Juan Calderin is a gifted former student of mine, and a promising young composer. He was kind enough to turn a composition assignment exploring the capabilities bass trombone from a “dead end” to a thing of beauty for the noble instrument in an unaccompanied setting. Juan’s further generosity has enabled me to present this work to you here-enjoy!
davidbrubeck.com is pleased to continue our tradition of providing free music to our readers in celebration of the Thanksgiving Holiday in the United States for the blessings of gratitude celebrated around the globe. “Happy Birthday” has been dedicated to one of the most recorded big band leaders in the history of jazz, and a personal favorite-Larry Elgart.
I had the pleasure of playing in Larry’s Band for about two years when he moved to Florida. The band he assembled was an all-star group from all over the state-Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa-wherever. I remember playing with guitar great Jack Peterson and drummer Duffy Jackson, among others.
Larry was always a soft-spoken gentleman and a delight to work for. He played his alto saxophone as smoothly as anyone I had ever heard, and at a seductively rich sotto voce whisper, insisting that the saxophones do the same. The brass he let loose!
The arrangements were spectacular! Billy Butterfield, Billy May and many great arrangers filled his unique library culled from the more than 50 albums Larry had recorded as a leader or as a co-leader with his brother, Les. For bass a trombonist, Larry’s band was a dream come true, and the written bass trombone solos picked up where the solo figures of Nelson Riddle left off. Very prominent, exposed, and often aggressive, the featured bass trombone soloist was a clear signature of the band’s sound and a beautiful contrast to Larry’s alto.
Here’s to Larry, one of the greats!
Just a reminder, we have offered free music in the past. For your convenience, the Stereograms and solos for bass trombone have been listed below. Some are quite timely for the holidays…..enjoy!
SEVEN FREE STEREOGRAMS! (FROM STEREOGRAMS 1-20, 21-30, and beyond).
Drawing inspiration from the cello suites of J. S. Bach and vocalist Bobby McFerrin, David William Brubeck’s Stereograms have been performed and recorded throughout the globe. Though originally composed for bass trombone, almost all of the Stereograms have optional octave indications and work very well for euphonium, ‘cello, baritone, bassoon, and tenor trombone with ‘f’-attachment as well. (Separate editions have been transcribed for tuba and saxophone.)
CLick on each link below to access the music-and enjoy!
CHRISTMAS AND HOLIDAY STEREOGRAMS
I love to use melodies as part of my warm-ups, and at this time of year Christmas melodies are irresistible! This was an improvisation that I transcribed, and polished a bit. See if you can figure out the beginning tune. Feel free to substitute sixteenth notes for thirty-seconds; I play it both ways! Hopefully, a few of these Stereograms will find their way to Salvation Army kettles. Enjoy.
Stereogram No. 40 is dedicated to Donald Knaub, a wonderful man and musician. As a bass trombonist, and particularly with his solo recordings, his influence has been enormous. Merry Christmas, Don!
Thanks to the generosity of Mr. Bonacossa, we are able to offer it free on the web. Enjoy!
This Article c. 2014 David W. Brubeck All Rights Reserved davidbrubeck.com
“In Principio Erat Sonus” c. Federico Bonacossa 2014 All Rights
MUSIC FROM DONALD BOWYER
davidbrubeck.com is delighted to continue the tradition of free music for bass trombone with Don Bowyer’s “50 + 50 Triathlon”, for unaccompanied bass trombone, goggles, racing number, and bicycle helmet. Don is a mutlifaceted musician and humanitarian who now makes his home in Arkansas. A gifted bass trombonist, music writer, and educator, Don has graciously allowed us to publish this miniature in three movements. Each movement includes 50 notes for the first 50 years and 50 more, for 50 50 fifty more! Written for Carolyn of her 50th birthday, and commissioned by Von Graves. Enjoy!
Don Bowyer is Dean of the College of Fine Arts at Arkansas State University, having previously taught at every level from kindergarten through university in the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Sweden. Bowyer received his Doctor of Arts from the University of Northern Colorado, his Master of Arts from California State University at Northridge, and his Bachelor of Arts from West Virginia Wesleyan College.
Active in the fields of composition, music technology, and performance, Bowyer has published more than 60 pieces of music, developed an educational computer program (which has been used in more than 120 countries), and has performed all over the globe. Among numerous performing credits, Bowyer spent five years playing trombone on eleven cruise ships in the Caribbean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Gulf of Alaska. The first ten didn’t sink; see donbowyer.com/aground, for an account of the eleventh!
Ten years at Interlochen, and one can see (and more importantly), hear a great deal. From colleagues to visiting artists, from students to the stirrings of your own soul and sound. Double down on that as two time editor of the tuba journal. Composer and Educator Jerry Young has taken his tuba from Wisconsin all around the world, and managed to make beautiful music with his favorite people. Settle down by the fire, and let the tale of a musical life well lived weave dreams with smoke. “The Fourth Valve” tm is pleased to present Jerry Young…..Enjoy!
1. What are your favorite chamber music settings with tuba and why?
I have to make this a two-part response…
Making music with my wife, Barbara Young, is the most rewarding chamber music experience I’ve ever had. (And, no, I’m not saying that because she might read this at some point!) Making quality chamber music is all about sharing of ideas (both musical and intellectual). Having the opportunity to experience all kinds of music together over (literally) an entire career/lifetime is one that very few musicians have been able to enjoy. Being able to choose repertoire together and rehearse “at will” is pretty special.
To Barbara’s credit, she has performed with many of the world’s low brass luminaries including Harvey Phillips, Dan Perantoni, Roger Bobo, Brian Bowman, Steven Mead, David Werden (and I could make a long, long list of others), as well as other brass, woodwind, string, and vocal artists. She is simply an outstanding chamber musician. Anyone who has performed in this medium for any time at all can tell you that playing with others who are really attentive and sensitive to where you’re going musically paired with your ability to do the same is what makes the magic happen.
Outside the arena of repertoire with piano, my favorite setting is brass quintet, hands down.
It’s the repertoire.
As a brass quintet player, I inherited the repertoire that either came to light or was composed in the 1950s and 1960s. The Ewald quintets, the transcriptions by folks like Robert Nagel and Robert King, the compositions inspired by the New York Brass Quintet (such as the Bozza “Sonatine”), the Malcolm Arnold “Quintet,” and so on. The first professional brass quintet I heard was on a recording by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, featuring the late John Fletcher on tuba, and the recording did indeed feature the “first” Ewald quintet and the Malcolm Arnold. I was inspired both by the repertoire and John’s virtuoso performance.
In the early 1970s the Eastman Brass Quintet (Cherry Beauregard on tuba) came to my university – that was the first live performance I heard by a professional group. I immediately bought their record album and learned all the tuba parts. Hearing that group led to the formation of a student brass quintet and my own first experience. After that time, I have been associated with a brass quintet of some description throughout most of my life. And the repertoire has continued to grow – there is always more there, both in terms of the basic instrumentation and exploration of the basic instrumentation with additions. In the most active years of my career, new works from Jan Bach and Eric Ewazen were extremely exciting for me (and others, too). The satisfying musical possibilities seem to be almost infinite – witness the adventures of the Dallas Brass and the Mnozil Brass. This is not to mention the vast contributions to the repertoire of the Canadian Brass. None of us will ever be able to perform all of the top-drawer repertoire that is available.
2. How does one feed their musical soul when college or high school is over, and the steady playing that comes with it?
Who said that steady playing has to stop?
I currently play in a community band in Traverse City, Michigan that is loaded with folks who are music teachers (as well as representatives of a variety of other professions) who are serious players. And this is one of TWO bands in a basically rural area of Northwest Lower Michigan! Not to mention a symphony orchestra (I know – only one tuba, but…) and two brass bands in our region of Michigan.
I play in a euphonium/tuba quartet (rehearses weekly) with three other retired musicians, and my wife and I play in a ragtime quartet, too! And there are multiple brass quintets, woodwind quintets, string ensembles, vocal groups.
I believe that there are musicians all around us who really want to continue to make music, but in the course of their busy lives, no one has asked them to play. One can feed one’s musical soul by finding and motivating other musicians to play with them. If one is SO isolated that there simply is no one around to share the performance experience, there is a lot of great music (regardless of one’s instrumental voice) for solo instruments waiting to be played – even if it is for oneself. That’s another option along with intent and involved listening to the vast musical offerings on the airwaves and digitally.
