Monthly Archives: July 2015

How to Tell When You’ve “Made It”

As I Write This Post, My Band SounDoctrine’s New Single “Stop On By,” featuring Smooth Jazz Guitar Wiz, Eric Tyus is in the third week of a National BDS Radio Campaign. We’re Biting Our Nails, Sometimes Drawing Blood as the Tuesday Adds Come in and (Not Many) More Stations Report whether they are Playing Us Or Not. In the Meantime, I Am Frantically Juggling Musician & Studio Schedules, Trying to Complete the CD before the Radio Cycle Finalizes while Balancing Family & Ministry. Life is Good.

We Live in a Quaint House with a Wonderful Backyard on a Quiet Street, doors away from our city’s Mayor. My Wife & Daughters couldn’t be more Beautiful or Sweeter. We have Our Faith, Health, Laughter, Food, Clothing, Running Water, Gas in the Cars and the Internet. Life Is Good.

I’ve had the Highs & Lows of Fronting an Originalternativefunkjazzfusion Ensemble (Often All on The Same Day!) We’ve had Gigs where the Promoter paid both the Deposit and our Asking Price with Zero Hick-Ups and other times where I actually saw the Club Owner literally walk out the Front Door with Our Money, Winking At Me while we’re In the Middle of Our Set! How Do I Explain THIS to The Bass Player? Then there was that time in Baltimore where the Agent Never Showed Up to Pay Us although the Place was Packed! In Fact, that might have been the Same Tour where we Played Four Promotional (Read FREE) Shows in a Row to Promote either our latest CD or Someone Else’s Charitable Event for “Exposure…!!”

We’ve Ferociously Chased “The Dream.” We’ve Read the Articles, Attended the Workshops and Conventions, gone through our Fair Share of Saxophonists, Had the Arguments, Sold Out Boxes of CDs, Begged for Downloads, Slept on Floors, Left Audiences in Ovation Screaming for More, Been Unfriended on FB by Former Bandmates, Been Heckled & Booed, Rehearsed One Song for 9 Hours for 25 seconds of TV Time, Had Equipment Stolen and are Now Available on Apple Music. This is Living!

Yet, In All of My Experiences, with No Grammy in Hand, or JayZ Bank Account to boast, I keep the Memory of an Email I received in Early 2003 by a Middle Aged Woman from Pittsburgh, whose Mother was Dying of Cancer and requested her daughter repeatedly play “Under The Shadow” from our debut “Perseverance” CD until ‘she was in the arms of her Jesus’ and wrote to thank me for composing that song.

So When I Get that nagging, negative “You Ain’t Done Diddly in All These Years!?” Voice whispering in my left ear, I Remind Myself of a God Given Gift that Transcends My Own Desires and Touched the Heart of Another who clung to my music when she needed it most and I realize how truly Blessed I Am.

I’m sure You Are Too…

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Last Week, we discussed the importance of traveling the Narrower Road in terms of Your Life, Priorities & Position(s). In this post, I wish to hone in on the EntreMusician’s Art, where absolutely everything peripheral must be stripped away to Zero In on the One Thing immediately recognizable about You every time.

Is it a Color, a Philosophy, a Shape, Symbol? Your Signature Sound, Song or Your Bony Knees!? This goes far beyond Branding & Marketing and gets to the Heart of “Definition” – Down to One Word or One Person (if you are a group) that becomes the focal point in your tribe’s psyche which perpetuates continual engagement.

You Must Find It and Wrap All of your Artistry Around It or else you will be chasing rabbit trails throughout your career. You may find this to be Very Hard Work, taking longer in the beginning, sometimes years to hone and perfect, but once you have consistently projected Your Narrowest Singular Expression, never veering, your audience will catch on and hang on. Make ‘Laser Like Focus & Repetition’ Your New Best Friends.

It did not matter that Prince was a Musical Genius who played 27 instruments (you’d think it would), but he had to whittle down to the lowest common, three lettered word denominator to build his audience and sell the most records. Even 25 years later after becoming a JW and using a Symbol for his name has not removed his original testimony from the minds of his followers. The Rolling Stones needed Mick Jagger to be the focus to drive them into superstardom and if that were not enough, they decided to cement their position by making his Lips the imprint of their band! The band Kiss later followed suit with Gene Simmons’ Tongue. I am sure bassist Marcus Miller noticed that many others had tried to copy his Sound, Compression & EQ settings. He even begin selling his Signature Fender Precision Bass, but his playing, that “pluck” continues to set him apart from every other bassist alive. Further, John Patitucci, Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten & Larry Graham have all perfected Different Approaches to the Same Technique and You Can Tell! Bette Midler’s Nose, Cindy Lauper’s Hair, Chaka Khan’s Voice and Betty Davis’ Eyes (couldn’t resist) are all reminders that Anything on Anyone is a Prime Asset once made the Center of Attention.

