Tuesday, December 28, 2010

No Rest For the Determined

Holiday time is a wonderful time to visit with family and friends. It can also be great to have time away from our usual schedule to reconnect to ourselves and get refreshed. But, it can also be a time during these winter, spring or summer breaks to get a lot of good solid practice in.

This past summer, the topic for the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection was about what is improvement and truly making the most out of our practice time when on summer vacation. If you plan it right, you can have a good three hour practice session and still be with family, friends and getting some good rest.

Some people seem to have a hard time with planning their own practice time without a schedule to work around like a summer music festival or school activities. But if you need motivation outside yourself, remember that lots of festival auditions take place not that much after school gets back in session in January. Plus there are school auditions and some competitions as well.

I used to love school vacations because I could practice all day if I wanted to and did many times! I would go outside when I lived on a farm in southern Minnesota and practice projection in three dimensions. That is how I developed my 3D sound exercises. Plus being with the trees and huge Minnesotan sky, I felt like a part of nature and the feeling of my sound and overall music making would take on different characteristics.

Practicing can be enjoyable and so constructive even when we are not planning for any particular event. Just for our own development and love of playing music through our instruments. Vacation time doesn't mean you need to go vacant in your mind and playing. Make the most out of your time by setting all kinds of short term, mid term and long term goals.

Why take lots of time off when you are young and still in school? If you really love and want something, keep at it with rest periods of course. I am not anti rest! Rest is vital but one must learn to tell the difference between rest and neglect born of laziness or lack of motivation. When you really are determined, you don't even think in terms of taking time off. You think, when can I get at it again?

One excellent thing to do this time of year is to reflect on what we did this past year. Ask yourself what you would like to improve on and acknowledge what progress you did make. Reflection and keeping a journal is a wonderful way to chart our development and see where we are at. You can also detect your patterns and cycles.

Happy New Year! May your practicing be bright, merry and connected!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Trio of Seconds

Yesterday I attended a BSO retiree get together which happens about three times a year. It was my first time doing this since I left the orchestra in December of 2007, exactly three years ago.

It was really nice to see everyone who was there. When I joined the BSO in 1975 I was the youngest member at 20 years old. Now at 55 years old, I'm the youngest retiree! Life is funny....

In this picture, there are three former BSO second trombonists. From left to right: William Moyer, Ronald Barron and myself. William 'BIll' Moyer had to play one of the most intense Mozart Requiems. It was for the internationally televised broadcast of the JKF funeral with the Boston Symphony playing. There is an old recording of it and Bill played wonderfully! I think the whole world, especially the US, was in such a state of mourning that it was an actual 'requiem' atmosphere. It was not a concert situation with the usual judgements or newspaper critics. Bill totally rose to the occasion. He was also the BSO personnel manager for many years after serving for 15 years as second trombone. Ron became 2nd trombone in 1970 and I replaced him as 2nd trombone in 1975 after he won the principal position.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Seventeen years ago today....

Seventeen years ago today, starting at 10pm, in the chorus room in Symphony Hall and lasting until 2am, fourteen trombonists gathered to go where few have gone before, and never in this way, entered the domain of the Frequency Band….taking a journey into color, ancient places, well being and noble human qualities. The music was living, breathing and pulsating through us and around us creating tangle atmospheres and deep feelings. The Frequency Band was born!

Since this time the Frequency Band has been on an incredible journey of discovery and development. Ever growing in the core of it's arising, 'A Unity Born of Humanity'. A path leading to the essence of the music where the human instrument is the most important instrument. A place where your mistakes cost you nothing. A real sanctuary for music as a living thing.

I wish to thank all who have been in the Frequency Band over the past seventeen years and for those who have been supporters of it's arising. I personally want to thank my dear wife and co-director of the Frequency Band, Carol Viera, for her unstoppable will, depth of thought and perception and humanity she brings to this endeavor. The Frequency Band would not be what it is without her powerful connections and insight.

I wish you all the greatest happiness, connection and well being! It has been such an honor to be a part of this undertaking. May it live on and on for generations to come.


Please visit the Frequency Band on Facebook too!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Beware of Over Extending

It has been a while since I've posted anything. It has been really busy with all the schools starting. I will still put up more pictures from my trip to Venezuela working with El Sistema hopefully in the next couple of weeks. Plus, I just finished a new piece for trombone and wind ensemble called "One Trek". I will premiere it on February 15th in Jordan Hall with Charles Peltz conducting the NEC Wind Ensemble. More details about the piece will be coming in another post.

Since school has started, I have seen people over extending themselves. This has led to wrecked chops and with that a bit of a depressed state. It can be hard to juggle all the various playing responsibilities we have with ensembles, lessons and our practice time. Knowing when to STOP is absolutely vital. Knowing when to have shorter practice times is vital. Knowing when and what to practice according to how we our feeling needs to come into it too, especially if fatigue and strain are becoming a daily feature.

Play, feel-think, play. This means play something, then 'listen' to what has happened. Be simple but thorough. Play it again, take the mouthpiece off, and remember what you just did. Ask yourself, was it closer or further away from your desired result?

If you have mashed up your embouchure, take care to go slow. Warm-up, carefully using your air support. When our chops get hurt we can often get very preoccupied with them and forget about our air support and mental concepts to help us in our playing. Always connect to your love and reasons why you are in music. Take the time to listen to music you love or want to get to know better. This will keep you mentally and emotionally more satisfied.

You might want to think about what your practice sessions each day. Perhaps you need to have an alternate day schedule with certain things. High range every other day. Extreme loud on another day with lots of breaks making sure there is not undue strain in any part of the body or embouchure. And plenty of soft playing.

This I know takes patience, especially when there is a lot of music to learn, or we really want to improve at a more rapid pace.

Remember the golden rule: Start with what you can do and GRADUALLY extend from there. Even if it is what you think is too slow or elementary. Your embouchure will be very thankful to you for doing this and will recover sooner then it would otherwise.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Back from Venezuela!

What an honor, privilege and a joy to work with the over 50 trombone players that attended the seminar put on by the El Sistema program in Caracas Venezuela!

The week was so full. We started at 9 in the morning for 3 or 4 hours and again in the afternoon starting at about 3 for the same amount of time. Plus, we listened to 2 concerts a day!

There were 16 of us from NEC who were working with the students, woodwind, trombones, strings, percussion, big band. We were treated extremely well. The appreciation and the spirit of the students was almost overwhelming.

The trombones were one of the biggest numbers of like instruments at the seminar. Maybe the biggest! The ages ranged from 8 to 30years old I believe. The 8 year old named Kasin, was SO talented and SERIOUS! He never lost his focus. Really impressive for anyone let alone an 8 year old!

The trombone teachers who were present included Miguel Sanchez, the main teacher who is a fantastic trombonist, performer, teacher, person and founder of the Veneszuela Trombone Ensemble. His sister Melissa is also a terrific teacher, coach, performer and person. Their father, Angel Sanchez was also participating in my classes and was a big teacher for many years in Caracas. He was present in all the classes. Really inspiring.

Our times together were spent in group warm-ups, choir, solos, quartets, many discussions and workshops on all aspects of playing. Lots of laughter, serious times, the deeper questions about music and profound musical connection to the spirit of the music and above all an incredible humanity.

I will write more about the specifics soon. I will also be posting more pictures so you can get more of a flavor looking at the wonderful people participating. Our theme turned out to be, music + technique = Art. They were so grateful that the music was the most upfront feature and that technique was to be used as a facilitating skill for the communication of the music. They totally understood that attitude and feeling is key to connecting to the music. The joy and thankfulness I felt from the fact they got my (and Carol's) essential message, was monumental and would be difficult for me to put into words.

More soon!! Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Venezuela - El Sistema!

Some first photos from my trip to Venezuela working with El Sistema! It is such a great experience being here! The last photo is of some of the trombonists trying to copy my faces! I'll write more about all the photos and my time here when I'm back next week. Till then I hope you enjoy the photos!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection 2 -
Final Week

Opportunity Awaits

It is important to realize change is a part of life and our music making and our instrumental abilities will be affected by those changes whatever they may be. If it wasn't for change, how could we grow and develop? Change is not always easy. It is in those not so easy times that there is a great opportunity for improvement. Struggle can help us see more and test our will and determination. Learn to embrace change as a part of life. I am NOT saying all change is in the name of healthy development. So certain change, that signals something is out of alignment or balance, is vital to listen too. It is a warning for us to relook and reapproach what we are doing. At the same time, that which seems awful could and often does have a silver lining in it after we go on a bit of a journey to find out what we need to find out.

Onward and upward!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tool of Connection FBSMC 2, week 6

Tools of Connection

One of the great aspects of painting, sculpture, music, architecture, poetry, dance and all of the arts, they express a life story. For example, a musician would learn a lot from dancers and how they handle gravity, lift and landing as a great way to see the 'architecture' of phrasing. Look at paintings to see timbre through the medium of color and texture and see how they shape the landscape and dimensions of the picture. 'Tools of Connection.'

You have lived a life and are filled with experiences and influences that you have access to, like going to a library or doing a google search. How much have you accessed this real life archive to impact your music making consciously? These are also great 'Tools of Connection.'

I would hope that my blog and the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection are 'Tools of Connection' so you can keep creating and surrounding yourself with 'Tools of Connection' and thereby, even in your greatest difficulty and times of draught, you will know that the waters of 'music as a living thing' are always close by and that the process of connecting is also a form of music.

A great life teacher and mentor of mine always said, "it's not who is playing the music, but WHAT is playing the music that is important." What are you connected to at any given time? Now that's a good contemplation! Best done while caught in the act of living!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tone Color, Part 2, FBSMC 2

More from week 5

In the video I speak of connecting to a character and then all the overlays come together. Then I further go on to say that if it doesn't come together then I go on a search to find the technique and whatever it takes to make it happen. That is true, but I also go on a quest to find out if I am actually connecting to the character or whether I myself am not in a location for the character to flow into me. If I am too offset to where the character or essence lives, then the connection will not be full or really happen at a deep level where the character would reveal more of it's self to me.

This is the real essence of the journey. Connection does not just happen with a few techniques or casual knowledge. It will only happen if there is an alignment of a sympathetic resonance between yourself and what you are trying to connect to. Think about having a relationship with someone. They are not always going to reveal their deepest feelings to you if there is not a trust and mutual understanding of some kind between the both of you.

If you are so glued to having your one sound, tone color contrast will not make its way into your playing because there will be no opening in you for it to do so. If you do on the other hand have a real need in yourself to express something beyond pretty notes on a page, then you will feel the urgent drive to find a way to do it. To quote a great phrase from one of my life teachers, "If you can't find it, make it."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Week 5 of Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection 2, Tone Color

How to Prevent Color Blindness

The color blindness comes when we disregard other concepts as not worthy or instantly retreat into our likes and dislikes. In the name of discovery, it is best to 'turn down' that volume knob so it doesn't block other important observations. Even in teaching, it is good to observe how certain sounds are made looking at the physical, emotional and conceptual aspects of your student that would contribute to certain sounds.

I am sure you all noticed that I came in early for the last part of the Tuba Mirum solo demonstration. I realized when listening to it that my mind got preoccupied with a new sense of that line in feeling, color and nuance. The mic that I am using is the one on the computer. Very limiting. So, because I think these videos are a way to get some of my ideas out there, I am going to get some better equipment, like a good mic! So then, you will be able to better sense the different tone colors that I am talking about and am demonstrating.

Funny isn't it? Equipment is important but sound shouldn't start there. It needs to be discovered by hearing different trombonists and other instrumentalists. A very good friend of mine, a terrific tubist, educator and musician, Gary Ofenloch, used to kid me. Right before I would play a note, he would rattle off about 10 different qualities he would want in a sound, like: round, rich, clear, vibrant, ringing, full, deep, projected, big, sweet, centered. It is a fun and interesting thing to ask yourself - what kind of qualities do you want in your basic sound make-up? Some people like just nice, clear, fresh water. Others like a full bodied brew or stew filled with a certain balance of several ingredients.

Try the syllable exercise that is suggested on the video. Do it on a note that feels comfortable for you and make each syllable very distinct and a bit exaggerated. Then do it more subtly. You can get to a point where just the slightest introduction of one syllable can change how you produce a sound. See what happens!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Technique or Muscle, part 2

More for week 4 of FBSMC 2!

The first week of this year's Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection can be applied throughout all that we are doing in the other weeks. It is that basic formula of C + X =R. If you forgot or did not see it yet, go back to week one's supplement writing.

It is a great formula to work into especially in times when you can't think of what to do or you are in a rut of some kind. You can try a three way formula with range too, such as: air speed + syllable + more/ less mouthpiece pressure. In your low range you might want to try different air speeds and/or temperatures with different syllables and experiment with mouthpiece pressures of various kinds.

Always remember the first basic principle of starting with what you can do and working from there in a gradual way. Be content with little improvements that happen in a steady way. It is natural for there to be periods when not much is happening. Be observant during those periods and you will learn much. Sometimes working on range and other parts of our playing builds the range, endurance and stability of our patience! That is a good thing! :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Here it is! Week 4 of Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection 2

Technique or Muscle ? Part 1

Sorry for the delay! My computer was having some problems.

Range development is interesting and it comes very naturally for some people and for others it can be a real struggle and takes a long time. It is a matter of having the time and mostly having the exercises and approach that can make it happen as efficiently as possible.

We need the 'muscle' to sometimes have the ability to form the technique we need. But the constant desire to have a fine range and doing basic exercises in a thoughtful way, can lead us to the discovery of what we need. In part 2 of this series I will get into very specific things that I currently practice and things that I have done in the past for developing my high range and low range. It will be closely related to the topic of week 2 "Embouchure and Air". I will post this in a couple of days. Stay tuned and keep up the thoughtful and feeling practicing!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Supplement Video
for Week 3 of FBSMC 2

The Value of Repetition

The value of repetition and the natural process of what it is is inherent in life at all levels. There is an upside and a downside to this as it pertains to our habit life and our development life. What we practice on a repetitive basis forms the foundation of our skills, attitudes and musical connections.

Sometimes we have to put on the brakes and ask ourselves a very important question, "What in the world am I doing?" Being able to stop allows us time to reflect and observe our routines. It also can give us the opportunity to make a course correction if needed and to regroup ourselves and start anew. This is a very important process. To get off the wheel of unconscious habit that put us into unwanted 'repeat performances,'

It is how we use this natural repetition that can move us forward or keep us held back, as if stuck in mud or snow. It is finding the right actions for the circumstance, and this comes with your continued passion, interest and drive towards what we say we want. Even our wills get tested over and over again and just like the muscles that get stronger from lifting weights, for example, our wills get stronger from the many ups and downs we encounter.

It should be clear that repetition in this context cannot be escaped from. It is a matter of continually finding new ways and sticking to the things that work from which we can build the ladder of our accomplishment or next level of attainment.

Practice (repeated actions done regularly) can keep us ever renewed or continually trapped in old unwanted ways. There are academic rules, and there are natural laws. Which one should govern the other one, in your mind?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Week 3 of the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection 2

Articulation or Air-ticulation? That is the question.
And that is the DISCOVERY!

From the very beginning, as brass players, we are taught some form of articulation. Whether it is to say "TAH", TOH" or "TUH" and then eventually for trombone players to say "DUH", "DAH" or even "LAH" for legato articulation. All of these suggest the placement of the tongue with a syllable as well.

One famous bass trombonist from 'yesteryear' was a man named John Coffey. He used to say to his students, "Tongue and blow, kid!" In a sense, that can be the very basic mechanics at play without being very specific. When players just think of tongue, oftentimes this can lead to all sorts of tension in the throat and lay the ground for articulation problems such as stutter attacks, where a person has a real difficult time coming in on the first note of anything. So this is where air-ticulation is vital in the three fold mechanism of articulation, air-tongue-embouchure. Remembering to use our air can make things less tense with more fluidity and ease of production.

The serious player will discover eventually what articulation match feels comfortable for them. But one thing I have noticed as a trend is playing really short is out of fashion. Not only short, but having a variety of articulation seems to be 'dated.' Long rounded articulation seems to be what is 'in' now and I see some of the reasons for this. In some of the cases regarding the enlargement of tone size, the longer articulation seemed to match it better or was found easier to produce in conjunction with a larger sound. Plus conductors also seemed to warm to a 'rounder' sound from the brass and naturally this meant not such a pointed front to the articulation.

Let's face it, in terms of having greater accuracy, lots of variation in tone color, dynamics and articulations gets more difficult. It is easier to 'control' just a couple of things rather than a larger number of possibilities. However, I have found that different kinds of articulation build greater control and work on specific areas of the embouchure and air support systems.

Take some of those basic Arban and Kopprasch etudes and use different articulations. Play them really short and dry, soft, short and accented, long with a small little space, accented long with no break and on and on. The various combinations are endless. In the end, I have found each kind of articulation has its merit physically, therapeutically and most importantly musically. Would a great painter only use one kind of brush stroke for everything?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Supplement for Week 2 of FBSMC 2

What about Loud Playing?

Perhaps in your practicing this week some of you are asking, "Can loud playing build embouchure and air efficiency?" I would have to answer yes to that. Loud playing can build muscle strength and grip in the embouchure. But too much of it can cause the tone to lose certain properties like high overtone ring, sweetness and responsiveness.

If loud playing can be integrated in a balanced way into a person's practice diet, it can be very helpful in building endurance, size and depth of tone and projection to name a few things. Plus we learn something about our lung capacity and the limitations of our range in this louder dynamic. It might stretch us into finding other ways of manipulating our embouchure. This is fine as long as we don't lose the basic overall structural integrity of the embouchure.

Adding more powerful volume levels is good. It can be great to practice them outside if we can. This is where the importance of concept comes in because our bodies, no matter how strong we can get them, have limited fuel and energy levels. But, the power of the mind, once realized, can have unlimited resources and be a very important facilitator in our quest for more power, and more importantly timbre and sonic expansion which is hopefully musically connected at its base.

Certain kinds of practicing are like strong potent vitamins. A little at a time, with care, is the way to go. Listen to what your body is telling you ! When in doubt, STOP. Then start again refreshed !

Monday, July 5, 2010

Week 2 of the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection 2

Embouchure and Air, is it a good marriage?

Many times our concepts help shape our playing apparatus. In this case, I of course mean the structure and mechanism of the embouchure and the way we operate our inhales and exhales.

I have seen people who have a concept that does not match their physiology. This creates great conflict and an unnatural feeling in the person.

Some body types and character types do not fully support certain sound concepts. A huge deep wide sound might be what some player wants but it might not be 'them' at the level of their physical framework. Getting bigger equipment might not help either but could actually make it worse! At other times the reason why a player may change equipment could be very useful. In the end, sound production needs to have a natural ease about it and, if it does, that would be a sign of a certain coordination between concept and physiology (and equipment).

If a person has a very tight concentrated mouthpiece sound, that can potentially have the making of a very full resonant quality, if they have a good amount of air to pass through that set up. If not, the quality of the sound might be leaner and not resonate too much of the lower overtone spectrum. As I have said at other times, air speed and temperature come into this. A slower warmer air speed can help the person with a very tight mouthpiece sound to fill out and open up the vibration. The reverse is true of the person with a wide more porous mouthpiece sound where a cooler faster air speed can bring more high overtones into the sound with, of course, a combination of other kinds of exercises. Different syllables also can aid or detract from this process. The syllable OH, is not always useful in making a sound have more size or openness. Depending on the factors of lip vibration quality and air pressure-speed and temperature, OH might be the most inefficient syllable to work with (especially in cases where the sound suffers from lack of center and ring).

I said in the video that efficiency can help broaden one's scope of color, nuance and inflection by the fact a person would have more control to do what they would want. This came up in relation to building more efficiency by practicing softly in a variety of ways. To make this clearer, let's use the example of an oboe player.

An oboe does not have the decibel scope of a brass instrument. So, the oboist needs to make a lot out of a little! Each variation needs to be very vivid. This is done not just by decibel contrast but by nuance and inflections that are hopefully originating from a connected musical intent.

If you have a clear and steady bowl of water, it does not take much movement to cause a ripple does it? If our sound can have that same kind of focus and fluidity, then we have the option of saying a lot without the need of a great wide decibel level. This puts us in a position to create more using less. Sounds very efficient!

Keeping the embouchure intact with good form in the corners and upper and lower lip contact can keep us playing at a good level for many years, for even when we age and find that our air capacity might decrease, we can know that we have an embouchure (in conjunction with musical feelings and nuances) to keep making music full of contrasts and expression.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Supplement for Week 1 of FBSMC 2

Have a good time but remember....

I hope for those of you who are trying this three-step method that it is showing itself to be useful. If any questions about it come up, or you would like to share your discoveries using this exercise, I encourage you to write it in the comments.

Also, as I'm sure many of you have discovered, you can use anything as a constant plus anything else. So the formula is C (constant) + X (anything else) = R (result). For example, let's say you are working on articulation clarity, you could do articulation plus rhythm or articulation plus tone or articulation plus pitch. In this way, you can use this tool as a diagnostic for your articulation or anything else. It really goes everywhere.

These methods are designed to offer different perspectives and angles on any given facet of playing. Don't be rushed into trying a million combinations. It is just a suggestion. The formula is what it is and there are an infinite number things you can plug into it. Especially useful if you are in a rut with any given aspect.

This coming Monday there will be a new video and a new assignment. Don't feel you have to forget about this one! Have a good weekend but remember to keep up the passion and goal pressure in a constant and cheerful way! Passion-goal-pressure (PGP) + Fourth of July weekend (FJW) = fun and improvement! (FI) :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Welcome to Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection 2

This summer's theme is "Summer, A Great Opportunity for Improvement!!"

Week 1 is focusing on practicing. So the title of our first video is "Your Practice Sessions."

It Takes the Right Attitude To Get the Altitude!

If you think of yourself as the pilot of your improvement, you will quickly see that your attitude plays a key role in your height or altitude of progress. The A.R.T. of someone really serious about growth in any field needs the qualities of Application, Regularity and Targeting. If you want good retention, have immediate application on a regular basis. This will increase your awareness, and your ability to reapproach and fine tune your results.

One obstacle to steady progress is thinking it should happen in a straight line. For actual development to happen it really is necessary for things to go a bit up, down and sideways from time to time so we can get different insights and learn a variety of lessons. Another obstacle is not spending enough time with just a couple of things. Taking on too much can put us on overload making it difficult to process our information clearly and effectively.

Let's say you have forty minutes to practice. You might need five or more minutes to get yourself in a better more clearly focused state of mind and another five or so minutes of horn warm-up time. So now you could have 25 or minutes left for some excellent concentrated time to work on a passage that is giving you a challenge, or play through a couple of excerpts all the way like a mini audition round or work an any area of playing like articulation, slurs, range building, dynamic contrasts. etc.

Remember that you can strain your embouchure in these 25 minutes if you are not thoughtful. Twenty-five minutes of loud high range can really be harmful for some people. You might want to take that twenty-five minutes and play some low range then mid range and then go to some high range playing ending with some low range playing again.

In working on the three step assignment, do some breathing exercises first, followed by some simple mouthpiece glissing in a comfortable range for a minute or two then go to your exercise or piece of your choice. Blowing air on your palm to feel that air pressure is great. I always imagine a micro-cresendo while the air is being blown on my palm as well as thru the trombone. It is so easy to sag which means we are losing our mental focus and intention as well as air support weakening. To become conscious of our mental support, I practice the finger on the palm as shown in the video. Here it is important to practice a micro-increase of pressure for maybe thirty seconds or so to give yourself the discipline of slow but steady pressure and mental focus. Support means not dropping the ball! It can be done in a way that's not full of tension but is held in a stable and balanced way.

In order to get the altitude, we need a supportive and grounded attitude! You can have the greatest methods in the world, but with an unsupportive attitude it will not happen or take you much longer to achieve what you would like. Remember it is the balance between allowance and resistance. Have standards but give yourself the chance to achieve them!

I hope this writing gives some extra clarity to the video. If you have any questions put them on the comment page and I will answer them.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection 2 Starts Next Week!

In the spring, many high school and college students are hoping to get into summer music festivals or music camps. Perhaps a seminar or two. Some even apply to work at these festivals so they can at least be around the excitement that being a part of all the rehearsing, concerts, listening to lots of talented people practicing and new friendships bring.

But what if it is our situation that we did not get into a summer music festival or could not afford to go to one? What can we do to make the most of our time and see tangible progress in our playing during this time? The answer is a ton! So for this year's Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection (FBSMC), we are going to focus on improvement methods and techniques in many areas of playing and music making. Let's face it, with the aid of a computer, there is so much a person can do. In fact without a computer there is an infinite number of things one can do! There is always something that can be done. So with the inspiration of that fact, let's call Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection 2, "Summer, A Great Opportunity For Improvement!"

