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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Joe Alessi Master Class Quotes (Part 1 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

Last week the principal trombonist of the New York Philharmonic, Joe Alessi, gave a fantastic master class at Towson University.  He is easily one of the best musicians I have ever had the privilege of working with and I learn something every time I hear him either perform or speak about music.

Check out this Joe Alessi interview I did with Lance LaDuke for The Brass Junkies.

I knew that I was going to get a lot of great material from a two and a half hour master class but the amount of information that I left with exceeded my very high expectations.  Joe is a rare person who is so highly accomplished on both the playing and teaching sides of our industry.

A special thank you to Craig Mulcahy for giving me the heads up about the class the day of and to the two students at George Mason who rescheduled their lessons so that I could make the trip up to Maryland.  I am very happy that I made it!

I was able to get so many great quotes from this class that I will post them in three parts over the course of the week.  I attempted to write them down verbatim but did not record the class so there unintentionally might be some slight variations to his wordings.  If there are any discrepancies it is his own fault because he kept making great points! I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

Be sure to also check out Part 2 and Part 3.

  • "I'm always trying to find new ways to do something."

  • "Sometimes you revisit old concepts and change them slightly."

  • "To play a brass instrument well is a very simple process.  To play one badly is very complicated."

  • "Try to find a good model breath that has nothing to do with playing and instrument, like a sigh."

  • "Take a breathing event that relaxes you and model your playing after that."

  • "People often ask me for a quick fix on how to get better.  Here's one: anytime you pick up your instrument during the day, which should hopefully be 7 or 8 times a day, play one note that's the most beautiful note you can.  And not just a quarter note but three or four beats.  Then just clone it over and over."

  • "The first 10 minutes you play in a day is how you play the rest of the day."

  • "The more I play the more quickly I have discoveries about my playing."

  • "A lot of practicing can be done away from the instrument."

  • "You gotta be able to sing it and conduct it.  When you know how something is supposed to go, when you pick up your instrument, you can make that happen."

  • "In high school I was a practice nut about fundamentals."

  • "If something is simple and slow, I try to find something interesting about it."

  • "When listening to entrance exams at Juilliard and the New York Phil I look for even playing and consist tone.  Consistent pitch and consistent rhythm."

  • "Consistency is what you practice when you are in the practice room."

  • "When playing orchestrally there is a certain way you have to play and that's to have an immediate attack."

  • "An accent looks like a small diminuendo.  What you're playing is a reverse diminuendo."

  • "You need to record everything you do."

  • "You need to document everything you do and you need to listen to it.  I don't care if it's three notes.  Record it.  No, I'm serious."

  • "If you play a jury, record it.  If you take an audition, ask the people if you can record it."