Land of the Sky Symphonic Band Concert, Sunday November 18, 2012

If you are around Asheville, NC this weekend I want to invite you to come hear the Land of the Sky Symphonic Band perform our annual fall concert at Diana Wortham Theater this Sunday, November 18, 2012. The concert will start at 7 PM.

We’ll be performing a varied program, including some classic concert band repertoire like Gustav Holst’s Second Suite in F and William Schuman’s George Washington Bridge. Also on the program is a nice transcription of Gabriel Faure’s Pavane and Robert Sheldon’s Pride of the Grenadiers. We’re also doing a couple of marches, By Land and Sea by Kenneth J. Alford and King Cotton March by John Philip Sousa, and a very nice medley of Duke Ellington tunes arranged by Tommy Newsom. There will also be a couple of Christmas pieces to get everyone in the mood for the holiday season.

Eugene Corporon on the Difference Between Rehearsal and Practice

Here are some ideas by conductor and music educator Eugene Corporon I recently came across about the differences between rehearsing and practicing. Food for thought for all the music students out there.

Rehearsals are not the place to teach the parts, but rather the place to put the pieces together.

The rehearsal is a place to do the things together that you can’t do alone. (You can learn your part alone.)

You don’t come to rehearsal to learn your part, but rather to learn everybody else’s part.

Land of the Sky Symphonic Band at the White Horse Black Mountain, April 7, 2012

Tomorrow evening, April 7, 2012, the Land of the Sky Symphonic Band will be performing a concert at the White Horse Black Mountain, beginning at 7:30 PM.  For this performance I’m sharing the podium with Dr. David Kirby, a long-time friend of the band.  Last night we performed a concert and were joined by students of Dr. Kirby’s at Pfieffer University.

If you’re in western North Carolina tomorrow night and would like to hear a fine concert band perform please come.  Be sure to say hello during intermission or after the performance!

Pacing Your Brass Section In Rehearsals

Last weekend I had the pleasure of directing the North Carolina Western Region Honor Middle School Jazz Band out at Lenoir-Rhyne University.  The students worked extremely hard for me, were very well behaved, and improved remarkably over the two days.  Here’s a video that was taken during the performance.

The whole concert was taped and can be viewed here.

Clinic situations like this can be particularly challenging for the brass students.  With only a short time to put together 4 tunes or so it’s difficult to get the music sounding good without doing a lot of playing, but the more the brass students play the harder it will be for them to have chops left for the concert.  There are some strategies that you can use to help pace your students through rehearsals and let them save their faces for the performance. Continue reading Pacing Your Brass Section In Rehearsals

Open Reading Session with the Asheville Jazz Orchestra

The Asheville Jazz Orchestra, a 17 piece big band made up of professional musicians, music teachers and other serious players based in western North Carolina, will be hosting an open reading session on Tuesday January 24th at 7 PM to 9 PM. We’ll be meeting in the basement of Trinity United Methodist Church in west Asheville (587 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC). You’ll want to come around the back of the church and use the ramp entrance to the left of the stairs.

While the band is using this rehearsal as a chance to try out some new material for some upcoming gigs, this would be a great opportunity for musicians who haven’t played with us before to get to know the book and for us to get to know players looking to join our sub list. Students looking for sight reading experience are welcome and encouraged to come sit in. Composers and arrangers are encouraged to bring charts for us to try out.  Please pass the word around and let anyone in the area who might be interested in jamming with us in an informal and low pressure situation.

Although there may be some extras, you’ll probably want to bring your own music stand/amp/cables/etc.

In order for me to ensure that we have key parts covered, please drop me a line to let me know if you plan on coming (although you’re welcome to show up anyway).

I hope to see some of you next Tuesday!

Jay Friedman: The Early Bird Gets the Note

I just came across an online article by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principle trombonist, Jay Friedman, called The Early Bird Gets the Note.  Much of what he writes in it mirrors things I’ve learned from Doug Elliott and from Donald Reinhardt’s texts on embouchures.  In discussing having your embouchure firmed and in place before you play a note, Friedman uses some effective analogies, including an elevator.

