Friday, August 28, 2009

Jason Heath Kudos, August Quarterly Edition

I’d be pretty shocked if there were any readers over here who didn’t also read Jason Heath’s Bass Blog, or partake in some other form of his vast media empire. Between blogging, podcasting, and ISB convention-ing, the guy is pretty much the Supreme Ruler of the Bass Intertubes. He’s also been kind enough to have me as a guest blogger for some time now, which I very much appreciate.

Over the Summer, I’ve had a slew of “wow!” moments while reading the blog - Jason has had a bunch of thought-provoking posts. In my typical way, each time I read one of them I told myself that I needed to blog about (or at least thank Jason for) sharing his ideas with us. And each time, in my typical way, my heat-addled brain would be distracted by some bright shiny object and I’d never get around to it. Now that my vacation time is ebbing away, I’m going to simply consolidate all those blog kudos into one mega-post under the “better late and consolidated than never” theory....
So, here goes:

- Jason’s post on university websites was fantastic, and certainly hit home for me as someone wanting to use the Web and new media in general as part of the teaching and outreach mission of Peabody. I don’t think there is a single university website out there yet that really realizes the potential of even a basic webpage, much less other more “advanced” options involving media and real-time interaction. I hopefully won’t get myself in too much trouble with my bosses by saying this, but a lot of decisions about how much attention and resources go to university music websites are made by folks who either don’t understand their potential and importance, or who are threatened by their own lack of knowledge about the internet. It will take time for often change-averse universities to really make the investment in time and money that will make their websites truly accessible, open and accurate! I’m happy to note that Peabody has made some great strides in this area, especially in adding more timely and useful video and audio to the Conservatory website, but lots remains to be done.
Frankly, if any university wants some sense of how to do it, they might want to survey what Mr. Heath has accomplished for a few inspirational examples....

- Obviously, this post on blog fatigue was one I read carefully. My own blogging commitment has moved in fits and starts, and revealed all too clearly one truth that Jason doesn’t state openly, but clearly demonstrates in everything he writes - blogging is work! For me, it’s good and deeply satisfying work. I like to write, and I like to have a place to put out my thoughts and observations on teaching and playing. And I’d be foolish to deny that this blog can be a useful recruiting tool for me as a teacher and for Peabody in general - many interested bass students have contacted me after reading the blog, and it provides a sort of online advertisement for my teaching ideas and for the Peabody program in general. However, rather like other good-for-me things that require focused commitment and work (such as, say, practicing...), I’m a master at finding ways to avoid blogging. Jason’s post reminded me that I need to set concrete goals (and schedule time) for my blogging life if it’s going to continue to be rewarding to me, both personally and professionally.

- Finally, I wanted to mention his great post on mixing string sets. I’ve experimented with mixing different types of strings, and it’s certainly something folks should try to do. I generally find the string that often is the most problematic for me in a complete set is the E string. On many basses, the response and sound quality of the E string doesn’t seem to end up matching the other three strings as well as I’d like. On both of my good instruments, I’ve tried out a variety of E strings, and on my big Prescott bass I currently use a D’Addario Helicore long E string alongside three Flexocor Permanent strings.

One big trouble with trying out strings is that’s it can be a very expensive thing to try. Strings aren’t cheap, especially the European-made types. I maintain a “lending library” of strings that I loan to students who are experimenting with strings combos on their basses. While the strings aren’t all brand new, they can at least give students some idea of whether a certain string works for them before they plunk down the cash and buy something.

Thanks Jason for all the good summer reading material and keep it up!

What’s that distant rumbling I hear?....

It’s the mobs and legions of Peabody bass students arriving for the Fall semester!

I’ve been enjoying my summer break to no end, and it’s been incredibly relaxing and refreshing, but I’m also tremendously excited about beginning of this year at Peabody. We have one of our largest incoming classes in years, and are looking forward to a year of great work, music-making, and hopefully a fair amount of fun along the way.

After a pretty moribund summer, the blog is going to be warming up as well. Besides the occasional post from me, we’ll also be exploiting our new media empire as we launch our Peabody Bass Department page on Facebook, and join all the cool kids with our own Twitter feed. We’ll be offering more video and audio content, more contributions from students and alumni, and hopefully some guest posts from our new guest faculty members, Faculty Artist in Residence Hal Robinson and orchestral repertoire class instructor (and my NSO colleague) Ira Gold.

Watch this space for all the details...