Rhythm Road South and Central Asia Tour 2011 – Kazakhstan: Part 2

Pathways on "Astana Road"

Our first rest day of the tour. We’ve heard that there’s an indoor beach with a waterslide at a shopping mall in Astana, Khan Shatyr, the biggest mall in Central Asia. I recall doing a Middle East Rhythm Road tour with Alvin Atkinson and The Sound Merchants in 2007 where we visited Dubai and saw the ski slope, Ski Dubai, in the Mall of the Emirates. I can’t miss the opportunity to see a beach in a mall, that will be a first. We start our journey by walking along the central strip in

Pyramid of Peace, aka "The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation"

Astana that starts with the Pyramid of Peace (also known as the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation) and continues through the capital building, the Bayterek Tower, and the Khan Shatyr mall on the other end. The whole strip is 3 miles long. We’ll only walk half then take a cab later to the Pyramid. The buildings along the way are incredible, almost everything in Astana is new as the capital was moved here from Almaty in 2005. Since then the government has been building Astana quite a bit and in 10 years many of the building and architecture projects will be finished. If Astana looks this way now I can only imagine what it will be like when it’s finished. As a country Kazakhstan is only 20 years old having declared their independence from the USSR in 1991. Everything is so modern-looking now in Astana it’s amazing that this is a post-Soviet territory.

Beach at the mall, Khan Shatyr

The mall is overwhelming and incredible. We grab a bite and some coffee and head for the ‘beach’. Unbelievable. The beach and waterside are six tall stories from the ground and this definitely looks like a futuristic movie. Well done. We exit to catch a cab to the Pyramid of Peace which is another landmark of the city. Unfortunately the Pyramid is closed on Sundays but there’s still plenty of pictures to take outside and on the way back the hotel passing the capital and the Bayterek Tower along the way. Back to work gentlemen – 4 more days in Kazakhstan before we leave for Kyrgyzstan.

At 9am we head out to do a workshop for music students at an international school. We’ve brought much of our own equipment so this time we’re in a large classroom where Bennett can play keyboard and Tony can sing through a small amp I have with me. We play a song up front and start talking about jazz and the different instruments. We get the students involved in some small group and large group improvisation exercises and have everyone clapping and singing. We answer questions afterward and play another song. I’m glad after the workshop the students have a much better understanding of what we’re doing than they did when we first started. After the closing applause, several pictures and autographs we’re ready for some lunch. We’re joined by Jeff Sexton along with Maren and Zhanar for a great discussion about music over our meal. We cover Jazz and Classical music’s standing in America and how that relates to audiences worldwide. We talk about some of America’s pop greats like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Paul Simon, and others yet how much the younger generation tends to gravitate toward music that’s visually-based. I’m concerned about the future of music as it’s become much more about sight than sound. We’re well aware of the artist’s responsibility to captivate the interest of the audience yet leave something of artistic value to uplift the spirit and leave behind a legacy for the next generation to aspire to not just in terms of popularity but in terms of art. After a great conversation that we pledge to continue it’s time to go back to the hotel and pack up for another plane flight. That early evening we fly to Pavlodar for another American Corner event and concert again accompanied by Maren and Zhanar.

Enjoying some Russian eats with Maren

We arrive in Pavlodar, check in to the hotel and eat at a Russian restaurant to get some more tastes of the local food and specialities. Pavlodar is another major city in Kazakhstan and we can get a sense that like Aktobe it has a more established and continuous history than Astana. Astana has been largely rebuilt since the government decided to move the capitol there from Almaty so much of Astana is new. Here we can see Soviet architecture and a mixture of the Kazakh nomadic tradition, Russian tradition and a more modern influence since their independence all mixed together.

The next morning we do another American Corner event meeting new people, answering more questions, and again talking about what we do and playing some music which at times engages the audience. There is another press conference afterward with a few newspapers. I notice that with every question and answer session sometimes by answering it helps me clarify what I’m doing and what we’re doing as a band. I’ve always been into the concept of making music that has a high degree of authenticity and originality. I come to realize that my career has followed that direction all along. From insisting on learning classical and jazz music, playing in the Black Church, playing blues, funk, R & B, studying with some great Latin jazz players, and amassing a huge library of music at home. I explain that in the Pathways band I try not to distinguish between the different musical styles all styles are equally valid forms to improvise on but we are using the jazz philosophy as we approach every song. Jazz philosophy meaning we are improvising on the melody or the song, the harmony and sometimes also the form. As we are playing each song the band is actively listening to each other. We’re in conversation with each other and with the audience as we feed off the audience’s reaction as well. Stylistically we may stay in the blues, a certain Latin style or funk but the jazz element is the spontaneous composition that takes place as we perform the piece. I also like being inspired by folk music and other great songs. I love the jazz standards but I see that as only one source of songs and there’s a whole world of music out there. Pathways has continued to learn a new song in every country that we’ve visited and added that to the band’s repertoire. Much of the band’s repertoire at this point is folk or pop songs from different countries throughout the world. Trying to keep the original rhythmic feels authentic to the home country and styles the songs are from I realize Pathways is moving into a direction of world music using a jazz concept. We perform our arrangement of the Kazakh folk song ‘Kamazhai’ again for the American Corner audience to illustrate our message of keeping the music authentic and yet adding an additional level of creativity to it. People at event really like what we play but are particularly interested in our arrangement of ‘Kamazhai’.

Performing in Pavlodar

We have lunch, a soundcheck, and get ready for our first full-length concert of the tour. Our show in Aktobe was only 30 minutes to kick off the International Aktobe Jazz Festival and while that was fun we do appreciate having a full 90-minute show ahead of us. Our performance in Pavlodar is electric. Something happens musically that really brings this band together on this show and we play better than we ever have before. I’m sure the audience may have something to do with it as there are over 800 people in attendance. This is our first overseas full concert since October 2010 in Honduras and our first live showcase of some of the music we recorded for the ‘Americas’ CD in May. Whatever it is we feel great and the audience goes nuts. Again ‘Kamazhai’ is a big hit along with ‘Maria’ that we learned in Suriname and ‘Nicaragua Nicaraguita’ that we learned in Nicaragua. We feel like rock stars from our audience’s reception after the show. It’s great to play jazz and get that kind of feedback. It inspires me that musically the band is on the right path.

Bayterek Tower at night

7:30am lobby call the next day to fly back to Astana. We have another big show tonight this time in Astana at Shabyt, the National Academy of the Arts. I have a few press interviews in the afternoon before the band heads out to soundcheck. There is a nuclear proliferation conference in Astana going on at the moment and there are diplomats from all over the world in attendance. Kazakhstan has been a leader in nuclear proliferation and this is an international conference to discuss future plans. Our concert turns out to be not only for the general public but also for the international delegates of the conference. We are honored to be playing a part of such an important event. The concert (video clip of “Caravan”) is well-attended by over 500 people with standing and sitting room only as the hall is packed. I’m happy that our energy from Pavlodar carried over and continued in another great show featuring our interpretation music from all over the world. People feel like they are being treated to a smorgasbord of great sound. I guess growing up in diverse San Francisco I like it that way. Again much applause, photographs, conversation and autographs afterward. I’m especially touched by those we meet who work to foster a sense of cultural understanding and diversity and to those aspiring musicians that we’ll be working with the next day during our workshop during our master class. It’s been a great night.

In front of Shabyt, Palace of Arts

Our last day in Kazakhstan and we’re back at the National Academy of the Arts (Shabyt) this time to teach the students. Many of the students saw our performance the night before but not everyone. We play some music up front and this time we can get more in depth about music then many of our other workshops because today we have college students and aspiring professionals. We get the opportunity here to teach and invite students to play with us and give them some constructive criticism. The students here are talented and eager to play as well as eager to learn. Improving in a skill involves not just practice and developing new habits but unlearning certain habits as well. A real transformation can take place when a student unlearns an old habit and replaces it with a new, more constructive one. It’s always a joy to witness that transformation take place during the course of one master class. We leave them with as much encouragement and advice as possible and the students and teachers are very thankful. Hopefully this is a place we can return to as there is much learning that took place during this 90 minute short period of time. We have a photo session and conversation afterward with autographs and hope to come back in the future.

