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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

How to Prepare for an Audition

Andrew Hitz

"One might say that the ability to evaluate one's own ability is the most important skill of all. Without it, improvement is impossible. And certainly ego makes it difficult every step of the way."

—Ryan Holiday in Ego is the Enemy

Many years ago I was supposed to be giving a joint master class with Joe Alessi in Banff but instead I was making him do most of the talking and taking notes!

One student asked him what the key to winning an audition is. Joe told him that he really didn't like answering that question but then proceeded to precisely put it into words:

"You have to be brutally honest with yourself and know exactly what you can and can not do on your instrument."
—Joe Alessi on the key to winning an audition

That's it. You need to do the equivalent of staring at yourself in the mirror while completely naked. No clothes to hide behind. No flattering camera angles. No beautiful scenery in the background to distract us. Just you and your glorious naked self.

He then went on to say anyone preparing for an audition should spend an equal amount of their practice time listening to themselves as actually playing. To hammer home that point, he said someone spending four hours in a day preparing for an audition should spend a full two of those hours listening to recordings of themselves.

This is how you get brutally honest about what you can and can not do.

And you need to do this every single day. Federal holidays. Your boyfriend's birthday. Your anniversary. The day you graduate.

The women and men who are on the short list of people who really have a good chance of winning any given audition are all doing this level of prep. So you'd better be.

The Brass Junkies 64: Composer Pete Meechan

Andrew Hitz

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Pete Meechan is one of today's foremost brass composers and I am lucky enough to call him a dear friend. His pieces have been performed by soloists and ensembles around the world including by the President's Own Marine Band. He is a top-notch knucklehead and it was great to have him on the show!

From the show notes:

Pete Meechan, composer of “Song of Hope”, joins Andrew & Lance to talk about, wait for it, composing! Pete explains how he went from working in the bar at the Royal Northern College of Music to writing pieces which have impacted countless listeners and has allowed him to work with and write for some of the best players and organizations in the world. We discuss music as a healing process, talk about the state of the industry and how CDs can still serve as proof of quality. We learn who he considers to be his favorite composers, get the story behind his incredibly popular “Song of Hope” and hear about the music he is working on today.

And how he strives to set “new standards in not sucking."

The Brass Junkies 63: Michael Martin of the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Hitz

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Michael Martin is infuriatingly good at way too many things. And on top of it all he is as humble as people come. It was a pleasure to get to interview him and talk about being in the Boston Symphony, touring with the Chicago Symphony and composing professionally.

From the show notes:

Boston Symphony trumpeter Michael Martin joins Andrew & Lance to talk his career as a player, and composer. Michael joined the BSO in 2010 and has had great success there, building on the training which began with his dad (Freddy Martin). We discuss his days at Interlochen and Northwestern, touring with his brother (Chris Martin) and the Chicago Symphony and how his composing career got off the ground at an early age. He also discusses his favorite conductors, what it takes to be a good section player, how to listen and how to learn new repertoire really quickly.

Oh, and he shares a hilarious rookie error story during a rehearsal of Mahler 2 under Michael Tilson Thomas. "20!"

The Brass Junkies 62: Andy Bove of Bove Audio

Andrew Hitz

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Andy Bove is one of the most talented dudes I know. As you will hear in this episode, we go way back to 1991 when we were both students at the Empire Brass Seminar at Tanglewood.

Seriously, Andy is a phenomenal tuba player, one of the best recording engineers in the world and just an all-around incredible musicians. I have learned so much from him over the years. I had a whole lot of fun making this episode.

From the show notes:

Epic Low Brass game of Thrones mastermind Andrew Bove, joins Andrew & Lane to talk about his life as a tuba player and recording engineer. From his parallel life coming up with Andrew Hitz (the met as tuba-longs at Tanglewood and went on to study together with both Rex Martin and Sam Pilafian) to his opportunity to record the brass section of The Met, Bove also talks about recovering from a broken collar bone and the problem with peacocks. Lots of funny stories about his and Andrew’s “educational opportunities,” including a great story about Darth, I mean Professor Koch. 

Oh, and there are some other folks named Andrew Bove. Eclectic bunch. Check out the pics if you don’t believe me. 

The Brass Junkies 61: Mark Houghton of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Hitz

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We got to sit down with Mark Houghton, one of the more recent additions to the brass section of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. We touched on a bunch of different topics including his family's horn business and meditation.

From the show notes:

Mark Houghton, 3rd Horn with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Adjunct Professor of Horn at Duquesne University joins Andrew & Lance in a thoughtful conversation covering both the mental and practical sides of a career playing horn. Since joining the PSO in 2014, Mark explains how well the section clicks and the commonality of approach which helps them do what they do. He discusses the value of positive affirmations and meditation and we touch on the possible connection between long tones and meditation. Additionally, Mark talks about his family’s horn business and what goes into choosing an instrument. 

