Nine Books to Read in 2019 for Musicians

One of the many hobbies I have is reading. I love books, and I love reading during my practice breaks, and this year I have set a goal to read at least twenty-four books. Below are nine novels I loved and believe would be great for any level of musician to read in the new year. I have also included Amazon links to help encourage your reading. I am not going to give my opinion on each book because I want do not want to discourage you from dividing in. HAPPY READING!!

Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music,

by Angela Myles Beeching




 The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,

by Charles Duhigg




Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,

By Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.





The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and when to Stick),

by Seth Godin





Show you Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered,

by Austin Kleon




Steal like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative,

by Austin Kleon




The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How.,

by Daniel Coyle 



The War of Art,

by Steven Pressfield




Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,

by Angela Duckworth





12 Things Every College Music Major Needs to Know

  1. Be Respectable
  • Be respectful and kind to every person you meet. E.g., professors, peers, accompanists, staff, conductors, and of course the janitors.
  • Mistakes happen. Try to apologize in person or by email and move on.
  • Your colleagues and teachers will serve as your references.
  • Your peers will likely become your colleagues someday so be nice even if they wrong you.
  • College is all about networking.
  • Establish yourself as a professional. One you have a history for acting unprofessional (being late, unprepared, etc.) then it takes more effort to repair the damage and rebuild your reputation so treat every class and rehearsal like it’s your job.
  1. Be Responsible.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Own up to messing up.
  • Be on time. My rule is: Ten minutes is early, five minutes is on time, and on time is late and unacceptable.
  • Organize your weekly schedule. Use your time wisely.
  • Always communicate and respond to emails within 24 hours.
  1. Be Prepared
  • Get organized and stay organized. (Planner, to-do list, etc.)
  • Give yourself plenty of time to accomplish goals.
  • Prioritize academics over extracurricular activities and social events.
  • Try not to overload on credits. 15 -17 credit hours is plenty.
  1. Be Reliable
  • Being prepared means you are going to be reliable.
  • Reliable musicians are always on time, engaged, and willing to contribute.
  1. Practice, Practice, and more Practice.
  • The older you get, the harder it will be to practice because you’ll never have enough time.
  • Make sure you are using your time efficiently and effectively.
  1. Record Yourself…often…like everyday
  • Listening to a recording of yourself will give more feedback than you can imagine.
  • Progress can only be measured over a long period of time. Save some recordings from early on.
  1. Listen.
  • Listen to everything.
  • Listen to the style of the piece you are trying to play.
  • Listen to other works by the same composer.
  • Listen to other instruments perform works by the same composer or from the same time.
  1. Do not get discouraged.
  • Quitting is easy. Don’t be defeated so easily. Keep pushing forward.
  • Trust the process.
  • Trust that you are working efficiently.
  • It will take time so be patient.
  1. Save everything.
  • Yes, everything! Even if you do not think you’ll need it in the future.
  • Save programs and store them in a binder. Especially programs you performed.
  1. Perform when you can.
  • You’re in school. Please take advantage of it. It’s one of the ways to defeat stage fright.
  • College is an excellent time to network if you are in different ensembles.
  1. Ask for help
  • No one wants to see you fail and if they do then the joke is on them.
  • Teachers want you to succeed and want to help you in any way they can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Asking for help shows that you are interested in becoming a better musician and not satisfied with your current status.
  1. Have as much fun as you can.
  • Feed your musical soul.
  • Remember the reason you became a musician is because you had fun. Continue doing so.

Five Lessons I Learned through ArtistCorps

During my first year at The University of North Carolina School of the Arts, I was a part of an AmeriCorps program called UNCSA ArtistCorps which was supported by a grant from the North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service in the Office of Governor Roy Cooper. For those of you who do not know, AmeriCorps is a domestic form of the PeaceCorps established in 1993 under President Bill Clinton by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. Through the program, I served over 675 hours at Title One school districts in Winston-Salem, NC during the 2017-2018 academic year. The experience was an eye-opening to the many injustices of lower class Americans and ultimately changed me for the better. Here are the top five lessons I learned through community service with ArtistCorps.

Lesson No. 1: Being uncomfortable leads to growth.

              My first semester I was profoundly uncomfortable teaching elementary music primarily because I never thought I would have to and because I believed I was not trained well enough during my student teaching experience(s). The program director thought differently and wanted to expand my horizons and allow me to strengthen my skills as an elementary music teacher, so she placed me at Diggs-Latham Elementary with one of the best music teachers I have ever worked with. Because of my experience at Diggs-Lathem, all I want to do now is teach elementary music and have fun.

Through my service, I learned it is entirely okay to be uncomfortable because it merely means I have room to grow. Naturally, people tend to avoid leaving their comfort zone because it feels unsafe and often times scary, but we cannot truly grow unless we continue to step out of our comfort zone and into the learning zone. The learning zone is where all the magic happens, and our bodies begin to create/strengthen the myelin in our brains. Servicing at Diggs-Lathem at first was scary, but it soon found its way to my heart, and I honestly cannot wait to return to because I know I can do it.

Lesson No. 2: Kindness does not mean weakness.

            One of the most common misconceptions is how kindness is a trait of weakness, but this could not be further from the truth. During my service, there were times I had me be tough, but there were also times I had to be gentle and kind. Learning to reconnect to my more compassionate side was difficult because I was always taught students would run over you if you even smiled a little bit, which as it turns out it a complete myth. Working in Title One schools meant I had to deal with some extreme cases, and show tough love when students needed it most. In the current state of the world, if you can be anything, be kind. It really goes a long way, but do not forget that sometimes tough love is the greatest kindness you can do for anyone.

