Buy or burn?- The reeds struggle continues

Got an email from a reader today:

Dear David,
Another Rigotti Gold tenor sax reed-user, sitting here with a stack of pretty useless (and spendy) new reeds.

Is there another brand of reeds you recommend, or does one just gamble on more Rigottis?

Do some retailers seem to have better Rigottis than others?

Ways you adjust so-so reeds?

David Kailin, Ph.D.

My response:

  I too am still using Rigotti reeds. Daniel Rigotti finally replied to the rant that I posted about his reeds a while back and admitted that his reeds are probably not aged as much as other brands. I still think that they are better than anything else out there, sad as that may be.

  I've found that the sizing has been pretty inconsistent on Rigotti reeds lately. Some boxes will be much harder and some will be too soft. If you buy a bunch of boxes at once I think you may get an entire batch that is too hard or too green. Sometimes it seems to me like Roberto's has better reeds than WWBW does, but I can't be sure. I gave up on this line of reasoning because the reeds were just too expensive not to buy from the best-priced retailer, whoever that happens to be at the time.

  Getting a bunch of shitty reeds is mighty depressing, so you might try just to not open the boxes as long as possible. This will give you the false sense of security that you still have good reeds in reserve, which may not help your saxophone playing, but it WILL make you a happier person. You think I'm joking?

  There are other brands of reeds that also use Rigotti cane that may work a little better for your particular setup. These other brands are Roberto's, François Louis, and Ishimori (Woodstone). All of these other brands are more expensive than Rigottis. I believe that the cane is pretty much exactly the same, but the cuts are a bit different. Roberto's tend to have less heart and François Louis reeds have more heart. The Ishimoris are just too damn expensive after shipping, so I haven't tried more than about three of them, which is not enough to make a judgment on them.

  I would try to move up or down a strength before you switch to other reeds, because when you go back out there and start using a shotgun approach to try out new brands you're just going to end up with an even bigger pile of kindling than you have in front of you right now.

  At least Roberto's has extended their Rigotti sale (at least until the end of the month):

Alto Sax - $19.99
Tenor Sax/Bass Clarinet - $26.25
Soprano Sax/Bb Clarinet - $15.99
Bari Sax - $32.99

  If I get a huge run of bad Rigottis I will try to buy from a different retailer on my next order. As far as I know you can only get Rigoittis from WWBW, Roberto's and Muncy Winds. There are a few more dealers for the François Louis brand. I just can't personally justify spending $20 dollars more per box on the François Louis reeds just for a slightly different cut.

  I think the problem with some of the Rigottis are the fact that they haven't been aged long enough, so don't throw them away if they don't work. Put them in a cool dry place and leave them for a while. I have so many boxes of bad old bad reeds in my furnace/storage room that it probably has become a fire hazard. Maybe someday one of them will work when you go through 500-700 of them in one sitting at some point in the distant future. Then that reed will have cost you about $1750. You can also try to sell the rejects to your students.

  I'm not a big reed adjuster, just a big reed complainer. I do work on my reeds in a very clumsy way with fine grade waterproof sandpaper. I first just work down at the vamp and a little on the rails. If that still doesn't work I'll sand furiously at that heart to punish the little piece of $hit and then smash the tip into my desk.

  It helps to see if you can make sure that the rails are balanced. To do this twist your mouthpiece about 20 degrees in one direction and then try to blow on it with your head perfectly level, so that only pressure is applied to one rail. Then do the same with the other side so you can judge if one side it harder than the other. Then sand down the harder rail until your test determines that both sides play the same.

  The other thing that I do is to add a double French cut to the Rigottis if they are too dead. You don't even need a real reed knife to do this, a sharp pocketknife will do. Score the bark of the reed just below the bottom of the vamp by rocking your knife back and forth across the reed with heavy pressure from your thumb. Then, with your knife at an angle that is closer to being parallel to the top of the reed, peel back the bark without taking too much cane off in the process. You can finish up by scraping the reed with your knife (or by using sandpaper) to smooth the area that you just cut the bark off from.

