Time Management 101

Summer is almost over (Boo!) and this week, the Director of the Bob Cole Conservatory, Dr. Carolyn Bremer, wrote another great opening article for the department’s blog. Everyone should take some time and read this now!

Time Management 101
By Dr. Carolyn Bremer
August 2014

Opening speeches (notes) are meant to instill inspiration for the coming year but I can say quite honestly that inspiration is encountered every day at BCCM. Instead, this is about how to accomplish what you need to do, maintain your sanity, and reach your potential.

One of the most difficult aspects of life as a music major is managing your time. We put a lot of demands on you in ensembles, academics, lessons, classes outside of music, concert attendance, and learning from your peers. The theme of this missive is:

Time Management 101

You’re a Music Major. You have classes, you have to practice, you have rehearsals, you need to learn music for ensembles and for your lessons, you have theory and history and general ed homework, practice sight singing, practice for class piano, listen to the major rep for your instrument/voice, and for band/choir/orchestra. You may need to make reeds, write in bowings, practice conducting, diction, secondary instruments, learn a foreign language, and take on a part-time job. Plus, you have to do laundry, eat, put gas in the car, and sleep. How can you do it all and stay sane?

Here is the truth: you cannot do it all at 100%. You need to figure out when you have to be at your best, when good enough is good enough, and what to let go of during the semester. It would sure be nice to retain some semblance sanity at the end of the semester. Is it impossible?

No, not impossible, but it takes careful planning that starts in the first week of class and a test for yourself around week 3 or 4 to see how you really spend your time. You have to know when you can be on free time and scheduled time, and to stick to it. Here’s how I do it.

First, you need a calendar you’ll use and have with you all the time. It doesn’t matter if it is digital or paper, but it should accommodate events hour-by-hour. 24 hours of slots works best, but those who make calendars often think schedules end a 5p (clearly none of them was a musician). You can use any blank book and customize it to fit your needs. I use Google calendar.

Second, block off in your class times (and travel & parking time), lesson times if you know them in advance, and when you have all of your syllabi, add all of your tests, papers, readings, and other homework, and of course extra dress rehearsals and concerts. Add in your job(s) and other firm commitments. These are immutable so write them in ink (or in bold, or in a bright color).

Third, and this is where it starts to get fun, figure out your next set of priorities and schedule them. I would suggest you start with daily practicing, then block out some slots over a few days in advance of a test or paper. (All-nighters? You never do your best work, you waste the opportunity to recall information that could prove immensely valuable at some point in your life, and it negatively affects everything else you do until you’re well rested again.) Then write in homework slots so you keep up with the work day-by-day and don’t cram it all into a Sunday night that could have been spent with friends.

Fourth, write in when you will sleep. College students sometimes think that sleep isn’t important, but it really is. You are not functioning at your best when you are sleep-deprived. A recent Harvard study noted that the number one reason to get enough sleep is to aid learning and memory. Another study, according to a recent New York Times article, notes, “Sleep, it turns out, may play a crucial role in our brain’s physiological maintenance. As your body sleeps, your brain is quite actively playing the part of mental janitor: It’s clearing out all of the junk that has accumulated as a result of your daily thinking.” So, if you want to do well and stay sane, get enough sleep.

You may notice by now that there is very little time left in your calendar. This is the truth of your life for 15-week stretches of time. To maintain balance and reduce anxiety, the next thing to do is try to find one day per month that has nothing scheduled. You may not have that luxury, so look for a half day. Block it off. Do not let anyone take it from you. That is your day (or half day) to do absolutely nothing you “have” to do without guilt. Try especially hard to get one in during the last month of every semester. So, fifth on this list is a full day off, if possible, every month.

Sixth, try to find an hour at least a few times a week if not every day for you to do whatever you want guilt-free. You need time to recover and recuperate from a stressful schedule every day. Caveat: do not take that out of sleep! Also, do your best to treat this scheduled time with respect. Take it when it is scheduled and move on when it is time to do the next thing.

Now what? For some there aren’t enough hours in the day to schedule what I’ve already mentioned. Start to make some decisions now while you’re not in exam- or jury-stress time. What can go out of your life for 15 weeks, or at least get cut down significantly? Part of the crux is knowing how you spend your time. I’ll give you an assignment that works best if you wait until week 3 or 4, when school is in full swing.

At the end of this post is a pdf with a grid for 24/7 which you can print. You can make a semester-long calendar out of it if you want to. The assignment here, though, is different, and successfully managing your time is predicated on doing this diligently and honestly for a week. You don’t have to share it with anyone, so if you fudge a bit here and there, you are lying to yourself. You will learn a lot about yourself.

