Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Perfect Job

I have been doing a great deal of thinking about the perfect job. How would you describe your perfect job? This is not as easy an answer as one would think. Before you can begin to describe it, it’s probably best to dig deep and see what makes you happy; what makes you happy enough to want to do it every day, day in and day out? So, when I was doing my soul searching I discovered something interesting about myself that I suppose I knew all along. I really enjoy helping people. Through out my life I have helped people in music, technology, health and safety, and of course education. I would like to think of myself as an enabler; to enable someone to help themselves. I have been doing this for many years in varying capacities ranging from public school teacher to university professor to Red Cross volunteer instructor to an education software advocator. Even with my music, I find myself enlightening my audience with a different way of looking at an old warhorse or an introduction to a new work.

It’s the thrill I get from enabling someone to do something they could not do before I helped. Whether it’s something as commercial as selling someone a technology solution that assists their learning/teaching environment, solving a technology issue or teaching someone a skill directly, it is watching the excitement of their epiphany as they get the solution that makes it so exciting.

I would like to stay in this type of field because it is so enriching and fulfilling. The education industry, although rooted in centuries of accepted and dated practices, is on the verge of a technological breakthrough. What’s really fascinating is that almost any of the newer technology companies enhance people’s lives so much and so easily that this “enabling” ideology can fit with almost any technology company. Students (or clients) these days are yearning for updated methods of learning (or doing their job better) and educators are hoping for new up-to-date ways of reaching students. What excites me in the morning is the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life – locally, regionally or globally. Creating new ways of reaching people is fun for me.

So what job is that? For me the good news is it can be almost any job – any job that uses technology, has education undertones, and is in it for the greater good.

What excites you in the morning? What’s your perfect job?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What is a Good Education?

I feel that a good education is one that incorporates a well-balanced knowledge base that helps you not only survive the challenges of modern society, i.e. as in having job security (ha!), social aptitude, personal advancement, but also the be equipped with the language skills that enables one to articulate thoughts well and to many professions in all walks of life. Speaking of language skills, that was one heck of a run-on sentence! 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Education – is it lost in the details?

As I reflect on my education, general as well as musical, I think back on all the things that I have forgotten. As students, we sit in class as the professor lectures on topics that at the time seem pedantic. I remember thinking, “let’s get to the good stuff”. Little did I realize, that WAS the good stuff.

With so much to learn, little did I understand that EVERYTHING in class was the “good stuff”.  Understand, I’m not saying that educational pontifications are not appropriate. I have given many lectures that have likely sent many mindful undergrads spinning in his/her seat…unintentionally of course. My thought here and now is that there is so much to teach/learn that it’s difficult for the student to absorb it all – so points of significance can easily be lost among the details during the lecture. When someone tells you one or two important points, you tend to remember them. When someone tells you 30 important points, you tend to forget them…all.

I know that I lost moments of great educational enlightenment just because I was over inundated with details. Do we change the way we teach/learn? Educators have been asking this for generations with some success.

It is well known that different people learn in different ways. We are not all the same and we all respond to different approaches. Some understand material better by reading about it, some by hearing about it, some by experiencing it, and others by watching someone else experience it.

I believe that the most effective teachers apply these different learning methods so they may educationally reach as many students as possible. Likewise, it would help students to recognize what their optimal learning process is and seek it out when possible. Try not to lose the education in the details – strive to catch the details as part of the greater picture. Proper education is a shared responsibility between the teacher and the student. 

Friday, May 21, 2010


I haven't been blogging for very long...maybe a year or so. This blog was originally intended to serve as an external voice for me to say whatever I want in regards to music, teaching, and conducting. Admittedly I occasionally have roamed away from these topics, but what the heck, right? I mean it's my voice. Really. But what I don't understand is what verbiage have I used to appeal to Japanese women who like to submit their personal URLs that feature "TMI" topics? Surely I haven't mentioned any words that bring in this sort. And, stop calling me "Surely". Really though, I'm all for free voice, but keep your personal web sites away from here. I can't even describe the TMI web sites to which I'm referring in fear that it'll attract more. So, to you my Asian friends, enjoy reading blogs and by all means leave a comment, but keep it clean and rated G. You know?! I mean...really?