  That's the long answer. The short answer is that all reeds suck and if you play the saxophone and expect your reeds to play well you're pretty much screwed. You might as well get screwed by Rigotti and actually have some slight chance that once in a while you will actually find a good reed. Then again you could also just save yourself some time and heart ache by following these simple steps:

1. Just take a stack of US currency ($20 bills work well)
2. Cut the bills up into tiny pieces
3. Put the cut bills into a nice neat little pile
4. Light the pile on fire
One thing to keep in mind is that reeds do work better for kindling than dollar bills do. If the power ever goes out and you need to build a fire to keep warm you may be better off with bad reeds than $20 bills.

Good luck, DCV


Bill Evans - The Creative Process and Self-Teaching

An Interview with Fred Lipsius

DCV: You had just started teaching at Berklee when I was there in the late 80's. What has your experience of teaching at Berklee been like over the last 26 years?

FL:  I was recently on the phone with a Berklee teacher who just finished teaching his first semester at the college. We were discussing how it takes some time to settle in and really feel comfortable/confident as a teacher. For me, it was definitely 'strange' at the beginning, back in 1984, to be with a group of young adults and try to find ways to impart my knowledge, wisdom, and talents. At that time, I was still a bit shy, so it was hard to go beyond myself. I didn't have children of my own (and still don't) and felt a bit of a separation between my students and myself. But life teaches you better.

  As the years passed, I became more and more relaxed working with my students, caring about them on a deeper level than before. It wasn't just about doing my job, or a 'good' job, but more about serving others - my students. Something I've used in my classes over the years, is 'humor'. It helps keep the stress level low. I try to focus on students' positive musical traits rather than their negative ones. One harsh comment from your lips can really throw a student off course, while a compliment goes a long way! I want people to be relaxed in my classes so their creativity can flow as much as possible. For many years now, due to some serious high-end hearing loss, probably from playing with Blood, Sweat and Tears, I stopped teaching ensembles. It was just too loud for me. I had to get away from that and only teach classes without rhythm sections.

DCV: Has your style of teaching changed much over the years?

 FL: It's difficult to judge whether my teaching 'style' has changed a lot over my time at the college. I know that I've changed a lot 'as a person', besides the obvious thing of getting older. So that must have influenced my approach to teaching. I don't teach 'down' to my students. If they're ready, really want to know, and don't have the big EGO, I give them all that I have/know ('cause I don't really 'own' any of it)! The whole idea of teaching for me, is simply to pass along what you know - what you've learned - to others. And so the cycle goes...

DCV: The school itself has gone through a lot of changes as well, right?

FL: The enormous growth in the student population here a Berklee compared to years ago hasn't really effected the way I teach. But these days, everybody at the college uses and communicates with computers. I create music for various classes (jazz solos, reading exercises for labs, and sax sectional material) using Finale Notation system. I also have a "Jazz Improv 1 Workbook" which students have to get for my Level 1 Improv class. I teach some piano comping classes, plus "Element of Jazz Piano" - for Classical pianists who want to learn jazz. All the courses I currently teach are listed on my website: fredlipsius.com(see: ABOUT FRED; click on Teaching at Berklee).

DCV: Have the students themselves changed much?

 FL: I personally don't notice much difference in the current students at Berklee compared with those from years ago. Since I got away from teaching ensembles, the majority of woodwind students I teach don't have high ensemble ratings. I teach whoever I'm asked to teach. I have no problem with that. Sometimes, higher-level players have 'attitudes'! As always, I find most of the Berklee students are good kids. Life at Berklee is still fun!

