Tag Archives: performance

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs

Author Martin Popoff examines the music of Led Zeppelin as a complex amalgam of blues, rock, folk, and country. He details each of the group’s 81 studio tracks—how and why they were created and the historical context, as well as the recording process. Sidebars detail personnel and instrumentation for each album. The book contains many rare performance and offstage photographs, along with memorabilia.

Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs, by Martin Popoff,
Voyageur Press, www.quartoknows.com.

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Ratifies New Agreement

In November, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra announced that it has ratified a new CBA with its musicians, effective through 2020. The contract includes a wage increase of 2.5% per year for New York City rates, as well as restructured rates in other markets. The contract introduces a new chamber music scale, reflecting the orchestra’s increased presence throughout the tri-state area, and a community engagement scale, reflecting a commitment to broaden its reach in the local New York City community.

The new agreement provides more flexibility in touring rules, allowing Orpheus to adjust to complex travel schedules. A new Artistic Oversight Committee will continually evaluate the orchestra’s structure and artistic quality. Finally, the contract allows Orpheus to augment its roster by hiring musicians into a new “associate membership” tier.

The orchestra was recently awarded an increased grant of $175,000 from The Howard Gilman Foundation to support its 2017-2018 New York City performance activity. Orpheus Chamber Ensemble, whose musicians are members of Local 802 (New York City), is unique in its structure and governance, performing without a conductor and rotating musical leadership roles for each work.

Tesla’s Firing Motives Questioned

Labor groups blasted the electric vehicle maker in a letter to Tesla executives, claiming union-supporters may have been dismissed because they raised issues about wages and safety in the plant. While Tesla insists the workers were let go because of poor performance, some workers among the 400 to 700 employees fired, claim they had consistently strong performance reviews before being let go. The National Labor Relations Board is also looking into whether Tesla harassed workers distributing union materials.

Tesla employs about 33,000 workers. The firings ranged from factory workers in Fremont to engineers at its Palo Alto headquarters. The company, which lost $336 million in the second quarter of the year, is preparing to ramp up production for its lower-cost Model 3 sedans. It has about 450,000 reservations for the all-electric vehicles and produced only 260 last quarter.

Electronic Media and the Role of Live Performance Contracts

Electronic Media Services Divisionby Patrick Varriale, Director, AFM Electronic Media Services Division

You may wonder why an issue focusing on electronic media has space devoted to live performance work. It would seem to be a contradiction in terms. In the following  paragraphs you will learn about this distinct and important connection and why it is essential for locals to take an aggressive approach in seeing to it that the services of musicians are protected.

When a live performance is recorded or taped, as most are these days, if there is no signatory to an appropriate AFM agreement covering the recording/taping, the live performance contract will play a key role. It should include “paragraph 6,” which contains words to the effect: no performance shall be recorded/taped in the absence of an AFM agreement to cover the recording/taping of the musicians’ services. This wording enables the Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD) to pursue the appropriate electronic media payments—wages, residuals, royalties and benefits—against the “purchaser” of the live gig.

If live work is performed under a collective bargaining agreement between the AFM local and the employer, or if it is done under an AFM Pamphlet B touring agreement, any recording that takes place will most likely be covered. For instance, there is an artist who is signed to a Pamphlet “B” Touring Agreement, which covers the live services of the musicians. The artist is also signed to the proper AFM electronic media agreement for the recording of the performances. Therefore, the musician receives additional payments covered by that electronic media agreement, including wages, pension fund contributions, health and welfare (filed on the relevant AFM B Report Forms), and any ancillary payments stemming from that agreement.

However, in situations where there is no collective bargaining agreement or AFM-approved touring agreement—whether it is for a church service or an artist performing at a major venue—in many instances the live performance contract is not filed to cover the date. Therefore, the AFM is hard-pressed to secure additional electronic media related payments.

