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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: Music Education

Article: Director’s Toolbox – Lead from the Bottom by Patrick Sheridan

Andrew Hitz

Pat Sheridan.jpg

Here is a fantastic read by my good friend Patrick Sheridan on engaging and challenging the tuba players in your band. This is must-read!

From the article:

Children want to be given responsibility! There are three responsibilities (opportunities) that belong to the lowest voice of an ensemble. The laws of acoustics dictate this scientifically.

They include:

1. Sound foundation of an ensemble
2. Intonation
3. Time

Patrick expands on all three of these points. Read the full article here.

You can also click on the logo below to hear my interview (along with Lance LaDuke) with Patrick from Episode 35 of The Brass Junkies.

Use Their Words

Andrew Hitz

"It sounds mushy. I want French fries and you're giving me mashed potatoes."
—Tiffany Hitz (Band Director at Carson Middle School in Fairfax County, Virginia)

I heard my wife tell her jazz band this a couple of weeks ago and I thought it was great.

It reminded me of the importance of using the same words (and imagery) that your audience use. This goes for being a band director or a marketer.

Every single kid in that band immediately knew what she meant by french fries. In fact, it was probably the least number of words she possibly could have used to get that point across that clearly.

The Radio Test

Andrew Hitz

I recently sat in on a wonderful master class by Lance LaDuke on practicing and goal setting. He had one suggestion for the students at the University of Georgia that I thought I would pass along. It works for any age or ability level.

Turn on the radio to any song you know well and sing along. (Note: If you can't sing it, you can't play it!) Then turn the volume all the way down and keep singing. When you turn the volume back up check the following:

  1. Were you able to hold the pitch?
  2. Were you able to follow the correct form of the song?
  3. Did you keep good time?

This is a great and simple exercise that tests a whole lot of things. And the best part is that it's away from the horn so no part of the brain will be occupied by "horn operating."

Thanks, Lance!

Article: "Stop 'Defending' Music Education"

Andrew Hitz

Here is a thought-provoking article by Peter Greene titled "Stop 'Defending' Music Education". He makes some really great points that should be read by everyone.

Today I ran across one more xeroxed handout touting the test-taking benefits of music education, defending music as a great tool for raising test scores and making students smarter. It was just one more example among many of the “keep music because it helps with other things” pieces out there.

I really wish people would stop “defending” music education like this.

I get that music programs are under intense pressure, that all across America they are sitting hunched over with one nervous eye on a hooded figure stalking the halls with a big budgetary ax. Music programs are watching administrators race by, frantically chasing test scores and ignoring music in schools. So it may seem like a natural step to go running after the testing crowd hollering, “Hey, I can help with that, too.”

Don’t. Just don’t.

You can find the article here.

Why a Double Major in Music Ed as a "Fall Back" Option is a Bad Idea

Andrew Hitz

Below is a post I made to my Facebook page a few days ago that resonated with enough people (300 likes and almost 40 shares) that I thought I would post it here as well.

For anyone planning on adding a double major in music education as a "fall back" option: My wife was at school this morning at 9:00 am setting up her band room before the start of school this week.

That would be 9:00 am on the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend.

If you don't have a burning desire to be a music educator, you are insane to do this for a living. Best case scenario you end up a mediocre band director. Worst case scenario you end up complaining all day every day to anyone and everyone about being over worked and under paid and make the entire profession look bad.

For those of you who do have that burning desire, our hats are off to each one of you. Society could never say thank you enough times.


(The comments on the original post are quite good.)

The Entrepreneurial Musician: Brian Pertl, Dean of the Lawrence Conservatory

Andrew Hitz

Listen via:


Brian is the Dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music and a former ethnomusicologist for Microsoft. After interviewing him for the podcast I was filled with optimism for the future of collegiate music education in this country. I also wanted to high five him.

He is the perfect meld of artist and businessman and I learned a ton from speaking with him for an hour.