DCV:  I had several ensembles with you when I was at Berklee. Even though the classes were mostly just playing classes you actually did have a big influence on me. Once in a while we would convince you to break out your tenor or play a little piano and when you did it was very exciting. It just seemed like there was a great rush of creativity that come out in your music. I spent a lot of time with your book 'The Complete Book on Creative Improvisation', which was published by Warner Brothers. Sadly, that book is out of print and not even used copies are available on Amazon. You deal with motivic development in great detail in that book. Not many Jazz teachers deal with this important topic. Were you first introduced to this way of improvising by Herb Pomeroy when you took classes with him as a Berklee student?

FL:  No. The only time Herb stopped me (or another class member) from soloing in his small group ensemble (1961), is when we got 'hung up' improvising over a single chord or few chord changes at a particular spot. We'd work on that for a minute... But I don't remember what he said to 'help' us overcome these 'stumbling blocks'! I don't recall him mentioning 'chord scales' at all. I simply don't remember. FYI: In the future, I'm planning to do on-line teaching from my book, "The Complete Book On Creative Improvisation". People will, of course, pay for the lessons. It's quite an undertaking, since there's so much info and licks, etc. in my book!

DCV: Please be sure to let me know when you get that together. Do you consciously think about motivic development when you are improvising, or is it just ingrained in your playing by now?

FL:  If I had a choice (and I don't think I do), the highest or purist level of improvising, for me, would be the totally 'inspired' kind, where I'm not thinking or mentalizing about the music (including which 'devices' I'm using or not using). I'm simply allowing the ideas to flow out from me freely, organically and uncontrived. That way, I'm like a child in 'wonder' of it all. But on the other hand, since I've written a number of books on improv and have taught at Berklee for 25 years, there are many moments in my soloing that I am 'aware' of developing/ shaping my lines/ideas - using motivic development. I don't think this kind of improvising is really contrived, but maybe just more mental than the first way mentioned. I can't control which way I end up creating my solos...the bottom line is, whichever way(s) I do it, I always try to play 'from the heart', or I'd rather not play a note. With really good players, certain licks (even if they're repeated a lot) are simply a part of who they are. It's pretty rare to hear a player not repeat themselves!

  The motivic development in my improvising comes from many sources/influences (both consciously and unconsciously). 
  • Firstly: listening to both classical music (which is based on motifs) and standard tunes - like "Over the Rainbow", "Autumn Leaves", "If I Should Lose You", etc. whose wonderful melodies all are based on simple motifs. When I was about 14, I played/jammed on standard tunes with a friend - we both played clarinet. I had my own leather bound Bb Fakebook of about 100 tunes that I copied out in ink with the chords above in colored pencil. One of us would play the melody while the other played a simple background or counter-line, usually based around the root or another chord tone. I feel that one of the things sorely lacking in many really good younger players/ improvisers, is they don't know a lot of standard tunes, which would naturally introduce them to motivic development. Molding motifs -creating/building something from a simple idea - in one's improvising, shows some musical 'intelligence' or 'depth'. Standard tunes contain great, beautiful, lyrical melodies that hit people's hearts in a very significant way! Like my sax teacher, Bill Shiner, from the Bronx (who taught Stan Getz) used to say: "Let's hear what you got to say!" There should be some 'substance' there, rather than rambling on with lots of notes/technique but not really saying anything meaningful - not telling a story. Of course, this is all subjective, but when one has listened to and studied the masters, they can hear the difference!
  • Secondly: Of course, Sonny Rollins and great players like him, use motifs; and I copied a lot of their licks as a kid. (But again, where do you think Sonny got his inspiration and the use of motifs from)? Not to negate his greatness...
  • Thirdly: Now that I've given 'thanks for the inspiration' and due respect to  the many classical and jazz music masters that have come before me, I'll add that use of motifs in my improvising also derived from my own years of jazz composing and arranging.

DCV:  It seems to me like there aren't a lot of players who play this way consciously. You mentioned Sonny Rollins, who is a true master of improvisational motivic development. I once read a great article that analyzed the motivic development in some of his classic solos. Who are some other players that really explore this way of playing?

