“The Great Equalizer”

The present sociopolitical milieu on many college and university campuses seems to present an unwelcoming environment for conservatives, whether of the religious, social, or economic varieties. News headlines speak of violent protests followed by disinvitations of conservative speakers from campus venues, and articles bemoaning the shutting out of ideas contrary to liberal orthodoxies can readily be found in print and online. Happily, the “horror stories” that garner so much attention are the exceptions rather than the rule. While the worldview of the sociopolitical Left is certainly ascendant in academia and has been for several decades, faculty and students coming from the Right are usually treated politely, even when their ideas are not always readily welcomed.

The ability of conservatives to function and thrive as academics seems to depend upon the area of inquiry. Business and economics are often described as being more welcoming to conservative or libertarian ideas, while in the social sciences a Leftist perspective seems predominant. The arts are, in my experience at least, largely populated by social and political liberals, yet I have been able to thrive while working among colleagues and students who hold positions far to my left, and even to develop friendly working relationships with them–generally speaking I have always genuinely liked the people with whom I have worked, regardless of whatever differences we might have on various issues. To a certain extent my ability to do this is the result of simple collegiality. I know how to treat people as I want to be treated and accept that interjecting politics and religion into every conversation is not a way to be well-liked, especially when one’s views on such things differ significantly from those of the people by whom one is surrounded. And, as I am so fond of telling students, “I see and hear things that offend me every single day, but I am able to deal with it quietly because I am a grownup.”

Being polite and having a thick skin is not all that is needed to be successful, but it goes a long way. More importantly, as a professor in applied music, my positions on any number of issues of the day simply are not often relevant to my teaching, writing, or performing, and interjecting them would be extraneous and unhelpful. What matters most is whether or not I can play well, perform successfully, contribute to my field through writing, editing, and speaking, and teach students effectively. My opinions regarding pieces of legislation, political candidates, or even matters of current social and political conversation matter very little as long as I can make great music and teach others to do the same. This doesn’t mean that I am secretive about my political, social, and religious leanings–this blog is evidence enough of that–but ideas not relevant to teaching and performing on low brass instruments have never been part of my curriculum.

Even more importantly, in teaching I am fond of calling the trombone (or the euphonium, or the tuba) “The Great Equalizer.” What does that mean? It means that when a student walks into my studio for a lesson my assessment of that student’s performance in no way takes into account that person’s race, ethnicity, gender, social class, income level, religion, or any number of other categories with which people self-identify or are classified by others. The only thing that matters is whether or not that student plays better in the present lesson than in the previous one; whether or not instructions were followed, effective practice strategies were employed, and diligent work took place between meetings. Every student who does those things and produces beautiful sounds receives high marks, and every student who fails to do those things receives low marks. All are treated equally.

Like most professors, I love teaching but am ambivalent at best toward grading, especially in applied music when there is necessarily a subjective element in every assessment. While I can’t promise to always grade perfectly, I can and do promise to always grade apolitically. The Great Equalizer makes this possible, and I am glad that it does.

Posted in Higher Education, Music, Political Systems, Politics, Society, Teaching Low Brass

Service, Yes. “Customer Service,” No.

A favorite expression of mine over the past several years has been that “music is a service profession.” I first introduced this idea in seed form in a very early post on this blog, and it is part of the philosophy that lies beneath nearly all of my performing and teaching. Rejecting the idea of the musician as an aloof, elevated “artist” who cannot be bothered with the needs of desires of his audience, I have instead deliberately endeavored to construct a career centered upon the edification of my students and listeners. This doesn’t mean that I only choose performance repertoire for which audiences ask, much less allow students to drive curriculum and assignments. It does mean that I choose to perform music that is accessible and understandable, and explain to the audience in advance those pieces which are more difficult to absorb. I normally reject outright those works whose composers seemed to be pursuing the shock value of the “purposefully ugly.” Likewise with students, I do not always choose performance and study materials that they like or enjoy after a superficial first hearing or reading, but rather those pieces which will most develop their technical skills and cognitive understanding. My ability to do this depends upon a certain hierarchy in the teacher-student relationship.

