Chris Boardman Music Blog: 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

It has been a wild ride this year for all of us. So, instead of a card, I decided that celebrating the fact that I can play again would be the best way for me to share my gratitude for family and friends at this time of year.




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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!

Being a creative work for hire individual is challenging.

There are no rules. It’s hard to know where to turn for advice. And, if you are anything like I was when I was young chances are you are always looking for acknowledgment and acceptance.

It is natural to think you have to look outside yourself to find the answers. We are trained to research and assimilate information to improve ourselves.

But what if the answer was already inside you? What if you had to no look no further than yourself?

A byproduct of our educational experience is the pressure to conform. To be able to measure progress schools are required to judge against a norm. Unfortunately, conformity stifles creative solutions depriving us of the freedom to explore solutions that are unique to us. Schools do a terrible job at teaching students to think for themselves, to connect the dots in ways that are unique to us.

Most of us are starting life at a disadvantage. Most times we don’t know it!

Our inbred conformity works against us. If we insist on being a “part of the crowd” our value diminishes because we can easily be replaced.

What if you were to focus on what makes you different?

It’s all a choice, and it’s up to you.

Ask yourself: “how is your approach working for you?” “Are you getting to where you want to go?”

Choosing to be ordinary is up to you just as choosing to be unique is.

Committing to be unique means making a choice to stand out. It means accepting the risk of being rejected. It is a frightening thought for many. But understand that if you choose to be fit in, to be ordinary, you will be one of many. It is hard to stand out in that case.

Turn your attention inward.

Be clear about what makes your heart sing, what you can do better than anyone else.

Honestly ask yourself what YOU do, consciously and unconsciously, that prevents you from making you deliriously happy in your work.

Becoming successful requires the commitment to make the conscious choice to “follow your bliss."

Uniqueness is found inside not by the external search for validation and acceptance.

Articulate your dreams (write them down!).

Make a plan.

Work your plan

Sure. There are risks in taking a stand.

But- do you have the time waste trying to be something your not?

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

What is your career worth to you?

Nothing in life is free. Nothing in life is free.
(count silently to 10 and let that sink in)

Now repeat: nothing in life is free. Regardless of what we might think everything has an associated cost.

We don’t give much thought to how our tax money is spent, how much it costs to run a light bulb etc. If a movie or record loses money somewhere, someone is going to be responsible.
Nothing in life is free.

Is there a cost to bad behavior? Of course if you do drugs or act recklessly there could be an enormous price to pay. But what about our seemingly common everyday interactions with others and how we go about our days?

If we drill down a little deeper, it becomes clear that human behavior has a cost.
Here are a few questions to think about:
  • Are you willing to take risks to build your career?
  • Are you willing to invest your time and money to create assets that will attract paying clients?
  • Are you willing to evaluate your efforts honestly?
  • Are you willing to acknowledge your behavior may be affecting your success?
  • Are you willing to change if what you are doing isn’t working?

Amateurs often assume that a career is there for the taking. Professionals understand that an investment must be made to see a return. 

Making good choices.

You can only get out of life what you are willing to put into it. The good news is that you have the ability to choose what you want out of your life and career.

We continually make choices. When contemplating making an investment in your career what makes us able to determine which choice would be the best choice to make? 

For some of us, choices are a result of considered deliberation. Other choices are a conditioned response.

For example: if you continually sabotage yourself there is a good chance that deep down you don’t believe you are worthy of success.  These choices reinforce what we believe about ourselves.

Another example is being on time. Tardiness is a control issue. If someone consistently keeps you waiting, it is a form of control over the relationship by saying “my time is worth more than yours”. 

Nevertheless, even if this was an unconscious choice, a choice was made.

And what would be the cost of this choice?  Are you willing to waste your time? Would your client be willing to waste their time waiting for you?

Nothing in life is free.

In every choice we make there are costs-even if they aren't apparent at first glance.

If you are committed to being a professional and choosing to invest your time, money and reputation, be sure you are aware of the both the obvious and subliminal costs associated with your actions.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

If I build it... I sure hope they'll come!

So many of us buy into the myth: “if we build it…they will come.” That is a romantic notion that is rarely, if ever, fulfilled.