The assignment: print two copies of the 24/7 calendar grid (link below). In one, fill out your perfect week (including anything extra you need to do). Pick a week you plan to do this. Think about everything I’ve noted above. Fit in sleeping, showering, getting coffee/tea, meals, errands, driving to school, parking, classes, homework, practicing, rehearsals… the entire routine. Do this with some care and be realistic. Got it all filled in? Terrific. Fold it and put it aside. Don’t look at it again for a week.

The other copy is your log of what you actually do. Keep the paper with you and write in your activities every couple of hours so you don’t forget. Be brave and be honest. Write in everything you do, when and how long you do it. You’ll cringe a bit here and there when a quick lunch ends up becoming a long afternoon and dinner when you had other things you had to do. Write it down and move on. Don’t forget time spent surfing the web, reading and answering emails, and sending texts.

For bonus points, write down how well you practiced each day that week. Did you have a plan? Were you focused? Think about your warm up routine, how carefully you paid attention to all aspects of your technique exercises: posture, breathing, intonation, tone quality, etc. Did you devote the right ratio of time to what you needed to practice? When practicing, watch your mind to see if it is with you or off having a Mai Tai in the Bahamas. When you’re not aware of the sound you’re producing and how you’re producing it, you are not practicing.

At the end of the week, sit down and compare both pieces of paper. Look at what you wanted to do and what you actually did. This gives you an idea of how you spend your time.

Now you may have to rethink your life. Perhaps the most important question to ask first is if you can do what you “want” to do. Most. of us overestimate what we can complete because we’re focused on the product rather than on the path to get there. A list of achievements isn’t who we are: it is our actions from moment to moment.

That week of logging your life starts to tell you about yourself. You may find that you have spent more time that your realized – maybe a lot more time – doing things that aren’t high priorities and therefore some important things didn’t get done.

This is the hard part. Coming face-to-face with something about yourself that is going to take some work. And remember, especially here, don’t look for the product, consider what path you need to take to move toward the person you want to become.

Did you stay up later than you planned every night? Try to get to bed on time three nights each week and see how that goes. Did you go an entire week without practicing for musicianship or piano? Give each of them 15 minutes twice a week. That’s how you start down the path. Once you’re okay on that schedule, push it a little bit more, but don’t try to completely change overnight. That sets you up to fail: it is too hard to do.

Make an intention to move toward the schedule you want to keep. Talk with your friends so they understand what you’re trying to do and will support you. Make plans for those guilt-free times and tell them that they have to make you stop what you’re doing to spend time with them. Talk to your roommates and see what you can arrange with them that will help you move toward a schedule that makes sense during the semester.

The other assignment: Make sure you do the first assignment early in the semester. That’s the time to implement change. If you wait until Week 13 and find that you’re hopelessly behind in everything, you cannot catch up in two weeks. The real discipline is consistency from Day One, that’s “the other assignment.” It is hard. You will slip. You’re human. Catch yourself as soon as you can. If you’ve missed a two homeworks, talk to your teacher. Figure out what to do right away. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to rectify. Remember how hard it was to even schedule a perfect week? Think about what it would take to schedule a week with two week’s work in it. Or three. That’s why it is so critically important to keep up. What if you get sick? You’ll get behind, yes, but there should be no remorse about being sick. It is part of being human. Stay home if you’re contagious. It is not going to help you in the long run to power through the flu, and you may pass on those germs to many others. When you start to feel better, email your teachers and make a plan to get caught up.

Most of the students with sticky problems I’ve talked to got way behind in classes and made poor decisions while under a great deal of stress. This university is amazingly well prepared to help you. You just need to ask, and – I can’t say this strongly enough – ask for assistance as soon as possible. You can go to your teacher, your Area Director, your advisor, or me. We have a fabulous counseling center, CAPS, that you can call and everything said there is absolutely confidential. There are tutors, centers to help you write, librarians to help you research, tech support by phone or you can walk-in with a troublesome computer or a phone that won’t get on Wi-Fi. You can even get your taxes done for free (but only if you’ve got everything ready early).

If you are able to stick to most of your schedule, you will have time for friends. You need to have time with them. The friends you make in college are life-long friends. You’ll be in their wedding parties, and if history holds true, there will be a fair number of music student weddings. Professionally, most artists get their first breaks from friends, get into the network for gigs, and support each other over the years. Please don’t take this missive to be an edict to work all the time. It isn’t. Having time for yourself and for your friends is as important as anything else. Schedule it in!

The weekly log will help you to find your weak spots. Facebook? Video games? TV? Those are all things you can decide to give up or do in careful moderation. If you lose track of time when you get online then set an alarm to go off when you need to move on. Before I got rid of my TV, I discovered that if I got up to get a drink and left the TV on, I always went back to it. But If I got up, turned off the TV, and got a drink, I found it easy to decide to do something else. Learn your habits.

Summary: schedule your time and keep to it. Schedule in everything including free time. Learn how you spend your time so you can make good decisions. If things start to take a turn, notice it and ask for help. You do not need to do this on your own.