Throughout my career in higher education a “customer service” mentality has pervaded the operations of many recruitment, student activities, athletic, and other offices. This approach treats students as their families as “paying customers” deserving of the type of deference given to customers and clients in a sales situation, including a willingness to acquiesce at times to the demands of young “consumers.” There is much to commend this way of doing things in certain areas of university life, especially given the large increases in tuition and fees over the past 40 years and an apparent focus upon selling a particular “college experience” that has accompanied these increases. When multiple thousands of dollars are at stake, a small amount catering to prospective students seems reasonable.

However, when this same mentality extends to the relationships between students and faculty there is a problem. Taken to a logical extreme, application of the the customer service approach to academic relationships results in the kind of entitlement that insists “I paid my tuition and came to class. Now give me my ‘A.’” The dysfunction here is obvious, with the college degree ultimately reduced to an empty credential that indicates only tuition paid and meetings (presumably) attended rather than any real competency. Faculty these days already fight a tendency toward grade inflation. Pursuing “customer service” in the classroom can make grades entirely meaningless.

Students and faculty must understand that the teacher-student relationship is necessarily hierarchical, and must be so in order for the academic endeavor to function correctly (and likewise the relationships between professors and their various administrative reports). The professor must be free to determine the desired ends of each course, to prescribe the materials and assignments that will best achieve those ends, and to apply the evaluation procedures that will most accurately reflect student progress and achievement. Good faculty members serve students by clearly delineating these objectives, materials, and measures in course syllabi, by honestly and fairly evaluating student work, and by providing assistance, advising, and recommendations as needed. Students have a right to expect that their teachers will remain current in their fields, prepare diligently for class meetings, answer questions thoroughly, and generally treat all students fairly.

Students may be “paying customers,” but they are paying for access to faculty expertise and university resources, not the mere possession of a credential after a certain period of time, much less guaranteed high grades regardless of effort or competency. Upon entering a university course the student agrees to submit to the requirements of a particular academic discipline and its associated hierarchy of professors, administrators, and even professional associations and accrediting bodies. The faculty must serve the students, but only within the context of academic and professional discipline. When this proper model of service is allowed to devolve into “customer service,” the erosion of academic credibility is sure to follow.

Posted in Economics, Education, Higher Education, Professional Organizations, Teaching Low Brass

Let Us Not Orphan Ourselves

As a professional musician and a Christian with at least a small amount of formal theological training, I am more than a little interested in the musical practices of the church, both within and beyond corporate worship. In a previous church I was asked to teach a short Sunday School series on music in worship, which was originally slated to last four weeks but wound up being expanded to six. (I later turned that material into a series of posts on this blog, see here, here, and here.) In my present church my direct musical involvement is, by my own choice, fairly limited, though I have assisted with formatting music for printing in the bulletin and have sometimes had a small amount of input with regard to selecting songs for corporate worship. As is the case in many churches, those discussions frequently involve choosing between those songs labeled “traditional” and “contemporary,” though both of those categories include multiple genres and are so generalized as to be almost unhelpful.

Happily, our congregation has eschewed both the rock concert atmosphere of some modern worship and the high church approach built around the organ and classical repertoire. Instead, the instrumentation and style are better described as folksy, an approach that facilitates congregational singing in multiple styles without the accompaniment becoming overwhelming or mind-numbingly commercial in tone. Except for a desire for more percussion from some quarters (we infrequently use a djembe or similar instrument but never drumset), the instrumentation used in corporate worship is rarely a point of controversy in the congregation. However, the choice of music is sometimes mildly so, with a decided preference for more contemporary melodies among younger congregants (and some not so young), and a similar love for traditional melodies among older folks. In both cases the texts selected are almost always doctrinally sound; even the contemporary tunes we use are usually resettings of older texts. Thus whatever the choice of tunes the most important aspect of congregational song, the communication of sound doctrine, is maintained. For that I am most thankful.

