Monday, November 23, 2009

Theory I Final

So I am sitting here in a classroom watching my Theory I class take their final exam.

It get me thinking about how I teach this subject and I would really like to a more innovative teacher - especially with theory. But, the material is so specified and so much about rote practices that I just feel stuck.

I know I am GOOD at teaching this class, but it would be great to make it more exciting and more interactive. The more I work and think about what I do, the more I try to figure out how I can do it diffrently, but it is hard to find the time to re-do a class I have been teaching for 7 years.

How can I revitalize this process? Same for Jazz Appreciation...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Websites...

So, I have been maintaing my personal website since sometime around 1997. It started on GeoCities (C-Ya Geocities) as a challenge of sorts between my friend and colleague Kris Tiner. We were both attending CSU Bakersfield at the time and I think we had some form of competitive thing going on subconsciously as we learned HTML and tried to get a not-horrible website up and running.

Luckily, maintaing my web presence has gotten easier since the HTML editor in GeoCities File Manager. But, while the act of maintaining the site is quicker and more painless now there is a seemingly endless list of sites to maintain! I maintain the following list of sites....

JS on Reverb Nation (might go buh-bye)

JS on MySpace (about to go buh-bye)

That doesn't include this blog - which gets too little attention.

Anyway, all of this to let you know that my CSUB Site has been updated. Now that I have a new and improved personal site where my teaching docs are integrated with my professional docs. Just the basics on the CSUB server now - less clutter is definitely better.

Finals this week - then 6 weeks off to finish two commissions and prep for the Winter quarter.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Videos posted of premiers...

In case you didn't see them on my Facebook page or at - here are videos from the chamber music concert on 11/13/09.

Here is Eclectic Suite - for guitar ensemble. The group is the CSUB Guitar Ensemble and I am the director.

Here is Low and High - for two pianos. The performers are Rebekah Rogers and Sarah McFarland.

Nice work everyone, and thanks for the performances!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Upcoming premiers

As I sit in a doctors office waiting to be seen I figure I might as well let my three readers know about my upcoming performances.

On November 7 @ 7:30 PM two of my recent compositions for jazz combo will be performed by students at CSUB. Modes of Transport and D's Changes will be performed. MOT is a modal jazz tune and D's changes is a 32-bar AABA tune. Both present different challenges for improvisers.

On November 13 at the CSUB Chamber Concert (8 PM in the Dore) I have two sets of works getting their world premiers. The first is the Eclectic Suite for Guitar Ensemble. This 5 movement suite consists of miniature pieces and will be played by the CSUB Guitar Ensemble, which I direct. The second set is a pair of pieces for two pianos entitled Low and High which will be played by Sarah McFarland and Rebekah Rogers, two piano students at CSUB.

The next two events bleed into 2010, but considering my infrequent posts I might as well put this up now.

On January 28, 2010 a piece I am currently writing, Duality for Two, will be premiered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The piece is an extension of my work Duality in Time for flute and cello that was premiered in Hartford in August. The performers (Rachel Arnold and Ashley Addington) commissioned the longer work and I will be hopping on a plane to attend. Gonna be great.

The last upcoming premier is for a sonata for classical guitar that I am currently writing for New Jersey guitarist Keith Calmes. Keith is a Julliard and USC gradute and a stunning player, as well as a friend. He asked me to write him a piece last year, but it wasn't until I attended La Guitarra festival in September that I was inspired to start the work.

Keith will premier the piece on February 21 at CSU Bakersfield during a solo recital he will present.

I am very excited about these upcoming performances and look forward to all the music.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

La Guitarra California Festival

So, every two years a great guitar festival comes to Central California. La Guitarra California 2009 is this weekend and I am heading over to the coast for two days of classical guitar madness.

I am a jazz guitarist. Strike that - I am a composer who plays jazz guitar. Those are different things. Guitarists sit for hours by themselves in a practice room working on right hand technique in a way that I never did. To be a classical guitarist is to be a master technician. I am not that guy. Now, in retrospect, I think I wish I was that guy - but that ship has sailed. Long ago.

Here is Marcin Dylla playing the "Canto" from Ginastera's guitar sonata. It is stunning music and even more stunning playing. I am hoping for one moment like that this weekend.

I will be seeing David Tanenbaum (playing Takemitsu) and Carlos Barbosa-Lima/Berta Rojas duo on Friday night.

On Saturday morning one of my former students will be performing at a masterclass w/ Tanenbaum. Later in the afternoon I'll be seeing Michael Partington (playing Piazzolla) and then on Saturday evening I will see the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (Lotus Eaters by Andrew York and Blue Echo by Chet Atkins), something I have been waiting for for the better part of three years. Just a cool group - and very musical.

Anyway, I am geeked to be seeing such a bad ass set of concerts and very stoked that I get to bring about 10 members of the CSU Bakersfield Guitar Ensemble and their esteemed private guitar instructor, Roger Allen Cope, with me.

