Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tis The Season: Scenes For a Christmas and Winter Holiday Musical

Tis The Season: Scenes For a Christmas and Winter Holiday Musical These cute scenes are written to be part of a Christmas or Holiday elementary school program. Use what fits your song choices. You can add, edit, delete and/or mix up dialogue to fit those choices. Due to the current climate of many public schools, the theme is primarily secular in nature. A more religious-themed Christmas script will soon be available. No real costuming is necessary, other than to perhaps wear dress-up holiday-themed clothes or even pajamas to reflect the Christmas nature of the subject matter. This Christmas/Holiday elementary musical is available at our TeachersPayTeachers site. Here is the address/link: Christmas/Winter Holiday Musical. It is published by Alpine Road Publishing, a subsidiary of JavaMusiK. Written by Jeff Van Devender.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Elton John live & other little nuggets

BloG #52: The Shoutout From Sir Elton John Captured

You may remember me getting fairly bent out of shape a couple weeks back, alleging that Sir Elton John paid me a dedication with his final song of the evening in Denver at his Pepsi Center show September 20, 2014. I am happy to report that audio has finally been located, so you can listen and judge for yourself. The short version of the story is that Elton does indeed pay attention to what is written about him. (Scroll down a bit on my page. The complete story is still there.)

I have created a video using the audio with his dedication & snapshots from the article and comment which led to this dedication to (allegedly) ME. Is it possible, that there was another Jeff his comment was intended for? Sure. It is just hard to not believe that given the circumstances and context that this particular dedication was in fact directed at me, with perhaps a slight degree of malice intended considering it possibly was a response to a comment on a review he didn't wholly appreciate. Nevertheless, as I have said multiple times, it is his show & definitely his right & prerogative to perform how ever he sees fit. He completely made his point & proved us naysayers dead wrong!

Oh and hey Elton, if you're reading this... THANK-YOU and great show!!

Here is the audio/video link:
The dedication comes shortly after he starts playing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

BloG #51: A Shoutout To and From Elton John!!!

My goodness... It has been awhile, hasn't it??
Seems I've had virtually nothing to write about for some time and anything I really had to say was offered up elsewhere. All that kind of changed this last week. I'll take the opportunity to re-post it here, as this is my own unadulterated forum. So, here goes with the re-posting.

***The following is essentially a recap of how things went down over the last week regarding a virtual conversation I believe I had with Elton John resulting in a dedication to ME from the stage in Denver, CO - September 20, 2014:

I hesitate to post this, due to some strong opinions/emotions it may stir for some. But, the story actually happened. While not trying to sound narcissistic, but after giving lots of thought to it all and as crazy as it sounds, I truly believe it all happened as I state here and was ultimately directed at me.. What follows is a narrative of what turned out to be one of the most surreal memories that was just experienced by myself..

Last night, I attended, along with my family, what I estimate to be my 20th Elton John concert in nearly 35 years of seeing him and over 40 years of being a fan - in Denver. Aside from the unimpressive seats I once again had, to say the concert was once again stellar would be an understatement. Elton simply never disappoints!

Prior to the show, I read reviews and watched videos, so I was quite prepared for what was in store. What I was not prepared for was a dedication from the man himself on the stage! The story goes like this..

One of the reviews I read actually received a response from Elton on stage the following night. It was a glowing review of Elton's Vancouver show with an opinion shared that perhaps the concert shouldn't close with songs from the Lion King. I decided to go ahead and add my two cents in general agreement with the premise but say "Elton, go ahead and include the songs. Just don't close with them. You have a catalogue of potential closers that other artists dream of! Oh, And by the way, I'm looking forward to your show in Denver." I meant no disrespect. Just sharing an opinion.

Well, after nearly 2.5 hours of amazing music from my all time favorite musician, Elton begins to talk about his next song and why he chose to include this song in his show. He was speaking of Circle Of Life. He spoke of his kids and how they reminded him of those songs he brought to the screen 20 years ago. He also spoke of how some have suggested he shouldn't include them (just to clarify, I do NOT feel this way.. just don't close with it.) but he feels otherwise. Fine.

Then, the shoe drops...

Right before he goes into the first chords of Circle, Elton says "This one is for you, Jeff."