FL: As a young teenager, I transcribed many, many solos or portions of solos by the great sax, trumpet, and piano players, and, recalling some of these solos now, found quite a bit of motivic development from Bird, Coltrane, Cannonball, McCoy Tyner, Oscar Peterson, plus many others... I think that the building/repetition of, or 'playing around' with an idea is a main musical device or ingredient that grabs people's attention or pulls them in. It's like a 'comfort zone' - something people are familiar with. You know, David, teaching is similar to this - it's all about 'repetition'. Only a few people 'get it' (learn the lesson) the first time. Most of us, including me, need a particular thing to be drummed into us many times before we understand it.

  A good teacher tries to get a point across from different angles, because each individual learns things in their own unique way. I don't believe that I was ever that obsessed with motivic development. I was just aware of it as 'one' of the basic 'devices' composers and improvisers use. I never thought of it as the most important approach to improvising, or that it even had to be used at all! I think it's absolutely possible to create a great solo without using it. Creativity holds out to each of us many possibilities.

DCV: How would you suggest that a student go about working on motivic development?

FL:  As I mentioned before, simply play lots of standard tunes and memorize the melodies. A sense of motivic development will naturally come about from this... Or take a motif from Bach, Chopin, or Debussy, etc. and try applying a device for improvisation such as sequences; augmentation; permutations (different sequences or rearrangements) of the notes; playing the notes backwards; changing the rhythm or duration of any/all notes; using the motif over any chosen chord type (making 'accidental' adjustments, if necessary, so the notes in the motif 'fit' that chord as either chord tones and/or  tensions (9th, 11th, 13th); plus more... But any of these 'devices' really need to be visually illustrated with good, creative, inspiring examples for students to derive the most benefit.

DCV: What are some of the other books you have written and where they can be purchased?

FL:  I currently have 3 books available: "Two-Five jazz Lines" (Ritor Music, in Japan) contains over 500 lines. Although not also translated into English (other than the Section titles), it still provides a wealth of excellent, melodic, fun-to-play jazz ideas to play through and absorb. My other 2 books come with CDs. They are: "Reading Key Jazz Rhythms", and my latest book, "Playing Through the Blues". Both of these books (published by Advance Music, in Germany) focus mainly on reading, and contain very melodic/catchy Jazz phrases. You can also use these books to improvise over the CD Play Along tracks. To purchase any of these 3 books and for more info about them, go to the MUSIC page of my fredlipsius.com site and click on "Books".

DCV: Thanks a lot for sending me a copy of your book/CD 'Playing Through the Blues'. I played through the entire book today with one of my students and it was great; nice rhythm section backing track, cool lines, really a lot of fun to play through. Are you still doing a lot of composing and arranging?

FL: I've only written a few original tunes (jazz/spiritual) in the last few years. I've been very absorbed in in creating and selling my digital art. I continue to arrange sax quartet and quintet charts for my Berklee sax sectionals. But I haven't been doing much outside arranging these days.

DCV:  It looks like you've been doing a lot of interesting digital art recently, when did you start and which programs do you use?

FL:  I started around around 2004. I only use Adobe Photoshop.

DCV: Are you printing them on canvas?

FL: Interesting that you asked that question! I recently had a few of my artwork printed on canvas, just to see if they looked good blown up BIG! They do! The largest one is 5' x 5'. I currently have one hanging in a top frame store in Boston. I'm selling it on consignment. This is something new for me, and feels very positive...

DCV:  I'm wondering about the relationship between your art and your music. Do you ever create art with a particular tune in mind or vice versa? 

FL:  No. Although, my webmaster friend, who I worked with over the last year and a half creating both my art site: fredlipsiusart.com and my newly designed fredlipsius.com website, came up with the idea to make an ART-MUSIC Video using artwork from my art site along with my musical piece "Rumi" (which is on my new CD, "Only love Exists"). I also have a 2nd ART-MUSIC video. Both of these can be viewed on my fredlipsius.com site in the ART section (click Art Videos).

