Tuesday, November 30, 2010


    Many of you have been reading my blog for awhile, a few times I have spoken about what music means to me.  In the sidebar of the blog there is a little description of the purpose of the blog, "the quest for the perfect sound, 160 dbs."  The volume is a little humor.  Seriously the quest for the perfect sound, I think most artist are on a life long goal of something they can call perfection.
    I woke up this morning and started listening to yesterday's library finds.  Blue Highway a blue grass band was first up in my computer.  While I was waiting for my old piece of junk to start up I read the CD Jacket.  I know the job of the jacket is to sell the CD, however I think the writer of the jacket made some great points about music in general.

"As a member in good standing of the Church of Bluegrass,
I believe that perfection is attainable in this life.  It's rarely
encountered, granted-just often enough to keep faith alive.
But when one does find perfection, in a band or a recording,
it's hallelujah, people, and crank up the volume."

    If you talk to professional musicians of the highest caliber, you will find when they talk about why the chose music you will encounter vocabulary like, divine, sublime, ethereal, etc.  They talk about early experiences while listening to music or early performance with phrases like "the music just spoke to me."  They are talking perfection.  You will encounter people that talk about the rush of performing.  Musicians all talk about music in different ways, but the fact of the matter is we were all touched by music and we are all looking to recreate that feeling of "perfection."
    Perfection means different things for different people.  I would direct you to previous blogs about technique and musicality.  But, discussion is usually confusing.  The only way to really know what I am talking about is to experience it.  That means listen, go to concerts, practice yourself, it means being a part of the quest for the perfect sound.  Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on Nature he discusses how useless language is to describe Nature, because that language has nothing to do with Nature.  The same thing goes for discussing perfect performances, words cheapen the experience.
     Jon Hartley Fox, the writer of Blue Highway's CD jacket for the CD Marble town has more insight.

It sounds odd to say of a band that has been around for 
ten years, recorded six critically acclaimed albums,  earned
a Grammy nomination, topped the charts in Bluegrass Unlimited 
and won a combined 11 group and individual IBMA awards, 
but I think Marbletown will be the album that takes 
Blue Highway to that proverbial higher level.

     I know lots of young musicians that have grown frustrated with playing in ensembles.  But look at this band 10 years of playing together, 10 years.  That's a long time, and I am sure most of them had a great deal of experience before they formed a band.  The quest for the perfect sound is a life long goal.  Patients is a quality that youth lack, but I think it is necessary to be a great musician.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dream School

   Recently, I have been thinking about returning to school.  My education only ended at the on August 22 at the end of Aspen.  I have had a full three months with zero classwork, no lessons, and no ensembles.  In these three months I have been practicing lots, thinking more, teaching some, and performing even less.  Most of my time has been devoted to the Denver Public Library and to Hulu.  I am living in Denver and spending most of my time inside.  I have been lucky enough to make all of my money through teaching and through performing, but not lucky enough to buy a pair of boots to go with the skis I received as a gift.  I am doing better than I thought I would be, but not well enough to eat as much as I want.
   I have been doing lots of listening, to CDs, on youtube, to my students, myself, and the performances I have stored in my head.  Every time I listen I want to perform more.  I want to be playing with other people everyday.  I spent the last six years of my education playing with great people, great musicians, and great ensembles. Most students take that for granted, and most students do not know how to participate as well as they should.
   Most of this blog has been devoted to the digestion of 24 years of living, 18 years of classroom learning, 6 years of music school, and 4 years of teaching.  This break I imagined lasting between one and three years, before I return to school to get my DMA.  I wanted this break so I could make the most of a DMA program and contribute to a better music school.  There are a few factors I will look for in a program that I did not necessarily think about when I picked my previous two schools.  And I will look and listen to the entire program before I make any decision.
   On my TED Talk outing for the day I came across this lecture on a Green School Dream.  John Hardy is an environmental activist and is working to develop a green culture that will be sustainable across the centuries.  The school they have built I would have loved to attend.  Basically the kids go to school outside and in between lessons they help with the farming, building, cook, and everything that goes into the life cycle of living.  Andrew Dalton, the principle of the green school, and the staff have developed a dream school for children from 25 countries.
    This started my mind on thinking about Music School Dream.  What would I want in my dream music school?  What would such a school look like?  Who would be there?  Who would teach there? Then the daunting task of finding such a school and inserting myself into it.  I wonder if my colleagues ever took the time to really ask these questions.  Or if the deans I know have tried to make there dreams a reality.
    In my mind Music School Dream, is somewhere where music happens, consistently.  Students should be performing everyday, working with faculty everyday, they should be making music.  Think about the time spent in class at music school not discussing music.  Think about the classes where music is never mentioned.  Now think about the classes where zero singing or playing happens.  In current music schools, music is discussed but rarely happens.  A singing dialogue should be developed.
    There would be a lot less judging involved.  People would be free to practice and perform whatever they like.  Criticism would be helpful and specific.  Students would teach each other willingly and in a positive manor.
   Collaboration would flow from the walls.  Different instrument groupings would experiment with different sounds.  Composers would found new sound scapes and would incorporate new and old music.  Experimentation would happen all over the place, including coffee shops, stripe malls, and downtown.
   Teachers would not be shy about teaching a student of a different instrument or even of a different genre.  Teachers would also be active in the practicing process, knock on a door and help fix a phrase.  Studios would be located in central practice areas with large windows.  Pianist would be at every lesson.  Chamber groups would show up for spontaneous coachings.
    I guess the key, MUSIC WOULD BE HAPPENING.  Music school has become a very rigid endeavor.  There are very strict rules about how a school functions and what defines success.  But do these rules evolve out of music?  A lot my teachers say things like the sound is the most important thing, or the music should determine everything.  Well why not everything.

No Asshole

   I recently started listening to Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast.  This is basically a lecture series out of Stanford that is directed at MBA students.  Their most recent lecturer was Bob Sutton. Mr. Sutton is a teacher at Stanford and a prolific author about modern business.   His lecture was supposed to be on his book, "Good Boss, Bad Boss."  But he ended up talking about his book "No Asshole Rule."
   I was listening to this while I was writing this morning.  I have been thinking about my education and how to grow on that education now that I am not in school.  I happened to be writing about my behavior in classroom classes, instead of thinking about my "musical" education.  I was taken back a few times as I sort of listened to Bob's lecture.  I was an asshole in the classroom.  According to him I would make a bad colleague if I behaved the way I acted in the classroom.
   I realized very early in my education that in ensembles, working with colleagues is key.  We have all heard conductors say the ensemble is only as good as its weakest link.  Ensemble playing is about working with others.  However, we have all sat in rehearsal wishing other players had prepared their part better.  We have all also blown up at people at least every once in awhile.
   The leadership dynamic in professional and student ensembles is incredibly interesting.  In Bobs lecture he points about the toxic tandem, bosses tend to not pay much attention to their underlings.  In other words bosses tend to be assholes.  We have all seen first trumpet players not work well with their sections or trombone sections that do not speak to each other.  Again, this is because musicians do not work well with others.
   Music lends itself to the development of an ego.  Music has been about individuals for centuries, ever since composers started taking credit for their work, and has been about virtuosos since Paganini.  We also like to hear people who sound confident.  However to be a good colleague we need to keep these egos in check.  Don't be an Asshole.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Conversation with Will: Direction

    Today I had another lengthy conversation with Will Timmons.  Will and I attended undergrad and graduate school together and have been friends for nearly seven years.  We are both aspiring pedagogues and players and we are both trying to figure out ways of being better trombone players and better teachers.  Today's topic, direction, not in music but in the approach to the horn and to learning.

