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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

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.

Wise Words from Arnold Jacobs

Andrew Hitz

The key to playing in either the high or low register well is focusing on making music. As always, Mr. Jacobs seems to have found the perfect words to share with any student struggling with that.

I think it is safe to say that the instinct for most of us when playing in the extreme high or register is to want to use more power to "hit the notes." While using a lot of muscle (and for high notes, shoving the mouthpiece into our faces) helps us to "hit" high notes, it is always with a terrible sound that no one can blend with or tune to. It is also very likely that we will crack that note a high percentage of the time and get tired very quickly.

By telling the player to focus on playing melodically, we get the attention off of the physical aspects of playing in the extreme registers and towards simplifying things.

I am reminded of a great quote from Joe Alessi. He frequently says:

"Playing a brass instrument well is an incredibly simple process, and playing a brass instrument poorly is an incredibly complicated one."

Playing with power (using excess strength) is always a more complicated process that simply focusing on the buzz and thinking melodically.

And if it's good enough for Mr. Jacobs and Joe Alessi, it is good enough for me.

The Brass Junkies 81: Matthew Murchison

Andrew Hitz

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Matthew Murchison, excuse me, DOCTOR Matthew Murchison, is one of the most creative people playing the euphonium professionally today. He is an incredible euphonium and tuba player, a composer, arranger, deep thinker, knucklehead and a dear friend of mine. Oh man did we laugh during this one...

From the show notes:

TBJ81: Matthew Murchison, Sexiest Euphonium Player in West Virginia on playing, writing and charting your own course in music

Composer, tuba and euphonium soloist and all-around fellow knucklehead Matthew Murchison joins Andrew & Lance to discuss his bands Mainspring and the Matthew Murchison Mutiny, studies with Brian Bowman and being yourself as an artist.

In this fun and lively conversation, we cover:

  • Being the Sexiest Euphonium Player in West Virginia
  • That he is, in fact, a Doctor
  • Teaching at Marshall University
  • Former Solo Euphonium with River City Brass
  • Workin’ on (p)stuff
  • Breaking a spring
  • His method book for teaching euphonium players to play tuba
  • Studies with Brian Bowman in undergrad
  • His band Mainspring: (flute, euphonium and rhythm section)
  • Composing and arranging
  • No preconceived notion of what euphonium music should be to regular audiences which is a huge opportunity
  • Expanding his writing to include electronics
  • Chewy
  • Being yourself as an artist
  • Who is doing interesting stuff right now (Demondrae Thurmon, Ben Pierce, Fernando Deddos)
  • Whether competitions help or hurt young players
  • Asking for feedback after competitions

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 79: Adam Frey

Andrew Hitz

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Adam Frey is a phenomenal euphonium player and runs the International Euphonium Tuba Conference every year in Atlanta. Lance and I have known Adam for a very long time, especially Lance, so we had a good time with this one.

From the show notes:

Adam Frey has had a great career as a soloist, publisher, teacher and major proponent of the euphonium and has endured Lance's hump-busting for over twenty years.

He is also the mastermind behind both the fantastic International Euphonium-Tuba (IET) Festival and euphonium.com. He currently teaches at the University of North Georgia.

In this fun and lively conversation, we cover:

  • Euphonium jokes
  • How Adam and Lance met in the Brass Band of Battle Creek
  • Tales of the Badger (dearly departed mega friend, Chris Matten)
  • Meeting James Gourlay
  • Teaching at the University of North Georgia
  • Playing in Macau
  • IET Festival, 15th anniversary in the summer of 2018
  • How he started the festival and how it is organized
  • The importance of good coffee when running a festival
  • Being an ambassador of the euphonium and the Ambassador of Euphonium
  • Fernando Deddos, David Childs, and other influential current players
  • Creating opportunities and the importance of collaboration
  • Working with Patricio Cosentino, Scott Hartman, and Jeff Nelsen
  • Having good ideas vs. having good ideas and acting on them
  • Starting and running euphonium.com

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 78: Chip Crotts

Andrew Hitz

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What an incredibly inspiring story Chip has! Talk about stepping up when facing some unspeakable adversity. This is one of the most uplifting and motivational episodes thanks to Chip being so open about his fight against Bells Palsy.

If I ever have to face something like that, I hope I have half the grace and courage that Chip has shown the world. We were honored to have him join us.

From the show notes:

TBJ78: Chip Crotts on playing trumpet with Ray Charles, prosthetic robot arms for musicians and his comeback from Bells Palsy

Chip Crotts has played trumpet with an incredible array of stars, from Natalie Cole to Maynard Ferguson and has been involved with building an innovative program from the ground up at Georgia Tech.

