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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

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Crash Course in Interpretation

Andrew Hitz

My freshman year at Northwestern, one of my first assignments from Rex Martin was one that didn't involve my tuba.  He wanted me to get deeper into the interpretation of music and told me a good place to start was with renowned pianist, Glenn Gould.

His assignment was for me to listen to different versions of the same piece by the same performer.  That piece was the Bach's Goldberg Variations for solo piano with the aforementioned Glenn Gould the performer.  His two recordings of this staple of the piano repertoire are both industry standards that have withstood the test of time and many consider them the finest piano recordings ever made.

What is truly stunning about them is how different they are from each other.  The first features a 23-year-old Glenn Gould in 1955 playing fast tempos and quite aggressively in spots.  The second is of  a 49-year-old Glenn Gould in 1981 playing much slower, more reflective tempos.  In fact, the 1981 recording is over 12 minutes longer than the earlier one!

The other part of my assignment was to listen to them both while following along with a score.  Mr. Martin wanted me to listen specifically for the balance between all of the harmonies relative to the melody throughout both recordings.  He also wanted me to listen for specific differences and how they affected the musical storytelling.

It was a truly remarkable experience for me that I recommend everyone try.  Here are the two recordings on YouTube followed by a link to the publicly available score.  I really owe Rex Martin one for making me do this exercise at a young age.  Actually hearing and analyzing these two contrasting examples by Glenn Gould was more valuable than listening to 10 masters talk about interpretation.

Thank you, Mr. Martin!


Goldberg Variations: Click Here for the Complete Score

1955 Version (23 years old)
Duration: 39:20


1981 Version (49 years old)
Duration: 51:28

Always Ready

Andrew Hitz

"The secret of success is to be ready when your opportunity comes." - Benjamin Disraeli


For conductors, this means always doing score study.  For performers, it means always being in shape.  For all of us, it means getting out of our comfort zones frequently so we are prepared to seize the moment when it is presented to us.

Perfect Advice on Starting Any Arts Initiative in One Sentence

Andrew Hitz

"You need to know what you know and you don't know and how to partner with people with different strengths." -David Cutler (The Savvy Musician)

You will never read a sentence that sums up how to proceed on any new business venture better than that one above.  When starting any kind of an arts initiative, don't simply go for the most talented players, dancers, singers, or actors. Read the above sentence until you have it memorized and then go from there.

Trust me.  You'll thank Dr. Cutler later if you do.

(This quote was from the fabulous 2013 Savvy Musician In Action Retreat at the University of South Carolina.)


Chick Corea, Michael Brecker, Eddie Gomez & Steve Gadd: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

With a lineup that includes these four guys, there's not really much left to say.  All four of these players could headline on any given night and yet they appeared as a quartet at the Blue Note on April 22, 2003 at the Blue Note in New York City. Chick Corea is one of the greatest creative forces in all of art over the last half century.  The scope of his impact can not be articulated.

Michael Brecker played with everyone from Frank Zappa and Steely Dan to Chet Baker and Charles Mingus.  He appeared on over 700 albums before his death in 2007.

When a bass player has both appeared with the Kronos Quartet and been a member of the Bill Evans Trio on their resume, as Eddie Gomez has, you know they've left quite an imprint on the music business.

Steve Gadd is my favorite drummer of all-time.  The specifically melodic quality he plays with is unique to my ears.  Don't get me wrong, there are tons of drummers I admire, but for me, Gadd stands alone.



Counting vs. Hoping

Andrew Hitz

"The ensemble is slipping because some people are counting and some people are hoping."  

-Christopher Betts, Associate Director of Music of the National Cathedral

This quote had all of us in the quintet nodding our heads in approval.  After he delivered this perfect line during rehearsal, the fantastic choir at the National Cathedral nailed all of the entrances after long notes.  This is great advice that we all need to hear from time to time and reminded me of one of my brief posts on this very subject from a couple of years ago.

More counting, less hoping.


Making Your Own Opportunities

Andrew Hitz

"The man who grasps an opportunity as it is paraded before him, nine times out of ten makes a success; but the man who makes his own opportunities is, barring an accident, a sure-fire success!" -Dale Carnegie

These words were uttered many decades ago and had nothing to do with the music business but could not be more true today.  Most music schools are churning out graduates without teaching them how to make their own opportunities in the music business.  And if you take a look around, the vast majority of people "making it" in the music business these days are the ones that are doing just that.

What have you done today in an attempt to create an opportunity for yourself?

An aerial shot of my alma mater, Northwestern University, where fortunately I was taught how to make my own opportunities. © 2013 Andrew Hitz

My 7 Most Read Blog Posts in 2013

Andrew Hitz

It's been a busy and very successful year for  I find this hard to process, but this blog was read in over 90 countries in 2013! Thank you to everyone for all of the support.  Truly, it means the world to me. I thought I would compile a list of links for the 7 most read posts for the year.  Again, thanks for reading and may everyone have a wonderful 2014!

Lessons Learned from The Savvy Musician in ACTION Retreat

Chronicling the countless things I learned as a thought leader at this amazing retreat.

Janos Starker's Inspiring Words on Teaching Music

Amazing words from an amazing man.

The 5 Most Influential Concerts I Ever

Everything from the first time I saw Sam Pilafian perform to a rock concert that changed my life.

Phil Smith Sums Up Playing Music

It's almost scary how well he sums up music in so few words.

Are You Ready for the Call?

This colleague of mine at George Mason was ready for a call from the New York Philharmonic when the phone rang one late afternoon about a concert that night. Would you be?

Best Description of Articulation Ever

Michael Mulcahy gave me a brand new prospective on articulation in just 28 words.

