Tag Archives: music tips

Dry Eyes

In the Spotlight: Help for Dry Eyes

Dry EyesDuring allergy season many people experience dry eyes. With age, it becomes more common and can be chronic. Whether you’re staring at a computer screen all day or reading music under stage lights, your eyes may begin to feel gritty and dry. The problem develops when the eye cannot maintain a healthy coating of tears.

There may be any number of causes: dry environment or workplace (wind or air conditioning); sun exposure, smoking or secondhand smoke exposure; cold or allergy medicines; or hormonal changes brought on by menopause.

People who work long hours staring at a computer screen are likely to blink less often and are more susceptible to dry eye. (Optimally, people should blink about 15 times a minute or every four seconds.) Those who have had Lasik or other refractive surgery, where their corneas have reduced sensation due to incisions or tissue removal, may also experience dry eye. Long-term contact lens wearers are also at risk.

More serious conditions—auto-immune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or thyroid disease—can contribute to the problem. Dry eyes can also be a symptom of Sjögren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other auto-immune diseases.

Any number of over-the-counter and prescription medications can reduce tear secretion.

While there is no cure for dry eye syndrome, you can find relief.

Here are some tips to help relieve dryness:

  • First, be sure to have regular eye exams. The American Optometric Association recommends that people aged 18-60 get eye exams every two years, as long as they are symptom-free. At-risk and symptomatic patients should have their eyes examined at least once a year and whenever they are experiencing problems.
  • Apply warm compresses on the eyes. Wet a clean cloth with warm water. Hold the cloth over your eyes for five minutes. Rewet the cloth with warm water when it cools. 
  • Control inflammation by cleaning lids with mild soap. (Ophthalmologists often recommend baby shampoo.) Apply cleanser on clean fingertips and gently massage your closed eyes near the base of your eyelashes. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Massage your eyelids to activate secretions.
  • Only use recommended eyelid cleaners.
  • Use artificial tear ointment or thick eye drops just before you go to bed.
  • Avoid using a hair dryer.
  • Run a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
  • Protect your eyes from sun and wind with sunglasses.
  • Consider adding more omega-3 oils to your diet (salmon, sardines, tuna, trout, anchovies, and flaxseeds). In studies omega oils appear to improve the eye’s Meibomian glands, which produce the oily part of tears. Fish oil may also reduce inflammation.
  • Try to avoid medications that deplete body fluids.
  • Ask your doctor about punctal plugs, which are placed in the tear ducts to retain lubrication.

If you have chronic dry eyes contact an ophthalmologist for evaluation. Left untreated, dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis) can lead to pain and more serious conditions such as ulcers, scars on the cornea, and partial impairment of vision. Permanent vision loss, however, is uncommon.

Further Your Career

What Words Helped Further Your Career?

We’re AFM members, and we are musicians helping musicians. When I got my start, teacher, mentor, friend, and AFM member Frank Mucedola’s words made a big impact on my life. Mucedola played on tour with the Mantovani Orchestra. I remember him saying to me: “When the parade passes, you’ve got to march.” You need to keep up with the times or get passed by. I think of those words quite often.

I don’t know about you, but there’s a bunch of quotes that I like to keep in mind. Sometimes they provide a motivational thought for the day. Here are a few:

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
—Walt Disney

“I wanted to create music that was so different that my mother could tell me from anyone else.”
—Les Paul

“One good thing about music:
when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
—Bob Marley

“Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.”
—Charlie Parker

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words
and that which cannot remain silent.”
—Victor Hugo

“I still believe you reap what you sow on tour. If you are touring you are really planting personal seeds in fans.”

—Katy Perry

“The beautiful thing about learning is that
nobody can take it away from you.”
—B.B. King

“It’s taken me all my life to learn what not to play.”
—Dizzy Gillespie

“When you play, never mind who listens to you.”
—Robert Schumann 

“The wise musicians are those who play
what they can master.”

—Duke Ellington

“Music does bring people together. It allows us to
experience the same emotions. People everywhere are
the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language
we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics, or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves:
We are the same.”

