Solo and Orchestral Trumpeter and Educator

Thoughts on music, trumpet playing, and education from Eric M. Berlin, Professor of Trumpet at the University of Massachusetts and Principal Trumpet of the Albany Symphony and Boston Philharmonic Orchestras.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Recital Tour of New England and Texas with Greg and Ludmila!

Our Recital in Bezanson Recital Hall at UMass

Last December as Greg Spiridopoulos and I premiered Continuum for Trumpet, Trombone and Wind Ensemble by our colleague Jeff Holmes, the wheels started spinning for more things to do together. By the time we performed the piece at the International Trumpet Guild Conference in Grand Rapids, MI (Thanks to Rich and Val Stoelzel for the invite) we knew we wanted to do more. So, we booked some recitals as a trio with our pianist colleague Ludmila Krasin. What a great time we had! 

After the initial recital in our home Bezanson Recital Hall at UMass, we took this program to Boston University and University of New Hampshire. Thanks to our hosts Terry Everson and Don Lucas at BU and Bob Steibler and Nick Orovich at UNH for inviting us to present this music to their students.

Then we headed south and west to Texas! 

Our journey started on Thursday October 10 when I picked up Greg at his house at 3:30 am to go to the airport. We flew into Newark and then Dallas. From Dallas, we rented a car and drove to Oklahoma City. 

Oklahoma City University - Bass School of Music 

The amazing Wanda Bass School of Music at OKCU

After 13 and 1/2 hours of travel, we arrived at OKCU's Bass School of Music welcomed by the smiling face of our host and great friend Michael Anderson. What amazing facilities! Greg, Ludmila and I spent a couple of hours with students in masterclasses, then quickly checked into our hotel to change before our evening recital. Propping our eyelids open, we enjoyed performing for a great audience and then were glad to grab a quick bite to eat before collapsing for the night. 

After a very sound night of sleep, Greg and I returned in the morning to coach brass quintets and I got to observe Michael Anderson's "Trumpet Tech Class" with his studio. What a great idea - a weekly class covering fundamentals together with a new key area each week. Great students and a truly outstanding facility. Thanks for having us!

Friday was just what the doctor ordered with a hang at Michael Anderson's place. A great meal on their deck with a fire and dogs helped us relax away the stress of the past two days of traveling. Thanks to Mike and JeannMarie for their hospitality!

The weekend was open so Greg grabbed another car and headed to Tulsa to see family while Ludmila and I hung out in OKC. I met with a student on Saturday morning and then picked up Ludmila to do some sightseeing. 

Cowboy Museum

Incredibly moving "End of the Trail"

Our first stop was the National Cowboy Museum. What a beautiful place! We began our tour of the place in a gallery of new art by Cowboy Artists of America. The first thing as we walked in was one of the most incredible pieces of leatherwork I had ever seen. This saddle was absolutely magnificent! Throughout the gallery there were examples of the finest saddles, chaps, horse bits, spurs etc and then there were the paintings. Oh my goodness! Some of the most incredibly vibrant portrayals of western life I had ever seen, and all by living artists! All of the works were to be sold that evening to benefit the museum. 

The rest of the museum was a wonderful display of the history of the west, cowboy life, western movies, rodeo etc. We especially enjoyed the gardens with large scale sculptures.

Banjo Museum

Who would have known Banjos were such amazing works of art?

Who would have thought of a Banjo Museum? I will admit to really enjoying the banjo, and this was a very quaint museum worth the trip. It traced the development of the banjo from roots to the present and had marvelous examples of some of the most ornate instruments I had ever seen. 

OKC National Memorial

Our memories of the Oklahoma City Bombing have begun to fade now over a decade later, but this museum and memorial help bring us right back to the moment in a very visceral way. Most memorable of the displays are the twisted and mangled truck axle and wheels from the the Ryder truck Timothy McVey used in the bombing and the room which has been preserved in its state of destruction from that day. The memorial itself is a beautiful tribute with the 168 empty chairs representing those who died. 

