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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: Empire Brass

The Brass Junkies 100: Sam Pilafian

Andrew Hitz

TBJ100-promo.jpg

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TBJ100: The legendary Sam Pilafian on Empire Brass, Leonard Bernstein and life-threatening pedagogy

We made it to 100 episodes which is completely insane! An ENORMOUS thank you to everyone who has listened, become a Patreon patron, shared an episode with a friend, posted about it on social media or any of 100 other ways people have supported us in this crazy journey. THANK YOU!

I don’t even know where to begin when talking about this interview with my mentor, Sam Pilafian. As you will hear, I met Sam when I was only 12 and he has been an huge influence on me in more ways than I could ever articulate.

This episode starts out with some lighthearted banter about a couple of times that I poked the bear as one of his let’s just call it “precocious” young students back in the day! But this conversation gets really serious really quickly right after that.

Sam has just come out the other side of a battle for his life with an aggressive form of cancer. His story is hard to even believe. There are tears (and lots of them) in this episode. Some sad ones and some happy ones. There’s also lots of camaraderie between three humans who have been through a whole hell of a lot together, both personally and professionally.

I will always cherish this conversation, even though I’ve had thousands with Sam. This one made me awfully thankful to be alive and to be making music for a living.

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: Scott Hartman - Episode 48

Andrew Hitz

Listen via

iTunes
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Scott Hartman, Lecturer in Trombone at Yale University joined us to discuss his incredibly successful and diverse career. Scott has taught and played concerts throughout the world and in all fifty states. He regularly performs and records with the Yale Brass Trio, Proteus 7, the Millennium Brass, the Brass Band of Battle Creek, and the trombone quartet Four of a Kind. Mr. Hartman spends several weeks each summer in residence at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. 

Scott covers his thoughts on how the chamber music business changed over the years since from his time with Empire Brass to today. We learn of the important distinction between Scott A. Hartman and Scott P. Hartman and get some great Empire Brass stories.

Oh and at one point, Scott may have sounded possessed. And he can be a meathead.

Links:

Don’t go to:
http://www.slushpump.com/

But do go to:
http://www.hartmanmouthpieces.net/
http://music.yale.edu/faculty/hartman-scott/
http://www.bbbc.net/roster/ 

Want to help the show? Here are three way:

Take a minute to leave us a rating and a review on iTunes.

You can help offset the costs of producing the show by making a small donation at https://www.patreon.com/thebrassjunkies. Your support is greatly appreciated!

Lastly, you can do us a HUGE favor by just sharing our show with your knuckle head friends who would also enjoy it. You know who they are. Bring them into the fold!

Produced by Joey Santillo

The Brass Junkies: Marty Hackleman

Andrew Hitz

Listen via

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We were honored to be joined by one of the best horn players in the world and a dear friend of mine, Marty Hackleman! As you will hear, the mindset that he brings to his craft is truly phenomenal. And it all stems from a decision he made when he was 16! It's an inspiring tale.

Marty also talks about the many stops along his incredible career, including winning his first professional audition at the age of 19.

He is the only person who was ever a full-time member of both the Canadian Brass and Empire Brass and discusses how it came to be that he and Dave Ohanian came to switch quintets.

And he has some tough love for Jens!

Eric Ruske: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

Last month I was in the Berkshires and just happened to run into one of my mentors, Eric Ruske. (There are so many brilliant artists in the Berkshires during the summer that one wonders how many you pass on the street without even realizing it!)

Eric was the horn player in the Empire Brass when I was a student in their seminar at Tanglewood when I was 14 and 15. His horn playing, and in particular his phrasing and the singing quality to all of his playing, left a mark on me that remains to this day.

Here he is performing the Romance, Op. 36 by Camille Saint-Saëns. Phrases for days...

Enjoy!


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.

Sam Pilafian Master Class Quotes on Chamber Music

Andrew Hitz

The following is something I posted on the short lived Boston Brass blog a few years ago.  I first worked with Sam in a brass quintet at the Empire Brass Seminar at Tanglewood when I was 14 years old.  It was an amazing experience to get to work with him in the same capacity again 20 years later. I felt these quotes were good enough that they needed to be shared here in this space.  Sam is a great player, a gifted communicator and an amazing teacher.

Enjoy!

---------------------------------------------------

Last week we had the privilege of being involved with Sam Pilafian’s master class at the International Tuba Euphonium Conference in Tucson, AZ.  Sam used both the tuba quartet from the University of Arizona (who won the quartet competition) as well as Boston Brass to show how he coaches chamber music.  The class was absolutely riveting for everyone in attendance.  The amount of knowledge and first hand experience that Sam has in the medium of chamber music (both playing and coaching) is simply awesome.

 directory photo

The first half of the class featured Sam working with the U of A Tuba Quartet.  During this portion, Andrew (@HitzTuba) live tweeted some of the best quotes from Sam before Boston Brass took the stage for the second half of the class.  This is just a sampling of the knowledge that Sam shared with everyone that day:

  • “In Empire Brass we wanted to make sure the first 30 seconds (of a show) were great.”
     
