The 2-year hiatus is over. Welcome back, John.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a nudge to get this blog going again. When I went to post something I realized, “it’s been over 2 years since my last post!” Yikes. Sorry about that.

While there aren’t any fireworks celebrating my return to the blogosphere, I will say that I’m excited to get writing again. I’ve changed a few things to this blog as I do so:

*a new layout. gotta keep with the times.

*added some space for my most recent tweets (I’m on twitter now. lots has changed in 2 years!)

*I changed the subheading/purpose for this blog from “Thoughts about God, music and other spheres of life” to be more specific…“Connecting the dots between pursuance of Christ and life as a musician.” Now that I’m tweeting regularly about anything and everything, I’ve been desiring an outlet where I can specifically share thoughts of mine as I walk out my life as a Christian musician. For those who don’t know me well, my faith is the most integral part of my life. It informs everything I do and it’s what I treasure and love the most (or at least what I want to treasure and love the most – I don’t always keep my priorities straight). I’m no expert at how integrate my faith with my life as a musician. And I’m not a “seasoned vet” at this point either. However, there have been a few things I’ve learned over the years, as well as things that I’m currently learning, that I believe are worth sharing for those that are interested.

*I’ve added some others sites/blogs that I frequent regularly. These now include other musicians that I’m close with who are seeking to live out their faith in Christ through what they do. Each of these friends are amazingly talented at what they do, and they powerfully live out the Gospel as full-time musicians. Certainly not an exhaustive list but check these folks out if you’re interested.

I can’t promise how often I’ll write (I did once and that obviously didn’t turn out well). But what I can promise is that this blog will exist, and I hope it’s a means of encouragement and exhortation for you.

With all that said, let the blogging begin (again).


My Short List of Contemporary Jazz Artists You Should Dig

I was recently asked at a camp I taught at to list off a bunch of contemporary jazz artists for some great, eager students who didn’t have much knowledge of modern jazz musicians. PREFACE: There are so many incredible modern jazz artists right now that I can’t possibly list them all. SO, this is my preface in giving this *short* list of folks that I think you NEED to check out if you don’t have much knowledge of modern jazz artists.

(Specifically, Shell Lake Trumpet Camp folk – this is for you!)

Here goes:

TRUMPET PLAYERS (Ambrose Akinmusire, Avishai Cohen, Ingrid Jensen, Alex Sipiagin, Terence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove, Sean Jones)

TENOR SAX (Walter Smith III, Chris Potter, Donny McCaslin, Mark Turner, Joshua Redman)

ALTO (Dave Binney, Miguel Zenon, Greg Osby, Tim Green, Jaleel Shaw)

PIANO (Brad Mehldau, Gerald Clayton, Robert Glasper, Aaron Parks, Jason Moran)

BASS (Christian McBride, John Patitucci, Esperanza Spalding, Linda Oh, Ben Williams)

DRUMS (Eric Harland, Brian Blade, Bill Stewart, Kendrick Scott, Lewis Nash)

GROUPS (Brian Blade Fellowship Band, Vijay Iyer Trio, Joe Lovano “Us Five”, Kneebody, Kurt Rosenwinkel Group)


JRP records June 21-22 + Journal Entries Giveaway

So I’m becoming increasingly more stoked to record my debut record in just a few days. I’m so blessed to be doing it with amazing musicians and friends including:

-guitarist Gilad Hekselman (

-pianist Javier Santiago (

-bassist Raviv Markovitz

-drummer Cory Cox (

as well as featuring:

-alto saxophonist Tim Green (

-pianist Gerald Clayton (

I’m also excited because I’m nearing the completion of editing the collection of journal entries that I gave away through the Kickstarter Project for the record. It’s basically 15 or so reflections that give an inside look on my thoughts and feelings as I’ve gone through the entire process (essentially making up for my serious lack of blogging in the last year).

AND…If you didn’t get them thru Kickstarter you’re in luck. From now until July 1, If you donate ANY amount to the project via paypal I’ll give you the entire collection of journal entires FREE! Yup, that’s just how badly I want to share this whole process with you. Yup, that’s about right.

