Monthly Archives: December 2012

You Are The Gift

During this Season of Celebration & Glad Tidings, we are mindful of those who have suffered tremendous personal loss and tragedy. We don’t try to sugarcoat reality with soft niceties and extended smiles which do nothing to soothe the pain. We Mourn with those who Mourn.

Life teaches us that at any moment, all we presently know and cling to can change in an instant. No One is exempt. The lesson is that each moment is precious, that tomorrow is not promised and that how we spend each moment is of the utmost importance. Life extends to us an opportunity to present what we have been given to express and share. For each one of us is a gift.
Be it our personality, perspective or performance. Our educational, creative and/or spirit gifts were never meant to remain internalized, but to be Given Away. It’s always Others who benefit from our God given talents and abilities. We study, develop, practice, discipline our objectives and hone our skills so that someone else reaps the enrichment of our sacrifice.
Whenever we encounter someone experiencing a hardship, we should acknowledge that we have been equipped with the ability to help soften the blow. Whether or not we have our instruments with us. We are musicians and musicians are the carriers of hope – of life – of light. We are the containers of the possibilities of what could be, even when what we see bears very little resemblance. We can change an emotion with one chord and with say, a five chord progression, spark a degree of inspiration where there was once despair.
We Are A Gift.
You have the Power to Change The World. You are hardwired to make incredible differences in your surroundings. You are uniquely designed to alter destinies. You Are The Gift.
You can fan fresh fires of innovation, create melodies that last for generations, produce rhythms which stretch theories, challenge mores and spark revolutions. You truly are the Gift.
I challenge you today to begin thinking of yourself as a gift. Be it to another, your particular society, networking channel or the world. I promise that the more you see yourself as such, the more you will be able to see and embrace opportunities to share what you’ve been blessed to give!
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Merry Original Christmas!

On This Wonderful Christmas Day as I celebrate my Savior’s Birth with my incredible family, I just wanted to pause to wish you and yours a glorious day!

As a Man & Pastor who is very intentional about respecting the faiths and belief systems of others, today is the one day I insist that the Original Intent of Christmas be given the proper honor and respect it deserves. For God So Loved the World that He gave His Only Begotten Son, so that whosoever would believe and trust in Him would have Eternal Life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him, the world might be Saved.

We celebrate this great day because God’s Son was born of a Virgin, the teenaged Mary, who although engaged to a young Joseph, had not known him intimately. The situation was so extraordinary, they both had to be convinced by an Angel that this was indeed God’s purpose. The promised baby was born according to this Holy plan and yet because there was no room available at the inn, The King of the Universe came into this world in a filthy stable, surrounded by salivating animals and manure. Nearby, shepherds learned of this wondrous birth through a choir of angels. Later, three wise men would follow a star to herald His arrival. When they found the toddler King, they presented Him with costly gifts – from which we adopted the exchange of presents during this season.

This Holy Boy, Jesus, grew in Favor with God and Man. He went about accomplishing His Original Purpose. He performed many miracles. He healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind and ears of the deaf and even raised the dead!

Jesus foretold of His own death, which would be the absolute and only acceptable substitute to cleanse us of our sins and place us in right standing with God, securing an eternal life with Him. He was later crucified on a cross as He foretold and scripture predicted.

Jesus also promised to raise Himself from the dead, after three days, also according to foretold scriptures.

Impenetrable Facts and Unswerving testimonies from many eyewitness not only confirmed that He did, but many even gave their own lives based on this truth. Others became tireless witnesses who helped spread the message of this Savior; some performing signs, miracles and wonders in His Name.

As Jesus promised He would one day come back for all of His followers, we who remain are absolutely convinced that He Will return and that He IS exactly who He said He IS: The Way, The Truth and The Life. The Messiah. God’s Holy Anointed One. King Forever.

Although many Christians throughout history, myself included, have done and said stupid things to misrepresent, distort and often distract from the basic Love of God and the ministry of Jesus, it does NOT erase the fact that He was born a King who died to save, yet lives forever! The entire world acknowledges His Birth and pauses annually to celebrate this miracle.