    First and foremost a desire to get better is necessary to getting better.  This may seem simple, but they way we often practice does not lend itself to progression.  In my undergrad, Dr. Edwards was huge on a concept he calls Sing Buzz Play.  And I believe this is a great way to refine playing the trombone, playing the tune on the piano gives the ear an accurate model, singing helps get your voice get in alignment, buzz gets your lips get in alignment, and playing gets your trombone in alignment.  Altogether a great concept, however, I rarely incorporated this tool in my practice.  I say rarely but it was probably a few times a week. As I get older this concept is dominating my practice. 
     In my younger days repetition dominated,  I need to be able to play all my etudes, solo rep, and excerpts with the right notes consistently.  So I used the quarter game, start slow and play exercises three times right before increasing the speed on the metronome.  I still use this to increase consistency.  But, we have all heard "Practice makes permanent."  This can lead to playing consistently out of tune, with a bad sound, and weak articulation.  Now, I use several different tools like the above one to improve the concepts of my playing rather than just speeding up what I am already doing.  Proper practice may take longer to get through material but it increases good habits as apposed to fast habits.
      The other desire to get better is mostly mental.  Becoming a professional trombonist is daunting.  Students these days have hundreds of perfect recordings to listen to, most of us develop an inferiority complex.  I have seen this manifest itself in a couple ways, the first is giving up, the second is not practicing seriously because perfection is unattainable (giving up), the third is not performing (giving up).  By this last one I mean, when students do perform more often then not a question comes out of their horn instead of a statement.  We have all heard people sound really timid because they are seeking praise or help instead of presenting the music. I think the best way to battle all of these is simple to have fun and strive for clear musical ideas.  This is mostly an internal direction, being honest with where you are going.

      The second topic we discussed was direction from teachers.  We have all had teachers that prescribe curtain procedures and then counter act the prescription through a different behavior. Or teachers that assign a huge task with little guidance along the way.  Both of these behaviors are incredibly frustrating and send a mix message to the student that often in turn is frustrating and sends a mixed message to the teacher.  However, I do not think either behavior is intentional.
      Lets take a look at the first behavior in the context of sing buzz play.  The act of polishing a phrase takes a lot of time and if you use practice techniques like sing buzz play, varying rhythms and style to work on slide technique or even slowly speeding up a passage you might have very little to show for it at the end of the day.  We have all had teachers that encourage polishing one measure or phrase at a time.  The issue, how many of you have ever had a teacher assign one phrase for a weeks practice?  In my experience one etude, one solo, and a couple excerpts was a light week.  In the quest to get great fast we burn through music instead of polishing and working slowly.  Of course a balance in necessary.
      Another great way to practice is the use of patterns.  How many of you play your scales everyday?  Already this eliminates most music students.  Now how many of you actually apply these to the music you are learning?  Most of us play etudes but do we know why? Brad Edwards wrote is dissertation on etudes that work on different key areas, styles, etc.  If you look at an etude and evaluate the key areas then practice the corresponding scales and arpeggios the technique within the etude will be easier.  Its like practicing the words in the right language before translating a passage of literature.
    Now the second behavior, a huge assignment without much guidance.  In high school we were all asked to read, sometime very large books, at the end of which we were encouraged to discuss passages and themes within the book.  On the SAT test takers are encouraged to read the questions then read the passage to help direct their comprehension. If in high school a teacher layed out a unit before reading, extracting the material would be a little easier.  What if a miner started digging in a mountain before he knew what meneral he was looking for?  We would end up with a lot of dirt that needed sifting! In music the student, weather they currently take from someone or are continuing to teach themselves, needs to know why they are playing an etude, solo, or excerpt.  What is this teaching me about style, pitch, rhythm?  What am I showing, style, pitch, rhythm, articulation, direction etc.  Can you answer this about every phrase of your recital or audition?

    I would like everyone to benifit from this ensight.  These are just observations I have made about my own education.  My approach could have been a lot better while I was in school, and I hope I am honest with myself and the direction I take now that I am a working musician.  I do not mean to call out any of my former teachers and I used Brad Edwards as the example mostly because I was using the sing buzz play method today.  I also know that he is a good sport and will not take this to seriously, although I hope his face turns really red when he reads this last paragraph.  Hopefully I will also give my students lots of direction, of course my students are in high school and need lots of direction.  The tricky part is knowing when to take off the training wheels, we do not need lots of musicians that need exact directions of when to apply curtain practice techniques, styles, articulations, etc. 

Upcoming Performances

     Last month after I posted my schedule I actually acquired more commitments.  I played my first gig in Denver with the Slide Rule Trombone Choir.  This was fun, great for my career, and great for my stomach.  We were fed at the gig!  One of trombonists with the choir happened to be the conductor of the Rocky Mountain Brassworks Brassband.  RMB is the brassband in town.  Last week Doug emailed and asked if I would sub with the band and play a solo. 
      The solo....Frosty the Snowman!  I glanced over the solo and immediately took the gig.  The piece is the Sandy Smith arrangment for bass trombone or E flat bass solo with brass band.  The piece is fun, although has its challenging moments, running through a few variations and spanning three and half octaves.  This performance will be my solo debut! The first solo I played on trombone in 10th grade happened to be Frosty the Snowman.

December 11  St. Andrews United Methodist Church 4pm
December 11  Broomfield Auditorium, Rocky Mountain Brassworks Christmas Concert 7pm
December 12  Slide Rule Trombone Choir, Highlands Ranch
December 12  St Andrews United Methodist Church 2pm
December 16  EL Wright Middle School
December 17  Summit Parkway Middle School
December 19  St Johns, Columbia, SC
December 19  First Baptist, Camden, SC

     I am really looking forward to the second week in December.  As you can see I am doing a fair amount of playing as well as teaching.  I have a few more teaching engagements in Denver before I head back east.  I cannot wait for my solo debut and busy and short visit to Columbia, SC.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Locker Room Jargon

     A few days ago I had the chance to catch up with my friend Marc Williams from LA.  If you remember from my posts while I was in LA, Marc and I had a discussion about brass playing and masculinity.  This conversation was weighing heavily on Marc and needed to clarify.  If you remember he finds it annoying that brass players constantly talk about how loud something is, instead of how musical a piece can be.  In his mind this degrades music from an art form to a locker discussion.  I want to share with you some outtakes from the conversation to help shed some light on the discussion.

Marc: I really dislike when music and music-making is talked about like a sport, being a big sports fan, I now all those cliches and hear them all the time it has no place in music that was what I was referring to and it isn't just brass players was unable to encapsulate it when you were here but that's the essence. I mean, of course there is physical strength that is exerted in everything one does but music-making isn't working outside on a construction project or at the gym with the other jocks lifting weights; it isn't a primitive act it's a skilled activity and we shouldn't demean all of the hard work we put in to make it a sport.