Brian touched on a wide range of topics in this episode including:

  • How a $50 gig playing the didgeridoo led to his full-time employment for 16 years at Microsoft which led to him becoming a dean
  • Always saying yes when asked if you are capable of something
  • The importance of pivoting in one's career
  • How giving people autonomy over projects can unleash creativity
  • The value of questioning traditions within music
  • Being ready to seize an opportunity

His passion for combining artistic expression with entrepreneurial skills has him on the cutting edge of what a music education should look like at the collegiate level today.

Books Mentioned:

The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris

The Savvy Musician by David Cutler

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath


Contact Brian:

Brian's TEDx Talk:


To help support the show to offset the ongoing costs associated with producing and distributing this podcast please visit

Next Episode: Jeff Conner of Boston Brass and author of "The Portfolio Musician"

Links That Make Me Think

Andrew Hitz

Here is the latest installment of Links That Make Me Think!

This super short video is a great visualization of how a very small object (or action) can set off a huge chain reaction.

This article is a list of the neurological benefits that music lessons provide. And we have to constantly battle against school music programs being cut why?!

Here's a USC study that shows that orchestra students excelled at auditory skills essential for processing speech.  Again, what's with music programs always on the chopping block?


Brian Pertl at TEDx: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

Brian Pertl is the Dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music and has an absolutely fascinating bio.  This talk he did for TEDx is titled "Music Education, Improvisational Play and Dancing Between Disciplines: Reimagining a Liberal Arts Education for the 21st Century" and it is fantastic.

"Creativity allows us to dance in between disciplines" is one of the many great lines that Brian has during this TEDx talk.  We could use more creative arts advocates like Brian to fight the good fight.  Every school administrator should be made to watch this video.


David Zerkel Master Class Quotes (Part 3 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

Here is the final installment of quotes from David Zerkel's recent master class for my students at George Mason University.  His wisdom immediately permeated my teaching and practicing.  Good stuff!

Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.


  • "Breathing is like investing money. In order to make money, you have to invest money. You have to invest lots of air."
  • "When we're presenting our interpretation, I believe that articulation is one of the most negotiable."
  • "The practice room is the ideal place to try things out."
  • "Can you give me a little more pitch on the double tongue stuff?"
  • "I really recommend doing offline practicing when you're practicing double tonguing."
  • "The lip trill fairy can visit you in a short amount of time if you do a little bit of work. If you practice the Arban's exercise (quarters->eights->16ths->etc) religiously for two weeks, the lip trill fairy will pay you a visit."
  • "As you're working on your double tongue always aim for the 5th note."
  • "As you play music that is less melodically oriented, rhythm becomes more important.  You need to make the rhythmic aspect of this melody important."
  • "What you're selling melodically here is time."
  • "One of the main problems with the tuba as an instrument is clarity. Musical clarity, articulation clarity, pitch clarity."
  • "You sound like a bird singing in a cage that is covered with a blanket."
  • "I need you to be a more active and windy participant so you can play clearer."
  • "We have to work three times as hard as any other brass instrument to play as cleanly as they play. -Dave Bragunier"
  • "You can't evaluate your playing at the bell. You have to evaluate what it sounds like in the hall."
  • "Your best sound is not always the right sound.  You listen to Youngblood Brass Band. If you played in a lesson with the sound that Nat plays with you'd get punched in the throat and told to never come back."
  • "I want you to offend me with how short you play. I want you to make me puke."
  • "The place that you want to get with your playing is to where you are uncomfortable with how far you've gone."
  • "You never know how much is loving someone too much until you've done it. In life, you never know where the edge is until you've stepped off of it."
  • "You need to be closer to the line."
  • "The beginning of Strauss 1 is Belushi jumping into a room."
  • "In the upper register, work on your spin being a little faster, a little more tightly wound.  Move more air with a quicker spin."
  • "The higher you get on the tuba, the darker and less distinct it gets. I call it the Woo Register because it sounds like someone is wooing (with their hands cupped over their mouth.)"
  • "Make sure you can maintain a sense of rhythmic urgency without a metronome going."
  • "Sound is everything. If you don't sound good, nothing else matters."
  • "If it sounds good, it is good. -Duke Ellington"
  • "One of the most compelling things we can do is sell people on rhythm."