Thursday, March 26, 2009

ASTA in Atlanta

On March 18-22, The American String Teachers Association (ASTA) held their annual National Conference in Atlanta. I was pleased to attend the conference and present several educational sessions to both teachers and students that were involved with the conference and the National Orchestra Festival. I am happy to report that NS Design had a strong presence at the event and folks from all over the country are now aware of the Wav Violin and the buzz around the product is very strong!

First, The Electric Violin Shop ( had a booth that was prominently positioned right at the entrance to the exhibit hall for the conference. Every attendee had to walk right by their booth to enter the exhibits. They had the Wav, in all three colors, displayed front and center and everyone from students to teachers could try the instruments on fantastic amps and with cool effects processing. Additionally, all that checked out the instrument in the booth could register for a raffle at the end of the show where one person would receive a free wav. I know that generated a great deal of interest as well.

One of my sessions was entitled "Effective Effects." In this session, I really give a mini science lesson and discuss exactly what various common effects do and how the parameters work. I broke down the function of EQ, reverb, time based effects (chorus, flanger, and delay), filter effects (phase shifting, wah wah), distortion, and pitch shifters. The session was really well attended and I received super-positive feedback from many that attended. Throughout the session, I demonstrated all of the effects with my Wav violin. The instrument sounded fantastic and many remarked about it afterwards. Folks were amazed at the fantastic look as well as the economical price. All feedback was extremely positive. You can see more information on the effects processing seminar at

All in all, it was a fantastic conference and the Wav received some fantastic publicity. The instrument certainly speaks for itself. I couldn't be happier with the results and the response from the conference.



Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Dad and Role Model - David Laird

Yesterday, my hometown's local newspaper (The Indiana, PA Gazette) published this article about my father. He is, by far, the greatest role model in my life and the person that I most want to emulate in all that I do. This interview will provide a little bit of insight into the man that really shaped me in so many ways.

MONDAY Q&A: Retired superintendent looks back over years in education
David Laird
Published: Monday, March 16, 2009 2:41 PM EDT
EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. David Laird retired in 1997 after 39 years as a teacher and administrator, including 18 years as district superintendent in the Indiana Area School District. He recently spoke about his career with John Como, retired Gazette staff writer.

Question: Why did you decide on a career in education?

Answer: I was going to be a forest ranger. During my senior year of high school, some of my teachers suggested that I go to Pennsylvania State University to take a series of aptitude tests. I did that and the results of the tests showed that I had an interest in working with people. I had also been teaching some Sunday school classes. Teachers told me that I would be alone in the forest as a forest ranger and suggested that I go into social service, or being involved with people. A friend of mine, who wanted to be a math teacher, was going to Indiana State Teachers College (now Indiana University of Pennsylvania) for an interview and asked me to go with him. To be perfectly honest, I went with him because I thought it was a good way to get out of school for a day.

Question: So, how did your day out of school go?

Answer: My friend had an interview with Irene Russell, the head of the college's elementary education department. After she was done with him, she asked me what I was going to do. I told her about my experience at Penn State. She told me that some men were really needed in elementary education. She interviewed me after I showed some interest. I didn't make my mind up then, but the interview opened an avenue of thought that I hadn't had before. My folks had no money, but I had worked weekends and had some money saved.

Question: So, you decided to go to college?

Answer: Right out of high school, I got a job at Christy Park Steel Mill in McKeesport. I adapted well to the job and became a machine operator making $3 an hour that summer. Back then, that is what a lot of guys did, get out of school and go to the steel mills or coal mines. My teachers had encouraged me to go to college. When I told my uncle I was going to leave the steel mill and go to school to become a teacher, he told me to think about it twice because I was making good money. I started school at Indiana State Teachers College in September 1953 and became involved with the Army Reserves Officers Training Corps to help pay for my education. I adapted well to elementary education. I decided that was where I was heading. I became a hall counselor in the dormitories and, because of my involvement with the ROTC, I was offered a commission as lieutenant in the regular Army during my senior year. After deciding to become a teacher, I opted for six months of active duty in the Army and a total of eight years in the reserves after I graduated with a degree in elementary education in 1957.

Question: What made you decide to become a teacher?

