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December 19, 09

Our Debt-Free Anniversary

On December 18, 2007, we sent off the last check to pay off our Chase home equity loan. That marked the end of a 9 month journey and the last of our outstanding consumer/credit debt in the form of multiple credit cards, car loans, and the equity loan (which was supposed to "consolidate" a bunch of other loans like a flippin' shell game - HAH, NOT!), all of which totaled almost $55,000. To celebrate, we created a home video to pay tribute to Dave Ramsey, a popular radio and (now) TV talk show host whose financial "baby steps" were the main road map and inspiration to knock off these debts:



Fine and well, but we still had our mortgage hanging over our heads. Even with the freed up cash flow, I was initially expecting that it would still take another 7 or 8 years (or longer) to pay off our house. Well, thanks to some amazing promotions for Kyungmi (she became a full partner at her practice) and by sticking to our "rice and beans" barebones lifestyle, we actually accelerated our payoff schedule considerably. As of Oct. 7, 2009, the Sung family is officially, completely, absolutely, 100%,

Debt-Free - HOUSE AND EVERYTHING, BABY!!



Being "Dave" fans, our favorite radio/podcast episodes are the Debt-Free Fridays, when callers get an opportunity to celebrate by screaming on the air, "WEEEE'RE DEEEEEBT FREEEEEEE!!" Dave usually interviews the callers to learn how they paid off their debts, and frequently he likes to ask what the hardest part of getting started was. Kyungmi and I were reflecting on that question as we mulled over the reality of finally being on the "other side" of the debt mountain - if Dave asked me that, I'd have to say that the hardest part of getting started for me was actually believing that this was possible, and having the imagination to find creative answers to get out of our sea of red ink. I remember the very first time I tried making a written budget (on a Google spreadsheet), and how depressed I felt after seeing how badly our monthly expenses exceeded our income. It simply looked impossible at the time, which was even more frustrating seeing how our supposedly "great" income at the time was being completely nullified by our debts. We must've worked through that initial budget over a dozen times, looking for every scrap and thread to shave off of the expense column. Learning how to cut hair myself and cutting off cable tv completely were probably the more radical steps we took, as well as cutting off my gym membership and daily Starbucks runs. The first few months of "the plan" crawled by at a snail's pace financially-speaking, with barely a dent being made against our debt skyscraper, but once the "little debts" were knocked off, the increased cash flow started to make noticeable headway against the larger ones.

I'm still stunned and pinching myself to see if this is really happening to us - no debts? no mortgage? at ALL? and all this in just under 3 years??

Faith and Imagination: more powerful than talent or income to get you out of debt and on your way to becoming wealthy. So what are YOU waiting for? If we can do it, SO CAN YOU!!

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October 24, 09

"Clair de lune from Scratch" Webinar - streaming LIVE!

Video streaming by Ustream

You can send me Twitter messages by starting your tweets with "@pianoscratch" (without the quotes).

If you'd like to participate via chat, please go to this show's page at Ustream.tv.

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"Clair de lune from Scratch" Live Webinar Today!

Today at 1 pm EST (10 AM California time, 11 AM Colorado time, 6 PM London time), I'll be hosting the first live "Clair de lune from Scratch Webinar!" If you can watch YouTube videos, you can participate in the webinar, which will feature live, streaming video right from my piano studio at home. I'll be responding to questions via chat and twitter (http://twitter.com/pianoscratch) and answering others that have been posted on my YouTube channel and the PianoWorld.com forums.

To participate in the live webinar, visit my Ustream.tv channel at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/clair-de-lune-from-scratch. You can see a pre-recorded "practice take" below to give you an idea of how the video portion will work (i'll be using a much better front camera and some studio lighting to improve the picture quality).

See you at the webinar!!
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September 25, 09

41 is the new 21...i think...

