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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: euphonium

Lance LaDuke Discusses How He Prepared for his Successful US Air Force Band Audition

Andrew Hitz

A few years ago Boston Brass came to where I teach, George Mason, to rehearse for a few days before our season started. After a performance for the school. my former Boston Brass colleague Lance LaDuke took the time to come to the lesson of one of my graduate euphonium players.

My student began questioning Lance about how he went about winning a job with the United States Air Force Band in Washington DC. Within a few minutes I realized that the content was gold and started recording.

Lance goes into great detail about his successful audition preparations. Talk about a guy with a plan that he executed over and over again over time.

This is a master class on sight reading, goal setting, time management, practice technique, and many, many more things.

This is a must listen for anyone preparing for any professional audition on any instrument.  After listening to his preparation process, it is easy to see why he won.

Below are the quotes that stood out to me for one reason or another, although there are far too many to include all of the good ones.

  • "I personally don't like playing out of the Barbara Payne book because I like to see the band parts. I assume that when I show up they're going to make me play off of a regular part."
  • "There were going to be things that were out of my control. Everything that was in my control I was going to prepare for."
  • "Every day, 7 days a week, my job from 9 pm to 3 am was getting ready."
  • "I was intense from 9 until 3 but it wasn't all horn on the face time. So whenever my face would get tired I would do score study."
  • "If you're not in tune and in time, you're not going to win."
  • "It's way harder to get a gig than to keep a gig."
  • "You've got to be fearless."
  • "On one hand, you have to play like your life depends on getting the gig. And on the other hand, you have to play like you don't care if you get the gig."
  • "You have a bigger advantage because you're (in DC.) You can drive over and listen to these bands."
  • "I always pushed sight reading to last. When I was completely shot and tired and wanted to go to bed, that's when I did sight reading."
  • "The rules for me for sight reading were I wasn't allowed to stop and when in doubt play the rhythms."
  • "If I knew the key and knew the roadmap, all I'd focus on were the rhythms and following the shape of the line."
  • "If you are sight reading and do the stutter thing, I'm faced with a question: Is this guy doing this because he's uncomfortable with the piece or because his time sucks?"
  • "I was strong as an ox. I could play all day."
  • "Make sure you can play swing style. Make sure you can play funk and make sure you can play rock."
  • "If you can't play popular styles it's nice that you can play marches, but it isn't just about the marches. You have to be able to sound credible on all that stuff."
  • "Basically I just learned how my body reacts under pressure, how my mind reacts under pressure, and how do I prepare for that."
  • "I had 18 different ways to chill myself out if I got stressed."
  • "I did 50 successful auditions (in my mind) before the actual audition."
  • "My favorite book at the time on performance anxiety was 'Notes from the Green Room'."
  • "What are your triggers and how does your body react?"
  • "Who in the industry do I know that I can go talk to?"
  • "Make sure you're at every minute of the Army Band Tuba Conference because it's free."
  • "Tell them 'I'm a broke college student. Are you giving any master classes in the area?'"
  • "The warm-up to me is part mental and part physical."
  • "Maybe they won't notice? They're gonna notice. If you noticed it's got to be fixed."
  • "Even if it sounds better but I use force, that's not a solution."
  • "How loudly can I play with control? How softly can I play with control? And you don't know at which point a note spreads until you spread the note."
  • "My teacher at Akron had a picture of a hand grenade up on his door and a sign that said 'Just because it's loud doesn't mean anybody wants to hear it.'"
  • "They are going to put sight reading in front of you until you fail."
  • "How I play in Boston Brass is different than how I play in a brass band which is different than how I play in a large concert band."
  • "If I was playing with the clarinets I would try to play with the clarinets."
  • "I played like I like to play and if they liked that that's good for me. And if they didn't like that that's good information for me."
  • "There was nothing that surprised me (on audition day.) There was not a single thing I wasn't prepared to deal with."

These are all great quotes but the real reason Lance won was his quote at 43:13 which you just have to listen to for yourself.  It sums the whole thing up.

Thank you, Lance!

