Strive To Be Happy, Volume 2 (No. 6-10)

6) So much to discuss here! SORRY its been a while, ive been getting work done.

First, I am happy to report that my folk song project “UNDER OPEN SKY” was a success. I was very thankful to all who came and after I write this, Ill post a sound file or two under “listen”. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Secondly, I had a really special time with Bob Brookmeyer here at Eastman. We played a concert of his music. Bob was incredibly kind and seemed to love the concert. It was a huge honor to play for and with him, and he liked me too, so that was great. The band sounded fantastic and it really was a night we will remember for a long time. (Maybe sound files soon? Not sure…)

Now, ahead of me is a concert on Friday night at Javas. My oldest band, Bending and Breaking, will hit the carpeted floor at 9pm. The music will be mostly older stuff that you probably havent heard before, unless you were a fan during the Boulder Coffee days. Its good stuff, mostly stuff I was just afraid to play because it is hard! BUT I decided to go for it and hopefully the spirit of Santa will get us through.

Also, Friday night will be a cool event debuting the relationship between myself and the KKBB Apparel clothing line. My old pal Mike Banos and his partners have created a line of tshirts and the like that are really sweet. They are all about zombies, weird things, you know….so you can see how I fit right into their ideology. Me and a couple of band members will be sporting their shirts, so if you dig them, you can buy some…hopefully, the other end of this deal is that KKBB fans who wouldnt ordinarily hear about a “jazz band” will catch on and spread the love.

Now, a few things that I have been thinking about:

1. If you want to stay warm and look sweet in the winter time, invest in a scarf. Scarves are the entire key to staying warm when its cold out.

2. Today I stopped at the corner in my car and a man danced for me. Not any kind of weird dance, just throwing down some moves. Then he pointed at me and kinda laughed like I was cool or something. It made me smile.

3. It feels good when you see someone you havent seen in a while and they tell you “you look good” in a totally platonic way.

Lately Ive been listening to a ton of Bob Brookmeyer, due to his being in town. Other than that, I really enjoy the music from the musical “Spring Awakening”. Its definitely rock music of a sort, but harmonically its interesting to me and just sounds nice. I think I am going to see the show when it is in town. Also, lots of the podcast “The Jazz Session” by Jason Crane. He has great guests (more and more they are becoming people I know) and he asks smart questions, and totally doesnt treat the audience like they are stupid or anything. Another good thing to check out is Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society (album). He was at the Brookmeyer concert, good to meet him, and his music is quite like a modern version of Brookmeyer–innovative, pretty, genuine. I like it. Props to my old buddies Eli, James and Jeremy who I know have played in that band.

So to summarize, things have been going well, and there is a lot coming up that should be fun. Friday night at Javas Ill be joined by Wills McKenna (sax), John Britton (tpt), Ben Thomas (bass) and Rochester stalwart Simon Fletcher (guitar). It will be good, I promise. Thanks for reading, and drop me a note if you can to say hello.

7) Again, suck at doing these updates. I am going to try to schedule it into my calendar to do it more regularly. So watch closely for that not happening.

Anyways, it seems as though Ive been playing in a lot of “large ensembles” lately, and I think ive learned something important. In the last 12 months, Ive played Maria Schneiders music with her conducting, Bob Brookmeyers music with him conducting, Fred Sturms music with him conducting, Tom Davis’ music with him conducting and Dave Rivellos music with him conducting. All 5 are either legends of big band writing or diamonds in the (rochester) rough. The overwhelmingly similar advice from every one of them was to PLAY MORE. Come to think of it, Hollenbeck has also said this about playing both his music and Brookmeyer’s. Its such a stark contrast to what Eastman seems to preach to me day in and day out, which is “edit; play less; keep time; simplify; etc”. I think you probably know who im more inclined to believe, but i thought it was both validating and exciting that all of these writers wanted more out of the drum chair. Its good for me, but also says a lot about our jazz educational system, for a band without a strong (in both skill and musical personality) drummer is going to have a hard time making it happen. My more “up close” models of Ted Poor and John Hollenbeck both certainly have that, and even in a sense, Rich Thompson (for the music he is known for–I wont say what band he was in but it rhymes with schmount shmacey). Think about this, educators! and drummers! and band leaders!

Everything else is going very well and I am enjoying my quest to remain happy. I got into a bit of a rut with listening to music and found that even my old stand bys were just not doing it for me these days. Currently accepting recommendations at Help me out.

I went to a great thing in Rochester that Im not sure Im allowed to talk about, but lets just say this. There are some great great people that are my age in this town that are about to have a serious positive impact on the city. Dont give up people.