 As creators, (musicians, composers, filmmakers, artists, etc.) we spend our lives honing our craft, digging into every detail, leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to improve our creative abilities. 

Why don't we dedicate an equal or greater amount of time learning how to sell and promote ourselves?

It’s because we are uncomfortable. If you haven’t seen the success you desire in the music business would it be fair to say that you haven’t invested the time and effort in understanding what selling is let alone thinking of ourselves as a business?

If you were in the position of hiring you and you listened to your pitch would you hire you?

If you are stuck, where do you start?

Where do you focus our attention? What assets do you need to build before we begin?

Selling is not voodoo. It is a skill that can be learned. Why not invest the same amount of effort into selling as you do in your art?

It is common for creatives to say: “I’m an artist. I do my art. I don’t sell”.

That’s fine if your goal is to stay in your basement and never make a living from your creative work.

The professional will invest time and money into their art/business because they know that investing in assets (you) will give them an edge.

It’s not free. No one will do it for you!

“If you don’t value yourself…no one else will”.

Ask yourself: am I willing to work for it? Can I step outside my comfort zone and acquire the skills necessary to become a professional? If your answer is anything but yes then you have a problem. A solvable problem...but a problem nonetheless.

Artistry in music comes after years of study and practice. Why would you assume that selling your products or services requires less?

Make the commitment. Put your fears aside and get to work. Just like practicing- the more you do the better you'll get.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Amateur or Professional?

Webster defines “business” as a purposeful activity. If we are purposefully in the act of creating art, we are by definition in the business of making art. Where so many of us struggle is imagining ourselves as more than artists. We are, in fact, businesspeople but either we have been conditioned to believe it is somehow beneath the artist or, it is so far out of our comfort zone that is impossible to conceive that we could be more than the act that fuels our creativity.

Business can seem like a foreign language. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

It is only a mystery of we prefer to isolate ourselves in our ignorance.

Moving beyond being an amateur is to accept that business (which includes branding and marketing) is an integral part of our existence as a freelance or independent artist.

Becoming a professional artist requires making a commitment to being accountability for ALL aspects of our lives and our careers.

It requires making the active choice to understand the how’s, the why’s the where’s of making your product exceptional as well as the sales and marketing of our product.

It’s our responsibility.

If we delegate this responsibility, then we are at the mercy of others. And as we move towards a society run by robots and artificial intelligence being a spoke in someone else’s wheel is becoming less and less of a viable option.

Is it easy? No. Is it hard? Yes. The choice is yours.

Read "What's Your Story" to begin your branding process.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Entitlement vs. Gratitude

For most of us, our expectations about what life will bring us are formed in childhood. If you show up in youth sports, you get a trophy. If you pick the correct multiple-choice questions, you will get a good grade. If you behave in a particular way, you will get the desired result. Well-meaning adults unconsciously fill children with these thoughts throughout their lives. 

To paraphrase TV psychologist Dr. Phil: “how’s that working for you?”

The truth is no one is guaranteed anything in life. Just because you “desire something” doesn’t mean you are “entitled” to have it regardless of the how often this idea is reinforced.

Does this prepare you for the inevitable rejection you will encounter in life?

Holding on to conditioned responses will be like having an invisible anchor around your neck. Your view will be skewed unknowingly affecting your performance. 

We can only put forth the best work we can do at the time. We cannot control the outcome. So why do we let our expectations get in the way?

"Give without expectation - be grateful for the result"- Quincy Jones

You’ve done your best. The outcome is out of your hands.  You have little choice but to accept the result or become defensive, bitter or worse which will have negative consequences.

If you fail to receive the reward you feel “entitled” to it is time to go back to the mirror and ask yourself: "was there anything else I could have done?  How can I improve my  performance?

Focus on creating joy - not wealth.

Joy will come from the act of doing, the value you create- not in what you will receive in return.