David Zerkel Master Class Quotes (Part 2 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

Here is the second installment of quotes from the wonderful class that University of Georgia Professor David Zerkel gave at George Mason University in September.

In case you missed it, click here for Part 1.

Enjoy!
 

  • "When you start an excerpt, don't just hit the button on a treadmill and then go flying. I turn on the treadmill for at least a full measure before I get on so I'm ready to start."
     
  • "I can't tell you how many times I have been at an audition and literally said to myself 'Why am I playing? You aren't ready to play yet.'"
     
  • "We all have this idea in our head that it takes perfect playing to win an audition. It does not. It takes playing that is informed and stylish and that the person who is going to sit next to them for the rest of their careers knows the context of the music. They're hiring a musician, not a tuba player."
     
  • "I want you to think less about playing perfectly and more about playing communicatively."
     
  • "For me, music is performed in words, and sentences, and paragraphs, and chapters."
     
  • "Think less syllabically and think longer."
     
  • "Our job as performers in whatever we do, as performers, conductors, or people selling widgets, is to keep people with us, to not let them off the hook.  It can't be 'I'm going to play something nice for you and I hope you enjoy it.' You need to say 'You're coming with me. Get in the car. And here's what we're going to do.'"
     
  • "Keep moving your bow on long notes."
     
  • "People have short attention spans, Google Generation.  On the long notes I'm going to insist that you keep us with you."
     
  • "Always motion."
     
  • "You can look at the trees in the wind. They are moving. Wind demands motion. Motion happens because of wind. I'm asking your playing to be more windy. I'm asking for you to show me the reaction to the wind."
     
  • "When watching a conductor, the information you're getting is the motion between the beats. That's what you have to show."
     
  • "There are a lot of times when you get to the end of your phrase and you get an involuntary sound. We need to dictate it and not let the instrument tell us how it is going to be."
     
  • "Be sure you are maximizing your expansion when you're playing."
     
  • "If you need more air, for God's sake go get it."
     
  • "What's going to make people notice that my lung capacity is small? By playing with an involuntary sound at the end of phrases."
     
  • "I have a decision to make: am I going to let my sound suffer or am I going to breath in more places?"
     
  • "Can we all agree that when we are playing any wind instrument that one of our goals is to play with a resonant sound?"
     
  • "Sound is vibration. Resonance is an abundance of vibration. In order for us to play with an abundance of vibrations we must use an abundance of air."
     
  • "Jacobs asked me "how do you breath?" I gave a complicated answer and he said 'No, you suck air into your body.'"
     
  • "Jacobs talked to me about blowing way, way, way, way WAY beyond your lips.  He then played using air to his lips, then to his valve cluster, then to his bottom bow, then to his bell."
     
  • "Think of blowing your air two feet beyond your bell."
     
  • "Project everything forward. When you're singing properly your mask (face) vibrates."
     
  • "Someone says your sound is huge, that's a compliment. When they tell you you play loud, they may hate you."
     
  • "In the upper register the air stream is pencil-sized. In the middle register it is corndog sized."

David Childs with the Brass Band de Bazuin: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

This is a typically stunning performance by David Childs on the euphonium.  His combination of lyricism and technique is pretty stunning.  This is a performance with the Brass Band de Bazuin of "Brillante" by Peter Graham. You have to wonder how many hours someone who can play their instrument to this level in concert has spent mastering their craft.  However long he's spent, we get to reap the rewards.

Enjoy!


Great Insights Into the Audition Process

Andrew Hitz

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a great article by euphonium player Dave Werden on taking and preparing for auditions.  There's enough information in this post that he easily could have broken it up into 3 or 4 parts.  But instead, he gave it to us all at once! This article is a must read for anyone trying to win a gig.  A lot of it is common sense and stuff that we all need to hear over and over again.  For example:

"Is your f louder than your mf? And is your mp softer, and your p softer yet?"

"Not only are you trying to be better than all the other players, you are also trying to be better than the ensemble's expectations and standards. Set your sights accordingly."

"You will be distracted during an audition, so practice with distractions."