As a recent example, it was brought to the attention of the EMSD that a group of musicians from a church were taped. That taped performance was exhibited on an ongoing basis over the Internet. With no AFM agreement in place to cover the taping or live performance contract, the EMSD has been unable to pursue payments due the musicians that would have applied under the AFM’s Internet Streaming Agreement. Unfortunately, there are many similar situations.

The solution is relatively simple. When engaged for a live performance, musicians should check ahead of time with the local having jurisdiction over the venue to find out the status of the live contract. This will give the local the opportunity to provide the “purchaser” of the musicians’ services with the appropriate contract. 

Locals can take an active role in policing activity that takes place within their jurisdiction to safeguard its members’ work. This may be easier said than done, but more than worth it to ensure that the services of musicians are protected to the utmost degree.

Young Artists Recognized by Yamaha’s YYPA Program

In April, Yamaha Artist Services Indianapolis and Yamaha Band & Orchestral Division named the winners of the 2017 Yamaha Young Performing Artists (YYPA) Competition. The musicians were selected on their technical skill and artistry as demonstrated in submitted audio and video auditions. Emphasizing Yamaha’s commitment to music education, the competition recognizes exceptional emerging musicians in the jazz, classical, and contemporary genres.

The 10 2017 YYPA Winners include: Victor Hernandez Ramirez of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (flute); He Zhang of Harbin, China (clarinet); Hannah Hickman of Sheldon, Iowa (classical saxophone); Howard Dietz of Morgan Hill, California (jazz saxophone); Michelle Hembree of Boise, Idaho (horn); Altin Sencalar of Temple, Texas (jazz trombone); Cameron Leach of Hilliard, Ohio (concert percussion); Stephen Morris of Aliso Viejo, California (drum set); Derek Louie of New York, New York (cello); and Nathan Ben-Yehuda of Los Angeles, California (piano).

Winners receive an all-expense-paid trip to the YYPA Celebration Weekend June 24-27, during the Music for All Summer Symposium, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, June 24-July 1. There, they will perform at a YYPA Concert and participate in workshops to help them toward their professional careers. Other privileges include services and support from Yamaha Artist Relations and professional recordings, as well as photography, of their live performance.

This year’s YYPA Guest Artist is Yamaha Performing Artist and principal timpanist of the National Symphony Orchestra Jauvon Gilliam of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC). He will give a special solo performance during the concert. In previous years, featured guest artists included three-time Grammy Award winner Jeff Coffin of Local 257 (Nashville, TN), saxophonist for the Dave Matthews Band.

More than 250 talented musicians who have been recognized since the program’s inception. Many of them have already established successful music careers, as performers and educators, including Ricardo Morales, principal clarinet of the Philadelphia Orchestra, a member of Local 77 (Philadelphia, PA).


The Neuroscience of Peak Performance and Flow

by Patrick Gannon, PhD

What is happening in the minds and bodies of musicians when they play their best? Are peak performance and flow simply subjective perceptions of performance excellence? Or are they distinct mental states, a defined set of optimal behaviors, a heightened sense of self-confidence, or some trick of human nature?

Despite the confusion, we do have language to describe these experiences—being in the zone, in rhythm, in a groove, playing unconscious, even the so-called runner’s high. For starters, peak performance refers to optimal physical behaviors while psychologists define flow as a mental state. For musicians, it is both mental and physical because they feel calm, alert, focused, challenged, but confident, fully present in the moment, and supremely engaged in the task. When that feeling is combined with the thrill of playing music, magic happens!

If only we could bottle it, right? Thanks to neuroscience, that may now be possible.

The Flow State

Research findings have identified three markers that reveal how and when flow occurs: alpha/theta brain waves, brain coherence, and deactivation of the dorso-lateral, pre-frontal cortex (DLPFC).

First, the flow state is located at the crossover point between alpha and theta brain waves (eight Hz and below). As brain activity slows from the relaxing alpha state into the hypnagogic theta wave (below eight Hz), the neural network becomes highly attuned. At the same time, super fast (40-100 Hz) gamma waves, triggered by theta, go into action. Gamma waves connect information drawn from various parts of the brain that are involved in music making, allowing skill learning, procedural memory, and self-expression to settle into rhythm.