As the calendar turns my biological clock past my 41st birthday, I'm not sure how many more of these "Benjamin Button" tales I'll be able to regale, but as long as I still have a few hairs on my balding head, I might as well enjoy them while they last:

  • About 2 months ago, Kyungmi and I took the boys in to the county office to have all of our passports renewed. The clerk looked at my wife and asked, "So these are your four boys?" We have three sons...Kyungmi was really, really peeved...

  • About a month ago, we had some visitors at Church. Following the worship service, Paul and I went to greet them and invite them to our fellowship meal downstairs. One of the ladies looked at us and asked if we were brothers. Paul (my oldest 15 year old son) and I shared a hearty laugh. To make matters worse, she said, "I thought the pastor was your father!" Um...the pastor is about the same age as I am...

  • A few days ago, a gentleman was going around the neighborhood asking for support for his upcoming marathon for Multiple Sclerosis. When I opened the door, he looked at me and asked if my mother or father was home. Next time, I promised Paul that I would call him over and call him, "Dad".


  • Sigh...i might just start dying my hair grey, this is getting ridiculous ;) No Trackbacks | Digg this Bookmark this post on del.icio.us. Submit this post on reddit.com. Submit this post on furl.net.l Bookmark this post on Google. Bookmark this post on Yahoo. Add this post to Technorati Favorites Add post text to Rojo Add this to Co.mments Add this post to Newsvine Add this post to Scuttle Add this post to Shadows Add this to Simpy Add this to Spurl Add this to Squidoo Add this to Stumbleupon

    September 24, 09

    Webinar Beta #1 for "Clair de lune from Scratch"



    What is a "webinar"? It's a semantic and functional mashup of the words "web" and "seminar" - simply put, a seminar on the web! The "Clair de lune from Scratch" YouTube video series has been garnering a LOT of attention and wonderful comments from folks all over the world. As terrific as the YouTube medium is, I'm limited to posting clips under 10 minutes at a time, forcing me to keep the lesson points short and right to the point (wait a minute...maybe that's a good thing...) The next step will be a series of "live" webinars to go more in depth into the piece and interact with students in realtime. With the webinar format, I'll be able to spend pretty much as much time as I want to help answer questions via email, posted video responses, realtime chat, and even passing the virtual camera to any participant with a webcam! How cool is that?

    I recorded the above webinar test last night. Keep in mind, I'm still working out the bugs, and learning how to manipulate 3 different cameras on the fly. I'm going to try to replace the front camera, for example, and definitely increase the volume of the lapel voice microphone to better match the piano mic. Feel free to post any other suggestions you may have in the comments below.

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    September 23, 09

    Microsoft's Courier Tablet PC 2?

    The 4" pair of multi-touch screens might be too small to read music practically, but this still looks like a very cool concept, if only for researching writing material for bloggers...

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    September 13, 09

    Clair de lune from Scratch: YouTube Piano Lessons for Beginners

    Piano pedagogy has taken a fascinating life online, most notably within the video juggernaut YouTube. While the vast majority of video lessons appear to range from homemade "how to's" for a few phrases from popular songs to samples for subscription lesson sites or DVD packages, one thing is clear: there is a huge demand for video instructions on how to play the piano.

    Can an absolute beginner use videos to learn to play a classical masterpiece with real music notation? That's the question we'd like to explore in this experimental new video lesson series, "Clair de lune from Scratch", where pianist Hugh Sung teaches Claude Debussy's masterpiece a measure at a time, combining cutting edge technologies with traditional piano pedagogy:







    Participants can submit questions or comments via YouTube's comment feature, or by joining the PianoWorld.com Adult Beginners Forum. A public domain version of the "Clair de lune" score is also available as a PDF or MusicReader file from the AirTurn Piano Solos Library. MusicReader makes it easy to draw digital ink markings on the music for effective study of the score - free demo versions of MusicReader for Mac and PC can be downloaded from http://airturn.com/musicreader/musicreader. No Trackbacks | Digg this Bookmark this post on del.icio.us. Submit this post on reddit.com. Submit this post on furl.net.l Bookmark this post on Google. Bookmark this post on Yahoo. Add this post to Technorati Favorites Add post text to Rojo Add this to Co.mments Add this post to Newsvine Add this post to Scuttle Add this post to Shadows Add this to Simpy Add this to Spurl Add this to Squidoo Add this to Stumbleupon