He goes on to give some suggestions of how to practice with distractions, how to solidify rhythm and groove, how to present yourself at an audition and lots more.  Anyone trying to win an audition must read this article:

Dave Werden: Audition Advice - Part 2

You should also listen to this great conversation that Lance LaDuke had with one of my graduate students at George Mason about his preparations for the Air Force Band audition he won years ago.  Again, it is not a coincidence that he won that audition when you listen to him discuss his preparation.

Lance LaDuke on Audition Preparation

Good luck on your own audition prep!

Monday YouTube Fix: Lauren Veronie

Andrew Hitz

General wisdom states that all euphonium solos are either Danny Boy or faster than hell.  The end of Napoli certainly fits the bill for the later of those two descriptions. I had the privilege of meeting Lauren when the US Army Field Band and Boston Brass collaborated a few years ago and have been a big fan of both her playing and her blog/travel log ever since.  I stumbled on this clip when surfing YouTube and was very impressed.  When I hear playing as controlled and effortless as her's I take note and try to apply it to my own playing.

I've played for many audiences as old as the one that she is performing for and I realize how hard it is to make that demographic react that strongly to a performance (including a standing ovation!) But when you play like that anyone and everyone will react.

Enjoy!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQdtrte2mQk&feature=youtube_gdata_player]

Monday YouTube Fix: Les Neish and David Childs

Andrew Hitz

I was very happy when I stumbled upon this clip of two of the best low brass soloists in the world.  Les and David are the kind of players that keep the rest of us in the practice room a little longer than we might have otherwise. The first thing that strikes me about players is their sound.  No matter how difficult a passage may be, they both play with the same characteristically beautiful sound at all times.  That is what I strive for always and it is not as easy as these two make it look!

Enjoy!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wmg0KVDf-8c]

Great Collection of Arnold Jacobs Master Class Notes

Andrew Hitz

Yesterday while surfing the web in search of brass knowledge I came across a great find.  Julia Rose's website, Julia's Horn Page, is a great resource for horn players and brass players in general.  One of her posts is a wonderful collection of quotes from some Arnold Jacobs master classes she attended in 1993.  You have to read all of them yourself for sure.  You can find them here. Below are a few of the notes that really jumped out at me.  That being said, you really want to read all of them on Julia's site.  The more Arnold Jacobs the better in my books!

  • You can’t use the sensory system primarily when embarking on a motor activity.
     
  • Be a storyteller of sound.
     
  • The horn in the hand must be a mirror of your thoughts.
     
  • Accuracy comes from the brain, not the chops.
     
  • 15% of thought on respiration, 85% on music.
     
  • Don’t fight old habits, replace them with new ones.
     
  • Whether long or short tones, always play with the same quality of tone.
     
  • It’s the buzz that plays the horn, not the air.
     
  • Match tone qualities when slurring octaves.
     
  • High notes are nothing but a fast vibration.  Low notes are nothing but a slow vibration.
     
  • Take music you know and put it in the high register.  It will take a little time, but it will develop with more practice.
     
  • Song and wind are very simplifying concepts.  The only challenge in playing is musical.

Did I mention that you should read all of the notes? You can find all of the quotes on Julia's website here.  The quotes above are less than 5% of the notes she has in her post.  Like I said before, you can't have too much Arnold Jacobs!

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 ahitz@gmu.edu.

Quotes from Jim Thompson Master Class from the 2011 NTC

Andrew Hitz

On the Friday morning of this year's National Trumpet Competition at George Mason University, former principal trumpet of the Montreal Symphony Jim Thompson gave a master class on buzzing.  Jim literally wrote the book on buzzing.  I had the privilege of serving on the faculty of a brass festival in Mexico with Jim a few years ago and I was immediately taken aback at the efficiency of his playing.  A lot of that efficiency is a direct result of his buzzing. He spoke a lot about buzzing in the class but also ventured into some other topics related to brass playing in general.  It was as good a presentation as I've seen on the physical side of playing a brass instrument.  Below are a collection of quotes from his class.  I hope you find them as helpful as I have!

 

  • "The brass instrument family is the closest to the human voice.  We use human tissue to vibrate on the air column."
     