Me:  so we should talk about music like the high art it is?

Marc:  I'm not even making a value judgment on what is high or not high art, I am saying it is not sport. That's all, simple calculus, actually.

Me:  I am trying to think about ways music is a sport, but just to be playful. What about Ives, with two bands playing at the same time?
Marc:  Maybe a mental sport. Define sport or sportish. I am talking about the language associated with working out at the gym. Working out at the gym is one thing, playing Strauss is another
Me:  Dude, I lifted so much weight, it was awesome! But after the advent of programmatic music there are aspects of sports/battles that composers want to convey. Who would Shosti be without WWII?
Marc:  But you're talking about the substance of a story added to the music not the actual music-making.
So during 1812, it is somehow okay to talk about music in that way but not Schumann 4?

Me:  I have definitely heard conductors ask for more uniform volume because "this is war." At that point I think music becomes a little oppressive and shear volume does take over, but in the context of good pitch and articulation but only in isolated moments in the rep. I would not think that for Brahms or Schumann...ever.

Marc:  But as a skilled musician, you should take the metaphor of 'this is war' and create something musical out of it, still in control of what you can do.
Me I think control is what we are getting at here. The object is in performance to be in control, however, that means sometimes pushing the boundaries in practice and sometimes in rehearsal.
Marc But locker room talk about music cheapens it is the extra wrinkle I am throwing in. I am talking about the expanded lexicon that borrows from a locker room.
Me I guess as an instrumentalist sometimes I see the practice room as a gym.  I need to push myself in order to be the best in performance. However, I agree music making is different from practicing technique
and the art of music should be elevated above technique.
Marc:  Exactly
Me:  But the line especially for young musicians can be a little fuzzy some times. I guess that is the mark of a mature musician.
    Sometimes I think taking the locker room jargon out of the conversation is a little difficult because of the atmosphere surrounding the activity.  In high school a high level of competition is formed in order to motivate musicians.  This can be good and can be bad.  I remember a young member of my high school marching band being excited at the possibility of being labeled a Virginia State Honor Band (superior at marching and concert festivals).  When I asked him, "Why, would you be happy with that?"  He got really mad at me until, I told him the activity for me, at that level, was about progress.
   Of course my friends can tell you I have pushed the volume spectrum on a lot of concerts.  And throughout my undergraduate and master degree there was a great deal of talk about "manning up" and pushing through either exhaustion or pushing volume or speed.   We did everything we could to talk about music in macho terms.  Only, after maturing a little and only in small doses would we talk about making music in a singing style, or work on ensemble musicality.  I will do my best to limit my use of locker room jargon from now on.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Best Album Ever.

     Throughout my live I have had many conversations with friends, family and professional musicians. Inevitably, what music I listen to comes up a lot.  This is actually more interesting than you would think.  I used to answer anything besides rap and country.  Most people assume I listen to a fair amount of classical music, which I do, however I listen to a very diverse collection.  Yesterday I listened to, solo mandolin, blue grass, punk rock, ska, meatloaf, the Beatles, Tenacious D and an entire Puccini opera.  I think its less of a question of what I listen to and more of a question of what I do not listen it.  Every time I visit the library I check out 8-10 CDs mostly of people/genres I have never heard before.   With so much music out is there a best Album ever?

         I have asked his question to several people.  The first was Matt Guilford of the National Symphony.  Mr. Guilford gave me my first bass trombone lesson shortly after my sophomore year of college.  After the lesson I conducted a short interview in which I asked what his favorite album was....the answer, Stairway to Heaven by Led Zepplin.  He did ask if he had to pick a classical album but I said no and was shocked by the answer.

        The first time I heard someone describe a CD as the "best album ever," it was a friend of mine, Cannon Fulmer.  Cannon is not a trained musician but he did play trombone in the marching band for 5 or 6 years.  Cannon does not have a huge CD collection or listen to music constantly but he had his favorite.  He has a box set of Chili Peppers Albums, Blood Sugar Magik, Californiacation, and Stadium Arcadium.

     Finally a classical album.  The first time I was exposed to an overwhelming music collection was after the Black Sea Tour I participated in, in 2007.  On my way out of New York I stopped in Queens at the Dunn's house.  Scott and Trish were the conductor and principle flute player on tour.  Their tiny (by my country standards) apartment had several bookcases full of music.  I spent several hours look through there collection and talking about music.  When I was leaving, Scott handed me this CD simply stating, "This is the best recording ever made."  My friends know it well now.  The Symphony is deeply moving and Lenny B. with Chicago is rare enough to make this CD special.  There are parts of some the best brass playing ever.  I think in the quest for 160 dbs, Charley Vernon might be the closest.  Usually I listen to the last 5 minutes laughing.
      There are some incredible recordings out there, pop, classical, or otherwise.  I have not made up my mind but I do go through obsessive phases, San Fransisco's Symphony Fantastic, Detroit's Copland 3, Cincinnati's Rodeo, Bat Out of Hell, Queen's Greatest Hits, and Flogging Molly's Swagger just to name a few.  I think the point is I listen to an ultra diverse collection of music almost without rest.  Listening is the best way to develop style, phrasing, and consistent beat (okay maybe dancing would be better) but listening is just an insane amount of fun.  What are some of your favorite Albums?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Charlie Rose and Valery Gergiev

      I was recently introduced to Charlie Rose by two friends who happen to be conductors.  Mark Williams my friend in LA and I watched a little bit of an interview on my recent visit.  And Will (Jack) White mentioned Mr. Rose recently on his blog.  Will actually mentions this exact interview. Will talks about composition, however, I was very taken by some specific questions from the middle of the interview.
       The first striking question Mr. Rose asks is about natural talent.  Gergiev mentioned that you must thank both your parents if you have some natural ability.  Rose no doubt thought Gergiev was talking about musical talent.  The answer was very surprising.  The natural ability applied to conducting, working with people.  Leave it to a Russian trained during the soviet union to talk about working with people.  In his words he does not want to command the orchestra but inspire the orchestra.
     There is also a section on conducting that I think applies to instrumentalists as well.  Gergiev mentions he has to start ahead of the orchestra, he has to know the music and have the sound in his head before he starts.  Then he gestures, the orchestra plays, and the sound is produced.  I think instrumentalist have to apply this same concept.  In order to really sing a musician has to know what is happening.  In Warren Deck's words, "Create anticipation and deliver satisfaction."  How many times have you listened to a performance where the impact point is not prepared?  All of a sudden we arrive but there was not direction to the journey.

Take a listen to the section of the interview.  I would recommend the section between 18-30 minutes.

     Rose and Gergiev cover huge topics in these 12 minutes.  It is very interesting to listen to a great musician talk about culture, politics, and music.  Gergiev talks about his introduction to the great composers and his approach to understanding.  This section puts my own life and my students life in prospective.  Gergiev at one point says he was listening to Stravinsky and he did not understand.  For him around his introduction to Stravinsky, Gergiev was very frightened.  He would take decades to discover the understanding necessary to conduct great works. How long will it take for me to demonstrate the difference between great composers and to reproduce the music that the composers truly imagined?  Will I be able to convince my students to produce these sounds?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Organic Foie Gras and Music.