I'll post pictures from the festival via my iPhone.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I hate it when this happens...

Heading into the top of the ninth inning: Angels 6, Indians 4.

Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning: Indians 8, Angels 6.


All-Star closer, Brian Fuentes, entered in the top of the ninth to preserve the two-run lead. He faced four batters and this happened: single, single, home run, home run.

Four batters, four hits, four runs, zero outs.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sometimes I just don't know

It's been quite a roller-coaster over the last few weeks. I think it finally hit me the last two days. Not knowing if a job is waiting for you when the academic year starts is strange. I have worked at a college for 12 years now - the thought of not meeting the
new students is strange.

I have been irritable for the better part of a week and it has to be related to a) not getting a call from the JC where I was a finalist for a tenure-track gig and b) the overwhelming sadness surrounding the CSU and the budget at CSU Bakersfield where I work. Just a depressing time.

I guess if I have a diminished role at CSUB in September I will just have to parlay that time into some great composing and work on that part of my career. That is the part that has been neglected since I started th FT gig at the University and doubly so since the birth is the triplets. Anyway, just curious as to what the future holds. I'm not enjoying the wait, either.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My summer on the edge...

So, I've been up to a lot this summer. Immediately after CSUB let out for the summer on June 15, I served as director for the CSUB Summer Arts Jam 2009. That 2-week program was short, but intense. I coordinated a program that brought 100 students a day to CSUB. These middle-school aged students were immersed in painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, music and musical theater for 5 hours a day over 10 days. I worked with some amazing folks from the Arts Council of Kern and Kern Superintendent of Schools as well as administrators at CSUB that wanted to make this program a success. It was, and a website is in the works. Give me a couple more days to get it up - but the art is stunning. Here is a sample:

So, while the Summer Arts Jam was up and running I started a composition project called 30/30 Project. Follow that link to read about the project in total, but basically, I committed to write a new 30-second piece of music each day for 30 days. I have not quite lived up to the initial idea; I have created 25 pieces in 32 days, but I am still very proud of the output.

I have also tried to get out and perform a little more. I have been regularly attending the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop and performing with all sorts of folks there - from the grizzled veterans of the local jazz scene to young high-school students trying to gain an understanding of jazz. It has been a blast.

All the while, I have been reconnecting with my lovely wife, Jennifer Neil and our wonderful three boys, Aidan, Maxwell and Dylan.

If this summer mid-point re-cap could end there life would be great. Unfortunately, that is not the case. As you probably know, I am a full-time lecturer at CSU Bakersfield. A lecturer is a notch below any professorship. Lecturers do not have, nor can ever attain tenure without going through a hiring process for a "new" position. Lecturers have much less job security than people with the title of professor.

As the bad news kept rolling in regarding the economy in the state of California I started to get more and more worried about the solidity of my teaching job. All workers on campus are deciding if they can accept furloughs and the CSU raised tuition for our students by 32% starting in the fall of 2009. Even with furloughs and fee increases the CSU faces a $275 million deficit. CSU Bakersfield faces a deficit of around $5 million. There is no way that all lecturers will retain their jobs. None. After seeing the numbers at a HUGE meeting on 7/22/09 I am convinced that a large number of folks will be laid off. That is faculty, staff and even administration.

I live tweeted this event and the history of those tweets can be found at Jim's Twitter. The tweets begin on July 22 at 11 AM-ish. It is a scary read.

The CSUB music department is in its own pickle too. Our wonderful piano instructor, Rachel Chao, has taken another position and will be leaving the University. While I am happy to see her get a great gig at Rice University it will be very hard to replace her. There is a hiring freeze that will make it tough to get a highly qualified person into the position before schools starts in September.

Lastly, like every year, I applied for a couple of jobs this year. I only apply for other teaching jobs when the job is right up my alley and/or it would offer me something that I really feel I need/want in my career. I am currently a finalist for one of these jobs. This job is a tenure-track position at a junior college. The position is focused on directing the jazz band, teaching theory and jazz appreciation. Additionally, this school is very close to a PhD program in composition that would be very enticing if I were to be relocating to this area of California.

I had a great interview with the college President on Monday, July 13th, but still haven't heard anything - yes or no - so I'm in a holding pattern. I don't know if my family can afford to pass up this position If it is offered. Especially if I don't have any form of a guarantee from CSUB how do I turn down a good job? Needless to say, it has been a crazy summer on the edge!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

New pieces are up!!!

Check out and click on the 30/30 link at the bottom right of the home page. The most recent piece us pretty cool and sounds great because I used Logic Studio and the VSL.


No new pieces on Wednesday (7.22) or Thursday (7.23). After the budget meeting at CSUB on Wednesday I was pretty pissed and then I played at the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop that night, so I took the night off. As an extension of my pissed-off mood, the family went to the beach on Thursday to decompress. Nice day. Long day. Back at it on Friday. Thirty 30-second pieces in 40 days is still pretty bad-ass if I may say so myself.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

30/30 Project Update!

