Dec 04

Blues Brothers movie scene – recreated in Legos!!

This car chase scene from the original Blues Brothers movie was perfectly recreated in Legos – Awesome!!

This was created by a guy named Duncan at  So well done!!


Dec 04

The importance of writing in your music

Today, someone shared this wonderful blog post with me as I am known write a TON of notes in my own music as well as in the music of my private students. So, I wanted to re-post (share) this blog post on my website so that I would never forget this article and justify my actions to those who criticize me for the amount of lead that I add to the musical page ;-)  This is the original link to the post:


save the pigs

The Importance of Writing Notes in Your Music


by Dr. Noa Kageyama

I was in Bloomington, Indiana in March to buy some of the best donuts in the world do some workshops for the School of Music’s Project Jumpstart initiative (when you have a moment check out their cool workshop archive with videos and handouts of past workshops).

While I was there, I had the opportunity to meet Jeff Nelsen – a Canadian pig-farmer-raised amateur magician french horn player, whose name has often come up in conversations with students and professional musicians alike.

We met over chinese food and talked about music, psychology, the falling prices of computer hard drives, and the various forces that conspire to keep us from becoming the musicians and artists we have the potential to be.

In this post, Jeff shares a few of the strategies he and his students have utilized to propel themselves from good to great. Take it away, Jeff!


Enter Jeff

I watch very capable musicians obsess about the wrong things. Okay, maybe not the wrong things, but good things that, for them, are less important. Think for a moment about what your dream job might be. Now think about what you have to do to get that job.

Can you think of 5 things you could do right now, and consistently for the next 40 days, which would drastically improve your chances of being theperson that others are tripping over themselves to hire? If you can’t think of 5 things, keep thinking! If you want employment in the arts, you must be creative. We all want another lesson or another great book to read about our pursuit of excellence. (Yes, blogs are different! Keep reading blogs!! Especially Noa’s.) But I am positive that you know 5 things right now that you could be doing better and more consistently that would create massive positive results toward your goals.

So much of what we need to do to reach our dreams is about discipline rather than information. We are drowning in information, most of which is great stuff. We can’t do it all, but we can do more than we’re doing now. I think most musicians in university and beyond know what to do…or, at least, have heard about what they should be doing!

This is where the great separate from the good. It is not about hearing the good idea; it’s about acting consistently on those ideas. Most people are good at what they do. Good is what gets you into university. Recently I coached a student on some excerpts, and he didn’t have marks on his part. I am someone who aggressively urges people to mark their parts. I use a red pen. If you are not collecting what you’ve learned in the practice room, you are being Einstein-Insane!

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” -Albert Einstein

I told this student that when I see someone playing excerpts for an audition off of a clean part, I thank him for training so lamely. I think, “Thank you for getting out of my way and letting me get the gig!” This student went, “ohhhhh, ouch! Okay, I get it now!” Fast-forward to the next lesson…no markings on his parts, again. After teaching at IU full-time for the past 7 years, I am still shocked when I see this but sadly no longer surprised.

If your next big success won’t come from the next lesson from your hero, what is it? It’s all you. You can do this. You can do this right now, with what you know right now.

We learn in two ways. First, we learn new things…higher, louder, faster! And second, we learn how to be better at doing what we already know how to do…consistency! Imagine if your next audience saw you only nail everything you already know how to do. You still miss the high notes, but you succeed at doing everything you know how to do. (Please make sure “telling a compelling version of this piece” is always one of your performance goals!  You already know how to do this!) If you perform this way, your performance should be received very well.

It’s All You

This is often the hardest thing to do. To be disciplined in our pursuit of excellence is THE thing that separates the good from the great. It’s because:

“Good enough is the enemy of great.”

I had a student a few years ago named Mike Lombardi. He came into his lesson and played the first movement of the Gliere horn concerto. It was good. Just good….like last week, and the week before. I asked him, “Mike, how are we going to get you to do the work you reeeeeally need to be doing? I know you’re working hard, but you need to work well too!” He gave me an eager, “I’ll-do-it-next-week-I-promise” look. Then he asked me if we could write it out clearly for him so he could really do it this week.  I showed him a chart I gave him a few weeks earlier. We laughed about how another new system might not be the magic solution…that the way to “great” for him might not be another magic solution, no matter how good I was at magic!

jeff nelsenI then told him this story from my childhood. I was working at home on the pig farm. I was about 14 years old. The pipes that carried drinking water to the 1,000 hogs in the barn had broken down. I was trying to loosen a connector with a pipe wrench, but I couldn’t do it. My six-foot-six-inch tall dad walked up to me while I was working on it. I was straining away as he watched. Finally, I looked up at him and admitted, “I can’t get it.” He looked down at me and calmly replied, “Okay, good try. Let’s go eat!”