This has been a nice end to our Kazakhstan part of the tour. We will miss Maren and Zhanar who have been with us since we arrived in Kazakhstan. We do get a chance to be in Almaty but only the airport as a two-hour layover before taking another plane to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan where another set of experiences await us. We will have fond memories of Kazakhstan in terms of the people, the culture, our interaction and the concerts we played there. It feels like we’re starting this tour on a real high note. Our next move is to learn some music from Kyrgyzstan. We have a big concert the first day of our arrival and we will play an arrangement of a Kyrgyz folk song on that show. In the meantime we’re going to enjoy our two hours in Almaty as our last stop in Kazakhstan by having some traditional Kazakh food at the airport. It’s surprisingly good. Now for our next flight.

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Rhythm Road South and Central Asia Tour 2011 – Kazakhstan: Part 1

Paul Beaudry & Pathways performance in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan Oct. 11, 2011

Round #2 for Paul Beaudry and Pathways to head out on a Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad international tour! We’re so happy to be going to South and Central Asia and this time very prepared in terms of what to bring. Our tour this time brings us to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh and India. One of the first things I notice in the planning stages is the mixture of languages we’ll be dealing with. Last year was easy – Spanish and English. This year it looks like it will be Russian, English, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Bangali, and maybe Hindi. Doing some advance research all of the countries in this region share a common history in being connected by the Silk Road, the ancient trading routes that connected China and India to Europe. The Romans in particular were very fond of the gold, fine silk products and spices of India, the silk having originally come from China. After the fall of the Roman Empire the trade route continued until the 15th century. Throughout that period those who controlled portions of the Silk Road became very wealthy so the South and Central Asian region has a history of common kings, dynasties and rulers.

It was finding an alternative to the Silk Road that prompted Columbus to sail west of Europe in search for India. Well we all know how that story went, some still call Native Americans “Indians” to this day but this goes to show the length a king would go to control a piece of the Silk Road or in Spain’s case to find another sea trade route altogether to bring the riches of China and India to Europe.

I’m planning our repertoire to be a mixture of the first Paul Beaudry & Pathways CD, the new “Americas” CD (our arrangements of Caribbean, South and Central American tunes we learned on our last tour plus a few more from the region), some new songs we haven’t played yet and whatever new music we find along the way. We still plan to learn at least one new song in each country. So 4 countries, 12 cities (plus a 2-day layover in Istanbul, Turkey) and 16 airline flights in 30 days – here we go.

Map of Kazakhstan

We arrive in Astana the capitol of Kazakhstan close to midnight completely beat. We left JFK the night before at 9:45pm, had an 8-hour flight to Frankfurt for a 2-hour layover then a 5-1/2 hour flight to Astana. We’re now 10 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and our body clocks are completely turned around. But Astana is beautiful. I’m floored, I had no idea this city was so amazing. Not much time to relax we’re extremely tired and we have a 6am lobby pickup to fly on another small plane for a two hour flight to Aktobe. Early next morning we’re met by our Embassy guides that will be with us for the rest of our travels in Kazakhstan – Maren Payne-Holmes from Minnesota and Zhanar Kul-Mukhammed from Kazakhstan. And we’re off for another flight.

Upon arrival in Aktobe we check into a hotel for a bit then head straight to a well-needed lunch, our first real food in two days. We find that there are local delicacies that are Kazakh and some that are Russian from Soviet times. Fermented mare’s milk and horse meat seem to be the top Kazakh favorites but for now a Turkish menu will do.

with American Corner hosts (plus Tony saying "hi")

In our tour plans I’m noticing several events for American Corner. American Corner turns out to be a group which hosts events at libraries and other public spaces to showcase information about American culture. The attendees are normally college and high school students, teachers, researches, or any one else in the general public that’s curious about America. Our first American Corner event is a comfortable sit down setting at a library. There are press cameras taking pictures and video as we come in and prepare for our information session/performance. Some attendees are also a part of an ‘English Club’, some are jazz fans, and some have never heard jazz before but all are curious about jazz and American culture. We talk a bit about us, about jazz, about New York, play a few short songs and talk about improvisation and music. Along the way we get people to clap and sing along so they can participate in what’s we’re doing and experience what we’re talking about. It’s a very successful event and we’re presented with a beautiful picture coffee table book about Kazakhstan and a trophy. Afterwards there’s a short press conference with a few newspapers and local TV stations.

Traditional Kazakh ensemble

Our first masterclass is at the Philharmonic. The audience is largely music students, teachers, and local professional musicians with some general audience in attendance. Along with teaching jazz, getting some audience participation and talking about how to become a highly trained musician we challenge the audience that we would like to learn from them. A local piano teacher jumps on stage and teaches us a Kazakh folk song ‘Kamazhai’ on the spot. After hearing it a few times we try a version of it. We promise the audience that we’ll have an arrangement of it for our performance at the International Aktobe Jazz Festival the next day. Everybody is happy with lots of pictures and autographs afterward. We find out that a traditional Kazakh ensemble will be playing at the Philharmonic that evening and we decide we need to see some of that show before dinner. That night we see 30 minutes of the show then have dinner at a traditional Kazakh restaurant with some local Peace Corps volunteers stationed in the area. I’m really curious and this is my real opportunity to eat local food so I try fermented mare’s milk and horse meat. Not bad. Back to the hotel for our first full nights’ sleep since we left New York.

Next day we have a soundcheck at the Philharmonic around noon time for our first performance of the tour. I’m glad to be a part of the International Aktobe Jazz Festival here. We get the sound set and keep working on our ‘Kamazhai’ arrangement. We find that there will be other Kazakh instrumental and vocal groups there playing “Kazakh jazz” music and one of Tim Armacost’s old friends from Holland, pianist Mike Del Ferro, is headlining the whole festival. That night we play a 4-song set including “Kamazhai” (see video). The audience goes crazy. We end with “Maria” the song from Suriname that will be on the “Americas” CD coming out soon. 450 wildly applauding fans at the end of the show and we’re feeling good. We stay a bit for a Kazakh a cappella vocal jazz group then head for a Soviet-style dinner at an old Russian restaurant.

Soviet-style pool table

Wow! This Soviet-themed establishment really kept the vibe with relics from the early 1900s and very old maps, typewriters, computers, a large Soviet-style pool table (larger than American and all the play balls are white and the cue ball is red), posters and portraits of Soviet leaders. I feel like I’m in a different world. The food is fabulous as I had a Borsch soup (beef and vegetables) as a starter then lamb and vegetables cooked and served in a small iron pot. After dinner and plenty of pictures there we head back to hear the end of Mike Del Ferro’s set and gather the rest of our equipment. Successful day, we’re still jet lagged but ready to do another workshop in the morning before flying back to Astana.

Workshop at orphanage in Tamdy

I didn’t know how special this day was going to be. We’re doing a jazz workshop for an orphanage in the village of Tamdy about an hour drive outside of Aktobe. We arrive and again I feel like I’m in a different world. Rural area mostly agricultural where Kazakh and Russian is the primary language. Many of the houses are very simple with clothes lines, animals outside and most houses have an old, giant satellite dish. We arrive at the rural orphanage and it’s apparent the principal and teachers here are totally dedicated to their calling of educating and being mentors to the children here. We’re told there’s a few students who want to perform for us. We sit down to hear them first. I’m moved. Their peers are cheering them on as they sing and perform their music mostly Kazakh pop music that’s on the radio right now. We applaud them. There are about 60 children here ages 8-14. We want to teach them about jazz, inspire them to study hard and be curious about the world around them. Our arrangement of “Kamazhai” comes in real handy as we use that and variations on “Happy Birthday” to show improvisation on a set song and form. We do some group improvisation exercises and play another song. Afterward we have a round of pictures and autographs and everyone is happy. We leave Tamdy and head to pick up our things at the hotel before going to the airport in Aktobe for a flight back to Astana. After arriving just before midnight we’re ready for our first rest day the following morning. Astana is a beautiful city. We already have an idea what we’d like to visit as it’s our only day off in Kazakhstan.

