Patriotic Concert July 3, 2016

18461977735_51e17e6dfd_zThis Sunday, July 3, 2016, the Asheville Jazz Orchestra will be performing our 2nd annual Patriotic Concert at Trinity United Methodist Church is west Asheville, NC. We’ll be performing a mix of patriotic music in a big band jazz style along side big band jazz from the WWII era, focusing on bands such as Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. The concert starts at 3 PM and is free and open to the public. A goodwill offering will be taken to raise funds for both the Asheville Jazz Council and the Asheville Buncombe Christian Community Ministry‘s veterans charity.

For a preview of some of the music you might here, you can watch four of us on WLOS Channel 13 here.

Becoming a Better Sight Reader

I wasn’t always good at reading music. When I was a young piano student I frustrated my teacher because I tried to play things by ear instead of learning to read the manuscript. I could get away with this for a while because my mother is a piano teacher and taught out of our house, so I got to hear her students playing a lot of the standard repertoire that I was assigned. Eventually, however, the music got to be too challenging for me to do this and I struggled.

By the time I got to high school I started to take reading music more seriously and got better at it. The thing is, I never really made a huge effort to “practice sight reading,” I simply practiced music and developed a pretty good ability to sight read. In retrospect, it wasn’t just the practice reading music that helped me. I recently came across some advice by Eric O’Donnell on sight reading that is worth reading.

Sight-reading, like many other techniques that we develop as musicians, is a skill – a skill that can be learned and continually improved upon. Rather than putting yourself in a room and trying to blindly improve your sight-reading chops by doing it over and over again, look at the specific elements involved in this skill and work on developing them.

O’Donnell lists five different areas to work on when practicing for sight reading: Concentration, Read bigger chunks of music, Recognizing rhythms and patterns, Looking ahead, and Continue through your mistakes. Read through his entire article to get his discussion on each of those ideas, it’s very good.

I have a couple of things to add to his advice. First, listen to the music you’re practicing – at least the style. Each style of music has it’s own idiomatic rhythms and pitch patterns. Part of what makes sight reading easier is recognizing how the visual patterns you’re looking at should translate into sound. After you’ve heard enough music in that style and seen those patterns enough you’ll make the mental connections that your eyes and brain can gloss over them and look ahead more easily.

And lastly, learn music from the page. In other words, don’t practice sight reading, practice reading the same thing over and over. While I encourage my students to memorize things like scales, chord arpeggios, and tunes, it’s still valuable to practice reading them on the paper. Sure, you may not need to read that scale because you have it memorized, but seeing it on the paper will help you recognize that pattern when you see it in another context. Furthermore, you want to go back and correct your mistakes so that you’re not reinforcing playing something wrong.

Sight reading is a skill, like any other, and it take time and effort to get better at it. Following O’Donnell’s advice will help you speed up your progress by approaching it more efficiently.

Smoky Mountain Brass Band 35th Anniversary Concert

Smoky Mountain Brass Band 2Sorry for the late notice, but if you’re in Asheville this evening, Saturday April 30, 2016, I’d like to invite you to come to the Smoky Mountain Brass Band’s 35th Anniversary concert. The concert is at the Asheville Community Theater and starts at 7:30 PM. Tickets are only $8 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. We’ll be joined by the Triangle Brass Band for this concert too!

Smokey Mountain Brass Band Sunday, March 6, 2016

Here’s another weekend performance for me. This Sunday, March 6, 2016, I’ll be conducting the Smokey Mountain Brass Band in concert at Weaverville Methodist Church, in Weaverville, NC. The performance will feature a variety of music ranging from Clarke’s Cousins (with Bill Ross and JP Carney as the soloists) to Hymn of the Highlands by Philip Sparke to Hymnsong of Philip Bliss by western North Carolina composer David Holsinger. The performance starts at 3 PM and is free to attend, although we will be collecting an offering.

If you’re in the area this Sunday please come out and check out western North Carolina’s only British-style brass band.

History of Jazz Concert Series – Jazz of the Roaring 20s

Low-Down Sires DrawingThis Sunday, March 6, 2016, I’ll be performing again at a very neat concert series produced by Russ Wilson at the Isis Restaurant and Music Hall in west Asheville, NC.

The Jazz Age was a period in the 1920s, ending with the Great Depression, in which jazz music and dance styles became popular, mainly in the United States, but also in Britain, France and elsewhere. Jazz originated in New Orleans as a fusion of African and European music and played a significant part in wider cultural changes in this period, and its influence on pop culture continued long afterwards. The Jazz Age is often referred to in conjunction with the ROARING TWENTIES.

