Wow – I knew it had been a long time since I visited my own web site, but I didn’t realize it had been almost five years. A lot has happened since then. Just to bullet-point the high points:

  • We moved from Missouri to Mississippi in May 2015. I took a position as Quality Manager with an outsourcing facility (read pharmaceuticals, sterile injectables) for hospitals and clinics. A big driver in moving was to escape the frigid north and the requisite snow. Got tired of shoveling that stuff. Another motivation was to leave the world of medical devices and get back to pharma, where, I believed, the culture was less money-oriented and more quality-oriented. I was successful in finding that culture.
    • While Mississippi was not going to be our “forever” home, and we knew it not long after arriving there, the job was lucrative and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Getting into clean room activities and once again being part of solutions rather than just standing on the sidelines while the bean counters and penny-pinchers drove decisions was satisfying and I thought that job would be my last before retirement.
    • Not to be, as it turned out. The company laid me off in June 2017, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I refused their tepid severance package and its terms and went to work for a competitor, this one located in the Little Rock, Arkansas area. This area is more to our liking and I took my new position as QA Manager with relish, enjoying the people with whom I worked. A big relief was the lack of snow.
    • But things changed again when I realized that the commute (anywhere from 35 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the amount of idiocy on the roads) really soured me on the daily grind. Again, the people and the circumstances were great (though I had to absorb a significant salary reduction in the moving from Mississippi to Little Rock), but I just could not get past the commute. So after discussion with Margaret and a pending annuity that was scheduled to kick in, I made the decision to retire from full time work in September 2018.
    • I continue to work part time for the same company, but in an hourly role in an entirely different field, but one in which I have a very healthy background – Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) which is yet another aspect of regulatory scrutiny that most companies have to endure. OSHA was very aggressive while I was at Cardinal Health in Missouri, and I had personal experience in setting up EHS-compliant systems, which is a critical need for my current company. So I work 16 hours per week and have significant flexibility with working at home and/or at the office, pretty much on a schedule that I choose. Pay isn’t that great, but I’m delivering information and systems that are needed, so I have quite a bit of job satisfaction in that.
    • At this juncture, I call myself “semi-retired.” It’s a very nice feeling and I enjoy what I do and the amount of freedom I have.

On the music front, things have shifted over several different areas. Again, my favorite bullet-point list:

  • I found myself playing much more tuba than I really wanted to. And the opportunities just continued to occur, despite my preference for playing the euphonium. So I stopped playing tuba altogether when I shifted to euphonium from tuba in the North Little Rock Community Band, a collection of lots of local musicians who enjoy a schedule of rehearsals every two weeks, rather than a weekly commitment. Nice. I like that. Rehearsals are on Sundays. Again, very nice, as weekday night rehearsals are a struggle when you’re an early riser, which I am.
  • I was invited to play tuba in the Natural State Brass Band, which is a genre that I absolutely love – and I did until my hearing loss precluded my being able to hear the conductor and her instructions. In a word, it was frustrating. I needed an interpreter to tell me what she was saying. That, and my desire to get back to the euphonium, meant that after a season with NSBB, I stepped down.
  • Piano – I have been neglectful in this area. I started working out of a method book for beginning adults, but it’s been stop-and-start with mostly stop. I need to get with the program in this area. When I work on the assigned task, I find it works and I’m able to rely on muscle memory to do what’s needed. The theory and the aspects of reading music are not at all an issue, of course.