DCV: Has working on digital art changed the way you think about the creative process at all?

FL: Yes, it added a different dimension. Here's what I wrote about this in my fredlipsiusart.com site (see Artist's Statement on the ABOUT FRED LIPSIUS page): 

"Producing this artwork has been a wonderful, creative awakening for me! It's been a whole new way of experiencing creativity apart from the way  I've known as a musician during my life. Not just my creativity, but experiencing the way the hand of God works in someone's life, using what they have, what they are, what they do, love, know and don't know, what they never thought they could accomplish, and especially, using what they are going through at particular times in their life - joy, pain or whatever else."

"For me, it all comes down to LOVE - opening your heart and allowing your talents to be used for what Divine Spirit is directing and desires you to do, for your own good as well as the good of all life! That way, everyone receives the benefits, in ways we don't even know. For all of this and more, I'm very grateful."

DCV: You seem to be fairly mystical in terms of your views on the creative process. Has your outlook changed over the years?

FL: Webster's dictionary defines 'mystical' as "spiritually symbolic". I've always being a seeker of truth, divine love and God - the spiritual side of life. It's taken me many years of joy and pain to reach deeper and deeper into who I truly am and what life is really about - the true purpose for our existence! I have many stories I could tell regarding my own spiritual transformation which, by the way, is an ongoing thing with all of us... there's simply no end. The creative imagination is one of the greatest gifts that each individual (or Soul) is given by the Creator. We can use it to either build or destroy. My life is about uplifting others, not the other way around.

  The creative process can be thought of as the endless 'moments' that we, as individuals, pass through during our lifetime here on planet Earth. In other words, it's about really 'living in the moment' - enjoying the gift of now. Each moment contains the potential for joyful, loving service to life, whether it's simply smiling at someone, cooking a meal, playing/creating music or art, or anything else!

DCV:  How would you suggest that students mentally/spiritually prepare to be creative?

FL: Some simple things:

  • 'Love' what you do.
  • Be sincerely 'thankful' that you're alive and have the ability to play, think, write and be creative.
  • Do the best you can each day, and try not to be too hard on yourself.
  • Don't try to push creativity. It doesn't always come in 5 minutes...allow it to happen naturally, in it's own time.
  • And most important (as far as I'm concerned), take a moment to go to that quiet place within yourself, and ask that what you create be 'for the good of all', not for the little self (your ego). That way, you've 'surrendered' or let go of trying to control or own the things you create!

DCV: Great advice. Can you tell me about your recent recordings?

FL:  My new CD "Only Love Exists" is now available on iTunes, CD baby and Amazon. This is original music that I've composed and performed (in different musical settings) over the last 30 years at Eckankar seminars around the USA. Most of the pieces came from personal experiences I've had in my nightly dreams, spiritual contemplations, plus revelations that I received. I played alto, tenor, clarinet plus spoke some poetry over my orchestrated backgrounds (mostly using Kurzweil K2000 and K2500 synthesizers). Also on the CD are two songs I wrote (music and words), sung by a friend with a heavenly voice. My sole purpose for sharing this music is to uplift, heal and bring some joy to people.

  My "Pure Classics" CD, also available on iTunes, CD baby and Amazon, was recorded some years ago. It contains a number of very well-known, beautiful melodies. I played all the parts - alto, tenor and piano, arranged and produced the CD. I improvise throughout the CD, but it's not your typical jazz album. Most of the tunes are slow... it's mellow music, pure from my heart.

DCV:  Have you been playing many gigs around Boston lately?

FL:  Just a little. I've been busy with my art showings and other projects.

DCV:  Do you miss playing in clubs more regularly?

