Thursday, March 2, 2017

As an artist , I can only say that the current climate [political] in the U.S.A. is unlike anything I've ever seen. In response, I'll continue to let my music speak for me. Here are some lyrics from a new song that I recently wrote. If I were to make a protest sign, this is what it'd be. -MLM

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The 2016 political clown show fiasco

Where does one begin? Perhaps one word sums it all up...Trump! He's managed to unhinge the political process in America after nearly 300 years of existence. I'm to say, at the least, at a lost for words and have decided to let someone else speak for me. If interested in their take, please click here. (I wish all of those brave enough to run for political office good luck with the process. You'll need it!)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Show me the money

Normally I won't blog unless I really have a strong opinion about a topic. There is such an issue that I would like to address in the hopes that it brings light to a growing concern in our country. I speak to the subject of the wide disparity of income that exists in America. This is a relevant political issue, but also a culturally significant issue. We're all mostly aware of the continuing economic war that's being waged against the poor and middle class Americans. +President Obama's valiant fight to ensure that people can earn a decent "living wage" has seemingly fallen upon deaf ears on Capitol Hill. It is shameful that in the 21st century, there is such resentment to making an attempt to give those with a decided disadvantage financially a chance to improve their financial situation and ability to provide and care for their families. America has long since been the land of the "Haves and Have nots". But as the demographics and face of the nation continue to change, the once strong majority is now rapidly becoming the minority and it is time to effect Change! The battle between the Left and Right over "Takers vs. Makers" should be moot. Obviously we live in a capitalistic society and there will always be some who achieve more than others. I am not suggesting that the everyone should earn the same because that goes against the grain of our economic beliefs and fact of the matter, there are those who find themselves in a position more favorable than others whether it be as a result of working harder than the next person or simply by privelege. Regardless, no one who is capable of working in this country should be starving and considered the Working Poor. My real issue however, deals with the lack of importance and relevance given to the culture of the Arts in America. As a professional musician and former high school and college athlete, I am shocked and astonished at the amount of money that is earned by professional athletes. I do realize that an athlete's career, with the exception of professional golf, has a very short shelf life. I get it that is necessary for most athletes (and their agents) to earn as much money as possible because the odds of them playing forever is highly unlikely. Recently +Joe Flacco signed an $120 million contract with a guaranteed $52 million. Kudos to him and his agent. Because football, of all the pro sports, is the most dangerous and usually warrants the shortest of career span, it is necessary to get as much as you can. Flacco isn't the only one. There are countless others including +Alex Rodriguez who have maximized their earning potential. There will be many more to come in the near future as well. But here's my problem with the whole scenario...all of these sports are just that; a sport. How can we consciously allow sports to become more significant than Art? There is such an emphasis on sports that it's one of America's biggest industries. Again it goes back to capitalism and the fact that private owners are able to call their own shots with little or no government intervention or regulation. Gone are the days that we focus on developing a skilled labor force to manufacture products and goods. They've largely been replaced by robotic technology or outsourcing. A prime example is our car industry; it is a shell of what it used to be. While at the same time, we're dealing with schools in my state of California who are drastically reducing the budget and availability of Art programs for students. What's the message that we're sending to the present and next generations? Is it that all we care about is how fast a person can run, how high they can jump, how far they can hit a ball, or how far they can throw a ball? Our cultural values have shifted and not in the right direction. Art and the culture associated with it dates back to the early civilizations of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Yes, I am mindful that the Greeks started the Olympics, but they also placed a solid emphasis on