Other endeavors:

  • Association of Military Musicians – I am still Treasurer and Webmaster of this august group. And I find myself the Reunion Host for the 2019 reunion to be held in Little Rock in September 2019. That wasn’t planned, but it developed that way due to problems with the event that was slated to be held in Savannah, GA. I’ve hosted one other reunion in 2014 in Branson, MO, which by all accounts was a success. I hope to do well in this one too.
  • Berlin U.S. Military Veterans Association – I was elected Secretary for this group of veterans numbering about 775 veterans (most of whom are older gentlemen with very definite opinions on most matters) in July 2018. Since then, I found myself doing the following:
    • Creating, writing, editing, and publishing three newsletters. This was no small feat due to the fact of the amount of content needed. For example, the December 2018 newsletter consisted of 16 pages of content. No, I didn’t write all that, (quite a bit, yes, but not all) but I had to set it up, design the jumps, and otherwise make it spiffy.
    • Developing a brand-new web site, which includes a member forum or bulletin board. This one was most definitely time-consuming and difficult, due largely to the politics and restrictions of the actual transfer process between the old site (unchanged since 1999) and the new site. Apparently, old dogs don’t learn new tricks and while there were but a few (perhaps a couple dozen) members who frequented the old bulletin board, it was a like a pair of old, comfortable shoes and when those shoes were tossed in the dumpster and replaced by the product that I produced, well, there was some resistance to that. But, things do change and those who choose to change with those things will do so — those who don’t, won’t.
    • Proctoring the annual election. This one was another eyebrow-raiser. Having to do a mail merge of some 634 letters/ballots and hand-stuffing all of that in an envelope is drudgery we don’t often see anymore. Thank God for Margaret, who helped me through this time-sensitive process.

Pets:

  • We lost our beloved Phoebe (Congo African grey parrot) in June 2018 due to a fungal infection to which we simply responded too late. She was 11 years old, far too young for a parrot to die. That broke our hearts. She was a joy and was very much a part of us. We were her flock, and she responded accordingly.
  • But we are bird people and we adopted Jackie, another Congo African grey parrot, who struggled with the situation she had been in, and is since learning how to socialize with people as part of her flock. She had done wonderfully well with an adoptive “parront” in the Kansas City area, and she has continued her development with us. No longer afraid to perch on a hand, she is communicative and vocal, especially in the morning.
  • Zoey – she is a purebred yellow Lab, who is an absolute delight. She’s 5 years old and full of life, and is eager to please, eager to learn, and very focused on her humans. We adopted her through a neighbor, who couldn’t be bothered with her. Zoey routinely escaped the back yard jail she was in, and found herself in our area. Who woulda thunk?

So now that you’re thoroughly bored, and if you made it through this post without falling asleep (kinda reads like a Christmas letter, don’t it?) lol, maybe I can be a little more attentive to this thing.

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After almost 10 years of on and off work (mostly off), tons of research, a trip to the National Archives in College Park, MD, and the good fortune of having spoken with hundreds of veterans, interested persons, and those who truly wanted to see the book come to fruition, I can say it’s done. At least the print version is done and is available at Amazon. A Kindle version is also available.

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The book languished for more time than I care to admit, mostly because I didn’t know how to proceed. I had a lot of information, poorly organized, and a very poorly written partially completed first draft. I didn’t know enough to know that I needed an editor, but just as I was thinking this project wasn’t going to get completed, fellow 298th veteran and clarinetist Harry Reinert and I started talking. He is a retired German teacher, published author, and he graciously volunteered to try and find a way to tell me that what I had was a pile of junk and what to do to make it better. We started working in earnest on this toward the end of 2013 and it took a lot of drafts, a lot of “am I gonna get through this !@#$#@! thing?” and a whole bunch of hours slogging through the garbage, culling out the gangrene (there was a lot of it) and inputting some much better stuff.

In the process I learned more about the skill and art of writing. It’s thanks to Harry that this book is ready. Oh, by the way, he’s creating a DVD version of the book as well. This version will contain the print book text, somewhere close to 500 photographs, sound recordings, videos, and copies of historical documents for those who really want to dig into the history of this band and the history it was part of.

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There’s a little more information over on that particular page, but let me briefly mention here that after I got started on this effort in early 2005, I went great guns for awhile, did a lot of research and writing, and then life (mostly music) got in the way. The project sat on a back burner while I would once in a while stir the pot to keep it from sticking.

