Thursday, June 30, 2011

Deck Aspen

Aspen is back in the swing of things.  The Chamber Symphony, Festival Orchestra, and Conducting Academy have all started rehearsal and the first orchestra concert will be tomorrow.  I will be performing with Chamber Symphony on Mendelssohn's A Midsummer's Night Dream.  Interestingly there will be a choir and Matt Rhys of Brothers and Sisters will be narrating the performance with Shakespeare excerpts.

Outside the Music Tent

I also had the chance to listen to the first rehearsal of the AFO this morning.  The will be performing on Sunday with Vladimir Feltsman and Markus Werba.  Strauss' Don Quixote is full of energy and with incredibly sporadic.  Werba will be singing Mahler's Song of a Wayfarer, and will be doing an incredible job.  This morning his rhythm and sound were impeccable.  I am looking forward to hearing the entire program on Sunday.

Warren Deck's first low brass class met yesterday afternoon.  As always Mr. Deck was enthusiastic and very involved with teaching.  The first section prepared Mahler's Symphony No. 5  and began sounding amazing.

Major topics included:
Feeling strong beats to propel time and motion
Separating articulation from dynamics
Note length
Function within the section and orchestra

Some of the best moments however came when Mr. Deck was talking about listening and musical thoughts.  He uses mnemonics to remember how each piece and section goes, however he does not use verbal phrases.  Instead he uses musical ideas, these can suggest time, style, dynamic, actually any number of ideas with just a few beats of music in your head.

I am looking forward to Low Brass Class this summer, some of the topics will include:

Ein Heldenleben
Alpine Symphony
Shosti 7 (courtesy of George Curran)
Berlioz's Romeo and Juliet
Bruckner 8
and many many more.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Aspen, CO

I have been in Colorado for one year and I have been writing the 160 Project for 10 months.  The original idea of writing the 160 Project was to digest my schooling mainly Aspen 2010.  This is the 100th post on the Project and fitting that I am in Aspen one more time.

Upcoming concerts

July 1, 6pm Chamber Symphony, small amount of playing
July 13, Concert Orchestra, Mahler No.1
July 15, Colorado Symphony, John Williams medley

Please keep in mind my Kickstarter Campaign on the right side of the page.  I think a clear view of a musical career will help focus students and inform the public.  There is only one week left so get donating!

Tonight is Per Brevig's first trombone class of the summer and I am looking forward to it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dancing Trombone

Tomorrow I leave for the Aspen Music Festival and School, for a summer of serious music and hard work.  However, staying in touch with the "fun" side of music is incredibly important.

Check this out

Dancing Trombone Website

Monday, June 20, 2011

Travel Warning

Over the past half decade I have been travelling a fair amount with my trombone.  This includes auditions, recitals, vacations, and a European tour.  All of you tenor trombonists with your small cases are lucky; you can put your instrument inside the plane. Usually I have to gate check my bass trombone.  Walking my trombone to and from the plane has minimized the interaction between my baby and luggage throwers. My BAM case seams to work well; I have seen my horn fall off a stack of cellos only to hit the tarmac.  The horn was fine.

Warning:  Frontier will not give your horn back on the jet way.  However, they sent my horn up with the over sized luggage so it would not have to go through the baggage claim carousel.  The horn is fine and all of the baggage handlers I talked to expressed how careful they were with instruments.

On a positive note, Frontier serves warm chocolate chip cookies to all of its passengers.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Musical Creativity

Will Timmons is one of my closest friends.  For Will, music has always been a sort of intellectual pursuit.  He even taught freshman theory and ear training while earning his master's degree.  After taking a computer music course, Will has written a few pieces for trombone and electronics.  These two performances are from his church in South Carolina.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Interview: William C. White

This evening I had the pleasure of interviewing Will White, the new assistant conductor for the Cincinnati Symphony.  In this interview we discuss Will ascent from the viola to the podium, as well as his composition and work at the Pierre Monteux School.  If you would like to know more about Mr. White you can check out his website at

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Song for Japan

A Song for Japan is a project to raise money for Japan to help rebuild after the tsunami.  Uniquely the project creators hope to raise money through trombone performance.  The above URL is a link to the project site where you can donate or buy a t-shirt.  On the website you can also get a copy of the music, for free!  And in several different arrangments.  Check out this youtube video of the project.  The project coordinators happened to organize several of the worlds best trombone players into one video.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More Kickstarter

Dear Fellow Musicians and Educators,

As many of you are aware I have been writing a blog for the last nine months.  The theme of is basically anything I can think of musically. Many of the posts are about teaching, practicing, and musical thought, although some are also just really cool youtube videos.

During the last four months, I had a chance to fill in as a middle school band director here in Colorado.  The experience was incredibly rewarding and I definitely learned a lot about teaching.  The hardest lesson I attempted to teach and I think the most difficult for all music students is that a career music classical music is actually a viable option.  Luckily, I had the chance to bring in members of the Colorado Symphony to work with my students and many of the close friends won their first job this spring, allowing for some real evidence for making money with music.  Many of these young musicians will be appearing on my blog, giving interviews about their audition experience.

I have recently launched a Kickstarter Campaign to raise money to do interviews with faculty members at Aspen this summer.  These musicians and teachers will be talking about their careers in music and what their life has looked like throughout their relationship with music.  Hopefully, the compilation of these interviews will serve as an educational tool to inspire young musicians and students to pursue a career in classical music.

I know many of you have had some interesting and long careers and I would like to interview everyone, however living in Colorado has its limitations.  For now, I would like any advice you could give me about the project. I would also appreciate it greatly if you would forward this email to other musicians and educators who think this might be a good project.

Thanks for your support,

Russ Zokaites

Monday, June 6, 2011

Terrifying Night

Well the temperature is starting to raise, even in Colorado, so I thought I would give you something to chill your blood.  We all know in some cases music can convey emotion.  Usually these emotions are somewhat vague; happy, sad, playful, etc.  However, in some cases these emotions can be quite specific, in this case terrifying. 

Most of you are familiar with Mozart's Queen of the Night aria from the Magic Flute; even you non-musicians know this.  The piece has been feature numerous times and in a verity of places. However, I am guessing most of you do not equate this music with the terrifying nature it is meant to have.  In this performance Diana Damrau does an incredible job at being scary.

I hope this helps you cool down on an incredibly hot evening.  Sweet Dreams

Discovering a Classical Musician: Kickstarter Campaign Launched!

My Kickstarter Campaign went public today.  The whole idea is to get the 160 Project mobile!  I will be interviewing classical musicians this summer while I am at the Aspen Music Festival and School.  The end product will be interviews with high caliber musicians about their careers and how they got started in music.  Hopefully this project will help young musicians and students realize that a career in classical music is Possible!  If you like the blog and the project I would love your support!

Movie Glory?

Last night I saw X-men: First Class, and like lots of recent movies there was lots of bass trombone in the soundtrack.  I have to admit, I always enjoy listening to a fell bass trombonist crushing some low notes.  However, at some point the novelty simply wears off. 

Henry Jackman came up with a pretty intense chord progression and allowed the bass trombone to play as loud as he could.  I started thinking about how much fun playing the score would be.  However, the some twenty second clip was reused every chance the director could get.  I guess that is the downfall of cinematic music.  I hope bass trombone does not go they way of comic book movies, overdone.

The movie itself was an entertaining watch.  Finding out more about Magneto and Professor X was interesting.  And the film score did add to the movie overall.  If you have not seen the new X-men movie yet, it could possibly be an entertaining evening for you.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Interview: Derek Fenstermacher

Today, I had the pleasure of interviewing an incredible musician who happens to play the Tuba.  In this interview Derek Fenstermacher and I discuss this introduction to music, his musical aspirations, his audition with the New Jersey Symphony, and cooking.  Derek was joining the 160 Project from his finance's backyard in Austin, TX.  Derek recently won a position with the New Jersey Symphony after a one week trial period in which he performed Mahler's 3rd Symphony.