—John Denver

“Hack away at the inessentials.”
—Bruce Lee

“Motivation gets you going and habit gets you there.”
—Zig Ziglar

“Wanting to be someone else is
a waste of the person you are.”
—Kurt Cobain

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a
musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams
in music. I see my life in terms of music.”
—Albert Einstein

“I mean, give me a guitar, give me a piano, give me a broom, and string, I wouldn’t get bored anywhere.”
—Keith Richard

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”
—Bob Dylan

“Your talent determines what you can do.
Your motivation determines how much you are willing
to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.”
—Lou Holtz

All singers are method acting … The art of art is to be as real as you can within this artificial situation.
—Joni Mitchell

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
—Wayne Gretzky

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
—Leonard Bernstein

“Even if you’re on the right track,
you’ll get run over if you just stand there.”
—Mark Twain

“Everything comes to those who wait,
but only what’s left over by those who hustle.”
—Abe Lincoln

“The big win is when you refuse
to settle for average or mediocre.”
—Seth Godin

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”
—Karen Lamb

“And, in the end, the love you take
is equal to the love you make.”

—Paul McCartney

“Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you got.”
— Janis Joplin

“Whether you think you can, or whether
you think you can’t, you’re absolutely right.”


Do you have a few quotes that helped further your career and your life? If you’d like to e-mail them to me at RPopyk@aol.com, I’ll share them with our members.

Sometimes it just takes a few words to turn your career, your life, or maybe just your day around. Over the years, a lot of the best motivational words came from AFM members. Again, we’re musicians helping musicians. Those few great thoughts and words can last a lifetime.

Border Crossing Tips

Last-Minute Border Crossing Tips

You’ve done all the heavy lifting and your paperwork seems to be in order. You’re ready to get on the road and get across that border to fulfil contracted dates. Before you head out the door, here are some last-minute border crossing tips to ensure a successful crossing:

Organize your paperwork. Have your approved I-797 or visa document with you (perhaps in a binder) and be sure that everyone crossing has a valid passport. If crossing by land, you may need to show vehicle ownership; if travelling by air, you need to have evidence of a return ticket. You may be asked to show proof of accommodation and/or proof that you can support yourself while in a foreign country. If you are travelling with gear, have a complete inventory with you. If you are a lone parent/guardian travelling with a child, you may need written travel permission from another guardian or parent.

Appearances are important. At the border, you need to look and sound like a law-abiding citizen who is respectful of authority and poses absolutely no risk. Your demeanor and attitude need to send the right message to border crossing officials. Turn off the radio and remove the sunglasses. If crossing by land, your vehicle should be orderly, neat, and clean.

Declare what you are bringing with you. If you are bringing in CDs for sale or promotion, let the border officials know. You may have to fill out some paperwork, but it’s better to be up front then to have merchandise discovered in a routine inspection and have to deal with the repercussions of not having declared them.

Be prepared for search or inspection. Border officials routinely inspect personal belongings and search vehicles. Your suitcase or purse might be emptied, if border officials need to confirm what they have seen on the x-ray machine, or they might just be searching at random. An inspection might be as simple as a drug-sniffing dog being led on a leash around your vehicle to see if anything turns up, or a complete emptying of the contents of your vehicle. Whatever happens, grin and bear it.

Answer all questions pleasantly. Whatever you are asked, answer with a smile. Border officials can throw you a curve and may try to get a rise out of you, depending on the kind of day they are having. Just remember that their job is a difficult one and they certainly do not need, nor do they deserve, any attitude on the part of someone trying to cross a border and get into their country. Even if you are subjected to aggression or intimidation from a border crossing official, remain calm and polite. Whatever you do, don’t lie.

Do not volunteer extraneous information. As interesting as our life may be, border crossing officials really do not have time to listen to anything other than straight answers to the questions they ask. Answer briefly and directly; the fewer words the better. Use language carefully to avoid any suggestion of impropriety. Do not make jokes or any kind of extraneous comment.

Relax. It may take a while to cross a border and the waiting can be nerve-wracking. At the border, you may be searched, detained and interrogated. Whatever happens, be cooperative and reserved.

See you on the other side.

I welcome your questions and concerns. Please write to me at: robert@bairdartists.com.

exercise as medicine

Exercise as Medicine for Your Music

by: Patrick Gannon, PhD

We all know that exercise is good for you. But you may not know all that exercise is good for.

