Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tossing a Ball

All notes are not created equal. This summer I have seen this recurring theme.  As brass players we practice playing entire pages of etudes with every note sounding the same, sometimes for years.  This is great to practice articulation, notes lengths, and styles; however, how often is it practical in music?  Hardly ever.

In Warren Deck's low brass class we have been talking about meter and always playing so the listener can discern the meter.  This means treating pick-ups like pick-ups and always playing a phrase.  Depending upon the style this could mean a little lift between notes.  A pick-up is certainly a lift in energy, possibly a kick start to the phrase.

Allen Otte, my eurythmics teacher at CCM had us "toss balls" of energy to reflect weight or direction of particular phrases or notes.  The above might reflect a light style of playing with the energy staying near the performer.  However, can you use different images to reflect different style.  Below, you can see the strain in tossing the medicine ball.  This would be great for weightier passages.

In my coachings with members of the American Brass Quintet, I have been working on renaissance dances.  Ray Mase and Kevin Cobb have both been every adamant about the singing quality, where EVERY NOTE IS NOT CREATED EQUAL.  To create line one must stress curtain notes like we do in language.

Rojak Teaser

The first interview is complete for the Discovering a Classical Musician project.  Here is a taste of what John Rojak had to say about his musical career.

Look for the release in fall of 2011.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Insights from Warren Deck:

What does Jackson Pollock have to do with music?

No. 5, 1948

What is the difference between an accent and a marcato making?  Context, what stands out in the above painting?  The impact comes from the difference, make the change.
"I do not care about tessitura. I do not care about instruments.  We are talking about music." ~Warren Deck, July 27, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ride of the Valkyries

Practice, Practice......?

It is not often in my career as a young musician that I get to play an audition excerpt with a full orchestra.  Yesterday, however, I read the Prelude to Act III of Der Valkure with the Aspen Festival Orchestra.  The section included Aaron Tindall, John Rojak, Teddy Malasky, Michael Powell, and myself, and the reading went incredibly well.

What you imagine as you spend countless hours preparing the epic masterpiece.

However, "The Ride" is something we practice everyday as low brass players.  Everyday!  One would assume this quest for perfection would be about something difficult.  Not so, Valkyries in context is easy.  Yesterday's reading was possibly one of the biggest let downs of my entire life.  (Although my life is pretty short)

What the piece feels like when you actually play it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Making music is about high levels of trust.  Trusting your colleagues know the piece, trusting the downbeat will happen on time, and trusting your work in the practice room and in sectionals is correct.  I had an interesting morning reading the Firebird and rehearsing for the concerto competition.

In the Danse Infernal in the Firebird there are lots of rhythms that start just after the beat.  The same thing happens at the end of the Ewazen Concerto.  Most people will wait to hear the beat before the start playing, this results in the musician entering late.  You simply have to trust the beat Will be on time and put your part exactly where it happens.

Rehearsal is the time to put your part with everyone else.  Listening and adjusting requires a massive amount of thinking power and worrying about your part just adds another layer.  Simply relax and trust that your hard work in the practice room will pay off.  Trust yourself and your hears.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Perfect Week for a Visit

This week will be incredible at Aspen.  Monday there is a chamber concert of new and old music, Tuesday AACA is playing Dvorak No. 9 (New World Symphony), Wednesday Concert Orchestra is playing Pictures, Friday Chamber Symphony is playing Firebird, Sunday the Festival Orchestra is playing Ride of the Valkyries and Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5, and Sunday night is the brass and percussion concerto competition.

This year's festival combined with my Kickstarter Project have kept me incredibly busy.  If you wanted to visit this week, you could hear some wonderful concerts. 

But if you want to hear me play here is my schedule:

Monday July 18, 6pm, Gabrielli along side the American Brass Quintet
Wednesday July 20, 1pm, Mahler No. 6, Warren Decks Low Brass Class
Thursday July 21, 8pm, Brass Bash, Brass chamber music
Friday July 22, 6pm, Firebird with Chamber symphony
Sunday July 24 4pm, Overature from Ride of the Valkyries with Festival Orchesta
Sunday July 24 7:30pm Ewazen's Concerto for Bass Trombone for the BP concerto competition.

Wow, I hope I survive! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


This summer I am honored to be around so many amazing musicians and excellent teachers.  On top of lessons with John Rojak, trombone class with Per Brevig, and low brass class with Warren Deck, my brass quintet is being coached by Ray Mase.  Playing for and watching these musicians teach is both incredibly exhausting and uplifting.  All four of these men are full of infectious positive energy.

Mr. Mase has given me permission to post notes from our quintet coaching.  I did my best to scribble some down while I played with the group.

People perform how they rehearse.  Every time a group plays or someone practices, there has to be every bit of music making happening that you want to happen during the performance.  Music will not magically happen.

A good group hears when you execute a better group hears when you end together.

Instead of using a decibel meter, pretend you have a color meter.  Simply increase or decrease the amount of color you are looking for.  Change the character instead of the volume.

When you practice try to change one thing about your playing.  Play softer but do not change the articulation or style.

Don't do the minimum.  Many musicians think that if no one comments on their playing then they are doing fine.  This is like a Janitor that only cleans half a room because no one ever asks him to do a better job.  It is your job as a musician to positively contribute and to contentiously strive to do better, even without being asked.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Music on the Mountain

I had an awesome time this afternoon.  The Aspen Music Festival and School Trombone Octet performed on top of Aspen Mountain. The eight of us performed together and as two separate trombone quartets.  We performed everything from barbershop and jazz to baroque and contemporary classical music.

 Russ Zokaites, George Michael Ference, Josh Becker, James Ginn
Amanda Logue, Katie Thigpen, Katie Daugherty, Sarah Paradis

The set started with Brad Edwards' Boneweek Fanfare #3 and an arrangement of Mahlers second symphony.  Then the Four Trombateers performed followed by the other four members of the octet. The full choir closed with A Song for Japan, a Buxtehude Fanfare, and  the ever popular Achiev'd is a Glorious Work.

The Trombone Pickin's

The crowd was incredible and enjoyed the performance.  I had lots of people ask about the Song for Japan. The choir was also made up of musicians from all over the country and most of us were cornered after the performance to discuss various locations with locals or alumni from our various pasts.

I was the "elected" spokesman 

Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4 in Aspen

Happy 4th Everyone!  Today a friend of mine, Will Timmons, reported for basic training.  Will recently won a position in the Air Force Ceremonial Band.  Over the next 8 weeks he will be in San Antonio, TX preparing for the next four years of his life.

Tonight I will be playing in the Aspen Music Festival fourth of July concert.  If you are in Aspen you can attend the festivities at 7pm for FREE!  However no matter where you live you can listen at KAJX.  Check the listing for exact time (mountain time).

I celebrated already this morning with loud brass playing, a protein breakfast, and the Aspen July 4th parade.

Current Listening:  Copland's A Lincoln Portrait

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Not Aspen, but awesome

After 53 years Cliburn returned to Russia as a guest judge for the Tchaikovsky Competition.  Cliburn, an American, won the competition in 1958 at the height of the Cold War and Soviet rule.  The New York Times wrote a wonderful article about the occasion.

Cliburn age 23