This six-page article is the first of a three part series on “Relaxation and Resonance”, which also includes “Trombone Slide Motion, An Alternate Position” RELAXATION AND RESONANCE PART I http://www.davidbrubeck.com/2013/03/trombone-slide-motion-an-alternate-position-reprint-from-the-journal-of-the-international-trombone-association/ and “A Sumo and a Loaf of Bread? Brass Articulation”-RELAXATION AND RESONANCE part III http://www.davidbrubeck.com/2013/03/brass-articulation-a-sumo-with-a-loaf-of-bread/
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“Dr. Campbell was an amazing musician and a great teacher. “Doc”, as we used to call him in lessons, always wanted the best for each and every one of his students. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to know him and to study with him during my years at UM.
“Doc” was always pushing me as much as much as he could to be as musical as possible, as he did for all his students, and to become a better musician AND artist!
Thinking back, I was also fortunate enough to perform some of his works, including these etudes, and one of his trombone quartets.
I feel honored and privileged to have worked with Dr. Campbell throughout my college education while a student at the university of Miami.
I will always remember Dr. Campbell as one of the great teachers I had.”
c. 2020 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved
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We are pleased to present the first of “Thirty Contemporary Etudes” for trombone composed by Charles J. Campbell. As part of his on going legacy of excellent service to the trombone community, david brubeck.com graciously acknowledges his widow, Mrs. Eileen Campbell, and her support of our efforts. Enjoy….
c. 2020 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved
Image courtesy of Mrs. Eileen Campbell
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Rumor has it the guitar is almost complete, a stunning skyscraper. Could it be a monument to Miami’s Own Duo Brubeck? We’ll keep our eyes out for the construction of a bass trombone, and let you know! (Any bass trombone the size of a mailbox post or larger counts!) Find out more at the FREE Duo Brubeck concert Tuesday Night, September 10th at Studio 18 in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Refreshments to be served…Grooves on hand….Lindsey Blair plugged in… and bass trombone mailbox post donations may even be accepted.
Join Duo Brubeck for an art exhibit of the AURAL kind! Be on hand for an artistic exploration of grooves with your favorite curators, Lindsey Blair & David Brubeck. From Bossa Novas to Swing, Funk to Fusion, Mambos to Waltzes, dive into the rhythms of Duo Brubeck in this interactive presentation which features the stunning duo in live performance within the beautiful visual arts studio that is STUDIO 18!
Be on hand from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at 1101 Poinciana Drive, Pembroke Pines, FL 33025 to dip your ears into a whole new palette of rhythms!
David Brubeck and Lindsey Blair are two of our most illustrious alumni! DUO BRUBECK is a really interesting combination of instruments that will blow your mind….it really, REALLY works!
-University of Miami Frost School of Music Jazz Hour-WDNA 88.9 FM
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Consider the string quartet; four matched timbres. Perhaps, this is only achievable in brass by matching two trumpets and two trombones in a quartet-but the extra duty on the trumpet players makes this setting a formidable challenge. And what of the mighty resonance of the tuba-(not to mention that it is an adopted child of the trombone section)? But the traditional quintet has some limitations as well. Just now and again, you might have felt a bit of a gap in the timbres: perhaps from horn to trumpet or horn to trombone. Here and there a ten piece could fill out the timbre, or perhaps the rarer still, a sextet. Until now… Until SE-VEN brass? Until SEPTURA! As though divinely inspired and appointed, the NAXOS recording artists plunge ahead to weave their unique timbrel combinations in a Kaleidoscope of sonic delight. “Five!” tm, is swelled with pride to present Septura. Enjoy……..
1. Why not a Quintet? Are there advantages or disadvantages to going another route? [MK]: The main driving force behind the septet configuration was the sound concept. The brass section of the orchestra (which is what the septet is) can create such a wonderful homogenous sound, almost organ-like, and that is something that we had never experienced with the existing brass chamber formations of quintet and ten-piece. The lone horn in those formations offers the potential of a different sound (because the instrument works differently, pointing backwards with the player’s hand in the bell), but it makes true homogeneity difficult. The advantage of having seven instruments is that we have 3 trumpets and 3 trombones, so we can create that truly blended sound, with the tuba providing a rich bass. And we think that we get plenty of variety in the sound, from different combinations of those instruments, and by using a lot of mutes, so there really is no downside compared to the quintet.
2. The British Bass Sound! How would you describe it? How do you make it happen? How is it different than the Berliners or the Chicagoans? (Are there any Conns involved…)
[SC]: In Britain we are trained from a very young age to learn how to play together – in particular we place great importance on blending our sounds, so that ensembles and orchestral brass sections can almost sound like a single entity. A lot of this comes from our backgrounds in the brass band movement, but we also have a long tradition of choral singing in this country which might have an influence. Of course Berliners and Chicagoans make wonderful sounds – perhaps the use of different equipment (e.g. rotary or C trumpets) is what makes us different.