The next show in the HISTORY OF JAZZ series presents two bands (from Asheville, North Carolina) carrying on the tradition of this great music. The Low Down Sires and The Firecracker Jazz. These 2 bands play the uninhibited, freewheeling Jazz of King Oliver, Kid Ory, Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton.

THE LOW DOWN SIRES:
The Low-Down Sires are dedicated to the lost sounds of early jazz, inspired by the compositions and arrangements of Joe “King” Oliver, Edward “Kid” Ory, Jelly Roll Morton, and other giants from the storied origins of the art form. Their raucous style predates the smoother sounds of big band swing and the intellectualism of modern jazz and transports you to the streets of New Orleans and the barrelhouses of early 20th century Mississippi river towns. Their performance style is at once hard hitting and intimate, fitting in easily well at bars, back-porches, swing dances, and street corners.

THE FIRECRACKER JAZZ BAND:
With jubilant vigor that spills from the stage to the streets, FIRECRACKER JAZZ BAND revitalizes the energy of the roots of Jazz. In paying homage to the pioneers of early 20th Century Jazz, including that of Dixieland and New Orleans, the Firecracker Jazz Band carries the torch that was once lit by such greats as Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong & Bix Beiderbecke.

A show not to be missed. Tickets are $15. Downbeat is 7:30pm
Isis Restaurant and Music Hall
743 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
(828) 575-2737 –  isisasheville.com

Communicating With Sound Technician

I just got the following email with questions about how to communicate with your sound technician.

Hi

I have played in big bands many times where the sound men didn’t really help all that much. Frustrating.
You sound like you know what you’re talking about!!
Right now – I am directing a Praise Band in Xxxx Xxxxx, XX. I don’t know who to contact about some questions I have to help me communicate with the sound man there. Are you interested or able to help me?

Some questions I would like to address – –
-How to communicate with the sound man while on stage in front of church. Reason it is so important during the performance is because the sound man doesn’t have any ears. :/ Need to tell him when to turn up mics (for solos and duets and when the inexperienced guitar player’s part is actually being play correctly so it should be turned up, etc. etc.He seems to have a mind of his own when it comes to vocals being above band volume.)
Uff. Seems so hopeless. He can speak to me on the mic he has connected at the board. However, he never knows when I NEED HIS ATTN. (I can’t really use my hands to signal him on stage during the service)
I tried a 2-way radio but he didn’t want to wear ear buds all the time (as I can understand).

Thanks, Diane

Diane, it can be very frustrating working with sound technicians who can’t or aren’t willing to help you out. Unfortunately, many sound technicians have the idea that they know better than the music director how the band should sound and want to do their own thing, regardless of what you ask them to set up for you. Since I don’t know your particular sound man personally and the performance situation, I can’t give you specific advice, but here are some general things you can try or think about.

Treat the Sound Technician As An Integral Part Of Your Ensemble

This is just interpersonal skills 101, but I feel it’s important that your sound tech feels that you take him/her seriously and trust their judgement. That can be a double edged sword if they don’t have the same vision for the sound as you do, but start from that point and go from there. I try to remember to thank our sound tech during the performance the same way I introduce members of the ensemble on stage. The trouble is, the better the sound tech is at doing his or her job, the more “out of mind” they are. Sometimes I mention to a sound tech before the show that if I forget to thank them on stage that it means I was extremely happy with their work.

So basically, remember that you will catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Spend Some Time in the House Listening To the Ensemble With the Sound Tech

Whenever possible (hard to do if you’re also performing as well as directing), spend some time out in the house at sound check and listen to how it sounds. See if you can get the sound tech to mix the sound as close to how you want it to be so he or she gets an aural picture of your needs.

Since I most perform with jazz groups when I use a sound system, I have to trust that the sound tech understands what jazz is supposed to sound like. Too often they come from a background of mixing sound for rock groups and then have a skewed understanding of how things should be miced. With my big band, for example, I want the sound tech to mix the band in such a way that we’re approximating the sound of an all-acoustic jazz ensemble. A sound tech with experience mixing rock bands will often want to over-mic the rhythm section and we end up with an unbalanced sound. With a sound tech I’ve not worked with before I will step out into the house to listen to the mix during our sound check to ensure that it sounds right.

Find a piece or tune that involves everyone in the group but is also simple enough that they can run through without you up on stage. During sound check run out to the sound board and help your tech mix it the way you want. Since it’s hard for you to communicate during the service, try to take care of as much as possible ahead of time.