Besides promoting general fitness, musicians need exercise to strengthen their legs, core, and upper body to meet the physical demands of daily practice and performance. This is particularly important because musicians are vulnerable to performance-related injuries. Exercise promotes muscle balance that offsets the physical asymmetries that commonly occur among instrumentalists. And it offers the added benefit of reducing stress.

Now, a broader recognition of how exercise impacts the mind and body is emerging. The American College of Sports Medicine, in concert with the American Medical Association, promote the idea that “exercise is medicine” to reduce risk factors for aging, diabetes, dementia, mood disorders, and sleep. Think of it as a longevity pill that is free, readily available, and has no side effects. 

Beyond being a medicine, exercise can also be a tool. The trick is to prescribe exercise purposefully to activate certain brain functions. For example, by varying the type of exercise (cardio/aerobic or weight training), as well as the intensity level (high/moderate), frequency, and timing of exercise (before practicing or performing), you can prime the brain to help with anxiety, learning, memory, mood—even creativity.

Anxiety Management

Cardio exercise may be the best natural treatment for performance anxiety, including state (situational) and trait (dispositional) anxiety. Exercise reduces anxiety by discharging muscle tension, increasing cardiovascular capacity, and disrupting negative thoughts. Physiologically, cardio stimulates the production of calming neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which dampen anxiety.

Two ways to use exercise to reduce anxiety:

1) Thirty minutes of vigorous cardio exercise will immediately reduce anxiety. Although musicians are often discouraged from exercising before performing, it can be helpful. However, the exercise must be completed at least three hours before stepping on stage, allowing sufficient time for rest.

2) For trait anxiety, ongoing exercise several times per week, for 30-45 minutes, will lower the resting heart rate.


Who would have thought that exercise could also be a learning tool? Several studies have shown that exercise improves working memory, attention, and processing speed. Exercise stimulates neurogenesis—the creation of new neurons in the hippocampus that builds capacity for learning. It also stimulates long-term potentiation (LTP) by binding neural cells together that encode learning.

Two ways to apply exercise to learning:

1) High intensity exercise (at 60% to 80% of maximum heart rate) redirects blood flow away from the prefrontal cortex (PFC), thereby inhibiting learning (recall how hard it is to think straight when pushing your physical limit). But blood flow to the PFC is gradually restored, which then optimizes brain functions for several hours afterwards. This is why exercising before practicing makes sense.

2) Combine moderate exercise (at a 120-130 bpm heart rate) with mental rehearsal of the material that you want to learn. Because exercise stimulates the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), new neural circuits are created that encode learning. This is essentially self-directed neuroplasticity in action.

Try these exercises to promote learning and memory:

• Do 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise while listening to the music that you want to learn or 30 minutes of high intensity exercise an hour before practicing that music.

• Divide the music up into sections and create associations to each section with your own memories, feelings, and images. These narrative links will serve as cues for memory retrieval.

• Follow up with moderate exercise while mentally rehearsing the music with the narrative imagery included. Repeat this process on alternating days until fully memorized.


Studies show that creativity is stimulated by the interplay between the hippocampus, amygdala, and PFC. Creativity happens by holding diverse concepts in mind through working memory, using cognitive flexibility (and tolerance for uncertainty) to play with these concepts, and then focusing attention on the generation of new ideas.

Because exercise lowers the activation of the dorsolateral part of the PFC, old ideas are held back somewhat, allowing new ideas to emerge. But you must keep your mind open—and be patient with the process—until a new idea streams into consciousness.

Here’s how to exercise to stimulate creativity:

• Do 20-30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise on an elliptical trainer or stationary bike while mentally rehearsing the music you plan to practice that day. Allow new ideas to pop into awareness and then track the ideas as they unfold.

• The same technique can be applied to problem solving, procrastination, and planning. By holding the question or issue in mind while exercising, new ideas will emerge. Remember, listening to your intuition and “going with the flow” are what generates creativity.

Patrick Gannon, PhD is a clinical and performance psychologist working in San Francisco and nationally via Skype. He is a member of the Performing Arts Medicine Association and a national presenter on performance psychology. He welcomes comments and inquiries on this article. Visit his website (PeakPerformance101.com) or email him (drpatrickgannon@gmail.com).