I share all of this not to air our church’s dirty laundry but to establish some context for my remarks. Besides, I am certain that the scenario I have described is very common, replicated in many conservative evangelical and Protestant churches in North America. While as a classical musician I have particular love for older music, I can understand the desire for contextualization which is often the motivation for a push for newer tunes. In the century and more since the development of commercial recordings our society has become one that almost entirely lacks communal song. Beyond the walls of the church we don’t sing together; we listen to “canned” music almost constantly, the presence of live performers being a rare treat. Whereas families once sang together for entertainment and fellowship, now they watch the television. Taverns that would once have been filled with the songs of joyful men at the end of the workday now play recorded music or the commentary from athletic events showing on the television. Professions where singing together while working was once common have been replaced with automation or, where still present, have the constant drone of the radio or television present. This loss of communal song is to our cultural impoverishment, but it is the situation in which we find ourselves.

41igkjf0sllIn a society, then, where the act of singing together is already strange and uncomfortable, to sing the songs of past generations seems positively foreign, and the use of melodies which are somewhat similar to those heard (but rarely sung) in other contexts provides some familiarity and comfort. As T. David Gordon wrote in his 2010 book Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal, “We are surrounded by nearly ubiquitous pop music—so much so that nothing else really registers in our consciousness as music. If it is not accompanied by a guitar, if it is not accompanied by the predictable melodies and rhythms of pop culture, it just doesn’t seem like music.” (p.14) Gordon wrote these words in introducing his argument for restoring the place of traditional worship music, but the same words in a different context could be used to support a case for using contemporary tunes.

Though I have more than a little sympathy for Gordon’s point of view, I find myself unable to dismiss the desire—even the need—for contemporary musical expressions of the faith. To my trained ears even the traditional hymns that I love so much do not belong to some sort of timeless “church music” style, but each is easily placed in a particular historical context, and occasionally even in particular national, social, and ecclesiastical contexts. It is appropriate that modern writers find ways to express eternal truths in the musical styles of our own time and that we use the best of their works in corporate worship.

At the same time, though, we must avoid the conceit—which is bound up in the warp and woof of modern Western culture but foreign to Scripture—that everything new is by virtue of its newness better than everything old. There are some great new hymns, and some downright terrible ones. There were terrible old hymns, but the old songs that have remained in our hymnals have survived the intense vetting that only the passing of decades and centuries can provide. As I am so fond of reminding folks, Charles Wesley (1707-1788) wrote over 6,000 hymns, yet far fewer than 100 of them appear in modern hymnals. Why? Because only a small portion of them turned out to be enduringly great. Likewise, a precious few of our contemporary songs will endure through the generations, but most will fade into history. We should keep this in mind before we jettison several centuries’ worth of collected musical expressions of faith in favor of that which will soon pass away.

Even more importantly, let us learn to take joy in singing the same songs that Christians of decades and centuries past sang. When we sing the old songs we not only praise our God and instruct one another in the truths of our faith, but we also affirm our connection with those who came before us, those who are with us members of the “one holy catholic and apostolic church” spoken of in the Nicene Creed, those with whom we will one day join in singing around the throne of God forever. Singing older melodies that are unfamiliar to us can sometimes be challenging, but the challenge is worthwhile.

Christians, ours is an old faith, and we are bound together with both our forebears and, God willing, our descendants in the service of our common Lord. Let us not orphan ourselves—let us not cut ourselves off from our forefathers by dismissing their songs and their texts as dated. Rather, let us use that which is best of both the past and present to praise His name and edify His church.

