Here’s a video of the premiere of my trombone quartet entitled Vegas Vespers, performed by the Las Vegas Trombone Company (Nathan Tanouye, Hitomi Shoji, David Philippus, Mike Dobranski). This may be the single best performance of one of my works.

The trip was fantastic. Saw some great scenery, got to see some old friends, and checked off two more states (we’re up to 43).


So I’ve been thinking about this article, and I’ve come to a few conclusions:

(1) We don’t have actual evidence to say this is limited to music or that being in music makes things more likely to happen, just anecdotes;

(2) On the flip side, every one in this discipline has a story or two (or seven or thirty-five);

(3) In a court of law, the operating premise is “innocent until proven guilty” (note: “innocent” and “not guilty” are two different things, as recent court cases have shown), but that premise does not necessarily apply in an academic misconduct hearing;

(4) There are bad people who have chosen a career in music, just as there are good people who have chosen a career in music, and sometimes those bad people are in a position of power – or in a position to make false accusations (though, unlike some, I will never assume an accusation is false until I see evidence to the contrary); and

(5) The best thing we can do is arm students and faculty with knowledge, tools, and courage.

Knowledge: What is and is not appropriate?

Tools: How do we report? What kind of systems are in place?

Courage: Whoever the wronged party is, s/he shall be supported and need not back down or be ashamed.

There are various suggestions, including the videotaping of lessons. I would actually be in favor of lessons being recorded, but primarily as a pedagogical tool. (I had great teachers, but I was not great at remembering what they said in lessons unless I took the time to write it down. I didn’t write enough stuff down. It would be nice as I’m trying to rebuild my chops to review what they had to say. But I digress.) Both parties would be informed of the recording, and under normal circumstances no one but professor and student would have access to the material unless both parties agreed to it. (This would be to prevent appearances on YouTube, etc.) In the case of allegations, the university’s or conservatory’s officer in charge of such things would have access to the recordings.

This wouldn’t prevent everything, and of course there’s FERPA and the like with which you’d have to work, but I see nothing wrong with recording lessons if both parties agree. Now as far as non-lesson events, well, following Wheaton’s Law seems to be the best advice.


Since I’m getting ready to start my second year at UMM, and since I haven’t yet broken the publication drought (couple of near-misses, got two rejections on Memorial Day, and let me tell you that stung), I’ve been trying to get my publication record back on track. I do have a book chapter which I should be finishing within the next couple of months, but I haven’t gotten anything into a peer-reviewed journal in…oh, let’s just go with “a while.”

In my field, there simply aren’t very many journals. We have Music Theory Spectrum, Music Theory Online, Journal of Music Theory, and maybe 8 – 10 other online and print journals. (There are more music theory journals than that, but they often have a narrow focus like computing in music or Schenkerian theory – or they’re specifically designed for graduate students or people in a certain country.) The process is, as is standard, blind peer review. I would like to make the case that (1) peer review is likely not so blind, and (2) as it is currently constituted, peer review as currently constituted may not be an ideal gatekeeper. I would further like to make the case that this is ultimately bad for the discipline, as it leads to narrow foci and intellectual insularity.

As I mentioned above, this discipline is not particularly large, especially when compared to other disciplines in the Humanities. There’s a general kinship with each other. We’re Facebook friends. We get everyone’s Twitter feed. We hang out at conferences and when it’s time to read the AP exams. Many of us went to grad school together – more on this in a moment. We know, at least generally, on what subjects people are working. So when a paper crosses an editor’s or reader’s desk, it’s likely not all that blind. “Oh, this sounds like what so-and-so was doing.” As a friend further points out, if you write a paper on topic X there’s a pretty good chance you know exactly who is going to be reading it, even if the review is officially blind, because there are only so many people in the world qualified to read said paper. I do believe that blind peer review can be a good way to examine a paper, but I further believe nothing is truly blind.