Playing It Safe: The Importance of Documents

Q: My performing group had a gig in the United States and we thought we were prepared. We knew our work permit was in order; none of us had criminal records; we weren’t carrying any merchandise; we arrived at the border early; we all had passports; and our car insurance was current. But we still had trouble getting across the border. Apparently our visa approval had gotten lost in the system and the border officials could find no record of it. We had no paperwork with us and had to wait at the border until a colleague brought a copy of our I-797. We’ll always carry our paperwork from now on.

It’s always a good idea to carry your paperwork with you, especially when it comes to border crossings. You need an approved work visa to perform in the US. Although the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) uses Petition Information Management Service (PIMS) to inform a port of entry or pre-flight inspection facility of all approved visas, there can be errors and omissions. It’s always up to the border official to allow entry. Having your paperwork with you is imperative.

If you are applying for a visa at a consulate and your approved visa is not in the PIMS system, there will be a delay until it is. Having your approved I-797 with you can expedite the process. You might also consider having your complete visa application package with you, since it contains a complete itinerary and copies of contracts, as well as passport copies and beneficiary information.

Although the temporary work permit is perhaps the most important piece of paper to carry with you, there are other essential documents that will help facilitate border crossings. Obviously, your passport (or equivalent identification) is a must.

If you are bringing instruments or equipment with you, you should have an original purchase receipt for each item crossing the border, or at the very least, an inventory listing with particulars such as a description, serial numbers, purchase date, etc. Border officials need to know where and when you acquired an item or they may consider that you acquired it when travelling. It would then be subject to border crossing purchase restrictions and possibly duty and taxes.

If you are travelling with an instrument that contains any of the protected species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), such as ivory, sea turtle shell, Brazilian rosewood, monitor lizard, or whale bone, you will need a CITES permit to get the instrument across the border. Without such a permit, you may have your instrument confiscated.

If you are travelling by air, have a copy of your particular airline’s musical instrument policy: www.airlines.org/blog/instrument-rated-air-travel-for-musicians/. Also bring a copy of the Federal Department of Transportation musical instrument rule: www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/Musical%20instruments_FR_final%20rule.pdf.

Other important documents to have with you are proof of vehicle ownership, proof of accommodation, receipt for a return ticket (if travelling by air), conference registration or letter of invitation, and written permission from the guardians or parents, if travelling with a child under 18.

Border officials need to be assured you are entering the country temporarily, that you will be returning to your own country, and that you are not engaged in any activities which might violate the law.

Play it safe by carrying essential documents with you that will ease your border crossings.

—I welcome your questions and concerns. Please send an email to: robert@bairdartists.com.

7 Tips for Using Word of Mouth Marketing

7 Tips for Using Word of Mouth Marketing: The Original Social Media

7-tips-for-word-of-mouthWord of mouth marketing (WOMM), or peer-to-peer marketing, is genuine, emotional conversations people have with their friends about your gigs and music. Creating this type of “buzz” is particularly effective for building a following in your local area. Think of WOMM as the original social media.

Unfortunately, few artists use WOMM as effectively as they could. The problem is that they become too focused on collecting fans, instead of connecting with fans. Having 10,000 fans who at one time liked a video you posted, is not nearly as effective as having 100 really passionate local fans who drive others to attend your shows.

Here are 7 tips for using Word of Mouth Marketing effectively:

