Choosing a Doubling Instrument (or Instruments), Part Three

Part One can be found here, and Part Two here.

Do you have time?

Doubling is almost always a boon to the low brass player’s musical experience, both for personal enjoyment as well as for professional prospects. However, these benefits will be realized only if you learn to play your secondary instrument well. Having been involved in situations in which a player (happily, not me!) has accepted an engagement for a doubling instrument which he had not yet fully mastered, I cannot imagine a more uncomfortable performing scenario both for the player at fault and for the other musicians on the gig. Perhaps more importantly, the player’s reputation was sullied, perhaps irreparably. While everyone has a bad day from time to time, musicians and contractors can tell the difference between an uncharacteristically poor performance that occurs in spite of diligent preparation and one which occurs because the player has not spent the necessary time in the proverbial woodshed with a particular instrument. Very few engagements of the latter type will be needed for your phone to stop ringing entirely.

In spite of the obvious benefits of doubling, you must consider whether or not you have sufficient time available for such an undertaking. Effective and efficient practice strategies can minimize the time needed to maintain skills on a doubling instrument that you already have well in-hand, but some practice time is required, especially during the initial stages of secondary instrument study. Not only must a substantial amount of time be invested in learning the new instrument, but this should not come at the expense of time spent practicing your primary instrument, at least not in the long term. An accurate understanding of the similarities and differences between instruments will decrease the amount of time and effort needed to master a new instrument, but this merely explains why doubling does not require that you actually double your practice time. Proficient and effective performance on a secondary instrument requires devoting a substantial amount of time to “shedding” on that instrument. Those who are unable or unwilling to invest that time should reconsider any plans to begin secondary instrument study.

Why is it important that so much time be dedicated to secondary instrument practice? Because audiences, contractors, conductors, and fellow musicians do not want to know that a given instrument is your secondary instrument, and if they do know they do not want to be able to tell by listening to your playing. Admittedly, you will very likely not feel as comfortable at first on your secondary instrument as on your primary instrument, though with time and practice you will reach the point where you are at ease playing whatever instrument is in your hands. In any case, your subjective perception of your own playing is often inaccurate, sometimes favorably so, and sometimes unfavorably. (This is why recorded practice sessions and applied lessons are important for your development.) If contractors and fellow musicians are pleased with your work, then be encouraged—and keep doing what you are doing. In time your comfort level will match others’ reception of your playing. If they are not pleased with your work, then regardless of your perception of your playing on a given instrument you need to practice more, and seek guidance in working out nagging problems.

Effective doubling means sounding great on whatever instrument is in your hands. This requires diligent and informed practice. If you are unable or unwilling to invest the time and effort needed play well on a secondary instrument—so well that listeners cannot readily tell the difference between your primary and secondary instruments—then doubling, in spite of its great benefits, is not for you.

Allow me to illustrate this with a personal anecdote. A number of years ago I received a last-minute call to substitute for the bass trombonist in a very good symphony orchestra, my first time performing with this ensemble. I was to report the next morning for a single rehearsal, followed by a performance that evening. As it turned out, the rehearsal was not even of sufficient length to cover the entire program, a summer pops concert which included Fountains of Rome as well as the 1812 Overture. Given the short notice and the challenging part for Fountains in particular, I was quite nervous though excited about the opportunity. Happily, the personnel manager (who was also the tuba player and thus sat next to me during the performance) was pleased with my playing, and this led to several subsequent engagements with that group before I accepted a teaching position in another state. One of these engagements was an early morning educational concert. Because I was primarily a tenor trombonist and at that time not yet comfortable with playing the bass before doing some fundamentals practice on the tenor, I brought both instruments along and arrived very early at the hall to warm-up. The tubist/personnel manager saw me playing the tenor trombone and said “I didn’t know you played tenor trombone, as well!” Based upon my bass trombone playing, this gentleman had assumed that the bass trombone was my primary instrument, when in fact it was only one of several secondary instruments I was playing by that time.

That is the goal: to play all of your instruments so well that the listener cannot tell the difference between your primary and secondary instruments. This requires a great deal of time and effort, but any lesser result should be unacceptable.

Are you willing?

Before finally “jumping in” and beginning the difficult but rewarding work of doubling, ask yourself if you are truly willing to take on this task. The initial costs are significant, the early practicing is sometimes frustrating, and the rewards, while significant, are often slow in coming and are by no means guaranteed. Recouping your monetary investment could take months or even years depending on the instrument chosen, though musical fulfillment usually comes sooner. Indeed, the variety of playing opportunities afforded to doublers makes playing several instruments especially satisfying; in some respects the greater remunerative potential is “gravy.” And yet these rewards, both tangible and intangible, come only when the listener cannot hear the difference between your primary and secondary instruments. The bar must be set high; great musicianship demands no less.

Posted in Doubling, Low Brass Resources, Music, Performing, Playing Fundamentals, Practicing, Teaching Low Brass

Choosing a Doubling Instrument (or Instruments), Part Two

Part One can be found here.

Setting goals

While musicians who pursue doubling often consider the benefits of doing so largely in economic terms, those are not the only kinds of considerations that might lead you to take on a secondary instrument. The low brass player that is considering doubling needs to set individual goals for secondary instrument study and performance. The intensity of study and practice that are needed, and in many cases the choice of secondary instrument to pursue, will be determined by these goals.

Ask yourself what you hope to accomplish by doubling. An avocational player seeking only to be able to fulfill different roles in community bands, perform in volunteer church ensembles, and play for personal enjoyment will be able to choose the instrument that “suits his fancy” and proceed with his playing development on the new instrument as whatever pace he likes. However, a player who aspires to perform on his secondary instrument professionally should work with great focus and intensity, seeking to quickly achieve professional-level playing on the secondary instrument. The music educator studying a secondary instrument in order to benefit his teaching might fall between these two extremes. Every player that pursues a secondary instrument does so with different objectives in mind. These will determine the choice of instrument, the intensity with which that instrument is studied, and the end result of this study.