3. Which live performances of music have inspired you the most?
This is a “killer” question… With over fifty years invested in intense listening and performing, I’ve experienced a lot of inspiring moments. To humor the question, I’ll describe just a few “great performances” briefly:
• The Beaux Arts Trio – I heard this group in the early 1980s in Kansas City. Listening to and watching Mr. Pressler at the piano was an amazing lesson in expressive legato playing that has affected my own playing ever since.
• A live performance by Harvey Phillips in 1978 with my wife at the piano. They performed Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.” There was not a dry eye in the house by the time the performance ended. Musical/emotional communication at its very best.
• My first performance as a member of the faculty at the National Music Camp (now the Interlochen Arts Camp). I found myself performing Gabrieli canzoni with former principal trumpet of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Gilbert Johnson, and with former principal trombone of Philadelphia, Henry Charles Smith (sitting next to me) on euphonium. After all the years of listening to “The Brass of Three Great Orchestras,” I felt somewhat out of place, but what an exciting and inspiring moment.
4. What do you look for in an instrument, and how has it changed?
At last… An easy question!
I have been playing EXACTLY the same horns for a long time.
I have played the same F tuba (Alexander) since 1978 and the same CC tuba (Hirsbrunner HB1) since 1986.
Recently I acquired a very nice Miraphone 186 CC tuba, but it was a gift from a friend. My taste in “what I look for” is embodied in those instruments, and it hasn’t changed. While I certainly have “tried on” most of the standard instruments available over that long period of time and helped my students to choose instruments, I’m happy with my long-time friends.
My Alexander is simply a unique voice. It is quite a lot smaller than “modern” F tubas and is lighter in character. The intonation idiosyncracies are certainly present, however, time and practice have made them manageable. Most readers of this interview who are tuba players are familiar with the special sound of the Hirsbrunner. It has good center and such a warm, dark-ish sound. It is also very easy to control in almost any circumstance.
5. Which orchestral composer had the clearest window into the soul of the tuba, in your estimation?
With some admitted prejudice, I think probably Gustav Mahler, although Richard Strauss would be a close second. It seems to me that Mahler had a firm concept of the expressive capabilities of the voice and how to use that expressive import in almost any role that the tuba plays in his works, whether it serves as a foundation for any of the various ensembles within the orchestra (full brass choir, trombone choir, horn choir, etc.) or in other roles, including as a solo voice. It was more than just a “utility bass instrument” for Mahler.
6. How do you achieve such consistency throughout all the registers?
Oh, my… I have never imagined myself as being all that consistent, although perhaps I was MORE consistent when I was younger. Trust me, for ordinary mortals such as myself, as we get older things do become less consistent. People like Arnold Jacobs, Dan Perantoni, and Jim Self (some of my heroes and not in the “ordinary mortal” category) have always amazed me with their consistency as life has moved on. I think the key to consistency of sound in all registers, as well as all aspects of playing (and this is a no-brainer), is consistent, well-designed practice. I always made a point to practice – a lot – in all registers every single day.
If you don’t use it, you lose it!
And one must have a clear concept of the desired sound in any register – without clear concept all is lost from the get-go. Who EVER wants to sound bad in any register? The best stated “how to do it” philosophy I ever heard came from the lips of Arnold Jacobs. At a workshop, one of my students asked this question of Mr. Jacobs: “I don’t think I sound very good in my lower register. What can I do to improve it?” Mr. Jacobs’ response was as follows: “Well, young man, where DO you think you sound good?” The student’s response was “My mid-register is pretty good.” Mr Jacobs then said: “Then do exactly the same thing in your lower register as you you’re doing in your mid-register.” That may seem overly simplistic to some readers, but I would encourage you to think about it. It’s a great insight.
7. What applications of the tuba have most intrigued you with the possibility of future development?
I’m not sure that I can come up with a specific answer to that question. And the possibilities are so many.
As I witness some of the recent experimentation with the microtonal tuba and the profoundly interesting experimentation with manipulation of the instrument’s sound in varied environments and electronically by folks like Jon Sass and my Norwegian grand-student, Kristoffer Lo, I am dumbfounded by the things these creative minds and ears are doing – far beyond my meager capabilities. I look forward to seeing where they continue to go on their journeys. Jim Self once said in a lecture given at an ITEC back in 1992 that he decided early on in his career that his operative word was going to be “change.” And by sticking to that motto, he has been able to accomplish a lot. Regardless of your instrument, be looking for and trying to anticipate change, not only relative to applications for your instrument, but in the larger musical soundscape. How do you envision your artistic voice adapting and developing with the changing world around you?
Consider the voice of [late night Colbert tuba player] in “Stay Human.” He made a place for himself in an ensemble wherein most of us would NOT feel at home – and is a versatile musician, much more than “just a tuba player. The intrigue for me lies in seeing how we, as a cadre of musicians who play the tuba, can find our way into ALL genres of music as an expressive voice. In order to do that, we have to be more than players of notes – we have to be complete musicians who UNDERSTAND and can actively participate in a variety of genres and be a PART of future development.
Few things worthwhile have ever been easy. We have to lose our prejudices and engage composers and fellow performers on their turf – and be prepared with every bit of skilled musicianship and imagination we can muster to meet the challenges presented.
Lightning is a force of nature. Powerful. Incendiary. Blazing into the future. Sonorously twined with thunder. The connective tissue of heaven and earth; shaking both. Roland Szentpali is a four-valved bolt of lightning from one century to anther. The “Fourth Valve” hopes you find illumination and are re-charged by the electrifying Roland Szentpali. Enjoy!
1. How did you meet the saxhorn, and was it a good thing or a bad thing?
I started to do research on the previous instruments which led to the tuba; this is how I met first the French Tubás, including saxhorn. It is a great instrument!
2. What are your three favorite cities, and why?
Budapest, because of its compact size and architecture. The colorful culture and the nightlife.
Bologna, because of the architecture and the culinary arts.
Luzern, because it’s just simply beautiful
3. What does it take to make it through your warm up, and how has it changed since college?
I didn’t do a daily warm up, every day is different.
4. Developing taste, feel, expression. How do you gain it and impart it? Does technique sometimes get in the way?
I try to learn as much as possible and experience as much as possible.
This refines my taste.
5. How do you go about selecting literature? How much is about you, the music or the audience? Balance? If I choose a piece, I am sure I can make it interesting for my audience.
6. How does the 21st century look for acoustic musicians from your vantage point?
Its a good question! : )
It depends on contemporary music.
If contemporary music can find its audience instead of being selfish, we can have a brighter future as a classical acoustic musicians.
7. How did you get started in music and who has inspired you?
I was 12, and I was struck by lightning! ; )
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved wwww.davidbrubeck.com
Images courtesy of Indiana University and Budapest.com
When a young trombonist, (who looked a little bit like Harry Potter behind his thick glasses), asked me who the tenor trombone soloists of the “Chicago School” of trombone playing were, it gave me pause. Charlie Vernon springs to mind for bass trombone, but for tenor? Kenneth Thompkins is the answer. Clear and full, expressive and precise. The Maryland Native who became principal trombonist of the Detroit Symphony orchestra by way of Chicago, Philadelphia and Miami had turned in solid performance after solid performance, but had yet to achieve a solo record-until now. Join “1385” tm as we explore the artistic craft of trombonist supreme Kenneth Thompkins. Enjoy….
1. How did you pick up the trombone, and when did you fall in love with it?
I started playing trombone in in 8th grade at the suggestion of my middle school teacher. Prior to that time I played a bit of baritone horn, and tuba. When I entered high school I started taking private lessons. I really became attracted to the trombone after to listening to J.J. Johnson and Steve Turre on Woody Shaw recordings. J.J. Johnson had such a great sound full of character – he truly is a major voice on the trombone.
Please begin watching at 15:00 minutes
2. What are two things you remember learning from each of your major teachers? Frank Crisafulli was and still is a great influence on my approach to the instrument. One major lesson from Mr. C was that no matter what the slide has to navigate the air flow must be beautiful like the bow of a stringed instrument.
The other important lesson he taught me how to acknowledge progression and accomplishments. As a student striving to become like your idols on the horn it is easy to constantly feel dismayed with your trombone playing. When I studied with Mr. Crisafulli he was over seventy years old and his wisdom was always present. He knew that my striving for perfection was a hindrance to my progression. I remember his telling me several times “Stop trying to be perfect” Such valuable advice that I really could not comprehend because I desperately wanted to be perfect and succeed.
Eric Carlson was another major influence on my playing. He is a fabulous trombonist and I really enjoyed hearing him play alone and in the Philadelphia Orchestra. Mr. Carlson really impressed upon me the importance of great fundamentals. Having fluidity and great even sound in every register of the instrument was a major goal. Working on orchestral excerpts was also a major focus of my studies with Eric Carlson. He stressed the basics of great orchestral performance and how to practice the excerpts.
