Category Archives: Music

Eleven Albums with Words to Support You Playing Work As a Ballad

If you’re attempting to play some important part of your work as a ballad, it will be really helpful to listen to ballads in the background as support. Here are twelve albums with singers and words to support you playing the work slowly with beauty and feeling. Rebecca Martin – People Behave Like Ballads Rebecca Martin – The Growing Season Rebecca Martin – Thoroughfare Frank Sinatra – In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning Frank Sinatra – Only the Lonely Iron & Wine – Around the Well Janis Ian – Between the Lines Silvio Rodríguez – Dominguez Dáithí Sproule – A Heart Made of Glass k.d. lang – Watershed Chet Baker – Let’s Get Lost

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Play the Symphony of Your Day

 “I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear…each one singing his…each singing what belongs to her and none else.” – Walt Whitman Take a moment to search with your ears to the sounds around you. It may be helpful to close your eyes – sound is noticed more fully when the eyes are closed. Take in your office symphony, the symphony of your day. You may hear people in the cubes next to you or elsewhere in the office talking on the phone, the click of a keyboard, people walking by, the ding of the microwave in the office kitchen. Perhaps you’re at home, out on the deck with a cup of tea, hearing birds and distant traffic. These sounds are part of the symphony created for you today, the symphony you’re part of. There is a commonality in playing this symphony with your co-workers, with other commuters on the road or in the train, with your family at home. We’re all part of this day’s symphony and we’re all contributing our small parts. You are contributing to my symphony by reading these words even if I can’t physically hear you in this moment. Perhaps there’s a way we can see beauty, or at least a poignancy in every part that is played. “What we play is life.” – Louis Armstrong There is an inherent playfulness and joyfulness in music. We play music, we don’t work music. So if this day is a symphony, you have an opportunity to play your part well and to move through the music in a lighter, more playful manner than if today was just comprised of worry, deadlines, demands and drudgery. Even if that’s what this symphony sounds like to you, how can you conduct that same music in a lighter way? Classical music aficionados collect different versions of the same piece of music by different conductors and different orchestras. Even though the notes are written the same each time, the playing can be very different. And even though your day’s demands may be written very clearly, there is a great deal of freedom available within that existing framework. “What he does is real, and true, and honest, and simple, and even noble. Every time this man puts his trumpet to his lips, even if only to practice three notes, he does it with his whole soul.” – Leonard Bernstein on Louis Armstrong That freedom to play within the existing structure is very simple. Listen to the reality of this present moment – the sounds of today’s symphony – and listen to what your whole self, your “whole soul”, wants to give. Then contribute your part. You’re contributing something already. If you consciously listen outwardly and inwardly, your contribution transforms into your best, and you help not only your passage through your day but everyone around you. Every day, every moment, every action holds within it the possibility to give something that is, like Louis Armstrong, real, true, honest, simple and noble. We all could use some more playfulness, more joy, and more connection in our lives. If you want to see that change, perhaps today you can be that change and play the symphony of your day with your whole soul, no matter how humble. Like Louis Armstrong, play your life. And you too, like Walt Whitman, will hear America singing. Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s teams building and team development activities: Play the Blues – As featured on NPR and in The Meeting Professional  – Learn to play the blues harmonica in just two hours! Each team member will receive their own harmonica, a copy of Blues Harmonica for Beginners book and play-a-long CD. Within minutes you will be playing a real blues song together. The grand finale features your team as the stars performing an original blues song that you have created together!

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Quix Tip: How to Play Lightly

Notice a spot in your work that is calling for a very rapid tempo. Imagine what you could do to do that work perfectly. Now note what the minimum is that you could do right this moment. Notice which of the two approaches is going to allow you to produce something right now. Start by just doing one thing and sending it out into the world. Celebrate the sending of a note from you, perfectly imperfect. Repeat – play lightly all day Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s teams building and team development activities: Give the Kids Music – Learn to play and build musical instruments and then give the gift of music to underserved children. Music of Teams – Music of Teams links music and the effective team and transforms your people into musicians of their work. Build a Team Song – Write, record and perform an amazing team theme song.