  1. Make sure your music stands out. Engage with the audience and get them talking. Be a presence in their lives by keeping them up-to-date with your life both on and off stage. Strive to be exciting, outrageous, and exceptional, both on stage and online. Take time to interact with everyone who posts something about your band or comments on your social media site.
  2. Provide your fans with different ways to talk about your band and share their experiences with friends. Encourage them to post on your social media sites, and take lots of show photos that they can comment on. Provide them with hashtags to use. Ask them questions about your set list and latest gig to get a conversation started.
  3. Building a strong fan base that goes beyond “likes” requires a strategy and some insight about what type of fans your music attracts. What other things do they tend to be passionate about? A good WOMM strategy is credible, social, repeatable, measurable, and respectful. Never deceive your audience/listeners by claiming to be something you are not.
  4. Make your communications special and memorable. Use “trigger words” like “sneak preview,” “exclusive footage,” “new release,” and “never before heard.” Surf the Internet for other phrases that seem to generate interest and write them down to use similar phrasing in the future.
  5. Hold short-term contests and tease them with upcoming info to get them to follow you more closely. Ideas include: “Indianapolis gig will be announced on Monday,” “win a free music download,” or “like this post to be entered in a drawing for a backstage pass (or VIP seating.” Alternatively, send them a link to a free song download on your site and say, “If you like what you hear, please pass it along to a friend.”
  6. Humor, sex, or shock appeal can stimulate and accelerate natural conversations among fans. Do you remember the funny “United Breaks Guitars” song and video posted by Dave Carroll of Local 571 (Halifax, NS)? Alternatively, use Photoshop to put yourself on stage with a celebrity, or make some other interesting, funny, and unbelievable photos to post.
  7. Utilize journalists and other people involved in your local music scene to help spread the word. Send them press releases and keep them informed about your latest releases and major gigs. Develop a press kit with your bio and interesting stories about your band.


Performance Preparation

A Holistic Approach to Performance Preparation

“Feeling nervous before a performance is normal,” says Dr. Richard Cox, a musician, music educator, and psychologist at the Colorado School of Professional Psychology.

A certain amount of “concern” is probably good, normal, and useful, Cox continues, but anxiety is a physiological hindrance to good performance.

When the nervous system registers “anxiety,” it has already started the process of trembling, shallow or rapid breathing, perspiring, and stomach discomfort.

If these physiological symptoms are present, the first note will not be at its best. Cox suggests in his book Managing Your Head and Body So You Can Become a Good Musician that the psychology and physiology of anxiety can be greatly reduced by paying attention to these basics steps:

Mental Preparation

  • Anticipation–This is a matter of mind imaging. Close your eyes and visualize the music on the page, you with your instrument, the group or accompanist with whom you are playing, and the audience. Create a small picture show in the front of your brain. If you have a difficulty doing this, close your eyes, find a “center spot” in the middle of the inside of your forehead, and picture the entire situation as if it were a cartoon being shown frame by frame.
  • Relaxation–The body responds to anxiety by tightening up. If you have difficulty relaxing naturally, there are simple exercises that help. For example: Sit in a comfortable chair, or lie flat on a bed. Close your eyes. Breathe slowly and regularly, very deeply, and count slowly from one to 10, breathing in and out very slowly on each count. Talk to yourself. Tell yourself that with each breath you will become more and more relaxed.
  • Performing in your mind–By going through the performance step by step you can anticipate surprise feelings. It is very much like anticipating the next note when we play. The best way to play the next note correctly is to anticipate how it will be executed and how it will sound within the context of the last note and then the next several notes.
  • Center on the message–It is important to remember the message we wish to send to the audience. The audience will not remember the “wrong” notes nearly as much as they will remember the communication. Think through how the music will send the desired message. Then by keeping that message in mind, we can allow the technical performance to call upon years of practice and musical preparation. Many great musicians memorize the actual music straight from the printed page in their head, while humming it, and actually doing the fingering manually, then they put it all together in their mind, and only then on the instrument.
  • Center yourself–Get in touch with your emotions. If you are preoccupied, the music will show it. It is absolutely necessary to “get lost” in the music, otherwise you become a show person, not a musician. The “centering” technique discussed under Anticipation will work here. Deep meditation is also helpful as this aspect of mental preparation requires whole brain activity. You should be keenly aware of the intellectual and emotional demands upon you and the alertness and confidence you have stored up during practice. Fifteen minutes of meditation with relaxation, twice daily, is a tonic that cannot be equaled by medicine!

