Monday, October 31, 2011

Musical Creativity III

This one is stupid awesome.

When I was at Carolina, there was a music-ed trumpet major one year younger than me.  I never knew Tommy Miserendino really well, but he is up to some cool stuff.  As far as I know he is done with classical music and straight onto what he says sounds "like Jack Johnson with a whiskey edge."

Tom Dino's Nothing But Problems, is mellow in nature and lightly influenced by reggae.  The relationship to Jack Johnson and other college rock singers is apparent in the vocals and acoustic tracks.  The album is a great listen and I am sure I will have it on at the next party.  The lyrics are optimistic in nature but reflective at times and should appeal to twenty somethings.  Tommy plays guitar, trumpet, bass, and does the vocals on the album.  Check out his facebook page.  The album is on iTunes.

I hope Tommy keeps this up.  I cannot wait for the next one.  Seriously, check it out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Travel: Part ?

I find myself in the Frankfurt airport more than slightly jet lagged, after a very short night of attempted sleep at 30,000+ feet.  I have another short flight before I get to Oslo, where I will be auditioning for the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.  Preparations have gone well since we received the required music less than three weeks ago.  This past week was filled with Trombone Choir and Brass Quintet more than preparing excerpts.  However, I was able to perform the required solo (the Lebedev) and play a few mock auditions.  If it were not for my exhausted state, I would be psyched for the audition.

Tomorrow (or today) is Liszt's birthday.  Liszt was an incredible pianist and changed the music world.  Miles Hauffman, of NRP, however, does not think he should be count among the great composers.

Thoughts?  I am to tired for outrage.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Found it!

Trombonists talk about sound quality, constantly.  Searching for the perfect sound is a life long process and sometimes a frustrating one.  We are luck to be in an age with great musicians and easy access to technology.  We can listen to Charley Vernon, Matt Guilford, Paul Pollard, Jim Markey, and practically any working trombonist in the world with a few clicks of the botton.  We can also listen to remarkable musicians of the last generation, people like Pavarotti and Sinatra, through CD.

However what happens when you want to listen to an artist who was active before CD's and the internet?  Usually a library will help, even if you have to listen on an LP.  But what happens when this artist is a little know bass trombonist, say the Talented Mr. Roberts?

Pretty much everyone of the bass trombonists listed above talk about Mr. Bass Trombone and sound quality.  You can scarcely read an ITA Journal without someone mentioning the famed bass trombonist. I remember my first lesson with Matt Guilford in 2005 when I was a sophomore at USC.  He mentioned George Roberts as one of his influences and I have been on a quest to find his CD for the last six years.

The wait was worth it.  Just look at how easily he produces a great sound.  You can order his "CD's"

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Holly Cow! I just discovered the next best thing in practicing, SmartMusic.  I know I am a little late to the party but after buying the program yesterday I am sold!

Will Timmons once asked me if I knew who the four greatest teachers are.  The Answer, a metronome, a tuner, a mirror, and a recording device.  These four gentlemen do not lie.  SmartMusic comes with everything except the mirror, however there is one other feature that ROCKS!

The program will let you upload an .mp3 and let you manipulate it.  You can slow the file down or speed it up; you can even change the key!  I have been using this as a technique trainer.  I will never have to play William Tell by myself even at half speed!  The best part, the program records your playing and will let you listen back with or without the accompaniment.

Reasons why I waited.  Playing bass trombone presents a lot of challenges.  SmartMusic was designed to allow you to play with a piano whenever you want, as log as they had the piece on file.  Well let's just say there is not much demand for bass trombone repertoire.

So I have trying that feature out with the Lebedev Concerto in Movement for tuba.  Turns out the interface used to follow performers is still clunky at best.  I became incredibly frustrated working with the program.  But nothing is stopping from playing with one of the numerous recordings at a slower tempo!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Music Education and Glee

Although I hate the show and everything it has done to music; Glee has had a positive influence in music participation.  Every time I visit a school, I see posters for glee club auditions.  The show has reinvigorated after school show choirs...........okay, at least a more pop-oriented "modern" form of show choir.  Kids are showing up.

Why do I care?

Because Glee Gives a Note

Glee along with the producers and Fox are sponsoring a glee club contest to help underfunded music programs across the country.  The music program that started my pursuit of music, Christiansburg High School, entered the contest.  I will tell you right now, their facilities needed a face lift a decade ago.  I am surprised they couldn't show more in the video.  When I was there the sound and lighting equipment was borderline dangerous. The boken chairs have been there since before I attended CHS.  I seriously, doubt if anything has been updated since the mid-1970's.