the cultural arts. Like all great cultures and empires, they realized that the only thing that really will survive the test of time is Art. Whether it's the ancient hieroglyphics, pyramids, or sculptures that were created thousands of years ago, they have lasted over the course of time. Aside from a sports record, very few athletics can make that claim. Even in our modern history, the works of the great masters like +Mozart, +Beethoven, +Michelangelo, +Leonardo Da Vinci, and many others are still to this day considered cultural treasures. No disrepect to +Wilt Chamberlain, but I highly doubt that scoring the most points in a basketball game equates to a masterpiece of fine art. So why do focus so much money and attention on something [sports] that simply does not measure up to the higher standards that we place on Art? And as a result, why are the majority of musicians and artists so vastly underpaid as it relates to their sports counterparts? Is our value that much less than that of an athlete? Really? It boggles my mind when I hear stories of professional musicians having to "pay to play". We are fortunate to have a union, and as a former member, I realized that without it musicians truly would be "Starving Artists". Music and art are a part of our everyday life. Imagine turning on the TV and not hearing any type of music in your favorite television show, commercial, or movie. It would be like the silent film era all over again. Just as I typed the letters TV, I realized another part of the problem. Sports are highly marketable and as a result people like to tune in on TV and radio and this drives big business and corporate sponsorship. For some reason, the same doesn't seem to be quite true for all forms of music and art. As a jazz musician, one would think that in a country where the art form was created, it would receive it's highest acclaim and reward. That is hardly the case! If it weren't for the respect given to jazz artists abroad in countries like Japan, Russia, and France (to name a few), jazz might have gone the way of the dinosaurs. With the +NEA recently getting the news that as a result of sequester more than 7.3 million of it's requested funds are in jeopardy of being cut, the nightmare continues. This means less concert performances, art gallery exhibitions, classes and instruction for youth, and and overall decline in the artistic quality of life. No where did I see any mention of sports programs being cut. I'm sure the budget will have some affect on high school and college sports programs, but the last time I checked, those athletes aren't supposed to get paid. It is after all, a recreational sporting activity. Unlike the works that the NEA funds, artists who normally survive off grants are potentially in jeopardy of not having means to sustain themselves or their respective art forms. Do I have a solution? Perhaps? Much like the +Medici family of Italy, one of the great patrons of the Arts, we need more private support. It would be nice to see some of the owner's of some professional sports team get behind the cause and support the Arts on a bigger, national level. We are fortunate that charitable foundations such as +Doris Duke Foundation are staunch supporters of the Arts. But they can't do it all. Obviously we can't rely on the government to ensure the lasting survival of the Arts. If enough support can be garnered to influence our representatives to take action to right the cultural ship of America and pass legislation that guarantees funding for the arts will never decrease, but rather increase, then perhaps there is hope. But judging by the inability for Capitol Hill to find any common ground on the issues such as the budget and gun control, I'm not holding my breath for the passage of a Save the Arts bill anytime soon. But this is why I write, in the hopes that someone else will be in agreement with me and together we can eventually make CHANGE happen and reform our broken system. After all, it was +Mitt Romney (to paraphrase) who said, "Big Bird's gotta go." Recently a young drummer told me that although he loves playing music, he sees no way of making money in it; therefore, he's going to choose a different profession to pursue. That was quite disheartening and alarming. It would be a shame to see the efforts of great American pioneers like +Thelonius Monk, +Miles Davis, +Alvin Ailey, +Martha Graham, +Georgia O'Keeffe, +Jean-Michel Basquiat be for naught and that the next generation of pioneers not even have a chance to discover their talents because of the lack of funding for Art in schools and worse the reality that there is no money to be made in the pursuit of Art. If my words have stirred you, then by all means make some noise. April 9, 2013 is the annual +National Arts Advocacy Day. Take part and let your voice be heard.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