Traveling to Lubbock

On Sunday we reconnected with Greg and drove south and west across Oklahoma and into western Texas. As the day progressed, the weather got increasingly overcast until we found ourselves driving through torrential rains which the region sorely needed. I particularly enjoyed the red clay canyon lands we passed through. The landscape was just as I imagined and one could easily imagine John Wayne or the Lone Ranger and Tonto riding in the distance. The small towns and vast expanses of range land were great to experience as well. After about 6 hours of travel, we arrived in Lubbock to meet our host Andy Stetson and his lovely wife Becca at our hotel. We had a great steak dinner with them to celebrate Andy's new job before sacking out to prepare for a long day ahead. 

Texas Technical University

The newly minted Professor Herr Dr. Stetson welcomes us to his new job at TTU

Greg and spent time with students in lessons and masterclasses throughout the day on Monday. I learned some great new things from Will Streider and really enjoyed the students. We got to hang out with all of the brass faculty at lunch and were delighted to get to know these folks. 

The evening recital was live streamed on the web which was very cool and we got to hang with Andy and Becca as well as my Colorado friends Kimberly and DJ Sparr for a bit after the show. This was really a great visit! Wonderful to see Andy and Becca as they begin their new life together and to meet Will who I have heard so much about. 

Traveling back east

We left well before the sun rose on Tuesday to drive back east to Waco. The weather was even worse than Sunday with the roadways dangerously flooded at points. We enjoyed more really cool landscapes and small towns along the way as well as endless wind turbine farms. I love these things! 

Baylor University

Baylor's small recital hall with a Boesendorfer piano made Ludmila's tour!

We arrived in Waco greeted by Brent Philips and Mark Schubert at the Baylor School of Music. The facilities here were beautiful even in the "old" music building. The recital hall was lovely with a Boesendorfer piano which Ludmila relished playing! We had the best turn out for any of our recitals with a very full house. Thanks folks! Greg and I then split with off to work with students in masterclasses. The level of playing in Wiff Rudd's studio is absolutely top notch. 

Any trip to Texas seems to need a trip to a Rudy's. There is nothing better than good Texas BBQ and this is as good as I have ever had. The brisket was simply spectacular! It was a great hang with Wiff, Mark and Brent. Thanks for having us and for your hospitality!

We then headed to Fort Worth to prepare for a long day of work at UNT and TCU.

University of North Texas

It is always great to see Keith Johnson and John Holt. UNT boasts the second largest music program in the country with 1600 majors! The trumpet studio is often at around 100! We played a slightly shortened program at the studio hour and had some time to interact with the students a bit. Thanks to both John and Keith for having us!

Luckily we had time for a short nap before our final concert at TCU that night.

Texas Christian University

Our last performance was at TCU's Pepsico Recital Hall. Wonderful space!

The final stop on this whirlwind tour was Texas Christian University. This was my second visit TCU, the first being for the 2003 ITG Conference which was my first ever. Host Jon Burgess did a great job of putting together a great program for that. We met with our hosts Jon and Dave Begnoche for a nice meal before our recital. One of the best things about this trip was connecting with friends and sharing ideas about teaching and recruiting. Jon and Dave have really strong studios at TCU and the facilities are very nice. The recital hall is quite striking visually and was really nice to play in. Thanks for having us! 

To wrap up the tour, we grabbed a quick drink with Dave and a good friend from Tanglewood in 1999, Kelly Cornel who was kind enough to stop by for the recital. Kelly is enjoying her new position in the horn section of the Fort Worth Symphony and it was great to catch up!

As I write this, we are at 30,000 feet heading back east where Greg and I have double rehearsals in Albany for our weekend concerts and recording. It has been a great trip and certainly one we will remember fondly forever! Thanks to everyone who made this trip possible and was so hospitable!