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Play Lightly When the Rhythm is Fast

When playing jazz that has a swing rhythm to it, and the tempo is medium (walking pace or faster), many musicians find it helpful to tap their foot on the second and fourth beats that happen = 1 2 3 4. This reminds them of the swing rhythm emphasis (2 and 4 more than 1 and 3), helps them keep their place without exhausting themselves tapping on every beat. When the song gets really fast (200 beats per minute and higher), it becomes too fast to tap 2 and 4. I end up just tapping on beat 1. Pat Metheny plays the jazz standard “All the Things You Are” at 280 beats per minute on his Trio Live album. That’s fast! To give you a perspective, walking pace is about 100 beats per minute. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine 280 BPM (beats per minute) is faster than a sprinter sprints. At that tempo, you can’t focus on every single note. You rely more on patterns and the product of a life of persistence that came before this moment. And you play lightly. Watching the great chord harmonica player Bud Boblink play a fast chromatic run of chords on that demanding two-foot long instrument, it struck me how lightly he was playing them, barely touching down. Watching Pat Metheny or any other great jazz musician improvise at 300 BPM is like watching someone ice skating or dancing. These masters are dancing lightly over the fast rhythm, efficient. It’s as if they’re at rest in a way – loose, relaxed. They’re feeling a deeper, longer, slower rhythm beneath the frenetic surface pace. Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s teams building and team development activities: Music of Teams – Music of Teams links music and the effective team and transforms your people into musicians of their work. Bang On My Drum All Day – Get in sync with one another and drum up good business practices. Sing the Blues – Learn the basics of singing the blues and then as a team write and perform a song backed by real blues musicians!

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How Music Team Building Gets Teams In Tune

“Hey everybody! Let’s have some fun! Let the good times roll!” sings one excited participant as the rest of her team plays blues riffs on their harmonicas. Someone is playing the guitar; another, the tambourine. Everyone on stage is wearing retro-sunglasses and classic blues hats and having fun. As a music team building facilitator, it’s always a pleasure to tell a group they’re going to learn how to play music. They light up, relax and get a little playful. Let’s face it – some people look forward to team building, and some are a little more ambivalent. But everyone loves music. And most people wish they could play music, not just listen to it. While I’ve combined music and team building in a variety of ways – forming rock bands, playing ‘office percussion’, and writing and singing songs, the most popular is the Play the Blues program. In this program, everyone receives a harmonica and learns how to play. For the grand finale, teams write and perform original songs they wrote about themselves. And it’s not just the blues – “Piano Man,” “Love Me Do,” and of course the perennial favorite “Rawhide” are some of the songs that groups have learned over the years. The best team-building programs incorporate something that people are already interested in with something new that will enrich their lives at work and beyond. I love it when I hear back from people that they now start every meeting with a song, or that they went home with their harmonica and taught their kids how to play some of the songs we taught them. All of the performances are memorable – whether in quality or silliness. Everyone’s a beginner and that really helps to break down barriers within groups, especially when they are on very different levels on the org chart. There are a lot of closet musicians in corporate America. Someone always surprises their team by picking up the guitar and playing or singing like Aretha Franklin. There are roles for everyone, and safety in numbers on stage helps even the most shy to have some fun. Does this sound like your team? Everyone has a clearly defined role, an expertise and passion for that role, and the sum of the whole is greater than the parts. There’s a clearly defined goal that is adaptable enough to address the realities of the moment, a common rhythm, an extraordinary amount of listening, responding and interplay that’s all in the service of a tangible, customer-focused final product. That’s what a great band does and it helps teams to connect the metaphor of playing music together and working productively together in the work place. A great band or orchestra is perhaps the best model for a work-team to aspire to. In the debrief at the end of the program, people talk about improving their listening, communication and creativity skills. They like getting to know each other in a different way and especially love discovering the hidden talents in their group. But the two words that come up most often are ‘memorable’ and ‘fun’. Your Brain on Music Brain research has revealed a number of enhancing effects that music has. For one, our brains link up with each other when we play music. Daniel Goleman talks of this phenomenon in his landmark book Social Intelligence. Other studies have shown that music enhances how we think, reason, and create. The Right Place I’ve led groups of almost every size and setting, from small groups of senior executives in a boardroom, to a theater seating of hundreds to groups playing on a House of Blues stage. I’ve seen music team building work for groups across sectors, ages, and nationalities. However, certain conditions work better than others. The more the atmosphere of a room can be transformed from the ordinary, the better. Meeting planners I’ve worked with have incorporated mason jars with candles in them on the tables, blue lights, blues videos playing on a big screen, and a riser for performances. The Right Group Groups that have ‘been there and done that’ with team building often respond well, as well as people who aren’t all that excited about a more traditional team-building program. The Night Time is the Right Time I have led music programs first thing in the morning, and they’ve worked out fine, but the best time for a fun and memorable time together seems to be the evening. Beer and wine are a nice complement to the program.   Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s music team building and team development activities:  Give the Kids Music – Learn to play and build musical instruments and then give the gift of music to underserved children. Music of Teams – Music of Teams links music and the effective team and transforms your people into musicians of their work. Build a Team Song – Write, record and perform an amazing team theme song.