Secondly, synchronization between the left and right hemispheres or brain coherence is another marker for flow. Both hemispheres must be working complementarily to integrate artistic expression and technical skills. Cardio exercise, meditation, and yoga along with brain-based clinical techniques, like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), all promote brain coherence through bi-lateral stimulation.

Enhancing Flow

Finally, a temporary brain state called transient hypofrontality has been identified that enhances flow by lowering the activation of the DLPFC. This part of the brain holds our inner critic, that voice of doubt that can trigger cognitive anxiety. Cardio exercise redirects blood flow away from the DLPFC to the motor parts of the brain, enabling a more embodied focus without interference from self-consciousness, distraction, or negative thinking.

These findings can be applied to mental skill training that has been the hallmark of sport psychology over the last 50 years. The six key skills are relaxation, imagery, goal setting, self-talk, concentration, and pre-performance routines.

1) Relaxation is the first key because performance anxiety usually inhibits peak performance. Anxiety and physiological arousal must be regulated before peak performance and flow can occur. Exercise is a basic treatment for all types of anxiety. Daily meditation over a minimum of eight weeks reduces both state and trait anxiety by lowering the resting heart rate and enhancing brain plasticity.

2) Imagery engages the power of the senses, especially visualization, to mentally depict what peak performance should look and feel like. Cardio imagery and rehearsal is a new technique that combines mental rehearsal with moderate cardio exercise (120-140 heart rate, using an elliptical trainer or stationary bike) to prime learning and reinforce process goals. Mental rehearsal is effective because mirror neurons activate various muscle groups via the peripheral nervous system in the same way as with physical practice.

3) Goal setting is a motivational tool for directing one’s efforts toward optimal learning. Goal setting supports deliberate practice that encourages musicians to concentrate their efforts on their most challenging repertoire. Exercising in the morning before practice, while mentally focusing on what needs work, helps identify practice goals and primes the brain for learning later on.

4) Self-talk reveals the psychological relationship between the person and the performer, such as having a positive outlook and being mentally tough when under stress. Research shows that positive thoughts and feelings promote creativity whereas negative emotions stimulate critical thinking that can lead to self-consciousness. Not surprisingly, a positive mental attitude is a key component
of flow.

5) Concentration emphasizes attention skills and mental discipline to focus on the challenges involved in music performance. The mind must be fully engaged in the moment, free of distractions, and immersed in the task. Quite simply, the best way to build focusing skills is to learn to live in the moment. Not so easy, as many of us have found out!

6) Pre-performance routines allow musicians to find that groove that activates a positive performance mindset. The key tools are breathing and centering exercises, locking into one’s optimal zone of activation and converting pre-performance jitters into excitement.

Ultimately, playing music in the flow state is its own best reward, one reason why musicians are so passionate about pushing musical boundaries. So when it happens, embrace it!

Patrick Gannon, PhD is a Clinical and Performance Psychologist in San Francisco available for consultation in person, phone or via Skype. Dr. Gannon is a national presenter and former competitive tennis player and coach as well as a member of the Performing Arts Medicine Association (www.artsmed.org). You can contact him at  PeakPerformance101.com and drpatrickgannon@gmail.com

New Tent Lets Richmond Symphony Take Its show on the Road

 The Richmond Symphony has purchased a 70-foot outdoor performance tent after successfully completing its $500,000 Big Tent Initiative and winning a $500,000 challenge grant from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation. The new tent will be in place by mid-August, allowing the organization to bring its 70-piece orchestra and 150-member chorus outside the walls of the Carpenter Theatre, in order to cultivate a greater, more personal connection with its surrounding community.