Physical Preparation

  • General health–Keeping one’s body in tone is essential to best performance. After all, the instrument is only an extension of your inner self. If you feel well physically, you will communicate better. It is surprising how many musicians abuse their bodies with inadequate exercise, too much caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, illegal and prescription drugs, and excess weight.
  • Nutrition–You are what you eat. Food plays a far more important role in good performance than most musicians acknowledge. Too much sugar, excessive caffeine, and excess fats are only a few of the things to avoid. Regular eating is difficult for professional musicians due to performance times, travel, and scheduling. However, it is important to keep your blood sugar level under control and within normal limits at all times.
  • Sleep–Loss of sleep produces serious effects. In fact, tiredness is only a symptom of the real problem–dream deprivation. When we do not sleep regularly, we develop sleep habits that skip important phases of sleep. One of these phases is the stage in which we dream. Dreams are essential for the repair of our entire thought process system. It also is particularly difficult for many musicians to obtain enough sleep before midnight. Research has shown that one hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after midnight. Some performers turn to medication and drugs to help them, but sleep that comes as a result of chemicals is not natural and does not produce the same beneficial results.

Other Considerations

  • Beta Blockers–All medicines are drugs and have both beneficial and harmful effects. Medicines containing beta blockers are used by some musicians to control stage fright. However, these medicines work by blocking certain impulses to the heart and can have profound effects upon the heart and nervous system that controls the entire cardiovascular system.
  • Other Medicines–The side effects of common medicines can dry you out (diuretics), make you drowsy (antihistamines), make you jittery (some cold and flu medications), cause nausea (some antibiotics), and some keep you awake. There are thousands of side effects of medicines you need to take into account. Medicines can also become a habit, both psychologically and physically. Be sure to discuss all the side effects of any medication you take, whether prescription or over-the-counter, with your doctor.
  • Doctors–Be sure your doctor knows you are a musician and understands that treatments and medications can effect your ability to study and perform. When undergoing surgery, if at all possible, request local anesthetic. General anesthesia puts the nervous system of the whole body to sleep and usually requires considerably more time to “bounce back.”
  • Dentists–If you are a wind instrument player, remind your dentist that your lips need to be treated gently. Even small changes in tooth structure, muscular ability, dry mouth, and myriad other considerations can effect your playing.
  • Your Brain & Music–Thinking about how your brain functions when you produce music will help you balance your artistic interpretation with your technical abilities. The two sides of your brain are called “hemispheres.” The left side is known for its analytical functions–putting the technical aspects of playing together. It is where we have logic and order. Right brain activity is emotive, artistic, romantic, and creative. Learning to truly listen to and appreciate what music does to the psyche and the soul is important to the right side of the brain. When the brain is functioning as a whole–connected by the structure that bridges the hemispheres, called the “corpus callosum”–you are in a great place to artistically perform with correct technique.
  • The Whole Person–The concept of wholeness, or holistic thinking, encompasses the mind, the body, and the spirit. It includes what you think, what you do, how you feel, what you believe, how you relate to others, and many other aspects of your total being. The concept seems rather esoteric at first, until you see how you fit into it. You cannot appreciate the role of music in everyday life, and your role as a musician, until you understand the meaning of the whole person. Once you grasp that concept it will be amazing how much easier it is to communicate with others and allow your music to touch the lives of others.

Adapted from Managing Your Head and Body So You Can Become a Good Musician, by Dr. Richard H. Cox, Colorado School of Professional Psychology Press, Colorado Springs, CO, 2006.

9 Tips for Success as an Endorsing Artist

by John Wittmann, Manager of Artist Relations and Education, Band & Orchestral Division, Yamaha Corporation of America

9 Tips for Success as an Endorsing ArtistMusicians performing at all levels consider acquiring endorsements at some point in their career. Some play with the idea; others move on it. Ultimately, it is the reasoning or motive behind one’s actions that determines success as an endorsing artist.

From the manufacturer’s point of view, endorsements are designed to help promote the credibility of a company’s instruments or accessories. They also exist to give the appropriate support to established artists and to help the company sell more instruments.


Ask Why

When someone tells me they want to endorse our instruments, I listen without interrupting until they are completely finished with their pitch. Then, after a long pause, I look them in the eye and say one word, which is one of the most empowering words in our language. I simply say “Why?”

The artist’s response will ensure or quell any interest on my behalf. If they continue talking about how good they are, or how close they are to signing that big record deal, or how we would be crazy not to sign them, then I invite them to send a package and end the conversation as quickly and politely as possible.