Posted in Church, Doctrine, Music, Music and Theology, Music and Worship, Practical Christianity, T. David Gordon, Theology, Worship

Fundamentals, not Feelings

Well, Ole Miss’s football season, which began with such high expectations, ended 5-7 tonight (2-6 SEC) after not only a loss but a blowout at the hands of in-state rival Mississippi State (5-7 overall, 3-5 SEC). While a coaching shakeup is already underway, a case could be made for laying much of this season’s disappointment at the feet of injuries which have slowly but surely robbed our team of veteran starters on both sides of the ball. Perhaps most disappointing this season has been watching in multiple games how quickly our team lost its drive in the face of adversity. When things were going well and positive emotions were running high, the team performed well. When things were going poorly and negative emotions set in, the team spiraled into ineffectiveness.

jalen-hurtsDuring a trombone ensemble rehearsal a couple of weeks ago I employed a sports analogy, exhorting my students to approach musicianship not like our football team, but like that of SEC West powerhouse Alabama (12-0 overall, 8-0 SEC). To watch Alabama’s team play is to watch a team that is in complete control of itself in every respect. Instead of displaying a palpable emotional excitement when winning, the Crimson Tide team appears downright businesslike, as if they simply showed up to do a job, and then executed the job in exactly the way they planned. In other words, this team’s fundamentals of ball handling, clock management, play execution, etc. are so well-honed that these young men are rarely caught operating outside of a well-established rhythm. While these players no doubt experience positive emotions as a result of their repeated wins, the “good vibes” are a result of successful play, not a cause of it.

Needless to say, my students were taken aback at first by this analogy, but they soon came to appreciate it. Musicians are certainly in the business of creating and stirring emotions in our listeners, but to depend on the experience of such feelings ourselves is to invite disaster on stage. Not only might one’s emotional state at the moment of performance be incongruent with the message of the piece of music being performed, but reliance upon feelings to deliver effective performance makes one even more susceptible to that most dangerous feeling for the performing musician: fear. Performance anxiety affects nearly all of us to a greater or lesser extent, and to depend upon feelings to enable us to deliver effective performances makes it even more likely that the slightest surprise or unexpected difficulty on stage will elicit a sense of despair that jeopardizes the entire performance.

Instead, just like effective athletes, we must depend upon solid playing fundamentals to enable us to deliver quality performances. This begins simply with regular and diligent practice, but more specifically requires daily, systematic, and comprehensive practice of playing fundamentals. Many players and teachers have found this to be best accomplished through the use of a daily routine that varies little from day to day. Others recommend that the specific content of fundamentals practice be more varied, though the same general areas are covered each day. Both approaches can be effective, though I prefer the former and have published several routines to that end here.

When our playing fundamentals are consistent and dependable then we can count on things to work regardless of the playing situations in which we find ourselves. There may still sometimes be “butterflies” before or during especially important performances, but relying upon consistent method rather than positive feelings to yield effective playing means that any nervousness can be expected and even welcomed without having a negative effect upon the performance. This also leaves us free to infuse our performances with whatever emotions are demanded by the music or chosen by us, just like great actors will do. Will we experience “good vibes” as a result of this? Probably so, but just like those great Alabama players the positive feelings will be the result rather than the cause of successful performance.

And with this, I will take my usual December hiatus from blogging. I look forward to sharing more thoughts with you all again beginning sometime in mid-January.



Posted in Alto Trombone, Bass Trombone, Daily Routine, Euphonium, Higher Education, Intercollegiate Athletics, Music, Pedagogy, Performance Anxiety, Performing, Playing Fundamentals, Practicing, Teaching Low Brass, Tenor Trombone, Trombone, Tuba

Our “Unprecedented” Situation

As this post is being written and published the 2016 American presidential election is now more than two weeks past, and much to the chagrin of seemingly everyone the drama, division, and discontent that permeated the campaign have not diminished following its conclusion. Supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton remain baffled by the success of President-Elect Donald J. Trump, and members of the pundit class on the political Left and Right alike are similarly confused. News outlets both mainstream and “alternative” continue to discuss the “unprecedented” nature of recent political events, particularly the populist surges that brought about both the “Brexit” vote this past June and now the election of Mr. Trump. From every corner one hears sensationalist proclamations that the present political and cultural conditions are entirely unique in human history. Whatever the reason—the constant clamoring for ratings and “clicks” among news organizations struggling for market share, the inherent nature of the 24-hour news cycle, the public’s general ignorance of history, or a combination of these factors—the continuously overstated message sent by modern media is that humanity is moving into uncharted political and social territory, and new solutions must be devised to meet new challenges.

