Triton Brass Visits “FIVE!” & Heralds Tritantic Summer Workshop

After fourteen years, Trtion released its first cd, “Triton Brass”, which was celebrated with their first performance in New York City. Triton Brass has re-emerged, like a fine wine whose best vintage is yet to come. Re-tooled with bass trombone and a formidable line up, they plan to perform and teach with The Atlantic Brass Quintet at the 22nd annual International Atlantic Brass Quintet Summer Seminar. Former Fischoff and Lyon chamber music competition winners and the brass quintet in residence for five years at Tanglewood, “FIVE” tm is pleased to bring you The Triton Brass…Enjoy!

UnknownShelagh Abate, Horn
1. How does a New York girl end up going to college in Boston? Can you compare performing as a freelancer in New York to Boston?

Oh, man…when I graduated from high school, I could not WAIT to get away from home. Boston was perfect for me at the time as it was “far away” from Long Island without being “far away” 😉 As soon as I got to Boston the first time, I felt the energy and the vibe that all those students in ALL THOSE SCHOOLS (!!) within the city’s limits creates. There’s no city like it. I miss it terribly when I’m away for long periods. Thank god for the quintet, I get to see it on a regular basis and still consider it “kind of” home.

As for freelancing, Boston is an amazing place to study and an amazing place to work…the players are every bit as fierce in Boston as they are anywhere else. The top of the top of the top. Especially brass! I mean, NEC, The Boston Conservatory, BU, Berklee, Harvard, Longy, MIT, the list goes on and on, and there are amazing players at all of these places. The only difference I notice now in NYC, is that I put less miles on my car. When you freelance “in Boston,” unless you hold a major gig (BSO, Ballet, etc.), you’re actually freelancing all over New England. Which is awesome, truly…because, I mean, it’s New England. But it also means 40,000 miles per year on a car. No lie. I went through quite a few cars (and clutches) during my tenure in Boston… 😉

2. You had a double major in English. How has it helped your music career both on the business side
and on the artistic side?

My experiences at Boston College and getting a B.A. in the liberal arts have equipped me with a breadth of perspective and skills that help me through life, no question. I use my writing skills on a regular basis, and the broad perspective I got there enables me to 1. withstand life’s ups and downs better than if I were to have a really limited view on things and 2. provides a greater artistic vocabulary to better express musical ideas through the horn. As soon as I finished my Bachelor’s, I plowed full steam ahead into the horn as a graduate student and a mature adult that had a handle on what I needed to do, how I needed to go about it, and where I wanted it to take me. I may not have known it at the time, but it was the right path for me. There was no way I could have sussed all that out at 18. I was a mess at 18. We’re all a mess at 18, lol. Ok, maybe not all of us, but I definitely needed a little more time to steep.

3. As a horn player, your instrument and the tuba share a conical timbre. The bass trombone presents an evenly matched quartet of cylindrical instruments. How do you change your approach when blending with a tuba-bottomed brass quintet, as opposed to one with bass trombone?

For me, in Triton, having a bass trombone as opposed to a tuba totally establishes a fat, homogeneous, giant bass foundation upon which I can do exactly what I want musically, which is amazing. I can just ride, blend into, push up against, or battle all the sound around me – whatever the music calls for. I love it, it’s freaking awesome. It’s really a giant, warm, musical canvas. When Triton dealt with a personnel change a few years ago, Angel was the logical choice….I don’t think we actually ever even had a conversation about it as a group. It was that easy, and we’ve not looked back since.

Unknown-1Angel Subero, Bass Trombone
What strengths and weaknesses do you see in the US and Venezuelan music education offerings?

This is a very hard question but I will do my best to explain as concisely as I can but this is just my humble opinion on this matter and could (and probably should) be discussed much further in detail.

The three main differences that I notice between Venezuelan (El Sistema) music education and the United States music education are: the funding, the performance opportunities and the importance placed on music in society.

El Sistema is a forty year old, free music program open to the public that is sponsored fully by international institutions and the government. The students are provided with great instruments from the beginning of their studies. It is an after school program and since El Sistema has become such a powerful and successful program, classical music has become very popular. It is now a huge part of the culture in my country. There are a lot of concerts and weekly performances. Even the kids who have been playing for a few weeks perform on the regular basis, sometimes even twice a week. This keeps the kids excited and wanting to get better for the next performance. The better you are, the more opportunities you are allowed. You play with better orchestras, musicians, participate in national and international tours, etc. This is a huge motivation.

Also, all the concerts are sold out. The main stream culture places a huge importance on these events for both the performers and the audience members. They are excited to be there because people know that there is a big chance that even kids who are just starting out could, in a few years, become super stars. I remember Edicson Ruiz, now a bass player in the Berlin Philharmonic, running around and playing soccer every time the youth orchestra had a little break from their rehearsals. I believe he was 7-8 years old at the time. And who would have guessed that he would become the youngest member of the legendary Berlin Phil just a few years later.

From what I can tell, it is very different in the United States. Music programs are part of the school and unfortunately, many of them are poorly funded, if they are funded at all. Instruments are rarely provided by the school and if they are, they are usually in poor condition. The playing opportunities are very limited, with maybe one to two concerts a semester. These are usually also poorly attended because the music is not appreciated by the general public in the United States. This is also true for professional groups as well.

I don’t think is fair to compare because the culture and the way the systems work in these two countries are very different. There are a lot of great benefits about being a musician and studying here in the US. Certainly my success and the career I have, I owe it to my teachers and mentors. And I am very thankful for the schools (Boston Conservatory and New England Conservatory), that gave me the opportunity to experience the structure of being a student in America. Even though I believe there should be changes and more flexibility for every individual case, since we are all different, without this education and structure that comes with it, I would not have had the opportunities that have come my way. Yes, I worked hard but being in the right place at the right time and being ready is the key. You never know when you are going to get “That call”.

Again, this is a fascinating topic and should be discussed much more than this but I feel that this is the best opinion I can give on the matter for now.

2. What are your doubles, and how do you practice switching back and forth?
Tenor Trombone and Contrabass Trombone. I have a very particular daily routine which is all on Bass Trombone. When that is done, I make sure I spend time on tenor. The work I do on tenor is mostly playing lead trombone in Latin bands. When I play these gigs, the physical and mental approach to playing this style of music is a total one eighty of what I do when I play Bass or Contra in any ensemble, especially in the quintet setting. After my routine is done, at some point in the day, I aim to have a session where I practice going back and forth 10-15 minutes on each horn and do that for an hour or two. I love practicing so I enjoy the process. But I should stress the importance of also spending the time to get to know each instrument well on its own before you try and go back and forth too much. Now, according to Facebook I play Harp, Tuba, Double-Bass, Contra Bassoon, English Horn, Bass Flute, Piccolo and Tambourine, also I am a very successful conductor. If it is on Facebook, it must be true.

3. How do you approach articulation in the quintet, especially low and fast?
Well, The beauty of playing in a brass quintet is taking advantage of the variety of articulation and colors the group can have. I’ve always loved playing different styles of music Latin, Jazz, Classical, Funk, etc. When I am playing in the quintet, I experiment using different types of articulation until I find a sound that I feel blends with everyone else in the group. Obviously, listening to and playing different styles of music has influenced my playing. And depending on the difficulty of the passage, sometimes using a combination of double and doodle tongue on a low-fast passage makes it sound more clean and easier. Having all these different colors and articulations in your playing makes practicing and playing much more fun. And sometimes, you just have to practice articulating low and fast.

Andrew Sorg, trumpet
1. As a member of two accomplished brass quintets, both Triton and Atlantic, you are in a unique position. What have you learned from the competitions won with each group.

-I’ve learned that winning a competition is less important than preparing for a competition. Preparing for a competition in a chamber ensemble allows you to get to know your colleagues intimately, and how the dynamic of the group operates as a unit. The marriage of chamber music makes or breaks an ensemble, and a healthy relationship between quintet members is crucial to perform well together. Although winning a competition gives an ensemble credibility to presenters, the preparation defines your repertoire, image and vision for the future.

2. The musician makes the difference, not the instrument, but what types of advantages come with tuba or bass trombone on the bottom of a quintet?
I was first surprised to notice that there is no loss of sound in a quintet that uses tuba verses bass trombone. They are an equivalent entity. The obvious advantage of having a tuba, is it creates a broader aura of group sound that blends great with repertoire like the Dahl Quintet, Ewald Quintets and my composition Voices In Da Fan. On the flip side, the more directional blend the bass trombone creates works really well with repertoire like Plog, Paquito D’Rivera, and my other quintet piece Mental Disorders.

TritanticWebHeader1-e1405537249790-293x1753. What have you enjoyed most about the growth of your chamber music program?
What I’ve enjoyed most about the growth of The Atlantic Brass Quintet Seminar, is sharing an unconditional love for chamber music and passion for education with some of the best chamber musicians and educators in the world. Our team we have grown to call Tritantic, the merger of The Triton and Atlantic Brass Quintets to form a large brass ensemble, has a huge impact on young brass players. The love and dedication we emote, creates a very serious but fun learning environment for students and faculty, which is incredibly rewarding to be a part of. I love the “think tank” approach between faculty that has improved every aspect of putting a summer program together business wise and musically. I’ve watched 8-9 student quintets grow to 10-12, a classically defined program has now become an equally impressive jazz/world music program, our pay grade has doubled and our administrator Vanessa Gardner, who is also a seasoned french hornist, provides us the best of what Northeastern University can offer. In return, our student performances keep getting better, and better and better…

4. Any new hopes?
I hope that one day, the brass quintet can be regarded as an equivalent chamber ensemble to the string quartet. I hope that our repertoire can reach the ears of the general public through programmatic music, multi-media pieces and real time midi-electronics. I hope that as a composer, my music sets a new standard for the future of the brass quintet

Unknown-2Steve Banzaert:
1. What connections have you made from mathematics and science to music? Has it changed how you blow your horn or aim it?

At MIT I wrote my physics thesis on how the structure of a trumpet (for example, where you put the braces) affects its timbre. That’s definitely given me a different set of tools to think about how to change the colors of the instrument while I play. I definitely enjoy finding the patterns in crazy polyrhythms, and I think that’s been incredibly useful in fitting into new music ensembles over the years. Ultimately, I think that just like everyone else, all of that becomes part of the background when I perform and am trying to do my actual job of communicating with the audience.

2. What is the Tanglewood experience like for brass?

Very intense! The literature is challenging, everyone in the orchestra (all the way back to the last stand 2nd violin, who might be concertmaster next week) is giving their all, and oh by the way, the entire Boston Symphony brass section will be at the concert, so please try to do a good job… I was there 15 years ago and I can still vividly remember the expressions on James Conlon’s face as he, the audience, and I all negotiated when I was going to start Mahler 5.

Wes Hopper:
HBM801-2T-e14054433078311. Tell us about WGBH and it’s significance in New England. What was it like to be to play brass quintets for an audience of 30,000?

WGBH is the dominating public broadcasting force in New England. Their studios are in Boston, but their reach is certainly worldwide with acclaimed series Nova, Masterpiece, Frontline etc being produced here.

Wether it’s recitals for massive audiences such as the WGBH events, feature music at Fenway Park or for 15,000 at the winners concert in Lyon, France, I’ve found that when we’ve played for very large audiences the energy is amazing, but it was a bit less personal and harder to connect. In some ways that makes it less stressful. As long as the audience digs it, I don’t have a preference in number. Connecting with one person is enough!

2. Do you approach articulation differently in a quintet dominated by valved instruments as opposed to a section of trombones? Does bass bone instead of tuba in the quintet change the articulation equation?

I just do my best to keep up! Playing in a quintet and playing in a section certainly have similarities. I don’t think I play so differently in either setting. Rather, it’s the setting that has different requirements. Basically, quintet music is significantly more demanding technically than the average orchestral work. So of course I’m forced to play more lightly to keep up with the more agile instruments.

Having bass trombone instead of tuba changes everything and changes nothing. The modern bass trombonist, certainly Angel and other successful quintet bass trombonists like John Rojak or Dave Taylor, can make a very wide sound effectively eliminating the necessity of the tuba in quintet. But all things being equal, the bass trombone still has a smaller core of sound. So, you kind of get the best of both worlds…a wide, lush foundation, but a core that is easily identified for the purposes of pitch, blend and indeed articulation. Since I don’t have to use such a wide sound to bridge between the tuba and horn, the articulation too is easier and clearer (I hope!).

What are your thoughts on .547 bore as opposed to .525 bore tenors in the setting of brass quintet?
I play .547 bore almost all the time. There is really very little difference between a modern .525 and .547 trombones. Most if not all companies use the same bell/valve combination on both and just offer a different hand slide diameter. Sometimes they are found with a slightly smaller bell; 8″ rather than 8.5″, but not always. If the same lead pipe is used on both horns and no other change is made the difference is practically inaudible until you get to very loud dynamics (where the .525 can’t compete). If the .525 is a small shank instrument where the mouthpiece must be changed, then the sound will be quite a bit different, most often in the direction of a commercial trombone sound. But, for that I prefer to go to a .508 bore instrument personally. Mostly (completely) it’s about the sound you hear.

c.2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.

Interested in more “FIVE” tm interviews?
Canadian Brass 2014, Windsync 2014, Boston Brass 2015, Mnozil Brass 2015, Spanish Brass 2014, Dallas Brass 2014, Seraph 2014, Atlantic Brass Quintet 2015, Mirari Brass 2015, Axiom Brass 2015, Scott Hartmann of the Empire Brass 2015, Jeffrey Curnow of the Empire Brass 2015, Ron Barron and Ken Amis of the Empire Brass, Meridian Arts Ensemble 2015, Berlin Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet 2015, American Brass Quintet 2015

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Ralph Sauer, Legendary Trombonist, Launches “1385” tm, A New Interview Series Featuring Tenor Trombonistsunnamed

There is no telling how you first may have encountered the incredible musician Ralph Sauer. It may have been in print, as Sauer is among the most prominent transcribers and arrangers for brass instruments-more than 275 offerings and counting. Or perhaps your first encounter was with Sauer in his role as trombone section leader for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he served as principal trombonist and more than an occasional soloist from 1974-2006. A teacher of numerous students, including Christian Linberg, at institutes and workshops, festivals and universities, Sauer himself was a student of the legendary Emory Remington at the Eastman School of Music. The virtuoso trombonist is a founding member of Summit Brass, and recorded an album of orchestral excerpt demonstrations and performance tips for the tenor trombonists. Please join “1385” tm in its maiden voyage as a short, written interview series with some of today’s most outstanding musicians who happen to play tenor trombone. “1385 AD” scratches the surface with Ralph Sauer…enjoy!

1. Which are your three or four favorite tenor trombone solos? (1st or 2nd..). How would you personify or depict each-& how does this inform your phrasing?
a.) The Mahler 3rd Symphony has to be at the top of the list because of its length and exposed passages. I see the louder sections as an oration by the god Pan.

b.) Ravel’s Bolero is on the list because of its popularity and difficulty. I think of Tommy Dorsey and cross my fingers!!!

c.) Maybe a strange choice, but Sibelius 7th Symphony is one of my favorites. The symphony (in one movement) climbs three mountains–each one higher than the previous one. The trombone plays a solo role in each of these climaxes. It’s a very thick orchestration at those peaks, over which the trombone has to soar without sounding harsh.

2. Only Maurice Andre, and perhaps a handful of other brass players have reached a level occupied by dozens, if not hundreds, of soloists on piano, violin or cello. What are we brass soloists missing?
But there are some brass players today who perform at the highest level. I won’t try to name them, because I might inadvertently leave someone out. Those top musicians have something the rest of the pack doesn’t have. It’s not enough to play in tune, in time, and with a great sound. The top players have a fourth dimension. This includes a complete understanding of the composer’s style, and the ability to go beyond just playing all the notes perfectly. Their phrasing is natural and appropriate; their rhythmic sense is elastic, but never distorted; and they can vary their tone quality to suit the style of the music. They are natural communicators.

Ralph Sauer, trombonist

Ralph Sauer, trombonist

3. “Right tool for the job”. Alto, .485, .500, .508, .525, .547, .562…How many different bore sizes or types of trombone would you use in a typical season? For which reasons?
During most of my career, I used one instrument–the Elkhart Conn 8H. It was able to do anything I wanted it to do. In the ’80s, I started using the alto trombone for everything that was appropriate–Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Schumann, etc. For the last 5 or 6 years of my time in Los Angeles, I switched to a 525/547 bore slide that gave me the best of both worlds–a large bore sound with a medium bore effort. Very few people realized I was playing on a slightly smaller setup. In fact, I received the most compliments from non-brass players after switching.

4. What is you approach to playing in the upper register?
The upper register requires embouchure strength, less volume of air, and faster air. I focus the air stream farther and farther down as the notes get higher.

5. What is your secret to a great legato?
I use the sound of a perfect natural slur as my model for all other slurs. Perfect legato on the trombone requires exact coordination of slide and tongue. The slide is not early or late–it is on time. How each individual thinks about achieving this can vary. Some people think of the slide being ahead. Others achieve good results by waiting in each position. A third way of thinking would be not to move the slide until the tongue says to move. Sloppy legato is usually the result of the slide moving too soon.

6. Which classical soloists inspire you, and why?
Anne-Sophie Mutter is at the top of my list of current performers, but I have drawn great inspiration from Glenn Gould, Rudolf Serkin, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, etc. Why? Because their performances always sound fresh and vital. I can listen to them over and over and hear new things every time.

7. As principal trombonist, how do you differentiate leading versus accompanying? Are there times you must accompany in a leading fashion?
Fitting into and blending in a symphony orchestra is not leading or accompanying. It’s knowing when to be more prominent and when to be transparent. For example, a fortissimo is not as loud as you can play. Loudness depends on many factors: size of hall, musical time-period; importance of your part; conductor preference, etc.