It’s back on a rolling boil now. Harry R., a veteran of the 298th Army Band from its earliest days, has agreed to dig into this with me. He’s a published author and a retired English teacher, with a solid background in journalism, so he’s reviewing my stuff, recommending changes, and even doing some writing of his own. I’m indeed fortunate to have him along and to that end, because there are only 24 hours in a day, I’ve put away all my instruments until this book is done. It’s been more than 9 years in the making and as I don’t like not finishing something after I’ve started it, this is going to get done before I get back into my instruments.

The book will actually be a DVD, because it’ll include recordings, tons of photos, and even a couple of videos. For those who don’t have a computer, we’ll think of a hard copy version, but we haven’t gotten to that point yet.

Give me another six months and we ought to have this thing wrapped up.

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the body of the instrument is lacquered brass. Bell section is sterling silver.

In February 2013, I attended the Texas Music Educator Association’s annual convention in San Antonio. The express purpose was to evaluate as many euphoniums as I could get my hands on, but the Adams series of euphs in particular.

I played all that they had and found the Adams people to be more than happy to let me play as long as I liked. The euphs come in two basic series – the E1, which is a lighter horn, less beefy; and the E2 which is almost a tenor tuba. In terms of weight, I found the E2 to be roughly on par with the Besson Prestige, 12″ bell with the trigger. Heavy bottom valve caps and extra bracing without, this is a horn that has a rich, velvety sound that any bandsman would love.

The E1 was more to my liking. This instrument didn’t have much of the extra bracing (and is therefore a little more delicate), and depending on the gauge of metal (runs the gamut from 0.5mm on up to 0.75mm and presumably even thicker and thinner, depending on whether a custom instrument is ordered), I got qualities ranging from the rich velvety quality that I got on the E2 to the thin and tinny. I eventually settled on the E1 with a gauge of 0.6mm, but with the added dimension of a sterling silver bell.

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Sterling silver bell

I wish I could explain the quality I get out of this metal that I don’t get out of the normal brass that Adams supplies in their bells. It’s a rich, singing quality that simply permeates the air. Maybe it’s just me, but this quality in the 0.6mm gauge was exactly what I was looking for in terms of sound.

Ergonomics were good, although the Sterling Virtuoso is built with the outer 3rd valve tube tucked in more toward the instrument, out of the way. That helps cut down the angle of the left hand as it wraps around the instrument to activate the 4th valve. The Adams isn’t that far off, but the Virtuoso is slightly better in this area. There is a substantial weight difference between the Virtuoso and the E1 in that the Virtuoso is noticeably heavier – probably on the order to a pound of more. That makes the Adams easier to handle in longer practice sessions.

Intonation is far and away the best of any euphonium I’ve ever played. The sharp sixth partial that seems to be inherent with any euphonium built with a larger leadpipe (vice the European-shank and small shank models, and arguably some of the Yamaha euphoniums) is virtually nonexistent. You do NOT need a tuning slide trigger with this horn, although Adams will build it for you if you want. My suggestion would be to omit it, as it adds extra weight and extra maintenance headaches.

This horn is built a little flat, however. When cold, the horn will register about 25 cents flat with the main tuning slide pushed in all the way. After warmup, the tuning slide can come out some, but there is not much room for adjustment when your ensemble starts playing sharp, as most do throughout a rehearsal or concert. I’ve experimented with several mouthpieces and I’ve found that the Wick mouthpieces (not the SM- or Ultra-series necessarily) are built a little bit shorter than others and that seems to help a little bit. I’ve also reverted back to a 4AL rather than the Ultra 3 I was playing on, and I think the slightly smaller size helps also.

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Adjustable leadpipe

One of the features of the Adams that no other euph has is the adjustable leadpipe. I’ve adjusted the leadpipe virtually all the way out and all the way in, and what seems to change for me is slotting. Slotting becomes a little more crowded with the leadpipe all the way in (meaning the partials are closer together) and with the leadpipe almost all the way out, slotting becomes, well, different. I didn’t like it there, so I adjusted the leadpipe to about the middle setting, which seems to work well for me. I have not spent a great deal of time with this, however.

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4th valve needs a lock! And a shot of the water catcher.