You may live to be 100 and spend only 4 or 5 of your years in college. 4 or 5% of your life. A little over half a year is spent in class, so now you’re looking at perhaps 3% of your life soaking in knowledge about your deepest passion at an elite level. Take advantage of your time in college. Take it from us with joy.

one week 24/7 grid in pdf for printing.

The Blue Devils win 2014 DCI World Championships

The Concord Blue Devils won their 16th DCI World Championship on Saturday night in Indianapolis. The Blue Devils scored a 99.65 (the highest score ever in DCI) in their final performance. The Bluecoats (97.175) won 2nd place and The Cadets (96.875) placed 3rd. The Blue Devils had an amazing year, winning every competition leading up to finals. The Santa Clara Vanguard placed first in percussion for their final performance.

For complete results and recap analysis, check out DCI.org. Congratulations to The Blue Devils.

Were you there or did you watch it live? What were your favorite moments of the season? Leave a comment and let us know what you thought of the 2014 DCI season.

Here’s the Blue Devils show from Salem, VA on 07/29/2014.


Japan’s “New World”


Attention all auditioning orchestral percussionists: audition for Japan’s “New World” Symphony; the Hyogo PAC Orchestra. I recently returned from a healthy week long visit to HPAC for the PAC Percussion! series of concerts on August 2nd and 3rd. Every year in August the orchestra organizes two concerts (the same) featuring the PAC percussion section with a guest artist. For more information about this years concerts click here.

As it turns out there is an inspirational story around the orchestras inception. According to HPAC’s site: “During the decade following the great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995, the courage, persistence, and compassion of Hyogo’s local residents brought about a miraculous renewal of the devastated region.” In 2005 the orchestra opened as a symbol of cultural rebirth of the region. Since then it has seen it’s 4 millionth audience.

HPAC orchestra is a resident orchestra exclusively affiliated with Hyogo Performing Arts Center under artistic direction of Yutaka Sado. During a three-year term, 48 international core members under the age of 35 engage in a variety of performance opportunities
including full orchestra and chamber orchestra concerts, a fully-staged opera, and chamber ensemble performances of standard and modern repertoire. They are joined in these performances by leading conductors, guest players and coaches from around the world. The HPAC program offers professional development for Core Members through master-classes and private lessons with visiting artists.

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The facilities are immensely impressive and the center, being fully government funded, spares no expense when it comes to putting on productions and concerts. I had a first class experience. So, I share this post as an advocate for the center as it seems a bit unknown. Be sure to explore the source link above for more information.

Where you aware of this opportunity? Have any others that fit into this category? Please share your thoughts below the post.

Top-end Style Bodhran Exercises

James Yoshizawa Drum Set DrumChattr

It has been a while since we have featured a video by James Yoshizawa. Today, James is here to introduce some Top-end style Bodhran Exercises. There are two ways to play the bodhran: 1) The Kerry Style (the most common way), which is played with a double-headed tipper (or stick) and 2) the West Limerick style (or Top-End style), which uses only one end of the tipper. The second style is the newer tradition and popular with beginners.

Download the exercises and check out the video. How many DrumChattrers play bodhran? Leave a comment below.


Mobius performs “Thank You (____)”


The Mobius Percussion Quartet is an up and coming group based out of Brooklyn/NYC. They have played multiple concerts and been guests with So Percussion. This piece is a new snare drum quartet by Jason Treuting. For more information about the piece, the composer and the group, read the text from the YouTube post below.

As I was deciding what I was going to post today, I came across this video in the suggested videos on YouTube. Being that I know one of the members of Mobius (Yumi Tamashiro is a former student of mine), I wanted check out the new piece and performance. The piece is a combination of performance art and music. In the piece, Jason explore textures, combinations of visuals and extended techniques for the snare drum. It was posted on July 16, 2014 and as of this post, it has been views 5,229 times and there are 84 Thumbs Up and 27 Thumbs Down. What I find interesting about this piece is all of the controversy from the comments on the video. There is something to be said about the high number of views in the short amount of time and it seems obvious that a lot of people have viewed this piece/performance possibly because of the negative reaction it has received. (I am doubtful many people have watched the entire video). Instead of viewing this video as a performance, most people have chosen to let something they don’t like, understand or appreciate become a negative. In this case, controversy has driven traffic. Art is art and everyone has their opinion. Vic Firth has responded to some of the comments on the video. I also hope Mobius takes this opportunity and responds to the comments. They can turn these negative comments into a positive by letting people know about their performances and other videos. That is what social media is all about. If they get someone to purchase a CD or attend a concert, then their efforts paid off. Regardless, please watch the entire video.