8. Why are the cello suites so special? Why do you and other trombonists seem to have such a strong affinity for them?
I was introduced to the Bach Cello Suites by my teacher Emory Remington. I think of them as “private music” rather than “public music.”
They are important pedagogically, of course. But more importantly, they give us a chance to play the music of the great master on our beloved instrument.

c. 2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved

Photo courtesy of Ralph Sauer

Interested in more great Interviews?
Charlie VernonJames MarkeyChris BrubeckDoug YeoJeremy MorrowTom EverettGerry Pagano Ben van DijkRandall HawesDenson Paul PollardThomas MattaFred Sturm Bill ReichenbachMassimo Pirone Erik Van Lier Jennifer WhartonMatyas VeerStefan Schulz

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Jan Kagarice Shows “Seven Positions” tm How To Keep It Simple & Stay Well..

That Musician’s Wellness of North America, L.L.C. has been established by Jan Kagarice, is no surprise. Kagarice has made a career out of teaching some of the very healthiest trombone players from around the world as part of the trombone faculty at the University of North Texas, but has also made a specialty out of helping those who had been injured or needed to overcome some form of limitation. Jan is no stranger to medical issues, and having to resolve them to continue to play trombone is part of her character. In the same way, performing as the bass trombonist of the successful PRISMA trombone quartet helped her to coach a number of award winning trombone quartets from UNT. Part of a team of teachers, a concept growing among applied studios at upper division institutions, Jan’s diverse experiences as a musician and a human being have sharpened and deepened her to help others-which she seems to love to do. Come along as Jan Kagarice shows Seven Position something about teamwork, keeping it simple, and staying healthy. Enjoy!

1. What do you look for in a horn?
One that resonates easily and has good flexibility throughout the range.

th-12. What were your teaching style and objectives like before you had medical challenges as compared with afterwards?
I have a form of muscular dystrophy and a rare neurological disorder. Neither of which are life threatening but certainly caused me to learn about efficiency and healthy function.

My objectives in guiding musicians has ALWAYS been about the music. I believe that the music itself is the teacher. My students call me coach… I’m just coaching their focus of attention to the music, pretty easy gig! 😉 When a player has physical issues that interfere with performance, I assist them is becoming more efficient…. doing LESS. That’s why they are called “LESSons” 😉

3. What makes a multi-teacher applied studio approach work at the university level? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the single teacher versus the team?
I think that a team approach has enormous benefits, if the team is working together and each student has a “home base” studio. However, if this approach is not clearly structured or if faculty become competitive with each other… this is noncooperative and really unfortunate and unhealthy for the students in that environment. (Dr. Noel Wallace wrote an excellent dissertation about the team approach within the trombone studio at Codarts: Rotterdam that brought about the New Trombone Collective and MANY incredible trombonists/musicians).

th-2A single teacher can more easily guide a studio in a certain direction and can certainly bring in other professionals of their choosing. I would also assume that single teacher is more likely to seek collaboration across their department, which can be of great benefit for all.

4. What is your secret to a great legato?
Great concept of legato and excellent air flow. Over instruction of this on the trombone is detrimental in my opinion. There are excellent models out there and it is best to copy by ear.

5. What have been your favorite “unexpected” uses or niche for the bass trombone?
I am not sure what you mean by this question, sarcasm says “lamp”. Honest: George Roberts in Nelson Riddle’s band. Not unexpected, but the excellence of time, pitch, balance and feel make you notice! Dave Taylor plays Daniel Schnyder. Again, it’s about musical communication.
And to add a twist: Least favorite but expected: ego-driven bass trombonists in orchestral settings.

“Janet”, Performed by Maniacal Four Trombone Quartet in dedication to Jan

6. It has been said that people “play their personality”. How much of a compelling factor for a performer is the character, humanity and temperment that infuses the performer?
I agree with the statement completely, but it is also important for the performer to not let their personality overshadow the expression of the composer brought to life.

th-37. What are some of your favorite memories as a performer?
Easy! Every performance with PRISMA (trombone quartet) …. especially Cleveland ITF (1993 for the young folks!)

8. How do you view chamber music opportunities for bass trombonists? What were your experiences?
Chamber Music is extremely important for all musicians. Bass trombonists in trombone quartets need to be sure to play some inner parts every once in a while so that it transfers when you play with a tuba in a larger ensemble. I played a LOT of sackbut as a younger player and enjoyed early music immensely. I felt that it helped me to become a better musician. I then played a LOT of brass quintets at New England Conservatory. Chamber Music experience helped me adapt to every other ensemble. I encourage all of my students to immerse themselves in different genres of music. It will make them a better player, more marketable, but also keep their career interesting!

c. 2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved

Interested in more “Seven Positions” tm Interviews?
Charlie VernonJames MarkeyChris BrubeckDoug YeoJeremy MorrowTom EverettGerry Pagano Ben van DijkRandall HawesDenson Paul PollardThomas MattaFred Sturm Bill ReichenbachMassimo Pirone Erik Van Lier Jennifer WhartonMatyas VeerStefan Schulz

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Metropolitan Opera Bass Norrell Interviewed for “Seven Positions” tm

e489a70836a8c32911ade77b045c3bfd“Can’t respond right now, we are about to perform The Pearl Fishers”, or, “I’m at intermission of Turandot”. Night after night, the world’s greatest singers adorn the productions of the Metropolitan Opera, and in the pit, they are accompanied by their orchestral equals. Led by maestro Levine, the Met’s orchestra is among the most highly skilled and best paid in the world. Opera recordings, Symphonic outings, and recordings of their vaunted brass are not uncommon in the storied accomplishments of the orchestra. A true Met bass, trombonist Steve Norrell has been a stalwart in orchestra, proving his longevity and passion for music. Trained at Juilliard and by members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Norrell has grown to embody his own musical voice and perspectives. An American original, he has recently returned to the recital stage with a world premiere of a sonata dedicated to his mentor, CSO bass trombonist Ed Kleinhammer. “Seven Positions” tm takes you to the opera. Enjoy!

1. What is your connection with “The Chicago School” of playing brass instruments, and what were the main things you learned from it?
The summer after I graduated from high school, I attended the Brevard music Center and requested Charles Vernon as my instructor. Charlie was then in the Baltimore Symphony and was thought of at Brevard as the secondary instructor. Gerry Pagano (who I grew up with and is 5 days younger than me) had studied the previous summer with Charlie and improved substantially over one summer. Charlie likes to say that I was actually the first student at Brevard to request him as a teacher. That introduction obviously changed my life!
I’ve never been big on the concept of “schools” of playing or teaching. While attending Juilliard and taking professional orchestra auditions, people would often refer to me as a New York style player (because that’s where I was in school), which I did not agree with. Individuals are affected by exposure and it doesn’t necessarily have to be local. The way the Philharmonic articulates now is very different than the hard tongue in the time of Vacchiano, Chambers, Herman and Novotny. I’ve heard Joe Alessi say that the way they articulate now is different than what he did when he was in the Philadelphia Orchestra. The key is to be flexible enough to fit into any situation.

thWhen I came to Juilliard I didn’t know a lot of orchestral music. After buying budget recordings to learn repertoire, I realized that it was money poorly spent because if I didn’t like the playing, I wouldn’t listen to it. Even though the CSO recordings were never “budget,” it was a much better investment! My concept of sound is actually from Bud Herseth. Conceptually I think of this beautiful fundamental core, with rings around it. I don’t think anyone on trombone has ever achieved the presence of sound that Mr. Herseth did on trumpet, but that is the sound which is in my head. In those days the CSO would do to residencies at Carnegie each season and perform three different programs on each visit. Each year you could hear them play six different programs. On one program in the 70s they played Brahms 3rd and then Brahms 1st after the intermission. Mr. Herseth did not play the first half, but walked on stage during the intermission. A group of people began applauding just when he walked on stage. When Mr. Herseth played the first C on the downbeat, it was like Ah, he’s back! My definition of presence has always been the immediacy of the most beautiful core sound. It doesn’t have to be loud, it’s the quality and the immediacy.

While at Juilliard for four years, I had lessons with Mr. Kleinhammer on almost every CSO visit to NY. He was such an inspirational person and I’ll always have visual images in my mind of him coaching me. My Juilliard instructor, Don Harwood, grew up in Chicago studying with Mr. Kleinhammer. During the time that I was at Juilliard, Amtrak was reasonable and cheap to Baltimore and I would take the train and stay with Charlie (who then played in Baltimore) every other weekend. They all had similar concepts but their own way of saying it. Being exposed to all of them was a wonderful combination! They were all influenced by the CSO brass sound and after completing my first Met season, I attended my first Jacobs master class week at Northwestern. While there, I had two private lessons with Mr. Jacobs. Without a doubt I consider Mr. Jacobs to be the foremost authority on respiratory function and his insight is the reason for my Met longevity.

I’ve always disliked comparisons between orchestras. There are so many relative factors that it’s inevitably unfair. In the 1970s, the CSO brass section was unique in that there was a strong player on every chair. Other orchestras had great brass artists, but didn’t have the quality on every voice. The depth of great playing has increased so that almost every orchestra has that quality and because of the accessibility of recordings and broadcasts, styles are more uniform. Stefan Schulz once met me at the Met stage door after a performance of Wozzeck. Before he was in the Berlin Philharmonic he had heard numerous Met performances. He commented that “the Met orchestra plays more like a European orchestra than any other American orchestra.” After thinking about it for a while, I don’t think it’s a matter of European or American, it’s the exposure to the vocal style. European orchestras play much more opera compared to US orchestras. The Met orchestra is unique because of its exposure to the vocal style and I believe it is the reason why our young Met wind principals have had such success filling principal vacancies in major symphony orchestras.

2. What is your secret to a good legato?
My concept of legato is having the continuity of wind, an efficient embouchure and a fast and elastic slide arm. Many players work so hard trying to have a fast slide arm, but their wrist is rigid and they can only move their slide as fast as they move their whole arm. Obviously this is not smooth and is awkward to listen to. John Swallow’s trick was to put a tight rubber band around your outer slide which is parallel with the brace between the upper and lower slide. This is the same area where you normally hold your slide, but since your fingers are wedged between the brace and the rubber band, you can take your thumb off the slide which frees up your wrist. Adding this elasticity to your wrist is essential for legato and any relaxed fast slide movement.

John Swallow liked students to change partials if they did an interval larger than a 3rd. It’s a good rule to experiment with, but I believe the other part of the equation is the embouchure being efficient. In my early Met years, Pavarotti would go from one interval to the next immediately, without bumping the new frequency. I believe it’s the same on our instrument. There’s a fine line between having a good liquid legato, but not being stiff or rigid. Jay Friedman frequently tells students to play a “slow slur,” which is what I interpret as Jay trying to get the student to blow through the legato. I’ll often ask the student to have a quicker and more efficient embouchure without bumping the notes. I think that Jay and I are approaching the same thing from different sides of the equation. I encourage students to buzz legato phrases only using their tongue on the initial attack after a breath. After that, the clarity should come from the efficiency of the embouchure. It has to be trained! Even with students who prefer to use legato tongue, I encourage them to buzz the mouthpiece only using the tongue on the initial attack. If their embouchure becomes more efficient, whatever amount of legato tongue they were using inevitably becomes less.

The stimulus that I use when I play legato is thinking that it’s smooth. Personally I try to have the tongue out of the way as much as possible, but when I’m playing, being smooth is primary and anything else that I’m doing to achieve this is a trained reaction and secondary.

My two favorite legatos that I’ve personally encountered are Charlie Vernon’s and Norman Boulder’s. It’s not a coincidence that Jay Friedman studied with Swallow before he got into the CSO or that Norman studied with Swallow in school or that Charlie commuted to NYC while in Baltimore to study with Swallow.

3. How did the piece you have premiered, which is dedicated to Ed Kleinhammer, come about? What does it mean to you musically and personally?
After Mr. Kleinhammer passed away in 2012, Alan Carr, who was studying at the University of Wisconsin at that time, coordinated this commission. John Stevens is the tuba instructor at Wisconsin as well as on the composition faculty and Alan sent out a proposal to many prominent players. Mr. Kleinhammer might have played the second movement which quotes Mahler, but he probably wouldn’t have been interested in playing the rest of the work, although I think he would’ve liked the piece.

bp-soprano-diana-damrauMr. Kleinhammer had an infectious enthusiasm and when he, Jeff Reynolds and myself judged a bass trombone competition at the 1994 ITF in Minneapolis, the first words out of his mouth when he saw me were that he had “retired too soon” (…after only 45 years in the CSO). He loved music and when our paths crossed he would tell me about Met broadcasts he had heard that he knew I had played on. I know that he experimented with composition (unfortunately I never heard any of his pieces, but he talked to me about them) and even if a piece did showcase his strengths, I’m confident he still had the capacity to like a work or find it interesting. I had a student attend the Ithaca ITF and I called him during his time there to ask if he was enjoying the workshop. Well he was having a lesson at that time with Mr. Kleinhammer. When the phone rang, Mr. Kleinhammer asked my student who was calling? When the student replied that my name showed in the caller ID, Mr. Kleinhammer replied that he should answer because he wanted to talk to me.

I didn’t get to study with him as much is so many other people, but he was always so giving, supportive and encouraging! I was so very fortunate to have these opportunities with these icons!

4. How would you describe the roles and the relationship between the tuba and the bass trombone in an orchestra? In your view, does any other pair of winds have a similar relationship?
Often times I believe that the bass trombone should be the clarity in the middle of the tuba sound. I worked alongside Herb Wekselblatt my first 15 years at the Met and Herb only played a B-flat tuba. Playing next to Herb was one of the great joys of my life. He was unbelievably talented and natural, although he was uncomfortable when we started doing Carnegie concerts in 1991 because he wasn’t familiar with the symphonic repertoire, having played more opera. Our orchestra was very busy recording during this time and I spent a lot of time listening to recordings on blending of our sounds..

For bass trombone and tuba as a team, I believe it’s important for the bass trombone to complement the tuba sound. On an excerpt like Fountains, when the tuba is going down to their low Es, the bass trombone should not be any louder (even though the composer raises the dynamic), then the tuba can be audible with their best sound in the hall. If the bass trombone’s too loud, you just lose the low octave and the effect is different. There are so many examples like this. The group’s sound should always be strived for. The same could be said between the celli and basses or any of Wagner’s wind orchestrations in the Ring. All of Wagner’s Ring groups are scored in quartets except for the solo tuba voice.(3 Flutes & piccolo. 3 oboes & English Horn, etc,) In order to maintain the transparency, balance is imperative. Principal melodic idea should always speak immediately and be audible to the listener’s ear first or it’s musically confusing.

5. What are your favorite solo pieces, which have been recorded, for bass trombone?
Unfortunately, I’m a bit of a dinosaur with the solo bass trombone repertoire. My recent Manhattan School of Music recital was my first at the school in 23 years. In 1994, I suffered nerve damage in my right shoulder in the process of having a rotator cuff repaired and that sidetracked my solo appearances for a long time. Extending my arm has been problematic since and certain passages I was not comfortable doing. It will always be weak because of the nerve entrapment, but I’m now working with a private Pilates instructor who has helped me be able to recognize the muscle that should be firing and gradually I’m relearning everything. It’s substantially better than any time since my 94 surgical procedure (range of motion is much better), so I’m optimistic that I will be more active!

The Stevens was the first consortium that I was part of, but since then some members of that group have organized funding to commission other pieces for our instrument by composers who they were interested in. Interesting concept and I’m glad to be a participant!

6. How would you describe your pedagogy? What have you adopted from others and what have you developed on your own?

I would say that I’m a combination of so much good fortune! My mother moved to Athens Georgia when I was going into ninth grade and I began studying with Phil Jameson, who I consider the finest teacher in that advanced developmental stage of trombone playing that I’ve ever encountered. Dr. Jameson’s students all had good facility and were good sight readers because of the repertoire we were forced to play. The music program in Athens at that time was unbelievable, as was the level of young high school trombonists who were studying with Dr. Jameson. I’ve encountered other people who felt that their young trombone environment was special, but it’s hard for me to imagine any place being better than my experience at that time. Gerry Pagano and I were one year behind Carter Stanfield, who was the big trombone star. Everyone got along and realized very early that competition is within oneself. On weekends, we would play ensembles for hours with occasional breaks for basketball. As a quartet, we played the Bozza in the 11th grade and didn’t even know that it was difficult.

During the winter of 1972, several of us went up to a workshop with Lewis Van Haney at Western Carolina University. It was advertised as a weekend trombone choir for college and top high school students. Carter and I were the two top students there (Gerry didn’t attend because he had gotten a C during a marking period). Carter played first and Mr. Van Haney lent me his bass trombone to play the bottom voice. What a great experience! About a year later Mr. Van Haney picked out a TR180 and had it sent to me from the Holton factory. During my senior year, Mr Van Haney actually did a master class at my high school and it was only years later that I came to the realization that it had been a recruiting visit. Quite honestly, I was not a good enough student at that time to have handled IU and was much better suited to the Juilliard curriculum of that time. Even though I didn’t go to IU, Mr. Van Haney was always such a positive influence on me. I saw him do the same master class on four different occasions, and hearing how he treated every colleague on an outside job as if they were one of his Philharmonic coworkers made such a lasting impression on me. He was a man of the generation that seems to have had the highest level of civility.

Besides the day that I met my wife Karen, meeting Charlie Vernon in the summer of 1974 probably had the greatest effect on the outcome of my life. Until he became a member of the CSO, I was fortunate enough to always get to spend time with him. Don Harwood was incredibly thorough with his preparation throughout all the time I was at Juilliard and I was fortunate enough to be in the Tanglewood fellowship the summer of Norman Boulder’s first BSO season at Tanglewood. One of the greatest assets for a young musician is getting an opportunity to play with s many great players as possible. I was very fortunate and was always trying to learn.