Hope you can be a part of it. Thanks for your prayers and support! Soli deo gloria!

May 2011 Midwest Tour

After months of getting all the pieces together, I’m excited to finally announce the dates for the Midwest Tour I’m doing with good friend and incredible saxophonist Adam Larson. We’ll be doing lots of original music from members of the band (Nils Weinhold (guitar), Raviv Markovitz (bass) & Bastian Weinhold (drums) – all up-and-coming musicians in New York City) as we host a number of clinics as well as some marquee shows that we’d love to see you at if you’re in the area. All the details are below – hope to see you out!

5/9 – Puppet’s Jazz Club (New York, NY) // 6:00-8:30pm ($5)

5/10 – The Shrine (New York, NY) // 7:00-8:00pm

5/13 – Champlain Park High School clinic/performance (Champlain Park, MN)

5/13 – Eastview High School clinic & jazz concert (Apple Valley, MN)

5/14 – Dakota Jazz Club (Minneapolis, MN) // 11:30pm-1:30am ($5)

5/15 – Artist’s Quarter Jazz Club (St. Paul, MN) // 7:00pm & 9:00pm sets ($10)

5/16 – Hopkins High School clinic/performance (Minnetonka, MN)

5/16 – Edina High School clinic/performance (Edina, MN)

5/17 – Regis High School clinic/performance (Eau Claire, WI)

5/17 – Bull Falls Brewery (Wausau, WI)

5/18 – Evanston Township High School clinic/performance (Evanston, IL)

5/18 – Skokie Theater (Skokie, IL) // 7:00pm

5/19 – Quincy High School clinic/performance (Quincy, IL)

5/19 – Carl Sandburg Jr. College (Galesville, IL)

5/20 – Vito’s in Kankakee (Kankakee, IL)

5/21 – New Trier High School clinic/performance (Winnetka, IL)

5/21 – Paul Maslin’s Woodwind Shop (IL) // 12:00-2:00pm

5/23 – Jazz Showcase (Chicago, IL) // 8:00pm & 10:00pm sets ($15/$10 cover)

5/24 – SaxQuest (St. Louis, MO)

5/25 – Illinois Central College PAC (Peoria, IL)

5/26 – The Normal Ampitheater (Bloomington, IL)

5/27 – McClean County Arts Center (Bloomington, IL)

5/28 – Carl’s Pro Band clinic (Bloomington, IL)

5/28 – Eaton Art Gallery (Bloomington, IL)

5/29 – First Presbyterian Church Vespers Service (Galesburg, IL)

Blog Repost: The New Record Deal

I recently read this very well-thought out and articulated blog post by fellow trumpeter and friend Kelly Rossum. Definitely worth checking out and thinking about…here’s the entire post with the link to Kelly’s blog as well.

The New Record Deal (by Kelly Rossum)

“Have University positions become the new major label record deal for today’s jazz musician? When I moved to New York in the late ’80s/early ’90s, [we] were either looking to play in the band of someone famous or to get signed by a major record label. Today, since neither is an option, university positions seem to be the “new hustle,” as one of my colleagues likes to put it.” – Sam Newsome, quoted from Downbeat, June 2010. He is on faculty at Long Island University Brooklyn Campus.

The Past

The legendary “Record Deal” is an endangered species. It was the golden gateway to success throughout the history of jazz. An artist would get signed by a label, go into a recording studio, capture lightning in a bottle, and walk out with a paycheck. More importantly, this was the only way to get your music distributed to record stores across the country, and eventually into the hands of eager listeners. The label would hopefully make money because of the artist’s work and in turn provide a certain amount of support for live performances, in order to sell more records. This circle of life evolved slowly, from 78’s through the Compact Disc, it was the law of the land. This was the Jazz Dream.

