As promised, here is a recap of the first day, which began at 8:00 for Basic Training with Tubist Sam Pilafian.
Basic Training, which ran for 30 minutes, was a general warm-up, including mouthpiece buzzing (some intervals, scales, and a stirring 200 players on mouthpiece rendition of Home on the Range), stretching, and Yoga breathing. Pilafian's central point was that we need to get our minds focused and our bodies awake before we even take out the horn. Pretty standard stuff, so I'll only relate two of Pilafian's personal favorite exercises. First, the breath holding bow and arrow: Inhale for six counts while pretending to pull on an imaginary bow, holding the breath, with open throat, for six counts, then releasing the imaginary bowstring, and breathing out for six counts, trying to propel the imaginary arrow with air. The exercise then moves up to holding the air for 12 counts, then 18, and so on. Pilafian liked the exercise because it emphasized both lung capacity and air control. Second, the quick inhale: inhale for four beats, exhale for four, inhale for two, exhale for four, inhale for one, exhale for four, in 1/2, out 4, in 1/4, out 4. (This should all be done without any big wheezing/sucking noises.) This exercise improves the ability to take in large breaths before
Next, a masterclass with Alan Siebert, a professor at CCM and a former member of the San Diego symphony. The masterclass had a lot of playing, both by Siebert and some brave students (it was, after all, the weeks first masterclass), but there were a few insights worth passing along. Siebert was the person who reviewed all of the trumpet audition tapes, and he had some general advice on recording, such as using a stereo mic, recording onto DAT or mini-disc, placing the microphone at least 8 feet away from the bell, and just making sure the tapes were generally well produced (i.e. no background noise, not too loud or soft, etc.) While on the topic of recording, he also stressed the importance of recording practice sessions weekly, saying that one's mind can either be working in the role of teacher or player, but not both at the same time. He discussed the importance of maintaining pulse, even in rubato passages, and of breathing deeply and staying relaxed. Siebert also discussed how note length feel is often determined more by the attack on the following note than by the actually length of the note. Additionally, he highly recommended both the Cichowicz flow studies, and Hickman's piccolo book.
Following practice time (my only practice insight is that saxophone swing etude books are a great challenge for all you big band players. Sax parts routinely go up to F and G, and force you to play musically in the upper register. I kidnapped a couple of my little brother's Sax method books, but it would certainly be worthwhile to go purchase some if you don't have a sibling sax player handy.) and lunch, I was able to check out the first rehearsal for the Summit Brass. They practiced two pieces while I was there, one jazz, one classical. The classical was beautiful, and despite small adjustments to balance and general dynamics, very few changes were made by the conductor. The jazz piece, however, was not nearly as smooth, and didn't seem to settle into a groove. The Tuba's were having trouble keeping up with faster tempos, but Allan Dean, who played the lead part, had chop trouble when the song was slowed down too much. It should be interesting to see how this piece develops over the course of the week.
Next came a Masterclass with Ray Mase, which was by far the best master class I had ever seen. He covered a tremendous amount of information; I'll try and relate some of it here. He discussed the importance of tone/sound, balancing depth and richness with sparkle, and being able to move between more transparent and "covering the orchestra" sounds. He spent some time discussing the Charlier #2, saying that it was a soliloquy, played from the heart, and that each musician should find their own way of playing. More generally, he also said that people are rarely criticized for doing too much stylistically original playing, but are often criticized by doing things the standard way and trying to play like everyone else. He also cautioned people looking to use the Charlier or other long etudes in Orchestral auditions, saying that it is very hard to play long pieces without taking the horn off your face, and that strings and woodwinds, who might be on the audition committee, don't realize the difficulties of extended on-the-chops time. He also discussed Pictures from Exhibition, saying "Don't be fussy, just pick up the horn and do it." He suggested working out all the details of the music, putting down the horn, for a little while, coming back and just playing. Too much thinking, he felt, gets in the way of making music. He cautioned many of the players against getting too edgy when playing loud, and also against tonguing too hard when playing at high volumes. Mase thinks of each note consisting of attack (soft & hard), length (long & short) and volume (soft & loud). He said that while soft/long/soft and hard/short/loud are common, it is important to practice combining the three variables in every possible way. He then went on to discussing practice in general, saying that every person should think of their weak area, and then think what they did yesterday to improve that. He cautioned the orchestra hopefuls against only playing excerpts, and said that excerpts should take at most 40% of practice time. Instead, he recommended dividing practice into three parts: First, maintenance, covering all the areas of trumpet playing, but fairly quickly (tongue, slur, loud, soft, high, low, etc.). Second, the bulk of practice, working on improving a weak area. Third, making music and putting the technical skills to work. He said that he began by working on very simple songs, not thinking about technique and just playing. He felt that if he couldn't play simple pieces, then what could he play? Once he felt comfortable with a core of music, he began to expand outwards. He stressed the idea that directors want trumpets to be like woodwinds, and just play everything consistently. Trumpet players themselves, however, are often more concerned with playing "that high C that everyone in the world will remember." Directors would love trumpets to finish playing the Ballerina's Dance from Petrouchka, and then be able to just play it again, and nail it a second time no problem. (After all, a clarinet, for example, could do that no problem.) Finally he recommended Shuebruk's Graded Lip Trainers (available from Carl Fischer), especially books two and three.
Although I next had ensemble rehearsal, I will save that topic until another day and instead go on to the evening concert with Joe Burgstaller. In short, wow. I left the concert, not sure whether to hit the practice room or just quit the trumpet. Burgstaller was incredible, and has a tremendous command of the instrument. In his standard concert he mixes Mendez pieces with the standard trumpet repertoire, but since we "probably didn't want to hear the Haydn or the Hummel for the ten thousandth time," he limited this evenings concert to Mendez work. Before even going on to his playing, I should first say that Joe is a wonderful guy, and a excellent speaker. Although most of his discussion of Mendez was more or less preaching to the choir at tonight's event, the project, supported by Mendez' two sons, will certainly bring a new awareness of Mendez' life and music to people across the country. In short, Burgstaller would have made Mendez proud. Although it may be by virtue of being live instead of recording, Burgstaller had a slightly more modern sound than Mendez, sort of a Mendez meets Vizutti sort of thing. Vizutti is another name to invoke, since he is the only other performer I have heard with a similar level of technical ability. Burgstaller can tongue almost faster than I can listen, and plays in a style that is completely faithful to Mendez' approach. He opened with Mendez' signature, La Virgen de La Macarena, complete with circular breathing and large, brassy, vibrato Mendez style tone, and then went on to cover other pieces either written (Romnza, Bambuco) or arranged (Ziguenerweisen, Granito de Arena) by Mendez. The concert, which consisted of eight pieces was all too short, and I would *highly* recommend to any trumpet player to go see one of his concerts. As requested, his web page is at http://www.joeburgstaller.com, and I believe provides concert information.
Anyhow, that's it for today; I will have another installment tomorrow. Same bat time, same bat channel.