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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: Marine Band

The Brass Junkies: Tage Larsen of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Hitz

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Tage Larsen, 4th/utility trumpet with The Chicago Symphony sat down with me & Lance for a fascinating look at his highly successful (and highly diverse) career.

I played for one season with Tage in the Dallas Brass and can't even begin to describe how much I learned from him. He is such an efficient player and sounds totally fluent in more styles than I can count.

As I shared in the interview, I remember my third day on the job with Dallas Brass when we had been having intensive rehearsals and my chops were toast. I was a very inefficient player at that age because I could get away with it. I vividly remember Tage playing the intro to Mahler 7 about five minutes into his warmup on that third day and it looking as if he was playing a long tone. My face was toast and his tone was still silk. I learned an awful lot in that moment.

Tage spent time in The Marine Band, Dallas Brass and the St. Louis Symphony before his current position and he explores what he likes about playing 4th/utility. We also get into the role of classical music in society and the notion that we should have sincerity in all that we do. Shockingly, he only uses one mouthpiece. That's what he said anyway.

Links:

Tage's DePaul School of Music Page

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!

Produced by Austin Boyer of FredBrass

The Brass Junkies: Michael Colburn, Former Commander of The President's Own Marine Band

Andrew Hitz

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Mike Colburn, former Commander and Conductor of The President's Own Marine Band in Washington, D.C., joined us to discuss his impressive career.

Colonel Colburn (or "kernel" as Lance like to call him) recently retired from a long and distinguished career, which began as a euphoniumist (probably a word.) He is now the Director of Bands at Butler University and believes in living a forward-focused life.

Oh, and he suffered a severe wally-ball injury and has a thing for ficus trees.

Links:

Mike's Butler Univeristy Page

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

Produced by Austin Boyer of FredBrass

The President's Own Marine Band: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

This is a transcription of Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" performed by the "The President's Own" Marine Band earlier this year.  The transcription is by Merlin Patterson and it is conducted by guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. 

The playing and interpretation are simply top notch.  Enjoy!


Great Insights Into Freelancing

Andrew Hitz

A couple of years ago I was having lunch with my good friend John Abbracciamento, a trumpet player with the President's Own Marine Band, here in DC.  Our conversation, as always, started with us articulating our distastes for the others favorite sports teams (he is from New York, I am from Boston.)  But this one day the conversation ended up segueing into a very interesting discussion about the music business.  It got good enough that I jotted down a couple of notes.

johnabbraciamento.jpg


I asked him about his career before joining the Marine Band.  He started out as a freelancer in New York City.  He told me he started getting a lot of phone calls very quickly, to play everything from small gigs to becoming a regular sub with the New York Philharmonic.  

To paraphrase him, he was getting more calls than he "should have" gotten.  He's always been a great player.  He's in the Marine Band! But he said he was getting more calls than other guys who were either as good or better than he was in town.  So naturally I asked him why he thought that was.  He gave me two answers:

I got a lot of calls for two reasons. One, I can keep my mouth shut. And two, I can almost immediately match anyone else’s playing.
— John Abbracciamento, Trumpet Player "President's Own" Marine Band

The first point is an imperative one.  As musicians, we are taught to share our (musical) opinions all the time.  Sometimes it can be challenging to not let that naturally extend to things off of the horn.  I was taught to ask myself three questions any time I want to open my mouth to criticize anyone or anything:

1. Does this need to be said?
2. Does this need to be said by me?
3. Does this need to be said by me right now?

Unless I answer yes to all three of those questions, I've learned to keep my mouth shut.

John's point was that he didn't criticize colleagues.  He didn't criticize conductors.  He didn't complain about the pay on a gig (which he had already agreed to or he wouldn't be there in the first place!) He kept his mouth shut as a sub and kept his head down.

And the second point will get you hired over and over again.  As Rex Martin used to preach to us at Northwestern, our job as musicians is to make those around us sound better than they actually are.  And John shared a compliment that Woody English, the fantastic former trumpet player for the Army Band, once gave to him:

I like playing with you. You make me sound better than I am.
— Woody English, Former Trumpet Player US Army Band "Pershing's Own"

If you can do the two things that John did during his time in New York, you will find yourself with a phone that rings an awful lot.

"The President's Own" Marine Band - The Liberty Bell: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

Listening to any of our nation's top military bands perform a Sousa march is a master class on many different things.  The first thing that jumps out at me from this clip is the amazing dynamic contrast across the entire ensemble.  This reminded me of a quote from Charles Lazarus: "Technique is the ability to control your sound on any given note. At any given dynamic, 100% of the time." This performance of The Liberty Bell exemplifies that quote. The other aspect that jumped out at me is the uniformity of articulation throughout the band.  As we all know, some instruments in the band have a very easy time putting a clear front on a note and others (like mine!) have a very difficult time doing so.  The untrained ear would have no idea that was the case after listening to this performance.  That comes from having amazing players with a great ability to listen across the ensemble.  It also comes from having a conductor with a very clear idea of what sound they are trying to get out of the band at any given moment.  Michael Colburn is one of the best at this.

"The President's Own" Marine Band performing one of  The March King's most famous marches is as good as it gets.  Enjoy The Liberty Bell!