One year ago, i sent off the final check to pay off the last non-mortgage debt - an ogre of a Home Equity loan, bringing to close $54,551.02 of credit cards, home improvement loans, and other blood-sucking credit leeches after 9 grueling months! A week later, we celebrated with this video that was viewed on The Dave Ramsey TV Show, as well as over 7,300 people on YouTube:
I know Eric gets terribly embarrassed, but i never get tired of seeing that wonderful celebration of financial freedom!!
So what's life like after living a debt-free year?
Well, we have to keep the "debt-free" in parenthesis, if only for the fact that we're closing in on 2 years remaining on our mortgage - when THAT puppy's paid off, we're going to have an EPIC video to celebrate!!
Other than that, it's been a bit disorienting, what with the financial world all around us seemingly collapsing while we watch in wonder from within our fiscal bubble. I don't think i've ever made more money in my musical pursuits than i have this past year, and it's still going strong with more work booked straight through the summer, with a possible China tour in the spring and 2, possibly 3 different festivals that i'll be working at, plus a week stint with the Baltimore Symphony and a video shoot for PianoDisc in California...and that's not counting all the publicity trips i still have to book in support of my new company, AirTurn! Whew!!
Being debt-free has actually allowed me to make more business purchases than ever before, ALL WITH CASH - no credit, no layaways, no deferred payment, just good ol' cash for stuff like:
2 Canon GL2 semi-pro camcorders, complete with a full set of wide and telephoto lenses, cases, lights, stands, remote control...very, very sweet!
My wireless lavaliere microphone set, which you may have noticed from my recent videos with AirTurn - sounds so much nicer than having my old Samson C01U sitting nearby!
My awesome Sager 9622 laptop, featuring dual DESKTOP graphic cards - man, this machine is the best for live video shoots and av processing! My son loves it for being able to play Elder Scrolls: Oblivion with ALL of the graphic bells and whistles set to MAXIMUM - and nary a slowdown!! BTW, the Sager is on top of 2 other brand new computer purchases as well...
Not only do we still have our full emergency fund in place, we've also completed an EXTRA emergency fund for loved ones who might need help in the future. Even with all my crazy business purchases and taxes paid ahead of time, it looks like i'll still come out ahead by a few thousand - given that all my years in the past were pretty much deficits, i have to say this is a fairly decent measure of progress!
Despite my pricey acquisitions, several debt-free habits still remain, and probably will stay for the foreseeable future:
Still no Starbucks; while i've ditched instant coffee in my office (shudder....), i've switched to coffee 'tea bags', thanks to a suggestion from one of my Curtis co-workers. It ain't Starbucks, but it sure beats instant any day...
I still pack my own lunches - very rarely do i eat out for lunch!
Groceries are still budgeted pretty carefully. We've really cut down on impulse items.
Haircuts for the boys still done by me - i have to say, i think i've gotten better over this past year! Last year's school pictures were pretty hilarious compared to this year's...we call last year's pictures our "debt-free haircuts"!
I really need to work on my instinct to spend when i have extra cash, even though i have a separate business account that doesn't draw funds away from the family checking account. I'm definitely the "stuff" guy - my wife is much wiser and far less materialistic than i am, so i need to really learn from her example. I'm the kind of guy that dreams of buying a bigger house - she's the type of person that dreams of raising funds to help more missionaries! I really, really need to take more cues from her...
Another good set of cues come from our boys. When asked what they want for Christmas, they shrug and smile - they're happy with what they have! They've become prodigious savers, thanks to our commission system that only pays them when they do their chores. They're going to end up with far better financial acumen than i ever had as a young person!
Thanks, Dave!! It's so great to be "living like no one else" now!!
** oh my, i forgot to mention 2 of our biggest ticket items this past year: a new roof AND a new maintenance-free gutter system from Gutter Guys! All paid for up front with CASH - unlike our rear windows project several years, where we initially planned to pay for it over 10 years...yeesh!
MusicReader Mac OS X version + Windows v. 2.3 + AirTurn = Happy Musicians ;)
The developers of my new music reading program of choice, MusicReader, has just announced the release of their latest version upgrades for Mac OS X and v. 2.3 for Windows. I can already attest to the improved inking capabilities for the Windows version, as well as a number of under-the-hood fixes and other improvements. In addition, the MusicReader store is now offering the AirTurn line of wireless page turner products! Pretty cool, eh?
You can view a short 3 minute video review of MusicReader here:
My new favorite feature of MusicReader is its ability to zoom the music to half a page at a time while retaining the ability to turn pages without staff overruns or clipping. I gave my first public performance this past Saturday night using the half-page view on my ordinary, non-tablet HP laptop together with my AirTurn page turner, and i have to say it was a revelatory experience both for myself and the audience! I've been blessed with excellent vision, but even my eyes were soooo much happier to not have to squint so much to see the notes (and my teeny weeny eyes don't leave much room for squinting! LOL!)
