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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: horn

Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

This is a live performance of Carl Nielsen's Wind Quintet, Opus 43, played by the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet.  This was performed on October 5, 2012 at the Samobor Music Festival in Croatia. The Performers:

Michael Hasel, Flute Andreas Wittmann, Oboe Walter Seyfarth, Clarinet Fergus McWilliam, Horn Marion Reinhard, Bassoon

The Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet is everything I look for in a chamber ensemble.  Each member is playing every note like a soloist and yet the most important line or lines are always stepping to the foreground.

I instantly fell in love with the music of Carl Nielsen when I performed his Fifth Symphony at Tanglewood as a high school student.  He was a brilliant composer and his Wind Quintet is simply fantastic.


Questioning What You Are Positive Is True

Andrew Hitz

"A lot of times when you have a problem with your playing and you think you know the solution try the exact opposite.  85% of the time it will work.  And that comes from personal experience." -Marty Hackleman (former horn of the Empire Brass, Canadian Brass and National Symphony Orchestra)

This is invaluable advice for the practice room.  But it is also great advice for band directors and private teachers.  As with anyone who has been doing something for three decades, I know an awful lot about music.  Frequently though, the things which I am positive are the way I perceive them are what hold me back from having a breakthrough with a student or having one myself on the horn.

What is it that you know today that you need to "forget" for a few minutes while allowing the best possible solution to emerge?

The moon rising over the Italian Alps before a Boston Brass performance in Merano, Italy. © 2012 Andrew Hitz


Stefan Dohr: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

What can you say about this guy? Stefan Dohr is on everyone's short list for best horn player in the world. Like, everyone's list. And seeing as how he's not even 50 yet, he has a long career ahead of him. Dohr is the principal horn of the Berlin Philharmonic and teaches at the Herbert von Karajan Academy. He is a special talent to say the least.

This video is of him playing one of the most famous horn solos in the orchestral repertoire, from the 2nd movement of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony, sure makes this excerpt sound easy. The best players in the world give the rest of us the feeling of "Hey! That doesn't seem that hard. I bet I could do it."

If only it were that easy. Get ready for some effortless and spectacular phrasing.


Quotes from Marty Hackleman Master Class at George Mason University (Repost)

Andrew Hitz

Two years ago this week I posted the following quotes from a Marty Hackleman class at Mason.  I still use many of these quotes in my every day teaching and thought they were worth reposting.  I hope you find these as insightful as I do! -----

Last night, Professor Marty Hackleman gave an amazing master class at George Mason University.  Marty is the principal horn of the National Symphony and a former member of both the Empire Brass and the Canadian Brass.  In my opinion, he is one of the premier teachers and performers that the brass world has ever known.

I have put a few of the quotes that really spoke loudly to me in bold.  What quotes jump out at you? Please comment with your favorite quote and how it relates to your playing.

Here are the highlights from the class:

  • It's not that you work, it's how you work.
  • How simple can you make the problem?  How simple can you make the solution?
  • We don't see the causes.  We see the symptoms.
  • All that you want to do is make it slightly better than yesterday but not as good as tomorrow.  And you enjoy the chase.
  • When you do a daily routine, don't sit in front of the TV wasting your time.
  • Think of your routine as a physical brass mediation.  Enjoy the time alone.
  • The routine is a question of how you play and not what you play.
  • A lot of times when you have a problem with your playing and you think you know the solution try the exact opposite.  85% of the time it will work.  And that comes from personal experience.
  • I only breathe as much as I need when I'm warming up and I focus on quality over quantity.  But if you're playing a different instrument, like the tuba, it may be different.
  • It is more important to practice efficiently than a lot of inefficient practicing.  If you don't feel like it, stop.  Get a cup of coffee and then come back.  Then suck it up and make yourself feel like it for even 15 minutes.
  • Even if you can play your ass off, try to make it easier.
  • Make it as simple, natural and easy as you can.
  • Don't save the high notes until the end of your routine.  They shouldn't be that precious.  They should be a natural extension of everything else.
  • I failed first.  Everybody failed first.  But do you stop at failure?
  • You'll be surprised that if you ask yourself to do something regularly, you'll find a solution.
  • If tension is creeping into your playing, your routine is where you find that out, not in rehearsal or in performance.
  • Support isn't caused by air.  They are separate things.
  • You want to use your routine to make yourself better, not just make yourself functional.
  • I know (my routine) works because at almost 60 years old I believe I can play better than I've ever played in my life.  And it's not luck.  I promise you.
  • First thing is you have to make sure that your horn sounds like what's in your head.
  • You have to be more responsible about being a musician and not just a horn player.
  • We make crescendos and we don't come all the way back.  If you come all the way back you have somewhere to go again.