You must also ask yourself “Are my goals reasonable, given the opportunities available to me?” A person that plays for personal enjoyment can choose whatever secondary instrument he desires, provided that he is content to play alone if no opportunities for ensemble playing are available. If you want to double in order to increase performance opportunities, consider the available positions in your area. An avocational euphonium player considering taking up the trombone in order to play in the community orchestra, for example, might find his hopes dashed if the trombone chairs are all occupied. But if the tuba chair is available and no experienced tubists are available, doubling on tuba might be a more reasonable pursuit. Similarly, a trombone-playing music educator looking only to improve his secondary school teaching by doubling should probably not choose the alto trombone as a secondary instrument, since that instrument is rare in such contexts. Euphonium or tuba would be better choices. The working musician looking to play more gigs should consider the unique mix of players and opportunities in his area and choose a double for which there seems to be more gigs than players. The aspiring performer that is still a student can choose any doubling instrument that he thinks will improve his long-term career prospects, provided that he is willing to move to “wherever the work is” upon graduation.

The decision to double is a given, at least in many situations, but the choice of instrument depends upon your individual goals and the opportunities available to you. Unless you are playing purely for your own enjoyment and do not mind playing alone, you must consider the prospects for performing on a given instrument, both short-term and long-term, when choosing a double. Your second-choice instrument, if it is greater demand, will almost certainly be a better option than your preferred instrument.

Similarities and differences

Another area to consider when choosing a doubling instrument is the similarities and differences in a given primary-secondary instrument combination. All low brass instruments have some playing techniques that are similar to one or more of the others and some that differ from one or more the others. The more similar a doubling instrument is to your primary instrument, the smaller the amount of time that will be required to gain—and maintain—the proficiency needed to perform on that instrument.

To illustrate this point, imagine that a tenor trombonist is deciding whether to take up bass trombone or tuba as a secondary instrument, and that in this imagined scenario the performing opportunities and potential remuneration are similar for each instrument. Assume further that the player is equally interested in both instruments, and that the cost of acquiring either instrument is similar. In this scenario, the time it will take to reach an adequate performing level on each instrument is an important consideration. If this tenor trombonist has a strong low register already, adding a bass trombone double would not take very long at all. Most of the slide positions are the same, and the desired timbre and air column shape are similar to those on his primary instrument, only bigger. The greatest obstacles to this player mastering the bass trombone will be learning slide positions and tuning using the second valve and becoming accustomed to the increased airflow and embouchure requirements of the bass trombone. Conversely, for that same player to learn to double effectively on tuba would take a greater amount of time. In that case not only are the air requirements increased, but the method of blowing is different as well, being somewhat more relaxed and more expansive on the tuba than on the bass trombone. Additionally, the player would need to learn fingerings, develop the necessary right hand dexterity, and significantly rework articulation in order to accommodate the tuba’s greater slurring capacities as well as certain subtle differences in tonguing technique for staccato and marcato passages. The bass trombone is thus similar to the tenor in many ways while presenting few differences, while the tuba presents a longer list of difficulties. Not only will more time be required for the player’s initial study of the tuba compared to that for the bass trombone, but the amount of practice time needed to maintain that proficiency will be greater, as well.

The above example is a bit artificial (tubas almost always cost more than bass trombones, after all), but it illustrates the point being considered here. The doubling instruments that are most closely related to one’s primary instrument are usually the quickest and easiest to master as secondary instruments. The player that is concerned mainly with moving his doubling from the practice room to the gig as quickly as possible might be encouraged to consider these instruments most strongly. However, there are additional factors that might alter this conclusion.

Returning to the above example, suppose that the player is working as a school band director, or aspires to do so, with freelance performing constituting a substantial but still secondary part of his income. While learning the bass trombone would provide him with additional freelance income in less time than the tuba, taking up the tuba might be of more benefit to his primary employment as an educator. Or, perhaps he has an opportunity to acquire a quality tuba at little or no cost, and would need to spend more to acquire a bass trombone of comparable quality. In such circumstances the player in our example might choose the tuba over the bass trombone, in spite of the greater learning and maintenance times, in order to save money or realize benefits to his career beyond his short-term gig prospects.

Although secondary instruments that are closely related to one’s primary instrument offer the easiest route for the player seeking to begin doubling, there are certain challenges which must be acknowledged and addressed. Returning to the previous example of a tenor trombonist seeking to take up bass trombone (or vice versa), while the large number of shared fingerings between these two instruments make this particular doubling combination an easy one in some respects, those shared fingerings can also become problematic. After all, no two B-flat trombone slides are exactly alike. While A-flat can be played in third position on every B-flat trombone, the precise location of that third position will always differ slightly from one instrument to the next, and likewise with all of the slide positions. The player that fails to acknowledge this and adjust to the peculiar tendencies of each instrument will play with poor intonation on at least one of the two instruments, if not both. Indeed, similar problems can present themselves even for those players who regularly play two of the same type of instrument, such as small- and large-bore tenor trombones, or smaller and larger tubas with the same fundamental pitch.

A related but equally problematic issue occurs with players that play two instruments with similar core tonal ranges but different tone qualities, such as tenor trombone and euphonium, or even euphonium and baritone horn. In such cases, the many shared characteristics of the two instruments can lead the player to prematurely decide that he is ready to double on a certain instrument professionally, when in fact he has only “scratched the surface” of what is needed to succeed on the secondary instrument. As a trombonist who has spent many years perfecting my skills as a euphonium doubler, I am always offended when a trombonist declares himself to be a competent euphonium player, and then proceeds to play the euphonium with a timbre and articulation which sound more like a poorly-played trombone than a euphonium. Having grasped the correlation between trombone slide positions and euphonium fingerings, such players are soon able to accurately produce the correct notes and rhythms on the new instrument, but instead of accepting this area of similarity between the two instruments and focusing on mastering differences, they ignore the differences entirely and settle for a euphonium sound that is both uncharacteristic and unpleasing. Perhaps the most common forum for displaying this particular fault is when an unprepared trombonist occasionally doubles on euphonium in an orchestral setting; it can make for a very unhappy “Bydlo” solo, indeed.

All of the low brasses have shared characteristics which make doubling among our families of instruments relatively easy, but some low brass instruments are more closely related than others. In most cases, the more traits a given secondary instrument shares with your primary instrument, the quicker and easier that secondary instrument will be both to learn and to maintain. Nevertheless, close relationships can lead to laziness in acknowledging and mastering areas of difference which do exist, a tendency which must be avoided if you wish to become a successful doubler. Besides, depending on your particular situation the easiest choice might not be the best one; the ease with which you can gain mastery should be only one of several items you should consider when choosing a secondary instrument.

To be concluded on Monday, October 20.

