A Silent March

A Silent March

 

In the winter of 2016 our beloved Jewish community of Whitefish, MT became the victims of horrific anti-semitic online terrorism. Our town rose up to support our loved ones through this difficult time, but the scars run deep. “A Silent March” is a musical message that stands as an affirmation to those who seek to harm our communities and those we love. Composed by Groovetrail founder Erica von Kleist, this piece was commissioned by the Cheryl Boga and the University of Scranton, PA and premiered in concert in April 2017.

This video was made possible by Explore Whitefish, the Montana Human Rights Network, Love Lives Here, and the Alpine Theatre Project. Thank you all for your support.

Download the sheet music here: A Silent March – Score

Please share this video. Together, unified, we can stand against hatred towards others.

Sax & Taps, a new duo featuring DeWitt Fleming Jr.

“Sax & Taps”

A serendipitous combination of unparalleled talents

With DeWitt Fleming Jr. and Erica von Kleist

 

Rhythm, swing, blues, humor, and innovation are just a few words one can use to describe the magical musical essence behind Erica von Kleist and DeWitt Fleming Jr,’s powerful duo “Sax & Taps”. Having honed their talents both on the east coast and abroad, these two dynamos met in Whitefish, Montana through their contracts with Alpine Theatre Project. While collaborating on the summer shows, Erica and DeWitt connected with studio engineering legend Toby Scott (Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr) and quite spontaneously recorded their first EP together, to be released in Spring 2018.

 

An actor, dancer, singer and drummer, DeWitt Fleming Jr. has collaborated with jazz luminaries such as Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis, and Wycliffe Gordon. His work has been featured on award-winning shows such as Boardwalk Empire, Smash, and How to be Single. As a performer DeWitt has appeared in numerous Off-Broadway productions, several commercials and is currently a touring member of Riverdance. Originally from D.C, DeWitt has developed limitless rhythmic and improvisational abilities which as made him an incredibly unique talent in the jazz world, Broadway, and film.

 

A native of Connecticut, Erica von Kleist moved to Whitefish after developing an extensive career in New York. Having toured and recorded with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Chris Potter and Rufus Reid among others, Erica is one of the most versatile multi-instrumentalists worldwide. As a saxophonist, flautist and piccoloist, Erica regularly ventures from her home in Montana to perform and teach woodwinds and jazz theory, most recently as a clinician for the Juilliard School, UNC Greensboro, and Drake University. In Montana, Erica maintains a full teaching studio while running two music-related companies.

 

“Sax & Taps” features the effortless musical connection between two experienced performers, and spans repertoire from the jazz age to today’s most popular songs. All music is artfully arranged and manipulated by DeWitt and Erica, focusing on groove, soul, melodic and rhythmic precision while leaving room for the infinite possibilities of improvisational nuance and humor. “Sax & Taps” is an unexpected and brilliant addition to any jazz festival line-up or venue, and will carry all audiences on a suspenseful, original musical journey.

 

For booking email saxandtaps@gmail.com

 

DeWitt Fleming Jr. & Erica von Kleist

Ten Thousand Hours and the Importance of Practice

Ten Thousand Hours and the Importance of Practice

By Erica von Kleist

 

We all know that practice makes permanent, and that regular practice is essential to getting better at any endeavor one chooses. I recently saw a Facebook post that said if you spend ten thousand hours practicing something, you can then consider yourself a “master” in that field. Thinking it was weird to quantify something so unquantifiable as “mastery” I decided to do some math.

My first moments of musical training began in piano lessons at age five. I’m thirty five now, which means I’ve been practicing music for thirty years. Obviously my level of time commitment to piano was minimal at age five, but evened out when I became serious about it at age twelve, then full-time in college and beyond, which led me to determine that on average I’ve spent about six hours every day of my life dedicated to music or music-related projects. As an adult, some days I spend zero hours on music, some days eighteen, but it evens out.

6 hours x 365 days a year = 2,136. This is how many hours a year I spend on music.

2,136 x 30 = 64,080. This is how many hours I’ve spent on music in my 30 years of practice.

64,080/10,000 = 6.408.

According to the “Ten Thousand Hour Rule”, I’ve “mastered” music almost 6 and ½ times over.

I recently asked one of my students to tell me something that he wanted to master, to which he said skiing. I asked him on average how many hours a day he spends on skiing or ski-related exercises/activities to which he said about 30 minutes. So we did some math.

