Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting Carol Jantsch, the tuba player for the Philadelphia Orchestra, for the first time. She conducted a master class at the annual summer camp of the Monumental Brass in Fulton, MD. It was an impressive presentation from start to finish that everyone who attended will remember for a long time.
She began the class by playing Patrick Sheridan’s arrangement of the Carnival of Venice with piano accompaniment. Her performance was effortless and had an elegance that is rarely found in a solo performance by a tuba player.
Next she played the title track from her solo CD, Cascades. This is an unaccompanied trumpet solo written by Allen Vizzutti which was fantastic. She certainly got the attention of everyone with her performance.
She spent the remainder of the two hours answering questions and coaching four different students. The following is a collection of quotes from the class that I found extremely helpful.
“When we’re breathing we try to minimize tension. Tension is the enemy.”
“Trick your brain into thinking you have more time to breathe than you do. Don’t think of it as having only one beat and panicking.”
“Use the entire 16th to breathe. Tell yourself it is a lot of time.”
“As low brass players we should be used to taking in more air than we need.”
When asked what it takes to win a tuba job with a major symphony orchestra: “A lot of luck.” (Then mentioned hard work and talent.)
Concerning how long it took her to memorize her solos: “Not long since I learned them the right way. I played them slowly, then a little less slowly, then a little less slowly than that, over and over.”
“You’re letting the higher notes scare you. Just relax and blow.”
Speaking specifically to female brass players: “Playing a brass instrument takes a lot of air. But if you end up trying to save air you get fuzzy attacks and missed slurs.”
“Did you notice that this section is louder because of the breathing scheme we came up with for the section before?”
“When learning double tonguing practice slowly and really emphasize the ka.”
Addressing a student working on slurs: “Focus only on the ends of the notes.”
“The warm-up/routine part of your practicing should address the weaknesses in your playing daily.”
On what she thinks about when playing the first entrance of the Gregson Tuba Concerto: “You’re a very arrogant person and you step into a room and command attention.”
When having a kid sing his part: “Use your operatic voice so the people in the back can hear you. I don’t care about pitch as much as musical inflection.”
“When you’re playing, about 10% of what you think is coming out so you have to exaggerate everything.”
“If you’re afraid of missing a note you just need to go for it. Blow through it, throw yourself in there, and there’s a good chance you’ll hit it.”
“It’s good to vocalize because it can be hard to get something in your ear without hearing it outside of your body.”
“If you’re having trouble with an interval play up to the note and then sing it. That’s a good way to know if you have it in your ear.”
“I play with the metronome on the offbeats because a lot of people ignore it if it’s on the beat. It turns on your inner metronome.”
“When playing legato etudes down an octave you want to go for as relaxed and smooth a sound as possible.”