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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Category: Horn

Denise Tryon on the four elements to look for when teaching someone

Andrew Hitz

I love this!

1. Physical set-up: I tend to lean towards the mess with a student's physical set-up as little as possible side of things but (and this is a big but!) sometimes it is necessary and solves many problems at once. Efficiency is the key to playing any instrument well and a proper physical set-up is essential to that.

2. Technique: You can't tell a great musical story without being able to do all of the technical stuff well (as well as in any combination.) Technique is not hard to teach or to learn. Or I should say it's not complicated to learn. The only hard part is having the discipline to do it. Having a technique like Denise primarily involves a lot of work over a prolonged period of time. How bad do want it?

3. Music making: That's the only reason I ever play the tuba. All of that work to get a good physical set-up and the decades of learning good technique only serve one purpose: to tell a great musical story.

4. Mental attitude: Attitude is one of those rare things in life that we can actually control. Again, playing the horn like Denise is a very long journey. Some moments, days, even weeks, it can quite hard to keep a positive attitude. Progress is not linear (it never is!) and that can be discouraging if we choose to focus on any one data point along that journey to draw conclusions about our worth as a musician. A great teacher gives a student tools to be able to keep a positive mental attitude, even when that student doesn't feel like it is justified.

And of course she is right about your weakest link. Leave any one of these four behind and you will be held back from realizing your true potential.

Thanks for the awesome quote, Denise!

The Brass Junkies 82: Geoffrey Pilkington

Andrew Hitz

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Geoff Pilkington is one of the best horn players in the world and I am lucky to call him a dear friend. I'd been wanting to make this interview happen for a long time and finally we made the schedules work!

This one ended up being a little different than the rest. We talked about his entire career but also ended up doing a deep dive into playing the Long Call from Wagner's Siegfried. Hearing about his experience performing it as a part of the Ring Cycle here in DC a couple of years ago was fascinating.

From the show notes:

TBJ82: Geoffrey Pilkington, Principal Horn for the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra on yoga, humility and the Long Call

Geoffrey Pilkington, Principal Horn for the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra joins Andrew & Lance to talk about working with Don Greene, dealing with the effects of a pinched nerve and gives us a great behind-the-scenes look at what goes into preparing for and playing the Ring Cycle.

In this fun and lively conversation, we cover:

  • His main gigs (Principal horn for National Opera in DC, and Assistant Principal in Harrisburg PA Symphony)
  • Studying at Juilliard
  • How his practice habits have changed
  • Super final round (1st time) was Geoff and Phil Munds, Maestro, “Neither were the next Dale Clevenger”
  • Super final round (2nd time) with WeiPing Chou, Maestro, “Don’t miss any notes”
  • Working with Don Greene on audition prep
  • His parents were amateur musicians and his Dad's request to a 5th grade Geoff, “Pick anything you want except saxophone or French horn”
  • How to explain why the horn is difficult to people who know nothing about music
  • How to explain why the horn is difficult to people who DO know about music
  • The importance of humility for a horn player
  • Playing the Ring Cycle, especially the Sigfried Long Call
  • Playing with a pinched nerve in his neck and shoulder
  • Adversity training with Don Greene, some dude doing “The Worm”
  • Using swimming as a way to warm up and prepare physically and mentally
  • Using Bikram Yoga and meditation to prepare for The Ring
  • The importance of visualization in audition or performance preparation
  • Why focus is like a muscle, you can work on developing it

You can check out the complete show notes including all of the links mentioned during this episode over at Pedal Note Media.

The Brass Junkies 80: Jennifer Montone

Andrew Hitz

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Jennifer Montone is one of my favorite horn players in the world. We met each other about 25 years ago as students at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and even then it was obvious she was going to be a superstar.

The visualization she does on stage before big solos with the Philadelphia Orchestra that she describes in this interview will take your breath away. Amazing stuff!

From the show notes:

TBJ80: Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Horn Jennifer Montone on playing, meditating and telling your own story

Jennifer Montone has played with the Philadelphia Orchestra for 11 years. Prior to that, she spent time in the Dallas, St. Louis and New Jersey Symphonies and teaches at both Curtis and Juilliard.

In this fun and lively conversation, we cover:

  • Playing at Tanglewood as a student in the Empire Brass Seminar
  • Lance playing w/Jennifer in Philly (it had such a lasting impact on her)
  • Dealing with pressure
  • Meditation and yoga, the influence of “Soprano on Her Head,” the work of Noa Kageyama and Don Greene
  • Concentrating energy from your Chi
  • Headspace app, Hittleman yoga book, Mt. Fuji meditation, Jack Kornfield, Kripalu website, lava lamp meditation
  • Self-talk/affirmations
  • Playing while 7 1/2 months pregnant
  • Re-evaluating her breath work, via Arnold Jacobs’ concepts and teachings
  • The effect of posture on her approach
  • Taking a positive approach to challenges in music and in life (and passing those concepts on to her students)
  • Giving students permission to make musical decisions, then encouraging them to do so
  • Being a female principal horn player, how things are changing and evolving
  • How she wanted to be a nun up to the age of 14
  • Developing leadership skills, being assertive and confident
  • National Brass Ensemble

You can check out the complete show notes including all of the links mentioned during this episode over at Pedal Note Media.

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.