In my first lesson with Arnold Jacobs, he pointed out how my tongue was in the way of my wind flow in the articulation. He would take the same equipment and from the moment the sound started, the wind flow was at max. Mine would be tongue, and then once the tongue got out of the way the wind flow would appear. He told me that I was overly dependent upon my tongue, but wanted me to figure out for myself how to establish my own new good habit. Trying to make this better was like searching for the Holy Grail. After several years it got much better and I actually evolved out of being James Levine’s whipping boy. There was a time when there could be an orchestral train wreck and the first words out of Jimmy’s mouth would be, “we need cleaner articulation from the low trombone.” Over time, I believe my immediacy has become an asset. Most students who ever studied with me will say that I’m obsessive about the clarity of sound and the clarity of articulation. Mr. Jacobs would always say that my instrument was a large bore tenor and I believe my greatest assets are sound and clarity.

7. Who are your inspirations? Non-musical?
My inspiration has always been the support and love of my family. Over the years, I’ve encountered students who lacked this same type of family support and I was always cognizant of how fortunate I was. I didn’t have much financial backing (although college was very inexpensive then compared to today), but I always felt that them behind me, no matter how big the challenge or hurdle. This support has also been the sustaining influence in overcoming my recent physical challenges.

I’ve been so fortunate in meeting so many people that it would be impossible to name them all. Obviously some are in the arts, but we encounter unique special people almost every day in our lives. I think that you have to cherish the good and try not to worry too much about the ones which you do not like!

8. How would you contrast the “New York School” of trombone playing of Joe Alessi with what you learned in Chicago?
Joe Alessi is such a unique person. He is one of the hardest working individuals I’ve ever known! The progress that he’s made since he became principal trombone of the Philharmonic is monumental and he’s always looking for ways to incorporate new things into what he does. During Joe’s early years, we had a weekly racquetball game and would occasionally play together. Simply tremendous! Since those years, certain aspects of his playing have improved exponentially. Playing a job like the Met, I was always envious of the freedom and flexibility that Joe had in doing outside projects. Of course I’m happy for Joe and it’s hard to imagine anyone being more productive while they were doing it.

Joe is a little younger than I am, but he was at Curtis while I was at Juilliard and all of us of that era were positively affected by the CSO. Joe’s greatest influences were his father, teachers in the Bay Area (Ned Meredith and Mark Lawrence) and then Dee Stewart and especially Glenn Dodson at Curtis. Many years ago I had conversations with Joe about my lessons with Mr. Jacobs. He was interested, but his concepts are uniquely his own on certain things. He’s been very successful in developing so many amazing artists, In 1988, the CSO was doing a residency at Carnegie and their off day that week was on Thursday. Charlie and Jay came up to the house in the afternoon as did Joe and David Finlayson. We played for hours (while I had the tape recorder on). Listening to the tape I hear individuals. It’s all really, really good, but unique to the person who was playing it. Since that time, Joe’s playing has only grown!

710-DEFAULT-m1469-DEFAULT-m697-DEFAULT-m9. What have been your chamber music experiences, and what do you recommend for young players?Students of today do not play enough chamber music! I encourage all of my students to purchase as many duets as they can and if it’s out of print, find a copy. I tell my bass trombone students that I prefer them playing duets with the same instrument. Not that I have anything against playing duets with a tenor trombone, but ideally it’s best for both students if they both get an opportunity to play lead and accompaniment. When Mr. Jacobs referred to Mr. Herseth, he referred to him as a “storyteller.” While at Juilliard, I played Telemann canonic duets with a really descriptive bassoon player. It was really interesting playing these duets with another instrument that doesn’t have the same instrumental challenges that ours does and trying to put the music above anything else.
There is no substitute for young players developing the ability to play and listen at the same time. Some people of my generation say that I was lucky to have gotten the opportunities that I did (true), but the most important thing was that when I got these opportunities, I went in and made a good impression. In a repertoire orchestra, it’s really obvious if someone is not listening. I was successful because of all the chamber music I played!

c. 2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.
Interested in more “Seven Positions” tm Interviews?
Charlie VernonJames MarkeyChris BrubeckDoug YeoJeremy MorrowTom EverettGerry Pagano Ben van DijkRandall HawesDenson Paul PollardThomas MattaFred Sturm Bill ReichenbachMassimo Pirone Erik Van Lier Jennifer WhartonMatyas VeerStefan Schulz

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Brian Meixner and Praxis Re-invent the Duo With “The Fourth Valve” tmBrian_Meixner-001-small

What is there to do as a euphonium major, really? Maybe you could ask Brian Meixner, after finishing a doctorate at the University of North Texas as a teaching assistant for Brian Bowman, Meixner landed as euphonium player, soloist and assistant conductor of the River City Brass Band, recorded a solo CD launched and recorded with The River Bottom Quartet. Meixner has commssioned his share of new works, and a passion for new music seems to have led him to the formation of the expansive duo, Praxis, with percussionist and composer Nathan Daughtrey. While many would stop to breathe, Meixner has just taken flight! Accepting a new position as director of the North Carolina Brass Band, he blends his euphonium and chamber careers into conducting and teaching. The question for this euphonium player shouldn’t be what, but rather; what’s next? The Fourth Valve takes flight! Enjoy…..

Praxis Duo

Praxis Duo

1. Praxis reveals the use of a wide palette of colors from your euphonium, from the diffuse warmth of conical to the focused brilliance of cylindrical. What techniques and pedagogical controls do you use to achieve such a wide spate of colors from a single instrument?I am glad to know that these varying tone colors have come across to the listener! The most basic answer to this question is that I have in my ear the sound I want to produce and I work with the resistance of the instrument to achieve it. My thought on tone production on a brass instrument… it is achieved through a balance of air flow intensity versus resistance, colored by manipulation of the vowel. Each register of the instrument (each individual pitch, actually) has a different resistance (some instruments more than others). With a proper command of the air flow, knowledge of how the instrument will respond on any given pitch, and careful control of the vowel placement, one can produce a wide spectrum of colors throughout the range. I find the resistance inherent in the euphonium to be helpful in this regard and am amazed by the great trombonists I hear who perform with a tremendous variety of tone color without that aid of the resistance. In the end, I believe it is vital for the player to have clearly in their mind at all times the sound they want to convey to the audience.

2. In an orchestra, percussion is often accompaniment and support, in wind symphonies it quite often becomes more of a significant color alternative to winds, while taking over some of the more repetitive figures less conducive to winds-brass in particular. How do you view the role of percussion in the brass band setting, by contrast?It is interesting to note that percussion instruments played a very small role in the early days of brass banding and were not even allowed to be used in competitions for several years in the early twentieth century. Percussion has, of course, become a much more integral part of brass band writing. Many modern brass band composers write extensively for percussion and I welcome it!

The role of percussion in brass band, as I see it, is similar to what you have described in orchestras and wind ensembles. However, in addition to percussion the orchestra uses strings, woodwinds and brass… the wind ensemble uses woodwinds and brass. The brass band uses only brass instruments, so it is not as sonically diverse as these other large symphonic ensembles. Brass band range stretches from the BBb tuba to the Eb soprano cornet and nearly every gap in that spectrum is filled by other brass instruments, but that spectrum does not include to other timbres present in orchestra and wind band. The complementing of this range by percussion is more important in brass band, I would argue, than that of the orchestra or wind ensemble due to the smaller variety of instruments and lesser amount of timbres. The added colors, brilliance and emphasis provided by the percussion section are essential, I believe, to the overall sound of the brass band.

What attracted you to percussion in chamber music, and what have you found?

I was initially exposed to this by the Brian Bowman/Gordon Stout recording of Samuel Adler’s “Four Dialogues”PRAXIS+cover for euphonium and marimba. I suppose I was attracted to the sound of the two instruments playing together and liked the idea of doing something different than solo pieces with piano. Several years later I joined a consortium to commission David Cutler for a euphonium piece with cahon and maracas. During that same time I was working with a couple of other composers on pieces for euphonium with percussion ensemble. Partly due their great writing, but likely equally due to the interesting combination of instruments/sounds, I was turned on to euphonium/percussion music from that point forward.

Simply put, the more variety of percussion instruments that are used, the more sounds that are capable, the more interesting for the listener and performer alike. With percussion, the number of timbres, sounds, etc. possible is literally limitless. This allows me to be more creative with the sounds/colors I can produce on my instrument and the musical interest for all involved. In the case of our Euphonium + Percussion duo and our album ‘Praxis’, it doesn’t hurt to have the opportunity to work with the mega-talent virtuoso percussionist and composer Nathan Daughtrey!

3. Has Praxis inspired you to reflect on the musical relationship that is the duo? How would you compare the musicians role in a duo with their role in a quartet or quintet?

I had not necessarily reflected on the duo in particular, however I will say that I have found great enjoyment working with Nathan Daughtrey specifically. We work well together in both rehearsal and performance settings, so my opinion of the duo may be biased to the positive simply due to that. I will say that with only one other person in my chamber group, it is much easier to schedule rehearsal time!

The importance of working together is similar to other chamber settings. Musical compromise and equal sharing of ideas is no different, but I suppose there is more responsibility per member when the numbers are reduced.

In working with a percussionist, the intonation is solely my responsibility, as the percussionist is not able to manipulate pitch on the vast majority of instruments (much like performing with piano). I find that to be an advantage, actually, as it is one less variable in performance! I know I am getting consistent pitch from my colleague each time we get together, so the intonation is predictable – big advantage.

4. Who are your low brass playing heroes? Do you find any special resonance with the life of Leonard Falcone?
My biggest low brass playing hero is my graduate school teacher and mentor, Dr. Brian Bowman. I say this not only because of his virtuosic playing and life-changing teaching, but also due to him being one of the greatest pioneers and innovators on my instrument. Adding to my tremendous respect for him is his selfless approach to his career as a teacher and performer. What I have witnessed from Dr. Bowman is an approach to life through service to others. I am sure that all of us who know him would share a similar observation. Choosing to do my graduate studies with him at UNT was probably the best decision I have made in my professional life.

Countless other players on all three low brass instruments have been inspiring to me, including several artists from my generation and younger. Due to my hybrid career as a performer/conductor, I am particularly inspired by my colleagues and mentors who are successful at both. A prime example is Demondrae Thurman. Difficult to continue naming folks, as I will inadvertently leave some off the list!

How could any euphonium player reflect on the life of Leonard Falcone and not find at least some resonance! He was a true pioneer and all euphonium professionals have he and others to thank for any successes we may have in our profession. Mr. Falcone was, of course, an influential teacher and conductor as well as a performer, so I find great inspiration in his accomplishments from all aspects of his career.

Genesis15. What is your warm up like now as opposed to grad school?
Similar, but has evolved some due to new ideas I have been exposed to and needs that have arisen in my playing, etc. I still use the basic set of exercises taught to me by my teachers Brian Bowman, Skip Gray and Hugo Magliocco, but I do not have as much time each day to do a solid hour or two of “warm up”/fundamental exercises as I did when I was in grad school. A full-time teaching job, running my own business and helping my wife raise two children under the age of five cuts down on warm up time! That being said, I have found that neglecting to address certain fundamentals in my playing on a daily basis will cause a noticeable decline in my playing, primarily (for me) tone and articulation. When warm up time is limited, I rely on the early exercises in “Lip Flexibilities for All Brass Instruments” by Bai Lin, the combining of long tones and slow lip slurs. These allow me to do some long tone work while focusing on the clean/pure transfer of sound across harmonics. Also various flow studies (ex. Cichowicz/Brass Gym) to ensure purity/consistency of sound through various interval patterns. Repeating these exercises using articulation combinations allows me to cover the most basic foundation of playing my instrument in a short amount of time at the beginning of my day.

I also include at least some low register lyrical playing each day. If I am able to play with smooth connection and rich sound below the bass clef staff, then I have the command and control of the air flow needed to be effective in any range of the instrument. If time allows, I expand the warm up/fundamentals from there to address specific aspects of my playing that are needed for the solo/ensemble work I am doing at the time.

6. Which came first for you, inspiration to conduct or opportunity (necessity)?I have always aspired to be a conductor in some capacity since I chose music as a career. My path as a conductor was formed out of a career as a professional performer, which I have found to be a beneficial route for many reasons. I have been very fortunate to study with some truly fantastic musicians and teachers, who formed me not only as a player, but more importantly as a musician. I think most players want to work under a conductor who is a competent and accomplished musician, which I hope I can say about myself.

I thoroughly enjoy my work as a conductor. I love being with people and there is certainly ample opportunity for that when working with an ensemble. I also find it to be musically rewarding to work with so many different instruments/sounds in molding a musical product, as aspect that is a bit limiting as a soloist. Also, a typical day at work for me includes practicing/playing euphonium and trombone, score study, teaching a few private lessons, then leading an ensemble rehearsal. This variety in my work day keeps me energized and motivated!

7. How does jazz inform your conducting and playing? Any thoughts on Rich Matteson, Bob Brookmeyer, Juan Tizol or more recent tenor-valve players?I do not have a lot of experience in jazz, however the training I did receive has been an invaluable resource as both a conductor and performer. It is hard for me to imagine success as a musician without being at least somewhat informed in jazz. The players you list are incredible musicians and artists, each of whom has helped shed light on the capabilities of our instruments. An innovator on the scene today who I believe deserves special mention is Ryan McGeorge, an extremely creative euphonium artist who is broadening our understanding of what is possible on the instrument. His playing, composing/arranging and recordings are all amazing.

8. What are your favorite chamber music works that include euphonium? Are there any other directions you would like to see explored?My opinions here are heavily influenced by my personal experience with certain pieces, having performed them with good friends and colleagues. The works with percussion I recorded with Nathan Daughtrey are among my favorites, as well as Gillingham’s “Diversive Elements”, which I have performed a number of times with different friends and colleagues. The compositions and arrangements for euphonium quartet (and three euphoniums + 1 tuba) on our River Bottom Quartet album “In Too Deep” were a lot of fun. I also very much enjoy the music of Fernando Deddos, including the title track of the ‘Praxis’ album and his “Invasions and Myths” for euphonium, trumpet and piano that I recorded with Jennifer Dearden and Kevin Dill in 2015.

As far as directions for further exploration, I am thrilled to see the creative new works emerging for euphonium in a chamber setting. Lots of great stuff! It would be interesting to see more pieces for euphonium with strings, which seems to be somewhat of an untapped genre. The “Concerto No. 3 – Diran” by Alan Hovhaness is quite nice.

-29. How did the journey begin to bring a professional brass band to North Carolina?I accepted a music faculty position at High Point University and moved to North Carolina in 2012. During that first year I began talking to many of the top brass players in the Triad area (Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point) about the possibility of forming a professional-caliber brass band. The musicians were receptive to the idea and it became clear that a nucleus of a fine brass band was on board to get things started.

The Triad population and economy appeared strong enough to support a new arts organization, so we went forward with establishing the North Carolina Brass Band. My business plan was to start with an attractive website and an exceptional product. The product was our debut album “First in Flight”. We raised start-up funds to get the business off the ground and were fortunate enough to receive enough donations to pay for the recording of the album.

The recording sessions for “First in Flight” were the very first time the band sat down together. The ensemble blended quickly, the recording sessions were successful and the album has since received high praise. Of course, none of it would have been possible without the players generously agreeing to do the recording for no pay. The willingness of these musicians to “buy in” to the vision of the organization was crucial, and the commitment from everyone involved (28 musicians and several Board members) was inspiring. With the product in hand and essentially no funds spent by the band, we were well positioned to move forward. The band played its first concert series in 2014 and has performed regularly since that point. We are now in year two as an organization and the musicians are paid per service. The band has performed several concerts locally in the Triad and in other locations in North Carolina. We are excited to be the featured brass band at the 2016 Great American Brass Band Festival, a tremendous honor for us! The NCBB is recording its second album, “Christmas Wrapped in Brass”, in January 2016.

c. 2016 David Brubeck All Rights Reserved.

Interested in more “Fourth Valve” euphonium interviews? Check out these:

Demondrae Thurman 2015Jamie Lipton 2015Lance LaDuke 2015Matthew Murchison 2015Koichiro Suzuki 2015.Marc Dickman 2015Lauren Curran 2015Mitsusu Saito 2015Adam Frey 2015Martin Cochran 2015

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Scholar, Teacher, Musician, Dennis Bubert Links Texas to Chicago for “7 Positions” tm Ft. Worth Orchestra Hall

Bubert SoloDennis Bubert is a major force in the trombone world. A large percentage of the content of the Journal of the International trombone Association (ITA), is left to his care each quarter as he places the major symphonic works and players of our time in the spotlight. A native of Central Illinois, Bubert was a student of both Ed Kleinhammer and Arnold Jacobs of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), as well as the ITA founding treasurer and bass trombone virtuoso, Tom Streeter. Bubert has held the position of bass trombonist in the Fort Worth Symphony since 1981, and is currently a full time faculty member at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Part of the generation of famed CSO bass trombonist, Charlie Vernon, Bubert came to his professional awakening at a time when George Roberts had received acclaim as a commercial bass trombone soloist, but there was no apparent classical counterweight to this achievement. While Kleinhammer, Ed Anderson and other outstanding bass trombonists were making their mark in the symphonic realm, a universally acclaimed soloist for the instrument had yet to emerge (despite wonderful recordings from Knaub Reynolds, Streeter and others). It was this awakening of the classical bass trombone in the 1980’s which was led by the ever expanding capabilities of Charlie Vernon that have redefined the classical bass trombone nearly as much as Roberts has done for the commercial bass trombone. Bubert represents pedagogy, ability, accomplishment, scholarship and a front row seat to the ride. Enjoy!