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Rhythm Road Central American Tour 2010 – Suriname

Concert at the Ambassador's residence featuring the young, Surinamese up-and-coming jazz musicians

This is our second country on the tour and the first time I’ve ever been to South America.  We only have 3 days here but 6 events so I know we’re going to be a lot busier than we were in Trinidad.  The entire population of Suriname is just under 500,000 people and I’m thinking that Queens alone has about 3.5 million so I’m thinking about how things work here.  Turns out that Suriname is massively ethnically diverse just like Queens with lots of spoken languages and influences.  Most everyone speaks English or Dutch (as it’s a former Dutch colony and the country is formerly known as Dutch Guinana) and Dutch is the official language but there is another language that’s home here and that is Sranan-Tongo.  It seems to be a mix of English, Dutch, and African languages and is only spoken in Suriname.  90% of the population lives on the northern coast (about 20% of the land mass of the country) and the rest of Suriname is jungle which they call “the interior”.  Much of the Black population that live in the interior are descendants of former escaped slaves, the Maroons, and have kept their pre-colonial African culture intact.  As badly as I wanted to go to “the interior” I knew there wouldn’t be enough time so I was on the lookout for anything that could represent that experience.

mosque and synagogue right next to each other living side-by-side

We left the International airport at about 1:30am or so and arrived at our hotel in Paramaribo by 2:30am.  Sleep was definitely in order as our press conference was scheduled for 1pm and we would have a briefing at the U.S. embassy beforehand with the U.S. Ambassador, John R. Nay, and some of his staff.  After a few hours of sleep we were ready for our briefing and to see a little of Paramaribo.  There are so many cultures living side-by-side here it’s amazing.  Ethnically I believe the largest populations are West African, East Indian, Chinese, Javanese, Lebanese, and Dutch.  We all took pictures of a synagogue and a mosque that are right next to each other with no apparent tension between the two religions.  There are Christians, Hindu, and Buddhists here as well along with several traditional African and Amerindian religions.  The Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission, Susan Bell, are both amazing people with a love for Suriname, it’s people and history and we have a great conversation as we also talk about the upcoming press conference, workshops, and concerts.  I find out in the Ambassador’s office that Tim Armacost’s father, Michael Armacost, was the U.S. Ambassador to Japan for 4 years and U.S. Ambassador to the Phillippines for 3 years in the ’80s.  I knew his father worked for the State Department but I didn’t know exactly in what capacity.  I’ve known Tim for 8 years and I have to come to Suriname with him to find that out!  That’s also the fun part of traveling.  It’s like suddenly meeting an old friend of yours out of the blue in a hotel lobby in Europe.  :)

The press conference is hosted at a local jazz club/restaurant.  There wasn’t many people there but it was attended by the biggest newspaper in town “De Ware Tijd” and they asked questions, took pictures, and it was in the paper the next day.  Here’s a short video clip of Tim and Tony giving them a taste of the upcoming concerts.  Just afterward we are treated to a lunch at the restaurant.  They prepare a special dish called ‘”grit bana” meaning grated banana.  In cooking it’s banana, cassava soup with chicken, beef, and dumplings, and coconut milk mixed together but the significance of the dish is the coming together of the two worlds – the African and the Dutch.  Aside from it being a great dish to eat, it is their way of welcoming us to Suriname!

We had a short break before we headed off to our first workshop with younger music students (mostly 10-19 years old) with many music teachers in attendance and we find we can speak English in the workshop.  The students are surprisingly good!!!  There are different levels of skill but they have the spirit and were relatively fearless when it came to trying new things and going for it.  Some of the older students are in their early 20s and some of them are the local teachers.  I am surprised at their level of skill and hunger for knowledge seems to be insatiable.  We couldn’t give them enough information and they didn’t want the workshop to end.  We received a standing ovation at the end and were able to leave them with some ideas, things to work on, a list of great musicians and records to listen to, and tunes that they should know to be able to sit-in with anyone and play jazz anywhere in the world.

The large Parbo's were a little too big. :)

We are humbled by their desire to learn but we’re also exhausted.  We have dinner near the hotel and start our on-going beer taste contest.  We loved the “Carib” beer in Trinidad and the big local beer here is “Parbo”.  Along with dinner I order a small Parbo and Tim and Tony order a large.  The small is 330 mL but the large turns out to be a 1000mL bottle and yes we had to share and it took some work to finish it all!

The next day we have a workshop at the Ambassador’s residence and a concert later on.  This workshop is for more advanced teachers and players so we do a masterclass instead and focus more on them.  We meet and hear more knowledge-hungry musicians and classical players (and conductors).  The vibe is great and there’s a crew of young jazz musicians that are a tight-knit group that talk to each other and play together frequently.  Again we are humbled by their intensity of how much they want to learn.  At the end they teach us a popular song in Suriname “Maria”.  To close we play our version of it to a standing ovation and invite the players to attend our concert that night and the following night.

The concert at the Ambassador’s residence is totally packed.  It’s a great feeling to play for a packed, appreciative audience.  We do two sets and on the last song “Maria” feature some of the musicians who played with us at the workshop who continue to surprise us with some great playing.  After another standing-O (I’m enjoying this) there’s plenty of smiles, hand-shaking, hugs, and conversation to go around and again more questions from the local musicians.

It’s now our last day and we find out that we can hear a great Suriname drumming ensemble, Ala Kondre, after our soundcheck and radio interview for a our final concert in Suriname.  Soundcheck goes well and we answer some questions and do 3 songs for the radio show.

Some members of Ala Kondre just arriving before the demonstration/session.

The Ala Kondre Dron Ensemble (“All Countries Drum Ensemble”) is a very special group not just for Suriname but they seem to have a world-wide reputation.  It was started in 1971 by a man named Henk Tjon who had a vision to invite all the drumming styles of the different ethnic groups of Suriname and play together as one group.  Please, take a few minutes to view this video about Henk Tjon, one of the greatest cultural ambassadors of Suriname.  The concept is to celebrate different cultures working together and create something new.  The 6 cultures they have represented are: East Indian, Amerindian, African/Maroon, Creole, Lebanese, and Javanese.  For the ensemble they were able to gather for us there were 2-3 percussionists representing each cultural group.  When they start a piece you can hear that there are 6 distinct rhythmic traditions playing together at the same time, and it works!  Myself having a background in percussion I have never seen nor heard anything quite like this before.  After playing all together for a short while they break down into solo sections where one distinct drumming style will ‘solo’ and lead the group.  When the 2-3 percussionists representing their style are finished with their ‘solo’ the whole group comes back in again in a refrain.  After each group has had a chance to lead or ‘solo’ the whole ensemble plays again and finishes the piece.  It’s been said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture so here’s a video clip of what Ala Kondre played for us.  What we saw is a smaller version of the ensemble as they can have up to 90 percussionists at the same time with the group plus dancers!  On their 25th anniversary of being together they had a show featuring over 400 performers play or dance over a period of several hours!  Again I’m wondering if Jazz At Lincoln Center has ever heard of this group or how often they travel to the United States.  Seeing and hearing this group is an experience I am going to remember for a long time, most likely for the rest of my life.  We attempt some musical collaboration with them as Tim Armacost pulls out his saxophone, Tony Jefferson plays some New Orleans-style snare drum, and I play on a djembe-like hand drum.  We all get into a group groove, each takes turns soloing, then take it out together with a transformed version of the group groove we started with.  Here’s a short clip of Pathways with Ala Kondre.

with PD officer Erik Anderson after the last show

Our final concert in Suriname is sold out and since we’d like to invite more people between the jazz students and the Ala Kondre percussionists we figure out a way how to print more tickets and add more seats.  The 450-seat ballroom is nearly filed to capacity.  We’re excited to do the show as the Ambassador is present, many dignitaries of the Surinamese government, and a room full of people excited about what they are about to hear.  Our first set goes fantastic doing mostly tunes off the new CD and I don’t mind getting a short break before going into our last set.  I dedicate the last set to folk music and among other songs we play my arrangement of a Haitian field song, “Dlo”, our bass-and-drum version of the Jamaican folk song “Brown Skin Girl”, our jazz version of “Frere Jacques/Brother John”, and then invite some of the Suriname jazz players and students to join us in a version of “Maria” which everyone in the room knows.  Again a standing ovation and this time also a request for an encore.  After doing so many arrangements I want to keep it simple and just play.  We end the concert with a Pathways jam session version of Thelonius Monk’s “Rhythm-A-Ning”.  Another standing ovation and bows.  Everybody is happy and people stay for almost a full hour afterward talking, taking pictures, exchanging emails, signing autographs, hugs, handshakes, and smiles.  What an action-packed three days!  We have a rest day coming up in Miami before we head out to Nicaragua.  We leave the hotel in Paramaribo at 3am to catch the only flight out to Miami that leaves at 6:15am.  I make a note to call my friend, great young jazz pianist in New York, Donald Vega, who is from Masaya, Nicaragua, 30 minutes away from Managua which is our next city on the Rhythm Road tour.  But for now, we have a rest day in Miami, we’re gonna need it!