My ears picked it up, but kind of blew it off. Amy nudged me and we both kind of chuckled in a curious sort of way. 30 seconds passed.. I began to wonder.. Who could this Jeff be that would be receiving such an acknowledgement from the stage? I then began to replay what he had just spoken of.

Then I began to remember what I had written. And I also started to recall that Elton had actually responded to the original review from the stage the following night after the original posting. Could he have actually read my comment? And if so, would he really care what I have to say?? Is there anyone else in this arena named Jeff that would be garnering a dedication of that particular song from Elton John???

The article and my comment, with a follow-up comment from me after the show appears here: Feel free to judge for yourself.

*** I also followed up an online review of the Denver show with the following comment:

Thank-you, Elton, for once again proving why you are worthy of sustaining a 45-plus year career that is virtually unmatched in the industry. Having seen you live at least 20 times, your shows never disappoint and this most recent Denver visit was no exception.

Without trying to sound narcissistic, I am the Jeff who called you out through a comment on a review of an earlier show regarding your usage of Lion King for the encore. You seemed to respond with a beautiful explanation and hit, what I could only interpret as, ME back with a dedication to Circle of Life.. "This one is for Jeff." If I was your intended target with that dedication (and I am guessing I was), you more than made your case, thereby obliterating my case for otherwise, while making this fan the happiest guy in town that night! (Sadly, there was no corresponding Grammy-winning Can You Feel The Love Tonight to follow.)

I fear that this current run is a kind of swan song for you with your recent threat of retirement and boys who are closing in on school-age. While I selfishly hope such is not the case, I fully understand if you do wind up cutting back. You have given us fans an excellent run and I for one am truly thankful. I dream of the day that I could meet you and share what your music has meant to me, but alas am resigned to the realization that (to quote another Disney lyric) "a dream is a wish your heart makes."

One more thing before I go, while I have your attention.. I secretly hope the day will come when you record an album of piano instrumentals in the vein of your present Rocket Man and recent Take Me To The Pilot preludes. Give us something that truly showcases once and for all your amazing talent to set those keys on fire!
Thank you for all you do, Sir Elton.

Sincerely, with much love and respect,
Jeff Van Devender

The review and my comment is officially posted here:

Saturday, February 05, 2011

BloG #50: Profile Pics; Heeere's Me!!

A couple observations, if I may...

Here is a relatively new phenomenon that wasn't too prevalent just a few short years ago. Until fairly recently, most distant relatives, former classmates, etc. didn't exist much beyond a distant, hazy memory. Images of these people who were major players in our lives previously, are frozen in time. All we typically had were memories and/or possibly a few photos from that period. Depending on how well we stayed in touch, an occasional photo might come our way at Christmastime, or perhaps we might bump into them somewhere. Beyond that, they were out of our lives.

In an incredibly short amount of time, social networking has had a massive impact on this norm. So much so, that one could make a case for the tsunami effect it is having on our evolution as a species. Considering the many implications, one big impact most certainly has to be our ability to now wipe away the imaginary visual association distant and former acquaintances may otherwise project on us.

Suddenly, we can post a picture or set of pictures we all wish people to visualize us by. It can be current, not so current, or perhaps an avatar that represents our own concept of who we wish to present. This is such a foreign concept to how things were not so very long ago.

As I read over what I have written so far, it somewhat occurs to me how old school I may come across with this writing. What we all currently take for granted with social networking was absolutely NOT the norm until such a short time ago. Now, it is completely embedded in our culture. And it has all happened so quickly! Yes, I guess you can officially call me old now.

Another interesting phenomenon is how many work and education environments choose to pretend online social networking doesn't exist. The official default seems to be to block it and it might go away. Some schools/workplaces even punish students/employees for using it on their clock rather than choosing to embrace it. Why not instead use social networking as an educational or marketing opportunity for these schools/companies?

We commonly hear about how writing and language skills are decreasing, due to texting and internet chatting. Perhaps a teachable moment approach might be for students to be granted the privilege to social network at school during designated times, only if they use proper etiquette and grammar. As for companies that choose to block, why not open their eyes and look at the big picture? Realize the potential if all your employees are networking there. Set some parameters, if you must, but encourage creativity for the good of your company. Employees may just possibly reward you with better attitudes and ultimately, increased productivity.

