I’ve now got 3 years left…

Originally posted May 3, 2013. Reposted here due to a mid-term update (see below).

Some of my compositions were recently submitted as materials for another Masters-level qualification which would permit me to teach higher education in the USA – something my experience and approach is well suited to. The application was not approved, and that hurt. When I shared the assessor’s report with my select circle, most of the reactions were along the lines of “These comments make no sense,” and “I haven’t got a clue what he’s on about.” One comment suggested how the assessor seemed to be looking for negative things to say and ended up saying the same thing about each piece that was submitted. There is no recourse to appeal the assessment, and therefore I particularly reveled in one friend’s description of the assessor as a “Schmuck” (all in good jest to lighten the weight I’d put on his career-jolting opinion.)

A colleague in the academic world seemed to corroborate but put it like this:

You have wonderful ideas and a sense of exploration. Maybe there is a voice in your head wondering if anyone will like what you are doing so you play it safe. As with any creative venture, safety does not result in efforts that fully show one’s capability. I also think you have been limited by [composing for] players with modest ability and so you have had to avoid writing anything that pushes the envelope too far. Break out of that. Quiet the voices of questioning that I can imagine are speaking to you and see what happens.

Wow! Nice! Thank you, G!


My action plan must be:

  • Something that doesn’t require seeking the participation of musicians I can’t afford or are of “modest ability.”
  • A project that doesn’t require coming to you with my hand out asking for funds.
  • Something with changing flavours, aromas and colors that last over a long period of time.
  • A project which produces results but is not dependent on what happens to them.
  • Something that can be created with the resources I already have, and that can be shared with you if you’re interested.


Major influences:

Heard of Chris Guillebeau? Several years ago he set himself the goal of visiting all the countries of the world by his 35th birthday. He just completed his quest ON his 35th birthday last month. 193 countries in less than 11 years. No-one else has ever accomplished it.

Most of Bach’s work, much of Mozart’s, Beethoven, Verdi, Poulenc, Vaughan Williams, Taverner, Part and a multitude of other composers have written music influenced by the Bible, including two of the most amazing pieces ever: the ultra-famous Messiah by Handel, and the incomparable Belshazzar’s Feast by William Walton (watch below). Even outlying members of the post-WWII British atheist movement, including composers such as Benjamin Britten and John Rutter, often turned to the Bible for source material. So why not me?


I recently heard a reading of Psalm 33 and it caught my attention. It is far from famous but its descriptive content is unique. There are many pieces of music in the world influenced by the psalms, but… all of them? Yes. Plenty. But that’s like asking if every country in the world has been visited. Until Chris G set his goal, no one person had visited every country in the world.

My Quest:

To advance my composition skills by writing 150 pieces of music based on each of the 150 psalms by my 50th birthday in 7 years’ time.

How on earth will that get done? I have a plan. [In fact, I’ve already started].

It’s going to be a fascinating journey! I hope you’ll stay the course with me.



Keep Calm and Stay The CourseUpdate Jan 8, 2014:
Project going VERY well! 13 completed and two more underway. In the meantime, I’ve adopted the hashtag #PsalmQuest to help organize my composition project. Spread the word! [Click it to tweet it]

Update Nov 24, 2014:
Due to my cloud server (including backups) being wiped clean by IXWebHosting in error, my first year update post no longer exists 🙁 But it was a good celebration. I’ve now completed 33 compositions but am spending most of my time rebuilding my websites at the moment.

Update Dec 30, 2015:
I am 1/3 of the way through this project. Woah! The year started out well and some interesting pieces I really look forward to hearing came into being. The end of the year was a bit of a struggle, though, with some family and personal health issues, so although 52 compositions have been completed, I am 4.5% behind schedule. Here’s to goal setting and catching up! Possibly even getting ahead 🙂

Update Nov 30, 2017:
My dad got sick. Real sick. Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP). It’s a very cruel disease there is currently no known cause or cure for. I’ve spent the better part of the last two+ years traveling back and forth between the USA and the UK caring for my parents and my own family simultaneously. Creative output has been somewhat limited in that time. So, as 2018 approaches and Dad no longer needs us to look after him, I need to adjust a few things in my composition schedule and maybe even move my target date a little: December 31, 2020 (as opposed to my 50th birthday on May 27th).