Arnold Jacobs on Playing Drills

Andrew Hitz

I find "being musical" is a very difficult thing to just turn on and off like a light switch. And I have yet to meet a single student in 25 years of teaching who was very good at that either.

So even "just" the drills and basics need to be done as musically as possible 100% of the time.

I sometimes like to visualize one of two things to help me with this:

  1. I am broadcasting the drills to Facebook Live and soliciting honest feedback
  2. I am recording the drills for a recording to accompany a method book

Do you think Sam Pilafian and Pat Sheridan had to be reminded to focus when they were recording the accompaniment to The Brass Gym? First of all, they are always concentrating to a high level. But even still, the threat of shipping to the world a recording of you playing your own exercises poorly is a good way to get you to focus.

How do you focus when you are "just" playing drills and other basics? It's what separates the truly great players from the good ones.

Simple Exercise to Gain Perspective

Andrew Hitz

As musicians, we can really use a good dose of perspective from time to time. I know I sure can, especially after a particularly frustrating practice session of failing to get a gig I was hoping to score.

Here is a 60-second read from Seth Godin (who my wife calls my spirit animal) with a simple exercise to help gain some perspective.

Good stuff.

The Brass Junkies 60: Joanna Hersey

Andrew Hitz

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Joanna rocks! She is one of my favorite tuba players, can teach her tail off and is just one of the most energetic, positive people you'll ever meet. She is just an A+ human. I could interview her every week and never get bored.

From the show notes:

Joanna Hersey, President of the International Women’s Brass Conference and one half of the JAM Duo, joins Andrew & Lance in a fantastic and high energy conversation about taking risks and following your dreams.

Joanna is a very busy musician. In addition to the above, Joanna is Associate Professor of Tuba/Euphonium at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Visiting Instructor of Tuba/Euphonium at East Carolina University and is a Yamaha and Parker Mouthpiece Performing Artist.

Formerly of the US Coast Guard Band, Joanna spoke with us from the Music For All Conference in Indianapolis. She talked about the importance of being quick and dealing with your “external shoulds,” and we had a frank discussion of sexism in the career field. 

We also had time to talk about the new JAM Duo CD which features Andrew and Lance! How could we not?

The Brass Junkies 59: Steve Reid

Andrew Hitz

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All joking aside, is there anyone crazier than lead trumpet players? We got to speak to one of the best in the world in Steve Reid and talked to us about among other things about lead trumpet players shaving their teeth! No, for real. They are all nuts.

Great, fun interview with Steve who has played with just about everybody!

From the show notes:

Maynard Ferguson and Duke Ellington band lead trumpet player Steve Reid, joins Andrew & Lance about life as a lead player and diagnosing chop issues. Andrew & Lance were shocked to find a lead trumpet player who defies all the usual stereotypes. Until we heard about his Corvette. Anyway, Steve is a great player, funny guy and has played with an amazing array of  some of the best bands in the world. He shares stories about learning from Rich Matteson, playing chess with Mercer Ellington, and hanging with Brian Setzer. Additionally, he talks about his thoughts on chop issues and how dental structure plays into things. 

The Brass Junkies 58: David Silverman of The Simpsons

Andrew Hitz

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David Silverman plays a sousaphone with flames shooting out the bell and was one of the original animators on The Simpsons! I feel like this possibly makes him the perfect human.

In all seriousness, he is a Hollywood legend and a fixture at Burning Man. What a life this guy has led! It was a blast talking to him about all of it. (Especially asking him about the Simpsons episode that featured Phish!)

From the show notes:

Simpsons animator and Flaming Tuba artist David Silverman joins Andrew & Lance in a fascinating and hilarious exploration of The Simpsons, the tuba and animation. David has had an incredible career. He was one of the original animators on The Simpsons, directed countless episodes of the show, as well as the The Simpsons Movie. More importantly, he plays tuba! He started relatively late in school, at the age of 17. “Dr. Fonz” set him on his way and David went on to play tuba and sousaphone in college, first at the University of Maryland and later at UCLA, where he joined the marching band on a trip to Japan for the Mirage Bowl. We hear about the time he created a caricature of the National Symphony, his love for 1930's jazz, including artists like Sidney Bechet and the number of animators who are also musicians. 

As if that weren’t enough, David regularly plays with Vaud and the Villains, a "19 Piece 1930’s New Orleans Dance Orchestra and Cabaret Show" and is known to many as the guy with the flaming tuba from Burning man. Suffice to say, Andrew & Lance are fanboys.