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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Keeping Your Options Open in the Music Business

Andrew Hitz

When I was in the 6th grade I decided that I wanted to become a professional tuba player.  At that point, I had only one goal in mind: I was going to play in the Boston Symphony.  My first BSO concert was Tanglewood On Parade when I was only two weeks old and my parents had been taking me to their concerts ever since. At that age, you aren't supposed to consider how difficult it will be to achieve such a specific goal.  One thing that goal did accomplish was to motivate me many times growing up.  By the time I was a sophomore in high school I was making the 25 mile trip each way into Boston three times a week for lessons, youth orchestra and youth wind ensemble.

Luckily for me I had teachers growing up who put me in the best possible position to succeed in the music business.  They did this by repeatedly forcing me out of my comfort zone musically.  The net result was making me a more well rounded musician which in turn increased my potential number of future revenue streams.

When I met Sam Pilafian at the age of 14 he handed me a tape (yes, a tape) of him playing with the New York Trumpet Ensemble.  He told me to learn his solo from the opening of 'Buddy Bolden's Blues'.  That was the sum and total of his instructions to me.  He didn't tell me that he half-valved some of the notes and certainly didn't give me instructions on how to do that.  He didn't mention that he bent some of the pitches with his lips.  He just told me to learn it.

What do you know? I learned that solo with all the bends and growls and everything else.  I didn't even really know what I was doing but knew what it sounded like (thanks to the tape) and what it needed to sound like coming out of my bell.  This small gesture from Sam prepared me for being thrown in a Dixie band when I got to graduate school.  I had already learned some of the jazz 'vocabulary' and was ready to tackle chord changes and learning the 19 different possible endings to Dixie tunes.

Don't get me wrong, if you want to be an orchestral player you must dive head first into the literature, the style, the auditions, into everything orchestral.  But it is possible, through great teaching and a lot of perseverance, to also put yourself in a position to make money in the music business in ways that you may not foresee.

And besides, I think that Mike Roylance is doing a pretty darn good job up there in Boston.