Another trombonist that I loved hearing was Glen Dodson. Mr. Dodson had a beautiful, clear sound that was captivating.
3. What are your favorite orchestral trombone solos?
My favorite pieces to perform with the orchestra are the solos in Mahler 3, and Sibelius 7. In these solos a musician has the opportunity to show a great range of expression that is not typical in the orchestral repertoire. I always love performing any of works by Mahler, Shostakovich and Bruckner.
4. A life of orchestral playing can be completely musically satisfying . How do you motivate yourself to accomplish additional musical project and what are your favorites?
I get a lot of musical satisfaction from playing in the orchestra. There is always something I can enjoy from playing in the orchestra – I am often inspired by my colleagues to play better and to strive for a new level of expression. I really enjoy getting outside of the orchestra and exploring new solo repertoire and continuing to push for development. The ability to completely let your own voice be heard in a solo setting is extremely satisfying. Performing recitals and in chamber settings has really added another dimension to my musicianship.
5. As a lover of jazz, did you face any difficulties or repercussions devoting yourself to Classical Music.
The only repercussions that I am aware of are expectations of what is culturally correct in music. I am speaking of people being genuinely surprised that a Black musicians is performing Classical Music. This surprise goes across all skin tones and this expression of surprise did not deter me from pursuing a career in Classical Music.
As a young musician I never experienced anyone telling me that I can not be successful as a Classical musician because I am Black. I do know of other Black musicians who were discouraging from pursuing a career in Classical Music despite obvious talent and ambition. So I consider myself to be fortunate due to the encouragement and support I received as a young musician.
6. What is your secret to a great legato?
To have a great legato the air stream must not be compromised due to the slide movement. Working on slowly moving from adjacent position while keeping the air steady without a decrease in volume is extremely important. If you hear a decrease in volume between position it is a sign that the airstream is not consistent. A lot of basic work with slurring is also fundamental to having a great legato.
7. You set and accomplished a lofty goal. What was it like when you were furthest from the goal compared to now.
When I was a student at Northwestern University I was so inspired by hearing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that I decided to pursue a career as an orchestral musician. As a student and for a period after graduating it seemed like magic to be able to perform as an orchestral musician. There were definitely times when I felt discouraged, but my love of the music and enjoyment of playing the trombone was sustaining during discouraging moments.
8. What are your favorite cities?
I have a great affection for Chicago because of my time at Northwestern University. It was a time of great learning and musical exposure. Chicago is a beautiful city with wonderful architecture, vibrancy and culture.
I have lived in Detroit for over twenty years and it is really developing after years of neglect and decay. It is an exciting time to be in Detroit and be able to see the development happening. The city is changing and becoming more beautiful every week.
9. What are your observations on the state of solo trombone.
I think that the state of solo trombone is gaining momentum.
More composers are starting to hear the voice of the trombone as a solo instrument and writing very interesting music. Stephen Andrew Taylor, Philip Wharton, James MacMillan, David Biedenbender and Philip Wharton have recently composed excellent pieces for trombone.
The state of solo trombone playing will continue to progress if trombone community continues to engages great composers. Commissioning great composers and frequently performing their pieces will propel the instrument forward.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
More Inspiration from Ken Thompkins
As he reviewed an article on slide motion I was preparing for the International Trombone Association, Kenneth Thompkins commented, “I could have written this article for you Dave; don’t move your slide any faster than you have to!” Bullseye, Mr. Thompkins! While Thompkins is always on the lookout for new modes of expression and audiences for the music he loves, his observations like this have a touch of his teacher, Frank Crisafulli-the Yoda of the trombone. Another Thompkins saying which cuts right to the heart of a typical brass student’s misperceptions is “all dynamics are round and warm.”
Miami’s Own Duo Brubeck, Live in concert at Christ United Methodist Church
Sunday, November 5th 2017 4:00 pm (4845 n.e. 25th ave. | fort lauderdale, fl 33308 )
Suggested donation, $5 adults, $3 seniors-Children are free!
DUO BRUBECK, featuring Mitch Farber, is an exciting and innovative jazz duo which celebrates the rich tradition of guitar and trombone duos, with a twist! From international music festivals to the finest local venues, Duo Brubeck has been featured live and in recordings and videos. Join them for an afternoon of sizzling standards and creative cool jazz!
Farber has toured and recorded with numerous greats including Julio Iglesias and now serves on the jazz faculty at the University of Miami. Brubeck was the first three-time all American college musician and is believed to be the only soloist to have a appeared at the international conferences for trombone, trumpet, tuba and euphonium. His ‘Stereograms’ have been published, recorded and performed around the globe and the approach is reminiscent of jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin, alternating between melody and accompanying bass lines in a seamless manner.
Please join us at Christ Church for a special concert featuring the music of jazz greats Gershwin, Corea and Ellington, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and the American Songbook. All proceeds beyond the most basic concert expenses will go directly to the United Methodist Concert fund.
Duo Brubeck at Christ Church Ft. Lauderdale 11-5-17 4:00 pm
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A life of keen observation and experience may lead to wisdom, take Matthew Guilford. Orchestral aplomb and soloist expertise yield to teamwork and heart-felt finesse. As others seek to deepen existing trails of chamber music, Guilford emerges with a powerhouse brass trio, and recording. Join “Seven Positions” on a trip from a garage in Boston to the Kennedy Center in Washington D. C.. Enjoy….
1. How did you develop an interest in the Russian language, and where has it taken you?
I attended public schools in Middleboro, MA where I grew up. At that time, two foreign languages were offered, French and Russian. While I did study French for a year or two, I enrolled in Russian language studies from 8th grade through my senior year. The Russian teacher, John Sullivan, was the head of the foreign languages department as well as one of the finest instructors of any course I have ever taken. His consistency of approach and high expectations of his students made a deep and lasting impression on my academic career and helped to shape my own teaching style.
Although I have graduated with two degrees from New England Conservatory, my undergraduate studies began at Boston University where I majored in music performance with a minor concentration in Russian language. You have to remember that the world was a very different place at that time, the early 1980’s. The cold war was being waged and the iron curtain was firmly in place. Government jobs requiring Russian language skills were abundant and I could see a possible departure in that direction if I were to change course. My preparation under John Sullivan was adequate enough to place me into a more advanced section of Russian studies, but by the second semester of my sophomore year, the writing was on the wall that I would be transferring to N.E.C., so my formal studies in Russian ended there.
Since joining the National Symphony Orchestra, I have had the opportunity to tour Russian on two occasions, 1993 and this past March of 2017. On both trips, my skills were adequate enough to hold basic conversations, order meals, hail a taxi, and so on. My son was able to join me on this latest tour of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and those language skills certainly came in handy as we did a fair amount of sight-seeing and touring apart from the orchestra.
2. How did your mom come to love the trombone so much?
My parents were not trained musicians per se, but they each showed a deep love of music that was perceptible to me from an early age. Music in one form or another could usually be heard from somewhere in our home. As a child in the late 1960’s, I remember that they formed a folk group with a few friends and would have rehearsals in our living room covering hit tunes by groups such as The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary.
There were a number of jazz albums in our home as well, mostly swing era or Dixieland in style. Arnold McKenzie. My mother loved to sing along and still does. The sounds of Tommy Dorsey were no stranger to me at a young age. Buddy Morrow’s ballad playing as well. Truthfully, she heard a trombonist in a band that played weddings and concerts in the Middleboro, MA area when she was a young girl. The trombonist in that group was Arnold McKenzie, a trombonist whom I never had the opportunity to meet but who’s playing certainly made an impression on her. You might say that Mr. McKenzie was equally responsible for my career!
Of course, she went on to become an even bigger fan of bass trombone playing! Whenever she attends one of my concerts, she tells me that she can always pick my sound out from the rest of the orchestra. That’s a good thing, right?!
3. Who are your influences?
I grew up in a working class family in a blue collar New England town. The masculine influences in my early life were from men who worked with their hands. My grandfather built most of his home by himself and grew enough produce in his garden to feed a family of seven. My father was a diesel mechanic in the Coast Guard, a career firefighter and could fix just about anything. That I became an artist and academic…it is so far removed from their lives, but their heroism and self-sufficiency made a lasting impact.