If, on the other hand, the artist tells me that they love our instruments, have found complete freedom in musical expression playing them, and indicate that they will continue playing them whether we sign that artist or not, I continue to listen.

Be Professional

It still amazes me to this day that musicians will apply to several manufactures at the same time. Consider the lack of credibility involved here. What does this say about their musical decisions? What they are really saying is that it doesn’t matter, musically, what instrument they play and that they are just looking to find the company which will give them more.

I know I speak for all musical instrument manufacturers when I say “get a clue.” If you want to be taken seriously in the big leagues, act like a professional, make a musical decision, and stay with it. If you want to be considered for a corporate, musical, and personal relationship through an endorsement, consider the following:

9 Tips for Success as an Endorsing Artist

  1. Cast a clear vision for yourself: know who you are; determine your own sound; devote yourself to music … the songs, the group, the sound, your students, and your career. When you are making a living playing music and have something to offer others, then move on to number two.
  2. Ask yourself why. Why are you asking for an endorsement? What are you willing to offer? What do you bring to the table that would matter? What attributes do you have as a person and an artist that would make you invaluable to a company?
  3. Do you have an established career in music? This is a yes or no question. Be realistic, as this is the real world. Some guidelines: How many thousands or tens-of-thousands of recordings were sold last year with your name listed as the main artist? Are you currently on a major tour? How long have you been in your current band or symphony? Of what college or university are you a faculty member? If you are still in college, stay focused on your music and forget about endorsements.
  4. In order to merit clinic support, you must be a great clinician. A great player is not necessarily a great teacher or clinician. This is an important point. Before you ask for clinic support, have 100 clinics under your belt and make sure that belt is a black belt in the art of teaching. It is important to the manufacturers that someone who calls themselves a clinician is indeed artful and effective at this work.
  5. Make yourself an expert on the company that manufactures the instrument you play. You should know its history, philosophy, current artist roster, and position in the market. If you want to be an endorsing representative of a company, you simply must know and respect who you would be representing before you approach them. Study the company’s website and determine how it represents its artists. Do you fit in with its roster?
  6. Establish rapport. Introduce yourself at trade shows to the company’s staff without presenting a package or even mentioning the word endorsement. We assume, if you are talking to us, that you can play. Remember, many of the people working for instrument manufactures are fine musicians. Many of them would surprise you if you ever heard them play. In the endorsement context, you need to present yourself as a business person. We want to know what it would be like to work with you.
  7. Prepare a well-crafted promotional package. Your package should include a short letter, a biography, a recording, a photo, and the URL to your website. Take time and have fun crafting this package; it is your first impression. Do some background work and be sure you’re sending it to the correct person–get the correct spelling of his or her name, as well as that person’s correct title.
  8. Don’t expect free instruments or to be paid money in return for playing a company’s instrument. Artist discounts will be discussed after your package has generated interest. Companies expect endorsing artists to play their instruments exclusively; to mention their companies at educational events; to thank the company for their support; and, when possible, to include the company’s name on recording materials. Individual companies may have other expectations beyond these, which will be discussed if they are interested.
  9. Keep focused on the music while paying attention to your sound and to your business skills. Music manufactures are, above all, interested in being represented by good, professional musicians who truly love the tools of their trade.

An endorsement relationship with a company is a privilege. It is a truly reciprocal relationship which is based on trust and great communication. Endorsements do not exist to propel anyone’s career. Rather your successful career will propel endorsements.

Air: The Life Blood of Wind Instrumentalists and Singers

by Donald L. Banschbach of Local 10-128 (Chicago, IL)

Whether you’re a wind instrumentalist or singer, you have probably heard the phrase “use your diaphragm” many times throughout the course of your career from teachers and fellow musicians. This instruction concerns the constant flow of air supported by the group of muscles that musicians and singers employ for optimal sound in their performances. To support air flow, singers and instrumentalists use forced inspiration and forced expiration of breath, essentially turning the human body into an air pump.

How It Works
Air pumps, like the human respiratory system, draw in air from the atmosphere and expel it into a container such as a balloon. The human trunk is divided into two large cavities, the thoracic cavity, which contains the lungs and heart, and the abdominal cavity, which contains the stomach and intestines. The diaphragm, a large dome-shaped muscle, separates these two cavities.