   A friend of mine found a series of lectures this morning from the Taste 3 convention in San Fransisco in 2008.  The lecture he sent me was on bread making with a twist.  The lecture was talking about the transformations that happen throughout the life and death cycle of grain and yeast.  This lecture was an intellectual and philosophical discussion of bread making, it was very clever and interesting to watch but did not go very much beyond that.
   Chef Dan Barbar's lecture on humane foie gras was much more interesting and dynamic.  Foie Gras is the liver from an over stuffed goose.  The procedure actually got the food band from Chicago for a time.  Unfortunately, for Chefs foie gras is incredible.  Dan Barbar relates a menu without foie gras to biking the tour de france without steroids, "There are simply are not many people doing that."  There is a long discussion in sports about performance enhancing drugs and in the music about the use of beta blockers.  In daily life there are millions of people that use performance enhancing drugs for everything from ADD to arthritis. Why do we ask professional athletes not to do everything they can to be the best at what they do?  Why are beta blockers for an audition so scary?
     The lecture is mostly about one farmer in Spain that raises geese in the most humane and nature friendly way possible.  The story has many examples on how amazing this farmer really is.  After the tour of the farm Dan gets to taste the foie gras, and he said the taste was nothing short of life changing.  The farmer does not distribute his foir gras or sell it to well know chefs.  When Dan asked about this the farmer simply replied, "Becuase they do not deserve my foie gras."  Chefs would change the foie gras, add spices, make it into a dish; simply, they would destroy the three generations of work on the that farm.  I think this about great music as well.  I think every conductor would do wonders to watch that little part of the lecture.  I have played under a few younger conductors who got in the way either because of bad technique or in the name of interpretation.  Musicians need to realize, their craft has to be so good it does not get in the way of the music.  The best composers in history do not need to be interpreted, just played.  Get the hell out of the way and let the music speak for itself.

Dan Barbar's Lecture

     There are other points about the way we raise our food.  And I think they are important but not necessarily in a musical context.  There is also a point about history and listening to nature for how to raise food.  And I think these are more applicable to music, at least to a music historian or conductor that only conducts Brahms.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Music Vs. Technique: Iron Chef

    This summer at Aspen I had a chance to ask John Rojak about the audition process used by the American Brass Quintet.  In his mind the audition is the most fair audition process imaginable.  Every applicant that is invited gets to play with the quintet for twenty minutes after which the remaining four members discuss the applicant.  Several factors are considered from technique and musicality to blend and how easy the individual is to work with.  Before the finals take place every musician that is advanced receives a phone call from an ABQ member in which aspects of the first round are discussed.  Previously, this might have included asking the applicant to lead more, blend better, or vary styles more.  The final is an hour playing with the quintet, and they cover as much rep. as possible.  This is a great way to get to know someone and their playing.
    I just watched the entire second season of The Next Iron Chef in which highly qualified chefs are auditioning to join the ranks of the Iron Chefs.   In my mind if the ABQ audition were a cooking show it would be The Next Iron Chef.  Throughout the season the applicants go from cooking one dish in a specific style to cooking an entire meal using several styles based on one ingredient.  During the season I was very worried about who the judges might pick.  To be an Iron Chef takes technical mastery and creative ingenuity.  I simply did not see chefs making the inspiring meals I know for the Iron Chef series.  I was actually wondering if the Travel Channel would dare join the ranks of American orchestras and declare No Winner.
    The finale episode I think is relevant to the annoying discussion Malcolm hates, technique vs. music.  In a previous post I discussed needing both technique and musicality to achieve a convincing concert.  I believe these judges feel the same way about creativity and technique of cooking.  Chef Symon even asks, "If you are creative and fail, are you creative or are you just a failure?"  The other every interesting aspect of this discussion is the judges are set up as three working Iron Chefs (colleagues) and three food critics (audience).  I think watching this episode is essential in audition prep.

Next Iron Chef: Season 2 Finale

    In the end the judges pick the more technically sound chef. (Sorry for the spoiler).  But I think in music the more technically sound musician will when if there is an argument like this one.  Of course we all like to hear musical interpretations that are technically sound.  And on the other hand is creativity easier to teach than technique?  Can both aspects be practiced and perfected?  Which is more difficult?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Merlin by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thy trivial harp will never please
Or fill my craving ear;
Its chords should ring as blows the breeze,
Free, peremptory, clear.
No jingling serenader's art,
Nor tinkle of piano strings,
Can make the wild blood start
In its mystic springs.
The kingly bard
Must smile the chords rudely and hard,
As with hammer or with mace;
That they may render back
Artful thunder, which conveys
Secrets of the solar track,
Sparks of the supersolar blaze
Merlin's blows are strokes of fate,
Chiming with the forest tone,
When boughs buffet boughs in the wood;
Chiming with the gasp and moan
Of the ice-imprisoned hood;
With the pulse of manly hearts;
With the voice of orators;
With the din of city arts;
With the cannonade of wars;
With the marches of the brave;
And prayers of might from martyrs' cave.
Great is the art,
Great be the manners, of the bard.
He shall not his brain encumber
With the coil of rhythm and number;
But, leaving rule and pale forethought,
He shall aye climb
For his rhyme.
"Pass in, pass in," the angels say,
"In to the upper doors,
Nor count compartments of the floors,
But mount to paradise
By the stairway of surprise.

Blameless master of the games,
King of sport that never shames,
He shall daily joy dispense
Hid in song's sweet influence.
Forms more cheerly live and go,
What time the subtle mind
Sings aloud the tune whereto
Their pulses beat,
And march their feet,
And their members are combined.

By Sybarites beguiled,
He shall no task decline;
Merlin's mighty line
Extremes of nature reconciled,
Bereaved a tyrant of his will,
And made the lion mild.
Songs can the tempest still,
Scattered on the stormy air,
Mold the year to fair increase,
And bring in poetic peace.
He shall nor seek to weave,
In weak, unhappy times,
Efficacious rhymes;
Wait his returning strength.
Bird that from the nadir's floor
To the zenith's top can soar,
The roaring orbit of the muse exceeds that journey's length.
Nor profane affect to hit
Or compass that, by meddling wit,
Which only the propitious mind
Publishes when 'tis inclined.
There are open hours
When the God's will sallies free,
And the dull idiot might see
The flowing fortunes of a thousand years;
Sudden, at unawares,
Self-moved, fly-to the doors,
Nor sword of angels could reveal
What they conceal.

The rhyme of the poet
Modulates the king's affairs;
Balance-loving Nature
Made all things in pairs.
To every foot its antipode;
Each color with its counter glowed:
To every tone beat answering tones,
Higher or graver;
Flavor gladly blends with flavor;
Leaf answers leaf upon the bough;
And match the paired cotyledons.
Hands to hands, and feet to feet,
In one body grooms and brides;
Eldest rite, two married sides
In every mortal meet.
Light's far furnace shines,
Smelting balls and bars,
Forging double stars,
Glittering twins and trines.
The animals are sick with love,
Lovesick with rhyme;
Each with all propitious Time
Into chorus wove.

