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Why Am I Doing This?

Sharing Applause with Cohorts in the European Wind EnsembleIf you've ever seen The Music Man, you will recall the words of Professor Harold Hill as he teaches the four bickering members of the River City School Board to sing in barbershop harmony. To their wives he says, "Ladies, from now on you will never see one of these men without the other three." The mayor's wife replies, "You're wrong, Prof. Hill. These men have hated each other for the last fifteen years." Through the rest of the show they are inseparable. While this is not a true story, it does bring out a basic truth about music. It brings people together. Making music is an intimate shared experience, and those who are able to participate have something in their lives that most people can't imagine. People of drastically different views and backgrounds might not get along anywhere else, but they will bond when playing music.

But in order to have this experience, musicians must have the skills with which to get together. Many musicians play by ear and can't read music. Many others read music and can't play by ear. Somewhere we need to bridge this gap, and I'm publishing this page primarily for that purpose. I want to spread the common-sense musical knowledge that is so essential to the players of band instruments if they want to keep playing after graduation. There are so many fine players who abandon their instruments each year--if only they had learned the basic musical skills that most guitar players take for granted.

Despite excellent school music programs with professional instructors, most players of band and orchestra instruments are isolated from the making of popular music at the most ordinary levels. While some are simply satisfied with minimal playing skills, others are held back by the fact that this type of playing involves individual exploration, and many students simply don't know where to start. My goal here is to provide some starting points to get the ball rolling. These are found in the Jam School section. I also want to provide online help for younger players who are studying music. This is why online help is provided for the Master Theory Workbook. I also want to help parents find their way through the snarl of products on the market today. This is the purpose of the Consumer Pages.


This website is dedicated to my mother, Barbara C. Cole, who taught me much of what I pass on here. Mom celebrated her 45th anniversary in 2003 as Organist for Northside Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, VA. In her longtime role as universal accompanist for songs, prayers and eulogies, her improvisations taught me that there is so much to music other than what's written on the page--and other than what features you personally as a musician. As my Mom demonstrates, good taste is the nobler goal.

A good example of this was my dad, Gilford A. Cole, to whom these music pages are also dedicated. As if it wasn't enough just to tolerate (and finance) a family of musicians for all these years, Dad went one better by becoming Mom's ultimate student. With no prior experience, Dad learned to sing and read music and became a mainstay in the bass section of the church choir. Never one for the spotlight, he used his good humor and competence to keep his section in place, on pitch and down to earth. Not bad for a guy who didn't consider himself a musician. We lost Dad in May 2002.

Selflessness as a musician is a rare thing that I've had the opportunity to see a lot of. I hope that some of the information on these pages will help to produce more practical teachers and saavy team players--like my Mom and Dad.

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