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Quest Story: ‘Our Love is Here To Stay’ By Rufus Collinson

‘Our Love is Here To Stay’ By Rufus Collinson One cold October afternoon several years ago, I accompanied Rob Fletcher, founder of Quixote Consulting, to a nursing home in Gloucester, MA where he was performing the music of Frank Sinatra for the residents. Standing before a group of nursing home residents and staff, he opened his performance with “Come Fly with Me.” As he crooned and strummed his guitar, I watched the room come to life. Nearly every person within those clinical walls began to sway and tap. From the very first line, they were transported. Some of the residents began to hum. I could actually see them remembering moments in their lives…moments that still had the power to bring a smile. And then something truly extraordinary happened.  The staff had wheeled in one woman, bed and all. She had been in a coma for several months, but they thought that she could hear. I watched her face as the songs filled the room. At first, she seemed frozen, nearly corpse-like. Somewhere, in the midst of “The Lady Is a Tramp,” I thought that I noticed the beginning of a smirk. It was just as Rob began to sing “Our Love Is Here to Stay” that the miracle happened. This woman who had been frozen in her bed, completely unresponsive for months, sat up!  The staff were in shock. They gasped and cried and went to her side. “Grace! Oh Grace,” they whispered. And then, Grace sat up straight and reached out…both arms stretching, stretching toward Rob as he moved in her direction, singing just to her now, “Our Love is here to stay.” I will never forget it. Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s music team building and team development activities:  Give the Kids Music – Learn to play and build musical instruments and then give the gift of music to underserved children. Music of Teams – Music of Teams links music and the effective team and transforms your people into musicians of their work. Build a Team Song – Write, record and perform an amazing team theme song.  

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Quix Tip: DIY Name That Tune

In your car, press the scan button on the radio and see how many songs you can name. Set your computer music player program (iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc.) on shuffle, put one finger on the pause button, another on the next song button. Close your eyes, start playing the song. Pause after a few seconds, make your guess and then go to the next song. Double the fun, double the challenge – Find a friend with music on their computer and challenge each other! This is a great way to energize a meeting. Let everyone with a laptop play the beginning of a song. Two minutes of fun goes a long way. Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s music team building and team development activities:  Play the Blues – As featured on NPR and in The Meeting Professional  – Learn to play the blues harmonica in just two hours! Each team member will receive their own harmonica, a copy of Blues Harmonica for Beginners book and play-a-long CD. Within minutes you will be playing a real blues song together. The grand finale features your team as the stars performing an original blues song that you have created together! Give the Kids Music – Learn to play and build musical instruments and then give the gift of music to underserved children. Music of Teams – Music of Teams links music and the effective team and transforms your people into musicians of their work.

