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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: George Mason

Jens Lindemann Master Class Quotes from George Mason University (Part 3 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

Here is the final installment of Jens Lindemann quotes from his master class at George Mason last semester for our brass ensemble.  It was a pleasure to have him.  He left the students inspired and in the practice room!

  • "When I get to the bottom I think of adding volume of air, not volume of sound.  Keep things set and then apply air."
  • "When I hear people say 'I'm not really a high note player.  I'm more of a second player and focus on this octave and a half.' I call bullshit."
  • "We are taught to play low to high from day one.  That's a terrible idea."
  • "High notes are faster vibrations.  They're not high."
  • "The faster you think of everything on a horizontal plane including air-wise, the beter off you'll be.  Horizontally away from you, not up."
  • "By the time you get to college you're not so much learning new things but unlearning old things."
  • "The instrument is right here (his lips.) (The trumpet) is just an amplifier."
  • "We're far too dependent when we're young on the tongue to start notes."
  • "The way to practice using the mid-section of our bodies is breath attacks."
  • "There's no mystery as to what we're doing here.  It's just plumbing."
  • "The instrument is not profound.  The body is profound."
  • "Playing an octave is no big deal.  Then you add a slur and every body freaks out.  That stupid line makes everybody freak out."
  • "There's no such thing as a slur on a trumpet.  It simply means play from one note to the next without a tongue."
  • "You can mask a slur by crescendoing slightly on the bottom note."
  • "I'm a lot more relaxed about mouthpieces now than when I was coming up."
  • "I'm not a believer in finding the biggest mouthpiece that you can get for your instrument.  And that includes the professionals who are hoisting that upon you.  They are wrong."
  • "It's important for you to know that you can get things done on mid-sized equipment."

Jens Lindemann Master Class Quotes from George Mason University (Part 2 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

Here is the second installment of quotes from the wonderful clinic that Jens Lindemann gave at George Mason last semester.  So much good stuff in here! Thank you, Jens!

  • "There are a handful of musicians in our business that are untouchable.  Like Wynton Marsalis.  He's not a trumpet player.  He's an icon."
  • "It begins with what I call the Musical Circle of Life.  Top of the circle is Day 1.  6 o'clock is brass purgatory: people who talk about mouthpieces and recordings.  The goal is to get back to the top of the circle.  But you can never get back to Day 1."
  • "The responsibility is getting enlightened.  And that responsibility is on you, not on me."
  • "You get me for one hour a week.  When you leave the room, do you think I think about you for one minute afterwards? I serisouly don't.  I have a wife, and a life, and a career.  But you don't think about me either."
  • "You're the ones who have to be responsible for saying 'I've got to figure this out.'"
  • "You've got to think outside the box.  You can't just go through a list of books and solos.  That's a meathead approach."
  • "Playing a brass instrument is ultimately about getting your whole body involved.  To make it as free and easy as possible."
  • "You know the best players where it just seems so natural? That's because it is."
  • "Find a way to be in your chair and engaged."
  • "First thing I would suggest is to strongly discourage sitting on the back of your chair.  When I sit on the front of the chair everything is unlocked.  I'm engaging my entire body."
  • "Rule #1: View your whole body as a part of the instrument."
  • "Practice rolling a ball under your foot while you play."
  • "Keep your mind engaged."
  • "Technology is one of the great advantages of today."
  • "The only problem with a problem is potentially realizing it's not a problem."
  • "You must be inquisitive."
  • "When I set up an embouchure I try to keep things as set as possible."

David Zerkel Master Class Quotes (Part 1 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

In September, we were honored to welcome world-renowned tuba player and pedagogue David Zerkel to George Mason University.  David is currently the tuba and euphonium professor at the University of Georgia, where his students regularly win auditions of all kinds.  He is also a former member of the US Army Band here in Washington, DC.

The master class he presented was so good that I took down almost 90 quotes! He is a master teacher and communicator and he left my studio energized and inspired.  Because there were so many quotes, I am breaking them up into three posts.  Here is the first installment!

(Click here for Part 2 and Part 3)