Like the dancers' ordered band,
Thoughts come also hand in hand;
In equal couples mated,
Or else alternated;
Adding by their mutual gage,
One to other, health and age.
Solitary fancies go
Short-lived wandering to and ire,
Most like to bachelors,
Or an ungiven maid,
Nor ancestors,
With no posterity to make the lie afraid,
Or keep truth undecayed.
Perfect-paired as eagle's wings,
Justice is the rhyme of things;
Trade and counting use
The self-same tuneful muse;
And Nemesis
Who with even matches odd,
Who athwart space redresses
The partial wrong,
Fills the just period,
And finishes the song.

Subtle rhymes, with ruin rife
Murmur in the hour of life,
Sung by the Sisters as they spin;
In perfect time and measure they
Build and unbuild our echoing clay.
As the two twilights of the day
Fold us music-drunken in.

Threnody by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The South-wind brings
Life, sunshine and desire,
And on every mount and meadow
Breathes aromatic fire;
But over the dead he has no power,
The lost, the lost, he cannot restore;
And, looking over the hills, I mourn
The darling who shall not return.

I see my empty house,
I see my trees repair their boughs;
And he, the wondrous child,
Whose silver warble wild
Outvalued every pulsing sound
Within the ear's cerulean round,--
The hyacinthine boy Definition, for whom
Morn well might break and April bloom,
The gracious boy, who did adorn
The world whereinto he was born,
And by his countenance repay
The favor of the loving Day,--
Has disappeared from the Day's eye;
Far and wide she cannot find him;
My hopes pursue, they cannot bind him.
Returned this day, the South-wind searches,
And finds young pines and budding birches;
But finds not the budding man:
Nature, who lost, cannot remake him;
Fate let him fall, Fate can't retake him;
Nature, Fate, men, him seek in vain.

And whither now, my truant wise and sweet,
0, whither tend thy feet!
I had the right, few days ago,
Thy steps to watch, thy place to know:
How have I forfeited the right?
Hast thou forgot me in a new delight?
I hearken for thy household cheer,
O eloquent child!
Whose voice, an equal messenger,
Conveyed thy meaning mild.
What though the pains and joys
Whereof it spoke were toys
Fitting his age and ken,
Yet fairest dames and bearded men,
Who heard the sweet request, 
So gentle, wise and grave,
Bended with joy to his behest
And let the world's affairs go by,
A while to share his cordial game,
Or mend his wicker wagon-frame,
Still plotting how their hungry ear
That winsome voice again might hear;
For his lips could well pronounce
Words that were persuasions.
Gentlest guardians marked serene
His early hope, his liberal mien;
Took counsel from his guiding eyes
To make this wisdom earthly wise.
Ah, vainly do these eyes recall
The school-march, each day's festival,
When every morn my bosom glowed
To watch the convoy on the road;
The babe in willow wagon closed,
With rolling eyes and face composed;
With children forward and behind,
Like Cupids studiously inclined;
And he the chieftain paced beside,
The centre of the troop allied,
With sunny face of sweet repose,
To guard the babe from fancied foes.
The little captain innocent
Took the eye with him as he went;
Each village senior paused to scan
And speak the lovely caravan.
From the window I look out
To mark thy beautiful parade,
Stately marching in cap and coat
To same tune by fairies played;--
A music heard by thee alone
To works as noble led thee on.

Now Love and Pride, alas! in vain,
Up and down their glances strain.
The painted sled stands where it stood;
The kennel by the corded wood;
His gathered sticks to stanch the wall
Of the snow-tower, when snow should fall;
The ominous hole he dug in the sand,
And childhood's castles built or planned;
His daily haunts I well discern,--
The poultry-yard, the shed, the barn,--
And every inch of garden ground
Paced by the blessed feet around,
From the roadside to the brook
Whereinto he loved to look.
Step the meek fowls where erst they ranged;
The wintry garden lies unchanged;
The brook into the stream runs on;
But the deep-eyed boy is gone.

On that shaded day,
Dark with more clouds than tempests are,
When thou didst yield thy innocent breath
In birdlike heavings unto death,
Night came, and Nature had not thee;
I said, "We are mates in misery."
The morrow dawned with needless glow;
Each snowbird chirped, each fowl must crow;
Each tramper started; but the feet
Of the most beautiful and sweet
Of human youth had left the hill
And garden,--they were bound and still.
There's nor a sparrow or a wren,
There's not a blade of autumn grain,
Which the four seasons do not tend
And tides of life and increase lend;
And every chick of every bird,
And weed and rock-moss is preferred.
O ostrich-like forgetfulnesr!
O loss of larger in the lessl
Was there no star that could be sent,
No watcher in the firmament,
No angel from the countless host
That loiters round the crystal coast,
Could stoop to heal that only child,
Nature's sweet marvel undefiled,
And keep the blossom of the earth,
Which all her harvests were nor worth?
Not mine,--I never called thee mine,
Bur Nature's heir,--if I repine,
And seeing rashly torn and moved
Nor what I made, but what I loved,
Grow early old with grief that thou
Must to the wastes of Nature go,--
'Tis because a general hope
Was quenched, and all must doubt and grope.
For flattering planets seemed to say
This child should ills of ages stay,
By wondrous tongue, and guided pen,
Bring the flown Muses back to men.
Perchance not he but Nature ailed,
The world and nor the infant failed.
It was not ripe yet to sustain
A genius of so fine a strain,
Who gazed upon the sun and moon
As if he came unto his own,
And, pregnant with his grander thought,
Brought the old order into doubt.
His beauty once their beauty tried;
They could not feed him, and he died,
And wandered backward as in scorn,
To wait an aeon to be born.
Ill day which made this beauty waste,
Plight broken, this high face defaced!
Some went and came about the dead;
And some in books of solace read;
Same to their friends the tidings say;
Some went to write, some went to pray;
One tarried here, there hurried one;
But their heart abode with none.
Covetous death bereaved us all,
To aggrandize one funeral.
The eager fate which carried thee
Took the largest part of me:
For this Iosing is true dying;
This is lordly man's down-lying,
This his slow but sum reclining,
Star by star his world resigning.

O child of paradise,
Boy who made dear his father's home,
In whose deep eyes
Men read the welfare of the times to come,
I am too much bereft.
The world dishonored thou hast left.
O truth's and nature's costly lid
O trusted broken prophecy!
O richest fortunes sourly crossed!
Born for the future, to the future lost!

