Upcoming Gigs

I have a string of public performances coming up in the next few days, all of them jazz gigs. Tomorrow night, Thursday May 14, 2105, I will be playing with the Wilson/Gamble Orchestra at Club Eleven on Grove in downtown Asheville, NC for the weekly swing dance. The live music starts at 9 PM and goes up through 11 PM. They usually have swing dance classes starting at 8 PM if you don’t know how to dance or want to get some pointers.

On Friday night, May 15, 2015, I will be directing the Asheville Jazz Orchestra at a concert at Trinity United Methodist Church in west Asheville, NC, starting at 7 PM. This concert is free, but we will be collecting donations during the performance for both the Asheville Jazz Council and MusicWorks! Asheville. MusicWorks! is an after-school elementary music program I teach with that targets at-risk children, teaching them important life skills through music education. Our MusicWorks! students will be performing just before the AJO and will also join the big band on a couple of numbers too.

Saturday night, May 16, 2015, I will be playing traditional jazz with the Low-Down Sires at Highland Brewery in east Asheville. This event, which starts at 6 PM, is the Appalachian Shakedown show, featuring not only the Sires but also the bluegrass inspired band Circus Mutt and funk band Supatight. The music goes until 10 PM.

Then finally on Sunday, May 17, 2015, I’m playing music from the Harlem Renaissance with Russ Wilson’s Nouveau Passe Orchestra. We’ll be playing at the Isis Restaurant and Music Hall in west Asheville beginning at 8 PM.

If you’ll be around western North Carolina this weekend and are looking for live jazz to listen and dance to, come on out to one (or all!) of these shows. If you do make it out, please be sure to say hello to me during a set break or after the performance.

Weekend Picks

Here are some random music-related links for you to check out this weekend.

A lengthy and interesting master class by jazz pianist Kenny Werner on improvisation, from 2005. Early on, he says:

You have to learn to play what is within your control.

Check out the context and more here.

Geared mainly for orchestral string players, there are some good nuggets of advice for any musician who rehearses and performs in 39 Orchestral Etiquette Tips Every Musician Ought To Know.

Here’s a nice resource for music theory students about a variety of topics, including Backcycling, Chord Basics, Scales, and Transposing.

Lastly, if you’re like me and both a Weird Al Yankovich and a Frank Zappa fan you’ll enjoy Yankovic’s tribute to Zappa, Genius In France. Unlike a lot of Yankovic’s popular music, this isn’t a direct parody of a Zappa tune, but rather written in the style of Zappa.

Upcoming Gigs

smbb29seasonI’ve got some upcoming public performances around North Carolina the next few days. On Saturday, May 9, 2015, I’ll be conducting the Smoky Mountain Brass Band in a joint concert with the Triangle Brass Band at 7 PM at Trinity Methodist Church in Durham, NC. I’m excited to have Kent Foss (trumpet instructor at Campbell University) as our cornet soloist on Maid of the Mist. You can learn more about this performance here.

Low-Down Sires LogoThe next show after that will be on Monday, May 11, 2015. I’ll be performing at the Dirty South Lounge in downtown Asheville, NC with a traditional jazz band, the Low-Down Sires. We start playing late, at 10 PM, and will go all the way up through midnight.

If you’re around Durham on Saturday or Asheville on Monday come on out and support live music. Please be sure to say hello to me after the show or during a set break.

pBone as a Practice Tool

IMG_5009A couple of weeks ago I finally broke down and picked up a pBone. If you’re not familiar with what a pBone is, it is a plastic trombone available in different colors (I got a red one). They play surprisingly well, noticeably better if you put a metal mouthpiece in rather than the plastic one that comes with the instrument.

I picked up a pBone because I wanted a super-cheap instrument I could carry around very easily and not worry too much about it getting knocked around. Since I picked it up, I’ve noticed a couple of unexpected benefits from practicing on it that I hadn’t anticipated.

First, while the instrument does play pretty well it is stuffy in the low and upper register for me. This has been forcing me to really focus my chops and air on playing the correct pitch, rather than on allowing the instrument to slot the pitches for me. In some ways this is similar to mouthpiece buzzing practice in that if I play something low or high on the pBone and then immediately switch over to my real instrument it feels easier than usual and sounds better.

The other benefit I’ve noticed is when I practice Donald Reinhardt’s “Endurance Routine.” If you’re not familiar with this routine, you will play for an entire hour without taking the instrument off the lips for the entire time. While this is certainly tiring on the chops, I find that my left arm gets very tired from holding my trombone up the whole time. I generally won’t play this routine with my symphonic horn, which weighs more than my jazz instrument, specifically because my left arm gets so tired after about 20 minutes or so into the routine. Since the pBone is very light, I find that my arm deals with holding up the instrument for so long much easier and I can concentrate on keeping my chops set for the whole time without having to hold the instrument with my right had between exercises just to let my left arm down for a moment. It makes it much easier to get through the whole routine for me.

There are a lot of plastic instruments becoming available these days. I’ve seen plastic trumpets, flutes, and clarinets and I think there are others available too. While these instruments aren’t great, they are good enough to suit many purposes, including making instruments available for students who might not otherwise be able to afford to purchase an instrument to learn to play. At MusicWorks! Asheville, an elementary music program I teach at, we have some plastic flutes and clarinets that our woodwind students are learning. Eventually they will need to move on to real instruments, but the plastic instruments fit our needs perfectly at this stage.

Weekend Picks

It’s Friday. Here are some random music-related links for you to peruse this weekend.

Did you know that there is a brass band in New Zealand that since 1895 performs on bicycles?

 How about a bicycle brass band from Holland?

When directing an ensemble in rehearsal I often use an analogy that isolating individual musicians playing, as if we were recording everyone, would sound different than when you hear the same part played in the context with the whole ensemble. For example, a single big band trumpet part isolated might sound too short, but when the whole brass section plays that way together it comes out just right. Here’s a similar idea, listen to the vocal tracks from the Beatles isolated out of context from the rest of the parts.

An older discussion about teacher tenure and why it’s not the firing itself that is the issue, it’s how the threat of firing teachers allows other people (often not qualified or informed enough about the teacher’s job and situation) to control the teacher’s day to day work.

And lastly, something a little lighter. Here are 27 jokes only classical music nerds will understand.