-PB

p.s. use this link for more pictures of Paul Beaudry & Pathways in Suriname

p.p.s. our pianist, Bennett Paster, is also keeping a blog

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Rhythm Road Central American Tour 2010 – Trinidad

Queen's Hall in Port Of Spain, Trinidad - our first concert of the tour

This is the first international tour for Paul Beaudry & Pathways!  This tour is a part of The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program co-sponsored by Jazz At Lincoln Center and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  First off I’m really happy with this band (Tony Jefferson – drums and vocals, Tim Armacost – sax and flute, Bennett Paster – piano, me – bass and vocals) and the band members are some of my favorite people as well as being excellent players and teachers.  After a long day of traveling from New York to Trinidad with a layover in Miami on Wednesday Sept 29th we arrived in Port Of Spain, Trinidad and our Public Affairs Specialist, Alice Borrell, and driver, Jesse James, immediately made us feel at home.  We were excited to embark on our Central and South American tour but definitely ready for some sleep when Jesse’s van pulls up to the hotel and we meet some jazz musicians who just finished a gig there!  The piano player, Clive ‘Zanga’ Alexander, turns out to be a Trinidad musical icon and we exchange information.  We find out that the musicians in town knew we were coming and they are planning a party/gathering for us later in the week.  Then the band’s drummer walks up and it turns out to be an old friend of mine that I met in Boston, Sean Thomas!  He was in the Thelonious Monk Institute which was hosted at New England Conservatory at the same time I was at Berklee College of Music in the late ’90s.  I haven’t seen Sean in about 10 years, he’s a great drummer and plays steel pans as well.  I had no idea he was living in Trinidad.

Steel pans (or steel drums) were invented in Trinidad so this is their homeland.  Every year around Carnival time (two days before Ash Wednesday, generally mid-February or early March) they host the huge Panorama festival and steel drum bands from all over participate and compete.  I was a drummer in high school myself and my main drum teacher, Jim Munzenrider, was a student of the famous jazz-steel pan player, Andy Narell.  Jim organized a 20-piece local steel pan group in the San Francisco Bay Area that I played with on occasion as a teenager.  I remember looking forward to the new Panorama CDs that came out each year after the festival.  Some bands were small but the pan orchestras could have up to 80 players or more!!!  The smaller pans were like sopranos or the first violins and the huge bass pans (oil drums where the top of the drum was tuned to have 3 or 4 notes) were like the double-basses or even the timpani.  I encourage everyone just to experience the sound of a steel pan orchestra – there’s nothing like it!

Before our first concert for the Patrons of Queen’s Hall there was a reception with Ambassador Beatrice Welters (U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad) and a number of other dignitaries, patrons, and esteemed local musicians.  The concert at Queen’s Hall was a one-set, 2-hour show for about 300 people and we received a standing ovation at the end.  On our last song we featured Sean Thomas on drums, Tony singing and Tim and I also joining in on some vocal scat over a blues.  That was a marathon for our first concert but we were happy because people loved it and we were glad to be doing out first show for the tour together.

Bake And Shark Menu, Maracas Beach (p.s. $30 TT = $5 US)

The following day we had a chance to see a little bit of Trinidad and our saxophone player, Tim Armacost, golf nut that he is hit the golf course while to rest of us hit the beach and took a short tour of Port Of Spain.  Near the Maracas beach area Jesse took us to an amazing legendary local food spot ‘Bake & Shark’ that had the best fried shark in a bun that I’ve ever tried!  The water was incredibly warm and although we weren’t there for long we were all happy to get a piece of it before we headed back the to hotel.

Zanga and his band at Satchmo's

We were invited to a dinner that night at a jazz restaurant called Satchmo’s which featured food and drink named after famous jazz musicians and a decor recalling a 1920s jazz spot in New Orleans.  We had dinner with Zanga, Sean Thomas, and a few others while an opening jazz band played.  Zanga’s band later took the stage and played some of the best Caribbean Jazz I have ever heard.  After about 4 tunes we joined them with Tim sitting in on sax, Bennett on piano, Sean on drums, Tony singing, and myself on bass.  We played a couple tunes before Zanga came back to the piano and we finished the night with 2 more songs with Zanga.  One was a local Trini folk tune that Zanga taught us on the spot.  It was a magical night.  I’m going to try to bring Zanga and his band to J@LC.  People need to hear what he is doing with his flavor of Jazz from Trinidad.  Using soca and calypso rhythms with the steel pan and great playing and arrangements I am super impressed with this band.

Our early scheduled workshop the next day was canceled due to a water pipe that burst which flooded the room we were going to use so they redirected all the students to our second scheduled workshop at the University of Trinidad and Tobago.  The huge building where the workshop was held is a new multi-million dollar facility dedicated to the arts and is absolutely beautiful!  After doing a soundcheck our driver, Jesse, highly recommended a place that has some excellent roti (I had a goat roti – amazing, I need another one next time I’m in Brooklyn).  I was kind of in a hurry and wasn’t sure if I could finish mine but Alice and Jesse insisted saying a local Trini line that’s so far my favorite quote of the tour – “Better man belly buss dan good food waste”.  We all had a good laugh and yes I did finish.

UTT jazz studies director, Dave Marcellin, with Pathways and Alice Borrell

About 100 people came to the workshop with about 30 being musicians, many wanting to play with us.  We started the workshop playing and explaining the basics of what we do (here’s a short video) then turned it into a masterclass featuring the students and local professionals.  Split up among 4 ensembles we were able to have about 25 musicians play during the course of the masterclass and give constructive feedback on their playing.  It was great to hear them learn on the spot from some of our observations and hear some of them sound better right away after a little bit of feedback and a push to go for it.  We ended with the local Trini song we had just learned the night before and got a standing ovation.  The local teachers present and musicians were so thankful for our playing, information, spirit, and care about their development.  I certainly hope to return as they were really happy with what we did and we would love to come back.

We had half a day to get ready for our next stop.  We said goodbye to the local players again who came to the hotel before we left and got ready for another experience.  We will arrive in Suriname after midnight, check into the hotel, sleep for a little bit then head to an afternoon press conference before doing another workshop – all in one day.  It’s going to be a long one but Suriname, here we come!

Here’s some more pics from Pathways in Trinidad.

-PB

Posted in Rhythm Road 2010, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The Final Stretch: Coda

Banner in Comayagua, Honduras

Well here it is, the last blog entry for the 9 Week Blogging Challenge.  Before I attempt to address the subject of week 9 I’m going to take a minute to look back at the three months before I decided to jump in and give this a go.  I knew it was necessary to make the transition from Artist 1.0 to Artist 2.0 as the music business is changing completely and as artists we need a new model of how to move forward.  Much of our music is being acquired for free and the old record company model is almost completely extinct yet as artists we still have value.  People are listening to music even more than before and in a wider variety of formats.  With the internet explosion it became possible for artists to reach the audience themselves without a corporate structure in between.  This has had a lot of pros and cons for the artists and for the audience.  The responsibility still remains in the artists’ hands to produce music of the highest quality and then promote that music to reach a fan base and rise to a level beyond the ‘noise’ of the onslaught of all other forms of media that the everyday person is exposed to on a daily basis.