  • "When you played the theme you had a very tentative approach to making music. It was like you were tiptoeing through the melody."
  • "You would have 15 different versions of breathing and blowing if you were to ask every wind professor at this school."
  • "Breath control can be distilled down into four words: blow until you stop."
  • "Your breath should be the same every single time you pick up the instrument."
  • "Your brain is brilliant. Your lungs are stupid lungs."
  • "If you spend half of your time having your brilliant brain sending your stupid lungs instructions you won't have the ability to make music."
  • "Blow to a spot that's right here at the top of your bell. Keep your tone a dial tone."
  • "Can we get a better connection between the C and the D? When you're shifting it's an automatic transmission. You don't have to put the clutch down to shift notes."
  • "Whether you're playing one note in one breath or 32 notes in one breath, your exhale is going to be exactly the same."
  • "I always want to make my tuba playing like singing, because singing is the most natural instrument."
  • "A 4-year-old at a birthday party sings perfect phrases. It's great."
  • "Singing is a really simple exhale. That's what singing is."
  • "Go for your best sound right at the beginning of every note."
  • "Blow until you stop. Once you initiate don't stop."
  • "16th notes and 32nd notes are not fast, they are melodic."
  • "If you do the blow until you stop, the 16th note won't sound different than the long note."
  • "Play a repugnantly bright B-flat or C when you're 'topping out' on the horn."
  • "Feel free to use a lot of air."
  • "For every octave you go up, you double your mph. (Pedal C is 15 mph. Low C is 30 mph. Middle C is 60 mph. C above the staff is 120 mph. Screech C is 240 mph.)"
  • "Tuba has two primary functions: foundation and time."
  • "When you're playing an audition, make it really easy for a committee to sing their part, because I promise you that's what they're doing. That's how they can tell if you're good at context."
  • "Take the Fountains of Ramp vamp up a minor third and then bring it down chromatically."
  • "I always start with what I can do because starting with what I can't do sucks."
  • "This time try and make the low E less involuntary when you finish it."
  • "One of the things that's hard for tuba players, actually it's hard for everyone, is that you need to sell the concept of time when you are playing long notes. It's hard."

Jeff Nelsen Master Class Quotes from George Mason University

Andrew Hitz

Jeff Nelsen is simply put one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever been around in my life.  His always positive attitude is both genuine and predictable.  And he is an absolutely phenomenal horn player.  His website,, is a wonderful resource for any musician.  We were honored to have Jeff play one of the horn books for the Boston Brass recording of the Stan Kenton Christmas Carols.  He is a very special player, teacher, and person. Jeff was just in Washington DC playing 2nd horn to his dear friend and mentor Marty Hackleman in the National Symphony Orchestra.  I believe my good friend Tom Cupples, 2nd trumpet in the NSO, summed up Jeff the best after a performance of Ein Heldenleben: “Jeff is amazing. Just being in the same room as him makes me a better musician.”

We were very fortunate to have Jeff come to George Mason and give a master class about performance and life in general.  I learned a ton from the class and have used many of the quotes below in my lessons already.  As usual, I have highlighted the ones that really speak to me the most.  I will admit to having a difficult time not highlighting them all.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

PS Jeff is working on a book documenting his entire Fearless approach.  Keep your eyes on his website for details.

  • "Success not only comes to those who want it the most but those who want it the most often."
  • "There is a difference between simple and easy."
  • "Simplify things as much as possible and then work on them."
  • "You are engaged in performance when what you are doing matters."
  • "Fearless performance is not necessarily the lack of fear but the realization there are things more important than fear."
  • "(Shows picture of 16 month old) Have any of you ever been his age? When we are young we are afraid of good things like hot pots and traffic but we develop the rest along the way."
  • "You have to become a master variable controller."
  • "It's about isolating variables, changing one thing, and asking was that better?"
  • "The only physical difference between practice and performance is the actual walk on stage."
  • "The first mental difference is choosing 'this time means more.'”
  • His teacher: "There are no bad days. There are only days where to takes greater effort to play your best."
  • "If you approach every performance with your best, you don't leave room to try better."
  • "Most people don't aim too high and miss. Most people aim to low and hit."
  • "We can practice walking onstage."
  • "Saying 'On stage you must play your best' - problem is that making sure implies you might not."
  • "You can't control perception, you can only control presentation."
  • "In the sacred arena of the performance place, get over it. It's too late to control it."
  • "We're responsible any time we get nervous."
  • "No one can make me feel anything without my consent."
  • "We learn fear."
  • "If we can learn fear, we can learn love-full performance."
  • "Our level of nerves is inversely proportionate to our level of preparation."
  • "Make what you are doing the only thing that matters."
  • "There are three things that your audience and an audition panel are looking for: mastery, meaning, and autonomy."
  • "An audition committee is checking to see if your rhythm is autonomous."
  • "TV is getting great. We have to give the audience an experience."
  • "Don't call it a warm up. Make a great routine that touches what you need to do and the bonus is that you're warmed up."
  • "Musician is product. Technician is process."
  • "We're really trying to learn how to transcend the technician."
  • "I've missed 100% of the notes I've told myself not to miss."
  • "Make it about the solution. It's not about what not to do."
  • "Assign yourself practicing work for the next day."
  • "If you can't sleep, get up and write down what you can't sleep about."
  • "Tell your story to your audience."
  • "On a scale of 1-10 how much music did you just make with a 1 being regurgitating all the ink on the page? If it's a 6...OK, out of that 6 out of 10 how much of that did you get to the audience?"
  • "You should listen to your performance through the ears of your audience."
  • "Don't ask. Tell."
  • "The great performers of the world walk on stage and say 'I think this.'”
  • "Walk on stage to be seen."
  • “You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way.” - Jennifer Freeman
  • "In the 10 second walk on stage there's not much of a chance to make things better but there are lots of chances to make things worse."
  • "Every phrase is the only phrase."
  • His Mom: "If you're listening and the audience is listening, who's singing? - Critique later."
  • "Phil Meyers says that he went into his first few auditions trying to hide his weaknesses and it didn't work out. Then he tried to show them his strengths."
  • Phil: “I don't go out there trying to sound my best. I go out there trying to sound like me.”
  • "100% positive means taking the 'I liked' out of 'I liked how I played bar 6 well.'"
  • "Must be 100% responsible for how you play as well."
  • "If you make excuses, you make the performance space safe for failure."
  • "Everything, unless it hits you in the head, can not affect you unless you let it."
  • "You're right. There are people judging you and there are things to lose. You're right. Unless you want to do your best. Then you are wrong."
  • "Competing lowers your goal. Just try to be the absolute best you can be."
  • “If you do not have a website, you are invisible.” - David Cutler
  • "Choosing to doubt and choosing to fear will get in your way. And it is a choice."
  • "The word execute is a big part of performance."
  • "I'm happy because I think I am."