Tell me in the comments below how you’ve overcome adversity or a big disappointment. Did it spur you into action? Did you setup a project or quest? Did you move onto something completely different? I’d love to hear how you managed to move on with your life. Go on, add a comment, and then share this post so others can benefit, too:

Stephen P Brown's PsalmQuest Premium

What happened to our dreams?

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

Tomorrow I will be exploring the question “What happened to our dreams?” with Cathy Kersten, my guest on From The Podium.

If you’re not aware, From The Podium is my full-length podcast that I record live so that you can participate.

You can listen online at FromThePodium.Live, via Facebook, or via territorial radio in the West Tampa Bay area (WTAN, WZHR, WDCF).

One thing you may notice about tomorrow’s show is that Cathy isn’t a “traditional” classical musician, like so many classical music radio shows tend to limit themselves on.

You may remember a letter I wrote to you explaining the difference between Classical Music and classical music – read it here if you missed it – and tomorrow’s show highlights just another sub-type of the world’s best classical music.

Even if you don’t want to wake up at 8am Eastern to listen live and call in with your requests, questions, or just to have a chat with Cathy and me, you’ll be able to listen any time you wish over the next few months. Coz that’s how podcasts work: listen when it’s convenient for you.

But it’s more fun listening live 🙂

And be ready to share what happened to your dreams by calling the show on 855.782.0703 (USA only) at 8am on Saturday.

It’s the last of my four planned pilot shows.

(Unless you can help me find some advertisers or sponsors, then I could keep going next week, too, without a break!)

From The Podium – giving fans of classical music something to talk about.



True hotshots dive a lot deeper

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

For the past three months (12 weeks to be exact), I’ve written to you 55 times.

That’s a lot of writing!

But, you seem to appreciate it.

I know others do, too, because of the email responses I’ve been getting.

Open discussion is probably the easiest and most effective way we can bring good music back into people’s lives again (once our societal decision-makers hear so much about classical music, they will begin to consider it as they make their decisions), and I have loved reading the thoughts and comments you and other classical music fans have been sending me. Sometimes there have even been some rather intense discussions!

Which I enjoy.

As long as you feel inspired to continue these discussions with your own local circles of influence, then I’ve done my job. And you will soon see yourself accomplishing far more than you ever thought possible as a result.

Well, I figured that with all those letters there must be a lot of really good content I’ve shared with you, and I was right! I looked through all the responses I’ve received and identified those points that are near and dear to you as well as me, and decided to pursue things a little deeper for those who want to embark on a Performer-focused journey with me.

Don’t panic!

My daily letters to you will remain just as light, jovial, poking, thought-inspiring, conversation-starting as usual.

But if you would like to dive deeper, then let’s do that.

I’m working on the logistics right now, but here’s a starter for you: The first evuh issue of “Concert Hotshots.”

Download it here.


It’s packed with wonderful material, much of which will seem familiar to you. I actually took my most engaging and favorite letters from the past three months and compiled them into one resource you can keep for ever.

I suggest you don’t share it around, though – It’s going to become a resource to entice other fans of classical music to sign up for my daily letters. If you give this document away now, they’ll never have the opportunity to dive deeply into what makes concerts tick. You’ll be denying them the chance to become a Concert Hotshot themselves.

And that won’t be fair.

So, go ahead and read issue 001 for yourself now as I work out the technology to let you in the Concert Hotshot club, if you so desire.

Download your copy here:


Not enough concerts

Dear #classicalmusic fan

I don’t think there are enough concerts in the world.

I don’t think the classical music industry is setup to share live classical music with the world (the industry exists to make money).