In Septura we particularly work on the link between the trumpets and trombones, trying to match our sounds as closely as possible, so the trumpets often try to sound broader in order to blend ‘downwards’, and the trombones can use a more lively articulation to match up with us.
3. A democratic rehearsal, even with just four or five players is a challenge. With Seven, you are definitely on the border. Do you find that there needs to be a first among equals to have a productive rehearsal with 7?
If so, how is the leadership approached?
[MK]: We are lucky to have on board the finest brass musicians from London, and some of the best players in the world. So there is no doubt that everyone’s opinion is valued, and it is crucial to the success of the group that everyone takes ownership of musical issues and contributes fully to forming a coherent vision for every piece of music.
However, Simon and I do all of the arrangements for the group, and that involves absolutely immersing ourselves in the particular piece that we are arranging. Inevitably we end up knowing the piece very well, and having a strong sense of how we want it to be realised by Septura. We produce extremely detailed arrangements, taking great care over tempos, articulations, and different expressions and colours. And so a great deal of what might be considered the “interpretation” is already in the parts when we get to the first rehearsals.
That doesn’t mean we’re not open to other ideas – often things are debated and we end up changing our minds in practice. Also, we’re aiming for true chamber music, so nothing is set in stone – every concert is different, and if a particular player phrases something differently one night, or uses a little more rubato another then we all embrace it.
4. How do you approach selecting the arrangements for the group?
Our primary aim is to make our arrangements sound like original works for brass – we want audiences to believe that these pieces could actually have been written for us. So when we’re searching for repertoire we have to discard anything that we can’t easily imagine as brass music – sometimes this means we have to reject pieces that we’ve become quite attached to, but it’s worth it in the end.
5. What is your favorite movie music?
[MK]: For brass players composers like Hans Zimmer are favourites – he tends to use a lot of low brass in particular. In terms of incredibly well-crafted writing for brass John Williams is totally unique. But personally the composer who always seemed to create the most beautiful brass sound was John Barry – the theme from Out of Africa is something I always enjoy playing.
In Septura we don’t play any film music, but we do play its precursors – the Sinfonia of Handel’s Rinaldo, which vividly depicts Goffredo’s army tumbling into a volcano, is the film music of it’s day; and Debussy’s programmatic Préludes conjure such strong images, such as the sunken cathedral of Ys rising up from the sea.
6. How did you conceive of the group, and how long did it take until your vision was realized?
[SC]: I had the idea to form Septura in early 2011, when I was working in Finland as a member of the Helsinki Philharmonic. Although I was enjoying orchestral playing, it started to feel like I was spending a lot of my time counting rests and watching my colleagues have all the fun! So I decided chamber music was the answer, and moved back to the UK to start the group.
I decided to develop our artistic approach through a PhD at the Royal Academy of Music, and the group launched in 2014 with its first recording and concerts. Since then we’ve undertaken performances all over the world, and recorded a further 7 CDs. Almost 9 years after the initial idea I would say the vision still isn’t 100% realised (in particular we would love to work with some of the most prominent living composers to develop original repertoire for brass septet), but we’re well on the way.
7. Which brass, and other chamber musicians, have influenced you the most and why?
[MK] We all grew up listening to the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, and in the UK they were the group that really put brass chamber music on the map. One of the things that was really remarkable about them was that as well as playing some fantastic arrangements they commissioned a huge amount of music, some of it from really great composers like Lutoslawski. Commissioning is something that we still aim to do much more of. The influence of Philip Jones is really felt very far and wide – on our recent tour to Japan we met many people who were fans of PJBE, and hold British brass playing in high esteem as a result. So really that group has laid the foundations for everything that we do.
Outside of brass groups we are influenced by a huge range of chamber musicians. It depends what repertoire we are arranging or performing at the time, but, for example, the Gallicantus recording of Lassus’s Lagrime di San Pietro had an enormous influence on the style in which we tried to play that piece.
8. Which types of trumpets do you use for different situations? (piccolo in A or Bb, G cornet, Eb trumpet, C, etc..) How do you handle the violin parts?
[SC] Our standard trumpet line up is 2 B-flat trumpets and 1 E-flat. This allows us to achieve a good blend of sound with the trombones, but also gives us the range needed to tackle some of the trickier music we play (e.g. violin parts). Occasionally we’ll use piccolo trumpet (usually in B-flat), flugelhorn or cornet to find a different colour.