Spotify as an Educational Tool

Andrew Hitz

When I heard this past summer that the music streaming service Spotify was finally coming to the United States I was very excited.  Friends in Europe had already been enjoying it for a couple of years but those of us in America had to wait a little while longer.  I signed up for an invitation to use the free tier to check it out.  Within two hours I upgraded all the way to Pro and it is currently the best $10 I spend a month. (If you are not familiar with Spotify, here is a great write-up by my friend Parker at the great music website Hidden Track).

Within the first month I listened to more music that was new to me than I probably had in the previous year combined! Suddenly my twitter feed and other social media outlets were places of musical discovery.  If someone I knew and respected mentioned a recording or a band I'd never heard before I would immediately search for it on Spotify.  The vast majority of the time it was there and I either heard it instantly or saved it for later.

The copious amounts of musical discovery that I made almost overnight made me realize that a service like Spotify could be used as a very serious teaching tool.  Arnold Jacobs always spoke of playing two tubas: the tuba in your head and the tuba in your lap.  I always tell my students that all music they hear, the best, worst and everything in between, is all data.  It all helps hone the idea of exactly what you want to sound like.

So I decided to make a studio project out of it at one of the schools where I teach, George Mason University.  It is called the Studio Listening Lab.  Every week, two students in the studio are assigned to create a playlist based on a certain theme.  The playlist, along with their comments about the songs they've selected, are posted to a blog every week.  Each student is then required to listen to both playlists and post comments of their own.

The themes that we have used so far include Groove, Tension & Release, and Tone & Blend.  Here's a recent playlist by graduate euphonium student Nathan Galloway using the theme Emotion.  Each student is encouraged to interpret their theme any way they'd like.  Their playlist can be filled with tubas and euphoniums or can have none at all.  It has been a great way for all of us to get to know each other better through our different tastes in music.  Every one of us has heard a significant amount of music that we might never have been exposed to otherwise.

This project has been such a success that I am planning to keep it going indefinitely.  Check back in often to see what new music the studio uncovers and please feel free to add your own comments to any of the posts.  Now I've got some listening I have to do!


If you are interested in obtaining information about the George Mason University Tuba/Euphonium Studio you can visit the school's website or send me an email at

Marty Hackleman Quotes from George Mason Master Class

Andrew Hitz

On Monday evening fellow George Mason teacher Marty Hackleman, principal hornist of the National Symphony, gave a wonderful master class to all of the brass students.  In my opinion, Marty is probably my favorite horn player to either listen to or perform with in the world.  I have had the privilege of attending a number of his master classes throughout the years and every time I walk away with more information than I could have dreamed of obtaining in one session.  Marty truly is the (sadly) rare combination of master performer and master teacher.

As I did with the wonderful Carol Jantsch master class earlier this summer I’ve collected a number of great quotes from Marty’s class that I believe any musician will find insightful.  I couldn’t possibly get to all of the quotes but these were the highlights.  He gave the audience and the students who performed a lot to digest in a very easy to understand manner.  It was a great experience for everyone.

  • "You’ve got to start thinking outside the box.  When you have a problem (with your playing), really admit it and address it.  You have to be honest about it.  You are only as strong as the weakest link in your playing."
  • "We all have to be fearless.  You can’t ask a brass instrument.  You have to tell it.  It’s like a dog.  You have to be consistent and it will love you."
  • "Do something more.  There’s no right or wrong…just be convincing.  You’re still apologizing for playing the trumpet."
  • "As brass players, we see a long note and think 'I’m home free…I’ve just got to hit the beginning of it.'  Don’t let it sit."
  • "Playing a valve instrument it is very important to worry about timing the articulations and the sound between the notes.   Sometimes you have to tongue when the valve goes down and sometimes when the valve comes up."
  • "On a trill, you have to finesse the sound in between the notes."
  • "Are you completely in love with your tonguing? I don’t think so.  You’re just used to it."
  • "Don’t just glide through it.  With a little bit of care you can make it sound beautiful."
  • "How simple can you make it?"
  • "On brass instruments, we want to bring our instruments up to the level of the music and not the music down to the level of our instruments."
  • "I think there are a lot of musical ideas in there but your trombone is not letting them out."
  • "I won’t bite and if I do, you won’t get much of a mark."