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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Category: Chamber Music

It's Not About You

Andrew Hitz

"Blend towards the ticket buyers, not each other."
—Marty Hackleman

I have seen countless chamber ensembles fail to grasp the vital principal behind the above quote. The audience experience is everything.

Don't sit in the easiest possible configuration for your group to interact with each other. Sit in the configuration which makes it easiest for the audience to feel like they are interacting with you.

Don't just make sure something is balanced on stage. Make sure it is balanced in the hall.

Don't lift your stand up higher than it needs to be. Put your stand at a level where the audience feels like they are a part of the experience and not just allowed to peer over your shoulder.

Don't just check for dynamic contrast on stage. Make sure that contrast is reaching the last row of paid seats.

Don't match articulations on your side of the bell. Be sure they are matching at the back of the hall.

This list could go on and on...

I couldn't believe how much left edge I had to put on notes when I first joined Boston Brass. Like, I was dumbfounded. What my colleagues were asking me to do sounded stupid on my side of the bell.

But guess what? Those comments were coming from a rehearsal technique that we frequently used. One player would go out into the hall and listen from out there (ie the only place where it matters what it sounds like!) They would then ask for adjustments until it sounded right out there.

They would ask for so much attack that I thought it sounded stupid. But I trusted them so I did it.

Then I would listen to a recording of the performance from later that evening and I'll be damned they were always right. I had to very gradually adjust what I thought it "should" sound like on my side of the bell.

I have yet to find anyone who will pay me to in an orchestra, band, quintet or as a soloist based on me sounding good on my side of the bell. No one cares.

Literally your only job is making sure it sounds (and looks) good in the audience.

Who Should You Partner With?

Andrew Hitz

"Find like-minded, bright, hard-working people that you think share a core set of values and a core vision of what you are trying to do and where you're trying to go.  That makes it substantially easier to realize whatever that vision may be."

 

-Kevin Browning, Creative and Business Development Manager for Umprhrey's McGee

 

If you are a musician looking to form a chamber ensemble, don't simply go for the best players.  Find the best players who also fit the description above and great things will happen.

Chamber groups, whether they be brass quintets, string quartets, jazz trios, barbershop quartets, or rock bands, rarely fail to stick around because the music making isn't good enough.  It is almost always a result of visions not lining up or of people not working equally towards attaining that vision.

This two sentence quote can save you a whole lot of time and money if you start there and then worry about the rest of it.