9. What is your concept of matching lines so well, whether from choir to choir or a seamless hand off of a line?
It’s very simple, we just try to listen to each other!
We often have lines that in the original piece would have been in a single instrument, and in arrangement we have to split up between two or more, and we try to make it sound like one by copying the sound and phrasing of the previous player.
It doesn’t always work out, but when it does it’s incredibly satisfying.
As with lots of brass playing, there is a huge amount of satisfaction in trying to make something quite simple sound really good.
c. 2019 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved. www.davidbrubeck.com
Images courtesy of NAXOS
Interested in more GREAT Chamber music interviews? Try these!
When the music is the most important thing, taste triumphs technique and the whole is more than its parts-you will need a virtuoso ensemble player. Someone who melds their skills, musical and non-musical, to make the whole even greater. A virtuoso ensemble player like Astrid Caroline Ellann. With a sound big enough to consume a fjord, “Seven Positions” celebrates a wonderful young bass trombonist who was refined in in the Netherlands, only to achieve great success as part of the Norwegian ensemble ten Thing! Enjoy….How do you view the bass trombone, and what drew you to it? 1. I view the bass trombone as my tool to express my musical intent, and it’s were I feel at home. Because of it’s range the instrument gives you freedom, flexibility and versatility to be sometimes delicate and light as a feather to a heavy (and sometimes brutal) monster.
How I ended up on bass trombone as my instrument of choice was a game of chance, or luck, depending on how you see it. In my local school band (which was a standard British style brass band) they needed bass trombone so I left the euphonium chair and joined the bass-clef-squad. So unfortunately there was no moment of a greater calling which would have looked neatly in writing just a situation of an empty band chair.
2. Solo playing, chamber music and large ensemble playing; which is your favorite and why?I absolutely love chamber music, playing chamber music gives me energy and I feel like I’m very much in my comfort zone. I can easily get a chamber music high! As for solo playing – I’m not a very extroverted person so being the center of attention has never really been my thing. However when ever I have to be a soloist I like to see the accompaniment as my equal in chamber music to be able to feel more like home. Larger ensembles like planying in orchestras are fun, and I usually have time to enjoy the genuine qualities of the other instruments of the orchestra and possibly also learn some musical quirkes from them in the process.
3. Who have been your main influences on your instrument, and what main point have you taken from each? My main influences have been the musicians I have studied with which also are among the current bass trombone heros like Ben van Dijk and Brandt Attema.
But of course I have looked to my collegues in tenThing brass ensemble, and spefically Tine Thing Helseth. I think with all of them I have looked at the ease of playing, musical interpetations and the joy while doing it. Inspiration comes with musical qualties, attitude or just the pure joy of playing. All of them of which are elements I enjoy while listening to others when they play, whether its a bass trombonist, cellist, trumpeter or pianist.
4. What is your secret to a good legato? Difficult question! I usually try to remove any technical challenges that would disturb the listeners experience of the music I’m playing. The goal is that the audience will think about the nice music rather than: “that’s pretty good trombone playing”. I record myself to double check that what I think I’m playing correspond to what’s actually happening. Usually it all breaks down to airflow, timing, efficiency of movement and a clear musical idea of style and intent.
5. What was it like to visit the Thein factory and hand-select a custom bass trombone? What drew you to Thein? My current teacher played on Thein, and my Bach had to go to repair and I got to borrow one of my teachers instruments, and I fell in love with the feel of the instrument. And I suddenly got some inheretence and I had the finances to actually buy one for myself. Going to the Thein factory is a very calming experience, where they will never try to sell you something that is not your best option. Meaning if you have equipment that is better sounding then the trombone setup they offer, they advise to stick with what you have. But they always find something better for you. When you go to Thein they try to change the instrument to make you better. Which is different from the practice room where you try to change or develop yourself to make the instrumeny sound better. I always feel very well taken care of when I go to Thein and after all these years I’m still very much in love with my Thein bass trombone.
c. 2019 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davidbrubeck.com
image courtesy of Astri Caroline Ellann-Facebook
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“Miami’s Own” Duo Brubeck will return to WDNA, the home of serious jazz, and the University of Miami, Frost School of Music Jazz Hour on Thursday August 1st at 11:00 am. The group, featuring Lindsey Blair on guitar and David Brubeck on bass trombone, will present an hour long live performance intermingled with short interviews by host Chuck Bergeron-an outstanding jazz bassist and Professor at the University.
Featuring Lindsey Blair, is an exciting and innovative jazz duo that celebrates the rich tradition of the jazz guitar and trombone duo, with a twist! A favorite of numerous local concert series (Music in Miami, Cleveland Clinic Distinguished Artsists, Arts & Letters Day, Christ Church, Arts in Miami….) and international festivals, Duo Brubeck has also appeared with the Miami Civic Chorale and been featured at the Coral Gables Museum and on jazz radio station WDNA FM.