Dennis Bubert

Dennis Bubert

1. What do you look for in a horn? Do you use different equipment for different occasions?
I think those things that I look for in an instrument aren’t all that dissimilar to what most players find appealing….sound, response, evenness of tone. After having tried so many different variables over the years, I’ve kind of settled on lighter bells and heavier slides. I don’t think so much in terms of “dark” or “bright” anymore; I listen instead for clarity, liveliness, and projection. I like sounds that are “complex” and “interesting”, as opposed to monochromatic; and beyond that, I guess, I tend to prefer horns that blow “loose”, where the sound can be readily colored to match what’s going on around me. We do use different instruments on occasion based on the repertoire. For earlier literature, and in cases where the first two players are playing an alto and smaller tenor, I generally play on an 88H “K” bell with a .562” slide with an older Conn-style narrow crook. That’s seems to have worked pretty well. The bigger part of the formula, though, will always be the player and the concept.

2. How has having a steady orchestral engagement changed your warm up and practicing?
I’ve always been a huge advocate of having a daily routine, and if at all possible, I like to get that in as early in the day as possible. You know, you can go into rehearsal cold, play a few minutes and be OK, but I really like the comfort of having done my homework on the horn before that rehearsal. For me, it’s just not the same to to go in, play a few notes and then sit down in the orchestra.

The biggest demand on my time is from juggling the orchestra schedule with teaching, and that’s an unending challenge. It means a lot of late night practice sessions, and grabbing an hour of practice time between double rehearsals. Not ideal, perhaps, but if that’s your best option, that’s what you do. When school is over in early May, we still have about eight weeks of the season to go, and I love being able to go down to my basement every morning to be my own best student for a change. It’s a great time of the year to kind of evaluate where things stand, and try to address any little issues that have come up during the past season, as well as look at new literature and get a head start on the next season’s rep.

Charlie Vernon with Dennis Bubert

Charlie Vernon with Dennis Bubert

3. What was it like to experience the ascent of Charlie Vernon’s career, and to witness the corresponding elevation of expectation for the bass trombone?
I first met Charlie in 1978, right after I had finished school. He was on the artist roster at the International Trombone Workshop (now “Festival”) in Nashville, and after having heard so much about him in the Baltimore Symphony, I was really anxious to hear what all the fuss was about. He presented a master class and played a recital, and I made sure I was at both of those. I had just completed a really productive two years studying with John Kitzman and Daral Rauscher in Dallas, my lessons with Mr. Kleinhammer were just getting underway, John was using me a lot to sub and play extra in the Dallas Symphony, and I was just a month or so away from winning my first little audition. I kind of felt I was headed in the right direction, and then hearing Charlie….well, that kind of blew everything out of the water for me. His playing, both in terms of sound and musicality, was just so far beyond anything I had conceived of for the bass trombone, that I had to take everything back to the design studio. I remember bugging him for two lessons that week, and even though he probably didn’t have three hours to himself that whole week, he very graciously obliged.

Charlie Vernon Bubert Ft. Worth Low BrassHe really has pulled everyone else along after him. Jay told me once that he thought Charlie had pushed the concepts of Mr. Jacobs’ teaching into greater extremes of register than anyone else. Having his sound in my head at the same time I was studying with Mr. Kleinhammer, and later, Mr. Jacobs, was pivotal for me, as for so many others.

4. What memories do you have of your time studying with Tom Streeter and becoming a bass trombonist.
I wish I could say it wasn’t that long ago, but….! My freshman year, I went into my first lesson with my only instrument, a Conn 48H, and came out a bass trombone player. The school’s one and only bass trombonist was graduating, they were getting a new instrument, and they needed someone to step up. I had always had a really easy, comfortable low register, and the upper register was anything but easy, so it seemed like a good choice. Tom was very, very patient with me, always encouraging, and never anything but generous.

At the start of my junior year, Tom left his position in the local orchestra, and mentioned that I might want to get myself ready for an audition. I really had no idea what to expect, but prepared as best I could, and somehow won. (I was so totally green, I left the hall after I played and went home! Not even savvy enough to stay around for another round, or to find out who won…..the next morning at school everybody was congratulating me, and I wasn’t really sure what for…..) It was really a pretty respectable orchestra and a great learning experience for me. The two tenor trombones were players you knew really well, Dave…..John Rehm and Charles Stokes, two theory teachers from Illinois State, but both really fine players who had studied with Beversdorf and Haney at IU. The principal trumpet had formerly been in the Dallas Symphony, and the horn section was really strong. As a 20-year old kid, I was in way over my head, but I really looked forward to those concerts, and nobody had more fun than I did. More than anything else, I think that experience was probably the most influential in inspiring me towards a career in music.

5. Your teaching, articles and extra-symphonic music bespeak an innate curiosity. What keeps you so mentally active, and what are the challenges and rewards. What are the 2 or 3most interesting things you have unearthed?
I just got back from Chicago, Dave, where I heard three different concerts in three nights….the CSO brass concert, a Thursday night subscription, and Music of the Baroque’s Christmas choral and brass concert. And look at those guys….Jay’s conducting, teaching and arranging; Mick Mulcahy conducted the brass concert and then played beautifully on the Music of the Baroque concert (in addition to squeezing in students from out of town), and Charlie’s always got something going on, and ended the brass concert by playing an absolutely gorgeous ballad on the little horn. It occurred to me a long time ago that simply sitting in the back row playing third trombone was not going to be enough to sustain me musically or intellectually for the long haul. If you were playing in Chicago, or Boston, or New York? Well, maybe, but even then, those guys all seem to thrive on a varied musical diet. And if you play in Fort Worth, say, or Loose Gravel, Idaho….I think it’s imperative for your own musical well being to pursue something beyond the demands of the job.

Bubert  Bone ChoirAnd another thought along these lines: whether at the end of the day, or the end of the season, or the end of your career, the horn’s going to go in the case and we’d all better have something beyond the trombone to hold our attention.

6. How have your views on Kleinhammer’s pedagogy changed from 30 years ago? (Can you imagine a brass section where he , Jacobs and Farkas were writing their books and conversing?)
I’ve had a long time to reflect on Ed’s teaching, as well as Jake’s, and if my views have changed, my respect for what they were able to pass on has only become more profound. My friend John Hubbard was around the CSO a lot during those years when Jake was doing his studies at the University of Illinois Medical Center, and he may well have been the inspiration for “The Art of Trombone Playing.” He always claimed he told Ed “you’re so damn smart, why don’t you write a book?” After John died in 2005, his wife showed me his copy of the book, with the inscription “to my friend John, who inspired this book,” in Ed’s distinctive handwriting. Ed gradually came to feel that the original book needed to be completely revamped, and that was what eventually led to “Mastering the Trombone”, which he co-authored with Doug Yeo.

Ed told me that a number of his CSO brass colleagues urged Jacobs to write a book, and he apparently always made noises about doing it someday, but of course never did. The general consensus, as I understand it, is that he didn’t want his ideas misinterpreted or misrepresented. I was surprised to learn that at one time there was apparently a sort of backlash against Mr. Jacobs’ teaching. Hard to imagine for someone like you or me, who had the opportunity to watch him work with so many different students during his master classes, or to have been the fortunate recipients of his extraordinary teaching ourselves, as we were.

Both were very involved with what I consider one of the most predominant themes in brass pedagogy over the past three-quarters of the century, but in their own unique way. You’ve no doubt heard the state of trombone playing Emory Remington encountered early in his career, and how his teaching style evolved to urge students to adapt a more singing approach to the horn, blowing into it with as little resistance as possible. This idea of a more relaxed, easy way of blowing the horn was also a major theme in the teaching of both Mr. Kleinhammer and Mr. Jacobs. For Jake, that was reflected in the admonition to “play with minimal motors” and “to seek the weakness in your playing.” Ed, who was quite taken with the Eugen Herrigel book, “Zen in the Art of Archery”, co-opted Herrigel’s expression of “effortless effort”. He carried that book around in his jacket pocket from one time to another, and I remember the countless times he bolted across the room to grab it from his coat and read a paragraph. He also talked about “blowing the horn in a spiritual way.”

I was incredibly, incredibly fortunate to be able to study with those guys, and I’ve often marveled at whatever set of happy circumstances brought them all together at that time in that one place. I don’t think I ever had a lesson with either of them without them invoking the name of Adolph Herseth, and over the years I’ve come to think of them thusly: Herseth as the ultimate artist, Jacobs as the ultimate scholar, and Ed as the ultimate student. Tim Smith told me that a couple of his friends saw Ed at the old Schilke shop on South Wabash once, and screwed up their courage to go over and introduce themselves. “Mr. Kleinhammer? Hi, I wanted to say hello…I’m a trombone student”, Tim’s friend said. “You are?”, Ed exclaimed…. “I AM, TOO!”

I have photos of Ed and Jake in my studio at school as well as on the wall of my basement practice area at home, and I can honestly say that not a single day has passed without thinking about my time with them. Truly extraordinary individuals, and the giants of our art on whose shoulders we stand. I told Charlie last week that I can’t walk down Michigan Avenue or be in the basement of Orchestra Hall without sensing their presence.

7. What has been your involvement with vintage horns. Any favorites?
Right now, my daily driver is a 1958 Mt. Vernon with two newly installed Greenhoe valves. I bought it from my good friend and colleague Steve Dunkel at Kennedy Center, and when I retire, it goes back to him. And I just bought a beautiful 1948 Conn 70H this past summer which, while I haven’t had much opportunity to use it yet this season, should be great for Schubert, Schumann, etc.

I’ve also got the instrument Mr. Kleinhammer played for the last dozen years or so of his CSO career, an Earl Williams bell with a dual bore slide by John Haynor, Meinl valves and attachment tubing handcrafted at the old Schilke shop. There’s quite a story about how Schilke came into possession of that Williams bell, but I think I’ll leave that to Jared Rodin, who spins a pretty good tale about it.

8. Red herrings are a literary device used by mystery writers to throw readers off the track. Do you see any red herrings or unfruitful pursuits in the advancement of the bass trombone at the moment?

Red herrings? I don’t know about that, but there is one unfruitful pursuit, as you put it, that I frequently encounter in students. And that’s students who are so enamored of some of our more prominent trombone personalities, like Joe and Charlie, that they’re obsessed with trying to emulate them. Those two are marvelous trombonists and musicians, but as wonderful as they are, I think it’s important for us as musicians and instrumentalists to find our own voice. It’s hard enough to be yourself without trying to be someone you’re not.

Interested in more “Seven Positions” tm interviews? Click here for links to nearly two dozen interviews with the most amazing bass trombonists of our time!

c. 2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.

Interested in more “Seven Positions” tm Interviews?
Charlie VernonJames MarkeyChris BrubeckDoug YeoJeremy MorrowTom EverettGerry Pagano Ben van DijkRandall HawesDenson Paul PollardThomas MattaFred Sturm Bill ReichenbachMassimo Pirone Erik Van Lier Jennifer WhartonMatyas VeerStefan Schulz

Images courtesy of Dennis Bubert

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2015, The Year of The Euphonium!th-1

While the “Fourth Valve” tm was launched on the last day of 2013, it was not until 2015 that it featured its first interview from a euphonium player. Then the flood gates opened, and 2015 was, without a doubt, the year of the euphonium at!

Usually thought of in the niche of bands and brass bands, these euphoniums virtuosi reflect an astonishing level of musical accomplishment in a variety of settings. From the out-of the box innovators of the celtic infused Matthew Murchison to the tango inspired Koichiro Suzuki, from the quadruple threat virtuosity of Demondrae Thurman to the thoughtful brilliance of Jamie Lipton and Mitsuru Saito, from the bop of Marc Dickman to the quintet experise and “what do you call that?” of Lance LaDuke to the smooth southern gentlemen Adam Frey and Martin Cochran. Did I mention the sensational Lauren Curran? She’s the soloist, chamber musician, and Army Field Band spokeperson who stood up to Jim Rome and refuted his negative comments regarding band musicians.

We have forged a super interview out of selected responses from this unbelievable team. Not to be missed!

Demondrae Thurman

While Demondrae Thurman is one of the leading euphonium soloists of our day, he is also an accomplished chamber musician, conductor, trombonist, composer and educator. The high level of his work is evident, as are his passion for music and people. “The Fourth Valve” tm is delighted to host Demondrae Thurman as our first euphonium playing respondent. Enjoy!

How did you develop the emphasis you have on musical expression? Sometimes, it is something that people do not think about very much.

That’s true. I am a pretty big student of music in the sense that I like to know how it’s constructed. My beginning point in studying a piece of music is trying to analyze the form. I think the form, (just look at the root of the word), it really informs how you can interpret the music. You start with the large scale things, big sections, breaks and things like that and then I try to identify what each major section of the piece of music is trying to say. My expressive gestures and my expressive elements such as vibrato, tempos and articulations all start to make sense once I have decided what the major section wants to be. Once I have that figured out, I break it down to a smaller components: how does this phrase lead into this phrase and how do I make the transitional material fit with the mainstay melodic or motivic material? Those things inform my choices as well, but I think that you start with a pretty detailed analysis of the formal structure, not so much a detailed harmonic structure but try to get a sense about what sort of harmony and what sort of rhythmic elements I need to address and let that guide my interpretation.

It sounds like an architectural approach first.

It very much is. Take a look at what you have, the space available to you, and build within those parameters as opposed to trying to make something different than what is there.

Please name two different ways you find inspiration to play music.

For my musical inspirations I really draw on the music and lives of Gustav Mahler and Dimitri Shostakovich. Those are the two composers that I identify with as people and as artists. A lot of times you can dig somebody’s music, but you may feel that you can’t identify with the type of person they may have been, or even are, (for modern composers).

Say with Mahler, I can go back and listen to the third Symphony and re-focus. Similarly, I can go and listen to Shostakovich 10th and sort of re-focus musically which is nice. When I feel like I need a refresher to cleanse my ears, I listen to Bach. I really feel like his harmonic sense is the thing that got me started enjoying music at a really high level-where it became more than something that I was just studying and became a passion. I go back to Bach for that.

For non-musical inspiration, I have always been a fairly spiritual guy. I won’t say religious, but spiritual. I sort of dig deep inwardly to come up with many things, and and that makes me look towards my family for inspiration.

I think about my grandmother, who has passed away, and for a long time I carried a picture of her in my performance folder. I think about my children. Those are the two sources of non-musical inspiration that kept me going.

Enjoy the rest of the interview here: Demondrae Thurman 2015

Jamie Lipton

What do you do for a warm up? How has it changed since college?

I think any college professor will tell you that they no longer have time for the 45-minute warm-up they did as a student. I used to play tons of Remington exercises before I’d even think about practicing. Now, sometimes I only have a few 10-minute breaks between lessons to do all of my practicing for the day. When I’ve been away from my instrument, I like to play tunes by ear. Themes from orchestral rep, musical theatre, folk songs, whatever – and I encourage my students to do the same. Tunes get you re-acclimated to your horn, they get you listening to sound and intonation, and most importantly they get you thinking about making music. Lately I’ve been playing “Make Our Garden Grow” from Bernstein’s Candide in three or four different keys. After that, I’m ready to go.

Rex Martin, my professor at Northwestern, impressed upon me the idea that any musician should be able to play a gig with no warm up, because you never know when you might have to do that. Mark Carlson and I started a routine one summer where we would show up to the practice rooms on Monday morning and play a solo for each other with no warm-up. It was a productive exercise, and I’d recommend it to anyone who feels dependent on their current warm-up routine.

Enjoy the rest of the article here: Jamie Lipton 2015

Lance LaDuke

What was your first introduction to chamber music, and what chamber music paths did you follow before the BB? Which ensembles? Who were your mentors? (HS, College, Pro).

My first experience was a tuba/euph quartet in high school. I didn’t do all that much in college, mostly tuba quartets. Once I got into the Air Force Band, things really picked up and I ended up playing a lot of chamber music. We had a tuba/euph quartet (with Don Nauman,images-3 Gil Corella and Dave Porter) that rehearsed and performed regularly. We even took a couple short tours. The most fun I had, though was in a brass quartet that was the brainchild of trumpeter Bill Adcock. In the AF, we were known as Top Brass and our civilian alter ego was Nothing But Valves (Bill, lucky for me, didn’t like trombone players). Andy Wilson was the other trumpet and Sam Compton played horn. We were very busy as a group. We rehearsed and gigged a lot, I did a lot of arranging and transcribing for the group, we had pieces written for us and recorded a CD.

The quartet was an amazing learning opportunity for me in pretty much every respect. Up to that point, I had primarily played in tuba quartets and often had the melody. In NBV, I was the bass voice (we ended up changing instrumentation to two trumpets, euphonium and tuba but I preferred the original instrumentation) and had to be counted on to provide both time and intonation stability. My success at those skills remains open for debate.

The other things I learned in NBV were the nuts and bolts of running a small business that happens to be in the music making industry. Division of labor, scheduling, budget, promotion, programming, talking to audiences, negotiating contracts, interpersonal relationships, goal setting. The list is nearly endless. The foundation I learned there helped me later with Boston Brass and currently in my position at Carnegie Mellon University, where I teach classes Music Business and Marketing and Communications, am the freshman advisor and also mentor individual students and groups launch their careers.

Enjoy the rest of the interview here: Lance LaDuke 2015

Matthew Murchison

Jazz is America’s art form and greatest cultural contribution to the world, and yet the average American has become more remote and resistant to it’s allure. What is going wrong?

I’m probably the wrong person to ask about this as I really don’t know much. However, being a human, I’ll be happy to give my strong, uneducated opinion anyway! My grandfather was a jazz pianist and I was able to hear him play several times before he passed away. I feel very lucky to have had that opportunity for lots of reasons. I bring this up not to be maudlin but to preface the rest of my answer with the disclaimer that I’m very drawn to those standard “Great American Songbook” tunes. I think they’re wonderful and I enjoy just playing the melodies for enjoyment.