The fact that the artist can reach the fan directly is great but as many of us have experienced it can be overwhelming and we would like to keep our focus on the music itself.  A new plan has become necessary so we can keep our focus on the music and still be able to reach people who would love to hear that music at the same time.  For the audience it’s great to have so many options but that’s also the problem, there’s too many options.  While it may be liberating that a group of record company executives no longer dictate what we listen to the problem is now the audience has to decide for themselves among a million of other bands out there and that’s not much of an exaggeration.  With about 2,000 CDs being released worldwide per week (albums, records, whatever you want to call them now) how is a fan supposed to figure out what they like?  This is where an artists’ presence on a social media platform can be crucial.  People want to listen to what their friends are listening to and now that information can be communicated on the internet where many fans are already spending their time.

I knew it was time to join the game in terms of having a Facebook fan page, a newsletter, a blog, a YouTube channel, Twitter, free mp3 downloads, one place on the internet to update my calendar that would feed all the others, an email management system, a Flickr account, a new cell phone that can trigger all that stuff and a few other things.  So looking back it was a big deal for me putting up my first blog as in my past routine just putting a Facebook status update was a rarity (about 4 times a year).  Here’s my first blog.  Now here’s my last one – a tour blog of Paul Beaudry & Pathways in Suriname.  The last one includes several photos, links to videos I’ve posted on YouTube, a link to recent photos in my Flickr account, other links and social media buttons including Facebook and Twitter.  I was working almost every night, often recording or rehearsing during the day, taking care of my family, and touring as I blogged from New York, NY; Tanglewood, MA; Miami, FL; Ischia, Italy; Port Of Spain, Trinidad; Paramaribo, Suriname; Managua, Nicaragua; and Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  I’m sitting in my hotel room right now in Tegucigalpa after having a concert last night at the U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens‘ residence and doing a jazz workshop at the Honduras National School of Music this morning.  We have our biggest concert in Honduras tonight at the Teatro Nacional Manuel Bonilla.  I didn’t want to allow myself an excuse for not finishing and here it is, the last blog entry of Ariel’s 9-Week challenge.  I now have working accounts on almost every social media platform mentioned in the “Music Success In Nine Weeks” book and did manage to get a new iPhone just before I left town in late September.

So this is the chapter that eventually sold me on getting the book when I was browsing though it in mid-July before I knew of a Blogging Challenge.  This last concept is one I learned through internet marketer, Joe Schroeder.  The concept is every internet intellectual property business should have a funnel where at the top of the funnel is free stuff and things get more expensive as they go down ending on a final product which could sell for several thousand dollars.  Turns out this is not a new idea at all.  It’s a basic business-building principle and musicians are doing about half of it already.  Here’s an example from her book: 1. FREE MP3s or videos,  2. 99c downloads, 3. $8-15 CD/concert ticket, 4. $2 a month club – 1 song per month or week, 5. $20-25: T-shirt, Hat, Cooler, Cool Merch, 6. $47 special event, 7. $250-500 private show, 8. $1000 custom written song – personalized.  Based on that I decided to come up with my own and here it is to date: 1. FREE MP3s (for joining the mailing list, done) or PDFs of educational material off my website (coming soon), 2. 99c downloads (iTunes already doing that), 3. $12-20 full album (CDBaby and others doing that), 4. $20 coffee/tea mug “Paul Beaudry & Pathways” (Hmmm… we have some CD release parties coming up I’m going to order some and see how it works), 5. $47 backstage hang with the band before the show with concert, pictures, and signed CD, 6. $400-1000 educational jazz workshop (I was going to start booking more of those anyway), 7. $800-2000 private performance (already doing that), 8. $1000 personalized original composition (I thought of that last year and never followed through on it).  Also I teach bass and jazz improvisation lessons as well so that price range would be between #5 and #6.  It may need some refining but this a good start!

Action plan now then would be to have mugs ready for our performance on Nov 4th in DC, Nov 6th in NYC at Dizzy’s, and our CD-release party on Nov 18th in NYC at Creole.  Also finish the website redesign so people can see how to get their free MP3s and jazz educational PDFs right away on the website homepage.  I don’t know if I have the courage yet to offer the backstage hang, I’ll need more time on that in the meantime bass lessons (which I constantly do) wasn’t in the funnel so I can swap those two ideas.  Pathways is an AWESOME band for doing educational workshops so future educational booking arrangements will be an important part of the new website redesign.  Many don’t know that my band is available for private engagements, we only do a few a year, so that’s something else I can promote.  The thing I’m actually excited the most about is the custom song offering.  For most of my life my composing has been better than my playing and even when I went to Berklee I was a double-major in Classical Composition and Film Scoring because I couldn’t get enough education in composition.  One of the biggest decisions in my life was to pursue a performance route because at age 27 I was more interested in getting my Master’s in Classical Composition from Juilliard or another conservatory of that caliber than I was to move to New York and play jazz.  I was a self-taught composer and had been writing since I was 15 or so.  Ultimately deciding against the classical composition route I’ve been producing records since 1998 and focusing on playing, producing, and arranging.  Composing is my first love and anything I can be involved with that can jump start that, I am interested.

Ariel Hyatt has 11 other ideas that can be a part of an artist’s arsenal of options but I’ll stop here. I’m liking the custom song idea and also Pathways has been doing so well on the educational workshops I have my work cut out for me just following up on people that want us to come back and starting a continuing program of workshops.

So, adios!  The blogs will continue but the 9-Week Challenge is done, at least the blogging part.  In reality it may take half a year to finish all the details of those things I did not cover the first time around but I’m looking forward to it.  So later this year Pathways may be recording a new CD and also the “Paul Beaudry/Adam Rafferty – New Tomorrows” duo CD should be out in early 2011.  Lots of new material will be coming down the pipeline.  Bye for now but before you know it, it will be hello again!

-PB

Posted in 9 Week Blogging Challenge, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

To Network Or Not To Network … Good Question

Paul Beaudry & Pathways performing in Managua, Nicaragua

Paul Beaudry & Pathways is still on the road.  Tour updates are going up but I’m taking a minute to talk about Week 8 – Real Live Networking Tips from Ariel Hyatt’s ‘Music Success In Nine Weeks‘.  First of all in my experience for musicians there are two different types of networking: 1) meeting artists for the purpose of getting deeper in your art of music and 2) networking for business contacts.  There is a big difference between the two as the great jazz bassist and composer, John Clayton, pointed out to me one day that on the musician side, “No one likes being networked.”

I have found that the musical journey and the business to support the musical journey are two different roads that can converge at times but not always and that’s OK.  Actually it’s expected.  When I’m calling a club owner to book a gig, the process of doing that is not the same process as meeting some musicians that may guide me on a deeper journey either by their music or by introducing me to a new peer group that can help me raise my skill level, awareness, professionalism, or any other aspect of what I do.

I remember asking the great jazz bassist, Christian McBride, what was one of the most important things he did when he came to New York and he said other than practicing as much as possible, it was surrounding himself constantly with people that were better than he is.  Since I held Christian on a high pedestal it was hard for me to imagine that there were nights that he was getting his butt kicked by some the music he was playing and by some of the bandleaders he was playing with who had far more experience than he did.  I still hold Christian on a pedestal because I can listen back to the records and hear how well he did under the circumstances.  And for most bandleaders what he DID do was enough for him to become one of the #1 young bassists in New York.  There was a period in the early ’90s where it seemed like Christian was on just about half of ALL the jazz records that came out of New York.  For other bass players it was like the ‘Christian McBride recording ban’ because he had all the recording gigs.  Folks were happy when Christian became a bandleader and raised his prices so other bass players can record again.

But all that goes to show the importance even at that level to surround oneself with people that are better to keep a constant and continuing fire under one’s own improvement.  I think it’s extremely important to treat a fellow artist very differently than a ‘business contact’ and likewise not to treat a ‘business contact’ as one would an artist.  They are very different relationships even though there are times business contacts can become personal friends and long-term significant relationships.  When those things do happen it becomes self-evident that a shift is taking place and it’s important to jump through that hoop or risk losing a potentially valuable relationship not just business-wise but personal as well.  It’s good to surround oneself with different types of people and different types of experts who may have a fresh perspective or totally different insight than the current industry-standard thinking of one’s peer group.