End Senseless Violence Now!

Sitting in my hotel room in Russia at 5:30 a.m., I awoke to news reports of yet another tragic shooting. A gunman entered an elementary school and killed either 27 or 28 people including himself. Twenty of the dead were children. That was all the news I needed to hear… Whether President Obama or the thousands of people on Facebook, sympathetic comments flowed and hearts went out to all the grieving families. But as I sat there thinking, all I was left with is, "Why?" It is hard to comprehend this senseless act of violence. This, like all of the other senseless shootings that occur, is happening far to often. After years of watching news reports about mass shootings throughout America, I can only ask when are we really going to stop this madness? I understand that it is impossible to control the actions of a few, but it is possible to limit their access to weapons of mass destruction. As a historian, I am dumbfounded that we have yet to learn our lessons from past mistakes. That is the point of history… to learn from what has happened and NOT let it repeat itself if possible. Some things are inevitable, but many things are avoidable. After watching the assignations of some of our leading political figures including President Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Minister Malcolm X, and the attempts on the life of President Ronald Reagan, one might think that gun control would be in full effect. But no! Not even the Brady Bill has been able to curb the violence. Instead it has gotten worst as assault rifles have been used to kill thousands of innocent people. Are we really at war with each other? The recent violence on college campuses including Va tech (twice), the Colorado Batman movie shooting, Columbine, the recent Oregon mall shooting, and now the Connecticut elementary school should prompt a new determined response to end the accessibility of semi-automatic weapons by civilians. Do you really need an assault rifle to go duck hunting? I think not. Of course a large part of the problem is the NRA lobby and the fact that guns are big business in America. It's clear America makes money off the sales of guns, but is it really worth it when the price is the life of innocent children? Can't we as a nation produce something else other than guns, bombs, drones, nuclear missiles, etc? What about creating and producing art? When was the last time you heard of art killing someone? I get it. it's big business in America, but is the price we pay really worth it? As the the world's leading supplier of guns, heavy artillery, and weapons of mass destruction, we are simply fueling the fires at home and abroad. Whether it's the undercover gun flow to cartels in Mexico or to the rebels in countries that we are at odds with their ruling parties, America must own that we are a big part of the problem. But it's not too late, we can be the solution! I am aware that the founding fathers granted us certain inalienable rights… including the right to bear arms, but they were using muskets. Back in the 18th century, it was a necessary evil to have a gun for self-protection. That made sense being strangers in a foreign land. But even then the use of guns was unjustified; considering the Native Americans, who ended up on the wrong end of the barrel more times than not, were using alternative means of defense. The Native Americans, part of my cultural heritage fought gun fire with bows and arrows until they realized that the bullet was stronger, faster, and more deadlier. Once they were able to obtain guns, they attempted to level the battlefield. Fast forward to the present. It is understandable that soldiers at times of war utilize guns and heavy artillery for protection and defense of their positions, but it is not understandable that a deranged, unstable person be allowed to walk into a gun store and purchase body armor and enough ammunition and weapons to take out a small militia. It's simply unfathomable and utterly ridiculous. How many more of these incidents must we endure before we put the pressure on our elected officials to make CHANGE happen? Too much talk and not enough action! Perhaps we should take drastic measures and close all of our schools and simply home school our children? At least parents will feel a bit more secure in the fact that their children might only fall harm to some household mishap such running into the edge of a coffee table or slipping on a floor. I am not advocating bubble wrapping our kids and sheltering them from everything that is potentially bad, but I am adamant that we reduce the possibility that they be put in harm's way. This goes for any innocent bystander! As a resident of Southern California, the level of random gang violence and senseless killings of non-gang related individuals seems to never end. It is unfortunate the number of lives that have been lost in random drive by shootings. It is even harder to comprehend a premeditated mass killing. The power lies within the hands of the U.S. Congress to do the right thing. It is apparently clear that too many politicians rare more concerned with the financial support and political favors they receive to affect change. My guess is that it will take an armed gunman to walk into the halls of Congress and starting killing them one by one before they get the message. Wasn't the shooting of representative Gabby Gifford enough of a wake up call? Obviously not! Until they stop talking about it, and make a concerted effort to enact real gun reform, the madness will just continue. By real gun reform, I mean remove all assault rifles from the market and prevent ALL civilians from obtaining any weapon type of semi-automatic or automatic weapons. Though I am personally against the use of guns, I understand that there are many people who may need a gun for self-protection. They should be allowed to obtain a handgun if they are deemed sane and capable of handling a without incident. My personal belief is that guns should only be used by the military at times of war. I am even hesitant to allow police the right to bear arms because often times, many of them use their weapons unwisely. If we as a society become "gun-free", there would be no need to bear arms. Perhaps I watched too many episodes of the Andy Griffith show when I was a kid, but that image of a sheriff who chose not to carry a gun and solve problems and disputes with alternative means impressed me. Unfortunately the U.S.A. in 2012 is not the U.S.A. in the 1955. Admittedly things have changed for the worst, but it is not to late to make our country a safer place for those who remain. Learn from the past so that our future will be better! If we don't act now, when will we act? It might be to late. The U.S. could make a huge statement by banning guns period. Other countries potentially would follow and our world as a whole might have a chance to survive. As I typed that last statement, my mind immediately thought perhaps that is part of the problem. Maybe that's really what is at stake in the New World Order? Maybe the violence is allowed to happen so that we can control our population numbers globally? That's a topic for another blog, but to that I say, "There has to be a better way." I am reminded of the scene in the movie "Friday" when John Witherspoon's character is counseling Ice Cube's character about the use of a gun. To paraphrase, he said, "Real men don't use guns to settle their disputes, they use their fists'". No truer words have been spoken! Before the invention of guns, people fought with their hands, use spears, knives, lead pipes, pick-axes, machetes, or baseball bats. I would much rather see us go back to those primal methods of self-defense than have to deal with the potential fallout of deadly gunplay. The problem also arises that guns too often end up in the hands of young children as well as the aforementioned deranged, lunatics. If proper measures are taken to ensure that only certain individuals in our society are deemed a "gun master', then at least the possibility of random mishaps may diminish. Otherwise we risk the lives of everyone, everywhere, at anytime. I strongly urge anyone who reads this piece, to contact your congressmen and women. Let your voice be heard! We must mobilize and use our power as a mass to override the greed of a few. Our lives and the lives of future generations are at state. It's hard enough to survive in life dealing with the struggles against Mother Nature (i.e. natural disasters), but it is incomprehensible that we allow a few to continually jeopardize our existence based on their non-sensible whims. If things don't change in America soon, it may be time to find a new place to call home. I don't live in fear of anything except God, but it is very unnerving to think that going to a mall or movie might be hazardous to your health. I understand why some people choose to order in groceries, home school their children, and have full entertainment units in house. Why take the chance of losing your life randomly and senselessly. Life is full of risks, but many can be avoided and some can be all together eliminated. Let's act now before it's too late!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Russian tour 2012