Here’s why I rarely, if ever, listen to jazz. I was always taught to listen more than you talk (the length of this interview aside). I feel like to listen to some jazz (more specifically improvisation) is to hear someone talk incessantly without having anything to say. If that were a conversation you’d fake a phone call or sudden onset stomach flu and leave the room. If I’ve got one minute of tune, followed by six minutes of solo, followed by one minute of tune, that ratio is all wrong to me. It’s the same idea as the all-Beethoven string quartet show. Who are you doing this for?


Of course some people have voices you could listen to forever, whether it’s writing, talking, or improvising. Looking back, one of the things I loved about my grandfather’s performances was his treatment of the tunes. He would often play the tune straight ahead, then morph it into a waltz or samba or whatever. There would be a couple solo choruses but it never dominated the tune. Perhaps if I were more educated about jazz I’d be more drawn to the six-minute solo section, but I’m not sure if requiring a high level of listener education for comprehension and/or appreciation is a good way to increase audiences. I think that the most effective pieces of music or art don’t require the consumer to have undergone a training course to appreciate them.

Enjoy the rest of the interview here: Matthew Murchison 2015

Koichiro Suzuki


If you are holding a euphonium and a woman grabs you in a passionate embrace, it just might be the tango. If your name is Koichiro Suzuzki, then it most definitely is! Nurtured by the River City Brass Band, Suzuki has created a niche for euphonium that bears repeating. The “Fourth Valve” tm is delighted to host euphonium tango master Suzuki, & we bet we know what you young euphonium players will be doing this summer!

Eternal Tango, by Cuidado

unnamed-1When did you fall in love with the Tango?

I’ve been in love with Argentine tango since 2004. The first time I experienced tango was in a class provided by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee-(where I went for my under­grad­u­ate study in music). From that day, I knew that it was something I’d love to do for the rest of my life.

Enjoy the rest of the interview here: Koichiro Suzuki 2015.

Marc Dickman

As far as we can tell, you are one of only about five full time tenured professors who are euphonium players nationwide. Why is there such a disparity in numbers as compared with tuba?

I have also doubled on trombone most of my life. I would not have this job if I did not play and teach trombone. You may be surprised to find that some of those other guys double some as well. The common college set up is to have a faculty brass quintet with the traditional instrumentation. That leaves us out of luck. Just this year UNF formed an excellent quintet with bass-trombone on the low part and I play the trombone part on euphonium. It sounds great! Your colleagues need to be open minded about instrumentation. Great players will find a way to blend and sound great on any instrumental combination.

Enjoy the rest of the Interview here: Marc Dickman 2015

Lauren Curran

unnamed-1How did you develop your communication skills, and what was it like to be at the middle of the Rome marching band comment controversy?

I’m a lot like my Dad, who never met a stranger, and I love talking to people. I was always in trouble in school over it. I’ve had several East coast people call me the fastest talking Texan they’ve ever heard. Seriously, ask my husband about the talking. So, I guess I’ve just had lots of practice communicating.

When the Jim Rome controversy happened and the Army Field Band Twitter response went viral, Fox News requested an interview. Our Public Affairs Officer prepped me for the interview and helped me go over how to best respond to possible questions. I had to keep in mind that I was not only representing myself and the Army Field Band, but also the entire U.S. Army. (You don’t want to piss off those guys!)

I was on a plane 20 minutes after we got called to do the interview. I spent the flight writing out notes, guessing possible questions, typing out responses, reading over things, editing, and memorizing the message I wanted to convey. When we landed, I had to immediately call in to Fox and Friends and speak to a producer for a pre-interview. That gave me a good sense of what might be asked, and the tone of the piece.

The next morning, I was at the Fox News DC building, going live before I knew what was happening. I was alone in a small studio room, looking at a blank screen. I couldn’t see who was interviewing me or what I looked like, and my only connection to the outside world was through an earpiece. It’s hard to act naturally when you can’t see the person asking you questions. Thankfully the preparation and focus on my flight gave me the confidence I needed to not put my foot in my mouth.

The aftermath of the whole brouhaha has been very positive. So many people from across the country got in touch to say “thank you” for standing up for marching bands, for speaking out on a national platform on behalf of these hard working kids.

Just the other night, I had a band director came up to me after an Army Field Band concert to talk about it. I think the whole incident shows how much positive power the music community has when we come together on an issue.

How has becoming a parent informed your humanity and musicality?

Becoming a parent is pretty much all-consuming in the beginning. Giving birth is this incredibly physical event, and for me it was both magical and traumatic. I did not play my instrument for almost six weeks as I struggled to master breastfeeding, allowed my body to heal, and dedicated my energy toward sustaining this new life that was 100% dependent on me for survival.

After six weeks, the fog began to lift and I was able to think about the euphonium again. That was convenient, because I had to return to work at six weeks as well. Finding a balance between my music career and my family has been a process of growth. I’ve had to make choices, identify priorities, and become more efficient.

Before I was a mother, I would probably say I was most proud of the fact that I serve my country through music, that I am able to make people’s lives better with my instrument. Now, that purpose exists alongside this beautiful calling of motherhood.

The biggest way that has informed my musicality is that being a mother has given me a new level of confidence, particularly of what my body is capable. My body made and sustained a human life. My son literally grew from a single cell to a 20 lb, 6-month-old hunk of human from nothing but the nourishment of my body. My body is powerful! That confidence of self can’t help but translate to performance.

Read the rest of the interview here: Lauren Curran 2015

Mitsuru Saito

Mitsuru Saito "The FourthValve" tm

Mitsuru Saito
“The FourthValve” tm

You are from Fukushima. Can you tell us about your town before and after the disaster? How has the event affected your humanity and your artistry?

My hometown is Minamisoma city, which is located about 20 miles from the nuclear plant. Half of people in the city did not have to move to another place, but the rest had to live in a different city. In addition, some people chose to move to a different place although they could live in the city because of the radiation, and many young people have left the town. Therefore, the city is currently not very active. My parents live in the city, so do many of my relatives.

After the disaster, many of my gigs were canceled because many concerts had to be canceled. After a month or two, I had usual performance schedule. Since I had nothing to do after the disaster for 2-3 weeks, all I did was practicing. I was worrying about my future at that time. I was thinking that I should be only playing the euphonium. But I realized that all I can do is performing and teaching music (unfortunately, I am not good at doing other things). It was kind of a nice opportunity to think about myself again.

Enjoy the rest of the article here: Mitsusu Saito 2015

What qualities do you look for in a collaborative pianist, and the enjoy about the collaborative process?

I am very lucky to have great collaborative pianists around Tokyo. I have several performances with Yumi Sato (perhaps the most famous collaborative pianists for euphoniumists in Japan), and I really enjoy with working with her. I rehearse with an accompanists a lot so that I get comfortable about performing.

I tend to choose non-euphonium pieces for my concerts, and many of the works requires rubato. Fortunately, pianists that I collaborate with are good enough to follow me, in addition, they have great ideas about music. I always work with them and discuss about music.

Adam Frey

What is your concept of sound on the euphonium, and the place of vibrato within it?
This is certainly interesting question! What is dark to one person, may be bright to another. I like to think about the ideals of projection, clarity, warmth, and color when I think about my playing. I hope to explore and convey a wide variety of possibilities within those areas.

I look at vibrato as an additional option on top of the previous things. I like to use vibrato as a musical tool that can offer a subtle warmth, an intensifying gesture or an impassioned appeal. The absence of vibrato can add a cool and calm feeling to a phrase. My preference is that the vibrato not be an always on, nor an overpowering aspect of sound. It should add something when used.

What differences have you noted in teaching and playing styles between the US, Switzerland and Korea? home_15

I think everyone is going for the same thing in regards to teaching, namely: a good physical setup, a quality tone, an efficient use of air, a reduced use of muscle tension, and that creative spark.

There are differing levels of creativity as well as the color palettes in use. Some artists like subtle colors, others, very strong intense colors! Some are even intentionally monochromatic. Yet, they are all artistic. I generally strive to play with very vibrant colors, but sometimes there is more beauty in a subtle approach that might suit a particular piece better than vibrancy or bombast.

I think also that culture and personal character come into play as well. Someone that is more introverted likely enjoys playing a little more subdued but still is feeling the music. The types of ensembles in the country makes a big difference as well. Countries with high-intensity brass bands(like Switzerland and the UK), tend to have much higher technical demands and soloist requirements placed on them in the many competitions. By contrast, wind band focused countries(US and Japan,) tend to have a a basic approach which emphasizes a greater focus on tone and blend-the art of the ensemble player. The brass band players have ensemble skills for sure, but they are different. I always remember my first brass band rehearsal and was shocked by the challenging music.

Read the rest of the interview here: Adam Frey 2015

Martin Cochran

Do you find it ironic that the perhaps the most successful brass soloists in the world play tuba or euphonium?

I’m not surprised because of the beautiful sound that these instruments produce. However, we are still fighting an uphill battle for serious musical respectability in the eyes of the average concertgoer/consumer. For many, I think the sight and sound of a large brass instrument in a solo setting is still at bit of a novelty. This is especially true of the tuba, which will probably always have to fight the “Oom Pah Pah” stereotype. I think that to some degree this is even true for experienced listeners. Even for me, it’s still a bit surprising on some level to hear someone make the tuba sound like a voice or a violin. Musicians like Oystein Baadsvik, Pat Sheridan, and Carol Jantsch are really helping to defeat this stereotype.
The euphonium has the same image problem in that we’re still a bit of a novelty. However, since we’re mostly unknown to the average listener, I think we have a an advantage in that they don’t have any expectations of how we should sound. To some extent, I feel like an ambassador for the euphonium every time I perform. I’m constantly reminded of a wonderful quote from Brian Bowman: “Always play at least one piece that will make the listener want to come to another euphonium recital.”

Where do you envision the euphonium in chamber music, and is it important?

It’s extremely important. Chamber music has been a huge part of my musical growth and continues to be a major part of my performing career. Since large ensemble gigs are few and far between for euphonium players we tend to put a lot of emphasis on solos. Playing as a soloist is a lot of fun, but nothing will train your ears quicker than chamber music. I had the opportunity about 8 years ago to go on tour with the Sotto Voce Quartet on 2nd euphonium. I already knew that they were incredible individual musicians. However, I was blown away by the quickness with which they could blend and adjust to one another. It was a great wake up call for my ears. One of the unique opportunities that I’ve had while teaching at UAB is to be a member of a very active faculty brass quintet playing the horn part. It’s forced me to learn how to transpose and worked wonders for my facility and confidence in the high range. I also feel that I owe a great deal of my sight reading ability to my chamber experiences. Chamber music forces you to deal with conflicts (both musical and non-musical) in a constructive way. This is great training for future teachers and performers. You’re not going to survive very long in any gig if you can’t play well with others.

The euphonium is still finding its way in the chamber music world. There are some musicians doing great
things with the euphonium outside of the standard tuba quartet. Thomas Ruedi and Brian Meixner are both doing great things with euphonium and percussion. Matt Murchison released a recording that features the euphonium in an Irish band setting. The euphonium quartet is also starting to take off as a chamber ensemble. I also think that we need to get past the idea that euphonium is just a good substitute for the horn, trombone, or tuba. The euphonium is a great 3rd voice in the standard brass quintet and quartet. The key is to get composers on board with the idea. My quintet has had a few pieces written for us. In each case, we specifically told the composer that we wanted the piece to be conceived with euphonium in mind as the 3rd voice instead of the horn. This has led to some interesting conversations. A lot of composers are mostly unaware of the technical capabilities of the euphonium. Many see us as an extension of the tuba voice and are pleasantly surprised when they hear what we can do.

Enjoy the rest of the article here: Martin Cochran 2015

The Kendall Campus Mixed-Low Brass Quintet was one of the three student groups invited to perform at the 2015 International Euphonium & Tuba Conference 2015. The finale of their presentation was an arrangement/transcription of Horace Silver’s Senor Blues which was arranged for them by the group’s coach, Dr. David William Brubeck. Members included Gabriel Benitiez on tenor trombone, Armando Alicandu and Michael Contreras on euphonium, with Anthony Lupo on Tuba. The group was originally formed as a quartet for two tenors, one bass, and tuba, but the standard instrumentation includes four or five players, with at least one each of tenor tbn., bass tbn., euphonium and tuba. We have found mixed low brass a wonderful variety of colors and possibilities. As you can see, they were once coached by the incredible Ahn Trio.

The 2015 International Euphonium and Tuba Conference Guest Artists and Teachers included:
David Childs – Royal Welsh College of Music
Lauren Veronie Curran – The US Army Field Band
Adam Frey – Georgia State, Reinhardt & Emory Universities
Brian Meixner – Highpoint University
Dave Brubeck – Miami Dade College, Miami City Ballet Orchestra
Ron Davis – South Carolina Philharmonic, USC
James Gourlay – Artistic Director, River City Brass Band
Jay Hunsberger – Sarasota Orchestra, Univ of South Florida
Igor Krivokapic – Composer and Helicon Specialist
Patrick Sheridan – International Tuba Soloist, The Brass Gym
Martin Cochran –

Romero Brass
The Kendall Brass Quintet was also one of the three student groups invited to perform at IET 2015, and gave a performance that was a veritable demonstration of the use of euphonium in standard chamber music for brass.

The group featured the euphonium as the bottom of a brass quintet in an arrangement of Habanera from Carmen and in Rondeau by Mouret, as the bottom of a quartet in their rendition of the Allegro from Ramsoe’s Brass Quartet No. 4, and as a middle voice of a quintet with the premiere of a Latin jazz/salsa version of Johan Sebastian Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C minor (transposed), by the Kendall Campus’ virtuoso bass teacher, Salsa Ensemble leader and arranger, Rafael Valencia. The group has performed in masterclass for Boston Brass, Dallas Brass, and Chuck Lazarus.

In fact, we became so accustomed to searching out new chamber music possibilities for euphonium in chamber music, that we tried woodwind quintet. Then Windsync came to coach the group, and their bassoonist, Tracy Jacobson, said that she actually preferred the euphonium to the bassoon for one of the pieces they performed in masterclass. Next thing you know, this just sort of happened….


c. 2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.

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How Sweet The Sound! The Tubas of 2014 on “The Fourth Valve” tm th-1

Big brass to the front! When it comes to brass, nothing is bigger than the tuba, and none are bigger than this collection of interviews from 2014. From the top LA studio musicians Jim Self and John van Houten, to-the-up-and-coming Kanstul artist Beth Mitchell, from tubists who seem to have mastered just about every idiom like Marty Ericson and Don Harry, to broadway star and composer John Stevens, from orchestral ace Aaron McCalla to one of the premiere brass quintet players of our time Deanna Swoboda. (Deanna actually missed the 2014 cut off by one day, but since she launched “The Fourth Valve” tm, we thought, “what’s one day”?)

The list can’t be topped, so grab a bag of popcorn as “The Fourth Valve” tm takes the tuba to the movies and beyond. Enjoy!

Jim Self

7. How is playing a movie soundtrack session in Hollywood different than other types of sessions, or sessions in another location?

“A gig is a gig” — you always have to play well but a studio session requires more perfection because a microphone is right over the bell and every error is noticeable. One bad performance can mean the end to working for that composer or contractor–or even the end of your studio career. Studio work often require solo or brass overdubs–where you have to be perfect. Extra “takes” cost money and too many will cost you a career. These things are true in all recording jobs: movie, TV, records, jingles. Movies are the best paying gigs and often have the best musicians, so there is a pressure for perfection knowing that billions will hear your music–forever!

8. What do you think the high points have been for the tuba in jazz? What direction would you like to see?

The tuba in jazz is still relatively new. Red Callender, Howard Johnson, and many dixieland players have been the pioneers. I hope I have added to the idiom with my concerts and recordings as have Marty Erickson, Janos Mazura and several younger players. The GREAT star jazz tuba player on the level of Art Farmer, Stan Getz, JJ Johnson, Bill Evans (and on and on), is still in the future–maybe a teenager is out there now. The euphonium, of course, reached it with Rich Matteson-but even Rich struggled to get the recognition that the great artists on other instruments received.

Enjoy the full interview interview here: Jim Self 2014

Beth Mitchell

shapeimage_3-16. How do you view the role of the tuba in a tuba quartet? What are the challenges? The delights?

The roll of tuba in tuba quartet varies with the part one is playing.

In a tuba quartet you need to know when to play out and when to get out of the way. As a dark conical ensemble, it is difficult for the average ear to pick out and distinguish the important parts, so it is the quartet’s responsibility to make that very obvious. Extremes in dynamics and articulations can be helpful so your ensemble doesn’t all mush together.

1st tuba/3rd chair is often a soloist, or on countermelody with Euph. It is a chair with many hats- you must blend harmonies and get used to not playing the root, but playing in tune within a chord.

I call the 2nd tuba/4th chair the power chair. In this seat you are the tonal foundation and the rhythm section. Whether or not your group stays together tonally and rhythmically many times is up to you. Your pitch must be perfect at all times.

The amount of literature written for tuba/euphonium quartet is staggering considering how long this ensemble has been around. I attribute the enthusiasm for this particular ensemble to the amiable personalities usually found among tuba and euphonium players, their love for community, and beer.

Enjoy the full article here: Beth Mitchell 2014

John van Houten

star20trek3. Name two types of inspirations:
If have to say Tommy Johnson. He played the Tuba like a Cellist. And what an incredible sound. It was amazing how he always keep sounding better.
Have to say the World Champion KickBoxers I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Benny “The Jet” Urquediz and Erik Paulson. It’s an art form, but for those moments of sheer violence. Hard to explain. Like a Mahler Symphony.

photo-5_14. What was your typical warm-up routine like as an undergrad?