Lesson No. 3: Self-care is normal.

            Not going to lie. My service was extremely exhausting mentally, physically, and emotionally. Not only did I have to do service three days a week, but I also had to be a graduate student on top of everything. It was hard, but in the end, it made me a better person. In America, we are taught that we are only as valuable as our work which is a complete myth and a very harmful one. Learning to take care of myself was a completely different challenge I had to face, and it felt a little uncomfortable, to begin with, but once I realized sleep, proper nutrition, and exercise are necessary and not a choice, everything became more natural.  Self-care is healthy, and after I learned this, I stick with my schedule, and I have one day a week where I just relax and do whatever I want without thinking about my work life. After all, we are not born to work and die, but instead born to live our lives to the fullest.

Lesson No. 4: Uncertainty keeps life interesting.

             On regular bases, I would have a plan for any given day, and I would follow my schedule to the T, but sometimes during service uncertainty would strike which threw out my schedule/plan and cause complete and utter chaos for the remainder of my day. For example, during my summer service, my boss made a surprise visit to one of my service sites and on that fateful day… I crashed and burned. But in the end, it was okay. Uncertainty keeps me on my toes and taught me to be prepared for everything and anything. I also had to change my perspective of risk from something scary to a learning adventure. After all,  if I survive through this situation, I can survive through anything.

Lesson No. 5: It’s okay to cry. 

           Some days were easy. Some days were hard. Some days I would cry. Not because I was overwhelmed, but because I would witness situations that would break my heart and could do so little. In America, we have this toxic stigma were if a man cries than he is considered less masculine. This is yet another total myth that has no place in modern day society if we as humans are going to evolve. I discovered crying is completely okay because it showed how much I care and gave me the strength to keep caring. It also gave me an emotional outlet allowing me to sort out my emotions while thinking of my next plan in the private at home. Crying is okay and showing how much you care is okay. We are allowed to have the emotions we feel.


Rhythm…It’s in Our Hearts.

In the past one of the most daunting skills, I needed to develop is rhythm and pulse. For some reason, I could never play a passage evenly and it drove to the point of madness as I would sit in my practice room for countless hours and still be on square one after completely draining the battery life out of my metronome (may it rest in peace/pieces). Because of this roadblock, it was difficult for me to keep morale and motivation up and find the energy to practice until I started thinking about how I was practicing, and the end results I wanted. Over the years, I have acquired several methods or tricks to help me count and feel the pulse better. Below are my top five favorite ways to help develop rhythm and pulse accuracy.

  1. Sight-Reading:

We have all heard of this time and time again, but I can testify that sight-reading is a tried and true method. In my warm-up, I set aside at least 5 to 10 minutes of sight-reading a day. How? Well, I am glad you asked. My favorite website for sight-reading is because it can generate countless of musical exercises. Furthermore, this website has a handy little app for your smartphone or tablet, so it leaves no room for excuses.

I would also use Smart Music to generate rhythm sheets. I would practice these several times a week to reinforce the counting habit and establish new neurological highways for the more difficult rhythms. As always, use a metronome.

  1. Tap and Sing:

This method took me forever to get the hang of, but I am glad I have because it’s my first go to method when learning a new piece of music.

  1. Set the metronome (met) to a slow tempo. I usually start at 60bpm.
  2. With the met set and ready to go, start to tap the tempo over your heart or on your leg. This is the step where we begin to feel the pulse.
  3. After you have become comfortable with the tapping, look at the first few measures of music. We want to take these exercise in chunks of two or four so it’s easier to chew.
  4. Count the rhythm of the selected section while you are simultaneously tapping the pulse over your heart or lap.
  5. Say the rhythm on Ta of the selected section while you are simultaneously tapping the pulse over your heart or lap.
  6. Finally, after we are completely comfortable with the above steps, we are going to fully sing the selected passage either on solfege or La.
  7. Repeat step 3-6 several times as you gradually increase the tempo each time.


  1. Conducting the Choir:

Conducting while you sing is one of my favorite ways to ensure I know the rhythm and the pulse of any pieces while checking if I really know the part. This method is easy, and I love singing and conducting with a recording. My personal preference is singing with fixed solfege, but it can be done with whatever syllables you are comfortable with.

  1. Change the Rhythm:

This method is pretty straightforward. Just change the rhythm of the section you are working on to a repeated rhythm. Below I have written the order of rhythms I like to do. I generally repeat each measure of rhythm anywhere from five to seven times before going onward. Furthermore, this method is great for tackling those pesky technical passages like in the Nielson’s Clarinet Concerto.

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 11.27.17 PM

  1. LeapFrog:

LeapFrog is the method I use when I have all the technical passages down, but I need to internalize the faster pulse while keeping everything nice and even. Although this method can be rather time-consuming, it is worth every minute in the end. I promise.

  1. Select the passage you wish to work on.
  2. Set the metronome to an extremely slow tempo. For example, a quarter note equals 40 bpm.
  3. Play the passage no less than five times at 40 bpm.
  4. Jump three metronome increments of ten to the new tempo. For example, a quarter note equals 70 bpm.
  5. Play the passage no more than three times at the faster tempo.
  6. Next reduce the tempo back two increments of 10. For example, a quarter note should equal 50 bpm. Play the passage at least five times.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 until you until you have achieved your goal tempo.


Happy Practicing!!!