So, another piece down and I am only 13 compositions away from my stated goal of writing 30 30-second compositions in 30 days. I have taken a few days off - a family vacation, a national holiday and one honest to goodness day where I just blew it. Not too shabby, methinks.

So, here is the piece for today:
To hear all the pieces go to the website for the project:

More news to follow - exciting stuff....

Signing off...


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Great advice from a Colleague...

Kerry Marsh - director of vocal jazz studies at CSU Sacramento - gave me some killer feedback on my arrangement of Ellington's I'm Beginning to See the Light. My head arrangement was a submission for one day of my 30/30 Composition Project - a project that has me compose a 30-second composition each day for 30 days. I cheated a bit with that entry. I had that almost completely in the can and needed to post something that day. But, his feedback will cause me to alter it quite a bit and repost my new version. Kerry is astonishing - his groups have won the Downbeat award for best collegiate vocal jazz group for six straight years and his arrangement of Selfless, Cold and Composed (Ben Folds composition) was selected by Ben Folds to be featured on the A cappella University CD project that Ben produced. The CD contains 18 or so hand-picked performances of Ben Folds tunes as done by vocal groups affiliated with schools. It is a great project and the Sac State tune stands out on the CD as the most developed and most interesting adaptation on the disc - by a long shot.

Here is that video:

Anyway, for Kerry to take time out of his life to listen to and critique my head arrangement of Beginning to See the Light is very cool and I'm gonna work my tail off on it to show him that his time was not wasted.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

OT: Rest

Having a nice rest this week. After the school year and a two week art program that I directed I needed a break. One day in and I already feel better. But, how relaxing could a vacation be if I'm chasing around three four-year-old boys?

Monday, July 6, 2009

30/30 Project Update!

So, I've been pretty darn consistent with this project - only 2 days missed. But, I need a few days off now for a family decompression event. I'll pick back up in a couple days right where I left off.

I am very happy with how this has gone so far, the pieces are really showing my voice and the writing is getting easier. I love the process. As a father of three and very busy professor I don't get to write too much. This has been a great chance to get back on the saddle as ole' Gene Autry - the original owner of my favorite MLB franchise - used to sing.


Anyway...I just agreed to play a featured set at the Bakersfield Jazz Workshop on 8/5/09 so the next few pieces will be written for small jazz groups. I want to feature at least three new tunes at the gig - so I gots to get writing. I have one for Freddie Hubbard I wrote last week, and I'll take a stab at a very guitaristic piece and maybe a modal tune. Something different.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

30/30 Project Website

Hi all -

BTW, by all I mean three.

I decided to create a dedicated website for the 30/30 project. So, point your browser to:

Hope this helps a bit...

Monday, June 29, 2009

30/30 Project

Tonight piece will be up a bit late. My wife and I are dealing with very fussy four year olds. It is done, but I wanted to do the audio in Logic and I don't have time to do that right now.

Hang in there.

Update: Piece is up. It is called "Quiet" for guitar and vibraphone. It is short, sweet, pretty and playable - I don't do many like this, but it is nice. Check it out here:

Jim's FB Page


Jim's Composition Site


Friday, June 26, 2009

30/30 Project Update!

Today's piece, a dance for my triplet boys, is posted at Go to the Composition page to hear it and see the score.

This project is going very well and I am getting quicker at getting my ideas down on paper and fleshed out. I will let you all know that a family vacation has just been planned with a friend for Santa Barbara from July 6 through the 10th. I won't be bringing a computer to post updates, so I'll commence upon returning to Bakersfield. I'll make sure the full 30 days happen.

I can't reject a free beach house for three days.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Piano Explosion is up!!!

The 30-second composition for today is up!

Piano Explosion...

Go to:

OT: Blog Maintenance

So, I am going to try mightily to get this blog updated more often than my other attempt at blogging - the damn near defunct baseball blog I started years ago.

Today I will add links to friends and colleagues around the web that I am following...

So, look for an update later today (or maybe tomorrow) with that new info.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Woodwind Trio

Just finished the woodwind trio for today - did a lot of it early this morning and tied up loose ends this afternoon.

These are temporary links - I am at the office and can't upload to my personal site from here (iWeb has its limits) so here are links on my academic site:

New Piece is up...

A 50 second string quartet is up. It counts for my Monday and Tuesday compositions.

The main riff was written as an homage to Les Claypool of Primus and I actually wrote it almost 15 years ago, but I finally did something with it over the last 24 hours.

Here is a link...

Chomping Some Cheese with Les

Score (PDF)

Hope you like it....

Monday, June 22, 2009

30/30 Preoject!!!

I started a project on Saturday that will see me write 30 seconds of new music everyday for 30 days. Follow my progress at or Links to follow when I get to a computer.

Leave comments about your thoughts!


Sunday, June 21, 2009

OT: Tech!

This is crazy - I can post to my Blog on my iPhone!!! Seriously, how connected do we have to be?