Just when you thought the Grinch had sacked Wall Street and Detroit to ruin Christmas for everyone, the amazing Piano4 Piano Quartet - and by that, i mean Four PIANOS - comes to the rescue with a brand new Christmas Album! Here's their description of the goodies in this musical stocking:
PIANO4 Christmas features the entire “Nutcracker Suite,” a stunning unusual “Silent Night” (“Christmas Vision”), “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” as you’ve never heard it before, and more! Imagine - 4 virtuoso pianists at 4 grand pianos; 4 distinct parts with swirling finger work, passion and humor.
There are two bonus tracks which are a part of a fabulous new collaboration: Walter "Bunny" Sigler, the Grammy Award winning recording artist - a legend in his own time - with hits including Patti Labelle's "Somebody Loves You Baby" and The O'Jays' "Love Train", is celebrating the season with PIANO4. These two songs, "Christmas Dream" and "Holy Night", have hit the airwaves and are being heard across the country!
These guys are really terrific, and the sounds they produce as an ensemble simply must be heard to be believed! Be sure to visit Piano4's website at www.piano4.org to place your order!
Many thanks to Ghena, president of PrivateLessons.com, for the fun video shoot yesterday, where we spent some time talking about my work with AirTurn and ways in which i use computers as digital music readers. I had no idea we covered so much ground in just 10 minutes, everything from wireless hands-free page turns, to my early years struggling with nascent technologies, to some discussions on the current and future states of the digital music market for classical musicians! Take a look, and i hope you enjoy our talk together!
BTW, the music reading program i was referencing in the video is called MusicReader - highly recommended, video review of that program coming soon!
Chamber Music Today has just posted one of the most comprehensive writeups on the Pianoteq program. If you want to really explore some of the inner workings and possibilities of what i think is the best modeled piano program on the market today, then spend some time mining this terrific article!
Working past programming glitches (one of which involved me nearly breaking the entire online storefront from poking around the css templates like a curious cat!), banking and shipping snafus (the shipping option in the store is still a little wonky - as a result, we're putting a flat $7.50 rate for all orders this week), we somehow managed to squeak in the launch of our new store at www.AirTurn.com officially last night.
AirTurn's mission is to create and market technologies that enhance the study, practice, and performance of music. Our first product is something we actually developed ourselves from scratch: a wireless page-turning transmitter, the AT-104!
If you'll recall from my 1st anniversary video, i did a basic overview of Tablet PC's for musicians. One major pitfall was the fact that - at the time - there weren't any really decent page turning pedal options available. The ones i was using at the time were built with noisy reed switches that gave an audible click each time you pressed them, making them difficult to use in recording sessions:
I've been dreaming about decent wireless page turning pedals for quite some time, but the results were disappointing to say the least. I could never have imagined that one day i'd be actually involved in developing my own models!
As regular readers of this blog know, i've been a paperless musician in practice and performance, having used Tablet PC's as my primary music reader/library device for several years now - since 2002, to be exact (yeow! That long already?? My, how time flies!!). During that whole time i've been involved with various quests for the perfect page turning pedal - everything from my old 3-button X-Keys programmable pedal -
Here's a quick 1 minute overview of the AT-104 wireless page turning transmitter. The beautiful thing about this device is the fact that it's plug-and-play - no software to install (and carefully program and disengage when not in use, unlike the software needed for the Delcom Engineering pedal - a nightmare to deal with if you ever accidentally removed the USB cable without shutting the driver down first!) and wireless in operation (no need to lug around and uncoil an unsightly cable next to the piano in performance! YES!!):
In addition to its simplicity, the AT-104 is very flexible to configure. You can actually attach a variety of footswitches and pedals, giving you the option to have either a single or double pedal setup for uni or bi-directional page turns. We have an account with Roland to offer 3 types of pedals that can be bundled with the AT-104. You can also see a ">list of compatible pedals from other manufacturers on our website.
Two fascinating articles point to fascinating and imaginative applications of technologies from opposite ends of the spectrum - low and high. Wired magazine online profiles Volker Bertelman and his Hauschka project, a young pianist who performs on prepared pianos with both an eclectic mix of old and new technologies (that Ebow has me really, really fascinated!!) John Cage, naturally, would've been...well, referenced, at the very least, as he already is in the article. Kinda funny to see how digital programmers (like Pianoteq) on the one hand are trying to sound more like acoustic pianos, while pianists like Mr. Bertelman are trying to make their pianos sound more synthesized!
The New York Times writes about the YouTube Symphony project, where folks will be able to contribute their video renditions of orchestral parts from a commissioned work by Tan Dun leading to a final video mashup performance of jury-selected entries. The second part of the project involves an interesting twist on the traditional orchestra audition process, where video submissions will be judged by members of various major orchestras leading to an all-expense paid trip by Google for a Carnegie Hall performance under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas.
Bold, imaginative, exciting - it's heartening to hear that classical music can find such a powerful venue to encourage fresh discoveries and new collaborations, and that "traditional" instruments can continue to re-invent themselves in cool ways!
Thank you for visiting this site! I hope you'll find this to be a friendly place to learn about and discuss the fascinating technologies available for the Classical Musician. A great place to get started is with the ongoing "Getting Started" series. Remember, the worst questions are the ones you never ask, so feel free to email me!