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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

The Brass Junkies 72: Michael Clayville of Alarm Will Sound

Andrew Hitz

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TBJ72: Trombonist Michael Clayville from Alarm Will Sound on Playing with Medeski, Martin & Wood, How AWS Functions as an Ensemble and Teaching at Lawrence Conservatory as a Visiting Professor

Michael Clayville is one of my favorite trombonists in the world. His playing in Alarm Will Sound is just stunning. The music they perform has incredibly demanding parts, especially of a trombone player! But Michael is one of the most prepared musicians I've ever played with. He's a machine!

He's also a fascinating guy. I interviewed him early for TEM (TEM3 which was 116 episodes ago at this point!) and I was really happy to finally get him on The Brass Junkies!

From the show notes:

Michael Clayville is a musician who is passionate about drawing audiences deeply into the art of sound. His abilities as a trombone soloist, chamber musician, and improviser have taken him to prestigious venues around the world including Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Hall, the Barbican (London) and the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ (Amsterdam) and have led to him working with some of the most prominent classical and popular artists today including Pulitzer Prize-winning composers Steve Reich, John Adams, John Luther Adams, Charles Wuorinen, and David Lang, and experimental groups like Medeski Martin and Wood, and the Dirty Projectors.

Michael is a founding member of Alarm Will Sound, a group that has been awarded the ASCAP Concert Music Award for “the virtuosity, passion and commitment with which they perform and champion the repertory for the 21st century” and which has been called the “future of classical music” by the New York Times. In addition to being its trombonist, Michael is also the Director of Marketing for Alarm Will Sound.

In this episode, we cover:

  • Playing with Medeski, Martin and Wood
  • Picking repertoire in Alarm Will Sound by quasi-democratic methods
  • Marketing efforts/social media for AWS
  • Splitting Adams CD
  • The Mizzou International Composers Festival
  • Georg Friedrich Haas
  • Teaching at Lawrence, working for/with Brian Pertl

The Brass Junkies 70: Listener's Choice: Where Andrew & Lance share stories related to questions submitted by YOU!

Andrew Hitz

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We are always trying new things at Pedal Note Media (after all, if you're not, what the hell is the fun in that?) So this is a new episode format where we answer a couple of questions from the audience. If this gets a good response, we will do more of these episodes in the future!

From the show notes:

This is the first in what may become a recurring episode type (depending on whether you nice folks like the format.) We get lots of questions on a variety of topics and thought we'd try answering some of them.

In this episode, we talk about our early influences and share stories from our formative years. We close out the episode explaining how we ended up in music school and will be unpacking the process of college applications/auditions for the next installment of the "Listener's Choice."

Let us know what you think!

The Brass Junkies 69: Brian Hecht, Bass Trombonist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Hitz

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My good friend Brian Hecht, bass trombonist for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, joined us on The Brass Junkies to talk about the incredible career he has had. This dude has played with the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and over a dozen other major symphony orchestras. And he's only 32 which is insane.

I especially enjoyed asking him about performing with Trey Anastasio of Phish, which he had just done a few days before the interview. Every time one of the best musicians in the world agrees with how incredible Trey is, I use it to validate my decision to spend pretty much every penny of disposable income I had over a span of two decades on seeing Phish. Whatever it takes to sleep at night I guess!

From the show notes:

Atlanta Symphony Bass Trombonist Brian Hecht joins Andrew & Lance to explain how he has managed to play with just about every major orchestra in the US by the age of 32. He grew up in Dallas and spent some time in the Navy Band in Washington, DC before hitting the orchestral audition circuit, which led to him subbing with both the NY Phil and Philly Orchestra. He shares his preparation strategy, explains what he learned from legendary clarinetist Riccardo Morales and the importance of noise-canceling headphones. We get into the topic of nerves, visualization and the value of a shower and a sandwich. And no Brass Junkies episode would be complete without a deep dive into Phish guitarist and one of Andrew’s boyfriends, Trey Anastasio.

 

We also spent an inordinate amount of time saying the phrase “poop truck.” Sorry.

The Brass Junkies 68: Dr. Amy Horn, Former Horn Player of The President's Own Marine Band

Andrew Hitz

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Amy Horn recently finished a 29-year run as a horn player with the President's Own Marine Band. Her story about auditioning for the group is must hear! I wonder if she's the only person to ever win a major military band audition after sleeping in a pea-green Chevy Citation!

From the show notes:

Dr. Amy Horn, 29-year member of The President’s Own Marine Band and Adjunct Professor of Horn at George Mason University joins Andrew & Lance to explain how to bloom where you’re planted. A native of Ohio, Amy studied at Bowling Green University with Herb Spencer and played under legendary bandmaster Mark Kelly. We hear the amazing story of her audition for the Marine Band (including camping out in her pea-green Chevy Citation), how she cut a rug on the road with Patrick Sheridan and why she switched from trombone to horn. We learn how she started the Capital Horns, hear stories about her teaching and performing career, including gigs with the Washington Symphonic Brass and the Washington Conservatory of Music.

 

Her biggest question for Jens is J or Y. Frankly, the world wants to know.

72 Thumbs Downs

Andrew Hitz

Everything about this performance is stunning.

Brandon Ridenour's pic playing. His father's piano playing. The arrangement. The communication between the two of them. Everything.

And yet at the time of this post, 72 different people decided they disliked this video so much that they had to publicly state that by down voting it on YouTube.

I completely understand not being a fan of arrangements in general. (I couldn't disagree more with that stance from a personal taste standpoint, but you could of course make that argument in an intelligent fasion.) You can easily not be a fan of their interpretation of the piece (or literally anyone's interpretation of any given piece.)