And then there’s me, not believing a word of it, and not worrying about it all that much. Here are three reasons why.

1. Our circumstances are not historically unique. Sure, we have more technology than human beings living in prior eras, but beyond that even a cursory reading of history will reveal events and personalities that seem eerily familiar. From political demonstrations, slander, and violence, to crooked politicians who use service to the public or to the king as a means of self-enrichment, to populist candidates who soar to electoral victory on the wings of impossible promises, to occasional popular uprisings against rulers and policies that benefit the few at the expense of the many, to “wars and rumors of wars,” one finds much in the historical record that could be mistaken for contemporary news reports with only the dates and the names of people and places changed. Moreover, one finds a significant amount of repetition when considering historical accounts from different locations and eras. There are differences in the particulars, but one can experience more than a slight sense of déjà vu when perusing the annals of human history.

Other than some disappointment that humanity’s collective ignorance of history appears to mean that we are indeed doomed to repeat it (again and again), to paraphrase Mr. Santayana, I find in our historical non-uniqueness an odd source of comfort. After all, humanity has endured similar circumstances before and will do so again, assuming that God’s providence in the immediate future continues more or less as it has through the centuries.

2. Human nature remains unchanged. One reason that the present circumstances are not unique is that human nature is still the same. Having now read the Bible through more than fifteen times (and listened through it easily that number again), whenever I come to its various historical narratives I find myself remarking that “these people are us.” (Members of my Friday morning Bible study group have heard me say this repeatedly.) In the Scriptures we find the best and truest explanation of the human condition, that we were made “very good” by a loving and purposeful Creator but fell from that state into one that is corrupted and in need of redemption and restoration. Throughout its pages we read of people who are very much like ourselves, capable of acts of great goodness, generosity, heroism, and faith—just as one would expect the image-bearers of God to be—and yet marred by the effects of the Fall and its resultant tendencies toward selfishness, greed, falsehood, and death. Does this understanding of humanity not explain both the virtues and the vices of individuals, political parties, candidates, and organizations throughout the ideological spectrum, where we see genuine goods being sought on all sides but never without a greater or lesser degree of corruption, confusion, and outright untruth? Does it not likewise explain both for good and ill the various societies and personages that have preceded us?

Of course, this view of humanity’s corrupted original goodness does not make me feel good about our present situation. Our shared nature with those who preceded us simply reassures me, along with a reading of history, that our circumstances are not unique.

3. God is still sovereign. Thus far I have described why I find little that is new in our present circumstances, though in terms that provide little comfort or hope for the future. Where I find hope is in the promises of the Creator and Sustainer of all things. After all, if there really is a God who “[declares] the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10), “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3), and “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11), then his good purposes will not be thwarted by the rise of any president, party, king, emperor, or potentate. Human civilization, with all of its goods, evils, and repetitive vicissitudes, is proceeding according to God’s eternal decree and with the glory of God and the good of his people in view. This doesn’t mean that humanity in general should expect centuries of uninterrupted progress, nor should Christians in particular expect continuous comfort and tolerance—quite the opposite, in fact (cf. 2 Timothy 3:12)—much less a future period of geopolitical dominance in some sort of renewed Christendom. At the same time, this doesn’t mean that Christians are permitted to be passive observers of the outworking of God’s purposes; we are called to diligently seek the good of ourselves, our communities, and God’s kingdom more broadly (cf. Jeremiah 29:7). It simply means that the God whose ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8) is bringing things along to his promised and intended end, the end for which the experiences of this life both good and bad—perhaps especially bad—prepare his people: to live with, to reign with, and to rest in him forever. Read the end of Revelation, Christians; it describes a very happy ending for us, indeed!

