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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: tuba

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."


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.


  • "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."

Steve Dumaine: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

Steve Dumaine is the tuba player in the National Symphony here in Washington, DC but has many talents beyond his immense orchestral abilities.  I first met Steve when we were both in high school in New England.  He played the Vaughn-Williams Tuba Concerto with the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra back then and pretty much scared me with how good it was.

This clip is not him playing the Vaughn-Williams or anything close to it! This performance is from the 2008 Army Tuba Conference and features Steve playing a solo by the original bass player for Metallica, Cliff Burton.  I saw Metallica perform at the Worcester Centrum back in 1991 and it remains to this day one of the best rock concerts I've ever attended.  1991 was after Cliff Burton had passed away, but Steve does a great job of getting to the essence of Cliff's playing in this clip.

And my favorite part of this clip, for humor reasons, may very well be at the 2:00 mark.  Steve Dumaine is a beast on the tuba!


Eastern Trombone Workshop Orchestral Repertoire Repertoire: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

Here is a clip from the 2014 Eastern Trombone Workshop featuring an all-star low brass section playing through a number of orchestral excerpts.  The lineup:

Toby Oft - Principal Trombone, Boston Symphony
Nathan Zgonc - 2nd Trombone, Atlanta Symphony
Jeremy Wilson - Former 2nd Trombone, Vienna Philarmonic & Vienna State Opera
Stephen Dunkel - Bass Trombone, Washington National Opera
Seth Cook - Principal Tuba, Charlottesville Symphony

They play orchestral standards from Bartok, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Hindemith and many more.  This is an example of great players who are not a regular section molding each of their strong personalities into one cohesive idea.  There are some great insights into playing in orchestras as well as things like auditioning from each of them.


Game of Thrones Theme (Epic Low Brass Version): Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

Okay this is awesome! My friend Andy Bove, who I interviewed for my book, "A Band Director's Guide to Everything Tuba: A Collection of Interviews with the Experts", put together one of the most impressive low brass ensembles every formed for this video. So what did he decide to record with this collection of low brass players? The theme to Game of Thrones, of course! Seriously, you have to hear this.  It got well over 100,000 views almost overnight and is already at over 200,000 and rising.  It will rattle your windows.

This is the ridiculous lineup of players he assembled for this recording:

George Curran • bass and contrabass trombone George Flynn • bass and contrabass trombone Matt Ingman • bass and contrabass trombone Jeff Nelson • bass and contrabass trombone James Rogers • bass and contrabass trombone Jack Schatz • bass and contrabass trombone Patrick Herb • bass trombone Mark Johansen • bass trombone Christopher Olness • bass trombone Max Seigel • bass trombone Dale Turk • bass trombone Tim Albright • tenor trombone Demian Austin • tenor trombone Mike Boschen • tenor trombone Thomas Hutchinson • tenor trombone William Lang • tenor trombone Jörgen van Rijen • tenor trombone Andrew Bove • tuba and cimbasso Stephen Johns • tuba and cimbasso Morris Kainuma • tuba and cimbasso Joe Exely • tuba Chuck Kerrigan • tuba Marcus Rojas • tuba

Help support Bove Audio do more things like this by buying this track for $.99 if you dig it.


No BS! Brass: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

This past week I was soloing with the Bird High School Wind Symphony outside of Richmond and had the privilege of meeting the tuba player for Richmond's No BS! Brass, Stefan Demetriadis.  I've been a big fan of his and the entire band for a while now.  They are a fantastic brass band in the New Orleans tradition but they've absolutely got their own sound. Any band that describes themselves as "fearlessly combining elements of James Brown, John Coltrane, Michael Jackson, and Led Zeppelin" has got my attention.  Stefan holds down the low end like a champ.  This video is totally kick ass.


Mnozil Brass Featuring Wilfried Brandstötter: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

Wilfried Brandstötter is one of the best tuba players in the world and Mnozil Brass are not only some of the best players, but some of the best entertainers this world has ever seen.  This tuba solo is just silly good, both musically and conceptually from a staging standpoint. One of the highlights of my 14 years with Boston Brass was a brass festival in Austria where we shared the bill with Mnozil Brass in 2012.  It was an honor getting to see them play and getting to know them.  Wilfried is one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet in the music business.  And what a monster player, as this clip displays.


Finding Time vs. Making Time

Andrew Hitz

I taught a young guy from New York City who plays the bass, Ray Cetta, a lesson on tuba today. He's started to get a lot of calls to play Sousaphone on gigs and wanted to take his first ever lesson on the instrument. I was immediately impressed when he told me he had no car (typical New Yorker) but was willing to take the train all the way to DC with his Sousaphone! It was a really great experience for me. He is exactly the kind of student that we all enjoy teaching. He grasped concepts immediately and was eager to learn. One remark he made in response to something I said really jumped out at me.

He asked me about playing really softly with control. I showed him a number of exercises to work on that, then told him the obvious: to work on the extremes of playing the most important aspect is doing it every single day. Much more important than the total amount of time spent on practicing a skill like pianissimo playing is the regularity of the practicing. I told him I knew that was a pain, especially on a secondary instrument. His response was right on the money:

"I will find time ..... no, I will make time for it. I needed to do it on a gig once and that's enough times for me to need to make time to do it."

This is from a 23 year old kid who is about to release an album, is a band leader, has a very active freelance career, and has more irons in the fire than most of us. The difference between finding time and making time for essential work is what separates those who make it and those who don't. I learned something during his lesson today as well.

Ray is a Yankees fan so this is for him.

Øystein Baadsvik: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

I had just had the privilege of performing with Boston Brass at the Chicago Brass Festival this weekend.  It was a real treat to return to the city where I studied in college for such a prestigious festival.  The best part of the weekend was getting to hear both Øystein Baadsvik and Rex Richardson who were also featured artists.  What a weekend! On Friday night before our concert I was able to attend the beginning of Øystein's tuba master class.  I will post some quotes from this excellent class a little later this week.  But perhaps the highlight of the weekend was hearing him play the next day, first with the NEIU Faculty Quintet and then with the NEIU Wind Ensemble.  What a treat!

The audience demanded more than one encore after his very impressive performance.  The first encore he did was one of his standard solo selections, Czardas.  I don't think I've ever heard it played better on any instrument.  The clarity this man gets on fast passages on a tuba simply must be heard to be believed.  A true showman, a real gentleman, and one hell of a tuba player, any Øystein performance is a master class.  And this clip is live.  There is something not right with this man!


Monday YouTube Fix: Sam Pilafian, Harry Watters, David Cutler + Dan Hostetler

Andrew Hitz

Happy Holidays everyone! This is some footage from a Boston Brass rehearsal a few years ago.  Sam Pilafian and Harry Watters, two of the best brass players in the world, formed a jazz combo along with their rhythm section friends David Cutler on piano and Dan Hostetler on drums. They played a combo tune as a change of pace during one of our Christmas big band shows.  They came up with the tune and started rehearsing it on the spot.

Watching such amazing musicians work so cohesively at the drop of a hat is truly amazing.  Such groove, lyricism and storytelling.

Happy Holidays and enjoy!