Was selected by Miami New Times as Best Jazz Musician 2011. As an official guitarist for Sábado Gigante with Don Francisco, Lindsey Blair has played alongside Daddy Yankee, but it was Wes Montgomery who got him started on the guitar, and jazz is where his heart is. The Indiana native studied at the University of Miami for his bachelor and master degrees, and he has toured with Maynard Ferguson and played with Dizzy Gillespie. Blair also has collaborated with Gloria and Emilio Estefan including a performance onstage with Miami Sound Machine for Super Bowl XLI. Blair’s current chart-topping album, “All Wes All Day” is extraordinary! Lindsey Blair also serves as a guitarist at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and with Duo Brubeck.
David William Brubeck
Graduated with distinction from Northwestern University, where he was appointed to teach in his senior year. Brubeck was the first three-time All-American college musician recognized by Walt Disney, and has performed with Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles (Recording), Barry Gibb, The Bolshoi Ballet, ABT, Larry Elgart (Featured Soloist), Tex Beneke and as a featured artist at the conferences of the International Trumpet Guild, International Trombone Association, International Tuba and Euphonium Association and International Euphonium and Tuba Festival. Brubeck’s compositions have been performed and recorded around the globe and he serves as a trombonist in the Miami City Ballet Orchestra and with Duo Brubeck. Brubeck is also music director for Broward’s premier youth chamber music and orchestra, www.YouthAllStar.Org
c. 2019 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved
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Take ten brass, luxurious arrangements, add an inspiring leader, and a magical blend of friendship and musicianship and you are just scratching the surface… Join Tine Thing and her fantastic tenThing dectet as they pay homage to the large brass ensembles past while charting a whole new course. “Five!” tm, the chamber music interview series, doubles down on this fantastic “ten-tet”-Enjoy…
Please introduce us to the members of the group.
1. Trumpet, Tine Thing Helseth: World renowned trumpet soloist.
2. Trumpet (Eb), Maren Tjernsli:
Works as a trumpet player in the Norwegian Army Band, also work as a conductor for a school band and gives trumpet lessons.
3. Trumpet (C and Bb), Guro Bjørnstad Kraft:
Work as a freelance trumpet player, who enjoys playing in many different genres, and have worked with many of the major orchestras in Norway.
4. Flugel horn, Elin Kurverud:
Professional brass pedagogue and work with talent development at Barratt Due Institute of Music. She is also instructs and conducts Torshovkorpset, a band for people with special needs.
5. Horn, Lena Wik:
Work as a freelance orchestral horn player, and have worked with many of the major orchestras in Scandinavia and Germany.
6. Tenor trmb, Ingebjørg Klovholt:
Is a brass pedagogue and school band conductor, in addition and work as a freelance trombonist, and play in different kind of chamber music ensembles and orchestras.
7. Tenor trmb, Frøydis Aslesen:
Is a brass pedagogue, conductor and play in different kind of ensembles, both classical and jazz.
8. Tenor trmb, Tone Christin Lium Røssland:
Is a brass pedagogue, instructor, conductor and is also working as a freelance trombonist.
9. Bass trombone, Astri Karoline Ellann:
Is a brass pedagogue, work as a freelance bass trombonist, play in different kinds of orchestras and ensembles and work in the talent development department of Kongsberg Kulturskole.
10. Tuba, Karin Nordli:
Is a brass pedagogue and spend her time teaching and conducting a new generation of musicians.
2. tenThing is a great name. did it inspire the number of players? & It is not quite a double quintet, Why a third tenor trombone, and not a second French horn? TenThing is a play on the name of Tine’s surname. Her name is Thing, and we are 10 players, it also reflects that we are a classical brass ensemble in the standard formation of Philip Jones brass ensemble (4 trumpet, 1 french horn, 4 trombones and 1 tuba).
3. How do you handle the trumpet rotation in the group? Are there Bb or A piccolos, g cornet, or Eb trumpets involved? We use 2 C trumpets, 1 Eb and 1 flugel horn. We use Eb trumpet instead of piccolo because we find the sound of Eb trumpet blends better in the section. Occasionally we also use Bb trumpet. The flugel horn is used as a connection between the trumpet section and the horn.
4. How big of a deal is chemistry? Tine, which musicians have you known the longest and the least? Chemistry is everything! Even though we have very different personalities we give each others space to be ourselves. The core idea is that everyone have equal value, and we support each others to be safe both off and on stage.
