Messages From Masters: Byron Stripling

by Ella Campbell

While I’ve been moving and rearranging my things, I came across a notebook with snippets of notes from different masterclasses I attended at Michigan State. Here are a few notes I took during a masterclass with Byron Stripling in April, 2010.

  • Knowledge is not power, action is power. Develop action-oriented habits.
  • When you leave your university, your teachers will become your competition. Stop thinking about yourself as a student, and start thinking of yourself as a musician.
  • Believe that what you want to do is possible. Then what you believe must become your reality.
  • Do your own research. If everyone is going in one direction, see what happens if you go the other.
  • First we make [good] habits, then our habits make us.
  • Practice every day. Develop a practice program for yourself.
  • Repetition is the mother of skill: you know something when you are able to perform it.
  • Practice for 1 or 2 hours every morning sometime before noon: it’s like working out. If you don’t do it at the beginning of the day the probability of you having the motivation through the rest of the day lessens.
  • “What should we practice?” Whatever it is, believe that it’s important. Emotionally you have to feel it’s important, otherwise you won’t do it.
  • “What kind of mouthpiece do you use?” … “Oh that’s interesting!” “NO. What’s interesting is get your ass in a practice room!
  • Clarity is power: check out the Clifford Brown recording of him practicing.
  • Practice sight reading
  • Practice listening: “You must be present to win.”
  • Listen for rhythm, melody and harmony. Do what the musicians you admire do: study the culture & roots of the music you listen to. Absorb everything.
  • Create a music environment that serves to your greatest good.
  • Learn how to play something humble for your grandma. Like “Misty.”
  • Play, in root position, any changes you have to play over. Then figure out how to resolve it. Learn the rules first.
  • Model the masters. If someone has done something that you want to do, learn how they did it and do that. Get the music inside you.
  • Start with baby steps.
  • On Self Discipline: There is no one to blame but ourselves for our lack and limitation. Do what you know you should do, even when you don’t want to do it.
  • Record yourself once a week. Get the true reflection of how you sound.
  • People want to help you if you can help yourself.

Quotes:

  • When you talk the talk but don’t walk the walk: “Who you are is so loud that I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
  • “Circumstances don’t make the man, they just reveal who is he is to himself.”
  • “Success is failure turned inside out.”
  • “If you see a straight line in nature, man made it.”
  • “Any time you decide what you want, there will be road blocks in your way.”
  • “All negativity is rooted in frustration of potential.”
  • “Be proud of giving joy to people’s lives.”

Until next time,
Swing sisters, swing!
Ella

Messages From Masters: Tim Warfield

by Ella Campbell

After a Terell Stafford Quintet concert, the musicians all re-entered the stage and opened up the house for questions. A member of the audience asked a question about how to keep her sons involved in music. She has a son who is taking piano lessons and she can’t convince him to keep practicing, so she asked what made the members of the Quintet stay interested in music. Here is Tim’s answer.

“I just love music. I guess the radio is what kept me inspired. And, if you know me, my parents. My lifestyle was different. My childhood was different. I lived in the hood, but I was not allowed to speak the hood unless I was out on the street. Then it was okay because I had to understand what that was. If I was in our house, I had to speak properly.

“I was fortunate enough to have parents that exposed me to a lot of different things very early. Me and my brother were treated really well, and I consider myself to be very blessed. For whatever reason, I was just that kind of kid who would go out and hang out a little bit, but then I just liked sitting by the radio. I used to just listen to music, and I happened to grow up in a period where it was a very fertile time artistically. No matter what genre of music you were talking about, like now, you see someone saying ‘I’m gonna do a Joni Mitchell project,’ yeah, well, whoopdie-doo. There were so many while I was growing up, you could choose anybody. We were just talking today about, whether you think he’s corny or not, Barry Manilow. He wrote a bunch of killin’ tunes, and so did John Denver, so did Karen Carpenter, so did The Eagles, Christopher Cross, Earth Wind and Fire, The Platters, doesn’t matter. I could just go on and on. That’s the era I grew up in.

“So, I was just like a sponge as a young person listening to all this music, and I liked music. And the other thing is, it’s a different sort of experience I think, for me, than maybe the current generations. I think we were talking about this yesterday as well: when I was growing up there were no visual images to go along –”

The woman asking the questions interrupted: “Where were you born and raised?”

“Born in York, Pennsylvania. Raised in York, Pennsylvania. That’s where my mother’s from. My father’s from west Philly. So my mom would be like,” Tim raised the pitch of his voice to sound feminine,  “‘No no! they can’t fight!’ and my dad would be like, ‘Let them fight.’ But he spoke like this,” Tim lowered his voice and spoke with perfect diction, “‘Let them fight. Dear. They must learn how to fight.’ and then I would come home with a black eye,” switches to his father’s voice again, “‘You’ll be all right, son.’” The audience laughed.

“I lived 20 minutes from Amish country. Everybody’s hip to that right? So how I lived, and what I understood, was a bit more diverse than the kids in my neighborhood. Even listening to music was different for me, not having visual images. No one dancing, no one singing, you don’t see groups of people dancing or anything.

“It’s like, you hear about Michael Jackson, and you think about your favorite song. Then you hear he has a new record out. How did you hear he has a new record out? You read it in the magazine or heard it from your friends. And you couldn’t wait until you got to this song: and when you got this song, it was just you and the song. Which is much different than you, the song, and the video. Understand that. It’s a different spiritual, intellectual experience when you don’t let someone feed you a visual image with music. It’s much more intimate. I think the idea of being intimate with music also inspired me. You know, and, when my parents said ‘you have to practice.’”

Until next time,
Practice & listen, sisters!
– Ella