The second point is a little darker. I mentioned above that “many of us went to grad school together,” and that may be the problem. There are a handful of schools that produce the lion’s share of theorists. These schools – good as they are, and they are very good – do have specific ideological and philosophical approaches to this discipline. They may have a decent variety of approaches, but they’re certainly not pan-philosophical. I am not saying the approaches are ill-formed or irrelevant, because they are not; I am simply saying that these approaches tend to dominate the rest of the field, to the exclusion of different ideas. When a discipline is limited to a handful of approaches, then no matter how well-developed or how reverberant those approaches are, the discipline’s ability to develop further is stifled. Format becomes formula. New – or potentially effective but not yet fully-formed – approaches are dismissed out of hand. With so few outlets for publication, and with those dominated by the handful of approaches above, it becomes more and more difficult for scholars who don’t easily fit into molds to get a fair hearing for their ideas. We hear people talk about what a friend who is on the editorial board of an academic journal calls the “fit” of the paper, but if the number of journals is limited, then there aren’t very many places where something might “fit.” (This has ramifications for the tenure process as well, but that discussion can be reserved for another time.)

Perhaps this is all sour grapes on my part, but I don’t think I am that bad. I believe my work has merit, I believe it can inform performances and understanding of the pieces I study, and I believe the discipline benefits from it being out there. I don’t want this to be about me, however; my beliefs are applicable to any number of theorists – young and old – who are outside the mainstream of the discipline. I have heard it suggested that we should get away from single-author papers as well, as the process of collaboration often works out the issues most brought up in peer review.

So what can we do about it? More on that at some point in the future, but you may have the answer right in front of you.

Postscript (courtesy of Mike Berry): It’s not just us.


Allow me to encourage you to support some worthy jazz musicians:

(1) Brent Gallaher, saxophonist extraordinaire and the son of my first college music theory teacher (who was also my last undergraduate composition teacher), is running a Kickstarter to support his newest recording project, a collection of ballads and Bossas. I’ve kicked in, and so should you.

(2) Sara Jones, a fine jazz singer and a dear friend from those heady days of the late ’90s/early ’00s back in Cincinnati, released a CD a few years back entitled Daydream a Little. I finally got the chance to listen to it and purchase it, and it is exquisite – jazz singing as it should be. Buy the CD here or here.

(3) Just this morning, I purchased and downloaded Brooklyn Babylon, the well-crafted and fascinating second album from Darcy James Argue. He is a writer of the first order, and the band has amazing players. Plus, any album that begins with a euphonium solo is OK in my book. Go now and purchase.


Current projects:

(1) A paraphrase/setting of the UMM Hymn, the Alma Mater of my current gig. This is for a concert in memory/honor of Ralph Williams, the first-ever music faculty member at UMM (and composer of the Alma Mater).

(2) A suite of miniatures for solo violin called pARTita, for David Cole.

(3) A very short opera, beginning what I think is a warm-up for a larger work (and eventually, hopefully, a full cycle of operas based on a science-fiction book that permeated my youth).


So Next Exit and Psalm 120 received their premieres, and Rational Exuberance was performed with great success in the Cleveland area. Gonna send a couple of recordings off soon, and I have also applied for membership in ASCAP.

Also, fulfilling a couple of requests – a suite for solo violin and an occasional piece (in the truest sense of that term) for the UMM Symphonic Winds.

As Navin R. Johnson said, “Things are going to start happening to me now!”


(It’s not strictly Tuba-Euphonium, as this is trombone stuff as well.)

OK, it’s been a few weeks, the horn works great…I believe it’s time to organize my practicing better. I haven’t been able to do as much as I’d like, but once we clear the Minnesota Music Educators’ Association midwinter conference this week (and this will coincide with what I hope is the beginning of the end of winter and my 40th….gawd, my 40th…birthday), I want to force myself to get at least an hour a day on the horn(s).

So I was thinking of redoing how I practice. How does this sound?

15% of practice time: warm-up. I use long tones, the Remington warm-ups, then scales. Right now it’s majors 2 octaves (I try to do 3 on F and E), octatonics (ST) 2 octaves, and chromatic 3 octaves (C2-C5). This may expand as I include the minors and other scales.

15%: Lyrical warmup. 2 or 3 Rochuts, with one of them read in tenor clef as well. One of these days, I’m gonna work up to alto clef.

15%: Technical warmup. An Arban characteristic study or two, and some other stuff from Arban’s and possibly a Blazhevich. I’m willing to consider other things as well.