As one who has buried his own head in the sand at times, I can truly admit that upon pulling it out, it felt good to grab that huge breath of fresh air! Here's to profile pics and keeping our heads above the sand.


Jeff Van Devender
Alpine Road Publishing

Sunday, January 02, 2011

BloG #49: Are you happy? Did your dream come true?

I just returned, with my family, from a week-long visit to a major theme park resort. This visit had been saved up for, planned and looked forward to for many, many years. Generally I would say that, in most ways, the experience was positive. However, as with everything, there are a few barbs in the fence that prevent this vacation from being a desired must-repeat experience. To protect the innocent (and myself from any slanderous accusations), we will refrain from naming the resort in this writing.

The series of parks we visited is a fantastic theme park with incredibly wonderful ideas. More fun packed into a roughly 10 square mile radius than any 10 square mile radius should be packed with. Each ride, show and/or adventure is jam-packed with thrills that is guaranteed to not disappoint

Unfortunately (or should I say fortunately for this company's very healthy bottom line?), every corner of this green earth is now clued in to that little secret and has figured out a way to jam the entrance of every single theme park attraction with at least a 2-3-plus hour wait for that fleeting moment of extreme ecstasy.

As you stand in line for these attractions, you have extended moments that can become somewhat tedious if you allow. It is up to you to decide what you're going to do with these extended opportunities of tedium. Personally, I frequently find myself observing the behavior of others. Occasionally, I find this to be entertaining. Sadly, the alternative feeling that comes from such observations is the overwhelming sense of sadness. Sadness at how the bar of our societal norms just seems to have become so low.

Let's talk for a moment about what you can expect to be treated to during these extended periods of suspended animation while patiently waiting for your thrill. There is no guarantee that you will be confronted by any of these treats at a given moment during your wait, but a good chance exists that at least several moments of questioning why you are putting yourself through this may begin to cross your mind. It did for me, often.

This is not to say that every family, individual, occurance or whatever is bunched in to these generalized observations, because they are not. These are just general observations of our esteemed populace that, sadly, are slowly becoming more norm and less exception.

The first observation that circumvented my cross hairs during my visit to this series of theme parks was the general pronounced self-centered attitude that seems to pervade the general populace. Allow me to explain:

The above mentioned self-centered attitude shows up in so many different ways. You can see it in the me-first adults with kids-in-tow cutting ahead in line. You can see it in spoiled, out-of-control and precocious children showered with rewards when their precocious behavior needs no further reinforcement. You can also see it in the cell-phone use with no regard for who is within ear-shot of the user.

The last ride we treated ourselves to included a 90 minute wait in line behind 2 couples of daters. One couple included a male and female who seemed to enjoy each others' company. The girl was all over the guy and he wasn't about to turn that away. Not the type of behavior that is necessary for families with children need to be exposed to for nearly 2 hours in a slow-moving line, but considering the context of in-line behaviors, certainly not the worst of expositions. The other couple featured a boy who could not control his urge to gnaw on the female he was with. She, on the other hand, was increasingly annoyed with his gnawing but was unable to communicate beyond her rather obvious body language to the rather obtuse and thick-headed boy she was with that she wasn't enjoying his, shall we say, gnawing.

Situations such as this leave you frustrated and exhausted by the time you reach the attraction you so desperately have waited for and by the time you get there, you run the risk of getting crammed into some capsule with them, when all you want to do is get completely away from them.

These are just a tip of the iceberg of self-centered observations that are running untethered among our line inhabitants. There are certainly more, not to mention the continual jockeying for position in line throughout the extended wait. It sometimes crossed my mind as to where the lineup techniques being bestowed upon visitors was originated. I have my thoughts, but must do a little more research before sharing such suggestions on such a public forum as this.

Meanwhile, can anyone tell me why it is a good idea to take a newborn out to a place like this? For that matter, why take a one-year-old? There is plenty of time later in life. Why would you put yourself, the baby and, just as importantly, everyone you come into contact with at the park through this hassle? The park is generally over-populated and over-run with self-centered individuals grabbing and squeezing every ounce of entertainment from their hard-earned vacation that they can muster. Wait a year or three before subjecting your defenseless child to such a road-hardened environment!

