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.

How to practice for Solo/Ensemble competitions

For my Minnesota-based studio, many of my students are preparing to perform at their regional solo/ensemble contest in March. We’ve picked out pieces, done our research, and are ready to dig in. Although preparing a contest piece shouldn’t be much different than your normal practice, I thought I’d give a few specific tips on what solo performing means in the practice room.

1. Pick a piece that will stretch your talents a little farther, but won’t be so hard you can’t get it prepared in time.
2. Start by listening. Find a recording of the piece and note what the instrumentation or accompaniment is. Think about how you’ll perform it.
3. If your piece has multiple movements, choose the ones you’d like to perform. Consider your order. For example, 3 movement suites don’t have to be done in order if you’re doing, say, the Allegro first movement and the slower second one. You could flip them if it makes sense musically.
4. Start with the big picture. Play along with the recording and note where you may need to spend more time, but get a feel for the piece as a whole.
5. Make your musical decisions early. It’s easier to learn notes and rhythms sometimes when we have a direction for the phrase we’re working up. For example, a fast passage with lots of sixteenth notes also crescendos or has lots of slurs. Sing it the way you’d like to play it, then work it up slowly utilizing all the components.
6. Practice bigger chunks once you’ve got the technical stuff smoothed out. Pieces always feel differently in our hands when we see how the whole work fits together. Breaths may be different, or you may notice that one phrase is hard to get into from the previous one. Work out those new kinks.
7. Practice performing. At least once or twice a week in the beginning, practice running straight through your work as if it were a performance. As the contest draws closer, you should be practicing performing more than you are practicing individual sections.
8. Perform for your friends and family! Play along with the recording again so you can understand how the accompaniment fits in. Count count count your rests.
9. It sounds obvious, but when you get to the performance- have fun! Nerves are a part of performance but remember that your jury wants to hear you do well. No one is out to get you or judge you as a person. Let your musical soul shine through and above all, don’t worry about the parts you think you messed up. They’re gone! End strong.

Good luck, students!

Recent Discoveries: Dawn of Midi

I am an unabashedly loyal fan of RadioLab, the monthly WNYC podcast that explores everything from blood and poop to colors, sounds, textures, and grand ideas, all through the lens of science and social humanism, and then filtered again through experimental sound and music techniques. They’ve introduced me to so many new ideas, and I can’t even begin to pick my favorite episodes (but you can start here: Colors, or a classic: Goat on a Cow).

They also use original music in their episodes, either from bands they’ve discovered or from composer’s who’ve contributed for a single purpose. They put on live shows and it was through one of those broadcasts that I discovered Glenn Kotche’s amazing solo percussion career (Kotche is better known as the drummer for indie rock pioneering band Wilco).

Recently they did a short about Dawn of Midi, a three-piece Brooklyn outfit that takes minimalist music (see: Steve Reich; Philip Glass) into this generation and has created mesmerizing, beautiful sounds with their latest album, Dysnomia.

Perfect for listening while drinking tea, cooking a pie, or just staring at the ceiling. Listen, support, and enjoy.