30%: Solo literature. I’d like to get a couple of concertos and about 2 hours of solo rep under my fingers within the next year. I would probably include any chamber ensemble literature as well (and good news on that front – it looks like I’m going to be in a brass quintet!).

15%: Excerpts. In case I decide to do a major ensemble. I have the Bowman/Werden euph excerpts and vol. 1 of the Brown trombone excerpts.

10%: Cool-down. Long tones, some lip slurs, some pedals.



I’m working on a piece for trumpet, trombone, and piano that is based on tourist traps and crazy roadside attractions. Two movements are available (in cheesy MIDI demo) below.

“Cheshire Cheese Press” is a meditation on democracy, based on the statue commemorating a 1,234lb block of cheese that the citizens of Cheshire, MA sent to Thomas Jefferson.

“Pedro’s South of the Border” is a Tango-Passacaglia in honor of the famous tourist trap on I-95 on the NC/SC state line.


Cheshire Cheese Press

Pedro’s South of the Border


I had a brief conversation with a friend the other day, and we shared memories of marching band. I got to thinking about it, and when I get to thinking about something it usually ends up on here. So blame her for this.

I have talked before about where I grew up and the challenges facing the unathletic in a place where sports are even more disproportionately important than normal. I was spectacularly awkward physically as a youth (is it because I was born a month early? I wonder); if it were be possible to be picked after last in gym class, I would have been.

Then I started marching band.

I was still awkward, but for some reason, it would go away when I had a horn on my face and had to move from one dot to the next. My body, which I would fight every other waking moment, actually did exactly what I asked it to and when I asked it to. I lost weight, made new friends, and felt like I actually belonged somewhere for the first time in…well, let’s go with “ever.” I did it for four years, earning the marching band equivalent of a letter jacket, and decided to major in music in part because of the experience of marching band. Majoring in music led me to music theory and composition, so you could say my entire career exists because of one choice I made in 1986.

Slightly more than a quarter-century has passed, and I still remember aspects of marching band shows in incredible detail. I have done research on Jesus Christ Superstar because we did a JCS show my junior year. (Went to Finals with it too!) Playing those charts gave me a sense of how to write those charts, which led to all my drum corps arranging/composing.

So yeah, I’d consider my high school marching band years “formative” in just about every sense. There are many things I’d do differently, but I’d still march no matter what.


Pedagogical question this week: How many of you out there in Theoryland incorporate what the students are doing in lessons/ensembles on a regular basis? I’m always looking for ways to do that. I believe the more the students can do theory on their instruments/in their voices, the more likely they are to understand the concepts.


So I’ve got this euphonium now, and want to start a quartet. What’s some good recent (1990-later) quartet literature? I have found this, which is all the Grade 1 (highest) Texas State tuba-euphonium quartets, I get the feeling there are many, many more.

Also: If any euphoniumists are within, say, 60-90 minutes of Morris, MN, CONTACT ME. I believe I have a tubist or two, but I need another euphoniumist for the quartet.


So I’ve done something musical every day this year. I’ve done at least three of the following four things daily:

(1) Make music in some way – practice my horns, perhaps;
(2) Compose;
(3) Work on analytical articles; and
(4) Listen to some music that I had not heard before.

If you want to do what I do, this is what you have to do. I didn’t for far too long, and I regret it.

Expect updates.


For today, since Conference Submission Deadlines are approaching, I thought I’d throw it open to the readers and solicit your advice on getting papers into conferences.

A few years back, I had the opportunity to hear a paper at SMT about this very topic. I recently rediscovered the handout, which is in a place of honor at the office. Since I have a couple of papers I’m prepping and need to get the proposals done fairly soon, I’ve been thinking about the submission process. You all know that this is not one of my more successful endeavors, though after hearing from some Big Time Theorists who haven’t gotten papers into SMT in nearly seven years I feel much better about all those rejections.

Here’s what I try to do:

(1) Read the call for papers.

(2) Reread the call for papers.

(3) Reread the call for papers.

(4) Write an abstract/submission that gives a lot of information, but doesn’t give away the ballgame.

(5) Edit said abstract.

(6) Reread the call for papers.

(7) Attach examples/bibliography/other requested materials.

(8) Make sure all identifying metadata is gone.

(9) Reread the call for papers.

(10) Submit.

Any suggestions?