  • “Sell every part like it’s the lead.”
     
  • “In the Empire Brass we spent more time studying the scores than we did playing them.”
     
  • John Swallow to Sam Pilafian right before walking on stage: “Don’t fight the feel. Live for the groove.”
     
  • “Your job as a chamber musician is make others sound better.”
     
  • “You’ve got to play with so much opinion that 3 or 4 people can play with you.”
     
  • “Everyone that listens to pop music learn the melody and next the bass line. So don’t get out of the way.”
     
  • “Never repeat yourself more than twice.”
     
  • “String quartets, when playing a slow movement, make the 8th notes as long as possible without being late.”
     
  • “Chamber playing changes your solo playing.”
     
  • “Our best tool for storytelling is dynamics.”

Sam conducted one of the best master classes that any of us have ever seen.  Tom McCaslin may have summed it up the best: “I think Sam Pilafian just humbled everyone with his knowledge of chamber music.”

Well said.

Quotes from Marty Hackleman Master Class at George Mason University (Repost)

Andrew Hitz

Two years ago this week I posted the following quotes from a Marty Hackleman class at Mason.  I still use many of these quotes in my every day teaching and thought they were worth reposting.  I hope you find these as insightful as I do! -----

Last night, Professor Marty Hackleman gave an amazing master class at George Mason University.  Marty is the principal horn of the National Symphony and a former member of both the Empire Brass and the Canadian Brass.  In my opinion, he is one of the premier teachers and performers that the brass world has ever known.

I have put a few of the quotes that really spoke loudly to me in bold.  What quotes jump out at you? Please comment with your favorite quote and how it relates to your playing.

Here are the highlights from the class:

  • It's not that you work, it's how you work.
     
  • How simple can you make the problem?  How simple can you make the solution?
     
  • We don't see the causes.  We see the symptoms.
     
  • All that you want to do is make it slightly better than yesterday but not as good as tomorrow.  And you enjoy the chase.
     
  • When you do a daily routine, don't sit in front of the TV wasting your time.
     
  • Think of your routine as a physical brass mediation.  Enjoy the time alone.
     
  • The routine is a question of how you play and not what you play.
     
  • A lot of times when you have a problem with your playing and you think you know the solution try the exact opposite.  85% of the time it will work.  And that comes from personal experience.
     
  • I only breathe as much as I need when I'm warming up and I focus on quality over quantity.  But if you're playing a different instrument, like the tuba, it may be different.
     
  • It is more important to practice efficiently than a lot of inefficient practicing.  If you don't feel like it, stop.  Get a cup of coffee and then come back.  Then suck it up and make yourself feel like it for even 15 minutes.
     
  • Even if you can play your ass off, try to make it easier.
     
  • Make it as simple, natural and easy as you can.
     
  • Don't save the high notes until the end of your routine.  They shouldn't be that precious.  They should be a natural extension of everything else.
     
  • I failed first.  Everybody failed first.  But do you stop at failure?
     
  • You'll be surprised that if you ask yourself to do something regularly, you'll find a solution.
     
  • If tension is creeping into your playing, your routine is where you find that out, not in rehearsal or in performance.
     
  • Support isn't caused by air.  They are separate things.
     
  • You want to use your routine to make yourself better, not just make yourself functional.
     
  • I know (my routine) works because at almost 60 years old I believe I can play better than I've ever played in my life.  And it's not luck.  I promise you.
     
  • First thing is you have to make sure that your horn sounds like what's in your head.
     
  • You have to be more responsible about being a musician and not just a horn player.
     
  • We make crescendos and we don't come all the way back.  If you come all the way back you have somewhere to go again.

Monday YouTube Fix: Empire Brass

Andrew Hitz

This is simply brass quintet at its finest.  As many of you know, Sam has been one of my mentors since I was 12 years old.  I have never heard any other tuba player play with such character within a quintet.  He is the perfect foundation on which to build a chamber group. The amazing thing to me is how much character each one of them plays with while never stepping to the foreground musically when it is not called for.  The ears that these five musicians have are special.  Every lick that gets passed around the band is perfectly matched: the beginnings of the notes, the weight, the ends of the notes, the line, everything.

I sure am happy I stumbled upon this clip.  I hope you enjoy it!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-G6r5KcgJQw]

The Five Most Influential Concerts I Ever Attended

Andrew Hitz

The following originally appeared at bostonbrass.wordpress.com:

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.