Below are videos of a few of the pieces we performed which we captured at University of North Texas

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"Perfection" as a barrier to true music making

In addition to my career as a performer and teacher, I serve in other capacities which sometimes demand that I speak publicly and at times in high pressure situations. I normally spend an incredible amount of time and energy preparing for these occasions and am often fraught with anxiety leading up to the moment of truth. What I have observed, however, is that when it comes time to deliver, I am sometimes able to let go and feel very much like a conduit for something to speak through me. In these moments I feel like an observer listening to the words coming out in a surprisingly effective manner. 

I was recently called upon to speak on camera about something that means a lot to me - music. I was asked what makes the greatest musical performances,and I expressed that it is "the purest connection of minds free from any obstruction". As I spoke, I found myself oddly calm and easily able to voice this concept without ever having attempted to put these thoughts into words before. My body was absolutely relaxed and confident in the way we hope to be as performers on our instruments. Somehow, I was able to let go and trust my knowledge and preparation to get the job done well and found myself in "the zone"

The interviewer commented on the effectiveness and ease of my delivery, and I was able to observe and understand what happens to me in these moments with clarity. "If I tried to say it 'right', I could never do this." This was an insight I had never had before about my speaking, but it was the absolute truth. If I had written a script and thought through every word to deliver in precisely the right order, my priority would have been "getting it right" instead of communicating my message. With perfection as the focus, the connection between us would have become muddied at best and completely severed at worst. Letting go and trusting the knowledge you possess to speak through you can yield some remarkably effective communication.

This experience has led me to really reflect on what makes that "purest connection of minds free from any obstruction" in a speech and try to relate it to musical performance. I began to look at some of the most powerful speeches in history. There have been incredible Presidential acceptance speeches and inspiring words from political conventions in recent years. Thinking back in history, landmark speeches by JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. also come to mind. Each of these speeches has an element of improvisation and interaction with the crowd receiving the message. I took the opportunity to watch John F. Kennedy's 1963 speech in Berlin as a fine example of how to convey a powerful message.

Notice that he is not glued to a pre-written speech but only has a series of note cards to which he refers occasionally as his eyes connect with the people of West Berlin eagerly consuming each utterance. There is a conversation even though he is the only one speaking. There is also an element of improvisation as he interacts with the energy of the crowd. He owns the message he is delivering and is unfettered by the written page. It seems to me that the message is speaking through him.

Could he possibly have written down the exact words, seconds of pause between, which words to repeat etc and gotten the same response? I can't imagine it. Nobody trying to replicate that speech will ever do as well.

How does this relate to music?

The last great hope for music is the live performance. The experience of listening to a great orchestra, jazz combo or chamber music group perform is a singular one with no two performances ever the same. By the very nature of so many minds constantly reacting to a music director and each other, an orchestra must be removed from that single static idea of "perfection". Yes, we are all reading pages of notes, but any orchestra member will tell you that the majority of our attention is spent watching, listening and constantly adjusting how we play what we see on the page to fit within the ever evolving collective effort.

Reflecting on our recent Boston Philharmonic Beethoven 9 concerts in Symphony Hall, the magnitude of the shared experience is enormous. When considering all of the minds involved in this conversation, we see the connections grow exponentially. We begin with deaf Beethoven creating music in his imagination with so much more clarity than he could ever hear in the "real world". This incredible picture of such vastness is deciphered from the graphic representation of the score left by the composer and processed through the mind of the music director (in this case Benjamin Zander) and executed through further interpretation of 100 members of an orchestra, 4 soloists and a chorus. This message is then received by 2,800 audience members who feed the conversation with their own energy.

This conversation, when an audience is open to receive and the musicians are highly trained enough to execute the music but also comfortable enough to let go and let the music speak through them, is what creates magic. This produces the same collective elation that draws an audience to its feet and to roar with cheers and applause in a concert hall as the citizens of Berlin reacted to the honesty and purity of JFK's message. The musical experience, however, is so much more powerful and visceral as there is no language to decode.

How does this relate to auditions?