Posted in Doubling, Low Brass Resources, Music, Playing Fundamentals, Practicing, Teaching Low Brass

Choosing a Doubling Instrument (or Instruments), Part One

As I mentioned in a post back in May, I spent most of the summer working on a book for Mountain Peak Music tentatively entitled The Low Brass Player’s Guide to Doubling. I am happy to report that so far we are on track for a release early next year.

Any large-scale writing project involves multiple rounds of writing and revising, as well as discarding unnecessary or superfluous material. When I finished my doctoral dissertation back in 2005 about 30 pages worth of material ended up on the “virtual cutting room floor,” and the present book is shaping up in very much the same way. This is beneficial for everyone involved. Readers get a clearer presentation of pertinent information, publishers spend less on printing because of the book’s smaller size (thus lowering costs passed on to the reader, as well), and authors look like better writers than they are! To put it more briefly, nearly every good book, article, or book chapter begins its life as a somewhat longer piece, and sometimes a much longer one.

Not everything that was cut from the book is necessarily bad, though. Some of it was simply deemed to be unnecessary for the project at hand. This was the case with my original second chapter, which was entitled “Choosing a Doubling Instrument (or Instruments).” While thinking and working through these thoughts was important for me as I approached the subject, the publisher thought that readers will have already chosen their instrument(s) and will be consulting our book primarily for guidance on how to approach that instrument. I agreed with is reasoning, and that entire chapter was cut from the book.

Still, I think these thoughts are useful, and since I have a forum here for sharing them, in the next three posts I will present some ideas that low brass players should consider when choosing secondary instruments to add to their performance activities.

Are you ready?

The first question you must ask when considering doubling is “Am I really ready to do this?” Sometimes a player’s ambition can exceed his ability, and the results are unsatisfactory at best. Successful doubling involves extending your fundamental approach from your primary instrument to your secondary instrument, with as many skills as possible being transferred from one to the other. If your fundamental playing on your primary instrument is deficient, that deficiency will manifest itself on the secondary instrument as well, in addition to the usual difficulties which accompany inexperience on a new instrument. You might quickly find yourself being a mediocre player on one instrument and poor player on the other, and the practicing necessary to improve on both instruments simultaneously will be a hard slog, indeed. If your playing on your primary instrument still needs work, you will do best by improving on your primary instrument before trying to add a double.

If, however, your fundamental playing skills are relatively secure and consistent on your primary instrument, you are probably ready to take on a double. Because the basic elements of moving air, buzzing, articulation, etc. change very little between low brass instruments you will be able to focus your doubling practice upon areas where the secondary instrument differs from the primary. You should be able to continue your development on your primary instrument unabated, while improvement on the secondary instrument will be quick and efficient.

Can you afford it?

Taking on a secondary instrument is rarely free. While students can sometimes begin their doubling studies without a significant monetary investment, eventually certain purchases will have to be made. The financial burden of doubling can be divided into two parts: purchasing equipment and supplies, and obtaining instruction.

When adding a secondary instrument you must purchase an instrument and associated supplies (mouthpiece, lubricants, perhaps ergonomic supports, etc.), plus sheet music for study and performance. If you are enrolled as a college or university student you might be able to delay some of these expenses by utilizing school-owned equipment and library resources, but at some point you will need to acquire your own instrument and materials.

At this point the question arises, “How much should I spend on a doubling instrument?” Perhaps the best answer is “As much as you reasonably can.” A new, top-line instrument is a major investment, and although many players can spend that kind of money on their primary instruments, few are able to invest a similar amount in a secondary instrument. Happily, with a bit of searching quality instruments can be found at reasonable prices, particularly on the used market. A modest investment should be sufficient to acquire an acceptable instrument to begin your doubling work; upgrading to a higher quality instrument can wait until your financial position is more secure. Besides, purchasing an instrument with all of the “bells and whistles” might best be saved until you are more experienced on the secondary instrument and have a better understanding of the characteristics that will best suit your playing. Still, if you have the money to purchase a top-quality instrument from the get-go, then by all means do so.

Although thriftiness is usually an admirable quality, resist the temptation to purchase a doubling instrument on the cheap. Today instruments are advertised for sale online at practically every price point, but many of the “great deals” are for instruments of inferior quality, which are likely to hamper your development as a doubler rather than hasten it. It is usually better to purchase a secondhand instrument from a reputable manufacturer than a comparably priced new one from an unknown maker. If in doubt, seek the advice of a fine player or teacher, or, with caution, of a trustworthy instrument dealer.

Besides the cost of an instrument and accessories consider also fees for instruction when beginning secondary instrument study. This is not a major concern for college and university students, as fees for applied instruction are included with tuition or are heavily subsidized. Those that begin doubling while not enrolled as students will likely need to engage teachers at their own expense, at least in the beginning stages of learning a doubling instrument.

As with the temptation to purchase an inferior instrument in order to save money, there might be a corresponding desire to reduce costs by studying and practicing without the guidance of a teacher. Depending on your background and experience, and the similarities between your primary and secondary instruments, you might be able to take up a secondary instrument without private instruction. Certainly there are players that have done just that, and very successfully. However, a good teacher will provide an extra set of ears to evaluate your progress on the secondary instrument, identifying and addressing errors that you miss in individual practice while also suggesting literature and techniques for improvement. Even a few lessons can hasten your development as a doubler while helping you to avoid unforeseen pitfalls.

A low brass player taking up a secondary instrument can incur significant expenses in the short term. Before hastily answering the question “Can I afford it?” in the negative, however, you should ask the opposite question: “Can I afford not to?” You may find that the long-term earning potential from doubling greatly outweighs the short-term costs.

Can you afford not to?

There was a time when doubling was not an absolute necessity for low brass players. The established curricula and methods for training brass players certainly reflect this assumption, given that most perpetuate the model of specializing on a single instrument. While low brass doubling has long been an accepted norm in some circles—the West Coast studio scene comes immediately to mind—in other contexts it has not been as strongly encouraged. When employment opportunities in symphony orchestras, big bands, military bands, and other groups were more numerous (not that they were ever too plentiful), this “specialist model” was not entirely irresponsible.

Times have changed, however, and our methods and emphases in training brass players have not always kept up. Music schools continually turn out more fine players than there are jobs available for them, and while the quality of low brass playing has increased in recent years (at least among the top players), many of these great musicians find themselves underemployed, and some eventually leave the profession. Given the tough job market, possessing a broader array of skills will help you to distinguish yourself among the crowded field of aspiring musicians, making you better able to make a living in the profession. Performing on multiple instruments is one way to make yourself more marketable.

