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.

Upcoming Orchestra Concerts

I’ve got a couple of orchestra performances this weekend, for anyone in western North Carolina looking for something to hear.  Be sure to say hello to me if you come.  Just look for the orchestra member in the tux. . .

The first will be tomorrow night, Friday April 29, 2011 at 7:30 in the Diana Wortham Theater in Asheville, with the Blue Ridge Orchestra.  The BRO is a community orchestra based in Asheville, NC.  I’ve been involved with this organization for a few years now, both playing with the group and serving on the board of directors.  This concert will be different from what many concert goers would expect because the featured artist is “family-oriented repercussionist” and song writer Billy Jonas.  It will also be a special night for the BRO’s conductor, Ron Clearfield.  Ron founded the BRO back in 1999 and will be stepping down as after this concert to focus on his composing and recording career.

The other orchestra performance I have will be this Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 3:00 at the Porter Center in Brevard, NC.  The Brevard Philharmonic concert will be a more traditional orchestra performance.  The pieces on this concert include Nicolai’s Overture to the Merry Wives of Windsor and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8.  Celebrating the 200th birthday of Franz Liszt, the BP will also perform Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2, one that was new to me and apparently isn’t performed that often for some reason.  Performing on piano will be Judit Gábos.

Live Jazz at Rock Bottom Grill in Hot Springs, NC

I meant to post this a couple of days earlier, for anyone in western North Carolina.  There will be live jazz at the Rock Bottom Grill in downtown Hot Springs tonight (Saturday, April 23, 2011) staring at 6 PM with the North Buncombe High School Jazz Ensemble.  The Mars Hill College Jazz Ensemble will follow, and they will be performing a few of my compositions on their set.  It will follow with the Steve Alford trio.

Stop on by, if you’re in the area.

Weight Training Principles Applied to Brass Embouchure

Dr. John Pursell stopped by to contribute to one of our conversations here and he mentioned an article he wrote in the March 2000 International Trumpet Guild journal. In his article, entitled Pumping Brass, Pursell summarizes what we have learned about weight training principles regarding athletic training and offers some thoughts about how those principles can be applied to building embouchure strength.

Brass players may be interested in Pursell’s discussion of the difference between building strength and building endurance, both of which are important to good brass playing. Athletes use different training principles to build one or the other, depending on their particular goals. If the weight training is being used to build strength, heavier weights are used with fewer repetitions. For building endurance the athlete will train with lighter weights, but use more repetitions.

A lot of Pursell’s practical advice isn’t really new or unique, but it’s nice to see supporting evidence. For example, many teachers recommend carefully controlled rest periods throughout a practice session.

Rest is essential to the proper function of the muscles. It is during the rest period that the muscles “recharge” themselves with ATP. Without enough rest, the body cannot keep up with the aerobic production of ATP, which is necessary for long-term activities. Instead, anaerobic production of ATP will continue, lactic acid will build up, and fatigue will quickly set in.

Pursell’s discussion of different brass pedagogues’ recommendations on when to rest while practicing is interesting in part for the way that brass practice has changed over the centuries, or at least how it was written about. He makes an excellent point at the end of this portion of his article. Continue reading Weight Training Principles Applied to Brass Embouchure

Why I Don’t Teach Video Lessons

I guess it would be more accurate to say I don’t charge for video lessons, rather than say I don’t teach them.  And since I don’t charge for them, I don’t do this very often.  When I can afford the time, I will try to help people online as much as possible.  Obviously I’m an advocate for using the internet as a pedagogical tool for brass instruction.  I’ve a whole bunch of videos on brass pedagogy on YouTube, for example.  I’ve worked with students via video chat before, I’ve taken video lessons myself, and I even had a student of mine take a video lesson so we both could get a different take on making the corrections he needed to make at that time.

Ultimately, I’ve found video lessons to be too limiting to be reliable, so I have never charged for a video consultation and don’t have any plans to ever do so.  There’s just too many things that can be missed or misinterpreted.  I’ve met with brass players via video chat and then later saw them in person and also worked with players in person first and then later with video.  While video is helpful because you can look over and over at the exact same thing, I know that personally I miss too much on video that I don’t in person.  Here are some of the many reasons why I find video lessons to not be worth paying for. Continue reading Why I Don’t Teach Video Lessons

Tonguing For Brass Playing

Along with breathing and embouchure, tonguing is one of the basic mechanical areas brass players need to regularly practice.  We all learn to speak from a very young age and are used to using our tongue without needing to think about it at all, so manipulation of the tongue while playing a brass instrument is often quite subconscious.  Still, I feel it’s a good idea to understand how brass players’ tongues functions when things are working efficiently and also understand what methods correlate with playing problems.

When I teach tonguing I try to help my students avoid an issue that is one of my tonguing weaknesses, tonguing too hard.  An analogy that works pretty well is to consider the tonguing to be a refining, not defining, feature of the attack.  The moving air creates the pitch, the attack of the tongue is simply shaped by the backstroke of the tongue. Continue reading Tonguing For Brass Playing