Happy New Year...Several people had requested that a synopsis of the Vincent Cichowicz master class held in December be put on the list. Now that the seasonal playing is slowing down it is finally ready for those interested.
Vincent Cichowicz Master Class
University of Florida
December 6, 1999
Workshop was held in the orchestra rehearsal hall with approximately 150+ in attendance.
Three University of Floria students (2 undergrads and 1 grad student) were in turn asked to play selections from solos they were working on. One did the Hummel, another the Tomasi, and a third piece I did not catch the name of which was unfamiliar to me. It was a modern selection with a lyrical and flowing melody with wide leaps. After stopping them at an appropriate place in the music Mr. Cichowicz was most complimentary about their basic playing. He then asked each how they warmed up and watched them demonstrate a short example.
Emphasis was on being "musical" even during the warm up period. Particular attention was paid to the areas of moving one note into the next, with care taken on the releases of the last note in a phrase or pattern. He recommended tapering the last sustained note. (decrescendo) One student started with the standard 1/2 step descending chromatic pattern. She started on low C. Mr. Cichowicz suggested starting on 2nd line G instead due to the fact that low C promotes a "too flacid" feeling in the embouchure. Middle register uses a more "firm but supple" embouchure. He emphatically promoted to each student the importance of the breath inhalation. He used the analogy about using a deep "sigh" or "yawn" feeling to get a relaxed, deep, open and full breath without constriction. He warned against a shallow "hissy breath" sound with the inhalation and its related negative effects on tone, range, tonguing etc. Each student then were taught to exhale using his "flow patterns" ideas of blowing a large amount of air using a semi-embouchure without any instrument or buzzing of any type. Using terms like "blowing out the candle on a birthday cake", and "blowing the air rather than pushing the air" he was able to get the point across to move vast amounts of "wind". "Pushing" the air promotes tension and he expressed this idea with a term I had not encountered in exactly these words - "Constipation Syndrome". This is to be avoided always. This causes choking off at the throat, tension in the chest muscles and "high" rather than "deep" breathing. Also recommended was using a deep vowel sound such as "TOOOOOOOOOH" and to keep the vowel concept in mind and in the oral cavity while playing. "Teeeeeh" and "Tahhhhhh" were a little too shallow and would not yield a full bodied tone quality.
A little note regarding vibrato during warm ups... He did not recommend using vibrato on long tones during the warm up and warned that it could become an unconscious habit that could occur without intent. He did recommend vibrato as a conscious effort with different speeds and widths for different pieces.
Air/breath control (flow), if poor, was related to problems with range, tonguing, tone quality and response problems of making tones speak clearly and easily. A reverse of this is true as well. Good results occur if the breath flow is good.
Each student was asked to play the 2nd Clarke study in F major.
Slurred was the manner used, with different articulations recommended to
be used as well. By starting with a full relaxed breath and a good
air flow, and playing the exercise as if it were a great melody with energy,
feeling, expression with crescendos and decrescendos as well as with a
tapered final note, the sound of each student was dramatically improved.
The audience noticed the improvement immediately in each case. More
open and full, yet relaxed. Each student had a different sound unto
themselves, but that natural tone quality was enhanced with Mr. Cichowicz'
instruction. Other than the concentration on the air stream (inhalation/exhalation
and air flow) his encouragement was to play very musically with shape
and emotion, and made reference to the fact that it is too easy to play
such exercises (or scales) in a boring or unmusical manner. (All
the players in the audience nodded their heads about this!) "Musicality
& Expression" were the watchwords throughout the master class.
They are for the warm up as well as techical exercises and not to be kept
only for performance pieces.
When each student returned to their solos and put into practice the concepts of "air flow" and "musicality" drastic improvement of their solo was the result. Getting so involved with the musicality also helped each get over trouble spots. He implored them to keep the music going even during those difficult sections. He suggested not stopping at every mistake. Finish the phrase or line and then go back to correct it. Keeping the musical concept going through the trouble spots will help one get them right rather than worrying about them. This is not to say not to fix the problem, but rather to practice it slowly and with a good "musical line" and then the problems would take care of themselves.
One student had a problem with a section on a high A (she was using a C trumpet) preceded by a leap. She obviously had a mental block after missing it the first time as she missed it several times trying to get it correct. He said that thinking ahead was good but not think of it as a technical problem and to worry about it two or three lines early, but rather to think of it as part of the upcoming musical phrase. After going into "musical mode" instead of "technical mode" the phrase just sang out. She was so surprised that darned if she didn't stop immediately after that spot and didn't finsh the phrase. The look of satisfaction on her face and the acknowledgement of the improvement by the audience was worth a fortune. (As well as a chuckle).
Mr. Cichowicz' recommended mental approach was to:
Mr. Cichowicz was extremely cordial, personable and complementary to each student and yet found fundamental elements to be improved on in all three. Breath control (flow), full inhalation, "Blow" NOT "Push" and air speed were the common threads. When these things were improved and done in coordination with a musical goal, vast improvement was the result each time.
I was amazed at how simple he made it seem to be a good musician.
I heard the same things we have all been taught but do not always follow through on.
It is too easy to "go technical' and play the notes without playing the music itself.
"Musicality" above all else! Other technical elements will take care of themselves if the "music" is the ultimate goal.
I did get to meet Mr. Cichowicz afterwards (fulfilled one of my dreams) and got to shake his hand and speak for a few moments.
I also got an interesting complement from one of my adult students who had attended his workshop in Orlando the previous Saturday. He was there with Bill Adam. (I couldn't attend myself due to my middle school band being involved with a Christmas parade that evening.) When he got back and I saw him at a concert that Sunday (the day before the UF masterclass) I asked him how it went and how he enjoyed it. He responded "I didn't hear one new thing! The same ideas you are always coming back to at my lessons every week." This was the best thing he could have said to me. It was truly "music to my ears."
It was a pleasure to attend Mr. Cichowicz' class and get to meet him. This report of the master class is based on my somewhat faulty recollection and I'm sorry it is so late coming. Hopefully it will be of some help.
Now if I can just get that Clarke study to really "Sing".