When a low-lying or double-wide stroller crosses a path with these mercenary individuals loaded down with a bag of popcorn, extra large soda, 2 large bags full of goodies and 3 kids in tow, wielding Star Wars light sabers, how does the parent pushing this stroller expect their 4-month-old new-born to survive such a battlefield of stimulation? What is the value of increasing the likelihood of a potentially disastrous accident with such a defenseless infant being positioned in the midst of all the aforementioned chaos? There is plenty of time later. Wait a year or three!

Another observation boils down to the worthless crap being purchased for children that is going to get tossed aside never to be touched again before the car returns to the home driveway. Recent news headlines proclaim how the whole world is enveloped in a recession, the likes of what hasn't been experienced in decades. I'm sorry, but from what I just observed being purchased and carried around at our famed theme-park resort, Americans and the visiting vacationers who visited this park from other countries are not yet anywhere near the breaking point.

It was also interesting to observe that privileges allowed by the theme park and their kinder graces seem somewhat open for abuse. For example, there is a policy to grant handicapped and special needs people and their accompanying parties special access to certain attractions. This might include front row/special seating, cutting ahead in line or some other type of accommodation. Perfectly understandable.

Questions start to become a little more pronounced, however, as to where the line might be drawn on what kind of disabilities qualify for the accommodations and how many accompanying family members, friends, etc. benefit from receiving these residuals? On a hot day, in a 4-hour-plus waiting line, how accommodating is everyone feeling when a (rather large extended) family of someone in a wheelchair marches up to the rope and demands to be let in with the injured/disabled?

Credit must be given for the often frequent attempts to keep line-dwellers slightly entertained with the mind-numbing loud music continually blaring about the park, accompanied by the occasional clever signage posted about, but come on. Really? Your vacationing clients have spent upward of half a year's salary to get here and this is the best way you can come up with to treat them during their time waiting for one of your rides? Your creativity is over the top in nearly every detail, yet this one opportunity seems somewhat unfulfilled. You could do better in this respect.

More than half of the vacationers' awake time is spent in lines waiting for your attractions and some clever signs and loud music is the best you can come up with? How about you hire me to assemble a team to rectify that. Budget me a cool $100 million. Chump change from what I can see based on your ticket prices and spending habits of your customer base. We'll increase the smiles and decrease the frustration of your line waiters in no time. Of course, we we need the services of your top creative advisers, consultants, engineers and assemblers to pull this thing off, but I can assure you, we'll get it done on-time and under budget.

Finally, based on the masses of people coming to see you, I sure hope you have plans to expand at this location. And fast! There is no more room in the park! You are turning people away. Literally! I witnessed it. That just shouldn't be. Most of us pre-bought our tickets. What are you expecting 10 years down the road. Less people??

I'm sure you as the reader can find lots to disagree with in this reading, but... This piece is written on the heals of an expensive and taxing vacation with a company that is billed worldwide as the premier destination resort catering to families and people everywhere. There is always room for tweaking. Just offering a few suggestions.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Alpine Road

Sunday, December 19, 2010

BloG #47: Alpine Road Publishing...the road taken

This last year has seen a new publisher in town. It is called Alpine Road Publishing. Recently, new manuscripts have begun appearing in it's catalog of offerings. 

What started as an outlet to release and distribute transcriptions of piano solos has evolved further into an outlet featuring elementary musical scripts and other manuscripts related to music education, primarily of the elementary domain. 

This blog will preview highlights of the offerings listed so far. Several are still in the oven and will be added once they are released.

Our most recent offering is titled Elementary Choir Handbook and Guide. It will soon see distribution at and be available for circulation in other outlets as well, once it clears all the hurdles.

Elem. Choir Handbook/Guide

Take the fear out and step up to the plate w/ confidence! Whether just starting or continuing an already established choir, this handbook/guide provides a beneficial checklist. Included are a dept. mission statement, forms, letters to parents, warm-ups, rehearsal techniques and a simple fund-raising idea to inject necessary funds into your program. After directing his own choirs for 20 years, Jeff found that his routine was fairly well established. Armed with a truckload of past letters and forms, as well as tested strategies, Jeff decided to compile the ideas for the creation of this book. The footwork has been done. The strategies have been tested. Do yourself a favor and avoid the pitfalls of reinventing the wheel. Use Elementary Choir Handbook and Guide to your advantage. You won't be sorry. 
Scott Jeffries - JavaMusiK Publicist

Our next offering is a script written to accompany the excellent Colorado song cycle by John Polinski. It is called Colorado History Songbook Script (Revised).