FL: I definitely would like to be performing more, but not just clubs. I sat in with Blood Sweat and Tears in October of '09 , when they performed at Berklee College of Music. I played an alto solo on "God Bless the Child". Look for it in the Blood, Sweat and Tears page of my new website.

DCV:  Do you have a general teaching philosophy?

FL: I probably already covered this in answering some of your other questions! But I'll add a bit more...

Each student is totally unique! I let them know this. I really do care about them, and give them my best. I'm patient and encouraging, and try to communicate clearly/succinctly, and impart 'strong' musical examples that 'INSPIRE"!  Of course, each student has to take what I give them and run with it...

DCV: How do you get young players to get out of their heads in order to be more creative?

FL: That's a hard one! You really have to demonstrate something that excites or sparks their imagination, like me playing something on my horn, or the piano that knocks them out! But then, it must be explained or written out on the blackboard, so they can see/understand what I just 'did'. Then perhaps, have them try playing some of what I showed them. Sometimes, students seeing me in the act of being very creative acts as a catalyst for their creative pool. Bottom line is, some students will never be that creative, either because they don't put in the effort or it's not their main interest! I don't worry about this at all!

DCV: Who were your musical influences that sparked your own creativity?

FL: Bird, Sonny Stitt, and Cannonball on alto. Rollins and Coltrane on tenor. McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans, Erroll Garner plus more on piano. Although Classical music is not my first love, Debussy is my favorite composer. I love his orchestral colors, melodies, and great overall harmonic/melodic/rhythmic freedom. He goes wherever he wants. The Beatles were great - very different from anybody else with their tunes, arrangements and production.

DCV:  What about your artistic influences?

FL: Monet is my favorite artist. Interesting, I love Monet and Debussy. Both French and lived around the same time period! I really haven't spent much time at all studying art. But my dad drew and wrote poetry for a hobby his whole life. So my siblings and I saw him joyfully creating art all the time. He was totally into it - very inspired! He's one of the reasons I got into creating digital art a few years ago. But that's a bit of a story.

DCV:  Do you think that music students should be taught more about the
visual arts?

 FL: Great art, whatever the form, inspires the heart, mind and Soul.

DCV: Considering the current state of the music industry, what career advice would you offer students that are considering going to music school? 

(To watch a video of Fred playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow click here)

FL: The 'current' state of anything (including us human beings) in this physical universe is subject to 'change'. So if you want to study music, go for it (easy for me to say - I'm not paying)! We can't allow ourselves to be afraid of certain trends or ways of doing things, etc. Always follow your heart, whatever it is. When you grow old(er) and look back on your life, you don't want to say to yourself "I should have done this or followed this particular path." Just do it. Always do your best, and never give up on yourself! But do try to learn as much as you can musically. In other words, STAY OPEN. Don't have too many opinions. Be diverse - good at various things.

DCV: Who are the young players today that you like?

FL: I don't listen much these days.

DCV: What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?

FL:  Performing my music and selling my art worldwide! I'm preparing to do one-man Multi-Media shows featuring my art, music, poetry, and life stories. I'm been working toward this for quite a while now, and I'm feeling very positive about it, at age 66!!!. So we'll see where Spirit leads me...

DCV: Thank you for all the great answers Fred, and thanks for all of the inspiration! 

FL: Thanks for all the great questions!!!

Fred Lipsius - Connections
by Jim Sullivan

As Fred Lipsius, an associate professor in the Woodwind Department, looks back on his career, connecting with people both inside and outside of music has been the high point. In 1967 the saxophonist joined forces with keyboardist Al Kooper and guitarist Steve Katz to form Blood, Sweat & Tears, a band that is generally credited with bringing horn-driven jazz to the world of rock. The band scored nine gold records and Lipsius garnered a Grammy for his arrangement of the hit song "Spinning Wheel." But by 1971, Lipsius was ready for a new connection.