Performed by Mobius Percussion
Mika Godbole – Jeremy Smith – Frank Tyl – Yumi Tamashiro

Video by Evan Monroe Chapman

“Thank you ( )” was written for Tom Sherwood and his 2012 Modern Snare Drum Competition. No drumsticks are used to play the piece. Instead, mallets, rattan shafts, brushes, fingers and coins are used along with the performers voice. The piece was written as a thank you letter of sorts to my favorite snare drummer and each performance is a thank you letter of sorts to the performers favorite snare drummer. It is written in 5 pages that are distinct yet connected.

“Thank you Tom Sherwood for asking me to be a part of this project and for supporting the direction I went with the piece.

Jason Treuting”

Jason Treuting has performed and recorded in venues as diverse as the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Walker Art Center, the Knitting Factory, the Andy Warhol Museum, Zankel Hall, Lincoln Center, DOM (Moscow) and Le National (Montreal). As a member of So Percussion, he has collaborated with artists and composers including Steve Reich, David Lang, John Zorn, Dan Trueman, tabla master Zakir Hussain, the electronic music duo Matmos and choreographer Eliot Feld. In addition to his work with So, Jason performs improvised music with Simpl, a group with laptop artist/composer Cenk Ergun; Alligator Eats Fish with guitarist Grey McMurray; Little Farm, with guitarist/composer Steve Mackey; QQQ (a quartet consisting of hardinger fiddle, viola, guitar and drums); and Big Farm (a foursome led by Rinde Eckert and Steve Mackey).

The Mobius Percussion Quartet seeks to fuse their interest in fresh sounds with their commitment to high-quality performance and the promotion of new works by emerging composers. The group is composed of David Degge, Mika Godbole, Yumi Tamashiro and Frank Tyl, who formed the ensemble after working together at the first annual Sō Percussion Summer Institute in Princeton, NJ. Based in New York City, the ensemble made their debut at downtown multimedia art cabaret, (Le) Poisson Rouge, performing alongside other notable artists including Sō Percussion, Nexus, Meehan/Perkins Duo and Mantra Percussion. Recent projects include commissioning a multi-movement work from So Percussion’s Jason Treuting that is currently being developed in a workshop setting for release in fall 2014. This past summer, Mobius recorded Australian composer Kate Neal’s dramatic quartet What Hath II with noted videographer Troy Herion. Based on the text transmissions of Morse code, the work integrates visual and corporeal elements that enhance the underlying rhythmic drive. In addition to their regular performance schedule, Mobius has given concerts and masterclasses at numerous universities including the Curtis Institute of Music, York College of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, and Rowan University as well as participating in educational outreach programs including the MAP program at Juilliard and others. With several unannounced, versatile projects already in the works, Mobius seeks to springboard evocative ideas with a theatrical inclination to the forefront of their music making.

Fixing Things

We live in a culture where things are either working or they’re not. And if they’re not working, we throw them away.

Apparently, there used to be these things called repair stores. These were stores that fixed your broken TV’s, washer and dryers and even blenders and toasters. The way products are made and purchased today, the vast majority of these stores have gone out of business. Our approach and feeling about the things we own has also driven these stores out of our lives.

We see this in the professional world all the time as well. A good example is the shelf life for professional coaches. An under-performing season for your team (maybe 2 if you’re lucky) typically means you’re looking for a new job. This is seen not only in sports but many professions including music. Fair or unfair, it’s just the way things work.

All this leads to some misunderstandings in the music world. Many students and teachers have the mindset of “this either works it doesn’t.” Students either get it or they don’t. This has also led to the belief that people are either naturally talented at something or they’re simply not. One of my favorite quotes about talent is this – I find it amusing when people tell me that they don’t have a talent for music. I tell them to go practice for two hours a day for the next year. Then, come back and tell me how untalented you are.*

This is also one of the reasons that I’m not a fan of talent shows on television like American Idol and America’s Got Talent. They seem to perpetuate this idea that a person is inherently talented and then is somehow picked and their life is changed forever. While that’s great for the very small percentage that it works for, this isn’t reality. Reality is more along the lines of practicing everyday for ten years and creating a career through learning and experience. There are plenty of other posts on this site about creating a career, so I won’t go into that here.

Thankfully, there are places in the music world teaching the concept of persistence. The first that comes to my mind are the lessons learned in the marching arenas of percussion. Showing up everyday in the summer and every weekend through the winter teaches students that nothing is handed out, it takes a large amount of time and dedication to get good at anything in life and that things can in fact be fixed. These are invaluable lessons that go against the grain of many things in our culture. If this lesson is learned early, it can have a tremendous impact in anyone’s life.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that things can’t be fixed. Teachers – be patient and take time with your students. Students – be patient and take time with yourself. Nothing will ever be able to replace hard work over a long period of time.

*I couldn’t find the origin of this quote. If you know where it comes from, please let me know!

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