Russian tour 2012
We just landed in Moscow a few hours ago. I had a moment of deja vu, but it cleared quickly. It's nice to be back in this beautiful city with all of its stoic charm and cold weather. I miss the energy and magnificent art work and sculptures that are seemingly present on every corner. (And no, I don't mean the graffiti art either) Nothing like a 12 hour flight and 1n 1 1/2 hour bus ride to get your day going. Speaking of days, I'm not sure which day it is or how long my Wi-Fi access will work, but I do know we leave tomorrow for Siberia. Yes, I did type Siberia! The cold in Moscow doesn't even compare to the cold there. Oh well, that's the life of an entertainer... travelling to the furthest extremes to make people happy and share our gift and culture. We perform in the city of Yakutsk to get things started. I hope to continue tomorrow with more sights and sounds of Mother Russia. Until then, be well all! -mlm 12/2/12 Our first show in Yakutsk went well. We performed at the Yakutsk Republic Opera & Ballet Theatre. We had a sold out audience who gave us great energy and love. The warmth we felt on stage was comforting considering it was -57 F outside. Life up here in Siberia is very cold, but people survive and thrive. This city was founded in 1632. Hard to believe that it's been around for so long! Thank you to all the wonderful people we met and to all the crew and staf that assisted us. And we're off to the next destination... Ryazan. Ryazan was perhaps one of the oldest cities I've visited in Russia. Founded in 1062 AD. It still has a lot of old world charm. The show went fairly well despite a few technical glitches, but aside from that we were pleased! The audience also seemed to enjoy the performance as evidenced by the mob of fans we encountered as we tried to make a quick dash after the show to the train station. After a nine hour train ride, we pulled into Ulyanovsk for a show tonight. Ulyanovsk is on the Volga river. It is a very beautiful city with quite a bit happening for a seemingly remote spot. For miles, before you get to the city, all you see is beautiful countryside. If I am not mistaken, the city is named after Lenin. Ulyanovsk 's show had some major technical issues, but fortunately it was neither the dancers or me who were at fault! Sometimes, no matter how much you do during a tech rehearsal, things seem to get lost in translation come show time… Many thanks to the great audience in Ulyanovsk. It was a pleasure to make new friends and get to meet many of the fans. So glad you liked the show! Thank you for the mad Love!!!!!!!!!! We are back in Siberia again. Following our unprecedented 39 hour train ride, we are now on a 3 -4 hour bus ride headed to the city of Kurgan. We are in rolling in between the cities of Tyumen and Kurgan for the next 2 days. The train ride was quite daunting. We were only expecting to be on for 15 hours, but too our surprise, it ended up being a 2 day adventure. The planes, trains, and automobiles tour continues on. During the ride, we passed over the Ural mountains and rolled through some beautiful countryside. Some of the land lay seemingly untouched. Blanketed in snow, it truly is a winter paradise. It's still hard to believe that we have only done 3 shows in the first 7 days. We've logged so many hours on the road, one would think the tour is nearly over, but "Nyet", 10 more shows to go! Looking forward to getting some sleep and hopefully working all the kinks out for a great show in Kurgan and Tyumen... Ulyanovsk 's show had some major technical issues. Fortunately the audience was forgiving and enjoyed the energy and spirit of our performance! Sometimes, no matter how much you do during a tech rehearsal, things seem to get lost in translation come show time…We are back in Siberia again. Following our unprecedented 39 hour train ride, we are now on a 3 -4 hour bus ride headed to the city of Kurgan. We are in rolling in between the cities of Tyumen and Kurgan for the next 2 days. The train ride was quite daunting. We were only expecting to be on for 15 hours, but too our surprise, it ended up being a 2 day adventure. The planes, trains, and automobiles tour continues on. During the ride, we passed over the Ural mountains and rolled through some beautiful countryside. Some of the