The instrument does NOT come with a 4th valve lock, which is most likely a weight-saving measure, but I find this to be short-sighted. There is nothing wrong with a little more weight for a little extra security — having a 4th valve broken off because of an accident or rough handling is not fun to deal with, so I would hope that the Adams people make the 4th valve lock standard rather than an option. Another curious thing is the standard finger buttons — they are made of metal and are slightly rounded. Really, Adams? Why would you do that? If anything, a finger button should have a very slight indentation to it to accommodate the finger tip. Having tried the instrument in February and noticing that odd configuration, I ordered my horn with hardwood inserts, which both feel comfortable and secure. None of that slipping-off-the-valve-button because of being slightly off-target or because the fingers are wet.

Speaking of wet, the water catcher that Adams supplies (apparently only on request) is top-notch and keeps the instrument very dry. None of that constant pissing of water out of the bottom of the valves. The water catcher catches all that and will hold two hours of water production before dumping is a good idea. It’s spring loaded, so the catcher sits up against the bottom of the valves very securely. You pop it out, dump the water, and with a solid snick, it clicks into place again. Great design.

The Adams does not normally provide a braced tuning slide, but I specifically requested one. I tend to hug the horn fairly closely and I wanted the extra bracing just for the sake of a little extra security. I have not noticed any impact on response. Another rather odd thing, at least for me, is that the 4th valve slide actually collects water. I’ve played a lot of different horns over the years, but I’ve never played one till now that actually collected water there. It’s not bad, just different. Just dump a couple of times in every practice session and that’s it.

The Marcus Bonna traveling case is good, though I have not had occasion to actually travel with it yet. I do all my practicing at home and, apart from picking up the instrument in early November (yes, it took from March 2013 till November to finally take delivery), I’ve not traveled with the instrument at all except to bring it home. The case comes with a detachable pouch for sheet music and there are a couple of velcro attachment points for a collapsible music stand. Oh, and I should mention the shoulder straps that help keep the hands free while walking to the gig site.

Since early November, I’ve played this instrument daily and I have grown to love the timbre, the singing quality, and the richness that I can get. This instrument is far more capable than I am, but I am learning to shape sound and nuance with it, which will help me in my own development as a player.

Miel Adams and his staff hit the ball out of the park with this horn!

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DSC_1019 compressedAs stated elsewhere on this site, Margaret allowed me to purchase a new Edwards 454E bass trombone. Oh. My. God. What a horn!

I’m a doubler, meaning I don’t play bass trombone as my main instrument. I’ve been playing only since 2005 and thus don’t have the decades of experience as I have on other instruments, namely euphonium. So it’s a little intimidating going to the Edwards factory, knowing that they’ve worked with the world’s finest players in outfitting them with world-class instruments. Joe Alessi, Dave Taylor, et. al. come to mind.

We spent better than three hours in the Edwards factory in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, and playtested almost every option available in bass trombones. I settled on a 454E (the “E” stands for “edge bracing”, which is a concept about which only the Edwards people can speak coherently). The dual-bore hand slide gave me the darker sound I was looking for, and a 9.5 inch bell (no bigger, TYVM) double-buffed, tempered, 22 gauge rose brass bell softens up the sound even more. This makes things a good fit for Harmonium Brass and it slows down my tendency to bark when I shouldn’t bark.

Both Mike and Christan at Edwards, along with Larry Bennett of Harmonium Brass who I dragged along on the trip, kicking and screaming (I kid, I kid!) went out of their way to help me find the horn that works best for me. Their patience, knowledge, and expertise is well worth the money spent and, frankly, spelled the difference between considering a Shires bass and an Edwards bass. You just don’t get that kind of personal service every day, but the Edwards people make it sound like they take great joy in outfitting people of all skill levels with the horn that works best for them.

Many thanks to Edwards and Getzen for a wonderful business model that worked very well for me. I have a horn that I suspect I’ll keep the rest of my life and I can only hope to develop enough as a bass trombone player to do this horn justice.

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