How to Lead the Audience

Excerpted from How to Play Madison Square Garden: A Guide to Stage Performance, (Not More Saxophone Music Inc., 2011) by Mindi Abair, member of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), Lance Abair, and Ross Cooper.

The first 10 seconds are the most crucial to winning over an audience. How you walk onto the stage is important. It gives the audience an idea of who and what is important. If you walk onto the stage initially looking at the other band members and their equipment, it appears that 1) you think you are more important than the audience or 2) you are ignoring the audience. If you walk onto the stage immediately looking out into the audience to see everyone, you convey the impression that you can’t wait to become friends with everyone. This immediately gives the audience a feeling of importance, and ultimately causes them to like you from the very beginning.

The best way to prepare for walking onto the stage is to have all of your equipment, microphones, guitars, drumsticks, etc. ready so that you can pick them up and/or put them on without even thinking about it. This enables you to be free to check out the audience from the first step you take on stage, and this starts the show off in the most personal and effective way possible. You’re confident, ready to give as a performer, and this is your time. Look them straight in the eyes, and then rock them!

Nothing Succeeds Like Success

Walk on stage as if you own it and you belong there. Exude confidence and success. Don’t confuse the terms confidence and success with cockiness. Cocky people are generally not well liked. On the other hand, people don’t want to follow someone who appears to be unsure of themselves or worse, a loser. They will follow a winner anywhere. A great smile will do wonders. It imparts the feeling that, “I know what I’m doing. I’ve done it a million times before. Come along with me. This is going to be great!”

Be You

One of the difficulties in explaining the best way to meet the audience is that performance styles can be so wildly different. For example, the high energy rock group KISS comes out blasting and uses a lot of intricate lighting and pyrotechnics. On the other end of the spectrum, jazz singer Norah Jones comes out performing a more low-key, sensitive marriage of music and lyrics. These two approaches are completely different, but they are completely correct for each act. The higher-power rock group needs to establish themselves as such. The warm and smooth singer-songwriter needs to likewise establish the environment and level of intimacy that facilitates the best possible presentation of his or her material.

The important thing to consider is how you and your group intend to meet the audience. Do your best to make a statement regarding who you are. Establish your character very early, and you will be able to take the audience on a journey from there.

Many years ago a famous R&B singer-songwriter, who had a number one hit song on the Billboard charts, was performing a live concert. After the house lights were dimmed and the singer took the stage, the audience went wild. They were anxious to hear some of the most brilliantly executed R&B music of the day. Instead of playing R&B, this artist started playing old standard songs, as if he were the piano player in a nightclub lounge. The crowd was forgiving, however, they were a bit disappointed. The expectation that a certain character would emerge from the stage at the outset didn’t happen. Once again, establish your true character early so you can move to take the crowd on a journey. Don’t start off on a tangent. You can journey toward this, but a tangent should never start or end a show.

After you have played your opening musical segment, the audience will applaud. Respond to the audience’s applause by thanking them and by making a statement that will help to establish the tone of the show for the night.

You Control the Show

Control of the show is a simple concept that can either make you or break you. Part of any successful relationship is knowing who’s in charge. You are in charge. There are no exceptions to this hard and fast rule. You should be in control of a number of things, including the overall feel of the show, the content, the amount and quality of interaction with the audience, and even the pacing of the show. You should always go in with these things in mind. Even though it is the audience who is buying the tickets, you should realize that they are paying you to be in charge.

Actors are always taught to never break character and to never allow hecklers or interruptive elements of any type to break their concentration and performance. As musical performers, somehow that’s never taught to us! But the concept works for any type of performer. Is there someone in the audience who is yelling out a request for a song continually? Is it distracting people from what you’re doing on stage? Is it distracting you from what you are doing? Move the show along. Don’t lose sight of what you’re on stage to do.

Apply and maintain pressure on the audience. Audience pressure is created when the performer’s actions on stage compel the audience to become interested and involved. The opposite of pressure, “dead air,” where the audience loses interest with what’s happening on stage, should be avoided at all cost.