On competition and excellence

There are certain circles of people from whom I am somewhat ostracized professionally. In general, these are, at best, mediocre artists, usually more along the lines of dilettantes or hobbyists than even practitioners – but they play the “pro” role well enough to satisfy/fool the people booking them. I am happy to be apart and separate from them as I have little respect for what they do. In some settings & venues they repeatedly get “the call” while I am not even considered for the gig. Again, I find this comforting. The people who champion them are often (but not always) just as pathetic in their own way. They want the predictable and expected and that is boring as fuck, IMO. In other cases, it’s a matter of egos, which is MORE boring than fuck!

It’s been said that you can judge a man by his friends, but I think you can also judge a man by who is NOT his friend. I don’t see these people as enemies or competition: their “standards” are too low for me to consider them in that light.

Then there is my “inner circle” of colleagues, friends, and clients – all of whom I am very fond. They are not only all true professionals and accomplished artists and presenters, but they are also at the top of their game. Some names you’d know instantly as they are essentially household words around the world. Others you won’t know at all but they are equally great, even if they do remain somewhat anonymous.

If there is one thing that separates these two groups of people, it is the ability to both critique and accept critique on a collaborative basis.

The former group does not respond well to any comments that call their work into question: their egos are way too fragile to accept that. They are also incapable of altering their work to address problems even after they arise, especially under a tight deadline or performance in the next few hours. Ultimately, they lack vision and simply try to maintain the status quo. That is death for an artist, IMO.

The latter group (my inner circle) tend to thrive on constructive criticism and are not afraid to offer it. When a problem is revealed, even just hours before a premiere, it gets fixed. There is no such thing as “I can’t” with this group. It just gets done, and, more often than not, the product is much better as a result.

There is no shame in being mediocre if that’s truly the best you can do. My only request to these people is: stay the fuck out of my way, perhaps in a galaxy that can never be too far away for my taste.


Keyboard Improvisation site basics

Keyboard Improvisation is predominantly focused on discussions about the art of improvising in pre-jazz styles (AKA “Classical music”) as well as in all styles of music (jazz, modern, new age) and on any instrument, including voice. However, the main focus will be in traditional pre-jazz styles such as music from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Impressionistic, eras and so on.

Discussions will be limited to this area (including performance reviews, recordings, viewpoints, etc.) and may not include posts about religion or politics unless they are directly related to the art of musical improvisation. Trolling, for sale items, requests for gigs, and personal attacks will be deleted without warning.

Agree to disagree. Be passionate. Above all, be respectful of others and tolerant of views you may not agree with.

“Foul language” should be avoided when possible. Not that this is necessarily a puritan or “family” site, but remember, Mozart was barely out of diapers when he started improvising. If another Mozart should appear, I’d hate to have his mommy or daddy prevent him from posting here because someone is using wordy dirds [sic].

Above all, contribute! We’re here to learn from each other.

Thanks for visiting and enjoy the conversation!

Tell us about yourself and your music

Here’s a place where you can tell us who you are and what you do, maybe how you do it. I’ll start.

I started out as a drummer in terms of formal training. At about 17, I gravitated to piano and never left.

Today at 61 years old, I am a full time composer/musician and have done so as a profession since 1976. I use improvisation as a compositional tool all the time, and also perform improvisationally for silent film, theater, puppetry, magic shows, comedy acts, and more.

You can read more about me at my website. I’m also in the process of building a website devoted to improvisation and will offer training to experienced and gifted individuals. I expect the site to be online and complete by Sept 1 , 2015 or earlier. You can preview it here.

Tell us about yourself!