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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: Leonard Bernstein

The Brass Junkies 100: Sam Pilafian

Andrew Hitz


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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.

It's All About Communicating

Andrew Hitz

"Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable."

-Leonard Bernstein

The above quote is a good reminder that we have to get away from worrying about operating our instruments, voices, or batons and instead need to focus on communicating.

That is ultimately our only goal.

Leonard Bernstein: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

Continuing with Documentary Month, this week's featured documentary is "Leonard Bernstein: Teachers and Teaching", a 1988 documentary about Bernstein's teaching philosophies.  This documentary also features Lukas Foss, Seiji Ozaza, Michael Tilson Thomas, Aaron Copland and others.

What wonderful insight into some of the greatest musical minds of the 20th century.  This video is a much watch for any music teacher of any level and for any classical music fan.


Chicago Symphony with Leonard Bernstein/Shostakovich 7: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

This is my absolute favorite orchestral recording of all time.  Leonard Bernstein was known as a virtuosic interpreter of a number of composers and Shostakovich was one of them.  This recording of Shostakovich 7 is as fine an example of the great brass tradition of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as exists. There is something about this piece, this orchestra, this conductor. It's just perfect.

This YouTube clip actually has the score of the symphony scrolling by in real time with the music.  If you've never heard this before, I would encourage you to get a pair of headphones, ignore the score, close your eyes, and prepare to be taken on a journey.

I'm pretty sure Bernstein is smiling somewhere every time someone hears this recording for the first time and does a fist pump.


Leonard Bernstein/Nielsen 3: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

It never ceases to amaze me the depth of historical recordings that are now available for us to stream from the comforts of our own homes.  This is a fantastic live recording of the Royal Danish Orchestra under the direction of Leonard Bernstein performing Nielsen's 3rd Symphony in 1965. You can always hear when an orchestra is, to a man and woman, on the same page with a conductor.  My friends in the best symphony orchestras in the world tell me this sadly doesn't happen as often as we'd like to think.  You can instantly tell both by listening and watching this clip that the Royal Danish Orchestra was thrilled to have Leonard Bernstein on the podium.

The closeups of Bernstein are wonderful! His facial expressions convey the pure joy he frequently experienced on the podium.  Talk about a rewarding conductor to play for.  He was a master in the truest sense of the word.


Monday YouTube Fix: Leonard Bernstein/New York Philharmonic

Andrew Hitz

Clips like this one are why the internet was invented.  YouTube is just a mind-blowing musical resource.  It really is amazing how many clips like this one are out there. I attended my first concert of the season at Tanglewood yesterday.  Every time I am there I am reminded of Leonard Bernstein.  I've never seen a conductor command an audience and an ensemble as well as he did.  He was a truly gifted musician and communicator.

This is the final movement of Shostakovich 5 recording live by the New York Philharmonic in 1979.  What an incredible performance.  The intensity on Bernstein's face at the end of this clip is both amazing and genuine.  Thank goodness we have performances from the past like this one on video.  There's so much to learn from them.