30 minutes = .5 hours

.5 hours x 365 = 182.5. This is how many hours a year he spends on skiing.

10,000/182.5 = 54.8. This is how many years of study it would take him to become a ski “master”

54.8 + 13 (his age) = 67.8 years old.

This is how old he will be upon reaching “mastery” of skiing at a pace of 30 minutes a day.

HMMMMMMMMM.

This brings me to my point. I’m really good at what I do, and I’m really good at many things relating to what I do, at least qualified enough to enjoy a fruitful career in my field, garner a few accolades from time to time, and retain the ability to pass musical information off to the next generation. I didn’t get where I am by NOT practicing.There is no choice. If you want to master something, or even begin to scratch the endless ceiling towards “greatness” you have to put in the time, end of story. Do you want to learn how to play an instrument? Do you watch your favorite artists effortlessly execute performances of songs you love? This comes about from practicing, at home, alone, for hours. If you’re getting bored or frustrated with your musical studies, ask yourself if you’re practicing at least 30 minutes a day, working on the assignments I gave you. Chances are you’re not.

I can only coach you so far. If you regularly come to lessons not having worked on the exercises and pieces I’ve asked of you, you’re not taking full advantage of what I have to offer as a teacher. There’s a reason I’m having you focus on certain material, trust me. If you go home, dedicate yourself to it, and come back with it aced out for our next lesson, we will get closer to tackling the repertoire you ultimately want to learn, but you have to meet me halfway. There is no way you’ll be able to play your instrument if it sits cold at home in between lesson times. Music is not a weekly pottery class, or knitting club (not that those two fields take any less time to master). It’s just that you can’t put an instrument down for a week and pick it up again thinking you’ll progress like you would while knitting a scarf. You won’t.

This semester I want to see ALL of my students taking full advantage of my time as a teacher. Don’t “try” to practice this week. Do it. Practice at least 30 minutes a day on what I asked you to. I don’t want to simply coach you during your lessons because you failed to work on your assignment. That’s no fun for either of us. I’ve worked with some of you for four years now and have seen such wonderful developments in you as both students and people. But it’s time to up the level of commitment.

When you practice, don’t practice just to practice. Practice to GET BETTER. Master that scale. Do a little at a time until you’re frustrated, walk away, then come back to it. Don’t let it beat you. Beat IT. Return to your next lesson with a sense of accomplishment and excitement because you can’t wait to show me how hard you’ve worked on something. Trust me, I know even before you walk in my door if you haven’t touched your axe.

By now you know that I support all of you unconditionally in everything you do, not just music. I also know that not every twelve-year-old is going to dive head first into a serious, life-long music career. You’re doing sports, academics, extracurriculars, which I’m proud of all of you for! We will always have great positive fun in our lessons, but I also see musical promise in each and every one of you. As your teacher all I want is for you to experience the same infinite musical joy that I do when the metaphorical training wheels come off and you can execute a song with ease and fluency. You’ll know what it feels like to fly once you’ve practiced that difficult piece for hours on end until you know it backwards and forwards, then perform it with integrity, gusto and heart in front of a pensive, appreciative audience. I tell you, there is nothing like it.

Cheers to a fruitful and dedicated fall semester!

Musically yours,

Erica von Kleist

The MAC Band

I’m excited to announce an exciting new project based here in Northwest Montana. The Montana Artist Collective, or MAC Band is a Top 40 wedding cover band specializing in private events, parties, ceremonies, cocktail hours, and anything that rocks the party. The project features the best musicians from the state, while also integrating NYC and LA musicians as well. Visit www.macbandmontana.com to learn more…

 

 

 

I Teach Music.

I Teach.

I Teach Music.

Music is the voice of history, the outlet for the oppressed, the story of the disenfranchised, and the legacy of those discriminated against.

Music has been and always will be the conduit through which life’s chronicles are passed, regardless of time period, economy or political climate. As a Music Teacher I provide a platform on which these narratives can be heard, experienced, and understood.

I Teach my students about the compositions and performances of black musicians (Louis Armstrong, Mary Lou Williams), white musicians (J.S Bach, Bonnie Raitt), LGBT musicians (Elton John, Billy Strayhorn), Latino musicians (Celia Cruz, Bebo Valdez), and musicians of all heritages (Anoushka Shankar, Bjork, Hermeto Pascoal, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Lang Lang).