I teach the concepts delivered by sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella in his books "Golf is not a Game of a Perfect" and "Life is not a Game of Perfect". I have always benefited from his concepts as they applied to auditions and the physical act of playing the trumpet, but this interview helped me understand the dangers of "perfection" in the more fundamental and more important frame of communication.

Dr. Rotella's concepts of training your swing on the driving range and trusting it on the course resonate well with me as a trumpeter. Thinking of technique while trying to hit a golf ball or playing the trumpet yields less than optimal results. A quote from one of his books: "Before playing any shot, a golfer must lock his eyes and mind into the smallest possible target." has been a mantra for me over the years. My translation of this to music is to have the clearest aural picture of exactly what I wanted to sound like. With incredible effort to refine that ideal, I have had some very positive results in auditions ending up in the final rounds, but I just didn't close the deal in the last final round.

Could it be that this ideal picture itself is akin to a perfectly constructed paragraph with meticulous grammar and punctuation? Could too strictly adhering to that aural picture of perfection be the last impediment to truly connecting with an audition panel as it would be in speech? How can we make that ideal less rigid and more fluid? What would responsive communication with an anonymous and invisible panel feel like? How do we  turn that fully formed paragraph into note cards and "own the message" enough to deliver it in a more responsive and conversational way? How do we best let go and allow the music to flow through us? 

Among the many books about sports psychology and the psychology of musical performance on my shelf, "Effortless Mastery" by Kenny Werner is one of the most powerful. It is a wonderful study on getting out of one's own way and tapping into the music that is flowing through all of us. I recommend this to every performer as an invaluable tool for achieving true and direct communication through music. 

My goal for all of us is to use our printed page, chord changes, and whatever else we use to serve only as note cards that allow us to channel what we already know and feel deep inside us. After the proper investment in practice and preparation, allow that truth to flow without regard for perfection. Float above and enjoy the show. You may be surprised at what you hear!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Upcoming tour of Texas and Oklahoma!

I am looking forward to playing recitals and giving masterclasses with my wonderful colleagues Greg Spiridopoulos and Ludmila Krasin throughout the great state of Texas starting with a visit to Oklahoma. 

Here is an advance preview I quickly patched together of some clips from our three New England recitals. 

Looking forward to seeing everyone in OK and TX. Please join us:

October 10 at OKCU

October 14 at TTU

October 15 at Baylor

October 16 at UNT and TCU

We are still looking to fill in the gaps October 12 and 13 if you are interested. Thanks to Yamaha for their assistance in making this happen!

Drop a line to if you are interested in having us play a recital and give a class.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Teaching Kids - Joys, Challenges, Reality and Rewards or "What to do if your students don't practice"

I want to first acknowledge a very important person in my life, my Junior High Band Director. Jim Metzger came into my life in 8th grade and became the most important influence to becoming a professional musician. His office was my refuge from that moment through high school. He is so important that he was at my side as a groomsman at my first wedding. Most professional musicians had someone like Jim invest in them well beyond the band period. We all owe them a debt of eternal gratitude! These are the educators that not only teach the skill, but teach how to teach.

With Jim at the conclusion of his final concert at Manheim Central Junior High School. I was there for his first and felt I had to be there for his last.

Oddly enough, I never envisioned myself as a teacher. While in high school making choices about where to go to college and what path, he asked me if I was going to go into Music Ed or Performance. My response still makes me smile "I don't want to teach, I see how hard you work."

I began teaching not because it was a path I chose, but rather out of necessity. Freshly out of college with a performance degree and rent to pay, I was given an opportunity to take on some private teaching through a school system in suburban Boston. Within a couple of weeks, I called Jim to eat crow. Very shortly, I discovered how much I loved teaching and began to realize the reciprocal benefits that come from investing in my students as my teachers had done with me.

For the first ten years of my career, I made my living primarily from teaching privately. At its biggest, my studio was 60 students every week, ranging from 4th grade beginners through high school with a few occasional college students. I adored every moment with these kids. 