With each passing year, there is more pressure to turn away from and call this day, this season, something other than Christmas. Merchants have convinced us that the priorities are the presents and not His Presence. But we shall celebrate all the more, not defensively, but rather, with joy in our hearts and arms open wide to invite everyone to receive this Christ, who has literally changed our lives.

May you have the warmest, loveliest, most joyful Christmas Ever!

Jere B

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While my Heart & Prayers continue to go out to the families of the victims of those who perished in the tragedy in Connecticut and also of the most recent act of senselessness, I have chosen to remain silent on this blog and my other Social Media until now. First and foremost, out of respect and secondly, to not be swayed by or to join in with the emotional responses that have often bordered on the ridiculous. As the news media continues to broadcast moment by moment updates and unapologetically dig into the lives of all concern, we seem to still ignore the smaller, yet similar tragedies just beyond our doorstep. Every single day, it seems people are turning to violence as a means to their own end.

The most basic respect for human decency, common ground, intentional understanding, fairness and community have all but disappeared from our neighborhoods. In cities across the country, churches and other places of worship are within walking distance of each other, yet the Leaders, Pastors, Teachers and Rabbis of those congregations remain aloof and won’t come together for a uniform dialogue to help heal those in their immediate sphere of influence. Politicians and Civic Leaders place greater value on their party affiliations and cronyism instead of truly working in the best interest of their constituency.
Amid the screaming, yelling and finger pointing, here are the questions lost in the shuffle. My answers follow.
Will reducing the Basic Rights of the Second Amendment cull the Culture of Violence now prevalent in our country?
I Don’t Know.
Will stricter Monitoring and Punishment for those suffering with Mental Deficiencies curb the onslaught of Emotional Breakdown in our society?
I Don’t Know. 
Does a complete ban on Assault Weaponry and Abusive Video Games restore the central foundation for the respect of human life?
I Don’t Know. Perhaps… 
I’m no where near an expert. I’m just a 47 year old man with personal goals, dreams and a desire for the pursuit of happiness for my family and I during our brief stay on this planet. My personal theology and belief system leads me to believe that the Intentionality of our Hearts carry the real answers to this incredible dilemma.
I Believe to truly  honor, value and approach our neighbors with dignity must be our main goal. It doesn’t matter how different others views are – even when we may disagree. Taking the  extra moment to seek an understanding. I believe that Loving My Neighbor Unconditionally – As I Love Myself, is not Only Biblical, but extremely practical in maintaining a world that negates the aforementioned questions and puts to rest the debates of the pundits who have no answers at all.
How do you restore Good Will toward All Men? You Seek it out. You Hunt for It. You Turn Off Your TV and go next door, or across the street and around the corner. You don’t force, but you extend…the smile, the handshake, the conversation. And You Build the platform for understanding and conversations that show the other person you are genuinely concerned.
This may seem on the surface a simplistic response to an incredibly horrific situation, but below the surface, in every instance of this magnitude, it was a matter of the heart. There was a problem of misunderstanding and an issue of love
mis-defined. Perhaps One by One we can begin to rectify this situation.
Merry Christmas and Good Will To You and Yours!
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Collaborative Efforts!

In 1986, Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald broke ideological and technical ground with the release of their duet “On My Own.” Both the recording and the video reflected the song’s lyrical depth by having the singers drop their separate parts in two different studios, to be mixed before the final master. Today, this process is a very old and well worn hat. Musicians frequently fly parts online, irrespective of the software.