And I certainly don’t think every single concert should consist of a full symphony orchestra and choir. Indeed, chamber music concerts can often be much more fun simply because of their intimacy with the audience!

Let’s begin listening more than just hearing, and watching more than just looking or seeing.

And, most importantly, let’s expand who we share live music with, and how often.

Whether you are a performer or audience member, you are a Fan: You appreciate there is more to music than just the music itself. You understand it is a momentary experience and a method for humans to communicate and process emotions in ways that words are simply unable to.

You recognize the only way to approach classical music is, in fact, to…

Go to a concert.


If you would like to experience one of my own concerts, specifically, check out when I have some public appearances. As the weather cools down for folk in the Northern Hemisphere, perhaps a quick trip to Florida isn’t out of the question! I’d love to see you.

Here are some upcoming concerts I’m involved with:



Take the stress out of watching

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

On the surface, there are things at concerts to watch.

Usually it’s the performers, but I also like keeping an eye on the folk around me to see how they are interacting with the music.

Or not.

To me, that’s a big clue of whether or not someone is experiencing the actual music itself, or they are there physically but not particularly engaged with the music.

When the mind is racing and someone is thinking about the day’s concerns, or the history of the piece, the soloist’s biography, the fifth chair violinist’s orange bow, I can almost guarantee you they are not “in” the musical moment. Only when someone allows their feelings to be affected by the music are they experiencing the actual music.

Otherwise, the performers are just providing a background soundtrack to a silent movie in your mind.

That’s also the difference between listening and hearing.

When you’re listening, you are actively focusing on what you hear, and your mind and body react to it simultaneously. If your mind is focused on other things, you can hear the music but you are not listening to it.

Be careful when you find yourself watching more than listening… you are not letting the music “speak” to you and you are not getting the most out of the concert.

Take the stress out of watching, by listening.


One of the biggest distractions that directly affect our ability to listen, is when music is amplified. Apart from organized sound deliberately created using electronic means, music was never intended to be shared via speakers, no matter how much they ‘support’ the live experience and keep everything ‘balanced’ for you.

Let’s talk about that.

It’s the Topic of the Day in my new podcast’s first episode.

Listen in this Saturday morning online, via Facebook Live, or if you are in the Tampa Bay area, any one of five FM or AM radio bandwidths.

And then call in and let’s talk about amplifying music.

Visit http://fromthepodium.live for details.


Why, oh why, oh why?

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

You may be wondering why I’m producing and hosting a new podcast about classical music.

Here are just a handful of reasons:

  • Classical music is far from dying (it now has more participants than ever before)
  • We all benefit from live classical music far more when we share it with others
  • We all know people who were not introduced to classical music at home or at school
  • We need an easy-access, user-friendly, cross-generational ‘tool’ to help us talk to each other
  • I am passionate about bringing good music to life

It has been proven time and again that classical music helps make the world a better, more peaceful, inclusive, safer place for all humans. I want to give you something to talk about with your neighbors, friends and colleagues that will bring us closer to that world.

Sign up now to get notified about the Topic of the Day in each episode:



And then this weekend…

What’s in my new podcast?

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

I’m hoping you’re really busy these days, because that’s GOOD NEWS FOR YOU!

It could also explain why you might not have gotten round to signing up yesterday to get notified about my new podcast episodes! (But if you did- well done you!)

I’m only teasing.

Sort of.

Anyway, if you didn’t sign up because you are not yet convinced that listening in for 53 minutes a week while you’re multi-tasking (driving, commuting, washing up, cooking, mowing the lawn…), then have a look at what each action-packed episode includes:

  • The Podium Interview (with a special guest)
  • The Podium Chat (when YOU get to call in and share your thoughts!)
  • Podium Requests (we’ll play your favorite piece of classical music)
  • Stephen’s Classical Rate N Slate (what’s good and what’s not about a specific piece of classical music)
  • The thought-provoking Topic of the Day

and of course…

  • Some of the world’s BEST classical music.

Tell me that sounds awesome!

…by signing up to get notified: