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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Staying in the Middle Third

Andrew Hitz

This observation by Arnold Jacobs is why I find breathing exercises out of The Breathing Gym so beneficial for students. Getting them to experience the sensation of taking in a large amount of air without having the horn in their hands is invaluable and gives them something concrete to model when they do pick up the instrument.

Doing exercises with long inhales like 6-7-8-9-10 or any variation of In for 8 > Hold for 8 > Out for 8 (also 8>16>8, 12>12>12 or even 16>32>16) are great for feeling the sensation of moving a lot of air.

And as always, Mr. Jacobs was dead on with this observation. So often, mediocre brass players never get close to full and never get close to empty. Getting them to experience this is a great way to encourage them to eventually do it on their own.

Article: Director’s Toolbox – Lead from the Bottom by Patrick Sheridan

Andrew Hitz

Pat Sheridan.jpg

Here is a fantastic read by my good friend Patrick Sheridan on engaging and challenging the tuba players in your band. This is must-read!

From the article:

Children want to be given responsibility! There are three responsibilities (opportunities) that belong to the lowest voice of an ensemble. The laws of acoustics dictate this scientifically.

They include:

1. Sound foundation of an ensemble
2. Intonation
3. Time

Patrick expands on all three of these points. Read the full article here.

You can also click on the logo below to hear my interview (along with Lance LaDuke) with Patrick from Episode 35 of The Brass Junkies.

The Brass Junkies 84: Mark Gould

Andrew Hitz

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Mark Gould is a legend. They broke the mold with this guy. I consider him a good friend but I hope you won't hold that against me.

We have had him on our short list of must-have guests since we started the show and are happy we finally made it happen!

Please be warned: This episode contains much more adult content and adult-themed material than any other episode so if that's not your thing, we'll see you for Episode 85!

From the show notes:

Mark Gould, the former Principal trumpet of The Met, the mastermind behind Pink Baby Monster and author of the hilarious new book, "Orchestra Confidential" joins Andrew & Lance in an episode filled with laughs, stories and swear words. Like, a lot of swear words.

WARNING: As mentioned in the above description, this interview is more "adult" than our usual fare. If you are sensitive to this sort of thing, maybe sit this one out. You've been warned.

In this fun and lively conversation, we cover:

  • The first time Gould conducted The Boston Brass Kenton Christmas Carol show
  • How his new book "Orchestra Confidential" came to be
  • Pink Baby Monster, Elixirs and the Banff stories
  • Reagan masks and inflatables in the "Desert Jews" show at ITG
  • Pink Baby Monster's origin on 9/9/01, starting as a song and growing into a group after 9/11
  • Making a hip-hop record w/Brian McWhorter
  • Pink Baby Monster being covered in the Daily News
  • How he got banned from ITG
  • What a Conductor Can’t Say
  • Snobbery in jazz music
  • Training young musicians
  • Project-based training with a deadline
  • What he would do if starting out today
  • Collaboration wish list (David Lynch)
  • Harry Watters
  • PBM, “Conducting the National Brass Ensemble Album” video
  • Masterclasses
  • Heavy valve caps make all the difference
  • Q: How high can you play? A: Exactly
  • Playing with Jim Pandolfi in The Met

You can check out the complete show notes including all of the links mentioned during this episode over at Pedal Note Media.

The Brass Junkies 83: Donna Parkes

Andrew Hitz

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We had a blast interviewing the phenomenal Donna Parkes, Principal Trombone of the Louisville Orchestra. She told us all about her fascinating journey from Australia to Kentucky with a few stops along the way.

It's always so great when musicians who are as accomplished as Donna is are so down to earth. It really was a treat to speak with her!

From the show notes:

TBJ83: Trombonist Donna Parkes of the Louisville Orchestra on having a “Yes!” attitude, sleeping bags and growing up in Australia

Donna Parkes, Principal Trombone with Louisville Orchestra joins Andrew & Lance to detail her amazing career, from Australia to Kentucky, with stops in Chicago, Alaska and Doha, Qatar.

In this fun and lively conversation, we cover:

  • Playing Principal Trombone with Louisville Orchestra
  • Playing with the Colorado Music Festival
  • Coming from Indiana, I mean Canberra, Australia
  • Coming to the U.S. after her undergrad to study with Charlie Vernon at DePaul
  • The differences between the Australian and U.S. markets
  • Studying with Michael Mulcahy early on in Australia
  • Playing freelance gigs in Sydney for a year before moving
  • Getting a lesson with Arnold Jacobs and Ed Kleinhammer
  • Working with 80-year-olds in Virginia
  • The size of Andrew’s tongue (don’t ask)
  • Sleeping in her sleeping bag with her trombone in a hostel on her first night in the U.S.
  • Taking pictures of snow
  • Tips for flying to Australia
  • Playing gigs in Sitka, Alaska twice a year
  • How she recently got married in Australia
  • A typical week in Louisville, which is anything but typical
  • The importance of being flexible and being a good colleague
  • Having a “Yes” attitude
  • Playing in Doha, Qatar
  • An important life lesson, “Don’t smell it first.”

You can check out the complete show notes including all of the links mentioned during this episode over at Pedal Note Media.

The Brass Junkies 82: Geoffrey Pilkington

Andrew Hitz

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Geoff Pilkington is one of the best horn players in the world and I am lucky to call him a dear friend. I'd been wanting to make this interview happen for a long time and finally we made the schedules work!

This one ended up being a little different than the rest. We talked about his entire career but also ended up doing a deep dive into playing the Long Call from Wagner's Siegfried. Hearing about his experience performing it as a part of the Ring Cycle here in DC a couple of years ago was fascinating.

From the show notes:

TBJ82: Geoffrey Pilkington, Principal Horn for the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra on yoga, humility and the Long Call

Geoffrey Pilkington, Principal Horn for the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra joins Andrew & Lance to talk about working with Don Greene, dealing with the effects of a pinched nerve and gives us a great behind-the-scenes look at what goes into preparing for and playing the Ring Cycle.

In this fun and lively conversation, we cover:

  • His main gigs (Principal horn for National Opera in DC, and Assistant Principal in Harrisburg PA Symphony)
  • Studying at Juilliard
  • How his practice habits have changed
  • Super final round (1st time) was Geoff and Phil Munds, Maestro, “Neither were the next Dale Clevenger”
  • Super final round (2nd time) with WeiPing Chou, Maestro, “Don’t miss any notes”
  • Working with Don Greene on audition prep
  • His parents were amateur musicians and his Dad's request to a 5th grade Geoff, “Pick anything you want except saxophone or French horn”
  • How to explain why the horn is difficult to people who know nothing about music
  • How to explain why the horn is difficult to people who DO know about music
  • The importance of humility for a horn player
  • Playing the Ring Cycle, especially the Sigfried Long Call
  • Playing with a pinched nerve in his neck and shoulder
  • Adversity training with Don Greene, some dude doing “The Worm”
  • Using swimming as a way to warm up and prepare physically and mentally
  • Using Bikram Yoga and meditation to prepare for The Ring
  • The importance of visualization in audition or performance preparation
  • Why focus is like a muscle, you can work on developing it

You can check out the complete show notes including all of the links mentioned during this episode over at Pedal Note Media.

Wise Words from Arnold Jacobs

Andrew Hitz

The key to playing in either the high or low register well is focusing on making music. As always, Mr. Jacobs seems to have found the perfect words to share with any student struggling with that.

I think it is safe to say that the instinct for most of us when playing in the extreme high or register is to want to use more power to "hit the notes." While using a lot of muscle (and for high notes, shoving the mouthpiece into our faces) helps us to "hit" high notes, it is always with a terrible sound that no one can blend with or tune to. It is also very likely that we will crack that note a high percentage of the time and get tired very quickly.

By telling the player to focus on playing melodically, we get the attention off of the physical aspects of playing in the extreme registers and towards simplifying things.

I am reminded of a great quote from Joe Alessi. He frequently says:

"Playing a brass instrument well is an incredibly simple process, and playing a brass instrument poorly is an incredibly complicated one."

Playing with power (using excess strength) is always a more complicated process that simply focusing on the buzz and thinking melodically.

And if it's good enough for Mr. Jacobs and Joe Alessi, it is good enough for me.

The Brass Junkies 81: Matthew Murchison

Andrew Hitz

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Matthew Murchison, excuse me, DOCTOR Matthew Murchison, is one of the most creative people playing the euphonium professionally today. He is an incredible euphonium and tuba player, a composer, arranger, deep thinker, knucklehead and a dear friend of mine. Oh man did we laugh during this one...

From the show notes:

TBJ81: Matthew Murchison, Sexiest Euphonium Player in West Virginia on playing, writing and charting your own course in music

Composer, tuba and euphonium soloist and all-around fellow knucklehead Matthew Murchison joins Andrew & Lance to discuss his bands Mainspring and the Matthew Murchison Mutiny, studies with Brian Bowman and being yourself as an artist.

In this fun and lively conversation, we cover:

  • Being the Sexiest Euphonium Player in West Virginia
  • That he is, in fact, a Doctor
  • Teaching at Marshall University
  • Former Solo Euphonium with River City Brass
  • Workin’ on (p)stuff
  • Breaking a spring
  • His method book for teaching euphonium players to play tuba
  • Studies with Brian Bowman in undergrad
  • His band Mainspring: (flute, euphonium and rhythm section)
  • Composing and arranging
  • No preconceived notion of what euphonium music should be to regular audiences which is a huge opportunity
  • Expanding his writing to include electronics
  • Chewy
  • Being yourself as an artist
  • Who is doing interesting stuff right now (Demondrae Thurmon, Ben Pierce, Fernando Deddos)
  • Whether competitions help or hurt young players
  • Asking for feedback after competitions

You can check out the complete show notes including all of the links mentioned during this episode over at Pedal Note Media.

The Brass Junkies 80: Jennifer Montone

Andrew Hitz

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Jennifer Montone is one of my favorite horn players in the world. We met each other about 25 years ago as students at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and even then it was obvious she was going to be a superstar.

The visualization she does on stage before big solos with the Philadelphia Orchestra that she describes in this interview will take your breath away. Amazing stuff!

From the show notes:

TBJ80: Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Horn Jennifer Montone on playing, meditating and telling your own story

Jennifer Montone has played with the Philadelphia Orchestra for 11 years. Prior to that, she spent time in the Dallas, St. Louis and New Jersey Symphonies and teaches at both Curtis and Juilliard.

In this fun and lively conversation, we cover:

  • Playing at Tanglewood as a student in the Empire Brass Seminar
  • Lance playing w/Jennifer in Philly (it had such a lasting impact on her)
  • Dealing with pressure
  • Meditation and yoga, the influence of “Soprano on Her Head,” the work of Noa Kageyama and Don Greene
  • Concentrating energy from your Chi
  • Headspace app, Hittleman yoga book, Mt. Fuji meditation, Jack Kornfield, Kripalu website, lava lamp meditation
  • Self-talk/affirmations
  • Playing while 7 1/2 months pregnant
  • Re-evaluating her breath work, via Arnold Jacobs’ concepts and teachings
  • The effect of posture on her approach
  • Taking a positive approach to challenges in music and in life (and passing those concepts on to her students)
  • Giving students permission to make musical decisions, then encouraging them to do so
  • Being a female principal horn player, how things are changing and evolving
  • How she wanted to be a nun up to the age of 14
  • Developing leadership skills, being assertive and confident
  • National Brass Ensemble

You can check out the complete show notes including all of the links mentioned during this episode over at Pedal Note Media.

The Brass Junkies 79: Adam Frey

Andrew Hitz

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Adam Frey is a phenomenal euphonium player and runs the International Euphonium Tuba Conference every year in Atlanta. Lance and I have known Adam for a very long time, especially Lance, so we had a good time with this one.

From the show notes:

Adam Frey has had a great career as a soloist, publisher, teacher and major proponent of the euphonium and has endured Lance's hump-busting for over twenty years.

He is also the mastermind behind both the fantastic International Euphonium-Tuba (IET) Festival and euphonium.com. He currently teaches at the University of North Georgia.

In this fun and lively conversation, we cover:

  • Euphonium jokes
  • How Adam and Lance met in the Brass Band of Battle Creek
  • Tales of the Badger (dearly departed mega friend, Chris Matten)
  • Meeting James Gourlay
  • Teaching at the University of North Georgia
  • Playing in Macau
  • IET Festival, 15th anniversary in the summer of 2018
  • How he started the festival and how it is organized
  • The importance of good coffee when running a festival
  • Being an ambassador of the euphonium and the Ambassador of Euphonium
  • Fernando Deddos, David Childs, and other influential current players
  • Creating opportunities and the importance of collaboration
  • Working with Patricio Cosentino, Scott Hartman, and Jeff Nelsen
  • Having good ideas vs. having good ideas and acting on them
  • Starting and running euphonium.com

You can check out the complete show notes including all of the links mentioned during this episode over at Pedal Note Media.

The Brass Junkies 78: Chip Crotts

Andrew Hitz

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What an incredibly inspiring story Chip has! Talk about stepping up when facing some unspeakable adversity. This is one of the most uplifting and motivational episodes thanks to Chip being so open about his fight against Bells Palsy.

If I ever have to face something like that, I hope I have half the grace and courage that Chip has shown the world. We were honored to have him join us.

From the show notes:

TBJ78: Chip Crotts on playing trumpet with Ray Charles, prosthetic robot arms for musicians and his comeback from Bells Palsy

Chip Crotts has played trumpet with an incredible array of stars, from Natalie Cole to Maynard Ferguson and has been involved with building an innovative program from the ground up at Georgia Tech.

In this episode, we cover:

  • The integration of music and technology at Georgia Tech
  • Building the undergraduate degree from the ground up
  • The development of a prosthetic robotic hand and arm to allow folks to play piano of drums
  • Playing with Ray Charles and Maynard Ferguson (and an amazing array of other artists)
  • “You never know when your shot’s gonna come, so you have to be ready”
  • Natalie Cole, the Tuscaloosa Horns (T-Horns)
  • Lance’s water pipes freezing and bursting mid-show, FUN!
  • Working with Santa Clara Vanguard
  • Dealing with Bells Palsy which paralyzed the left side of his face, and his documentation of the recovery process on video at his Facebook page

You can check out the complete show notes including all of the links mentioned during this episode over at Pedal Note Media.