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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: Boston Symphony

The Brass Junkies 63: Michael Martin of the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Hitz

Listen via


Michael Martin is infuriatingly good at way too many things. And on top of it all he is as humble as people come. It was a pleasure to get to interview him and talk about being in the Boston Symphony, touring with the Chicago Symphony and composing professionally.

From the show notes:

Boston Symphony trumpeter Michael Martin joins Andrew & Lance to talk his career as a player, and composer. Michael joined the BSO in 2010 and has had great success there, building on the training which began with his dad (Freddy Martin). We discuss his days at Interlochen and Northwestern, touring with his brother (Chris Martin) and the Chicago Symphony and how his composing career got off the ground at an early age. He also discusses his favorite conductors, what it takes to be a good section player, how to listen and how to learn new repertoire really quickly.

Oh, and he shares a hilarious rookie error story during a rehearsal of Mahler 2 under Michael Tilson Thomas. "20!"

Practicing Summed Up in 6 Sentences by Doug Yeo

Andrew Hitz

This quote is from Doug Yeo, the former bass trombonist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  My wife Tiffany is a band director in Fairfax County, Virginia and it came from her band room wall.  This sums up practicing as well as anything can.  

If you practice, you get better.

If you get better, you play with better players.

If you play with better players, you play better music.

If you play better music, you have more fun.

If you have fun, you want to practice more.

If you practice more, you get better...


That pretty much covers it, right?

Sunset from Kayak.jpg

The 5 Tuba Players Who've Influenced Me Most: Chester Schmitz (1 0f 5)

Andrew Hitz

There have been enough tuba players who have inspired and influenced me that to recount them all would fill this blog for a full year. But I have whittled the list down to the five players who have had the biggest impact on me as both a teacher and a performer. There is absolutely no possible way that I could ever rank them in order of importance. Each of these men has had an incredible impact on me as both a musician and as a person. I will simply put the posts in the order in which I was introduced to them. One common thread among all five is that I was introduced to each one of them before the age of 18. I was very fortunate to have my path cross with so many great musical role models at such a very early age. I also owe my parents an incredible amount of gratitude for being so supportive of me and facilitating, both financially and logistically, my contact with these men.


Chester Schmitz

I have simply never heard a better orchestral tuba player than Chester Schmitz. For 35 years he was, for my money, the most consistent orchestral player in the world. Chester was the first person I ever heard play a tuba, either live or recorded. I must admit I don't remember it though. My parents took me to my first Boston Symphony concert when I was two weeks old in the summer of 1975 at Tanglewood. As I mentioned above, my folks made sure that I was exposed to great music from a very early age. But this was not because of any plans they had for me as a musician. My father is simply a huge fan of classical music and my parents have enjoyed attending concerts at Tanglewood for decades.

By the time I had graduated from high school, I had the privilege of attending about 200 BSO concerts both in Boston and at Tanglewood. There was not a single instance of me going to hear that orchestra and being disappointed by Chester's playing. Not once. And for almost all of them I was hanging on his every note.

The thing that amazed me about his playing is that it always seemed just right. The loud and bombastic parts were just that but never even a little bit too much. He could also make more music with a two note phrase in Brahms 2 than most musicians I've encountered could with a full melody. I got to hear him perform so many different programs with the symphony that I ended up getting a rather full education on the huge orchestral repertoire of the tuba.

I will also never forget the kindness that he showed me each and every time I snuck backstage to say hello.  There were countless times that I would elude security and make my way to his locker.  He made time for me in every instance without exception and never seemed in a hurry to be somewhere else.  That left quite an impression on me as a young man.

For hearing tuba for the first time ever, you can do a lot worse than having it played by Chester Schmitz.

The Five Most Influential Concerts I Ever Attended

Andrew Hitz

The following originally appeared at

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 almost 22 years ago.

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 ticket would change my life.

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 150 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 distributing of all of their shows you can find a free download of 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.