Monday, May 28, 2007

Mnozil Brass

How is it I haven't heard of these guys before? (don't answer that!)

Anyway, good old YouTube comes through again.

Yes, they have a website. Check out the bios. Do strings and woodwinds make this much fun of themselves?

In a way, it reminds me of Blast. A mixture of brass playing and other elements.

Do all these things add up to sideshow attractions or is something new evolving? Look at it this way, without an audience, what are you left with?

On the other hand, Canadian Brass has been doing a similar shtick back when I was in high school.

And before them, Spike Jones

OK, all the historians out there can scold me on how little I know. Still, this Mnozil group seems refreshing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Two Comparisons to Consider

First, a personal note: I sometimes refer to these days as the "Golden Days." I'm done with my teaching for the moment but the kids are still in school. Thus I have something more precious than gold: time.

I'm making good progress on writing a book and am excited about it. Of course I worry that I'll finish it, send it out and receive a giant collective yawn....but I don't think so.

Sorry the blog entries have been a bit slower (book, book, book, book). Summer does give me some time (mostly while doing yard work...dang weeds) to ruminate. Here's something to consider...two comparisons:

Conductor A
Competent, knowledgeable but not terribly enthusiastic. Often seems to be going through the motions.

Conductor B
Inconsistent, frustrating at times but clearly seems to love the music he is conducting. Often guilty of getting carried in the passion of the moment and committing technical errors.

Which conductor would you rather work for?
Which conductor will the audience respond to?

(No, you can't vote for Conductor C)
(But, hey, we can all dream...)

How about an audition...

Candidate A
Maybe not the biggest sound, not that exciting, but very accurate. Doesn't usually miss notes.

Candidate B
Maybe "goes for it" too much in trying to get a big sound and make the music exciting but tends to miss notes here and there.

Which candidate will the committee vote for? How about a committee of non-trombone players and mostly non brass players (which many committees are)?

I remember, back in the 1980's, a certain bass trombone audition (for a top-tier orchestra) in which the ultimate winner of the audition received no advancement votes from the trombone section. Not even in the first round. How would you like start a new job and discover that your new colleagues had voted to cut you in the first round but kept getting overruled by the woodwinds, strings and conductor. Yes, this really happened.

How many players of any brass instrument play mock audition rounds for strings or woodwinds? Should they? What if your career aspirations rested ultimately in the hands of someone whose concept of trombone tone isn't refined as yours?

Hey, did I just bump into Deep Question #3? Maybe.

Thinking about an all-state audition next year? I often have high school students come to take lessons with me and often they want to work on an all-state solo. I usually take the approach the most important thing is tone. I've sometimes said, "Tone is your calling card." It's the first thing they hear, the first impression you give.

What if the judge doesn't have a carefully refined concept of trombone tone?
What if they haven't listened intently to all those wonderful Alessi recordings?
What if they aren't even a trombone player?
What if (shudder) they aren't a such a great musician?
What if they are brain-fried from having listened to 15 auditions before yours and having to listen to 12 more?

Chances are, they'll be reduced to note-counting.

Given that, what's a teacher to do?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Summer's Coming

Things at USC are drawing to a close. Since I get a lot of my blogging ideas from things that pop up while I'm teaching, I may not make as many entries over the summer months.

Of course, I will be heading out to New Mexico as a participant for the Alessi Seminar. I hope that I will have time and energy to post quite a few entries from the seminar.

Summer is a time when I can slow down a bit and work on those projects that take more time. Some of you may be familiar with my lip slurs book. It has always been my plan that this book would be part of a series. There are a number of other books (at least 3!) that are in various stages of development.

Of course, most summers I begin with grand plans and end frustrated that I didn't accomplish more. My only "grand" plan for this summer is to get a bit closer to finishing these books.

We'll see.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Jake's Premise and the Amish Guy

Two stories seemingly not connected (but in my mind, they are)...

Jake's Premise

I was lucky enough to have two lessons with Arnold Jacobs before he died. In the second lesson, I just barely made it to the lesson on time.
Pause to imagine that: being late for a lesson with Arnold Jacobs!
Anyway, I started out playing some Bordogni vocalise and chipping some notes. After two lines of music, he stopped me and said, "Well, you've missed 5 notes so far. Do you really know how this goes?"

So, here was his premise: given that you are a reasonably competent musician, the only real reason for missing a note is that the music isn't clear enough in your mind.

Not your breathing,
not your chops,
not the lack of a warm-up.
not even Chicago traffic jams!
Simply this:

you don't hear it clearly enough in your head.

Could it really be that simple?

The Amish Guy

So here's one from one of my students: an Amish guy strikes his thumb with a hammer. Unlike most people (probably me if it happened to me), he didn't get angry. He simply went on with his task. Why get angry when something goes wrong? What good does it do?

As you practice, how do react when you don't play something well?
Ever get angry?
Did the anger help?
Was it necessary?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

James Miller Recital coming up May 8th

I got this from a former student...

James Miller, trombone
Allison Gagnon, piano
Tuesday, May 8
Watson Hall
the North Carolina School of the Arts

Fritz Kreisler................................La Gitana

J. Guy Ropartz..................Piece in Eb minor

Frederick Chopin...........................Nocturne

David Fetter....................................Latin

Richard Peaslee...................Arrows of Time


J.S. Bach.........................................suite in F major

Walter Hartley...................................Capriccio

Anthony Plog..............................Postcards

Johannes Brahms.............Hungarian Dances
#9, #7, #8, #1, #5

directions to NCSA

I-40 to I-52 north
exit immediately on Sprague
turn left on Sprague Street
go approx 1 mile
turn right on Main Street
at the bottom on the hill,
turn right into the entrance
to the NC School of the Arts
go up the hill, take the first left
and park in the Welcome Center
parking lot. Watson Concert Hall is up the hill and to the right

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Yes! finally that Mythbusters trombone story

I remember getting at least 50 emails all relating that story about the Brazilian bass trombonist who put a large firecracker in his bell for a performance of the 1812 overture.
Here's a link from the website for the Darwin Awards

Everyone's told me that the Mythbusters show tested this out. Now finally (thank you Ryan!) I have a YouTube link to that episode.