Tine: The four trumpet girls came up with the idea of the ensemble, and invited some friends to join. It started as a fun project, and it still is 😉 Lena is the newest, but she’s been with us for 7 years….
5. Which brass groups have been your inspirations? (More than 6), Large: Philip Jones Brass ensemble
Mnozil brass German Brass
& Smaller (Less than 6)
Brazz Brothers (Norwegian Brass quintet)
In general, we have got a lot of inspiration from the many different kinds of string ensembles around the world.
6. Who handles the arrangements, and how much do you keep the audience in mind when selecting them? We our very own arranger, Jarle Storløkken, who arranges all of our music. Tine trusts her gut feeling when it comes to selecting music! It’s all about finding a mix of music audiences knows very well, and music that audience will remember and fall in love with. Trying to find a balance between the genres as well.
7. Is the “British Style” band instrumentation big in Norway? (Cornets, baritones, euphoniums, Eb and Be tubas, etc…) & why did you choose a more traditional orchestral instrumentation? Standard british brass bands are very popular in Norway, mentioning Eikanger-Bjørsvik musikklag and Manger musikklag who have both the European championship several times. Many of the members in tenThing have played in brass bands. As we studied to be professional musicians on brass instruments it was natural that the ensemble ended up to consist of traditional orchestral instruments.
8. Given the spectrum of everyone in a tuxedo or uniform, to everyone dress as a different character, where do you find your current thinking heading on how to dress an ensemble? We try to keep to a category of color codes and try break up the traditional way of dressing for classical concerts. The main point is that we dont wear anything that will disturb the musical expression.
9. How do you handle rehearsals? Is there one or two people in charge, a collaborative effort, a rehearsal conductor?
Tine is leading is leading the rehearsals, and she has the overall artistic responsibility. However the other members of the group also come input for things they feel need attention.
10. Ken Amis, of the Empire Brass, has striven to learn more about playing for non-musicians. Does this concept resonate with you? We want the audience to have a enjoyable concert experience regardless of them being musicians or not. With this in mind we sometimes break the barrier between the stage and the audience and actually walk among them while playing. We havent given this a specific thought, but we play music we would like to listen to ourselves, which results in reflection about how to balance the program.
11. When forming the group, and replacing people as they move in and out, what characteristics are you looking for in a person/musician? Implicit that the musician has a high level on her instrument we look for a person that will fit in our social enviroment. This is an aspect that is very important since when we are on tour we live basically on top of each others.
12. Your set up included the basses at the center, and the soloist on the outer profile. Did this come naturally, or was it the result of trial and error? It was a very natural choice to have the bass section in the middle as we dont have percussion, the basses are many times in the role of driving the tempo, and all the musicians need equal connection to this engine of the group. In addition it solves a lot of tuning issues.
13. Your video presentations have very high production and editing values. Can you talk about the importance and challenges of high quality video presentation? We have been in the very lucky situation where different tv productions have been made for us, which resulted in very high quality video presentations. By ourselves we have limited knowledge and technology to make high quality videos, having these professional videos give us an important marketing tool where people can from all over the world see us as a serious ensemble. Today the quality of live recordings from phones are good enough for us to send out little teasers to our social media platforms.
14. Tine, this was an inspired idea. Can you address the fruits of pursuing an idea and investing your time and talent, and how it has paid off?
It’s incredible to think about where this ensemble started and what it is now. We had our first concert on my 20th birthday, and it’s been an amazing journey since that. TenThing has absolutely shaped me as an artistic leader. It’s been a challenge that has made me grow as a musician and leader. The feeling of the sound and musical trust that we have in our ensemble is something I’m very proud of! My solo schedule is of course quite busy, but I’m very happy that we get to do a couple of tours a year! It’s been incredible to bring my friends (that’s what they are basically!) to places all around the world and share concert stages I normally visit on my own.
15. How do you divvy up duties within the group, who handles what? We have 1 person for social media platforms, 2-3 persons for planning with managment and budget, we also have one person to search and apply for funding for certain projects (to for example lower the costs of transport/ logistics) and Tine is the artistic leader of the group.
16. Your arrangements seem fresh, and often use restraint, alternating between a few voices and the collective. Is this a conscious choice? Our arranger Jarle Storløkken is making all the choices for these kind of musical decisions and it always works very well, even though it sometimes streches the limits of the player. But we always rise to the challenge.
