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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: New York Philharmoic

Warren Deck Master Class Quotes (Part 2 of 2)

Andrew Hitz

Here is part two of my quotes from a master class by former Principal Tuba of the New York Philharmonic, Warren Deck. These quotes are from his class at the 2015 Northeast Regional Tuba Euphonium Conference at Ithaca College.

It was a phenomenal class. The quotes below about the window especially blew my mind. Really opened my eyes to exactly what I am trying to play and teach.

You can find part one here.

  • I like to play a game with myself when I listen to music. It's called 'how much can I hear? How much can I notice? That's why I like to listen in community. I like to listen with 3 or 4 people. 
  • The higher the quality of your musical mind, the higher the quality of what's going to come out of your instrument. 
  • Keep the instrument full of air. 
  • I'm going to urge you to listen to records and try to dig one level deeper. What can you hear? Every day try to hear something you haven't heard before. 
  • Listen to the great players. Listen to how they make the magic. 
  • The air only knows one thing: the shape of my phrase. 
  • I want to hear the music as if I never have to breath ever. 
  • I'm going to throw in an extra breath to see whether I can do it without changing the shape of the phrase. 
  • The way air misses notes is dynamically. Air can miss notes. But oftentimes we missed it with our embouchure. 
  • The bow doesn't need to know about changing the pitch. 
  • Teach your embouchure to sing that tune accurately. 
  • Separate the art from the craft. Our art is how well we can conceive of it. Our craft is how well we can play it. 
  • The art is a scene and the craft is the window. If we show someone our scene, how much dirt is on the window? 
  • The reason we clean the window is because we have an exact idea of how we want to sound. 
  • Ronnie Romm said that flying a plane was the most musical thing he ever did. 
  • I'm driving a car and my listener is my passenger. What kind of ride am I giving them?


Warren Deck Master Class Quotes (Part 1 of 2)

Andrew Hitz

Back in April of 2015 I was honored to do a music business presentation at the Northeast Regional Tuba Euphonium Conference at Ithaca College hosted by Aaron Tindall. The lineup was better than some of the national conferences I've attended and it was an honor to be a part of it.

One of the real treats of that week was getting to attend a master class by former New York Philharmonic tuba player Warren Deck. I had a lesson with him in his New Jersey basement back in 1992 but hadn't been exposed to his teaching since then.

Warren is one of the all-time great tuba players and teachers. He is that rare combination of superb player and phenomenal teacher. I love these quotes and glad that I remembered that I was sitting on them!

You can find part two here.

  • A great writer has a really huge vocabulary and by using that they can evoke a wide range of emotions by their choice of words.
  • Musicians manipulate audiences emotions. They willingly pay to be taken on a journey.
  • I advocate that people commune with the page. Ask 'what is this composer trying to tell me through this archaic notation system?'
  • How many different ways can you say the word hi?
  • How can we change little things to find just the right inflection when we play?
  • Think of different interpretations as saying the same things with different accents.
  • The same person might play things completely differently depending on the acoustical settings.
  • An actor acting to the back of a hall would look ridiculous doing the same thing for a camera right in their face.
  • I was always chasing the tuba in my head.
  • Can I articulate a note any way I want at any dynamic?
  • I found that the louder I played the harder I tended to tongue. I needed dynamics and articulations to function separately.
  • The difference between ta and da is compression.
  • I took (the relationship between dynamics and articulation) and was able to practice an Arban's exercise much more mindfully.
  • I want to be able to change octaves where my air thinks it's one note.
  • The older I get the more I admire Gil Johnson for his ability to phrase and soar.
  • I just heard a person who has had a good deal of success with auditions say that they learned how to play their instrument before they learned excerpts.

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.


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.

New York Philharmonic in North Korea: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

I just stumbled onto this video of the New York Philharmonic's historic trip to North Korea.  This is a video of George Gershwin's "An American In Paris" from their concert at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre on February 26, 2008 conducted by Lorin Maazel. Not only is this one of the most famous orchestral concerts from the last half century, but the orchestra sounds phenomenal.  Especially the brass! Joe Alessi, Alan Baer, Phil Smith and Philip Myers as well as the entire rest of the brass sections just sound fantastic.  Alan's tuba solo from this version of "An American In Paris" is spot on.