I responded, “But what about the pigs?” He smiled and replied, “They’ll die. C’mon, let’s go. I’m hungry.” I immediately grabbed the pipe wrench, pulled and groaned away as hard as I could and triumphantly forced the pipe loose. I proudly looked up at my dad, who just looked down and said in a totally unimpressed manner, “uh huh…” and walked away.

Mike left his lesson, and another week passed. After arriving for his lesson the next week, he began to play his Gliere. It truly was HIS Gliere Concerto! He completely blew my mind both musically and technically. Things magically clicked for him. I could barely sit still. When he stopped, I gave him a standing ovation. I asked, “What happened, Mike!!? What changed this week!!?” He signaled for me to come look at his music.

I walked over to him and looked at his part. In huge capital letters at the top of his part, he had written, “SAVE THE PIGS!!”

I guess there was one more magic solution that would work for him…and for you.

It’s all you.

About Jeff Nelsen

jeff nelsen with pigOne of the many pig-farm-raised, Canadian, magician horn players in the world, Jeff Nelsen has thrilled audiences and inspired students for over twenty years. So far he’s enjoyed touring with Canadian Brass (8 years), teaching and mentoring at Indiana University (7 years so far…), giving a TEDx Talk about Fearless Performance, playing on Broadway (2 full show runs), soloing on 5 continents, and performing with dozens of orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Chicago, and Boston Symphonies, and the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras. Jeff is also proud to be a magician member of “The Academy of the Magical Arts” at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, California.

Oct 20

Cheesy Potatoes – Cubed Party Potatoes


Sep 27

Blues Brothers filming sites – (then and now)

Blue BrothersBlues Brothers filming sites – revisited

This is a cool video done by some fans of the Blues Brothers original movie.  Well done guys!!

Oct 13

Corridor Cornhole supporting Solon music department

Solon Package

Solon Package

Purchase the “Solon Package” (boards and bags) and CC will donate $20 to the Solon Spotlight organization to support music programs in Solon, IA. Use the coupon code: SOLONMUSIC when checking out on our website:

Offer good through the end of this school year.

Apr 02

Cats vs. Dogs

Excerpts from a dog’s diary:

8:00 am – Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am – A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am – Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm – Milk bones! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm – Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm – Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm – Dinner! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm – Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm – Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm – Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Excerpts from a cat’s diary:

Day 983 of My Captivity

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates my capabilities. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a “good little hunter” I am. Bastards!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of “allergies.” I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow, but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released, and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird must be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now …

Nov 21

Olds and the Mobiles – ONE MORE TIME!

Olds & the Mobiles

Olds & the Mobiles

(pronounced: Mo-beelz) featuring the “Horns-A-Plenty”

This is a band I’ve been playing with since 1989! Over the years, we’ve rotated a bunch of players, but 3 original members still remain: Mike Reeve, Dolfi Kalm, and me.

That’s right… we’re playing again!




9-1 SATURDAY 11-26-11


Nov 20

Minnesota State University, Mankato

Emily Bransky signs a NLI to attend Minnesota State University, Mankato

Emily Bransky signs a NLI to attend Minnesota State University, Mankato

Our daughter, Emily, signed her National Letter of Intent to attend Minnesota State University, Mankato.  She is going there to study nursing and play softball for the Mavericks.

We visited the campus in September and were very impressed with the facilities, the dorms, the cafeterias, and everything about the school.  The campus is beautiful, the coaches are awesome, and the nursing department is top-notch.

Go Mavericks!

Nov 20

Eastern Iowa Brass Band Young Artists Competition

Calling all area high school and collegiate brass and percussion musicians! The Eastern Iowa Brass Band would like to invite YOU to audition for our very first Young Artists Competition! Details on our website:

May 15

2010 Iowa HS State Track Meet

Emily - 2008 We’re waiting on pins and needles for the cut-off times to be posted for the 2010 Iowa HS State Track Meet. Our daughter has a chance of qualifying in 2 events this year (200 Meter Dash and 400 Meter Dash). She ran her best times of the year at the district track meet and now we’re waiting for the state to post the results. For some unknown reason, they have the results for every other class posted, but not 2A! The results were originally going to be posted at 6pm today, now they’ve moved it to 7pm. As of this writing at 8pm, they 2A results are still not posted. According to the website, “There is a timing discrepancy in Class 2A. We are trying to get make sure the times are correct before we post anything. We appreciate your patience.”

Emily ran a 26.5 in the 200 Meter Dash and a 1:02.16 in the 400 Meter Dash. We ‘think’ those will be good enough to qualify. Those times would be good enough to qualify in each of the other three classes (4A, 3A, 1A).

More later!

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