What can you do?

Take a minute and vote for CHS.  And do it again the next day.  Then the day after that.  Contest ends November 7.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One year old: A Year in Review

Today the 160 Project turns one.  I am sure many of you never expected me write this much or this long.  I certainly had no plans, other than to write as much as possible.  I cannot thank the some 9,000 readers or the 30 or so people that donated to the Discovering A Classical Musician project enough.  Over the past year your comments and my thoughts have changed the out look, purpose, and formate of the 160 Project.

The beginning of the blog was a discourse about art and music with a few pedagogical insights.  Over the year my thoughts evolved into an eclectic blend of music, food, teaching, and interviews. A few of my favorite were:

What Music Means to Me
Young at Heart
Pierre Monteux
Poe's Tavern

Interview with Pam Kiesling (First interview on the blog)
Discovering a Classical Musician
Warren Deck

I hope you will continue to read.  I will continue to write.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Midwest Trumpet Festival

Today and tomorrow Pittsburgh State University in Pittsburgh, KS is hosting the Midwest Trumpet Festival.  Curiously, Joe Alessi is among the guest artists, along with Vince Di Martino and the Third Street Brass Quintet.

Imagine my surprise when I walked in and saw the Third Street Brass Quintet.  I met this guys at Aspen this summer and they are a wonderful group of guys.  Unfortunately, I was unable to hear their recital.

Mr. Alessi gave an hour and a half long master class discussing aspects of playing brass instruments.  He mostly spoke about air and singing qualities of brass instruments.  In my favorite analogy he used used a lawn mower.

The student was loading too much air into the trumpet causing overflow and back up, resulting in a bright crase sound.  Mr. Alessi imagined someone filling up a lawn mower.  If you use to much fuel, the gas will overflow over the funnel.  Instead you have to use just the right about of fuel.

Mr. Alessi is giving a recital tonight at 7:30.  I cannot wait.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Listening to Music: Marc Martel

Listening to music is probably the most underused pedagogical technic out there.  Listening helps teach us about music in a much clearer and quicker way than talking about the music.  If you want to be informed about style, melodies, or harmonic goals....listen.

Imitation is also a great side effect of listening.  Listening can inform us about sound quality and style of different performers as well.  Sometimes, I like to play along with recordings to get everything just right.

Check out Queen Extravaganza

Currently, I am listening to myself play.  Recording myself, during my practice sessions, has pointed out all the places I need to work on.

I guess the point.........LISTEN.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs changed the face of the world during my life time.  I was nine years old with Toy Story was released.  I remember how skeptical of Apple products my family was in the late nineties.  And I remember hating the iPod when it came out.  Now I can count at least three Pixar films among my favorite; I am constantly tied to my iPod, and I am typing on a MacBook Pro.

"Simplifying complexity is not simple," says Susan Rockrise, a creative director who worked with Jobs. "It is the greatest, greatest gift to have someone who has Steve's capabilities as an editor and a product designer edit the crap away so that you can focus on what you want to do."

What does this have to do with music?  Our responsibility as musicians is to simplify music for our audience.  No one in the audience cares how difficult Ein Heldenlaben is to put together or how long you have spent on the solo in Mahler 3.  They want a sleek, easy to listen to, life changing experience. 

Make it Simple.  Record your practice and work on what you need to work on.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ender's Game and Musician

Did Orson Scott Card write about music and music making?  I am not not sure, but the famous author has had some incredible insights to humanity and working as a team.

As musicians we spend most of our time trying to do everything the same.  To have a unified idea really makes a section or ensemble incredible.  However, at what cost?

In Ender's Game the main character Ender Wiggin encourages his lieutenants to have creativity in the way they approach each battle.  What would happen if you gave the same freedom to other members of your ensemble?  Musicians are supposed to be creative people, so let them create. If individuals are allowed artistic and musical freedom, at least in rehearsal, think of the possibilities an ensemble will have to pick from.

I once asked John Rojak what made an incredible chamber group.  He replied, "The willingness and the ability to do anything and everything musically suggested by everyone."


For the folks out there cheering for me this is a video of the orchestra I am auditioning for at the end of the month.

For those of you that think American Classical Music is in danger, maybe we should do more of the this stuff.  And for those of you that hate pops.....well this looks like a lot of fun.