The Record Deal provided musicians a needed supplementary income to assist with their performance career. All great jazz musicians spent time in the studio, in order to walk out with a check. Touring was the heart of every career, but the income and exposure from the label’s marketing department, provided the skeletal support and the public image needed for their livelihood.

As jazz aged and became more socially acceptable, it was introduced into academia. At this time, a musician either primarily taught jazz as a career or they would primarily perform jazz as a career. Not to diminish in any way the greatness of their mission, these early jazz educators were heroes in their own right. They had to create entire curricula, essentially constructing the entire industry of jazz education. They had to bravely defend the artform from the highbrow attacks of traditional classical methodologists deeply fortified within the Ivory Tower. They have succeeded, the point has been proven. We need jazz education.

There is still a false assumption that this concept of teach vs. play is relevant, even when dancing along the lines of a “teacher who plays” or a “player who teaches”. When a young musician thinks, “I’m going to make it as a player,” what does that really mean these days? Or, “I’m going to be a teacher,” and teach WHAT exactly?

Times are changing. Remember, this year’s Grammy Award for “Best New Artist” went to a Jazz Professor at Berklee College of Music.

The Present

The old industry chain of: Record Deal – Label – Distributor – Record Store – Consumer, is dead and gone. Big labels are toast. Distributors, well… (who?? ‘nuff said). I gotta say though, that I do miss the record stores. I loved flipping through the vinyl and the cassettes looking for new music. The record store was one of the two types of stores I could ever enjoy browsing as a consumer, the other being a good book store.

In addition to the death of the Record Deal and the disappearance of all that it brought to the table for jazz musicians, touring has come to a standstill. The heart of our artform has some serious cholesterol issues. Gas is above $3 a gallon, as compared to less than a dollar during most of jazz’s history. Jazz clubs can’t afford to stay open, let along pay the band. And sadly, because of the natural passing of time, the jazz greats, who could lead a band that would always draw a crowd, have all but vanished from the scene. Marquee acts are hard to find these days. The Big Label marketing machine has disappeared and the next generation of jazz greats is struggling (along with the rest of the music industry) to get their music noticed in the sea of information called the Internet. What was once a trickle of free music has become a flood.

The current industry path for music is: Home (or cheap) Recording, upload directly to the web, to be downloaded immediately by the consumer. Remember feeling guilty when copying a buddy’s record onto cassette tape? Well that’s NOTHING compared to free downloading. Check this site out, YouTube Mp3. C’mon, most kids don’t even own a stereo.

So with touring at a crawl and record income eradicated by free downloads, how does a performing jazz musician stay afloat? Education. Look closely at the touring musicians’ calendars, an unusually high percentage of appearances are within some sort of academic environment. Clinics, festivals and guest appearances at high schools and universities are some of the most lucrative performance venues these days. And if they are lucky, they may even get an adjunct teaching gig in their hometown. This is not an accident. It is however, a secret. Performers still want to be considered Jazz Musicians, not Jazz Educators. Because of our twisted vision of marketing (which is still based on the old Record Label hierarchy), everyone feels threatened. Since there is still money in jazz education, there is a feeling of envy and resentment towards teachers from players who are struggling. There is also an odd feeling of insecurity from teachers who choose not to perform (for whatever reason) and they feel threatened by the image of the touring professional. When the going gets tough, everyone gets jealous.

It’s time for these negative dis-associations to stop. If you teach you CAN play. If you perform, you ARE qualified to teach. It is NOT one or the other, it’s BOTH.

Perhaps the coveted university gig has indeed become the New Record Deal. Here’s a short (and incomplete) list of performing jazz trumpeters and their respective “labels”:



Donald Byrd, one of my early heroes on the horn, has taught music at Rutgers University, the Hampton Institute, New York University, Howard University, Queens College, Oberlin College, Cornell University and Delaware State University. (source: Wikipedia)

For every jazz trumpeter with a teaching gig, there are at least 10 who are looking, in hopes of finding a good fit. I know some heavy cats in NYC (and elsewhere) who are actively applying for University jobs. It’s a difficult market. They not only are competing with the multitude of recent jazz school graduates, but they themselves may need to go back to school to pursue a graduate degree, just to satisfy the university’s strict employment policies. This is our current reality.