Jerry Shaw was not my first trombone teacher, but he was probably the most important teacher. My first few years of playing were with Luther “Sonny” Churchill, who gave me the basics of slide positions and technique. My parents bought me a nearly new Conn bass trombone a few years later (age 13), and that is the time that I began my lessons with Jerry Shaw. Jerry had graduated from music school in Lowell, MA, took lessons with John Coffey (Boston Symphony 1941-’52), played in the U.S. Army Band overseas, AND played bass trombone as well, the same model Conn as mine, the 73H.
A more dedicated trombone teacher I have never met, and while I would like to imagine that Jerry favored me, I am quite sure that he gave equal attention to all of his many students. Let me put it this way: he taught me how to play the trombone in such a correct and thorough fashion that I constantly ask myself when working with my own students, “What would Jerry say now?”. The details of my lessons with Jerry are many and honestly deserve an entire article of their own.
Finally, and this is a “what” rather than a “who”, an early and important influence was my participation in team sports. Around the same time that I blew my first notes on a trombone, I was involved in sports. In no particular order, I was a team member of many a swim, baseball, football and basketball team. When you are able to ascertain what your own personal strengths and weaknesses may be, you gain the knowledge of how you can best help your team. There is a direct correlation to orchestral playing in this regard, and I am convinced that my early connections to team sports have guided me toward being a better team player.
I have coined a term, virtuoso team player, that might be expressed best as a meshing of personal excellence and artistry in a seamless fashion into the greater good of an ensemble. This has nothing whatsoever to do with virtuosity as commonly conceived vis-a-vis solo artists, their technical prowess, pyrotechnics and so on. Imagine that same level of skill directed not outwardly/individually as a soloist must, but inwardly to the team of orchestral colleagues. There is a virtuosity in the milli-seconds of reaction required in every orchestral rehearsal and concert that is very much the equal of the soloists aim, but it creates a different kind of internal energy that fuels the ensemble.
4. Aside from all of the excellence in common, what distinctiveness have you noticed in some of the different orchestras with which you have performed?
My first tenured position was with the San Francisco Opera orchestra. While I had played a few operas as a student and freelance musician in Boston, I had not previously played in an orchestra who’s primary function was operatic performance. The first opera of my first season was Verdi’s Falstaff, and what struck me immediately was the style in which the orchestra played Verdi. Many of the sounds and interpretations I was hearing from my colleagues were not indicated in the parts or score, but were born of experience and years and years of Verdi performances. I began to latch on to this concept and by the time we began Othello in the middle of that season, I was clued into the Verdi vibe. The same could be said of the way they performed Puccini, Leoncavallo, Boito and Mascagni.
When I arrived at my current position with the National Symphony after a couple of seasons playing opera in San Francisco, the difference of styles, operatic vs. symphonic took a period of adjustment for me. Opera orchestras, for the most part, are serving the needs of the stage action. When a soprano decides to linger on a high C, or a bass may be fighting a cold, or it takes Seigmund a little longer to pull the sword out of the stone one night, the orchestra must have the flexibility to react to those very real possibilities.
Symphony orchestras have more of a luxury of serving themselves in their repertoire. Sure, they need to be flexible and sensitive to soloists, choruses, narrators and so on, but not to the extent that opera orchestras must. I find it very satisfying and necessary that my orchestra typically plays a few operas every season. It improves our reflexes and makes us a stronger ensemble.
I have been fortunate in that several orchestras in the USA, and at least one foreign, have asked me to join them as a guest or extra performer. The closest association that I have with any of these organizations at present continues to be with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In recent years, I have performed with them in Boston’s Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall and at their summer home, Tanglewood. The fact that they continue to have me as a guest is immensely gratifying to say the least, especially given my history with that orchestra going back to 1986 when I began subbing with them as an NEC student. I feel that I truly learned how to play in an orchestra through those early experiences as an extra player, sitting beside my teachers Norman Bolter and Douglas Yeo.
5. What is your secret to a great legato? As the years have gone by, the main take-away for me is the realization that great legato playing is much more about air and much less about tongue. As beginner trombonists, after learning where to place the slide we are taught the two basic tongue strokes for “TA” (non-legato) and “DA” (legato). A usual starting point for introducing legato tongue to a student involves using the “DA” articulation on every note in a legato passage to help foster consistency of response and familiarize the student with a new tonguing concept. That is all fine and good.
The next step toward great legato playing (and the several steps that follow) should, in my opinion, gradually relieve the tongue of its duties as legato enforcer. We already have several means of legato playing that use no tongue whatsoever: natural slurs within the same position/overtone series, cross-position playing that ascends or descends (cross-grain), and deploying and releasing the valve(s) are the most common. Many players, myself included, use no tongue within the same partial but are able to achieve a clean legato by means accurate slide technique and an unwavering air stream.
I have a graphic that I use with my students which illustrates my idea of articulation differences based largely upon the decibel meter.
Graphic unresponsive, please check back later.
Using the above graphic, substitute decibels with the following articulations:
• 0 – 50 uses “TAH” tongue
• 50 is tenuto
• 51 – 99 uses “DAH” tongue
• 100 is glissando
For purposes of legato, 51 would be the hardest and heaviest form of legato tongue. As you move in the direction of 100, by necessity you will use less legato tongue. That gives you exactly 49 possibilities of legato before you hit glissando. That stands in stark contrast to the 1 “DAH” legato tongue I learned to master as a young trombonist. Some students are visual learners, and the articulation meter is often on the white board of my teaching studio at the University of Maryland as a reminder of the spectrum of possibilities in the world of articulation.
6. How does having so many great military players in DC change the musical scene, as compared with Boston or San Francisco?
It makes for one helluva trombone ensemble! The Washington Trombone Ensemble was formed a number of years by U.S. Army Band solo trombonist Sam Woodhead and has been going strong ever since. They have made frequent appearances at the American Trombone Workshop and have produced a few recordings as well, including The Road Not Taken. All branches of the elite D.C. service bands are represented within the ensemble and the wealth of talent and ability is truly astounding.
Aside from trombone players, military musicians all kinds help to make DC a very rich musical destination. While one can listen to their concerts for free at venues such as the U.S. Capitol, Wolf Trap or the National Mall, you can also hear them subbing with the National Symphony and National Opera at the Kennedy Center.
7. How did you become interested in Christopher Brubeck’s Bass Trombone Concerto? What are your favorite aspects of the piece, and presenting it?
I was first made aware of the piece when Douglas Yeo performed it with the Boston Pops. A few years later, one of the NSO staffers (who knew Chris personally) suggested that the work be performed on an NSO Pops series. Marvin Hamlisch was the NSO Pops conductor at that time (2005), and I performed the concerto on three separate evenings with him and Barbara Cook as the headliner.
If you listen to Chris’ recording of the piece, you will hear the style and energy that he brings to his performance. A performer needs to be well versed in many musical styles in order to pull off a successful performance, including jazz, rock, funk and classical. It also is demanding with respect to range, so bring your high chops as well as your pedal notes.
It’s a concerto that does not take itself too seriously, and I appreciate that. The audience reaction when I played it was quite warm and receptive, and I think that the pops format surrounding those performances was appropriate for such am eclectic work. While it is certainly a demanding piece from a soloist’s standpoint, it is not demanding on the audience and that is important.
8. The brass trio is an unusual genre, and you have found success there. What makes it tick, and how can a bass trombonist improve his odds of succeeding in the trio format?
The brass trio is a wonderful genre and I am incredibly fortunate in having my University of Maryland colleagues Chris Gekker (trumpet) and Greg Miller (horn) as chamber music partners. Our recording from 2010 may be the only stand-alone recording featuring works solely for brass trio. There are other recordings that include some trios as part of a musical compilation, but a pure brass trio recording is indeed a rare bird.
That recording project required several intense sessions and was simultaneously exhilarating, educational and fatiguing. There are three distinctive voices, there is nowhere to hide and there are precious few rests to be found in most of the literature for that ensemble. Those are the facts. I am sure that one of the main reasons we do not see more brass trios on the concert circuit has to do more with the fatigue factor than anything else.
The bass trombone, and I may be slightly biased in this opinion, can be a better fit than tenor as the bottom voice on much of the trio repertoire. I played tenor on one or two of the works on the Maryland Brass Trio recording and the rest were performed on bass. As a timbre, the bass trombone provides a thick base to the group and helps widen the separation between it’s own sound and that of the horn. It is that dissimilarity that makes the group sound a bit more colorful. With regard to range, I have not yet found any works containing notes too high for an accomplished bass trombonist.