Sweat the Small Stuff

Andrew Hitz


Try to make the simple beautiful.

- Marty Hackleman

The best musicians are the ones who can make a ton of music out of very few notes.  It is easy to play the best melodies ever written in a musical manner, but what about the other 99.9% of all composed music? A truly great artist can communicate as much in a one or two note phrase as they can in a long melody.

One of my favorite tuba parts in the orchestral repertoire is Brahms 2.  There is not much "meat" in this part.  There are very few long passages for tuba and nothing that is very technically demanding.  But there are some players who can make so much music in the one and two note phrases in the first movement.  Most young players would look at this part and label it as "easy."  But simple music can be deceiving.

I had the privilege of playing for a year in Dallas Brass with Tage Larsen who now plays trumpet with the Chicago Symphony.  I remember listening to his warm-up each morning.  The tone, the effortlessness, the music making! He could make so much music with his warm-up that it would make you stop and have an opinion.

How musical was your warm-up this morning?


Monday YouTube Fix: Eric Ruske

Andrew Hitz

Eric was the horn player in the Empire Brass when I attended the Empire Brass Seminar at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute in 1990 and 1991.  I learned the most those summers from attending the Empire open rehearsals.  It really was an incredible thing for a 14 year old to get to experience. Even at that young of an age, I was immediately struck by Eric's phrasing.  He played phrases that were a mile long and his playing always sounded so elegant.  This  recording of the Romance by Saint-Saens is a great example of his gorgeous, flowing musical lines.

We can all learn a lot from anyone on any instrument who phrases like this.



Monday YouTube Fix: New York Philharmonic/Kurt Masur - Schumann Symphony No. 3

Andrew Hitz

This is such a great clip. The trombone section, lead by Joe Alessi, makes this seems so easy and effortless. But anyone familiar with this movement realize that it is anything but easy. I love the close-up of Joe at the most difficult point of the excerpt.  He looks so relaxed that you wonder if he was about to fall asleep.  Just another day at the office for the best trombone player on the planet.  Good stuff.



Monday YouTube Fix: Jeff Nelsen "Fearless Performance" from TedxBloomington

Andrew Hitz

Last week's collection of motivating and inspiring quotes from Jeff Nelsen's master class at George Mason inspired me to post this video.  It is truly a powerful thing watching Jeff do what he does on stage, whether with his horn or with his words.  This is an incredible talk that is absolutely worth 10 minutes of your time to become a better performer in all aspects of your life. Enjoy!


Jeff Nelsen Master Class Quotes from George Mason University

Andrew Hitz

Jeff Nelsen is simply put one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever been around in my life.  His always positive attitude is both genuine and predictable.  And he is an absolutely phenomenal horn player.  His website,, is a wonderful resource for any musician.  We were honored to have Jeff play one of the horn books for the Boston Brass recording of the Stan Kenton Christmas Carols.  He is a very special player, teacher, and person. Jeff was just in Washington DC playing 2nd horn to his dear friend and mentor Marty Hackleman in the National Symphony Orchestra.  I believe my good friend Tom Cupples, 2nd trumpet in the NSO, summed up Jeff the best after a performance of Ein Heldenleben: “Jeff is amazing. Just being in the same room as him makes me a better musician.”