For Entrepreneurial Musicians, taking this concept further can expand collaborative opportunities far beyond sharing tracks. Partnerships and Distribution associations can develop very easily. Publishing Interests and Online Stations can be managed from across the World just like the big boys and girls do it – for the sake of unifying Independent Music.
Skype, FaceTime, Dropbox, Fuse Meeting, The Cloud & PayPal have increased the speed of business. EMs are making deals which broaden his/her musical and business base, while strengthening a network of key artists who would otherwise langush alone.
Touring Bands have utilzed this principle to swap gigs from city to city. Some have pushed further by keeping other acts informed about shady promoters and suspect venues. The Artists support each other by recommending the best places to play, stay and eat. The fallout has created a dynamic community which champions the growth of our industry.
Competition, while looking good in theory never works in favor of the EM. You should absolutely go out on stage and Kick Butt – Big Time – But In Between those times, you want to work WITH your fellow artists, not against them.
Try this: the Very Next Time you have information or resources beneficial to musicians at large, share it openly. Have three or four other bands you keep in contact with frequently and share the love. Watch what happens. Before you know it, you’ve increased your knowledege base and your potential to move into markets you may have never known existed.
Form a relationship with a good music business attorney and afterward check ot that Swedish Singer who wants to co-publish a tune and collaborate online, take her up on it!
Tell Us: What steps have you taken to Collaborate with Other Artists?
Who Are They? Turn Us on to Their and Your material!
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Musical Life Seasons!

Living in Northeast Ohio teaches you to respect change. You’re going to experience it constantly!


Especially in the area of weather. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. Different clothes, Foods and Attitude match each one. Our culture here accepts, embraces and encourages each associated activity. What’s immediately apparent is if we see someone wearing a color or particular style of clothing not ‘in season,” they’re going to hear about it!
As we transition into winter, I am reminded of a conversation I had last week with a fellow musician about acknowledging his season – in life. He is an extremely gifted saxophonist who has just entered his third year of music at the local university. His schedule has been bombarded with workshops, lessons and endless theory courses. He also teaches, plays in several bands to pay bills at bay and sleep seems evasive. He eats on the way to his next class and although grateful for the two pair of jeans he has, wanted to be done with the drudgery of it all.
While we talked, I noted that he & I are in two different seasons of life. Although I don’t have a formal musical education, I can look back 20 years at the hustle of that time,struggling to make my bones as a drummer. Now with a beautiful wife, three daughters and two mortgages, my concerns are completely different. I was able to give some advice that, I hope, encouraged him to continue onward and not lose heart.
Interestingly, life has more than four seasons. There are times of abundance and prosperity, where it seems there’s not a care in the world. Other times, there may be illness, bereavement or heartache. There are times of incredible inactivity, when it seems that you can’t get a project off the ground or brighter seasons when every single thing you touch is golden!
The bottom line is to realize and embrace the season. Don’t curse it – even when the wind is not blowing in your direction. Seek to Learn any Lessons and implement them.
If you find yourself in Winter, prepare for the Springtime – it’s Coming!
As I write this, it is an unseasonably warm 56 degrees in mid December! I’m calling this a Brand New Season, because when I was growing up, and just a few years ago, we would’ve been waist deep in snow by now. I guess I should be ready for anything….
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Are You Too Social to Make a Connection?

I should not have deleted the invitation I received last Thursday. I remember doing it hastily, with a degree of disgust seething from my lips.

There was a brand new social network on the horizon and some bubbly, new anonymous “Friend,” (or was it “Pal”?) wanted me to hop on.

My reaction caused me to stop and think about the many distractions Entrepreneurial Musician’s face, which are described as networking but are actually nothing more that time killers. Many of these platforms do nothing to create opportunities to help our careers or to provide us an opp to assist others.

Unless we become the wiser…

An EM’s primary goal on each of the networks is to connect and engage with likeminded associates to create vital opportunities for each other. The Keywords are CONNECT & ENGAGE.

While it’s cool to max out your Personal & Fan FB pages, be Linked In to Tweet & Follow absolutely everyone on Foursquare in your Google+ Circles, if you don’t really know the people involved, you have painted yourself into a social dilemma. Now you’ll have to spend even more time undoing the damage to get back on point.

This was my biggest mistake when I first climbed aboard the social bandwagon. I thought numbers were the key to more CD sales, Tickets Sold and Website Traffic back to my site, so I committed myself, garnering more “Friends & Followers” than any intelligent human had time for. To my dismay, more of them “liked” the postings about my wife’s delicious peach cobbler than cared about attending my next gig!