Upcoming things that are cool:

Eastman Spring Break (next week)

++- gig (March 23)

Playing in ESM Jazz Forum (March 24)

Phil Fiorios Recital (March 25)

My recital (April 3)

Ben Thomas’ recital (April 3)

Actually just look on the itinerary page, that has all of this.

I recently grew a plant that came as a bulb in a box. I cant believe it grew. This was very cool.

Listening to NPR chills you WAY the hell out.

Goya Coconut Water is really good to drink.

Sharpie Pens are still amazing but they sometimes leak on your hands.

JD Salinger died which means we might get some new works from my favorite author’s pen.

Saw Avatar in 3D but got to the theatre late and had to sit way too close. Was still a good movie.

I really enjoy learning. I wish it happened more often. I learn a lot from my Composition lessons, and from my Special Topics course with Jeff Campbell and Chris Ziemba. My colleagues at Eastman are sometimes fantastic.

I badly want to go on a little jaunt soon. Hope to make that happen.


Music that i have kinda liked lately:

John Cage-Williams Mix

Edgar Varese-Poeme Electronique

Ingrid Jensen-At Sea

Ravel-Ma Mere L’Oye

This Sunday, Bobby Marino will premiere my solo work for Timpani: Marie Laveau in Baltimore, MD. I am stoked, thanks bobby!!!

Talk to you guys soon.

8) So I lived up to my promise of wanting to update this more frequently and failing. I am chalking this up as a success.

Things are great. I am trying hard to find the good in every situation. Musically that has not been hard to do lately. “PLUS+MINUS” played a great gig at SUNY Binghamton alongside the Britton Brothers Band, and it went very well. The students were very cool and supportive, and it was fun to do a workshop with another very different band.

I graduate from Eastman very soon! I have learned a lot but I am also ready to be finished. Things are winding down this week. The New Jazz Ensemble will be the thing I miss the most from these last two years, and we are finishing the year appropriately. Ryan Truesdell, Bob Brookmeyer and Maria Schneiders assistant, is in town with a huge stack of music that he collected from the archives of Gil Evans. To play Gil’s music is a thrill enough, but this is stuff that has not been played in like 50 years by anyone, and some of it has probably never been performed. Ryan did a ton of work to copy parts off of sometimes barely legible scores and we are hearing the results. Tonight was our first session and there are two more. Some of the instrumentations are bizzare, like tonights “cello-2 trombone-bassoon-rhythm section-piccolo” tune, or tomorrow nights session, featuring “3 oboes, 2 flutes, 3 bassoons, trombones and rhythm section”. Crazy but it all sounds wonderful.

A few other concerts are happening soon, Ethan Helm’s MEOW MACHINE and Ben Thomas’ ITCHING AND BERNING are both making their debut performances with me in the drum throne. Both feature very hard songs that I am determined to make it through.

A huge congratulations to my buddy Matt Raskopf, who will be touring this summer as a member of the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. This is a huge accomplishment for him and im very proud. Go Raskopf!

I am into some music lately that people might want to check out. I will type it below:

J Dilla’s hip hop beats

Morton Subotnick’s electronic works, especially Sidewinder and Touch

Knights on Earth (Mike Chiavaro and Grey McMurray, old ESM friends)

Christian Scott–all. Especially Rewind That (Thomas Pridgen on drums…wooh!)

Erykah Badu’s new record New Amerykah, Part 2. KILLING.

Im looking forward to a great summer filled with lots of music and fun. Contact me, i love hearing from people, old friends and new ones. Really, it would be great and I PROMISE to write back! I will be posting some video and audio from my Masters Recital and the ++- gig very soon. Some stuff from my recital is already on YouTube, search Aaron Staebell. Thanks for your support. Get in touch. Go music.

9) Trying to maintain the happy demeanor, busy times however and some bleak outlooks in the non-musical sector of life have proven this to be more difficult than usual. All things considered, things are wonderful, and I have a great summer ahead of me.

Played and clinic-ed for the West Shore School District outside of Harrisburg, PA 2 weekends ago as part of George Clements’ District Percussion Ensemble concert. George organized 4 percussion ensembles plus soloists and duets from throughout the district to perform. The concert culminated (or at least concluded) with a performance by Percussion East, our conglomerate percussion quartet of Eastman dudes. I was joined by John Driscoll, Ivan Trevino and George on three pieces for percussion: Levitan’s Marimba Quartet, Fragile for marimba quartet and my newest work: Pleading for Forgiveness, for percussion quartet and laptop. I will upload videos to YouTube soon, but the piece was performed very well by the guys. It is a 3-movement work based on the idea of redemption of society in light of the tumultuous times in which we are currently living. I was happy with the way it all went. I also worked with the Allen Middle School Jazz Ensemble and those kids can play! Kudos to George for working so hard and being such a great educator and musician.