I find that when establishing a musical or artistic contact with someone it’s important to not have any specific objective or agenda at all.  First of all the other person can smell it a mile away and if you have a specific goal in mind to get something out of them, it may be a complete turn-off.  My greatest success in the area of starting an artistic relationship with an important person is to establish a common ground of discovery and curiosity about the art form (or some other common aspect of life).  Asking questions to start conversation is great for that, as long as the questions are relevant and the conversation is going somewhere and not just questions for the sake of someone talking.  For the artist, someone who likes to talk for no reason or ask questions for no apparent purpose is someone the artist will intentionally avoid.  Being genuine for me has always worked out over any superficiality.  If no particular bond develops because there is no ‘chemistry’ there then fine, move on.  There will be plenty of other esteemed artists where there is a ‘chemistry’ and it’s best to pursue and develop those.  My experience is that it’s better to have a few deep relationships than to have a lot of shallow ones.  Of course knowing as many people as possible is always great but sometimes just being good or fun to be around and knowing what people do as well as them knowing what you do and exchanging a name, email, and phone number (and maybe a web address) is fine.  Among the artist circles one’s art and reputation speaks far more than anything one can say in person.

That said, the kind of networking outlined in the book is more of the ‘business contact’ type although I did find some principles that crossed over into the artist type relationships as well.

For that road being memorable upon meeting someone is really important.  In a networking environment generally people are meeting more people than they care to remember so raising above the level of ‘noise’ is key.  Ariel’s solution is, “the more that they talk, the more memorable you are.”  The relationship feels good when there’s a shared energy and generally people like to talk about themselves.  It raises their comfort level when they can talk about themselves on their level and on their terms.  Since it’s such a rarity that a new person or anyone will allow them to do that, that conversation and the person who initiated that conversation to take place will be memorable.  Focus on the other person as much as possible yet giving way when they ask questions about you so they get a sense and some background on who you are, but keep the conversation and focus more on them than on you.

In general being a “gatherer” of information is a great characteristic to have.  Personally, my natural tendency is to be a bit shy so often I have to resist the temptation in a new social setting to talk to only one or two people the whole time.  I’m not a natural social butterfly but I found my life to be happier and easier when I developed a genuine curiosity about the lives and experiences of other people.  In the best case scenarios I’ve actually gotten some work out of talking to many other people in a social setting or developing business or artistic contacts from someone there and in the very worst scenarios it just passes the time a lot faster if there’s nothing going on – so you can’t lose.  Actually you can.  On the rare occasion you speak to the one person who wants to talk to you all night who says all the wrong things and doesn’t get the message that you have no interest.  This is another reason why I like cell phones.  You can always fake a phone call, pick up the phone and walk outside talking distance.  You can then strategically avoid that person for the rest of the event or even alert a friend to interrupt if the guy tries to continue.  Thank goodness that’s a rarity as it’s far more common to gain positive contacts than a negative one.  :)

ALWAYS have a business card that has your basic info on it including your email, website, and links.  Ariel also recommends putting one sentence about your music (your pitch) on it as well.  She also recommends a photo and or band logo to add recognition.  Last time I did my business cards I added a photo of me playing the bass which is also the photo I use for MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and all the other internet social media profiles.  Initially I added the photo because I know what happens to me when I get cards that don’t have one.  I know if I haven’t logged my business cards in a while and I have a whole stack of them, inevitably I’m going to forget who I met where and not be able to identify about 25-50% of the cards I have in the stack.  Having a face on the business card makes a HUGE difference in being able to recall where I met the person and why I would need to record their information.

If you are trying to establish a ‘contact’ whether because you think they could be a future fan, resource, student, source of employment, referral or any other reason make sure you get their information.  The next step is where most folks slip  (and I’ve been guilty plenty of times) and that is to record their information and have a follow-up plan.  For me follow-up is really a way reciprocating the relationship, however Ariel recommends never talk about your business in the initial email.  Drop a short friendly and positive note about the initial meeting and add a sig file (with links to your site, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).  If they respond to that then move forward.  If they are interested in listening to or seeing your band follow-up with how they can join the email or newsletter list.  If they are interested in taking lessons follow-up with what you teach, your availability, and rates.  If they are interested in booking the band follow-up with any other pertinent information on booking and what you could do to help make that booking happen.  Or it could simply be a great conversation that needs to continue that’s OK too!

Ariel has many other points such as networking in areas outside or opposite of your industry, in places where you and what you do would really stand out.  Also upon explaining to others what you do, you can refer to what others say about it (i.e. “People say my music sounds like …”).  People will believe what other people say over what you say about yourself so this will go over well.  She also has a nice 5-minute exercise where before entering any social function to stop and think about what your goals are and one or two things that you would like to see happen, and then to stop and review those things again just before entering the room.  At the end of the day, it’s always best to be genuine and develop an interest in other people.

Well, Paul Beaudry & Pathways is in the last country of our Rhythm Road Central and South American tour – Honduras.  Also coming close to finishing the 9-Week Blogging Challenge with one more entry to go!  Until next time … p.s. look out for the Suriname blog and the cool African drumming we ran into.  Be well!

-PB

Posted in 9 Week Blogging Challenge, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Tour Continues And The Great Email List Debate

Paul Beaudry & Pathways teaching at the University of Trinidad & Tobago

The band, Paul Beaudry & Pathways, just finished our last concert in Suriname.  The U.S. Ambassador, John R. Nay, was there with his wife as was some of the high-ranking members of Suriname’s cabinet.  Suriname’s newly-elected, President Dési Bouterse, wanted to attend but had a last minute-emergency and sent his apologies so we prepared a special surprise for his birthday next week.  The concert went amazing and we featured some of the more talented Suriname young musicians with us at the end of the concert on a popular Surinamese tune ‘Maria’ that I think I’d like us to record on the next Paul Beaudry & Pathways CD.  We have been running into so much great music on this tour I’m thinking about calling the next CD ‘Americas’ and feature some of the songs we have encountered along the way.  We will definitely feature one or two of these tunes on our upcoming concerts in New York, the first a 12:30pm afternoon show at Dizzy’s (J@LC) on Nov 6th and at our CD-release party at Creole on Nov 18th (sets at 7:30 & 9:30pm).

Continuing with my story from Week 6 of the blogging challenge.  Week 7 was about building the mailing list and for me this went hand-in-hand with sending the first newsletter.  Here’s a synopsis of my web-hopping journey to find the right email management system picking up from a week before we left town.  Where we left off I wanted to send out my first newsletter mailing September 25th and I wouldn’t sleep until it was done.  I finished the newsletter but hadn’t chosen an email management system yet and I had outgrown doing it myself on my own personal email account.  It’s late, I’d love to go to bed but I’m determined to finish.

Adam Rafferty loves MailChimp and that’s his favorite hands-down.  With MailChimp you can have multiple email lists (i.e. for me people who are into the band and people who are into my teaching and workshops may be two different crowds).  I found with some time on the site that graphics were fairly easy to learn how to add and manipulate.  Also they had a superior system of manipulating ANY aspect of MailChimp including the information you would ask for (fields for the database), auto-responders, frequency and timing of the auto-responders, segmenting the email list, or any other customization you can think of.  Also it is free for email lists under 1000 and you can send up to 6000 emails a month for free.  After that there is a steady but reasonable price for each tier as one’s list grows in size and frequency of mailing.  Only problem is I couldn’t figure out how people were going to get the free track and this was essential.  Being that I wanted to go to bed soon, I moved on.

Next stop, BandLetter.com.  First level after the initial $99 start-up fee for setting up your account is $60/month.  NEXT!  Next stop, ReverbNation, I heard that they have a widget called “Exclusive Downloads”.  I have no idea about their list management options but I know they can upload a track and I want to go to bed.  Awesome, I had signed up for a ReverbNation site a month ago and just barely set it up.  So I set it up some more.  I get to my favorite spot – TaDa! – the ‘Exclusive Downloads’ window.  It doesn’t work.  I try and try and try and try, it doesn’t work.  My only option now is to call customer support during regular business hours because I cannot figure out why after I think I’m following all the directions for some reason my account is not eligible for the exclusive download function.  It’s 3:30 AM on a Saturday night and I got to get up at 8 AM the next day.  The coffee isn’t working at this hour and dammit I will not sleep until this is done.  Next stop, FanBridge.com.