I will admit that many of my students had a great deal of success on the instrument, but the real beneficiary was me. It is so refreshing to connect with the energy of those who are still in touch with the "play" of "playing" the instrument. A young mind who hasn't saddled music with the weight of lifetime employment is usually a sponge thirsty and open for what a teacher has to offer. There is little more satisfying than being a part of this joy of discovery.

In teaching music, we are teaching a language and physical experience which really defies vocabulary. When dealing with a 4th grade beginner, our most fundamental terms of "tonguing" and "embouchure" are absolutely meaningless. Our vocabulary for sound, such as bright and dark, sharp and flat, etc are even more mysterious. Learning to get results and understanding through actual experience and connecting to things that they already knew such as speech was vitally important. In addition, I found that imitating the sounds that I heard them produce gave me incredible insight into the mechanisms. In these early days, my students taught me how to teach. Many of these same techniques I discovered in my days of teaching beginners continue to occupy my toolbox for students of all levels.

After enjoying the intoxicating energy of my only two current young students and a friend's status on Facebook, I was inspired to write this post. The question was posed on FB:

"What am I supposed to do when my students don't practice?" 

Responses varied, but the response "tell them not to waste your time or their parents money" was common. My response may surprise you especially if you have been reading my "Practice Space" series. 

It doesn't matter if they practice or not.

During my years teaching 60 young students a week, this was absolutely the norm for a majority of my students. Realizing the overload imposed on kids, standardized testing and pressures about futures they haven't begun to comprehend, they can barely be blamed. In an ideal world, all of our students would be completely self motivated and improve dramatically as a result. This is rarely the case.

Remember that your success as a teacher is not measured just by making great trumpet players, as most of your students will not do what we do, but rather teaching a connection to music. If you can keep them interested, engaged and enjoying the process of making music in the 30 minutes that you see them every week, you are doing them and all of us a great service. What you will find is that if you keep them coming back, eventually a few figure out on their own timetable that they love it and they will go after it. That instant when your pushing suddenly feels like them pulling you is incredibly satisfying. Even if it doesn't ever come, you have cultivated an appreciative audience member for the future. 

My approach then, as now, is without judgement to take them from the present moment forward. If they have not touched their instrument between lessons, working on a warmup or breathing can get them set up better for their band period the next day. It is often a blessing if the bad habits of poor practicing are not further ingrained! Good habits worked on once a week can eventually accumulate into something that sticks. 

Even more than the eventual progress of our students, there is a much weightier reason to take this positive approach. We are able to frame music either as something they can relate to and appreciate or something that they remember as an early failure and will feel an aversion to the rest of their lives. Nowhere else do we as musicians have such direct access to make a case for our own relevance than in a private lesson.

I count among my former students the following:

Congressional Aides
Corporate Executives
Film makers
Intelligence Analysts
...and so many more

Some of these were very gifted students driven to relentless practice, but honestly most were not.

And of course I have a handful of those that followed in my footsteps to become:

professional musicians
music educators in K-12
private teachers
college professors 

It is the first list which we need to remember will support the efforts of the second. How likely is a lawyer to support his/her local symphony if the dominant memory of music lessons was impatience and scolding? How likely will he/she be to enroll a child in your school band program or support your efforts to purchase new uniforms?

From the amazing musician educators in my past, I learned the sacred duty we have to the future. Educating in any of the arts is so much more than just dispensing a skill, but rather crafting a whole approach to life in which playing an instrument is the least important component. Jim helped me realize my calling to be a musician, but to countless more he nurtured a lifelong love of music. To me, his influence on me is completely overshadowed by his impact on everyone else. 

So, provide the best possible information to your students and use it as a wonderful opportunity to learn how to teach. Use time with kids to reconnect with the joy of "playing" your instrument. Their energy can be such a welcome antidote to the struggles we face in the current climate. In addition the creativity demanded of an educator to reach numerous unique young student minds is one of the most rewarding parts of the job. But remember, if you are not able to reach each student directly, if they don't catch your passion to pour themselves wholeheartedly into a life in music, your own infectious enthusiasm for our art can illuminate the path to a life of appreciation and support instead. Either way, job well done. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Calls and Echoes finally released!