land lay seemingly untouched. Blanketed in snow, it truly is a winter paradise. It's still hard to believe that we have only done 3 shows in the first 7 days. We've logged so many hours on the road, one would think the tour is nearly over, but Nyet, 10 more shows to go! Looking forward to getting some sleep and hopefully working all the kinks out for a great show in Kurgan and Tyumen...Our Kurgan performance went very well! It was too cold to really enjoy many of the sites of the city, but the few that I saw will stay with me forever. We are now in Tyumen for a show tonight and then we head to Omsk. We have very little down time, but that is the way it should be on the road… The Tyumen show was fun. We're in the midst of a flurry of shows…5 shows in 5 days. Any performer knows that this is quite a daunting challenge especially when it involves finishing a show and hopping aboard a train or bus for a 3-10 hour journey to the next destination. Sleep when you can. But it's well worth it when you get to play in beautiful theaters for very appreciative audiences. Both Tyumen and Omsk were two of the nicer venues that we have performed in thus far. Not to mention the high quality of the crew and sound engineers. That always makes things nice! Though freezing cold outside, the warmth we feel inside from the audiences is genuine and loving. Is there any reason to wonder why I love performing abroad? Tomorrow we leave for Tomsk. In case you're curious, look it up on a map and you'll be amazed how far we are from home... but if only you could feel the COLD!!!!! Tomsk was a very interesting city. Aside from the -32C temperature outside, inside, it was a city full of warmth! The people there were especially warm and friendly. They truly enjoyed our performance and made us feel quite welcome. The city itself is very diverse. There are a couple of universities there which attract a lot of international students. I was impressed to see that there was a local jazz scene and quite a few jazz concerts regularly throughout the year. I hope to return with my ensemble. Unfortunately our stay was brief and we have moved on down the road to Kemerovo. Thank you to all whom we met in Tomsk for your hospitality. I am truly grateful to have come and performed in your fine city. Kemerovo was our last performance before a much needed and well deserved day off. The show went well with only a couple of hiccups. We were in and out and off to Barnaul so quickly that it was like a blur. Speaking of blur, that could describe our day off. It really was a travel day, but we were thankful to get some rest on the 7 hour bus ride. It waas nice to chill out for an evening, but again it was far to cold to really go out and see the town. Perhaps today I'll take in a few sights... The Barnaul show was almost a wash. By that I mean, my backline arrived very late and I thought I would not have any drums to play. Talk about an unexpected night off. Fortunately Andrey saved the day! Andrey is a young Russian drummer who brought his kit to the theatre so that the show could go on. He is also a drum maker who has started hand crafting drums. If you're in the market for some custom built Russian drums made with Siberian wood, please check him out. (Here's a fact, 1/3 of the world's timber comes from Siberia. That's one to grow on…) We have made it to the third and final week. Only 3 shows remain. We performed in Novokuznetsk last night to another sold out audience. The reception was very warm and gracious. Novokuznetsk is 1/2 of the twin cities. The other is Prokopyevsk. It is in the heart of the coal mine region. We stayed at a ski resort in a remote part of Prokopyevsk. It was very scenic, but also very cold. Along the way, our tour bus developed some problems and was forced out of action. We got a ride on a local city bus and the adventure really continued. Both cities are old and still display much of the typical Stalin style architecture. The theaters, also very old, are rustic, but could use some 21st century renovations and innovations. Tonight we hop on a train for 2 days and after our final performance in Surgut, we take a 3 day train ride back to Moscow and jet out of here… Back to warm, sunny Los Angeles. It's time to wrap this tour up and put a bow on it because Christmas is near.