    May 14, 09

    "Nach Bach"

    Here's the second of 2 videos, featuring a new piece by Gary Schocker called "Nach Bach", based loosely on the J.S. Bach Sonata in A minor performed in the previous video. Sorry for the plain jane single angle shot, i accidentally forgot to turn on the 2nd camera before playing! Thank goodness this camera at least had the XLR microphone input...



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    Gary Schocker plays Bach

    Gary has been abundantly patient with me, waiting since February for this video to get edited and posted! This is actually the first of two videos, both performances being related to this Sonata in A minor by Bach for flute and keyboard:



    Enjoy!

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    May 05, 09

    Multiplicity: Making One Cello Sound like 16

    Found this on Wired yesterday, and I'm completely fascinated with how cellist Zoe Keating uses looping software and MIDI foot pedals to assemble these quasi-minimalistic compositions in realtime:



    Just twittered a "Bravo" to Ms. Keating - i guess I'm really late to the game, as her first of 2 self-produced albums came out back in 2004, but this is still inspiring stuff! Wonder if i can rig up my piano since i already have a house full of programmable pedals... ;) No Trackbacks | Digg this Bookmark this post on del.icio.us. Submit this post on reddit.com. Submit this post on furl.net.l Bookmark this post on Google. Bookmark this post on Yahoo. Add this post to Technorati Favorites Add post text to Rojo Add this to Co.mments Add this post to Newsvine Add this post to Scuttle Add this post to Shadows Add this to Simpy Add this to Spurl Add this to Squidoo Add this to Stumbleupon

    April 29, 09

    Before and After

    Here are two views of a video recorded for PianoDisc, talking about how MusicReader, AirTurn, and Sync-A-Vision all work so well together to create the ultimate music reading system for pianists.

    Before (shot with a handheld camcorder off to the side):


    After (shot with Hi-Def Canon pro-cameras):


    What a difference post production makes, eh? No Trackbacks | Digg this Bookmark this post on del.icio.us. Submit this post on reddit.com. Submit this post on furl.net.l Bookmark this post on Google. Bookmark this post on Yahoo. Add this post to Technorati Favorites Add post text to Rojo Add this to Co.mments Add this post to Newsvine Add this post to Scuttle Add this post to Shadows Add this to Simpy Add this to Spurl Add this to Squidoo Add this to Stumbleupon

    April 17, 09

    A Robotic Page Turner

    This device might have its useful applications, but sitting on top of a music rack is definitely not one of them:



    Funny, there was a teacher at the MTNA conference who was asking about a mechanical page turning device like this...i don't know about you, but this would give me cardiac conniptions if i ever had to use it to play anything faster than a Largo! No Trackbacks | Digg this Bookmark this post on del.icio.us. Submit this post on reddit.com. Submit this post on furl.net.l Bookmark this post on Google. Bookmark this post on Yahoo. Add this post to Technorati Favorites Add post text to Rojo Add this to Co.mments Add this post to Newsvine Add this post to Scuttle Add this post to Shadows Add this to Simpy Add this to Spurl Add this to Squidoo Add this to Stumbleupon

    April 07, 09

    The Exponential Musician in Boulder, Colorado

    Here's the latest announcement for my next Exponential Musician workshop coming up this Friday in Boulder, Colorado:

    The Entrepreneurship Center for Music at CU-Boulder would like to invite you to "The Exponential Musician", a special workshop featuring Pianist and Technology Advocate Hugh Sung on Friday, April 10, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the University of Colorado-Boulder, Imig Music Building C-191 (for directions via Google Maps, click here.)