New Release!

At long last, our new disc of American Trumpet Sonatas has been released! Recorded in 2010 with my wonderful collaborator Nadine Shank on piano, this disc features works by James Stephenson, Kent Kennan (original 1956 version), Stanley Friedman and Robert Suderburg. It should be available on iTunes soon but get your hard copy straight from MSR Classics

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Practice Space - The Practice Routine

All of the blog posts I have written so far lead you to this. If you REALLY want to improve, there is no better tool than this simple practice routine. Saying it is simple is misleading as the discipline required to break old habits of mindless repetition is very difficult.

What I have written below expands on the basic practice routine that I got from Vince Penzerella. I give my endless thanks to Vince for giving me this tool for efficient and effective practice.

What do you want to accomplish?

Before we even begin to practice, it is important for us to have goals. Do not be afraid of dreaming big! In the words of 19th century American psychologist William James "people by and large become what they think of themselves." This quote came to me from golf psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella who also said "people with big dreams achieve great things."

You should have a series of goals beginning with grand long term goals and becoming ever more detailed as we approach shorter term and daily goals. Especially as we approach the most short term goals, they must be realistic and allow for small successes along the way to reaching those more lofty long term goals.

For example, I may have at one point had the following list of goals.

Long Term Goals
    • Have a long career in a major symphony orchestra
    • Win and retain a major symphony orchestra position. 
Medium Term Goals
    • Conquer my fear of Brandenburg 2
    • Gain better control of my softest dynamics
    • Play more effortlessly
    • Arrive at audition comfortable that I have prepared well
Short Term Goals
    • Become more comfortable with my Eb trumpet (upcoming Haydn performance)
    • Get a good audition tape ready for summer festivals
Daily Goals
    • Clarify my articulation on Fetes and Pines Mvt 1
    • Better intonation and sound on Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition  
    • Practice well: Thoughtfully and Efficiently

In order to achieve any goals, Vince's approach is as follows. I may discuss orchestral excerpts, but it works for anything.

1) Mental Practice - Create: Creating your ideal trumpeter: (The real creative process)

This is the most powerful part of the process and what most people skip. Take a moment and close your eyes. Imagine yourself in your favorite performance space. Feel yourself on the stage and really immerse yourself in that environment. Look out into the space and see it in as much detail as you can. (In my mind, I visualize Boston's Symphony Hall.) Understand the size of the space, see the colors etc.  (One wonderful upside to this is that because I imagined while practicing that I was in Symphony Hall, it was also easier to imagine I was in my practice room while auditioning at Symphony Hall!)

Hear yourself begin to play whatever you are working on with your ideal trumpet sound. (For example, let's say the Promenade of Pictures at an Exhibition.) Really put yourself in the space and hear your ideal sound in as much detail as you can. I often imagine it with a shape and color so that I can see it interact with the space. This sound is THE most important thing you have to give the world as an artist. Whatever that sound is, the goal of everything we do is to get it out of your head and into someone else's.

Continue to hear more and more detail as you listen to your ideal sound. Draw your attention to the connections between notes, the direction of the phrases, etc. Really perform! Interact with the audience if you have one and tell a story. Take chances and allow yourself to imagine all that it could be.

This is a wonderful confidence building part of the process as I have rarely had anyone report that they heard missed notes in their heads! This part of practice can be done anywhere and for me often yields better results than time on the face. Treasure this!

Once you have defined what you want to sound like, pat yourself on the back and know that you are already ahead of 90% of your peers.

2) Press Record - Perform: Bringing your creation to life.

Hit the record button on your recording device and just play along with that wonderful sound you created in your head. Start with short passages. Promenade is a great one. Turn up the volume on your mental recording as high as it will go. Your awareness of the actual sound you create out the bell should be merely peripheral. Your goal should be to completely lose yourself in the sound you have created in your mind embracing it entirely as a real performance.