9. Can you put into words the educational, musical and personal influence of Norman Bolter on your life?
Before I answer that question directly, I must state that Norman Bolter had a profound influence on me well before we had even entered into a student-teacher relationship. As a Christmas gift in 1980, I was given the Empire Brass album (yes, in vinyl) Russian Brass featuring the brass quintets of Victor Ewald. It has since become a revered classic recording, but at that time it was the very cutting edge of brass chamber music performance. Every player was a virtuoso. Being a trombonist, my ear bent in the direction of the trombonist, Norman Bolter. While I was most likely too young to understand what I heard in his playing that appealed to me at that time, I can say that it spoke to me and drew me in to learn more.
When I began my undergraduate studies at Boston University in the fall of 1982, I would walk to Norman’s brownstone home in Brookline, MA each week passing John F. Kennedy’s birthplace along the walk from my freshman dormitory. His home was warm, inviting and I felt very comfortable in those surroundings for most of our lessons, as others sometimes took place at Symphony Hall.
When I came to my first lesson, I could articulate “Tah” and “Dah” quite well indeed, but my attacks were limited to those two mainstays. He worked with me a great deal on articulation of all kinds, from the most basic of a tenuto up to lightening fast multiple tongue. Analogies played a big role in this methodology. His imagination is without bounds. For articulations, he imagined for me a painter’s palette of attacks from which to select, such as 10 kinds of staccato, 5 marcato, 4 tenuto….legato had the most possibilities from the hardest “Dah” tongue to an absolute glissando.
Norman also worked with me a great deal on other basics such as range-building and intervals. I tend to push both of those basic disciplines firmly on my own young (and not-so-young) students as well. I think that the time put into both of those endeavors tend to make for a more secure and fearless player. We did not spend an exorbitant amount of time on orchestral repertoire in the first two years of our three years together. My main take-away from Norman was a very firm underpinning in all of the basics of trombone playing viewed though a wide lens. The world of music-making and trombone playing was expanded though him.
Those who have studied with Norman over the years will probably agree that his fertile imagination and sometimes ethereal approach to teaching may have caught them off guard at one point or another. I was a sponge to take in whatever he had to offer, from the basics of articulation to creating a sound color that was purple. He is responsible for many of the tools in my trombone tool chest.
Since this question asked me directly about just one of my teachers, I think it fair to at least mention my two years of study with Douglas Yeo and my final year of study with John Swallow at NEC. In a nutshell: Mr. Yeo taught me how to win and keep bass trombone positions in major US symphony orchestras, and Mr. Swallow tipped everything I had learned to previous 5 years upside down and asked me to reassemble it all in my own authentic voice.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
Images courtesy of Matthew Guilford and Dennis Bubert.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
More than any other single human-being, tubist Chester Schmitz etched Jabba the Hutt in our collective consciousness. His tuba embodied the villan for John Williams, but the real man seems more infused by Dietrich Fischer Dieskau than Jabba musically; and embodies Christ more than the force spiritually. Perhaps this Star Wars solo was among the things that inspired the great composer John Williams to write a tuba concerto for Mr. Schmitz. Whether Tubby The Tuba, or a laundry list of great accomplished solos, Schmitz caressed the unwieldy mass of brass to soloistic heights with the heart of an artist. From his perch as retired principal tubist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Pops,he has even more to add, with and without the tuba….”The Fourth Valve” tm is delighted to share his rich musical legacy, enjoy!
1. What are your most memorable moments with John Williams and his music?
Of course, top of the list was the world premiere of the Tuba Concerto he dedicated to me in 1985. Also, he wrote some nice solos…..Reivers, 1980 his first concert as pops conductor, Jabba the Hutt, and just plain good parts. We rocked in the 80’s with John. It’s all out there in record land…..
2. What are the best solo settings for tuba you have found? What makes them effective?
Tuba solos emanating from within the orchestra are the best. Lots of sounding colors in the ‘accompaniment!’
3. What three things are most important to you?
Which 3 things are important to me?
First, Jesus. Second, Jesus loves me. Third, Jesus has saved me and given me eternal life, because He loves me and died for me, rose from the dead for me, and will come to take me home with Himself.
There is nothing comparable to Jesus. He is the reason I left the great BSO!
4. Who were your biggest musical inspirations? What did you learn from each?
Rostropovich, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and Richter. I listened and studied them during my college years. Eventually I performed with Fischer-Dieskau, heard Richter play 2 recitals live, and played many concerts with Rostropovich. Magnificent musicians!
5. How important is a warm up, and how has yours changed over the years?
Playing properly is almost infinitely more important than requiring a specific warm-up.
Lip slurs are everything, when done properly.
6. How did you develop such a beautiful, non-intrusive articulation?
If that be so, good…and thank you. Proper preparation to play and understanding of breathing. I have put up 3 FB posts on that very subject within the last few days.
7. What reflections on a life in music do you have for a young person starting out today? Would you do anything differently?
If that young person desires to have a career in music, AND…….this is huge…….God has given that young person the TALENT and ABILITY to make it into that fairly small elite at or near the TOP, than go all out!
When I began the tuba, I practiced 4 to 12 hours every day for 6 months, then, all my formative years, I listened to good classical music day and night. (Yes, while I slept!) I love good music!
8. How do you change your approach from solo to chamber to orchestral?
Different instruments for different orchestral music, including the euphonium and contrabass trombone, sizes, keys, etc. I have played cello parts in a string quartet with 2 violins and a viola (bless them!) and the challenge to not overwhelm is fun.
9. How do you see the tuba?
Some artists get to make music through their voice. That is simple. A violin and a cello are also simpler. To sing through 30 feet of metal is a challenge those folks will never encounter, yet the music must be just as good. I got the tuba.
If I were to do it again, and the Good Lord gave me a choice, I would sing and play the violin on the side. However, what I got to do on the tuba was a great privilege. To play with those phenomenal artists who make up the Boston Symphony was a Blessing from Heaven. As I said, Jesus loved me, and He still does. Thanks for the interview, David.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
BONUS! BREATHING MADE EASY, by Chester Schmitz
BREATHING MADE EASY-1
When preparing to play an instrument, if you are inhaling only through the mouth, you can add approximately 1/4 more quantity of air, and breathe much more quickly and quietly, by adding an “open nose” to the process. Nose-breathing is also the way you breathe — automatically — all day long…..to sustain your life.
BREATHING MADE EASY – 2
For those of you, particularly tuba players, who drop your jaw and form your oral cavity so as to say, “hooooo,” or, “huuuuuu,” will find that when you inhale using your nose as well as your mouth, that it will be almost physically impossible to form those vowel sounds. This is OK. One should not drop the jaw to breathe, nor should they use those vowel concepts. The correct concept is, “aaaaaaaaahhhh,” with a relaxed tongue and shoulders down.
BREATHING MADE EASY – 3
If you want to inhale silently, and take in a given amount of air more easily, and more quickly, engage the nasal passage (the nose) when inhaling. Doing this then makes it possible to set your emouchure, with playing pressure, before you breathe, top and bottom center on mouthpiece rim, so that you, after your breath, are immediately ready to make that sound…..accurately and precisely…..and musically. Air comes in at “corners” of the mouth and through the nose. It is not only very easy, but it also is the correct way to prepare and breathe in order to play any brass instrument.
In God’s eyes
I see my body
Running wild into the sea
In God’s eyes
I see a river
Sparkling dark over the rocks
In God’s eyes
I see a spring
Erupting sweet from red earth
In God’s arms sleep our mothers
And in their arms we sleep
Come young soul and drink from the spring
Come old friend and swim in the stream
Dance my feet and twirl into smoke,
Whirl my body back to the sea, the sea.
A genius has a knack for seeing the future, when others seem so deeply rooted in the past. Of seeing so far beyond the box, that the box never was. With integrity & heart, grit and wisdom, the implacable Abbey Conant advances. Beyond the horizons of New Mexico, and deeper than the Black Forest, she has sought expression, beauty and relevance. “1385” tm invites you to come along as she re-invents the trombone….enjoy!
1. If you HAD to choose…which would you live without, words or music?
Definitely words, though I love them too.
2. As an instrumentalist turned vocalist, what insights have the differing approaches to breath wrought?
AC Hmmm…There is wholeness to singing in that the whole body must participate. The sound is produced within the body and resonates from there. The empty spaces in the body create the resonance and every cell vibrates with the vocal chords. When we sing, billions of activities must coordinate and cooperate. The sound image in one’s mind makes the direct, instantaneous journey into material existence.
When we sing what we will then play, the integration that is necessary for making a whole, complete musical idea real has already been achieved. When we then play the same passage, so many subtle aspects of the music are improved, sometimes in indescribable ways. There is a richness added. The basics are all there, sound, style, phrasing, aliveness, connection, etc.