So Your Assignment is to Mine the Treasures of Your Originality. Go Deep. Get Small. Tiny, Even! You May Have 1,374 valuable components about your band, your music, your songs, equipment, recording techniques, style, genre, logo and mission statement. Great! Pick ONE and then Pick Away at The One Thing in that One which Everyone who Hears about you will remember and cling two, everytime your name is uttered.

SounDoctrine Music is “Originalternativefunkjazzfusion!” Since January 12, 2002. Times Change. Personnel Change. The Logo & Look gets tweaked. The Ministry Never Does!

I wasn’t listening to any music while writing this blog, but have really been digging John Patitucci’s “Brooklyn” my eldest daughter Tejai got me for Father’s Day! check It Out

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The Most Important Question an EntreMusician Must Ask themselves Daily is NOT, “What should I Do?”

It’s “Who Am I?”

Many of us can get caught up in our To Do Lists and further distracted by Each Ability we utilize in our Artistry that it’s very easy to lose focus on Who We Actually Are.

I Confess that Early On I really enjoyed describing myself as a “Composer/Producer/Musician/Actor/Blogger” and by the way I am a Husband/Father/Pastor who enjoys Documentaries, reading Biographies and playing Volleyball. Additionally, I play Drums, Keyboards & Bass, perhaps not very well, but I play them and I can engineer and mix and master the record too! Yada…..I was being STUPID!

Age & Wisdom are teaching me the importance of not only reevaluating all of my activities, but strip away the dross from each to Live from my Core Identity. Sure, I write a substantial amount of songs, for my own projects, but I am no Diane Warren or other great song smith who churns out hit after hit for a wide variety of artists. And while I Can play drums & other instruments on recordings and even on stage doesn’t mean I should! The Producer in me dictates What needs to be Where and advises me on the best musicians to utilize, which are most often NOT Myself, because the goal is to make the absolute best song possible. Therefore, I am a Producer.

Before I am a Father and a Pastor, I am Husband to One Wife, Lori. Before Marriage, I am a Man of Faith, so Absolutely Everything I Do emanates from the foundation of my beliefs and I cannot vacillate. There can be no activity in my life that springs from any other place, especially in how I Love My Wife & Daughters and Serve My Fellowman.

Take a Moment This Week and Go Deeper into Your Identity. Get an Extremely Narrow Focus on Who you Are First & Foremost. Make a List of All of Your Regular Activities and Group Them According to The Real You – NOT Your Position or Title, but Your Spirit. See How Much Clarity You gain as the busyness grinds to a halt, allowing You Better Concentration on what’s Most Important.

Next Week, we’ll look at how a Narrower Mindset applies to Your Artistry.

Stubbornness is A Virtue 

As I write this post, I am only minutes away from returning from the burial of one of my dearest friends – my ‘soul sister’ in fact,  Heather Tiree Hynek. For the last Six and a half years, I have had the distinct pleasure to journey with her, husband Aaron and daughter Violet Grace, whom the doctors said she should abort, before undergoing aggressive chemo treatments. She refused to abort Violet, took on the chemo and various surgeries and valiantly soldiered ahead. On last Tuesday, Heather won her battle once and for all.

I have gained a greater perspective on life through observaton and walking alongside Aaron & Heather. As their Friend & Pastor, I was graced with an access all areas view of how they chose to live out their faith, transparently and single-mindedly through every high & low, tear & smile and every optimistic & disappointing medical report. As I watched, prayed and held their hands, I grew.

Heather Hynek was a Stubborn Woman. Completely Headstrong – and I mean that in the most positive, adoring way. I teased her about it while admiring her for it. Often Against Doctor’s Orders and sometimes amidst frustration to Aaron’s wishes, she dogmatically determined to Live Life on Her Terms, Confident in her Lord and His plans for her. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Enviornmental Science at Youngstown State Univeristy, in class, while taking treatments and facing surgeries. She would Google and study the diagnosis she battled and the treatments she was being described. Her pragmatism increased her life span of the doctor’s original six month sentence to Six Determined Years.

All EntreMusicians stand to gain much through the Virtue of Stubborness. Confidence, Endurance, Perseverance & Faith in the face of Intense Oppositon, Pain, Fear, Confusion and Dissolution means that You Win, Even When You’re Buried. Your Accomplishments, Character, Spirit and the Legacy You Leave Live On. No One Can Take Away Your Achievements nor the Indelible Mark You Make in History and On the Word.

So Fight, Valiantly. Second Guess the Experts. Learn All You Can &  Apply All You Learn. Grit Your Teeth. Hold Your Loved Ones Close as Frustration Accosts You, But STAND FIRM & FIGHT!!

I Thank Almighty God for Heather, a heroine whose life set yet another remakable example.   


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