    Hugh will be presenting and collaborating with other Boulder-based musicians in live demonstrations on various technologies that can exponentially enhance 3 primary areas of music: Pedagogy, Performance, and Practice.

    Exponential Pedagogy

    Hugh will demonstrate how using computers as music readers can exponentially improve the pedagogy of music. Using programs such as MusicReader and Audacity, you'll discover innovative ways to apply digital ink and audio/visual cues to dramatically improve the speed and quality of the study of music.

    Exponential Performance

    From hands-free wireless page turning systems to the inclusion of visual effects with the Visual Recital concept, you'll be exposed to innovative ideas to enhance stage presence, motivate your students, and engage today's audiences in new and thrilling ways!

    Exponential Practice

    It's never been easier or more affordable to leverage the power of the Internet to improve your musical practice and expand your teaching studio! From setting up free websites to creating new products for residual income with no money down, Hugh will share his expertise on Internet marketing to help create new opportunities for musicians in today's challenging economic climate. Hugh's blog at www.HughSung.com is dedicated to helping musicians adopt technologies to enhance their art and lifestyle, and is currently one of the most popular classical music blogs on the Internet.

    Admission

    Admission is free and open to the public. For more information contact SoYoung Lee, 303-828-0526 or soyoung@airturn.com

    About The Entrepreneurship Center for Music

    The Entrepreneurship Center for Music is a unique program that develops these attributes by providing additional training in communication, business, and technical skills, all within the context of a global music market. Offerings extend from condensed workshops to internships and courses for credit. From the basics of marketing to the application of talent and training, the goal is to foster an entrepreneurial spirit and skills that yield a competitive advantage.


    By the way, if you would like to host "The Exponential Musician" workshop at your school or music organization, or just have some questions about the workshops themselves, please email workshop@airturn.com. We're already receiving a number of requests, and we have a busy Spring schedule to finish up! Hope to see you at one of these workshops soon! No Trackbacks | Digg this Bookmark this post on del.icio.us. Submit this post on reddit.com. Submit this post on furl.net.l Bookmark this post on Google. Bookmark this post on Yahoo. Add this post to Technorati Favorites Add post text to Rojo Add this to Co.mments Add this post to Newsvine Add this post to Scuttle Add this post to Shadows Add this to Simpy Add this to Spurl Add this to Squidoo Add this to Stumbleupon

    April 02, 09

    Unpacking the MTNA 2009 Exhibitors' Convention

    While i didn't get a chance to participate in any of the main MTNA conference or panel discussion events, i still found the Exhibitors' Hall at the 2009 MTNA convention in Atlanta, GA to be a fascinating microcosm of the classical music industry.  My partners Lester and SoYoung were on hand from the first day, and i arrived a day later to help man the AirTurn booth.  This being my very first convention ever, i had absolutely no idea what to expect.  Lester reported that the initial day saw a good bit of foot traffic and some particularly encouraging signs, namely that a good number of folks already recognized who we were and what we were selling.  Of all the companies and products that he's worked on, the AirTurn seems to be achieving the fastest brand recognition so far among our target musician demographics. 

    Frazzled from only 2 hours of sleep the night before (had to be picked up at 3 am by the airport shuttle for a 5:30 departure) and a flight buffeted by nasty turbulence, it's a wonder i was able to speak in cohesive sentences, much less make a meaningful sales pitch!  I started out by handing out brochures and business cards, but then received a great tip from the jewelry vendors in the booth next to ours to ask for names and email addresses from booth visitors.  Lester calls this "pull marketing", enabling us to send info and promotions to our clients, as opposed to simply "pushing" our own brochures and hoping for a response that might never come.  Another great bit of advice from my jewelry friends was to try to write little notes about each client as reminders to make future communications more personal.

    Boy, some of those first clients were tough cookies!  One lady came over to see my demonstration of ink annotations in MusicReader.  I was showing her how easy it was to add digital ink stamps of music notation symbols with a mouse, and started by adding a flat next to a note.