In this episode, we cover:

  • The integration of music and technology at Georgia Tech
  • Building the undergraduate degree from the ground up
  • The development of a prosthetic robotic hand and arm to allow folks to play piano of drums
  • Playing with Ray Charles and Maynard Ferguson (and an amazing array of other artists)
  • “You never know when your shot’s gonna come, so you have to be ready”
  • Natalie Cole, the Tuscaloosa Horns (T-Horns)
  • Lance’s water pipes freezing and bursting mid-show, FUN!
  • Working with Santa Clara Vanguard
  • Dealing with Bells Palsy which paralyzed the left side of his face, and his documentation of the recovery process on video at his Facebook page

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

Strength Is Not the Answer

Andrew Hitz

"Strength is not the answer.  I guarantee you that everyone in this room has the strength to play a high G."
—Jim Thompson, Former Principal Trumpet of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra

Preach, Jim!

Watch this video of the incredible Brian MacDonald of the Airmen of Note and tell me that strength is needed to rip in the high register.

One of my last Boston Brass big band Christmas gigs featured Brian on trumpet. I was knocked out at how ridiculously relaxed he looked while soaring above the whole band. It was a call to action to take a lot of not just unneeded, but counterproductive physicality out of my playing.

And that's why the mirror is your friend. Watch the greats on YouTube and then watch yourself. Can you be doing anything more efficiently? The answer is pretty much always yes no matter who the hell you are.

The Brass Junkies 77: Deanna Swoboda

Andrew Hitz

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Deanna is a dear friend and one of my favorite tuba players in the world. She is also an incredible force in the music business. Both Lance and I have known her for a very long time and we were really happy she could join us on The Brass Junkies.

From the show notes:

TBJ77: Tubist Deanna Swoboda on her gig at ASU, Brass Rap and the difference between entertainment and art

Deanna Swoboda has been a longtime friend and colleague to both Andrew & Lance and has had a great career as a performer, teacher and leader from her days with Dallas Brass to her current gig at Arizona State University.

In this episode, we cover:

  • The value of studying music at the college level
  • Her gig at ASU
  • Her five years with the Dallas Brass
  • The difference in approach between playing in the Dallas Brass and the Western Michigan University brass quintet
  • Working with trumpeter Scott Thornburg
  • The difference between entertainment and art
  • Dan Perantoni “When the phone rings, are you ready?”
  • Deanna’s Wonderland
  • Brass Rap
  • Band Blastoff!
  • Tuba Tex How the West Was Fun (a project Lance participated in and forgot for 15 years. He's old.)
  • Eastman tubas
  • Eastman Company Tuba Euphonium Workshop in the summer of 2018

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

Two Resources for Choosing the Right School of Music

Andrew Hitz

Are you in the process of applying for music school right now? Whether you are going to get your undergrad, grad or doctorate, here are two resources to help you ask the right questions to find the perfect fit for you!

The Brass Junkies Episode 75: Auditioning for College

In episode 75 of The Brass Junkies, Lance LaDuke (who teaches music business and euphonium at both Duquesne and Carnegie Mellon) and I answer the 10 most important questions to consider when deciding where to attend school:

  1. What's the best way to research schools and teachers?
  2. What repertoire should you perform for your audition?
  3. Should you take a lesson with the teacher?
  4. How many schools should you apply to?
  5. Is it okay to just send an audio or video recording?
  6. What should you wear for your audition and how should you act?
  7. What should you expect on your audition day? (And how to deal with overcoming nerves!)
  8. What's the best way to follow up with the school and teacher?
  9. What's the most effective way to ask for more scholarship money?
  10. How should you make your decision?

You can stream the episode below or find it on iTunesSoundcloudStitcher or your favorite podcast app.

 

David zerkel: On choosing College

David Zerkel teaches tuba and euphonium at the University of Georgia and is simply put one of the best teachers in the world. He wrote a wonderful blog post a few years ago that will help you decide which school is best for you.

Zerkel: On Choosing College


If you are a tuba or euphonium interested in studying with me at Shenandoah University, shoot me an email and let's talk! I have openings for undergrad, master's and doctoral students.

The Brass Junkies 76: Doug Rosenthal

Andrew Hitz

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Doug Rosenthal is a phenomenal trombone player for the Washington National Opera and one hell of an awesome human. Love this guy! What a great interview we had with him while he was in Chicago playing Bass Trumpet on the Lyric Opera's Ring Cycle.

From the show notes:

Washington National Opera/Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra trombonist Doug Rosenthal joins Andrew & Lance in a conversation ranging from the bass trumpet to dealing with the Valsalva maneuver and his experiences as an openly gay brass player.

Currently, in his 6th season with the Washington National Opera/Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, Doug was actually speaking to us from Chicago, where he was playing bass trumpet with The Lyric Opera. He explains how he manages to schedule both gigs, how he got started at Northwestern and a variety of other topics, including:

  • Starting on euphonium
  • Going to Bremen Germany to get a bass trumpet
  • Playing with The New World Symphony
  • Playing the full Ring Cycle
  • His blog, "Inside the Arts"
  • His challenges overcoming issues the Valsalva maneuver
  • Being an openly gay brass player
  • #thouhgtsandprayers for Jens

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