Joy is contagious. Joy is attractive. It is easy to say yes to joy. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Talent and Opportunity Abound - [Guest Blog]

Reflections on and Observations from the 2016 Canes Film Festival
Anik Bhattacharya 

            A few days ago I had been requested by Chris Boardman to jot down some thoughts regarding my experience at the 2016 Canes Film Festival, which took place from Apr. 29 - May 1st at the University of Miami’s Cosford Cinema, including screenings of original shorts and short documentaries by both undergraduate and graduate students here at the University’s film school. I had the honor of writing the score for one of these films, and had the chance to see the final product at the screening on Sunday, May 1st, along with eight other such films - specifically, the third-year graduate thesis shorts - on display at that same screening. We often don’t hear a lot about the work happening at the film school, so these events are an eye-opening look into the unbelievable level of talent and creativity that the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media currently has to offer, and the superb opportunities which exist for collaboration between some of the student filmmakers there and the talented folks at the Media Writing and Production Department here at the Frost School. To give you a short glimpse into that experience, I thought I’d go into some detail experiencing some of the highlights from Sunday’s screening.

            I composed an original score for Shane Kinsler’s thesis film, A New Beat, a short, lively little tale about Julius, a geriatric heart transplant recipient who, much to the chagrin of his family, begins to exhibit the personality of his dead millennial donor - from his sudden urge to consume pizzas as well the music of Wu-Tang Clan. Things become significantly more complicated when Julius develops an affinity for the old flame of the dead donor, and has to come to terms with and control this strange, supernatural phenomena, the origins of which even he himself cannot explain. The score demanded several inklings of hip-hop here and there, and the film was therefore in part a collaboration with a local artist, who helped compose some of the original hip-hop tracks featured in the film. Perhaps the most appropriate is the upbeat, jazzy, and soulful groove which accompanies Julius as he undertakes his first “rap battle” in one of the later scenes. For the remainder of the score I concentrated on creating a series of electronic textures, whose thickness, thinness, softness, shrillness, darkness, hollowness, or richness I could seamlessly transmute in order to reflect the flurry of emotions - anger, sadness, wonder, confusion, and others - which permeate the somewhat eerie and supernatural atmosphere that pervades throughout this film. For instance, Julius’ fixation on the girl, Gabriela, is represented by a high, somewhat shrill noise which coincides with the squinting of his eyes in an effort to, perhaps, “see beyond” into some other dimension, evoking some sense that two individuals are connected together on a level which transcends the merely physical. Rather than use a purely musical leitmotif to that end, I decided a more “otherworldly” (for the lack of a better term) electronic texture was far more appropriate.

            The film itself was very well-received, and was quite possibly the most unique of all the stories featured in the showcase. As for the other entries, I should mention that six of the nine films this year were directed by Chinese students, some of whom even managed to conduct some shooting all the way overseas in China! How they secured the budget for that undertaking, of course, was the subject of some very interesting discussions I had with the directors afterward. The first of these was a rather somber, gloomy, and matter-of-fact film which featured absolutely no music, entitled Kao Shi, and directed by Zuxiang Zhao. The film is the story of a boy, Renming, about to embark on one of the toughest challenges in Chinese education: the college entrance exam. His tuition payments are jeopardized after his father is involved in an accident at his coal mine, but his professor, who has taken a liking to the boy, as a kind of “star student”, chooses not to reveal this to him in the midst of a grueling time of studying and cramming for the entrance exam. Instead, the professor, Chen Jun, decides in secret to personally bankroll the tuition, room and board, and even the food for his most promising student, without revealing his assistance to him. What seems like an innocuous feel-good story is punctuated by several rather poignant scenes, which reveal a struggle between meritocratic principles and nepotistic tendencies in modern Chinese society, as Chen Jun, struggling with guilt from his decision, attempts to drown his sorrow in alcohol, even getting into an argument with one of his colleagues in an effort to explain why he cannot simply guarantee entrance (to his preparatory school) to his own daughter, lest she decide to slack off on studying.