The startup costs for secondary instrument study are great, but when long-term employment prospects are taken into consideration, doubling is a worthy and even necessary investment of time, energy, and money. Whether you want to work primarily as an educator or as a performer, playing multiple instruments will make you a more versatile and ultimately more employable musician. Unless you find yourself in the enviable position of having a salaried and tenured position playing a single instrument, you very likely cannot afford not to double!

To be continued next week. (D.V.)

Posted in Doubling, Low Brass Resources, Teaching Low Brass

Why I am a Gideon

In the fall of 2005, shortly after I began teaching at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, I applied for and was granted membership in The Gideons International. I had been familiar with this ministry for practically my entire life. My dad is a member and my grandfather was, as well, so joining the Gideons seemed to be a very natural pursuit for me as a young man seeking to be useful in the Kingdom of God. Nine years later, I remain one of the youngest Gideon members I know; it would be wonderful to see more younger men take part as they are able in this great work.

The Gideons International Emblem

The Gideons International Emblem

Founded in 1899, The Gideons International is an association of Christian business and professional men, whose singular purpose is to lead people to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our primary means of carrying out this work is the distribution of free copies of God’s Word. You are likely familiar with this group even if you don’t know it—we are the folks that place Bibles in hotels, hospitals, and doctors’ offices, in addition to giving New Testaments to students, soldiers, emergency personnel, and prisoners. The Gideon association’s distinctive emblem appears on most of the scriptures we distribute, now in 198 countries (for our purposes sometimes various non-sovereign territories are referred to as “countries”) and 99 languages. Although my family’s level of activity in the Gideons (and, for my wife, the Gideons Auxiliary) has lessened significantly since we became parents, and more so since moving to Oxford due to greater work requirements for me, we are proud to be part of this association and to contribute as we are able by giving money, giving away Scriptures, and, for me, speaking in churches on behalf of the ministry.

John A. Broadus (1827-1895)

John A. Broadus (1827-1895)

I will confess, though, that for a time I questioned whether this ministry was right for me. When we first joined the Gideons I was a convinced Southern Baptist, but had recently embraced what early Southern Baptist theologian John A. Broadus (1827-1895) called “that exalted system of Pauline truth which is technically called Calvinism.” While true Calvinism is no enemy of evangelism, it does call into question some of the evangelistic methods used by fellow Christians who do not share this theological viewpoint. Because the Gideon association brings together evangelicals and Protestants on all sides of the question of Calvinism, as I continued to study the Scriptures (and as I gradually moved from the SBC into a Reformed Baptist church and then to Presbyterianism) I began to develop a few scruples with certain practices of the Gideons regarding evangelism and outreach. In time, though, I concluded that those minor misgivings were no reason to cease my involvement in the ministry. Any group bringing together Christians from multiple theological traditions will see disagreement on secondary and tertiary doctrinal matters. Our shared commitment to “the Bible as the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God” (from the Gideon Guide Book), and the further commitment to the gospel contained therein as “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16), far outweighs any disagreement on minor points. (I will admit, though, that given the opportunity I would “tweak” the gospel presentation in the back of our little New Testaments!)

Having worked through that little crisis (which I mostly kept to myself), I remain a Gideon nine years later, and for the same reasons as when I first joined. Here are a few of those.

The work is necessary. As a Calvinist, I believe fully in the doctrines of election and predestination as presented in Scripture. However, I also affirm—as does Scripture—that the God who has ordained the salvation of His people has also ordained the means to that end, namely the proclamation of the Gospel. Christ told us to go into all the world and make disciples, and while the Bible clearly prioritizes preaching as a means of evangelism, the reading of the Word has also proven effective. Indeed, often these little New Testaments find their way into dark and difficult places where preachers are nowhere to be found. Several years ago I served as a driver for an elderly Gideon visiting from France who remarked to me, “These little New Testaments grow legs, and end up wherever God intends them to.” We are called to bring the Gospel to everyone, and publishing God’s Word in as many languages as possible and putting them in the hands in as many people as possible is one means of doing that.

Ravi Zacharias (b. 1946)

Ravi Zacharias (b. 1946)

The work is effective. Gideon publications as well as our presentations in churches feature numerous stories of people converted through the reading of Gideon-placed scriptures. Some of the stories are comparably mundane, while others are more dramatic and some downright miraculous, and yet every sinner delivered from darkness to light, from death to life, from Satan to Christ, is a miracle. I was particularly surprised and honored to learn recently that the renowned apologist Ravi Zacharias (b. 1946) was converted to Christ as a teenager after reading a Gideon-placed Bible in the hospital following a suicide attempt. That’s a more high-profile story than most, but we have received thousands of similar reports. This is an effective work!

The ministry’s conduct is above reproach. Christians are sinners just like everyone else. We may be redeemed sinners striving to turn away from sin, but we remain imperfect in this life. Sadly, the results of that sin sometimes infect the conduct of Christian ministries, and the media rarely wastes opportunities to point out more prominent examples of this. The Gideons International, by God’s grace, has conducted itself with complete integrity for the past 115 years, and I know of no other Christian organization that spends 100% of donations received for evangelistic purposes (in our case, purchasing, printing, and shipping Scriptures). The Gideon members themselves cover all of the overhead.

There are no expressly Reformed groups doing this. As a newly-minted Calvinist, I sometimes wished for a more Calvinistic or Reformed group that conducted activities similar to that of the Gideon association. The Trinitarian Bible Society “sort of” fits that description, and does some exemplary work. However, it is in some ways not as active as the Gideons and its exclusive commitment to the King James Version and the particular family of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts from which it is derived is something of a hang-up for those who do not share that commitment.

And even if there were an expressly Reformed group that otherwise conducted the same work as the Gideons, would it not be unnecessarily duplicative? Would the formation of such a group constitute wise stewardship of time, energy, and resources? Probably not, and besides…

Associating with other Christians for fellowship and service is important. Although we all sometimes conduct ourselves as if our denomination has some exclusive claim on the title “Christian,” it is important to remember that the Kingdom of God is much bigger than the sometimes petty divisions among us. We gain from joining with fellow believers from all denominations for fellowship and service whenever possible. Besides the increased manpower and efficiency that comes from pooling resources, often the insights shared by men from one tradition will illuminate blind spots in another—and we all have them!