This script is written to accompany the Colorado History Songbook I by John Polinski. Songs are available through Music For You Publishing. Written with character parts that can be customized to accommodate any size group and still include all your performers.
Published by Alpine Road Publishing, a division of JavaMusiK.
Written by Jeff Van Devender, 2009. Revised, 2010.

In January 2011, the Colorado Music Educators Association Clinic/Conference will host Jeff Van Devender when he presents a session titled Write Your Own Musicals. Posted here are the notes from that session.

Write Your Own Musicals

Too often, music teachers purchase a collection of new canned musicals for the year and later observe little is left in their ever-shrinking budget for purchasing instruments. This session is not a suggestion to completely cut the tether to our favorite publishers. But with the average music budget shrinking, reconsideration of that norm may be appropriate. My own school music file contains more than one script good money paid for that is literally a direct reading of a popular children's book with familiar or very simple songs sprinkled throughout the script. Teachers are generally a creative, intelligent and clever bunch. Yet, they continually underestimate their own creativity with something so simple. This presentation is designed to address that apprehension.

After writing and winning several grants for his program, it was decided to compile some general answers that have had a positive effect with many grant awarding teams. While success is never guaranteed, we think your chances will increase if you make use of the language and terminology highlighted in Grant Proposal for an Elementary Music Classroom.

Grant Proposal for Elem. Music
Write your next grant proposal with confidence! Written in a language with key curricular vocabulary that will sell your idea to the grant awarding committee. Written for music, but can easily be edited to fit other subjects.

The musical program that typically brings more community members to the school than just about any other program often turns out to be the Veterans Day program. After having written several through the years, In Honor of Our Veterans highlights compiled into one cohesive script.
In Honor of Our Veterans
This Veterans Day musical is perfect for a school setting honoring those who have served. Script only. Suggested music is referenced in the script but can be edited. 

Originally written as a masters degree thesis with a recital presentation to accompany, Using New Age and Contemporary Instrumental Literature as a Piano Teaching Tool has been posted as an offering for teachers who have intermediate or advanced piano students who may benefit from an alternative form of piano study.
Using New Age Music as a Tool
Have you ever struggled with learning or even teaching piano at the intermediate to advanced level? Do many of the available literature choices seem dull and dry? This booklet is compiled from a masters degree project detailing instructional strategies associated with piano education. Examples are presented with educational strategies for technical, historical and other applications to assist in enhancing anybody's piano lesson experience. Included is a notated transcription of Jeff Van Devender's composition 'After The Rain' from his 2002 JavaMusiK cd release Bending Chords

Over the course of the year previous to his passing, longtime music educator and community steward, Bill Van Devender had the presence of mind to develop an autobiographical byline to assist in maintaining a sense of historical perspective regarding his life's legacy and body of work. We have Unimaginatively, My Life and Times here.
Un... My Life and Times
An autobiographical sketch of William R. Van Devender, written by him prior to his passing in 2008.

Currently still in development, the 'tis the Season script is being written for primary grade level Christmas season performance.
Not Yet
This particular script will be secular in character, keeping with typical public school needs. Songs incorporated are public domain Christmas carols easily found in any music library.

The original intent for Alpine Road Publishing was to be a distribution outlet for piano transcriptions composed/arranged by Jeff Van Devender. While this stream will continue with further transcriptions eventually becoming available, After The Rain remains one of two currently transcribed.
After The Rain
Colorado musician Jeffrey van D, a.k.a. Jeff Van Devender, recorded After The Rain for his 2002 JavaMusiK release Bending Chords. Level of difficulty is moderate. Be sure to visit JavaMusiK for more information and a chance to listen to the original recording. Please note that while every effort was made to be accurate in the transcription some discrepancies may exist.