I Teach Music to boys and girls, men and women, of all ages. My students come to me at varying levels of ability and awareness, approaching me with the same visceral human connection to sound that we all feel. My students are sons and daughters of Republicans and Democrats, some are adopted, some identify as black, white or Asian, some practice Christianity and others Judaism.

I Teach Music to every single one of them. I aim to inspire, instruct, guide, and educate each student about the music that this world has provided us with so far, and mentor them on how they can begin making their own. I Teach with Love, because music knows no prejudice.

I Teach Music in Whitefish Montana, in a neighborhood I share with a white nationalist who recently erected a building next to mine. In a country so overtly (and increasingly so) racist, bigoted, and homophobic, my job as a Teacher has never been more important, as one of the most potent weapons against such divisive thought is Education.

Music Education teaches us language, technique, discipline, mathematics, history and democracy, just to name a few, but most importantly it teaches us is how to listen. When we open our ears to music, we not only hear artfully organized sound, but we also experience the tales of our ancestors, the plight of peoples, the slaughter of races, the joy of discovery and the resilience of the human spirit.

My greatest life’s impact is to teach Music. To teach it to both students awaiting a lesson, and to audiences anticipating a concert. To teach it over the din of ignorance, xenophobia, misogyny, and injustice, because it is my truth, my story and my spiritual endowment. There is no more powerful way to communicate than through a language that can be universally understood.

This is why I Teach Music.

This is why I Teach.

Advice for “Making it” in the Music Business, aka Things I wish people had told me ten years ago.

This weekend I’ll be embarking on a trip to North Carolina to teach and perform with the students at the Miles Davis Jazz Studies Program at UNC Greensboro. I’ve had the opportunity to be a guest clinician at several colleges in the last few years – I guess I’m reaching the age where my experience is at a point of value for younger musicians. Often I feel as though I’m a completely different person after having graduated college ten years ago. So much has happened, so many changes, so many experiences. As I have recently created two startup companies in the music business, I reflect more and more on my past ten years and honestly wish that there had been more dialogue regarding the music business, getting gigs, releasing music and creating a path for yourself. Yes, college is for honing your chops, studying, and taking music classes; however, young hopeful budding musicians need advice and guidance on how to navigate the music world they are embarking upon.

Last night I sat down and compiled a list of advice that I, at the ripe old age of 33, would give to someone ten years my junior. I’m looking forward to sharing this list with the students at UNC, and am happy to share it with the masses, for what it’s worth. Enjoy…

 

Erica von Kleist

Advice for “Making it” in the Music Business …

aka “Things I wish people had told me ten years ago!”

 

Topic 1: Product

 

  • What you do is unlike anything anyone else does  – You will never be Coltrane, Bird, Chris Potter, John Faddis, Edgar Meyer, simply because you were meant to be you! What you do is unique – your sound, musical sensibility, ideas, technique. Hone in on this, strengthen it, and do it.
  • When you get hired for gigs, people hire you for that unique thing that you bring to the table. This is your product – it is what you are selling in order to make money. It’s very important to know what this product is, and to keep developing it to make it better and more valuable.
  • Stores sell multiple products because they need to be diverse for their customers. Sometimes musicians need to think the same way… being able to play an instrument as well as write, teach, do copy work, etc, will make you more diverse, and therefore more marketable.
  • Think about who you’re selling your product to – is it something people need? What do people like to buy these days, and whom do they hire? Although you’re an artist, remaining aware of your market is crucial to making a living.

 

Topic 2: Getting Sustainable Work

 

  • Networking is crucial – both inside AND outside musical circles. Go to gigs, concerts, rehearsals, parties, soirees, do charity work, do a 5K, do dodgeball, you never know who you’re going to meet.
  • Investing in projects as a sideman – We live in a time when producers and labels do not help fund projects/bands when they’re starting out. It’s important to invest time in projects as a sideman, simply because you never know where they might go. Make sure that the person leading the group is talented, competent, persistent, realistic, risk-taking and a good communicator. It’s OK to say “No” to someone’s gig.
  • Investing in projects as a leader – Like mentioned above, getting funding to start a project has to come from you, or from grants you can apply for. However, make sure you have a realistic budget as to how the project is going to develop. What kinds of gigs are your trying to get? Are you planning on touring? Making an album or EP? How are you going to publicize it? Budget for everything, and don’t anticipate profits based on tickets sales. Know what you’re selling.
  • Getting private party work (weddings, events) and getting represented by an agency – Have a GOOD press kit. VIDEO VIDEO VIDEO! Decent recordings of exactly what you’re trying to sell/promote, excellent photos (both studio and live), website or a NICE Reverbnation or Bandcamp site, business cards, have MP3 thumb drives, and don’t leave home without your press kit…you never know who you’ll meet. Always have gigs booked so people can come hear you, and see that you’re active.
  • Look the part You are the first thing anyone sees. Regardless of how good you are at what you do, invest in some NICE, tailored clothes that you wear out while networking/socializing. Doesn’t have to be a suit – just something that fits your personality and level of professionalism.