In the final chapter of his book The Foot of the Cross, Baptist and later Anglican minister Octavius Winslow (1808-1878) appealed for unity among Christians across denominational lines. The following paragraph is pertinent to the present subject:

Octavius Winslow (1808-1878)

Octavius Winslow (1808-1878)

We will only add that usefulness is another blessing that springs from the recognition and manifestation of Christian union. Beloved, we are useful for Christ, not so much as we stand apart in our individual, isolated condition, as in combination—combination of judgment, of heart, of purpose. This promotes our usefulness. Do you want to be useful in Christ’s Church? Do you want to augment your practical influence in the service of your Master? Then, we beseech you, cooperate with all the Lord’s people in advancing the kingdom of Christ, in circulating God’s holy Word, in distributing religious tracts, in promoting Christian missions. Cooperate with every church or organization in His blessed work. Link and unite yourselves with them, and you will augment vastly that usefulness in the service of Christ, to which, we trust, the Lord by His grace has called you (pp. 162-163).

That, dear reader, is why I am a Gideon. To be as useful as possible in the service of my Master.

Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. (Luke 12:37a)

Gideon New Testament

Posted in Calvinism, Denominations, Doctrine, Evangelism, The Gideons International, Theology

Play like Obi-Wan Kenobi, not like General Grievous!

(My apologies for the lateness of this post. I had hoped to write on Friday or Saturday but was prevented from doing so by various responsibilities at the end of the week.)

Brass playing is very much an athletic activity. Like top athletes, musicians must train (i.e. practice) for many hours in order to develop the strength, flexibility, and fine motor response in order to play well. While occasional periods of rest are beneficial, frequent neglect of practice/training will lead to substantial loss of the physical capacity for playing, just as athletes that neglect their regimented exercise programs will see declines in strength, agility, and overall skill. The most successful brass players are highly disciplined in their approaches to developing and maintaining the body’s capacities, both as applied directly to brass playing and from a more holistic standpoint.

However, we often err when we think of brass playing as an athletic activity in the same way that football or weightlifting are athletic activities, requiring tremendous muscular exertion. Many players, whether purposefully or as an involuntary response to stress, engage large muscle groups when playing in a manner that is unproductive at best and harmful at worst. (To be honest, nearly all of us have been guilty of this at times.) While those that engage in such effort might identify it as necessary for playing, in reality this is usually isometric tension (opposing muscle groups working against one another), in which much energy is expended but no positive action occurs. In extreme cases, this tension can impede the action of those muscles which are necessary for playing, and even in the best of circumstances a body full of tense muscles will not be able to produce a resonant tone. The brass player must instead seek to play with a minimal amount of muscular exertion, to prize efficiency and economy of effort rather than approaching the instrument as if playing should be a great feat of strength. Indeed, from a muscular perspective our efforts should look more like the graceful and economical motions required for ballet, rather than the exertions of brute strength used in weightlifting.

<i>The Breathing Book</i>, by David Vining

The Breathing Book, by David Vining

An important step to gaining this efficiency is learning to move air more effectively. Too often brass players try to do things with muscular effort that should be accomplished by air. After all, the air is what causes the lips to vibrate, and that vibration is what causes sound. When the lips are not restrained by excessive tension in the face and neck they will vibrate freely in response to the air being blown through them, the result being a beautiful and pleasing sound. To this end, I have begun using and recommending that my students regularly work through The Breathing Book by David Vining (Mountain Peak Music, 2009). This slender volume, with editions for every wind instrument, provides a sequential review of the various physical actions used in playing. While correct use of the breathing apparatus is a primary focus, the suggestions in the book impact nearly every facet of the use of the body when playing. The end result is the elimination of unnecessary effort and tension, and thus more efficient and effective use of the entire body when playing.

Kenobi vs. Grievous

Kenobi vs. Grievous

Low brass players and teachers know that references to science-fiction programs often resonate with our students, so I often find myself making such comparisons to characters and events in such programs in order to illustrate a concept in brass playing. When talking about economy of effort I have recently begun referring to the battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and General Grievous in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. In that battle Kenobi, armed only with a single lightsaber and his Jedi intuition, defeated the cybernetically enhanced Grievous, who was wielding four lightsabers. While Grievous’s fighting style was very physically involved, Kenobi observed his opponent as calmly as possible, and with great precision and economy of effort systematically disarmed and eventually killed him. Efficient and economical efforts won the day over great strength and effort. A similar comparison could be made to Kenobi’s defeat of Anakin Skywalker in the same film.

Of course, comparisons to fictional characters and events—particularly in CGI-enhanced sci-fi films—will collapse if analyzed too deeply, but for my students this particular illustration has been quite effective. In brass playing, as evidently in lightsaber duels, the player whose actions are precise, efficient, and economical will always deliver a superior result to the one using great muscular effort. Play like Obi-Wan Kenobi, not General Grievous!

Posted in Breathing, Low Brass Resources, Playing Fundamentals, Teaching Low Brass

Fall Concerts and Activities Preview

Today I continue a regular practice for this blog, outlining the major performance activities for myself and my students for the coming semester. This academic year is shaping up to be a very busy one, particularly in the spring, but there are plenty of fall performances on tap, as well. While much of my time the past couple of years has been devoted to recording and writing projects, I am looking forward to spending more time this year focusing upon practicing and performing, even while working to bring these major recording and writing projects to completion. More on that in a future post.

August 23-24: Tom Walker’s Gospel Train Big Band

Tom Walker

Tom Walker

Although this event is already in the past, I want to mention it simply because it was so much fun. Tom Walker is the former trombone professor at Oklahoma State University and now works in administration at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. A lifelong member of the Salvation Army, he has organized the Gospel Train Big Band to perform high-quality arrangements of gospel tunes while raising funds for and awareness of the Salvation Army’s charitable activities and, of course, to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The band has only a few regular members that travel to all of the performances, with local musicians filling out the majority of the ensemble; this is the second opportunity I have had to do so. Tom always manages to hire great players, and the resulting sound is magnificent. Check out their website and new recording at www.gospeltrainbigband.com.

October 25: North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra

North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra LogoThis year I will once again be occupying the principal trombone chair in the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra (formerly the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra). While the performance calendar for this group is fuller in the spring than in the fall, the October concert will feature a number of French works, including the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921).