Which brings me to one of my favorite skits on SNL, "Really!?!" with Seth and Amy.

See you next time.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Non Musical Ramblings...

Ugh! Just when you get cooking, you stop blogging!

Life is busy as usual: A wedding to plan, a job to find, and adventures at hand. There's never a shortage of things to do...ever! When I grow up I want to be retired. I'd like to have some money in the bank, a cool motorcycle, and of course my wife at my side. But all of this takes planning - are you up for the challenge? I ask myself that daily and the good news is I keep saying, "zzzzz -- hit the snooze button again!" (kidding)

Seriously, at the risk of sounding like a cliche, now is the time to plan for tomorrow. When things go well, I always kid around and say, "all part of the master plan". To a degree (or two) this is very true. I have a master plan. I don't have a hidden agenda, just a plan. But we all have to keep some flexibility in our plan because life is dynamic to say the least. Look at the last couple of years --- great job, met a great girl, economy greatly slowed, got laid off from great job, sold great house, moved to great state of Texas, got engaged to great girl, and I still haven't won the great lottery.

So where to from here? Well, business as usual...head down and keep running. Just remember (talking to myself here), keep enjoying the not-so-proverbial flowers!

Texas Bluebonnets in full bloom

Next entry will be musical...!



Thursday, February 25, 2010

Conducting the Phrase and not the Pattern

Many young conductors spend time learning to conduct patterns. And, rightly so. With a single glance toward the conductor, a musician can see the current musical location within the measure just by recognizing where the baton is in the beat pattern. This is nice, clean, and simple.

However, once musicians get past the basic skills of ensemble playing, simple beat patterns from the conductor are no longer required at all times. Some challenging mixed-meter sections certainly dictate a due diligence in showing patterns, but skilled musicians no longer need to see patterns at all times. So, what does the conductor show when working with a higher level ensemble? This blog is perhaps not long enough to allow for a complete answer. However, the most important element to remember is to show the music. Huh? I thought that's what the beat pattern did? A pattern just shows one simple construct of the music. Conductors must lead the ensemble in a musical journey in a clear visual display indicating not only dynamics, articulations, and instrumental cues, but phrases that tell the musical story. Understanding and showing the phraseology of works is essential in conveying the meaning and interpretation to the orchestra and ultimately, to the audience. This means conducting the phrases in the music while showing the technical aspects of dynamics, articulations, and instrumental textures.

Get past the beat pattern and look at the bigger picture. What do you really want to convey to the ensemble? Is it where beat 3 falls? Or, is it where the apex of the woodwind choir leads to a dovetailed connection with the violas? You can see this by looking at the phrases. Where is the drama and excitement of beat 2 versus the drama of letting a melody unfold magically from a soft dynamic to a more prominent foreground position? The conductor can foster this by helping the instrumentalist lead the melody by showing it visually!

Drop the pattern and adopt the phrase.

Musically Yours,

D. Oertel

PS - On a personal note, I just got engaged to be married!! Wooohoooo!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Who's skin is this anyway?

Who's skin is this anyway?

It's interesting as conductors we put on different "skins" so we can be everything we can be for the orchestra so we can aptly present a good show for the audience. Different skins are what people "wear" when speaking to the board or to the audience or even to the orchestra. Who are we, ourselves? I think it is important as people and as musicians to be true to ourselves and wear our own skin and not pretend to be anything else at anytime. Wearing your own skin means learning to be comfortable with your own personality with your own interpretation of musical works. Whether the interpretation is supported by research, by balance of the concert program, or whether you just decided to do something on a whim. Either way, you must be comfortable with yourself and how you present yourself. Forget about what people are thinking about you. Be yourself and be true to yourself and your own personality.

Wear your own skin.