17. MEMORIZATION! What a commitment, but also an enhancement in performance experience and the visual aspects of performance. What did it take to have 10 people memorize a set of brass music? All the players have their own preference of learn music by memory, so we all do our homework as best as we can before we start rehearsing. And in the rehearsal we have a lot of run throughs of the music in question in order to learn the others parts so you can recognize our personal part.
c. 2019 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved www.davdibrubeck.com
From ahead of you, calls the voice of a storyteller: equal parts Slaughter and Pilafian; leads a pioneer, for women, for new music, for women in brass; she beckons the scholar, did you know? The coastal trail is just ahead, from the wind swept shores of the Carolinas to the azured interior, Dr. Joanna Hersey beckons, leads and calls…can you hear it? “The Fourth Valve” tm is delighted to present the masterful JHR, enjoy!
1. Tell us about “Shatterdome”. What inspired it? How did you arrive at the palette of timbres, harmonies and rhythms?
When I was ready to make my first solo recording I knew I had a point to make. I wanted to showcase an entire album for tuba of music by women, my own and others. If I could do it on tuba, if this music was available to be found, then certainly anyone on any instrument could program it. It doesn’t matter if someone programs only music by women, but the most common argument is folks don’t know where to find it, or think what’s out there won’t be good. So with O quam mirabilis, which I released in 2009, I wanted to do a somewhat normal classical album, with the goal of introducing new rep, so there’s Alma Mahler, and Libby Larsen, and music of a young composer named Portia Njoku.
After that was released I felt like I could do more what was calling to me, which was joining the movement of electronic sounds. For me, the loud and explosive side of that movement isn’t my style, I saw there was a place for a more gentle mix, the tuba is inside or even under the electronic element at times. That album, Zigzags, from 2015, was an exploration. “Shatterdome” was one of four new tuba and electronic tracks composed for the album. featuring collaboration through both composition and improvisation. “Shatterdome”was inspired by the drama in film writing at climactic moments when good and evil collide and dark forces are at work, utilizing low resonances and long, lyrical phrases. Composer and electronic musician William Bendrot worked with me, and he and I exchanged ideas, we would each try something, and then expand it, and sometimes I would improvise over chords he set out. He would take my motives and rhythmic elements and layer them into the texture, then I would create melodies. It was really fun to just listen and respond as a player, and see what came out of it.
2. What drew you to Vaudeville? What were the best and worst of it for women bands?
It all started with my doctoral dissertation, I wanted to showcase women making music in America before WW2. By the Second World War women were getting a toe into the business, and that has been well-researched, but before that we really know very little. So women brass music before 1940? What was happening? I divided my findings up into the categories of large ensemble (orchestral and band), soloists, and small ensemble playing. The small ensemble playing was the most surprising, and I fell upon an amazing source. The University of Iowa has an amazing collection, more than one thousand boxes of materials, from the vaudeville era touring circuit (visit the Redpath Chautauqua Collectionhere: http://sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/traveling-culture/inventory/MSC150.html) and this is a treasure trove of publicity flyers, photos, concert programs and all types of memorabilia from vaudeville touring groups.
It was interesting that because it was a variety show, the idea was to present something for everyone. So it was actually much more egalitarian that one would imagine for the turn of the century. While racially segregated, minority chamber groups were able to work, as were women’s groups. All that mattered was that it was entertaining, so it was more diverse by a lot than classical music at the time. These women’s bands and small groups were paid professionals, and they toured an established circuit, often by train. Now it probably wasn’t that comfortable, but they got to play their horns and see the country, and make their music on a national stage. By the time motion pictures began, and Hollywood became a new center for entertainment, these touring shows died out for the most part. I wrote about this in a book called “Women’s Bands in America: Performing Music and Gender”, edited by Jill Sullivan.
3. What was your most memorable discovery writing about the SPAR band? Who were the driving musical forces behind it?
When I was in the United States Coast Guard Band, I worked in the music library. One day, I found a photo of an all-female drum and bugle corps taken in front of the White House, wearing Coast Guard Uniforms. I was astonished. How could this have happened, but I knew nothing about it? So I asked around and found the Coast Guard historians who could tell me about the amazing group of women in the SPAR Band, and the other bands of the other services who worked alongside them.
The SPAR Band is part of a massive musical effort, the first of its kind in American music. The American engagement in World War II forced the government leadership to admit that to win a war in the Pacific and Atlantic, women were needed in the civilian and military workforce. For the first time in U.S. history, women became part of a military strategy. Temporary women’s units were formed for all branches of the military, and a variety of jobs became open to women, such as positions in military bands. These bands performed across the nation assisting the war effort. Their work marching in parades and performing concerts throughout the country resulted in the sale of millions of dollars of war bonds to the American public. Their presence on military bases and across America’s small towns gave comfort to those torn apart by war. In their collateral duties, they drove ambulances, worked as nurses, visited hospitals, filed paperwork and organized supply chains.
After the war, these women were immediately transitioned out of the military. For the next thirty years, military bands were again all-male. It was not until the mid-1970s that women again were able to hold positions in the U.S. military band system. This project became a chapter in the book “Bands of Sisters: U.S. Military Bands During World War II”, edited by Jill Sullivan, who also edited the book where I wrote about the vaudeville bands. I interviewed the living members of the band, who sent me their photos and memories, and a rare recording or two. The most surprising to me was how the whole program was just cancelled. They had these amazing bands, with this beautiful camaraderie, that were supporting the military and non-service communities alike, and they just closed them and kicked all the women out. Their use was over. Bands were supposed to be just men.
4. Tuba/Euph. Quartet Vs. Brass Quintet; what is the best and worst of each?
Brass Quintet is good because people accept it as a more normal ensemble grouping, like for a recital series or something. I like quintet but it can be very challenging to stand out, there are a million quintets! And to be the tubist, responsible for keeping the pitch center on track, can be a challenge. People also have varying ideas of what proper balance should be in quintet, which can be an issue. But, we have some amazing rep-like my new favorite is “Aspects”, by Barbara York, beautiful new music for the ensemble.
Now quartet, for me, is where it’s at. I’ve been a member of the Alchemy Tuba Euphonium Quartet for more than twenty years, playing with the same four people, Gary Buttery, Danny Vinson, and James Jackson. I love the ease of four players over five, and the ability to surprise listeners with the clarity and balance of these massive instruments. Often you’re presenting something some of the crowd has never heard before, and children love it! Challenges of course include clarity, which can be helped by careful arranging, and keeping the voices speaking clearly in spaces like churches. Alchemy has a yearly residency at the Horn Tuba Workshop in Jever, Germany each February, and all our concerts are held in churches, that can be a challenge to hear each other. Despite all that quartet is one of my biggest joys as a player.
5. It is tough enough to be a musical artist, much less a tubist, let alone a female tubist. Who and what has kept your creative flame alive?
Most of us sit in sections as either the only female brass player, or one of a small minority. We sit in those sections for our whole lives, our whole careers. Even with wonderful male colleagues, many of us feel we can never miss a note or be imperfect without putting on the line the rep of every single woman in the field. So we sit under the pressure of that at every single gig we play. Every conductor comment, every glitch, under a microscope.
Perhaps because of this, young women go into the career in lower numbers. They’re not willing to put up with the teasing and feeling different (young people want to fit in!) and don’t see it as something for them. I recently taught a set of tuba masterclasses to 94 tuba players from the nation’s top performing high school programs, schools with super supportive booster groups, great leadership and budgetary support. Even in a group of this level, only 11 of those tubas were female. So still 88% male in our most supportive American school music programs.
One of our challenges is we see that in the past we were not okay with regard to race and gender equality, but we think it’s fixed now. People often ask me if I teach male and female students differently, and I don’t, but I do teach some students differently. I divide them in my mind into two categories (that don’t have to do with gender). There are the students who are very driven and ready to find challenge and are pro-active. These students need help with balance and staying focused on fewer tasks, keeping from becoming overwhelmed, etc. The other group of students, especially with tuba, are the students who love it, but are not used to being super-challenged there in the back of the band, and are approaching life waiting for things to happen to them. This group needs different teaching, they need to be reminded about being proactive instead of reactive, and goal-setting and advanced planning would be helpful. Both groups need support but in different ways. As the teacher I have walked their path already, gotten bruised and disappointed, had the way blocked, but kept going…and now I can help them along, just as my teachers did with me.
One very special thing that I am so proud of is that I have become involved with the International Women’s Brass Conference, an organization which helps provide scholarships, and presents conferences for men and women, featuring many female brass soloists and educators. This helps me stay creative and focused. The group is made up of both men and women, and the mission is to educate, develop, support and promote women brass musicians while inspiring continued excellence and opportunities in the broader musical world. So, while we want to showcase women in performance, we also want to involve men as well as young male and female students in our educational outreach events, to try and break down separation by gender for all instruments.
As President, I am able to give back to an organization which has given me so much at a crucial time in my young career, having attended the very first IWBC conference in 1993 as a young military musician. I see my role as a director of sets of people, committees and groups each working on smaller pieces of the puzzle, such as membership development, new composer commissions, educational outreach, etc. I can see the big picture and where things can overlap, and direct forward motion. We just completed the 27th anniversary conference last month at Arizona State University, my alma mater!
6. What do you look for in a horn?
I’m definitely one for consistency and comfort, my instruments have been with me a long time! I’m a Yamaha artist so those are my go-to instruments. I am one that believes in less discussion about this detail or that, just work to make the horn you have sound like yourself. I’m also a big fan of buying used for my students, who don’t always have the luxury of going out to the showroom and plunking down their credit card. Don’t overlook an older instrument which has been well made, because it has a well worn look. Sometimes students fall for a new shiny beauty that’s at a medium price point, when they would have been better served with a top model that had lived a bit of life before it got to them.
7. How does doubling on Euphonium inform your tuba playing? Vice-versa?
I’ve been so lucky that I got my start as a young player in a military band, sitting beside the world’s top euphonium artists every day. For years on end I heard the beauty and flexibility of great euphonium playing from Dave Werden, Danny Vinson and James Jackson in my section and in my tuba euphonium quartet Alchemy. I have made three albums with that group by now, and so admire their artistry. So it’s big shoes to fill when I pick up a euphonium. I do love it though, and I feel strongly that as a teacher of both instruments, I need to play both in my studio teaching. I learn and arrange new rep and present euphonium on all my solo recitals. There are challenges, like remembering not to over-blow, but coming back to tuba it reminds me of the lightness of articulation, just enough and not more. I feel the ease of flexibility on euphonium versus tuba, and that challenges my tuba playing to be versatile and quick. I enjoy the euphonium very much and normally have more students in my studio on euphonium than tuba at any given time.
8. Is the search for relevance as a solo classical musician a consideration? How universal is a classical soloist in the everyday breadth and depth of the every day life? How do you connect?
I think my voice is necessary. And so is yours. All of us have something to say as artists. And for me, it’s about saying what’s in your soul as an artist, through whichever medium. It doesn’t really matter to me if it is someone else’s cup of tea, it’s ok if my playing, or your playing, doesn’t spark joy in a listener. It’s ok if my next tuba solo isn’t one you’ll run right out and buy, or if my student will download my latest track. I think we all create because it’s a response to what’s inside us, the desire to participate in the conversation. I look to my mentors, people like Sam Pilafian, and Susan Slaughter, and my teachers, brass players who do their best to showcase well the possibilities of the instrument and the power of it to express. I want to tell my story, and luckily for me that has connected across audiences over the course of my career, and given me the confidence to always be creating. I am in the midst of a new project at all times, excited about the next thing. We put it out there for the world, we let it go, and we get back to creating.
9. What are your aspirations for your students?
My students in our small corner of rural North Carolina are often headed toward careers as educators, and tend to stay in the local area upon graduation. UNC Pembroke is an amazing place full of creativity and diversity, though set in the poorest county in the state, and one of the poorest in the nation. More than a third of the population lives below the poverty line, and most of the rest are not far above. For my studio, who are often first generation college students, their time with us can change the trajectory of their whole family, not to mention the generations of students they can influence as educators. I want them to see that there is greatness in them, I want someone to look them in the eye and tell them they can do it. I am so proud when they come to me at the start, often not having taken formal private lessons, and then progress through to the senior recital. It’s tough for sure. The dropout rate can be high, students have many additional challenges to attending school full-time. But for those that can make it work, my goal is that they can be a mentor and role model for those coming up behind them, those to whom life may not have been kind.
10. Can you tell us anything about your project with Bill?
Bill is from New Jersey, and attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied both jazz and classical performance. He went on to be co-founder of Ember Music, an international artist-run label that focuses on electronic composition and production, and through Ember, has released several tracks as a solo artist. So the setting of his background was very different from mine, as a straight up tuba performance person. Our approaches were really different, opposite almost, but it was interesting to us both to see how the project developed. We co-wrote four songs for the album.
The opening piece, Tether, is somewhat sparse, with a slow, moody, rock influence, based on futuristic cyberpunk anime compositional imagery, such as Ghost in the Shell. This track features spoken word using text from several Emily Dickinson poems. I’m a huge fan of Emily Dickinson, who is a New England girl like myself. Shatterdome was inspired by the drama in film writing at climactic moments when good and evil collide and dark forces are at work, utilizing low resonances and a focus on brass. One is upbeat, and incorporates brighter harmonies in fast-paced rhythmic development. Kakera, the Japanese word for a small piece or fragment, uses the tuba in the pedal register in combination with faster bass lines.
Three other works round out the album, including the title track, composed in 1988, a ten minute unaccompanied tuba solo by New York composer Faye-Ellen Silverman. The work showcases extreme register, set in a wide variety of tempo and mood, and utilizes extended techniques such as multi- phonics and flutter tonguing. The album also contains a new arrangement of mine of the music of Hildegard von Bingen, as well as a solo for unaccompanied tuba, entitled Convent Window, composed for this album. My first solo tuba composition, Convent Window envisions the composer Hildegard von Bingen pausing for a moment of calm reflection at her window, and utilizes the resonant, lower register of the instrument.
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