This final listing actually finishes with where it all started. Way back in 1981, The Awakening was composed as a Music Theory project. This was Jeff Van Devender's first of currently 33 compositions written exclusively for the piano. It was eventually recorded for Jeff's debut JavaMusiK cd Ascend in 1998 and is now transcribed and published at Alpine Road Publishing.
The Awakening
Transcription of JavaMusiK artist Jeff Van Devender's very first composition, The Awakening. Originally composed as a Music Theory project in college, The Awakening was eventually used in Van Devender's wedding when his bride to be walked down the aisle. Just over 20 years later, it is finally available for purchase as a published piece. Just over 10 years previous to publishing, it was released on the JavaMusiK cd, Ascend

Stay tuned for more as we're just getting started, and the creative juices seen to be a-flowin'! Be sure to set as your Home Page and bookmark Alpine Road Publishing so you don't miss a beat! 

The JavaMusiK BloG appreciates you checking in for the most up-to-date coverage of all things JavaMusiK. For even more non-relevant information, be sure to find us all over Facebook at these locations: 
Jeff Van Devender-JavaMusiK
Alpine Road Publishing
Jeff Van Devender @ Facebook

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Monday, August 23, 2010

BloG #46: Life's Lessons 101

So, I'm sitting in a hospital waiting room after two weeks of following the ups & downs of recovery from a very scary ride that will not be detailed here. Suffice it to say, this ride has driven home some perspective on what priorities are important in life.

This sounds cliche, I know, but we often get so caught up in the little things that don't really matter in the big scheme of things that we lose sight of the beauty of life as a whole. Sadly, a simple ritual like stopping to feel the texture of a branch of pine needles seems so minuscule or redundant until your routine has been completely interrupted by a life threatening trauma of some sort.

What has mattered the last 2 weeks has been family being pulled closer together, friends from near & far reaching out and prayers being said from so many people we know & don't know. Tears come easily when your guard is lowered. No matter what strength you think you possess, life can still bring you to your knees.

We were lucky this time around. Prayers have been answered and a second chance has been given. Barring unforeseen obstacles or circumstances, this week should allow a release back into the real world again. From where I sit today, it appears more branches will be felt, flowers gazed upon & smelled, relationships appreciated, and life, in general, lived.

A routine was interrupted without warning. We are truly thankful for everyone who responded so quickly and saved a life that day.

Jeff Van Devender

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

BloG #45: Of Passing Breaks & Discovering That Elusive Purpose

Another summer vacation has passed & here I sit the night before returning to my classroom tallying up my summer to-do list. Did I get through whatever needed to be accomplished? Was it a productive summer? Were my objectives met? Or was it a complete waste of time?

Looking back, I have yet to wish for a shortened summer vacation. This goes all the way back to my childhood. Even when I was in a career that had no summer vacation benefit attached to it, I still yearned for an extended break where I could recharge, re-evaluate my path in life and just simply veg. I value that time greatly and truly appreciate every moment I am given for that purpose.

This is not to say I don't appreciate being employed. I do! The benefits of working far outweigh the alternative and I find it beneficial to my own self worth to be productive in whatever sector I am employed with. This is part of the reason I ventured to complete my masters degree. To help myself become better and more informed at what I do (plus reap the benefits of being on a somewhat higher pay scale).

Returning to the questions at hand, I found this break to be a textbook summer in terms of satisfying my own personal needs. Those needs included (but were not limited to):

1.) Distancing myself from work - physically & emotionally (check)
2.) Spending time with family & friends (check)
3.) Catching up on rest (check-minus)
4.) Reading (check)
5.) Composing/creating (check-minus, minus)
6.) Performing (check)
7.) Advancing JavaMusiK into new territory/frontiers (check)
8.) Traveling to a new location (no check)
9.) Traveling (check)
10.) Bungee jumping (no check)

Not bad, considering all things. This summer will likely go down as a slightly better than average one, though it is not yet far enough back in the rearview mirror to catch a complete perspective on it in relation to the bigger picture. But looking at it from the here & now, a lot was accomplished, as you can see from the somewhat predetermined list. Some pleasant surprises helped the break to actually have some unexpected highlights, though the checkbook seems to be screaming a little louder than normal.

Since I have spent the last few years in my forties, I have found it less appealing to simply relax without some sort of opportunity lurking in the bushes. Let me explain...

I have never quite nailed down what it is I want to be when I grow up. This little tidbit has caused a fair amount of consternation in my ability to be productive, b/c I often have it in my head that I should really be doing something else (without ever really being clear what that something else could or should be). During my time in college, my poor advisers had to feel somewhat dizzy after their visits with me. I went from being a completely undecided major, to music ed to pre-engineering to undecided again to music business. Did I have a clue what I was going to do with a degree in music business?? Not a chance! It took me five years & a summer to get out of that school with a music business degree because I was still dinking around trying to figure out what I wanted to do!

