Behind the Scenes – January 2016

I never intended for this blog to be a personal journal, but friends and readers continue to talk to me about my article, “The Story Behind the Blog.” So on occasion, I will post about my personal journey to build a fulfilling and financially sustainable career as a freelance musician and teacher.

I realized my approach to business mirrors my approach to improvisation. Take risks, experiment, see what works and what doesn’t, wash, rinse, and repeat.

A friend recently asked me, “your blog is cool, but how do you make any money from it?” This site is part of a strategy for me to align my passions with work that provides value for other musicians and educators. And I have no idea if it’s going to work. The promising news is things are headed in the right direction, and I stopped applying for jobs.

Effective marketing in the new economy is about building awareness and trust over time, not interrupting people with unwanted ads. If my ideas resonate and spread, they can be the foundation of a thriving business.

Since launching my blog in the beginning of September, I’ve had 18,000 unique visitors come to my site from over 120 countries. I’m getting booked for more clinics and selling more books without having to resort to any sleazy sales tactics or expensive ad campaigns.

The most liberating part of this strategy is that I’m only accountable to my audience. I don’t have to please a boss, committee, board, or department chair to justify my work – I can go straight to the people I’m trying to serve. And the process of reading, writing, listening, and reflecting every day has had a huge impact on my music and teaching already. I wish I had started years ago!

What’s next?


I’m headed to NYC in February to work with Ingrid Jensen on our Kenny Wheeler tribute record.

I’m feel my music will be going in a new direction, but I don’t have a clear vision of exactly where I’m headed.

Blog Content

I’m going to start writing more articles based on my book The Living Jazz Tradition. I’m also working on a new eBook for classically trained musicians who seek an introduction to improvisation (not jazz specifically – this material is rooted in games, free improvisation, and ensemble interaction). The eBook will be free for subscribers to my newsletter.

New Workshops

I’m developing exiting new “Game Symphony” workshop for school band and orchestra programs. I’m learning about many approaches for facilitating large group improvisation though improvised games, Soundpainting, multimedia composition, and more. I’m going to be piloting this program at a few middle school and high schools in the Seattle area.

Online Courses

If my audience continues to grow over the coming years, I want to develop several online courses. I’m thinking about developing courses to supplement The Living Jazz Tradition and educator training.

Thanks for reading! I know time and attention are valuable and I appreciate the opportunity to connect.

– ST

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