November 3: Mississippi Brass Quintet

Ingolf Dahl

Ingolf Dahl

The Mississippi Brass Quintet is the faculty brass ensemble at the University of Mississippi, and will appear in concert this fall as part of the Department of Music’s Faculty Recital Series. The November concert will include works by Hugh Aston (1485-1558), Ingolf Dahl (1912-1970), Anthony Plog (b. 1947), and MBQ trumpeter and UM composition professor Stanley Friedman. The quintet will turn its attention to touring and recruiting in the spring.

November 17: UM Low Brass Ensembles

University of Mississippi Trombone Ensemble Fall 2013

University of Mississippi Trombone Ensemble

The University of Mississippi Trombone Ensemble and Tuba-Euphonium ensemble continue to grow bigger and better each year, with fourteen and thirteen members, respectively (up from nine and six just a couple of years ago). Despite a severely limited rehearsal schedule and a focus on teaching and learning over performance, these groups nevertheless present enjoyable and variegated concerts each year. This fall’s concert will include original works by Václav Nelhýbel (1919-1996), Michael Hennagin (1936-1993), Wesley Hanson, Thom Ritter George (b. 1942), and Jan Koetsier (1911-2006), as well as arrangements of works by Sir John Stainer (1840-1901), Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739), and John Philip Sousa (1854-1932).

November 19: Student Recitals: D.J. Fitzgerald and Nelson Coile

Eric Ewazen

Eric Ewazen

The University of Mississippi’s music education curriculum lacks a recital performance requirement for graduation, so I am especially encouraged when future music teachers in my studio come to me asking to perform a half or full recital. This November trombonist D.J. Fitzgerald and tubist Nelson Coile will share a lengthy and challenging program including works by Alec Wilder (1907-1980), Henri Tomasi (1901-1971) Eugène Bozza (1905-1991), and Jan Sandström (b. 1954), as well as two pieces by Eric Ewazen (b. 1954).

November 7: Quartet Performance at University of Memphis Low Brass Workshop

Bass TromboneAn exciting new endeavor for me this year is the formation of a still-unnamed trombone quartet along with three other university trombone professors, Joseph Frye (University of Tennessee at Martin), Ed Morse (Mississippi Valley State University), and John Mueller (University of Memphis). Our inaugural performance will be during this year’s University of Memphis Low Brass Workshop, and we are looking forward to further performances during the spring semester. I am especially enjoying my role as bass trombonist in the group, as most of my more recent performance opportunities have involved playing high notes on the tenor trombone. I enjoy the variety and balance that come with performing on multiple instruments and exploring a wide tonal range.

December 6: TUBACHRISTMAS

Merry TubaChristmas!This year we will once again be bringing the annual TUBACHRISTMAS event to Oxford, with a morning rehearsal and lunchtime performance in Nutt Auditorium on December 6. After inclement weather forced us from our planned outdoor venue to the auditorium last year, I so much enjoyed playing indoors that I have decided to remain there this year. As always, tuba and euphonium players of all ages and ability levels are welcome to participate, and band directors are especially invited to encourage their students to come or even bring them to the event. It is always great fun for everyone involved!

While this list does not include smaller performances for campus events, church services, student recital hours, Christmas programs, and the like, it does outline the major goings-on here for myself and my students this semester. As I mentioned, the spring is already shaping up to be even busier, with at least a couple of appearances at regional low brass conferences in addition to the usual local and on-campus fare. I’ll share more about that in a similar post planned for January. In the meantime, if you would like more information about any of these events please contact me.

Posted in Bass Trombone, Brass Quintet, Performances, Tenor Trombone, Trombone Ensembles, Tuba-Euphonium Ensembles, TubaChristmas

Fifteen Steps to Playing a Better All-State Audition (Repost)

Today I mark my return to blogging after a summer off by reposting one of the more important and popular articles from this blog. With high school students are preparing for auditions for all-state groups and similar ensembles around this time of year, posting this article every fall seems appropriate.

Let me also remind Mississippi band students that I have posted a series of videos on my Ole Miss website specifically related to preparing low brass players to audition for the Mississippi Lions All-State Band. While some of the material below repeats information covered in those videos, the ideas here are intended to be more broadly applicable, both to students that play other instruments, and to those taking auditions in other states. Teachers, please feel free to share these ideas with your students if you think they will be helpful.

1. Keep your instrument in optimum working condition.

This should be obvious, but often a student’s playing is hindered by a slide that doesn’t move well, frozen piston valves, noisy rotary valves, etc. If your instrument has a problem of some kind, have your band director or private teacher check it. Perhaps all that is needed is a thorough cleaning, or a minute adjustment. If your teacher is unable to resolve the problem, take your instrument to be serviced by a qualified technician.

When your instrument is in good working order, make sure to clean and lubricate it regularly. Often mechanical problems that can “make or break” an audition are the result of a lack of proper care and maintenance, and these always seem to occur at the most inopportune time. Regular maintenance will not only prevent damage, but will make your instrument easier and more fun to play, help your practice sessions to be more productive, and very likely lead to success in the audition.

2. Practice. Every day.

When you’re not practicing, one of your competitors is. The students that earn the top chairs in all-state auditions have a disciplined and consistent approach to practice, often practicing for 10 to 15 hours per week (or about 1.5 to 2 hours per day), if not more. I recommend conceiving of your practice time in terms of a weekly schedule rather than a daily one, as this has the advantage of allowing you to plan for days that you might not be able to practice as much (because of band festivals, extra homework, church activities, etc.) and compensate by practicing more on the days when you have more time available. Do make sure that you do at least some practicing every day, though. Even 10-20 minutes on an extremely busy day is better than nothing.

3. Begin each day with a thorough warm-up/maintenance routine.

Some time each day should be spent on playing fundamentals, including breathing exercises, mouthpiece buzzing exercises, long tones, articulation exercises, lip slurs, and range extension exercises. Make sure that you have some way of systematically addressing each of these areas every day, seeking to both maintain and extend your fundamental playing skills. Some routines that I have constructed for this purpose can be found here.

4. Spend 20-50% of your practice time on playing fundamentals.

Continuing with the previous thought, the ideal “warm-up” routine contains much more material than the body needs to be ready to play a band rehearsal or even give a concert. Rather, successful players spend a significant portion of their practice time working on fundamental skills like those mentioned above. In my own playing I have found that the more time I spend on developing fundamental playing skills, the less time I need to spend in order to prepare actual repertoire for performance or auditions. And, since these fundamental skills apply to essentially every piece of music, I do not have to “reinvent the wheel” every time I learn a new piece. Instead, I am able to quickly discern what skills and techniques are needed for a given piece and immediately apply them, thus greatly reducing the amount of practice needed to learn and master a new piece of music. This means that I am able to cover a very large amount of music in each practice session.