I have heard nothing but good things about FanBridge and I have a few friends that are very happy with them.  $9/month for lists under 1000 emails plus a setup fee of $25.  If I can go to bed soon no problem, I signup and pay.  Also I move to my new Teavana ‘Cacao Mint Black‘ hoping this will give me some extra kick – wow, that tea is good!  I get some kick.  I draft the same newsletter again on platform #3 for the evening.  I don’t find anywhere near the graphics manipulation as MailChimp but the uploading is no problem.  Yeay!   I send out a test email.  I hate it.  They ask about 25 questions to every potential subscriber who opts in and you have no control over the database fields.  They ask you not once but twice if you have any questions for the artist, then when your done signing the mailing list it redirects you to an artist page on THEIR site.  Ouch!  They do have some very nice list manipulation options though.  But I’m unhappy with having to ask the subscriber so many questions, the newsletter layout being so difficult, and getting redirected to a FanBridge site after signup.  I give up, it’s 5 AM.  Screw it, I’ll bag it and get my 3 hours sleep in now.

Next morning I talk to Markus Schwartz, a friend of mine who loves FanBridge.  I tell him I tried to send my first newsletter yesterday but gave up at 5 AM.  I’m sure he wanted to laugh his head off for several minutes but he was polite.  He says there is no way you can set up a mailing list and do a first newsletter mailing in one day.  Under my circumstances forget it – wait until I have some time to burn and get a chance to figure out what’s going on and don’t bother trying to do this sort of thing under pressure.  I reopen FanBridge and realize I could have done several things differently to make the formatting significantly easier.  Two days later I’m doing a morning mastermind session with Adam Rafferty and tell him I need to do this newsletter this week and he reminds me this is not a rush job activity and to use the program that gives the flexibility I ultimately want to use.  Setting up and growing a mailing list on one platform then planning on moving it to another at another time is not an intelligent plan.

I go back to MailChimp when I come home.  After browsing for 10 minutes I find a page where you can download a 37-page ebook called ‘MailChimp For Musicians’.  Not deep into the ebook it shows you how to upload a track, video, picture or PDF to their server!  Ding ding ding, I’m done!!!  I decide to use MailChimp.  I’m still having a high opinion of FanBridge but I’m liking all the customization of MailChimp and it’s still free until my mailing list goes over 1000.

When I get to Trinidad I retest MailChimp to make sure everything is cool before I mass email the whole list.  Oops, one of the download links disappeared!  I can’t get the free mp3 track I uploaded.  I re-upload the track.  Then I find that how the track downloads to your machine depends on which browser you are using.  In Safari or Opera I can’t figure out how to download the track at all but I can stream it.  I give FanBridge a second look and then decide on FanBridge.  Once I started really checking it out I come to understand WHY they ask so many questions (come to find out the questions are optional) and much you can manipulate your account and separate lists just like MailChimp.  Also I do the math on the monthly charges.  Yes, MailChimp is free up to 1000 emails but after that it gets far steeper than FanBridge, sometimes twice as much or more depending on how big the list is.  I come to realize that FanBridge is almost as customizable as MailChimp but specifically designed for musicians.  My final decision to settle on FanBridge comes from the ease of which the free mp3 is delivered easily and consistently across all web browsers.  It’s still highly customizable and once the list goes over 1000 it’s also cheaper.

As you might guess if you would like to join my mailing list it’s here: http://paulbeaudry.fanbridge.com/

The September newsletter is done and the October newsletter will be written when the tour is over with tons of great stories and links to photos and videos.  Trinidad and Suriname were incredible and the next blog is about what happened for us in those countries.  Till next time!

Posted in 9 Week Blogging Challenge, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Listmania and touring Central America

Pathways arrives in Trinidad fresh off the airplane from NYC.

So here I am sitting on the airplane leaving New York City for Port Of Spain, Trinidad writing the blog for Week 6 of the 9-Week Blogging Challenge.  Paul Beaudry and Pathways is now embarking on our first international tour!  This tour is sponsored by The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program presented by Jazz At Lincoln Center and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  We applied along with 132 other ensembles last year and after an additional live audition we were one of 10 ensembles chosen to embark on a U.S. State Department cultural ambassador tour for 2010.

The program, originally called the Jazz Ambassadors, was conceived by U.S. Congressman and representative of Harlem, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., in 1955 during the Cold War.  The very first tour in March 1956 featured Dizzy Gillespie and his 18-piece band who traveled through southern Europe, the Middle East, and south Asia.  Louis Armstrong also participated in 1956, 1960, and 1961 with tours to Africa as did Duke Ellington in 1963, 1970, and 1972 to the Soviet Union, Southeast Asia, and Africa and Dave Brubeck in 1958 to Poland.  Since 2005 the name of the program changed to The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad and in the last 5 years has brought 118 musicians from 31 ensembles playing jazz, urban and American roots music to 97 countries, cultivating cultural exchange and and bringing American musical art forms to audiences internationally.  Here’s a link to a recent 8-minute CBS special about the program where Tracy Smith interviews Hilary Clinton, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck, and others about the Jazz Ambassadors and Rhythm Road: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXpsbaop4PA

In 2007 I did a 6-week Rhythm Road tour with Alvin Atkinson and the Sound Merchants.  We toured the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories.  Bennett Paster, our pianist, led his own band, Grupo Yanqui, in 2006 on a Rhythm Road tour to Estonia, Russia, Sweden, and Serbia.  This is my first time leading any band on any international tour and we’ll be performing, giving workshops, doing media interviews, and jamming with local musicians in several countries in Central America throughout October.  It was actually because of this tour that I decided to record Paul Beaudry & Pathways early this year and as a part of the tour we are supposed to text blog, photo and video blog, and keep updates on FaceBook and Twitter.  I was elated to hear that we got the gig but horrified that I was going to have to learn internet social media.  I was on the lookout for a way to learn this stuff when I met Ariel Hyatt in July and she invited me to join this challenge, thus this blog was born!

Getting back to the subject of Week 6 which is newsletters and conducting surveys.  I knew I was going to have to change my ways right away.  I send email blasts every now and then for promoting gigs to people I know from emails I’ve been given over the years but that’s not the same as having a fan list of people who would want a monthly newsletter and other updates.  I knew it was time to establish a legit email list of people who ARE interested in getting newsletters, updates, free stuff and special offers.  Especially since Pathways has a CD-release party gig at Creole in East Harlem on Nov 18th.  I will definitely need to promote that show and other future events.  To reach the people who are interested in hearing from me would require an email list management system offered by Constant Contact, MailChimp, FanBridge, BandLetter, or ReverbNation.  I knew also having an opt-in to my mailing list with a free gift is a key component to my new website and this is one step that I do not want to miss.

So, excited to write my first newsletter I sat down and started (in between gigs, rehearsals, recordings, planning for the tour and family activities) to write my very first newsletter.  When I was happy with it I thought it was cool and I was on my way to sending it out that night.  Reality had a different plan in mind.  True, the newsletter was done – the text version.  I figured I would just upload one of my favorite alternate takes from the CD as a free gift and then send everyone an invitation to join the list and to download the free track.  And I would do all that before I went to bed and get some much-needed sleep.  This is what reality had to say about it.  Step one, upload the free track to where?  Step two, using which email management system?  Step three, would you like some graphics with that text version of the newsletter?  Step four, would you like some working social media links with that newsletter?  Step five, don’t people have to opt-in to the list before the newsletter is sent out?  Step six, isn’t the free track going to be sent immediately as a link along with a letter to congratulate the subscriber for joining the list?  I was so determined that this would be done before I went to bed that it was 5 AM before I finally threw in the towel and said OK well I guess I have to finish this at another time!  In my Week 7 blog I’ll tell you what happened that night and how I chose the email management system that I ended up using.