Many say, if you can sing it, you can play it. I guess I would say, if you can sing it, you can sing it. Why wouldn’t we want to sing with our instrument? To have that intimate, heart-connection with our listeners? To be moved and to move others just as singers do?
3. The instrumentalist then singer is a special category, Chet Baker, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan. Have you found inspiration or interest with any colleagues in the club, either historic or living?
Well, the artists you just named all blow me away with their deep connection to their instruments. Louis Armstrong constantly demonstrated that trumpet and voice were just different timbres. Our instruments, our voices are crucibles that can turn our pain and sorrow into music. I hear many players who turn narcissism into music and it sounds like look what I can do instead of hey, listen to this beautiful melody, isn’t it miraculous?
In Winter Dog Time, by Abbie Conant
Though it is below zero I must walk.
This third day of the new year fell on Taos like Dorothy’s house. Whether it killed the wicked witch of 2010 remains to be discovered.
Paralytic, All numb except wild eyes set in a tar baby wired to a post.
Only January feels this way:
Aware but motionless.
A month of chrysalis and ice crystals.
Looking into the Snow Queen’s deep north blue eyes and dying there: a glass body splayed on dry powder snowy expanse.
Horizonless and dark as the pole star is bright.
The old black dog lies motionless in a pile of brown leaves.
I have seen him there many times before. Belly on the earth, his only chance to heal. Part spaniel, part shepard,
part shag rug. He becomes part of the pile of leaves, part of the snow patches, as silent as the line of trees that border his sagging house.
How many times have I thought, he is dead. Poor thing. And then the next day he is back, faintly breathing, passionate in his stillness, agog in sleep as if sleeping for the wintering earth herself.
I walk carefully so as not to slip on the ice. The small, tidy houses of Montoya Street look hermetically sealed, still as frozen toys, dreaming of spring antics and colored socks.
My winter dog lies as a frigid vision over the town which sleeps without knowing it, awakens into further dreaming.
Step after carefully prepared step I precede further into the stilled world of the dreaming dog.
I know that by the time I reach Kit Carson Road I will be in full immersion—in winter dog time. Knowing without knowing, I know. My ears loping toward every faint sound, my nose inhaling the palette of the bluish peach morning, stiff-legged, uncollared, prevailing toward someone perhaps calling my name as the cold settles further into the earth and the morning seems to stop time itself.
The heap of dog has not moved. Somehow I know he still breathes. I see the mountain now, indigo, watching, the only being awake in this season.
4. Can you discuss the development of your “out-of-the-box” approach to soloing-almost a new genre, “micro-opera”, with sets, plot and electronic accompaniment to your singing, acting and trombone playing?
It all started when my composer/husband, William Osborne, couldn’t find a soprano willing to sing one of his music theater pieces, called Winnie, a character portrait from Samuel Beckett’s play, Happy Days. He was originally going to have me play the trombone solos dressed as Winnie’s husband, Willie and a soprano would sing Winnie.
He said, ok you have a year to learn how to sing and work up this piece. Now, I hardly had a speaking voice, let alone a singing voice! But serendipity brought me to a wonderful voice teacher I met in the dorm at a music festival in Switzerland. It turned out she also lived in Munich and she offered to take up the challenge.
It took weeks before I could stop making an embouchure when I sang!
I had to learn to back off a lot in in terms of support so as not to force my voice and wreck my vocal chords. She was patient but relentless and taught me classic bel canto technique. She told me I was a dramatic soprano and that if I worked hard I could be an opera singer. My goal was specific and she brought me to the point where I could sing this difficult 45-minute-long piece and play the tricky trombone part as well, not to mention acting Beckett…a year later we premiered Winnie in Rome.
I should mention that I could not have done this without the Alexander Technique. It helps a person learn new things. One is then able to transcend preconceptions and assumptions about how to do something and truly open to the new. It allows you to be a clean slate. After Winne,came The Miriam Trilogy, a 90-minute program without pause that included: pantomime, having clamps come down on my wrists, and baring a breast for 25min…among many other things.
After Miriam came Street Scene for the Last Mad Soprano—about a homeless woman who thinks she has an audition for the Met. Then came Cybeline, an odd combination of Schubert, Electronics and cartoons. Cybeline is a cyborg who tires to prove to the scientists that she is human by being a talk show host. Wacky.
Aletheia is the new one we just premiered at the ITF 2017. She is in a cage the whole piece. She is an opera singer who doesn’t want to sing for the patrons and who searches for transcendence thought truly being herself and living her truth.
5. What is your voice type?
I started out as a soprano and I guess I am a mezzo now.
6. And are you concerned about the unique requirements of producing the music for its longevity, or does that motivate you to record, or seek proteges?
Unique it is! I believe that this kind of performance art is the future. Just playing the trombone seems so “one-dimentional” to me now.
I would love to coach students on these works!
It takes tremendous courage (or insanity) to undertake this kind of work. One has to play the trombone, sing, act and move—all at world class levels. No single aspect can be halfway.
William and I are busy making video documentation of our various pieces. Right now we are working on The Mirror which is all pantomime, mask-work and trombone playing. We want musicians of the future to be able to do these works. Every gesture I make is notated in each score. The scores are not just musical scores but also stage directions as well. It is all spelled out.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
Have you ever had a chamber music gig, and SOMEONE was running a bit late?
Ever wanted to play chamber music, but just couldn’t quite seem to schedule 4 or 5 people at the same time?
Or have you ever just wanted a change of pace in one of your programs?
These duos might be just the right thing…
Because the first part is published in BOTH C and Bb transposition (both are included with each purchase), these duos will work in almost any combination:
Flute-Bassoon or Cello
Clarinet-Bassoon or Cello
Trumpet-Trombone or Euphonium
Oboe-Euphonium or Bassoon
(and, of course, bass trombone goes with everything….)
As presented at the 40th International Trumpet Guild Conference in Columbus, Ohio by DUO BRASS-Craig Morris, Peter Wood, Marc Reese & Jason Carder trumpets with David William Brubeck bass trombone. Each of these ten concert duos have been arranged, performed and refined by Brian Neal, solo trumpet of the Dallas Brass, and David Brubeck, bass trombonist. During four seasons, the Brubeck-Neal Duo presented these arrangements in dozens of concerts. A significant milestone in the development of the under-served duo genre. Available NOW from Cherry Classics!
I have personally played these with bass trombone on the second part and
violin, oboe, Bb trumpet and C trumpet on the top part, and the editors for the duos included not only many of the personnel listed above, but also violinists Geremy Miller and Erika Venable, as well as oboist Erin Gittelsohn.
DUO BRASS featuring Marc Reese davidbrubeck.com
If you play chamber music, these just may improve your life, your performance and bring a smile to the faces in your audience. That is why they were created….
J. S. Bach: Air in G, Badinerie, Aria, Two part Invention No. IV & VI, Siciliana
R. Gliere: Berceuse, Op. 39,
L. Beethoven: Fur Elise,
J. Dowland: Flow, My Tears
Traditional Shaker Melody: Simple Gifts.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
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It might seem an impossible mission for some; patch the hole left by the departure of Vern and Jan Kagarice at UNT. Call in Navy specialist Natalie Mannix, recruited from Juilliard by way of Michigan, and your problem is well on its way to being solved. Graceful, assured, powerful, never shaken, and stirring! “1385” tm, the tenor trombonist interview series, heads ashore with Ms. Mannix….Enjoy!
1. What was it like to attend a “Public Ivy” such as Michigan, and how have you found your liberal arts preparation valuable?
Going to a large university was such an important part of my growth as a person and a musician. I have always been interested in many things, so much so that I wasn’t ready to pour all of my energies into trombone at that age. I wanted to experience everything, and I guess I can still stay that. I played in the marching band and hockey band for two years, joined clubs, went to parties with friends, worked toward a pre-med degree, held five part-time jobs and cheered on sports teams. I had a lot of fun but worked very hard. In order to pursue both degrees, I took an overload of credits and took classes two summers. I received a very well-rounded education and enjoyed so many experiences that prepared me for life and the sacrifice of spending the next two years in a practice room.
2. You were ensconced and successful in the DC area, with friends and a hard won reputation. Why North Texas, and how do you see the mission of that school and it’s lauded trombone studio?