Communication While On Stage

This is frustrating, and I don’t have a good answer. Maybe some visitors reading this can offer suggestions. The best sound techs are focused during the entire show and keep coming back to watching the music director. When they do, you can unobtrusively point at the vocals and then point down to indicate to turn them down, etc. If you work with the same tech regularly you can both come up with some specific hand signals to help make your on-stage needs clear. But if your sound technician is not paying attention, that’s not going to help.

The best solution, if you can find a tactful way of doing so, is to make your sound man understand that it’s important for the music that he keep his attention on you and make your adjustments as needed. Another option is to get him a “liaison” between you and him to assist him during the service. That assistant can be someone charged with keeping an eye on you and passing along your needs, freeing him up to focus on other things.

Thoughts For Further Discussion

What advice do you have for Diane? What are your strategies for working with sound technicians? What’s the worst performance from the sound tech that you’ve ever dealt with? What are the best experiences you’ve had with a sound technician and why was it so good? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Female Trombonists Needed To Take Survey For Research

If you’re a woman or girl who plays trombone, please take a moment and consider taking Holly’s survey.

Hello!

I’m currently a Music Education major at Nazareth College and I am writing a paper on gender bias in instruments for my educational psychology class.

I’m looking for female trombone players to take a survey on their experience in a primarily male community.

If you could send this link to any female trombone players you know or tag them below in the comments, that would be greatly appreciated!

https://docs.google.com/…/1-GkS3pZi0Oa6OyljSgK1sq5…/viewform

Thank you!

Holly

Weekend Picks

Here are some random music related links for your surfing this weekend.

An old post by David Valdez in Casa Valdez, he discusses the 8 Tonic System for Improvisation to help you explore new sounds in your improvisations.

The 8 tonic system is an attempt to organize and simplify the methods that have been used to teach improvisors to use Hexatonic/Triad-Pairs in the past. Hexatonic scales used for improvisation is now an important tool of the modern improvisor, yet there are inherent problems with the methods that have been taught up to this point. The biggest problem with Hexatonics is that they immediately sound formulaic and too much like a pattern. The other problem is that in order to use a wide variety of different Hexatonic/Triad-Pairs the player must commit many different formulas to memory in order to make the correct calculations to find the HT/TPs. These formulas are short calculations, like: Major triad from the #11 and Major Triad from the b13, but they start to add up and get overwhelming.

Here’s an interesting discussion by a rock guitarist that I think is good advice for any musician on improving your rhythm.

Here’s an oldie but a goodie by James Boldin for music teachers on Guidelines for Private Instruction.

And lastly, here’s a briefer performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle by one of the masters.

Upcoming Gigs

I’ve got some more public shows coming up, if you’re in the area.

Tonight, (Wednesday, February 17, 2016) I’m performing with the Greenville Jazz Collective Big Band at Chicora Alley in Greenville, SC. We play two sets of big band jazz starting at 7 PM.

Friday night (February 19, 2016) the Low-Down Sires will be playing from 8:30 PM until 11 PM or so at the Cork and Keg, downtown Asheville. The Sires specializes in jazz from 1920s New Orleans and Chicago, with a smattering of other music thrown in. It’s great for swing dancing or listening.

And on Saturday (February 20, 2016) the Asheville Jazz Orchestra will be back at Highland Brewing Company. We play two sets from 7 PM to 9 PM, featuring big band jazz from the Swing Era up through contemporary charts.

If you can make it out to one of these gigs please come up and say hello.

fMRI Study Shows Tongue Position While Playing Horn

Dr Peter Iltis conducted a study using a functional MRI chamber at the Biomedical NMR Lab at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen, Germany, watching hornist Sarah Willis’s tongue position as she plays in different registers, different tonguing patterns, and different dynamics. This (safely) replicates some of the fluoroscopic studies that were done with brass players. Check out some of the footage.

It’s pretty clear in this video that her tongue position raises as she ascends and lowers as she descends. I also find it interesting how there is a slight “bump” with the tongue arch when slurring. In other words, her tongue arch to slur up might jump up high and then snaps down to a slightly lower position, but still higher than it was on the lower note. This may be the equivalent of attacking the note with the tip of the tongue, giving it an extra push to slot, but with a much smoother attack to the pitch for slurred notes.

Iltis is interviewed about his research on a second video. Since he is also a horn player he has a good understanding of how brass players play as well as are taught about tonguing.