Before that, on May 14, I was fortunate to attend a concert in Buffalo by a collective known as “New Sonic Initiative”. They are people writing new music and getting it performed, and the stuff that I heard that night ranged from duo bass and drums to full-blown-Morton Feldman-esque music experiences. Not everything on the concert was great, but it was promising to see an effort being made to create artistic pieces and have them heard. The turnout was also quite impressive…Buffalo, you might be on to something.

Plenty of cool events coming up: Brownman will be in residence next week at my school in Greece, working with the bands and the students. We are also playing a mini version of Brown’s “Tribute to Miles” series in Buffalo on Friday June 11 at the base of the HSBC Tower. My dad is going to play bass! It will be great!

This summer I look forward to my usual fare of playing musicals, which I secretly really enjoy. I am playing for “Bare” for Fairport Summer Arts and a production of “Rent” with the JCC. I look forward to both of these, and collaborating with some great musicians and other creative minds.

I will also be playing next Wednesday June 9 as part of the Rochester Jazz Star final Gala Concert. I did not enter this contest with my own group for a number of reasons, but thats ok, I dont know that there was much integrity in the voting process. Anyways, I am supporting Michael Sinicropi in the final round, mostly because hes the only person who asked me, so lets do this!!! I will have more thoughts on that after Im done, I dont know quite what to expect from Michael or from the event itself.


on the car ride home from Harrisburg, we had a drummer nerd-out.

STEVE GADD on Chuck E’s In Love (Rickie Lee Jones)

STEVE GADD on AJA (Steely Dan)

STEVE GADD on LAYLA (Eric Clapton-One More Car, One More Rider)

BERNARD PURDIE on any Steely Dan

ALSO good stuff that Ive been checking out:

KNIGHTS ON EARTH (move slow, life ends)-great new record from some old friends

BEETHOVEN (String Quartet No. 15, 3rd mvt)

THE ROOTS (Dilla Joints-available for free here:…The Roots tribute to beatmaker J-Dilla, whom I have also been enjoying. ?uestlove sounds amazing on this.

DAVID CROSS (Bigger and Blacker)–hilarious, highly inappropriate comedy. ❤

Finally, I have been thinking about this sentiment, and it has inspired me to push towards some more performances of my music/projects in the fall:

“We need to decide what what we want to be known for, and then get working on it.”

In other words, we need to make sure that our daily activities line up with where we want to be headed.  (from

Stay cool.

10) These are easier to write when there is a lot to make you happy.

My new neighbor, Dave Chisholm, is a wonderful guy and a great musician. It has been a pleasure to have a friend living downstairs that shares so many musical ideologies and is also a cool guy to hang out with. Please check him out at

He also draws cool comic books.

Dave is the newest member of my band, Bending and Breaking. We have started a regiment of weekly rehearsals in preparation for some upcoming gigs and more notably, beginning the process of making the first Bending and Breaking album this year! I hope to have things underway soon. The current lineup of the band is:

Doug Stone (Sax)

Dave Chisholm (Trumpet)

Chris Ziemba (Keyboard)

Ben Thomas (Bass)

Me (Drums/Composition)

Its going to be great.

The other really major development is that in November, Ben Thomas has arranged for he and I to play a series of concerts with the great saxophonist/improviser Tony Malaby! Tony has been one of Ben and my heroes for a number of years! We will be playing in Geneva, as well as a few concerts around Rochester. Hopefully this is a successful few days, and I hope that everyone will be able to come and check it out!

I have been working hard to promote myself, though I often find it hard to do so. I dont like to be so in-your-face about it but I think I have to, if i want anyone to hear my stuff. Therefore I have done the following:

1. Updated my Facebook Fan page:


2. Created a BANDCAMP page, where people can download my music–some for a cost, but a lot of music for free…I hope to post a lot of rehearsal footage so that people can keep tabs on where we are in the process.


3. I updated my Youtube channel so that you can watch many cool videos of me playing drums.


4. I am updating this site right now.

[You did it.]

Some things to think about in order to Strive To Be Happy:

-College football is starting, so is regular football.

-I have been revisiting music that I used to like, and I figured out that I still like it. That might be something you would try too.

-The poetry of e.e. cummings is always inspiring to me, and whenever I read any critical analyses of his work, they talk about how he destroyed any conventions that had been previously established. I like that idea, he turned out ok…

-Stilton cheese with apricot on a bruschetta toast. Really good.

Please check out the stuff I talked about above (cool things), and above that (my promotional stuff). I hope to have lots more good news to report soon!

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