#17 – Striking a Chord: Brendan Slocumb on Music, Representation, and Unraveling ‘The Symphony of Secrets’

Dive into the captivating world of Brendan Slocumb’s novels in this episode of Books & Looks. Explore the intriguing intersection of music, race, and neurodivergence in Slocumb’s works, as well as his own journey as a musician and author. From creating a fictional musical catalog to the challenges and triumphs of representation, Slocumb’s passion for storytelling comes to life. Listen in as we discuss the power of music, the realities of the classical world, and the importance of learning from history. Don’t miss this harmonious blend of conversation and inspiration!

Books Discussed:

“Symphony of Secrets” by Brendan Slocumb

“The Violin Conspiracy” by Brendan Slocumb


Blaine DeSantis: Hi everybody. This is Blaine DeSantis, and welcome back to another episode of Books and Looks. You know, it has been a wonderful last few weeks. We’ve had some wonderful and really interesting authors and guests on, and today I think we’ve outdone ourselves. I, I, I’ll tell you, I’m really excited about today because today we are going to be having Brendan Slocumb joining us.

Now, many of you know Brendan, but for those of you who don’t, Brendan wrote a marvelous book last year called the, “The Violin Conspiracy.” Wonderful book. And now he’s got another book coming out exactly today. That’s right. Today. And I got to talk to him ahead of the debut. So his newest book is gonna be called the, “The Symphony of Secrets.”

That’s right. So that’s another great book. We’re gonna be talking about both of these books with Brendan. I know you’re really gonna enjoy it. And so, uh, without any further ado, because I think it’s, it’s just too big for me to do a, a book review first. Okay. Let’s just go right in and meet Brendan Slocumb.

Brendan, welcome to Books and Looks.

Brendan Slocumb: Thank you so much. It is my absolute pleasure to be here.

Blaine DeSantis: I have been looking forward to this interview for two months since we booked this, and I’m so glad I finally got here. So, uh, you know, as I mentioned, you’re not just an author, you are an accomplished musician. Could you tell everybody about your musical background?

Brendan Slocumb: Well, I do appreciate that, uh, title. I don’t know how accomplished I am, but, uh, I, I am a musician. Um, I have been playing violin since the age of nine, and I’m significantly older than nine right now. I played in, in symphonies across, uh, you know, Virginia and Maryland, DC area, North Carolina. Um, I, I played some overseas.

I’ve had the opportunity to play… Uh, I think my claim to fame at this point is that I got to play with Stevie Wonder at one of his concerts, and, uh, that, that makes me an accomplished musician. Then hey, I will take it. But yeah, I play mainly violin and viola. I also play, uh, flute, clarinet, and obo and uh guitar, and I have taught piano for about 15 years now.

Blaine DeSantis: I think that that, that fits the bill as accomplished. So, uh, Brendan, well then when you moved over to writing, did you ever take any writing classes or did you just be able to sit down and start batting this stuff out?

Brendan Slocumb: You know, I actually did not take any writing classes. When I was in high school, I had the pleasure of having the same English teacher for both 11th and 12th grade English. And she was extremely encouraging. Um, you know, she was, you know, a family friend and, and we went to the same church and she loved the fact that I played the violin, so she really gave me extra attention.

And, uh, in college, you know, I would just write papers and everything and that was fine. But I wrote my, I’m a songwriter for my band, so I think that actually helps and, um, I totally wrote a manuscript about 20 years ago. That, of course, is the best manuscript that has ever been written, that has not been published.

It is an amazing story. It’s a science fiction story and, uh, that is the extent of my writing pre “Violin Conspiracy.”

Blaine DeSantis: Wow. Yeah, it’s amazing how many authors I talked to Who, tell me about that greatest manuscript. Never, never published. Oh boy. Okay,

Brendan Slocumb: was. It’s still good.

Blaine DeSantis: Okay, great. Well, now we’re gonna talk about the ” Symphony of Secrets.” Can you tell us what it’s all about?

Brendan Slocumb: Yeah, absolutely. Uh, “Symphony of Secrets” is a story of America’s greatest composer, Freddie Delaney, who after 150 years, his greatest masterpiece has been discovered and his family now runs a foundation in his name. They had hired a musicologist to authenticate this amazing piece that has been found.

And during his research, uh, the musicologist discovers this guy may not have written any of his music, and it may have been stolen from a black woman who we now know would be living with autism, and the family will stop at nothing to keep that a secret.

Blaine DeSantis: Well, I’ll tell you what, it is a fascinating, fascinating book and this, uh, woman. Who will get to eventually, josephine Reed, uh, is, is a great, great character and, uh, I, I really enjoyed her, her story. And, uh, is there anything that inspired you to write this or, again, this all come out of the, the, uh, recesses of your mind?

Brendan Slocumb: Back in the summer of 2020, I totally, when I, when I was, uh, finishing up “The Violin Conspiracy,” I got a two book deal and “Violin Conspiracy” was, oh, that was easy for me to write. It just kinda rolled off of my fingers and it’s like, “whoa, I gotta write something else. What am I gonna do?”

And I really wanted to use a representation of people with neuro divergencies. I really wanted to showcase people living with autism in a positive light. You know, and I know music, so why not I’m gonna do this? And, uh, the condition that Josephine has, part of the condition is called Synesthesia.

And one of my favorite composers, Rimsky-Korsakov, have the same condition. So I was like, yeah, this will be interesting to dive into. And the story just kinda rolled off from there.

Blaine DeSantis: What I think is, is amazing is not only did you have to develop the Frederick Delaney character, you had to make his entire body of works. I mean, you had to go back, you had to make titles, you had to make lyrics, you had to do everything. Wow. What was harder to develop him or to develop the music?

Brendan Slocumb: Believe it or not, the music was the more challenging part. Freddy’s character, whom I love, by the way, I absolutely love Freddy. He, I would totally go and have a beer with him. His catalog of music was really, really, really difficult to do, um, just because, You know, you have to make stuff up from, from, from thin air.

And, uh, people ask me, oh, is there a playlist for “Symphony of Secrets?” And I’m like, you know, I can do an inspired playlist, but everything is completely manufactured. And the lyrics to all of the music that was written, you know, I was like, I was wracking my brain. “Okay, how am I gonna do this?”

One, uh, secret that I’m gonna let everybody in on. I Keyser Sözed everything, all of these titles. And for those of you that don’t know what Keyser Söze is, if you’ve not seen the movie, “The Usual Suspects,” if you see that movie, it’ll make perfect sense.

Blaine DeSantis: To be honest with you, I have not seen that movie. I think I’m the only person out there who has not seen that movie. But, uh, it comes on and I know for some reason I’m watching something on Turner Classic movies. I don’t know what the problem is, but, uh, well, anyway, he, he was, the, Frederick Delaney was pretty much a mediocre artist, and then he bumps into Josephine Reed.

Was she based upon anyone in particular, or again, was this just something where you were able to create yourself?

Brendan Slocumb: Josephine is a conglomeration of a lot of people that I know who live with autism. Um, my best friend’s brother lives with autism. My nephew. One of my close friends in the symphony, her son lives with autism. And you know, it, she’s just a conglomeration of all of these people and, uh, I think she turned out pretty good.

Blaine DeSantis: She did. She did. And she, you know, it’s, I’m assuming that eventually, even though they’re gonna try to kick Freddy out of the jazz band, I guess he just eventually left the band himself once he got hooked up with Josephine. Is that correct?

Brendan Slocumb: Yeah, pretty much. You know, Freddie, uh, got a little big for his britches, but yeah, I, I think that was okay. You know in his mind, he was doing the right thing.

Blaine DeSantis: You know what? And isn’t that interesting? Because for a long part of this book, I do believe that, that Fred thought he was doing the right thing.

Brendan Slocumb: I agree 100%. That’s, in my opinion, that’s what makes him so likable. Um, just because you know that that saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I think it is so apparent in this story. Freddy, in his mind, everything that he’s doing is for the right reason. It really is.

Blaine DeSantis: And it’s true. It’s very, very true back then, and it goes back to the copyrights and everything else, and that gets us into the music. Again, Freddy works for a music store, music publisher, and eventually Josephine works there, but, they won’t sell certain sort of music. Was that typical back then?

Brendan Slocumb: That was actually quite common. Um, you know that it was all about the money as it is today. You know, that parallel still stands today. It’s all about the money. It was never really about the music. It’s like the, “the clientele don’t want to buy music by black people. You know, that’s, that’s black music. We, we are, we’re not gonna sell that.

No one’s gonna buy that. So, I’m not gonna push that type of music.” But yeah, it was, it was quite common. And, you know, you think about it now and then you just be out… it’s outrageous. It’s like, why would you refuse to sell anything that, that people would, would like, you know, just because it was written by a black person.

So it’s, it’s, it was, uh, quite interesting to do that research.

Blaine DeSantis: See, that surprises me because you know, I don’t know… I, I love music. Okay. But I couldn’t tell you the difference between minstrel music and ragtime music and, uh, you know, everything else. What is the differences? Are there differences? I, is it, or is it just, uh, different ways of describing the same thing?

Brendan Slocumb: It’s basically different ways of describing the same thing. You know, everything had a label back then. You know, it depends on who the artist was. If it was a black artist, “oh, those are gonna be minstrel songs. You know, that they’re, this is a traveling show. It’s just a bunch of black people we’re, this is how we’re representing this music and…”

Ragtime was, was actually, you know, pioneered by Scott Joplin. And it was, it was a unique type of music just for the period, not necessarily the person, but the period, uh, of time. It was, it was just unique and new. So, um, yeah, that, that’s mainly the difference. It’s, it’s all about labels.

Blaine DeSantis: So then the tin pan alley music was again, did that also fall into this type of, uh, music or was that a little bit different do you think?

Brendan Slocumb: Uh, slightly different just because of the location that, that the, the music was being played, you know, it was in, in this particular part of town, and this is where everything was taking place in that particular section of New York. So again, it was, it was the labels.

Blaine DeSantis: That just fascinating about Tin Pan Alley. They… I was reading something that, uh, basically it was in existence until, uh, the Brill Building and, uh, Neil Sadaka knocked him out of the box with the rock and roll and it’s, uh, That just amazed me. I didn’t realize it was around that long. They had wonderful musicians, all of them.

The minstrel, the rag time, the tin pan alley, wonderful composers and musicians there. Amazing. So, uh, anyway, do you think that, uh, Josephine, she started out basically doing the, the jazz, uh, music. Okay. She eventually had moved into classical if I’m not mistaken.

Brendan Slocumb: She was actually, you know, skilled in, in everything. But you know, when she met Freddy, it was just, you know, he was playing jazz, so that’s what she decided to, you know, pick up on, just because that’s what she was hearing at the time. Uh, but yeah, Josephine was a savant. She could do it all.

Blaine DeSantis: And she could and she doodled. Now that’s amazing. Where did you come up with doodles to make? That’s a, that’s just an amazing part of the book.

Brendan Slocumb: Um, that I came up with the lady doodles. It was, I was writing really late one night and I was like, man, I am tired. So the alliteration just kind of rolled off. I was like, okay. And uh, when, when I let my agent read that section, he was like, oh my gosh, it’s great. How’d you come up with that? Like, I was just sleepy.

I just wanted to finish this paragraph. but, uh, the, the concept of the annotations, the doodles, the drawings, I found some incredible research given to me by Dr. Hal Wong, uh, from Scripps College. He sent me just pages and pages of examples of annotations that composers would use. And it looks like some of them look like intricate artwork.

Some of it looks like scribbles. Others of it look like a third grade, you know, project. And the the fascinating thing to me is that each composer uses a distinct set of annotations and it makes perfect sense to them. And that is just fascinating to me. And Josephine was one of them.

Blaine DeSantis: And Freddy was eventually able to unlock some of that.

Brendan Slocumb: Yes, yes. He spent a lot of time with Josephine, so he actually did manage to, uh, crack her code for her, uh, annotations on, um, yeah, you know, her, the way that she decided to write music.

Blaine DeSantis: Josephine and Fred, she fell under his charms, and I think Freddy really, really liked her. Do you think, was there a love relationship that I am… That I’m missing out on? Or was it, did it always stay platonic?

Brendan Slocumb: I think they absolutely loved each other. They absolutely did. It was, it was genuine love. I, I truly believe that. And, uh, like I mentioned earlier, Freddy really, truly believed that what he was doing was the right thing. He did honestly feel that, and I think Josephine felt that too for a time.

Blaine DeSantis: Then things starts to change. Especially when they moved. When they moved from building A to building B. Freddy became big time.

Brendan Slocumb: Yeah, Freddy was big time and he kind of forgot where he came from. You know, he, he got a little big for his britches, which is understandable. You know, he’s getting all the accolades, he’s getting the recognition. You know, why, so why, why not?

Blaine DeSantis: But on the other hand, he took her over to Europe. They were in front of kings and queens and courts and, uh, you know, everything else. I mean, he really, really exposed her to a world she would’ve never even dreamed of, if I’m not mistaken.

Brendan Slocumb: Absolutely, and I, I, I do feel in Freddy’s heart that was totally out of love. I honestly feel like he felt like he was doing something good for her and that made him feel good.

Blaine DeSantis: Now I’m assuming your research has also shown other. Artists who fell into the same category of selling their music but not retaining a copyright.

Brendan Slocumb: Yes. Um, this was actually quite common. Um, musicians, especially black musicians, would, you know, they’d get a couple of bucks, comparatively. A couple of bucks for, for a song that they’d written. And, you know, a year later, another artist and, uh, the copyrights and everything, the, the publisher is making millions of dollars and the original artist is starving on the street.

And this was all too common. And the thing that really came to mind was, uh, the girl group TLC. They were the biggest girl group in the world at one point, and they were bankrupt because of, you know, poor decisions with, with their management and copyright. This story takes place 150 years ago, but it’s still happening today.

Blaine DeSantis: I remember reading something, I dunno if you ever read this, but, uh, Ringo Star gave an interview one time and said the reason the Beatles are always touring is they had no money and the only way they made money was by going on tours. Cuz that way the money all comes to them. That’s amazing. If the Fab four had to, had the same situation, so amazing stuff. But, uh, yeah, it, I, you know, I’m colorblind when I, no, literally, I am colorblind. I’m Red Creed colorblind, but I was colorblind as I was reading this book, and I’m looking at Josephine more as a, a gender situation than as a race situation.

Because you don’t find many female composers back then either, do we?

Brendan Slocumb: Well, the interesting thing is that there were female composers throughout history that we will just never know about because they could not get the recognition. I I, I find it really interesting that, that you see this more, um, as a gender issue and it’s, it’s a, a, a related to Josephine sex rather than her race.

I truly felt like it was a combination. You know, it was, she was black, so that was against her. And because she was a woman, you know, it just added to it. It was just piling on. Um, so I think if she had been a white woman, maybe things would’ve been a little bit better, but you never know. I, I think she just had a double whammy.

Blaine DeSantis: Yeah, yeah, no doubt about it. It was very good. Now there’s this, this overriding evil, the Delaney Foundation. These guys are mean, and I’ll tell you what, have you ever run into anything like that? That’s so mean like that in a foundation or something?

Brendan Slocumb: I like to think that the Delaney Foundation is not inherently evil. It’s only as evil as the person at the top. So let’s just, you know, maybe there was one or two, uh, board members who had some nefarious, uh, goals in mind. But the foundation itself was, was quite benevolent and it did a ton of good across the world.

You know, one of the protagonists, Bern, totally benefited from the Delaney Foundation, so, you know, they could do no wrong in his eyes. I, I don’t think it was the foundation. I think it was more just a couple of people.

Blaine DeSantis: Well, the old timer, he was not a nice guy, to be honest with you. But..

Brendan Slocumb: Not at all.

Blaine DeSantis: No, no, no. But, uh, you know, and this does come out the day that the book is released. So one of the most difficult scenes for me was the arrest of, uh, of Bern Hendricks. And I’m not gonna go into the whole thing, but that had to be a tough scene for you to write.

Brendan Slocumb: Um, unfortunately it was quite easy to write, um, just because my perspective is, is it, it mirrors Bern’s and I totally get it. I understand what he went through. I understand, uh, the embarrassment, the hurt, the fear. I totally get it. And one reason I wanted that scene to be so graphic is because it is a perspective that a lot of people don’t get.

For me it, it’s, it’s everyday life, but for a lot of people, you know, some people would have doubts. “No, it’s really not like that.” But, “oh, wait a minute, huh. Well, I’m looking at the author. I really have a different perspective than he does, so I’m gonna take a second look at this and look at it, you know, with, with a fresh set of eyes as opposed to looking at things the way that I normally see the world.”

So that was really important for me to do.

Blaine DeSantis: Well, it, it certainly is an eye-opener, and as I said, I personally was, uh, I, I was uncomfortable by what, by what went on there. But I think it brought perspective more to the whole thing and… yeah, well enough said. Folks, you can read that when you get to there. But, uh, let me go switch to classical music.

You love writing about classical music. It’s in both of your books. Somewhere, I think, if I’m not mistaken, in your first book, “The Violin Conspiracy,” you’d mentioned that less than 2% of classical musicians are, uh, minorities. Is that, I mean, is that correct?

Brendan Slocumb: Yes, two percent, less than 2%. Uh, I think it’s 1.8 actually, of, uh, classical musicians are, are, are black. Um, you know, there are musicians of color, lots of Asian musicians. But, uh, yeah, it’s, it’s a, it’s a staggering number that, that people just aren’t aware of. And it, it’s, it’s always blown my mind, you know, uh, uh, an orchestra like the New York Phil Harmonic, which is, you know, one of the top orchestras in the world.

There’s one black musician. The principal Clarinettist, and he’s phenomenal. So it, it, it’s not really representative of the city of New York, you know, just to, to see a sea of white faces and one, one black face in the crowd. It’s, you know, New York is, is full of every race that you can possibly imagine, and the orchestra is not really representative.

But I do feel things are beginning to change, so I’m very optimistic about that.

Blaine DeSantis: I’m now streaming the Carnegie Music Channel and uh, ever since I started streaming, I’ve been looking to see minorities. You don’t see ’em. The other one we don’t see is Hispanics. Rarely do I see a Hispanic artist.

Brendan Slocumb: Very true. Um, and, and it’s, it’s amazing because, you know, black artists, Hispanic artists, we are just as capable as any other race. And I know tons of musicians who are qualified and capable and, and amazing players, and hopefully they will be able to, uh, be on that stream that you’re looking for. You won’t have to look so hard.

Blaine DeSantis: I don’t care who you are. If you’re the best, then there you there, you belong. And you did get cover that in that first book of “The Violin Conspiracy,” where they finally did get to some, you know, you eventually go to these, uh, regional tryouts and eventually now it’s becoming… you don’t, people don’t see you.

There’s now more of a, uh, you will listen to you. We don’t know who you are behind the, the curtain, you know? Yeah. So anyway. Well, that’s, that’s, that’s interesting. the first book is about.. “The Violin Conspiracy” is a, is a fascinating story about a, a, a prize Stradivarius violin that’s stolen from a hotel room.

Do you own for, do you own a Stradivarius?

Brendan Slocumb: I do not. If I owned a Strad, I would probably not be in this interview right now.

Blaine DeSantis: Okay. Very, very. That’s pretty good. I like that. But, uh, that is a wonderful thing that this, uh, remarkable how this went on. And again, is there a, is there a story? Is there an inspiration? Has this ever happened?

Brendan Slocumb: Well, “The Violin Conspiracy” is, I, I, I don’t wanna say loosely based, but it is based on my life. A 92% of the protagonist is actually Brendan. And, um, the story is based on the theft of my violin when I was in high school. Which was not a Stradivarius. It was a 1953 Eugene Layman violin. So if anybody sees one, I won’t ask any questions.

I’m happy to take it back, no questions asked. But it was based on, on, uh, my, the theft of my violin when I was in high school. And I know just how horrible, horrible a feeling it is to have something so precious to you taken away and, and you’ll never see it again. It’s inspired by, by my, uh, activities and, and things that I went through in, in my life.

Blaine DeSantis: Wow. And they, they never found yours?

Brendan Slocumb: Never found mine. Somebody’s having a good time playing on that fiddle right now.

Blaine DeSantis: My, oh my, oh my. That’s a fascinating story, how it’s uncovered and there’s lots of interesting things. I know a, a local book club was just reading that the other day and having, discussing it, uh, at their next meeting. So I know people are still out there reading about it. They weren’t, they didn’t know that your next book’s coming out, so they’re a year behind time, but still.

That’s okay. We’ll, we’ll cut on some the slack and.

Brendan Slocumb: It’s okay.

Blaine DeSantis: But, uh, it, it just is a great thing about the history of the family there. You know, I’m Italian. Brendan’s a black gentleman. It has to be difficult to write about some of this stuff, Brendan.

Brendan Slocumb: I, yeah, it, it was, um, but it, it, it’s necessary. So I, I like to say that I will take these hits so that other people never have to. In, in a couple of the sections. You know, it was a very, very graphic depiction of what took place on, on a plantation. And the reason I wanted to include that is because when I was in high school, you know, no, no shade to my public school education, but all I got was black people picked Cotton, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. That’s all we got. You know, the, the brutal nature of slavery itself was never really explained or examined. So I wanted to do a deeper dive into just exactly what went on. And, uh, I wanted it to be as accurate as possible. And I know that section, which is, it’s actually chapter 33.

It’s uncomfortable and can be very, very difficult to read, but I think it’s really important that people understand the, the brutal nature of, of what it was that, that black people went through. Just in terms of an acknowledgement, we if once we acknowledge it, we can move on from it. If there’s never an acknowledgement of it, you know, we’re just going, it’s gonna be hanging out there forever.

It’s important to remember these things that are uncomfortable to us so that we never, ever, ever have to go back to them again.

Blaine DeSantis: Yeah, my father was arrested for sledding down a hill and going underneath a, a bridge, and, uh, when he got to the other side of the, the culvert, the police arrested him. “You, you, Italians, have to stay in the top of the hill. Don’t do dare come underneath the bridge.” Yeah, yeah. It’s Pennsylvania. Dutch area.

They weren’t too tolerant of Italians at all. So there were some things that my, my dad had. Yeah, it’s all it. Yeah. Nobody . Would ma… would marry my mom and dad. My mom was Pennsylvania Dutch, so the Catholic church don’t wanna marry them. My dad was Italian, so the Protestant church didn’t wanna marry them.

What had going on until they finally got married.

Brendan Slocumb: Wow.

Blaine DeSantis: Lucky for me they did. You know, so it had, it’s all over. It’s all over, but nothing is like, well, nothing, nothing but what, like what you read about in, you said chapter 33, spectacular stuff that you read about and, and educate all of us about. And, uh, it was just wonderful.

But what what surprised me about that is the whole story is that Ray McMillan’s mother couldn’t stand him in his music.

Brendan Slocumb: Yeah, so Mom was a piece of work in the book. She really was a, uh, character and, uh, I, I will say that, uh, mom was one of two things. She could either be the type of person who was just extremely muddy, grubbing, and greedy and self-centered. Or, by being so dismissive of what Ray wanted to do, she was actually trying to protect him cuz she’d never seen anyone who looks like him be successful.

And the only way she knew how to protect him from being so, you know, devastated by not being able to do what he loved, was to discourage him. Maybe that’s the only way she knew how to protect him.

Blaine DeSantis: Wow. But it wasn’t just her. I mean, the rest of the family wasn’t too excited about the, the whole violin until they found out it was worth something.

Brendan Slocumb: Yeah, pretty much. And, and unfortunately in a lot of families, I’m not, I’m gonna just, I’m gonna extend that a little bit. It’s not just black families, but families in general who don’t know a great deal about classical music. They just don’t get it. And it was the same in my family. It’s like, “why do you like this so much? I don’t understand what the appeal is. But you know, if you like it, okay, that’s great.” But you know, Ray’s family, unfortunately, was not quite as open to.

Blaine DeSantis: No, they, they went the other direction. You know, they were not too, no, they didn’t even wanna encourage him or anything. And, uh, get your own way. Find your own thing. Now you say 92% of this is you. I go back to the, the wedding scene in that book. There was a wedding scene where you came, uh, your character, Ray McMillan comes to be part of a, I guess it’s a quintet that was playing at the, uh, wedding.

And, uh, the guy says, “you ruined the wedding.” Now is this something that you was your personal experience?

Brendan Slocumb: Uh, unfortunately it was a modified version of this. I, I was actually in college playing with, uh, string quartet and, um, we just played the last note and the bride was gushing and the mom was happy and all the guests were happy and the father could not wait to get us out of that church. He ushered us out just as quickly as he could, and he looked as dead in the eye and said, “you ruined my daughter’s wedding.”

And, uh, that was the first time that I had actually physically seen hate in someone’s eyes, and that stuck with, with all of us for a very long time.

Blaine DeSantis: Again, that’s another powerful scene in there. Very powerful. Well, you talk about classical music. What’s the future of classical music? Is it dying out or is there a new type of classical music that’s, uh, coming on the scene?

Brendan Slocumb: I feel like classical music is having a resurgence. Uh, you know, because people are able to combine classical with, with so many other genres. You know, classical and hip hop right now is a, is a really big thing. And I think that because people are beginning to discover that aspect of classical, the original classical music, you know, people are now kind of gravitating now, “where did this come from?”

“What does this sound like without the beats behind it,” you know, it’s “oh, that’s actually kind of cool. I’m, I’m digging this. I could see why, why they’re interested in this.” So I think it’s making a resurgence.

Blaine DeSantis: I remember you’re, you’re too young, but I remember, uh, when they did the classical with disco.

Brendan Slocumb: Oh, Blaine, really? Okay. That was 1976. I totally remember that.

Blaine DeSantis: Oh, okay. Well..


Brendan Slocumb: That was, that was the, that was the fifth of Beethoven. I remember that.

Blaine DeSantis: It was okay. Well, I, you know, uh, yeah, that, but, but again, that was the use of it, and it was an ex, I think that was the number one in the charts, if I’m not mistaken, on the billboard charts. See? Yeah. So look, that’s wonderful. Classical musicians… now, and again, we at colleges, I go to the local college over here and I go to listen to their, their symphonies and their orchestras and everything else. And then what happens to all these kids are, are we training a glut of musicians that are not gonna find jobs? I mean, what’s the job market like, especially now after Covid?

Brendan Slocumb: Wow. That’s, that’s an interesting one. Um, it, it, again, this is one of those, uh, situations where things are beginning to have a resurgence, you know, as more people are going out and, and wanting to hear live music, but, um, I, I honestly don’t know. It’s, it’s, you know, people who are in these jobs, they stay in them for life and there’s very little room to, you know, there, there’s just not a whole lot of job openings at this point for classical musician.

You know, if you’re a violinist and you are sitting in, in the Chicago Symphony, that is it. You’re not going anywhere until they, you know, have to drag you out. So, um, unless the musicians are, are on the soloist circuit, which is, you know, you’ve got to be really, really good and, and, you know, start at age three pretty much.

Um, but that, that’s an avenue that a lot of people are exploring as well.

Blaine DeSantis: It, it, it’s interesting because, uh, there… I know during Covid a few orchestras or local, more local orchestras and symphonies, had to close down cuz they had no more donations, they couldn’t pay people and, and things started to shrink. So I don’t know if that was, maybe they’re coming up again now, I’m not sure.


Brendan Slocumb: I like to think so. I’m, I’m hoping that things are, are getting, uh, back to the point where people have this hunger for, for live music.

Blaine DeSantis: Well now tell me, you, you also teach and you also do a lot of volunteer work. Could you tell everybody about those endeavors you have.

Brendan Slocumb: Sure. I’ve been a classroom teacher, a public school music teacher for a little over 23, 24 years, and, uh, it is my absolute first love. I call myself a teacher who happens to write. I love my students. I teach privately right now, or I did prior to, uh, the books coming out. Uh, I’ve had to cut down my studio just because I don’t have the time.

I’m doing a lot of traveling and a lot of writing, so I only have like 10 students in my studio, currently. I, I dropped down from 22 to 10. But I also. Try to find time to play as much as I can. Anytime anyone wants me to play in anything, I’m, yeah, I’m happy to come and play. It’s like the only opportunity I get to play now and my nonprofit organization, Hands Across the Sea, I just, I’m hoping to get it up and going again. COVID really, totally wrecked a lot of things and I was doing a lot of traveling overseas to the Philippines and COVID kind of wrecked that. So now that things are getting a little better, uh, hopefully I’ll be able to resume.

Blaine DeSantis: Well it’s very good. And did I, did I also read somewhere you, you also work with autistic children?

Brendan Slocumb: Uh, well, I’ve taught, uh, kids who live with autism, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve had an opportunity to teach some, and, uh, I had a couple of students. Um, but right now I’m just, you know, if something comes my way, then I’m totally on board.

Blaine DeSantis: Okay, great, great. Now, when you sit down to write, are you, are you a dedicated, “I start at eight and I go to three?” Or do you… as a spirit moves you, do you write?

Brendan Slocumb: I am on a strict schedule. My schedule consists of me writing at least 2,500 to 3000 words a day, and it’s usually starting at about noon. Strict schedule because of my classical training. You know, I would practice three and a half hours every day regardless. So I’m used to just sitting down and writing and, you know, I, I write fast and I don’t understand why people say, “it took me six years to write this paragraph.”

Well, what are you talking about? Just sit down and write. Uh, so I like to, you know, get it done. I’m, I, I got other stuff to do. I want… I’m also a musician. I wanna go practice, I wanna go exercise, I wanna go play video games, I wanna go watch my show, you know? So I can’t do any of that stuff until I’m done with my writing.

Blaine DeSantis: Yeah, no, you’re right. Is uh, there’s more to life than just writing, so you could get over and keep moving on to the next. Gotta do that. Well, speaking of the next thing, what’s, what’s coming up? Are we, are you working on another book or what’s coming on right now in, in Brendan Slocumb’s life of that?

Brendan Slocumb: My, my book tour for “Symphony of Secrets” begins on Monday and it, when I tell you it’s nonstop, it is nonstop. It is all over the country. Um, I’m really excited about that and I’m planning on starting my third books in May, and I’m really, really excited. It involves a cellist and witness protection.

Blaine DeSantis: Oh wow, that’s great. I like that. Sounds good already. You’re not gonna go back and, and try to get that science fiction novel published?

Brendan Slocumb: I’m gonna get maybe five or six books under my belt first, and then I’m gonna go back and tackle that monstrosity.

Blaine DeSantis: Greatest book never published.

Brendan Slocumb: That’s what I’m gonna title it, I think.

Blaine DeSantis: Oh my word. Well, you are an accomplished musician. You’ve now gonna have two big international writing hits under your belt. Are you a better writer or a better musician? What do you think?

Brendan Slocumb: What do I think or what do people think?

Blaine DeSantis: Well, what do you think to start?

Brendan Slocumb: I think I’m a better musician, to be honest. I do, and that’s my first love. You know, I’ve been doing it since I was nine years old, and I, I love it. But writing is fun. I, I absolutely love connecting with people through the writing, and if people are digging what I’m writing, then I, I’ll keep doing it.

Blaine DeSantis: Wow, that’s really great. That’s, that’s, that’s wonderful. You know, you see, I, I don’t wanna keep you any much longer, you’ve spent a good amount of time with us, Brendan. I am extremely, extremely happy we got a chance to chat. Friends, ” The Violen Conspiracy” or “Symphony of Secrets,” these are both wonderful, wonderful books. You can’t get any better than Brendan Slocumb, my friends. Thank you so very much for appearing today.

Brendan Slocumb: Blaine, the pleasure is mine. Thank you.

Blaine DeSantis: Okay, very good. And I’ll be back folks right after this.

Well, there it is, friends. What a fine interview. I, I really had a good time talking with Brendan. Talked about some things that may have been a little, a little touchy for people, but race is a very big thing. And, uh, Brendan, uh, you know, touched upon that in both of his books, which is really a very interesting, very interesting reads.

And his personal experiences go into so much of these books. And so, you know, when he writes and talks about it, you know he’s coming from a voice of experience. So, more and more folks, we, we don’t have time to do books, reviews. We don’t have time for looks because we are. Focusing on bringing you most interesting, interesting author interviews, and I hope you’re enjoying it. The numbers seem to say you are. So hey, I’m not gonna take up any more of your time. I thank you for listening. On behalf of my website, views on books.com, and of course the good people at the Greenville Podcast Company.

This is Blaine DeSantis for Books and Looks saying, may all your leaves be pages in a book.


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