  • "If you can buzz in-tune and expressively, you can pretty much put that down the pipe."
     
  • "I just love it when somebody makes a mistake and looks at their horn as if 'you betrayed me.'"
     
  • "The lips should be reactive to the air - not proactive to the air."
     
  • "The ability to make glissandi is very important."
     
  • "Part of these exercises is to buzz in and out of all of the registers with very little change."
     
  • "Isometrics is the absolute enemy of good physical performance."
     
  • "The air pressure wants to spread your lips apart."
     
  • "Less head movement (between ranges) means better endurance and more flexibility and technique."
     
  • "(Buzzing on) the mouthpiece requires you to use a lot of air.  When you do that, you take a lot of stress off the lips."
     
  • "I can not emphasize enough starting (your day) as softly as you can play."
     
  • "Strength is not the answer.  I guarantee you that everyone in this room has the strength to play a high G."
     
  • "Lip pressure and air pressure must increase together as you go higher.  Don't lead with the lip."
     
  • "I like to think rather than going up into the high register I like to bring it down to me."
     
  • "Support (in the high register) isn't about playing louder.  It's about maintaining the balance of the lip and the air."
     
  • "Allen Vizzutti can change his air pressure almost as fast as a violinist can change their bow."
     
  • "Volume is overrated.  Volume is increasing and decreasing the overtones.  The fundamental basically stays the same."
     
  • "Please don't fall into the trap of dark and bright.  Your sound is either resonant and clear or not.  And resonant means overtones."
     
  • "When a conductor says you are too bright, check your attacks."
     
  • "Just because you can doesn't mean you should.  Trumpet playing is not an indoor sport.  It is a musical endeavor."
     
  • "Do you realize that in a brass quintet you actually have to play softer and louder than in an orchestra? And more sustained."
     
  • "The tongue is highly overrated in terms of attacks."

Joe Alessi Master Class Quotes (Part 3 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

This is the final installment of quotes from the trombone master class that Joe Alessi gave at Towson University two weeks ago today.  He covered many different subjects from trombone playing to breathing to musicianship.  It was a wonderful class and a lot of the knowledge I took away with me has already integrated itself into my playing and teaching.  That's how you know it's good material! In case you missed them, please be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

  • "Have you ever recorded yourself and slowed it down to half speed?"
     

  • "In detached playing you should move the slide immediately after the 1st (of 2) notes.  In legato playing, you should move the slide right before the 2nd note."
     

  • To a student: "When you articulate, your tongue is very active and your air is very inactive.  Practice with no tongue.  See what you can learn by getting the air involved."
     

  • "The only reason I use a mirror is to cut out the extraneous movements.  When you look at that mirror try to keep everything still."
     

  • "We have to recalibrate the mixture (of tongue and air) and when things happen."
     

  • "Your practicing is incorrect if you can't hold the tempo.  You have to calm yourself down and practice very adamantly and slowly."
     

  • "Enjoy that you practice slowly and you'll get something out of playing slowly."
     

  • "If we don't know rhythm and pitch it's like an electrician that doesn't know positive and negative."
     

  • "If you can't sing everything you play, how can you shape something?"
     

  • "One of the hardest things to do on the trombone is to play legato and have your air completely separate from your slide."
     

  • "Your mantra is to keep your air absolutely steady."
     

  • "Think more globally about being expressive.  You're trying to be expressive on every note.  Think more of an arc."
     

  • "When you want to make a great release on a note, you have to get rid of the vibrato at the end and end up with just straight tone."
     

  • To a student with a bad release: "You're a painter.  If you're painting a branch you have to finish it."
     
  • "The more experience you get any time you can put yourself under the gun the better."
     

  • "Develop your own routine.  It can be a collection from your colleagues."
     

  • "You're not going to get anywhere if you start practicing at 1pm."
     

  • "I practiced 6 hours today." Well who cares? How did you practice?"
     

  • "You pay your dues with basics."
     

  • "I don't have my students play excerpts right away.  I want to see that they can play a melody correctly.  The right pitch.  The right rhythm."