            Another such film which proved to be particularly memorable was Deer God, directed by Tomorrow Mingtian. The film has the feel of a documentary and is set somewhere in Heilongjiang or Nei Mongol province, where a historically nomadic ethnic group, the Oroqen, call home. Central to their way of life is the tradition of hunting, which, ever since the introduction of gunpowder, automobiles, and deforestation, has been significantly altered and endangered. Guan, a native of the steppes, wishes to bequeath his son and his family one last reminder of their native roots before the young family leaves for America, and sets out to hunt for some reindeer. Along the way we see a glimpse into Oroqen customs and an ancient way of life. Gaun finally sets his sights upon his quarry, but is intercepted by a group of poachers who shoot him in the shoulder as a warning to get off their turf. Defeated, he limps home, and sits silently next to his fireplace before the final scene shows the remains of his dead horse, also shot by the poachers as retaliation for his encroachment. The film itself is a masterwork of cinematography - some of the shots were captured from overhead drones, and are often accompanied by traditional Oroqen and Chinese music, diminishing the size and importance of the hunter to a speck among an ocean of snow, trees, dirt tracks, frozen landscapes, completely removing the viewer from the modern sights and sounds which characterize the village, and taking them back in time as Guan traverses the countryside. The score itself is just plain gorgeous, and ends with a heart-wrenchingly sad flute solo as we are shown the final remains of Guan’s horse. As it ends, we are left with a powerful message about the impact of reckless modernization and lack of oversight on the lifestyles and dignity of marginalized tribal groups.

            Last, but certainly not least, is Finding Buddha, directed by Zilong Liu, a film which nabbed a large chunk of the awards at the official ceremony which took place shortly after the screenings were complete. In this particular film, Eric, an affluent American businessman, leaves behind his wife and kids under the pretense of a “business trip” to come to China, seeking escape, refuge, and some kind of enlightenment at a Buddhist temple, where he hopes to find for himself a path to true happiness. Eric finds himself unable to follow the temple’s puritanical rules, and frequently sneaks out at night to go to local bars, where, after a first chance encounter, he meets often with his tour guide, a younger woman whose radio station jockey boyfriend rarely has any time for their relationship, is undergoing a similar crisis in her personal life, and the two form an unlikely friendship, exchanging stories and experiences from each other’s lives, and becoming each other’s therapists to a certain degree. The film seems to take on a certain path as the boyfriend of the young Chinese tour guide forgets their anniversary, and the crestfallen girl brings home the American to her apartment. Before what appears to be a moment of weakness for the two, the midnight show (which the radio jockey boyfriend is responsible for) begins, and he proceeds to propose to her on air. The film is a delightful set of sights, sounds, and colors carefully crafted to give a light-hearted look into a common trope (“Western socialite/tourist coming to Asia to seek enlightenment”) while preserving a sense of gravitas about the whole story. The score, composed by Chris Ryan, was my absolute favorite of the night, and included a mixture of orchestral and popular styles interspersed with a few inklings of Chinese instruments and melodies. As Eric finally comes to term with the fact that suffering is the ultimate source to enlightenment, and prepares to return back to his life in America, we are met with an excellent U2-esque ending score which accompanies his pensive taxi ride back to the airport.

            Premieres and screenings such as these offer insight into the level of quality of student works being undertaken at the University of Miami, and offers students a chance to locate and meet fellow creative persons with whom to pursue future collaborations, and the Sunday premiere left me beyond impressed. In speaking with some of the student filmmakers afterward, I learned that one student producer, Xinyue Chen, produced not one but two entire films - one, Finding Buddha, involved securing funding from a plethora of places to ensure that footage could be filmed with actors on set in Beijing, China. I was struck not only by the polished quality of the works showcased (some of these films were practically ready for Hollywood), but by the diversity and depth of the stories, a level of talent which I frankly didn’t even expect nor knew existed on campus! One of the directors jokingly admitted that were it not for assistance from one of the faculty members, who allowed a visiting actor to temporarily stay at his two-bedroom Miami apartment for ten days, his film simply could not have happened. I had the fortune of being able to speak at length and network with many of these talented minds, some of whom I hope I’ll have the chance to collaborate with in the future.

            Anik is a teaching assistant and graduate student at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, pursuing a M. Mus. in the Media Writing and Production program, and graduated with a B. Mus. in Music Composition at the University of Texas’ Butler School of Music in 2015. He is an emerging multimedia composer and performing artist with an avid interest in composing music for film, video games, and interactive media. For more about Anik go to: