Friday, March 17, 2006

ETW Reflections (part 1?)

I type this entry from the (legendary?) Days Inn just across from Fort Myer, home of the Eastern Trombone Workshop.
I thought I'd share some random reflections, hopefully without offending anyone.
I judged the national solo competition along with..Paul Compton, Jimmy Clark, Phil Jameson, Pete Ellefson, J. Mark Thompson, James McNair, Henry Charles Smith and John Swallow. Lofty company. I hope my comments were worthy.
Some choices were easy, some much harder. Often I was faced with the choice: candidate A is more solid technically, candidate B is more musically interesting. This was particularly true in the finals. Generally I (and the committee) ended up going with the more musical player.
I often found myself wanting to extract the positive qualities from two players and combine them into one "super" player. Not necessary with Marques and Jeremy, though. They both had that great combination of technique and expression.

Each time I hear these great young players I keep thinking, "Thank heavens I have a job. These guys are good!"

As for the rest of the workshop, some personal highlights/observations thus far:

The UT Austin Trombone Choir: such a beautiful blend of sound. Very inspiring.

Very interesting, two trombone trios: Trio Hidas with Nitzan Haroz, Haim Avitsur and Dave Taylor and Tres Bone with Chris Dudley, Ken Wolfe and Matt Guilford. Both groups want to perform regularly and thus are immediately confronted with a shortage of rep. Time to get creative. Makes me want to try my hand at writing a trio this summer (add to the impossible list).

Vibrato lives on: many fine players in a variety of classical genres playing with generous vibrato.

Many ways to play: at some time we are all reminded of the "textbook" approach to playing. It is refreshing to see musical success along with so many quirks: lots of moving around, sometimes unusual embouchures, hunched shoulders. Though, this leaves me with a dilemma: when I see a student doing something off the beaten path at what point should I step in and suggest changes?

Highlight: Jim Pugh's beautiful melodic lines in the second movement of his concerto played so well by Doug Wright. Doug plays brilliantly on a closed-wrap horn with a standard valve, once again proving it isn't the horn, it's the player.

Highlight: enjoying the company of a batch of my students who travelled up for this event. And many thanks to the teachers and conductors who let them go! Though I must say, I see so much of the sure-footed confidence of youthful opinions. How will these certainties stand the test of time?

Highlight: having my new lip slurs book on display at the Hickey's booth. Hey, I worked for years on this project. I don't want to turn into a big-time self promoter but I shouldn't keep my light under a bushel, either.

A frustration: my students asking me to listen to them play with this horn or that mouthpiece in a room crowded with other trombone players all honking away. So frustrating to try to give any meaningful opinion in such an environment. That's the irony of these things: it's your one golden chance to have all these different mouthpiece and horns all in one place at one time but the room is so crowded and so noisy that the opportunity is nearly spoiled.
I've advised my students: if you really want to try out equipment, come over to the displays when a popular event takes place back at Brucker hall.

Time to vent: ETW has a 90-minute open public recital. I don't believe anything of this sort shows up at ITF and I disagree with that. Many other conventions make use of open recitals giving lesser-known players a chance to show off some new pieces. Hello, ITF, could you open the doors of opportunity just a bit more, please? On the bad side, ETW used to have a standard deadline date for applications for this open recital. Not this year. I emailed about it last Fall to be told the the program was already full. I like the old system better.

Bravo to ETW for featuring winning quartets and jazz ensembles, too. Especially bravo to the US Army band for going through all this work to set up a *free* event which regularly rivals the ITF. What a great service to the community.

Yes, there are things I heard that were disappointments but I see no need to go negative on other people. I like my glass house just fine.

Perhaps, after Saturday's festivities (during which I'll once again feel as if I need to be in two places at one time) I'll post up another blog.

Enough for now. G'night