Also last week I scored a victory from tightening up a hole from one of the earlier weeks.  I finally bought an iPhone!  I started downloading apps and sent my first tweet from the phone last week.  After an in-person visit and a customer service call I was able to get email on the phone as well.  Wow, did that feel good to send and receive emails from the phone and yes I did get more sleep that first night!  I’ll have to pick up some of my other new iPhone activities (like uploading photos straight to Flickr from the phone) a little later as I’m not using internet access on the phone while I’m out of the country.  In the meantime my first newsletter campaign is well under way with invitation emails that are being sent out.  Also I am offering my favorite alternate take from the Paul Beaudry & Pathways CD as a free gift for those who sign up for the list.  In terms of the conducting surveys part of the chapter, Ariel recommends that an artist conducts a survey of their fan’s interests once the list reaches 1000 people to make sure the artist is providing things that the fans want.  Since I technically don’t have a list at all yet I have a ways to go before I get to that point.

Speaking of if you are interested in joining the newsletter/mailing list the link is right here: http://paulbeaudry.fanbridge.com/

As I say in the invitation email I will never give your email address to anyone else and you can opt out of the list at any time.  On the week 7 blog I’ll add some pics from the concerts and workshops we do in Trinidad.  We’re excited to be there.  Special thanks to Ragui and Tony who watched the kids while I was writing the newsletter on my laptop in Tony’s living room.  And once more – happy birthday, Yvonne!  Till next time!

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Blogging, chocolate wine, and kids

With the Audrey Silver Quartet at the 2010 Tanglewood Jazz Festival

I’m playing catch-up.  I did my Week 4 blog on my current website (http://www.paulbeaudry.com/PAUL_BEAUDRY_MUSIC/Blog/Blog.html) in the first week of September and ever since I moved to the WordPress platform two weeks ago I’ve been behind, but life has been more complicated as well.  My 6-year-old son went back to school and I’m getting used to the routine again of getting him ready for school at 7am and picking him up at 3pm.  For those working late (i.e. getting home around 12midnight or 1am) this routine can be a challenge as 8 hours of sleep is impossible, especially if I check my email before I go to bed (particularly when I’ve been gone all day).  I’ve been trying to force myself to not check email before I go to sleep but every now and then when I do that I miss an important email that costs me something if I wait until the morning or the following afternoon or night.  I still have to convince myself that it’s still worth not answering an important email til later the next day than to get 4 hours sleep every night and play sleep catch-up or be totally sleep deprived and caffeinate all day long.

So this may also be an additional ad for why getting email on your phone is good (I’m hoping to get an iPhone4 soon).  I dig the idea of not having to be home to check my email – this may be as big for me as the invention of the cell phone itself as people now send emails instead of calling or texting and assume you get the message right away.  Saxophone player and very good friend of mine, Sedric Choukroun (www.sedricchoukroun.com), last month was telling me how much more sleep he was getting after upgrading his phone to send and receive email.  I’m there!

This whole discussion opens another topic – Tips For Working Musician Parents.  I’m sure that topic is way big enough to justify a regular blog of it’s own.  Parenthood is never easy even under the best of circumstances but for working musicians in NYC for whom most have no family in town it’s always a challenge.  I remember when my son was first born I used to hire a babysitter just so I had some time to practice or get some sleep.  Paying for practice time or sleep was not a part of my plan or routine prior to being a parent.  There were plenty of times when the babysitter charged more than what the gig the night before paid, so from a financial viewpoint if you stayed home and went to bed early you’d come out ahead over playing the gig and needing to pay the babysitter so you could sleep through the morning the next day.  Of course you’d make no money that way but you still came out ahead – figure that one out.  Ah, the life of an artist!  Thankfully that wasn’t all the gigs and thus the process of weeding out the lower-paying gigs began.  Same went with gigs where the music was too complicated.  If it cost you more money to learn the music than it did to play the gig then that gig would need the boot as well and I had to focus on getting gigs where the music was more simple or standard.  Once my son was old enough private schools actually cost less than the babysitters and that was actually a huge relief.  As musicians, we try to stay inspired and in top form as we wade through the peculiarities and ups-and-downs of the music business while trying to maintain a homefront.  I could probably stand to take a few tips from those who have a better mastery of the ‘Working Musician-Parent’ craft.  I think this does warrant it’s own blog so look out for that in the future.

I’m still working on getting my ‘website makeover’ done so I can implement all the cool things about blogging and following blogs that Ariel Hyatt writes about in ‘Music Success In 9 Weeks’.  When the makeover is finished my blog will have a new permanent address!  I did set up a Google Reader account so I can subscribe to my favorite blogs and I thought that was really cool as I had no idea what RSS was even though I’ve seen the symbol everywhere.  The CommonCraft video on it is fabulous – http://www.commoncraft.com/rss_plain_english.  I will be setting up my Blog Reader Profiles, My Blog Log, and Google Friend Connect when the new site is done.  Ariel also asks to list 50 blogs where you’d want your CD reviewed and I found a TON of sites by going to http://www.blogsearch.google.com and putting in “jazz CDs” for the search keywords and a even more focused search when I put in “jazz bass CDs”.  No problems there finding 50 sites to check out.

I can tell you now my current favorite blogs just for reading are by Ariel Hyatt (for obvious reasons), Brian Tracy, CD Baby/Discmakers, and Tom Jackson.  Brian Tracy for me is still one of the top motivational speakers as he is very clear, direct, and simple.  There is no hocus-pocus with Brian Tracy and if you’ve never heard of him there is an amazing amount of information on http://www.briantracy.com/blog/.  Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, used to write the majority of the CD Baby blogs and still contributes a lot from time to time.  Reading these blogs is like getting a PhD in how to be an independent artist today!  Tom Jackson is a live music producer who knows how to analyze a live show and work it until the crowd is giving a near standing ovation on the first tune consistently, and so forth for the rest of the set.  Tom’s abilities are almost miraculous as he regularly turns mediocre acts into world class performances.  I’m all ears for anything he has to say – as with Ariel, BT, and Derek.

Actually when I think about it for YEARS I’ve been wanting to keep a blog about musician’s health issues.  When my website is done I want one area that is exclusively a health-related blog or blog category.  Originally I had envisioned co-writing a health book with a nutritionist but in reality being that I’m normally real busy having an on-going blog will be perfect.  I do plan to interview a nutritionist or two and my favorite question is: “OK, you are in NYC in between gigs or teaching.  You are hungry, you don’t want to spend a fortune and don’t have a lot of time but you need to eat decent and NOW.  You can’t wait at a restaurant or diner so you go to your average NYC corner store deli and realize 95% of what they sell is actually non-food – what do you eat?”

I have a few other blog interests as well including music education, bass education, now this Working Musician-Parent area, and Ariel pointed out I wouldn’t be too bad at the wine tasting reviews either.  Just to anticipate here’s my first wine tasting review:

ChocoVine – Product of Holland

Type: “The taste of dutch chocolate and fine red wine” [my first question is: WHICH red wine?]

On the back: “Grape wine with artificial flavor, cream and artificial colors

chocolate & wine” [not impressed with the artificial ingredients but it's still enough of a novelty that I'll give it a whirl.]

Story: I bought this on an early September late afternoon on a wine store run.  I saw it on the counter as I was picking up a white wine and it piqued my interest immediately.  I’m a cholocate connoisseur and I was totally skeptical but interested.  I asked the wine store owner his opinion (who I trust) and he said it was surprisingly good, especially the chocolate flavor being that it’s from Holland.  It was only $10.99 so I thought, “Oh, what the hell. I can’t go too far wrong.”  I opened it a couple days later when I had a chance.

Tasting: 9/9/10: The ChocoVine tastes like a premixed chocolate martini light syrup. It will give you a buzz and a sugar high. Aftertaste is incredible but the initial taste – I’ll pass. Good enough to finish the bottle though, chocoholic that I am.  :)

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Hello folks!

Paul Beaudry at the Vienna Opera House July 4 2010

New website is still under way but here’s an announcement that my blog will be here for a little while.  I’ll be uploading all recent blogs done within the past month.  Have fun!

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