You wouldn’t jump off an elevator as it was coming up to a floor and you wouldn’t try to play a note before the embouchure was level with the partial that note was on. Good players get the embouchure to every note early so it can stabilize and hold the required firmness needed to let the air do it’s job. Again, I want to stress the basic principal of producing sound: a critical balance between the 3 components of tone; enough firmness in the corners of the embouchure, enough air flow to vibrate the lips, and enough seal or stability of the mouthpiece against the embouchure, OK, pressure. When these 3 things are in the correct balance no other muscle activity is needed or desired.

A lot of players want their playing to feel effortless and so minimize the above three mechanical principles to an extreme, limiting their playing.  Building the muscular strength to hold the corners firm, for example, will make holding the corners in the proper position feel easier.  An effortless feel results from being stronger, not looser.  Reinhardt described it as, “Relax doesn’t mean collapse.”

One thing I’m not entirely certain about is Friedman’s analogy of “blowing across a straight surface.”   Continue reading Jay Friedman: The Early Bird Gets the Note

Tim Morrison on Air Pockets and Guess the Embouchure Type

I don’t remember exactly how I happened across this, but I while ago I found interesting discussion of air pockets by trumpet player Tim Morrison.  According to this link, Tim Morrison plays intentionally with some air pockets under his lips.

The primary pocketing spot is the upper lip and cheek area above the corners. It’s important to keep corners and cheeks firm, but to allow the air pockets to form. I’ve found this dramatically reduces counter-productive embouchure stress, yet keeps strength where you need it, which is in the corners and through the middle of the cheeks. One more thing. There is always air present under the upper lip/cheek area and even more noticeably when playing in the lower register. This is paramount in getting the “trombone effect” in lower register playing. As you ascend, the facial muscles come more into play and the air pockets become less noticeable, but are still present.

Take a look at this video of Tim Morrison and look at his upper lip.  The resolution is a little low, unfortunately, but I think I can see his air pockets.  Also, I have to say how much I loved watching the composer, Joe Hisaishi, conduct this piece.  It’s unusual for an orchestral conductor to not use a baton, but he is a very expressive conductor.

While I’m at it, I’ll play “Guess the Embouchure Type.”  Take a look and I’ll have my guess after the break.

Continue reading Tim Morrison on Air Pockets and Guess the Embouchure Type

Land of the Sky Symphonic Band Music Director

It’s official.

The Board of Directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. David Wilken to the position of Music Director of the Land of the Sky Symphonic Band.

The band will continue its Spring concert schedule under the direction of Dr. David Kirby, with performances scheduled in Brevard, Asheville, and Mars Hill.

Dr. Wilken has conducted the band for its last three rehearsals. He will assume his full responsibilities as Music Director in August when the band begins its 2011-2012 season.

Walt Justice
Board of Directors
Land of the Sky Symphonic Band

It’s been a great time conducting the last three rehearsals.  It’s a fine group, made up of serious amateur players and some professionals as well.  During one of the rehearsals I had fun milking the rubato passages bit more than I would usually do.  I wanted to see how far I could take it, but they all watched and followed.  It’s always a pleasure to conduct an ensemble that follows that closely.

Conducting Thoughts From Dr. Joe Scagnoli

I was doing some office cleaning and came across a notebook for a conducting class I took from Dr. Joe Scagnoli, at Ball State.   I don’t recall the context of the following, but I think this may be something he put together for our class.  Here are “Conducting Thoughts, Some Simple-Some Profound” from ‘Doc.’

  • The music is in the sound, not in the printing.
  • Music moves ever forward.
  • Teach your students to play with professional ear.
  • We are either sensitizing our players or desensitizing them.
  • Every ensemble is capable of its own independent pulse.
  • The music, not the meter, should drive the gesture.
  • The left hand is the adjective hand – descriptive.
  • When conducting soft passages with small gestures the facial energy must increase tremendously.
  • Releases are reverse preparations.
  • Always be aware of who in the ensemble has the pulse.
  • People care more about how you feel about the music than how much you know.
  • The music starts before the first beat is given.  Set up the mood of the music.

It’s obvious from reading it that he’s specifically talking about conducting, but there are gems in there for jazz or chamber ensemble directors, and even just musicians in general.