As a Undergrad I would always start with Long Tones, Bach Cello Suites 1 and 2, Flexibility, Scales, Bordogni/Rochut and Étude books.
Now I start with the Jimmy Stamp Mouthpiece Routine (usually in my Car along with a CD) Lone Tones, Bach Prelude No. 3, (from the 6 Suites for Solo Cello) , Hip-Bones 20 Minute Warmup or Arnold Jacobs Studies. Rouchut, down an octave and down two octaves. And then what kind of music I know that is coming up.

Enjoy the full interview here: John van Houtem 2014

Don Harry

images-11. How do you conceive of, describe or imagine the ideal tuba sound?

There is no one tuba sound except in the practice zone; the literature determines the color. Sometimes, and primarily, we are a 5th horn in the big German pieces. Sometimes, we are like a bass trombone in certain pieces of Stravinsky, Bernstein or Shostakovich. At other times, we arte a euphonium surrogate (Berlioz), or a woodwind voice (Mendelssohn and other Ophicleide parts). Primarily, we are a Lyric Baritone ‘wannabe’ or a Bass voice. My personal concept is a very intense core in the mid-harmonics surrounded by a corona of sound. Depending on the volume, the two things can vary; the core can become over powering, or the corona can be required to be the thing that fills certain colors at the bottom of ensemble (and the choir), involved.

Does your cultural heritage inform your approach to tone or interpretation?
There is a small connection to sounds I have heard and made in relation to my Delaware, Caddo and Kiowa relatives-great power and focus with a very intense projection.

2. The brass quintet is almost ideally suited to Conservatory and University Settings, one seat for each studio-plus another trumpet. How do you view the history and development of the faculty brass quintet, and which are some of your favorites?

Certainly one of the most critical outlets we have. There were many influences for me: The New York Philharmonic Brass Quintet (with the old players), The Boston Brass Quartet (with Robert King on euphonium and Herb Ludwig on trumpet), the Chicago Symphony Brass Quintet with Arnold Jacobs on tuba and, in the modern era, the NY Brass Quintet with Harvey Phillips on tuba, and the Empire Brass in its first incarnation

Enjoy the full interview here: Don Harry 2014

Marty Ericson

3. Why is the Eb tuba often overlooked?

What does it do better than other tubas? Naturally, I am a bit prejudiced in this category, since I have championed the Eb tuba for many years and love my (shameless plug) Willson 3400 Eb tuba. The primary reasons I have found that this works for me the following:
–Versatile solo instrument
–My favorite brass quintet instrument because of the way it blends with the trumpets, horn
and trombone and the Eb enjoys a robust low range that many smaller F tubas can find
challenging below the staff
–It IS one the brass band chair instruments of course
–Liked using it to double the BBb or even the CC tubas in the concert band as it tends to
fill out the middle range in much the same way it is used in the brass band
–Surprise! It was an awesome Opera tuba. When I performed several jobs with the Baltimore
Opera Orchestra (sadly now defunct), there were many comments from the conductors
and the string players about how they appreciated the full sound without feeling “over-
powered AND; string bassists and cellists cited it was easier to tune passages.

4. What should the young tuba/euphonium player of today do to seek out 21st century jobimages-1 opportunities?

Play with everyone! Experience everything! Regularly go out of your comfort zone to play with as many different ensembles and people as possible! Take improvisation classes (not only jazz but free improvisation) and sit in with funk brass bands, combos, other brass groups, a gypsy band—-do it all! Learn about what it takes for the euphonium/tuba to make its voice so valuable and interesting that it cannot be ignored.

Enjoy the full interview here: Marty Ericsson 2014

Aaron McCalla
Brass-Miami-1Aaron McCalla with Brass Miami

1. Breathing is key to wind instruments, none more so than the tuba. Can you discuss your journey of awakening with regards to breathing. What did your teachers emphasize, and what have you discovered on your own?

Breathing is absolutely key. I have to be honest though, I have never thought too much about it outside of making sure that I am being efficient. My first teacher in college, Matt Good, was probably my biggest influence. Until I met him, I didn’t know that there are many different types of breaths you have to master. Every breath is different but has to be as efficient as any other. I have always loved sports and running. I feel like the breathing required for sprinting or swimming is not exactly like that required for tuba playing, but it helps tuba in every way in that it requires you to be able to pull in maximum volume of air. When swimming laps, I am not analyzing my breathing, I am only thinking, “I need a breath!” So, when it comes to tuba I just try to take as much in as I would in sports but in a relaxed and musically appropriate way. In the end, I try to not paralyze myself with over analysis of something I have been doing since birth.

Enjoy the full interview here: Aaron McCalla

John Stevens

5. When did you really begin to devote yourself to composition, and how has it informed your tuba playing?

I never really studied composition. I studied jazz arranging with Rayburn Wright at Eastman, but when I got to Yale I didn’t really have an outlet for that and decided to begin composing for my own instrument. This was largely because I felt we had a great need for new repertoire for the tuba. I wanted to compose music that performers would find meaningful to play and audiences would find meaningful to hear – and that is still my overriding goal with each work I compose. During graduate school I composed SUITE NO. 1 for unaccompanied tuba, and POWER, MUSIC 4 TUBAS and DANCES for ensemble. I didn’t really realize at the time that, along with my tuba colleagues at Yale, I was kind of on the cutting edge of creating chamber music for tubas. By the way, I premiered DANCES on my Masters recital and it was the solo public performance on the F tuba of my entire career.
I always say that as a composer I think like a performer, and as a performer I think like a composer. It has always been very important to me to be as complete a musician as possible, and composing has been a huge part of that process. When composing a piece of music, I am thinking about every aspect of the work – from the big picture to the smallest details. That approach certainly translates to how I think as a perfumer.

john-stevens-with-tuba-16. What do you see as the major pedagogical points which:
a.) need the most attention yet &
b.) have had the greatest impact?

Without question, RHYTHM!!!! I feel strongly that rhythm, and what we jazz musicians would call “time” is very underemphasized in the teaching of young students. I always say that the right note in the wrong place is a wrong note. Counting, subdividing, pulsing (the heartbeat of the music) and grooving are all so important… By grooving, I mean that it is not enough to just play “correct” rhythms in steady tempos. Players should strive to be “in the pocket”, with rhythms being correct and steady but also having the right feel (or groove), which changes a bit depending on the style of the music. This is an especially important issue for tubists because we so often play a rhythmic role.

The other big one for me is the need to emphasize music first, then playing. Focus on the product and the technique will evolve to create the music in a successful way. Focusing on the technique will not necessarily result in good music making. I always tell my students that if someone sees them after a performance and says “That was really great playing.”, that’s certainly fine. But if they say “That was really great music.”… then you’ve done something…

Enjoy the rest of the interview here: John Stevens 2014

Deanna Swoboda

6. How do you view the role of the tuba in a brass quintet? What are the challenges? The delights?

The role of the tuba in a brass quintet is to provide the foundation of time, rhythm, tuning, articulation, and tone. Everyone in the quintet, being aware or not, depends on the tuba for strong fundamental playing, something they can sit on and build upon. For me, the challenges have included being able to play as delicate and soft as the trumpets. In addition, the brass quintet repertoire is some of the most challenging repertoire I have ever played and it has pushed me to reach new musical heights. My favorite part of quintet it melting the sounds together, “flying in formation”, sounding like one person playing 5 instruments! Oh so fun!!

7. How do you imagine the tuba in the future, any new roles or types of music?

Our instruments will continually improve, with better response, better valve mechanisms, more ergonomic. I don’t like to think less about the evolution of the tuba, and more about where we, as musicians, can take our musicianship with a tuba in our hands. Our goal should be to improve overall musicianship, so that people forget it’s a tuba we’re playing – to equal that of an electric guitar, or a solo violin.

Enjoy the entire interview here: Deanna Swoboda 12-31-2013

Chitate Kagawa

4. How do you remember Harvey Phillips?
Every one has a hero(es) when they are young. When I was an university
student in Tokyo, I was very impressed by the tuba solo playing on
the records played by Mr.Harvey Phillips. He played: “The Elephant &
the Fly” by H. Kling, “Carioca” by V. Youmans, “Serenade No.12” by V. Persichetti, “Sonata No.1″ by A.Wilder etc.on CC-tuba. There were no Japanese who could play the solo tuba pieces like him. As we know, Mr.Phillips was
the first tuba player who showed us that tuba was also a
solo instrument. His playing technique was tremendous, and I still find myself surprised when I listen to recordings from 1960 to 1970.

Although I joined with the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra in 1969, I
wanted to study with Mr. Phillips. I was very fortunate to be able to study with him for 9 months at Indiana University in 1973 and 1974; I was
selected and sent to the USA to study the tuba by the Japanese

Since I the day that I met him in September of 1973,I maintained close communications with him until he passed away in 2010. Although nine months at Indiana University was not long period, but I had many opportunities to see him work. Mr. Phillips was kind enough to bring me with him to regional Conferences, the Midwest clinic,etc.. I learned a great deal from both him and his wonderful family.

One time, Mr.Phillips told me, Chitate,”throw a stone in the middle
of the pond and see how the waves will expand in all directions”.
This idea was dreamed upon and later became the Hokkaido Euphonium
Tuba Association,founded in Sapporo in 1981 – and this camp has been
successful ever since.

Tribute to Harvey Phillips at the 40th International Tuba and Euphonium Conference held at The Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University.


Mr. Phillips introduced me to great tuba and euphonium players who were first
class musicians internationally. This allowed me to invite many tuba/
euphonium players for the annual Hokkaido Euphonium Tuba
Association’s camp. When Mr. Phillips presented a tuba recital in 1979 at
Sapporo, this was the first full tuba recital held by foreign tuba
player in Japan. Since 1984, there has been an unique competition for
the tuba at our camp named The Harvey G.Phillips Tuba Solo
Competition. It is a great honor for young students to receive
Harvey G.Phillips Tuba Solo Competition award.

There were a lot of difficulties to hosting the ITEC Sapporo, 1990, but
this Conference was very successful. Most impoortantly, an entire generation of young Japanese low brass players became familiar with the highest international standards for our instrument. Without
having the strong support of Mr.Phillips in particular, this Conference
could not have been realized. This was the first T.U.B.A.Conference to be held
outside of the United States. It was a very successful Conference
and it became a milestone for Japanese tuba & euphonium players in
our progress on the tuba and euphonium.

I was very honor to receive the Life Time Achievement Award of ITEA
in 2010 at ITEC in Arizona. For this ceremony, Mr.Phillips
commissioned a ceremonial fanfare for 2 euphoniums & 2 tubas named
“Fanfare Kagawa”, written by John Stevens. Later, I received a
photo of Mr.Phillips and Dan Perantoni who were checking up on the rehearsal of
this fanfare from a room of the hospital. This was really special, as
Mr.Phillips was at hospital, and his condition was bad at time
already. I couldn’t find another word to thank him except,Thank you
Mr.Phillips !!!

We enjoyed the great Conference held at Indiana University in 2014.I
believe, Mr.Phillips was also enjoyed this Conference from the grave.
I sincerely appreciate for the many years of kindness he extended to me and my

Enjoy the full interview here: Chitate Kagawa 2014

c. 2013-2016 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.

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The Beastly Tubas of 2015! “The Fourth Valve” tm Recounts The Year’s Best Interviews…unnamed-3

“The Fourth Valve” tm interview series features the most outstanding tuba and euphonium players in the world. In 2015 the global reach of the tuba interviews alone spanned from Norway to Portugal and from Miami to Boston. From Scotland to Tennessee, and Arizona to Pittsburgh. The bass horns are front and center in 2015, with Boston and Pittsburgh symphonic greats Mike Roylance and Craig Knox, International soloists James Gourlay and Oystein Baadsvik, jazz sensations Bill Pritchard and Sergio Carolina, up and comers Aaron Tindall and Beth Wiese in addition to tuba phenomenon Patrick Sheridan. Oh yeah, and the legendary R. Winston Morris-buckle up! We have selected some of the top answers and woven them together for a year-end delight.

Oystein Baadsvik

th-3Arnold Jacobs extolled and inspired us all to become “story tellers of sound”, but in your case you seem (at times), utterly absorbed by the emotional content. Do you allow yourself to become deeply involved in the emotion of a piece, and what does it demand from your attention?
Personally I have always found Jacob’s statement confusing. Music to me is not about telling a story. Reading literature is, or perhaps singing a text. Instrumental music is much more abstract and about a series of emotional characters. Sometimes happy and sometimes sad, and everything in between.

In fact, I find it very liberating NOT having to construct a story. And when listening, to be free to construct my own personal dream castle inside my head. Totally different from the person next to me.
The result is that the spirit of music is freer, more individual on both the sending and receiving end.

It does not mean however, that you don’t need knowledge to perform music.

What you need is a deep knowledge about how to create musical and emotional characters, or archetypes, and how they work together.

A musical archetype is a way of phrasing that is immediately recognized by the audience as a particular character. For example, what technical tricks must we pull off to make the music sound romantic? Or espressivo, or joyful, or wild?
When playing, we should not let a bar go by without knowing what character we want in this particular bar, or even on this particular note.

Constructing long series of characters in combination with an immense focus on the present, makes for a good performance.
When audiences see me on stage as “utterly absorbed by the emotional content”, what they really see is me being focused on the present moment, trying to maximize the musical character that I am working just now.

Here is a transcribed quote from an actor:
One of the most important things in music is honesty. When you have learned how to fake that, you have come a long way!

This statement sound like a cynical joke, and most of the time it is.
However, there is much truth to it.

Music without emotional involvement is worthless.

On the other hand, musicians can’t allow themselves to get carried way beyond control.

What we should try though is to find the tipping point. The point where everything collapses because of too much involvement. A good performance balances constant

Enjoy the rest of the interview here: Oystein Baadsvik 2015

Aaron Tindall

photo 5How do you conceive and describe the ideal tuba sound?
The ideal tuba sound/tone to me has an evenness of core and resonance/space in the sound. Having a symmetric space in the sound from the core/center of the tone is paramount to me. This is the place where other instruments within the orchestra are able to join “into” our sound, and find a resting point in the middle of the tone where our core should lie. The ways to achieve this delicate balance of “sound” are by learning to control various elements of our playing such as: volume of air/velocity of air and the appropriate mixture between the two based on register, aperture size, contact point/where a person’s lips meet, tongue position (front and back), soft palette height, oral cavity size/shape, teeth position, and the list goes on etc…

I never seem to be bothered if a student has a bright or dark sound. What is important to me is that he/she has a tone that is symmetrically even in all registers, and that along the way we are continuing to develop a broad spectrum of sound that can change at the drop of a hat when called upon to do so. Learning how to do this is where the rubber meets the road!

Euphonium – The ideal euphonium sound to me is as described above, but I would have to say that I tend to “prefer” more brilliance in a euphonium sound.

Enjoy the rest of the interview here: Aaron Tindall 2015

R. Winston Morris

When it comes to jobs, you certainly aren’t a “tire-kicker”! What are some things that you can only find out about yourself and a place when you are in it for the long haul?
Well as I conclude my 48th year of teaching at Tennessee Tech University I guess you could consider that a “long haul.”

What a lot of people don’t know is that I was a high school band director (Martinsville, Virginia) for two years in 1962-64 before I studied with the late great William J.(Bill) Bell at IU in 1964. I also spent a year teach at what was then known as Mansfield State University in Pennsylvania before coming to Tennessee. This provided a fairly broad background of music education/performance/higher education experience which I have found valuable in dealing with a diverse population of students over the years.

To the specifics of your question, “what do you find out about yourself,” you find out that you cannot depend on any outside influences to motivate your professional aspirations! If you don’t have an inner drive and motivation you WILL burn out! I have two rules that I have followed since graduate school which I guess I can share with you which may or may not seem “indelicate” but nevertheless it’s the way it is! One: Nobody gives a S%#t!!! And, Two: There Ain’t No Justice!!!”

If you sit around waiting on other people to inspire you to excellence it ain’t gonna happen! If you think it ain’t fair that someone else who works less than you and is less competent makes more money and gets more attention than you do AND you let that upset your applecart, then you’re out of business.

There’s nothing greater than colleague support, and I’ve had immense support all my professional career. I am extremely thankful for this on a daily basis and I truly love all my fellow colleagues, but they have their own agenda (as it should be), or they will not be successful. Find a successful person in ANY walk of life and, whether they realize it or not, they must adhere to this philosophy or they simply will not survive. All of us know colleagues who have “burned” out way before their time. Bottom line, they simply did not have that inner self-motivation and were not getting enough pats on the back to hang in there. Maybe harsh, but that’s the way I read it 50 years later.

Enjoy the rest of the interview here: R. Winston Morris 2015

Beth Wiese

How do you conceive of the ideal tuba sound?
Ultimately, I view sound as a vehicle for musical expression. Which isn’t to say that it’s not important, but that the concept of my “ideal tuba sound” is fluid. In a great sound, what I hear is musical integrity, character, class and presence. In effect, the goal is that the sound should not undermine the musical idea. I am often influenced by the idea of the “artisan” vs. the “artist.” The “artisan” represents the technical work that goes into playing our instrument, whereas the “artist” represents the musical expression. The relationship is symbiotic, and work on one aspect often leads to improvement in the other. Ultimately, however, I want people to hear the “artist,” not the “artisan.”
With specific regard to the tuba, I think a good sound is achieved through a balance of depth and clarity; namely, tone vs. articulation. A good tuba sound should consist mostly of tone, but the articulation is what provides the clarity, brilliance, and definition to our sound. One of the most valuable lessons I learned in achieving a good sound was from Rex Martin, who always emphasized the same characteristics of depth and clarity in our minds and on the mouthpiece. This invariably led to producing a richer, better sound on the instrument.