So I began to pay more attention to my invitations, especially on Linked In, which has a higher capacity to specifically pinpoint people in your industry creating dialogue unique to your situation.

Four times a year – and especially at the end of each year, I will survey my Friends, Pals, Followers, etc. I send out an email reiterating my purpose for participating on that particular platform (say that 3 times fast). I make sure I include all of my contact information and any pertinent links for them to check out songs, videos or anything that will help engage them – and then – I ask them to do the same and make the short presentation that I am willing to help them however I can – whether its helping to secure gigs in my region, production opportunities, general assistance or more importantly, to build a relationship.

This method has worked so well in mining for true EMs and has paid off in ways that go far beyond mere money. I’ve obtained oodles of advice, references, pointers, contacts and seen just how very small the real world is, once we’ve dialogued about other musicians we’ve known and gigged with.

So Let’s Go. Stop pining for Sociality and seek out real opportunities to grow a true network of people you actually, truly and thoroughly connect with. 500 True Connections are Far Better than 5000 Faces you don’t even know!

I’d appreciate you sharing your strategies here as to how you’ve grown your network.

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Tis the Season of enjoying the merriment of wonderful Christmas music! Yet somehow as we wander thru the maze of perceived sales, picking thru the circulars of what should be on the shelves, we can get a little dizzy listening to the same playlist of muzak themed endorsements circa 1958.


It’s always refreshing to find new approaches to traditional holiday melodies that resonate the true spirit of the season. Today, I introduce three CDs from two artists with future household names. This music is both profound and engaging. They have become my favorite choices in the car and around the tree as Lori, our daughters and I sip hot chocolate and decorate everything in sight!
Phillip K Jones II has released two very different and distinct Christmas discs which are an extension of his musical personality. As a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory, PKJ is extremely prolific in the depths of jazz. Also being a Praise and Worship leader who grew up as an organist / director in his dad’s church, Phil’s choir enraptures a hearty Christmas, with sensational jazz sensibilities.
His first holiday release, appropriately titled “The Meaning of Christmas,”  begins with the sterling’What Child is This‘ featuring exceptional saxophonist, Diego Rivera and proceeds to reconstruct the passion of the most sacred traditional favorites like ‘We Three Kings,’  ‘O Holy Night,’  ‘Angels, We Have Heard on High’ and ‘O Come, Emmanuel’ as well as the popular  ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ and ‘Carol of the Bells’  which features former SounDoctrine sideman, Keith McKelley, who released his own holiday project last year. ‘Hark, The Herald Angels Sing,’ the lone choral selection is a sparkling rendition of the classic, oddly reminiscent of the Andrew Sisters for the new school!
This 2008 release features the multitalented Jones on Piano, Organ, Bass and Drums with help from Christopher Mees (Acoustic Bass) and Tony Pulitzi (Guitar). If you’re a fan of Oscar Peterson, John Coltrane or Kenny Kirkland, this is perfect music for keeping the zing in your Christmas Party!
Phil releasedCome Let Us Adore Him in 2011, utilizing the gifted voices of Cleveland choir, Fellow Worshippers.
No doubt about it, this CD takes you straight to the altar!
To prove his dexterity, the fiery pianist completely revamps the aforementioned ‘Angels’ for the wailing choir then places them in a scenic cathedral for the brimming ‘Emmanuel.’  If you’re hip to the term “Get Your Praise On!” you can’t help but do so on ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain.’ Musical disciples of Kirk Franklin & Fred Hammond will appreciate the snappy “Joy To The World’ and the original composition, ‘Angels, from the Realm of Glory.’ The CD provides many contemplative moments to bow and worship The King with ‘Lord, I Thank You,’  ‘It Came Upon A Midnight Clear’ and ‘Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne.’ 
This thrill packed set displays the prowess of anointed, faith filled, expert musicianship, superb production and a choir perfectly comfortable balancing the acrobatic tightrope of jazzy syncopation and the power of pentecost!
Serene, reflective and meditative are a few of the words that come to mind when I put on Jim Couchenour’s (pronounced Coke-In_Hour) “Quiet Canvas Christmas.” You will need: a) a fireplace; b) warm pajamas and c) lots of cocoa!
This third component to Jim’s ethereal Quiet Canvas series is all about slowing life down a few notches and how much more so during the often hectic Christmas season when, instead of satisfying the merchants’ marketing whims, we should all be calm, patient and graceful. The very first notes of ‘Carol of the Bells’  begins the descent and transitions us from the bustling workday to a soothing ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’
Couchenour’s solo piano on ‘White Christmas,’ string laden ‘Silent Night in 5ths’ and ‘In the Bleak Mid Winter’ caresses your spirit and helps keep the joy of the season in perspective. Creating a little fun with ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Jingle’  and ‘Yuletide Medley,’  Jim skips through holiday favorites with the radiance of carolers outside your door. ‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen’ is performed with such honor and finesse, it may become the new standard. The original ‘Still With Us’ showcases his singing, which is equally as laid back as his piano.  
QC Christmasis the quintessential evidence that faith, family, friends and fellowship are the four cornerstones of Christmas. Repeated listening of this masterful work creates a wondrous atmosphere of enlightenment that will shine in every heart that listens. Fans of George Winston & Jim Brickman will feel right at home with this disc in your collection.
I am honored to be able to call both of these gentlemen true friends, that they are also fellow Niayana Recording Artists and that their music is touching lives around the world. 
You can still purchase multiple copies of these CDs in time to give as stocking stuffers or download into your media players to chill you out as you prepare for the wonder of this holy advent season.
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Playing FAIR!

