Making your dreams a reality

2021 blog Mar 08, 2021

We can mitigate our chances for failure by making good decisions. Seems logical. But, why is it that what we want is always out of reach? Perhaps our expectations are unrealistic? Or, we don’t understand what is required to make our expectations a reality? 

What I have learned:

Successful people we admire have developed the ability to analyze their aspirations, create a strategy to achieve their goals, devise tactics and be committed to executing their strategy. Defined Goal, Strategy,Tactics and Dedication. It doesn’t matter if you are going to the moon or around the block. The process is the same. This may sound cold and calculated because it is. But, it doesn’t mean going after your dreams has to be uninspiring. On the contrary this isn’t an either/or question. It can be both.

The “secret sauce” to making your dreams a reality is knowing how to compartmentalize your thoughts. This will eliminate questions with no answers like: ...

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What If?

2021 blog Feb 24, 2021

 “I want to (fill in the blank).

It’s easy to get seduced by grand ambition. 

We can be triggered by various ideas or fantasies: fame, fortune, acceptance...whatever. What motivates you will be different than what motivates me. But, what is common to any level of achievement is that there is an initial idea that sparks the action. What you have to keep in mind is that the bigger the dream the greater chance that your dream lies somewhere outside your comfort zone or personal experience. 

"Success is achieved by execution of an idea - not the idea itself."

As a creative professional my job is to make my ideas real and tangible in the world. As I used to say to my composition students: “without getting to the end of your piece or song your idea is like a marble rattling around in your head. It may stroke your ego but has zero value to anyone else.” If you want to achieve a goal you need to be able to measure your progress. This is...

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The door to success is open... what are you waiting for?

2021 blog Feb 22, 2021

"So and so gets all the breaks!"

"If I only had as much money as so and so… I’d get ahead

"Life isn’t fair."

If you are, or want to be a composer you have picked one of the most challenging and competitive careers imaginable. The mountain to climb is high and there are no guarantees. BUT! You work hard. You try your best. And, no matter what you do you aren’t getting the results you desire. It is frustrating. It can be depressing. I get it. I’ve been there. But, before you get all hot and bothered and start blaming people, situations or get suicidal  I have to tell you: there’s a catch. 

I spent my twenties on a rocket ship ride. I was launched into the stratosphere of musical variety television arranging by my mentor who was so busy he needed an extra pair of hands. By my late 20’s I was getting bored writing the same arrangement over and over again so I decided to switch my focus. I naively thought that I could instantly become...

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Pivot - it doesn't have to be difficult

2021 blog Feb 19, 2021

Have you ever known someone who ends up dating the same person in a different body even though they know better?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

Why is this so common and so predictable? 

I mean, we may know we are headed down a path that won’t end well. But, we do it anyway. 

So, How do we recognize it’s time to make a change? How do we stop dysfunctional behavior before we make a drastic mistake? 

If you’re anything like me I always have felt more comfortable working. Work was something I could control and, for the most part I’ve been my own boss. That comes with the territory when you’re a writer. What I struggled with for years was how to function effectively when I was outside my comfort zone. 

After many misfires and failed relationships (professional and personal) I was faced with a choice: keep making the same mistakes and be stuck in my life. Or do whatever...

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What is Your Why?

2021 blog Feb 15, 2021

When I started writing arrangements it would take me days, if not weeks, to finish one big band chart. This wasn’t unusual nor concerning because I was a teenager and had little exposure to how arrangers worked and had few expectations about deadlines or process. As my knowledge increased my skills improved I was able to work more quickly. But I still faced the same issue when I struggled to finish a piece: “How do I recreate the same thoughts I had when I began?”.

Every time you sit down at the desk (or keyboard in today’s environment) it will be a new day. Your body will be different.  You will be processing what happened the night before or be preoccupied thinking about  a future event. Everyday is different. So how, do we recreate the mood, the intellectual thought process, the urgency of the moment - all of the above?

I needed to know what my why was.

I found that I could get back to square one if I were to take the time to articulate exactly...

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What Next?

