Past, Present, and Future
It’s the beginning of November and it’s been two months since I’ve posted a blog. Not because I didn’t want to, just that every timeI thought about writing something, I was usually doing something. Why am I telling you this? Well, there’s this amazing woman in Illinois that reads every blog and then sends me a message thanking me for writing it. In a world fueled by numbers, sometimes we forget that a single audience member is a pretty important audience. If one person on this huge planet enjoys what you create, be appreciative and let them know. Judy, thanks for taking the time to read what I write. And if you have two or more people that regularly enjoy what you create, then you might be on to something. John, thank you for reading what I write. To everyone that reads what I write: thank you.
I’ve was researching the other day on YouTube. I was trying to find myself. Not in a self-help way but in an honest, “am I on here” way. It turns out I am. The easiest way to find me is “Tommy Doggett Saxophone.” This eliminates the photographer, the real estate agent, the football player, and Shakespeare’s good friend. This is relevant to the upcoming release of my new album that I’ll get to down below. What I found while searching YouTube were two videos recorded at Louie’s Wine Dive in Des Moines three years ago; May 2019. I’m playing with Scot Sutherland. This show was right after his birthday because he’s playing his six-string that Jenipher surprised him with along with a house full of guests that yelled “Happy Birthday!” The videos capture two of our favorite songs to play: Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic by The Police and Feedback by Bob Reynolds.
Let me tell you what I’ve learned recently as a teacher. I’ve learned that Band isn’t just about a director and sheet music. It’s so much more. The teaching or instruction is not limited to the director. How to play the song isn’t limited to the sheet music. The middle school students I’m working with this year started Band online or in a classroom with their instrument covered with a bag. This not only makes instruction difficult for the director but it makes peer to peer learning almost impossible. Kids learn from each other. I would go as far as to say that they sometimes learn more from each other. Recently, I’ve witnessed students holding instruments in creative ways. I’m avoiding using the word “wrong” because for each student, their creativity got the end result accomplished: they played the song, it was recognizable, their families knew what they were playing, and all of the important things that a 5th or 6th grader wants to accomplish. Details like, how to properly hold a musical instrument are not the concern of a 6th grader. However, music is important to these students and the beauty of music is that it can be accomplished in a number of ways. Safety is always the most important factor in learning. Technique is important but not more important than joy and community. And here’s the thing: my student’s technique improves every week. I’m seeing students accomplish so much in just two and a half months. And why is that? It’s every part of Band; the routine, their peers, the Band room, the directors, the music, and most importantly, their drive to learn.
Recently, I’ve been attending concerts. It’s probably the best thing a musician can do. Yes, practicing is important but it’s pointless unless you’re inspired. Since August, I’ve seen:
The Life Project
Cory Wong and the Wong Notes
The Monday Night Misery Club
The Des Moines Big Band
Too Many Zooz
A lot of great artists both locally and nationally are playing in Des Moines. WIth a little effort and financial planning, you can catch a lot of great music. Some of these concerts happened when I thought it was inconvenient or maybe when I was too tired to go to the show. But every time, I left the concert feeling better than I did before the concert. That’s the magic of music.
I’ve started an online class to learn more about releasing an album in the current music environment. Not too long ago, I listened to a podcast where Adam Meckler interviewed Ari Herstand. From that podcast, I read Ari’s book; How to Make It in the New Music Business. And from there, I signed up for Ari’s Take Academy to study: Registration, Royalties, and Release. My goal with the class is to give my album a fighting chance. None of us know what can happen to anything we create but I don’t want to go in clueless and I don’t want to walk out and miss an opportunity. This is why at the start of this blog I mentioned finding myself. The first big thing I’ve learned in taking this class is: don’t make it hard for someone to discover your music. That goes for your artist name, the album name, how it’s described, where it’s available, how you can stream it, where you can buy it, where you can learn more; everything. We no longer dig in record crates; we type, and more recently, we go off suggestions based on our listening history aka algorithms. Before I share this album with everyone, I want to continue researching and reflecting. I want to answer the aforementioned questions. I want to give this album a fighting chance.
In December, I go to the studio to record Lines & Lineage. (Yes, that’s a new title. Reread the paragraph above.) I’ll be joined in the studio by Scot Sutherland, Seth Hedquist, and Russ Tomlinson. The recording will take place at Golden Bear Records with Bryan Vanderpool behind the board dialing in a live-in-the-studio experience. After playing the nine songs at xBk, I’ve updated the sheet music to reflect the decisions made on stage that night. This was part of the plan all along because I knew that the songs would take on a new life in the hands of great musicians in front of a live audience. Now we can proceed to make an honest and authentic album being true to ourselves and the songs. I'll take pictures and make video of the entire process and share the entire experience over the coming months.
And again, thank you to everyone that enjoys reading these. If you think someone else would enjoy it, feel free to share it, post it, pin it, print it, send it.