When you are preparing for an important audition or performance, aim for spending at least 20% of your practice time (approximately 12 minutes of a one-hour practice day or 24 minutes of a two-hour practice day) on fundamentals. If you have nothing “big” coming up, consider spending as much as 50% of your practice time on fundamentals. This can seem repetitive at times, but it pays huge dividends for your playing in the future!

5. Play everything with the best sound you can produce.

Ambitious high school students tend to place a lot of emphasis on range and speed; to use a common expression, playing “higher, faster, and louder.” This tendency is not altogether bad, as one of the purposes of activities like all-state auditions is to push students to extend their technical capabilities on their instruments. However, it is easy to forget that none of these things really matter if one plays with a poor or uncharacteristic tone.

I often illustrate this concept to my students by playing “Flight of the Bumblebee” on the trombone. By most accounts, this is a difficult technical feat. The first time I play it, I play with a good, characteristic trombone sound, and students are usually quite impressed. But then, I play it a second time, this time with an extremely poor sound. I’m playing just as quickly, double-tonguing just as much, and moving the slide just as accurately, and yet students usually find this second performance to be rather unimpressive. Nobody cares how “high, fast, and loud” you can play if your sound is poor.

Make a concerted effort to play everything with the best sound you can produce. Even scales can sound great, and since scales are usually the first things played in an audition, you can set a positive tone (sorry) for the entire audition by playing them with a good sound. Then maintain that great sound through the prepared pieces and sight reading. This will certainly improve your score for the entire audition.

6. Memorize your scales, and practice them at least once per day. They have to be automatic!

Scales are a big part of every all-state audition, and yet they are so often played poorly. Successful students memorize all of their scales (this is required in most states, including Mississippi, but some states allow the use of a scale sheet during the audition, unfortunately). If you don’t have your scales memorized yet, make this a priority—you don’t want to enter the audition room still unsure about one or more of the required scales.

When the audition is several weeks or even months away, it is helpful to practice your scales slowly, in order to foster playing with a great tone quality (see above), and playing in tune. As you increase in proficiency, keep working to play faster, but if intonation or tone quality begin to suffer, return to practicing slowly. The goal is to play fast, AND in tune, AND with a good sound.

Most band students are more familiar with the “flat” scales than with the “sharp” scales. This makes sense, as most band music is written in “flat keys” (at least when referring to “concert” pitch). If you are having trouble with certain keys, then practice those scales twice as much as the ones with which you are more familiar. When you walk into the audition room, you want to be equally comfortable—or at least sound like you are equally comfortable—with every scale.

Regarding range, in some states all students play each scale in the same prescribed range. In others (including Mississippi), students are rewarded for pursuing extra octaves. If yours is a “prescribed range” state, then make sure you can play all of the scales in the prescribed range. Playing less than that will result in a huge deduction from your score. If your state rewards extra octaves, then play as many octaves as you can in the allotted time, but do not attempt range that you cannot play well every time. Hearing a student “nail” a “high R-sharp” is always impressive, and that student will earn a high score. However, the student that strains and reaches for that “R-sharp” might have scored better if he stuck with a range he could play well.

7. Know the definitions of all of the musical terms in your etudes.

Musical instructions are usually written in Italian, sometimes in German, and sometimes in French. Rarely are these instructions written in English. And yet, those listening to your playing will expect you to know what the terms in at least your prepared pieces mean, and to observe them in your performance. There is no excuse for ignoring these terms, and yet I have listened to auditions in which 70% or more of the students completely ignored one or more terms, and as a result gave performances that were wildly “off the mark.” If you want to earn a high score, follow the instructions, regardless of the language in which those instructions are written. To do even better, try to memorize a large number of common terms, so that you can also correctly observe any markings in the sight reading part of the audition.

By the way, “in the old days” we had to purchase music dictionaries in order to look up the meanings of musical terms, and sometimes we had to refer to Italian-English dictionaries, for example, in order to find more obscure terms. Today, you can quickly and easily find the definition of any term simply by “Googling it.” In short, there is no excuse. Know what terms mean, and do what they say!

8. Use a metronome, and practice your scales and etudes both slower and faster than the prescribed tempos.

These days, there is no excuse for not owning and using a metronome in one’s daily practice. Not only can simple metronomes be purchased inexpensively at most music stores, but also cheap or free metronome programs can be found to work with computers and most smartphones or tablets. I recommend using the metronome not only to foster correct rhythm and timing when practicing scales and etudes at the prescribed tempos, but also to enable systematic practice at both slower and faster tempos. The process I use is as follows:

First, practice materials at 50% of the indicated tempo. This is for the purpose of working out fingerings, articulations, and tone quality without the pressures created by playing faster. For etudes that are already slow, practicing at half tempo will foster better phrasing. Try to phrase in the same way and breathe in the same places as you would when playing at tempo. You will then have a much easier time making your phrases when you resume playing faster.

Second, practice at 75% of the indicated tempo. This provides a convenient “halfway point” between the slower tempo you practiced before and the tempo for which you are striving.

Third, practice at the indicated tempo. Having followed the two steps indicated above, you will find that playing at tempo will be much easier for you than if you had begun by practicing this quickly. Continue using the metronome to ensure that you are counting and keeping time accurately.

Fourth, practice at 125% of the indicated tempo. This is especially helpful for the scales and faster etudes. This tempo will feel extremely fast, and even frantic, but still attempt it, even if you are never able to make your playing as clean as you would like at this tempo.

Finally, return to the indicated tempo. Having worked out notes, fingerings, tone, tuning, and phrasing at slower tempos, and then at least tried to master the necessary technique at faster tempos, playing at tempo will feel balanced, even, and relatively relaxed. Alternate playing with and without the metronome for this step.

Not all of these steps need to be completed each day, particularly as you become more proficient at playing your scales and etudes, but these are necessary when first beginning work on your audition materials, and later on are still useful for occasional “refreshers.”

9. Mark your breaths.

One helpful practice that is neglected by many students is that of planning and marking breaths. While you will be playing your scales from memory, go ahead and practice breathing at the same place(s) every time you play a given scale.