Of course teaching at a university is much more than getting signed to a record label. Don’t let my analogy here belie my deep commitment to Jazz Education.

Now to finally bring my blog up to date…

Last August (2010) I accepted a Visiting Assistant Professor / Director of Jazz Studies position, at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. This appointment has kept me traveling back and forth between Alabama and New York (and Minnesota). The school’s former Jazz Director and Trumpet Professor, Chip Crotts, built a fantastic Jazz Ensemble program during his tenure here and it’s been an honor to re-establish the program as one of the state’s premier jazz destinations. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with these talented student musicians here at JSU.

The Future

I have just (March 2011) accepted a tenure track position as Director of Jazz Studies back east at Christopher Newport University in Virginia, to begin August 15, 2011. I’m truly very excited to join their esteemed faculty and to develop a program specifically addressing the needs of a modern jazz musician.

A bit of advice to those musicians who are just graduating college and are planning to pursue a career in jazz: if you are hoping to get a college teaching gig to supplement your performance career, you are now competing with top-level professional jazz musicians. Not too long ago, those same musicians weren’t looking for University jobs, they didn’t need to…

The upside of this future reality is the global exportation of jazz musicians. The young jazz musicians of the world are already coming to the United States to study jazz, and our Jazz Artists (performers/teachers) are increasingly relocating to other countries to pursue their modern jazz careers. This trend will not only increase, it will become the United States’ primary artistic export to the world.

What I Learned About Playing the Trumpet in 2010

Yes, I know this blog is coming in March of 2011 and 2010 seems like FOREVER ago. My bad. Turns out I’ve got so many things going on that I haven’t had a second to think about blogging this year. That being said, here’s a post I’ve been wanting to share for a while – What I Learned About Playing the Trumpet: 2010 edition.

-You can’t be creative & critical at the same time. I continue to learn that better trumpet playing comes directly as a result of letting go of judgement and critique of myself while I’m in the process of playing. My dad has told me this phrase a ton of times and I’m slowly getting it more and more. When I let my sound and my overall level of playing be what it’s going to be in a given moment – imperfections and all – I can then finally operate out of a creative mindset which ultimately leads to better playing. (Inner Game 101…)

It’s all about the air. Whenever I run into trouble with consistency, upper register, clarity, etc. I’m almost positive now that it’s because I’m not letting my air do the work. I often try to manipulate the sound while I’m playing (my next point…) and therefore my air can’t work like it’s supposed to. Not necessarily more air either – just using my air stream efficiently and like I would take a natural breath.

I should approach playing with the goal of being totally in control at all times, while letting my sound be utterly “wild” and “free.” This is a beautiful dichotomy to me: while I must be in control of what’s happening all the time (having a “closed hand” approach with regards to concentration), my sound must always have the maximum amount of uninhibited energy and forward motion (having an “open hand” approach here). For a long time I believed that to get this kind of freedom in my sound I have to totally let go of my mind’s control over the sound and over what I’m playing. This was my idea of “concentration.” However, I’m discovering more and more that true concentration means that my mind is in total control at all times. The best playing comes from a concentrated/focused mind that has its imagination deeply fixed on a free, energetic great sound (whether loud/soft, high/low, etc.)

-Doing the Adam Routine in the morning is not a warm up. For a long time I think I believed that my daily Adam routine serves me as a warm up to get my air, chops & mind going for the day. After re-reading some excellent posts on by Pat Harbison (Trumpet Professor, Indiana University & Bill Adam Forum moderator), I was reminded clearly that the Adam routine isn’t a warm up at all. In fact, I think this goes totally against the mindset that Mr. Adam seeks to foster. Rather than seeing the routine as a warm up, Harbison suggests that it is more of a time to “get in phase with the trumpet.” This means that the trumpet obviously isn’t going to change, we do. So every day we need to orient ourselves to the trumpet with regards to air, control, and concentration. I love these great quotes from Mr. Harbison,

“I don’t NEED to warm up and I don’t even NEED to practice. Practicing shows a lack of self confidence. I like to practice though.”