We were very fortunate to have Jeff come to George Mason and give a master class about performance and life in general.  I learned a ton from the class and have used many of the quotes below in my lessons already.  As usual, I have highlighted the ones that really speak to me the most.  I will admit to having a difficult time not highlighting them all.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

PS Jeff is working on a book documenting his entire Fearless approach.  Keep your eyes on his website for details.

  • "Success not only comes to those who want it the most but those who want it the most often."
  • "There is a difference between simple and easy."
  • "Simplify things as much as possible and then work on them."
  • "You are engaged in performance when what you are doing matters."
  • "Fearless performance is not necessarily the lack of fear but the realization there are things more important than fear."
  • "(Shows picture of 16 month old) Have any of you ever been his age? When we are young we are afraid of good things like hot pots and traffic but we develop the rest along the way."
  • "You have to become a master variable controller."
  • "It's about isolating variables, changing one thing, and asking was that better?"
  • "The only physical difference between practice and performance is the actual walk on stage."
  • "The first mental difference is choosing 'this time means more.'”
  • His teacher: "There are no bad days. There are only days where to takes greater effort to play your best."
  • "If you approach every performance with your best, you don't leave room to try better."
  • "Most people don't aim too high and miss. Most people aim to low and hit."
  • "We can practice walking onstage."
  • "Saying 'On stage you must play your best' - problem is that making sure implies you might not."
  • "You can't control perception, you can only control presentation."
  • "In the sacred arena of the performance place, get over it. It's too late to control it."
  • "We're responsible any time we get nervous."
  • "No one can make me feel anything without my consent."
  • "We learn fear."
  • "If we can learn fear, we can learn love-full performance."
  • "Our level of nerves is inversely proportionate to our level of preparation."
  • "Make what you are doing the only thing that matters."
  • "There are three things that your audience and an audition panel are looking for: mastery, meaning, and autonomy."
  • "An audition committee is checking to see if your rhythm is autonomous."
  • "TV is getting great. We have to give the audience an experience."
  • "Don't call it a warm up. Make a great routine that touches what you need to do and the bonus is that you're warmed up."
  • "Musician is product. Technician is process."
  • "We're really trying to learn how to transcend the technician."
  • "I've missed 100% of the notes I've told myself not to miss."
  • "Make it about the solution. It's not about what not to do."
  • "Assign yourself practicing work for the next day."
  • "If you can't sleep, get up and write down what you can't sleep about."
  • "Tell your story to your audience."
  • "On a scale of 1-10 how much music did you just make with a 1 being regurgitating all the ink on the page? If it's a 6...OK, out of that 6 out of 10 how much of that did you get to the audience?"
  • "You should listen to your performance through the ears of your audience."
  • "Don't ask. Tell."
  • "The great performers of the world walk on stage and say 'I think this.'”
  • "Walk on stage to be seen."
  • “You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way.” - Jennifer Freeman
  • "In the 10 second walk on stage there's not much of a chance to make things better but there are lots of chances to make things worse."
  • "Every phrase is the only phrase."
  • His Mom: "If you're listening and the audience is listening, who's singing? - Critique later."
  • "Phil Meyers says that he went into his first few auditions trying to hide his weaknesses and it didn't work out. Then he tried to show them his strengths."
  • Phil: “I don't go out there trying to sound my best. I go out there trying to sound like me.”
  • "100% positive means taking the 'I liked' out of 'I liked how I played bar 6 well.'"
  • "Must be 100% responsible for how you play as well."
  • "If you make excuses, you make the performance space safe for failure."
  • "Everything, unless it hits you in the head, can not affect you unless you let it."
  • "You're right. There are people judging you and there are things to lose. You're right. Unless you want to do your best. Then you are wrong."
  • "Competing lowers your goal. Just try to be the absolute best you can be."
  • “If you do not have a website, you are invisible.” - David Cutler
  • "Choosing to doubt and choosing to fear will get in your way. And it is a choice."
  • "The word execute is a big part of performance."
  • "I'm happy because I think I am."