Lately there have been so many stories online about the inequity  of Pandora VS the Artists. I had planned on blogging soon and expanding my thoughts to include Spotify, iTunes, iHeart and other aggregators who stream our music, make millions and pay us $0.0001 per spin. I’m still working on that.


But in the immediacy of this occasion, I want to share some links of articles I have read which really help to explain the Pandora debacle and how this affects you as an artist and composer.
I have participated in some of the forums, as well as the open letter to add my name to the growing list of concerned EMs who want a level playing field. I trust you will take the time to read carefully and share with us other articles and links you find so we can all remain abreast of AND get involved in this growing issue.
The absolute bottom line is that none of these companies would exist without music. Let’s shake up the industry…again!
(Please Note as You link below: some key legislative dates have already past)
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Fan or Friend?

Early On, as SounDoctrine was beginning to make some waves, we noticed people who began to follow us around from show to show – even city to city. We were intrigued that some would rearrange their schedules to hang out with us and it was our pleasure to make them feel as welcome as possible, both before and after our shows.

Nobody in the band had any male diva in their bones, so we wouldn’t mind staying on for hours after the gig talking and taking pictures, signing autographs and sharing laughs.
We would shout out to them from the stage: Mary Ann Bryant!! Pat & Dennis Nelson! JJ & Michelle Joseph!! the One & Only
MR LUCKY!! Wanda Best!! Carol Boswell!! James Jackson!! These relationships grew and transcended from fans we played for, to friends we really prayed with.
Some would extend room and board when we were in town. Wanda took to maintaining our CD sales for us and even made doggone sure the promoters promptly paid us – Melanie would introduce us to influential DJs and help set us up in better venues. These were die hard loyalists who made sure the train stayed on track and the music stayed on the air.
As a result, I began to question what I could do to extend a friendship to everyone who came in contact with our music.
So I immediately erased the word “fan” from our website and social media and replaced it with “friendship,” changing the name of our newsletter to the SounDoctrine Friendship. I then created a Family Section with extra special content for those who we felt were beyond surface definition. We are in constant touch and they know before anyone else when we’re working on new stuff and keep us informed on the changes in their lives and cities.
We are trying in many ways to improve the experience from the first time someone visits our site by offering them a free song and inviting them to our blog immediatey. Yet, as we simplify our site and streamline our content to build relationships, we are mindful that friendships take time to cultivate, so we won’t move so quickly.
You too will need to navigate the balance between who your fans are and who true supporters of your music and career are.
What steps have you taken to build a lasting bridge to them?
Let me know! I’d love to hear what you’re doing!
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