Bullet Journaling

As part of a New Year’s Resolution, I decided to really give bullet journaling a try. I tried it a few years ago, but I didn’t stick with it. I am now going on four months of bullet journaling, and I have experienced a truly positive change in my time management, efficiency, and overall happiness. If you are wondering, “What is a bullet journal?” then  watch founder Ryder Carroll’s original methodology:

I pretty much use this same procedure, but the wonderful thing about bullet journals is that you can modify them in any way to suit your own needs. My method is a bit different since I also like to add some personal reflections in my daily posts. I am also somewhat artistic, so I enjoy making each post or spread beautiful. It’s basically an excuse to bust out my colored pencils, pens, and washi tape. Adult coloring books are apparently a thing now, so I don’t feel too silly.

My bullet journal has the following elements:

  1. An index that I continually update
  2. A key or legend
  3. A yearly spread of days/dates for reference
  4. Two 6 month spreads of important dates/events/holidays/birthdays/etc.
  5. “Collections” (lists) of the following: 2016 Goals, Reading List, Articles/Blog Ideas, Music Listening List, Music to Record and Arrange, Repertoire to Perform, etc.
  6. Monthly spreads
  7. Monthly trackers
  8. Daily logs
  9. Notes from master classes, books I’m reading, etc.

If you need some inspiration for how to begin or improve your bullet journal, then watch Kara Benz from Boho Berry. I’ve posted Kara’s bullet journal flip-through below. I have also found Kim Alvarez’s site Tiny Ray of Sunshine very helpful.

The majority of my bullet journal is the daily logging. I’ve experimented with different layouts and haven’t quite decided which way is my favorite. Sometimes I go day by day, which is nice because I’m not confined to a pre-determined amount of space. Sometimes I make a week’s worth of daily logs so that I can see the whole week at a glance and plan ahead. Each method has its pros and cons, and I like the ability to switch between different methods based on my weekly needs.

Another element of my bullet journal that I have been using more and more lately is the monthly tracker. At the beginning of every month I make a list of habits that I want to track. A few of mine this month are: hours of trombone practice, meditation, yoga, hydration, creative research, and reading. If you want to be proactive, you can plan ahead how many times a week you want to practice each habit; other habits may be daily. For example, practicing my trombone and hydrating my body with water (yes, I need to remind myself to drink water) are daily habits, but creative research might be something that I only schedule 3 times a week. I find that I am pretty good at tracking these habits during the week, but I often forget on the weekends.

I mentioned earlier that I have seen improvements in my time management, efficiency, and overall happiness. I like seeing what I have to do each day: the tasks I want to accomplish, and the small things that I might otherwise forget. I really like crossing off completed items– it makes me feel so productive! I enjoy making each post beautiful and exercising my creativity– there’s something meditative and calming about it. I enjoy feeling that my life is “somewhat” organized (especially right now since I am living in what feels like perpetual uncertainty). I also like flipping back through my bullet journal and remembering important life moments. For example, I know that we found out that we’re having a baby boy on Wednesday, January 20th (also, it was partly cloudy, and I practiced 3 hours). I guess what I like most about my bullet journal is that it is highly flexible and extremely personal.

As a music professor, I am realizing how beneficial a bullet journal could be to a music major (or any student, really). I will do a follow up post regarding bullet journaling for musicians.


The “Voice” of the Trombone

jessica d. butler

As trombonists, we often have to tap into repertories of other instruments in search of literature. Don’t get me wrong– I love trombone specific literature– there’s so much wonderful music out there, but I find it fun and challenging to branch out a bit.  Perhaps one of the most extensive repertories available is vocal music.  After all, the human voice may be considered the first music making “instrument.”

Most recently, I have stolen from Johannes Brahms’ Four Serious Songs and adapted them to trombone.  Now this is obviously not a new concept; many adaptations are available for trombone here.  Despite the many adaptations available, I have enjoyed working from the vocal (contralto) score.  One of the advantages of working from the vocal score is viewing the text. Fortunately, the version I am using contains German, English, and French text.

One disadvantage that trombonists will face, as opposed to…

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Southeast Trombone Symposium 2015


What a treat it was to visit Columbus State University this past June for the Southeast Trombone Symposium! Dr. Bradley Palmer has now hosted STS for 6 years. I attended the first STS in 2010 as a participant, and Chris and I performed in the Professor’s Choir in June. So much has changed over the last 6 years, but a lot has remained the same. Columbus, GA will always be one of my most favorite places– I have so many fond memories of the Schwob School of Music, my former professors and colleagues, and all of the music that I have had a chance to make and listen to in Legacy Hall.

Midwest Trombone & Euphonium Conference 2015

IMG_0088This post is long overdue, but I wanted to express my gratitude to Dr. Jemmie Robertson for hosting another fabulous MTEC conference at Eastern Illinois University (October 30th-November 1st). The featured guest artists were bass trombonist Randall Hawes from the Detroit Symphony and The American Trombone Quartet (Nathaniel Lee, Zsolt Szabo, Bill Mann, Jemmie Rombertson). I had the opportunity to perform with the MTEC PROfessors Choir again– a fabulous trombone choir made up of Midwestern college professors. In addition to the incredible concerts and recitals every night, Randal Hawes and Jemmie Robertson led the morning warm up sessions and college masterclasses. I was very excited to have a chance to conduct one of the mass trombone choirs; it’s amazing what the students were able to put together in a short amount of time! This year I had the opportunity to present my research on the chamber music theater works by composer William Osborne for trombonist Abbie Conant. I couldn’t have been more pleased by the crowd’s reception of my presentation. It is always a pleasure to share your passion with an open-minded and interested audience.


MTEC 2015

ITF & IWBC 2014

I had a wonderful time presenting at and attending both ITF and IWBC! Unfortunately, both conferences were at the same time, so I had to split my time between the two. It was great to be in Rochester and experience the famous Eastman School of Music. It was even better to see good friends and colleagues. I finally experienced Abbie Conant’s live performance of Street Scene for the Last Mad Soprano. This chamber music theater work left me feeling inspired by the beauty of Abbie’s trombone playing and singing. The subject matter of this piece is dark, though: subjugation of women in opera, violence against women, misogyny, etc. There were many times when I felt a tear in my eye or a chill down my spine. Good theater does that– makes you feel a sense of vulnerability as an audience member. It was an honor to present my lecture the next morning, especially with Abbie and Bill in the audience. IWBC was great, too. I saw some outstanding performances at Northern Kentucky University, and I had a really enthusiastic audience for my presentation. If anyone wants to download my PP presentation, I put the files under my “Projects” section of my site.  





2014 Summer Music Conference Lectures

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I am incredibly excited to present my doctoral research on William Osborne’s chamber music theater works for trombonist Abbie Conant at The International Trombone Festival and The International Women’s Brass Conference this summer. The ITF will be held at The Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. I am really looking forward to Abbie’s performance of Street Scene for the Last Mad Soprano on June 4th at 4:30 pm– my presentation will be the next morning at 9:00 am. The IWBC will be held at Northern Kentucky University (just outside of Cincinnati). I hate that I will miss the beginning of the conference, but my presentation will be the last day, June 8th at 9:00 am.

It may be hard to attend both conferences, but I would encourage all brass players to consider attending one of these summer conferences. I always learn so much and enjoy the various concerts and masterclasses. It’s also nice to catch up with old friends and meet new people. After all, the music world is small– we might as well get to know each other!