The FBSMC online music camp will start Monday the 27th of June and go until about July 30th. It might go longer but we'll play it by ear and response. This year the format for the FBSMC will be a bit different. There will be one topic per week which will include a video and a writing or two. So in a way, it will be more like weekly sessions, giving the interested person time to work on, think about, practice and experiment with the material that will be offered. More time to digest and prepare for the next weekly session is the idea behind this format.

Topics to Include:

*There Is Always Another Way or You're Not Bored Are You?
*What Is Tone Color? or How To Avoid 'Color Blindness'
* What is Audition Ready? or Squeezing Through the Mouse Hole
*Embouchure and Air, Is It A Good Marriage?
*Articulation or Air-ticulation? That is the Discovery!
*Is a Good Audition Taker a Good Ensemble Player? (psst! not always!)
*Range Building- Muscle or Technique?
*Chamber of Discovery or Little Room of Torture - Your Practice Sessions
*Process, Product and Result or What is Important and Why
* Your Comments, Questions and My Responses To Them
*Expect the Unexpected But Don't Count On It!

In these sessions there will be many practical exercises for you to practice and work with. There will also be weekly 'assignments' for the interested.

I look forward to working with you all this summer and if you are one of the ones who are at a music festival already, feel free to join in. Some of this material may not be covered in your program! Or at the very least it will offer another approach.

'See' you all next week!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Not Music Does This Make!

The C.R.A.F.T. of orchestral playing now is:
Consistency Reliability Accuracy Focus Translucent

What about this word translucent? That seems to stick out a bit. How would one go about practicing it? What is meant by translucent here is the ability to blend in with anything so you do not 'disturb' the blend or ensemble. It is the ability of doing what needs to be done and no more than that. No rough edges, no 'risky' chances, and the ability to hide or disguise your weaknesses. It is practical and safe advice if you are a last minute sub for someone on a heavy concert. It might be a somewhat useful strategy for a freelancer as well at times.

Interesting that the uniform of the orchestra is black and white just like a keyboard. And basically a person is auditioning to be a key on the orchestral keyboard.

The orchestral uniform in brass playing right now is getting to be a one size fits all in terms of musical content. To want a uniform sound has its merits but not all music can fit into that confinement. Orchestral players can be so obsessed with evenness of sound they can miss the spirit of the music. Decibel levels are not the only means of color change. The biggest change comes when there is an actual character or frequency change. Then the change is on the level of vibration and sentiment. Finding things on the level of technique only works with a limited part of the human instrument and can never be a replacement for connection to the essence.

Repetition is a very powerful tool. Almost everything has an element of repetition. What is practicing? It is doing things over and over again until it becomes 'second' nature, second nature means it is in our programming and our automatic systems repeat it. BUT, depending on how we practice, we also put our attitudes, emotional states and physical qualities into the programming as well.

Most people have had the experience of reading a book or seeing a movie more than once. Isn't it amazing the things we pick and notice after a second viewing or reading? Same things happen when listening to music over and over again. And with thoughtful practice we can put together and develop other qualities. Even the development of muscular strength happens with repetition. The challenge is to not let the the repeated efforts get so automatic in the practice room that they become unconscious. I know people who are like orchestral excerpt vending machines. Put in a quarter, and out comes a nice prepackaged excerpt. The problem in my view is it can sound stale or out of date meaning past the fresh stage.

Out of date, that is an interesting one. That can get into current fashion, the orchestral uniform of any given era. If a person does want an orchestral job, they need to fit into that uniform. Is it possible to wear the uniform but still put the soul of oneself into it somehow? That would be what I would suggest. Then you don't totally sell your soul.

I can just imagine the great Jedi master Yoda saying, "Good intonation, rhythm and control, not music does this make!" Is the 'Force' with you when you play?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Online Video Master Class
University of Manitoba

In this age of computers, the online video master class has been a reality for a while now. Six years ago, Stewart Smith, who is  a low brass teacher at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg Canada, began 'bringing in' artists to his school via the Internet. It is a wonderful way to bring in, for the students of that school, well known teachers and performers from all over the world and to do it at a very reasonable cost! Even though it is not the same as being with people in the flesh, it certainly has good benefits. The next best thing to being there!

Stewart asked me this past Fall if I would be interested and I was thrilled to participate in this way. Finally, everything worked out and the master class happened on April 10th. I was in my room at my desk and before I knew it, thanks to iChat, I was talking to Stewart and he was introducing me to the audience. There was a good turn out and the age range was from 11 to 55. Teachers, students and parents all in a room with my image on a large screen. It was really a fun and unique experience.

My sound system is not great but it was certainly good enough to hear basic things in the students who played and to get a sense of the audience. Stewart asked if I would play something to start so I played a piece I'm writing called "What in the world am I doing?" inspired by my wife Carol. It was great because I ended up using this phrase every now and then in the master class. The phrase was used  as a reminder to not practice without consciously being in it. When we catch ourselves 'grinding the wheels' of our minds and lips, just mindlessly going around and around, it is a great thing to ask, "What in the world am I doing?"  to bring us back to listening and being with our activity and to remind ourselves why we are doing what we are doing.

Stewart said everyone enjoyed the class. Four people played and we worked on basic concepts together. I also included the audience by inviting them to join in with some of the exercises.

I want to thank Stewart Smith and his wife Susan for their hospitality, and the University of Manitoba for making it all possible. Plus, a big thank you to the folks that made it possible through their funding.

I am including some pictures Stewart sent me that he took from his angle. The  group shot was such a fun concept and the picture says it all.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Maintenance Required

In this video I speak of the importance of knowing thyself from the stand point of being in touch with your physical playing needs. This video is focusing on the embouchure and what it requires to keep itself in good playing order. This is of course a very individual matter, and from my experience can be extremely different from player to player.

If a player is in touch with the whole of themselves and is a serious practicer, one can see and feel trends of how certain types of playing affects the embouchure. Just like foods that can cause allergic or other wise unpleasant or unhealthy symptoms, so can our practice diet alter the course of what our embouchures can and can not do. To speak of the embouchure without speaking of the air support systems is a bit incomplete. But in my own experience, it is very clear ( most of the time! ) what to practice to change how my embouchure is functioning and to prepare it for very specific tasks. My intention is to have more videos on the first overlay,( which we refer to as the automatic robotic systems of playing ), discussing, demonstrating and offering practical exercises to be experimented with by those who would be interested to take a try.

Friday, February 19, 2010

World Premiere of "Tribute"

The annual Brass Bash at New England Conservatory is Sunday, February 21st, at 8PM in Jordan Hall. Every year since its conception, at least one of my compositions has been played. The range of pieces is usually limited to trombone choir or large brass ensemble and sometimes brass ensemble with percussion, large antiphonal brass choirs or brass ensemble with a soloist.

This year is different. On the program will be the world premiere of my new piece "Tribute" for trumpet choir. The NEC trumpet class will perform this work with Peter Chapman conducting. Peter asked me to write this piece a few months ago. He was already familiar with a piece I wrote in memory of Armando Ghitalla for his memorial service back in June 2002. So Peter wanted me to write two more pieces inspired by great trumpet players. He suggested Roger Louis Voisin and Adolph "Bud" Herseth.

The work now has three movements each dedicated to one of these players.

Mr. Ghitalla's piece written in 2002 is titled "Inspired Remembrance." The other two movements use the names of the other great trumpeters as the titles.

Each movement has threads of orchestral repertoire that reminds me of each player and I think others would associate these pieces with the artists as well. It is always a joy for me to write about the various musicians who have inspired me over the years and these great trumpet-musician icons surely have been inspirational!

Photos: Armando Ghitalla, Roger Voisin and Adolph Herseth

Friday, February 5, 2010

Back from Eastman School of Music

I had a wonderful time at Eastman! It was great to feel the history of this famous school and to work with the students. Wonderful facilities all the way around.

The top picture was taken right before I had to leave to go to the airport Thursday evening. It is the Eastman Trombone Choir. We had a very engaging trombone choir session where Mark Kellog participated with the students, which I was very touched by. We did some 'special' tuning and positioned ourselves to play "Onward" from "On With the Battle of Life" and the ending "Wish" part from "Katrina Contemplation and Wish." These two pieces were recorded last January on our Frequency Band CD called "Phoenix."

After we really connected to the "Onward" movement and finished playing it, the room was filled with a sense of a huge ocean of possibilities with the a strong feeling of 'it can be done' to make the most out of our lives. It was breathtaking. I asked the group, "Should we do another piece?" and one young man said, "If it's going to do that again!" So we did get ourselves tuned to play the "Wish" part of "Katrina" and, yes, 'IT' happened again in another way. We all played it from the thoughts of hope to wherever or whomever we felt needed it.

We all were in something together. I gave them a proposition, one that Carol and I always say to people, "Let's start anew trend away from 'digitized manufactured playing' and go for the live spirit of the music as the most important thing. Maybe it will catch on!"

The picture below was when I was warming up before the lecture/recital in Kilbourn Hall. Beautiful Hall with lovely acoustics. The pianist that worked with me was a wonderful DMA student named Matthew Waters. He was very receptive to my concepts and did a terrfic job with two not-so-easy piano parts, "Morning Walk" and "The Song of King David."

The Master Class on Wednesday was very well attended. Several students played individually and then one section played doing excerpts from Mahler's 3rd symphony. I applauded them for their openness and willingness to try some new and different approaches which yielded very tangible results. A wonderful group of students to work with!

I want to thank all who made my trip possible including Jamal Rossi and especially Mark Kellog. Mark studied with me in the BUTI program in 1981 (gulp!) at Tanglewood. He was a gifted high school student and a real gentleman. Twenty-nine years later he is still a marvelous musician and gentleman.

Bravo to Mark and 'Doc' Marcellus for their great work at Eastman and to the students themselves. It was a real joy and honor to work with you all. Thank you and I hope it works out again sometime. BRAVO!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Eastman: Days 3 & 4

Since my last post it's been really busy! The lecture/recital, teaching and master class went really well. Many people have said they've been inspired which is good to hear! I've been having a great time with everybody too!

