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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: french horn

Joe Alessi Master Class Quotes (Part 1 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

Last week the principal trombonist of the New York Philharmonic, Joe Alessi, gave a fantastic master class at Towson University.  He is easily one of the best musicians I have ever had the privilege of working with and I learn something every time I hear him either perform or speak about music.

Check out this Joe Alessi interview I did with Lance LaDuke for The Brass Junkies.

I knew that I was going to get a lot of great material from a two and a half hour master class but the amount of information that I left with exceeded my very high expectations.  Joe is a rare person who is so highly accomplished on both the playing and teaching sides of our industry.

A special thank you to Craig Mulcahy for giving me the heads up about the class the day of and to the two students at George Mason who rescheduled their lessons so that I could make the trip up to Maryland.  I am very happy that I made it!

I was able to get so many great quotes from this class that I will post them in three parts over the course of the week.  I attempted to write them down verbatim but did not record the class so there unintentionally might be some slight variations to his wordings.  If there are any discrepancies it is his own fault because he kept making great points! I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

Be sure to also check out Part 2 and Part 3.

  • "I'm always trying to find new ways to do something."

  • "Sometimes you revisit old concepts and change them slightly."

  • "To play a brass instrument well is a very simple process.  To play one badly is very complicated."

  • "Try to find a good model breath that has nothing to do with playing and instrument, like a sigh."

  • "Take a breathing event that relaxes you and model your playing after that."

  • "People often ask me for a quick fix on how to get better.  Here's one: anytime you pick up your instrument during the day, which should hopefully be 7 or 8 times a day, play one note that's the most beautiful note you can.  And not just a quarter note but three or four beats.  Then just clone it over and over."

  • "The first 10 minutes you play in a day is how you play the rest of the day."

  • "The more I play the more quickly I have discoveries about my playing."

  • "A lot of practicing can be done away from the instrument."

  • "You gotta be able to sing it and conduct it.  When you know how something is supposed to go, when you pick up your instrument, you can make that happen."

  • "In high school I was a practice nut about fundamentals."

  • "If something is simple and slow, I try to find something interesting about it."

  • "When listening to entrance exams at Juilliard and the New York Phil I look for even playing and consist tone.  Consistent pitch and consistent rhythm."

  • "Consistency is what you practice when you are in the practice room."

  • "When playing orchestrally there is a certain way you have to play and that's to have an immediate attack."

  • "An accent looks like a small diminuendo.  What you're playing is a reverse diminuendo."

  • "You need to record everything you do."

  • "You need to document everything you do and you need to listen to it.  I don't care if it's three notes.  Record it.  No, I'm serious."

  • "If you play a jury, record it.  If you take an audition, ask the people if you can record it."

3 Great Master Classes Quotes I've Heard Recently

Andrew Hitz

Every time I attend a master class I always have my laptop with me to take notes. I find that note taking is by far the best way for me to retain the information and retention is the first step in implementing it into my playing and teaching. I also attend as many master classes as I possibly can.  As with all of the people who I idolize in the music business, I try to never stop learning.  Hearing another professional's perspective on how they approach both the physical and mental aspects of music for an hour gives me a surge in productivity every single time without fail.

It also seems that every time I attend a class there is always one quote that sticks out above the rest a few months later.  That is the quote that has done the best job of daily working its way into my playing and teaching.  Here are three such quotes that I literally think about on a daily basis:

Joe Alessi: "You have to worry about the right sides of the notes just as much as the left sides."

The next time you hear Joe play, either live or on a recording, check out the care with which he ends every single note.  Then proceed to pick your jaw up off of the floor.

Carol Jantsch: "When slurring up to a note focus on the end of the first note rather than the second note."

Try this yourself.  I always found it intuitive to focus on having a clean start to the note I was slurring up to.  Now that I have taken Carol's approach instead my slurring improved immediately.  As in immediately.  It's a great trick.  This is one of the many things she does to make her playing sound so effortless.

Marty Hackleman: "Even if you can play your ass off, try to make it easier."

If you watch Marty play the horn, there is no wasted energy of any kind.  It is pure efficiency.  This is why he has the endurance of horn gladiator even though he is approaching 60.

Hopefully you will find these quotes as helpful as I have.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about all three of them in my teaching and playing.  Is there a great quote that you've heard in a master class recently? Help us all out and leave it in the comments.