    "No!" she practically screamed.  "Wrong!!"

    "Excuse me?"

    "Wrong!! You put the flat in the wrong place!!"
    I had no idea what she was talking about and took a closer look at the stamp i had just made:

    flat1 

    I tried to explain that it was easy to erase digital notations and redraw them, and did so like this:

    flat2

    "No! No! No! That's completely wrong!" she wailed.  Business lesson #1 insists that the customer is always right, so i erased the offending accidental and gave it another go:

    flat3

    Finally, she exclaimed, "Yes!  Now that's correct!"  My goodness, i thought she was going to have an aneurism and pop a vessel from her forehead!  "You must understand", she insisted, "I have photographic memory!  PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY! I see everything and remember every detail!  If you write it wrong, I can't get it out of my head!!" She brought her hands to her eyes as if to shield them from some visual monstrosity invading her periphery. 

    Ooookaaaayy.....moving right along...

    Another woman came along and gave a critical squint as i tried to explain the various viewing options with MusicReader - double page views, intelligent half-page views that zoomed the music without cutting staves off, etc.  She looked dourly at my 15 inch HP laptop screen and asked, "Is that the only color for reading the music?"

    "Excuse me?" 

    "You know - does the music only come in that shade of white?"

    Now she had me completely lost.  Assuming i've been reading music for about 37 years or so, I'm pretty sure that most music is supposed to be printed as black ink on white paper, unless i've been horribly color blind all these years...

    "Well, it's just that I prefer reading music printed on ivory paper.  That shade of white is just too bright.  And what about an option to have the paper black and the notes white?"

    We certainly want to listen to our customers and take their suggestions into account.  I suppose adding a feature to change the background color of music scores shouldn't be too difficult to implement - it's just pretty remarkable to come across such creative suggestions!

    Here are some pictures from our booth setup.  I'm really pleased with how our banners came out, if i may say so myself!

    The second day was much better in terms of customer traffic.  Booth visitors seemed much more enthusiastic about the AirTurn/MusicReader concepts.  There were a lot of returning folks bringing friends to show off the AirTurn to them.  Several fellow exhibitors stopped by to discuss possible partnerships, and there was plenty of interest in the Exponential Workshop concept as well - in fact, i may be returning to Atlanta in the fall to do a series of workshops for several music organizations and schools in the area. 

    I didn't get much of a chance to see the rest of the exhibitors in detail, but it was quite a menagerie of pianos, digital keyboards, music board games, DVD and computer pedagogy courses, musical accessories, and of course tons and tons of sheet music (the paper kind, naturally).  One enlightening aspect was seeing which vendors were able to present clear, concise messages communicating who they were, what they offered, and what value they brought to the customer. 

    More to write, but i think the lack of sleep is catching up to me...

    No Trackbacks | Digg this Bookmark this post on del.icio.us. Submit this post on reddit.com. Submit this post on furl.net.l Bookmark this post on Google. Bookmark this post on Yahoo. Add this post to Technorati Favorites Add post text to Rojo Add this to Co.mments Add this post to Newsvine Add this post to Scuttle Add this post to Shadows Add this to Simpy Add this to Spurl Add this to Squidoo Add this to Stumbleupon

    Unpacking the MTNA 2009 Exhibitors' Convention

    While i didn't get a chance to participate in any of the main MTNA conference or panel discussion events, i still found the Exhibitors' Hall at the 2009 MTNA convention in Atlanta, GA to be a fascinating microcosm of the classical music industry.  My partners Lester and SoYoung were on hand from the first day, and i arrived a day later to help man the AirTurn booth.  This being my very first convention ever, i had absolutely no idea what to expect.  Lester reported that the initial day saw a good bit of foot traffic and some particularly encouraging signs, namely that a good number of folks already recognized who we were and what we were selling.  Of all the companies and products that he's worked on, the AirTurn seems to be achieving the fastest brand recognition so far among our target musician demographics. 

