all. My goal has never been to be only a saxophonist, but to be a whole musician. In addition to performing, I wanted to be an academic as well, so I got a degree in music theory, and I've been fortunate enough to teach at Western Michigan University for the last two years. On top of these pursuits, I've always loved sharing knowledge and learning with others, so I've made every effort to teach as much as I can.
But even all of that isn't enough for me. The days of specialization are long gone, and in today's society an artist has to be able to do it all, because if you can't - someone else will. Studying, performing, and teaching music within the narrow constraints of academic institutions is only part of what I do. Hand in hand with versatility, one of the principles I espouse to my students is to be autodidactic - learn how to teach yourself. If you know how to teach yourself, you can pretty much do anything. Beyond music, I've made efforts to teach myself about a variety of things. I've engaged in projects focusing on issues of social justice. I taught myself how to code. How to build websites. Photography and videography. Recording and audio engineering. And the list is always growing. See more about what kinds of projects I'm currently working on below.
The Musician’s Swap Box is an online reading club that serves to facilitate ongoing discussions about current social-political issues relevant to any and all musicians - whether you are a student, performer, or educator. Our book club meets three times per year to hold live discussions about the selected reading and how these topics relate to the lived experiences of musicians. Other ways to interact with these discussions will include a live blog, chapter-by-chapter forum, quarterly surveys, essays, and more. We hope to build a large community of musicians dedicated to a lifetime of learning and effecting positive change.
Two summers ago I took a dive into something I've wanted to learn for a long time - coding. I learned the basics of Python through Al Sweigart's course "Automate the Boring Stuff", and then I spent many hours scouring internet tutorials and Stack Overflow, all to create a program that I knew would be useful to myself and anyone else teaching lessons - Common Time.
Common Time is a web application that helps a teacher quickly schedule private lessons. Imagine you're a private lesson teacher, or an applied faculty member at a school of music, and you have a studio of twenty students you need to teach. For most people I've talked to, the scheduling process involves collecting all the students' schedules, and then fitting them into the teacher's availability through a time-consuming process that produces a schedule which inevitably has some errors in it. Having been a teaching assistant for numerous saxophone professors in the last couple of years, I can attest to how frustrating a process this can be - so I decided to automate it.
Currently, Common Time lives on my computer as a command line interface. I can have any number of students enter their schedules onto a Google Sheets spreadsheet, along with the teacher, and then my program will read that data as multiple arrays into Python through Numpy and Pandas. My next step in this process is to make a web application for this program so that anyone can use it. I expect to have it up and running in Summer 2021.
SoundSketch is a web application I'm developing that will allow users to create visual form diagrams of pieces of music.
As a performer and music theorist, one of my favorite ways to grapple with a piece of music is to create a form diagram. This is one of the most useful ways in which I've been able to combine my two areas of expertise - whether I'm learning jazz standards, pop tunes, contemporary music, or something more traditional, knowing how the music works as a whole is always practical.
For those of you that have taught music theory, you may be familiar with the application Audio Timeliner , which is wonderful tool to help visualize formal diagrams. I really love Audio Timeliner, and I've used it frequently in my own classes, as well as classes I teach. However, there are a few things I don't like so much about Audio Timeliner, which I plan to improve in SoundSketch. For one, SoundSketch will be a web app, so it won't require you to download a program to your computer. SoundSketch will also be functional on mobile devices. Additionally, I plan to make the user interface intuitive to use and aesthetically pleasing to look at.
In addition to the improvements listed above, in the future I'd also like to make SoundSketch a place where people can upload their own 'sketches' of form diagrams and compare them. Sort of like a social media site - but for music nerds.
I didn't know a single thing about web development or programming about a year ago, but I found some cheap courses online and taught myself. I still have a lot to learn - and this site is far from finished - but I'm not too disappointed with my progress so far. Next on my todo list for web dev is to learn React and Next.js, in addition to figuring out how to better run virtual private servers.