Monday, March 26, 2012

This is madness!

"This is Madness!!!!!!!!" screams Umar Bin Hassan of the legendary group the Last Poets. His words still echo and linger in my brain. He uttered these words many years ago on the album release "Stolen Moments:Red Hot + cool. He speaks of many topics among which the atrocities suffered by Blacks in America! I speak of one in particular...Trayvon Martin. The senseless murder of this young Black man is seemingly yet another in the long line of slain Black youths across the USA . This nonsense goes back to the murder of Emmett Till! Is it an epidemic? Is it a sport? Perhaps it's the nouveaux chiche hip thing... metro negro hunting? Whatever it is, it needs to stop! Black on Black crime is bad enough! Yes, we must stop killing ourselves! But hunting down young un-armed teens is not a right and it's definitely not an option! Because of the familiarity of the case, I shall skip the details and speak more to
the core issue. Race is always the issue! No matter how look at it, it comes down to a non-Black man vs. a Black man; mono y mono. To paraphrase "Rodney King's infamous question, "Why can't we really just all get along?" Is it so difficult to let people be themselves and not give in to the stereotypically hyped fears that often seem to manifest themselves with the worst case scenario usually occurring. This is an excerpt from a recent NPR story. "According to a study released Monday by researchers at Northeastern University, The study showed that the number of black murder victims rose by more than 31 percent from 2000 to 2007. The number of murders involving young, black perpetrators rose by 43 percent over the same period, according to the study by criminal justice professors James Alan Fox and Marc Swatt. The report also noted that guns were the weapon of choice in most of the killings. Last year, 426 black males ages 14-17 died in gun crimes — 40 percent more than in 2000; nearly 1,000 young black males used guns to kill someone in 2007 — 38 percent higher than in 2000." These are statistics released by the F.B.I. for the year 2006: hate crime statistics •Offenders: Of the 7,330 known offenders, 58.6 percent were white and 20.6 percent were black. •Victims: A total of 9,652 victims were identified. More than half—52.0 percent—were targeted because of their race. It's quite clear, that young black men are being targeted by assortment of potential assailants. My question is, "Why?" Is this form of ethnic cleansing really necessary here too? It's unsettling to think that a group of people can be victimized for their style of dress,their diction and "Ebonic slang", their flamboyant & unabashedly, brash behavior at times. What else can it possibly be? If you're between the ages of 12-17, for the most part, unless one is extremely gifted, these beings haven't been on the planet long enough to make a stain on it. Unless the person has done some horribly, heinous act for which he must atone, then here is no reason to exterminate another's life. Last time I checked, the USA had a legal court system to handle most crimes and many other issues. There is never a need to ever take matters into our own hands. Yes, it is a primal response to want to seek justice or revenge, but that usually means that some type of harm was done to initiate the situation. In Trayvon's case, there is no such evidence to show that he did anything to provoke or elicit the type of life ending reaction from his alleged killer. In the end, I'm left with the words of Umar Bin Hassan, "Please Stop all this madness!"

Monday, May 9, 2011

New Music Release

New Marcus L. Miller 5-CD set Release: June 2011

Just in time for Black Music month, we are pleased to announce that Marcus recently completed his latest CD project Afrodisiac. It features music that showcases his inherent African feeling. It also has a couple of grooves to "get you in the mood."

The album will be available as part of a 5 CD compilation. This collection will showcase a myriad of rhythms and songs. The other featured albums include Sankofa, Sound Machine 2010 & Beyond, Hammer Brush & Bucket, and The Concert for a Green World. It is only available through this site. No itunes, cdbaby, etc... To order, please go to