Good Morning Blog Readers,
It's quite an exciting time for me musically at the moment and I've got a lot to share with you. I will start at the beginning. Back in January Jipsy headed out to a film and tv college in London near the millennium dome to be filmed for an internet music programme. It was a fun day and ever so slightly intimidating playing to 3-4 massive cameras! Anyway a couple of weeks ago we got the results back. Take a look-
I had a snowy spring (!) photo shoot with Into the Wild Wood in March. We later learned that we had been played on BBC West Midlands as well which was very exciting! Here is one of my favourite shots from the day which has been featured on our poster for our upcoming gig on the 28th of April.
A week ago I had the pleasure of performing with my Quartet at Symphony Hall in Birmingham as part of the Rush Hour Blues Series, organised by Jazzlines. The gig went very well and it has rejuvenated my enthusiasm for running my own band again. I've got plans for the future so watch this space... My friend Simon Gray kindly filmed the first set for me and I think it has come out remarkably well. Hope you enjoy it-
And last but by no means least! Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I recently joined Brummie band Boat to Row. I have been really enjoying my time practising with them and it has been very productive working on new material every week. I'm delighted to be able to announce the dates of their tour at the end of May. I'm so excited to be taking the material on the road and I hope some of you can make it.
Catch you all soon, Lydia.
Hello Blog Readers,
2012 has been a big year for me in many ways, like any it has had its ups and downs. There has been tours, festivals, sun, lots of rain, new bands and old friends moving to pastures new.
Some of the major achievements for me have been:- Becoming the percussion teacher at Wolverhampton Grammar School, The Bonfire Radicals completing their first UK festival tour, agreeing endorsements Protection Racket and DG Cajons, performing with Interleave at Mostly Jazz Festival, Jipsy touring Mallorca, my first stage appearance since I was eleven with Macamu, and Into the Wild Wood (formerly Holliday Street) supporting Joan Armatrading. I've been lucky to meet some exceptionally talented musicians this year and play with old friends too.
I feel so privileged to have had so many wonderful opportunities and look forward to seeing what 2013 has in store.
P.S. Towards the tail end of the year Steve Tromans (pn), Trevor Lines (bs) and myself got together for a couple of plays which were incredibly good fun. We have a few dates in the year which we will be joined by Ben Thomas (tp) as the Lydia Glanville Quartet- 16th of March at Theatre Severn and the 5th of April at Symphony Hall. I can't wait, I may even write some new tunes!
Dear Blog Readers,
We all need a bit of inspiration from time to time. Especially as a creative person. Sometimes it can feel like you just keep hitting brick walls and need something to point you in the right direction or remind you why it is your doing what your doing.
Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to go and see a band called Afro Mio and Kora Player Dan Wilkins play at Ort Cafe in Birmingham. The event had been arranged by an organisation called Celebrating Sanctuary who provide opportunities for refugees within the Midlands to share their music with the wider community.
There was a number of things I found inspiring about the evening. I will start at the beginning. I have always been amazingly impressed with all activities held at Ort.
Hello Blog Readers,
A topic that often rears it's head for me and I'm sure many other creative people is 'survival'. Will I continue to be able to keep on doing what I love and be actively involved in the creative side of the arts in the future? Over the years I have seen so many people move away from music and into more stable careers. For example I am the only person from my GCSE music class who is still actively pursuing their performance career. On my jazz degree course we started with 24 students and ended with 14, despite having gained extra students over the four years. Of the fourteen graduates I know of at least three who have embarked on non-musical paths. I would be interested to know if the stats are similar across the board with other creative disciplines.
It doesn't take a genius to come up with many of the reasons why people chose not to pursue their talents. The job description for a musician is arguably one of the most off putting and it is surely similar with other creative subjects. Firstly you have to work incredibly hard for very little monetary compensation, you also need to be able to motivate yourself and be good at finding jobs/projects/funding, having excellent people skills is also very helpful along with reliability and punctuality, you probably also need to be able to drive/do admin/haggle/chase up money/teach/lead groups/run promotional campaigns/work with children/use computers and not to mention- be superb on your instrument and have the ability to walk into a situation with people you have never met and make music.
What I am really interested in is what sets those who continue with their art apart from those who don't?
Some of my regular readers will be more familiar with my blog as medium to find out about my recent musical activities. This time I'm taking a break from that format with the hope to open up a discussion on an important topic for musicians- practice.
I started playing drums when I was eight years old, now I'm twenty three practice has taken on many different guises for me. As I am fast approaching my fifteenth anniversary of picking up the sticks it seems an appropriate time to take stock of the situation.
When I was very young practice was something my teacher would nag me to do. I had no method of how to go about it, let alone an instrument on which to do it, and would just sit down and try tapping through the stuff we had done in the last lesson on my practice pad. When I started secondary school it changed from being a solitary pursuit to one which involved wind bands, choirs and later on jazz and rock bands. The practice of music became very much my social life at this period, with many rehearsals at lunchtimes or after school. Despite being heavily involved in music I still lacked any kind of discipline on my own. I would occasionally practise things which my teacher had showed me at school but I was yet to develop the critical capacity and the patience to sit there and thoroughly practise anything. At that time I was playing and practising with so many groups that I thought it didn't matter.
It wasn't really until I was sixteen that I began to get an inkling of what practice was about. I entered for my grade seven drum kit exam which was one of the first real challenges for me. I found that without more regular practice I would be unable to play everything that was required for my exam. I think this was when I first began practising for up to an hour by myself on a daily basis and I immediately noticed the benefits. Instead of just getting by I was able to play things well. This level of practice continued through Sixth Form college and increased to upto two hours daily when I began preparing for music college auditions. I improved rapidly during that time learning challenging styles like Latin and Jazz. It was an exciting period of musical discovery for me and was the beginings of learning how to really practice.
When I first started at Birmingham Conservatoire I had to really review the way in which I practised and develop some kind of routine to make sure that I covered all the new material I was given. Drum lessons became less regular but for a longer period of time. Teachers would give me large amounts of stuff to work on in one go and then I wouldn't see them for a month. This demanded that I developed more discipline and a routine to make sure I got through it all. For my first two years there I regularly practised for five to seven hours a day and would try to roughly spend an hour on each area. I also developed the ability to look at my own playing in a critical manner in order to address what I really needed to work on. I spent a lot of time working with a metronome, correcting bad technique and playing at low dynamics. The results of this were that when ever I sat down to play with others I felt highly connected with my instrument, it was like we knew each other inside out. However the downsides were that I was overly critical of my playing and my confidence took a big dive. For the first time I understood actually how 'good' I was at the drums and how much work I needed to put in. Thankfully as I improved through practice my confidence did a little as well.
By my third year of music college I was playing in so many bands that practice took a back seat again, a little like my time at secondary school. I spent all my time in rehearsals with other musicians my age and it was exciting but highly stressful. I learnt a lot about how to play in a band context and performing to an audience: I was even running my own band. The downside to this period was that I wasn't looking after myself properly and lost focus on my own practice; I nearly flunked my third year technical exam through lack of time to prepare. By the end of that year I was burnt out and questioning whether I ever wanted to play jazz again.
The final year at the Conservatoire was more about getting through and trying not to take on too much. I was allowed time to develop my interest in Latin Percussion through my Major Project which was fantastic and kept me going through my period of disillusionment. Practice changed from an obsession to a short daily routine of an hour or two to keep my hand in. I also had to greatly cut down on the number of gigs I attended, for the past three years I had been at a gig almost every night. I could no longer keep up the routine of going to bed at two and getting up at six. At the time cutting back was the best thing for me and enabled me to get my degree (BMus Hons 2:1) but I was plagued with guilt about not practising hard enough.
Now one year on and I am a professional musician and practice takes a completely different role in my life again. I live in a terraced house where any practice I do must be as quiet as possible and not for too long a period. I teach for two and a half days a week which also restricts my practice time. If I'm lucky I get the opportunity to practise when my students don't turn up to their lessons, which is brilliant! (Not that they don't come but that I can practise) Practice has become more of a joy again as I get less opportunity to do it nowadays. I also find that I practise things in a more concise way. I look at what I need to work on for the music that I am playing and focus a lot on technique. I am much better now at creating a work/life ballance and really enjoy jazz again. I am also conscious of areas of my playing where I have lost the control that I would have had a couple of years ago, which is upsetting. I am gigging more than ever and probably need to develop some methods of practising whilst waiting around at venues.
It seems to be that practice has moved in cycles during my life and I'm ever conscious to avoid 'burn out' at all costs. Any thoughts from fellow musicians or practitioners of other disciplines would be greatly received.
Yesterday was a very sad day for music. A great man died. Tony Levin was an inspiration and an example to many of how a jazz musician should be. For me he was my teacher and mentor. I adored and looked up to Tony, not just for his amazing musicality but for the way that he conducted himself in the world. He was one of the most generous people I have ever met.
It is really hard to write anything about Tony that could ever do him justice. Those who have met him or heard him play will know what I mean. He had a unique energy and passion for life that was contagious. Pianist Liam Noble has described his playing as being 'like a benevolent rage with no anger'. He would shower you with an overpowering joy whenever he got behind a drum kit.
He played the drums for artists/bands as diverse as Tubby Hayes, Stan Sulzmann and Mujician to mention but a few. Whilst he was house drummer at Ronnie Scots in the 60's he played behind musicians like Joe Henderson, Zoot Sims, Hank Mobley and Lee Konitz.
His huge breadth of experience made him a wonderful teacher. I remember him once telling me in a lesson about how Hank Mobley would count in a tune. He said he would stride around the stage clicking his fingers and singing the tune over and over to himself until he could find the right tempo. He didn't worry about how long that took him and if he couldn't find the right tempo he would call a different tune.
What was so special about Tony is the way that he encouraged others to see life as he did. He wasn't in music for money. He used to run a carpet business in Birmingham at the same time as being house drummer at Ronnie Scots Jazz Club in London. There was not a single time that I saw him play music half-heart-idly. He would give all of himself whatever the situation and whoever he was playing with.
I would like to leave you with a story of Tony at his best. The last thing I had to do whilst studying at the Conservatoire was to run a jam session for prospective students on an open day, something I have done many times before. Needless to say the standard of musical ability is not that high at these events. There is often a very strange atmosphere. Some of the attendees are desperate to to play all the time in an attempt to show off- which if they are not that great ,which is usually the case, leads to ridicule behind their backs from some of the current Conservatoire jazz students. You also get the ones that are scared rigid and don't play because they assume that all the pushy people must be way better than them. Sometimes you get a saxophone player who is really advanced for their age and then all of the current students want to barge in and prove that they are still better than this talented youngster and take really long solos. Either way towards the end of the session the bass player's fingers have fallen off from trying to be a metronome to out of time drummers and the rest of the college rhythm section have run away. At this point entered Tony Levin and Fred Baker (Bass guitar virtuoso).
Tony and Fred played with the open day musicians that were still hanging around and blew everyone away. Tony played just as he would have done if he were up there with Paul Dunmall or Tubby Hayes. He didn't hold back because he was playing with inexperienced musicians, or try to out play them and show them up. For Tony every playing situation was important, he was in the music all of the time. All the college students came back to see him play. He never did anything by half. This is what makes him one of the most generous people I have ever met. He will meet everybody with respect and as an equal. Music was more important to him than ego.
Tony was a genuine and well loved man and it is a tragedy that he has left us when he still had so much to give. He leaves behind him a loving family and many friends.
I hope anyone who has not heard Tony play will take the time to watch a couple of the videos I have posted below or buy some of his CDs
Both of these are videos of Tony playing with Free improv band Mujician
You can find out about the rest of Tony's career and albums he has played on here.
When I was younger I used to approach the new year with a degree of trepidation. It usually brought with it lots of homework that I hadn't done, exams that I hadn't revised for or the realisation that I still couldn't play drums like Art Blakey and had, yet again, failed to stick to my practice schedule. This year I went back to school with a spring in my step. Perhaps the difference is that I am now the teacher? Or maybe it's just that I don't have to prove my intelligence or skill to anyone but myself anymore? Either way it is a liberating feeling.
My New Years resolutions this year have been to play the drums everyday and do more baking. During the holidays I found myself in a discussion about practising with two fantastic musicians, Mark Sanders and Trevor Lines, at a dinner party. I concluded that I need to find something that really challenges me in order to get the motivation to practice it for hours on end. Since finishing at the Conservatoire last June I have been finding practising quite difficult. At the moment I am still feeling my way back in quite slowly but I am trying to focus on ways to expand rudiments and learning new styles such as Reggae. As for the baking I made two cakes and loaf of bread yesterday. Lets just say I need to perfect my icing and my bread could have been baked for longer but I will get there!
Over the past week I have been covering the teaching of Gary Walmsley at Progress Music Academy. I have really enjoyed working there as the environment is friendly and relaxed, all the teaching is one on one, the equipment is top quality and I had an enormous room. If you are looking to learn an instrument this a great place to go.
Tomorrow is a Bonfire Radicals day. We are all going slightly mad preparing for our first gig on the 4th of February supporting Bellowhead's Rachael McShane, organised by The Lunar Society at The Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath. The morning begins with a girls shopping trip to get clothes for the gig, we are then having lunch with our photographer Colin Whitehouse to discuss our photo-shoot which will be followed by rehearsing for the rest of the afternoon. Everything with The Radicals is very exciting at the moment and I feel privileged to be involved.
Thats all for now. Please check out the new gigs page for details on Wildfire Youth Folk Ensemble's CD lunch next week.
Hello - this is still under development so please bear with any technical hitches.
Hope to see you at a gig soon,