In this part of the process it is important to remember these important points:
    • The mind cannot create and criticize at the same time.
    • You cannot hear your own sound as others do from behind the bell.
    • Internal vibration and compression narrows what you do hear.
    • Once you hear a miss, it is too late to do anything about it, so why bother. 

Therefore, just turn the sound up on your great recording in your head and play along!

3) Press Play - Listen: Changing hats from performer to critic.

Changing into listening mode will free that critic which you have drowned out with the excessively loud amplifier you turned up to 11 in the last segment. It is important to separate this from performance and analysis.

Press play on your recording. While listening to what you have done, ask yourself Vince's question:

"Is what I am hearing on the tape the same as what I heard in my imagination?" 

Listen critically for all the details you created above. You can answer yes, no or I'm not sure.

If your answer is YES: 
    • Pat your self on the back and enjoy your accomplishment! 
    • Keep trying for more YES answers!
    • Start again with more details or new material.

If your answer is NO:
    • Pat yourself on the back and be glad that you know what you are looking for!
    • Make a list of what you wish to improve and go to the wood shed. (See below)
    • Stay connected to your ideal goal.

If you answer is I'M NOT SURE:
    • Pat yourself on the back for admitting it!
    • Spend more time in your imagination defining what you want.

You may find that you have a combination of answers on any given passage. That is fine! Be sure to congratulate yourself for where you stack up well against your ideal. This is part of building confidence for the future.

4) Back to the wood shed: Refining the vehicle of expression.

This is practice in the traditional sense and normally what we feel most comfortable doing. However, your practice is now informed by a much more detailed idea of what you hope to achieve and where you need improvement. Here is where your short and mid term goals are formed.

Goals: From what you want to improve, set a few goals for that day’s practice.
    • A few which you can definitely achieve
    • A few which will be attainable only with real diligent and focused attention.
Setting clear and realistic goals is of vital importance. A goal for me to "play with the ease of Allen Vizzutti" in the course of one session will only set me up to fail and erode my confidence. Aiming for it in a short passage is something which can be built upon. 

While working out your issues, keep the following important points in mind
    • Rest as much as you play. This was first preached to me by Frank Kaderabek in high school. We build muscle when it is at rest. Make sure not to constantly tear down muscle to the point of failure! If you follow this routine and listen to what you have recorded, you already have that taken care of above. 
    • Revisit your warm-up. Stay focused on a good approach. Refer to this earlier blog post about The Warmup 
    • Stay connected to the music. Never lose sight of the fact that you are an artist. The goal is not to "not miss notes" but to express something uniquely yours through your instrument. Spend some more time in your imaginary concert hall if you find yourself losing focus. 
    • Find musical solutions to technical problems. Charlie Schlueter is absolutely brilliant with this. Instead of trying to find a physical way to get a clearer slur, he could help you change the inflection of the line to get the desired result. Better musical decisions usually cause fewer technical challenges!
    • Separate the components: This is also majorly influenced by Vince. His words were "You learn more away from your instrument than with it". Connect to the ideal sound in your head and:
      • Deal with pitch alone with singing and buzzing
      • Deal with articulation with simple wind patterns
      • Slam your fingers to be more definite
      • Realize that everything that has to move needs to move at the same time. If you approach all of the above with great rhythm, coordinating them is simple. 
    • Take breaks: A fresh mind and body work best

Repeat: Start the process over

Start the process again and remember to keep the music and your ideal in the front of your mind. This can be repeated endlessly allowing you to remain fresh for very long stretches of practicing. Be vigilant as your mind is what tires first. Don’t fall into the trap of judgement while performing.

Best wishes for incredibly efficient practice!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Launch of the American Trumpeter Youtube Channel

Hey all,

Just a brief word about the launch of my new Youtube channel.

There are several concert videos with the UMass Wind Ensemble which are currently being edited into a new Music for Trumpet and Wind Ensemble CD on Albany Records. Keep an eye out for more in the future.

Thanks for checking us out!