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Practical advice from jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel

“You must be continually finding yourself, because it is always changing. It may not seem like it but that is practical advice.” – jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel (This quote was in response to an interview question asking for advice for young musicians.) We pride ourselves in being practical, and who couldn’t use some practical advice? But what if continually finding your true self as it changes is the most practical thing to do? This quote inspires me to be practical and do just that. For those of you who know young musicians or anyone learning something they hope to use for the rest of the life, here’s the full quote to share: “I would say to them to just stay focused, go deep into the music, have faith and work as hard as you can! You must be continually finding yourself, because it is always changing. It may not seem like it but that is practical advice.”   Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities: Music of Teams – Music of Teams links music and the effective team and transforms your people into musicians of their work.

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A 99 for the Heart at the Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival

After spending an utterly exhausting afternoon/evening judging 109 different juveniles (age 6-13) playing solo harmonica, the next day I got ‘adjudicator dessert’. I judged a series of different categories that had only a handful of people in each. One was the senior category, very sweet. Another category was ‘younger than 6’. There was one contestant, a very little boy! We’re instructed to give each contestant a score between 65 (nobody fails if they try, right?) and 99 (nobody’s perfect, right?). So I gave him a 99, a 99 for the heart – his and mine. Later at dinner I talked to Henry, another judge, another man with a big heart. He had given him a 99 too! There are moments in every day where we can be unexpectedly generous in some small way, but large enough to make someone’s day. And this generosity increases your happiness as well. Who will you give your version of a 99 for the heart to today? This is part of a series inspired by Rob Fletcher’s recent trip to Taiwan to perform and adjudicate at the Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival, the largest harmonica festival in the world.   Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities:  Play the Blues – As featured on NPR and in The Meeting Professional  Learn to play the blues harmonica in just two hours! Each team member will receive their own harmonica, a copy of Blues Harmonica for Beginners book and play-a-long CD. Within minutes you will be playing a real blues song together. The grand finale features your team as the stars performing an original blues song that you have created together! Music of Teams – Music of Teams links music and the effective team and transforms your people into musicians of their work.

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Why the future of the harmonica is in good hands

In my lifetime, I’ve seen harmonica playing die out in the U.S. Not totally gone of course, but very diminished. I don’t mean all harmonica playing. For example, there are probably more diatonic harmonica players this decade and the last as well. What I mean is the tradition of playing the ‘other’ harmonicas – the chromatic harmonica, chord harmonica, bass harmonica, tremolo harmonica, etc. I was lucky enough to meet a number of the old masters of these difficult instruments before they retired or passed on. But it’s unfortunately a pretty dead art in the U.S. I’m not mincing words, because I no longer need to. I’ve seen the future and it’s Asia! At the Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival, there were hundreds of kids everywhere, all holding chromatics, bass harmonicas and chord harmonicas. And they were playing together, masterfully. It’s part of their bloodstream at this point – they were playing so naturally, they’ll be masters if they continue. It was uncommonly helpful for me to get this perspective. First, something I was sad and concerned about was relieved. Second, it was a lesson to see a bigger picture than what’s in front of me. I only see the U.S. for the most part. And I only see the northeast, also for the most part. That lifeview I’m witnessing and being a part of – it’s a small part of this larger world we live in. Any connection with this bigger picture helps us widen our tight constrictions. Today, like every other day, there are amazing children all throughout Asia dedicated to musical instruments obscure to us. Let that bring a small to your face – I know it does mine.   This is part of a series inspired by Rob Fletcher’s recent trip to Taiwan to perform and adjudicate at the Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival, the largest harmonica festival in the world. Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities:  Play the Blues – As featured on NPR and in The Meeting Professional  Learn to play the blues harmonica in just two hours! Each team member will receive their own harmonica, a copy of Blues Harmonica for Beginners book and play-a-long CD. Within minutes you will be playing a real blues song together. The grand finale features your team as the stars performing an original blues song that you have created together! Music of Teams – Music of Teams links music and the effective team and transforms your people into musicians of their work.

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