I loved my life and career in the Baltimore/DC area, but I thought a new adventure would be very rewarding. I would not have made such a big change for just anywhere. The reputation and culture of UNT really excited me. When I interviewed there I was so impressed with the support from the administration and the faculty members, and the students were so excited to learn. One thing I love about UNT is the autonomy given to the professors to design a curriculum for their students. We have three professors in the trombone studio, five teaching fellows and an adjunct jazz professor. Because of the size of our department, we are able to offer many choices to the students: four trombone choirs, nine trombone quartets, an orchestral excerpt class, a low brass section excerpt class, jazz fundamentals, trombone literature and trombone pedagogy, not to mention the offerings outside the trombone area. We put equal importance on classical and jazz studies since we want our students to be well-rounded musicians when they graduate. The college of music encourages this and offers additional innovative programs to help students be marketable when they graduate, like music entrepreneuriship and performing health.
3. What do you think are the biggest factors that lead to a successful career in music during the transition of having just graduated college with a Bachelor or Masters?
Keep learning! Musicians need to be life-long students in order to be successful. Now that your teachers and friends from college are no longer there all the time, you need to be self-motivated. Go to concerts, take every gig that comes your way, meet people, start your own ensembles, take lessons with professionals in the area, start a teaching studio. If you love it and have the passion to succeed, all of this will be fulfilling. You never know what opportunity will lead to something else. If you are on the orchestra/band performing path, keep taking auditions. Don’t be discouraged by a few negative results. Many trombonists have won great jobs after losing auditions. Be open to ancillary paths that may lead to a musically fulfilling career outside of the one you imagined.
4. What is your secret to a good legato?
The answer for me is part mental, part physical. Dennis Smith, my teacher at Michigan, had the most silky smooth legato. I can still hear it. Every time I hear a soloist play with great legato or a singer shape a beautiful phrase, I try to take a mental recording of it. Imitation has always been a very important part of my learning. For the physical execution of legato, the projection and smoothness of the air stream makes all the difference. If the air has someplace to aim, it becomes smoother and more beautiful. Always focus on the music! Every note goes or comes back from a musical peak in the phrase. For some players, the coordination of slide and tongue is problematic. Record yourself often! Many slide connection problems become obvious when hearing your playing back.
5. What did you learn recording a CD? What would you do the same and differently next time?
I learned that it is nearly impossible to get everything perfect, and that is ok! I am hard on myself when listening to takes. It is especially difficult in a dry recording studio where you hear every little thing. If I record another CD, I would record in a nice hall with good acoustics. It would allow me to enjoy the music more and direct the focus away from my critical thoughts. As I went, I got better at thinking less and focusing on the music more. What I set out to do was get people excited about new composers and new music. To me, that is the most important and rewarding part of recording and performing.
6. What has your rich career in the military added to your resilience and outlook that you emphasize to students?
There were many days in the Navy Band that I struggled with fatigue, the weather or the physical demands. At the end of the day though, I always tried to remember how grateful I was to be able to play trombone for a living. After all, how many people can say that? I try to carry that gratitude with me in every part of my life. It keeps things in perspective. We may find ourselves on some pretty terrible gigs (I once marched dressed like a clown in a rainy parade through Newark, NJ!), but we are still lucky to do what we want for a living. On the same note, I hate to see students take the trombone so seriously that they are brought to tears or depression. Being grateful and remembering the original joy in making music can help with that mindset.
7. When you arrived at Juilliard, did you have the feeling that you should have been there all along, or were you glad that you saved it for grad school?
I am so glad I saved it for grad school. I don’t know if I would have seen it through if I went when I was 18. I didn’t know what I wanted yet, and I wanted to try everything first. I did not have the discipline and drive to put enough hours in the practice room. It was hard enough at the age of 22 when I was totally committed. That being said, what great training it was! The attention I gave the trombone in those two years and everything I learned from Joe Alessi is the basis for everything I can do now.
8. How have your accomplishments on euphonium colored your perspectives on trombone? Euphonium players tend to orient as soloists, where as trombonists are more ensembley oriented as a rule.
I have always been more drawn to solo playing. I fell in love with euphonium for this reason, and I much prefer playing it over trombone in any wind ensemble because of it’s melodic solo lines. I was a self-taught euphonium player. When I competed in the Falcone competition at the age of 18, I didn’t have a teacher, so I listened and played along with recordings to learn the style. At first I borrowed musicality from great soloists then ultimately developed my own. This was great musical training for the trombone. Even in the uniformity of orchestral playing, phrasing and musical style are just as important. Every note has to be musical.
9. How do you achieve such consistent articulation, and what is your ideal of beauty with regards to articulation?
In training to be an orchestral trombonist, consistency is everything: repetitive, but concentrated practice of fundamentals. I used to do attack exercises from the Marsteller Daily Routines book, and if I missed an attack I would start from the beginning. Joe Alessi later reinforced this attention to detail and focused concentration. I took it to a whole new level by playing Arbans every day for three years. I guess you can say that I am a recovering perfectionist!
A beautiful articulation is one that isn’t noticed! The tongue is just a release valve for the air and sound. I use a “do” tongue for most everything, unless needing more percussiveness for contrasting style. Variety in articulation, as well as color and dynamics, are the key to playing expressively. I strive for consistency, so that I always make intentional decisions in the execution of beautiful music.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
Images courtesy of Natalie Mannix and Towson University
The heroes on the screen are telling the story with images while the heroes behind the screen tell it with sound. If you’ve been to the movies more than once, you just may have heard Bob Sanders play..Avatar, X-men, Planet of the Apes…. From big bands to the Hollywood Bowl, live to recorded, the Los Angeles area benefited from some very good vibration from the bell of Mr. Sanders, now you can too! Good & Low Vibrations! “Seven Positions” tm brings you the demur Bob Sanders…Enjoy!
How did things look from your chair in Hoyt Bohannon’s Garage?
Initially, overwhelming! I don’t think I am alone in that. There was this stunning array of trombone players. The music was extraordinarily challenging. The contrast between Hoyt Bohannon and Tommy Pederson’s personalities and their mutual respect and friendship was a joy to behold. This difference was clear in their music. Hoyt’s was largely adaptations and arrangements of orchestral, chamber and vocal music as well as music by great film composers; Tommy’s was mostly original music that reflected his bravura approach to life in general. Alan Kaplan’s Secrets of Hoyts Garage CD and All My Concertos, produced by Jim and Debbie Boltinghouse (JMD Music) illustrate this contrast vividly.
Planet of the Apes – heavy brass section — with Phillip A. Teele, Bill Reichenbach, Bob Sanders, John Van Houten, Dick Nash, Steve Holtman, Alan Kaplan, Alex Iles and Andy Martin.
Neither Tommy nor Hoyt were shy about clarifying the standard they expected – particularly Tommy. Comments like “Who’s the sloppy S.O.B. playing long eighth notes,” “Not your kind of loud,” “Meh!” and “COME ON!!” were interspersed with “Atta boy!” The signature stylistic element of the Garage was the pretty much constant slide vibrato – in ensemble, not just soloistically. Bass trombone, not so much, but it was mandatory for tenors! Hoyt felt, “the string section vibrates, so should we.” This was a deal breaker for some.
(More from Bob on Hoyt Bohannon, Tommy Pederson and the Garage at the end)
How would you compare the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra to the Pacific Symphony?
Their missions are different. Pacific Symphony is just that, a symphony orchestra. It plays, perhaps, a better than average pops concert because many of its members are also active the LA commercial music industry, but it’s focus is on standard (and new) orchestral repertoire. The HBO was formed to augment the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s summer season at the Bowl; the standard orchestral heavy lifting was and is done by the Phil. The HBO is focused on popular music, film music and concert music by composers usually associated with those genres. We would usually perform a semi-staged musical each summer, occasionally an opera. We toured Japan every other year for a while. What I loved most about the HBO was that we treated every style we performed seriously and respectfully; the HBO recorded catalogue reflects that. That is not always the case with other orchestras.
What do you look for in a horn, and how did it change over the years?
In the 70’s, I was pretty much a “big band” bass trombonist; I looked for “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” equipment. In the 80’s, I began doing a lot of symphony, opera and ballet work; movie scores became more “orchestral” and my equipment choices changed accordingly – I moved towards a broader, weightier sound. Y2K found me struggling with focal dystonia, so for the next fourteen years, ease of production became paramount. Regardless of all of that, what I look for in a horn is efficiency, resonance and “character” – without a lot of peripheral fluff – “core” is good.
How would you describe the courage playing brass, and perhaps bass trombone in particular, requires?