To listen to Derek perform on the tuba check out his YouTube channel.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Flash Mobs

Undoubtedly, all of you have heard of flash mobs.  Large groups of people organize in a public space to perform some unusual act and then disperse. Started in 2003 by Bill Wasik, the flash mob was designed as a social experiment about conformity.  The largest flash mob was International Pillow Fight day in 2008.  In recent history, flash mobs have become more organized and usually consist of musical or dance performances.  Again, most people have seen this performance of the Hallelujah Chorus

It was easy to surprise bystanders in all of these events, with participants needing little to no equipment.  What would happend if an orchestra wanted to perform a flash mob?

Copenhagen Phil at Copenhagen Central

MCO at a Beach Soccer Game in Amsterdam

Thanks to Mike Blair and Ben "Honeybutter" Clymer for finding these videos and to Wikipedia for the brief history of a flash mob

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kickstarter Campaign: Discover a Classical Musician

Proudly, I can announce that 160 Project will be starting a Kickstarter Campaign very shortly.  What is Kickstarter?  They're the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world.  The website has been featured in several periodicals over the last two years.  The site has raised over $50 million dollars to fund individual and creative projects of the last two years.  Currently, the site is taking over $2 million dollars worth of pledges every week.

My idea: Discovering a Classical Musician

I would like to interview professional musicians, this summer in Colorado, with one goal in mind.  To determine who instrumentalist are and what their careers look like.

For many students and young professionals the dream of having a career in music is incredible and often times overwhelming.  Students are daunted by the task of starting a career and are often discouraged from pursuing a career in classical music.  Also, with so many jobs in the field and so many people doing lots of different jobs a clear view of a typical career in music is difficult to achieve.  By putting a face on high level performers I hope to encourage young people to pursue a career in music and to help them negotiate common predicaments and perils faced by musicians.  As a side effect I also hope to inform the general public about who musician are, how they work, and how they achieve their goals.

I need the 160project to go mobile!  I am currently working off a huge desktop built in 2003 and designed for my grandparents.  I need a sleek and sexy machine that can run video editing software and burn DVD's. The cheap webcam I stole from my roommate will not allow for the quality, verity, or mobility I need to shoot interviews in the Rocky Mountains.  With your help I will be able to get mobile and get interviewing.

I am still working on the pitch for the actual website.  But keep an eye open over the next few weeks for opportunities to Discover a Classical Musician.

Braces: An obstacle for many young musicians

In teaching young students I have unfortunately encountered a recurring disaster, dental work.  Braces and brass playing do not mix, however, most young musicians go through stages with metal in their mouth.  I was lucky enough to start playing while I had my braces on and had them removed about two years.  More commonly a young student will start playing and then get braces after they get the hang of the instrument.

This is disastrous and can often lead large amounts of frustration.  There are two major problems that young players have and that braces exacerbate, too much mouthpiece pressure and too much movement in the embouchure.

There are a couple of things that can make wearing braces less annoying.  First, loosen up those biceps; use less pressure and stop pushing in with your instrument.  Second, use your braces as a tool so you know when you are moving too much.  Use slow gliss and take note of how your face changes, you probably will notice very little movement.  Also buzz more, buzz sirens or long glisses.  You have to get your face used to moving a little bit.  Then buzz lip slurs or other passages making sure to stop at each pitch instead of going passed it.  This will help minimize movement in your face.

Sorry to all you young brass players with braces.  But on the other hand one day you might actually have a decent small.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Die Walkure

Today at 6:30(local time all over the US) the Metropolitan Opera is giving an encore presentation of the Ride of the Valkyrie.  For those of you who do not know, the Met projects its presentations directly into movie theaters across the country.  This is a great way to experience some of the best opera in the world.  Colorado Public Radio has a complete list of the 16 theaters in Colorado offering the service, most of these theaters are in the Denver Metro Region.  Two theaters, one in the Springs and one in Littleton, are offering the broadcast on their IMAX screen!

Just a warning for all you casual music goers, the show will last approximately five and a half hours.  However, there are English subtitles to help you navigate this epic story.  This broadcast is also incredibly special because James Levine did conduct the concert.  Levine, nearing the end of this incredible 40 year career, has been plagued by health issues in recent years and had to cancel most of his engagements with the Met and the Boston Symphony.  If you have nothing to do this evening, this presentation of the Valkyrie is more than worth watching.