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?