Using forced inspiration, the musician’s diaphragm lowers the floor of the thoracic cavity, while increasing the volume inside the cavity. At the same time the muscles between the ribs (external intercostals) elevate the rib cage. The dual action enlarges the thoracic cavity, sucking air into the tiny alveoli sacks filling the lungs with air—think of the action of an air pump with the diaphragm as the plunger.

At this point in the breathing process, the musician or singer is ready to force air through the mouthpiece or vocal cords. The human girdle (made up of the transversalis abdominis, external and internal oblique muscles) now forces the stomach and intestines against the lateral side of the diaphragm. This reduces the size of the thoracic cavity. Simultaneously, the internal intercostals (musculature between the ribs) lower the ribs, reducing the size of the rib cage. This joint action is similar to squeezing your hands together forcing the air out of a balloon.

The volume of air used for forced inspiration and forced expiration, is known as the musician’s vital capacity. This volume, measuring in cubic centimeters (cc), varies from clarinet player to tuba player or rock singer to opera star. Females generally average 3,000 cc of lung capacity and males 5,000 cc. Variations in vital capacity between individuals or across the sexes does not seem to hinder performance levels. However, a musician’s height, weight, and age can affect vital capacity. It is the general opinion of the medical community that regular physical exercise increases vital capacity. Forced inspiration and forced expiration, as used by wind musicians, increases the capacity. This exercise of the lungs increases oxygen in the blood stream, blows off carbon dioxide, and is a contributing factor to the health of the musician.

Avoiding Improper Technique
When the diaphragm is used correctly, the abdomen will project forward or push out, while the musicians inhales. A “heaving chest” occurs when a musician or singer fails to use the diaphragm properly. It is a sign that the diaphragm is not being used to full capacity since the breath will jerk the rib cage upwards instead of expanding the stomach. While this heaving action makes it possible for the musician to achieve some degree of vital capacity, there is a major problem with this type of breathing. The external intercostals, in between the ribs, are acting on their own and cannot achieve the airflow required for maximum musical performance. A formula for the proper muscle use in inhaling and exhaling might read as follows:

Forced inspiration = diaphragm + external intercostals assisting

Forced expiration = abdominals + internal intercostals assisting

To get a better sense of how to use the diaphragm properly, place the tips of your fingers on your belly and inhale. As you inhale, your belly should expand as the air enters your lungs and your fingers should feel as if they are moving away from the body. As you exhale, the belly should cave in and your fingers travel inwards.

Practice breathing, separate from when you are rehearsing music, to accustom the body to correct breathing for optimal performance.

Tips on Making an Orchestral Audition Recording

Grant applications are often straightforward to follow but time-consuming. Don’t wait until the last minute to send in an application, as you may find yourself rushing around to make photocopies or prepare a demo CD and thus are more likely to make mistakes or miss a part of the application.

Tips on Making an Orchestral Audition Recording

  • Always read guidelines and instructions carefully and follow them to the letter. Always submit a grant on time and in the requested format.
  • Don’t try to make the grantor’s program fit what you want to do–your program must be in line with the funding agency’s priorities.
  • Keep your goals realistic! Grantors want to know if projects will be successful, will meet their goals, and that those goals are measurable.
  • Be creative and compelling. Grants may be won or lost on the quality of ideas proposed. Grant writers talk about the “hook,” the sentence that tailors the project description to the interest of a funder.
  • Have clearly definable goals and objectives. You may also be asked to define an audience for your project or how it fits a grant’s wider (i.e. educational or historical) goals.
  • Propose a reasonable, detailed budget and timetable. Do your homework on costs prior to submitting your application.
  • Clarity is very important. Have someone you trust, preferably with good writing skills, read and critique your application.
  • Proofread! Spelling and grammar errors do not convey a positive or professional image. It’s a good idea to draft statements and longer items of the application before preparing a final version.
  • Choose partners wisely. If working collaboratively, make sure your partner is trustworthy, shares your vision, and shares the leg work.
  • If unsuccessful, follow-up with the funding agency nevertheless. Sometimes, not always, it will be able to give a critique of your application or reasons why certain projects were successful.