Today is really busy also. I've been teaching and have trombone choir soon. Then I go immediately to the airport!

Here's a photo from lunch today. From left to right: Me, Arthur, Cy and McMillan.

I'll write more when I'm back in Boston but now it's back to warming up!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Eastman: Day 2

Another great day in Rochester and it's not over yet! Lecture/Recital is tonight!

This afternoon was the dress rehearsal for tonight's Lecture/Recital. Here are a few photos from today so far.

Myself and Mark Kellogg in his studio.

In the practice room with my custom 'bent-dent' trombone by Shires. This photo doesn't really show the bent feature very well.
Sorry, Steve! :-)

Painting of Emory Remington.

Now on to serious connecting and tuning for tonight's lecture/recital. More soon.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Eastman: Day 1

I arrived safely in Rochester last night. It's really great to be here!

Last night, I was met at the airport by Arthur Thovmasian (photo) and McMillan Gaither! That was so nice of them and it was great to meet them! We picked up some food and then I got in some practice before the day ended.

Today I jumped into private lessons (the photo shows a drawing I did for one of the students).

Then I rehearsed with my pianist and Mark Kellogg for the Lecture/Recital tomorrow night! Mark is on the faculty and is such a great guy! We'll be playing my duet for tenor trombones "The Archer" on tomorrow night's program. Here's a photo in the rehearsal room.

Now I'm enjoying a cup of hot water after a nice dinner! :-)

I'll write more about all of this soon but thought some of you might enjoy some photos in the meantime!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Eastman Here I Come!

I was invited to give a lecture/recital, a master class, work with the trombone choir and teach private lessons at Eastman School of Music. I was happy to say 'yes' and I'm on my way there right now!

Here is my Master Class and
Lecture/Recital schedule

Tuesday, Feb. 2nd, 8PM, Lecture/Recital in Kilbourn Hall

Wednesday, Feb. 3rd, 8:30 PM, Master Class, Room 120

I'm looking forward to meeting everyone there!

Stay tuned for updates!

P.S. Photo in taxi to Logan Airport, Boston.

P.P.S. At Logan. Flight delayed one hour. Update: Make that an hour and a half. :-/

While I'm waiting, here's a bit more about what I'll be doing there! (Right now, I'm sitting in Logan 'resonating' my mouthpiece.)

My my lecture/recital will have a world premiere on it. It's an unaccompanied trombone piece. You can view the program on the Events page of the Air-ev website.

P.P.P.S. Plane landed in Rochester!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Know Thy Self

Lots of philosophies and spiritual paths speak of the importance of knowing yourself.  This can take a a very long time for some people and can be known in its basic form very soon by some. It is a process and depending on what you want out of life and what you think about what life is, you will find and get to know different aspects of yourself. It is truly a journey.

This of course affects our music making. Let's say all you want is a 'job.' Most conservatory players think that a job means only an orchestra job. So let's say you commit yourself to getting the 'job.'  What will you do to get it? How long will you wait to get it? How much will you practice to get it? What sacrifices will you make to get it?

NOTHING could have stopped me from wanting to be in an orchestra when I was growing up. I loved the literature, loved playing in orchestra and loved practicing. But the word 'job' never came into my mind. I wanted to be in what I thought would be a magical environment that dives into the meaning of the music and really works on it until 'IT' happens. I was too young to think about financial security or other 'adult' type things.. I just wanted to be 'IN' the music. I will also admit at that time I enjoyed the support of being recognized for my abilities.  Maybe that was young and naive. But that was the state of affairs for me. I realized very early on that this is not always the case for everyone especially when they get a little bit older.

I wrote something in a earlier blog post about the PMMP, the Professional Musicians Manufacturing Plant.  Many music conservatories and universities think of themselves that way. College is supposed to help us a get a job after all, right? And train us well to be competitive in the job market, right? In this formula, where does 'REAL' art have a place?  Or we could ask what kind of art is employable? Not all art is always marketable. That makes it very interesting and difficult for those people who need art for their own life's nourishment and expression, which is something a 'job' could never satisfy nor money ever buy.

It seems as though the 'artist' type of player needs to develop two arts.  One to get a 'job' in today's orchestral requirements, and the second to express other parts of themselves and/or other things. These are VERY, VERY different arts, yet for the serious artist  in the making, it is possible. I never thought they were different.  That was a rude wake up call when I found out that in many cases they are very different. It is so inspiring to see when they live as one in an artist.

Some teachers are really only interested in the students that will do anything it takes to get an orchestra job. That is not how I am. I want what the person says they want. If they only want to get into an orchestra and the mind set is 'perfect, perfect, perfect,' better to not study with me for I cannot be confined to that narrow bandwidth. That can really be a prison especially if the approach is obsessive with technical details and mostly physical in its orientation. I come from the thought that the human being has a huge spectrum of possibilities and talents. Developing a fine 'machine' is only one aspect.

The question comes down to: "Do you know what you want?" How can that truly be discovered if you do not "Know Thy Self."