2015 Upcoming extracurricular opportunities

Students, teachers, friends:

There’s a life outside of school band! I strongly encourage all my students, regardless of ability or level, to find additional opportunities to perform and practice their craft. This might be playing duets with friends, or putting together a chamber group. There are also several groups around the Cities that put together talented young musicians to create art.

For students interested in orchestra performance, I recommend looking into either Minnesota Youth Symphonies or the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony.

MYS Auditions for low brass are Saturday, June 13th.

GTCYS Auditions for low brass are May 30th, 31st, and June 6th.

For the trombone student who wants to dive deeper into the intricacies of the instrument, I highly recommend the Shell Lake Arts Center Trombone Workshop. My friends and colleagues John Tranter and Phil Ostrander run this week long retreat in Shell Lake, WI. There is a possibility I may stop by as a guest artist!

In addition to the Trombone Workshop Shell Lake offers a whole summer of wind bands, orchestras, and jazz ensembles! I highly recommend you take a look at their offerings.

For those who want to ROCK OUT this summer, West Bank School of Music runs three weeks of youth rock camps. I will have more information about this soon, including exact dates.  You do not need to know how to play a rock band instrument; we will teach you! And we’ll have plenty of opportunities for brass players to shine.

If you’re interested in chamber music, I can put you together with other interested students! I currently have three students in a trombone trio, and I can connect with other teachers to create brass quintets, quartets, choirs, you name it!

Hey, I can tell when you haven’t practiced

Listen, I was a student, too, and I have gone to my share of lessons unprepared (but I only did this once for Jan at North Texas, and received a well-deserved lashing for it). I have also tried to hide this fact, or cram before the lesson, in order to not disappoint my teacher.

It never works. As a teacher now, I can tell you this: we can always tell. It would be much better for you to say, hey, I haven’t looked at this, I’m sorry, than to fake your way through something. Chances are I’ll be disappointed, but we can find a way to make the lesson productive: Either you can demonstrate how you WOULD have practiced it had you made the time, or we can work on some other aspect of technique or theory.

Now, that doesn’t mean we can spend every lesson avoiding what you didn’t have time to do. I expect that my students find the time during the week (it doesn’t have to be much; 20-30 minutes a day maybe, is better than bigger chunks with gaps in between) to work on what I’ve assigned. You take lessons because you want to progress beyond the skills you need for band, or to match them, or to get access to different music than you might otherwise. There are lots of reasons to take lessons, and lots of reasons for me to have certain expectations about how you will act upon them.

So, how do we get around this dilemma? How do you practice ‘enough’ to ‘fool’ me? Well, first of all, you don’t need to fool me. I am here to help you, and so that means if something gives you trouble, I should be the first to know. If you’ve worked for ages on these two bars and just can’t get them, maybe I can help you move beyond them. You don’t have to be perfect, just prepared.

Now, time management. Kids, and adults, these days, are BUSY. Does anyone know what free time is anymore? How does music fit when it competes with homework, athletics, clubs, friends, downtime?

You could always think of your music practice as homework. 30 minutes of something you have to do every evening even if you don’t have a class the next day. You could think of it as athletic conditioning, which is constant. You could envision it as a project you do for a club that ensures your participation is 100%. You could make music with friends or practice as a way to relieve stress from everything else.

There’s no right or wrong answer here. The only right way to go about managing your practice time is to make sure you’re focused and consistent. And if you’ve been focused and consistent in your personal practice, that will show in your lesson. That will give us something to move forward on.

Happy practicing!

Weekly Roundup 2/24/15

Reading: Taking a little study break for the week.

Practicing: Red Dragonfly, by Amy Riebs Mills, written for Megumi Kanda (of the Milwaukee Symphony). This was a house-warming gift from a friend and fellow musician. I’m excited to learn it and possibly perform it at next year’s Brass Chix!

Rehearsing: Thursday night I begin rehearsals for the Mozart Requiem with Exultate, a local choir and orchestra I have worked with before. Our performances are next weekend, March 6-8, so come see us if you can!

Minnehaha Repertory will be reading Franck:  Symphony in D Minor, Sibelius:  Lemminkäinen’s Return Op. 22 #4, and von Weber: Oberon Overture on Saturday.

Performing: Exultate Mozart Requiem March 6-8th, various locations around the Cities.

Listening: I have a big crush on Janelle Monae so pretty much her whole Metropolis cycle (so far). Also have you seen Jupiter Ascending? I mean, do yourself a favor. Seriously. The soundtrack, by Michael Giacchino, is real purdy, and over the top, and wonderful. He also wrote the music for Lost, the Incredibles, Star Trek, etc.

Teaching: Gearing up for a month of contest performances, so I’ve been encouraging my students to start incorporating performance runs in their practice sessions, and we’ve been doing the same in lessons.

Relaxing: I’m really dying to get outside and do some winter fun before spring, but negative degree days aren’t making that an option. Here’s hoping we’ll have some ‘reasonable’ winter so I can go for a hike in my new snow pants soon.

Weekly Roundup 2/17/15

Reading: Diving into The Musician’s Way, by Klickstein.

Practicing: I don’t think I’ve cracked the cover of my copy of the Kopprasch Vol 2 in…ten years. Starting with #1.

Rehearsing: M’haha rehearsed Franck Symphony in D Minor on Saturday, it was gorgeous.

Performing: Tonight’s Mardi Gras! I’ll be here.

Listening: Brand new Father John Misty!

Teaching:  Go. Slowly. Dang it. There are times when fast practice can be useful, but 95% of the time you should take things slowly so you can put all the pieces together. “Slow practice = fast progress; Fast practice = slow progress” -Per Brevig, Julliard School of Music

Relaxing: Getting friends together. Amazing how infrequently we do this in the winter, and how lonely it can get. Met up with a friend from college two weeks ago, and it was great to catch up. Had beers with a colleague last week, and enjoyed the opportunity to be a trombone nerd for a few hours. Brunch with another friend and colleague on Thursday. Hosted a gathering at my house on Friday night and it was a great collection of folks that brought positive energy in and left good vibes.

The basics: practicing all the things!

It can sometimes be a little overwhelming to think about all the different musical minutiae we have to be adept at when we’re mastering an instrument. Modern day music and music standards are demanding; we have to be able to play around our horns without fuss or struggle.

Of course, there will always be things we’re better at than others, and we can use our big brains to devise ways to make sure we hit all bases on the musical field. Today I’m going to start ‘simple’- with the three main variables of musical style: Dynamic level, range, and articulation.

In order to make sure I hit all possible combinations of these three, I’ve starting using my daily tunes in all 12 keys. First, I’ve identified three subsets in each category:
Range High Mid Low
Dynamics f-fff mp-mf ppp-p
Articulation smooth (slurred, legato) short (staccato) marked (marcato, sfz)

From there, I created notecards for each:

Each morning after I go through about 20 minutes of careful warm-up (long tones, slow slurs, flexibilities), I set up my drone mp3s and pick a simple tune to play in all twelve keys. For now, the key I start in is ‘fixed’- i.e., I pick on. This can also be randomized, of course, as could tempo. Or you could fix one or more of the above variables- freeze range and work on dynamics and articulation in the higher register; freeze range and articulation and work on dynamics on low, staccato notes, etc. Make sure you change it up the next time!

For an example, I’ll use Scottish song “Annie Laurie” as my tune today. The highest tone in this tune is the 3rd, and the lowest is the root an octave and a half below that. So if I choose “high” as my range card, I’ll start somewhere in what I consider my high range, F above the staff to D or Eb above it (depending on the day, this is about as high as I go).

As you can hear from the video my upper register fights a bit at a soft dynamic. So I may consider freezing the range at high and the dynamic at soft for a few days to sort it out.

You can play around with this concept as it works best for you, and of course there are subsets within subsets in all three categories, but this is a great place to start if you need help organizing your practice and strengthening your routine.

Happy practicing!

Weekly Roundup 2/11/2015

Reading: A review of Trombone Technique, the 1971 manual by Dennis Wick, was in order. It’s helpful to see where we’ve been, and what we’ve discovered since! Also, this article is a no-brainer but I guess we need to see things like this to keep funding art in schools:

Practicing: Blume, 36 Studies for Trombone with F Attachment: #19.

Rehearsing: St Peter Street Stompers rescheduled for tonight, so I still have that coming up. Metro Brass met on Sunday night and had a great rehearsal digging into the songs selected for our performance next weekend (which I unfortunately can’t make! There will be a sub holding down my chair). Minnehaha Repertory Orchestra is performing Franck’s Symphony in D Minor on Saturday, so that should be a good time.

Performing: Empty calendar! Send me gigs!

Listening: John Luther Adams, Songbirdsongs; Franck Dm Symphony; Arvo Part, Tabula Rasa.

Teaching: Later today I’ll have a post about covering the basics in practicing: hitting range, dynamics, and articulation as a part of your technical studies to give you more flexibility on the horn. Last weekend I sat in on my friend Melissa‘s lessons to get some insight and inspiration. I love how focused on her students she is, and how carefully she observes their progress. I’ve made copious notes on incorporating that into my own lessons.

Relaxing: Legend of Korra, Books 3 & 4, almost done (eep! what will I do then?). Reading Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow by Andy Studevant for a book club next weekend. Great insights into the MSP arts community, and very enjoyable reading.

Weekly Roundup 2/3/15

Reading: Beyond Talent: Creating a Succesful Career in Music (Beeching). A review of this great text for young professional musicians. Lots of stuff I’ve forgotten about in the past few years, too.

Practicing: Running through some Arban scale exercises and finding I’ve gotten lazy with my scale practice lately.

Rehearsing: Tonight I have a rehearsal with the St Peter Street Stompers, a trad jazz band I performed with regularly a few years back. It’s nice to be invited to sit in on their upcoming Mardi Gras gig. I’ll have details on my gig site when I have them!
Minnehaha Repertory Orchestra is back at rehearsals this month as well and on Saturday we read through Scheherazade, one of my favorite orchestral works.

Performing: Nothing on the calendar until next week.

Listening: John Luther Adams, Become Ocean; Fleet Foxes; Tallest Man on Earth; Smetana, Ma Vlast

Teaching: Encouraging my students to develop their routine beyond just warm-ups, and to start thinking of it as an integral part of their practice session. Several of my students have taken this to heart and are already sounding stronger and more confident.

Relaxing: Began re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my friend Meghan last night, because huge nerds. Reading comics, hoping for more snow so I can get out and play.