The deep Heart answered, "Weepest thou?
Worthier cause for passion wild
If I had not taken the child.
And deemest thou as those who pore,
With aged eyes, short way before,--
Think'st Beauty vanished from the coast
Of matter, and thy darling lost?
Taught he not thee--the man of eld,
Whose eyes within his eyes beheld
Heaven's numerous hierarchy span
The mystic gulf from God to man?
To be alone wilt thou begin
When worlds of lovers hem thee in?
Tomorrow, when the masks shall fall
That dizen Nature's carnival,
The pure shall see by their own will,
Which oveflowing. Love shall fill,
T is not within the force of fate
The fate-conjoined to separate.
But thou, my votary, weepest thou?
I gave thee sight--where is it now?
I taught thy heart beyond the reach
Of ritual, bible, or of speech;
Wrote in thy mind's transparent table,
As far as the incommunicable;
Taught thee each private sign to raise
Lit by the supersolar blaze.
Past utterance, and past belief,
And part the blasphemy of grief
The mysteries of Nature's heart;
And though no Muse can these impart,
Throb thine with Nature's throbbing breast
And all is clear from east to west.

"I came to thee as to a friend;
Dearest, to thee I did not send
Tutors, but a joyful eye,
Innocence that matched the sky,
Lovely locks, a form of wonder,
Laughter rich as woodland thunder,
That thou might'st entertain apart
The richest flowering of all art:
And, as the great all-loving Day
Through smallest chambers takes its way,
That thou might'st break thy daily bread
With prophet, savior and head;
That thou might'st cherish for thine own
The riches of sweet Mary's Son,
Boy-Rabbi, Israel's paragon.
And thoughtest thou such guest
Would in thy hall take up his rest?
Would rushing life forget her laws,
Fare's glowing revolution pause?
High omens ask diviner guess;
Not to be conned to tediousness
And know my higher gifts unbind
The zone that girds the incarnate mind.
When the scanty shores are full
With Thought's perilous, whirling pool;
When frail Nature can no more,
Then the Spirit strikes the hour:
My servant Death, with solving rite,
Pours finite into infinite.
Wilt thou freeze love's tidal flow,
Whose streams through Nature circling go?
Nail the wild star to its track
On the half-climbed zodiac?
Light is light which radiates,
Blood is blood which circulates,
Life is life which generates,
And many-seeming life is one,--
Wilt thou transfix and make it none?
Its onward force too starkly pent
In figure, bone, and lineamenti
Wilt thou, uncalled, interrogate,
Talker! the unreplying Fate?
Nor see the genius of the whole
Ascendant in the private soul,
Beckon it when to go and came,
Self-announced its hour of doom?
Fair the soul's recess and shrine,
Magic-built to last a season;
Masterpiece of love benign,
Fairer that expansive reason
Whose omen 't is, and sign.
Wilt thou not ope thy heart to know
What rainbows teach, and sunsets show?
Verdict which accumulates
From lengthening scroll of human fates,
Voice of earth to earth returned,
Prayers of saints that inly burned,--
Saying, What is excellent,
As God lives, is permanent;
Hearts are dust, hearts' loves remain;
Heart's love will meet thee again.
Revere the Maker--fetch thine eye
Up to his style, and manners of the sky.
Not of adamant and gold
Built he heaven stark and cold;
No, but a nest of bending reeds,
Flowering grass and scented weeds;
Or like a traveller's fleeing tent,
Or bow above the tempest beet;
Built of tears and sacred ffames,
And virtue reaching to its aims;
Built of furtherance and pursuing,
Not of spent deeds, but of doing.
Silent rushes the swift Lord
Through ruined systems still restored,
Broadsowing, bleak and void to bless,
Plants with worlds the wilderness;
Waters with tears of ancient sorrow
Apples of Eden ripe to-merrow.
House and tenant go to ground,
Lost in God, in Godhead found."

Monday, November 8, 2010


   Waking up to an NPR Article on Frank Sinatra is like waking up to a love affair I forgot I had.  James Kaplan has written the first installment of a new Sinatra biography in which Kaplan discusses the slightly darker aspects of Frank's life and career.  Frank had three possibly four suicide attempts throughout his life usually surrounding low points in his career or women.  He also used the best publicist in New York City to help launch his solo career after he left Tommy Dorsey's band.

These are some of my favorite Frank Songs.
I Get a Kick Out of You
The Lady is a Tramp

    I remember a lesson with Dr. Brad Edwards in which he was trying to get me to play a relaxed lyrical melody.  The melody was the second theme from the Spillman Concerto.  Doc, put on I Get a Kick Out of You and immediately started singing along.  When the cheesy electric guitar enters Doc almost fell on the floor laughing and when the verse about cocaine started with Frank holding out the fffffffffffffffffff in sniff and terriffffffffffffffically, Doc just lost it.  After he was done with that goofy smile he transposed the melody from the Spillman into the same key as I Get a Kick Out of You and played along.  The chord progression is not the same but I got the point.  I can thank that melody for some of the reason why I got into grad school.
Tommy Dorsey, I Am Getting Sentimental Over You
   Some people are not aware of the fact that Frank got his start in the Dorsey Brother's Band.  Frank actually produced an album dedicated to Tommy in which he featured the trombone section rather heavily.  In the CD jacket, Frank actually thanks Tommy for helping develop his since of phrasing and style.  Tommy was fabled to play outrageously long phrases in one breath.  His chest would expand over four inches when he took one of those large breaths.  There is an article in the ITA journal about how Tommy pulled off these phrases.  He employed several techniques.  I would recommend the article to anyone who wants to know who to pull off ultra long phrases.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Old Friends and Faded Memories

      My life and my musical activities were in curious alignment yesterday.  I have began work on two pieces that I have previously performed, First Song and A Quick Trip with Lots of Baggage.  And I had drinks with several friends from back east, two friends from high school and a family of friends I knew in middle school.  Just like my friends these two piece are from vastly different periods in my life/trombone playing.
      Getting to know old friends is a tricky and bizarre feeling.  People change over the years, but only a little bit.  I think the core of someones personality stays mostly the same.  The first meeting is always a little nerve racking and most people approach the meeting with a little apprehension.  The first friend I met up with was Ariel; we just greeted each other on the street corner and after a huge hug we went for a short walk before dinner.  The period of polite talk about each others family and about our work was very short before we dived into our lives from high school.  Ariel and I were really good friends, both of our parents did not mind hosting large parties of weird teenagers.  Ariel's mom also drove us several hours to go to amusement parks instead of school and she helped us all get ready for our first viewing of Rocky Horror.  We simply had a blast in high school.
      We slipped right into our old ways.  This is like what is happening with Inez's AQTWLOB, I have performed the piece twice and it was written for me.  I had a little apprehension when I re-approached the piece, some tuning issues and some slide technique things, but I am getting the hang of the San Fransisco street scene rather fast.  I love the groove and the minimalist structure.  Although the written cadenza I have never played, so this will be the part of the personality that changed.  Not very much but just a little.
     The second group of friends I met up with were the Tamsens.  Jim, now Jeremy, and I were best friends in 5th and 6th grade.  His family moved from Colorado to Virginia at the beginning of 5th grade and went back to bigger mountains at the end of 6th.  Jim was responsible for turning me on to the radio, although this musical introduction was largely to pop music at least I started listening.  Needless to say I was very nervous about this meeting because I had not spoken to him in over 14 years.
     Jeremy is now very busy, juggling life between an internship, grad school, a part-time job and political activism. His sisters are all grown up, Courtney has two children! Although circumstances have changed their personalities are still largely intact.  Jeremy still is a pseudo intellectual with a huge vocabulary.  And Courtney is still the mediator between the three siblings.  There was a lot of talk about our small town in Virginia and about the people that had kept up with the Tamsens.  But mostly the talk was about our present lives, political, children, and music. We are going to go see the Colorado Opera play La Boheme this week.
    This is a lot like how First Song is coming back to me.  I performed the piece at the beginning of grad school.  The notes still seem a little foreign; I am sure I did not learn the right rhythms, and the tempo changes seem incredibly capricious to me. My approach to re-learning the piece is vastly different than the first time.  I am taking things much slower and making sure everything is correct first.  I am focusing more on the details like the difference in articulation.  And I am trying to find the music; the piece changes character rather fast and I need to prepare each shift.
    I am looking forward to getting to know my friends and these two pieces of music again.  There is something familiar and comforting about seeing old friends and something exciting about learning about the new aspects of their lives.  I hope I can bring new aspects to the music as well.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Another Brick Wall