Answer: I had done my student teaching my senior year at Horace Mann Elementary School and, because of my experience at the school and with Jack Kuhns, my supervisor, I decided to go into education. Waldo Johnson, the elementary principal in the Indiana School District, offered me a job, and the Indiana board hired me and then gave me a leave of absence so I could fulfill my six months of active military duty in the Army. I was discharged Jan. 31, 1958, and started teaching fifth grade Feb. 1 at Eisenhower Elementary School. The school board was very generous about military obligations and there was never any question about my leave of absence. I taught one and one-half years at Eisenhower and then became assistant principal and taught fifth grade for five years at Horace Mann.

Question: When did you decide to go into administration?

Answer: I started working on my master's degree in elementary education in 1958 and received it from IUP in 1962. I also began having aspirations to be an elementary principal and began taking evening classes at the University of Pittsburgh. I received a principal's certificate in 1963. I started looking for a change in 1965. At about the same time the federal Elementary-Secondary Education Act was passed. Paul Getts, superintendent of the school district, knew I was looking and made me federal programs coordinator in 1966-67. I wrote quite a few programs that brought a lot of federal money to the district. I also applied for money that was already allocated for the construction of the new high school at its current location in White Township. The money for the high school was allocated through the National Defense Education Act and I filed the paperwork to get the money released for the project.

Question: What kind of programs did you write?

Answer: Most of the programs involved remedial reading and math and summer programs. Money also was available for innovative programs during the time that the East Pike Elementary School was under construction. We also got a lot of money for planned continuous advancement that gave us a chance to try different things. Some things worked and some didn't. We implemented some of the programs while I was principal at East Pike in 1967. In 1968, I was named director of elementary education and Dr. Robert Martin, district superintendent, asked me to develop programs in all the elementary schools - East Pike, Horace Mann, Eisenhower and Ben Franklin. We tried to implement team-teaching and diversify. We did a lot of workshops and led the way for the team teaching concept. I also began taking evening courses at Pitt to get a doctorate degree and learned that I had to do a one-year residency on campus to complete a lot of course work. Dr. Martin made it possible for me to take a one-year sabbatical in 1970-71 and I decided to work on my doctorate at Penn State in State College. I finished my course work and dissertation and received my doctorate degree in June 1972. I received a doctorate in administration and a minor in labor relations. Hurricane Agnes hit Pennsylvania in June with major flooding all along the Susquehanna River and highways were closed in a lot of towns. At first, I couldn't get through Tyrone but I told my wife I was getting through to get my degree if I had to tie a boat on my car.

Question: When did you become superintendent of the district?

Answer: I continued as director of elementary education until I became assistant superintendent in 1974-75. Dr. Martin took a medical sabbatical in 1979-80 and I was named substitute superintendent. When he did not come back, I was elected superintendent in 1980-81. I was very fortunate because I rose through the ranks to become superintendent. I had a good understanding of the community and school district.

Question: What are some of the changes over the years that stand out?

Answer: The school district evolved into a big business. Indiana Borough built Horace Mann, Thaddeus and Eisenhower and the junior high (former high school). Ben Franklin and East Pike were built by a jointure of Armstrong and White townships and Shelocta Borough. The new high school was built by a joint board of the two townships and the two boroughs. Consolidation replaced three boards and created a big business. Another major change came when teachers were given the right to strike and be recognized as a bargaining unit. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, we also changed from independent contractors for school bus transportation services to one contractor. It was primarily an economic move that also enabled us to computerize and better control bus runs.

Question: What do you think you accomplished the most?

Answer: I tried to set a high standard for students and relationships among staff and parents to cooperate and work together. I tried to set a positive and moral example. I hope I was successful in setting a positive climate and role model for the community.

Question: Any advice for improving education?

Answer: The most important thing is for the home environment and the community to support the schools. People should not be critical but do their best to support the students to get the best education possible.

Dr. David H. Laird, at a glance...

Age: 73

Occupation: Retired Indiana Area School District superintendent

Residence: White Township

Family: Wife, Nancy; children, Julianne, Scott, Stephanie; and five grandchildren

Where I grew up: West Newton, Westmoreland County

Hobbies: Gardening, woodworking, fishing

Favorite foods: Seafood and steak

Food I refuse to eat: Squid and anchovies, or anything that looks like fish bait

Last book I read: ``Chesapeake,'' by James Michener

Pet peeve: Abuse of power at any level

People who most inspired me: Uncle Dave and Aunt Sarah Neth, who raised me and my brother, Bob, after our mother died when I was 5. And my fourth-grade teacher, who gave me a D instead of a C in math because she thought I could do better.