In the prepared pieces, make a clear mark at the places where you know you will breathe, and then some smaller markings in parentheses in places where you can breathe “if you have to.” By planning your breaths and then breathing in the same places every time you practice your scales and etudes, you will deliver a more consistent and pleasing musical result, and will also take an important step toward mitigating the effects of nervousness. Because you will have practiced breathing—deeply—in the same places each time, when you are in the audition room you will be likely to continue breathing deeply in those places, rather than taking unplanned and shallow breaths as people tend to do when they are “on edge.”

In order to determine where to breathe, sit down with your prepared pieces and a pencil, without your instrument. Note the places where musical phrases end (look for the ends of phrase markings or slurred lines in particular), and mark breaths in those places, as well as during any rests. In short, figure out where the music itself indicates pauses, and plan to breathe in those places. If this yields too few breaths, or if you are afraid you might need some “extra,” mark additional possible breaths in parentheses. Because you are using pencil, you can always erase and adjust your planned breathing if necessary, but by planning breaths without your instrument you are allowing the music to determine where you breathe, rather than your subjective “felt need” for air. This will yield a very mature and pleasing performance.

10. Don’t practice something until you get it right once. Practice it until you can’t get it wrong!

As an applied lesson teacher, I can easily tell when a student has not practiced, but I can also tell when a student has practiced something until he “got it right once.” This student will play with a good tone quality and pretty good technique that are indicative of regular practice, but when playing scales, etudes, and solo literature he will make interesting mistakes. When questioned, he will say that he made that same mistake repeatedly when practicing. Immediately, I am aware that the student practiced that etude at least three times each day, making the mistake twice, and “getting it right” the third time. What’s the problem with this? The student has practiced playing incorrectly twice as many times as he has practiced playing correctly!

When preparing for the audition, don’t run through troublesome passages until you play them correctly one time—repeat those passages until you get them right five or even ten times successively. By doing this, you will make a habit of playing these passages correctly, instead of having to address the same mistakes each time you practice.

11. Sight read something every day.

The sight reading portion of the audition is the scariest part for many students, largely because it is the most “unknown” element of the audition. While it would be impossible to prepare for the specific piece that you will encounter during the sight reading portion of a given audition, you can greatly improve your chances of succeeding at this part simply by sight reading something each day. There are a number of books available with short etudes designed for sight reading practice, and I have even recommended a few of them, but the main thing is that you find unfamiliar music of a variety of styles, time signatures, key signatures, tempos, and levels of difficulty, and sight read as much of it as you can. This will make you more familiar and comfortable with the process. Make sure also that you have a teacher or some other knowledgeable individual listen to your sight reading from time to time, to make sure that you aren’t making any unnoticed mistakes.

12. Get a private teacher.

Even the best band director has too many obligations, too little time, and not enough expertise on every instrument to effectively coach all of his or her students for all-state auditions. If at all possible, arrange for regular lessons with a private teacher that is knowledgeable about your instrument and the audition process. This person will help you to put the ideas listed here as well as other helpful concepts into practice, and will (provided that you follow his or her instructions) greatly increase your chances of playing a successful audition. Ask your band director for names and contact information of qualified teachers in your area. You might also look for professors and students at nearby universities and community colleges, and perhaps even professional players if you live near a large city. (If you live within driving distance of Oxford, send me an email—I can take on a few more high school students.)

An added benefit of private instruction is that your teacher’s ideas will apply not only to the immediate goal of making the all-state band, but to making you a better player overall. If you want to continue playing in college—and particularly if you want to major in music—this extra help might literally “pay off” in the form of higher band scholarship offers.

13. Dress for the occasion.

One change in the “culture” of auditions that I have observed over the past fifteen years or so is the increasing informality of dress among students auditioning. When I was a high school student, it was not unusual for young men to wear a shirt and tie and perhaps a sport coat for auditions and for young women to wear a blouse and skirt or even a dress. In recent years, I have noticed more and more students auditioning wearing jeans and t-shirts—and not even their “good” jeans and t-shirts! This is not a positive development, in my opinion.

The way that you dress communicates something about the seriousness with which you take a given endeavor. When you make an effort to “dress up” for an occasion, you communicate to others (and yourself) that you believe you are doing something important. When I serve as an audition judge, a student that walks into the room smartly dressed communicates to me that he takes his playing seriously, and before the first note is played, I have unconsciously begun to form positive expectations about how that student will perform. Conversely, a student whose appearance is slovenly communicates a negative image, and my expectations are likewise negative. That might not seem “fair,” but judges are human, and will inevitably form “first impressions” of some kind. Make sure you the impression you make is a good one!

By the way, this counsel even applies in the case of “blind” auditions (those in which the judges cannot see the student auditioning). While it might seem absurd to “dress up” when those evaluating your playing will not be able to see you, there is something to be said for how your dress affects your own self-perception and carriage. By dressing well for the audition, you are mentally preparing yourself for the important task at hand, and you will be more likely to conduct yourself throughout the process in a manner most conducive to playing a great audition.

14. Be confident.

Part of playing a successful audition is carrying yourself and then playing in a confident manner. If you have prepared diligently for the audition, you have no reason not to be sure about yourself and your playing, and your entire presentation, from the way you dress (see above) to the way you play each of the required items should communicate confidence and poise. While this may not directly impact your score, self-assured students to tend to play better, which does have a direct impact on the final score.

Perhaps you are like me, and inevitably have a greater or lesser degree of “butterflies in your stomach” every time you play a high-stakes audition or performance. In such situations, you feel anything but confident! If this describes you, you might find it helpful to “fake it.” Put on an air of confidence, even though you don’t feel that way at all. Not only will your judges view your playing in a more positive light, but you might find that by feigning self-confidence you “psych yourself in” to actually being more confident, and thus playing better.

15. Have FUN!!!

Auditions are nerve-racking experiences, and the entire process—from practice and preparation to the audition day itself—can become anything but fun. In such situations, it is easy to forget that one of the main reasons we took up playing our instruments in the first place was the enjoyment that our playing provides to ourselves and others. Make sure that you include something “fun” in your practice time each day, and as you prepare the “hard stuff,” keep the end goal of the audition in mind. Performing great music at a high level with students that take music seriously is an exciting and fun experience afforded to relatively few high school band members. The hard work required to get there is worth it!

Posted in Auditions, Music, Playing Fundamentals, Practicing