    I am faced with the same problem this photographer solved.  How do you make something boring and normal into art?  I really like how Michael Sanders turned this brick wall into an awesome picture.  In music we are faced more often then we would like at admit with turning boring music into something awesome.  I have had teachers say, "This sounds like you hate the piece."  Well it simply cannot sound that way.
    So in music we use everything we can.  Find where the harmony is pointing and help the direction along.  Over phrasing might be necessary to produce motion if the composer forgot to write it in.  Several different musical ideas might help, adding articulations, or rubato are easy fixes as well.  The challenge then becomes how do you do this for a competition or a recording?
    If I am making a tape for a competition where is the line as far as changing the piece?  Can I take different tempos than are printed if the piece sounds better faster? Slower?  In a performance I would certainly change the piece to make it more exciting for the audience.  And I think I can change it a little for a competition if the tape would sound better.  I guess the point is to be as musical as you can all the time.  And if you are given a brick wall, well, play it musically.

Classical Cooking

    Last night I was invited to attend a party with some friends from back east.  A friend from high school decided to move out here with friends from the restaurant he was working at.  Several of these girls are studying to become chefs.  I was delighted, I could share with them the new cook books I have.  When I mentioned I just received Le Escoffier and Jacques Pepen's La Methode one of the girls was delighted.  We spoke shortly about stocks and sauces and about how in modern times most people buy stock instead of making their own.
     This was the first comment that struck me as odd coming from a cooking students.  Escoffier takes a great deal of time exampling the importance of a quality stock.  The introduction to the book actually is devoted almost entirely the to process of developing quality stocks.  She did tell me they spent a great deal of time at school practicing different types of stocks but in the end it was mostly a waste of time.  I wonder what would happen if I did not focus on the fundamentals of trombone, what if I just skipped right to playing concertos?  I don't think it would sound very good.  However last time I checked I could not buy scales and lip slurs someone else had prepared. Of course, I was also glad to hear I could buy stocks at the store.  The thought of spending hours and using lots of quality ingredients just to have the base of a sauce was intimidating.
     Upon starting the same conversation with another Chef to be, I received a very short, "Oh I am not really interested in classical cooking."  Wow, what a slap in the face.  I did not probe any farther, but what does she cook?  How does she understand her place in the history of her craft?  I guess cooking does not have to be part of a high art and she can just discount the entire history of her craft.  But why?  Playing the bass trombone I can relate.  There is almost zero classical music with the bass trombone.  In fact the instrument was not used in the symphonic literature until the very end of the classical period.  Sometimes I find it very easy to discount Mozart and most of Beethoven.  But if I discounted these wonderful musicians I would be wasting several years of work and study.  The classical period is very important to my craft.  I guess preparing elegant food everyday can be pretty tiresome.

     To me classical music is about elegance.  If there is a single blemish on a piece of music then the entire performance is ruined.  The level of technique required to play the little literature from the classical period for my instrument is simply astounding.  If I chip even one note or play just a little too heavy, then it sounds more like a bull in a china shop instead of Haydn.  Sometimes I feel like a bull in a china shop playing my huge American bass trombone.
   I guess the music I truly like to play and to listen too reflects my favorite food as well.  I really enjoy steak and potatoes.  Or even just a greasy hamburger with a fried egg.  These foods however are easily destroyed by over cooking or adding the wrong seasoning.  By working on the classic and the elegant better technique can be achieved and better recipes can be developed.  The same for my instrument, if I only played Strauss or Vaughn Williams my technique and elegance would be very lacking.  I would turn into that obnoxious American speaking very loudly at a concert in the Concertgebouw.  Even steak can be over powering at times.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Things Coming Up.

This month will be a little less busy than October.  I need to make a few tapes this month.

Inez deDeugd-McComas Wrote a piece for me.  I will be recording it this month.

Ed Kleinhammer ITA competition

And of course a tape for Aspen Music Festival and School.

I will also be teaching heavily.  Hopefully next month I can add a few live performances.

Travel Part 3: Homeward Bound

     Normally I would not feel the need to tell everyone about my last two days in LA and the airplane ride home, however, I believe those last two days and the people I met will make a lasting impression on my life.  I had the pleasure of meeting Ronald Cook, the older gentleman who's luxury condo I was staying in.  My friend Marc is a permanent house sitter of sorts while Ron is usually busy with business travel.  Ron is a 77 year old who is an executive for a prominent American family and who has worked very hard his entire life.  He is one of the most genuine, kind, and intelligent people I have ever met.
     Ron returned to LA from two weeks in New York while Marc and I were in San Diego.  Monday when we returned home, Ron was already back at work in the LA office.  That night Marc gave me a walking tour of downtown before I met Ron.  Ron then wanted to take us to dinner and hear everything about me and what Marc was working on.  We went to a wine bar where, while I was acquiring an education, we spoke heavily about politics.  Marc was helping run the Democratic campaign in California.  Intermittently, Marc would attempt to ask about Ron, turns out Ron has seen three Mahler cycles in the last three years one of which was while he was in New York last week.  He had heard more live Mahler in one week than I have in my life time.
     The next morning I woke early and caught a ride with Marc to Santa Monica.  I spent Tuesday on the beach while Marc spent his time in the Boiler Room for the campaign.  This was my second trip to Santa Monica and I actually enjoyed the weather more in the "fall" than in the summer.  Although the smog cloud was clearly visible over the Pacific Ocean. I caught a ride back downtown on the big blue bus. Marc would be spending several more hours defending the west coast against some pretty crazy would-be politicians.
    I was home to greet Ron when he returned home.  He wanted to take me to a sushi bar for dinner and who am I to refuse some delicious free food?  Over dinner the topics drifted far and wide, politics, music, art, and food were the highlights.  Ron was a chef in a former life and we talked about the deconstructionist movements and how they were reflected in music, art and food.  I was excited to try squid and albacore tuna among the more usual sushi fare.
    That night talk continued until midnight.  Although when we returned home I began asking more directed questions about life.  Ron's personality has the wisdom of an old man, the vigor of youth, and the carefreeness of childhood.  I wanted to know how to be an energetic old man that traveled the world and by all accounts had a ton of fun.  His advice was something out of eastern philosophy.  "The ability to see everything and see nothing, to see nothing and to see everything."  How does one stay focused on work and yet unfocused enough to be carefree?  The best thing he could tell me was don't get stuck in a routine and don't get stuck around people without the capacity to continue growing.
    I think this goes along with the Young at Heart post from yesterday.  If life is approached from the view of a child and the work of a man hopefully we will turn out this way.  I am incredible thankful to have met Ron and to Marc for showing me around southern California.  Ron even gave me some wonderful cookbooks that will introduce me to the french style.  Hopefully I will get to see these two wonderful people very soon.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Young at Heart