 

 

Topic 3: Keeping a gig (the devil’s in the details)

 

  • Be positive – people love to work with others that make them feel good when they’re around.
  • Be clear – know what you’re getting paid, how long the gig is, what the expectations are (food, drink tickets, etc). Having everyone be on the same page is crucial to maintaining a good vibe in a group, whether you’re the leader or sideman.
  • Be. On. Time. – needs no explanation.
  • Be cautious about drinking alcohol on the bandstand – the person who hired the band might not care, but I never hear anyone say “That band was great, but gee, I wish I had seen them drinking booze onstage”.  On the same note, don’t bring weed/drugs to a gig. Don’t smell like anything backstage, don’t bring it around, it’s not worth it and it’s dumb to lose a gig over it.
  • Come prepared – bring a stand even if the gig doesn’t call for it, dress well even if the leader is in tee shirt and jeans, know the charts, bring your doubles/mutes. Better to have it and not need it, than need it at not have it!
  • Help setup and tear down – Being helpful on a gig by wrapping cables and lifting a few cases goes a long way.
  • Always make the client feel like they made a good decision by hiring you – this means the club owner, booking agent, bride, tour promoter, etc.
  • Be positive on social media about gigs unless you’re prepared for repercussions.

 

 

Topic 3: Evolve

 

  • You aren’t the same person or musician you were a few years ago. Your dreams may have changed – maybe “this” isn’t everything you pictured it to be. Thanks OK!
  • You don’t have to be actively working on musical projects or gigs to be a great musician and artist. If you feel the pull to explore something completely different, go for it! It will only influence you as an artist and human.
  • From time to time, try something new, whether it be a new musical endeavor or taking up a new hobby. This will help keep things fresh and give you new things to think about.
  • When you leave college and your beloved teachers, you may feel the need for some leadership or mentorship. ALWAYS learn from people who know something you don’t know, especially those who are older than you.
  • Practice. NOW. Chances are you won’t have as much dedicated time devoted to your craft again in your life. Take advantage of this time to get some serious chops together, even if your heart is not in it right this second. You’re here for a reason, and paying for school… take advantage of your resources!
  • Take time for travel away from work. Go on a vacation without your horn, even for a night.
  • Dream big, dream crazy, believe in the impossible. If you have a desire to do something, every step you take is one step closer.
  • Failure is only finding out what you don’t know. Find out, and find out often. Then keep learning/growing.

 

One Last Thing… EMAIL THIS TO YOURSELF IN 5 YEARS.

Downbeat Magazine Critic’s Poll

I’m very honored to have been chosen as the “Rising Star” Flautist in this year’s Downbeat Magazine Critic’s Poll. I’ve been reading Downbeat since I was in high school, and have seen many prestigious names under various categories in the yearly polls. To be included among both my colleagues and idols is quite a privilege.

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The Sincerest Form of Flattery…

The Sincerest Form of Flattery…

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For twelve years I lived in New York City, hanging tough through the daily grind as a self-employed jazz musician, schlepping instruments to and from rehearsals, gigs, shows, and promoting myself as best as I could among the din of millions of other talented musicians. As I entered my twelfth year as a New Yorker, I decided I’d finally had enough, and drastically transitioned my life. Two years later, I’m now proud to call myself a Montanan!

I moved out west for quality of life and big skies, but also to be a part of a growing scene of some of the most talented artists and musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of associating myself with. As I immersed myself more and more into the Flathead Valley music scene, I began to realize what a commodity the Montana arts culture really is.