Beth FOurth Valve 1

Enjoy the rest of the interview here: Beth Wiese 2015

Sergio Carolina


When did you fall in love with the sound of the tuba, and why?
I’ve tried some instruments before the tuba: the trumpet and the bassoon but with no success. Then a professor told me: “Sérgio, there’s an old King EEb tuba in the corner, lets try it!” Since I already knew the fingerings from the trumpet, I immediately began to make some good sounds and could make a scale right way. So, it was like “Love at the first Sound!” ☺

What is it about jazz that makes you want to play it? What are the most satisfying ways that you can imagine a tubist playing in a jazz group?

Since I was a little boy learning tuba to play on the wind band, some of my closest friends and I discovered jazz, funky, Dixieland and second lines bands like Louis Armstrong (and his Hot Five and Hot Seven), Bob Scobey Frisco Band, Dukes of Dixieland, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Rebirth Brass Band, Lester Bowie Brass Fantasy and Sam Pilafian’s Travelling Light.

We all started to catch on to this music, and wrote down on a paper some of these tunes. By making our own arrangements and starting to trying to understand how to phrase like them by spending thousand of hours listening and listening, imitating, trying to understand (so many hours, uffff!!!!)
Many of these friends are today professional musicians and I have been privileged to create bands and special projects with them!
I think that the most satisfying way that a tuba player can have playing in a jazz group would be to making the bass line, to imitate a double bass or electric band and make people forget that they are listening a tuba… Be a part of a great rhythm section with drums, guitar, piano, accordion or vibraphone it’s just amazing! Feeling that you are like the brain of the ensemble by knowing that the bass defines the tempo, harmony, style and controls the dynamic it’s just fabulous!

Enjoy the rest of the interview here: Sergio Carolina 2015

Mike Roylance

unnamed-1What did your learn from playing in traditional drum corps and how often do you draw upon those experiences now?
From my experiences with Suncoast Sound, a top-tier drum and bugle corps, I learned a great deal about the fundamentals of brass playing. I had several wonderful instructors, two of unnamed-5whom, Robert W Smith, Frank Williams were extremely well-versed in brass pedagogy. My daily fundamental routine, dubbed THUNDERDOME by several of my students is mostly the same routine that I was taught in those formative years. My practice discipline also comes from this period in my life, it was a bountiful time in my maturing as a musician. I am very thankful for that period in my life.

a unnamed-1What sort of chamber music and solo playing opportunities do you enjoy most? How important are they to you as a musician?
I helped form the BSO Brass Quintet which is comprised of all of the principal brass players of the BSO. Although we do not have too many opportunities to practice and perform with our busy lives, I treasure every moment with this group. Actually, I had a twelve year career as chamber musician at Walt Disney World with the Future Corps and other groups within the parks; if what defines a chamber group is the lack of conductor. Adjusting to life in the BSO or any orchestra or band after never relying on a conductor for anything was difficult, but made easier with the skills that I brought with me from my time on the streets of EPCOT. Time spent in chamber groups is of GREAT benefit to the developing musician. The intuitive ability to adjust pitch/time/dynamics/line in the moment will be finely honed in a chamber setting.
Enjoy the rest of the interview here: Mike Roylance 2015

Craig Knox

Do you advocate essentially one embouchure, or a pivot system?
​I do use a “single embouchure” approach. That is to say that I don’t use any “shifts”;

Craig Knox, Tuba

Craig Knox, Tuba

my mouth placement on the mouthpiece, and my basic interface with the instrument is the same for all registers and dynamics. There are some great players who regularly utilize embouchure shifts, and I will very occasionally use a shift for extreme situations in the pedal register, but my basic concept is that the high and low registers are extensions of my middle register, so I use the same setting all the time. This also allows for a consistent tone throughout the registers, and for smooth connections and agile facility between any intervals.

That said, I do not see the “pivot method” as being contradictory to this approach. The pivot method refers to the fact that as you play lower, the lower jaw protrudes, and as you play higher, it retracts. This can all happen while maintaining the same mouth placement on the mouthpiece. While I acknowledge this pivot phenomenon, I don’t concern myself with it very much, if at all; in fact, my caution about consciously employing the pivot method is that the player is very likely to over-compensate with the jaw movement, and to be overly concerned with jaw placement for each note, rather than with the consistency of tone.

This brings me to a very basic philosophy that I have regarding the use of physical instruction in general. While I think it is a good idea to have a solid understanding of good physical form for playing a brass instrument, if a player focuses on physical instruction in pursuit of a musical outcome, he or she is very likely to miss the mark, both because there is no longer a clear focus on the intended result, and because it is likely the player will over-compensate physically. Even when the result is basically satisfactory, it usually sounds musically stiff or contrived.

I believe the better approach is to focus on a clear, vivid musical directive, allowing the physical apparatus to respond as necessary. I find that the one physical instruction that can be helpful in this context is to stay “neutral”, which essentially means to stay as physically relaxed as possible, in a manner that allows for a fluid response towards the musical goal. Essentially, the stored knowledge you have on how to play the instrument kicks in on a subliminal level, and you allow yourself to play in the most efficient manner possible.

Enjoy the rest of the interview here: Craig Knox 2015

James Gourlay

How long have you taken away from the tuba, and what sort of things do you do to get ready to play again? (Solos, in particular.)
The longest time I have spent without playing the tuba would be around one year. It was during my first year (1998-99) when I was Head of School of Wind, Brass and Percussion at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). I had a very fulfilling, but challenging, job, which was largely in administration. As I had directly come from a the Orchestra of the Opera House in Zurich, Switzerland, and had no training as an administrator, I felt I just had to concentrate on the task in hand, and as I wasn’t actually earning a living playing the tuba, that instrument went on the back burner. As a hobby, I took up the alto saxophone and was soon practicing quite diligently. It suddenly dawned on me, that I could do the same on my first instrument, so started to develop routines that didn’t take up much time, but got me into tuba playing again, and kept me in shape quite quickly.

Nowadays I earn a living as a conductor, and so I sometimes go for long periods without playing tuba. When I do have a tuba gig. I get into shape by playing scales and techniques for about one hour per day. I do this at 6.00 am using a practice mute. I don’t play repertoire until shortly before the first rehearsal, as I’ve learned to separate practice from performance.

Enjoy the rest of the interview here: James Gourlay 2015

Patrick Sheridan

BBb, CC, Eb, F, Sousaphone…
For the non-tubist, there are more different tubas than forks at a 12 course meal. Which “fork” do you use
when? (Best all around?). What does flying do to the equation?

Let me start by saying that I have heard fantastic performances from fantastic artists on every key of tuba. Let me start there…

I’ve played Eb tuba as my chamber and solo instrument since I was in 7th grade. While in college, I gave F tuba the old collegeimages-4 try. But – the sound in my imagination will not come out of a F tuba, so Eb has always been preferable to F for me. And – the intonation battle that is F tuba…what the hell for? When someone makes an F tuba with piston valves that plays WELL in tune with a great low register…that would be fun to have in the arsenal of tonal possibilities! In the meantime, I’ll use a smaller mouthpiece and play in tune on an Eb to imitate F tuba rather than go to war with an actual F tuba. I remain completely baffled why the tuba community continues to mess with F tuba with its bad low register and horrible intonation when Eb tubas don’t present these problems. Tradition is a bitch, I guess.

CC tuba – I use this axe in large ensembles. For me – this is the instrument that I play the least in my current mix of playing. When I was a member of “The President’s Own” United State Marine Band, I used CC tuba. Same, in Brass Band of Battle Creek.

BBb Sousaphone – When I was a member of the Marine Band, I HATED sousaphone. (Ask Tom Holtz how much I hated the sousaphone.) I hated the sousaphone so much that I refused to play one for more than 10 years after leaving the Marines. THEN – I helped Jupiter Band Instruments with their sousaphone designs and a funny thing happened. I fell in love with the sousaphone. I love it so much that now I own TWO sousaphones. For playing bass lines, there isn’t a better axe to create the ‘pull’ and the ‘weight’ of a Ray Brown quarter note. Funk, Swing, Latin, Rock – sousaphone is now my instrument of choice when my job is bass function in commercial music.

Last year – when the community band I lead, The Salt River Brass, made a CD with Harry Watters, I did all the rhythm section playing and soloing on sousaphone. Pilafian pointed out that my jazz thinking head was definitely BBb sousaphone even though I play Eb tuba 95% of the time as an improviser.

Never say never…right?

Enjoy the rest of the interview here: Patrick Sheridan 2015

Bill Pritchard

“Think outside the box”, must be a mantra for sousaphonist/tubist Bill Pritchard. If there are genres, he’ll blend them; if there are meters, he’ll mix them, and if you hire a bass player near Atlanta, you had better double check the case that instrument comes in! Bill believes that tuba bass fits anywhere. “The Fourth Valve” tm is delighted to mix it up with the sensational southerner Bill Pritchard. Enjoy!

What are the advantages of sousaphone? Any disadvantages?
The biggest advantage is you really have is the advantage that both trumpets and trombones have is that you can control your bell angle and decide where you want your sound to go. That of course goes away a bit when I’m in a rock club because I’m almost always mic’ed.

Another advantage is the mobility, I think it really adds to the visual element of a show when you can actually move around a bit.

The disadvantages are really intonation and in general, sousaphones feel pretty nebulous in the staff. I don’t think that sousaphone development has come as far along as tuba development has in even say the last 5 years.

I just recently became an artist for Eastman and along with playing their new CC tuba (632) I’m going to be working with them on tweaking their sousaphone. I’m really excited about that!

2. How do you approach mixed meter? When do you think the small notes, and when do you think the big ones?
I’d say that so much of what I do in both Mercury Orkestar and 4th Ward Afro-Klezmer (4WAKO) I’m focused on the big beats and the overall groove.

I remember being in an Alan Baer masterclass and he was taking about how excepts can be in time, but not groove. He recommended playing with a drum machine, and honestly that’s the best way to do it.

I’ve tried with my students to explain the difference, but I always come up short in expressing it verbally, but you can really hear it and when sting with a drum machine (or drummer for that matter) you can really feel it.

Playing Fountains or the Ride with a waltz beat completely changes how you approach it.

Don’t get me wrong, the subdivisions are vital and I’m hearing them in my head or the drummer is playing them, but as far as feel is concerned, I’m usually focused on the big beats.

Enjoy the rest of the interview here: Bill Pritchard

c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.

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The Best Chamber Music Interviews of the Year Past, “FIVE!” tm Blossoms in 2015!berlinphilwwq

Press_PhotoChamber music is a burgeoning and vital aspect of musical preparation and performance. As the opportunities for wind players in chamber music increase, so does interest and expertise. “FIVE!” tm, the chamber music interview series of is dedicated to elevating chamber music, particularly chamber music which involves woodwinds and brass. Launched with Windsync in January 2014, subsequent interviews from that same year from Dallas Brass, Canadian Brass, Seraph, and the Spanish Brass established the series. Thanks to the extraordinary kindness and generosity of these superb musicians, a valuable resource on the art and craft of chamber music was made available.

“FIVE!” tm really took off in 2015 with the incredible interviews listed below. From the iconic Empire Brass Quintet, to the amazing Berlin Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet; from the inspiring American Brass Quintet to the audacious Mnozil Brass, more and more of these amazing instrumentalists and skilled ensemble players have contributed what is now akin to a book on chamber music for winds and brass, all free of charge and universally available. We would like to express our deepest thanks to these individuals for their time, effort and expertise in assembling these interviews. It has been a blessed joy and delight to watch unfold.

We have selected a few of the most intriguing answers from each of the groups over the past year of 2015. Enjoy!

Berlin Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet

The blend in the group is extraordinary! The flute and the oboe in
unison (or octaves), create a completely new and consistent tone color. What
is your secret?

FM Intonation must be flawless, but more importantly we try to play “into” each other’s sounds. The Berlin Philharmonic strives for blend at all times and so do we; it’s our default setting. Choice of instruments also plays a role in the ability to blend. And listening to each other. We imagine playing “flut-inet”, “bass-orn”, “fl-oboe”, “fl-ob-inet” or “fl-oboe-horn” for example. 😉

MR The secret is that we purposely look for these new sounds and sound-mixtures.

It is both a challenge for us, and an irresistible temptation, (perhaps even the biggest difficulty), to discover new sounds.

Within the context of orchestral repertoire, woodwinds are more often
called upon as soloists than are brass players. How do you think that this
influences the basic approaches of brass quintets as opposed to woodwind

FM The brass instruments are a homogeneous family, like the strings. The woodwinds are not – they are a collection of individualists. It is the woodwind section of an orchestra that is responsible for the “narration” in an orchestral performance. If we can say crassly that a brass quintet is basically a pair of trumpets accompanied by three lower instruments, then a wind quintet is a quartet of soloists held together by a horn.

Read the full interview here: Berlin Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet

The Meridian Arts Ensemble

4. How do you address note shape (the front AND the back of the note), when playing more rhythmic works?casual_photo
The MAE has a better group sense of rhythm than any ensemble I’ve ever played with. We listen closely to each other and imitate attacks and releases.

A lot of our matching each other comes from that listening, and much of the rest comes from our body language, which has developed over the course of our 25+ years. I would say that the listening and the body language account for 90% of how we evolve the shape of notes. The other 10% comes from talking, arguing, singing to each other. Sometimes it’s not really chamber music until you are arguing passionately.

I have learned over the years that my colleagues are always right. I may disagree with them, but their ideas are always good and true.

Read the full article here: Meridian Arts Ensemble

Ken Amis of the Empire Brass Quintet

3. What were the distinct aspects of the Empire Brass approach which separated them from other groups?

Empire Brass Quintet

Empire Brass Quintet

Empire Brass has a style of playing that produces a big sound and the very front of an articulation that differentiates it from most groups. The groups commitment to establishing a musical, metronomic pulse also makes its sound unmistakable.

4. Which other brass groups have inspired you?
Philip Jones Brass Ensemble

Non brass?
A Ray Charles performance at Tanglewood in the mid-90’s.

5. What are your favorite EB recordings, and why?
Class Brass and Class Brass: Firedance are my favorite recordings due to repertoire and clarity and balance with which the playing was captured by the microphone placement and recording techniques.

Read the full interview here: Ron Barron and Ken Amis of the Empire Brass

Scott Hartmann of the Empire Brass Quintet

You can play really clean, or let it rip! How do you think of “hiding the slide”-(or its smears) when matching trumpets as opposed to your vibrant yet very rhythmic approach to glisses, scoops and falls?
Related to the previous comment on articulation, I have to imagine a sound first, then figure out how you make this sound on the trombone. Oftentimes, I find that people don’t feel that it is correct or appropriate to do something – mechanically or musically – so they restrict their musical palette in the process. I leave the door open to try to make any sound that comes to mind and use any technique that achieves it.

Technique is whatever I do in the process of making a sound. Again, if it sounds right – it is right!

So, a more succinct answer to your question. I think about the air, embouchure, tongue, slide, overtones, valve and how they interact as I make a sound.
imagesWhat are your favorite EB recorded tracks and why?

My favorite aspect of the EB is the level of chamber music that we enjoyed. When we knew the music, we could reinvent it on each performance; explore musical possibilities on the fly and let the music come to life each time we played. We would transcend our own voice and truly make music. This was amazing to be joined together through music this way, probably much like the bond that is created within a sports team or military unit…

I believe that our first Class Brass recording captured this ability – primarily because the acoustics at the recording were great and you can hear us using the hall the way we would in concert – most other recordings didn’t quite capture the hall acoustics.

I was Mr. Charlie Geyer’s graduate assistant at Northwestern and he really challenged me in my weak areas. We never really addressed any fundamentals – except for maybe his occasional opinion on things – and it really felt like a “finishing” school to help prepare me for the professional world. I always felt inspired and energized coming out of their lessons and I would regularly practice right after lessons to cement their teachings.

Read the entire interview here: Scott Hartmann of the Empire Brass

Axiom Brass

Three major things that I came away from the Barbara Butler/Charlie Geyer school were:
1) Attention to detail. I had gone to Navy boot camp and I thought I had a pretty good grasp of attention to detail, but they take it to the next level. Mr. Geyer often joked that he is undiagnosed OCD and said that “you have to be a little obsessed with the trumpet to be a good trumpet player.” Notations in the score, historical context, intonation, articulation, trumpet selection, mouthpiece selection, mute selection, tricks and cheats, you name it – if you’re trying to win a job against hundreds of other applicants, it can come down to a missed articulation or dynamic.

AXIOMBRASS_-44662) Record everything you can. This isn’t a concept that is new or exclusive to their studio, but I haven’t seen a studio yet where it is so ingrained and, quite frankly, mandatory! Every lesson, every studio class, every audition (professional and mock), ensemble rehearsals, masterclasses were highly encouraged and politely expected to be recorded. Not only did Mr. Geyer want me to get my money’s worth for my degree, but I think there is concept from Arnold Jacobs of “you can’t sit in the performers’ chair and the teacher’s chair at the same time” that applies. Meaning that if you’re analyzing yourself while you’re performing, you won’t be very musical. Record, perform, and then analyze and scrutinize. This is a concept that is relevant to every Axiom Brass rehearsal and performance.

3) The “power of the studio.” While I was at NU I tried to absorb as much as I could and I asked Mr. Geyer why he thought they had success with their students over the years. He said that obviously talent was a large part of it, but choosing the “right” students (in regards to attitude, good nature, and work ethic) is also a big part of it. He said that every once in a while they’ll get a “bad apple,” but the “power of the group” overcomes them and sets them straight. When you think about it, you don’t really spend that much time with your applied professor compared to your colleagues in the studio. In a year you might average 25-30 hours of private lessons, but you’re spending 25-30 hours a week with people in your studio.