Carl Trueman (b. 1967), one of my very favorite ministers and church historians, once described his view of human history as “we started out good but after the Fall have been more or less bouncing along the bottom” (my paraphrase). I tend to agree with him. Whether you are optimistic or pessimistic about the recent election results, or about Brexit, or about other particulars of our historical situation, I hope you will dismiss the hype about how “unprecedented” these things are as just that: hype. Humanity has seen unpopular rulers and discontented peoples before, and will again until Christ returns. Our fallen human nature essentially dictates that this will be so. We can take perhaps a small measure of comfort in that our forebears have endured similar circumstances, but for the Christian our ultimate hope is in the God whose good purposes are being worked out in even the most dire situations, and who promises to bring about our ultimate good both in this life and in that which is to come.


Posted in Bible, Calvinism, Christian Worldview, History, Political Systems, Politics, Practical Christianity, Providence, Society, Theology, Truth

Unedited Videos: “The Big Horns”

As often happens in November, which along with April is one of the two busiest months in every university music department, I have found keeping my regular blogging schedule to be impossible. After missing an entire week this post comes a few days late; I hope to have two more before taking my usual “winter break” hiatus.

In my last post I provided some program notes for my then-upcoming Faculty Recital Series performance at Ole Miss. Today I am providing videos of the entire program. While I have for some time been in the habit of posting complete recital videos here on the blog (see here, here, here, and here), a few of my colleagues at other universities have begun intentionally posting live performance recordings on social media just to remind everyone that the edited-to-perfection presentations on commercial recordings are not accurate reflections of “real life,” and I am happy to stand with them in doing so. Overall, I was happy with this performance, which was my first with a significant portion performed on tuba, and I hope visitors to The Reforming Trombonist will enjoy it, as well.

Fantasie Concertante by Jacques Castérède (1926-2014)

Stereograms Nos. 7, 3, and 21 by David William Brubeck (b. 1966)

Worlds Apart by Frank Gulino (b. 1987)

Walking by Anthony Plog (b. 1947)

Tuba Suite by Gordon Jacob (1895-1984)

Fnugg by Øystein Baadsvik (b. 1966)

I almost forgot to mention that this performance of Fnugg contains a brief reference to one of my son’s favorite cartoons (and mine). Having heard Mr. Baadsvik himself interject a reference to a popular tune into one of his renditions of the piece, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. 🙂

Posted in Anthony Plog, Bass Trombone, David William Brubeck, Doubling, Frank Gulino, Gordon Jacob, Jacques Casterede, Micah Everett, Music, Oystein Baadsvik, Performance Videos, Performances, Trombone, Tuba

Monday Evening: “The Big Horns”

This Monday, November 7, pianist Stacy Rodgers and I will present the second event in this year’s Faculty Recital Series at Ole Miss, a recital for bass trombone and tuba that I have somewhat humorously entitled “The Big Horns.” I have chosen this particular instrumentation in part as a fitting counterpart to my recital program last year which was on tenor trombone and euphonium, and also because it has provided a good opportunity for me to stretch out my nascent “tuba chops.” As I have discussed previously in this space, despite having studied tuba pedagogy at the graduate level and having taught lessons on the instrument for a number of years, only in the past 18 months or so have I purchased an instrument and begun to seriously hone my performing skills as a tubist. The tuba pieces comprise the second half of the program; the first half is a reprise of a bass trombone program I performed back on August 1 during the Trombonanza event in Argentina. Given my unusually large teaching load this semester and that I have yet to perform any of this material in the northern hemisphere, to repeat those pieces rather than prepare new material was a logical choice for this part of the program. Here are some notes on the planned repertoire.

Fantasie Concertante by Jacques Castérède (1926-2014)
Castérède studied mathematics before becoming a celebrated pianist, theorist, and composer, winning the Grand Prix de Rome in 1953. He taught solfège and analysis at the Paris National Conservatory and later taught composition at the Central Academy in Beijing. Composed in 1960, Fantasie Concertante is reminiscent of the composer’s earlier Sonatine for tenor trombone and piano. The two works share a frequent use of the mordent and a predilection for exotic scales and colorful harmonies. While Castérède’s music extends in some ways beyond the bounds of traditional tonal harmonies and melodic constructions, it remains beautiful and approachable even to listeners without an understanding of the advanced compositional techniques employed.