"I'd spent four and a half years with the band,'' says Lipsius over lunch at a Thai restaurant near his Brookline home. "I was young, and as happens in any band, things got very heavy at times. As wonderful as it was, I felt I needed to get away." The strain of being on the road as well as personal dynamics among the band members led to his decision to leave. "I'm sensitive, so all this was knocking the wind out of me," Lipsius says. "I felt like an old man, and I was only 26 or 27."

The Bronx-born Lipsius bought a parcel of land an hour north of New York and moved there with his first wife. He sought other gigs but found the transition harder than he expected. "After BS&T, I had a rough time," Lipsius says. "I wasn't a particularly good business person at the time and began seriously thinking about becoming a farmer. I owned two acres of property and a big tractor."
Lipsius, who was raised on a diet of Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Stitt, and Cannonball Adderley, ultimately decided against farming in favor of seeking work in New York's studios. It just took a while to make the right connections. "It was funny," Lipsius says. "I needed the work, but I guess people thought I had a mountain of gold after my success and that I didn't need to work."

Eventually, doors opened up to him. In his post-BS&T life, Lipsius played gigs with Al Foster, George Mraz, Larry Willis, former BS&T band mate Randy Brecker, and many more. He played on more than 30 albums as a sideman or leader and composed and arranged TV commercials and themes for CBS Television. He also went on tour with Simon and Garfunkel for the duo's 1982 reunion. The tour also enabled him to make perhaps the most important connection of his life. While in Osaka, Japan, with Simon and Garfunkel, Lipsius met his current wife, Setsuko.

In 1984, Lipsius joined the Berklee faculty, and he has spent the past 21 years instructing saxophone students, directing woodwind reading and improvisation labs, and teaching courses for the piano department. Along the way, he's written five books on jazz improvisation and reading jazz rhythms. Lipsius hadn't initially planned on making a long-term commitment to music education and Berklee. "I thought because I'd had success before, I'd be at Berklee for three years and then move on to other things. But I'm very comfortable teaching."

Making connections is something Lipsius stresses with his students, and he hails the advantages of being among a diverse group of musicians. "I tell them, 'You're so fortunate, whether you know it or not, to be around students from all over the world,'" Lipsius says. With his saxophone students, he stresses the importance of developing a good tone no matter what style of music they choose to play. Some of his former students who've gone on to establish great careers include Antonio Hart '91, Roy Hargrove '89, and Danilo Perez '88.

In addition to playing occasional concerts with other Berklee professors and releasing his solo CD Pure Classics last year, Lipsius has been connecting through music with patients at nursing homes and mental hospitals. "I started doing this two summers ago," Lipsius says. "I had previously done one for free in Brookline. About 40 people were wheeled in. I played the piano and spoke to them, and it was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. The music made a lot of these people happy.
"I met an 80-year-old Japanese woman there who when she was younger had played for the emperor of Japan. She started asking me questions between tunes, and we began to talk about jazz and other things in my life. The whole experience was heart opening for me.'' Since then, Lipsius has done about 60 similar performances playing piano and solo saxophone on tunes from the 1920s through the 1950s. "A fellow professor who performed with me at a few of these nursing homes said to me, 'Fred, I think you found your calling; you really know how to reach these people.'"

While these gigs aren't as spectacular as playing to throngs of screaming fans in a new city each night, a simpler, quieter life works just fine for Lipsius for now. Making a connection with an audience and his students through music is very satisfying for him.

His most significant connection, though, has been with his second wife, Setsuko. "She's a really big part of my life," says Lipsius. "We've been married for 21 years, and she's one of the reasons I don't feel a huge need to get out and gig more. It's simply a miracle to be with someone who loves you so much. Just walking down the street with her can give me as much enjoyment as playing."
-Jim Sullivan is a freelance music journalist who lives in the Boston area.  

I discovered these interesting articles on the Eckankar site:
Tips and Techniques for Dream Study
Soul Travel
The Light and Sound of God