Bob Sanders with Lloyd Ulyate
The classic description of recording work is “90% boredom, 10% terror.” It can be quite stressful sometimes. Legendary golfer, Harry Vardon, reputedly said “There are only two types of player—those who keep their nerves under control and win championships, and those who do not.” The music business is like that. Roy Main, who taught scores of successful trombonists out here, told me “Anything you are not used to doing will make you nervous” – experience has a lot to do with it.
A lot of the time, our part is not all that obvious to the listener and we feel safe; but all too frequently, there is no doubt in the room as to “who did that?” Sometimes you have play something that is not in your wheelhouse and there is no escape; that can be scary. And it is different with recording and live playing. A concert can be nerve-wracking but when it’s over, it’s over; the whole world can listen to the same recorded clam for the next 20 years in re-runs. My favorite bit of dialogue from Bridge of Spies comes to mind: “You don’t seem alarmed.” – “Would it help?”
What impact did George Roberts have on your life and musicianship?
Well, his musical examples are numerous and seminal. He blazed the trail for us all. He was a great player of melody’s. While I can play a melody, nearly everything I do is as an ensemble musician. George’s ensemble playing was the biggest influence on me: in tune, in time, in balance and in character. As an example, when George was starting out, his reputation was as a “jazzer” – not really qualified for “legit” dates. He got a last-minute call because a bass trombone player had walked off a session. He races down there and Igor Stravinsky is on the podium – surprise, surprise! – it’s a “legit” date! So there’s a exposed duo passage with bass trombone and harp (which may have precipitated the other guy’s exit). Stravinsky stops the take and says to the harpist, “He’s right, you’re wrong – play with him.” That put George on the map as a “legit” player in the studios from then on.
One of the things about bass trombonists is we don’t see each other much – there is usually just one of us. (That is less true now with the very large sections that are sometimes called.) I did not have a lot of up close and personal time with him at work. I did go down to Bones West, which he founded, several times early on and had a more than few beers and cheeseburgers with him after rehearsals.
George’s generous spirit certainly had an impact on me. One of the few times we were in the section together, very early in my career, George paid me a wonderful compliment: “most guys would be pretty nervous.” Made my day! Another example of his generosity was at ITF at Ithaca College in 2004. Charlie Vernon was going to do a presentation of some sort, but realized that both George and Ed Kleinhammer were in the house and switched it to an impromptu panel discussion with these two icons. George, seeing me in the audience, beckoned me to join them on the stage; needless to say, I demurred; but it was really sweet.
What are your fondest memories from the recording studios? Music, people and situations?
Some of the most fun I’ve had at work (and some not insignificant nostalgia now) was the Flying Circus cue from James Horner’s great score to The Rocketeer. BTW, Horner was a huge part of my career. He was very loyal to me for the better part of 20 years; that is not always the case in this business. It is sad he left us so soon. I started doing movie work right around when George Roberts had moved to Reno for a period of time (another reason for not much face time with him). I found myself starting to work with Dick Nash, Lloyd Ulyate and Tommy Johnson for several composers – sitting where George had been. Again, talk about generosity of spirit! They were wonderful; showing me the ropes, telling when to keep my mouth shut (very important) and taking me to their time-honored lunch dives. That reminds me of the only “lesson” George ever gave me: “Play great, smile a lot and keep your mouth shut!” I think he used that line with a lot of young players.
One of my favorite memories is of Tommy Johnson’s impish sense of humor. Having just purchased a new contrabass trombone, I brought it to work one day to show it off to Phil Teele. Phil, Tommy and I were working together on Elmer Bernstein’s score to Wild Wild West (the Will Smith movie). My part was quite low and Phil kept nudging me and whispering repeatedly, “Sell the contra, sell the contra!” So . . . I asked Mr. Bernstein if he would like to hear the part on the contrabass trombone. He replied, “I don’t know, what does a contrabass trombone sound like?” As I was reaching for the instrument to demonstrate, Tommy spoke up, “It sounds like a CIMBASSO!” When all we stopped laughing, I played a pretty good pedal C and the contra was “sold.”
On another memorable occasion, on a Thursday evening, I received a call from a copyist friend, asking if I was aware that I would be (re)recording the tuba solo from Jaws on a movie date Monday morning – I was not. He thought that was asking a lot of a bass trombonist and I agreed! He faxed me the part, I practiced nothing else for the intervening 3 days and survived the session, even receiving a chorus of “yo, Bob” from my colleagues. It’s good to have friends (and an F tuba).
What is your secret to a monster low register?
Heavy lips and copious, immediate, but SLOW air; nothing kills low notes like fast air. I should clarify what I mean by “slow.” I feel the terms “slow” and “fast” are frequent used imprecisely. Many folks say “fast” air when they mean “high flow rate” air. “Fast” is measured in distance over time – the time it takes one molecule to go from point A to point B – feet per second. “Flow” is measured in volume over time – the number of molecules that move past point C in a unit of time – liters per minute. These are two very different quantities and usually mutually exclusive. So, when I say “slow” airflow I mean “Mississippi River” airflow, not “fire hose” airflow. Some adjectives I use (borrowed from I can’t remember whom) include “hot, humid, germ-laden” air. Hopefully, this pedantry won’t ignite an online pedagogic conflagration.
Who is the best trombonist you have ever heard live? Jazz trombonist? That’s a tough one; there are way too many. I will say that Bill Booth, during the recital he split with Tommy Johnson at UCLA in 1992, is in the running for the best I ever heard live; check out his CD, Balancing Act. Not being an improviser, I don’t feel I have the “vocabulary” to really comment cogently on jazz trombonists, and again, there are so many; but I have certainly enjoyed working with and listening to Andy Martin and Bob McChesney.
Hoyt’s a long time ago. — with Loren Marsteller, Steve Holtman, Hoyt Bohannon, Alan Kaplan, Tommy Pederson, Rick Culver, John Leys and Morris Repass.
Where do you see the direction of the bass trombone heading, and what advice do you give to younger players?
The state of the art is advancing so rapidly it amazes me. Also, there seems to be a trend towards multi-instrumentalism. That said, I do feel some nostalgia for the bass trombone as a specialty instrument. There is a plethora of doublers these days and I feel something is lost. But I have been as “guilty” as the next guy; it is the way of the world; bills must be paid. The more you bring to the party . . .
My advice for young players? The standard keeps getting higher and the market keeps shrinking at the same time it is globalizing. It’s going to become more and more competitive with each passing year. If you can imagine doing something else for a living, do that. There are many ways to have fulfilling musical life without doing it for a living. If you cannot imagine doing anything else for a living, get serious – yesterday! Find great teachers. Inhabit the most competitive musical community you can find. Buy a tuba – practice it. Become as fluent in as many musical genres as possible. Compare yourself to the best and take it to the next level. There is absolutely zero guarantee of success, but somebody is going to be doing this and there’s no reason it can’t be you.
c. 2017 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
Photos courtesy of Bob sanders
MORE ON HOYT, TOMMY and THE GARAGE..
Some folks may not know what “Hoyt’s Garage” was. From 1946, Hoyt Bohannon hosted trombone ensemble rehearsals; from 1951, they took place in his garage, hence the. In the mid-fifties, Tommy Pederson joined the group; the rest is history. Hoyt’s Garage link http://www.alankaplan.org/hoyts-garage/
Hoyt was on staff at Warner Brothers for more than a decade, principal trombone of the Glendale Symphony, a featured soloist with Harry James, played with Paul Whiteman and freelanced in LA for years. Leopold Stokowski programmed the Nathaniel Shilkret Concerto for Trombone to be performed July 28, 1945 at the Hollywood Bowl. Tommy Dorsey had premiered the work earlier that year, but a fee for Mr. Dorsey could be agreed. So 27 year-old Army Air Corps Sergeant, Hoyt Bohannon was tapped to replace Dorsey.
Pullman Gerald “Tommy” Pederson, the self-proclaimed “foremost authority on the art of playing the trombone” was way, way, way larger than life. He went the road with Orrin Tucker’s band at the age of 13, moved to LA six years later a was a first-call trombone player for more than two decades thereafter. He composed over 300 works for solo trombone and trombone ensemble and arranged works such as Ravel’s Alborado del Gracioso, Albeniz’ El Puerto and Festival of Seville (from Iberia Suite) and Debussy’s Prelude (from Suite Bergamasque) for trombones. His record All My Friends Are Trombone Players should be in every trombonist’s library. Michelle Poland Devlin’s doctoral dissertation, https://tinyurl.com/yd4yghhr, is a gold mine of information about Tommy! There is a wonderful video of Tommy playing Flight of the Bumblebee on the Spike Jones TV show here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzuVX7J9RN8.