The Next Chapter

My announcement that I was leaving Boston Brass and about what was next.


Again, thank you to everyone who reads this blog and see you all somewhere down the line in 2014!

Boston Brass Poster in Merano, Italy © 2012 Andrew Hitz

Perseverance Always Wins Out

Andrew Hitz

Music, like any other highly competitive field, always comes down to perseverance. No matter how talented you are or how how much success you've had in the past, there are times in everyone's career when perseverance is the only thing that will get through. If I were starting a group or music based business today, the quality I would most search for in any potential partner is perseverance.  Those who always seem to "catch a break" have perseverance in spades, while those who never seem to don't.

If I were a principal and hiring a band director, the quality I would most look for in a candidate is perseverance.  Every single band director I know who seems like they were put on this earth to teach band has an unrelenting sense of perseverance and determination.

The best way to learn this trait is to hang around those who possess it.  Seek those people out, both as partners and mentors, and you will go a long ways in the music business.

Perseverance always wins out.  Always.


The 5 Most Influential Concerts I Ever Attended

Andrew Hitz

I will list them in chronological order.  These five concerts were each life changing experiences for me.  I wouldn't be the person or musician I am today without attending each and every one of them. Empire Brass – Tanglewood July 1988

This was part of the Walks and Talks series that Tanglewood used to host.  The artists would lead a short walk around the grounds of Tanglewood while discussing their music.  It would then culminate in a performance for a small audience in a very intimate atmosphere.

This was the first time I ever heard Sam Pilafian play the tuba in person and it did nothing short of change my life.  I was simply awestruck by witnessing first hand what a tuba was capable of playing.  He has been my musical mentor since that day 25 years ago last month.

© 1988 Andrew Hitz

That is me in the blue sweatshirt looking on in awe! I have wanted to play in a brass quintet ever since that afternoon in the Berkshires.

Copeland 3 – Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra; Leonard Bernstein conducting – Tanglewood August, 1990

I have spent every summer of my life about a half an hour away from Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony.  As a result, I saw my first ever BSO concert when I was only two weeks old! But just before my 15th birthday I saw this TMC concert and it was the first time I really, truly got it.

This was the second to last concert of Leonard Bernstein’s career and it was an incredible experience for anyone in the audience that night.  I had enjoyed many orchestra concerts before but had never been inspired by one like I was that night.

I waited for over an hour after the concert to meet Bernstein and get his autograph.  I missed my curfew at BUTI and got in trouble.  I’ve never had someone yell at me and be so happy about it!

Mahler 2 – Boston Symphony Orchestra; Seiji Ozawa conducting – Tanglewood July, 1991

This was the first ever Leonard Bernstein Memorial Concert at Tanglewood.  It was just nine months after Bernstein had passed away.  There might not be a single human being that has left more of a mark on Tanglewood than Leonard Bernstein.  He had a very special bond with the place and with the Boston Symphony and that was evident from the very first notes of this performance.

I have been privileged enough to see over 200 BSO concerts in my life and I have never heard them sound better than they sounded that night in 1991.  It also didn’t hurt that Mahler 2 is my favorite symphony of all time (along with Beethoven 7).

This is the only concert of any kind that I’ve ever witnessed where a large percentage of the crowd was literally tearing up afterwards.  It was such a moving experience that it was an awful lot for someone not yet 16 to process.  I do know that it left a truly indelible mark on me and my musicianship.

Wynton Marsalis and his Septet – Skullers – Cambridge, MA May 1992

Wynton Marsalis and his Septet rehearsed the night before this gig at Boston University.  I happened to be there at the same time for a tuba lesson.  I was mesmerized as a I walked past the rehearsal room from which these magical sounds were emanating.  I also had no idea who was playing since the door was barely cracked open.

Excited I ran to ask my teacher who at BU sounded that good.  He smiled and said that it was Wynton Marsalis and asked if I wanted to meet him.  He had been friends with him for a very long time and actually interrupted their rehearsal to introduce me to the band.  Wynton then asked if I was free the next night.  When I eagerly said yes he said he would put me on the guest list since it was an 18 and over show.

Not only did he get me in but he spoke with me for 45 minutes in between their two gigs.  He took the time to introduce me personally to every member of the band as if we had known each other our entire lives.

I will never forget the mind blowing music I heard or the kindness and warmth that Wynton and his entire band showed me that night.

Phish – Worcester Centrum – Worcester, MA December 31, 1993

By the time I saw this show at the Worcester Centrum I had already seen over 50 rock and roll concerts.  But this one was different right from the start.  I did not know much of Phish’s music.  I had heard a couple of tunes and had enjoyed them but that was the extent of it.  My best friend Russell was getting tickets to this show so I asked him to get me one.  Little did I know that $26 ticket would change my life.

14th row dead center on the floor!

These four very normal looking guys walked out on stage without any explosions, fireworks, or hydraulic lifts.  I had always enjoyed the theater of big time rock and roll shows but there was something refreshing about four average Joe’s strolling on stage and letting the music do the talking.

They had me completely hooked on their very unique blend of everything from hard rock to bluegrass to barbershop quartet.  I have never heard any chamber ensemble that can play fluently in as many different styles of music as Phish.

I had no idea that I would go on to see the band over 170 times after that night during my freshman year of college.  They continue to be my favorite chamber ensemble of any genre performing music today.

As a result of Phish allowing the taping and distribution of all of their shows, you can stream that night’s music here.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that every concert I have listed occurred when I was between the ages of 14 and 18.  Those were very formative years for my musical tastes.

Feel free to leave a comment about the most influential concerts you have attended.  I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Note: This is an updated repost from the very short lived Boston Brass Blog which I ran for about a month.