Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Targets in Time

I had this idea about a month ago and I have not had the time to write the blog post about it.  This is ironic because I will be talking about timing. 

In teaching a lesson out of Dr. Brad Edwards' "Lip Slurs" I was reminded of targets.  Pete Norton used lip slurs to define an exact location of partials. He talked about the distance between notes and not over or under shooting these targets.  Think of these on a vertical axis.  Now think about exact slide positions on a horizontal axis.  This might look like a fingering chart extending along your trombone, perpendicular to your body.

Of course you cannot actually see this chart on your trombone.  In order to play "target practice" you have to use your ears to identify the targets and your embouchure, air, tongue, and arm to hit the targets.

But wait there is one more variable.  Time.  All of the systems used to produce pitch have to cooridinated in time with the music in order to hit the right target.  In my lesson with Brandt Attema he made me subdivide my lips slurs to make the target smaller.  This allowed less time for movement of any of these factors forcing a more coordinated approach to playing. 

So now we have a 3D "target practice" Arm-horizontal, embauchure/air-vertical, time-time.  All three of these have to be perfect to successfully hit a note.  A physical representation of this "target practice" concept might look a little like a carnival game.

Except, of course, instead of using your eyes to see and lead the targets, you have to use you ears and mind.  And instead of using your finger and a gun to fire bullets, you are using your air, embouchure, and instrument to fire notes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Another Audition, Another Rejuvenation

As a classical musician, I have encountered quite a bit of resistance and negativity toward the field, daily practice, and job prospects.  Recently, with job offers teaching, the Detroit Symphony in the news, and the complete lack of bass trombone auditions, the field seems more bleak than ever.  However, there is something incredible rewarding about a job well done.  Being around the members and staff of NWS is a very positive experience. 

Last week I attended the Colorado Symphony to hear my friend George Curran Perform with the orchestra.  This was the first live concert I attended in nearly five months.  After the concert I felt rejuvenated and very positive.  I cannot stress the importance of a positive attitude and outlook on life.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I have just finished my second month as the band director at Powell Middle School in Littleton, CO, and I am pleased to announce I will be there until the end of the school year.  Teaching, band and privately, has been taking up most of my time and energy these two months.  I must apologize for the drastic drop off in posts.  Currently, I am in Miami, Florida visiting Will Timmons and the New World Symphony Orchestra.  I should have time throughout this week to post blogs about NWS, Miami, and teaching.

I know I already mentioned NWS's new hall, but last night I received a private tour from Will and Stefan, the lighting engineer for the hall.  The building is magnificent.  Frank Gehry maintained his style making the place is remarkable similar to Disney Hall in LA; however the structure here in Miami, is a little more minimalistic and covered in drywall instead of the aluminum of Disney Hall.  Inside the hall is a labyrinth of negative space and crazy shapes.  Platforms made of offices, lounges, practices rooms, the box office, and the lobby bar make the lobby hall look like an Escher painting.  The hall itself is completely decked out with an incredible array of lights, lasers, and video projectors.  The place is designed to offer a wide verity of performance capabilities.  This is truly the next step in performance spaces.

I had breakfast in the park while I watched families wear their kids about before the children's concert that is starting right now.