Stereograms (selections) by David William Brubeck (b. 1966)
Bass trombonist David William Brubeck teaches at Miami Dade College and began composing his Stereograms for unaccompanied bass trombone in the 1990s. Intended as both performance and study pieces, these short works also pay tribute to Brubeck’s favorite bass trombonists and other musical heroes. On this program I’ll be performing three of these pieces, beginning with Stereogram No. 7, which is a funk dedicated to bass trombone innovator David Taylor (b. 1944) and saxophonist and bandleader Bob Mintzer (b. 1953). Next will be Stereogram No. 3, a ballad channeling the beautiful, warm sound of “Mr. Bass Trombone,” George Roberts (1928-2014). Last will be Stereogram No. 21, an upbeat funk-rock dedicated to Bill Reichenbach (b. 1949), a fantastic L.A.-based bass trombonist and multiple low brass doubler—he’s one of those guys that you’ve heard often in movie scores, even if you’ve never heard of him.

Worlds Apart by Frank Gulino (b. 1987)
Ending the first half of the program will be Worlds Apart by the young attorney, composer, and bass trombonist (not necessarily in that order) Frank Gulino. While Gulino began his studies as a bass trombonist at the Peabody Conservatory, he went on to earn a juris doctor from George Mason University; he now works largely in the areas of entertainment and music industry law while continuing to perform and compose, winning ASCAP Plus Awards in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Worlds Apart (2010) betrays Gulino’s familiarity with the bass trombone’s sonic capabilities, exploiting the instrument’s capacities for lush timbres at softer dynamics more than the more aggressive sounds with which the instrument is often associated.

Walking by Anthony Plog (b. 1947)
Anthony Plog began his career as a trumpet player, holding positions with prestigious orchestras throughout the world. As he became more accomplished and known as a composer his career moved inexorably in that direction, and he finally retired from performance in 2001 to devote his energies to composition. Now retired again from his position at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, Germany, he holds a half-time teaching position at the Norwegian Music Academy in Oslo while also giving master classes elsewhere. Walking (2014) is billed by its publisher as an “intermediate”-level instructional piece, yet its high tessitura is typical of more advanced repertoire. Melodically the piece consists largely of the “modified chromatic” (my term) writing—and associated odd fingering patterns—that characterizes Plog’s more challenging works for tuba and other instruments, yet there are sounds strangely reminiscent of the “walking bass” patterns for which the piece is undoubtedly named, and which make the piece an entertaining way to begin the second half of this program.

Tuba Suite by Gordon Jacob (1895-1984)
Gordon Jacob was a British composer of no little renown, having taught at the Royal College of Music for more than forty years in addition to providing music for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. He turned to composing for wind instruments relatively late in his career, though his catalogue includes a number of works for low brass soloists and ensembles, of which his Trombone Concerto (1955) might be the most well-known. The Tuba Suite (1973) is clearly Jacob’s modern take on the Baroque-era dance suite, with several of the movements even sharing the titles and rhythmic patterns associated with those old courtly dances.

Fnugg by Øystein Baadsvik (b. 1966)
Norwegian tuba soloist Øystein Baadsvik is one of the premiere tubists performing in the world today, having premiered over 40 new works for tuba while pursuing a full-time career as a soloist and recording artist. While much of Baadsvik’s efforts are devoted to serious music, he frequently programs and even creates lighter works as well, of which Fnugg (2004) is a prime example. Written for unaccompanied tuba, the piece uses multiphonics in order to create a didgeridoo-like effect, then introduces beatboxing, and then begins to mix these two extended techniques to great effect. It provides an unusual, challenging, and entertaining way to end a solo recital.

The program will take place on Monday evening at 7:30pm in Nutt Auditorium on the Ole Miss campus. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students. All are welcome.

Posted in Anthony Plog, Bass Trombone, David William Brubeck, Doubling, Frank Gulino, Gordon Jacob, Jacques Casterede, Music, Oystein Baadsvik, Performances, Tuba, University of Mississippi