Something people don't know about me: When I was a senior in high school, I witnessed an accident involving my school bus and a train just before it got to my bus stop. Four people were killed and a lot were injured. That had a big impact on me, especially when driving, because I knew what could happen at any time.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Believer's New Record, "Gabriel"

Many of you know that back in the late 1980's and early 1990's, I was working extensively with a band called "Believer." My friend, Kurt Bachman, was a student of mine in 1987-88 during my first year of teaching and we became great friends and musical collaborators following his graduation from high school. Our last record, Dimensions was critically acclaimed and we had a great run. We all went our separate musical and personal directions after Dimensions had run its course and life went on. Of course we have all remained friends and stayed close over the years.

Now, Believer is back together and is releasing a new record on March 17. The new record is really cool. It includes a great deal very progressive stuff and isn't for the faint-hearted. I play on a couple of tracks (really just a cameo appearance) but I really think my old friends have done a great job with this one.

It is progressive thrash metal and, if you aren't used to that type of thing, it might catch you off guard. But, listen with an open mind. The rhythms are intricate. The production is magnificent. The technical achievements of the record are simply groundbreaking. This record will challenge you rhythmically, musically, lyrically, and intellectually. Are you ready?

Here is a solid review.

Look for it everywhere on March 17, 2009 on Metal Blade Records. I-tunes, Amazon, etc, etc. You'll be able to find it. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Checkout Believer's Myspace Page for some samples of their music. There are 2 tunes from the new record posted there. Right now, a song from the 1993 release, Dimensions, is also posted and I play at that end of that one.

I am proud of the boys in Believer. They have done a great job and I am so proud to be associated with them. I love all that they stand for. I hope you enjoy it!!


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Coda Joule Carbon Fiber Bow

Today, I want to say a few words about the new Coda Joule Bow.

I have been playing carbon fiber bows for the past 10 years or so. Initially, I was using them primarily with electric violins and had also used them off and on with my acoustic violin. I have used them for a variety of styles including classical, rock, jazz, bluegrass, and others.

I just picked up the new Coda Joule about 3 months ago and I must say, it is really fantastic! This bow has all kinds of guts for the big stuff that I play and all of the subtlety and nuance that is required for my classical playing. I have used it extensively with my electric and acoustic instruments on a variety of performances and rehearsals and have been uniformly impressed with it. It gets a a huge tone and is totally consistent from frog to tip.

Prior to getting the Joule, I had been known to use a viola bow from time to time with my electrics and on fiddle improv gigs. I just really liked the power and tone that it provided. Now that I have the Joule, that is totally off the table. The Joule meets that need completely.

I think that students often sacrifice getting a better bow in order to afford a little more of a violin when stepping up in instruments. The Joule is priced under $700.00 and could fit into a violin step up outfit very nicely. Trust me, it plays a lot better than $700.00! And, it will never limit your bowing capabilities. So, if you get a chance, give a Coda Joule a try. You be amazed at the playing experience.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Music tech geeks: check this out

Quick one today:
For my music technology friends, let me recommend that you head over to my friend, James Frankel's blog today and check out his example of and notes about a "mashup".
My Recording Technology students should find this interesting and exciting as another example of how you can get super-creative with pre-existing material.
This clip is called "The Mother of All Funk" and is simply fantastic.
Enjoy and then go try it for yourself!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


OK -
I am going to get on my soapbox for a minute. This post is primarily for my students.
Be honest. Don't skirt the truth. Sometimes it is difficult to own up to things. But,it always better to admit a mistake or an indiscretion than to lie your way around it. When you lie, you make little things big. When you get caught in a lie, you lose trust - for a long time.

I try to teach this to my children every day. Sure, once in a while you will disappoint those around you, but at least you still have your integrity and your word. That is way more valuable than saving face for a minute by lying.

I think that sometimes little white lies come out in the spur of the moment. They almost happen as a reflex. Fight that reflex. Because, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Honesty is the foundation of integrity. Honesty is the foundation of ethical behavior. Honesty is the foundation of character.

There must be hundreds of opportunities to lie every day. We can exaggerate our efforts, fudge on numbers, misrepresent our feelings, and the list goes on. Here is one thing that I know: When you are honest with people, you can sleep at night.

Have I perfected this? Absolutely not. But I try. And, I challenge you to try. Be honest. the respect that you will earn, far outweighs the short term embarrassment or consequence that you may avoid.

I will now step off my soapbox.