Sometimes Being Forced to Overcome an Obstacle is a Good Thing

I have found myself with little time for writing this week, but since I like to maintain the discipline of posting something every weekend I’ll share just a brief reflection this evening. This is essentially a follow-up to last week’s post about my experience at the Alessi Seminar, though it has more to do with my preparation for that event than the event itself.

About six weeks prior to the Seminar we were each emailed part assignments for a trombone quartet and the trombone choir, and asked to choose from a short list of solo works and excerpts to prepare for the masterclasses. While I was able to choose a solo and excerpts that did not expose any peculiar weaknesses in my playing (an idea I mentioned in a post last year), a couple of the ensemble parts I was assigned exposed a particular “chink in my armor” that I had been working to address but also made efforts to compensate for in performance. The particular weakness I’m referring to is the range between F4 and Bb4. I am well able to play below that range and, happily, have relatively little difficulty above it. But I have had some “stickiness” in recent years negotiating a minute shift when moving between the middle and upper registers and not always happy experiences when doing so.

Not wanting to embarrass myself at the Seminar, I spent nearly as much time practicing those two ensemble parts as I did my solo and excerpts for the masterclasses. Over the course of those six weeks or so I had several breakthroughs in my practice of those parts, and the performances were successful. Even more importantly, the improvements in that register have transferred to other pieces. I am no longer practicing those two ensemble parts, yet the things I learned in preparing them have brought about better playing in that register generally.

When I wrote the earlier post I just mentioned someone commented on Facebook that sometimes you have to take the things that you can’t do well, program a piece that forces you to work on them, and “kick them in the ***.” While I still maintain that it is good to program things that highlight one’s strengths, particularly when practice time is limited, sometimes being forced to tackle a weakness head-on is the best way to foster improvement. Happily, that was the case this summer.

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About Micah Everett

Micah Everett is Associate Professor of Music (Trombone/Low Brass) at the University of Mississippi, Principal Trombonist of the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Bass Trombonist of the Great River Trombone Quartet, Assistant Editor (Audio/Video Reviews) for the International Trombone Association Journal, and an S.E. Shires trombone artist. He is the author of THE LOW BRASS PLAYER'S GUIDE TO DOUBLING, published by Mountain Peak Music, and released his first solo recording, STEPPING STONES FOR BASS TROMBONE, VOL. 1, on the Potenza Music label in 2015. In addition to his professional work, he maintains an avid interest in the study of the Bible and of Reformed theology. He holds doctoral and master's degrees in music from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a bachelor's degree in music education from Delta State University, and a certificate in systematic theology from Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. The ideas and opinions expressed here are not necessarily shared by the employers and organizations with which the author is associated.
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