Then after all that, I tried again five years later & got a degree in music education. That degree has served me well, but has also not quite fulfilled my inner need for more. Nevertheless, my time between earning my first and second undergraduate degrees enlightened me to discovering a calling of a higher purpose. Before going back for the second degree, I continually felt the burden of feeding a corporate machine and not much else. That really started to wear on me, almost to the point where I was not feeling real positive about going to work anymore.

During a time when I was training a new assistant manager on the job, I was told I would make a good teacher. Didn't think much of it at the time, but eventually those words began to echo kind of like you sometimes see & hear in the movies. After some soul-searching moments, I finally made the move to get after it & go forward. After all, this could fulfill that higher calling I wasn't feeling in my previous line of work. Teaching children about the creative arts was going to be my ticket to happiness.

Now, with 20 years under my belt in this career of music education, I have found much fulfillment and happiness. I have also discovered much opportunity for personal and professional growth. As a musician with a continual fire in my belly, I have also harbored a fair amount of need to create. And, yet another ember that rears it's head occasionally is a spirit of entrepreneurship. I truly admire those who start a business and make it successful.

Thus, the somewhat uneasiness with simply going fishing, or planting my butt in a lawn chair (for too long). All the above identifiers have conspired to form what has become somewhat of a mission for me. After 12 years, the mission is still in it's formative stages, but becomes a little clearer everyday. The name is JavaMusiK. The mission to this point has included the creation of new music and arrangements without the use of words, giving this music a life of it's own, and bringing people together in fellowship through music. I often get the feeling that there is more to the picture and have recently been testing the waters with that thought in mind. More may be written of that later. Meanwhile, the word legacy begins to creep into my inner thoughts as I continue to advance in age...

This is what rides the forefront of my mind during downtime. How can I advance the mission of JavaMusiK? One thing that drives it forward is the financial investment laid out to get JavaMusiK this far. The cost of studio time and equipment, thousands of cd's that need to be sold and return on investment of the education and opportunity cost of what has gotten me to this point of musicianship, etc. Can I ever reach a break-even point on the sum-total of those elements? Can this ever be a profitable venture? Could it ever become self-sustaining?

I think I have spoken in previous posts about the passion that drives JavaMusiK. I truly believe any thread of sanity I may still possess can be credited to the release that comes from working with the product hosted within JavaMusiK. My appetite for creativity, entrepreneurship/business and desire to perform, in addition to the pursuit of a legacy are all being satisfied under the mission of JavaMusiK.

As I write this, I wonder if these feelings are common among other people? I truly do, because I have often felt alone in my lack of focus as to career direction, etc. The people I am usually around seem very confident in their chosen direction. I rarely feel that... JavaMusiK, as small as it is, is the one truth that I feel comfortable hanging my hat on. Do others feel the need to create? Or is that need being satisfied through whatever it is they do at work, or at home? How about starting a business venture and nurturing it through various stages of growth? Or is working for someone else satisfying enough?

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Jeff Van Devender

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BloG #44: He Said What???

This blog entry is being posted with the understanding that it may be edited or added to at a later date. Upon further inspection, I reserve the right to say "OMG! What was I thinking??" Thus will begin the process of either completely dismantling the whole posted premise with a swift toss into the trash can, or scavenging for the various bits of thoughts worth salvaging and piecing it together into a better developed, more concise train of thought, or something. So, there you have it...

And, here we go:

Riddle me this.... Have you ever made a mistake?

Riddle me that.... Did you learn anything from said mistake?


Me? I'm going to pause for a moment, allowing those who know (or have known) me to use this opportunity to pick themselves up off the floor & regain their composure, before proceeding with this textual exercise. . .

As for the first riddle at hand . . . Yes. I have charged forward head first into the occasional mistake. I will not be sharing details here, primarily to protect the innocent but also in an attempt to maintain some sort of online dignity.