But to actually feel the need, on a video posted personally by Brandon, to give this a public thumbs down is really baffling to me.

The reason I'm pointing this out is a reminder to us all that if you put your work out into the world, there will be people who don't like it and feel the need to share that opinion with the world.

So don't fall into the trap of having your eyeballs (and heart!) go straight to that huge number 72 next to the thumbs down before noticing the 6,000 thumbs up votes or 300,000+ views. The only way to not have any down votes is to never share it with the world. And who the hell wins then? Literally no one. You don't make the world a better place by not sharing your art with us and the internet trolls will just find another video to give a thumbs down to.

It also bears remembering who is doing the down voting. Do you think that Jose Sibaja, Jens Lindemann or Ryan Anthony are any of the 72 down votes? Hell no they're not. Anyone who can play at this level is too damn busy making art to be taking swipes at people who not only are making it but have the courage to share it with the world.

So screw the haters, ignore the thumbs down count and push on. And you damn well better share your work with the world. We need it now more than ever.

#endrant

A Trick to Getting More Musical When Doing Drills

Andrew Hitz

Want to know a trick to instantly be more musical and focused when doing mundane drills or warming up?

Broadcast yourself using Facebook Live, Instagram stories or on YouTube.

No, seriously.

Even if three people are watching you, hell, even if there is only a threat of just three people watching you, you will be incredibly focused.

As anyone who has ever taught knows, it is awfully easy to be fully engaged when performing a drill for a student. And that's just with an audience of one. With social media, you can recreate that phenomenon any time you'd like.

Simply posting a one-minute chunk in the middle of your warm-up will engage your brain and make you much more focused, even after the camera is off.

If you are bored while doing drills or warming up, there are tools at your disposal to remedy that situation. If you don't use any of them and continue to not play at your absolute focused, best, it's on you.

And every one of your heroes on your instrument is always playing at her or his focused best.

The Arnold Jacobs Straw Exercise

Andrew Hitz

This is a great exercise for two reasons:

  1. Students feel the sensation of air movement which is a much better thing to focus on than any body movements or where the air is headed
  2. This lets the student experience firsthand the difference in efficiency when they inhale with a good oral shape

Combine this with the "EE to Oh" exercise out of the brass gym and you can fix a whole lot of breathing issues without ever addressing them. And in teaching, using fewer words means less chance for confusion and getting to the actual doing of the activity being addressed faster.

Don't Wait Until 1:00 pm

Andrew Hitz

This reminds me of one of my favorite Joe Alessi quotes:

"You’re not winning an audition if your first notes of the day are at 1 pm.”

—Joe Alessi

Same goes for composing. Or doing score study. Or anything else.

Get those feet moving!

Bored With Scales?

Andrew Hitz

Love this quote from fantastic trombone player Will Baker!

If your students (or you!) are bored with their scales, tell them THEY'RE DOING IT WRONG!

With a little practice, anyone can play any scale mf two octaves at a decent clip. That's really not very hard. All it takes it reps.

You know what's not easy and requires not just a lot of reps but a lot of concentration?

  • Playing scales while changing articulation every note (either alternating between two articulations or cycling through three or more)
  • Playing scales ff in the pedal register with a beautiful sound without dragging
  • Playing scales pp in the extreme upper register with a beautiful sound
  • Playing two octave scales while diminuendoing the entire way up from ff to pp and crescendoing all the way down with no two notes the same dynamic level
  • Playing scales in thirds, fourths or any other interval
  • Playing scales in thirds on the way up and fourths on the way down
  • Take any of these suggestions and record yourself playing them and listen for things like an even sound, consistent articulation, truly even crescendos and diminuendos, perfect groove, phrasing, etc

You get the point!

Unless your name is Wynton Marsalis, I'm guessing you can't ascending thirds followed by descending fourths for the first time and have it mastered in all twelve keys within five minutes.

So if you or your students are bored with scales, you are experiencing a failure of creativity!

Get more creative and you will suddenly be reengaged while practicing the vital musical building blocks we call scales.

The Brass Junkies 66: Joanna Hersey on the 25th Anniversary International Women's Brass Conference and Being a Woman in a Male-Dominated Brass World

Andrew Hitz

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Without a doubt this is the most important conversation that we've had in 2.5 years of Brass Junkies interviews.

We were joined again by our dear friend Joanna Hersey who is currently the President of the International Women's Brass Conference. She spoke with us about their 25th anniversary conference which was held this summer at Rowan University.

She also went in depth about what it is like to be a woman in a male-dominated brass world. Probably my favorite part was when she offered some incredibly practical suggestions for how we can empower young women who play brass. This was a great conversation that both Lance and I loved being a part of. Enjoy!

From the show notes:

IWBC President Joanna Hersey joined Andrew & Lance in her second podcast to spend some more time talking about gender issues in brass playing. Fresh off the 25th Anniversary International Women’s Brass Conference, we spent a good amount of time talking about that tremendous organization, from the founding (by Susan Slaughter) in St. Louis in 1993 to the highly successful event in the summer of 2017 at Rowan University. We learned that while women represent 28% of the horn sections of major orchestras, they only appear in  3-5% in the other brass sections. We also fall on our swords and explain why we’ve sucked up to this point in booking women. 

 

Additionally, we’re trying out a new platform for recording the episodes and In a moment of weakness and lack of foresight, Andrew left Lance in charge of a set of sound effects which you may hear from time to time. To time.