    Frazzled from only 2 hours of sleep the night before (had to be picked up at 3 am by the airport shuttle for a 5:30 departure) and a flight buffeted by nasty turbulence, it's a wonder i was able to speak in cohesive sentences, much less make a meaningful sales pitch!  I started out by handing out brochures and business cards, but then received a great tip from the jewelry vendors in the booth next to ours to ask for names and email addresses from booth visitors.  Lester calls this "pull marketing", enabling us to send info and promotions to our clients, as opposed to simply "pushing" our own brochures and hoping for a response that might never come.  Another great bit of advice from my jewelry friends was to try to write little notes about each client as reminders to make future communications more personal.

    Boy, some of those first clients were tough cookies!  One lady came over to see my demonstration of ink annotations in MusicReader.  I was showing her how easy it was to add digital ink stamps of music notation symbols with a mouse, and started by adding a flat next to a note.

    "No!" she practically screamed.  "Wrong!!"

    "Excuse me?"

    "Wrong!! You put the flat in the wrong place!!"
    I had no idea what she was talking about and took a closer look at the stamp i had just made:

    flat1 

    I tried to explain that it was easy to erase digital notations and redraw them, and did so like this:

    flat2

    "No! No! No! That's completely wrong!" she wailed.  Business lesson #1 insists that the customer is always right, so i erased the offending accidental and gave it another go:

    flat3

    Finally, she exclaimed, "Yes!  Now that's correct!"  My goodness, i thought she was going to have an aneurism and pop a vessel from her forehead!  "You must understand", she insisted, "I have photographic memory!  PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY! I see everything and remember every detail!  If you write it wrong, I can't get it out of my head!!" She brought her hands to her eyes as if to shield them from some visual monstrosity invading her periphery. 

    Ooookaaaayy.....moving right along...

    Another woman came along and gave a critical squint as i tried to explain the various viewing options with MusicReader - double page views, intelligent half-page views that zoomed the music without cutting staves off, etc.  She looked dourly at my 15 inch HP laptop screen and asked, "Is that the only color for reading the music?"

    "Excuse me?" 

    "You know - does the music only come in that shade of white?"

    Now she had me completely lost.  Assuming i've been reading music for about 37 years or so, I'm pretty sure that most music is supposed to be printed as black ink on white paper, unless i've been horribly color blind all these years...

    "Well, it's just that I prefer reading music printed on ivory paper.  That shade of white is just too bright.  And what about an option to have the paper black and the notes white?"

    We certainly want to listen to our customers and take their suggestions into account.  I suppose adding a feature to change the background color of music scores shouldn't be too difficult to implement - it's just pretty remarkable to come across such creative suggestions!

    Here are some pictures from our booth setup.  I'm really pleased with how our banners came out, if i may say so myself!

    The second day was much better in terms of customer traffic.  Booth visitors seemed much more enthusiastic about the AirTurn/MusicReader concepts.  There were a lot of returning folks bringing friends to show off the AirTurn to them.  Several fellow exhibitors stopped by to discuss possible partnerships, and there was plenty of interest in the Exponential Workshop concept as well - in fact, i may be returning to Atlanta in the fall to do a series of workshops for several music organizations and schools in the area. 

    I didn't get much of a chance to see the rest of the exhibitors in detail, but it was quite a menagerie of pianos, digital keyboards, music board games, DVD and computer pedagogy courses, musical accessories, and of course tons and tons of sheet music (the paper kind, naturally).  One enlightening aspect was seeing which vendors were able to present clear, concise messages communicating who they were, what they offered, and what value they brought to the customer. 

    More to write, but i think the lack of sleep is catching up to me...

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    Welcome!

    Thank you for visiting this site! I hope you'll find this to be a friendly place to learn about and discuss the fascinating technologies available for the Classical Musician. A great place to get started is with the ongoing "Getting Started" series. Remember, the worst questions are the ones you never ask, so feel free to email me!

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