A year ago I started a business called the Northwest Artist Syndicate, a database and booking agency for the best talent in the region. The philosophical oomph behind this endeavor comes from having had almost twenty years experience as a professional musician. My biggest investment in this business is the sweat equity I’ve earned having been a performer, educator, consultant, director, producer and author. I’m proud to say that my investments (both financial and otherwise) have paid off, and in one year my agency has earned tens of thousands of dollars of revenue, produced recordings for local musicians, filmed a bad-ass music video, and hosted several events that have benefitted the community.

Soon after I had launched my business, a young lady (we’ll call her Patty) began to hover around the local bar/performance venue I frequent. She was very interested in learning about working with musicians, and several nights a week would stop by and ask me questions about my business, while also picking the sound engineer’s brain about mixing for live music. Patty seemed like she genuinely cared about the scene and was inspired by everything going on. While she only had a small amount of acting/modeling experience and no musical ability to speak of, I was happy to share my philosophies with her, and was impressed by her persistence. She would text to see if I were going to listen to a show, and if she saw me, would come over and start a conversation. Being a squeaky wheel can be a very beneficial quality in this business, so I decided to let her shadow me for a bit.

I went to NYC for some gigs last April, and while I was gone I asked Patty to do a few clerical tasks such as scanning documents, updating a few things, and checking the business voicemail. I entrusted her with keys to my office, and access to pretty much anything NAS related at the time. She completed the tasks very professionally, did a great job, and returned the keys to me upon my arrival. At that point, she wanted to continue working under me, but I had no other tasks for her. For about six months I heard nothing from Patty.

On Halloween I was playing a gig with my Nola jazz group when my drummer asked me if I had heard about another booking agency that recently started up. I then learned about a new company that works with local musicians, helping them to book shows at venues and private events. Sound familiar? When I went home that night I then found the website. Patty had started her own company using part of my business name, and a website template nearly identical to mine.

Having lived in NYC for over a decade, I became well aware of different types of theft. I’d had my apartment broken into in college, I’d had money stolen from my wallet once, and colleagues of mine had musical instruments lifted from them as well. Moving to Montana makes you think that you might be immune to theft, and that individuals interested in your projects have honesty and integrity on their side. This was a different type of theft – theft of an idea, and an identity.

At first I freaked out, and wondered if she had delved into my hard drives and taken valuable information (she might have), and also worried about my investment. Did I have legal grounds to sue? Should I confront her? What do I do? There’s honestly nothing I could do – anyone is welcome to start a business wherever they want, doing pretty much whatever they want. I had learned a valuable lesson about trust.

I then began to think about the situation. Had I really created something so cool that someone here is doing their best to recreate it for themselves? In it’s short year of existence, the NAS has gotten such positive feedback from the Flathead Valley community, it’s proven to be of obvious value to venues, artists and party planers, and also apparently to fledgling young entrepreneurs with no original ideas of their own. My feelings of disgust were more or less replaced with a feeling of flattery. I guess I’ve hit on something that someone else wishes they had done for themselves…except I’m doing it with two decades of experience under my belt.

As a student of the music scene, it’s crucial to imitate other great artists through transcription and emulation. This only strengthens one’s playing and understanding of the language. One can’t just hack through a performance and call oneself a musician because they think it’s cool, just like one can’t just start a business (especially in artist booking and management) because they think it’s cool, and expect to be successful.Artists who have been at the grind years don’t realize how much knowledge and insight they have gained regarding the ins and outs of their business, especially when they haven’t yet made it big financially. It’s taken me awhile to realize that the experiences and abilities I have gleaned the are my greatest asset, and it’s quite flattering that there are folks out there who wish they had that arsenal of sweat equity for themselves.

With business success comes partnership and camaraderie. In other words, you can’t do this on your own! Without the guidance and resources that others provide, anyone endeavoring a business venture can’t expect to be embraced by a community, let alone get off the ground. In the arts world, one’s credo, intent and philosophy must be pure and sound. The only path towards success is by being a badass at what you do, simply because there is nowhere to hide. Audiences can tell an inexperienced, untalented musician from one who has performed for years, just as people can sniff out someone doing business in a dishonest way. If your pursuit is backed by experience and carried out with heart, the money will follow.

I’m inspired by the fact that a few individuals have tried to emulate the projects I’m fighting tooth and nail to erect here. Their attempts to recreate my designs, even those who are less than altruistic, reinforce the fact that I might be onto something.

The music business in an unpredictable beast, and that fact won’t change. However, what’s certain is that I won’t be lending out the keys to my office anytime soon…