One last contribution to my education I would be remiss without including would be Gail Williams’ (horn professor at Northwestern) “Teaching Techniques” class. It was a very simple concept – we had to observe 15 private lessons from various applied professors and write a small report on each one – but it made a lasting impression on me. While I believe that the trumpet is one of the best instruments of all time, I also think that we can learn so much from vocalists, strings, and woodwinds. Their instruments, when used by master composers as solo instruments, have a firm grasp of phrasing and musical nuance that I think is missing from nuts and bolts teaching of the trumpet.

Read the entire article here: Axiom Brass 2015

Mirari Brass

9. Where do you see the future of brass quintets heading in the next ten to twenty years?MBQ_2014_17_600px
We can’t speak for all brass quintets, but we think there will be many more chamber groups (not just brass quintets) popping up all over the country and world.

Chamber groups are a great vehicle to take music on the road, spreading the genre to a wide variety of people.

We also believe that live music will take on an even greater importance in the current age of Youtube and Spotify. In the past live music was a fundamental social event. Our society has somewhat moved away from that. We hope and believe that there will be a resurgence of that social importance, and as a result live chamber music.

Read the entire interview here: Mirari Brass 2015

The American Brass Quintet

What is a quintet warm-up like with the ABQ?
I have been in the ABQ for over 30 years, and there has never been a coordinated quintet warm-up. It sounds like a fine idea for a younger ensemble, however. Even when warming up independently in the same room, acceptable manners absolutely apply: Always be personally and musically polite regarding sound level, intonation, and your own passage-work connected with your warm-up. -MP

With the ABQ it is clearly all about the music, and yet the prominence of the bass trombone (certainly not to the exclusion of the tuba), often gives your ensemble a characteristic sound. How would you describe the ABQ relationship with the bass trombone, and what do you make of the trend for smaller tubas in other brass quintets?
The use of tuba in a brass quintet adds a nice roundness of sound, coupling with the conical French horn in a pleasing way. That said, it’s a bit like using a double bass in a string quartet instead of a cello; certain voicings and instrument ranges leave something to be desired in the middle of the spectrum. In the ABQ, the matching qualities of the two pairs of trumpets and trombones create a nice balance of sound timbre, which I think outweigh the sometimes deeper, rounder quality of a quintet with tuba. As for the popular use of smaller tubas in brass quintet, the often unfortunate trade-off for easier transport is a lack of full, round tuba sound mentioned above, and a wonky low-register, which begs the question, why use tuba after all? Nothing against tuba in brass quintet, it just presents more challenges, including overhead bins. We’re happy with the bass trombone for so many reasons. –ER

Read the full interview here: American Brass Quintet

Atlantic Brass Quintet

7. Your career evidences the most “dyed in the wool” brass quintet devotee. What do you see the brass quintet genre exploring in the next 40 years?
There is so much I could say about this…It would be my hope, that the brass quintet continually breaks musical ground to become a full platform for individual and group expression, outside of the general business idiom. The brass quintet can be, should be and is more than a gig band for graduations, weddings and ceremonial events. I believe more brass players will be composing, performing and recording their own pieces, hopefully with a personal emotional message to connect and share with their audiences.

I believe more multi-media works will be explored as well as brass quintet and electronics. It’s always been a dream of mine to have a brass quintet hooked up to a real time midi sequencer, with endless options for sound, not just a reverb/echo effect. I believe that we’ll see more collaborations with singers and other instrumentalists/ensembles which will expand the way we use/view the ensemble.

unnamed-6It seems unfortunate, at times, that the popularity of the brass quintet coincided with the that of contemporary music. As a result, many of the pieces actually written for brass quintet were not accessible to audiences’ ears-(and still aren’t!) This seriously hurt our future of being hired to play the music written for us by famous living composers. We need music that general audiences actually WANT to hear. This means the brass quintet needs great new music to play, that connects to audiences ears musically with a story to touch them emotionally. Therefore, the future of the brass quintet lies in the five individuals abilities to be great arrangers, composers and innovators, making sure that their end product, is something that has never been explored before.

Read the entire interview here: Atlantic Brass 2015

Jeffrey Curnow of the Empire Brass Quintet

2. Could you discuss Rolf’s approach to the trumpet, and the types of trumpets (‘C’, ‘G’), he liked to play in different circumstances?

The Empire Brass Quintet

The Empire Brass Quintet

Rolf was the guy who made the Schilke ‘G’ piccolo trumpet famous. Before joining the band, I’d never played one (and I never played one while in the group), but the combination of his ‘G’ “picc.” and my ‘C’ trumpet created an interesting, distinctive hierarchy of sound that separated us from any other quintet.

This worked particularly well with Baroque and Renaissance lit. The set up he used on the G was different than usual. Schilke sent 2 bells with the trumpet, a small and a large, and he always used the large bell-which made the sound of the horn much bigger. That bigger “picc.” sound on top of the sound of a ‘C’ trumpet was a nice blend.

Outside of the Schilke ‘G’, Rolf used Bach/Selmer horns exclusively, and was feverishly adamant about it, in a way that only Rolf could be. Fortunately, I agreed with him completely on this issue.

Unlike most brass quintets, Rolf and I played C trumpet 80% of the time, using the Bb horns and flugels mostly for the crossover tunes on the second half. I think Rolf always felt more comfortable on a ‘C’ trumpet, as did I, and the sound of the ‘C’ trumpets gave the group a distinctive sound, separating us from other groups who exclusively used ‘Bb’ horns.

3. What was it like playing back and forth with Rolf with imitative passages as opposed to supporting him in harmony underneath; how did you match so well?

What was it like playing back and forth with Rolf? Intimidating is the word that comes to mind. When I joined the group, they were weeks from a U.S.S.R. tour so I had to hit the ground running. The blend wasn’t immediate but it had to happen quickly and I really worked at it. I wore 2 hats while playing 2nd, I had to be a bridge between Eric or Scott and Rolf and I had to fill Rolf’s shoes when he had the horn off his face. I found it really fun, honestly, and I wanted to be great at it. Rolf wasn’t much help so I was pretty much on my own when it came to figuring it out.

Read the entire interview here: Jeffrey Curnow of the Empire Brass

The Mnozil Brass

MnozilBrass_290111_0266-Bearbeitet1. “Applied Brass” is where the rubber hits the road. Please talk about your relationship with your audiences and how they may differ from those of traditional concert ensembles.
Music is the most direct art form. You get back what you give immediately, but the relationship between musician and audience is defined by the player. I, for example, am always looking for eye contact with audience members. It encourages me to see peoples’ reactions to our show. With a brass instrument, it´s just great fun to use the whole dynamic scale and watch the audience reactions to that. You can make them cry, cheer, cover their ears or dance in their seats-it´s like telling stories. The difference for classical audiences is that they never know what´s going to happen in our show, and I think they like that!

2. The chemistry (or positive interactions) between the members of Mnozil Brass seems extraordinary. How did you meet? How do you keep it going ?
Wilfried, Gerhard and myself met around 1991 and started the group in the fall of 1992 together with some friends from the music university. In the beginning, we were playing mostly as a quintet. The septet line up happened in 96; that was also the time when the group got more “professional”.

in 2001 we did our first show with a director and choreographer. As you can see, everything developed very slowly and maybe that is one of the main reasons why we´re still having fun. There was never a “hype” about us; everything developed very naturally. As a matter of fact, we had already had made a living with the group for some years, before the media in Austria discovered us. Everything happened within the brass community, and by the time we became known to a wider public, we had already worked together for about 13 or 14 years.

3. “See our Music”, your additions to brass presentations go way beyond the traditions of simple blocking, and even beyond choreography. It is Theatre! How did you arrive at this amazing break-through of presenting bras concert music as theatre?
We achieved this by working with an actor/director named Bernd Jeschek, who had come to us after seeing one of our early, very wild performances. Our first shows were very free: a set list and a lot of “improv” on stage-some good, some bad. The main problem was our lack of timing. Seven jokes at a time; he showed us that less was more.

Read the entire interview here: Mnozil Brass 2015

Sam Pilafian of the Boston Brass and formerly, of the Empire Brass

Press_Photo1. How do you approach playing in a touring brass quintet differently with Boston Brass as opposed to when you toured with Empire?
(hahaha)…This is very much a Rip Van Winkle story!!
(“Back in the Pre-Digital Day” with Empire we will call THEN…
I will refer to today’s Boston Brass as NOW :)) :

-THEN:We carried an extra suitcase with “safety music”.

-NOW: we all carry everyone’s parts and scores on laptops, iPads and even smart phones.

-THEN: I went to find a pay phone or a fax machine every time we stopped moving (on a plane or automobile), to check in with the manager, sponsor of the impending concert, family, etc.

-NOW: communication is in my pocket at all times…(Only Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon had this in Empire days!!)… I can fax, email, talk, text, send documents, photos, graphics, etc. from my phone or another digital device!

-THEN: Travel outside the US presented a myriad of communication and financial problems: expensive telephone calls and often daily currency changes-prior to the Euro. Using a credit card was dangerously insecure and subject to up charges by vendors who were waiting for currency rates to go in their favor before processing your transaction.

-NOW: Internet communication allows all of the above-listed activities to be done for free with a Wi-Fi or hard-wired signal. Financial issues are now guaranteed safe with stable rates by using major credit cards!

-THEN: Arranging, a major responsibility of mine in Empire, was also pre-digital. I learned to write and copy parts on a clipboard “floating” on my left forearm and hand while riding in planes, cars, ferries, etc. We often had part copying pizza parties in my room while on tour! (One time we got on a flight from Zurich to NYC with the count Basie Band and we all copied 2 new Frank Foster arrangements and visited…(I miss the social aspect of music copying but hated how slow the process was:)) Whole concerts and recording projects were arranged on the move in this manner for over 20 years!

acclaim-5893-NOW: Boston Brass has THREE arranger/ composers
(José, Chris and me). Digital technology in the writing area is one of the great improvements between then and now!!! The speed, instant playback, orchestrated sounds and legibility have changed our lives for ever! I love traveling with my writing colleagues! It’s like an arts colony around Boston Brass these days!!!

-THEN: LP/Cassette/CD recordings and radio production recordings(common outside the US),were recorded and finished (or edited and mastered) by flying to the city where the recording company headquarters was located. I often made several ” post recording” trips to represent The Empire Brass during editing or mastering.

-NOW: Live concert videos and audio are easily made on tour …either self-made or in collaboration with the concert presenter. “Home” equipment is so good that the group may have more hits from YouTube or other Internet services than we ever got from the very well-selling studio Empire recordings. “Post recording”, for studio recording sessions, is done anywhere from cloud based data sent to our digital Internet devices. One only needs professional quality headphones to make critical decisions anywhere! Another strong difference in the present experience is that both José and Domingo are also professional recording engineers. I am a professional audio recording producer and video line producer. We have people from the media business in the group!!!

-THEN: I did the business work of Empire as well, (contracts, travel scheduling with an agency, payroll, taxes, etc)…
It was much better to do this when arriving home from tour while surrounded by “business machines” like fax,copy machine, type writer, postal meter,etc. This would routinely take more than a whole day upon returning home.

-NOW: Just about 100% of the business is done digitally, (very little mail or express services). All the business devices are available on any Internet device that we are carrying, including the bio-3398 smartphones in our pockets. I am amazed how fluidly Jeff Conner runs most of our business, and Domingo leads the social media/ PR/ advertising campaign….while on the move. My, My…how times have changed!!!

FINALLY, the biggest difference between the Empire and Boston experience is the amazing diversity of the present Boston Brass. They are well-equipped to authentically present improvised jazz and world musics (from throughout their personal experiences and histories) while at the at the same time present concerts at which they are playing wonderfully in the classical tradition. This depth of the diversity in addition to the fact that we are a truly multi-generational ensemble with over a 30-year spread in ages makes our rehearsals, performances and recording sessions very special. I feel like I trained for this diverse moment my whole life. (Kudos to Chris Castellanos, who did the same on horn, making him Extremely rare and valuable to the present efforts of Boston Brass:))

I am so fortunate to have another world class experience in the same career area! Again!!!

Read the entire interview here: Boston Brass 2015

c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved

CrisafulliFor brass, the beginnings of modern chamber music emerged in Chicago with the Chicago Symphony Brass Quintet and its founders, Adolpoh “Bud” Herseth & Vincent Chicowicz (trumpets), Richard Oldberg (horn), Frank Crisafulli (trombone) and Arnold Jacobs (tuba). “FIVE!” tm 2015 is dedicated to Frank Crisafulli.

Interested in more “FIVE” tm interviews?
Canadian Brass 2014, Windsync 2014, Boston Brass 2015, Mnozil Brass 2015, Spanish Brass 2014, Dallas Brass 2014, Seraph 2014, Atlantic Brass Quintet 2015, Mirari Brass 2015, Axiom Brass 2015, Scott Hartmann of the Empire Brass 2015, Jeffrey Curnow of the Empire Brass 2015, Ron Barron and Ken Amis of the Empire Brass, Meridian Arts Ensemble 2015, Berlin Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet 2015, American Brass Quintet 2015

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Kendall Campus Trombone Alum, Alex Cruz and Band “Bachaco” Win “Buscando Mi Ritmo”, A Spanish Language Show Inspired by American Idol..Alex Cruz

Imagine the headline, “Trombonist wins X-Factor!”, or even, American Idol! Trombonist Alex Cruz and his bandmates in Bachaco have done it, in Spanish! “Buscando mi Ritmo” seelcted Bachaco from a nationwide tour hosted by Telemundo, and they made it to the top! Kendall Campus trombone alum, Alex Cruz, plays trombone, writes horn arrangements, sings background vocals, writes some tunes, and helps to lead the band which is currently touring across the United States and the World.

1. How did you guys find out about Buscando Mi Ritmo? How many bands were considered?
We found out about Buscando Mi Ritmo at the last minute through a friend. It was a national audition, I know that there was a lot of bands that auditioned in Los Angeles and Miami.

Bachaco2. What was it like to be part of a reality television show?
To be a part of a reality show was a unique experience. I had never been on a reality tv show. I scratched that off the bucket list. At the time, I was enrolled full-time in school. It was a challenge to juggle both at the same time. I was happy with the effort that we had all put in with the show.

Bru bachaco 881263. How did the band change as a result of the experience?
Bachaco as a band, and myself personally, certainly felt a lot of pressure to come out on top. We had late nights at the studio to make sure our renditions of the songs fit our style of music which is a blend of Reggae, Dancehall, Cumbia, and Ska. Week after week, we grew very comfortable with what we recreated. We were excited and proud to be the winners of season one.

4. What helped you be ready and prepared for that opportunity?
It was a last minute audition for Bachaco. I was called 2 hours before the audition and we had to think on our feet. We had recently wrote a new song that we decided to debut through the audition. I was very happy that we were selected. Ultimately, always be ready for any opportunity that comes your way. In this case, I was more than ready to showcase what I could do individually and what we can do as a band.

5. How do you view the role of horns in pop music, and the trombone specifically?
Horns give such an edge and feel to pop music. I’ve had numerous people tell me that the horns make the band. I agree. We are normally a 3 horn section with a trumpet, tenor sax, and myself on trombone. The show asked for one horn only and a max of 5 musicians. We are a 7 piece band with the 3 horns included. I was lucky to be the one representing the band. The trombone doesn’t have such a strong use when it comes to pop music, although it is huge in Salsa! I’m happy to play my trombone in any genre.

c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.
Images courtesy of Alex Cruz

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Kendall Campus Trombone Alum Clayton Lucovich Plays The “Tommy Dorsey” Chair!

MDC Kendall Campus Trombone Alum Clay Lucovich traveled North to Orlando after graduation to further his education at UCF and break into the central Florida scene. Clay is a a specialist in both classical music and jazz, and most enjoys brass quintet and jazz engagements. After a year in the Glen Miller Orchestra as section and solo trombone, Clay returned to Florida and accepted a position as second trombonist in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. In a recent telephone conversation, Clay shared that he had been subbing for the regular first chair player, Frank Wosar-(another Kendall Campus trombone alum), and playing the Tommy Dorsey Chair. Clay was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to share some of his experiences with Enjoy!

1375740_853755964646796_4619661031472170369_n1. How did it feel to be asked to play first for the Tommy Dorsey Band?
It was an absolute honor to be asked to play the “Tommy” chair. My initial excitement and sense of achievement quickly gave way to apprehension as it dawned on me how much responsibility it entailed; however, it motivated me to focus on practicing more efficiently and productively, and ultimately growing as a musician.

What have you learned from studying his style?
I learned the importance of compression to maintain the bright, singing quality of the Dorsey sound as well as a consistent, quick, and smooth slide vibrato.

2. What experiences do you most remember from your time with the Glen Miller Orchestra?
I was on tour with the GMO for one year.The band is on the road at least 300 days a year and I’ll never forget the overall 11224318_10153196487848333_6744400892190763021_nwear and tear that goes along with such a demanding tour schedule. The experience of touring Japan for a month was especially memorable because of their appreciation and love of big band and jazz music. The reception and welcome we had while we were there is unforgettable. Lastly, the camaraderie with other band members and the resulting life-long friendships was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and opportunity.

3. How did your adjustment from Miami to Orlando take place?
When I moved to Orlando I was at the right place at the right time. Within the first few months of being there, I heard about a Disney audition and decided to try out. I was offered the job which ended up opening a lot of doors for me and propelled my career as a freelance musician.

4. What do you most enjoy about being a crossover artist, who can play both classical and jazz styles at a high level?
I enjoy the challenge of one day playing lead trombone in a big band and playing in a brass quintet the next. Being a versatile player opens many more doors as well and keeps you sharp as a musician.

5. Any advice to young trombonists?
Do not neglect the fundamentals. Approach every practice session with a critical mindset and take advantage of every playing opportunity regardless of style/genre. Also, take lessons with Dr. Brubeck, of course.

c. 2015 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.

Photos courtesy of Clay Lucovich

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