“Any good player (and definitely any pro) needs to be able to play well (to be “warmed up”) 5 minutes after they get out of the car and hit the stage or the studio. However, the deeper I get into my playing day (and the more of my daily routine I work through) the better I will play.”

-Long tones are my best friend. For real…long tones unlock the depths and nuances of the sound and the more I do them the deeper I get into what this thing is supposed to sound like.

-Upper register playing really doesn’t take more air. Those who were around me while I was at UW-Eau Claire know that upper register was something that only started to click my last year there. As I continue to build my range and try and get things more consistent I continue to learn that it’s not about putting more air into the horn. Rather, it’s about putting relaxed air into the horn that is moving forward.

-I need to be more diligent about playing a soft set each day. I’ve definitely become better at practicing softer but I need to continue to strive for more lyrical etudes and flow exercises. Just like how long tones unlock nuances of the trumpet sound, soft playing does the same and really teaches me to use my air correctly and efficiently.

-Conscious Rhythm (as well as evenness to the sound & a songlike, lyrical-ness to playing) comes from surrendering to the “time.” Todd Coolman – world-class bassist/educator & my professor at SUNY Purchase –  says it well when he says, “time is a never-ending continuum that is always happening – you just have to join in.” I think another way to illustrate this concept is the idea of a relay race. When a runner is coming around the turn and you have to take the baton from him, you obviously don’t stand still and wait for him to give it to you. If you did that you’d ruin the momentum that he’s already gathered and you’ll fall way behind the other racers. Same thing applies to “time.” It is always occurring and therefore I don’t need to create time myself (if I try I wreck the flow that is already naturally happening). I just need to join in, step for step, with wherever the time is at. When we do this, we surrender ourselves to the time and it almost “pulls” us as we let it dictate our playing. I’ve found that, for me, this results in an incredible difference in my execution, ease of playing, lyrical-ness of my playing, and the evenness of everything I play.


**to note, I’m surely not an expert in trumpet playing now. I definitely don’t have things figured out and I’m far from being the player I want to be. Rather, these are certain things that have been incredibly enlightening to me in the past year and have drastically changed how I approach playing the trumpet. Please feel free to question or comment in any way, especially if I wasn’t clear with my words.

Ideas on Patronage

In my digging around online I’ve been reading some great blogs and articles having to do with the idea of patronage.

PATRONAGE: the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another.

The more I think about this concept and how it could potentially apply in the 21st Century, the more I seem to think that this is how artists are meant to survive. It seems stupid to want to try and earn a living through CD/merch sales unless you’re a crazy huge artist like Kanye. And although touring extensively can pay the bills to some extent, artists I’ve talked to can’t say enough about how taxing the road can be (as well as that the expenses that come from touring make the overall profit a very small number). But the patronage model makes perfect sense to me – why not have the public support artists through donation, if nothing else because they enjoy their work and believe in what they’re doing and want to support them to continue doing what they are gifted to do? One thing I love about this idea in particular is that it would free up artists to not rely solely on the market and the mass public’s approval of them. Rather, they would be receiving their finances from people who love what they have to offer to the world through their art. The more I think about it the better it sounds each time…

Two interesting things I’ve found online talk about this idea of patronage that I’ve found very thought-provoking and helpful.

**The first is a blog post by Darcy James Argue – composer and bandleader of the progressive large jazz ensemble, the Secret Society (some seriously powerful, killin music…check out the band here). Some great thoughts and insight here in considering the patronage model as it relates to Darcy’s band.

**The second is just an article from the NY Times about the site that I’m hoping to use for my own album fundraising campaign. Just more fuel for the fire….

Another great source if you’re looking for more info (which I always am) is Dave Douglas’ blog on Mr. Douglas always has great insights into the music business and posts regularly about the latest ‘haps’ around the world.