"Once I could paint like Raphael, 
but I have spent a life time learning to paint like a child."
~ Picasso

   I have a incredible amount of stories to tell about this little quote I saw in the window of an art store as I walked to an early afternoon happy hour.  Most old people I know would agree; everyone from my Grandmothers, former teachers, and friends seem to be healthier when they are "Young at Heart."  Young at Heart happens to be one of my favorite songs sung by Frank Sinatra. This story, however, is from the end of the European tour I participated in, in 2007.
   Unfortunately, the director of the Long Island Youth Orchestra had medical problems just before the tour began and the assistant conductor had to conduct the tour.  This is the short story of how I met Scott Dunn.  The summer I spent on tour with a bunch of kids from Long Island was one of the most memorable events in my life, not because of the music we made but because of the people and because of the places I shared with those people.  That summer I took most of my meals with Scott and Trish Dunn, David Schnables, Lee Duke, and Sean Ritenauer.  Later in life I jokingly told Scott he had only known me for a month, he responded, "Yea, but I had every meal with you for that month and for you that means a lot."  We happened to be eating breakfast in a diner in Queens.
     I could type for hours about the three weeks leading up to the tour and the four we spent around the black sea.  However, I think I will just get to the point.  Scott had a masters in trombone from CCM, where he went to school with George Curran IV.  They actually won the first ITA trombone quartet competition in 2002.  At this point I had only one lesson with George, a lesson that lasted four hours.  That was also the first lesson I ever had with another bass trombonist.  After Scott and Trish realized I knew George, they never left my side.  And they never let me play less than my best.
    The tour ended that summer in Istanbul, Turkey.  The last day the orchestra spent on a river boat cruise on the Bosporus, the strait that divides Europe from Asia.  That day was simple amazing.  After dinner the orchestra was full of nostalgia.  I had the opportunity to ask Scott a few questions about grad school and the music industry.  We mostly talked about graduate school and the best options to be successful as a trombonist.  So I asked, "What made George so special? Why did he get a job?"  Scott's answer, "George approached the instrument with a child-like curiosity.  He never let the instrument get him down and he always experimented like a child. Sure he had bad days, but after a beer he was enthusiastic as ever."
     After getting to know George, Scott and Trish more I realized how important and true this was.  George is a very energetic and kind man.  Although he is also very intelligent. I do my best always to approach my trombone with energy and curiosity, sometimes too much.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Travel: Part Two, No Dice

     Well folks I auditioned for the San Diego Symphony this morning and as you can tell I will be returning to my chilly life style in Denver, CO.  I did, however, have a lot of fun along the way.  Yesterday, I rested up as a guest in a corner almost penthouse in downtown LA.  I only practiced a little bit and everything was every quite and reserved.  I also managed to listen to some amazing music.  Turandot......wow, what a job Puccini.  I of course am widely familiar with the famous Nessun Dorma aria, but in context, life changing.
       On a side note my friend Marc Williams is working diligently on the Californian democratic campaign.  So yesterday I spent some time watching footage from Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert.  I thought their idea for the rally to restore sanity was ingenious.  I had two former teachers in the crowd, Brad Edwards and Kurt Grosshans, judging from facebook they had a really great time.  Out of curiosity I looked at Fox News and saw some pretty slanted reporting.  They interviewed two people, a pot head, and a level headed moderate talked about compromise, who just happened to have the most amazing devil costume on.  Thanks Fox News, for even painting moderates in a bad light.
      Marc and I hit the road around seven last night for the short drive to the lovely beach community.  I had my first experience with In-n-Out burger.  Best fast food burger I have had, although I can thank the burger mecca for waking me up in the middle of the night.  The trip was very fast and included memorable movie sights along the coast.  We were in San Diego by 9:20.
    Marc arranged for us to stay with a good friend of his Grandfathers, Guy Williams, the famous painter.  Walter lives in a large portion of a small apartment building just four blocks from the bay and twelve from the ocean.  Sadly, I did not know this till after the audition this morning.  Walter's house was packed to the brim with art, literature, music, photographs, trinkets, and shag carpeting. Turns out this older gentleman founded quit a few artist in his day and even commissioned Conrad Susa to write a small chamber piece for solo baritone (voice) and some other instruments.  The piece has never been performed so if someone wants to premier the work let me know.  I was in bed by 10:30 and other than a brief visit from the In-n-Out devils I slept rather soundly.
    This morning I wakened to the sound of Bach's Da Gamba concertos, eggs, sausage and English muffins.  I received a tour of the art and browsed the CD collection that numbered well into the thousands.  We talked about the importance of the Berio Sequenza and Stewart Dempster.  We also discussed the evolution of the San Diego orchestra as Wilson had been a member of the community for well  over 60 years.
   The drive into downtown was very short and beautiful, the San Diego landscape is made up of rolling hills, huge towers, old villas, the bay and the ocean.  The sight is truly unique.  The people running the audition were very nice and I had a practice room all to myself when I walked in.  I was number 41.  The only anomaly happened with I was called to audition at 9 am when I was promised I would not play until a half hour after my scheduled check-in time.  Well, this was no problem, the committee simply took and break and voted on the 8 am block of auctioneers. 
     The only think I would have changed about the actual audition is, I would have played the excerpts at a faster pace.  My nerves were actually pretty chill this morning, but I had trouble taking a breath and started each excerpt.  I did not miss the first note or flub the articulation, I simply took a big breath and stopped for some reason.  This caused a longer than normal amount of dead time between excerpts.  Actually when I was taking a breath to start Brahms Four is when the "thank you" came.  If I had taken less than 45 seconds between excerpts I could have at least played one more.
     I also learned I need to play the common excerpts everyday.  I was working on heldenlaben and fountains a lot.  I just did not feel as comfortable with them as the more standard excerpts.  Well hungarian march and creation were first up.  So I think I will just play them everyday and work on execution and slide accuracy.  I need to make sure that the standards a perfect.  After the audition I got to catch up with JJ Cooper.  He actually bought me my first mexican mocha, what a guy.
    We took the long way home.  Walter was enjoying being a tour guide.  The city has a long history, open green spaces, museums, art galleries, and a lazy beach community.  Sadly, I think I would have liked to live there at least awhile.  Now I have Milwaukee, Civic, New World, and possibly Navy to look forward to preparing for.  What a great year to be a young bass trombonist.  I have one more day to spend in LA, my flight leaves Wednesday morning.  I am looking forward to returning to the Gateway to the Rockies to ski, build a studio, and start a life....at least for a little while.