2021 blog Feb 12, 2021

I’m sure given the craziness of our times this is a question that has crossed your mind a time or two. Perhaps, putting your head in the sand is a more appealing idea. Then again, the reality is most likely someplace in between. 


So what are we supposed to do when the future is unpredictable?


Well, there are no easy answers. However… why not focus on what you can control instead of worrying about what is out of your control? And what you can control is how you react to input and observing your choices instead of repeating patterns and behavior of the past. 


Tomorrow afternoon (2pm Central) I am going to share my thoughts about how to not only survive as a creative in 2021 but thrive in an uncertain world. 


If you’re interested stop by. We’d love to have you. An email with the Zoom invite will go out on Saturday morning. If not I hope you have a wonderful weekend and Valentine’s Day!






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Choices Choices Choices

2021 blog Feb 10, 2021

My mentor was a huge fan of Duke Ellington. Duke wrote for the members in his band, not for generic instruments. He knew their strengths and weaknesses. He knew what made them unique. Like any good orchestrator Duke was a master at finding unusual combinations of instruments. Now, because he had the same guys in the band for years he had no need to put instrument names on parts. He would just put their names on the parts. He intimately knew each player and how their individual sounds would blend. 


This was my example when I began writing arrangements. I quickly discovered that the more I knew about each player the more effective my arrangements became. Why? Because I was writing for the player, not the instrument. 


When I began doing synth scores I adapted this approach when using samples the same way in three respects.


1- Just like picking an instrumentation to book a band I would decide what I was looking for (sustains, shorts, waveforms, etc) before...

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Becoming A Desirable Collaborator

2021 blog Feb 08, 2021

Musicians are trained to execute their performances perfectly. It requires hours and hours of dedicated solitary practice. Composers too spend most of their time alone. Being alone can make collaborating creatively uncomfortable and unfamiliar. What makes us good at what we do can become a liability in a collaborative environment. Here are a couple of tips to help you transition into becoming someone who attracts collaborators.

Nobody likes to be embarrassed. Creative people tend to avoid criticism because it can be a blow to our ego, our self-worth, our self-doubt. We may not even be aware that our insecurities, our fragile self-worth can push us into reacting to criticism defensively. Or, push us under a rock so we don’t have to deal with uncomfortable thoughts. Am I good enough? What do you mean I’m not as good as I think I am? Don’t you know my way is the RIGHT way?

 Criticism and differing opinions are a part of life. If 10 people witnessed an...

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Please, please puh-leeeese!!!  I NEED THIS JOB!

Adding value to someone’s life or business is attractive. 

Desperation is unseemly.

People work with people they know and people they like to be around. So, the challenge for any creative person is to switch the paradigm from “what do I need” to “what can I offer/give?”.

Sure. We have the tools to be able to constantly push messages and pitches out to the world. But, what value does it create? Will overwhelming people with what YOU need be of value to them? Will your barrage of sales pitches create the opportunity for meaningful relationships? Will incessant reminders of how “cool you really are” be perceived as adding value? Or, are you broadcasting how desperate you are?

Propagandists like to incite and overwhelm knowing full well that if a lie is repeated often enough that it will be believed by many to be the truth. But, is that an effective strategy for a creative professional?

Successful creative relationships are collaborations...

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My Introduction to the world of arranging for hire

(the following is an excerpt from my upcoming memoir: "Walking With Giants")

The summer of 1977 was eventful. I had now been hanging out with Billy for close to four years and we were becoming closer as friends and musical partners. I had gone from being a naive young musician to becoming a competent musical director on the Mitzi Gaynor show in less than a year and would spend my time off the road picking up loose ends with Billy on his various musical variety television shows and nightclub acts. And, hanging out at the beach or observing his recording sessions.

One of the more unusual things I had to adapt to was writing with fountain pens on vellum. I didn’t really understand why that was the preferred method when I would see Billy working at home, but that’s the way he worked. Another curious aspect of working with Billy was that he never used a piano when writing. He would imagine the entire score in his head and then commit it to paper. I didn’t question it,...

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