My mistakes have typically evolved to become in-house lifelong teachers for me. Brick to the head, sometimes softened w/ a sponge - always full-on brain-wedgie. And I'm usually asking for it in my own ignoramus fashion. I liken this concept to my train of thought concerning skiing. If I proceed through a full day and never fall down, I personally feel I have not pushed myself hard enough. Opportunities for full-on learning were minimal. On the other hand, when I fall, my body and mind is receiving a plethora of messages from sensors sending gobs of juicy tidbits for my brain to chew on, (sometimes for the next 30 years). By that token, I would offer a qualified answer of 'yes' to the second riddle. Let me explain . . .

To say I have learned a lesson is a rather subjective statement. As an educator, I have the daily task & responsibility to project lessons upon targeted learners or students. It is my hope that the learners or students whom my lessons are being projected upon will receive said lesson and learn the desired outcome or objective from my projection. Here is where the air turns foggy, or the water turns cloudy, or the windows get steamy, or . . . you (hopefully) get the picture.

Suddenly, terms such as interpretation, perspective and frame of reference enter into the picture. Each learner or student whom my lessons are projected upon most likely received said lesson(s) through their own wildly unique filter, that cannot be duplicated by any other classmate or, for that matter, any other human being.

Each learner brings their own background and context to the table. These elements represent the evolutionary filter through which classroom interactions pass on their way to each individual's knowledge base. (By evolutionary, I mean that each student's filter is continually evolving. Their frame of reference today is not the same as the frame of reference they brought to the table yesterday.) If I am lucky, my projected lesson will pass through that filter. This is provided the student or learner is following the train of thought being presented (and staying attentive and/or awake).

Long story short . . . A lesson may be learned.

Riddle continues.... Was it the correct and/or intended lesson?

Let's take a small detour here:
A song I recorded on my most recent cd Don't Ever Forget alludes to this very concept. Considering none of my pieces have lyrics, that is quite an accomplishment! Indeed, I say this with all honesty . . . all of my pieces have meaning. They all come from somewhere inside that defaults below the level of external subconsciousness. Sometimes, I will understand a song's meaning early on. Others take time. Then there are the pieces I have not quite decoded or received their meaning yet. But I know it lurks beneath the subsurface. The challenge lies in figuring it out and embracing it while still bringing the listener to a similar wavelength through my playing & their listening, sometimes even before I've received that understanding.

But, I have digressed and must (attempt to) now regress. Alpine Road is a track that comes from a very tender place. The mere mention of those two words together bring to my mind an image of a perfect place close to my heart but is beyond reach, in my everyday life. I have been there, but am generally not afforded the opportunity to go back. To up and go at the whim of my heart would go against the responsibilities I have at hand. My heart beckons, but I cannot go.

Yet . . . Alpine Road represents a higher place. A place where we can look down at all that is below us. We can see things that surround us in that lower confine, that we cannot necessarily see when we are in the midst of said environment. The same can be said as we look back with time on our side presenting a distant perspective.

This is often where the lesson takes shape and form in the mind's eye of the the intended receiver. Yes, maybe a lesson was learned early on. But after climbing that mountain of time, distance and maybe even height, perhaps the lesson crystallizes into another form. Perhaps it joins a bigger part of the picture that we were not aware of as we sat in the eye of the storm. Perhaps we will never really get to know the whole context of the lesson.

Sometimes in the classroom, I want to just say to my students, "You'll understand this later." In an elementary world where concrete thought is king, that concept is far-fetched, at best.

So, mistakes? (to quote Sinatra) I've made a few. End of story (for now): Conclusion stands at the generalized theory - we're always learning. Whether we are learning what we are intended to learn depends on a great many factors.

One idea that can bring some clarity to what is learned (or being learned) would be to step away from the situation, by time, distance and/or height. This most likely is not immediately possible and definitely won't insure against poor decisions. Sometimes, we're just destined to make poor decisions. I am convinced of the inevitability of that one. The key is to see the mistake and learn from it. Otherwise, (now quoting Lennon/McCartney) a long and winding road with a potential unmarked dead-end may await our older self.

Life has a way of making sure we keep things interesting for ourselves, whether we want it or not. With that in mind, keep it real, buy Don't Ever Forget, listen to Alpine Road many times and ponder this thought process for yourself. Consider your filters. I'm guessing your conclusion will be slightly or even completely different from mine. Cool!  = )

Jeff Van Devender